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 in order to provide warnings to populations at risk.

Frequently Asked Questions

American Geosciences Institute
U.S. Geological Survey
American Geosciences Institute

Latest News

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...
Galaxy NGC 3310
(2016-12-01)
November 4, 2016 NASA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) hosted an asteroid emergency planning exercise on October 25 in El Segundo, California. The exercise centered on a hypothetical event, in which an asteroid discovered in 2016 would hit southern California in 2020.  The...
Cracked road from earthquake
(2016-11-29)
November 10, 2016 On November 10, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) hosted a panel discussion on the Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ) and its potential for large scale fault rupture. Research from a number of academic institutions has suggested that such a rupture is capable of producing a...
Screenshot of video update on seismic activity in Kansas.
(2016-11-17)
We have a brand new update on last year's webinar, Induced Seismicity in the Midcontinent. One of our speakers, Rex Buchanan, former State Geologist of Kansas, has returned to provide us with an update on seismic activity in Kansas. You can watch the short video on YouTube here: http://bit.ly/...
Screenshot of a graphic showing the Cascadia Subduction Zone
(2016-11-11)
On Thursday November 10, The National Academies' Board on Earth Science and Resources and the Committee on Seismology and Geodynamics held a joint meeting on The Cascadia Subduction Zone: Science, Impacts, and Response. The meeting provided a forum for the discussion of progress and future...
NASA hurricane satellite image
(2016-11-03)
October 27, 2016 The The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are partnering to study how to improve communications during severe weather events and to encourage people to respond appropriately. The joint effort will include research from...
Interactive map of geoscience features in Kentucky. Image Credit: Kentucky Geological Survey
(2016-10-17)
#MapOfTheDay! Today the Critical Issues Program (@AGI_GeoIssues) shared an interactive map of geoscience features in Kentucky from the Kentucky Geological Survey (@KGSNews), which you can find at http://bit.ly/1HvVsFA. The Karst Potential Map includes the locations of sinkholes throughout the...
Paricutín Volcano
(2016-10-11)
September 17, 2016 On September 17, Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources Chairman Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ranking Member Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introduced their National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System Act (S.2056). On September 22, they discussed the bill...
Hazards fire houses
(2016-08-25)
August 15, 2016 At a news conference this August, Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID), Jim Risch (R-ID), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) spoke optimistically that a House-Senate conference committee can work to resolve differences on the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2016 (S. 2012 & H.R...

Case Studies

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)1. Soft soils amplify the motion of earthquake waves, producing greater ground shaking and increasing the stresses on structures. Loose, wet,...

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. A major earthquake along the Denali Fault where the pipeline crosses the Delta River in the rugged Alaska Range, could cause a potentially...

Research Database Publications

Cover of OFR2015-2 ; Source: Oklahoma Geological Survey
2015, Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS)
The Arbuckle Group (i.e., Arbuckle) was formed during the late Cambrian and early Ordovician when the mid-continent was covered by a shallow sea. The Arbuckle underlies nearly the entire state of Oklahoma and is comprised of the Fort Sill Limestone, Royer Dolomite, Signal Mountain Formation,...
Cover of SP48; Source: Colorado Geological Survey
1999, Colorado Geological Survey (CGS)
Nowhere else in the United States are avalanches more deadly than in Colorado. The reason can be found in the Colorado snowpack. Located furthest from the oceans, the Colorado mountains usually have a shallower and colder snowpack than other western states. And in cold, shallow snowpacks there are...
Cover of CAGS_SR_225; Source: California Geological Survey
2012, California Geological Survey (CGS)
On July 12, 2008 remnant moisture from hurricane Bertha moved from the Gulf of Mexico across the southwestern United States bringing tropical moisture to the Eastern Sierra Nevada. Rainfall intensities reportedly as high as 97 mm/hr (3.8 in/hr) occurred for a period of 39 minutes on the Oak Creek...
Meeting Challenges with Geologic Maps, AGI
2004, American Geosciences Institute (AGI)
The first geologic map was prepared to solve a practical problem involving the distribution of different types of rocks at and near the Earth’s surface, and that is still the reason geologic maps are made today. Geologic maps are our most important and complete compilation of information about the...
Cover of SME Arsenic.pdf; Source: Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration, Inc.
2015, Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration Inc. (SME)
Arsenic is a naturally occurring element commonly found as an impurity in metal ores, and is produced commercially for use in pesticides, wood preservatives, and metal alloys. Arsenic can be toxic in large doses, and the mining industry monitors and prevents its release into the environment.
Cover of cir1413; Source: U.S. Geological Survey
2016, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
This circular provides an overview of selected activities that were conducted within the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Integrated Methods Development Project, an interdisciplinary project designed to develop new tools and conduct innovative research requiring integration of geologic, geophysical,...
Sevicke Jones Building in Cathedral Square, Christchurch, on 22 February 2011.
2011, American Geosciences Institute (AGI)
In the aftermath of the devastating magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami that struck the Tohoku region of Japan on March 11, attention quickly turned away from a much smaller, but also highly destructive earthquake that struck the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, just a few weeks earlier, on Feb...
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 sir20165118; Image credit: U.S. Geological Survey
2016, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
An investigation into the magnitude and frequency of floods in Washington State computed the annual exceedance probability (AEP) statistics for 649 U.S. Geological Survey unregulated streamgages in and near the borders of Washington using the recorded annual peak flows through water year 2014. This...
Cover of PP1611; Source: USGS
2001, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The bedrock ceiling in parts of the Retsof salt mine in the the Genesee Valley, Livingston County, N.Y. collapsed on March 12, 1994 and water from overlying aquifers began to flow into the mine at a rate of 5,500 gal/min (gallons per minute), and the rate increased to as much as 20,000 gal/min...