Earth ChangesS


US: Californians told to prepare for mass evacuation

© Kevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesA wide plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles national forest seen from downtown Los Angeles
California's Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has urged the residents of Los Angeles to prepare for a mass evacuation in the event of a public call to flee raging fires.

Wildfires in the US Golden State, razing around 35,000 acres (over 14,000 hectares) of bush land, are threatening 13,000 properties just north of Los Angeles.

The ravaging flames, fanned by the weak Pacific Ocean breeze and fueled by incoming arid weather system from the west midlands United States, have thus far forced thousands out of their homes in the vicinity of the ongoing inferno.

The blaze has caused mandatory evacuations of around 7,000 California houses close to the valleys around the Big Tujunga Canyon, Schwarzenegger told reporters on Monday.


US: Wildfire makes menacing advance near Los Angeles

Aliso Canyon Road
© Genaro Molina / LA TimesThe Station fire bears down on Aliso Canyon Road in Acton, several miles north of the area where two L.A. County firefighters died Sunday night after their truck went down a mountainside.
Los angeles - A deadly wildfire that has blackened a wide swath of tinder-dry forest around Los Angeles took another menacing turn Monday as five people became hopelessly trapped inside a smoky canyon and thousands of suburban homes and a vital mountaintop broadcasting complex grew dangerously close to being devoured by explosive, towering flames.

The five trapped people refused to evacuate threatened areas and reported they were stranded at a ranch near Gold Creek, Los Angeles County sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said. A sheriff's helicopter was unable to immediately reach them because of intense fire activity, but would try after the flames passed, he said.

"What this says is, 'Listen, listen, listen,'" Whitmore said. "Those people were told to get out two days ago, and now we are putting our people in danger to get them out."

Fire crews battling the blaze in the Angeles National Forest tried desperately to beat back the flames and prayed for weather conditions to ease. The fire was the largest of at least eight burning across California after days of triple-digit temperatures and low humidity.


US: Farmers' Almanac predicts numbing cold this winter

Lewiston, Maine - Americans, you might want to check on their sweaters and shovels - the Farmers' Almanac is predicting a cold winter for many of you.

The venerable almanac's 2010 edition, which goes on sale Tuesday, says numbing cold will predominate in the country's midsection, from the Rocky Mountains in the West to the Appalachians in the East.

Bizarro Earth

US: Wind, Current Combined to Raise East Coast Sea Level

Folks living along the East Coast were in higher water early this summer thanks to a change in the wind and current flow.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Monday the higher than normal sea levels were caused by persistent winds from the northeast - pushing water toward shore - and a weakening of the Florida current that feeds water into the Gulf Stream.

Water levels ranged from six inches to two feet above normal in areas from Maine to Florida during June and July, the agency said.

Arrow Down

Nitrous oxide is top destroyer of ozone layer: study

Nitrous oxide emissions caused by human activity have become the largest contributor to ozone depletion and are likely to remain so for the rest of the 21st century, a US study has concluded.

The study by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency said efforts to reduce chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in the atmosphere over the past two decades were "an environmental success story.

"But manmade nitrous oxide is now the elephant in the room among ozone-depleting substances," said A. R. Ravishankara, lead author of the study, which was published Friday in the journal Science.


Mobile towers threatening honey bees in Kerala, India

© Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Thiruvananthapuram-- Mobile towers are posing a threat to honey bees in Kerala with electromagnetic radiation from mobile towers and cell phones having the potential to kill worker bees that go out to collect nectar from flowers, says a study.


Update: Thousands flee Los Angeles County homes as fire races

LA firefighter
© Justin Sullivan / Getty ImagesA firefighter clears brush from a propane tank in Acton as a fire races through the Angeles National Forest, where 18 structures were confirmed destroyed.
Los Angeles -- Two firefighters were killed when their vehicle rolled off a mountainside Sunday as they battled a huge wildfire that threatens 12,000 suburban homes. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger urged those in the fire's path to follow the instructions of authorities and get out.

Los Angeles County Deputy Fire Chief Mike Bryant said at a news conference Sunday night that the two men were amid intense fire near Mount Gleason in the Angeles National Forest when the vehicle crashed. He did not release their identities or give a cause for the crash.

While thousands fled, two people who tried to ride out the firestorm in a backyard hot tub were critically burned. The pair in Big Tujunga Canyon, on the southwestern edge of the blaze, "completely underestimated the fire" and the hot tub provided "no protection whatsoever," sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said Sunday.


Police baffled as dozens of 'suicidal' cows throw themselves off cliff in the Alps

Dozen of dead cows body
© of cows bodies litter the valley floor
In the picturesque Swiss village of Lauterbrunnen, the locals are worried.

Dozens of alpine cows appear to be committing suicide by throwing themselves off a cliff near the small village in the Alps.

In the space of just three days, 28 cows and bulls have mysteriously died after they plunged hundreds of metres to rocks below where they were killed instantly.

In each case, local mountain rescue services using a helicopter had to be called in to remove the bodies because of the danger to the local groundwater of pollution.

A police spokesman said: 'There are no large carnivores living in the Alps anymore who would once have disposed of the bodies so they have to be moved.


Bizarre newt uses ribs as weapons

Spanish ribbed newt
© BBC Earth newsSpanish ribbed newt
One amphibian has evolved a bizarre and gruesome defence mechanism to protect itself against predators.

When attacked, the Spanish ribbed newt pushes out its ribs until they pierce through its body, exposing a row of bones that act like poisonous barbs.

The newt has to force its bones through its skin every time it is attacked, say scientists, who have described the form and function of the barbs in detail.

Yet this bizarre behaviour appears not to cause the newt any ill effects.

The ability of the Spanish ribbed newt to expose its rib bones was first noticed by a natural historian in 1879.

But scientists have now used modern photographic and X-ray imaging techniques to reveal just how the animal does it. The ribs have burst through the skin, ready to sting any attacker.

And what they discovered is even more gruesome than they imagined.

Cloud Lightning

Windstorms kill one, leave 1,300 houses damaged in Indian Kashmir

© AFPIndian commuters make their way during a downpour in Amritsar on July 27, 2009.
Srinagar - Severe windstorms left a young woman dead, injured dozens and damaged around 1,300 houses in the northern parts of revolt-hit Indian-ruled Kashmir, officials said Monday.

The windstorms that swept across northern districts of Handwara and Langate late Sunday also left thousands of homes without power, an official statement said.

Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah Monday visited the affected areas and ordered immediate relief for the victims.

He was informed by the local officials that a 22-year-old woman was killed and 40 other residents were hurt.