Earth ChangesS


Watchers Track Butterflies for Environment Signs

© AP Photo/John BazemoreJerry Payne looks for butterflies during the annual butterfly count in Hillsboro, Ga., Friday, June 26, 2009.
The rusty van creaks to a halt and two men jump out, binoculars in hand, heads pivoting. Quickly, questioningly, they call out evocative names: Is that a Pearl Crescent? A Carolina Satyr? A Sleepy Orange? A Swarthy Skipper?

It's butterfly counting time at a central Georgia wildlife refuge. That means a sweaty but fun outing for these two men, one a retired entomologist, the other the abbot of a Roman Catholic monastery. But it has a serious side: some researchers worry butterfly populations may be in decline, possibly signaling a worsening environment.

The flying insects are often viewed as canaries in a coal mine because they are sensitive to changes in their habitats.

Alarm Clock

Plague strikes French oysters

France's oysters have been struck by a mystery plague that has killed millions of the prized shellfish and plunged the industry into crisis for the second year running.

Scientists have yet properly to determine what has caused up to 90 per cent of baby and juvenile oysters, due to be eaten by Christmas 2010, to have died.

Producers in Normandy are so worried that last month they handed out free boxes of the shellfish near Caen chanting: "Take these oysters, they may be the last you'll ever eat."

Arrow Down

US: July was coolest on record in Iowa

Preliminary statistics show Iowa has just experienced its coolest July on record.

"Time will tell if that's good or bad," said State Climatologist Harry Hillaker. "It means better air-conditioning bills than usual. About 35 percent less air-conditioning requirement as a normal July."

"For the most part it's been good for the crops," Hillaker said of the remarkably low July readings. "The good news is that corn and beans were planted on time, except for extreme southern Iowa. So most of the state will have a full planting season."


As millions of Britons holiday at home after that promise of a 'barbecue summer', how did the Met Office get it so wrong?

UK flooded summer
© North News and Pictures LTDA boating holiday in the Lakes: Seven-year-old Max Preston, from Merseyside, paddles his kayak around the tents on a campsite near Keswick

The campers paddling between flooded tents didn't need to be told. Neither did the families huddling for shelter beside deserted beaches.

But yesterday the weathermen officially admitted that their prediction of a 'barbecue summer' had been hopelessly wrong.

And the bad news for millions of holidaymakers, many of whom had opted to stay in Britain on the strength of the optimistic forecast, is that after a soggy July, August will be no better.

As the Met Office rather sheepishly announced that it had 'revised' its seasonal forecast, the tourism industry was asking how the experts got things so badly wrong.

There were even fears that disappointment over the third wet summer in a row could put some families off British holidays for good.


UK: Sammy Wilson pours scorn on Met Office

Former Environment Minister Sammy Wilson has joined criticism of the Met Office as it defended its failure to predict our wet summer - saying it has "egg on its face".

The East Antrim MP, who has been criticised for his disbelief in man-made global warming, accused the Met Office of losing credibility after initially predicting a heatwave summer which turned into a washout.

Back in April, it issued a seasonal forecast that sparked hopes for a warm and sunny season, described as a "barbecue summer", based on its long-range forecast.

But in an update yesterday the situation was rather wetter, prompting questions over the usefulness and accuracy of long-term forecasting.


Record setting cool weather hits Denver and brings snow to the mountains

Rocky Mountains
© Victor LewisDenver has record setting cool temperatures and snow arrives in
the Rocky Mountains.

While some parts of the nation experience record setting heat, Denver today had the opposite problem. The high temperature as measured at Denver International Airport reached a mere 64 degrees. This was two degrees below the previous record low maximum temperature of 66 degrees for this date set in 1925 and previous years. That is also an amazing 24 degrees below the normal temperature for this time of year!


Rise of the Natural Climate Cycle Deniers

Those who promote the theory that mankind is responsible for global warming have been working for the past 20 years on a revisionist climate history. A history where climate was always in a harmonious state of balance until mankind came along and upset that balance.

The natural climate cycle deniers have tried their best to eliminate the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age from climate data records by constructing the uncritically acclaimed and infamous "hockey stick" of global temperature variations (or non-variations) over the last one- to two-thousand years.

Before being largely discredited by a National Academies review panel, this 'poster child' for global warming was heralded as proof of the static nature of the climate system, and that only humans had the power to alter it.

While the panel was careful to point out that the hockey stick might be correct, they said that the only thing science could say for sure is that it has been warmer lately than anytime in the last 400 years. Since most of those 400 years was during the Little Ice Age, I would say this is a good thing. It's like saying this summer has been warmer than any period since...last fall.


Ocean swimmers stir the seas

Next time you go for a dip in the sea, bear in mind that your deft front crawl is helping to mix up the waters. In fact, marine life may be stirring the oceans and moving nutrients around as much as winds or tides.


US: Northwest Heat Wave Sets Records

Brutal temperatures are predicted for the Seattle area on Wednesday as a record heat wave afflicting the Pacific Northwest continues, a National Weather Service meteorologist said.

The high temperature could easily tie or break the all-time record temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit set July 20, 1994, at Seattle's Sea-Tac Airport, the weather service's Jay Albrecht said.

"There's not going to be a whole lot of places to get away from the heat tomorrow," he said Tuesday.

Another day of high heat for the normally temperate region follows a Tuesday that saw the thermometer hit 106 F at Portland International Airport, just short of the 107 F all-time mark for the area set in 1981.

"The thing about a place like Portland is there are some buildings and residences that don't have air conditioning," said Andy Bryant, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service. "You go to Phoenix or Dallas, yes it would be very hot there, too, but they have more of a system in place to deal with it."


Global warming is ruining my summer

Yeah, yeah, yeah. We all know it's not just global warming. It's climate change. It's affecting everyone, everywhere. Oceans are rising, icebergs are calving, tsunamis and hurricanes are ravaging the coasts, and the polar bears had better find a nice fat seal to use as a floatation device.

But let's talk about me. Number one problem: I wait all year for summer. Literally drag myself through winter days and chilly spring and beg on bended knee for a sweltering hot day or three.

Well, it's summer. It says so on the calendar (and God forbid we question the calendar). And the so-called marine layer won't go away. June gloom has crept into July and is heading for August. And how many tomatoes have I harvested? Um, like three cherry tomatoes, and I don't think they were even ripe yet.