Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Internet update From: Property Management, Volume 29, Issue 5
Natural disasters by their very nature are hard to predict, but cause serious damage, not only physically, but also through the tragic loss of life. Few need reminding of the images seen across the world following the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan, or indeed the earlier earthquake that hit Christchurch in New Zealand. We have also seen quakes in Spain. There have been many powerful tornadoes in the USA. Even in the UK we have become accustomed to flooding, just as we have seen in other parts of the world, including Australia and the USA.
Some risks can be insured and many of the global insurers employ specialist scientific advisors in relation to such matters. But that aside, what can an investment manager or property manager learn from web-based materials that can alert them to areas or regions that are more susceptible?
As ever, local knowledge is important, but as companies and investors move across borders in increasing numbers, such knowledge may not be transported. Therefore, initial investigations could prove worthwhile.
I look at this from the perspective of having limited knowledge, but also of curiosity. Therefore, what I am attempting to provide here is a short review of websites that I think may be of interest in providing some background knowledge and resource for further investigation. I am sure there are many useful sites that I will miss.
My starting point was to have a quick search to see what emerged from a simple search of “Earthquake maps”. Various sites emerged, but the one that caught my attention was the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (www.iris.edu/hq/). On this site is a global seismic monitor map, which outlines earthquakes in real time. It highlights in different colours quakes that occurred today, yesterday, in the past two weeks and over the last five years. The size of the circles indicates the actual magnitude of the quake. By clicking on a particular area of the map you can see in more detail the recent activity. Drilling down further, and clicking on a particular area within that map you can then obtain a table outlining the location, timing and magnitude of the quakes in the last two weeks. The site also has a wealth of additional material including information about what earthquakes are.
There are numerous local organisations. In the USA, there is the US Geological Survey (www.usgs.gov/). This site is not just about earthquakes, but wider issues. From the homepage there is a link to resources on climate and land use change. There are also various maps available to purchase and an education section, which at the time of viewing had a section on predicting earthquakes.
In the UK we have the British Geological survey (www.bgs.ac.uk/). Like the USA, this site is not just about earthquakes, although this does feature on their homepage. At the time of writing there were links to information on the volcanic eruption in Iceland, as well as a recent earthquake in Blackpool. There are sections on geology and climate change on the site, which may be of interest to some. The British Geological Survey cover wider seismic activity. I recall filling in a survey for them in the wake of the explosions at the Buncefield oil depot, which was designed to better understand the effect of explosion and seismic waves in the UK.
From a planning perspective, those in the UK, may wish to look at the Environment Agency web site (www.environment-agency.gov.uk/). It has a section on flooding for example. This includes a flood map which you can drill down to a local area and see the course of rivers or other waterways. The map also outlines the areas of risk around these waterways – a useful tool for consumers and businesses alike looking for premises.
From my quick searches I also found other geological organisations for a number of countries. Those interested may wish to take a further look:
Australia – www.ga.gov.au/. This has a section on earthquakes as well as a monitoring and referencing section. There is also a range of publications covering topics such as groundwater, energy and earth monitoring.
Japan – www.jma.go.jp/en/quake/. This includes information on earthquake and tsunami warnings. There is also a section for tourists, who wish to know more about the local climate.
New Zealand – www.geonet.org.nz/index.html. This includes sections on earthquakes, volcanoes, landslide and tsunami. There is also a special section on the Canterbury quakes, and included here are links to significant quakes since the one that registered 7.1 on September 4 2010. This includes the recent quakes which hit Christchurch, including one as I was preparing this editorial.
Of course, in some countries severe weather can come from high winds and tornadoes. The power and destruction caused by these cannot be underestimated. I have been fascinated by the Storm Chasers series on TV, and whilst good viewing, also follows a number of organisations who are focussed on the causes of tornadoes and development of early warning systems. People interested may wish to visit the Centre for Severe Weather Research (www.cswr.org/) or TWISTEX (http://twistex.org/) for more information. At a national level in the USA, there is the US Storm Warning page (www.spc.noaa.gov/products/wwa/). Besides covering tornadoes, hurricanes and tropical storms, it also has a section on flooding. There is also a general hazards map covering floods, air quality and fire warnings.
For those with a general interest in geography and the environment, then it is worth visiting the National Geographic web site (www.nationalgeographic.com/). I selected the education section. In this there was a link to the Japanese earthquake. This revealed a number of related sources, including a section on natural events covering topics such as avalanches, earthquakes, flooding or drought, tornadoes and volcanoes. The multimedia section includes short videos. Here I came across one on earthquakes. Beyond the national geographic site, there is Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org/). Searching on particular topics will provide some summary detail including links to additional resources - worth a quick search.
The views expressed are those of the author and not those of DTZ.
Nigel AlmondAssociate Director, DTZ