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Why Are Natural Hazards Rarely Completely Natural?

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Introduction

Why Are Natural Hazards Rarely Completely Natural? Throughout the world, natural hazards are a frequent occurrence. They come in the forms of hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and floods, to name but a few. On a range of scales they create disaster, destruction, loss of life and of livelihood. Natural processes have occurred in the natural environment for millions of years. They are events that happen naturally, e.g. blizzards and floods. A natural process only becomes a natural hazard when the risk of human loss is presented. To put it in context, a flood in an unoccupied valley is a natural process, whereas a flood in a valley where a village is situated is a natural hazard. Natural disasters take natural hazards to the next level. A natural disaster is when a natural hazard results in extensive loss of life or property. Natural disasters cannot happen where there are no humans, as a natural disaster in a baron desert would simply remain a natural process. Therefore a natural hazard requires human presence simply to exist, meaning that it would not be a completely natural process. Let us take the case of the flooding of Boscastle, Cornwall, in early August of 2004. ...read more.

Middle

This caused mass panic as residents tried to flee, blocking bridges and infrastructure. Again, had the area been unoccupied, the hurricane would have remained a natural process rather than becoming a natural hazard. The fact was, that of the 17 million residents of Florida, 6.5 million residents were in the hurricane's path of devastation. The hurricane tore westerly across Florida, before eventually losing its strength and blowing itself out after a couple of days. The damages amounted to nearly �10 billion across the state. Loss to the local economy was also suffered, even by those who did not have to pay for repairs. For example, the empire of Disney attractions was closed down for the duration of the hurricane, even though the hurricane did not reach this far inland. The point that this case proves, is that the mere presence of the residents and tourists in Florida transformed it from a Natural Process to a Natural Disaster. Therefore it was not an entirely natural occurrence. My final case study looks at the recent occurrence of earthquakes in Japan. On Monday the 4th September 2004, two offshore earthquakes were measured. The first, which was 30 miles off the west coast of Japan, measured 6.8 on the Richter scale. ...read more.

Conclusion

There are other, more sustained theories which explain the effects humans have on natural hazards. Deforested valley sides increase flood risk due to the lack of the vegetation intercepting the flow. Coal mining and reservoir construction can destabilise the land and trigger earthquakes. Where land is in short supply, unstable slopes are often built upon, triggering landslides. These are proven theories. However, it is not fair to say that humans create all Natural Hazards. That is why they are called Natural hazards. However, it could be argued that we unintentionally add to the intensity of a natural hazard, simply by going about our everyday lives. There are less obvious links between human activity and the occurrence of natural hazards. For example, could driving our cars add to global warming and be blamed for an increase in the effects of meteorological hazards, e.g. adding to levels of water evaporation, increasing flood risk and triggering hurricanes? Could human settlements being built close to volcanoes and fault lines apply pressure to the tectonic plates and trigger tectonic hazards such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes? These theories should be considered when one is trying to find the bigger picture. Therefore, my argument is that it is extremely rare, if at all possible, that a natural hazard would be completely natural. Bradley Wynne ...read more.

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