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Tue, 27 Sep 2016
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Bizarro Earth

Will the Planet Mimic the Fate of Easter Island?

© The Daily Galaxy
"We'll undergo the same fate as the people on Easter Island." - Frank Fenner, virologist.
Eminent Australian scientist Professor Frank Fenner, who helped to wipe out smallpox, predicts humans will probably be extinct within 100 years, because of overpopulation, environmental destruction and climate change.

If past is prologue, 70,000 years ago the human population was reduced to small isolated groups in Africa, apparently because of drought, according to an analysis by researchers at Stanford University. The estimated the number of early humans may have shrunk as low as 2,000 before numbers began to expand again in the early Stone Age.

Tiny bands of early humans, forced apart by harsh environmental conditions, coming back from the brink to reunite and populate the world. Truly an epic drama, written in our DNA." Wells is director of the Genographic Project, launched in 2005 to study anthropology using genetics. The report was published in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

The migrations of humans out of Africa to populate the rest of the world appear to have begun about 60,000 years ago, but little has been known about humans between Eve and that dispersal. The new study looks at the mitochondrial DNA of the Khoi and San people in South Africa which appear to have diverged from other people between 90,000 and 150,000 years ago.


Atmosphere May Help Power Huge Freak Waves

© Captain Roger Wilson, NOAA National Weather Service Collection
Rogue wave reaching a height of 60-foot plus hit a tanker headed south from Valdez, Alaska, in February 1993. The ship was running in about 25-foot seas when a monster wave struck it broadside on the starboard side.

In 1995, an 84-foot wall of water pummeled an offshore oil rig in the North Sea. This massive wave wasn't a tsunami triggered by an earthquake - it was the first documented occurrence of a "rogue wave."

Rogue waves are enormous waves that occur far out at sea seemingly in isolation and without an obvious cause. They have been plaguing sailors since the advent of seafaring, yet it wasn't until monitoring equipment on the rig captured the telltale data that scientists could confirm that freak waves, as they're also known, were not just the product of a sea-soaked imagination.

But in the years since then, the study of rogue waves has yielded as many questions as answers. Scientists have examined the wave patterns to look for clues as to how this seemingly random phenomenon could occur.

New research suggests that atmospheric pressure may play a role.

"Maybe this isn't just a wave problem, which is how we've been looking at this for the past decade," said Tim Janssen, associate professor of oceanography at San Francisco State University, who was not involved with the study. "This time, let's step out of the box and say maybe there's atmospheric variation going on."

Bizarro Earth

New Eruption Discovered at Undersea Volcano, After Successfully Forecasting the Event

A team of scientists just discovered a new eruption of Axial Seamount, an undersea volcano located about 250 miles off the Oregon coast -- and one of the most active and intensely studied seamounts in the world.

© Bill Chadwick, Oregon State University; Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
The manipulator arm of the ROV Jason prepares to sample the new lava flow that erupted in April 2011 at Axial Seamount, located off the Oregon coast.
What makes the event so intriguing is that the scientists had forecast the eruption starting five years ago -- the first successful forecast of an undersea volcano.

Bill Chadwick, an Oregon State University geologist, and Scott Nooner, of Columbia University, have been monitoring Axial Seamount for more than a decade, and in 2006 published a paper in the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research in which they forecast that Axial would erupt before the year 2014. Their forecast was based on a series of seafloor pressure measurements that indicated the volcano was inflating.


Japan government prepares plan to flee Tokyo

© Yomiuri Shimbun/Reuters
Fears for the future: a stunned woman stands amongst rubble in Ishimaki city after the earthquake
Japan is considering the possibility of creating a back-up capital city in case a major natural disaster, like the March 11 earthquake, strikes Tokyo.

A new panel from Japan's Ministry of Land and Infrastructure will consider the possibility of moving some of Tokyo's capital functions to another big city, like Osaka.

Japan is located on the junction of four tectonic plates and experiences one-fifth of the world's strongest earthquakes and geologists have warned Tokyo is particularly vulnerable to powerful earthquakes.

It is feared if a massive earthquake like the March magnitude 9.0 quake struck Tokyo, it could destroy the country's political and economic base.


Massive Japan Quake Even Rattled Upper Atmosphere

© NASA Earth Observatory.
Map of Japan earthquake and aftershocks Map of Japan earthquake and aftershocks.
The giant earthquake that struck Japan this year not only shook the Earth, but also rattled the highest layer of the atmosphere, scientists find.

This research could lead to a new type of early warning system for devastating tsunamis and earthquakes.

The magnitude 9 quake that struck off the coast of Tohoku in Japan in March unleashed a catastrophic tsunami, ushered in what might be the world's first complex megadisaster and set off microquakes and tremors around the globe.

Past research revealed the surface motions and tsunamis that earthquakes generate can also trigger waves in the atmosphere. These waves can reach all the way to the ionosphere, one of the highest layers of the atmosphere.


Alaska, US: Orange goo mystery solved after it invaded from skies in one of the world's most remote spots

Scientists have identified an orange-coloured gunk that appeared along the shore of a remote Alaska village as millions of microscopic eggs.

But the mystery is not quite solved. Officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said on Monday they don't know what species the eggs are or if they are toxic.

They have sent samples to a laboratory on the East Coast for further analysis.

© Associated Press
What is it? The Coast Guard says the orange substance is not man-made and might be some type of algae
The neon orange goo showed up last week on the surface of the water in Kivalina, an Inupiat Eskimo community located at the tip of an eight-mile barrier reef on Alaska's northwest coast.

Cloud Lightning

More Extreme Weather in Store Across U.S.

© Reuters/ Mike Stone
A man removes his shirt to cope with the heat as he sits in the shade in Dallas, Texas August 5, 2011
More extreme weather was expected across the country on Sunday, as parts of the Midwest and Northeast faced possible flooding from slow-moving storms while blistering triple-digit temperatures were expected in coastal Southeastern states.

A strong, westerly wind flowing down from the Appalachian Mountains will briefly push temperatures in Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia over the century mark in the afternoons on Sunday and Monday, according to AccuWeather.com.

The temperature will feel like 110 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit with the humidity.

After dumping rains on the Bahamas, the remnants of former Tropical Storm Emily moved into the open Atlantic and away from the U.S. East Coast on Sunday as a tropical depression.

Better Earth

Large variations in Arctic sea ice

© Unknown
The good news is that even with a reduction to less than 50% of the current amount of sea ice the ice will not reach a point of no return: a level where the ice no longer can regenerate itself even if the climate was to return to cooler temperatures. Finally, our studies show that the changes to a large degree are caused by the effect that temperature has on the prevailing wind systems.
For the last 10,000 years, summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean has been far from constant. For several thousand years, there was much less sea ice in The Arctic Ocean - probably less than half of current amounts. This is indicated by new findings by the Danish National Research Foundation for Geogenetics at the University of Copenhagen. The results of the study will be published in the journal Science.

Sea ice comes and goes without leaving a record. For this reason, our knowledge about its variations and extent was limited before we had satellite surveillance or observations from airplanes and ships. But now researchers at the Danish National Research Foundation for Geogenetics at the Natural History Museum of Denmark (University of Copenhagen) have developed a method by which it is possible to measure the variations in the ice several millennia back in time.

Better Earth

US: Murre Seabird Chicks Hatch for the First Time in 100 Years on the Channel Islands

© Nova Scotia Musueam of Natural History
This July, researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey and National Park Service discovered that California Common Murre (Uria aalge californica) chicks had hatched on the Channel Islands for the first time since 1912.

Murres are football-sized seabirds with the tuxedo colors of penguins - except they can both fly in the air and dive down to 500 feet underwater. Historically, murres nested on Prince Island - a small islet off San Miguel Island within Channel Islands National Park. This colony disappeared nearly a century ago, likely a result of human disturbance and egg harvesting.

In California, Common Murres are most abundant off central through northern California with tens to hundreds of thousands of birds nesting at the Farallon Islands, off Trinidad Head, and at Castle Rock National Wildlife Refuge.

"This is an exciting finding - certainly a historic one," says Josh Adams, a seabird ecologist with the USGS Western Ecological Research Center. "The murres appear to have reestablished their former southern range, perhaps benefitting from present ocean conditions."

This new colony is perched on 100-foot-high sea cliffs, and was spotted by Adams, USGS biologist Jonathan Felis and their Channel Islands National Park colleagues Laurie Harvey and David Mazurkeiwicz during their research trips to this remote windswept island this summer.

Bizarro Earth

Iceland: A Noctilucent Masterpiece Over Reykjavíc

© Örvar Atli Þorgeirsson
Noctilucent clouds over Reykjavíc.
Night-shining "noctilucent" clouds create a magical glow in the night skies over Reykjavíc, Iceland in this beautiful photo by Örvar Atli Þorgeirsson, taken on August 6. In the foreground is "The Sun Voyager" (Sólfar), an iconic steel sculpture located on the city waterfront representing a Viking ship.

Örvar did not set out to photograph this rare atmospheric phenomenon but had instead intended to shoot aurora triggered by recent solar outbursts.

"The forecast on the 6th of August was predicting extreme aurora activity," Örvar says in his Flickr description. "Even though it was very early August and the night would not get fully dark I went out as the aurora can be seen in deep twilight conditions. I saw the aurora for 1 - 2 minutes that night. I did not get a good picture of it though. Instead we witnessed this even rarer phenomenon called noctilucent clouds."