mandag 24. januar 2011

Earthquakes: sudden and severe devastation

Earthquakes are some of the most devastating kinds of natural disasters. They have the potential to cause major devastation, both regarding human lives and damage to infrastructure. An example is the catastrophic scenario of the Haiti earthquake of 12 January 2010. It affected three million people. The mortality was estimated to 230,000. As much as 300,000 were reported injured and one million made homeless (MSNBC, 2010). As the epic center hit close to the capital, the densely populated Port-au-Prince and nearby areas

were caused major destruction. Massive collapses of buildings, roads, bridges and electricity networks made the help relief extremely difficult. The infrastructural damages slowed the process dramatically. Communication was difficult, making the help relief even harder to organize.

To avoid problems when infrastructure is severely damaged, a fast and flexible system for help relief is needed. A system based on an alternate energy network and artificial intelligence can prove to be of invaluable help in extreme situations as earthquakes.

The paper Leon, Krispin, Zakir and I sent in to Education Without Borders is about rapid help relief, which can prove invaluable in situations like the one we witnessed in Haiti. I hope we will be able to discuss the ideas with people at the conference!

fredag 14. januar 2011

More consequences of climate change

Deforestation leads to erosion. Avalanches and mudslides occur more frequently since the roots no longer bind the soil. The danger of building collapse is increased by the unstable ground (Center for International Ferestry Research, 2008). Right now we see the tragic examples of mudslides in Brazil following heavy rain and deforestation in densely inhabited areas.

Parasitic diseases will become more widespread with a warmer and moister climate. These climatic conditions lead to an increased number of mosquitoes, and enables them to settle in previously untouched areas (Henson, R. 2008). The consequence is increased danger of widespread diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.

Several major studies and statistics show that tropical cyclones worldwide are getting both stronger and more numerous over the past decade (Henson, R. 2008). Hurricanes are most likely reinforced by a warmer climate, as warm ocean waters are the main criteria for the birth and growth of tropical cyclones (Henson, R. 2008). Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere cause disturbances in the air currents, making extreme weather such as coastal storms, unusual heat or cold weather (Henson, R. 2008).

tirsdag 4. januar 2011

Some effects of climate change

According to the 2007 IPCC assessment, a warmer climate influences precipitation patterns and ecosystems. An alarming consequence of this is the reinforced effect on natural disasters, that are predicted to increase in quantity and extent accross the globe (UN Environment Programme IPCC, 2009). Warmer weather reinforces both extreme cold and heat waves, causing severe problems for established societies worldwide (UN Environment Programme IPCC, 2009).

Some of the challenges linked with climate change are extreme heat, floods, draughts, hurricanes and tornadoes, parasitic diseases, melting glaciers, deforestation and erosion.

Floods and draughts are some of the most common natural disasters caused by global warming. Changes in precipitation leads to increased or decreased rainfall in certain areas on the globe. Both floods and draughts can lead to crop failures, famine and high tolls.

The most noticable changes lie in abnormal precipitation intensity. Both regarding human lives and damage to infrastructure, rainfall can cause major destruction. Flash floods are more probable to occur in highly populated areas such as cities due to large areas covered by infrastructure such as roads and buildings. An example is the recent disaster in Pakistan, which affected twenty million people (ReliefWeb, 2010). Water covered up to one-fifth of the country, and 1,2 million homes were damaged or destroyed (British Red Cross, 2010).

Just like some parts of the globe experiences increased percipitation, other areas will get decreased rainfall. The result is draught, with water shortage and failed crops. Predictions by IPCCshow that the subtropics will be most severely hit in the future. In addition, melting glaciers make rivers decrease in volume or disappear completely, forcing inhabitants to move or seek other sources.

Photos: Up right: Leon Prebeau-Menezez and I presenting in India. Hopefully we will get to do another presentation in March, this time in Dubai. Up left: Result of increased precipitation. Floods occur with intensified strength, and also in new areas.