Earth ChangesS


Australia: Croc spotted again

© Unknown
A four-metre crocodile seen by a fisherman near Stewart Island last week was spotted again early yesterday morning.

Environmental Protection Agency staff have warned residents to not swim in the waters near Garry's Anchorage until the crocodile is caught.

EPA spokesman Rob Allan said rangers had been patrolling the area near the south-west shore of Fraser Island since Saturday.

Mr Allan said crocodile sighting signs had been put up and EPA rangers would be placing traps in the area to try to capture the crocodile.


England: Monster of deep washes up on beach

Oar fish
© UnknownThe three metre long oarfish washed near Tynemouth Pier, North Shields
One of the rarest monsters of the deep has been washed up on a beach in North East England.

The three metre-long oarfish was found by a visitor to Tynemouth beach, in North Tyneside.

The fish is only the fourth recorded sighting of the species in the UK since 1981, but the third to be found washed up in the North East in the past seven years.

Eye 2

First pictures of endangered Saharan cheetah

Saharan cheetah
© Farid Belbachir / ZSL / OPNAThis is one of the first set of camera-trap photographs of the Saharan cheetah.

The first camera-trap photographs of the critically endangered Saharan cheetah have been taken in Algeria.

Estimates put the numbers of the animal, also known as the Northwest African cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus hecki) as low as 250, but, says Sarah Durant of the Zoological Society of London, this is guesswork. "Virtually nothing is known about the population," she says.

Durant, working with staff from the Office du Parc National de l'Ahaggar (OPNA), says the photographs were taken as part of the first systematic camera trap survey across the central Sahara, covering an area of 2,800 square kilometres.

The survey identified four different Saharan cheetahs, using spot patterns unique to each individual. The two photographs released to the media show extremely thin, hungry-looking cats.

Better Earth

US: Peregrine falcons making Minnesota comeback

Peregrine falcon
© Unknown
St. Paul - The rare peregrine falcon is making a comeback in Minnesota.

The peregrine, which is the fastest bird in the world, was nearly extinct by the 1960s. But after intense restoration projects in the 1970s and 80s, Minnesota now has more than 50 peregrine pairs that raised 93 young last year.

Lori Naumann of the Minnesota DNR calls it a "great success story." It was removed from the U.S. endangered species list in 1999, and Naumann says it could come off Minnesota's threatened species list in the next few years.

Better Earth

Alpine mountain range revealed beneath Antarctic ice

© BASRemote sensing reveals the profile of the ice-locked peaks (lower graph).

A series of prefabricated buildings perched on stilts create a boxy but unremarkable hamlet on the Antarctic ice. What is astonishing about this research base is that it is set 500 metres above the peaks of a 3500-metre mountain range.

The Gamburtsev mountains are not a new discovery - they were first located 50 years ago by a team of Russian scientists. But little was known about their scale and morphology. Now, an international team has returned with data revealing that if you could strip away the ice, the view would look rather like the European Alps.

The team set up camp in two locations near to Dome A - the highest point on the ice sheet, where temperatures average -30 ยฐC.

For weeks they flew two aircraft over the ice, exploring the hidden peaks with radar and aeromagnetic sensors, and covering a distance equivalent to three trips around the globe. Gravity sensors on the surface of the ice collected yet more data.

Better Earth

Are Planets Living Super-Organisms? World's Leading Expert Says "Yes"


Japan's Maruyama Shigenori, one of the world's leading geophysicists, is working on a global formula for a vast new field of study that would include dozens of disciplines collaborating to produce an overall picture of the Earth.

Maruyama is creating a new institute called the Center for Bio-Earth Planetology will be launched in 2009 and fully dedicated to creating a new conception of life in space.He wants to find out if the continents will merge again in 250 million years to form a single super-continent; how meteorites change the chemical composition of the Earth; and what the connection is between the temperature of a planet and its magnetic field, which protects plants and animals from being bombarded with cosmic radiation, which in turn influences the rate of mutations and thus the development of new forms of life.

As he connects the dots from astronomy to life sciences, the outlines emerge of an all-encompassing image of entire planets, which appear as living super-organisms.

He believes that expanding the study of life sciences to the core of our world and the depths of outer space will help us find distant relatives of our own Earth -- planets that could also sustain life.


Northern lights are quietest in decades

Fairbanks - Ester photographer LeRoy Zimmerman made the switch to digital cameras this year to better capture the phenomenon known as the aurora borealis.

Now he just needs some aurora to work with.
Aurora Borealis
© Bob Martinson / The Associated PressAurora Borealis near Palmer, Alaska, on Feb. 29, 2008.

"There's nothing; it's really disappointing," Zimmerman said. "I've got my digital camera. I'm ready. Let's go."

Zimmerman isn't the only one wondering where the aurora borealis, commonly referred to as northern lights, are this winter. The Interior's normal wintertime light show has been noticeably absent this winter.

"I talk to people in town and everybody who knows what I do asks me, 'Where is the aurora? What's happening?'" said Dirk Lummerzheim, a research professor who studies the aurora borealis for the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

It's a legitimate question, and Lummerzheim has the answer.

"We are at the solar minimum," the UAF professor said. "When solar activity dies down like this, the aurora activity also diminishes in the north."


Chile's Chaiten volcano spews molten rock, ash

Chaiten Volcano
© Reuters/Cristian Brown / Intendencia Region de los Lagos/HandoutThe Chaiten volcano spews a cloud of ash in Chaiten, some 1,220 km (760 miles) south of Santiago February 19, 2009.

Santiago - Chile's Chaiten volcano, which erupted spectacularly last year, spewed a vast cloud of ash as well as gas and molten rock on Thursday in a partial collapse of its cone, prompting a fresh evacuation.

Television footage showed a cloud of ash billowing into the sky over the town of Chaiten, which lies about six miles from the crater.

Authorities evacuated 160 people from the area. Around 7,000 nearby residents were evacuated last year after the volcano, dormant for thousands of years, erupted. The government is planning to relocate the town.

Officials from Chile's national emergency office, Onemi, flew over the volcano and saw a kilometer-long crack in the cone of ash that has steadily grown in the crater, part of which has collapsed.

"Large quantities of gases and pyroclastic material were observed," Onemi said in a statement, adding that rains in the area combined with the ash could cause flooding in and around the town of Chaiten, located 760 miles south of the capital Santiago.


Ice Ages and Sea Level

The Earth is currently in an interglacial period of an ice age that started about two and a half million years ago. The Earth's current ice age is primarily caused by Antarctica drifting over the South Pole 30 million years ago. This meant that a large area of the Earth's surface changed from being very low-albedo ocean to highly reflective ice and snow. The first small glaciers were formed in Antarctica perhaps as long ago as 40 million years. They expanded gradually until, about 20 million years ago, a permanent ice sheet covered the whole Antarctic continent. About 10 million years later, glaciers appeared on the high mountains of Alaska, and about 3 million years ago, ice sheets developed on lower ground in high northerly latitudes.

Better Earth

Basic Geology Series - CO2 in the Atmosphere and Ocean

Ice cores clearly demonstrate the close relationship between atmospheric CO2 levels and temperature, as seen below.
Ice cores and co2
© unknown

This relationship has been well understood by geologists for longer than Al Gore has been alive.

As ocean temperatures rise, the solubility of CO2 in seawater declines. Thus increasing ocean temperature moves CO2 from the ocean into the atmosphere, and decreasing ocean temperatures move CO2 out of the atmosphere and back into the ocean. As you can see in the graph below, a 10C shift in temperature causes about 30% reduction in dissolved CO2. Closely corresponding to what we see in the measured ice core graph above.