Earth Hazards of the South Central US

Natural 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 South Central is subject to a variety of earth hazards. Most famously, the area happens to have just the right combination of conditions for tornados that cross the region and hurricanes that impact the Gulf Coastal Plain. Modifications of the Mississippi River and its mouth, as well as the Gulf coastline, have exacerbated the impacts of storms and floods. Limestone, gypsum, and salt deposits are responsible for significant areas of karst topography and sinkholes. Like many parts of the country, landslides from expansive soils and exposure to radioactivity from radon are present, depending upon the nature of the local bedrock. Perhaps most surprisingly, despite being far from a plate boundary, certain areas of the South Central are at risk from large earthquakes due to occasional movement along large ancient faults, and from smaller earthquakes associated with injection of wastewater into the Earth that promotes movement along smaller faults.