Research Successes - Natural Disaster Reduction

Strategic Planning Document -
Environment and Natural Resources

Research Successes

Philippines Escape Volcanic Disaster

Tens of thousands of lives and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military property were saved by timely evacuation before the volcanic eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines. The eruption in June 1991 was the century's second largest volcanic eruption. Lives and property were saved by the quick response of Philippino scientists and civil defense authorities, assisted by the U.S. scientists and a U.S. Volcanic Crisis Assistance Team. U.S. scientists provided vital upgrades in radio-telemetered, computer-assisted monitoring and critical experience that they have gained through work on volcanic crises around the world. Through long-term observation and study of active volcanoes, together with detailed investigations of the geology and geochemistry of older, inactive volcanoes, U.S. scientists have discovered several means of predicting volcanic eruptions.

More than 65,000 people (including 14,500 American military personnel and dependents from nearby Clark Air Base) were evacuated before the climactic eruption. The death toll was about 150, including one American citizen.

Since the massive eruptions at Mount Pinatubo, volcanic mudflows (lahars) have threatened about half a million people and have left more than 60,000 homeless. U.S.-designed technology is the basis for immediate warnings of lahars, and the U.S. has continued to assist the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology in providing warnings to the national and local governments. Experience from the United States and other countries also has been the principal basis for long-range forecasts of lahars and downstream sediment problems. This information is critical for political decisions about social and engineering measures to cope with the lahars and for engineering design of lahar- controlling structures.

Timely Hurricane Warnings Save Lives, Property

Improved accuracy and lead time have significantly decreased the number of hurricane-related deaths, particularly since the middle of this century. Such early warning is now possible because of significant improvements in the science and technology of weather observation and analyses, together with vastly improved communications technology. Hurricane Andrew in 1992, for example, was tracked the moment it came off the coast of Africa. Initially, it was considered only a minor tropical storm, even as late as Friday morning, August 21. As its increasing strength was recognized, however, a hurricane watch was issued for the south Florida coast. A hurricane warning was issued at 8 a.m. Sunday, and Andrew struck Dade County, Florida, at 3:49 a.m. Monday. During the warning, radio and television stations devoted air time to tracking the storm, relaying official bulletins, discussing its potential severity, and providing guidance on preparation and evacuation.

The majority of Dade County residents reported they had sufficient warning to prepare for the storm and that television had been their principal source of information. Early warning allowed almost 750,000 people to evacuate the area. The impact of the hurricane was catastrophic, estimated at $30 billion in property damage. Remarkably, however, only 15 deaths were directly attributed to Andrew, despite the huge number of evacuees.

Environment and Natural Resources - Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Appendix A

Appendix B

Appendix C

Executive Summary

Research Successes - Ecosystem Research

Research Successes - Observation & Data Management

Research Successes - Biodiversity

Research Successes - Environmental Technology

Research Successes - Global Change


Research Successes - Natural Disaster Reduction

Research Successes - Environmental Change

Research Successes - Forest Research

Research Successes - Air Quality

Research Successes - Lead Levels

Research Successes - Science Policy Tools

Research Successes - Water Resources


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