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50 Frequently Asked Questions About Floods and Their Answers

What is this event actually? How is it different from a flash event? Flash water surges are the most dangerous type of flood because they combine the destructive power of a huge, moving body of water with immense speed. Flash events usually develop rapidly, giving residents little time to evacuate. In particularly steep, clay-earth areas or in regions that receive a lot of rainfall, a flash flood can form in under an hour. Such an event can put countless human lives in danger extremely rapidly.

A "regular" flood, on the other hand, refers to any buildup of water that overcomes the banks, shoreline, levees, beach, embankment, break wall, or other natural or manmade artifacts or formations that generally keep that water at bay. Such a water buildup is still dangerous, as it can submerge homes, cars, people, and animals. But such a disaster event does not usually involve water that is moving as rapidly as in the case of a flash event.

Rushing water, moving with inertia and a force unparalleled by any machinations of man, it's difficult to comprehend the sheer power of a disaster like this. Floods are the natural disaster that can literally force homes off of their foundations and push them across the ground. Such events can cause immense harm, destroying anything and everything in their path. Of all the natural disasters, these ones also exert the greatest cost in human life. The two worst natural disasters in recorded history were both floods.

A The National Severe Storms Laboratory defines events like these as such “Flooding is an overflowing of water onto land that is normally dry. Floods can happen during heavy rains, when ocean waves come on shore, when snow melts quickly, or when dams or levees break. Damaging flooding may happen with only a few inches of water, or it may cover a house to the rooftop. Floods can occur within minutes or over a long period, and may last days, weeks, or longer. Floods are the most common and widespread of all weather-related natural disasters.”

The best way to determine if your home is in an at-risk zone is to check with your local county or township. They will have maps that indicate which homes are at risk for water surges and which aren’t. Keep in mind though, you can still be at risk for water surge even if you don’t live in a flood zone.

According to Flood Smart, a program organized by FEMA, “Flood insurance covers losses directly caused by flooding.... Property outside of an insured building. For example, landscaping, wells, septic systems, decks and patios, fences, seawalls, hot tubs, and swimming pools. Financial losses caused by business interruption.” It’s important to prepare for and protect against such events. Holding an insurance policy that can cover the repairs to your home should not be your first or only line of defense against such disaster events (though it is helpful).


The various types of water risk zones are given specific designations to differentiate them. These designations also determine whether or not homeowners will need to purchase insurance as a part of their mortgage. According to one resource, “AE flood zones are areas that present a 26% chance over the life of a 30-year mortgage, according to FEMA. Since these areas are prone to flooding, homeowners with mortgages from federally regulated lenders are required to purchase flood insurance through the NFIP."

Flood Zone X refers to an area that is outside the 500-year risk area, and which is protected by a levee from the 100-year risk. This is a moderate risk area, meaning that purchase of a home in this area may require insurance for many home mortgage lenders to agree to offer a mortgage for the home.

According to one resource, this region is defined as follows “Zone A is the flood insurance rate zone that corresponds to the 1-percent annual chance floodplains that are determined in the Flood Insurance Study by approximate methods of analysis. Because detailed hydraulic analyses are not performed for such areas, no Base Flood Elevations or depths are shown within this zone. Mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements apply.”

The great water surge event of Noah may have occurred around 2,900 BCE.

Such a plain is defined by an area of low-lying ground that is adjacent to a river. This geographic region will have been formed mainly by river sediments, and even if it is a good distance away from current river systems, such a plain is still subject to flooding.

Such a warning is usually suggestive of low-risk rainfall and puddling or pooling. Such warnings are usually issued when one to two inches of rain are expected.

You might not have much time to prepare for such a disaster event, so it’s important to be hasty and prioritize your time. One government resource suggests that people do as much research and preparation during normal, dry times, so that when a massive water event does occur, they are sufficiently prepared.

According to one organization, “Make a plan for your household, including your pets, so that you and your family know what to do, where to go, and what you will need to protect yourselves from flooding. Learn and practice evacuation routes, shelter plans, and flash flood response. Gather supplies, including non-perishable foods, cleaning supplies, and water for several days, in case you must leave immediately or if services are cut off in your area. Keep important documents in a waterproof container. Create password-protected digital copies. Protect your property. Move valuables to higher levels. Declutter drains and gutters. Install check valves. Consider a sump pump with a battery.”

People often wonder what the difference is between a “watch” and a “warning.” According to www.weather.gov: “A Flash Flood Warning is issued when a flash flood is imminent or occurring. If you are in a flood prone area move immediately to high ground. A Flood Warning is issued when flooding is imminent or occurring. A Flood Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for a specific hazardous weather event to occur. A Flood Advisory is issued when a specific weather event that is forecast to occur may become a nuisance.”

One of the reasons why water-related disaster events are the most common type of natural disaster is because the conditions which form such events occur quite frequently. Floods occur when heavy rainfall exceeds the ability of the ground to absorb that sheer amount of rain. Virtually any severe rainstorm has the potential of causing a water surge. Such surges also occur when enough water accumulates in streams, rivers, and lakes for the water to overflow the river banks or the edges of the body of water. Another cause of such events is ice jams and snowmelt. A deep snowpack that melts rapidly can cause flooding to occur. When spring rains exaggerate snowmelt, flash water surge can occur.

Wetlands are immensely important to the local ecosystem and, as it turns out, to protecting human life and property. Wetlands temporarily store water and slowly release it into the environment. Wetlands are a natural sponge, able to soak up storm waters and prevent water runoff and damage to surrounding human habitation.

It is almost impossible to guarantee the prevention of such a natural disaster. Ditches, fields, levees, dams, rain gardens, and water retention ponds can help. However, communities must ask the question, “To what extent are we willing to alter the surrounding environment and ecosystem?” It might be more safe to simply not build in extremely water-prone areas, and to instead let nearby wetlands protect the region from excessive water flow.

The name of such an event is an effort to simplify a more complex natural event. Basically, labeling such an event “A 100 year event” is an easy way of categorizing a type of water surge that only has a 1% chance of occurring each year, hence the idea that that level of water flow is only supposed to occur once every 100 years.

One of the reasons why water flow disasters are the most destructive natural disaster in the United States is because they occur in every U.S. state and territory. They are a threat anywhere in the world that experiences rain. Even arid regions can experience such events because a sudden rainfall can overwhelm dry creek beds and flow into local communities.

Such events are caused by excessive rainfall in a certain area. They can also be caused by the release of water held by an ice jam or some other type of blockage. Such events usually come about during or after slow-moving thunderstorms that deposit heavy rains on a concentrated area. Disasters like these can also result from hurricanes or other tropical storms.

Such plains are formed by erosion, i.e., the gradual cutting of a steam or river into its banks. This process occurs over countless years, sometimes thousands of years, to shape a significant region around a river. As the plain is formed, it can also experience water-level rises during particularly bad storms.

The best way to protect yourself and others when it comes to dangerous rises in water levels is to be aware and informed of their risk and to have an escape route in place.

1). Know if you live in a flood plain. Are you at risk for a flood? Study local maps and determine if you live in such a plain. Most U.S. counties have detailed flood plain maps, and many counties won't even let new homes be constructed in such plains.

2). Be warned. The best chances for surviving a disaster-level water event come from knowing when a water surge is coming. Invest in an NOAAA radio, and make sure your cell phone emergency alerts are turned on.

3). Have an escape route. You need to know where you will evacuate to if the water levels begin to rise. Where can you drive to that is higher in elevation than where you currently live? How can you drive there without having to drive through lower elevation areas?

4). Learn the terminology. Know the different types of warnings. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association monitors water level conditions and sends out alerts if a water level rise seems likely. For example, a flash event "watch" (or a flood watch) means that flash flooding or flooding is possible within the designated watch area. Be alert. A flash event "warning" (or a flood warning), on the other hand, means that flash flooding or flooding has been reported and is imminent. If you hear such warnings for your area, take necessary precautions at once, and get to higher ground!

5). "Turn around, don't drown." According to the NOAAA, most flooding deaths occur when people attempt to drive their cars into or through water-covered roadways. If you are attempting to evacuate an area and you encounter such a road, turn around and find an alternate route. Never attempt to drive on or through a road that has water flowing over it..

A Floods are deadly and dangerous. If such a disaster event is coming your way, do everything you can to evacuate safely. If you cannot evacuate, seek higher ground wherever you are. Never try to swim in or drive through such waters.

This simply refers to any region which may experience a water level rise that may be a risk to local human habitation.

According to one safety management group, “The main cause of flooding in urban areas is poor or lack of drainage. High intensity rainfall overwhelms sewage and drainage within cities and neighborhoods, filling the streets in a dangerous mix of sewage and floodwater. Urban flooding is a slower process that hinders transportation and may damage daily activities but rarely results in deaths.”

There is not much humans can do to proactively prevent disasters like these from occurring. Rather, it’s more about what humans don’t do. Case in point, when humans pave over natural soil with parking lots, roads, and buildings, they are making it more difficult for rainwater to seep naturally into the soil. Urban development actually makes serious rainfall worse, not better. Preserving wetlands and investing in water-pervious paving methods can prevent serious disaster events from occurring.

This refers to an area that is only expected to receive higher-than-normal water levels once every 100 years. Another way to look at it is that such regions only have a 1% chance of experiencing disaster-level water events each year.

This is simply a type of water event that involves the rapid rise of water levels and disbursement of water into a region with little to no warning.

The term simply refers to an area in and around a river or stream that is subject to rising water levels during excessive rain and other natural events.

This refers to a powerful surge of water onto land, usually tidal water in the ocean.

This refers to an area with minimal hazard for serious water runoff events.

Turn around, don’t drown! That is the catch phrase to remember. If safe evacuation over roads that do NOT have water on them is possible, then evacuate. But if roads to higher ground are not passable, turn around, and try to find higher ground somewhere else. Sometimes, the highest ground available will be the second floor or roof of you home, so keep that in mind as a potentially good place to wait out a storm event.

Natural levees can help prevent excessive water events from occurring. However, if the natural levees fail, it can often result in a serious water runoff event.

According to the Flood Observatory (recording such events since 1985), the average duration of water above normal levels is 9.5 days. While floods can form very quickly (particularly in the case of flash floods), they often linger for many days at a time before the water level returns to a normal range. A flood is still quite dangerous, even if the water is no longer moving as rapidly.

Such an event can bring walls of water from ten to twenty feet high. A car can be taken away by such water in as little as two feet of water, and entire homes can be shifted off their foundations by particularly strong surges. Such a disaster event can cover a large swath of land too, depending on the geography of the region.

This term refers to the water level, as read by a stream gauge or tide gauge, for a body of water at a particular location, at a particular time. As the measurement varies, experts are able to monitor the various stages of excess water flowing into or out of that region at any given time.

The National Severe Storms Laboratory defines these events as such: “Flooding is an overflowing of water onto land that is normally dry. Floods can happen during heavy rains, when ocean waves come on shore, when snow melts quickly, or when dams or levees break. Damaging flooding may happen with only a few inches of water, or it may cover a house to the rooftop. Floods can occur within minutes or over a long period, and may last days, weeks, or longer. Floods are the most common and widespread of all weather-related natural disasters.”

Such events are most likely to occur in areas that experience significant rainfall or in coastal and river regions. But disasters like these can technically occur anywhere that has rainfall.

A 500 year event such as this is one that only has a 0.2% chance of occurring each year, hence the likelihood of such a disaster event only occurring once every 500 years.

Do not enter standing water that is leftover from such an event, as it may be carrying an electrical current. Wait until all of the water has receded before you begin the cleanup and recovery process.

If the water surge is so bad that water begins to come into your home, there are several things you must do, and quickly! Turn off the electricity to your home, to prevent electrical currents from traveling through the water. Evacuate the premises if you are able to plot out a safe route along a road that does NOT have water flowing over it. If that is not possible, call for help. While waiting for help to arrive, seek higher ground in the second floor of your home, or on the roof, if necessary.

There are some basic, life-saving rules to follow during a sudden water surge event. From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Gather emergency supplies, including food and water. Store at least 1 gallon of water per day for each person and each pet. Store at least a 3-day supply. Listen to your local radio or television station for updates. Have immunization records handy (or know the year of your last tetanus shot). Bring in outdoor possessions (lawn furniture, grills, trash cans) or tie them down securely. If evacuation appears necessary, turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve. Leave areas subject to flooding such as low spots, canyons, washes, etc. (Remember: avoid driving through flooded areas and standing water.)”

This is an event in which low-lying coastal regions are submerged by sea water. This can occur as a result of hurricanes and other tropical storms, or as a result of particular high tides or storm surges.

River plains and coastal regions are the areas most susceptible to such disaster events. However, a disaster like this can actually occur just about anywhere that experiences rainfall. Even in the desert, immense water runoff has been known to occur.

They are primarily dangerous because they occur so rapidly and can often catch people off guard. Particularly in rural areas with few roads, such a disaster event can quickly trap people in an isolated region, often giving them no way to safely evacuate.

Wetlands are extremely important! They should not be altered, drained, or paved over. They act as natural sponges that absorb excess rainwater and stormwaters. Paving over them makes water runoff worse, creating more severe water surge events as a result.

According to the records, the 1931 flooding of the Yangtze River in China (called the Central China Floods of 1931) comes first for the worst natural disaster in human history. Anywhere from 2 million to 3.7 million people died because of this flood. One of the reasons for the huge death toll is that the flood covered a massive swath of land, about 70,000 square miles all in all.

One of the reasons why water level rises are the most common type of natural disaster is because the conditions which form such events occur quite frequently. Surges occur when heavy rainfall exceeds the ability of the ground to absorb that sheer amount of rain. Virtually any severe rainstorm has the potential of causing such an event. Floods also occur when enough water accumulates in streams, rivers, and lakes for the water to overflow the river banks or the edges of the body of water. Another cause of floods is ice jams and snowmelt. A deep snowpack that melts rapidly can cause surging to occur. When spring rains exaggerate snowmelt, flash flows can occur.

Floods can cause immense damage to anything in their path. Flash floods, in particular, are quite devastating, as they tend to involve fast-moving water. Densely populated areas are also at higher risk for crisis-level incidences because buildings, highways, and parking lots increase runoff by reducing the amount of rain absorbed by the ground.

If a thunderstorm lingers over an area for an extended period, it can cause a nearby stream with just a few inches of water in it to rise ten feet or more in under an hour. That poses a particular risk to people who are camping or recreating near bodies of water during intense rainfall.

The primary cause for concern with floods are the legitimate risk of drowning. Such events occur quickly, they usually involve fast-moving water, and they are quite unpredictable. People who get caught in a disaster like this are often unable to get out of the water, and they drown. In the United States, floods kill more people than tornadoes, hurricanes, or lightning.

All such events are dangerous, but flash floods are by far the most dangerous. With that in mind, the following are the regions of the U.S. where flash floods are most likely to occur:

  • Densely populated areas. As mentioned earlier, the buildup of concrete structures, essentially "paving over the world," makes stormwater runoff conditions much worse.
  • Areas near rivers. These regions are at risk for serious water level rises. Even when levees are built near flood-prone rivers, such installations are not always effective at preventing the water level from rising over the levee.
  • Dam failures. When a dam fails, this causes a sudden and destructive surge of water to plummet downstream. Such an event can be particularly devastating, as people living nearby usually have little to no warning of such an event occurring.
  • Mountainous regions, steep hills, and clay-like soil. Steep areas are more prone to water level rises, particularly in the southeastern United States, where the soil is more clay-like and not as absorptive.
  • Canyons and river beds. Out west, a dry creek bed or a canyon may seem like a safe place to recreate. But this is not always the case. During incidences of heavy rainfall (even rainfall occurring far away from campers upstream), dry creek beds and canyons can fill with water rapidly, posing an immense risk to those nearby.
  • Recent burn areas. An area that has been burned recently (such as a coordinated burning in a forest) is at risk for water surges, as much of the vegetation which would have captured flood waters will have been burned away.

Yes, they absolutely can! One of the more sinister risks of water level rises is that the water levels can begin to recede, and there can be the appearance of safety. Then, suddenly, a second rainstorm can occur upstream, or a levee can break, or a dam fails, and floodwater levels rise again. This is why it is critical not to approach a recently flooded area until public health and safety experts say it is safe to do so.

The two most devastating natural disasters in recorded history were both the result of sudden increases in water levels. According to the records, the 1931 flooding of the Yangtze River in China (called the Central China Floods of 1931) comes first for the worst natural disaster in human history. Anywhere from 2 million to 3.7 million people died because of this disaster event. One of the reasons for the huge death toll is that the flood covered a massive swath of land, about 70,000 square miles all in all.

The second-worst natural disaster in human history was also a flood, and it also occurred in China. This was the 1887 Yellow River Flood, a natural disaster that killed anywhere from 900,000 to 2 million people. The event was partially caused by human interference, as the Yellow River had risen above and away from nearby farmland by a series of dikes. When heavy rains surged the river, it spilled over the dikes and put about 5,000 square miles underwater.

As for such disasters in the United States, the worst one was undoubtedly the 1889 flood in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. In this disaster, an upstream dam failed, and a wall of water 40 feet high and a half-mile wide came roaring down upon the Appalachian town of Johnstown, killing 2,209 people within minutes.

Most scientists believe that instances of water surge will become more frequent and more intense in the coming years. As it currently stands, an increasing number of coastal and inland communities are already experiencing higher numbers of events of this kind.

There is a growing body of evidence that, as the effects of climate change become more pronounced, floods will become more frequent and more intense. Quoting the Natural Resources Defense Council, “As the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) noted in its special report on extremes, it is increasingly clear that climate change 'has detectably influenced' several of the water-related variables that contribute to floods, such as rainfall and snowmelt. In other words, while our warming world may not induce floods directly, it exacerbates many of the factors that do. According to the Climate Science Special Report (issued as part of the Fourth National Climate Assessment, which reports on climate change in America), more flooding in the United States is occurring in the Mississippi River Valley, Midwest, and Northeast, while U.S. coastal flooding has doubled in a matter of decades.”

It would seem that floods will get worse. They'll become more frequent, and the floods that do occur will likely be more devastating than they were before.


80 Frequently Asked Questions About Earthquakes and Their Answers

It takes a very specific geological event to create an earthquake. Here's how it happens: The ever-present movement of the tectonic plates beneath the Earth's crust causes occasional collisions that release energy, essentially a grinding between two plates. This results in an earthquake. Most quakes tend to occur along fault lines (boundaries between plates) because this is where most movement occurs, plate-to-plate.

The United States Geological Survey defines an earthquake as such: "Earthquake is a term used to describe both sudden slip on a fault, and the resulting ground shaking and radiated seismic energy caused by the slip, or by volcanic or magmatic activity, or other sudden stress changes in the earth." Simply stated, this type of disaster involves the events underneath the surface of the Earth that lead up to the quake and the actual quake itself.

Like most natural disasters, quakes require certain environmental circumstances to be in place for them to occur. Again quoting the United States Geological Survey, "An earthquake is caused by a sudden slip on a fault. The tectonic plates are always slowly moving, but they get stuck at their edges due to friction. When the stress on the edge overcomes the friction, there is an earthquake that releases energy in waves that travel through the Earth's crust and cause the shaking that we feel."

There is a very simple bit of advice to remember if you find yourself caught in a quake. This is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which published findings on the safest way to survive a quake. "DROP down onto your hands and knees before the earthquake knocks you down. This position protects you from falling but allows you to still move if necessary. COVER your head and neck (and your entire body if possible) underneath a sturdy table or desk. If there is no shelter nearby, get down near an interior wall or next to low-lying furniture that won't fall on you, and cover your head and neck with your arms and hands. HOLD ON to your shelter (or to your head and neck) until the shaking stops. Be prepared to move with your shelter if the shaking shifts it around."


Quakes can occur just about anywhere. In fact, almost every state in the United States has recorded incidences of earthquakes occurring. However, some states and regions are more prone to such disasters than others. The ten states in the U.S. that receive the most earthquakes are:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Hawaii
  • Nevada
  • Washington State
  • Idaho
  • Wyoming
  • Montana
  • Utah
  • Oregon

Earthquakes occur as a natural, though disastrous phenomenon. They are caused by a sudden slip, below the Earth's surface, along a fault line. A fault line is a place where two tectonic plates meet. These plates are slowly moving, and sometimes they grind along each other, causing a shift of rock and a resulting quake to occur.

The Richter Scale is a special measurement designation used to determine the intensity and severity of an earthquake. According to the USGS, "Earthquakes are recorded by a seismographic network. Each seismic station in the network measures the movement of the ground at that site. The slip of one block of rock over another in an earthquake releases energy that makes the ground vibrate. That vibration pushes the adjoining piece of ground and causes it to vibrate, and thus the energy travels out from the earthquake hypocenter in a wave." Earthquakes are measured by their magnitude on a scale of 0 to, essentially, infinity. The highest magnitude earthquake ever recorded ranked at 9.5 on the Richter Scale.

Most small earthquakes only last for a few seconds, but more intense earthquakes can last for several minutes. A quake rarely lasts longer than a few minutes. However, such events can cause massive, even catastrophic devastation in those minutes.

It's not easy to prepare for a quake because such events are not easy to predict. Ready.gov, a government-funded and run disaster preparedness website, says this about preparing for such an event: "Practice drop, cover, and hold on with family and coworkers. Create a family emergency communications plan that has an out-of-state contact. Put together a stash of non-perishable foods, cleaning supplies, and water for several days, in case services are cut off in your area. Secure heavy items in your home like bookcases, refrigerators, televisions and objects that hang on walls. Store heavy and breakable objects on low shelves."

In the United States, the most commonplace for quakes to occur is in California. This is because two tectonic plates meet in California, the Pacific Plate, and the North American Plate. The major fault line that is formed by the plates is called the San Andreas Fault. It's important to keep in mind that, though earthquakes tend to occur in specific regions where tectonic plates meet, quakes can occur at any location and at any time. For example, only eight states in the U.S. have not recorded a quake event (at least not between 1973 and 2003). These are Wisconsin, Vermont, North Dakota, Maryland, Iowa, Florida, Delaware, and Connecticut. As for the remaining 42 states, frequency of quake events ranges anywhere from West Virginia, which has just one quake on record, to Alaska, which has 12,053 earthquakes on record for the 1973 to 2003 recording period.

The "epicenter" (as one would normally think of it) in an earthquake is not called that, though such a term does have its place in quake nomenclature. According to the United States Geological Survey, "An earthquake is what happens when two blocks of the Earth suddenly slip past one another. The surface where they slip is called the fault or fault plane. The location below the Earth's surface where the earthquake starts is called the hypocenter, and the location directly above it on the surface of the Earth is called the epicenter."

One of the most common natural disasters to occur on Earth, earthquakes can happen almost anywhere, at any time. They are highly unpredictable, as there is no "season" for quakes like there is for many other natural disasters. Quake tremors can occur at any time of the year and at any time of the day or night. They can occur under any weather conditions. They cannot be predicted, at least not more so than a few minutes out from the first tremor. Given how common earthquakes are and their potential for being particularly devastating to established urban areas, it's important to prepare for them and to know how to respond when one occurs.

Possibly, yes. Fracking intentionally causes small quakes, and this process has been linked to larger quakes. A magnitude four quake in Texas some years ago was linked to nearby fracking. Also, detonating a nuclear warhead is another human-created cause of quakes. Detonating such an immense payload causes a seismic shift that is so immense it is comparable to an earthquake. Quoting Michigan Technological University, "The largest underground explosions, from tests of nuclear warheads (bombs), can create seismic waves very much like large earthquakes. This fact has been exploited as a means to enforce the global nuclear test ban, because no nuclear warhead can be detonated on Earth without producing such seismic waves."

While large earthquakes are relatively common in the United States, early warning systems implemented by the United States Geological Survey provide alerts to help Americans take shelter. Furthermore, more durable building methods and well-established emergency response systems help save lives and reduce fatalities during U.S.-based quakes. This is why relatively few Americans die in quakes, compared to other countries that experience similar-magnitude quakes. The most powerful earthquake to strike the United States occurred in Alaska in 1964. This quake was a magnitude 9.2 that struck Prince William Sound and killed 139 people.

The million-dollar question, are quakes increasing in intensity and frequency? In the paper, geophysicist Paul Lundgren of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said, "We've seen that relatively small stress changes due to climate-like forcings can effect microseismicity. A lot of small fractures in Earth's crust are unstable. We see also that tides can cause faint Earth tremors, known as microseisms. But the real problem is taking our knowledge of microseismicity and scaling it up to apply it to a big quake, or a quake of any size that people could feel, really. Climate-related stress changes might or might not promote an earthquake to occur, but we have no way of knowing by how much." The short answer is that scientists simply do not know if earthquakes will get worse or not. Regardless, individuals and families need to understand how to prepare for an earthquake and what to do should one occur.

The main cause is a shifting of tectonic plates that create a sudden movement of stone beneath the Earth's surface.

What you do after a quake depends on where you are and the type of environment/risks you have around you. According to the City of Portland's official warning system on quakes, "Evacuate if you are in a tsunami hazard zone. Walk inland or to higher ground as soon as it is safe to do so. Do not wait for official notification. Stay away from the coast until officials permit you to return. Check for injuries. Do not move seriously-injured persons unless they are in immediate danger. Check for hazards such as fires, gas leaks, downed utility lines and fallen objects. Clean up any potentially harmful materials spills. Expect aftershocks. Aftershocks following large earthquakes can be large and damaging."

Most scientists maintain that quake prediction is inherently impossible, though some argue that advances in technology could lead to the effective and reliable prediction of earthquakes.

The National Earthquake Information Center locates about 20,000 quakes across the plant each year, or 55 quakes per day.

Approximately 55 significant, notable earthquakes occur on planet Earth each day, but the location of those quakes vary, region to region. For example, California, a quake-prone state in the U.S., experiences about 100 micro-quakes every day. Compare that to other states in the U.S. that may only experience a quake once every several years.

Many organizations provide advice on quakes. The agreed-upon rule of thumb is best put by the CDC: "DROP down onto your hands and knees before the earthquake knocks you down. This position protects you from falling but allows you to still move if necessary. COVER your head and neck (and your entire body if possible) underneath a sturdy table or desk. If there is no shelter nearby, get down near an interior wall or next to low-lying furniture that won't fall on you, and cover your head and neck with your arms and hands. HOLD ON to your shelter (or to your head and neck) until the shaking stops. Be prepared to move with your shelter if the shaking shifts it around."

Earthquakes are unique in that they are a literal shaking of the Earth beneath our feet. Earthquakes are vibrations coming up through the Earth's crust that cause shaking on the surface. Sometimes the shaking feels like it is going back and forth. Sometimes it is entirely erratic and without a pattern.

While the 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake was the worst U.S.-based quake, it was only the second-worst earthquake ever recorded internationally. The worst quake ever recorded was in Bi-Bio Chile. It was a 9.5 magnitude quake, whereas the Alaska quake was a 9.2. The Chile quake occurred in 1960.

According to Brooklyn College, the key is in the convergent plate boundaries. According to the college's report: "At convergent plate boundaries, where two continental plates collide earthquakes are deep and also very powerful. In general, the deepest and the most powerful earthquakes occur at plate collision (or subduction) zones at convergent plate boundaries."

Quakes are most likely to occur where two plate boundaries meet. On Planet Earth, that includes places primarily along the rim of the Pacific Ocean, including states and countries along the western Americas, plus China, Japan, Russia, North and South Korea, and various islands along the fringes of the Pacific Ocean.

While there is no scientific consensus that either confirms or denies it, some believe that dogs possess such sensitive hearing that they can pick up the faint scraping and grinding of rocks beneath the surface of the Earth that precede an earthquake.

Seismographs begin alarming us of an earthquake just a few seconds before the actual tremors set in, which is all the warning we usually have before a quake occurs.

Earthquakes are unique in that they are a literal shaking of the Earth beneath our feet. Earthquakes are vibrations coming up through the Earth's crust that cause shaking on the surface. Sometimes the shaking feels like it is going back and forth. Sometimes it is entirely erratic and without a pattern.

Absolutely. In 1960, the largest earthquake ever recorded hit Chile. This magnitude 9.5 quakes caused 1,600 deaths in Chile. Though the earthquake did not occur anywhere near the United States, the earthquake caused a tsunami that traveled across the Pacific Ocean and hit Hawai'i. Thirty-five-foot waves crashed on the island of Hilo and killed 61 people.

Like many other types of waves, quake waves bend when they pass through different materials, which is part of why quake tremors and the direction they travel are so unpredictable.

A fault refers to the fracture along the blocks of crust on either side of two tectonic plate boundaries. A fault line is where most quakes occur.

The Richter Scale is a special measurement designation used to determine the intensity and severity of an earthquake. According to the USGS, "Earthquakes are recorded by a seismographic network. Each seismic station in the network measures the movement of the ground at that site. The slip of one block of rock over another in an earthquake releases energy that makes the ground vibrate. That vibration pushes the adjoining piece of ground and causes it to vibrate, and thus the energy travels out from the earthquake hypocenter in a wave." Earthquakes are measured by their magnitude on a scale of 0 to, essentially, infinity. The highest magnitude earthquake ever recorded ranked at 9.5 on the Richter Scale.

Earthquakes can happen at any time and with very little warning. Experts recommend that if you're already inside when an earthquake strikes, stay inside. Do not run outside or to other rooms during an earthquake. Staying put and seeking cover offers the best chance at avoiding injury. Don't stand in a doorway or near a window. Seek shelter underneath something sturdy, such as a table. If you have children or elderly relatives living with you, help them seek refuge first. Earthquake tremors are usually short-lived. Seek shelter and cover and wait it out.

Aftershocks are complicated. Small, unnoticeable aftershocks can occur for days, months, even years after a major earthquake. But most serious earthquakes produce just a handful of aftershocks that come about shortly after the main tremors recede.

There is no such thing as earthquake weather. It is a myth.

Earthquakes are measured on the Richter scale, a numerical scale used to express the magnitude of a quake. A destructive quake typically has a magnitude of 5.5 to 8.9, with quakes above 8.9 being quite rare and particularly destructive.

Earthquakes and volcanos are both caused by the movement of tectonic plates.

California by far, with Alaska in second place.

According to the United States Geological Survey, "The deepest earthquakes occur within the core of subducting slabs – oceanic plates that descend into the Earth's mantle from convergent plate boundaries, where a dense oceanic plate collides with a less dense continental plate and the former sinks beneath the latter."

Seismologists are Earth scientists who specialize in geophysics. They study the genus and propagation of the seismic waves that create earthquakes.

Yes. A transform plate boundary is simply a type of plate boundary where plates slide horizontally past each other. As the plates rub against each other, huge stresses on the rocks can cause portions of the rock to break, resulting in quakes.

Yes, a volcanic eruption can indeed cause an earthquake, though volcano-caused quakes are usually not as intense as quakes caused by movement along tectonic plate boundaries.

From the USGS, "An earthquake is caused by a sudden slip on a fault. The tectonic plates are always slowly moving, but they get stuck at their edges due to friction. When the stress on the edge overcomes the friction, there is an earthquake that releases energy in waves that travel through the Earth's crust and cause the shaking that we feel."

Three seismographs are needed to locate a quake.

Earthquakes are arguably one of the most destructive natural disasters, often because of the other disasters that they can cause. Earthquakes can trigger landslides and mudslides along hilly terrain, especially in areas with water-soaked soils. Earthquakes can also cause buildings to collapse, disrupting gas, electricity, and telephone service. Earthquakes can also cause fires and even tsunami waves.

Low-pitched rumbles, rattling windows, car alarms, small trembles, crumbling concrete, and a shaking, shifting sound are the noises generally associated with earthquakes.

A quake or tremor that results in a sudden and violent shaking of the ground is the key defining factor of an earthquake.

The highest magnitude is essentially infinite in terms of potential quakes. However, since recording began, the highest magnitude that has occurred was a 9.5 magnitude quake in Chile that occurred in 1960.

When an earthquake occurs, stop, drop, cover, and hold on. This is the immediate response one should take to a quake because one usually does not have much time to prepare for such a disaster.

In this question, "worst" refers to the quake with the highest death toll, even if it was not the highest magnitude quake. According to Our World in Data, the deadliest earthquake ever recorded took place in Shaanxi, China, in 1556. It's estimated to have killed about 830,000 people.

Technically, Yes. However, earthquakes are far more common and likely in some regions than others.

Not one that seismographs have recorded, but it is almost certain that one has occurred in world history.

Geologists use the seismic waves created by an earthquake to measure the quake's epicenter. The epicenter is located by measuring the difference between the arrival time of different types of waves.

Most disasters of this nature last just a few seconds. However, that does not mean one can come out of cover after the initial tremors recede, as aftershocks are quite common in earthquakes. Should a quake strike, one should not come out of the shelter until local responders and authorities say it is safe to do so, unless they live in a tsunamis-risk zone.

Michigan Technological University published an excellent classification system of different magnitude earthquakes. According to their data, a quake event that measures a 5.5 magnitude or higher can cause significant damage.

You can feel anything above a 2.5 magnitude quake, but such quake events usually only cause minor damage.

Seek cover! Drop down low to the ground and try to take cover underneath a stable surface.

A magnitude 4.0 quake can be felt as far as 60 miles away from the epicenter. A magnitude 5.5 quake can be felt 300 miles away from the epicenter. The higher the magnitude of the quake, the further away its tremors can be felt.

Quake tremors travel very fast. The rupture speed of the average tremor is 5,600 to 6,700 miles per hour. For context, most bullets only travel at about 1,700 miles per hour.

The United States Geological Survey defines aftershocks as such: "Aftershocks are smaller earthquakes that occur in the same general area during the days to years following a larger event or "mainshock." They occur within 1-2 fault lengths away and during the period of time before the background seismicity level has resumed. As a general rule, aftershocks represent minor readjustments along the portion of a fault that slipped at the time of the mainshock. The frequency of these aftershocks decreases with time. Historically, deep earthquakes (>30 km) are much less likely to be followed by aftershocks than shallow earthquakes."

There are some simple rules to follow during a quake regarding what not to do. For example, do not run outside or to other rooms during quake tremors. Avoid areas of a building that are right next to exterior walls. Windows, facades, and architectural details are often the first parts of the building to collapse.

There is no such thing as quake season. Statistically speaking, there is an equal distribution of quakes throughout the year and in all types of weather.

If a building collapses during a quake, no floor is a safe floor. However, being on a higher floor increases the chances of survival during such an event. Conversely, being lower to the ground makes evacuation easier after the quake. Simply stated, it's more important to seek cover and protect oneself on whatever floor they are on during a quake than to go looking for a safer floor.

Some animals might be able to sense the initial tremors that come right before a quake occurs. While some scientific papers have been published, the research is still inconclusive and is awaiting peer review.

No. If you are inside during a quake, stay inside. Don't run outside during a quake. Don't run at all during a quake. You are much safer by staying inside and seeking shelter underneath a table.

Such waves are usually called "Seismic Waves."

The best place to seek shelter during a quake is in the center of a room under a sturdy desk or table, not near windows or exterior walls.

According to National Geographic, "A powerful earthquake can cause landslides, tsunamis, flooding, and other catastrophic events. Most damage and deaths happen in populated areas. That's because the shaking can cause windows to break, structures to collapse, fire, and other dangers. Geologists cannot predict earthquakes.”

Earthquakes are unique in that they are a literal shaking of the Earth beneath our feet. Earthquakes are vibrations coming up through the Earth's crust that cause shaking on the surface. Sometimes the shaking feels like it is going back and forth. Sometimes it is entirely erratic and without a pattern. The vibrations of the shifting tectonic plate boundaries are what causes the shaking sensation of earthquakes.

Sometimes, yes. This is not a common or frequent natural event, but it has occurred. Regional earthquakes greater than magnitude six have been identified as a cause point for nearby volcanic events.

Yes. Thousands of earthquakes are recorded on planet Earth each year.

This is a tricky question to answer because the answer is both yes and no. Quoting the United States Geological Survey experts, "A temporary increase or decrease in seismicity is part of the normal fluctuation of earthquake rates. Neither an increase nor decrease worldwide is a positive indication that a large earthquake is imminent. According to long-term records (since about 1900), we expect about 16 major earthquakes in any given year. That includes 15 earthquakes in the magnitude 7 range and one earthquake magnitude 8.0 or greater. In the past 40-50 years, our records show that we have exceeded the long-term average number of major earthquakes about a dozen times."

Quakes cause immense destruction and serious damage to infrastructure. When a magnitude five or above quake occurs in an urban area (with the epicenter of the quake occurring in an urban center), the earthquake can destroy the entire infrastructure of that urban area. Some countries (like the United States) have created advanced technologies and building methods to protect buildings and infrastructure from quakes. Other countries, however, are still at high risk of experiencing serious damage from such disaster events.

Another term for this is "foreshock." A foreshock is a quake that occurs before a larger seismic recording occurs. A foreshock can be a good warning that major quake tremors are just around the corner.

Cities at high risk for quakes are:

  • Tokyo, Japan
  • Jakarta, Indonesia
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Quito, Ecuador
  • Osaka, Japan
  • San Francisco, California
  • Lima, Peru
  • Tehran, Iran
  • Istanbul, Turkey

The entire nation of Japan rests in an active seismic area. Japan records the most quakes of any country.

For the most part, quake events tend to cause fires because tremors damage residential and business gas and electrical lines. That can create natural gas leaks and the downing of power lines, both of which can cause fires.

Not with any kind of predictability or reliability. Quakes come and go. Some years have more quakes than others. However, there is no way of proving if quakes are becoming more common and more intense than they once were.

Unfortunately, no. According to the USGS, "We cannot prevent natural earthquakes from occurring but we can significantly mitigate their effects by identifying hazards, building safer structures, and providing education on earthquake safety. By preparing for natural earthquakes we can also reduce the risk from human induced earthquakes."

It's possible. The USGS has recorded a few instances of serious quakes in Texas, Oklahoma, and other states directly linked to seismic disruptions caused by fracking explosions. From the USGS, "The largest earthquake known to be induced by hydraulic fracturing in the United States was a M4 earthquake in Texas. In addition to natural gas, fracking fluids and saltwater trapped in the same formation as the gas are returned to the surface. These wastewaters are frequently disposed of by injection into deep wells. The injection of wastewater and saltwater into the subsurface can also cause earthquakes that are large enough to be damaging. Wastewater disposal is a separate process in which fluid waste from oil and gas production is injected deep underground far below ground water or drinking water aquifers. The largest earthquake known to be induced by wastewater disposal was a M5.8 earthquake that occurred near Pawnee, Oklahoma in 2016." That's one argument for finding alternative, sustainable, and renewable forms of energy production.


Sources:

https://earthquake.usgs.gov/learn/glossary/?term=earthquake

https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/earthquakes/during.html#

http://www.geo.mtu.edu/UPSeis/why.html

https://www.ready.gov/earthquakes

ttps://www.usgs.gov/natural-hazards/earthquake-hazards/science/science-earthquakes?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects

https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2926/can-climate-affect-earthquakes-or-are-the-connections-shaky/

https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/why-are-we-having-so-many-earthquakes-has-naturally-occurring-earthquake-activity-been?qt-news_science_products=0#qt-news_science_products

https://earthquake.usgs.gov/data/oaf/overview.php

https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/what-depth-do-earthquakes-occur-what-significance-depth?qt-news_science_products=0#qt-news_science_products

https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/what-earthquake-and-what-causes-them-happen?qt-news_science_products=0#qt-news_science_products

https://ourworldindata.org/the-worlds-deadliest-earthquakes

http://www.geo.mtu.edu/UPSeis/magnitude.html

https://www.usgs.gov/natural-hazards/earthquake-hazards/science/animals-earthquake-prediction?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects

https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/earthquake#

https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/can-we-cause-earthquakes-there-any-way-prevent-earthquakes?qt-news_science_products=0#

90 Frequently Asked Questions About Volcanoes and Their Answers

Given that active volcanoes can remain active for centuries and are often unpredictable as to their explosions, it's important to know what they are, the risks of being near one, and how to respond to a volcanic eruption event. According to the United States Geological Survey, such a unique natural formation as this is defined as follows: “Volcanoes are openings, or vents where lava, tephra (small rocks), and steam erupt on to the Earth's surface. Volcanic terrain, however, is built by the slow accumulation of erupted lava. The vent may be visible as a small bowl shaped depression at the summit of a cone or shield-shaped mountain. Through a series of cracks within and beneath the volcano, the vent connects to one or more linked storage areas of molten or partially molten rock (magma). This connection to fresh magma allows the volcano to erupt over and over again in the same location."

Inside the Earth's core, there is a red-hot liquid rock called magma. Volcanoes form when that magma rises to the surface of the Earth and pushes its way out of a vent in the Earth's crust. When the magma reaches the Earth's surface, it cools and hardens. As this happens over countless millennia, a volcano is formed.

A volcanic eruption can last from just a few hours to several years, making it almost impossible to categorize what is considered "normal" in terms of the duration of a volcanic eruption. However, according to the Smithsonian Global Volcanism Program, the median length of time for a single volcanic eruption is seven weeks. An eruption can be fast and sudden or slow and barely noticeable.

Mt. St. Helens is called a “dacite volcano.” It is considered an explosive structure with a complex magmatic system. In fact, the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in U.S. history occurred when Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980. Located in Skamania County, Washington (just 52 miles northeast of Portland, Oregon), the eruption was so violent that the summit of the mountain was completely blown off, reducing the height of the mountain from 9,677 ft to 8,363 ft above sea level. The volcanic event killed 57 people, destroyed 200 homes, and took out 47 bridges, 15 miles of railway, and 185 miles of highway.

(However, there have been other eruptions that were even worse than the 1980 Mt. St. Helens eruption. In 1912, Katmai Volcano in Alaska erupted, a more forceful volcanic event with wider-reaching damage than Mount St. Helens. However, because the region was sparsely populated, there were no human deaths due to the event).


Volcanoes erupt because of pressures occurring below and inside of them. When molten rock called magma rises to the surface, this causes an eruption. As the magma rises, bubbles of gas form inside of it. The result? Runny magma erupts through openings or vents in the earth's crust (often at the peak of the volcano) before flowing onto its surface as lava.

The Yellowstone Caldera, a supervolcano, is located in Wyoming.

It is massive! The huge caldera measures 80 kilometers long, 65 kilometers wide, and hundreds of meters deep. It extends from outside Yellowstone National Park into the central area of the park.

This is a broad, domed structure with gently sloping sides. It looks much like a shield, hence the name. Such a structure is formed by the eruption of fluid, basaltic lava.

Volcanoes usually form at the boundary of the Earth's tectonic plates. That's why, in the United States, most of the country's 160+ active volcanoes are located in California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii. However, "active" is a loose term. For example, ten active volcanoes in this region include:

  • Kilauea, Hawai'i – Last erupted: 2018.
  • Redoubt, Alaska – Last erupted: 2009.
  • Mount St. Helens, Washington State – Last erupted: 2008.
  • Mauna Loa, Hawai'i – Last erupted: 1984.
  • Lassen Volcanic Center, California – Last erupted: 1917.
  • Mount Hood, Oregon – Last erupted: About 200 years ago.
  • Mount Shasta, California – Last erupted: About 300 years ago.
  • Mount Rainier, Washington – Last erupted: About 1,100 years ago.
  • South Sister, Oregon – Last erupted: About 2,000 years ago.
  • Yellowstone, Wyoming – Last erupted: About 70,000 years ago.

There are five such structures in the state of Hawaii. Two of them are still active, Kilauea and Mauna Loa.

We normally associate such natural structures with the Tropics and with various islands in the Pacific Ocean. But of the more than 160 active volcanoes in the United States, most of them are in the Pacific Northwest, including northern California, Oregon, Washington State, and Alaska! According to American Geosciences, “There are about 169 volcanoes in the United States that scientists consider active. Most of these are located in Alaska, where eruptions occur virtually every year.”

There are approximately 1,500 such structures in the world, hundreds of which are in the United States.

According to the NOAA, “In geology, a hotspot is an area of the Earth’s mantle from which hot plumes rise upward, forming volcanoes on the overlying crust. In much the same way that plumes rise buoyantly in a lava lamp, plumes of mantle magma (molten rock) are theorized to rise buoyantly from a source within Earth’s deep mantle. When such a plume rises into the shallow mantle, it partially melts and the melt may then rise to the surface where it can erupt as a hotspot volcano. Hotspot volcanism is distinct in that it does not originate from processes that produce the more common submarine volcanism that occurs at boundaries of Earth’s tectonic plates.”

The largest active volcano on the planet, Mauna Loa is a shield volcano. The name is Hawaiian for “Long Mountain.”

There has been a great deal of speculation on this, with some answers being more legitimate than others. Quoting the credible scientists over at the United States Geological Survey, “If another large, caldera-forming eruption were to occur at Yellowstone, its effects would be worldwide. Such a giant eruption would have regional effects such as falling ash and short-term (years to decades) changes to global climate. Those parts of the surrounding states of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming that are closest to Yellowstone would be affected by pyroclastic flows, while other places in the United States would be impacted by falling ash (the amount of ash would decrease with distance from the eruption site). Such eruptions usually form calderas, broad volcanic depressions created as the ground surface collapses as a result of withdrawal of partially molten rock (magma) below. Fortunately, the chances of this sort of eruption at Yellowstone are exceedingly small in the next few thousands of years.”

Most such structures are found along a belt called the Ring of Fire that encircles the Pacific Ocean. Some, like the hotspots in the Hawaiian Islands, occur in the interior of plates.

Many of the world’s active volcanic structures are located around the edges of he Pacific Ocean, in the Ring of Fire. They can be found along the West Coast of the Americas; the East Coast of Siberia, Japan, the Philippines, and Indonesia; and in island chains from New Guinea to New Zealand.

Like mountains, volcanoes vary greatly in size. The world's largest volcano is Mauna Loa, in Hawai'i. Mauna Loa is about 55,770 feet from its base beneath the ocean to the summit, which is 13,681 feet above sea level. Conversely, the smallest volcanoes in the world look more like large boulders than actual volcanic mountains.

There are about 1,500 active, volcanic structures in the world today.

According to the United States Geological Survey, “Some of the Earth's grandest mountains are composite volcanoes – sometimes called stratovolcanoes. They are typically steep-sided, symmetrical cones of large dimension built of alternating layers of lava flows, volcanic ash, cinders, blocks, and bombs and may rise as much as 8,000 feet above their bases. Some of the most conspicuous and beautiful mountains in the world are composite volcanoes, including Mount Fuji in Japan, Mount Cotopaxi in Ecuador, Mount Shasta in California, Mount Hood in Oregon, and Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier in Washington.”

Volcanoes are categorized based on the frequency of their eruption. Those that erupt frequently are called "active," and those that have not erupted in many, many years are called "dormant." However, dormant volcanoes could become active again. While there is no scientific consensus on what exactly counts as an active or inactive volcano, the Smithsonian Global Volcanism Program defines a volcano as active only if it has erupted in the last 10,000 years. Using that definition, there are about 500 active volcanoes on Planet Earth here in the 21st century, with more than 160 of them existing in the United States.

Mount Fuji is a Composite Cone, i.e., a stratovolcano. It is a massive mountainous structure and is formed from layers of rock, ash, and lava.

The three types are composite, shield, and cinder cone. There are also supervolcanoes. Following are three quotes from the United States Geological Survey that clearly and concisely define each type:

“Some of the Earth's grandest mountains are composite volcanoes – sometimes called stratovolcanoes. They are typically steep-sided, symmetrical cones of large dimension built of alternating layers of lava flows, volcanic ash, cinders, blocks, and bombs and may rise as much as 8,000 feet above their bases. Some of the most conspicuous and beautiful mountains in the world are composite volcanoes, including Mount Fuji in Japan, Mount Cotopaxi in Ecuador, Mount Shasta in California, Mount Hood in Oregon, and Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier in Washington.”

“Cinder cones are the simplest type of volcano. They are built from particles and blobs of congealed lava ejected from a single vent. As the gas-charged lava is blown violently into the air, it breaks into small fragments that solidify and fall as cinders around the vent to form a circular or oval cone. Most cinder cones have a bowl-shaped crater at the summit and rarely rise more than a thousand feet or so above their surroundings. Cinder cones are numerous in western North America as well as throughout other volcanic terrains of the world.”

“Shield volcanoes, the third type of volcano, are built almost entirely of fluid lava flows. Flow after flow pours out in all directions from a central summit vent, or group of vents, building a broad, gently sloping cone of flat, domical shape, with a profile much like that of a warrior's shield. They are built up slowly by the accretion of thousands of highly fluid lava flows called basalt lava that spread widely over great distances, and then cool as thin, gently dipping sheets. Lavas also commonly erupt from vents along fractures (rift zones) that develop on the flanks of the cone. Some of the largest volcanoes in the world are shield volcanoes. In northern California and Oregon, many shield volcanoes have diameters of 3 or 4 miles and heights of 1,500 to 2,000 feet. The Hawaiian Islands are composed of linear chains of these volcanoes including Kilauea and Mauna Loa on the island of Hawaii-- two of the world's most active volcanoes.”

The process is complex, but it can be simplified. Inside the Earth's core, there exists a red-hot liquid rock called magma. Volcanoes form when that magma rises all the way up to the surface of the Earth and pushes its way out of a vent that has formed in the Earth's crust. When the magma reaches the Earth's surface, it cools and hardens. As this happens over countless millennia, a volcano is formed.

From the USGS: “Cinder cones are the simplest type of volcano. They are built from particles and blobs of congealed lava ejected from a single vent. As the gas-charged lava is blown violently into the air, it breaks into small fragments that solidify and fall as cinders around the vent to form a circular or oval cone. Most cinder cones have a bowl-shaped crater at the summit and rarely rise more than a thousand feet or so above their surroundings. Cinder cones are numerous in western North America as well as throughout other volcanic terrains of the world.”

Kīlauea, on the Island of Hawai'i, is an active shield volcano. Its most recent eruption occurred in 2018. That eruption created a massive lava flow covering 13 square miles of the island, boiling Hawaii's largest freshwater lake and destroying 700 homes. While Kīlauea is known for its activity and is therefore closely monitored so that residents have time to evacuate before an eruption, it's only a matter of time before this volcano experiences another significant volcanic event.

Impressive and imposing, Mount Rainier is a stratovolcano.

This structure is quite unique. According to the experts at Volcano Discovery, “Present-day Vesuvius is a medium-sized typical stratovolcano volcano reaching a height of 1,281 m a.s.l. It comprises the older volcano, the Somma, whose summit collapsed (likely during the 79 AD eruption), creating a caldera, and the younger volcano, Vesuvius, which since then has re-grown inside this caldera and formed a new cone.”

Yellowstone is a supervolcano. According to one source, “It (Yellowstone) has had three massive eruptions, all of which created calderas. The first eruption occurred some 2.1 million years ago, and the second took place about 800,000 years later.” Though Yellowstone National Park is famous for resting atop a massive volcano, the geysers that reside at the Earth's surface in Yellowstone are not, themselves, volcanic. The big difference between a geyser system and a volcano system is that a geyser emits hot water and steam. In contrast, a volcano emits dust, fine rock particles, larger rocks, and lava.

These structures are build almost entirely from fluid, ongoing, and recurrent lava flows. Flow after flow after flow after flow pours out in all directions from a central summit vent, or from a group of vents, building a broad, gently sloping cone that takes on a flat, domical shape. It has a profile much like that of a warrior's shield, hence the name.

Very hot! The temperature of molten lava coming up out of a vent can vary anywhere from 700 to 1,200 degrees Celsius, or 1,300 to 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Volcanic eruptions are more common than one might think. Dozens of volcanoes erupt each year in the United States alone, several of which erupt multiple times. Quoting the American Geosciences Institute: “There are about 169 volcanoes in the United States that scientists consider active. Most of these are located in Alaska, where eruptions occur virtually every year. Others are located throughout the west and in Hawaii. Kilauea volcano in Hawaii is one of the most active volcanoes on Earth. It has been erupting almost continuously since 1983.”

There have been at least 404 volcanic eruptions since 1883, almost 200 of which have occurred since the year 2000. But the big question on everyone's minds is this. Will volcanic eruptions become more frequent and more intense in the future? According to the Scientific American, it's likely that volcanic activity will increase as the planet warms. Researchers found that, historically, volcanic eruptions have increased as planet temperatures rose and glaciers melted. As the Earth is currently going through a warming phase, it's safe to assume that volcanic activity will become more common.

It is not. Mount Everest was formed by he clashing of two tectonic plates, the Indo-Australian and Eurasian plates. But there was no volcanic activity involved, hence Mount Everest is jus a very, very tall mountain.

It was Mount Vesuvius that destroyed the city of Pompeii. The eruption took place in A.D. 79, killing about 2,000 people.

Simply put, when molten rock called magma pushes its way to the surface of the Earth’s crust and expels out into the open air, this is a volcanic eruption. In most eruptions, runny magma erupts through openings or vents in the earth's crust before then flowing onto its surface as lava. If the magma is thick, gas bubbles cannot easily escape and pressure builds up as the magma rises. That’s what creates the trademark explosion that volcanoes are known for.

Subduction is simply the collision of continental and oceanic crusts. The oceanic crust melts and migrates upwards, until it ultimately erupts on the surface, creating a volcanic explosion.

There are 20 such structures in the state of California.

There are a little more than 450 such structures in the Ring of Fire.

Such a mountainous structure is formed of hot molten rock, ash, escaped gases, and lava. All of the above solidifies as it cools, following an eruption. What’s left behind is the building blocks for the structure itself.

Most such structures look quite like mountains, but others may look like shields or cones.

Such a geologic feature is a chain of volcanic structures that form above and along a subduction plate. They often spring up in an arc-like pattern, hence the name.

According to the National Geographic, “The Ring of Fire, also referred to as the Circum-Pacific Belt, is a path along the Pacific Ocean characterized by active volcanoes and frequent earthquakes. The majority of Earth's volcanoes and earthquakes take place along the Ring of Fire.”

Volcanoes and mountains are certainly similar. But they are different in that a mountain results from various geological processes (like the movement and collision of tectonic plates). On the other hand, volcanoes form around a vent in the Earth's crust when magma flows up and out of the vent, reaching the surface of the Earth.

When tectonic plates collide, volcanoes often form. This usually occurs when a thin, heavy oceanic plate “subducts,” or moves under, a thicker continental plate of heavy, solid rock. Then, when enough magma builds up in the magma chamber, it forces its way up to the surface and then erupts, often causing volcanic eruptions.”

Simply put, such structures change the surface of the Earth by allowing molten rock (magma) to escape from inside the Earth, come to the surface, and from various rock formations and even mountains.

The temperature of lava flow is usually about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. In other words, very, very hot!

There are about 1,500 such structures that qualify as active.

It is mineral-like, but not a true mineral. This is mostly because it’s composition is too complex and intricate to be classified as a single mineral.

Indonesia has the most by far. With over 13,000 islands within its boundaries, many of them formed by volcanic activity, this country has the most such structures of any country in the world.

Such an eruption has both warming and cooling effects. For example, released ash and sulfur dioxide have a cooling effect, because such particles reflect sunlight. However, such structures also release CO2, causing a warming effect.

This is another term for volcanic activity or phenomenon.

Kilauea is the most active by far! It is almost always erupting to some degree.

Vesuvius is considered the most dangerous. It’s eruptions are very explosive and sudden, and while it has been dormant since 1944, about 3 million people live within close proximity to it, suggesting the possibility for a great deal of destruction were it to erupt again.

Ojos Del Salado is the tallest, in the Andes Mountains, coming in at 22,615 feet above sea level.

According to the National Geographic, “Volcanic ash is a mixture of rock, mineral, and glass particles expelled from a volcano during a volcanic eruption. The particles are very small—less than 2 millimeters in diameter. They tend to be pitted and full of holes, which gives them a low density. Along with water vapor and other hot gases, volcanic ash is part of the dark ash column that rises above a volcano when it erupts.”

They are wider because of the difference in how they are formed. Composite structures are formed by upwards and outwards explosions, whereas shield structures are formed by constant, steady, ongoing lava flow.

Yes, particularly along the East African rift.

Yes. Because volcanic activity causes vibration within the earth’s crust and interior layers, this can set off earthquakes.

Eruptions can have a warming effect, as co2 is released into the atmosphere during an eruption.

There are four basic types: composite, shield, super, and cinder cone.

Magma, lava, gases, and ash.

The word is Latin in origin. According to the USGS, “The word ‘volcano’ comes from the little island of Vulcano (with a U) in the Mediterranean Sea off Sicily. Centuries ago, the people living in this area believed that Vulcano (with a U) was the chimney of the forge of Vulcan – the blacksmith of the Roman gods.”

An extinct volcanic structure, a dormant one, and an active one are all different and unique. According to Volcano Discovery, “An active volcano is a volcano that has had at least one eruption during the past 10,000 years. An active volcano might be erupting or dormant. An erupting volcano is an active volcano that is having an eruption. A dormant volcano is an active volcano that is not erupting, but supposed to erupt again. An extinct volcano has not had an eruption for at least 10,000 years and is not expected to erupt again in a comparable time scale of the future.” And can inactive volcanic structure become active again? Yes! A volcano can go for millions of years without erupting and then suddenly become active again.

Both plate boundaries and convergent plate boundaries can cause volcanic activity.

It is highly fertile because it is composed on many non-crystalline minerals, such as allophone. In simple terms, these minerals create strong bonds with organic matter, and that leads to the accumulation of organic matter in the soil.

There are two crucial ways to respond to a volcanic eruption, and how you react to such a natural disaster will depend on the type of volcanic eruption.

  • If the volcanic eruption involves ash fall but not lava flow, it's important to stay inside.
  • If the volcanic eruption involves lava flow, it's important to leave the area immediately.

Before and during a volcanic event, listen to the advice of local officials. They will tell you if you should take shelter in your home or if you should evacuate. If the eruption does not involve lava flow, stay indoors and:

  • Close all windows, doors, and fireplace or wood stove dampers.
  • Turn off all ceiling fans and all heating and air conditioning systems.
  • Bring pets and livestock into closed shelters and keep them there.

During an eruption, wear goggles and an N-95 respirator if they are available to you. If your eyes, nose, or throat become irritated from volcanic gases and fumes, move away from the area immediately. If you are caught outside during an eruption, seek shelter indoors. During volcanic activity, stay apprised as to what local officials and emergency responders are saying. If officials initially tell you to shelter inside but then change the recommendation later on to evacuate the area, follow their instructions immediately, as that likely means the volcanic event changed to one that involves dangerous lava flow.

Such is simply an opening, varying in size, out of which can escape magma, lava, gases, and volcanic debris.

Olympus Mons is the largest by far, located on Mars. According to NASA, “The largest of the volcanoes in the Tharsis Montes region, as well as all known volcanoes in the solar system, is Olympus Mons. Olympus Mons is a shield volcano 624 km (374 mi) in diameter (approximately the same size as the state of Arizona), 25 km (16 mi) high, and is rimmed by a 6 km (4 mi) high scarp. A caldera 80 km (50 mi) wide is located at the summit of Olympus Mons. To compare, the largest volcano on Earth is Mauna Loa. Mauna Loa is a shield volcano 10 km (6.3 mi) high and 120 km (75 mi) across. The volume of Olympus Mons is about 100 times larger than that of Mauna Loa. In fact, the entire chain of Hawaiian islands (from Kauai to Hawaii) would fit inside Olympus Mons!”

This is relatively infrequent, but yet, volcanic activity can cause impulsive disturbances in the ocean, displacing a great volume of water and causing a tsunami as a result.

Yes they do.

They are formed by volcanic activity on the seabed, often near the boundaries of tectonic plates.

This is partially dependent on the speed of eruption. While the United States Geological Survey has systems in place to detect volcanic eruptions, volcanic activity can still occur very quickly, with a volcano going from inactive to active overnight. One example of rapid volcanic activity was Paricutin, a volcano that appeared in a Mexican cornfield in 1943. Within a week, it was five stories tall! Ultimately, lava cools and hardens following an eruption. But how long it takes to do that is dependent on how rapidly and with how much intensity the volcano is erupting.

Such a structure is called a Submarine Volcano.

Scientists use seismographs to measure the tremors that begin shortly before a volcanic eruption occurs.

It is a mixture of rock, mineral, and glass particles. The particles are small, usually less than two millimeters in diameter. It is very irritating to the throat, lungs, eyes, and nose, so people who are near an eruption should take cover or evacuate and do everything they can not to breathe the ash.

It is called extrusive rock or igneous rock.

Not really. Mountains can be formed by volcanoes, and volcanic activity can change mountains, but a mountain cannot suddenly become a volcano. However, volcanoes are actually types of mountains.

Yes, sometimes. It usually takes a large earthquake, but this has been known to occur.

These are created when a narrow stream of hot mantle rises up from deep inside the earth and melts a hole in the plate, all so that the magma can ooze upwards. The Hawaiian Islands are an example of such a formation.

According to one source, “The Richter scale measures earthquake strength. Volcanoes have a similar scale called the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI).... It measures how much volcanic material is ejected, the height of the material thrown into the atmosphere, and how long the eruptions last.”

They are usually thousands of feet deep, with their bottommost sector being difficult to find.

It usually takes millions of years for such structures to form.

There are six such structures that we know about, in the world today.

Such an event is an electrical discharge caused by a volcanic eruption, rather than by an ordinary thunderstorm. It comes about as a result of colliding, fragmenting particles of volcanic ash. Such ash generates static electricity, leading to electrical discharges in the form of lightning.

There are 12 states that have active volcanoes. They are as follows:

Alaska: 141

California: 18

Oregon: 17

Washington: 7

Hawaii: 5

Utah: 4

Idaho: 4

New Mexico: 3

Arizona: 2

Nevada: 2

Colorado: 1

Wyoming: 1

In the Ring of Fire.

They are often located in the Ring of Fire, along the borders of the Pacific Ocean.

Though most volcanic activity that occurs each year in the United States is not that extreme, there is the potential for massive destruction from a volcanic eruption. Fast-moving lava can kill people, and falling ash can make it difficult to breathe. Lava can destroy homes, roads, livestock, farms, and infrastructure. Volcanic eruptions can also cause fires and earthquakes, leading to famine and immense loss of local resources and the capacity to sustain human life.

Not only does Alaska have a huge number of volcanic mountains, but many of the state’s volcanic structures are active! Alaska contains over 130 volcanoes and volcanic fields. The volcanoes in Alaska make up well over three-quarters of U.S. volcanoes that have erupted in the last two hundred years.

Yes! There are several. Currently, only two of them are active, Mount Erebus and Deception Island.


Sources

https://www.usgs.gov/natural-hazards/volcano-hazards/about-volcanoes

https://www.americangeosciences.org/critical-issues/faq/how-many-active-volcanoes-are-there-united-states#

https://www.britannica.com/place/Yellowstone-Caldera

https://www.volcanodiscovery.com/volcanoes/faq/active_erupting.htm

https://www.usgs.gov/volcanoes/mount-st-helens

https://avo.alaska.edu/volcanoes/about.ph

https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/44100737

https://www.usgs.gov/volcanoes/yellowstone/questions-about-yellowstone-volcanic-history

https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/facts/volcanic-hotspot.htm

https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/what-would-happen-if-a-supervolcano-eruption-occurred-again-yellowstone?qt-news_science_products=0#qt-news_science_products

https://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/volc/types.htm

https://www.volcanodiscovery.com/vesuvius.html

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/ring-fire/

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/volcanic-ash

https://www.usgs.gov/media/audio/where-did-term-volcano-com

https://mars.nasa.gov/gallery/atlas/olympus-mons.html