Natural Hazards Essay Sample

Natural Hazards Pages
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Natural hazards include a wide variety of phenomena ranging from geomorphic events (landslips, erosion) through climatic events (storm, flood, drought) to tectonic events (earthquakes, volcanoes). Natural hazards can be difficult to define because (i) their causes may not be entirely natural and (ii) the degree of hazard posed may depend as much on the nature of society as on the nature of the hazard. An essay on the causes of hazards needs to take account of the social, cultural and economic causes as well as the physical causes. These “socio-economic” causes may include

* access to information

* access to wealth

* quality of building construction

* choices in building location

* expectations and preparedness

* perceived risks from the hazard

* perceived benefits from living in the area

* human impacts through land use and infrastructure developments (eg deforestation, building or road construction)

* Just as diverse are the physical causes which vary according to the type of hazard. Geomorphic hazards are influenced by rock type, rock structure and prevailing weather conditions. Climatic hazards may be influenced by short or long term, regional or local climate trends. Tectonic hazards are caused by plate movements and the release of heat (volcanoes) or stress (earthquakes) from the lithosphere. An understanding of the processes (both physical and human) has a profound impact on the ability of a society to predict a hazard and assess its potential scale.

Geomorphic hazards can be predicted more effectively when the distribution of sensitive rock types is known, their properties are understood and the interaction of climate and weather conditions is monitored. Likewise, the more fully atmospheric processes are understood the greater the potential for more focussed monitoring (using remote sensing) and more reliable predictions. Our understanding of tectonic hazards has increased enormously with the development of plate tectonic theory. Further improvements in understanding can only aid the prediction of where, when and how violently events will take place. A final consideration to develop in this essay is how a better understanding of the socioeconomic processes may in fact enable us to better predict the impact of a hazard and offer the best chances for reducing risks by reducing the vulnerability of society.

Main Section

* 1) Geomorphic hazards – main types of failure (rotational landslip, mudflow etc) and causes; case studies to demonstrate cause, scale and impacts. Comments on how some processes responsible for the hazard were more predictable than others and what we might do to better predict such a hazard in the future. Assess the role of socio-economic processes/factors.

* 2) Climatic hazards – selected hazards (explain why one type selected for detailed treatment rather than shallow treatment of all types) and causes; case studies to demonstrate cause, scale and impacts. Comments on how some processes responsible for the hazard were more predictable than others and what we might do to better predict such a hazard in the future. Assess the role of socio-economic processes/factors.

Eg: Hurricane Andrew 1992 etc, etc

* 3) Tectonic hazards – selected hazards (explain why one type selected for detailed treatment rather than shallow treatment of all types) and causes; case studies to demonstrate cause, scale and impacts. Comments on how some processes responsible for the hazard were more predictable than others and what we might do to better predict such a hazard in the future (see Eg: US National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program etc. Assess the role of socio-economic processes/factors.

Eg: Kobe earthquake 1995 etc etc

Conclusion: Hazards are extremely variable ranging from (refer back to case study) to (refer back to case study). Families of hazards may share similar causes (eg tectonic, climatic – refer back to case studies). As important as the physical causes are the human causes that may help trigger the hazard or worsen its impact (refer back to case studies). By understanding hazard processes more fully it is possible to predict the onset of the hazard and/or the scale of the event (refer back to case studies). Finally, more fruitful progress may come from studying human vulnerability and changing society rather than simply studying hazards and trying to modify their physical impacts.

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