Earth ChangesS


Indonesia's West Papua Province Hit by Earthquake

Indonesia's West Papua province was hit by a magnitude 6.1 earthquake today, the latest powerful tremor to shake the region where five people were killed and hundreds injured at the weekend when buildings were destroyed.

The quake struck off the coast at 7:48 a.m. local time, 75 kilometers (50 miles) west of the region's main city of Manokwari, the U.S. Geological Survey said in an alert. There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties and no tsunami alert was issued.

Better Earth

Sea Level Rise Slows by 20%

Efforts to sell climate policy based on ever more scary scenarios of apocalypse cannot be sustained and are likely to work in exactly the opposite manner than desired. A good example of why this is so can be found in a recent paper (hat tip Dad) that suggests that the rate of sea level rise from 2003-2008 (2.5 mm/year) is 20% lower than that presented by the IPCC for 1993-2003 (3.1 mm/year). Whether this is "consistent with" longer-term predictions is different than whether it is "consistent with" a political strategy based on scaring people. It seems pretty obvious that systems that exhibit a large amount of variability or are simply poorly understood on relatively short time scales are not very useful props in efforts to show the world moving inexorably towards doom.


Wildlife confused by polarised light pollution

silver water beetle
© Roberston et al./ESAA lesser silver water beetle rests on a red car bonnet.

What do sky scrapers have in common with ponds? The way they polarise light acts as a magnet to some animals, say researchers.

This unwanted side effect from some industrial materials - including road surfaces and automobiles - is called polarised light pollution, and Bruce Robertson of Michigan State University says the phenomenon is widespread enough that it is disrupting ecosystems.

When light bounces off smooth, dark surfaces it becomes polarised - meaning the light wave is aligned in one plane.

In natural environments, this most commonly happens around water, but humans excel at making smooth surfaces. "Cars, asphalt, oil pools, and windows polarise light more strongly than water," says Robertson.

To animals tuned to distinguish polarised light and use it as an environmental cue, "these objects look more like water than water," he says. "Even when given the choice between water and human-made surfaces, some insects prefer to lay their eggs on - and settle near - the latter."


Seattle, US: At least 30,000 forced to flee from heavy rains and flooding

Puyallap -- For thousands of people, home Wednesday night became a church basement or a school gymnasium. Maybe they got lucky and stayed with a relative or friend.

Heavy rain and surging rivers forced more than 30,000 people in Western Washington from their permanent homes. They fled Jones Creek in Acme in Whatcom County and the Puyallup River in Fife and Orting and other rivers in between.

Some of the 25,000 evacuated from Orting and other communities in the Puyallup River Valley headed to Bethany Baptist Church in Puyallup, where shelter coordinator Tom McMullen greeted them.

McMullen said he's been the Red Cross shelter coordinator at that location for eight years, and this is the worst flood he's seen.

"I don't see how this is going to get any better tonight," he said. "This is the big one ... this is quite the event."

Bizarro Earth

US: Increase of sick brown pelicans baffles experts

Los Angeles: Wildlife experts are trying to figure out why sick, disoriented and bruised California brown pelicans are being found in record numbers along more than 1,000 miles of coastline.

The birds, some of them dead, have been spotted from San Francisco to Baja California, Mexico. Many have been found far from their homes on roads, fields and backyards.

The pelicans started appearing late last month north of San Pedro in Southern California, then began appearing farther north, said Jay Holcomb, executive director of the International Bird Rescue Research Center in Fairfield, in Northern California.

The center's San Pedro facility received more than 40 birds in the past seven to 10 days, while the Fairfield one has received about 25, Holcomb said Tuesday.

A man vacationing in Baja California alerted the center about a similar problem there this week after discovering sick pelicans on the beach south of San Felipe.


Astronaut Jack Schmitt Joins Climate Skeptics

American astronaut Dr. Jack Schmitt - the last living man to walk on the moon - is the latest scientist to be added to the roster of more than 70 skeptics who will confront the subject of global warming at the second annual International Conference on Climate Change in New York City March 8-10, 2009.


Pelicans fall out of sky

Pelicans suffering from a mysterious malady are crashing into cars and boats, wandering along roadways and turning up dead by the hundreds across the West Coast, from southern Oregon to Baja California, Mexico, bird-rescue workers say.

Better Earth

Global Warming? Europe shivers in cold snap

Temperatures across Europe have plunged to record lows, causing travel chaos and putting more demand on power supplies.

In France, the normally balmy south was covered in up to 40 centimetres of snow, leaving hundreds of motorists stranded on motorways around Marseille.

The city's main St Charles railway station had to be closed after the signals froze.

The situation was the same across a swathe of northern Italy. In Milan, the city's two airports have re-opened after being closed for several hours on Wednesday. Flights have also resumed at airports in Turin and Bergamo.

Temperatures sank to record lows in parts of Germany overnight. A weather station in the eastern state of Saxony said the coldest spot was just below minus 27 degrees Celsius. Thick snow has covered much of the country and ice breakers have been brought in to clear several waterways.

Bizarro Earth

Quake in Northern Mexico causes peninsular plate separation

A 5.6-magnitude earthquake that rattled northern Mexico on Monday has produced a small separation of the peninsula from the continent, a Mexican scientist said Tuesday.


US: Wildfires trigger evacuations near Boulder, Colorado

Wind-driven wildfires swept across Boulder County grasslands Wednesday, destroying at least four structures and prompting mandatory evacuations of at least 500 homes.

Residents were ordered to leave more than 500 homes on the north side of Boulder, county spokeswoman Barbara Halpin said. At least one other neighborhood north of the city was evacuated, but the number of homes wasn't immediately known.

No injuries were immediately reported.