Unraveling Environmental Disasters

1st Edition

Print ISBN: 9780123970268
eBook ISBN: 9780123973177
Imprint: Elsevier
Published Date: 26th November 2012
Page Count: 530
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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


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



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© Elsevier 2013
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CHOICE Outstanding Academic Titles, 2014


"This important, clearly written, well-organized book addresses a confluence of significant global issues and brings them into focus. Vallero…and Letcher…examine engineering failures within the context of generating environmental disasters…The book addresses related issues of sustainability, anthropogenic global warming, pesticide use and its impact on the food chain, vinyl chloride production, etc…Summing Up: Essential."--CHOICE Reviews Online, January 2014