Earth ChangesS


Europe: Chaos in the snow as winter bites early

snow-covered car
A snow-covered car stands at the side of the road in Deggendorf, Germany
of heavy snow have brought chaos, death and an early start to the skiing season to parts of Europe.

Skiers are being told they can expect a sensational season after three feet of snow led many Alpine resorts to open two weeks early.

But the unseasonably early cold snap also cut power to thousands of homes and caused at least three deaths.

Pistes are already open in Austria, and there has also been heavy snow in France, Italy and Switzerland. Similar early falls last year saw the best conditions in Europe for more than 20 years.


Sperm Whales Act as Carbon Sink

Sperm Whales
© AP Photo/Guam Variety NewsA sperm whale calf swims next to its mother and a pod of sperm whales about four miles off the coast of the Agat Marina in Guam. New estimates suggest sperm whales' feeding habits help take in carbon.
Sperm whales in the Southern Ocean deserve credit for their fine work pumping iron for climate change, researchers say.

These whales have been falsely accused of breathing out enough carbon dioxide to contribute to the greenhouse gas build-up causing climate change, says Trish J. Lavery of Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia.

Of course the whales breathe, but earlier calculations overlooked the potential for whales to offset their emissions by introducing extra iron into the upper zone of water, Lavery said October 13 at the Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals in Quebec City, Canada. The extra iron that whales bring up from their deep feeding encourages plankton growth. That growth traps carbon, much as human-run iron-enrichment experiments in the ocean might, Lavery and her colleagues contend.

According to the team's calculations, sperm whales in the Southern Ocean should rank as carbon neutral at least. The animals may even be capturing a net 5 million metric tons of carbon from the atmosphere per year, Lavery says.


Flashback Mexican Corn Contamination From GM Crop Confirmed

© iStockphotoThe findings highlight the failure of efforts to shield Mexico from unauthorized GM corn, says on researcher
Genes from genetically-engineered corn have been found in traditional crop strains in Mexico, according to a new study likely to reignite a bitter controversy over biotech maize.

The study by scientists from Mexico, the United States and the Netherlands, appears in the latest issue of Molecular Ecology, and backs a 2001 study that sparked a row over the safety of genetically modified (GM) crops.

Green activists say GM crops are a potential hazard, arguing that their genes could spread to related plants through cross-pollination.

Cloud Lightning

Tropical Storm Neki in Central Pacific threatens Johnston Island

The Central Pacific Hurricane Center is monitoring Tropical Storm Neki, which has formed far south of the Hawaiian islands and is expected to move safely away from the state.

At 11 a.m. today, Neki was 740 miles south of Honolulu, moving northwest near 15 mph, forecasters said, noting that this general motion is expected to continue over the next 36 hours.

Maximum sustained winds are near 40 mph with higher gusts and Neki is forecast to become a hurricane tomorrow.

Cloud Lightning

Hurricane Rick weakens to Category 3 storm off Mexico's Pacific coast, hurricane watch issued

Miami - Hurricane Rick has decreased to a Category 3 storm as it swirls off Mexico's Pacific coast but is still a dangerous storm that forecasters say could veer into resorts at the tip of the Baja California peninsula.

A hurricane watch has been issued for southern Baja California.


Early snow records set to be broken

© europics.atAustria’s provincial capitals are expected to see their earliest snowfalls in history today (Mon) as Arctic air sweeps the country.
Austria's provincial capitals are expected to see their earliest snowfalls in history today (Mon) as Arctic air sweeps the country.

Josef Haselhofer from Vienna's Central Agency for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG) said today (Mon) Arctic air would probably result in the first snow cover in provincial capitals before 20 October in history and said Innsbruck, Salzburg and St. Pölten were likely to see snow.

He said as much as 30 to 40 centimetres of snow was likely down to 1,200 metres and snow could fall as low as 400 metres later this week, adding it had already begun to fall in Vorarlberg. He also predicted low temperatures would be minus five degrees at higher elevations and zero degrees in the lowlands by Thursday morning.

Haselhofer warned of possible impassable snow drifts in some places and the danger of avalanches in low-lying areas.

Bizarro Earth

Water demand puts Canadian rivers at risk

Mackenzie River
© Rick Bowmer/Associated PressThe Mackenzie River in the Northwest Territories is under threat, according to a WWF-Canada study released Thursday.
Increasing demands on Canada's fresh water is putting rivers at risk, according to a new report.

Growing more food, generating more electricity, expanding cities and industry are all taking a toll on Canada's rivers, according to the World Wildlife Fund Canada.

The report released Thursday, Canada's Rivers at Risk: Environmental Flows and Canada's Freshwater Future, examines the health of 10 major rivers from the perspective of water flow.

"As temperatures rise, and industrial water withdrawals and interest in hydropower increase, we must start planning now to protect river flows to ensure water security for the communities and economies that depend on them," said Tony Maas, director of fresh water with WWF-Canada.

Cloud Lightning

El Nino's predicted winter footprints: Warm for US West and North; opposite for Southeast

The Midwest and Northern United States are likely to get a warmer winter, while the Southeast can expect just the opposite: cooler and wetter conditions.

In Thursday's winter outlook, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says an El Nino weather event - warming in parts of the Pacific that affects weather worldwide - will be a major player in America's winter temperatures.

Forecasters predict warmer than usual temperatures would reach a swath from Washington to Michigan, dipping south to central New Mexico. Alaska also has a higher chance of warmer temperatures.

They also say cooler temperatures are expected from southern Texas to the Mid-Atlantic and in Hawaii.

Other places, such as the Northeast and California, can go any which way on temperatures.

Cloud Lightning

Hurricane Rick builds to Category 5 off Mexico

© AP Photo/NOAAThis image provided by NOAA shows Hurricane Rick taken at 11 p.m. EDT Saturday Oct. 17, 2009.
Hurricane Rick grew Saturday into the strongest storm in the eastern North Pacific Ocean in more than a decade.

The 'extremely dangerous' Category 5 hurricane had sustained winds of 180 mph (285 kph), the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami reported, though it said Rick was likely to lose some of that punch before hitting land.

The hurricane was projected to stay well off the Mexican coast for several days before bending east over cooler waters and hitting the Baja California Peninsula as a Category 1 or Category 2 hurricane sometime Wednesday.

Authorities in the resort city of Acapulco closed the port to small craft after Rick kicked up heavy waves and gusts of wind.

Acapulco's Civil Protection Department had warned that rains from the outer bands of the storm could cause landslides and flooding in the resort city, but no such effects were reported.

Cloud Lightning

Pacific storm Rick strengthens to hurricane

Washington - Pacific storm Rick reached hurricane strength on Friday and was forecast to become a powerful category four storm by early next week, the US national weather service said.

The hurricane was churning off Mexico's southern coast Friday, with maximum sustained winds nearing 75 miles (120 kilometers) per hour.

At 8:00am Pacific time (1500 GMT) Rick's center was about 290 miles (470 kilometers) south of Acapulco, Mexico.