Earth ChangesS

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US: California firefighters wage fierce wildfire battles

© AP Photo/Jason RedmondA firefighter looks on as they battle the Station fire burning in the Angeles National Forest northeast of downtown Los Angeles on Firday, Aug. 28, 2009. The Los Angles Sheriff's Department says a voluntary evacuation is being urged for nearly 900 homes in the La Canada Flintridge area.
A growing wildfire sending massive billows of smoke into the sky north of Los Angeles nearly tripled in size Saturday, knocking out power to homes and prompting evacuations in a number of mountain communities.

Mandatory evacuations were extended Saturday into neighborhoods in the canyons on the northwestern edge of Altadena and Glendale, Forest Service spokeswoman Rachel Mailo said. It was unclear how many residents were ordered to leave.

The flames burned increasingly lower down the slopes of the San Gabriel Mountains, threatening more than 2,000 homes in the La Canada Flintridge area. Fire burned right up to houses, but no structures were destroyed. At least 150 homes were under mandatory evacuation orders.

Bizarro Earth

Earthquake Magnitude 5.1 - Offshore Chiapas, Mexico

© US Geological Survey
Saturday, August 29, 2009 at 10:42:52 UTC

Saturday, August 29, 2009 at 05:42:52 AM at epicenter

14.872°N, 93.569°W

55 km (34.2 miles)

140 km (85 miles) W of Tapachula, Chiapas, Mexico

140 km (85 miles) S of Tonala, Chiapas, Mexico

330 km (205 miles) W of GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala

780 km (485 miles) SE of MEXICO CITY, D.F., Mexico

Bizarro Earth

US: Earthquake Magnitude 3.2 - South Carolina

© US Geological Survey
Summerville -- The U.S. Geological Survey says a small 3.2 magnitude earthquake has been reported in South Carolina near the coast.

Moderate tremors were felt for three to five seconds at about 6:30 a.m. Saturday. The tremors were followed by a series of weaker vibrations.

No damage or injuries were immediately reported. Some residents experiencing the earthquake reported hearing a loud explosion.

Bizarro Earth

US: Earthquake Magnitude 5.2 - Off Coast of Oregon

© US Geological Survey
Saturday, August 29, 2009 at 10:11:17 UTC

Saturday, August 29, 2009 at 01:11:17 AM at epicenter

43.939°N, 128.464°W

10 km (6.2 miles) set by location program

339 km (211 miles) WNW (287°) from Bandon, OR

341 km (212 miles) WNW (283°) from Barview, OR

345 km (214 miles) W (276°) from Winchester Bay, OR

424 km (263 miles) NW (306°) from Crescent City, CA

492 km (306 miles) WSW (251°) from Portland, OR

Bizarro Earth

US: More earthquakes reported in central Oklahoma

More rumblings underground, all in the same location, have been reported as earthquakes by the Oklahoma Geological Survey in Norman, bringing the total to 9 separate earthquakes in the last 24 hours in the state, the U.S. Geological Survey reports today.

Bizarro Earth

Horse dies, France faces reality of toxic beaches

Beach in Brittany
© APThis Aug. 20, 2009 photo shows people walking on the beach of Hillion, near Saint Michel en Greve, Brittany
Saint-Michel-en-Greve - It should have been a perfect day for Vincent Petit, finishing up an afternoon gallop on a wide expanse of beach along a pastel-colored bay. Instead, he and his mount were sucked into a hole of noxious black sludge.

The horse died within seconds, the rider lost consciousness and a dirty secret on the Brittany coast reverberated across France - decaying green algae was fouling some of its best beaches.

A report ordered by the government after the accident found concentrations of hydrogen sulfide gas emitted by the rotting algae were as high as 1,000 parts per million on the beach where the horse died - an amount that "can be fatal in several minutes."


Domesticated Silkworms' Secrets

Scientists identify genes involved in the taming and farming of wild caterpillars

© Qingyou XiaUnraveling silkworm DNA reveals genetic differences between wild silkworms (top) and their domesticated relatives (bottom).
A sampling of today's domesticated silkworms reveals a rich tapestry of genes, suggesting that a lot of individuals were tamed during a relatively short time, scientists report online August 27 in Science.

By mapping the genetic books of instructions for 11 wild silkworms collected in mulberry fields in China and 29 domesticated silkworms of differing pedigrees, Jun Wang and colleagues found that the domesticated silk-makers still have 83 percent of the genetic variation observed in the wild.

Still, the genetic makeup of domesticated silkworms is distinct enough to distinguish them from their wild counterparts, suggested domestication happened quickly, says Wang, of the Beijing Genomics Institute at Shenzhen in China.


Spotless Sun record days away

Inspect the image below. It is a photo of the sun taken by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). Can you guess what day it was taken? Scroll down for the answer.
blank sun
© SOHOThe sun has looked remarkably blank lately; a sign that Solar Minimum is coming.

August 28th, today. But it could have been taken on any day of the past seven weeks. For all that time, the face of the sun has looked exactly the same--utterly blank.

According to NOAA sunspot counts, the longest string of blank suns during the current solar minimum was 52 days back in July, August and September of 2008. If the current trend continues for only four more days, the record will shift to 2009. It's likely to happen; the sun remains eerily quiet and there are no sunspots in the offing. Solar minimum is shaping up to be a big event indeed.

Spotless Days
  • Current Stretch: 48 days
  • 2009 total: 190 days (79%)
  • Since 2004: 701 days
  • Typical Solar Min: 485 days

Heart - Black

UK Weather supercomputer used to predict climate change is one of Britain's worst polluters

UK Met Super Computer
© Daily MailThe computer used 1.2 megawatts to run - enough to power 1,000 homes.

The Met Office has caused a storm of controversy after it was revealed their £30million supercomputer designed to predict climate change is one of Britain's worst polluters.

The massive machine - the UK's most powerful computer with a whopping 15 million megabytes of memory - was installed in the Met Office's headquarters in Exeter, Devon.

It is capable of 1,000 billion calculations every second to feed data to 400 scientists and uses 1.2 megawatts of energy to run - enough to power more than 1,000 homes.

The machine was hailed as the 'future of weather prediction' with the ability to produce more accurate forecasts and produce climate change modelling.

However the Met Office's Headquarters has now been named as one of the worst buildings in Britain for pollution - responsible for more than 12,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.


Death rate spikes among migrating whooping cranes

dying cranes
© APIn this Sunday, Jan. 15, 2006 file photo, a whooping crane eats a crab at the Aransas National …
A federal official says the world's only naturally migrating whooping cranes died at about twice their normal rate last year and will likely see an overall drop in numbers this year.

Tom Stehn, who oversees whooping crane conservation efforts for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says 21 percent of a flock of whooping cranes that migrates between northern Canada and the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas each year died off last year. Typically about 10 percent of the flock dies off.