European Geosciences Union

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Natural Hazards

Credit: ‘Violent Storm’ by Jacqueline Isabella Gisen (distributed via

Natural hazards include storms, extreme temperatures, wild fires, flooding, droughts and geophysical hazards (earthquakes and volcanic eruptions) amongst others. In Europe, these natural hazards accounted for nearly 100,000 fatalities and cost almost EUR 150 billion between 1998 and 2009.

In Europe, the summer heat wave of 2003 incurred an additional 70,000 deaths due to the high temperatures and the resulting impact on air quality. Economically, storms and flooding produced losses of EUR 44 billion and EUR 52 billion, respectively.

Over the same period the number of natural disaster events increased (with the exception of geophysical hazards) and, under climate change, these instances are predicted to continue to increase. Although geophysical hazards are not expected to increase in frequency, earthquakes resulted in almost 19,000 deaths and losses of over EUR 29 billion in Europe alone. It is therefore necessary for governments to develop adaption and limitation strategies to reduce the humanitarian, economic and environmental impacts of these events.

Current EU policy:

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, adopted by the UN in March 2015, is a voluntary and non-binding agreement which aims to reduce disaster mortality and other effects during 2015-2030. The major areas for action are:

  • Understanding disaster risk with respect to ‘vulnerability, capacity, exposure of persons and assets, hazard characteristics and the environment’.
  • Strengthening governance at the national, regional and global levels
  • Investing in the prevention and reduction of disaster effects
  • Enhancing member states’ preparedness

Some EU member states already have initiated policies for disaster risk reduction however more strategies and methods of implementation need to be developed.

Future challenges:

With climate change most natural hazards are predicted to become more frequent and intense. Overall, Europe will experience more frequent events of high precipitation, winters will become wetter and summers will become drier. Areas of Southern Europe will become drier whereas Northern Europe will experience wetter conditions.

Large uncertainties still exist regarding the extent of these changes and how much of an impact they will have on society. Further research is needed to ascertain more information about these future changes. In addition, the development of early-warning systems for multiple natural disasters is essential for damage reduction. This is being further developed through the establishment of remote sensing. Finally, with the emerging concepts of ‘big data’ and ‘the internet of things’ there is a greater role society can play in the identification and monitoring of natural hazards.

EGU natural hazard research areas:

EGU scientists currently research into the following natural hazards and their impacts.

  • Avalanches
  • Coastal Hazards
  • Earthquakes
  • Environmental Contamination
  • Extreme Precipitation
  • Extreme Temperatures
  • Flooding
  • Freak/Rogue Waves
  • Landslides
  • Meteorites
  • Sink Holes
  • Solar Storms / Space Weather
  • Storms
  • Tsunamis
  • Volcanic Eruptions
  • Water Scarcity & Droughts
  • Wildfires

Recent EGU papers:


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