Natural hazard

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A natural hazard[1] is a threat of a naturally occurring event that will have a negative effect on people or the environment. Many natural hazards are interrelated, e.g. earthquakes can cause tsunamis and drought can lead directly to famine or population displacement. It is possible that some natural hazards are intertemporally correlated, as well.[2] A concrete example of the division between a natural hazard and a natural disaster is that the 1906 San Francisco earthquake was a disaster, whereas living on a fault line is a hazard.

Geophysical hazards[edit]


An avalanche is a geophysical hazard a slide of a large snow (or rock) mass down a mountainside, caused when a build up of snow is released down a slope, it is one of the major dangers faced in the mountains in winter. An avalanche is an example of a gravity current consisting of granular material. In an avalanche, lots of material or mixtures of different types of material fall or slide rapidly under the force of gravity. Avalanches are often classified by the composition of the flowing material.


San Francisco was devastated by an earthquake in 1906

An earthquake is a phenomenon that results from a sudden release of stored energy that radiates seismic waves. At the Earth's surface, earthquakes may manifest themselve by a shaking or displacement of the ground and sometimes tsunamis. Most of the world's earthquakes (90%, and 81% of the largest) take place in the 40,000-km-long, horseshoe-shaped zone called the circum-Pacific seismic belt, also known as the Pacific Ring of Fire, which for the most part bounds the Pacific Plate. Many earthquakes happen each day, few of which are large enough to cause significant damage.


A lahar is a type of natural disaster closely related to a volcanic eruption, and involves a large amount of material originating from an eruption of a glaciated volcano, including mud from the melted ice, rock, and ash sliding down the side of the volcano at a rapid pace. These flows can destroy entire towns in seconds and kill thousands of people.


A Sinkhole is localized depression in the surface topography, usually caused by the collapse of a subterranean structure, such as a cave. Although rare, large sinkholes that develop suddenly in populated areas can lead to the collapse of buildings and other structures.

Volcanic eruption[edit]

A volcanic eruption is the point in which a volcano is active and releases its power, and the eruptions come in many forms. They range from daily small eruptions which occur in places like Kilauea in Hawaii, to megacolossal eruptions (where the volcano expels at least 1,000 cubic kilometers of material)] from supervolcanoes like Lake Taupo (26,500 years ago) and Yellowstone Caldera. According to the Toba catastrophe theory, 70 to 75 thousand years ago, a super volcanic event at Lake Toba reduced the human population to 10,000 or even 1,000 breeding pairs, creating a bottleneck in human evolution. Some eruptions form pyroclastic flows, which are high-temperature clouds of ash and steam that can trial down mountainsides at speed exceeding an airliner.

Hydro Meteorological hazards[edit]

Young steer after a blizzard, March 1966


A blizzard is a severe winter storm icy and windy conditions characterized by low temperatures, strong winds, and heavy snow.


Scientists warn that global warming and climate change may result in more extensive droughts in coming years. These extensive droughts are likely to occur within the African continent due to its very low precipitation levels and high climate.


A hailstorm is a natural hazard where a thunderstorm produces numerous hailstones which damage the location in which they fall. Hailstorms can be especially devastating to farm fields, ruining crops and damaging equipment.

Heat wave[edit]

A heat wave is a hazard characterized by heat which is considered extreme and unusual in the area in which it occurs. Heat waves are rare and require specific combinations of weather events to take place, and may include temperature inversions, katabatic winds, or other phenomena. There is potential for longer term events causing global warming, including stadial events (the opposite to glacial 'ice age' events), or through human induced climatic warming.


A maelstrom is a very powerful whirlpool. It is a large, swirling body of water with considerable downdraft. There are virtually no documented accounts of large ships being sucked into a maelstrom, although smaller craft and swimmers are in danger. Tsunami generated maelstroms may even threaten larger crafts.

Cyclonic storms[edit]

Hurricane, tropical cyclone, and typhoon are different names for the same phenomenon: a cyclonic storm system that forms over the oceans. It is caused by evaporated water that comes off of the ocean and becomes a storm. The Coriolis Effect causes the storms to spin, and a hurricane is declared when this spinning mass of storms attains a wind speed greater than 74 mph (119 km/h). Hurricane is used for these phenomena in the Atlantic and eastern Pacific Oceans, tropical cyclone in the Indian, typhoon in the western Pacific.

Ice storm[edit]

An ice storm is a particular weather event in which precipitation falls as ice, due to atmosphere conditions.


A tornado is a natural disaster resulting from a thunderstorm. Tornadoes are violent, rotating columns of air which can blow at speeds between 50 mph (80 km/h) and 300 mph (480 km/h), and possibly higher. Tornadoes can occur one at a time, or can occur in large tornado outbreaks associated with supercells or in other large areas of thunderstorm development. Waterspouts are tornadoes occurring over tropical waters in light rain conditions.

Climate change[edit]

Climate change is a long-term hazard which can increase or decrease the risk of other weather hazards, and also directly endangers property due to sea level rise and biological organisms due to habitat destruction.

Geomagnetic storm[edit]

Geomagnetic storms can disrupt or damage technological infrastructure, and disorient species with magnetoception.

Water spout[edit]

A tornado formed over water. Check Water spout


Disease is a natural hazard that can be enhanced by human factors such as urbanization or poor sanitation. Disease affecting multiple people can be termed an outbreak or epidemic.

In some cases, a hazard exists in that a human-made defense against disease could fail, for example through antibiotic resistance.

International campaigns[edit]

In 2000, the United Nations launched the International Early Warning Programme to address the underlying causes of vulnerability and to build disaster-resilient communities by promoting increased awareness of the importance of Disaster Risk Reduction as an integral component of sustainable development, with the goal of reducing human, economic and environmental losses due to hazards of all kinds (UN/ISDR, 2000). The 2006-2007 United Nations International Disaster Reduction Day theme is “Disaster reduction education begins in school”. The Foundation of Public Safety Professionals has launched an international campaign giving everybody a chance to have their say, thought their international open essay or documentary competition “Disaster Risk Reduction Education Begins at School”.

See also[edit]