Extreme geohazards are the cause of major disasters. Most of the lives and property lost to disasters caused by geohazards are lost during extreme events. Although extreme geohazards are infrequent and restricted to certain geographical regions, their potential impact is huge and of global scale. For example, the 1755 Lisbon earthquake had a profound impact on European philosphy, culture and art (see e.g., the many pieces of art in the Jan Kozak Collection). The global and long-lasting societal and economic impacts of the 2004 Sumatra and 2011 Japan earthquakes and associated tsunamis illustrate the scale of disasters caused by extreme geohazards, and they reminded us of the challenge of these extreme events for disaster risk management. At the same time, the recent major geohazards with global impacts are dwarfed by the largest geohazards that occurred during the last few millenniums. The potential impact on our civilization of any such rare event tends to be ignored in our planning of land use and infrastructure. Understanding the full spectrum of extreme geohazards is a prerequisite for disaster risk management and increased global resilience to these events. Reducing the disasters induced by the occurrence of extreme hazards at an acceptable economic cost requires a solid scientific understanding of the hazards. The recent disasters revealed gaps in the knowledge available for policy and decision making. It is therefore timely to review our understanding of extreme geohazards and to relate this knowledge to the full risk management cycle.
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