International Committee on issues of Global Changes of the Geological Environment, “GEOCHANGE”

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Important information by the Chairman of the International Committee GEOCHANGE Prof. E.N Khalilov communicated to the WOSCO Information Agency 19.01.2011

Dear Professor Khalilov, 2010 called by many a year of natural disasters is finally over and humanity has entered the year of 2011. What can we expect from nature this year?

2011 began with a series of strong earthquakes: on January 01 with a magnitude of 7.0 in the Santiago del Estero province (Argentina), on January 02 with a magnitude of 7.1 and on January 10 with a magnitude 6.0 off the coast of central Chile, on January 12 with a magnitude of 6.5 near the Japanese Bonin Islands, on January 18 with a magnitude of 7.2 in the Pakistan.

On January 4, the Mount Etna, one of Italy’s largest and most dangerous volcanoes became active (Photo’s source:

Australia is still suffering from catastrophic flooding and another large one has begun in Germany where melting snow and heavy rainfall led to the country’s major rivers bursting their banks. Dozens of cities are already under water. There are reports of casualties. The vast Brazil floods which started in late December 2010 has gained in scale since the beginning of January 2011 and as of January 13, these floods and accompanying mudslides have killed more than 480 people. The disaster zone includes São Paulo, the country’s largest city with population of about 20 million people as well as the Serrana region north of Rio de Janeiro and the city of Teresópolis.

According to our estimates, in 2011 the world has entered an active phase of natural disasters, which will last until 2015 to be followed by the expected decline in geological cataclysms. However, the spike in global warming will lead to further melting of glaciers and the flooding of vast areas from 2016 onwards. The maximum level of natural disasters in terms of their numbers and energy is expected for 2013-2014.

The Report of the International Committee GEOCHANGE covers the period up to June 2010 ( More than half a year has passed since then. How can you comment on this period not covered in your report?

Unfortunately, our worst fears are coming true. It is always very hard to talk about natural disasters because this problem is associated with victims, distress and sufferings of large numbers of people around the world. But scientists who study natural cataclysms have no moral right to remain silent and observe the development of events indifferently since analysis and prediction are our primary goal. Only scientists can provide the international community, heads of state and ordinary people with reliable information on the events occurring in nature. The main question is: “What is going on in nature now, and what can we expect in the future?” If the international community is in possession of a highly probable answer to this question, we can timely prepare for future natural disasters, unite forces of different countries and carry out effective international coordination of their actions to minimize thereby casualties and losses from natural disasters. That is why our Committee is putting so much effort into active actions throughout the world.


If we consider natural disaster statistics as from June 2010, we will see that it fully backs up the tendency for natural cataclysms to grow in number and energy, shown in our report covering the period up to June 2010. According one of the world’s largest insurance companies Swiss Re (Switzerland), economic damage from natural disasters in 2010 alone totaled $ 222 billion, which is three times the economic losses for the year 2009 ($ 63 billion).

Here are some striking examples: catastrophic floods in Pakistan, Brazil, Australia, China, Mexico and other countries; strong earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, Italy, Turkey, China, Indonesia etc.; volcanic eruptions in Iceland, Indonesia, the Far East, Ecuador etc.; summer forest fires in Russia, Israel and other regions, abnormally hot weather throughout the Northern Hemisphere in the summer and unusually high snowfall in the winter. The number of fatalities during natural disasters in 2010 exceeded 320,000 people while in 2009 the death toll was about 15,000 people.

According to the report by the UN Economic Commission of for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC/CEPAL), 2010§ionid=6&task=edit&cid[]=110 natural disasters have killed 300,000 people in Latin American countries, with material damage amounting to 49.4 billion dollars.


Floods are ranked first among the 2010 disasters in terms of casualties and extent of damage. The Pakistan floods which were the most monstrous by their tragic consequences began in July after incessant rains and continued throughout August. The flooding was caused by several major rivers in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa bursting their banks. At least 3,500 people were killed during the floods and millions of people were made homeless. The death toll in the disaster’s aftermath may have been ten times higher than the number of people killed directly by the floods. No one knows exactly how many people died of their consequences.

Pakistan flood, July 2010.

The number of flood victims in Pakistan, according to the country’s Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani, is as many as about 20 million people. To corroborate this figure, the UN Secretary General stated that 15 to 20 million people in Pakistan are in need of basic necessities: food, drinking water, tents.

Perhaps this child who was born and survived in the center of a natural disaster will have a better future (photo on the right).

Pakistan has experienced an extremely large-scale humanitarian and social disaster caused by a natural cataclysm. According to experts, the economic damage suffered by the country amounts to 43 billion dollars. Although international organizations and several countries did provide Pakistan with some assistance, the people of Pakistan were in fact left on their own to combat the elements and their consequences. This fact once again demonstrates the imperfection of international laws aimed at providing humanitarian assistance to affected countries.

Severe floods shook Brazil from May to August 2010. According to official figures, about 400 people are believed to be dead following the Brazil floods, but more than 1000 people in the state of Alagoas and 500 people in the town of União dos Palmares are reported missing.

In April, a state of emergency was declared in 75 Brazil communities. The entire town of Brancinho in the state of Alagoas, a home to 12 thousand people, was totally flooded and destroyed.

According to the town’s mayor Ana Lopez, Brancinho is beyond reconstruction and a new settlement has to be built in a completely different place. The 2010 Brazil floods killed 556 people and caused economic damage exceeding $ 1 billion.

Severe floods and landslides resulting from torrential rains somewhat untypical of Mexico troubled the country almost all year long, and in the second half-year, the country was subjected to flooding from June to late September. The damage from the Mexico floods in 2010 totaled 5.3 billion dollars. Floods and landslides killed over 280 people in Colombia and another 174 in Guatemala.

Australia floods which began in December 2010 are second only to the Pakistan ones by their imagination-gripping scale. In late December, the north-east of mainland Australia was hit by the tropical storm Tasha causing massive inundation in the country.

Queensland, in particular, saw its rivers burst their banks and 22 cities submerge after several days of heavy rains. The Australian floods have affected a territory larger than that of France and Germany combined, with more than 200 thousand people finding themselves in a disaster zone.

The territory flooded as of January 14, 2011 covers an area of about one million square kilometers. This flood has been the largest in the past 50 years. According to the latest information, the economic damage caused by the disaster may well exceed $ 9 billion. 75 per cent of Australian coal and iron ore mines had to cease production. Coking coal export from Australia has already decreased by half. Meanwhile, the country is the biggest supplier of this fuel which makes half of its world exports. Experts predict a 30 percent growth in coal prices in the next few weeks. Due to the torrential rains, large wheat-sown areas have been flooded. According to some analysts, this may lead to food crisis in Australia. There have been reports of food prices soaring by 50 percent. It can take several years to restore the infrastructure damaged by the severe floods in the Australian state of Queensland.


If floods are ranked first in terms of the territory affected and damage suffered in 2010, earthquakes are the year’s most tragic events by the numbers of victims. The Haiti earthquake of 12 January 2010 alone claimed lives of 222 thousand people. The consequences of this earthquake led the country to social and humanitarian disaster resulting in its inability to exist independently, as publicly stated by the Haiti President in January 2011. Despite the continued assistance to the country by UN, international organizations and individual countries, poor sanitation and complete destruction of the country’s infrastructure caused a large-scale cholera epidemic which has already killed several thousand people.

One of the most powerful earthquakes with magnitude 7.7 occurred off the coast of Sumatra (Indonesia) on October 25, 2010. The earthquake was accompanied by ten weaker shocks – aftershocks with magnitudes of 5 to 6.2. The earthquake triggered a large tsunami which killed more than 400 people along the western coast of Sumatra. According to the governor of the West Sumatra province, waves wiped out several villages on the islands’ coastline facing the Indian Ocean and made homeless four thousand people.


October 26, 2010 was marked by awakening of Indonesia’s largest and most active volcano Merapi located in the central part of Java Island. Its eruption left more than 150 people dead. Another major eruption of Merapi occurred 30 October and 04 November, the volcano started erupting with new vigor. 218 people are reported missing.

On December 6, 2010, the Ecuadorian volcano of Tungurahua located some 130 km from the capital city of Quito began to erupt. The column of steam and ash ejected from the volcano’s crater reached the height of 3 km.


The Russian forest fires in summer 2010 were the most massive for the past 100 years, being rated as a nation-scale natural disaster. The fires which started in the Moscow oblast and some other regions of Russia in mid-August were triggered by peat combustion.

According to Sergey Shoygu, Russian Minister of Emergency Situations, 1,170 homes were burned and 2,178 people were made homeless in the Central and Volga regions of Russia alone. 238 thousand people and 25 thousand vehicles were deployed to quench the wildfires, along with planning and carrying out transfer of forces from other regions of Russia to the affected areas. The President and Prime Minister of Russia directly participated in coordinating the operations aimed to extinguish the forest fires. The operations involved not only rescue services and equipment of the Ministry of Emergency Situations, but also that of the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Internal Affairs, and many other ministries and organizations.

By the end of August, Russia’s fire-affected areas exceeded 500 thousand hectares, with over 10,000 hotbeds of fire. The wildfires continued until late September destroying more than 150 settlements. Because of the thick smoke, embassies of many countries were evacuated from Moscow.

Moscow Red Square during wildfires. Photo: AP / Mikhail Metzel

The Russian forest fires are believed to be triggered by abnormal heat which caused vegetation to dry up and peat deposits to ignite rapidly. The problem was complicated by the impossibility to put out the peat fires by traditional means since it requires special techniques. Plenty of people suffered from the wildfires in Moscow and the Moscow oblast. More than 50 people died as a direct consequence of the Russian wildfires. The densest smoke and increased concentration of carcinogenic substances therein caused the mortality rate among the Moscow population during the fires to double (from 360 to 700 people daily).

The main causes of the increased number of deaths are the smoke’s impact on the health of people suffering from cardiovascular diseases, bronchial asthma, hypertension, and lung problems.

Among the most affected by the wildfires were the Republic of Mordovia, Republic of Tatarstan, Belgorod, Voronezh, Ivanovo, Kirov, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Ryazan, Ulyanovsk, Vladimir, Lipetsk, Tambov and Tula oblasts of Russia. According to the world’s largest insurance company Swiss Re, more than 15 000 people died in Russia during the summer as a result of wildfires, smoke emissions into the atmosphere and abnormal heat.

I think the information I have provided is enough to get convinced that natural cataclysms in the second half of 2010 were no less active than in the first one. Currently, the International Committee GEOCHANGE is preparing an interim report for the period between 01 June and 31 December, 2010 with a detailed analysis of the environmental dynamics but I can already say responsibly that, unfortunately, our worst predictions are being confirmed.

What other negative effects can be expected from natural disasters in 2011?

According to our data, while 2010 can be called a year of floods, 2011 will be witnessing more strong earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, amid continuing floods, hurricanes and tornadoes. This year marks the beginning of high seismic and volcanic activity worldwide.

Above I cited findings of the world’s biggest insurance company Swiss Re according to which, the damage caused by natural disasters in 2010 is more than three times as high as that of 2009. A number of countries such as Haiti, Pakistan, Mexico and others have suffered losses from which they cannot recover on their own, without international aid. The economic crisis in the affected countries has already begun to draw the world’s entire economic system into the abyss of a next global economic crisis. You have to admit that 30% rise in world coal prices just because a single country (Australia) is flooded is a major economic indicator. Taking into account that there is a real risk of a 100% increase in the number and intensity of natural cataclysms in 2011 as compared to 2010, the economic damage is expected to double. This means that by the end of 2011 the world community is going to witness the first signs of a next global financial crisis, the extent and consequences of which may be much deeper than those of the previous one.

Dear Professor Khalilov, what do you propose and are there any specific plans for further action by the International Committee GEOCHANGE? Or with the international communiqué and analytical report, the Committee’s activity is over?

To date, the International Committee GEOCHANGE which unites well-known scientists from more than 80 countries has sent out a Communiqué signed by over 300 scientists from 86 countries and a report on global environmental change to more than 100 heads of state and more than 50 influential international organizations including the UN, European Union, and the Organization of Islamic Conference, among others. Scientists and the international community are waiting for the United Nations, heads of state and international organizations to respond and take concrete action as to the sharp increase in the number and energy of natural disasters around the world. Their determination and prompt reaction are going to be decisive in saving the lives and fates of people across the globe and stable development of human civilization. There are some specific actions to be carried out and a lot of work to be done in order to improve international law, flight safety in civil and transport aviation, shipping, international coordination of emergency management, etc.

The International Committee GEOCHANGE is not going to take a passive stance. We realize that the planet is on the verge of a great peril and the wait-and-see attitude cannot be justified and will not be forgiven by the future generations. From 2011 onwards, the International Committee GEOCHANGE is going to launch a contingency plan and constantly update the world community on its implementation. The Committee’s secretariats in various countries are already sending out our special proposals to the parliaments, congresses and other legislative bodies of different countries calling on them to start adopting special national and international laws. These regulations will govern different aspects of actions to be taken when a forecast is received, when a natural disaster is underway and in the course of removing their consequences. Besides, after a year of preparation, it has been officially announced that an international congress titled “Natural cataclysms and global problems of the modern civilization - GEOCATACLYSM-2011” and an international exhibition will be held in September 2011 in Istanbul (Turkey). The Congress will be interdisciplinary, covering all aspects and issues related to natural disasters. The main sections of the Congress are: 1. Earth Sciences 2. Economy and Finances, 3. Transport 4. Health care 5. Emergency management; 6. Construction 7. Ecology and Environment, 8. Communications and Information Technology 9. International and national law.

The International Congress will bring together representatives of all interested countries and organizations to convene an emergency forum and collectively discuss the most topical problems with the purpose to reduce casualties and damage caused by natural disasters. The ultimate goal of the Congress is to discuss and approve the “INTERNATIONAL EMERGENCY PROGRAM TO REDUCE RISKS AND NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES OF NATURAL CATACLYSMS” developed jointly by the International Committee GEOCHANGE, WOSCO, GNFE and a group of international experts aimed to prepare a set of international laws on cooperation of the world community in disaster-stricken areas, prediction of natural disasters, earthquake engineering and other important issues. Following a Congress resolution, the program will be presented to the UN Secretary-General and sent to all countries’ leaders and legislative bodies for consideration and appropriate action.

There are some special sections of the Congress: the General Assembly of the International Committee GEOCHANGE on Global Environmental Change and the International Conference “Forecasting Earthquakes-2011”. We can already state that the Congress is going to be attended by representatives of more than 100 countries, with prominent scientists, members of parliaments and governments of various countries, famous social activists and policymakers among them. More detail on the Congress can be found at:

Thank you for the interesting and detailed interview.

WOSCO International Scientific Information Agency, 19.01.2011

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