Earth ChangesS

Cloud Lightning

California avalanches leave two dead, two missing

Two skiers were killed and two were missing as rare avalanches struck mountains near Los Angeles after a severe winter storm pounded the region, authorities said Saturday.

The two fatalities were reported in separate avalanches at the Mountain High Ski Area in the San Gabriel Mountains, around 31 miles (50 kilometers) east of Los Angeles, police and ambulance officials said.


China's Unquenchable Thirst

Freshwater is the resource most strained by China's staggering growth over the last 20 years.

In June 8, 1988, I boarded a midnight train bound for Zhengzhou from Beijing, where my trip to research China's land and water challenges had begun just three days before. My senses were already brimming with the sights and sounds of the capital city and its surroundings -- horse-drawn carts piled high with bricks, waves of wheat awaiting harvest, bustling markets along dirt roads, and bicycles, bicycles everywhere.

Under China's "responsibility system," farmers were now allowed to sell whatever they harvested above their quota to the state. Colorful roadside stands laden with melons, fruits, vegetables, and meats were sprouting like weeds after a long winter. Many farmers suddenly had money to build new houses, and signs of a construction mini-boom were unmistakable.

This, of course, was just the tip of the iceberg: soon enough China's cities would catch the market-economy wave and ride it head-long into the globalized world of the 21st century. It was clear even then, nearly 20 years ago, that the availability of freshwater posed a major challenge to China's future. China was home to 21 percent of the world's people but only 8 percent of its renewable water supply. Most of that water was in the south, making the north even more water-short than the national figures suggested.

Bizarro Earth

Ocean floor sensors will warn of failing Gulf Stream

UK will be in a deep freeze if the current strays

An armada of robot submarines and marine sensors are to be deployed across the Atlantic, from Florida to the Canary Islands, to provide early warning that the Gulf Stream might be failing, an event that would trigger cataclysmic freezing in Britain for decades.

Comment: Given that no scientist or climatologist alive today has ever before experienced climate change of the nature that our planet is experiencing now, we find it rather humorous that they are so confident that they can predict the likely effects of such phenomena. The general attitude seems to be one of erring on the side of positivity (or wishful thinking) in order that neither they nor the population should be 'unduly' frightened.


Canada: Weird Sky At Night

Sometimes nature can give us a light show when we least expect it. viewer, Dennis Catania saw something a little weird last night as he stood outside his Panoramic Drive home in Sault Ste. Marie Wednesday evening.

©Dennis Catania

Evil Rays

New radar satellite technique sheds light on ocean current dynamics

Ocean surface currents have long been the focus of research due to the role they play in weather, climate and transportation of pollutants, yet essential aspects of these currents remain unknown.

By employing a new technique - based on the same principle as police speed-measuring radar guns - to satellite radar data, scientists can now obtain information necessary to understand better the strength and variability of surface current regimes and their relevance for climate change.

©ESA - BOOST Technologies
Direct measurements of upstream surface flow of the Greater Agulhas Current as obtained from ASAR Wide Swath Mode on 13, 16, 19 and 22 September 2007. The radial surface velocity is marked in the colour bar in metres per second.


Antarctic ice loss speeds up, nearly matches Greenland loss

Ice loss in Antarctica increased by 75 percent in the last 10 years due to a speed-up in the flow of its glaciers and is now nearly as great as that observed in Greenland, according to a new, comprehensive study by UC Irvine and NASA scientists.

In a first-of-its-kind study, an international team led by Eric Rignot, professor of Earth system science at UCI and a scientist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., estimated changes in Antarctica's ice mass between 1996 and 2006 and mapped patterns of ice loss on a glacier-by-glacier basis. They detected a sharp jump in Antarctica's ice loss, from enough ice to raise global sea level by 0.3 millimeters (.01 inches) a year in 1996, to 0.5 millimeters (.02 inches) a year in 2006.

Better Earth

Earth's getting 'soft' in the middle

Since we can't sample the deepest regions of the Earth, scientists watch the velocity of seismic waves as they travel through the planet to determine the composition and density of that material. Now a new study suggests that material in part of the lower mantle has unusual electronic characteristics that make sound propagate more slowly, suggesting that the material there is softer than previously thought. The results call into question the traditional techniques for understanding this region of the planet. The authors, including Alexander Goncharov from the Carnegie Institution's Geophysical Laboratory, present their results in the January 25, 2008, issue of Science.

The lower mantle extends from about 400 miles to 1800 miles (660-2900 kilometers) into Earth and sits atop the outer core. Pressures and temperatures are so brutal there that materials are changed into forms that don't exist in rocks at the planet's surface and must be studied under carefully controlled conditions in the laboratory. The pressures range from 230,000 times the atmospheric pressure at sea level (23 GPa), to 1.35 million times sea-level pressure (135 GPa). And the heat is equally extreme - from about 2,800 to 6,700 degrees Fahrenheit (1800K - 4000K).


Secrets of bird flight revealed

Scientists believe they could be a step closer to solving the mystery of how the first birds took to the air.

A study published in the journal Nature suggests that the key to understanding the evolution of bird flight is the angle at which a bird flaps its wings.

The US team found that birds move their wings at the same narrow angle, whether they run, fly or glide.

Birds flap their wings to help propel them up steep inclines

Bizarro Earth

Indonesian earthquake leaves one dead

JAKARTA - A strong 6.2-magnitude quake rattled the remote Indonesian island of Nias, off the west coast of Sumatra, early Wednesday, leaving one person dead and four injured, the police said.


3rd earthquake hits western Tibet this month

BEIJING -- An earthquake measuring 5.5 degrees on Richter Scale hit Tibet at 2:43 Beijing Time Wednesday, according to the China Seismological Monitoring Network.