Earth ChangesS


Lightning bolt barrage belts Brisbane

Storm Clouds
© Trent FieldStorm clouds just off the Gold Coast.
Power was cut to more than 15,000 homes and hailstones the size of golf balls fell during a severe thunderstorm over South-East Queensland last night.

The Bureau of Meteorology said wind gusts of 102 kilometres an hour were recorded at Amberley, west of Brisbane, at 4.50pm, while Brisbane Airport recorded up to 53 kilometres an hour, and the city 33 kilometres an hour.

Hailstones the size of golf balls were reported at North Ipswich and west of the city at Boonah and smaller hail stones also fell over Enoggera and Newmarket in Brisbane's north.

Cloud Lightning

Blackouts hit Johannesburg

A lightning strike on a transmission tower left swathes of Johannesburg without power this afternoon, City Power said.

"It is very widespread," said spokesman Louis Pieterse of the outage which stretches from at least Rosebank in the north east to Mondeor in the south.

Court cases at the Johannesburg High Court, including judgment in the "Jeppestown massacre" case, were among the daily affairs put on hold as technicians tried to repair the damage and restore power.

Better Earth

Researchers: 7 orcas missing from Puget Sound

Seattle - Seven Puget Sound killer whales are missing and presumed dead in what could be the biggest decline among the sound's orcas in nearly a decade, say scientists who carefully track the endangered animals.

"This is a disaster," Ken Balcomb, a senior scientist at the Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island, said Friday. "The population drop is worse than the stock market."

While the official census won't be completed until December, the total number of live "southern resident" orcas now stands at 83.


More than 60 killed in fierce Yemen storms

truck sinking
Sanaa - Aid operations swung into higher gear in Yemen on Saturday after floods killed at least 58 people and six more died from lightning strikes during two days of fierce storms.

The interior ministry, updating an earlier toll, said at least 58 people died in flooding fed by torrential downpours that hit Hadramaut and Mahara provinces on Thursday and Friday.

At least five others were reported missing in Mahara.

Four people were also killed by lightning in the southern provinces of Tayez and Lahj, and a mother and son also died when struck by lightning in the Al-Mahwit region north of the Yemeni capital Sanaa.

Bizarro Earth

Learning from the horses

One "patient" fell asleep. Another compulsively searched for food. The third, curious and easily distracted, wandered off.

The future doctors were perplexed. First-year students in Stanford University's School of Medicine, their impressive GPAs and MCAT exam scores didn't matter to these dusty volunteers.

But the students quickly discovered that other skills did. Like patience. Persistence. Rapport. Over a single afternoon, their "patients'' - three horses at Menlo Park's Webb Ranch - started paying attention.


New Coral Reef Discovered In The Seychelles

Researchers from the Department of Biological Sciences have discovered a previously unknown coral reef in the Seychelles.
coral reef on Curieuse Island
© University of EssexA coral reef on Curieuse Island.

Dr Dave Smith and Dr Dave Suggett visited Curieuse Island as part of an ongoing study funded by Mitsubishi Corporation in conjunction with the Earthwatch Institute. They were joined by PhD student Seb Hennige as well as local Seychelles collaborators.

The island, which is managed by the Seychelles Centre of Marine Research and Technology-Marine Protected Areas (SCMRT-MPA), is home to over 200 giant tortoises but it was thought no coral reefs were present.

Dr Smith said: 'Diving revealed an extensive coral reef to the south of the island, at a depth which would not be visible to the occasional snorkeller.'


Mercury Pollution Causes Immune Damage To Harbor Seals

Methylmercury (MeHg), the predominant form of mercury found in the blood of marine mammals and fish-eating communities, could be more damaging to seals than has previously been thought. New research shows that MeHg harms T-lymphocytes, key cells in a seal's immune system. Similar results were also found for human lymphocytes.
Harbor seal swimming
© iStockphoto/Andy RaatzHarbor seal swimming.

Mercury exposure is known to occur as a result of man-made pollution and natural events such as volcanic eruptions.

According to the lead author of this study, Krishna Das of the Université de Liège, Belgium, "Mercury is known to bioaccumulate and to magnify in marine mammals, which is a cause of great concern in terms of their general health. In particular, the immune system is known to be susceptible to long-term mercury exposure". In order to determine the scale of this problem, the authors carried out analysis of the blood mercury levels of harbour seals caught in the North Sea and tested the effects of MeHg in lab experiments.


Magnitude 4.5 quake in Greece, no injuries

Athens - Officials say an undersea earthquake with preliminary magnitude of 4.5 has shaken southern Greece. The moderate temblor caused no damage or injuries.

The Geodynamic Institute of Athens says the quake occurred at 5:17 a.m Thursday near the coastal town of Xylokastro, about 60 miles west of Athens.

Greece is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries.


Earthquake kills at least 72 in Kyrgyzstan

The 6.6-magnitude quake near the border between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan hit the remote village of Nura hard, bringing down dozens of buildings and injuring more than 100 people in addition to the confirmed deaths, Emergency Situations Minister Kamchybek Tashiyev said.

Later Monday, Health Ministry spokeswoman Yelena Bayalinova said the death toll was 72.

Bizarro Earth

Earthquake Frequency in Eastern Indonesia Increases

Jakarta: Mid-scale earthquakes occurred in the water the southern part of Indonesia, Thursday (23/10) early morning. It increases the quantity of earthquakes found in eastern Indonesia in the last 24 hours.

According to the Meteorology & Geophysics Agency (BMG), the earthquake measured five on the Richter scale with an epicenter at 11.7 south latitude and 116 east longitude or 335 kilometers away on the southeast side of Nusadua, Bali.