What Are Some Natural Disasters

Tornado alley sees many twisters every year.

Natural disasters are usually described as the events causing widespread destruction of property or life caused by the natural functions of the planet. Weather and geological forces cause natural disasters. If a disaster strikes in a place that is heavily populated, such as when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans or when the major earthquake struck Japan in 2011, the results can be catastrophic.


Tornadoes involve intense winds springing from a funnel cloud in the sky. When a physical wind twister descends from the funnel cloud to wreak havoc on the ground, it is called a tornado. Essentially, an intense low-pressure area forms and then the winds whip around it at incredibly high speeds. Within a tornado, wind speeds reach between 300 and 500 miles per hour. “Tornado Alley” is a strip in the central United States that sees some of the most frequent and deadly tornadoes in the world every year. It stretches southward from South Dakota to Northern Texas.


Hurricanes are intense storms that combine high winds, rough oceans and torrential rains. In the United States, hurricanes occur all along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. Approximately five hurricanes strike in a normal three-year range. Like a tornado, a hurricane is formed by a low-pressure system. Hurricanes typically appear in tropical regions. Tropical storms are a lesser grade storm than a hurricane and are upgraded to hurricane status when wind severity increases. Hurricanes are named from a predetermined naming list. The most infamous hurricane in the first decade of the 21st century was Katrina, which devastated the city of New Orleans.

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Earthquakes are caused by the motion of the tectonic plates that form the crust of the Earth. These plates have a natural motion that is impeded by the rough edges of the plates grinding against each other. Pressure builds from that natural force until the plates finally slip. The pressure created is released in the form of an earthquake, which results in the shaking of the ground itself. Earthquakes are measured on the Richter scale, which rates earthquake intensity by a number from 1 to 10. The earthquake that struck Japan in March of 2011 measured a 9.0 on the scale.


Volcanoes are another natural disaster caused by geological forces under the crust of the earth. Volcanoes are the points in the earth where the molten magma of the earth’s core reaches the surface. If the magma is too thick, the gas that naturally tries to release through the liquid cannot, and causes a pressure build up. When the pressure builds too much, a massive explosion results. This causes landslides, explosions of lava and massive clouds of dust in the air.