Earth ChangesS

Cloud Lightning

Death toll from China snow storms hits 129: report

The death toll from severe snow storms that have paralysed large parts of China this winter has reached 129, state media reported Sunday.

china snowstorm

Cloud Lightning

One killed and one missing as storm lashes Japan

One man has died and another is missing after Japan was battered by strong winds on Sunday, officials said.

A 72-year-old fisherman died after being thrown out of his boat in high waves in the Sea of Japan off Toyama prefecture, northwest of Tokyo, a local government official said.

"Another man has separately been missing, while six others were injured in wind-related incidents," the official said, adding that more than 200 houses were flooded as high surf engulfed large areas near the coast.


Pygmy sperm whale rescued off Florida Keys

A pygmy sperm whale found stranded off the Florida Keys was in critical condition at a rehabilitation center on Sunday.

The 10 1/2-foot long male was discovered Saturday off Islamorada and transferred to the Marine Mammal Conservancy in Key Largo.

pygmy sperm whale
©Florida Keys News Bureau, Bob Care
In this photo released by the Florida Keys News Bureau, marine mammal rescue volunteers Bob Coakley, left, and Lloyd Brown, right, closely examine a pygmy sperm whale at the Marine Mammal Conservancy Sunday, Feb. 24, 2008, in Key Largo, Fla. The 10-foot-long male, estimated to weigh 1,000 pounds, was discovered stranded off the Florida Keys early Saturday, Feb. 23, and was subsequently transported to the Conservancy for care.

Bizarro Earth

Indonesia hit by Powerful earthquake

An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.5 on the Richter scale hit Indonesia's Sumatra Island Sunday, but no injuries or tsunami warnings were reported initially.

An India-based meteorology agency measured the quake at 6.5, while the U.S. Geological Survey had it at 6.4. The temblor was felt throughout the island's Bengkulu province and in the province of West Sumatra, the state-run Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.

Better Earth

Amazon Corridors Far Too Narrow, Warn Scientists

Protected forest strips buffering rivers and streams of the Amazon rainforest should be significantly wider than the current legal requirement, according to pioneering new research by scientists at the University of East Anglia. This is the first wildlife study on remnant riparian tropical forest corridors.

Brazilian forestry legislation currently requires that all forest strips alongside rivers and streams on private land be maintained as permanent reserves and it sets a minimum legal width of 60m.

But after investigating the effects of corridor width on the number of bird and mammal species, Alexander Lees and Dr Carlos Peres of UEA's School of Environmental Sciences say a minimum critical width of 400m is necessary.

Cow Skull

Busy Beavers Can Help Ease Drought

They may be considered pests, but beaver can help mitigate the effects of drought, and because of that, their removal from wetlands to accommodate industrial, urban and agricultural demands should be avoided, according to a new University of Alberta study.

©Glynnis Hood, University of Alberta
Beavers can help mitigate the effects of drought and should not be pushed away from wetlands for industrial and residential development, a University of Alberta study says.

Better Earth

Surprise On Journey To Center Of The Earth: Light Tectonic Plates Lead The Way

The first direct evidence of how and when tectonic plates move into the deepest reaches of the Earth has been detailed in Nature. Scientists hope their description of how plates collide with one sliding below the other into the rocky mantle could potentially improve their ability to assess earthquake risks.

The UK and Swiss team found that, contrary to common scientific predictions, dense plates tend to be held in the upper mantle, while younger and lighter plates sink more readily into the lower mantle.

©iStockphoto/Rob Broek
Andes Mountains, Peru. When two tectonic plates collide, with one sliding below the other and sinking into mantle, it can lead to the formation of mountain belts, like the Andes.


Small Sea Creatures May Be The 'Canaries In The Coal Mine' Of Climate Change

As oceans warm and become more acidic, ocean creatures are undergoing severe stress and entire food webs are at risk, according to scientists at a press briefing this morning at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston.

Gretchen Hofmann, associate professor of biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has just returned from a research mission to Antarctica where she collected pteropods, tiny marine snails the size of a lentil, that she refers to as the "potato chip" of the oceans because they are eaten widely by so many species.*

pteropod (pelagic snail)
Microscope photo of a pteropod (pelagic snail).


Python Snakes, An Invasive Species In Florida, Could Spread To One Third Of US

Burmese pythons - an invasive species in south Florida - could find comfortable climatic conditions in roughly a third of the United States according to new "climate maps" developed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Although other factors such as type of food available and suitable shelter also play a role, Burmese pythons and other giant constrictor snakes have shown themselves to be highly adaptable to new environments.

The just-released USGS maps can help natural resource agencies manage and possibly control the spread of non-native giant constrictor snakes, such as the Burmese python, now spreading from Everglades National Park in Florida. These "climate match" maps show where climate in the U.S. is similar to places in which Burmese pythons live naturally (from Pakistan to Indonesia).

A look at the map shows why biologists are concerned.

pythons native range
Areas of the continental United States with current climate matching that of the pythons' native range in Asia. By 2100 the yellow "maybe" area is expected to extend north substantially, due to projected climate change.

Bizarro Earth

Antarctic glaciers surge to ocean

UK scientists working in Antarctica have found some of the clearest evidence yet of instabilities in the ice of part of West Antarctica.

If the trend continues, they say, it could lead to a significant rise in global sea level.

The new evidence comes from a group of glaciers covering an area the size of Texas, in a remote and seldom visited part of West Antarctica.