Unraveling Environmental Disasters

Unraveling Environmental Disasters

1st Edition - November 26, 2012

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  • Editors: Daniel Vallero, Trevor Letcher
  • eBook ISBN: 9780123973177
  • Hardcover ISBN: 9780123970268

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Unraveling Environmental Disasters provides scientific explanations of the most threatening current and future environmental disasters, including an analysis of ways that the disaster could have been prevented and how the risk of similar disasters can be minimized in the future.

Key Features

  • Named a 2014 Outstanding Academic Title by the American Library Association's Choice publication
  • Treats disasters as complex systems
  • Provides predictions based upon sound science, such as what the buildup of certain radiant gases in the troposphere will do, or what will happen if current transoceanic crude oil transport continues
  • Considers the impact of human systems on environmental disasters


environmental scientists; management in disaster planning, risk assessment, safety training, and emergency planning; environmental engineers; oceanographers; occupational health specialists; political scientists; city planners; state and local government planners; individuals working in homeland security; chemists; military personnel; oil refinery managers; economists; and pharmaceutical researchers and regulators
undergraduate and graduate students studying environmental disasters

Table of Contents

  • Preface

    Our Focus

    Chapter 1. Failure


    Disasters as Failures

    Types of Failure

    Types of Disasters

    Systems Engineering

    References and Notes

    Chapter 2. Science

    Scientific Advancement

    Laws of Motion

    Laws of Chemistry and Thermodynamics

    Science in the Public Eye


    Chapter 3. Explosions


    Ammonium Nitrate

    Picric Acid and TNT

    Methyl Isocyanate

    Natural Explosions—Volcanoes


    Chapter 4. Plumes


    Early Air Quality Disasters

    Toxic Plumes

    Plume Characterization

    Nuclear Fallout Plumes

    References and Notes

    Chapter 5. Leaks

    Surreptitious Disasters

    Pollutant Transport in Groundwater

    Love Canal


    Times Beach

    Valley of the Drums

    Stringfellow Acid Pits

    Tar Creek

    The March Continues

    References and Notes

    Chapter 6. Spills

    Disastrous Releases

    Oil Spills

    Niger River Delta Oil Spills

    Other Spills

    Partitioning in the Environment

    References and Notes

    Chapter 7. Fires

    Fire Disaster Thermodynamics

    Kuwait Oil Fires

    Release of Radioactive Material

    Indonesian Wildfires

    World Trade Center Fire

    The Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami

    Other Major Fires

    Tire Fires

    Coal Mine Fires

    Indirect Effect: Formation of Toxic Substances

    Indirect Impact: Transport

    References and Notes

    Chapter 8. Climate

    Global Climate Change

    Greenhouse Gases

    Consequences of Global Warming

    Is It a Disaster?

    Responding to Climate Change

    Carbon and Climate

    Potential Warming Disaster


    Biological Drivers of Climate Change

    References and Notes

    Chapter 9. Nature




    Ecosystem Resilience

    References and Notes

    Chapter 10. Minerals

    Inorganic Substances

    Toxic Metals



    Surface Mining


    References and Notes

    Chapter 11. Recalcitrance

    The Dirty Dozen

    Agent Orange

    Lake Apopka

    James River

    Persistent Wastes

    The Arctic Disaster

    References and Notes

    Chapter 12. Radiation

    Electromagnetic Radiation

    Nuclear Radiation

    Nuclear Plants

    Nuclear Power Plant Failure

    Is Nuclear Power Worth the Risks?

    Meltdown at Chernobyl

    The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster

    Three Mile Island Nuclear Accident

    Radioisotopes and Radiation Poisoning

    Carbon Dating

    Nuclear Waste Disposal

    References and Notes

    Chapter 13. Invasions

    The Worst 100

    Sensitive Habitats

    References and Notes

    Chapter 14. Products


    Endocrine Disruptors and Hormonally Active Agents

    Antibiotics: Superbugs and Cross-Resistance


    Scientific Principles at Work

    Milk and Terrorism

    References and Notes

    Chapter 15. Unsustainability




    Platinum Group Metals


    Rare Earth Metals

    Other Metals



    Carbon Dioxide

    References and Notes

    Chapter 16. Society


    Solid Waste

    Food Supply

    Vinyl Chloride

    Food Versus Fuel

    Burning as a Societal Issue

    Risk Trade-Offs

    References and Notes

    Chapter 17. Future


    References and Notes

    Glossary of Terms


Product details

  • No. of pages: 530
  • Language: English
  • Copyright: © Elsevier 2012
  • Published: November 26, 2012
  • Imprint: Elsevier
  • eBook ISBN: 9780123973177
  • Hardcover ISBN: 9780123970268

About the Editors

Daniel Vallero

Daniel Vallero
Dr. Daniel A. Vallero is an internationally recognized author and expert in environmental science and engineering. He has devoted decades to conducting research, teaching, and mentoring future scientists and engineers. He is currently developing tools and models to predict potential exposures to chemicals in consumer products.

Affiliations and Expertise

Pratt School of Engineering, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA

Trevor Letcher

Trevor Letcher
Professor Letcher was Professor of Chemistry, and Head of Department in South Africa (University of the Witwatersrand, Rhodes University and Natal) (1969 -2004). He has published over 300 papers on chemical thermodynamic topics in peer reviewed journals; and 100 papers in popular science and education journals. He has edited and written 28 books ranging from Future Energy Climate Change, Storing Energy, Wind Energy, Solar Energy, Managing Global Warming and Unraveling Environmental Disasters. He has been awarded gold medals by the South African Institute of Chemistry and the South African Association for the Advancement of Science. He is currently Emeritus Professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa and living in the United Kingdom.

Affiliations and Expertise

Emeritus Professor, School of Chemistry, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

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