Dozens of times drought, ice melt, and storm surge unearthed unusual and unsettling discoveries this year
- This year, human-caused climate change has exposed a spate of unusual discoveries.
- Among the unearthed finds are old sites, ancient artifacts, rare fossils, and even human remains.
This year, as human-caused climate change steadily warms the planet, depleting bodies of water, melting ice, and strengthening storms exposed a bevy of lost treasures and forgotten stories.
Among the unearthed finds are old sites, ancient artifacts, rare fossils, and even human remains.
Climate change is making certain weather storms and droughts more severe and pervasive in many parts of the world, by causing changes in precipitation and enhancing evaporation, according to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, published in April. Moreover, rising global temperatures are thawing glaciers, adding water to the ocean and contributing to eroding beaches.
As the world warms, unusual and unsettling discoveries will continue to emerge.
Shrinking lakes and rivers unearthed long-submerged secrets around the world
Nevada's Lake Mead is a prime example of retreating shores that have led to a recent spate of discoveries. This summer, low water levels created an eerie boat graveyard of previously sunken ships and beached boats, the Associated Press reported.
The manmade reservoir's plummeting water levels also revealed human remains on at least six occasions since May, The Guardian reported.
More bodies could turn up, given that water levels have receded to historic lows amid a climate change-fueled drought, according to Jennifer Byrnes, a forensic anthropologist who consults with the Clark County coroner's office.
"I would expect human remains of missing persons will probably be revealed over time, as the water level continues to recede," Byrnes previously told Insider.
It's not just Lake Mead. Some locations along the Mississippi River — a major shipping route — reported their lowest water levels in 10 years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in its most recent climate report.
In October, low water levels along the Mississippi River's banks revealed a 19th-century old ship, skeletal remains, and a rare fossilized jawbone from an ancient American lion that roamed the area roughly 11,000 years ago.
In Spain, at least two once-submerged villages have reemerged as Europe experienced an ongoing drought.
In February, the village of Aceredo in Spain's northwestern Galicia region reemerged after a drought drained a dam on the Spanish-Portuguese border. In Spain's Vilanova de Sau in the Catalonia region, plummeting water levels in a reservoir exposed a 11th century Romanesque church, the Associated Press reported.
Melting ice is revealing remnants of the past frozen in time
Beyond droughts, warmer average global temperatures are thawing and receding glaciers around the world, according to a growing body of research. In turn, that's unveiling previously frozen remains and artifacts.
In western Mongolia and Norway, melting ice has exposed fragile artifacts, including ancient tools, rope, spears, and arrows, according to William Taylor, an archaeologist at University of Colorado Boulder.
In The Conversation, Taylor writes that the melting ice give scientists a narrow window of time to secure these objects before weather and exposure to the elements damages or degrades them.
More recently, in August, melting glaciers in the Swiss Alps revealed two sets of human remains and the wreckage of a plane crash that had been frozen beneath snow and ice. Local police said in a statement that their investigation determined the plane parts found on the glacier were from a Piper Cherokee plane that crashed on the glacier on June 30, 1968.
"At the time of the accident, more than 50 years ago, the technical means to recover aircraft wreckage in difficult terrain were limited. Due to the melting of the glaciers, particularly in summer, it is therefore possible that other pieces or pieces of wreckage may be released from the ice," police said in the statement, according to a Google translation.
Stronger storm surge and sea level rise are exposing burial grounds
In some cultures, including among Indigenous tribes that lived in what is now known as Florida, ancestral remains are traditionally buried along the shore.
In November, Hurricane Nicole's storm surge eroded parts of the east Florida coastline and unearthed a Native American burial ground that dated back hundreds of years, according to local news reports.
Investigators believe the bones belonged to the Seminole tribe and came from a Native American burial ground located nearby. "They are ancestors of the Seminole people," Tina Osceola, a member of the Seminole tribe in Florida, told WPTV. "That we do know."
Research suggests that storms are intensifying due to warming waters fueled by climate change, in turn causing more and more sand to erode from beaches.
This is not the first time that hurricanes have unearthed Indigenous remains. In September 2019, a weakened Hurricane Dorian caused beach erosion that unearthed ancient Native American bones in the same stretch of the eastern Florida coast, WPTV reported.
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