Natural Hazards

Archives / 2019 / March

The CRED presents the bill: the socio-economic cost of natural disasters.

The CRED presents the bill: the socio-economic cost of natural disasters.

Which type of natural disaster is the most frequent? And which one causes the largest economic losses? Which populations are mainly affected? What are the necessary steps to reduce natural disasters’ impact? If you have ever wondered about any of these questions, you’d be interested to know that there is an institute answering all of them with a series of reports and ad hoc publications.

We are talking about the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED). The CRED is based, since 1973, at the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium and since 1980 it’s a collaborator of the World Health Organization (WHO). Their main goal? Study public health during a mass emergency as well as the structural and socio-economic impact of natural and technological disasters and human conflicts. They maintain the world’s most comprehensive database (EM-DAT) on occurrence and effects of technological and natural disasters from 1900 to the present day: more than 22,000 events and counting. [Read More]

Anthropogenic changes of the landscape and natural hazards

Anthropogenic changes of the landscape and natural hazards

In this post, I had the pleasure to interview Paolo Tarolli, a very active member of the EGU community and a brilliant scientist. He is Professor in Water Resources Management and Integrated Watershed Management, and head of Earth Surface Processes and Society research group at the Università degli Studi di Padova (Italy). He has a PhD in Environmental Watershed Management and Geomatics and has worked as academic staff at the Università degli Studi di Padova since 2011. He was Visiting Professor at several universities (e.g. China University of Geosciences, Guangzhou University, National Cheng Kung University, EPFL), and Adjunct Professor at University of Georgia and Università Politecnica delle Marche.

Paolo Tarolli is also very active in science dissemination, being Executive Editor of the open access journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences (NHESS) and Science Officer of the Natural Hazards division (NH6 remote sensing & hazards) at the European Geosciences Union (EGU). He is also a member of the European Geosciences Union, the American Geophysical Union, and the British Society for Geomorphology.

His fields of expertise include digital terrain analysis, earth surface processes analysis, natural hazards, geomorphology, hydro-geomorphology, lidar, structure-from-motion photogrammetry; new research directions include the analysis of topographic signatures of human activities from local to regional scale.

1) Humans are having an increasing impact on the Earth, and the term Anthropocene is now commonly used to define the period we are living in to highlight the strong influence of human beings. How are humans shaping the Earth?


Conceptual diagram of long-term changes in sociocultural systems, cultural inheritances, societal scale, energy use and anthropogenic geomorphic features (source: Tarolli et al. 2019, Progress in Physical Geography, doi:10.1177/0309133318825284)

Human societies have been reshaping the geomorphology of landscapes for thousands of years, producing anthropogenic geomorphic features ranging from earthworks and ditches to settlements, agricultural terraces, ports, roads, canals, airports and constructed wetlands that have distinct characteristics compared with landforms produced by natural processes. Human societies are transforming the geomorphology of landscapes at increasing rates and scales across the globe. These anthropogenic patterns, directly and indirectly, alter Earth surface processes while reflecting the sociocultural conditions of the societies that produced them. In my recent paper published in Progress in Physical Geography[1] (a research collaboration with some colleagues with a different background, e.g. geomorphology, ecology and archaeology), we introduced the concept of “sociocultural fingerprints”. We connected the novel Earth system processes provided by the emergence and evolution of human societies with their continuous shaping and reshaping of Earth’s geomorphology from the deep past into the foreseeable future. We underlined the opportunity to recognize the geomorphic signatures of sociocultural fingerprints across Earth’s land surface using high-resolution remote sensing[2] combined with a theoretical framework that integrates the natural and sociocultural forces that have and will shape the landscapes of the Anthropocene. Doing so, the long-term dynamics of anthropogenic landscapes can be more effectively investigated and understood, towards more sustainable management of the Earth system.

[Read More]