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What’s going on?

May 13, 2008

What is going on with all of these natural disaters recently? Are they natural or what is causing them? My initial thought was that the media was just shedding more light on the events of the world. Some people say we’re living in the “end times.” Even if there’s no explanation for what is going on, and it is just “natural,” … it just shows us how quickly everything we’ve worked for in this life can be taken away.

The most recent to make headlines is the 7.9 magnitude earthquake in western China where over 12,000 people have died according to the Xinhua News Agency. The earthquake is said to be one of the deadliest China has seen in the past three decades and 18,645 people are still buried under debris.

[Update 5/16/08: The Chinese government has upated the death toll to 21,500.]

On May 3, Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar devastating the country. Official reports from Myanmar’s junta say that 31, 938 people have died with over 33,000 missing, but the U.N. estimates there could be as many as 100,000 people dead or missing.

[Update 5/16/08: The number of deaths in Myanmar has now reached 77,738]

On Saturday and Sunday, a huge storm and resulting tornadoes killed 23 people and injured hundreds across three states in the US.

A recent news story on says that all the natural disasters are perfectly normal.

“Mother Nature is just reminding us that she is in charge,” Bill Patzert, a climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., told LiveScience.

The appearance of a cluster

It might look and feel like the recent disasters worldwide are a cluster of events that could be related, but scientists say they aren’t.

“It’s totally random,” said Peter Kelemen, a geologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York.

More disasters than usual?

The number of reported natural disasters globally has been on a fast rise since the 1960s. EM-DAT disasters are up from about 120 in 1980 to more than 400 in 2007.

But the increase has nothing to do with the planet.

Rather, the rise is the result better monitoring and reporting of natural disasters, said Charles Mandeville, a volcanologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

And the actual number of people killed worldwide by natural disasters has been relatively small (under 500,000 per year) since the 1960s, compared to previous decades in the 20th Century, when death tolls sometimes exceeded 2 million or even 3 million, according to EM-DAT.

That drop is the due to better building codes and preparation, Mandeville said.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Mom permalink
    May 13, 2008 7:15 pm

    Thanks for the info.

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