Earth ChangesS

Cloud Lightning

US: Strong storms soak Plains states

Strong thunderstorms pounded the Kansas City, Mo., area, overnight, downing trees, filling waterways and leaving thousands powerless, officials said Tuesday.

The line of storms packed hurricane-force, straight-line winds that uprooted trees, damaged foundations and tossed cars across the road, KMBC-TV, Kansas City, reported. Utility companies along the storms' path reported thousands of customers were without electrical power.

In Tonganoxie, Mo., at least 6 inches of rain fell, while Olathe got 2 inches of rain in a 45-minute period, running off quickly into creeks, streams and rivers, KMBC said.


Ash plumes from Russian volcano prompt Air Canada travel advisory

Vancover, B.C. - A remote volcano on Russia's central Kuril Islands is affecting air travel between Vancouver and Asia.

Air Canada has issued an advisory warning that its flights between Vancouver and Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong could be disrupted by volcanic activity at Sarychev Peak.


Spain warns of summer jellyfish invasion on Mediterranean beaches

Portuguese Man-of-War
© Jim Simmen Portuguese Man-of-War Jellyfish

Holidaymakers are being warned to be vigilant when they take to the water and beware of the stinging menace in the shallows.

For the first time in a decade the potentially deadly Portuguese Man o' War, which are not strictly jellyfish but floating colonies of microscopic hydrozoans, has been spotted close to the beaches of the Costa del Sol.

With tentacles sometimes more than 30 yards long, which are barbed with a sting 10 times stronger than an ordinary jellyfish, it presents a more dangerous threat than the annual jellyfish invasion of Mediterranean beaches.

In extreme cases, the sting can cause heart failure in victims who are allergic to it.

Scientists fear the creatures could spread along the coast of Spain and invade waters around the Balearic Islands after venturing away from its north Atlantic habitat and through the Strait of Gibraltar.

Bizarro Earth

Typhoons take the pressure off earthquake zones

© NASASatellite captures typhoon Jangmi as it heads towards the coast of Taiwan
Can storms prevent nasty earthquakes? That's the suggestion of study showing that typhoons can trigger benign, "slow" quakes that ease the stress between tectonic plates.

Beneath Taiwan, a tectonic plate is diving under its neighbouring plate at one of the world's fastest rates. "You can almost watch them," says study co-author Alan Linde of the Carnegie Institution in Washington DC. Yet the island has had fewer big rumbles than you'd expect from such movement.

One explanation is that Taiwan undergoes slow earthquakes, in which crustal faults slip over hours or days, rather than seconds, creating no seismic judders.

Better Earth

Alaska's Rat Island rat-free after 229 years

© NASARat Island (26.7 km² in area) is one of the smaller islands to be found within the Rat Islands group which run along the central portions of the Aleutian arc for around 180 km.
Alaska's Rat Island is finally rat-free, 229 years after a Japanese shipwreck spilled rampaging rodents onto the remote Aleutian island, decimating the local bird population.

After dropping poison onto the island from helicopter-hoisted buckets for a week and a half last autumn, there are no signs of living rats and some birds have returned, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Rats have ruled the island since 1780, when they jumped off a sinking Japanese ship and terrorized all but the largest birds on the island. The incident introduced the non-native Norway rat -- also known as the brown rat -- to Alaska.

Bizarro Earth

Earthquake Magnitude 5.4 - Central Peru

© US Geological Survey
Monday, June 15, 2009 at 13:04:37 UTC
Monday, June 15, 2009 at 08:04:37 AM at epicenter

13.576°S, 75.993°W

53.2 km (33.1 miles) set by location program

20 km (15 miles) SE of Chincha Alta, Peru

55 km (35 miles) NNW of Ica, Peru

185 km (115 miles) SSW of Huancayo, Peru

200 km (125 miles) SE of LIMA, Peru


Science, belief and rational debate - AGW

The scientific method is a valuable way to advance objective knowledge. By testing a hypothesis against observation, it can either be falsified or supported. Not proved, of course, but nevertheless over time sufficient evidence can accumulate for a hypothesis to be generally accepted as the best available explanation. It is then known as a theory. Hence, although the vast majority of scientists and citizens (at least in Europe) accept Darwin's description of evolution, this is still regarded as a theory rather than fact. This is important, because as our understanding develops, apparently satisfactory theories may be replaced by others.

For simple things such as the effect of the Earth's gravity on objects we are familiar with, collecting the evidence is straightforward and no experiments have been done which contradict the theory of gravity. But over the last century, it has been accepted that classical Newtonian mechanics is actually only valid at a certain scale (which encompasses everything in our normal Earthbound existence). At the atomic scale, we enter the abstruse realm of quantum mechanics, and on a cosmic scale Einstein's theory of relativity is currently the best description of what goes on across the observable universe.

Importantly, both of these deviations from the familiar everyday world as explained by Newton arose because observation did not fit with prediction: the theory broke down at very large and very small scales. The boundaries of knowledge have since been pushed back steadily, leading to a general acceptance of quantum mechanics and relativity as the best theories to date to explain observations.

Bizarro Earth

Killer fungus spells disaster for wheat

A wheat disease that could destroy most of the world's main wheat crops could strike south Asia's vast wheat fields two years earlier than research had suggested, leaving millions to starve. The fungus, called Ug99, has spread from Africa to Iran, and may already be in Pakistan. If so, this is extremely bad news, as Pakistan is not only critically reliant on its wheat crop, it is also the gateway to the Asian breadbasket, including the vital Punjab region.

Scientists met this week in Syria to decide on emergency measures to track Ug99's progress. They hope to slow its spread by spraying fungicide or even stopping farmers from planting wheat in the spores' path. The only real remedy will be new wheat varieties that resist Ug99, and they may not be ready for five years. The fungus has just pulled ahead in the race.

Bizarro Earth

Crops Under Stress as Temperatures Fall

© ReutersWaterworld: Floodwater surrounding a farm near Fargo, North Dakota, in March 2009
Our politicians haven't noticed that the problem may be that the world is not warming but cooling, observes Christopher Booker.

For the second time in little over a year, it looks as though the world may be heading for a serious food crisis, thanks to our old friend "climate change". In many parts of the world recently the weather has not been too brilliant for farmers. After a fearsomely cold winter, June brought heavy snowfall across large parts of western Canada and the northern states of the American Midwest. In Manitoba last week, it was -4ºC. North Dakota had its first June snow for 60 years.


Climate change? Check this data

Next there is the problem of attributing temperature changes to CO2 emissions. In the recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Figure 9.1 shows that the main effect of CO2 over the past century (see panel (c)) should have been a strong warming in the mid-troposphere over the tropics. Figure 10.7 shows the same pattern resulting from current and future CO2 emissions. Changes are also projected at the surface in the polar regions. However they are not so easy to tie to greenhouse gases since those regions are also sensitive to solar variability and natural atmospheric oscillations.