Top 10 Natural Disasters
As landscape architects, we generally regard nature and the surrounding environment as a positive factor in our lives, perpetually watching over us and giving us the best conditions to make our existence that much more fuller and exciting. This is true to a certain extent, but sometimes nature does work against our endeavours. Even more so in times of late, when so many anthropogenic and sometimes natural factors lay at the base of extreme climate changes which often cause natural disasters. Though some of these are naturally occurring, their numbers have increased and so have the dramatic effects on populations that encounter their wrath.
Natural disasters are caused by the earth’s hazards which can lead to serious loses in relation to environment, human lives and financial costs of the aftermath. Depending on their effects and territorial extension, they can have negligent, moderate to extreme negative influence on human populated areas. We now make an ensemble countdown of the most dangerous of natural disasters and examples of when things went much bad than usual.
No.10 Solar Flares
Most people know solar flares as explosions which occur on the surface of the sun while releasing large amounts of energy. So in what way are these dangerous for us earthlings? Well, first of all, radiation levels are extremely high for astronauts in space, posing serious risks. Second of all, all the energy released acts as a sort of EMP which can disrupt or totally shutdown our communication systems for determined periods of time. Imagine the inconvenience of not being able to use any electric appliance, your phone or any other radio wave powered communication. But the upside of these solar flares is the increased activity of the beautiful Aurora Borealis.
No.9 Hail Storms
We wouldn’t regard the common hail as a natural disaster on a normal day, but some of these phenomena cause real damage in select places of the world, sometimes leading to human deaths if the size of the ice stones is large enough. The palette of damage ranges from smashed cars, roofs, injured livestock and most affecting and erasing huge expanses of crops. After such a storm, insurance companies go berserk, and as they occur in strong thunderstorm clouds, the most dangerous types hit the US, often in state like Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas.
Avalanches can certainly be scary for a skier that has a little fun on the slope and they are one of the most dangerous disasters to occur on a snowy mountain as well. They are caused by loud sounds or fragile layer structures which lead to massive flows of snow down a steep slope. Anything found in its path is obliterated, that includes humans too. Though the effects of a single such phenomena are slight, the cumulated loses are huge, expressed especially by the Austrian-Italian WW1 front, where up to 80 000 soldiers died in avalanches caused by artillery fire.
People usually love it when it’s snowing outside, but a blizzard is not one of our ordinary Christmas cheers. In some countries of the world, these natural disasters hinder animals and people from breathing, moving and surviving. High winds, extreme temperatures and large quantities of snow make blizzards one of the most unbearable phenomena. And to exemplify how cunning they can be, one of the most recent and deadly blizzards occurred in the most unlikely areas: Afghanistan in 2008, where up to 1000 people died, many got frostbite and large numbers of livestock didn’t survive the extreme conditions.
No.6 Heat Waves
This is an example of a natural disaster which is getting more frequent due to pollution and climate change. Heat waves are extremely dangerous to human lives especially because their effects are dramatic and one can only do so much to hinder these negative conditions. Extremely high temperatures and high humidity levels for prolonged periods of time lead to death by hyperthermia, crops failing and wide spread use of air conditioning which can cause power cuts. The most relative example is the 2003 European heat wave which caused the death of 70 000 people.
Nature at its most incontrollable is where wildfires come in. Caused by extreme drought, lightning and sometimes even human negligence, they can burn through entire forests, pastures or even cities, if they are not extinguished or controlled in time. The obvious danger here is being burned, but chocking on account of large quantities of smoke or being left with nothing after a fire pass are also hazards. Such events occurred in Australia in 2009 when more than 400 wildfires spread to produce the highest count of human loses caused by bushfires.
No.4 Volcanic Eruptions
Volcanic eruptions are one of the most terrifying natural disasters that can occur on the earth. Though many people living next to a volcano are aware of the danger, you can never know when such a catastrophic eruption can happen because some volcanoes are inactive for thousands of years. But when it does erupt, huge explosions, large gas clouds and overflowing lava are just the tip of the danger they pose. Edifying examples are the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883, classified as the loudest sound on earth, which spread ash clouds all around the earth and had the power of numerous atomic bombs, leading to the death of up to 40 000 people or even much more. Another classic example is that of Pompeii, the ancient city which was burned and buried under ash by the eruption of Vesuvius towering over it.
Catastrophic effects and loss of human lives have occurred due to epidemics. One wouldn’t at first consider them to be a natural disaster, but nature does have a highly influential hand in the wide spreading of disease at a high rate. It can get even worse if the disease spreads to a global covering, thus turning the epidemic into a pandemic, people’s worst nightmare. Since the dawn of time, epidemics have not been few. Black Death or bubonic plague, Spanish influenza, Malaria or Ebola are just a few of the alarming prospects that have claimed lots of lives.
A cyclone, hurricane or typhoon is a natural disaster which also has its frequency and power boosted by climate change. Formed over sea or ocean when two different weather fronts collide, all hell breaks loose when it hits solid ground. These cyclones are extremely violent especially through high speed winds that rip everything in its path, large quantities of rain and sometimes large wave surges or even tornadoes. The negative effects of this kind of phenomena are too great to imagine. Numerous areas of the planet are hit by such cyclones, but the most violent occur in the US, south-east Asia and Australia.
This type of natural disaster is probably the most wide spread around the world and the most terrifying considering its massive effects. Seismic waves shake the earth’s surface when two land plates collide or shift. The earthquake in itself isn’t deathly, but the aftermath effects are, to a high degree. Depending on its magnitude, it can cause other catastrophes such as collapsing buildings, landslides, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, fires and explosions. The damages are unimaginable and the degree of lives lost is one of the highest. Massive earthquakes have cost the lives of million over the course of history.
This classification shows that nature isn’t always our friend, but that we need to coexist by hindering the effects of natural disasters, predicting them in due time and doing our best in minimising the damages of the aftermath. We humans certainly don’t count for much influence in earth’s natural phenomena but we should hold them as a balance between what good is offered and what bad it bestowed upon us.
Article written by Oana Anghelache