There have been volcanic eruptions thousands of times more powerful than Mt. St. Helens. Recent storms have redefined the ranking systems for wind speeds. The hottest place on Earth has hit temperatures 288 degrees hotter than the coldest place on earth.
Yep, it’s an amazing world. Here is a compilation of the most extreme conditions that add a little spice (and devastation) to the planet Earth and its inhabitants.
The Fastest Recorded Wind Speed Near Earth’s Surface
Oklahoma, United States – 318 MPH
Scientists measured the fastest wind speed ever recorded, 318 mph, in one of the tornadoes that hit the suburbs of Oklahoma City on May 3, 1999.
The record-setting wind occurred about 7 p.m. near Moore, where the tornado killed four people and destroyed about 250 houses.
Joshua Wurman of the University of Oklahoma says he and his research team were about a half-mile away when they measured the record wind. Wurman says the actual speed in the part of the tornado measured could have been nine or 10 mph slower or faster than 318 mph.
Wurman’s group used a truck-mounted Doppler radar, one of the two used in the Doppler On Wheels (DOW) project at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.
The fastest speed previously measured was 286 mph clocked by a portable Doppler radar April 26, 1991, in a tornado near Red Rock, Okla.
The 318-mph speed would put the tornado only 1 mph below an F-6 on the 0-to-6 Fujita scale. No tornado has ever been classified an F-6
The Driest Place on Earth
The Dry Valleys of Antartica – Rain-free for 2 million years and counting
One interior region of the Antarctic is known as The Dry Valleys. These valleys have not seen rainfall in over two million years. With the exception of one valley, whose lakes are briefly filled with water by inland flowing rivers during the summer, the Dry Valleys contain no moisture (water, ice, or snow).
The reason why the Dry Valleys exist are the 200 mph Katabatic down winds which evaporate all moisture. The dry valleys are strange: except for a few steep rocks they are the only continental part of Antarctica devoid of ice.
Located in the Trans-Antarctic Range, they correspond to a mountain area where evaporation (or rather, sublimation) is more important than snowfall, thus all the ice disappears, leaving dry barren land.
The Hottest Recorded Temperature
Lut Desert of Iran – 159 °F
A NASA satellite recorded surface temperatures in the Lut desert of Iran as high as 71 °C (159 °F), the hottest temperature ever recorded on the surface of the Earth. This region which covers an area of about 480 kilometers is called Gandom Beriyan (the toasted wheat).
Its surface is wholly matted with black volcano lava. This dark cover absorbs excessive sunshine, which due to difference of temperature with neighboring elevations forms a wind tunnel. There are reports that no living creature lives in this region. That is why this is arguably the driest place on earth next to the Dry Valleys of Antarctica.
The Coldest Recorded Temperature
Antarctica – 129 °F below zero
The lowest temperature ever recorded on earth was -129F recorded in 1983 at the Russian Base Vostok in Antarctica. Antarctica, a continent owned by no one, covers the southern end of our globe. In addition to being the coldest place on earth, Anarctica is also the wettest and the driest place on earth. How is this possible?
Over ninety eight percent of Anarctica is covered by ice. Antactica contains seventy percent of the earth’s fresh water and ninety percent of the earth’s ice.
The Antarctic Ice Sheet is the largest sheet of ice on earth, with an average depth of 7,200 feet. According to NASA’s Cold Facts, “the thickest ice found is in Wilkes Land, where it reaches a depth of 15,669 feet: about as deep as the highest of the Alps is high.” If this ice cap were to melt the sea level would rise an average of 230 feet and would inundate most coastal cities, including New York, London, and Hong Kong.
Antarctica is technically a dessert. It receives less than two inches of precipitation a year, about the same amount of precipitation as the Sahara Desert.
One interior region of the Antarctic is known as The Dry Valleys. These valleys have not seen rainfall in over two million years. With the exception of one valley, whose lakes are briefly filled with water by inland flowing rivers during the summer, the Dry Valleys contain no moisture (water, ice, or snow). The reason why the Dry Valleys exist are the 100 mph Katabatic down winds which evaporate all moisture. The freezing temperatures and the absence of water, plant life, and animal life simulate, to a degree, conditions on the Planet Mars. Consequently, the Dry Valleys are used as training grounds for astronauts who may one day make a voyage to our neighboring planet.
The Most Rainfall in 24 Hours
La Reunion Island, Indian Ocean – 6ft 2in
As you can see by the image below, this volcanic island in the middle of the Indian Ocean could use the rainfall. They just weren’t expecting to get over 6 ft in a day.
Between March 15-16th, 1952, Cilaos at the center of Réunion, received approximately 74 in (6ft.2?) of rainfall. This is the greatest 24-hour precipitation total ever recorded on earth. The island also holds the record for most rainfall in 72 hours, approximately 155 in (12ft.11?) at Commerson’s Crater in March, 2007.
The Longest Bolt of Lightning Ever Recorded
From Waco to Dallas, Texas, United States – 118 Miles Long
Positive lightning develops in the same way as typical lightning bolts, but the positive bolt draws electrons upward from the ground.
These lightning bolts tend to be much, much stronger than regular lightning, and may carry as much as a hundred times the energy of a normal flash of lightning.
These “superbolts” of lightning, thankfully, are very rare. Only about five superbolts occur for every ten million normal lightning strokes.
Superbolts can reach way beyond the normal eight to ten miles of a typical lightning stroke. The longest superbolt on record reached from Waco, Texas to Dallas, after having traveled about a 118 miles.
The Largest Volcanic Eruption
La Garita Caldera in SW Colorado, United States – 1,200 cu miles
This was chosen because of the firm evidence rather than theory. The eruption that created the La Garita Caldera was the largest known eruption since the Ordovician period, with a VEI magnitude of 8.
The scale of La Garita volcanism was far beyond anything known in human history. The resulting deposit, known as the Fish Canyon Tuff, has a volume of approximately 5,000 cubic kilometers (1,200 cu mi), enough material to fill Lake Michigan (in comparison, the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens was only 1.2 cubic kilometers (0.3 cu mi) in volume).
The area devastated by the La Garita eruption is thought to have covered a significant portion of what is now Colorado, and ash could have fallen as far as the east coast of North America and the Caribbean.
The Deepest Place on Earth
Mariana Trench, Pacific Ocean – 6.77 miles
The Mariana Trench (or Marianas Trench) is the deepest part of the world’s oceans, and the deepest location on the surface of the Earth’s crust. It has a maximum depth of about 10.9 km (6.77 mi), and is located in the western North Pacific Ocean, to the east and south of the Mariana Islands, near Guam.
The bottom of the trench is farther below sea level than Mount Everest is above it (8,850m/29,035ft).
The Largest Recorded Earthquake
Valdivia earthquake, Chile – 9.5
The Valdivia earthquake or Great Chilean Earthquake of May 22, 1960 is the most powerful earthquake ever recorded, rating 9.5 on the moment magnitude scale. It caused localised tsunamis that severely battered the Chilean coast, with waves up to 25 meters (82 feet).
Coastal villages, such as Toltén, disappeared. Later studies argued that the earthquake actually had 37 epicenters through a 1,350 km (839 mi) north-south line that lasted from May 22 to June 6th 1960.
Elsewhere along the western coast of the United States, Crescent City, California, experienced notable tsunami waves and run-up. The tsunami travel time of the first wave to arrive at Crescent City was 15.5 hours after the occurrence of the earthquake in Chile.
At Crescent City, tsunami waves of up to 1.7 meters (appr. 5.6 feet) were observed and minor damage was reported.
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