Natural Hazards & Climate Change Risks

Sarah Fortner, Wittenberg University
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Students characterize how climate change impacts natural hazards and pose research-based solutions to the county Emergency Management Agency. Presentations require the use of local data, created figures, and reliable sources. This activity builds from an assignment which has students identify and describe projected local climate trends using the USGS National Climate Change Viewer followed by Unit 1 and 2 of the Map Your Hazards InTeGrate Module.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications

Learning Goals

Content/concepts goals

  • Natural Hazards
  • Climate Change
  • Mitigation/Solutions
  • Map Reading/Creation

Higher order thinking skills goals

  • Describing how our use and management of earth resources are directly tied to responses in all spheres of sustainability (environmental, societal, economic)
  • Analyzing locally-relevant data essential to addressing sustainability challenges
  • Communicating scientific information with an awareness of audience and understanding of sources

Other skills goals

  • Oral Presentation
  • Small Group Work

Context for Use

Type and level of course
Undergraduate introductory non-majors course (~20-30 students); this was piloted in a freshmen only section in 2015

Skills and concepts students should have mastered
Before completing this activity student should be able to describe county-level climate trends from figures generated using the National Climate Change Viewer. They should be able to describe units, amount of change, and percentage of change (indicating that they are very likely to be able to successfully describe trends to the Emergency Management Agency). Students also should know the distinction between a natural hazard and risk as well as how to create maps using reliable data. This confidence is built through Unit 1 and 2 of the InTeGrate Module Map Your Hazards. They must also be given time to explore figures and identify which natural hazards are responding to climate change (e.g. floods) and which are not (e.g. earthquakes). Choosing locally relevant examples is helpful.

How the activity is situated in the course
This activity is completed after a sequence of exercises that provide time to master skills and concepts mentioned above. Students are given in-class time to work on this project.

Description and Teaching Materials

Teaching Notes and Tips

The county EMA Director was excited to have my students visit the Emergency Management Agency (EMA) and learn how risk decision making occurs. It was quite eye-opening for them to see the office & realize the complexity of ranking the risks associated with natural and human created hazards. Also, the EMA doesn't always consider climate change when they evaluate risk & this discussion was truly valued. Future presentation efforts might focus on field testing sites of greatest concern &/or improve scaffolding to support the solutions that students pose to the EMA office. This might become important as the activity is continued in future years to add value to the EMA office. Following student presentations, the director was very excited to visit class and offered to continue in a lasting partnership. After this activity, students reflected on their experience in exit question and several were excited that the EMA Director took notes for her own use. In the future, I will deepen the reflection with questions on the relevance of climate change to professionals and to them personally.


The students are provided with a rubric that is used to evaluate their work. The rubric aligns with activity learning goals. Before they submit their final presentation, they individually must also evaluate the contributions of other individuals on their team.

References and Resources

Map Your Hazards
This InTeGrate Module that provides students with skills needed to map natural hazards and associated risks.

The National Climate Change Viewer
The USGS tool provides county-level (and small watershed) climate & hydrologic change forecasts for multiple climate variables. This is a great tool for climate exploration at the management scale.

Natural Hazards & Climate Change Risks -- Discussion  

The National Climate Change Viewer link does not work (Not Found
The requested URL "/climate_landuse/clu_rd/nccv.asp" was not found on this server.)


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This post was edited by Monica Bruckner on Jul, 2020
Originally Posted by Karen Engates

The National Climate Change Viewer link does not work (Not Found
The requested URL "/climate_landuse/clu_rd/nccv.asp" was not found on this server.)

Thank you for the heads up. You can find it here:

I'll update the link in the activity sheet.


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