Some natural events are so rare that we may experience them only once in a lifetime (or, depending on where we live, frequently or never).
So today I'm asking you to consider how many of the big natural events you've experienced and award yourself a score out of 10.
Score 2 if you've properly experienced one of these...
• volcanic activity
• tornado (or 1 if you sort-of have)
...then add 1 if you've experienced one of these...
...to get a score out of 10.
If you're not sure whether your experience counts as 2 or 1, give it a 1.
If you're not sure whether your experience counts as 1 or 0, give it a 0.
Here's a special comments box for your scores. your scores
Please read the rest of the post before you commit to a total.
And please keep it brief - there are separate comments boxes further down the post for your memorable experiences.
My score is 3.
That's E1 V1 H0 T1 (t0 a0) =3
And here's how I calculated it.
I have experienced an earthquake and what's more I was at home in London when it happened. It was 12.56am on 27th February 2008, I was in bed and most importantly I was wide awake with the light on. All was quiet when suddenly a metal rail at the foot of the bed started to vibrate. I watched the coathangers on the rail start to sway, I felt my bed shake a little and I heard the walls of my building creak. It only lasted for a few seconds. These events could have occurred for all sorts of reasons but I had a hunch it might have been an earthquake. Twitter was already a thing back then so it was possible to get wider confirmation pretty quickly rather than being left wondering, and I had indeed experienced my first earthquake.
This was the Market Rasen earthquake of 2008 which at 5.2 on the Richter scale was the strongest earthquake in theUK since 1984. Only four other earthquakes have exceeded 5.0 in the last 100 years, that's Dogger Bank 1931 (6.1), Derby 1957 (5.3), Llŷn Peninsula 1984 (5.4) and Bishop's Castle 1990 (5.1). London last saw earthquake damage in 1580 and before that 1382 because being distant from plate boundaries has its benefits. Other countries face far more serious risks and experience much larger quakes, indeed you'll almost certainly have to have been outside the UK to score a 2 in today's challenge. My coathanger-shaking experience was piddly by comparison but I have experienced an earthquake and for that I score 1.
n.b. I was lucky to be awake at 1am. I'd had a very long day at work because others weren't pulling their weight and major deadlines were approaching so I was late home, and then with stuff to do I was still up writing my diary at the end of the shipping forecast. Had the earthquake happened one day later I'd have been fast asleep and scored 0. As it happened my annoying work overload scored me 1.
n.b. I was in San Francisco exactly 100 years after the Big One standing by Lotta's Fountain for the big centenary commemoration at 5:12am, but that (thankfully) scores 0.
n.b. I can't tell you precisely where the dividing line between a 2 and a 1 is, but if you thought "eek, it's an earthquake" it might be a 2 and if you thought "oh, it's an earthquake" it's probably a 1.
I've never been up to the crater of a big volcano and I have never seen a volcano erupting so I can't have a 2. I'm awarding myself a 1 because I went part of the way up Eyjafjallajökull shortly after it erupted and stood on a thick layer of ash that had previously been a meltwater lake. It was 2010 when Eyjafjallajökull brought European air traffic to a halt and 2011 when I went on holiday to Iceland and plumped for the volcanic jeep tour option. We zipped up the Markarfljot valley to the snout of the glacier which used to be sparkling and white but was now grey and impregnated with ash. It was quite a sight.
"Don't go too far away," said our tour guide. "This grey volcanic landscape is highly unstable as you can see from those deep pits over there, which before long are going to grow and coalesce. Hopefully that won't happen while we're standing nearby but driving a jeep onto the ash layer can't have helped, indeed maybe we shouldn't be up here at all." It was a cracking experience, though thankfully not catastrophically so. I keep a chunk of ash from Eyjafjallajökull on a table in my hallway.
n.b. If I'd only seen Eyjafjallajökull from a distance that would have been a 0.
n.b. Going up Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh is also a 0 - extinct volcanoes are too easy.
n.b. If you've seen glowing magma fresh from the bowels of the earth that's got to be a 2.
I have never been in, under or near a hurricane. The only time I went to Florida the weather was mercifully calm, although we were asked to descend the LC-39 Observation Gantry at the Kennedy Space Center because a thunderstorm was approaching. The only designated hurricane at the time, Alberto, was busy pootling around the mid-Atlantic and Debby wasn't due to hit until a week later. I dodged a bullet there because a nasty windstorm would have totally messed up my Disney World plans, and that's why I'm still a 0 on the hurricane front.
n.b. The Great Storm of 1987 was not a hurricane so that scores 0.
n.b. hurricanes, typhoons... the only difference is the ocean so they both count.
n.b. I can't tell you precisely where the dividing line between a 2 and a 1 is, but if you thought "blimey it's wet and windy" it might be a 1 and if you thought "sheesh this is frightening" it's probably a 2.
I spotted my first and only tornado in June 2021 while walking along the Greenway near West Ham station, because a raised path across a flat landscape is a good place to get a great view of the sky. Storms had been forecast but I hoped I'd dodge the nearest and get to my destination before getting soaked. But that cloud looks odd, I thought, I swear I can see it changing shape in a bubbly swelling manner and maybe poking down a bit. You don't normally see clouds changing that fast so something must be up. I still regret not taking a photo.
I didn't see a funnel of cloud reach the ground and I was three miles away so experienced no ill effects other than it looking weird. Only later did I discover that a tornado touched down around the same time in Barking's backstreets so I had in fact been watching the evolution of a tornado. I watched all sorts of shaky phone footage with interest (that would have been a 2), but my observation of explosive convection only scores me 1.
n.b. If you judge by density of phenomena the UK is supposedly the tornado capital of the world with an average of 30 tornadoes recorded each year, but most are pretty weak.
n.b. The continental USA suffers the strongest tornadoes so that's where you'll find the most 2s.
Very few people, thankfully, experience a proper tsunami and I am not one of them. A few measly ripples on a beach probably doesn't count. If you have seen one though then it's a maximum of 1 point (unless it was Boxing Day 2004 in which case sure, have a 2). AVALANCHE/LANDSLIDE: 0
There's only 1 point available here too and it's for actually seeing an avalanche or landslide, not for coming upon a pile of debris afterwards. I've seen plenty of crumbled cliffs but I have never seen it happen.
And that's how I score a total of 3.
3 out of 10 is a bit poor, or perhaps unlucky, or arguably lucky because nobody wants to experience too many of these natural hazards.
If you've worked out your own total please add it to the first comments box several screens further up the page.
Phenomenon-specific anecdotes in the relevant boxes lower down, thanks.
And any general comments below. Let's see who's the most disaster prone of all.