Earth: The Most Formidable Mover and Shaker

Doctors can tell a lot about a person by observing their bodily functions.

I wonder if that same concept works for the planet. Perhaps volcanic ash is really just a bad belch, earthquakes are simply muscle-stretching, and hurricanes are either an outpouring of profound sadness and anger or a pent up bladder…. Either way, the impacts of these "normal functions" can easily stop Earth's parasites (us) in their tracks (think stranded European travelers, for example). But is the host trying to tell us something?

Simon A. Carn, Ph.D., assistant professor at Michigan Tech, says that ash from the Icelandic volcano eruption contains sulfur dioxide. Where is the ash going and what happens if it reaches the ground? Will there be a need to call in remediation experts?

The U.S. Geological Survey notes that the planet experiences roughly 16 magnitude 7.0 earthquakes per year. Typically one or two are greater than magnitude 8.0. We know what happened in Haiti and also what happened in Chile. Do we need more engineers to build earthquake-rated structures along fault lines?

Colorado State University has forecasted significantly more hurricane activity in the Atlantic this year (pdf) as compared to the average 1950-2000 season. Researchers estimate that 2010 will have about

  • 8 hurricanes (average is 5.9),
  • 15 named storms (average is 9.6),
  • 75 named storm days (average is 49.1),
  • 35 hurricane days (average is 24.5),
  • 4 major (Category 3-4-5) hurricanes (average is 2.3) and
  • 10 major hurricane days (average is 5)

I don't have any questions here. I think water is the greatest force we have to contend with: Levees constructed along the Louisiana coasts were impotent against Katrina.

For the most part, I don't think people consider disasters in their daily routine (unless, of course, it's their business to do so.) Perhaps we all should take a minute to consider the future. Do you think there are any sustainable solutions out there to address natural disasters? What about engineering and technology, migration to more stable Earth locales, or…something else?

Posted by L.K. Williams, EPonline on Apr 19, 2010

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