Natural Disasters

Aerial view of flooding in Livingston, Montana—a gateway town near Yellowstone National Park—on June 14, 2022

History of Now

What Extreme Flooding in Yellowstone Means for the National Park's Gateway Towns

These communities rely almost entirely on tourism for their existence—yet too much tourism, not to mention climate change, can destroy them

Blue holes, like the Great Blue Hole in Belize, are vast caverns that descend into the seafloor. Sediment accumulates at the bottom of a blue hole, giving researchers a way to gauge historical hurricane activity.

Blue Holes Show Hurricane Activity in the Bahamas Is at a Centuries-Long Low

Many more powerful storms battered the region in the past

The MarineLabs sensor buoy that detected the record-breaking wave near Ucluelet, British Columbia.

Record-Breaking Rogue Wave Detected Off Vancouver Island

A 58-foot-tall wall of water was measured by a sensor buoy off the coast

The tragedy marked Washington, D.C.’s deadliest single-day disaster. Pictured: an overhead view of the Knickerbocker Theatre following the roof’s collapse

When a Winter Storm Triggered One of the Deadliest Disasters in D.C. History

On January 28, 1922, the Knickerbocker Theatre's snow-covered roof collapsed, killing 98 people and injuring another 133

A popular tourist site, Turkmenistan's Darvasa crater pit has been burning gas for over 50 years. The country's attempts to put out its flames have been unsuccessful. 

The Quest to Extinguish the Flames of Turkmenistan's Terrifying 'Gates of Hell' Firepit

The country's president says it’s time to quash the ongoing 50-year blaze at the 230-foot-wide Darvaza gas crater

Researchers found the skeleton of a human (pictured) and dog left behind by a tsunami that destroyed coastal communities along the Mediterranean Sea some 3,600 years ago.

Cool Finds

First Human Skeleton From Bronze Age Tsunami Discovered in Turkey

Archaeologists find remains of a young man and dog left behind by a natural disaster some 3,600 years ago in the Mediterranean

On average, December has about 24 twisters in the United States per year. However, tornados occurring as far north as Illinois and Kentucky are highly uncommon for early winter.
 

At Least 100 Feared Dead After December Twisters Slam Midwestern and Southern States

The rare winter event was a result of abnormal weather patterns exacerbated by La Niña and global warming

Over the course of our planet’s history, major impacts by comets and asteroids are plentiful.

The Very Real Effort to Track Killer Asteroids and Comets

In "Don't Look Up," researchers warn authorities about a comet hurtling towards Earth. Such a scenario isn’t just science fiction

Chicago's Great Fire sparked on October 8, 1871 and raged for more than 24 hours. 

History of Now

Chicago's Great Fire, 150 Years Later

An exhibition at the Chicago History Museum explores the legacy of the blaze, which devastated the Midwestern city and left 100,000 homeless

NOAA and Saildrone deployed the fleet of five hurricane-class vessels in the Atlantic’s “hurricane belt” in the summer months leading up to this year’s tropical storm season. 

 

Innovation for Good

'Saildrone' Captures First-Ever Video From Inside a Category 4 Hurricane

This uncrewed, remote-controlled vessel gathered valuable scientific data that could help researchers better understand and predict these violent storms

Three giant rocks—Tokia, Rebua, and Kamatoa—sit in the ocean south of Makin Island in the Republic of Kiribati.

How Indigenous Stories Helped Scientists Understand the Origin of Three Huge Boulders

Legends spurred researchers to form a theory about Makin Island's distinctively out-of-place rocks

Construction of the pyramid, which stood 43 feet tall and roughly 130 feet wide, began within 5 to 30 years of the Tierra Blanca Joven eruption.

The Maya Built This Monumental Pyramid Out of Volcanic Rock

New research cites the colossal construction as evidence of the civilization's rapid recovery from a devastating eruption

Natural disasters do not destroy buildings evenly. By studying which fall and which are left standing, engineers can develop new strategies for the future.

When a Natural Disaster Hits, Structural Engineers Learn From the Destruction

StEER engineers assess why some buildings survive hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and tsunamis, and why others do not

Researchers with the Kivi Kuaka project are tagging a variety of Pacific birds, hoping they will reveal differences in their capacity to detect and respond to dangerous storms and tsunamis.

Can Birds Tip Us Off to Natural Disasters?

Researchers think birds can hear hurricanes and tsunamis—a sense they’re hoping to tap into to develop a bird-based early warning system

Two original slave cabins, as well as the 1790 Big House, 1790 barn and 19th-century kitchen, survived the storm. But Ida destroyed at least several structures on the historic plantation.

Hurricane Ida Damages Whitney Plantation, Only Louisiana Museum to Focus on the Enslaved

The historic site will remain closed indefinitely as staff assess the destruction and make repairs

Smithsonian Voices

How the Smithsonian Collected Artifacts That Told the Story of Hurricane Katrina

Buildings in New Orleans' historic French Quarter, pictured here, sustained damage when Hurricane Ida made landfall on Sunday.

Hurricane Ida Destroys New Orleans Jazz Landmark Dubbed Louis Armstrong's 'Second Home'

The historic Karnofsky Tailor Shop and Residence collapsed on Sunday after water pooled on its roof

Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana's southeastern coast at 11:55 am eastern on Sunday.

Hurricane Ida Slams Louisiana Coast on the 16th Anniversary of Katrina

The Category 4 hurricane made landfall in southeastern Louisiana midday Sunday, causing extensive flooding and power outages

This Aztec pictogram depicts warriors drowning as a temple burns in the background. New research links the scene to a 1507 earthquake.

Aztec Pictograms Are the First Written Records of Earthquakes in the Americas

New analysis of the 16th-century "Codex Telleriano-Remensis" reveals 12 references to the natural disasters

Pocket watch with engraved, gold-plated case found on the body of postal clerk John Starr March. The hands point to 1:27, around when the Titanic sank on the morning of April 15, 1912.

What a Watch Tells Us About the Titanic's Final Hours

The handheld item, belonging to an American crew member, stopped minutes before the ship sank

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