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Svetlana Badina and Boris Porfiriev
A major implication of the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 involved the radical transformation of the national security system. Its fundamentally militaristic paradigm focused on civil defense to prepare and protect communities against the strikes of conventional and nuclear warheads. It called for a more comprehensive and balanced civil protection policy oriented primarily to the communities’ and facilities’ preparedness and response to natural hazards impact and disasters. This change in policy was further catalyzed by the catastrophic results of the major disasters in the late 1980s, such as the Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion of 1986 and the Armenian earthquake of 1988.
As a result, in 1989, a specialized body was organized, the State Emergency Commission at the USSR Council of Ministers. A year later in the Russian Federation (at that time a part of the Soviet Union), an analogous commission was established. In 1991, it was reorganized into the State Committee for Civil Defense, Emergency Management, and Natural Disasters Response at the request of the president of the Russian Federation (EMERCOM). In 1994, this was replaced by the much more powerful Ministry of the Russian Federation for Civil Defense, Emergency Management, and Natural Disasters Response (which kept the abbreviation EMERCOM). In the early 21st century, this ministry is the key government body responsible for (a) development and implementation of the policy for civil defense and the regions’ protection from natural and technological hazards and disasters, and (b) leading and coordinating activities of the federal executive bodies in disaster policy areas within the Russian Federation’s Integrated State System for Emergency Prevention and Response (EPARIS). In addition, as well as in the former Soviet Union, the scientific and research organizations’ efforts to collect relevant data, monitor events, and conduct field and in-house studies to reduce the risk of disasters is crucially important.
The nature of EPARIS is mainly a function of the geographic characteristics of the Russian Federation. These include the world’s largest national territory, which is vastly extended both longitudinally and latitudinally, a relatively populous Arctic region, large mountain systems, and other characteristics that create high diversity in the natural environment and combinations of natural hazards. Meanwhile, along with the natural conditions of significant size and a multiethnic composition of the population, distinctive features of a historical development path and institutional factors also contribute to diversity of settlement patterns, a high degree of economic development, and a level and quality of human life both within and between the regions of Russia. For instance, even within one of the region’s urbanized areas with a high-quality urban environment and developed socioeconomic institutions, neighboring communities exist with a traditional lifestyle and economic relations, primitive technological tools, and so on (e.g., indigenous small ethnic groups of the Russian North, Siberia, and the Far East).
The massive spatial disparity of Russia creates different conditions for exposure and vulnerability of the regions to natural hazards’ impacts on communities and facilities, which has to be considered while preparing, responding to, and recovering from disasters. For this reason, EMERCOM’s organizational structure includes a central (federal) headquarters as well as Central, Northwestern, Siberian, Southern, and Moscow regional territorial branches and control centers for emergency management in all of the 85 administrative entities (subjects) of the Russian Federation. Specific features of both the EMERCOM territorial units and ministries and EPARIS as a whole coping with disasters are considered using the 2013 catastrophic flood in the Amur River basin in the Far East of Russia as a case study.
D. van Niekerk, G.J. Wentink, and L.B. Shoroma
Disaster and natural hazard governance has become a significant policy and legislative focus in South Africa since the early 1990s. Born out of necessity from a dysfunctional apartheid system, the new emphasis on disaster risk reduction in the democratic dispensation also ushered in a new era in the management of natural hazards and their associated risks and vulnerabilities. Widely cited as an international best practice in policy and law development, South Africa has led the way in natural hazard governance in sub-Sahara Africa as well as in much of the developing world. Various practices in natural hazard governance in South Africa are alluded to. Particular attention is given to the disaster risks of the country as well as to the various natural hazards that drive this risk profile. Statutory and legislative aspects are discussed through a multisectoral approach, and by citing a number of case studies, we show the application of natural hazard governance in South Africa. Certain remaining challenges are highlighted that are faced by the South Africa government such as a lack of political will at the local government level, deficits in risk governance, difficulties in resource allocation, a lack of intergovernmental relations, and a need for enhanced community participation, ownership, and decision making.
Mihir Bhatt, Kelsey Gleason, and Ronak B. Patel
South Asia is faced with a range of natural hazards, including floods, droughts, cyclones, earthquakes, landslides, and tsunamis. Rapid and unplanned urbanization, environmental degradation, climate change, and socioeconomic conditions are increasing citizens’ exposure to and risk from natural hazards and resulting in more frequent, intense, and costly disasters. Although governments and the international community are investing in disaster risk reduction, natural hazard governance in South Asian countries remain weak and often warrants a review when a major natural disaster strikes. Natural hazards governance is an emerging concept, and many countries in South Asia have a challenging hazard governance context.
Kanako Iuchi, Yasuhito Jibiki, Renato Solidum Jr., and Ramon Santiago
Located in the Pacific Ring of Fire and the typhoon belt, the Philippines is one of the most hazard prone countries in the world. The country faces different types of natural hazards including geophysical disturbances such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, meteorological and hydrological events such as typhoons and floods, and slow-onset disasters such as droughts. Together with rapidly increasing population growth and urbanization, large-scale natural phenomena have resulted in unprecedented scales of devastation. In the early 21st century alone, the country experienced some of the most destructive and costliest disasters in its history including Typhoon Yolanda (2013), Typhoon Pablo (2012), and the Bohol Earthquake (2013).
Recurrent natural disasters have prompted the Philippine government to develop disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) strategies to better prepare, respond, and recover, as well as to be more resilient in the face of natural disasters. Since the early 1940s, the governing structure has undergone several revisions through legal and institutional arrangements. Historical natural disasters and seismic risks have affected and continue to threaten the National Capital Region (NCR) and the surrounding administrative areas; these were key factors in advancing DRRM laws and regulations, as well as in restructuring its governing bodies. The current DRRM structure was instituted under Republic Act no. 10121 (RA10121) in 2010 and was implemented to shift from responsive to proactive governance by better engaging local governments (LGUs), communities, and the private sector to reduce long-term disaster risk. This Republic Act established a national disaster risk reduction and management council (NDRRMC) to develop strategies that manage and reduce risk.
Typhoon Yolanda in 2013 was the most significant test of this revised governance structure and related strategies. The typhoon revealed drawbacks of the current council-led governing structure to advancing resilience. Salient topics include how to respond better to disaster realities, how to efficiently coordinate among relevant agencies, and how to be more inclusive of relevant actors. Together with other issues, such as the way to co-exist with climate change efforts, a thorough examination of RA 10121 by the national government and advocates for DRRM is underway. Some of the most important discourse to date focuses on ways to institute a powerful governing body that enables more efficient DRRM with administrative and financial power. The hope is that by instituting a governing system that can thoroughly lead all phases of preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery, the country can withstand future—and likely more frequent—mega-disasters.
H. P. Gülkan
The current outlook in disaster risk management in Turkey is examined in its historic context in this article. Policies, legislation, and specific responsive actions have culminated in 2009 in the formation of a nationwide Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (“
Florian Roth, Timothy Prior, and Marco Käser
Western Europe is an area dominated by established democratic governments, backed by strong economies, for the most part. Drawing on refined technical risk analyses, preventive measures, and comprehensive resources for emergency response, countries from Western Europe have managed to mitigate the most prevalent and recurring hazards. Over the centuries, European governments have been successful in reducing the death toll related to natural phenomena. This has been achieved by addressing all three dimensions of the risk triangle—hazards, exposure, and vulnerability. However, cultural and political differences result in subtle, but distinct differences in the context of natural hazard governance. While these differences can be considered a strength in dealing with local hazards under specific contexts, they can complicate effective and coordinated prevention, preparedness, and response measures toward large-scale hazards. This is especially the case with transboundary hazards, the regional response to which has strongly influenced hazard governance in Western Europe. Evolving risk circumstances have resulted in constant adaptations in hazard governance in the region, including local, national, and transboundary arrangements, and a more recent re-localization in the face of new complex threats that has fallen under the umbrella of resilience building.
Jason Thistlethwaite and Daniel Henstra
Natural hazards are a complex governance problem. Managing the risks associated with natural hazards requires action at all scales—from household to national—but coordinating these nested responses to achieve a vertically cohesive course of action is challenging. Moreover, though governments have the legal authority and legitimacy to mandate or facilitate natural hazard risk reduction, non-governmental actors such as business firms, industry associations, research organizations and non-profit organizations hold much of the pertinent knowledge and resources. This interdependence demands horizontal collaboration, but coordinating risk reduction across organizational divides is fraught with challenges and requires skillful leadership.
Flood risk management (FRM)—an integrated strategy to reduce the likelihood and impacts of flooding—demonstrates the governance challenge presented by natural hazards. By engaging stakeholders, coordinating public and private efforts, and employing a diversity of policy instruments, FRM can strengthen societal resilience, achieve greater efficiency, and enhance the legitimacy of decisions and actions to reduce flood risk. Implementing FRM, however, requires supportive flood risk governance arrangements that facilitate vertical and horizontal policy coordination by establishing strategic goals, negotiating roles and responsibilities, aligning policy instruments, and allocating resources.
Along with sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean is among the geographic regions most exposed and vulnerable to the occurrence of disasters. The vulnerability is explained by geography and climate, but also by prevailing poverty and inequality. Year after year, multiple disasters such as landslides, hurricanes, floods, rains, droughts, storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis, among others, threaten the region. Natural disasters reveal the deficiencies of infrastructure and essential services. In particular, they highlight the lack of an institutional framework for effective governance with clearly defined goals of how to prevent, respond to, and reconstruct after a natural catastrophe.
One of the priorities of governments in the region is to achieve resilience—that is, to strengthen the capacity to resist, adapt, and recover from the effects of natural disasters. To be able to accomplish this, governments need to prepare before a natural disaster strikes. Therefore, disaster risk management is critical. A fundamental element in the strategy of increasing resilience is good planning in general—that is, to reduce inequality, manage urbanization, and invest in necessary infrastructure such as energy, sewage, and water management. Because climate change increases the risk of disasters, it is generally understood that good governance practices can prevent further global warming. Governments might achieve this, for example, by investing in renewable energy and financing other environmentally friendly initiatives.
Unfortunately, most current governance models in Latin America and the Caribbean are characterized by bureaucratic structures that are fragmented into different sectors and whose actors do not have much interaction between them. With technical assistance from organizations, such as the World Bank and the United Nations, stakeholders in Latin America and the Caribbean are learning how to develop plans that encourage the collaboration of multiple sectors (e.g., transportation, housing) and improve the working relationships between various institutions (e.g. local associations, NGOs, private and public organizations). To be adequately prepared for a disaster, it is necessary to establish a network of actors that can engage quickly in decision-making and coordinate effectively between local, regional, and national levels.
P. Patrick Leahy
Society expects to have a safe environment in which to live, prosper, and sustain future generations. Generally, when we think of threats to our well-being, we think of human-induced causes such as overexploitation of water resources, contamination, and soil loss, to name just a few. However, natural hazards, which are not easily avoided or controllable (or, in many cases, predictable in the short term), have profound influences on our safety, economic security, social development, and political stability, as well as every individual’s overall well-being.
Natural hazards are all related to the processes that drive our planet. Indeed, the Earth would not be a functioning ecosystem without the dynamic processes that shape our planet’s landscapes over geologic time. Natural hazards (or geohazards, as they are sometimes called) include such events as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides and ground collapse, tsunamis, floods and droughts, geomagnetic storms, and coastal storms.
A key aspect of these natural hazards involves understanding and mitigating their impacts, which require that the geoscientist take a four-pronged approach. It must include a fundamental understanding of the processes that cause the hazard, an assessment of the hazard, monitoring to observe any changes in conditions that can be used to determine the status of a potential hazardous event, and perhaps most important, delivery of information to a broader community to evaluate the need for action.
A fundamental understanding of processes often requires a research effort that typically is the focus of academic and government researchers. Fundamental questions may include: (a) What triggers an earthquake, and why do some events escalate to a great magnitude while most are small-magnitude events?; (b) What processes are responsible for triggering a landslide?; (c) Can we predict the severity of an impending volcanic eruption? (d) Can we predict an impending drought or flood?; (e) Can we determine the height of a storm surge or storm track associated with coastal storm well in advance of landfall so that the impact can be mitigated?
Any effective hazard management system must strive to increase resilience. The only way to gain resiliency is to learn from past events and to decrease risk. To successfully increase resiliency requires having strong hazard identification programs with adequate monitoring and research components and very robust delivery mechanisms that deliver timely, accurate, and appropriate hazard information to a broad audience that will use the information is a wide variety of ways to meet their specific goals.
Benjamin Wisner, Alonso Brenes, and Victor Marchezini
International nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) and national NGOs (NNGOs) attempt to play many roles in disaster risk reduction (DRR) and governance of natural hazards. Although in this part of the world, disaster risk management has conventionally been the domain of government and military, a number of factors have favored engagement by civil society actors. These factors include increasing budget pressure on governments, in part due to a shift of donor finance from LAC to Africa, that predisposes them to sharing the cost of DRR. Another factor is the growing consensus worldwide that DRR must include proactive preparedness and vulnerability reduction and not simply emergency response. Besides their more recent entry into humanitarian action, civil society actors work in other roles that assist comprehensive, prospective-preventive DRR. These roles include community and local mobilization and bridging between governments and citizens. As advocates, especially in alliance with academia, they attempt to influence national government policy. Some civil society organizations also campaign on issues of malgovernance including corruption that reduce the effectiveness of DRR initiatives. NNGOs also attempt to introduce risk-bearers’ voices, knowledge, and institutional memory to policymakers. They may also help to introduce innovative local governance practices, in particular attempting to link DRR, climate change adaptation (CCA), and development service delivery. Civil society work may show the use of innovative methods and model with pilot projects the integration of DRR, CCA, and enhancement of livelihoods Civil society organizations also contribute to societal transformation through their actions to support transparency, democracy, and distributive and restorative justice.
Thomas Smucker, Maingi Solomon, and Benjamin Wisner
A growing number of civil society actors across the African continent are in the forefront of disaster risk reduction (DRR) engagements that span service delivery, humanitarian response, community mobilization, capacity building, and policy advocacy. Their roles include valorization of local knowledge and harnessing pressure for transformative change. All of this contributes to natural hazard governance. In contrast to early post-colonial dominance by central governments, natural hazard governance across the continent has gradually been dispersed downward to local institutions and outward to civil society. A series of factors has shaped African civil society and its engagement with DRR-related activities since the 2000s, including heavy debt burdens, neoliberal market reforms, the formation of substantial national NGO sectors out of diverse social movements, and the growth of international humanitarian networks with substantial African presence. Although country- and region-specific political dynamics have created different pathways for civil society engagement with DRR, macro forces have produced strong overarching similarities in state–civil society interaction, particularly with regard to the shrinking of the state and a movement toward technical approaches in DRR. Common pressures of debt, violent conflict, mega-project investment, corruption, and the “natural resource curse” have inflected state–non-state relations because some civil society organizations in all regions have had to become advocates of “another development” and critics of business-as-usual. Within such limitations, practitioners have much to learn from best practices of a diverse set of organizations that span the continent.
Allison Rowlands and Benjamin Wisner
International nongovernmental organizations (INGOs), national nongovernmental organizations (NNGOs), as well as faith-based and community-based organizations play a vital role in natural hazard governance in Asia and the Pacific. One immediately thinks of humanitarian response, and, indeed, these organizations can and do play a role; however, as some Asian nations in particular have developed strong state institutions and have grown in their worldwide and regional economic and political status, civil society’s role has diversified. Among the other functions the nongovernmental sector plays in the mobilization of local people and advocacy for or against policies, it is involved in investment decisions as well as acts as a watchdog regarding the status of human rights in relation to natural hazard exposure and recovery and transparency in the use of disaster risk reduction and recovery funds. This diverse collection of nongovernmental institutions also has a role in knowledge production and access and innovates programs that showcase how governments might break down silos and put action behind the rhetoric of taking an intersectoral, multihazard, integrated approach that combines risk reduction, climate change adaptation (CCA), and livelihood enhancement. Indeed, nongovernmental actors also push for societal transformation as they work on issues of discrimination, inequity, electoral transparency, and human rights. These issues are among the root causes of the structural vulnerability of some groups in society to natural hazards. While governments in the region sometimes welcome these supplementary and complementary roles by INGOs and NNGOs, they are also a source of government–nongovernmental tension that has to be negotiated.
Non-profit Sector Organizational Actions on Risk Reduction Practices, Policymaking Participation, Community and Social Contributions, and Recovery
Grace Chikoto-Schultz, Yu Xiao, Paul Manson, and Maryam Amiri
Non-profit organizations make significant contributions to society in a number of ways. In addition to providing services to underrepresented, marginalized, and vulnerable populations in our communities, they also play important advocacy, expressive and leadership development, community building and democratization, and innovation-oriented roles. The sector is thus regarded as “critical civic infrastructure,” civic capacity, or a social safety net. As such, through collaborative engagement in disaster or emergency management, non-profits can be even more instrumental in helping communities become disaster resilient.
Disaster management can be understood as a four-stage cycle that includes mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery functions. Past disasters demonstrate that non-profits engage with this cycle in diverse ways. A few types of non-profit organizations explicitly include, as part of their mission, one or more of these stages of disaster management. These include traditional disaster relief organizations, organizations dedicated to preparedness, or those responsible for supporting risk reduction or mitigation efforts. Another set of organizations is typified by non-profits that shift their mission during times of disaster to fill unmet needs. These non-profits shift existing resources or skills from their pre-disaster use to new disaster relief functions. The other type of non-profit to respond or support disaster management is the emergent organization. These emergent non-profits or associations are formed during an event to respond to specific needs. They can endure past the disaster recovery period and become new permanent organizations.
It is important to remember that non-profits and more broadly, civil society—represent a unique sphere of voluntary human organization and activity separate from the family, the state, and the market. In some cases, these organizations are embedded in communities, a position that grants them local presence, knowledge, and trust. As such, they are well positioned to play important advocacy roles that can elevate the needs of underrepresented communities, as well as instigate disaster management policies that can serve to protect these communities. Furthermore, their voluntary nature—and the public benefit they confer—also position them to attract much-needed resources from various individuals and entities in order to augment or supplement governments’ often limited capacity. In all, civil society in general, is a sphere well positioned to execute the full spectrum of emergency management functions alongside traditional state responses.
Snow- and ice-related hazardous processes threaten society in tropical to high-latitude mountain areas worldwide and at highly variable time scales. On the one hand, small snow avalanches are recorded in high numbers every winter. On the other hand, glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) or large-scale volcano–ice interactions occur less frequently but may evolve into destructive process chains resulting in major disasters. These extreme examples document the huge field of types, magnitudes, and frequencies of snow- and ice-related hazardous processes.
Mountain societies have learned to cope with natural hazards for centuries, guided by personal experiences and oral and written tradition. Historical records are today still important as a basis to mitigate snow- and ice-related hazards. They are complemented by a broad array of observation and modeling techniques. These techniques differ among themselves with regard to (1) the type of process under investigation and (2) the scale and purpose of investigation. Multi-scale monitoring and warning systems for snow avalanches are in operation in densely populated mid-latitude mountain areas. They build on meteorological and snow profile data in combination with a large pool of expert knowledge.
In contrast, ice-related processes such as ice- or rock-ice avalanches, GLOFs, or associated process chains cause damage less frequently in space and time, so that societies are less well adapted. Even though the hazard sources are often far from the society—making field observation challenging—flows travelling for tens of kilometers sometimes impact populated areas. These hazards are strongly influenced by climate change–induced glacier and permafrost dynamics. On the regional or national scale, the evolution of such hazards has to be monitored at short intervals through aerial and satellite imagery and terrain data, employing geographic information systems (GIS). Known hazardous situations have to be monitored in the field.
Physical models—applied either in the laboratory or at real-world sites—are employed to explore the mobility of hazardous processes. Since the 1950s, however, computer models have increasingly gained importance in exploring possible travel distances, impact areas, velocities, and impact forces of events. While simple empirical-statistical approaches are used at broad scales in combination with GIS, advanced numeric models are applied to analyze specific case studies. However, the input parameters for these models are uncertain so that (1) the model results have to be validated with observations and (2) appropriate strategies to deal with the uncertainties have to be applied before using the model results for hazard zoning or dimensioning of protective structures. Due to rapid atmospheric warming and related changes in the cryosphere, hazard situations beyond historical experiences are expected to be increasingly relevant in the future. Scenario-based modeling of complex systems and process chains therefore represents an emerging research direction.
Josh Greenberg and T. Joseph Scanlon
Media have always played an important role in times of emergency and disaster. Undersea cables, international news agencies, the press, radio and television, and, most recently, digital and mobile technologies—all have played myriad and complex roles in supporting emergency response and notification, and in helping constitute a shared experience that can be important to social mobilization and community formation. The geographical location of disasters and the identities of victims, the increasingly visual nature of disaster events, and the ubiquitous nature of media in our lives, all shape and influence which kinds of emergencies attract global media and public attention, and how we come to understand them.
Globalization has compressed time and space such that a whole range of disasters—from natural events (cyclones, earthquakes, and hurricanes) to industrial accidents and terrorist attacks—appear on our television and mobile screens with almost daily frequency. There is nothing inherent about these events that give them meaning—they occur in a real, material world; but for many of us, our experience of these events is shaped and determined in large part by our interactions with media industries, institutions, and technologies. Understanding the media’s construction of these events as disasters provides important insight into the nature of disaster mitigation, response and recovery.
People not only want to be safe from natural hazards; they also want to feel they are safe. Sometimes these two desires pull in different directions, and when they do, this slows the journey to greater physical adaptation and resilience.
All people want to feel safe—especially in their own homes. In fact, although not always a place of actual safety, in many cultures “home” is nonetheless idealized as a place of security and repose. The feeling of having a safe home is one part of what is termed ontological security: freedom from existential doubts and the ability to believe that life will continue in much the same way as it always has, without threat to familiar assumptions about time, space, identity, and well-being. By threatening our homes, floods, earthquakes, and similar events disrupt ontological security: they destroy the possessions that support our sense of who we are; they fracture the social structures that provide us with everyday needs such as friendship, play, and affection; they disrupt the routines that give our lives a sense of predictability; and they challenge the myth of our immortality. Such events, therefore, not only cause physical injury and loss; by damaging ontological security, they also cause emotional distress and jeopardize long-term mental health.
However, ontological security is undermined not only by the occurrence of hazard events but also by their anticipation. This affects people’s willingness to take steps that would reduce hazard vulnerability. Those who are confident that they can eliminate their exposure to a hazard will usually do so. More commonly, however, the available options come with uncertainty and social/psychological risks: often, the available options only reduce vulnerability, and sometimes people doubt the effectiveness of these options or their ability to choose and implement appropriate measures. In these circumstances, the risk to ontological security that is implied by action can have greater influence than the potential benefits. For example, although installing a floodgate might reduce a business’s flood vulnerability, the business owner might feel that its presence would act as an everyday reminder that the business, and the income derived from it, are not secure. Similarly, bolting furniture to the walls of a home might reduce injuries in the next earthquake, but householders might also anticipate that it would remind them that there is a continual threat to their home. Both of these circumstances describe situations in which the anticipation of future feelings can tap into less conscious anxieties about ontological security.
The manner in which people anticipate impacts on ontological security has several implications for preparedness. For example, it suggests that hazard warnings will be counterproductive if they are not accompanied by suggestions of easy, reliable ways of eliminating risk. It also suggests that adaptation measures should be designed not to enhance awareness of the hazard.
How big, how often, and where from? This is almost a mantra for researchers trying to understand tsunami hazard and risk. What we do know is that events such as the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami (2004 IOT) caught scientists by surprise, largely because there was no “research memory” of past events for that region, and as such, there was no hazard awareness, no planning, no risk assessment, and no disaster risk reduction. Forewarned is forearmed, but to be in that position, we have to be able to understand the evidence left behind by past events—palaeootsunamis—and to have at least some inkling of what generated them.
While the 2004 IOT was a devastating wake-up call for science, we need to bear in mind that palaeotsunami research was still in its infancy at the time. What we now see is still a comparatively new discipline that is practiced worldwide, but as the “new kid on the block,” there are still many unknowns. What we do know is that in many cases, there is clear evidence of multiple palaeotsunamis generated by a variety of source mechanisms. There is a suite of proxy data—a toolbox, if you will—that can be used to identify a palaeotsunami deposit in the sedimentary record. Things are never quite as simple as they sound, though, and there are strong divisions within the research community as to whether one can really differentiate between a palaeotsunami and a palaeostorm deposit, and whether proxies as such are the way to go. As the discipline matures, though, many of these issues are being resolved, and indeed we have now arrived at a point where we have the potential to detect “invisible deposits” laid down by palaeotsunamis once they have run out of sediment to lay down as they move inland. As such, we are on the brink of being able to better understand the full extent of inundation by past events, a valuable tool in gauging the magnitude of palaeotsunamis.
Palaeotsunami research is multidisciplinary, and as such, it is a melting pot of different scientific perspectives, which leads to rapid innovations. Basically, whatever is associated with modern events may be reflected in prehistory. Also, palaeotsunamis are often part of a landscape response pushed beyond an environmental threshold from which it will never fully recover, but that leaves indelible markers for us to read. In some cases, we do not even need to find a palaeotsunami deposit to know that one happened.
Warren S. Eller and Michael S. Pennington
Assessment is a necessary and critical component in process improvement. Moreover, there is a strong public expectation that because governance is a public good, it will incorporate demonstrable equitable and efficient processes. As a central tenet of New Public Management (NPM), a widely accepted approach to increase efficiency of public sector performance through the introduction of “business” practices, performance assessment has helped improve governance in general. However, employing assessment practices has been problematic at best in the realm of hazards preparedness and response. Notably, the fragmented nature of governance in the disaster response network, which spans both levels of government and public and private sectors, is not conducive to holistic evaluation. Similarly, the lack of clear goals, available funding, and trained evaluation personnel severely inhibit the ability to comprehensively assess performance in the management of natural hazards. Effective assessment in this area, that is evaluation that will significantly enhance hazard and vulnerability management in terms of mitigation, preparedness, and response, requires several distinct steps for effective implementation. This includes first understanding the dimensions of the natural hazards governance community and the assessment process. These are: (1) identifying the purpose of the review (formative—evaluation intending to improve processes or summative—evaluation intended for final examination of processes), (2) Identifying clear and concise goals for the program and ensuring these goals are consistent with federal, state, and local policy, and (3) identifying the underlying fragmentation between sectors, levels of governance, and disaster phase in the governance system. Based on these dimensions, the most effective assessments will be those that are incorporated within or developed from the actual governance system.
Lukas U. Arenson and Matthias Jakob
Mountain environments, home to about 12% of the global population and covering nearly a quarter of the global land surface, create hazardous conditions for various infrastructures. The economic and ecologic importance of these environments for tourism, transportation, hydropower generation, or natural resource extraction requires that direct and indirect interactions between infrastructures and geohazards be evaluated. Construction of infrastructure in mountain permafrost environments can change the ground thermal regime, affect gravity-driven processes, impact the strength of ice-rich foundations, or result in permafrost aggradation via natural convection. The severity of impact, and whether permafrost will degrade or aggrade in response to the construction, is a function of numerous parameters including climate change, which needs to be considered when evaluating the changes in existing or formation of new geohazards. The main challenge relates to the uncertainties associated with the projections of medium- (decadal) and long-term (century-scale) climate change. A fundamental understanding of the various processes at play and a good knowledge of the foundation conditions is required to ascertain that infrastructure in permafrost environment functions as intended. Many of the tools required for identifying geohazards in the periglacial and appropriate risk management strategies are already available.
Permafrost, or perennially frozen ground, and the processes linked to the water phase change in ground-pore media are sources of specific dangers to infrastructure and economic activity in cold mountainous regions. Additionally, conventional natural hazards (such as earthquakes, floods, and landslides) assume special characteristics in permafrost territories.
Permafrost hazards are created under two conditions. The first is a location with ice-bounded or water-saturated ground, in which the large amount of ice leads to potentially intensive processes of surface settlement or frost heaving. The second is linked with external, natural, and human-made disturbances that change the heat-exchange conditions. The places where ice-bounded ground meets areas that are subject to effective disturbances are the focus of hazard mapping and risk evaluation.
The fundamentals of geohazard evaluation and geohazard mapping in permafrost regions were originally developed by Gunnar Beskow, Vladimir Kudryavtsev, Troy Péwé, Oscar Ferrians, Jerry Brown, and other American, European, and Soviet authors from 1940s to the 1980s.
Modern knowledge of permafrost hazards was significantly enriched by the publication of Russian book called Permafrost Hazards, part of the six-volume series Natural Hazards in Russia (2000). The book describes, analyses, and evaluates permafrost-related hazards and includes methods for their modeling and mapping.
Simultaneous work on permafrost hazard evaluation continued in different countries with the active support of the International Permafrost Association. Prominent contributions during the new period of investigation were published by Drozdov, Clarke, Kääb, Pavlov, Koff and several other thematic groups of researchers. The importance of common international works became evident. The international project RiskNat: A Cross-Border European Project Taking into Account Permafrost-Related Hazards was developed as a new phenomenon in scientific development.
The intensive economic development in China presented new challenges for linear transportation routes and hydrologic infrastructures. A study of active fault lines and geological hazards along the Golmud–Lhasa Railway across the Tibetan plateau is a good example of the achievements by Chinese scientists.
The method for evaluating the permafrost hazards was based on survey data, monitoring data, and modeling results. The survey data reflected the current environmental conditions, and they are usually shown on a permafrost map. The monitoring data are helpful in understanding the current tendencies of permafrost evolution in different landscapes and regions. The modeling data provided a permafrost forecast that takes climate change and its impact on humans into account.
The International Conference on Permafrost in 2016, in Potsdam, Germany, demonstrated the new horizons of conventional and special permafrost mapping in offshore and continental areas. Permafrost hazards concern large and diverse aspects of human life. It is necessary to expand the approach to this problem from geology to also include geography, biology, social sciences, engineering, and other spheres of competencies in order to synthesize local and regional information. The relevance of this branch of science grows with taking into account climate change and the growing number of natural disasters.