Overview of California's Natural Hazards

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson is going to go over California's natural hazards. You'll learn about what they are, why they occur, what factors might increase their risk of occurrence, and some places where they may be more likely to happen.

Natural Hazards

Where do you live? What natural hazards are around you? Maybe it's a dormant volcano. Perhaps you live in tornado alley or an earthquake zone. Well, people who live in California have their own natural hazards to worry about as well. In this lesson, we're going to go over the major natural hazards found in this state.

Forest Fires

California is susceptible to numerous natural hazards. This state is home to many beautiful national parks, which are filled to the brim with amazing trees! The problem is, droughts can predispose to forest fires and lightning and human activity, like campfires, can start them. These fires can lead to the loss of many homes, animals, and even human lives. The risk of forest fires is particularly high all over the northern part of the state

A wildfire in California.
A wildfire in California.


California is also very well-known for its earthquakes. Why? That's because the state is located along fault lines, places where fragments of the Earth's crust slide along one another. These are difficult to predict and can thus lead to devastating damage.

These earthquakes can act as triggers for landslides, especially in mountainous terrain devoid of vegetation whose roots can help keep soil and rock in place. Earthquakes can also trigger liquefaction. This refers to a process whereby soil becomes saturated with water and thus acts like a liquid. This means the soil won't be able to supports structures like office buildings and homes!

California is most susceptible to earthquakes and its possible consequences in its middle and southern regions, especially towards the western portions of these areas.

Tsunamis & Floods

On the note of earthquakes. Underwater earthquakes near and far away from the California coast can trigger waves, called tsunamis, which can crash into the California coast. High risk tsunami areas are located all along the coast of the state, such as around the town of Eureka and near Long Beach.

Tsunamis can cause utter devastation as they flood the communities they crash into. However, California doesn't need tsunamis for floods to devastate the state. In fact floods also occur in California as bodies of water, such as rivers, swell with excess water and dump their waters into areas known as floodplains.

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