Bizarre Facts You Probably Never Knew About Earth

Even if you aren’t one to get lost in reading National Geographic, there’s no denying our planet is an absolutely fascinating place. There are so many crazy natural phenomenons it’s hard to keep many of them straight. What’s even more amazing is that there are so so many tidbits out there you probably didn’t even learn in your grammar school science class. With help from Reader’s Digest, we take a look at bizarre facts you probably never knew about Earth. (The fact on page 13 is something out of a storybook.)

1. The truth behind rogue waves

Rogue wave | Panmaule/ iStovk/ Getty Images

Up until just a couple decades ago, scientists thought that rogue waves — abnormally large waves which occur unexpectedly and are extremely dangerous — were something out of a fairy tale. That is, until information gathered in the mid-90s revealed that these waves, which can measure over 90-feet tall, occur quite often out at open sea.

Next: And if you think that mystery of the open ocean is crazy, here’s …

2. How underwater mountains form

Black smoker at a mid-ocean ridge | Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

Plate tectonics don’t just create the ever-changing hills and valleys on the ocean floor. They’ve also created the largest mountain range on the entire planet. The Mid-Ocean Ridge, which is a continuous chain of active volcanoes, stretches more than 40,000 miles. The longest mountain range on land, the Andes, is only 4,350 miles long, Reader’s Digest tells us.

Next: And if you thought those mountains were interesting …

3. Mt. Everest isn’t actually the highest mountain

Aerial view of the Mount Everest |Prakash Mathema /AFP/Getty Images

That’s right — what you’ve been told for years is planet Earth’s tallest mountain isn’t. Well, at least not technically. While Everest is the tallest mountain completely above land, Hawaii’s Mauna Kea is actually 1,640 feet taller. How is this possible? Mauna Kea is almost completely submerged in water, so the visible 13,706 feet above the Pacific Ocean’s surface looks small up against Everest at more than 29,000 feet.

Next: Fire and brimstone …

4. The Ring of Fire’s reign of terror

Map showing the Ring of Fire | QAI Publishing/UIG via Getty Images

You may not think an earthquake in Los Angeles would be connected to a volcanic eruption in Japan. But they are actually both due to the work of the Pacific Ocean’s Ring of Fire, which is responsible for “more than 450 active and dormant volcanoes” according to EarthSky.org. Additionally, roughly 81% of the world’s earthquakes occur along the Ring of Fire, due to moving plates.

Next: And speaking of those moving plates …

5. Australia is … moving?

An orographical map of Australia | Hans Wild/ The LIFE Picture Collection/ Getty Images

In 2016, The New York Times reported the Indo-Australian plate moves the continent “about 2.7 inches northward a year, with a slight clockwise rotation as well.” The report adds that “four times in the last 50 years, Australia has reset the official coordinates of everything in the country to make them more accurate, correcting for other sources of error as well as continental drift.”

Next: Not your average volcano …

6. The truth behind Yellowstone’s supervolcano

Yellowstone underground supervolcano | Russell Pearson /Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Volcanic activity forms mountains, right? Not in Yellowstone National Park, where an eruption over 630,000 years ago instead created a 44-mile long crater. While there is no anticipation the supervolcano will erupt any time soon, it’s still considered active. Heck, Reader’s Digest tells us a chamber of hot magma under the surface is responsible to heating Yellowstone’s geysers.

Next: Speaking of which …

7. Is there a good way to predict volcanic eruptions?

The eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano on May 6, 2018 near Pahoa, Hawaii | U.S. Geological Survey via Getty Images

Yes and no, PBS.org tells us. “Volcanologists can predict eruptions—if they have a thorough understanding of a volcano’s eruptive history, if they can install the proper instrumentation on a volcano well in advance of an eruption, and if they can continuously monitor and adequately interpret data coming from that equipment.” Long story short: Predicting the next Pompeii is difficult to do, but possible.

Next: On that note …

8. An ancient Chinese forest

Ferns fossil imprints drawing | DeAgostini/ Getty Images

Reader’s Digest tells us that, before Yellowstone became a huge caldera, there was a huge volcanic eruption in what is now China that blanketed and preserved swamp land in black ash. The ash perfectly preserved the plant life in the area, making it easy for scientists to inspect.

Next: It’s too darn hot …

9. The Amazon’s boiling river

Amazon river basin | Collart Hervé/ Sygma via Getty Images

Though a boiling hot river running through the Peruvian Amazon was largely believed to just be a myth, geologist Andrés Ruzo discovered this 200-degree body of water is actually very real. Ruzo told National Geographic in 2016 the hot water is a result of non-volcanic activity pushing the water up at such a fast rate it doesn’t have time to cool down. Anything unfortunate enough to fall into the river gets boiled alive.

Next: A truly bizarre sight on Earth …

10. Understanding the Danakil Depression

A sulfur lake is pictured in the Danakil Depression | Carl Court/ Getty Images

You may not be able to see the Mid-Ocean Ridge with a naked eye, but you can see a similar spectacle in Ethiopia where three plates meet up and are separating from each other. Volcanic plate activity and the hottest temperatures on Earth converge to create the Danakil Depression, which is a series of “bubbling lava lakes, hot springs, and tiny geysers” Reader’s Digest tells us.

Next: Can you feel the heat?

11. Hydrothermal vents are home to some organisms

Orange smoke from hydrothermal vents in Mariana Arc region, Western Pacific Ocean | Universal History Archive/ UIG via Getty Images

As hot and seemingly inhospitable the area around hydrothermal vents can be, some micro-organisms actually call them home. According to Reader’s Digest, these tiny organisms that live in the dark depths of the ocean along volcanic areas like the Mid-Ocean Ridge use the chemicals coming out of the vents to create matter for them to survive.

Next: This will surprise you …

12. The largest single organism is …

Dark honey fungus growing in cluster | Arterra/ UIG via Getty Images

A mushroom? That’s right — the Armillaria mellea, or honey fungus, is a parasitic fungus that kills trees from within and can continue growing to huge proportions both within the trunks of connected tress and as a wild-looking mushroom on the outer surface. Reader’s Digest references a honey fungus found in Michigan in the mid-90s that weighed around 22,000 pounds and extended out 37 acres.

Next: Is this for real?

13. Does it really rain frogs?

Tree frog in Panama | Kike Calvo /UIG via Getty Images

Yes, they really do. Well, sort of. Scientists believe tornadoes and unidentified water spouts pick creatures up and can deposit them as far as hundreds of miles away, Reader’s Digest says. “Frog and toad rains, fish rains, and colored rains—most often red, yellow or black—are among the most common accounts of strange rain, reported since ancient times,” writer Cynthia Barnett says in the book Rain: A Natural and Cultural History.

Next: Speaking of travelling great distances …

14. The truth about Saharan dust

Sand dunes in the Sahara Desert | Tim Graham/Getty Images

You probably already knew that desert winds can carry Saharan sand over some distance. But you likely didn’t realize just how far. “Hundreds of millions of tons of desert dust blow across the Atlantic Ocean from Africa every year, adding to Caribbean beach sand and fertilizing the Amazonian soil,” Reader’s Digest says referencing this map from NASA’s Earth Observatory.

Next: Last but not least …

15. The truth about cosmic dust

Bubble of gas and cosmic dust | SSPL/Getty Images

Reader’s Digest tells us scientists have found cosmic dust in the upper atmosphere from traveling comets that pre-date the creation of the solar system. The Los Angeles Times adds that some of the molecules in the water we drink may also predate the creation of the Sun and the many planets that surround it.

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