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A natural disaster is the consequence of a natural hazard (e.g. volcanic eruption, earthquake, or landslide) which affects human activities. Human vulnerability, exacerbated by the lack of planning or lack of appropriate emergency management, leads to financial, environmental or human losses. The resulting loss depends on the capacity of the population to support or resist the disaster, their resilience.[1] This understanding is concentrated in the formulation: "disasters occur when hazards meet vulnerability".[2] A natural hazard will hence never result in a natural disaster in areas without vulnerability, e.g. strong earthquakes in uninhabited areas. The term natural has consequently been disputed because the events simply are not hazards or disasters without human involvement.[3]

Natural hazards[edit | edit source]

Main article: Natural hazard

A natural hazard 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.

Natural disasters[edit | edit source]

Main article: disaster

Geological disasters[edit | edit source]

Avalanches[edit | edit source]


Avalanche on the backside (East) of Mt. Timpanogos, Utah at Aspen Grove trail

Notable avalanches include:

Earthquakes[edit | edit source]

Main article: List of earthquakes

Some of the most significant earthquakes in recent times include:

File:Sumatra devastation1.jpg

A Sumatran village, devastated by the tsunami that followed the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake

Lahars[edit | edit source]

The Tangiwai disaster is an excellent example of a lahar, as is the one which killed an estimated 23,000 people in Armero, Colombia, during the 1985 eruption of Nevado del Ruiz.

Landslides and Mudflows[edit | edit source]

These occur with some regularity in parts of California after periods of heavy rain.

Volcanic eruptions[edit | edit source]

File:Puu Oo cropped.jpg

Pu'u 'Ō'ō

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 disasters[edit | edit source]

Floods[edit | edit source]

Main article: List of floods

The Limpopo River, in southern Mozambique, during the 2000 Mozambique flood

Some of the most notable floods include:

Tropical cyclones can result in extensive flooding and storm surge, as happened with:

Limnic eruptions[edit | edit source]

To date, only two limnic eruptions have been observed and recorded:

Tsunamis[edit | edit source]


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

Tsunami can be caused by undersea earthquakes as the one caused in Ao Nang, Thailand by the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake, or by landslides such as the one which occurred at Lituya Bay, Alaska in.

Climatic disasters[edit | edit source]

Main article: Weather disasters
File:Young steer after blizzard - NOAA.jpg

Young steer after a blizzard, March 1966

Blizzards[edit | edit source]

Significant blizzards in the United States include:

Droughts[edit | edit source]

Well-known historical droughts include:

Hailstorms[edit | edit source]

A particularly damaging hailstorm hit Munich, Germany on August 31, 1986, felling thousands of trees and causing millions of dollars in insurance claims.

Heat waves[edit | edit source]

The worst heat wave in recent history was the European Heat Wave of 2003.

File:Hurricane Katrina August 28 2005 NASA.jpg

Hurricane Katrina

Cyclonic storms[edit | edit source]

Main article: List of tropical cyclones

Hurricane, tropical cyclone, and typhoon' are different names for the same phenomenon: a cyclonic storm system that forms over the oceans. The deadliest hurricane ever was the 1970 Bhola cyclone; the deadliest Atlantic hurricane was the Great Hurricane of 1780, which devastated Martinique, St. Eustatius and Barbados. Another notable hurricane is Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the Gulf Coast of the United States in 2005.

Fire[edit | edit source]

Main article: List of forest fires

Wildfires are 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.

Health and disease[edit | edit source]

Epidemic[edit | edit source]

Main article: List of epidemics
File:Colorized transmission electron micrograph of Avian influenza A H5N1 viruses.jpg

The A H5N1 virus, which causes Avian influenza

An epidemic is an outbreak of a contractible disease that spreads at a rapid rate through a human population. A pandemic is an epidemic whose spread is global. There have been many epidemics throughout history, such as Black Death. In the last hundred years, significant pandemics include:

Other diseases that spread more slowly, but are still considered to be global health emergencies by the WHO include:

Famine[edit | edit source]

Main article: List of famines

In modern times, famine has hit Sub-Saharan Africa the hardest, although the number of victims of modern famines is much smaller than the number of people killed by the Asian famines of the 20th century.

Space[edit | edit source]

File:Tunguska event fallen trees.jpg

Fallen trees caused by the Tunguska meteoroid of the Tunguska event in June, 1908.

Impact events[edit | edit source]

One of the largest impact events in modern times was the Tunguska event in June, 1908.

Solar flare[edit | edit source]

A solar flare is a phenomenon where the sun suddenly releases a great amount of solar radiation, much more than normal. Some known solar flares include:

  • An X20 event on August 16 1989
  • A similar flare on April 2 2001
  • The most powerful flare ever recorded, on November 4 2003, estimated at between X40 and X45
  • The most powerful flare in the past 500 years is believed to have occurred in September 1859

References[edit | edit source]

  1. G. Bankoff, G. Frerks, D. Hilhorst (eds.) (2003). Mapping Vulnerability: Disasters, Development and People.
  2. B. Wisner, P. Blaikie, T. Cannon, and I. Davis (2004). At Risk - Natural hazards, people's vulnerability and disasters, Wiltshire: Routledge.
  3. D. Alexander (2002). Principles of Emergency planning and Management, Harpended: Terra publishing.
  4. World's worst natural disasters since 1900

See also[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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