Earth ChangesS

Bizarro Earth

Poison gas cloud that killed 30,000 Britons (and it could happen again)

We should heed the lessons, experts warn, of a little-known environmental disaster that took place two centuries ago

It sounds like the plot of a blockbuster film, but according to scientists, tens of thousands of people in this country face the threat of being poisoned by lethal gas - from volcanoes 600 miles away in Iceland.

Research by a British academic has demonstrated how a volcanic gas cloud emanating from an Icelandic volcano killed 30,000 Britons in a hitherto little-studied environmental disaster two centuries ago.

"People died in such vast numbers because the volcanic cloud exacerbated their respiratory illnesses," said Dr John Grattan, a senior lecturer at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, who has been studying the impact on Britain of the eruption of Iceland's Laki volcano in 1783.

Bizarro Earth

Moderate Quake Rocks Indonesian Province

JAKARTA, Indonesia - A moderate earthquake rocked parts of Indonesia's Papua province on Wednesday but there were no reports of any damage.

The 5.9 magnitude quake hit 80 miles southwest of Jayapura, the provincial capital, the U.S. Geological Survey said on its Web site.

Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago, is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanos and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin [which includes the Western coast of America]

Cloud Lightning

Wildfires Burn in Southern Australia

MELBOURNE, Australia - Wildfires tore through southern Australia late Tuesday, destroying eight houses and leaving hundreds of thousands of people without electricity, an official said.

One home was destroyed in a fire caused by a lightning strike west of Melbourne. Seven others were razed in a blaze that blackened nearly 67,000 acres in northeast Victoria state, said Pat Groenhout, a state emergency spokesman. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Lightning strikes started several other blazes late Tuesday, and were expected to spark other fires amid soaring temperatures, Groenhout said.

Cloud Lightning

Thousands Shiver As Storm Toll Hits 51

BUFFALO, Mo. - Shoppers were reduced to picking up supplies by flashlight Tuesday in the few places open in this town of 2,800, as the death toll from a winter storm grew to 51 in nine states.

Three shelters in Buffalo - about 35 miles north of Springfield in hard-hit Missouri - housed nearly a tenth of its population Monday night, and officials said power might not be restored until next week.

The town lost all its power by Saturday. Water towers ran dry Sunday, and water service was restored only late Monday, after the National Guard hooked a generator up to a pumping station.

"There are no services," Buffalo Mayor Jerry Hardesty said. "I've talked to residents who have lived here 50 years, and nobody can remember it ever being this bad."

Cloud Lightning

Big freeze hits $1bn crop

Three nights of freezing temperatures have destroyed up to three-quarters of California's $1bn citrus crop, as a storm continued to batter the US, bringing down power lines, making roads treacherous and leaving 41 dead.

"This is one of those freezes that, unfortunately, we'll all remember," said AG Kawamura, the California state food and agriculture secretary, adding that damage had been spread across the state in places usually immune to freezes.

The latest freeze is likely to surpass the damage done by a three-day cold snap in December 1998 that destroyed 85% of California's citrus crop, a loss valued then at $700m (£360m), he said.

Cloud Lightning

Ice plays havoc with U.S. power grid

SAN FRANCISCO - Emergency crews scrambled Tuesday to restore electricity to about 80,000 customers nationwide that are still in the dark following a series of ice storms that snapped trees and power lines from the Southwest Plains to New England.

The onslaught of freezing rain left little doubt that it is January, putting to rest any notion that the balmy weather in late December could last long.

Cloud Lightning

Schwarzenegger Seeks Disaster Aid For Freeze Ruined Crops

FRESNO, Calif. - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asked the federal government Tuesday for disaster aid because of an ongoing cold snap that has destroyed nearly $1 billion worth of California citrus, and industry officials said shoppers will feel the sting through higher prices for oranges, lemons and other produce.

Bizarro Earth

5.4 Earthquake strikes off Taiwan coast

TAIPEI, Taiwan - An earthquake struck off of Taiwan's east coast Tuesday, the Central Weather Bureau said. No damage or injuries were reported, and no tsunami warning was issued.

The 5.4-magnitude quake was centered about 100 miles southeast of the capital of Taipei, the weather bureau said.

Bizarro Earth

5.7 Earthquake strikes central Japan, causes no casualties, damage

TOKYO, January - An earthquake measuring 5.7 points on the open-ended Richter scale was registered in the central part of the Japanese main island of Honshu, the Japanese meteorological agency said.

Bizarro Earth

Microbe experiment suggests we could all be Martians

Life on Earth may have announced its arrival billions of years ago with a whistle and a thump, according to planetary scientists.
Experiments by an international team of researchers back a controversial theory that life flourished on Earth after primitive organisms arrived aboard a meteorite, itself gouged from Mars by a giant impact.

The theory supposes that life was able to gain a tentative foothold on the red planet as it cooled down and became more hospitable several billion years ago. At the time, the planet's surface was regularly bombarded with rocky detritus from the asteroid belt, knocking clumps of rock and the microbes living on them into space, where the gravity of the sun brought them hurtling towards Earth.