Recently, the media reported an ecclesiastical forecast of the end of the earth. Dubbed the “rapture,” most of us are thankful it was inaccurate. But the same source, likely using the same information updated with one piece of hard fact—the non-event—now forecasts the rapture for Oct. 21, 2011. This typifies the great uncertainty in forecasting extreme events.
The past decade has seen a number of lesser but quite extreme events, including Hurricane Katrina, earthquakes in Haiti, Chile and New Zealand, and tsunami in Japan. Common to all are extraordinary natural forces, the inadequacy of preparations, great losses and shocked surprise.