Foundations of Science

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 245-257

First online:

Data Mining the Intellectual Revival of ‘Catastrophic’ Mother Nature

  • Nick MarrinerAffiliated withCEREGE CNRS UMR 7330, Université Aix-Marseille Email author 
  • , Christophe MorhangeAffiliated withCEREGE CNRS UMR 7330, Université Aix-Marseille

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Earth-shaping catastrophic events have long focused the attention of the geographical and geological sciences, and captured the public imagination. During the past 40 years, neocatastrophism has emerged as a key paradigm that reflects widespread changes involving cultural, scientific, political and technological spheres. Nonetheless, the extent, chronology and origin of this trend are equivocal. Here, we use Google Ngram to quantitatively explore the recent development of catastrophism. We elucidate a discernable rise in neocatastrophic thinking during the last quarter of the twenty-first century that can be linked to the environmental awakening of the 1960s. It is suggested that these discourses of ‘shock’ and ‘fear’ partly correspond to a media-driven dramatization of natural hazards, exploited by scientists and journalists to attract wider readership.


Catastrophism Neocatastrophism Disaster science Natural hazards