Earth ChangesS

Bizarro Earth

Magnitude 5.1 - Crete, Greece

Crete Greece
© USGS

Date-Time Tuesday, January 13, 2009 at 06:12:46 UTC
Tuesday, January 13, 2009 at 08:12:46 AM at epicenter
Location 35.707°N, 26.286°E
Depth 56.4 km (35.0 miles)
Distances 105 km (65 miles) ENE of Iraklion, Crete, Greece
175 km (110 miles) SSE of Naxos, Cyclades Islands, Greece
195 km (120 miles) WSW of Rodos, Dodecanese Islands, Greece
340 km (210 miles) SE of ATHENS, Greece

Bug

Mysterious pelican deaths worry California biologists By Lisa M. Krieger

In a troubling wildlife mystery, California brown pelicans are turning up sick or dead in suburban ponds, driveways and backyards - far from their ocean home.

Two of the elegant birds, emaciated and disoriented, were found in San Jose last week. Another was rescued from Searsville Dam at Stanford University's Jasper Ridge Preserve. Others have been reported at such unlikely locations as Belmont, San Bruno, Brisbane and Burlingame. One fell out of a tree in Oakland. Two were found in a San Francisco dumpster; another stopped traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge.

"Normally, they're on piers and places where they can find fish,'' said Rebecca Ryan of the Peninsula Humane Society in San Mateo, which has stabilized several sick birds. "Now they are appearing in really unusual places.''

Question

Trinidad and Tobago: Ministry alarmed by monkey deaths

Warning over meat

More monkeys were being found dead in forests across the country, according to Hunters Association president Mohan Bholasingh.

He said it was not known what was killing them and that the association as a precautionary measure had sent out advisories through members calling on hunters and other people entering forests to be immunised with the yellow fever vaccine.

Red Howler monkeys are the hosts of the virus that carries the disease.

Better Earth

Rabbits Devastate Island Wildlife

wildlife
© Australian Antarctic DivisionRabbits caused plant cover to decline starkly on this royal penguin "run" between 2001 (top) and 2007 (bottom).
The removal of cats in 2000 caused "catastrophic" damage to the ecology of a sub-Antarctic island, a study says.

Since cats were removed from Macquarie Island, rabbit numbers have soared, and the animals are now devastating plants.

Cats previously kept a check on rabbits but were eradicated because they were also eating seabirds, scientists relate in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

The Australian government plans to eradicate rabbits, rats and mice from the island, a World Heritage Site.

The rabbits have now caused so much damage to the island's flora that the changes can be seen from space.

The scientists behind the research say conservation agencies must "learn lessons" from the episode.

Ambulance

Floods kill 25 in Mozambique

Maputo - Torrential rains have killed 25 people in central Mozambique in the last two weeks and flooding could devastate the region by March, authorities said on Monday.

The victims, mostly children, drowned while trying to swim through raging waters, said Belarmino Chivambo, spokesman of Mozambique's National Institute of Disaster Management.

"We expect the worst to come by March, which is the peak of the rainy season due to heavy downpours in both Mozambique and neighboring countries," he told Reuters.

Thousands of homes have been destroyed and authorities are setting up emergency shelters, said Chivambo. Roads, bridges and electricity pylons in four provinces have been damaged.

The Zambezi River in central Mozambique, which stretches 500 km (300 miles) through four provinces, is now above flood alert levels, swelled by rains in neighboring Malawi and Zambia.

Bizarro Earth

Dirty Snow Causes Early Runoff In Cascades, Rockies

soot from pollution settles on pristine snow
© Pacific Northwest National LaboratoryWhen soot from pollution settles on pristine snow, it can increase snowmelt in the winter month of February (top left, red) and decrease it in the late spring (May -- bottom right, blue).

Soot from pollution causes winter snowpacks to warm, shrink and warm some more. This continuous cycle sends snowmelt streaming down mountains as much as a month early, a new study finds. How pollution affects a mountain range's natural water reservoirs is important for water resource managers in the western United States and Canada who plan for hydroelectricity generation, fisheries and farming.

Scientists at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory conducted the first-ever study of soot on snow in the western states at a scale that predicted impacts along mountain ranges. They found that soot warms up the snow and the air above it by up to 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit, causing snow to melt.

"If we can project the future -- how much water we'll be getting from the rivers and when -- then we can better plan for its many uses," said atmospheric scientist Yun Qian. "Snowmelt can be up to 75 percent of the water supply, in some regions. These changes can affect the water supply, as well as aggravate winter flooding and summer droughts."

Better Earth

Decline Of Plankton That Gobble Carbon Dioxide Coincided With Ancient Global Cooling

Diatoms
© NOAA/Gordon TaylorDiatoms are abundant oceanic plankton that remove billions of tons of carbon dioxide from the air each year. Their evolutionary history needs to be rewritten, according to a new Cornell study.

The evolutionary history of diatoms -- abundant oceanic plankton that remove billions of tons of carbon dioxide from the air each year -- needs to be rewritten, according to a new Cornell study. The findings suggest that after a sudden rise in species numbers, diatoms abruptly declined about 33 million years ago -- trends that coincided with severe global cooling.

The study is published in the Jan. 8 issue of the journal Nature.

The research casts doubt on the long-held theory that diatoms' success was tied to an influx of nutrients into the oceans from the rise of grasslands about 18 million years ago. New evidence from a study led by graduate student Dan Rabosky of Cornell's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology takes into account a widespread problem in paleontology: that younger fossils are easier to find than older ones.

"We just tried to address the simple fact that the number of available fossils is colossally greater from recent time periods than from earlier time periods," Rabosky said. "It's a pretty standard correction in some fields, but it hasn't been applied to planktonic paleontology up till now."

Bizarro Earth

Large Earthquakes Trigger A Surge In Volcanic Eruptions

New evidence showing that very large earthquakes can trigger an increase in activity at nearby volcanoes has been uncovered by Oxford University scientists.

An analysis of records in southern Chile has shown that up to four times as many volcanic eruptions occur during the year following very large earthquakes than in other years. This 'volcanic surge' can affect volcanoes up to at least 500 km away from an earthquake's epicentre.

A report of the work will be published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

Previously, scientists had identified a few cases where volcanic eruptions follow very large earthquakes - but up until now it had been difficult to show statistically that such earthquakes may be the cause of an increase in eruptions, rather than the events just being a coincidence.

Butterfly

Hind Wings Help Butterflies Make Swift Turns To Evade Predators, Study Finds

butterfly
© Image courtesy of Cornell University CommunicationsButterflies in flight.
New tires allow race cars to take tight turns at high speeds. Hind wings give moths and butterflies similar advantages: They are not necessary for basic flight but help these creatures take tight turns to evade predators.

"To escape a predator, you don't have to be fast, you just have to be more erratic," said Tom Eisner, a world authority on animal behavior, ecology and evolution and the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Chemical Ecology at Cornell. Eisner is co-author of a study on butterfly wings recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (105: 43).

Binoculars

Nature Hits Back: Major spike in shark attacks on Australian beaches

Shark Attacks 1
© FlickerThe victim described the shark as a bull shark
An aerial search will resume on the New South Wales south coast tomorrow for a shark that attacked a 24-year-old man.

Steven Fogarty was snorkelling at Windang near the entrance to Lake Illawarra when the shark bit him on the leg, leaving 40 puncture wounds.

He described the shark as a bull shark and said he punched the shark until it let go.