Earth ChangesS


Flashback Propaganda: Has the Arctic melt passed the point of no return?

Scientists have found the first unequivocal evidence that the Arctic region is warming at a faster rate than the rest of the world at least a decade before it was predicted to happen.

Climate-change researchers have found that air temperatures in the region are higher than would be normally expected during the autumn because the increased melting of the summer Arctic sea ice is accumulating heat in the ocean. The phenomenon, known as Arctic amplification, was not expected to be seen for at least another 10 or 15 years and the findings will further raise concerns that the Arctic has already passed the climatic tipping-point towards ice-free summers, beyond which it may not recover.

The Arctic is considered one of the most sensitive regions in terms of climate change and its transition to another climatic state will have a direct impact on other parts of the northern hemisphere, as well more indirect effects around the world.

Better Earth

Flashback Propaganda: Meltdown fear as Arctic ice cover falls to record winter low

Record amounts of the Arctic ocean failed to freeze during the recent winter, new figures show, spelling disaster for wildlife and strengthening concerns that the region is locked into a destructive cycle of irreversible climate change.

Satellite measurements show the area covered by Arctic winter sea ice reached an all-time low in March, down some 300,000 square kilometres on last year -an area bigger than the UK.

Scientists say the decline highlights an alarming new trend, with recovery of the ice in winter no longer sufficient to compensate for increased melting in the summer. If the cycle continues, the Arctic ocean could lose all of its ice much earlier than expected, possibly by 2030.

Walt Meier, a researcher at the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado, which collected the figures, said: "It's a pretty stark drop. In the winter the ice tends to be pretty stable, so the last three years, with this steady decline, really stick out."


Flashback Propaganda: Arctic sea ice may be at 'tipping point'

Arctic ice melting may have accelerated to a "tipping point" that will produce a vicious cycle of melting and heating, U.S. scientists say.

Another record loss of sea ice in the Arctic this summer is expected by Arctic specialists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at Colorado University, who have been studying polar sea ice since 1978, the Independent reported Friday.

Scientists fear that the Arctic has now entered an irreversible phase of warming that will further accelerate the loss of the polar sea ice creating a rise in ocean levels.

Bizarro Earth

Magnitude 6.0 earthquake jolts northern Japan

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.0 jolted northern Japan on Sunday, a government agency said. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage and no tsunami warning was issued.

The focus of the tremor was 40 km below the surface of the earth, in Iwate prefecture, about 450 km north of Tokyo, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

The earthquake measured a 4 on the Japanese intensity scale, which measures ground motion. A quake of that reading can cause ornaments or furniture to fall over.


Flashback CBS 'Global Warming Special' Host Likened Warming Skeptics to Holocaust Deniers

While most of the country was watching the Green Bay Packers play the New York Giants, CBS aired an hour-long, severely one-sided special about the threat of global warming.

The special was hosted by CBS's Scott Pelley. In January 2007, Pelley was asked why he refused to include global warming skeptics in his reporting. He responded, "If I do an interview with [Holocaust survivor] Elie Wiesel, am I required as a journalist to find a Holocaust denier?"

The January 20 CBS special attacked the Bush White House for not being willing to sign the Kyoto Protocol after he was elected - furthering the common misconception that Bush has been alone in his opposition to it, as the Senate actually voted 95 to 0 to reject Kyoto earlier.

Pelley took a very conspiratorial tone.


World's Oldest Swan Found Dead In Denmark

© Mindaugas UrbonasMute swan.

What was probably the world's oldest mute swan has been found dead in Denmark. This unusual example of Denmark's national bird lived to just past the ripe old age of 40. The previous record for a mute swan was 28 years old.

The swan was found dead at Korsør Skovstrand on Christmas Day last year. It was ringed and its leg ring was sent to the Copenhagen Bird Ringing Centre at the Zoological Museum at The University of Copenhagen. The number on the ring was Helgoland 112851 and after checking their records, the centre realised that this was no ordinary dead swan. It turned out that the swan had been ringed on 21st February 1970 at Heikendorf near Kiel in northern Germany and that it was at least a year and a half old when it was ringed.


When It Comes To Elephant Love Calls, The Answer Lies In A Bone-shaking Triangle

Elephants in Etosha National Park, Namibia.
© iStockphoto/Angelika SternElephants in Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Many a love-besotted soul has declared they would move the world for their true love, but how many actually accomplish that task in their quest to unite with a lover?

Poets and romantics may argue the point, but research has shown that elephants issuing calls, including those of love - more precisely, females in estrus - produce not only audible sounds, but also low-frequency seismic vibrations that can travel through the near-surface soils for distances up to several kilometers.

And though we humans may claim to feel our lover's call in our heart, soul or other organs of either physical or philosophical origin, most of us need said love call to caress the hair cells of our inner ears for it to register in what is arguably our most important love/sex organ - our brain.


Scientists Discover Butterflies Wings are High-efficiency Solar Cells

solar cells
Butterflies are beautiful, fragile, natural, and apparently solar powered.

Research suggests that certain scales on butterfly wings are nanobiologically-tuned to absorb heat from sunlight, enabling the insect to survive in colder or higher-altitudes than normal. Now some scientists offer ecologists a nasty choice: you can have higher-efficiency solar cells but we have to burn butterfly wings


Honey bees work together to make group decisions

© Associated Press
Honey bees use a complex system of consulting one another before choosing a hive in a process London scientists say could help humans make better decisions.

Swarms send out groups of 'scout bees' to assess the quality of a potential site for a hive. The insects then report back and do a 'dance' to describe the benefits of the site. The study found the swarm then comes to a group decision on the best site by revisiting sites recommended by others until a consensus emerges and all the bees are performing the same 'dance'.

Scientists say that the process could help the business world to come to more informed group decisions.


Tree Lizard's Quick Release Escape System Makes Jumpers Turn Somersaults

If you've ever tried capturing a lizard, you'll know how difficult it is. But if you do manage to corner one, many have the ultimate emergency quick release system for escape. They simply drop their tails, leaving the twitching body part to distract the predator as they scamper to safety. According to Gary Gillis from Mount Holyoke College, USA, up to 50% of some lizard populations seem to have traded some part of their tails in exchange for escape. This made Gillis wonder how this loss may impact on a lizard's mobility and ability to survive. Specifically how do branch hopping, tree dwelling lizards cope with their loss.

Teaming up with undergraduate student Lauren Bonvini, the pair began encouraging lizard leaps to see how well the reptiles coped without their tails and publish their results on 13th February 2009 in The Journal of Experimental Biology.

Constructing a jumping arena from boxes and fine sandpaper, the duo gently encouraged arboreal Anolis carolinensis (anole) lizards to launch themselves from a 11cm high platform as they filmed the animals' jumps. The animals performed well, launching themselves by pushing off with their back feet and landing gracefully, covering distances ranging from 14.9-29.9 cm.