EARTH (WTAJ) — There are many different natural occurrences happening to Earth daily, however, you might not realize or know what they are or how they affect our planet. Here are some common misconceptions.

EARTHQUAKES ARE RARE

A common misconception about earthquakes is that they are a rare and uncommon natural occurrence. However, would it surprise you to know that on average each day there are hundreds of earthquakes?

For example, even in Pennsylvania, while earthquakes are rare, did you know there was one here in June 2022? While most Pennsylvanians went about their day and might not have noticed it, according to the Pennsylvania State Seismic Network, a 1.5 magnitude earthquake hit just southwest of Somerset.

There are earthquakes daily around the world, sometimes they just go unreported or unnoticed.

According to Michigan Tech, the Richter scale is the first widely-used method that was developed by Charles F. Richter in 1934. It’s a formula based on the amplitude of the largest wave recorded on a specific type of seismometer and the distance between the earthquake and the seismometer.

MagnitudeEarthquake EffectsEstimated Number Each Year
2.5 or lessUsually not felt, but can be recorded by seismograph.Millions
2.5 to 5.4Often felt, but only causes minor damage.500,000
5.5 to 6.0Slight damage to buildings and other structures.350
6.1 to 6.9May cause a lot of damage in very populated areas.100
7.0 to 7.9Major earthquake. Serious damage.10-15
8.0 or greaterGreat earthquake. Can totally destroy communities near the epicenter.One every year or two
According to Michigan Tech University

According to the Seismological Facility for the Advancement of Geoscience (SAGE), on average there are several hundred earthquakes that are magnitude 2 or lower daily around the world. Major earthquakes, which are greater than a magnitude 7, happen more than once a month. Then “Great earthquakes” which are magnitude 8 and higher usually happen once a year.

RIVERS ONLY FLOW SOUTH

Another common misconception is the way the rivers flow. While this might sound silly, not all rivers flow south. While most rivers do, the St. Johns River in Florida and River Nile in Africa are two that flow north. According to WorldAtlas, there are at least 48 rivers in 16 different states that have rivers that flow north.

While there are not any north-flowing rivers in Pennsylvania, The Niagara River, which flows from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario is the closest to Pennsylvania located in Buffalo. There are three other north-flowing rivers in New York.

CLIMATE CHANGE IS ONLY CAUSED BY HUMANS

While climate change has been a common global conversation in recent years, many think that humans are the sole reason behind climate change, which is arguable.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), while human factors have influenced the Earth’s climate, natural factors have too. Humans have contributed to climate change through greenhouse gas emissions and reflectivity or absorption of the sun’s energy, however, our planet’s orbit and rotation are causing a big impact on climate change.

With changes in the Earth’s orbit and its axis of rotation, the amount of summer sunshine has shifted, which attributes as a primary cause of past ice ages, according to EPA. 

Another cause is reflectivity and how, in the past, our planet reflected sunlight. For example, dark objects and surfaces, like oceans, forests and soil, tend to absorb more sunlight, according to the EPA. Light-colored objects like snow and clouds tend to reflect the sunlight. With there being fewer light-colored objects with the melting of ice and snow, the earth is absorbing more sunlight, which can contribute to a temperature increase. These changes have contributed to climate change in the past as well.

For a list of other natural climate change causes, including solar activity changes and more, visit the EPA’s climate change section on its website.

VOLCANOS ARE ALWAYS BAD

Most people see volcanos as deadly natural disasters that do nothing but wreak havoc on our planet, however, there’s a lot of good a volcano can do. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) states there are direct and indirect benefits volcanic eruptions can have on mankind including:

  • Volcanic materials ultimately break down and weather to form some of the most fertile soils on Earth, cultivation of which has produced abundant food and fostered civilizations.
  • The internal heat associated with young volcanic systems has been harnessed to produce geothermal energy.
  • Most of the metallic minerals mined in the world–such as copper, gold, silver, lead, and zinc–are associated with magmas found deep within the roots of extinct volcanoes.

One of the shorter-term examples is the large volcanic eruption in 1991 in Pinatubo in the Philippines. The eruption, according to AccuWeather, released exploded ash and sulfur gas into the stratosphere which helps keep it cool. This has helped keep the area cool and helped fight climate change.

According to the USGS, there are 1,350 potentially active volcanos worldwide, including 161 potentially active volcanos in the United States. Check out the USGS’s volcano and earthquake online tool to see all the known volcano locations.

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Check out some cool Earth Day events that are happening in Central Pennsylvania here. There are lots of great things you can do right in your area!