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Phoenix

US: Dozens of homes destroyed in Texas, Oklahoma fires

Midwest City - Fire crews in Oklahoma and Texas raced Thursday to control wind-whipped wildfires that destroyed dozens of homes, forced evacuations and shut down parts of a major highway.

Howling wind that had gusted to more than 50 mph grounded firefighting efforts by air in Oklahoma and drove blazes that scorched neighborhoods like "a war zone," Midwest City police Chief Brandon Clabes said.

Igloo

US Navy Physicist warns of possibly 'several decades of crushing cold temperatures and global famine'

last ice age
© HowStuffWorks
Ice sheet coverage during the last ice age
Excerpts:

"The sun has gone very quiet as it transitions to Solar Cycle 24.

"Since the current transition now exceeds 568 spotless days, it is becoming clear that sun has undergone a state change. It is now evident that the Grand Maxima state that has persisted during most of the 20th century has come to an abrupt end.

"(The sun) might (1) revert to the old solar cycles or (2) the sun might go even quieter into a "Dalton Minimum" or a Grand Minima such as the "Maunder Minimum". It is still a little early to predict which way it will swing. Each of these two possibilities holds a great threat to our nation.

"We are now at a crossroad. Two paths lie before us. Both are marked with a signpost that reads "Danger"! Down one path lies monstrous solar storms. Down the other path lies several decades of crushing cold temperatures and global famine."

"Climate change is primarily driven by nature. It has been true in the days of my father and his father and all those that came before us. Because of science, not junk science, we have slowly uncovered some of the fundamental mysteries of nature. Our Milky Way galaxy is awash with cosmic rays. These are high speed charged particles that originate from exploding stars.

"Because they are charged, their travel is strongly influenced by magnetic fields. Our sun produces a magnetic field wrapped in the solar winds that extends to the edges of our solar system. This field deflects many of the cosmic rays away from Earth. But when the sun goes quiet (minimal sunspots), this field collapses inward allowing high energy cosmic rays to penetrate deeper into our solar system.

Butterfly

UK Butterfly Numbers Plunge To New Low

Image
© Jim Asher
Orange Tip Butterfly
Butterfly numbers have fallen to a new low, according to data from the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme.

British butterflies have been declining steadily for years. The new statistics show that recent wet summers have accelerated these declines. Heavy rain makes it hard for butterflies to survive - they can't fly in the rain and that means they can't reach the nectar they feed on. Rain also reduces breeding success.

The relative absence of breeding during the dire summer of 2007, the wettest on record, impacted seriously on butterfly numbers last year.

The statistics confirm conservationists' fears that 2008 was the poorest summer for butterfly numbers for more than 25 years.

For 12 species 2008 was their worst year since records began in the mid 1970s.

Phoenix

Dramatic Image Shows Volcano's Lightning

volcano lightning
© Bretwood Higman
Scientists have pierced the veil of clouds around a volcanic plume to "see" lightning
For the first time, scientists have been able to "see" and trace lightning inside a plume of ash spewing from an actively erupting volcano.

When Alaska's Mount Redoubt volcano began rumbling back to life in January, a team of researchers scrambled to set up a system called a Lightning Mapping Array that would be able to peer through the dust and gas of any eruption that occurred to the lightning storm happening within. Lightning is known to flash in the tumultuous clouds belched out during volcanic eruptions.

The lightning produced when Redoubt finally erupted on March 22 was "prolific," said physicist Paul Krehbiel of New Mexico Tech.

"The lightning activity was as strong or stronger than we have seen in large Midwestern thunderstorms," Krehbiel said. "The radio frequency noise was so strong and continuous that people living in the area would not have been able to watch broadcast VHF television stations."

Attention

Aftershock shakes Italy quake zone

A strong aftershock rattled central Italy early Thursday as thousands of Italians in the region were still coping in the aftermath of Monday's deadly quake in nearby L'Aquila.

Thursday's 5.2-magnitude temblor occurred at 2:53 a.m. (12:53 a.m. GMT) about 45 km (28 miles) from L'Aquila, the epicenter of Monday's 6.3-magnitude quake that killed at least 260 people this week, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries from the latest aftershock.

Better Earth

Wild Chimpanzees Exchange Meat For Sex

Image
© Cristina M. Gomes
Utan, an adult male, holding a piece of meat of a red colobus; with Kinshasa, an adult female chimpanzee with her infant Kirikou on her back, begging from Utan.
Wild female chimpanzees copulate more frequently with males who share meat with them over long periods of time, according to a study led by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, published in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE April 8.

How females choose their mating partners and why males hunt and share meat with them are questions that have long puzzled scientists. Evidence from studies on human hunter-gatherer societies suggest that men who are more successful hunters have more wives and a larger number of offspring. Studies on wild chimpanzees, humans' closest living relative, have shown that male hunters frequently share meat with females who did not participate in the hunt. One of the hypotheses proposed to explain these findings is the meat-for-sex hypothesis, whereby males and females exchange meat for mating access. However, there has been little evidence in both humans and chimpanzees to support it.

Fish

Philippines: Rare Megamouth Shark Caught Near Donsol

Megamouth shark - Philippines
© Unknown
Only 41st Worldwide and First in Luzon

So rare are these sharks that each of them is designated with a number.

Fishermen based in Donsol were trawling for mackerel along the eastern coast of Burias Isle on the morning of 30 March when they caught a strange-looking shark from a depth of approximately 200 meters. World Wildlife Fund's (WWF) satellite tagging initiatives have already shown that pelagic filter feeders such as whale sharks and manta rays regularly prowl through the region. It was only a matter of time before something else was discovered.

The shark was brought to Barangay Dancalan in Donsol, Sorsogon for assessment. WWF Donsol Project Manager Elson Aca immediately arrived to assess the haul - and promptly identified it as a megamouth shark.

Bizarro Earth

New Zealand Coast: Earthquake Magnitude 5.3

Image
© US Geological Survey
Date-Time Wednesday, April 08, 2009 at 11:13:01 UTC

Wednesday, April 08, 2009 at 11:13:01 PM at epicenter

Location 38.776°S, 178.241°E

Depth 35 km (21.7 miles) set by location program

Region OFF EAST COAST OF THE NORTH ISLAND, N.Z.

Distances 25 km (15 miles) ESE of Gisborne, New Zealand

135 km (85 miles) NE of Napier, New Zealand

370 km (230 miles) SE of Auckland, New Zealand

405 km (250 miles) NE of WELLINGTON, New Zealand

Bizarro Earth

Peru: Earthquake Magnitude 4.6

Image
© US Geological Survey
Date-Time Wednesday, April 08, 2009 at 03:06:22 UTC

Tuesday, April 07, 2009 at 10:06:22 PM at epicenter

Location 7.937°S, 74.311°W

Depth 150.9 km (93.8 miles) set by location program

Distances 55 km (35 miles) NNE of Pucallpa, Peru

190 km (120 miles) W of Cruzeiro do Sul, Acre, Brazil

300 km (185 miles) NE of Huanuco, Peru

550 km (340 miles) NNE of LIMA, Peru

Roses

Death toll in Italy earthquake rises to 250

Italy quake
© AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino
Colored sheets are seen hanging on a clothesline in this aerial view of the village of Onna, a day after a powerful earthquake struck the Abruzzo region in central Italy, on Tuesday, April 7, 2009
The Civil Protection Department says that the death toll in Italy's earthquake has risen to 250.

The department said Wednesday that 11 of the victims remained to be identified.

The magnitude-6.3 quake hit L'Aquila and several towns in central Italy early Monday, leveling buildings and reducing entire blocks to a pile of rubble and dust.

Strong aftershocks have caused further fear for residents, as rescue efforts continue.