Earth ChangesS

Evil Rays

Over 200 inches of snow greets Alyeska skiers and riders

Yes you read that right - over 200 inches - 16.7 feet! - of snow. And 117 inches of the total came in the last week at Alyeska Resort, about 40 miles south of Anchorage, Alaska.

Alyeska opened for business on November 26 and according to a press release, with "epic conditions that rival the best opening day on record."

Better Earth

Super-Ant Taking Over Europe

An ant species that originated in the Black Sea region has invaded more than 100 areas across Europe and is moving north. Scientists say if it is not stopped, it will reach northern Germany, Scandinavia and Britain and could invade the whole world.
Live Science Ants
© Credit: Centre for Social Evolution (CSE) at the University of CopenhagenRed dots show where Lasius neglectus has been found.

Bizarro Earth

Magnitude 6.2 - Near East Coast of Honshu, Japan

Date-Time Wednesday, December 03, 2008 at 23:16:58 UTC

Thursday, December 04, 2008 at 08:16:58 AM at epicenter

Location 38.566°N, 142.762°E

Depth 35 km (21.7 miles) set by location program

Distances 170 km (105 miles) ENE of Sendai, Honshu, Japan

190 km (120 miles) SE of Morioka, Honshu, Japan

220 km (140 miles) ENE of Fukushima, Honshu, Japan

420 km (260 miles) NE of TOKYO, Japan


Germany: Snow and ice cause traffic chaos

Heavy snow and black ice caused traffic chaos across Germany on Wednesday morning, meanwhile more winter weather was expected throughout the day.

Snow storms in the lower mountain range of the Rhineland region, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the Taunus region in the state of Hesse brought traffic to a standstill during the morning commute. The sanitary department had been out in full force ploughing snow and salting streets, police said, adding that they still expected delays in heavy traffic areas.

Bizarro Earth

Megathrust earthquake could hit Asia 'at any time'

A devastating "megathrust" earthquake could occur at any time off the Indonesian island of Sumatra, according to new research. Previous quakes have failed to release all of the energy that has built up over hundreds of years, leaving the fault zone vulnerable to another large earthquake.

Using GPS, field measurements, radar data and seismological records, a team of international researchers investigated the parameters and reconstructed the events of two massive earthquakes, measuring 8.4 and 7.9 on the Richter scale, which occurred in the Mentawai area in 2007.

Previous models of how earthquakes work had suggested that the same fault would rupture in the same way and at regular, predictable time intervals. But the researchers found that the 2007 quakes ruptured only a fraction of the area affected by the giant 1833 earthquake, indicating that a tectonic plate boundary can rupture in different patterns depending on local differences in stress.


UK: White Christmas betting goes into 'overdrive' as temperatures plummet

As forecasters predict more snow, bookmakers are slashing their odds, fearing a white Christmas could cost them up to £1m

The increasing prospect of a white Christmas forced bookmakers to slash their odds today after interest in the customary festive bet went into "overdrive".

The icy weather, which has already brought chaos to many parts of the country, is set to extend with forecasters predicting more snowfall.
Horses in the early morning snow on Holcombe Hill
© Christopher ThomondHorses in the early morning snow on Holcombe Hill on the border between Greater Manchester and Lancashire.

Laura Gilchrist, forecaster at MeteoGroup, said: "Tonight a warm front of air from the west will hit a colder front, creating snow. By the early hours of tomorrow morning most parts of the country will be seeing either rain or snow."


On the trail of Tahiti's elusive vanilla orchid

Sweet, rich and rare, Tahitian vanilla is the gourmet's choice and second only to saffron in the league of pricey spices. For botanists, Tahitian vanilla holds a fascination far beyond its flavour: the orchid that produces it is an evolutionary enigma. Vanilla tahitensis is known only from French Polynesia and New Guinea, where it has been cultivated since the late 19th century. The puzzle is where it came from originally. All vanilla orchids with aromatic beans are native to tropical America, yet this species has never been found there. Diligent detective work and DNA analysis suggest that the plant emerged from the chocolate gardens of Guatemala, crossed the Pacific on a Spanish galleon, and found its way to Tahiti in a French admiral's baggage.

All good detective stories need a decent hunch, some intriguing clues and, these days, some sophisticated DNA analysis. If the plot revolves around an old, unsolved case, so much the better. The Tahitian vanilla mystery has all this and more: exotic locations and a trail that spans half the globe and at least half a millennium.
© Jean-Pierre Pleuchot/Image Bank/GettyTahiti is the home of the finest vanilla, but Tahitian vanilla has long been an enigma

For more than 50 years, botanists have puzzled over the origin of the vanilla orchid grown on the islands of French Polynesia in the Pacific Ocean. The first formal description of the species was based on a specimen from Raiatea, the second largest island in the archipelago and sacred to the Tahitians, so it was named Vanilla tahitensis. Yet the orchid was clearly alien to these islands.


Update: Meteorite hunters hit pay dirt in Canadian prairie

Meteorite hunters are having a field day - literally - following the discovery of dozens of fragments from a 10-tonne space rock that exploded over the Canadian prairie on 20 November.

A large search team will scour the area on Wednesday in hopes of finding more pieces and mapping out the extent of the debris field before the terrain is covered in snow. "The quicker we get them, with the least amount of water contact, the better," says Ellen Milley, a graduate student at the University of Calgary.
© Grady Semmens/University of CalgaryEllen Milley, a graduate student at the University of Calgary, found the first meteorite fragment on an ice-covered pond in Canada's Buzzard Coulee valley

As of Monday evening, she and colleagues had picked up more than 60 meteorites from a 24-square-kilometre patch of windswept grassland and frozen waterways near the town of Marsden, Saskatchewan.

Amateur treasure seekers who flocked to the area in droves over the weekend have walked away with many more pieces, including a 13-kilogram chunk found by a father and son from Alberta.

Bizarro Earth

Magnitude 4.9 - Central Kazakhstan


* Wednesday, December 03, 2008 at 04:26:33 UTC
* Wednesday, December 03, 2008 at 10:26:33 AM at epicenter
* Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones

Location 42.678°N, 73.300°E

Depth 35 km (21.7 miles) set by location program


Distances 90 km (55 miles) ENE of Talas, Kyrgyzstan

120 km (75 miles) W of BISHKEK (Frunze), Kyrgyzstan

155 km (95 miles) E of Taraz (Dzhambul), Kazakhstan

220 km (140 miles) NNE of Andijon (Andizhan), Uzbekistan


US: Plague spurs prairie dog die-off in grasslands

Colorado Springs - An outbreak of the plague is killing off the black-tailed prairie dogs on the Comanche National Grassland in southeast Colorado, in a dramatic die-off that has raised concerns for the future of the species in one of its richest habitats.

The U.S. Forest Service, which runs the 443,750-acre grassland, said Monday that prairie dog colonies decreased from 16,000 acres in 2005 to just 3,607 this year. The plague occurs regularly among prairie dogs throughout their range, spreads quickly through colonies, and can infect pets and humans that come into contact with them, the agency said.

The news comes at a time of scrutiny on the small, plains rodent. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to determine, possibly as soon as today, whether the prairie dog should be protected under the Endangered Species Act.