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Planet Earth

A World of Vanishing Lakes

Sarah Zielinski, smithsonianmag

From the Dead Sea to a Louisiana lake that was sucked into the Earth, the stories behind the disappearances are varied

A large body of water like a lake would seem to be a permanent fixture of the landscape, but that’s not always the case.

Some lakes naturally come and go from year to year, as the flow of water into and out of them changes throughout the months. For others, though, once they are gone, they are gone forever. Climate change is a worry for some places, such as subarctic lakes that are dependent on snowmelt.

The reasons behind lake disappearances are varied. Here are nine lakes that no longer exist or are in danger of disappearing:

Lake Urmia, Iran

This saltwater lake, located in the northwest corner of Iran, was once that nation’s largest, but it has quickly retreated from its shores. Climate change, wasteful irrigation practices (freshwater is diverted before it reaches the lake) and groundwater depletion account for a large portion of the water loss.

In addition, dams have cut off much of the supply of new water to the lake. “There are just too many people nowadays, and everybody needs to use the water and the electricity the dams generate,” one official, Hamid Ranaghadr, told the New York Times last week.

Only about five percent of the water in the lake remains compared to its volume about 20 years ago, according to figures from local environmental officials.

Lake Waiau, Hawaii

Lake Waiau was never a very big lake. Hawaii’s only alpine lake measured just 6,900 square meters at its maximum and 3 meters in depth. But it was considered sacred to native Hawaiians. According to myth, the lake was bottomless and a portal to the spirit world.

But in early 2010, the lake started to shrink, and by September 2013, the lake was little more than a pond, covering a mere 115 square meters and reaching a depth of less than 30 centimeters. Such a decline is “unprecedented in modern times,” the U.S. Geological Survey reported last year. The cause of the lake’s decline is currently unknown, but drought is among the suspects.

Dead Sea; Israel, the West Bank and Jordan

The Dead Sea is really a lake fed by the Jordan River. There’s no outlet to the ocean, though, so the lake is salty10 times saltier than the north Atlantic and inhospitable to most life other than microbes and human bathers.

The Dead Sea has persisted for thousands of years because the amount of water going into the lake has been more or less equal to the amount that evaporates from it. But as the region’s population has grown, that equation has come unbalanced. Water that once would have flown into the Dead Sea has instead been diverted to supply people’s homes and water-intensive businesses, such as chemical and potash companies. With less than a tenth of the water entering the lake now compared with several decades ago, the Dead Sea’s water level is dropping by about a meter a year.

Scott Lake, Florida

This central Florida lake drained away in just two weeks in June 2006 when a sinkhole opened up. Scientists estimate that 32 tons of wildlife were sucked into the Earth; some fish were left behind to rot on the exposed lake bottom.

Nearby residents considered efforts to plug the hole, but time took care of the problem for them. With the sinkhole now naturally plugged back up with clay and silt, it’s starting to fill with water and gradually the lake is returning. But Florida’s geology makes the state prone to sinkholes, so the lake’s permanence is not guaranteed.

Aral Sea
Between 1989 (left) and 2008 (right), the Aral Sea shrunk considerable. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory/Wikimedia

Aral Sea, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan

The Aral Sea was the world’s fourth largest salt lake until it began shrinking in the last quarter of the 20th century. Since that time, ninety percent of the river flow from the Tian Shan Mountains into the lake has been diverted to irrigate rice and cotton fields planted in desert lands. As a result, the lake’s water level quickly began to drop. Fishing in the lake has ceased, and shipping has declined. And the exposed lake bottom has become a source of salt that is carried by winds across a radius of 300 kilometers and pollutes agricultural lands.

Lake Peigneur, Louisiana

Disaster struck this lake on November 20, 1980, when a Texaco oil rig accidentally punctured the roof of a salt mine. The lake—along with the drilling platform, 11 barges and many trees—were quickly sucked below through what was described as a giant whirlpool. “It was like watching a science fiction movie,” Virlie Langlinais told Mother Jones last year. Surprisingly, no one was injured or killed in the incident. Drained of its freshwater, the lake was refilled with salt water from nearby Vermilion Bay, temporarily creating the state’s largest waterfall.

Lake Cachet 2, Chile

This lake, high in the Andes, disappeared overnight on March 31, 2012. But that wasn’t all that unusual for the lake, at least not lately—it’s disappeared and refilled multiple times since 2008. The lake is a glacial lake, dammed in by the Colonia glacier. Climate change has been thinning the glacier, which has allowed a tunnel eight kilometers beneath to repeatedly open and close, draining the lake and letting it refill many times over. Prior to 2008, the lake was relatively stable.

Cachuma Lake, California

This southern California lake, located near Santa Barbara, is a popular recreation spot and a critical source of drinking water for 200,000 people. But the lake is now at just 39.7 percent of capacity. California is in the midst of a devastating drought that’s not expected to end anytime soon, and Cachuma Lake’s future remains in question.

Lake Chad; Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria

Once the world’s sixth largest lake, Lake Chad has lost 90 percent of its area since it began shrinking in the 1960s. Persistent drought, water withdrawals for irrigation and other human uses, and climate variability have worked in concert to drain the lake. “The changes in the lake have contributed to local lack of water, crop failures, livestock deaths, collapsed fisheries, soil salinity, and increasing poverty throughout the region,” according to a 2008 report from the United Nations Environment Programme.

Planet Earth

How to create a “heaven on earth” for all mankind?

We ask ourselves this question and tried to answer it. Of course, by “paradise” we do not mean “paradise booths” somewhere in the mythical nooks of the past, but a very real place – our home called planet Earth.

Moreover, this is our only home at the moment, since the prospects for the colonization of other planets of the solar system for us are still rather dreams, and very far from being realized.

Two main problems for humanity

Do you know what we like about people? The fact that even being in difficult living conditions, they do not limit their interests only to how to earn a living for themselves – no, they are interested in more global issues: political, social, philosophical or scientific in nature. But what worries them the most?

In our opinion, most people on our planet are preoccupied with two main problems:

1) Security (in every sense of the word, including economic)

2) Happiness (in the broadest sense of the word)

While these problems may seem very different at first glance, they actually boil down to caring for your own well-being.

In this context, it is quite easy to understand why humans do not live in paradise on Earth.

There are many problems that are prevalent all over the world today, such as wars and crime (with all the associated problems), as well as various health problems, both physical and mental.

It seems obvious that no one wants to live in a world where they are constantly under the threat of violent crimes, wars or other disasters, and it is also clear that many people want to find love and happiness not only, and not so much for themselves, but rather for those who are very dear to them.

Hence, the most obvious way to create a paradise on earth would be to increase safety for all people and increase the possibilities for human relationships.

When it comes to security, there are a number of obvious things that can be done. For example, many people are concerned about pollution and environmental degradation, as well as related issues such as global warming and overpopulation.

There is an obvious solution to this in the form of cleaner energy sources (such as solar energy) and more efficient modes of transportation (including space travel). This would help reduce fears about climate change at least partially.

Another issue that is widely discussed is the possibility of a nuclear war between large countries. This could potentially lead to the extinction of all of humanity, if it happened at the moment, given the advances in technology and weapons compared to previous generations.

In addition to these issues, there are a number of other issues that seem to be at least somewhat predominant, such as privacy, economic insecurity and social inequality.

What we can do?

If we digress from philosophical reasoning and look at the real situation that has developed in the world over the past ten years, we can see that the world has ceased to live by the rules.

If earlier, there were official and unofficial rules of “behavior of states in international relations”, now these “gentlemen’s agreements” are completely ignored.

One possible solution to this could be the creation of a “world government” that would control all aspects of human life (including economy and technology). However, this will almost certainly have some negative consequences.

World government: pros and cons

Pros : One government of all human civilization, by definition, will save us from wars, economic inequality, social inequality and the likelihood of global destruction in the event of a nuclear war. In fact, on planet Earth, there will be one huge country in which the entire population of the planet will live.

Cons : There is a risk that people will come to power who will turn the good goal of “heaven on earth” into the possibility of establishing a dictatorship in which all the disadvantages of the previous type of government will remain, when “everyone was for himself”, but already without the opportunity to defend their interests as it was when there was a system of scattered but sovereign states.

How, then, to create a paradise on earth for everyone?

1) Develop future technologies that will help us save the planet and stop global climate change.

2) To develop medicine in the direction of increasing the life expectancy of a person, which will entail an increase in the quality of life, and an increase in “happiness” for each individual citizen.

3) To achieve maximum protection of people from any threats . The safety of citizens in all spheres of life should become a priority for the state.

4) Revive the system of “international rules”, which must be observed by all countries, without exception.

5) Limit the proliferation of nuclear weapons in order to increase the overall level of the sense of security of all mankind, and save it even from hypothetically possible mutual destruction in the event of a conflict with the use of nuclear weapons.

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Planet Earth

Ways to have fun celebrating Halloween in the pandemic

Roughly 74% of American millennials and young parents think Halloween is more important this year than ever. They gather in online groups where they exchange tips and suggestions on the safest way to have fun on All Saints’ Day in a pandemic.

7 ways to have fun celebrating Halloween in a pandemic

The Los Angeles Times selected seven of the most successful ideas, and shared them with readers.

This year, when most of the candy lovers are staying at home, decorating their home is more important than ever. The more tinsel, the better. You can hang out flashlights, buy a fog machine, or make a stuffed animal out of old clothes. Carve some pumpkins and have an online contest among family members, asking them to vote for the best neighborhood crafts.

Of course, the bravest children will come under your door shouting “wallet or life”, but it is impossible to communicate directly with little ghouls who are always short on candy. It is better to arrange sweets in bags in advance and put them outside the door. You can wave your hand at them from the balcony or out the window if you want to see how happy they will be with the treat.

The candies can be hung from strings on a fence or from trees. Children will quickly figure out how to rip them off.

If your child really wants to go outside, and the level of infection in the region does not allow this, you can distract him by looking for sweets at home. Turn off the lights, take flashlights, and run with him in search of candy. For teenagers, you can do a whole quest with tips and tasks.

Plastic eggs, which many use for Easter gifts, can be pasted over with glowing scary faces and muzzles. Then fill them with candy and hide them inside or outside the house. You can decorate them with stickers glowing in the dark, then it will be more interesting to look for surprises in the dark.

It’s not recommended to have ghosts in the house, of course, but you can watch movies about them on Halloween. An impromptu cinema can be arranged both in the house and in the yard. Then the neighbors can join the session. To keep your distance, you should buy hula hoops. Then everyone will be accommodated on the same lawn in front of the house, but the risk of infection will be avoided.

The most important thing is to get a good mood on Halloween. Therefore, without further ado, you can put vacuum-packed sweets under the door of your neighbor, call and run away with all your blades. This will amuse you and your neighbors, who will spend half the night wondering whether to eat the offering or throw a potentially infectious bag in the trash.

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Planet Earth

The activation of volcanoes in Iceland and Russia concern scientists: “This is an anomaly”

Almost all volcanic eruptions of the past, leading to a cooling of the climate, coincide in time with low solar activity. 

Alarmingly, the Sun is currently passing through its deepest solar minimum in 100+ years and looking into the future, NASA found that the next cycle (25) could be “the weakest in the last 200 years” – a return to minimum conditions Dalton. 

The Dalton Minimum (1790-1830) was a period of historically low solar activity that also included the famine-inducing eruption of Mt. Tambor, in 1815.

The eruption of Tambora was one of the most powerful on Earth in the last 2000 years, and it exacerbated the cooling of the Earth, already occurring due to low solar activity. This unfortunate combination led to one of the harshest climates of the modern era – 1816 is also known as the “year without summer”.

ICELAND

Of today’s waking volcanoes, those in Iceland are perhaps the most worrying. It is this highly volcanic region that is likely to be home to the next “big” (repeat of the 536 AD eruption that destroyed the Roman Republic), which will plunge the Earth into a new volcanic winter.

The high frequency of volcanic eruptions allows scientists to detect patterns (precursors). And if these patterns are repeated every time a volcano erupts, then scientists can be more confident in their predictions.

Grimsvötn is Iceland’s most frequently erupting volcano, with approximately 65 known eruptions over the past 800 years. Icelandic scientists are closely following Grimsvotn after its 2011 eruption 

Recently, researchers have seen various signals indicating that the volcano is preparing to erupt again, and have raised the threat level.

The volcano swells as new magma moves into the channel system below it. The increase in thermal activity has led to the melting of more ice, and earthquakes have also become more frequent in recent years.

The time intervals between the eruptions of Grimsvotn are different, writes Dave McGarvey, a volcanologist at Lancaster University. For example, before the larger eruption of 2011, there were smaller eruptions in 2004, 1998, and 1983. Intermittently from four to 15 years. It is important to note that given the next eruption, Grimsvotn appears to have a pattern of infrequent large eruptions that occur every 150-200 years (e.g. 2011, 1873, 1619), with smaller and more frequent eruptions occurring approximately every ten years in between. 

If the previous model of Grimsvotn, consisting of occasional large eruptions with more numerous smaller eruptions occurring in between, continues in the future, then the next eruption should be small (considering that there was a large eruption in 2011). 

Nevertheless, the word “must” is important here, McGarvey stresses, – Iceland’s volcanoes are complex natural systems, and their patterns do not always correspond exactly to reality.

Katla is another Icelandic volcano on the verge of erupting, according to the Icelandic Meteorological Bureau (IMO). Since January of this year, researchers have recorded an upturn in and around Katla, and in recent months have recorded an increase in sulfur dioxide levels close to the site of two previous eruptions.

The previous major eruption of Katla occurred in 1918. This year is within the Hundred Years Low, the previous multi-decade period of low solar activity.

Icelandic authorities are well aware of the dangers posed by the next Katla eruption, and a delegation of volcanologists meets regularly with the Icelandic parliament to discuss how to respond in the event of an eruption.

RUSSIA

Scientists are also concerned about the unusual behavior of Klyuchevskaya Sopka Volcano (also known as Klyuchevskaya Volcano) located on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia.

As a rule, a year passes between the eruptions of Klyuchevskoy volcano, but recently this period of calm has been reduced to two months – on October 5, 2020, night cameras recorded the outpouring of lava from the crater of the volcano’s summit.

According to Yuri Demyanchuk, head of the Klyuchevskoy volcanic station IViS, all of this indicates an impending new larger eruption. 

Klyuchevsky’s uncharacteristic behavior can lead to paroxysmal explosions (unpredictable, dangerous explosions).

“The last activation was in 2013, before that – in 1994. But so far we have not observed such an intensity of tremor to speak of an impending paroxysmal activity, ”the expert explains. – “This is an anomaly.”

Seismic and volcanic activity is associated with changes in the Sun.

Volcanic eruptions are one of the key factors pushing the Earth towards the next stage of global cooling. Volcanic ash (particulate matter) ejected more than 10 km away – and therefore into the stratosphere – obscures sunlight and lowers Earth’s temperature. Smaller particles of an eruption can linger in the upper atmosphere for years or even decades.

The recent outburst of volcanoes around the world is believed to be related to low solar activity, coronal holes, a waning magnetosphere, and an influx of cosmic rays penetrating silica-rich magma.

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