Top 10 Natural Disasters

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B4L6 Outside Reading Longman Junior High English

Top 10 Natural Disasters


Natural disasters are the stuff that fear is made of. We can prepare for them, but we can't prevent them; we can anticipate them, but we can't accurately predict them. (If we could, they wouldn't be much of a problem.)
Natural disasters put us in our place on a fairly regular basis, letting us know that the planet, and not humanity, is in charge.
No. 01 - "The Great Flood," sometime a long, long time ago

Be it a historic deluge or merely a historic delusion, the theme of an ancient, destructive flood appears across a wide variety of cultures, from the Judeo-Christian Noah's Ark to Sumerian, Indian and Native American legends. And it certainly is the stuff of legend: the whole world submerged! Sinners wiped out! Species threatened! There's just one problem: the flood may not actually have happened.

So did the flood actually take place, way back when, eons ago, or is it just a catchy story, perpetuated by humanity's collective fascination with the idea of "washing things clean" and influenced by a few bad floods in ancient times?

Most of the scientific community seems to regard the legend as nothing more than a myth, but just for its longevity and continuing role as a basis of comparison for every flood to occur in modern times, the "Great Flood" makes the list.

No. 02 - Indian Ocean Tsunami, Dec. 26, 2004

It all started with an earthquake - a very big earthquake. The 9.1 magnitude Sumatra quake, centered off the coast of that Indonesian island, was the third largest recorded quake in history.

It was also the longest. The earth shook for over eight minutes when the fault slipped at the Andaman-Sumatra sub-duction zone, where the Indian Plate is slowly sliding underneath the Burma Plate. The quake was so severe that the entire planet vibrated as much as 1 centimeter.

However, the quake was just the start of Mother Nature's reign of terror.

The tsunami that it unleashed was the most destructive in recorded history. Spreading over 14 countries, it killed nearly 230,000 people and displaced some 1.7 million more. Water levels rose worldwide and waves up to 100 feet high inundated smaller islands, eventually providing the impetus for a new Indian Ocean tsunami warning system.

No. 03 - Hurricane Katrina and the 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season

The Category 5 storm named Katrina that roared through the Gulf Coast in August 2005 is now infamous. More than 1,800 people lost their lives as Katrina challenged an infrastructure that was never designed to handle such might. Eighty percent of New Orleans flooded as levees failed and stormwaters surged, providing a powerful and humbling message about the destructive power of nature.

Katrina's maximum sustained winds of 175 mph made it the fourth most severe Atlantic hurricane on record, but it would be surpassed by both Hurricanes Rita and Wilma in the coming months. By the end of the 2005 hurricane season, forecasters had exhausted the full alphabet of storm names and turned to Greek letters to do the job. Fifteen hurricanes made the season the worst on record, with some experts wondering what role global warming might have played and whether the season was a warning of future years to come.
No. 04 - Krakatoa (aka Krakatau), Aug. 26-27, 1883

When it exploded in a series of four blasts in August 1883, the Indonesian volcano of Krakatoa released three cubic miles of magma and as much energy as an atomic bomb. At least one of the blasts was heard thousands of miles away.

The volcanic boom that shook nearly the entire Pacific took out an entire island as the volcanic crater sank to the ocean floor and unleashed a tsunami that submerged over 100 villages on nearby islands. Over 36,000 people died, most in the resulting tsunamis.

The ash Krakatoa spewed into the air traveled as far as New York and cooled temperatures globally for years to come, but its legacy as one of the biggest volcanic eruptions in history has lasted much longer than that. Today, a smaller volcano island has emerged in its place. Named Anak Krakatau (meaning "child of Krakatau"), it emerged about 80 years ago and though it is prone to spewing ash and lava, geologists think it's unlikely it will repeat its parent's fate anytime soon.

No. 05 - Pompeii, 79 A.D.

Your average disaster has a shelf life ranging from a few months to a few years … rarely much longer than lifetime or two, which makes the volcanic eruption at the Italian city of Pompeii all that more impressive.

You've probably heard of it even though it happened nearly 2,000 years ago, way back in 79 A.D. The eruption lasted almost a full day and buried the city in a fast-moving cloud of ash and pumice (called a pyroclastic flow). Bad news if you were a resident in the year 79, but good news if you were an 18th- or 19th-century archaeologist. The ashes preserved the ruins, including the remains of the inhabitants, for thousands of years.

Mount Vesuvius, the local volcano and guilty party, is still active, but hasn't erupted since 1944. During World War II, when an eruption destroyed several villages and a whole bunch of U.S. Army planes.

  1. Find four words belong to ‘natural disasters’ and write them in the boxes below.

  1. What kind of natural disasters are you most afraid of? Why?

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