Tag Archives: natural hazards

Content Alert: New Articles (13th January 2012)

These Early View articles are now available on Wiley Online Library.

Original Articles

Anthropogenic controls on large wood input, removal and mobility: examples from rivers in the Czech Republic
Lukáš Krejčí and Zdeněk Máčka
Article first published online: 23 DEC 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01071.x

Special Section: Exploring the Great Outdoors

‘My magic cam’: a more-than-representational account of the climbing assemblage
Paul Barratt
Article first published online: 13 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01069.

Special Section: Emerging Subjects, Registers and Spatialities of Migration Methodologies in Asia

Methodological dilemmas in migration research in Asia: research design, omissions and strategic erasures
Rebecca Elmhirst
Article first published online: 13 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01070.x


The aviation sagas: geographies of volcanic risk
Amy R Donovan and Clive Oppenheimer
Article first published online: 3 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2011.00458.x

Original Articles

Diverging pathways: young female employment and entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa
Thilde Langevang and Katherine V Gough
Article first published online: 13 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2011.00457.x

Original Articles

Rethinking urban public space: accounts from a junction in West London
Regan Koch and Alan Latham
Article first published online: 19 DEC 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00489.x

The social and economic consequences of housing in multiple occupation (HMO) in UK coastal towns: geographies of segregation
Darren P Smith
Article first published online: 23 DEC 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00487.x

The reputational ghetto: territorial stigmatisation in St Paul’s, Bristol
Tom Slater and Ntsiki Anderson
Article first published online: 30 DEC 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00490.x

Fear of a foreign railroad: transnationalism, trainspace, and (im)mobility in the Chicago suburbs
Julie Cidell
Article first published online: 30 DEC 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00491.x

Participation in evolution and sustainability
Thomas L Clark and Eric Clark
Article first published online: 3 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00492.x

Boundary Crossings

Progressive localism and the construction of political alternatives
David Featherstone, Anthony Ince, Danny Mackinnon, Kendra Strauss and Andrew Cumbers
Article first published online: 3 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00493.x

The disciplining effects of impact evaluation practices: negotiating the pressures of impact within an ESRC–DFID project
Glyn Williams
Article first published online: 9 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00494.x

Spreading salt on the right roads?

by Jayne Glass

The news in late 2010 has been all about ‘the big freeze’.  Heavy snow has been falling across the UK earlier than normal, with some devastating effects. Usually, local councils work to keep the roads and pavements clear by spreading salt/grit. But despite attempts to stockpile salt ahead of this winter, some councils are already running low.  In Powys, Carmarthenshire and Caerphilly, councils have already used at least a quarter of their stock, and across Wales 15% of the salt supply has gone.

In 2008, John Thornes and Lee Chapman focussed on decision-making for salt spreading, in an article in Geography Compass.  Although the use of weather information systems for the winter maintenance of roads is now widespread, observations and predictions are often only available for a limited number of road sensor sites in a region.  Thornes and Chapman carried out a winter-long trial of the XRWIS road weather information system in Devon.  They found that up to 78 salting runs on 6 salting routes could have been prevented.  This would have saved up to £80,000 in labour and materials.  There is also scope for this system to be applied to prediction of low rail adhesion on the national rail network.

‘Road salt is disappearing fast, Welsh councils warn’: BBC News, 2 December 2010

Thornes, J. and Chapman, L. (2008). The Next Generation Road Weather Information System: A New Paradigm for Road and Rail Severe Weather Prediction in the UK. Geography Compass, June 2008

The dangers of predicting disasters

Damage caused by L'Aquila earthquake, 2009

I-Hsien Porter

Earthquakes, in any given place, are rare and the processes that cause them not always fully understood. There is no widely accepted scientific method for predicting the precise location and time of earthquakes.

However, in April 2009 a laboratory technician, Gioacchino Giuliani, claimed to have predicted an earthquake in advance. He did so by monitoring emissions of radon gas from the ground. However, his warnings were not heeded and he was reported to the police. One week later, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck the town of L’Aquila in Italy. The resulting destruction caused the deaths of around 300 people, with many thousands injured or made homeless.

Did Giuliani predict the earthquake? Increases in radon gas have previously been observed prior to earthquakes. However, earthquakes have also been observed without prior releases in radon gas, so it cannot be used as a reliable precursor. Additionally, releases of radon gas have been observed and no earthquake has followed, so it is also necessary to predict when earthquakes won’t happen. Otherwise false alarms might lead to a loss of credibility and ignorance of further warnings.

Would it have made any difference if the warning had been listened to? It turned out that Giuliani’s prediction was inaccurate by about 55 km. In the event that the warning had been acted on, it might have resulted in people being evacuated from an area that turned out to be safe, into an area of higher risk.

The story has resurfaced because the Prosecutor’s Office of L’Aquila recently indicted a number of seismologists and civil protection officials for manslaughter, for failing to warn the local population of the earthquake. However, predictions of such hazards are only useful when based on reliable scientific methods (reducing false alarms) and have the precision required to allow an appropriate emergency response.

Ben Goldacre’s commentary on the case, The Guardian, 19th June 2010

Various academics have initiated an online protest about the case at qurl.com/quake

Ash, health and uncertainty

Eyjafjallajoekull volcanic eruption, April 2010

Eyjafjallajöekul, taken by NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite, 1st April 2010

I-Hsien Porter

As ash from the Eyjafjallajöekull eruption in Iceland drifted across Europe earlier this month, the World Health Organisation (WHO) admitted that the health risks were uncertain. Contrasting news stories emerged. On 15th April, the BBC News Website published the reassuring headline, “Iceland volcano ash is ‘no threat to human health’.” The next day, The Daily Telegraph opened an article with a slightly more alarming title: “Volcanic ash can kill thousands but unlikely to drop on Britain.”

In a recent paper in Geography Compass, Gail Millar and others review methods for measuring the risk to human health from particulate matter – small particles of ash, dust or pollution suspended in the atmosphere. The difficulties of collecting information about volcanic ash rapidly become apparent. Flights were banned over the UK, so scientists were limited in their ability to collect data about the concentration of ash. The consequences of falling ash for people are also complicated by differences in the vulnerability of different individuals (e.g. children, the elderly) and their exposure (requiring knowledge about individuals’ activity).

Because extreme events are rare, there is clearly a need for more research into their outcomes. Geographers are well placed to understand the combination of physical and human processes that control the impact of extreme events.

View the BBC News article here http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8588048.stm G. Millar et al. (2010) ‘Evaluating Human Exposure to Fine Particulate Matter Part I: Measurements.’ Geography Compass 4 (4): 281-302

View the BBC News article here http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8588048.stm BBC News, ‘Iceland volcano ash is ‘no threat to human health’.’

View the BBC News article here http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8588048.stm The Daily Telegraph, ‘Volcanic ash can kill thousands but unlikely to drop on Britain.’

The impact of natural disasters

By Jenny Lunn

The earthquake measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale that struck Chile last weekend affected two million people. It was more than 500 times more powerful than the earthquake that devastated Haiti a few weeks earlier, yet the human toll and infrastructural damage was on a much lesser scale. Chile has a long history of earthquakes and has implemented a range of measures to cope with the hazard. News reports are already claiming that the impact on the Chilean economy will be “limited and short-lived” because the country’s robust economic situation will facilitate a recovery without the need for foreign aid. This is, of course, quite different to Haiti which had no internal capacity to deal with the recent disaster and will be entirely dependent on outside help for many years to come.

The study of natural hazards is not just a matter of physical geography, as Katherine Donovan points out in her article in Area, entitled ‘Doing social volcanology’. She shows how cultural and socio-economic factors have influenced reactions to volcanic hazards in Java, Indonesia. In particular, she focuses on how local traditions and beliefs influence understandings of volcanoes and people’s reactions to eruptions. Disaster planning and mitigation activities need to take this into consideration alongside scientific knowledge and technological inputs. Thus she argues for hazard research to be interdisciplinary and for a range of methodologies to be used.

Thus, in comparing Chile and Haiti, it is not only the physical aspects of the earthquake such as magnitude and epicentre that need analysing in order to understand the different impacts of the disasters, but also factors such as collective social psyche, political capability, legal framework, economic capacity, infrastructural resilience and technological availability.

Read Katherine Donovan’s paper in Area

Read the BBC news article on the economic resilience of Chile