Last year's brutal heat waves that swept through Europe, caused wildfires in Alaska and Siberia, and have left Australia as a tinderbox registered as the second hottest year ever — 0.1 degrees Fahrenheit or 0.04 degrees Celsius cooler than 2016, according to scientists at the Copernicus Climate Change Service, an intergovernmental agency supported by the European Union, as The New York Times reported.
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Russian scientists on an Arctic expedition have discovered, for the first time, methane "boiling" on the surface of the water that is visible to the naked eye. Forget high-tech detection devices, the methane is so pronounced that it can be scooped from the water in buckets, as Newsweek reported.
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Earth's magnetic north pole, which serves as an anchor point for our navigation has been actively moving east from the Canadian Arctic towards Russia, as CNN reported.
The WMM, pictured above, is a portrayal of the planet's magnetic field that gives compasses dependable accuracy. NOAA NCEI<p>The magnetic north was moving so swiftly that the WMM released an interim update in February to avoid navigational or operational issues with the discrepancy between where the true magnetic north pole is and where the 2015 model pegged it to be, according to <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2019/12/17/earths-magnetic-north-pole-has-officially-moved-toward-russia/#cf6db24201fe" target="_blank">Forbes</a>.<br></p><p>To figure out where the magnetic north is and to create the model, the researchers look at satellite data and data from 160 land-based observatories. The model is updated every five years, so the next one is due in 2025, as <a href="https://phys.org/news/2019-12-world-magnetic-north-pole-siberia.html" target="_blank">Phys.org</a> reported. </p><p>The updated model, which is used by the civilian navigation systems the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and U.S. and British militaries, shows the magnetic north pole moving towards Siberia, though it has slowed its pace to 25 miles per year, or 40 kilometers per year, as <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2019/12/17/earths-magnetic-north-pole-has-officially-moved-toward-russia/#cf6db24201fe" target="_blank">Forbes</a> reported. </p>
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So many wildfires are burning in the Arctic, they're visible from space, new images from NASA's Earth Observatory show. The satellite images reveal huge plumes of smoke wafting across uninhabited lands in Siberia, Greenland and Alaska, as CNN reported.
Forty-eight lightning strikes were detected within 300 miles of the North Pole on Saturday, The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang reported Wednesday. The event was so unusual that the National Weather Service (NWS) published a statement.
"This is one of the furthest north lightning strikes in Alaska forecaster memory," NWS Fairbanks, Alaska said.
The ice near Alaska's shores has melted away entirely, leaving the nearest ice shelf nearly 150 miles away, according to new satellite data from the National Weather Service, as The Independent reported.
Pollution is turning the snow green in the Russian city of Pervouralsk, the latest in a series of incidents fueling growing concerns about the environmental health of the country that could threaten President Vladimir Putin's popularity, The Independent reported Monday.
One video shared by ND News Feb. 15 shows a patch of green snow outside a pre-school close to a local chrome plant that residents blame for the phenomenon.
Chaga mushrooms have been used for centuries in Siberia and other parts of Asia as a medicine to boost immunity and improve overall health (1).
What Are Chaga Mushrooms?<p>Chaga mushroom (<em>Inonotus obliquus</em>) is a type of fungus that grows mainly on the bark of birch trees in cold climates, such as Northern Europe, Siberia, Russia, Korea, Northern Canada and Alaska.</p><p>Chaga is also known by other names, such as black mass, clinker polypore, birch canker polypore, cinder conk and the sterile conk trunk rot (of birch).</p><p>Chaga produces a woody growth, or conk, which looks similar to a clump of burnt charcoal — roughly 10–15 inches (25–38 centimeters) in size. However, the inside reveals a soft core with an orange color.</p><p>For centuries, chaga has been used as a traditional medicine in Russia and other Northern European countries, mainly to boost immunity and overall health.</p><p>It has also been used to treat diabetes, certain cancers and heart disease (<a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11094-006-0194-4" target="_blank">1</a>).</p><p>Traditionally, chaga was grated into a fine powder and brewed as an herbal tea.</p><p>Nowadays, it's not only available as a tea but also as a powdered or capsuled supplement. The tea may feature chaga alone or in combination with other mushrooms, such as <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/cordyceps-benefits" target="_blank">cordyceps</a>.</p><p>Taking chaga with either warm or cold water is believed to release its medicinal properties.</p><p>Keep in mind that reliable information on chaga's nutritional content is extremely limited.</p><p>That said, they're low in calories, very high in <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/why-is-fiber-good-for-you" target="_blank">fiber</a> and loaded with antioxidants (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15588653" target="_blank">2</a>, <a href="https://www.myfitnesspal.com/food/calories/wild-chaga-mushroom-32015142" target="_blank">3</a>).</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Chaga mushroom is a fungus that grows primarily on birch trees in cold climates. With an appearance similar to burnt charcoal, it has been harvested for centuries as a traditional medicine.</p>
Potential Health Benefits<p>Though research is ongoing, some scientific studies indicate that chaga extract may provide certain health benefits.</p><h3>Boosts Your Immune System and Fights Inflammation</h3><p>Inflammation is a natural response of your immune system that can protect against disease. However, long-term inflammation is linked to conditions like heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4361086/" target="_blank">4</a>).</p><p>Animal and test-tube studies suggest that chaga extract can positively impact immunity by reducing long-term <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/13-anti-inflammatory-foods" target="_blank">inflammation</a> and fighting harmful bacteria and viruses.</p><p>By promoting the formation of beneficial cytokines — specialized proteins that regulate the immune system — chaga stimulates white blood cells, which are essential for fighting off harmful bacteria or viruses (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3774877/" target="_blank">5</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21820502" target="_blank">6</a>).</p><p>As a result, this mushroom could help fight infections — from minor colds to serious illnesses.</p><p>Additionally, other animal and test-tube studies demonstrate that chaga can prevent the production of harmful cytokines, which trigger inflammation and are associated with disease (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3774877/" target="_blank">5</a>, <a href="https://www.hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2010/943516/" target="_blank">7</a>).</p><p>For example, in a study in mice, chaga extract reduced inflammation and gut damage by inhibiting inflammatory cytokines (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22819687" target="_blank">8</a>).</p><h3>Prevents and Fights Cancer</h3><p>Several animal and test-tube studies show that chaga can prevent and slow cancer growth (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19367670" target="_blank">9</a>).</p><p>In a study in mice with cancer, chaga supplements resulted in a 60% reduction in tumor size (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4946216/" target="_blank">10</a>).</p><p>In a test-tube study, chaga extract prevented the growth of cancer in human liver cells. Similar results were observed with cancer cells of the lung, breast, prostate and colon (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18203281" target="_blank">11</a>, <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814613000526" target="_blank">12</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25861415" target="_blank">13</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20607061" target="_blank">14</a>).</p><p>It's thought that the anticancer effect of chaga is partly due to its high content of antioxidants, which protect cells from damage by free radicals (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27180084" target="_blank">15</a>).</p><p>In particular, chaga contains the antioxidant triterpene. Test-tube studies reveal that very concentrated triterpene extract can help <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/cancer-fighting-foods" target="_blank">kill cancer cells</a> (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27180084" target="_blank">15</a>).</p><p>Keep in mind that human studies are needed in order to make strong conclusions about chaga's anticancer potential.</p><h3>Lowers Blood Sugar</h3><p>Several animal studies link chaga to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/15-ways-to-lower-blood-sugar" target="_blank">lower blood sugar levels</a>. Therefore, it may help manage diabetes (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28087233" target="_blank">16</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18434051" target="_blank">17</a>).</p><p>A recent study in obese, diabetic mice observed that chaga extract reduced blood sugar levels and insulin resistance compared to diabetic mice who did not receive the supplement (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28954386" target="_blank">18</a>).</p><p>In another study in diabetic mice, chaga supplements led to a 31% decrease in blood sugar levels over three weeks (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18434051" target="_blank">17</a>).</p><p>Similar results have been seen in other studies (<a href="http://agris.fao.org/agris-search/search.do?recordID=KR2007000481" target="_blank">19</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4100277/" target="_blank">20</a>).</p><p>However, as human research is unavailable, it's unclear whether chaga can help manage diabetes in humans.</p><h3>Lowers Cholesterol</h3><p>Chaga extract may also benefit cholesterol levels, reducing your risk of heart disease.</p><p>In an eight-week study in rats with high cholesterol, chaga extract reduced "bad" LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/13-ways-to-lower-triglycerides" target="_blank">triglycerides</a> while increasing antioxidant levels (<a href="https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/5305591" target="_blank">21</a>).</p><p>Similar studies gave the same results and observed that — in addition to reducing "bad" LDL cholesterol — chaga increases "good" HDL cholesterol (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18434051" target="_blank">17</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28954386" target="_blank">18</a>).</p><p>Researchers believe that the antioxidants present in chaga are responsible for its effects on cholesterol.</p><p>Again, more research in humans is needed to clearly understand chaga's cholesterol impact.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Animal and test-tube studies found that chaga extract may boost immunity, prevent chronic inflammation, fight cancer, lower blood sugar levels and reduce cholesterol. However, more human studies are needed.</p>
Safety and Side Effects<p>Chaga is generally well-tolerated. However, no human studies have been conducted to determine its safety or appropriate dosage.</p><p>In fact, chaga can interact with some common medications, causing potentially harmful effects.</p><p>For example, chaga could pose risks for people on insulin or those with diabetes due to its impact on blood sugar.</p><p>Chaga also contains a protein that can prevent blood clotting. Therefore, if you are on blood-thinning medications, have a bleeding disorder or are preparing for surgery, consult with your doctor before taking chaga (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16289471" target="_blank">22</a>).</p><p>Though some research shows that chaga may help reduce inflammation, it may also cause your immune system to become more active. Thus, people with autoimmune diseases should seek medical advice before taking chaga.</p><p>There is no research on the safety of chaga for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Therefore, the safest option is to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-foods-to-avoid-during-pregnancy" target="_blank">avoid use</a>.</p><p>Finally, remember to buy supplements from reputable sources, as chaga is not monitored by the FDA.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>No studies have analyzed the safety or appropriate dosage of chaga. Unwanted side effects could occur if you have a bleeding disorder or autoimmune disease, take blood thinners or are pregnant or breastfeeding.</p>
The Bottom Line<p>For centuries, people have used chaga mushrooms for medicinal purposes.</p><p>Packed with antioxidants, chaga mushroom is available in tea or supplement form.</p><p>Its extract may fight cancer and improve immunity, chronic inflammation, blood sugar and cholesterol levels.</p><p>Still, human studies are needed to confirm these benefits and to determine its safety, side effects and optimal dosage.</p><p>If you're interested in trying chaga mushroom tea or supplement but have concerns about side effects or possible interactions with medications your taking, talk to your doctor first.</p>
By Marlene Cimons
Lake Baikal is the world's oldest and deepest lake. It's at least 20 million years old, and roughly a mile deep at its lowest point. The Siberian lake contains holds more water than all the North American Great Lakes combined, what amounts to more than one-fifth of all the water found in lakes, swamps and rivers. It was formed by the shifting of tectonic plates, which created a valley that filled with water. That shift continues today at a rate of around 1 to 2 centimeters year, meaning the world's biggest lake is only getting bigger.
Update: The window for photo submissions has ended. The winner will be announced this Wednesday, November 21.
EcoWatch is pleased to announce its first photo contest! Show us what in nature you are most thankful for this Thanksgiving. Whether you have a love for oceans, animals, or parks, we want to see your best photos that capture what you love about this planet.
It's a sad Christmas for the world's reindeer—the antlered Arctic grazers associated with all things Santa Claus. Their numbers have fallen by more than half in the past 20 years, and climate change is likely to blame.
The latest numbers come from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's 2018 Arctic Report Card, which listed the increasing impacts of global warming on the earth's northernmost region, as EcoWatch has already reported. But the loss of Rangifer tarandus—called caribou in North America and Greenland and reindeer in Siberia and Europe—is of note because it threatens to further throw Arctic ecosystems and cultures out of whack. Reindeer are important prey for wolves and biting flies, and a key source of food and clothing for indigenous groups.