Earth ChangesS

Cloud Lightning

Tropical storm kills 16 in China

At least 16 people have been killed after the deadly typhoon Fengshen hit southern China, China Daily reported on Monday.

The authorities fear the death toll could rise with nine people still missing.

The storm, whose name means "God of Wind" in Chinese battered China's southern province of Guangdong last Wednesday. Strong winds and downpours caused rivers to swell, destroying over 1,200 houses and hundreds of hectares of crops.

Arrow Up

US: Bees' decline could lead to higher food prices

Food prices could rise even more unless the mysterious decline in honey bees is solved, farmers and businessmen told lawmakers Thursday.

"No bees, no crops," North Carolina grower Robert D. Edwards told a House Agriculture subcommittee. Edwards said he had to cut his cucumber acreage in half because of the lack of bees available to rent.

About three-quarters of flowering plants rely on birds, bees and other pollinators to help them reproduce. Bee pollination is responsible for $15 billion annually in crop value.

In 2006, beekeepers began reporting losing 30 percent to 90 percent of their hives. This phenomenon has become known as Colony Collapse Disorder. Scientists do not know how many bees have died; beekeepers have lost 36 percent of their managed colonies this year. It was 31 percent for 2007, said Edward B. Knipling, administrator of the Agriculture Department's Agricultural Research Service.

Farmers say their businesses are feeling the sting of the decline of honey bees.

Evil Rays

Strong quake rattles South Sandwich Islands

A strong 6.7-magnitude earthquake struck Monday near the South Sandwich Islands, a remote British territory near Antarctica and South America's southern tip, the US Geological Survey said.

The earthquake, which was 10 kilometers (six miles) deep, took place 283 kilometers (176 miles) southeast of Bristol Island and 2,374 kilometers (1,476 miles) southeast of Punta Arenas, Chile, the USGS said.

The quake occurred at 0617 GMT, USGS said.


Mystery surrounds virus which is devastating bee colonies

A VIRUS that has wiped out billions of honey bees is causing a buzz among scientists trying to understand why some colonies abruptly disappear.

Experts are mystified by the way the bee plague is transmitted.

Comment: A little more information on the implications:

Last flight of the honeybee?


Firefighters in stalemate against California blazes

Firefighters in Northern California battled more than a thousand wildfires to a stalemate by Sunday, but forecasters said dangerous conditions would not relent anytime soon.

No new major fires had broken out Sunday as fire crews inched closer to getting some of the largest blazes surrounded, according to the state Office of Emergency Services.

©AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
Brandon Hoefs, of Nebraska, a member of the Mid Plains Interagency fire crew, turns away from a wildfire as it nears the deck of a home on Partington Ridge Rd. south of Big Sur, Calif., Friday, June 27, 2008. Fire crews continue to fight the Basin Complex fire, which is burning in the Los Padres National Forest near the coastal town of Big Sur.

But a "red flag warning" - meaning the most extreme fire danger - was still in effect for Northern California until 5 a.m. Monday. And the coming days and months are expected to bring little relief.

Forecasters predicted more thunderstorms and dry lightning through the weekend, similar to the ones that ignited hundreds of fires a week ago. Meanwhile, a U.S. Forest Service report said the weather would get even drier and hotter as fire season headed toward its traditional peak in late July and August.


Census Of Marine Life Lists 122,500 Known Species, Over Halfway To Complete Inventory By Oct. 2010

Census of Marine Life-affiliated scientists consolidating world databases of ocean organisms have demoted to alias status almost one-third of all names culled from 34 regional and highly specialized inventories.

The new World Register of Marine Species contains about 122,500 validated marine species names (experts having recognized and tidied up some 56,400 aliases -- 32% of all names reviewed). It also contains some 5,600 images, hyperlinks to taxonomic literature and other information.

Marking the World Register's official inauguration, some 55 researchers from 17 countries met in Belgium to plan its completion by 2010. Leading WoRMS experts independently estimate that about 230,000 marine species are known to science. They also believe there are three times as many unknown (unnamed) marine species as known, for a grand total on Earth that could surpass 1 million.

Breadcrumb Sponge
©Bernard Picton and World Register of Marine Species
Halichondria panicea, popularly called "Breadcrumb Sponge," is the marine world's reigning champion of Latin aliases, with 56 synonyms appearing in taxonomic literature since its first description in 1766. Of no fixed address, it's known to frequent floats, pilings, and the underside of rocks, smells like exploded gunpowder and takes on many guises.

"Convincing warnings about declining fish and other marine species must rest on a valid census," says Dr. Mark Costello of the University of Auckland, co-founder of WoRMS and a senior Census of Marine Life official. "This project will improve information vital to researchers investigating fisheries, invasive species, threatened species and marine ecosystem functioning, as well as to educators. It will eliminate the misinterpretation of names, confusion over Latin spellings, redundancies and a host of other problems that sow confusion and slow scientific progress."


Volcano 'Pollution' Solves Mercury Mystery

Scientists from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge have discovered how volatile metals from volcanoes end up in polar ice cores.

©University of Oxford
Measurements have shown that 7 tonnes of mercury escapes from the Masaya volcano every year.

'It has always been a mystery how trace metals, like mercury, with a volcanic signature find their way into polar ice in regions without nearby evidence of volcanic activity,' said Dr David Pyle of Oxford University's Department of Earth Sciences who led the research team with colleague Dr Tamsin Mather. 'These traces only appear as a faint 'background signal' in ice cores but up until now it has still been difficult to explain.'

The team sampled the fumes of two volcanoes; Mount Etna in Sicily and Masaya in Nicaragua. They pumped gases from the edges of the volcanic craters across some gold-plated sand, to measure the volatile metal mercury, and through very fine filters, to capture fume particles. They discovered that the gases at both volcanoes contain high levels of mercury vapour, and that the fume is also very rich in tiny particles, as small as 10-20 nanometres in size.


Fisheries, Not Whales, To Blame For Shortage Of Fish

The argument that increasing whale populations are behind declining fish stocks is completely without scientific foundation, leading researchers and conservation organizations said today as the International Whaling Commission opened its 60th meeting in Santiago, Chile.

Harpoon on the bow of a whale hunting ship
©iStockphoto/Chris Overgaard
Harpoon on the bow of a whale hunting ship. The Humane Society International, WWF and the Lenfest Ocean Program have presented three new reports debunking the science behind the 'whales-eat-fish' claims emanating from whaling nations Japan, Norway and Iceland.

The Humane Society International, WWF and the Lenfest Ocean Program today presented three new reports debunking the science behind the 'whales-eat-fish' claims emanating from whaling nations Japan, Norway and Iceland. The argument has been used to bolster support for whaling, particularly from developing nations.

"It is not the whales, it is over-fishing and excess fishing capacity that are responsible for diminishing supplies of fish in developing countries," said fisheries biologist Dr. Daniel Pauly, director of the University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre.

"Making whales into scapegoats serves only to benefit wealthy whaling nations while harming developing nations by distracting any debate on the real causes of the declines of their fisheries."

Who's eating all the fish? The food security rationale for culling cetaceans, the report co-authored by Dr Pauly for the Humane Society International contrasts "the widely different impacts of fisheries and marine mammals" with fisheries targeting larger fish where available and marine mammals consuming mainly smaller fish and organisms.


Australian Astronomical Society Warns Of Global Cooling As Sun's Activity 'Significantly Diminishes'

Australian Astronomical Society warns of global cooling as Sun's activity 'significantly diminishes'.

A new paper published by the Astronomical Society of Australia has a warning to global warming believers not immediately obvious from the summary: Based on our claim that changes in the Sun's equatorial rotation rate are synchronized with changes in the Sun's orbital motion about the barycentre, we propose that the mean period for the Sun's meridional flow is set by a Synodic resonance between the flow period (~22.3 yr), the overall 178.7-yr repetition period for the solar orbital motion, and the 19.86-yr synodic period of Jupiter and Saturn.

Comment: Let's see: Stop worrying about warming, start worrying about cooling. OK, got it!

Bizarro Earth

US: Wildfire forces town to evacuate north of Phoenix

People in the Crown King and Horse Thief Basin areas were asked to leave immediately Sunday afternoon because of a growing wildfire.

At 4 p.m., fire crews say flames had torched 300 acres and that the fire was growing.

©Christopher Sign
Crown King smoke plume (Arizona).

"This is a very serious situation," said Steve Sams with the Prescott National Forest Office.

The fire was located about one mile south of Crown King, northeast of Lane Mountain. It was slowly moving north.

Fire crews used aircraft to battle the blaze. A 60-person fire crew was on the ground hiking and trying to build a fire line to stop the flames from spreading.