Earth ChangesS


Bees and ants are true team players

© Frantnieks
Bees and ants are true team players unlike other creatures who seek safety in numbers for selfish reasons, according to researchers.

Scientists from Edinburgh and Oxford Universities used mathematical models to study "swarm behaviour". They found that bison or fish want to get to the centre of large groups to keep themselves safe from predators.

Ants and bees worked together as a single unit, and were prepared to die for the greater good of the colony.


Bad weather conditions in Balkans forced planes to land at Northern Greek airport

The bad weather conditions in the Balkans forced airplanes to land at Thessaloniki airport Macedonia, Greek Eleftheros Typos daily writes on its Internet site.

A British Airways plane from London to Pristina and an Austrian Airlines plane from Vienna to Skopje were forced to land in Thessaloniki on Friday as they failed to reach their destinations due to the bad weather. Most of the Austrian Airlines passengers continued their traveling by road. 11 passengers from the Pristina flight continued towards their destination, while the rest returned to London.


Alaska volcano Mount Redoubt erupts 4 times

Anchorage - Alaska's Mount Redoubt volcano erupted four times overnight, sending an ash plume more than 9 miles into the air in the volcano's first emission in nearly 20 years.

Residents in the state's largest city was spared from falling ash, though fine gray dust was falling Monday morning on small communities north of Anchorage.

Bizarro Earth

Alert level raised for Alaska volcano

Mount Redoubt
© AP Photo/AVO,USGSIn a January 27, 2009 file photo provided by the Alaska Volcano Observatory/U.S.G.S. steam and gas rise from a large fumerole on the north flank of Mount Redoubt, a 10,197-foot volcano in the Chigmit Mountains, in Alaska. Geologists at the Alaska Volcano Observatory Sunday increased the official alert level on the volcano to orange, the stage just before eruption.

Increased earthquake activity has prompted scientists to raise the alert level for Alaska's Mount Redoubt volcano.

Geologists at the Alaska Volcano Observatory said Sunday that seismic activity had increased over the past two days. On Sunday morning, 40 to 50 earthquakes were being recorded every hour.

Scientists said conditions may evolve rapidly and culminated in an eruption within days to weeks at the volcano roughly 100 miles southwest of Anchorage.

A steam plume rising about 1,000 feet above the mountain peak was observed Saturday.


Climate change: Less CO2, less jobs. It's that simple.

If you want to know what an economy that pumps out less carbon dioxide is like, look at Ontario, Quebec and Alberta. Factories closed, growing numbers of jobless, people driving less because they have nowhere to go, government deficits.

As it happens, it's the U.S. debt crisis that's done it to us. When the air comes out of the tires of your biggest trading partner, look out.

However, it's also what a well-meaning climate-change lobby felt was pain worth risking for the sake of the planet, when it recommended a regimen of emission caps and/or carbon taxes to reduce C02 emissions in Canada.

How do you like it so far?

Not so much, at this desk.

This is not the whole story as it doesn't include coal and natural gas, but there are some provocative specifics in a recent Statistics Canada document. (Link)


Africa's first bird extinction likely within four years

The modest plumage of the Sidamo lark may not catch the eye, but the bird could achieve the worst sort of fame - as the first contemporary African bird to go extinct, a new study warns.

The lark is adapted to Ethiopia's "rangeland" - the savannah of native grasses that traditionally covered large parts of east Africa, but is now rapidly disappearing. If the rangeland goes, so will the lark, says Claire Spottiswoode from the University of Cambridge.

"Rangeland degradation is often overlooked by conservationists, but it is not just the birds that suffer from the change in land use. The native people, the Borana pastoralists, also rely on intact rangeland to support their nomadic lifestyle," she says.

Better Earth

Algal blooms dump toxins on the ocean floor

Toxic algal blooms are bad enough on the ocean surface, but now it turns out that the toxin in them sinks to the ocean floor - where it persists for weeks.

Far from degrading soon after the bloom, as previously assumed, new research suggests that the neurotoxin that causes shellfish poisoning, domoic acid, sinks to the ocean floor and could poison marine mammals, birds and humans.

"The first signs of an algal bloom are often birds washing up on the shore or seals acting funny, aggressive and twitching, looking as if they were drunk," says Claudia Benitez-Nelson of the University of South Carolina.


US: Environmental disaster - every single bat may soon be dead

Alabama farm
© Associated Press/Elizabeth DalzielBats protect Alabama farms from insects.
While the media made a big deal out of honey bees dying last year, bats are quietly suffering a similar fate. And the death of bats is an environmental disaster in the making. Every single bat in the United States may soon be dead. White-nose syndrome (WNS), a mysterious fungus that kills bats wiped out about 90 percent of the bats in Connecticut this past winter and the syndrome is now headed to Alabama and other southern states.

According to a report in the Hartford Courant (Bats Die), officials from the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection have found "veritable bat catacombs" in the state's caves. The wildlife inspectors discovered thousands of dead bats stacked up along the ledges of cave walls.


Cosmic Ray Flux and Neutron monitors suggest we may not have hit solar minimum yet

Cosmic rays illustration
© Simon Swordy/University of Chicago, NASAThe shower of particles produced when Earth's atmosphere is struck by ultra-high-energy cosmic rays (the most energetic particles known in the universe).

There's some interesting information of the six month trend of neutrons being detected globally that I want to bring to discussion, but first I thought that a primer on cosmic rays, neutrons, and their interaction with the atmosphere might be helpful to the many layman readers here. - Anthony

Cosmic rays are energetic particles that originate in space and our sun and collide with particles as they zip through our atmosphere. While they come from all directions in space, and the origination of many of these cosmic rays is unknown, they has recently been shown that a larger percentage emanate from specific deep space sources. Cosmic rays were originally discovered because of the ionization they produce in our atmosphere. They cause ionization trails in the atmosphere much like you see in a simple science project called a cloud chamber, shown below right:
cloud chamber ionization
© unknownUsing the Wilson cloud chamber, in 1927, Dimitr Skobelzyn photographed the first ghostly tracks left by cosmic rays.

In the past, we have often referred to cosmic rays as "galactic cosmic rays" or GCR's, because we did not know where they originated. Now scientists have determined that the sun discharges a significant amount of these high-energy particles. "Solar Cosmic Rays" (SCR's - cosmic rays from the sun) originate in the sun's chromosphere. Most solar cosmic ray events correlate relatively well with solar flares. However, they tend to be at much lower energies than their galactic cousins.


Beryllium 10 as climate proxy

greenland map icecap
© unknown

Beryllium-10 is an isotope that is a proxy for the sun's activity. Be10 is produced in the atmosphere by cosmic ray collisions with atoms of oxygen and nitrogen. Beryllium 10 concentrations are linked to cosmic ray intensity which can be a proxy for solar strength.

One way to capture earth's record of that proxy data is to drill deep ice cores. Greenland, due to having a large and relatively stable deep ice sheet is often the target for drilling ice cores.

Isotopic analysis of the ice in the core can be linked to temperature and global sea level variations. Analysis of the air contained in bubbles in the ice can reveal the palaeocomposition of the atmosphere, in particular CO2 variations. Volcanic eruptions leave identifiable ash layers.

While it sounds simple to analyze, there are issues of ice compression, flow, and other factors that must be taken into consideration when doing reconstructions from such data. I attended a talk at ICCC 09 that showed one of the ice core operations had procedures that left significant contamination issues for CO2. But since Beryllium is rather rare, it doesn't seem to have the same contamination issues attached. - Anthony Watts