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Climate Cycles

This month on Newsdesk: animating ice age animals, the Amazon rainforest at risk, and test-driving a new moon rover.

Animating Ice Age Animals

Between two and a half million and ten thousand years ago, Earth entered a period of time known as the ice age. During this time, glaciers covered huge parts of the planet, and many now extinct animals such as mammoths roamed the land. Now, scientists have teamed up with a group of video game designers to create 3D reconstructions of these ice age animals.Each reconstruction is based on up-to-date scientific research, and gives an idea of what each animal would have looked like.

The simple computer graphics include a saber-toothed tiger, a giant cat that would have once roamed north America; a Columbian mammoth, an elephant-like animal that was hunted by early humans; and a teratorn, a massive bird of prey with a wingspan as wide as the length of a car!

The graphics will be used in a Los Angeles museum to improve people's understanding of what ice age animals looked like, even if a few species are still alive today, like this raccoon!

The Amazon Rainforest at Risk

The Amazon rainforest is one of the world’s most important ecosystems, filled with diverse plants and animals. However, scientists have made some worrying observations for its future. Satellite images taken from above over the past 30 years, show how the land has changed. Every year, the rain forest is damaged by naturally occurring droughts and wildfires. And although the plants usually grow back, over the past 20 years, the rain forest has been taking longer to recover.

Climate change is making droughts and wildfires worse, while land clearing from farming is destroying large sections of the forest. If this continues, the Amazon ecosystem will be permanently changed, and many of the plants and animals that call the Amazon home could disappear forever.

But there’s still time. We can protect the Amazon rainforest by stopping land clearing and taking stronger action against climate change. If we act quickly, we can still conserve the Amazon rainforest, and protect its precious plants and animals.

Test-Driving a New Moon Rover

In preparation for a new NASA moon mission, engineers have designed a potential new lunar rover. Named FLEX, the rover has recently been tested by astronaut Chris Hadfield! The tests were carried out in the California desert, a dry rocky landscape that closely resembles the surface of the moon. The rover's flexible design will allow it to carry astronauts and transport cargo around the lunar surface. Perhaps one day the rover could help us build a moonbase!

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