Earth ChangesS

Cloud Lightning

Cars, trucks stream inland in Texas as Ike near

HOUSTON - Cars and trucks streamed inland and chemical companies buttoned up their plants Thursday as a gigantic Hurricane Ike took aim at the heart of the U.S. refining industry and threatened to send a wall of water crashing toward Houston.

©AP Photo/David J. Phillip
Traffic lines Interstate 45 leaving Houston as Hurricane Ike approaches the Texas Gulf Coast Thursday, Sept. 11, 2008 in The Woodlands, Texas.


British team capture first pictures of Africa's 'unicorn'

London - The okapi, an African animal so elusive that it was once believed to be a mythical unicorn, has been photographed in the wild for the first time, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) said Thursday.

©AFP/Zoological Society Of London
An okapi, pictured in the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is so elusive that it was once believed to be a mythical unicorn.

Arrow Down

UK Farmers fear harvest could be the worst for 40 years!

Britain is facing its worst harvest for at least 40 years as 30 per cent of the country's grain lies in waterlogged or sodden ground. Hilary Benn, the Rural Affairs Secretary, is expected to give the go-ahead today for farmers to salvage what is left of their crops by using heavy machinery on wet fields.

European Union rules ban farmers from using combine harvesters on wet land to protect soil quality. Those who flout the ban can be prosecuted. The exemption is expected to last for about three weeks.

The poor harvest is unlikely to lead to a rise in the price of bread, cakes, biscuits and flour, however. Gordon Polson, director of the Federation of Bakers, said that although much of the milling wheat was of a poor quality it could still be used for bread and flour.

He said: "The poorer wheat means it has less protein, but manufacturers can add gluten to ensure the proper quality for making bread. We are not happy and we may still have to import some milling wheat, but no one is talking about price rises for bread."

Bizarro Earth

Earthquake Magnitude 6.9 - Hokkaido, Japan

Earthquake Details
Magnitude 6.9

* Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 00:20:52 UTC
* Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 09:20:52 AM at epicenter
* Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones

Location 41.979°N, 143.625°E
Depth 35 km (21.7 miles) set by location program
Distances 125 km (80 miles) SSW of Kushiro, Hokkaido, Japan
225 km (140 miles) SSE of Asahikawa, Hokkaido, Japan
225 km (140 miles) ESE of Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan
775 km (485 miles) NNE of TOKYO, Japan

Cloud Lightning

Evacuations begin in Texas ahead of Hurricane Ike

HOUSTON - The frail and elderly were put aboard buses Wednesday and authorities warned 1 million others to flee inland as Hurricane Ike steamed toward a swath of the Texas coast that includes the nation's largest concentration of refineries and chemical plants.


EQ 5.2 Jumla, Nepal - preliminary report

Sender Name: U.S. Geological Survey
Headline: EQ 5.2 Jumla, Nepal - PRELIMINARY REPORT
Description: An earthquake with magnitude 5.2 occurred near Jumla, Nepal at 01:28:07.10 UTC on Sep 10, 2008. (This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.)


Bizarro Earth

5.8 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes In Northern Chile copper area

Santiago - A 5.8-magnitude earthquake struck northern Chile on Wednesday, the U.S. Geological Survey said, shaking the ground in an area home to copper mines but there were no immediate reports of any damage.

The quake hit 63 miles east of Iquique, Chile, the agency said, near the country's large copper mining areas.

Anglo American's Collahuasi mine is located near Iquique. Officials at the mine were not immediately available for comment, and an Anglo American official said he was unaware of any quake. Chile is the world's top copper producer.

"Things are calm now after a quake which was felt intensely by the local population," Miriam Escobar, provincial governor of Iquique, told Reuters.

Cloud Lightning

Hurricane Ike over Gulf of Mexico, aims at Texas

Hosuton - Hurricane Ike churned through the Gulf of Mexico's warm waters on Wednesday on a track that will likely skirt the heart of the U.S. offshore oilpatch before it slams into the Texas coast on Saturday.

©REUTERS/Claudia Daut
Palm trees are swayed by outer bands of Hurricane Ike in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, September 9, 2008.

Ike, a Category 1 storm with 85 mile-per-hour (140 kph) winds, has left a trail of destruction across the Caribbean after toppling decrepit buildings in Cuba's capital and ripping the communist-run island from end to end.

Forecasters said Ike would likely regain power in the Gulf of Mexico's warm waters and become a major storm again, revving up to a Category 3 on the five-step hurricane intensity scale with a minimum of 115 mph (178 kph) winds.

But latest projections pointed Ike toward the middle of the Texas coast, skirting to the west of the main region for offshore production in the gulf, which provides a quarter of U.S. oil and 15 percent of its natural gas.

Better Earth

Climate: New Spin On Ocean's Role

New studies of the Southern Ocean are revealing previously unknown features of giant spinning eddies that have a profound influence on marine life and on the world's climate.

These massive swirling structures - the largest are known as gyres - can be thousands of kilometres across and can extend down as deep as 500 metres or more, a research team led by a UNSW mathematician, Dr Gary Froyland, has shown in the latest study published in Physical Review Letters.

"The water in the gyres does not mix well with the rest of the ocean, so for long periods these gyres can trap pollutants, nutrients, drifting plants and animals, and become physical barriers that divert even major ocean currents," Dr Froyland says.

"In effect, they provide a kind of skeleton for global ocean flows. We're only just beginning to get a grip on understanding their size, scale and functions, but we are sure that they have a major effect on marine biology and on the way that heat and carbon are distributed around the planet by the oceans."

One of the best known large-scale gyres in the world's oceans is that associated with the Gulf Stream in the North Atlantic, notes fellow researcher Professor Matthew England, co-director of the UNSW Climate Change Research Centre.


Recovery Efforts Not Enough For Critically Endangered Asian Vulture

Captive breeding colonies of a critically endangered vulture, whose numbers in the wild have dwindled from tens of millions to a few thousand, are too small to protect the species from extinction, a University of Michigan analysis shows.

endangered vulture
©Munir Virani
Captive breeding colonies of a critically endangered vulture are too small to protect the species from extinction.

Adding wild birds to the captive colonies, located in Pakistan and India, is crucial, but political and logistical barriers are hampering efforts, says lead author Jeff A. Johnson.

The study was published online August 15 in the journal Biological Conservation.

With a seven-foot wingspan, the oriental white-backed vulture (Gyps bengalensis) was an awesome presence in south Asia until the mid-1990s, when populations began to collapse. At first the cause was unclear, but researchers eventually zeroed in on an anti-inflammatory drug, diclofenac, that is used to alleviate arthritis-like symptoms in livestock but is toxic to vultures. Vultures that feed on carcasses of animals treated with the drug die of kidney failure within a day or two after eating the tainted meat. And although India, Nepal and Pakistan outlawed its manufacture in 2006, diclofenac is still available, and birds are still dying.