The Disaster Chronotope

“The sequence of management actions in disaster governance (mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery) occur in various stages of the adaptive cycle (collapse, renewal, growth, stability), shedding light on the dynamics between the timing of disaster events and the system’s capacity to adapt.”

Blair et al. 2018

How does the type of disaster affect the social and policy learning among key stakeholder groups? How do the temporal and spatial attributes (or chronotope) of disaster events and local and global vulnerabilities together drive the disaster preparedness and response strategies that shape adaptation outcomes? The Disaster Chronotope explores the interaction between disasters and the capacity of various stakeholder groups to adjust the rules and assumptions that underlie disaster governance.

Using four very different types of disaster events: a magnitude 9.2 earthquake (1964 Alaska), a devastating oil spill (1989 Exxon Valdez, Alaska), recurring typhoon events (Philippines) and coastal erosion (Alaska), this research looked at how the impacted communities’ state and stage in the adaptive cycle created both adaptive capacities and vulnerabilities. The research also considered the type of disaster onset (slow, rapid, cyclical), the temporal extent of impacts (press or pulse) and whether impacts are global or local. These are all factors that shape disaster learning and the policies that ultimately govern preparedness and mitigation.

Sometimes social and policy factors contribute to a lack of resources and stalled, reactive, vagabonding learning.

In some competitive policy environments where following great initial momentum, the trajectory of adaptation is difficult to control, pinball learning is typical


The Disaster Chronotope: Linking the construction and types of disasters with social learning models.
The cause and effect relationship between disaster event and impacts is described as “press” (continuous perturbation) or “pulse” (short-term perturbation) as per Glasby and Underwood (1996)

Read more about these and other findings in the full study (including all data tables) here or in the published abridged version here. Click on the gallery images to find out more about how the stages of the adaptive cycle shape disaster resilience: