Europe and Europeans are impacted by natural hazards, even when these events play out far away. Prior to 1990, losses from natural disasters worldwide were estimated to never have exceeded €100 billion in a single year. Since 2005, losses from natural disasters exceeded €200 billion in four different years. Alone in 2017, natural disasters caused €300 billion in losses, only 2005 was costlier. These disasters are manifestations of extreme events in the Earth system. Meteorological and hydrological extremes — from winds and rain — are typically responsible for the greatest losses. Not only hurricanes, but also winter storms, the strongest of which — like Kyrill in 2007 — can inflict damages greater than €5 billion. Damages from widespread flooding in Europe can exceed €10 billion in a bad year, as was the case in 2002 and again in 2013. Extremes in air-pollution have a staggering effect, as measured by foreshortened lives. Heat-waves, droughts, and fires are examples of climatic extremes associated with global costs near €100 billion annually. The 2003 European heat wave and drought affected over 100 million EU citizens with a cost of at least €10 billion and a death toll exceeding 70,000. Extreme conditions across the northern hemisphere this past summer are playing havoc with societies across three continents. Within the solid Earth, extremes – particularly earthquakes – are responsible for commensurate losses. The 1999 Izmit earthquake (Turkey) measured 7.6 on the Richter scale and killed 17,000 people, while in L’Aquila a moderate 5.9 magnitude quake killed more than 300 people and destroyed much of the city. Volcanic eruptions menace large urban areas (e.g., Naples with 3 million people at risk from Vesuvius and Campi Flegre in Europe) and even small distant volcanoes can prove enormously disruptive to commerce, e.g., the 2010 Ejafjallajökull eruption, which shut down air traffic operations over central-northern Europe for several days.
European exposure to extremes is compounded by large shifts in populations and infrastructure, and — as Ejafjallajökull showed — increasing connectivity in economies and infrastructure. The same technologies that enable this connectivity create possibilities for reducing vulnerabilities it would otherwise imply. ExtremeEarth will capitalise on these to transform the technological infrastructure underpinning the prediction of weather and climate extremes, earthquakes and volcanoes, and how their impacts are assessed and communicated.
Technology developed by ExtremeEarth will: (i) enable a new class of models to provide a suitable and science-driven foundation for anticipating extremes; (ii) create the capacity to assimilate new or previously un-usable data streams to document precursors and consequences of extremes; (iii) reinvent the value chain (linking predictions to impacts) by developing the tools and syntax to intuitively expose information about the past and future of the Earth system to the full ingenuity of disparate actors and socio-economic sectors. In doing so ExtremeEarth will build upon and strengthen European excellence in geosciences, support European institutions, and launch a new wave of innovation at the intersection of the geo and information sciences.
In giving society the tools to meaningfully anticipate future extremes and turn the tide on growing cost (in lives and money) of natural disasters, ExtremeEarth will materially improve the well-being of everyone.
 Robine et al., 2008: Death toll exceeded 70,000 in Europe during the summer of 2003. Comptes Rendus Biologies, 331 (2), 171–178.