Paper 1 Natural Hazards

Submitted By UMD-Terpski
Words: 1767
Pages: 8

Paper 1: Natural Hazards
Ronald W. Luna, PhD
Carlos Smith 111814466

The country of Peru is located on the western coast of South America on the border of two major tectonic plates, the Nazca Plate and the South American Plate. This geographical positioning makes Peru one of the most vulnerable countries to natural hazards in all of South America. Due to my Peruvian descent I am particularly interested in researching and writing about the natural hazards that impact the country. I also have relatives that currently live in Peru who have experienced first hand the effects of natural hazards; therefore this topic is particularly personal. In this paper I will focus my research on earthquakes and droughts that occur in Peru. I will (1) describe the causes and nature of both earthquakes and droughts in the region (2) determine whether or not humans play a role in these natural hazards, and (3) explain the socio-economic impact of earthquakes and droughts on Peruvian citizens. I will begin by discussing earthquakes. As previously mentioned, Peru lies directly on the border of the Nazca Plate and South American Plate. At this oceanic-continental convergence boundary the Nazca Plate subducts under the South American Plate at about a 60-degree angle, which causes a very high frequency of earthquakes (USGS). This is one of the most active and violent tectonic boundaries in the western hemisphere where two-thirds of the world’s large magnitude earthquakes occur (USGS). In addition, Peru experiences an average of over 200 earthquakes and tremors per year (Hudson para.4). This high frequency of earthquakes has many social and economic impacts that I will explain in more depth later in this paper. However, it is important to keep in mind that earthquakes are natural phenomena that are engrained within Peruvian culture. Although they at times cause catastrophic damage, a majority of earthquakes are as common in Peru as snow is the Rocky Mountains. Now that I have provided a brief background on Peruvian earthquakes I will do the same for droughts. Behind earthquakes, droughts are the most devastating natural hazard that affects Peru. There are three primary causes for the droughts that occur in the country: El Niño, global climate change, and a growing agricultural sector. However, all three each cause a different type of drought. El Niño causes what is defined as meteorological drought, which is what we typically think of when we hear the word drought. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, meteorological drought is defined by the degree of dryness present in the region, compared to typical amounts (NOAA). El Niño replaces warm ocean water with the cooler waters of the Humboldt Current along the South American coast, which results in heavy rains along the coast of Peru that last anywhere from nine months to two years (Hudson para.1). Therefore, it is important to note that El Niño does not immediately cause drought, but rather it is often an after effect of this famous natural phenomena. Droughts occur in the highlands of Peru once El Niño begins to dwindle, and sometimes in the southern coast after it has passed. This is significant for Peruvians, because their agricultural sector is very dependent on the arable land of the highlands that produce rice, potatoes, and sugar cane (FAO). Later in this paper I will explain in more detail how this affects the socio-economic status of Peru. The second type of drought, which is caused by global climate change, is called agricultural drought. Agricultural drought is defined as shortages in water supply of reservoirs that are used for agricultural purposes (NOAA). In the case of Peru, glaciers from the Andes Mountains act as these reservoirs for many highland farmers who provide a majority of Peru’s agricultural output, as I stated before. Farmers depend on the melt water from these glaciers during the dry