Earth ChangesS


US: Western Montana cold breaks records

If you've spent any time outdoors the past four days in Western Montana, you could probably guess that we've hit record low temperatures, without your local weather guy confirming this fact.

We haven't just set new records, we've blown them out of the water. The lowest have been 10, 11 and 8 the last three mornings in Missoula, and we've gone at least nine degrees lower than the old record each morning.

In addition, wind chill values have been in the teens during the afternoon Saturday and Sunday.

Not that it's any comfort, the lowest average temperature for the entire year comes in late December and early January. That number is 15 degrees.

Bizarro Earth

Philippines: Typhoon deaths now at 669

The collective death toll from storms "Ondoy" and "Pepeng" which devastated huge areas of Luzon in the past two weeks has reached 669, with 462 injured and 87 missing, authorities said Monday.

Damage to infrastructure and agriculture was also placed at more than P15 billion, with more reports still to come in.

Field reports showed that the number of people who died from the onslaught of typhoon Pepeng (international codename Parma) now stands at 332.

The latest official report from the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) put the confirmed deaths only at 199, broken down as follows: 137 from the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), 53 from Region 1, four in Region 3, one in Region 4A, and four in Region 4B.


Spain: Plague of Mosquitoes Descends on Torrevieja

© Wikipedia
More than 200 people have been treated for allergic reactions to the bites

A plague of mosquitoes affecting Torrevieja in recent days worsened over Friday and Saturday when more than 200 people were treated at La Loma health centre for allergic reactions to the insect bites. Diario Información reports that staff there were forced to send for supplies from other centres after running out of the medication they needed to treat their patients.

And La Verdad newspaper said local supermarkets and chemists have sold out of their stocks of insect repellents and insecticides.


The BBC's amazing U-turn on climate change

I think the BBC wanted to slip this one out quietly, but a Matt Drudge link put paid to that. The climate change correspondent of BBC News has admitted that global warming stopped in 1998 - and he reports that leading scientists believe that the earth's cooling-off may last for decades.

"Whatever happened to global warming?" is the title of an article by Paul Hudson that represents a clear departure from the BBC's fanatical espousal of climate change orthodoxy. The climate change campaigners will go nuts, particularly in the run-up to Copenhagen. So, I suspect, will devout believers inside the BBC. Hudson's story was not placed very prominently by his colleagues - but a link right at the top of Drudge will have delivered at least a million page views, possibly many more.


Man-made noise is blamed for driving whales to their deaths

bottlenose whale
© unknownA northern bottlenose whale stranded in Scotland
Scientists say man-made noise equipment, including anti-seal sonar devices used in fish farms, is driving deep-water animals such as whales to shore, where they die.

A northern bottlenose whale was washed up dead on a beach in Prestatyn, North Wales, on Saturday morning, the tenth of the species to become trapped or stranded on British shores this year.

Scientists are blaming not just military sonar, but a large range of man-made noises that they fear are driving the normally deep-water animals to shore.

The week before, another of the 10m (33ft) whales became trapped in a small Scottish loch. Rescuers managed to push the distressed animal out of Loch Eil and halfway to safety but on Friday morning the whale was found dead.


Birds in Captivity Lose Hippocampal Mass

© Developmental NeurobiologyMicrographs demonstrating the difference in size of the hippocampal formation in a bird from the wild, left, and captivity. Neither brain pictured was at the volumetric extreme of its group.
Being in captivity for just a few weeks can reduce the volume of the hippocampus by as much as 23 percent, according to a new Cornell study.

Caged birds may still sing, but being in captivity for just a few weeks can reduce the volume of the hippocampus by as much as 23 percent, according to a new Cornell study. The hippocampus is the part of the brain involved in spatial learning and memory tasks.

The research, by psychology graduate student Bernard Tarr and professor Tim DeVoogd, indicates that the hippocampus is highly sensitive to some or all of the environmental conditions that change in captivity -- including, among other things, social stimulation, exercise, food-storing opportunities and stress. The article is online at the journal of Developmental Neurobiology's Web site.

The results provide new clues that could help researchers better understand human stress disorders such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which have been linked in previous studies of mammals to decreased hippocampal volume.


What happened to global warming?

© NasaAverage temperatures have not increased for over a decade
This headline may come as a bit of a surprise, so too might that fact that the warmest year recorded globally was not in 2008 or 2007, but in 1998.

But it is true. For the last 11 years we have not observed any increase in global temperatures.

And our climate models did not forecast it, even though man-made carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be responsible for warming our planet, has continued to rise.

So what on Earth is going on?


First Spider Known to Science That Feeds Mainly on Plant Food

© R. L. CurryAdult female Bagheera kiplingi eats Beltian body harvested from ant-acacia.
There are approximately 40,000 species of spiders in the world, all of which have been thought to be strict predators that feed on insects or other animals. Now, scientists have found that a small Central American jumping spider has a uniquely different diet: the species Bagheera kiplingi feeds predominantly on plant food.

The research, led by Christopher Meehan of Villanova University and Eric Olson of Brandeis University, has revealed the extraordinary ecology and behavior in Bagheera kiplingi, which lives throughout much of Central America and southern Mexico. There, the spider inhabits several species of acacia shrubs involved in a co-evolutionary mutualism with certain ants that has long been a staple of ecology textbooks: the ants fiercely guard the plants against most would-be herbivores, while the acacias provide both housing for the ants via swollen, hollow spines and food in the form of nectar (excreted from glands at the base of each leaf) and specialized leaf tips known as Beltian bodies. The Bagheera spiders are "cheaters" in the ant-acacia system, stealing and eating both nectar and - most remarkably - Beltian bodies without helping to defend the plant. The spiders get the job done through active avoidance of patrolling acacia-ants, relying on excellent eyesight, agility, and cognitive skills.

How do the spiders get around the ants that are supposed to be guarding the acacias and gobbling up the Beltian bodies themselves?

Bizarro Earth

China: 200 Tibetan Herdsmen Stranded by Snow Storm

More than 200 herdsmen and some 1,000 heads of livestock had been stranded by strong snowfall in Ali Prefecture, the local armed police said yesterday.

The week-long snowfall accumulated to about 30 centimeters on the ground in Pulan County of Ali, with some areas suffering from one-meter-thick snow, according to Xing Xiuyin, head of an armed police detachment stationed in the region.

Heavy snow cut off the roads connecting some townships in the county.


Sulfur Dioxide, Earthquakes Show Mayon Volcano More Restive

Sulfur dioxide emission and quakes showed clear signs that Mayon volcano continues to be on a heightened state of restiveness, said the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology on Monday.

A Phivolcs bulletin on Monday said the volcano released 853 tons of sulfur dioxide during the past 24 hours, a reading which was way above the 505 tons a day recorded on Sunday.

The sulfur dioxide disgorge from Mt. Mayon indicated a fluctuating trend ranging from 350 to 853 tons per day.

There were 505 tons per day recorded on Oct. 10; 761 tons on Oct.8; and 350 tons on Oct. 7.

Ed Laguerta, Phivolcs resident volcanologist, said that "350 tons per day to 853 tons per day during the past five days is an indication that magma is intruding into the volcano's vent."