Earth ChangesS


Extreme Alaska cold grounds planes, disables cars

Juneau, Alaska - Ted Johnson planned on using a set of logs to a build a cabin in Alaska's interior. Instead he'll burn some of them to stay warm.

Extreme temperatures - in Johnson's case about 60 below zero - call for extreme measures in a statewide cold snap so frigid that temperatures have grounded planes, disabled cars, frozen water pipes and even canceled several championship cross country ski races.

Alaskans are accustomed to subzero temperatures but the prolonged conditions have folks wondering what's going on with winter less than a month old.

National Weather Service meteorologist Andy Brown said high pressure over much of central Alaska has been keeping other weather patterns from moving through. New conditions get pushed north or south while the affected area faces daily extremes.


Philippines: Hog deaths in Davao Sur still a mystery

The provincial veterinarian office on Thursday said the death of at least 50 pigs here since December was caused by a mixture of viral and bacterial infection.

But Dr. Nestor Barroga, provincial veterinarian, said they could not determine yet what type of virus affected the animals.

Barroga's statement came in the wake of the tests being conducted by experts from the United Nations on pigs in Luzon, where a strain of the Ebola-Reston virus was found last year.

Barroga said they were trying to immediately determine the type of the virus that downed pigs in at least eight villages here and that more samples have been brought to the regional animal center in Davao City for testing.

Bizarro Earth

Magnitude 6.1 Earthquake - Costa Rica


Magnitude 6.1 - COSTA RICA

2009 January 08 19:21:36 UTC

Thursday, January 08, 2009 at 01:21:36 PM at epicenter

Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones

Location 10.221°N, 84.207°W

Depth 14 km (8.7 miles) set by location program


Distances 35 km (20 miles) NNW of SAN JOSE, Costa Rica

75 km (45 miles) ENE of Puntarenas, Costa Rica

115 km (75 miles) SSE of San Carlos, Nicaragua

1770 km (1100 miles) SSW of Miami, Florida

Better Earth

Expert: Quakes could alter Yellowstone

The recent swarm of small earthquakes in Yellowstone National Park could alter some of the park's thermal features but should not raise any concern about the park's large volcano erupting anytime soon, a researcher said.

More than 500 earthquakes have been recorded in the area around Yellowstone Lake in the past 10 days.

The earthquakes appear to be subsiding and caused no property damage. But they have left scientists and park officials wondering what it means for the world's first national park.


Indonesia's West Papua Province Hit by Earthquake

Indonesia's West Papua province was hit by a magnitude 6.1 earthquake today, the latest powerful tremor to shake the region where five people were killed and hundreds injured at the weekend when buildings were destroyed.

The quake struck off the coast at 7:48 a.m. local time, 75 kilometers (50 miles) west of the region's main city of Manokwari, the U.S. Geological Survey said in an alert. There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties and no tsunami alert was issued.

Better Earth

Sea Level Rise Slows by 20%

Efforts to sell climate policy based on ever more scary scenarios of apocalypse cannot be sustained and are likely to work in exactly the opposite manner than desired. A good example of why this is so can be found in a recent paper (hat tip Dad) that suggests that the rate of sea level rise from 2003-2008 (2.5 mm/year) is 20% lower than that presented by the IPCC for 1993-2003 (3.1 mm/year). Whether this is "consistent with" longer-term predictions is different than whether it is "consistent with" a political strategy based on scaring people. It seems pretty obvious that systems that exhibit a large amount of variability or are simply poorly understood on relatively short time scales are not very useful props in efforts to show the world moving inexorably towards doom.


Wildlife confused by polarised light pollution

silver water beetle
© Roberston et al./ESAA lesser silver water beetle rests on a red car bonnet.

What do sky scrapers have in common with ponds? The way they polarise light acts as a magnet to some animals, say researchers.

This unwanted side effect from some industrial materials - including road surfaces and automobiles - is called polarised light pollution, and Bruce Robertson of Michigan State University says the phenomenon is widespread enough that it is disrupting ecosystems.

When light bounces off smooth, dark surfaces it becomes polarised - meaning the light wave is aligned in one plane.

In natural environments, this most commonly happens around water, but humans excel at making smooth surfaces. "Cars, asphalt, oil pools, and windows polarise light more strongly than water," says Robertson.

To animals tuned to distinguish polarised light and use it as an environmental cue, "these objects look more like water than water," he says. "Even when given the choice between water and human-made surfaces, some insects prefer to lay their eggs on - and settle near - the latter."


Seattle, US: At least 30,000 forced to flee from heavy rains and flooding

Puyallap -- For thousands of people, home Wednesday night became a church basement or a school gymnasium. Maybe they got lucky and stayed with a relative or friend.

Heavy rain and surging rivers forced more than 30,000 people in Western Washington from their permanent homes. They fled Jones Creek in Acme in Whatcom County and the Puyallup River in Fife and Orting and other rivers in between.

Some of the 25,000 evacuated from Orting and other communities in the Puyallup River Valley headed to Bethany Baptist Church in Puyallup, where shelter coordinator Tom McMullen greeted them.

McMullen said he's been the Red Cross shelter coordinator at that location for eight years, and this is the worst flood he's seen.

"I don't see how this is going to get any better tonight," he said. "This is the big one ... this is quite the event."

Bizarro Earth

US: Increase of sick brown pelicans baffles experts

Los Angeles: Wildlife experts are trying to figure out why sick, disoriented and bruised California brown pelicans are being found in record numbers along more than 1,000 miles of coastline.

The birds, some of them dead, have been spotted from San Francisco to Baja California, Mexico. Many have been found far from their homes on roads, fields and backyards.

The pelicans started appearing late last month north of San Pedro in Southern California, then began appearing farther north, said Jay Holcomb, executive director of the International Bird Rescue Research Center in Fairfield, in Northern California.

The center's San Pedro facility received more than 40 birds in the past seven to 10 days, while the Fairfield one has received about 25, Holcomb said Tuesday.

A man vacationing in Baja California alerted the center about a similar problem there this week after discovering sick pelicans on the beach south of San Felipe.


Astronaut Jack Schmitt Joins Climate Skeptics

American astronaut Dr. Jack Schmitt - the last living man to walk on the moon - is the latest scientist to be added to the roster of more than 70 skeptics who will confront the subject of global warming at the second annual International Conference on Climate Change in New York City March 8-10, 2009.