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The earth seems to be "speaking." There was the terrible mudslide in the state of Washington. Elsewhere, there has been a noticeable bit of shaking, and sliding, going on. Strange rumblings continue to be reported, most recently in Florida. Oklahoma and Los Angeles have been experiencing unnerving quakes, as has Chile, and the question is whether the subsequent rumblings have been mere aftershocks or foreshocks: portending something else to come.

With prayer, even those who are rattled are not "rattled." God protects. God forewarns.  There are rumblings and sometimes wafts of smoke from distant volcanoes.

Let's focus on these for now: volcanoes, for many times we forget how but for the protection of God hidden things, matters beneath the surface, can have huge consequences.

Consider Krakatau in Indonesia.

This volcano erupted in 1883 with a blast so loud it was heard 2,800 miles away, in Perth, Australia. Tsunamis from it reached Hawaii and South America, killing thousands in the immediate vicinity. The ash was such that for 275 miles around it, there was darkness for two to three days (accounts vary). Globally, temperatures cooled (the ash blotting out light and causing spectacular sunsets).

It is worth remembering that we are speaking about an eruption that was tremendous, substantially bigger than Pinatubo or Mount St. Helens, and one that is not ancient history: it occurred not too much over a century ago.

More powerful still was Tambora (also Indonesia) in 1815. This was the only one in recent times that was classified as a "seven" on the Volcano Explosivity Index (the category for a "super colossal" eruption).

Tambora caused a drop of global temperatures by perhaps as much as 1.2 degrees (a single degree is highly significant) and with remnant ash, aerosols, and dust still beclouding the sky, the subsequent year of 1816 became known as "the year without summer," a "volcanic winter," with some of the greatest effects in Western Europe and the Northeast in the U.S. A dry global fog that dimmed sunlight to such an extent that sunspots could be viewed with the naked eye and agriculture was severely impacted. There was famine in Europe and weather effects that included major flooding in China. It snowed on June 6 in Albany, New York. The following winter saw cold reach as low as minus-32 degrees in New York City, with the water in New York's Upper Bay frozen over and horse-drawn sleighs traversing from Brooklyn to Governor's Island.

Can you imagine if this occurred in our own day?

More sobering still is the fact that Tambora is not as potent as what scientists classify as "mega-volcanoes" or "apocalyptic" ones, the global number of which is unknown.

It's believed, however, that there are a significant number of them on the bottom of our oceans.

These are classified as "eight" on the Volcano Explosivity Index (a category also known as "apocalyptic") and can be 2,000 times more powerful than something like Mount St. Helens. At least several are on the earth's surface, including one you may have heard about at Yellowstone National Park. There are geologists who speculate that the Yellowstone volcano erupted 550,000 years ago with such power that up to a third of what is now the United States had significant accumulations of ash, several feet of it in immediately adjacent states.

A volcano like that could not just affect but close down global agriculture (preventing plant photosynthesis) for years. It doesn't take a scientist to imagine the effects of that. There is also an "eight" in Indonesia (Toba) and another in New Zealand (Taupo). Thousands of small quakes have registered at Yellowstone in recent years, including one Sunday (3/30/14, the biggest there since 1980, though seismologists don't believe it's related to the volcano itself; take a look at this video of buffalo running from one part of Yellowstone). As for New Zealand, several years back a major earthquake devastated parts of Christchurch there, in this particularly potent, seismically-alive region. Just last September (2013), a scientist from Texas A&M discovered the world's largest known volcano about a thousand miles southeast of Japan in the Pacific. In size it is comparable to the state of New Mexico (and about fifty times larger than Hawaii's famous Mauna Loa).

And so there is not just what we see but what we cannot see below our feet.

How could we ever forget a research trip we took in 1999 to view the Hawaii volcanoes, flying in a helicopter over lava that flows off a cliff on the Big Island and into the ocean with great releases of steam (as if the end of the earth).

In Christ's own time -- actually, shortly after His death -- was the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, a relatively "small" volcano that however had locally apocalyptic effects (see: Pompeii, a Sodom of that period).

Might it have been what Jesus was referring to when He said before His Crucifixion (see Matthew 24:29) that a time would come when "the sun will be darkened, the moon will not shed her light"? (At Pompeii, there were three days of dense darkness and, as perhaps foreseen by Christ, the sea roared).

There was lava. There was sulfur. Pompeii was about to disappear. As the historian Pliny observed, there loomed "a horrible black cloud ripped by sudden bursts of fire, writhing snakelike and revealing sudden flashes larger than lightning."

Ironic it was that the L.A. quake last Friday shook up opening night of the movie "Noah" (during the end-of-the-world scene).

It was fifty years ago last week (March 27, 1964) that the largest quake ever to hit the U.S. in recorded history occurred in Alaska (magnitude-9.2). That year, March 27 was Good Friday.

[Resources: Sent To Earth, Fear of Fire, and The Last Secret]

[see also: the 1964 quake and tsunami and Yellowstone supervolcano blog]

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