Earth ChangesS

Bizarro Earth

Flashback GM damages environment but not pests, says study

Scientists were yesterday embroiled in an international row over genetically modified cotton after a study in China suggested for the first time that the crop was permanently damaging the environment and that insects were building up resistance to it.

The study by the Nanjing institute of environmental sciences, part of the Chinese government's environmental protection administration, draws together laboratory and field work undertaken by four scientific institutions in China over several years.

It suggests that GM cotton, which incorporates a gene isolated from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), harms the natural parasitic enemies of the cotton bollworm, the pest that it is designed to control. It also indicates that populations of pests other than cotton bollworm had increased in Bt cotton fields and some had replaced it as primary pests.


Costa Rica calls off search for earthquake victims

San Jose - Costa Rican authorities called off their search on Monday for victims of landslides from an deadly earthquake 11 days ago.

Rescue teams have pulled 23 bodies from the Poas volcano region, where waves of earth buried cars and crushed homes during a 6.1 magnitude quake on Jan 8. Seven people are still missing, officials said.


Carnivorous sea squirt: Venus fly trap of deep

sea squirt
© AFP/CSIRONew to science: The carnivorous sea squirt springs shut on unsuspecting prey much like a venus fly trap, say researchers.

Biologists have uncovered new marine animals in a search of previously unexplored Australian waters, including a bizarre carnivorous sea squirt and ocean-dwelling spiders.

A joint U.S.-Australian team spent a month in deep waters off the coast of the southern island of Tasmania to "search for life deeper than any previous voyage in Australian waters," said lead scientist Ron Thresher with Australian government research agency the CSIRO's Marine and Atmospheric division.


Army worms decimate crops in north-central Liberia

Monrovia - Swarms of army worms have attacked crops in a food-producing district of Liberia, forcing the West African state to declare a state of emergency in the area at the weekend, the Ministry of Agriculture said on Monday.

Army worms, which can grow to around 5 centimetres (two inches) in length, are moth caterpillars and when present in large numbers can destroy swathes of vegetation and crops.

"We are calling for international assistance to combat these insects. They have affected over 19 villages in Bong county," Agriculture Minister Christopher Toe told Reuters.

Cloud Lightning

Less Fog Explains Warming Europe, Study Says

Fewer foggy, misty and hazy days help explain why Europe's temperatures have risen so fast over the past 30 years, a finding that could help predict future climate change, researchers said on Sunday.

Clearer skies due to changing weather patterns and less air pollution have contributed on average to about 5 to 10 percent of the region's warmer temperatures during this period, said Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, a researcher at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute.

"The temperatures in Europe have been going up twice as fast as climate models had predicted in the past decades. Less fog means more sunshine on the ground and hence higher temperatures," Van Oldenborgh, who worked on the study said in a telephone interview.


US: Mystery of sick pelicans still puzzling experts

Los Angeles - A mysterious illness afflicting California brown pelicans continues to take its toll.

The Northern California-based International Bird Rescue Research Center said Thursday it had counted 460 sick or dead birds so far, up from 265 last week. The birds were found along the West Coast from Baja California in Mexico to Oregon.

Better Earth

Japan: Nine-limbed octopus gives aquarium a leg up

Nine-arm octopus
© Mainichi (file photo)The nine-armed octopus is pictured in Susami, Wakayama Prefecture in this Dec. 25, 2008
Susami, An octopus found off the coast of Susami is attracting attention for an unusual reason -- its nine arms.

The blue-ringed octopus, found by a researcher from the Susami Crustacean Aquarium, is on display.

"Octopus arms grow back if they are cut off, and it's possible that the ninth arm grew out of a wound or from some other stimulus," said aquarium head Takuya Mori.


On the Brink of Climatic Disaster: the Coming Ice Age

Politicians can't talk enough of carbon taxes and credits and cleaner technologies, but are they just fiddling while Rome freezes?

If the climate were a sentient adversary with a will, he might be laughing right now. Because while mankind is doing a Chicken Little worrying about anthropogenic global warming (AGW), nature just might be preparing an attack we least expect: another ice age.

For sure, many Americans feel like we're already in one. While last winter's frigid temperatures - with record cold in many parts of the world (South America experienced its coldest winter in 90 years) - might seem a tough act to follow, Old Man Winter has risen to the occasion. Parts of Alaska have experienced temperatures reaching 78 degrees below zero, North Dakota had record December snow, a Minnesota sled-dog race was actually canceled due to heavy snow, and Ohio ski resorts have called a recent winter storm "a stimulus package for their industry." Yet, critics may point out that this is anecdotal evidence and thus not scientifically significant. This would be true, only, in this case the science happens to coincide with the anecdotes. As Gregory F. Fegel at tells us:

Bizarro Earth

Magnitude 6.7 - Kermadec Islands, New Zealand


* Sunday, January 18, 2009 at 14:11:46 UTC
* Monday, January 19, 2009 at 02:11:46 AM at epicenter

Location 30.046°S, 177.951°W

Depth 10 km (6.2 miles) set by location program


* 89 km (55 miles) S (185°) from Raoul Island, Kermadec Islands

* 1026 km (638 miles) SSW (195°) from NUKU'ALOFA, Tonga

* 3193 km (1984 miles) WSW (239°) from PAPEETE, Tahiti, French Polynesia


Scientists Find New Creatures of Australian Deep

© UnknownOne of Australia's deepest residents a carnivorous sea squirt, or ascidian, standing half a meter tall on the seafloor on the Tasman Fracture Zone at a depth of 4006 metres.
Scientists said Sunday they had uncovered new marine animals in their search of previously unexplored Australian waters, along with a bizarre carnivorous sea squirt and ocean-dwelling spiders.

A joint US-Australian team spent a month in deep waters off the coast of the southern island of Tasmania to "search for life deeper than any previous voyage in Australian waters," lead researcher Ron Thresher said.

What they found were not only species new to science -- including previously undescribed soft corals -- but fresh indications of global warming's threat to the country's unique marine life.