Western Geographic Science Center


Risk and Vulnerability to Natural Hazards - Overview

Natural hazards Diagram

Figure: Risk is a function of natural hazards and vulnerable human-environmental systems (Wood, 2007).

The Nation faces a wide array of natural hazards that threaten its safety, security, economic well-being, and natural resources. To balance short-term development pressures and long-term sustainability goals, public officials need a clear understanding of societal vulnerability to threats and of strategies for increasing resilience. Societal vulnerability and resilience to natural hazards are complex phenomena involving the exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity of coupled human-environmental systems in light of potential land change. Vulnerability and resilience are functions of (1) existing patterns of land use, cover, and condition, (2) socioeconomic conditions, (3) likely future patterns of land change (both planned and emergent), and (4) current efforts to mitigate, adapt to, or prepare for potential land change.

The objective of this project is to develop quantitative, qualitative, and geospatial methods to characterize the vulnerability and resilience of coupled human-environmental systems to natural hazards. Research efforts of this project area presented here in two ways: (1) an overview of vulnerability assessment techniques and methods applicable to all hazards and (2) efforts that are hazard-specific, such as tsunamis and volcanoes. This focus on vulnerability and resilience supports a core element of the USGS mission to provide scientific information in order to minimize life loss and property damage from natural disasters.


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