Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Dynamic Earth

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Dynamic Earth

Article excerpt

Planet Earth has certainly been making headlines lately. A sampling of news from the past two years gives a remarkable history of dramatic planetary events, both domestic and international.

Fire and rain. Unusually wet monsoons flooded Pakistan in summer 2010, and Russia--deprived of atmospheric moisture--experienced unprecedented heat waves and fires. The 2010--2011 floods in Queensland, Australia, forced thousands to evacuate.

Closer to home, record Rocky Mountain snowpack and spring rainfall triggered massive flooding in the Missouri River basin this year, even as widespread drought and blistering heat spread across much of the southern United States, producing the second-warmest U.S. summer on record. In fact, Texas had the warmest August of any state in recorded history. In the Northeast, Hurricane Irene contributed to the wettest August on record, leading to devastating floods in Vermont and upstate New York and record rainfall in New York City. Sea surface temperatures reached all-time highs, and the ongoing melting of polar ice continued unabated.

Four strong winds. This year was the deadliest for U.S. tornadoes since 1936. The largest tornado outbreak ever recorded--the 2011 Super Outbreak--wreaked catastrophic destruction from the Midwest to Alabama and beyond, and deadly twisters touched down in my home state of Massachusetts, hardly part of "Tornado Alley. …

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