Earth ChangesS


Flashback Best of the Web: Science: Another Ice Age?

© TimeCover of Time magazine from December 1979
Comment: This article was originally published in Time Magazine on June 24, 1974. Now, considering the revelations about "Climategate", perhaps we need to return to what was known before greed and manipulation took over science?

In Africa, drought continues for the sixth consecutive year, adding terribly to the toll of famine victims. During 1972 record rains in parts of the U.S., Pakistan and Japan caused some of the worst flooding in centuries. In Canada's wheat belt, a particularly chilly and rainy spring has delayed planting and may well bring a disappointingly small harvest. Rainy Britain, on the other hand, has suffered from uncharacteristic dry spells the past few springs. A series of unusually cold winters has gripped the American Far West, while New England and northern Europe have recently experienced the mildest winters within anyone's recollection.

As they review the bizarre and unpredictable weather pattern of the past several years, a growing number of scientists are beginning to suspect that many seemingly contradictory meteorological fluctuations are actually part of a global climatic upheaval. However widely the weather varies from place to place and time to time, when meteorologists take an average of temperatures around the globe they find that the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades. The trend shows no indication of reversing. Climatological Cassandras are becoming increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age.


Winter storm sweeps across China

© CFPA man struggles to walk in gales and heavy snows in Huiyuan County, north China's Shanxi province on December 24, 2009
The strong cold front that has been sweeping across most of north China over the past two days has brought a sharp temperature drop of up to 30 degrees centigrade to some hit areas.

The National Meteorological Center has issued second-level, or orange, alerts on the cold storm that brought fresh gales of up to force 8 to the affected areas, the China News Service reported.

The center forecast temperatures in parts of the northern Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region as well as Shaanxi, Shanxi and Hebei provinces to fall to 30 degrees below zero.

Cloud Lightning

Our Global Climate is Now Actually Cooling, Says Metereologist

"Our global climate is now actually cooling," says meteorologist Thomas F. Giella.

"An Interglacial period is a geological interval of time with warmer global average temperature that separates glacials/ice ages," says Giella. "Our current Holocene interglacial has persisted since the Pleistocene, approximately 11,500 years ago. Superimposed on this very long climate change cycle is a number of smaller ones caused by small variations in the energy output of our Sun, wobbles of our Earth as it spins on its axis and the eccentricity of Earth's orbit around the Sun."

"However there is now growing evidence that the interglacial warming reversed itself beginning around 1940 but I'm not sure if the reversal signals a return to a long term Ice Age or another shorter Little Ice Age. Typically an interglacial period lasts approximately 11,500 years, so anecdotal evidence would point to a return of a long term ice age. Personally I lean towards another Little Ice Age similar to the Dalton Minimum that occurred in the early and mid 1800's."

Bizarro Earth

Dozens Dead as Storm Hovers Over Central U.S.

© AFPDrivers try to navigate through heavy snow in Alexandria, Virginia.
Dozens of Americans have lost their lives because of a massive winter storm just before the Christmas holidays, according to emergency services.

The fatalities attributed to the storm began Wednesday, with hundreds of Thursday flights cancelled at airports from Minneapolis to Dallas. The weather is not expected to clear before Saturday.

Five people died on Kansas's icy roads, the state highway patrol reported, and six people have died on Nebraskan roads.

Three people were killed after a dust storm near Phoenix caused a 22-vehicle pileup, the Arizona Republic reported.

Three were killed on the slippery roads in New Mexico and one other person died in a Minnesota crash, local media reported.

Life Preserver

Sea Invades Venice

© AccuWeather
Unusually high tides filled many streets of Venice Wednesday as atmospheric forces lifted the northern Adriatic Sea.

The official water level in the city reached 56.6 inches (144 cm) above the average, highest of the year. City authorities reckoned that about 60 percent of the city's streets and piazzas were put under water. On Saint Mark's Square, flood waters stood knee deep, forcing tourists to wade or follow raised boardwalks.

The flooding stopped well short of last year's mark of 63 inches, which yielded the city's worst flooding in more than 20 years.

Bizarro Earth

Major Storm Gains Intensity in Midwest U.S. for Christmas

The central United States is expected to see a white but slick and blustery Christmas as snow will be coupled with blinding winds in western areas and freezing rain in the east, a forecaster predicted Thursday.

"This is major winter storm continuing to gain intensity today and tomorrow, impacting a wide area," said Joel Burgio of DTN Meteorlogix.

The forecast called for snowfall of 12 inches or more through Saturday, with blizzards in several northern areas.

Northeast Nebraska, northwestern and north-central Iowa, northeastern portions of the Dakotas and Minnesota are expected to get heavy snowfall through the weekend.

Bizarro Earth

Cold-Related Death Toll Exceeds 100 in Europe

© AFPWorkers clear away the snow at the airport in Duesseldorf, Germany, on December 21, 2009.
Sub-zero temperature across Europe has resulted in airport closures, flight cancellations, delays in services of trains, buses and subways.

More than 100 people are thought to have frozen to death in extreme weather conditions across the continent.

Cold weather and heavy snowfall could not have come at a worse time in Europe, as thousands of holiday travelers have been stranded by train and flight cancellations.

In Germany, Frankfurt Airport - the third busiest airport in Europe - was closed for about four hours Monday night due to icy runways, stranding about 8,000 passengers. It reopened on Tuesday but passengers still experienced delays and cancellations.

Berlin's Tegel Airport was also briefly closed on Tuesday amid freezing rain with some flights being temporarily diverted to the capital's Schoenefeld airport. Airports in London, Milan and Duesseldorf have also experienced closures.


Soil Studies Reveal Rise in Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic resistance in the natural environment is rising despite tighter controls over our use of antibiotics in medicine and agriculture, Newcastle University scientists have found.

Bacterial DNA extracted from soil samples collected between 1940 and 2008 has revealed a rise in background levels of antibiotic resistant genes.

Newcastle University's Professor David Graham, who led the research, said the findings suggest an emerging threat to public and environmental health in the future.

"Over the last few decades there has been growing concern about increasing antibiotic resistance and the threat it poses to our health, which is best evidenced by MRSA," explained Professor Graham, who is based in the School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences at Newcastle University.

Better Earth

Earth's atmosphere "breathing" more rapidly

Earth's atmosphere was known to "breathe" in a cycle lasting nearly a month. Now scientists say the planet takes a quick breath every few days.

The breathing-like activity is the result of high-speed solar wind disturbances that cause a recurrent expansion and contraction of Earth's atmosphere every few days, satellite observations show. This atmospheric mode could affect radio communication, orbiting satellites and possibly the Earth's climate, researchers say.

The expansion and contraction happens way up in the Earth's thermosphere, the layer of the atmosphere that extends from about 60 to 300 miles (96.5 to 483 kilometers) above the planet's surface. The thermosphere is constantly interacting with the sun's upper atmosphere as it expands out into the solar system, said one of the researchers who made the discovery, Jeff Thayer of the University of Colorado in Boulder, during a press conference at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco yesterday.

This interaction causes an energy exchange that can change the density of the thermosphere (how closely the gas molecules within it are packed together). As its density changes, the thermosphere expands and contracts.


Do Agribusiness Giants Fear Organics?

organic farm
Last month, Michael Mack, the chief executive of Syngenta, said organic farming takes up 30 percent more land than non-organic farming for the same yield. Syngenta is a Swiss agribusiness company that makes pesticides and seeds. "If the whole planet were to suddenly switch to organic farming tomorrow, it would be an ecological disaster," he said.

In terms of yields, he continued, organic food is the "productive equivalent of driving an S.U.V." Mack mentioned what he believes is the "mistaken belief that natural is always better." Pesticides, he added, "have been proven safe and effective and absolutely not harmful to the environment or to humans" by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).