Natural Disasters are catastrophic events that result from any of the Earth’s natural phenomena.
Natural Disasters are catastrophic events that result from any of the Earth’s natural phenomena. These can range from floods and hurricanes to tsunamis and earthquakes. The Earth, over its 4.54 billion-year history, has seen many natural disasters. Some of these disasters have led to several mass extinctions and drastic repercussions for various surviving species.
A natural disaster can be defined as: “A major event brought about by the natural processes of the Earth that causes widespread destruction to the environment and loss of life.” A natural hazard often precedes a natural disaster. For instance, the Gujarat Earthquake, which occurred on 26th January 2001 is a natural disaster. The natural hazard is living under the active fault lines present under the state of Gujarat. However, some natural hazards can also be provoked or affected by anthropogenic factors. For instance, landslides can be triggered by deforestation, mining and agricultural activities. Natural disasters often cause destruction on a massive scale. Certain natural disasters such as wildfires cause destruction of animal habitat as well as damage to property and loss of life.
There are many natural disasters. They can be grouped into different categories based on specific criteria:
Geological disasters are catastrophic events that arise as a result of changes in the earth, either above the surface or below the surface. For instance, volcanic eruptions frequently occur where tectonic plates make contact. Moreover, earthquakes are prone in regions with active plate tectonics.
Hydrological Disasters are described as a sudden and violent event caused due to the change in the quality, distribution or movement of water below the surface or in the atmosphere. For example, a tsunami is a large column of water or waves caused by the displacement of a large volume of water. They are generally caused due to earthquakes or volcanic eruptions under the sea.
Meteorological Disasters are usually caused by extreme weather such as rain, snow or drought. These affect the earth’s atmosphere and the weather-forming process. Moreover, these types of meteorological disasters are particularly destructive to the environment and can wreak havoc on life. Examples of meteorological disasters include hurricanes, hailstorms and tornadoes.
Space disasters primarily include solar flares, impact events and airburst events. In the earth’s 4.5 billion-year history, impact events are believed to have caused at least one mass extinction. The KT extinction is the most credible – as there is circumstantial evidence in the form of the Chicxulub crater. This is also responsible for causing the extinction of all non-avian dinosaurs nearly 65 million years ago. Solar flares occur when the sun suddenly releases an unusually large amount of solar radiation. However, it is thought to not cause any direct effects on life – however, solar flares can damage electrical equipment, leading to disruption. Gamma-ray bursts are extremely energetic explosions that are observed in distant galaxies. The Ordovician–Silurian extinction event, which occurred 450 million years ago on earth, is hypothesized to have been caused by a Gamma-ray burst. If such an event were to happen again today, it can result in a mass extinction event again.
Nearly all the aforementioned types of natural disasters have occurred to date. A few of the most infamous natural disasters are discussed below:
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Avalanche Landslides Earthquakes Sinkholes Volcanic Eruption
Cyclonic Storm Blizzard Cold waves Heat waves Drought Hailstorms Tornadoes
Impact Events Solar Flares Gamma-Ray Bursts
An earthquake triggered an avalanche in Peru, killing nearly 20,000 people.
An entire village was wiped away in the Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand
An earthquake which registered 7.9 on the Richter scale, ripped through Gujarat, killing over 1,00,000 people
A sinkhole over a 100 meters deep formed suddenly. The event resulted in the death of five people and evacuation of thousands
Mount Vesuvius – the deadliest volcano to ever erupt. It released 100,000 times the thermal energy of the Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombings. It was speculated that around 2,000 people died as a direct result
A series of floods devastated China. It was also called one of the deadliest floods in history, with the death toll estimated to be between 3.7 million to 4 million
A 9.0 magnitude earthquake caused a 33 feet high tsunami to strike. It resulted in the deaths of over 18,500 individuals. The tsunami also caused the nuclear meltdown of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant.
A limnic eruption is a rare kind of natural disaster. Because of its invisible nature, only two instances of this disaster have been ever observed. The deadliest among the two was the Lake Nyos limnic eruption. 1746 people and 3500 cattles were killed in this event.
Cyclone Amphan caused widespread damage in Eastern India, while Cyclone Nisarga wreaked havoc on the West Coast of India.
In 1972, a blizzard dropped nearly 26 feet of snow, completely covering 200 villages in Iran. It was the deadliest in recorded history, causing the death of 4,000 individuals.
In February 2020, Baghdad experienced the very first snowfall since the 1910s.
Cape Town, in South Africa faced a major water crisis between mid 2017 to 2018. This crisis had an extensive impact on public health and the nation’s economy.
The Daulatpur-Saturia tornado was the deadliest tornado to occur in recorded history. It killed approximately 1,300 people and injured an estimated 12,000 people.
The Chicxulub impactor is the asteroid that struck earth roughly 66 million years ago. This, along with the event’s aftermath caused the extinction of 75% of all plant and animal species.
The 2019-20 Australian Bushfires resulted in 34 deaths, destruction of 5,900 buildings, and an estimated 46 million acres were burnt.