Earth ChangesS


UK: Thousands Of Homes Lose Power

Snowy road
© UnknownThousands Of Homes Lose Power
The Army was mobilised to help stricken drivers as heavy snow brought traffic chaos and cut power to thousands of homes in northern England.

Hundreds of schools were closed across Northern England and Scotland.

As much as 20cm of snow fell in the Durham Dales, and 17cm was recorded at Redesdale, Northumberland, with driving winds causing drifts on transpennine routes in what was the heaviest snowfall of the winter so fall.

Around 4,450 homes were without power in north-east Yorkshire and north Linclonshire by early evening.


Are climate scientists overselling their models?

At the UN climate negotiations under way in Poland this week, politicians will be poring over forecasts of climate change. It's an opportune moment for physicist Lenny Smith to challenge the climate modellers who he believes are overselling their results. Human activity really is changing the global climate, he tells Fred Pearce, but we must stop pretending that we know the details of how it will all play out
Lenny Smith
© Pal HansenPhysicist Lenny Smith thinks that climate modellers are overselling their results.

You work with climate models, but you have issues with them too. Why?

The temptation to interpret model noise as forecast information invades our living rooms every night. TV weather-forecast maps look so realistic it is hard not to over-interpret tiny details - to imagine that the band of rain passing over Oxfordshire at noon next Saturday requires postponing a barbecue. Rain may indeed be likely somewhere in the area sometime on Saturday, but the details we see on TV forecasts are noise from the models. I think we are having exactly the same problem with climate projections.

Comment: For additional reading on the Climate debate: Climate Change Swindlers and the Political Agenda, Fire and Ice: The Day After Tomorrow and Forget about Global Warming - We're One Step From Extinction!.

Cloud Lightning

Drivers warned as heavy snow hits northern England and Scotland

Forecasters predict hazardous rush-hour driving conditions after 10cm of snow falls in higher areas of country
Guardian Snow
© Scott Heppell/APA Shetland pony stands in a snowy field at Anneld Plain, Co Durham

Evil Rays

Over 200 inches of snow greets Alyeska skiers and riders

Yes you read that right - over 200 inches - 16.7 feet! - of snow. And 117 inches of the total came in the last week at Alyeska Resort, about 40 miles south of Anchorage, Alaska.

Alyeska opened for business on November 26 and according to a press release, with "epic conditions that rival the best opening day on record."

Better Earth

Super-Ant Taking Over Europe

An ant species that originated in the Black Sea region has invaded more than 100 areas across Europe and is moving north. Scientists say if it is not stopped, it will reach northern Germany, Scandinavia and Britain and could invade the whole world.
Live Science Ants
© Credit: Centre for Social Evolution (CSE) at the University of CopenhagenRed dots show where Lasius neglectus has been found.

Bizarro Earth

Magnitude 6.2 - Near East Coast of Honshu, Japan

Date-Time Wednesday, December 03, 2008 at 23:16:58 UTC

Thursday, December 04, 2008 at 08:16:58 AM at epicenter

Location 38.566°N, 142.762°E

Depth 35 km (21.7 miles) set by location program

Distances 170 km (105 miles) ENE of Sendai, Honshu, Japan

190 km (120 miles) SE of Morioka, Honshu, Japan

220 km (140 miles) ENE of Fukushima, Honshu, Japan

420 km (260 miles) NE of TOKYO, Japan


Germany: Snow and ice cause traffic chaos

Heavy snow and black ice caused traffic chaos across Germany on Wednesday morning, meanwhile more winter weather was expected throughout the day.

Snow storms in the lower mountain range of the Rhineland region, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the Taunus region in the state of Hesse brought traffic to a standstill during the morning commute. The sanitary department had been out in full force ploughing snow and salting streets, police said, adding that they still expected delays in heavy traffic areas.

Bizarro Earth

Megathrust earthquake could hit Asia 'at any time'

A devastating "megathrust" earthquake could occur at any time off the Indonesian island of Sumatra, according to new research. Previous quakes have failed to release all of the energy that has built up over hundreds of years, leaving the fault zone vulnerable to another large earthquake.

Using GPS, field measurements, radar data and seismological records, a team of international researchers investigated the parameters and reconstructed the events of two massive earthquakes, measuring 8.4 and 7.9 on the Richter scale, which occurred in the Mentawai area in 2007.

Previous models of how earthquakes work had suggested that the same fault would rupture in the same way and at regular, predictable time intervals. But the researchers found that the 2007 quakes ruptured only a fraction of the area affected by the giant 1833 earthquake, indicating that a tectonic plate boundary can rupture in different patterns depending on local differences in stress.


UK: White Christmas betting goes into 'overdrive' as temperatures plummet

As forecasters predict more snow, bookmakers are slashing their odds, fearing a white Christmas could cost them up to £1m

The increasing prospect of a white Christmas forced bookmakers to slash their odds today after interest in the customary festive bet went into "overdrive".

The icy weather, which has already brought chaos to many parts of the country, is set to extend with forecasters predicting more snowfall.
Horses in the early morning snow on Holcombe Hill
© Christopher ThomondHorses in the early morning snow on Holcombe Hill on the border between Greater Manchester and Lancashire.

Laura Gilchrist, forecaster at MeteoGroup, said: "Tonight a warm front of air from the west will hit a colder front, creating snow. By the early hours of tomorrow morning most parts of the country will be seeing either rain or snow."


On the trail of Tahiti's elusive vanilla orchid

Sweet, rich and rare, Tahitian vanilla is the gourmet's choice and second only to saffron in the league of pricey spices. For botanists, Tahitian vanilla holds a fascination far beyond its flavour: the orchid that produces it is an evolutionary enigma. Vanilla tahitensis is known only from French Polynesia and New Guinea, where it has been cultivated since the late 19th century. The puzzle is where it came from originally. All vanilla orchids with aromatic beans are native to tropical America, yet this species has never been found there. Diligent detective work and DNA analysis suggest that the plant emerged from the chocolate gardens of Guatemala, crossed the Pacific on a Spanish galleon, and found its way to Tahiti in a French admiral's baggage.

All good detective stories need a decent hunch, some intriguing clues and, these days, some sophisticated DNA analysis. If the plot revolves around an old, unsolved case, so much the better. The Tahitian vanilla mystery has all this and more: exotic locations and a trail that spans half the globe and at least half a millennium.
© Jean-Pierre Pleuchot/Image Bank/GettyTahiti is the home of the finest vanilla, but Tahitian vanilla has long been an enigma

For more than 50 years, botanists have puzzled over the origin of the vanilla orchid grown on the islands of French Polynesia in the Pacific Ocean. The first formal description of the species was based on a specimen from Raiatea, the second largest island in the archipelago and sacred to the Tahitians, so it was named Vanilla tahitensis. Yet the orchid was clearly alien to these islands.