Earth ChangesS


Three killed in Scotland avalanche

© Agence France-Presse

Three climbers were killed by an avalanche on a mountain near the town of Glencoe in the Scottish Highlands, local police said on Saturday.

Authorities had launched a major rescue operation following the avalanche on Buchaille Etive Mhor, with rescue dogs and helicopters deployed, after a climber alerted them to it at around noon (1200 GMT).

Initially two people were airlifted to a nearby hospital, but one was pronounced dead on arrival, and the other died shortly thereafter. Rescuers found a third dead body buried in the snow later.

Better Earth

Starving bacteria bumped up early Earth's oxygen

© Image Source/RexMeasurements of nickel prior to the "Great Oxygenation Event" 2.5 billion years ago suggest that hungry bacteria spewed less oxygen-eating methane.

Hungry nickel-grabbing bacteria could be to thank for the surge in atmospheric oxygen 2.5 billion years ago that made Earth hospitable to life.

Stefan Lalonde of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, and colleagues measured the concentration of nickel deposited in layered sedimentary rocks, or "banded iron formations". They found that levels had dropped by two-thirds in the 200 million years prior to the "Great Oxygenation Event".

The team speculate that this drop in nickel starved primordial ocean-dwelling bacteria called methanogens that used dissolved nickel in seawater to help turn food into energy and methane. As methane reacts with oxygen to remove it from the atmosphere, a decline in the methane produced by bacteria would have led to a build-up of oxygen.

Bizarro Earth

Magnitude 5.3 - Oruro, Bolivia



* Saturday, January 24, 2009 at 19:30:14 UTC

* Saturday, January 24, 2009 at 03:30:14 PM at epicenter

Location 19.078°S, 67.769°W

Depth 150.4 km (93.5 miles)


140 km (85 miles) SSW of Oruro, Bolivia

220 km (135 miles) WNW of Potosi, Bolivia

255 km (160 miles) SW of Cochabamba, Bolivia

290 km (180 miles) S of LA PAZ, Bolivia


Native U.S. Lizards Adapting To Escape Attacks By Fire Ants

Fence lizards
© Tracy Langkilde, Penn StateFence lizards rely on camouflage to avoid being eaten.

Penn State Assistant Professor of Biology Tracy Langkilde has shown that native fence lizards in the southeastern United States are adapting to potentially fatal invasive fire-ant attacks by developing behaviors that enable them to escape from the ants, as well as by developing longer hind legs, which can increase the effectiveness of this behavior.

"Not only does this finding provide biologists with an example of evolution in action, but it also provides wildlife managers with knowledge that they can use to develop plans for managing invasive species," said Langkilde. The results will be described in a paper to be published later this month in the journal Ecology.

Eye 2

US: Palin does no favors for musk oxen

In her recent State of the State address, Gov. Sarah Palin invoked the image of musk oxen circling up to protect their young as a reminder that Alaskans, and Americans in general, need to stand together in these dire times.

This misleading and not at all "poetic" simile comes from the person who has appealed the polar bear's listing as threatened and plans to do the same with regards to Cook Inlet's beluga whales. It comes from the person who, though allegedly "pro-life," supports aerial-predator control and the killing of wolf cubs in their dens. It comes from the very same person who seeks to reinstall wolf bounties and allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the "place where life begins." Her naive comment resurrected from memory an experience I had while guiding wilderness tourists in the refuge a few years ago . . .


US: Disease shows up in area bat colony

A week before Christmas, DeeAnn Reeder and her colleague Greg Turner made a discovery in a cave in Mifflin County. A handful of bats hibernating for winter had the tell-tale sign of white-nose syndrome, a mysterious condition killing off colonies in the northeast.

The discovery of the white fungus confirmed what state, federal and academic researchers have suspected would happen: White-nose syndrome has arrived in Pennsylvania after being detected in New York and Vermont.

Bizarro Earth

Magnitude 5.7 - Southern Alaska



* Saturday, January 24, 2009 at 18:09:50 UTC

* Saturday, January 24, 2009 at 09:09:50 AM at epicenter

* Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones

Location 59.389°N, 152.811°W

Depth 100 km (62.1 miles) set by location program


* 51 km (32 miles) W (275°) from Nanwalek, AK

* 56 km (34 miles) W (275°) from Port Graham, AK

* 62 km (39 miles) W (265°) from Seldovia, AK

* 262 km (162 miles) SW (221°) from Anchorage, AK


Parasites threatening California sea otters

The food some California sea otters eat might carry deadly parasites that come from cats and opossums, a recent study suggests.

Scientists from the University of California-Davis and the U.S. Geological Survey say some marine invertebrates on which sea otters feed can act as transport hosts for lethal pathogens that have made their way into the ocean, confirming a theory that has long been reported.

The risk of exposure to the pathogens is higher among sea otters when clams, fat innkeeper worms and marine snails are part of their diet, researchers said.

Cloud Lightning

High Winds Kill 10 in Spain and France

Spain Collaspse
© Manu Fernandez/The Associated PressRescuers working Saturday after part of a sports center collapsed in high winds, killing four children.

Madrid - At least 10 people, including four children, were killed as high winds struck Spain and France on Saturday, tearing roofs from buildings, blowing down trees and power lines and whipping up huge waves.

The Spanish authorities said the four children were killed and several others injured near Barcelona on Saturday when the roof of a sports center collapsed in high winds. A spokeswoman for the Catalan government said the children had been sheltering from the wind in the sports hall in Sant Boi de Llobregat, just south of Barcelona, when the roof and some of the walls collapsed.

Jaume Bosch, mayor of Sant Boi, said the children were 9 to 12 years old, according to the Web site of La Vanguardia, a Barcelona-based newspaper. The spokeswoman, who spoke on condition of anonymity under government rules, said seven other children and two adults were injured, one of them seriously. Emergency services had pulled everyone free of the rubble of the building by midafternoon, she said.

Better Earth

Children among victims as deadly storm hits Europe

Three children are among several people to have died in extreme weather across parts of Western Europe.

It is reported the youngsters were killed when the roof of a sports centre near Barcelona collapsed in strong winds. In another incident in the same city a woman was fatally injured after a wall fell on her.

On the other side of the country, in the Galicia region, a policeman was killed when his car was struck by a falling tree.