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The Hurricane Harvey is an extreme catastrophe of 2017, becoming the first major hurricane of a magnitude of winds greater than 110mph to hit the United states since 2005 (Liberto, 2017). The Hurricane Harvey does not only qualify as an extreme event based on the strength of its winds that caused major landfalls in the United States, but also based on the fact that it is one of the wettest storm systems that have hit the United States in history (Liberto, 2017). The rainfall that occurred with the storm was such strong, that it flooded the entire coastal areas of Texas, impacting millions of people. The Hurricane Harvey made landfalls in Texas as a category 4 hurricane, but had its origin from thousands of miles in the Gulf coast of Texas, having started as a system of storm that left the West African coast in August (Liberto, 2017).
The storm, originating in the West African coast around mid-august was not such strong, but it gained its strength once it approached the Texas coastal region, having taken advantage of the warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico and the lack of wind shear that could have changed the speed or direction of the weight, or at least alter the height at which the wind was blowing. The strength of the storm was still gaining momentum and speed even by the time it hit and caused landfalls at Rock Port and its adjacent areas, and by the time it engulfed the entire Texas coastal areas, it had gained the magnitude of category 4 hurricanes with 130-mph winds (Liberto, 2017).
While approaching and moving onshore starting with the Aransas County, the hurricane leveled buildings throughout this area, while also destroying entire blocks of buildings in Rockport area, and leaving Port Victoria without power or water (Liberto, 2017). However, the fact that made the Hurricane Harvey more catastrophic is that due to the upper atmosphere weak winds that serve to steer tropical systems, coupled with an even high pressure system caused by the blockage of escape on the north caused the Hurricane Harvey to stall within the Texas region for several days (Liberto, 2017).
The stalling of the storm allowed it to tap into the warm Gulf of Mexico that allowed for an endless supply of water creating staggering torrents of rains that flooded the entire Texas coastal area from Corpus Christi and all the way to Houston to Beaumont creating a rainfall of 48.20 inches, the highest ever in continental US (). In a span of 7 days, the Houston area recorded the wettest five days ever, while more than 6.7 million people within an area of 29,000 square mile experienced rain of over 20 inches in 7 days (Liberto, 2017).Thus, the Hurricane Harvey qualifies as one of the most extreme catastrophes of 2017, considering that it was the strongest storm to have hit Texas, ever since the Hurricane Carla that had occurred in 1961, while causing staggering destruction and damage to property, lives and livelihoods (Liberto, 2017).
The Hurricane Irma is another extreme catastrophe of 2017 to have occurred in the United States causing serious damage and destruction, especially to the ecosystems, which would take a long time to restore to their normal conditions prior to the hurricane (Noaa.gov, 2017). The Hurricane Irma caused extensive shifting of both sand and intense accumulation of sediments, which impacted through blocking the marine sanctuary and smothering the Florida coral reefs (Noaa.gov, 2017). The heavy accumulation of the sands and sedimentations along the Florida coral reef tract caused by the Hurricane Irma are not only impending the marine sanctuary through preventing the corals from getting enough sunlight, but also extensive structural damage to both the corals and the reef itself (Noaa.gov, 2017). The Hurricane Irma was moving with very strong storm-waves, which pushed and caused severe and widespread destruction and damage especially to the sponges along the entire strength spanning Biscayne Bay to the Marquesas (Noaa.gov, 2017).
Additionally, the strength of the Hurricane Irma was so high, such that it was carrying and transporting fast-moving debris and heavy sediment deposits in such high rates that the marine and aquatic life in the entire Florida reef tract was destroyed within a short span of time (Noaa.gov, 2017). The major destruction to the aquatic life and marine sanctuary occurred at the point where the eye of the storm was crossing the Middle and Lower Florida Keys , causing this area to register the worst and most devastating aquatic life and sanctuary destruction (Noaa.gov, 2017). The other regions along the Florida coral and reef tract recorded varying levels of destruction, varying with regions and sites, but the overall deposit of debris was such that it would take a long time to stabilize the corals and remove all the debris and sedimentation.
The Hurricane Irma qualifies as an extreme catastrophe of 2017, owing to the fact that it caused severe destruction of both aquatic life and marine sanctuary along the entire 360 miles of Florida coral reef stretch spanning from the St. Lucie Inlet in Martin County all the way to the west of Florida Keys area of Dry Tortugas National Park, which is the “only living barrier reef in the continental United States” (Noaa.gov, 2017). Additionally, the Florida coral reefs that were destroyed by the Hurricane Irma damaged a fundamental part of Florida’s economy, diminished the vibrant tourism industry of the state and risks livelihoods through job losses and the destruction of the immensely valuable coastal infrastructure (Noaa.gov, 2017).
The Hurricane Maria also ranks among the 2017 extreme catastrophic events, following the strength of the storm that moved with 175-mph winds that categorized the storm as a category 5 hurricane (Noaa.gov, 2017). The Hurricane Maria formed from on the east of the Leeward island on September 16 from a tropical wave, and quickly went ahead to gain strength and increase momentum, and had attained the intensity of a category 5 hurricane by September 18 (Noaa.gov, 2017). The increased intensity into a category 5 hurricane occurred when the Hurricane Maria was approaching the Dominica islands; an occurrence that made the storm hit this island with a very high intensity that caused untold destruction to the island (Noaa.gov, 2017). The Hurricane Maria momentarily lost its strength and hit Puerto Rico at an intensity of 175 mph causing serious landfalls (Noaa.gov, 2017).
The Hurricane Maria storm passed over Puerto Rico with intensities that kept fluctuating, but mostly strengthening, with the extremely dangerous eye-core of the Hurricane Maria hitting over the Leeward Islands as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands, causing severe destruction of property and livelihoods (Noaa.gov, 2017). The destructive strong surges, coupled with dangerously strong waves bombarded on the areas of Puerto Rico at a sustained n intensity wind of 90 mph (144 km/h), but the intensity had increased almost two folds by the time the storm hit St. Croix of the Virgin Islands at the intensity of 127 mph (204 km/h) (Noaa.gov, 2017).
The reasons accounting for the classification of Hurricane Maria as one of the extreme catastrophes of 2017 is the fact that when he storm attained the category 5 hurricane intensity and hit Puerto Rico, Dominica islands and the Virgin island, it caused catastrophic destructions that devastated the entire communication and energy infrastructure, while also devastating the transportation and energy infrastructures of these regions (Noaa.gov, 2017). The devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, especially to Puerto Rico was such severe that the hurricane ranked as the most strong storm to have hit and cause landfalls in Puerto Rico since 1928 (Noaa.gov, 2017). The destruction of homes through intense flooding, coupled with the interruption in commerce and livelihoods caused by the hurricane will take very long to recover.
Central Mexico Earthquake
The central Mexico earthquake, which hit the offshore regions of Chiapas, Mexico at a magnitude of 8.1earthquake, is another extreme catastrophe of 2017 (Usgs.gov, 2017). The central Mexico earthquake occurred as a result of normal faulting at the intermediate depth, with a focal fault dipping shallowly towards the southwest, causing the Cocos plate at the location to converge with North America at approximately rate of 76 mm/yr to the north east (Usgs.gov, 2017). The outcome was that the Cocos plate began its subduction beneath at the middle of the American trench Central America at over 100 km to the southwest of the earthquake (Usgs.gov, 2017). Therefore, the central Mexico earthquake was a slip over a large fault area, causing a normal faulting event that was about 200km length by 50 km width at the Chiapas region.
The central Mexico earthquake of September 2017 is an extreme catastrophe occurrence, considering that it was one of only 9 M7+ earthquakes to have occurred in Mexico within a span of the past 100 years, with a magnitude of 7.1M (Usgs.gov, 2017). The central Mexico earthquake was a serious catastrophe that exposed an estimated 7.9 million people to the vulnerability of the earthquake forces, with 479,000 of the population being exposed to severe earthquake shaking, while 1,129, 000 others were exposed to very strong shaking (Usgs.gov, 2017).
Overall, the central Mexico earthquake had a very severe outcome in terms of fatalities, with over 200 fatalities recorded, while most of the vulnerable population was affected through the severe damage and destruction of property and infrastructure that occurred following the earthquake. The strong earthquake caused the destruction and collapse of buildings especially in the Puebla (Usgs.gov, 2017). The central Mexico earthquake becomes the most severe earthquake gauged by the number of fatalities to have hit Mexico, only seconded by the 1985 thrust earthquake of the Mexico-Guatemala border that was of a magnitude of 7.4M, but caused fatalities of 48 people, while leaving 150 more injured (Usgs.gov, 2017).
The 7.3 Earthquake Strikes Iran-Iraq earthquake of November 12, 2017 is another extreme disaster that the world has recorded in 2017, where an earthquake of magnitude 7.3M hit the Iraq-Iran border on the evening on that Sunday, causing devastating effects on the communities in the region (Usgs.gov, 2017). The Iran-Iraq earthquake shook the earth 14 miles underground, while spreading an estimated 20 miles from its epicenter in Western Iran towards the southern border with Iraq. The Iran-Iraq earthquake was caused by the release of strain following the collision of two tectonic plates comprising of the Arabia plate that covers Arabian Peninsula as well as Jordan, Iraq and Syria on the one hand, and the Eurasia plate that covers Iran (Usgs.gov, 2017).
The subduction of the Eurasia plate beneath the Arabia plate is a dangerous hostile geological merge, which has sparked a magnitude 8.0M earthquake in the past, where the November 1945 tsunami at the Arabia Sea and Gulf of Oman resulted in the death of over 4,000 people (Usgs.gov, 2017).The active subduction of the Arabia plate beneath the Eurasia plate has resulted in the expression of the active subduction trench that spans from the coast of Iran all the way to the south coast of Pakistan, which facilitates the movement of the earthquake at rates of 20 mm/yr (Usgs.gov, 2017).
The active subduction zone extends over a 1,500-km stretch, where the collision strain of the Arabia plate beneath the Eurasia plate crosses over the whole of western Iran and extends over to south and northeastern Iraq (Usgs.gov, 2017). Therefore, the Iran-Iraq earthquake presents a dangerous earthquake belt that originates both reverse faults and strike-slip earthquakes of a magnitude higher than +7M converging at a rate higher than 20 mm/yr (Usgs.gov, 2017). The Iran-Iraq border earthquake therefore produces high subduction rates that have the produced the devastating earthquakes which then extended over a two dozen square miles, while sustaining either s strong or severe earthquake shaking. The strong and severe shaking then resulted in the destruction of property and infrastructure as well as the collapsing of buildings, while in turn causing substantial fatalities (Usgs.gov, 2017).
- Liberto, T. (September 18, 2017). Reviewing Hurricane Harvey’s catastrophic rain and flooding. Retrieved from: https://www.climate.gov/news-features/event-tracker/reviewing-hurricane-harveys-catastrophic-rain-and-flooding
- Noaa.gov. (October 2017). Hurricanes and Tropical Storms – September 2017. Retrieved from: https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/tropical-cyclones/201709
- Noaa.gov. (October 24, 2017). NOAA and partners assess coral reef damage in Florida following Hurricane Irma. Retrieved from: https://floridakeys.noaa.gov/whatsnew/releases/2017/20171024-noaa-partners-assess-coral-reef-damage-following-hurricane-irma.html
- Usgs.gov. (November 12, 2017). M 7.3 – 30km S of Halabjah, Iraq. Retrieved from: https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/us2000bmcg#region-info
- Usgs.gov. (October 27, 2017). M 8.2 – 101km SSW of Tres Picos, Mexico. https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/us2000ahv0#executive