Earth ChangesS

Bizarro Earth

Volcanic ash blankets Papua New Guinea's Rabaul

Volcanic activity in the Papua New Guinea town of Rabaul is now at its highest point since the devastating eruption of 1994 which wiped out two thirds of the town.

Up to 40 centimetres of volcanic ash blankets the community and surrounding mountains.

Up to 40 centimetres of volcanic ash blankets the community and surrounding mountains.

There are concerns the oncoming wet season rains will create mudslides.

Ima Itikarai from the Rabaul Observatory says ash on rooftops is also a problem because it turns to mud in rains, collapsing some homes.


Gilchrist, the village that Ike wiped off the Texas map

The sunset is beautiful in Gilchrist - within just a few minutes the sky goes from red to indigo and then to a wide range of grey before turning the black of night.

single house
©EPA/Smiley N. Pool
A single house is left standing on the waterfront near Gilchrist, Texas, USA on 14 September 2008 following the destruction along the Texas coast. As Hurricane Ike slowed to a tropical depression after carving a path of destruction through Texas, rescuers were using everything from dump trucks to boats and helicopters to reach stranded residents.

Arrow Down

House approves offshore drilling

WASHINGTON - The House voted late Tuesday to open waters off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to oil and gas drilling but only 50 or more miles out to sea and only if a state agrees to energy development off its shore.

Better Earth

Whale Songs Are Heard For First Time Around New York City Waters

For the first time in waters surrounding New York City, the beckoning calls of endangered fin, humpback and North Atlantic right whales have been recorded, according to experts from the Bioacoustics Research Program at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

humpback whale
©iStockphoto/Eric Carr
A humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) breaching. Its long pectoral fins, tubercles, and ventral grooves that run from the lower jaw to the umbilicus are visible.

"This is an exciting time for New Yorkers. Just think, just miles from the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Carnegie Hall and Times Square, the great whales are singing," says Chris Clark, the Director of the Bioacoustics Research Program at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. "These are some of the largest and rarest animals on this planet trying to make a living just a few miles from New York's shores. It just goes to show us that there are many important and wonderful discoveries to be made about the living world right here, right in our back yards."

"With data generated by acoustic monitoring, we can better understand New York's role in the life history of these endangered whales and make more informed conservation decisions," says James Gilmore, chief of the DEC's Bureau of Marine Resources. "This is especially important for the survival of right whales."


New Ant Species Discovered In The Amazon Likely Represents Oldest Living Lineage Of Ants

A new species of blind, subterranean, predatory ant discovered in the Amazon rainforest by University of Texas at Austin evolutionary biologist Christian Rabeling is likely a descendant of the very first ants to evolve.

©Christian Rabeling, the University of Texas at Austin
This new species of blind, subterranean, predatory ant, Martialis heureka, was discovered in the Amazon by Christian Rabeling at the University of Texas at Austin. It belongs to the first new subfamily of living ants discovered since 1923, and is a descendant of one of the first ant lineages to evolve over 120 million years ago.

The new ant is named Martialis heureka, which translates roughly to "ant from Mars," because the ant has a combination of characteristics never before recorded. It is adapted for dwelling in the soil, is two to three millimeters long, pale, and has no eyes and large mandibles, which Rabeling and colleagues suspect it uses to capture prey.

The ant also belongs to its own new subfamily, one of 21 subfamilies in ants. This is the first time that a new subfamily of ants with living species has been discovered since 1923 (other new subfamilies have been discovered from fossil ants).

Rabeling says his discovery will help biologists better understand the biodiversity and evolution of ants, which are abundant and ecologically important insects.


Earthquake measured 5.4 Richter shakes Ceram Sea, Indonesia

There was an earthquake at Ceram Sea, Indonesia with the magnitude of 5.4. The quake occured on tuesday, September 16, 2008 at 01:12:53 UTC (-Coordinated Universal Time ) and at 08:12:53 AM local time reported by the U.S. Geological Survey.

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Man-eating tigers stalk fishermen in Indian jungle

The fishermen were hauling in the first net of the morning when the tiger pounced.

Kumaresh Mondal managed to run a few steps before the 450-pound beast knocked him down with a leap, tore into his throat, and dragged his limp body into the dense mangrove forest.


How Corals Adapt To Day And Night

Researchers have uncovered a gene in corals that responds to day/night cycles, which provides some tantalizing clues into how symbiotic corals work together with their plankton partners.

coral Stylophora pistillata
©Didier Zoccola, Centre Scientifique de Monaco
Polyps of the symbiotic coral Stylophora pistillata.

Corals are fascinating animals that form the largest biological constructions in the world, sprawling coral reefs that cover less than 0.2 % of the seafloor yet provide habitats for more than 30% of marine life. In shallow waters that don't have abundant food, corals have developed a close relationship with small photosynthetic critters called dinoflagellates.

The dinoflagellates use sunlight to produce energy for the coral, which in turn use that energy to construct mineralized skeletons for protection. The mineral production, known as coral calcification, is closely tied with the day/night cycle, though the molecular mechanism behind this synchronization is mysterious.


Giant Honeybees Use Shimmering 'Mexican Waves' To Repel Predatory Wasps

The phenomenon of "shimmering" in giant honeybees, in which hundreds - or even thousands - of individual honeybees flip their abdomens upwards within a split-second to produce a Mexican Wave-like pattern across the bee nest, has received much interest but both its precise mode of action and its purpose have long remained a mystery.

giant honey bees
©Wikimedia Commons
A hive of Apis dorsata (giant honey bees).

In a new study published in the journal PLoS ONE this week, researchers at the University of Graz, Austria, and the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, UK, report the finding that shimmering - a remarkable capacity of rapid communication in giant honeybees - acts as a defensive mechanism, which repels predatory hornets, forcing them to hunt free-flying bees, further afield, rather than foraging bees directly from the honeybee nest.

South-East Asian giant honeybees (Apis dorsata) occur in single-comb nests in the open, preferring traditional nest sites with aggregations of hundreds of colonies on trees, rocks or human buildings, which they may revisit over years. Honeybees manage the pool of worker bees in an elaborate trade-off between foraging and defense. The bees' main defensive goal is to make the nest site a shelter zone for colony members, as well as a place of danger for potential predators. In order to set the entry fee for predators as high as possible, and to efficiently safeguard the colony's resources (keeping losses and expenses to a minimum), a plethora of defensive tactics has evolved in giant honeybees, both "aggressive" and "docile" behaviors being employed.


6.2 earthquake in Timor Leste

An earthquake of magnitude 6.2 has struck the highly populated region of Timor Leste in Timor Leste.

Whether international humanitarian aid is needed must be decided by an expert. However, the following automatically calculated elements can help. This earthquake has potentially a low humanitarian impact and the affected region has medium vulnerability to natural disasters.