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by Himanshu Sharma
As we just recently found out, man-made climate change is really going to start ruining everything way sooner than we thought. With changing ecosystems, rising levels of greenhouse gases, and irregular climate patterns around the world, we’re already seeing its effects. What we don’t often hear about is the super weird ways it’s affecting the planet. Like really, really weird, you guys.
Giant Mystery Holes In Siberia
It’s no secret that climate change has been affecting regions close to the poles much more acutely than the other parts of the world. It makes sense, too, as the first line of defense we have is all that ice, which is now melting, taking a toll on on the surrounding areas in a variety of ways. Typically, those are effects we could have predicted, because duh, warmer temperatures means ice melts faster.
In Siberia, however, something completely bonkers has been happening: Namely, random ground explosions and unexpected sinkholes.
Starting around 2014, the sinkholes have been appearing in a variety of places across the region, and even scientists are perplexed as to what’s causing them. They’re pretty sure it has something to do with the melting permafrost (melting permafrost?), but aren’t 100% certain. A variety of theories exist, including giant, underground methane explosions, which could explain what that whole “Doorway to Hell” thing is.
And it’s not some long, drawn-out phenomenon, either; they keep finding the damn things, as if someone made them overnight, like crop circles created by some bored hooligans on a neighboring farm. But given their size, it doesn’t look like something people can do. Locals have reported loud bangs along with fire and smoke coming from the direction of the holes, suggesting that the Earth is exploding from the inside, which is a theory that’s absolutely terrifying.
Maybe not as terrifying as global cataclysm, but still. The threat of the ground randomly blowing up beneath your feet doesn’t exactly instill confidence while having an afternoon jog.
Australian Lizards Are Changing Their Sex
Evolution truly is a gorgeous thing, but it doesn’t work exactly like we think it does. While we assume it’s adept at carefully selecting the best abilities and genetics and carrying them forward, it’s more like doing whatever the hell is needed to adapt to a particular environment, sort of like your family adapting to your drunk uncle’s shenanigans at your family reunion. It’s more random than one would think, and nowhere is that randomness more clearly visible than what’s happening to a specific breed of Australian lizards.
The Australian Bearded Dragon is one of the few species of lizards whose sex is determined by the temperature of the nest, which … really? Due to warming regions across the world, as well as their natural habitat, many of their populations from across Australia are turning out to be completely female, due to male eggs changing their sex in response to the warmer climate. We … we still can’t believe that’s an actual thing.
It is. It totally is.
Studying about 131 specimens of bearded dragons from across the continent, scientists came to the conclusion that male eggs were consciously turning the male chromosome off in response to climate change. The converted females were also found to reproduce twice as fast as normal females, meaning that the whole population is soon expected to weed out the males almost entirely.
That kind of sounds like a good premise for a movie plot, but maybe with monsters or aliens or something. Not lizards. Unless they’re humanoid lizards.
Himalayan Glaciers Are Actually Growing
We’ve heard all about how the shrinking ice caps are accelerating the bad effects of climate change. That’s not just on the poles, either; high altitude regions across the world are experiencing a loss in glacier-count and delayed winters. The complete opposite of that, however, is happening in the biggest mountain range in the world.
The Himalayas are going through an unprecedented time of heavier glaciers and harsher winters, in complete contrast to how you’d imagine them to react to increased temperatures. Scientists have extensively studied the glaciers in the mighty Karakoram range, on the border of Pakistan and China, containing some of the largest mountains in the world. While they were expecting to see some grim results, they were surprised to find that many of the glaciers had considerably increased in size in the past ten years or so.
They’re growing? Wait …
Not only that, the general temperature around those glaciers is also cooling down, and it’s happening across the range. While they don’t quite yet understand why it’s occurring, we can certainly say that the Himalayas are definitely adapting to this climate change thing quite well. Or it’s just a weird-ass, unpredictable side effect. We’re not scientists, so we don’t know.
Trees Are Growing Faster, Also Drugs
We’ve been told that trees and general greenery will be the first to go with climate change, as forest cover reduces the world over, replaced with barren deserts or wildfires or whatever. While some evidence does suggest that’s been happening, other evidence actually points to the contrary. It may sound absurd, but in the past few years, a lot of research tells us that trees in many places are actually growing much faster and better, and it’s directly related to how we’re screwing up the world.
Take European beech trees, for example, which are growing up to 70% faster than before, or the Norwegian spruce trees growing 32% faster. But that’s not all: High altitude trees in North America have also been reported to grow at accelerated rates, especially bristlecone pines. According to one report, they grew more in the period between 1951 and 2000 than they did in the last 3,700 years. We don’t yet understand why, though we do know climate change is driving it.
Oh, and it’s not just trees -- opiates are also getting more potent due to our planet-ruining antics, which poses other, more pressing problems. According to researchers, the current poppy crop is way more deadly than poppies were in the 1950s, which is certainly good for medicinal use, but not so much for drug dealers and the people buying that crap.
Birds Are Somehow Getting Smarter
The most interesting — and saddening — effects of climate change could be observed in how some animal populations are reacting to it, as it destabilizes their migration patterns, surrounding ecosystems and other crucial things they rely on. Reports of changing animal behavior also make the most viral stories; we’ve all seen what we’re doing to the whales. Though there are some species that are not only adapting to the change, but are also thriving on it -- like birds.
In one study conducted on wild European starlings, scientists found that their singing was actually getting better with climate change. The pollutants found in their habitats were changing the part of the brain that made them sing, and it actually made their songs more complex.
“My singing is divine. How dare you question it.”
Additionally, scientists studied the behavior of racing pigeons in polluted Chinese cities to understand how it was affecting them. They kept the sample size in particularly polluted regions of China, and compared their performance on high-pollution days. To their disbelief, the pigeons flew faster and generally performed better with more toxic pollutants in their face than at other times, though they can’t say why.
Man, it’s kind of like this whole climate change thing is almost helping a certain segment of … no. No, it’s not. Absolutely not.
Like this article? Check out “Insanely Creative Buildings That Solved Huge Problems” and “5 Surprising Ways Humans Influenced The Evolution Of Other Living Things”.
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