NOVA: Killer Volcanoes
PREMIERES WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 25 at 9PM ET /8C on PBS
NOVA follows a team of volcano sleuths as they embark on a worldwide hunt for an elusive volcanic mega-eruption that plunged the medieval earth into a deep freeze.
The mystery begins when archaeologists find a hastily dug mass grave of 4,000 men, women, and children in London. At first they assume it’s a plague pit from the Black Death, but when they date the bones, they’re a century too early. So what killed off these families? The chronicles of that time describe a run of wild weather that devastated crops and spread famine across Europe. NOVA’s expert team looks for the signature of a volcanic eruption big enough to have blasted a huge cloud of ash and sulfuric acid into the atmosphere, which chilled the entire planet.
From Greenland to Antarctica, the team finds telltale “fingerprints” in ice and soil layers until, finally, they narrow down the culprit to a smoldering crater on a remote Indonesian island. Nearly 750 years ago, this volcano’s colossal explosion shot a million tons of rock and ash every second into the atmosphere. Across the globe, it turned summer into winter. What would happen if another such cataclysm struck again today?
NOVA: Killer Hurricanes
PREMIERES WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 1 at 9PM ET /8C on PBS
The Great Hurricane of 1780 took nine days to blast its way across the Caribbean, killing at least 20,000—the highest known death toll of any single weather event in history. What made this superstorm so deadly? To reconstruct its epic scale and investigate what made it so devastating, NOVA joins historians and storm sleuths as they track down clues in eyewitness chronicles, old ruins, and computer simulations.
Their evidence points to a truly terrifying, 300-mile-wide storm—with wind speeds probably exceeding 230 miles an hour and 25-feet storm surges that demolished everything in their path. But just how unusual was the Great Hurricane?
Diving into sinkholes off Barbados and squirming into caves in the Yucatan, NOVA’s experts recover traces of tempests stretching back over more than 1,000 years. The picture they paint is disturbing: mega-hurricanes were not only more frequent in the past but are likely to strike again in our near future, as climate change warms the oceans and fuels more intense hurricanes. Were the deaths and damage inflicted by storms like Hurricane Sandy a prelude to far more devastating disasters?
NOVA: Killer Floods
PREMIERES WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 8 at 9PM ET /8C on PBS
All over the world, scientists are discovering traces of ancient floods on a scale that dwarfs even the most severe flood disasters of recent times. What triggered these cataclysmic floods, and could they strike again? Over a vast expanse of Washington State called the Channeled Scablands, the level prairie gives way to bizarre, gargantuan rock formations: house-sized boulders seemingly dropped from the sky; a cliff carved by a waterfall twice the height of Niagara; and potholes resembling ones scoured out by rivers today, but ten times bigger.
Like forensic detectives at a crime scene, geologists study these strange features and reconstruct catastrophic Ice Age floods more powerful than all the world’s top ten rivers combined. NOVA follows their efforts to uncover the geologic fingerprints of other colossal megafloods in Iceland and—improbably—on the seabed of the English Channel, where hundreds of thousands of years ago, another deluge smashed through a land bridge connecting Britain and France and turned Britain into an island for the first time. These great disasters ripped through terrain and transformed continents in a matter of hours—and similar forces reawakened by climate change are posing an active threat to mountain communities throughout the world today.