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Tue, 26 Jul 2016
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Earth Changes

Bizarro Earth

Scientists warn Great Barrier Reef in Australia is undergoing a complete ecosystem collapse

© Reuters
An aerial view of Australia's Great Barrier Reef
Australia's Great Barrier Reef is so damaged it is undergoing a "complete ecosystem collapse," scientists monitoring the area have warned.

Parts of the Queensland reef are still bleaching even in the Southern Hemisphere's winter, and fish populations are disappearing. The Great Barrier Reef has suffered from bleaching in as much as 93 percent of the reef, with 80 percent enduring severe bleaching, Climate Central reported in April.

Coral Watch's Justin Marshall spent a week surveying reefs near Queensland's Lizard Island and said the lack of fish was the most shocking discovery. "I was seeing a lot less than 50 percent of what was there [before]. Some species I wasn't seeing at all," he told the Guardian.

Coral bleaching is the result of warming sea water which causes coral to release algae in an effort to cool. The algae give coral its color. When the coral is unable to cool down and find new algae, it dies and turns a white color. The dead coral then attracts dark algae which give it a brown appearance.

This dark, or 'turf', algae block the fish from food and shelter, which causes fish populations to deplete through dying or relocating to more promising food sources.


Wildfires force mass evacuations north of Los Angeles,California, prompt warnings of extreme danger

© Noah Berger / Reuters
The Erskine Fire burns above South Lake, California.
Huge wildfires burning in the mountains north of Los Angeles and near Big Sur on California's Central Coast are posing a threat to more than 1,300 households and already caused forced evacuations of about 300 homes, according to local authorities.

A fire that erupted on Friday in the Sand Canyon area near Santa Clarita located north of Los Angeles has already incinerated some 4,450 hectares and has grown to more than eight and a half square miles.

Comment: See also: California wildfire nearly doubles in size to 20,000 acres

Cloud Lightning

Man dies following lightning strike in Arvada, Colorado; 12th death within 6 weeks in U.S. due to lightning

A 23-year-old former Westport man was killed by lightning while at a suburban Denver golf course, authorities said.

He was identified as Peter Hawkes, who attended Staples High School in his freshman year and graduated in 2011 from New York's Xavier High School. He graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2015.

Hawkes and another man were at the struck just before 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Indian Tree Golf Course in suburban Arvada, the Denver Post reported. Other reports said they were under a tree.

Hawkes spent several hours in a burn unit but was pronounced dead by 1 a.m. Wednesday, the Denver Post said. The condition of the other man was not available.


California wildfire nearly doubles in size to 20,000 acres

© Twitter
Hundreds have fled their homes as the Califormia fire remains largely out of control
Evacuation orders remained in place for around 1,500 homes near a wildfire north of Los Angeles early Sunday, after the blaze nearly doubled in size Saturday.

The mandatory evacuation orders were prompted by the so-called Sand Fire burning in the Angeles National Forest and areas near Santa Clarita, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said. Earlier, evacuation orders affected around 300 homes.

Authorities discovered a burned body Saturday evening outside a home on Iron Canyon Road in Santa Clarita, just north of Los Angeles.

Detectives were trying to determine whether the person was killed by the blaze or another cause, Los Angeles County sheriff's Lt. Rob Hahnlein said. The home also may have burned, he said.

The fire broke out at around 2:11 p.m. local time Friday (5:14 p.m. ET) and swelled to 11,000 acres by noon Saturday and then to 20,000 acres by Saturday evening, fire officials said. More than 900 firefighters were battling the blaze, the Angeles National Forest said.

Comment: Could 2016 be California's worst wildfire season?


The coming ice age - Antarctic peninsula has been cooling not warming

© Wikimedia Commons
A tidewater glacier on the Antarctic coast, with a sharply peaked mountain behind.
The "fastest warming place" on Planet Earth wasn't warming.

A new Antarctic study wipes out 20 years of panic about the West Antarctic Peninsula. All these years while people were crying about penguins, it turns out that the place was cooling rather than warming. Mankind has emitting a third of all its "CO2-pollution" ever from 1998, and there was "no discernible" effect on Antarctica. Indeed, the study quietly finds that even the bigger longer warming that has happened in the last century was not "unprecedented" in the last 2000 years.

In the last decade as this cooling trend was happening in the real world - in the media, the same spot was being described as "one of the fastest warming places on Earth":
The Antarctic Peninsula is one of the fastest-warming places on Earth, NBC, 2013

West Antarctic Ice Sheet warming twice earlier estimate, BBC, 2012
And this sort of news has been going on for years. This was "big deal" once-in-2000 year type stuff:
UK scientists say parts of Antarctica have recently been warming much faster than most of the rest of the Earth. They believe the warming is probably without parallel for nearly two thousand years. - BBC, 2001
But the news in 2016 was a bit of a bomb, prone to being misinterpreted, so the PR Team was pre-armed with excuses, from the first line of the scientific abstract which pretty much says that the peninsula still was one of the fastest warming places on Earth (if you look at warming from 1950 and ignore the last 20 years the study is studying). Great opening line. The abstract also mentions that the Antarctic peninsula is only 1% of the Antarctic (though no one seems to mention that when it was melting).

Cloud Precipitation

129 killed and more than 8.6 million people affected as extreme rains flood China

© Darley Shen / Reuters
A woman with a body of a dead pig at a flooded farm in Xiaogan, Hubei Province, China, July 22, 2016.

Some 8.6 million people have been affected by destructive floods and landslides caused by heavy rain in China, local media report. They add that at least 129 people have been killed and the death toll is likely to rise.

The worst-hit was Hebei province in northern China, Xinhua news agency reported. Some 52,000 homes collapsed in the area. Hebei has about 73 million residents.

At least 114 people have been killed and 111are still missing in the province, according to the People's Daily newspaper.

The city of Xingtai alone saw nine people killed, with 11 more unaccounted for.


Minke whale carcass washes up at St John's Point, Northern Ireland

The whale that washed up at St John’s Point
The carcass of 26ft-long minke whale has washed ashore on rocks at St John's Point in County Down.

The body of the huge creature, which is believed to have been dead for around a week, was discovered by a member of the public on the foreshore near Killough.

A team from Newcastle Coastguard Station was sent to the scene to measure and photograph the body.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, Ian Enlander, from the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, said: "In the summer, minke whales move south from the west of Scotland into the Irish sea, where there is plenty of food for them.

"They're often sighted off Islandmagee as they migrate toward the Isle of Man.

"It appears that this young male minke died after its tail became entangled in some discarded fishing gear."


Humpback whale found dead in Shoalwater Bay, Western Australia

© Elle Mitaros
The humpback whale beached at Shoalwater Bay.
A shark warning has been issued for Rockingham after a dead eight-metre humpback whale washed ashore in Shoalwater Bay.

The warning was issued this morning from Surf Life Saving WA, after a shark sighting was reported at around 10am off Port Kennedy beach.

The carcass beached on the sandbar between Seal Island and the mainland, after it was first reported around 500m off-shore. The Department of Parks and Wildlife reported a 2.5m tiger shark had been seen circling the dead whale before it beached.

A statement from the Department of Parks and Wildlife last night after the discovery of the carcass said it could have lured the shark.

"It is possible the decomposing carcass will act as an attractant that could lead to sharks coming close in to shore," the statement read.

The Department of Fisheries is monitoring the situation and providing advice to relevant authorities.


Pack of dogs maul 3-year-old boy to death in Dilkon, Arizona

Dog attack victim Kayden Colter Begay
Shaken by a vicious dog mauling that killed a 3-year-old boy on the Navajo Nation, local leaders are expressing anger over the attack, saying encounters with stray and feral animals on the vast reservation are all too common and more could have been done to prevent the tragedy.

A report from the Navajo Nation Animal Control Program confirmed the child was attacked in the area of Dilkon, Arizona, on July 14 by a pack of dogs, but it does not list the dogs' breeds or indicate whether they were strays or had an owner. Citing the report, a spokeswoman for Navajo President Russell Begaye said five dogs mauled the boy before authorities arrived on the scene in response to a telephone message of a fatal canine attack.

Two dogs were shot and killed on site, and the other three were euthanized at an animal shelter in Fort Defiance, Arizona, according to the report. All of the dogs tested negative for rabies.

"People have told me that they had reported on these dogs before, but nobody came around until (the attack) happened," said Cecil Hubbell, president of the Navajo Nation's Wide Ruins Chapter, where the boy lived with his mother. "People overlook these things. They don't check up on it, and now we got a 3-year-old boy that is gone."

Better Earth

Chinese researchers find world's deepest sinkhole found in South China Sea

© People's Daily
Chinese researchers claim to have found the world's deepest underwater sinkhole, located near the hotly disputed islands of the South China Sea.

Also known as a blue hole, it measures 300.89 meters (988ft) in depth, far surpassing the previous record held by Dean's Blue Hole in the Bahama Islands, which is 202 meters deep.

Measuring 130 meters in diameter, the hole was discovered at a major coral reef near the Paracel Islands, which both China and Vietnam have claims on, as part of an exploration project which ran from August 2015 until June.