The earth is a dynamic entity that is undergoing changes all the time. Normal changes such as those occurring to the weather and the seasons are part and parcel of living. We live our lives according to these changes regardless of whether we like it or not. However, sometimes the forces of nature cause great and drastic changes, and for us puny human beings, the effect can be disastrous.
There are many types of natural events that can spell disaster for us. They include earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, droughts, tidal waves, tsunamis, fires, landslides, and avalanches.
The earth crust is made up of a number of plates that sit on a sea of lava beneath. At some places on the crust, lava, ash, smoke etc breaks through and the result is volcanic eruptions. Sometimes the eruption is so violent that it destroys living things that are near it. The eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD destroyed the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum. In 1883, the catastrophic explosion of Krakatoa off the west coast of Java generated tsunamis that killed hundreds of thousands of people in Indonesia. In 2004, underwater volcanic eruptions in the Indian Ocean caused tsunamis that again killed hundreds of thousands living nearby.
The plates of the earth crust are not static. They push and grind against one another producing earthquakes that sometimes cause widespread destruction to the affected area.
In addition to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, other natural phenomena also brings destruction. In Malaysia, the Northeast monsoon rains that come around December bring floods to the east coast of the peninsula. In Australia, bushfires in summer destroy vast tracts of land. Snowstorms in the polar regions of the earth cut the residents from the rest of the world. Droughts in parts of India and Africa cause famine and tragedy.
No place on earth is totally free from disaster-causing events. We can only do our best to deal with these events when they occur. People and property are inevitably destroyed. Those who survive pick up the pieces and continue living.
Natural disasters happen all over the world, and they can be utterly devastating for people’s lives and the environments in which they live. Although natural disasters are caused by nature and there is nothing that we can do to prevent them happening, there are many different natural causes that lead to natural disasters, and being aware of these causes enables us to be better prepared when such disasters do arrive.
One common natural disaster is flooding, which occurs when a river bursts its banks and the water spills out onto the floodplain. This is far more likely to happen when there is a great deal of heavy rain, so during very wet periods, flood warnings are often put in place. There are other risk factors for flooding too: steep-sided channels cause fast surface run-off, while a lack of vegetation or woodland to both break the flow of water and drink the water means that there is little to slow the floodwater down. Drainage basins of impermeable rock also cause the water to run faster over the surface.
Earthquakes are another common natural disaster that can cause many fatalities. The movements of the plates in the earth’s crust cause them. These plates do not always move smoothly and can get stuck, causing a build-up of pressure. It is when this pressure is released that an earthquake occurs. In turn, an earthquake under the water can also cause a tsunami, as the quake causes great waves by pushing large volumes of water to the surface.
Tsunamis can also be caused by underwater volcanic eruptions. Volcanic eruptions are another natural disaster, and they are caused by magma escaping from inside the earth. An explosion takes place, releasing the magma from a confined space, which is why there are often also huge quantities of gas and dust released during a volcanic eruption. The magma travels up the inside of the volcano, and pours out over the surrounding area as lava.
One of the most common natural disasters, but also one of the most commonly forgotten, is wildfires. These take place in many different countries all over the world, particularly during the summer months, and can be caused by a range of different things. Some of the things that can start the wildfires can be totally natural, while others can be manmade, but the speed at which they spread is entirely down to nature. The two natural causes of wildfires are the sun’s heat and lightning strikes, while they can also be caused by campfires, smoking, fireworks and many other things. The reasons that they spread so quickly are prolonged hot, dry weather, where the vegetation dries out, which is why they often take place in woodland.