Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Monday, May 12, 2008

Month of Cataclysm

It has been a rough ride as of late:

May 12: Earthquake killing 9000+ in China

May 10-11: Tornadoes tear through Oklahoma, Missouri Georgia and many other states, killing nearly two dozen and injuring hundreds more. It wiped out Picher, Ok, which was a super fund site. And they are saying it will be the worst tornado season in 10 years.

May 3-4: A level 3, low level 4 Cyclone hits Myanmar/Burma. As of May 12, the death toll was around 32,000. NPR reported that the death toll may be up due, in part, to the destruction of Mangrove trees.

May 2: Volcanic eruption in the Patagonian region of southern Chile, ash still raining down as of May 10. It had been dormant for 2000 years.

May 1 to today: not to belittle the importance of victim suffering, but My personal disaster: USWest suffering from the worst, nonstop allergies ever! And so it seems, is everyone else. I know, a very middle-class-white-girl problem, but it's my problem, so . . but it is a very cold spring by our local standards.

I am still trying to decide if natural disasters are more common, or if it is just that we hear about them more, and for longer periods of time. Currently, I am leaning toward the "more often" theory. I think they may be more common due to environmental degradation and we hear about them more because people are living where they didn't in the past. We hear about them longer and in more detail because we have 24 hour news to fill. And they are more striking to us psychologically because so much around us seems bad- the economy, politics, energy costs, etc.

There are always some types of natural disasters going on in the world. For a depressing look see EO Natural Hazards page put together by NASA. Then you will sit back and either feel lucky that it ain't you getting smashed by nature or you will hold your breath and hope the next earthquake isn't in California.


Spotted Handfish said...

It depends what you mean by disaster of course. We are more aware of what is happening in the world around us. Earthquake and volcano events are random. Are we getting more weather events? Statistically that's an interesting question, but the current ones may simply be seasonal. Regardless tornadoes aren't really that much of a deal: sorry USA. (We get them too, but nobody lives in most of our country.)

If you really want disaster, you really need to look at humans for inspiration. War killing more than we can count (and I'm thinking Africa here), guns killing people everywhere, everyone killing themselves on the road, cancer from smoking, heart disease and diabetes from over consumption. More people die in the US from these sort of things than all the disasters you mentioned. And let's watch out for a nasty 'flu...

What we should be doing something about is the basics. Lack of food, sanitation, basic medication and education kills millions every year. Education is not direct, but the lack of it means your only option is to fight back. If you want to make the world a better place start with removing subsidies for making military equipment of all forms, and remove all agricultural subsidies and trade blocks.

Just my two cents...

Raised By Republicans said...

Yeah, a college friend of mine from Bangladesh once said to the guys in the dorm, "You Americans have no idea what tragedy is. You think it's a tragedy when when 700 people are killed in a train crash outside of Dhaka. A tragedy is a country the size of Wisconsin with 120 million people in it and no resources or money to feed them."

Raised By Republicans said...

Tornados are usually just like fat lightning that stays on the ground for a while. But the main reason tornados don't kill a lot of people in the US is because we have gotten better at giving adequate warning and taking shelter in well built buildings.

In 1925, a tornado ran along ground for over 200 miles. It killed about 700 people (confirmed) and injured thousands. It started in Southern Mosouri and ended in Southern Indiana, crossing the Mississippi and Wabash rivers (something tornados typically don't do). I've heard legends about it that it was so big around that people thought it was a sand storm instead of a tornado.

There have been so called "F5" tornados since but when people get warning even big tornados are fairly easy to avoid or take shelter from (just go in the basement or reinforced bath room).

I guess my point is that the impact disasters have on us can been mitigated or magnified by human action.

Take the Loma Prieta (6.9; 67 dead) or Northridge (6.7; 72 dead) earthquakes. They are major quakes in densely populated urban areas. But while there was a lot of damage and thousands were injured the death tolls were mercifully low. But the 7.3 quake in Kobe, Japan killed over 6,000.

When a government doesn't prepare or respond properly (or can't because of lack resources), natural disasters get far far worse.

History Buff said...

I think another reason why we hear about more people being killed in disasters, by wars, disease and traffic accidents (driving, by the way is one of the most dangerous things you can do and we never think about it.) is because there are just more of us to kill. I think population control is probably one of the best things we could do for our planet. Yet our government right now is refusing to fund family planning clinics in other countries because they might include abortion as one of the many options they offer.

The Law Talking Guy said...

History Buff is right about population. What's happening around the world is that large populations are moving into more marginal areas, crowding into unsafe buildings, stacking into three and four-story unsafe buildings, and so forth. So the effects of natural disasters are far harsher. Earthquakes are relatively benign, for example, if you live in grass huts, teepees, or yurts. Deaths in one-story buildings are far fewer than in multi-story buildings. Tornadoes also kill mostly because of building failures. Cyclones are more destructive if the rural poor are living in huger numbers on lower land than before.

Of course, there is also the issue of the global media. It used to be that most were below our radar. Now they fill the 24-hour news cycle.

Also, climate change is a factor in that these cyclones and tornadoes are sometimes taking place in areas that never had them before, so populations in "safer" areas are suddenly less safe.

Spotted Handfish said...

It is worth remembering that the Richter scale and its' successors is logarithmic. An 8.0 rated quake is one thousand times stronger than a 6.0.

Climate change may be a factor, but I think it is a long bow to give it a direct causal link. Our weather records are simply not long enough to know. The worst cyclone season on record is bad but maybe not so if we had records of thousands of years rather than a couple hundred.

Raised By Republicans said...

So how much bigger is a 7.3 than a 6.7 then?

Bob said...


You're baiting the mathematicians. We do not pursue our craft for your amusement, like monkeys playing accordions in little hats.

Wikipedia can give you guidance, of course. But you just want someone to do a calculation for you, I think.

Spotted Handfish's statement was in regard to energy released in an earthquake (the actual scale is the log of the amplitude a seismometer moves). To find the energy multiple between any two Richter scale values, compute 1.5 times the difference of the values, and then raise 10 to that result.

So 10^(3/2*(7.3-6.7)) will give you what you want.

Raised By Republicans said...

Thank you.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Yes, but those little hats are just *so* precious on the monkeys! :-)

USWest said...

Actually, I am wondering if some of these events are linked. I am not a scientist. But I know, for instance, that when volcanoes erupt, they cause changes in the atmosphere and weather patterns. Maybe Bell Curve or Dr. S would have more insight into this.

Also, over the ages, there have always been cataclysms- Think of Pompeii! My Iranian friends tell me of archeology discoveries in Iran of villages destroyed by disasters that show signs of rebuilding 3 and 4 times.

And I agree whole heartedly that we in the developed world are wusses. I have posted to that effect several times. But say it too loudly and you get called cold and insensitive. 3000 dead in terrorist attacks in New York is nothing compared to say the numbers killed in Northern Ireland over the years. But it is all relative. Our problems may be small on a grand scale, but they are our problems.

The Law Talking Guy said...

I suggest climate change as a factor in that it changes where storms go. It disrupts weather patterns, basically. We see this in Los Angeles already, as we are getting hit now with weather that routinely used to hit San Francisco, because the jet stream is doing funny things. That's why "climate change" is a better term than "global warming" because we aren't all getting warmer, but we're experiencing changes in longstanding weather patterns.

I don't think climate change affects earthquakes. Not sure how that would work.

Oh, and the difference between 6.7 and 7.3 earthquake is the difference between RBR cowering and RBR starting to pray...

Raised By Republicans said...

Actually, 9/11 and "The Troubles" killed comperable numbers of people. According to wikipedia, about 3500 people died in "The Troubles" over the years. And while most were civilians, over 1000 of them were British security forces.

USWest said...

Thanks for the exactitude, RBR. But you get my point.

I am not sure that weather patterns effect earthquakes, but don't earthquakes affect weather patterns? When you open the earth, you release gases and heat in the atmosphere, don't you? Or would that depend on the source of the earth quake? I'll have to look into this.

When I was growing up, we used to talk about, "earthquake weather". And my friends from Turkey say they had the same thing. It is gets warm, sort of oddly calm, and then boom. But I think that is probably more perception than scientific fact.

The Law Talking Guy said...

There's a great article I asaw a couple years ago on "earthquake weather" that I'll try to find for you, USWest. I used to believe in that concept, having believed I had experienced it, until I read this article. Apparently it's just a coincidence that we've had a bunch of quakes in such warm, still weather. In the 1930s, according to this article, the term "earthquake weather" was in use in California, but referred to stormy winter weather, because a number of big ones hit during the winter in the 1920s and 1930s. Scientists believe there is no significant connection between weather and earthquakes.

I suspect the Turkey thing is another coincidence. Also, warm, still weather is the median weather outcome in CA anyway, as it likely is in Turkey.