Earth ChangesS


'Climate fix' ship sets sail with plan to dump iron

© AWIOcean fertilisation experiments hope to boost krill populations in the southern ocean.

The largest and to date the most comprehensive experiment to soak up greenhouse-gas emissions by artificially fertilising the oceans set sail from South Africa earlier this week.

The ambitious geoengineering expedition has caused a stir among some campaigning groups, but has the scientific backing of the UK, German, and Indian governments, as well as the International Maritime Organisation.

Within weeks, the ship's crew hope to dump 20 tonnes of ferrous sulphate into the Southern Ocean. Plankton need iron to grow, and the aim of the expedition is to trigger a plankton bloom and boost the amount of carbon that is sucked out of the air and locked up at the bottom of the ocean.

The team, led by Victor Smetacek of the Alfred Wegner Institute, Bremerhaven, Germany, will also monitor the population of krill to see if their populations also increase. These small crustaceans feed on plankton and are an important food source for many marine species. So, if the population grows, this could give fisheries a boost.


Weekend Moon will be biggest of the year

© T A Rector/I P Dell'Antonio/NOAO/AURA/NSFThe Moon orbits Earth in an elliptical path that brings it 50,000 km closer to our planet on one side of its orbit than on the other.

The Moon will shine especially bright this weekend, as it will come closer to Earth during its full phase than at any other time in 2009.

The Moon does not orbit Earth in a perfect circle. Instead, it follows an elliptical path that brings it 50,000 kilometres closer to our planet on one side of its orbit (called perigee) than the other (apogee).

On Saturday, 10 January, the Moon will reach perigee, coming within 357,500 kilometres of Earth. The next day, it will enter its full phase, when its disc appears completely illuminated by the Sun.

This will make it about 14% bigger and 30% brighter than typical full Moons (see the difference in the full Moon's size in 2004).


Climate No-Change? US Temperature in 2008 Was Near 20th Century Average

The temperature for the U.S. in 2008 was near the annual average experienced since 1895 and below normal for December, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

The average temperature in the contiguous states was 53 degrees Fahrenheit (11.7 degrees Celsius), 0.2 degrees above the 20th-century average, according to a report today from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina.

U.S. temperatures have increased 0.12 degrees Fahrenheit per decade since 1895 and by 0.41 degrees in the last 50 years, NOAA data show.


Update: Death toll in Costa Rica quake rises to 14 victims

The death toll from a strong earthquake that rocked Costa Rica has risen to 14 with at least 22 people still missing, the Red Cross said Friday.

The magnitude-6.1 quake shook the Central American nation Thursday afternoon, collapsing homes, setting off landslides that blocked major highways and trapping hundreds of people including foreign tourists in damaged mountain towns.

Bizarro Earth

Magnitude 4.5 Earthquake - Greater Los Angeles Area, California


Friday, January 09, 2009 at 03:49:46 UTC

Thursday, January 08, 2009 at 07:49:46 PM at epicenter

Location 34.107°N, 117.304°W

Depth 14.1 km (8.8 miles)

Region Greater Los Angeles Area California

Distances 3 km (2 miles) SSW (202°) from San Bernardino, CA

5 km (3 miles) NNE (19°) from Colton, CA

7 km (4 miles) E (94°) from Rialto, CA

87 km (54 miles) E (86°) from Los Angeles Civic Center, CA

Alarm Clock

Fatal Avalanches Rattle Ski Country in the West

Jackson, Wyoming - Whistler Blackcomb resort in British Columbia has stationed guards at the top of some areas to prevent skiers and snowboarders from entering hazardous terrain. Grouse Mountain resort, in North Vancouver, has suggested that government action may be needed to deter skiers and snowboarders from using off-limit areas. And Jackson Hole in Wyoming has already burned through nearly half of this year's budget for avalanche hazard reduction work, one month into the season.

Resorts throughout the western United States and Canada are struggling with avalanche hazards as weather patterns have created uncommonly widespread conditions of instability, wreaking havoc on mountains crowded with skiers of all levels at the start of ski season. Last week, avalanches at Whistler Blackcomb killed a snowboarder and a skier on terrain outside the resort's boundaries. On Wednesday morning, a controlled slide ran past Jackson Hole's $10 million Bridger Restaurant - already damaged by a recent avalanche - while the mountain was closed to the public.

"It's a war zone," said Lanny Johnson, a wilderness medical advisor and former patroller at Lake Tahoe's Alpine Meadows ski resort. He added that this avalanche cycle had "the best in the field scratching their heads."


Europe's cold snap claims 13 more lives

Europe's cold snap claimed up to 13 more lives as the region battled another day of icy weather and eastern Europe felt the effects of Russian gas cuts.

Poland's interior ministry said on Thursday that six more people had died in the country, taking its death toll from hypothermia to 82 since November, 23 of them in recent days.

Five people, including three homeless, also died in Ukraine's southern Kherson region where temperatures plummeted to minus 19 degrees Celsius, according to the ministry of emergency situations.

While German police said on Thursday the cold snap had claimed another two victims since Monday, both found in the west of the country where temperatures plunged to minus 16 Celsius.


Extreme Alaska cold grounds planes, disables cars

Juneau, Alaska - Ted Johnson planned on using a set of logs to a build a cabin in Alaska's interior. Instead he'll burn some of them to stay warm.

Extreme temperatures - in Johnson's case about 60 below zero - call for extreme measures in a statewide cold snap so frigid that temperatures have grounded planes, disabled cars, frozen water pipes and even canceled several championship cross country ski races.

Alaskans are accustomed to subzero temperatures but the prolonged conditions have folks wondering what's going on with winter less than a month old.

National Weather Service meteorologist Andy Brown said high pressure over much of central Alaska has been keeping other weather patterns from moving through. New conditions get pushed north or south while the affected area faces daily extremes.


Philippines: Hog deaths in Davao Sur still a mystery

The provincial veterinarian office on Thursday said the death of at least 50 pigs here since December was caused by a mixture of viral and bacterial infection.

But Dr. Nestor Barroga, provincial veterinarian, said they could not determine yet what type of virus affected the animals.

Barroga's statement came in the wake of the tests being conducted by experts from the United Nations on pigs in Luzon, where a strain of the Ebola-Reston virus was found last year.

Barroga said they were trying to immediately determine the type of the virus that downed pigs in at least eight villages here and that more samples have been brought to the regional animal center in Davao City for testing.

Bizarro Earth

Magnitude 6.1 Earthquake - Costa Rica


Magnitude 6.1 - COSTA RICA

2009 January 08 19:21:36 UTC

Thursday, January 08, 2009 at 01:21:36 PM at epicenter

Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones

Location 10.221°N, 84.207°W

Depth 14 km (8.7 miles) set by location program


Distances 35 km (20 miles) NNW of SAN JOSE, Costa Rica

75 km (45 miles) ENE of Puntarenas, Costa Rica

115 km (75 miles) SSE of San Carlos, Nicaragua

1770 km (1100 miles) SSW of Miami, Florida