Melting the Polar Ice – WIF Chicken Little Chronicles

Leave a comment

Things That

Would Happen

if the Polar Ice

Caps Melted

Hey! Ever lie awake at night, thinking about the meaning of life, exactly how much money you’ve got stashed away in your mattress… and then your mind wanders to what’s going on with the polar ice caps? We’re not surprised, there are many people – both sleepy and quite wide awake – who are giving this topic serious thought.

The polar ice caps are already melting, at quite a rapid speed. From 1979 to 2006, Greenland’s ice sheet had an increase of 30% in the melting rate. You can thank this melting for some of the truly odd and extreme weather we’ve seen, all over the world and perhaps right in your backyard. Whether you’ve had three feet of snow when you usually only get a couple of inches at most, or if you’re seeing temps like 100 degrees F when summer is most often in the 80s. The kids may be thrilled for snow days home from school, but the adults know something pretty odd is going on.

Some scientists say this will take 5,000 years to happen. Others estimate we will see the polar ice caps really start to melt by 2030. One thing is for certain: people are starting to sit up and pay attention to this topic, because it is no longer “just” a possibility – it is a strong likelihood to happen one day, whenever that might be.

Yes, we do want you to sleep soundly and regularly. You’ve got to protect all of that cash in your mattress after all! But we thought you should realize a few of the simple things that will happen, should our polar ice caps melt completely.

10. If the Ice Caps and Glaciers Melt, the Oceans Will Rise

No, this is not the typical high tide versus low tide you see when you go to the beach. Consider the oceans getting higher by 216 feet. To give you a sense of the size of that, the Mount Rushmore sculpture in the Black Hills of Keystone, South Dakota, with the four President’s faces sculpted into it is 465 feet high. So George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln would be about nose high in ocean water!

And if you live in a coastal area, well… let’s just say you’ll be much, much more than nose-deep. Say goodbye to that beach house you’ve been saving up for with that money in your mattress, because it’ll go the way of Atlantis.

9. Extreme Weather Will Continue and Get More Severe

If we do lose the ice caps, weather conditions in your area may become quite unpredictable. This is actually history repeating itself. In prehistoric times, harsh weather was one of the top reasons to cause the extinction of many species that used to roam the earth. No, not the guys who wore mullets – think more along the lines of dinosaurs.

Today people have many more resources than people did in centuries past to survive weather that can be extremely cold, hot, windy, or any other type of circumstance that may occur. We are fortunate to live in times with items such as solar energy, batteries, electricity, canned or other pre-packaged foods, medicine that can last for awhile, boats, planes, and other types of vehicles which can navigate over various terrains. But extreme weather still causes hundreds, and even thousands of casualties each year, and it would likely only get worse as the weather gets more extreme and violent.

8. Millions of People in the Arctic Will Have to Relocate

Scientists say that this could happen as early as 2030, which actually isn’t as far off as we might think. Heck, that’s only three World Cups away. Keep in mind this includes everyone who lives in Greenland, Alaska and Siberia. Many of these are coastal communities and they will simply vanish, with no ice there to help protect them from storms.

You could see a situation where upwards of four million people will need to relocate to flee the changing, extreme weather conditions. And that’s not even mentioning all those people on the more southern coasts we alluded to earlier. In short, the world is about to get a lot smarter if the ice caps melt.

7. The Ocean Ecosphere Will Become Unpredictable

Now, Arctic regions are already seeing an increase in the fish that are in the waters. Five Arctic nations have promised to not participate in unregulated fishing in international waters. Scientists say that the photosynthetic plankton that lives out in the ocean will take the place of the algae, which grew on ice.

So fish and sea mammals will have plenty of nutritious food to eat, so that’s good at least. It is expected, in fact, without ice that fish and sea mammal populations could increase by up to 70%. While some of you may be thinking about enjoying the low cost of a seafood meal – a lot more is at stake here.

6. Give Polar Bears a Big Kiss Goodbye

You can do the same for the seals and walruses that call the Arctic home, too. Because without the ice, they are going to starve to death. The US Fish and Wildlife Service listed polar bears as a “threatened” species in 2008. It is estimated that there are 25,000 polar bears in the Arctic in total, with about 2,000 of them actively living on the polar ice. That’s not too many, right?

But we can see that other Arctic animals will quickly be “threatened” or “extinct,” only to be seen in the rare and lucky zoo. So that’s… something, we suppose?

5. Regrowing Polar Ice Goes Way Beyond What Anyone Wants to Do

There may be a few of you responsible citizens who are reading this article and saying, “well, if we’re running out of this, why don’t we create more of it?” The scientists have already pitched that big idea and basically have struck out. The steps needed to limit the ice becoming warm are things that most people and countries simply don’t want to make the efforts to do. They would need to create large forests from land and then use high-tech technology to pull the carbon dioxide out of the air.

That would help to slow down the warming of the polar ice caps. To actually grow the ice caps, countries would need to do so much more. So if they are unwilling to take the steps to slow down the warming, it is clear that they won’t help to grow ice. You can put down your ice cube tray, we know you were really trying to help!

4. Enjoy Miami and Shanghai While They’re Here

As the polar ice caps melt, the beautiful coastal cities we know all around the world are going to change and some may even disappear. The shape of some countries may be quite different hundreds of years from now – than what you see today. Remember that whole “216 feet of rising water” thing we were talking about earlier? Yeah, this is where that comes into play. Most of Florida, New Orleans, and so many other cities around the world would eventually be underwater.

So now is the time to go visit those fantastic places you’ve always wanted to see, especially the ones that have an ocean view. When the polar ice caps melt, these cities may look quite different one day.

3. The Amazon Will be Bursting at the Seams

Admittedly, many today when they hear the word “Amazon” first think of shopping online. But long before you could click a mouse, there was the mighty and impressive Amazon River. If the polar ice caps melt, this river will be changed significantly and permanently.

The massive influx of new water around the world would conceivably flood the Amazon, pushing it well past its capacity. What is rather unique is that it actually would transform into a sea. The Amazon River would then cover quite a bit of Brazil’s landscape.

2. Deserts Would Become Much Larger

All around the globe, you’d see major growth to the world’s deserts. Yes, that means the ice caps melting would make some places even more dry. It sounds counter-intuitive but it’s true. Australia’s desert would cover most of the country.

So living in Australia would become quite different. Remember that some coastal cities in Australia will be lost, too. The southeastern part of Africa would become 100% desert. Terrain will change as the climates change, too.

1. This Isn’t Something Only the Arctic Should Worry About

Most of us would be dealing head-on with the polar ice cap “situation,” as a reality TV star might say. According to the Daily Mail, over 75% of the world’s people live at less than 300 feet above sea level, which sounds okay. It sounds like most of us would be safely out of harms way.

But keep in mind, the level of our oceans is expected to rise by more than 200 feet. Suddenly, if you’re living in Arkansas or Vermont, you may suddenly find yourself sitting on some beachfront property. Better start investing in Missouri farmland now… it could become a tropical paradise before too long!

Melting the Polar Ice –

WIF Chicken Little Chronicles

Bizarre Beach Barefoot Tour – WIF 10 Cent Travel

Leave a comment

Bizarre Beaches


Around the World

There’s nothing quite like a day at the beach filled with fun in the sun, sand and surf, but not all beaches are created equal. Some places have sparkling blue or green waters, while others have sand-filled, cloudy waves. Some shorelines are dangerous, filled with rocks and riptides, while others are shallow and lined with soft sand.

For better or worse, these 10 beaches are some of the most notable in the world. While most earned a place on the list due to their incredible beauty or unique offerings, a few belong here not because of how they look, but because they are notable for other reasons.

10. Papakolea: The Green Sand Beach in Hawaii

One of only four green sand beaches, the famous Papakolea beach is made up of a hollowed out volcanic cone that erupted over 50,000 year ago. The cone contained rich veins of a natural mineral called olivine, which when cut into gem form is a semi-precious stone called peridot. The eroded pieces of the olivine turn into sand too find to be sold as gemstones, but still vivid enough in color to shade the whole beach green.

Excited to visit? Well, that’s the one problem with this beach – getting there is a nightmare. To start with, you have to drive on a long, out of the way road and then you have to park 3 miles away from the beach and hike the remaining distance through rugged pastures that offer no signs to guide you towards your final destination. Once you get to the volcanic cone cliffs, you have to climb down the steep hills to actually access the beach itself and on the shore, only strong swimmers are advised to enter the sparkling blue water at all due to a strong undercurrent that sweeps people away with little warning. It should go without saying with a beach this far off the beaten path, but lifeguards are not posted here so should you encounter danger, you’ll be left on your own to handle it.

9. Kaihalulu: Hawaii’s Red Sand Beach

Hawaii seems to have beaches in just about all colors: white, gold, black, green, and even red. Like all beaches, the sand color at Hawaii’s Kaihalulu Beach is directly related to the rock and mineral content around the beach. In this case, like Papakolea, the rocks around the shore are actually remnants of a once-active volcano that has since been eroded into little more than a rocky cove. This volcanic cone happened to have a particularly high iron content, which appears a rusty red color when mixed with salt air and sea mist. The underwater wall of the volcanic cone creates a partial sea wall that ensures the water at the beach is fairly calm, making it a great place to snorkel. Even so, visitors are advised to exercise caution near the cove opening, where strong currents have been known to pull swimmers into the open ocean.

While the unique look of the beach is absolutely worth visiting, it’s worth noting that the sand itself is very coarse, so it is advisable to wear shoes even in the water in order to protect your feet. Also worth noting: the cove is one of only a handful of clothing optional beaches in Maui.

8. The Most Polluted Beach on Earth

When you hear about an uninhabited, remote island, you probably imagine a pristine paradise. But unfortunately, with all the plastic pollution in today’s oceans, when no one visits an island, it means no one is there to clean up the trash. And that’s exactly how Henderson Island, a 14 square mile island in the South Pacific sitting nearly 3,000 miles away from the nearest population center, is both one of the world’s only raised coral atolls unaffected by human contact and the most polluted island in the world.

In fact, the small island is home to over 38,000 pounds of plastic and a whopping 3,570 pieces of trash wash up on the shore every day. Of course, the problem isn’t just the lack of cleanup crews, but also the island’s unfortunate location right in the path of one of the biggest currents in the Pacific, the South Pacific Gyre. In other words, the perfect place to snag all the trash floating through the Pacific.

7. The Glass Beach of California

While Henderson Island shows how much damage trash can do to nature, Glass Beach near Fort Bragg shows that every now and again, nature finds incredible ways to repair itself. It all started after the famous San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Residents of nearby Fort Bragg found that almost all of their buildings were reduced to rubble. Before they tried to rebuild their city, they had to get rid of all the refuse from the earthquake. When burning the trash did no good, they decided to dump it into the ocean, thinking the currents would take the trash to sea forever. Only the debris didn’t go anywhere, and residents were now left with a seaside dump. Since the dump was already there, locals just took to tossing all their trash at the beach up until the mid-1960s, when the practice was made illegal.

Eventually, the currents did wash away much of the refuse and the government took away many of the larger items. Meanwhile, glass left at the beach was tumbled and smoothed away into small pieces of sea glass, which now are mixed in with tiny pebbles, creating the “sand” for this beautiful beach.

If you do visit, please note that as Glass Beach is part of the MacKerricher State Park, taking pieces of sea glass is illegal. Also, the water can be a bit rough, especially for young and inexperienced swimmers, so it’s probably best to stay on shore here.

6. Hot Water Beach in New Zealand

Unlike most beaches, the ocean itself isn’t a big attraction at New Zealand’s Hot Water Beach. Instead visitors come far and wide to enjoy the warm underground river that happens to flow right into the Pacific. Two hours before and after low tide, beachgoers can hit the hot water as it bubbles through the beach sand. One of the most common activities here is to dig a nice pool in the sand, essentially building a hot-spring spa. By the next tide, the pools will all be washed away, leaving a pristine patch of sand ready for the next batch of visitors eager to dig their own steamy, sandy bathtubs.

It is worth noting that Hot Water Beach is home to some very strong rip currents, so as refreshing as it may be to soak in the warm hot springs and then plunge in the cool ocean, it’s probably best to avoid that urge unless you’re a really strong swimmer or if there’s a lifeguard on duty.

5. The Swimming Pool Beach in Chile

Like the idea of the beach but don’t want to swim in the actual ocean? Then you’ll love the swimming pool at San Alfonso del Mar in Chile. The biggest pool in the world, this monstrosity stretches across nearly 20 acres of beachfront property, reaches depths of up to 115 feet and holds over 66 million gallons of constantly circulating, heated, and filtered seawater. It’s so big the resort even allows people to sail and canoe in it.

Best of all, its location allows you to take a stroll along the beach just between the natural ocean waves and the clean, filtered water of the pool. And the pool itself even has its own sandy beaches leading into it, ensuring you’ll always feel like you’re at the beach even when you’re within the confines of the world’s largest swimming pool.

4. Boulders: The South African Beach Ruled by Penguins

You’d be hard pressed to find another place on the entire globe where you can spend a nice day at the beach split between refreshing dips in the ocean and delightful walks to check out penguins in their native habitat. Boulders Beach is famous for its playful, tuxedoed residents, who are partially responsible for making this otherwise sleepy shoreline one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area.

Fortunately for both humans and penguins, the swimming area for both species are kept completely separate thanks to the natural rock formations that split the beach into a number of coves. The best viewing area for the birds is on a wooden boardwalk that keeps humans away from the protected animal habitat known as Foxy Beach. This means the penguins can feel safe in their home and that humans can swim and sunbathe without fear of running into an angry penguin with a razor sharp beak or stepping in the bird’s droppings.

3. The Irish Beach That Disappeared and Reappeared 30 Years Later

When visiting a sandy beach, it’s easy to take for granted that it won’t be around forever. Eventually the sea will wash away the sand and you’ll just be left with a rocky coast. Even those who know that beach sands can be washed away and carried off to other coasts probably still wouldn’t expect a beach to disappear… and then reappear only 33 years later. But that’s exactly what happened to the small beach beside the tiny Irish town of Dooagh on Achill Island.

In 1984, severe storms stripped the sand away from the shore, leaving little more than rock pools along the coast. But in May of this year, locals were happily surprised to see the beach covered in sand again after a series of high spring tides. The town once had a lively tourist industry based around the beach, so locals were pretty happy to see it return.

2. Maho in St. Martens

Most of the time, this world famous beach is just like any other beautiful Caribbean coastline, but Maho’s proximity to the airport is what made it famous. That’s because the Princess Juliana International Airport is right next door to the beach and it has a particularly short runway, so planes need to get as close as possible to the ground before hitting the official airport property – meaning the planes approach their final descent just above the beach.

Plane watching is such a popular pastime at the beach that almost all of the local bars and restaurants have airport timetables so tourists can run to the shore in time to feel the rush of the engines push them towards the water. Aside from the obvious thrill of standing right below a landing plane, visitors are also rewarded with some strikingly awesome vacation photos. Unfortunately for thrill seekers, though, the most exciting landings are now a thing of the past as jumbo-jets no longer fly into this island airport.

1. The Florida Beach With the Softest, Coolest Sand on Earth

Consistently ranked as one of the top beaches in the US, what really makes Siesta Key famous isn’t its crystal clear water but its powdery white sand. While the sand from most beaches is made up of quartz, there’s something special about the quartz-based sand at this beach, most likely because it is both so pure (measuring it at around 99% crushed quartz) and ground up so fine. Scientists believe this particular quartz took millions of years to make its way from the Appalachian Mountains through rivers into the Gulf of Mexico, and eventually onto this Florida island.

The end result is almost pure white powder that doesn’t heat up in hot weather, leaving the beach comfortable to walk around on while barefoot under even the warmest summer sun.

Bizarre Beach Barefoot Tour –

WIF 10 Cent Travel

Awesome Animals – WIF Supreheroes

Leave a comment


of the

Animal Kingdom

Superpowers may be the stuff of science fiction, but certain animal species possess superpowers–or at least engage in activities that we might attributeto superheroes or, sometimes, supervillains. From starting fires, strategically bleeding from the eyes, protecting other species at sea, living as a snake that gets airborne, and being a walking incendiary weapon, here are some freaks, special operators, and rogues of the living world that will certainly expand our view of critter “can-do.”

10. The Firebird Hunters

Winged and feathered pyromaniacs hunt by fire, according to some rather hot theories put forward based on Australian ornithological observation. While further hard scientific investigation is warranted, it appears that certain raptors such as kites will pick up small smoldering or flaming sticks and then drop them in strategic areas to advance grass fires in their favor. Work published in the Journal of Ethnobiology describes the account of a firefighter who witnessed a Whistling Kite in Australia restarting and spreading fire by picking up burning sticks.

What does the apparent advantage of spreading fires appear to be? Fires flush out or burn prey, allowing easy capture or scavenging of dead remains. Animals fleeing the advancing face of a fire have nowhere to go but away from the bank of flames, which would allow birds taking advantage of this apparently planned situation a relatively easy meal. Birds of many species are naturally adept at gathering small sticks to build well-engineered nests, suggesting that this same stick gathering aptitude may be harnessed by select birds of prey and applied for more… shall we say… high stakes and extreme purposes. It’s already known that birds feed along the face of fires, while many species drop shells strategically to break them open. Using fire to create a hunting opportunity presents a profound twist of ornithology deserving further investigation.

9. The Whale Guardians of The Perilous Sea

Whales may be enormous, but true whales tend to be gentle giants, with the majority of species concentrating their feeding efforts on plankton and small fish. In contrast, Orca–or Killer Whales–are actually giant, hyper-intelligent predatory dolphins that hunt almost anything in the ocean, depending on the type of Orca in question. Transient Orca populations are known as ravenous eaters of whales larger than themselves, while all Orca are apex predators.

And where that danger to other sea life posed by Orca hunting behavior exists, a surprising phenomenon of apparent protection of intended prey–including species as random and diverse as sunfish, seals, and other the young of another whale species–has been to be carried out by “guardian” Humpback Whales. Apparently perceiving the carnage of Orca hunts in a negative light, these determined Humpback “Citizens on Patrol” have been acting as oceanic bodyguards to species finding themselves on the menu for Orca dinners. In one case, a seal was sheltered from a predatory Orca attack, while in another instance, Humpback Whale adults gave up a favorite food that they were themselves targeting (a swarm of shrimp-like krill) to focus instead on defending a Grey Whale calf from a hungry Orca pod.

8. The Bleeding Lizards

Crocodile tears may be a physiological reality, but a number of species belonging to a group of smaller reptiles, the diminutive and dragon-like horned lizards native to North America, take things a step further. Predators might want a mouthful of lizard meat, but apparently a mouthful of squirted blood, or a mess of blood on a would-be hunter’s face, is a fair deterrent. The bizarre superpower of squirting blood from the eyes in an act of strange self-defense is held by eight or more horned lizard species, thanks to special blood filled sinus cavities located around the reptile’s eye sockets.

Upon perceiving a threat such as a coyote or bobcat wanting the lizard as a meal, horned lizard species squirt distasteful blood from the eye sockets with great force, discouraging the meal. Specialized muscles tighten to concentrate blood flow from large veins into thin membrane-bearing ocular sinuses. With sufficient force, the membrane will burst, launching sprays of blood to a distance of up to four feet. Resembling a tiny triceratops dinosaur with its horny adornments behind the eyes and armored body, horned lizards with blood squirting capabilities enjoy excellent compensatory defense considering their small size. Interestingly, the vein flow to the sinuses can be controlled to flush debris away from the desert dwelling animal’s eyes, swelling the membranes.

7. The Flying Snakes

Dragons may be creatures of legend, but something that makes even the thought of pigs flying seem possible exists and thrives after millennia of evolution in rain forests extending from India to Indonesia. Flying snakes spread out the skin on their body by extending their ribs, allowing them to glide magically from one tree to another in pursuit of food and to avoid larger hunters. (Oh, and also to feed your nightmares.) There are five species of flying snakes that exist, all having the ability to slither through the air at high speeds in a beautiful glide.

Ranging between two and four feet in length, flying snakes are venomous predators but pose little threat to humans, as their fangs are positioned toward the back of their jaws and cannot easily deliver an effective bite. Flying snakes prepare to get airborne by hanging suspended in the shape of the letter “J” at a strategic point on a tree branch. Next, the snake uses its rear muscles to “spring” from the tree, moving its body into the shape of the letter “S” once in the air. The snake then forms a concave shape with the cross-section of its body while stretching laterally to twice its original width. The resulting aerodynamic shape traps air under the snake’s body as it glides through the air. Researchers think the precise purpose of this flying ability is either for easy travel between trees in the forest canopy, predator avoidance, or to catch up with prey.

6. Hairy Frog

A frog with sharp claws might seem scary, but even more horrible but remarkable is the way in which the Hairy Frog, named for its weird body bristles, shall we say… procures its weapons for self-defense. The grotesque looking Hairy Frog, native to Central African regions including the country of Cameroon, actually has specialized musculoskeletal adaptations in its hind feet which allow sharp bone pieces to protrude through the frog’s flesh as sharp spikes once released.

Scientists from the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, who were studying the frog’s disconcerting adaptation, reached the conclusion that the behavior was a strange form of self-defense. Specialized muscle contractions in the frog’s hind feet allow a razor sharp fragment to detach from the main toe bone section by breaking bone-joining collagen tissue, subsequently slicing right through the frog’s skin, creating dangerous claws while avoiding any catastrophic blood loss. While injury and pain would seem to be inherent in the action, the balance of risk and harm seems to be in favor of the frog, and against the predators. Essentially, this frog is the Wolverine (the character, not the actual animal) of the animal kingdom. The Hairy Frog is a formidable predator in its own right, having sharp teeth and a habit of seizing a variety of small animals as prey.

5. Bombardier Beetle

Molten lava comes from the Earth, while chemical weapons are seen as the domain of certain mad scientists or military plotters not concerned about facing the consequences of violating international law. Yet among the incredible variety of insect species found on this planet, formidable chemical weapons are unleashed in a burning, acrid furnace of directed attack by a different group of species that belongs to the uniquely diverse and familiar taxonomic group: beetles. Over 500 species of bombardier beetles go about their daily business on all continents (save for Antarctica), appearing like a normal insect. Hidden inside their hard abdomen are two separate compartments of highly reactive chemicals, consisting of hydrogen peroxide in one section and hydroquinone in the other.

Already well protected by a highly developed exoskeleton, bombardier beetles react to provocation and potential predatory attacks by shooting out the two chemical components in streams that mix and react furiously in a boiling mixture of acrid horror that may reach 212 degrees Fahrenheit, burning with both heat and chemical causticity. Burns to everything from the faces of predatory insects to human skin may result if the beetle is approached too closely. In one research project, over 40% of bombardier beetles swallowed by toads were vomited out alive after successfully “going off” inside the toads, calmly struggling back to their feet and walking off as a survivor of the attack by the amphibious predator. Some survivors had been inside the stomach of a toad for over an hour.

4. The Sand Striker

Worms may be thought of as soft, or a lowly form of life. However, it might come as a disturbing surprise that giant, carnivorous, horrendous worms lie submerged below the waves and buried in the sand, with only their formidable slicing jaws protruding. Known as the Sand Striker or Bobbit Worm, Eunice aphroditois occurs in warmer oceanic waters around the globe. The predatory worms are known to reach 10-feet in length, far larger than the popular imagination of a worm. And these jaws are razor sharp, bone-hard fangs with dentition that snap and simply chop prey in half upon the launch of a surprise attack.

The fangs inject a venomous concoction allowing disproportionately large prey to be digested. Equipped with sensory systems that allow passing prey to be detected with ease, the worms lie motionless in deep burrows only to burst forth when their prey “sensor” system is triggered by a creature that happens to stray to close. Lacking brains, these worms make up for their lack of intelligence by A) having the bone-like fangs which cut prey with surgical precision and incredible force and B) their size. Additionally, they can inflict an awful bite on humans should one accidentally put a finger or hand in the vicinity of their strike.

3. Climbing Perch

Perch are generally seen as the classic lake-dwelling fish, but one family of air breathing relatives of the famed Betta, or Siamese fighting fish, is named after typical perch but actually can move about effectively on land. Not perches proper, but simply forming a family of fish in the order Perciformes, which includes true perches, the various species of climbing perch (also known as climbing gouramis) are handsome little fish with a compact, rounded build and innocent appearance. Climbing perch measure between four inches and one foot in length, depending on the species and use their terrestrial locomotion abilities to find new water when their home pools dry up.

Native to tropical regions of Asia, including parts of China, the fish actually hoist themselves out of the water and proceed to “climb” using their gill covers as resting points. With the gill covers providing a point of leverage, the fish then propel themselves forward with the locomotive power of their tail fin. The typical fish requirement of water in order to breathe is bypassed by the air-breathing organ known as a labyrinth that climbing perch possess. While claims have been made that the fish can climb into vegetation such as trees, such a degree of adaptation allowing a transition from terrestrial to arboreal activity has not been proven.

2. Hoatzin

A bird with clawed hands might seem to be the very definition of prehistorically-themed science fiction, but that is exactly what the hoatzin juvenile represents. When young, this species uses clawed “hands” protruding from its wings to climb trees in swampy areas. Native to extensive northern regions of the South American continent and significantly established in the Amazon River Basin and Orinoco River Basins, the Hoatzin looks somewhat like a pheasant or certain mythical depictions of a phoenix with its peculiar hues of color, as well as its crest, elongated body, and stout bill.

Unlike most birds, the Hoatzin can digest leaves, which form a significant portion of its diet along with fruits and flowers. In order to effectively digest leaves, the Hoatzin possesses an enormously large crop which limits its flying abilities but allows the bird to ruminate in a manner akin to cattle. When a predator attacks a group of Hoatzins, the fluffy-looking young birds will drop into the water below their mangrove or riparian forest home and then scramble back up into the canopy using their wing claws (each wing has two) once the threat has abated. The only species in its order, the primitive bird remains a strange tangent of avian evolution with superpowers of juvenile survival.

1. Mantis Shrimp

Shrimp might be a synonym for a small or simply weak animal. Yet the bizarre and dangerous crustaceans known as mantis shrimp are seemingly normal looking, albeit colorful, marine crustaceans that can combine the hardness of their exoskeleton with a “karate punch” of unbelievable speed and force. And what is the function of this ability to hit with unimaginable strength? To crack open the nearly rock hard shells of clams and other shellfish that the mantis shrimp wants to devour.  Striking with a force exceeding 330 pounds at more than 23 meters per second (or 50 miles per hour) using specially adapted club-like appendages, mantis shrimp can shatter almost any protective armor to take down prey. A locking mechanism and spring allow incredible energy releases.

Unfortunately for aquarists or researchers, a mantis shrimp blow could also destroy a glass aquarium or a finger bone on impact. The blow is powerful enough to produce cavitation bubbles as well as sonoluminescence, which consists of light flashes generated by bubble collapse. The shockwave alone associated with a blow can cause prey to die even if the mantis shrimp does not make physical contact. Other varieties of mantis shrimp use spearing appendages to capture prey instead of blunt force. While not technically falling into the category of decapod shrimp (which includes the type served commonly for dinner), mantis shrimp have a shrimp-like appearance and impression, hence their name. More than 400 species of mantis shrimp occur globally, mostly in tropical waters. Most commonly mantis shrimp grow to just under four inches in length, though a massive 18 inches has been attained.

Awesome Animals –

WIF Supreheroes

Mars on Earth – Planetary Mashup

Leave a comment



on Earth

Will humans ever be able to live on Mars? That’s the big question that a lot of people wonder about. Nicknamed the Red Planet because of its bright rust color, it is the fourth planet from the sun and Earth’s neighbor.

Despite being much colder than Earth with an average temperature of around -80 degrees Fahrenheit, there are many other obstacles in the way of humans colonizing there right now, such as the fact that there isn’t any oxygen to breathe. Scientists, however, are searching for new ways to make it possible for humans to eventually move to Mars, such as potentially heating up the planet to create an atmosphere in which people can breathe in oxygen.

The progress that scientists are making is amazing and it may be very possible for humans to inhabit our planetary neighbor in the not-so-distant future. Having locations on Earth that are similar to the conditions on the Red Planet are extremely helpful for researchers… like these six Mars-like locations right here on our planet.

Lake Vostok, Antarctica

Lake Vostok, Antarctica is one of the biggest subglacial lakes on Earth. The lake, which is located near the South Pole in East Antarctica, is 143 miles long, 31 miles wide, and over 2,600 feet deep. It is buried beneath more than two miles of ice and is located close to Russia’s Vostok research station. It is estimated that the lake has been covered with ice for at least 15 million years, with no access to light, and is sealed from the atmosphere which makes it one of the most extreme environments on the planet.

A Russian geographer/pilot first noticed the buried lake in the 1960s when he spotted from the air a smooth patch of ice on top of it. In 1996, British and Russian researchers then confirmed that there was indeed a lake buried there. Despite the age of the lake being unknown, scientists believe it is only thousands of years old.

Although the location has an average temperature of around minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the lake itself is believed to be around 27 degrees Fahrenheit because of the huge weight of the ice on top. Scientists also believe that the freshwater lake could have creatures living in the darkness and the extreme cold. In fact, they did find that the lake contains microbes and multi-cellular organisms. And this gives hope that life can be found in the similarly extreme environment of Mars.

Dry Valleys, Antarctica

The Dry Valleys are a row of valleys located west of McMurdo Sound in Antarctica. The valleys, which are subjected to cold permafrost, are said to be the closest terrestrial environment similar to the very north of Mars. Researchers have found bacteria that live in freezing temperatures where the water has turned to ice and where nutrients are scarce. Oligotrophs are slow-growing organisms that live in environments where nutrients are hard to find and they could help scientists figure out how life could possibly exist on Mars.

Researchers believe that Mars’ polar north may have supported life at one time because it received a lot more sunlight millions of years ago, which means the possibility of water and, of course, life. So researchers began drilling at this location in Antarctica to decide which machinery would be best to use on the northern locations of Mars. Scientists have found a patch of soil covering a layer of ice at the polar north of the Red Planet, and the environment is very similar at Dry Valleys, so that’s why this drilling research is being conducted there.

Atacama Desert, Chile

The Atacama Desert in Chile is a plateau approximately 1,000 kilometers long and is so extremely dry that it’s one of the most Mars-like locations on the planet. In fact, it can take decades of time between rainfalls, which ranks it among the driest locations on Earth. That is why, in 2004, scientists that were NASA-funded spent four weeks in the desert doing research on how life could possibly survive on Mars. And what they found is definitely mind-blowing.

In the dry core of the desert, scientists have found microbial life. And if they can find it on an immensely dry location like the Atacama Desert, where many people believe that nothing is able to survive, there’s a very real possibility that they could also find life on Mars. A planetary scientist from Washington State University was quoted saying “If life can persist in Earth’s driest environment, there is a good chance it could be hanging in there on Mars in a similar fashion.”

Pico de Orizaba, Mexico

Pico de Orizaba is a volcano located in south-central Mexico. It rises on the south edge of the Mexican Plateau and is located about 60 miles east of Puebla. The volcano, which has been dormant since 1687, is the third highest peak in North America, registering at 18,406 feet tall.

One big question in regards to the possible colonization on Mars is how would humans make it habitable? That is why scientists are so interested in Pico de Orizaba. It has one of Earth’s highest tree line elevations at over 13,000 feet and researchers are using this location to try to figure out how they could begin life on Mars.

Scientists believe that if they could warm up the Red Planet by using heat-trapping gases, raising the air pressure, and beginning photosynthesis, that they could possibly create and maintain an atmosphere that would support humans and other life forms that need oxygen to breathe. If they could use these gases to heat Mars to 41 degrees Fahrenheit, that would equal the temperature of the tree line on the Pico de Orizaba volcano.

Death Valley, California

Scientists have done extensive research and testing for decades at Death Valley because of the location’s ancient rock layers. Even NASA’s Curiosity was tested there to see how it would handle to harsh terrain on Mars. Death Valley is located in the southeast of California and is the lowest, driest, and hottest part of North America. The valley is approximately 140 miles long by 5 to 15 miles wide. Although the valley is excessively hotter than Mars, the harsh rocky terrain is said to be quite similar.

Since 2012, Death Valley holds a yearly event called MarsFest where engineers and scientists discuss with the public the similar relationship between that location and Mars. People can visit Mars Hill, which is covered with volcanic rubble and rocks, as well as take a walk to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, the Ubehebe Crater volcanic field, and the Little Hebe Crater.

Devon Island

Devon Island is the largest uninhabited island on the planet. Of all the islands on Earth – habited and uninhabited – it is the 27th largest. It is part of an archipelago (a group of islands) called the Parry Islands in Nunavut, Canada. It is located in the Arctic Ocean, south of Ellesmere Island and west of Baffin Bay. Devon Island is approximately 320 miles long and 80-100 miles wide with an area of just over 21,000 square miles.

The island, which was discovered in 1616 by William Baffin, has a huge 14-mile wide crater called the “Haughton Crater.” It is estimated that the crater was created around 39 million years ago when a comet two kilometers in diameter hit the area. Described as a polar desert, the impact zone is cold, dry, windy and dusty which makes it quite similar to the many craters on Mars, especially with all the loose rock in this earthly crater. Although Devon Island has an average temperature of 1 degree Fahrenheit and Mars averages -76 degrees Fahrenheit weather, the island is one of the closest comparisons to our planetary neighbor.

Pascal Lee is a planetary scientist at the SETI Institute and is leading the NASA Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) where the Haughton Crater is being used for research of new technologies and strategies which will hopefully help prepare humans and robots for the exploration of the Red Planet. Every summer since 1997, Lee has led missions to the isolated island where they have tested many things that will help them for a trip to Mars, such as spacesuits and robots, as well as drills.

Mars on Earth –

Planetary Mashup

Caves and Water Beware! – WIF Geography

Leave a comment



Cave Systems

Tourist Traps

Underwater caves are alluring, fascinating, and also a no-go zone for most explorers. While the subterranean zones known as caves capture our imagination, those that are underwater go a step further and significantly raise the danger factor. Not just flooded tunnels or inundated sea caves, many underwater cave systems extend for hundreds of miles, emerging in the middle of rain forest surrounded by land, but connecting to distant waterways. In this account, we discover the most spectacular and sometimes deadly subterranean aquascapes our world conceals.

10. Sac Actun Cave System

Mexico is known to harbor some of the most remarkable ruins, beaches and forests on the planet, but it is also a land of truly monumental Cuevas submarinas, underwater caves. Underwater cave systems in Mexico include watery labyrinths so large and extensive that they have yet to be fully explored. In one dramatic case, two cave systems were found to be an enourmous single system when a connetion was discovered.

Determined to be the largest cave system on the planet, the Sac Actun Cave System was discovered to be one giant cave system totaling 215 miles in passageway lengths when connections between a smaller existing cave system, the Dos Ojos and the larger Sac Actun system were discovered. The cave system known as a cenote is filled with large quantities of fresh water that flow and rise to the surface like a strange river below the surface. Such a vast and complex cave must be explored with extreme caution due to the difficulty in finding one’s way back to the entrance if disoriented.

9. Boesmansgat Sinkhole

One of the creepiest and most deadly underwater caves on Earth, a sinkhole in Africa turns a rugged farm landscape into a rather unexpected and out of place portal to a watery hell. Vertical in shape, about 889 feet deep and 328 feet across, the potentially lethal Boesmansgat Sinkhole is a greenish, eerie water filled cave that plunges straight down into the depths of eroded and dissolved dolomite rocks. Nested amongst craggy rocks, the entrance to the cave would appear just to be an awkwardly placed farm pond, but its moderate size holds horrific secrets.

Located on a farm in South Africa, the watery pit is often completely engulfed in pond plants, making its surface appear an alien green. The rocky sides of the sinkhole rise as cliffs well above the water line, standing out amongst the surrounding vegetation. And are some of the nutrients to grow the floating pod plants and algae provided by bodies remaining in the water? Possibly. Unfortunately, a number of grisly deaths have occurred as divers, some of them recognized as experts in the field, failed to return from the impossibly deep, stagnant water filled pit.

8. Ordinskaya Cave

Russia may be known as a land of taiga, icy roads and tundra, but the country is diverse and contains some remarkable underwater subterranean assets. And one of the most famous is characterized by not only crystal clear water, but actual crystal composition consisting of gypsum, together with an incredible underground extent. Located in Russia close to the Kungur River in the Perm region, Ordinskaya Cave is a popular cave diving destination and an All-Russia National Monument.

Stretching for over 3 miles, the mysterious, cold and dark cave is the most significant gypsum cave under the Earth, where water combines with tunnels of the Calcium Sulfate Di-hydrate crystals known as gypsum. In this cave, the waters are clear to the point where explorers can see up to 150 feet ahead. Enlarged by the eroding action of the water, the soft gypsum is fragile but mysterious and extraordinarily dramatic in appearance. Eroded chunks in crystalline shapes form blocks, pyramids and spires, coupled with the cold water, which may reach minus 9 degrees Fahrenheit at water depths of over 50 feet.

7. Bahamas Caves

The Bahamas may be seen as an idyllic getaway destination, but the Bahamas Caves actually represent one of the most dangerous submerged cave networks on the planet. Filled with sharp hazards, dark and disorienting and contaminated with toxic natural chemical deposits, the site demands great care. Sharp mineral deposits could deliver a puncturing injury, while hydrogen sulfide accumulations require a wary approach. Known as inland blue holes, the Bahamas Caves are hydro-geologically connected to the ocean.

Yet, tidal flow is sharply reduced, causing saltwater in the cave to be covered with a thin layer of freshwater. Tropical environments, combined with a lack of air circulation, accumulation of organic material and a highly limited level of water inflow and outflow creates the “perfect storm” of underwater, subterranean biochemical noxious hazards. In this stagnant and oxygen deprived environment, anaerobic activity causes the proliferation of bacteria. And these bacteria release the hydrogen sulfide that frequently sickens explorers of the caves and could kill a diver. Symptoms of disorientation from even moderate levels of exposure certainly go a long way to increasing the risk of getting lost in the underwater passages and drowning.

6. Plura

Norway is known for its breathtaking fjords, but a deadly, dramatic and strange underwater cave and waterway system that is lesser known but cold and convoluted also presents great intrigue in this Nordic country. In the centrally located Plurdalen Valley, a bizarre pond is located, known as the Plura. But it is actually not a normal pond, but the sudden exit of an underwater river. Diving into the pool takes you into a 1,640 foot passage that exits into a long cave with a water floor and airy ceiling.

After this point, a passage known as a sump, which is also considered to be the deepest sump cave on the planet appears in the cave, descending in a sharp U-shape until it is 443 feet below the surface. The sump rises up into Steinugleflaget cave, and then above Steinugleflaget, an exit is located in a cracked hillside 295 feet above the cave. Unfortunately, deaths have occurred due to the treacherous nature of the cold and lonely passages. In one case, a death sparked a highly dangerous yet ultimately successful body recovery effort in the most challenging sections of the cave system.

5. Eagle’s Nest Spring

Florida is a land known for the Everglades, but the area contains much more than swampy surrounds stocked with prowling alligators. Florida is also a land that conceals water filled tunnels, naturally occurring and snaking their way below the surface of the Earth. Located in Florida, the caves of Eagle’s Nest Spring descend around 300 feet below the Earth’s surface, twisting into scarily narrow and dark passageways entirely filled with water. Despite its appeal, the exotic cave system has claimed lives due to its treacherous nature that still appeals to intrepid explorers willing to take the ultimate risk.

Since 1981, the snakelike maze that defines the layout of the underwater cave system of Eagle’s Nest has taken 10 lives to a watery grave. The sinkhole derived cave system has the shape of a kitchen sink pipe, descending down and up in a U-pattern. Alluring, the underwater cave system is concealed at its entrance by a deceptively normal looking pond, surrounded by dreamy looking trees, and a water body through which the cave must be accessed. However, the ability of the cave to disorient and entrap makes it a genuinely risky adventure, even to experienced divers.

4. Grotto Azzurra

While many of the most notorious caves described in this account are dungeon-like and known to be potential death traps, certain caves are less akin to demonic legends and more strongly associated with angelic accounts of folklore. An iconic sea cave, the Grotto Azzurra of Italy in the Capri area is beautiful, almost perfectly hidden yet absolutely spectacular once accessed.

The Grotto Azzurra is entered through a mere 3.2 foot entrance that is reached directly from the sea. Upon entry, the cave extends with an arcing roof and spectacular blue water, giving the cavern the appealing name. So spectacular is this location, which remained known to local fisherman but unknown to the rest of the world for centuries, that it served as a shrine to a sea nymph in Roman times. The cave system has been formed through focusing of the forces of erosion over time, giving rise to a mysterious yet iconic form that mixes the subterranean with the oceanic in its composition.

3. Chaudanne Spring Cave

Switzerland might be most famous for its towering mountains, but it is also a land of subterranean lakes and underwater cave systems. In Switzerland, a cave system plunges far below the ground into portions of the Earth’s crust in a lesser known valley. Located in the “Vaudoise” Alps, the Chaudanne Spring Cave is located close to the town of Rossinière and was first explored in 1960. The depth of the system has so far been measured to a depth of 525 feet.

Known to be the deepest cave in the entire country of Switzerland, the spring-fed waters of the cave conceal mysterious passageways that have been explored in some daring attempts making use of rather makeshift means. Homemade equipment was used by pioneering explorers, including Michael Walz, to dive to 160 meters in 2006, while an exploration group dedicated to further mapping and documentation of the cave is active and well organized to plumb new depths as the exploration of the system advances.

2. Caves of Nanumanga

Polynesia is not only a place of islands, but a location where noteworthy underwater cave systems exist to capture the imagination of explorers. Among the most mysterious caves on Earth are underwater labyrinths that combine history and Earth science into a mysterious fusion of archaeological intrigue with and ancient geological events defined by more than a small degree of oddity. Descending 121 and 151 feet below sea level, the Caves of Nanumanga are remote underwater caves located in Nanumanga in Tuvalu, western Polynesia.

While newly known, the history of the caves is some of the most ancient and puzzling. Recently discovered by divers exploring the area in which they are located in the year 1986, the caves may have been used by ancient inhabitants at a different time, as indicated by what looked like burn marks. While exceedingly unusual as an underwater discovery, the burn marks from ancient combustion in what are now submerged geological formations clearly indicate dramatic events, such as apparent sea level changes that now leaves the caves below the surface.

1. Daxing Spring

Karst is not unique to Germany, though the limestone forms of spectacular height and oddity define the Karst region, China is a world center of excellence when it comes to stunning Karst environments. Located in Du’an county, Guanxi Province, People’s Republic of China, the caves of Daxing Spring are formed out of the subterranean portions of the spectacular and exceptionally exotic Karst landscapes of eroded limestone that constitute the unusual geography of the region.

Amongst the eroded and pitted structures are caves descending under the Earth, many of them carved and expanded by flowing water. Water movement erodes limestone by pressure but also dissolves limestone chemically, increasing the size, length and depth of cave systems over time. Due to the amount of water in the porous subterranean landscapes, many of the caves are flooded, forming aquatic tunnels that can only be reached by divers. Diving in this spectacular, but potentially hazardous and geologically complex area requires careful safety measures include ample decompression due to the depths of the winding and watery cave system.

Caves and Water Beware! –

WIF Geography

The NULL Solution = Episode 94

Leave a comment

The NULL Solution = Episode 94

…There was supposed to be a small colony on Mars, not a freaking skyscraper…

‘I want to see what Tycho looks like after all these years,” Sam suggests. 

As soon as they can sync the viewer with the geographical location of the Plain of Xanthe, it is clear that the neighborhood has changed. Not only are there clouds and oceans and vegetation, there is a towering structure dwarfing the tiny lander that once called Space Colony 1 its home base.

Sampson McKinney, formerly of Earth, Mars and now Eridanus, is as confused as his the Null next to him, “I thought you told me this planet was barren.”

“It was when I left,” he claims. He has to wonder why Celeste did not leave a clue about her hyperphysical trip back. Surely Crip would have mentioned a little thing like a colony on Mars. A friendly heads-up would have been nice.

Sure as Mars soil is red, a mile-high colossus rises up on the spot where humans once tread.

“Something like that would take centuries for Earth to build. There was supposed to be a small colony on Mars, not a freaking skyscraper. I wonder if the Chinese are responsible, they have always had money to burn?” He contemplates possible explanations.

Just as they get close enough to magnify their view, something strange, yet familiar pops into the scene.

“0” Skaldic has seen it before and so has Sampson, if only for seconds at a time.

Reliably so, it gives off a reflection.

“Harmonia,” reads Sampson.

#Harmonia# reads Skaldic in the Olde Language.

Twice read, once gone.

“Why doesn’t that surprise me? I saw that thing over Selljunk way.”

“I saw it out by our olde home world,” to each his own.

The recent visitors to the vicinity have stopped watching where they were going. The planned descent to the surface is met with a blinding rebuke.

The next thing you know, they are found back in Eridanus orbit; SNAP!

“Holy crap!” After recovering from unconsciousness, Sampson has his say.

Skaldic points to the same viewscreen that recently held pixels of the New Mars. It reads instead:

The Null runs the riddle past a comprehensive Eridanian database. It does not compute.

The Earthling utilizes an Earthly version, with the same results.

Nothing about the last few moments seems to add up.

Fuzzy math or bad Dr. Seuss,” Sam summarizes, “We are a full 180° off course, emptyhanded and confused.”

“That is not all Sampson McKinney.”

“Please Skaldy, I can’t take anymore.”

“The TSF drive is unavailable.”

“Swell. You can add going nowhere fast to the list.”

All in a ½ day’s work.

The NULL Solution =


Episode 94

page 95

Cold Hard Facts About the Ice Age – WIF Current Events

Leave a comment

 Stone Cold Facts


the Ice Age

Even though it’s hard to see it, our planet is in a continuous state of change. Continents constantly shift and clash with each other. Volcanoes erupt, glaciers expand and recede, and life has to keep up with all of it. Throughout its existence, Earth has at various times been covered by miles-high polar ice sheets and alpine glaciers, in periods that lasted for millions of years. Generally characterized by a long-term cold climate and ice as far as the eye can see, these Ice Ages will be the topic of discussion in today’s list.

10. What is an Ice Age?


Believe it or not, defining an Ice Age is not as straightforward as some may think. Sure, we can characterize it as a period in which global temperatures were much lower than they are today, and where both hemispheres are covered in huge sheets of ice that extend for thousands of miles towards the Equator. The problem with this definition, however, is that it analyzes any given Ice Age from today’s perspective, and doesn’t actually take the entire planetary history into account. Who’s to say, then, that we’re not actually living in a cooler period than the overall average? In which case, we would actually be in an Ice Age right now. Well, some scientists, who’ve dedicated their lives to the study of these sorts of phenomena,can say. And yes, we’re actually living in an Ice Age, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

A better description of an ice age would be that it’s a long stretch of time in which both the atmosphere and the planet’s surface have a low temperature, resulting in the presence of polar ice sheets and mountainous glaciers. These can last for several million years, during which time there are also periods of glaciation, characterized by ice sheet and glacier expansion over the face of the planet, and interglacial periods, where we would have an interval of several thousand years of warmer temperatures and receding ice. So, in other words, what we know as “the last Ice Age” is, in fact, one such glaciation stage, part of the larger Pleistocene Ice Age, and we’re currently in an interglacial period known as the Holocene, which began some 11,700 years ago.

9. What causes an Ice Age?


At first glance, an Ice Age would seem to be like some sort of global warming in reverse. But while this is true to a certain extent, there are several other factors that can initiate and contribute to one. It’s important to note that the study of Ice Ages is not that old, nor is our understanding complete. Nevertheless, there is some scientific consensus on several factors that do contribute to the onset of an Ice Age. One obvious element is the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. There is consistent evidence that the concentration of these gases in the air rises and falls with the retreat and advance of ice sheets. But some argue that these gases don’t necessarily kick start every Ice Age, and only influence their severity.

Another key factor that plays a part here are tectonic plates. Geological records point to a correlation between the position of the continents and the onset of an Ice Age. This means that, in certain positions, continents can obstruct the so-called Oceanic Conveyor Belt, a global-scale system of currents that bring cold water from the poles down to the Equator and vice versa. Continents can also sit right on top of a pole, as Antarctica does today, or can make a polar body of water become completely or semi-landlocked, similar to the Arctic Ocean. Both of these favor ice formation. Continents can also bulk up around the Equator, blocking the oceanic current – leading to an Ice Age. This happened during the Cryogenian period when the supercontinent Rodinia covered most of the Equator. Some specialists go even as far as saying that the Himalayas played a major role in the the current Ice Age. They say that after these mountains began forming some 70 million years ago, they increased the amount of global rainfall, which in turn led to a steady decrease of CO2 from the air.

Lastly, we have the Earth’s orbits. These also partially account for the glacial and interglacial periods within any given Ice Age. Known as the Milankovitch Cycles, the Earth experiences a series of periodic changes while circumnavigating the Sun. The first of these cycles is Earth’s eccentricity, which is characterized by the shape of our planet’s orbit around the Sun. Every 100,000 years or so, Earth’s orbit becomes more or less elliptical, meaning that it will receive more or less of the Sun’s rays. The second of these cycles is the axial tilt of the planet, which changes by several degrees every 41,000 years, on average. This tilt accounts for the Earth’s seasons and the difference in solar radiation between the poles and the equator. Thirdly, we have Earth’s precession, which translates to a wobble as Earth spins on its axis. This happens roughly every 23,000 years, and will cause winter in the Northern Hemisphere to happen when Earth is farthest away from the Sun, and summer when it’s closest. When this happens, the difference in severity between seasons will be greater than it is today. Besides these major factors, we also have the occasional lack of solar spots, large meteor impacts, huge volcanic eruptions, or nuclear wars, among other things, that can potentially lead to an Ice Age.

8. Why do they last so long?


We know that Ice Ages usually last for millions of years at a time. The reasons behind this can be explained through a phenomenon known as albedo. This is the reflectivity of the Earth’s surface when it comes to the Sun’s shortwave radiation. In other words, the more our planet is covered in white ice and snow, the more of the Sun’s radiation is reflected back into space, and the colder it gets. This leads to more ice and more reflectivity – in a positive feedback cycle that lasts for millions of years. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important for Greenland’s ice to remain where it is. Because if it doesn’t, the island’s reflectivity will decrease, adding to the overall global temperature increase.

Nevertheless, Ice Ages do eventually come to an end, and so do their glacial periods. As the air becomes colder, it can no longer hold as much moisture as it did before, leading, in turn, to less snowfall and the eventual impossibility for the ice to expand or even replenish itself. This starts a negative feedback cycle that marks the beginning of an interglacial period. By this logic, a theory was proposed back in 1956 which hypothesized that an ice-free Arctic Ocean would actually cause more snowfall at higher latitudes, above and below the Arctic Circle. This snow may eventually be in such great quantities that it will not melt during the summer months, increasing Earth’s albedo and reducing the overall temperature. In time, this will allow ice to form at lower altitudes and mid-latitudes – kick starting a glaciation event in the process.

7. But how do we really know Ice Ages even exist?


The reason people began thinking about Ice Ages in the first place was because of some large boulders located seemingly in the middle of nowhere, and with no explanation as to how they got there. The study of glaciation started during the mid-18th century, when Swiss engineer and geographer Pierre Martel began documenting the erratic dispersal of rock formations inside an Alpine valley, and downhill from a glacier. The locals told to him that those huge boulders were pushed there by the glacier that once extended much farther down the mountain. Over the decades, many other similar features were documented around the world, forming the basis for the theory of Ice Ages. Since then, other forms of evidence have been taken into account. The geological features, among which are the previously mentioned rock formations, also contain moraines, carved valleys such as fjords, glacial lakes, and various other forms of land scarring. The problem with these, however, is that they’re extremely hard to date, and successive glaciations can distort, or even completely erase the previous geological formations.

6. The Big Ice Ages


At the moment, scientists are confident that there were five major Ice Ages throughout Earth’s long history. The first of them, known as the Huronian glaciation, happened roughly 2.4 billion years ago and lasted for about 300 million years, and is considered the longest. The Cryogenian Ice Age happened around 720 million years ago, and lasted until 630 million years ago. This one is considered to be the most severe. The third massive glaciation took place about 450 million years ago and lasted some 30 million years. It’s known as the Andean-Saharan Ice Age, and caused the second largest mass extinction in Earth’s history, after the so-called Great Dying. Lasting for 100 million years, the Karoo Ice Age happened between 360 and 260 million years ago, and was caused by the appearance of land plants, whose remains we now use as fossil fuels.

Lastly, we have the Pleistocene Ice Age, also known as the Pliocene-Quaternary glaciation. It began roughly 2.58 million years ago and has since gone through several glacial and interglacial periods, roughly 40,000 to 100,000 years apart. Over the past 250,000 years, however, the climate changed more frequently and abruptly, with the previous interglacial period being interrupted by numerous cold spells that lasted for several centuries at a time. The current interglacial that began roughly 11,000 years ago is atypical because of the relatively stable climate it has had up until this point. It’s somewhat safe to say that humans may have not been able to discover agriculture and develop its current level of civilization if it wasn’t for this unusual period of temperature stability.

5. Witchcraft

“Wait, what?” We know that’s what you’re thinking when you see that header in this list. But let us explain…

For a period of several centuries, beginning sometime around 1300 and ending around 1850, the world went through a period known as the Little Ice Age. Several factors worked together to lower the overall temperature, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere, allowing many alpine glaciers to expand, rivers to freeze over, and crops to fail. Several villages in Switzerland were completely destroyed by the encroaching glaciers during the mid-17th century, and in 1622, even the southern section of the Bosporus Strait, around Istanbul, had completely frozen over. Things got worse in 1645 and lasted for the following 75 years, in a period known to scientists today as the Maunder Minimum.

During that time, the Sun was going through a period with little to no sunspots. These sunspots are regions on the surface of the Sun that are much lower in temperature. They are caused by concentrations in our star’s magnetic field flux. By themselves, these spots would probably be able of lower Earth’s temperature, but they’re also surrounded by some intensely-bright regions, known as faculae. These have a significantly higher radiation output that far outweighs the reduction caused by sunspots. So, a spot-free Sun actually has a lower radiation output than usual. During the 17th century, it’s estimated that the Sun dimmed by 0.2 percent – something which partially accounted for this Little Ice Age. Over 17 volcanic eruptions took place across the world during that time, dimming the sun’s rays even further.

Economic adversity brought on by this several-century-long cold spell had an incredible psychological impact on people. Frequent crop failures and firewood shortages led many from Salem, Massachusetts to suffer from a severe case of mass hysteria. In the winter of 1692, twenty people – fourteen of which were women – were hung on accusations that they were witches and to blame for everyone’s hardships. Five other people – two children included – later died in prison for the same thing. Because of unfavorable weather, some people in places like Africa occasionally accuse each other of being witches, even to this day. In other places, however, gay people are the scapegoats for the effects of global warming.

4. Snowball Earth

Earth’s first Ice Age was also its longest. As we mentioned earlier, it lasted a whopping 300 million years. Known as the Huronian Glaciation, this incredibly long and freezing epoch happened some 2.4 billion years ago, in a time when only single-celled organisms roamed the Earth. The landscape would have looked completely different than today, even before the ice took over. A series of events, however, happened that would eventually lead to an apocalyptic event of global proportions, engulfing much of the planet in a thick sheet of ice. Life prior to the Huronian Glaciation was dominated by anaerobic organisms that didn’t require oxygen to live. Oxygen was, in fact, poisonous to them, and extremely rare in the air at the time, making up just 0.02% of the atmospheric composition. But at some point, a different form of life evolved – the Cyanobacteria.

This tiny bacterium was the first being to ever make use of photosynthesis as a means of generating its food. A byproduct of this process is oxygen. As these tiny creatures thrived in the world’s oceans, they pumped millions upon millions of tons of oxygen, raising its concentration in the atmosphere to 21%, and almost driving the entire anaerobic life into extinction. This event is known as The Great Oxygenation Event. The air was also full of methane, and in contact with oxygen it turns into CO2 and water. Methane, however, is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2, meaning that this transformation led to a drop in overall temperatures – which, in turn, began the Huronian Glaciation and the first mass extinction on Earth. The occasional volcano added further CO2 into the air, resulting in periodic interglacials.

3. Baked Alaska


If its name wasn’t clear enough, the Cryogenian Ice Age was the coldest period in Earth’s long history. It’s also the subject of much scientific controversy today. One topic of debate is whether the Earth was completely covered in ice, or a band of open water still remained around the equator – a Snowball, or Slushball Earth, as some call the two scenarios. The Cryogenian lasted from roughly 720 to 635 million years ago, and can be divided into two major glaciation events known as theSturtian (720 to 680 Ma) and the Marinoan (approximately 650 to 635 Ma). It’s important to note that there were no forms of multi-cellular life at that point, and some speculate that one such Snowball or Slushball Earth scenario was an early catalyst for their evolution during the so-called Cambrian explosion.

A particularly interesting study was published back in 2009, focusing on the Marinoan glaciation in particular. According to the analysis, Earth’s atmosphere was relatively warm, while its surface was covered in a thick layer of ice. This can only be possible if the planet was entirely, or almost entirely, covered in ice. They compared the phenomenon to a Baked Alaska dessert – where the ice cream doesn’t immediately melt when it’s placed in the oven. It turns out that the atmosphere had plenty of greenhouse gases in its composition, but that didn’t stop or mediate the Ice Age as we would expect. These gasses were present in such great quantities because of increased volcanic activity due to the breakup of the Rodinia supercontinent. This long volcanism is also thought to have helped start the Ice Age.

The science team warned us, however, that something similar could happen again if the atmosphere reflected too much of the Sun’s rays back into space. One such process could be triggered by a massive volcanic eruption, nuclear war, or our future attempts at mitigating the effects of global warming by spraying the atmosphere with too many sulphate aerosols.

2. Flood Myths


When the glacial ice began to melt some 14,500 years ago, the water didn’t flow to the ocean in a uniform pattern across the globe. In some places like North America, a huge proglacial lake began to form. These lakes are a result of damming, either by a moraine or an ice wall. In 1,600 years’ time, Lake Agassizcovered an estimated area of 170,000 sq. miles – larger than any lake currently in existence. It formed over parts of North Dakota, Minnesota, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Ontario. When the dam finally gave in, fresh water flooded into the Arctic Ocean via the Mackenzie River Valley. This great influx of fresh water weakened the oceanic current by up to 30%, plunging the planet into a 1,200-year-long period of glaciation known as the Younger Dryas. This unfortunate turn of events is suspected to have killed off the Clovis culture and the North American megafauna. Records also show that this cold spell came to an abrupt end some 11,500 years ago, with temperatures in Greenland rising by 18 degrees F in a mere decade.

During the Younger Dryas, the glacial ice replenished itself, and when the planet began to warm up again, Lake Agassiz also reappeared. This time, however, it joined with an equally large lake, known as Ojibway. Shortly after their merger, a new drainage took place, but this time in the Hudson Bay. Another cold spell happened 8,200 years ago, known as the 8.2 kiloyear event. Though cold temperatures lasted for only 150 years, this incident was able to raise sea levels by 13 feet. Interestingly, historians were able to link the origins of many flood myths from around the world to this exact time period. This sudden rise in sea levels also caused the Mediterranean to punch its way through the Bosporus Strait and flood the Black Sea, which at the time was only a freshwater lake.

1. Martian Ice Age

Influenced by forces beyond our control, Ice Ages are naturally occurring events that aren’t confined to Earth alone. Like our own planet, Mars also goes through periodical changes in its orbit and axial tilt. But unlike Earth, where an Ice Age implies polar ice caps growing in size, Mars experiences a different process. Because its axial tilt is more pronounced than Earth’s, and the poles receive more sunlight, a Martian Ice Age means that polar ice caps actually recede, while glaciers at the mid-latitude expand. This process is reversed during interglacial periods.

For the past 370,000 years, Mars has been slowly coming out of its own ice age and entering an interglacial period. Scientists estimate that roughly 20,900 cubic miles of ice has been accumulating at the poles since, most of it being in the Northern Hemisphere. Computer models have also shown that Mars has the capacity of being totally enveloped in ice during a glaciation event. This research is in its early stages, however, and given the fact that we’re still a long way away from fully understanding Earth’s own Ice Ages, we can’t logically expect to know everything that’s happening on Mars. Nevertheless, this research can prove useful, given our future plans for the Red Planet. It also helps us a great deal here on Earth. “Mars serves as a simplified laboratory for testing climate models and scenarios, without oceans and biology, which we can then use to better understand Earth systems,” said planetary scientist Isaac Smith.

Cold Hard Facts About the Ice Age

– WIF Current Events