Earth Changes

Blue Planet

Magnitude-7.5 earthquake shakes Mexican capital

Mexico earthquake
A powerful, magnitude-7.5 earthquake shook central and southern Mexico on Friday. The U.S. Geological Survey said it was centered northwest of the Pacific resort of Acapulco, where many Mexicans are vacationing for the Easter holiday.

The quake was felt strongly in the resort city, as well as in Mexico's capital, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

Is the giant rat reported in Gravesend in fact a rat?

A massive rat which was reported in Gravesend yesterday (April 15) sparked debate throughout the borough.

The dead-looking rodent was pictured on a pink spade and tweeted by BBC Radio 2 yesterday.

Debate has raged over whether the photo might be a totally different rodent altogether, one pest control expert saying it could be a rodent known a beaver-type animal known as a coypu.

Another animal specialist claims it is an "oversized, brown rat" mutated from the increase in food waste.

BBC Radio 2 posted a photo of the dead-looking rodent on a pink spade on Twitter, from a listener known as "Sarah" days after the Daily Mail reported rats "the size of small cats" are invading cities and are immune to poison.

Ben Johnson, who is director of Direct Pest Solution, based in Trosley Avenue, Gravesend, believes it is another animal altogether.

He told News Shopper: "I don't think it's a rat, I believe it's a coypu, a bit like a beaver.

"We certainly haven't had any reports of giant rats."

Comment: All the recent, over the top claims, about "rats as big as cats' in the British print media, usually turn out to be this different rodent species - Coypu - misidentified by the observer.


27 killed as severe dust storm hits parts of India

India dust storm 1983
© Unknown
Dust storm that took place in Rajasthan, India in 1983.
At least 27 persons were killed and more than 30 injured in incidents of roofs collapse and uprooting of trees and poles after a severe dust storm hit several districts of Uttar Pradesh.
Ice Cube

Why it's a big deal: Half of the Great Lakes are still covered in ice

Over the winter, as polar vortices plunged the U.S. Midwest into weeks of unceasing cold, the icy covers of the Great Lakes started to make headlines. With almost 96 percent of Lake Superior's 32,000 miles encased in ice at the season's peak, tens of thousands of tourists flocked to the ice caves along the Wisconsin shoreline, suddenly accessible after four years of relatively warmer wintery conditions.

The thing is, all of that ice takes a long time to melt. As of April 10, 48 percent of the five lakes' 90,000-plus square miles were still covered in ice, down from a high of 92.2 percent on March 6 (note that constituted the highest levels recorded since 1979, when ice covered 94.7 percent of the lakes). Last year, only 38.4 percent of the lakes froze over, while in 2012 just 12.9 percent did - part of a four-year stint of below-average iciness.
Bizarro Earth

USGS: Earthquake Magnitude 6.0 - 122km WSW of Lata, Solomon Islands

Solomon Quake_180414
Event Time
2014-04-18 04:13:12 UTC
2014-04-18 15:13:12 UTC+11:00 at epicenter

11.155°S 164.806°E depth=10.0km (6.2mi)

Nearby Cities
122km (76mi) WSW of Lata, Solomon Islands
547km (340mi) NNW of Luganville, Vanuatu
565km (351mi) ESE of Honiara, Solomon Islands
820km (510mi) NNW of Port-Vila, Vanuatu
1111km (690mi) NNW of We, New Caledonia

Technical Details
Bizarro Earth

Peru's Ubinas volcano erupts

Ubinas volcano
© NASA Earth Observatory
Ubinas volcano in Peru on July 1, 2006.
One of Peru's most active volcanoes, Ubinas, erupted a massive ash cloud Tuesday (April 15), prompting an evacuation of Querapi near the volcano because of falling ash starting today. The government declared a state of emergency in nearby provinces, which will provide financial assistance for those affected by the eruption, Notimérica reported.

The estimated 14,750-foot-tall (4,500 meters) ash cloud is the latest in an ongoing series of small eruptions at Ubinas, according to INGEMMET, the national geologic, mining and metallurgical institute. The volcano's activity increased this week, with several small to moderate explosions and ash clouds since Sunday, the agency said in a statement.

Ubinas is about 470 miles (756 kilometers) southeast of the capital of Lima. A major eruption in 2006 forced the evacuation of thousands of nearby residents and killed livestock that ate ash-coated grass.
Ice Cube

Coast Guard still battling thick Great Lakes ice - in April

Almost one month into spring, and the U.S. Coast Guard is still breaking up ice around the Great Lakes.

Satellite image of ice cover on the Great Lakes on April 15, 2014. Overall, nearly 39 percent of the Great Lakes were covered in ice as of April 15, including 62 percent of Lake Superior.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, more than 64 percent of Lake Superior was covered in ice as of Wednesday. Lake Michigan was 21 percent covered, Lake Huron was 31 percent covered, Lake Erie was 14 percent covered, and Lake Ontario was 2 percent covered. The entire Great Lakes system was 37 percent covered in ice.
VIDEO. #USCG cutters break a way into #Marquette Harbor, helping local mining industry avoid a shutdown. #Michigan -
USCG Great Lakes (@USCGGreatLakes) April 16, 2014
The Coast Guard on Wednesday released video of the cutter Morro Bay carving up ice in the harbor in Marquette, Mich., nestled along the shores of Lake Superior.
Arrow Down

Massive sinkhole opens up in Burlington, Iowa

A massive sinkhole, around seven feet deep, appeared on a main road in Burlington Wednesday. Officials say a two-inch hole in an underground pipe, a water main break, caused the sinkhole.

"A lot of people are interested in it," resident Savanna Evans said. "A lot of people are taking pictures. You see it all over Facebook right now."

The sinkhole is right at the border of Burlington and West Burlington on Mount Pleasant Street.

"I drive on this street every day on my way to work, right there where this hole is," resident David Francis said.

"It does affect traffic," business owner Randy Wagler said.

Residents say they are surprised to see it.

"I kind of looked down, and was like, 'That's a big hole you've got there, mayor,'" Evans said.

Minnesota, Wisconsin buried in a foot of Spring snow

© Stephanie Montreuil Dolman
Buffalo, MN
A small, but potent April snowstorm walloped Minnesota and Wisconsin with heavy snow this week, a continuation of the harsh 2013-2014 season in the region.

The storm emerged from the northern Rockies Tuesday night and quickly developed into an energetic spring snowstorm on Wednesday.

"An April snowstorm in Minnesota and northern Wisconsin is not unusual, but the amount of snow that fell is quite rare," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson said.
Snowflake Cold

Ice Age Cometh: Record mid-April hard freeze kill Great Plains wheat

Last Tuesday, April 15, was the coldest "Tax Day" nationwide on record. Hard freezes extended as far south as northern Texas. Mid-April snows were seen throughout the Corn Belt states. Columbus, Ohio had nearly four inches of the white stuff on Tuesday, its heaviest snowfall ever for so late in the spring season. Traces of snow were reported in the Texas Panhandle, Arkansas and Tennessee. Even northern Louisiana had a few flakes. Detroit, Michigan set a seasonal snowfall record on Tuesday.

A hard freeze in the southern Great Plains on Tuesday produced temperatures between 21 and 24 degrees at Amarillo, Dalhart, Perry and Lubbock, Texas. Near Gage, Oklahoma, one rancher reported 18 degrees. Ponca City, Oklahoma dipped to a record low of 21 degrees for April 15.

In Kansas, the nation's leading wheat producing state, already plagued by winterkill this harsh winter of 2013-14 that refuses to end and parching drought, there were reports of morning lows near 15 degrees both Monday and Tuesday. It was a frigid 13 degrees at Valentine, Nebraska.

Jointing wheat was damaged by the record cold early this past week in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, especially in those areas where the mercury plunged into the teens and lower 20s for several hours. Any wheat heading out can be at risk even at readings near 30 degrees. Fortunately, there was very little wheat heading out despite recent 90 degree temperatures in the southern Great Plains.