Earth ChangesS


Whale forensics highlights threat to species

© UnknownMinke Whale
A high proportion of the whale meat on sale in Japan comes from a population of north Pacific minke whales that some fear is under serious threat.

The finding, from a forensic DNA study of meat bought on Japanese markets, suggests that either Japan's scientific whaling programme is taking more animals from this population than previously estimated, or accidental "by-catch" of the whales in fishing nets is larger than officially reported.

Vimoksalehi Lukoschek of the University of California, Irvine, and Scott Baker of Oregon State University in Newport, along with their colleagues, bought samples of whale meat in Japan and used DNA analysis to determine in each case not only the species of whale, but also which population it came from.

They found that a disturbingly high proportion came from a population of north Pacific minke whale that was selected for protection by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in the 1980s, before the wider moratorium on commercial whaling came into effect.

Arrow Down

Climate Change to Cut Crop Yields, Boost Prices, Study Shows

Farmers in South Asia may reap only half of today's wheat harvest in 40 years' time as global temperatures rise and rain falls in different places, according to a study on climate change and agriculture.

Climate change may cut corn, wheat and rice yields across developing countries by 2050, boosting prices and causing hunger, according to a study by the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute, or IFPRI, financed by the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank.

The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization has said it's "cautiously optimistic" food output can rise 70 percent to feed an increased world population in 2050. The agency expects nine-tenths of the growth to come from higher yields and more intensive farming.

Bizarro Earth

Southern Indonesia: Earthquake Magnitude 7.6

Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 10:16:09 UTC

Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 05:16:09 PM at epicenter

0.789°S, 99.961°E

80 km (49.7 miles) set by location program

45 km (30 miles) WNW of Padang, Sumatra, Indonesia

220 km (135 miles) SW of Pekanbaru, Sumatra, Indonesia

475 km (295 miles) SSW of KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia

960 km (590 miles) NW of JAKARTA, Java, Indonesia

Life Preserver

Samoa tsunami: 100 feared dead on Pacific islands

© ReutersWreckage left behind in the village of Leone in American Samoa
Scores of people are feared dead and many more injured after a powerful earthquake triggered a tsunami that swept the Pacific islands.

Cars and people were swept out to sea by the fast-churning water as survivors on the worst-hit islands of Samoa and American Samoa fled to high ground, where they remained huddled for hours.

The floodwater engulfed cars and homes, flattened villages and washed ashore a large boat that came to rest on the edge of a highway.

The 8.3-magnitude quake struck about 125 miles from Samoa at 6.48pm BST, sending a large wave into Apia, the capital of Samoa, and a 1.5-metre wave into Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa.

Bizarro Earth

Tsunami hits American Samoa after South Pacific earthquake

© Unknown
Pago Pago -- A powerful earthquake with a magnitude of up to 8.3 struck in the South Pacific between Samoa and American Samoa around dawn Tuesday, sending terrified residents fleeing for higher ground as a tsunami swept ashore, flattening at least one village.

Officials said they were checking reports of fatalities, including people being swept away from coastal communities, but communications and power outages were hampering rescue efforts.

The quake hit at 6:48 a.m. Tuesday (1748 GMT) midway between the two island groups. In Apia, the Samoan capital, families reported shaking that lasted for up to three minutes. The U.S. Geological Service, which estimated the magnitude at 8.0, said the quake struck 20 miles (35 kilometers) below the ocean floor, 120 miles (190 kilometers) from American Samoa and 125 miles (200 kilometers) from Samoa, with a 5.6-magnitude aftershock 20 minutes later.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center put the quake's magnitude at 8.3 and issued a general alert for the South Pacific region, from American Samoa to New Zealand. It said there were indications a tsunami wave could be "destructive" along some coastlines. Several hours away from the epicenter, Hawaii was put under a tsunami watch, with five emergency centers opened as a precaution.

Cloud Lightning

Typhoon Ketsana slams into Vietnam

© UnknownA man walks by a lake alongside the national north-south highway near Danang, Vietnam on September 29, 2009
After lashing the Philippines for several days, killer Typhoon Ketsana strengthened over the ocean before slamming into the central Vietnam coastline Tuesday afternoon.

Aid agencies reported that amid flood warnings, some 200,000 people were evacuated from low-lying areas to community centers and schools on higher ground.

"Today was pretty bad, they say that this is the worst of it," iReporter Jeff Puchalski, 43, told CNN, speaking from Danang. "It was very strong winds," he said.

Puchalski, who lives in Ho Chi Minh City, was staying at a resort in Danang. His video from outside the resort showed tiles falling from the roof and littering the ground. Although he had intended to stay only for a weekend, he said he was stuck there until the storm passed.

"We're also getting very heavy rains," he said.

Ketsana's maximum winds were reported at 167 km/h (104 mph) with gusts as strong as 204 km/h (127 mph) as it crossed over the South China Sea and approached land.

The city of Hue, Vietnam, picked up an estimated 13 inches of rainfall in a day, according to CNN Meteorologist Jennifer Delgado.

Bizarro Earth

Samoan Islands earthquake generates 10-foot tsunami

© Google ImageryAn earthquake with a magnitude of 7.9 struck in the Samoan Islands region Tuesday.
An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.9 struck in the Samoan Islands region Tuesday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The temblor generated a nearly 10-foot (3-meter) tsunami -- measured from crest to trough -- according to preliminary data, said Chip McCreery, the director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Ewa Beach, Hawaii.

A tsunami warning was in effect for American Samoa, Samoa, Cook Islands, Tonga and Fiji, among others in the South Pacific archipelago, according to a bulletin from the center.

A tsunami watch was issued for islands farther from the epicenter, including Hawaii and Papua New Guinea.

Officials were determining whether the tsunami could reach Hawaii, the center said.

The quake is not expected to generate a tsunami along the west coast of the United States or Canada, according to the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center.

Further details were not immediately available.

Bizarro Earth

Samoa Islands - Earthquake Magnitude 8.0

Tuesday, September 29, 2009 at 17:48:15 UTC

Tuesday, September 29, 2009 at 06:48:15 AM at epicenter

15.300°S, 171.000°W

33 km (20.5 miles) set by location program

119 km (74 miles) SSW (196°) from PAGO PAGO, American Samoa

185 km (115 miles) SSE (154°) from APIA, Samoa

431 km (268 miles) NNW (344°) from Niue Island

2298 km (1428 miles) W (273°) from PAPEETE, Tahiti, French Polynesia

Bizarro Earth

Philippines braces for new storm as toll hits 246

Typhoon Ondoy Philippines
© Reuters/Erik de CastroRescuers assist residents from floodwaters caused by Typhoon Ondoy as they board a rubber boat in Cainta Rizal east of Manila September 27, 2009
Philippine authorities braced on Tuesday for another storm as the toll from rain and floods from a weekend typhoon, now bearing down on Vietnam, rose to 246 dead while damages climbed to nearly $100 million.

Weather forecasters said a new storm forming in the Pacific Ocean was likely to enter Philippine waters on Thursday and make landfall later in the week on the northern island of Luzon, just like Saturday's Typhoon Ketsana.

Ketsana dumped more than a month's worth of average rainfall on Manila and surrounding areas in one 24-hour period. About 80 percent of the city of 15 million was flooded.


South Asia: Rare Vultures Seen in Indian Wild

About 200 rare Bearded Vultures have been seen in a remote part of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, a forestry official has told the BBC.

© BBC NewsLammergeiers are long-winged vultures known for their unusual habit of dropping bones on to rocks to smash them open and get at the marrow.
The state's chief conservator of forests, Vinay Tandon, said that the sighting of the bearded vultures was "hugely significant".

Mr Tandon said that four out of the five major vulture species in India are critically endangered.

Experts estimate that there are only a few hundred vultures left in India.

"We had reports on Monday that what appears to be a very large colony of Bearded Vultures - or Lammergeiers - were spotted close to the border with China in what is known as the trans-Himalayan region," Mr Tandon told the BBC.

"As yet we are not able to confirm that the birds belong to this species. A team from the state's wildlife department will be making its way to the area as soon as possible.

"We are especially pleased to hear of such a large colony when in recent years the vulture population of India has been disappearing so rapidly."