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Sun, 28 May 2023
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Earth Changes

Bizarro Earth

Darfur crisis is stripping the environment

The Darfur conflict in Sudan has devastated the environment in the region, stripping forests and destroying farmland, according to a report by the UN's Environment Program (UNEP).

People caught up in the five-year crisis have cut down large areas of woodland, partly to feed a booming war-fuelled construction industry.

Tree cover has become so sparse in some areas that Darfuris often have to travel more than 75 kilometres from their camps to find enough wood to sell or use for fuel, the report added.

"We're now seeing extreme stress on the environment around many of the camps and the major towns in Darfur," said UNEP's Sudan country director Clive Bates in a statement. "We need to plant millions of trees and introduce new technologies for construction and energy as quickly as humanly possible."


Dolphin males leave sponging to the females

Bytfluke dolphin
© Janet Mann, Georgetown University
Bytfluke was one of the first dolphins seen sponging, in the 1980s.
Sexual stereotypes are not the preserve of humans. Male dolphins, it seems, are not interested in learning how to use a sponge, but their sisters are.

Dolphins were first seen carrying sponges cupped over their beaks in Shark Bay, Australia, in the 1980s.

Janet Mann of Georgetown University in Washington, DC, and colleagues have now reviewed data collected during 20 years spent monitoring this group of dolphins and found that, while mothers show both their male and female calves how to use sponges, female calves are almost exclusively the only ones to apply this knowledge.
dolphins use basket sponges
© Brooke Sargeant
The dolphins use basket sponges to stir up fish in sandy channels - the technique is almost exclusively used by females.

"The daughters seem really keen to do it," says Mann. "They try and try, whereas the sons don't seem to think it's a big deal and hang out at the surface waiting for their mothers to come back up."

Bizarro Earth

Papua New Guinea: Huge waves destroy hospital, homes

Huge waves caused by king tides have smashed into dozens of villages and towns in northern Papua New Guinea, destroying homes and flooding businesses and a hospital.

Authorities said there were no reports of casualties, but they were still trying to contact several outlying islands after the waves hit across an 800km stretch of ocean yesterday. Hundreds of people were left homeless

The waves struck PNG's north coast near the town of Wewak and islands to the northeast, such as New Ireland.


Rare 50 year Arctic Blast Sets Sights On Southern California

With a week away, and a sure sign of things to come, OWSweather.com is making preparations on the server to handle the traffic from this next event. UJEAS is in line with the majority if not all the other models in keeping a near historical arctic air mass into the Southern California region.



Caterpillar invasion so bad Yandaran residents can't stand still

© news.com.au
Creep ... a caterpillar plague has hit a small town, and it's so bad people can't stand still for fear of being covered in the crawlies.

Millions of hairy caterpillars are making life an itchy misery for residents of a small town north of Bundaberg in Queensland.
The as yet unidentified sub-species of the "processionary" caterpillar has been steadily multiplying since the start of the year to the point where residents of Yandaran cannot stand still without being covered in the creepy crawlies.

"It's like something is out of whack somewhere in the environment for them to be like this, munching through everything," said resident Dallas Boothey, who wears a protective suit to shield herself from the caterpillar's itchy little hairs.

"During winter it wasn't too bad but they've come back with a vengeance," she said

"They can travel up to a kilometre in the air and they create a very itchy allergic reaction in some people, including me.

"I get itchy red welts and a tightness of the chest. That's why I wear the suit which is really hot in summer. At the moment it's like living in a horror movie that never ends."

Better Earth

Deadly vanilla fungus hits Madagascar

An incurable crop disease has spread widely in Madagascar's vanilla-producing region, government scientists said Monday. The scientists' initial assessment released Monday said the world's main vanilla exporter needs to radically change farming methods to fight the disease, carried by an underground fungus.

Most of Madagascar's vanilla is exported to the United States, where it is used in candy, soft drinks and ice cream.


Climate Change Wiped Out Cave Bears 13,000 Years Earlier Than Thought

Skeleton of extinct cave bear
© Wikimedia Commons
Skeleton of extinct cave bear from Warsaw Museum.
Enormous cave bears, Ursus spelaeus, that once inhabited a large swathe of Europe, from Spain to the Urals, died out 27,800 years ago, around 13 millennia earlier than was previously believed, scientists have reported.

The new date coincides with a period of significant climate change, known as the Last Glacial Maximum, when a marked cooling in temperature resulted in the reduction or loss of vegetation forming the main component of the cave bears' diet.

In a study published in Boreas, researchers suggest it was this deterioration in food supply that led to the extinction of the cave bear, one of a group of 'megafauna' - including woolly mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, giant deer and cave lion - to disappear during the last Ice Age.

They found no convincing evidence of human involvement in the disappearance of these bears. The team used both new data and existing records of radiocarbon dating on cave bear remains to construct their chronology for cave bear extinction.


Decline Of Roman And Byzantine Empires 1,400 Years Ago May Have Been Driven By Climate Change

polished cross-section stalagmite from Soreq Cave near Jerusalem
© University of Wisconsin-Madison
Growth bands are visible in a polished cross-section of a stalagmite from Soreq Cave near Jerusalem, Israel. Stalagmites form from calcite and other minerals deposited by water in caves and contain chemical signatures of the climate and other physical conditions that existed as the formation grew. Geochemical analysis of a similar stalagmite from the same cave has revealed that large climate changes in the Eastern Mediterranean 1,400 years ago, including increasingly dry weather from 100 A.D. to 700 A.D., may have contributed to the downfall of the Roman and Byzantine Empires in the region.
The decline of the Roman and Byzantine Empires in the Eastern Mediterranean more than 1,400 years ago may have been driven by unfavorable climate changes.

Based on chemical signatures in a piece of calcite from a cave near Jerusalem, a team of American and Israeli geologists pieced together a detailed record of the area's climate from roughly 200 B.C. to 1100 A.D. Their analysis, to be reported in an upcoming issue of the journal Quaternary Research, reveals increasingly dry weather from 100 A.D. to 700 A.D. that coincided with the fall of both Roman and Byzantine rule in the region.

The researchers, led by University of Wisconsin-Madison geology graduate student Ian Orland and professor John Valley, reconstructed the high-resolution climate record based on geochemical analysis of a stalagmite from Soreq Cave, located in the Stalactite Cave Nature Reserve near Jerusalem.


California's Deep Sea Secrets: New Species Found, Human Impact Revealed

whale shark
© University of California - San Diego
A whale shark photographed by Octavio Aburto-Oropeza during 2008 expedition to Gulf of California aboard DeepSee submersible.
Scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego returning from research expeditions in Mexico have captured unprecedented details of vibrant sea life and ecosystems in the Gulf of California, including documentations of new species and marine animals previously never seen alive.

Yet the expeditions, which included surveys at unexplored depths, have revealed disturbing declines in sea-life populations and evidence that human impacts have stretched down deeply in the gulf.

In one expedition, researchers Exequiel Ezcurra (adjunct professor at Scripps Oceanography and former provost of the San Diego Natural History Museum), Brad Erisman (Scripps postdoctoral researcher) and Octavio Aburto-Oropeza (graduate student researcher) traveled on a three-person submarine to explore marine life in the Gulf of California's deep-sea reefs and around undersea mountains called seamounts.


Hunt for oil slicks boosted by free satellite images

Natural oil slicks in the Gulf of Mexico can be seen in satellite
© Hu
Natural oil slicks in the Gulf of Mexico can be seen in satellite (MODIS) pictures when the Sun is highlighting the polluted waters.
Natural oil oozing out from the seabed makes up nearly half of the oil that spills into the oceans. Now, a new technique that uses freely available satellite imagery can precisely locate and monitor every natural seep on Earth.

Detecting natural oil slicks is useful for several reasons. For starters, geologists use them as starting points for finding marine stores of fossil fuels. In addition, the seeps give rise to unique seafloor ecosystems that live off the hydrocarbons. The specially adapted plants and animals could inspire new ways of controlling the damage caused by oil spills.

It is important to track seeps because the oil can eventually disintegrate, causing carbon to enter the atmosphere - possibly influencing climate change, says John Amos, director of environmental awareness organisation SkyTruth and former NASA scientist.