In 2011, there were fourteen natural calamities that each destroyed
over a billion dollars worth of property in the United States
alone. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast and major
earthquakes struck in Italy, the Philippines, Iran, and
Afghanistan. In the first half of 2013, the awful drumbeat
continued a monster supertornado struck Moore, Oklahoma; a powerful
earthquake shook Sichuan, China; a cyclone ravaged Queensland,
Australia; massive floods inundated Jakarta, Indonesia; and the
largest wildfire ever engulfed a large part of Colorado.
Despite these events, we still behave as if natural disasters
are outliers. Why else would we continue to build new communities
near active volcanoes, on tectonically active faults, on flood
plains, and in areas routinely lashed by vicious storms?
A famous historian once observed that civilization exists by
geologic consent, subject to change without notice. In the pages of
this unique book, leading geologist Susan W. Kieffer provides a
primer on most types of natural disasters: earthquakes, tsunamis,
volcanoes, landslides, hurricanes, cyclones, and tornadoes. By
taking us behind the scenes of the underlying geology that causes
them, she shows why natural disasters are more common than we
realize, and that their impact on us will increase as our growing
population crowds us into ever more vulnerable areas.
Kieffer describes how natural disasters result from changes in
state in a geologic system, much as when water turns to steam. By
understanding what causes these changes of state, we can begin to
understand the dynamics of natural disasters.
In the book s concluding chapter, Kieffer outlines how we might
better prepare for, and in some cases prevent, future disasters.
She also calls for the creation of an organization, something akin
to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but focused on
pending natural disasters."
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