Earth Changes


Wheat rust: The fungal disease that threatens to wipe out the world crop

The plant disease threatens the world's crops
Scientists are warning that wheat is facing a serious threat from a fungal disease that could wipe out the world's crop if not quickly contained. Wheat rust, a devastating disease known as the "polio of agriculture", has spread from Africa to South and Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe, with calamitous losses for the world's second most important grain crop, after rice. There is mounting concern at the dangers posed to global food security.

Experts have been aware of the threat since a major epidemic swept across North America's wheat belt in the 1950s, destroying up to 40 per cent of the crop. Since then, tens of millions of pounds have been invested in developing rust-resistant varieties of the grain. However, an outbreak in Uganda in 1999 was discovered to have been caused by a virulent mutation of the fungus. There has been alarm at the speed at which further mutations have subsequently developed and spread across continents.

Plant scientists in Britain estimate the latest developments mean that 90 per cent of all current African wheat varieties are now vulnerable to the disease.

Last year, Germany witnessed its first outbreak of stem rust in more than 50 years. The outbreak was spurred by "a period of unusually high temperatures and an unusually late development of the wheat crop due to cold spring and early summer temperatures", explained Kerstin Flath, of Germany's Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants.

Over 100 wildfires in Russia occupy almost 60 square kilometers

Wildfires in Russia
© Unknown
Over 100 wildfires in Russia occupy almost six thousand hectares, representative of the Russian emergency situations authority, EMERCOM, Anatoly Elizarov said on Sunday.

"In the territory of the Russian Federation 104 wildfires occupy 5,834 hectares. The most complicated situation is in the Far East Federal District - in the Amur region, Jewish autonomous region, and the Maritime and Khabarovsk territories, and also in Siberia's Baikal territory," he said.

The wildfires do not threat cities, towns or the economy, he told a meeting of a governmental working group, chaired by EMERCOM's head Vladimir Puchkov.

The spokesperson reported the authority had organised a group of over 18,000 people, who are using over 5,000 specialised vehicles to extinguish the fires. The rescuers are using 23 aircrafts. EMERCOM is using its eleven planes and helicopters: two Il-76 planes, two Be-200 amphibian planes, two Mi-26 helicopters and five Mi-8 helicopters.

"Every day, EMERCOM's aviation is making about 15 flights, making about 100 droppings of over 1,000 tonnes of water," Elizarov said.

He continued adding the authority had been attracting new forces for extinguishing the wildfires.
Bizarro Earth

USGS: Aftershock Magnitude 6.1 - 96km SSW of Panguna, Papua New Guinea

Panguna Quake_200414
Event Time
2014-04-20 00:15:58 UTC
2014-04-20 10:15:58 UTC+10:00 at epicenter

7.167°S 155.312°E depth=18.1km (11.2mi)

Nearby Cities
96km (60mi) SSW of Panguna, Papua New Guinea
108km (67mi) SSW of Arawa, Papua New Guinea
459km (285mi) SE of Kokopo, Papua New Guinea
569km (354mi) WNW of Honiara, Solomon Islands
599km (372mi) ESE of Kimbe, Papua New Guinea

Technical Details
Red Flag

Back-to-back tremors shake Los Angeles: Big One Coming?

© Otto Greule Jr /Getty Images
San Francisco's Marina district crumbled after a 1989 earthquake that measured 7.1 on the Richter scale.
When is the Big One due?

Sometime in the next 30 years - and as soon as tomorrow. With about 300 large fault lines running beneath it, California is one of the most seismically active parts of the world, and has 37,000 tremors a year. Most are too small to be felt, but seismologists believe a couple of fault lines in particular - including the much-dreaded San Andreas - could trigger a megaquake similar to the one that flattened San Francisco in 1906, wiping out entire neighborhoods in seconds. Today, geologists say, there's a 99.7 percent chance of a Big One of at least magnitude 6.7 striking California within the next three decades, with Southern California most at risk. Fears that a big quake is imminent in Los Angeles were stoked in March when two earthquakes, including a magnitude-5.1 quake in La Habra, cracked walls, triggered landslides, and sent furniture flying. "Sooner or later there's going to be the Big One," says U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) seismologist Kate Hutton.
Arrow Down

Another large sinkhole opens up in Dunedin, Florida

A large hole reported in the parking lot of San Christopher Villas in Dunedin is now believed to be a sinkhole.
A large hole reported in the parking lot of San Christopher Villas in Dunedin is now believed to be a sinkhole, according to the Dunedin Fire Department.

Initially, Dunedin Fire referred to the hole as a "roadway collapse." But after checking underground pipes and finding them intact, the opening is now believed to be a sinkhole.

The hole opened up in a parking lot in the 1300 block of Powderpuff Drive, about a mile away from where a serious sinkhole opened up in November 2013. It's 10 feet by 10 feet across and about 10 feet deep.

Crews are going to fill the hole and it does not appear to be increasing any more at this time. No homes have been evacuated, although cars have been moved away from the hole as a precaution.
Arrow Down

Sinkhole swallows man in New York City

© Jabbari Douglas
A Bronx man claims he was playing football and swallowed by a sinkhole, but authorities have their suspicions.
Talk about a fall guy.

Investigators from several city agencies are trying to get to the bottom of how a man wound up in a large sinkhole on a Wakefield street this week.

This Bronx tale began on Monday about 1:30 p.m. when a 6-foot section of the road suddenly collapsed into a 5-foot-deep hole large enough to swallow a medium-sized car in front of 658 E. 234th St.

Jabbari Douglas, 17, said he was standing outside his home when he suddenly heard the ground collapse and heard the sound of someone yelling for help.
Alarm Clock

USGS: Earthquake Magnitude 7.8 - 68km SW of Panguna, Papua New Guinea

Earthquake 7.8 Papua New Guinea
Event Time
2014-04-19 13:28:00 UTC
2014-04-19 23:28:00 UTC+10:00 at epicenter

6.700°S 155.000°E depth=10.0km (6.2mi)

Nearby Cities
68km (42mi) SW of Panguna, Papua New Guinea
80km (50mi) SW of Arawa, Papua New Guinea
399km (248mi) SE of Kokopo, Papua New Guinea
552km (343mi) ESE of Kimbe, Papua New Guinea
623km (387mi) WNW of Honiara, Solomon Islands

Scientific data
Arrow Down

Jackson, Wyoming landslide now moving fast enough to observe

Rockfall on Budge Drive draws a crowd Thursday as the creeping cliff continues its path downhill. Crews were working to install a barrier wall along the road when increased activity forced them to stop.
Efforts have stopped to build a tall concrete barrier to stall part of the East Gros Ventre Butte from giving away. The incipient slide has changed from movement too slow for the naked eye to fast enough to draw a crowd. Cracks and bulges were noticed about a week ago, and a small part of northwest Jackson was evacuated (Budge Drive). Rain, snowmelt, and human activities at the toe of the slide and also on it are blamed for situation. Today and Tuesday rain will move into the valley - Jackson Hole.

For years roads, homes and businesses have slowly crowded the base of the landmark butte and begun to climb onto it. Busy U.S. Highway 89 (West Broadway Ave) parallels Budge Drive 200 to 400 further to the south. Despite the proximity of the slide to the highway artery into the busy resort community, Wyoming Department of Transportation (WDOT) still thinks the slide will not come down quickly onto the highway. Some onlookers yesterday were not so sure. See the story in the Jackson Hole Daily by Ben Graham.

Bizarro Earth

USGS: Earthquake Magnitude 6.9 - 62km SW of Panguna, Papua New Guinea

Panguna Quake_190414
Event Time
2014-04-19 01:04:06 UTC
2014-04-19 11:04:06 UTC+10:00 at epicenter

6.701°S 155.069°E depth=45.5km (28.2mi)

Nearby Cities
62km (39mi) SW of Panguna, Papua New Guinea
74km (46mi) SW of Arawa, Papua New Guinea
405km (252mi) SE of Kokopo, Papua New Guinea
559km (347mi) ESE of Kimbe, Papua New Guinea
616km (383mi) WNW of Honiara, Solomon Islands

Technical Details
Bizarro Earth

Almost one-fifth of China's farmland is polluted, according to a government report

Polluted Farms
© Reuters
It's not easy balancing economic development and the environment.
Almost one-fifth of China's farmland is polluted, according to a government report released this week. Officials have acknowledged the country's problems with water and air pollution, but the extent of soil contamination has been a closely guarded "state secret," for fear of incriminating certain provinces or companies.

About 19.4% of China's farmland is polluted by cadmium, nickel and arsenic, according to the seven-year study that analyzed a little over half of China's entire land area. One-fifth of China's total arable land is about 26 million hectares (64 million acres), the same area as the United Kingdom, by the most recent estimates.

The pollution is concentrated around the Yangtze and Pearl River Deltas - key sources of water in the country and home to millions of people - as well as in parts of the south where much of China's rice is grown. Last year, half of all samples of rice in Guangzhou were found to have poisonous levels of cadmium, a chemical that can cause kidney failure when ingested. The main causes are agriculture and industry, the report said. (Farmers contribute to soil pollution with their use of fertilizers and pesticides and improper disposal of animal waste.)