Natural Hazards

, Volume 68, Issue 3, pp 1343–1369 | Cite as

A framework for spatio-temporal scales and concepts from different disciplines: the ‘vulnerability cube’

  • Stefan Kienberger
  • Thomas Blaschke
  • Rukhe Zehra Zaidi
Original Paper


The concept of vulnerability is increasingly used in the fields of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, as well as socioeconomic studies. This paper reviews research inputs into the concept of vulnerability and highlights the challenges of resolving its spatial and temporal variability with building resilience and adaptation. We hypothesise that a clear understanding of scale is key to integrating these related issues, by differentiating three dimensions of scale when analysing relationships between the observed and the intrinsic scale of a given phenomenon, namely space, time and dimensional level. The paper analyses 20 vulnerability assessment approaches, ranging from the global down to the local scale, and positions them with regard to their integration of the spatial component. We then develop a vulnerability cube as a framework to position existing approaches and to map them in a three-dimensional space. The three axes represent space, time and dimension and provide a structure for the different notions of scales and ultimately for a spatial analysis workflow. The vulnerability cube framework helps us to position different vulnerability assessments and to identify overlaps, differences and specific characteristics. Additionally, this three-dimensional conceptualisation allows the identification and discussion of appropriate scaling issues.


Scale Risk Vulnerability assessment GIScience Integrated methods 



This research leading to this paper has received funding through the Munich Re Foundation and the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme under Grant Agreement Number FP7-211590 (MOVE—Methods for the Improvement of Vulnerability Assessment in Europe;


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stefan Kienberger
    • 1
  • Thomas Blaschke
    • 1
  • Rukhe Zehra Zaidi
    • 2
  1. 1.Interfaculty Department of Geoinformatics, Z_GISUniversity of SalzburgSalzburgAustria
  2. 2.Hazards and Risk Research Group, Department of GeographyKing’s College LondonLondonUK

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