Earth Changes
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Water

Water crisis can't get any worse? Wait until the aquifers are drained!

© Peter Essick, National Geographic
In ten years, the Colorado River Basin has lost the equivalent of two Lake Meads, the largest reservoir in the U.S., pictured here at dusk with Las Vegas in the background.

We're pumping irreplaceable groundwater to counter the drought. When it's gone, the real crisis begins.


Aquifers provide us freshwater that makes up for surface water lost from drought-depleted lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. We are drawing down these hidden, mostly nonrenewable groundwater supplies at unsustainable rates in the western United States and in several dry regions globally, threatening our future.

We are at our best when we can see a threat or challenge ahead. If flood waters are rising, an enemy is rushing at us, or a highway exit appears just ahead of a traffic jam, we see the looming crisis and respond.

We are not as adept when threats - or threatened resources - are invisible. Some of us have trouble realizing why invisible carbon emissions are changing the chemistry of the atmosphere and warming the planet. Because the surface of the sea is all we see, it's difficult to understand that we already have taken most of the large fish from the ocean, diminishing a major source of food. Neither of these crises are visible - they are largely out of sight, out of mind - so it's difficult to get excited and respond. Disappearing groundwater is another out-of-sight crisis.

Groundwater comes from aquifers - spongelike gravel and sand-filled underground reservoirs - and we see this water only when it flows from springs and wells. In the United States we rely on this hidden - and shrinking - water supply to meet half our needs, and as drought shrinks surface water in lakes, rivers, and reservoirs, we rely on groundwater from aquifers even more. Some shallow aquifers recharge from surface water, but deeper aquifers contain ancient water locked in the earth by changes in geology thousands or millions of years ago. These aquifers typically cannot recharge, and once this "fossil" water is gone, it is gone forever - potentially changing how and where we can live and grow food, among other things.

Comment: Further information on the water crisis can be found here and here

Cloud Precipitation

9 die in Panama after Chiriquí Viejo River flood

The flooding of the Chiriquí Viejo in the province of Chiriquí, western Panama, on Monday 18 August has left 9 people dead and several injured, according to local media reports. Many of the victims were children.

Sistema Nacional de Protección Civil (SINAPROC) in Panama say that the flooding has destroyed 27 houses leaving 116 people homeless. The homesless are curently being housed in temporary accomodation, inclidung a local gym and hotel. Around 40 other homes have been damaged. The flooding left the village of Cerro Punta completely cut-off after bridges were damaged and roads blocked by flood and landslide debris. SINAPROC have been carrying out rescues in the area since Monday 18 August 2014.

A state of emergency was declared for the flood hit areas in order to facilitate the rapid reconstruction of damaged infrastructure.

Health

Man mauled by bear in Italian wood

© Hemis /Alamy
Brown bears are thriving in Northern Italy due to a successful reintroduction scheme known as Life Ursus.
Environmentalists angered by plan to capture bear who mauled a man foraging for mushrooms while it was nursing its cubs

Environmentalists in Italy have urged authorities in the northern province of Trentino not to capture or kill a brown bear that attacked a man on Friday.

Daniele Maturi, 38, was reportedly foraging for mushrooms in the woods near Pinzolo in the heart of the Dolomite mountains when he was set upon by Daniza, a female bear nursing her cubs. Maturi was bitten and scratched, and suffered injuries to his wrist, leg, knee and back during the attack.

"She seemed crazy," he told local television station TNN after being released from hospital. "She chased me. She took me with one paw on my back; she made a hole in my back. I was on the ground and then she jumped on top of me."

The vice-president of the autonomous province of Trentino, Alessandro Olivi, has signed an order for Daniza to be captured, a step the authorities believe is necessary to guarantee public safety. She is already reported to be under surveillance.

Comment: There appears to have been a spate of unusually aggressive animal attacks on humans of late, see also: Giant anteaters kill Brazilian hunters!

Bear attacks kill at least three people with many others injured in Siberia and far-east Russia

Boy and grandmother attacked and injured by river otter on Pilchuck River, Washington

Paddling family of three attacked by a beaver in Austria

400 pound alligator attacks 9-year-old boy, Florida

Crocodile kills fisherman in front of his wife in Northern Territory, Australia

Attention

Fishermen drag 70-foot dead whale to Karachi shore

The body of what fishermen say is an estimated 70-foot whale washed up on the coast of Karachi on Tuesday morning.

Local fishermen in the locality of Ghas Bandar area along the coastal belt said the whale got entangled into their fishing net, and they later dragged the body to the shore with the help of other people.

They said the whale was already dead when it was dragged to the shore early morning by 10 to 12 fishermen on two launches.

The local administration has so far made no comment on the appearance of the whale.

For fear of collision with boats, local fishermen generally view whales as dangerous and maintain a safe distance from them when out in the sea.

Last month, a 30 to 40-foot whale was found dead near the coast of Karachi.

Arrow Down

Mussel production falls by 90% along the French coast

© Alamy

Mussel growers estimate their losses at about €20 million
Growers in western France call for emergency state aid as mussel production plummets 90 per cent, forcing restaurants to rely on foreign import

Mussel growers in western France have called for emergency state aid as they face an "unprecedented" squeeze following a 90-per-cent plunge in production of the shellfish blamed on bad weather and pollution.

With not nearly enough local supply to meet demand for the beloved delicacy, French restaurants are now being forced to rely on imports of Irish, Dutch and Italian moules to accompany their frites.

Producers in the Atlantic port of La Rochelle say the decline, which started six months ago, is catastrophic for the local economy. They have staged two protests in recent weeks, dumping piles of oyster shells and dead mussels outside the Préfecture to demand action over a crisis they attribute to seawater contamination.
Cloud Precipitation

Flooding shuts roads in central Sweden

© Anders Andersson/TT
Updated: Sections of the highway in Värmland have been closed off due to flooding, and several trains are standing still. Authorities say the situation will get worse before it gets better.

* Floods wash into third day

* Rain predicted to continue into weekend

* Emergency workers say floods at "catastrophic levels"

* Kristinehamn in Värmland flooded on Wednesday night

* Those who evacuated in Getinge may now return

Rain continued to bucket down over parts of Sweden on Wednesday night, adding the town of Kristinehamn, Värmland, to the list of towns partially under water.

"We got an alarm that a man was stuck in a car in more than metre-high water," Lars Eidwall, emergency service worker in Kristinehamn, told news agency TT. "When we arrived he had managed to climb out, but the car was filled with water."

Heavy rain during the night closed several roads in Kristinehamn, including parts of major highway E18.
Stop

Words of sympathy and support: Putin extends condolences to Japan Prime Minister over Hiroshima landslides victims

© RIA Novosti. Mikhail Klimentiev
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences Wednesday to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over numerous victims as a result of landslides in Hiroshima Prefecture.

"The head of the Russian State has expressed his words of sympathy and support to the families of the victims and wished a speedy recovery to those, injured as a result of this catastrophe," a statement on the Kremlin website read.

According to the latest media reports, 39 people were killed in landslides, including a two-year-old child and several teenagers aged between 11 and 16. Seven people are unaccounted for.
Umbrella

Bárðarbunga volcano getting ready to erupt? 1000 earthquakes as magma moves into ice covered caldera

From the Icelandic Meteorological Office:

A summary of seismic activity, written Tuesday evening 19th August 2014 at 20:00
© Wattsupwiththat.com
Around 1.000 small earthquakes were detected in the Bárðarbunga region from midnight (18/19) until Tuesday evening 19th August at 20:00. All of them were smaller than magnitude 3 and most were located in the cluster east of Bárðarbunga.

While the northern cluster close to Kistufell has calmed down significantly following the M4.5 earthquake on early Monday morning, event rates in the eastern cluster are still high. Similar to recent days, two pulses of comparably strong seismic activity have been measured between 04:00 and 08:00 this morning, as well as 16:00 and 18:30 in the afternoon. The cluster east of Bárðarbunga continued to slowly migrate northeastwards today. Events are still located at around 5-12 km depths, no signs of upwards migration has been seen so far.

Below is a summary map of all manually revised earthquakes since the onset of the swarm, which illustrates the migration of earthquake activity during the last days. Earthquakes in the map are colour coded by time, dark blue dots show the onset of the swarm on Saturday, orange dots Tuesday's events until 19:00, light blue and yellow are the days in between. The time scale is days since the onset of the swarm.
© Gunnar B. Guðmundsson, Icelandic Meteorological Office.
Windsock

Five waterspouts come ashore in Genoa, Italy - Cause millions of euros' worth of damage and shut down transport network

© Screenshot: YouReporterNEWS
The tornadoes hit around the port city of Genoa.
A series of five tornadoes swept through northern Italy on Tuesday, prompting flights to be diverted and causing millions of euros worth of damage.

The tornadoes hit around the port city of Genoa, with some eyewitnesses stating they came close to hitting the wreck of the Costa Concordia cruise ship.

Flights to the city's airport were diverted and those leaving delayed, while trains were also interrupted and roads closed, La Repubblica reported.

Damage is said to amount to millions of euros, with roofs ripped off buildings in the Prà neighbourhood and the seafront strewn with sun loungers hit by the stormy weather.

Comment: To give you an idea how rare tornadoes are in Italy, four tornadoes in total were recorded in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, three were recorded in the 20th century, four were recorded between 2008, and 2012, four hit in 2013 alone, between 12 and 15 have hit so far this year... and now five have hit in one day!

Note the exponential rate of increase...

Attention

Whales turn up in unusually high numbers in the seas around Ireland

© Colin Barnes/Cork Whale Watch
Some of the fin whales that have been seen off West Cork
The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) reports upwards of 30 fin whales along a 50km stretch of the West Cork coastline in southern Ireland, between the Old Head of Kinsale and the Kedge area, which is unusual for this time of year.

Colin Barnes from Cork Whale Watch, who has spent several weeks observing the build-up of this activity confirms there are huge 'fish clouds' comprising small sprat or larval herring in the area and these are likely to be what is attracting the fin whales in such numbers.

Combined estimates from land and boat based sightings suggest there could also be 20 or more fin whales in the waters between Seven Heads and Galley Head, County Cork.
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