Earth ChangesS

Bizarro Earth

US: Vermont Bat Cave Devastated by Disease

Bat cave
© Unknown
Dorset - Spring has arrived on Mount Aeolus in Southern Vermont.

Bats are filtering out of a cave there by the minute.

But step inside and it's another story.

More than 20,000 dead bats are piled upon the cave's floor.

"It's pretty eerie and disturbing to say the least," said Ryan Smith of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Dept. "You pretty much can't walk without stepping on them."

Bizarro Earth

US: Scientists Study Earthquake Fault That Runs Under Washington City

Geologists are digging trenches along an earthquake fault line that runs beneath Washington City to determine how often the so-called Washington fault has slipped.

Their goal: gauge the potential for future activity.

If a quake the magnitude of 6.5 or larger is possible, such an event could devastate the city and surrounding communities, including St. George, according to William Lund, a geologist with the Utah Geological Survey.

"There would be a lot of damage from shaking," said Lund. "Unreinforced buildings would collapse, interiors would be disrupted and things fall off shelves."

He said there is also danger of broken natural-gas lines causing fires and the liquefaction, or jelly-like shaking of the subsoil, that can trigger landslides.

Better Earth

Airborne Dust Reduction Plays Larger Than Expected Role In Determining Atlantic Temperature

© courtesy Amato EvanA dust storm off the coast of Morocco was imaged by NASA's MODIS Aqua meteorological satellite on March 12, 2009. A new study by UW-Madison researcher Amato Evan shows that variability of African dust storms and tropical volcanic eruptions can account for 70 percent of the warming North Atlantic Ocean temperatures observed during the past three decades. Since warmer water is a key ingredient in hurricane formation and intensity, dust and other airborne particles will play a critical role in developing a better understanding of these storms in a changing climate.
The recent warming trend in the Atlantic Ocean is largely due to reductions in airborne dust and volcanic emissions during the past 30 years, according to a new study.

Since 1980, the tropical North Atlantic has been warming by an average of a quarter-degree Celsius (a half-degree Fahrenheit) per decade. Though this number sounds small, it can translate to big impacts on hurricanes, which thrive on warmer water, says Amato Evan, a researcher with the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies and lead author of the new study. For example, the ocean temperature difference between 1994, a quiet hurricane year, and 2005's record-breaking year of storms, was just one degree Fahrenheit.

More than two-thirds of this upward trend in recent decades can be attributed to changes in African dust storm and tropical volcano activity during that time, report Evan and his colleagues at UW-Madison and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in a new paper. Their findings will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Science and publish online March 26.

Bizarro Earth

Dam bursts near Indonesian capital, killing 58

© AP Photo/Tatan SyuflanaResidents stand near a burst dam in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, March 27, 2009.
Survivors say when the dam gave way in the middle of the night, water surged through their neighborhood outside Jakarta like a tsunami, demolishing hundreds of houses, tossing cars and uprooting trees. At least 58 people were killed and dozens remained missing Friday.

Days of torrential downpours had filled a large lake bordering the low-lying residential area southwest of the Indonesian capital to flooding point. A huge section of the Dutch colonial-era dike tore away at around 2:00 a.m.

More than 70 million cubic feet (2 million cubic meters) of water roared through the gaping hole, nearly emptying the lake's basin and inundating homes up to the rooftops. Bodies were dragged several miles (kilometers) in the muddy current.

Cloud Lightning

US: Thousands flee Fargo ahead of menacing floodwaters

sandbag dike
© unknownSandbag dike protects houses in Fargo
Fargo, North Dakota - Thousands of shivering, tired residents got out while they could and others prayed that miles of sandbagged levees would hold Friday as the surging Red River threatened to unleash the biggest flood North Dakota's largest city has ever seen.

The agonizing decision to stay or go came as the final hours ticked down before an expected crest Saturday evening, when the ice-laden river could climb as high as 43 feet, nearly 3 feet higher than the record set 112 years ago.

"It's to the point now where I think we've done everything we can," said resident Dave Davis, whose neighborhood was filled with backhoes and tractors building an earthen levee. "The only thing now is divine intervention."

Bizarro Earth

Earthquake Magnitude 4.5 Off Coast of Jalisco, Mexico

© US Geological Survey
Date-Time Friday, March 27, 2009 at 17:53:03 UTC

Friday, March 27, 2009 at 10:53:03 AM at epicenter

Location 18.654°N, 107.379°W

Depth 10 km (6.2 miles) set by location program

Distances 310 km (195 miles) SW of Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico

325 km (200 miles) W of Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico

340 km (210 miles) WSW of Autlan, Jalisco, Mexico

870 km (540 miles) W of MEXICO CITY, D.F., Mexico


US Aid Nets Kill Wildlife off Africa

© Daniel Floren / AP This sea turtle got caught in a fishing net off Diani, Kenya. The turtle was freed and released, but others have died. Daniel Floren, who runs a local diving school, says the U.S.-funded nets are destroying the very ecosystems that fishermen rely on.
Diani, Kenya - Plastic fishing nets - some bought for poor fishermen with American aid money - are tangling up whales and turtles off one of Africa's most popular beaches.

One recent victim was a huge dappled whaleshark that bled to death after its tail was cut off by fishermen unwilling to slash their nets to save it. In another case, divers risked their lives to free a pregnant, thrashing humpback whale entangled in a net last summer.

Both incidents occurred off Diani beach, which is popular with American and European tourists.

The fishermen have traditionally used hooks and hand lines to haul in their catch, which they then sold to hotels full of tourists. But the use of plastic nets has become increasingly common as growing populations have competed to catch shrinking supplies of fish, marine biologist David Obura said.

In 2003, USAID began a four-year project worth $575,000 to improve the lives of coastal communities. It worked on a project with a Kenyan government agency that included providing freezers for the fishermen to store their catch, along with boats and nets.

But the plastic nets are destroying the very ecosystems that the fishermen depend on and the tourists come to see, said Daniel Floren, who runs a local diving school.

Officials, experts and even the fishermen themselves acknowledge the nets are killing wildlife and coral.

"Without the reefs, there will be no diving. If we have nothing to show, I'll have to shut up shop," Floren said.


England: South American armoured suckermouth catfish found in Leicestershire

An armoured suckermouth catfish, a reptilian-like fish normally found in South America, has been found in a Leicestershire waterway.

Armored fish
© SWNS.COMThe armoured suckermouth catfish which was found next to the canal.
The prehistoric creature has scaly skin similar to a crocodile and an impressive set of teeth.

It was found, already dead, by schoolboy fisherman Shawn Brown in the Grand Union Canal at Wigston.

The 14-year-old took a picture of his 10 ins-long discovery and showed it to a number of aquarists who managed to identify it.

The armoured suckermouth catfish normally lives in Panama, Costa Rica and South America.

Bizarro Earth

US: Heartbreaking Triage as Fargo Battles Floods in North Dakota

© Dan Koeck for The New York TimesAt the Fargodome in North Dakota, hundreds of thousands of sandbags were filled in an effort to prepare for the crest of the Red River.
For some residents in the neighborhoods closest to the fast-rising Red River here, the last-minute announcement by anxious city officials that they would build a second set of dikes to protect the heart of this state's most populous city was anything but soothing.

In fact, hundreds of homeowners now could find their properties sandwiched between the city's first 12-mile-long dike and the new line of defense. Record water levels are expected by Friday afternoon.

"What you're saying here is that we're on the wrong side of the world?" Laura Krupich, a resident of the South Acres neighborhood in Fargo, asked a city commissioner as she found her house on a map showing the new earthen and sandbag levees.

Ms. Krupich's house, according to city planners' estimates, may not be protected by the city's second "contingency" dikes. There was even concern that houses between the two sets of dikes could be in particular danger if the first one breaks but the second one holds.

Bizarro Earth

Earthquake Magnitude 5.3 - Guerrero, Mexico

Date-Time Friday, March 27, 2009 at 08:48:18 UTC

Friday, March 27, 2009 at 02:48:18 AM at epicenter

Location 17.580°N, 100.522°W

Depth 49 km (30.4 miles) set by location program

Distances 80 km (50 miles) SSW of Arcelia, Guerrero, Mexico

105 km (65 miles) NW of Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico

110 km (65 miles) W of Chilpancingo, Guerrero, Mexico

250 km (155 miles) SW of MEXICO CITY, D.F., Mexico