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The Amazon Rainforest Fires Turned Day Into Night in Brazil’s Largest City

Elias Marat, The Mind Unleashed
Waking Times

Brazil’s largest city was plunged into darkness earlier this week in the middle of the afternoon thanks to the massive fires that continue to wreak devastation on the Amazon rainforest as the country struggles with a record number of fires.

São Paulo’s skies were blackened for roughly an hour at around 3 p.m. Monday due to raging fires throughout the region and weather conditions that pushed particulate matter over the city, setting off intense speculation on social networks about the reason why the day was seemingly transformed into night.

Videos and images posted by local residents depicted disturbing scenes of pedestrians walking under black skies and cars driving in the mid-afternoon with their headlights on as the continued fires throughout the Amazon rainforest drove the hashtags #PrayforAmazonia and #PrayforAmazonas to worldwide viral status.

Local newspaper Folha de S.Paulo reported that some meteorologists say that strong winds from the east of the city brought the thick plumes of smoke from nearly 2,000 miles away which, combined with cold and humid coastal conditions, blackened the skies.

By Wednesday, the Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization released data showing that the smoke had drifted thousands of miles from the northwest of the Brazilian Amazon across the country over Rio de Janeiro to the country’s Atlantic coast.

A record-setting wave of forest fires have swept across the Amazon throughout the year, authorities confirmed on Tuesday, heightening global concerns about the fast-degrading state of the “lungs of the world.”

This year there have already been 72,843 fires in the Amazon, marking an increase of 83 percent over the same period in 2018—the highest number since records began in 2013, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE).

The agency said that since last Thursday, about 9,500 forest fires have erupted in the region.

Fire is typically employed by loggers, farmers and miners as a technique to clear land for agricultural use, especially during the current dry season in the region. The scope of the fires shows that they are a result of human activities according to the INPE.

Alberto Setzer from INPE told Reuters:

There is nothing abnormal about the climate this year or the rainfall in the Amazon region, which is just a little below average … The dry season creates the favorable conditions for the use and spread of fire, but starting a fire is the work of humans, either deliberately or by accident.”

The Amazon rainforest has been resistant to fire throughout its history due to its natural moisture and humidity, but according to NASA it has become susceptible to fires due to drought and human activity – primarily logging and “slash and burn” agriculture.

In a statement last Tuesday that accompanied satellite photos of the Brazil fires, the U.S. space agency said:

“Wildfires there today are caused by a combination of droughts and human activity; the intensity and frequency of droughts in turn, have been linked with increases in regional deforestation and anthropogenic [human-caused] climate change.”

Civil society groups and conservationists have blasted radically far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, whose cabinet has encouraged the illegal deforestation of the Amazon with his hostile attitude toward the environment and genocidal rhetoric toward indigenous groups whose ancestral land lies in the rainforests.

Bolsonaro and his officials regularly blame environmental laws, activist groups, non-governmental organizations and indigenous peoples for allegedly hindering Brazil’s economic potential.

The president recently lashed out at world leaders regarding what he calls their “environmental psychosis” in relation to the Amazon.

Last month, Bolsonaro accused the INPE of fabricating “lies” about the skyrocketing deforestation rate in hopes of sabotaging the country’s trade talks before sacking the agency’s chief and replacing him with a handpicked official from the military.

Philip Fearnside, a professor at Brazil’s National Institute of Amazonian Research, explained to Newsweek:

“The explosion of deforestation can be attributed both to changes in government actions, such as essentially ending inspections for illegal deforestation and fining those who are caught, and from the rhetoric from President Bolsonaro and his ministers, especially the minister of environment.

This has created a climate of impunity under the assumption that there will be no consequences for ignoring environmental regulations.”

Bolsonaro’s clear lack of concern for the burning Amazon was underscored at a press conference when he joked, “I used to be called Captain Chainsaw. Now I am Nero, setting the Amazon aflame. But it is the season of the queimada,” using the Portuguese term for the time of year when farmers clear the land with fire.

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Planet Earth

A previously unknown species of winged dinosaur very similar to a dragon discovered in China

Artistic representation of how the Wulong bohaiensis could have been. Credit: Erick Toussaint / San Diego Natural History Museum

A new species of dinosaur, a relative of Velociraptor, has shown scientists a little more about the origins of similarities and differences between the feathers of dinosaurs and birds.

The fossil belongs to a fierce dinosaur from the Cretaceous period called the “dancing dragon” who lived 120 million years ago in what is now China.

‘Dancing dragon’

Fossil of the Wulong bohaiensis. Credit: Erick Toussaint / San Diego Natural History Museum

Called Wulong Bohaiensis, It was a two-legged carnivore, a little bigger than a raven, that resided in an environment next to lakes. He had a scaly face, a mouth full of pointed teeth, a particularly dangerous toenail, and probably hunted small mammals, lizards, birds and fish.

He was gound in the Chinese province of Rehe, in northeastern China and his name translates as ‘dancing dragon’, as it refers to the articulated position in which his skeleton is.

Conserved in its entirety, the skeleton included soft tissues such as feathers, which appear together on its arms and legs, very similar to those of birds now. In addition to its four long limbs and two long feathers at the end of the tail, his body was covered by spongy filaments.

At the end of its long bone tail, fused in a rigid rod, there were 2 very long feathers.

«The Wulong specimen is a magnificent fossil. With the feathers and claws, I think it would have been beautiful and a little scary. I would love to see one alive, ”said leading research paleontologist Ashley Poust of the San Diego Natural History Museum.

Plumage differences between birds and feathered dinosaurs

A thorough examination of the bones showed that this Wulong individual was approximately one year old, that is, he was a young male still growing.

A new species of feathered dinosaur in China

This characteristic puzzled the experts, since usually the feathers appear in the adult stage. “Either the young dinosaurs needed these tail feathers for some function we don’t know, or they were cultivating their feathers very differently than most current birds”, Poust explained

Birds evolved from small feathered dinosaurs approximately 150 million years ago. But there were many feathered dinosaurs that didn’t fly, like Wulong.

Young Wulong seemed to have the plumage of an adult.

«It has long and isolated feathers that extend from its long tail. This is quite different from live birds and tells us that these decorative feathers preceded adulthood in dinosaurs. Of course, they may be using these feathers in a very different way from live birds too, ”said the expert.

Paleontologists are eager to understand many more plumage differences between birds and these feathered dinosaurs.

The finding was described in the scientific journal. The Anatomical Record.

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Planet Earth

Australia Firefighters Save the Only Wild Prehistoric Wollemi Pines on Earth

Olivia Rosane, EcoWatch
Waking Times

It looks as if firefighters in Australia have succeeded in saving a secret grove of prehistoric trees belonging to a species that dates back to the time of the dinosaurs.

The Wollemi pines once grew widely across Australia from more than 100 to 60 million years ago, The Washington Post reported. But now less than 200 remain in the wild, in a national park 125 miles northwest of Sydney.

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Planet Earth

“Huge anomalies” at the edge of the earth’s core

At the edge of the Earth’s core lie two gigantic blobs of ultrahot rock — and that’s about the extent to which geologists agree about them.

NASA PHYSICAL OCEANOGRAPHY. DISTRIBUTED ACTIVE ARCHIVE CENTER

The mysterious blobs are on opposite sides of the planet, one hidden beneath Africa, the other in the middle of the Pacific Ocean – the Quanta Magazine compared the ‘massive anomalies’ to Princess Leia’s iconic hairstyle (Star Wars).

Scientists discovered the blobs decades ago by mapping the interior of the planet, but have not learned much since.

Some ideas

There are two main schools of thought regarding the blobs, according to Quanta. The first camp holds that they’re merely massive clusters of hot plumes.

The other argues that the blobs — so big that they would drown the planet’s surface in a lava ocean over 60 miles deep — are their own distinct entity and not just a particularly warm region of the core.

Recent evidence supports the second camp: Quanta reports that scientists found traces of unique, ancient rocks and isotopes in magma that’s flowed upward from the blobs — materials nearly as old as the Earth itself and not found elsewhere on the planet.

Persistent Mystery

Still, great mystery still surrounds the deeply-buried hotspots. One theory is that they could be fragments of a Mars-sized object that crashed into the Earth.

University of Maryland seismologist Vedran Lekić told Quanta

It would be like having an object in the sky, and asking, ‘Is that the moon?’ And people are like, no. ‘Is that the sun?’ No. ‘What is it?’ We don’t know.

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