Earth ChangesS

Cow Skull

Cyprus runs risk of desertification: geophysicist

Cyprus runs the risk of desertification by the end of this century as it feels the brunt of climate change and drought, an expert warned on Friday.

Studies project a rise in summer temperatures on the east Mediterranean island of between two and four degrees this century, compared to the 1960 to 1990 reference periods, Professor Manfred Lange, a geophysicist, said in an interview.

"I think that there is a very definite potential for dramatically increasing desertification," said Lange, director of the Energy, Environment and Water Research Centre at the non-profit Cyprus Institute. By the end of this century, Cyprus can expect an extra two months of days with temperatures exceeding 35 degrees centigrade (95 fahrenheit) on top of the present summer months of June, July and August, Lange said. There is also likely to be less rainfall and increased evaporation because of higher temperatures.


US: Sharp cold wave shocks upper Midwest, temps to -36F

Bismark, North Dakota - Residents of the upper Midwest bundled up or just stayed inside Tuesday as a wave of bitterly cold air barreled south out of the Arctic, following on the heels of a fast-moving blizzard.

Some schools closed because of the cold and temperatures hit the single digits as far south as Kansas and Missouri.

Bizarro Earth

Magnitude 5.1 - Crete, Greece

Crete Greece

Date-Time Tuesday, January 13, 2009 at 06:12:46 UTC
Tuesday, January 13, 2009 at 08:12:46 AM at epicenter
Location 35.707°N, 26.286°E
Depth 56.4 km (35.0 miles)
Distances 105 km (65 miles) ENE of Iraklion, Crete, Greece
175 km (110 miles) SSE of Naxos, Cyclades Islands, Greece
195 km (120 miles) WSW of Rodos, Dodecanese Islands, Greece
340 km (210 miles) SE of ATHENS, Greece


Mysterious pelican deaths worry California biologists By Lisa M. Krieger

In a troubling wildlife mystery, California brown pelicans are turning up sick or dead in suburban ponds, driveways and backyards - far from their ocean home.

Two of the elegant birds, emaciated and disoriented, were found in San Jose last week. Another was rescued from Searsville Dam at Stanford University's Jasper Ridge Preserve. Others have been reported at such unlikely locations as Belmont, San Bruno, Brisbane and Burlingame. One fell out of a tree in Oakland. Two were found in a San Francisco dumpster; another stopped traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge.

"Normally, they're on piers and places where they can find fish,'' said Rebecca Ryan of the Peninsula Humane Society in San Mateo, which has stabilized several sick birds. "Now they are appearing in really unusual places.''


Trinidad and Tobago: Ministry alarmed by monkey deaths

Warning over meat

More monkeys were being found dead in forests across the country, according to Hunters Association president Mohan Bholasingh.

He said it was not known what was killing them and that the association as a precautionary measure had sent out advisories through members calling on hunters and other people entering forests to be immunised with the yellow fever vaccine.

Red Howler monkeys are the hosts of the virus that carries the disease.

Better Earth

Rabbits Devastate Island Wildlife

© Australian Antarctic DivisionRabbits caused plant cover to decline starkly on this royal penguin "run" between 2001 (top) and 2007 (bottom).
The removal of cats in 2000 caused "catastrophic" damage to the ecology of a sub-Antarctic island, a study says.

Since cats were removed from Macquarie Island, rabbit numbers have soared, and the animals are now devastating plants.

Cats previously kept a check on rabbits but were eradicated because they were also eating seabirds, scientists relate in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

The Australian government plans to eradicate rabbits, rats and mice from the island, a World Heritage Site.

The rabbits have now caused so much damage to the island's flora that the changes can be seen from space.

The scientists behind the research say conservation agencies must "learn lessons" from the episode.


Floods kill 25 in Mozambique

Maputo - Torrential rains have killed 25 people in central Mozambique in the last two weeks and flooding could devastate the region by March, authorities said on Monday.

The victims, mostly children, drowned while trying to swim through raging waters, said Belarmino Chivambo, spokesman of Mozambique's National Institute of Disaster Management.

"We expect the worst to come by March, which is the peak of the rainy season due to heavy downpours in both Mozambique and neighboring countries," he told Reuters.

Thousands of homes have been destroyed and authorities are setting up emergency shelters, said Chivambo. Roads, bridges and electricity pylons in four provinces have been damaged.

The Zambezi River in central Mozambique, which stretches 500 km (300 miles) through four provinces, is now above flood alert levels, swelled by rains in neighboring Malawi and Zambia.

Bizarro Earth

Dirty Snow Causes Early Runoff In Cascades, Rockies

soot from pollution settles on pristine snow
© Pacific Northwest National LaboratoryWhen soot from pollution settles on pristine snow, it can increase snowmelt in the winter month of February (top left, red) and decrease it in the late spring (May -- bottom right, blue).

Soot from pollution causes winter snowpacks to warm, shrink and warm some more. This continuous cycle sends snowmelt streaming down mountains as much as a month early, a new study finds. How pollution affects a mountain range's natural water reservoirs is important for water resource managers in the western United States and Canada who plan for hydroelectricity generation, fisheries and farming.

Scientists at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory conducted the first-ever study of soot on snow in the western states at a scale that predicted impacts along mountain ranges. They found that soot warms up the snow and the air above it by up to 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit, causing snow to melt.

"If we can project the future -- how much water we'll be getting from the rivers and when -- then we can better plan for its many uses," said atmospheric scientist Yun Qian. "Snowmelt can be up to 75 percent of the water supply, in some regions. These changes can affect the water supply, as well as aggravate winter flooding and summer droughts."

Better Earth

Decline Of Plankton That Gobble Carbon Dioxide Coincided With Ancient Global Cooling

© NOAA/Gordon TaylorDiatoms are abundant oceanic plankton that remove billions of tons of carbon dioxide from the air each year. Their evolutionary history needs to be rewritten, according to a new Cornell study.

The evolutionary history of diatoms -- abundant oceanic plankton that remove billions of tons of carbon dioxide from the air each year -- needs to be rewritten, according to a new Cornell study. The findings suggest that after a sudden rise in species numbers, diatoms abruptly declined about 33 million years ago -- trends that coincided with severe global cooling.

The study is published in the Jan. 8 issue of the journal Nature.

The research casts doubt on the long-held theory that diatoms' success was tied to an influx of nutrients into the oceans from the rise of grasslands about 18 million years ago. New evidence from a study led by graduate student Dan Rabosky of Cornell's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology takes into account a widespread problem in paleontology: that younger fossils are easier to find than older ones.

"We just tried to address the simple fact that the number of available fossils is colossally greater from recent time periods than from earlier time periods," Rabosky said. "It's a pretty standard correction in some fields, but it hasn't been applied to planktonic paleontology up till now."

Bizarro Earth

Large Earthquakes Trigger A Surge In Volcanic Eruptions

New evidence showing that very large earthquakes can trigger an increase in activity at nearby volcanoes has been uncovered by Oxford University scientists.

An analysis of records in southern Chile has shown that up to four times as many volcanic eruptions occur during the year following very large earthquakes than in other years. This 'volcanic surge' can affect volcanoes up to at least 500 km away from an earthquake's epicentre.

A report of the work will be published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

Previously, scientists had identified a few cases where volcanic eruptions follow very large earthquakes - but up until now it had been difficult to show statistically that such earthquakes may be the cause of an increase in eruptions, rather than the events just being a coincidence.