The Increasing Land Area of Finland

By Anupum Pant

Tectonic plates float at a certain elevation on Earth. This elevation is decided by what lies on the plate. So, depending on the density and thickness of the matter that is present on a tectonic plate, the plate adjusts its elevation to maintain a gravitational equilibrium between the uppermost solid mantle and the mechanically weak layer – Asthenosphere – which lies just below it. This is call Isostasy.

During the Ice age when the land masses were covered in ice sheets up to 3 kilometres thick, the landmasses got depressed. This was about 20,000 years ago (last part of the last ice age) when the massive ice weight made the mechanically weak mantle below the solid mantle, deform. Under pressure, the semi-solid-ish mantle below, started flowing to other places where the solid mantle was higher and allowed a greater place for the ductiley flowing mantle below the plates.

When this period ended, the glaciers started retreating and the landmasses started rising from depression. Now, since the mantle below is not totally liquid, it took a lot of time for it to rush back into place from where it was displaced by the primitive heavy ice covered land. In fact, at some places on Earth, this rebound is still happening – This is known as the post glacial rebound.

This can be seen in some parts of Finland, where the land around the Gulf of Bothnia rises about 1 cm each year to maintain the gravitational equilibrium between the Lithosphere (solid mass) and the Asthenosphere (the semi-solid-ish stuff below the solid mass)! As a result the land which was previously below sea, rises upwards and Finland expands in area – about 7 Square kilometres annually. This rise has been recorded by the BIFROST GPS network. And is estimated to continue for the next 10,000 years, not necessarily at the same rate.

via [Post Glacial rebound]

Killer Lakes – A Very Weird Natural Disaster

By Anupum Pant

In the Northwest Cameroon (Africa) there’s a lake which is commonly  known among the locals as “The Bad Lake”. The official name of this lake however is, lake Nyos. This is one of those three or four special lakes in the world which are mostly know for their mass killings. The locals living near the lake Nyos in particular have a very grim story to tell from the past.

The Story

A seemingly innocuous landslide occurred on August 21st, 1986. This created a mini tsunami and sent red water (due to iron) flying 300 feet in the air. There was nothing really dangerous about the flying water. But, as a result if this landslide, it is believed that about 1.2 cubic kilometres of carbon dioxide from the lake Nyos got released. The trigger could have been something else, but the gas that got released was carbon dioxide for sure.

This rare kind of a natural disaster is known as a Limnic Eruption or Lake overturn. There are just 2 other lakes known where scientists think this can happen – Lake Monoun, Cameroon, and Lake Kivu of Congo

The huge amount of CO2, being heavier than air, spread into the nearby low-lying villages in a range of 25 km. People had nowhere to escape and nearly everyone died. Only a few hundreds who acted quick, and escaped to higher ground on vehicles could save themselves. That day, 1,700 people and 3,600 livestock got suffocated to death.

Why it Happened

volcanoLake Nyos like only a few other lakes in the world was formed about 400 years ago on a huge crater. Far below the lake there’s magma and it spews CO2 continuously into the lake, forming huge amounts of carbonated water (a good thing for Coke lovers). The CO2 doesn’t usually release in a single go all the time. It happens gradually, and the pipes now installed to fix this keep releasing CO2 all the time (The pressure of gas also carries water along to form a beautiful fountain).

Sometimes however, due to some triggers, the CO2 can get released in a single go and cause the absurd natural disaster which ends up killing thousands.

The Lake Kivu which is in Congo probably holds a much worse headline for the future. This one is about a 1000 times larger than lake Nyos and is surrounded by heavily populated towns. There’s magma below it too and any sort of disruption could cause massive amounts of carbon dioxide to release into the nearby towns. To add to the fears, researchers have found that the massive lake Kivu’s life goes extinct every 1000 years. We can only wait and watch what happens…

The Supercow of Belgium

By Anupum Pant

It’s hard to believe that naturally bred cows can grow enormous muscles. And yet, Dr. Patrice claims that by picking the cows with the best muscles over and over for generations, using selective breeding, they’ve been able to breed cows which don’t look like anything from the planet earth.

This gigantic breed of supercow they’ve been able to create has heavily developed muscles (not double muscles) and looks like a normal cow on steroids – with a sculpted and heavily muscled appearance (like in the picture). This breed of cows is called the Belgian blue.

To enhance the desirable characteristic of muscle mass in their beef cattle, the cattle farmers, for about a century, have picked only the cows with the most muscle mass, and have allowed them to mate, over and over. As a result, they now have the Belgian blue – a cow / bull that weighs a ton each!

via [Scidump]