Earth Changes

Bizarro Earth

More methane seeps discovered in the deep ocean

© Courtesy of CAGE/UiT
Arctic seafloor at 500 meters water depth. Carbonate blocks are colonized by anemones and sponges. Tube worms are abundant at the seafloor. In the upper part of the image, we see patches of bacterial mats. All of these features are indigenous to sites of methane release. Schools of codfish appeared to be following the laser beams from the camera system. Fish were often observed in big quantities during the cruise.
Over a course of 12 days Dr. Giuliana Panieri and her colleagues from Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate (CAGE) collected images from seven areas of known methane release in the Arctic Ocean. One of them was Vestnesa Ridge, with over 1000 active seep sites at the depth of over 1000 m.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas stored in the ocean floor in unknown quantities. CAGE is a centre dedicated to assessing the amount of methane stored in these reservoirs, and what impact the methane in the Arctic Ocean may have for ocean environment and climate change. Main focus of the research is gas hydrate, a methane trapped in a solid structure that resembles ice.

Panieri collaborated with scientists and engineers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution's MISO Deep-Sea Imaging Facility. The aim was to get a proper view of the deep Arctic Ocean floor.

"We have taken so many samples all over these areas, but we were sampling blind. We needed to see what was going on down there." says Panieri who is an awe of the results achieved during the two-week cruise.

The system that was used to get these images is based on the 'TowCam' design developed by WHOI scientists and engineers, and funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation. It consists of a color still camera that takes images every 10-15 seconds.

"This is the first time that we have seen these methane seeps in the deep Arctic Ocean areas. The images are amazing." says Panieri.

The midnight sun allowed for the tow cam system to be deployed 24/7 providing scientist with data that will be crucial in new discoveries in years to come.


Britain braced for mini-ice age as temperatures are set to drop to a 300-year low

Low temperatures not seen for 300 years could be on the way to Britain thanks to a drop in solar activity, experts have warned.

If you were enjoying the current warm spell, enjoy it while it lasts as forecasters have warned that the UK could enter a mini-ice age.

A Met Office-led study in conjunction with scientists at the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Reading, found that a return to low solar activity not seen for centuries could increase the chances of cold winters in Europe and eastern parts of the United States.

But the study, which was published in the Nature Communications journal, added that the freeze will not be enough to halt global warming.

Sarah Ineson, a Met Office scientist and lead author of the study said: "This research shows that the regional impacts of a grand solar minimum are likely to be larger than the global effect, but it's still nowhere near big enough to override the expected global warming trend due to man-made change.

"This means that even if we were to see a return to levels of solar activity not seen since the Maunder Minimum, our winters would likely still be getting milder overall."

It is understood that the sun's output increases and decreases, measured by the number of sunspots on the star's surface, over a timescale of 100 to 200 years.


Early wildfire season ignites with 313 fires in Washington

2015 Wildfire
Firefighters continue to battle the elements, in what is shaping up to be an extreme wildfire season.

Firefighters have already said that the hot, dry conditions are ripe for wildfire. Now there is new proof in the form of numbers.

Washington has already seen 313 wildfires in 2015.

By comparison, in 2014 there were only 214 wildfires and even fewer in the previous years. In 2012, firefighters battled 155 brush fires and only 55 in 2011.

Fire officials said it is combination of several factors. First, the snowpack in Washington is the lowest it has been since at least 1981. Secondly, what started as a warmer, drier winter continued into an even hotter, drier spring.

In May, the average temperature is 60 degrees according to KREM Chief Meteorologist Tom Sherry. However in 2015, May delivered six days with temperatures soaring beyond 80 degrees.

Sherry said June delivered much of the same. More than one-third of the month had temperatures registering above 80 degrees and a few 90 degree days.


Woman and dog injured by black bear near Chico, California


Black bear
A woman and her dog were injured when they were attacked by a bear Monday night outside a home near Chico, in Butte County.

At about 11:30 p.m. Monday a woman who lives in Magalia heard a noise in her yard and her dog began barking. She let the dog out, heard sounds of a fight and stepped out herself.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife Capt. Patrick Foy, she said a bear immediately came out from beneath a blue tarp, clawed her on the shoulder and bit her before running off.

The woman was taken to the hospital and treated for non-life-threatening wounds and given rabies treatment. The dog, a 9-year-old golden retriever, was taken to a veterinarian, and is in tough shape, according to Foy. "Sounds like he fought hardily," Foy said of the dog.

Fish and Wildlife are deploying a trap to the area to try and capture the offending bear. Foy said it should be in place by the end of the day.

Cloud Precipitation

Gigantic, near record-size hailstones pummel northern Maryland

© Nicka Pohl
Massive hailstone that fell in Timonium, Md. June 23, 2015
As a violent thunderstorm tore through northern Maryland Tuesday evening, it unloaded massive hail - large enough to rank among the biggest in Maryland state weather records.

Nicka Pohl shared with Capital Weather Gang the photo of a softball-size, spiked hailstone measuring approximately 4 inches in diameter, which fell near Timonium. Hail larger than golf balls fell throughout the Hunt Valley, Cockeysville, and Timonium areas in northern Baltimore County.

The hail dented cars all over the area and smashed back windows
, Pohl said.

Christopher Strong, the warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service forecast office serving Washington and Baltimore area, said Maryland records show there have been only two instances of hail larger than the 4-inch stone Pohl collected. Hail measuring 4.5 inches in diameter was observed in LaPlata in 2002 when a large, violent F4 tornado swept through the area. And a stone measuring 4.5 inches was reported in Baltimore in 1970.


Northern Lights making 'rare' appearance in the skies above Cornwall, UK

© Geoff Robinson
Beautiful: Incredible aurora appears over Bude beach
A photographer taking night time beach shots could not believe his eyes as he spotted the natural phenomenon

This stunning time-lapse footage shows the beautiful sight of the Northern Lights appearing in the skies over Cornwall.

A photographer taking night time beach shots could not believe his eyes as he spotted the natural phenomenon.

Chris Small was on the beach at Bude around 1.30am on Tuesday when the eerie ribbons of purple light appeared in the star strewn sky above.

The Northern Lights are frequently sighted in the Arctic Circle and Scandinavia and sometimes even Scotland but very rarely seen as far south as Cornwall.

And Mr Small was delighted.

"I've never seen them before although I've always wanted to," he said.


50 wildfires burn across Northeast Florida

Wildfires are consuming more than a square mile of forest as 50 fires burn throughout Northeast Florida, including a fire in Nocatee that came within 20 feet of homes, according to the Florida Forest Service.

Greg Dunn, senior forester, said three bulldozers plowed about two miles of fire lines in the Nocatee area to contain the 8-acre fire.

Storms soaked parts of Northeast Florida Sunday night, although it was a mixed bag for fire officials. While the rain was helpful, lightning bolts compounded the problem by igniting more fires.

Of the 50 fires burning 720 acres in Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns counties, 37 of them have been started by lightning, according to the Forest Service.

Arrow Down

Huge sinkhole opens up on golf course in Lenexa, Kansas


Sinkhole opens on Lenexa golf course
A big sinkhole has opened up on a Lenexa golf course.

The sinkhole is on the left side of the fairway on the 13th hole at Canyon Farms Golf Course. Despite the change in the landscape, the course and the hole itself remain open.

"I believe it's par 4," said golfer Jerry Nelson. "But they have set the tee box way up front about 120 yards out."

Shortening the hole takes the sinkhole out of play.

A statement from the owners said a portion of the course is built over a nonoperating limestone mine. The statement said the majority of the mine is considered stable, according to various geotechnical studies.

Nelson and his partner said they took a good look at the sinkhole as they played the course.

Cloud Precipitation

Flooding in Costa Rica prompts evacuation of hundreds of people

© Red Cross
National Meteorological Institute forecasts say rains likely will increase starting Monday night, and emergency agencies are sending food and other supplies to people in the most affected cantons.

A total of 458 people were evacuated to six shelters in Costa Rica's Caribbean and Northern regions due to flooding caused by heavy rains beginning over the weekend, the National Emergency Commission (CNE) reported Monday evening.

Most of those affected are residents from the cantons of Sarapiquí in Heredia, Matina, Siquirres and Pococí in Limón, as well as Grecia and San Carlos in Alajuela. A total of 92 communities are reported to be affected to some degree by the heavy rains, according to the report.

CNE officials reported that the floods have affected five roads, blocking passage to at least 24 communities. Six bridges currently are closed, and several communities do not have access to drinking water because two aqueducts failed over the weekend.

Officials from the National Roadway Council and the Public Works and Transport Ministry on Monday afternoon reported that passage on Route 32, the main highway connecting San José with the province of Limón, is closed at the Blanco River bridge at kilometer 58.


Basking shark caught near Australia for the first time in 85 years


It took a crane to lite the shark out of the boat and another five hours to cut into small enough pieces to carry
The uncommon discovery of a peculiar-looking shark is the first sighting of the second largest living fish in Australian waters for 85 years.

James Owen and his crew accidentally caught the 6.3-metre basking shark in their trawler at Portland, west of Warrnambool, in Victoria on Sunday but instead of selling the sought-after Chinese delicacy, they decided to donate the rare three-tonne male fish to science.

Only smaller than the whale shark, the mammoth fish has an unusual pink/purple hue to its skin and a huge flat nose.

The last recording of this species being captured was in the 1930s by a skipper at Lakes Entrance in eastern Victoria.