The environment as hazard by Ian Burton
By Ian Burton
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Extra resources for The environment as hazard
There are many ways of describing extreme natural events. In several instances the study of these phenomena is a central concern of one or another branch of the natural sciences. Thus, hydrologists study floods; seismologists study earthquakes; droughts and tornadoes are the concern of climatologists and meteorologists; patterns of land and land use are studied by geographers; biologists investigate the desert locust; and so on. Out of this traditional division of labor comes a classification of hazards based on the natural processes characterized by extreme events.
Since then the Hungarian National Water Authority has constructed Europe’s largest system of levees and dikes, and has organized a flood-fighting service. Experience with a great flood along the Danube in 1965 and in the valley of a tributary, the Tisza, in 1970 (100,000 people were evacuated and 30,000 were engaged in flood fighting) suggests that greater floods will occur and are likely to overtop the present works. The danger is increased by a tendency for river levels to rise as a result of flood protection works and of land-use changes upstream, chiefly in neighboring countries.
The magnitude of hazard events is often particularly difficult to assess, however, because the instrument of measurement—persons, their possessions and activities—is itself subject to significant and rapid change. Thus, two droughts may be of similar magnitude in terms of moisture deficiency, duration, and areal extent, and yet have very different magnitude in social response terms according to density of population, kinds of crops being grown in the area, level of agricultural technology, and so on.