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Fri, 24 Mar 2023
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Earth Changes

Better Earth

Mountaintop mining takes hit: New EPA rule against 'valley fill' could kill practice

The Environmental Protection Agency yesterday announced new pollution limits that could sharply curtail "mountaintop" mining, a lucrative and controversial practice that is unique to Appalachia.

The decision, announced by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, is expected to end or significantly cut the use of "valley fills." At these sites, mining companies fill valleys to the brim with rock and rubble left over when peaks are sheared off to reach coal seams inside.

"Minimizing the number of valley fills is a very, very key factor," Jackson said. "You're talking about no, or very few, valley fills that are going to meet this standard."

Both supporters and opponents of the practice said that, because large valley fills are such a common part of mountaintop mines, the move could curtail the mines in general.

Mountaintop mining provides about 10 percent of U.S. coal, but it is a much larger part of the economy in some sections of southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky.

"It could mean the end of an era," said Luke Popovich of the National Mining Association.


Changes in Earth's atmosphere? Controlled burns in Kentucky, US cause mysterious and unnaturally thick haze


A look at the smoke from the Mammoth Cave required burn on Thursday. A second burn was planned for Friday
A mysterious and unnaturally thick haze of smoke blanketed counties throughout north central Kentucky on Thursday afternoon, raising curiosity and causing at least three fire departments to respond to places in Hardin County where people feared wildfires had sparked.

According to Kentucky Division of Forestry's Elizabethtown spokesman Steve Gray, the smoky haze seen throughout the region was caused by a prescribed burn of about 2,600 acres at Mammoth Cave National Park.

Winds from the southwest blew the plume northward into Hardin County.


Arctic Sea Ice about to hit 'normal' - what will the news say?


Melted by 2013? At this rate it'll cover all North America and Europe
Forecasting The NSIDC News

Barring an about face by nature or adjustments, it appears that for the first time since 2001, Arctic Sea ice will hit the "normal" line as defined by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) for this time of year.

NSIDC puts out an article about once a month called the Sea Ice News. It generally highlights any bad news they can find about the disappearance of Arctic ice. Last month's news led with this sentence.
In February, Arctic sea ice extent continued to track below the average, and near the levels observed for February 2007.
But March brought good news for the Polar Bears, and bad news for the Catlin Expedition and any others looking for bad news. Instead of ice extent declining through March like it usually does, it continued to increase through the month and is now at the high (so far) for the year.

If it keeps this trend unabated, in a day or two it will likely cross the "normal" line.

Bad Guys

British parliamentary whitewash: "Fragile" Phil Jones cleared of manipulating the data after just one day

A first investigation into e-mails leaked from one of the world's leading climate research centers has largely vindicated the scientists involved -- although it was based on just a single day of testimony.

London - A first investigation into e-mails leaked from one of the world's leading climate research centers has largely vindicated the scientists involved -- although it was based on just a single day of testimony.

Comment: Wow, they investigated the thousands of emails detailing evidence of fraud in just one day! This must set a new speed-reading record?

The House of Commons' Science and Technology Committee said Wednesday that they'd seen no evidence to support charges that the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit or its director, Phil Jones, had tampered with data or perverted the peer review process to exaggerate the threat of global warming -- two of the most serious criticisms levied against the climatologist and his colleagues.

In their report, the committee said that, as far as it was able to ascertain, "the scientific reputation of Professor Jones and CRU remains intact," adding that nothing in the more than 1,000 stolen e-mails, or the controversy kicked up by their publication, challenged scientific consensus that "global warming is happening and that it is induced by human activity."

Comment: And that report will no doubt vindicate Jones et al also.

Bizarro Earth

NASA Data Worse Than Climate-Gate Data, Space Agency Admits

Maps from NASA's GISS reveal temperatures where no data exist, thanks to mathematical extrapolation of data.
NASA was able to put a man on the moon, but the space agency can't tell you what the temperature was when it did. By its own admission, NASA's temperature records are in even worse shape than the besmirched Climate-gate data.

E-mail messages obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request reveal that NASA concluded that its own climate findings were inferior to those maintained by both the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU) -- the scandalized source of the leaked Climate-gate e-mails -- and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center.

The e-mails from 2007 reveal that when a USA Today reporter asked if NASA's data "was more accurate" than other climate-change data sets, NASA's Dr. Reto A. Ruedy replied with an unequivocal no. He said "the National Climatic Data Center's procedure of only using the best stations is more accurate," admitting that some of his own procedures led to less accurate readings.

"My recommendation to you is to continue using NCDC's data for the U.S. means and [East Anglia] data for the global means," Ruedy told the reporter.


Gulf Stream is Not Slowing Down, Says NASA

Fears that global warming will shut down the Gulf Stream and plunge Britain into a mini-ice age are unfounded, a study shows.

There is no evidence the phenomenon - which brings a constant flow of warm water and mild weather to northern Europe - has slowed down over the past 20 years, climate scientists say.

'The changes we're seeing in overturning strength are probably part of a natural cycle,' said researcher Josh Willis, from Nasa.

Cloud Lightning

300 rescued from blizzards in Ireland

Heavy snow and winds caused overnight chaos in parts of the North with up to 300 people rescued from a mountain road after conditions overwhelmed vehicles.

The blizzard cut electricity to around 50,000 homes, while snowdrifts and fallen trees closed a large number of roads.

The police, coastguard, mountain rescue and Department of Environment launched a joint rescue operation after motorists became stranded when 3ft-high snowdrifts swept across the mountainous Glenshane Pass, a main route between Belfast and Derry.

Two evacuation centres were set up in Maghera and Dungiven in Co Derry to house the stranded, including schoolchildren whose bus had to be abandoned.


Study Suggests Toads Can Detect Coming Earthquakes

© AP Photo/Matt Rourke
A toad is illuminated in blue light before being safely escorted across the road during its spring breeding migration in the Roxborough neighborhood of Philadelphia.
When it comes to predicting earthquakes, toads - warts and all - may be an asset.

British researchers said Wednesday that they observed a mass exodus of toads from a breeding site in Italy five days before a major tremor struck, suggesting the amphibians may be able to sense environmental changes, imperceptible to humans, that foretell a coming quake.

Since ancient times, anecdotes and folklore have linked unusual animal behavior to cataclysmic events like earthquakes, but hard evidence has been scarce. A new study by researchers from the Open University is one of the first to document animal behavior before, during and after an earthquake.

The scientists were studying the common toad - bufo bufo - at a breeding colony in central Italy when they noticed a sharp decline in the number of animals at the site. Days later, a 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit, killing hundreds of people and badly damaging the town of L'Aquila.


Volcano tsunami could sink southern Italy 'at any time'


The undersea Marsili, 9,800ft (3,000m) tall and located some 90 miles (150km) southwest of Naples, has not erupted since the start of recorded history
Europe's largest undersea volcano could disintegrate and unleash a tsunami that would engulf southern Italy "at any time", a prominent volcanologist has warned.

The Marsili volcano, which is bursting with magma, has "fragile walls" that could collapse, Enzo Boschi told the daily newspaper Corriere della Sera.

"It could even happen tomorrow," said Mr Boschi, president of the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV).

"Our latest research shows that the volcano is not structurally solid, its walls are fragile, the magma chamber is of sizeable dimensions," he said.

"All that tells us that the volcano is active and could begin erupting at any time."

The event would result in "a strong tsunami that could strike the coasts of Campania, Calabria and Sicily," Mr Boschi said.

The undersea Marsili, 9,800ft (3,000m) tall and located some 90 miles (150km) southwest of Naples, has not erupted since the start of recorded history.

Bizarro Earth

Quake strikes in Indian Ocean

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.6 struck near the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The quake hit at 10:24 p.m. local time Tuesday, about 135 miles (215 km) from Port Blair, a city in the Andaman Islands, which is part of India, the agency said. The epicenter was about 250 miles (405 km) from Pathein, Myanmar, it said.

There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there is no threat of a destructive widespread tsunami, according to historical earthquake and tsunami data, . However, the center warned that a "very small" possibility exists "of a local tsunami that could affect coasts" no more than 62 miles (100 km) from the epicenter.