Photo: ZUMA Press
Eyjafjallajköull puts on a fiery show
In this photo captured by daredevil photographer Skarphedinn Thrainsson, a fellow madcap photographer stands with his tripod on May 15 as the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland spews hot fire into the air.

As magnificent as Eyjafjallajökull was, it was the Grímsvötn volcano — located on the southeast side of the island — that proved to be the bigger blast, but it didn't disrupt European travel nearly as much as the first one.

Related on MNN: Volcano throws European air travel system into chaos

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Three young men cling to a green kayak as they fly down a snowy slope at Piedmont Park in Atlanta on Jan. 10.

Photo: davidkosmos/Flickr
Snowpocalypse hits Atlanta
Three young men cling to a green kayak as they fly down a snowy slope on Jan. 10 at Atlanta's Piedmont Park. The strong winter storm blanketed most of the East Coast from Jan. 8-13, and many Southern cities were shut down for several days due to the lack of snow removal equipment.

Related on MNN: The worst snowstorms in U.S. history

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A lioness scoops up one of her seven cubs in her mouth while walking around the enclosure at Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 7.

Photo: Mehgan Murphy/Smithsonian's National Zoo
Smithsonian's growing pride of lions
A lioness scoops up one of her seven cubs in her mouth while walking around the enclosure on Jan. 7 at Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C. The zoo's lion pride has been thriving since the addition to two separate litters of lion cubs in 2010.

Related on MNN: A baby's cry and a lion's roar aren't that different

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Billy Stinson (left) comforts his daughter Erin Stinson as they sit on the steps where their cottage once stood in Nags Head, N.C. before it was destroyed by Hurricane Irene on Aug. 28.

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Hurricane Irene wreaks havoc up the East Coast
Billy Stinson (left) comforts his daughter, Erin Stinson, as they sit on the steps where their cottage once stood in Nags Head, N.C., after it was destroyed by Hurricane Irene on Aug. 28.

The cottage, built in 1903, was one of the first vacation cottages built on Roanoke Sound in Nags Head. Stinson had owned the home, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, since 1963.

"We were pretending, just for a moment, that the cottage was still behind us and we were just sitting there watching the sunset," said Erin afterward.

Related on MNN: Dire Hurricane Irene predictions came true

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Photo: Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images
Occupy Earth
Demonstrators line up in front of the White House on Nov. 6 in Washington, D.C. Thousands of people descended on the White House to join hands and stand against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. TransCanada wants to build a $7 billion pipeline to carry tar sands oil across the Plains to refineries near the Gulf of Mexico.

Related on MNN: U.S. punts tricky Keystone decision until after the 2012 election 

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Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Major blizzard immobilizes the Midwest
Cars sit in the northbound lanes of Lake Shore Drive in Chicago on Feb. 2 after accidents and drifting snow stranded the drivers during the previous night's blizzard. As of late morning, more than 20 inches of snow had fallen, making the snowstorm the third largest recorded in the city.

Related on MNN: The Groundhog Day blizzard as seen from space

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A critically endangered black rhino is airlifted by helicopter over rough terrain to a land vehicle as part of the WWF's Black Rhino Range Expansion Project in South Africa.

Photo: Green Renaissance/WWF
Endangered rhinos fly through the sky
A critically endangered black rhino is airlifted by helicopter over rough terrain to a land vehicle as part of the WWF's Black Rhino Range Expansion Project in South [skipwords]Africa[/skipwords]. The animals are being transported to a new swath of land to reduce pressure on existing reserves and to curb poaching. The helicopter trip lasted less than 10 minutes and removed the rhino from difficult and dangerous terrain before it was transported by a land vehicle to its new home.

The mission is to provide new territory so the animals can rapidly increase their numbers. Black rhino need larger blocks of land than white rhino because they are not social and tend to space themselves out more. The sleeping animals suffer no ill effect from the operation, according to the WWF.

Related on MNN: Heist from U.K. museum highlights audacity of rhino horn thieves

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A yacht rests precariously on a 2-story high building on March 15 after it was washed ashore by a tsunami caused by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake in Otsuchi, Iwate, Japan.

Photo: Asahi Shimbun/Getty Images
Earthquake-induced tsunami washes town away
A yacht rests precariously on a two-story building on March 15 after the boat was washed ashore by a tsunami caused by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake in Otsuchi, Iwate, Japan.

The quake struck offshore at 2:46 p.m. on March 11, triggering a tsunami wave that engulfed large parts of northeastern Japan.

Related on MNN: Emperor of Japan recalls 2011 as a 'truly distressing year'

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Chinese exchange students from De Anza College in California use candles to create the Apple logo at a makeshift memorial for Steve Jobs on Oct. 5 at Apple headquarters in Cupertino.

Photo: /Getty Images
Apple fans mourn the death of Steve Jobs
Chinese exchange students from De Anza College in California use candles to create the Apple logo at a makeshift memorial for Steve Jobs on Oct. 5 at Apple headquarters in Cupertino.

Jobs, 56, died after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, prompting improvised memorials and tributes at Apple stores and offices around the world. Jobs co-founded Apple with Steve Wozniak in 1976, and is credited with marketing the world's first personal computer in addition to the popular iPod, iPhone and iPad.

Related on MNN: Steve Jobs' legacy on green technology

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Rescue workers carry Azra Karaduman, a 2-week-old baby who was pulled from debris on Tuesday following a magnitude-7.2 earthquake that struck Ercis, Turkey, on Oct. 23.

Photo: Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images
Miracle baby pulled from earthquake wreckage
Rescue workers carry Azra Karaduman, a 2-week-old baby who was pulled from debris in October following a magnitude-7.2 earthquake that struck Ercis, Turkey.

The mother of the infant, who was also buried underneath the wreckage, was freed from the rubble after hours of frantic digging. The dramatic rescue came 48 hours after the earthquake struck eastern Turkey, leveling more than 900 buildings in the region.

Related on MNN: Why the violent October earthquake in Turkey was not a surprise

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As the southern hemisphere descends into winter, wafts of mist float above the Atlantic Ocean at sunset in Cape Town, South Africa on May 17

Photo: ZUMA Press
Cape Town sunset
As the Southern Hemisphere descends into winter, wafts of mist float above the Atlantic Ocean at sunset in Cape Town, South Africa on May 17.
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A young boy climbs through a fallen tree on Dec. 1 on Green Street in Pasadena, Calif., after his school was closed due to violent Santa Ana Winds that caused the worst local wind damage in decades.

Photo: David McNew/Getty Images
Santa Ana winds down hundreds of trees in Southern California
A young boy climbs through a fallen tree on Dec. 1 on Green Street in Pasadena, Calif., after his school was closed due to violent Santa Ana winds that caused the worst local wind damage in decades. As many as 270,000 people were left without power from the downed trees, prompting the city to close schools and declare a state of emergency.

Santa Ana winds, which can sometimes reach [skipwords]hurricane [/skipwords]speeds, sweep through the region every fall and winter. This particularly robust round of gusts was considered a once-in-a-decade occurrence caused by the collision of a strong, high-pressure system and a cold, low-pressure system.

Related on MNN: The science behind Santa Ana winds

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Kai Otton of Sydney, Australia, rides a tube during the RipCurl Pro Portugal, placing second in his Round 3 heat on Oct. 17 in Peniche, Portugal.

Photo: Kelly Cestari/ASP via Getty Images
Barreling through the surf at the RipCurl Pro
Kai Otton of Sydney, Australia, rides a tube during the RipCurl Pro Portugal, placing second in his Round 3 heat on Oct. 17 in Peniche, Portugal. Tube rides — when a surfer positions himself inside a cresting wave — are considered one of the most challenging surfing maneuvers. Peniche is one of Europe's best surfing locations because the beaches face three different directions, resulting in excellent and consistent waves.

Related on MNN: 7 ultra-green extreme sports

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A yellow emergency vehicle drives down a stretch of road surrounding by ruins of homes that were decimated just 10 days earlier when an EF5 multiple-vortex tornado ripped through the city of Joplin, Mo. on the late afternoon of May 22.

Photo: xpda/Flickr
Powerful tornado rips through Joplin, Mo.
A yellow emergency vehicle drives down a stretch of road surrounded by what remains of homes that had been decimated 10 days earlier when an EF-5 multiple-vortex tornado ripped through the city of Joplin, Mo. on May 22.

The powerful tornado, which has an expected insurance payout of $2.2 billion, claimed 160 lives and 7,000 homes.

Related on MNN: Joplin tornado expected to be costliest in U.S. history

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A student walks across an improvised bridge of chairs situated over a flooded path on the campus of Hubei University in Hubei in China's Wuhan province on June 14.

Photo: ZUMA Press
MacGyvering a bridge
A student walks across an improvised bridge of chairs situated over a flooded path on June 14 on the campus of Hubei University in Hubei in China's Wuhan province.
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American actress Daryl Hannah holds a protest sign while sitting in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. during a protest against the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline on Aug. 30.

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Protesting the Keystone XL pipeline
Actress Daryl Hannah holds a protest sign while sitting in front of the White House on Aug. 30 in Washington, D.C., during a protest against the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Hannah was among dozens of protestors arrested in a demonstration against the pipeline which would have run from Alberta's oil sands in Canada to Texas and the Gulf of Mexico.

Related on MNN: Hannah arrested for White House protest

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A woman kicks tomato pulp at a fellow reveller while playing in a messy street at the heart of the annual Tomatina Festival on Aug. 31 in Bunol, Spain.

Photo: Denis Doyle/Getty Images
World's largest annual tomato fight
A woman kicks tomato pulp at a fellow reveler while playing in a messy street at the heart of the annual Tomatina Festival on Aug. 31 in Bunol, Spain. During the fight, about 35,000 people throw 120 tons of ripe tomatoes, which are brought from the province of Extremadura, where the tomatoes are of lower quality and are not intended for consumption.

The annual festival is believed to date back to 1944 when participants of a staged brawl used tomatoes from a nearby vegetable stand as weapons. Despite its violent beginnings, contemporary participants are instructed to smash tomatoes in their hands before throwing them to prevent serious injury.

Related on MNN: You say tomato, I say code violation: Judge wages war against urban gardener

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Kent Farrington of the United States makes a dramatic jump on Oct. 27 with his horse, Uceko, during the jumping competition at the Guadalajara Country Club on Day 13 of the XVI Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images
A daring leap at the Pan American Games
Kent Farrington of the United States makes a dramatic jump on Oct. 27 with his horse, Uceko, during the jumping competition at the Guadalajara Country Club on Day 13 of the XVI Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. The Pan Am games are one of the largest sporting events in the world — second only to the Summer Olympic Games — with 42 nations competing.
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Residents of Navotas, a city in metro Manila, clean up debris and start rebuilding what is left of their shanties following Typhoon Nesat's crossing of Luzon Island in the Philippines.

Photo: /Getty Images
The aftermath of Typhoon Nesat
Residents of Navotas, a city in metro Manila, clean up debris and start rebuilding their shanties following Typhoon Nesat's crossing of Luzon Island in the Philippines in late September.

With winds of more than 100 miles per hour, the typhoon put the Philippine's capital under water, flooding streets and destroying homes. Although 100,000 residents were evacuated from the city, the storm — which has been called one of the most powerful typhoons of the year — claimed the lives of 83 people and caused $333 million in damages for the country.

Related on MNN: As Typhoon departs, Philippine officials tally the damage

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A caretaker observes 7-year-old elephant Laxmi rubbing trunks with her 13-month-old daughter, Rani, during Sonepur Mela — also known as the Sonepur Cattle Fair — on Nov. 15 in Sonepur near Patna, India.

Photo: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images
Sonepur Mela
A caretaker observes 7-year-old elephant Laxmi rubbing trunks with her 13-month-old daughter, Rani, during Sonepur Mela — also known as the Sonepur Cattle Fair — on Nov. 15 in Sonepur near Patna, India.

Every year, elephant and horse traders converge on the banks of the River Ganges in the Indian state of Bihar for one of the largest and oldest cattle fairs in the world. In addition to cattle trading, the two-week-long annual fair also features a variety of attractions and vendors.

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Denise Johns of Great Britain dives into the sand to save a ball during a practice session prior to the Visa FIVB Beach Volleyball International at Horse Guards Parade on Aug. 8 in London.

Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images
Testing out the venues for the 2012 Olympics
Denise Johns of Great Britain dives into the sand to save a ball during a practice session on Aug. 8 prior to the Visa FIVB Beach Volleyball International at Horse Guards Parade in London.

Horse Guards Parade, equipped with a temporary arena filled with sand, will be the site of the beach volleyball competition during the 2012 Olympic Games.

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A central Texas rancher displays a sign on a fence facing a highway that says

Photo: jdn/Flickr
Texans 'pray for rain' in the midst of severe drought
A central Texas rancher displays a sign on a fence along a highway in hopes of bringing relief to the parched land. Texas experienced a sever drought this year, with high winds and punishing temperatures, 

Related on MNN: Texas drought kills up to half a billion trees

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Space shuttle Atlantis is seen as it launches from pad 39A on July 8 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Photo: Bill Ingalls/Getty Images
Last space shuttle flight marks the end of an era
Space shuttle Atlantis is seen on July 8 as it launches from pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. The launch of Atlantis, or STS-135, was the final flight of the shuttle program, a 12-day mission to the International Space Station.

Related on MNN: The year in spaceflight

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A diver inspects a life-sized 8-ton cement replica of a classic Volkswagen beetle placed underwater at the Manchones Reef near Cancun and Isla Mujeres, Mexico, on June 20.

Photo: ZUMA Press
A beetle fit for a lobster
A diver inspects a life-sized 8-ton cement replica of a classic Volkswagen Beetle placed underwater at the Manchones Reef near Cancun and Isla Mujeres, Mexico, on June 20.

Don't let it fool you — it's not just a statue. Inside the cement car are compartments for local lobsters and [skipwords]fish [/skipwords]to make their homes.

Related on MNN: Coral reef spurs tourism battle in Mexico

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Photo: Bill Ingalls/NASA
Astronauts return to Earth
Russian support personnel extract crew members from the Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft shortly after the capsule landed on Nov. 22 in a remote area outside the town of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan.

Commander Mike Fossum of the United States, and Flight Engineers Sergei Volkov of Russia and Satoshi Furukawa of Japan returned to Earth after spending more than five months at the International Space Station. Once inside the medical tent, the astronauts shed their space suits and underwent standard medical exams, taking the first steps to readjusting to life on Earth. Another crew of three astronauts — two Russians and one American — were launched into space earlier the day before to take their places.

Related on MNN: 10 things you don't know about the International Space Station

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Photo: Boris Roessler/ZUMA Press
Drought and famine in the Horn of Africa
A starved calf lies dead on Aug. 1 on a dusty path leading to the refugee camps set up in Dadaab, Kenya. A severe drought quickly turned into a food crisis for 13 million people in eastern Africa this summer.

The United Nations officially declared the crisis a famine in mid-July, but tens of thousands of people in southern Somalia had already succumbed to starvation. Due to lack of funding and security issues in the region, humanitarian aid was repeatedly hindered and delayed as more people died. A full recovery from the ordeal is not expected until 2012.

Related on MNN: In the Horn of Africa, drought threatens millions

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A young girl named Mahima lights a series of candles forming the numerals '11.11.11' at her home in Hyderabad, India on Nov. 11.

Photo: Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images
High hopes for good luck and granted wishes on 11/11/11
A young girl named Mahima lights a series of candles forming the numerals "11.11.11" at her home in Hyderabad, India. on Nov. 11.

Many people around the world observed the once-in-a-century date, and some even took it to the next level by getting hitched in mass weddings.

Related on MNN: 11.11.11: Will your consciousness change on this auspicious date?

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Photo: Staff Sgt. Eric Harris/U.S. Air Force
Texas wildfire
Wildfires burn in various locations across Texas in April. The U.S. Forest Service, the Air National Guard and other agencies were working together to extinguish and control fires that have burned more than 1,000 square miles of land.