Large-Scale Disasters

Authored by: Mohamed Gad-el-Hak

Handbook of Environmental Fluid Dynamics

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  December  2012

Print ISBN: 9781439816691
eBook ISBN: 9781439816707
Adobe ISBN:


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The subject of large-scale disasters is broadly introduced in this chapter. Many such disasters involve fluid transport in the oceans and atmosphere and hence the inclusion of the chapter in a book about environmental fluid mechanics. Both the art and science of predicting, preventing, and mitigating natural and human-caused disasters are discussed. A universal, quantitative metric that puts all natural and human-caused disasters on a common scale is proposed. The laws of nature govern the evolution of any disaster. In some cases, as for example, environmental or extreme-weather events, the first-principles laws of classical mechanics could be written in the form of field equations, but exact solutions of these often nonlinear differential equations are impossible to obtain, particularly for turbulent flows, and heuristic models together with intensive use of supercomputers are necessary to proceed to a reasonably accurate forecast. In other cases, as for example, earthquakes, the precise laws are not even known and prediction becomes more or less a black art. Management of any type of disaster is more art than science. Nevertheless, much can be done to alleviate the resulting pain and suffering. The present expansive presentation of the broad field of large-scale disasters precludes a detailed coverage of any one of the many topics touched upon. Three take-home messages are conveyed, however: a universal metric for all natural and human-caused disasters is presented, all facets of the genre are described, and a proposal is made to view all disasters as dynamical systems governed for the most part by the laws of classical mechanics.

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