As we go about our daily routines one thing we may or may not pay heed to is the weather…unless it gets bad. Our civilization deals with constant disasters that strike us like hurricanes, volcanoes, tsunamis, blizzards and whatnot. But a very rare but real occurrence are the super disasters that threaten not only our way of life but all life on Earth.
Doomsday Scenario No. 7: Super Disasters Cometh
Ever since Hurricane Katrina, the deadly tsunamis in Japan and Southeast Asia and the cries about global warming, we’ve become all-too-aware about how nature can suddenly uproot us; sometimes without warning. There are several movies, cable programs and books that go into detail about these so-called super disasters. One of the mainstays on Syfy’s Saturday night schedule are movies about unlikely yet destructive disasters. While The History and Science Channels have a plethora of specials about these potential super disasters. Here are just a sampling:
- Hypercanes: As its name sounds, a hypercane is a super hurricane that could occur if ocean temperatures reach about 120 degrees Fahrenheit. What causes this would be asteroid strikes, supervolcanoes or climate change. Hypercanes could be large enough to cover an area the size of North America and would have wind speeds of over 500 mph. That is inconceivable to our thinking when a Category Five hurricane is one that has wind speeds of over 157 mph. The storm surges would devastate coastal regions leading to countless death and destruction, but what is really frightening is that they could last a long time. A recent movie that depicted a hypercane (though its accuracy has been called into question) is The Day After Tomorrow.
- Megatsunamis: Think of those deleted scenes from The Abyss where the underwater aliens threaten humanity’s coastal cities with gigantic tidal waves and that gives you an idea of what to expect from a megatsunami. What would cause such a catastrophe would be impact events like a meteor hitting the ocean or a supervolcano. Many scientist believe that if the Canary Islands’ Cumbre Vieja volcano were to erupt the event would create megatsunamis that would devastate England and the North American east coast.
- Global Warming Effects: The controversy over what causes global warning or climate change rages on but the impact is starting to be felt by Earth. Let’s flash forward a few decades or centuries from now and look at what is in store. First of all, the ice sheets in both poles melt completely. Not only does this doom indigenous wildlife there but will probably raise the ocean levels by about forty feet. That is enough to flood parts of Florida, Louisiana, London, Southeast Asia, Belgium and The Netherlands, and other low-lying regions. That would result in mass migrations, droughts, scarce resources and finally civil unrest. At first the world’s temperatures would rise, including the oceans, thus leading to hypercanes. But it has been theorized that ultimately climate change would bring about a premature ice age. The film A.I. Artificial Intelligence showed this happening to Earth most famously with those scenes showing a flooded Manhattan and later with an ice age occurring two thousand years later. The Day After Tomorrow inaccurately has an ice age happening seemingly instantly as the Earth suffers through the devastating effects of global warming.
- Supervolcanoes: This mega disaster is especially frightening for two reasons. We have very little means to accurately predict them, let alone locate all the supervolcanoes or calderas on Earth (scientists believe our planet may have as many as forty supervolcanoes). The other reason is because this event is fast and incredibly destructive. The Discovery Channel/BBC One aired a special years ago called Supervolcano about the eruption of the Yellowstone Caldera in Wyoming. Also Harry Turtledove penned a new trilogy of books about the same caldera (the first book out is Supervolcano: Eruption).The special presented a fairly accurate and frightening account of what would happen when the caldera erupts. First there will be constant earthquakes before the eruption. When the supervolcano blows, it will unleash toxic gas clouds and sulfuric ash that will blanket the skies over Earth for years. This in turns makes the air unbreathable and block sunlight. Obviously plant life will die off and food supplies will dwindle for the remaining humans who by then will be reduced to a meager stone-age level of existence. It actually happened 74,000 years ago in Toba, Sumatra. Fossil records show that humanity nearly went extinct from that event. But what curdles the mind is that the Yellowstone Supervolcano erupts roughly every 600,000 years and it turns out it is overdue. So it can happen in our lifetime.
There are many other mega disasters that Earth faces that are nearly incomprehensible because we haven’t experienced them (or they happened in our prehistory). Frankly if or when they occur there is very little we can do to prevent them. At that point the best we can do is literally hunker down and plan on surviving as a species.