Earth ChangesS


Flashback Himalayan Glaciers Are Actually Growing

© iStockPhotoThe summit of Mt. Everest's K2: glaciers are in fact growing, not shrinking as previously thought
Perched on the soaring Karakoram mountains in the Western Himalayas, a group of some 230 glaciers are bucking the global warming trend. They're growing.

Throughout much of the Tibetan Plateau, high-altitude glaciers are dwindling in the face of rising temperatures. The situation is potentially dire for the hundreds of millions of people living in China, India and throughout southeast Asia who depend on the glaciers for their water supply.

But in the rugged western corner of the plateau, the story is different, according to a new study. Among legendary peaks of Mt. Everest like K2 and Nanga Parbat, glaciers with a penthouse view of the world are growing, and have been for almost three decades.


UN climate report: Scientist warned glacier forecast was wrong

A top scientist said Monday he had warned in 2006 that a prediction of catastrophic loss of Himalayan glaciers, published months later by the UN's Nobel-winning climate panel, was badly wrong.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report said in 2007 it was "very likely" that the glaciers, which supply water to more than a billion people across Asia, would vanish by 2035 if global warming trends continued.

"This number is not just a little bit wrong, but far out of any order of magnitude," said Georg Kaser, an expert in tropical glaciology at the University of Innsbruck in Austria.

Cloud Lightning

Extremely cold snow storms kill 4 in northwest China, while 800,000 animals perish in Mongolia

© Adam Dean
Rescue workers evacuated thousands of rural residents from parts of northwestern China after extreme cold and blizzard conditions killed four people and left half a million snowed under, meteorologists said Monday.

In neighboring Mongolia, an official appealed for help from the international community as his country battles the most severe winter it has seen in three decades.

Storms in China's far western Xinjiang flattened or damaged about 100,000 homes and more than 15,000 head of livestock were killed by the cold front that set in Sunday night.


Pesticides Loom Large in Animal Die-offs

Yale's Environment 360 has a new must-read report by Sonia Shah linking pesticides to the high-profile die-offs among amphibians, bees, and bats. What makes this news timely isn't necessarily the toxicity of the pesticides per se, it's the indirect effects on these animals of chronic, low-dose exposure to chemicals:
In the past dozen years, no fewer than three never-before-seen diseases have decimated populations of amphibians, bees, and - most recently - bats. A growing body of evidence indicates that pesticide exposure may be playing an important role in the decline of the first two species, and scientists are investigating whether such exposures may be involved in the deaths of more than 1 million bats in the northeastern United States over the past several years.

... The recent spate of widespread die-offs began in amphibians. Scientists discovered the culprit - an aquatic fungus called Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, of a class of fungi called "chytrids" - in 1998. Its devastation, says amphibian expert Kevin Zippel, is "unlike anything we've seen since the extinction of the dinosaurs." Over 1,800 species of amphibians currently face extinction.

It may be, as many experts believe, that the chytrid fungus is a novel pathogen, decimating species that have no armor against it, much as Europe's smallpox and measles decimated Native Americans in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. But "there is a really good plausible story of chemicals affecting the immune system and making animals more susceptible," as well, says San Francisco State University conservation biologist Carlos Davidson.

Better Earth

In Ecuador, Trees Now Have Rights

On September 29, the Associated Press reported that Ecuador's new constitution would "significantly expand leftist President Rafael Correa's powers." It wasn't until the end of a 15-paragraph article that the AP mentioned the new constitution - approved by 65 percent of voters - "guarantees free education through university and social security benefits for stay-at-home mothers." Also missing from the AP's report: any mention that Ecuador's voters had just ratified the world's first "eco-constitution," a pioneering document that, for the first time in human history, extends "inalienable rights to nature."

Not too long ago, Ecuador would have seemed an unlikely nation to become the birthplace of Earth's first green constitution. To service its massive debt to US creditors, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund forced Ecuador to open its pristine Amazon forests to foreign oil companies. Nearly 30 years of drilling enriched ChevronTexaco, desecrated the northern Amazon, and utterly failed to improve the lives of millions of poor Ecuadoreans. Amazon Watch estimates that Texaco damaged 2.5 million acres of rainforest, left the landscape pitted with 600 toxic waste pits, and polluted the rivers and streams that some 30,000 people rely on. Cancer rates in the area where Texaco operated are 130 percent of the national norm, and childhood leukemia occurs at a rate four times higher than in other parts of Ecuador.

Cloud Lightning

Evacuations ordered in California as storm moves in

La Canada Flintridge - Authorities ordered the evacuation of 64 Southern California homes Monday as heavy rains pounded a neighborhood just below an area scarred by a massive wildfire. Forty-two other homeowners were told to be ready to leave if necessary.

Officials feared mudslides could threaten a number of foothill areas along the San Gabriel Mountains north of Los Angeles.

Los Angeles County fire Inspector Matt Levesque said homeowners in the Paradise Valley area of La Canada Flintridge were notified of the possible danger after a catch basin filled with sliding mud and debris.


Yellowstone hit by swarm of earthquakes

Yellowstone National Park has been rattled by more than 250 earthquakes in the past two days following a period of 11 months of quiet seismic activity in the park.

The quakes have been gaining strength, with a 3.1 tremor recorded at 11:03 a.m. today. A 2.9 quake was recorded at 12:38 p.m.

Prof. Robert B. Smith, a geophysicist at the University of Utah and one of the leading experts on earthquake and volcanic activity at Yellowstone, said that the activity is a "notable swarm."

"The swarm is located about 10 miles northwest of Old Faithful, Wyo., and nine miles southeast of West Yellowstone, Montana," said Smith.


Florida: Thousands of Snook Fish Dead in Cold Snap's Wake

Snook fish
© Stacey Lynn Brown
Thousands of dead snook are belly up on the surface in the Tampa Bay area and around the southern half of Florida, with hundreds more still floating up off the bottom along both coasts as the thermometer rises.

"If you went around and looked at some of these fish, you would cry," said Capt. Scott Moore of Anna Maria.

The coldest water temperatures in Tampa Bay since 1989 took a heavy toll on the tropical snook, which died when the water stayed in the low 50s and upper 40s for 10 straight days.

Arrow Up

Met Office computer accused of 'warm bias' by BBC weatherman

A BBC weather forecaster has suggested that the Met Office's super-computer has a 'warm bias' which has stopped it predicting bitterly cold spells like the one we have just endured.

Paul Hudson said the error may have crept into the computer's climate model as a result of successive years of milder weather.

His claim was rejected by the Met Office but other experts said there could be flaws in the system, which was first developed 50 years ago.

Bizarro Earth

US: Earthquake Magnitude 4.1 - New Mexico

Monday, January 18, 2010 at 08:41:08 UTC

Monday, January 18, 2010 at 01:41:08 AM at epicenter

36.862°N, 104.721°W

5 km (3.1 miles) set by location program

25 km (16 miles) W (261°) from Raton, NM

33 km (20 miles) SSW (196°) from Cokedale, CO

33 km (21 miles) SSW (212°) from Starkville, CO

157 km (97 miles) S (183°) from Pueblo, CO

319 km (198 miles) S (176°) from Denver, CO