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Climatic Hazards

Climatic Hazards

When you hear the term climate hazard, what do you think of? Perhaps you remember the hazard lights turned on of your parent's car during the last heavy rainfall event in your city - which could be somewhat related...maybe? However, when geographers hear about climate hazards, they think about something entirely different. Let's read on to discover a bit more about this sub-set of natural hazards.

Climatic hazards definition

Climatic or climate hazards are one type of natural hazard which affect society.

Climatic hazards are weather-related, hydrometeorological events which can cause harm to humans, property, livelihoods, resources, and the environment. Climatic hazards are also sometimes called extreme weather events.

Climate hazards are the media through which climate-related disasters occur. In other words, they trigger climate-related disasters. In the first decade of the 21st century, it was estimated that climatic hazards were responsible for 75% of all global disasters.

It is essential for you to understand the difference between a hazard and a disaster.

A hazard is a situation or event that can cause adverse effects.

On the other hand, in geography, a disaster refers to what has happened due to a hazard. Hazards are usually sudden and disrupt regular life in the area they impact.

NB: Not all hazards result in disasters!!!

Causes of climate hazards

Changes in atmospheric or oceanic circulation cause climate hazards. They are also caused by significant alterations to ecosystems and also human activities. Nowadays, climate change also plays a significant role in creating climate hazards.

Climate change must not be confused with climate hazards. Climate change refers to long-term changes in the earth's climate and weather patterns due to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide due to human activities.

Types of climate hazards

There are four types of climate hazards about which you will learn. They are:

  1. Tornadoes
  2. Droughts
  3. Tropical storms
  4. Flooding

Let's examine each of these extreme weather events in more detail.

Tornadoes

Tornadoes are probably the most violent type of storm. They are vertical funnels of rapidly spinning air which extend from a thunderstorm in the sky to the ground. Tornadoes are formed by powerful updraughts and are often associated with hurricanes. They follow a relatively narrow path up to 50 miles/80 km in length. With winds of up to 250 mph/402 km/h, they destroy everything in their way.

Climate hazards example of a tornado StudySmarterFig. 1 Tornado in the US

Droughts

Drought hazards are prolonged periods of abnormally low or no rainfall compared to the average rainfall levels in an area. Droughts can last anywhere between a few weeks to years. The figure below shows how severe droughts can be.

Climate hazards severity of droughts StudySmarterFig. 2 The severity of the drought in California, US, from 2000-2020

There are three types of droughts:

  1. Meteorological drought: The amount of the deficit in rainfall and the length of time over which this deficit occurs.
  2. Hydrological drought: The effect of lower rainfall levels on the surface and sub-surface water supplies, such as reservoir and groundwater levels.
  3. Agricultural drought: When meteorological and hydrological drought affects agricultural activities due to lower soil moisture levels.

Tropical storms

Tropical storms, also known as typhoons, hurricanes, and cyclones, are areas of significantly low pressure that develop over warm oceanic areas. They form when the air over the warm ocean becomes warm and rises, creating a zone with extremely low pressure. When the rising air reaches very high altitudes, it begins to spin around the low-pressure central area, creating a storm. The central low-pressure area is known as the eye of the storm. To find out more information, read our tropical storms explanation.

Climate hazards eyes of tropical storms StudySmarterFig. 3 The eyes of a tropical storm

Climate change is expected to increase the intensity and frequency of tropical storms.

Flooding

A flood is when excess water covers normally dry land. There are two types of flooding about which you should know:

  1. River flooding: occurs when rivers overflow their banks, and the excess water flows onto the land surrounding the river channel. It is caused by increased precipitation in the river's drainage basin.
  2. Coastal flooding: occurs when areas of typically dry land along the coast are inundated with seawater. This is a result of tsunamis or higher than average tides. During tropical storms, coastal flooding is caused by storm surges.
Climate hazards Figure 4 river flooding StudySmarterFig.4 River flooding in Little Rock, Arkansas, US, in May 2019

Climatic hazards geography

Let's look at the areas in which these climate-related hazards occur.

Tornadoes

Tornadoes are extreme weather events that occur in many parts of the world, including Australia, Europe, Africa, Asia, South America and New Zealand. The United States, Argentina and Bangladesh have the highest annual incidents of tornadoes.

Fun Fact:

"Tornado Alley" is the nickname given to an area in the US with a very high occurrence of tornadoes. Broadly speaking, the area is located in North Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota.

Climate hazards tornado alley StudySmarterFig. 5 Location of Tornado Alley in the US

Droughts

While droughts can occur anywhere on earth, the countries with the highest drought risk are Moldova and Ukraine. Other areas with medium to high risk of droughts are the Middle East, North Africa, Asia and other parts of Europe.

Tropical storms

Generally, tropical storms occur between 5-20o north and south of the equator, where the sea temperatures are above 27oC. The highest number of tropical storms occur in the North Pacific Ocean.

Climate hazards tropical storm tracks worldwide StudySmarterDistribution of tropical storm tracks across the globe

Flooding

Flooding can occur everywhere in the world where there are rivers that could potentially overflow their banks. Flooding can also be prevalent in coastal areas and areas vulnerable to tropical storms.

Climatic hazards problems

Climate hazards can have many adverse effects on the areas they impact. Some effects are highlighted below:

  1. Tornadoes: Because tornadoes are so violent, they destroy everything in their path, including buildings and agricultural crops. Tornadoes can lead to loss of life.
  2. Droughts: When droughts occur, especially over long periods, they can dry up water supplies. This will eventually lead to reduced agricultural production, which in turn can cause famine and malnutrition in populations. Many people also face both internal and external displacement.
  3. Tropical Storms: Much like flooding, tropical storms result in the damage or destruction of property. Tropical storms can also result in the loss of life and, depending on the damage's extent, can lead to a lack of potable water, destruction of crops and food security issues.
  4. Flooding: Flooding results in damage or destruction to property. It can also reduce access to potable water and destroy crops. People also die in floods. If floodwaters take an extended time to recede, the standing water can increase the spread of diseases.

Climate change is expected to exacerbate the impacts of extreme weather events.

Examples of climatic hazards

Let's look at some examples of each of the climatic hazards about which you just learnt.

Tornadoes

The US's largest and most expensive tornado outbreak occurred from 25-28 April 2011. During this period, almost 350 tornadoes developed across various states in the US, from Texas in the south to New York in the north. This outbreak caused an estimated USD $12 billion in damages.

Climate Hazards Damage in Coaling, Alabama as a result of  the April 2011 tornado outbreak StudySmarterFig. 7 Damage in Coaling, Alabama, US, as a result of the April 2011 tornado outbreak

Droughts

Somalia has experienced three major drought crises between 2011 - 2022.

  • 2011/2012 - 3.7 million persons experienced crisis-level food insecurity, and 260,000 people died as a result. Many were also displaced and moved to neighbouring countries.
  • 2016/2017 - 2.9 million people experienced crisis to emergency-level food insecurity.
  • 2021/2022 - 4.6 million people are experiencing crisis- to emergency-level food insecurity. This is Somalia's worst drought in 40 years.

Climate hazards drought displaced persons StudySmarterFig. 8 People displaced by the 2011/2012 drought in Somalia are waiting to be registered at a refugee camp in Ethiopia

Tropical Storms

Hurricane Katrina is the costliest storm in US history. It caused extensive damage across Mississippi and Louisiana in the southern United States. The worst damage occurred in New Orleans, where 80% of the city was left underwater in its wake. Katrina caused over 1800 deaths and USD $160 billion in damages. Read our Hurricane Katrina Case Study explanation to learn more about this storm.

Flooding

In 2007, the UK experienced the Hull floods, where over 9,000 homes and businesses were destroyed. The flood affected 35,000 persons and caused £41 million/ USD $49.5 million in damages. One person also lost his life due to the flood.

Climate hazards figure 9 flooding Kingston upon Hull StudySmarterFig. 9 Flooding in Kingston upon Hull, UK, June 2007

Climatic Hazards - Key takeaways

  • Climate hazards are one category of natural hazards which can impact society.
  • Climate hazards are caused by both natural and human-related factors.
  • Tornadoes, drought, tropical storms, and flooding are four types of climate hazards.
  • Climate hazards can have significant negative impacts and cause many problems in the areas where they occur.

References

  1. Fig. 1 Tornado in the US (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Twister_5_-_panoramio.jpg) by Justinetime66451 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Panoramio_upload_bot) Licensed by CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en)
  2. Fig. 2 The severity of droughts in California 2000-2020 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Drought_area_in_California.svg) by Phoenix7777 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Phoenix7777) Licensed by CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en)
  3. Fig. 3 The eyes of tropical storms (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tropical_Cyclone_Eye_collection.png) by Earth100 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Earth100) Licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)
  4. Fig. 4 River flooding in Little Rock, Arkansas in May 2019 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Arkansas_River_Flooding_at_North_Little_Rock_May_2019.jpg) by Aviciousunicycle (https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=User:Aviciousunicycle&action=edit&redlink=1) Licensed by CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en
  5. Fig. 5 Location of 'Tornado Alley' in the US (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tornado_Alley_Diagram.svg) by Dan Craggs (AtomCrusher) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:AtomCrusher) Licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)
  6. Fig. 7 Damage in Coaling, Alabama, US from the April 2011 Tornado outbreak (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Coaling,_Alabama_Tornado_Damage_April_27,_2011.jpg) by JohnRatliff (https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=User:Jhratliff&action=edit&redlink=1) Licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)
  7. Fig. 8 People displaced by the 2011/2012 drought in Somalia waiting to be registered at a refugee camp in Ethiopia (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Queuing_for_registration_in_the_heat_of_the_sun_(5977577531).jpg) by Cate Turton/DFID - UK Department for International Development (https://www.flickr.com/people/14214150@N02) Licensed by CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en)
  8. Fig 9 Flooding in Kingston upon Hull, June 2007 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Floods_in_Hull_-25June2007.jpg) by walnut whippet (https://www.flickr.com/photos/88096506@N00) Licensed by CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en)

Frequently Asked Questions about Climatic Hazards

Climatic hazards are weather-related events that have the potential to cause harm to the areas in which they occur.

Climate hazards are caused by changes in the circulation of the atmosphere or the ocean and significant changes to ecosystems and human activities.

A tropical storm is an example of a climatic natural hazard.

Climatic hazards can cause loss of and damage to property, loss of life, impact on food security and the displacement of people.

Climate change is the long-term alteration of the earth's climate and weather as a result of an increase in the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. A hazard, on the other hand, is a natural event that could potentially negatively impact society.

Final Climatic Hazards Quiz

Question

Where did Hurricane Katrina develop?

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Answer

Near Jamaica

Show question

Question

What category storm was Hurricane Katrina when it hit Florida?

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Answer

Category 1

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Question

TRUE or FALSE: Hurricane Katrina caused tornadoes in Alabama, Georgia and Florida.

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Answer

True

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Question

What is a storm surge?

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Answer

A storm surge is a temporary rise in water above normal sea level as a result of a storm.

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Question

Which states were affected by Hurricane Katrina?

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Answer

Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi

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Question

Which states experienced the greatest impacts from Hurricane Katrina?

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Answer

Louisiana and Georgia

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Question

What category storm was Hurricane Katrina when it made landfall in Mississippi?

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Answer

Category 1

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Question

Which city received the greatest impact from Hurricane Katrina?

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Answer

Miami, Florida

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Question

What was the total death toll for Hurricane Katrina?

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Answer

1833

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Question

Which state had the highest number of deaths from Hurricane Katrina?

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Answer

Alabama

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Question

What was the estimated total overall damage caused by Hurricane Katrina?

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Answer

USD $70 billion

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Question

TRUE or FALSE: New Orleans flooded because the levees protecting the city could not withstand the additional pressure caused by the 8-10 inches of rainfall and the 22ft storm surge. Therefore, they failed, causing flood water to flow into the city.

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Answer

True

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Question

How many people evacuated from New Orleans the day before Hurricane Katrina hit the city?

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Answer

1.2 million

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Question

TRUE or FALSE: Relief efforts were coordinated only by NGOs and international countries in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

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Answer

True

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Question

How much money in aid was mobilized and deployed by the US federal government in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina?

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Answer

USD $62.3 billion

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Question

True or false: parts of Somerset Levels are below sea level

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Answer

True, Somerset Levels are very low-lying and some places are even below sea level.

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Question

Why are wetlands important?

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Answer

They help prevent and mitigate flooding, as well as provide habitats for plants and animals.

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Question

What are the sources of flooding in Somerset Levels?

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Answer

From the sea as well as rain.

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What role do the canals or ryhnes play in Somerset Levels?

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Answer

They help to divert water away from farms and villages.

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Question

What do Internal Drainage Boards (IDB) do?

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Answer

They manage the rhynes to make sure the water levels are maintained and can safely drain water.

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Question

What was the immediate cause of the 2014 Somerset floods?

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Answer

A massive storm system resulting in heavy rainfall and increased ocean water levels.

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Question

What are some systemic causes of flooding in Somerset Levels?

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Answer

The conversion of wetland to agricultural land has made the risk of flooding worse.

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Question

Why do agricultural lands make flooding worse?

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Answer

The type of ground used in farmland does not absorb water well, making the land at more risk of holding the water and flooding.

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Question

How many homes were flooded in the 2014 Somerset floods?

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Answer

Over 600.

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Question

Which of the following were actions taken in response to the 2014 Somerset floods?

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Answer

Pumps were brought in to remove water

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Question

Cyclone Nargis formed in the _____.

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Answer

Bay of Bengal

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Question

Cyclone Nargis initially tracked towards the _____, then turned and began to track towards the _____.

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Answer

North-west

North-east

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Question

True or False:

Cyclone Nargis made landfall in Myanmar as a category 1 storm.

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Answer

True

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Question

Cyclone Nargis hit the _____ Delta and affected _____ townships.

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Answer

Irrawaddy

50

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Question

True or False:

Cyclone Nargis' storm surge affected areas up to 40 km/25 miles inland.

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Answer

True

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Question

The impacts of Cyclone Nargis were exacerbated by high levels of environmental destruction, such as: 

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Answer

Deforestation of mangroves

Over-exploitation of natural resources

Soil erosion

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Question

What was the total value of the damages caused by Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar?

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Answer

USD $18 billion

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Question

How many hectares of mangroves and other trees did Cyclone Nargis destroy? 

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Answer

42,000

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Question

Approximately how many people were significantly affected by Cyclone Nargis?

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Answer

3 million

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Question

How many people were estimated to have died in Myanmar due to Cyclone Nargis?

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Answer

140,000

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Question

True or False:

The government of Myanmar immediately allowed access to international aid after Cyclone Nargis.

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Answer

True

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Question

Name two organisations that provided aid to Myanmar in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis.

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Answer

World Food Programme (WFP)

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

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Question

What is the difference between a hazard and a disaster?

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Answer

A hazard is an event which has the potential to cause harm while a disaster in the impact that the hazard has had, which can cause the disruption to regular life.

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Question

Climate hazards are _____ -related.

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Answer

Tectonic

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Question

Climate hazards are caused by:

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Answer

Changes in oceanic circulation

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Question

Which climate hazard is the most violent type of storm?

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Answer

Tornadoes

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Question

Tornadoes are _____ funnels of spinning air.

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Answer

Square-shaped

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Question

True or False:

Droughts are short periods of low or no rainfall.

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Answer

True

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Question

True or False:

Droughts can last for years at a time.

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Answer

True 

Show question

Question

What are the three types of drought about which you learnt?

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Answer

Meteorological drought

Hydrological drought

Agricultural drought

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Question

The centre of a tropical storm is called:

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Answer

The eye

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Question

Select the statement that is true about tropical storms.

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Answer

Climate change will not affect the intensity of tropical storms.

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Question

What are the two types of flooding about which you learnt?

Show answer

Answer

River flooding

Coastal flooding

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Question

True or False:

Floods can increase the spread of diseases.

Show answer

Answer

Trues

Show question

Question

What was the cost of the damage caused by the 2007 Hull, UK flood?

Show answer

Answer

£41 million/ USD $49.5 million

Show question

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