The art and science of large-scale disasters

M. Gad-El-Hak
2009 Bulletin of the Polish Academy of Sciences: Technical Sciences  
The subject of large-scale disasters is broadly introduced in this article. Both the art and science of predicting, preventing and mitigating natural and manmade disasters are discussed. A universal, quantitative metric that puts all natural and manmade disasters on a common scale is proposed. Issues of prediction, control and mitigation of catastrophes are presented. The laws of nature govern the evolution of any disaster. In some cases, as for example weather-related disasters, the
more » ... iples laws of classical mechanics could be written in the form of field equations, but exact solutions of these often nonlinear differential equations are impossible to obtain particularly for turbulent flows, and heuristic models together with intensive use of supercomputers are necessary to proceed to a reasonably accurate forecast. In other cases, as for example earthquakes, the precise laws are not even known and prediction becomes more or less a black art. Management of any type of disaster is more art than science. Nevertheless, much can be done to alleviate the resulting pain and suffering. The expansive presentation of the broad field of large-scale disasters precludes a detailed coverage of any one of the many topics touched upon. Three take-home messages are conveyed, however: a universal metric for all natural and manmade disasters is presented; all facets of the genre are described; and a proposal is made to view all disasters as dynamical systems governed for the most part by the laws of classical mechanics.
doi:10.2478/v10175-010-0101-8 fatcat:66olp2hzlva6pppizpuc56bfye