Earth ChangesS

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Fifty percent of Honeybees gone in Japan

For the first time, Japan has been hit with a large-scale collapse of honeybee populations like that experienced in other countries around the world.

"There have been small-scale honeybee losses for many years, but a massive collapse like they had in the U.S. is very unusual," said Kiyoshi Kimura of the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science. "We must investigate the situation in Japan."


Russia: Kamchatka volcano Shiveluch emissed a 7-km column of ash

Kamchatka volcano Shiveluch has emissed a column of ash. Its height reaches 7 km above sea level. According to satellite observations an ash plum caused by last emission extendes 325 km southwestwards from the top of the mountain.

Shiveluch is one of the largest and most active Kamchatka volcanoes. It belongs to the Kliuchevskaya volcano group and is about 65,000 years old. Shiveluch is erupting during the last year being observated by Volcano logy Institute of Kamchatka. Volcano consists of two cones called Maliy and Bolshoy Shiveluch. Maliy Shiveluch is erupting now. The mountain grows constantly because of volcanic materials rising from the depths throughout crater.

Better Earth

Why freeing Willy was the wrong thing to do

© Sam Barcroft/Rex FeaturesKeiko, star of Free Willy, in playful mood
Willy was never really free. The killer whale star of the Hollywood movie Free Willy had to be cared for by humans even after he was released and he never successfully integrated with his wild kin. Researchers now say attempts to return him to the wild were misguided.

"We believe the best option for [Willy] was the open pen he had in Norway, with care from his trainers," says Malene Simon of the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, who participated in efforts to reintegrate the cetacean in the wild and is lead author of the study. "He could swim as much as he wanted to, had plenty of frozen herring - which he was very fond of - and the people that he was attached to kept him active."

The killer whale, whose real name was Keiko, died in December 2003, at about 26 years old. Despite efforts to integrate him with wild killer whales in Iceland towards the end of his life, he proved unable to interact with them or find food.

"While we as humans might find it appealing to free a long-term captive animal," the researchers say in the paper, "the survival and well-being of the animal may be severely impacted in doing so." The only cetaceans that have successfully been returned to the wild have been young and only kept in captivity for short periods.


Orchard Losses 'Threaten Species'

Use of few or no chemicals makes orchards good wildlife habitat
Traditional fruit orchards are vanishing from England's landscape - with serious consequences for wildlife, conservationists have warned.

The National Trust says 60% have disappeared since the 1950s, putting local varieties of apples, cherries, pears, plums and damsons under threat.

It is launching a £536,000 drive to reverse the decline of the orchards.

Their trees provide important habitats for species such as the noble chafer beetle and lesser spotted woodpecker.

The orchards - some with as few as five trees - also offer sources of pollen and nectar to bees, which are thought to be declining partly because of a lack of suitable food.

Pressure from commercial fruit growers has led many small-scale producers to develop their orchards or convert them to other uses.

Bizarro Earth

Update: Guerrero, Mexico: Earthquake Magnitude 5.6

© US Geological Survey

* Monday, April 27, 2009 at 16:46:28 UTC

* Monday, April 27, 2009 at 11:46:28 AM at epicenter

* Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones

Location 17.069°N, 99.386°W

Depth 35 km (21.7 miles) set by location program

Distances 55 km (35 miles) SSE of Chilpancingo, Guerrero, Mexico

60 km (40 miles) ENE of Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico

140 km (90 miles) S of Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico

260 km (160 miles) S of MEXICO CITY, D.F., Mexico


Hopeless blend of hot air and hubris

The ancient Greeks invented the idea of hubris, of human beings having overweening pride and self-esteem that needed to be punished for its excess. There are perhaps those who believe that what is commonly called climate change is a punishment for hubris, for human beings having gone beyond their place in the scheme of things.

However, an equally good case can be made that the call for human beings to make far-reaching changes to their way of life in response to climate change is itself a form of hubris. To begin, it is based on the belief that human endeavours, in the shape of industrial development, have had such an impact on the Earth that they threaten to disrupt its environment on an enormous scale. Not only have humans made such an impact on the planet, they are also capable, through an act of will, of reversing that impact and setting things right.


Colombia: Galeras volcano erupts again

The Galeras volcano in the south Colombia Nariño department erupted again Friday, causing authorities to raise the alert level to red.

The eruption occurred Friday night, only a few hours after authorities noticed the first seimic activity within the volcano. The population living in the vicinity of the volcano, were ordered to evactuate. Some 200 people responded to that request.

Bizarro Earth

5.3 magnitude Earthquake rocks Eastern Indonesia

An earthquake with the magnitude of 5.3 struck eastern parts of Indonesia on Monday morning, but with no report of damage or casualties, local meteorology agency said here. The quake jolted at 01:14 Jakarta time (1814 GMT Sunday) with the epicenter at 28 km southeast Melongue town of north Suawesi and at 34 km in depth, the agency said.


US: Myrtle Beach area fire still seething, but containment efforts are paying off

Myrtle beach fire 2009
© Randall Hill - Sun NewsA house on Swift Street in Barefoot Resort lies in ruin after a brush fire several homes in the community early Thursday morning.

A study in contrasts, a pristine slate house on Woodlawn Drive stands in front of a landscape of charred trees and blackened soil.

The burned soil sits within 15 feet of the home's neat garden, and firefighters huddle near a truck watching the smoldering plumes, vigilant in case they should flare.

With a total of 76 homes destroyed in a wildfire that began Wednesday afternoon, emergency workers focused Saturday on continued containment and preventing refires.

At about 8 p.m. Saturday about 85 percent of the blaze was contained, said spokesman Scott Hawkins, with the state forestry commission. Most major roads except S.C. 31 have been reopened and all shelters have closed.

The reported number of acres damaged fell from about 20,500 acres to 19,600 acres Saturday due to better access to geographic informations system mapping data, Hawkins said.


US: Study documents new, rare creatures in Smokies

While most visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park have probably heard about the black bears that roam the park, few have heard about the water bears.

Known formally as tardigrades, water bears are microscopic, eight-legged creatures that exist in sediments and soils. Though they occur nearly everywhere on earth, few scientists have bothered to study the species.

That has left the field wide open for Paul Bartels, a biology professor at Warren Wilson College. Bartels and his students have discovered 78 species of tardigrades in the Smokies, including 18 new to science.