Sun, 16 Nov 2008 03:24 CST
A surreal scientific blunder last week raised a huge question mark about the temperature records that underpin the worldwide alarm over global warming. On Monday, Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), which is run by Al Gore's chief scientific ally, Dr James Hansen, and is one of four bodies responsible for monitoring global temperatures, announced that last month was the hottest October on record.
This was startling. Across the world there were reports of unseasonal snow and plummeting temperatures last month, from the American Great Plains to China, and from the Alps to New Zealand. China's official news agency reported that Tibet had suffered its "worst snowstorm ever". In the US, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration registered 63 local snowfall records and 115 lowest-ever temperatures for the month, and ranked it as only the 70th-warmest October in 114 years.
The U.S. Geological Survey says a small earthquake occurred in central Arkansas.
The quake, of preliminary magnitude 2.9, occurred at 7:47 a.m. Saturday, 14 miles north of Hector in Pope County.
A dispatcher with the Pope County Sheriff's Office said the office had not gotten any calls regarding the tremor.
A quake of magnitude 2.5 to 3 is the smallest generally felt by people. Hundreds of earthquakes occur each year. Most are so small they cannot be felt.
New figures show 26% of all sharks, rays and related species in the north-east Atlantic are threatened with extinction
More than a quarter of sharks and rays in the north-east Atlantic face extinction from overfishing, conservationists warned today.
A "red list" report from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found that 26% of all sharks, rays and related species in the regional waters are threatened with extinction. Seven per cent are classed as critically endangered, while a fifth are regarded as "near-threatened".
The total number of at-risk species may well be higher because scientists lack of sufficient information to assess the populations of more than a quarter (27%) of them, the report adds. Many are slow-breeding fish that are especially vulnerable to fisheries.
Los Angeles - A wildfire whipped up by hurricane-force gusts raged through northwestern Los Angeles foothills on Saturday, burning some 165 homes and threatening the power supply of California's largest city.
More than 10,000 residents were under mandatory evacuation orders as the fire, which has burned more than 2,600 acres, spread westward fanned by dry winds.
© AFP/Getty Images/David Mcnew
Firefighters are pelted with ash and embers driven by high wind as most of the homes in the Oakridge mobile home park, which reportedly has 600-800 homes, burn in the Sylmar Fire in Sylmar, California.
A separate fire burned a second day in the celebrity enclave of Montecito, where 111 homes have been destroyed.
An unusual microorganism discovered in the open ocean may force scientists to rethink their understanding of how carbon and nitrogen cycle through ocean ecosystems. A research team led by Jonathan Zehr, professor of ocean sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, characterized the new microbe by analyzing its genetic material, even though researchers have not been able to grow it in the laboratory.
© Rachel Foster
These unidentified cyanobacteria were collected in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii.
Zehr said the newly described organism seems to be an atypical member of the cyanobacteria, a group of photosynthetic bacteria formerly known as blue-green algae. Unlike all other known free-living cyanobacteria, this one lacks some of the genes needed to carry out photosynthesis, the process by which plants use light energy to make sugars out of carbon dioxide and water. The mysterious microbe can do something very important, though: It provides natural fertilizer to the oceans by "fixing" nitrogen from the atmosphere into a form useable by other organisms.
Fri, 07 Nov 2008 17:21 CST
Rapid Rebound Brings Ice Back to Levels from the 1980s.
An abnormally cool Arctic is seeing dramatic changes to ice levels. In sharp contrast to the rapid melting seen last year, the amount of global sea ice has rebounded sharply and is now growing rapidly. The total amount of ice, which set a record low value last year, grew in October at the fastest pace since record-keeping began in 1979.
The actual amount of ice area varies seasonally from about 16 to 23 million square kilometers. However, the mean anomaly-- defined as the difference between the current area and the seasonally-adjusted average-- changes much slower, and generally varies by only 2-3 million square kilometers.
That anomaly had been negative, indicating ice loss, for most of the current decade and reached a historic low in 2007. The current value is again zero, indicating an amount of ice exactly equal to the global average from 1979-2000.
SANTA BARBARA - Firefighters were holding their own Friday against a wildfire that destroyed more than 100 homes in a wealthy, celebrity-studded enclave, but authorities warned that evening wind gusts could send the blaze on another destructive sprint.
The health of Australia's Murray-Darling river system, already shockingly poor, has just taken a turn for the worse. In the past month, tracts of wetland at the mouth of the Murray have become as corrosive as battery acid, forming a yellow crust of sideronatrite, a mineral that only forms in extremely acid soil.
This latest indicator of the river's decline is detailed in reports to be released this week by the CSIRO Land and Water research institute in Adelaide, South Australia. For years drought and mismanagement have reduced water flows in the Murray-Darling system, altering salinity, temperature and nutrient levels. But in July last year, a team led by Rob Fitzpatrick, who wrote the new reports, found a new problem: falling water levels in Lakes Alexandrina and Albert at the Murray's mouth in South Australia were exposing the surrounding soils, rich in iron sulphide, to the air.
Ski resorts across Europe and North America have opened early this season after heavy snowfall in the last month.
A series of snowstorms since early November in North America and late October in Europe has enabled several resorts to open ahead of schedule.
The Italian resort of Bormio has opened a month early after heavy snowfalls at the end of October and start of November delivered 50ins to the resort's upper slopes.
Fri, 31 Oct 2008 19:47 CDT
At least seven people have been found dead after "the worst snowstorm on record in Tibet
," China's state-run news agency reported Friday. About 1,350 people were rescued in Lhunze County - another 300 were trapped - after nearly five feet (1.5 meters) of snow blanketed much of Tibet this week. The storm caused buildings to collapse, blocked roads and killed about 144,000 head of cattle, the state-run China Daily newspaper reported. The seven people who died either froze to death or were killed as a result of collapsing buildings, and one person is still missing, China Daily said. The BBC added: Heavy snowstorms have hit eastern Tibet over the last few days, worsening the situation for survivors of the earthquake earlier this month. Temperatures plummeted as snow started falling on Sunday.
At least two people are reported to have died and many more are missing. Snowfalls have blocked roads, caused avalanches and led to widespread power cuts. Thousands of people have been living in tents or temporary shelters since the earthquake on 6th October. Relief materials including food and blankets are flooding into the area. Heavy snowstorms are rare for this part of Tibet in October, and temperatures are unseasonably cold.