Natural hazards in the Asia-Pacific region: recent advances and emerging concepts, edited by J. P. Terry and J. Goff. Geological Society Special Publication, 361, London, 2012. No. of pages: 225 pp. Price: UK£80.00. ISBN 978-1-86239-339-4 (hardback).


This book starts with a discussion on the vulnerability of Asia-Pacific islands to natural hazards, and goes on to cover floods, earthquakes, volcanic activity cyclones, tsunamis and landslides. The editors state that the book aims to provide ‘vital information to ensure humans can live safely with natural hazards’. In keeping with current thinking on scientific research on hazards, the editors emphasise the importance and benefits of interdisciplinary approaches to natural hazards and disaster risk reduction research.

In the introduction, the editors discuss the limitations of the use of historical data for characterization of natural hazards and examine the utility and benefits of numerical modelling in hazard research. They acknowledge that both historical studies and numerical modelling are important if the true nature of hazards is to be understood. This is particularly true for low frequency, high magnitude events which may have return periods longer than written records. Many papers report on numerical modelling methods, but the papers contain a mix of tried and proven methods – old-fashioned geological mapping and fieldwork as well as modern approaches which use GIS and computer modelling technology. The selection of papers will give the relevant managers a good idea of tools currently available for disaster risk management, as well as those which may be useful in the future; these include detailed spatial analysis of tropical cyclone tracks to better understand the migratory behaviour of these systems.

While the target audience is not named by the editors, this collection of papers will find a wide audience – engineers, geologists, meteorologists, physical planners and disaster risk reduction specialists can all benefit from the publication. Emergency managers may find some of the papers to be ‘technical’, but most authors discuss the implications of the findings for disaster risk management in their conclusions, and some papers examine emergency management issues directly, such as evacuation. The paper which treats the design and management of tsunami evacuation routes will be of direct interest to emergency managers, and its insights can be applied beyond the narrow confines of tsunamis to more general evacuation planning. Disaster risk management professionals will find the detailed study of warning for tsunamis useful in planning for future events.

I perceive a gap in the content of the book in the exclusion of a paper on advances in disaster risk management. An evidence-based approach to planning, the use of geographic information systems technology and numerical modelling techniques are relatively recent concepts in disaster risk management. A paper setting the context for the use of scientific data to inform disaster risk management would have complemented the other papers.

This Special Publication is a useful collection of recent, multi-disciplinary research on natural hazards in Asia and the Pacific, and shows that empirical research can be usefully applied to disaster risk management planning. It should encourage future dialogue and collaboration between scientists and disaster risk management professionals as both disciplines work towards reducing the threat from natural hazards in that highly vulnerable region.