Earth ChangesS

Better Earth

Mysterious Microbe May Play Important Role In Ocean Ecology

An unusual microorganism discovered in the open ocean may force scientists to rethink their understanding of how carbon and nitrogen cycle through ocean ecosystems. A research team led by Jonathan Zehr, professor of ocean sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, characterized the new microbe by analyzing its genetic material, even though researchers have not been able to grow it in the laboratory.
© Rachel FosterThese unidentified cyanobacteria were collected in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii.

Zehr said the newly described organism seems to be an atypical member of the cyanobacteria, a group of photosynthetic bacteria formerly known as blue-green algae. Unlike all other known free-living cyanobacteria, this one lacks some of the genes needed to carry out photosynthesis, the process by which plants use light energy to make sugars out of carbon dioxide and water. The mysterious microbe can do something very important, though: It provides natural fertilizer to the oceans by "fixing" nitrogen from the atmosphere into a form useable by other organisms.


Sea Ice Growing at Fastest Pace on Record

Rapid Rebound Brings Ice Back to Levels from the 1980s.

An abnormally cool Arctic is seeing dramatic changes to ice levels. In sharp contrast to the rapid melting seen last year, the amount of global sea ice has rebounded sharply and is now growing rapidly. The total amount of ice, which set a record low value last year, grew in October at the fastest pace since record-keeping began in 1979.

The actual amount of ice area varies seasonally from about 16 to 23 million square kilometers. However, the mean anomaly-- defined as the difference between the current area and the seasonally-adjusted average-- changes much slower, and generally varies by only 2-3 million square kilometers.

That anomaly had been negative, indicating ice loss, for most of the current decade and reached a historic low in 2007. The current value is again zero, indicating an amount of ice exactly equal to the global average from 1979-2000.


Firefighters battling California blaze at wind's mercy

SANTA BARBARA - Firefighters were holding their own Friday against a wildfire that destroyed more than 100 homes in a wealthy, celebrity-studded enclave, but authorities warned that evening wind gusts could send the blaze on another destructive sprint.

Bizarro Earth

Toxic river raises burning questions

The health of Australia's Murray-Darling river system, already shockingly poor, has just taken a turn for the worse. In the past month, tracts of wetland at the mouth of the Murray have become as corrosive as battery acid, forming a yellow crust of sideronatrite, a mineral that only forms in extremely acid soil.

This latest indicator of the river's decline is detailed in reports to be released this week by the CSIRO Land and Water research institute in Adelaide, South Australia. For years drought and mismanagement have reduced water flows in the Murray-Darling system, altering salinity, temperature and nutrient levels. But in July last year, a team led by Rob Fitzpatrick, who wrote the new reports, found a new problem: falling water levels in Lakes Alexandrina and Albert at the Murray's mouth in South Australia were exposing the surrounding soils, rich in iron sulphide, to the air.

Better Earth

Record snow falls in Europe and North America mean ski resorts open early

Ski resorts across Europe and North America have opened early this season after heavy snowfall in the last month.

A series of snowstorms since early November in North America and late October in Europe has enabled several resorts to open ahead of schedule.

The Italian resort of Bormio has opened a month early after heavy snowfalls at the end of October and start of November delivered 50ins to the resort's upper slopes.

Comment: Global warming? Up is down. Black is white.

US Temps 2008
© NOAA's National Climate Data Center 2008 Temperatures Below Normal For Most of USA
Boise Idaho gets earliest snow on record

7 killed in Tibet's 'worst snowstorm'. Record Snows in Switzerland, Britain.

Arizona, US: Record cold temps hit Tucson

Switzerland: All-time record snow storm triggers delays

Winter's chill comes early as Fairbanks records fourth-coldest October

Blizzard Blankets South Dakota

Record Low Temperatures across the United States


7 Killed in Tibet's 'Worst Snowstorm'. Record Snows in Switzerland, UK, US, Alaska

At least seven people have been found dead after "the worst snowstorm on record in Tibet," China's state-run news agency reported Friday. About 1,350 people were rescued in Lhunze County - another 300 were trapped - after nearly five feet (1.5 meters) of snow blanketed much of Tibet this week. The storm caused buildings to collapse, blocked roads and killed about 144,000 head of cattle, the state-run China Daily newspaper reported. The seven people who died either froze to death or were killed as a result of collapsing buildings, and one person is still missing, China Daily said. The BBC added: Heavy snowstorms have hit eastern Tibet over the last few days, worsening the situation for survivors of the earthquake earlier this month. Temperatures plummeted as snow started falling on Sunday.

At least two people are reported to have died and many more are missing. Snowfalls have blocked roads, caused avalanches and led to widespread power cuts. Thousands of people have been living in tents or temporary shelters since the earthquake on 6th October. Relief materials including food and blankets are flooding into the area. Heavy snowstorms are rare for this part of Tibet in October, and temperatures are unseasonably cold.

Bizarro Earth

Boise, Idaho, gets earliest snow on record

Valley shivers as winter weather makes a premature appearance.
Idaho Snow

Big snow flakes fell early Friday evening, turning Downtown Boise into a giant snow globe for people on their way home from work. The snow caught many people off guard, including this bicyclist heading down Idaho Street between 8th and 9th around 5:45 p.m. Across the Treasure Valley, tree branches heavy with wet, snow-covered leaves fell on power lines, causing scattered power outages.


US: Wildfire devastates celebrity enclave near LA.

Los Angeles - A huge wildfire fanned by strong winds destroyed at least 70 multimillion-dollar homes in the celebrity enclave of Montecito, northwest of Los Angeles, officials said.

The brush fire quickly engulfed more than 800 acres in about six hours on Thursday, ripping through entire blocks of mansions in a community dubbed "America's Riviera." Firefighters were largely powerless to stop the destruction.

Montecito, whose 10,000 homeowners include actors John Cleese, Christopher Lloyd and Rob Lowe as well as talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, is about 90 miles from Los Angeles in coastal Santa Barbara County.

About 2,500 residents were forced to flee the flames, and 20,000 people in the wider area were without power. Four minor injuries were reported.


Half a month's rain in one day expected in parts of South Africa

Days of heavy rain across parts of South Africa have caused widespread flooding, leaving more than 5 people dead. Torrential rain has been lashing parts of the country since Sunday, with temperatures plummeting to the mid-teens. Thousands of people are battling the torrents of water, with the city of Bloemfontein one of the worst hit by the rains, which has destroyed schools and roads.

Bizarro Earth

Asian skies poisoned by clouds of pollution

Satellite photo of pollution clouds
© NASA/Goddard Space Flight CenterA satellite image shows a dense blanket of polluted air over central eastern China covering the coastline around Shanghai.
A noxious cocktail of soot, smog and toxic chemicals is blotting out the sun, fouling the lungs of millions of people and altering weather patterns in large parts of Asia, according to a report released Thursday by the United Nations.

The byproduct of automobiles, slash-and-burn agriculture, wood-burning kitchen stoves and coal-fired power plants, these plumes of carbon dust rise over southern Africa, the Amazon basin and North America but are most pronounced in Asia, where so-called atmospheric brown clouds are dramatically reducing sunlight in many Chinese cities and leading to decreased crop yields in swaths of rural India, says a team of more than a dozen scientists who have been studying the problem since 2002.

Comment: Lest we forget, those deadly pollution clouds are the direct results of the export-oriented economy in Asia, or in other words, "free-market" capitalism.