WHAT IS SPECIAL ABOUT CANADA'S MIGUASHA NATIONAL PARK?

Canada's Miguasha National Park is a treasure trove of natural history, as it holds within  it priceless fossils that educate us about what was in the world millions of years ago.

Spanning more than 215 acres, the Miguasha National Park is located on the southern coast of the Gaspe peninsula in Quebec, Canada. Unlike most parks around the world, this Park is not popular for its animals, plants, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, or marine creatures living today. However, it is an extremely important region to trace the history of the planet's wildlife as we know it, thanks to the fossils in this area.

On the shore of the peninsula are remarkably well-preserved fossil beds from the Devonian period (see box), from millions of years ago. From vertebrates and invertebrates (such as lobe-finned fishes) to plants, algae, and several microorganisms, the astonishing biodiversity of these fossils offers scientists much more than just a glimpse of Devonian life. Even though there are more than 50 Devonian period fossil sites across the globe, "none matches Miguasha in abundance of specimens, quality of fossil preservation and representation of evolutionary events for vertebrates".

Discovered in 1842, the site has been of great scientific interest and significance the world over, and fossil specimens from the location were sent to museums and universities for studies. In 1999, the Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is considered "the world's most outstanding illustration of the Devonian Period".

Past  forward

The most important contribution of the Miguasha National Park to the study of evolution is through the largest number of and best-preserved fossil specimens of the lobe-finned fish that gave rise to the first four-legged. air-breathing, terrestrial vertebrates the tetrapods

Among the fossils that made Miguasha popular are 21 species of fish fossils. And the most significant among them? The Eusthenopteron foordi- the extinct lobe-finned fish fossil. It is this creature's "limblike fins and two-way gills-and-lungs respiratory system that led to the present understanding of evolution from fish to four-limbed, land-dwelling vertebrates". And not surprisingly, this specimen has been named "the Prince of Miguasha"!

Good news but...

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the conservation outlook for this site has been assessed as "good" in the latest assessment cycle (2020).

In fact rigorous and continuous fieldwork and research initiatives have resulted in the discovery of new fossils and resultant inferences on how Devonian fishes and tetrapods evolved over a period of time. Though fossil sites have the potential to be disturbed or damaged by human activity, this site is "secure and well protected". "Overall site management and protection can be rated as mostly or highly effective."

In addition to the research initiatives. the educational outreach programmes and "interpretive facilities for visitors" too have been impressive enough to create awareness.

Picture Credit : Google 

WHERE IS THE MAYON VOLCANO LOCATED?

Mayon, located in the Philippines, is a highly active stratovolcano with recorded historical eruptions dating back to 1616. The most recent eruptive episode began in early January 2018 that consisted of phreatic explosions, steam-and-ash plumes, lava fountaining, and pyroclastic flows (BGVN 43:04).

The volcano with its surrounding landscape was declared a national park on July 20, 1938, the first in the nation. It was reclassified as a natural park and renamed the Mayon Volcano Natural Park in 2000. It is the centerpiece of the Albay Biosphere Reserve, declared by UNESCO in 2016, and is currently being nominated as a World Heritage Site.

Mayon is the most active volcano in the Philippines, and its activity is regularly monitored by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) from their provincial headquarters on Ligñon Hill, about 12 kilometers (7.5 mi) from the summit.

Mayon is the main landmark and highest point of the province of Albay and the whole Bicol Region in the Philippines, rising 2,463 meters (8,081 ft) from the shores of the Albay Gulf about 10 kilometers (6.2 mi) away. The volcano is geographically shared by the eight cities and municipalities of Legazpi, Daraga, Camalig, Guinobatan, Ligao, Tabaco, Malilipot, and Santo Domingo (clockwise from Legazpi), which divide the cone like slices of a pie when viewing a map of their political boundaries. Mayon is a classic stratovolcano with a small central summit crater. The cone is considered the world's most perfectly formed volcano for its symmetry.

Mayon is the most active volcano in the Philippines, erupting over 47 times in the past 500 years. Historical observations accounted its first eruption in 1616. The first eruption for which an extended account exists was the six-day event of July 20, 1766.

Following the declaration of alert level 3 for the volcano, the United States issued an advisory cautioning its nationals from traveling to Mayon. Canada and the United Kingdom also posted advisories discouraging their nationals from visiting the volcano.

The United States government committed $100,000 in financial aid for the evacuees of Mayon. In cooperation with the Philippine government the assistance was delivered through the Philippine National Red Cross and other NGOs by USAID.

Credit : Wikipedia 

Picture Credit : Google 

WHAT IS EL NIÑO?

EI Niño, or "the little boy" in Spanish, is a climatic pattern that describes the unusual warming of surface waters in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. EI Niño often produces some of the hottest years on record because of the vast amount of heat that rises from Pacific waters into the atmosphere.

El Niño is a climate pattern that describes the unusual warming of surface waters in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. El Nino is the “warm phase” of a larger phenomenon called the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). La Nina, the “cool phase” of ENSO, is a pattern that describes the unusual cooling of the region’s surface waters. El Niño and La Niña are considered the ocean part of ENSO, while the Southern Oscillation is its atmospheric changes.

El Niño has an impact on ocean temperatures, the speed and strength of ocean currents, the health of coastal fisheries, and local weather from Australia to South America and beyond. El Niño events occur irregularly at two- to seven-year intervals. However, El Niño is not a regular cycle, or predictable in the sense that ocean tides are.

El Niño was recognized by fishers off the coast of Peru as the appearance of unusually warm water. We have no real record of what indigenous Peruvians called the phenomenon, but Spanish immigrants called it El Niño, meaning “the little boy” in Spanish. When capitalized, El Niño means the Christ Child, and was used because the phenomenon often arrived around Christmas. El Niño soon came to describe irregular and intense climate changes rather than just the warming of coastal surface waters.

Credit: National Geographic Society

Picture Credit : Google 

WHEN WAS THE DEADLIEST HURRICANE EVER RECORDED?

More than 20,000 people died in the Caribbean during the Great Hurricane of 1780, when winds may have reached a phenomenal 320 km per hour.

Great hurricane of 1780, hurricane (tropical cyclone) of October 1780, one of the deadliest on record in the Atlantic Ocean. More than 20,000 people were killed as the storm swept through the eastern Caribbean Sea, with the greatest loss of life centred on the Antilles islands of Barbados, Martinique, and Sint Eustatius.

The hurricane took place before modern tracking of tropical storms began, but historical accounts indicate that the storm started in the Atlantic and on October 10 reached Barbados, where it destroyed nearly all the homes on the island and left few trees standing. Witness reports in Barbados and Saint Lucia claimed that even sturdy stone buildings and forts were completely lost to the wind, with heavy cannons being carried hundreds of feet. The storm traveled northwest across the Antilles, causing destruction throughout the region; on some islands entire towns disappeared. The storm ravaged Martinique, taking an estimated 9,000 lives. On the island of Sint Eustatius an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 people were killed. During this time, European naval forces were concentrated in the Caribbean because of the American Revolution, and both British and French forces sustained particularly large losses, with more than 40 French vessels sunk near Martinique and roughly 4,000 soldiers dead. As the storm continued north, it damaged or sank many other ships that were returning to Europe.

Credit: Britannica

Picture Credit : Google 

What are Hurricanes?

A hurricane is a giant, spiralling tropical storm in the Atlantic Ocean that can reach wind speeds of over 257 km per hour and unleash more than nine trillion litres of rain! It begins as thunderstorms that are set off by moist air rising over the warm ocean. If the water is warm enough, the thunderstorms join together, growing bigger as they begin to spiral across the ocean. As the hurricane grows, it spins faster and tighter around its centre, or 'eye', which remains a very calm area of low pressure. A hurricane can be as much as 800 km across and can take l8 hours to pass over. In the northern Indian Ocean hurricanes are known as cyclones and in the western Pacific Ocean, as typhoons.

Hurricanes are large, swirling storms. They produce winds of 119 kilometers per hour (74 mph) or higher. That's faster than a cheetah, the fastest animal on land. Winds from a hurricane can damage buildings and trees.

Hurricanes form over warm ocean waters. Sometimes they strike land. When a hurricane reaches land, it pushes a wall of ocean water ashore. This wall of water is called a storm surge. Heavy rain and storm surge from a hurricane can cause flooding.

Once a hurricane forms, weather forecasters predict its path. They also predict how strong it will get. This information helps people get ready for the storm.

There are five types, or categories, of hurricanes. The scale of categories is called the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. The categories are based on wind speed.

  • Category 1: Winds 119-153 km/hr (74-95 mph) - faster than a cheetah
  • Category 2: Winds 154-177 km/hr (96-110 mph) - as fast or faster than a baseball pitcher's fastball
  • Category 3: Winds 178-208 km/hr (111-129 mph) - similar, or close, to the serving speed of many professional tennis players
  • Category 4: Winds 209-251 km/hr (130-156 mph) - faster than the world's fastest rollercoaster
  • Category 5: Winds more than 252 km/hr (157 mph) - similar, or close, to the speed of some high-speed trains

Credit: NASA

Picture credit: NASA