Earth ChangesS

Cloud Lightning

Canada braces for more heavy snow

Canada has been blanketed in snow from coast to coast after severe winter storms hit transport and left tens of thousands of homes without electricity.
BBC Canada snowstorms
© BBC NewsCanada may see its first coast to coast white Christmas for 37 years

Strong winds and snowfall have hampered relief efforts, with meteorologists forecasting more bad weather to come.

"It's a widespread and severe winter storm and it's not over yet, with these high winds expected to continue for some time," a Nova Scotia Power spokeswoman told the Canadian Press news agency.

Cloud Lightning

Winter storms hit western, eastern U.S.

Seattle - Winter storms walloped much of the northern stretches of the United States on Sunday, leaving holiday travelers stranded and causing power outages as blizzards and freezing rain struck parts of the East and West.

The second winter storm in three days blew across the U.S. Northeast on Sunday, the official start of winter. It delayed flights and snarled traffic on the final weekend day before the Christmas holiday.

In the West, the Seattle area and other parts of Washington state were hit on Saturday night, with the heaviest blast in a week of snow storms.

As 5 to 9 inches of snow fell, scattered power cuts were reported and whiteout conditions from heavy snows and high winds forced the closure of Snoqualmie Pass, a key route over the mountains east of Seattle on highway I-90.

Conditions there were "just a complete whiteout blizzard" on the pass, Washington State Patrol trooper Dan McDonald told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper via cell phone from his patrol car. "I've never seen anything like this. The side winds are probably easy 70 mph. They're taking us off the road."

Bizarro Earth

Great fireworks, shame about the toxic fallout

© Stephen Giardina / AlamyAvoid the green ones.
When those fireworks light up the sky on New Year's Eve, be careful not to breathe in too much smoke. A study of the fallout from a New Year display in Austria shows for the first time that the fireworks can aggravate respiratory conditions like asthma because they shoot out harmful aerosols.

Georg Steinhauser and his colleagues at Vienna University of Technology analysed fallen snow before and after a display in the village of Saalbach. Fireworks often contain metal salts to give them colour, such as barium for green flashes and strontium for red. The researchers wanted to find out whether any traces remained, clinging to snowflakes. If they did, it would mean the particles were present in the smoke from the fireworks and could be breathed in by spectators.

"We found huge amounts of barium in the snow," says Steinhauser (Atmospheric Environment, DOI: link). Concentrations were typically 500 times higher than in snow samples taken from the same sites before the display. Barium poisoning is known to constrict the airways, so inhaling it could aggravate asthma symptoms, says Steinhauser.


Giant stinking flower reveals a hot secret

carrion flower
© Jörg SzarzynskiNight-time image of carrion flower with flash photography (left) and (right) with thermal image.
You would think a flower that resembles a 3-metre phallus would have no problems attracting attention, especially if it also stinks like a rotting corpse.

But for the carrion flower, which has the world's largest flowering head, getting noticed by flesh-eating insect pollinators in its jungle home requires yet another amazing adaptation - and one that only came to light thanks to a serendipitous TV recording.

"The film crew was using very strong backlighting and suddenly we saw smoke rising up along the flower's central column. We thought the plant was on fire," says Wilhelm Barthlott from the University of Bonn in Germany.

The 'smoke' turned out to be steam that is puffed out in regular pulses, coinciding with waves of carrion scent. "We had wondered before why one moment the flower would stink like a dead donkey, and a little while later there would be hardly any smell. It never occurred to us that there was cyclic odour production."

Better Earth

Under Frozen Lake in Siberia, Geoscientists Drill For Secrets of Earth's Ancient Climate

© University of Massachusetts AmherstA bulldozer with payload bound for Lake El'gygytgyn on a previous research foray. For this logistically difficult study, scientists spent 10 years taking test core drill samples, measuring lake ice movement and other key factors in order to maximize the chance for scientific success and personnel safety.
In the next few days, a convoy of bulldozers and trucks will set out from a remote airport in Siberia, heading for a frozen lake 62 miles north of the Arctic Circle, but the trip isn't a holiday visit to the North Pole. Instead, the trucks will deliver core-drilling equipment for a study of sediment and meteorite-impact rocks that should provide the longest time-continuous climate record ever collected in the Arctic.

Once in place next month, the drilling will allow an international team of geoscientists led by Julie Brigham-Grette of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Martin Melles of the University of Cologne, Germany, to burrow back in time, retrieving core samples more than 3 million years old and answering questions about Earth's ancient past.

Almost impossibly remote, Lake El'gygytgyn (pronounced el'geegitgin), 11 miles in diameter, was formed 3.6 million years ago when a monster meteor, more than a half-mile across, slammed into the Earth between the Arctic Ocean and the Bering Sea. Because this part of the Arctic was never covered by ice sheets or glaciers, it has received a steady drift of sediment - as much as a quarter mile (1,312 feet or 400 meters) deep - since impact. Thus, it offers a continuous depositional record unlike any other in the world, say Brigham-Grette and colleagues, beneath the crater lake that's just over 560 feet deep, equal to the height of the Washington Monument.


5.7 earthquake jolts Indonesia

A tectonic earthquake measured on 5.7 Ritcher Scale on Sunday night hit Nangroe Aceh Darussalam province but did not trigger any tsunamis, the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG) has said.

BMG's official in Aceh Besar Tri Deni said on Monday that the earthquake's epicenter was 88 kilometer south west of Banda Aceh and was 30 kilo meter above sea level.

Better Earth

Skepticism on climate change

The mail brings an invitation to register for the 2009 International Conference on Climate Change, which convenes on March 8 in New York City. Sponsored by the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based think tank, the conference will host an international lineup of climate scientists and researchers who will focus on four broad areas: climatology, paleoclimatology, the impact of climate change, and climate-change politics and economics.

But if last year's gathering is any indication, the conference is likely to cover the climate-change waterfront. There were dozens of presentations in 2008, including: "Strengths and Weaknesses of Climate Models," "Ecological and Demographic Perspectives on the Status of Polar Bears," and "The Overstated Role of Carbon Dioxide on Climate Change."


Reply to RealClimate's Attacks on the NIPCC Climate Report

On November 28, the global warming alarmist Web site "RealClimate" posted a ridiculously lame attack by Michael Mann and Gavin Schmidt against "Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate," the summary for policymakers of the 2008 report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC).

The NIPCC report was written by S. Fred Singer, Ph.D. and an additional 23 contributors, including some of the most accomplished atmospheric scientists in the world. The paper references approximately 200 published papers and scientific reports in support of its conclusions. It provides strong evidence that human activity is not causing a global warming crisis.

Mann and Schmidt call the NIPCC report "dishonest" and "nonsense," a document "served up" by "S. Fred Singer and his merry band of contrarian luminaries (financed by the notorious 'Heartland Institute')." But instead of critiquing the scientific arguments presented in the NIPCC report, Mann and Schmidt simply dismiss and belittle them and refer readers mostly to their own past blog comments. Time spent following those links reveals a hodgepodge of opinions and superficial comments, a boatload of rhetoric, and very little science--an entirely unsatisfactory way to support such serious charges.

Control Panel

Arctic and Greenland Ice in the News Again - Changes Attributed to Man are Natural

In this story, NASA scientists suggested between 1.5 trillion and 2 trillion tons of ice in Greenland, Antarctica and Alaska have melted at an accelerating rate since 2003, in the latest signs of what they say is global warming. Using new satellite technology that measures changes in mass in mountain glaciers and ice sheets, NASA geophysicist Scott Luthcke concluded that the losses amounted to enough water to fill the Chesapeake Bay 21 times in a paper presented at the AGU conference.

The data reflects findings from NASA colleague Jay Zwally, who uses different satellite technology to observe changing ice volume in Greenland, the Arctic and Antarctica. In the past five years, Greenland has lost between 150 gigatons and 160 gigatons each year, (one gigaton equals one billion tons) or enough to raise global sea levels about .5 mm per year, said Zwally, who will also present his findings at the conference this week. GRACE measured that mountain glaciers in the Gulf of Alaska lost about 84 gigatons each year, about five times the average annual flow of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, according to Zwally.


New storm sweeps in from West, challenges travel

A fierce winter storm blew in from the Pacific, bringing up to 2 feet of snow, icy wind and a nightmare for holiday travelers already stymied by winter's dance across the northern half of the country.

Snow, sleet and freezing rain caused treacherous driving conditions throughout the Pacific Northwest. Sections of two major highways - Interstate 90 in Oregon and Interstate 84 in Washington - were closed late Saturday night, and authorities asked the public to not to drive unless it was an emergency.

"It is extremely dangerous to be on the roads at this time," said Multnomah County Deputy Paul McRedmond, sheriff's spokesman.

Centralia, about 25 miles south of Olympia, had already received 9 inches Saturday night. The Seattle area was predicted to get 4 to 8 inches. Portland and the rest of Oregon's Interstate 5 corridor could get as much as 10 inches.