The second-most active volcano in the Philippines belched to life on Sunday when it sent a cloud of ash miles into the air that forced thousands to evacuate and shuttered the airport in the capital of Manila.
The eruption of the Taal volcano continued Monday when it began gushing lava, The Associated Press reported. People living nearby also felt tremors, and the country's volcanic institute warned of a potential "volcanic tsunami" in the lake that surrounds the volcanic island, according to The New York Times.
"The earthquakes were strong, and it felt like there was a monster coming out," Cookie Siscar, who heard about the eruption from her husband Emer, told The New York Times.
Streaks of lightning blazed through columns of ashes amid #TaalVolcano eruption as seen from Nasugbu, Batangas on S… https://t.co/88jBQNhGXo— ABS-CBN News (@ABS-CBN News) 1578828801.0
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology raised the volcano's Alert Level to four out of five Sunday evening, indicating that a "hazardous eruption" is "imminent."
Taal volcano is located on an island around 40 miles south of Manila in the Philippines' Batangas province, according to The New York Times. Around 6,000 people live on the island itself, but people in the surrounding areas are also at risk. More than 13,000 people in Batangas and nearby Cavite province have been evacuated to shelters so far, according to The Associated Press. But authorities expect that number to balloon. More than 450,000 people are estimated to live within the volcano's danger zone, the Official United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.
Over 450,000 people are estimated to be residing within the 14 km danger zone of the Taal Volcano. On 12 January, a… https://t.co/rdy7nVDu9U— OCHA Philippines (@OCHA Philippines) 1578880599.0
According to BBC News, Batangas province has already declared a "state of calamity."
So far, the major impact has been ash. The volcano sent ash, steam and pebbles six to nine miles into the air Sunday, The Associated Press reported. The ash spread more than 62 miles north of the volcano, reaching Manila, where it forced the international airport to close. More than 500 flights were canceled.
The airport was able to resume "partial operations" Monday morning, BBC News reported. But schools were closed, government work paused and the Philippines stock exchange canceled trading for the day.
In the villages, meanwhile, the ashfall threatened homes and livelihoods.
LOOK: Tagaytay Picnic Grove covered in mud and ashes after #TaalVolcano eruption | via @_katrinadomingo https://t.co/WFo4oXF6jE— ABS-CBN News (@ABS-CBN News) 1578873519.0
"My father is missing," evacuee Irene de Claro, whose father stayed behind when the rest of the family fled a village in Batangas, told The Associated Press. "We don't know too what happened to our house because the ash was up to our knees, it was very dark and the ground was constantly shaking when we left. Most likely there's nothing for us to return to. We're back to zero."
Fear of losing farms or livestock means some people are refusing to evacuate.
"We have a problem, our people are panicking due to the volcano because they want to save their livelihood, their pigs and herds of cows," Mayor Wilson Maralit of Balete town told DZMM radio, as The Associated Press reported. "We're trying to stop them from returning and warning that the volcano can explode again anytime and hit them."
So far, there have been no deaths or injuries reported.
Taal volcano has erupted more than 30 times in 500 years, according to BBC News. The last time was in 1977.Because it lies on the Pacific "Ring of Fire," the Philippines is often threatened by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. It also weathers around 20 typhoons or major storms every year, according to The Associated Press. The last was less than a month ago, when Typhoon Phanfone struck the predominantly Catholic country on Christmas Day.
A lungless worm salamander, an armored slug and a critically endangered monkey were a few of 503 new species identified this year by scientists at London's National History Museum.
"Once again, an end of year tally of new species has revealed a remarkable diversity of life forms and minerals hitherto undescribed," Dr. Tim Littlewood, executive director of science at the museum, told the National History Museum. "The Museum's collection of specimens provide a resource within which to find new species as well as a reference set to recognize specimens and species as new."
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the museum was closed to the public for part of the year. Yet, scientists, researchers, curators and associates continued to study the species' forms and structures and share their findings with the rest of the scientific community, Ken Norris, head of life sciences at the Natural History Museum, told CNN.
"You're asking whether or not that new specimen is sufficiently different from anything else that's been seen before to be regarded as a new species," he said. "So you're describing it for the first time."
"In a year when the global mass of biodiversity is being outweighed by human-made mass it feels like a race to document what we are losing," he shared.
Since 1900, the abundance of native species in land-based habitats has decreased by at least 20 percent, according to findings outlined in a United Nations Report. Over 40 percent amphibian species, nearly 33 percent reef-forming corals and over a third of all marine animals are threatened.
"503 newly discovered species reminds us we represent a single, inquisitive, and immensely powerful species with the fate of many others in our hands," Littlewood added.
Among the hundreds of species identified was a monkey called the Popa langur, found on the extinct Mount Popa volcano in Myanmar. According to the National History Museum, the skin and skull of the monkey were collected over 100 years ago.
Scientists analyzed the coloration of the Popa langur's skin and bones and sampled its genetics to compare it to related species.
"Monkeys are one of the most iconic groups of mammals, and these specimens have been in the collections for over a hundred years," Roberto Portela Miguez, the senior curator in charge of mammals at the museum and involved in identifying the new species, told the National History Museum. "But we didn't have the tools or the expertise to do this work before."
The Popa langur is considered to be critically endangered with only 200 to 260 individuals remaining in the wild, according to The Guardian. As Myanmar rapidly develops, the monkeys are threatened by decreased forest habitats and increased hunting.
Naming the species, Miguez thinks, will help in its conservation. "The hope is that by giving this species the scientific status and notoriety it merits, there will be even more concerted efforts in protecting this area and the few other remaining populations," he told the National History Museum.
"It has been a good year for discovering more amphibian and reptile species," The Guardian reported, noting the scientist's identification of a crested lizard from Borneo, two new species of frog and nine new snakes.
"At the moment we think that as a basic guess maybe 20% of life has been described in some shape or form," Norris told CNN, expecting to identify hundreds of new species in the new year.
"Our understanding of the natural world's diversity is negligible and yet we depend on its systems, interconnectedness and complexity for food, water, climate resilience and the air we breathe," Littlewood told the National History Museum. "Revealing new and undescribed species not only sustains our awe of the natural world, it further reveals what we stand to lose and helps estimate the diversity we may lose even before it's discovered."
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Switching to period panties doesn't have to be messy.
When your time of the month comes unexpectedly and you have to rush to the store, tampons, pads and panty liners are the majority of what you traditionally find when looking in the menstrual hygiene aisle. Recently, period underwear has risen in popularity to prevent the unnecessary waste that comes from using these products.
Period panties are a newer form of menstrual care that can both replace the need for disposable hygiene products and be a solution for preventing messy leaks. They're an ecologically smart alternative to single-use period products and a great long-term investment for those who want a more comfortable and easier menstrual solution.
Every person and menstrual cycle is unique. In this article, we'll explain the benefits of period underwear and help you find what type of underwear is perfect for you.
Best Period Panties: Our Recommendations
- Best Overall: Thinx Hiphugger Menstrual Underwear
- Best Leak Protection: Proof Leakproof Hipster Underwear
- Best 100% Cotton: Cora Period Underwear
- Best High-Absorbency Underwear: 4period High Absorbency Period Panties
- Best for Teens: Thinx BTWN Teen Period Underwear
- Best Budget Option: Goat Union Overnight Period Underwear
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. Learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn a commission.
Why Switch to Period Underwear?
Designed to feel and look like regular underwear, period panties are a reusable menstrual product made to be worn longer than single-use period products. These undies can hold the equivalent of anything from one to five full-sized regular tampons.
Traditional tampons and pads are recommended by the FDA to only be worn for four to eight hours because of the risk of toxic shock syndrome or a yeast infection. When used correctly, period panties can be worn for up to 24 hours without leaks, odors or discomfort.
Not only do they have to be changed less often, but they also come in handy when you're expecting your cycle to start and you want to be prepared. Instead of a late-night run to the drugstore, you can count on having your washable, re-wearable panties ready to go when you need them most.
Besides the physical comfort and ease of period panties, this underwear is a great solution to the high number of menstrual products ending up in landfills. The average person who menstruates uses around 11,000 disposable period products in their lifetime. And it's not just the products themselves — there's usually an extra layer or two of plastic wrapped around the items for sanitation that gets discarded.
Although menstrual hygiene products are all but necessary, the waste that comes with them doesn't have to be. Period panties can be reused for up to 2 years, making them a viable solution compared to traditional hygiene products.
Full Reviews of Our Top Picks
When choosing our top recommended period underwear, we looked at factors including:
- Materials: Safe and quality fabrics ensure breathability and effectiveness for your panties. Each product below contains nontoxic materials and uses fabrics to make customers as comfortable as possible.
- Absorbency: Ranging from very light days to a heavier flow, we have you covered for every type of absorbency level. You can rest assured you'll be able to change your menstruation products less often and without hassle.
- Leak protection: Say goodbye to misaligned pads and accidental tampon leaks. Period panties move with you and provide leak protection with multiple absorbent layers and inner-thigh seals.
- Inclusive marketing: We want to celebrate companies that celebrate you. Each brand below promotes an inclusive and diverse market to ensure a comfortable menstruation cycle for everyone.
- Customer reviews: With each menstrual product recommendation, we take into consideration what previous customers have to say to ensure your future satisfaction.
Best Overall: Thinx Hiphugger Menstrual Underwear
Thinx Hiphugger Menstrual Underwear is our top pick for the best period underwear because of its popularity, absorbency, comfort and stylish features. Thinx is one of the most well-known and respected period underwear companies on the market, and its products feel identical to regular underwear.
The Hiphugger Menstrual Underwear binds to the body comfortably and securely with its built-in leak protection. As your flow is contained, it also provides a leak-resistant moisture barrier to keep you feeling dry even during the most active part of your cycle. These panties can hold up to 5.5 teaspoons, which is equivalent to three tampons. Once full, simply machine wash with cold water, then hang them to dry before reusing.
Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 1,500 Amazon ratings
Standout Review: "Absolutely amazing. I bought a few pairs and I wore these and these alone (no pads or tampons) for my entire period. I was super comfy and never had a leak. Pay attention to the absorbency level and make sure you are getting the super absorbent for heavy flow days." — Mom Skills Blog via Amazon
Why Buy: These period panties feature a patented absorbency design and come in a variety of colors. The Hiphugger Menstrual Underwear is Thinx's best-selling pair of panties and are certified according to Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX®️.
Best Leak Protection: Proof Leakproof Hipster Underwear
Proof Leakproof Hipster Underwear is the ultimate choice for preventing leakage on heavy days. These period panties have multiple layers and incorporate the company's proprietary Leak-Loc technology that draws moisture away from the body. They're also designed to provide extended coverage, so you can sleep without the worry of waking up in the middle of the night to change.
Made of cotton, polyester and nylon, this sleek-feeling underwear comes in black and sand colors and can hold up to five tampons' worth of fluid. Proof also sells underwear designed to handle other types of leaks, including bladder leaks, sweat and postpartum leaks.
Customer Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars with about 25 ratings on Proof's website
Standout Review: "One thing I was worried about was feeling hot, but they are so breathable and comfortable I forgot I was even on my period. I was also worried it would be gross, but rinsing them out, I was more just impressed with how much they held. There's no odor and, amazingly, I felt dry all day. Absolutely the best way to period." — Artamisha Y. via Proof's websiteWhy Buy: Proof is HSA/FSA approved and has a large range of options for every size and absorbency level. The Proof website even contains a quiz to properly find your perfect underwear match.
Best 100% Cotton: Cora Period Underwear
Cora was started with the intent to help people with menstrual cycles around the world and relieve them of the stigmatized shame they may feel when it comes to periods. The 100% cotton Cora Period Underwear includes transparently sourced materials that make it perfect for period protection, especially for those who are UTI-prone or have sensitive skin.
This breathable underwear can absorb the equivalent of three tampons or 95 milliliters and features an ultra-soft waistband. The bikini-style panties provide full coverage and a moisture-wicking core to keep you dry and comfortable throughout the day. They're preferable for light to medium flows and can be used alongside other period products like a menstrual cup for extra protection.
Customer Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars with over 90 Amazon ratings
Standout Review: "I ordered these again after receiving my first pair. They're comfortable, not really thick and not unpleasant to have on thought the whole day. [I] used these on my heavy days no problem. I like using a cup but sometimes can't be bothered with it early in the morning; that's where these undies step in. I say get them." — A via AmazonWhy Buy: This bikini underwear contains only nontoxic, OEKO-TEX certified cotton to provide comfortable menstrual support for the most sensitive skin. A portion of every purchase helps Cora provide period hygiene products and health education to children and teens around the world.
Best High-Absorbency Underwear: 4period High Absorbency Period Panties
Made with bamboo-derived fabric and spandex, the 4period High Absorbency Period Panties are able to hold 50 milliliters of fluid (the equivalent of four super plus tampons). These super-absorbent undies are designed to protect in all the right places; they're lined with front and high-back absorbent layers, which make them suitable for tossing and turning at night.
With sizes ranging from small to 3XL, these full-coverage undies offer breathable and moisture-wicking leak protection for all shapes and sizes. The viscose bamboo fabric and high-absorbency liners can easily be machine washed. You can purchase a single pair of underwear or a five-pack for use every weekday.
Customer Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars with over 2,500 Amazon ratings
Standout Review: "I've used these for a few months now and they are great. There are no leaks or smells. They are easy to clean. I will definitely be ordering more." — S Henneke via AmazonWhy Buy: This underwear includes nontoxic materials and is free of PFAs, which can be irritating to sensitive skin. 4period is diverse in its products, with period underwear available in every style of cut as well as a wide range of sizing options.
Best for Teens: Thinx BTWN Teen Period Underwear
Starting your cycle can be daunting at first, but with the help of Thinx BTWN Teen Period Underwear, teens can feel comfortable and secure. These period undies are specifically designed for developing bodies, so they come in smaller proportions for a perfect fit and to prevent leakage.
The teen period underwear comes in a range of colors and styles, including bikini, briefs and boyshorts. Each pair is made with organic cotton and can hold the equivalent of four to five tampons. Machine washable, tagless and odor-controlled, these period undies will provide reliable yet comfortable protection to make sure your teen is always prepared.
Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with about 800 Amazon ratings
Standout Review: "My daughter is 12 and started her period a few months ago. She is also a competitive cheerleader, and wearing a thick pad wasn't really an option. She wasn't comfortable wearing a tampon… I bought these, and my daughter … said they fit so nice, are comfortable and it doesn't feel like she is wearing a 'diaper.'" — N. Coombs via AmazonWhy Buy: Certified to OEKO-TEX Standard 100, you don't have to worry about harmful substances or unsustainable production when purchasing this product. Plus, if Thinx period underwear isn't for you after two months of wearing, you can get a full refund.
Best Budget Option: Goat Union Overnight Period Underwear
If you're looking to try period underwear but aren't ready to invest money into a pair you don't know if you'll like, Goat Union Overnight Period Underwear will give you the best bang for your buck. This underwear offers high absorbency, leak protection and comes at an affordable price.
The full-coverage briefs can hold three to four tampons' worth and are made with 95% bamboo viscose. They're soft, smooth and have a high-waisted design that offers full coverage from front to rear in order to ease your mind while you sleep at night. Replace the need for single-use products and try these affordable period panties to see if period underwear is right for you.
Customer Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars with over 200 Amazon ratings
Standout Review: "Upped my underwear game in the past year, since it protects a pretty delicate area of the body. Adding a few absorbent styles was one of the best decisions I've ever made, and this pair is in my top two! Fits me exactly as expected (I struggle with waistbands staying up since my middle is bigger than my bottom) and is really comfortable." — Amber M via Amazon
Why Buy: Goat Union's fabric has been tested for harmful substances and has been certified safe and sustainable by OEKO-TEX. The padded underwear can be used alone or as backup protection with other menstrual products. It can also be used for postpartum leaks and incontinence issues.
Caring for Your Period Panties
Once you're done with your period underwear for the day, rinse them with cold water. If the period underwear is machine-washable (some are not, so be sure to check your pair), place them in a washable mesh bag and throw them on a delicate or gentle cycle with cold water. Try to use a mild laundry detergent and never use softener or bleach, since these can deteriorate the absorbency layers.
If you want to help your period underwear last even longer, try to hand-wash them to help the fabric's integrity. Once your underwear is washed, make sure to always hang them to dry (putting them in the dryer can shrink and distort the materials).
Period panties are usually designed to be stain-resistant and odor-free, but if you're looking for extra care, you can always use natural remedies such as applying white vinegar or lemon juice directly to the desired area before washing.
Frequently Asked Questions: Period Underwear
Does period underwear really work?
Yes, period underwear really works. These products are made with multiple protective layers to replace traditional single-use menstrual products like tampons, liners and pads and to make you more comfortable during your menstrual cycle. They can be worn during the day, overnight or as backup protection.
Can you wear period underwear all day?
Much like tampons and pads, how long you can wear menstrual underwear depends on the product's absorbency level and your flow. For lighter days, you can typically wear a single pair for a full day. When it comes to heavier days, make sure to use high-absorbency panties to get the most out of each pair and prevent the need to change mid-day.
Can you leak with period underwear?
Like all menstrual products, period panties have a max absorbency amount but usually can withstand much more than the average tampon or pad. Most period panties hold at least two times more than tampons. Some period underwear, such as Proof's Leakproof Hipster Underwear, contains barriers to prevent leaking even if the absorbent layer is completely full.
Can you wear period underwear without a pad?
Period underwear can easily be worn alone. Just ensure you purchase the correct absorbency level according to your flow. Made with moisture-wicking barriers, absorbency layers and leak-proof seals, you can count on period panties to keep you comfortable and protected without the bulky feeling of a pad. However, you can also use them alongside your usual menstrual products if desired.
Mysterious hums that were heard around the world in 2018 have now been identified as the rumblings of a magma-filled reservoir deep under the Indian Ocean, announcing the birth of an underwater volcano, according to a new study, as CNN reported.
Researchers started to detect seismic movement from the birth of the volcano in May and June of 2018, which eventually led to a humming noise that radiated thousands of miles away from where the volcano was born about 22 miles off the coast of Mayotte in the Indian Ocean, one of several in the Comoros archipelago found between Mozambique and Madagascar, as CNN reported.
For months, the forming volcano produced tiny earthquakes and a slight humming too weak to feel. That changed on Nov. 11, 2018 when the new volcano announced its birth by sending seismic waves all over the world that were felt in Kenya, Chile, Canada and Hawaii, nearly 11,000 miles away. For almost half an hour, the seismic waves produced a humming that got louder and louder, as The Washington Post reported.
Researchers developed new seismological methods to create a year-long timeline to reconstruct what happened during the formation of the new volcano. They published their results this week in the journal Nature Geoscience.
Geologists around the world were alerted to the bizarre humming on Nov. 11, 2018 when a New Zealand geologist tweeted, "This is a most odd and unusual seismic signal. Recorded at Kilima Mbogo, Kenya ..." with a link to data from the U.S. Geological Survey, as as The Washington Post reported.
That led to a worldwide effort by seismologists to pinpoint the source of the low frequency humming. A team of German scientists took on the task of recreating what happened that led to the formation of a brand new volcano.
This is "the first time we've really observed the birth of a volcano on the sea floor," said Simone Cesca, a seismologist at the GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences in Potsdam, Germany and the paper's lead author, to The Washington Post.
The paper explains how magma from a reservoir buried about 20 miles under the ocean floor migrated upward from the earth's mantle and pushed itself through the earth's crust. Once it breached the ocean floor, the magma could flow through the opening and create a new volcano, as CNN reported.
"It took only [a] few weeks for the magma to propagate from the upper mantle to the seafloor, where a new submarine volcano was born," said Cesca in an email to Live Science.
The scientists traced 7,000 tectonic quakes during the study. Tectonic quakes happen when Earth's tectonic plates get stuck as they move alongside one another and pressure builds for them to move, which causes an earthquake, as CNN reported.
The seismologists also recorded 407 unusual signals coming from the site of the magma chamber near Mayotte. Those unusual signals, called Very Long Period signals, are the low humming that is similar to a double bass or the peel of a large bell, according to CNN. The Very Long Period signals last 20 to 30 minutes and can be detected hundreds of miles away.
Without the Very Long Period signal that hummed so dramatically on Nov. 11, seismologists probably would not have discovered the underwater volcano, said Stephen P. Hicks, who studies earthquake seismology at the Imperial College of London and who is unrelated to the team of Mayotte researchers, to The Washington Post.
A "unique aspect of this study is it shows how quickly the magma can rise and create either a new volcano or an eruption," said Hicks. "This paper gives us a framework to interpret these seismic events. The amount of magma that moved might have been the greatest amount ever observed."
The new volcano is three miles in diameter and half a mile from the sea floor. During the formation of the underwater volcano, earthquake activity dropped, and the ground of Mayotte lowered seven inches, though it was hardly noticeable on Mayotte, which is home to about 260,000 people, as CNN reported.
"Since the seabed lies 3 kilometres below the water surface, almost nobody noticed the enormous eruption," said Torsten Dahm, study co-author and professor of geophysics and seismology at the University of Potsdam in Germany, as CNN reported. "However, there are still possible hazards for the island of Mayotte today, as the earth's crust above the deep reservoir could continue to collapse, triggering stronger earthquakes."
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By Jane Braxton Little
Linda J. Cayot's scientific focus for the day was a male giant tortoise, part of her dissertation research on the ecology of these iconic Galápagos reptiles. When her study animal lumbered into a swirling torrent of muddy El Niño waters, the intrepid scientist jumped in, too. Together they banged against rocks, his carapace and her daypack catching on tree branches as they thumped in tandem down the river to the lowlands of Santa Cruz Island.
Cayot's epic 1983 journey launched a 40-year career devoted to conserving the Galápagos Islands. She supervised giant tortoise and land iguana breeding programs; organized campaigns to eradicate invasive species; and coordinated repatriation of tortoises to their native islands. When she began working in the Galápagos, the islands' giant tortoise populations were down to less than 10% of their historic abundance. They've grown since then, bolstered by programs she helped put in place.
Cayot studied Galápagos giant tortoises on many islands during her 40-year career. This 1982 photo is from Pinzon Island. (© Theresa Kineke Brooks, used with permission)
The goal remains to restore tortoise populations to their historic numbers and distribution. At the current rate, that might be achieved within two centuries.
For Cayot, who thinks of conservation in terms of deep time, it's the trajectory that's critical.
She retired early this year and has just completed co-writing and editing Galápagos Giant Tortoises, a synthesis of knowledge of these island endemics, including the 60-year history of their conservation. Cayot was honored in October with the Prichard Turtle Conservation Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Cayot is a visionary with a practical, one-step-at-a-time approach. If she hadn't fallen in love with Galápagos, she says, she would have been conserving species somewhere else.
When I asked her about the lessons she's learned from a lifetime of conservation, it came as no surprise that her succinct responses made little mention of tortoises or the Galápagos. Instead she focused on universal elements that speak to the human element of conservation.
Respectful Relationships: Value Everyone’s Input
"You accomplish much more conservation by having good relationships with everyone," says Linda Cayot.
As a scientist Cayot worked with Galápagos National Park Directorate rangers who were fresh out of high school, as well as some of the world's leading herpetologists and geneticists. She sought out people with the tools and ability to solve problems, regardless of their credentials.
Wacho Tapia is among of them. When he was a 17-year-old Galapagoan volunteer Cayot recognized his passion for giant tortoises and determination to save them. Now director of Galápagos Conservancy's Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative, Tapia's years of working with Cayot ensure continuity in the tortoise restoration projects she initiated.
The respect Cayot demonstrated throughout her career is reflected in a small incident on Pinta Island. She asked Joe Flanagan, an American collaborator and chief veterinarian at the Houston Zoo, to document the repatriation of tortoises by photographing the park rangers carrying them to their release sites. One after another refused to be photographed. But when he said the photos were for Cayot, each ranger agreed. Some even primped.
"Linda recognizes that most conservation problems are caused by people, but she strongly believes that people are also the solution," Flanagan says.
Long-term Vision: Conservation Happens Slowly
"Projects can take 50 years," says Cayot. "That's a hell of a long time! But those are the projects that push conservation forward."
Cayot has always maintained a long-term vision. But working in the Galápagos honed it from years to decades and centuries.
The successful projects she worked on included repatriating tortoises to Española, the southernmost island. In the 1960s park rangers found just 14 tortoises there.
They took them to the Santa Cruz breeding center, added a male from the San Diego Zoo, and launched a breeding program Cayot later supervised. When young tortoises born at the center were old enough to survive out of captivity, they were released on the island of their ancestors.
In June Galápagos Park marked the successful conclusion of the project by returning the original tortoises to Española — 55 years after removing them — to join their progeny and the offspring they in turn had produced.
Cayot also had a central role in eradicating invasive species from the islands. When she first arrived in Galápagos, the southern rim of Alcedo Volcano was covered with Zanthoxylum trees. By the early 1990s, invasive goats were destroying the forest, a critical area for giant tortoises. Cayot coordinated Project Isabela, the largest invasive species eradication ever attempted anywhere.
It took nearly a decade. Today the vegetation is slowly regenerating. Full restoration will take decades more, but that's not a problem in her mind: Cayot views Galápagos conservation in 100-year increments.
"I worked on the everyday details of Project Isabela, but I was thinking ahead to a century and beyond," she says.
Serendipity: Learn From Surprises
"Don't worry if it takes a long time," says Cayot. "Emerging knowledge may result in significant changes and greater success in the end."
In 1972 Lonesome George, the last Pinta Island tortoise, was taken to a Santa Cruz Island pen for his protection. Scientists later decided to return tortoises to Pinta, where the habitat was declining without them. Although they would not be the endemic Pinta species, they would still disperse native plant seeds and modify habitat to help other animals and plants thrive, scientists reasoned.
Lonesome George in 2008. Photo: Arturo de Frias Marques (CC BY-SA 3.0)
But the herpetologists working on Galápagos tortoise conservation disagreed, and breeding tortoises were never moved to Pinta.
It ended up being a fortuitous delay. Soon expeditions to Wolf Volcano, a remote island where a variety of tortoise species roamed, discovered living tortoises with mixed ancestry, including the Pinta tortoise. That sparked hope that scientists might eventually find others more closely related to Lonesome George — a better option for release on Pinta.
For now, though, this northernmost island remains without the tortoises that evolved there. And that may be for the best.
"We don't know everything," says Cayot. "The more knowledge we get the more carefully we can find the right tortoises for that island."
Collaboration: One Solution From Many Agendas
"You can see the excitement growing when you come up with solutions no one had thought of before," says Cayot.
When Cayot began coordinating Project Isabela, she knew it would only succeed if Galápagos Park Directorate and Charles Darwin Research Station worked together.
Because they'd never officially co-run a project, Cayot spent an evening sewing. She took a park hat and a station hat — each of which bore an image of a tortoise — cut them both in half and stitched them back together, making the bisected embroidered tortoise whole again. Cayot wore that hat when she gave talks, pulling it on if discussions became contentious.
Linda Cayot made this hat out of a Galápagos Park cap and a Charles Darwin Research Station cap to symbolize and promote the cooperation required for the projects they shared. (© Jane Braxton Little, used with permission)
The grand plan to restore giant tortoises to their historic numbers and distribution included an international workshop in 2012 that she facilitated. Scientists and rangers were beginning to design expeditions to Wolf Volcano. The geneticists focused on finding animals with genetic material from two extinct species and breeding them, a process that would involve multiple generations and take at least 100 years. Conservationists also wanted to find the highest genetic matches possible, but their priority was getting tortoises onto the islands, where they're key to habitat restoration; they couldn't wait a century.
These differences challenged geneticists and conservationists alike to be creative. The solution they adopted is the basis for an ambitious plan to revive extinct species and restore island ecosystems. They're using the knowledge of the geneticists to select the best animals to breed in captivity. Those with lesser genetic material will be released to the islands of their ancestors, satisfying the conservationists' goal.
"With everyone willing to think outside the box, we ended up with novel solutions, ones that we all liked better than our own individual plans," Cayot says. "That can only happen when everyone values each other's input and respects each other's knowledge."
Jane Braxton Little is an award-winning independent journalist who writes about science and the environment for publications that include The Atlantic, Audubon, Bay Nature, Discover, and Scientific American. Little is based in rural Plumas County, where she arrived years ago fresh out of Harvard graduate school for a summer that has yet to end.
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
By Richard Ernst
We can learn a lot about climate change from Venus, our sister planet. Venus currently has a surface temperature of 450℃ (the temperature of an oven's self-cleaning cycle) and an atmosphere dominated by carbon dioxide (96 percent) with a density 90 times that of Earth's.
Venus is a very strange place, totally uninhabitable, except perhaps in the clouds some 60 kilometers up where the recent discovery of phosphine may suggest floating microbial life. But the surface is totally inhospitable.
However, Venus once likely had an Earth-like climate. According to recent climate modeling, for much of its history Venus had surface temperatures similar to present day Earth. It likely also had oceans, rain, perhaps snow, maybe continents and plate tectonics, and even more speculatively, perhaps even surface life.
Less than one billion years ago, the climate dramatically changed due to a runaway greenhouse effect. It can be speculated that an intensive period of volcanism pumped enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to cause this great climate change event that evaporated the oceans and caused the end of the water cycle.
Evidence of Change
This hypothesis from the climate modelers inspired Sara Khawja, a master's student in my group (co-supervised with geoscientist Claire Samson), to look for evidence in Venusian rocks for this proposed climatic change event.
Since the early 1990s, my Carleton University research team — and more recently my Siberian team at Tomsk State University — have been mapping and interpreting the geological and tectonic history of Earth's remarkable sister planet.
Soviet Venera and Vega missions of the 1970s and 1980s did land on Venus and take pictures and evaluated the composition of the rocks, before the landers failed due to the high temperature and pressure. However, our most comprehensive view of the surface of Venus has been provided by NASA's Magellan spacecraft in the early 1990s, which used radar to see through the dense cloud layer and produce detailed images of more than 98 percent of Venus's surface.
Our search for geological evidence of the great climate change event led us to focus on the oldest type of rocks on Venus, called tesserae, which have a complex appearance suggestive of a long, complicated geological history. We thought that these oldest rocks had the best chance of preserving evidence of water erosion, which is a such an important process on Earth and should have occurred on Venus prior to the great climate change event.
Given poor resolution altitude data, we used an indirect technique to try to recognize ancient river valleys. We demonstrated that younger lava flows from the surrounding volcanic plains had filled valleys in the margins of tesserae.
To our astonishment these tesserae valley patterns were very similar to river flow patterns on Earth, leading to our suggestion that these tesserae valleys were formed by river erosion during a time with Earth-like climatic conditions. My Venus research groups at Carleton and Tomsk State universities are studying the post-tesserae lava flows for any geological evidence of the transition to extremely hot conditions.
A portion of Alpha Regio, a topographic upland on the surface of Venus, was the first feature on Venus to be identified from Earth-based radar. Jet Propulsion Laboratory / NASA
In order to understand how volcanism on Venus could produce such a change in climate, we can look to Earth history for analogues. We can find analogies in super-eruptions like the last eruption at Yellowstone that occurred 630,000 years.
But such volcanism is small compared to large igneous provinces (LIPs) that occur approximately every 20-30 million years. These eruption events can release enough carbon dioxide to cause catastrophic climate change on Earth, including mass extinctions. To give you a sense of scale, consider that the smallest LIPs produce enough magma to cover all of Canada to a depth of about 10 meters. The largest known LIP produced enough magma that would have covered an area the size of Canada to a depth of nearly eight kilometers.
The LIP analogues on Venus include individual volcanoes that are up to 500 kilometers across, extensive lava channels that reach up to 7,000 kilometers long, and there are also associated rift systems — where the crust is pulling apart — up to 10,000 kilometers long.
If LIP-style volcanism was the cause of the great climate change event on Venus, then could similar climate change happen on Earth? We can imagine a scenario many millions of years in the future when multiple LIPs randomly occurring at the same time could cause Earth to have such runaway climate change leading to conditions like present-day Venus.
Disclosure statement: Richard Ernst receives relevant funding from a Canadian government grant (NSERC Discovery program), and a Russian government grant (Mega-Grant program).
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
By James Renwick
Climate Explained is a collaboration between The Conversation, Stuff and the New Zealand Science Media Centre to answer your questions about climate change.
If you have a question you'd like an expert to answer, please send it to [email protected]
Earth had several periods of high carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and high temperatures over the last several million years. Can you explain what caused these periods, given that there was no burning of fossil fuels or other sources of human created carbon dioxide release during those times?
Burning fossil fuels or vegetation is one way to put carbon dioxide into the air – and it is something we have become very good at. Humans are generating nearly 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year, mostly by burning fossil fuels.
Carbon dioxide stays in the air for centuries to millennia and it builds up over time. Since we began the systematic use of coal and oil for fuel, around 300 years ago, the amount of carbon dioxide in the air has gone up by almost half.
Apart from the emissions we add, carbon dioxide concentrations in the air go up and down as part of the natural carbon cycle, driven by exchanges between the air, the oceans and the biosphere (life on earth), and ultimately by geological processes.
Natural Changes in Carbon Dioxide
Every year, carbon dioxide concentrations rise and fall a little as plants grow in spring and summer and die off in the autumn and winter. The timing of this seasonal rise and fall is tied to northern hemisphere seasons, as most of the land surface on Earth is there.
The oceans also play an active role in the carbon cycle, contributing to variations over a few months to slow shifts over centuries. Ocean water takes up carbon dioxide directly in an exchange between the air and seawater. Tiny marine plants use carbon dioxide for photosynthesis and many microscopic marine organisms use carbon compounds to make shells. When these marine micro-organisms die and sink to the seafloor, they take the carbon with them.
Collectively, the biosphere (ecosystems on land and in soils) and the oceans are absorbing about half of all human-emitted carbon dioxide, and this slows the rate of climate change. But as the climate continues to change and the oceans warm up further, it is not clear whether the biosphere and oceans will continue absorbing such a large fraction of our emissions. As water warms, it is less able to absorb carbon dioxide, and as the climate changes, many ecosystems become stressed and are less able to photosynthesise carbon dioxide.
Earth’s Deep Climate History
On time scales of hundreds of thousands to millions of years, carbon dioxide concentrations in the air have varied hugely, and so has global climate.
This long-term carbon cycle involves the formation and decay of the Earth's surface itself: tectonic plate activity, the build-up and weathering of mountain chains, prolonged volcanic activity, and the emergence of new seafloor at active mid-ocean faults.
Most of the carbon stored in the Earth's crust is in the form of limestone, created from the carbon-based shells of marine organisms that sank to the ocean floor millions of year ago.
Carbon dioxide is added to the air when volcanoes erupt, and it is taken out of the air as rocks and mountain ranges weather and wear down. These processes typically take millions of years to add or subtract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
In the present day, volcanoes add only a little carbon dioxide to the air, around 1% of what human activity is currently contributing. But there have been times in the past where volcanic activity has been vastly greater and has spewed large amounts of carbon dioxide into the air.
An example is around 250 million years ago, when prolonged volcanic activity raised atmospheric carbon dioxide levels dramatically. These were volcanic eruptions on a vast scale - lasting for around two million years and causing a mass extinction.
In the more recent geological past, the past 50 million years, carbon dioxide levels have been gradually dropping overall and the climate has been cooling, with some ups and downs. Once carbon dioxide concentrations became low enough (around 300 parts per million) between two and three million years ago, the current ice age cycle began, but the warming our emissions are causing is larger than the natural cooling trend.
While Earth's climate has changed significantly in the past, it happened on geological time scales. The carbon in the oil and coal we burn represents carbon dioxide taken up by vegetation hundreds of millions of years ago and then deposited through geological processes over millennia. We have burned a significant proportion within a few centuries.
If human emissions of carbon dioxide continue to increase through this century, we could reach levels not seen for tens of millions of years, when Earth had a much warmer climate with much higher sea levels and no ice sheets.
James Renwick is a Professor, Physical Geography (climate science) at Te Herenga Waka — Victoria University of Wellington.
Disclosure statement: James Renwick receives funding from the NZ Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment. He is affiliated with the NZ Climate Change Commission.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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Let's take a look at the best dry herb vaporizers. Our goal here is to help you find the right portable vaporizer that you can discretely carry to smoke the herb of your choice. Whether buying to use with hemp flower or a more THC-heavy cannabis strain, we can help you find the handheld heating chamber most likely to produce a boundless flow of quality vapor.
We understand there's a big market for desktop vaporizers. And if battery life is a big concern, it's always nice to be connected to a wall for long sessions. But here we are talking about the mighty and small devices you can carry with you. These you can count on for a smooth vape experience.
As you read this, keep in mind there are a number of ways to ingest CBD or THC that don't require smoking or inhaling vapor. Oils, gummies, and capsules may be a better way to take certain cannabinoids. With that in mind, our round-up of the best dry herb vaporizers for sale online.
Top 5 Best Dry Herb Vaporizer List
The PAX 3 heats up to deliver smoke within 15 seconds, and consequent heat-ups come quickly too. That's what makes this product a standout. It keeps heat and gets you to good faster than most dry herb vapes. Pax is a brand known for its vapor quality and durable vape bodies. The brand's portable devices use a conduction heating system and a strong 3500 mAh battery, which will last about ten sessions. Keep in mind, quick heat means the potential for burnt herb, so pay attention as you get started.
Why Buy: works with dry herb and concentrates; comes with a 10-year warranty; connects to your phone via bluetooth; and comes with a free acrylic grinder
The DaVinci IQ2 Dry Herb Vaporizer touts better airflow and stronger, faster conduction heating than previous models from the brand. Plus, the anodized aluminum shell is built for durability—whether you're tossing your vape in the center console or in a book bag on the way out the door. The Davinci IQ also promises quick heat ups and a high-quality experience for all vapers when compared to the harsh hit of the water pipes of yesteryear.
Why Buy: adjustable airflow; reasonable price point; strong build quality; replaceable battery; and dual use, meaning its swappable between dry herb and concentrate
Arizer is the best dry herb vaporizer for smoking flower. Where the picks above are great for flower and concentrates, the dual use design of the Arizer Solo 2 is built to be easy to clean. You can pull the glass mouthpiece and tube from the vape to soak in alcohol, which makes it easy to return the vaping experience to new after consistent use. With solid air path and the higher temperatures you want out of a portable vape, the Arizer Solo II beats an old bubbler or desktop vape any day.
Why Buy: lifetime warranty on the heating element, and a 2-Year warranty covering the vape device, excluding the replaceable battery; ease of use; hybrid heating, but mainly convection heating; comparable to the Firefly 2; multiple temperature settings
The Storz & Bickel VOLCANO is a legendary desktop vaporizer. This handheld device from the famous vape brand is a sweet addition to the line. The Plenty comes with three screens, a liquid pad, cleaning brush, Storz & Bickel grinder, user's manual for ease of use, and more. It's lightweight and silent for discrete use, and has an adjustable temperature dial. It also looks pretty cool.
Why Buy: best portable vaporizer for liquid concentrates; trusted brand with a history of quality; curled vapor path; full suite of accessories included
With precise temperature settings burnt herb is a thing of the past. The smell, the taste, no more. The G Pen Elite can hold 3/4 of a gram in its ceramic chamber, which, the brand says, is twice most portable vaporizers. But more than the size, it's that high-quality ceramic body that matters. Unlike stainless steel products, this crafty design keeps herb from catching fire.
Why Buy: USB charger; precision temperature settings; quality accessory options; durable ceramic design
How we evaluated portable dry herb vaporizers?
The dab, the bong, that dingy old water pipe smelling up the closet—those are the days of old.
Today the portable vape market is full of options that can be difficult to understand. Convection versus conduction, glass mouthpiece versus stainless steel, which is best?
To make this list we looked at price. We were willing to pay for quality and bluetooth connectivity, but a pocketable product should be affordable—no matter how precise they promise the preset temperature control is.
After price, we read a lot of customer takes on battery life and the accessories, including the charger that came with each product.
The difference between convection heating and conduction heating is interesting in sixth grade science—but more relevant today in the context of how quickly we can heat up material. And if we want it hot fast (conduction) or to not burn up (convection).
Brands are important. We started with brands with a track record. But when it comes down to it we're trying to vaporize marijuana or hemp flower, so portability, air flow, and ease of use were more important.
At 40% bioavailability (more or less), vaporizing flower an effective way to get a daily dose of your favorite flower. But smoking shouldn't be taken lightly. Make sure the product you're inhaling is worth the potential damage to your lungs. Like anything we put into our bodies, particularly something that can directly affect organs as important as our lungs, users should weigh the benefits and risks before buying a portable vaporizer.
Once you have decided vaping is right for you, think about ease of use, how easy a product is to clean, and how quickly it heats material. Maybe temperature control is important to you. Maybe you wand something super portable and discrete. either way, we hope this guide to the best dry herb vaporizers for sale online was helpful.
The excess carbon dioxide emitted by human activity since the start of the industrial revolution has already raised the Earth's temperature by more than one degree Celsius, increased the risk of extreme hurricanes and wildfires and killed off more than half of the corals in the Great Barrier Reef. But geologic history shows that the impacts of greenhouse gases could be much worse.
In fact, scientists from Scotland's University of Saint Andrews and two major German research centers have for the first time determined a "conclusive picture" of the initial trigger and subsequent processes responsible for Earth's biggest mass extinction. The answer? Massive amounts of carbon dioxide spewed into the atmosphere from a volcanic eruption.
"We are dealing with a cascading catastrophe in which the rise of CO2 in the atmosphere set off a chain of events that successively extinguished almost all life in the seas," study lead author Dr. Hana Jurikova told The Independent.
The study, published in Nature Geoscience Monday, sought to understand the mechanisms behind an event known as the "Great Dying," the University of Saint Andrews explained in a press release. This was a period around 252 million years ago between the Permian and Triassic epochs in which 95 percent of marine species were wiped out within tens of thousands of years. It is the closest life on Earth has come to total extinction.
Scientists have advanced many theories for what caused this turn of events, including a release of methane from the seafloor and volcanic activity, but this is the first time a group has determined the exact cause, the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, one of the research centers involved in the new study, said.
The extinction process went something like this, as Saint Andrews explained.
- A volcanic eruption in what is now Siberia sent 100,000 billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere.
- This release led to ocean acidification and warming, which was especially deadly to marine life that requires calcium carbonate for their shells and skeletons.
- The atmospheric warming increased the rates of chemical weathering on land.
- This caused more nutrients to run off into the ocean, depleting it of oxygen and perhaps also poisoning it with sulphide.
"It took several hundreds of thousands to millions of years for the ecosystem to recover from the catastrophe, which profoundly altered the course of evolution of life on Earth," Jurikova said.
The researchers, who also included members of the Helmholtz Centre Potsdam GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, were able to reach their conclusions by examining the shells of fossil brachiopods.
"These are clam-like organisms that have existed on Earth for more than 500 million years," Jurikova explained in the GEOMAR press release.
The researchers were able to assess the pH levels in the ocean based on the different isotopes of boron in the fossilized shells. Because oceanic pH levels are tightly linked to atmospheric carbon dioxide, the team could then create a model of the atmosphere at the time.
"With this technique, we can not only reconstruct the evolution of the atmospheric CO2 concentrations, but also clearly trace it back to volcanic activity," study coauthor Dr. Marcus Gutjahr of GEOMAR said in the press release.
The amount of carbon dioxide released by the Siberian volcano was more than 40 times all the carbon dioxide currently held in fossil fuel reserves, including everything that has been released since the start of the industrial revolution, according to Saint Andrews.
Still, the researchers told The Independent that the study offered "bleak lessons" for humanity as we face the sixth mass extinction.
"Ancient volcanic eruptions of this kind are not directly comparable to anthropogenic carbon emissions, and in fact all modern fossil fuel reserves are far too insufficient to release as much CO2 over hundreds of years, let alone thousands of years as was released 252 million years ago," Jurikova told The Independent. "But it is astonishing that humanity's CO2 emission rate is currently fourteen times higher than the annual emission rate at the time that marked the greatest biological catastrophe in Earth's history."
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A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.
"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."
The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.
My god, White Island volcano in New Zealand erupted today for first time since 2001. My family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it. Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable. #whiteisland pic.twitter.com/QJwWi12Tvt— Michael Schade (@sch) December 9, 2019
Michael Schade / Twitter
At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.
The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.
Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.
"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."
Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.
Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.
"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.
"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."
The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.
Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.
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By Maria Trimarchi and Sarah Gleim
If all the glaciers and ice caps on the planet melted, global sea level would rise by about 230 feet. That amount of water would flood nearly every coastal city around the world [source: U.S. Geological Survey]. Rising temperatures, melting arctic ice, drought, desertification and other catastrophic effects of climate change are not examples of future troubles — they are reality today. Climate change isn't just about the environment; its effects touch every part of our lives, from the stability of our governments and economies to our health and where we live.
Where would you go if, say, a flood devastated the city you live in? Millions of people around the world have been forced to answer this question. In 2017, 68.5 million people were displaced — more than at any point in human history, according to the Brookings Institute. More than one-third of those were uprooted by sudden weather events, including floods, forest fires and intense storms. A 2018 report from the World Bank, which focused on three regions — Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America — found that without tangible climate action, more than 143 million people in just these three areas will be forced to move to escape the impacts of climate change by 2050.
But more than 1 billion people worldwide will live in countries with insufficient infrastructure to withstand climate change by 2050. The Pacific Islands are expected to be affected especially hard. Sea level there is already rising at almost 0.5 inches per year. Eight islands have already been submerged and two more are close to vanishing. By the year 2100, experts fear 48 more islands in the Pacific will be completely underwater.
So what about the people who live there? What do we call these people who will be displaced? It's actually complicated. It's difficult to determine what category these migrants should fall under because no global definition exists. Why does that matter? Without a standard method of classification, there's no way to track how many people are affected or displaced by an environmental or climate event. So the most commonly used term is "environmental refugee."
Experts credit the term and its definition to UN Environment Program (UNEP) researcher Essam El-Hinnawi, who in 1985 wrote the United Nations report titled "Environmental Refugees." El-Hinnawi defined environmental refugees as:
... those people who have been forced to leave their traditional habitat, temporarily or permanently, because of a marked environmental disruption (natural and/or triggered by people) that jeopardized their existence and/or seriously affected the quality of their life.
This working definition has been the baseline for current debate.
But according to the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention, a refugee "is someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion" [source: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees]. Environmental refugees do not legally fall under this status.
Why environmental refugees flee their homes is a complicated mixture of environmental degradation and desperate socioeconomic conditions. People leave their homes when their livelihoods and safety are jeopardized. What effects of climate change put them in jeopardy? Climate change triggers, among other problems, desertification and drought, deforestation, land degradation, rising sea levels, floods, more frequent and more extreme storms, earthquakes, volcanoes, food insecurity and famine.
The September 2020 Ecological Threat Register Report, by the Institute for Economics & Peace, predicts the hardest hit populations will be:
- Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa
- Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Chad, India and Pakistan (which are among the world's least peaceful countries)
- Pakistan, Ethiopia and Iran are most at risk for mass displacements
- Haiti faces the highest risk of all countries in Central America and the Caribbean
- India and China will be among countries experiencing high or extreme water stress
The report also suggests that developed countries like the United States and regions like Europe are not immune. "The European refugee crisis in the wake of wars in Syria and Iraq in 2015 saw 2 million people flee to Europe and highlights the link between rapid population shifts with political turbulence and social unrest." Developed countries including Sweden, Norway, Ireland face little to no threat, the report found.
Climate change does not impact all people and all parts of the world in the same way. While floods ravage some areas, deserts are spreading in others. Desertification and depleted resources, including shortages of water and fertile land, are long-term consequences of climate change. But one of the biggest threats will be food insecurity.
"Ecological threats and climate change pose serious challenges to global peacefulness," Steve Killelea, founder and executive chairman of the Institute for Economics and Peace said in the in the 2020 Ecological Threat Report. "Over the next 30 years, lack of access to food and water will only increase without urgent global cooperation. In the absence of action civil unrest, riots and conflict will most likely increase. COVID-19 is already exposing gaps in the global food chain."
The report suggests global demand for food will increase by 50 percent by 2050. That means if there's no increase in food supply, many people could starve or be forced to flee in search of food. Currently, more than 2 billion people around the world are already food insecure.
When faced with the decision to flee, most people want to stay in their own country or region. Leaving a country requires money and could mean leaving behind family; simply relocating from a rural to urban area in search of work and resources may be easier. Plus, the chance to return and resettle back home is unlikely if a family leaves their country entirely. In instances when an area is temporarily inhabitable, like after a destructive hurricane, returning home may be an option. But when coastlines — or entire islands — are underwater, the possibility of going home is out of the question.
The future impacts of climate change will disproportionately affect the world's poorest but will also pressure countries around the globe through mass migration of refugees. Adaptation and resilience will be the key to reducing displacement risk — both temporary and permanent — in the forms of early warning systems and flood-defense infrastructure, sustainable agriculture and drought-resistant crops, as well as other protections.
This story originally appeared in HowStuffWorks and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.
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International marine scientists have discovered 30 new species in the deep waters off the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador, highlighting how unique the ecosystems of the islands are as well as how little we know about the deep sea.
After Charles Darwin first visited in 1835, the Galapagos became famous for their biodiversity and for their endemic species found nowhere else in the world. Darwin, then 26, spent five weeks surveying the archipelago, reported Smithsonian Magazine.
"The natural history of these islands is eminently curious, and well deserves attention," Darwin later said, reported Smithsonian Magazine. "Most of the organic productions are aboriginal creations, found nowhere else."
At the same time, the plants and animals he studied still showed a "marked relationship" to those on the mainland, leading Darwin to form the seeds of his groundbreaking Theory of Evolution, Smithsonian Magazine said. After publishing "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection" in 1859, Darwin's theories cemented the Galapagos Islands as "hallowed scientific ground," a reputation that continues today, Smithsonian Magazine reported.
The magic is in the isolation. The removed geography of the islands from the rest of the world allowed for and forced species to adapt and evolve over time to survive their unique habitats on each island, according to WWF and Discovering Galapagos.
Even today, as conditions change, animals and plants continue to develop into new hybrids and species, adding to the islands' rich history. In 2017, a population of finches on the islands were discovered in the process of becoming a new species, reported BBC. In 2019, scientists found a species of giant tortoise on a remote Galapagos island that they hadn't seen alive for 110 years and that they'd feared extinct, reported AP News. As recently as February of this year, conservationists studied 30 giant tortoises partially descended from two extinct species, AP News reported.
"Evolution, in general, can happen very quickly," said Roger Butlin, a speciation expert talking about the finches, reported the BBC.
In the latest discovery, scientists from the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF), the Galapagos National Park Directorate, the Ocean Exploration Trust (OET) and an international team of deep-sea experts identified 30 new deep-sea invertebrate species within the Galapagos Marine Reserve. They published their results in the journal Scientific Reports and called their discoveries "the world that Darwin never saw" in a CDF press release.
The species were found on seamounts, underwater mountains that do not break the ocean's surface, the release said. Until recently, these extinct volcanoes and the flourishing communities of organisms that live on them were largely unexplored.
"The deep-sea remains as earth's last frontier, and this study provides a sneak-peak into the least known communities of the Galapagos Islands," marine scientist and study leader Pelayo Salinas de León said, reported Yahoo!
Researchers measured and observed specimens collected during one of the ROV dives. Ocean Exploration Trust / Nautilus Live
Expedition crews used state-of-the-art Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs) to explore up to depths of 3400 meters, the CDF release said. According to the release and Science Times, the new species of marine life include:
- 10 new species of bamboo corals and four new octocorals, including the first giant solitary soft coral in the Tropical Eastern Pacific;
- 1 new species of brittle star;
- 11 new sponge species; and
- 4 new species of squat lobsters.
"The many discoveries made on this expedition showcase the importance of deep-sea exploration to developing an understanding of our oceans…" OET Chief Scientist Nicole Raineault said, the CDF release stated.
According to Science Times and National Geographic, the Galapagos Marine Reserve protects these seamounts from fishing activity and deep-sea mining. The discovery came after Ecuador raised concerns about a massive Chinese fishing fleet operating on the edge of the Galapagos' protected waters, reported Al Jazeera.
Ecuador's former minister of the environment Yolanda Kakabadse told Public Radio International that the Galapagos should be "the last place on Earth to be affected by irresponsible actions of any sort," the news report said.
Salinas de León added, "These pristine seamounts are within the Galapagos Marine Reserve and are protected from destructive human practices such as fishing with bottom trawls or deep-sea mining that are known to have catastrophic impacts upon fragile communities. Now it is our responsibility to make sure they remain pristine for the generations to come," the CDF release said.
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Scientists have done the math, and human activities like burning fossil fuels and clearing forests generate as much as 100 times the carbon emissions of volcanic eruptions every year, AFP reported Tuesday.
The findings are part of a 10-year study by the Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO), a global team of around 500 scientists. In a series of papers released in the journal Elements on Tuesday, the team produced an in-depth account of the Earth's carbon.
In a DCO news release out today, scientists quantify global volcanic CO2 venting and estimate total carbon on Earth… https://t.co/y9yF7E8zjL— Deep Carbon Obsrvtry (@Deep Carbon Obsrvtry) 1569942204.0
While volcanoes and other natural processes release 0.28 to 0.36 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide per year, DCO said, human activity released more than 37 gigatonnes in 2018 alone, according to AFP. In total, annual human emissions are 40 to 100 times greater than those of volcanoes, DCO explained in a press release.
"Climate sceptics really jump on volcanoes as a possible contender for top CO2 emissions but it's simply not the case," Professor of Volcanology and Petrology and Ron Oxburgh Fellow in Earth Sciences at Queens' College, Cambridge Marie Edmonds told AFP.
The studies didn't just focus on anthropogenic carbon releases. They provided a general account of where all of the Earth's carbon is stored and how it moves through the environment, as BBC News explained. What they found is that the vast majority of Earth's 1.85 billion gigatonnes of carbon is below ground, with two thirds in the core. Only 43,500 billion tonnes (approximately 47,951 U.S. tons) are above ground in the oceans, land and atmosphere. This represents just two-tenths of one percent of Earth's carbon.
The researchers also investigated geological history in order to understand how carbon has moved through the Earth's systems over time. They found that, for the most part over the past 500 million years, the planet has drawn down as much carbon into the ground as it has released, maintaining balance. However, there were a few notable exceptions, as Eos explained:
In the past 500 million years, four volcanic eruptions created large igneous provinces (LIPs) that each released massive quantities of CO2 over tens of thousands of years. These LIPs caused the above-ground quantity of CO2 to spike to about 170% of its steady state value, which led to warmer surface conditions, more acidic oceans, and mass extinctions.
Likewise, large impact events, including the Chicxulub impact 65 million years ago, released large quantities of carbon from the subsurface into the atmosphere.
The Chicxulub impact is the event that likely drove the dinosaurs to extinction, and what's worrying is that human activity is actually releasing carbon dioxide at a slightly higher rate today, Eos reported.
"It's really revealing that the amount of carbon dioxide we're emitting in a short time period is very close to the magnitude of those previous catastrophic carbon events," Dr. Celina Suarez from the University of Arkansas told BBC News. "A lot of those ended in mass extinctions, so there are good reasons why there is discussion now that we might be in a sixth mass extinction."
While Earth's systems did eventually rebalance after past catastrophic carbon releases, that did not happen quickly.
"Climate deniers always say that Earth always rebalances itself," Suarez told AFP. "Well, yes it has. It will rebalance itself, but not on a timescale that is of significance to humans."
While the research is another sobering reminder of the severity of the climate crisis, it did uncover some potentially life-saving information: Volcanoes often discharge certain gasses before they erupt.
"A shift in the composition of volcanic gases from smelly (akin to burnt matches) sulphur dioxide (SO2) to a gas richer in odorless, colorless CO2 can be sniffed out by monitoring stations or drones to forewarn of an eruption—sometimes hours, sometimes months in advance," DCO explained. "Eruption early warning systems with real-time monitoring are moving ahead to exploit the CO2 to SO2 ratio discovery, first recognized with certainty in 2014."
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