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
American Geosciences Institute

Latest News

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...
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...

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 OFR 2016-1035; Source U.S. Geological Survey
2016, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has produced a 1-year seismic hazard forecast for 2016 for the Central and Eastern United States (CEUS) that includes contributions from both induced and natural earthquakes. The model assumes that earthquake rates calculated from several different time windows...
Cover of ofr20161071; Image credit: U.S. Geological Survey
2016, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The magnitude 4.0 earthquake that occurred on October 16, 2012, near Hollis Center and Waterboro in southwestern Maine surprised and startled local residents but caused only minor damage. A two-person U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) team was sent to Maine to conduct an intensity survey and document...
Cover of Earthquakes factsheet; Image credit: The Geological Society
2011, The Geological Society of London (GSL)
How do earthquakes happen? Where are they most likely to occur? How are they measured? Find out more in our factsheet.
Cover of RS13830; Source: Utah Geological Survey
2015, Utah Geological Survey (UGS)
Short course slides and handouts for the course on characterizing hazardous faults, with an explanation of techniques, data needs and analysis.
Cover of OFR00-09 ; Source: Kansas Geological Survey
2000, Kansas Geological Survey (KGS)
On February 2, 1999, the Unified Government of Kansas City, Kansas, and AmeriCold Logistics held a public meeting to address concerns related to the closure of the cold-storage facility and warehouse in Turner, Kansas. Mr. Joel Smith, Sr. Vice-President of AmeriCold Logistics and Mr. Paul Niewald...
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 ofr20161044; Image credit: U.S. Geological Survey
2016, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Earthquake Hazards and Landslide Hazards Programs are developing plans to add quantitative hazard assessments of earthquake-triggered landsliding and liquefaction to existing real-time earthquake products (ShakeMap, ShakeCast, PAGER) using open and readily...
Cover for USGS FS 2014-3092 ; Source: USGS
2014, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake interrupted several decades of seismic tranquility in the San Francisco Bay Area. It caused damage throughout the region and was a wakeup call to prepare for potentially even more damaging future quakes. Since 1989, the work of the U.S. Geological Survey and many...
Cover of 1972EG_No1; Source: Colorado Geological Survey
1972, Colorado Geological Survey (CGS)
Denver, Colorado is a rapidly growing city located at the west edge of the Great Plains and the east edge of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Although Denver started as a settlement on the banks of Cherry Creek, the metropolitan area now sprawls onto the foothills of the Front Range to the...
Cover image of report; Image credit: NCKRI
2009, National Cave and Karst Research Institute (NCKRI)
Advances in Hypogene Karst Studies includes multiple examples of hypogene processes that demonstrate the variability and breadth of hypogene cave and karst systems with respect to speleogenetic evolution. The first section focuses on general theories of hypogene speleogenesis. The second section...