A natural hazard or geophysical hazards [1] is a threat of an event that will have a negative effect on people or the environment. Many natural hazards are related, e.g. earthquakes can result in tsunamis, drought can lead directly to famine and disease. A concrete example of the division between hazard and disaster is that the 1906 San Francisco earthquake was a disaster, whereas earthquakes are a hazard. Hazards are consequently relating to a future occurrence and disasters to past or current occurrences.

Geological hazardsEdit


An avalanche is a geophysical hazard a slide of a large snow (or rock) mass down a mountainside, caused when a buildup 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 what they are made of.


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 themselves by a shaking or displacement of the ground and sometimes tsunamis. 90% of all earthquakes - and 81% of the largest - occur around the 40,000km long, which roughly 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, including mud, 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.

Landslides and mudflowsEdit

A landslide is a disaster closely related to an avalanche, but instead of occurring with snow, it occurs involving actual elements of the ground, including rocks , trees, parts of houses, and anything else which may happen to be swept up. Landslides can be caused by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, or general instability in the surrounding land. Mudslides, or mud flows, are a special case of landslides, in which heavy rainfall causes loose soil on steep terrain to collapse and slide downwards (see also Lahar.


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 eruptionEdit

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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, or extremely infrequent super volcano eruptions (where the volcano expels at least 1,000 cubic kilometers of material) in places like Lake Taupo, 26,500 years ago, or Yellowstone Caldera, which has the potential to become a super volcano in the near geological future. Some eruptions form pyroclastic flows, which are high-temperature clouds of ash and steam that can trial down mountainsides at speed exceeding an airliner. 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.

Hydrological hazards Edit



Floods are the result of prolonged rainfall from a storm, including thunderstorms, rapid melting of large amounts of snow, or rivers which swell from excess precipitation upstream and cause widespread damage to areas downstream, or less frequently the bursting of man-made dams or levees. Tropical cyclones can result in extensive flooding and storm surge.

Limnic eruptionEdit

Also referred to as a 'lake overturn', a limnic eruption is a rare type of natural disaster in which CO2 suddenly erupts from deep lake water, posing the threat of suffocating wildlife, livestock and humans. Such an eruption may also cause tsunamis in the lake as the rising CO2 displaces water. Scientists believe landslides, volcanic activity, or explosions can trigger such an eruption.


A whirlpool is a swirling body of water usually produced by ocean tides. The vast majority of whirlpools are not very powerful. More powerful ones are more properly termed maelstroms. Vortex is the proper term for any whirlpool that has a downdraft. (Technically, these approximate to a 'free vortex', in which the tangential velocity (v) increases as the centre line is approached, so that the angular momentum (rv) is constant). Very small whirlpools can easily be seen when a bath or a sink is draining, but these are produced in a very different manner from those in nature. Smaller whirlpools also appear at the base of many waterfalls. In the case of powerful waterfalls, like Niagara Falls, these whirlpools can be quite strong. The most powerful whirlpools are created in narrow shallow straits with fast flowing water.


Maelstroms are a large tidal whirlpool. The largest known maelstrom is Moskstraumen off the Lofoten islands in Norway. Powerful whirlpools have killed unlucky seafarers, but their power tends to be exaggerated in fiction. Maelstroms can reach speeds of 20-40km/h.


A seiche is a standing wave in an enclosed or partially enclosed body of water. Seiches and seiche-related phenomena have been observed on lakes, reservoirs, bays and seas. The key requirement for formation of a seiche is that the body of water be at least partially bounded.



The tsunami caused by the December 26, 2004 earthquake strikes Ao Nang, Thailand.

A tsunami is a wave of water caused by the displacement of a body of water. The word comes from Japanese words "tsu" meaning harbor and "nami" meaning wave (tsu+nami=harbor wave). Tsunami can be caused by undersea earthquakes as in the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake, or by landslides such as the one which occurred at Lituya Bay, Alaska. Meteotsunamis are caused by meteorological phenomena. A megatsunami is an informal term used to describe very large tsunamis. The largest waves are caused by very large landslides, such as a collapsing island, into a body of water. The highest tsunami ever recorded was estimated to be of 524m (1742 ft) vertical run-up on July 9, 1958,in Lituya Bay,Alaska.

Climatic and atmospheric hazardsEdit

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A blizzard is a severe winter storm condition characterized by low temperatures, strong winds, and heavy blowing snow.


Drought is defined as an acute shortage of water and crop failure that results when the average rainfall is very less than the normal.A drought is an abnormally dry period when there is not enough water to support agricultural, urban or environmental water needs. Extended droughts can result in deaths by starvation or disease, and can result in wildfires. Scientists warn that global warming may result in more extensive droughts in coming years.


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 waveEdit

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.

Cyclonic stormsEdit

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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 Template:Convert/mi/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 ageEdit

Ice stormEdit

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 and Template:Convert/mi/h, and possibly higher. Tornadoes can occur one at a time, or can occur in large tornado outbreaks along squall lines or in other large areas of thunderstorm development. Waterspouts are tornadoes occurring over tropical waters in light rain conditions.

Wildfire hazardEdit

A wildfire is an uncontrolled fire burning in wildland areas. Common causes include lightning and drought but wildfires may also be started by human negligence or arson. They can be a threat to those in rural areas and also wildlife. Wildfires can also produce ember attacks, where floating embers set fire to buildings at a distance from the fire itself.

International campaignsEdit

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 alsoEdit

References Edit

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