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Types & Causes of Natural Disasters

By Ron Augustine ; Updated July 27, 2017

Natural disasters occur all around the world and range in impact. Some natural disasters barely do any damage, and others can kill hundreds or thousands of people. Because they are always the result of natural causes, there is no way to deter one of these events. Preparedness is the best way to properly combat a natural disaster.


A tornado occurs on the surface of the earth's land as a result of humidity in the lower atmosphere combining with wind shears. The spinning comes by way of downdrafts and updrafts, but the violent speed is usually due to rapid changes in the air (such as dry air suddenly becoming very cool). When air mass is unstable and storms come through an area, a tornado often results. The reason most tornadoes occur in the Midwest of the United States is because tropical winds from the south Gulf move up to meet the cool winds of Canada's north. When they collide in the middle, it's usually somewhere around Kansas or Nebraska (though tornadoes can occur anywhere if the conditions are right, they're usually not as severe in other regions).


Violent tremors of the earth's surface are the result of earthquakes, which are caused by the shifting of the earth's tectonic plates and fault lines below the surface. When the earth's temperature changes, this causes movement of rock and plates in the earth's mantle. This happens all over the globe, but some stresses are more severe in some areas. Parts of the world that experience more earthquakes usually do so because the plates below them are more brittle and weak. In the Pacific Ocean, there is the Ring of Fire that stretches up and down the coasts of North America and South America and continues across to Japan and down to east of Australia. Volcanic eruption occurs for similar reasons, in that activity occurs below the surface of the earth causing stress and sudden release of molten rock.


Also known as a tropical cyclone or typhoon, hurricanes are violent storms that occur off of ocean shores. High winds are produced by water that has evaporated from an ocean surface in a low pressure area. This also causes a spiraling effect, which gains momentum the more condensation it collects. Minimal hurricanes have winds of about 75 mph (Category 1), but the most catastrophic storms will blow more than 155 mph (Category 5). Once a hurricane hits land, it begins to cool and slow, but this is the point at which a hurricane does its most damage. Destruction of trees, cars and buildings is likely in the event of a hurricane.

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