The Earth with its flowers, animals and blue sky seems the paradise narrated in many religions, but if we look closely, our planet can also look like the most terrifying of hells. Epidemics, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes and all kinds of catastrophes to hide inside a bunker and never come out again.
We’re not really looking to give you a panic attack or crawl under the bed. We are going to take advantage of this review of the different natural catastrophes that threaten our existence to know curious facts about the nature of our Earth.
So that this list does not go on forever, we are going to focus on the main natural disasters and leave the human-caused dangers for another day. Note that climate change that many refuse to acknowledge kills 150,000 people every year, according to UN data.
Our planet, life and the reality that surrounds us are full of great mysteries, enigmas that have attracted the curiosity of entire civilizations. And we still don’t have an answer for many of them.
We have decided to order the possible disasters from the most frequent to the least common. Earthquakes are the order of the day, while asteroid bombardment is less likely. We must also take into account the consequences, the level of destruction of each one, as we have seen, pandemics can be disastrous, but they are much more frequent than we thought until the arrival of COVID-19, of course to a lesser extent and not it usually affects developed countries.
The scale between the power of destruction and the probability of suffering each of these disasters can be seen very clearly in the poster created by the Doctor in Quantum Physics Dominic Walliman which explains it in this video (The Map of Doom). You can buy it and put it as a poster on the wall of your room if you are a person with an excess of positivity (it also has a poster about science and less sinister mathematics)
Here is the full plot with the risks / expected deaths from other disasters: earthquakes, tsunamis, asteroid impacts and super volcanoes. Then all the Bostrom-esque existential threats. pic.twitter.com/BzvavNWz9j
– Dominic Walliman (@DominicWalliman) December 4, 2020
As of May 2, 2021, Statista estimates the deaths from COVID-19 at 3.2 million, it is undoubtedly one of the greatest catastrophes experienced by humanity in the 19th century. This pandemic has caused deaths and a major international crisis, without forgetting the obvious inequality between rich and poor countries where medical care and the scope of treatments and vaccines is less.
However, scientific advances, the global communication system have achieved a much lower result than that attributed to another great pandemic, the so-called “Spanish flu” that claimed 50 million deaths in 1918, contemporary with the First World War.
The coronavirus seems to have taken us by surprise, but pandemics are a more frequent threat than we suspect. It is estimated that there an average of 3 every 100 years, with different intensities. The worst thing is that this frequency seems to be getting shorter, in the last 20 years the world has suffered:
The epidemic of SARS 2002-2004 The epidemic of MERS- COVID detected for the first time in 2012 and that has been traveling between countries The Ebola that caused such a stir in Spain in 2014 The AIDS or HIV It has already claimed more than 35 million lives since its discovery.
All of these diseases and more have been known for a long time, but they have been creating very dangerous and deadly outbreaks in recent years. They have not been so well known in the media, and some seem to have been forgotten by now, but they have caused a lot of pain.
Every year more than one hundred thousand tremors are perceived by the population at some point in the world, that is, about three hundred a day. This may seem like an exaggeration, but if we look at the website of the United States Geological Survey. Most are small tremors, a scare that is soon forgotten without any material or personal damage, but when a strong one arrives …
Wikipedia gives us another image, in 2020 there were more than 13,000 earthquakes, 9 of them of scale 7. The most dangerous was in the Aegean Sea, leaving 119 deaths between Egypt and Greece.
The crust of our planet is made up of moving plates and when they move against each other, potential energy accumulates. When the energy can no longer be contained, it explodes and seismic waves are expelled, violently shaking the planet. But the danger of earthquakes goes hand in hand with possible tsunamis, another great threat to millions of lives.
Undoubtedly, one of the disasters that caused the most terror in the world in recent years was the Fukushima earthquake in 2011. Nor should we forget the earthquake in Haiti in 2010. However, the only positive part that we can see from earthquakes is that They occur in all parts of the planet, they are more frequent in some areas where, with international help and advances in engineering, resistant buildings could be built and the number of deaths reduced.
Our entire communications system, thanks to which you can read this joyous article, would collapse if the Sun were to send us a solar storm. Power grids, GPS systems, transportation, the internet and a million jobs would collapse in the face of a solar storm like the one in 1859.
Known as the Carrington Storm, after the astronomer Richard Carrington who studied the relationships between solar activity and Earth’s geomagnetic alterations, it is the largest solar storm recorded in history, and the technological blackout that would last for years.
A solar storm occurs when our star releases the magnetic energy that it has accumulated in its atmosphere, like millions of hydrogen bombs exploding at the same time, that is a solar flare. The Earth’s magnetosphere protects us from these radiations, if they are small, diverting them towards the poles and causing the famous northern lights that are alterations of the magnetic field caused by the solar wind hitting the atmosphere and that you will never see with the same romanticism again.
These solar flares can scorch our electrical systems, satellites and other high-voltage mechanisms that we depend on to never go back to the Middle Ages. These flares last only one or several days, but they can be very destructive and a recent study has calculated that the worst ones usually repeat every 25 years, that is, they are more frequent than we think. The last one in 2012 that we narrowly got rid of. Several research teams study the Sun and these types of risks such as the Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) or the european mission Solar Orbiter.
The threat posed by the fall of a large asteroid on Earth has been talked about a lot in the movies. 66 million years ago dinosaurs died from the impact of an asteroid and the natural disasters that this phenomenon unleashed throughout the planet.
It is not a threat that we live with in our minds every day of our lives because the probability of dying from something like that is very low. According to NASA, the probability that an asteroid large enough to destroy a city will hit Earth is 0.1% each year. If one hits Earth, there is a 70% chance that it will land in the ocean and a 25% chance that it will land in a relatively unpopulated area. To this must be added its size, the smallest disintegrate when crossing the atmosphere, the largest ones like the 5 km wide one that killed the dinosaurs has a 0.000001% chance of reaching us.
They are rare but very destructive, destroying the territory in which they crash and wreak havoc in much of the surroundings, its most devastating power lies in the consequences of its impact like tsunamis if they fall into water, the pole that it generates when it collides with the Earth that extends through the stratosphere, covering the Earth and blocking the entry of sunlight, so that resources would decrease and poverty would increase , hunger and conflicts between countries would grow to fight for those few resources. Similar to a supervolcano
People across wide areas of Japan were treated to a spectacular light show in the early hours of Sunday, thanks to what is believed to be a meteor. pic.twitter.com/r0HfI082SK
– NHK WORLD News (@NHKWORLD_News) November 30, 2020
Fortunately, scientists are studying different ways of detection and prevention against a possible asteroid impact. Detecting them in time to prevent them from reaching us is very complicated, since 1988 more than 1,200 asteroids larger than one meter have collided with Earth and only five were detected before entering the atmosphere. We tell you more about the projects that are underway to “save the Earth from Armageddon” in this other report.
Its consequences are similar to those of asteroids. They are rare, but very devastating natural disasters. There are about 20 known supervolcanoes on Earth, whose major eruptions occur every 100,000 years or so.
The last was Mount Toba in Indonesia. This volcano that has a magma chamber a thousand times larger than that of a conventional volcano and therefore has the worst eruptions on Earth. 75,000 years ago he starred in a cataclysm reducing the temperature of the planet between 4 and 5 degrees Celsius with all that that entails, hunger, inequality, imbalance of nature.
A volcano is considered dormant or dormant if it has not had activity in the last 10,000 years with fumaroles or hot springs. On the other hand, if the last recorded eruption is before the last 25,000 years, the volcano is considered extinct, even so it could not be 100% affirmed that they cannot wake up again. Humans can do little to avoid these disasters, except be vigilant to evacuate nearby populations as soon as possible and create an agricultural and livestock industry resistant to great changes caused by something like this.
The next ice age
Ending this review of possible catastrophes that we can suffer as inhabitants of this wonderful planet is the next ice age. Yes, we have been talking about global warming due to human actions, but it is also possible that humanity will end up facing an ice age like the Ice Age.
We are in a warm stage, between two glacial periods, exactly about 11,000 years from the last Ice Age. Researchers have determined that 100,000 years pass between one cold stage and another, so we are still far from the next.
In 2016, a team from the Cardiff University presented a study in Geology where they determined that the oceans were an important agent of the Earth’s cooling that absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere, reducing the temperature and forming more ice sheets until they cover almost all of North America, Europe and Asia. We could say that the oceans breathe and when they expel CO2 they heat the Earth and the ice disappears.
This breathing is more and more slow, because before the “Middle Pleistocene Transition” one ice age was distant from the next by 40,000 years, now that intermediate period is longer and we do not know how the Earth will be when the next one arrives.