Disaster Vulnerability Looks Different for Women

In the case of “natural” disasters, women are more often than not the ones who take the brunt of the impacts following the event. According to the article “The Gendered Nature of Natural Disasters: The Impact of Catastrophic Events on the Gender Gap in Life Expectancy, 1981–2002” written by Eric Neumayer of the London School of Economics and Political Science and Thomas Plümper of the University of Essex and Max-Planck Institute of Economics, women are more vulnerable given social, biological, and economic differences between men and women.

They define vulnerability as being ‘‘the characteristics of a person or group and their situation influencing their capacity to anticipate, cope with, resist and recover from the impact of a natural hazard”. As opposed to looking to the magnitude of the disaster for their analysis, the authors decided to utilize the number of causalities in a given disaster to better understand the factors at play in widening the gender gap. “The gender gap in life expectancy shows large variations across time and space. Worldwide, on average, women’s life expectancy is 4.69 years higher than that of men. However, in 64 out of 2,266 country-years men actually lived longer than women.” Why is this the case? The authors cite socio-economic standing and the limitations that society places on women as probable causes.



A few of the compelling reasons that the authors cited for reasons why mortality would be higher for women in disaster include strict dress codes that keep women in clothing that would restrict movement during a disaster, the inability to climb tree or to swim (which many men do as parts of their jobs), and even the fact that many men are allowed to sleep outside during warm evenings on the roofs of their abodes while women remain housebound, regardless.


Although this article does not include any GIS maps within its text, it provides a number of interesting factors that could be easily represented by utilizing a visualization. By mapping out the elements that are presented within the text, GIS may be used to help predict which areas may need more funding towards educational or adaptation programs based on their vulnerability in terms of likelihood of experiencing a large scale disaster, the female population, and the relative socio-economic classes of the female population.


The following map “charts how nations stack up on the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index, which gauges the magnitude of the gender gap in four areas: economic participation and opportunity, political empowerment, educational attainment and health and survival. Note that the higher the score, the lower the gap”.



How can society change to make sure that the gender gap is closed and that all people are given the skills they need to survive and thrive with or without facing disasters?





Neumayer, Eric and Plümper, Thomas. 2007. “The Gendered Nature of Natural Disasters: The Impact of Catastrophic Events on the Gender Gap in Life Expectancy, 1981–2002” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 97(3), 2007, pp. 551–566.

You Otter Know: Ocean Color Reveals Ecosystem Health

Deforestation. Yes. Stopping deforestation, many people say, is one of the most important things in the world to mitigate climate change. “The trees are like the lungs of the planet,” you often hear. But did you know that the world’s oceans actually absorb more carbon annually than the world’s forests? But little is known about how the oceans’ particle size distribution (PSD) varies over time. This is important to understand in order to “assess the contributions made by phytoplankton functional groups to primary production, particle sinking, and carbon sequestration by the ocean.



“Photosynthetic productivity in the oceans’ euphotic zone leads to accumulation of biomass, the fate of which on different spatial and temporal scales determines the biological pump’s role in the global carbon cycle”(Kostadinov et al 2009, 2).

In their paper entitled “Retrieval of the particle size distribution from satellite ocean color observations” published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, Kostadinov, Siegel, and Maritorena of University of California at Santa Barbara explore using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to project the PSD of the world’s oceans. In order to calculate what the world looks like in terms of Chlorophyll-a (Chl) concentration and PSD the authors utilized three distinct theories/ algorithms:

To shorten an extremely dense and quite theory heavy article, the authors were modeling which plankton sizes were most represented in which regions of the ocean given that the warmer oceans become, the smaller plankton then results, and, as a consequence, these smaller plankton species absorb less carbon- taking less carbon to the bottom of the ocean when they die. The below image represents particle size of varying microplankton particles which is represented by backscattering(physical reflection of the particles).


There were many more maps within the document to show that there are many zones in the ocean, particularly smaller particle sizes. Want to read it for yourself? You asked for it:


“Picoplankton-sized particles dominate total particle volume in the subtropical gyres where they contribute 60 to nearly 100% of the total particle volume (Figure 11b). Nano-sized particles are prevalent in transitional, upwelling, coastal and higher latitude regions and their maximum contribution is about 50%, which occurs over a significant fraction of the oceans (Figure 11c). Microplankton-sized particles contribute up to 50 – 60% of the volume concentration only in regions known for their high productivity, such as coastal areas, the North Atlantic bloom region, the Equatorial and Eastern Boundary Current Upwelling zones, and higher latitude zones (Figure 11d). Abundances of microplankton-sized particles are extremely low in the subtropical gyres and much of their transition zones (Figure 10d). Thus their percent contribution to the volume concentration is virtually zero in these areas”(Kostadinov et al 2009, 11).


What does this look like? This:

And this:


Conclusion? Protect the ocean: mitigate your carbon emissions, and don’t use chemicals that will harm our waterways or the ocean will cease to take our extra carbon from the atmosphere and will begin to eat away the coastlines.




         PLEASE. JUST DO IT.




Validanov et. al. 2009. “Retrieval of the particle size distribution from satellite ocean color observations” JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH, VOL. 114, C09015, doi:10.1029/2009JC005303