Mission Areas

Natural Hazards

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Costs and consequences of natural hazards can be enormous; each year more people and infrastructure are at risk. We develop and apply hazards science to help protect U.S. safety, security, and economic well being. These scientific observations, analyses, and research are crucial for the Nation to become more resilient to natural hazards.

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USGS science for a changing world logo
March 2, 2016

This website brings together information about current and past flooding and USGS flood-focused resources. The USGS provides practical, unbiased information about the Nation's rivers and streams that is crucial in mitigating hazards associated with floods.

USGS science for a changing world logo
March 2, 2016

The IGEMS provides the public with both an overview and more specific information on current natural hazard events. The Department of the Interior’s Office of Emergency Management provides it as an internet-accessible service.

USGS science for a changing world logo
March 2, 2016

Research projects within the USGS Geomagnetism Program are targeted for societal relevance, especially for space-weather hazard science.

Alaska Volcano Observatory logo
March 2, 2016

The AVO is a partnership among the USGS, the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys. To mitigate volcanic hazards, AVO monitors and studies Alaska's hazardous volcanoes to forecast and record eruptive activity. AVO also monitors volcanic activity in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

USGS science for a changing world logo
March 2, 2016

The USGS Geomagnetism Program currently operates 14 magnetic observatories. Magnetometer data are collected at these facilities, and the data are then transmitted to Program headquarters in Golden, Colorado.

California Volcano Observatory emblem
March 2, 2016

CalVO operates real-time volcano monitoring networks, disseminates forecasts and notifications of significant activity, assesses volcano hazards, researches volcano processes, and works with communities to prepare for volcanic eruptions in California and Nevada. The Observatory is located at USGS offices in Menlo Park, California.

USGS science for a changing world logo
March 2, 2016

Our Program researches activities to make accurate landslide hazard maps and forecasts of landslide occurrences.

Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier, northern aerial view
March 2, 2016

The CVO staff conduct research on many aspects of active volcanism, respond to dangerous volcanic activity in many parts of the world, and maintain a close watch over volcanoes in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. The USGS established CVO in Vancouver, Washington, after the May 18, 1980, eruption of Mount St. Helens.

USGS science for a changing world logo
March 2, 2016

Landslide sites and data for learning more about the physical processes that trigger landslides or control their movement.

Scientist shields face while scooping lava with a hammer for chemical analysis
March 2, 2016

HVO operates monitoring networks, assesses hazards, and issues notifications of volcanic activity and earthquakes in the State of Hawai‘i. HVO scientists conduct fundamental research on volcanic processes and work to educate the communities at risk. HVO is located in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park on the Island of Hawaii.

USGS science for a changing world logo
March 2, 2016

Tsunami awareness public service announcements come from collaboration among the USGS SAFRR team, outside partners, and Pasadena's Art Center College of Design.

Scientist collects samples from a temporary wooden platform in a New Jersey salt marsh
August 19, 2014

The Estuarine Physical Response to Storms Project will assess the estuarine and adjacent wetland  responses of three Atlantic lagoonal estuaries to major storm events such as Hurricane Sandy. The estuarine systems include the Barnegat Bay-Little Egg Harbor Estuary, the Chincoteague Bay, and Jamaica Bay, NY. Evaluations of sediment transport, geomorphic change, circulation, wetland...

Filter Total Items: 58
Year Published: 2010

Temporal variations in Global Seismic Stations ambient noise power levels

Recent concerns about time-dependent response changes in broadband seismometers have motivated the need for methods to monitor sensor health at Global Seismographic Network (GSN) stations. We present two new methods for monitoring temporal changes in data quality and instrument response transfer functions that are independent of Earth seismic...

Ringler, A.T.; Gee, L.S.; Hutt, C.R.; McNamara, D.E.
Temporal variations in Global Seismic Stations ambient noise power levels; 2010; Article; Journal; Seismological Research Letters; Ringler, A.T.; Gee, L.S.; Hutt, C.R.; McNamara, D.E.

Year Published: 2010

OMG earthquake! can twitter improve earthquake response?

[No abstract available]

Earle, P.; Guy, M.; Buckmaster, R.; Ostrum, C.; Horvath, S.; Vaughan, A.
OMG earthquake! can twitter improve earthquake response?; 2010; Article; Journal; Seismological Research Letters; Earle, P.; Guy, M.; Buckmaster, R.; Ostrum, C.; Horvath, S.; Vaughan, A.

Year Published: 2007

Natural Hazards - A National Threat

The USGS Role in Reducing Disaster Losses -- In the United States each year, natural hazards cause hundreds of deaths and cost billions of dollars in disaster aid, disruption of commerce, and destruction of homes and critical infrastructure. Although the number of lives lost to natural hazards each year generally has declined, the economic cost...

Geological Survey, U.S.
Attribution: Natural Hazards
Natural Hazards - A National Threat; 2007; FS; 2007-3009; Geological Survey, U.S.

Year Published: 2007

A deep reef in deep trouble

The well-documented degradation of shallower reefs which are often closer to land and more vulnerable to pollution, sewage and other human-related stressors has led to the suggestion that deeper, more remote offshore reefs could possibly serve as sources of coral and fish larvae to replenish the shallower reefs. Yet, the distribution, status, and...

Menza, Charles; Kendall, M.; Rogers, C.; Miller, J.
A deep reef in deep trouble; 2007; Article; Journal; Continental Shelf Research; Menza, C.; Kendall, M.; Rogers, C.; Miller, J.

Year Published: 2006

Hurricanes 2004: An overview of their characteristics and coastal change

Four hurricanes battered the state of Florida during 2004, the most affecting any state since Texas endured four in 1884. Each of the storms changed the coast differently. Average shoreline change within the right front quadrant of hurricane force winds varied from 1 m of shoreline advance to 20 m of retreat, whereas average sand volume change...

Sallenger, Asbury H.; Stockdon, Hilary; Fauver, Laura A.; Hansen, Mark; Thompson, David; Wright, C. Wayne; Lillycrop, Jeff

Year Published: 1998

Experimental Investigations Regarding the Use of Sand as an Inhibitor of Air Convection in Deep Seismic Boreholes

INTRODUCTION Tilt has been the nemesis of horizontal long period seismology since its inception. Modern horizontal long period seismometers with their long natural periods are incredibly sensitive to tilt. They can sense tilts smaller than 10 -11 radians. To most readers, this is just a very very small number, so we will begin with an example...

Holcomb, L. Gary; Sandoval, Leo; Hutt, Bob
Experimental Investigations Regarding the Use of Sand as an Inhibitor of Air Convection in Deep Seismic Boreholes; 1998; OFR; 98-362; Holcomb, L. Gary; Sandoval, Leo; Hutt, Bob

Year Published: 1997

Taking the Earth's pulse

During the past 35 years, scientists have developed a vast network of seismometers that record earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and nuclear explosions throughout the world. Seismographic data support disaster response, scientific research, and global security. With this network, the United States maintains world leadership in monitoring the...

Woodward, Robert L.; Benz, Harly M.; Brown, William M.
Taking the Earth's pulse; 1997; FS; 103-97; Woodward, Robert L.; Benz, Harly M.; Brown, William M., III

Year Published: 1993

Observations and Modeling of Seismic Background Noise

INTRODUCTION The preparation of this report had two purposes. One was to present a catalog of seismic background noise spectra obtained from a worldwide network of seismograph stations. The other purpose was to refine and document models of seismic background noise that have been in use for several years. The second objective was, in...

Peterson, Jon R.
Observations and Modeling of Seismic Background Noise; 1993; OFR; 93-322; Peterson, Jon R.

Year Published: 1992

An Evaluation of Installation Methods for STS-1 Seismometers

INTRODUCTION This report documents the results of a series of experiments conducted by the authors at the Albuquerque Seismological Laboratory (ASl) during the spring and summer of 1991; the object of these experiments was to obtain and document quantitative performance comparisons of three methods of installing STS-1 seismometers....

Holcomb, L. Gary; Hutt, Charles R.
An Evaluation of Installation Methods for STS-1 Seismometers; 1992; OFR; 92-302; Holcomb, L. Gary; Hutt, Charles R.

Year Published: 1991

A C Language Implementation of the SRO (Murdock) Detector/Analyzer

A signal detector and analyzer algorithm was described by Murdock and Hutt in 1983. The algorithm emulates the performance of a human interpreter of seismograms. It estimates the signal onset, the direction of onset (positive or negative), the quality of these determinations, the period and amplitude of the signal, and the background noise at the...

Murdock, James N.; Halbert, Scott E.
A C Language Implementation of the SRO (Murdock) Detector/Analyzer; 1991; OFR; 87-158; Murdock, James N.; Halbert, Scott E.

Year Published: 1990

A Numerical Study of Some Potential Sources of Error in Side-by-Side Seismometer Evaluations

INTRODUCTION This report presents the results of a series of computer simulations of potential errors in test data, which might be obtained when conducting side-by-side comparisons of seismometers. These results can be used as guides in estimating potential sources and magnitudes of errors one might expect when analyzing real test data....

Holcomb, L. Gary
A Numerical Study of Some Potential Sources of Error in Side-by-Side Seismometer Evaluations; 1990; OFR; 90-406; Holcomb, L. Gary

Year Published: 1989

A Direct Method for Calculating Instrument Noise Levels in Side-by-Side Seismometer Evaluations

INTRODUCTION The subject of determining the inherent system noise levels present in modem broadband closed loop seismic sensors has been an evolving topic ever since closed loop systems became available. Closed loop systems are unique in that the system noise can not be determined via a blocked mass test as in older conventional open loop...

Holcomb, L. Gary
A Direct Method for Calculating Instrument Noise Levels in Side-by-Side Seismometer Evaluations; 1989; OFR; 89-214; Holcomb, L. Gary

Filter Total Items: 1,206
February 23, 2017
How does a scanning electron microscope (SEM) work? What does USGS study with the SEM? Earthquakes Volcanoes Mineral and energy resources Soil and aquifer processes By Leslie Hayden, USGS Geologist, Diane Moore, USGS Geologist, Kathryn Watts, USGS Research Geologist, Marjorie Schulz, USGS Research Hydrologist, and Laura Stern, USGS Research Geophysicist
Aerial photo of snow-covered mountaIns with umbrella-shaped volcanic ash plume rising in the background
February 19, 2017
February 19 Bogoslof eruption plume as seen from Unalaska Island, 53 miles ESE of Bogoslof volcano. Photo taken from helicopter during fieldwork by AVO geologists at 5:22PM, approximately 14 minutes after the start of the eruption.
person standing up riding a personal watercraft across small ocean swells, with buildings and a long pier in the background
2017 (approx.)
A sonar-equipped personal watercraft mapping the bathymetry underwater near Santa Cruz, Calif.
2017 (approx.)
This time-lapse video shows lateral erosion of a salt marsh in the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, part of an embayment near the city of Pascagoula, Mississippi, on the US Gulf coast. Wave action over the course of 6.5 months led to about 1.5 meters of erosion. Researchers from the USGS Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center are studying the influence of wave attack and...
two young men standing on a pier with a large tripod, looking down at camera, and holding equipment.
2017 (approx.)
USGS scientists setting up a lidar scanner on the pier to map the beach near Capitola, California.
two men standing in a boat tied up to a dock
2017 (approx.)
USGS scientists readying a sonar-equipped boat to map the ocean bottom near Santa Cruz, Calif.
man walking along wet sand on beach wearing a backpack with an antenna sticking pout of it
2017 (approx.)
USGS scientist Daniel Hoover mapping the beach at Santa Cruz with a GPS-equipped backpack unit.
January 26, 2017
A presentation on "Unusual Sources of Tsunamis From Krakatoa to Monterey Bay" by Eric Geist, USGS Research Geophysicist - Not all tsunamis are generated by earthquakes. - Tsunamis can be caused by volcanoes, landslides, and even atmospheric disturbances - Data from tide gauges can help unravel the complex physics of these sources Videographers: Mitch Adelson, William Seelig, USGS
Satellite image of small crescent-shaped ocean island.
January 24, 2017
Analysis of shoreline changes at Bogoslof volcano due to eruptive activity between January 11 and 24, 2017. The base image is a Worldview-2 satellite image collected on January 24, 2017. The approximate location of the shoreline on January 11, 2017 is shown by the dashed orange line.
January 20, 2017
The June 2016 Fish Fire burned over 12 km^2 in Los Angeles County, California. After the fire, the USGS installed an automated rain-triggered camera to monitor post-wildfire flooding and debris flow in a small canyon above the Las Lomas debris basin in Duarte. This video shows the peak flow triggered by an intense rainstorm on January 20, 2017.
Annotated aerial photo of crescent shaped island surrounded by open ocean.
January 10, 2017
Annotated photograph of Bogoslof Island showing the cumulative effects of 2016-17 eruptive activity. A layer of fine muddy appearing ash drapes most of the landscape and covers pre-existing vegetation. The dashed line indicates the area excavated by explosive eruptive activity so far. A prominent zone of upwelling is probably the surface expression of a shallow submarine vent. Photograph taken by...
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May 18, 2017

Members of the news media are invited to attend the next Earthquake Country Alliance - Bay Area Regional Workshop to be held at the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park on May 23. ECA workshops are educational and informational opportunities to learn more about the latest in earthquake science, preparedness, and mitigation, as well as to arrange interviews with subject matter experts.

Image shows several insets against the backdrop of Mount St. Helens erupting
May 18, 2017

Today, in 1980, Mount St. Helens unleashed the most devastating eruption in U.S. history. Two years later, USGS founded the Cascades Volcano Observatory to monitor Mount St. Helens and all the Cascades Volcanoes.

Side-by-side comparison of the northwest wall of Kīlauea Caldera on a clear day (left) and a day with thick vog (right).
May 18, 2017

Just like smog and fog, this EarthWord is not what you want to see while driving...

Image shows billowing clouds of steam and smoke emanating from the ground
May 17, 2017

This EarthWord is straight up steampunk...

Image shows damage from a lahar, including a submerged bridge
May 16, 2017

Which sounds more dangerous, lava or mud? The answer may surprise you...

USGS map displaying potential to experience damage from a natural or human-induced earthquake in 2017
May 15, 2017

It’s not just something you run into on a golf course-it’s this week’s EarthWord!

2014 South Napa Earthquake in California
May 15, 2017

Early on the morning of August 24, 2014, Loren Turner was awoken by clattering window blinds, a moving bed, and the sound of water splashing out of his backyard pool. He experienced what is now named the “South Napa Earthquake.” 

Three-dimensional view of the west Ceti Mensa area looking toward the southeast.
May 12, 2017

A new set of high-resolution geologic maps reveal complex geologic processes that suggest a dynamic, wet environment once existed on early Mars, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Measuring Streamflow
May 11, 2017

Gary Moore spent the last three days of 2015 stacking hefty bags of sand in front of a fellow church member’s brick home. With only 1,000 feet between the house and the swelling Mississippi and Meramec Rivers, Moore and other volunteers worked quickly, in frigid temperatures, to assemble a 10-foot high, 1,000-foot-long sandbag wall to ward off floodwaters.

Image: Old Faithful Erupting
May 10, 2017

Despite two centuries of scientific study, basic questions persist about geysers—why do they exist? What determines their behavior?

Image shows a research vessel with snow-covered mountains in the background
May 8, 2017

U.S., Norwegian, and German scientists report back on the surprising results of an Arctic Ocean research expedition. 

Large snow-covered, cone shaped mountain in background, looming over urban area in foreground
May 1, 2017

May is Volcano Preparedness Month in Washington, providing residents an opportunity to become more familiar with volcano hazards in their communities and learn about steps they can take to reduce potential impacts.