Hazards

Natural hazards such as earthquakes, landslides, hurricanes, and floods endanger public health and safety, threaten critical infrastructure, and cost our economy billions of dollars each year. Geoscientists study these hazards to provide information and warnings to populations at risk.

Frequently Asked Questions

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
American Geosciences Institute
U.S. Geological Survey

Latest News

Coastal hazards webinar flyer. Image Credit: C. Hegermiller, USGS
(2017-06-15)
Register now for this upcoming Critical Issues Webinar! July 6, 2017 at 1:30pm EDT. 90 minutes.   This special 1.5 hour-long AGI Critical Issues webinar will focus on efforts to anticipate, mitigate, and respond to coastal storms, erosion, and associated hazards at the federal, state, and local...
Atlantic waves
(2017-06-09)
May 25, 2017 On May 25, the Senate passed the Digital Coast Act (S.110) to help coastal communities prepare for storms, adapt to rising sea levels, and strengthen economic planning efforts. S.110 officially authorizes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Digital Coast...
Earth
(2017-05-18)
April 6, 2017 The Hazards Caucus Alliance, a network that supports the Congressional Hazards Caucus, hosted a briefing on April 6 about how geologic and hazards mapping and monitoring are used to prepare and protect communities from natural hazards. The Hazards Caucus provides congressional staff...
Hazards fire houses
(2017-04-10)
March 27, 2017 The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine held a workshop on long-term approaches for wildfire management on March 27. The workshop looked at the costs of wildfires, not only in terms of the financial costs of fire suppression and rehabilitation of property and...
Cracked road from earthquake
(2017-04-10)
March 27, 2017 The Pacific Northwest Earthquake Preparedness Act (H.R.654) moved a step closer to becoming law when the bill passed the House on March 27. Representative Pete DeFazio (D-OR-4) introduced H.R.654 on January 24. The bill would establish an earthquake and tsunami inter-agency task...
landslide
(2017-04-10)
March 22, 2017 Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced the bipartisan National Landslide Preparation Act (S.698) on March 22. The bill directs the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to establish a National Landslide Hazards Reduction Program. This program would identify and...
Paricutín Volcano
(2017-03-06)
February 8, 2017 Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) introduced a bill to establish a National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System (S.346) on February 8. Lava flows, toxic gasses, mudslides, and large ash plumes from volcanoes pose a significant...
Atlantic waves
(2017-02-07)
January 13, 2017 The Gulf Islands National Seashore will be the site of the largest coastal sand restoration project in U.S. history. As part of ongoing restoration and protection efforts an agreement between the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the United States Army Corps of Engineers will...
IES Oceans Glyph
(2017-02-07)
January 10, 2017 Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-1) introduced the Tsunami Warning, Education, and Research Act (H.R. 312) on January 10. This bill directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to strengthen tsunami research, detection, forecasting, warning, and mitigation programs...
An earthquake-safe pipeline crossing the San Andreas Fault at Cholame, California. Image Copyright © Michael Collier http://www.earthscienceworld.org/images
(2016-12-05)
On Thursday and Friday, December 1-2, the National Academies' Roundtable on Unconventional Hydrocarbons held a workshop on Unconventional Hydrocarbon Development: Legacy Issues, Induced Seismicity, and Innovations in Managing Risk. The meeting brought together experts from industry, academia, state...

Case Studies & Factsheets

CI_CaseStudy_2017_1_VolcanicLandslides_thumb.JPG

More than just volcanic eruptions Volcanic eruptions are a serious hazard. But at many stratovolcanoes in Washington, Oregon, Northern California, and Alaska, landslides and debris flows can be just as dangerous. Some of these - especially volcanic mudflows (lahars) - are directly triggered by...

Tornado funnel. Image Credit: NOAA

Defining the Problem Following a tornado, first responders need maps of the width and location (swath) of the damage area. The biggest challenge when integrating remote sensing into disaster response is timeliness. To be most useful, remote sensing imagery maps must reach emergency management...

Pre-Ike (left) and post-Ike (right) ASTER imagery of Galveston Island, the Bolívar Peninsula, and the mainland in August 2006. Healthy (red) and dead (brown) vegetation shows storm surge inundation effects. Image Credit: Jesse Allen, NASA Earth Observ.

Defining the Problem Hurricanes bring not only intense rainfall, but also high winds and flooding. This flooding is powered by the hurricane storm surge: a rise in coastal sea level caused by lowered barometric pressure and by wind blowing the ocean onto the land. The result is that waves and...

Fig. 1. A 1995 landslide in Overland Park, Kansas, destroyed two homes and damaged four lots. Credit: Kansas Geological Survey

Defining the Problem Damaging landslides occur even in vertically challenged states like Kansas (Fig. 1). It is important to be able to delineate landslide hazard areas in order to develop appropriate land-use plans. In Leavenworth County, Kansas, geologic maps combined with maps of landslide...

Fig. 1. Sinkholes in collapsed parking area, Frederick, MD. Sinkholes form in carbonate areas as the dissolving and weakening of bedrock cause it to collapse. Credit: D.K. Brezinksi

Defining the Problem Sinkholes, which abound in the Frederick Valley in west-central Maryland, impact urban growth and development (Fig. 1). Sinkholes form in carbonate areas as the dissolving and weakening of bedrock cause it to collapse. Activities, such as quarrying, which alter surface...

Fig.1. Home in Oakland, CA, destroyed by landslides in 1958. Source: J. Coe, USGS

Defining the Problem The geologic history of the Oakland, California, area has produced steep hillsides and unstable rock and soil that generate damaging landslides during severe storms and wet winters (Fig. 1 and 2). During the 1997-98 rainy-season, the two-county area surrounding Oakland...

Fig. 1. Densely built urban areas on soft soils are prone to earthquake damage. Geologic maps provide vital information on the extent of these soils. Credit: N.J. Department of Environmental Protection

Defining the Problem The density and value of its buildings place New Jersey tenth among all states for potential economic loss from earthquakes (Fig. 1) [as of 2005]1. Soft soils amplify the motion of earthquake waves, producing greater ground shaking and increasing the stresses on structures....

Fig. 1. Homeowners and emergency managers are still coping with debris flows and the aftermath of the 2002 Missionary Ridge wildfire near Durango, CO. Credit: P. Winkworth

Defining the Problem Wildfires, such as the Missionary Ridge fire that burned for more than a month in 2002 near Durango, Colorado (Fig. 1), and their aftermath can cause subsequent property and environmental damage. Many areas denuded by the fire are now susceptible to rapid erosion during...

Fig. 1. Although Glacier Peak normally can not be seen from any urban areas, this active volcano periodically erupts in an explosive catastrophic manner that could affect the lower part of the populated Skagit River Valley. Credit: D. Mullineaux, USGS

Defining the Problem Active volcanoes, such as Glacier Peak (Fig. 1), pose a variety of potential hazards. Like Mount Rainier (Fig. 2) and Mount St. Helens, the history of Glacier Peak includes explosive eruptions and lahars. Eruptions, earthquakes, or precipitation can trigger landslides that...

Fig. 3. U.S. Highway 85 crossing the Little Missouri River. Seventy-five percent of the rocks in this photograph, all of those in the foreground and the rocks along the north valley wall in the background have slid and are out of place. Credit: E. Murphy

Defining the Problem U.S Highway 85 and ND Highway 22, along with numerous county roads, buildings, pipelines, and power lines, have been constructed over existing landslides in the Little Missouri Badlands of western North Dakota. Since 1980, the repair and rerouting of damaged sections of...

Fig. 3. View of part of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline at the Denali Fault showing major design features. Fault movement and intense ground shaking were accommodated by zigzagging the pipeline and leaving it free to slide. Credit: M. Metz, Anchorage

Defining the Problem The 800-mile long Trans-Alaska Pipeline can carry 2 million barrels of oil per day equal to 17% of the nation’s daily consumption [these data come from the early 2000s; crude oil consumption in 2017 is only slightly lower]. A major earthquake along the Denali Fault where the...

Research Database Publications

Turnagain Heights landslide in Anchorage, which caused damage to 75 homes. The landslide was triggered by the Alaska earthquake of 1964. Image Credit: NOAA National Geophysical Data Center
1999, Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI)
The science of geology tells us that natural disasters of the future will exceed those that we have experienced in our brief written history. Oregon has a variety of geologic hazards including landslides, debris flows, floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, and erosion.
Cover of mp-15-5; Source: Utah Geological Survey
2015, Utah Geological Survey (UGS)
This proceedings volume documents the results of the third Basin and Range Province Seismic Hazards Summit (BRPSHSIII) convened by the Utah Geological Survey and Western States Seismic Policy Council in Salt Lake City, Utah, on January 12–17, 2015. The purpose of BRPSHSIII was to bring together...
Cover of em_v13_n1; Source: New Mexico Bureau of Geology & Mineral Resources
2013, New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources (NMBGMR)
Recent drought conditions have caught the attention of many people, and a question commonly asked is: How bad is this drought? Is this the driest series of monsoon years, and are these the lowest flows the Rio Grande has ever experienced? Are these drought conditions an indication of climate change...
Hurricane Sandy
2013, American Geosciences Institute (AGI)
The day before Superstorm Sandy struck the Northeast last fall, Sarah Romulo and her family left their home in Rockaway Beach, N.Y. They did not feel comfortable sitting tight, blocks from the boardwalk that faces the Atlantic — not with the warnings they were hearing and with their two kids, a 15-...
Cover of Earthquakes Briefing; Source: The Geological Society
2012, The Geological Society of London (GSL)
More than 200,000 earthquakes are recorded each year, though it is estimated that several million occur globally. Many of these go undetected because their magnitude is small or they occur in areas which are not closely monitored. Most seismic events (earthquakes) are very minor, and do not cause...
Cover of SP-047; Source: Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI)
2015, Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI)
The objective of the Tillamook County coastal flood hazard project is to develop a digital flood insurance rate map (DFIRM) and flood insurance study (FIS) report for Tillamook County, Oregon (Figure 1-1). A parallel effort is underway to convert the existing Tillamook County Federal Emergency...
Cover of SP42; Source: Colorado Geological Survey
1999, Colorado Geological Survey (CGS)
The narrative that follows is a description and discussion about the background of study, delineation, and evaluation of ongoing surficial-geologic processes that m a y present threats to people, structures, and infrastructure in Georgetown (town). As is the case with many of the Victorian-era...
Cover of RI_28_12; Source: Kentucky Geological Survey
2015, Kentucky Geological Survey (KGS)
An Mw-7.9 earthquake occurred in Wenchuan, China, in 2008, along the Longmenshan Fault, which is located on the western border of the South China stable continental region. A detailed comparison of the Wenchuan ground-motion attenuation relationships with the relationships for the central and...
Cover of SP31; Source: Colorado Geological Survey
1986, Colorado Geological Survey (CGS)
Papers presented at the conference on coal mine subsidence held in Colorado Springs (October, 1985).
Cover of NaturalDisasters3.pdf; Source: American Institute of Professional Geologists
2006, American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG)
An important and practical application of geology is identifying hazardous natural phenomena and isolating their causes in order to safeguard communities. According to the USGS, the average economic toll from natural hazards in the United States is approximately $52 billion per year, while the...