SUBJECT : Facts of Natural Disasters 


101 Facts Natural Disasters


The Chinese contribution

Chinese scholars have preserved the records of earthquakes that have occurred in China in the last two thousand years. The world’s first simple seismometer-an instrument that detects earthquakes-was created by Chinese scientist during the Han period.


The coast toast

Coastal cities are particularly susceptible to the hazards of a quake. Earthquakes that occur near coasts can trigger dangerous tsunamis. In terms of casualties, the deadliest tsunami occurred  in Indonesia on December 26, 2004.


All fired up

Earthquakes also cause fire. When buildings, bridges, and other structures collapse during a quake, gas pipes break and live wires are exposed, leading to fires. This is what happened after an earthquake occurred in San Francisco in 1906, and the city burned for three days. Most of the city was destroyed and about 25,000 people were left without shelter.


Quaking mountains

In mountainous areas, earthquakes can cause large landslides. The worst landslide in human history occurred in the Kansus province of China on December 16, 1920. This catastrophe took the lives of over 180,000 people.


Crumbling bricks

Did you know that most of the destruction caused by earthquakes is due to the crumbling of building? Sometimes, bridges and freeways also collapse, killing passengers and drivers. The quake that occurred in Izmit, Turkey, in 1999 reduced thousands of buildings to rubble and left at least 17,000 people dead.



The study of earthquakes is known as seismology. The word ‘seismology’ is derived from the Greek words seismos, meaning earthquake; and logos, meaning branch of knowledge. People who study earthquakes are called seismologists. In 1876, two Italian seismologists, Luigi Palmeri and Fillipo Cecchi, invented the seismometer. Using this device, scientists can locate the epicenter and hypocenter of an earthquake.


The god of big things

Myths and legends carry numerous references to earthquakes. In Greek mythology, Poseidon, the god of the sea, is said to possess the power of ‘shaking the earth’. As earthquakes are often linked with disasters related to the sea, this myth is not entirely unfounded.


The Kiwi legend

In New Zealand, people in ancient times believed that Mother Earth had a child in her womb, called God Ru. According to the legend, earthquakes occurred when the baby kicked and moved inside the mother’s womb.


Waving off

The first waves to arrive during an earthquake are P-waves, or primary waves. These waves compress and dilate the rocks in the ground. P-waves are followed by S-Waves, or secondary waves, which move rock layers up and down and sideways. Together, P-waves and S-waves are known as body waves. Surface waves – Love and Rayleigh waves – arrive after P- and S-waves, and are the most destructive. While love waves move the ground forward and backward, Rayleigh waves cause the ground to move upwards and downwards.


Scaling quakes

Earthquakes are measured on a scale called Richter scale. Charles F Richter developed this scale in 1935. One of the deadliest earthquakes of all time occurred on May 22, 1960, in Temuco-Valdivia, Chile, measuring 9.5 on the Richter scale.


Avalanche menace

Earthquakes also cause avalanches. On May 31, 1970, the Ancash earthquake caused a large avalanche in Peru. This was the most catastrophic natural disaster in the history of Peru. Every year on May 31, many schools in Peru go through an earthquake drill in order to commemorate this disaster.


Animal sense

The belief that animals can sense earthquakes has existed for long. In 373 BC, animals, including rats, snakes, and weasels deserted the Greek city of Helice, just days before a quake devastated the city. In Tangshan, China, caged chickens refused to eat, and geese started pecking one another in terror, days before an earthquake.


Rocking land

In California, United States, tiny tremors occur every day! But very few of them actually cause any serious damage. On October 17, 1989, cause any serious damage. On October 17, 1989, during a baseball match in San Francisco, no one was injured, though the game was abandoned.


Philosophy of the quake

In European history, the earliest recorded earthquake occurred in 580 BC. Aristotle was one of the first European philosophers to propound a theory about the origin of earthquakes. According to him, they were caused due to strong winds!


Spooky lights

Sometimes, during an earthquake, the friction between two masses of rock rubbing against each other under the ground creates static electricity. This is seen on the surface as light rising from the ground to the sky. This spooky light is called earthquake light.



The ancient Greek philosopher Thales believed that the earth floated on the sea. According to him, when the sea got agitated due to the moving air beneath, it shook, and as a result, earthquakes occurred.


Land of the shaking sun

According to ancient Japanese legends, earthquakes were caused by the thrashing of a giant catfish-the namazu- that lived under the ground. Today, we know that under the islands of Japan, three tectonic plates jostle regularly. The country has 1,500 active faults. These faults have caused more than four hundred quakes in the last one thousand years.


Prevention is better than cure

Earthquake-proof buildings lessen the damage caused by earthquakes. Two earthquakes of the same magnitude hit Armenia in 1988 and the United States in 1989. While the former killed twenty-five thousand people, the latter killed only sixty-two because of earthquake-proof buildings in the United States.



Did you know that quakes also occur on the moon? Moonquakes, however, happen less frequently and are of lesser intensity than earthquakes. Moonquakes occur due to tides caused by the varying distance between the earth and the moon. Moonquakes, like earthquakes, occur at great depth, about halfway between the surface and the centre of the moon.


Divine intervention

Pagodas are pyramid-shaped temples found in many parts of Asia. Some of them date back to almost a thousand years. Their form and structure make them resistant to earthquakes. They have central columns, which might shake during a tremor, but do not fall.


Measuring disaster

Some earthquakes are very severe. The earthquake that hit Assam, India in 1950 is one such example. It had a magnitude of 9.0 on the Richter scale. An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.0 releases the same amount of energy as that of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.


What ‘Volcano’ means

The Romans believed that Vulcan, the god of fire, lived inside the earth, beneath the Island of Hiera. The Word ‘Volcano’ has been derived from ‘Vulcan’. But different languages have different names for volcano. For example, the Japanese call it Kazan, the Indonesians call it gunung berapi, and the Spanish call it volcan.


Polluting eruptions

Did you know that volcanoes emit gases? Volcanic eruptions mainly comprise water and carbon dioxide, which are not harmful. However, other gases such as sulphur dioxide, hydrogen fluoride, and hydrogen chloride are also emitted. These gases are harmful and cause pollution.


The Weather bug

Volcanoes changes the weather of the area in which they erupt. That’s right! Humid conditions and haze are in which they erupt. That’s right! Humid conditions and haze are created following a volcanic eruption because of the dust and heat. These create ideal conditions for thunderstorms. As a result, eruptions are often accompanied by lightning.


The red curtain

There are long, vertical cracks in the earth’s crust. These cracks are called fissures. Lava erupting from a fissure looks like a wonderful red curtain. Fissures can stretch up to twenty-seven kilometers and sometimes produce enormous amount of lava.


Extinct volcanoes

An extinct volcano is that is not expected to erupt. The Auvergne region of France has many extinct volcanoes. These volcanoes have not erupted for almost six thousand years and have gradually eroded away. They have left behind hardened magma, which looks like rounded hilltops.


Explosive matter

The eruption of Krakatau, Indonesia, in 1883 was as powerful as the explosion of twenty-six of the largest nuclear bombs. The explosion was heard more than 4,800 kilometres away, as far as Perth in Australia. The eruption killed 36,417 people and was among the deadliest volcanic disasters in the world.


Old is not gold

Mount Etna, located in Italy, is the oldest volcano in the world. This volcano is 350,000 year old. Because of its active nature, it has been made part of the United Nation’s International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction project, and is referred to as a Decade Volcano. In the 1970s, Etna released smoke rings, one of the first recorded events of this type. The rings of toxic gases killed birds and sea life around the Mediterranean.


Active in Indonesia

Nearly 1,500 active volcanoes have been identified in the world. A volcano that erupts is called an active volcano. Indonesia has the maximum number of volcanoes. Merapi, literally meaning a ‘mountain of fire’ is Indonesia’s most active volcano. Because of its history of violent eruptions, it has been designated a Decade Volcano.


Moon sighting

Volcanoes are not unique to the earth. The moon also has a lot of volcanic activity. Some of the volcanoes are active in nature. Lava flows can be easily identified on the moon. These can be seen with an ordinary pair of binoculars!


Volcanic homes

Did you know that around five hundred million people live near active volcanoes? Cappadocia is a place in Turkey where a series of volcanoes erupted about 30 million years ago. The volcanic ash and magma solidified into a soft rock called ‘tufa’. People began living there about ten thousand years ago and houses, forming structures known as ‘fairy chimneys’.


The Japanese tale

Mount Fuji is a stratovolcano, which means that it has a tall and conical shape. It is located in Honshu, Japan’s largest island. Mount Fuji last erupted in 1707, when a layer of volcanic ash was deposited on Edo (Tokyo). It has been dormant since then. However, Mount Fuji has been an important part of Japanese culture. Pilgrims climb the mountain as a show of religious piety.


Tragedy of Pompeii

On August 24, AD79, Mount Vesuvius erupted violently. A lot of ash and pumice rained on the town of Pompeii in southern Italy, forming a layer more than three metres thick. Before Mount Vesuvius exploded, people living nearby had no idea that it was a volcano, because it had not erupted for almost six hundred years.


Miracle goddess

The Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes, Pele, is said live inside the Kilauea Volcano on Big Island of Hawaii, United States. It is believed that when she is in a bad mood, she spits lava out of crater. Between 1983 and 1989, the Kilauea volcano produced so much lava that if it were to be used to make a road, the road would circle the earth four times!


Volcanoes are from Mars

The planet Mars also has volcanoes. A huge volcano called Olympus Mons is one of its most prominent features. This is named after Mount Olympus in Greece. The volcano measures 550 kilometres in diameter and is twenty-four kilometers high. It is twenty times the size of the earth’s largest volcano, Mauna Loa, in Hawaii,. In fact, the Hawaiian Islands could easily fit inside Olympus Mons!


The land of ice and fire

Iceland is known as ‘the land of fire and ice’. On the surface, it is icy cold throughout the year, but beneath the surface, volcanic fires rage. The island lies on a volcanic hot spot. It also sits on top of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Together, the hot spot and the ridge produce huge amount of lava, which erupts regularly through vents, fissures , and craters


That’s intense!

About fourteen thousand volcanoes have erupted in the last ten thousand years. Did you know that volcanic eruptions can also be measured? They are measured on the volcanic explosively index, which measures the strength of the eruptions on a scale of zero to eight. Out of the five thousand recorded eruptions, only 160 measure more than four on the scale.


From deep within the earth

The area beneath a volcano may remain hot thousands of years after its last eruption. These areas are known as geothermal regions. Some of the most active geothermal regions in Iceland, northern New Zealand, and the Yellowstone National Park in the United States.


Venting out

Hydrothermal vents are openings on the ocean floor through which hot water, rich in minerals, flows out. Scientists have discovered that life exists deep in the ocean floor near these vents. Since no sunlight can reach there, life forms depend on chemosynthesis-chemical reactions to produce energy-for survival. They make food by using chemicals that are produced by volcanic action!


Studying  volcanoes

Volcanoes have fascinated humans for thousands of years. A person who studies the formation of volcanoes and eruptions is called a volcanologist. Volcanologists often visit volcanoes, especially active ones, to observe volcanic eruptions. About 2,350 years ago, the Greek philosopher Plato travelled to Sicily to watch Mount Etna erupt. He became the first person to describe cooling lava.


Destroyed civilization

Three thousand five hundred years ago, a volcanic eruption destroyed the tiny Aegean island of Thera. This was one of the worst natural disasters since the Ice Age. The ancient Greek Minoan civilization was destroyed by a volcanic eruption.


A dry shell

A prolonged period at drought occurred in Africa about seventy thousand years ago. The drought reduced the human population drastically. Some scientists believe that this drought was the reason that the first humans began leaving Africa and started settling in other parts of the world –in the Middle East, Asia, and Europe.


Flash Floods

Did you know that most deaths caused by floods are due to flash floods? A flash flood is the rapid flooding area. Flash floods usually occur due to intense rainfall, accompanied by thunderstorms. Flash floods can also occur due to the collapse of dams. In 2006, flash floods killed 125 people in Ethiopia after the Omo River burst its banks.


Saharan calamity

The Sahel droughts in Africa began in the late 1960s and lasted up to early 1980s. It led to a famine, which killed more than fifty million people. Droughts are not unusual in the region because rainfall occurs only for a very small period of the year. The region has been experiencing droughts since five thousand years ago when agriculture began to be practiced.


African safari

The water in River Nile begins to rise from the month of June. By the middle of September, the water in the river is at its highest and severe flooding begins. Historically after the flooding, the entire Nile delta would become fertile. In fact, Egyptian culture flourished because of these floods, and the Egyptians celebrated many festivals around the floods.


Flood defences

In many developed countries, river prone to floods are carefully managed. Defences such as levees, bunds, and reservoirs are used to prevent rivers from bursting their banks. A huge mechanical barrier protects London across the Thames River. This barrier is raised whenever the water level reaches a certain point. The largest flood defences are however found in the Netherlands.


The Babylonian tale

According to a Babylonion myth, the gods were distressed by the overpopulation on earth. They dealt with the problem by sending a plague, followed by famine. Both times, the god Enki, who sympathized with the humans, advised them to bribe the gods. The third time, t5he gods tried to destroyed all humans with a flood. But, as advised by the god Enki, a human named Atrahasis built an ark that sheltered animals, birds, and his family, who were thus saved.


Chinese dry land

The deadliest drought in recorded history occurred in China between 1876 and 1879. Rivers dried up completely, and no food could produce in at least nine provinces. This drought caused the death of nine million people.


Kosi calamity

On August 18, 2008, a dam in Nepal broke, breaching the eastern embankment of the river Kosi. The river lies on the Indo-Nepal border. The flood affected more than fifteen million people and damaged public property worth three billion rupees.


The Greek myth

The ancient Greeks believed in three flood myths. The flood of Ogyges, and the flood of Deucalion, and the flood of Dardanus. The flood of Deucalion was sent by Zeus, who was unhappy with human beings, especially their practice of human beings, especially their practice of human sacrifice. The legend goes that Deucalion and his wife Pyrrah survived the flood by floating in a chest they built.


Paddy rich

If you’ve seen people working in a paddy field, you would have noticed that they are usually knee deep in water. This is because rice crops need vast quantities of standing water to grow. In China and Japan, Farmers deliberately flood their rice fields. In India, Pakistan, and Malaysia, the monsoons, which sometimes cause floods and devastation, also provide the region with water for these crops.


Waiting for rain

Australia is often affected by drought due to its geography and rainfall patterns, which keep changing. Australia’s current drought started in 2003, and because of its long duration, it has been termed the ‘Big Dry’.


From the deep

In 1957, Adminaby, a Town in Australia, was flooded to create a man-made lake that would feed the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric scheme. In 2007, drought caused the flooode4d town to reappear!


It happens on Mars too

The surface of mars has features called valley networks, formed 3.5 billion years ago. Scientist believe that these were carved by floods that occurred over and over again for hundrends to thousands of years! During that time the climate on Mars may have been much like that in the arid or semi-arid regions on the earth.


Persian myth

In ancient Persian mythology, the earth was full of monstrous creatures. The angel Tishtrya (the star Sirius) descended thrice, in the form of man, horse, and bull, causing ten days and nights of rain each time. Each raindrop became as big as a bowl, leading to massive flooding.


Deadly duo

In 1980, a drought and heatwave struck the United States, resulting in the destruction of crops worth about twenty billion dollars. Around ten thousand people lost their lives because of the combined effects of the heatwave and drought.


Creating life

Some scientist say that droughts are perhaps what led to the birth of land-dwelling creatures. Billions of years ago, oceans covered the earth, and most life was found in the oceans. However, about half-a billion years ago, a drought occurred, because of which some life forms adjusted to life on land.


The First flood

Sometimes, storms and high tides are responsible for causing floods. In 1099, a combination of high tides and storm flooded the shores of England and Netherlands, killing around a hundred thousand people. This incident was also the first record of a flood in London.


The river of sorrow

The worst flood in modern history occurred in China in 1887. The Yellow River (Hwang Ho)overflowed, causing the death of about 900, 000 people. Some reports also suggested that over a million perished. In fact, people refer to the Hwang Ho as ‘China’s sorrow.


Watery tactics

The 19 83 flood of the Hwang Ho river in China killed 500,000 -900,000 people. It was caused when the Nationalist Chinesse troops, under Chiang Kai-shek, broke the levees of the river in an attempt to turn back the advancing Japanese troops. This strategy was party successful.


The dust bowl

One of the worst droughts in the United States occurred during the 1930s and lasted for almost a decade. It is referred to as the ‘Dust Bowl’. It was caused by a combination of drought and poor farming practices. Large areas of land without ground cover allowed winds to blow dust everywhere, hence the name ‘Dust Bowl’.


Spinning around

Wind does not blow in a straight line. Its direction is affected by the rotation of the earth. So it follows a curved path! In the Northern Hemisphere, winds blow towards the right. In the Southern Hemisphere, they blow towards the left. This is called the Coriolis Effect. French scientist Gustave-Gaspard Coriolis first described the Coriolis Effect in 1835.


Sub-continental Problem

Cyclones strike in the Southern Hemisphere, mostly in the Indian Ocean. Like hurricanes, they also form when the temperature is high and the air is humid. Condensed air creates low pressure in the sea. This brings in Cyclonic winds, and gushing waters hit the land.


Ocean currents

All hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons are created over warm ocean waters. With global warming, the temperature of the oceans is rising. This gives rise to stronger and more dangerous storms.


Arctic cyclones

Storms in the region around the North Pole are called Arctic cyclones. Arctic cyclones become common in the Northern Hemisphere. These winds carry warm air and moisture into the Arctic region, which leads to changes in climatic conditions. This has also destroyed the habitat of Arctic animals like the polar bear.


Scale  a tornado

Through we  can look at a  tornado and get an idea of how big it is, we can’t measure its strength by sight. Instead, scientist often use the F-scale, or Fujita scale, to measure how strong tornadoes are. An F5 tornado can blow away structures that have been reinforced with steel.


Weak and strong

Most tornadoes last only for five to ten minutes, but some have been known to last more than an hour. Did you know that 69 percent of all tornadoes are actually weak in nature. Less than 5 percent of them cause maximum number of deaths.


Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina formed over the Atlantic Ocean on August 23, 2005. It hit the west coast of the United States, with winds reaching a speed of 280 kilometers per hour. The cyclone caused intense flooding destroyed houses and other structures, cut off water supply and electricity, and killed 1,836 people. Katrina is considered the most destructive and the costliest hurricane in the history of the United States. The damage it caused was worth eighty-six billion dollars.


The deadliest one

Hurricane Mitch, which struck in 1998, was one of the deadliest hurricanes to hit the Americas. It killed eleven thousand people in Honduras and Nicaragua, and left 2.5 million homeless. It had a wind speed of 290 kilometres per hour. Prior to Mitch, the strongest cyclone in Central America was Hurricane Fifi, which struck in 1974.


Powerful tornadoes

Although tornadoes occur in many parts of the world, these destructive forces of nature are found to occur most frequently, east of the Rocky Mountains in the United States. In a year, about eight hundred tornadoes occur during the spring and summer months, resulting in massive death and destruction.


Dangerous cyclone

When the Bangladesh cyclone of 1991 hit Chittagong harbor, it picked up a hundred-tonne crane and smashed it on a bridge, which broke into two parts!


Naming hurricanes

For the longest time, hurricanes were named solely after the names of women. This practice came to an end in 1978 when the names of both men and women were included in the Eastern North Pacific storm list. In 1979, male and female names were included in list for the hurricanes striking the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico.


Transparent tornadoes

Tornadoes are formed in thunderclouds and appear almost transparent, until they pick up dust and debris. Did you know that the United States witnesses the largest number of tornadoes in the world? Two countries of the Indian subcontinent come second, namely, Bangladesh and India.


Hot hurricanes

Hurricanes usually occur in the hottest months of the year. This is the time when moisture evaporates from the warm oceans. The rising air spins and creates an area of low pressure, known as the ‘eye of the storm’.


Inland commotion

Hurricanes and cyclones do not just affect coastal areas. They can even cause damage in inland areas. In the Mid-Atlantic region, people living in inland areas have suffered due to such disasters. In 1999, the town of Franklin experienced major flooding after it was struck by Hurricane Floyd. More recently, the impact of storm Isabel was felt as far as Ohio and west Virginia.


Hurricane season

During the 1974 Pacific hurricane season, 148 hurricanes struck the United States and caused immense damage. The hurricane season started on May 15, 1974, in the eastern Pacific and on June 1, 1974, in the central Pacific. The season lasted until November 30, 1974.


Long John !

The longest-lasting typhoon was Typhoon John, which lasted for thirty-one days. It was formed in the north-eastern Pacific. Hurricane Ginger was a tropical cyclone, which lasted for twenty-eight days. It originated in the North Atlantic Ocean in 1971.


What’s in a name

Cyclone Gonu, a super cyclone, struck the coast of Oman and Iran in June 2007. Gonu means ‘bag made a palm leaves’ in Dhivehi, the language of the Maldives. In West Indies, there’s a practice of naming days after Saints. So, for several hundred years, hurricanes were named after a particular saint, depending on the day they occurred. For example, the hurricane that struck Puerto Rico on July 26, 1825, was named Hurricane Santa Ana. In Japan, typhoons are not given personal names, rather they are numbered. For example, the twelfth typhoon of the year is known as ‘typhoon number 12’.


Superior technique

There is a specific technique for finding out the intensity of a tropical cyclone. The Dvorak technique is a method to get estimates of the intensity of tropical cyclones from satellite picture. Vern Dvorak developed this technique as early as 1970s.


Storm in Jupiter

No planets are known to have warm water oceans from which true water cloud hurricanes can form. However, astronomers and meteorologists believe that Jupiter exhibits storms, in which ammonia takes the place of water. One major storm swirling around Jupiter is the Great Red Spot.


Monopolizing danger

Countries can monopolize the name of hurricanes for a few years! Whenever a hurricane has a major impact-socially or financially-any of the countries affected by it can request that the storm’s name be retired. This means that the name cannot be used again for at least ten years.


Water heater

In 2006, a heatwave hit the United Kingdom (UK). This heatwave made the oceans around the UK so warm that whales and dolphin came out of their natural ocean habitat. Many of them were seen off the eastern coast of Scotland.


Lethal Weapon

A heatwave can be extremely lethal. Bet6ween 1992 and 2001, heatwaves in the United States killed 2, 190 people. On an average, four hundred people are killed by a heatwave every year. The 1995 Chicago heatwave killed six hundred people over a period of only five days!


Heating the forests

Heatwaves that occur during droughts can lead to wildfires. During the disastrous heatwave that struck Europe in 2003, fires raged through Portugal, destroying three thousand square kilometers of forests and nearly 438 square kilometers of agricultural land. This heatwave caused a damage of over one billion euros and killed thirty-five thousand people.


The Volcanic chill

In the nineteenth century, a number of volcanic eruptions threw ash into the atmosphere. This ash blocked out most of the sunlight and created cold waves in many parts of the world. In February 1899, temperatures dropped below zero degree Celsius in almost the whole of the United States.



Extreme hail is the most dangerous form of precipitation. In 1999, a devastating hailstorm hit Sydney, Australia. It was the most expensive natural disaster to strike Australia. The storm dropped 500,000 tonnes of hail on Sydney. About 24,000 houses and 70,000 vehicles were destroyed. The damage amounted to 1.7 billion Australian dollars.


American dust

A drought that occurred between 1930 and 1936 turned America’s Bread Bowl-the grain-producing regions in the Mid west-into a Dust Bowl, as dust storms became frequent in this region. One such storm occurred on April 14, 1935, in Texas and lasted for 908 hours! It created complete darkness for eleven hours. High walls of dirt, almost 2.5 kilometres high, covered the region.


Acid everywhere

Acid rain has destroyed many historical monuments. The Taj Mahal in India, St Paul’s Cathedral in England, and the Notre Dame in France have suffered a lot of damage in the last forty years because of acid rain.


Struck by snow

People can freeze to death during hailstorms! In 1942, almost two hundred bodies were recovered when the Roopkund glacier in the Himalayas melted. These people were believed to have frozen to death in a giant hailstorm, which had hit the region in the ninth century.


The naughty dust

China experiences a lot of dust storms, which start in the Gobi Desert. A huge dust storm occurred in 2001, which first covered the eastern cities of China and then travelled west towards the Pacific Ocean. It finally reached North America, where it left layers of brown dust in the ice fields. The dust was later covered with snow.


Bloody rains

Have you ever seen blood-coloured rain? In 1968, strange blood-coloured rain fell on parts of south England. It covered the entire region with a fine coat of red dust. This strange phenomenon occurred because very strong winds from the Sahara Desert carried fine red sand to England. This sand mixed with water droplets in the clouds and fell down as rain!


Temperature slip

On January 23, 1971, the temperature in United States dipped to lowest ever. This lowering of temperature occurred at Prospect Creek in Alaska. It was an icy cold day when temperatures fell to about minus sixty-two degrees Celsius.


Bursting heat

A heat burst has nothing to do with a heatwave! It is, in fact, born out of a cold thunderstorm. In 1994, a heat burst hit Glasgow, United Kingdom. It made the temperature rise from seventeen degrees Celsius in just fifteen minutes.


Oklahoma extreme

In 1996, the city of Oklahoma in the United States witnessed one of the worst heat bursts in the history of the country. It resulted in extreme rise temperatures-from thirty-two degrees Celsius to thirty-eight degrees Celsius in a span of only ten minutes!


Thundering wonder

Thunderstorms cover only a small area, say, about twenty-five kilometers in diameter. They do not last too long either. But they can be devastating. In 1996, a thunderstorm in Manitoba, Canada, created winds that reached a speed of 120 kilometers per hour. These winds destroyed nineteen hydroelectric transmission towers. Till the wires were repaired, Canada had to buy electricity from the United States.



Excessive snowfall can also be counted as an extreme weather event. The heaviest snowfall recovered in American history blanketed Sliver Lake, Colorado, on April 14-15, 1921. It lasted for twenty-four hours and deposited a snow layer 193 centimeters thick.


Suffocating smog

Smog can choke people. A huge complex of factories in the town of Yokkaichi, Japan, which was set up in the 1960s, emitted so much smelly air and irritating smoke that many people started developing acute asthma. A study conducted in 1967 also showed that the polluting chimneys of the factories were causing the breathing disorder.


London smog

London is known for its smog. In 1306, King Edward I put a ban on coal fires in London because they caused air pollution. The Great Smog of 1952 darkened the streets of London and killed nearly four thousand people in four days!


Stoning the hail

Hailstones are concentrations of ice arranged in layers. Hailstones fell in Gikingi village in Nyaharuru province of Kenya the first time in September 2008. As people there had never seen hailstones, they thought it was snowing!


Burning rain

In 1852, Robert Angus Smith became the first scientist to show the relationship between acid rain and atmospheric pollution in Manchester, England. The term acid rain was coined in 1972.


Dust everywhere

Dust storms in the Indian subcontinent have been very destructive. In June 2007, a large dust storm struck Karachi, and areas of Sindh and lower Baluchistan in Pakistan. This was followed by heavy rainfall, which killed nearly two hundred people in the region.




Source: ENVIS Library