Overall risks from climate-related impacts are evaluated based on the interaction of climate-related hazards (including hazardous events and trends) with the vulnerability of communities (susceptibility to harm and lack of capacity to adapt), and exposure of human and natural systems. Changes in both the climate system and socioeconomic processes -including adaptation and mitigation actions- are drivers of hazards, exposure, and vulnerability (IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, 2014).

The most frequent natural hazards that impact Sri Lanka are droughts, floods, landslides, cyclones, and coastal erosion. A rise in extreme events and natural disasters as a result of climate change is expected to pose considerable threat to Sri Lanka’s economy and human health. 

This section provides a summary of key natural hazards and their associated socioeconomic impacts in a given country. It allows for a quick assessment of most vulnerable areas through the spatial comparison of natural hazard data with development data, thereby identifying exposed livelihoods and natural systems.

Natural Hazard Statistics

The charts provide overview of the most frequent natural disaster in a given country and understand the impacts of those disasters on human populations.


Climate change is now recognized to have a significant impact on disaster management efforts and pose a significant threat to the efforts to meet the growing needs of the most vulnerable populations. The demands of disaster risk management are such that concise, clear, and reliable information is crucial. The information presented here offers insight into the frequency, impact and occurrence of natural hazards.

Natural Hazard / Development Nexus

Understanding natural hazard occurrence as well as historical climate conditions, in relation to development contexts, is critical to understanding a country’s historical vulnerability. This tool allows the visualization of different natural hazards or historical climate conditions with socio-economic and development datasets. Select the Development Context and either a Natural Hazard or Climate Condition and overlay horizontally by sliding the toggle left or right to gain a broader sense of historically vulnerable areas.



Data presented under Historical Climate Conditions are reanalysis products derived from ERA5-Land data. ERA5-Land is a global land-surface dataset at 9 km resolution, consistent with atmospheric data from the ERA5 reanalysis from 1950 onward. Climate reanalyses combine past observations with models to generate consistent time series of multiple climate variables. They provide a comprehensive description of the observed climate as it has evolved during recent decades, on 3D grids at sub-daily intervals. 

This data has been collected, aggregated and processed by the Climate Resilience Cluster of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Earth Observation for Sustainable Development (EO4SD) initiative.

Key Vulnerabilities
  • Historical records from 1974-2004 indicate that flood and droughts are increasing.The southwest monsoons (May to September) cause severe flooding in the western and southwestern provinces; the northeast monsoons (December to February) cause flooding in the eastern, northern, and north-central provinces; a large part of the island is drought-prone from February to April. 
  • During the last two decades, the severity of landslides has increased in the highland regions through a combination of heavy rains, geological changes in the hill country, and deforestation. Landslides are common in the districts of Badulla, NuwaraEliya, Ratnapura, Kegalle, Kalutara, Kandy, and Matale.
  • Sea level rise, storm surges, and coastal erosion are greatest in the west, southwest, and southern coastal belt where about 50% of Sri Lanka’s population lives.
  • Cyclones often impact the northern region of the country, especially in the months of November and December. Though historically their severity has been moderate, projected changes could result in increased frequency and magnitude of cyclones and other climate-related disasters.

More information on natural hazards can be found at ThinkHazard.

  • Increased frequency and intensity of natural hazards such as droughts, floods, and landslides is causing damage to infrastructure, crops, and livelihoods.
  • Vector-borne diseases are spreading at an alarming rate, as a result of a changing climate conducive to mosquito breeding.
  • Vulnerable communities living along canals in specific districts are suffering from deteriorating conditions, especially when there is lack of risk preparedness, canal management and waste disposal programs, and early warning systems for flooding.
  • Increased rainfall intensity and forest cover reduction have led to increases in landslides, which result in greater displacement, loss of life, and heavy economic loss.
  • Sea level rise leads to inundation of low-lying coastal areas, shoreline retreat, intrusion of salinity, and negative impacts on coastal habitats. In addition, an increase in wave height will mean disturbing equilibrium beaches and making them more prone to erosion, while interfering with existing long shore sediment transport rates.