The natural hazards caused by plate tectonics are more a result of human factors than physical ones. Discuss to what extent do you agree with this statement? [40 marks]

Topics: Volcano, Plate tectonics, 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake Pages: 6 (2197 words) Published: November 5, 2013
The natural hazards caused by plate tectonics are more a result of human factors than physical ones. Discuss to what extent do you agree with this statement? [40 marks] A natural hazard is a threat of a naturally occurring event that will have a negative effect on people or the environment. The Earth's lithosphere (crust) is divided into tectonic plates which are constantly in motion due to the convection currents caused by heat cycles in the mantle, driven by radioactive decay in the Earth’s core. Natural hazards caused by plate tectonics are earthquakes, volcanic eruptions (and tsunamis – secondary effect of the first two). It is important to understand that there is a clear division between a natural hazard and a natural disaster. A good example would be the 1906 San Francisco earthquake which killed about 3000 people and was a disaster, whereas the population of 342,782 people (San Francisco 1900 Census) living on a fault line was a hazard (NB. not naturally, but actually voluntarily occurred hazard). Therefore it could be argued that there is no such thing as “natural hazard”, because people choose to place themselves in areas which potentially present a risk, therefore it doesn’t naturally occur and therefore such phenomena should be correctly called “anthropogenic hazards”. Most hazardous processes are primarily geologic processes. Geologic processes effect every human on the Earth all of the time, but are most noticeable when they cause loss of life or property. If the process that poses the hazard occurs and destroys human life or property, then a natural disaster has occurred. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis are classified as hazardous only because they negatively affect human beings. In fact, there would be no natural disasters if it were not for humans. Without humans these are only natural events. Anthropogenic hazards occur as a result of human interaction with the environment. These human interactions can further be classified as vulnerability to hazards - the way a hazard or disaster will affect human life and property. Vulnerability to a given hazard depends on: proximity to a possible hazardous event; population density in the area proximal to the event; scientific understanding of the hazard; public education and awareness of the hazard; existence/non-existence of early-warning systems and lines of communication; availability and readiness of emergency infrastructure; construction styles and building codes; cultural factors that influence public response to warnings. In general, less developed countries are more vulnerable to natural hazards than are industrialized countries because of lack of understanding, education, infrastructure, building codes, etc. Poverty also plays a role - since poverty leads to poor building structure, increased population density, and lack of communication and infrastructure. Human intervention in natural processes such as development and habitation of lands susceptible to hazards, for example, building on volcanic slopes subject to volcanic eruptions (e.g. City of Pompeii on Mount Vesuvius), can also increase human vulnerability to “natural hazards”. There are two types of volcanic and earthquake hazards. Primary - occur as a result of the process itself; secondary - occur only because a primary hazard has caused them. The primary volcanic hazards include pyroclastic flows, air-fall tephra, lava flows and volcanic gases. The secondary volcanic hazards include ground deformation, lahars (mudflows), landslides and possibly tsunamis in ocean floor volcanic eruptions. The primary earthquake hazards include the effect of ground shaking and ground displacement. The secondary earthquake hazards include flooding, infrastructure collapse, fire and possibly tsunamis in ocean floor earthquakes. All these processes are hazards because they may result in death and man-made constructions’ destruction. However, it is important to understand that in most cases all of these...
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