Earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, floods, drought, cyclones and other natural hazards have significant potential to affect human lives and society. The foundation of hazard mitigation is basic research in geophysical, oceanographic, atmospheric and environmental sciences. Our global research characterizes natural hazards, reviews historical vulnerability, calculates risk and examines the direct and indirect impacts of natural disasters on human society, especially its most vulnerable populations. Such information can inform a range of disaster prevention and preparedness measures, including prioritization of resources, targeting of more localized and detailed risk assessments, implementation of risk-based disaster management and emergency response strategies, development of long-term land-use plans and multihazard risk management strategies, and the promotion of risk-conscious sustainable development. As a cross-cutting initiative of The Earth Institute at Columbia, the Center for Hazards and Risk Research (CHRR) focus on natural hazards links to the overall Earth Institute theme of improving human well-being with rational, evidence-based development policies.