Earth Hazards of the Northwest Central US

Natural hazards or earth hazards are events or processes that have significant impacts on human beings and the environment. Extreme weather conditions or geologic activity can cause substantial short-term or long-term changes to our environment. These changes can influence many aspects of the world around us, including crops, homes, infrastructure, and the atmosphere. The 4.6-billion-year-old Earth has experienced many naturally generated hazards, while other events are byproducts of human activities, created during mineral and energy extraction or in construction practices that modify the landscape.

The Northwest Central is subject to a variety of earth hazards. Weather hazards such as tornados, thunderstorms, and winter storms are particularly common in the Central Lowland and Great Plains, thanks to the unobstructed movement of air masses over areas of low topographic relief. The Rocky Mountains are susceptible to extreme winter weather such as heavy snow, blizzards, and high winds. Flooding can occur in areas of low elevation, including low-lying glacially sculpted terrain. Geological hazards, including avalanches, earthquakes, landslides, and rockfalls, are also common throughout the Northwest Central, especially in areas with rugged, mountainous terrain. The Columbia Plateau is susceptible to volcanic material produced by the Cascade Volcanoes to the west, and igneous activity associated with the Yellowstone hot spot has made its mark upon the surrounding land.