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Name: Georgia
Status: student
Grade: 6-8
Country: Australia
Date: Spring 2013

How is mathematics is used when measuring natural disasters? What is the mathematics involved?

Hi Georgia,

Thanks for the question. A branch of mathematics, called statistics, has been used to predict earthquakes and floods. The accuracy of these predictions is debatable. Generally, one builds a model to represent the probability of an event occurring and then analyzes the model using mathematical tools.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have more questions. Thanks Jeff Grell


Mathematics go beyond telling us that such and such happened, but mathematics gives us a measure of the severity of the event and how it compares to other events .

For Instance Earth quakes are measured on the Richter scale. Richter scale tells us how much energy is released during an event. For more details please see this article at this URL:

Here is a graphic demonstrating the Richter scale from this URL:

It is one thing to tell folks that there was an earthquake, the next question that will come is “how bad was it” and mathematics gives us a way to answer that question.

Here in the US we use the Fujita scale to express the severity of tornadoes and the Beaufort Force scale to express the severity of hurricanes. Please see:

In floods, mathematics tell us how high the water rose which can tell us which areas were flooded out and where assistance may be needed.

Sincere regards, Mike Stewart

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