Earth ChangesS


Global cooling is here

Winter officially arrives with Sunday's solstice. But for many Americans, autumn 2008's final days already feel like deepest, coldest January.

New Englanders still lack electricity after a Dec. 11 ice storm snapped power lines. Up to eight inches of snow struck New Orleans and southern Louisiana that day and didn't melt for 48 hours in some neighborhoods.

In southern California Wednesday, a half-inch of snow brightened Malibu's hills while a half-foot barricaded highways and marooned commuters in desert towns east of Los Angeles. Three inches of the white stuff shuttered Las Vegas' McCarren Airport that day and dusted the Strip's hotels and casinos.

What are the odds of that?

Bizarro Earth

More small quakes rattle Yellowstone National Park

More earthquakes are rattling Yellowstone National Park. The small quakes include three more Friday that measured stronger than magnitude 3.0. The University of Utah Seismic Stations say the strongest was 3.5.

Several hundred quakes centered under the northern end of Yellowstone Lake have now occurred since Dec. 26. No damage has been reported. Earthquake swarms happen fairly often in Yellowstone. But scientists say it's unusual for so many earthquakes to happen over several days.


Spanish Droughts Over Past 500 Years Reconstructed

The Cathedral of Toledo
© José María Cuellar (Creative Commons)The Cathedral of Toledo.
A Spanish research group has reconstructed the pattern of droughts in Spain between 1506 and 1900 on the basis of ceremonial records held at the Cathedral of Toledo, in order to observe how droughts have varied over the past 500 years. Short-term meteorological data and tree growth rings have also been used to supplement the records of ceremonies.

Historical documents such as the records of rogativas (ceremonies with origins dating back to Roman agricultural rites) compiled at the Cathedral of Toledo and municipal churches, have allowed researchers to gain an insight into the climatological period between 1506 and 1900 in Toledo and Madrid, particularly in regard to extreme weather events such as droughts.

After processing this information, the scientists published their work in Global and Planetary Change. Their article shows that droughts in Spain throughout most of the 16th Century were infrequent and shorter than in subsequent periods. The period between 1676 and 1710 was characterised by lower hydric stress, and the 19th Century experienced a low frequency of droughts. However, "the most severe droughts were recorded during the period from the end of the 16th Century up until the 18th Century", Juan I. Santisteban, one of the authors of the study and a researcher at the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) tells SINC.


Mystery pillars

"The air was very cold and filled with small ice crystals on Dec. 28th when we saw these strange pillars of light," reports Aigar Truhin of Sigulda, Latvia. "My son exclaimed, The aliens are coming!" It certainly looked that way." Truhin snapped this picture using his Nikon D90:

© Aigar TruhinPhoto details: Nikon D90, 5 sec. exposure @ ISO 200-640

Bizarro Earth

Greenhouse gases could have caused an ice age, claim scientists

Filling the atmosphere with Greenhouse gases associated with global warming could push the planet into a new ice age, scientists have warned.

Researchers at the University of Birmingham found that 630 million years ago the earth had a warm atmosphere full of carbon dioxide but was completely covered with ice.

The scientists studied limestone rocks and found evidence that large amounts of greenhouse gas coincided with a prolonged period of freezing temperatures.

Such glaciation could happen again if global warming is not curbed, the university's school of geography, earth and environmental sciences warned.


Washington State: Mysterious South Kitsap Worms Weave Web of Intrigue

snow worms
© Derek Sheppard/Kitsap SunA close-up view of the inch-long "snow worms" Bill Thornton found in his parent's Port Orchard backyard clearly shows the segments, which look like an earthworm. The running theory is they they're juvenile earthworms, but samples have been sent to a scientist for review.
Who knew snow could be so creepy? And crawly.

Bill Thornton of Port Orchard certainly didn't, until he noticed something in his parents' backyard early Christmas morning.

"The more I looked, the more I found, and they were literally crawling up out of the snow," he said.

Worms - "snow worms," as he's started calling them - squiggled by the thousands atop the backyard snow.

That discovery launched Thornton on an odyssey as he tried to figure out what the worms are and where the came from.


Killer Mice Bring Albatross Population Closer To Extinction

© Ross Wanless BirdLife InternationalIntroduced mice are responsible for declines in Tristan Albatross and Gough Bunting.
The critically endangered Tristan albatross (Diomedea dabbenena) has suffered its worst breeding season ever, according to research by the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK). The number of chicks making it through to fledging has decreased rapidly, and it is now five times lower than it should be because introduced predatory mice are eating the chicks alive on Gough island -- the bird's only home and a South Atlantic territory of the United Kingdom.

The mice are also affecting Gough Island's other Critically Endangered endemic species, Gough Bunting Rowettia goughensis. A recent survey of the bunting's population revealed that the population has halved within the last two decades. Now there are only an estimated 400-500 pairs left.

"We've known for a long time that the mice were killing albatross chicks in huge numbers. However, we now know that the albatrosses have suffered their worst year on record", said Richard Cuthbert, an RSPB scientist who has been researching the mice problem on Gough Island since 2000. "We also know that the mice are predators on the eggs and chicks of the Gough bunting and mice predation is the main factor behind their recent decline."


Four Years After Tsunami, Coral Reefs Recovering

© Rizya LegawaA successful coral transplant site in Aceh, Indonesia, some four years after the tsunami.
A team of scientists from the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has reported a rapid recovery of coral reefs in areas of Indonesia, following the tsunami that devastated coastal regions throughout the Indian Ocean on December 26, 2004.

The WCS team, working in conjunction with the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (ARCCoERS) along with government, community and non-government partners, has documented high densities of "baby corals" in areas that were severely impacted by the tsunami.

The team, which has surveyed the region's coral reefs since the December 26, 2004 tsunami, looked at 60 sites along 800 kilometers (497 miles) of coastline in Aceh, Indonesia. The researchers attribute the recovery to natural colonization by resilient coral species, along with the reduction of destructive fishing practices by local communities.

Cloud Lightning

US: Wind-whipped debris blamed for 1 death

High winds buffeted the Washington area, fueling fires, zapping power to thousands of customers and blamed for at least one death, officials said.

Wind gusts near 60 mph in some areas hurled trees and branches onto roads and disabled traffic lights, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

Officials said a priest died Wednesday when he was struck by a falling tree as he tried to remove debris from traffic lands. A 2-year-old boy was hospitalized after he was hit by a tree limb while in his back yard, the Post reported.

The gusty conditions forced municipalities along the eastern seaboard to cancel New Year's Eve fireworks displays because conditions were hazardous.

In McLean, Va., a gust sent the "U" of the high-rise USA Today building's sign toppling to the streets below.


Temperatures drop to 50 below zero in parts of Alaska

Fairbanks - Bitterly cold weather slid over from Canada and settled into Interior Alaska with forecasters saying temperatures could continue to slide to nearly 50 degrees below zero in coming days.
thermometer -50
© unknown

Over the weekend, the mercury at Fairbanks International Airport dropped to 39 degrees below zero. Areas in the Interior outside the city were even colder; 46 below on the Yukon Flats, 41 below in Fort Yukon and 44 below in Central, according to the weather service.

Rick Thoman, lead forecaster at the National Weather Service office in Fairbanks, said temperatures rose a few degrees on Sunday, but that was it.

"The temperature will probably continue to go up and down randomly," he said. "With no clouds and no wind on the valley floor, temperatures are pretty much probably going to be stuck."

Fairbanks had experienced a relatively mild winter prior to Christmas. It had only dropped to 30 below once, in early December.

Comment: Current Extreme Temperatures from here:

Last Updated: Thu Jan 1 06:51:02 UTC 2009

PFYU: Fort Yukon, Fort Yukon Airport, AK, United States [-49°C, -56.2°F]
PABI: Delta Junction/Ft Greely, Allen Army Airfield, AK, United States [-42°C, -43.6°F]
PABT: Bettles, Bettles Airport, AK, United States [-43°C, -45.4°F]
PAEG: Eagle, Eagle Airport, AK, United States [-44°C, -47.2°F]
PAEI: Fairbanks, Eielson Air Force Base, AK, United States [-44°C, -47.2°F]
PAFA: Fairbanks, Fairbanks Intl Arpt, AK, United States [-41°C, -41.8°F]
PAFS: Nikolai, AK, United States [-41°C, -41.8°F]
PAGK: Gulkana, Gulkana Airport, AK, United States [-42°C, -43.6°F]
PAIN: McKinley Park, McKinley National Park Airport, AK, United States [-40°C, -40.0°F]
PALR: Chandalar Lake, Chandalar Lake Airport, AK, United States [-44°C, -47.2°F]
PAMX: McCarthy, AK, United States [-42°C, -43.6°F]
PANN: Nenana, Nenana Municipal Airport, AK, United States [-42°C, -43.6°F]
PAOR: Northway, Northway Airport, AK, United States [-41°C, -41.8°F]
PATA: Tanana, Calhoun Memorial Airport, AK, United States [-40°C, -40.0°F]