Earth ChangesS

Better Earth

Huge undersea mountain with potentially catastrophic power found off Indonesia

© UnknownThis aerial view shows new homes being constructed to the north of Banda Aceh on the island of Sumatra in 2006. A massive underwater mountain discovered off the Indonesian island of Sumatra could be a volcano with potentially catastrophic power, a scientist said Friday.
A massive underwater mountain discovered off the Indonesian island of Sumatra could be a volcano with potentially catastrophic power, a scientist said Friday.

Indonesian government marine geologist Yusuf Surachman said the mountain was discovered earlier this month about 330 kilometres (205 miles) west of Bengkulu city during research to map the seabed's seismic faultlines.

The cone-shaped mountain is 4,600 metres (15,100 feet) high, 50 kilometres in diameter at its base and its summit is 1,300 metres below the surface, he said.

"It looks like a volcano because of its conical shape but it might not be. We have to conduct further investigations," he told AFP.

He denied reports that researchers had confirmed the discovery of a new volcano, insisting that at this stage it could only be described as a "seamount" of the sort commonly found around the world.

"Whether it's active or dangerous, who knows?" he added.

Bizarro Earth

Earthquake Magnitude 5.7 - Mindanao, Philippines

- Friday, May 29, 2009 at 19:51:18 UTC
- Saturday, May 30, 2009 at 03:51:18 AM at epicenter

5.933°N, 125.799°E

158.9 km (98.7 miles) set by location program



Thousands of Marauding Caterpillars Trap Car in Silky Web

© unknownMoth attack: Spindle ermines covered this car with a giant silk web in Rotterdam
Most drivers would be delighted if their car came with a silk-lined interior.

Whether it's such an appealing prospect on the outside is another matter.

This is the sight that greeted one unlucky motorist when he returned to his vehicle in Rotterdam.

Under a giant silk cocoon created by an army of caterpillars, the shape of a Honda is just about visible.

The car was mistaken as food by spindle ermine larvae, which had already begun to strip a nearby tree of its leaves.


Human fishing spree goes back 1000 years

Call it the myth of industrial sin. It seems fish stocks were declining due to human exploitation long before the arrival of giant trawlers and factory ships, according to marine scientists at a conference being held this week in Canada.

"We are discovering that human pressure on marine life was much earlier, much larger and much more significant than previously thought," says Poul Holm, an environmental historian at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland. "We now know that there was major commercial exploitation of fisheries, doing huge damage to fish populations, back in medieval times and even before. The idea that it is only modern fishing technology that has done damage turns out to be completely wrong."


Dirty secret of Vietnamese wildlife farms revealed

© AFP/Getty ImagesRestaurant workers skinning a crocodile. But is it from a farm or from the wild?
Wildlife farms are supposed to promote conservation by providing a sustainable alternative to hunting animals in the wild. But those in Vietnam are having exactly the opposite effect, says a study by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in New York.

Over the past two decades, dozens of commercial wildlife farms have sprung up in Vietnam. WCS investigators and Vietnamese officials who visited 78 farms undercover found that half had taken original breeding stock from wild populations, and 42 per cent were still doing so.

Animals farmed include snakes, turtles, crocodiles and monkeys. Worst affected are species such as tigers and bears, whose body parts or secretions are valued in traditional medicine. Not only are they slow to breed, but farms can also be used to launder products from animals killed in the wild.

Eye 2

How spitting cobras are such blinding shots

For venom-spitting cobras, an accurate shot is the difference between slithering away and getting trampled to death by an elephant.

A new study finds that the snakes adjust the trajectory of their squirts to deliver venom right to the faces of animals that tread too closely.

"We know they spit on elephants, hyenas, just about anything that passes by that's big enough to trample on them or even eat them," says Guido Westhoff, a herpetologist at the University of Bonn, Germany, who led the study.

Alarm Clock

South Asia cyclone contaminates water sources

New Delhi - Tens of thousands of cyclone survivors in India and Bangladesh desperately need clean water after the storm contaminated drinking sources with sea water, aid agencies say.

Relief workers also warned the death toll could soar if there are outbreaks of water-borne diseases following massive flooding.

Bizarro Earth

Earthquake Magnitude 5.7 Seram, Indonesia

© US Geological Survey
- Friday, May 29, 2009 at 00:58:38 UTC
- Friday, May 29, 2009 at 09:58:38 AM at epicenter

3.857°S, 127.537°E

55.9 km (34.7 miles)



Flashback David Archibald's elegant illustration of how late and weak solar cycle 24 is proving

weak solar cycles dalton minimum
© unknown

There is another way of looking at solar cycles.

Solar cycles actually start with the magnetic reversal near the peak of the previous cycle. The sunspots take seven years to surface and become visible. Almost all sunspot cycles tend to be about 18.5 years long, measured from the peak of the previous cycle.

The above graph compares the average of three cycles, 21 to 23, from the late 20th century with three, 14 to 16, from the late 19th century (which had much colder weather). Also included is Solar Cycle 5, the first half of the Dalton Minimum.


New Solar Cycle Prediction: Fewer Sunspots, But Not Necessarily Less Activity (who knows?)

Sun image from STEREO satellites

An international panel of experts has released a new prediction for the next solar cycle, stating that Solar Cycle 24 will peak in May 2013 with a below-average number of sunspots. Led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and sponsored by NASA, the panel includes a dozen members from nine different government and academic institutions. Their forecast sets the stage for at least another year of mostly quiet conditions before solar activity resumes in earnest.

"If our prediction is correct, Solar Cycle 24 will have a peak sunspot number of 90, the lowest of any cycle since 1928 when Solar Cycle 16 peaked at 78," says panel chairman Doug Biesecker of the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center, Boulder, Colo.

It is tempting to describe such a cycle as "weak" or "mild," but that could give the wrong impression. "Even a below-average cycle is capable of producing severe space weather," says Biesecker. "The great geomagnetic storm of 1859, for instance, occurred during a solar cycle of about the same size we're predicting for 2013."

Comment: Commentary from on this article:

Other forecasters (Clilverd and Archibald) have an even quieter cycle like that of the s0-called Dalton Minimum with a maximum nearer 40. NCAR's Dikpati is still holding out for an active cycle 24. The last few cycles including this ultralong cycle 23 (larger image here) mimics the cycles of the late 1700s and early 1800s much as Clilverd and Archibald showed, leading up to the Dalton Minimum, the age of Dickens with winter snows in London (hmmm).
Solar Cycle length
© unknown