Earth ChangesS


Dozens dead in Romanian cold snap

Forty-three people have died in Romania since late December due to the extremely cold temperatures, the deputy secretary-of-state for health, Raed Arafat, announced Saturday.

The dead included a three-month old baby, Arafat was quoted as saying by Newsin news agency.

Romania has experienced a major cold snap, with temperatures dropping as low as minus 31 degrees Celsius (minus 23.8 degrees Fahrenheit) in the centre of the country.

Cloud Lightning

Storm sinks Indonesian ferry, 250 feared dead

Jakarta, Indonesia -- A ferry capsized in a severe storm and crashing waves in central Indonesia on Sunday and officials said around 250 people were feared dead.

Eighteen survivors were rescued by fishing boats, but the fate of the others remained unclear, said Taufik, a port official at Parepare on the island of Sulawesi, where the ferry began its journey. Taufik uses one name, as is common in Indonesia.

About 250 passengers and 17 crew are believed to have been onboard the ferry when it went down 30 miles (50 kilometers) off the coast off western Sulawesi. Indonesians generally don't know how to swim and it was feared that most onboard would have drowned.


Snow continues to trap thousands at Madrid airport

MADRID - Thousands of passengers were still stranded at Madrid's Barajas airport on Saturday after snow kept runways closed and flights grounded.

Only two of the airport's four runways were operating, national television TVE said, citing comments by the head of communications for Spanish airports operator AENA.

An estimated 985 flights were expected to take off and land on Saturday, compared with 1,200 normally, according to AENA data.

Cloud Lightning

Cyclone Charlotte crosses the Queensland coast near Karumba

* Cyclone Charlotte hits Queensland
* Gale force winds, flooding expected
* Residents told to prepare emergency kits

Aus Cyclone
© BOMCyclone Charlotte ... hitting the coast of North Queensland this morning

Tropical Cyclone Charlotte has crossed the coast in far north Queensland, bringing heavy rain and damaging winds to the area.

The Bureau of Meteorology said Charlotte made land at about 4am (AEST) near the mouth of the Gilbert River, 305km north-west of Georgetown.

The category one cyclone, Queensland's first of the season, is expected to continue moving east-southeast over land while weakening.

The bureau has warned that gales and damaging winds with gusts to 120 km/h may be experienced between Cape Keer-Weer and Burketown, and extend about 200km inland. Heavy rainfall and flooding are expected in the south-east Gulf country.

Acting Emergency Services Minister Andrew Fraser said that falls of up to 300mm were expected between Cardwell and Mossman.


Kenya: Scramble for relief food leaves several injured

Several people were injured as they scrambled for relief food at South Alego Location in Siaya district, Nyanza Province as hunger continues to bite in the country.

The relief maize had spilled as the lorry that was transporting it overturned in a freak road accident.

Unconfirmed sources said the consignment was headed to the home of an undisclosed local politician.

It was a free for all as residents tried to scoop as much as they could of the maize with the loaders being forced to watch helplessly after unsuccessfully attempting to stop the hungry residents from scrambiling for the food.

Comment: Even though there is an ongoing drought in Kenya which is devastating the food crops, let's not forget that the government is equally to blame given that it has a long history of misspending state funds and allowing Western corporations to steal
Kenya's natural resources. The fact that the government is ignoring the violence and troubles of its peoples while stealing money from government projects to lavish on "new ministries" is unconscionable.

Throw in the U.S's bogus war on terror and the continuing, contrived turmoil this creates and there is little hope for the peoples of Kenya in this continuing situation.

For an interesting analysis of foreign government involvement in Kenya,
see the Sott article Kenya, John Kerry, Diamonds and Mossad.

Bizarro Earth

US: 2008 Saw Notable Increase in Moderate Southern California Earthquakes

Los Angeles - Do you think the ground feels a little shakier these days? It's not your imagination.

Last year saw a significant increase in the number of temblors of magnitude 3.0 or greater in Southern California and the northern portion of Baja California, according to data from Caltech and the U.S. Geological Survey.

The region recorded 267 shakers with magnitudes of 3.0 and above last year, compared with 125 in 2007. Seismologists said 2008 had the highest number of such quakes of any year since 1999.

What experts don't know is whether the quake cluster is a harbinger of bigger quakes to come. The 1990s was considered a seismically active decade in Southern California, producing the magnitude 7.3 Landers quake in 1992 and the destructive Northridge quake in 1994. During the quake cluster of 1999, the region was hit by the magnitude 7.1 Hector Mine temblor in the desert and several sizable aftershocks. There were 828 quakes with magnitudes of 3.0 and above that year.

Comment: For some interesting ideas about earthquakes, see: Earthquakes, Gases, and Earthquake Prediction

Bizarro Earth

Tourists evacuated after fatal Costa Rica quake

Vara Blanca - Rescue helicopters ferried stranded tourists on Friday from a picturesque volcanic area in Costa Rica where a strong earthquake killed around 14 people.

Two people were buried when Thursday's 6.1-magnitude quake triggered landslides near the La Paz waterfall at Vara Blanca, on the flanks of the Poas Volcano, officials said. A dozen people were killed in nearby areas.

"There are landslides on all the roads," said Guillermo Schwartz, a tourist from Guatemala. "The helicopters are trying to get people to the airport in San Jose."

Four children were killed but the Red Cross struggled to give an exact death count as rescue workers combed jungle paths for victims and emergency officials checked lists of names with tour operators.

"It was terrifying," said Spanish tourist Nazario Llinarez, 50, who described how he was at the waterfall with his wife when part of the hillside collapsed. The couple scrambled up a slope and spent the night huddled in a bus before being evacuated by helicopter.


Rare 'dinky' bird migrates to US for first time

Choke Canyon, Texas-- Birders with binoculars and cameras are flocking to a remote state park in search of a small yellow-chested bird that apparently crossed the U.S. border for the first time from its high-mountain habitat to the south.

At 5 inches with beige and yellow markings, the pine flycatcher doesn't look like much, but its unprecedented migration from Mexico and Guatemala is exciting birders all over the country.

"It's not a thrilling bird visually. It's thrilling because it's a first U.S. record," said Wes Biggs, who flew to Choke Canyon State Park from Orlando, Fla., to catch a glimpse.


Temperature in Germany Falls to Minus 34.6 Degrees

An Arctic chill continued to frost Germany on Thursday, with nighttime temperatures of minus 34.6 degrees Celsius (minus 30.28 Fahrenheit) reported at Funtensee lake in Bavaria, according to the weather service Meteomedia.

Clear skies, dry air and almost a complete lack of wind on top of a thick covering of snow in the German Alps led to the dramatic drop in temperatures. The last time a lower temperature was recorded in the area was during Christmas 2001, when it measured minus 45.9 degrees Celsius, the coldest temperature in Germany since records began. In the town of Mähring in Bavaria near the border to the Czech Republic, the mercury dropped to minus 20.7 degrees Celsius.


'Climate fix' ship sets sail with plan to dump iron

© AWIOcean fertilisation experiments hope to boost krill populations in the southern ocean.

The largest and to date the most comprehensive experiment to soak up greenhouse-gas emissions by artificially fertilising the oceans set sail from South Africa earlier this week.

The ambitious geoengineering expedition has caused a stir among some campaigning groups, but has the scientific backing of the UK, German, and Indian governments, as well as the International Maritime Organisation.

Within weeks, the ship's crew hope to dump 20 tonnes of ferrous sulphate into the Southern Ocean. Plankton need iron to grow, and the aim of the expedition is to trigger a plankton bloom and boost the amount of carbon that is sucked out of the air and locked up at the bottom of the ocean.

The team, led by Victor Smetacek of the Alfred Wegner Institute, Bremerhaven, Germany, will also monitor the population of krill to see if their populations also increase. These small crustaceans feed on plankton and are an important food source for many marine species. So, if the population grows, this could give fisheries a boost.