Rare Myristica swamp treefrog found in Thrissur
Mains: G.S. III Environment and Ecology
Why in news?
Myristica swamp treefrog has been recorded for the first time north of the Shencottah gap in the Vazhachal Reserve Forest in Kerala’s Thrissur district.
- Myristica swamp treefrog is a rare arboreal species endemic to the western ghats.
- The frog was first spotted in 2013 in the Myristica swamps of Arippa, near the Kulathupuzha Reserve Forest, in the western foothills of Agasthyamalai, in Kollam district.
- These frogs are rare and elusive for the reason that they are arboreal and active only for a few weeks during their breeding season.
- Myristica swamps are known with this name because; they are dominated by members of Myristicaceae, the most primitive of the flowering plants on earth. The evergreen, water-tolerant trees have dense stilt roots helping them stay erect in the thick, black, wet alluvial soil.
- Studies have shown that the swamps, which would have occupied large swathes of the thickly- wooded Western Ghats in the past, are now restricted to less than 200 hectares in the country.
China moon probe heads back to Earth
Mains: G.S. III Science and Technology
Why in news?
A Chinese spacecraft carrying rocks and soul from the moon has begun it’s journey back to Earth, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
- A successful landing in Inner Mongolia would make China only the third country to have retrieved lunar samples after the US and Soviet Union.
- The Chang’e-5 was launched on Nov. 24 and a paneer vehicle touched down on the moon on Dec. 1.
- Chang’e-5is an 8,200 kilograms spacecraft and is one of its kind. It has four modules including a lander, an ascent vehicle, a service module, and an attached Earth-return capsule. Chang’e-5 lander is solar-powered and is not able to operate once night falls at its
- Chang’e-5 is first-ever sample-return mission and is the sixth and most ambitious mission in the series of Chang’e-5 program of robotic lunar research.
- It is named after a moon goddess in Chinese mythology.
Malnutrition in kids worsens in key states 2015-19
Mains: G.S. II and III Social Justice, National Security, Malnutrition
Why in news?
The first phase data of the National Family Health Survey 2019-20 released by Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and marks a shift since the last NFHS in 2015-16.
- Several states across the country have reversed course and recorded worsening levels of child malnutrition despite dramatic improvements in sanitation and better access to fuel and drinking water.
- The latest data pertains to 17 states — including Maharashtra, Bihar, and West Bengal — and five Union Territories (including J&K) and, crucially, captures the state of health in these states before the Covid pandemic.
- Phase 2 of the survey, which will cover other states such as Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh, was delayed due to the pandemic and its results are expected to be made available in May 2021.
- Data from the first phase shows that several states have either witnessed meagre improvements or sustained reversals on child (under 5 years of age) malnutrition parameters such as child stunting; child wasting; share of children underweight and child mortality rate. These four are key metrics and their data are used in several global indices such as the Global Hunger Index.
- Child wasting reflects acute undernutrition and refers to children having low weight for their height. India has always had a high level of child wasting but instead of reducing it, several states such as Telangana, Kerala, Bihar, and Assam as well as the UT of J&K have witnessed an increase.
- When it comes to the proportion of underweight children, again, several big states, Gujarat, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Telangana, Assam and Kerala, have seen an increase.
- But the most surprising reversals have happened in child stunting, which reflects chronic undernutrition, and refers to the percentage of children who have low height for their age. Stunting, more than any other factor, is likely to have long-lasting adverse effects on the cognitive and physical development of a child.
- Telangana, Gujarat, Kerala, Maharashtra, and West Bengal — all saw increased levels of child stunting.
- Infant Mortality Rate — that is, the number of deaths per 1000 live births for children under the age of 1 — and Under 5 Mortality Rate data, too, is mostly stagnant.
- The first round of the National Family Health Survey was conducted in 1992-92. Subsequently, four other rounds have taken place, the latest being NFHS 5 that started in 2018-19, however is stalled currently amid the COVID-19 associated lockdown at various states.
How to measure a mountain
Mains: G.S. I Physical Geography
Why in news?
In a new measurement, China and Nepal have announced Mount Everest is 86 cm taller than the 8,848 m accepted globally so far.
- The main problem is that though you know the top, the base of the mountain is not known. The question is from which surface you are measuring the height.
- Generally, for practical purposes the heights are measured above mean sea level (MSL).
- By following simple rules of high-school trigonometry, the height of the mountain can be calculated, fairly precisely. In fact, this is how authorities used to do it before the advent of GPS, satellites and other modern techniques.
- For small hills and mountains, whose top can be observed from relatively close distances, this can give quite precise measurements. But for Mount Everest and other high mountains, there are some other complications.
- This again arise from the fact that authorities do not know where the base of the mountain is. In other words, where exactly does the mountain meet flat ground surface. Or, whether the point of observation and the base of the mountain at the same horizontal level.
- The Earth’s surface is not uniformly even at every place. Because of this, authorities measure heights from mean sea level. This is done through a painstaking process called high-precision levelling. Starting from the coastline, authorities calculate step by step the difference in height, using special instruments. This is how an authority know the height of any city from mean sea level.
- But there is one additional problem to be contended with — gravity. Gravity is different at different places. What that means that even sea level cannot be considered to be uniform at all places.
- In the case of Mount Everest, for example, the concentration of such a huge mass would mean that the sea level would get pulled upwards due to gravity. So, the local gravity is also measured to calculate the local sea level. Nowadays sophisticated portable gravitometers are available that can be carried even to mountain peaks.
- But there is another problem. The density of air reduces as we go higher. This variation in air density causes the bending of light rays, a phenomenon known as refraction. Due to the difference in heights of the observation point and the mountain peak, refraction results in an error in measuring the vertical angle. This needs to be corrected. Estimating the refraction correction is a challenge in itself.
- Nepal and China have said they have measured Mount Everest to be 86 cm higher than the 8,848 m that it was known to be. What would that mean?
- The 8,848-metre (or 29,028-foot) measurement was done by the Survey of India in 1954 and it has been globally accepted since then. The measurement was carried out in the days when there was no GPS or other modern sophisticated instruments. This shows how accurate they were even during that time.
- Most scientists now believe that the height of Mount Everest is increasing at a very slow rate. This is because of the northward movement of the Indian tectonic plate that is pushing the surface up. It is this very movement that created the great Himalayan mountains in the first place. It is this same process that makes this region prone to earthquakes.. Such events have happened in the past. A big earthquake, like the one that happened in Nepal in 2015, can alter the heights of mountains. In fact, it was this earthquake that had prompted the decision to re-measure Everest to see whether there had been any impact.
- A 86-cm rise would not be surprising. It is very possible that the height has increased in all these years. But, at the same time, 86 cm in a height of 8,848 metres is a very small length.