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Home of America’s Space Program Offers abundance of natural wonders to explore in immediate vicinity

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A National Park for the Father of Parks in America. VOA
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US, Feb 28, 2017: When people think of Cape Canaveral, Florida, they usually associate it with America’s space program. The Kennedy Space Center is where NASA launched the Saturn V rocket that put the first men on the moon in 1969.

The real Florida

Since then, the area has been the site of many more launches into space. But as national parks traveler Mikah Meyer recently discovered, there is also an abundance of wildlife and other natural wonders to explore and admire in the immediate vicinity.

At Canaveral National Seashore for example, almost 40 kilometers (24 miles) of undeveloped beach is home to more than 1,000 types of plants and more than 300 bird species.

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Take a ride with Mikah

Mikah, who’s on a mission to visit all of the more than 400 sites within the National Park Service (NPS), found it fascinating that Canaveral National Seashore makes up the largest stretch of undeveloped beach on Florida’s East Coast.

“As somebody who drove down the entire coastline, I can tell you that there has been development along the entire Florida coast, such that everywhere either has a house or a condo or a hotel, and this is one stretch where you can go and there is no development,” he said.

That lack of development attracts many locals and tourists, who come to enjoy nature in its most primitive form. And without the pollutants that normally result from development, the water is cleaner too, Mikah noted. That, in turn, attracts fish… and fishermen.

This flock of coots is just a fraction of the waterfowl that spend the winter at Canaveral National Seashore and the adjacent Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida.
This flock of coots is just a fraction of the waterfowl that spend the winter at Canaveral National Seashore and the adjacent Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. VOA

Walking along the dunes during his recent visit, he noted how the waters were “just inundated with fishermen… as far as the eye can see… even though it was a weekday.”

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Ancient landscapes

At the NPS sister park, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Mikah and his companion Andy Waldron traveled along the Black Point Wildlife Drive around several shallow marsh impoundments and through pine flatwoods.

Many say no animal better represents Florida than the American alligator. They are one of the main attractions at the Canaveral National Seashore.
Many say no animal better represents Florida than the American alligator. They are one of the main attractions at the Canaveral National Seashore. VOA

“We saw a number of alligators of all sizes and sorts,” Mikah explained. “And a bunch of birds, not just hanging out but actively running across the water and dipping their heads in and eating and catching fish,” he added.

He also saw a wild boar in the distance, wading through the shallow water, but Mikah was most impressed with the ‘gators living so close to the ocean.

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“It was very interesting the ecosystems that they live in, the natural versus salt water,” he remarked. “And just seeing a live ‘gator in the wild was so cool because so often we see them in zoos or contained areas.”

Mikah and Andy strolled along a wooded trail and a pristine, undeveloped shoreline, much like the first natives and early settlers must have done. They stayed just a short while, but long enough to imagine just how those lands and waterscapes must have seemed to all who came before them not too long ago.

Mikah invites you to learn more about his travels in Florida and all across America by visiting his website, Facebook and Instagram. natoi. (VOA)

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Wintertime Ice Growth in Arctic Sea Slows Long-Term Decline: NASA

The switch will happen once the sea ice is less than 1.6 feet thick at the beginning of winter, or its concentration

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Wintertime ice growth in Arctic sea slows long-term decline: NASA. Flcikr

While sea ice in the Arctic continues to be on the decline, a new research from the US Space agency NASA suggests that it is regrowing at faster rates during the winter than it was a few decades ago.

The findings showed that since 1958, the Arctic sea ice cover has lost on average around two-thirds of its thickness and now 70 per cent of the sea ice cap is made of seasonal ice, or ice that forms and melts within a single year.

But at the same time, that sea ice is vanishing quicker than it has ever been observed in the satellite record, it is also thickening at a faster rate during winter.

This increase in growth rate might last for decades, explained the researchers, in the paper to be published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

However, this does not mean that the ice cover is recovering, though. Just delaying its demise.

“This increase in the amount of sea ice growing in winter doesn’t overcome the large increase in melting we’ve observed in recent decades,” said lead author Alek Petty, a sea ice scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

NASA, Hubble, Keplar, asteroids
However, this does not mean that the ice cover is recovering, though. Just delaying its demise. Flickr

“Overall, thickness is decreasing. Arctic sea ice is still very much in decline across all seasons and is projected to continue its decline over the coming decades,” she added.

To explore sea ice growth variability across the Arctic, the team used climate models and observations of sea ice thickness from the European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 satellite.

They found that in the 1980s, when Arctic sea ice was on average 6.6 feet thick in October, about 3.3 extra feet of ice would form over the winter.

This rate of growth may continue to increase, and in the coming decades, we could also have an ice pack that would on average be only around 3.3 feet thick in October, but could experience up to five feet of ice growth over the winter.

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However, by the middle of the century, the strong increases in atmospheric and oceanic temperatures will outweigh the mechanism that allows ice to regrow faster, and the Arctic sea ice cover will decline further, Petty said.

The switch will happen once the sea ice is less than 1.6 feet thick at the beginning of winter, or its concentration — the percentage of an area that is covered in sea ice — is less than 50 per cent, she noted. (IANS)