The world today is facing many natural disasters and with global warming on the rise, this will probably only increase more and more! Natural disasters caused a total of $1.5 trillion in damage worldwide between 2003 and 2013, according to a study by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which finds they caused more than 1.1 million deaths and affected the lives of more than two billion people (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2015). Could technology help us predict and prevent these disasters, and how can it do that?
To be honest, before writing this article I had no idea that technology could have such a great impact on the prediction and prevention of natural disasters. There are many, many types of technologies that are used, but there are two main categories:
- Warning technologies
Countries are continually improving their national emergency and early warning capabilities with new technologies such as an emergency text message, streamlining emergency responses, radio broadcasting, warnings by phone and app pop-ups that help people get all the information they need about an upcoming disaster (OECD, 2016).
- Weather forecasting technologies
Where meteorological agencies were mostly relying on ground-based networks of radars, it does now have the possibility to use satellite data. Satellite data allow continuous observations of weather around the globe! It makes warning systems more accurate and efficient (OECD, 2016).
Besides satellites, there are a lot of other forecasting technologies that help predict disasters. I found one interesting example in Australia: A group of researchers from the University of Western Australia has developed a new touchscreen device designed to help firefighters in the field accurately predict bushfire behaviour. The tablet, which does not require an internet connection, analyses data such as terrain, vegetation types, fuel loads and weather to accurately predict where a bushfire will be up to 24 hours ahead of time (ABC News, 2016).
As mentioned before, there are many technologies that can help predict natural disasters more accurately, which potentially could save many lives and a lot of money! However, the nature can’t always be predicted… and technology can’t change that.
BC News, 2016. Portable Australis device could help fight bushfires on ground. [Online] Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-12-08/australis-touchscreen-device-could-help-fight-bushfires/8101694 [Accessed 08 12 2016].
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2015. The impact of disasters on agriculture and food security, s.l.: s.n.
OECD, 2016. Technology to manage natural disasters and catastrophes. [Online] Available at: https://www.oecd.org/sti/outlook/e-outlook/stipolicyprofiles/newchallenges/technologytomanagenaturaldisastersandcatastrophes.htm
[Accessed 08 12 2016].