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Sun, 26 Mar 2023
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Earth Changes

Better Earth

Yellowstone Park geology remains mysterious

When Hank Heasler first visited Yellowstone National Park as a little boy, he stared at the bubbles rising up from green- and orange-ringed mud pots, colored by heat-loving bacteria that thrive in water recycled through deep underground aquifers.

"I just remember being fascinated," he said. "I always wanted to know more."

Heasler is now Yellowstone Park's geologist, one of the primary scientists responsible for tracking movement around one of the largest volcanos in North America.

It's a constant challenge, figuring out the park's ever-shifting geological puzzle, he said.

"I'm still excited," he said.

Comment: Though Heasler admits that "science can't yet explain all of the park's geological quirks" and that there so many things they don't yet understand about Yellowstone's geology, he is quick to reassure the reader that "a volcanic eruption doesn't appear to be imminent". Is this an attempt to sooth people's fears after the recent swarm of earthquakes in the area?

Bizarro Earth

Canada: Quakes Shake Kirkland Lake

The earth did in fact move this week in Kirkland Lake as three earthquakes just southwest of town shook the town.

Natural Resources Canada has a seismic measuring station north of Kirkland Lake that recorded the earthquakes. The first happened at 7:58 p. m. Monday and registered 3.4 on the Richter Scale, the second occurred at 8:10 p. m. and registered 2.0 and third took place at 8:21 registering 1.7

Natural Resources Canada equipment is not able to determine the exact locations of the earthquakes and in this case has a plus or minus accuracy of five kilometers. NRC estimates the earthquakes took place two kilo-metres southwest of Kirkland Lake.

While more data would have to be studied to determine how deep the seismic events were NRC seismologist Janet Drysdale said with the data they have studied it is probable the seismic events were five kilometers or deeper.

Bizarro Earth

Small Earthquake Rocks Eastern Oklahoma

A small earthquake has rattled an area near Savanna, Oklahoma.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the magnitude three-point-three quake hit at 10:14 p.m. Central time, Wednesday evening.

The epicenter was six miles west northwest of Savanna, a town that sits on the edge of a massive ammunition storage depot near McAlester.

No damage has been reported.


Indonesia's Psychedelic Fish Named a New Species

© AP Photo/seaphotos.com, David Hall, HO
A recently discovered fish named "psychedelica" is shown in the waters off Ambon island, Indonesia.
A funky, psychedelic fish that bounces on the ocean floor like a rubber ball has been classified as a new species, a scientific journal reported.

The frogfish - which has a swirl of tan and peach zebra stripes that extend from its aqua eyes to its tail - was initially discovered by scuba diving instructors working for a tour operator a year ago in shallow waters off Ambon island in eastern Indonesia.

The operator contacted Ted Pietsch, lead author of a paper published in this month's edition of Copeia, the journal of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, who submitted DNA work identifying it as a new species.

Bizarro Earth

US: Earthquake recorded Tuesday night near McAlester, Oklahoma

A minor earthquake was recorded Tuesday night at the McAlester Ammunition Depot in Pittsburg County.

The quake rated 3.3 on the Richter scale at 10:14 p.m., the U.S. Geological Survey reported. The epicenter was at the depot, about 6 1/2 miles northwest of Savanna. A previous story said the earthquake was recorded today.

According to the Oklahoma Geological Survey, the state averaged 56 quakes a year from 1977 to 2008.

Usually, fewer than five per year, if any, are felt.


Biofuels: Promise or Threat?

In the coming weeks, the Obama administration is expected to release its plans to address the dual problems of global climate disruption and excessive dependence on foreign oil. Meanwhile, in the background, the debate among environmentalists over biofuels and their contribution to future energy needs continues to intensify. Many mainstream greens actively support biofuels as a central element in an anticipated future mix of energy sources, but voices from the global South are often far more critical. They insist that fuels such as biodiesel, bioethanol and proposed "second generation" fuels be termed "agrofuels," viewing their widespread use as a potential boon for global agribusiness corporations, with potentially devastating consequences for land-based peoples. This view is now gaining widespread support from groups in the US and Europe.

Last week, the Sierra Club and Worldwatch Institute attempted to sidestep these concerns with their new report, titled "Smart Choices for Biofuels". They appear to have never even asked the more fundamental question "Are Biofuels a Smart Choice?" To this question, a growing number of environmental and human rights organizations are responding with a clear and resounding "no."


Belarusian scientist suggests frog breeding as anti-crisis measure

© Unknown
A Belarusian scientist has advised the country's businessmen to begin breeding edible frogs for export during the current economic crisis, Russia's Vesti TV channel said on Wednesday.

The former Soviet republic is home to three edible species of frogs - the Marsh Frog (Rana ridibunda), the Pool Frog (Rana lessonae) and the Edible Frog (Rana esculenta). All of them are considered a delicacy in various countries.

Better Earth

US Great Lake's Sinkholes Host Exotic Ecosystems

© Unknown
In the oxygen-depleted water, cyanobacteria carry out photosynthesis using sulfur compounds rather than water and give off hydrogen sulfide, the gas associated with rotting eggs.

Researchers are exploring extreme conditions for life in a place not known for extremes. As little as 20 meters (66 feet) below the surface of Lake Huron, the third largest of North America's Great Lakes, peculiar geological formations--sinkholes made by water dissolving parts of an ancient underlying seabed--harbor bizarre ecosystems where the fish typical of the huge freshwater lake are rarely to be seen.Instead, brilliant purple mats of cyanobacteria--cousins of microbes found at the bottoms of permanently ice-covered lakes in Antarctica--and pallid, floating ponytails of other microbial life thrive in the dense, salty water that's hostile to most familiar, larger forms of life because it lacks oxygen.

Groundwater from beneath Lake Huron is dissolving minerals from the defunct seabed and carrying them into the lake to form these exotic, extreme environments, says Bopaiah A. Biddanda of Grand Valley State University, in Muskegon, Mich., one of the leaders of a scientific team studying the sinkhole ecosystems.

Those ecosystems are in a class not only with Antarctic lakes, but also with deep-sea, hydrothermal vents and cold seeps. "You have this pristine fresh water lake that has what amounts to materials from 400 million years ago ... being pushed out into the lake," says team co-leader Steven A. Ruberg of the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).


Nutrient Pollution Chokes Marine And Freshwater Ecosystems

© Michael Mill
In freshwater ecosystems, like lakes, phosphorus pollution causes algal blooms.

Protecting drinking water and preventing harmful coastal "dead zones", as well as eutrophication in many lakes, will require reducing both nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. Because streams and rivers are conduits to the sea, management strategies should be implemented along the land-to-ocean continuum. In most cases, strategies that focus only on one nutrient will fail.

These policy recommendations were put forth by a team of distinguished scientists in the recent issue of Science. Led by Dr. Daniel J. Conley, a marine ecologist at the GeoBiosphere Science Centre in Sweden and a Visiting Scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, the paper reviews weaknesses in single-nutrient management strategies.

In most cases, improving water quality and preserving coastal oceans will require a two-pronged approach.

Plant growth is tied to nitrogen and phosphorus availability. Human activities have greatly increased the abundance of these nutrients, causing the overproduction of aquatic plants and algae.

Bizarro Earth

Study: Antarctic Glaciers Slipping Swiftly Seaward

© AP Photo/Charles J. Hanley
Antarctic glaciers are melting faster across a much wider area than previously thought, scientists said Wednesday - a development that could lead to an unprecedented rise in sea levels.

A report by thousands of scientists for the 2007-2008 International Polar Year concluded that the western part of the continent is warming up, not just the Antarctic Peninsula.

Previously most of the warming was thought to occur on the narrow stretch pointing toward South America, said Colin Summerhayes, executive director of the Britain-based Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research and a member of International Polar Year's steering committee.