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Prof H E Huppert
University of Cambridge

Abstract: Extreme Natural Hazards
The world in which we live can be visually very beautiful as well as supplying us with many of our daily needs: air, water, minerals and oil, to name just a few. However, there are also destructive elements at work, which produce hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis and other large natural disasters. The lecture will outline why these occur and the fundamental mechanisms that are responsible. Many of the processes will be displayed in simple desk-top experiments. As far as financial costs are concerned, the most extreme natural events occur in developed countries, often the USA, with the most costly event being as a result of the devastation of New Orleans due to Hurricane Katrina at a cost of over $60bn. The natural events that lead to the largest number of deaths, on the other hand, tend to occur in developing countries, with the worst recent events being the flooding in Bangladesh in 1970 and the earthquake in Tangshan, China, in 1976, each of which resulted in over a quarter of a million deaths. Aside from discussing the physics of extreme natural hazards the talk will describe some of the terrible consequences.

Herbert Huppert was born and received his early education in Sydney, Australia. He graduated in Applied Mathematics from Sydney University with first class Honours, a University medal and the Baker Travelling Fellowship in 1964. He then completed a Ph.D. at the University of California, San Diego, and came as an ICI Post-doctoral Fellow to the University of Cambridge in 1968 for what was meant to be a one-year sojourn. He has not yet left! He is currently the Director of the Institute of Theoretical Geophysics, which is housed in two university departments: Earth Sciences and Applied Mathematics & Theoretical Physics. Professor Huppert has published widely using fluid-mechanical principles in applications to the Earth sciences: in meteorology, oceanography and geology. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1987. In 2005 he was the only non-American recipient of a prize from the US National Academy, being awarded the Arthur L. Day Prize Lectureship for contributions to the Earth sciences; and the first Australian to win this prize. He has been elected a Fellow of both the American Geophysical Union and the American Physical Society. He was awarded the Murchison Medal of the Geological Society of London in 2007.


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