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Mon, 24 Oct 2016
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Earth Changes


Starlings fall to the ground along motorway near Vienna, Austria

© Philip Heron
A flock of drunken starlings caused chaos on an Austrian motorway earlier this week when they fell onto a stretch of the A2 road between Inzersdorf and Vösendorf, causing traffic jams several kilometres long.

Witnesses described the scene as like something out of a horror film. Some people commented on the unusual event online, joking that the birds ought to have been tested for "air worthiness".

Ornithologists were initially confused as to what had caused the birds to fall into the road but now believe that they had gorged on fermented berries - which contain naturally occurring alcohol - and got drunk on them.

Rain and foggy conditions further confused them, so that they didn't know where they were going and lost their bearings over the motorway, crashing into cars and trucks.

Comment: The mundane explanation proffered above for this strange event (that of starlings becoming drunk after eating fermented berries), does not really stand up to close scrutiny. Starlings are largely insectivorous and forage close to the ground and probably only eat berries when their natural prey items are not available to them, for instance, during adverse weather conditions of prolonged snow cover or severe frosts.

See also this substantial catalogue of similar reports from over the last 6 years:

Dozens of dead and dying starlings found on road in Wichita, Kansas

Dozens of dead birds found on street in Elmira, New York

Dozens of dead birds found along I-5 in Redding, California

Two dozen dead birds discovered along road in Chantilly, Virginia

100 birds found dead on roadside near Picher, Oklahoma

Dozens of dead birds found along highway in Youngstown, Ohio

Flock of dead starlings falls out of sky in Bolton, England after 'loud bang' heard overhead

Scientists baffled by over 100 dead starlings in Missouri

Dozens of disoriented birds fall out of the sky in Spring Hill, Tennessee

Hundreds of birds mysteriously dying in El Reno, Oklahoma

Dead birds falling from the sky in Oklahoma, experts say 'no cause for concern.' Right!

Over 30 birds fall dead from the sky in Norman, Oklahoma

Hundreds of birds fall dead from the sky on Aden Road in Nokesville, Virginia

Dead birds fall 'like raindrops' In Winnipeg's North End

Double deja vu on December 31st? Up to 300 starlings litter roadway and fields in Seymour, Tennessee

Dead birds "falling from the sky" in Port Arthur, Texas neighborhood

Dead birds fall out of the sky near Fort Worth, Texas - Second time in 5 months

Meteoric Deja-vu: Exactly one year later, dead blackbirds fall again in Beebe, Arkansas

Alabama: Hundreds of Dead Blackbirds Found Along I-65 In Athens

More birds fall out of the sky, this time in Sweden

US, Kentucky: Over 30 Birds Mysteriously Die on Montgomery County Road

Now HUNDREDS More Birds Fall from the Sky in Kentucky and Louisiana and Tens of THOUSANDS of Dead Fish Wash Ashore

A Sign for the New Year: 1,000 Birds Fall From the Sky in Beebe, Arkansas

'Crazy': Dozens of dead birds fall from the sky in New Jersey

Mysterious Bird Deaths Investigated Near Dacono

US: Thousands of Dead Birds Picked Up in Arkansas Town

US: Hundreds of dead blackbirds found in Louisiana

US: Hundreds Of Birds Found Dead in Oklahoma

Grisly Mystery After Scores of Starlings Fall Out of the Sky and Lie Dying...in a SINGLE Front Garden

Cloud Precipitation

7 dead after Typhoon Chaba drops 11 inches of rainfall in South Korea

Typhoon Chaba
Typhoon Chaba left a trail of destruction in South Korea on Wednesday, 05 October, after dumping over 280 mm (11 inches) of rain in some areas. Chaba is thought to be the strongest typhoon to hit South Korea since Maemi in 2003.

South Korea's Ministry of Public Safety and Security said that seven people have been killed and four are missing.

The southern cities of Ulsan, Busan and South Gyeongsang province (Yeongnam region), as well as South Jeolla (Honam region), Jeju (Jeju Region) were the worst affected.

Three people died in the city of Busan, three the Ulsan and one victim in Gyeongju. One of the victims is thought to be an emergency worker who was helping with rescue efforts in Ulsan. Most of the victims are believed to have died as a result of flooding.

Rescue workers carry a resident through a flooded street caused by Typhoon Chaba in Ulsan, South Korea
Over 300 hundred homes have been damaged by flooding, with around 14 of them severely damaged or completely destroyed. Shops, businesses and vehicles have also suffered damaged. Power outages were reported across affected areas. Schools and transport, including flights, have been disrupted. The heavy rain has also caused dozens of landslides and major damage to banks along swollen rivers. Huge waves and storm surge has also caused damage along the coastline, including sea walls.

Footage shows vehicles swept away by muddy water racing through city streets. At one point a building was swept away by a swollen river.

Comment: See also: Typhoon Chaba sets new records in South Korea

Cloud Lightning

Lightning bolt kills six cows in Pakistan

© 123RF
Six cows perished when lightning struck a herd in Raisar village of Tharparkar district on Tuesday night as widespread rains coupled with thunderstorm continued to lash most areas of the district for a third consecutive day, Wednesday.

Intermittent moderate to heavy spells of rain had started on Monday evening lashing Mithi, Kaloi, Naukot, Chelhar, Diplo, Islamkot, Bhalwa, Dahli and many other areas. Many rural areas of Mirpurkhas district also received light rain on Tuesday bringing down the temperatures and providing relief to growers.

A maximum of 62mm rain was reported from Mithi while other areas of Tharparkar district also received several heavy spells during the last three days.

After a long spell of widespread heavy rains lasting more than two weeks and ending in the first week of September, growers of Tharparkar had returned to their lands from other areas and started cultivating their crops. The fresh spell was welcomed by them as, according to them, this would add to the soil fertility.


Hurricane Matthew sends Florida into panic as 'direct hit' and 'massive destruction' expected

Hurricane Matthew is making its way towards the US, sending Floridians into a panic and rushing to finish last minute preparations before it strikes. Staple products have long been claimed by shoppers as officials warn of a "direct hit on Florida."

Matthew, a deadly Category 3 storm, is currently moving northeast through the Caribbean and is expected to make landfall on the Atlantic coast of Florida by Thursday evening or early morning on Friday.

The National Hurricane Center has issued an advisory at 11p.m. Wednesday, saying that Matthew was moving northwest near 10 mph (17 km/h) with maximum sustained winds reaching 115 mph (185 km/h).

"Strengthening is expected during the next 24-36 hours, and Matthew is forecast to be a category 4 hurricane as it approaches Florida," the NHC said.

The Central Florida coast is potentially at highest risk, with Flagler and Volusia counties bracing for a direct hit. Both hurricane and tropical storm warnings have been issued for Florida's coastline, stretching from Miami to the Volusia county line, which includes Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Cape Canaveral and Daytona Beach.

Comment: After unusually forming very close to the equator, Matthew has already caused severe damage in Haiti and Cuba. Meanwhile in the Pacific, Typhoon Chaba has set new records in South Korea. Just over one week ago an 'unprecedented' storm resulted in the entire state of South Australia (inhabited by more than 1.7 million people) losing power.

Arrow Up

Dormant volcano in British Columbia, Canada sparks with activity

© Global Volcanism Program/Smithsonian Institute
Volcanologist Melanie Kelman with Natural Resources Canada is taking a closer look at Mount Meager, north of Pemberton, after a discovery this summer showed the long-dormant volcano is a little more active than originally thought.

Expert says activity on Mount Meager presents no danger to the public, but scientists monitoring

Experts are taking a closer look at Mount Meager, a dormant volcano north of Pemberton, after they discovered activity on the peak earlier this summer.

Volcanologist Melanie Kelman with Natural Resources Canada said sulphur smells and volcanic openings known as fumaroles were spotted on the the long-dormant volcano.

She said it is not uncommon to find fumaroles on the peak, and it could have been thinning ice that exposed the vents.

While fumaroles pose no risk to the public, she said it would be unsafe to approach or enter them as they are letting off hydrogen sulfide — a poisonous gas — and the ice around them is crevassed and potentially unstable.

Her team is now monitoring the area for increased seismic activity — the key sign of an upcoming eruption.

"The main thing we would expect if the volcano was becoming more active is lots and lots of small earthquakes," she explained.

"We're not seeing a lot of that right now, but this is what we would expect, and that's why we're watching it closely."


Typhoon Chaba sets new records in South Korea

Cars are submerged in floodwater in an apartment complex in Ulsan on Wednesday.
Typhoon Chaba left a trail of destruction on Jeju Island and the southern mainland.

According to the Korea Meteorological Administration on Wednesday, Chaba brought winds of up to 49 m/s in parts of Jeju Island, second only to typhoon Maemi in 2003 (51.1 m/s).

The Seogwipo area of Jeju saw a record 116.7 mm of rain an hour.

The southeastern port cities of Busan and Ulsan were hit by heavy winds of up to 28.3 m/s and 21.5 m/s.

Ulsan experienced 104.2 mm of rainfall an hour, a record for the city.

Downpours also soaked nearby Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province, which was hit hard by a recent earthquakes, with 280 mm of rain.

According to the KMA, Chaba was the most powerful typhoon ever to hit the Korean Peninsula in October.

Typhoons usually hit Korea in the summer but are seen in October only once in a decade.

The last typhoon that caused such extensive damage in October was in 2013, and one in October 1994 did not cause nearly as much damage.

Comment: Asian typhoons are becoming more frequent and intense researchers say

Bizarro Earth

Newly discovered fault line running parallel to San Andreas in Southern California raises fears of 'the big one'

The new Salton Trough Fault, which runs parallel to the San Andreas Fault, could impact the earthquake-prone region that includes the greater LA area, seismologists say. It is in an area where a swarm of nearly 200 small earthquakes hit last week, raising concerns they might trigger a larger earthquake on the southern San Andreas Fault.

Researchers have revealed a newly discovered fault line running parallel to the San Andreas fault in Southern California.

The new Salton Trough Fault, which runs parallel to the San Andreas Fault, could impact current seismic hazard models in the earthquake-prone region that includes the greater Los Angeles area, seismologists say.

The newly identified strike-slip fault within the Salton Sea, just west of the San Andreas Fault, is in an area where a swarm of nearly 200 small earthquakes hit last week, raising concerns they might trigger a larger earthquake on the southern San Andreas Fault.


Rare, deadly Typhoon Chaba batters South Korea with massive waves and flooding

© Yonhap
Damages caused by the Typhoon Chaba
Typhoon Chaba hit the southern parts of South Korea Wednesday, leading to casualties among local population.

At least three people were killed and three others went missing after the typhoon swept over South Korean island of Jeju and the cities of Busan and Ulsan, according to national KBS broadcaster.

The rainfall due to typhoon Chaba reached over 120 millimeters (4 inches) in some areas of the country, according to the Korean Meteorological Administration. About 58,000 houses are left without power in Busan and Jeju Island. The typhoon has reportedly disrupted transport services and air traffic.

Typhoon Chaba hammered parts of Japan's Okinawa prefecture on Monday, bringing more than 200 millimeters of rainfall. Over 590,000 residents of the Japanese Okinawa Prefecture were prepared for evacuation.

Comment: It is rare for a typhoon of this size to hit the Korean Peninsula at this time. According to the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA), only eight typhoons out of 327 that affected Korea between 1904 and 2010 landed in October. See also: Asian typhoons are becoming more frequent and intense researchers say

Cloud Precipitation

Residents evacuated as flood levels rise in Victoria, Australia

More than 70mm of rain has fallen in the Myrtleford area in the past 24 hours.
Residents in a number of homes and businesses in Victoria's north-east have been evacuated while more than a thousand properties are without power as rivers again swell to major flood levels.

Residents who live in low-lying areas in Myrtleford have been urged to evacuate and seek refuge at a relief centre set up at the Myrtleford Senior Citizens Centre, after more than 70mm of rain fell in the area in past 24 hours.

In the nearby town of Tarrawingee, a man had to be rescued from his back of his truck after he became trapped in rising floodwaters earlier today.

The man, in his 50s, was eventually handed a life jacket from emergency crews before being pulled to safety.


Volcano triplets spotted erupting on the South Sandwich Islands

On Sept. 29, 2016, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this false-color image showing volcanic activity in the South Sandwich Islands.
Three active volcanoes simultaneously erupting and unleashing giant plumes of smoke were spotted by a NASA satellite as it passed over a remote archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean.

The three stratovolcanoes — a type of composite volcano built of layers of lava, ash and stone — are located on the South Sandwich Islands, which are about 1,700 miles (2,800 kilometers) southeast of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Volcanoes in the region are some of the least studied in the world, because of the remote location and inhospitable environment of the islands.

On Sept. 29, NASA's Aqua satellite captured the plumes from these volcano triplets in a false-color image. Clouds and ice in the region make it difficult for satellites to see volcanic activity in natural-color imagery, NASA said. False-color images use portions of the electromagnetic spectrum typically invisible to humans — such as infrared — to distinguish ice from ash and clouds, according to the agency.