Earth ChangesS


Mystery of the British penguins that are marching towards oblivion

An endangered species of penguin is mysteriously disappearing from a remote British island in the South Atlantic at a rate of 100 birds every day. About two million northern rockhopper penguins have vanished from Tristan da Cunha and Gough Island, part of the British overseas territory of St Helena, in half a century.

The once huge penguin populations on the islands have dwindled so dramatically that they are now threatened with extinction, and the British Government was accused yesterday of contributing to the decline.

Cloud Lightning

A Rare Deep Freeze Warms the Dutch Soul

NYT dutch skaters
© Michael Kooren/ReutersCanals in the Netherlands no longer freeze every winter, so the chance to ice-skate outdoors created a frenzy in Kinderdijk and elsewhere in the south. “Everybody took days off,” said one mayor.

Nieuwerkerk Aan Den Ijssel, the Netherlands - For the first time in 12 years, the Netherlands' canals froze this month, bringing the Dutch, who like their tulips in neat rows, a heady mix of pandemonium and euphoria.

Hundreds of thousands of skaters, their cheeks as red as apples in the subzero temperatures, took to the ice, and hospital wards were filled with dozens of people with fractured arms, sprained ankles and broken legs.

Train engineers were ordered to go slowly to avoid hitting skaters who clambered over railway tracks to get from one frozen canal to another. Even the minister of defense, an avid skater, fell and broke his wrist. His ministry announced that the national defense remained in safe hands, even if one of them was in a cast.

Bizarro Earth

5.1 magnitude earthquake in south west China

An earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale on Thursday hit China's Wenchuan County, which was the epicentre of the May 12 earthquake last year that left more than 87,000 people dead or missing, an official said.

According to the National Earthquake Network Center, the earthquake took place in Wenchuan County in southwest China's Sichuan Province at 2.23 am on Thursday. No casualties or geological disasters have been reported, said Liao Min, head of Wenchuan County.

The epicentre was located at 31.3 degrees north latitude and 103.3 degrees east longitude. The quake took place about 22 km underground.

Bizarro Earth

5.0-magnitude earthquake hits West Papua, Indonesia

An earthquake measuring 5.0 degree on the Richter scale jolted Sorong in Indonesia's West Papua Province in the wee hour of Thursday, the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG) was quoted by the national Antara News Agency as saying.

The quake's epicenter was at 0.34 degrees southern latitude and 132.28 degrees eastern longitude, some 123 km northwest of Sorong, at a depth of 46 km below sea level.

Bizarro Earth

Magnitude 7.4 Earthquake - East of the Kuril Islands


Date-Time Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 17:49:39 UTC

Friday, January 16, 2009 at 03:49:39 AM at epicenter

Location 46.859°N, 155.173°E

Depth 36 km (22.4 miles) set by location program

Distances 430 km (270 miles) S of Severo-Kuril'sk, Kuril Islands, Russia

595 km (370 miles) ENE of Kuril'sk, Kuril Islands

1785 km (1110 miles) NE of TOKYO, Japan

7245 km (4500 miles) NE of MOSCOW, Russia

Better Earth

Fish Guts Explain Marine Carbon Cycle Mystery

Research published today reveals the major influence of fish on maintaining the delicate pH balance of our oceans, vital for the health of coral reefs and other marine life.

The discovery, made by a team of scientists from the UK, US and Canada, could help solve a mystery that has puzzled marine chemists for decades. Published today (16 January 2009) in Science, the study provides new insights into the marine carbon cycle, which is undergoing rapid change as a result of global CO2 emissions.

Until now, scientists have believed that the oceans' calcium carbonate, which dissolves to make seawater alkaline, came from the external 'skeletons' of microscopic marine plankton. This study estimates that three to 15 per cent of marine calcium carbonate is in fact produced by fish in their intestines and then excreted. This is a conservative estimate and the team believes it has the potential to be three times higher.

Bizarro Earth

Magnitude 6.8 Earthquake - Southeast of the Loyalty Islands



* Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 07:27:21 UTC
* Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 06:27:21 PM at epicenter

Location 22.379°S, 170.624°E

Depth 40.4 km (25.1 miles)


Distances 145 km (90 miles) W of Ile Hunter, Loyalty Isl., New Caledonia

300 km (185 miles) ESE of Tadine, Loyalty Islands, New Caledonia

430 km (265 miles) E of NOUMEA, New Caledonia

1650 km (1030 miles) NNW of Auckland, New Zealand


Palin seeks to block U.S. protections for belugas

Anchorage - Five months after suing to keep polar bears off the U.S. threatened species list, Alaska's government said Wednesday it plans to issue a similar challenge to block federal protections for a struggling population of beluga whales in Cook Inlet, a mature oil-producing basin.

Former vice presidential hopeful Gov. Sarah Palin said the energy-rich state believes the Endangered Species Act protections for belugas announced in October by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are unwarranted.

"The State of Alaska has worked cooperatively with the federal government to protect and conserve beluga whales in Cook Inlet," the Republican governor said in a news release announcing that a 60-day notice of intent to sue had been sent to NOAA. "This listing decision didn't take those efforts into account as required by law."

Beluga whales swimming in Cook Inlet, a glacier-fed saltwater channel running from Anchorage to the Gulf of Alaska, numbered as high as 1,300 three decades ago, but has dropped to about 375 since then, according to NOAA.


In Antarctica, bugs are kings

Rothera Base - Lurking among rocks on the Antarctic Peninsula, the most aggressive land predator on the frozen continent is on the prowl -- for microscopic prey.

Animals such as lions, crocodiles or snakes thrive elsewhere on the planet, but Antarctica's most fearsome land predator is a reddish bug.

The continent is best known for penguins, seals and whales, but all rely on the sea for food, unlike its Lilliputian land-based creatures and plants -- so far almost unaffected by humans.

Scientists are stepping up their study of these tiny creatures in Antarctica for possible early warnings about how climate change may disrupt life around the planet in coming decades.

"Antarctica is strikingly different to other continents in terms of what you find on land," Pete Convey, a biologist at the British Antarctic Survey, said while peering at an apparently barren pile of rocks on the Antarctic Peninsula.

Better Earth

Aurora Watch January 17

Auroras Canada
© Claus VogelPangnirtung, Nunavut - Baffin Island, Canada, January 9, 2009.

A solar wind stream is heading toward Earth, due to arrive on Jan. 17th or 18th. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras.