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Natural Weather Hazards

In GCSE Geography students will spend some time learning about the weather. This is one of three quizzes on that topic and it looks specifically at natural weather hazards, such as blizzards or hurricanes.

Weather is a major feature of the natural world. It is the day to day conditions in a particular location. In general we are prepared for what the average day can throw at us. We’re ready for rain in spring, occasional sunshine in summer, snow in the depths of winter - and being the UK we have to be ready for all of the above during any season of the year!

The weather we experience on an average day is what we consider safe, but each year we have some extreme weather events, and there are even once in a hundred year events. These, as the name suggests, occur approximately once a century. This is often long enough for people to forget the previous occurrences and build houses closer to the coast or river, or houses that are not strong enough to withstand extreme wind events.

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When we think of natural weather hazards we think, quite rightly, of hurricanes, storms, and tornados, as well as the heavy rain and strong wind associated with them. But other types of extreme weather, such as heat waves and extended cold snaps, can lead to as many fatalities as these shorter term weather hazards. Don’t forget in your longer answers to discuss the long term effects of either short or continuing events. Whilst storms and hurricanes may have immediate effects, such as blowing trees down, there are also some possible long term effects - the rainfall and potential flooding may lead to fresh water supplies being polluted and the wind may damage infrastructure by downing power cables and shutting down junction boxes.

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  1. Why are people in the UK more likely to die in a blizzard than those in Canada, even if the blizzards are of the same strength and duration?
    Being unprepared for extreme weather, people may not have backup systems in case they lose their heating or electricity, may not have means of transport in poorer weather conditions and may not have food stocks in case of bad weather. In many areas search and rescue volunteers are used to get the sick and injured to safety as the other emergency services do not have the correct equipment
  2. In 2005 Hurricane Katrina made landfall and struck the city of New Orleans. What caused the most damage to the city?
    Around 80% of the city was flooded to some extent by the hurricane
  3. How can increased and better forecasting mitigate the effects of natural weather hazards?
    Forecasting allowed New Orleans to be evacuated and for those that couldn't leave to take shelter in locations set aside as evacuation centres before the arrival of Hurricane Katrina in 2005
  4. Why was New Orleans particularly exposed to the effects of Hurricane Katrina?
    New Orleans is completely surrounded by lakes, swamps and rivers. With over half the city being below sea level it was protected by levees
  5. How do tornados form?
    Because the conditions required to form a tornado are rare there are only specific locations worldwide where they regularly form, including Tornado Alley in the United States
  6. What is measured on the Beaufort scale?
    The Beaufort wind scale measures wind intensity based on observable parameters such as sea state. A glassy smooth sea corresponds to a 0 on the Beaufort scale, whereas a very rough sea state is equal to a 7 or 8 on the Beaufort scale, describing a near gale or gale
  7. What is a hurricane?
    Hurricane season begins on the 1st of June and ends on the 30th of November. This is the period when hurricanes are most likely to occur, although they do occur outside of this season
  8. Why do hurricanes form near the equator?
    The Sun's rays strike the ocean's surface with the most power along the equator, meaning there is more energy available for hurricanes to form
  9. Why are once rare events becoming more frequent?
    Global climate change means that there is more energy for hurricanes to form and more moisture in the atmosphere that returns as rain
  10. What lead to the worst effects of flooding in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina?
    Many of the neighbourhoods that were below sea level were the poorest and the most affected by flooding

Author: Ruth M

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