Every year brings new hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters to the world. Although some areas are impacted more often by these natural disasters than others, most people fear extreme weather. Scientists that study these natural disasters have been predicting major storms and occurrences for centuries. Within the 21st century, many have made predictions of major natural disasters occurring in the near and distant future. Here are 10 catastrophic natural disasters that, according to scientific evidence, may occur at any minute. (The entries are listed from least to most impactful.)
10 Wildfires US, 2015–2050
Environmental scientists from the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) predict that by 2050, wildfire seasons in the US will be three weeks longer, twice as smoky, and will Earthquake Best Price: $4.13 Buy New $8.90 (as of 10:35 UTC - Details) burn a larger portion of the West per year. Concurrently, the US Geological Survey and the Forest Service have recorded that since 1999, the acreage burned by wildfires in the US has tripled from 2.2 million to 6.4 million annually, meaning that much more of the US will be up in flames in the near future.
What has led to this dramatic increase in the US wildfire risk? The answer, according to SEAS, is gradual climate change, which has raised the Earth’s temperature, creating conditions that spawn bigger and fiercer wildfires. Dr. Loretta J. Mickley, a senior research fellow in atmospheric chemistry at SEAS, stated that temperature will be the biggest determiner of future fires. The hotter it is, the more likely it is that a fire will start. Ironically, the problem has been exacerbated by the “Smokey the Bear” and Park and Forest Services campaigns to stop all forest fires, halting the natural fire cycle that clears the underbrush out of the forests. With 30,000–50,000 wildfires predicted to occur annually, the US might soon be experiencing its own version of Hell on Earth.
Deep Impact (Special C... Best Price: $1.48 Buy New $4.40 (as of 09:35 UTC - Details) 9 Baroarbunga Volcanic Explosion Iceland, 2014
This prediction came true within a few weeks of it being made.
In August 2014, the Icelandic Meteorological Office increased the risk level for a possible eruption of Baroarbunga, a volcano located in Iceland. The increase was due to hundreds of earthquakes occurring around the site over several days, a good sign of a possible volcanic eruption. Scientists began to predict just what would occur if Baroarbunga erupted. Some said the ice around the volcano would melt, causing flooding. Others said that the eruption would cause additional eruptions throughout 100-meter-long (328 ft) fissures in southwest Iceland, triggering the volcano Torfajokull, which would destroy several major rivers that serve as Iceland’s hydroelectric power source. Volcano Best Price: $26.93 Buy New $65.02 (as of 10:35 UTC - Details)
On August 23, 2014, the volcano began erupting underneath the Dyngjujokull glacier. Over the course of the next week, thousands of earthquakes occurred near Baroarbunga and the area surrounding it, and on August 31, its Holuhraun fissure erupted. The Holuhraun fissure erupted for six months, officially ending on February 28, 2015. The fissure emitted, on average, enough lava to fill an American football stadium every five minutes. In the end, the volcano produced 1.5 cubic kilometers (0.4 mi3) of lava and created an 86-square-kilometer (33 mi2) lava field, making the Baroarbunga eruption of 2014 the largest Icelandic eruption since the eruption of Baroarbunga’s Laki fissure in 1783.
Armageddon Best Price: $1.15 Buy New $3.33 (as of 07:00 UTC - Details) 8 Megathrust Earthquake Chile, 2015–2065
The Chilean earthquake of April 2014 opened fissures that could lead to a magnitude 8.5 or larger earthquake in Chile. On April 1, 2014, a magnitude 8.2 earthquake occurred 97 kilometers (60 mi) off the northwest coast of Chile near the city of Iquique, causing landslides and a tsunami to hit the coast. This earthquake created the possibility for an even larger earthquake for Chile in the near future due to the location of the earthquake.
The Iquique earthquake originated from a subduction zone where one tectonic plate, the Nazca Plate, is plunging underneath another, the South American Plate. This subduction zone lies within the “Ring of Fire,” an arc in the Pacific containing 75 percent of the world’s active volcanoes, which causes much of the world’s seismic activity. When a tectonic plate moves under another, the faults can come under severe amounts of stress, and any release of tension causes seismic activity, namely earthquakes. The April 2014 earthquake was a “megathrust” earthquake, or a major earthquake caused by the release of tension from a subduction zone. It only relieved 33 percent of the tension on the fault, leaving the rest to be relieved in the near future.