Earth ChangesS


'Lost World' Beneath The Caribbean

Scientists at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, are set to explore the world's deepest undersea volcanoes and find out what lives in a 'lost world' five kilometres beneath the Caribbean.


The team of researchers led by Dr Jon Copley has been awarded £462,000 by the Natural Environment Research Council to explore the Cayman Trough, which lies between Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. This rift in the Caribbean seafloor plunges to a depth of more than 5000 metres below sea level. It contains the world's deepest chain of undersea volcanoes, which have yet to be explored.

The researchers are planning two expeditions over the next three years using the UK's newest research ship, RRS James Cook. From the ship, the team will send the UK's remotely-operated vehicle Isis and a new British robot submarine called Autosub6000 into the abyss.


Volcanic Sunsets

This weekend, observers around Europe are reporting the same "volcanic sunsets" widely observed last week in North America. "The evening sky on Aug 29th was conspicuously purple," reports Marco Langbroek of Leiden, the Netherlands.

"This was probably due to aerosols in the stratosphere spewed by the August 7th eruption of the Kasatochi volcano in the Aleutian Islands." He photographed the display using his Canon 450D:

Volcanic sunsets
©Marco Langbroek

Bizarro Earth

New Orleans ports brace for Hurricane Gustav

Houston - Ship movement along the Mississippi River south of New Orleans stopped on Saturday as powerful Hurricane Gustav churned toward the Louisiana coast, and port operators made last-minute preparations.

The landfall location for Gustav, now a Category 4 hurricane with top winds of 150 miles per hour (240 kph), was still uncertain, but forecasters said Gustav was likely to near the central Louisiana coast by late Monday or early Tuesday.

Red Flag

Gustav Now Major Hurricane - And Picking Up Steam

Declared a Category 4 storm Saturday afternoon, Hurricane Gustav continues to strengthen and will soon reach Category 5 status - the highest - according to U.S. officials.

Bizarro Earth

Historic volcanic activity and mass extinction of marine life explored

University of Alberta scientists discover volcanic eruptions on the ocean floor caused a drop in CO2 concentrations and a mass extinction of marine life

It sounds like a science fiction movie: a warm and watery North Pole, high carbon dioxide levels, giant clams trolling ocean floors, and volcanoes as large as a Canadian province. Then, a massive wipeout of ocean life.

This dystopia is not fiction, but an episode in Earth's long history, occurring 94 million years ago during the Cretaceous period. A geological mystery for years, recent discoveries have enabled two University of Alberta scientists to shed light on what caused this large-scale extinction.

Steven Turgeon, one of the leading researchers in the study that has garnered international attention and whose findings are now largely accepted, said he is "97 per cent" sure that it was volcanic activity in the ocean bed that triggered a chain reaction, ultimately resulting in the widespread extinction of marine life.

"Previously there was some speculation that it might have been caused by a meteorite," said Turgeon, who worked with Robert Creaser, also an Earth and Atmospheric Sciences professor. "Both volcanism and meteorites have the same isotopic signature. But we now know from our analysis of deposits that what caused the dinosaurs to die off did not cause this."

Bizarro Earth

India floods strand hundreds of thousands, displace millions

The deluge came and turned his world to water, so Umesh Kushyaha decided to build a boat.

Kushyaha squatted Saturday hammering nails into his rickety-looking wooden row boat on the side of the road, a lone strip of dry land that cuts across miles of water. He was preparing for what authorities say will be months more of life submerged under flood waters.

About 1.2 million people have been left homeless and scores have been killed in the impoverished state of Bihar in the two weeks since the monsoon-swollen Kosi river in neighboring Nepal burst its banks, dramatically changing course and spilling billions of gallons of water into the plains of northern India.

Bizarro Earth

Magnitude 6.3 quake rattles Papua New Guinea

A magnitude 6.3 earthquake rattled the island of Papua New Guinea on Saturday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The epicenter of the quake was located about 42 miles (68 km) north-northeast of Lae, Papua New Guinea, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The quake was about 35 miles deep and struck about at 4:54 p.m. local time (10:54 a.m. EDT).

Cloud Lightning

New Orleans gets ready as Gustav strengthens

New Orleans - Spooked by predictions that Hurricane Gustav could grow into a Category 5 monster, an estimated 1 million residents fled the Gulf Coast Saturday - ahead of the official order to get out of the way of a storm taking dead aim at Louisiana.

©AP Photo/Rob Carr
Jeffrey Vannor carries his belongings while evacuating from the approaching Hurricane Gustav at the Greyhound Bus and Amtrak station in New Orleans, on Saturday, Aug. 30, 2008. A million people took to Gulf Coast highways Saturday, boarding up homes and businesses and fleeing dangerous Hurricane Gustav by bus and automobile as the season's most powerful Atlantic storm took aim at Louisiana.

Residents took to buses, trains, planes and cars - clogging roadways leading away from New Orleans, still reeling three years after Hurricane Katrina flooded 80 percent of the city and killed about 1,600 across the region.

Gustav had already killed more than 80 people in the Caribbean, and if current forecasts hold up, it would make landfall Monday afternoon somewhere between the northeast corner of Texas and western Mississippi.

Forecasters warned it was still too soon to say whether New Orleans would take another direct hit, but residents weren't taking any chances judging by the bumper-to-bumper traffic pouring from the city. Gas stations along interstate highways were running out of fuel, and phone circuits were jammed.


Eruption Gave Several Weeks' Notice; May Aid Forecasts

Scientists have determined that a 1925 volcanic eruption on Santorini island in Greece was preceded by an influx of hot magma into the volcano's lava chamber several weeks beforehand.

The insight may lead to better warnings of similar eruptions in the future, researchers say.

©Photograph courtesy Science/AAAS
Scientists studying lavas taken from the crater seen above on the Greek island of Santorini may have found a way to better predict volcanic eruptions in general, according to an August 2008 study.

Evil Rays

Southwest China quake destroys homes, three dead

An earthquake hit southwest China's Sichuan province on Saturday, destroying homes and killing three people, China's state television reported.

The epicentre of the quake, which struck around 4:30 p.m. (0730 GMT), was about 20 miles (30 km) southeast of Panzhihua, near the border with Yunnan province, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The quake was about 6 miles (10 km) deep.