Earth ChangesS

Black Cat

Rodents of Unusual Size, Florida tries to wipe out cat-sized African rats

Deep in the heart of the Florida Keys, wildlife officials are laying bait laced with poison to try to wipe out a colony of enormous African rats that could threaten crops and other animals.

U.S. federal and state officials are beginning the final phase of a two-year project to eradicate the Gambian pouched rats, which can grow to the size of a cat and began reproducing in the remote area about eight years ago.

Light Sabers

NASA's Top Official Questions Global Warming, Griffin Questions Need to Combat Warming

NASA administrator Michael Griffin is drawing the ire of his agency's preeminent climate scientists after apparently downplaying the need to combat global warming.

In an interview broadcast this morning on National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" program, Griffin was asked by NPR's Steve Inskeep whether he is concerned about global warming.

"I have no doubt that a trend of global warming exists," Griffin told Inskeep. "I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with."

Evil Rays

Human noise at sea could imperil creatures that depend on sonar

They're leaving behind people who banged on pipes and played a weird compilation of humpback hits, but the whales that lingered in the Delta are returning to an increasingly noisy ocean, where humans are the biggest noisemakers.

We pierce the depths with sub-seeking sonar. We rattle them with oil-exploration blasts. And we churn out a constant din from shipping.

The sounds sometimes kill, leaving beaked whales dead on shore after military exercises.

Light Sabers

China's water supply could be cut off as Tibet's glaciers melt

The clear water of the Min river in the Jiuzhaigou National Park is a candidate for the cleanest in China. It is filtered by 108 lakes as it makes its way down from the glaciers of this vast nature reserve before feeding into the Yangtze river.

Back up through the mists, along a spectacular cliff-lined valley, there is Long Lake, a blue glacial expanse of water, while higher up in this mountainous park you can find corrie glaciers. Waterfalls line the route, azure pools brim over with fresh water.

Yet this beautiful park, completely defined by water, is threatened by climate change. Normally a winter wonderland, there was no snow at all last year. The glaciers will get warmer and melt, the rivers will have less water, although rainfall makes up much of the water flowing through the park.


NASA mission checks Greenland's ice sheet and glaciers - confirms inland areas thickening!

A NASA-led research team has returned from Greenland after an annual three-week mission to check the health of its glaciers and ice sheet. About 82 percent of Greenland is made up of a giant ice sheet. During the Arctic Ice Mapping Project, researchers measured critical areas of the island's ice sheet as well as its glaciers and monitored changes that may be connected to global climate change.


Whales slip out the Golden Gate

That's the verdict from scientists who acknowledged the humpbacks' quiet departure was bittersweet for the whale rescue team.

The last confirmed sighting of the mother and calf was Tuesday night near Tiburon, about four miles from the Golden Gate Bridge.


Southern Fires Raise Smoke Concerns

At the request of the Georgia State Department of Health, scientists with the Southern Research Station Smoke Management Team located at the Center for Forest Disturbance Science in Athens, GA, are producing daily smoke forecasts which help communities determine potential health risks caused by current wildfires across south Georgia and north Florida. Smoke from these fires has impacted major airports and interstates throughout both States, and statewide air quality advisories have been issued. Smoke forecasts will be particularly useful when deciding to issue warnings for sensitive populations such as infants and children, pregnant women, older adults, and people with chronic heart or lung diseases such as asthma.

The forecasts show smoke concentrations over continuous 72-hour periods, combining detailed weather forecasts with information about the fire to estimate the amount of smoke produced and where that smoke will be transported. The smoke forecasts focus on a specific class of pollutant, particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter or PM 2.5, that is known to be associated with respiratory problems and is a criteria pollutant measured by the Environmental Protection Agency as part of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

Magic Wand

WFU study finds that moths mimic sounds to survive

In a night sky filled with hungry bats, good-tasting moths increase their chances of survival by mimicking the sounds of their bad-tasting cousins, according to a new Wake Forest University study.

To be published in the May 29 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study is the first to definitively show how an animal species uses acoustic mimicry as a defensive strategy.

The research was conducted by Jesse Barber, a doctoral student in biology at Wake Forest. William E. Conner, professor of biology at Wake Forest, co-authored the study.

In response to the sonar that bats use to locate prey, the tiger moths make ultrasonic clicks of their own. They broadcast the clicks from a paired set of structures called "tymbals." Many species of tiger moth use the tymbals to make specific sounds that warn the bat of their bad taste. Other species make sounds that closely mimic those high-frequency sounds.


First captive panda released in wild is killed

The first panda to be released into the wild after being bred in captivity has been found dead in forests in southwest China.

Xiang Xiang was found in February on snow-covered ground in the forests of Sichuan province in China's southwest, the Xinhua News Agency said.

It is believed he suffered fatal injuries after he fell from a tree while being chased by other pandas. He had undergone three years of training on how to survive in the wild but he lasted less than a year.

"Xiang Xiang died of serious internal injuries in the left side of his chest and stomach by falling from a high place," Heng Yi, an official from the Wolong Giant Panda Research Centre in Sichuan, said in a telephone interview.

Bizarro Earth

Montana: State to capture, kill 300 bison

After weeks of repeated and futile hazings, the Montana Department of Livestock is preparing to slaughter about 300 bison near West Yellowstone, including scores of calves that are only a few weeks old.