1. Characteristics of Hazards


By the end of this section you will be able to explain the characteristics and spatial distribution of the following hazards.

  • Earthquakes
  • Hurricanes (tropical cyclones, typhoons)
  • Droughts
  • A human-induced (technological) hazard (explosion or escape of hazardous material)

You should also be able to distinguish between these hazards in terms of their spatial extent, predictability, frequency, magnitude, duration, speed of onset and effects.

What are hazards?

Hazards are process or events that pose a threat to people, property and the environment. They can be natural or human induced. The important thing is that these processes or events only become hazards when there is the potential to cause significant harm to people (e.g. through injury, loss of life,  damage to property, socio-economic disruption or environmental degradation).

How do hazards differ from disasters?

A disaster takes place when a hazard actually causes significant harm to a community/region and the people in the affected community/region cannot deal with this harm adequately without outside help. The harm can be economic (costs of repairs), physical (damaged property), social (death, mental health and loss of support groups) and/or environmental.

Spatial extent of hazards

Visit the United Nations Environment Program map showing spatial extent of hazards globally.

Here are links to the four hazard types we shall be studying:




Human induced hazards

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