bedevil our planet, and each appears to be a unique event. Leading geologist
Susan W. Kieffer shows how all disasters are connected.
In 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; and the most destructive 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 to 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 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.
Finally, 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—that is focused on pending natural disasters.
Download and start listening now!
“Kieffer (emerita, Geology/Univ. of Illinois) argues that all natural disasters that disrupt the Earth and its atmosphere are the result of a rapid shift in matter and energy that she calls a ‘change of state’…Kieffer’s larger point is that a deeper understanding of these events and their underlying causes is required in order to make effective changes in how communities approach engineering strategy, advance-warning technologies, and emergency-response routines…Sharp, timely, slightly terrifying science writing.”