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Landslides triggered by Hurricane Maria

Black Saturday: What have we learnt?

black saturday

Learning from major natural disasters: The fires that devastated Victoria in 2009 left a terrible trail of destruction, but taught us to be better prepared (Screenshot via YouTube)

In the ten years since the Black Saturday bushfires of 2009, many improvements have happened in fire prevention and management, writes Dr John Iser.

NEWS OF SIGNIFICANT BUSHFIRES this week in Grantville, Hepburn and Walhalla is distressing, especially so for local people. That these fires coincide with the tenth anniversary of the Black Saturday bushfire, in which many Victorians lost loved ones in one of the most catastrophic fires in Australian history, makes them particularly poignant.

Australians will recall the events of Black Saturday. An intense heatwave started in late January 2009 and continued through early February. After 12 hot days of an average of 35.9°C, the temperature on 7 February was the hottest recorded (46.4°C) in Melbourne. An estimated 374 deaths in Victoria were attributed to this heatwave.

Heat combined with dry conditions and strong winds produced ideal conditions for the fire, which was compounded when several fronts converged on towns north-east of Melbourne, resulting in the loss of 173 lives (later another seven people died from injuries)….

 

Landslides triggered by Hurricane Maria

Hurricane Maria hit the island of Puerto Rico on 20 September 2017 and triggered more than 40,000 landslides in at least three-fourths of Puerto Rico’s 78 municipalities. In a new article from GSA Today, authors Erin Bessette-Kirton and colleagues write that “the number of landslides that occurred during this event was two orders of magnitude greater than those reported from previous hurricanes.”  The authors, from the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Puerto Rico, evaluate the extent and characteristics of Maria-induced landslides throughout Puerto Rico. They present an assessment of island-wide landslide density, which they compare, in conjunction with rainfall data, to tropical cyclone systems that have affected Puerto Rico since 1960. Additionally, they discuss the conditions specific to landsliding in Puerto Rico and examine the impact of environmental variables (e.g., rainfall, soil moisture, and geology) on observed variations in island-wide landsliding…

 

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