Thursday, 24 May 2012

Case study of the management of a Tropical Storm in an LIC

I did this research a long time ago so data may be different to what you've collected, and I've tried to include as much detail as possible so you don't have to do extra research. It's all here.  You can now develop your own response for those hideous 9 mark questions that tend to ask about Case Studies. Hope this helps and if you have any comments, spot any errors etc, just let me know. :) 

Case study of the management of a Tropical Storm in an LIC: Bangladesh Cyclone, 1991

Prediction and monitoring
Bangladesh ranks as the world’s foremost disaster-prone country. Yet people cannot afford to live elsewhere as poverty is a huge issue and so they cannot leave the danger zone. The government does nt have the money to fund adequate disaster plans either. The frequent natural disasters in Bangladesh have a heavy toll on them as their economy cannot grow. Thus their technology is not as advanced as they cannot afford to do more scientific research on it. Their satellites and remote sensing technology is outdated and have been in existence since 1972. Meaning that by 1991 it would have been ineffective and less accurate. The Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD) are responsible for preparing weather forecasts, the data they received may have come late or were inaccurate thus they could not analyse it properly. This would affect when they warn citizens.  Also, because Bangladesh is an LIC, they cannot afford to send highly advanced, specially built planes up into the atmosphere through the cyclone to gather information on it, whereas the US can. If they do not know exactly how strong or how the cyclone is, they cannot be properly prepared for it.

Preparation for the cyclone hazard
The Storm Warning Centre (SWC) of the BMD provides forecasting and warnings. However, the warnings they sent out did not give people much time to react and prepare. Their megaphone warning system is ineffective, it involves people riding on bicycles between paddy fields and yelling out warning through their megaphones. This means the warnings do not reach everybody, and most people only had a few hours of warning and didn’t know where to go for shelter. Due to the lack of cyclone shelters (raised, reinforced concrete shelters) and safe places to go, people stayed at their poorly constructed house which are unable to withstand strong winds. (It was mostly flat land anyway, where would they go? The embankments were also ineffective against the storm surge.) Their houses were so weak that there was no point in boarding anything up. The lack of transportation also meant that people could not leave the danger zone and find a safe place. Some refused to evacuate thinking that the storm would not be as bad as forecasted. The citizens were uneducated in this respect, not knowing the effects of a cyclone and they were also unaware of the storm surge that would follow. This was what caused the most damage (90%), not the high speed winds. Without a proper evacuation plan, everything was chaotic so people were not prepared for the cyclone. Due to poor education and information available, citizens were unsure how to prepare themselves and react to the situation leading to more deaths. In the year 1991, these poor people had no hand phones, television or radios so they could not access information or keep updated. Few of them were in urban areas, in the rural areas there was no electricity to power these appliances anyway. The government did not prepare emergency supplies of food and water, this led to starvation and diseases.

Short-term response after the cyclone (e.g. disaster relief, emergency aid)
Training for disaster relief, emergency aid and local rescue workers was not thorough. The inexperienced workers were momentarily dazed by the disaster and were not prepared. Their slow reaction meant that many more people were injured and killed. Their equipment would not be as abundant and useful like in HICs such as USA, because that requires money. Due to a lack of transport, local rescue workers could not reach some stricken areas. Important things like band-aids and medical supplies ran out fast because they are expensive. With so many people needing help, there were simply not enough supplies to aid everybody. Simultaneously, the government failed to provide sufficient cyclone shelters for everybody affected. Thus the number of homeless people increased. Emergency electricity supplies and telephone links failed to work. Due to hundreds of acres of farmland and crops destroyed, there was insufficient food and a shortage of clean water—leading to further deaths from starvation and disease. With little help from richer countries, Bangladesh had to face huge costs they could not sustain, and people were left homeless and unemployed. American soldiers returning from war were redirected to Bangladesh and they save thousands of people. The government provided seeds for farmers to replant their crops.

Long-term response after the cyclone (e.g. improving prediction, making  adjustments to the previous preparation plan, redesigning buildings etc.)
Bangladesh looked to strengthen their cyclone warning system and make sure everybody is informed next time. Now they use television, radio, megaphones, house-to-house visits and other ways to inform people. Now, Bangladesh uses much more modern technology to predict the path of the cyclone. Recent statistical methods have been introduced for the forecasting of cyclone paths. Before they only used old subjective methods based on synoptic maps. Now SPARRSO (Bangladesh Space Research and Remote Sensing Organisation) has installed a model named TYAN to predict the track of a cyclone based on climatology of Bay of Bengal Cyclones for the last 100 years. The model has shown promising results for the forecast of cyclone movement, some 24 hours ahead of landfall—giving more time to announce the cyclone’s coming and allow people to evacuate and prepare. Many strongly built houses have been constructed high above sea level to serve as shelters for people in low-lying areas in the coastal region. Trees have been planted along the coastal area to help absorb some impact from the storm surge. A Flood Action Plan has been developed in case of emergencies. Now, each rescue worker team has basic warning equipment: handheld sirens, megaphones, signal lights, first aid kit and a transistor radio. School teachers, social workers and other people have raincoats, life jackets, torch lights and other equipment to help them in dangerous situations. But they do have other priorities as Bangladesh is still an LIC, so not that much has changed. However, the government is still more experienced and knowledgeable now.

Managing natural hazards

'Managing' natural hazards is really about learning to live with them and knowing what's best to do in times when the hazard is actively taking place. There are at least 6 major steps here:

  1. Risk assessment: determining the probability of a particular hazard happening and the scale of its possible damage
  2. Prediction: putting in place monitoring systems that might give warning about an imminent (forthcoming) hazard
  3. Preparation (adjustment): finding ways of reducing the possible death toll and the scale of damage of property. Educating people about the hazards of the areas in which they live and what to do in case of an emergency is important here
  4. Hazard event: the natural hazard that has been anticipated and planned for happens
  5. Recovery: first emergency aid then repairing the damage. 
  6. Appraisal: an examination of what happened after the event with many questions to be asked and answered. Were there emergency plans ready to put into action? How effective were the preparations that had been made before the event? What should be done to make them better in the future?
Case Study of the Management of a Tectonic Event in an HIC:

Tropical Storms--Measuring and recording weather conditions

Tropical storms are a moving hazard, so they must be tracked and forecasts made of their future progress. That is what meteorologists do. 

If they can measure how they are developing, they they can warn people in the predicted path of the storm. This should give people time to prepare such as moving to higher ground (avoid storm surge) or to an emergency shelter. Homes can be made ready by boarding up windows and moving furniture upstairs. 

The media which includes TV, radio and the Internet play an important role in keeping the general public updated about the storm and where it is expected to go. 

How do meteorologists track and predict the movement of tropical storms? The data they work on comes from a number of different sources.

Weather Stations
There is a global network of weather stations that track the movement of tropical storms. Some are manned, some are automatic, some monitor the weather all the time and others just at set hours during the day and night.

Once all this information about pressure, temperature, humidity, winds and so on is collected and put together, it can be used to predict what will happen to the storm. Will it deepen, with an increase in rainfall and wind speeds or will the storm begin to weaken and fizzle out?

Weather Satellites
These are important for viewing large weather systems on a worldwide scale. They show cloud formation, large weather events such as hurricanes, and other global weather systems. With satellites, forecasters can see weather systems such as tropical storms.

On each satellite, there are 2 types of sensor. One is a visible light sensor called the imager. It works like a camera in space and helps gather information on cloud movements and patterns. This sensory can only be used during daylight hours, since it works by capturing reflected light to create images.

The second sensory is the sounder. It is an infrared sensor that reads temperatures. The higher the temperature of the object, the more energy it emits. This sensory allows satellites to measure the amount of energy radiated by the Earth's surface, clouds, oceans, air etc. Infrared sensors can be used at night which is helpful for forecasters, considering that the imagers can only pick up data during daylight hours.

Doppler radar is another important meteorological tool. Radar works a little differently from satellite sensors. Instead of reading reflected light or energy, radar measures reflected sound waves. When sound waves are broadcast from a radar mast and come into contact with a moving object, such as a rain cloud, radar will give information about the direction and speed of the object's movement. By using radar and getting a 'picture' of precipitation (e.g water falling to the ground) on the radar screen, meteorologists are able to track a storm's progress over time. 

The impacts of natural disasters

The amount of damage and destruction caused by natural disasters depends on many factors, including:

  • the scale of the event in terms of its energy, the area affected and how long it lasted
  • the degree to which people are warned in advance of the event. This is one reason why earthquakes tend to be so devastating--they occur almost anywhere near a plate margin without warning.
  • the density of human settlement in the area affected. The more people and economic activities there are in a disaster area, the greater will be the potential damage. 
  • the degree to which people are prepared for a possible natural hazard. Are there emergency shelters? Have people been educated in what should be done in an emergency? Are houses, factories and businesses located in areas of low risk? Have buildings been constructed in such a way that they may be able to withstand the hazard?
  • the ability of a country to cope with the aftermath of a hazard, both immediately and in the longer term.
It is with respect to the last 2 points that a basic contrast is so often seen. The difference is between HICs and LICs in terms of their ability to prepare for hazards and their ability to cope with the damage caused. 

Case Study of Impacts of a Tropical Storm in a HIC:

Case Study of Impacts of a Tropical Storm in a LIC:

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Earthquake Preparation

These are just some examples of how people can prepare for an earthquake. This would reduce the effects greatly.

Preparing evacuation plans
Each workplace, restaurant, bar and school must have an earthquake evacuation procedure. This must be tested periodically. The procedure would ensure each person knew how to evacuate the building they were in and where to register after the earthquake was over.
Earthquake practice days
Once a year, all companies and school must practise their earthquake evacuation procedure. This takes a whole day for the people to practise the drill, sit through a debrief and alter the plan as necessary. If each person practises the evacuation procedure, the death toll is likely to be lower.
Organising emergency supplies
Stockpiles of canned food, water, medical supplies and fuel must be organised and stored. A handful of people will be trained to distribute these emergency supplies. It is likely that most shops will be closed for a period of time after the earthquake, so this may be the only source of food and water available.
Training emergency services
The police, fire service and ambulance crews spend one day a month receiving training about how to react in the aftermath of an earthquake. Regular training is the only way to ensure a swift and successful rescue takes place.
Earthquake warning system
A network of warning messages and information broadcasts would be set up. These will be broadcast on television and radio. Messages will also be sent via text message and e-mail. Television and radio signals may not be available if the earthquake causes masts to collapse.
Building regulations
New buildings must adhere to the regulations and all other buildings need to be made ‘earthquake-resistant’ within ten years. Those buildings without such alterations are likely increase the death toll.

Example of changes to buildings etc.:
  • Computer-controlled weights on roof to reduce movement.
  • Steel frames which can sway during earth movements.
  • Automatic window shutters to prevent falling glass.
  • Open areas where people can assemble if evacuated.
  • Foundations sunk into bedrock avoiding clay.
  • ‘Birdcage’ interlocking steel frame.
  • Outer panels flexibly attached to steel structure.
  • Fire-resistant building materials.
  • Roads to provide quick access for emergency services.
  • Rubber shock-absorbers in foundation pillars to absorb earth tremors. 
Earthquake-resistant Building Design Examples: 
^This would be a more detailed post with real-life examples to put it in context.

This links to reducing impacts of Earthquakes:

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Preventing Soil Erosion

Just thought I'd elaborate on what can be done to prevent or reduce soil erosion, taken from another textbook and some are my classwork. :) 

The world's population continues to increase, so farmers are going to have to produce more food in order to feed the extra numbers. This can only be done if the soil is protected and carefully managed. [Note: Soil is a renewable resource, but it needs careful management. In the UK, it takes about 400 years just for 1cm of soil to form, and it can take 12,000 years for soil to become deep enough for farming!]

Evidence suggests that in the year 2000, 20% of land that was arable (used/suitable for growing crops) in 1985 had been lost through erosion, desertification and conversion to non-agricultural uses. 

1. Terracing in Indonesia and the Philippines: Large areas of these two countries are covered in volcanic mountains which have steep slopes and fertile soil. Flat terraces (like giant steps) were first built on many of the hillsides, the terraces are flat and are fronted by a mud/stone wall known as a 'bund'. The bund traps rainwater and soil, allowing the rainwater time to infiltrate into the ground so surface run-off and the removal of topsoil is prevented.

2. Contour ploughing: This is ploughing around hillsides rather than up and down the slope. By ploughing parallel to the contours, the furrows trap rainwater and prevent the water from washing soil downhill. 

3. Strip cropping: This is when 2 or more crops are planted in the same field. One crop may grow in the shelter of a taller crop. It is harvested at a different time of the year and uses different nutrients from the soil. Often the crops are rotated from year to year. 

4. Animal welfare in Kenya (Controlled size of herds!): Large herds of cattle, goats, sheep and camels have long been considered a source of wealth and prestige in several African countries. Unfortunately, quantity, rather than quality, has tended to result in overgrazing. [Overgrazing: when pasture or grazing is unable to support the number of animals relying on it for food. The result is that vegetation cover declines and soil erosion sets in.]
The problem of overgrazing has increased partly because rainfall has become even less reliable and partly because of the rapidly growing population. 'Practical Action', a British organisation, is working with local people in several parts of Kenya. They are helping to train one person from each village to become a 'wasaidizi' or animal care worker. By recognising and being able to treat basic animal illnesses, the wasaidizi is improving the quality of local herds. As the quality improves there should be less need for so many animals so that, hopefully, overgrazing will be reduced. 

5. Stone lines ('magic stones') in Burkina Faso: This project, begun by Oxfam in 1979, uses appropriate technology, local knowledge and local raw materials. It involves all villagers collecting some of the many stones lying around their village. The stones are laid across the land to stop surface run-off following the all too rare heavy rainstorms. Water and soil are trapped. The water now has time to infiltrate instead of being lost immediately through surface run-off. The soil soon becomes deep enough for the planting of crops. Erosion is reduced and crop yields have increased by as much as 50%. The only equipment needed is a simple level, developed by Oxfam, to help keep the lines parallel to the contours. 

6. Shelter belts of trees block wind: trees block wind from blowing away loose, dry grains of soil so topsoil is not lost. 

7. Afforestation: Increasing vegetation cover would help slow run off and increase infiltration. Trees intercept rainfall so force of water doesn't hit the soil and wash it away, roots also bind soil particles together. 

8. Small hedged fields: hedges reduce surface run-off and allow time for infiltration so water is retained where it falls. 

9. Gully filled with soil and planted with grasses: prevent wearing of soil and reduce surface run-off. (gullies are like storm drains, they would carry away the rain and soil quickly)

10. Crop rotation and NO monoculture: Practice of growing a series of dissimilar types of crops in the same area in sequential seasons. So that crops don't exhaust nutrients in soil as different crops require different nutrients.

11. Fields left under grass in winter: after winter when snow melts it will infiltrate into soil and stimulate growth of the grass--allowing animals a place to graze, and may prevent ground from freezing hard completely. 

12. Fallow land: crop land that is not seeded for a season, serves to accumulate moisture in dry regions or to check weeds/plant diseases. 'Rests' the land, so soil nutrients can be replenished.

13. Natural fertiliser (manure) used wherever possible: manure puts vital nutrients back into the soil, maintaining its health. And animal manure could be cheaper than chemicals, especially if the farm has some livestock. 

Soil erosion (Types and Causes)

Go to page 180 of Edexcel Geography book, I've adapted the page here, and have added some explanations where I thought they were needed. :)

Soil erosion is the washing away or blowing away of top soil. Basically the wearing away and loss of exposed top soil, mainly by the action of wind and rain (as surface run-off). 

Soil erosion can result in reduce soil fertility. It is a natural process, but it is made worse by people.

There are three main types of soil erosion:

  • sheet erosion: occurs in parts of the world where there is moderate rainfall. When this falls on bare soil, the top of the soil will be removed down slope. 
  • gully erosion: where there is intense rainfall, as during tropical storms, the force of the water can cut gullies in slopes. This is most likely to happen where there is little vegetation cover. 
  • wind erosion: in dry parts of the world, loose dry soil is readily blown away by the wind

Thus, areas most at risk of soil erosion:
-mountainous areas with steep slopes (e.g. Himalaya slopes in Nepal), so the topsoil is removed as rain flows downslope. One quarter of a million tonnes of topsoil are washed off the deforested mountain slopes of Nepal and northern India each year only to be deposited into the Bay of Bengal.
-areas with unreliable rainfall, as the soil dries and becomes really light so the wind can carry it away quickly

Also keep in mind that exposed soil doesn't just get washed downhill by water, it can move downwards slowly under gravity too. Soil erosion can be particularly bad during wet seasons as it is washed away by the storms and it is blown away during dry season..

Soil erosion is made more rapid and severe where there is misuse of the land.
Activities that cause problems include:

  • removing vegetation by cutting down trees and bushes for fuel or to make way for more farmland. This exposes the soil to the wind and rain.
  • overgrazing by animals-rearing too many animals in relation to amount of grass available. Result: ditto above.
  • overcultivating the soil by failing to 'feed' it with fertilisers or by growing the same crop  in the same field year after year. This monoculture weakens the soil structure and removes vital minerals from the soil. (The same crop uses up the same nutrients until it is all depleted.) The net result is that crops will fail and the soil will be left exposed to the forces of erosion. 
  • compacting the soil by the use of heavy machinery. (e.g. if a tractor went over a patch of soil, the weight of it would increase pressure on the soil, squashing it together and making it more compact.) This reduces the rate at which rainwater is able to infiltrate the soil. So much of the rainwater flows across the soil surface and erodes the soil as it does so. 
  • ploughing fields in the same direction as the slope. This readily encourages gullying. (Ploughing up and down hill creates channels down which rain water can flow. Increases amount and speed of surface run-off.)
In general, you can say that the threat of soil erosion increases with the sparseness (lack of) of vegetation. It also does so where population numbers are so great that they put pressure on the land. (E.g. increase in population means more food is needed, so farmers try to grow more crops but on the same piece of land..growing crops so intensively to feed a growing population can only result in decreasing fertility of the soil, especially when fertilisers are not added to replenish nutrients taken up by the crop!)

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Fragile environments and sustainability

Our living standards and health may depend on the quality of the Earth's physical environment, but we are destroying it. There's a delicate balance between non-living (climate, rocks, soils) and living (plants, animals) parts. 

And natural environments are fragile. That means these places are sensitive to the presence of people, and are easily abused and harmed by us. 

Though natural hazards like forest fires and volcanic eruptions have always disturbed environments, these places have always managed to recover. 
But now, the growth of the world's human population is what threatens the fragile balance of the environments the most. 

We have disturbed 90% of the Earth to some degree or another. It's hard to find truly wild and natural areas that are untouched by human activity. 

There are three important processes that are responsible for making environments more fragile:
  • soil erosion
  • desertification
  • deforestation 
They not only damage natural environments, but are linked to global warming and climate change too. In fact, they are both causes and consequences of climate change. 
I will discuss them in later posts. But keep in mind they are not the only ways in which natural environments are being upset, but for this course, they are the 3 processes focused on.

Understand that most processes that upset the natural environment relate to us humans exploiting the land. We cause a lot of land, air and water pollution.

Two terms you must know when studying fragile environments: ecological footprint and sustainability. 

Ecological footprint: this is a measure of the mark we humans make on the world.
It considers how much land and sea are needed to provide us with the water, energy and food we need to support our lifestyles. 

If the Earth's resources were shared equally among everyone, we would each have a little less than 2 hectares of the globe! However, the UK has an ecological footprint of about 5.5 global hectares per person. This means that if everyone in the world consumed resources at the rate people in UK do, we would need 2 more planets to sustain our present population. 

Sustainability: 'actions and forms of progress that meet the needs of the present without reducing the ability of future generations to meet their needs'. 
That's the textbook definition, but I like to think of it as the following just so I understand it better:
"The ability to meet the needs of the present while preserving the environment so future generations can meet their needs too. 
Try explaining 'sustainability' to someone else in your own words, to see if you truly understand it. 

Global variations in the ecological footprint

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So if we are to continue using the natural resources in the global range of different environments, we need:
  • to do so with much more moderation
  • to be aware of how easily the balances of those environments are upset
  • to reduce our ecological footprint to a minimum
It's very idealistic, and may be what we need to do, but in fact it'll be very hard to do so.

It could mean that some places cannot have economic development. Which really should be the case in the few remaining truly wilderness areas, like Antarctica, the tundra of Siberia and the Amazon rainforest. 

It's vital that the biodiversity and pristine nature of such environments are protected for the general 'health' of the Earth and its people. If not, our present abuse of the planet promises an unsustainable future. :/ 

The link between ecological footprint and sustainability is that the ecological footprint theory helps us to judge how sustainable our lives are now. It helps us to make judgement about the future too.

We know that global population will continue to grow for at least the next 50 years. It warns us of the extent to which the world's environments will become even more fragile. It advises us as to what is sustainable.