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Sun, 28 May 2023
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Earth Changes


Earth's Magnetic Field Is Fading

Magnetic field
© Unknown
Earth's magnetic field is fading. Today it is about 10 percent weaker than it was when German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss started keeping tabs on it in 1845, scientists say.

If the trend continues, the field may collapse altogether and then reverse. Compasses would point south instead of north.

Not surprisingly, Hollywood has already seized on this new twist in the natural-disaster genre. Last year Tinseltown released The Core, a film in which the collapse of Earth's magnetic field leads to massive electrical storms, blasts of solar radiation, and birds incapable of navigation.

Entertainment value aside, the portrayal wasn't accurate, according to scientists who say the phenomenon of Earth's fading magnetic field is no cause to worry.

Arrow Up

Ocean Warming, Not Global Warming: Hydrothermal "Megaplume" Found in Indian Ocean

An enormous hydrothermal "megaplume" found in the Indian Ocean serves as a dramatic reminder that underwater volcanoes likely play an important role in shaping Earth's ocean systems, scientists report.

The plume, which stretches some 43.5 miles (70 kilometers) long, appears to be active on a previously unseen scale.

"In a nutshell, this thing is at least 10 times - or possibly 20 times - bigger than anything of its kind that's been seen before," said Bramley Murton of the British National Oceanography Centre.

Scientists reported the finding last week at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco. Researchers also announced newly discovered deep-sea hydrothermal fields in the Arctic Ocean and the south Atlantic.

Cell Phone

Losing the Buzz?

© Pune Mirror
The effects of cellphone radiation being observed in an artificial hive as part of the Punjab University experiment
A recent study reiterates the effects of cellphone tower radiation on honey bees. Mumbai, with its 1,000-plus towers, has cause for serious concern

Humans will not be the lone beneficiaries of a study recently sought by the chief minister on the ill-effects of radiation from cellphones and Mumbai's 1,000-plus cellphone towers.

The initiative may just come to the timely rescue of the city's endangered honeybee population. And if you think that the bee is too small a concern to hit your radar, consider what Einstein said: "If the bee disappears from the surface of the Earth, man would have no more than four years to live."

A recent experiment conducted by the Punjab University at Chandigarh reiterates the finding that honeybees are disappearing from their colonies because of the electro-pollution in the environment.

Better Earth

Grid Confronts a Threat from Mother Nature

A report just issued by the Energy Department and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, known as Nerc, an industry group that polices the power grid, lists three categories of threats to the grid: coordinated cyber- and physical attacks, pandemic disease and electromagnetic damage.

Grid experts have long worried that the high-altitude detonation of a nuclear weapon would send a damaging pulse of energy to earth. And changes in solar activity have occasionally distorted the earth's magnetic field and generated currents in the rock that have caused blackouts.

What the threats have in common, said Jerry Cauley, the president and chief executive of Nerc, is the "potential to simultaneously impact many assets at once.'' The grid comprises 200,000 miles of transmission lines and millions of digital controls, he pointed out. The study is an attempt to map out preparations for events that are rare or have so far never happened, what the Energy Department calls "high-impact, low-frequency events."

Bizarro Earth

Ancient oceans belched stagnant CO2 into the skies

At the end of the last ice age, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels shot up by nearly 50 per cent. But where did the CO2 come from? This long-standing climatic mystery has now been solved.

Climate scientists have suspected - but never been able to prove - that the CO2 was the result of a huge belch of gas from the oceans. They predicted that the ice age had slowed ocean circulation, trapping CO2 deep within it, and that warmer temperatures reversed this process.

Signs of stagnant CO2-rich water have now been discovered 3700 metres beneath the Southern Ocean's seabed, between Antarctica and South Africa.

Stewart Fallon of the Australian National University in Canberra and his colleagues collected samples from drill cores of the marine crust of tiny marine fossils called foraminifera. Different species of these lived at the surface and the bottom of the ocean. The chemical composition of their shells is dependent on the water they form in and how much CO2 it contains.


Earth's magnetic field gathers momentum

© NASA /Gary A Glatzmaier
The geodynamo is a complex mix of fluid and magnetism
Physicists in France have linked subtle variations in the length of day with conditions in the Earth's core - where the Earth's magnetic field originates. The finding could improve our poor understanding of how the field is generated and why it changes in response to conditions deep within the Earth's interior.

Molten iron flowing in the outer core generates the Earth's geodynamo, leading to a planetary-scale magnetic field. Beyond this, though, geophysicists know very little for certain about the field, such as its strength in the core or why its orientation fluctuates regularly. Researchers do suspect, however, that field variations are strongly linked with changing conditions within the molten core.

As we cannot access the Earth's core directly, researchers look to clues at the Earth's surface. One intriguing suggestion is that changing conditions at the core could have an impact on angular momentum throughout the whole Earth system. The implication is that variation to the flow patterns in the core could have an impact on the Earth's rotation, which could lead to slight variations in the length of a day.

Cloud Lightning

Tropical storm hits Pakistan's largest city; 7 die

© (AP Photo/Shakil Adil)
A child walks through flood waters caused by torrential rains outside his home in Karachi, Pakistan, Sunday, June 6, 2010. An approaching tropical storm triggered torrential rains in Pakistan's largest city and surrounding areas on Sunday, collapsing mud houses and submerging roads.
Karachi - A tropical storm lashed Pakistan's coast with torrential rains and heavy winds Sunday, damaging mud houses and submerging roads in the country's largest city. Seven people were electrocuted in floodwaters, officials said.

Authorities feared worse flooding was to come in and around Karachi and tried to evacuate people from their homes elsewhere along the country's southern coastline. Some villagers refused to move, but several thousand people shifted to higher ground, said Hamal Kalmati, a government minister in Baluchistan province.

He said many mud houses in Gawadar and Pasni districts had already collapsed.

The storm made landfall late Sunday to the east of Karachi, bringing winds as high as 50 miles (80 kilometers) per hour. The meteorological department said ocean storm surges of between 2 and 4 meters were likely in Karachi and other coastal towns.


Sickening New Images of the Helpless Wildlife Dying in the Muck of the BP Spill

© AP Photo
A brown pelican is seen on the beach at East Grand Terre Island along the Louisiana coast
The bird struggles out of the sludge, fighting for air, oil dripping from its wings.

It could be an image from a grisly sci-fi movie. But it is not. This bird is a shocking illustration of the catastrophic impact of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill on local wildlife.

The pelican - the official bird of Louisiana - was one of a number that were saved off the coast of the state.

They were barely able to walk or get out of the sea near East Grand Terre island, where officials found around 35 of the birds.

They were treated with detergents to wash off the oil. Many more animals have not been so lucky. More than 400 dead birds have so far been recovered.

Images such as this will only fuel anger towards BP as the spill enters its 46th day and the company struggles to stem the flow of oil from the ruptured Deepwater Horizon well.

Previously, photographs of wildlife coated in an oily sheen were as bad as it got. But now the animals are drowning in the muck, as thick and sticky as treacle, and much, much harder to clean up.

Bizarro Earth

US: 5 killed in heavy storms sweeping through Midwest

© AP Photo/Paul Sancya
Bethany Millhime looks for personal belongings in the aftermath of tornado damage in Millbury, Ohio Sunday, June 6, 2010.
Millbury, Ohio - Tornadoes and thunderstorms swept through the Midwest overnight, destroying dozens of homes and upending school buses and police cars in one miles-long trail of destruction in Ohio, and ripping off siding on a nuclear plant in Michigan. At least five people died in Ohio, including a child, authorities said.

Rescue officials in northwest Ohio were still searching through homes Sunday and couldn't say whether anyone else was missing, Lake Township Fire Chief Todd Walters said. Police Chief Mark Hummer flew over the damaged area and said at least 50 homes were destroyed and another 50 severely damaged, as well as six commercial buildings. He estimated a 7-mile path of destruction about 100 yards wide. The storm that hit around 11 p.m. Saturday fell over an area of farm fields and light industry, narrowly missing the heavily populated suburbs on the southern edge of Toledo.

"It's a war zone," Hummer said. "It's pretty disheartening."

Hummer said that among those killed were a person outside the police department and a motorist. He said a young child and two other victims were from nearby Millbury, a bedroom community of roughly 1,200 about 10 miles southeast of Toledo. The National Weather Service had confirmed Sunday afternoon that a Toledo-area tornado was part of the storm, said Meteorologist Marty Mullen of the service's Cleveland office.

Click here to see tornado damage photos.

Bizarro Earth

Gulf oil spill's threat to wildlife turns real

P.J. Hahn lifts an oil-covered pelican
© AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
Plaquemines Parish coastal zone director P.J. Hahn lifts an oil-covered pelican which was stuck in oil at Queen Bess Island in Barataria Bay, just off the Gulf of Mexico in Plaquemines Parish, La., Saturday, June 5, 2010.

On Barataria Bay, Louisiana - The wildlife apocalypse along the Gulf Coast that everyone has feared for weeks is fast becoming a terrible reality.

Pelicans struggle to free themselves from oil, thick as tar, that gathers in hip-deep pools, while others stretch out useless wings, feathers dripping with crude. Dead birds and dolphins wash ashore, coated in the sludge. Seashells that once glinted pearly white under the hot June sun are stained crimson.

Scenes like this played out along miles of shoreline Saturday, nearly seven weeks after a BP rig exploded and the wellhead a mile below the surface began belching millions of gallon of oil.