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Sun, 03 Dec 2023
The World for People who Think

Earth Changes

Cloud Lightning

Hurricane Norbert lashes Mexico's Baja peninsula

Puerto San Carlos, Mexico -- Scores of people fled flooded homes Saturday as Hurricane Norbert lashed Mexico's southern Baja California peninsula with torrential rains and screaming winds.

Hurricane Norbert
© Guillermo Arias / Associated Press
Fishing boats are anchored under cloudy skies in Puerto San Carlos' dock as Hurricane Norbert approaches in Mexico's southern Baja California.
Norbert, with winds of up to 105 miles, was expected to hit land along a sparsely populated stretch north of the resort of Cabo San Lucas and then make a second landfall Saturday night in northwestern Mexico's mainland -- possibly as a hurricane, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

Evil Rays

At least five dead as quake rattles Caucasus

A strong earthquake reverberated through the Caucasus mountains on Saturday, killing at least five people and disrupting power supplies in Russia's Chechnya region, reports said.

The quake, measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale according to Strasbourg observatory estimates, was felt in five regions of the Russian north Caucasus and neighbouring Georgia and Armenia.

The dead were found in Chechnya's east, four of them killed in the Kurchaloy district and the other in Gudermes, said Itar-Tass news agency, citing Chechen vice emergency situations minister, Akhmed Dzheirkhanov.

Bizarro Earth

Volcanic Eruptions More Complex And Harder To Predict

New research by a team of US and UK scientists into volcanoes has found that they function in a far more complex way than previously thought, making future eruptions even harder to predict.
© iStockphoto/Sean Hannah
Pyroclastic flow across old city of Plymouth from the Soufrière Hills volcano on the island of Montserrat in the Caribbean.

Although the Soufrière Hills volcano on the Caribbean island of Montserrat exhibits cycles of eruption and quiet, the international team of researchers found that magma is continuously supplied from deep in the crust but that a valve acts below a shallower magma chamber, releasing lava to the surface periodically.

"Continuous records of surface deformation are available for only a few volcanoes," says Derek Elsworth, professor of energy and geo-environmental engineering, Penn State. "The Soufrière Hills volcano has been erupting since 1995 and provides a peek into the processes occurring deep beneath this stratovolcano."

Stratovolcanoes are one of the most common forms of volcano on Earth. They are cone-shaped with steep sides created by episodic eruptions of magma that flow down from the cone a short way and create layer upon layer of volcanic material.


Nature loss 'dwarfs bank crisis'


Rainforest in Kakum National Park, Ghana
Losses are great, and continuous, says the report
Barcelona - The global economy is losing more money from the disappearance of forests than through the current banking crisis, according to an EU-commissioned study.

It puts the annual cost of forest loss at between $2 trillion and $5 trillion.

The figure comes from adding the value of the various services that forests perform, such as providing clean water and absorbing carbon dioxide.

Bizarro Earth

Canada: Mysterious green algae blankets Hamilton Harbour

Algae bird

A bird is shown covered by the mysterious green algae that has blanketed parts of Hamilton Harbour.
A green slime has hit Hamilton Harbour, coating wildlife and causing a stink.

The inlets near Macassa Bay Yacht Club and Bayfront Park have been blanketed with pungent-smelling algae, though neither the city's public health department nor local boaters know if it's dangerous.


Beavers: Dam Good For Songbirds

The songbird has a friend in the beaver. According to a study by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the busy beaver's signature dams provide critical habitat for a variety of migratory songbirds, particularly in the semi-arid interior of the Western U.S.
Beaver dam
© iStockphoto/Yenwen Lu
Beaver dam in Lundy Canyon, Eastern Sierra, California, U.S. The busy beaver's signature dams provide critical habitat for a variety of migratory songbirds, particularly in the semi-arid interior of the West.

The study, which appears in the October 2008 issue of the journal Western North American Naturalist, says that through dam building, beavers create ponds and stimulate growth of diverse streamside vegetation critical for birds, including many migratory songbirds in decline. The study found that the more dams beavers build, the more abundant and diverse local songbirds become.

"We found that increasing density of beaver dams was associated with a diverse and abundant bird community and the wetland and streamside habitat these species depend on," said Hilary Cooke, the study's lead author who is now finishing her dissertation at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. "This habitat is critical to birds in semi-arid regions yet has been severely degraded or lost through much of the West. Our results suggest that management of beavers may be an important tool for restoring habitat and reversing bird declines."

Bizarro Earth

Mutant fish is hunting humans

Big Mutant Fish
© The Sun
Caught... Jeremy Wade and locals hold a goonch
Scientists have claimed a fearsome mutant fish has begun actively hunting people - after gorging itself on human corpses which have been dumped in rivers.

They reckon that a huge type of catfish, called a goonch, may have developed a taste for flesh in an Indian river where bodies are dumped after funerals, reports The Sun newspaper.

Cloud Lightning

Norbert becomes Category 4 hurricane in Pacific

Ciudad Obregon, Mexico - Hurricane Norbert strengthened Wednesday into an extremely powerful Category 4 storm off Mexico's Pacific coast and was on track to hit the southern Baja California peninsula over the weekend.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Norbert will likely turn toward the northeast over the next two days en route to the Baja peninsula and Mexican mainland. Officials across the region were setting up shelters and preparing for possible evacuations from low-lying regions.


Future Looks Bleak For One Of World's Smallest Seal Species

One of the smallest seals - the Caspian - has joined a growing list of mammal species in danger of extinction.
Caspian seal
© Simon Goodman, University of Leeds/Caspian International Seal Survey
Caspian seal (Pusa caspica).

Scientists from the University of Leeds together with international partners have documented the disastrous decline of the seal - a species found only in the land-locked waters of the Caspian Sea - in a series of surveys which reveal a 90 per cent drop in numbers in the last 100 years.

The research findings have prompted the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to move the Caspian seal from the Vulnerable category to Endangered on its official IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, announced today in Barcelona [06 October 2008].

Dr Simon Goodman of Leeds' Faculty of Biological Sciences says: "Each female has just one pup a year, so with numbers at such a low levels, every fertile female that dies is a nail in the coffin of the species. We're hoping that the seal's change in Red List status will help raise awareness about their plight, and the many important conservation issues facing the whole Caspian ecosystem."

Commercial hunting, habitat degradation, disease, pollution and drowning in fishing nets have caused the population of the seal collapse from more than 1 million at the start of the 20th century to around 100,000 today.


Arctic Soil May Contain Nearly Twice Greenhouse-Gas Producing Material Than Previously Estimated

Frozen arctic soil contains nearly twice the greenhouse-gas-producing organic material as was previously estimated, according to recently published research by University of Alaska Fairbanks scientists.
Chien-Lu Ping
© UAF School of Natural Resources & Agricultural Sciences
Chien-Lu Ping conducting soil tests.

School of Natural Resources & Agricultural Sciences professor Chien-Lu Ping published his latest findings in Nature Geoscience. Wielding jackhammers, Ping and a team of scientists dug down more than one meter into the permafrost to take soil samples from more than 100 sites throughout Alaska. Previous research had sampled to about 40 centimeters deep.

After analyzing the samples, the research team discovered a previously undocumented layer of organic matter on top of and in the upper part of permafrost, ranging from 60 to 120 centimeters deep. This deep layer of organic matter first accumulates on the tundra surface and is buried during the churning freeze and thaw cycles that characterize the turbulent arctic landscape.