The mission of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in natural hazards is to develop and apply hazard science to help protect the safety, security, and economic well-being of the Nation. The costs and consequences of natural hazards can be enormous, and each year more people and infrastructure are at risk. USGS scientific research—founded on detailed observations and improved understanding of the responsible physical processes—can help to understand and reduce natural hazard risks and to make and effectively communicate reliable statements about hazard characteristics, such as frequency, magnitude, extent, onset, consequences, and where possible, the time of future events.
To accomplish its broad hazard mission, the USGS maintains an expert workforce of scientists and technicians in the earth sciences, hydrology, biology, geography, social and behavioral sciences, and other fields, and engages cooperatively with numerous agencies, research institutions, and organizations in the public and private sectors, across the Nation and around the world. The scientific expertise required to accomplish the USGS mission in natural hazards includes a wide range of disciplines that this report refers to, in aggregate, as hazard science.
In October 2010, the Natural Hazards Science Strategy Planning Team (H–SSPT) was charged with developing a long-term (10-year) Science Strategy for the USGS mission in natural hazards. This report fulfills that charge, with a document hereinafter referred to as the Strategy, to provide scientific observations, analyses, and research that are critical for the Nation to become more resilient to natural hazards. Science provides the information that decisionmakers need to determine whether risk management activities are worthwhile. Moreover, as the agency with the perspective of geologic time, the USGS is uniquely positioned to extend the collective experience of society to prepare for events outside current memory. The USGS has critical statutory and nonstatutory roles regarding floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, coastal erosion, volcanic eruptions, wildfires, and magnetic storms—the hazards considered in this plan. There are numerous other hazards of societal importance that are considered either only peripherally or not at all in this Strategy because they are either in another of the USGS strategic science plans (such as drought) or not in the overall mission of the USGS (such as tornados).