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Natural Disasters

Natural Disasters

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Published by Kavya Rastogi
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Published by: Kavya Rastogi on Apr 29, 2010
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A natural disaster is the consequence of a natural hazard (e.g. volcanic eruption, earthquake, or landslide), which affects human activities.

Human vulnerability, exacerbated by the lack of planning or appropriate emergency management, leads to financial, environmental or human losses. The resulting loss depends on the capacity of the population to support or resist the disaster, their resilience. This understanding is concentrated in the formulation: "disasters occur when hazards meet vulnerability". A natural hazard will hence never result in a natural disaster in areas without vulnerability, e.g. strong earthquakes in uninhabited areas. The term natural has consequently been disputed because the events simply are not hazards or disasters without human involvement. Avalanche

An avalanche is an abrupt and rapid flow of snow, often mixed with air and water, down a mountainside. Avalanches are among the biggest dangers in the mountains for both life and property. Avalanches may also comprise of rocks and boulders. Several types of snow avalanche may occur. Loose snow avalanches occur when the weight of the snowpack exceeds the shear strength within it, and are most common on steeper terrain. In fresh, loose snow the release is usually at a point and the avalanche then gradually widens down the slope as more snow is entrained, usually forming a teardrop appearance. This is in contrast to a slab avalanche. Slab avalanches account for around 90% of avalanche-related fatalities, and occur when there is a strong, stiff layer of snow known as a slab. These are usually formed when snow is deposited by the wind on a lee slope. When the slab fails, the fracture, in a weak layer, very rapidly propagates so that a large area, that can be hundreds of metres in extent and several metres thick, starts moving almost instantaneously. The third starting type is a isothermal avalanche which occurs when the snowpack becomes saturated by water. These tend to also start and spread out from a point. As avalanches move down the slope they may entrain snow from the snowpack and grow in size. The snow may also mix with the air and form a powder cloud. An avalanche with a powder cloud is known as a powder snow avalanche. The powder cloud is a turbulent suspension of snow particles that flows as a gravity current. Powder snow avalanches are the largest avalanches and can exceed 300 km/h and 10,000,000 tonnes of snow; they can flow for long distance along flat valley bottoms and even up hill for short distances.

Contributing factors All avalanches are caused by an over-burden of material, typically snowpack, that is too massive and unstable for the slope that supports it. Determining the critical load, the amount of overburden which is likely to cause an avalanche, is a complex task involving the evaluation of a number of factors. Terrain Slopes flatter than 25 degrees or steeper than 60 degrees typically have a lower incidence of avalanche involvement. Snow does not accumulate significantly on steep slopes, also, snow does

not flow easily on flat slopes. Human triggered avalanches have the greatest incidence when the snow's angle of repose is between 35 and 45 degrees; the critical angle, the angle at which the human incidence of avalanches is greatest, is 38 degrees. But when the incidence of human triggered avalanches are normalized by the rates of recreational use hazard increases uniformly with slope angle.[1] The rule of thumb is: A slope that is flat enough to hold snow but steep enough to ski has the potential to generate an avalanche, regardless of the angle. Slopes with windward and sunny exposure have a lower incidence of avalanche involvement. The snow pack on slopes with sunny exposures are strongly influenced by sunshine. Daily cycles of mild thawing and refreezing can stabilize the snow pack by promoting settlement, strong freeze thaw cycles will result in the formation of surface crusts during the night, and the formation of unstable isothermal snow during the day. Slopes in the lee of a ridge or other wind obstacle accumulate more snow and are more likely to include pockets of abnormally deep snow, wind slabs, and cornices, all of which, when disturbed, may trigger an avalanche. Conversely a windward slope will be bare of snow. When the human triggered incidence of avalanches are normalized by the rates of recreational use no significant difference in hazard for a given exposure direction can be found. Convex slopes are more dangerous than concave slopes. The primary factor contributing to the increased avalanche danger on convex slopes is a disparity between the tensile strength of snow layers and their compressive strength. The composition and structure of the ground surface beneath the snow pack can influence the incidence of avalanches, especially full depth and deeply releasing avalanches. Full-depth avalanches (avalanches that sweep a slope virtually clean of snow cover) are more common on slopes with smooth ground cover, such as grass or rock slabs. Vegetation, such as heavy timber, can anchor a snowpack; however, boulders and sparsely distributed vegetation will create weak areas deep within the snowpack, through the formation of strong temperature gradients. Snow structure and characteristics The structure of the snow pack is a strong predictor of snow stability. The snow pack is composed of deposition layers of snow that are accumulated over time, during the course of a winter season. The deposition layers are stratified parallel to the ground surface on which the snow falls. Each deposition layer indicates a distinct meteorological condition during which the snow was accumulated. Once deposited a snow layer will continue to evolve and develop under the influence of the meteorological conditions that prevail after deposition. For an avalanche to occur, it is necessary that a snow pack have a weak layer (or instability) below a slab of cohesive snow. In practice the mechanical and structural determinants of snow pack stability are not directly observable outside of laboratories, thus the more easily observed properties of the snow layers (e.g. penetration resistance, grain size, grain type, temperature) are used as proxy measurements of the mechanical properties of the snow (e.g. tensile strength, friction, ductile strength). This results in two principle sources of uncertainty in determining snow pack stability: First, both the factors influencing snow stability and the specific characteristics of the snow pack vary widely within small areas and time scales, resulting in an inability to extrapolate point observations of snow layers. Second, the understanding of the relationship between the readily observable snow pack characteristics and the snow pack's critical mechanical properties has not been completely developed. Consequently a conservative use of avalanche

terrain, well within the recommended guidelines of the local avalanche forecasts and bulletins, is always recommended. Various snow composition and deposition characteristics also influence the likelihood of an avalanche. Newly-fallen snow requires time to bond with the snow layers beneath it, especially if the new snow falls during very cold and dry conditions. Shallower snow, that can lay above or around boulders, plants, and other discontinuities in the slope, will weaken from the presence of a stronger temperature gradient. Larger and more angular snow crystals are an indicator of weaker bonds within the snow pack, because the sintering process that forms bonds within the snow pack will also cause the snow crystals to become smaller and rounder. Consolidated snow is less likely to slough than either loose powdery layers or wet isothermal snow; however, consolidated snow is a necessary condition for the occurrence of slab avalanches, and can also mask lingering deeper instable layers within a snow pack. Weather The Weather strongly influences the evolution of the snow pack. The most important factors are heating by the sun, radiational cooling, vertical temperature gradients in standing snow, snowfall amounts, and snow types. Mild winter weather will promote the settlement and stabilization of the snow pack; weather that is very cold, windy, or hot will weaken the snow pack. If the temperature is high enough for gentle freeze-thaw cycles to take place, the melting and refreezing of water in the snow strengthens the snowpack during the freezing phase and weakens it during the thawing phase. A rapid rise in temperature, to a point significantly above the freezing point, may cause a slope to avalanche, especially in spring. Persistent cold temperatures prevent the snow from stabilizing; long cold spells may contribute to the formation of depth hoar, a condition where there is a pronounced temperature gradient, from top to bottom, within the snow. When the temperature gradient becomes sufficiently strong, thin layers of "faceted grains" may form above or below embedded crusts, allowing slippage to occur. Any wind stronger than a light breeze can contribute to a rapid accumulation of snow on sheltered slopes downwind. Wind pressure at a favorable angle can stabilize other slopes. A "wind slab" is a particularly fragile and brittle structure which is heavily-loaded and poorlybonded to its underlayment. Even on a clear day, wind can quickly shift the snow load on a slope. This can occur in two ways: by top-loading and by cross-loading. Top-loading occurs when wind deposits snow perpendicular to the fall-line on a slope; cross-loading occurs when wind deposits snow parallel to the fall-line. When a wind blows over the top of a mountain, the leeward, or downwind, side of the mountain experiences top-loading, from the top to the bottom of that lee slope. When the wind blows across a ridge that leads up the mountain, the leeward side of the ridge is subject to cross-loading. Cross-loaded wind-slabs are usually difficult to identify visually. Snowstorms and rainstorms are important contributors to avalanche danger. Heavy snowfall may cause instability in the existing snowpack, both because of the additional weight and because the new snow has insufficient time to bond to underlying snow layers. Rain has a similar effect. In the short-term, rain causes instability because, like a heavy snowfall, it imposes an additional load on the snowpack; and, once rainwater seeps down through the snow, it acts as a lubricant, reducing the natural friction between snow layers that holds the snowpack together. Most avalanches happen during or soon after a storm.

Daytime exposure to sunlight can rapidly destabilize the upper layers of a snowpack. Sunlight reduces the sintering, or necking, between snow grains. During clear nights, the snowpack can strengthen, or tighten, through the process of long-wave radiative cooling. When the night air is significantly cooler than the snowpack, the heat stored in the snow is re-radiated into the atmosphere.

Avalanche avoidance

Due to the complexity of the subject, winter travelling in the backcountry (off-piste) is never 100% safe. Good avalanche safety is a continuous process, including route selection and examination of the snowpack, weather conditions, and human factors. Several well-known good habits can also minimize the risk. If local authorities issue avalanche risk reports, they should be considered and all warnings heeded[11]. Never follow in the tracks of others without your own evaluations; snow conditions are almost certain to have changed since they were made. Observe the terrain and note obvious avalanche paths where vegetation is missing or damaged, where there are few surface anchors, and below cornices or ice formations. Avoid traveling below others who might trigger an avalanche Prevention There are several ways to prevent avalanches and lessen their power and destruction. They are employed in areas where avalanches pose a significant threat to people, such as ski resorts and mountain towns, roads and railways. Explosives are used extensively to prevent avalanches, especially at ski resorts where other methods are often impractical. Explosive charges are used to trigger small avalanches before enough snow can build up to cause a large avalanche. Snow fences and light walls can be used to direct the placement of snow. Snow builds up around the fence, especially the side that faces the prevailing winds. Downwind of the fence, snow buildup is lessened. This is caused by the loss of snow at the fence that would have been deposited and the pickup of the snow that is already there by the wind, which was depleted of snow at the fence. When there is a sufficient density of trees, they can greatly reduce the strength of avalanches. They hold snow in place and when there is an avalanche, the impact of the snow against the trees slows it down. Trees can either be planted or they can be conserved, such as in the building of a ski resort, to reduce the strength of avalanches. Safety in avalanche terrain

Terrain management - Terrain management involves reducing the exposure of an individual to the risks of traveling in avalanche terrain by carefully selecting what areas of slopes to travel on. Features to be cognizant of include not under cutting slopes (removing the physical support of the snow pack), not traveling over convex rolls (areas where the snow pack is under tension), staying away from weaknesses like exposed rock, and avoiding areas of slopes that expose one to terrain traps (gulleys that can be filled in, cliffs over which one can be swept, or heavy timber into which one can be carried).

Group management - Group management is the practice of reducing the risk of having a member of a group, or a whole group involved in an avalanche. Minimize the number of people on the slope, and maintain separation. Ideally one person should pass over the slope into an area protected from the avalanche hazard before the next one leaves protective cover. Route selection should also consider what dangers lay above and below the route, and the consequences of an unexpected avalanche (i.e., unlikely to occur, but deadly if it does). Stop or camp only in safe locations. Wear warm gear to delay hypothermia if buried. Plan escape routes. In determining the size of the group balance the hazard of not having enough people to effectively carry out a rescue with the risk of having too many members of the group to safely manage the risks. It is generally recommended not to travel alone, because there will be no-one to witness your burial and start the rescue. Additionally, avalanche risk increases with use; that is, the more a slope is disturbed by skiers, the more likely it is that an avalanche will occur. [12] Most important of all practice good communication with in a group including clearly communicating the decisions about safe locations, escape routes, and slope choices, and having a clear understanding of every members skills in snow travel, avalanche rescue, and route finding. Risk Factor Awareness - Risk factor awareness in avalanche safety requires gathering and accounting for a wide range of information such as the meteorological history of the area, the current weather and snow conditions, and equally important the social and physical indicators of the group. Leadership - Leadership in avalanche terrain requires well defined decision making protocols that use the observed risk factors. These decision making frameworks are taught in a variety of courses provided by national avalanche resource centers in Europe and North America. Fundamental to leadership in avalanche terrain is honestly assessing and estimating the information that was ignored or overlooked. Recent research has shown that there are strong psychological and group dynamic determinants that lead to avalanche involvement

Human survival and avalanche rescue Avalanche on the backside (east) of Mount Timpanogos, Utah at Aspen Grove trail Even small avalanches are a serious danger to life, even with properly trained and equipped companions who avoid the avalanche. Between 55 and 65 percent of victims buried in the open are killed, and only 80 percent of the victims remaining on the surface survive. (McClung, p.177). Research carried out in Italy[13] based on 422 buried skiers indicates how the chances of survival drop:
• •

very rapidly from 92 percent within 15 minutes to only 30 percent after 35 minutes (victims die of suffocation) near zero after two hours (victims die of injuries or hypothermia) (Historically, the chances of survival were estimated at 85% within 15 minutes, 50% within 30 minutes, 20% within one hour).

Consequently it is vital that everyone surviving an avalanche is used in an immediate search and rescue operation, rather than waiting for help to arrive. Additional help can be called once it can be determined if anyone is seriously injured or still remains unaccountable after the immediate search (i.e., after at least 30 minutes of searching). Even in a well equipped country such as France, it typically takes 45 minutes for a helicopter rescue team to arrive, by which time most of the victims are likely to have died. In some cases avalanche victims are not located until spring thaw melts the snow, or even years later when objects emerge from a glacier. Search and rescue equipment A Blackhawk helicopter as the crew prepares to evacuate tourists stranded by an avalanche in Galtür, Austria, on February 25, 1999. Chances of a buried victim being found alive and rescued are increased when everyone in a group is carrying and using standard avalanche equipment, and have trained in how to use it. However, like a seat belt in a vehicle, using the right equipment does not justify exposing yourself to unnecessary risks with the hope that the equipment might save your life when it is needed. A beacon, shovel and probe is considered the minimum equipment to carry when exposing yourself to avalanche danger. EARTHQUAKE An earthquake (also known as a tremor or temblor) is the result of a sudden release of energy in the Earth's crust that creates seismic waves. Earthquakes are recorded with a seismometer, also known as a seismograph. The moment magnitude of an earthquake is conventionally reported, or the related and mostly obsolete Richter magnitude, with magnitude 3 or lower earthquakes being mostly imperceptible and magnitude 7 causing serious damage over large areas. Intensity of shaking is measured on the modified Mercalli scale. At the Earth's surface, earthquakes manifest themselves by shaking and sometimes displacing the ground. When a large earthquake epicenter is located offshore, the seabed sometimes suffers sufficient displacement to cause a tsunami. The shaking in earthquakes can also trigger landslides and occasionally volcanic activity. In its most generic sense, the word earthquake is used to describe any seismic event—whether a natural phenomenon or an event caused by humans—that generates seismic waves. Earthquakes are caused mostly by rupture of geological faults, but also by volcanic activity, landslides, mine blasts, and nuclear experiments. An earthquake's point of initial rupture is called its focus or hypocenter. The term epicenter refers to the point at ground level directly above this. Size and frequency of occurrence Minor earthquakes occur nearly constantly around the world in places like California and Alaska in the U.S., as well as in Guatemala. Chile, Peru, Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, the Azores in Portugal, Turkey, New Zealand, Greece, Italy, and Japan, but earthquakes can occur almost anywhere, including New York City, London, and Australia.[11] Larger earthquakes occur less frequently, the relationship being exponential; for example, roughly ten times as many earthquakes larger than magnitude 4 occur in a particular time period than earthquakes larger than

magnitude 5. In the (low seismicity) United Kingdom, for example, it has been calculated that the average recurrences are: an earthquake of 3.7 - 4.6 every year, an earthquake of 4.7 - 5.5 every 10 years, and an earthquake of 5.6 or larger every 100 years. [12] This is an example of the Gutenberg-Richter law. The number of seismic stations has increased from about 350 in 1931 to many thousands today. As a result, many more earthquakes are reported than in the past, but this is because of the vast improvement in instrumentation, rather than an increase in the number of earthquakes. The USGS estimates that, since 1900, there have been an average of 18 major earthquakes (magnitude 7.07.9) and one great earthquake (magnitude 8.0 or greater) per year, and that this average has been relatively stable.[13] In recent years, the number of major earthquakes per year has decreased, although this is thought likely to be a statistical fluctuation rather than a systematic trend. More detailed statistics on the size and frequency of earthquakes is available from the USGS.[14] Most of the world's earthquakes (90%, and 81% of the largest) take place in the 40,000-km-long, horseshoe-shaped zone called the circum-Pacific seismic belt, also known as the Pacific Ring of Fire, which for the most part bounds the Pacific Plate.[15][16] Massive earthquakes tend to occur along other plate boundaries, too, such as along the Himalayan Mountains. Humans can cause earthquakes for example by constructing large dams and buildings, drilling and injecting liquid into wells, and by coal mining and oil drilling.[17] With the rapid growth of mega-cities such as Mexico City, Tokyo or Tehran, in areas of high seismic risk, some seismologists are warning that a single quake may claim the lives of up to 3 million people.[18][19] Effects/impacts of earthquakes There are many effects of earthquakes including, but not limited to the following: Shaking and ground rupture Shaking and ground rupture are the main effects created by earthquakes, principally resulting in more or less severe damage to buildings or other rigid structures. The severity of the local effects depends on the complex combination of the earthquake magnitude, the distance from epicenter, and the local geological and geomorphological conditions, which may amplify or reduce wave propagation.[20] The ground-shaking is measured by ground acceleration. Specific local geological, geomorphological, and geostructural features can induce high levels of shaking on the ground surface even from low-intensity earthquakes. This effect is called site or local amplification. It is principally due to the transfer of the seismic motion from hard deep soils to soft superficial soils and to effects of seismic energy focalization owing to typical geometrical setting of the deposits. Ground rupture is a visible breaking and displacement of the earth's surface along the trace of the fault, which may be of the order of several metres in the case of major earthquakes. Ground rupture is a major risk for large engineering structures such as dams, bridges and nuclear power stations and requires careful mapping of existing faults to identify any likely to break the ground surface within the life of the structure.[21] Preparation for earthquakes

Today, there are ways to protect and prepare possible sites of earthquakes from severe damage, through the following processes: Earthquake engineering, Earthquake preparedness, Household seismic safety, Seismic retrofit (including special fasteners, materials, and techniques), Seismic hazard, Mitigation of seismic motion, and Earthquake prediction.

FLOOD A flood is an overflow of an expanse of water that submerges land, a deluge.[1] In the sense of "flowing water", the word may also be applied to the inflow of the tide. Flooding may result from the volume of water within a body of water, such as a river or lake, which overflows, with the result that some of the water escapes the normal boundaries of the body. While the size of a lake or other body of water will vary with seasonal changes in precipitation and snow melt, it is not a flood unless such escapes of water endangers land areas used by man like a village, city or other inhabited area. Overtopping of water into uninhabited areas may flood the land but is not a flood because there is no impact to humans. Floods can also occur in rivers, when the strength of the river is so high it flows out of the river channel, particularly at bends or meanders and cause damage to homes and businesses along such rivers. While flood damage can be virtually eliminated by moving away from rivers and other bodies of water, since time out of mind, man has lived and worked by the water to seek sustenance and capitalize on the gains of cheap and easy travel and commerce by being near water. That humans continue to inhabit areas threatened by flood damage is only evidence that the value of being near the water far exceeds the costs of repeated periodic flooding.

Principal types of flood [edit] Riverine floods
• •

Slow kinds: Runoff from sustained rainfall or rapid snowmelt exceeding the capacity of a river's channel. Causes include heavy rains from monsoons, hurricanes and tropical depressions, foreign winds and warm rain affecting snow pack. Fast kinds: flash flood as a result of e.g. an intense thunderstorm.

[edit] Estuarine floods

Commonly caused by a combination of sea tidal surges caused by storm-force winds.

[edit] Coastal floods

Caused by severe sea storms, or as a result of another hazard (e.g. tsunami or hurricane).

[edit] Catastrophic floods floods are very rare to happen if u live in texas and by the ocean

[edit] Muddy floods

A muddy flood is generated by runoff on cropland.

[edit] Other
• • •

Floods can occur if water accumulates across an impermeable surface (e.g. from rainfall) and cannot rapidly dissipate (i.e. gentle orientation or low evaporation). A series of storms moving over the same area. Dam-building beavers can flood low-lying urban and rural areas, often causing significant damage.

[edit] Typical effects [edit] Primary effects
• •

Physical damage - Can range anywhere from bridges, cars, buildings, sewer systems, roadways, canals and any other type of structure. Casualties - People and livestock die due to drowning. It can also lead to epidemics and diseases.

[edit] Secondary effects
• • • •

Water supplies - Contamination of water. Clean drinking water becomes scarce. Diseases - Unhygienic conditions. Spread of water-borne diseases Crops and food supplies - Shortage of food crops can be caused due to loss of entire harvest.[2] Trees - Non-tolerant species can die from suffocation.[3]

Flood clean-up safety Clean-up activities following floods often pose hazards to workers and volunteers involved in the effort. Potential dangers include electrical hazards, carbon monoxide exposure, musculoskeletal hazards, heat or cold stress, motor vehicle-related dangers, fire, drowning, and exposure to hazardous materials.[6] Because flooded disaster sites are unstable, clean-up workers might encounter sharp jagged debris, biological hazards in the flood water, exposed electrical lines, blood or other body fluids, and animal and human remains. In planning for and reacting to flood disasters, managers provide workers with hard hats, goggles, heavy work gloves, life jackets, and watertight boots with steel toes and insoles.[7] [edit] Benefits of flooding There are many disruptive effects of flooding on human settlements and economic activities. However, flooding can bring benefits, such as making soil more fertile and providing nutrients in which it is deficient. Periodic flooding was essential to the well-being of ancient communities along the Tigris-Euphrates Rivers, the Nile River, the Indus River, the Ganges and the Yellow

River, among others. The viability for hydrological based renewable sources of energy is higher in flood prone regions.

A Himalayan avalanche near Mount Everest.

The toe of an avalanche in Alaska’s Kenai Fjords

The powder blast of an avalanche

United States Forest Service avalanche danger advisories

Avalanche blasting in French ski resort Tignes (3,600 m)

Snow fences in Switzerland

Avalanche on the backside (east) of Mount Timpanogos, Utah at Aspen Grove trail

A Blackhawk helicopter the crew prepares to evacuate tourists stranded by an avalanche in Galtur, Austria, on February 25,1999.

Global plate tectonic movement

1755 copper engraving depicting Lisbon in ruins and in flames after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake A tsunami overwhelms the ships in the harbor.

Flooding of a creek due to heavy monsoonal rain and high tide in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia

Flooding near Key West, Florida, United States from Hurricane Wilma's storm surge in October 2005

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