Top 10 from Hazard a Guess? The riskiest science quiz you will ever take!

Release Date:

Take the USGS quiz — just 10 questions — to see how much you know about natural hazards.

"Hazard a Guess?" is an ongoing quiz series that aims to raise awarenss of natural hazards. Don't forget to share these with friends and family to make sure they are informed as well.


1.  How many Americans live and work in areas exposed to potentially damaging earthquakes?

  A.  About 10% of the population

  B.  About 25%

  C.  About 50%

  D.  Almost all

To see the answer, scroll down below the image.

Image: Northridge, CA Earthquake Damage

The correct answer is nearly 50% of the population. More than 143 million Americans live and work in areas of the 48 contiguous states that are exposed to potentially damaging ground shaking from earthquakes. When the people living in the earthquake-prone areas of Alaska, Hawaii and U.S. territories are added, this number rises to nearly half of all Americans. When one considers very strong ground shaking levels, the 10 states with the highest populations exposed (in descending order) are California, Washington, Utah, Tennessee, Oregon, South Carolina, Nevada, Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois. Although this level of shaking is estimated to occur relatively infrequently, it could cause significant damage and causalities.

Click here to learn more.


2.  How many potentially active volcanoes are there in the United States?

  A.  5

  B.  23

  C.  169

To see the answer, scroll down below the image.

Image: Lava flows on Mauna Loa

The correct answer is 169. The United States is home to 169 active volcanoes, many of which could erupt at any time. The USGS monitors these volcanoes and issues warnings and alerts, including imminent or ongoing eruptions, ash fall forecasts, and when eruptions have ended. Check out USGS resources for information and to receive alerts, whether you live in close proximity to a volcano or plan to travel to a nearby area. 

Click here to learn more.


3.  On average, how much are landslides estimated to cost the nation per year?

  A.  $38 million

  B.  $1 billion

  C.  $3.5 billion

To see the answer, scroll down below the image.

Image: 2005 Landslide in Conchita, CA

The correct answer is about $3.5 billion. In the United States, it is estimated that landslides cost the nation $3.5 billion per year. Because there is no uniform method or overall agency that keeps track of or reports landslide losses, this is an approximation. Landslides result in extremely high monetary losses in other countries, but there is no overall estimate as to the exact cost worldwide. For example, the winter season rains associated with the 1997-1998 El Niño caused landslide damage estimated at $210.2 million in the San Francisco Bay, California, region.

USGS science is helping answer questions such as where, when and how often landslides occur, and how fast and far they might move. USGS scientists produce maps of areas susceptible to landslides and identify what sort of rainfall conditions will lead to such events. The USGS and NOAA are working on a Debris Flow Warning System to help provide forecasts and alerts. 

Click here to learn more.


4.  What is causing most of the induced earthquakes (aka man-made earthquakes) we’ve seen recently in the central United States?

  A.  Fracking

  B.  Disposal of wastewater

  C.  Pumping of oil and gas

  D.  It's unknown at this time

To see the answer, scroll down below the image.

USGS map displaying potential to experience damage from a natural or human-induced earthquake in 2017

The correct answer is the disposal of wastewater. Water that is salty or polluted by chemicals needs to be disposed of in a manner that prevents it from contaminating freshwater sources. It is usually most economical to isolate and inject it into deep underground wells, below any aquifers that provide drinking water. Wastewater disposal is the primary cause of the recent increase in earthquakes in the central United States.

Most wastewater currently disposed of across the nation is saltwater that is a byproduct of the oil and gas extraction process. Saltwater is found in nearly every oil and gas production well, regardless of whether the well has been hydraulically fractured (known as fracking).

Click here to learn more. 


5.  Has avian flu ever been detected in humans?

  A.  Yes

  B.  No

To see the answer, scroll down below the image.

Image: USGS Avian Flu Research

The correct answer is yes. In 2013, two new avian influenza strains were confirmed in people in China and Taiwan. Also, influenza outbreaks in poultry in Egypt, Indonesia, the Netherlands and elsewhere have led to human infections with avian influenza viruses. These strains are not easily transmissible between humans. Moreover, wildlife, especially waterfowl, harbor a wide variety of avian influenza viruses, and human interactions with wildlife are a concern. It’s important for the public to be aware of the possible infection risks. USGS scientists are working with partners to understand the role of wildlife in human diseases, including the transmission of influenza.

To learn more, visit the USGS website on avian influenza. Get more details on the USGS science strategy for avian influenza. Read a fact sheet on the USGS response to avian influenza.


6.  Over the last 30 years in the United States, how many people have died—on average—per year from floods?

  A.  8

  B.  82

  C.  332

To see the answer, scroll down below the image.

Image: Flood Level

The correct answer is about 82 people. Over the last 30 years in the United States, floods have killed an average of 82 people each year and caused $8 billion in damages annually. For more than 100 years, the USGS has played a critical role in reducing flood losses by operating a nationwide streamgage network that monitors the water level and flow of the Nation’s rivers and streams. The USGS works with many partners and provides data for flood forecasts, watches, and warnings, and to enable communities to assess the risks they face from future floods. You can sign up to receive alerts and notifications too.

Click here to learn more.


7.  How much of the Nation is susceptible to sinkholes (i.e., underlain by rock that dissolves easily)?

  A.  100%

  B.  55%

  C.  20%

  D.  5%

To see the answer, scroll down below the image.

Image: Sinkholes in West-central Florida, Freeze Event of 2010

The correct answer is 20%. About 20% of the Nation is underlain by karst, which is characterized by terrain where the underlying rock can be dissolved by groundwater and is consequently vulnerable to the earth collapsing. Sinkholes are common in these areas and can be as sudden as they are devastating. Individuals can check if they live in areas underlain by soluble rock through county offices, local or state geological surveys, or USGS maps. 

Click here to learn more.


8.  True or false? People are the leading cause of wildfires in the United States.

  A.  True

  B.  False

To see the answer, scroll down below the image.

A wildfire in a forest

The correct answer is true. As many as 90 percent of wildland fires in the United States are caused by humans, primarily through campfires left unattended, burning of debris, negligently discarded cigarettes and intentional acts of arson. The next most common source of wildfires is lightning. Keep in mind that there are many natural factors, such as vegetation and extreme heat or drought, which can combine with human factors to increase fire activity and risk. The USGS provides tools and information before, during and after fire disasters to identify wildfire risks and reduce subsequent hazards, while providing real-time geospatial support for firefighters during the events.

Click here to learn more.


9.  True or false? The same size earthquake will cause damage over a larger area in the West than the East.

  A.  True

  B.  False

To see the answer, scroll down below the image.

Image: Damage from 2011 Virginia Earthquake

The correct answer is false. Earthquake shaking in the eastern United States can travel much farther and cause damage over larger areas than the West. The difference between seismic shaking in the East versus the West is due in part to the geologic structure and rock properties that allow seismic waves to travel farther without weakening. While earthquakes occur more frequently in the West, people in the East should still be prepared and practice earthquake safety. 

Click here to learn more.


10.  During what months is hurricane season typically recognized along the Atlantic Coast?

  A.  March — August

  B.  May — October

  C.  June — November

To see the answer, scroll down below the image.

Hurricane Sandy Impacts

The correct answer is June – November. Hurricanes are of most concern during the months of June – November, but storms can occur outside of that period in any given year. Before, during and after hurricanes or tropical storms affecting the United States, the USGS measures the height and intensity of the storm surge; monitors water levels and flows of inland rivers and streams; assesses impacts to water quality and coastal ecosystems; and, where substantial impacts are anticipated, forecasts coastal change that may be caused by the storm.

Click here to learn more.