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Sat, 02 Dec 2023
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Earth Changes

Bizarro Earth

Update: US Mississippi River overflows 11 more levees, crops threatened

FORT MADISON, Iowa - The swollen Mississippi River ran over the top of at least 11 more levees on Wednesday as floodwaters swallowed up more U.S. farmland, adding to billion-dollar losses and feeding global food inflation fears.

©REUTERS/Frank Polich
Houses sit in flood waters from the Mississippi River in La Grange, Missouri June 18, 2008.

Volunteers and aid workers were piling sandbags up and down the most important U.S. inland waterway to try to protect more levees and thousands of acres of prime crop land threatened as the river's crest moves south after last week's torrential rains.

"Their misfortune had been our fortune. I'd rather it hadn't come at the expense of others. But it is what it is," Steve Cirinna of the Lee County Emergency Management Agency said of the levee breaches, which lowered the river.


Floods kill over 170 in China

Heavy rain and floods have claimed 171 lives across China, the China Daily newspaper said on Tuesday, quoting the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters. (VIDEO)

It said the worst storms and floods to hit the country in decades had affected some 38.5 million people in 20 provinces, mostly in the south, with some areas experiencing their heaviest rainfall in 100 years. Around 1.3 million people have been forced to flee their homes.

Some 50 people are also missing and 2.2 million hectares of farmland has been flooded. Estimated economic losses are 26 billion yuan ($3.3 billion).

Life Preserver

US: North Iowa will receive federal disaster aid

Cerro Gordo, Floyd and Franklin counties have been named federal disaster areas due to the recent flooding.

On Saturday, Cerro Gordo and Floyd counties were declared eligible for federal assistance to individuals and households.

On Friday, Cerro Gordo, Floyd and Franklin were declared eligible for federal funds for public assistance only.

Public assistance allows state and local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations to receive assistance on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by flooding.

©Globe Gazette photo by Mary Pieper
U.S. Sen Tom Harkin (second from left) visits with Tim Rozen while U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (second from right) talks to Jim Kuhlman, Tim Stoltenberg and others during a visit to Mason City on Saturday. The senators were viewing damage along North Hampshire Avenue.

Better Earth

Oceans warm more quickly than suspected: study

PARIS -- The world's oceans have warmed 50 percent faster over the last 40 years than previously thought due to climate change, Australian and US climate researchers reported Wednesday.

Higher ocean temperatures expand the volume of water, contributing to a rise in sea levels that is submerging small island nations and threatening to wreak havoc in low-lying, densely-populated delta regions around the globe.

The study, published in the British journal Nature, adds to a growing scientific chorus of warnings about the pace and consequences of rising oceans.

It also serves as a corrective to a massive report issued last year by the Nobel-winning UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), according to the authors.

Comment: Don't put on your speedos and ray-bans yet... there is a whole other raft of evidence showing that the earth has stopped the warming cycle and is now cooling. And with the sun-spot activity at about zero, the chances of an ice-age are pretty good.


Birds communicate reproductive success in song

Some migratory songbirds figure out the best place to live by eavesdropping on the singing of others that successfully have had baby birds - a communication and behavioral trait so strong that researchers playing recorded songs induced them to nest in places they otherwise would have avoided.

This suggests that songbirds have more complex communication abilities than had previously been understood, researchers say, and that these "social cues" can be as or more important than the physical environment of a site.

The discovery was just published in a professional journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, by scientists from Oregon State University, along with collaborators from Wellesley College, Queen's University and Trent University in Ontario, Canada.

Life Preserver

Rare otter gets sanctuary in Cambodian zoo

PHNOM PENH -- The world's only captive hairy-nosed otter is living in a new home in a Cambodian zoo, in a move conservation officials said Wednesday could help ensure survival of the rare species.

The young male named Dara was released into its new home Tuesday at Phnom Tamau Zoo, located near Phnom Penh, said representatives from Conservation International (CI).

Two Buddhist monks walked into the enclosure with Dara to bless the animal's new home, following Cambodian tradition.

"Scientists recommend establishing of a breeding population in captivity to ensure survival of this species," said Annette Olsson, a CI researcher in Cambodia.

"Dara could be the founder of such a captive population, if and when we find him a wife, of course," she said.

The animal, a member of the rarest of otter species, had a fraught journey to the enclosure. It was first rescued when its mother was killed by a fisherman in Cambodia's Tonle Sap Lake, Olsson said.


Jellyfish outbreaks a sign of nature out of sync

PARIS -- The dramatic proliferation of jellyfish in oceans around the world, driven by overfishing and climate change, is a sure sign of ecosystems out of kilter, warn experts.

"Jellyfish are an excellent bellwether for the environment," explains Jacqueline Goy, of the Oceanographic Institute of Paris. "The more jellyfish, the stronger the signal that something has changed."

Brainless creatures composed almost entirely of water, the primitive animals have quietly filled a vacuum created by the voracious human appetite for fish.

Dislodging them will be difficult, marine biologists say.

"Jellyfish have come to occupy the place of many other species," notes Ricardo Aguilar, research director for Oceana, a international conservation organisation.

Nowhere is the sting of these poorly understood invertebrates felt more sharply than the Mediterranean basin, where their exploding numbers have devastated native marine species and threaten seaside tourism.


UPDATE: Polar bear stranded on Iceland killed by police

REYKJAVIK -- Icelandic police said Wednesday they had shot and killed a polar bear discovered earlier this week on the island, which is hundreds of kilometres (miles) from the threatened species' natural habitat.

"It was shot last night (Tuesday)," a police spokesman in the northern town of Saudarkrokkur told AFP.

Polar bears are rare sightings on Iceland, since they have to swim hundreds of kilometres through icy waters to reach the island from their natural Arctic habitats, but the bear discovered Monday was the second spotted and killed on the island in the past two weeks.

Icelandic authorities had been harshly criticised for killing the first bear and had indicated they would try to capture the second animal, which was discovered by a 12-year-old girl as she was out walking her dog.

The chief veterinarian from the Copenhagen zoo had been flown in late Tuesday to help.

The police "tried to get close to (the bear) with our vet, but they did not get close enough to shoot it with the anaesthetiser," zoo spokesman Bengt Holst told AFP.

"Then the bear started running, so the police were frightened they would lose control. The bear could run very close to the populated area, so they decided to shoot it," he added.

Cloud Lightning

Rains kill seven, displace over two million in India

KOLKATA - Flash floods triggered by two days of heavy rain in eastern India killed seven more people and displaced more than two million, officials said Wednesday.

"At least five deaths were reported in two districts as raging rivers collapsed thousands of huts, uprooted trees and damaged roads," Asim Sengupta, finance minister of West Bengal state, told AFP.

The minister said 1.6 million people had been made homeless.

Nearly a million people were cut off in the neighbouring eastern coastal state of Orissa, where two people drowned, disaster management minister Manmohan Samal said.

Four rivers were overflowing in Orissa, where medical teams were being sent to affected areas and air force helicopters were due to drop food packets.

In West Bengal, soldiers had been called to rescue tens of thousands of people marooned in flooded villages.

Schools and colleges in the affected districts were ordered shut to house displaced people.


Rare polar bear sighting on Iceland

Reykjavik -- A polar bear has been discovered on Iceland, which is hundreds of kilometres from the threatened species' natural habitat, a local photographer said Tuesday.

"The bear is in the north of Iceland near the town of Saudarkrokkur," Rax Axelsson, a photographer with Iceland's newspaper of reference, Morgunbladid, told AFP.

Polar Bear

"The bear is living off of eggs and birds" and does not appear to be hungry, he added.

The bear was discovered by 12-year-old Karen Heljateynsdottir not far from her farm as she was out walking her dog on Monday.

"She saw something white and thought it was a plastic bag, and then she realised it was a polar bear. She ran home and she said she has never run so fast in her life," Axelsson said.