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If half of all species go extinct, will humans be next?

© Unknown
How many animal species do you think go extinct every year? Last week I conducted a highly unscientific polling of around 20 of my Facebook and Google Chat contacts, asking that same question. I'm not trying to brag, but I have some really smart friends, many of them with degrees in biology. Typical answers ranged from about 17 to a seemingly ludicrous 400. They were all wrong though - off by orders of magnitude*. In July, a summary article of nearly 80 papers, published in Science, stated that, "Of a conservatively estimated 5 million to 9 million animal species on the planet, we are likely losing ~11,000 to 58,000 species annually."

If that finding is true, then every year, between .12% and 1.16% of all the animals on Earth vanish. Rodolfo Dirzo, the lead researcher on the Science study from Stanford University, points out that we've already lost 40% of the Earth's invertebrate species in the last 40 to 50 years. Almost half the animals without skeletons have gone extinct within half a human lifetime. The wide range of these estimates reflects our own uncertainty on this subject, but even our low-end assessments are alarming.

Bugs and worms are gross, though; who cares if there are fewer spiders in my house now than in the arachnid-infested '60s? Unfortunately the future looks just as bleak for mammals. Dirzo says that if current trends hold, "in 200 years, 50% of the [mammal] species are going to be driven to the very edge of extinction."

Comment: It won't be so easy to ignore. Cyclic cometary bombardments have wiped out this planet before:

Forget About Global Warming: We're One Step From Extinction!

Fireballs reported since June 1, 2014:



Fireball

So it was a planetary impact event? Younger Dryas climate event solved via nanodiamonds

From the University of California at Santa Barbara - By Julie Cohen |

Most of North America's megafauna - mastodons, short-faced bears, giant ground sloths, saber-toothed cats and American camels and horses - disappeared close to 13,000 years ago at the end of the Pleistocene period. The cause of this massive extinction has long been debated by scientists who, until recently, could only speculate as to why.

A group of scientists, including UC Santa Barbara's James Kennett, professor emeritus in the Department of Earth Science, posited that a comet collision with Earth played a major role in the extinction. Their hypothesis suggests that a cosmic-impact event precipitated the Younger Dryas period of global cooling close to 12,800 years ago. This cosmic impact caused abrupt environmental stress and degradation that contributed to the extinction of most large animal species then inhabiting the Americas. According to Kennett, the catastrophic impact and the subsequent climate change also led to the disappearance of the prehistoric Clovis culture, known for its big game hunting, and to human population decline.

In a new study published this week in the Journal of Geology, Kennett and an international group of scientists have focused on the character and distribution of nanodiamonds, one type of material produced during such an extraterrestrial collision. The researchers found an abundance of these tiny diamonds distributed over 50 million square kilometers across the Northern Hemisphere at the Younger Dryas boundary (YDB). This thin, carbon-rich layer is often visible as a thin black line a few meters below the surface.
Meteor

Not a mystery anymore: Spectacular green meteor flashes across New Zealand sky

© Twitter @SarahPSparks
Meteor in Christchurch May 3
Hundreds of witnesses have described the magnificence of watching a meteor flash across the New Zealand sky last night.

Seen from all different parts of the country, most eye witness accounts describe a fast moving green light with a white tail flying over the sky between 6pm and 7pm.

"Wife and I saw a bright blue/greenish light with white tail as we were crossing the Auckland harbour bridge into the city around 6:25pm. We initially thought it was fireworks but was puzzled as it came out of nowhere from the sky and flew near-horizontally before it vanished. It appeared pretty close, as if it was flying just over Freemans Bay," James commented to Weather Watch.

Did you see the meteor and manage to get a photo? Send to [email protected]

Stardome Observatory educator Tim Jessop confirmed the siting to Weather Watch.

Comment: Just one out of many this year.



Fireball 5

Cause of big bang noise over New Zealand township remains unsolved

Meteor
© Wikimedia Commons
A "massive bang" between Dinsdale and Whatawhata has puzzled and shaken residents. About 7.30pm on Wednesday, the noise startled residents in rural Rowe and Bowman Rds, near the Taitua Arboretum.

It's been described as like a sonic boom, "a heck of a bang" and left some wondering if a P lab had exploded or a meteor had crash landed.

Rowe Rd resident Janice Fischer remained mystified.

"It sounded like a bomb blast," she said.

"It sounded like a car had driven and hit our roof."

She and her husband nervously headed outside for a look.
Fireball 2

Bright meteor wows Kiwi stargazers

Meteor
© Thinkstock
A large meteor has been seen flying through the sky across New Zealand tonight.

The burning ball of space rock was spotted from locations throughout the country, including the West Coast, Auckland, Christchurch, Upper Hutt, Palmerston North, Napier and Nelson.

Many of those who sighted the meteor described it as large with a colourful tail, streaking across the sky about 6pm.

"[I] saw brilliant blue meteorite with long tail travel east to west across the northern sky. It seemed like fireworks at first and appeared close," Richard from north Canterbury posted on the WeatherWatch meteor watch website.

Another witness, Michelle, said: "Very large, beautiful meteor sighted over Napier, New Zealand aprox 6pm."

Steven said: "Very bright white light,showing the signs of a classic small meteor fly across Christchurch."
Fireball 3

Fireball spotted over north Georgia's night sky Saturday

North Georgia fireball
© NASA
Cameras at the Tellus Museim in Cartersville caught a fireball on camera streaking over north Georgia on Saturday.
A lot of people across north Georgia and metro Atlanta messaged the FOX 5 newsroom this weekend about a bright flash across the night sky on Saturday.

Monday, scientists at the Tellus Museum in Cartersville confirmed there was a possible meteorite late Saturday evening. Their NASA camera caught the fireball passing over the state around 11:30 p.m.

Residents from Paulding County to Alpharetta to Gainesville reported seeing the streak. Some describe it getting as bright as daylight at one point.
Fireball 5

Meteor over Toronto captured on dash cam

Toronto Fireball
© Screen Capture YouTube
Some lucky Torontonians were treated to a light show Thursday.

A dashcam video posted to YouTube shows a bright object streaking across the sky over the Don Valley Parkway.

CityNews viewer Rahsaun Hutchinson was in a park in north Ajax and saw "a bright flying, star-like object" streak across the sky around 10 p.m.

Peter Brown, a professor in the Western Meteor Physics Group at Western University, says such sightings are common this time of year.

Having watched the video, Brown said the object appeared to be a "bright but not spectacular meteor" and likely not large enough to produce meteorites.
Fireball 2

Strange light seen in parts of Sri Lanka possibly a meteorite explosion

Meteor Explosion
© Daily Mirror
Colombo - The strange light that were spotted by residents in several areas of the North-Central Province could possibly have been from an exploding meteorite, the Arthur C Clarke Centre said.

The Centre's Space Division Spokesman told Daily Mirror that the lights could possibly be from a meteorite explosion though it has not been confirmed yet.

He said meteorite could wither away under its high surface temperature but no investigation was possible because no object had hit the earth's surface as it happens in a meteorite explosion.

Eye witnesses said strange lights had travelled from the south and had come towards the earth but had withered away some ten feet from the earth's surface.

No signs of burnt patches have been spotted to suggest that any object had hit the ground.

The strange light had been witnessed by residents in several areas in the North-Central Province including Anurdhapura, Padaviya, Habarana and Hingurakgoda.
Fireball 3

Huge meteor spotted across southern B.C.

Chelyabinsk Meteor
© Associated Press
In this frame grab made from a dashboard video camera, a meteor streaks through the sky over Chelyabinsk, Russia, Friday, Feb. 15, 2013.

A massive fireball seen streaking across the sky Monday night may have been part of the Perseid meteor shower.

People across B.C.'s Lower Mainland took to social media describing what they thought may have been a meteor around 10:15 p.m.

Witnesses described seeing a white or yellow light trailing through the sky, so bright that it lit up backyards and streets.

Although the meteor showers officially peaked last week, the event does run through Aug. 24th, so it's possible it was part of the annual astronomical event.

Almost a dozen people between Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, all the way to Bellingham, Washington to the south reported the sighting on the American Meteor Shower website.

"I have seen shooting stars, but this was huge," a Washington State user named Shanni reported.

"I told my husband it was like seeing something half the size of the moon fall. And it was slow enough for me to catch sight of it and then cognitively register so that I could get a better look. I kept waiting for a huge explosion as if a plane had gone down."
Fireball 3

Loud boom over New Zealand district most likely a meteor

Meteor
© Wikimedia Commons
A lightning-like flash in the sky and then a loud bang experienced in Wanganui yesterday morning was likely a bolide.

Arthur Harris of St John's Hill said it was 6.20am when he saw the flash.

"An orange light was in the sky, and then the bomb went off. It was like an explosion."

A similar light was also seen in Christchurch and Dunedin according to reports on weatherwatch.co.nz.

Mark Lee of the Wanganui Astronomical Society said the light was a bolide, the name for a large, brilliant meteor, especially one that explodes.

Mr Lee said they were more common than people thought and could be a meteor, or space junk that had become too hot. "It doesn't explode, it is just disintegrating."

He said material only has to be the size of a refrigerator to be seen and heard.

Source: Wanganui Chronicle
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