Geomorphology and natural hazards

Paul A. Gares, Douglas J. Sherman, Karl F. Nordstrom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Natural hazards research was initiated in the 1960's by Gilbert White and his students who promulgated a research paradigm that involved assessing risk from a natural event, identifying adjustments to cope with the hazard, determining people's perception of the event, defining the process by which people choose adjustments, and estimating the effects of public policy on the choice process. Studies of the physical system played an important role in early research, but criticismsof the paradigm resulted in a shift to a prominence of social science. Geomorphologists are working to fill gaps in knowledge of the physical aspects of individual hazards, but use of the information by social scientists will only occur if information is presented in a format that is useful to them. One format involves identifying the hazard according to seven physical parameters established by White and his colleagues: magnitude, frequency, duration, areal extent, speed of onset, spatial dispersion, and temporal spacing. Geomorphic hazards are regarded as related to landscape changes that affect human systems. The processes that produce the changes are rarely geomorphic in nature, but are better regarded as atmospheric or hydrologic. An examination of geomorphic hazards in four fields - soil erosion, mass movement, coastal erosion and fluvial erosion - demonstrates that advances in those fields may be evaluated in terms of the seven parameters. Geomorphologists have contributed to hazard research by focusing on the dynamics of the landforms. The prediction of occurence, the determination of spatial and temporal characteristics, the impact of physical characteristics on people's perception, and the impact of physical characteristics on adjustment formulation. Opportunities for geomorphologists to improve our understanding of geomorphic hazards include research into the characteristics of the events particularly with respect to predicting the occurence, and increased evaluation of the impact of human activities on natural systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Aug 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Earth-Surface Processes


Dive into the research topics of 'Geomorphology and natural hazards'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this