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.

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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?

By Charles W. Bryant

Auroras are stunning natural light shows that are visible only in certain parts of the world at certain times of the year. Where can you go to see one?

By Craig Freudenrich, Ph.D.

Being struck by lightning is a little more complicated than a sudden collision with a flash of light from the sky, and not all strikes are equally lethal.

By Katherine Neer

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

By Katherine Neer

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?

By Katherine Neer

You’ve heard the warnings about thunderstorms: Stay out of the tub, unplug your TV and don’t call people from your land line. But can you really get struck by lightning while you’re inside?

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?

By Marshall Brain

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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.

By the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.

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.

By the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.

Acid rain is caused by emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from power plants, cars and factories. Find out how acid rain is produced, how it affects natural and man-made objects and how governments aim to reduce it.

By Sarah Dowdey

As a dominant world power, there's not much that China doesn't affect or control outright these days, including the weather. How did the superpower produce flawless skies for the biggest party of the year?

By Jacob Silverman & Robert Lamb

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For three years, ending in the spring of 2007, the state of Texas experienced a terrible drought. When a large storm system settled over the state late that spring, many Texans rejoiced. But then the rain continued. And continued. For 45 days, it didn't stop.

By Jacob Silverman

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.

By Marshall Brain

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

By Tracy V. Wilson

Tornado chasers generally stay about a mile away from the tornado itself -- but not IMAX cinematographer Sean Casey. He has built a Tornado Intercept Vehicle and hopes to withstand a direct hit. Check it out.

By Tracy V. Wilson

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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.

By Robert Valdes, Nathan Halabrin & Robert Lamb

Rainbows are one of nature's most beautiful effects. Have you ever wondered how the colors end up in seemingly perfect bands? And, what about double rainbows -- how does that happen? Find out how rain and sun can align to put color in the sky.

By Tom Harris

Why does the sky get dark at night? Don't tell me it's just because the Earth rotates and the sun sets -- what I mean is, with all of its stars and other luminous bodies, why isn't the universe infinitely bright?

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?

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

By Tom Harris

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.

By Kevin Bonsor

Around 1,800 thunderstorms are occurring on the Earth at any given time. However, they typically only occur in the warmer parts of the planet. Why does warm weather spawn more thunderstorms than colder weather?

Do scientists really think a massive earthquake could break California in two?

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I've noticed signs on the highway that warn "Bridge Ices Before Road." What causes bridges to ice before the rest of the highway?

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.

By Tom Harris & Patrick J. Kiger