ESS3.B: Natural Hazards
How do natural hazards affect individuals and societies?
- Introduction to ESS3.B
- K-12 Progression and Grade Band End Points for ESS3.B
- Performance Expectations Associated with ESS3.B
- Additional Resources for ESS3.B
Natural processes can cause sudden or gradual changes to Earth’s systems, some of which may adversely affect humans. Through observations and knowledge of historical events, people know where certain of these hazards—such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, severe weather, floods, and coastal erosion— are likely to occur. Understanding these kinds of hazards helps us prepare for and respond to them.
While humans cannot eliminate natural hazards, they can take steps to reduce their impacts. For example, loss of life and economic costs have been greatly reduced by improving construction, developing warning systems, identifying and avoiding high-risk locations, and increasing community preparedness and response capability.
Some natural hazards are preceded by geological activities that allow for reliable predictions; others occur suddenly, with no notice, and are not yet predictable. By tracking the upward movement of magma, for example, volcanic eruptions can often be predicted with enough advance warning to allow neighboring regions to be evacuated. Earthquakes, in contrast, occur suddenly; the specific time, day, or year cannot be predicted. However, the history of earthquakes in a region and the mapping of fault lines can help forecast the likelihood of future events. Finally, satellite monitoring of weather patterns, along with measurements from land, sea, and air, usually can identify developing severe weather and lead to its reliable forecast.
Natural hazards and other geological events have shaped the course of human history, sometimes significantly altering the size of human populations or driving human migrations. Natural hazards can be local, regional, or global in origin, and even local events can have distant impacts because of the interconnectedness of human societies and Earth’s systems. Human activities can contribute to the frequency and intensity of some natural hazards (e.g., flooding, forest fires), and risks from natural hazards increase as populations—and population densities—increase in vulnerable locations.
Grade Band Endpoints for
By the end of grade 2. Some kinds of severe weather are more likely than others in a given region. Weather scientists forecast severe weather so that communities can prepare for and respond to these events.
By the end of grade 5. A variety of hazards result from natural processes (e.g., earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, severe weather, floods, coastal erosion). Humans cannot eliminate natural hazards but can take steps to reduce their impacts.
By the end of grade 8. Some natural hazards, such as volcanic eruptions and severe weather, are preceded by phenomena that allow for reliable predictions. Others, such as earthquakes, occur suddenly and with no notice, and thus they are not yet predictable. However, mapping the history of natural hazards in a region, combined with an understanding of related geological forces can help forecast the locations and likelihoods of future events.
By the end of grade 12. Natural hazards and other geological events have shaped the course of human history by destroying buildings and cities, eroding land, changing the course of rivers, and reducing the amount of arable land. These events have significantly altered the sizes of human populations and have driven human migrations. Natural hazards can be local, regional, or global in origin, and their risks increase as populations grow. Human activities can contribute to the frequency and intensity of some natural hazards.