Mosquito Photo: iStockNatural hazards have been identified by the National Security Review as among the most significant risks to the UK in terms of economic, social and environmental consequences. Natural hazards are increasingly a concern for humanity, as the rate of impact of natural disasters rises because of increased societal vulnerability, caused by trends in climate, population growth, urbanisation and land-use.

The over-arching science challenge is to increase understanding of the nature of threats from natural hazards, to improve our predictions and forecasts of the onset, frequency, magnitude and duration of such events. The knowledge and methodologies developed will allow us to better mitigate the impacts on people and the environment, thus improving our management of natural hazards.

Science to improve the prediction and understanding of the threats and impacts posed by natural hazards and development of management and resilience strategies.

Our research

Natural Hazards Science Area Summary front cover

CEH plays a vital role in understanding the nature and threats that natural hazards pose by developing the underpinning science to understand and reduce their damaging impacts, and to support the implementation of mitigation strategies. The prediction of hydro-meteorological, biological and air quality hazards will facilitate the design of management systems and improve societal resilience to extreme events. The hazards include floods and droughts, threats from parasites, pathogens and invasive non-native species and threats from natural air pollution incidents.

This involves monitoring and modelling in the following core areas:

  • the development of physical and statistical models to better quantify the current and future risks from extreme rainfall and floods at multiple temporal and spatial scales.
  • improved understanding of the processes driving the onset, development and termination of droughts and their impacts, leading to a drought monitoring and prediction system.
  • enhancing development of modelling tools and techniques to forecast flows from days to years to decades ahead, including realtime and seasonal flood forecasting and the detection of impacts of environmental change.
  • understanding the threat posed by pathogens by investigating the role they play in the equilibrium of ecosystems, and the extent to which they are regulated by native biodiversity.
  • improved understanding of the threat posed by invasive non-native species to further inform management through prediction, prevention, early detection and rapid response.
  • improved understanding of the threat and the UK preparedness to future natural air quality incidents, for example volcanic eruptions.
  • advancing more generic aspects of natural hazards such as: understanding interdependence of hazards; characterizing and communicating uncertainty; and enhancing integrated risk assessments.

Future research objectives

Improve predictions and forecasting of the onset, frequency and magnitude of natural hazards

By 2019, we will:

  • provide a tool for forecasting surface water flooding for operational use, and further develop the hydrological tools underpinning operational fluvial flood forecasting systems.
  • deliver new systems to predict the arrival of invasive non-native species with particular focus on their pathways of arrival, spread and associated disease pathogens.
  • have developed a drought monitoring and prediction system to estimate the frequency, magnitude, character and impacts of drought.

Improve understanding of the threats to people and the environment from natural hazards

By 2019, we will:

  • make available a new web system to deliver key hydrological variables required by the FEH methods of flood risk estimation, used widely throughout the UK.
  • publish an approach to horizon scanning for invasive non-native species.
  • provide tools and techniques for improved seasonal forecasting of river flows, groundwater recharge and soil moisture at a range of temporal spatial scales.

Photo: iStockHow can we mitigate the impacts and improve our management of natural hazards?

By 2019, we will:

  • have developed tools and knowledge to support flood and drought management policy under long-term environmental, including climate, change.
  • make available tools and guidance on predicting the impact on human populations and ecosystems of terrestrial and aquatic pathogens.
  • provide web-based tools for seasonal forecasting of river flows for operational use to support flood and drought management in the UK and overseas.
  • supply predictions of the arrival and spread of invasive non-native species underpinned by rigorous risk assessment methods and used effectively within systems for prevention and early warning.


Natural Hazards research in CEH is built on both our own expertise and that of our partners. Our key customers are Government departments (Cabinet Office, Defra, DECC), the EU, and regulatory and operational bodies such as the Environment Agency, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Met Office, and Natural Resources Wales. We will continue to work in partnership to deliver data and tools to support flood and drought risk management and through the Natural Hazards Partnership with Public Health England, Health and Safety Laboratory, Ordnance Survey, BGS and others.

New countrywide Flood Forecasting Systems based on CEH’s Grid-to-Grid Model have been implemented across Britain through collaboration with the Environment AgencyScottish Environment Protection Agency, Met Office and Deltares.

CEH developed and maintains the earlywarning and surveillance system for invasive non-native species within GB. This component of the GB Non-Native Species Information Portal is underpinned by horizon-scanning, which is also led by CEH in collaboration with the Marine Biological Association, British Trust for Ornithology, Botanical Society of the British Isles and others. This work is funded by Defra and in partnership with the Non-Native Species Secretariat.

Contact us

For general enquiries, please see our Contacts page.

Science Area Lead

Business Development Manager

Science Coordinator

Nick Reynard

Nick Reynard

David Fraser

Dr David Fraser of CEH

Anita Jobson

Anita Petrie

Tel: +44 (0)1491 838800
Tel: +44 (0)1491 838800
Tel: +44 (0) 1491 838800


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