Rockfall. © Robert Supper

The human population is always exposed to the danger of natural hazards. This includes flooding due to extreme precipitation and poor infiltration, storms which sweep across the country and damage unprotected buildings, power grids and crops, or avalanches that bury entire villages. This list of catastrophes only includes those of meteorological origin. While large amounts of precipitation can also lead to land slides, low temperatures can cause freeze-thaw in cracks which in turn causes rock fragments to break off and thus raises the risk of rock falls. On a large scale, this can lead to big rock masses falling down into valleys or lakes. Slope instabilities count as one of the most prevalent natural hazards to populations in alpine regions. Furthermore, there is the danger of earthquakes, which can cause human casualties and considerable damage to infrastructure.

The effect of natural hazards abroad can also have indirect consequences in Austria, e.g. tsunamis in tourist regions or volcanoes which impede air traffic. Geophysics deals with these land-borne natural hazards. By estimating the hazard susceptibility in places, industries can design their buildings, machines and transport routes in a safe way.