By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer
Natural disasters struck hard last week, as a 7.8 magnitude earthquake wreaked havoc in Nepal, Texas was hit by a mile-wide tornado and softball-sized hail, and Chile’s Calbuco volcano erupted!
Nepal is a country located in South Asia, and it contains Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain (29,092 feet). The massive quake not only claimed over 7,500 lives, it also stranded hikers on Everest! International relief efforts are underway to help the survivors recover.
What causes these geological events? The Earth’s crust is broken up into 17 “tectonic plates” that shift around, and the plate boundaries are hotspots for pressure being released in the form of earthquakes and volcanoes.
The intensity of a quake is measured on the Richter magnitude scale, named after Charles Francis Richter, who helped develop the rating system. Richter was a seismologist, an environmental scientist who specializes in earthquakes and related phenomena like tsunamis, where massive waves are triggered by quakes. Tiny quakes are rated 2.0 and under on the Richter scale, whereas the most destructive are 9.0 plus. One of the lucky survivors in the Nepal quake was a 101-year-old man, rescued from the rubble of his home. The United Nations estimates that 600,000 homes were damaged, and 140,000 were destroyed completely.
The skies can also get explosive, especially in Texas, where stormy weather knocked out power to more than 30,000 people, flooded roads, and overturned semi-trailer trucks. When unstable air in a thunderstorm causes windy updrafts and downdrafts, they can form a tornado, tilting the spinning column into a vortex. According to the Three Little Pigs, though, tornadoes are caused by the Big Bad Wolf. No matter the cause, there’s about 1,200 tornadoes annually in the USA.
Geologists have figured out there’s a magma chamber hiding in a supervolcano beneath Yellowstone National Park, big enough to fill 11 Grand Canyons!
Located in Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park also extends into Montana and Idaho. It’s famous for the Old Faithful Geyser, which spews steaming blasts of water from underground. What you may not have heard of before is the Yellowstone Caldera, which is the largest supervolcano on the continent. It’s considered an active volcano, and if it exploded, it would cause massive planet-wide changes.
How do volcanoes work exactly? When gaseous pressure and molten magma builds up beneath the Earth, they can explode into a volcanic eruption, spraying ash and lava all over the place. So, the newly discovered magma chamber is certainly raising a few eyebrows. Fortunately, it’s located between 12 and 28 miles beneath the ground, but scientists are stilling keeping an eye on this volcanic plumbing system. In other volcanic news, Chile’s Calbuco volcano erupted for the first time in over 40 years, twice in 24 hours! It covered the ground in almost 2 feet of ash in some areas, and 4,400 residents were forced to leave the area.
Featured image courtesy of Krish Dulal on Wikipedia. Image courtesy of Aeveraal on Wikipedia.