Natural Disasters

Unpredictable forces of nature like tornadoes and hurricanes can have a devastating impact on humans and our environment. Learn how natural disasters work and how science aims to better predict them.

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Will earthquakes ever be predictable?

We know where major fault lines crisscross the Earth and where about 80 percent of the world's earthquakes occur; it's the "when" that seismologists have valiantly struggled with. Why?

Top 5 Ways That Wildfires Start

Wildfire isn't always bad for a forest -- it can clear brush, fertilize soil and open new space. But if a prescribed burn or even a small campfire gets out of control, it can quickly destroy forest, homes and wildlife. How do wildfires start?

Volcanoes: Spewing Lava All Over the Countryside

Volcanoes are majestic -- and deadly -- geological formations. See pictures of the world's most incredible volcanoes and the damage they can cause.

Can you really fight fire with fire?

At some point in your life, a coach may have enthusiastically told you to "fight fire with fire." Coach, of course, was speaking metaphorically. Do firefighters actually employ this strategy?

How to Survive an Earthquake

If the big one struck, would you be ready? No? Then start reading and stocking up on food, water and other essential supplies. And hurry up. For some of you, it's not "if" but "when."

How Sinkholes Work

We tend to think of the ground beneath our feet as terra firma, but sometimes it's as stable as a house of cards. What happens when the Earth opens up to swallow homes, cars and people?

How is volcanic ash made?

Folks in Montana usually expect snow or rain to fall from the sky, not ash. But the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington flung ash across state lines. What is this gritty, gray stuff?

What would happen if Mount Vesuvius erupted today?

At any moment, magma moving at 100 mph could rumble into the communities at this volcano's base. Scientists predict a massive eruption, but the question is when.

What is it like in the eye of a tornado?

A tornado can turn a house into toothpicks, but when you think about it, it's really just a funnel of air. What's it like on the inside?

What if a wildfire came near my house?

Wildfires spread quickly consuming almost everything in their path -- including homes. What can you do if you see the inferno racing toward your home?

What if a plane landed in San Francisco at the same time there was a big earthquake?

San Francisco has a new airport that's supposed to stand up to the rigors of an earthquake. Does that mean that planes can land while a massive quake is shaking the city?

What if an asteroid hit the Earth?

There are obvious craters on Earth (and the moon) that show us a long history of large objects hitting the planet. But what if one hit Earth today?

12 of the Most Destructive Earthquakes

Earthquakes and their resulting aftershocks can be devastatingly destructive. Earthquakes are caused when a fault in the Earth's crust slips, which releases energy waves in the ground. Find a list of 12 of the most destructive earthquakes in history.

15 Tornado Safety Tips

Tornadoes are dangerous things, so it's important for you and your family to be prepared in the event of one. The United States experiences more tornadoes than the rest of the world due to low-lying geography. See our list of 15 tornado safety tips.

10 Destructive Hurricanes in Recent Times

While close to 100 tropical storm systems develop each year, often only a handful become hurricanes. Between 80 and 100 of these storms form each year from June to November in the Caribbean. Find 10 destructive hurricanes in recent times.

Mount St. Helens Erupts

The Mount St. Helens eruption resulted in almost 60 deaths. Learn more about the Mount St. Helens eruption, from how it happened to the aftereffects.

How Avalanches Work

Learn how avalanches form, how long you can stay alive while buried under an avalanche and what steps you can take to survive.

How Tsunamis Work

The wall of water that struck northern Japan on March 11 claimed more than nearly 16,000 lives. While the human and cultural extents of this natural disaster are difficult to grasp, we can explain the physical properties that led to it.

Are there more floods now than there used to be?

I read 'How Floods Work,' but I still have a question: Why are there so many more floods now? It seems like there are floods all the time, and it didn't used to be that way. Is it raining more?

How Floods Work

Flooding has claimed more lives than any other natural disaster. Find out how a gentle stream becomes a raging torrent.

How Wildfires Work

The raging wildfires in southern California have claimed lives and destroyed hundreds of homes. Learn how wildfires start and spread, and find out what firefighters do to battle the blaze.

Is it true that scientists are predicting a really big earthquake will sink western California?

Is it true that scientists are predicting a really big earthquake will sink western California into the ocean, or break it off from the continent?

How Earthquakes Work

An earthquake is one of the most terrifying phenomena that nature can dish up. We generally think of the ground we stand on as "rock-solid" and completely stable. An earthquake can shatter that perception instantly, and often with extreme violence.

How Volcanoes Work

Volcanoes are some of nature's most awe-inspiring displays, with everything from exploding mountaintops to rivers of lava. Learn how all the different types of volcanoes work.

How Hurricanes Work

How often have you watched a weather forecaster point to a spiral-shaped cloudy mass with a sense of dread and fascination? What fuels these ferocious storms?


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