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

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taylorash eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To understand this, we must first provide definitions for "disaster" and "hazard" in order to differentiate between the two. According to Merriam-Webster, there are a few definitions each for disaster and hazard; however, we will use the definitions that relate to our discussion. Disaster is “a sudden calamitous event bringing great damage, loss, or destruction,” whereas hazard is “a source of danger.” 

A natural hazard would be a theoretical natural source of danger—something that has the potential to cause harm. A natural disaster, by contrast, would be the result of a natural hazard, should that hazard wreak havoc and destruction on land, communities, resources, etc. For example, Hurricane Harvey was a natural hazard that became a natural disaster once it made landfall and wreaked destruction. 

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