Featured Program

Nature's Power Revealed
A 3-hour American Public Television special
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WED 3/21/2012

8:30PM on CPTV
(Check Listings)



This episode follows the astonishing destructive force of volcanoes and how they have shaped the landscape. It examines volcanoes both recent and in the past, including Mt. Vesuvius in Pompeii, and its effect on life at the time. Nature gives no true warning of when a volcano will erupt, and this makes its power all the more terrifying and devastating. Only about 9.5% of the earth is solid, including the iron core. State of the art graphics show how the molten interior expands with the heat of the core, rising towards the cooler surface, which then causes the material to contract and sink, only to go through the same process again, creating a constant churning cauldron of molten rock. This driving engine of energy is always looking for a weakness, always trying to break through the crust that contains it - and sometimes, it does. When this happens, we get a glimpse of the fiery turmoil within; it is no accident that the name volcano comes from Vulcan, the ancient Roman god of fire.


With 70% of the earth's surface covered in water, it is bound to play a massive part in the earth's history and future. This episode looks at the importance of water in shaping the earth's landscape, as well as its role in the survivial of civilization. Formations like the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls are the extreme examples of water's power to create landscapes. The powerful effects of ice are also observed in the erosion of rock as well as its effect on the sea levels. Floods and Tsunamis are documented using case studies from around the world. It is thought that water arrived on the surface of our planet thanks to two major processes. The early planet was almost constantly erupting; this process released water vapor from the molten material below the earth's outer crust. Vapor collected in the early atmosphere, gradually forming clouds. At the same time, Earth was being bombarded by a series of asteroids, many of which contained stores of water. As they crashed into the earth yet more water vapor was released to join the cloud layer. Eventually the air became saturated and the earth's first and longest storm began. It is thought that the downpour of rain lasted for a million years, flooding much of the planet. Indeed, when the rain eventually eased, 90% of the planet was covered by water. Today, water remains concentrated in the oceans that still dominate our planet.


Weather is the primary focus of this episode, as it looks at the devastating effects of tornadoes, lightning storms, and the winds. It also reveals the stranger sides of the atmosphere, in particular the moving rocks in Death Valley, and the shower of frogs and fish that happens occasionally. Kick-started by the heat from both the sun and the superheated solid core of the earth, and driven by the cycle of water and ocean currents, the movements of the atmosphere can be as relentless a force as any. In a few hours wind can decimate a city, and over centuries it can shape our landscapes. These movements in our atmosphere are influenced by many factors. Air currents carry entire weather systems with them and, as currents are constantly colliding, it becomes extremely difficult to predict how these systems will react and how their future paths will be resolved.