HAWAII — Like they say, when it rains, it pours … and erupts and flows and shakes and swelters and blows and generally wreaks havoc around the country.
It’s not like we’re looking at the end of times, but you have to admit there’s a lot of wild and scary Mother Nature stuff happening across the US right now. The devastating lava flows in Hawaii are probably the scariest, but geysers, earthquakes and heavy rains are rattling the Earth from California to Florida.
And we’re just entering tornado and hurricane season.
Is it anything to be alarmed about? Not necessarily, but all these crazy natural happenings coming at the same time make a fascinating coincidence.
Volcanic lava in Hawaii
Smoldering flows of glowing red and crusty black lava have been consuming parts of Hawaii’s Big Island since May 3, and residents just got more bad news. Two new fissures opened near the Kilauea Volcano over the weekend, belching more lava and fumes. That makes 18 fissures in total.
Nearly 2,000 people have been evacuated from the area, and there may be more eruptions to worry about in the near future as lava mixes with groundwater and creates what is known as “steam explosions.” Even after everything has settled down, the threat of volcanic smog and acid rain may linger.
A geyser eruption in Yellowstone
There’s also more movement under the earth on the US mainland. Wyoming’s Steamboat Geyser in Yellowstone National Park just erupted for the fifth time this year. The temper of the world’ largest active geyser is fairly hard to predict, but five times a year is notable considering the last time it erupted before then was in 2014.
The Yellowstone caldera — an ancient supervolcano sleeping under a large part of northwestern Wyoming — is a popular subject of apocalyptic imaginaton, but don’t bother running to your disaster shelter. A scientist with the US Geological Survey told CNN in March that there doesn’t seem to be a direct relationship between geyser eruptions and caldera activity. The USGS assured worried geyser-watchers on Twitter that such eruptions are normal at any frequency. “Geysers erupt all the time — it’s what they do,” they wrote.
Earthquakes in California
Small earthquakes happen all the time all around the United States, but every one in a while a series of them — called a “swarm” — will jostle one particular area and set people on edge. That happened in Southern California over the weekend, when dozens of small tremors were recorded in the Ocotillo Wells area east of San Diego. According the the USGS, six of these were larger than a 3 on the Richter magnitude scale.
Don Blakeman, a geophysicist with the USGS’ National Earthquake Information Center, told CNN swarms like the one this past weekend usually die out.
“No, you should not be worried about this little swarm,” he said. “But keep in mind that a large earthquake can happen in [seismically active] Southern California any time.”
Heavy rains in Florida
There’s no trembling earth or fiery lava in Florida, but they’re about to get rain — a lot of it. Meteorologists are watching an area of “disturbed weather” in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Could it become a tropical storm or a hurricane? “Some slow development is possible with the system,” CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen says. “And there is roughly a 40% chance the storm could become a tropical or sub-tropical system over the next five days.”
Even if no storm forms, the system will make for some legendarily soggy weather. Widespread rains of up to 8 inches are likely over Florida, Hennen says, and the soggy weather will eventually make its way north up the coast. For an area still feeling the effects of last year’s hurricane Irma, that’s not exactly welcome news.
Record heat almost everywhere
If you aren’t in the vicinity of lava, earthquakes, geysers or intense rain, chances are you’re still unseasonably hot. Cities in Illinois, Indiana, and other states south to the Gulf will see record highs on Monday. Some places in Tennessee and Kentucky will see temperatures in the 90s that will break on-this-day records. In general, CNN’s Dave Hennen says temperatures are running 15 degrees above normal.
On Sunday, the National Weather Service reported a high of 85 degrees in Seattle, of all places. The next morning, on Monday, the NWS recorded a low of 58 degrees in Seattle — a new record high minimum temperature.
And maybe more to come
Again, from a geological and meteorological standpoint, all of these events are nothing more than a lot of different stuff happening at once. However, brace yourself for more wild — and potentially dangerous — weather in the weeks and months ahead. June 1st marks the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season, which is bad news for places like Puerto Rico which are still recovering from last year’s spate of devastating storms.
Oh, and late spring and early summer is also when the Midwest sees the most tornadoes.
That’s a lot to think about, but remember: Worrying doesn’t achieve anything. Preparedness does. Here are some resources from the USGS about preparing for earthquakes, and some about preparing for volcanoes. For hurricane-prone areas, here are some resources from the National Hurricane Center. In tornado country? Here are some resources from FEMA.
For more on the latest weather developments, visit CNN’s comprehensive Extreme Weather center.