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Mon, 17 Jan 2022
The World for People who Think

Earth Changes


Snow depths in Switzerland up to five times normal

Here's an email from skier Rhys Jagger

The chart below documents snow depths in Switzerland compared to the long-term mean.


Researchers Discover Secret Of Speedy Dolphins

There was something peculiar about dolphins that stumped prolific British zoologist Sir James Gray in 1936.

He had observed the sea mammals swimming at a swift rate of more than 20 miles per hour, but his studies had concluded that the muscles of dolphins simply weren't strong enough to support those kinds of speeds. The conundrum came to be known as "Gray's Paradox."
© Rensselaer/Tim Wei
A single frame from a research video tracking the flow of water around Primo, a retired U.S. Navy bottlenose dolphin, with visualized information illustrating the water flow. The arrows indicate in which direction the water is moving, and the colors indicate the speed. The red and dark blue arrows signify the fastest-moving water.

For decades the puzzle prompted much attention, speculation, and conjecture in the scientific community. But now, armed with cutting-edge flow measurement technology, researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have tackled the problem and conclusively solved Gray's Paradox.

"Sir Gray was certainly on to something, and it took nearly 75 years for technology to bring us to the point where we could get at the heart of his paradox," said Timothy Wei, professor and acting dean of Rensselaer's School of Engineering, who led the project. "But now, for the first time, I think we can safely say the puzzle is solved. The short answer is that dolphins are simply much stronger than Gray or many other people ever imagined."

Bizarro Earth

Missing Radioactivity In Ice Cores Bodes Ill For Part Of Asia

Naimona'nyi's frozen ice cap
© Thomas Nash 2007
Naimona'nyi's frozen ice cap lacks critical radioactive signal.
When Ohio State glaciologists failed to find the expected radioactive signals in the latest core they drilled from a Himalayan ice field, they knew it meant trouble for their research. But those missing markers of radiation, remnants from atomic bomb tests a half-century ago, foretell much greater threat to the half-billion or more people living downstream of that vast mountain range. It may mean that future water supplies could fall far short of what's needed to keep that population alive.

In a paper just published in Geophysical Research Letters, researchers from the Byrd Polar Research Center explain that levels of tritium, beta radioactivity emitters like strontium and cesium, and an isotope of chlorine are absent in all three cores taken from the Naimona'nyi glacier 19,849 feet (6,050 meters) high on the southern margin of the Tibetan Plateau.

"We've drilled 13 cores over the years from these high-mountain regions and found these signals in all but one - this one," explained Lonnie Thompson, University Distinguished Professor of Earth Sciences at Ohio State.

The absence of radioactive signals in the top portion of these cores is a critical problem for determining the age of the ice in the cores. The signals, remnants of the 1962-63 Soviet Arctic nuclear blasts and the 1952-58 nuclear tests in the South Pacific, provide well-dated benchmarks to calibrate the core time scales.

Comment: See this article for an explanation on the thinning of Himalayan glaciers and a better picture of global warming (or lack of it).


Changing Organic Matter In Soil: Atmosphere Could Change As A Result

New research shows that we should be looking to the ground, not the sky, to see where climate change could have its most perilous impact on life on Earth.

Scientists at the University of Toronto Scarborough have published research findings in the journal Nature Geoscience that show global warming actually changes the molecular structure of organic matter in soil.

"Soil contains more than twice the amount of carbon than does the atmosphere, yet, until now, scientists haven't examined this significant carbon pool closely," says Myrna J. Simpson, principal investigator and Associate Professor of Environmental Chemistry at UTSC. "Through our research, we've sought to determine what soils are made up of at the molecular level and whether this composition will change in a warmer world."

Cow Skull

What is killing the bees?

For several years I have been curious and concerned about reports from many parts of the world that bee colonies were vanishing or dying. Because of their ability to pollinate fruit and vegetables bees are of enormous importance to mankind. Finally a breakthrough in understanding this problem has appeared on the scene. Whether this solves the whole bee problem or is simply one part of a more complex issue remains to be seen.

An article in Natural News by David Gutierrez on September 30, 2008 has linked the bee die-off in the Baden-Wurttemburg state of Germany to direct contact with the insecticide clothianidin found on corn seeds (German Research Center for Cultivated Plants). This pesticide had been applied to rapeseed and sweet cornseeds in the Rhine River Valley. Piles of dead bees were discovered at the entrance of hives in early May 2008. Clothianidin was found in the tissues of 99% of the dead bees. This is the time when corn seeding takes place according to Walter Haefeker, president of the European Professional Beekeeping Association. The Julius Huehn Institute (federal agricultural research agency) stated "it can be unequivocally be concluded that a poisoning of the bees is due to a rub-off of the pesticide ingredient clothianidin from corn seeds." This chemical is estimated to have killed two-thirds of the bees in this state.

Bizarro Earth

Magnitude 7.3 Earthquake Sea of Okhotsk, Russia

Earthquake Details
Magnitude 7.3

* Monday, November 24, 2008 at 09:02:58 UTC
* Monday, November 24, 2008 at 08:02:58 PM at epicenter
* Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones

Location 54.198°N, 154.316°E
Depth 491.7 km (305.5 miles)
Magnitude 7.3 SEA OF OKHOTSK

Distances 315 km (195 miles) WNW of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, Russia

410 km (255 miles) NNW of Severo-Kuril'sk, Kuril Islands, Russia

2355 km (1460 miles) NNE of TOKYO, Japan

6540 km (4060 miles) NE of MOSCOW, Russia


Solar-powered sea slug harnesses stolen plant genes

It's the ultimate form of solar power: eat a plant, become photosynthetic. Now researchers have found how one animal does just that.

Elysia chlorotica is a lurid green sea slug, with a gelatinous leaf-shaped body, that lives along the Atlantic seaboard of the US. What sets it apart from most other sea slugs is its ability to run on solar power.
Elysia chlorotica, the solar-powered sea slug
Elysia chlorotica, the solar-powered sea slug, is about 3 cm long.

Mary Rumpho of the University of Maine, is an expert on E. chlorotica and has now discovered how the sea slug gets this ability: it photosynthesises with genes "stolen" from the algae it eats.


Conservationists plan 'doomsday vault' for frog sperm

The freezer could be the future for frogs and other amphibians. Efforts announced today are currently underway around the world to boost amphibian numbers with cryopreservation and assisted reproduction.

Breeding frogs and their cousins to increase numbers could help vulnerable species survive looming extinctions. But getting amphibians to mate is not always straightforward, so researchers are developing other techniques to give them a helping hand.
© David Tipling/Image Bank/Getty
Freezing frog sperm might help bolster numbers.

One proposal resembles the doomsday seed vault which opened this year in Norway. Only instead of plant seed, the amphibian vault would store sperm, guaranteeing amphibian genetic diversity for times of dwindling populations.

Cloud Lightning

Floods kill dozens in Brazil

At least 33 people have been killed by floods in southern Brazil after days of torrential rain.

The storms, which also triggered mudslides, have forced 20,000 people from their homes in Catarina state.

Teams have been working around the clock using helicopters and motorboats to rescue those left stranded by the floods.

More than ten people died in Blumenau, where town officials declared a state of emergency late on Sunday. Seven more died in the town of Jaragua do Sul.

At least one town has been forced to ration water due to purification problems and 250,000 have been left without power.


A Climate Gift for Future Generations: Ecuador Seeks to Commercialize Rainforest

Ecuador is the first country in the world to announce plans to leave the oil reserves beneath its rainforests in the ground. The country wants foreign businesses, including German companies, to compensate it for making this sacrifice.

There are as many different types of wood growing on each hectare in the Yasuni rainforest in the northwestern Amazon as there are species in all of North America. Even rare species of animals, like the mountain tapir and the brown-headed spider monkey, exist in the region. This paradise is also home to a number of native tribes now living in complete isolation from the outside world.

There is more biological diversity in the Yasuni rainforest than almost anywhere else in the world. The virgin forest is protected by its status as a national park and UNESCO biosphere reserve, but for how much longer? Several oil companies are pressuring the government in the Ecuadoran capital of Quito to finally issue drilling licenses for the biosphere.