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Nature | Environment

Nature, Environment

Hawaii Volcano Finds a Way to Get Worse

The Free Press WV

A volcano that is oozing, spewing, and exploding on Hawaii’s Big Island has gotten more hazardous in recent days, with a river of molten rock flowing into the ocean and flying lava causing the first major injury, the AP reports. Kilauea volcano began erupting more than two weeks ago and has burned dozens of homes, forced people to flee, and shot up plumes of steam from its summit that led officials to distribute face masks to protect against ash particles. Lava flows have grown more vigorous in past days, spattering molten rock that hit a man in the leg. He was outside his home Saturday in the remote, rural region affected by the volcano when the lava “hit him on the shin, and shattered everything from there down on his leg,“ says a Hawaii County mayor spokeswoman.

Lava that’s flying through the air from cracks in the Earth can weigh as much as a refrigerator and even small pieces can be lethal, officials say. The injury came the same day lava streamed across a highway and flowed into the ocean. The phenomenon sends hydrochloric acid and steam with glass particles into the air and can lead to lung, eye, and skin irritation, another danger for residents as the plume can shift with the wind, the Hawaii County Civil Defense agency says. The highway has shut down in some spots, and residents in the area have been evacuated. With the problems compounding, scientists can’t say whether lava flows from nearly two dozen fissures will keep advancing or stop.

National parks draw 1.7M visitors to West Virginia in 2017

The Free Press WV

A new report shows the national parks in West Virginia drew 1.7 million visitors last year.

The National Park Service report said visitors to the state’s national parks in 2017 spent $72.8 million in nearby communities, resulting in economic output totaling $84 million.

The spending supported 1,080 jobs and $28.8 million in labor income.

The National Parks of Southern West Virginia brought 1.3 million of the visitors, who spent $56 million in the region. New River Gorge National River, Bluestone National Scenic River and Gauley River National Recreation Area span four counties: Fayette, Nicholas, Raleigh and Summers.

This Is the Longest Line You Can Sail Without Hitting Land

The Free Press WV

Feel like getting away on the open sea for a long while? Get yourself a boat and head to Pakistan’s coastal town of Sonmiani. From there, you can embark on the longest sailable straight line possible, reaching Russia’s Karaginsky District some 19,940 miles away, according to researchers. Rohan Chabukswar of Ireland’s United Technologies Research Center tells LiveScience he loves solving “particularly fun” puzzles with his colleague, Kushal Mukherjee, and the pair “took it as a challenge” when they came across a 2012 Reddit post claiming the longest straight-line path over water was one from Pakistan to Russia. After developing their own algorithm, they confirmed Patrick Anderson’s theory was right, reports MIT Technology Review.

While Anderson had used Wikipedia data to trace a path that originated in Pakistan, went between mainland Africa and Madagascar, and continued between Antarctica and the southern tip of South America before reaching Russia, Chabukswar and Mukherjee wanted to be more precise, which meant examining some 5 trillion points on Earth, per Smithsonian. To do this, they created a “branch-and-bound” algorithm that “returned the longest path in about 10 minutes,“ according to their study uploaded to arXiv. On a flat map, the path appears to curve, though it’s in fact straight when visualized on a globe. For fun, the researchers also used the algorithm to find the longest straight-line route over land without hitting water. It’s a 6,985-mile path starting in China and ending in Portugal.

West Virginia Wildflower Pilgrimage at Blackwater Falls scheduled May 10-13

The Free Press WV

Blackwater Falls State Park will welcome hundreds of wildflower enthusiasts to the area May 10-13 for a weekend of springtime outdoor adventure and nature exploration during the 57th annual Wildflower Pilgrimage.

The Wildflower Pilgrimage is one of the longest-running special events sponsored by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. Guests can enjoy sightseeing tours where they learn about spring wildflowers, birding, and other nature studies during this annual celebration of the arrival of wildflowers to the state’s higher elevations.

The tours start at Blackwater Falls State Park Lodge, but participants will spread out and explore surrounding areas, including Germany Valley, Dolly Sods Wilderness Area, Cranesville Swamp, Rainshadow and Shale Barrens, Fernow Forest, Canaan Loop to Table Rock, Gaudineer Knob, Bear Haven and other trails and landmarks. Participants may participate in one tour per day and those who arrive early on May 10 may enjoy additional birding and wildflowers workshops.

Specialists from West Virginia University, DNR, the West Virginia Garden Club, Inc. and Brooks Bird Club will lead walks and answer questions during the weekend.

With the event regularly attended by more than 300 people from at least 16 states each year, the Blackwater Falls State Park Lodge is already full for this event, but park cabins and campgrounds are still available for guest lodging. Reservations are required, and cabins and campsites book up fast.

For registration information, please call Emily Fleming or Wendy Greene at 304.558.2754.

A registration form may be downloaded from the Blackwater Falls State Park page HERE.

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