Earth Changes


500 starving sea lion pups have washed ashore along the California coast since the start of 2015

© Thinkstock
Sea lion pup.
Starving sea lion pups have been washing ashore along the California coast for the past three winters and experts have very few clues as to why this is happening.

"They're extremely emaciated, basically starving to death," Shawn Johnson of the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California told National Geographic.

Since the start of the year, almost 500 pups have been admitted to the state's rehabilitation centers, with the Sausalito facility handling 171 cases so far. Last year, it took until April for the center to hit the 100-case mark.

Officials said they are particularly concerned because they've yet to hit the peak stranding season, which is traditionally a few months away.

"We're all kind of holding our breath," said Justin Viezbicke, stranding network coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Comment: See also: Sick sea lions wash ashore at alarming rate, California

650 emaciated sea lion pups wash up on the California coast over last 2 months

Arrow Down

Sinkhole injures two in Surprise, Arizona

© Surprise Police Department
A sinkhole in Surprise injured two when their car fell into it Friday afternoon, according to officials.
A sinkhole in Surprise sent two people to the hospital Friday and forced an overnight road closure, authorities said.

The sinkhole on 163rd Avenue about a 1/2 mile north of Grand Avenue was about as wide as a lane of traffic. Attempts to repair the damage were underway Friday afternoon.

Two people received minor injuries when the vehicle they were in entered the sinkhole, according to a Surprise Fire Department official. The pair were taken to Banner Del E. Webb Medical Center in Sun City for treatment.

Traffic was initially moving through the area with restrictions. Officials closed 163rd Avenue overnight and the road was expected to be off limits to traffic at least through this morning.

It wasn't clear when repairs would be complete and the road restrictions would be cleared.

34 wildfires reported across Arkansas

© THV11
Wildfire threatens Rush Historic District of Buffalo National River
34 wildfires were reported in Arkansas over the weekend.

According to the Arkansas Forestry Commission, those wildfires burned across 492 acres.

Air tankers dropped water on fires in Hot Spring and Clark Counties.

The wildfire danger remains moderate for most of Arkansas and low risk on the northeast side of the state.

There are currently no active burn bans.

Update: Over 100 pilot whales now dead following New Zealand stranding

Scientists are unclear why pilot whales strand themselves in large groups
More than 100 pilot whales that stranded on a New Zealand beach have died, conservation officials said on Saturday, voicing grave fears for more than 90 others from the pod.

The whales beached themselves on Friday at Farewell Spit at the northern tip of the South Island, with dozens of rescuers racing to re-float the marine mammals on the evening high tide.

But Department of Conservation (DOC) spokesman Andrew Lamason said the whales had swam aground again overnight after being shepherded out to deep water.

Comment: See also: Nearly 200 pilot whales stranded on New Zealand beach


One person killed and four injured in wild boar attack in India

Wild boar
One person was killed and at least four others were injured, two of them seriously, when a rogue wild boar went on a rampage and attacked a group of farm labourers in Odisha's Kendrapara district, a forest official said today.

The incident occurred yesterday in Hatabanapur village when the farm labourers were engaged in rabi crop cultivation, he said.

The village where the incident took place is away from forest areas and animals had not strayed into it in the past.

As the people tried to chase away the animal it turned violent and attacked the farm workers, said Divisional Forest Officer, Cuttack Territorial Forest Division, Sudarshan Behera.

Wild elephant kills farmer near Magadi, India

Elephant kills farmer
A 45-year-old farmer was killed by a wild elephant in the family's agricultural field at Attingere in the taluk on Sunday night.

The victim was identified as Panchalingaiah, son of Sanjeevaiah.

On Monday night, Roopa, Panchalingaiah's daughter, went to the field to give him tea. She was shocked to find her father's body lying 200 feet away. She then returned to the village to inform her family about the incident.

It is said Panchalingaiah was sleeping in the ragi field, when the elephant came there in search of food and started eating the ragi crop.

Elephant kills 2 people in West Bengal, India

© Satish Hanumantha Rao
Charging elephant.
A wild elephant killed a man and injured two others on Friday morning in Barhulia of Dhupguri's Gadong gram panchayat. Locals said the elephant had entered the village to feed on the paddy fields. They said Bipin Roy died on the spot while the two injured have been admitted at the Dhupguri hospital, says a HS report.

A PTI report, however, put the death toll at two. Quoting Divisional Forest Officer Sunita Ghatak, it said one of the injured persons died on the way to hospital. "Bipin Roy (55) died on the spot at Barothalia when the elephant coming from Khuttimari forest lifted him and threw him on the ground. Two others who came to his rescue were also attacked by the elephant," she said. The elephant also killed five goats when being chased into the jungle by the locals, officials said.

Boy bitten by his father's police dog has leg amputated, Hesperia, California

Hunter Mastaler, 4, lost part of his leg after getting attacked by his dad’s police dog
A 4-year-old Southern California boy who was bitten by his father's police dog had to have his leg amputated below the knee, and the canine probably will be euthanized, police said Thursday.

Hunter Mastaler remained hospitalized four days after the Belgian shepherd dog clamped onto his left leg in the backyard of the family's Hesperia home.

Neighbors knocked over a fence and pried the dog's jaws open to free the boy.

Hunter will remain hospitalized for another week, Rialto police Capt. Randy De Anda said. With a prosthetic he could be able to run again within six months, he said.

Comment: This is the tenth such report featuring dog attacks on family members found since the turn of the year, scroll through our dedicated animals page to read about the others.

Bizarro Earth

USGS: Earthquake magnitude 6.2 - 30km ESE of Taitung City, Taiwan

Taitung Quake_130215
Event Time
  1. 2015-02-13 20:06:31 (UTC)
  2. Times in other timezones
Nearby Cities
  1. 30km (19mi) ESE of Taitung City, Taiwan
  2. 99km (62mi) NE of Hengchun, Taiwan
  3. 111km (69mi) ESE of Yujing, Taiwan
  4. 113km (70mi) E of Kaohsiung, Taiwan
  5. 747km (464mi) E of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Scientific Data

Mega-drought: U.S. Southwest faces worst water shortage in 1,000 years

dried up crops
The future of Southwestern farming?
Southwestern USA could be set for its worst drought in 1,000 years because of climate change. Numerous states have experienced severe water shortages, with 64 million people affected. Researchers say things could get worse.

The arid conditions in the southwest of the United States and the Great Plains have been caused by higher temperatures, while ground water supplies are shrinking. Studies by scientists using computer models show that the US could be in for its worst droughts since the 12th and 13th centuries.

drought chart
Progressing drought regions of Southwest USA.
"The 21st-century projections make the [previous] mega-droughts seem like quaint walks through the Garden of Eden," said Jason Smerdon, who was a co-author of the paper, which was published in the journal Science Advances and is also a climate scientist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Ben Cook, from NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, also helped to write the paper added that Americans may have to get used to droughts as a way of life. "These mega-droughts during the 1100s and 1200s persisted for 20, 30, 40, 50 years at a time, and they were droughts that no one in the history of the United States has ever experienced," he said in a press release. "The droughts that people do know about like the 1930s 'dustbowl' or the 1950s drought, or even the ongoing drought in California, and the southwest today - these are all naturally occurring droughts that are expected to last only a few years or perhaps a decade. Imagine instead the current California drought going on for another 20 years," Cook added.

Comment: These mega-droughts may not have been experienced by "citizens of the U.S.A.," but they were certainly experienced by native North, Central and South American cultures, as drought is a cyclical and natural weather phenomenon dependent on the trade winds, Hadley Cell cycles and ocean currents such as El Niño and La Niña. They are NOT dependent on, nor exclusively caused by higher temperatures. And, mega-droughts are NEVER "quaint walks through the Garden of Eden!!!"

Comment: FACT: Droughts happened in both cool and warm periods. Check this out... During historic drought years: In 608 A.D. the Euphrates froze. In 829 A.D. the Nile froze. In 865 A.D. fjords filled with sea ice in Iceland and Norway.

North America experienced at least four mega-droughts during the Medieval Warm Period. Mono Lake in the Sierra Nevada has identified a epic period of severe, persistent drought lasting from 892 to 1112 A.D. (220 years), as well as one connecting the northern Great Plains of N. America, across the southwestern U.S. and into Mexico from 735 to 765 A.D. (Stahl et al. 2002.) Other neighboring peoples affected by the drought were the Mayans and inhabitants of Central Mexico, Panama, the Yucatan, the pre-Incas in the high Andean Plateau (the Altiplano) of now Peru and Bolivia, the Teotihuacan of highland Mexico, the Moche and eventually the Toltecs from 1100 A.D. onward.

These resource experts ought to turn it in and go home.