Global Warming Could Soften 66 Tons of Human Poop at Alaska’s Denali National Park

iStock.com/zzvision
iStock.com/zzvision

As North America’s tallest mountain, Denali has always been a challenge to climb. Those who dare to scale the Alaskan summit may be forced to dodge avalanches, bears, and altitude sickness—and piles of melting poo could soon be added to the list.

As USA Today reports, decades-old feces left behind by climbers could start thawing out as early as this summer due to climate change. Researchers say 66 tons of frozen poo has been dumped in snow pits or crevasses, according to estimates based on the average human “deposit.” That waste can eventually work its way downstream and end up on the surface of a glacier.

Situated in Denali National Park, the mountain—formerly known as Mount McKinley—rises to an elevation of 20,310 feet above sea level. That makes removing the waste difficult, but climbers are starting to embrace more sustainable practices. Companies that arrange expeditions at Denali have voluntarily offered to make their clients pack up and carry their own waste. Visitors were already required to carry their waste while climbing up the first 14,000 feet of the mountain, but the new measure would help protect the upper section of Denali as well.

“Climbers and particularly guide services are really embracing the new policy and are even exceeding it,” Michael Loso, a National Park Service (NPS) glaciologist, told USA Today. “It has become kind of an informal badge of merit to carry off all your waste.”

Of course, the softening poo is representative of a much larger issue. Some of Denali’s glaciers are melting at a rate that is concerning. The NPS has used comparative photography to measure some of the glaciers and concluded that most of the ones they studied had “retreated, thinned, or stagnated.”

Alaskan parks in general have also seen their ice-covered areas shrink by 8 percent in the last 50 years. “We have lost more glacier cover in the Alaskan national parks than there is area in the whole state of Rhode Island,” Loso said.

[h/t USA Today]

UK Burger King Restaurants Will Stop Giving Plastic Toys With Kids' Meals

Leon Neal/Getty Images
Leon Neal/Getty Images

Fast food companies don't have a reputation for being eco-friendly, but through small changes made in recent years, some of the biggest names in the industry are working to reduce their environmental impact. Just a few weeks after introducing the meat-free Impossible Whopper, Burger King announced a new policy for its United Kingdom locations. As CNN reports, UK restaurants will no long include plastic toys with kids' meals.

The change comes after two sisters from the UK started a petition on Change.org calling on McDonald's and Burger King to stop distributing plastic toys with kids' meals. Ella and and Caitlin McEwan, who were 9 and 7 respectively when the petition launched this summer, wrote, “children only play with the plastic toys they give us for a few minutes before they get thrown away and harm animals and pollute the sea." They went on to say: "It’s not enough to make recyclable plastic toys—big, rich companies shouldn’t be making toys out of plastic at all." Their online petition has received more than 530,000 signatures.

By cutting plastic from kids' meals, Burger King estimates it will avoid wasting 350 tons of single-use plastic a year. The chain has also installed containers in its UK stores for collecting old plastic toys from customers, so the material can be recycled to make playgrounds. The UK represents just a fraction of Burger King's market, but according to the company, non-biodegradable plastic toys will be phased out of all locations by 2025.

McDonald's has had a different response to the McEwan sister's petition. Instead of doing away with plastic toys completely, UK restaurants will give customers the option to swap toys for fruit with their Happy Meals later this year, and then allow them to opt for books instead for a period in early 2020. Meanwhile, in Canada and Germany, some McDonald's restaurants are experimenting with going totally plastic-free. The more sustainable restaurants feature paper straws, waffle cone condiment cups, and burger wrappers made from grass.

[h/t CNN]

Fall Foliage Is Running Late This Year

Free art director/iStock via Getty Images
Free art director/iStock via Getty Images

The August arrival of the pumpkin spice latte might have you feeling like fall is in full swing already, but plants aren’t quite so impressionable. According to Travel + Leisure, the best fall foliage could be coming a little later than usual this year.

Historically, the vibrant transformation starts to sweep through northern regions of the Rocky Mountains, Minnesota, and New England in mid-September, and reaches its peak by the end of the month. Other areas, including the Appalachians and Midwest states, don’t see the brightest autumn leaves until early or mid-October. The Weather Channel reports that this year, however, the forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts unseasonably warm temperatures for the next two weeks, which could impede the color-changing process.

Warm temperatures aren’t necessarily bad for fall foliage, as long as they occur during the day and are offset by cool nights. Since meteorologists don’t expect the overnight temperatures to drop off yet, plants will likely continue producing enough chlorophyll to keep their leaves green in the coming days.

The good news is that this year’s fall foliage should only be about a week late, and meteorologist David Epstein thinks that when leaves do start to change color, we’re in for an especially beautiful treat. If the current weather forecast holds, he told Boston.com, we'll "see a longer season than last year, we’d see a more vibrant season than last year, and it would come on a little earlier than last year, which was so late.”

Though poor weather conditions like early snow, heavy rain, drought, or strong winds can cause leaves to fall prematurely, most trees right now are in a good position to deliver a brilliant display of color after a healthy, rain-filled summer.

Find out when you’ll experience peak fall foliage in your area with this interactive map.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER