Earth ChangesS


Study catches two bird populations as they split into seperate species

A new study finds that a change in a single gene has sent two closely related bird populations on their way to becoming two distinct species. The study, published in the August issue of the American Naturalist, is one of only a few to investigate the specific genetic changes that drive two populations toward speciation.

Speciation, the process by which different populations of the same species split into separate species, is central to evolution. But it's notoriously hard to observe in action. This study, led by biologist J. Albert Uy of Syracuse University, captures two populations of monarch flycatcher birds just as they arrive at that evolutionary crossroads.

Monarch flycatchers are small, insect-eating birds common in the Solomon Islands, east of Papua New Guinea. Uy and his team looked at two flycatcher populations: one found mostly on the large island of Makira, the other on smaller surrounding islands. Besides where they live, the only discernable difference between the two populations is the color of their feathers. The birds on Makira have all black feathers. Birds on the smaller islands have the same black feathers, but with a chestnut-colored belly.

The question of whether these two populations are on the road to speciation comes down to sex. When two populations stop exchanging genes--that is, stop mating with each other - then they can be considered distinct species. Uy and his team wanted to see if these flycatchers were heading in that direction.

Evil Rays

UK Lawyer Slams Gore Over Court Case Claims

Al Gore breaths global warming
© unknown

A leading UK lawyer, who represented the parent that sued Al Gore in the British High Court, has laughed off claims by the former vice-president that the judge ruled in his favour.

Speaking from London John Day, a senior partner in Malletts Solicitors, said Mr Gore was misrepresenting what the judge had found. Mr Day represented a British parent who sued the UK Ministry of Education when they wanted to distribute and show Mr Gore's documentary An Inconvenient Truth to every British school child. In the 2006 documentary Mr Gore claimed humanity is in danger because of man made Global Warming. He also claimed flooding and disease would increase with the destruction of most of the world's major cities including New York, London and Shanghai. As a result Mr Gore was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize and the documentary won an Oscar.


Richard Courtney in Weblog Debate on Cooling

My comments in a web debate after Booker's article on the Daily Telegraph's web site responding to a reasonable question from another commenter named Vaughn.

You ask me: "You quote: '...the era of consistent record-breaking global mean temperatures will not resume until roughly 2020.' Do you take this to mean that there is no global warming?"

Let me be clear. I say
1. It is obvious that there is no global warming while the globe is cooling.
2. The globe has cooled over the last decade.

Slioch's (a cooling denialist commenter) linear trends and 5-year averages do not change these simple and obvious truths.

It is an empirical fact that the Earth has now been experiencing global cooling for such a long time that the cooling is even admitted by RealClimate. And, as I state above, to admit the existence of global cooling is to deny the existence of global warming.


Alaska: Huge Blob of Arctic Goo Floats Past Slope Communities

mysterious goo off Alaskan coast
© North Slope Borough A mysterious glob of unknown material up to 12 miles long has appeared off Alaska's northern coast. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Terry Hasenauer says, "It's certainly biological. It's definitely not an oil product of any kind."

It's not oil: No one in the area can recall seeing anything like it before.

Something big and strange is floating through the Chukchi Sea between Wainwright and Barrow.

Hunters from Wainwright first started noticing the stuff sometime probably early last week. It's thick and dark and "gooey" and is drifting for miles in the cold Arctic waters, according to Gordon Brower with the North Slope Borough's Planning and Community Services Department.

Brower and other borough officials, joined by the U.S. Coast Guard, flew out to Wainwright to investigate. The agencies found "globs" of the stuff floating miles offshore Friday and collected samples for testing.

Better Earth

Global warming: Our best guess is likely wrong - Unknown processes account for much of warming in ancient hot spell

No one knows exactly how much Earth's climate will warm due to carbon emissions, but a new study this week suggests scientists' best predictions about global warming might be incorrect.

The study, which appears in Nature Geoscience, found that climate models explain only about half of the heating that occurred during a well-documented period of rapid global warming in Earth's ancient past. The study, which was published online today, contains an analysis of published records from a period of rapid climatic warming about 55 million years ago known as the Palaeocene-Eocene thermal maximum, or PETM.

"In a nutshell, theoretical models cannot explain what we observe in the geological record," said oceanographer Gerald Dickens, a co-author of the study and professor of Earth science at Rice University. "There appears to be something fundamentally wrong with the way temperature and carbon are linked in climate models."

Better Earth

Tsunami warning after 7.8 quake off New Zealand

WELLINGTON, New Zealand - A tsunami warning was issued by the U.S. Geological Survey after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck off New Zealand's western coast Wednesday.

The quake's epicenter was 100 miles (161 kilometers) west of Invercargill, off the west coast of New Zealand's South Island at a depth of 21 miles (33 kilometers). It hit at 0922 GMT on Wednesday, the USGS said.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii sent an e-mail alert warning of a possible tsunami in New Zealand.

"An earthquake of this size has the potential to generate a destructive tsunami that can strike coastlines in the region near the epicenter within minutes to hours," the warning center said.

Bizarro Earth

Best of the Web: US: Wherefore art thou, summer?

Summer Lake George
© Barry SloanNick Guilder of Hudson Falls and his 10-month-old son Nicholas enjoy Lake George's Million Dollar Beach despite Monday's cooler-than-normal temperatures.

Get out the sweat shirt and forget the shorts.

The low temperature this morning is expected to be near the record low temperature for the day: 49 degrees set in 1940.

Lower than normal temperatures have dominated the first 13 days of July, keeping swimmers out of area pools and forcing people to wear sweat shirts or jackets in the early morning and evening hours.

Ingrid Amberger, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany, said the jet stream of cool air coming out of the north has remained farther south than it usually is in July.

"It hasn't retreated north," Amberger said. "It usually goes up into Canada."

The first 12 days of July were, on average, nearly 5 degrees cooler than normal, Amberger said.

Che Guevara

Canada: You call this summer?

In what is typically the hottest month of the year, Calgary is still suffering from a dismal seven-month trend of temperatures well below seasonal averages, Environment Canada said yesterday.

Senior climatologist David Phillips said Calgary's temperatures have been sagging below average since November of 2008 and this July is no exception.

"For seven months, it's really been a long bout of cold weather; in all the months since last November conditions have been consistently lower than normal," he said.

"It's disappointing it's been cold for so long -- normal this time of year should be a high of 23 degrees and you've been lucky if you get 16."

The afternoon temperatures for July have been about two degrees cooler than they should be, said Phillips, adding Calgarians were also doused with rain each day for 11 days straight June 30 through July 10.

Bizarro Earth

US: Giant squid wash ashore after quake

San Diego, CA - Dozens of giant squid washed ashore over the weekend after an earthquake
giant squid
© Unknown
struck offshore from La Jolla.

The magnitude 4.0 earthquake struck at 7:34 a.m. Saturday and was centered 19 miles west of La Jolla in the ocean. Residents said the rattling lasted 15 to 20 seconds, but there were no reports of injuries or damage, according to the San Diego Fire Department.

The temblor was felt throughout the county, and residents are used to getting jolted by earthquakes. But what happened next was more unusual. Dozens of Humboldt squid, three to four feet long and weighing close to 40 pounds, began showing up on La Jolla Shores beach, lifeguards reported.

"It's like their equilibrium is all messed up and they don't know what they're doing and they can't back out there," Bill Baumann told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "It was like they got -- I don't know -- all shook up."


Hurricane Carlos strengthens far off Mexico coast

Miami - Hurricane Carlos strengthened to a Category 2 storm as it moved farther out into the open Pacific and had a distinct small eye.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami Tuesday said the storm's winds had increased to near 100 mph. Some strengthening is possible in the next day.