- LEMURIANS LIKE IT COLD DEPARTMENT -
Glaciers on California's Mt. Shasta Keep Growing
Glaciers on California's Mt. Shasta Keep Growing
Reaching more than 14,000 feet above sea level, Mt. Shasta dominates the landscape of high plains and conifer forests in far Northern California.
While it's not California's tallest mountain, the tongues of ice creeping down Shasta's volcanic flanks give the solitary mountain another distinction. Its seven glaciers, referred to by American Indians as the footsteps made by the creator when he descended to Earth, are the only historical glaciers in the continental U.S. known to be growing.
With global warming causing the retreat of glaciers in the Sierra Nevada, the Rocky Mountains and elsewhere in the Cascades, Mt. Shasta is actually benefiting from changing weather patterns over the Pacific Ocean.
"When people look at glaciers around the world, the majority of them are shrinking," said Slawek Tulaczyk, an assistant professor of earth sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz. "These glaciers seem to be benefiting from the warming ocean."
Warmer temperatures have cut the number of glaciers at Montana's Glacier National Park from 150 to 26 since 1850, and some scientists project there will be none left within 25 to 30 years. The timeline for the storied snows at Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro is even shorter, while the ice fields of Patagonia in Argentina and Chile also are retreating.
It's a different story at Mt. Shasta, at the southern end of the Cascade Range and about 270 miles north of San Francisco.
Scientists say a warming Pacific Ocean means more moist air sweeping over far Northern California. Because of Shasta's location and 14,162-foot elevation, the precipitation is falling as snow, adding to the mass of the mountain's glaciers.
"It's a bit of an anomaly that they are growing, but it's not to be unexpected," said Ed Josberger, a glaciologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Tacoma, Wash., who is currently studying retreating glaciers in Alaska and the northern Cascades of Washington.
Historical weather records show Mt. Shasta has received 17 percent more precipitation in the last 110 years. The glaciers have soaked up the snowfall and have been adding more snow than is lost through summer melting.
The additional snowfall has been enough to overcome a 1.8 degree Fahrenheit rise in temperature in the last century, according to a 2003 analysis by Tulaczyk, who led a team studying Shasta's glaciers.
By comparison, the glaciers in the Sierra Nevada, which are about 560 miles south of Mt. Shasta, are exposed to warmer summer temperatures and are retreating.
The Sierra's 498 ice formations — glaciers and ice fields — have shrunk by about half their size over the past 100 years, with those exposed to direct sunlight shrinking fastest, said Andrew Fountain, a geology professor at Portland State University who has inventoried the glaciers in the continental U.S. as part of a federal initiative.
He said Shasta's seven glaciers are the only ones scientists have identified as getting larger, with the exception of a small glacier in the shaded crater of Washington state's Mount St. Helens. It formed after the 1980 eruption blasted away slightly more than half the mountain's ice, and scientists believe it will not grow in area once it stretches outside the shade of the crater.
Glaciologists say most glaciers in Alaska and Canada are retreating, but there are too many to study them all.
Four glaciers at Mt. Rainier in Washington state are staying about the same size. Those glaciers — shielded from the sun on the north and east sides of the mountain — have received just enough snow to keep them from shrinking, Fountain said.
But Shasta's glaciers have been advancing since the end of a drought in the early 20th century. The mountain's smallest glaciers — named Konwakiton, Watkins and Mud Creek — have more than doubled in length since 1950.
Shasta's largest glacier, the Hotlum, grew more than 600 yards between 1944 and 2003 and covers nearly 2 square miles of the mountain's northeastern face. The Whitney glacier grows up to 4 inches a day in winter and is about 2.4 miles long.
Hikers seeking to cross Shasta's glaciers — marked with crevasses as deep as 100 feet — say they are much larger than the boundaries drawn on geological maps.
"I noticed I was traveling down farther than the maps were showing it," said Eric White, the lead climbing ranger at the U.S. Forest Service who has climbed the mountain for 23 years.
Until recently, the same phenomenon that is now benefiting Shasta's glaciers was feeding glacier growth in southern Norway and Sweden, the New Zealand Alps and northern Pakistan, according to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
In each area, scientists say more snowfall temporarily offset warming temperatures in the 1990s and early 2000s. But rising temperatures since then have begun to shrink those ice fields.
Climate change is causing roughly 90 percent of the world's mountain glaciers to shrink, said Lonnie Thompson, a glacier expert at Ohio State University.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the Earth's frozen ground has decreased by about 7 percent since 1900, according to figures released last year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
"Best that we keep our eye on the big picture," Thompson said in an e-mailed response about Shasta's unique position. "The picture points unfortunately (to) massive loss of ice on land, which has huge implications for future sea level rise."
Although Mt. Shasta's glaciers are growing, researchers say the 4.7 billion cubic feet of ice on its flanks could be gone by 2100. For the glaciers to remain their current size, Shasta would have to receive 20 percent more snowfall for every 1.8-degree Fahrenheit increase in temperature, said Tulaczyk, of UC Santa Cruz.
Global forecasts show temperatures warming from 2 degrees to 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century if no major efforts are undertaken to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases. At that rate, California's snowpack and its remaining glaciers are among the most vulnerable of the state's natural resources to climate change.
"In a way, the Sierra glaciers may represent the future of the Mt. Shasta glacier system under a warming climate, showing that if one puts an increased amount of snow in a place that's warm enough, then glaciers will shrink anyway," Tulaczyk said.
Even without global warming, another threat to Shasta's glaciers could come more quickly: a volcanic eruption that could melt them, creating mud flows that could bury the surrounding communities.
Over the last 4,000 years, Shasta has erupted about every 250 to 300 years and did so most recently about 200 years ago, said William Hirt, a geology instructor at the College of the Siskiyous, near Mt. Shasta.
The communities around the mountain already have witnessed how quickly Shasta's complexion can change.
It was just 11 years ago that heavy spring rain melted the lower part of the Whitney Glacier, creating a mudflow that covered a state highway.
In 1924, a piece of the Konwakiton glacier broke to form a dam that stored melting ice. When the blockade broke, tons of debris flowed into the McCloud River and all the way to San Francisco Bay.
Source: SF Gate
- WHAT LIES WITHIN DEPARTMENT -
Secret Chamber May Solve Mexican Pyramid Mystery
Secret Chamber May Solve Mexican Pyramid Mystery
With its soaring stone pyramids and geometric temples, Teotihuacan was once the biggest city in the Americas and possibly the world.
However, experts have never been able to say with certainty who built it and why it was suddenly abandoned.
An international team of experts believes the answer may lie under the Pyramid of the Sun, the centre point of the vast ruined city 25 miles outside Mexico City.
At the end of this month, they are to investigate a man-made tunnel and cave system underneath the pyramid – the third biggest in the world – to test theories that it was used for rituals including human sacrifice.
"We think it had a ritual purpose. Offerings were placed at the very end of the tunnel as part of the pyramid's construction process," said Alejandro Sarabia, Teotihuacan's director of archaeology.
He will lead a team of Mexican, American and Japanese experts into a 295 ft long, 8 ft high tunnel some 20 ft below the pyramid.
"We want to find out why the Teotihuacan people sealed it and when," Mr Sarabia said. "Excavating the cave could give us some clues about what happened at Teotihuacan, about the fate of the city."
At its zenith between 150 AD and 450 AD, Teotihuacan was home to up to 200,000 people of various ethnic origins and thought to have been larger than any European city at the time, including Rome.
But, sometime in the 7th or 8th century, it was set ablaze – possibly as the result of an insurrection – and abandoned.
The Aztecs believed the city was divine and identified it with the place where the sun was created. They also gave it its name, which roughly translates as ''The place where men became gods.''
The tunnel entrance was discovered by accident in 1971 while workmen were installing a sound and light show for the 738 ft wide pyramid.
After initial tests, it was dismissed as a natural cave and sealed two years later. Much of the information about it was lost when the archaeologist who found it died.
Mr Sarabia said: "If we can find out what happened, when, and perhaps how, it will give us a better idea about the history of the Pyramid of the Sun and of the city in general."
He said it was unlikely that the cave would have been used for everyday events and would probably have been accessible to only a select few.
"It may well have been used for sacrificial rites, dancing or other rituals," Mr Sarabia said.
The sacrifices are likely to have been human ones, he added.
Evidence of human sacrifice has been found all around the city, including the remains of children buried at each corner of the Pyramid of the Sun.
It is believed these burials were part of a ritual dedication of the building while other victims, probably captured enemy warriors, were killed to bring the city good luck.
Mr Sarabia said the excavation work would be "tricky" because there was virtually no light and the entrance to the tunnel was in poor condition.
For many years, archaeologists believed the city was built by the Toltecs but it is now accepted that their civilisation came centuries later.
Teothiuacan, which has World Heritage Site status, is still visited by thousands each year to celebrate the spring equinox.
Source: The Telegraph
- THE GOLDEN AGE OF UFOS DEPARTMENT -
Gray Barker Fueled America’s 1950s Fascination with UFOs
Gray Barker Fueled America’s 1950s Fascination with UFOs
CLARKSBURG — The late Gray Barker inspired the “Men in Black” movie.
The popular author from Clarksburg wrote extensively about the Flatwoods Monster, Mothman and other weird subjects.
In one magazine article after another, Barker helped to fuel America’s fascination with flying saucers in the 1950s.
But that’s not all.
“I found that there was more to this guy than UFOs,” said Bob Wilkinson, a notable West Virginia filmmaker who’s now producing a documentary on Barker. “He’s a complex character.”
As for the documentary, “It’s a West Virginia product, so I’m pretty proud of that,” Wilkinson said.
Barker was born in the tiny hamlet of Riffle in Braxton County in 1925. He went to nearby Glenville State College and got his degree in teaching.
He taught for a while in Maryland but then came home to West Virginia where he booked films and managed theaters in the Clarksburg area.
“He would find these films that Marilyn Monroe was in as an extra, and he would acquire them for the drive-ins and advertise them as Marilyn Monroe double features,” said David Houchin, special collections librarian at the Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library, which has a room dedicated to the life and works of Barker. It is crammed with books, articles and manuscripts.
“Maybe he was the type of person who could fool you and you never resented it,” Houchin said.
And fooling is exactly what Barker specialized in.
In 1952, Barker went to Braxton County to investigate the infamous Flatwoods Monster.
Residents claimed to have seen a glowing object fly across the sky, and went to the woods where it landed.
They said they saw a creature with glowing red eyes that smelled like something they’ve never smelled before.
Barker’s report about the strange beast was published in “Fate” magazine.
Houchin said this represented Barker’s “entry into the field of paranormal.”
That’s when Barker began asking around in earnest and writing about extraterrestrials and UFOs.
Houchin said Barker was really fooling his audience. He said Barker himself didn’t believe in these conspiracies, but would simply write about it and pass it off as fact.
Houchin said Barker was “not profoundly committed to the limits of fact,” so he was essentially writing science fiction.
This is the type of writing Barker did until he died in 1984 at the age of 59 in a Charleston hospital.
Throughout his career he published his own UFO newsletter in Clarksburg and wrote multiple books. His most-recognized book was his first one, “They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers.”
In that book, a central element was friend and fellow writer Albert Bender.
Bender was the editor of “Space Review,” a UFO periodical for which Barker was a correspondent.
In the last issue of “Space Review,” the newsletter’s overall theme was that the mystery of UFOs was no longer a mystery.
It was reported that Bender was visited by three men in black suits who had threatened him.
This story gave Barker the opportunity to poke fun at the situation, writing that extraterrestrials were actually the “men in black,” which was the basis of his final book, “MIB: The Secret Terror Among Us.” This became the inspiration for the hit 1997 movie.
Barker was published in many different newsletters, including his own called “The Saucerian.” He also investigated the Mothman creature in Point Pleasant, which resulted in his book “The Silver Bridge.”
But besides his career as a writer, Barker was living another life that was quite controversial at the time.
Houchin said there was a reason Barker left teaching in Maryland. He said he was most likely blackballed for being a homosexual.
“Either he hated teaching, or he was forced out,” Houchin said.
Houchin said Barker was a “smart guy in a pretty uncomfortable situation.”
“He was leading the life of a clandestine gay man in Clarksburg, W.Va., in the ’50s and ’60s,” Houchin said. “Barker was reasonably accepted. Nothing serious happened.”
But despite a few run-ins with the law and his reputation around town, Barker was very well known locally for his writing.
“He was that guy that came to your school and talked to you about flying saucers,” Houchin said.
Houchin said too much alcohol consumption for too long probably contributed to his death, though many suspected he had AIDS.
“It’s hard to say,” Houchin said. “We don’t know.”
Houchin said Barker was never a serious UFO researcher, but was more a “folklorist” who would hear other people’s stories and publish them.
“Barker was frankly lying to people about UFOs,” Houchin said.
But he added, “Barker’s contribution to popular culture is significant.”
Source: The Times West Virginian