Earth ChangesS


Flashback Winged-Cat Causes Sensation in China

winged cat
© WENNNo ordinary tabby, this cat from China has mysteriously sprouted its very own pair of wings.
While most cats are known for their ability to land on their feet, some in China may soon be able to glide to safety on their mysterious wings.

A tabby from the Qingyan province in China recently sprouted a pair of fur-covered wings on his back during a hot-weather spell, the U.K.'s Daily Mail reported.

Immediately, the unique kitty became a spectacle to behold, as visitors flocked to see the unusual feline.


Flashback Mysterious Winged Cat Baffles Animal Experts

White moggy grows fluffy wings out of its back - but can it fly?

Winged Cat
© China Foto Press / BarcroftThe winged cat chows down in China
Animal experts have been pussy-footing over the explanation for a cat that has developed bat-like wings on either side of its back.

The long-haired white feline was born a normal kitten, but started to develop furry wing-like appendages on either side of its back when it was just a year old.

Scientists believe the growths may be the result of a genetic mutation caused by chemicals during its mother's pregnancy. Alternatively, the cat which was discovered in Chongqing, China, may be a freak that developed from two embryos.


Snake Born with Hand Shocks Scientists

© Unknown
An elderly Chinese woman who discovered a snake with a clawed hand protruding from its body was so scared she beat it to death, according to reports. Xiu Qiong Duan, 68, told the SINA Beijing news agency she woke up in the middle of the night to find the snake clinging to the wall of her bedroom.

"I woke up and heard a strange scratching sound ... at first I thought it was thieves" she said. "I turned on the light and saw this monster working its way along the wall using his claw."

Ms Duan, from Suining in southwest China, said she then grabbed a shoe and beat the snake to death. She reportedly preserved its body in a bottle of alcohol which she gave to the Life Sciences Department at China's West Normal University in Nanchang.


El Niño, Global Warming Link Questioned; Possible Link Between 1918 El Niño And Flu Pandemic?

Research conducted at Texas A&M University casts doubts on the notion that El Niño has been getting stronger because of global warming and raises interesting questions about the relationship between El Niño and a severe flu pandemic 91 years ago. The findings are based on analysis of the 1918 El Niño, which the new research shows to be one of the strongest of the 20th century.

El Niño occurs when unusually warm surface waters form over vast stretches of the eastern Pacific Ocean and can affect weather systems worldwide. Using advanced computer models, Benjamin Giese, a professor of oceanography who specializes in ocean modeling, and his co-authors conducted a simulation of the global oceans for the first half of the 20th century and they find that, in contrast with prior descriptions, the 1918-19 El Niño was one of the strongest of the century.

Giese's work will be published in the current Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, and the research project was funded by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the National Science Foundation.


Chimps Catch Yawns from Cartoon

chimp yawning
© Emory UniversityBy copying the pattern of real chimps' yawning, researchers designed animations that in turn caused the real chimps to yawn.
In a bizarre twist on the odd phenomenon of contagious yawning, chimps have been found to yawn when they watch an animated chimp do so.

Scientists don't know for sure why yawning is contagious in humans, but the phenomenon is recognized as real. Researchers suspect it has to do with empathy and is therefore similar to our propensity to laugh (or cry) with others. Other primates are known to catch yawns, and last year a study revealed that dogs can catch a human yawn.

Humans, meanwhile, were known to catch yawns from animated characters.

"We know humans often empathize with fictional displays of behavior, including those in cartoons and video games, even though the displays are obviously artificial," said lead researcher Matthew Campbell of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University. "Humans experience emotional engagement with characters, empathizing with happiness, sadness or other emotions displayed by the characters.


Greenland icesheet could melt faster than thought: study

Greenland glacier
© AFP/Slim AllaguiAn aerial view of the ice glacier of Ilulissat, Greenland taken in July 2009. The Greenland icesheet responded to global warming over the past 10,000 years more quickly than thought, according to a study released Wednesday.
Paris - The Greenland icesheet responded to global warming over the past 10,000 years more quickly than thought, according to a study released Wednesday.

As a result, a medium-sized temperature increase this century could cause the continent-sized ice block to start melting at an alarming rate, it suggests.

"It is entirely possible that a future temperature increase of a few degrees Celsius in Greenland will result in a icesheet mass loss and contribution to sea level rise larger than previously projected," it warns.

Greenland contains enough water to raise sea levels by about seven metres (23 feet). Even a far more modest increase would put major coastal cities under water and force hundreds of millions of people out of their homes.

Until recently, experts were confident that the planet's two icesheets -- in Greenland and Antarctica -- would remain largely stable over the coming centuries despite global warming.

Comment: The Greenland Icesheet could just as easily respond to the drop of a few degrees Celsius too. It's also a far more likely scenario:

Fire and Ice - The Day After Tomorrow

Bizarro Earth

Ozone hole smaller in 2009 than 2008: World Meteorological Organisation

NASA image of the planet Earth
© AFP/NASA-HO/File/Michael BensonNASA image of the planet Earth. The World Meteorological Organisation said that the ozone hole is expected to be smaller in 2009 than a year ago.
Geneva - The World Meteorological Organisation said Wednesday that the ozone hole is expected to be smaller in 2009 than a year ago.

"The meteorological conditions observed so far could indicate that the 2009 ozone hole will be smaller than those of 2006 and 2008 and close to that of 2007," said the UN agency in a statement.

The hole in the layer over the Antarctic was discovered in the 1980s. It regularly tends to form in August, reaching a maximum size late September or early October before it fills again in December.

The size is dependent on weather conditions.

This year the hole began forming "earlier than before" said WMO's expert on the ozone Geir Braathen.

On September 16, it stood at 24 million square kilometers, he said.


Study: Urban streams contaminated by road salt

Road salt pollution
© UnknownRoad salt pollution
Minneapolis - Many urban streams have become salty enough to harm aquatic life, largely because of salt used for deicing roads in the winter, according to a new government study released Wednesday.

The U.S. Geological Survey studied urban streams and groundwater for levels of chloride, a component of salt, in 20 states spanning from Alaska to the Great Lakes and Northeast.

It found chloride concentrations above federal recommendations designed to protect aquatic life in more than 40 percent of urban streams tested. The highest levels were measured in those streams during the winter - as much as 20 times the federal guidelines - when salt and other chemicals are commonly used for deicing.

The problem was less serious in groundwater, and fewer than 2 percent of the drinking-water wells sampled had chloride levels higher than federal standards for human consumption. Chloride levels generally were much higher in urban than rural areas.


It's Raining Less Than Scientists Thought

rain streaks
© Joe Sharkey
Raindrops just broke their own speed record: they can drop faster than anyone thought possible.

Larger drops are speedier than smaller ones because they are heavier and so can more easily overcome air resistance. But there's a limit to how fast a drop can go, a "terminal velocity" achieved when the downward force of gravity equals the upward drag of the air. Thus, whenever smaller drops are detected apparently beating larger ones in the race to the ground, atmospheric scientists interpret the observations as errors by recording instruments.


EPA holds up 79 permits for Appalachian surface mines

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday that 79 applications for surface coal-mine permits in Kentucky , West Virginia , Ohio and Tennessee might violate the nation's Clean Water Act and require closer scrutiny.

Many of the 79 applications would remove mountaintops and dump debris in valley streams.

The EPA's action was an abrupt shift from the last big batch of surface mining permits that it's considered during the Obama administration. In May, the agency said it had no concerns with 42 of 48 permits, and blocked six.

The latest decision is in line with the Obama administration's call in June for a closer review of surface mining in Appalachia. Final decisions by the EPA in the 79 cases are weeks or months away. The agency said in a report that the review doesn't mean that the permits may not be authorized later.

After another two weeks of review, the agency will issue a final list of the permits it's concerned about. As each case comes up, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers will meet with the mining company for up to 60 days to see whether mining methods can be changed to reduce impacts and be deemed environmentally responsible.