Earth ChangesS


Snowiest Winter Ever Recorded in North Dakota

North Dakota Snow Feb 2009
© Crosby JournalA snowmobiler negotiates the streets of Crosby, North Dakota.

Snow, wind, and cold have assaulted North Dakota yet again in the past 24 hours. In Bismarck Friday morning the temperature was 12 below zero with a new inch or two of snow expected following Thursday's more significant storm.

Snow in the southern part of the state was bad enough Thursday that snowplow operators were pulling off the road, blinded by the whiteout conditions. A foot of snow was common in the heaviest band.

The National Weather Service predicts a high temperature of 3 degrees Fahrenheit Friday in Bismarck, as well as additional snow. As of Thursday, three-quarters of the state's roads were still snow-covered, in whole or in part, from the storm that just ended the day before.

More than once during the winter, the Department of Transportation has issued a no-travel advisory, most recently on February 10.


Obama's Excellent Atomic Omission

Two lethal words went thankfully unspoken in President Obama's address to the nation this week---atomic energy.

Unfortunately, two others---"clean coal"---were included.

An increasingly desperate reactor industry just tried to sneak a $50 billion loan guarantee package into the stimulus bill. But for the third time since 2007, it got beat by a powerful national grassroots movement and key Congressional leaders.

Nuke pushers now want reactors painted "green" in a renewable standard Congress may soon set.


"Extinct" Bird Seen, Eaten


A rare quail from the Philippines was photographed for the first time before being sold as food at a poultry market, experts say.

Found only on the island of Luzon, Worcester's buttonquail was known solely through drawings based on dated museum specimens collected several decades ago.

Scientists had suspected the species - listed as "data deficient" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's 2008 Red List - was extinct.

A TV crew documented the live bird in the market before it was sold in January, according to the Agence France-Press news agency.

Bizarro Earth

5.4 Earthquake Jolts Northern Japan

A moderate earthquake measuring 5.4 on the Richter scale hit Japan's northernmost Hokkaido region Saturday, said the Japan Meteorological Agency Saturday.

The focus of the quake, which occurred at 9:36 local time (0036 GMT), was some 100 km underground at Hidaka-shicho Seibu region, Kyodo News quoted the agency as saying here.

Alarm Clock

Schwarzenegger declares California drought emergency

Sacramento - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency Friday because of three years of below-average rain and snowfall in California, a step that urges urban water agencies to reduce water use by 20 percent.

"This drought is having a devastating impact on our people, our communities, our economy and our environment, making today's action absolutely necessary," the Republican governor said in his statement.


Fish pivots tubular eyes to scan for food

The fishy denizens of the deep are many, varied and strange, and among the strangest are the barreleyes, swift little hunters with tunnel-shaped eyes that live in the darkness of the deepest waters of Monterey Bay and in other seas worldwide.

For decades, biologists have puzzled over those fishes' eyes, because apparently they could look in only one direction - upward - and have wondered at the role of the mysterious transparent shield that covers their heads much like the cockpits of jet fighter planes.

Now two marine biologists in Monterey Bay, trolling with remote-controlled submarines from their surface ship, have tracked and captured the 6-inch living barreleyes on film and studied them in a lab to solve the puzzle: Those tunnels that hold their eyes, the scientists discovered, can actually pivot up and down - a rarity for any animal.


Study: Global cooling causes vast Antarctic glaciation in ancient time

A study showed that vast Antarctic glaciation was caused by global cooling, according to a news release issued by the University of Hong Kong on Thursday.

Global climate rapidly shifted from a relatively ice-free world to one with massive ice sheets on Antarctica about 34 million years ago. A team of scientists from research units from different countries and regions offered a new perspective on the nature of changing climatic conditions across this greenhouse-to-icehouse transition, which has important implications for predicting future climate changes.

Detailed in the latest issue of Science, an international scientific journal, the data disproved a long-held idea that massive ice growth in the Antarctic was accompanied by little to no global temperature change.


California declares drought emergency

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency on Friday because of three years of below-average rain and snowfall in California, a step that urges urban water agencies to reduce water use by 20 per cent.

Mandatory conservation is an option in the US if the declaration and other measures are insufficient.

The drought has forced farmers to fallow their fields, put thousands of agricultural workers out of work and led to conservation measures in cities throughout the state, which is the top agricultural producer in the US


Heat Could Be Stifling Turtles' Swimming Abilities in Australia

© The University of QueenslandTurtle on Heron Island.
It seems we're not the only ones struggling to adapt to the summer weather - University of Queensland researchers have found the increased temperatures may be affecting turtles too.

Zoologist Dr David Booth, from UQ's School of Biological Sciences, said green turtle hatchlings from Heron Island weren't swimming as well as usual.

"The 2008-2009 green turtle nesting season on Heron Island has seen the highest nest temperatures recorded at this site, with many nests having average temperatures above 31 degrees, and experiencing temperatures above 35 degrees during the last week of incubation," Dr Booth said.

"Initial impressions are that hatchlings emerging from these hot nests are not as strong swimmers as hatchlings coming from cooler nests recorded in previous years.

"If climate change results in consistently high nest temperatures in the future, then the poorer swimming ability of hatchlings emerging from hot nests may have a negative impact on recruitment of hatchlings from coral cays because predation rate is thought to be related to swimming ability."


Desert Ants Smell Their Way Home

Cataglyphis fortis
© Max Planck InstituteCataglyphis fortis
Humans lost in the desert are well known for going around in circles, prompting scientists to ask how desert creatures find their way around without landmarks for guidance. Now research published in BioMed Central's open access journal Frontiers in Zoology shows that Desert Ants input both local smells and visual cues into their navigation systems to guide them home.

Until now researchers thought that the Desert Ant Cataglyphis fortis, which makes its home in the inhospitable salt pans of Tunisia, was a pure vision-guided insect. But Kathrin Steck, Bill Hansson and Markus Knaden from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany used gas chromatography to verify that desert microhabitats do have unique odour signatures that can guide the ants back to the nest.