Earth ChangesS

Heart - Black

Anger at Austrian avalanche experiment with pigs

© Unknown
Animal rights groups on Thursday condemned as "bizarre" and "macabre" an experiment in Austria in which 29 live pigs were to be buried under masses of snow to study human survival chances in avalanches.

Several organisations threatened legal action against the Innsbruck Medical University, western Austria, and the emergency medicine centre in Bolzano, northern Italy, which organised the experiment.

Hermann Brugger, who is leading the study, said the pigs were sedated and the authorities had given their approval.

Scientists want to study the effect of air pockets that form under snow during avalanches on victims' survival chances.

Better Earth

Flooding rains bring rare waterfalls to Australia's Uluru

© UnknownIconic monolith Uluru, or Ayers Rocks
Heavy rains which flooded parts of Australia's vast desert centre have brought rare waterfalls spilling from the iconic monolith Uluru, or Ayers Rocks, officials said Saturday.

The deluge, which swept across much of the continent's east after a tropical cyclone last month, prompted a wave of green in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, home to the giant red rock.

"It's something that a lot of people actually wouldn't experience, seeing the park at this time of year when it is green and the plants are really shooting and the flowers are coming out," said park manager Christine Burke.

"It's a very exciting time at the park now to see what happens after we have a good rain and it looks beautiful," she told state radio.

Situated near the centre of the semi-arid Sturt Desert, Uluru typically receives little more than 12 inches of rain a year, and January is its hottest, driest month, with temperatures topping to 45 degrees Celsius (113 F).


No skiing at Scottish resort -- too much snow

© UnknownCairngorm Mountain
Skiers found the slopes at a Scottish resort closed on Friday, not because the snow was sparse, but rather there was too much of it, the resort's managers said.

Cairngorm Mountain in northeast Scotland more often deals with a lack of snow but this year it is grappling with a different problem -- 185 centimetres (73 inches) of snow since Christmas in the worst bout of winter weather since the 1970s.

Resort staff toiled all day Thursday to clear snow, but they arrived back Friday to find their hard work was in vain after strong winds blew snow across access roads, creating 15 foot (4.6 metre) high drifts.

"We have come in this morning and it feels like groundhog day -- all our work yesterday has been filled in again," said Colin Matthew, the head of ski patrol.

"The mountain and all facilities, access roads and car parks will be closed today to allow digging out after major drifting during the storm," he said.

Bizarro Earth

Greece: Earthquake Magnitude 4.9 Dodecanese Islands

Sunday, January 17, 2010 at 20:16:05 UTC

Sunday, January 17, 2010 at 10:16:05 PM at epicenter

35.314°N, 27.608°E

27.3 km (17.0 miles)

135 km (85 miles) SSW of Rodos, Dodecanese Islands, Greece

220 km (135 miles) E of Iraklion, Crete, Greece

220 km (140 miles) SSW of Mugla, Turkey

455 km (285 miles) SE of ATHENS, Greece

Bizarro Earth

Hummingbird Rarely Seen in Massachusetts Hospitalized

A hummingbird rarely seen in Massachusetts and trying to survive a brutal Cape Cod winter has wound up in the hospital. The Cape Cod Times reported that the Allen's hummingbird was brought to the Wild Care of Cape Cod animal rehabilitation center in Eastham after being found in the snow with ice crystals on its wings on Sunday.

The thumb-sized bird had survived two major snow storms, subfreezing temperatures and high winds by feeding on sugar water from a Harwich woman's back yard feeder.

Lela Larned, Wild Care's executive director, said the bird was "at the end of the line."

She says it appears to be getting better, but whether it survives remains uncertain.

Bizarro Earth

Off Southern Coast of Argentina: Earthquake Magnitude 6.3

A strong earthquake measured 6.3 magnitude hit off the southern coast of Argentina on Sunday morning, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said.

According to a USGS report, the earthquake occurred at about 0800 a.m. local time (1200 GMT) at the depth of 10 kilometers. The epicenter was 2625 kilometers south of the capital Buenos Aires.

No tsunami alerts were issued by the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

Better Earth

Doing battle with the red devils of the Pacific

Mexican fishing fleets call them diablos rojos, or "red devils" - and when Stanford University graduate student Julie Stewart wrestles the first Humboldt squid aboard our research vessel, the Fulmar, in California's Monterey Bay, it becomes obvious why.

This beast is angry, and has flashed from white to a deep maroon. It's nearly 1.5 metres long, including the tentacles, which flail in Stewart's hair until she can offload the catch into a cooler filled with seawater. That only gives the squid ammunition, as it can now fire a powerful jet of water and ink at anyone who strays into its sights.

Bizarro Earth

Flashback California's attack of the jumbo squid

Ferocious, pack-feeding jumbo squid have invaded waters off California's central coast and are devouring local fish populations. Researchers say global warming and overfishing are likely to blame.

Humboldt or jumbo squid (Dosidicus gigas) first appeared off Monterey, California during an El Niño event which warmed waters in 1997. Since 2002 they have taken up permanent residence.


Transparent frogs, tiny geckos and snail-sucking snakes

© Paul S Hamilton / RAEISee-through diversity
An expedition to the coastal rainforests of western Ecuador has discovered 30 new species of frog and a slug-sucking snake.

The team of scientists, who work for Reptile and Amphibian Ecology International, also identified four new species of stick insect, three species of lungless salamanders, a tiny, scaly-eyed gecko known as Lepidoblepharis buschwaldii and a bushmaster - the longest viper in the world.

Most of the new animals were discovered in the forests of Cerro Pata de Pájaro, a mountain overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Its cloud forests are particularly fecund: 14 of the 30 new species of frog discovered were found in a patch of cloud forest just a couple of miles wide, according to the press release.

The newly-discovered frogs are "rain" frogs of the genus Pristimantis, which lay their eggs in trees. As the eggs hatch, miniature versions of the adult frogs - some the size of a pinhead - fall into the water below.

Bizarro Earth

Caribbean at risk of more large earthquakes

© KPA/Zuma/Rex FeaturesMore to come?
Earthquake experts are warning that the devastating quake that struck Haiti on Tuesday could be the first of several in the region. They say historical records suggest that not all the energy that has built up in the faults running through the Caribbean region was released in this week's tragedy.

Their fear is that enough energy remains in the fault system to trigger another earthquake of the same scale as Tuesday's.

The last time Haiti was struck by earthquakes of this scale was in 1751 and 1770, when three large earthquakes hit within the space of 20 years. They ruptured the same fault segment as the one that slipped on Tuesday, as well as segments lying further to the east, in Haiti and the neighbouring Dominican Republic.

"Last time round there was a sequence of earthquakes," says Uri ten Brink, an expert on earthquakes in the region from the US Geological Survey in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. "I'm worried, as we might expect the eastern side of the fault to rupture next." Other geologists concur. "Stress transfer along the fault is likely to trigger a chain of quakes," says Bill McGuire from University College London.