Earth Changes

Ice Cube

Half of the Great Lakes still covered in ice: What it means for the region

great lakes ice
© Jeff Schmaltz
The Great Lakes at 80.3 percent ice cover, on February 19, 2014, taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua Satellite
Over the winter, as polar vortices plunged the U.S. Midwest into weeks of unceasing cold, the icy covers of the Great Lakes started to make headlines. With almost 96 percent of Lake Superior's 32,000 miles encased in ice at the season's peak, tens of thousands of tourists flocked to the ice caves along the Wisconsin shoreline, suddenly accessible after four years of relatively warmer wintery conditions.

The thing is, all of that ice takes a long time to melt. As of April 10, 48 percent of the five lakes' 90,000-plus square miles were still covered in ice, down from a high of 92.2 percent on March 6 (note that constituted the highest levels recorded since 1979, when ice covered 94.7 percent of the lakes). Last year, only 38.4 percent of the lakes froze over, while in 2012 just 12.9 percent did - part of a four-year stint of below-average iciness.

And as the Great Lakes slowly lose their historically large ice covers over the next few months, the domino effects could include lingering cold water, delayed seasonal shifts, and huge jumps in water levels.

Nicaragua on maximum alert after series of earthquakes

Nicaragua resuce
© Reuters
People living in buildings most at risk of collapse are being evacuated to shelters
The authorities in Nicaragua have put the entire country on an "extreme red alert", the highest possible, after the country was hit by a series of tremors.

Nicaraguans were asked to sleep outdoors as seismologists warned of the possibility of a powerful earthquake rocking the Central American country.

Officials said the recent tremors had reactivated a fault which caused a devastating earthquake in 1972.

Between 5,000 and 10,000 people were killed in the disaster.

Dead pilot whale washes up near Coopers Beach, Southampton

© Riverhead Foundation
A 15-foot dead pilot whale was discovered Sunday, April 13, 2014 on a beach in Southampton near Cryder Lane, according to the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, which returned to the beach Monday to conduct a necropsy on the whale.
A 15-foot dead pilot whale was discovered Sunday on a beach in Southampton near Cryder Lane, according to the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation.

Robert DiGiovanni, the foundation's executive director and senior biologist, said researchers took a few samples Sunday, and that he was headed back to the beach Monday morning with a crew to conduct a necropsy on the whale.

"We'll do as much of a necropsy as we can, but it's going to have to remain on the beach," he said.

DiGiovanni said the Southampton Highway Department was able to move the animal further up on the beach, so it wouldn't wash away, but the whale is too large for researchers to take to the foundation's necropsy lab in Riverhead.

The team will look first for any external injuries, and then take more samples before disposing of it, DiGiovanni said.

DiGiovanni said the foundation usually sees one to two pilot whales wash ashore each year.

Multitude of dead animals wash up on local beaches in Florida

Dead marine life wash ashore along our local beaches.

There's something fishy going on in our local waters. No pun intended. According to The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: six dolphins, a shark, a humpback whale and multiple manatees/sea turtles have washed up in the last two weeks.

"We know the dolphins are related," marine biologist Nadia Gordon said. "As far as the shark and see turtles, I can't answer that."

The morbillivirus is believed to be the cause of the dolphin deaths. The disease has claimed the lives of 80 in Northeast Florida since July 2013. On a bigger scale, 1200 dolphins have been found dead from New York to Florida since July- up from the average 180 a year.

Biologists still have work to do, but they're hoping they get a lead soon.

"We're hoping it will die off soon and we won't have to worry about it anymore," Gordon said.
Cloud Lightning

Cyclone Ita hits East coast of Australia: worst-hit areas could go weeks without power

Ingham flooded after cyclone Ita
© Twitter
Ingham flooded after Cyclone Ita.
More than 6000 homes and businesses remain without power in the far north as Cyclone Ita begins to move away from the Queensland coast.

Ergon Energy has restored power to about 20,000 properties since noon on Sunday, although Premier Campbell Newman said the worst-hit areas could go weeks without electricity.

On Monday morning, Energy Minister Mark McArdle said vegetation damage and issues with access had made it difficult to restore power to parts of Kuranda and the Cairns northern beaches.

There were also 736 properties in Townsville that were waiting to be re-connected and 1100 customers offline in the Mackay, Whitsunday and Proserpine regions.

Gusts of 100km/h are forecast between Sarina, near Mackay, and Yeppoon, northeast of Rockhampton on Monday.

But the Bureau of Meteorology said the gales should start easing as Ita weakened to a tropical low and moved away from the coast.
Bizarro Earth

USGS: Earthquake Magnitude 6.9 - Bouvet Island region

Bouvet Island Quake_150414
Event Time
2014-04-15 03:57:00 UTC
2014-04-15 04:57:00 UTC+01:00 at epicenter

53.493°S 9.152°E depth=10.0km (6.2mi)

Nearby Cities
394km (245mi) ENE of Bouvet Island, Bouvet Island
2263km (1406mi) SSW of Hermanus, South Africa
2274km (1413mi) SSW of Bredasdorp, South Africa
2285km (1420mi) SSW of Grabouw, South Africa
3071km (1908mi) SSW of Maseru, Lesotho

Technical Details
Snowflake Cold

Snowy Owls dying and having trouble migrating north due to prolonged cold weather

It is time for many bird species to begin their spring migrations and Snowy Owls are among the many species that migrate. Although most birds migrate without any trouble it seems that more and more snowy owls are being found dead along their migration paths. While most ornithologists believe the recently reported Snowy Owls deaths are not related and only accidents, many are still studying the dead birds to be sure.

When a Snowy Owl wearing a GPS tracking device was found dead near Martha's Vineyard, many people became concerned and wanted to know why this bird and so many others were dying. Tufts University veterinary center and Norman Smith, who is an expert on Snowy Owls, decided to find out what caused the bird's death. They named the bird Sandy Neck.

The team examined the bird and released a report with their findings. The report said,

"The necropsy at Tufts showed no trauma except for a minor deep bruise in her left pectoral, no food in the proventriculus (stomach) or gizzard, and no signs of disease or unusual parasites. As Gus (Ben David) noted, she was in otherwise excellent condition - great muscle mass and fat deposits. Nor was there any water in the respiratory system. Mark Pokras (a veterinarian and professor at Tufts) said if he had to guess, she got swamped, swam to shore and went down from hypothermia - but also couldn't rule out drowning."

Update: Final toll from devastating Valparaiso fire in Chile: 12 dead - 3,000 homes razed - 8,000 people homeless

© AFP Photo/Alberto Miranda
View of houses in flames during a fire in Valparaiso, 110 km west of Santiago, Chile, on April 12, 2014
A wildfire in Chile has destroyed over 500 homes in six hours and continues to sweep the area, with strong winds fanning the flames. A state of emergency has been declared by the country's president in an effort to help the army battle the fires.

At least two people have been killed in the fire that swept more than 2.5 million square meters (660 acres), according to Chile's National Emergency Office

Comment: CNN, 14 April
Chile poured firefighters and police into the battle against a wildfire that swept through hundreds of homes in the Pacific coastal city of Valparaiso, leaving at least 12 dead, according to an official.

Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo reported at least 2,000 homes had been destroyed by the blaze, leaving some 8,000 people without a place to live.

Earlier, Chile's National Emergency Office's website, citing police, had said that at least 16 people were dead. It was not immediately clear why the reported death tolls were different.

More than 1,200 firefighters worked to control the wind-whipped blaze in Valparaiso and the suburb of Vina del Mar, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said Sunday.

The wind hampered firefighters' ability to create firebreaks, and the blaze had spread to more than 2,000 acres, Penailillo said.

A family huddles in a street in Valparaiso as the city is evacuated April 13.
Update 15 April 2014

More amateur video footage has surfaced showing the hellish scenes in Valparaiso:


Third earthquake strikes Nicaragua in less than a week: fears rampant of 'big one'

© Reuters
A third earthquake in less than a week struck Nicaragua early on Monday morning, shaking buildings in the capital, Managua, though there were no immediate reports of damage. An official at Nicaragua's seismological authority said the quake magnitude was 5.6, but its shallow depth had imparted a greater impact.

The US Geological Survey (USGS) said the quake struck some 6 km (4 miles) northwest of Managua at a depth of 14 km. The USGS initially registered the quake at magnitude 5.1. Emergency services in Managua were checking for signs of impact, but did not immediately report any damage. Earthquakes also struck Nicaragua on Thursday and Friday last week. The latter, of magnitude 6.6, was felt as far away as El Salvador and Costa Rica.

Times of India

Comment: Pacific Ring of Fire becoming increasingly more active

Arrow Down

Wyoming officials eye slow-moving landslide, evacuate residents

The 100-foot-deep landslide is moving so slowly that local officials have been able to see how ground cracks are emerging and growing by inches each day.
A slow-moving landslide the size of two football fields is steadily tearing apart a hilltop house from the inside and has prompted the evacuation of about 50 people and several businesses in the well-known skiing town of Jackson, Wyoming, officials said Saturday.

The slow movement, however, has only a 5% chance of becoming the sort of violent landslide that killed 36 people last month in rural Washington state, said Roxanne Robinson, Jackson assistant town manager.

"You know, I think that's on everybody's mind, but I think our slide is different because it's slow moving. Theirs was catastrophic, and ours has been slowly creeping down the hill," Robinson said Saturday.

The 100-foot-deep landslide is moving so slowly that local officials have been able to see how ground cracks are emerging and growing by inches each day the past week. Crews use binoculars to keep an eye on the hill while they stand at a fire truck across the road.