Earth ChangesS


Northwest at risk of megaquake like one in Chile

Los Angeles - Just 50 miles off the Pacific Northwest coast is an earthquake hotspot that threatens to unleash on Seattle, Portland and Vancouver the kind of damage that has shattered Chile.

The fault has been dormant for more than 300 years, but when it awakens - tomorrow or decades from now - the consequences could be devastating.

Recent computer simulations of a hypothetical magnitude-9 quake found that shaking could last 2 to 5 minutes - strong enough to potentially cause poorly constructed buildings from British Columbia to Northern California to collapse and severely damage highways and bridges.

Such a quake would also send powerful tsunami waves rushing to shore in minutes. While big cities such as Portland and Seattle would be protected from severe flooding, low-lying seaside communities may not be as lucky.

The Pacific Northwest "has a long geological history of doing exactly what happened in Chile," said Brian Atwater, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and University of Washington. "It's not a matter of if but when the next one will happen."

Bizarro Earth

The Earthquake Beyond Chile

Chile area map
© Unknown
Our colleague Christian Quintero of Planeta UFO sent us a report on the Chilean Earthquake, dealing with the impact of this seismic event beyond that country's borders:

"In Perú, Walter Flores, Chief of the Navy's Department of Oceanography, reported that the sea withdrew approximately 150 meters (300 feet approx.) from the coast of the Cerro Azul recreation area in Cañete (Peru), but assured the population that fluctuations resulting from the normalization of the water level would not result in large waves. Moreover, the Chief of the Port Authority for Southern Peru ordered the preventive closure of the beaches at Naplo and Pucusana after abnormal tides were detected.


Ice Age Cometh: Coldest Irish winter since 1963

© UnknownView of Dublin from the Dublin Mountains, February 7th
Ireland suffered its coldest winter in almost five decades as the country shivered in the big freeze, it was revealed.

Met Eireann said temperatures were around two degrees lower than average during the season, making it the coldest winter recorded since 1963.

Arctic conditions experienced at the end of last year continued through January and February, with widespread spells of frost, sleet and snow.

Temperatures plummeted to below minus 10C in some places, with minus 16.3C recorded at Mount Juliet, Co Kilkenny, on January 7.


Australia: Hundreds Evacuated From Flood-Bound Charleville

Queensland Floods 2
© ABC: Paul LockyerCooper Creek has been in flood since heavy rain in western Queensland late last year
Hundreds of people will be evacuated from flood-affected Charleville in Queensland's south-west, as heavy rain and flooding continues across the state's inland region.

A monsoonal low has dumped more than 130 millimetres of rain over parts of south-west Queensland overnight.

That has led to flooding in Bradley's Gully, which cuts through the centre of Charleville.

Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts says around a third of Charleville will be evacuated.

"For the town today ... expect potentially up to 500 people to be evacuated from their homes, which is quite significant," he said.


Common weed-killer chemically castrates frogs: study

chemicals castrating frogs
© AFP/File/Jeff PachoudFile photo shows a frog at the Besancon Natural History Museum. One of the most common weed-killers in the world, atrazine, causes chemical castration in frogs and could be killing off amphibian populations worldwide, a study published showed.
One of the most common weed-killers in the world, atrazine, causes chemical castration in frogs and could be killing off amphibian populations worldwide, a study published showed.

Researchers compared 40 male control frogs with 40 male frogs reared from the moment they hatched from eggs until full sexual maturity in atrazine concentrations in the range that animals experience year-round in areas where the chemical herbicide is found.

Ninety percent of the male frogs exposed to atrazine had low testosterone levels, decreased breeding gland size, feminized laryngeal development, suppressed mating behavior, reduced sperm production and decreased fertility, while the control group showed features typically found in male frogs.

And what happened to the remaining 10 percent of atrazine-exposed frogs was deemed "the most dramatic finding" of the study by the researchers, led by Tyrone Hayes of the University of California at Berkeley: they developed into females that copulated with males and produced eggs.

The larvae from those eggs were all male, the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) found.

"Many studies have focused on death from disease and its role in global amphibian declines and sudden disappearances of populations, but virtually no attention has been paid to the slow, gradual loss of amphibian populations due to failed recruitment," the study said.


Tsunami sweeps away entire towns on Chilean coast

boat marooned by tsunami
© AP Photo/ Natacha PisarenkoA boat lies marooned on a street in Talcahuano, Chile, Monday, March 1, 2010. An 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck central Chile early Saturday triggering a tsunami that hit coastal communities.
Talcahuano - When the shaking stopped, Marioli Gatica and her extended family huddled in a circle on the floor of their seaside wooden home in this gritty port town, listening to the radio by a lantern's light.

They heard firefighters urging Talcahuano's citizens to stay calm and stay inside. They heard nothing of a tsunami - until it slammed into their house with an unearthly roar about an hour after Saturday's magnitude 8.8 quake.

Gatica's house exploded with water. She and her family were swept below the surface, swirling amid loose ship containers and other massive debris that smashed buildings into oblivion all around them.

"We were sitting there one moment and the next I looked up into the water and saw cables and furniture floating," Gatica said.

She clung to her 11-year-old daughter, Ninoska Elgueta, but the rush of water ripped the girl from her hands. Then the wave retreated as suddenly as it came.

Better Earth

Best of the Web: BBC Horizon - How Many People Can Live on Planet Earth?

"In a Horizon special, naturalist Sir David Attenborough investigates whether the world is heading for a population crisis.

Comment: The other parts are here:
BBC Horizon - How Many People Can Live on Planet Earth ? Part 2
BBC Horizon - How Many People Can Live on Planet Earth ? Part 3
BBC Horizon - How Many People Can Live on Planet Earth ? Part 4
BBC Horizon - How Many People Can Live on Planet Earth ? Part 5
BBC Horizon - How Many People Can Live on Planet Earth ? Part 6

Bizarro Earth

Volcanic explosions expected in Chile quake's wake

Llaima Volcano
© STR/AFP/GettyLlaima, one of the largest and most active volcanoes in Chile, is back on the watch list.
Besides aftershocks, Chile's magnitude 8.8 earthquake on 27 February may also leave a legacy of volcanic explosions. "We expect to see an upsurge in volcanic activity over the next 12 months," says David Pyle, a volcanologist at the University of Oxford.

Charles Darwin was among the first people to suggest a link between large earthquakes and increased volcanic activity. In his records, he notes that a large earthquake off Chile's coastline in February 1835 appeared to resurrect previously inactive volcanoes, and cause active ones to increase their eruption rates.

Last year, Pyle and his colleagues confirmed that this was a real effect in Chile, showing that increases in volcanic activity have occurred following other large earthquakes along its coastline.

In particular, they found that after a magnitude 8.3 in 1906 and a magnitude 9.5 earthquake in 1960, there were three or four more volcanic eruptions within about 500 kilometres of the epicentre in the following year than would normally be expected.

Bizarro Earth

Nearly 200K without power after Northeast storm

© Reuters A woman jogs past a puddle of melting snow in Central Park a day after a snow storm in New York
Portland, Maine - Nearly 200,000 homes and businesses were still without power Monday as restoration efforts continued days after a slow-moving storm battered the Northeast with heavy snow, rain and high winds.

More than 83,000 utility customers still lacked electricity early Monday in New Hampshire, the hardest-hit state. New York had about 87,000 outages, and Maine had about 16,000.

At the peak of the storm, more than a million utility customers throughout the region had lost power.

Hundreds of utility crews from as far away as Michigan and Maryland continued removing trees that knocked down power lines and replacing utility poles that snapped during last week's storm.

Dozens of shelters provided warmth and food at fire departments, schools and other places.

Even after spending three nights at a shelter in New Paltz, N.Y., 28-year-old Keith Crum of Marlboro, N.Y., said he was understanding of the ongoing power outage. He recently moved back to the area from South Carolina, where he worked cutting trees away from power lines.

Bizarro Earth

France declares 'catastrophe' in deadly storm's wake

woman waits on a chair atop a table
© AFP, GettyA woman waits on a chair atop a table for rescuers in her kitchen on February 28, 2010, as a result of heavy floods which swamped her house, in La Faute-sur-Mer western France.

Paris - France will formally declare the storm that battered its Atlantic coast, killing at least 45 people and flooding several towns, a "natural catastrophe", Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Sunday.

Fillon held an emergency meeting of ministers to assess the disaster before announcing the decision, which will free up state funds to help local communities rebuild in the wake of the disaster.

"It's a national catastrophe and my first thoughts are therefore for the families of the victims, to whom I would like to present condolences from the government and the nation," he said.