Will Plate Tectonics Create New Land In The Canary Islands?

Eruptions in 2011 seemed to herald the arrival of a new island in the Canary Islands archipelago. Whislt this could create dangerous and disruptive ash clouds, it reminds us that there are many undersea eruptions on active margins around the world and that these could develop into new land.

What were the impacts of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami?

The Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami (11th of March 2001) was one of the largest ever recorded and caused serious damage and loss of life in Japan.

You can see a quake map here.

The BBC have a good over view of events here

Wikipedia has a fact-filled page here

One of the most striking aspects of this incident was the way in which the Japanese people reacted. There was little in the way of looting and disorder, which can characterise the aftermath of disasters.

Out at sea ships passed over the huge waves before they reached the coast. You can see how earthquakes trigger tsunamis here.

How do Bangladesh’s cyclone shelters work?

Bangladesh has a long history of suffering from the effects of cyclones, such as this one in 1991: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1991_Bangladesh_cyclone. This article discusses Bangladesh’s vulnerability to cyclones and attempts to lessen that vulnerability: http://www.climate.org/PDF/Bangladesh.pdf.

Bangladesh is particularly vulnerable because so much of its land is low lying and as a nation, it has a relatively low level of economic development, meaning less money is available to spend on defences and recovery. 

To try to help limit the loss of life, thereby promoting faster recovery from cyclones and other flooding events, shelters have been built on stilts, allowing the population to take refuge from the rising water.

In 2008 Bangladesh had a network of around 1500 shelters, capable of holding thousands of people each, and this due to be increased substantially following the devastation of Cyclone Nargis in 2008, which killed around 3300 people in Bangladesh: http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKDHA105884._CH_.242020080108 & http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=76490.

The shelters are built on pillars to keep them above the water and usually perform a dual role as community centres. You can find lots of images of cyclone shelters here: http://www.archnet.org/library/sites/one-site.jsp?site_id=6452

Many cyclone shelters are built with aid donated from MEDCs and NGOs, such as these ones being built by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC):


What effect has drought had on people and the environment in Kenya?

Kenya’s ongoing drought is having a severe effect on the environment, causing a number of changes as lakes dry up and plants and trees suffer. The drought combines with other man made pressures on the ecosystems and has a knock on effect on the people who rely on those environments to sustain them:




There are concerns that problems caused by the drought may ignite tribal violence:


One of the main ecosystems under threat is the Mau Forest. This report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) explains some of the treats facing the Mau forest; a list to which drought can be added:


Kenya Forests works to find a sustainable future for Kenya’s forest resources:


Mudslides in Uganda lead to planned mass migration: a natural or man made phenomenon?

In early March 2010, a series of landslides in the hilly Bududa region of Uganda caused devastation: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8545005.stm.

Whilst the landslides themselves were triggered by heavy rain, it is thought that the removal of vegetation by human activity, e.g, clearance for farming, has contributed to the vulnerability of the slopes. Some areas were descried as being like giant cemeteries after the mud swept through: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8549909.stm

The landslides were big enough to be seen on satellite images: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/view.php?id=43130

This radio report helps explain the grief people are experienceing: http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/africa/2010/03/100305_uganda.shtml

The government thinks that the area is too dangerous to live in and intends to resettle half a million people: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8556669.stm. It will remain to be seen whther this is a better response than trying to make the area less vulnerable to landslides in a country with a growing population and pressure on land.

Hurricane Ida: what damage did it do to El Salvador in 2009?

Hurricane Ida was the most powerful hurricane to make landfall in the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Ida_(2009).

Amongst the worst affected places was El Salvador which suffered a series of floods and landslides in response to the heavy rainfall associated with the hurricane: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_El_Salvador_floods_and_mudslides and http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/8349730.stm, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_pictures/8349698.stm and http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/8350894.stm

How has western Europe been affected by the storms of February 2010?

The storms that hit western Europe at the end of February 2010 were predicted, but the damage was greater than expected, partly because of the collapse of sea defences:

A news report from the event can be seen here:


The damage was particularly bad because of a storm surge which broke through inadequate defences:


This led the French governement to declare the storms a national disaster: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8542361.stm

There is more about storm surges here:


and about the devastating 1953 storm surge here:


The storms are part of a series of strong winter storms which have affected western Europe:


Amongst the worst was the one which caused severe damage on the island of Madeira: