Earth Changes
Map

Phoenix

Thousands flee western Canadian wildfires

Image
© Reuters / Andy Clark
Emergency crews made slow progress Sunday to contain wildfires that have forced thousands of residents of a western Canadian community to flee their homes.

Wind and dry conditions were fueling the large blazes that broke out Saturday in the rugged hills along Okanagan Lake west of the city of Kelowna, British Columbia, where housing subdivisions have encroached on the surrounding forest in recent years.

"The winds are definitely adding to the fire activity," said Elise Riedlinger, a spokeswoman for the British Columbia Forest Service, which has not estimated when the fires can be brought under control.

Butterfly

Ancient wisdom vs. hi-tech forecasts as climate changes

Many farming and fishing communities don't bother with weather predictions made by meteorologists and satellite imaging; they still predict floods, storms and drought the traditional way: by tracking nature.

In the drought-prone coastal province of Ninh Thuan, farmers believe that if the dragonfly flies high it will be sunny and if it flies low there will be rain.

In north-central Thua Thien-Hue Province, fishermen are likely to bring their boats back to the shore if, in January or February, they look to the north and see a silver cloud that quickly disappears - a sign of cold weather, they say.

Bizarro Earth

Fertilizer's Contamination Legacy

Perchlorate-contaminated groundwater could be a widespread legacy of the U.S.'s agricultural past, according to researchers who have pioneered perchlorate forensics. The researchers, led by John Karl Bhlke of the U.S. Geological Survey, used isotopes and other geochemical tracers to identify perchlorate sources. The impact of the historic use of Chilean nitrate fertilizer from the Atacama Desert, which contains naturally occurring perchlorate, is emerging from studies such as one published recently in Environmental Science and Technology (DOI link).

The study, which identifies historic use of the fertilizer as the most likely cause of groundwater contamination in some areas of Long Island, New York, is one of the first published reports on the use of such forensics in the field. Similar studies are under way in California, Iowa, Arkansas, and New Jersey, but these are part of ongoing litigation, according to coauthor Neil Sturchio of the University of Illinois Chicago. The Long Island study "is a beautifully conceived and executed work that will be helpful to pinpoint sources in some other cases, as well," says analytical chemist Purnendu ("Sandy") Dasgupta of the University of Texas Arlington.

Bizarro Earth

Earthquake Magnitude 5.4 - Near the Coast of Ecuador

Image
© US Geological Survey
Date-Time:
Sunday, July 19, 2009 at 08:35:44 UTC

Sunday, July 19, 2009 at 03:35:44 AM at epicenter

Location:
1.749°S, 80.398°W

Depth:
47.8 km (29.7 miles)

Distances:
70 km (45 miles) NW of Guayaquil, Ecuador

75 km (50 miles) S of Portoviejo, Ecuador

175 km (110 miles) NNW of Machala, Ecuador

270 km (170 miles) SW of QUITO, Ecuador

Cloud Lightning

Canada: Edmonton's CN Tower damaged in violent storm

© Unknown
CN Tower damaged in massive thunderstorm
As the clock wound down on one of Edmonton's few truly warm days of this summer, the skies over the city started to turn ominous shades of purple, blue and greenish-grey.

The scatters of rain that fell in the early evening were pale hint of the violent wind, hail and rain that was to follow, felling power lines, snapping trees in half, and plunging Whyte Avenue into blackness.

By 10 p.m., the winds were so severe they tore down the awning of the CN Tower at 104th Avenue and 100th Street. The building has a second floor wider than its base and the material that made up the overhang came crashing down on an SUV and a truck.

"The winds were just howling," said Brian Danyluk, who was driving down the street just as the crash happened and stopped to photograph the wreckage.

Blackbox

Arctic Mystery: Identifying the Great Blob of Alaska

A group of hunters aboard a small boat out of the tiny Alaska village of Wainwright were the first to spot what would eventually be called "the blob." It was a dark, floating mass stretching for miles through the Chukchi Sea, a frigid and relatively shallow expanse of Arctic Ocean water between Alaska's northwest coast and the Russian Far East. The goo was fibrous, hairy. When it touched floating ice, it looked almost black.

But what was it? An oil slick? Some sort of immense, amorphous organism adrift in some of the planet's most remote waters? Maybe a worrisome sign of global climate change? Or was it something insidious and, perhaps, even carnivorous like the man-eating jello from the old Steve McQueen movie that inspired the Alaskan phenomenon's nickname?

The hunters got word to the U.S. Coast Guard, which immediately sent two spill response experts to fly over the mass, which looked sort of rusty from the air. They also approached it by boat. The North Slope Borough, the local government for the vast and sparsely populated cap of Alaska, sent its own people out the main village of Barrow to have a look. They scooped up jars of the stuff for analysis in a state lab in Anchorage.

Bizarro Earth

Earthquake Magnitude 5.2 - Iraq

Image
© US Geological Survey
Date-Time:
Saturday, July 18, 2009 at 20:32:27 UTC

Sunday, July 19, 2009 at 12:32:27 AM at epicenter

Location:
35.844°N, 43.349°E

Depth:
7.4 km (4.6 miles) (poorly constrained)

Distances:
60 km (35 miles) SSE of Mosul, Iraq

70 km (45 miles) WSW of Irbil, Iraq

105 km (65 miles) WNW of Kirkuk, Iraq

295 km (185 miles) NNW of BAGHDAD, Iraq

Bizarro Earth

Two earthquakes rock New Zealand, aftershocks continue

Two more earthquakes with a magnitude of over 5 on the Richter scale rocked New Zealand's southern Fiordland region Friday as aftershocks continued in the wake of a major shake two days earlier.

Both were in the same region as Wednesday night's quake, which New Zealand seismologists insist was of magnitude 7.8, equal to the one that devastated the North Island city Napier in 1931, killing 256 people. At 7.8, it would be the biggest in the world this year.

However, the US Geological Survey downgraded its strength to 7.6, which would equal the year's most powerful quakes recorded off the Pacific island state Tonga in March and off Indonesia on January 3.

Phoenix

US: Wildfires rage out of control in Nevada

Reno - Firefighters at the edge of the Sierra Nevada are trying to contain a pair of brush fires that have burned nearly 12 square miles near where the U.S. Bureau of Land Management national director nominee lives.

The Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch Center says about 600 firefighters are battling the Trailer 1 and Red Rock fires north of Reno along U.S. 395 near the California line and where former Nevada state BLM director Bob Abbey lives.

Bizarro Earth

Earthquake Magnitude 4.5 - Guerrero, Mexico

Image
© US Geological Survey
Date-Time:
Friday, July 17, 2009 at 14:45:44 UTC
Friday, July 17, 2009 at 09:45:44 AM at epicenter

Location:
16.838°N, 98.686°W

Depth:
10 km (6.2 miles) set by location program

Distances:115 km (75 miles) SE of Chilpancingo, Guerrero, Mexico

130 km (80 miles) E of Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico

145 km (90 miles) SW of Huajuapan de Leon, Oaxaca, Mexico

290 km (180 miles) S of MEXICO CITY, D.F., Mexico

Comment: 13 minutes preceding this quake, there was another 4.5 magnitude in the same vicinity, although much deeper than this earthquake.