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Bizarro Earth

7.8 and 7.1 Magnitude Earthquakes Near Vanuatu Spark Tsunami Alert

Image
© AFP/File
Seismograph readings. A huge 7.8-magnitude earthquake near Vanuatu prompted a tsunami warning over large parts of the South Pacific on Thursday, seismologists said.
Wellington, New Zealand - Two powerful earthquakes rocked the South Pacific near the Vanuatu archipelago Thursday morning, the U.S. Geological Survey reported, triggering a regional tsunami alert.

The first quake, with a magnitude of 7.8, struck 183 miles (294 kilometers) northwest of the Vanuatu island of Santo, and 354 miles (596 kilometers) northwest of the capital of Port Vila, at a depth of 21 miles (35 kilometers).

Just 15 minutes later a second quake with a magnitude 7.3 hit at the same depth but 21 miles (35 kilometers) farther north of Santo and Port Vila.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center immediately issued a regional tsunami warning for 11 nations and territories, including Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Fiji and Kiribati. A tsunami watch was in effect as far as Australia and New Zealand.

Bizarro Earth

Vanuatu - Earthquake Magnitude 7.8

Image
© USGS
Date-Time:
Wednesday, October 07, 2009 at 22:03:15 UTC

Thursday, October 08, 2009 at 09:03:15 AM at epicenter

Location:
13.052°S, 166.187°E

Depth:
35 km (21.7 miles) set by location program

Distances:
260 km (160 miles) S of Lata, Santa Cruz Islands, Solomon Isl.

295 km (180 miles) NNW of Luganville, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

785 km (490 miles) ESE of HONIARA, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands

2100 km (1310 miles) NE of BRISBANE, Queensland, Australia

Bizarro Earth

US: Grim forecast warns of mudslides in Los Angeles burn areas

Image
© Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times / September 16, 2009
Soil, rocks and branches like these in the fire-scarred Angeles National Forest could be washed far into foothill communities by winter rains, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
If enough rain falls, some flows could contain enough debris to cover a football field with about 60 feet of mud and rock, and could reach far into communities along the San Gabriel Mountains.

The U.S. Geological Survey on Tuesday issued a grim forecast for foothill communities hit by the Station fire, saying major mudslides are highly likely during the winter rain season.

Scientists identified Pacoima Canyon, Big Tujunga Canyon, the Arroyo Seco, the West Fork of the San Gabriel River and Devils Canyon as being at particular risk. In those areas, the report said there was an 80% likelihood of flows. Under certain conditions, some flows could contain up to 100,000 cubic yards of debris -- enough to cover a football field with mud and rock about 60 feet deep.

Under the worst-case scenario, in which there would be 12 hours of gentle, sustained rain, the report said thick flows of soil, rocks and vegetation could stream downhill into neighborhoods as far south as Foothill Boulevard in such communities as La Cañada Flintridge and La Crescenta.

Cloud Lightning

Indian floods leave 250 dead

Indian floods
© EPA
More than a million people in Andhra Pradesh have sought shelter in 100 relief camps
Floods in southern India have left 250 people dead and displaced millions more.

The floods in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka states, described as the worst in decades, have resulted in losses of homes, farms and infrastructure worth over 220 billion rupees (£2.9 billion), authorities said.

In Karnataka, the worst-hit of the two states, the death toll has risen to 194 and more than 150,000 were staying in hundreds of state-run relief camps, R.V. Jagdish, a government spokesman said. Hundreds of thousands more had sought shelter in the homes of friends and relatives.

Magic Wand

Circular rainbow seen from aircraft window

circular rainbow
© EPA
A circular rainbow spotted from a Thai Airways airliner's window
A rare image of a circular rainbow has been taken from the window of a Thai Airways jet.

The picture shows the ring-shaped spectrum against a backdrop of cumulocirrus clouds.

The aeroplane's shadow can be faintly seen in the centre of the ring, with the colours fading from blue to red around it.

Rainbows are formed when sunlight strikes the curved inside of a raindrop at a specific angle and is reflected back through the water, creating a prism effect.

Butterfly

Panama Butterfly Migrations Linked To El Niño, Climate Change

Sulfur Butterfly
© Ricardo Tames Vargas
Aphrissa statira, Sulfur Butterfly
A high-speed chase across the Panama Canal in a Boston Whaler may sound like the beginning of another James Bond film - but the protagonist of this story brandishes a butterfly net and studies the effects of climate change on insect migrations at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

"Our long-term study shows that El Niño, a global climate pattern, drives Sulfur butterfly migrations," said Robert Srygley, former Smithsonian post doctoral fellow who is now a research ecologist at the US Agricultural Research Service, the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Climate change has been linked to changes in the migration of butterflies in North America and Europe but this is one of the first long-term studies of environmental factors driving long-distance migration of tropical butterflies.

For 16 years, Srygley and colleagues tracked the progress of lemony yellow Sulfur butterflies, Aphrissa statira, a species found from Mexico to Brazil, as they migrate across central Panama from Atlantic coastal rainforests to the drier forests of the Pacific coast.

Fish

Endangered Alaska beluga whale group declining

beluga whale
© AP Photo/NOAA
In this Feb. 27, 2006 file photo released by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration shows NOAA fisheries biologists, left to right, Matt Eagleton, Dan Vos, Greg O'Corry-Crowe and Rod Hobbs, placing a satellite transmitter onto a female beluga whale in Cook Inlet near Anchorage, Alaska. A survey by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that the number of beluga whales in Cook Inlet is again declining.
Anchorage Alaska - A government study found that a group of endangered beluga whales in Alaska is declining, raising concern that bolstered protection for the animals is not coming quickly enough.

The downward trend comes after two years where numbers for the Cook Inlet belugas appeared to have stabilized. But now numbers have slipped again to 321 animals, down from an estimated 375 animals in 2007 and 2008, according to figures released Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The Cook Inlet whales, which swim mainly off Anchorage, are considered a genetically distinct population and don't mix with the other four beluga groups in Alaska.

The lower number in 2009 underscores the need for NOAA to act more aggressively to reverse the decline and save the whales from extinction, said Brendan Cummings, oceans program director with the Center for Biological Diversity, a group that has used legal pressure to try and get more protections for Cook Inlet belugas.

Better Earth

Albatross Camera Reveals Fascinating Feeding Interaction With Killer Whale

Albatross with killer whale
© Image courtesy of British Antarctic Survey
Albatross with killer whale.
Scientists from British Antarctic Survey, National Institute of Polar Research, Tokyo, and Hokkaido University, Japan, have recorded the first observations of how albatrosses feed alongside marine mammals at sea.

A miniature digital camera was attached to the backs of four black-browed albatrosses (Thalassarche melanophrys) breeding at colonies on Bird Island, South Georgia in the Southern Ocean. Results are published online this week in the open-access journal PLoS ONE from the Public Library of Science.

The amazing pictures reveal albatrosses foraging in groups while at sea collecting food for their chicks. It also provides the first observation of an albatross feeding with a killer whale - a strategy they may adopt for efficiency.

Igloo

Polar bear cub hitches a ride

Image
© Angela Plumb
A common occurrence?
Arctic waters are at best chilly and at worst close to freezing. Which may explain why a polar bear cub has recently been seen riding on the back of its mother as the bears swim across parts of the Arctic Ocean.

The cub then briefly rode her back as she clambered out of the icy water, a unique event photographed by a tourist. Experts have rarely seen the behaviour, and they say the latest find suggests it may be a more common practice than previously thought.

Dr Jon Aars from the Norwegian Polar Institute in Tromso describes what happened in the journal Polar Biology. On the 21 July 2006, Mrs Angela Plumb, a tourist from the UK, was aboard a ship in the mouth of a fjord in the Svalbard archipelago.

Holidaying in the wildlife hotspot of Duvefjorden, Nordaustlandet, Mrs Plumb spotted the mother bear with a seven-month-old cub hitching a ride on her back. "The cub was on the back of the polar bear when it was in the water, then it got out of the water and stayed on its mother's back a little, then she shook it off," Mrs Plumb explains.

Bizarro Earth

US: Earthquake Magnitude 4.1 - Colorado

Image
© USGS
Date-Time:
Saturday, October 03, 2009 at 18:45:31 UTC

Saturday, October 03, 2009 at 12:45:31 PM at epicenter

Location:
37.008°N, 104.856°W

Depth:
5 km (3.1 miles) set by location program

Distances:
26 km (16 miles) SW (234°) from Cokedale, CO

32 km (20 miles) WSW (248°) from Starkville, CO

36 km (22 miles) WSW (240°) from Trinidad, CO

141 km (88 miles) S (189°) from Pueblo, CO

302 km (188 miles) S (178°) from Denver, CO