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Gypsy moth caterpillars attack New Jersey and Penn.

New Jersey and Pennsylvania are seeing their worst invasion of damaging Gypsy moth caterpillars in nearly two decades, it was reported Sunday.

The caterpillars have stripped nearly 1.6 million acres in the two states in the last three months, leaving bare an area the size of Delaware, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.


Wolf

US: More bears coming out of the woods

Construction worker Kevin Forrence was loading up his truck one recent morning, getting ready to start his day at Gate City Fence on Ledge Street, when he noticed an unfamiliar shape on the other side of the canal.

"It was 5 a.m.; the sun wasn't out, but you could see," he said. "I just turned around, and it caught my eye. There was a black bear casually walking down the bike trail."

Forrence, 36, said he yelled out to the bear to try to make it stop, so he could get a better look and maybe capture the animal on his cellphone camera. But it was too dim, and the bear too far away. It stopped for a moment, glanced over at Forrence, and continued walking away. Later, other people reported seeing it poking into a D umpster near a Dunkin' Donuts.

"I've never seen a bear in the wild," said Forrence, who spends considerable time hiking and camping in the White Mountains. "All of a sudden, I'm in the center of Nashua, and there's a bear walking down the trail. Nashua is the last place I'd ever thought to see it."

Attention

Early fire risk for mountains near Los Angeles

Researchers at the University of Utah and elsewhere have developed a new way to predict when vegetation dries to the point it is most vulnerable to large-scale fires in the Santa Monica Mountains near Los Angeles. And this year's forecast says the highest-risk fire period will begin July 13 - weeks earlier than usual.

Despite that, the new study also shows that unlike other areas of the western United States, global warming has not caused any apparent long-term trend toward early fire seasons in the Santa Monicas.

The scientists eventually hope to expand their unique fire-risk forecasting method to all of Southern California and beyond.

"We developed a way to predict when the time of highest fire danger begins in the Santa Monica Mountains, based on the amount of spring precipitation," says the study's principal author, Philip Dennison, an assistant professor of geography at the University of Utah. "We estimate that this year, the highest fire danger will begin July 13."

The study found the amount of March-April-May precipitation can be used to predict the date at which high fire-risk thresholds are reached.

Attention

100 killed, millions homeless in cyclone in Pakistan

Relief efforts are being hindered by a cyclone that caused torrential rain and strong winds in southern Pakistan, with about two million people currently affected, local media reported Monday citing official reports.

The Balochistan province in southwestern Pakistan has been hit hardest, where some 100 people have died and hundreds are reported missing. Over 200,000 houses in 15 districts of Balochistan have been damaged, with communications interrupted, power cut off, and fields flooded. Residents in flood-hit districts have insufficient food, medicines, and fresh water.

"There is a desperate need for tents, and we have already addressed the global community for assistance," Raziq Bugti, official spokesman for the Balochistan government, said. "We need at least 100,000 tents for homeless families."

Better Earth

Piranhas have had a raw deal in Hollywood

In Hollywood films piranhas have a reputation for being so aggressive that they can strip a body of flesh in just minutes - they were, for example, Bond villain Blofeld's favoured instrument of death in You Only Live Twice.

But it seems these Latin American freshwater fish are not the insatiable man-eaters of folklore, after all.

From today the new findings about piranhas - plus a tank full of them - will be on display at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition in London.

According to research, the main reason the scary fish patrol in shoals is for protection from their own predators.

The widely held view that piranhas form "co-operative hunting groups" is a myth that has helped turn them into film legends.

However, a research team from the University of St Andrews and the Mamiraua Sustainable Development Institute in Brazil say piranhas are not dangerous. The researchers have been studying piranha behaviour in the flooded forests of the Amazon.

Prof Anne Magurran, of St Andrews, said: "Contrary to popular belief, piranhas are omnivores. They are scavengers more than predators, eating mainly fish, plant material and insects.

Better Earth

Californians urged to cut water after driest year

LOS ANGELES - Southern Californians, fond of their private pools, golf courses, garden sprinklers and the ubiquitous car wash, are being urged to reform their water-guzzling ways after the region's driest year on record.

A mere 3.2 inches of rain -- less than a quarter as much as usual -- fell on downtown Los Angeles in the year beginning on July 1, 2006, the lowest since records began 130 years ago.

A hot summer of short showers is forecast to follow.

Cloud Lightning

Flooding forces Kansas town's evacuation

Even after sunshine returned to southeast Kansas and southwest Missouri, rivers swollen by days of heavy rain inched dangerously upward across the Plains.

©Orlin Wagner (AP)
The Marais Des Cygnes River flows over the U.S. 59 bridge in Ottawa, Kan., Sunday, July 1, 2007. Closed flood gates protect the downtown business district. Flooding worsened across southeast Kansas and southwest Missouri Sunday as high water levels forced more people from their homes and forecasters said it could be days before area rivers begin returning to normal. Among the hardest hit regions was Osawatomie, Kan., in Miami County, where the Kansas National Guard was deployed to help with a mandatory evacuation of the city as workers struggled to reinforce a levee on the Marais des Cygne.

Cloud Lightning

It's not just the UK - weird weather is worldwide!

This year is on track to be the world's second warmest on record, experts warned yesterday.

The heavy flooding here this week and the heatwave in Greece may herald even greater disruptions from global warming, they said.

Their comments came as the European Commission advised leaders to 'adapt or die' in the face of climate change.

©Unk
Firefighters in Greece tackle forest fires caused by extremely hot and dry conditions.

Red Flag

Firefighters Battle Utah Blaze

NEOLA, Utah - A federal firefighting team took over direction of efforts Sunday to halt a fast-moving wildfire that had killed three people and charred about 42 square miles in northeastern Utah.

Snowman

Alarmist global warming claims melt under scientific scrutiny

In his new book, The Assault on Reason, Al Gore pleads, "We must stop tolerating the rejection and distortion of science. We must insist on an end to the cynical use of pseudo-studies known to be false for the purpose of intentionally clouding the public's ability to discern the truth." Gore repeatedly asks that science and reason displace cynical political posturing as the central focus of public discourse.