14 Crazy Facts About Earth You Never Learned in School

14 Crazy Facts About Earth You Never Learned in School

Yellowstone supervolcano

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA: Old Faithful geyserDmitry Kovba/Shutterstock

Volcanic islands are pretty easy to identify, but some of the ways volcanic activity shaped the earth in its infancy are not as easy to spot. One of the facts about Earth you might not know is that it was only in the 1960s that geologists realized the 44-mile-wide depression in the ground in Yellowstone National Park is a volcanic caldera. Rather than a lava flow that formed a mountain, like Hawaii's Mauna Kea and Washington state's Mount St. Helens, eruptions at Yellowstone took the form of massive explosions that actually caused mountains and other topography to collapse. The volcano is still active, in fact—there's a chamber of liquid magma underneath it that fuels the park's geysers and hot springs like Old Faithful. But the last major eruption was about 630,000 years ago, and although there's not currently any good way to predict volcanic eruptions, scientists aren't too worried about another big one. In fact, Ilya Bindeman, a University of Oregon geochemist, told the Washington Post that Yellowstone may be "approaching the end of its evolution."

Ancient Wuda forest

Petrified prehistorical ferns frond imprint on stone with plants branches and leaves servickuz/Shutterstock

About 300 million years ago—long before the Yellowstone volcano formed—an eruption in what is now China left a thick layer of ash on top of a swamp forest. The Permian-era plants and trees were all fossilized and preserved. The continents were, at the time, still all joined together as a single land mass; over the intervening millennia, they've drifted apart into their current positions and the vegetation and animal life on Earth have changed immeasurably. That's why when scientists discovered the fossilized forest a few years ago, they called it a Permian Pompeii—they can see just how the plants were arranged, and have found trees as big as 80 feet tall. (There weren't any conifers or flowering plants, though—all plants reproduced through spores, like ferns, which were abundant.) "It's marvelously preserved," University of Pennsylvania paleobotanist Hermann Pfefferkorn told Gizmodo's Jesus Diaz. "We can stand there and find a branch with the leaves attached, and then we find the next branch and the next branch and the next branch." If you're enjoying these facts about Earth, find out the 14 scary prehistoric animals you'll be glad are extinct.

Boiling river

Steamy river water and muddy shoreline with green grass under blue sky with white fluffy clouds.John Andrus/Shutterstock

There's a river in the Peruvian Amazon where water temperatures can actually cook unlucky animals that fall into the water. Geophysicist AndrĂ©s Ruzo, whose Peruvian grandfather mentioned the boiling river to him when he was a child, kept searching for the mysterious site even though his professors told him it had to be a myth. When he found it, he worried that it had been caused by nearby oil and gas extraction, but determined that it was a natural feature: It's "a non-volcanic, geothermal feature flowing at anomalously high rates," he told National Geographic. Meaning it's just very hot water (getting up to about 200 degrees Fahrenheit) coming from very deep below the earth's surface quickly enough that it doesn't cool off before it comes out into the river. Discover other natural wonders around the world you've never heard of.

14 Crazy Facts About Earth You Never Learned in School, Source:https://www.rd.com/culture/facts-about-earth/