Natural Hazards Assessment
Flooding on the Elbe River, 2002 (From Munich Re, "Topics").
Student on medium-sized slump above Yellowbanks anchorage, Santa Cruz Island, California, that moved as a discrete mass following heavy rains that fell during the 1997-98 El Niño winter.
By understanding that natural disasters result from social, economic, and political decisions as well as the natural processes that trigger these disasters, it becomes clear that there are tangible steps that can be taken to reduce the effects of these events or even side-step them entirely. An important recognition is that some hazards are avoidable, while others are much less so. Where the risk is significant, by far the best option is to avoid discrete hazards in the first place, through comprehensive planning, zoning, or other mechanisms. The good news for developing nations, with limited infrastructure already in place in hazardous zones, is that they have the opportunity to avoid many potential problems entirely. The lesson learned from flooding in the USA and similar hazards in other developed countries is that encroachment into hazardous zones is usually a one-way process.
The good news is that timely investments in engineering and other protections against the effects of natural hazards can safeguard countless lives and reduce damages over time. The short-term investment necessary to see meaningful gains may be quite substantial, but weighed against the long-term costs of inaction, rational hazard planning can yield tremendous savings. When structural solutions to the challenges of natural hazards are implemented, however, engineers and political leaders must be aware of the potential for "opening Pandora's Box"-that is, inadvertently increasing hazard risks either in the same location or in other areas. In particular, protective engineering structures can effectively export damages and losses of life from one location to another, including the export of hazard risk across national boundaries.
Pinter, N., 2006. New Orleans revival recipes. Issues in Science and Technology, 22(3): 5-6.
Pinter, N., 2005. Policy Forum: Floodplain encroachment since the 1993 flood. Science, 308: 207-208.
Pinter, N., and W.D. Vestal, 2005. El Niño-driven landsliding and post-grazing recovery, Santa Cruz Islands, California. Journal of Geophysical Research, 110, F2, doi. 10.1029/2004JF000203.
Pinter, N., R. Thomas, and J.H. Wlosinski, 2002. Reply to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Comment on "Assessing flood hazard on dynamic rivers." Eos: Transactions of the American Geophysical Union, 83(36): 397-398.
Pinter, N., J.H. Wlosinski, and R. Heine, 2002. The case for utilization of stage data in flood-frequency analysis: Preliminary results from the Middle Mississippi and Lower Missouri River. Hydrologic Science and Technology Journal, 18(1-4): 173-185.
Pinter, N., R. Thomas, and J.H. Wlosinski, 2001. Flood-hazard assessment on dynamic rivers. Eos: Transactions of the American Geophysical Union, 82(31): 333-339.
Pinter, N., R. Thomas, and N.S. Philippi, 2001. Side-stepping environmental conflicts: The role of natural-hazards assessment, planning, and mitigation. E. Petzold-Bradley, A. Carius, and A. Vincze (eds.), Responding to Environmental Conflicts: Implications for Theory and Practice, p. 113-132. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.