Cornell University

The New Normal for Natural Disasters

Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 4:30pm

Phillips Hall, 101

The effects of the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, Canterbury Earthquake Sequence, and Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy are discussed with respect to their impact on regional and international economics, national practices for security and recovery, and worldwide energy policy. The severity and far ranging consequences of these extreme events have established in effect a new normal for natural disasters. The lecture explains why these events require a fundamental re-thinking of the way we evaluate the risks of extreme events, as well as define and protect critical infrastructure. Examples of critical infrastructure at risk are discussed with respect to earthquake effects on the water supply of Southern California and hurricane effects on New York City. Selective lessons learned from recent earthquakes are described with respect to mitigation measures. To address the need for protection against rare, high consequence events with limited financial resources, a strategy for improving infrastructure resilience is proposed.

Event Type



Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Sustainability



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Tom O'Rourke

Speaker Affiliation

Cornell University

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