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 Obsevatory

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

Cover of factsheet; Image credit: Hazards Caucus Alliance
2009, Hazards Caucus Alliance (HCA)
Winter storms affect communities in many ways. Snow, ice, and freezing rain produce dangerous driving conditions. Extreme cold and strong winds cause frostbite and hypothermia. Rapid accumulation of heavy snow can damage buildings and important infrastructure for communications, and cause power...
Cover of PP1630; Source: USGS
2001, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Communities in lowlands near volcanoes are vulnerable to significant volcanic flow hazards in addition to those associated directly with eruptions. The largest such risk is from debris flows beginning as volcanic landslides, with the potential to travel over 100 kilometers. Stratovolcanic edifices...
Fig. 1 Image map (top) from Landsat TM/ETM+ imagery before and after an F3 tornado hit Siren, Wisconsin, on June 18, 2001. The damage swath is plotted on a cartographic map (bottom) that was used by disaster response personnel
2013, American Geosciences Institute (AGI)
Remote sensing imagery is used by researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison to support recovery efforts after a tornado.
Cover of 87-4; Source: Maine Geological Survey
1987, Maine Geological Survey (MGS)
Many landslides in Maine have occurred in the marine clay, called the Presumpscot Formation, which covers much of southern Maine. This glacially derived clay was deposited in the sea during the retreat of the late Wisconsinan ice sheet, and subsequently was uplifted by crustal rebound after the...
Cover image of report; Image credit: NCKRI
2017, National Cave and Karst Research Institute (NCKRI)
Annual report of the National Cave and Karst Research Institute that covers NCKRI program and project updates for 2015-2016 and information about sponsored projects.
Cover of fs2016-3019 ; Image credit: U.S. Geological Survey
2016, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The Working Group on Utah Earthquake Probabilities has assessed the probability of large earthquakes in the Wasatch Front region. There is a 43 percent probability of one or more magnitude 6.75 or greater earthquakes and a 57 percent probability of one or more magnitude 6.0 or greater...
Cover of OFR07-22 ; Source: Kansas Geological Survey
2007, Kansas Geological Survey (KGS)
The site was approximately four miles west and 13 miles south of the City of Greensburg, Kansas. The site was located in the Southwest quarter of the Northeast quarter of the Southeast quarter of Section 23, Township 30 south, Range 19 west, Kiowa, County, and was approximately 745 feet west and 2,...
Cover of PIC38 ; Source: Kansas Geological Survey
2015, Kansas Geological Survey (KGS)
Geology is a part of our everyday lives, usually in ways we don't think about. Not anticipating the effect our activities may have on our natural surroundings and the effect geology may have on us can be expensive, both economically and environmentally. In Kansas, geologically related disasters...
Cover of factsheet; Image credit: Hazards Caucus Alliance
2014, Hazards Caucus Alliance (HCA)
Earthquakes are one of the costliest natural hazards facing the United States. Major earthquakes occur infrequently but can be devastating, especially when they occur in densely populated areas. Over the last hundred years, earthquake damages in the United States totaled more than $50 billion, with...
Cover of SIR2015-5065; Source: U.S. Geological Survey
2015, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, completed a hydrologic and hydraulic study to assess the potential hazard to human life and property associated with the hypothetical failure of the Lago de Matrullas Dam, located within the headwaters of the...