Earth ChangesS

Bizarro Earth

Floods, landslides kill 50 in Vietnam, Thailand

Flash floods and landslides have killed 50 people in Vietnam and Thailand, swept away thousands of homes and inundated farmland, official reports said on Sunday. In Vietnam, the death toll from typhoon Hagupit, which struck the Philippines and China earlier in the week, has jumped to 32 with another five people missing.

Thousands of homes were either washed away or destroyed by heavy rains and landslides in northern Vietnam, the government's storm and flood prevention committee said.

Hagupit, which means "lashing" in Filipino, killed at least eight people in the Philippines and three in China where it triggered a "once-in-a-century storm tide."


2 strong quakes rock Philippine capital

Manila, Philippines - Two strong earthquakes rocked the Philippine capital and nearby provinces nearly simultaneously Saturday, but no damage or tsunami alerts were reported, a senior seismologist said.

Renato Solidum, director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, said a "moderately strong" tremor struck late morning Saturday followed by a "stronger one" five minutes later.


UK: Give a bee a home

The threat of extinction for British bees has prompted gardeners across the country to build new hives.

Home Hives

The beekeepers of Coventry are huddled around one of their hives at Ryton Gardens, in Warwickshire, headquarters of the charity Garden Organic. Dressed a little like astronauts, in protective white suits and hoods, they carefully lift one bee-coated frame after another to inspect them.

You might expect a bee-friendly organic garden to be a meadow dotted with dandelions and daisies, but Ryton is a series of well-kept beds with a herb garden, a rose garden and all the other trappings of formal horticulture. "A garden doesn't have to be a mess of wild flowers to seduce bees," says Peter Spencer, of the Warwickshire Beekeepers' Association. "It can be as neat and stylish as you like, but it must be planted with certain flowers." This is an excellent time to plant bee-friendly perennials, rich in easily accessible nectar and pollen, and get them established before winter sets in.


US: University of Minnesota researchers hope to revitalize the honey bee

Smoking beehive
Michael Simone squeezes smoke on the top of a bee colony before removing the honeycomb frame. Simone hypothesizes that the smoke disrupts the bees' chemical cues, confusing them and diverting their attention from the intruder.

Disease, mites and Colony Collapse Disorder all are threats to honey bee colonies, and helped cause 35 percent of U.S. bee colonies to die last winter alone.

Entomology Professor Marla Spivak is trying to change the 20-year decline in honey bee populations.


No Oxygen In Eastern Mediterranean Bottom-water

Research from Utrecht University shows that there is an organic-rich bed of sediment in the floor of the Eastern Mediterranean. This bed formed over a period of about 4000 years under oxygen-free bottom-water conditions.

©Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research
A sediment sample used for this research. The dark-green bed is organic-rich sediment from sapropel S1.

A wet climatic period was responsible for the phenomenon. According to climate scenarios, the climate may become wetter in this area, potentially giving rise again to a period of oxygen-free bottom-water.

Alternating organic-rich and organic-poor beds have been deposited on the floor of the Eastern Mediterranean. These deposits coincide with the alternation of wet and dry climatic periods. Researchers believe that the organic-rich beds, called sapropels, can originate in two ways:
More organisms live in the surface water because, for example, rivers introduce more nutrients. As a result, more organisms sink to the bottom when they die.

The organic material is better preserved. If dead organisms sink to an oxygen-free bottom, the organic material breaks down less well.


'Chemical equator' protects Antarctica's clean air

©Hamilton et al./AGU
An invisible barrier separates the carbon-monoxide-rich air of South-East Asia from the pristine air of the Southern Ocean

Scientists have discovered a "chemical equator" just north of Australia that divides polluted air from South-East Asia from the largely uncontaminated atmosphere of the Southern Ocean that surrounds Antarctica.

The discovery will help researchers create accurate simulations of how pollutants move in the atmosphere and assess their impact on climate.

Bizarro Earth

6.0 Magnitude Earthquake Jolts Southern Tibet

An earthquake measuring 6.0 on Richter Scale hit southwestern Tibet Thursday near the Nepal-Tibet border. The earthquake struck at 9:47 a.m. (0147 GMT), according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties from the quake, which hit Zhongba county in Shigatse (Xigaze) prefecture. The epicenter of the quake lied 250 miles (400 kilometers) northwest of Katmandu, Nepal's capital.

Better Earth

Old Growth Forest Must No Longer Be Ignored In Carbon Balances

An international study involving a team from LSCE (CNRS-CEA-UVSQ) has revealed that ancient forests, which accumulate large quantities of carbon over the centuries, should be taken into account in global carbon balance assessments. However, such old growth forests were not included in the Kyoto protocol.

Ancient forests.
Ancient forests.

In the carbon cycle, forests help to slow down the build-up of atmospheric carbon dioxide by absorbing this gas, thereby mitigating climate change. Specifically, forests use CO2 to synthesise the organic molecules that are stored in trees, and thereafter in organic soil matter and dead leaves, which decompose slowly.

The ability of forests to fix carbon dioxide depends on the balance between the amounts removed from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and those released as a result of plant respiration.


Impact Of Beetle Kill On Rocky Mountain Weather, Air Quality

Mountain pine beetles appear to be doing more than killing large swaths of forests in the Rocky Mountains. Scientists suspect they are also altering local weather patterns and air quality.

©Carlye Calvin, UCAR
Mountain pine beetles have killed large numbers of trees in the Rockies.

A new international field project, led by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), is exploring how trees and other vegetation influence rainfall, temperatures, smog, and other aspects of the atmosphere. Plants take in and emit chemicals that affect the air, and they also absorb varying amounts of incoming heat from the Sun. When portions of a forest die, the local atmosphere can change in subtle ways.

"Forests help control the atmosphere, and there's a big difference between the impacts of a living forest and a dead forest," says NCAR scientist Alex Guenther, a principal investigator on the project. "With a dead forest, we may get different rainfall patterns, for example."


US: Severe Climate Change Costs Forecast For Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Tennessee, North Dakota, And Other U.S. States

The economic impact of climate change will cost a number of U.S. states billions of dollars, and delaying action will raise the price tag, concludes the latest series of reports produced by the University of Maryland's Center for Integrative Environmental Research (CIER).

The new reports project specific long-term direct and ripple economic effects on North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. In most cases, the price tag could run into billions of dollars.

million dollar houses in Corolla NC USA
©iStockphoto/Joelle Gould
A row of million dollar houses in Corolla on the outer banks of North Carolina. The most significant impact of climate change to North Carolina is likely to be felt along the coastline, but damage to agriculture, forestry and manufacturing could also occur with total costs running into billions of dollars.

The studies combine existing data with new analysis and have been conducted by CIER in conjunction with the National Conference of State Legislators. Last July they released similar studies on Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey and Ohio. (link to state-by-state reports below.)

"State and local communities would do well to prepare for a cascade of impacts on many of their most basic systems and services," says Matthias Ruth, principal investigator and director of the Center for Integrative Environmental Research at the University of Maryland. "From sewers to aquifers, highways and health systems, climate change will rewrite communities' infrastructure needs. Quick action will be expensive, but delayed action will cost even more."