Issues 78: DISASTERS
March 2007


Fire: Destructive and
Part of the Natural Order
Kevin O’Loughlin, Chief Executive Officer, Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre
Research, management and education play an important role in helping us to live with a fundamental part of Australia’s landscape.

Flood Hazards
Risk Frontiers, Natural Hazards Research Centre, Macquarie University
Floods kill far fewer Australians now than in the 1800s, but events of astonishing size still take us by surprise and cost hundreds of millions of dollars per year. Risk Frontiers is trying to resolve the disturbing gaps in our knowledge about where floods pose the most risk.

The April 1999 Sydney Hailstorm
Roy Leigh, Risk Frontiers, Macquarie University
Hailstorms may not attract the same attention as earthquakes or cyclones, but the Sydney hailstorm of 1999 was the most costly event in Australia’s history as measured by insurance losses.

Tornadoes in Victoria, 1918 and 1976
Richard Whitaker, Consulting Meteorologist, The Weather Channel Australia
Victoria is certainly not known as a tornado hotspot in Australia, yet two severe twisters occurred there last century.

Modelling Tropical Cyclones
Craig Arthur, Geospatial and Earth Monitoring Division, Geoscience Australia
By examining historical cyclone events and impacts, researchers at Geoscience Australia are modelling the behaviour of future tropical cyclones and their possible impact on Australian communities.

Tropical Cyclone Tracy
Richard Whitaker, Resident Meteorologist, The Weather Channel Australia
In terms of loss of life and sheer destruction, Cyclone Tracy was one of the greatest natural disasters in Australia’s history, with a coroner recently increasing the official death toll to 71. The storm left 30,000 people homeless and raised suggestions that Darwin should be abandoned entirely.

The Tsunami Hazard in Australasia
Phil Cummins, Geoscience Australia, and Jeremy Goldberg, International Marine Project Activities Center
The tsunami of Boxing Day 2004 demonstrated not only how devastating such events can be, but also how badly we have misunderstood where such events can occur. Studies of records of tsunami in historic and prehistoric times can indicate where future events may occur.

Past Tsunami in Australia
Ted Bryant, Science Faculty, University of Wollongong
The east coast of Australia is littered with remnants of past tsunami. So what would you do if you were standing on an urban beach and had about 20 minutes warning of a tsunami?

The Salinity Threat
Ken Lawrie, Cooperative Research Centre for Landscape Environments and Mineral Exploration
Salinity does not create the drama or threat to lives of other natural disasters, but it poses a major threat to Australia’s agriculture and natural environment. Solutions are being found, but there is much more to do.

Climate Change in South Australia
Climate Impacts and Risk Group, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research
The variable impact of climate change calls for a localised approach. Recent CSIRO projections have focused on the driest state in the driest inhabited continent.

Earthquake Predictions in Australia
Mark Leonard, Geoscience Australia
In recent decades Australia’s two largest earthquakes were in locations previously thought to be earthquake-free. A better understanding of the areas most at risk of damaging earthquakes is needed, and Geoscience Australia is combining a variety of forms of research to make this possible.

Volcanoes: A Neglected Hazard?
Susanna Jenkins, Risk Frontiers, Natural Hazards Research Centre, Macquarie University
An estimated 500 million people around the world are at risk from volcanic hazards, and the numbers are rising. Volcanoes present a more complex risk than other natural disasters.

Asteroid Impacts
Alan Gilmore, University of Canterbury’s Mt John Observatory, Lake Tekapo, New Zealand
Substantial asteroid impacts are the rarest of natural disasters, but at their worst they can also be the most devastating. Most asteroid impacts are far less serious than the one that wiped out the dinosaurs, but many can still have major local or global effects.

Natural Hazard Risk Modelling
John Schneider and Trevor Dhu, Geospatial and Earth Monitoring Division, Geoscience Australia
Extreme events such as earthquakes and floods can be difficult to predict. Researchers at Geoscience Australia are refining the uncertain science of natural hazard risk modelling.

Issues: Published by Control Publications, publishers of Australasian Science.
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