Top 10 Most Mysterious Natural Disasters Ever

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Top 10 Most Mysterious Natural Disasters Ever

VOICE OVER: Peter DeGiglio
These unsolved earth mysteries will freak you out. For this list, we're looking at some of the strangest mysteries surrounding natural disasters on Earth and further afield. Our countdown includes Year of Darkness (536), 8th Century Gamma Ray (775), The Tunguska Event (1908), and more!
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Top 10 Unsolved Mysterious Natural Disasters & Events


Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 unsolved mysterious natural disasters and events.

For this list, we’re looking at some of the strangest mysteries surrounding natural disasters on Earth and further afield.

Let us know in the comments which you think is the most bizarre.

#10: Year of Darkness (536)

The most famous “Year without a Summer” happened in 1816 after the eruption of Mt Tambora, but it wasn’t the first. In 536 AD, multiple volcanic eruptions led to what some historians have dubbed the undoubted “worst year to be alive”. At least, we think it was volcanic eruptions; we actually don’t know for sure what caused the “Year of Darkness” in the sixth century because records are very thin on the ground. And while volcanoes seem like the most sensible option, there are additional theories – including that the devastating dust was the result of a comet strike. All we know for sure is that Earth became much colder and there were widespread famines.


#9: Siberian Sinkholes (2013-)

In recent years, various sinkholes have appeared out in the wilderness of Siberia. Over a dozen have emerged since 2013, and many scientists have struggled to pinpoint the cause. It wasn’t until 2020 that scientists thought they’d unraveled the mystery of the sinkholes: they’re caused when methane begins to fill an underground space and, inevitably, explodes, leaving vast craters. But we still don’t know where this methane is coming from or why the sinkholes have only just started to appear. It’s widely speculated that it has to do with climate change melting Siberia’s permafrost, but we still have plenty to learn about the sinkholes and their creation.

#8: The Sichuan Earthquake (2008)

Ever since construction began in the 1990s, the Three Gorges Dam in Hubei, China has been controversial; though it generates immense power and reduces flood risk along the Yangtze, it’s caused a lot of ecological damage. But could it cause an earthquake? Some believe so, and after the devastating Great Sichuan Earthquake in 2008, many blamed the dam for causing seismic disturbances that triggered the quake – in which almost 90,000 people lost their lives. Though this began as a conspiracy theory, the following year some scientific evidence emerged saying that the weight of water in the reservoir might be the earthquake’s cause. The entire story remains highly contentious, and the truth is unclear.


#7: What Happened to Venus

At the dawn of the space age, attention was on Venus as the most viable alien world for humans to visit. However, the Soviets quickly realized after sending various Venera probes to the planet that Venus is extremely hostile to human life. Its atmosphere is so full of CO2 that its pressure is 90 times greater than Earth’s, its clouds are made of sulfuric acid, and its average surface temperature is almost 900 degrees Fahrenheit. But it wasn’t always this way. At some point, Venus was most likely habitable just like Earth, but something happened that triggered a “runaway greenhouse gas effect,” filling the atmosphere with so much carbon dioxide that life cannot exist. Volcanoes seem to be likely culprits, but we don’t know for sure.


#6: 8th Century Gamma Ray (775)

Gamma-rays are the most energetic phenomenon in the galaxy, created by colliding stars and easily able to wipe out Earth if one erupted close enough. Shockingly, in 2013 scientists uncovered evidence that Earth was struck by a gamma-ray burst at some point in the 8th century. By studying Japanese cedar tree rings dated to the year 775, scientists found traces of the isotope carbon-14, and a gamma-ray is one of the few explanations for how this rare isotope got there. It’s not likely to come from a solar flare or a closer supernova, but we have little else to go on since there are no contemporary reports of radiation sickness or of seeing a supernova in the sky.

#5: Year of the Locust (1874)

In order to free the Ancient Israelites from Egypt, it’s said that God sent ten plagues to ravage the land. The eighth of these was the Plague of Locusts, which were bidden to devour everything in sight. But if you’ve ever wondered what a plague of locusts would really be like, look no further than the year 1874, when for some reason the Rocky Mountain locust left the mountains and ravaged the Great Plains. There were estimated to be about 12 trillion locusts in the swarm. Various states put bounties out on the locusts or made it mandatory for everybody to kill as many as possible. By the twentieth century, the Rocky Mountain locust was extinct, in one of the most bizarre events in American history.

#4: New Madrid Earthquake (1811-12)

For three months between December 1811 and February 1812, the city of New Madrid in Missouri and the surrounding area was ravaged by multiple, powerful earthquakes. The incident is most famous for supposedly “making the Mississippi River run backward.” What actually happened was that the ground lifted up so much due to the quake that it looked as if the river had temporarily changed direction. What remains unclear, however, is the precise mechanism that caused the quake. It’s part of the New Madrid Seismic Zone, but little is known about the fault system – including how likely similar earthquakes are in the future.

#3: The Carrington Event (1859)

A solar flare may not have caused radiation in the 8th century gamma ray mystery, but it definitely created radiation in the 19th century. The Carrington Event was a huge geomagnetic storm that occurred in September 1859, causing blackouts and disrupting telegrams. Luckily, as this was the 1850s, we didn’t rely on electrical infrastructure like we do today, so the damage wasn’t too bad – though it remains the largest storm of this type we’ve ever seen. It’s mysterious because there are still lots of things we want to learn both about this event and about solar flares more generally. Despite being witnessed worldwide, the Carrington Event remains something of an enigma – as do the potentially deadly effects of future storms.

#2: The Tunguska Event (1908)

If a meteorite explodes in the air and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Well, yes, because that’s what happened in Siberia in 1908. A vast explosion erupted over a Russian forest, witnessed by a handful of people, and devastated an enormous area. With an estimated yield of 10 megatons (and perhaps much higher), it was significantly more powerful than either of the atomic bombs deployed in Japan. The Tunguska Event’s big mystery, however, is that there was no crater; if it was an asteroid, it must have exploded in mid-air before striking Earth. But to this day not everybody accepts the asteroid story, with some blaming a natural gas explosion or even a near-miss with a world-destroying comet.


#1: Tsunami Ghosts (2011)

Almost 20,000 people died following the devastating Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011. The tsunami itself was not mysterious; while tragic, we understand how it happened. What we don’t understand is why, in the wake of the tsunami, ghost sightings in affected areas drastically increased. Many people reported being visited by the restless spirits of those lost to the tsunami, with some people even becoming possessed by aggressive forces from beyond the grave. It’s highly likely that the sightings were the result of collective trauma and perhaps survivor’s guilt, but many believe that the sightings are true evidence of the paranormal.
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