Earth is a strange planet. It is in fact the only known planet to harbour life. It’s located just the right distance from the sun so that we aren’t toast or frozen. It has oxygen and liquid water to support life, minerals and resources to nurture it. But if you think for one moment that we are safe, you couldn’t be more wrong.
1. At any given point in time, there are about 20 volcanoes erupting on the planet.
There have been about 1,500 active volcanoes on land that have been active in 10,000 years, while there might be countless volcanoes underwater. About 600 of these 1,500 volcanoes have gone off in all of recorded history with 50-70 volcanoes erupting every year.
2. One of Earth’s six mass extinction events occurred due to excess oxygen on the planet. It killed almost 99% of all life on the planet.
About 2.3 million years ago, Earth’s atmosphere and it’s shallow oceans experienced an unfathomable rise in oxygen during the Paleoproterozoic era. This was triggered by cyanobacteria producing the oxygen which developed into multicellular forms,
As the oxygen escaped the oceans and mixed with the atmosphere it took out Methane, a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, bringing on the first global ice-age.
3. The Yellowstone Supervolcano is about 74 km wide. If it explodes, it could end up killing about 5 billion people.
It is believed to have last erupted 640,000, 1.3 million, and 2.1 million years ago. Dr Jerzy Żaba from the university’s Department of Fundamental Geology from the University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland believes that other than the immediate loss of life, it would trigger a global climate change that would be disastrous.
4. Lake Nyos in Cameroon and Lake Kivu, on the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda sits on massive reserves of leaked CO2 from volcanic activities. The lake had exploded in 1986 practically suffocating 1,700 people and killing thousands of animals.
On the 21st of August 1986, people noticed a tall fountain of water sprouting out of the lake. This limnic eruption released concentrated carbon dioxide in the form of a white cloud that rose 100 mts in the air. As it approached civilisations, people simply started to lose consciousness and collapsed. It killed over 1,700 people and 3,000 livestock.
5. On the 2nd of August, 2013, NASA released a list of 1,400 asteroids that could hit the Earth. These are considered dangerous because they are massive in size and their orbits are too close to our planet for comfort.
These asteroids which are at least 140 mts in size and are likely to pass within 4.7 million miles or 7.5 million kilometers of Earth’s orbit could endanger all life on the planet. Just ask the dinosaurs.
Map of all the known potentially hazardous asteroids that orbit near Earth. pic.twitter.com/7ltKCAPFPt— Latest in space (@latestinspace) January 24, 2021
6. Earth is hit by an asteroid with 1km in diameter or more every 500,000 years. That seems like a fairly long time but given that the planet is 4 billion years old, that is extremely good frequency.
We are just lucky to have been living at a time between the two asteroid collisions. But given our extremely minuscule life spans, we probably shouldn’t lose sleep over it. That being said, we have to get lucky every time but it only takes one asteroid to do the trick. Just ask the dinosaurs.
7. Approximately 20,000 earthquakes happen every year. That’s almost 50 a day.
Our planet’s crust is made up of moving plates and when they move against each other, potential energy builds. When the energy can’t be contained anymore, it erupts out and seismic waves are cast out, violently shaking the planet. These are dangerous in their own right but they can cause Tsunamis that have the potential to kill millions.
8. The Solar Storm of 2012 missed us by a period of 9 days. Had it hit us, it could have wiped out all our communications, and we would still be living in a dark age, trying to pick up the pieces to this day.
This Solar Storm was the most powerful in 150 years. Our ozone would have protected us from any direct harm from the unfathomable amounts of radiation thrown at us but as a civilisation this dependant on wireless communication, we would have been crippled for a long time. Any high flying planes might have caught a massive dose of radiation. Any and all vehicles depending on wireless forms of communications would have been left blind, potentially risking thousands of lives.
By funneling supercharged particles into Earth’s magnetic field, this would have caused geomagnetic storms and induced dangerous currents in long-distance power lines.
9. The next pandemic is always on the way and it’s coming sooner than you think.
Prof Matthew Baylis from the University of Liverpool says that in the last 20 years, we’ve had six significant threats – SARS, MERS, Ebola, avian influenza and swine flu. Pathogens are everywhere and it doesn’t take much for one to evolve into something that could kill us in an instant. And given the atrocious approach, the people of this planet have had towards COVID, something with a significant kill rate would be very difficult to survive.
10. We are always between two ice-ages on this planet.
For at least 2.6 billion years, Earth had been shifting between long periods of ice-age followed by short interglacial periods. For the last million years, they have been happening roughly every 1,00,000 years with 90,000 years of ice and 10,000 years of warm interglacial period. So, how long have we been here, again?
Maybe, we should move to Mars. But then, this list would be a much longer one.