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

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GEOCHANGE: Problems of Global Changes of the Geological Environment. Vol.1, London, 2010,  ISSN 2218-5798

Introduction

The time has come when accumulated earth science data make it possible to take a deeper look into the nature’s global changes, and reconsider their extent and their role in the sustainable development of civilization. Many world scientists realize that not only do these changes affect the climate, but they have an impact on virtually the entire volume of the Earth, from its core to the atmosphere and magnetosphere.

Global Changes of the Environment, “GEOCHANGE”, means natural, planet-wide changes in nature, influenced by endogenous, exogenous and cosmic factors occurring within the solar system and having negative implications for the sustainable development of humankind.

This summarizing scientific work by IC GCGE, “GEOCHANGE”, is our attempt to demonstrate the extent of these processes and how they influence the development of humankind. Those processes may destabilize the progress of civilization unless some preemptive and effective joint action is taken by the international community to ensure the maximum possible reduction in the number of casualties and economic damage caused by natural disasters.

The first report by the Chairman of IC GCGE is a fundamental initial document justifying the International Communiqué on issues of Global Changes of the Geological Environment, “GEOCHANGE”. In the next IC GCGE reports, greater involvement of scientists from different countries as well as consideration of aspects and issues not covered in the first report is planned.

All IC GCGE reports will be published in an international scientific journal titled “GEOCHANGE: Problems of Global Changes of the Geological Environment”. 

When preparing this report, the following basic principles have been observed:

- All data provided in the report are verifiable based on references to literary sources or databases available on the Internet.

- The report primarily uses databases of various countries’ public bodies or authoritative international organizations.

- To avoid subjectivity, the report provides raw data without any special mathematical treatment. In some cases, for visualization purposes, minimal mathematical processing is employed, for instance, when drafting various trends or averaging data.

- The text has been written in a popular science style so as to be understood by non-specialists.

- The report contains a lot of illustrative material to maximize the reader’s perception of the information.

- Because the report addresses some issues covering various fields of science and issues at the interface between different disciplines, the text provides basic concepts of the most important terms used.

We observe that, along with the rise of our planet’s average temperature, there is a simultaneous increase not only in the activity of extreme weather events such as tornadoes, hurricanes, storms, etc., but also of the number of strong earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis, with the movement of the magnetic poles accelerating and the Earth’s shape and rotation rate changing.  Therefore, it is evident that global climate change is only a part of global environmental changes.


Fig. 1. Casualty breakdown by natural disaster
types for the period between 1947 and 1997

(According to data by K. Y. Kondratiev et al, 2005)
http://www.viems.ru/asnti/ntb/ntb502/oboc5.html


1 – Tornadoes, typhoons, storms (1,500,000 dead);
2 – Earthquakes (400,000 dead);

3 – Floods (360,000 dead);

4 – Thunderstorms (40,000 dead);

5 – Tsunamis (30,000 dead);

6 – Volcanic eruptions (15,000 dead)

Natural disasters cause enormous economic damage to many countries, but the most tragic consequence of their manifestation is numerous casualties. According to research by K. Y. Kondratiev (Kondratiev, 2005), the majority of human lives worldwide are claimed by tornadoes, typhoons (hurricanes) and storms (64%). Earthquakes, in terms of casualty toll, rank second (17%), followed by floods (15%), thunderstorms (2%), tsunamis (1%), and volcanic eruptions (1%).

Nevertheless, in our opinion, these statistics do not so much represent a stable persistent pattern as they are a particular case associated with the specific time period being considered. Alternatively, during the period from 1999 to 2010, earthquakes would be in the lead, followed by tornadoes, typhoons, and storms ranking second, and tsunamis being third.

Below are given some actual data and their brief analysis, the conclusions of which are disappointing and articulate humankind’s entering an era of global cataclysms for which people are not ready yet, either technologically, economically, legally or psychologically.

While writing this first IC GCGE report, we tried to minimize subjective approaches and opinions, relying solely on the facts and primary conclusions that are evident or the most well-grounded. That is why the last section of this report, “Possible forecasts of some natural disasters and cosmic processes” is placed beyond this report as Appendix 1. That section is attached as additional information for discussion.

This report has been published in the international scientific journal “GEOCHANGE: Problems of Global Changes of the Geological Environment” (№ 1, 2010) and is available for open discussion on www.geochange-report.org website. All proposals, recommendations, and comments will be considered and posted on IC GCGE website.

It is also planned to discuss the report during IC GCGE General Assembly and at the International Conference on Global Changes of the Environment (2011).

In the next IC GCGE reports, we plan to address the following issues not covered in the first report:

- Near-earth space;

- Impact of cosmic processes on the Earth;

- Problems of global desertification;

- Land degradation;

- Melting of glaciers;

- Natural causes of ozone layer depletion;

- Global changes of the geological environment contributing to disturbance of the natural ecosystem.


Horrifying statistics!

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Below is a graph showing numbers of casualties during major earthquakes, covering the period from August 1999 to January 2010. As one can see from the graph, the straight-line trend indicates the tendency to a sharp increase in fatalities over the past decade.

Meanwhile, a kind of cyclicity associated with specific events that have significantly influenced the statistics can be observed. For instance, the sharp increase in the number of casualties since 2003 was caused by the disastrous magnitude 9.1 earthquake with an epicenter north of Sumatra Island on Dec. 26, 2004, which resulted in a very powerful tsunami affecting the coasts of 14 countries. Some 230,000 people died as a result of the earthquake and tsunami.

The second maximum occurred in January 2010 and is associated with the catastrophic Haiti magnitude 7,1 earthquake (12.01.2010), claiming lives of 222,570 people.


Fig. 2. Casualty breakdown by natural disaster
types for the period between 1947 and 1997
(by E. Khalilov, 2010, according to USGS data)
Graph for numbers of fatalities during major earthquakes
for certain years is marked in blue.

Straight-line trend reflecting tendency of fatalities to grow in numbers
over last decade is marked in red.

So, certain natural disasters can make a significant contribution to the overall statistics, and such events have a special place in the history of the world civilization. Below is a table indicating the number of people killed during large earthquakes from August 1999 to February 2010. Table 1 mentions only the earthquakes with over 10,000 fatalities.

Number of casualties during major earthquakes
for the period between August 1999 and February 2010

Table_1

The table demonstrates that the number of casualties caused by strong earthquakes is growing year by year, this tendency being distinctly displayed by the fatality graph (Fig. 2) and the straight-line trend showing the general tendency.

Meanwhile, the pernicious effects of natural disasters are not limited to human victims only. Major natural disasters may, in a short time, make a substantial impact on the Earth’s global characteristics: its shape, angular velocity of rotation, and variations of the spatial position of its axis. These factors, in their turn, can cause global climate change.

For instance, the catastrophic magnitude 9.1 earthquake of December 26, 2004 near northern Sumatra generated a very large tsunami and became a cause of death of about 300 thousand people, entering into the history of humankind as one of the most immense natural disasters ever. It is not merely about the monstrous number of people fallen victim to the earthquake and the tsunami it caused. It is, above all, about an amazing geological event with a scope so large that it influenced planet-wide processes. The catastrophic earthquake in the Southeast Asia changed the Earth’s geophysical characteristics. As the Spaceflight Now website reports, NASA scientists have established that the underground shocks have affected the planet’s rotation rate, lengthened the day, and slightly altered the planet’s shape. Moreover, the earthquake changed the position of the Geographic North Pole. It shifted by 2.5 cm towards 145° east longitude. The alteration of the planet’s rotation rate caused lengthening of the 24-hour day by 2.68 microseconds, and the movement of masses led to a change in the planet’s shape.

Catastrophic Indonesian tsunami of December 26, 2004

The catastrophic earthquake of December 26, 2004 occurred as an upthrust at the convergent boundary between the Indo-Australian and Eurasian plates in the northern Sumatra region. Within about 2 minutes, the rupture activated elastic deformation that had been accumulating in that focal area for centuries as a result of the continuing subduction (sliding) of the Indo-Australian plate under the Eurasian plate. The aftershock zone on December 26 had a length of about 1300 km. Even if we assume that only some of the aftershocks reflected the rupture plane of the main shock, then, according to a number of researchers, its length is considerably more than 500 km. As Chen Ji indicates in his work (2005), geodetic observations and computer simulations enabled scientists to conclude that the maximum underthrust during the earthquake was about 20 m at the depth of 18 km. It was accompanied by seabed shift – about 5 m vertically and 11 m horizontally.


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GEOCHANGE: Problems of Global Changes of the Geological Environment. Vol.1, London, 2010,  ISSN 2218-5798

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