Earth ChangesS


Flashback Giant Shark Mystery Solved: Unexpected Hideout Found

How do you lose track of the world's second largest fish?

© National Geographic
For decades, that's what scientists have been doing each winter, when basking sharks mysteriously disappear from the cool waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Now the baffled experts have at least part of the answer: Giant basking sharks from New England take tropical vacations.

Previously thought to inhabit only temperate waters, a new study shows that the sharks, which grow up to 32 feet (10 meters) long, make vast migrations to deep, warm-water hideouts.

Before the annual winter disappearance, scientists tagged 25 basking sharks off New England with floating, timed-release satellite transmitters.


Giant Basking Shark Stranded on Long Island

© Unknown
A reportedly 20-foot-long (6-meter-long) basking shark that washed ashore on a beach on New York's Long Island on Tuesday appears to have died from some kind of illness.

New York State Parks official George Gorman said researchers will examine the basking shark to determine a cause of death. After that, it will be buried in nearby sand dunes on the beach.

Basking sharks are common in the waters off Long Island. The giant washed ashore on a town beach a few miles east of Jones Beach State Park, a popular recreation area for New York City-area residents.


Historic winter storm in South America

Argentina satellite image
© unknownArgentina satellite image.

A major and historic winter storm is underway at this Wednesday morning in Argentina. Snow is falling in many parts of the country and in many areas not used to winter precipitation. Local news reports indicate snow already have been observed in the provinces of Mendoza, San Luis, San Juan, Cordoba, La Pampa and Buenos Aires.

In Bahia Blanca, a coastal city in the Southern part of the Buenos Aires, the snow storm is heavy and local authorities describe it as the worst snow event in 50 years. Roads are already blocked by snow and ice in the regional. TN news channel reports some areas of the Sierra de La Ventana could pick up even 3 feet of snow, unimaginable to the region.


English apples make earliest appearance in stores

apples early
© Geoff PughDiscovery apples on tree: English apples make earliest appearance in stores. The apples have arrived a good six weeks before their traditional launch at the end of August.
English apples are making their earliest ever appearances in shops after a harsh winter followed by a warm spring hastened their growth.

English apples are making their earliest ever appearances in shops after a harsh winter followed by a warm spring hastened their growth.

Created in what producers have called near-perfect growing conditions, the crop of Discovery apples - traditionally the season's first - are considered high quality by experts.

The apples have arrived more than a week earlier than the previous record set three years ago and a good six weeks before their traditional launch at the end of August, according to Tesco.

UK shoppers will today get to taste the result when the crop goes on sale at Tesco stores in the Sevenoaks area of Kent, near to where they were grown.

Tesco apple buyer David Croxson said: "What for most of us was one of the worst winters in recent memory turned out to be the start of a perfect growing season for English apple growers.


Denver metro-area storm left trails of debris, distress

Denver storm
© Joe Amon, The Denver PostMichelle Ziporin holds daughter Emily, 2, as she and husband Eric await an evaluation of damage to their Lakewood home.

The storm that spawned two tornadoes, uprooted trees, damaged vehicles and downed power lines in the Denver area Monday night may not get in the record books.

But it was a doozy.

"We have had storms where we lost some branches, but I never have seen anything like this, and I have been here since 1955," said Mary Stephens, who had to shovel hail away from a sliding door at her Wheat Ridge home.

Arvada, Lakewood, Englewood and Wheat Ridge were hardest hit, said Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.

Tornado sirens blasted in some areas as a line of severe thunderstorms bore down on Denver's western suburbs.

Lakewood officials decided not to trigger the alarms because no tornadoes or funnel clouds were nearby, police spokesman Steve Davis said.

"Today, looking over the extent of the damage from the storm, the feeling is we wish we would have set them off," he said.

Sirens blared in Englewood, but in Arvada there is no outdoor warning system.

"We opted to go with the option of not utilizing sirens, and instead using the media, the emergency alert system and coordinating closely with the National Weather Service and their broadcast warnings," said Arvada police spokeswoman Susan Medina.

Along West 32nd Avenue off Kipling Street, reminders of the storm were everywhere Tuesday morning: thick drifts of hail, shredded leaves, uprooted trees and downed limbs jutting from lawns.

Bizarro Earth

Massive New Zealand quake moves country west

Wellington - Southern New Zealand has moved slightly closer to the east coast of neighboring Australia as a result of a massive earthquake last week off the country's South Island, a scientist said Wednesday.

The magnitude 7.8 quake, centered in the ocean near Resolution Island in the country's Fiordland region, twisted South Island out of shape and moved its southern tip 12 inches (30 centimeters) closer to Australia, seismologist Ken Gledhill said.

Cloud Lightning

8 dead, 9 missing in floods in Japan

Tokyo - Hundreds of police, soldiers and rescue workers searched Thursday for nine people missing after torrential rains triggered floods and landslides in southern Japan. Eight people, including elderly residents of a nursing home, have been killed.

Most of about 100 residents of the home were brought to the roof and lifted out by helicopter Tuesday after a mudslide hit the building. But five residents were killed before the rescue, and two are still missing.


US: The Terrible Intoxicating Beauty of the Ghost Orchid Returns to Florida

Ghost Orchid
© Mick Fournier/Associated Press
The supernatural glow of the mysterious ghost orchid is back in the Everglades for the third year in a row. This flower rarely blooms two years in a row, and was missing for a dozen years until 2007.

The ghost orchid, of course, is the haunting beauty featured in the book The Orchid Thief and the bizarre movie version, Adaptation. Nobody knows why it's suddenly reappearing so regularly in the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary after a dozen years of absence, nor what strange qualities it might have if you actually ingested it.


Galapagos penguins harbour malaria threat

© Michael Nolan / SplashdownDirect / Rex FeaturesAdult Galapagos penguins (Spheniscus mendiculus) are carrying the malaria parasite
Penguins and malaria are not two organisms you would normally associate with each other, yet biologists have found the malaria parasite in an endangered species of the black-and-white waddlers.

Iris Levin of the University of Missouri at St Louis and her colleagues took blood samples from 362 Galapagos penguins - already listed as being threatened with extinction - on nine islands in the Galapagos archipelago.

All of the birds appeared healthy, but the tests revealed that 19 of the penguins, 5 per cent, carried the Plasmodium parasite, which causes malaria. The infected birds were spread across the archipelago, suggesting the parasite is not restricted to one small colony of penguins. Galapagos penguins move around the islands, so the parasite is likely to spread further, say the researchers.

"Plasmodium in Galapagos penguins is potentially disastrous for this species," says Bruce Hofkin, a parasitologist at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, who was not involved in the study. "Most penguin species are very susceptible to Plasmodium and avian malaria is a real problem in zoos, where it is a major problems in penguin exhibits."


'Eating wildlife is a part of Chinese culture'

© Lü Zhi/Shan Shui Conservation CentreLü Zhi has studied pandas for two decades and is director of conservation biology at Peking University
Lü Zhi is the director of the Center for Nature and Society at Peking University, Beijing, China.

Are attitudes to the environment in China changing as people's wealth increases?

There are two trends. One is a greater awareness. For instance, a group of young Chinese entrepreneurs is calling for an end to the consumption of shark fin soup. But there is also a rise in the number of affluent people who want to show off their wealth. Eating wildlife is a part of Chinese culture, so when people get richer they eat more wildlife. They need something to persuade them. I think culture is the most effective tool. A respect for life is part of the Buddhist tradition, which has had a big influence on Chinese culture, though sometimes people forget it.

Is it possible to preserve biodiversity in the world's fastest-developing country?

It depends. If you take pandas as an example, then yes, it is. But if you take the Yangtze river dolphin, which was declared functionally extinct in 2006, then no, it isn't. The critical point is to make conservation relevant to others. The panda has no practical value to people but its looks help ensure its survival.

What about the vast majority of wildlife that lacks the emotional draw of the panda?

We use the panda as a flagship to protect all the other creatures and plants where it lives. But what is really needed is a new economic system that recognises and pays for the value of nature.