Earth ChangesS

Bizarro Earth

California: 16 Small Earthquakes Hit Sun Valley

Sixteen small earthquakes hit in the area of Sun Valley and Wild Creek Golf Course in Sparks on Thursday and Friday, but they caused no damage, and residents had a hard time even feeling them.

The Nevada Seismological Laboratory noted the unusual earthquake sequence in a statement on Friday. The two largest had magnitudes of 2.3 and 2.2.

Darrell Little felt one of them on Friday in Spanish Springs.

"It was quite a small one, and the dog sleeping next to me even didn't wake up," Little said. "It definitely was an earthquake. It felt like the house got shoved a little bit. I could hear the creaking of the walls as the house moved just ever so slightly."

He felt a couple of the large ones from the swarm that hit the Mogul area in 2008, but this was not like that.

Heart - Black

Neighbor Against Neighbor: At Odds Over Land, Money, and Gas

© Niko J. Kallianiotis for The New York TimesNOT INTERESTED Lisa Wujnovich and her husband, Mark Dunau, refuse to sign a lease to allow natural gas drilling on their 50 farmland acres in Hancock, N.Y.
Chenango, New York - Chris and Robert Lacey own 80 acres of idyllic upstate New York countryside, a place where they can fish for bass in their own pond, hike through white pines and chase deer away.

But the Laceys hope that, if all goes well, a natural gas wellhead will soon occupy this bucolic landscape.

Like many landowners in Broome County, which includes the town of Chenango, the Laceys could potentially earn millions of dollars from the natural gas under their feet. They live above the Marcellus Shale, a subterranean layer of rock stretching from New York to Tennessee that is believed to be one of the biggest natural gas fields in the world.

Bizarro Earth

5.6 Earthquake Shakes Venezuela, No Deaths

An earthquake of 5.6 magnitude shook western Venezuela early on Friday, panicking residents and damaging some buildings, officials said.

There was no loss of life or damage reported to any oil installations in the OPEC member South American country.

Local seismological center Funvisis said the earthquake struck at 3:45 a.m. (0815 GMT) and its epicenter was in the locality of Churuguara in Lara state.

"There were no injuries or loss of life reported, just some structural damage," Funvisis official Theyler Vasquez said.

Authorities said frightened residents ran into the streets, and some walls of buildings were cracked.


Saudi Arabia floods leave 77 dead

The Saudi authorities have warned pilgrims to take care in the rain
Floods in Saudi Arabia have killed 77 people and scores could be missing, after the heaviest rainfall in years.

None of the casualties had been among the millions attending the Hajj pilgrimage, said a spokesman for the Saudi interior ministry.

Heavy rainstorms on Wednesday had hampered the start of the annual Muslim event in the city of Mecca.

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.