USGS Goes Prepper: Natural Hazards and National Preparedness


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TAOS Model of Predicted Cyclone Rainfall-1

Storm tracks of two tropical cyclones: The colored rinks indicate predictive rainfall totals generated by TAOS Model. Image by PDC

September is National Preparedness Month in the United States (in Canada it is held during the first full week of May; in Bangladesh the last Thursday in March). National Preparedness months remind us that we need to be aware of the threats posed by natural hazards.

We also need to be prepared for these threats, as individuals and communities.

USGS Posts Hazard Info

To do their part, every day in September the United States Geological Survey (USGS) is planning to post natural hazards preparedness information through social media channels including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Google+.

The topic of natural hazards is a broad one, ranging from common phenomena such as hail storms and flash flooding to obscure occurrences such as limnic eruptions and plummeting comets. In between are tornadoes, hurricanes and typhoons, earthquakes and volcanoes.

Natural Hazards: Organizations

The USGS, as do other national geological surveys, provides reliable scientific information in an effort to minimize loss of life and property. After Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast of the United States, for instance, researchers sent field teams to Fire Island, NY for use in post-storm modeling to identify the highest-risk hazard zones.

Other key world organizations that also study natural hazards include:

  • World Meteorological Organization: The WMO envisions providing world leadership in expertise and international cooperation in weather, climate, hydrology and water resources and related environmental issues and thereby contributing to the safety and well-being of people throughout the world and to the economic benefit of all nations.
  • Global Volcanism Program: As part of the Smithsonian Institute, the GVP’s mission is to document, understand, and disseminate information about global volcanic activity.
  • Reuters AlertNet: Reuters believes that natural disasters are on the rise, increasingly driven by climate change.
  • Pacific Disaster Center: The PDC uses the latest information and communications technology (ICT) and applied science to provide secure access to reliable products and services that help people understand and act upon potential risks and impacts of hazards.
  • Onegeology: Onegeology is connected to but not run by the British Geological Survey, and its mission is to make web-accessible the best available geological map data worldwide at a scale of about 1: 1 million, as a geological survey contribution to the International Year of Planet Earth. Currently 117 countries are participating.

Natural Hazard Disasters

When we think of natural hazards we tend to relate to local occurrences. In the Detroit-Windsor area, where I live, the key hazards are shoreline erosion such as at Point Pelee, flooding, tornadoes, and lightning strikes. In the case of my nephew, who works as a rancher in Arizona, it is drought and wildfires, in particular, for instance, the June 2013 Yarnell Hill wildfire that threatened his home. Many in California have been concerned about the Rim fire which currently threatens Yosemite. The entire nation worried about last year’s Hurricane Sandy, and previous hurricanes that cost millions in repairs as well as many lives.

Lake Nyos Silty After Limnic Eruption. Image by Frédéric Mahé

Lake Nyos Limnic Eruption Occurred on August 21, 1986. Image by Frédéric Mahé

Getting Prepared: Looking Ahead

I urge you to follow the USGS on social media and get their daily preparedness information: Be proactive.

And stay tuned to Decoded Science for a detailed breakdown of the USGS’s efforts to monitor, assess, research, and develop early warnings systems for a host of natural hazards (earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides and sinkholes, magnetic storms, etc), including a look beyond to international efforts as well (e.g. Canada).


Global Volcanism Program. Welcome to the Global Volcanism Program. (2013). Smithsonian Institution. Accessed September 2, 2013.

Onegeology. Mission Statement.  (2013). Accessed September 2, 2013.

PacificDisasterCenter. Building Disaster Resilience and Reducing Disaster Risks. Accessed September 2, 2013.

Reuters AlertNet. Curbing Climate Change. (2013)Thomas Reuters Foundation. Accessed September 2, 2013.

Hook, C., Robertson, J. September is National Preparedness Month. (2013). USGS. Accessed September 2, 2013.

World Meteorological Organization. Vision and Mission. Accessed September 2, 2013.

USGS Social Media Accounts: TwitterFacebookInstagram, and Google+.

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