Research Report 2007

Funding supports mapping natural risks

Image of a large slope failure

Slope failure is just one of the natural hazards that can happen in this province, according to researcher Dr. Norm Catto.

A team of Memorial geographers led by Dr. Norm Catto recently received $40,000 from Clyde Jackman, minister of Environment and Conservation, to conduct a comprehensive mapping assessment of natural hazards in selected communities.

A Dec. 21, 2006 announcement contained details of the province's support for the project.

"In our Climate Change Action Plan 2005, this government made a commitment to partner with post-secondary institutions on climate change initiatives and to continue to work with Memorial University to assess the vulnerabilities of local communities to climate change," said Minister Jackman.

Those communities will include the north-eastern Burin Peninsula focusing on Marystown, the Humber Valley from Corner Brook to Deer Lake, and Gander and vicinity. Dr. Catto and a team of Memorial students have undertaken detailed mapping and investigation of natural hazards related to terrain, extreme weather events and climate.

According to Dr. Catto, communities in Newfoundland and Labrador are subject to a variety of natural hazards. He points out that the province has experienced floods, storm surges, severe ice and snow storms, droughts, tornadoes and forest fires. Slope failures, he noted, have killed more than 50 people since 1900, while a 1775 hurricane may have claimed as many as 4,000 lives. Newfoundland also suffered the greatest death toll from a seismic event of any current Canadian jurisdiction when a strong earthquake created a tsunami that struck the island in 1929.

"This cutting-edge research is of great benefit to our ongoing emergency preparedness and response efforts throughout Newfoundland and Labrador," said Jack Byrne, minister of Municipal Affairs. "The project will focus on impacts, including impacts of previous events and potential future impacts, and suggestions for better adaptive and planning strategies."

As part of the project, the researchers will speak with residents to gather information about previous events, and to glean people's perceptions of risks and hazards. This will help improve municipal planning and development, as well as emergency response.

"We have already begun research in the Marystown area and in the Humber Valley, and look forward to working in all the areas throughout 2007," said Dr. Catto. "I hope that our work will help municipalities and residents to cope with existing natural hazards, and to reduce risks as communities continue to develop and grow."

"The results of this research will be invaluable to the people of our province," added Minister Jackman.