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Mon, 03 Aug 2020
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Snowman

Snakeless in Ireland: Blame Ice Age, Not St. Patrick

During St. Patrick's Day next week, most revelers won't remember the patron saint of Ireland for his role as a snake killer.

But legend holds that the Christian missionary rid the slithering reptiles from Ireland's shores as he converted its peoples from paganism during the fifth century A.D.

St. Patrick supposedly chased the snakes into the sea after they began attacking him during a 40-day fast he undertook on top of a hill.

An unlikely tale, perhaps - yet Ireland is unusual for its absence of native snakes.

It's one of only a handful of places worldwide - including New Zealand, Iceland, Greenland, and Antarctica - where Indiana Jones and other snake-averse humans can visit without fear.

Image
©ohn Cancalosi/NGS
This grass snake swimming in duckweed belongs to one of only three snake species native to Britain.

After the last ice age about 10,000 years ago, swollen seas prevented snakes from migrating throughout parts of northern Europe - and none made it to Ireland.

Even still, the legend that St. Patrick banished snakes from the Emerald Isle in the fifth century A.D. lives on in popular culture.

Cloud Lightning

Solar Activity Diminishes; Researchers Predict Another Ice Age

Global Cooling comes back in a big way

Dr. Kenneth Tapping is worried about the sun. Solar activity comes in regular cycles, but the latest one is refusing to start. Sunspots have all but vanished, and activity is suspiciously quiet. The last time this happened was 400 years ago -- and it signaled a solar event known as a "Maunder Minimum," along with the start of what we now call the "Little Ice Age."

Tapping, a solar researcher and project director for Canada's National Research Council, says it may be happening again. Overseeing a giant radio telescope he calls a "stethoscope for the sun," Tapping says, if the pattern doesn't change quickly, the earth is in for some very chilly weather.

Snowman

Forget global warming: Welcome to the new Ice Age

Snow cover over North America and much of Siberia, Mongolia and China is greater than at any time since 1966.

The U.S. National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) reported that many American cities and towns suffered record cold temperatures in January and early February. According to the NCDC, the average temperature in January "was -0.3 F cooler than the 1901-2000 (20th century) average."

Bizarro Earth

Russian scientist says Earth could soon face new Ice Age

Temperatures on Earth have stabilized in the past decade, and the planet should brace itself for a new Ice Age rather than global warming, a Russian scientist said in an interview with RIA Novosti Tuesday.

Attention

Research team says extraterrestrial impact to blame for Ice Age extinctions

What caused the extinction of mammoths and the decline of Stone Age people about 13,000 years ago remains hotly debated. Overhunting by Paleoindians, climate change and disease lead the list of probable causes. But an idea once considered a little out there is now hitting closer to home.

A team of international researchers, including two Northern Arizona University geologists, reports evidence that a comet or low-density object barreling toward Earth exploded in the upper atmosphere and triggered a devastating swath of destruction that wiped out most of the large animals, their habitat and humans of that period.

Bizarro Earth

Carbon dioxide did not end the last Ice Age

Deep-sea temperatures rose 1,300 years before atmospheric CO2, ruling out the greenhouse gas as driver of meltdown, says study in Science.

Attention

Extraterrestrial impact wiped out life during Ice Age

Extraterrestrial impact possibly wiped out all life forms on Earth during the Ice Age, a new study by a team of international researchers, including two Northern Arizona University geologists, has revealed.

What caused the extinction of mammoths and the decline of Stone Age people about 13,000 years ago remains hotly debated. Overhunting by Paleoindians, climate change and disease lead the list of probable causes.

Bizarro Earth

The 'Old' Consensus? (NASA predicted human caused ice age in 1971)

Climate Change: Did NASA scientist James Hansen, the global warming alarmist in chief, once believe we were headed for . . . an ice age? An old Washington Post story indicates he did.

On July 9, 1971, the Post published a story headlined "U.S. Scientist Sees New Ice Age Coming." It told of a prediction by NASA and Columbia University scientist S.I. Rasool. The culprit: man's use of fossil fuels.

Snowman

Wobbles of Mars Produced 40 Ice Ages

Wobbles in the rotation of Mars swung the planet into about 40 extreme ice ages in the past 5 million years and allowed thick ice layers to remain far away from the poles, an astronomer says.

Various spacecraft have revealed evidence for ice ages on Mars. Around 4 million to 5 million years ago, precipitation events sent piles of snow and ice that accumulated around the ice caps. Nowadays, the only visible ice on Mars is the pair of polar caps. But in recent years, orbiting probes have found solid evidence for vast sheets of underground ice near the red planet's equator, at what scientists call mid-latitudes.

Wolf

Ice Age extinction claimed highly carnivorous Alaskan wolves

The extinction of many large mammals at the end of the Ice Age may have packed an even bigger punch than scientists have realized. To the list of victims such as woolly mammoths and saber-toothed cats, a Smithsonian-led team of scientists has added one more: a highly carnivorous form of wolf that lived in Alaska, north of the ice sheets.

Wolves were generally thought to have survived the end-Pleistocene extinction relatively unscathed. But this previously unrecognized type of wolf appears to have vanished without a trace some 12,000 years ago.

The study, which will be published in the June 21 online issue of Current Biology, combined genetic and chemical analyses with more conventional paleontological study of the morphology, or form, of the fossilized skeletal remains. This multifaceted approach allowed the researchers to trace the ancient wolves' genetic relationships with modern-day wolves, as well as understand their role in the ancient ecosystem.

"Being able to say all of those things - having a complete picture - is really unusual," said lead author Jennifer Leonard, a research associate with the Smithsonian Genetics Program, and currently at Uppsala University in Sweden.