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Thu, 30 Nov 2023
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Earth Changes


Over 200 New Amphibians Found in Madagascar

Highlighting a "vast underestimation" of Madagascar's natural riches, up to 221 new species of amphibians have been found on the island country, including the frog Boophis ulftunni, pictured. The find nearly doubles the number of known amphibians in Madagascar, a new study says.


Two Brown Bear Populations In Spain In Danger of Extinction Have Been Isolated For Past 50 Years

© Raphael Quinet/Creative Commons
The situation of bears in the Iberian Peninsula is critical.
The situation of bears in the Iberian Peninsula is critical. Researchers from the University of Oviedo (UO) and the Superior Council of Scientific Research (SCSR) have performed a genetic identification based on the analysis of stools and hair of brown bears (Ursus arctos) from the Cantabrian mountain range, gathered between 2004 and 2006.

The non-invasive analysis of 146 samples has allowed for the identification of 39 bears in the western sub-population, and 9 in the eastern one, so as to show the genetic structure of the population. In order to obtain the individual genotypes of the bears, scientists have employed 18 micro-satellite markers in a joint fashion, and a sex marker with high-class genetic technology.


'Sobering' Decline Of Caribbean's Big Fish, Fisheries: Overfishing Deemed Most Likely Cause

© Dean Grubbs
Sharks and other large predatory fish become rare on Caribbean reefs near large human populations.
Sharks, barracuda and other large predatory fishes disappear on Caribbean coral reefs as human populations rise, endangering the region's marine food web and ultimately its reefs and fisheries, according to a sweeping study by researcher Chris Stallings of The Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory.

While other scientists working in the Caribbean have observed the declines of large predators for decades, the comprehensive work by Stallings documents the ominous patterns in far more detail at a much greater geographic scale than any other research to date.

"Seeing evidence of this ecological and economic travesty played out across the entire Caribbean is truly sobering," said Associate Professor John Bruno of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who served as the PLoS One academic editor for Stallings' new paper.

Cloud Lightning

Rare derecho sweeps across Southern US - widespread damage

On Sunday, a significant windstorm called a derecho, swept across 5 states, knocking down trees and power lines across the South.

Southeast Texas, Central Louisiana, South Mississippi, South and parts of Central Alabama, and North Central Georgia all were affected.

© Jacksonville Examiner
A derecho is a widespread and long-lived, violent convectively induced straight-line windstorm that is associated with a fast-moving band of severe thunderstorms in the form of a squall line, usually taking the form of a bow echo.


Heavy rains kill 19 in Brazil, leave 186K homeless

Sao Paulo - Floods and mudslides from months of heavy rains in northern Brazil have driven more than 186,000 from their homes, killed at least 19 people and cut off shipments from a huge Amazon iron mine, officials said Tuesday.

Television footage showed the rooftops of houses poking out of inundated towns and people using boats to move around in their cities. Mudslides swamped homes and forced residents to move in with relatives and pack into emergency shelters.


1,200 homes ordered evacuated amid California wildfire

Santa Barbara - Authorities in Southern California have ordered about 1,200 homes to evacuate because of a wind-driven wildfire burning in Santa Barbara County.

Fire Capt. David Sadecki says the blaze, which erupted Tuesday afternoon, is burning less than a square mile along the foothills above Santa Barbara. He says winds are pushing the fire toward homes.

Magic Hat

Sun Oddly Quiet - Hints at Next "Little Ice Age"?

Spotless sun May 5, 2009

A prolonged lull in solar activity has astrophysicists glued to their telescopes waiting to see what the sun will do next - and how Earth's climate might respond.

The sun is the least active it's been in decades and the dimmest in a hundred years. The lull is causing some scientists to recall the Little Ice Age, an unusual cold spell in Europe and North America, which lasted from about 1300 to 1850.

The coldest period of the Little Ice Age, between 1645 and 1715, has been linked to a deep dip in solar storms known as the Maunder Minimum.

During that time, access to Greenland was largely cut off by ice, and canals in Holland routinely froze solid. Glaciers in the Alps engulfed whole villages, and sea ice increased so much that no open water flowed around Iceland in the year 1695.

But researchers are on guard against their concerns about a new cold snap being misinterpreted.

"[Global warming] skeptics tend to leap forward," said Mike Lockwood, a solar terrestrial physicist at the University of Southampton in the U.K. (Get the facts about global warming.) He and other researchers are therefore engaged in what they call "preemptive denial" of a solar minimum leading to global cooling.

Evil Rays

Hot-air doomsayers

In Heaven and Earth - Global Warming: The Missing Science, I predicted that the critics would play the man and not discuss the science. Initial criticism appeared before the book was released three weeks ago.

Well-known catastrophists criticised the book before they actually received a review copy. Critics, who have everything to gain by frightening us witless with politicised science, have now shown their true colours. No critic has argued science with me. I have just enjoyed a fortnight of being thrashed with a feather.

Despite having four review copies, ABC's Lateline photocopied parts of chapters and sent them to an expert on gravity, a biologist and one who produces computer models. These critics did not read the book in its entirety. The compere of Lateline claimed that he had read the book yet his questions showed the opposite. When uncritical journalists have no science training, then it is little wonder doomsday scenarios can seduce them.

In The Age (Insight, May 2), David Karoly claims that my book "does not support the answers with sources". Considering that the book has 2311 footnotes as sources, Karoly clearly had not read the book. Maybe Karoly just read up to page 21, which showed that his published selective use of data showed warming but, when the complete set of data was used, no such warming was seen.


'Stench of life' prevents ants from being buried alive

© National Academy of Sciences/PNAS
Pupae that had been coated with the chemicals that signal life - dolichodial and iridomyrmecin - were ignored by workers
Life really stinks for Argentine ants. New research shows that while alive, the ants produce two odoriferous chemicals that prevent their compatriots from immediately carting their bodies away to the 'morgue'.

Within minutes of their death, however, the conspicuous absence of these chemicals prompts workers to remove the carcasses, explaining how the foraging ants are able to detect and dispose of their dead before infectious pathogens and pungent chemicals fill the corpse.

The work overturns a long-held idea - first suggested by ant expert E. O. Wilson - that it is the buildup of fats after death that encourages workers to collect the dead.

Dong-Hwan Choe, an entomologist at the University of California, Riverside, says the accrual of fats can't explain why some ants and bees dispose of their dead well before the chemicals reach a high level.

Arrow Down

Strong winds knock down 270-year-old palm tree in West Bank

ancient palm tree
© Ma'an Images
Bystanders inspect the ancient palm tree
Hajj Abu Ala Al-Eteili wept when he awoke to find that high winds knocked down a 270-year-old palm tree in his garden in the West Bank city of Tulkarem on Monday morning.

Al-Eteili told Ma'an that that the tree was knocked down in the early morning hours. He said his father and grandfather were born during the tree's lifespan.

He said that he had cared for the tree his entire life and had taught his children to care for it.