Earth ChangesS

Bizarro Earth

Toxic river raises burning questions

The health of Australia's Murray-Darling river system, already shockingly poor, has just taken a turn for the worse. In the past month, tracts of wetland at the mouth of the Murray have become as corrosive as battery acid, forming a yellow crust of sideronatrite, a mineral that only forms in extremely acid soil.

This latest indicator of the river's decline is detailed in reports to be released this week by the CSIRO Land and Water research institute in Adelaide, South Australia. For years drought and mismanagement have reduced water flows in the Murray-Darling system, altering salinity, temperature and nutrient levels. But in July last year, a team led by Rob Fitzpatrick, who wrote the new reports, found a new problem: falling water levels in Lakes Alexandrina and Albert at the Murray's mouth in South Australia were exposing the surrounding soils, rich in iron sulphide, to the air.

Better Earth

Record snow falls in Europe and North America mean ski resorts open early

Ski resorts across Europe and North America have opened early this season after heavy snowfall in the last month.

A series of snowstorms since early November in North America and late October in Europe has enabled several resorts to open ahead of schedule.

The Italian resort of Bormio has opened a month early after heavy snowfalls at the end of October and start of November delivered 50ins to the resort's upper slopes.

Comment: Global warming? Up is down. Black is white.

US Temps 2008
© NOAA's National Climate Data Center 2008 Temperatures Below Normal For Most of USA
Boise Idaho gets earliest snow on record

7 killed in Tibet's 'worst snowstorm'. Record Snows in Switzerland, Britain.

Arizona, US: Record cold temps hit Tucson

Switzerland: All-time record snow storm triggers delays

Winter's chill comes early as Fairbanks records fourth-coldest October

Blizzard Blankets South Dakota

Record Low Temperatures across the United States


7 Killed in Tibet's 'Worst Snowstorm'. Record Snows in Switzerland, UK, US, Alaska

At least seven people have been found dead after "the worst snowstorm on record in Tibet," China's state-run news agency reported Friday. About 1,350 people were rescued in Lhunze County - another 300 were trapped - after nearly five feet (1.5 meters) of snow blanketed much of Tibet this week. The storm caused buildings to collapse, blocked roads and killed about 144,000 head of cattle, the state-run China Daily newspaper reported. The seven people who died either froze to death or were killed as a result of collapsing buildings, and one person is still missing, China Daily said. The BBC added: Heavy snowstorms have hit eastern Tibet over the last few days, worsening the situation for survivors of the earthquake earlier this month. Temperatures plummeted as snow started falling on Sunday.

At least two people are reported to have died and many more are missing. Snowfalls have blocked roads, caused avalanches and led to widespread power cuts. Thousands of people have been living in tents or temporary shelters since the earthquake on 6th October. Relief materials including food and blankets are flooding into the area. Heavy snowstorms are rare for this part of Tibet in October, and temperatures are unseasonably cold.

Bizarro Earth

Boise, Idaho, gets earliest snow on record

Valley shivers as winter weather makes a premature appearance.
Idaho Snow

Big snow flakes fell early Friday evening, turning Downtown Boise into a giant snow globe for people on their way home from work. The snow caught many people off guard, including this bicyclist heading down Idaho Street between 8th and 9th around 5:45 p.m. Across the Treasure Valley, tree branches heavy with wet, snow-covered leaves fell on power lines, causing scattered power outages.


US: Wildfire devastates celebrity enclave near LA.

Los Angeles - A huge wildfire fanned by strong winds destroyed at least 70 multimillion-dollar homes in the celebrity enclave of Montecito, northwest of Los Angeles, officials said.

The brush fire quickly engulfed more than 800 acres in about six hours on Thursday, ripping through entire blocks of mansions in a community dubbed "America's Riviera." Firefighters were largely powerless to stop the destruction.

Montecito, whose 10,000 homeowners include actors John Cleese, Christopher Lloyd and Rob Lowe as well as talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, is about 90 miles from Los Angeles in coastal Santa Barbara County.

About 2,500 residents were forced to flee the flames, and 20,000 people in the wider area were without power. Four minor injuries were reported.


Half a month's rain in one day expected in parts of South Africa

Days of heavy rain across parts of South Africa have caused widespread flooding, leaving more than 5 people dead. Torrential rain has been lashing parts of the country since Sunday, with temperatures plummeting to the mid-teens. Thousands of people are battling the torrents of water, with the city of Bloemfontein one of the worst hit by the rains, which has destroyed schools and roads.

Bizarro Earth

Asian skies poisoned by clouds of pollution

Satellite photo of pollution clouds
© NASA/Goddard Space Flight CenterA satellite image shows a dense blanket of polluted air over central eastern China covering the coastline around Shanghai.
A noxious cocktail of soot, smog and toxic chemicals is blotting out the sun, fouling the lungs of millions of people and altering weather patterns in large parts of Asia, according to a report released Thursday by the United Nations.

The byproduct of automobiles, slash-and-burn agriculture, wood-burning kitchen stoves and coal-fired power plants, these plumes of carbon dust rise over southern Africa, the Amazon basin and North America but are most pronounced in Asia, where so-called atmospheric brown clouds are dramatically reducing sunlight in many Chinese cities and leading to decreased crop yields in swaths of rural India, says a team of more than a dozen scientists who have been studying the problem since 2002.

Comment: Lest we forget, those deadly pollution clouds are the direct results of the export-oriented economy in Asia, or in other words, "free-market" capitalism.


Species Diversity Of Enigmatic 'Flying Lemurs' Doubled By New Study

Colugos (aka flying lemurs) - the closest living relatives of primates most notable for their ability to glide from tree to tree over considerable distances - are more diverse than had previously been believed, according to a new report published in the November 11th issue of Current Biology.
Coluga gliding with baby
© Norman LimColuga gliding with baby.

Scientists had recognized just two species of these enigmatic mammals, the Sunda colugo and the Philippine colugo. However, the new findings show that the Sunda colugo, found only in Indochina and Sundaland, including the large islands of Borneo, Sumatra, and Java, actually represents at least three separate species.

"We were guessing that we might find that there were different species of Sunda colugo - although we were not sure," said Jan Janecka of Texas A&M University. "But what really surprised us was how old the speciation events were. Some went back four to five million years," making the colugo species as old as other modern species groups (or genera) such as the primates known as macaques and the leopard cats.


Global warning: We are actually heading towards a new Ice Age, claim scientists

© The Daily MailA taste of the future: Plunging temperatures around Britain created dramatic 2-ft icicles over Sleightholme River in County Durham
It has plagued scientists and politicians for decades, but scientists now say global warming is not the problem.

We are actually heading for the next Ice Age, they claim.

British and Canadian experts warned the big freeze could bury the east of Britain in 6,000ft of ice.

A taste of the future: Plunging temperatures around Britain created dramatic 2-ft icicles over Sleightholme River in County Durham

Most of Scotland, Northern Ireland and England could be covered in 3,000ft-thick ice fields.

The expanses could reach 6,000ft from Aberdeen to Kent - towering above Ben Nevis, Britain's tallest mountain.

And what's more, the experts blame the global change on falling - rather than climbing - levels of greenhouse gases.


Global Warming Link To Amphibian Declines In Doubt

Evidence that global warming is causing the worldwide declines of amphibians may not be as conclusive as previously thought, according to biologists. The findings, which contradict two widely held views, could help reveal what is killing the frogs and toads and aid in their conservation.
© iStockphotoEvidence that global warming is causing the worldwide declines of amphibians may not be as conclusive as previously thought, according to biologists.

"We are currently in the midst of a sixth mass extinction event," said Peter Hudson, the Willaman professor of biology at Penn State and co-author of the research study. "And amphibians are bearing the brunt of the problem."

Studies suggest that more than 32 percent of amphibian species are threatened and more than 43 percent face a steep decline in numbers.

Much of the massive declines associated with amphibians appear to be centered in places such as Central America and Australia, said Hudson. "It appears to be linked to a chytrid fungus -- Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) -- which we did not know affected frogs," he added.