30 November 2011

My AGU E-poster – The power law relationship for landslide fatality data

Posted by Dave Petley

Summary: AGU have introduced an initiative that allows presenters to upload e-posters for the Fall meeting next week.  This post provides access to my poster, which looks at the numbers of people killed by landslides worldwide .

This year, for the AGU Fall Meeting, which takes place in San Francisco next week, the organisers have provided a facility for those presenting a poster to make it available online as an e-Poster.  This is an initiative that I really applaud as posters actually take a great deal of time to prepare, and frustratingly become obsolete at the end of the meeting.  Being able to create a permanent record, and to provide access to the work from those that cannot attend, is quite a bonus.

I have a poster at the meeting entitled “The power law relationship for landslide fatality data”, which looks at whether there is a scaling law that describes the ratio of the number of people killed by landslides.  This is best described by the famous  Siphonaptera (Fleas) poem:

“Big fleas have little fleas,
Upon their backs to bite ’em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas,
and so, ad infinitum.”

In the case of landslides this says that for every very large landslide there will be many more medium-sized ones, and even more small ones, and even more very small ones, and that the ratio between the numbers is constant.  This works very well for the volumes of landslides; my hypothesis in this research was that it would also apply to the number of people killed by landslides.  In a nutshell, this is the case, but interestingly the nature of the ratio varies according to geographical (continental) area.  I suspect that this is due to the factors that control this relationship, which may be partly physical (i.e. the size of the mountains, the amount of rainfall, etc) and partly human (the number of people per household, the size of villages, etc).

Anyway, the poster is available to view on the AGU conference website by searching on the author name (Petley) here.  The file is in form of a pdf.

Needless to say I welcome your comments and thoughts on this initiative by AGU, the design of the poster or the science that it presents.  I also hope that I will get to meet many of you in San Francisco next week.  On a cold, wet and windy day in Durham, and whilst I am stuck on a train that is being delayed by a broken signal, the thought of being in California on Sunday is somewhat appealing!