Global risk from extreme geophysical events: threat identification and assessment

Economy

Scientific paper

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Global Geophysical Event, Super-Eruption, Mega-Tsunami, Asteroid Impact, Earthquake

Scientific paper

In an increasingly interconnected world, any single geophysical hazard is capable of having consequences far beyond the range of immediate physical effects. Most recently, this was demonstrated by the 2004 Asian tsunami, which took the lives of citizens from 57 different nations, and by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, which raised fuel prices worldwide and contributed to a record UK trade deficit in the month following the devastation of New Orleans. On an altogether wider scale, global geophysical events (GGEs) are natural phenomena capable of having wholesale deleterious consequences for the world's environment, economy and society. These may arise (i) due to a global physical effect, such as an episode of severe planetary cooling in response to a volcanic ‘super-eruption’ or large comet or asteroid impact, or (ii) as a result of subsidiary ramifications for the global economy and social fabric of a cataclysmic regional event, such as an Atlantic- or Pacific-wide ‘mega-tsunami’, or a more spatially confined event at a strategically sensitive location, for example the awaited major Tokyo earthquake. While very infrequent, the wide-ranging—and potentially ruinous—consequences of a GGE for the well-being of the international community make it essential that they are seriously considered within any comprehensive assessment of natural threats.

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