coelacanthFeb. 16, 1939: Scientists at South Africa’s Rhodes University confirm that a fish caught two months earlier is a prehistoric coelacanth, which had previously been seen only in fossil form (a right).  In later years, more coelacanths are caught near Madagascar and Indonesia, marking the fish as a “Lazarus species” – one that was long presumed to be extinct but suddenly makes a re-appearance.

Feb. 16, 1962: A fierce North Sea storm drives a surging tide into Germany's Elbe and Weser rivers, breaching dikes and flooding the city of Hamburg. More than 60,000 are left homeless, and 315 die.

Feb. 16, 2005: The Kyoto Protocol takes effect. The 1997 treaty agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is endorsed by most of the world's industrialized nations but never ratified by the U.S. Opposition by the U.S. Senate is attributed to the protocol’s failure to regulate greenhouse gases from developing giants like China and India. Those two countries, in turn, refuse to address climate concerns because of U.S. opposition.

Feb. 16, 2012:  After nearly two decades of negotiation, the State of Michigan reaches an agreement with Dow Chemical to clean up 1,400 properties in Dow’s hometown, Midland, Michigan.  The chemical giant will also buy out about 50 homeowners after decades of dioxin contamination.

Photo: ZUMA Press

This feature is compiled by Peter Dykstra, an MNN contributor and publisher of Environmental Health News and The Daily Climate.

February 16
The coelacanth is rediscovered, and the Kyoto Protocol goes into effect.