What is the difference between a natural hazard and a natural disaster?

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The difference between a natural hazard and a natural disaster is that one of them is a potential threat while the other is what happens when the threat actually happens. 

You can think of natural hazards as things that could go wrong in a given place.  In Japan and the...

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The difference between a natural hazard and a natural disaster is that one of them is a potential threat while the other is what happens when the threat actually happens. 

You can think of natural hazards as things that could go wrong in a given place.  In Japan and the Philippines, typhoons are a natural hazard.  In Japan and California, earthquakes are a natural hazard.  In the state of Washington, as well as in places like the Philippines and Indonesia, volcanoes are a natural hazard.  These are things that can occur in nature which would be harmful to human beings and the things they own.

While all of these are things that can occur, natural disasters are what happens when one of these does occur.  When a typhoon that hits the Philippines causes property damage and kills people through flooding, it is a natural disaster.  When the 1905 earthquake hit San Francisco or the Tohoku Earthquake of 2011 happens, it is a natural disaster.  When Mt. St. Helens or Mt. Pinatubo erupts, it is a natural disaster.  These are all things that were no longer just threats.  When they were threats, they were natural hazards.  When they occurred, causing  monetary losses and losses of human life, they were natural disasters.

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