NH
Natural Hazards

Natural Hazards

Mapping population dynamics to advance Disaster Risk Management

Mapping population dynamics to advance Disaster Risk Management

 

Today we have the honour to introduce Sérgio Freire as our guest. Sérgio Freire is a Geographer, currently working as Scientific/Technical Project Manager at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), Directorate E. Space, Security and Migration, Disaster Risk Management Unit, based in Ispra, Italy. His main activities focus on developing applications of the JRC’s Global Human Settlement Layer (GHSL) in the context of disaster exposure, risk, and vulnerability analysis, including modelling population distribution at a range of spatial and temporal resolutions. Current activities also include global mapping and characterisation of human settlements, and developing satellite-based indicators to support monitoring of Sustainable Development Goals.

 

 

  1. When we think about disasters, we firstly mean natural hazards characteristics. However, potential harm comes even from vulnerability and exposure. Can you please explain to us what these elements are and which role they play in the risk equation?

 

In fact, natural hazards are ‘normal’ acts of nature that are part of the living planet that is Earth.

These only make the news and become disasters when they affect people (or property, systems) that display vulnerabilities to those specific phenomena. A strong earthquake in the middle of the Sahara desert may have little or no impacts due to scarce population and settlements, i.e., the absence of exposure. On the other hand, an earthquake of comparable magnitude occurring in cities of dissimilar countries may cause very different impacts and casualties due to the divergent structural vulnerabilities of built-up structures. However, for extreme events or hazards above a certain magnitude, exposure is a major driver of impacts.

Figure 1. Evolution of global population exposed to the highest seismic hazard, by decade. Bars refer to the total population in Modified Mercalli Intensity levels VIII to XII (right axis) and lines refer to percent population change relative to the previous period (left axis) (Source: Freire S., D. Ehrlich, S. Ferri, 2015. Population Exposure and Impacts from Earthquakes: Assessing Spatio-temporal Changes in the XX Century. Computer Modeling in Engineering & Sciences (CMES), SI: ‘Modeling of dangerous phenomena for risk mitigation’. Vol.109(2): 159-182)

 

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Bridging the gap between science and decision makers – a new tool for nuclear emergencies affecting food and agriculture

Bridging the gap between science and decision makers – a new tool for nuclear emergencies affecting food and agriculture

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has developed an online system to assist in improving the response capabilities of authorities in the event of an emergency caused by natural hazards. This tool provides a clear overview of radioactive contamination of crops and agricultural lands through improved data management and visualization, it also assists in decision support processes by suggesting management actions to decision makers. In this interview, we have the pleasure to introduce Ms Amelia Lee Zhi Yi, working at the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture to speak about DSS4NAFA, said system that will be extensively discussed hereafter.

1)  Nuclear Emergency Response (NER) for food and agriculture – why is that important and what does that entail?

In the event of a nuclear or radiological emergency, the response should be performed swiftly in the interest of human health. After ensuring the well-being of the population, it is necessary to prioritize the assessment of possible radioactive contamination of crops and agricultural lands to avoid ingestion of radioactivity.

Proper data management, data visualization and risk communication are essential for efficient response to a nuclear emergency. Factors that should be considered for such response include support for sampling and laboratory analysis, optimal allocation of manpower and analytical instruments, and integrated communication between stakeholders.

To make well-informed decisions on for instance planting and food restrictions, food safety authorities need to have a good understanding of the radiological conditions after a fallout event. This is accomplished through the collection of environmental samples such as soil and plants, and food products that are then analysed using consistent methods in qualified laboratories. Further, these data should be displayed in an intuitive manner so that authorities will be able to interpret the data under stressful, time-bound conditions. Finally, to reduce confusion and clearly communicate decisions made to the public, standardized communication protocols of the decisions made by policymakers need to be implemented. [Read More]

Heavy metals in industrial wastewater: hazardous waste or secondary resource?

Not long ago on the blog, we have talked about natural groundwater quality triggered by geogenic factors and related hazards such as a high concentration of heavy metals. Today’s topic concerns the anthropogenic input of heavy metals into the water and how to solve its impact effectively.  Industrial processes can lead to heavy metal bearing wastewater, which is commonly treated by inefficient purification methods. Therefore, it is time to think about alternative methods for recovering the metals that would otherwise pollute the water and create a hazard for the environment. In addition, the obtainable metal resources make their recovery attractive from an economic point of view. However, efficient removal and recovery of toxic metals from industrial wastewater streams is a major challenge. To understand better the subject and the potentiality of specific water’s treatments, we interviewed two PhD students, Kai Tandon and Iphigenia Anagnostopoulos, both working in the group of Prof. Dr. Soraya Heuss-Aßbichler at LMU Munich.

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Hazard chains: from anthropic oil spills to ecosystem pollution. Can tiny organisms be the solution?

Hazard chains: from anthropic oil spills to ecosystem pollution. Can tiny organisms be the solution?

Hello to everyone. Today I have the personal pleasure to interview Dr. Grégoire Michoud. He is a friend and a brilliant scientist working on ecosystem microbial ecology. In the interview, Grégoire will talk to us about oil spills in the marine system, a specific anthropic hazard that can evolve into a natural hazard with terrible environmental consequences.

Grégoire Michoud is a Post-Doctoral Scientist at KAUST (Saudi Arabia), since 2015. He obtained his Ph.D. from the Université de Bretagne Occidentale, in Brest France. His primary research interest focuses on the characterization of the coping mechanisms of microbes in extreme environments (deep sea, brine pools, hydrocarbon pollution) by genomics and cultures approaches. His work has application in hazard chain from anthropic sources to natural targets.

 

 

Hello Grégoire, please tell us a bit about environmental issues related to oil spills.

When it comes to oil spills, widespread publicized releases are rare events and represent just 10% of the overall release in the marine ecosystem. The remaining 90% is actually due to ship activities or other land-based industries that contribute to the pollution. One example of rare oil spill is the Deep Water Horizon case where, in a relative short time, a huge amount of oil was released into the Gulf of Mexico. However, in the vast majority of situations, small quantities of oil can be released from random events adding up to a considerable pollution.

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