Earth ChangesS

Better Earth

Oceans Absorbing Carbon Dioxide More Slowly, Scientist Finds

© Michele HoganPacific Ocean at sunset.
The world's oceans are absorbing less carbon dioxide (CO2), a Yale geophysicist has found after pooling data taken over the past 50 years. With the oceans currently absorbing over 40 percent of the CO2 emitted by human activity, this could quicken the pace of climate change, according to the study, which appears in the November 25 issue of Geophysical Research Letters.

Jeffrey Park, professor of geology and geophysics and director of the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies, used data collected from atmospheric observing stations in Hawaii, Alaska and Antarctica to study the relationship between fluctuations in global temperatures and the global abundance of atmospheric CO2 on interannual (one to 10 years) time scales. A similar study from 20 years ago found a five-month lag between interannual temperature changes and the resulting changes in CO2 levels. Park has now found that this lag has increased from five to at least 15 months.

"No one had updated the analysis from 20 years ago," Park said. "I expected to find some change in the lag time, but the shift was surprisingly large. This is a big change."


How Plants and Bacteria 'Talk' to Thwart Disease

© iStockphotoRice growing.
When it comes to plants' innate immunity, like many of the dances of life, it takes two to tango. A receptor molecule in the plant pairs up with a specific molecule on the invading bacteria and, presto, the immune system swings into action to defend against the invasion of the disease-causing microbe.

Unwrapping some of the mystery from how plants and bacteria communicate in this dance of immunity, scientists at the University of California, Davis, have identified the bacterial signaling molecule that matches up with a specific receptor in rice plants to ward off a devastating disease known as bacterial blight of rice.

The researchers, led by UC Davis plant pathologist Pamela Ronald, will publish their findings in the Nov. 6 issue of the journal Science.

"The new discovery of this bacterial signaling molecule helps us better understand how the innate immune system operates," Ronald said.


Fruit Fly Sperm Makes Females Do Housework After Sex

© iStockphotoA small fruit fly on a piece of fruit.
The sperm of male fruit flies are coated with a chemical 'sex peptide' which inhibits the female's usual afternoon siesta and compels her into an intense period of foraging activity.

The surprise discovery was made by Professor Elwyn Isaac from the University of Leeds' Faculty of Biological Sciences when investigating the marked differences in sleeping patterns between virgin and mated females.

Both male and female fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) - commonly seen hovering around rotting fruit and vegetables - are active at dawn and dusk, and have a deep sleep at night. They also exhibit a marked 'resting state' during the afternoon, which Professor Isaac likens to a siesta that conserves the fly's energy and reduces damaging exposure to the sun during hot afternoons.

"However, we noted that after mating, females still slept deeply at night, but ditched the usual siesta in favour of extra foraging and searching for places to lay her eggs," he says. "This behaviour lasts for around eight days - and our research findings suggest that this change is not by choice. Females who mated with males that produced sperm without the sex peptide continued to take their siesta. So we're certain that this change of behaviour is chemically induced by the male."

Bizarro Earth

6.1 Earthquake Hits Off New Zealand's Kermadec Islands

An earthquake measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale struck the remote Kermadec Islands, north of New Zealand North Island on Saturday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The quake hit the New Zealand territory, 1140 km north east of Auckland at 10:21 p.m. local time (0921 GMT Saturday) at a depth of 10 km.

No tsunami warning has been issued by the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

The islands, which are often rocked by severe quakes, have no permanent population. Only a small New Zealand Department of Conservation team live on Raoul island.


Australia: Meet the Destructive Super Termites

© The Courier MailMatt Grange and his partner Jean Piggins discovered their dream three-bedroom, almost century-old Federation cottage was infested with West Indian drywood termites when they began redecorating.
A couple's first home will be sealed inside a giant airtight tent and pumped full of pesticides for 24 hours to destroy an infestation of the world's most destructive termite.

The NSW Government is so concerned about the colony of West Indian drywood termites it has ordered the compulsory fumigation and will pay the $60,000 cost to rid the Ramsgate house of the insects.

The termites earned their reputation because they spend their lives deep inside a home's woodwork, Fumapest managing director Glenn DuBois said.

Mr DuBois, whose company will fumigate the home next week, said the termites can leave a home near collapse before they are detected.

Matt Grange and his partner Jean Piggins discovered their dream three-bedroom, almost century-old Federation cottage - which they bought six years ago - was infested when they began redecorating.


China to Build Remote-Sensing Satellite Receiving Station in Antarctica

A Chinese scientist said China plans to build a remote-sensing satellite receiving station in Antarctica to better monitor the global ocean environment.

Jiang Xingwei, director of China's National Satellite Ocean Application Service, who is traveling with the Xuelong icebreaker, said the receiving station will rely on the Zhongshan Station and the Great Wall Station, China's two research stations in Antarctica.

Jiang said the receiving station will mainly receive information sent out by ocean satellites, and acquire updates on ocean water color, ocean dynamic environment and the polar region environment.

The station has great significance as over 70 percent of the earth's surface is covered by ocean, he added.


Arizona, US: Giraffe Arrives at Zoo with Crooked Neck

© Angela Evans/Tulsa ZooAmali the giraffe developed a crick in her neck while being transported from The Wilds park in Ohio to Tulsa Zoo in Arizona.
This giraffe is suffering what looks like the world's biggest pain in the neck.

Five-year-old Amali from Tulsa Zoo, Oklahoma, had the unfortunate crick in transit from The Wilds Park in Ohio.

It is feared that the hook might never be cured.

Since undergoing treatment from Tulsa Zoo's resident vet Dr Kay Backues, Amali has been kept in medical quarantine since her arrival on October 18.

Luckily, the 11-foot tall female giraffe is not thought to be in any pain and staff at Tulsa Zoo are hoping the crick corrects itself naturally.

'When Amali the giraffe walked off the trailer into her new home she could walk, eat and manoeuvre normally,' said Dr. Backues.

'Amali was initially treated for muscle fatigue and possible soft tissue trauma.

'We are using medications a human might use if they strained their neck or back, such as non-steroidal ant-inflammatories similar to ibuprofen, muscle relaxers, pain relievers (analgesics) and a vitamin supplement.


Australia: Kangaroo Tries to Drown Man, Dog

© AP PhotoA startled kangaroo tried to drown an Australian man
An Australian man was almost drowned by a kangaroo after he dived into his farm dam to save his pet dog.

Chris Rickard, 49, of Arthurs Creek, is being assessed by Austin Hospital surgeons after being mauled by the nearly 5-foot roo at 9 a.m. AEDT. He only managed to end the attack when he elbowed the kangaroo in the throat as it tried to hold him under water, The Herald Sun reported.

By then he had already suffered a deep gash across his abdomen as the kangaroo tried to disembowel him with its hind legs, as well as a deep gash across his forehead and further cuts and scratches across his chest.

Speaking from the hospital's emergency department, Mr Rickard said he was walking his blue heeler dog Rocky at the back of his property about a quarter mile from his home when they woke the kangaroo which had been sleeping in long grass near the dam.

Bizarro Earth

NASA Satellites Detect Unexpected Ice Loss in East Antarctica

© University of Texas at Austin Center for Space ResearchGrace estimate of changes in Antarctica's ice mass, measured in centimeters of equivalent water height change per year.
Using gravity measurement data from the NASA/German Aerospace Center's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission, a team of scientists from the University of Texas at Austin has found that the East Antarctic ice sheet-home to about 90 percent of Earth's solid fresh water and previously considered stable-may have begun to lose ice.

The team used Grace data to estimate Antarctica's ice mass between 2002 and 2009. Their results, published Nov. 22 in the journal Nature Geoscience, found that the East Antarctic ice sheet is losing mass, mostly in coastal regions, at an estimated rate of 57 gigatonnes a year. A gigatonne is one billion metric tons, or more than 2.2 trillion pounds. The ice loss there may have begun as early as 2006. The study also confirmed previous results showing that West Antarctica is losing about 132 gigatonnes of ice per year.

"While we are seeing a trend of accelerating ice loss in Antarctica, we had considered East Antarctica to be inviolate," said lead author and Senior Research Scientist Jianli Chen of the university's Center for Space Research. "But if it is losing mass, as our data indicate, it may be an indication the state of East Antarctica has changed. Since it's the biggest ice sheet on Earth, ice loss there can have a large impact on global sea level rise in the future."

Bizarro Earth

Torrential Rains Kill 48 in Saudi Arabia

© Eontarionow
Heavy rains have left 48 people dead in a number of provinces in Saudi Arabia, the Al Riyadh paper said on Thursday.

Rains lashed Jeddah and the adjacent holy places of Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafath, where pilgrims spent their first day of Hajj on Wednesday.

Traffic in Jeddah, located 80 km (50 miles) west of Mecca, was logged, and the sewage system was severely affected.

Meanwhile, the number of foreign pilgrims gathering for today's Hajj in Mecca has exceeded 1.6 million, Prince Naif, Saudi Arabia's second deputy prime minister, said in a telegram to Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz on Thursday.