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earth at night

Earth at night. (NOAA)

Similar to other geohazards, floods are unpredictable and complex. This makes preparing for them challenging especially for communities that deal with unexpected or unforeseen flood events that may occur. Flooding is an interesting case study for understanding how geohazards and society interact which can have disastrous consequences if little preparation is made in advance. As far as floods in society are concerned they are usually understood in terms of risk, such as the likelihood that someone’s home or business may be flooded.

If the flood risk is low perhaps little is done to mitigate flooding. In some situations insurance can be purchased to cover extreme events if they should happen, but little is done overall. If the risk is perceived as high or of concern to an individual, community, county or nation, then usually flood mitigation efforts, including research, should be prioritised. If flood risk is high it begs the question why is this the case? This comes down to exposure and vulnerability.

If property or people themselves are exposed to the flood hazard, with little to no flood protection, they are at risk of losing their home, business, livelihood, way of life or even their lives. But better ways of identifying flood vulnerability are needed to help make communities resilient to flood hazards.

Professor Alberto Montanari from the University of Bologna visited IHRR recently to give a seminar on the damages and fatalities caused by flooding that has been increasing in countries throughout the world. As a hydrologist, a scientist who studies the movement, distribution and quality of water, he presented some of his recent work in identifying areas of flood vulnerability in Italy. He said ‘that flood vulnerability and frequency are intimately connected’, which includes the effects of climate change and other factors that affect flooding, such as land use. Read the rest of this entry »

10th March 2014, 13:00 to 14:00, Seminar Room 010, Dept of Geography, Professor Alberto Montanari, University of Bologna, Italy


The damages and fatalities caused by floods are dramatically increasing in many countries of the world, including in Europe and developing regions. Scientists have long investigated the possible reasons for the raising severity of floods, in order to devise efficient strategies for mitigating the above damages. There is a general consensus that is widely amplified by media, that climate change is the most important triggering factor of the increased flood hazard and vulnerability. This seminar will give an overview of recent research on this subject and will provide a forward-looking perspective on the impact of floods on human activity. Read the rest of this entry »

There are a number of upcoming seminars in the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience. All seminars take place from 1pm-2pm in Seminar Room 010, Dept of Geography, unless noted otherwise.

24 February – Two Approaches to Reasoning from Evidence or What Econometrics Can Learn from Biomedical Research

Professor Julian Reiss, Dept of Philosophy

3 March – Making Evolution Visible. Volcanoes and Other Tipping Points in Franz Hohler’s Apocalyptic Eco-Narratives

Professor Nick Saul, Dept of German Read the rest of this entry »

Reflections from the interface between seismological research and disaster risk reduction


Dr Susanne Sargeant, British Geological Survey


Monday 10th February 2014, 1 – 2 pm

W010, Geography, Durham University

GM Maize

Friday, 31 January, 7.30 PM at the Star and Shadow Cinema, Newcastle

In a world stressed by climate change and population growth, the issue of GM crops is again rising to the top of the socio-political agenda. Agri-business, as supported by some scientists, promotes GM as the only way forward.

The Star and Shadow Cinema in Newcastle in collaboration with Durham University’s Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience, is holding a film led debate with experts across multiple disciplines to help the community appreciate what is at stake. The discussion will be led by Executive Director of IHRR Professor Sarah Curtis, Professor John Gatehouse, Dr Susana Carro-Ripalda and Dr Philip Garnett. Read the rest of this entry »

Building on the recent success of the last IHRR PG Forum, we now wish to invite all postgraduate students at Durham to the next PG Forum on Wednesday 5th February. The discussion at this meeting will focus especially on the theme of Resilience, Recovery, Psychology.

All postgraduate students with an interest in risk, hazard and resilience research are invited to participate. The title for this session is deliberately broad, and could include research on any aspect of any of these themes. The aim of the session is to consider the psychological dimensions of risk, resilience and recovery in an interdisciplinary context. We especially wish to encourage Arts and Humanities students to participate as well as students from all disciplines. Read the rest of this entry »

20th January 2014, 13:00 to 14:00, CLC 203, Calman Learning Centre, Professor David Held, Director, Institute of Global Policy, Durham University


Growing interdependence requires greater global cooperation, but across a range of issues multilateral policy making seems to have stalled. I argue that this growing gap between the need for global governance and the ability of intergovernmental institutions to provide it must be understood as a general and conjunctural state of the multilateral order, which I term ‘gridlock’. The causes of gridlock are diverse – rising multipolarity, institutional inertia, harder problems, increased complexity – but can be found across a range of global issue areas. Importantly, these drivers are, in part, products of previous, successful cooperation over the postwar period, and can therefore be understood as ‘second-order’ cooperation problems. I argue that a process of self-reinforcing interdependence has altered the nature of global politics over the past decades, and has therefore in part undermined the ability of multilateral institutions to sustain the very interdependence they have helped to create. The seminar will discuss this argument in the context of global environmental cooperation and the limits of its achievements. Read the rest of this entry »

4th October 2013, 14:00 to 15:00, Seminar Room 010, Dept of Geography, Dr Md. Nadiruzzaman, United Nations University (MRF-UNU) Project

Population movements following an environmental stress can be a huge development challenge if we do not know where people are going and at what number. Without knowledge of the locations of affected people, relief assistance is compromised. No rapid and accurate method exists to track population movements after disasters. This research learns lessons from Haiti and plans to use CDR (call data record) from the Grameen Phone, the largest cellphone operator in Bangladesh, to estimate the magnitude and trends of population movements following the Cyclone Mohasen, which swept across Bangladesh on the 20th May 2013.

Geographic positions of SIM cards were determined by the location of the mobile phone tower through which each SIM card connects when calling. We will follow daily positions of SIM cards for Barisal and Chittagang Division from 01 April to 30 June of 2013. To exclude inactivated SIM cards, we will include SIM cards that made at least one call during the time of our study. Results from the Haiti study suggest that estimates of population movements during disasters and outbreaks can be delivered rapidly and with potentially high validity in areas with high mobile phone use. This research would offer new ways to understand population movements and climate change threshold.

Institute of Hazard Risk and Resilience Seminar Series 2013 (Michaelmas Term)

All seminars are held in Seminar Room 010 in the Department of Geography at Durham University from 13.00-14.00. For those outside of Durham interested in attending IHRR’s seminars please email or ring (0)191 3342257.

Friday 4 October 2013 14.00-15.00

Mobile Data, Environmental Extremes and Population Movement (abstract), Dr Md. Nadiruzzaman, United Nations University

Monday 7 October 2013

The L’Aquila trial and its impact on the society, Dr Giulio Selvaggi, former Director of the National Earthquake Center at Italy’s National Institute for Geophysics and Volcanology  (Venue TBA)

Monday 14 October 2013

Metaphor: A tool to enhance Emergency Responder Interoperability?, Dr Tony McAleavy, Coventry University

Monday 21 October 2013

Midges not mercury: Reconstructing past Arctic temperatures, Dr Eleanor Maddison, Durham University

Monday 28 October 2013

Big Bang in the City: An international revolution or an accidental Tipping Point, Prof Ranald Michie, Durham University Read the rest of this entry »

BSF purple Newcastle aw

IHRR’s Tipping Points project will be at the 2013 British Science Festival in Newcastle with the event Tipping Points in Nature and Society on Wednesday, 11 September.  You can now book this event on the British Science Festival’s website.  We have put together a fascinating group of presentations for the festival and plan to have some exciting discussions about critical thresholds that affect nature and society.  How does a bank network collapse?  How can we better understand present and future climate change?  How do terms like ‘tipping point’ spread? Do they have meaning or are they simply meaningless buzz words?  These plus a series of other related questions will be explored at Tipping Points in Nature and Society.


Critical Transitions in Climate

What can studying the climate of the distant past tell us about our present climate? Rapid changes in climate have occurred in the past, long before direct measurements were made, but are these ‘tipping points’ in the climate system? Does irreversible change happen? Climate scientists Professor Antony Long, Dr Eleanor Maddison and Dr Sarah Woodroffe will help shed some light on the mystery of abrupt environmental change by introducing how studying past climate change can help us understand what changes may be in store for our planet in the future. Read the rest of this entry »

Hazard Risk Resilience Magazine Issue 2 Out Now!

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