Earth ChangesS


Quake experts all shook up by zoo animals

A Chinese zoo is monitoring its animals extra carefully to study how their behaviour predicts earthquakes, the China Daily said on Tuesday.

Guangzhou Zoo, in the southern province of Guangdong, had set up observation points near peacocks, frogs, snakes, turtles, deer and squirrels to monitor and record their behaviour for the city's seismology office.

"We have found many animals behave oddly before an earthquake," the newspaper quoted experts as saying. "Hibernating animals, for example, will wake up and flee from their caves, while the aquatic ones will leap from the water's surface."

The report did not say how long before a quake the animals react, or whether the aim of the exercise was to provide timely warnings.

Bizarro Earth

Three-thousand bees force evacuation of fundraiser

LIGONIER, Indiana (AP) -- A swarm of honeybees temporarily disrupted a charity fundraising event, but no one reported being stung.

Bizarro Earth

N. Florida Tupelo Bees Surviving Drought

WEWAHITCHKA, Fla. - The bees in this Florida Panhandle community renowned for its tupelo honey have so far escaped a mysterious killer that has wiped out a quarter of the nation's bee colonies.

Honeybees in the Apalachicola River swamps around Wewahitchka have been busy making the premium, floral-flavored honey since early May, hindered only by a persistent drought, beekeepers said.

Life Preserver

Study shows Greece has drought pattern

As preparations to tackle a possible water shortage this summer gather pace, a new study seen by Sunday's Kathimerini suggested that Greece has suffered one- or two-year droughts at regular intervals over the last 147 years.

The research shows that there has been a mild one-year drought roughly every five years, a serious one-year drought every 10 years and an extensive two-year drought about every 25 years.

Magic Wand

Americans Discover the Allure of Off-Grid Living

Before power lines, people had no choice. They used lanterns, lit fires for warmth and packed away winter ice against hot summers.

But now, a growing number of Americans are shunning power lines, choosing to live "off the grid," without commercial power -- and still enjoying their computers and large-screen televisions.

In the 250-home Oregon community of Three Rivers, everyone gets most of their power from solar panels on their rooftops or on nearby structures positioned to more efficiently capture the sun.

The solar power easily handles their lights, microwave ovens, refrigerator-freezers and other needs. Some supplement the solar power with windmill-generated energy.


City parks could cool urban areas by 4°C

Creating more parks and green spaces in urban areas could cool cities by up to 4°C - possibly enough to offset the warming from climate change - say researchers.

"If you look at infrared maps of cities, the woodland areas are 12°C cooler than city centres with no trees," says Roland Ennos at Manchester University in the UK, who carried out the study with colleagues.

Ennos's team used the city of Manchester as a template for their study. With two computer models - one to calculate changes in temperature and one to calculate changes in rainwater run-off - they investigated how the urban climate would change if world greenhouse-gas emissions continue to rise at the current rate.


Fish Virus Reaching Epidemic Proportions

A deadly fish virus is approaching epidemic proportions in the Great Lakes and their neighboring waters, lining the beaches of Lake Erie with fish carcasses and threatening New York's $1.2 billion sport-fishing industry, a scientist says.

The Great Lakes "viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus" (VHSV) poses no health threat to humans, but people should always avoid eating fish or game that looks or acts strangely. Not all infected fish, however, exhibit symptoms as they might be carriers and symptoms vary from species to species. The virus causes anemia and internal bleeding in fish, said Paul Bowser, Cornell University professor of aquatic animal medicine.

Cloud Lightning

Volcanic ash cloud stretches for 500 km above Kamchatka

Volcanic ash from an eruption of Eurasia's highest volcano, Klyuchevskoi, on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia's Far East, is stretching over 500 km above the Bering Sea, a local volcanology institute spokesman said Monday.

Satellite data show a distinct ash cloud northeast of the volcano at a height of 8.2-8.7 km, which started to erupt on February 15. Although the ash cloud is making monitoring almost impossible, seismic reports suggest that the eruption could escalate.

"Ash is a hazard to aircraft flying into the ash cloud above the Bering Sea," the source said. "Ash particles with a diameter of up to 2mm can destroy engines if they get into turbines."

Better Earth

South Florida Drought Sapping Resources

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - The fairways here are flecked, the greens mottled brown. The PGA National Resort & Spa doesn't look like a marquee golf course.

"We'll talk to people about it in the pro shop when they check in and say, 'You might notice things are a little bit browner today,'" said Joel Paige, managing director at the course.

Florida's bottom half is in an 18-month drought, and signs of the problem are everywhere - from the links to the nursery and sugar cane industries.

Magic Wand

Whales headed in right direction toward Pacific

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A mother and baby whale may have found their bearings in the Sacramento River.

The Coast Guard says the two humpbacks, which traveled some 90 miles up the Sacramento this past week, are heading back toward the Pacific Ocean.