Nature will warn you of a natural disaster. You may have street smarts, but lack wild-smarts. So instead of getting struck by lightning or drowning in a rip current, learn about the different ways nature warns you away from disaster and imminent natural disaster.
1. Beware of a patch of J-shaped trees.
Have you ever been hiking in the woods when you saw a patch of trees bent into a J shape? You may have escaped a very dangerous situation since that’s a sign of an upcoming landslide. The ground is moving very slowly, making the trees grow in the odd shape.
Another sign of potential landslide is cracking in the ground, which could be on the sidewalk, street, or dirt. Plus, if there was a landslide there before, another one may be on the way. Would-be rescuers have been buried in the second landslide. Landslides occur on slopes, though, so if you’re in a flat area you’re probably fine.
2. When the ocean level drops, danger is not far behind.
If you’re walking along the beach in the Ring of Fire, aka the coasts along much of the Pacific Ocean, and the water starts receding, you may be in trouble. Are the coral reefs uncovered? Don’t waste any time looking at flopping fishes or pretty corals, get to high ground as fast as possible. A tsunami is likely on the way.
Tsunamis are usually formed when an earthquake happens underwater, which displaces the water above it. At this point, the waves can move as fast as a jet airplane — 500 miles per hour — across the ocean. You may as well keep a look out for the ocean level dropping along other beaches, because while tsunamis are most common in the Pacific, they happen elsewhere too.
3. If a lake is covered in white or gray ice, don’t step on it.
“You’re on thin ice,” may be a fun jab at someone who’s annoying you, but it certainly is not a situation you would want to find yourself in. If you’re going to try and ice skate or simply walk on a frozen lake (which is a very peculiar experience), you should first make sure it’s safe.
Some places have professionals checking the safety of the ice, but not every random lake has that. You should probably bring materials to check the thickness of the ice, but a quick look at the color can be a good first step to determine its safety. If it’s clear and blue, it’s probably safer than if it’s white or gray.
4. If you see square waves, get out of the water.
This oceanic pattern doesn’t even seem possible, but it occurs when two wave systems run into each other. One of the wave systems continued despite the wind shifting, creating what is called a “cross sea.” But as neat as they may be to look at, they can be incredibly dangerous for ships, surfers, and swimmers.
Underneath the surface of these cross seas is an exceptionally strong current that can carry you out to sea. The water is also very difficult for boats to navigate, so some ships are wrecked by cross seas. The Isle of Rhe in France is famous for them, but they can be found elsewhere, like in New Zealand.
5. Steer clear of the channel of choppy waters at the beach.
If you see a channel of choppy water on the beach, seaweed and debris moving away from the shore in a particular area, a section of discolored water, or a gap in the line of waves, it’s likely that a deadly rip current lies beneath the water’s surface. Commonly (though mistakenly) called riptides, rip currents are very fast, powerful channels of water flowing away from shore.
Rip currents kill over a hundred people in the U.S. every year and are responsible for most lifeguard rescues. You can
6. If animals start leaving, an earthquake might be on the way.
As far back as 373 BC Greece, people have reported that animals like rats, snakes, and insects flee their homes days before a large earthquake shakes the land. But so far these stories are not backed by science. Scientists don’t know what the animals are detecting — if they are actually sensing anything. It’s also pretty hard to study their behavior right before an earthquake.
Generally, animals can sense earthquakes a few seconds before humans, because they feel the initial small waves that we can’t detect. But while this could be marginally helpful, it won’t tell you to get out of the earthquake zone soon enough.
7. But if animals start running toward you, there could be a fire behind them.
Alternatively, if you see birds and mammals flying and running toward you, there might be a wildfire behind them. Some animals, like amphibians, stay in the fire, burrowing underground to escape it, but others run as fast as they can. Of course, if you see smoke, that’s also a pretty good indicator of wildfire.
You’ve probably conjured up half a dozen animal-centric animated films in your head at this point. It seems like it’s always a fox or a horse or something running from fire and inevitably getting caught on a fallen log. You’ve always wanted your life to be a Disney film, right?
8. If your hair stands on end, take action.
If your hair starts standing on end and your jewelry starts buzzing, lightning is probably about to strike very
9. If you hear a roar of rushing water, run to high ground.
If it’s been raining a lot, you’re near a stream or river, and you hear a roar of rushing water, get to high ground immediately. It’s likely that a flash flood is about to spill out in front of you and, considering that floods are the second most deadly form of severe weather (in the U.S.), you don’t want to be caught in it.
Flash floods are incredibly powerful. They can roll boulders, level buildings, uproot trees, and drag bridges. Broken dams, failing levees, and heavy rain can all cause flash floods. Unfortunately, rain is only romantic until it takes away half the road.
10. A ring around the moon or sun can predict tomorrow’s weather.
These rings are formed when very thin, high up cirrus clouds drift above you. The clouds are made up of tiny ice crystals that split and reflect the light, thus making a ring around the sun or moon.
But since cirrus clouds often come before a storm, the ring can be a sign that rain is on its way in the next day or two. Sure the air is clear now, but a low-pressure system is probably coming to disrupt that. But it’s worth it to see these beautiful halos.
11. Cracked snow underfoot could signal an impending avalanche.
Skiing is all fun and games until a devastating avalanche tumbles down the mountain. They can be impossible to escape, as the snow can move as quickly as 80 miles an hour and people generally sink in the snow. But if you see the signs beforehand, perhaps you can avoid getting caught in the disaster.
Pay attention when you walk on the snow: does it feel hollow? Do you hear an odd “whumping” sound underfoot? Check around your feet for cracks in the snow. Plus, if there’s been heavy snow or rain, significantly warmer temperatures, or previous slides in the area, it could lead to an avalanche.
12. Green skies indicate severe weather may be on the way.
A thunderstorm may appear green because the setting sun’s red light is intermingling with the blue light under the storm. The green color indicates that this thundercloud is extremely tall and warns that a tornado or hail may be coming soon.
If you don’t want to have a scary but colorful dream of a mystical land like Dorothy did, it’s best to get inside and out of the storm. You might want to go to the basement, but only if you won’t feel embarrassed by hiding from what might not be a tornado at all. Otherwise, check the news because the green doesn’t predict anything other than some kind of severe weather.
13. Beware of lakes near volcanoes in hot environments.
If a lake is located in a very hot environment that never cools and is near volcanoes, it could be the equivalent of a viciously shaken soda can just waiting to pop. The magma underground might be pushing carbon dioxide into the bottom of the lakes, where there’s a ton of pressure. Since it’s hot year round, the lake never mixes and the gas never gets a chance to escape.
However, if the lake is disturbed by heavy rainfall or maybe an earthquake, it explodes in what is called a limnic eruption. Water bursts out and suffocating carbon dioxide erupts, killing almost everything for miles around it. There are a couple of these lakes in Africa, but once they were identified, people have started degassing them.
14. If you see bands in the sky, get to a basement.
These streaks are called “inflow bands” and their presence indicates the storm is drawing in low-level air from far away. They usually stretch to the southeast or south of the storm and are relatively low in the sky. Professional storm spotters look for them to figure out if a tornado will form, so they can warn people in the area.
15. Don’t go in the water if it’s green or smells bad.
If you’re near a river, lake, or ocean and the water is green, scummy, or smells bad, stay out of it. Don’t go in or let your pets or children take a dip. An algal bloom is happening in the water, which means there
The algae may or may not be harmful, so it’s best to just stay out altogether. The toxins can sicken or kill animals and occasionally humans. Often, these blooms are caused by too much fertilizer polluting the water. It’s not going to be a nice swim anyway, with all that green gunk, so just take an algal bloom check on your beach day.
16. If you’re in a cave during a full or new moon, get out as soon as possible.
While you always need to be mindful of tides when you go to one of these caves, it’s especially so during a full or new moon. During these phases of the moon, the tide is called a Spring Tide. High tide will be especially high because the sun, Earth, and moon are all in a line, which pulls on the tide more than normal.
17. Red skies can predict the weather, morning or night.
There’s a common saying that the color of the sky can predict the weather: “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in the morning, sailor’s warning.” But does it have any truth? Yes, a bit. The red color comes from the sunlight bouncing off water vapor and dust particles in the air, which can indicate the weather.
So since weather generally moves from west to east, the time of the red sky can partially predict the coming weather. Red skies at night indicate good weather coming in, because the dust particles generally mean there’s a high-pressure system. However, a red sunrise might show that the good weather is passing and a low-pressure system and storm are on their way in from the west.
18. Volcanoes shake, swell, and get gassy before they blow.
Volcanoes can be very cool to visit, but as the infamous story of Pompeii tells us, they can be just as deadly. So how can you tell if one is about to erupt? Well, there will probably be small earthquakes under the volcano. Plus, it could swell and release more heat and gas. But these signs are kind of hard for the average person to notice.
Luckily, we have volcanologists constantly monitoring these signals via radar satellites and other detectors. Some of nature’s warning signs are just too hard to notice without technology. Unfortunately, though, scientists can’t easily monitor the gas an impending eruption releases the most: water vapor. There’s just so much water vapor already in the air.
19. If you find a mushroom growing close to a tree, don’t eat it.
The most deadly of mushrooms belong to the Amanita genus, which includes the “destroying angel” and “death cap.” Both of which look rather nondescript; the destroying angel is all white while the death cap can range from yellow to brown to white on top, while its bottom is all white.
However, it can be tough to distinguish different mushrooms from each other. Most Amanitas live near trees, though, so it’s best to not eat any mushroom living near a tree. Actually, don’t eat any mushrooms growing in the wild unless you’re an expert at identifying them, because the potential lethality is not worth it for your faux survivalist ego-boost.
20. Listening to the frogs can help you predict the weather.
Frogs are famous for their croak, but if you’ve heard them croaking a lot more than usual, it might be because it’s about to rain. Okay, so a little bit of rain doesn’t hurt, but it can ruin picnic and hiking plans. For the frogs, though, it makes romantic plans for them.
The frogs are actually calling out to potential mates because they have to lay their eggs in water. They just want to be ready for when all the small ponds fill up with water and become perfect little nurseries. So, yes, the frogs are singing in the rain, but they’re also kissing in the rain.