When future generations read the history of 2020 on their telemetry devices or whatever technology has replaced physical books, they’ll be hard pressed to believe that humanity actually survived. Whether it’s the global pandemic of COVID-19, civil unrest, murder hornets or the fact that The View is still on the air, 2020 has us thinking about what disaster could come next. Sharknado? Grizzly bears with chainsaw paws? Since we have been quarantined with too much time to think, we took the obvious next step and did our best to imagine what future mega-disasters might be.
Given the current state of affairs regarding contagious diseases, what we have seen with COVID-19 certainly solidifies the possibility that yet another catastrophic mass infection will occur. Just in recent memory, we have had outbreaks like Ebola (2014), MERS (2012), H1N1 (2009), bird flu (2007) and SARS (2003). In fact, there have been a whopping 335 emerging infectious diseases between 1940 and 2004.
Furthermore, when new diseases appear in the future, social distancing won’t be as effective, given that the U.N. estimates that urban populations will double by 2050. According to scientists, it is highly likely that a strain of influenza will emerge that is resistant to modern medicine. Couple that with overpopulation and poverty, and you have a perfect breeding ground for a deadly virus. May the odds be ever in your favor!
Unless you’re casually discussing Hawaii, you don’t normally think of the U.S. as having volcanoes. When Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, spewing Earth’s hate all over regions just outside Seattle, it created a plume of ash rising several miles into the sky. Nearby Mount Rainier is also a slow-simmering volcano, and listed as one of the most dangerous in the world. Nearly double the height of Mount St. Helens, an eruption of Rainier of any great magnitude would not only devastate the Pacific Northwest, it could also create weather effects globally.
Wait, there’s more! The fun for us Americans doesn’t stop there. Beneath Yellowstone National Park lurks a 44-mile wide supervolcano capable of causing actual, lasting climate change were it to erupt. It has only erupted three times in over two million years, and the last time it did was 640,000 years ago, so it’s not exactly imminent. But then again, 2020 seems like a banner year for the unusual. There would be widespread loss of life and damage to population centers for hundreds of kilometers. The climate effects alone would drop temperatures all over the globe.
We have to admit, we sometimes silently pray for a Sweet Meteor of Death. Or perhaps some massive asteroid that would wipe us out like it did our large lizard friends. It is estimated that if an asteroid with a diameter of one kilometer did hit the earth, it would likely KO the human race and most other living things except Keith Richards and Betty White. With ash blocking the sun globally, the average temperature would plummet, causing a modern ice age. Ozone would also be destroyed, letting more of the sun’s UV rays to penetrate the atmosphere, turning the planet into one big microwave.
The good news is that NASA is actively monitoring about 90% of the asteroids that pose a threat to the planet. What about the other 10%, though? We don’t know where they are yet. We will just have to wait for Space Force to find these mega-disasters.
While you might think Uncle Frank’s cannonball into the pool caused a tsunami, it didn’t wipe out your neighborhood. However, when scaled up, an actual tsunami is one of the deadliest natural events imaginable. A tsunami is just ocean water displacement from some massive seismic or landscape shift like an earthquake, or volcanic eruption. The power of these massive waves is indescribable and unstoppable. Hawaii has been hit by more tsunamis then anywhere else on the planet. It sits at the middle of the “Ring of Fire”—the outline of the Pacific Ocean’s tectonic plates where earthquakes and volcanoes are frequent.
Not just the islands are in jeopardy, however. In 1958, Lituya Bay, Alaska, was struck with a wave 1,000 feet high that traveled at 70 mph after an earthquake registering 8.3 on the Richter scale ripped across the Alaskan coast and caused a massive landslide. The “run-up,” or the maximum vertical height onshore, was 1,740 feet, 500 feet taller than the Empire State Building. If the Hawaiian volcano Mauna Loa, erupted and caused a massive landslide, it could wipe Honolulu off the map. So when will it likely happen? Sometime in the next 10,000-20,000 years, just in time for the next Tool album.
Way back in 1859, the planet experienced a massive solar corona mass ejection that reportedly had telegraph lines sparking. Now, imagine what a solar storm like that could do to us in this age of electronic everything. When the sun decides to get feisty and hurl electromagnetic pulses and plasma at our planet, the result could be anything from compasses acting wonky to entire power grids going offline. The Internet as we know it would cease to exist, rendering billions without efficient communication channels.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA manage current monitoring of solar storms, and the next solar energy cycle peak heads our way in 2025. While it is nearly impossible to predict exactly when a flare will occur, a future event is likely. At the same time, if it happens sooner and the grid goes down, Justin Bieber’s Twitter account would probably vanish, so it won’t be all bad, here’s to mega-disasters!