Earth ChangesS


Forecasters see chilly spring for U.S. Northeast

A colder-than-normal start to spring is in the cards for the U.S. Northeast this year, signaling an extended heating season in the world's largest heating oil market, forecasters say.

"For the remainder of winter and the first half of spring, temperatures will be a little below average in the Northeast ... then in the second half it will start to go above average," said Jeff Johnson, long-range forecaster at DTN Meteorlogix.

Forecasters say spring-like temperatures which straddled the 60s Fahrenheit in some areas of the Northeast last week gave way by Thursday to below normal temperatures in the 20s to 40s Fahrenheit (minus 7 to plus 4.5 Celsius) in the region.

"The milder temperatures in the Mid-Atlantic on Wednesday will be a thing of the past on Thursday," said in its near-term outlook, adding it sees cooler temperatures from New York State to New England with highs running below average.

Bizarro Earth

Clear Skies Have Become Less So Over Time, Data Show

More than three decades of data showing how clear, or unclear, the sky over land has been should reveal how changes in air pollution have affected climate change, according to a University of Maryland-led team of researchers.

The data show that what the researchers call clear sky visibility over land has decreased worldwide since the early 1970s because of an increase in aerosols, which are solid particles or liquid droplets suspended in air. Aerosols, which include soot, dust and sulfur dioxide particles, are created by the burning of fossil fuels, industrial processes and burning of tropical rain forests. Aerosols pose a threat to human health and the environment, the researchers said.

Comment: ' "Increased aerosols in the atmosphere block solar radiation from the Earth's surface, causing an overall "global dimming," the researchers said." '

Wouldn't "global dimming" due to particles in the air tend to make things colder? The aftermath of volcano eruptions certainly supports that hypothesis.


US: Strong winds push ice into beachfront homes along Saginaw Bay

Saginaw Bay ice destroys homes
© Rebecca Craig | Times PhotoMountains of ice crept up the beach and over sea walls of Linwood homes early Monday morning. The ice made its way into backyards, broke windows and spilled inside homes on the shoreline.

Tim Boutell said he and his wife heard the screech of "metal on metal," and then screamed themselves Sunday night as walls of ice pushed toward their Kawkawlin Township home along Saginaw Bay.

"About 9 p.m. my wife, Beth, heard some noise and I kind of disregarded it until she went downstairs to peek outside, and she obviously screamed. And then I looked out and saw the ice piled up and moving toward the house," said Tim Boutell, 50, owner of one of about 36 Bay County homes evacuated due to invading ice.

Boutell said he told his daughters, who were watching TV, to get up, get a bag and get out.

"Then (we) went down knocking on the doors of a few older folks who lived out here," Tim Boutell said. "We got them out, and then got out."

Cow Skull

Australia: Oil spill could be worst environmental disaster

Australian oil spill 2
© AAP: Dave HuntThe spill is blanketing the once pristine south-east Queensland coastline
Premier Anna Bligh says a massive oil spill of up to 100 tonnes that is blanketing the once pristine southeast Queensland coastline could be the state's worst environmental disaster.

Premier Anna Bligh has declared Moreton Island, Bribie Island and parts of the Sunshine Coast as disaster zones.

Ms Bligh told AAP the amount of oil that had leaked was a lot more than the original 30-tonne estimate.

"It may well be the worst environmental disaster Queensland has ever seen," Premier Bligh said.


Underwater volcano near New Zealand blows its top

An underwater volcano off New Zealand has lost more than 300 feet in height, suggesting a recent "fairly catastrophic" eruption, scientists said.

The volcano, Rumble III, is about 200 miles offshore and part of the South Kermadec Ridge. The volcanic cone rises more than 7,000 feet from the sea floor.

Cornel de Ronde, one of the chief scientists on a research ship operated by GNS, a scientific agency owned by the New Zealand government, said that the volcano has changed shape since it was mapped in 2007, The Dominion Post reported. The top of the summit cone is now almost 1,000 feet below the surface, and the 2500-foot-wide crater has almost filled in.

Bizarro Earth

5.5-Magnitude Earthquake Rocks Four Regions in Chile

A magnitude-5.5 earthquake rocked four regions in northern and central Chile, including the capital, on Wednesday, but no injuries or damage were reported, officials said. The temblor occurred at 10:06 a.m. and affected the Coquimbo, Valparaiso, Santiago and O'Higgins regions, the National Emergency Management Office said.

The University of Chile's Seismology Institute, meanwhile, said the quake's epicenter was located 165 kilometers (103 miles) northeast of the town of Los Andes and some 230 kilometers (143 miles) from Santiago in the Andes mountains.

The earthquake occurred at a depth of 15.5 kilometers (9.6 miles), the institute said.

Bizarro Earth

5.0-magnitude earthquake hits central China

The U.S. Geological Survey says a 5.0 magnitude earthquake struck central China's Sichuan province near the border with Gansu province.

The agency said Thursday the quake's epicenter was 70 miles (110 kilometers) northeast of the city of Mianyang, which was one of many places in Sichuan devastated by a 7.9 magnitude earthquake on May 12.

The quake left nearly 90,000 people dead or missing.

There were no immediate reports of casualties, but the official Xinhua News Agency said it could be felt in the provincial capital of Chengdu.

Bizarro Earth

Many shellfish struggle to survive as seawater becomes more acidic

Carbon dioxide emissions from human activities are acidifying the oceans and threaten a mass extinction of sea life, a top ocean scientist warns. Dr Carol Turley from Plymouth Marine Laboratory says it is impossible to know how marine life will cope, but she fears many species will not survive.

Since the Industrial Revolution, CO2 emissions have already turned the sea about 30% more acidic, say researchers. It is more acidic now than it has been for at least 500,000 years, they add.

The problem is set to worsen as emissions of the greenhouse gas increase through the 21st Century.


Hopes rise in puzzle of dying bees

Upcoming laboratory and field tests, coupled with a survey of beekeepers this spring, may help provide the key to scientists' search for the cause of widespread die-offs among honeybee colonies in the United States.

The problem, says one expert in the field, may be a combination of pesticides and pathogens.

"We don't have our smoking gun. ... [but] we're getting closer," said Dewey Caron, an entomologist who recently retired from the University of Delaware.

While hives may lose 10 percent of their population during an ordinary winter, in recent years those losses have shot above 30 percent, Caron said last weekend at a beekeeping workshop in Little Creek.


World population will be 7 billion in 2012

The world's population will hit 7 billion early in 2012 and cross 9 billion in 2050, with the majority of the increase taking place in developing countries, revised United Nations estimates show.

India, United States, China, Bangladesh and Pakistan are among nine countries which are projected to account for half of the world's population increase from 2010 to 2050. The others are Nigeria, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Tanzania.