Earth ChangesS

Bizarro Earth

Fiji cyclone damage overwhelming, leader says

© AFP/GraphicMap showing the path of Cyclone Tomas in Fiji. Fiji's government has declared a state of disaster as the first deaths were reported in the cyclone-ravaged Pacific nation where 17,000 people have fled to evacuation centres.
The South Pacific island nation of Fiji has suffered overwhelming damage from a powerful cyclone that battered its shores for more than three days, the prime minister said Wednesday as relief operations were launched in the country's northern regions.

Fiji sent naval patrol boats laden with supplies and support staff sailing for the northern islands that bore the full brunt of the storm, while Australian and New Zealand air force planes began airlifting emergency supplies to the island group.

Only one death has been reported, but the full extent of the damage has yet to be determined because communications to the hardest hit areas were cut off for days.

"It is evident that wherever (Cyclone) Tomas has struck, the damage has been overwhelming," Commodore Frank Bainimarama, Fiji's prime minister and military chief, said Wednesday as the first reports began to roll in.

Better Earth

NASA catches a shrimp below Antarctic ice

© AP/NASAThis video frame grab image provided by NASA, taken in Dec. 2009, shows a Lyssianasid amphipod, which is related to a shrimp, where a NASA team lowered a video camera to get the first long look at the underbelly of an ice sheet and a curious shrimp-like creature came swimming by and then even parked itself on the cable attached to the camera.
In a surprising discovery about where higher life can thrive, scientists for the first time found a shrimp-like creature and a jellyfish frolicking beneath a massive Antarctic ice sheet.

Six hundred feet (183 metres) below the ice where no light shines, scientists had figured nothing much more than a few microbes could exist.

That is why a team from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was surprised when they lowered a video camera to get the first long look at the underbelly of an ice sheet in Antarctica. A curious shrimp-like creature came swimming by and then parked itself on the camera's cable. Scientists also pulled up a tentacle they believe came from a foot-long jellyfish.

"We were operating on the presumption that nothing's there," said NASA ice scientist Robert Bindschadler, who will be presenting the initial findings and a video at an American Geophysical Union meeting Wednesday. "It was a shrimp you'd enjoy having on your plate."

"We were just gaga over it," he said of the 3-inch-long (76-millimeter, orange critter starring in their two-minute video. Technically, it's not a shrimp. It's a Lyssianasid amphipod, which is distantly related to shrimp.


Mind-reading gorillas love a good game

Cajoling bored friends to keep playing with you is not limited to humans. A gorilla that wants to continue a game will also try to do this, and will even deliberately lose if necessary. This hints that gorillas may have "theory of mind" - the capacity to attribute mental states to others.


The mysterious case of the frogs' legs

© Brandon Ballengee
In 1995, a group of schoolchildren from Minnesota discovered that half of the frogs they found in a pond were deformed. Some had bent, truncated legs, some had extra legs, while others had none at all. Photos of the frogs caught the attention of journalists, who blamed chemical pollution.

Since then, American artist Brandon Ballengée has found similarly deformed frogs and toads all over the world when working with the biologist Stanley Sessions from Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York state. Ballengée documents their field trips photographically. He also brings back dead specimens, which he uses to create artistic images like this one of an extra-limbed Pacific treefrog from Aptos, California.

Ballengée says he's attracted to the frogs because he finds them uncanny, almost other-worldly. To heighten this effect, he stains the frogs with dyes that turn cartilage blue, bones red and flesh translucent. He then scans them using a high-resolution scanner to produce a detailed, ghostly image. "I wanted to find a way to exhibit what I was finding without being scary or exploitative."

Bizarro Earth

US: Earthquake Magnitude 4.4 - Greater Los Angeles Area

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 11:04:00 UTC

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 04:04:00 AM at epicenter

Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones

33.992°N, 118.082°W

18.9 km (11.7 miles)


1 km (0 miles) ENE (62°) from Pico Rivera, CA

4 km (2 miles) SE (129°) from Montebello, CA

5 km (3 miles) SSW (212°) from Whittier Narrows Rec. Area, CA

8 km (5 miles) NE (37°) from Downey, CA

10 km (6 miles) SSW (209°) from El Monte, CA

17 km (10 miles) ESE (115°) from Los Angeles Civic Center, CA


Support for Bluefin Tuna Ban Not Forthcoming

Everybody in the business knows that the Atlantic population of bluefin tuna is in worse trouble than the Pacific population, but how much worse? Well, here's one measure: Stanford University's Tag-a-Giant program is now paying $1,000 per tag to fishermen in the Atlantic and Mediterranean who return the tags after they have caught the tuna, whereas fishermen in the Pacific get only $500 for a tag. Trust the market to tell you the truth.

Another measure of the bluefin's scarcity is that two months ago, the owners of two sushi restaurants in Japan and one in Hong Kong banded together to pay $175,000 for a 513-pound bluefin tuna at Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market. The primary market for bluefin tuna is sushi, and the demand is so great that the fish are disappearing fast in both oceans.

That's why the first order of business at the CITES conference that opens in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday is a ban on the international trade in bluefin tuna. CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, is the only port of call, because no other international organization can intervene in defense of a fish species. Whales have the International Whaling Commission, but for tuna, CITES is all there is.

Bizarro Earth

Magnitude 6.0 - South Indian Ocean

Indian Ocean
© USGSEarthquake location
Sunday, March 14, 2010 at 20:33:10 UTC

Monday, March 15, 2010 at 02:33:10 AM at epicenter

2.763°S, 83.678°E

10 km (6.2 miles)

1155 km (710 miles) SSE of COLOMBO, Sri Lanka

1155 km (720 miles) SSE of Kandy, Sri Lanka

1185 km (730 miles) SSE of Negombo, Sri Lanka

1365 km (850 miles) SE of MALE, Maldives

Cloud Lightning

Unusually heavy precipitation and melting snows have caused the floods: Death toll in Kazakh floods rises to 33

© Alexander KhvostenkoUnusually heavy precipitation and melting snows have caused the floods.
Rescuers have discovered thirty-three bodies in southern Kazakhstan, where heavy rains swept away two dams last week, causing massive flooding, the local emergencies ministry said on Sunday.

Unusually heavy precipitation and melting snows have caused a dam to give way in the village of Zhylbulak, with a population of 820 people. The vast majority of the residents were evacuated. Another dam break has occurred in the village of Kyzyl-Agash.

"On Saturday, bodies of 33 people, including 10 men, 16 women and seven children, were discovered," the ministry said in a statement.

The statement said 44 people, including 16 children, were admitted to hospital following the flood.

Cloud Lightning

Post-snow, US Northeast mops up from wind-driven rain: Six people died in storm-related accidents, and hundreds of thousands were without electricity

© AP Photo/Chris CorradinoA tree lies across a smashed car at a home in Wantagh, N.Y., Sunday, March 14, 2010. Strong winds and heavy rain downed trees and power lines throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut on Saturday, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power.
Last month, the Northeast was smothered by blizzards. Now, it's waterlogged by torrential rains.

The region mopped up Sunday following a bout with high wind and heavy rains that uprooted trees, downed power lines and flooded creeks and rivers. Six people died in storm-related accidents, and hundreds of thousands were without electricity.

More than a half-million customers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut lost electricity at the peak of Saturday's storm, which carried wind gusts of up to 70 mph. The storm came about two weeks after heavy snow and hurricane-force winds left more than a million customers in the Northeast in the dark.

Arrow Down

Peruvian Nazca Civilization Was Destroyed by Deforestation

The collapse of the ancient Nazca civilization, long attributed to the El Nino weather phenomenon, may have actually been caused by deforestation, according to research conducted by scientists from Cambridge University and the French Institute of Andean Studies, and published in the journal Latin American Antiquity.

"The landscape only became exposed to the catastrophic effects of that El Nino flood once people had inadvertently crossed an ecological threshold," researcher David Beresford-Jones said.

The Nazca, who inhabited coastal desert areas in what is today Peru, are best known for constructing massive patterns in the desert sand that can only be seen from the air. Their civilization entered an abrupt decline roughly 1,500 years ago.

Researchers have now discovered that much of the Nazca environment was originally covered by a leguminous hardwood tree known as the huarango.