About Volcanoes, Hurricanes & Bobby Jindal

25 02 2009

Listening to Governor Jindal’s rebuttal to the President’s speech last night when he referred to the wastefulness of   “$140 million for something called ‘volcano monitoring,” I couldn’t help thinking “does the governor of a state that is still pulling itself out of the trauma of a devastating natural disaster really not understand the importance of monitoring volcanoes?”

Needless to say,  I wasn’t the only one.

I understand Jindal is a Rhodes scholar and that implies a considerable measure of academic acumen. So what happened here?  Perhaps, I thought, the governor of a state that does not face the danger of volcanoes may perceive it as very remote, like say, something that’s way off in Indonesia.

But certainly someone — a speech writer, a researcher, an advisor — someone knew better. (Maybe a certain colleague in Alaska? After all, the USGS website notes that “in November of 2008, the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) detected increasing volcanic unrest at Redoubt Volcano and raised the Aviation Color Code to YELLOW and the Volcano Alert Level to ADVISORY. In late January 2009 the levels of seismic activity increased markedly, and AVO raised the Aviation Color Code to ORANGE and the Volcano Alert Level to WATCH.” Just sayin’.)

The Scientific American pointed out what the program is about. Yes, $140 million is earmarked for the USGS, but volcano monitoring is only part of the natural disasters monitoring program.

From the USG website:

In the United States each year, natural hazards cause hundreds of deaths and cost billions of dollars in disaster aid, disruption of commerce, and destruction of homes and critical infrastructure. Although the number of lives lost to natural hazards each year generally has declined, the economic cost of major disaster response and recovery continues to rise. Each decade, property damage from natural hazards events doubles or triples. [emphasis mine.] The United States is second only to Japan in economic damages resulting from natural disasters.

A major goal of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is to reduce the vulnerability of the people and areas most at risk from natural hazards. Working with partners throughout all sectors of society, the USGS provides information, products, and knowledge to help build more resilient communities.

Indeed, most of our volcanoes are far from Louisiana, so maybe that’s why it does not seem important to the governor.  Also from the USGS:

There are about 65 volcanoes in the United States that scientists consider active. Most of these are located in Alaska, where eruptions occur virtually every year. Others are located throughout the west and in Hawaii (see our Volcano Activity Map for their locations). Kilauea volcano in Hawaii is one of the most active volcanoes on Earth. It has been erupting almost continuously since 1983!

In fact, Kilauea volcano in Hawaii, is also at orange alert at this time.

Volcanoes may present hazards even when not erupting, in  the form of landslides.

Even if one thinks the amount is excessive, the governor’s lack of understanding and dismissive attitude was, well, embarrassing, considering that whole natural disaster thing.  Which begs the questions: is it really more costly to monitor, assess and thereby save property and homes?




One response

26 02 2009
Something called ‘volcano monitoring’ « The Volcanism Blog

[…] The GeoChristian. ‘The stimulating effect of monitoring volcanoes’ from Green Gabbro. ‘About volcanoes, hurricanes & Bobby Jindal’ from UnEarthedTees’ Geology News. ‘Volcano monitoring video montage’ from Geology […]

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