Earth ChangesS


Massive study of Madagascar wildlife released

Using data from thousands of species of lemurs, frogs, geckos, butterflies, ants, and plants, scientists from the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society, University of California, Berkeley and other organizations have completed an analytical colossus for Madagascar that will guide plans to safeguard the island's unique natural heritage. The massive study is the cover story in the most recent edition of Science.

The study is unprecedented in terms of not only the number of species examined (some 2,315 species in six groups), but also because of the project's scale and resolution. The biodiversity, climate and habitat of the entire 226,657 square-mile island, which is nearly a third larger than the state of California, were examined. The maps generated from the data analyses have a resolution of less than a square kilometer.

"While some of the key areas of biodiversity are under protection, many are not. This study will help direct conservation plans to help protect the most species possible, with special consideration given to those animals and plants that are most endangered," said the study's lead co-author Dr. Claire Kremen, an associate conservationist with the Wildlife Conservation Society and UC Berkeley assistant professor.

©Julie Larsen Maher/Wildlife Conservation Society
A stump-tailed chameleon from Madagascar


World's oldest tree discovered in Sweden

Scientists in northern Sweden believe they have discovered the world's oldest living tree, dating back nearly 8,000 years, local media said on Thursday.

A Norway spruce, which was found growing at a height of 950 meters above sea level, is more than two meters (6.5 feet) tall and about 20 centimeters (8 inches) in width.

Cloud Lightning

US: Apparent tornadoes hit Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma

A band of hail, heavy rain and twisters pounded Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma Thursday, damaging hundreds of homes, flooding roads and leaving thousands without power.

Arkansas already was contending with three weeks of flooding and the aftermath of 10 tornadoes that struck last week when the latest storm hit.

"It's just getting worse," sheriff's dispatcher Nola Massey said. "We're just trying to get everybody to stay home and not get out in it."

©Tony Pilkington
Jeremy Dickey of Breckenridge, Texas, tries to turn off the water to his house after it was struck by an apparent tornado Wednesday evening, April 9, 2008. Dickey wasn't home at the time, but his wife, Tina, and two children, ages 4 years and 8 months, hid in an interior closet he had reinforced as a shelter. They were not injured, but the house was moved 10 feet off of its foundation. Breckenridge police said they have reports of a few minor injuries, but didn't have a full count. Power lines were down and at least five homes were destroyed, police said.

Bizarro Earth

Sydney Harbors Deadly Diet For Sea Creatures

Contaminated seaweeds in Sydney Harbour could be threatening the small animals that feed on them, according to a new study revealing that the harbour's seaweeds have the world's highest levels of copper and lead contamination.

Up to 75 percent of the offspring of small crustaceans that feed on a common brown seaweed, for example, are killed when they are exposed to copper at levels found in some parts of the harbour, UNSW laboratory and field experiments have shown.

Sydneys harbour
©University of New South Wales
Heavy metals have proven to be a deadly diet for Sydney's harbour life, new research shows.


US, Chicago: Flood Season Begins Unusually Early Across Heartland

The flood season in the nation's midsection started early this year, and there's no letup in sight, spurring federal, state and local officials to brace for what looks likely to be an unusually watery spring.

At least 16 deaths were linked to heavy flooding across Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma and other states in March; another was tied to flooding Friday in Kentucky. Last week, snow that could set off more flooding blanketed parts of the Midwest. And Kentucky and parts of Arkansas and Missouri that are struggling to recover from previous deluges remained vulnerable to the threat of weekend rain.

Bizarro Earth

Quake of Magnitude 7.5 Hits Pacific's Vanuatu, New Caledonia

The Pacific islands of Vanuatu and New Caledonia were shaken by a magnitude-7.5 earthquake, less than two hours after a magnitude-6.4 temblor hit the area, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The latest quake struck at 11:46 p.m. local time, about 89 kilometers (55 miles) south-southwest of Isangel in Vanuatu, and 174 kilometers northeast of Tadine in New Caledonia's Loyalty Islands, the USGS said today in a preliminary report on its Web site. The quake struck at a depth of 89 kilometers and there were no immediate warnings of a potential tsunami.

Better Earth

Scientists probe earthquake clouds

Curious gaps in clouds may provide early warning of an earthquake, scientists believe.

Researchers spotted unusual cloud formations above an active fault in Iran before two large earthquakes struck the region.

It appeared to be more than coincidence, and now scientists are investigating whether clouds can predict major quakes.

Cloud Lightning

'Well Above-average' Hurricane Season Forecast For 2008

The Colorado State University forecast team upgraded its early season forecast today from the Bahamas Weather Conference, saying the U.S. Atlantic basin will likely experience a well above-average hurricane season.

"Current oceanic and atmospheric trends indicate that we will likely have an active Atlantic basin hurricane season," said William Gray, who is beginning his 25th year forecasting hurricanes at Colorado State University.

Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina. The Colorado State University team's forecast now anticipates 15 named storms forming in the Atlantic basin between June 1 and Nov. 30. Eight of the storms are predicted to become hurricanes, and of those eight, four are expected to develop into intense or major hurricanes.

Cloud Lightning

Pictures: Dramatic images of Lufthansa 737 elevator after lightning strike

Sofia Flight Lightning Strike

Engineers in the Bulgarian capital Sofia are repairing a Lufthansa Boeing 737-300 which suffered elevator damage from a lightning strike after departing to Frankfurt.

The aircraft, operating flight LH3431, had taken off from Sofia on 5 April with 44 passengers and six crew members on board.


Investigating "The Great Global Warming Swindle"

Climate change is a contentious issue among the public. One of the main arguments made by people who claim that climate change is not caused by humans states that recent global warming is a result of changes in solar activity. Indeed, a 2007 broadcast on Channel4 titled "The Great Global Warming Swindle" tried to make exactly that case.

Comment: The study can be read here.