DAILY DOSE: Hurricane Ian wrecks Florida; Environmentalists are being assassinated around the world.

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MOTHER NATURE’S WRATH.

After wrecking much of Cuba, Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida. There was a lot to worry about. Per the Associated Press

Hurricane Ian left a path of destruction in southwest Florida, trapping people in flooded homes, destroying the only bridge to Sanibel Island, damaging the roof of a hospital intensive care unit and knocking out power to 2.5 million people as it dumped rain across the peninsula on Thursday.

One of the strongest hurricanes to ever hit the United States threatened catastrophic flooding around the state. Ian’s tropical-storm-force winds extended outward up to 415 miles (665 km), drenching much of Florida and the southeastern Atlantic coast.

With no electricity and patchy cellphone coverage, many calls for help weren’t getting through, even as emergency crews sawed through toppled trees to reach people in flooded homes. “If the line is busy, keep trying,” the Lee County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post early Thursday.

It would be nice if the White House and the Florida Governor’s office can set aside the bickering and point-scoring for a little while to, you know, work for the people of the state. https://bit.ly/3E4vsbc


ENVIRONMENTALIST ASSASSINATIONS.

Environmentalists are often reviled by oil and gas conservatives who see them as nothing but disruptive, trouble-makers. This makes them easy targets and sometimes, the vitriol takes the shape of actual violence. A recent report documents environmentalists who were assassinated because of their activities. Per the Associated Press,

Some 200 environmental and land defense activists were killed around the world in 2021, including some 54 in Mexico, which assumed the position of the deadliest country in the annual report by nongovernmental organization Global Witness.

More than three-quarters of the killings took place in Latin America, where Colombia, Brazil and Nicaragua also logged double-digit death tolls.

It was the third consecutive year of increases for Mexico and a jump from 30 such activists killed in 2020.

“Most of these crimes happen in places that are far away from power and are inflicted on those with, in many ways, the least amount of power,” the report said.

Global Witness considers its report a baseline, noting “Our data on killings is likely to be an underestimate, given that many murders go unreported, particularly in rural areas and in particular countries.

It goes without saying that the disenfranchised are the ones that suffer the most when it comes to negative environmental conditions. https://bit.ly/3LQSm7y


CLIMATE CHANGE EXTERNALITIES.

The current extremes in climate conditions are having surprising effects that extend past the weather. In particular, extreme drought is influencing archaeology in a myriad of ways. According to Wired,

This summer, drought has revealed a number of previously hidden archaeological sites as low water levels have allowed archaeologists to access historic ruins in Spain, Iraq, and China. But just as climate change giveth, so it taketh away: Rising heat is damaging some ancient sites and spurring desertification that is burying others, Gird Castle among them. It is a growing problem with few proven solutions.

“We can see many other sites from the Bronze Age to the Islamic periods in the area, as well as ancient rivers and canals,” says Rouhani. “Most of these sites are now buried under sand and impacted by the 120-day sand wind every year.”

…Archaeologists monitoring sites in other regions, countries, and continents report similar stories. Ahmed Mutasim Abdalla Mahmoud, a researcher specializing in sand movement at the University of Nottingham, says sand poses the biggest threat to Sudan’s Nubian pyramids, built around 4,500 years ago. He warns that the 200 pyramids at El Kurru, Jebel Barkal, and Meroe on the Nile River could soon disappear beneath sand.

Who could have predicted this? https://bit.ly/3rfaYET


BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD.

A discovery out of China is forcing scientists to revisit the consensus of when teeth and jaws evolved. Per Smithsonian Magazine,

Our teeth and jaws are incredibly ancient. They’re older than dinosaurs, older than arms and legs, older than trees–adaptations that paleontologists have tracked to our distant, fishy relatives that thrived in the seas around 425 million years ago. But a trove of delicately-preserved vertebrates found in China has set a new date for the earliest record of jaws and teeth. The aquarium’s-worth of early vertebrates include some of the earliest fish with paired appendages, one of the earliest relatives of sharks, and, at about 436 million years old, the most ancient fossils yet found of fish with teeth and jaws.

Researchers have disagreed about exactly when the earliest bites evolved. Molecular studies based upon estimations of genetic changes have proposed that the first jaws and teeth evolved about 450 million years ago. Until now, the oldest fossils of jawed vertebrates–or gnathostomes –dated to about 425 million years ago, a significant gap. As Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology researcher Min Zhu and colleagues describe in a series of Nature papers published today, the new finds from South China sit in the middle of this gap and offer a startling look at a critical moment in evolutionary history.

“My first impression is ‘wow’,” says University of Chicago paleontologist Yara Haridy, who was not involved in the new study. The new fossils represent what paleontologists call a “Konservat-Lagerstätte,” or a fossil site that records intricate details of ancient creatures that are often lost in other settings. In this case, Zhu and coauthors note in their research, the fish they uncovered were small and had delicate bones. That means these fish were generally unlikely to become fossils except in truly outstanding circumstances where they could be buried quickly and shielded from scavengers that would otherwise eat them.

Allow us to second Yara Haridy’s ‘wow’. https://bit.ly/3DZX7dj

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

IMAGE CREDIT: NASA.


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