Earth ChangesS


US: Autumn Snowstorm Wallops Rockies, Plains

© Bryan Oller/The Associated PressLon Rust clears snow from the sidewalk in front of his business in Green Mountain Falls, Colo., on Wednesday.
A slow-moving autumn storm showed no signs of letting up in Colorado and the western Plains on Thursday, blanketing areas already buried with as much as 3 feet, closing schools and businesses and delaying flights.

Roads across Colorado and Wyoming were snow-packed and icy from the first big winter storm of the season in the West, and the snow's not likely to let up anytime soon. The storm spread a blanket of white from northern Utah's Wasatch Front to western Nebraska's northern border with South Dakota.

"There's definitely some adverse driving conditions right now, and it's expected to continue throughout a good portion of the day," said Bob Wilson, a Colorado Department of Transportation spokesman. Wilson said although some cars are sliding off roads, not many accidents had been reported.

Cloud Lightning

Bad weather system causes Cyprus flooding

cyprus flooding
© unknown
Torrential rain has caused extensive flooding in areas south of Nicosia, as a severe weather front arrived over Cyprus.

Worst affected was the Alambra district, near the Limassol highway, 20 kilometres from Nicosia.

Several houses were flooded and the Fire Brigade rescued people who were in imminent danger of drowning.

Most of them were trapped in cars which were washed away by torrents.


Ancient 'Monster' Insect: 'Unicorn' Fly Never Before Observed

ancient fly
© George PoinarThis image of an ancient fly in amber shows the strange horn on its head, topped by three eyes.
Just in time for Halloween, researchers have announced the discovery of a new, real-world "monster" -- what they are calling a "unicorn" fly that lived about 100 million years ago and is being described as a new family, genus and species of fly never before observed.

A single, incredibly well-preserved specimen of the tiny but scary-looking fly was preserved for eternity in Burmese amber, and it had a small horn emerging from the top of its head, topped by three eyes that would have given it the ability to see predators coming. But despite that clever defense mechanism, it was apparently an evolutionary dead end that later disappeared.

"No other insect ever discovered has a horn like that, and there's no animal at all with a horn that has eyes on top," said George Poinar, Jr., a professor of zoology at Oregon State University who just announced the new species in Cretaceous Research, a professional journal.


Wolves Lose Their Predatory Edge In Mid-life

© iStockphoto/Jim KrugerWolf (Canis Lupus) near Yellowstone National Park.
Although most wolves in Yellowstone National Park live to be nearly six years old, their ability to kill prey peaks when they are two to three, according to a study led by Dan MacNulty and recently published online by Ecology Letters. The study will appear in the journal's December print issue.

The finding challenges a long-held belief that wolves are successful predators for their entire adult lives. It now appears that like human athletes, they are only at the top of their game for about 25 percent of that time. It also shows that physiology can limit predation.

"Wolves are not perfect predators," says MacNulty, a postdoctoral researcher in the College of Biological Sciences' Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior. "They lack physical characteristics to kill prey swiftly, so they rely on athletic ability and endurance, which diminishes with age. They're like 100-meter sprinters. They need to be in top condition to perform."

Bizarro Earth

Tsunami Waves Reasonably Likely To Strike Israel

© Unknown
"There is a likely chance of tsunami waves reaching the shores of Israel," says Dr. Beverly Goodman of the Leon H. Charney School of Marine Sciences at the University of Haifa following an encompassing geo-archaeological study at the port of Caesarea.

"Tsunami events in the Mediterranean do occur less frequently than in the Pacific Ocean, but our findings reveal a moderate rate of recurrence," she says.

Dr. Goodman, an expert geo-archaeologist, exposed geological evidence of this by chance. Her original intentions in Caesarea were to assist in research at the ancient port and at offshore shipwrecks.

"We expected to find the remains of ships, but were surprised to reveal unusual geological layers the likes of which we had never seen in the region before. We began underwater drilling assuming that these are simply local layers related to the construction of the port. However, we discovered that they are spread along the entire area and realized that we had found something major," she explains.

Bizarro Earth

Volcanoes Played Pivotal Role In Ancient Ice Age, Mass Extinction

© Matthew Saltzman, courtesy of Ohio State UniversityResearchers at Ohio State University have discovered that volcanoes played a pivotal role in a deadly ice age that occurred nearly half a billion years ago. This photograph shows volcanic ash beds - formed around 455 million years ago - layered in the rock of the Nashville Dome area in central Tennessee.
Researchers here have discovered the pivotal role that volcanoes played in a deadly ice age 450 million years ago. Perhaps ironically, these volcanoes first caused global warming - by releasing massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. When they stopped erupting, Earth's climate was thrown off balance, and the ice age began.

The discovery underscores the importance of carbon in Earth's climate today, said Matthew Saltzman, associate professor of earth sciences at Ohio State University.

The results will appear in the journal Geology, in a paper now available online.

Previously, Saltzman and his team linked this same ice age to the rise of the Appalachian Mountains. As the exposed rock weathered, chemical reactions pulled carbon from Earth's atmosphere, causing a global cooling which ultimately killed two-thirds of all species on the planet.

Bizarro Earth

Algae foam killing thousands of sea birds

© UnknownThe bloom, which poses no threat to people or pets, has killed thousands of birds since mid-September from northern Oregon to Washington's Olympic Peninsula, Schirato said.
Foam from an unusual algae bloom has killed thousands of birds along the Oregon and Washington coasts in recent weeks, marine biologists said.

Akashiwo sanguinea, a single-cell algae or phytoplankton, strips the birds of their natural waterproofing, said Julia Parrish, a marine biologist and professor at Washington State University.

"It's the largest mortality event of its kind on the West Coast that we know of," Parrish told The (Portland) Oregonian in a story published Friday. "We're getting counts of up to a million cells per liter of water," she said. "Think about that. That's pretty dense."

Storms have whipped the algae into a substance similar to a sticky soap, which washes off the birds' protective waterproofing oils and causes them to die of hypothermia, said Greg Schirato, a manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.


Do Bears Stimulate their Vagus Nerves? The 'Man Who Walks with Bears' Discovers their 'Hum'

© Lynn RogersProfessor Lynn Rogers hangin out with black bears
Black bears are often considered among the most dangerous animals in North America, depicted down the years as ferocious predators threatening to man.

But, says one man, that perception could not be further from the truth.

For 43 years, has studied wild bears, walking and playing with them, gaining amazing insights into their behaviour.

His studies reveal the bears as peaceful, playful creatures, which even hum when they are content.

The new understanding of wild black bear (Ursus americanus) behaviour unveiled by Prof Roger's research is depicted by the BBC natural history programme Natural World: Bearwalker of the Northwoods.

Bad Guys

Flashback GMO Seeds: 'Multinational Corporations Gaining Total Control Over Farming'

Food security campaigners are now more concerned than ever that farmers are turning dependent on large multinational corporations (MNCs) for seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and other inputs while also becoming more vulnerable to pressures to produce genetically engineered crops.

Gathered here over the weekend, for the Pesticide Action Network (PAN)'s 25th anniversary, many expressed concern over the predatory nature of corporate agriculture and its attempts to corner the entire chain of food production from seeds to sales of food products.

PAN is a network of over 600 participating non-governmental organisations, institutions and individuals in over 90 countries working to replace the use of hazardous pesticides with ecologically sound and socially just alternatives.

Cloud Lightning

ANI Detecting clear trend in water vapor would take 50 years, say scientists

A new study by scientists has determined that it would take about 50 years of observations to detect a clear trend in upper tropospheric water vapor.

Water vapor in the upper troposphere contributes to the greenhouse effect, and scientists predict that humidity will increase in the future along with rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

However, there is currently no observing program that could detect the predicted trends.