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Interesting Geography stuff for InterHigh

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Archive for the ‘Hazards’ Category

Climate change the main cause for cold weather in Europe?

Posted by Lindy on February 9, 2012

The exceptionally cold weather characterized by chilling winds and temperatures well below zero degrees Celsius has been striking Europe for more than a week. According to a scientist Alfred Wegener from the Institute for Polar and Marine Research the main cause for this exceptionally cold weather is climate change, or to be more precise the huge loss of Arctic ice.

The effect is twofold, the Wegener scientists report.

First, less ice means less solar heat is reflected back into the atmosphere. Rather, it is absorbed into the darker ocean waters. Second, once that heat is in the ocean, the reduced ice cap allows the heat to more easily escape into the air just above the ocean’s surface.

Because warmer air tends to rise, the moisture-laden air near the ocean’s surface rises, creating instability in the atmosphere and changing air-pressure patterns, the scientists say.

One pattern, called the Arctic Oscillation, normally pushes warm Atlantic air over Europe and keeps Arctic air over the poles.

But in mid-January this year, the Arctic Oscillation abruptly changed, allowing the jet stream to plunge into Siberia and push cold and snowy weather over much of Europe.

Similar situations have emerged the past two years.


Posted in Climate change, Fragile environments, Global warming, Hazards | Leave a Comment »

Hurricanes might trigger big tropical earthquakes

Posted by Lindy on December 12, 2011

This is a very interesting idea but read it carefully to see what they are saying but also appreciate what they are not.

A new study by Professor Shimon Wdowinski may help scientists identify regions at high risk for earthquakes. By dumping rain and causing landslides, these storms can change the weight of the Earth in tectonically-stressed regions, releasing loads that had been keeping the faults locked in tight. The result is that faults already under pressure seem more likely to break in the years after very wet tropical cyclones.

Earthquakes including Haiti’s 2010 magnitude-7.0 temblor and a 6.4-magnitude quake that struck Kaohsiung, Taiwan, the same year, fit this pattern.  These quakes were preceded by drenching storms that wreaked other kinds of havoc. “The cyclone itself is a disaster, there is a lot of flooding, then there are landslides and then the earthquakes come,” Wdowinski said.

Disaster chain reaction

Widowinski became interested in whether tropical cyclones interact with earthquakes after noticing that both the 2010 Taiwan earthquake and the 2010 Haiti quake were preceded relatively closely by big storms. In the case of Taiwan, 2008’s Typhoon Morakot had dumped 115 inches (292 centimeters) of rain in just five days. In the case of the Haiti quake, the 2008 hurricane season had been brutal, with named storms (hurricanes and tropical storms) Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike tearing into the island. The researchers decided to see if the timing was a coincidence or whether it meant something more. They turned to Taiwan, which has good records of the past 50 years of quakes and storms.

Focusing only on very wet typhoons with the capacity to cause of a lot of erosion, and removing aftershocks that would bias the analysis, the researchers found that 85 percent of magnitude-6-and-above quakes occurred within the first four years after a very wet storm. That was five times what would have been expected from background quake rates. Even smaller quakes followed the same pattern, with 35 percent of magnitude-5-and-above quakes occurring within the first four years after wet storms — twice the expected number.

Timing is everything

Previous researchers have suggested that extremely low pressure from storms can trigger quakes in already-strained areas in the very short term but these longer-term linkages are likely caused by a different mechanism. These areas are already tectonically active, with faults building up strain as landmasses creep against one another. These strained faults are destined to rupture and eventually cause quakes.

But when a very wet typhoon or hurricane dumps lots of rain, it often causes large landslides in mountainous areas. Extra rain over the following months further erodes mountains and hills scarred by these landslides. This shifting of sediment lifts the weight that keeps faults locked. The burden lifted, the fault suddenly slips, causing a quake. These quakes are likely not any larger or smaller than they otherwise would have been, but the presence of very wet storms may give a hint that a quake-prone region is at higher risk of rupturing in the following years.

“The main engine that’s actually responsible for the earthquake is not the wet typhoon,” Wdowinski said. “The wet typhoon just determines the timing.”

Posted in Hazards, Physical Geography, Tectonics, Weather | Leave a Comment »

Turkish Quake Highlights Shoddy Construction

Posted by Lindy on October 28, 2011

Follow up ion the impacts of the Earthquake in Turkey

Two things are for certain in Turkey: The country will have earthquakes, and those earthquakes will continue to kill.  Turkey faces a fatal combination of geography and history. It lies at the intersection of the Anatolian, African, Eurasian and Arabian tectonic plates, and its building codes have been lightly regulated for centuries —  meaning that earthquakes will be deadly here for years to come.

Despite tough safety codes approved a decade ago after earthquakes killed 18,000 people and prompted an outcry over the poor quality of construction, enforcement has remained lax. After the latest disaster — a magnitude-7.2 temblor that killed hundreds on Sunday — some residents in the

worst-hit town of Ercis said some of the pancaked buildings lacked steel support rods and sufficient concrete, and accused builders of sacrificing safety for speed and economy.

“Death comes from God. But what about poor construction?” asked Nevzat Altinkaynak. “Look at this building. It was new. It didn’t even have paint on it yet!” Altinkaynak waited outside a collapsed building for news of his wife, Ayse, after rescuers pulled out his daughter Tugba alive.

On Wednesday, the prime minister weighed in, charging that shoddy construction contributed to the high casualty toll and that Turkey had not learned lessons from past disasters. “When we look at the wreckage, we see how the material used is of bad quality,” Prime Minister Recep

Tayyip Erdogan said. “We see that people pay the price for concrete that virtually turned to sand, or for weakened concrete blocks on the ground floors. Municipalities, constructors and supervisors should now see that their negligence amounts to murder.” He said: “Despite all previous disasters, we see that the appeals were not heeded.”

Some 2,000 structures were demolished in Sunday’s quake, including about 80 multistory buildings in Ercis. Serdar Harp, head of Turkey’s Civil Engineers Chamber, told Milliyet newspaper on Tuesday that area  buildings constructed before January were not properly inspected despite the stricter building codes that went into force in 2001, two years after devastating earthquakes in western Turkey.

Many of the people killed by the 1999 quakes died in cheaply made housing blocks that pancaked, and which were later revealed never to have been inspected. Further investigation revealed that much of the cement lacked metal reinforcing bars, or was mixed with large amounts of sand that made it unstable.

The latest disaster revealed similar construction shortcomings, residents said. Harun Uzmez, a fireman experienced in quake rescue, picked up a piece of rubble from the wall of a 20-year-old, five-story building that housed several families. He poked at it, and dust flew off. He dropped it, and it broke into pieces. “It was all sand and lime,” he said. He said iron rods used in the columns of the building were not strong enough.

The disaster in eastern Turkey came a year after a parliamentary report concluded authorities were failing to enforce new building codes, which stipulate that construction cannot begin until plans prepared by authorized  architects and construction engineers are approved by inspectors.  Authorized engineers are also supposed to inspect the construction while it’s under way to make sure the quality of cement is good enough and sufficient steel rods are used.  The parliamentary report said Turkey has also failed to improve city planning, reinforce substandard buildings, control urban development and punish people who violate building codes. It warned that several Turkish cities are at risk.

Foremost among them is Istanbul, which sits near a major fault line and has a population of 15 million.  Geologists have urged the government to tear down some 40,000 buildings there that would probably collapse in a big quake, and have warned that hundreds of thousands more need to be reinforced.

But some engineers said Sunday’s quake was so strong that even properly built buildings would have collapsed.  Shaking associated with a magnitude-7.2 quake “can cause collapse of buildings even with moderate seismic design and quality construction,” according to Mishac Yegian, a professor of civil engineering at Northeastern University in Boston.

“Careful evaluations of the collapsed and survived buildings can reveal how much the extremely high intensity ground shaking, or deficiencies in design and construction contributed to the disaster,” Yegian said. “It is the tendency of people at early stages to fault the designs and quality of construction.”

Posted in Hazards, Tectonics | Leave a Comment »

Turkey earthquake Desperate search for survivors

Posted by Lindy on October 24, 2011

For picture, follow the link:

23rd October 2011-10-24

Rescue teams are desperately searching for people trapped under rubble after a strong earthquake hit Turkey’s eastern Van region on Sunday. Some 239 people died and 1,300 were injured in the 7.2 magnitude quake. The city of Ercis was the worst-hit, where 80 buildings, including a dormitory, collapsed. Tens of thousands have been sleeping outside in freezing conditions.

Turkey is particularly vulnerable to earthquakes because it sits on major geological fault lines. Two earthquakes in 1999 with a magnitude of more than 7 killed almost 20,000 people in densely populated parts of the north-west of the country.

It was followed by a series of powerful aftershocks, also centred north of Van, including two of magnitude 5.6 soon after the quake and one of 6.0 late on Sunday.

Ambulances, soldiers and rescue teams rushed to Ercis.  Survivors complained of a lack of heavy machinery to remove chunks of cement floors that had pancaked on to each other. Serious damage and casualties were also reported in the district of Celebibag, near Ercis. “There are many people under the rubble,” said the local mayor. “We can hear their screams for help. We need urgent help.”

Turkish seismologist Polat Gulkan told the BBC that building regulations were often ignored in Turkey. “The enforcement of the code provisions is not at the standard that we would like to see it,” he said.

Residents of Van and Ercis have been spending the night huddled around camp fires in the open air, fearing more aftershocks. Rescuers could be seen working by torchlight, using their bare hands and shovels. The quake cut electricity and telephone lines and the authorities in some areas have cut gas to avoid the risk of fire. More search and rescue teams were being sent from other parts of the country, including from the Turkish Red Crescent. Camps were being set up to shelter people and blankets, and that food and water were being sent, along with mobile kitchens. Military aircraft were being deployed to help with the rescue and relief efforts.

Posted in Hazards | Leave a Comment »

China getting into deep water?

Posted by Lindy on June 22, 2011

[Map from}

Over 450mm of rain fell from June 13 to 19, 2011 – that is more in 6 days than many parts of SE England get in a year! No wonder life is a bit damp in China this week.

Photogallery on gathering disaster:

Posted in Climate change, Hazards, IGCSE, Rivers | Leave a Comment »

Is climate change causing allergies?

Posted by Lindy on May 26, 2011

May 26, 2011

Apocalyptic images of global climate change include drought, rising sea levels, suffocating coral reefs and emaciated, drowning polar bears. But a new study points to some of the more immediate and mundane side effects of global warming: runny noses, itchy eyes and persistent coughs.

A research lab has found that there is a 12% rise in people they tested who are allergic to molds and 15% rise in those allergic to ragwort over the past 4 years.

“The rapid rise in common ragweed and mold is consistent with other research linking climate change to greater sensitization to select environmental allergens,” wrote the authors.

In 2010, a team of scientists showed that fungal spore growth – a common allergen – increased with rises in carbon dioxide. Also another paper “demonstrated a clear correlation between frost-free days and ragweed pollen season” and therefore, to higher exposure to the ragweed allergen, as temperatures rise

Posted in Climate change, Hazards, Y7/8 | Leave a Comment »

The first good news about predicting earthquakes

Posted by Lindy on May 20, 2011  to see the images.

Scientists say that the atmosphere above the epicenter of Japan’s catastrophic March 11 earthquake underwent significant changes prior to the tectonic thrust.

Preliminary studies of the phenomena by Chapman University researcher Dimitar Ouzounov and several international colleagues could offer insight into how to predict powerful earthquakes well before they strike.

Using satellite data, they studied atmospheric conditions during the days leading up to the quake.

They found a large increase in the concentration of electrons above northeastern Japan, which peaked three days prior to the quake.

March 8 also saw a rapid increase in infrared radiation above the future epicenter. Both atmospheric changes disappeared following the main 9.0 magnitude quake.

Similar phenomena have been detected prior to some other major earthquakes.

Posted in Hazards, IGCSE, Tectonics | Leave a Comment »

Art gives a new life to 350 Haitian families

Posted by Lindy on May 1, 2011


It’s spring, and signs of Haiti’s economic recovery are popping up in surprising ways: handcrafted quilts from Port-au-Prince, papier-mâché vases from Jacmel, and jewelry from Croix des Bouquets — all on store shelves throughout the United States, said a statement from the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.

More than 350 Haitian families are now able to provide food and afford schooling for their children thanks to the incredible success of our Fairwinds Trading project. This program is enabling a community of Haitian artists to produce market-ready goods for sale in the United States, and it’s been very successful thanks to multiple orders from retailers like Macy’s and Anthropologie.

The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund awarded a loan of $174,832 to Fairwinds Trading in January of this year. Fairwinds Trading supports hundreds of artisans by giving them the logistics support, design guidance, and the US market connections that they need to export their art.

The artists participating in this program are eager to earn their own livelihoods, proud to contribute to their “Ayiti Cheri” and are very optimistic, an optimism that is contagious and that energizes the whole community.

Posted in Fragile environments, Haiti, Hazards, IGCSE, Solution to problems, Tectonics, Y7/8 | Leave a Comment »

Bangladesh communities show how they adapt to climate change

Posted by Lindy on April 6, 2011

As part of  the 5th International Conference on Community Based Adaptation to Climate Change, in Dhaka in Bangladesh at the end of March 2011, international delegates visited different parts kf Bangladesh to see what they were doing locally

1. Coastal area: Problem: seas are contaminating drinking water and the decreasing flow of freshwater from the Ganges river is insufficient

Solution: The NGO Caritas is working with local people to capture rainwater and store it to drink when regular supplies decline

2.Inland north-west: problem: increasingly prone to drought during winter

Solution: The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation and the NGO ActionAid have helped farmers to use simple irrigation technologies that provide drips of water exactly where they are needed.

3. The floodplains of central Bangladesh: Problem: facing up to floods

Solution: There, the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies helps farmers to grow vegetables on meshes of bamboo filled with soil that can float when flood strikes.

For more details about what else went on go to

Posted in Bangladesh, Climate change, Fragile environments, Global warming, Hazards, IGCSE, Solution to problems, Water | Leave a Comment »

Worried about a nuclear explosion in Japan?

Posted by Lindy on March 13, 2011

Just follow this link to find out why you shouldn’t be.

More on Japan later

Posted in Hazards, Tectonics | Leave a Comment »