Earth ChangesS


Plastics In Oceans Decompose, Release Hazardous Chemicals, Surprising New Study Says

© Katsuhiko SaidoA boy in Japan points out Styrofoam debris from the ocean.
In the first study to look at what happens over the years to the billions of pounds of plastic waste floating in the world's oceans, scientists are reporting that plastics - reputed to be virtually indestructible - decompose with surprising speed and release potentially toxic substances into the water.

Reporting at the 238th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the researchers termed the discovery "surprising." Scientists always believed that plastics in the oceans were unsightly, but a hazard mainly to marine animals that eat or become ensnared in plastic objects.

Better Earth

Even chimps can close a deal

The art of the deal has been on display in recent days. On 4 August former US president Bill Clinton sealed the release of two journalists held in North Korea, and last week Senator Jim Webb persuaded Burma's rulers to free a US citizen held in prison. However, a knack for negotiation may not be unique to power brokers like these.

Lower-ranking chimpanzees, new research suggests, know how to bargain with their superiors to achieve a fairer split of food. These findings suggest that an aptitude for deal-making may have existed millions of years before phrases like "you've got a deal."

"It looks like you can have a quite successful way of dealing with conflicting interests without any language or any very sophisticated communication," says Alicia Melis, a psychologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, who led the study.

Chimpanzees in the wild show flickers of this ability. Some populations appear to cooperate on hunts, while others seem to exchange back scratches. Deciding where to travel and forage for food could require arbitration, Melis says.


Deep-sea worms fire glowing bombs

In the depths of the Pacific Ocean, newly discovered species of free-swimming worms have a unique method of distracting predators. They deploy "bombs" that burst in a flare of green light.

Cloud Lightning

Hurricane Bill churns closer to Bermuda

Hurricane Bill1
© BBCHurricane Bill is expected to pass between Bermuda and the eastern coast of the United States.
Miami, Florida -- While Hurricane Bill looked less organized early Friday, a tropical storm warning remains in effect for Bermuda.

Tropical storm conditions, including winds of at least 39 mph (63 kph), are expected on the island within 24 hours. A hurricane watch was also in effect, meaning hurricane conditions, including winds of at least 74 mph (119 kph), are possible within 36 hours.

As of 5 a.m. ET Friday, Bill's center was about 425 miles (680 kilometers) south of Bermuda, and about 865 miles (1,390 kilometers) southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, the hurricane center said.

The storm was moving northwest at near 17 mph (28 kph), and is expected to continue that motion overnight, with a gradual turn to the north-northwest on Friday followed by a turn toward the north on Saturday.

"The core of the hurricane is expected to pass between Bermuda and the east coast of the United States on Saturday," forecasters said.


Australia: Mice 'plague' threatens mid-west crops

A mid-west Western Australian agronomist says mice numbers in the northern agricultural region have reached near plague proportions.

Growers in Yuna, Binnu and Mullewa have reported increased mice activity in their paddocks over recent weeks.

The mice cause significant damage by eating the nodes of flowering and early podding canola and lupin crops.

Cloud Lightning

US: Tornado, storms cause heavy damage in Midwest

Minneapolis - Powerful winds slammed parts of four Midwestern states on Wednesday, leaving behind shattered windows, toppled power lines and a handful of injuries. At least a half dozen suspected tornadoes were reported.

The National Weather Service received reports of a possible tornado near downtown Minneapolis, where winds tore off part of a 90-year-old metal church steeple. Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois were also hit, though the only confirmed tornado as of Wednesday night was in Hastings, about 30 miles southeast of Minneapolis, where a 100-yard-long swath of trees was flattened.

Better Earth

Killer whales spotted in Ireland and Scotland

© Unknown
Two killer whales have been spotted off the Mullet peninsula.

Dúlra Nature Tours was conducting a survey of whales, dolphins and sharks, when 'Comet' and 'Puffin', male and female members of the west coast community in Scotland, were seen near the Inishkea Islands.

Machiel Oudejans, a marine biologist working with Dúlra Nature Tours, said the killer whales were identified using photographs of the dorsal fins and the white saddle patch behind the dorsal fin.

"By matching the photos to an online database in Scotland, the whales were identified. These whales are commonly observed near the Hebrides, west of Scotland. Little is known about the distribution of these whales, which occasionally travel long distances and visit the Irish coastal waters," said Mr Oudejans.

Better Earth

New York salmon resurgence indicates species recovery

For the first time in more than a century, scientists have found wild-born Atlantic salmon in a Lake Ontario tributary that once teemed with the fish, suggesting that the native species is recovering after many years of reproductive failure.

Jim Johnson, a biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, said Wednesday that 41 yearling wild Atlantic salmon were collected this summer in the Salmon River at the eastern end of the lake in New York. He attributes the increase to changes in the lake's food chain.

Atlantic salmon were once abundant in Lake Ontario and its tributaries, with reports from the 1800s of fishermen catching thousands of 15- to 20-pound fish per night from the Salmon River. By the turn of the century, overfishing, dams, deforestation and pollution had wiped out the population.


Hurricane Bill looms in Atlantic at Category 4

Miami Hurricane Bill became a dangerous Category 4 storm Wednesday as it howled through the open Atlantic's energizing waters, which could further boost the storm's power as it moves north.

Forecasters said Bill should begin pushing large swells toward Bermuda and parts of the southeastern U.S. coast by the weekend, but it wasn't yet clear how close the storm will come to land.

The National Hurricane Center also said people in the Leeward Islands should keep an eye on the storm, though its core was expected to pass well to the northeast of the chain in the next 24 hours. Fishermen in Antigua were advised to dock their boats.

Bizarro Earth

Earthquake Magnitude 5.1 - Assam, India

Wednesday, August 19, 2009 at 10:45:14 UTC
Wednesday, August 19, 2009 at 04:15:14 PM at epicenter

26.565°N, 92.486°E

10 km (6.2 miles) set by location program

85 km (55 miles) ENE of Gauhati, Assam, India

125 km (80 miles) NNE of Shillong, Meghalaya, India

610 km (375 miles) NE of Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal, India

1530 km (950 miles) E of NEW DELHI, Delhi, India