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5 Bizarre Phenomena You Didn't Know Were Side Effects of Climate Change

From shrinking sheep to hybrid bears, Global Warming has some strange — and scary — side effects.


As humanity continues into the 21st century, it’s clear that climate change is about to have a major impact on our collective day-to-day. Unfortunately, climate science, unlike its detractors, is fairly complex; it won’t just manifest in rising sea tides and bleached coral reefs. Global warming is a far-reaching problem, and as such, it’s bound to have some far-reaching side-effects. Occasionally, as is the case with the five items below, those side-effects are undeniably bizarre.

1. Mountains are Becoming More Dangerous


Unless you’re Edmund Hilary, mountains are generally landforms best admired from a distance. They’re huge, they’re hostile, and they’re often incredibly cold. And without all of those cumbersome, 1,000-year-old glaciers pinning them down, mountains have started growing.

In 2004, a group of geologists took a brief lacuna from the wall-to-wall partying that generally accompanies a lifetime devoted to study of rocks and decided to see if there was any connection between the general warming of the atmosphere and the number of rockslides in a given year.

They found that as the air and the soil get warmer, the number of avalanches and rockslides on mountainous terrain shoots up. If that wasn't bad enough, the rockslides that take place tend to be, on average, much more destructive than they were pre-warming. So if you’re planning a K2 expedition any time in the future, sooner is probably better than later.

2. Air Travel Could Get Even More Uncomfortable


According to every 90’s standup special ever and the next person who stays in your guest room, air travel is a real drag. There are always delays, turbulence is the worst, and what is with that tiny bag of peanuts? Why can’t they trust us with a normal-sized bag, am I right?

Unfortunately, air travel is about to get a lot more all-those-terrible-things-I-just-mentioned. By 2050, scientists estimate that airline delays for transatlantic flights will have gone way up. The delays will end up costing the airlines, so you can also expect ticket prices to increase dramatically. If that weren’t enough, in the next three decades or so, turbulence is also projected to increase by around 40%. We'll likely all travel markedly less, and some airlines will probably go bankrupt. On the plus side, no time like the present to invest in airsick bag futures, and one of those airlines might be Delta.

3. Incredible Disappearing Scottish Sheep


If sheep thought they’d hit rock bottom by now, they were wrong (which makes sense, since they’re sheep and therefore pretty stupid). Researchers off the coast of Scotland recently discovered that sheep (at least the specific group they were studying) were diminishing in size with each passing year. I’m not saying the sheep population was depleting. No, I’m saying that sheep in Scotland were physically growing smaller.

Turns out shorter, milder winters mean that more sheep survive. Sounds nice, right? No, you big softie. Natural selection says that the sheep with the worst genetic qualities have to die out, in order to pay genetic dividends for the species. Because of global warming, that never happened. What happened instead is that sheep in Scotland (as opposed to, say, mountains in Scotland) have been getting progressively smaller with each passing year. Unclear at this point whether the genetic trend will eventually terminate with a bunch of shrunken sheep popping unceremoniously into nothingness, or whether the size-reduction is asymptotic, in which case pocket-sized Scottish sheep will be your grandchildrens’ versions of Tamagotchis.

4. Giant Terrifying Abysses Suddenly Materializing at the End of the World


Siberia isn’t particularly known as a warm and/or fuzzy place by most folks stateside. Hell, if you haven’t been there, you’re probably just picturing the planet Hoth. But one place in particular in Siberia is extraordinary. That place is called the Yamal peninsula. ‘Yamal’ roughly translated, means ‘The End of The World’ because, I’m assuming, Siberians have a culturally underdeveloped sense of irony.

The thing that makes the Yamal so extraordinary is that, overnight, it developed a gaping, super massive, echoing black hole. How big, you ask? Try around 250 feet wide and nearly 200 feet deep. One popular theory is that the whole ‘bottom dropping out of the earth thing’ is due to global warming. So, if you were looking for an overliteral portentous example of global warming, look no further.

5. Superbears


You remember those heartbreaking videos of polar bears with a Sarah McLachlan track overlaying their slow-motion paddling? Well, those bears didn’t just call it a day after Sarah McLachlan stopped singing.

With Arctic ice melt forcing polar bears south and climate change-induced environmental conditions forcing grizzly bears north, the two populations have begun to make a metric ton of mammalian sex. That’s right: they're breeding. These perfect killing machines (often called 'pizzlies,' or 'grolar bears' ) are often found in the one country too polite to kick them out: Canada. Which is great news if you study bears, or if you ever thought the only thing the 900-pound, 8-foot polar bear was missing was the aggressive, go-getter attitude of the North American Grizzly. But it's terrible news if you’re a hiker who decided to explore nature preserves with a backpack full of granola because mountain climbing had become too hazardous.