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Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Floods and Volcanic Eruption Term Paper

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Updated: Aug 20th, 2019


Natural disasters are rapid and instantaneous occurrences that cause extreme devastation to the environment and the socioeconomic systems. The world is prone to many natural disasters though the the socioeconomic impacts can be mitigated. It is estimated that a third of the world economic cost is channeled towards prediction and mitigating disasters.

Death tolls vary from one catastrophe to another as some countries are vulnerable to these disasters recording a large number of deaths (Abbott, 12). An example is Japan, which is known to have experienced frequent and different types of disasters in the past (Kisslinger, 37). This paper discusses earthquakes, floods and volcanic eruption.


Earthquakes have rocked the earth for a long period. Scientists do not have exact reasons why earthquakes occur. However, the only explanation given is that they occur when plates shift positions or collide. It is clear that some areas of the earth experience frequent and deadly earthquake more than others. Scientists study earthquakes using seismographs to locate the epicenter and for future predictions. Scientists have observed that different regions may have different earthquake precursors.

Therefore, to avoid faulty warnings, the tools used should monitor a wide range of parameters for vulnerable areas of the world. Predictions are made using data and observations in dense networks of epicenter areas (Abbott, 17). This will help in the future monitory of small earthquakes of six magnitudes and below. This is important since the techniques would help in predicting large future earthquakes for earthquake control. Today, experiments are done for future earthquake control in Colorado rangelands.

However, further studies are still necessary for reality in terms of understanding the physical processes involved, magnitudes, rock characteristics. This knowledge will play a significant role in earthquake control modification models and earthquake feasibility. The success of future predictions depends on the manpower commitment to seismological programs (Kisslinger 38).

California, San Fransico, 1906

San Fransico was occupied mainly by Spanish from Mexico. By 1906, the population was about half a million. The city experienced small, yearly earthquakes, and everyone knew about earthquakes. The city is built on the pacific and north America tectonic plates over the San Andreas fault stretching for about eight hundred miles and sixteen kilometers deep (Prokos, 43).

There are many other fault lines in the region. Each year, scientists record about 20,000 strong tremors. On 18th April 1906, a great earthquake of 7.8 magnitude hit the city at 5.00 am while people were still sleeping. Three thousand people lost their lives in this incident. The underling plates slid horizontally past each other.

Chimneys crumbled into pieces; buildings collapsed and crushed people while some were trapped. The streets split into two. Several days after the quake, the city was still in flames as the fire fighters could not extinguish the flames. Many people died instantly while others drowned in the flooded buildings as they could not escape. The aftershock flattened the already damaged buildings disrupting the recovery process (Weil, 17).

The calamity caused death of thousands of people, and almost all the material wealth were destroyed by fire. It caused both administrative and economic mess. The inhabitants described the disaster as a fire storm because the most destruction was done by the fire. The American and British insurance company settled the cost of losses at 65.3% and 34.3% respectively (Röder, 37).

After this disaster, the chiefs of major insurance companies pushed for major changes to improve the building codes and the infrastructure (Röder, 42). In January 2010, the population of San Francisco city was expected to be about 809, 249. This was extrapolated from US census of 2000.


The earth was formed million of years ago from a hot mess that split from the solar system. The force of gravity separated the earth into layers as heavier materials settled at the center whereas lighter materials settled on the outer surface. Volcanoes are known to release the pressure of the molten magma when the overlying rocks can no longer contain the pressure through eruption.

There are two kinds of volcanic mountain. The active volcano is expected to erupt in the future while the dormant volcanoes are not likely to erupt in the future. Some erupt for months and years while others erupts quickly and stop. A volcanic eruption is one of the most feared natural disasters. Volcanic eruptions cause extreme destruction to people, land, vegetation, landscape, buildings, roads and other infrastructure.

Major volcanic eruptions occur killing and injuring inhabitants of the volcanic active regions. Apart from the visible dangers of volcanoes, they can be a poisonous thereby killing living organism in case of contact. The dark ashes from the volcanoes may have several mixtures of gases resulting in air pollution (Thompson and Turk 31).

Prediction and risk assessment

Many volcanoes are active and thus the geologists should predict an eruption to reduce potential disasters. One should understand the tectonic environment of a given region as a first step for prediction. This is due to the relationship between an eruption and the geology of the area.

The previous frequencies and the magnitudes of eruptions are critical during future risk assessment. Regional predictions can estimate the time of a future earthquake, but cannot predict the intensity. Short term predictions are more accurate than regional predictions. In this case, short term focuses on detecting signs and time for an active volcano. Some signs can be seen in the changes within the surrounding land such as smoke or gas emissions, temperature of the nearby hot springs, and earthquake (Thompson and Turk 40).

The eruption of Mt St. Helens, 1980

The last time there was an eruption at Mt Helens was in 1857. Two US geologists predicted that the mountain would erupt before the end of the century due to the past frequent and violent eruptions. An earthquake occurred below the volcano causing small eruptions that led to a greater eruption two months later.

Geologists installed seismographs and surveying tools to record signs of the seismic activities. Sensitive and sophisticated equipments were used to detect changes in the ground water and temperature increase prior to the eruption. It was observed that the mountain swelled and increased in size due to the upward force of magma.

The results showed that the mountain could erupt again, and thus the government was advised to vacate the civilians to avoid loss of lives. These instruments were used in the Philippines in 1991 where lives were saved. David Johnstone is one of the unlucky scientists whom have been caught off guard and killed. The eruption flattened a vast area of thirty five by twenty kilometers. Some people were engulfed by the dark cloud debris as they tried to escape.

The high temperatures melted the mountain ice resulting in strong mud flows that flattened the vegetation and moved vehicles and buildings. The mud reached the Columbia river where it destroyed the river biodiversity. Ash clouds of high temperature smoldered everything in their path. The area still shows the effects of the disaster though the vegetation is slowly regenerating. The forest service has managed to replant trees, especially on the plain ground (Thompson and Turk 56).


Floods are natural occurrences that shape the landscape, ecological habitats, and ecosystems. Floods can cause loss of lives and property destruction. Thus, it is advisable for vulnerable regions take steps to predict and control floods. Poor land use methods in the rural and urban areas can cause flooding.


Different regions of Europe have experienced major flood problems between 1998 and 2000 due to climate change. It is predicted that floods will increase in Europe given the recent frequency. It is estimated that over 25 billion Euros insured economic losses experienced and about seven hundred fatalities. It was estimated that around 1.5% of the Europeans were affected by floods that covered expansive areas (International commission for the protection of Dandube river basin floods 3).

Danube river basin 2002

The flood affected the following countries: Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania. The flash flood Suceuva that is northern Romania led to massive deaths of citizens. Over sixteen thousand houses were flooded. Hundreds of kilometers of roads were destroyed, and close to five hundred bridges were destroyed.

The destruction of infrastructure also affected communication systems. The gas and electricity network were also damaged. Several municipalities in Hungary were affected with more than twenty thousand people being vacated from their homes. More than 4,370 homes were damaged. The presence of prevention structures and well executed emergency interventions minimized the possible overall damage.

Emergency operations were valued at thirty three million Euros, and over ten million Euros were needed for rehabilitation. The central parts of Slovakia were the most affected as 144 settlements and thousands of hectares were flooded. Damages were valued at €36.2 million, and emergency costs amounted to €2.2 million.

The 20 communities in the Morava river basin, Czech Republic were affected especially in regard to agriculture and infrastructure resulting in a €11.7 million damage cost. Over 10,000 homes and infrastructure were destroyed in lower and upper Austria. The total damage amounted to €3.1bilion.

In Germany, the Inn, Traun, Regen, and Salzach tributary areas were slightly affected due to the regulating structures that reduced a potentially extended damage. The 2006 floods caused swelling of rivers and many people abandoned their homes due to high water levels.

This was a major flooding experienced in the Danube in the last 100 years. The international commission for the protection of the Danube area revised the hydrology of the area to develop ways to support the national preparedness. The report from this meeting proposed possible solutions and the way forward to minimize damage in the future (International commission for the protection of Dandube river basin floods 5).


This paper has presented a few of the major natural disasters that the world has experienced. Natural disasters happen due to natural causes. However, experts should engage in prediction of the occurrence of natural disasters to issue alerts before the disasters strike. It is evident that disaster preparedness has been critical in reducing the magnitude of devastation in the past. Therefore, various governments should adopt mitigation measures that can assist in minimizing the impacts of the disasters.

Works Cited

Abbott, Patrick L. Natural Disasters. Dubuque, IA: McGraw-Hill, 2009. Print.

International commission for the protection of Dandube river basin floods, 2006. Web.

Kisslinger, Carl. Earthquake predictions. Physics Today, 27. 3. (1974): 36-42. Print.

Prokos, Anna. Earthquakes. Pleasantville, NY: Gareth Stevens Pub, 2009. Print.

Röder, Tilmann J. From Industrial to Legal Standardization, 1871-1914: Transnational Insurance Law and the Great San Francisco Earthquake. Leiden [u.a.: Martinus Nijhoff Brill, 2011. Print.

Thompson, Graham R. and J. Turk. Earth Science and the Environment. Australia: Thomson Brooks/Cole, 2007. Print.

Weil, Ann. Earthquakes. Costa Mesa, Calif.: Saddleback Educational Pub, 2013. Print.

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