10 Intriguing Finds Uncovered By Stormy Weather

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10 Intriguing Finds Uncovered By Stormy Weather


10 Intriguing Finds Uncovered By Stormy Weather

Sometimes, the stripping forces of nature remind us how much incredible stuff is still out there. Whether artifacts are deeply under sand or sea or sitting shallow, wild weather can reveal them in one powerful sweep. On occasion, storms raze the landscape and unmask rare, bizarre, or historical finds, saving archaeologists and fossil hunters a lot of time and funds.

10World War II Fat


Photo credit: Scottish Natural Heritage via LiveScience

For decades, lard from a World War II shipwreck has appeared on the beach after heavy storms at St. Cyrus, Scotland. Most recently, four chunks washed up, still retaining the barrel shapes of their long-gone wooden kegs.

The odd war relics started appearing during World War II after a merchant ship was bombed and sunk nearby. It’s believed that the wreck systematically breaks up with each storm, releasing a little bit more of its fatty cargo.

Locals are well familiar with the sight and claim that the fat is good enough to use despite being crusted with barnacles. The large lumps were a godsend during the war when lard was unavailable to most people.


9Baile Sear


Photo credit: The Megalithic Portal

In 2005, a violent storm hit Scotland. Tragically, it killed five members of the same family on Benbecula, but it also swept clean ruins that had been hiding for 2,000 years. Residents have always accepted that there was something old on the shores of Baile Sear, but the cobbles and sand obscured the remains too much to allow identification.

After the storm, people were stunned to find the structures just standing there on the beach. Fearing that the unknown beach ruins might get destroyed in another powerful storm, archaeologists moved in quickly. They identified the site as two roundhouses belonging to the Iron Age.

8Alabama Shipwreck


Photo credit: The Huffington Post

Revealed bit by bit by three different hurricanes, an Alabama ship hull was finally picked clean when Hurricane Isaac hit the coast. With sad-looking bare ribs, the remaining skeleton doesn’t look like much.

However, there are two mysteries swirling around the sagging ship. The first is her identity. Local historians believe that she is a World War I schooner named the Rachel. Others believe that she’s an unknown vessel from before the Civil War.

But if she is the Rachel, then a second mystery can be considered. What exactly was her cargo? She was built to carry lumber, but she operated during Prohibition.

Constructed during the war, the three-mast, 45-meter-long (150 ft) wooden ship was destroyed during a stormy voyage in 1923. Her crew burned her onshore after the cargo (rumored to be illegal booze) was removed.


7The Connacht Storms


Photo credit: The Irish Times

Storms mauled the Irish coastline of Connacht in 2014, resulting in an archaeological tragedy with a silver lining. Valuable historical treasures were damaged or lost while intriguing new ones were unearthed. Two graveyards, which are part of a medieval monastery found in the 1990s, creepily came to the surface. Other discoveries included sunken houses from the 18th and 19th centuries and a 6,000-year-old Neolithic bog.

In this case, however, nature also took away. Middens are shell heaps that are basically ancient kitchen waste. They give us clues about what our ancestors ate and what their lifestyles were like. All the coastal midden deposits from Galway Bay to Dog’s Bay were lost, including the most ancient site dating back to the late Mesolithic period.

6World War II Bombs


Photo credit: Daily Mail

In 2014, unusually heavy storms in the UK caused the flooding of the Thames. It also revealed a sinister scene when tides and winds uncovered the location of 244 World War II bombs. Many of them still live, they littered the one location where travel guides tell you to go and have fun—the beach.

Some were German, and others were from British training sessions. Buried for a long time, the bombs started appearing around mid-December when the weather went werewolf. Nearly every day, phone calls alerted the Royal Navy’s Southern Dive Unit of the discovery of another bomb.

The unit safely disposed of the shells, but there could still be many out there. The previous year, another 108 were removed from British beaches for the public’s safety. The really chilling part is that the longer they remain live under the sand, the more unstable these literal time bombs become.

5Mystery Mill


Photo credit:

A historical piece of South Carolina’s past came to light after floods ravaged Richland County. State archaeologists fell out of the woodwork to examine timber beams and steel nails discovered after the waters withdrew. The discovery is exciting because these are the first real clues to emerge at a known archaeological site.

Until the centuries-old wood was found, the creek was believed to be the location of Garner’s Mill. But the mill is a hazy part of the county’s past. Experts don’t know what it produced, and the early 18th-century community to which it belonged is also a mystery.

The 1-ton beams were uncovered after violent flooding forced them from their resting place under the soil. As to their purpose, they could have been a plank road, one that led as far as Winnsboro or to a long-gone bridge.


4Valuable Ichthyosaur


Photo credit: BBC News

Christmas in Dorset offered a rare gift to fossil hunters. The bones of an ichthyosaur uncovered during a coastal storm in 2014 proved to be exceptional. Depending on how you view it, the ichthyosaur can be adorable or scary.

Reaching a size of 1.5 meters (5 ft), it resembled a dolphin but was actually a predatory marine reptile. Complete remains for this species aren’t common, so this discovery turned into a five-star moment when it became clear that the skeleton was only missing a part of its snout.

But professional fossil hunters realized that the ichthyosaur was in danger of being lost because another powerful storm was approaching. Since fossils need to be painstakingly removed over a period of days or weeks, the eight-hour excavation was almost like emergency surgery. Shortly before the storm was due, the 200-million-year-old predator was lifted to safety.

3The Galway Finds


Photo credit: The Irish Times

After storms lashed the Irish coastline of Galway, a haunting landscape rose from antiquity. Around 7,500 years ago, waters rose so fast that they killed off a large forest of oak, pine, and birch trees. The recent weather revealed the petrified tree stumps, some of which were almost a century old when they died.

A massive blanket of peat—once organic matter from the forest floor—was also revealed. Then a resident found a wooden artifact about 1.5 meters (5 ft) by 1 meter (3 ft) under the peat.

Once examined, it was identified as an oak trackway dating back as far as 4,500 years ago. It was also tantalizing proof that a Neolithic or Bronze Age people lived in the forest before Galway Bay was even formed. This might even be older than the Corlea trackway, an Iron Age construction and the largest of its kind ever found in Europe.

2Underwater Forest


A short distance off the coast of Alabama sits a time capsule. Under oxygen-free sea sediments, a primeval forest has been preserved for a cool 50,000 years. Hurricane Katrina shifted the sands and revealed the stumps of a vast bald cypress landscape.

The remains are truly massive and so well-preserved that one can smell the fresh cypress sap when cutting them. Some trunks are 2 meters (7 ft) wide and hold thousands of years of growth rings. These are invaluable to researchers because they contain thousands of years of weather history for the Gulf of Mexico.

The submerged forest’s wildlife is also somewhat different than it used to be. Fish, crustaceans, and sea anemones are abundant. It is feared that the pristine state of the trees won’t last, not even as long as a few years. Since the forest became an artificial reef, marine life is slowly destroying the wood with its burrowing.

1The Tree Teenager


Photo credit:

After a coastal storm toppled a 215-year-old tree in Ireland, its roots weregripping the skeleton of a murdered medieval teenager. By chance, someone had planted the beech tree on the grave around 1800 and it grew down into the youth’s remains. When the tree crashed, the root system tore off the top half of the body and lifted it from the grave while the rest remained behind.

The bones tell quite a story. Between 17 and 20 years old, the young man ate well enough to have belonged to the upper crust. Yet he already had spinal disease from performing physical labor since a very young age.

He attempted but failed to fight off a violent death. Two nicks to his ribs fit with knife stabs. The strongest evidence that a blade caused the teen’s death was a clear stab wound to his left hand, as if he was trying to ward off his attacker.


What’s the Largest Waterfall in the World?

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What’s the Largest Waterfall in the World?

What's the Largest Waterfall in the World?

Angel Falls is the loftiest falls on land. Buckle up!

Credit: Alice Nerr /

The tallest waterfall in the world is Venezuela’s Angel Falls, which plunges 3,212 feet (979 meters), according to the National Geographic Society. The falls descend over the edge of Auyán-Tepuí, which means Devil’s Mountain, a flat-topped elevated area of land with sheer cliff sides located in Canaima National Park in the Bolivar State of Venezuela.

Angel Falls is named after an American explorer and bush pilot, Jimmy Angel, who crashed his plane on Auyán-Tepuí in 1937. The waterfall is fed by the Churún River, which spills over the edge of the mountain, barely touching the cliff face. The height of the fall is so great that the stream of water atomizes into a cloud of mist, then trickles back together at the bottom of the plunge and continues on through a cascading run of rapids.

Angel Falls’ total height, which is more than a half-mile (almost 1 kilometer), includes both the free-falling plunge and a stretch of steep rapids at its base. But even discounting these rapids, the falls’ long uninterrupted drop of 2,648 feet (807 m) is still a record breaker and is around 15 times the height of North America’s Niagara Falls, according to the World Waterfall Database, a website maintained by waterfall enthusiasts. [See Stunning 360-Degree Views of Spectacular Victoria Falls (Video)]

However, Angel Falls is only the tallest waterfall on land. Technically, the largest known waterfall lies underwater, between Greenland and Iceland. The Denmark Strait cataract is more than three times the height of Angel Falls, dropping water a whopping 11,500 feet (3,505 m).

Photo: Steve Allen/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Denmark Strait (between Greenland and Iceland) in the North Atlantic Ocean

  • The world’s biggest underwater waterfall is located in the Denmark Strait between Greenland and Iceland. Arctic water from the Greenland Sea drops precipitously into the depths of the (slightly less chilly) Irminger Sea.
  • The amazing thing about the Denmark Strait cataract is that it dwarfs anything you’d see above the waves. Its water drops almost 11,500 feet, more than three times the height of Angel Falls in Venezuela, normally considered Earth’s tallest waterfall. And the amount of water it carries is estimated at 175 million cubic feet of water per second. That’s equivalent to almost two thousand Niagaras at their peak flow.

Niagara Falls span the border between the United States and Canada. Though remarkably wide, Niagara is not the tallest or highest-volume waterfall in the world.

Credit: Sayran Dreamstime

The underwater waterfall is formed by the temperature difference between the water on each side of the Denmark Strait. When the colder, denser water from the east meets the warmer, lighter water from the west, the cold water flows down and underneath the warm water.The Denmark Strait cataract is also the the top waterfall in terms of volume, carrying 175 million cubic feet (5.0 million cubic meters) of water. Back on land, pinpointing the largest waterfall is a little trickier because there is no universal standard for designating what counts as a waterfall, according to the World Waterfalls Database.

Some waterfalls consist of a single, sheer drop; others include a gentler cascade over rapids; and still others involve a combination of the two (like Angel Falls).

The World Waterfalls Database lists Inga Falls, an area of rapids on the Congo River, as the waterfall with the largest volume. More than 11 million gallons (46 million liters) of water flow through Inga Falls each second. However, without a significant vertical drop, Inga Falls may not count as a waterfall under other classifications.

Of waterfalls that do include a vertical drop, the waterfall with the greatest volume is the 45-foot-tall (14 meters) Khone Falls, on the border between Laos and Cambodia. Spilling 2.5 million gallons (9.5 million liters) of the Mekong River every second, Khone Falls’ flow is nearly double the volume of Niagara Falls.

This article was first published on Aug. 10, 2010. Live Science writer Kacey Deamer contributed to an update of this article.

Here Are the Trees That Will Start to Vanish Because of Climate Change

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Here Are the Trees That Will Start to Vanish Because of Climate Change

Yesterday 8:30pm

The natural world is changing in significant ways thanks to human-caused climate change. While some species are flourishing, others are already gone forever. Now scientists are looking specifically at how US forests will transform due to the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Bye, Eastern hemlock, it was nice knowing ya.

Researchers at the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) did some modeling to see what the forests of a warmed planet might look like. Studying forests in three different parts of the Appalachians—Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (Pennsylvania and New Jersey), Shenandoah National Park (Virginia), and Great Smoky Mountains National Park (North Carolina and Tennessee)—they used current climate models to simulate future conditions, if emissions increase at the rate they’re expected to. It’s not just warmer temperatures that will affect which trees grow, but also an extended growing season and potential for increased drought.

Habitat loss and gain for trees the Great Smokey Mountains

Eastern hemlock and most maples, which like cool weather and moist soils, will lose habitat dramatically, while most hickories, Black cherry, and Blackjack oak will proliferate. There will also be changes in which trees will be found at different elevations, meaning mountains will lose evergreens like firs and spruces which not only help keep temperatures cool, but also are more resistant to wildfire.

There’s also something that humans did many years ago which has already made these forests less resilient in the face of climate shifts—cutting so many of them down. The US has about 30 percent less forested land than it did in 1630, and many of the current forested areas are filled with younger trees, which are far less diverse. “There are hardly any forests in the eastern US that have never been cleared—maybe only a few percent,” said WHRC’s Patrick Jantz, “And younger, re-growing forests tend to have less structural complexity and different species assemblages.”

Who could have guessed that climate change is only partially to blame for changing the habitats of our trees? The fate of our future forests was sealed when pioneers started clearcutting the country so many centuries ago.


Someone Is Finally Trying to Stop This Underground Garbage Fire That’s Burned for Six Years

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Someone Is Finally Trying to Stop This Underground Garbage Fire That’s Burned for Six Years

Yesterday 4:42pm
Someone Is Finally Trying to Stop This Underground Garbage Fire That's Burned for Six Years
Image: A view of the landfill burning in February 2014 / Kqueirolomce

For six years, an underground garbage fire has been steadily burning outside of Saint Louis, Missouri, right next to a landfill filled with nuclear waste buried in the mid-70s. So why hasn’t anyone managed to extinguish it yet?

The AP reports that the EPA handed down a series of measures designed to stem the fire, including temperature monitors, cooling loops, and a giant smothering tarp. Those new measures aren’t being instituted because the fire has spread closer to the nearby waste site, officials said. Rather, the measures are merely to make sure it doesn’t.

But what’s going on with this fire, and why isn’t it just being put out? The problem is that no one seems to have a plan for how to extinguish it. In fact, nobody even knows what’s causing the fire.

The state of Missouri sued the burning landfill owners, Republic Services, three years ago, but the case is stuck in court. Even the EPA’s newest measures still wouldn’t actually put out the fire. They would merely keep it from spreading. What happens if the fire does spread, despite the efforts?

The answer is unclear. Last year, EPA officials told residents that even if the fire did spread to the waste, it was unlikely to be dangerous. However, agency scientists also issued a report admitting that they didn’t really know exactly what else was buried along with the nuclear waste all those decades ago.

Since no one seems to have had any luck in figuring out how to put out the fire yet, the idea of just digging up and moving the waste has also been floated. The EPA’s decision about whether it will actually do that, however, isn’t set to come down for another year. So for now, the fire continues to burn.

The Oceans Are Running Low on Oxygen

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The Oceans Are Running Low on Oxygen

Yesterday 12:50pm
The Oceans Are Running Low on Oxygen
Gas bubbles from a deep ocean vent. Image: Wikipedia

File this under definitely not good: global warming is depleting the oceans of oxygen. You know, that little molecule that we, along with all other complex life forms, require in order to breathe and therefore live.

The reason is simple. According to basic thermodynamics, cold water can hold more dissolved gases than warm water. As our ever-warming atmosphere heats the surface of the ocean, the oxygen content starts to fall. Also, as water warms, it expands and gets lighter. This makes it less likely to sink, which in turn reduces the transport of oxygen from the atmosphere into the deep ocean.

All of this is well-established science. It’s also understood that the oxygen content of the ocean varies all the time due to changes in weather, seasons, latitude, and longer-term climate patterns like El Niño. But a study published this week in Global Biogeochemical Cycles is the first to show that the oxygen content of the world’s oceans is now falling thanks to climate change.

“For a lot of the tropics, this decline is actually starting now,” Matthew Long, an oceanographer at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and lead author on the study told Gizmodo.

The Oceans Are Running Low on Oxygen
Map showing when the signal for deoxygenation due to global warming becomes visible in the ocean, with blues indicating areas where a signal is already being seen. Gray regions show no predicted oxygen loss by the end of the century. Image: Matthew Long

Long used supercomputer simulations to model ocean oxygen concentrations from 1920 to 2100, and to tease out natural variability from a global warming signal. As he pointed out, that signal is already visible in the southern Indian Ocean and the eastern tropical Pacific. By the 2040s, Long’s models predict that evidence for ocean deoxygenation will be widespread.

The fall in oxygen concentrations may be small—in some cases, it amounts to just a few percent. But for many organisms including humans, a little deoxygenation is the difference between enjoying life and being dizzy, lethargic, or dead. And remember, we’ve already seen how this can play out in the oceans—just look at the 6,500 square-mile dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, caused by algae blooms that aggressively choke out sunlight and and oxygen.

The entire ocean isn’t going to choke. But if Long’s models are even close to correct, we will start seeing more low oxygen (hypoxic) waters, and more dead zones, reducing the amount of habitat for animals that are already feeling the stresses of global warming, pollution, and ocean acidification.

“I think it’s a major concern that ocean ecosystems will become more fragmented, that there will increasing be barriers to dispersal, and that certain areas will become uninhabitable,” Long said.

And if a bunch of fish out of water sounds like something that’s not your problem, consider this: about half of the oxygen we breath comes from tiny marine organisms called phytoplankton. As Slate’s Phil Plait puts it, “messing with their habitat is like setting fire to your own house. Which is pretty much what we’re doing.”

Here’s hoping Elon Musk comes through on that promise to get us to Mars soon.

Maddie is a staff writer at Gizmodo

These Are the Most Serious Catastrophic Threats Faced by Humanity

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These Are the Most Serious Catastrophic Threats Faced by Humanity

Yesterday 4:23pm
These Are the Most Serious Catastrophic Threats Faced by Humanity
Image: Fallout/Bethesda Game Studios

Oxford’s Global Priorities Project has compiled a list of catastrophes—both natural and self-inflicted—that could kill off 10 percent or more of the human population. It’s a real buzzkill of a report and it says that any of these catastrophes could happen within the next five years.

Titled “Global Catastrophic Risks 2016,” the report ranks the most dangerous threats facing our civilization according to probability. The likeliest risks include nuclear war and pandemics (both natural and deliberately engineered), followed by disasters stemming from runaway climate change, geoengineering run amok, and disruptions posed by artificial intelligence. The report also included low-probability—but high impact—events, like asteroid impacts and supervolcanic eruptions.

The Global Priorities Project defines a global catastrophic risk as “events or processes that would lead to the deaths of approximately a tenth of the world’s population, or have a comparable impact.” These hazards are qualitatively distinct from existential risks, which are severe enough to wipe out all humans. Though not as apocalyptic, catastrophic risks are still grave events with serious global consequences. In the new report, researcher Sebastian Farquhar and colleagues warn that some of these perils are more likely than we realize, and that governments aren’t doing what’s necessary to mitigate the risks, or plan for their outcome.

Global catastrophic risks are exceptionally rare, but they do happen. For example, the Justinian Plague of 541-542 AD killed as many as 17 percent of the world’s population. More recently, the Spanish Flu of 1918-19 killed an estimated 10 percent of the world’s population, which exceeded the entire death toll of the Great War that preceded it. These events are unlikely in any given decade, which probably explains why they tend to receive limited attention.

These Are the Most Serious Catastrophic Threats Faced by Humanity
Historic plagues and pandemics. (Image: Global Priorities Project).

“But even when the probability is low, the sheer magnitude of an adverse outcome warrants taking these risks seriously,” write the authors. “A global catastrophic risk not only threatens everyone alive today, but also future generations. Reducing these risks is therefore both a global and an intergenerational public good.”

These Are the Most Serious Catastrophic Threats Faced by Humanity
Image: Global Priorities Project.

Asteroid impacts and supervolcanic eruptions made the list, but were ranked low in terms of likelihood. Other low probability events included catastrophic climate change, catastrophic disruption from artificial intelligence, and ageoengineering disaster. Pressing threats included a natural pandemic, nuclear war, and a deliberately engineered pandemic.

Looking at these rankings, the researchers got it (mostly) right, but the odds of an asteroid impact or supervolcanic eruption is exceedingly small, and almost not worthy of consideration (e.g. the odds of an asteroid striking the Earth is about 1 in 1,250 for each century, while supervolcanoes erupt about once every 30,000-50,000 years).

The risks posed by AI are probably overstated within the five-year time frame, but it’s something we should most certainly be concerned about. Likewise, a climate change catastrophe also seems unlikely within the next five years.

On the other hand, natural and human-made pandemics are definitely high-risk, high-probability events; our globalized civilization is spreading diseases faster than ever before, and our biotechnologies are making it possible to weaponize pathogens (e.g. mutating the H5N1 influenza virus to be human transmissible). Technologies like CRISPR—a powerful, cheap, and easy-to-use gene editing tool—greatly heighten the chance that a nefarious group, like Islamic State, would do such a horrible thing.

These Are the Most Serious Catastrophic Threats Faced by Humanity
Cost per genome. (Image: Global Priorities Project).

To deal with these looming problems, the authors propose a number of solutions, including nuclear non-proliferation treaties, increased planning for serious pandemics, efforts to reduce carbon emissions, and investigations into risks posed by AI and biotechnologies.

[Global Priorities Project (pdf)]

George is a contributing editor at Gizmodo and io9.

Giant holes found in Siberia could be signs of a ticking climate ‘time bomb’

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Giant holes found in Siberia could be signs of a ticking climate ‘time bomb’

siberia craters

REUTERS/Vladimir Pushkarev/Russian Centre of Arctic Exploration

When a helicopter pilot spotted the first crater in summer 2014, everyone was baffled.

The 100-foot-wide hole appeared on the Yamal Peninsula seemingly out of nowhere, during a tense season of Russian military action in Ukraine and international sanctions.

And then more appeared. Lacking a better explanation, aliens and underground missiles were floated as possible theories, according The Washington Post.

But the truth is that the holes might come from a threat not even Mulder and Scully are equipped to handle: climate change.

Scientific American reports that Arctic zones are warming at a breakneck pace, and summer 2014 was warmer than average by an alarming 9 degrees Fahrenheit, according to anotherstory in Nature. As a result, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) think that permafrost, the permanently frozen ground that covers the tundra, is starting to thaw in these warmer temperatures.

So how does frozen methane blow a 100-foot-wide hole in the ground?

Given low-enough temperatures and high-enough pressure, methane and water can freeze together into what’s called a “methane hydrate.” Permafrost keeps everything bottled up, but when it thaws, so does the hydrate. Methane is released as a gas, building up pressure — until the ground explodes.

Scientists gained more evidence for this theory after an expedition to the bottom of the crater. It revealed that the air had an extraordinarily high concentration of methane.

It’s not just explosions and melting permafrost that we should worry about, either. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that methane is a greenhouse gas that could have 25 times the impact of carbon dioxide over the next century.

A significant addition to methane emissions would likely have a disastrous impact on our already-troubling atmospheric warming, since it’s 21 times better at trapping heat, according to Live Science.

Several outlets have even gone so far as to call this problem a “time bomb.”

And it gets worse: One of the craters is just 6 miles from a natural-gas field. The Siberian Times reported that the combination of the two flammable materials in such close proximity is a huge safety concern for the area. At least two of the craters have since turned into lakes.

There may be an alternate explanation, though. Land can collapse without a burst of methane in something called a pingo, which forms when ice is trapped between layers of earth and distorts the top layer into a sort of mound. Thawing can make those mounds suddenly collapse.

Even if the craters are the result of collapsing pingos, they’re still likely the result of climate change and still dangerous.

What’s more, Slate reports, the same thing could happen in Alaska.

Whether pingo or exploding crater, it’s clear that climate change is affecting the Arctic more rapidly than any other place on earth, but researchers are only beginning to grasp howunprecedented warming will effect northern ecosystems.

During his visit to Alaska in September 2015, US President Barack Obama echoed the common sentiment that the Arctic is “ground zero” for climate change.

These mysterious Siberian craters seem to be yet another warning sign that human-caused climate change is quickly spinning out of control, causing new and unpredictable changes along the way.