Top 10 Epic Natural Disasters Just Waiting to Happen – Natural disasters have always been unpredictable and life on earth has perished whenever disasters have struck. However taking lessons from the past events, scientists anticipate some disasters in the unpredictable future. Some of these disasters can be extinction level events while some can affect the life around the globe. This is a compilation of top 10 natural disasters just waiting to happen.
10. Colony Collapse Disorder
In the fall of 2006 beekeepers worldwide began noticing a signification portion of their honey bee population vanishing, numbering in millions. This phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorderis characterized by the disappearance of worker bees from the hives, leaving the young ones to fend for themselves.
US Department of Agriculture reported 30% loss of bee population each year from 2006 to 2011. The collapse of honeybee colonies have been witnessed worldwide and it has been attributed to pathogens and pesticides. From quick recall of grade-school science, one will remember that besides gathering nectar, bees play an important role in pollinating agricultural crops. If the current trends continue, this can set off a chain reaction of events resulting in declining pollination, decreased agricultural produce, economic adversity, less food and a lot of hungry people.
9. Biological Disaster (Superbug, HIV+TB)
All bacterial infections are treated by antibiotics. Superbugs are stains of bacteria that have mutated after coming in contact with an antibiotic to develop a resistance to it. World Health Organization has declared antibiotic resistance as one of the greatest threats facing human health. More and more stains of these pathogens are developing resistance to their antibiotics each day. The culprit behind this trend is blamed on overuse of antibiotics even in unnecessary cases.
XDR-TB is a stain of tuberculosis bacteria that is resistant to some of the most effective antituberculosis drugs and it can only be treated by chemotherapy. HIV positive patients are highly prone to tuberculosis infection and there is a small possibility that these two strains could mutate to form a more super-stain. The lethal combination of HIV’s resistive potential combined with TB’s mode of transmission through air could wreak havoc on human population.
8. Limnic Eruption (Lake Kivu, Lake Monoun, Lake Nyos)
Limnic Eruption is a very rare natural disaster that occurs when dissolved carbon dioxide suddenly erupts from deep lake water. It occurs when a lake is completely saturated with gas and a trigger like an earthquake or landslide is enough to set off an eruption. This can cause tsunamis as CO2 displaces water. The large eruption of CO2into the atmosphere can cause death of human life and livestock due to asphyxiation.
In the recorded human history, only two such events have been observed. The first was in Cameroon at Lake Monoun in 1984 killing 34 people nearby. The second deadlier eruption happened in 1986 in neighboring Lake Nyosin 1986 killing about 1800 people.
Lake Kivu between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda has massive amounts of dissolved CO2. Lake Kivu is 2000 times larger than Lake Nyos and over 2 million people dwell along its shores. Lake Kivu is located over an active seismic zone and is in close proximity to a number of active volcanoes. Only solution to avoid these events is degassing the lake using siphons to remove gas from the lakes in a controlled manner.
7. Cosmic Disasters (Gamma Ray Bursts, Magnetars, Rogue Black Holes)
Our solar system is a speck in the vast universe. Humans have just begun to understand the complexities of universe. There are a lot of things in the universe that can destroy life on earth in the blink of an eye. One such thing is a gamma ray burst. It is caused when a massive star collapses into a black hole that initiates a supernova explosion. This in turn makes it to emit a beam of high energy particles on its opposite ends. They can produce enough energy in a couple of seconds that our sun will produce in its entire lifetime. If earth were to lie in direct path of these high energy beams, they would completely obliterate our ozone layer and destroy the side of the earth facing it. Lethal doses of UV radiation from ozone depletion would kill the remaining life that survives the burst.
Magnetarsare similar neutron stars capable of omnidirectional burst of x-ray and gamma rays, but are more powerful. Only two magnetar explosion have been recorded, in 1979 and 2004. These messed up the navigational satellites. The one in 2004 came from a magnetar 50,000 light years away and was more powerful than expected. The nearest magnetar is just 9,000 light years away.
Rogue Black Holes are colossal black holes that roam freely through the space. Black holes are extremely difficult to detect unless they start sucking stars into them. One of them might be lurking in our solar system’s neighborhood and we may not even know about them.
6. Catastrophic Methane Release
Methane is more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Majority of the earth’s methane deposits are in permafrost and world’s oceans. According to clathrate gun hypothesis, increase in sea temperature from global warming can trigger a sudden release of methane from the seabed. This would set in motion a chain of events where the released methane would increase the global temperature that in turn would release more methane from ocean.
Larry Smith, a hydrologist at the University of California believes that west Siberian peat bog alone stores a quarter of the world’s terrestrial methane deposits. Siberian permafrost has started to melt for the first time since it formed 11,000 years ago causing massive amounts of methane to be released into atmosphere. Many experts believe that catastrophic methane release in the past has caused mass extinction events. This phenomenon is attributed to have caused Permian-Triassic extinction event that caused extinction of up to 96% of marine species and 70% of terrestrial species.
5. Megatsunami (Canary Islands, Hawaii)
A megatsunami is a tsunami with a wave height approaching hundreds or even thousands of meters high. Megatsunamis are usually the result of a landslide or an asteroid impact. The asteroid that created Chicxulub crater is speculated to have caused megatsunami as high as 3 km. In the more recent past, a giant landslide in Lituya Bayof Alaska by an earthquake generated waves of about 524 meters high that completely obliterated the tree line on the opposite hill face.
Scientists in London believe that the volcanic island of La Palma in Canary archipelago is on the brink of splitting and breakoff in case of an earthquake or volcanic eruption. Canary Islands are located off the north-western coast of Africa. This scenario would result in waves topping 100 meters crashing on Canary Islands and west coast of Africa and within few hours Caribbean Islands and east coast of America will be hit by waves as high as 50 meters. A future tsunami event is also possible in the island of Hawaii with potentially waves reaching up to about 1 km high.
4. Hayward Fault Zone Earthquake
Hayward Fault Zoneis very major geologic fault zone that is situated on eastern side of San Francisco Bay. The Hayward fault is considered as one of the most dangerous fault lines in the world due to its capability of generating significantly destructive earthquakes. This fault is also considered dangerous due to poor soil in the area that is prone to liquefaction in case of a major earthquake.
With carbon dating historic earthquakes have been found to occur every 140 years. The last major earthquake recorded was in 1868 that was about 7 in intensity on Richter scale. The fault is well past its due date of 2008 for a major earthquake of its 140-year cycle. It is estimated that if 1868’s earthquake were to recur, in addition to loss of $165 billion in property damages, it would affect 5 million people directly and the iconic Bay Bride would be completely destroyed.
3. Lake Toba Supervolcano
Lake Toba is an Indonesian lake and a Supervolcano. It is the largest volcanic lake in the world. The lake is known for the Toba volcanic eruption that happened about 700,000 years ago. It is possibly the worst volcanic eruption in the last 25 million years. Ash deposited in some parts of Malaysia as high as 9 meters. Experts believe that the event made the mercury to plummet globally by 3 to 3.5 degrees for years to come. Most of the human life back then was killed and it created a population bottleneck in Central Eastern Africa and India. Some experts believe human population was reduced to a mere 15000in the wake of this event.
This lake lies near the Great Sumatran Fault that is prone to earthquakes. In fact, over the last 8 years this area has experienced 5 earthquakes, all well over 7 on Richter scale. Earthquakes are usually a precursor to an imminent eruption though experts believe Toba won’t erupt in the foreseeable future.
2. Super Solar Flare
Solar flares are a common phenomenon indispensable to life on earth. Their frequency can vary from several per day to once per week depending on the 11-year solar cycle. Solar flares eject clouds of electrons, ions, and atoms through the corona of the sun into space. The most intense solar flare was observed in 1859 known as Carrington Super Flare. Three days later earth was hit by the largest recorded geomagnetic storm. Auroral lights were seen as far as the Caribbean Islands. Telegraph lines all over Europe and America failed and communications were cut off for days.
In the current solar cycle, sun’s activity is expected to ramp up towards solar maximum in 2013. NASA scientists believe that earth will be hit with unprecedented levels of magnetic energy from a massive solar flare in 2013. Even if biggest recorded solar storm of 1859 were to happen today, its impact would be 1000 times more severe. In addition to the health consequences of exposure to radiation, the electrical grids, satellites, communications, emergency services, critical healthcare, and air traffic would all be severely affected. It could produce blackouts worldwide for days to come, but that would be temporary. It could take years to bring life back to normalcy.
1. Yellowstone Supervolcano
Yellowstone National Park spreading over 2 million acres is in the US state of Wyoming. The natural beauty of Yellowstone National Park may appear serene, but the majority of the park sits over a supervolcano. Yellowstone caldera is arguably the world’s largest active volcano. The park has relatively closer to surface magma chambers, as close as 5 miles beneath the surface that fuels thousands of its geysers.
Some 640,000 years ago, an eruption ejected 8000 times the ash and lava compared to Mount St. Helen’s explosion of 1980 and the terrifying fact is that it wasn’t even the largest eruption in Yellowstone’s prehistoric past. Though Yellowstone can erupt again any given day, specialists believe that supervolcanoes give decades or even centuries of warning signs before they erupt. Some believe that none of those indicators are present in Yellowstone currently, but others argue that eruptive patterns can change unexpectedly. Without a doubt, a full-force explosion will kill millions directly and indirectly and will make any volcanic eruption in the recorded human history look very small in comparison.