Continued from page 3

For example, even though it sounds counterintuitive, global warming likely played a bit of a role in “Snowmageddon” earlier this year, Holland said. That’s because with a warmer climate, there’s more moisture in the air, which makes storms including blizzards, more intense, he said.

White House science adviser John Holdren said we should get used to climate disasters or do something about global warming: “The science is clear that we can expect more and more of these kinds of damaging events unless and until society’s emissions of heat-trapping gases and particles are sharply reduced.”

And that’s just the “natural disasters.” It was also a year of man-made technological catastrophes. BP’s busted oil well caused 172 million gallons to gush into the Gulf of Mexico. Mining disasters _ men trapped deep in the Earth _ caused dozens of deaths in tragic collapses in West Virginia, China and New Zealand. The fortunate miners in Chile who survived 69 days underground provided the feel good story of the year.

In both technological and natural disasters, there’s a common theme of “pushing the envelope,” Olson said.

Colorado’s Bilham said the world’s population is moving into riskier megacities on fault zones and flood-prone areas. He figures that 400 million to 500 million people in the world live in large cities prone to major earthquakes.

A Haitian disaster will happen again, Bilham said: “It could be Algiers. it could be Tehran. It could be any one of a dozen cities.”

___

Borenstein reported from Washington. Reed Bell reported from Charlotte, N.C.

___

Online:

World Health Organization’s Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters: http://www.cred.be/

World Meteorological Organization: http://www.wmo.int

Swiss Re report on 2010 natural catastrophes:

http://media.swissre.com/documents/media_information_cata_30_11_2010.pdf

U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency disasters: fema“>http://www.fema.gov/news/disaster_totals_annual.fema