Earth ChangesS

Bizarro Earth

China: 909,000 Hit by Drought

A drought since September had affected 909,000 people in east China's Jiangxi Province, a spokesman for the provincial flood control and drought relief office said yesterday.

The drought had cut off normal water supplies in some rural areas. "Villagers in Fengxin, Jing'an and Leping counties have to carry drinking water by trucks," said Sun Xiaoshan, deputy director of the office.

"The water levels of four of the province's five main rivers hit record lows and are still dropping.

"The self-cleaning ability of rivers has decreased significantly due to the drastic fall of volume, posing a threat to public health."

The provincial government had stepped up monitoring and supervision over enterprises that may cause pollution, Sun added.

Bizarro Earth

Snow Cap Disappearing from Mount Kilimanjaro

The snows of Kilimanjaro may soon be gone. The African mountain's white peak - made famous by writer Ernest Hemingway - is rapidly melting, researchers report.

Some 85 percent of the ice that made up the mountaintop glaciers in 1912 was gone by 2007, researchers led by paleoclimatologist Lonnie Thompson of Ohio State University report in Tuesday's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

And more than a quarter of the ice present in 2000 was gone by 2007.

If current conditions continue "the ice fields atop Kilimanjaro will not endure," the researchers said.

The Kilimanjaro glaciers are both shrinking, as the ice at their edges melts, and thinning, the researchers found.


Fluorescence Found to Aid Healing in Corals

© Caroline V. Palmer
Injured corals develop colorful glowing "scabs" to help themselves heal, a new study has found.

When a coral is broken or wounded, it releases highly reactive atoms of oxygen known as free radicals to close up the gashes.

But these powerful molecules can also inadvertently kill off some of the coral's healthy cells. Hydrogen peroxide, for instance, is a common free radical in corals, and it can damage every part of the cell, from DNA to proteins.

Hurt corals have also been known to take on brightly colored glows, noted study leader and coral immunologist Caroline Palmer. Wounds on Acropora millepora corals appear blue, for example, while injured tissues on Porites species - like the raised and swollen patches seen above - are an "intense" bubble-gum pink.


Man-Eating Lions Consumed 35 People in 1898

© AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastTwo world renowned man-eating Tsavo lions are seen stuffed and on display at Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History Monday, Nov. 2, 2009.
The nightly attacks by two man-eating lions terrified railway workers and brought construction to a halt in one of east Africa's most notorious onslaughts more than a hundred years ago. But the death toll, scientists now say, wasn't as high as previously thought.

Over nine months the two voracious hunters claimed 35 lives - no small figure, but much less than some accounts of as many as 135 victims.

It was 1898, when laborers from India and local natives building the Uganda Railroad across Kenya became the prey for the pair, a case that has been the subject of numerous accounts and at least three movies.

The death toll had been estimated at 28 railway workers and "scores of unfortunate African natives," with the total ranging as high as 135. Delay of the railroad was even subject to debate in Britain's House of Commons.


Taking the Earth's temperature

The public is finally catching on to the fact that the global-warming scare is driven far more by ideology than science, and a recent Gallup poll revealed that the percentage of Americans who think the threat of global warming is exaggerated is at its highest level ever.

Pat Michaels (Ph.D. in climatology), a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and retired research professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, relates how the spokesperson for an organization with some of the oldest temperature-sensor data in existence refused to share it with other scientists, saying, "Why should we make the data available when their aim is to try and find something wrong with it?" Whoa, there, Nellie! Did you grasp the outrageousness of that statement? If not, take a moment to reread it for its breathtakingly anti-scientific thrust.


Sea Lion Brain Mapped to Study Toxins' Effects

sea lions
© Getty ImagesChemicals pollutants are causing brain damage in sea lions. However, a new anatomical atlas of these animals may help to identify exactly how they are being affected.
The first detailed anatomical atlas of a living wildlife species has been constructed by researchers.

Mapping the California sea lion's (Zalophus californianus) brain with a combination of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and volumetric measuring, scientists want to better understand how toxins in the water are causing neurological damage among marine mammal populations.

Eric Montie, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of South Florida, spearheaded the study, which was published in The Anatomical Record in October.

The brain atlas is a first step toward determining whether exposure to manmade chemicals, such as DDT and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), increase California sea lions' susceptibility to life-threatening brain damage from domoic acid, a neurotoxin naturally produced by certain types of algae.

Bizarro Earth

Green is Cool, But United States Land Changes Generally Are Not

© Souleymane FallThis map shows observation minus reanalysis (OMR) trends in the continental United States from 1979-2003.
Most land-use changes occurring in the continental United States reduce vegetative cover and raise regional surface temperatures, says a new study by scientists at the University of Maryland, Purdue University, and the University of Colorado in Boulder.

The study, which will appear in the Royal Meteorological Society's International Journal of Climatology, found that almost any change that makes land cover less "green" contributes to warming. However, a less intuitive finding is that conversion of any land to agricultural use results in cooling, even land that was previously forested.

Derived using a University of Maryland developed analytical approach known as OMR, the findings build on previous research and add significant weight to a growing recognition among climate scientists for the need to more fully incorporate land use change into computer models that are designed to forecast future changes in climate conditions.


Over 17,000 Species Threatened by Extinction

© AP Photo/IUCN, Tim LamanA Varanus mabitang is one of the species that could soon disappear in the wild.
A rare Panamanian tree frog, a rodent from Madagascar and two lizards found only in the Philippines are among over 17,000 species threatened with extinction, a leading environmental group said Tuesday.

The Rabb's fringe-limbed tree frog, only discovered four years ago, is one of 1,895 amphibian species that could soon disappear from the wild because of deforestation and infection, the International Union for Conservation of Nature said.

The Switzerland-based group surveyed 47,677 animals and plants for this year's "Red List" of endangered species, determining that 17,291 of them are at risk of extinction.

More than one in five of all known mammals, over a quarter of reptiles and 70 percent of plants are under threat, according to the survey, which featured over 2,800 new species compared with 2008.

Bizarro Earth

Strong 5.9 quake jolts Ionian Sea, Greek Islands

An earthquake measuring 5.9 on the Richter Scale jolted the Ionian Sea on Tuesday morning, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

There have been no reports of injuries or damage on the Peloponnese Peninsula, a popular tourist destination on the Gulf of Corinth.

According to the Athens Institute of Geodynamics, the magnitude of the quake was 5.5.

The quake's epicenter was located 110 kilometers (65 miles) from the city of Patra at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) in the Ionian Sea. Patra is located 265 kilometers west of Athens.

The quake struck at 07:25 am local time (05:25 GMT).

According to Greek television, the earthquake was also felt on the islands of Zakynthos and Kefalonia in the Ionian Sea.

Bizarro Earth

Giant Crack in Africa Will Create a New Ocean

© AFP / Landsat satelliteA huge crater that is really a volcano that has been slowly eroded in Mauritania in Africa.
A 35-mile rift in the desert of Ethiopia will likely become a new ocean eventually, researchers now confirm.

The crack, 20 feet wide in spots, opened in 2005 and some geologists believed then that it would spawn a new ocean. But that view was controversial, and the rift had not been well studied.

A new study involving an international team of scientists and reported in the journal Geophysical Research Letters finds the processes creating the rift are nearly identical to what goes on at the bottom of oceans, further indication a sea is in the region's future.