Earth ChangesS

Bizarro Earth

Indonesia: Earthquake Magnitude 7.0 - Banda Sea

Saturday, October 24, 2009 at 14:40:44 UTC

Saturday, October 24, 2009 at 11:40:44 PM at epicenter

6.161°S, 130.346°E

138.5 km (86.1 miles)

230 km (145 miles) NNW of Saumlaki, Tanimbar Islands, Indonesia

365 km (225 miles) SE of Ambon, Moluccas, Indonesia

700 km (435 miles) N of DARWIN, Northern Territory, Australia

2610 km (1620 miles) E of JAKARTA, Java, Indonesia

Bizarro Earth

6.2 earthquake strikes Afghanistan and Pakistan

A strong earthquake centered in the towering Hindu Kush mountains shook a wide area of eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan early Friday, swaying buildings in the Afghan and Pakistani capitals.

There were no initial reports of damage or casualties from the quake, which struck about 12:21 a.m. Afghan time (1951 GMT, 3:51 p.m. EDT Thursday).

However, the temblor was centered in a remote mountain area where communications are poor and reports of casualties take time to reach the capital.

The earthquake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.2 and was centered in the mountains about 167 miles (268 kilometers) northeast of Kabul and 140 miles (230 kilometers) west of Mingaora, Pakistan, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Buildings shook in the Pakistani cities of Peshawar and the capital Islamabad, and the quake was felt as far east as Lahore near the Indian border, Pakistani television stations reported.

The Afghan Interior Ministry said it had no immediate reports of deaths or damage.


'Gatorade for frogs' could stymie fungal killer

The fungus now decimating frog populations around the world does its damage by impairing the animals' ability to absorb electrolytes through their skin. This discovery may eventually lead to treatments that make the disease less lethal.

Biologists now generally agree that the fungal disease known as chytridiomycosis is responsible for the worldwide die-off of frogs that has caused a conservation crisis in recent years. However, the fungus affects only the outer layers of the skin, leaving few clues to why it is so lethal.

But now Jamie Voyles of James Cook University in Townsville, Australia, and colleagues have an answer. In diseased frogs, the skin's ability to take up sodium and potassium ions from the water decreases by more than 50 per cent, they found. As a result, the concentration of these two ions in the frogs' blood fell by 20 and 50 per cent, respectively. This ion loss - similar to the hyponatraemia that a human athlete might experience from drinking too much water too fast - eventually leads to cardiac arrest and death.

Bizarro Earth

California's coastal waters a dump for fishing gear

For the first time, scientists have used a submersible to investigate the debris piling up in deep-water canyons off the coast of California. To their surprise, they found that recreational fishing gear accounted for 93 per cent of the underwater trash.

"Sometimes we had to change the path of the submersible to avoid becoming entangled with recreational fishing lines and nets," says Diana Watters of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries Service in Santa Cruz, California.

"This is a really surprising result," says Anthony Jensen, who studies fisheries and artificial reefs at the National Oceanographic Centre in Southampton, UK, and was not involved in the survey. "Who would have thought that recreational fishers would account for more rubbish in a deep-sea ecosystem than the commercial fishing industry?"

Trash density

Watters believes that previous attempts to quantify underwater garbage by trawling with nets have underestimated the true scale of the problem because that method doesn't pick up all of what's down there and so cannot provide good information about the density of the debris. Nor can nets be dragged over rocky sea floors as they can snag on pinnacles.

Better Earth

Hunting Banned in Parts of Austria After Hailstones Kill 90 Percent of Wild Game

Hunting has been banned in parts of Austria after freak storms with tennis ball-sized hailstones killed up to 90 per cent of the wild game population.

Sepp Eder, the hunting chief, said : "Animals sought shelter in farms, in fields of grain but the hail was so heavy it smashed right into them. It may take five years for animal numbers to recover, if they ever do so."

Farmers are believed to have suffered more than £60 million in damages to crops and buildings.

Hundreds of deer were discovered either dead or so badly injured they had to be put down by wildlife experts.

In the country's rural Salzburg province, 90 per cent of pheasants and 80 per cent of hares were killed in the hail storms.

Bizarro Earth

South of Panama: Earthquake Magnitude 6.1

Thursday, October 22, 2009 at 00:51:39 UTC

Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 06:51:39 PM at epicenter

6.827°N, 82.576°W

10 km (6.2 miles) set by location program


180 km (110 miles) S of David, Panama

210 km (130 miles) SSE of Golfito, Costa Rica

225 km (140 miles) SW of Santiago, Panama

410 km (255 miles) SW of PANAMA CITY, Panama

Cloud Lightning

Tropical Storm Rick will hit Mexico today

Los Cabos - Tropical Storm Rick weakened rapidly as it headed for a soggy collision with Mexico's Pacific coast near Mazatlan on Wednesday after sparing Baja California's glitzy resorts a direct blow.

Authorities suspended classes for two days in coastal cities of Sinaloa state and readied shelters for possible evacuations due to flooding.

Forecasters said Rick could dump as much as 10 inches on isolated parts of Sinaloa and Durango states, creating the risk of flash floods and mudslides.

Bizarro Earth

With natural gas boom, Pennsylvania faces an onslaught of wastewater

© Joanquin Sapien (ProPublica)The McKeesport Sewage Treatment Plant, one of nine plants on the Monongahela River that has treated wastewater from Marcellus Shale drilling operations.
Workers at a steel mill and a power plant were the first to notice something strange about the Monongahela River last summer.

The water that U.S. Steel and Allegheny Energy used to power their plants contained so much salty sediment that it was corroding their machinery. Nearby residents saw something odd, too. Dishwashers were malfunctioning, and plates were coming out with spots that couldn't easily be rinsed off.

Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection soon identified the likely cause and came up with a quick fix. The Monongahela, a drinking water source for 350,000 people, had apparently been contaminated by chemically tainted wastewater from the state's growing natural gas industry. So the DEP reduced the amount of drilling wastewater that was being discharged into the river and unlocked dams upstream to dilute the contamination.

But questions raised by the incident on the Monongahela haven't gone away.


Scientists discover largest orb-weaving spider

Golden Web of Orb Spider
© Photo M. KuntnerThis photo shows a giant golden orb-web exceeding 1 meter in diameter: Nephila inaurata, Rodrigues, Indian Ocean.
Researchers from the United States and Slovenia have discovered a new, giant Nephila species (golden orb weaver spider) from Africa and Madagascar and have published their findings in the Oct. 21 issue of the journal PLoS ONE. Matjaž Kuntner, chair of the Institute of Biology of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts and a Smithsonian research associate, along with Jonathan Coddington, senior scientist and curator of arachnids and myriapods in the Department of Entomology at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, also reconstructed size evolution in the family Nephilidae to show that this new species, on average, is the largest orb weaver known. Only the females are giants with a body length of 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters) and a leg span of 4 - 5 inches (10 - 12 centimeters); the males are tiny by comparison. More than 41,000 spider species are known to science with about 400 - 500 new species added each year. But for some well-known groups, such as the giant golden orb weavers, the last valid described species dates back to the 19th century.

Nephila spiders are renowned for being the largest web-spinning spiders. They make the largest orb webs, which often exceed 3 feet (1 meter) in diameter. They are also model organisms for the study of extreme sexual size dimorphism and sexual biology.

Green Light

US gives Shell green light for offshore oil drilling in the Arctic

Conservationists say the decision by the Obama administration to allow drilling in the Beaufort Sea repeats Bush era mistakes
Polar Bear on Iceberg
© Hans Strand/CorbisConservationists fear the decision to allow Shell to drill for offshore oil in the Arctic will threaten polar bears and endangered animals.

Conservation groups based in Alaska have accused the Obama administration of repeating the mistakes of George Bush after it gave the conditional go-ahead for Shell to begin drilling offshore for oil and natural gas in the environmentally sensitive Beaufort Sea.

The Minerals Management Service, part of the federal Interior Department, yesterday gave Shell the green light to begin exploratory wells off the north coast of Alaska in an Arctic area that is home to large numbers of endangered bowhead whales and polar bears, as well as walruses, ice seals and other species. The permission would run from July to October next year, though Shell has promised to suspend operations from its drill ship from late August when local Inuit people embark on subsistence hunting.