It’s no secret that our planet has a host of terrifying natural phenomena that can easily end someone’s life. It’s really an odd enigma for us humans to witness vast frighting displays of power while at the same time admiring a complex statement of beauty. Take hurricanes for example. These vast powerful storms have claimed the lives of thousands of people, but who can resist gawking at the sight of a meteorological picture and witnessing its stupefying scale. Or how about a volcano? Some volcanoes are responsible for the death of many people, even to the point of eradicating entire villages. However, who can deny the striking spectacle of liquid fire shooting in the air and flowing down a “mountain”? You can almost say mother nature has a sick sense of humor.
Today we are going to present to you some of the most terrifying natural phenomena in existence. But don’t be fooled by their apparent beauty. Some of these devastating acts of nature can snuff out the life of thousands in the blink of a moment. It’s important to understand them and even more important to respect them. These are 25 terrifying natural phenomena that could end your life.
Generally, experts agree that a waterspout is a tornado occurring over water. Specifically, it normally refers to a small, relatively weak rotating column of air over water. Waterspouts are most common over tropical or subtropical waters.
Some have described it as earth’s vomit but this intimidating yet equally impressive natural phenomenon has been responsible for one of the biggest natural disasters of all time. Of course we’re referring to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, during which Pompeii (and its 35,000 citizens) disappeared forever.
Tsunamis are giant tidal waves caused by earthquakes or volcanic eruptions under the sea and have become particularly famous worldwide after the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. This disastrous calamity cost the lives of about 280,000 people in one of the deadliest natural disasters in modern history.
A tropical cyclone is a generic term used by meteorologists to describe a rotating, organized system of clouds and thunderstorms that originates over tropical or subtropical waters and has closed, low-level circulation. They can reach a sustained wind capacity of at least 74 miles per hour. The most intense wind speed capacity ever recorded is 200 miles per hour (320 km/h) in Hurricane Patricia in 2015.
A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that is in contact with both the earth’s surface and a cumulonimbus cloud or, in rare cases, the base of a cumulus cloud. Tornadoes have frequently been the cause of multiple disasters—including the loss of human life—and they are often called twisters or cyclones, even though the word cyclone is used more widely in meteorology to identify any closed, low-pressure circulation system.
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A supercell is a thunderstorm characterized by the presence of a mesocyclone, which is a deep, constantly rotating updraft. Because of this, these storms are sometimes referred to as rotating thunderstorms, and trust us when we say you don’t want to take a “ride” on one of them.
A squall line is a line of thunderstorms that can form along or ahead of a cold front. In the early twentieth century, the term was used as a synonym for a cold front. It contains heavy precipitation, hail, frequent lightning, strong straight-line winds, and possibly tornadoes and waterspouts.
A polar vortex is a large pocket of very cold air, which sits over a polar region during the winter. There are two polar vortices on planet Earth, one around the North Pole, and one around the South Pole. Bonus fact, Saturn’s south pole is the only place in our solar system to host a hot polar vortex.
Lightning is a sudden electrostatic discharge during an electrical storm between electrically charged regions of a cloud, between one cloud and another cloud, or between a cloud and the ground (the so-called CG lightning that has killed many people). They might look fascinating but lighting strikes have been responsible for killing numerous people including a whole African soccer team.
A landslide is the movement of rock, debris, or earth down a slope. They result from the failure of the materials that make up the hill slope and are driven by the force of gravity. Landslides are also known as landslips, slumps, or slope failure, and they are responsible for the deaths of anywhere between 25 – 50 people annually.
An ice storm is composed of freezing rain, also known as a glaze event or, in some parts of the United States, a silver thaw. They are considered one of the most dangerous natural phenomena in the world and have become the reason many people have lost their lives during extremely icy winters.
If you enjoyed this list, be sure to check out these 25 Worst Natural Disasters Ever Recorded.
A hailstorm consists of tens of thousands of balls or irregular lumps of ice called hailstones that, depending on their size, can bust your head open or even kill you in extreme cases.
A flood is a temporary partial or complete deluge of dry land areas from the overflow of inland or tidal waters from the uncommon and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source. They might not sound as scary as hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes but believe it or not floods have actually killed more Americans over time than any other natural phenomena on this list. Moreover, floods are the most common type of natural disaster worldwide.
Flammable Ice Bubbles
Despite their beauty, these strange white bubbles trapped just inches beneath the surface of frozen ice are in fact highly flammable pockets of toxic methane with potentially deadly effects. Scientists believe that if the earth’s temperature continues to rise, methane could be released into the atmosphere and kill every living organism in the surrounding area.
Extreme Heat Waves
A heat wave is a prolonged period of excessively hot weather that may be accompanied by high humidity, especially in oceanic climate countries where there are thousands of victims every summer.
Earthquakes are some of the most disastrous, deadly, and catastrophic natural events humans have experienced, and some have killed hundreds of thousands of people and leveled whole cities.
Sinkholes are caused by the dissolving of rocks (such as limestone, carbonate rock, and salt beds) due to groundwater peculating through and eroding them in the process. As rocks dissolve, space is created which weakens a foundation and helps create voids ranging from a few feet to hundreds of acres.
In 2010, a sinkhole in Guatemala City killed fifteen people and was caused when heavy rain from Tropical Storm Agatha, diverted by leaking pipes into a pumice bedrock which led to the sudden collapse of the ground beneath a factory building.
A dust storm or sand storm is a meteorological phenomenon common in arid and semi-arid regions like deserts. Dust storms arise when a gust front or other strong wind blows loose sand and dirt from a dry surface. Particles are transported by saltation and suspension, a process that moves soil from one place to another.
Though Dust storms have been known to kill people the biggest danger associating these storms is (ironically) flash floods. Some storms are accompanied by rain clouds. Since desert sand doesn’t soak up water well, heavy rain can produce flood conditions quickly and without warning.
A drought is a deficiency in precipitation over an extended period, usually a season or more, resulting in a water shortage causing adverse effects on vegetation, animals, and people. Millions of people have died throughout history because of extreme droughts.
A “dirty thunderstorm” is a rare and breathtaking phenomenon and is associated with large volcanic eruptions. The term dirty thunderstorm means “lightning in an eruption cloud from a volcano.” The main difference between a dirty and a normal thunderstorm is that in the latter ice crystals collide and generate electric charges, which results in lightning. In an eruption cloud, ash particles collide instead of ice crystals and the result is simultaneously frightening and impressive.
A “derecho” (coming from the Spanish word in adjective form for “straight”) is a widespread, long-lived, straight-line windstorm associated with a land-based, fast-moving group of severe thunderstorms. It can produce severe hurricane-force winds, tornadoes, heavy rains, and flash floods.
A blizzard is a severe snowstorm characterized by strong sustained winds of at least 56 km/h (35 mph) and lasting for a prolonged period of time, typically three or more hours.
Technically an avalanche is any amount of snow sliding down a mountainside. It can be compared to a landslide, only with snow instead of earth. Another common term for avalanche is snowslide. As an avalanche gets closer to the bottom of the slope, it gains speed and strength, and this can cause even the smallest of snowslides to be a major disaster. They are generally considered the greatest enemies of skiers and climbers.
A limnic eruption (also known as a lake overturn) is a rare type of natural disaster in which dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2) suddenly erupts from deep lake water, suffocating wildlife, livestock and humans. Limic eruptions may also cause tsunamis in the lake as the rising gas displaces water.
Again, these eruptions are rare and to date, only two limnic eruptions have been recorded. In 1984, a limnic eruption in Lake Monoun caused the deaths of 37 residents. A much larger eruption occurred in 1986 at nearby Lake Nyos, which killed between 1,700 and 1,800.
Wildfires are large uncontrolled fires which often start in wildland areas. Common causes include lightning and drought but wildfires may also be the result of human negligence and/or arson. They can spread to populated areas making them a threat to humans as well as wildlife. According to a study, wildfires are responsible for killing around 339,000 people around the world annually. Notable cases of wildfires include the 1871 Peshtigo Fire in the United States, which killed at least 1700 people, and the 2009 Victorian bushfires in Australia.