Earthquakes and other Disasters

Posted: March 11, 2011 in Current Events, Environment, Media Gleanings, Statistics and Lies

With today’s earthquake in Japan following so quickly after the one in New Zealand, one can’t help but ask whether we are experiencing an increase in natural disasters.  Researching the question on the Internet comes up with the usual controversy, with the political right in denial, claiming that the stats are anything from an increase in our ability to detect anomalies, to an increase in population density, to a conspiracy to impose a global tax on global warming.

Regardless, the statistics are quite compelling.  Taken from a UN sponsored site,, these two graphs summarize disaster information from the past decade.  There are graphs for the past century, but I felt that focusing on the past decade would eliminate the claim that the data is the result of increased detection ability.  That becomes a bit of a red herring if we’re only looking at the past ten years.

Click on image for larger version.

I don’t want to be lumped in with the 2012 crackpots, but the data clearly shows that there is a trend towards a definate increase in the number of disasters.  Even without statistical data, common sense tells you the same thing when you think about the number of earthquakes in the past year and the kind of winter storms that has been inflicted on much of North America this winter.  Then think back to last summer and the kinds of disasters that visited Russia, Europe and other locations. (Interestingly, a book released several years ago by Mayan Elders, The Book Of Destiny by Carlos Barrios, states that if there is any possible interpretation of Mayan disaster prophecy, the disasters are meant to be during the several years preceding 2012, not on the actual target date.  By the time we reach the supposedly critical date of Dec. 21, 2012, the crisis should be over.  …Just saying.)

Arguments against the data point to increased population in sensitive areas.  This doesn’t make sense because I don’t think you can argue that it has significantly increased in the past 10 years.  Also, looking at the data, one can see that the number of people killed is actually much less (while the number of people affected is actually much higher).

Another opposing argument is that science has just become better at detecting disasters.  I suppose that a graph that incorporates the magnitude of the disaster would be useful.  That might show one of two things: Either it would show that the increase is mostly in smaller disasters (which would support the increased detection ability explanation) or it would show that the increase is ac across the board or mostly in the more severe type (which would support the idea of a serious increase in disasters, as the more serious types would not go unnoticed 10 or even 50 years ago).  Unfortunately I was unable to find data that showed severity.

As for the criticism that this is all a scientific conspiracy to impose a global tax, I have to chalk that up to right wing paranoia, of which there is much.  Scientific conspiracy has been a boogyman for the right for a decade now, and has been consistently proven to be so much crap.  The supposed discrediting of Global Warning data last year was shown to be a right wing conspiracy in itself.  Besides, earthquakes aren’t related to Global Warming.


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