Raising Awareness of Hazard Studies

Ting-Wei WU (ESR7)

“Wenn ich nicht als ein kleines Kind ein schlimmes Erdbeben erlebt hätte, hätte ich nicht Geowissenschaften studiert.”

In a German class in the MARUM, I learned about “Konjuktiv II” that is used to described unreality. Without considering too much, I wrote down this sentence which means “If I had not experienced a bad earthquake when I was a small child, I would not have studied Earth Sciences.”

I was referring to the Mw7.7 Jiji (ChiChi) Earthquake that stroke central Taiwan in 1999. Over 2400 people died in this event, and being just 40 km away from the epicenter, the giant ground shaking, subsequent aftershocks and falling houses gave a lasting impression in my memory.

Landslide triggered by Mw 7.7 Jiji earthquake (1999). Image taken from the video in the right.

YouTube footage of Mw 7.7. Jiji earthquake (1999).

As a Taiwanese, I have never doubted the importance of studying about hazards because Taiwan is subjected to different kinds of hazards including earthquakes, typhoons, landslides, floods, and even tsunamis. The most recent tsunami that hit Taiwan came from the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake. Although there was no damage, some Taiwanese were frightened because there had not been a serious tsunami record since the 20th century, and most people were unaware of the tsunami risk before it happened again. Most people seem to put more concern on landslide risks because they are more relevant to their lives in the recent years, one of which happened in 2009 that buried a village after an extreme rainfall event, killing over 400 people.

Landslide buried Siaolin Village as a result of 2009 Typhoon Morakot. There were originally more than 300 houses standing there. Image taken from the video in the right.

Typhoon Morakot brought more than 3000 mm rainfall in 3 days, which was already 85% of the total rainfall in 2009.  

Since I started my research in Europe, I noticed that there are less frequent natural hazards compared with my home country; therefore, it is more difficult for the general public here to feel the importance of doing hazard studies. For most of the general public, it may be hard to believe that landslides, the ones they see on land, also happen in the deep sea and can result in damage not only by the induced tsunamis, but also by the breakage of submarine cables that transfer data. Imagine how inconvenient to have a week without internet to use. This can result from a submarine landslide, and the importance of studying about the consequences of this subject becomes crucial, especially in the coming digital era.

We are a group of researchers working on different aspects of submarine landslides, from the initiation of slope instability, the mass movement of the sediment, until the generation of tsunami waves and their impacts on the coastal zones. Being humans, we cannot fight against the nature, but try our best to understand the nature and live in harmony with it. Our ultimate goals are risk communication and education in order to raise public awareness of hazard studies. After all, we live together in a global village, and hazard studies are for everyone’s benefit.

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