Earth ChangesS


Sea Stars Bulk Up to Beat the Heat

© Nancy SeftonOchre sea stars (Pisaster ochraceus) are voracious predators in the intertidal zone. Feeding on mussels and other mollusks, they limit the range of these species.
A new study finds that a species of sea star stays cool using a strategy never before seen in the animal kingdom. The sea stars soak up cold sea water into their bodies during high tide as buffer against potentially damaging temperatures brought about by direct sunlight at low tide.

"Sea stars were assumed to be at the mercy of the sun during low tide," said the study's lead author, Sylvain Pincebourde of François Rabelais University in Tours, France. "This work shows that some sea stars have an unexpected back-up strategy."

The researcher is published in the December issue of The American Naturalist.

Sea stars need to endure rapid changes in temperature. During high tide, they are fully submerged in cool sea water. But when tides receded, the stars are often left on rocky shorelines, baking in the sun.

Cloud Lightning

England: 'Rain like this happens once every 1,000 years'

The full and devastating impact of England's worst recorded day of rain was still emerging last night as tributes were paid to a policeman swept away by floodwaters while trying to save others.

PC Bill Barker was helping motorists stranded on a bridge over the Derwent in the Cumbrian town of Workington when it collapsed. His body was discovered hours later on a nearby beach.

The Environment Agency said that the flooding across the region was so severe that such an event was likely to happen only once in 1,000 years. The rainfall, on to an already saturated terrain, was the highest level measured in England since records began. Meteorologists recorded 314mm (12in) of rain in 24 hours and flood warnings remained in place across the North West of England, parts of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Bizarro Earth

Colombia volcano eruption subsides, evacuation continues

© Channel News Asia File PictureGaleras volcano
A volcanic eruption has eased enough to allow a local airport to open, but thousands of people are staying clear of Colombia's most active volcano as more activity is feared, authorities warned on Sunday.

Ashes are still falling near the Galeras volcano in the south, after Friday's eruption, but a colour-coded alert has been lowered from red to orange, the Colombia Institute of Geology and Mining (Ingeominas) said.

An orange alert means a new eruption was possible "in days or weeks," rather than imminently, it added.

Friday's eruption caused no casualties, but some 1,000 people were evacuated from around the volcano to Pasto, the capital of Narino department.

Another 8,000 people defied evacuation orders, refusing to leave their homes.

Authorities are urging people living in the Galeras foothills to leave for Pasto, 920 kilometres south of Bogota, as the danger of new eruptions is still quite high, warned Ingeominas deputy director Martha Calvache.

Better Earth

East Antarctic Ice Sheet May Be Losing Mass

© UnknownThe mass loss is probably driven by processes occurring on the coast.
The East Antarctic ice sheet has been losing mass for the last three years, according to an analysis of data from a gravity-measuring satellite mission.

The scientists involved say they are "surprised" by the finding, because the giant East Antarctic sheet, unlike the west, has been thought to be stable.

Other scientists say ice loss could not yet be pinned on climate change, and uncertainties in the data are large.

The US-based team reports its findings in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The data comes from Nasa's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (Grace) mission.

Grace has previously shown that the smaller West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are losing mass.

Control Panel

Stunning Deception and Misconduct at UK Warming Research Center Revealed

© Universal Studios
Climate researchers at the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit may have intentionally and artificially skewed temperature data in studies

The field of global warming is a fascinating facet of atmospheric science. Unfortunately, few are approaching the topic from an unbiased perspective -- the majority is dead set on proving it, while other are equally passionate about disproving it, or at least removing the implication that man may play a role in global warming. Both sides have been found to falsify data, withhold information, or otherwise distort views on the topic, reportedly. Notably internal investigations found that the Bush administration worked to silence climatologists at NASA who published pro-warming papers. Likewise, James Hansen, the leading climate scientist at NASA, was found to be engaging in an equally deceptive game of altering temperature data to make warming look more serious than it was.

Light Saber

Best of the Web: Climategate: the final nail in the coffin of 'Anthropogenic Global Warming'?

Polar bear in the 'Plane Stupid' ad released in cinemas
If you own any shares in alternative energy companies I should start dumping them NOW. The conspiracy behind the Anthropogenic Global Warming myth (aka AGW; aka ManBearPig) has been suddenly, brutally and quite deliciously exposed after a hacker broke into the computers at the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (aka Hadley CRU) and released 61 megabites of confidential files onto the internet. (Hat tip: Watts Up With That)

When you read some of those files - including 1079 emails and 72 documents - you realise just why the boffins at Hadley CRU might have preferred to keep them confidential. As Andrew Bolt puts it, this scandal could well be "the greatest in modern science". These alleged emails - supposedly exchanged by some of the most prominent scientists pushing AGW theory - suggest:
Conspiracy, collusion in exaggerating warming data, possibly illegal destruction of embarrassing information, organised resistance to disclosure, manipulation of data, private admissions of flaws in their public claims and much more.
One of the alleged emails has a gentle gloat over the death in 2004 of John L Daly (one of the first climate change sceptics, founder of the Still Waiting For Greenhouse site), commenting:
"In an odd way this is cheering news."


Tree-Eating Bugs Threaten Monarch Butterfly in Mexico

© PhysOrgMonarch butterflies in the Mexican state of Michoacan.
The mysterious Monarch butterfly, which migrates en masse annually between Canada and Mexico, is now facing a new peril: another insect thriving in Western Mexican forests.

Some 8,000 oyamel fir trees - the butterflies' unique mountain habitat each winter -- were cut down in July in a bid to remove beetles that threaten the Monarch's ages-old migration.

But now another small beetle has since taken to devouring the savory tree trunks, further endangering the butterflies' winter colonies.

"We are working to determine how many trees have been affected," said Homero Gomez, president of El Rosario Sanctuary, a premier migrating spot for the Monarch in the western Mexican state of Michoacan.

Bizarro Earth

Colombia: 1000 People Evacuated After Colombia Volcano Erupts

© AFP PhotoThe Galeras volcano erupted in southern Colombia without causing casualties
A thousand people were evacuated and traffic was stopped after the Galeras volcano erupted in southern Colombia without causing casualties, officials said Saturday.

The locals were taken to shelters in Pasto, the capital of Narino department on the border with Ecuador, after authorities put the volcano -- the most active in Colombia -- on red alert to signal an imminent or ongoing eruption.

Some 9,000 people live in the vicinity of the volcano, which erupted at 8:37 pm Friday (0137 GMT Saturday), will be forced to leave their homes and seek refuge in temporary accommodations if the alert is prolonged, the Colombia Institute of Geology and Mining (Ingeominas) said.

Narino Government Secretary Fabio Trujillo, whose office coordinates volcano prevention, evacuation and relief efforts, told local radio that traffic restrictions would be imposed on the highway linking Pashto -- 920 kilometers (570 miles) -- to localities close to Galeras.


Active Hearing Process in Mosquitoes

© University of BristolThis is a mosquito hearing organ.
A mathematical model has explained some of the remarkable features of mosquito hearing. In particular, the male can hear the faintest beats of the female's wings and yet is not deafened by loud noises.

The new research from the University of Bristol is published in the Journal of the Royal Society: Interface.

Insects have evolved diverse and delicate morphological structures in order to hear the naturally low energy of a transmitting sound wave. In mosquitoes, the hearing of acoustic energy, and its conversion into neuronal signals, is assisted by multiple individual sensory units called scolopidia.

The researchers have developed a simple microscopic mechanistic model of the active amplification in the Tanzanian mosquito species Toxorhynchites brevipalpis. The model is based on the description of the antenna as a forced-damped oscillator attached to a set of active threads (groups of scolopidia) that provide an impulsive force when they twitch. The twitching is controlled by channels that are opened and closed if the antennal oscillation reaches critical amplitude. The model matches both qualitatively and quantitatively with recent experiments: spontaneous oscillations, nonlinear amplification, hysteresis, 2:1 resonances, frequency response, gain loss due to hypoxia.


Mystery of World's Worst Mass Arsenic Poisoning Finally Solved

The culprit are tens of thousands of man-made ponds excavated to provide soil for flood protection.

Paris - Researchers have pinpointed the source of what is probably the worst mass poisoning in history, according to a study published Sunday.

For nearly three decades scientists have struggled to figure out exactly how arsenic was getting into the drinking water of millions of people in rural Bangladesh.

The culprit, says the new study, are tens of thousands of man-made ponds excavated to provide soil for flood protection.