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Technological advancement and existing challenges to natural hazard science in developing countries

John Lyons, PhD Student-Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences\MIchigan Technological University

Tuesday Fabruary 09-Dillman Hall(214), at 6.00-7.00pm

Two of the most prominent challenges in natural hazard science today are appropriate application of technology in developing countries and effective communication of scientific results to the public. High population growth rates and inevitable urbanization are increasing the risk of natural disasters in developing countries all over the world. Recent technological advances allow scientists to forecast some events with disaster-causing potential and to provide early warnings for even more events. Too often, however, the vital information remains within the scientific community or is communicated ineffectively and another natural disaster occurs, leaving many scientists shaking their heads, thinking “We saw that coming.” Recent examples of this scenario are abundant, none more relevant than the devastating 12 January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Fortunately, more and more scientists are becoming aware of these problems and efforts to address deficiencies are underway.

We will discuss recent and on-going efforts between scientists in developed and developing countries to increase scientific capacity and more effectively communicate hazard information, including examples from the US Geologic Survey and MTU’s Peace Corps Master’s International program in Natural Hazards. The discussion will draw heavily on personal experiences, including my experience as a Peace Corps volunteer during Hurricane Stan (2005) in Guatemala. Finally, we will outline what scientists knew prior to the recent earthquake in Haiti and discuss how technology and communication should be more appropriately blended in similar future situations.