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Wed, 07 Jun 2023
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Earth Changes

Cow Skull

Scientists Find Evidence of 2nd Oil Plume

oil explosion
© U.S. Coast Guard
Tampa, Florida - University of South Florida scientists say they discovered a second oil plume in the Gulf of Mexico arising from BP's broken oil well on the gulf floor.

The scientists concluded that microscopic oil droplets are forming deep-water oil plumes, CNN reported Monday. The second recently discovered plume was in the northeastern gulf; the first plume was found by Mississippi scientists in May.

"These hydrocarbons are from depth and not associated with sinking, degraded oil but associated with the source of (BP's) Deepwater Horizon wellhead," USF Chemical Oceanographer David Hollander. "We've taken molecular isotopic approaches, which is like a fingerprint on a smoking gun."

Bizarro Earth

All you need to know about the hurricane season

© NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio
We could be due for a rerun of hurricane Rita
The North Atlantic hurricane season officially began on 1 June, and the US National Hurricane Center expects it to be a busy one. It forecasts a 70 per cent chance of eight to 14 storms reaching hurricane strength, and three to seven becoming dangerous "major" hurricanes of category 3 and above. Reaching the upper end of that range would make 2010 one of the most active hurricane seasons on record. What does that mean for residents of the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the US, worried about oil spreading from the Deepwater Horizon blowout?

Wasn't 2005 "a once in a century" hurricane year? Why are a similar number of storms forecast this year?

If hurricane numbers were purely random, there would be a 1 in 100 chance of a hundred-year storm being followed the next year by a second hundred-year storm. However, the number of hurricanes is far from random.

Hurricane formation in the north Atlantic and the Caribbean is linked to a cycle called the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. In a cycle lasting 20 to 40 years, sea-surface temperatures from Greenland to the equator rise and fall by about 0.5 °C. During the warm phases, about twice as many weak tropical storms grow into severe hurricanes as during the cooler phases.

The last rise in sea-surface temperatures and hurricane numbers came in the mid-1990s, so the average number of storms now is above the long-term average, and well above the relatively low numbers from the 1960s to the mid-1990s. The number of hurricanes was higher than average from the 1940s to the early 1960s. Those shifts roughly kept pace with the sea-surface temperature cycle.


Vanuatu's Volcanoes have Awakened: A Journey To The Most Active Volcanoes In The World

Bizarro Earth

Guatemala Raises Tropical Storm Death Toll to 172

Guatemalan officials say the death toll from Tropical Storm Agatha has risen to 172.

National disaster agency spokesman David de Leon says 101 people are still missing in the country and 148 were injured.

The updated toll released Sunday means at least 205 people in Central America were killed by Agatha, whose heavy rains unleashed floods and mudslides last weekend.

Guatemala's Ministry of Communications say the storm also washed out 24 bridges and damaged 19 more. Some 7,000 homes were destroyed.

Agatha also caused about $1 million in damage at the Mayan archaeological site Quirigua, 130 miles (208 kilometers) northeast of Guatemala City.


Earth's Magnetic Field Is Fading

Magnetic field
© Unknown
Earth's magnetic field is fading. Today it is about 10 percent weaker than it was when German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss started keeping tabs on it in 1845, scientists say.

If the trend continues, the field may collapse altogether and then reverse. Compasses would point south instead of north.

Not surprisingly, Hollywood has already seized on this new twist in the natural-disaster genre. Last year Tinseltown released The Core, a film in which the collapse of Earth's magnetic field leads to massive electrical storms, blasts of solar radiation, and birds incapable of navigation.

Entertainment value aside, the portrayal wasn't accurate, according to scientists who say the phenomenon of Earth's fading magnetic field is no cause to worry.

Arrow Up

Ocean Warming, Not Global Warming: Hydrothermal "Megaplume" Found in Indian Ocean

An enormous hydrothermal "megaplume" found in the Indian Ocean serves as a dramatic reminder that underwater volcanoes likely play an important role in shaping Earth's ocean systems, scientists report.

The plume, which stretches some 43.5 miles (70 kilometers) long, appears to be active on a previously unseen scale.

"In a nutshell, this thing is at least 10 times - or possibly 20 times - bigger than anything of its kind that's been seen before," said Bramley Murton of the British National Oceanography Centre.

Scientists reported the finding last week at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco. Researchers also announced newly discovered deep-sea hydrothermal fields in the Arctic Ocean and the south Atlantic.

Cell Phone

Losing the Buzz?

© Pune Mirror
The effects of cellphone radiation being observed in an artificial hive as part of the Punjab University experiment
A recent study reiterates the effects of cellphone tower radiation on honey bees. Mumbai, with its 1,000-plus towers, has cause for serious concern

Humans will not be the lone beneficiaries of a study recently sought by the chief minister on the ill-effects of radiation from cellphones and Mumbai's 1,000-plus cellphone towers.

The initiative may just come to the timely rescue of the city's endangered honeybee population. And if you think that the bee is too small a concern to hit your radar, consider what Einstein said: "If the bee disappears from the surface of the Earth, man would have no more than four years to live."

A recent experiment conducted by the Punjab University at Chandigarh reiterates the finding that honeybees are disappearing from their colonies because of the electro-pollution in the environment.

Better Earth

Grid Confronts a Threat from Mother Nature

A report just issued by the Energy Department and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, known as Nerc, an industry group that polices the power grid, lists three categories of threats to the grid: coordinated cyber- and physical attacks, pandemic disease and electromagnetic damage.

Grid experts have long worried that the high-altitude detonation of a nuclear weapon would send a damaging pulse of energy to earth. And changes in solar activity have occasionally distorted the earth's magnetic field and generated currents in the rock that have caused blackouts.

What the threats have in common, said Jerry Cauley, the president and chief executive of Nerc, is the "potential to simultaneously impact many assets at once.'' The grid comprises 200,000 miles of transmission lines and millions of digital controls, he pointed out. The study is an attempt to map out preparations for events that are rare or have so far never happened, what the Energy Department calls "high-impact, low-frequency events."

Bizarro Earth

Ancient oceans belched stagnant CO2 into the skies

At the end of the last ice age, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels shot up by nearly 50 per cent. But where did the CO2 come from? This long-standing climatic mystery has now been solved.

Climate scientists have suspected - but never been able to prove - that the CO2 was the result of a huge belch of gas from the oceans. They predicted that the ice age had slowed ocean circulation, trapping CO2 deep within it, and that warmer temperatures reversed this process.

Signs of stagnant CO2-rich water have now been discovered 3700 metres beneath the Southern Ocean's seabed, between Antarctica and South Africa.

Stewart Fallon of the Australian National University in Canberra and his colleagues collected samples from drill cores of the marine crust of tiny marine fossils called foraminifera. Different species of these lived at the surface and the bottom of the ocean. The chemical composition of their shells is dependent on the water they form in and how much CO2 it contains.


Earth's magnetic field gathers momentum

© NASA /Gary A Glatzmaier
The geodynamo is a complex mix of fluid and magnetism
Physicists in France have linked subtle variations in the length of day with conditions in the Earth's core - where the Earth's magnetic field originates. The finding could improve our poor understanding of how the field is generated and why it changes in response to conditions deep within the Earth's interior.

Molten iron flowing in the outer core generates the Earth's geodynamo, leading to a planetary-scale magnetic field. Beyond this, though, geophysicists know very little for certain about the field, such as its strength in the core or why its orientation fluctuates regularly. Researchers do suspect, however, that field variations are strongly linked with changing conditions within the molten core.

As we cannot access the Earth's core directly, researchers look to clues at the Earth's surface. One intriguing suggestion is that changing conditions at the core could have an impact on angular momentum throughout the whole Earth system. The implication is that variation to the flow patterns in the core could have an impact on the Earth's rotation, which could lead to slight variations in the length of a day.