Earth ChangesS


Mysterious Bat Disease Decimates Colonies: Newly Identified Fungus Implicated In White-nose Syndrome

A previously undescribed, cold-loving fungus has been linked to white-nose syndrome, a condition associated with the deaths of over 100,000 hibernating bats in the northeastern United States. The findings are published in this week's issue of Science.

The probable cause of these bat deaths has puzzled researchers and resource managers urgently trying to understand why the bats were dying in such unprecedented numbers. Since the winter of 2006-07, bat declines at many surveyed hibernation caves exceeded 75 percent.
brown bat
© Al Hicks, NY DECLittle brown bat with fungus on muzzle.

The fungus - a white, powdery-looking organism - is commonly found on the muzzles, ears and wings of afflicted dead and dying bats, though researchers have not yet determined that it is the only factor causing bats to die. Most of the bats are also emaciated, and some of them leave their hibernacula - winter caves where they hibernate - to seek food that they will not find in winter.

USGS microbiologist and lead author David Blehert isolated the fungus in April 2008, and identified it as a member of the group Geomyces. The research was conducted by U.S. Geological Survey scientists in collaboration with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the New York State Department of Health, and others.


Increased bacterial infection outbreaks in California sea lions in Monterey Bay

Researchers are trying to understand why there is a surge in the number of California sea lions in Monterey Bay stricken by a potentially deadly bacterial infection.

This year researchers report more than 100 animals coming to the center with leptospirosis - a bacterial disease that affects the kidneys and can be deadly if animals are left untreated.

"And we are still in the midst of our year," says Dr. Jeffrey Boehm, executive director at the Marine Mammal Center. "When we tally the numbers up, we're going to see another year like one of those surge years."


Climate Change Seeps Into The Sea

Good news has turned out to be bad.

The ocean has helped slow global warming by absorbing much of the excess heat and heat-trapping carbon dioxide that has been going into the atmosphere since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

All that extra carbon dioxide, however, has been a bitter pill for the ocean to swallow. It's changing the chemistry of seawater, making it more acidic and otherwise inhospitable, threatening many important marine organisms.
plankton bloom off Norway
© NASAMODIS image showing a plankton bloom off Norway.

Bizarro Earth

Mega-tsunami hit southeast Asia 700 years ago

Hong Kong - A mega-tsunami struck southeast Asia 700 years ago rivaling the deadly one in 2004, two teams of geologists said after finding sedimentary evidence in coastal marshes.

Researchers in Thailand and Indonesia wrote in two articles in Nature magazine that the tsunami hit around 1400, long before historical records of earthquakes in the region began.
tsunami hit building at Peraliya
© REUTERS/Buddhika Weerasinghe A person drives past a tsunami hit building at Peraliya in Hikkaduwa, December 23, 2007.

"Tsunamis are something we never experienced before and after 2004, people thought it was something we would never experience again," Kruawun Jankaew of Thailand's Chulalongkorn University told Reuters by telephone.

Cloud Lightning

Switzerland: All-time record snow storm triggers delays

Snow flurries throughout the night and early morning caused numerous delays for travellers using Switzerland's rail system on Thursday.

A heavy, wet snow snapped trees, which fell across tracks. The most affected regions included Zurich, Schaffhausen in the north and the areas around the Gotthard pass in central Switzerland.

Passengers moving between Spiez and Interlaken south of Bern were forced to take buses when rail service there was interrupted around 7am. Broken branches and trees blocked roads.

Farmers in the Bernese Oberland also awoke to snow-related problems. Damaged fences allowed their cows to wander freely.


At least 215 dead as quake hits southwest Pakistan

Pakistan earthquake
© AP Photo/Arshad ButtPakistani villagers look at children who were killed by the earthquake in Ziarat, about 130 kilometers, 80 miles, south of Quetta, Pakistan on Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008.
Wam - Desperate villagers clawed through piles of mud and timber looking for victims of an earthquake that collapsed thousands of homes in southwestern Pakistan before dawn Wednesday, killing at least 215 people.

As rescue workers resumed their search Thursday morning, officials said hopes of finding more survivors in the debris left by the 6.4-magnitude quake had dimmed.


Chinese farmers use rockets to scare fruit-eating monkeys

Farmers from the small Taiwanese village of Yunlin have been forced to hire fireworks experts to save their harvest from fruit-eating macaques, the China Post newspaper said on Wednesday.

Japanese persimmon orchards have just started to ripen, but are being raided by macaque monkeys. Killing macaques, which are an endangered species in Taiwan, is banned under wildlife protection laws.


Singing duets helps sperm whales to bond

Sperm whales may take as much pleasure in singing well-timed duets as humans do.

New underwater recordings have shown that the whales carefully coordinate their song to match the calls of their singing partner. The animals appear to enjoy singing to each other, possibly to strengthen relationships among females within the group.

Till now biologists had assumed that the sounds with which whales communicate are mainly intended to scout out other members of their group. But humpback males are thought to woo females with solo love songs, and male killer whales whistle to each other, perhaps to help social bonding.


US: 40,000 still lack power after Northeast storm

Albany, NY - Thousands of utility customers around the Northeast awoke without power Wednesday, a day after the season's first big snowstorm blew through the region.

The wet snow fell on trees still covered in fall leaves, and its weight, combined with gusty wind, sent limbs crashing down on power lines.
snow plow
© Associated Press Photo/Mike GrollA snow plow clears a highway in Westerlo, N.Y., Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2008. The National Weather Service said snowfall totals by Wednesday morning could range from a few inches in areas south of Buffalo and around Albany to 8 to 12 inches in the Adirondacks and the Tug Hill Plateau north of Syracuse.

In upstate New York, more than 40,000 customers remained without power early Wednesday, most of them in the Mohawk Valley, Adirondacks and the Catskills, according to statements by utilities National Grid and New York State Electric & Gas.

Cloud Lightning

Eyewitness: Honduras flood disaster

Honduras floods
Seventeen out of the 18 regions of Honduras have had flooding of some kind
Heavy rain has soaked much of Central America since the beginning of October.

Honduras is one of the worst affected countries, with more than 30 people dead and 40,000 others forced from their homes.

Claudina Reyes, a Christian Aid representative in Honduras, describes the situation: