‘Nature’s Fury’ Explains The Science Behind Natural Disasters

A new exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) will delve into the mysteries behind natural disasters. What causes tornados? What’s the aftermath of a volcano? How do these forces shape the planet? The interactive exhibit, entitled “Nature’s Fury: The Science Behind Natural Disasters”, will provide the answers to all these questions when it opens to the public from Nov. 15 to Aug. 9, 2015.

“For all time and in all places, people have sought to explain powerful natural phenomena, like hurricanes, floods, volcanoes, avalanches, wildfires, earthquakes and tsunamis,” said AMNH President Ellen Futter on Wednesday.

Even in the Bible, there are instances of these formidable events. In fact, it was once believed that natural disasters all stemmed from the wrath of the gods.

Today, however, scientific explanations are widely accepted. Specifically, the exhibition will reveal how scientists study natural disasters and the ways that knowledge can help us prepare for nature’s fury. It features compelling interactive displays, as well as animations, to help visitors understand the phenomena.

“This is even more crucial in a time of tremendous environmental and climate change, when forces that scientists are actively trying to understand are having an impact on the degradation of the environment faster than we can keep up,” Futter said.

Included in the exhibition are the following highlights:

The new exhibition reveals how earthquakes are produced when tectonic plates slide against each other. Visitors can create their own earthquake by jumping next to a seismometer, a device that measures the magnitude of an earthquake on the Richter scale.

Some of the most notorious volcanic eruptions are discussed in “Nature’s Fury” – from Mount St. Helens in 1980, to Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Visitors can also “build” their own volcano by adjusting levels of gas and silica, which ultimately effects how explosive an eruption will be.

Adventure seekers and storm chasers use probes to measure the wind speeds, air pressures and other factors that influence a storm’s severity. A panoramic screen inside the museum will provide visitors a first hand experience of what it’s like to be inside a twister.

The deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history occurred in 1900 in Galveston, Texas. The hurricane claimed the lives of 8,000 people, and since then, scientists have learned a lot more about the phenomenon. The exhibit provides visitors with an interactive map of New York City during Hurricane Sandy in 2012; it showcases the coastal areas that were most vulnerable to the storm, and depicts the city’s efforts to mitigate damage from other hurricanes in the future.