same time, not everyone has access to the Web, so certain segments of the population may not be adequately sampled or may be impossible to reach through these new technologies.

ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE

Local and global environmental changes and our understanding of them in chronological and social time have influenced what hazards and disaster researchers study. The earlier focus on extreme natural disasters in the early years (floods, earthquakes, severe weather, hurricanes) has been replaced by research on more common natural events such as coastal erosion, heat, and urban snow hazards. At the same time, slow-onset disasters (persistent drought cycles, deforestation) offer new perspectives on preparedness, warning, and response. Large-scale global processes such as those embodied in global climate change as well as more cyclic phenomena such as El Niño-La Niña illustrate the need for understanding the interactions of the biophysical system with human systems and how these effects manifest themselves over chronological and social time and across different regions.

The impacts of climate change are no longer hypothetical and will include temperature increases, changes in temperature regimes, changes in storm tracks and intensities, and sea level rise. The effects of global changes on local places, generally, and the uneven distributions of these impacts, especially as they relate to vulnerable populations provide an additional research context for hazards and disaster research (AAG GCLP, 2003). They also provide an opportunity to link social science hazards and disaster research to the human dimensions of the global change community in developing more robust understandings of the interactions between human systems and natural systems through advancements in sustainability science (Kates et al., 2001; Turner et al., 2003a) and vulnerability science (Cutter, 2003a).

Complex emergencies, such as the Rwandan refugee crisis, or the genocide and starvation in Darfur—which result in humanitarian crises and international relief efforts—are also important domains for pre-, trans-, and post-disaster investigations (Alexander, 2000). The precursors of these crisis occasions, such as environmentally induced changes in land use by poor and ethnically diverse populations, coupled with dysfunctional social and political systems, require more detailed analyses by hazards and disaster researchers than has hitherto been the case.

Finally, social scientists continue to study toxic substances and their production and influence on human and environmental health. Signal crisis events such as the Torrey Canyon tanker (1967) and later the Exxon Valdez (1989) spills, Three Mile Island (1979), Love Canal (mid-1970s), Bhopal (1984), and Chernobyl (1986) have resulted in both hazards and disaster



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement