Earth ChangesS


US: Myrtle Beach area fire still seething, but containment efforts are paying off

Myrtle beach fire 2009
© Randall Hill - Sun NewsA house on Swift Street in Barefoot Resort lies in ruin after a brush fire several homes in the community early Thursday morning.

A study in contrasts, a pristine slate house on Woodlawn Drive stands in front of a landscape of charred trees and blackened soil.

The burned soil sits within 15 feet of the home's neat garden, and firefighters huddle near a truck watching the smoldering plumes, vigilant in case they should flare.

With a total of 76 homes destroyed in a wildfire that began Wednesday afternoon, emergency workers focused Saturday on continued containment and preventing refires.

At about 8 p.m. Saturday about 85 percent of the blaze was contained, said spokesman Scott Hawkins, with the state forestry commission. Most major roads except S.C. 31 have been reopened and all shelters have closed.

The reported number of acres damaged fell from about 20,500 acres to 19,600 acres Saturday due to better access to geographic informations system mapping data, Hawkins said.


US: Study documents new, rare creatures in Smokies

While most visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park have probably heard about the black bears that roam the park, few have heard about the water bears.

Known formally as tardigrades, water bears are microscopic, eight-legged creatures that exist in sediments and soils. Though they occur nearly everywhere on earth, few scientists have bothered to study the species.

That has left the field wide open for Paul Bartels, a biology professor at Warren Wilson College. Bartels and his students have discovered 78 species of tardigrades in the Smokies, including 18 new to science.

Bizarro Earth

Magnitude 5.3 earthquake rattles Romania and Moldova

An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.3 struck eastern and central Romania on Saturday and was also felt in neighboring Moldova, officials said. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

Romania's Institute for Earth Physics said the quake struck at 8:25 p.m. in the Vrancea region, about 75 miles (120 kilometers) northeast of Bucharest at a depth of 75 miles (120 kilometers).

Institute director Gheorghe Marmureanu said it was felt in Bucharest, in the Black Sea port of Constanta, in the central city of Brasov, in the city of Iasi in northeast Romania, and at the port of Galati in easternmost Romania. It was also felt in Moldova which borders eastern Romania.

Bizarro Earth

6.1 Magnitude Earthquake Hits off New Zealand North Island

A strong earthquake measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale struck the remote Kermadec Islands, north of New Zealand North Island on Sunday, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The quake hit the New Zealand territory, 960 km north east of Auckland at 12:06 p.m. New Zealand local time (0654 GMT) at a depth of 142 km.

No casualties or damage were reported.


Swarm Savvy: How bees, ants and other animals avoid dumb collective decisions

This is a phone conversation, so if Tom Seeley rolls his eyes, that's his business. He's a distinguished behavioral biologist, full professor at Cornell University, member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and so on. Yet he takes it pretty well when asked whether honeybees could have had a real estate crisis and crashed their banking system.

Seeley, at least voice-wise, stays polite and treats this as a serious question. Which it is.

Of course honeybees don't have a banking system, but they do exhibit collective behavior. The queen bee doesn't decide what the colony needs to do. Instead, each colony member does her or his bee thing, and out of hundreds or thousands of interactions, a collective decision emerges. Seeley's next book, due out in 2010, will be called Honeybee Democracy.

Better Earth

Bangladesh: In search of fresh water

© Munem Wasif / Agence VU / Courtesy Prix PictetShajhan Siraj and his brothers from Gabura race against the rising tide as they seek to launch their boats into the sea. The boats are laden with water which takes them between two and three hours to collect each day.
Bangladesh has a complex and increasingly difficult relationship with water. Among the factors contributing to this are climate change, catastrophic flooding, coastal erosion and the pollution of drinking wells by natural arsenic.

Now photographer Munem Wasif has brought to light another growing problem that is already affecting hundreds of thousands of people in the Satkhira region of south-west Bangladesh: increasingly salty groundwater.

See Wasif's images.

This rise in salinity has been caused by a shift from traditional agriculture to commercial shrimp farming. The latter can generate a lot of money for a fortunate few, but for most its consequences are disastrous. Once-fertile land turns to brackish water and local people lose access to drinking water and their livelihoods.


Unexpected Solar Activity

The sun produced an unexpected burst of activity on April 23rd when an enormous prominence rose over the northeastern limb and erupted. SOHO recorded the blast from beginning to end with a series of high-cadence UV snapshots. Click here to set the scene in motion:
Sun burst

Evil Rays

World cooling has set-in warns astrophysicist - BBC & 'Global Warming apologists' challenged to end 'cover-up'

"Official data shows the world passed its peak temperatures 10 years ago, but sadly the BBC and 'Global Warming apologists' are now attempting to cover up the facts" said Piers Corbyn, 'climate realist', astrophysicist & long range weather & climate forecaster, 24 April, in response to the BBC's 'Quiet Sun baffling astronomers' report.

"In timely backing of the UK Government's £1billion Carbon budget and similar moves in the USA, the BBC and Prof Lockwood of Southampton University distort the facts in an attempt to cover-up the proven centrality of the sun in controlling world temperatures", said Piers.

"They make the ignorant and loaded claim that '...Current slight dimming of the sun was not going to reverse the rise in global temperatures caused by the burning of fossil fuels'. This is treble confusion because (1) the world is already cooling even though CO2 is rising; (2) there is no evidence that the burning of fossil fuels ever did or ever will drive world temperatures and (3) reputable and informed solar scientists know that there is a lot more to the sun's influence on the world than its dimness or brightness."

Better Earth

AMO and PDO - The Real Climate Makers In United States?

For decades we have been urged to urgently prepare for unprecedented global warming or there will be gloom and doom for the world. Yet only few years after the issue of the IPCC reports, exactly the opposite is happening. Matter of fact the cooling already started after 2002. The climate data from 3 different major organizations [GISS, UAH and RSS] that monitor temperatures all confirm this cooling trend as shown below.

© Icecap.usGraph of monthly global temperature anomalies 2002-2009

Better Earth

Atlantic cooling may presage Arctic ice increase

Recent satellite observations from the Arctic indicate that spring ice melting is beginning at a lower rate than normal this year. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the area of ice-covered ocean has decreased only about 750,000 km2 from its peak value at the end of February, compared to a normal decline of 1.1 million km2 by late April. If this trend continues, the annual ice melt in 2009 may be less than in recent years, and the late summer Arctic ice extent may rebound from its well-publicized downtrend.