Earth ChangesS


Arctic Cooling Has Begun

© USGSFear-mongering regarding Arctic sea ice is the most acute of all that brought forward by global warming doomsayers.

I hope to be around in 2020, when some have suggested those of us on the sceptics' side should have been vindicated, but I think we will prevail much sooner. The Arctic heat-wave of 1920-1940 is of course well-known to real Arctic climate scientists. I reviewed 32 temperature data sets for Arctic stations to 2004 some with very long records. In 2006 I could find only one with higher temperatures in 2004 than in the late 1930s or early 1940s - that was on the eastern coast of Greenland. Since then I have reviewed dozens of papers on surface air temperature, sea surface temperatures, ice-mass, glacier speeds and sea-ice, and all show a clear cyclic pattern of roughly 70 years. Some Greenland and Alaskan temperatures peaked in 2006-2008, but the pattern looks set to repeat.


Sick! Billionaire's Boat Stuffed With Exotic Animals

One man's fetish for stuffed, dead animals and snake skinned clothes is U.S. Customs agents' worst nightmare

Tamir Sapir's yacht was a vessel filled with trinkets made from the death of rare and exotic animals.
Tamir Sapir's yacht was a vessel filled with trinkets made from the death of rare and exotic animals.

Lions and tigers and bears and just about any other exotic animal you can think of were found on a mega yacht in Miami and caused quite an expensive problem for one of the wealthiest men in America.

The decorative animal hides, stuffed heads and ivory carvings are illegal to have in the U.S., an endangered species law lost on Tamir Sapir, the New York billionaire who owns the vessel.

Bizarro Earth

Vietnam: Strange creature in northern lake a bryozoan: scientists

Bryozoan Pectinatella magnifica
© UnknownThe bryozoan Pectinatella magnifica recently found at the Rung Lake in the northern province of Vinh Phuc.
Scientists are researching the origin of a type of bryozoan that has developed recently in a 70-hectare lake in the northern province of Vinh Phuc, killing the fish and leaving local residents very worried.

Bryozoan are invertebrate animals that reproduce by budding.

The creatures appeared in the Rung Lake in Tu Trung Commune in the province's Vinh Tuong District last May, but have proliferated on a large scale recently.

The provincial environmental research center, which is also tasked with preventing diseases at fisheries informed the Binh Minh Cooperative, which manages and exploits the lake, that the creatures are a fresh water bryozoan named Pectinatella magnifica.

Bizarro Earth

What if global-warming fears are overblown?

With Congress about to take up sweeping climate-change legislation, expect to hear more in coming weeks from John Christy, director of the Earth System Science Center at University of Alabama-Huntsville.

A veteran climatologist who refuses to accept any research funding from the oil or auto industries, Christy was a lead author of the 2001 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report as well as one of the three authors of the American Geophysical Union's landmark 2003 statement on climate change.

Yet despite those green-sounding credentials, Christy is not calling for draconian cuts in carbon emissions. Quite the contrary. Christy is actually the environmental lobby's worst nightmare - an accomplished climate scientist with no ties to Big Oil who has produced reams and reams of data that undermine arguments that the earth's atmosphere is warming at an unusual rate and question whether the remedies being talked about in Congress will actually do any good.

Better Earth

Day After Tomorrow Postponed: Cold water ocean circulation doesn't work as expected

The familiar model of Atlantic ocean currents that shows a discrete "conveyor belt" of deep, cold water flowing southward from the Labrador Sea is probably all wet.

New research led by Duke University and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution relied on an armada of sophisticated floats to show that much of this water, originating in the sea between Newfoundland and Greenland, is diverted generally eastward by the time it flows as far south as Massachusetts. From there it disburses to the depths in complex ways that are difficult to follow.

A 50-year-old model of ocean currents had shown this southbound subsurface flow of cold water forming a continuous loop with the familiar northbound flow of warm water on the surface, called the Gulf Stream.

"Everybody always thought this deep flow operated like a conveyor belt, but what we are saying is that concept doesn't hold anymore," said Duke oceanographer Susan Lozier. "So it's going to be more difficult to measure these climate change signals in the deep ocean."

And since cold Labrador seawater is thought to influence and perhaps moderate human-caused climate change, this finding may affect the work of global warming forecasters.

Bad Guys

Green movement 'hijacked' by politics

Peers accuse organisations such as Greenpeace of being multinational corporations that peddle fear

© The GuardianGreenpeace protesters at London's Heathrow airport
Parts of the green movement have become hijacked by a political agenda and now operate like multinational corporations, according to two senior scientists and members of the House of Lords.

The peers, who were speaking at an event in parliament on science policy, said they felt that in some areas green campaign groups were a hindrance to environmental causes.

"Much of the green movement isn't a green movement at all, it's a political movement," said Lord May, who is a former government chief scientific adviser and president of the Royal Society. He singled out Greenpeace as an environmental campaign group that had "transmogrified" into one with primarily an anti-globalisation stance.


The secret life of penguins revealed

King penguins
© AFP/AAD/File/James DoubeKing penguins swim off the coast of the Australian subantarctic territory of Macquarie Island, 2007
Famous for its cuteness and comic gait on land, the penguin also has an enigmatic life at sea, sometimes spending months foraging in the ocean before returning to its breeding grounds.

Zoologists have long wondered where the flightless seabird goes during these long spells away from land -- and now French scientists, in a study published in Wednesday, believe they can supply the answer.

A team from National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) attached monitoring devices to a dozen male and female macaroni penguins (Eudyptes chrysolophus) at the onset of winter on the French Indian Ocean territory of the Kerguelen Islands.


Predators Ignore Peculiar Prey, Bird And Salamander Study Finds

© Fitzpatrick et al., BMC EcologyHere are two salamanders
Rare traits persist in a population because predators detect common forms of prey more easily. Researchers have now found that birds will target salamanders that look like the majority - even reversing their behavior in response to alterations in the ratio of a distinguishing trait.

Benjamin Fitzpatrick, from the University of Tennessee, worked with Kim Shook and Reuben Izally to study the effects of the prevalence of a dorsal stripe among a group of model salamanders on the foraging behavior of a flock of Blue Jays. He said, "Maintenance of variation is a classic paradox in evolution because both selection and drift tend to remove variation from populations. If one form has an advantage, such as being harder to spot, it should replace all others. Likewise, random drift alone will eventually result in loss of all but one form when there are no fitness differences. There must therefore be some advantage that allows unusual traits to persist".


Prairie dogs issue warnings in glorious technicolour

prairie dogs
© Rick and Nora Bowers/AlamyNot only do the rodents' alarm calls tell others about the type and size of approaching predators, but they also seem to warn of the colour of an imminent threat
Prairie dogs talk some pretty colourful talk. Not only do their alarm calls tell others about the type and size of approaching predators, but it seems they can also warn of the hue of an imminent threat.

Gunnison's prairie dogs are burrowing rodents that live in the grasslands of North America. Con Slobodchikoff of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and his colleagues had previously shown that they produce different alarm calls in response to humans, coyotes, domestic dogs and red-tailed hawks. For humans, the calls even vary according to the person's size. They react differently towards each call, all hiding if approached by humans, whereas only nearby animals hide if it is a hawk.


Volcanic Fish Out of Water

Thin and runny lava
© Tobias Fischer/University of New Mexico Façade. Thin and runny lava called carbonatite tops the Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano in Tanzania.
Ol Doinyo Lengai is a maverick. Of Earth's hundreds of active volcanoes, it's the only one currently producing a black, runny lava instead of the familiar goopy, glowing red stuff. Now, an international team of researchers thinks it has found the explanation for the unusual behavior of the Tanzanian volcano, which has to do with its location and the future of the African continent.

Africa is fracturing. Everything east of the Great Rift Valley--a 6000-kilometer gash that runs from Syria to Mozambique--is imperceptibly moving into the Indian Ocean. The valley itself is slowly sinking, and millions of years from now it will rest on the sea floor. Smack-dab in the middle of the valley sits Ol Doinyo Lengai, a classic volcanic cone rising nearly 3000 meters. But the mountain's eruptions are anything but classic. Its lava, called carbonatite, is nearly free of silicon oxide, which in sufficient quantity produces the blazing-hot, flame-red flows people typically associate with volcanoes. Instead, Ol Doinyo Lengai's carbonatite lava is much cooler--only about 500°C, compared with 1000°C or more for conventional eruptions. It also flows easily and rapidly, more like water than lava. Initially, the carbonatite is black but turns white quickly after exposure to rain and surface water.