Key to Speeding Up Carbon Sequestration Discovered

By photosearth / July 17, 2017

Scientists at Caltech and USC identify how to encourage the chemical reaction by which carbon dioxide is locked away in the ocean
News Writer: 
Robert Perkins


Scanning electron microscope image of calcite.
Credit: Adam Subhas/Caltech

Scientists at Caltech and USC have discovered a way to speed up the slow part of the chemical reaction that ultimately helps the earth to safely lock away, or sequester, carbon dioxide into the ocean. Simply adding a common enzyme to the mix, the researchers have found, can make that rate-limiting part of the process go 500 times faster. 

A paper about the work appears online the week of July 17 ahead of publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“While the new paper is about a basic chemical mechanism, the implication is that we might better mimic the natural process that stores carbon dioxide in the ocean,” says lead author Adam Subhas, a Caltech graduate student and Resnick Sustainability Fellow.

The research is a collaboration between the labs of Jess Adkins from Caltech and Will Berelson of USC. The team used isotopic labeling and two methods for measuring isotope ratios in solutions and solids to study calcite—a form of calcium carbonate—dissolving in seawater and measure how fast it occurs at a molecular level.

It all started with a very simple, very basic problem: measuring how long it takes for calcite to dissolve in seawater. “Although a seemingly straightforward problem, the kinetics of the reaction is poorly understood,” says Berelson, professor of earth sciences at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Calcite is a mineral made of calcium, carbon, and oxygen that is more commonly known as the sedimentary precursor to limestone and marble. In the ocean, calcite is a sediment formed from the shells of organisms, like plankton, that have died and sunk to the seafloor. Calcium carbonate is also the material that makes up coral reefs—the exoskeleton of the coral polyp.

As atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have risen past 400 parts per million—a symbolic benchmark for climate scientists confirming that the effects of the greenhouse gas in the atmosphere will be felt for generations to come—the surface oceans have absorbed more and more of that carbon dioxide. This is part of a natural buffering process—the oceans act as a major reservoir of carbon dioxide. At the present time, they hold roughly 50 times as much of the greenhouse gas as the atmosphere.

However, there is a second, slower, buffering process that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is an acid in seawater, just as it is in carbonated sodas (which is part of why they eat away at your tooth enamel). The acidified surface ocean waters will eventually circulate to the deep where they can react with the dead calcium carbonate shells on the sea floor and neutralize the added carbon dioxide. However, this process will take tens of thousands of years to complete and meanwhile, the ever-more acidic surface waters eat away at coral reefs. But how quickly will the coral dissolve?

“We decided to tackle this problem because it’s kind of embarrassing, the state of knowledge expressed in the literature,” says Adkins, Smits Family Professor of Geochemistry and Global Environmental Science at Caltech. “We can’t tell you how quickly the coral is going to dissolve.”

Earlier methods relied on measuring the change in pH in the seawater as calcium carbonate dissolved, and inferring dissolution rates from that. (As calcium carbonate dissolves, it raises the pH of water, making it less acidic.) Subhas and Adkins instead opted to use isotopic labeling.

Carbon atoms exist in two stable forms in nature. About 98.9 percent of it is carbon-12, which has six protons and six neutrons. About 1.1 percent is carbon-13, with one extra neutron.

Subhas and Adkins engineered a sample of calcite made entirely of the rare carbon-13, and then dissolved it in seawater. By measuring the change in the ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-13 in the seawater over time, they were able to quantify the dissolution at a molecular level. Their method proved to be about 200 times more sensitive than comparable techniques for studying the process.

On paper, the reaction is fairly straightforward: Water plus carbon dioxide plus calcium carbonate equals dissolved calcium and bicarbonate ions in water. In practice, it is complex. “Somehow, calcium carbonate decides to spontaneously slice itself in half. But what is the actual chemical path that reaction takes?” Adkins says.

Studying the process with a secondary ion mass spectrometer (which analyzes the surface of a solid by bombarding it with a beam of ions) and a cavity ringdown spectrometer (which analyzes the 13C/12C ratio in solution), Subhas discovered that the slow part of the reaction is the conversion of carbon dioxide and water to carbonic acid.

“This reaction has been overlooked,” Subhas says. “The slow step is making and breaking carbon-oxygen bonds. They don’t like to break; they’re stable forms.”

Armed with this knowledge, the team added the enzyme carbonic anhydrase—which helps maintain the pH balance of blood in humans and other animals—and were able to speed up the reaction by orders of magnitude.

“This is one of those rare moments in the arc of one’s career where you just go, ‘I just discovered something no one ever knew,'” Adkins says.

The paper is titled “Catalysis and Chemical Mechanisms of Calcite Dissolution in Seawater.” Coauthors include John Naviaux, graduate student at Caltech; William Berelson and Nick Rollins of USC; and Jonathan Erez of Hebrew University of Jerusalem. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation, the Resnick Sustainability Institute at Caltech, the Rothenberg Innovation Initiative (RI2), and the Linde Center for Global Environmental Science.  

Caltech News tagged with “GPS”

NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Completes Flyby over Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

By photosearth / July 12, 2017


Jupiter's Great Red Spot Swallows EarthJuno Over Jupiter's South Pole (Illustration) Juno and the Great Red Spot (Illustration) This illustration depicts NASA's Juno spacecraft soaring over Jupiter's south pole.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Stony Brook University

NASA’s Juno mission completed a close flyby of Jupiter and its Great Red Spot on July 10, during its sixth science orbit.

All of Juno’s science instruments and the spacecraft’s JunoCam were operating during the flyby, collecting data that are now being returned to Earth. Juno’s next close flyby of Jupiter will occur on Sept. 1.

Raw images from the spacecraft’s latest flyby will be posted in coming days.

“For generations people from all over the world and all walks of life have marveled over the Great Red Spot,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “Now we are finally going to see what this storm looks like up close and personal.”

The Great Red Spot is a 10,000-mile-wide (16,000-kilometer-wide) storm that has been monitored since 1830 and has possibly existed for more than 350 years. In modern times, the Great Red Spot has appeared to be shrinking. 

Juno reached perijove (the point at which an orbit comes closest to Jupiter’s center) on July 10 at 6:55 p.m. PDT (9:55 p.m. EDT). At the time of perijove, Juno was about 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers) above the planet’s cloud tops. Eleven minutes and 33 seconds later, Juno had covered another 24,713 miles (39,771 kilometers), and was passing directly above the coiling crimson cloud tops of the Great Red Spot. The spacecraft passed about 5,600 miles (9,000 kilometers) above the clouds of this iconic feature.

On July 4 at 7:30 p.m. PDT (10:30 p.m. EDT), Juno logged exactly one year in Jupiter orbit, marking 71 million miles (114.5 million kilometers) of travel around the giant planet.

Juno launched on Aug. 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. During its mission of exploration, Juno soars low over the planet’s cloud tops — as close as about 2,100 miles (3,400 kilometers). During these flybys, Juno is probing beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and studying its auroras to learn more about the planet’s origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.

Early science results from NASA’s Juno mission portray the largest planet in our solar system as a turbulent world, with an intriguingly complex interior structure, energetic polar aurora, and huge polar cyclones.

JPL manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers Program managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. JPL is a division of Caltech in Pasadena.

This story was originally published on JPL News

Caltech News tagged with “GPS”

Exhibition may solve Franklins lost expedition

By photosearth / July 3, 2017

Map of the probable routes taken by HMS Erebus and HMS Terror during Franklin’s lost expedition. Legend Disko Bay (5) to Beechey Island (just off the southwest corner of Devon Island, to the east of 1), in 1845. Around Cornwallis Island (1), in 1845. Beechey Island down Peel Sound between Prince of Wales Island (2), to the west, and Somerset Island (3) and the Boothia Peninsula (4) to the east, to an unknown point off the northwest corner of King William Island, in 1846. Disko Bay (5) is about 3,200 kilometres (2,000 mi) from the mouth of the Mackenzie River (6). Map by Finetooth, Kennonv, U.S. Central Intelligence Agency .

From 14 July, the National Maritime Museum (NMM) will host a major exhibition, developed by the Canadian Museum of History (CMH) in partnership with the NMM and Parks Canada, and in collaboration with the Government of Nunavut and the Inuit Heritage Trust, exploring the mysterious fate of Sir John Franklin and his crew on their final expedition – a mystery that still remains unsolved today.


After 165 years under icy seas, the lost secrets of Sir John Franklins doomed British Arctic expedition in search of the North-West Passage are to form the centrepiece of a major London exhibition, Death in the Ice. But who really owns these salvaged artefacts?

This weekend it has emerged that the historic items painstakingly retrieved from the wreck of HMS Erebus, one of Franklins two lost expeditionary vessels, were taken without permission from waters now owned by the Inuit people in Canada.

In 2014 the sunken wreck of the Erebus was found lying in a part of the Arctic Ocean that belongs to Canadas vast northernmost territory, Nunavut. A document made public in Canada in the past fortnight reveals that the premier of Nunavut has since protested directly to Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, about the actions of scientists working with the curators of the exhibition, which opens at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, south London, on 14 July.

In his formal letter of complaint, released at the request of a Canadian journalist, the premier, Peter Taptuna, argues that the contents of the Erebus are rightfully owned by his region and by the Inuit Heritage Trust. The letter alleges that Parks Canada, a government agency, ignored the fact the ship was submerged in Nunavuts internal waters when it removed the artefacts. This was unfortunate and inconsistent with past practice, it adds.


‘Erebus’ and the ‘Terror’ in New Zealand, August 1841, by John Wilson Carmichael.

The ships were last seen entering Baffin Bay in August 1845. The disappearance of the Franklin
expedition set off a massive search effort in the Arctic. The broad circumstances of the expedition’s
fate were first revealed when Hudson’s Bay Company doctor John Rae collected artifacts and testimony from local Inuit in 1853. Later expeditions up to 1866 confirmed these reports.

Both ships had become icebound and had been abandoned by their crews, totaling about 130 men,
all of whom died from a variety of causes, including hypothermia, scurvy, and starvation while
trying to trek overland to the south. Subsequent expeditions until the late 1980s, including
autopsies of crew members, also revealed that their shoddily canned rations may have been
tainted by both lead and botulism. Oral reports by local Inuit that some of the crew members
resorted to cannibalism were at least somewhat supported by forensic evidence of cut marks
on the skeletal remains of crew members found on King William Island during the late 20th century.

David Tirrell Named Caltech Provost

By photosearth / July 1, 2017

News Writer: 
Shayna Chabner McKinney

David Tirrell

David Tirrell, Caltech's tenth provost
Credit: Caltech

David Tirrell, the Ross McCollum-William H. Corcoran Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering and the director of the Beckman Institute, will become Caltech’s tenth provost, President Thomas F. Rosenbaum announced today. His appointment will take effect October 1, 2017.

Tirrell, who will succeed Edward M. Stolper in this role, has been a faculty member at the Institute since 1998. He served as chair of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering from 1999 to 2009 and since 2012 has been the director of Caltech’s Beckman Institute, an interdisciplinary research hub that develops methods, instrumentation, and materials for fundamental research in chemistry and biology.

An accomplished researcher, Tirrell is known for working across the disciplines of chemistry, biology, and materials science. He focuses on the genetic code and how modifying the molecular machinery of the cell might lead to new approaches in macromolecular design, protein evolution, biological imaging, and proteome-wide analysis of cellular processes. In recognition of his significant contributions in these areas, Tirrell has received numerous accolades from professional societies and universities around the world. He is one of only 19 individuals elected to all three National Academies: Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Tirrell earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from MIT and a PhD in polymer science and engineering from the University of Massachusetts.

“David Tirrell marshals insights across the intellectual spectrum in his view of Caltech and in his own research,” says Rosenbaum, the Sonja and William Davidow Presidential Chair and professor of physics. “David’s broad approach to science and engineering, dedication to teaching, vision, and consultative leadership style are sure to advance the Institute during his tenure as provost. I am grateful to the provost search committee, chaired by Barbara Wold, Bren Professor of Biology, for their helpful recommendations and hard work in garnering opinions from Caltech faculty, students, and staff.”

The position of provost, the Institute’s chief academic officer, was first established at Caltech in 1962. The provost advances the academic agenda of the Institute through faculty recruitment, retention, and promotions, and via budget prioritization. The provost works closely with the division chairs on programmatic initiatives, serves as coordinator for curriculum development, and aids in development initiatives. Tirrell’s appointment will be pursuant to approval from the Board of Trustees in July.

“I feel privileged to have been part of the Caltech community for the past two decades,” says Tirrell. “I welcome the opportunity to contribute in a different way to promoting the important intellectual and educational missions of the Institute and to supporting the work of all of our extraordinary students, postdoctoral scholars, faculty, and staff.”

Earlier this year, Rosenbaum announced that the Institute was embarking on a search for Stolper’s successor as provost. Stolper, the William E. Leonhard Professor of Geology and the Carl and Shirley Larson Provostial Chair, has served as Caltech’s provost since 2007. An acclaimed researcher, he received the Roebling Medal in 2017, the highest honor given by the Mineralogical Society of America. In 2012, he received the V. M. Goldschmidt Award from the Geochemical Society, the highest award of the international geochemical community. This spring, a new mineral, stolperite, was named in recognition of his “fundamental contributions to petrology and meteorite research.”

Stolper plans to return to the faculty full time to pursue his studies of the origin and evolution of igneous rocks on the earth and other planets using experiment, theory, and field studies. He will continue to maintain a strong relationship with JPL and NASA, which includes his participation on the science team of the Mars Science Laboratory mission, for which he is past project scientist.

“During his decade of service as provost, Ed worked tirelessly with division chairs to appoint, cultivate, and retain the best faculty, scrupulously managed the Institute’s budget, and engaged wholeheartedly in the launch and conduct of the current Caltech campaign,” Rosenbaum says. “Throughout his career at Caltech, he has demonstrated his unflinching commitment to research and education and his resounding dedication to the Institute and its values. I look forward to continuing to work with him as an invaluable member of our faculty.”

Caltech News tagged with “GPS”

ASCIT and GSC Honor Excellence in Teaching

By photosearth / June 30, 2017

The annual awards celebrate outstanding professors and TAs

Rob Phillips giving a Bi 1 lecture.

Rob Phillips giving a Bi 1 lecture.
Credit: Caltech

The Associated Students of Caltech (ASCIT) and Caltech’s Graduate Student Council (GSC) on June 14 announced the honorees of their annual teaching awards, celebrating professors, TAs, and mentors for outstanding teaching in the 2016–17 academic year.

Based on voting by undergraduates, the ASCIT Teaching Awards honored professors Paul Asimow (MS ’93, PhD ’97), the Eleanor and John R. McMillan Professor of Geology and Geochemistry; Rob Phillips, the Fred and Nancy Morris Professor of Biophysics and Biology; Adam Wierman, professor of computing and mathematical sciences; and Evan Kirby, assistant professor of astronomy. The TAs honored were Chinmay Nirkhe (BS ’17) and graduate students Dylan Freas (CCE), Eugene Tang (PMA), and Todd Norton (PMA).

The GSC’s Teaching and Mentoring Awards, which honor those who have “made an extraordinary impact on graduate students,” went to a professor, a TA, and a mentor; two honorable mentions were named as well.

Xie Chen, assistant professor of theoretical physics, won the teaching award; Michael Wong (MS ’14), a graduate student in GPS, won the TA award; and Beverley McKeon, the Theodore von Karman Professor of Aeronautics, won the mentoring award. The two honorable mentions went to Heather Knutson, professor of planetary science; and Laura Flower Kim, associate director of International Student Programs.

Caltech News tagged with “GPS”

Trumps Tripadvisor Reviews About Middle East Are Going Viral, And People Are Seriously Confused

By photosearth / June 28, 2017

Trump’s Tripadvisor Reviews About Middle East Are Going Viral, And People Are Seriously Confused

President Trump called his first trip abroad a ‘Home Run’ and we can’t argue with that. He touched “The Orb” in Global Center for Combating Extremism In Riyadh, Saudia Arabia and later visited Pope Francis (who was of course not happy about the evil orb).

Mashable decided to post Trump’s TripAdvisor reviews, and now people can’t tell whether they’re real or not. “Is this for real? …Does he think he is a travel advisor?” – asked their reader Maria. “This is entirely within the realm of possibility for Trump,” – wrote Sarah.

While most people realized that it’s just a satire, a lot of the readers were concerned about the article. “People are going to believe it and share it as truth,” – wrote Sarah. “What’s insane is…I actually had to read the reviews. And even then I had to check the comments to make sure this was 100% satire,” – added Aaron.

What about you? Would you fall for that?

Read more:



NASA’s newest photo of Jupiter will blow your mind

By photosearth / June 28, 2017

Lately, NASA’s Cassini orbiter has been delivering some stunning photos from its trips around Saturn, but that’s not the only fancy camera floating around a nearby planet. The agency’s Juno spacecraft has been hanging out around Jupiter for nearly a year now, and it just delivered one of the most jaw-dropping glimpses of the gas giant that we’ve ever seen.

This is Jupiter’s south pole, and like most of the rest of the planet, it’s absolutely covered in massive storms, electricity, and swirling masses of clouds that stretch for hundreds and hundreds of miles. The image is absolutely stunning, and it took and incredible amount of work to make it happen.

What you’re seeing is actually a composite of several different photos taken at different times so that the entirety of the south pole was illuminated by daylight. The photos used to make the image were collected during three separate orbits of Juno, each of which takes nearly two months to complete.

Juno has already revealed a great deal about Jupiter in its short time in orbit, and some of the information it is telling scientists is leaving them both surprised and amazed. The colossal, Earth-sized storms on its poles are one of the more shocking features that researchers are still trying to figure out.

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Art gone wild: The best places to see sculptures outdoors

By photosearth / June 26, 2017

(CNN)Some of the most popular outdoor works of the last few decades — James Turrell’s famous Skyspaces, Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty,” Antony Gormley’s standing figures, Andy Goldsworthy’s ephemeral works in nature — have shown how a fresh setting can make for a perspective-altering and exhilarating experience.

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Here are a few of the best places to view outdoor art today.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Considered by some to be the most beautiful sculpture park in the world, Yorkshire Sculpture Park in the north of England has shown large-scale works by Bill Viola, KAWS, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, David Nash and Andy Goldsworthy.
This year the park celebrates its 40th anniversary, marking four decades at the forefront of staging outdoor exhibitions. In a year of programmed events there will be exhibitions of work by seminal British sculptor Tony Cragg, as well as the Chilean polymath Alfredo Jaar.
They will also host a 40-hour party, allowing visitors to view the park at night, an exhibition of work from the British Arts Council collection, and an intervention by Haroon Mira at the park’s James Turrell Skyspace.

Domaine du Muy

In 2016, the Parisian Galerie Mitterrand opened the Domaine du Muy in the south of France. The permanent installation, which includes works from Sol LeWitt, Dan Graham, and Yayoi Kusama to Claudia Comte, Liam Gillick, and Carsten Hller, is the brainchild of Jean-Gabriel Mitterrand and his son, Edward, and spans 10 hectares of forest.
The latest addition to the park, a house by architect and designer India Mahdavi, is set to be completed this year.
“My goal here, in subverting or appropriating the rustic aspect of this Provenal house, was to anchor it in the landscape in a rather unusual fashion, enabling it to reflect its surroundings in a solar, mineral and graphic manner,” Mahdavi explained in a press release. “We chose to position the house within the landscape, by excavating into the earth, in order to create a gallery, one that may be likened to a kind of indoor patio, devoted to freshness and contemplation.”

Not Vital Foundation

Swiss artist Not Vital‘s work combines innovative techniques and an innate connection with nature.
Working with both sculpture and installation, Vital creates striking and emotive art that require ingenuity and technical skill to realize. From works carved from ice caves of a Chilean island to works that rise out of the hillside at a press of a button, his scope is vast.
Vital has taken his success as an artist and used it to create the Not Vital Foundation, which includes a stunning sculpture park. Situated in the village of Sent in his native Switzerland, the park is on the grounds of a house that was never built. The finished gardens provide the perfect backdrop for monumental works placed in — and against — the dramatic scenery.

Public Art Fund in Brooklyn Bridge Park

Earlier this month, Anish Kapoor‘s “Descension” (2014) was unveiled in New York.
The work, commissioned by New York’s Public Art Fund, sits outside 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge in Brooklyn Bridge Park, stark reminder that although you are in the heart of one of the busiest cities in the world, you are also amid nature.
“Descension” is essentially a 26-foot-wide whirlpool in the middle of the city. Thirty thousand gallons of water rush deep into the ground to great visual and aural effect, creating a welcome break from the everyday grind.

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The Most Surreal Landscapes On Earth

By photosearth / June 26, 2017

Planet Earth is full of bizarre landscapes.

Some are land formations molded over thousands of years by Mother Nature, while others are man-made creations that have altered the earth in strange ways. From the bubbling lava lakes of Ethiopia, to a lake that has been nestled in the desert for 2,000 years, here are 29 landscapes that are so incredible, it’s hard to believe they’re real. Megan Willett wrote an earlier verson of this story.

Near the city of Torrevieja in Spain lie two salty and very pink lakes called Las Salinas de Torrevieja. The color is said to be caused by algae that releases a red pigment under certain conditions.


Click here to learn more about Las Salinas de Torrevieja

The Door to Hell in Turkmenistan has been burning its flames since 1971. Somehow, the hole continues to burn since it was accidentally drilled into by geologists.


Click here to learn more about the Door to Hell

In the province of Denizli in western Turkey, the naturally terraced thermal springs of Hierapolis-Pamukkale date as far back as the second century B.C. Formed by calcite in the water, the hot springs look like stunning white clouds.


Click here to learn more about Pamukkale

The Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland in New Zealand has been sculpted from thousands of years of volcanic activity. Considered New Zealands most colorful and diverse geothermal attraction, the sight features bubbling mud pools, mineral terraces, and geysers.

Flickr/Florian Bugiel

Click here to learn more about Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Tanzania’s Lake Natron is known for its deep red hue. Its rich color comes from algae and salt-loving organisms, and it fascinatingly draws millions of flamingo visitors from June to November.

Wikimedia Commons

Click here to learn more about Lake Natron

In Geneva, travelers can witness the majestic sight of two rivers colliding with one another. The Rhone River starts in Lake Lehman, while the Arve River is fed by glaciers in the Chamonix valley. When the two bleed into one another, it makes for a stunning sight.


Click here to learn more about the confluence

The Danakil Depression, in the northeastern corner of Ethiopia, is one of the hottest places on the planet, with temperatures reaching as high as 145 degrees Fahrenheit. With two active volcanoes, a bubbling lava lake, geysers, acid ponds, and several mineral deposits, the setting looks like something from another planet.

Shutterstock/Aleksandra H. Kossowska

Click here to learn more about the Danakil Depression

The rice terraces of China’s Yunnan province are carved into the hillside. Different types of vegetation lend the landscape its alternating hues.


Click here to learn more about the rice fields

Antelope Canyon, located near Page, Arizona, is the most photographed canyon in the American Southwest. Travelers flock here to capture its masterpiece of colors while admiring its smooth, wave-like texture.


Click here to learn more about Antelope Canyon

Greme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia is a volcanic landscape created entirely from erosion. This includes pinnacles nicknamed “fairy chimneys”, which can be seen across this region of Turkey. Meanwhile, the Cappadocia Valley is home to thousand-year-old cave dwellings you can still visit today.

Flickr/Mr Hicks46

Click here to learn more about Greme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia

The Crescent Lake (or “Yueyaquan” in Chinese) is a fresh water spring in the shape of a half moon that sits in the Gobi Desert. The oasis is believed to have existed for around 2,000 years (though it has seen its water levels decline), and attractions include activities like dune surfing and camel riding.


Click here to learn more about Crescent Lake

At first glance, the Lencois Maranhenses Sand Dunes of northeastern Brazil look like your average set of sand dunes, but the valleys are filled with water since the low-lying lands often flood during the wet season. Fish even live in the pools.


Click here to learn more about the Lencois Maranhenses Sand Dunes

Marvel at Grand Prismatic Spring, located in Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park. As the largest natural hot spring in the US, it’s a favorite for its dazzling colors that shift from orange and reds in the summer to green hues in the winter.

Yann Arthus-Bertrand/AP

Click here to learn more about the Grand Prismatic Spring

Whitehaven Beach, in Whitsunday Island, Australia, hosts a cove where the tide shifts the sand and waters together, creating a breathtaking combination. White sands and turquoise waters seem to blend seamlessly to make for a marvelous view.

Flickr/Roderick Eime

Click here to learn more about Whitehaven Beach

During the wet season, the Salar de Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia are covered in a thin layer of water, creating surreal reflections of the sky.

Shutterstock/Benedikt Juerges

Click here to learn more about Salar de Uyuni

Visit the Zao Onsen hot spring and ski resort, located in the mountains of Japans Yamagata Prefecture, and you’ll see “ice trees” trees that pack on heavy amounts of snow to take on fascinating shapes.


Click here to learn more about Zao Onsen

Salinas Grandes is a massive salt desert in Argentina. The field stretches 2,300 square miles and includes saltwater pools within its awe-inspiring expanse.

Shutterstock/Anibal Trejo

Click here to learn more about Salinas Grandes

The Ta Prohm temple, located in Angkor, Cambodia, is an unbelievably fascinating sight, as huge tree roots dominate the ground and structure, growing sideways along its walls.


Click here to learn more about Ta Prohm

The Namib Sand Sea, located in Namibia’s Namid-Naukluft Park, is the only coastal desert in the world. Dune fields often come into contact with fog, creating a unique environment for an array of wildlife.

Shutterstock/Anna Morgan

Click here to learn more about the Namib Sand Sea

The Kelimutu volcano on Flores island, Indonesia, is home to three colored lakes ranging from turquoise to a rich green. The lakes are incredibly dense, adding to the striking appearance of their colors, which are thought to be caused by dissolving minerals.


Click here to learn more about Kelimutu

The Wave is a sandstone rock formation located in the Paria Canyon-Vermillon Cliffs Wilderness near the border of Arizona and Utah. It’s known for its colorful and unique formations and the difficult hike required to reach it, and you’ll need to obtain a permit to visit.

Flickr/Greg Mote

Click here to learn more about the Wave

Colombias Cao Cristales is covered in an aquatic plant that takes on hues of red, blue, yellow, orange, and green under different weather conditions. Most of the year it looks like any other river, but from June to December, it is said to look like a breathtaking stream of rainbows.


Click here to learn more about Cao Cristales

Located in Utah, Bryce Canyon National Park is home to brightly colored geological structures, which are formed from erosion and called hoodoos. The park hosts the largest collection of hoodoos in the world.


Click here to learn more about Bryce Canyon National Park

The White Sands National Monument in New Mexico is home to the world’s largest gypsum dune field. With around 275 square miles of white dunes, the area looks like its blanketed in snow.

Flickr/Miguel Vieira

Click here to learn more about the White Sands National Monument

The Richat Structure, also known as the Eye of the Sahara, stands as a large bullseye in the middle of the Sahara Desert. With a diameter that spans almost 30 miles, it is thought to be the result of erosion and stands as a marvel for scientists and travelers alike.

Flickr/Jim Trodel

Click here to learn more about the Richat Structure

Croatia’s Plitvice Lakes National Park is both one of southeast Europe’s oldest parks and Croatia’s largest, with 16 interlinked lakes between Mala Kapela Mountain and Pljeivica Mountain. The lakes are surrounded by lush forests and waterfalls, whose waters have deposited travertine limestone barriers for years to create the natural dams.

149420482 Kelly Cheng Travel Photography / Getty Images

Click here to learn more about Plitvice Lakes National Park

Nevada’s Fly Geyser, located in Washoe County, was created through accidental well drilling in 1916. In the 1960s, the water began escaping from the drilled location, creating the geyser that is known for its stunning changing colors.

Wikimedia Commons

Click here to learn more about the Fly Geyser

Ice caves that reside within Kamchatka, Russia, come complete with stunning formations and hues of purples, blues, greens, and yellows, which arise when sunlight streams through their glacial ice.

Shutterstock/Sergey Krasnoshchokov

Click here to learn more about Kamchatka

Namibia’s Dead Vlei, or “dead marsh”, is surrounded by some of the highest sand dunes in the world and dotted with dead trees that are more than 900 years old.

Click here to learn more about Dead Vlei


Read the original article on Tech Insider. Copyright 2017.

Read next:Here’s what the US actually agreed to in the Paris climate deal

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Grand Canyon at risk as Arizona officials ask Trump to end uranium mining ban

By photosearth / June 26, 2017

Image of the Grand Canyon and surrounding area taken from the International Space Station

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Exclusive: Powerful regional officials to ask administration to end 20-year ban, saying it is unlawful and inhibits economic opportunity

A coalition of influential officials in Arizona and Utah is urging the Trump administration to consider rolling back Obama-era environmental protections that ban new uranium mining near the Grand Canyon.


They argue that the 20-year ban that came into effect in 2012 is unlawful and stifles economic opportunity in the mining industry. But supporters of the ban say new mining activity could increase the risk of uranium-contaminated water flowing into the canyon. Past mining in the region has left hundreds of polluted sites among Arizonas Navajo population, leading to serious health consequences, including cancer and kidney failure.

The new appeal to the Trump administration appears in the draft of a letter expected to be sent on Monday to the US interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, by the Mohave County board of supervisors, whose region borders the north side of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Similar letters are being drawn up by other regional leaders in neighboring county governments in southern Utah, to be sent to Washington by the end of the week, according to officials.

The Mohave County leaders also plan to dispatch a second letter on Monday asking the federal government to scrap national monument protections for lands of natural wonder throughout Arizona, claiming their designation is unconstitutional and prevents economic development of coal, oil and gas deposits. Utah leaders will follow with letters requesting the government shrink national monuments in southern Utah, such as Bears Ears and Grand Escalante, in order to open up a greater area for mineral exploitation, the Guardian has learned.

The battle to restore mining activity near the Grand Canyon is part of broader push by conservatives to roll back protections on Americas 640m acres of public land. Earlier this year, Congress reversed the Bureau of Land Managements Planning 2.0 rule, an Obama-era initiative that gave the public greater input on how land should be used. At the same time, Zinke has ended the moratorium on federal coal leases while pledging to open up public lands to greater oil and gas extraction. Trump has also ordered Zinke to review 27 national monument designations and report as to whether some parks might be reversed or reduced in size.

The letters come amid fears that the Trump administration will favor the powerful mining lobby, increasing the risk, particularly, of uranium contaminating water flowing into the Grand Canyon. Photograph: Stephen Yelverton Photography/Getty Images

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Trumps review of national monuments has increased fears among environmental advocates that the Mohave County leaders are pushing at an open door. Many fear the administration will favor the powerful mining lobby over concerns from the tourism industry and the Native Americans who live in the region, such as the Havasupai, whose reservation lies west of the canyon.

Carletta Tilousi of the Havasupai tribal council told the Guardian: We are already one of the smallest tribes in the country with just 775 people, and our stories of living down in the Grand Canyon go back to the beginning of time.

We are faced with the potential dangers of uranium contamination into our sole water supply, (local) testing in other areas has already shown traces of uranium from mining in the Grand Canyon region, and I dont think we would be able to survive an environmental catastrophe here, I just dont know where we would go, she added. The Havasupai territory is renowned for its turquoise waterfalls, fed by the water source now under threat.

The Mohave County boards letter says that the mining of uranium does not affect ground water nor destroy the natural resources of the land.

The new letters to Zinke are on the Mohave boards public agenda and will be presented for final approval at a supervisors meeting scheduled for Monday morning.

Board chairman Gary Watson told the Guardian on Friday that he was confident of winning a majority of votes among the five county supervisors.

I think the Trump administration is very interested in looking at the situation. A number of companies are very anxious to get in there and start extracting uranium. There is no danger, he said.

He plans to follow up those requests within six months with an appeal to the federal government to open up national forest land in his region for logging, he said.

The mining request claims there is enough high-grade uranium under the largely rural area known as the Arizona Strip to the north of the canyon to provide power generation to the state of California for 20 years.

The letter also points out that uranium has many military uses and could inject $29bn into the area economy over 42 years. This ban took away much needed growth and jobs from our area These [uranium] deposits represent the last available use of our public lands for economic growth Environmental laws already on the books will protect the public from damage to the Grand Canyon watershed, the letter says.

That and the letter requesting the lifting of national monument titles for the Vermilion Cliffs area in northern Arizona, Parashant, which straddles the Arizona-Utah border, and the Sonoran desert near Phoenix, were signed by Watson and were already initialed by the county attorney and county manager.

When Barack Obamas interior secretary, Ken Salazar, banned new mining claims on a million acres of land surrounding the Grand Canyon for 20 years in 2012, he said it was the right approach for this priceless American landscape to protect if for the 5 million annual visitors to Grand Canyon national park, nearby Native American communities and millions more who rely on the Colorado river flowing through it.

Although there are thousands of older claims for uranium in the area, related regulations prohibit speculative drilling for the deep-seated mineral, according to Ted Zukoski, a lawyer with campaign group Earthjustice.

That factor and an extended slump in the uranium market has kept mining largely at bay recently.

The Sonoran desert near Phoenix, Arizona. Mohave County leaders have signed letters urging Trump to rescind national monument status for this and other parks. Photograph: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

But Salazars ban brought a legal challenge from the National Mining Association and others, and a decision is expected on that from the ninth circuit court of appeals soon.

And work began in 2015 to reopen the dormant Canyon Mine six miles from the south rim of the Grand Canyon, close to tourist areas and water sources for the Havasupai people, who have lived at the bottom of the canyon for millennia.

Obama was lobbied in vain to name a large area around the Grand Canyon a national monument in 2016, which would have stopped all mining permanently.

During that debate it emerged that the libertarian Koch brothers were reported to be channeling funds to the pro-development lobby in Arizona.

Mohave County previously created the Arizona-Utah local economic coalition alongside four counties in southern Utah Kane, Washington, San Juan and Garfield and letters will be sent to Zinke from the coalition and from the individual counties later this week, supporting Mohaves request to lift the uranium ban and also asking for the right to exploit minerals within national monument areas in the region, Jim Matson, Kane county commissioner, told the Guardian last Friday.

These restrictions have been opportunity killers. Economic development on our public lands is terribly important, he said.

Opponents are skeptical.

Thats ridiculous, said Roger Clark, program director of the Grand Canyon Trust, an environmental campaign group. Every time we look for evidence we find contamination, 100% of the time.

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