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Natural Disasters in a Global Environment

By: Anthony N Penna(Author), Jennifer S Rivers(Author)

John Wiley & Sons

Paperback | Apr 2013 | #206872 | ISBN-13: 9781118252338
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NHBS Price: £26.50 $35/€30 approx

About this book

Natural Disasters in a Global Environment is a transnational, global and environmental history of natural and man-made disasters. Detailed case studies of past and present events are presented in a historical narrative, making use of the most recent scholarship.

"Natural Disasters in a Global Environment serves as a much-needed respite from the glossy hyper-produced texts on environmental geology and natural disasters so prevalent today. Instead, Penna and Rivers couple delightful exposition, insightful comparative images, and historical anecdotes that together produce some of the finest science writing I've seen. This book not only could be an outstanding text for a course on the subject, but it also would be a fine read for anyone interested in how the earth 'works.'"
– Donald Siegel, Syracuse University

"This is an impressive collection, wide ranging in time, place and discipline. The result stimulates new thinking both about history and about the ongoing role of catastrophe in the course of human society – altogether, an imaginative venture."
– Peter Stearns, George Mason University

"Eco-anxiety sometimes makes us exaggerate our power over nature for good and ill. In an important, welcome and riveting collaboration between history and science, Penna and Rivers unfold a minatory drama of disasters – seismic, climatic, pandemic, atmospheric, meteoric – that humans can barely influence, let alone control."
– Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, University of Notre Dame

"This skillful record of natural disaster – in climate, epidemics, and earth tremors – shows how society risks further disaster even in planning for safety."
– Patrick Manning, University of Pittsburgh

"Appealing to both students of history and science, this study of natural hazards and vulnerable populations provides an enthralling guide to how disasters have altered the course of human history."
– Greg Bankoff, University of Hull

"Interdisciplinary in methods and reach, Natural Disasters in a Global Environment surveys big ideas in concise and accessible form. This book is an indispensable introduction for everyone who wants to understand human response to disaster – scientists, disaster planners, historians, and policy-makers, students and senior researchers."
– Conevery Bolton Valencius, University of Massachusetts Boston


List of figures x

Preface xii

Acknowledgments xiv

Introduction 1


1 Supervolcanoes 13

Introduction 13

The Mt. Toba Eruption (73,000 BP) 15

The Thera (Santorini) Eruption in the Aegean Sea (1600 BCE) 20

Mt. Tambora (1815) and Krakatau (1883) 25

The Mt. Pinatubo Eruption (1991) 28

A Threatening Future Scenario 32

Summary 33

Notes 35

Further Reading 37

2 Earthquakes 38

Introduction 38

The San Francisco Earthquake (1906) 39

The Great Kanto Earthquake (1923) 48

The Haitian Earthquake (2010) 56

Summary 66

Notes 68

3 Tsunamis 71

Introduction 71

Lisbon, Portugal: The Quadruple Disaster (1755) 72

The Lituya Bay Mega-Tsunami (1958) 79

The Sumatra–Andaman Earthquake (2004) 83

The Tôhoku (Japan) Tsunami (2011) 89

Summary 97

Notes 98

Further Reading 104


4 Fire 107

Introduction 107

The Burning of Rome (68 CE) 108

The Great Fire of London (1666) 112

The Chicago and Peshtigo Fires (1871) 120

Summary 132

Notes 133

Further Reading 135

5 Floods 136

Introduction 136

Central China Floods (1931) 137

The Dutch Flood Disaster (1953) 144

The Bangladesh Floods (1997–98) 149

Summary 154

Notes 156

Further Reading 160

6 Landslides 162

Introduction 162

The Turtle Mountain Landslide, Canada (1903) 163

The Aberfan Landslide, Wales (1966) 167

The Ancash Earthquake and Landslide, Peru (1970) 171

The Southern Leyte Landslide, the Philippines (2006) 177

Summary 183

Notes 184

Further Reading 187

7 Pandemic Diseases 189

Introduction 189

The Bubonic Plague (1347–51 and After) 190

The Great Infl uenza Pandemic (1918–20) 200

HIV/AIDS (1985–) 210

Summary 216

Notes 219

Further Reading 221


8 Hurricanes, Cyclones, and Typhoons 225

Introduction 225

The Labor Day Hurricane in the Florida Keys (1935) 227

The Bhola Cyclone (1970) 236

Super-Typhoon Nina (1975) 244

Summary 250

Notes 250

Further Reading 252

9 Famines and Droughts 253

Introduction 253

The Irish Potato Famine (1845–51) 254

The “Dust Bowl” Drought in the American West (1930–40) 262

The Great Leap Forward Chinese Famine (1958–61) 271

Summary 281

Notes 282

Further Reading 285

10 Meteorite Impacts 287

Introduction 287

The Creation of Earth’s Moon and the Origins of Meteorites 289

The Yucatán Chicxulub Crater, Mexico (65 MYA) 290

The Clovis Extinction (12,500–12,900 BP) 295

The Tunguska (Siberia) Event (1908) 298

Investigating Future Impacts 301

Summary 307

Notes 308

Further Reading 311

Epilogue 313

Index 319


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Anthony N. Penna is Professor Emeritus at Northeastern University. He is the author of Nature's Bounty: Historical and Modern Environmental Perspectives, Remaking Boston: An Environmental History of the City and Its Surroundings (co-edited with Conrad Edick Wright, 2009), and The Human Footprint: A Global Environmental History.

Jennifer S. Rivers is Professor and Director of the Environmental Studies program at Northeastern University. She holds a PhD from Syracuse University in Earth Science and has over thirty published articles in the field of Environmental Science.

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