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Disappearing Natural Wonders

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    Disappearing Natural Wonders

    You may need to reprioritize your travel wish list if you consider that some of the world’s most famous natural wonders may change drastically — or disappear altogether — within the next several decades. There's no time like the present for these 10.

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    Glacier National Park

    The park, beloved for its spectacular scenery and marvelous outdoor activities, boasted 150 glaciers throughout its 1 million acres in 1910. Today, only 25 remain. The most famous, Grinnell Glacier, has shrunk by 90 percent. Scientists’ latest predictions indicate that all of the park's glaciers will likely be gone by 2030. Time for a road trip? The clock is ticking.

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    The Alps

    The snow-covered peaks that long have conjured images of singing Von Trapps and gliding skiers are changing. Over the past 100 years, temperatures there have risen twice as high as the global average, and the Alps now have half the ice volume they did in 1850. Some ski resorts have already closed, and others are reinventing themselves as “heat retreats."

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    The Great Barrier Reef

    The world’s largest reef system is a paradise for boating, snorkeling and diving. But it's losing its color and its coral, thanks to rising ocean temperatures. In warmer water, stressed coral gets bleached white and is more susceptible to disease. If world carbon emissions don’t decrease, some scientists say the damage to the reef may be irreversible by 2030. Perhaps it’s time to go to Australia to find Nemo now.

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    Everglades National Park

    Tourists have longed flocked to this Florida national park to spot manatees and alligators and to paddle its open waters. But the Everglades have shrunk to less than half their historic size, thanks to the draining and diverting of water for agricultural and residential development in the state. The wading bird population has diminished by 90 percent, and fewer than 100 Florida panthers remain. Invasive exotic plants are yet another item on a long list of problems that, for now, doesn’t have an end in sight.

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    Napa Valley Wine Country

    The valley, famous for its rolling hills and world-famous wines, could someday be crushed — and not in the way that turns grapes into wine. A recent scientific study predicted that climate change could upset the region’s ideal wine-growing conditions and reduce grape output by as much as two-thirds. It's time to visit now because scientists say wine country may move up the coast to the microbrew territory of the Pacific Northwest.

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    Joshua Tree National Park

    The California park draws visitors to revel in the desert scenery, including the prickly plants that give the California park its name. But as the climate in the southeastern part of the state grows hotter and drier, seedlings in the park aren’t surviving. That, coupled with fire threats, has led some scientists to predict that Joshua trees may disappear from 90 percent of their range by the end of the century.

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    The Dead Sea

    This sea, bordering Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west, is the lowest and one of the saltiest spots on Earth, offering visitors therapeutic treatments and relaxation, not to mention the area’s rich history. But as the sea loses water at a rate of about three feet a year, thousands of sinkholes line the shore, endangering structures, plantations and roads. Some say the Dead Sea could disappear within the next half-century.

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    Maldives

    This beachgoers' paradise, a nation in the Indian Ocean made up of 1,190 islands, is on high alert for rising sea levels: The average land elevation is about 5 feet above sea level. A sea wall has been constructed around Malé, the capital, and leaders have pledged to become “carbon-neutral” to help keep rising global temperatures at bay.

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    Magdalen Islands

    The Magdalen Islands, an isolated archipelago in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, are an oasis for wind- and water-sport enthusiasts. But all is not paradise for this string of 12 islands: Ice that surrounds them during the winter and protects their coastlines from harsh waves is disappearing. That, coupled with more frequent and intense storms, has caused the coastline to erode — up to 40 inches around the islands’ perimeters each year.

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    Mount Kilimanjaro

    The scenery along the exhilarating Tanzania trek — from rain forest and moorland to alpine desert and icy summit — is changing. Eighty-five percent of the ice that was present 100 years ago on the highest peak in Africa is now gone. Scientists predict that the ice fields on Kilimanjaro could disappear within decades.

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