Earth Changes


8,690 tree species in the Amazon may be on verge of extinction

© Getty
More than 8,000 trees are now at risk of extinction in the Amazon rain forest
The worrying spectre of trees that could hold the secret to the cure of cancer and play host to the richest wildlife spectacular on the planet disappearing in our life times has been highlighted in a new study.

It reveals that between 36 and 57 per cent of Amazonian trees, that is as many as 8,690 different species, are likely to qualify as being globally threatened under IUCN Red List of Threatened Species criteria.

The new study, published tonight in the journal Science Advances, reached its shocking conclusions after comparing results of forest surveys across the Amazon with maps of current and projected deforestation to estimate how many tree species have been lost, and whereabouts.

A global global team made up of 158 researchers from 21 countries and involving Britain's University of East Anglia (UEA) carried out the study, which also concluded that Amazonian parks, reserves, and indigenous territories, if properly managed, can protect most of the threatened species.


Four new earthquakes recorded at Peru-Brazil border

© El Comercio/IGP
The border with Brazil has produced four new quakes today.
Two of the earthquakes were felt and two were not felt by the local communities.

Four new earthquakes registered today northwest of the district of Ucayali, at magnitudes of 6.5, 5.1, 4.6 and 5 on the Richter scale, reports the Geophysical Institute of Peru (IGP).

These quakes come days after the two 7.6 magnitude earthquakes that hit in the same zone of the Peruvian border with Brazil on Tuesday evening.

At the moment, no damages have been reported due to the earthquakes registered today.

The first quake hit at 12:45 a.m. and the epicenter was located north of Esperanza in Ucayali at a depth of 580 kilometers, with a magnitude of 6.5 grades.

The second was recorded at 12:57 a.m. with a magnitude of 5.1 grades. The third was recorded at 1:01 a.m. with a magnitude of 4.6 grades, while the fourth was recorded at 8:42 a.m. and had a magnitude of 5 grades.


Scientists unable to explain "really unusual" starling mass drownings in Britain

© blickwinkel/Alamy
Two starlings bathing: the songbirds are a stocky species that bathe and drink together in groups.

Behaviour could be one cause of the unusual drownings of the birds in large groups in England and Wales

Starlings have been consistently drowning in large groups in a phenomenon yet to be fully explained by scientists, according to new research led by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

In 12 separate incidents recorded between 1993 and 2013 in England and Wales, starlings were found drowned in groups of two to 80. In 10 cases, at least 10 starlings were found drowned at a time, the research published in the journal Scientific Reports on Wednesday shows.

One expert said that the mass mortalities were "really unusual", with drowning considered a rare cause of death among wild bird populations and normally only recorded as affecting individual birds.

Records since 1909 of 800,000 ringed birds from 79 species reveal that drowning was more commonly recorded as a probable cause of death in starlings than in any other species.

Post mortems revealed no evidence that underlying disease had been a factor in the incidents which all occurred during the summer and spring months and concerned juvenile birds in most cases.


All-time rainfall record on verge of being broken in Chennai, India

© M. Prabhu
Rains left the Madras war cemetery flooded on Tuesday.
Chennai is on its way to have the wettest November of the century and break an all-time rainfall record.

With Monday's torrential downpour bringing 93 mm of rainfall, Chennai has crossed 1,025 mm of rainfall for the month. According to the Meteorological Department, November 1918 was the wettest month as the city received 1088.4 mm of rainfall then.

The weather station in Meenambakkam has already recorded 1144.8 mm this November. Officials recall that Chennai recorded 970 mm of rainfall in November 1985 and 1077.1 mm in October 2005. The remaining few days of this month will decide whether the city gets to break the century's record.

The rains so far have been severe with many rain-related deaths, including the electrocution of a couple in Velachery, death of a youngster in a wall collapse in Pattalam and the fatal fall of a man in a trench dug up in R.A. Puram to drain stagnant rainwater. Schools and colleges in Chennai, Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram districts will remain closed on Wednesday. As reservoirs continue to get heavy inflows, city waterways are carrying rainwater to their brim. The Adyar River is in a spate as about 6,000 cusecs is being let out from the Chembarambakkam reservoir.

Cloud Lightning

Video captures dramatic lightning storms over Queensland, Australia

© Mark Calleja.
Lightning bolts over Brisbane during Monday’s storm.
Queenslanders catch dramatic bolts of lightning on camera during severe storms which battered the south-eastern parts of the state on Monday. More than 28,000 lightning strikes were recorded. Golf ball-sized hailstones are said to have damaged homes and crops and extreme winds and rain, along with the lightning strikes, left more than 4,000 homes without power.

Please note: this video has no audio

Source: AAP


Solar halo with circumhorizontal arc photographed over La Plata, Argentina

© Sergio Emilio Montufar Codoner
A solar halo, with a circumhorizontal arc below. Photo taken November 21, 2015.
Don't call them "fire rainbows," experts say. They're not rainbows. And they originate with ice, not fire

Sergio Emilio Montúfar Codoñer sent in these wonderful images of a circumhorizontal arc, which he captured a few days ago - November 21, 2015 - in La Plata, Argentina. Above the colorful arc is a halo encircling the sun. Read about solar halos and see more photos here.

Both solar halos and circumhorizontal arcs are ice halos. Both are indicate the presence of tiny ice crystals high above our heads, that both refract and reflect light to create these beautiful sky phenomena. At the great website Atmospheric Optics, Les Cowley wrote :
Look for the brightly coloured circumhorizon arc (also a circumhorizontal arc but never 'fire rainbow') when the sun is very high in the sky - higher than 58°. Near to noon in mid-summer is a good time in middle latitudes. The halo is beneath the sun and twice as far from it (two hand spans) as the 22º halo.

It is a very large halo and always parallel to the horizon. Often only fragments are visible where there happen to be cirrus clouds - the individual patches of cirrus are then lit with color that can be mistaken for iridescence.
Thank you, Les and Sergio! See another one of Sergio's photos, taken of the same sky event, below:


Massive waterspout filmed off Saudi coast

A video went viral on Saudi social media showing the moments when a giant water tornado hits the coast of Ras Tannoura, east Saudi.

A waterspout looks like a tornado, funnel-shaped cloud suspended beneath a low-lying cloud, dropping to a body of water.

Usually weaker than land tornados and caused by unstable weather conditions.


Signs and Portents: Conjoined piglets born in Guigang, China

A farmer in western China who noticed two of his pig's newborn babies were sticking close together discovered the piglets were conjoined twins.

The farmer, from a village near Guigang in Guangxi province, said the sow went into labor Nov. 18 and gave birth to 20 piglets, two of which appeared to be sticking unusually close together.

The farmer, identified only as Gong, soon discovered the pigs were conjoined at their bellies.

Gong said the conjoined pigs, the first he has encountered in his years as a farmer, appear to have trouble eating and don't seem able to exercise due to the way they are joined.

The farmer said he does not expect the conjoined piglets to survive for long.

Cloud Precipitation

Worst floods in 40 years for Addu City, Maldives; 9 inches of rainfall in 12 hours

© Maldives Red Cross
Southern Addu City has suffered the worst storm damage in 40 years after 12 continuous hours of torrential rain left streets inundated and flooded some 200 households.

"This is the worst flooding I've seen in decades. The water is knee-deep in most areas, and a majority of houses are under a foot of water," saud Abdulla Thoyyib, the deputy mayor.

The Feydhoo and Maradhoo-Feydhoo wards suffered the most damage. According to the Maldives Red Crescent, some 32 houses in Feydhoo and 11 houses in Maradhoo-Feydhoo suffered major damage. A majority of household appliances were destroyed, a spokesperson said.

Residents are now worried of water contamination as sewers are full and overflowing. The city, home to some 20,000 people, and the second most populous region, is out of chlorine, according to Thoyyib.


Cloud Precipitation

Floating cars, people in boats: Havoc as Qatar, Saudi Arabia ravaged by torrential rains

© carolyn_redaelli / Instagram
Cars floating in rivers that were once streets, water gushing through ceilings and people sailing to work on boats - that's the current picture in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, both desert countries, which should be dry and sunny for the whole year.

Qatar's capital Doha was apparently unprepared for the deluge and flooding that damaged many buildings in the city. The area near the capital's Hamad International Airport was hammered with around 66mm of rain in just a few days, according to the Qatar Meteorology Department. For the record, Doha has 75mm of rain on average a year.