Earth Changes


Wrong place, wrong time: Extremely rare Arctic Beluga whales seen off cold beach in Northumberland, UK

© Seawatch Foundation
The distinctive beluga whale is a rare sight in British waters
Delighted holidaymakers caught sight of two elusive beluga whales swimming casually off a Northumberland beach over the weekend in arguably the wildlife event of the year.

Belugas are some of the most charismatic of all the whales, their ghostly white forms blending with the ice floes of their native haunts off Greenland and the Barents Sea.

They are extremely rare visitors to British waters and until last month there had only ever been 17 recorded sightings throughout history, with the vast majority in Scotland.

After one was filmed off the coast of County Antrim in July, two other belugas have now turned up in the North Sea, with experts highlighting the unusually low water temperatures this summer as a possible cause for their visits.

Whatever the reasons, for fortunate whale-watchers the chance of seeing the belugas is a once in a lifetime happening.

Comment: See also these other reports in 2015 from the UK: Wrong time, wrong place: Rare Arctic Beluga whale seen off the Irish coast

Rare Arctic bowhead whale seen for the first time in UK waters


Blue whale seen in British waters for first time in history

Blue whale caught swimming in British waters
This unique but distant shot of a small dorsal fin cutting through the Atlantic marks the only accepted pictorial evidence of a blue whale off the UK's coast.

The huge cetacean, measuring twice the length of a double-decker bus, was seen 250 miles south west of Cornwall over a deep-sea canyon on the edge of the Bay of Biscay, part of which lies within within English territorial waters.

Prof Russell Wynn from the National Oceanography Centre took the photograph while taking part in a marine mammal survey on board the Royal Research Ship James Cook last month.

He explained: "I was enjoying watching up to seven Fin Whales around the ship, when the blue whale suddenly surfaced about a kilometre away.


Man attacked by grizzly bear in Ghost wilderness area, Alberta


Grizzly bear
A 31-year-old man attacked by a protective mother grizzly bear in the Ghost wilderness area on the weekend is expected to recover from his injuries, according to an Alberta government spokesman.

Around 8 p.m. on Saturday, two men on off-highway vehicles were injured when they crested a hill in the Ghost public land use zone and surprised a mother bear with two cubs.

"We believe they were grizzly bears," said Brendan Cox, a spokesman for Alberta Fish and Wildlife. "It was a defensive reaction by the mother bear to protect her cubs.

"It is unfortunate that one of these people was seriously injured before they were able to use the bear spray."

The grizzly retreated when the men used a form of pepper spray that can be used to deter aggressive bears in the wilderness.


Hunter attacked by grizzly bear in Idaho released from hospital


Grizzly bear
An archery hunter who was attacked by a sow grizzly bear while hunting in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest in the vicinity of Yale Creek near Sawtell Peak Monday was released from the Madison County hospital after walking out under his own power.

The archer sustained injuries to his hand and wrist. He had no broken bones but he did have soft tissue damage. He was treated and received antibiotics and painkillers, according to officials from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG).

Mike Adams, 55, of Idaho Falls, reportedly was carrying bear spray but apparently couldn't access it when the attack occurred. He tried to shoot the bear several times with a .44 magnum revolver pistol at point-blank range.

Following the attack, Adams was able to reach his cell phone and was able to dial 911 to call for help.

Cloud Precipitation

Tropical Storm Erika kills at least 12 in Dominica

© Unknown
Tropical Storm Erika killed at least 12 people as it swept over the small island of Dominica, its prime minister said Friday, noting his country had been "badly beaten."

Local media, meanwhile, put the death toll at 35 as rescuers made their way to the village of Petite Savanne deemed the hardest hit by the powerful weather system.

"I can confirm 12 but the number may be higher," Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit tweeted on his way to the hamlet.

According to The, 27 people were reported dead in Petite Savanne when a "massive mudslide" demolished several houses there.

"The country has been badly beaten," Skerrit said in an audio message.

"I am asking residents to come out to help clean the streets, clear ravines and public buildings today," he tweeted.

Word of the death and destruction put the Dominican Republic on edge as it braced for a direct blast from Erika Friday afternoon.

Cloud Precipitation

At least 4 die in horrendous hailstorm, Mexico; 2 inches of precipitation in 50 minutes

Authorities in Mexico state said Monday that at least four victims were killed when an unusually strong hailstorm hit the capital suburb.

A 45-day baby and two homeless people were amongst the victims of Sunday night's storm, state government said in a press release.

Gov. Eruviel Avila said the baby died in a car accident but the parents and another five-year child survived.

The most affected towns in the region received 53 millimeters (2 inches) of precipitation in 50 minutes - an amount three times more than the municipalities' ability to drain.

Bizarro Earth

New research looks at grey swan events, 36-foot surges, and mega-storms

© William Putnam/NASA/GSFC
A NASA computer model simulates the astonishing track and forceful winds of Hurricane Sandy. On Saffir-Simpson scale, this wasn't a "major" storm at landfall.
Excellent Science Word of the Day: "Paleotempestology."

It's the study of prehistoric storms. The word pops up near the end of the new paper in Nature describing "Grey swan tropical cyclones" (Nature, as always, favors the British spelling of "gray"). My colleague Chris Mooney describes this new research on the E&E blog.

The paper has some jaw-dropping calculations, most notably that it is not inconceivable that in the hotter climate at the end of this century, a mega-storm could ride up along the shallow waters of Florida's Gulf Coast, take a sharp turn into Tampa Bay and (boosted by something called "Kelvin Waves"*) produce as much as a 36-foot storm surge at the head of the bay.

That would be, to say the least, a sub-optimal situation. Put it in 72-point type: Megastorm Threatens Bern's Steak House.

Of course, such a Tampa-blasting mega-storm isn't likely to happen. Nor is it likely that a monster storm will careen into the Persian Gulf and clobber Dubai -- another scenario entertained by the authors of the new paper. They are using computer models and the historical record to try to get an estimate of how frequently three vulnerable cities (the third is Cairns, Australia) could be hit by anomalously huge storms in the coming decades. These are places where the geography and bathymetry (lots of shallow water in particular) could amplify the devastation. In the case of Tampa, the authors can envision a low-probability, high-consequence event in which the bay essentially dumps its contents on the city and surrounding areas like a tipping bathtub.

Comment: The uncertainties aren't as uncertain as we might think (or hope) them to be. While modern record keeping of meteorological events only go so far, our history is rich with examples of megastorms that when read with a discerning eye indicate that we may very well see these types of events again during this time loop.

See also: Future forecast? Hurricanes 'unlike anything you've seen in history'


Salton Sea burps hydrogen sulfide; third time this summer

The Salton Sea is belching hydrogen sulfide - again.

The Air Quality Management District issued an odor advisory Monday for the Coachella Valley. It's at least the third one this summer.

Hydrogen sulfide smells like rotten eggs and is associated with natural processes occurring in the Salton Sea.

Concentrations of the gas exceeded state standards in the community of Mecca and another at the north end of the Salton Sea in Riverside County.

Cloud Lightning

Future forecast? Hurricanes 'unlike anything you've seen in history'

© Skywalker Sound
Last week, the nation focused its attention on the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the most destructive hurricane in U.S. history. As bad as the storm was, though, it wasn't the worst storm that could have possibly hit New Orleans.

That's true of many, many other places, too. And now, in a new study in Nature Climate Change, Princeton's Ning Lin and MIT's Kerry Emanuel demonstrate that when it comes to three global cities in particular — Tampa, Fla., Cairns, Australia, and Dubai, United Arab Emirates — there could come a storm that is much worse than anything in recent memory (or in any memory).

Granted, these theoretical storms are also highly unlikely to occur — in some cases, they are 1-in-10,000-year events, or even rarer. The researchers refer to these possible storms as "gray swans," riffing on the concept of a "black swan" event, an unpredictable catastrophe, or highly impactful event. A "gray swan," by contrast, can indeed be predicted, even if it is extremely rare.

The purpose of the study is "to raise awareness of what a very low probability, very high impact hurricane event might look like," said Emanuel. The gray swan storms were generated by a computer model that "coupled" together, in the researchers' parlance, a very high-resolution hurricane model with a global climate model. That allowed the researchers to populate the simulated world with oodles of different storms.

Comment: While the study misses the boat when it comes to global warming, it is interesting that one of the authors notes a theoretical "hypercane" involving an asteroid hitting and drastically warming ocean waters. This may be closer to our potential future if our history is any indicator. See Comets and the Horns of Moses for more information.


4.3 earthquake hits north central Washington wildfire zone

A 4.3 magnitude earthquake has hit the wildfire zone in north central Washington.

The quake, which was six miles deep, hit 26 miles east of Okanogan and 25 miles north of Grand Coulee at 9:42 a.m. Tuesday, according to the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network.

KIRO 7 meteorolgist Morgan Palmer said an earthquake of that depth was considered shallow and was likely felt as a jolt.

The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network asks if you felt the earthquake, to fill out the form here.