Earth ChangesS

Cloud Lightning

23 die in Mongolia floods

More than 20 people died and hundreds were made homeless as the worst flooding to hit Mongolia in decades wreaked havoc on the landlocked nation, an international aid group said Monday.

Beijing-based International Red Cross spokesman Francis Markus told AFP 23 people had been confirmed killed, citing figures provided by Mongolia's Red Cross Society.

The full damage assessment from the rain storms that struck the capital, Ulan Bator, and the nation's western Gobi-Altai province last week, is still being compiled, Markus said.

However he said nearly 2,000 households had been affected, with 124 homes destroyed.

Cloud Lightning

Monsoon rain kills 26 in southern Pakistan

© Agence France-PressePakistani commuters travel by bus along a flooded street after heavy monsoon rainfall in Karachi on July 19, 2009.
At least 26 people, mostly women and children, were killed and hundreds injured after the first torrential rains of the monsoon lashed Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi, officials said Sunday.

The heavy monsoon rain, which started early Saturday, brought much of the city to a standstill as power and communication systems were badly affected and hundreds of people were forced from their homes.

Meteorological officials said more rain was due in the next 24 hours in southern Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital.

"According to our reports 26 people are confirmed dead and hundreds injured. We are facing an emergency-like situation. We cannot fight with nature," Karachi mayor Mustafa Kamal told AFP.


Thousands flee western Canadian wildfires

© Reuters / Andy Clark
Emergency crews made slow progress Sunday to contain wildfires that have forced thousands of residents of a western Canadian community to flee their homes.

Wind and dry conditions were fueling the large blazes that broke out Saturday in the rugged hills along Okanagan Lake west of the city of Kelowna, British Columbia, where housing subdivisions have encroached on the surrounding forest in recent years.

"The winds are definitely adding to the fire activity," said Elise Riedlinger, a spokeswoman for the British Columbia Forest Service, which has not estimated when the fires can be brought under control.


Ancient wisdom vs. hi-tech forecasts as climate changes

Many farming and fishing communities don't bother with weather predictions made by meteorologists and satellite imaging; they still predict floods, storms and drought the traditional way: by tracking nature.

In the drought-prone coastal province of Ninh Thuan, farmers believe that if the dragonfly flies high it will be sunny and if it flies low there will be rain.

In north-central Thua Thien-Hue Province, fishermen are likely to bring their boats back to the shore if, in January or February, they look to the north and see a silver cloud that quickly disappears - a sign of cold weather, they say.

Bizarro Earth

Fertilizer's Contamination Legacy

Perchlorate-contaminated groundwater could be a widespread legacy of the U.S.'s agricultural past, according to researchers who have pioneered perchlorate forensics. The researchers, led by John Karl Bhlke of the U.S. Geological Survey, used isotopes and other geochemical tracers to identify perchlorate sources. The impact of the historic use of Chilean nitrate fertilizer from the Atacama Desert, which contains naturally occurring perchlorate, is emerging from studies such as one published recently in Environmental Science and Technology (DOI link).

The study, which identifies historic use of the fertilizer as the most likely cause of groundwater contamination in some areas of Long Island, New York, is one of the first published reports on the use of such forensics in the field. Similar studies are under way in California, Iowa, Arkansas, and New Jersey, but these are part of ongoing litigation, according to coauthor Neil Sturchio of the University of Illinois Chicago. The Long Island study "is a beautifully conceived and executed work that will be helpful to pinpoint sources in some other cases, as well," says analytical chemist Purnendu ("Sandy") Dasgupta of the University of Texas Arlington.

Bizarro Earth

Earthquake Magnitude 5.4 - Near the Coast of Ecuador

© US Geological Survey
Sunday, July 19, 2009 at 08:35:44 UTC

Sunday, July 19, 2009 at 03:35:44 AM at epicenter

1.749°S, 80.398°W

47.8 km (29.7 miles)

70 km (45 miles) NW of Guayaquil, Ecuador

75 km (50 miles) S of Portoviejo, Ecuador

175 km (110 miles) NNW of Machala, Ecuador

270 km (170 miles) SW of QUITO, Ecuador

Cloud Lightning

Canada: Edmonton's CN Tower damaged in violent storm

CN Tower damage
© UnknownCN Tower damaged in massive thunderstorm
As the clock wound down on one of Edmonton's few truly warm days of this summer, the skies over the city started to turn ominous shades of purple, blue and greenish-grey.

The scatters of rain that fell in the early evening were pale hint of the violent wind, hail and rain that was to follow, felling power lines, snapping trees in half, and plunging Whyte Avenue into blackness.

By 10 p.m., the winds were so severe they tore down the awning of the CN Tower at 104th Avenue and 100th Street. The building has a second floor wider than its base and the material that made up the overhang came crashing down on an SUV and a truck.

"The winds were just howling," said Brian Danyluk, who was driving down the street just as the crash happened and stopped to photograph the wreckage.


Arctic Mystery: Identifying the Great Blob of Alaska

A group of hunters aboard a small boat out of the tiny Alaska village of Wainwright were the first to spot what would eventually be called "the blob." It was a dark, floating mass stretching for miles through the Chukchi Sea, a frigid and relatively shallow expanse of Arctic Ocean water between Alaska's northwest coast and the Russian Far East. The goo was fibrous, hairy. When it touched floating ice, it looked almost black.

But what was it? An oil slick? Some sort of immense, amorphous organism adrift in some of the planet's most remote waters? Maybe a worrisome sign of global climate change? Or was it something insidious and, perhaps, even carnivorous like the man-eating jello from the old Steve McQueen movie that inspired the Alaskan phenomenon's nickname?

The hunters got word to the U.S. Coast Guard, which immediately sent two spill response experts to fly over the mass, which looked sort of rusty from the air. They also approached it by boat. The North Slope Borough, the local government for the vast and sparsely populated cap of Alaska, sent its own people out the main village of Barrow to have a look. They scooped up jars of the stuff for analysis in a state lab in Anchorage.

Bizarro Earth

Earthquake Magnitude 5.2 - Iraq

© US Geological Survey
Saturday, July 18, 2009 at 20:32:27 UTC

Sunday, July 19, 2009 at 12:32:27 AM at epicenter

35.844°N, 43.349°E

7.4 km (4.6 miles) (poorly constrained)

60 km (35 miles) SSE of Mosul, Iraq

70 km (45 miles) WSW of Irbil, Iraq

105 km (65 miles) WNW of Kirkuk, Iraq

295 km (185 miles) NNW of BAGHDAD, Iraq

Bizarro Earth

Two earthquakes rock New Zealand, aftershocks continue

Two more earthquakes with a magnitude of over 5 on the Richter scale rocked New Zealand's southern Fiordland region Friday as aftershocks continued in the wake of a major shake two days earlier.

Both were in the same region as Wednesday night's quake, which New Zealand seismologists insist was of magnitude 7.8, equal to the one that devastated the North Island city Napier in 1931, killing 256 people. At 7.8, it would be the biggest in the world this year.

However, the US Geological Survey downgraded its strength to 7.6, which would equal the year's most powerful quakes recorded off the Pacific island state Tonga in March and off Indonesia on January 3.