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Nature

Scientists have uncovered the largest volcanic region on Earth – two kilometres below the surface of the vast ice sheet that covers west Antarctica.

The project, by Edinburgh University researchers, has revealed almost 100 volcanoes – with the highest as tall as the Eiger, which stands at almost 4,000 metres in Switzerland.

Geologists say this huge region is likely to dwarf that of east Africa’s volcanic ridge, currently rated the densest concentration of volcanoes in the world.

And the activity of this range could have worrying consequences, they have warned.

“If one of these volcanoes were to erupt it could further destabilise west Antarctica’s ice sheets,” said glacier expert Robert Bingham, one of the paper’s authors.

“Anything that causes the melting of ice – which an eruption certainly would – is likely to speed up the flow of ice into the sea. theguardian.com
A bitter stand-off between a local community and miners has emerged after a significant seam of gold was found on protected conservation land in New Zealand’s North Island.

Last week New Talisman Gold Mines reported they had found a large vein of gold in the Karangahake Gorge in the North Island; 8,500kg of highest quality gold which put it in the top five percent of deposits worldwide when ranked on grade, according to the company.

The find is believed to be worth tens of millions of New Zealand dollars.

Talisman’s general manager of operations Wayne Chowles said the company planned to begin extracting small amounts of gold early next year, but locals in opposition to the scheme have sprung into action, saying the mining project threatens the “peace and harmony” of their “sacred” mountain and community.

But now the mining company and walkers are forced to share one narrow access road to the mountain.

Ruby Jane Powell is a member of the protest group Protect Karangahake, that has been opposing any mining action in the gorge for a number of years, but have “doubled their efforts” this week to protect the land, sending dozens of protestors to block the access road, or slow down prospecting efforts by sending “very slow walkers” to clog up the road and prevent vehicle access. theguardian.com
WARNINGS of a possible tsunami within 300km of a shallow magnitude 7.8 quake off the coast of Russia have been cancelled..

The epicentre is reported to have been 234km of Nikol’Skoye, Russia, among the Komandorski islands of the Bering Strait.

A tsunami advisory was initially issued by the US NWS for residents of the nearby Aleutian Islands, Alaska. But it has since reported the threat ‘has passed’.

Automated reporting systems indicate the quake happened at a shallow depth of about 10km, potentially sending ripples through the seafloor above.

Initially reported as magnitude 7.4, the US National Weather Service later revised this upwards - stating it was of 7.8 strength.

The quake was in the Bering Strait, on the Russian side of the channel which separates it from Alaska. The Komandorski and Aleutian Islands form a chain between the two continents. news.com.au
A photographer has captured images of a new island forming off the coast of North Carolina in the US.

Chad Koczera, a 30-year-old aerospace engineer from Connecticut, captured the island from his drone, revealing some stunning views of this new sandbank that seemingly came from nowhere.

It’s found just off Cape Point, a stretch of land off the coast of the state.

He posted the images on his Instagram account, @chadonka. iflscience.com
The acceleration is particularly intense on the U.S. East Coast, especially for Virginia and North Carolina.

Some measurements suggest that in those locations sea levels are rising three times more quickly than the worldwide average.

There are several reasons for this, including a sinking of the land, caused in part by the removal of groundwater.

Due to complex ocean currents, the water level is also higher in this area than elsewhere, and the addition of freshwater to the North Atlantic from Greenland ice melt accelerates this dynamic, explains Larry Atkinson, a professor of oceanography at Old Dominion

University who wasn’t involved in the paper.

“Based on robust estimates of the melting of the Greenland ice sheet...maybe it’s from the surface melting and also the discharge of the ice gradually into the ocean,” Zhang said. newsweek.com
Tendrils of ice-covered brine, or brinicles, leak from sea ice near East Antarctica’s Dumont d’Urville Station. 

Antarctic marine life has been largely isolated from the rest of the planet for tens of millions of years, ever since the continent separated from the other continents and froze over.

Since then the powerful Antarctic Circumpolar Current has swirled from west to east around Antarctica, creating a sharp temperature gradient that inhibits the spread of marine animals.

The long isolation has allowed a tremendous diversity of species, unique to the region, to evolve on the seafloor.

The waters under Antarctic ice are like Mount Everest: magical, but so hostile that you have to be sure of your desire before you go.

The demands are too great, but that’s what makes the images you see here unprecedented, and the experience of having taken them and of having seen this place so unforgettable. nationalgeographic.com
In drone footage captured on May 18 in Monterey, California, a group of orcas is seen carrying out a coordinated attack on a blue whale.

The largest animal on the planet, an adult blue whale can reach up to a hundred feet long and weigh close to 200 tonnes.

In this instance, the large blue whale flipped on its side, sending up what seemed like a wall of water, and swam away at a speed that far outpaced the orcas, says marine biologist Nancy Black, who captured the event from on board a whale-watching boat.

The real reason the orcas likely orchestrated an attack?

"They were probably doing it for the heck of it," says Black. "They play with [whales] like cats play with their prey. They are very playful and social."

In the 25 years she's been observing orcas and other cetaceans in the Bay, she's become familiar with how orcas interact with the region's other residents. nationalgeographic.com
Everybody panic – the cicadas are coming, and they’re four years early!

They’re not particularly threatening to humans, but they can be infuriatingly noisy in large enough numbers.

Still, the fact that they have emerged from their underground resting places way ahead of schedule is rather curious.

Most birth-to-death timelines are around five years long, but the North American genus, Magicicada, go through 13- and 17-year-long cycles.

Creating a little burrow near vegetation, they feed on plant and tree sap, while also covering themselves quite unceremoniously in anal fluid.

It’s thought that this life cycle was designed to avoid predators, who often have far shorter life cycles. iflscience.com
Scientists and environmental campaigners have accused the Polish government of bringing the ecosystem of the Białowieża forest in north-eastern Poland to the “brink of collapse”, one year after a revised forest management plan permitted the trebling of state logging activity and removed a ban on logging in old growth areas.

Large parts of the forest, which spans Poland’s eastern border with Belarus and contains some of Europe’s last remaining primeval woodland, are subject to natural processes not disturbed by direct human intervention.

A Unesco natural world heritage site, the only one in Poland, the forest is home to about 1,070 species of vascular plants, 4,000 species of fungi, more than 10,000 species of insect, 180 breeding bird species and 58 species of mammal, including many species dependent on natural processes and threatened with extinction. theguardian.com
A visitor who thought boa constrictors were native to South Carolina released one in a Midlands park, according to officials.

Congaree National Park posted on its Facebook page that rangers received reports of a visitor releasing the non-venomous snake Sunday night. 

The visitor was under the impression boa constrictors already were in the park and established, neither is true, park officials said.

Congaree National Park officials added it is never appropriate or legal to release a non-native or even a native species in the park.

“Even native species that have been rehabilitated may have picked up diseases while in recovery that can decimate populations within a range, as well as doing great harm to other animals populations.” 

Anyone walking on park trails who sees the boa should report it to the park staff immediately. thestate.com