How can we best respond to and cope with the impacts of extreme weather?
Key idea: Adaptation vs. Mitigation
Extreme weather can bring some very adverse impacts onto area socially, economically and environmentally. So there are ways of dealing with it. We can either adapt to the situation or mitigate. Adaptation is usually used in these event because these event are either caused by complex human causes such as climate change or natural such as the Milankovitch cycles which are hard to mitigate. Below I have defined each term as it is important to understand them:
Adaptation: Any change in the structure or functioning of an organism or system that makes it better suited to the environment. For example; Boscastle is a flood prone village thus they have changed the shape of the river so it can hold of more water and cutting the impacts of flooding – not causes.
Mitigation: The process by which you make something less harmful or serious. For example; it is claimed the European heatwave in 2003 was caused by climate change. So people governments have got together like in the Copenhagen treaty to discuss how we can cut carbon emission to mitigate climate change.
Key concept: Short-term strategies vs. long-term strategies
Short-term strategies used to contending with difficulties with extreme weather can include increasing the number of medical staff around or evacuating people from a certain area. LEDCs tend to rely ons short-term strategies as they cannot around long-term strategies and they also rely on foreign aid for the short-term strategies.
Long-term strategies tend to be hard engineering and quite costly. The work in reducing the impacts in the long term. So for example to reduce the impact of cars being swept away by floods, Boscastle raised the level of the car park and added extra barriers to it.
How was Hurricane Katrina predicted?
Wind speed and temperature across hurricane forming regions are measured with satellites.On these satellites we can even see the cloud formation and swirling winds. From these meteorologists can predict hurricanes. Hurricane Katrina was predicted accurately 6 days before. The official hurricane forecasting organisation is the ‘National Hurricane Centre’.(Link: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/ )
The hurricane was so violent that people were commanded to evacuate. However, 20% of the population (low income groups) didn’t have their own private transport or due to financial reasons were not able to evacuate and were left stranded in the disaster.
What did strategies did the environmental agency take in Boscastle?
They went for 4 long-term hard engineering strategies to reduce the impacts of flooding.
- The environmental agency made a decision to lay a large relief culvert that would carry excess rainwater. It is twice the size of the old one.
- The River Valency is being widened and lowered from the lower bridge to the car park, so that it has a bigger capacity and can carry more water.
- The height of the car park is being raised using stone removed from the river bed. Also barriers are being made for the car park so that if it floods it takes much longer for the cars to be swept away.
- There are plans to demolish the lower bridge near the harbour and replace it with a higher bridge further downstream. This will give the river more capacity and help to reduce flooding.
Risk assessment is way in which organisations such as the environmental agency can decide whether certain solutions are suitable to the particular hazards.
Boscastle flood risk assessment is done by a method called recurrence interval. It is a graph which displays the probability of floods of different levels occurring. The 2004 flash flood had a 1 in 400 years chance of coming. This does not mean the next one this big will happen after 400 years it could happy after a month and then not happen for 800years. Therefore, it isn’t particularly accurate.
Role of Technology
As technology advances we are able to predict events faster and more accurately and we are able to find solutions which are more smart and suited to our environments.
So for example in the case of Hurricane Katrina the National Hurricane Centre were able to use new satellites to predicted accurately the hurricane would come in 6 days and help the resident of the New orleans prepare for it.
The met office use technology to forecast weather and throughout time the technology has become more efficient and accurate. For example, the snow we experienced in December 2009 and January 2010 the met office were able to give severe warnings about.
Technology is also used to reduce the impacts if disaster. River Flooding can be a great disaster and in a city like London if there was a big flood so much would be destroyed. With technology engineers were able to create the Thames Barrier which has helped reduce the risk of flooding.
GIS (geographical information systems) is a complex computer system which will show you the geography of an area including demo-graph, physical landscape and buildings in an area. They can be used for flood monitoring because they can monitor flood levels and with the weather forecast; meteorologists can put 2 and 2 together to prepare for a flood.
In extreme heat event like drought technology has been useful here as well because through genetic modification we have been able to create drought resistant crops which means that even in the worst conditions farmers will still have agricultural goods to distribute.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
NOAA is a similar organisation to the met office and national hurricane centre. They forecast weather, give warning and advice people of coping methods. They use the latest technology and produce some very accurate results. Check their about me section out: http://www.noaa.gov/