Better Prediction Could Mitigate Disaster Costs

Perceptions of disaster are changing with greater awareness of how often the Earth and its cosmic neighbours have been impacted by cataclysmic events, Rob Stewart, P.Geoph., PhD, told a Nov. 25 APEGGA Council dinner in Calgary.

Speaking to an audience including invited geoscientists, the University of Calgary professor, who teaches a course on disasters, explained how seismic research is revealing more subsurface evidence of objects, such as asteroids, hitting Earth. With people now inhabiting more of the planet, we are more aware of many "disasters" to which we otherwise would have been oblivious. "It's only a disaster when we put people in the way."

This adds to a perception that so-called natural disasters, including major storms or earthquakes, are occurring more frequently and with greater losses."Human systems are getting in the way of things that have always happened," said Dr. Stewart.

While disasters might not be preventable, better predictive models could reduce losses. Earth scientists can contribute by bringing greater precision to such predictions, Dr. Stewart concluded.