Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union

[Comment on “Natural and man-made hazards”]“Hazards Session” wins support



Joseph V. Smith's ‘Hazards session’ proposal (Eos, September 14, Forum section) was very interesting and well worth serious consideration by AGU. Scientists should become more active in public affairs, especially in providing the scientific facts that can contribute to rational public decisions. The proposed special sessions would have even more impact if they were followed by a published summary that could be presented to appropriate public officials.

In addition to the list provided by Smith, there are a number of hydrologic hazards, such as floods, that could be considered. A hazard of special interest to me is land subsidence, or land-surface sinking. To a large extent this is a man-induced hazard resulting from the withdrawal of water, oil, or gas from subsurface zones and which can create, for example, such serious conditions as the 9m (29 ft) of subsidence that has occurred since 1925 in the San Joaquin Valley, California (see cover). Because subsidence frequently occurs so subtly and slowly that it does not make news headlines, the public doesn't become concerned until the situation is of crisis proportions.