Earth ChangesS

Cloud Lightning

US: Tornado Warning Issued in Los Angeles

Los Angeles - A storm moving through Central and Southern California has brought high winds, waves and lightning, prompting a tornado warning and pier closures.

Los Angeles County firefighters report minor street and building flooding in some areas of Los Angeles County on Tuesday but there are no reports of major damage or injuries.

Officials shut down piers in Ventura, Seal Beach, Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach because of 15-foot waves.

Bizarro Earth

Cayman Islands: Earthquake Magnitude 5.8

Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 14:23:38 UTC

Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 09:23:38 AM at epicenter

19.020°N, 80.779°W

10 km (6.2 miles) set by location program

70 km (45 miles) ESE of George Town, Cayman Islands

305 km (190 miles) WNW of Montego Bay, Jamaica

345 km (215 miles) S of Cienfuegos, Cuba

750 km (465 miles) S of Miami, Florida


Cuba cold snap kills 26 at psychiatric hospital

Twenty-six patients at Cuba's top hospital for the mentally ill died this week during a cold snap, the government said Friday.

Human rights leaders cited negligence and a lack of resources as factors in the deaths, and the Health Ministry launched an investigation that it said could lead to criminal proceedings.

A Health Ministry communique read on state television blamed "prolonged low temperatures that fell to 38 degrees Fahrenheit (4 Celsius) in Boyeros," the neighborhood where Havana's Psychiatric Hospital is located.

Cloud Lightning

Kenyan flood death toll rises to 38: Red Cross

Nairobi - Floods in Kenya after heavy rains have killed 38 people and forced more than 40,000 from their homes, the Red Cross said Thursday.

While rainfall has been minimal in many parts of east Africa's biggest economy this week, the impact of heavy downpours since December is still wreaking havoc.

Flash floods in the coastal district of Malindi Thursday caused a river to change course and submerge 100 acres of maize crops, a staple food in Kenya, the Red Cross said.

"Livelihoods have been greatly affected and are in dire need of humanitarian aid," it said.

The arid northern region of Turkana, which has been suffering from drought, was badly hit. The Red Cross said 8 people had died and nearly 5,000 households were uprooted by floods.

The heavy rains have been blamed on El Nino weather patterns across east Africa and are a mixed blessing for Kenya which is emerging from one of the worst spells of drought in years.


It's summer in Australia... and it's snowing!

Canberra - Australia is following its second-hottest year on record with extraordinary snow flurries in its southeastern alpine region, where some towns have recorded their first-ever summer snowfalls.

Australia's temperatures during the summer months of December through February can be uncomfortably hot even on its highest peak, Mount Kosciuszko, which stands a modest 7,310 feet (2,228 meters) above sea level.

Snow fell to 3,000 feet (900 meters) above sea level Monday in parts of New South Wales and Victoria states, Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Jane Golding said.

"Any time of year, it's unusual to have snow down that far," she said.

Golding said a cold front had brought frigid air from the Antarctic Ocean to southeast Australia. Normal summer temperatures are expected to return to the region on Wednesday.

The town of Bombala in New South Wales, east of Kosciuszko, recorded its first summer snow since the bureau began keeping records there in 1965, Golding said.


Flashback Himalayan Glaciers Are Actually Growing

© iStockPhotoThe summit of Mt. Everest's K2: glaciers are in fact growing, not shrinking as previously thought
Perched on the soaring Karakoram mountains in the Western Himalayas, a group of some 230 glaciers are bucking the global warming trend. They're growing.

Throughout much of the Tibetan Plateau, high-altitude glaciers are dwindling in the face of rising temperatures. The situation is potentially dire for the hundreds of millions of people living in China, India and throughout southeast Asia who depend on the glaciers for their water supply.

But in the rugged western corner of the plateau, the story is different, according to a new study. Among legendary peaks of Mt. Everest like K2 and Nanga Parbat, glaciers with a penthouse view of the world are growing, and have been for almost three decades.


UN climate report: Scientist warned glacier forecast was wrong

A top scientist said Monday he had warned in 2006 that a prediction of catastrophic loss of Himalayan glaciers, published months later by the UN's Nobel-winning climate panel, was badly wrong.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report said in 2007 it was "very likely" that the glaciers, which supply water to more than a billion people across Asia, would vanish by 2035 if global warming trends continued.

"This number is not just a little bit wrong, but far out of any order of magnitude," said Georg Kaser, an expert in tropical glaciology at the University of Innsbruck in Austria.

Cloud Lightning

Extremely cold snow storms kill 4 in northwest China, while 800,000 animals perish in Mongolia

© Adam Dean
Rescue workers evacuated thousands of rural residents from parts of northwestern China after extreme cold and blizzard conditions killed four people and left half a million snowed under, meteorologists said Monday.

In neighboring Mongolia, an official appealed for help from the international community as his country battles the most severe winter it has seen in three decades.

Storms in China's far western Xinjiang flattened or damaged about 100,000 homes and more than 15,000 head of livestock were killed by the cold front that set in Sunday night.


Pesticides Loom Large in Animal Die-offs

Yale's Environment 360 has a new must-read report by Sonia Shah linking pesticides to the high-profile die-offs among amphibians, bees, and bats. What makes this news timely isn't necessarily the toxicity of the pesticides per se, it's the indirect effects on these animals of chronic, low-dose exposure to chemicals:
In the past dozen years, no fewer than three never-before-seen diseases have decimated populations of amphibians, bees, and - most recently - bats. A growing body of evidence indicates that pesticide exposure may be playing an important role in the decline of the first two species, and scientists are investigating whether such exposures may be involved in the deaths of more than 1 million bats in the northeastern United States over the past several years.

... The recent spate of widespread die-offs began in amphibians. Scientists discovered the culprit - an aquatic fungus called Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, of a class of fungi called "chytrids" - in 1998. Its devastation, says amphibian expert Kevin Zippel, is "unlike anything we've seen since the extinction of the dinosaurs." Over 1,800 species of amphibians currently face extinction.

It may be, as many experts believe, that the chytrid fungus is a novel pathogen, decimating species that have no armor against it, much as Europe's smallpox and measles decimated Native Americans in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. But "there is a really good plausible story of chemicals affecting the immune system and making animals more susceptible," as well, says San Francisco State University conservation biologist Carlos Davidson.

Better Earth

In Ecuador, Trees Now Have Rights

On September 29, the Associated Press reported that Ecuador's new constitution would "significantly expand leftist President Rafael Correa's powers." It wasn't until the end of a 15-paragraph article that the AP mentioned the new constitution - approved by 65 percent of voters - "guarantees free education through university and social security benefits for stay-at-home mothers." Also missing from the AP's report: any mention that Ecuador's voters had just ratified the world's first "eco-constitution," a pioneering document that, for the first time in human history, extends "inalienable rights to nature."

Not too long ago, Ecuador would have seemed an unlikely nation to become the birthplace of Earth's first green constitution. To service its massive debt to US creditors, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund forced Ecuador to open its pristine Amazon forests to foreign oil companies. Nearly 30 years of drilling enriched ChevronTexaco, desecrated the northern Amazon, and utterly failed to improve the lives of millions of poor Ecuadoreans. Amazon Watch estimates that Texaco damaged 2.5 million acres of rainforest, left the landscape pitted with 600 toxic waste pits, and polluted the rivers and streams that some 30,000 people rely on. Cancer rates in the area where Texaco operated are 130 percent of the national norm, and childhood leukemia occurs at a rate four times higher than in other parts of Ecuador.