A natural disaster is the highly harmful impact on a society or community following a natural hazard event. Some examples of natural hazard events include: flooding, drought, earthquake, tropical cyclone, lightning, tsunami, volcanic activity, wildfire. A natural disaster can cause loss of life or damage property, and typically leaves economic damage in its wake. The severity of the damage depends on the affected population's resilience and on the infrastructure available. Scholars have been saying that the term natural disaster is unsuitable and should be abandoned. Instead, the simpler term disaster could be used, while also specifying the category (or type) of hazard. A disaster is a result of a natural or human-made hazard impacting a vulnerable community. It is the combination of the hazard along with exposure of a vulnerable society that results in a disaster.
In modern times, the divide between natural, human-made and human-accelerated disasters is quite difficult to draw. Human choices and activities like architecture, fire, resource management and climate change potentially play a role in causing natural disasters. In fact, the term natural disaster has been called a misnomer already in 1976.
Natural disasters can be aggravated by inadequate building norms, marginalization of people, inequities, overexploitation of resources, extreme urban sprawl and climate change. The rapid growth of the world's population and its increased concentration often in hazardous environments has escalated both the frequency and severity of disasters. Extreme climates (such as those in the Tropics) and unstable landforms, coupled with deforestation, unplanned growth proliferation and non-engineered constructions create more vulnerable interfaces of populated areas with disaster-prone natural spaces. Developing countries which suffer from chronic natural disasters, often have ineffective communication systems combined with insufficient support for disaster prevention and management.
An adverse event will not rise to the level of a disaster if it occurs in an area without a vulnerable population. Once a vulnerable population has experienced a disaster, the community can take many years to repair and that repair period can lead to further vulnerability. The disastrous consequences of natural disaster also affect the mental health of affected communities, often leading to post-traumatic symptoms. These increased emotional experiences can be supported through collective processing, leading to resilience and increased community engagement.