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Earthquakes occur most commonly at fault zones. This is where great sheets of rock, or tectonic plates, collide or slide against each other. Earthquakes cannot be detected. The majority of lives lost are due to collapsing buildings.


Floods occur most commonly when rivers or streams overflow, usually due to excess rain, a ruptured dam or levee or, in the mountains, rapid ice melting. The U.S. has methods of detecting and predicting floods, but they still kill about 140 people and cause about $6 billion worth of damage per year, according to National Geographic.


Hurricanes are tropical storms that contact warm ocean waters to gather heat and energy; seawater evaporation increases their power. Tropical storms become hurricanes when they reach 74 miles per hour. The National Weather Service can track and predict hurricanes, but little can be done to stop the damage caused by resulting storm surges, tornadoes and flooding.

Landslides and Mudslides


Landslides can be activated by a host of natural disasters, including flooding, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. They occur when masses of rock, earth or debris move down a slope. Mudslides, or debris flow, are a type of landslide that occurs in a channel. These natural disasters cause 50 to 75 deaths per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They can be predicted with some accuracy based on other natural disasters that are occurring.


Twisters are born in thunderstorms, often accompanied by hail, and lead to tornadoes with winds up to 250 mph when changes in wind speed and direction occur within a storm cell. National Geographic reports that tornadoes cause 80 deaths and over 1,500 injuries every year in the U.S. Tornado forecasters can provide tornado warnings 13 minutes before they hit (on average).


Tsunamis are a series of ocean waves that send devastating surges of water to land. They usually occur when large, underwater earthquakes displace the water above the ocean floor, creating rolling waves. Seismic equipment and water level gauges allow the Pacific Tsunami Warning System to identify tsunamis at sea.


Volcanoes are essentially vents on the earth's surface. The planet's interior emits molten rock, debris and gases from these vents; when magma and gas builds up, the resulting eruptions can be explosive. According to National Geographic, an estimated 260,000 people or more have died in the past 300 years as a consequence of volcanic eruptions and the resulting aftermath. When a volcano is considered active, the warning signs before the eruption are the only way of predicting the possible explosion.


Wildfires occur when the fire triangle, fuel, oxygen and a heat source are present and strong enough to start the fire. A heat source sparks the fire and can originate from burning campfires, cigarettes, lightning or even the sun. Air supplies the oxygen, and fuel is anything flammable surrounding the flame. Four to five million acres of land are consumed by wildfires each year, according to National Geographic. Though they cannot be predicted, warnings can be sent out when the land is particularly dry and susceptible to fire