Earth ChangesS


Sea Snakes Seek Out Freshwater To Slake Thirst

Sea snakes may slither in saltwater, but they sip the sweet stuff. So concludes a University of Florida zoologist in a paper appearing this month in the online edition of the November/December issue of the journal Physiological and Biochemical Zoology.
sea snake
© Leslie Babonis/UF Department of ZoologyA sea snake rests on rocks near at the shore of Orchid Island, Taiwan.

Harvey Lillywhite says it has been the "long-standing dogma" that the roughly 60 species of venomous sea snakes worldwide satisfy their drinking needs by drinking seawater, with internal salt glands filtering and excreting the salt. Experiments with three species of captive sea kraits captured near Taiwan, however, found that the snakes refused to drink saltwater even if thirsty - and then would drink only freshwater or heavily diluted saltwater.

Cloud Lightning

Paloma becomes Category 4 storm, heads toward Cuba

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands - Paloma became an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 hurricane early Saturday, dumping wind and rain on the Cayman Islands and threatening to strike hurricane-ravaged Cuba as a major storm, forecasters said.

Cloud Lightning

Hurricane Paloma heads to Cayman Islands

GEORGE TOWN - Late-season Hurricane Paloma strengthened into a Category 3 storm as it lashed the Cayman Islands with wind and rain Friday, knocking down trees and signs.


Mild earthquake jolts Catanduanes province, Philippines

A magnitude 4.6 earthquake rocked Virac town in Catanduanes province, Thursday morning.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology in Legazpi City traced the earthquake epicenter was 54 kilometers southeast of Virac town. It was felt around 9 a.m.

Intensity three was felt in Sorsogon and Legazpi City, Catarman and Samar and intensity two in Can-avid, Eastern Samar.

There were no reported injuries after the tremor.


Pakistan Sends Quake Aid as Survivors Face Freezing Conditions

Pakistan's government ordered extra aid be shipped to the country's earthquake-devastated southwest as survivors faced icy conditions with the approach of winter.

The United Nations Children's Fund has estimated that 70,000 people were made homeless after the powerful quake struck Oct. 29 in the Ziarat and Pishin districts of Baluchistan province.


Snow In The Arctic: An Ingredient In A Surprising Chemical Cocktail

In the Arctic in spring, the snow cover gives off nitrogen oxides. This phenomenon, the extent of which had not been previously realized, is the source of one third of the nitrates present in the Arctic atmosphere, according to researchers from CNRS, the Université Joseph Fourier and the Université Pierre et Marie Curie[1].
Arctic in spring
© CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange)In the Arctic in spring, the snow cover gives off nitrogen oxides.

They made a quantitative study of the origin and evolution of nitrogen compounds in the Arctic atmosphere, in order to understand their environmental impact on this region. These findings are published in the 31 October 2008 issue of the journal Science.

Bizarro Earth

Ancient China: Lack Of Rainfall Could Have Contributed To Social Upheaval And Fall Of Dynasties

Chinese history is replete with the rise and fall of dynasties, but researchers now have identified a natural phenomenon that may have been the last straw for some of them: a weakening of the summer Asian Monsoons.

Such weakening accompanied the fall of three dynasties and now could be lessening precipitation in northern China. Results of the study, led by researchers from the University of Minnesota and Lanzhou University in China, appear in the journal Science. The work rests on climate records preserved in the layers of stone in a 118-millimeter-long stalagmite found in Wanxiang Cave in Gansu Province, China.
Asian monsoons, Northern Hemisphere temperatures and alpine glacier data across 1,800 years
© Zina Deretsky, National Science FoundationAsian monsoons, Northern Hemisphere temperatures and alpine glacier data across 1,800 years are compared.

By measuring amounts of the elements uranium and thorium throughout the stalagmite, the researchers could tell the date each layer was formed. And by analyzing the "signatures" of two forms of oxygen in the stalagmite, they could match amounts of rainfall--a measure of summer monsoon strength--to those dates.

Bizarro Earth

Looming Ecological Credit Crunch?

The world is heading for an ecological credit crunch as human demands on the world's natural capital reach nearly a third more than earth can sustain.
© Apollo 17 Crew, NASAThe world is heading for an ecological credit crunch as human demands on the world's natural capital reach nearly a third more than earth can sustain.

That is the stark warning contained in the latest edition of WWF's Living Planet Report, the leading statement of the planet's health. In addition global natural wealth and diversity continues to decline, and more and more countries are slipping into a state of permanent or seasonal water stress.

"The world is currently struggling with the consequences of over-valuing its financial assets," said WWF International Director-General James Leape, "but a more fundamental crisis looms ahead -- an ecological credit crunch caused by under-valuing the environmental assets that are the basis of all life and prosperity."

The report, produced with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Global Footprint Network (GFN), shows more than three quarters of the world's people now living in nations that are ecological debtors, where national consumption has outstripped their country's biological capacity.


Earthworm Activity Can Alter Forests' Carbon-carrying Capabilities

Earthworms can change the chemical nature of the carbon in North American forest litter and soils, potentially affecting the amount of carbon stored in forests, according to Purdue University researchers.
© Cliff Johnston, Purdue University Department of AgronomyEarthworms' appetites may facilitate carbon storage so the chemical isn't released into the atmosphere as CO2, which potentially could help curb climate change. Tim Filley, a Purdue University environmental chemist, checks one of the plots at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Maryland, where he and Cliff Johnston, another Purdue environmental chemist, monitor how much and how fast the worms eat leaves and other materials on the forest floor. This is part of a National Science Foundation-funded collaborative study by Purdue, Johns Hopkins University and the Smithsonian Institution.

The Purdue scientists, along with collaborators from the Smithsonian Institution and Johns Hopkins University, study the habits of earthworms originally brought to North America from Europe. They want to determine the earthworms' effect on forest chemistry by comparing carbon composition in forests that vary in earthworm activity.


Earthquake hits Russian Tuva on border with Mongolia

According to the Russian ITAR-TASS Agency, a 5.7-point earthquake hit the southern border-lying Tere-Khol district of Tuva on border with Mongolia at 08:00 local time (0100 GMT) on Monday.

The earthquake centred 100 kilometres from Kungur-Tug. No casualties or damage have been reported in this scarcely populated area, the chief duty officer of the Emergencies Ministry's branch for Tuva, Yuri Ardabayev, told Itar-Tass.