Earth ChangesS

Better Earth

Freak wave 'hot spots' identified

cargo ship
© PAIn 2008, a cargo ship was grounded off Blackpool after being hit by a freak wave
Scientists in the US have made a major advance in their understanding of so-called freak waves.

These monster waves present a major risk to ships and offshore platforms.

A computer simulation developed by oceanographers in the US could help locate where and when these "rogue" phenomena are most likely to occur.

The theoretical study shows that coastal areas with variations in water depth and strong currents are hot spots for freak waves.

The history of seafaring is littered with tales of rogue waves capable of rending ships asunder.

A freak wave is one that measures roughly three times higher than other swells on the sea at any one time. These phenomena can measure up to 18m (60ft) - the height of a six-storey building.

Cloud Lightning

Typhoon Morakot Destroys Houses in China, Kills 14 in Taiwan

Morakot 1
© AFP/Getty Images The Hotel Chin shuai is collapsed in floodwaters during typhoon Morakot in Chihpen, Taitung county, Taiwan, Aug. 9, 2009.
Typhoon Morakot destroyed houses in China after killing at least 14 people in Taiwan where it dumped record amounts of rain.

The typhoon, the ninth of the Pacific cyclone season, damaged the properties of at least 136,000 people in Xiapu county in Fujian province, state-run Xinhua News Agency reported today. It caused damage of 2.2 billion yuan ($322 million) and prompted the evacuation of almost 1 million people in eastern China, Xinhua said late yesterday.

In Taiwan, 14 people were killed when Morakot crossed the north of the island. The typhoon dumped more rain on Taiwan than in any 48-hour period since records began 100 years ago, Taiwan's chief weather forecaster Lee Hsiang-yuan said.

The center of Morakot weakened to a tropical storm after making landfall in China, according to the U.S. Navy Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

Heavy rains in Japan left 13 people dead and 10 missing in the southwest and disrupted rail services in the capital, Tokyo. A tropical storm is also approaching from the south and is forecast to bring more rain to the country tomorrow.


Sunspotless 30 day stretch possible in the next day

At the risk of triggering a new sunspot by talking about it, I'll cautiously mention that by GMT time midnight tomorrow, August 10th, we will possibly have a 30 day stretch of no sunspots at a time when cycle 24 has been forecast by many to be well underway. Here is the most recent (and auto updating) SOHO MDI image of the sun:
Spotless Sun August 07, 2009
© SOHOSun August 07, 2009.

Spotless Days Count
(updated data from

Current Stretch: 29 days
2009 total: 171 days (78%)
Since 2004: 682 days
Typical Solar Min: 485 days


Aftermath of a Japanese whale hunt

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has just released video footage from a whale hunt that occurred late last month.

Baird's beaked whales are rare, but are exempt from whaling bans since they are still classified as small cetaceans. Around 60 Baird's a year are hunted commercially in northern Japan and sold in Japanese supermarkets. However, tests have revealed extremely high levels of mercury in the meat, which could pose a serious health risk.

Cloud Lightning

1 million evacuated as typhoon Morakot hits China

Morakot 3
© Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images Local residents trapped by flooding during typhoon Morakot wait for help from rescuers, in Chiatung, Pingtung county, Taiwan, Aug. 9, 2009.
A typhoon slammed into China's east coast Sunday, flooding entire villages, destroying homes and forcing the evacuation of nearly a million residents, after lashing Taiwan with torrential rains that caused the island's worst flooding in 50 years.

Rescuers on rubber dinghies, wearing life jackets and crash helmets, helped stranded villagers in hard-hit areas of China, while officials elsewhere cycled through floodwaters to deliver food to residents trapped in their homes.

Only rooftops and the highest tree branches were visible above the murky brown water that engulfed part of China's southern Cangnan county. Homes were destroyed and at least one child died after a house collapsed on him in heavy rain in Zhejiang province.

In southern Taiwan, a six-story hotel toppled into a rain-swollen river whose rushing waters had knocked out its foundations.

Bizarro Earth

Magnitude 7.1 earthquake strikes Japan coast

© US Geological Survey
A strong earthquake struck off the south coast of Japan on Sunday night local time, "jolting Tokyo and wide areas of eastern Japan," the country's Kyodo news agency reported.

The 7.1 earthquake hit 200 miles (320 kilometers) south-southwest of Tokyo at 7:55 p.m. (6:55 a.m. ET), the United States Geological Survey reported.

Its epicenter was 188 miles (303 kilometers) deep, the USGS said.

The Japan Meteorological Agency reported its magnitude as 6.9, Kyodo said.

There were no immediate reports of damage, and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue a tsunami warning

Bizarro Earth

India: 43 feared dead in Uttarakhand landslides

At least 43 people were feared dead and several others injured in massive landslides caused by heavy rains in three hilly villages of Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand on Friday morning. The villages - Jhetalan, Laa, and Maati - situated at a height of 6000 feet and 65 km north of Pithoragarh, were washed away by the massive slides at around 2 am, district magistrate N S Negi said.

"The impact of the rains was so heavy that a whole mountain came sliding down on the three villages, instantly destroying several dwellings," Minister for Planning, Labour, and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prakash Pant told HT.

Bizarro Earth

Long debate ended over cause, demise of ice ages - may also help predict future

A team of researchers says it has largely put to rest a long debate on the underlying mechanism that has caused periodic ice ages on Earth for the past 2.5 million years - they are ultimately linked to slight shifts in solar radiation caused by predictable changes in Earth's rotation and axis.

In a publication to be released Friday in the journal Science, researchers from Oregon State University and other institutions conclude that the known wobbles in Earth's rotation caused global ice levels to reach their peak about 26,000 years ago, stabilize for 7,000 years and then begin melting 19,000 years ago, eventually bringing to an end the last ice age.

The melting was first caused by more solar radiation, not changes in carbon dioxide levels or ocean temperatures, as some scientists have suggested in recent years.

Cloud Lightning

Typhoon Morakot hits Philippines; threatens Taiwan

At least eight people were killed as Typhoon Morakot swamped the northern Philippines with flooding, the National Disaster Coordinating Council said Friday.

The casualties include several international tourists who had returned from a trip to Mt. Pinatubo, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.

The destructive path of Morakot, also called Typhoon Koko, included Taiwan and South China. The storm was expected to bring its strong winds and the threat of soaking the island when it makes its expected landfall late Friday or early Saturday, CNN reported.

The typhoon, with wind gusts clocked at 120 mph, could dump between 40 inches and 50 inches of rain, CNN meteorologists said.

Bizarro Earth

Earthquake Magnitude 4.9 - Offshore Northern California

Friday, August 07, 2009 at 10:49:34 UTC
Friday, August 07, 2009 at 03:49:34 AM at epicenter

40.316°N, 124.626°W

16.4 km (10.2 miles)

Offshore Northern California

29 km (18 miles) W (268°) from Petrolia, CA

42 km (26 miles) SW (227°) from Ferndale, CA

48 km (30 miles) WSW (245°) from Rio Dell, CA

66 km (41 miles) SW (217°) from Eureka, CA

334 km (208 miles) NW (307°) from Sacramento, CA