Photo Of The Day: Snow On A Beach In South Korea

A fresh coating of snow can’t stop this child from enjoying a day on the beach in Gangneung, South Korea. Flickr user BaboMike describes the very surreal setting in which he captured today’s Photo of the Day:

Not the usual day at the beach. Fresh snow coupled with a beautiful day [makes for] a very unusual day out. No swimming or bikinis here. This kid was just throwing snow at his sister. Can’t blame him really.

Do you have any photos of weird weather phenomena? Upload your shots to the Gadling Flickr Pool and your image could be selected as our Photo of the Day.

[Photo Credit: Flickr user BaboMike]

5 Places To See In 2013 Before They Disappear

If you’ve been thinking about where you might want to spend your vacation this year, don’t make any plans until you’ve read this list.

There are a lot of places and sights in the world that might not be around very much longer. Climate change, rising sea levels, human destruction and even shoddy artistry are to blame for the deterioration of some of the world’s treasures. Want to see them before they’re gone? Here are five places to see in 2013 before they disappear.

1. Jungfrau, Switzerland (above)

You’ve probably heard about the receding ice-cap on Tanzania‘s Mount Kilimanjaro, which grows smaller and smaller with each passing year. But climate change is affecting glaciers worldwide, including the Aletsch Glacier, which is the largest in the Swiss Alps. Over a period of 55 years, the glacier has shrunk in volume by 60 percent and continues to retreat at a pace of about 3 percent a year. Scientists believe there’s nothing they can do to stop this UNESCO World Heritage Site from melting away.If you want to visit the region before it changes forever, consider going to Jungfrau, which is one of the main summits in the area. Jungfrau is not just for mountain climbers – you can access parts of the mountain by train and visit the observatory, the Ice Palace (a museum made of ice that’s filled with ice sculptures) as well as other attractions.

If you go, you might want to download this iphone app that teaches you about the effects of climate change in the area. The app was designed by scientists at the University of Bern and includes maps and walking trails designed to improve your understanding of the melting glaciers.

2. “The Last Supper” by Leonardo Da Vinci

“The Last Supper,” as you probably know, is a famous mural by artist Leonardo Da Vinci, painted during the 15th century. However, what you might not realize is that the artwork is slowly deteriorating and flaking away.

The mural, which is located on a church wall in Milan, Italy, began to fall apart less than 20 years after Da Vinci painted it. Part of the problem was the untested application method Da Vinci used to create his mural, but attempts to restore the artwork over the years have also contributed to the damage.

If you want to see “The Last Supper,” you’ll have to book well ahead (at least four weeks in advance is a good bet), as access to the mural is restricted to a small number of visitors at a time. After passing through a humidity-controlled environment, you’ll get 15 minutes to enjoy the masterpiece before being ushered out. You can reserve your ticket through this website.

3. The Maldives

The Maldives is an island nation in the Indian Ocean that is slowly sinking into the sea. The country – which is made up of almost 1200 islands and atolls – is the lowest country in the world, with the islands averaging a height of just 4’11″ above sea level.

As climate change leads to rising sea levels, it threatens to swamp the islands. Water has already eroded 14 of the islands badly enough that they’ve had to be abandoned. Local authorities are so worried they’re even buying up land in neighboring countries so they’ll have somewhere to relocate their 300,000 citizens.

Tourism is the main source of income in the Maldives and a lot of that money is going towards the country’s relocation funds. So if you visit the Maldives, you could actually play a part in helping the inhabitants find a new home after theirs slips beneath the sea.

4. Madagascar

Madagascar is an island nation off the east coast of Africa famed for its biodiversity. Because the country split off from India more than 88 million years ago, the plants and wildlife on the island have been able to continue developing without interference. As a result, more than 80 percent of the flora and fauna is unique to the country and can’t be found anywhere else on the planet.

Unfortunately, the environment is under threat because of deforestation. Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world and many of its people are forced to slash and burn the forests in order to plant crops for food. A lot of the timber on the island is also highly valued and can sell for more than $2000 a ton, causing people to log even where it’s illegal. More than 80 percent of the country’s forests have already been destroyed and many species of wildlife have disappeared.

5. Polar bears near the Arctic

Polar bears were the first animals to end up on the endangered species list because of global warming. These animals can only live in areas where the ocean freezes, because they hunt the seals that live under the sheets of ice. Problem is, as global temperatures rise, arctic ice only stays frozen for short periods – which means polar bears don’t get enough time to hunt their prey. The situation gets worse and worse each year and a lot of bears die trying to swim long distances between the ice. Some even die as a result of cannibalism, since desperately hungry adult bears will eat the cubs.

There are only about 20,000-25,000 polar bears left in the wild. If you want to see them, your best bet is in Canada, which is home to about 65 percent of the world’s polar bear population.

[Photo credits: Flickr user Neville10; Flickr user vanz; Flickr user YXO; Flickr user Frank Vassen; Flickr user Travel Manitoba]

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day?

Earth Day: The Limpopo River in South AfricaToday is Earth Day, an annual event that is meant to remind us of how fragile our planet’s natural environment is and the importance of protecting it. All across the globe millions of people are taking part in events designed to celebrate this amazing rock we call home, while simultaneously looking for ways to preserve it for the generations that will follow.

At the heart of this year’s Earth Day celebration is the “Billion Acts of Green” initiative in which organizers of the event have asked participants to pledge to take steps to lead a more “green” lifestyle. Those pledges can include something as simple as taking reusable bags to the grocery store or signing a petition to protect the Amazon, or as big as installing solar panels in your home and buying a hybrid car. The thought is that if we all vow to make small changes in our lives to help the environment, our collective efforts will have a lasting impact on the planet. To make your own pledge to the cause simply click here.

Additionally, a host of Earth Day events are taking place across the world today that will give us the opportunity to have a positive impact on the communities we live in. Those events include things like cooperative efforts to clean up local parks or organized recycling drives. There is even a rally scheduled on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., at 7 p.m. For a complete list of events or to find one in your area, click here.

As travelers, I believe that we understand the importance of protecting the environment as well as anyone. But I also happen to believe that we need to take a more active role in protecting it. After all, we are the ones who are jetting off to visit the far-flung corners of the globe on a regular basis. The next time you take a trip, remember to have a heightened respect for the place you are visiting; take nothing but photographs and leave nothing but footprints. That way those destinations that we love so much will be there for future travelers to enjoy too.

Karakoram Glaciers Defy Trends, Actually Grow In Size

The Baltoro Glacier in the Karakoram Mountain RangeScientists are once again demonstrating that we actually don’t really have a clue about how our planet works. A team of researchers from the University of Grenoble in France has released a new report that indicates that glaciers in the Karakoram mountain range are actually growing in size. This is, of course, counter to what is being observed elsewhere across the planet and defies the theories behind global warming.

The scientists who conducted the study used satellite imagery collected from 1999 through 2008 to compare the land surface elevation over that period of time. Their observations indicate that the mass of the glaciers in the Karakoram continues to grow, even as others in the nearby Himalaya Mountains and around the world are actually in retreat.

Critics of the study are quick to point out that this method of research hasn’t proven to be reliable just yet. There are a number of factors that can interfere with the imagery including cloud cover and the amount of snow on the ground. They say that the only way to be sure that the glaciers are growing is to visit them in person and take measurements by hand. That isn’t easy in a place like the Karakoram, which is amongst the most remote and unexplored regions on the planet.

Located along the borders of China, India and Pakistan, the Karakoram runs about 310 miles in length and features some of the tallest mountains on the planet, including the infamous K2, which is second only to Everest in height. The high concentration of peaks in a relatively small area has made the mountain range nearly impassable at points and has hindered exploration over the years. That rugged terrain would make it very challenging to get an accurate measure of the glaciers there, which is necessary in order to verify the findings in this study.

[Photo credit: Guilhem Vellut via WikiMedia Common]

Video of the Day: Earth Hour 2012

The imagery is powerful: people from around the world, holding hands and candles in the dark, while iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and Coliseum shut down their lights in recognition of Earth Hour 2012, one of the world’s largest voluntary actions for the environment. The evocative Sigur Rós soundtrack doesn’t hurt either.

Earth Hour calls upon individual citizens to switch off their lights for one hour to take a stand against climate change. Started in 2006 by WWF-Australia, the event quickly became a movement, spreading to hundreds of millions of people across 135 countries in just five years. Through an aggressive social media campaign, Earth Hour continues to send a strong message for environmental awareness, urging people to learn more about the global climate change crisis and take actions “beyond the hour” to lesson their impact.

This year’s Earth Hour is scheduled for Saturday, March 31, at 8:30 p.m. local time. If climate change is important to you, don’t miss the chance to join a movement for change.