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  • In May of 2018, something weird happened over the Arabian Peninsula.

  • A large cyclone passed over the Rub' al Khali desert -

  • A massive stretch of unbroken sand also calledthe empty quarter.”

  • It usually looks like this.

  • But after the cyclone, it looked like this.

  • Lakes had formed between the dunes.

  • The desert was filled with water for the first time in twenty years.

  • Then, 5 months later, it happened again.

  • Another cyclone hit.

  • Over the next year, powerful cyclones kept coming out of the Arabian sea, at a frequency not seen in decades.

  • It caused catastrophic flooding in normally dry areas across the region.

  • But especially here, in East Africa.

  • Today, the flood waters have receded,

  • but they left behind a different type of disaster:

  • "Millions of locusts..."

  • "A plague of biblical proportions."

  • "The worst in 70 years."

  • "Their impact, devastating."

  • "...unprecedented threat to food security."

  • "There's no end in sight."

  • This is a desert locust.

  • It's a type of grasshopper that lives across this area,

  • from Northwest Africa to Western Asia.

  • Typically, desert locusts spend most of their time alone, in what's called theirsolitaryphase.

  • They really only meet with others to mate.

  • But if the weather starts to shiftthat can lead to a transformation.

  • If a normally dry area becomes unusually lush with vegetation,

  • as it would after heavy rains,

  • these insects will start to congregate.

  • That sudden crowding triggers a hormoneand the locust starts to change, both physically and mentally.

  • It starts with a color shift, from a muddled brown color, to a bright yellow.

  • Its body shrinks and its endurance increases, which optimizes it for flight.

  • Its brain grows, and so does its appetite.

  • This is called thegregarious phase."

  • They eat, and breedleaving their eggs in the damp soil.

  • When they hatch, they form what are calledhopper bands”:

  • swarms of tens of thousands of non-flying but voracious insects that move together as a unit.

  • Eventually, they develop wings.

  • And once they take flight, it's almost impossible to stop them.

  • Locust swarms ride the wind, which allows them to travel up to 150 km a day.

  • A single swarm can contain up to 150 million insects per square kilometer.

  • Each one consumes its body weight in vegetation daily.

  • In 24 hours, a swarm of that size eats more food than 35,000 people.

  • Since late 2019, East Africa has been experiencing its worst locust outbreak in decades.

  • In 2020, the area has seen swarms as large as 2,400 square kilometers.

  • That's a swarm of insects over 3 times the size of New York City,

  • capable of eating as much food as tens of millions of people.

  • The swarms of bugs are so thick that airplanes have been forced to divert their course.

  • Billions of ravenous insects sweep through areas, decimating acres of farmland,

  • and threatening already food-scarce regions with famine.

  • "There's nothing left to harvest. There's nothing else that I know how to do."

  • And they're spreading. In February, Pakistan declared a state of emergency.

  • By late May, the swarms had reached parts of Northern India for the first time since 1962.

  • And the biggest factor in all of this is the weather.

  • Locusts reproduce exponentially when the weather is in their favor.

  • With every new generation, the population increases 20-fold.

  • So if a normally dry area stays wet for a long time,

  • the population will explode.

  • And that's what researchers think happened, starting with the 2018 cyclone.

  • The unusual amount of rain led to an unusual amount of vegetation,

  • which led to an unusual number of new locusts.

  • Swarms formed here, in the unusually wet desert, and made their way into surrounding areas,

  • including East Africa, which itself had just experienced historic flooding in late 2019,

  • from heavy rains caused by an unusually warm Indian Ocean.

  • A singleperfect stormisn't enough to bring in swarms of locusts of this size.

  • It takes a series of them;

  • something that used to be really rare in this area.

  • But unfortunately, extreme weather that used to be really rare suddenly becoming more common

  • is one of the hallmarks of climate change.

  • That could mean a future with more cyclones in the desert,

  • more greenery where there once was sand,

  • and more breeding grounds for locusts.

  • Do you ever notice these weirdly specific targeted ads when browsing the internet?

  • It's a little creepy when they even pinpoint where you live.

  • That's because one of the ways advertisers target you is through your IP address.

  • See, each of your devices has its own unique number.

  • So while your internet may be password protected,

  • your IP address is available for advertisers to look at

  • and that is how they find your location.

  • ExpressVPN is a tool that masks your IP address.

  • They let you select from over 90 different countries to reroute your connection through,

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In May of 2018, something weird happened over the Arabian Peninsula.

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Why locusts are descending on East Africa

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/08/31
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