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

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...
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...

Case Studies & Factsheets

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 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 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...
Cover image of report; Image credit: NCKRI
2013, 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 2011-2012 and information about sponsored projects.
Cover of USGS_2015-1154; Source: U.S. Geological Survey
2015, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Beaches serve as a natural buffer between the ocean and inland communities, ecosystems, and natural resources. However, these dynamic environments move and change in response to winds, waves, and currents. During extreme storms, changes to beaches can be great, and the results are sometimes...
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 C-1; Source: Mississippi Geological Survey
1988, Mississippi Geological Survey (MGS)
The name Yazoo Clay has long been associated in central Mississippi with such everyday problems as broken house foundations. sticking doors and windows, cracked plaster on ceilings and walls and bumpy or "roller coaster" roadways. Scientists and construction engineers have been aware of the...
Cover image of position statement; Image credit: SME
2015, Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration Inc. (SME)
The purpose of this briefing is to provide a general overview about the occurrences of arsenic and its environmental and health impacts. SME through this discussion presents information to inform and engage in meaningful dialogue about safety and best practices utilized by the mining industry in...
Cover image of report; Image credit: NCKRI
2013, National Cave and Karst Research Institute (NCKRI)
(alternate title: Proceedings of the 20th National Cave and Karst Management Symposium) The 20th National Cave and Karst Management Symposium (NCKMS) is celebrated in these proceedings with 29 high quality papers in this 175-page volume. The papers span seven countries, four continents, and topics...
Cover for USGS FS 2014-3120 ; Source: USGS
2014, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Volcanic eruptions happen in the State of California about as frequently as the largest earthquakes on the San Andreas Fault Zone. At least 10 eruptions have taken place in California in the past 1,000 years—most recently at Lassen Peak in Lassen Volcanic National Park (1914 to 1917) in the...
Cover of PP1710; Source: USGS
2005, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
We studied the role of scientists and scientific information in the decision-making processes used by local jurisdictions and communities in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, California, to address a contentious environmental dispute involving flooding and habitat restoration of the San...