The challenge

Environmental hazards directly affect people, businesses and wildlife. The dependence of society on agricultural production, energy supply, chemical use and transport and communication infrastructures, highlights the need for increased resilience to environmental hazards as a high priority.

Hazards include floods, droughts, emerging diseases and invasive species, and pollution of soil, water and air. Scientific data are crucial for characterising natural and anthropogenic hazards. This forms the objective evidence-base needed to assess the threats posed and how they can be mitigated. The severity of impacts from environmental hazards depends on the hazards themselves and also on exposure and vulnerability.

Quantifying the current and likely future risks from environmental hazards is an urgent and significant need. A greater challenge is understanding how hazards interact with one another and other key environmental components, such as land-use, climate change and the growing human population.

By assessing the risk of natural environmental hazards, and those caused by humankind, we will be better able to predict and develop strategies to address the threats they pose to society, the economy and our environment. CEH has long-standing expertise in working with a variety of environmental hazards within the UK and internationally. 

Example projects

  • A new surface water flood risk forecasting system has been developed by the Scottish Flood Forecasting Service, working with CEH, Deltares and James Hutton Institute. It provides the UK’s first operational surface water flood risk forecast with a 24-hour lead time.
  • CEH modelled the risk in rivers from cytotoxic chemotherapy drugs, the pharmaceutical estrogens E2, EE2, and the painkiller diclofenac at a European spatial scale.
  • An ammonia guidance document, Options for Ammonia Mitigation was produced by the Task Force on Reactive Nitrogen in 2014 and subsequently adopted by the Executive Body of the Convention on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution of the UNECE.  The Task Force is led by CEH, who provide the co-chair and secretariat. This new document represents the culmination of a major effort to synthesize and update available knowledge on the control of ammonia emissions from agriculture to the atmosphere.
  • Horizon scanning for threats posed by invasive species to British biodiversity.