Natural hazards: Understanding risks and safeguarding the human habitat

Earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, floods, and other natural hazards, develop fast, cannot be reliably predicted and may develop into disasters. We aim to better understand and quantify extreme events and their impacts, to support risk analyses and disaster risk reduction. We develop and test models and their uncertainties and develop early warning systems.

Risk results from the superposition (convolution) of hazard and vulnerability. In simplified terms, hazard can be described by the intensity and probability of extreme events, and vulnerability by the exposure and susceptibility of the socio-economic system (social conditions, economy, built environment, etc.) affected by extremes. We aim at understanding the process interactions that may lead to extremes, developing methods for quantifying hazards and risks in a changing environment, and developing technologies for early warning and the provision of fast information immediately before, during or after disasters.

We focus on earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, floods, and related hazards, such as landslides and induced seismicity. An important part of our research is devoted to interactions between different hazards, such as earthquake-triggered landslides. Our research is mainly conducted in Germany and the programme’s observatories in Chile, Turkey and the eastern Mediterranean, Central Asia and in the Indian Ocean region. In most of these regions, several hazards are investigated in parallel, fostering cooperation beyond disciplinary and organisational borders.

  • What are the critical process interactions that lead to extreme events?
  • How can changes in hazard and risk be quantified and integrated into risk assessment?
  • How can we use technology to improve early warning and provide rapid information immediately before, during and after disasters?
  • What are the limits of predictability and how can models be rigorously tested?


Torsten Dahm
Prof. Dr. Torsten Dahm
Physics of Earthquakes and Volcanoes
Helmholtzstraße 6/7
Building H 7, Room 201
14467 Potsdam
+49 331 288-1200


Heidi Kreibich
Group Leader
Priv. Doz. Dr. Heidi Kreibich
Building C 4, Room 2.33
14473 Potsdam
+49 331 288-1550