What happens during the long, dark periods of the Arctic winter months? A lot more than we thought.

Professor Jørgen Berge always thought animals, like people, preferred to spend their winters dormant.

Berge is a marine biologist and zoologist at the Arctic University of Norway and the University Centre in Svalbard, which means he's used to those long, dark winters where the sun literally does not rise for anywhere from 23 to 176 days.

This phenomenon is known as a " polar night," which means that no part of the sun's disc is visible on the horizon, and it occurs everywhere above the 67° latitude line, including parts of Alaska, the Yukon, the Denmark Strait, and parts of Greenland and Russia.


That might be a good environment for a nasty coven of evil vampires to feast on Arctic townsfolk, but it's probably less good for non-undead organisms that thrive on sunlight and warmth.

...right?

And I thought my winter ennui was bad. GIF from "Winnie the Pooh."

As it turns out, those cold polar nights are a hotbed of activity — particularly in the Arctic Ocean.

"We have basically assumed that when it is dark, there is no primary production and there is no activity. The system is just waiting for the light to return," Berge said in a recently published article in the Journal of Cellular Biology.

But he and his fellow researchers were inspired to take a second look after a chance encounter in a Svalbard fjord in the winter of 2013.

"Above us was a starry, winter night and below us were countless blue-green 'stars' in the deep produced by bioluminescent organisms. The beauty of it was stunning, and the fact that so many organisms were producing light was a strong indication that the system was not in a resting mode," he explained.

The scenic underwater Arctic. Photo by Elisabeth Calvert/ NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration.

A team of nearly 100 scientists from seven different nations cataloged the lives of some surprisingly active Arctic animals.

Over three winters, the team led by Professor Berge embarked on underwater filming, biodiversity counts, and analyses of the stomach contents of seabirds and fish.

"Instead of an ecosystem that has entered a resting state, we document a system with high activity levels and biological interactions across most trophic levels," he said.

This activity included:

  • scallops and shellfish feeding on the floor;
  • krill and zooplankton and other tiny critters all spawning like rabbits in the springtime;
  • and auks and guillemots who resisted the urge to head south for the winter and somehow managed to stalk their deep-sea prey in absolute darkness.

A seabird diving underwater for prey. Footage by Robert Staven/NTNU via BBC.

"They are not individuals that are left behind and about to die," Berge told the BBC. "They are doing well, they find their food in the dark. Many of them had very full stomachs."

Pretty amazing, right? And all they had to do was look in the one place that no one thought to look before!


And in defense of every other scientist ever, I completely understand not wanting to leave your bed in the middle of a pitch-black Arctic winter to dive through the ice on the off chance that you might find some surprising aquatic activity. GIF from "Doctor Who."

Unless ... maybe this overactive polar night is actually something new?

For better or for worse, Berge and his team would not have been able to conduct their research if it hadn't been for the rapidly rising global temperatures.

"If you go back 10 years, the fjords would freeze up at that time of year, and this wouldn't have been possible at all," Berge said. "At the same time, there has been warming. We have less sea ice, we have more influence of warmer Atlantic water masses — and that will also have influenced the system."

Could it be that this influx of activity is actually the result of climate change and the melting polar ice caps?

Well ... maybe.

We can't actually know for sure because there's simply not enough research yet to prove the theory. As far as Berge's team members are concerned, it really could go either way.

"It's surprising to see that the rates are so high — that the level of activity is comparable to what's there in the summer. That is impressive," said Dr. Donatella Zona, an Arctic ecologist at the University of Sheffield. "But it's not very surprising that there is activity during the cold period. The main problem is that there are so few data. It's very hard to quantify, because we are relying on so few measurements."

Granted, correlation is not causation. But climate change is still a serious concern, and it would stand to reason that it might have something to do with this newly discovered aquatic Arctic dance party.


One thing is certain: Climate change is affecting everything from animals to humans to the earth itself.

Regardless of whether climate change has a direct impact (yet) on animal activity in the Arctic Ocean, I think we can all agree that the Arctic environment is a unique and wonderful place full of mystery and life that should be explored.

But things like Arctic drilling are chipping away at that ecosystem at increasingly alarming rates.

Pretty much our relationship with the planet right now. GIF via Jordi Tosas.

Let's put a stop to the arrogant actions that threaten to destroy our planet so that we might live to discover more of the wonders our world holds.

Heroes
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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

Cities

The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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