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Fri, 30 Sep 2022
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Earth Changes


Jellyfish Swarm Northward in Warming World

© AP Photo/Junji Kurokawa
A giant jellyfish drifting off Kokonogi in western Japan.
A blood-orange blob the size of a small refrigerator emerged from the dark waters, its venomous tentacles trapped in a fishing net. Within minutes, hundreds more were being hauled up, a pulsating mass crowding out the catch of mackerel and sea bass.

The fishermen leaned into the nets, grunting and grumbling as they tossed the translucent jellyfish back into the bay, giants weighing up to 200 kilograms (450 pounds), marine invaders that are putting the men's livelihoods at risk.

The venom of the Nomura, the world's largest jellyfish, a creature up to 2 meters (6 feet) in diameter, can ruin a whole day's catch by tainting or killing fish stung when ensnared with them in the maze of nets here in northwest Japan's Wakasa Bay.

"Some fishermen have just stopped fishing," said Taiichiro Hamano, 67. "When you pull in the nets and see jellyfish, you get depressed."


Birds Lose Color Vision in Twilight

© iStockphoto
Heron at sunset
Research at the Lund University Vision Group can now show that the color vision of birds stops working considerably earlier in the course of the day than was previously believed, in fact, in the twilight. Birds need between 5 and 20 times as much light as humans to see colors.

It has long been known that birds have highly developed color vision that vastly surpasses that of humans. Birds see both more colors and ultraviolet light. However, it was not known what amount of light is necessary for birds to see colors, which has limited the validity of all research on this color vision to bright sunlight only.

"Using behavioral experiments we can now demonstrate that birds lose their color vision in the twilight and show just how much light is needed for birds to be able to interpret color signals," says Olle Lind, a doctoral candidate at the Department of Cell and Organism Biology.


Following the Adventurous Ant Trail

ant trap in jungle
© John T. Longino, The Evergreen State College
Student researcher Crystal Vincent stands at blacklight sheet, a trap for catching insects at night.
"This work will be physically demanding. You will need to carry bulky sampling supplies into rugged terrain. Some sites may be swelteringly hot, others cold and rainy. You will need to move off trails into dense forested habitats. Long hikes may be required ... There will be mud and mosquitoes."

Although a hard-labor camp could be a reasonable match for that description, in reality, the harsh conditions are what await student field crews studying ants in Central America under the guidance of biologist John Longino of Evergreen State College.

Believe it or not, there is no shortage of fresh-faced undergraduates willing to confront the daunting challenges cataloged above (which were excerpted from a recruitment ad).

But members of Longino's work crews must be more than just willing to work; Longino warns them: "This should sound like fun to you."


Female Wild Horses Stick Together

wild mares
© Elissa Z. Cameron
Wild mares socialize in new Zealand's Kaimanawa Mountains.
Wild mares that form strong social bonds with other mares produce more foals than those that don't, researchers have found, in what may be the first documented link between "friendship" and reproductive success outside of primates.

The study followed bands of feral horses in the Kaimanawa Mountains of New Zealand over the course of three years. Elissa Z. Cameron, now at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and two colleagues computed sociality scores for 56 mares, based on parameters such as the proportion of time each animal spent near other mares and the amount of social grooming she did.

The team found that the scores correlated well with foaling rate: more sociable mares had more foals. They also suffered slightly less harassment by the bands' few males.

Better Earth

Auroras Ahoy!

"Who says one can't photograph the aurora from a moving ship? Digital photography has made things possible of which film shooters can only dream!" says traveling photographer Dennis Mammana. To prove it, he snapped this picture from the deck of the MS Midnatsol off the coast of Tromsø, Norway, on Nov. 12th.

© Dennis Mammana
When the auroras appeared, "I pulled out a 24mm f/1.4L lens, opened it up all the way, kicked up the camera's ISO to 3200 and shot 2 second exposures for the faintest lights, 1 second exposures for the brightest," Mammana explains. "I also made a panorama of four 1 second exposures at ISO 1600."

"Digital noise is, of course, present in all images at such high ISO settings, but thermal noise was minimized by the cold ambient temperatures and could be reduced easily by software."

Bizarro Earth

6.1 Earthquake Shakes Argentina

© RIA Novosti/Olga Melikyan
A 6.1-magnitude earthquake hit north-western Argentina late on Saturday, the U.S. Geological Survey reported on its website.

The epicenter of the quake was located at the depth of 142 kilometers (82 miles), some 190 kilometers north-east of the city of San Salvador de Jujuy near the border with Bolivia and Chile.

There have been no reports of casualties or any damage so far.

Another powerful, 6.5-magnitude, tremor shook the northern Chilean regions of Arica, Tarapaca and Iquique early Friday, causing some blackouts but no casualties.


Beijing's Heaviest Snow in 54 Years Strands Thousands

Snow at Forbidden City
© Xinhua
Visitors walk at Forbidden City on a snowy day in Beijing November 10, 2009.
Beijing's unusually heavy snow, which brought a traffic paralysis to the capital yesterday, again highlighted the controversial use of weather modification.

The snow fell amid lightning and thunder in the capital late Monday to early yesterday, making it the second snowfall in eight days.

"The occurrence was rather unusual for early November," said Sun Jisong, chief forecaster of the Beijing Meteorological Bureau.

An official from the capital weather modification office who refused to be identified told China Daily yesterday that the second snow in Beijing was also artificially induced but refused to reveal further information.

On Oct 31, the first snow in the capital city this winter was partly induced by 186 doses of silver iodide, a compound used in cloud seeding. More than 16 million tons of snow fell on the city, Zhang Qiang, director of the municipal weather modification office, said earlier.

Without advance notice, the weather manipulation led to another big mess yesterday in Beijing, with traffic and flight delays.

Cloud Lightning

Cyclone Phyan raining on Tibet after breaking a record in India

© MODIS Rapid Response Team
NASA's MODIS instrument on the Aqua satellite captured this stunning visual image of Tropical Cyclone Phyan making landfall north of Mumbai on Nov. 11 at 0845 UTC (3:45 ET).
Cyclone Phyan broke a 43 year record when it made landfall north of the city of Mumbai, India during the evening hours on November 11. NASA's Aqua satellite captured Phyan's landfall with one instrument, and a day later, another of Aqua's instruments show the storm's remnants raining Tibet as Phyan continues to dissipate.

Phyan is the first tropical cyclone to make an appearance in November in the Konkan region of India since 1996. The India Meteorological Department confirmed that the last November appearance of a storm in that region was 43 years ago. As Phyan was making landfall, NASA's Aqua satellite passed overhead, and the Moderate Imaging Spectroradiometer captured a stunning visual image of the storm on November 11 at 0845 UTC (3:45 ET).


Reindeer herd drowns in icy Lapland waters

© Patrick Tradgardh/Bank Sweden
More than 400 reindeer have drowned in a river in Jokkmokk in northern Sweden after thin surface ice cracked while the herd were moving to their winter pastures.

Reindeer herders in the region were taking around 3,000 animals across the river, a route that has been safely crossed on previous occasions.

"The ice suddenly gave way and hundreds of reindeer fell into the water," said Bertil Kielatis, chairman of the Sirges Sami village in Jokkmokk.

"Now we are working to recover the animals that have drowned," he added.

Cloud Lightning

Heavy Snow in China Kill 40, Collapse 9,000 Buildings

china gas station roof snow collapse
© Reuters/China Daily
The roof of a PetroChina gas station collapses after heavy snow in Xingtai, Hebei province.
Unusually early snow storms in north-central China have claimed 40 lives, caused thousands of buildings to collapse and destroyed almost 500,000 acres (200,000 hectares) of winter crops, the Civil Affairs Ministry said Friday.

Nineteen of the deaths resulted from traffic accidents related to the storms that began Nov. 9, the ministry said in a statement on its Web site.

The snowfall is the heaviest in the northern and central provinces of Hebei, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Shandong and Henan since record keeping began after the establishment of the Communist state in 1949, the ministry said without giving detailed figures. It estimated economic losses from the storm at 4.5 billion yuan (US$659 million).