Forces of Nature

We see the destruction that the Earth can unleash in the news on a regular basis. Here you can learn about hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and other forces of nature.


Ah, lightning. Nothing like millions of volts of electricity skittering around your neighborhood to get the old heart rate up and send you scrambling for cover. Of course, no one can stay hidden forever, so when's it safe to come out?

In the distance, storm clouds are gathering. The air feels alive — almost electric. Even the animals are getting restless. Yep, no doubt about it: a storm's brewin'. So should you stay and watch the light show, or should you take cover?

In the days of Ancient Greece, it was easy enough to chalk up a bolt from the blue to Zeus, the great curmudgeon of Mt. Olympus. But while Ancient Greeks probably never felt safe from their grumpy god, today we know a bit more about lightning safety.

Simon and Garfunkel. Peanut butter and jelly. Thunder and lightning. Some things are just better when they roll in pairs. But while we know that '60s folk singers and classic foodstuffs can also roll solo, what about these stormy BFFs?

Your grandfather may swear that he can feel the onset of a harsh winter in his bones — and your family may swear it's true — but a lot of us would prefer a more scientific method for predicting what the winter may have in store for us.

We humans have figured out a lot of strange ways to measure the weather. A cricket's chirps can tell us the temperature. The open scales on a pinecone signal a dry spell. But can a ring around the moon really predict rainy days ahead?

North America certainly has many claims to fame. It's got the Great Lakes, the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls -- all pretty impressive stuff. But can it claim tornadoes as uniquely its own -- and if so, what's up with that?

It sure would be handy to know what the weather is going to be like for the next year. Unfortunately, there's just one problem: Weather is notoriously difficult to predict. So is the Farmers' Almanac accurate, or is it just blowing hot air?

If humid air is just air plus water, then it has to be heavier than dry air, right? Sure, if it was only a matter of simple addition, but molecular physics is a lot like a bouncer at a club: Nothing gets in unless something else goes out.

Admit it: You'd be just a little freaked out if you looked up at the night sky and saw a weird glowing spiral stretching out before you. In 2009, many claimed to witness exactly such a phenomenon, but were they spinning yarns or telling the truth?

Determining the safest place on Earth can be a little tricky. After all, if we all knew where it was, wouldn't we all be clamoring to live there already? And anyway, what do we even mean by "safe" -- and safe from what?

If you're in a thunderstorm, then your top priority is safety. It might sound like a good idea to call your loved ones and let them know you're okay, but hold the phone a moment. See those lightning bolts outside? They've got other ideas.

It would be nice if our electronic devices doubled as handy, lightning-proof talismans to ward off danger during a thunderstorm. Sadly, that sounds more like sorcery than science. In the meantime, maybe you should just leave them off and unplugged.

Some things in this world you can just count on. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Certain types of birds will always fly south for the winter. But do tornadoes really only move from west to east -- and if so, why?

What is the strangest weather-related thing that could happen? Raining frogs? A triple rainbow? Or something else?

Did you know no two people see the same rainbow? Or that they contain 1 million colors — not just the handful we learn in school? Find out how to make your own rainbow — or, if you’d rather, how to make one disappear.

There's a thunderstorm brewing with some serious lightning. Fortunately you're safe in your car because of its rubber wheels. Or are you? And let's not get started on your rubber-soled sneakers!

Only a few natural events pack the power to knock global civilization on its heels. One is a planet-killing meteor. Care to guess the other?

It's hard to resist a movie where bloodthirsty beasts fall from the sky, especially if Ian Ziering stars! How might the science behind this B movie work?

To stay safe during a tornado, it's important to separate fact from fiction. Should you open windows during a storm? Is one corner of the basement safer than another? We answer those questions and more.

Next time the cat starts sneezing, should you look for your umbrella or check her out for allergies? There are many superstitions out there about animals and weather prediction. Which ones hold water, and which ones are for the birds?

Knowing how to react (or not react, as the case may be) when you drive across a patch of black ice is useful; but if you've ever wondered how black ice forms, and what makes it so dangerous, we're here to help.

Ever hear that saying that a cow lies down when rain is coming? This superstition may not be as udderly ridiculous as you think.

There are certain steps you should take to protect yourself, your family and your home during a disaster. These are not those steps.

You've probably heard that no two snowflakes are alike, but can that be true? Find out how molecules of water vapor come together to form these winter wonders.