Research highlight

Mitigating natural disasters

Nature Geoscience

July 21, 2008

Topographic analyses of the mountain ranges near the recent Sichuan earthquake in China point to the area surrounding the Huya fault, just north of the devastated area, as a region of elevated future earthquake risk, according to a Commentary published online in Nature Geoscience this week. A related Commentary on tropical cyclone Nargis in Myanmar suggests that a better regional forecasting system, combined with disaster mitigation plans modelled on those implemented in Bangladesh, could help alleviate future impacts of tropical cyclones in the Indian Ocean region.

Eric Kirby and colleagues argue that geomorphic analysis ? which quantifies how the landscape responds to tectonic deformation ? could offer a relatively cheap and efficient tool for assessing seismic hazard in remote or poorly understood regions. The value of such analysis is borne out by the fact that the devastating 12 May 2008 Sichuan earthquake in China struck in a region that had previously been shown to have high rates of rock uplift.

Peter Webster discusses the need for longer lead times in disaster warning in developing countries, given limits in communication and transport infrastructure. He also points to a need for storm surge forecasts to complement the current regional cyclone forecasts: much of the damage from cyclone Nargis can be attributed to inundation by the storm surge, rather than to the passage of the cyclone itself.

Both studies highlight the importance of preparedness in regions at risk from natural disasters.

doi: 10.1038/ngeo265

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