When a natural disaster occurs, a casual observer will all too often see it as an isolated incident. But if you look a little deeper, beyond the news headlines, you see that most of these hazards are interconnected.
Tsunamis are a prime example; although a destructive and devastating hazard on their own, this mass movement of water can be caused by large magnitude earthquakes (such as the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami), powerful volcanic eruptions (seen recently during the 2022 Tonga eruption), and even large landslides (the largest of which, 1958 in Lituya Bay, caused a mega-tsunami with a maximum wave height of 524 metres) that all come with their own effects on the surrounding environment and population.
Links can be seen between a variety of other natural hazards, such as extreme weather events and wildfires influencing landslide hazard, and interactions between volcanism and weather conditions such as El Nino, and even potential influences of extreme rainfall on the triggering of volcanic eruptions (though this theory is not universally accepted, as discussed in our recent Insight Piece).
These links are becoming ever more important in the worlds of risk analysis, resilience and insurance, as the effects of climate change become more prevalent and weather patterns across the globe become more unpredictable and erratic. Extreme temperatures, extreme rainfall, drought and storm events are becoming more frequent, and have the potential to trigger or otherwise worsen the effects of a number of geological hazards in the coming years and decades. For geoscientists, used to dealing with depositional environments formed over millions of years and events that can sometimes take hundreds of years between reoccurrence, these changes could be thought of as very sudden. But new and evolving technologies such as remote earth observation, machine learning and high-performance computer modelling are helping to better understand the interplay between these hazards and their effects.
The WTW Research Network is continuing to support academics and industry scientists working with the earth hazards, risk and exposure, with new and improved modelling software development that is being shared across wider WTW teams, and recommendations on how existing analytics tools can be improved to more accurately account for hazards which may change in the face of climate uncertainty.
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