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Thu, 30 Nov 2023
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Earth Changes

Bizarro Earth

2 moderate earthquakes rattle central Peru

LIMA -- The U.S. Geological Survey says a 5.5-magnitude earthquake rattled Peru's central highlands, followed by a 4.7-magnitude temblor in the same area. No damages or injuries were immediately reported.

The first quake struck at 7:17 p.m. (0017GMT) Monday evening, and the second hit 47 minutes later.

The epicenter was a sparsely populated area 70 miles (110 kilometers) east-southeast of Huanuco, the closest major city.

The first quake was the fourth with a greater-than-4.7 magnitude to strike the area in the past week.

Bizarro Earth

Penguins Setting Off Sirens Over Health Of World's Oceans

Like the proverbial canary in the coal mine, penguins are sounding the alarm for potentially catastrophic changes in the world's oceans, and the culprit isn't only climate change, says a University of Washington conservation biologist.

Adélie penguin
©Dee Boersma
Rain has soaked this Adélie penguin chick in Antarctica before its feathers are capable of repelling water. Though the icy continent is in essence a desert, coastal rainfall is becoming more common with changing climate.

Oil pollution, depletion of fisheries and rampant coastline development that threatens breeding habitat for many penguin species, along with Earth's warming climate, are leading to rapid population declines among penguins, said Dee Boersma, a University of Washington biology professor and an authority on the flightless birds.

"Penguins are among those species that show us that we are making fundamental changes to our world," she said. "The fate of all species is to go extinct, but there are some species that go extinct before their time and we are facing that possibility with some penguins."

In a new paper published in the July-August edition of the journal BioScience, Boersma notes that there are 16 to 19 penguin species, and most penguins are at 43 geographical sites, virtually all in the Southern Hemisphere. But for most of these colonies, so little is known that even their population trends are a mystery. The result is that few people realized that many of them were experiencing sharp population declines.


Invisible Waves Shape Continental Slope

A class of powerful, invisible waves hidden beneath the surface of the ocean can shape the underwater edges of continents and contribute to ocean mixing and climate, researchers from The University of Texas at Austin have found.

©University of Texas at Austin
Motion of dye-lines demonstrating the resonance phenomenon. A horizontal dye-line is set in the tank before experiments. The slope is forced at forcing frequencies. The frequencies in top, middle and bottom pannels are 0. 69 rad/s, 0.91 rad/s and 1.04 rad/s respectively. The middle pannel corresponds to the resonant case. The imaging window is 4 cm X 1.5 cm in dimensions and is at the center of the slope.

The scientists simulated ocean conditions in a laboratory aquarium and found that "internal waves" generate intense currents when traveling at the same angle as that of the continental slope. The continental slope is the region where the relatively shallow continental shelf slants down to meet the deep ocean floor.

They suspect that these intense currents, called boundary flows, lift sediments as the waves push into the continental slope, maintaining the angle of the slope through erosion. The action of the internal waves could also mix layers of colder and warmer water.

Better Earth

Whales Set To Chase Shrinking Feed Zones

Endangered migratory whales will be faced with shrinking crucial Antarctic foraging zones which will contain less food and will be further away, a new analysis of the impacts of climate change on Southern Ocean whales has found.

Humpback whale
©iStockphoto/Dale Walsh
Climate change will require migratory whales like this Humpback whale to swim further for less food.

A new report* summarises World Wildlife Fund (WWF) research showing that levels of global warming predicted over the next 40 years will lead to winter sea-ice coverage of the Southern Ocean declining by up to 30 per cent in some key areas.

"Essentially, what we are seeing is that ice-associated whales such as the Antarctic minke whale will face dramatic changes to their habitat over little more than the lifespan of an individual whale," said Dr Susan Lieberman, Director of WWF International's Species Programme and head of the WWF delegation to the IWC meeting.

Cloud Lightning

Second '100-year flood' in 15 years costly for misled public

ST. LOUIS - Fifteen years ago, after the Midwest was swamped with what was pronounced a "100-year" or even a "500-year" flood, some folks figured they would never again see such a disaster in their lifetime. Some even dropped their flood insurance.

Big mistake.

Now, with the region struck by a supposedly once-in-a-lifetime flood for the second time since 1993, some scientists and disaster officials say the use of terms like "100-year flood" should be re-evaluated because they are often misunderstood and can give the public a false sense of security.


US: Lightning sparks fires in Northern Nevada

Dry, hot conditions and lightning strikes sparked at least seven fires in the Reno-Sparks area Sunday, while smoke from fires in California continued to blow into the Reno area.


California wildfires force firefighters to pick their battles

SAN FRANCISCO -- With hundreds of wildfires raging across remote, rugged parts of California for a second week, fire officials have been forced to strategically choose which to fight and which to leave to burn for weeks or even months.

Cloud Lightning

Tropical storm kills 16 in China

At least 16 people have been killed after the deadly typhoon Fengshen hit southern China, China Daily reported on Monday.

The authorities fear the death toll could rise with nine people still missing.

The storm, whose name means "God of Wind" in Chinese battered China's southern province of Guangdong last Wednesday. Strong winds and downpours caused rivers to swell, destroying over 1,200 houses and hundreds of hectares of crops.

Arrow Up

US: Bees' decline could lead to higher food prices

Food prices could rise even more unless the mysterious decline in honey bees is solved, farmers and businessmen told lawmakers Thursday.

"No bees, no crops," North Carolina grower Robert D. Edwards told a House Agriculture subcommittee. Edwards said he had to cut his cucumber acreage in half because of the lack of bees available to rent.

About three-quarters of flowering plants rely on birds, bees and other pollinators to help them reproduce. Bee pollination is responsible for $15 billion annually in crop value.

In 2006, beekeepers began reporting losing 30 percent to 90 percent of their hives. This phenomenon has become known as Colony Collapse Disorder. Scientists do not know how many bees have died; beekeepers have lost 36 percent of their managed colonies this year. It was 31 percent for 2007, said Edward B. Knipling, administrator of the Agriculture Department's Agricultural Research Service.

Farmers say their businesses are feeling the sting of the decline of honey bees.

Evil Rays

Strong quake rattles South Sandwich Islands

A strong 6.7-magnitude earthquake struck Monday near the South Sandwich Islands, a remote British territory near Antarctica and South America's southern tip, the US Geological Survey said.

The earthquake, which was 10 kilometers (six miles) deep, took place 283 kilometers (176 miles) southeast of Bristol Island and 2,374 kilometers (1,476 miles) southeast of Punta Arenas, Chile, the USGS said.

The quake occurred at 0617 GMT, USGS said.