Earth ChangesS


One Whale Survives Mass Australian Beaching

© UnknownA dead sperm whale on the north coast of Tasmania. Three more sperm whales from a group of almost 50 that beached en masse in Australia's south have died, with just two survivors sandwiched among the dead, rescuers have said.
Just one sperm whale from a group of almost 50 that beached en masse in Australia's south has survived, and remains sandwiched among the dead, officials said Saturday.

The pod of 48 whales became trapped this week on a sandbar 150 metres (500 feet) offshore from Perkins Island on the northwest coast of the island state of Tasmania. By the time they were discovered on Thursday almost all had perished.

High winds and ocean swell prevented rescuers from floating the two whales who survived through Friday night out to sea, and by late Saturday rescuer Warwick Brennan said just one was still alive.

"We didn't get a chance to get the whales out so we've just been trying to maintain them, keep them cool, but unfortunately one of them has died during the day so we've only got one alive now," Brennan told AFP.

Cloud Lightning

Fatal Storms Hit Spain and France

Three children have been killed in northern Spain when the roof of a sports hall collapsed amid high winds, local officials say.

Two adults were also reported to have died in other storm-related incidents.

Torrential rains and winds of up to 172km/h (107mph) have been battering northern Spain and south-west France.

At least one million homes in France are without electricity, roads and railways have been blocked and airports ordered closed, authorities there said.

Residents in affected areas in both countries have been warned to stay indoors.

Bizarro Earth

Magnitude 5.1 earthquake shakes Guatemala

A magnitude-5.1 earthquake has shaken northern Guatemala near the Mexican border, but there are no reports of injuries or major damage. The U.S. Geological Service says the quake occurred at 8:03 a.m. local time and was centered two miles (three kilometers) west-southwest of Huehuetenango city.

Bizarro Earth

Liberia in grip of worst caterpillar plague in 30 years: UN

In what is being described by the UN food agency as Liberia's worst plague in 30 years, caterpillars are destroying crops in the country and posing a major threat to the precarious food security situation there.

The caterpillars, two to three centimetres in length and described by villagers as "black, creeping and hairy," are advancing in the tens of millions, devouring all plants and food crops in their path and in some cases overrunning homes and buildings.

The situation in Liberia is a national emergency and is likely to escalate into a regional crisis involving neighbouring Guinea, Sierra Leone and Coted d'voire, Representative of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Liberia, Winfred Hammond, has reported.

Bizarro Earth

Is the American Southwest Running Dry?

Filmmaker Jim Thebaut talks about the precarious future of the Southwest and the call for a national water plan.

Bizarro Earth

Global Cooling Under-Reported, Says SPPI

The Earth has shown an under-reported cooling trend for eight straight years, raising serious questions about the accuracy of the UN's climate projections, since not one of the computer models on which it relies had predicted so long and steep a cooling, says a new review paper -- Temperature Change and CO2 Change - A Scientific Briefing --from the Science and Public Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C. think tank.

The paper posits that "The chief reason for scepticism at the official position on "global warming" is the overwhelming weight of evidence that the UN's climate panel, the IPCC, prodigiously exaggerates both the supposed causes and the imagined consequences of anthropogenic "global warming"; that too many of the exaggerations can be demonstrated to have been deliberate; and that the IPCC and other official sources have continued to rely even upon those exaggerations that have been definitively demonstrated in the literature to have been deliberate.


How Cobras Spit With Perfect Accuracy

© Frank Luerweg/University of BonnSpitting cobra takes aim at a human face
Spitting cobras don't really spit venom. But they are incredibly accurate, hitting a target - the victim's eyes - from 2 feet (60 cm) away with impressive accuracy, studies have shown.

New research confirms how they do it.

Scientists have long known that spitting cobras don't actually spit. Rather, muscle contractions squeeze the cobra's venom gland, forcing venom to stream out of the snake's fangs, explains Bruce Young, a researcher at the University of Massachusetts. The muscles can produce enough pressure to spray venom up to six feet (nearly 2 meters).

Bizarro Earth

Tree deaths double across western US

Old, unmanaged trees in the western US
© Jerry FranklinOld, unmanaged trees in the western US are dying twice as fast as they were 50 years ago

The majestic old trees of the western US are disappearing twice as fast as they were three decades ago, and climate change is most likely to blame, say scientists.

Philip van Mantgem of the US Geological Survey and colleagues collected data from 76 plots on the west coast - from California up to British Columbia, Canada - and in Idaho, Arizona and Colorado. These are plots without any direct human management, so any tree loss is not due to logging.

The team focused on old forests, where many of the trees were at least 200 years old, and sometimes as much as 1000 years old. In 87% of the plots, trees are disappearing faster than new trees are springing up. Death rates varied, but the trend held whether the trees were old or relatively young, big or small, high up in the mountains or down in valleys.

The Pacific Northwest, including the pine trees of British Columbia, were the worst affected - death rates there are doubling every 17 years.


Scientific Submarine Makes Deep-sea Discoveries

bright red, undescribed species of shell-less coral
© Advanced Imaging and Visualization Laboratory WHOIA bright red, undescribed species of shell-less coral, called an anthomastid or gorgons-head coral, at 1700 metres deep at the Cascade Plateau, off south-east Tasmania.

A four-week expedition to explore the deep ocean south-west of Tasmania has revealed new species of animals and more evidence of impacts of increasing carbon dioxide on deep-sea corals.

The collaborative voyage of US and Australian researchers was led by chief scientists Dr Jess Adkins from the California Institute of Technology and Dr Ron Thresher from CSIRO's Climate Adaptation and Wealth from Oceans Flagships.

"We set out to search for life deeper than any previous voyage in Australian waters," Dr Thresher says. "We also gathered data to assess the threat posed by ocean acidification and climate change on Australia's unique deep-water coral reefs."

The survey through the Tasman Fracture Commonwealth Marine Reserve, south-west of Tasmania, explored the near vertical slice in the earth's crust, known as the Tasman Fracture Zone, which drops from approximately 2000 metres to over 4000 metres.


Climbing Fish from Remote Venezuela Shakes the Catfish Family Tree

New catfish species Lithogenes wahari
© S. Schaefer/AMNHNew catfish species Lithogenes wahari found in the Río Cuao.

A new species of fish from tropical South America is confirming suspected roots to the loricariid catfish family tree. Lithogenes wahari shares traits with two different families of fish: the bony armor that protects its head and tail, and a grasping pelvic fin that allows it to climb vertical surfaces.

The discovery of both of these characteristics in Lithogenes suggests to ichthyologists Scott Schaefer of the American Museum of Natural History and Francisco Provenzano of the Universidad Central de Venezuela that the common ancestor of the Loricariidae and Astroblepidae probably could grasp and climb rocks with its tail and mouth.

The unusual catfish caught the team's attention twenty years ago in Caracas. An anthropologist working in the remote state of Amazonas collected samples of local foods and brought them to the Instituto de Zoologíca for identification.