Earth Changes


Birds in central Michigan are dying due to decades-old DDT pollution

© Teri Kniffen's video
American robin found in Kniffen's neighbor's yard in 2014. Volunteers collect the birds to have them tested for neurotoxicity.
All this week we're bringing you stories about the chemical company responsible for the PBB tragedy in Michigan. Michigan Chemical accidentally contaminated the state's food supply in the 1970s, but the legacy of that company is still very much with us today.

Michigan Chemical - which later became Velsicol Chemical - made more than just PBB, and it left these toxic chemicals behind in St. Louis, Michigan.

One woman insists something is wrong with the birds

Teri Kniffen and her family moved to St. Louis in 1994. She had heard about Velsicol Chemical and the PBB tragedy in Michigan, but when they bought their house, they didn't realize they were moving right next to where the old plant site was buried.

In 2001, she started noticing dying robins in her yard.

"When I'd go out in the backyard, and get near them, they wouldn't move," says Kniffen. "They just would stagger around the yard, and they'd end up dying."

Kniffen said she would find around 10 to 12 dead birds a year - mostly American robins. She said she tried to get officials from the MDEQ and the EPA to test the birds, but they mostly ignored her. An MDEQ official told her to collect the dead birds in her freezer, but she says by the time they came to collect them four years later, she was told the birds could not be tested.

So two years ago, Kniffen had the birds tested herself at MSU, and the birds tested positive for acute DDT and DDE poisoning.

Kniffen videotaped the birds as well. Here's what she and her neighbors would see (this video might be disturbing for some viewers):


Bird flu feared in mass deaths of 3,000 Swedish and Danish seals

© Susanne Nilsson/Flickr
An outbreak of bird flu has likely killed about 3,000 seals off the coast of Sweden and Denmark this year, Swedish authorities announced Tuesday, raising the alarm a month after Germany.

"So far this year about 3,000 harbour seals have died in Swedish and Danish waters and were probably infected with the bird flu virus H10N7," the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management said in a statement.

The virus was first detected among sick and dead seals found in April off the coast of Gothenburg southwest of Sweden -- and the agency said the death toll was far higher than initially thought.

In October the numbers of seals killed by the virus was estimated at about 700 but researchers now say most of the dead animals had sunk, making estimates difficult.

Elephants kill 3 people in Satkania, Bangladesh

© Jagdeep Rajput
The incident took place near Cox's Bazar-Chittagong highway of the area on Wednesday

Three people have been killed in an attack by elephants in Nayakhal area of Kheochhiya union under Satkania upazila in Chittagong.

The deceased are Mahbubul Alam Talukdar, 35, son of late Abul Hossain Talukdar of the area, Shakil, 15, son of Md Forkan of Kaliaish area of the upazila and Shahadat Hossain, 30, son of Ameer Hossain.

Sub-inspector of Satkania police station Kazi Golam Kibria said: "The incident took place near Cox's Bazar-Chittagong highway of the area on Wednesday."

Some 14 elephants came down to crop field beside the highway around 5:30pm. As the people tried to stop them from destroying the crops, the elephants got furious and attacked the people, leaving one of them dead on the spot, the SI said.

Two injured were taken to a local clinic where the doctors declared them dead, he added.

Major winter storm targets Japan; heavy rain, snow, typhoon strength winds

© MTSAT/UW-CIMSS on December 16, 2014.
Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said a rapidly developing low-pressure mass is expected to bring heavy rain, snow and strong winds which will affect almost entire Japan on Tuesday and Wednesday, December 16 and 17, 2014.

Heavy storm conditions, high waves, floods, disruption of transport system and avalanches are expected as a result.

JMA called for particular readiness in Hokkaido for potential violent snow storm of magnitude seen "once in a few years". Maximum instantaneous winds reaching 108 - 126 km/h (67 - 78 mph) are forecast nationwide except for Okinawa, Amami and some other regions.

The Kuril Islands will see wind gusts eclipse typhoon strength and could approach 130 - 160 km/h (80-100 mph) Tuesday night and into Wednesday.

According to the JMA, two low-pressure masses, one over the Sea of Japan and the other over Honshu, are expected to grow fast and move northeast on Tuesday, eventually forming an atmospheric pressure distribution typical to winter over Japan. (JT)

The two masses will converge Wednesday over Hokkaido and grow further, creating a situation that will cause a strong cold airstream to continue to move toward Japan until Thursday.

Meteorologist Robert Speta of the WestPacWx said heavy rainfall could trigger localized flooding on Japans Pacific coast. This storm acts a lot like the sea effect snow event we seen this past weekend in Tohoku and Hokoriku.

"To put it in perspective this storm will have a deeper pressure and stronger gradient than the one on March 4, 2013 that killed nine in Japan," he said.

Comment: Japan storm impact:


Woman killed by fostered dogs in Flour Bluff, Texas

Investigators revealed Tuesday that a Flour Bluff woman who was found dead in her home Monday night appears to have been attacked by dogs she was fostering, and that attack is what resulted in her death.

The Nueces County Medical Examiner determined that 64-year old Rita Woodard, known to many as Rita Ross, died from a heart attack after multiple dog bites. One of her dogs was put to sleep after being severely injured by the attacking dogs.

Ross, who spent much of her time rescuing stray dogs, was discovered around 6:30 p.m. Monday. Several dogs were found feeding on her remains.

The Medical Examiner released a report late Tuesday stating that Ross had died from coronary artery atherosclerosis following multiple dog bites. Corpus Christi Police Department Commander John Houston, who supervises Animal Care Services, said it appeared that five of the 17 dogs found at Ross's home were responsible for the attack.

Those five will likely be euthanized.

Many of the dogs were in cages at Ross's home, and four have already been turned over to the group For the Love of Strays for adoption. The remaining eight dogs will be turned over to Ross's son, who lives out of state.

Cloud Precipitation

Record nine inches of rain drench San Francisco

9.14 inches of rain has fallen on San Francisco so far in December 2014, exceeding levels not seen in more than 165 years of record keeping.
Major cities in the Bay Area are experiencing record rainfall during the first half of December, the National Weather Service said Tuesday.

National Weather Service meteorologist Charles Bell said:
"It's the wettest start ever for December."
San Francisco has seen more than 9.14 inches of rain through early this morning. The previous record of 7.10 inches was set in 1889. Data go back as far as 1849, Bell said.

Deer enters store in Charlotte, North Carolina

A dust-up between the people of Walmart and a confused deer inside a North Carolina store was caught on camera by a customer.

The deer, apparently a doe, wandered into the store Monday afternoon in Charlotte's University City neighborhood and ended up being tackled and pinned to the ground by a group of Walmart workers and customers.

Witness Edmond Ratcliffe captured cellphone video of the incident.

"You never know when you have seen it all... I'm in Walmart today and a wildlife shopper decided that he needed to stop by Walmart for a celebrity appearance," Ratcliffe posted on Facebook.

Comment: See also these other recent reports: Deer crashes through window into furniture store in Cedar Falls, Iowa

Deer crashes through window into home in Strykersville, NY

Even more strange animal behavior: Deer crashes into restaurant in Iowa

More animal lunacy: White-tailed deer breaks through 2 doors at New Jersey home

Road Cone

What would happen if the Yellowstone supervolcano actually erupted?

yellow stone eruption1
© Unknown
What would happen if the Yellowstone supervolcano actually erupted?
If the supervolcano underneath Yellowstone National Park ever had another massive eruption, it could spew ash for thousands of miles across the United States, damaging buildings, smothering crops, and shutting down power plants. It'd be a huge disaster.

A super-eruption would be very bad - though also pretty unlikely

But that doesn't mean we should all start freaking out. The odds of that happening are thankfully pretty low. The Yellowstone supervolcano - thousands of times more powerful than a regular volcano - has only had three truly enormous eruptions in history. One occurred 2.1 million years ago, one 1.3 million years ago, and one 664,000 years ago.

Comment: We do not know whether the Yellowstone supervolcano will erupt or not, but there are a lot of volcano eruptions reported around the world that have not been predicted by our scientists.

Here is the short list of the multiple volcanoes that erupted during the last year, as documented by SOTT:


First dead Irrawaddy dolphin located after Bangladesh oil spill, more deaths expected

© Dhaka Tribune
The salvage of the wrecked oil tanker took more than two days, while authorities in Bangladesh failed to contain or clean up the oil. Now, the first of what is expected to be a myriad of deaths of a rare Irrawaddy dolphin has occurred.

The first dead dolphin surfaced yesterday. The oil spill in the Sela River has now spread over more than 80 km. The Sela River is a sanctuary for two different species of dolphins.
Dolphins are extremely sensitive creatures, and more than 350,000 liters of oil was spilled into their environment.

According to the Dhaka Tribune, there have been sightings of other dead wild animals in the region.

Pneumonia outbreak kills 10 bighorns near Gardiner, Montana

© Brett French/Gazette Staff
Ten bighorn sheep in the Gardiner area have died from an outbreak of pneumonia.
Ten bighorn sheep have died over the past two weeks following an outbreak of pneumonia in a herd that lives along the upper Yellowstone River near Gardiner.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks staff has collected a mix of dead rams, lambs and one adult ewe and taken them to the state wildlife lab in Bozeman, where all were determined to have died from pneumonia.

Historically, pneumonia affects bighorn sheep herds differently. According to FWP wildlife veterinarian Jennifer Ramsey, "Sometimes we'll see a large scale, all age die-off in which most of the population dies, and that population never really rebounds. Yet in other herds we seem to see a low-level mortality year after year."