Earth ChangesS


Drowning in the snows of Kotzebue Alaska

Kotzebue Alaska Snow 2008-2009
© unknown

It's March now, how March should be-blue and sunny, twenty to thirty below in the morning with daytime highs rising to zero. Winter is slipping into memory, but we still have the drifts around Kotzebue to remind us.

January brought a longer-than-usual stretch of 30 and 40 below weather. We got restless, on the verge of cabin fever. We thought we deserved a break. Then the storms came, blizzards after blizzard--so often that we might as well have painted our windows white. Not that the paint would have stayed on.

Kotzebue is supposed to be stormy, but this year was more like drowning-we'd get a blow, and if we were lucky have a day to come up for air and shovel out, and then get hit with it again.


US: Frightened Fargo Watches as River Nears Top of Dike

Fargo Flood 2009
© Ben Garvin/Pioneer Press/Associated PressA home was completely surrounded by Red River flood waters south of Fargo, North Dakota, Friday.

Fargo, North Dakota - Residents here teetered between hope and fear after the Red River rose to record levels on Friday and threatened to overflow the city's dikes.

But the mayor of Fargo said Saturday he is "optimistic" about a new forecast saying the river may already have crested and could drop in the coming days.

The weather service had said earlier that the Red River could crest as high as 43 feet. But forecasters put out an alert Saturday saying the river is expected to remain below 41 feet and slowly decrease in the coming days.

Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said the city needs to continue to be diligent. But he said he is optimistic weary residents may have seen the worst after a long week of flood prevention.

A winter storm is expected to hit the region in the coming days, and Mr. Walaker acknowledged that the weather could change the flood outlook for the Red River. On Saturday, the National Weather Service said conditions seem to be improving and may not be as dire as originally expected.

Despite the forecast revision, North Dakota officials still intensified their efforts to fend off the floodwaters, deploying high-tech Predator drone aircraft, calling up more National Guard troops and asking residents to be on the lookout for any breaches in levees.

Bizarro Earth

US: Vermont Bat Cave Devastated by Disease

Bat cave
© Unknown
Dorset - Spring has arrived on Mount Aeolus in Southern Vermont.

Bats are filtering out of a cave there by the minute.

But step inside and it's another story.

More than 20,000 dead bats are piled upon the cave's floor.

"It's pretty eerie and disturbing to say the least," said Ryan Smith of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Dept. "You pretty much can't walk without stepping on them."

Bizarro Earth

US: Scientists Study Earthquake Fault That Runs Under Washington City

Geologists are digging trenches along an earthquake fault line that runs beneath Washington City to determine how often the so-called Washington fault has slipped.

Their goal: gauge the potential for future activity.

If a quake the magnitude of 6.5 or larger is possible, such an event could devastate the city and surrounding communities, including St. George, according to William Lund, a geologist with the Utah Geological Survey.

"There would be a lot of damage from shaking," said Lund. "Unreinforced buildings would collapse, interiors would be disrupted and things fall off shelves."

He said there is also danger of broken natural-gas lines causing fires and the liquefaction, or jelly-like shaking of the subsoil, that can trigger landslides.

Better Earth

Airborne Dust Reduction Plays Larger Than Expected Role In Determining Atlantic Temperature

© courtesy Amato EvanA dust storm off the coast of Morocco was imaged by NASA's MODIS Aqua meteorological satellite on March 12, 2009. A new study by UW-Madison researcher Amato Evan shows that variability of African dust storms and tropical volcanic eruptions can account for 70 percent of the warming North Atlantic Ocean temperatures observed during the past three decades. Since warmer water is a key ingredient in hurricane formation and intensity, dust and other airborne particles will play a critical role in developing a better understanding of these storms in a changing climate.
The recent warming trend in the Atlantic Ocean is largely due to reductions in airborne dust and volcanic emissions during the past 30 years, according to a new study.

Since 1980, the tropical North Atlantic has been warming by an average of a quarter-degree Celsius (a half-degree Fahrenheit) per decade. Though this number sounds small, it can translate to big impacts on hurricanes, which thrive on warmer water, says Amato Evan, a researcher with the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies and lead author of the new study. For example, the ocean temperature difference between 1994, a quiet hurricane year, and 2005's record-breaking year of storms, was just one degree Fahrenheit.

More than two-thirds of this upward trend in recent decades can be attributed to changes in African dust storm and tropical volcano activity during that time, report Evan and his colleagues at UW-Madison and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in a new paper. Their findings will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Science and publish online March 26.

Bizarro Earth

Dam bursts near Indonesian capital, killing 58

© AP Photo/Tatan SyuflanaResidents stand near a burst dam in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, March 27, 2009.
Survivors say when the dam gave way in the middle of the night, water surged through their neighborhood outside Jakarta like a tsunami, demolishing hundreds of houses, tossing cars and uprooting trees. At least 58 people were killed and dozens remained missing Friday.

Days of torrential downpours had filled a large lake bordering the low-lying residential area southwest of the Indonesian capital to flooding point. A huge section of the Dutch colonial-era dike tore away at around 2:00 a.m.

More than 70 million cubic feet (2 million cubic meters) of water roared through the gaping hole, nearly emptying the lake's basin and inundating homes up to the rooftops. Bodies were dragged several miles (kilometers) in the muddy current.

Cloud Lightning

US: Thousands flee Fargo ahead of menacing floodwaters

sandbag dike
© unknownSandbag dike protects houses in Fargo
Fargo, North Dakota - Thousands of shivering, tired residents got out while they could and others prayed that miles of sandbagged levees would hold Friday as the surging Red River threatened to unleash the biggest flood North Dakota's largest city has ever seen.

The agonizing decision to stay or go came as the final hours ticked down before an expected crest Saturday evening, when the ice-laden river could climb as high as 43 feet, nearly 3 feet higher than the record set 112 years ago.

"It's to the point now where I think we've done everything we can," said resident Dave Davis, whose neighborhood was filled with backhoes and tractors building an earthen levee. "The only thing now is divine intervention."

Bizarro Earth

Earthquake Magnitude 4.5 Off Coast of Jalisco, Mexico

© US Geological Survey
Date-Time Friday, March 27, 2009 at 17:53:03 UTC

Friday, March 27, 2009 at 10:53:03 AM at epicenter

Location 18.654°N, 107.379°W

Depth 10 km (6.2 miles) set by location program

Distances 310 km (195 miles) SW of Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico

325 km (200 miles) W of Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico

340 km (210 miles) WSW of Autlan, Jalisco, Mexico

870 km (540 miles) W of MEXICO CITY, D.F., Mexico


US Aid Nets Kill Wildlife off Africa

© Daniel Floren / AP This sea turtle got caught in a fishing net off Diani, Kenya. The turtle was freed and released, but others have died. Daniel Floren, who runs a local diving school, says the U.S.-funded nets are destroying the very ecosystems that fishermen rely on.
Diani, Kenya - Plastic fishing nets - some bought for poor fishermen with American aid money - are tangling up whales and turtles off one of Africa's most popular beaches.

One recent victim was a huge dappled whaleshark that bled to death after its tail was cut off by fishermen unwilling to slash their nets to save it. In another case, divers risked their lives to free a pregnant, thrashing humpback whale entangled in a net last summer.

Both incidents occurred off Diani beach, which is popular with American and European tourists.

The fishermen have traditionally used hooks and hand lines to haul in their catch, which they then sold to hotels full of tourists. But the use of plastic nets has become increasingly common as growing populations have competed to catch shrinking supplies of fish, marine biologist David Obura said.

In 2003, USAID began a four-year project worth $575,000 to improve the lives of coastal communities. It worked on a project with a Kenyan government agency that included providing freezers for the fishermen to store their catch, along with boats and nets.

But the plastic nets are destroying the very ecosystems that the fishermen depend on and the tourists come to see, said Daniel Floren, who runs a local diving school.

Officials, experts and even the fishermen themselves acknowledge the nets are killing wildlife and coral.

"Without the reefs, there will be no diving. If we have nothing to show, I'll have to shut up shop," Floren said.


England: South American armoured suckermouth catfish found in Leicestershire

An armoured suckermouth catfish, a reptilian-like fish normally found in South America, has been found in a Leicestershire waterway.

Armored fish
© SWNS.COMThe armoured suckermouth catfish which was found next to the canal.
The prehistoric creature has scaly skin similar to a crocodile and an impressive set of teeth.

It was found, already dead, by schoolboy fisherman Shawn Brown in the Grand Union Canal at Wigston.

The 14-year-old took a picture of his 10 ins-long discovery and showed it to a number of aquarists who managed to identify it.

The armoured suckermouth catfish normally lives in Panama, Costa Rica and South America.