THINGS have often become explosive in Catalunya. Just as you cross the Pyrénées towards what is now the Costa Brava, you could find out how hot-headed the region was, and how it liked to blow its top. When thinking...
No life possible here: Spanish researcher reveals most hostile place on earth
By thinkSPAIN Team Wed, Nov 20, 2019
SPANISH and French researchers have found a place on earth where no life exists – and where nobody and nothing of any species can live.
Dr Purificación López García led the team at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) on Paris' Rue Michel Ange, where she works, and is the author of the report in the magazine Nature Ecology & Evolution.
It contradicts a study published earlier this year which claimed certain microorganisms are able to survive in 'poly-extreme environments', such as exceptionally-high levels of salt, acid or heat.
Dr López García's team has discovered that the Dallol pools in the Danakil valley of Ethiopia (first and second pictures, by A. Savin on Wikimedia Commons) are impossible for any species – human, animal, plant, fungal, bacterial, or any organism whatsoever considered to be 'alive' – to survive in.
Hyper-acidic, hyper-salinated pools of extreme temperatures spread out through a volcanic crater from which toxic gases are constantly being emitted are too hostile for any type of microbial life, the report claims.
The team 'analysed many more samples' than in the previous research which claimed there was no environment on earth where some kind of life was impossible, effecting 'adequate controls' to ensure 'no cross-contamination' and a 'highly-calibrated methodology', according to Dr López García.
In her article, she says: “The mere presence of water in liquid form is not a criterion for habitability.
“[This research] helps circumscribe limits of habitability and requires caution when interpreting morphological bioforms on earth and beyond.”
The Dallol area holds the record for the highest average temperature on the planet, with an annual 35ºC between 1960 and 1966 – a figure not too different from summer in Mediterranean Spain, but the extremes become more obvious when considering that Mediterranean Spain has an average annual temperature of 18ºC.
The average middle-of-the-day temperature in the Dallol area is 41ºC, its hottest month – July – averages just under 47ºC, and the coldest it is ever known to have been, on a winter's night, was 21ºC in March and April in the early 1960s.
Only a few buildings remain in the Dallol area, and these are built entirely from salt blocks.
Its acidity is of a pH of well below zero, salt levels are almost 10 times that of the sea, and the water in the so-called 'hot springs' sits at an average of 108ºC, or above boiling point.
Despite this, it is visited by hundreds of tourists every year – even though it has no monitoring or protection and is not yet a UNESCO heritage site, meaning it is currently highly dangerous for humans.
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