Earth ChangesS

Cloud Lightning

Heavy Snow in China Kill 40, Collapse 9,000 Buildings

china gas station roof snow collapse
© Reuters/China DailyThe roof of a PetroChina gas station collapses after heavy snow in Xingtai, Hebei province.
Unusually early snow storms in north-central China have claimed 40 lives, caused thousands of buildings to collapse and destroyed almost 500,000 acres (200,000 hectares) of winter crops, the Civil Affairs Ministry said Friday.

Nineteen of the deaths resulted from traffic accidents related to the storms that began Nov. 9, the ministry said in a statement on its Web site.

The snowfall is the heaviest in the northern and central provinces of Hebei, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Shandong and Henan since record keeping began after the establishment of the Communist state in 1949, the ministry said without giving detailed figures. It estimated economic losses from the storm at 4.5 billion yuan (US$659 million).


Worst storm of year as parts of Britain battered by 100mph winds

The lighthouse on Porthcawl seafront
© James DaviesThe lighthouse on Porthcawl seafront, South Wales, takes a battering
Gale-force winds of up to 100mph have led to spectacular scenes as the worst storm of the year gripped parts of Britain.

Intense weather conditions in Wales and southern England brought an abrupt end to an unusually mild autumn, with isolated flooding in south-western England and severe winds in coastal regions.

Drama was not confined to the south-west, however, with a fast rescue craft from an unnamed North Sea oil rig running aground at Britain's most easterly point.

Three men were rescued unhurt from the vessel by Lowestoft lifeboat on Friday night after the craft became stuck on a disused jetty at Ness Point in Suffolk, an RNLI spokeswoman said.

Bizarro Earth

California: 2.5 Earthquake Shakes San Jose

The U.S. Geological Survey is reporting an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 2.5 struck this morning in Santa Clara County.

According to the USGS, the earthquake struck at about 5:25 a.m. and had a depth of about 4.9 miles.

Bizarro Earth

India: 4.6 Earthquake Rattles Parts of Maharashtra

An earthquake of moderate intensity measuring 4.6 on the Richter scale rattled many parts of Western Maharashtra this evening, officials said.

The tremor, with its epicentre in neighbouring Satara district, occurred at 6.34 pm and lasted for 15 seconds, according to U V Siddhamal, Chief Executive Engineer of the Koyna dam which has an installed seismograph.

While there were no reports of damage to life and property, some houses in Patan in the district developed cracks due to the shock, they said.

Epicentre of the quake was believed to be near Varanavati, about 20 km from the Koyna dam which has a hydel power station supplying electricity to Maharashtra.

Bizarro Earth

3.0 Earthquake Registered Near Oklahoma City

An earthquake measuring 3.0 on the Richter Scale was recorded east of Oklahoma City on Saturday morning, according to the U.S. Geological Services.

The quake was recorded 4 miles northeast of Choctaw and 18 miles east of Oklahoma City at 5:13 a.m.


Nuclear Scars: Tainted water runs beneath Nevada desert

© U.S. Department of Energy / May 11, 2009Years of underground nuclear tests at the Nevada Test Site have left hundreds of craters filled with radioactive rubble. Above, Yucca Flat.
The state faces a water crisis and population boom, but radioactive waste from the Nevada Test Site has polluted aquifers.

Reporting from Yucca Flat, Nevada - A sea of ancient water tainted by the Cold War is creeping deep under the volcanic peaks, dry lake beds and pinyon pine forests covering a vast tract of Nevada.

Over 41 years, the federal government detonated 921 nuclear warheads underground at the Nevada Test Site, 75 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Each explosion deposited a toxic load of radioactivity into the ground and, in some cases, directly into aquifers.


Rare Species Named After Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin

© Queensland MuseumCrikey steveirwini
Last year we told you about a turtle named after Steve Irwin. Now yet another species, described in the following Queensland Museum release, has been named after the popular television host, wildlife expert and conservationist, who died in 2006.

Queensland Museum scientist Dr John Stanisic has named a rare species of tree snail discovered in north Queensland in honor of wildlife advocate and conservationist Steve Irwin.

The snail, Crikey steveirwini, was found in the mountainous regions of north Queensland's Wet Tropics near Cairns.

Honorary Research Fellow Dr Stanisic said that like its namesake, the Crikey steveirwini is a unique creature with some interesting qualities that set it apart from other land snails.

Bizarro Earth

California: 3.4 Earthquake Jiggles Northwest Rialto

A magnitude 3.4 earthquake rattled the Devore and northwest Rialto areas this morning near the base of the Cajon Pass but went largely unnoticed, San Bernardino County Fire Department dispatchers say.

"That would put it right here," Dispatch Supervisor Sue Hood said from the department's command center at Rialto Municipal Airport. "We didn't feel a thing. And I got no calls on it at all."

The minor quake struck at 2:11 a.m. three miles south-southwest of Devore and five miles north-northwest of Rialto, according to U.S. Geological Survey seismographs.

Better Earth

Antarctic iceberg found floating near Macquarie Island

© Murray Potter/APA large iceberg spotted off Macquarie Island.
Dean Miller, an Australian fur seal biologist, was the first person to spot the large white object floating past Macquarie island in the far south-west corner of the Pacific Ocean.

"I've never seen anything like it. We looked out to the horizon and just saw this huge floating island of ice," Miller told the Australian Antarctic division. "It was a monumental moment for me as it was the first iceberg I have seen."

Estimated to be about 50m high - from the waterline - and 500m long, the iceberg is now about five miles (8km) off the north-west of Macquarie island, halfway between New Zealand and Antarctica south-west corner of the Pacific Ocean.

Scientists have said it is rare for icebergs to be seen so far north. Neil Young, an Australian Antarctic division glaciologist, said: "The iceberg is likely to be part of one of the big ones that calved from the Ross ice shelf nearly a decade ago.

"Throughout the year several icebergs have been drifting slowly northwards with the ocean current towards Macquarie Island. We know there are also a few more icebergs 100km-200km to the west of the island."


Greenland ice loss 'accelerating'

Ilulissat glacier
© BBCThe Ilulissat glacier has retreated by approximately 15km over the past decade
The Greenland ice sheet is losing its mass faster than in previous years and making an increasing contribution to sea level rise, a study has confirmed.

Published in the journal Science, it has also given scientists a clearer view of why the sheet is shrinking.

The team used weather data, satellite readings and models of ice sheet behaviour to analyse the annual loss of 273 thousand million tonnes of ice.

Melting of the entire sheet would raise sea levels globally by about 7m (20ft).