The Dynamics of Disaster

The Dynamics of Disaster

by Susan W. Kieffer


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The Dynamics of Disaster by Susan W. Kieffer

"If you are an amateur weather geek, disaster wonk, or budding student of earth sciences, you will want to read this book." —Seattle TimesIn 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393349917
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 10/13/2014
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 315
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Susan W. Kieffer is a professor emerita of geology at the University of Illinois and a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant. She is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Kieffer hosts a popular blog called Geology in Motion. She lives on Whidbey Island, Washington.

Table of Contents

Preface: The Nature of Disaster xiii

Chapter 1 Geologic Consent-Do We Have If or Not? 1

Changes of State and Change without Notice 3

Disasters: Natural, Unnatural, Technological, Stealth 7

Known Knowns, Known Unknowns, and Unknown Unknowns 9

A Tour of Disasters 14

Chapter 2 Dynamics and Disasters 19

Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Volcanoes 21

Exploding Bicycle Tires: Changes of State 30

Football, Your Bank Account, and Conservation of Stuff 33

Flowing Rivers: Changes in Regime 37

Chapter 3 When Terra Isn't Firma 39

Haiti, Christchurch, Shaanxi, and … Washington, DC? 41

Earthquakes, Violins, and Furniture Moving 43

Shake, Rattle, and Roll 47

Shake, Rattle, and Jiggle 51

Shake, Bake, Zap, and Glow 56

Reflections: Rare Events, High Stakes and Risk Communication 63

Chapter 4 The Flying Carpet of Elm 67

A Floating Farm and a Flying Carpet 69

Diversity: Landslides Have It 73

A Dangerous Combination: Geology, Weather, and Humans 75

Go … No Go … Go … No Go … Gone 80

Sturzstroms and Flying Carpets 84

The Mother of All Landslides: Heart Mountain 90

Reflections: Geology, a Bifocal Science 92

Chapter 5 The Day the Mountain Blew 95

Bla-Loom! 97

Brewing Up a Dangerous Mix 102

The Calm Before the Storm at Mount St. Helens 106

The Storm: An Ash Hurricane 109

Up, Up, and Away 115

The Bang in the Burp: Vei, the Richter Scale of Volcanoes 123

Reflections: Chain Reactions 124

Chapter 6 The Power of Water: Tsunamis 127

Mega-Tsunamis: A Wild Ride in Lituya Bay 129

The Indian Ocean and Tohoku Tsunamis 134

Primer: Waves and Teenagers 138

Birth of a Tsunami 141

Running Free: Tsunamis at Sea 147

Death of a Tsunami: Run-Up 150

Reflections: Where, When, But Not "If" 154

Chapter 7 Rogue Waves, Stormy Weather 159

Oops … My Helicopter Is Too Low! 161

An Aside About Wind-Driven Waves 167

What Distinguishes a Rogue Wave from a Mere Big Wave? 169

Smoke Rings 172

Ferrel Cells and Spinning Tops 179

Ocean Gyres and Currents 182

The Rest of the Story 184

Reflections: Rogue Waves, Optical Fibers, and Superfluid Helium 187

Chapter 8 Rivers in the Sky 191

The Glass House, Joplin, and Chopping ICE "For Culinary Purposes" 193

Primer: Rivers of Water 199

Rivers of Air 202

Winds That Flow Over Topography: Foehns, Chinooks, and Steve Fossett 204

Winds That Flow Through Topography: Gap Winds 210

The Biggest Rivers in the Sky: Our Jet Streams and Hurricane Sandy 214

Tornadoes and Joplin 218

Reflections: To Warn or Not to Warn? 222

Chapter 9 Water, Water Everywhere … or Not a Drop to Drink 225

A Plague of Snakes 227

2011: Billions and Billions 230

Mirror Images: Droughts and Floods 233

Children of the Tropics: El Nino and La Nina 237

Whirling Around 243

What Can We Say, What Can't We Say, and Why? 249

Reflections: The Precautionary Principle 252

Chapter 10 Earth and Us 255

L'aquila: Scientists on Trial 257

Risk in the Modern World 260

Proposal for a CDC for Planet Earth 263

Acknowledgments 273

Notes 275

Index 301

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The Dynamics of Disaster 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent book for any non-scientist who wants to understand the dynamic interplay of variables that bring about natural disasters. The author reveals stories about her life in the field while teaching the reader about waves and tsunamis, earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions. The author has a vast knowledge about these subjects and is able to write about them in everyday language for the typical non-geologist reader. Recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a good topic, poorly written, with incomprehensible sentences and poorly-expressed statistics. Too bad this was such a struggle to read.