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Mon, 19 Feb 2018
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Question

What knocked over 100 giant trees in Washington's Olympic National Park?

Downed trees in Olympic National Park
© Bill Bacchus, Olympic National Park
Splintered old growth trees block the July Creek Trail along Lake Quinault in Olympic National Park after being toppled by a mysterious windstorm in the early hours of Jan. 27, 2018.
It came in the night, snapping trees like chopsticks.

During the early hours of Jan. 27 more than 100 gigantic old growth trees fell on the north shore of Lake Quinault.

The resulting thud at about 1:30 a.m. was strong enough to register as a small earthquake, according to a seismic monitor at Quinault.

Fallen trees, their splintered trunks left pointing in the air, blocked North Shore Road and damaged utility lines along a 1,000-foot stretch. The sides of the blowdown area were about one half-mile long.

Officials from Olympic National Park knew some sort of wind event was the culprit but nearby weather stations reported only light breezes that night. Radar didn't show any storms.

University of Washington climatologist Cliff Mass investigated the mystery like, in his words, Sherlock Holmes.

The fallen trees in the affected area near July Creek were all facing south. The wind had to come from the north.

"The strong winds could not have been the result of microburst associated with a thunderstorm or strong convection," Mass wrote on his weather blog. "Weather radar showed no such feature and the lightning detection network had no strikes in the region."

Theories abounded on the park's Facebook page: Experimental military equipment, tornado, Sasquatch.

Comment: Olympic National Park's unsolved mystery: What caused over 100 trees to fall down in the middle of the night?


Seismograph

7.2 magnitude quake strikes Mexico near Pacific coast

mexico earthquake February 2018
© USGS
A powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 has rocked southern and central Mexico. The tremors reportedly shook buildings across the country's capital.

The quake hit the southwestern Mexican state of Oaxaca, United States Geological Survey (USGS) reports. Situated closest to the epicenter is the municipality of Pinotepa de Don Luis, with a population of some 6,700. Tremors were felt as far as Mexico city, with locals posting videos of shaking trees and buildings to social media. Alarms went off across the capital and thousands of people flooded into the streets.

Comment: Quakes shake Pacific plate as Ring of Fire activity returns



UPDATE: Feb 17th - additional reporting:
Magnitude-7.2 earthquake slams south, central Mexico

A powerful magnitude-7.2 earthquake shook south and central Mexico Friday, causing people to flee swaying buildings and office towers in the country's capital, where residents were still jittery after a deadly quake five months ago.

Crowds gathered on Mexico City's central Reforma Avenue as well as on streets in Oaxaca state's capital, nearer the quake's epicenter, which was in a rural area close to Mexico's Pacific coast and the border with Guerrero state. There were no immediate reports of deaths.

"It was awful," said Mercedes Rojas Huerta, 57, who was sitting on a bench outside her home in Mexico City's trendy Condesa district, too frightened to go back inside. "It started to shake; the cars were going here and there. What do I do?"

She said she was still scared thinking of the Sept. 19 earthquake that caused 228 deaths in the capital and 141 more in nearby states. Many buildings in Mexico City are still damaged from that quake.


Mexican Civil Protection chief Luis Felipe Puente tweeted that there were no immediate reports of damages from the quake. The Oaxaca state government said via Twitter that only material damages were reported near Pinotepa and Santiago Jamiltepec, but that shelters were opened for those fleeing damaged homes.

The Mexico City Red Cross said via Twitter that the facade of a building collapsed in Mexico City's Condesa neighborhood, which was hit hard on Sept. 19. A video showed people walking through a dust cloud. But reporters at the scene later found no evidence of a collapse at the location given.

About an hour after the quake, a magnitude 5.8 aftershock also centered in Oaxaca caused tall buildings in Mexico City to briefly sway again.

USGS seismologist Paul Earle said Friday's earthquake appeared to be a separate temblor, rather than an aftershock of a Sept. 7 earthquake also centered in Oaxaca, which registered a magnitude of 8.2. The Sept. 19 earthquake struck closer to Mexico City.


The Sept. 7 quake killed nearly 100 people in Oaxaca and neighboring Chiapas, but was centered about 273 miles (440 kilometers) southwest of Friday's earthquake, Earle said.

In Mexico's capital, frightened residents flooded into the streets in Condesa, including one unidentified woman wrapped in just a towel, but there were no immediate signs of damage.

"I'm scared," said Rojas Huerta, recalling five months ago when buildings fell as she ran barefoot into the street. "The house is old."
Also See: Earthquake swarm hits Canary Islands' La Palma


Wolf

Border collies run like the wind to restore new life to Chilean forest

Border collies
© Francisca Torres
Border collies Olivia, Summer and Das in the woods on a non-working day.
The worst wildfire season in Chile's history ravaged more than 1.4 million acres early in 2017, destroying nearly 1,500 homes and killing at least 11 people. More than a dozen countries sent fire-fighting specialists to help battle the dozens of destructive blazes. When the fires were finally extinguished, the landscape was a charred wasteland.

A few months later, a unique team was brought in to help restore the damaged ecosystem. They have four legs and a penchant for careening at high speeds through the forest.

Border collies Das, Summer and Olivia were outfitted with special backpacks brimming with seeds. Then they were sent on a mission, let loose to race through the ruined forests. As they bounded and darted, their packs streamed a trickle of seeds. The hope is that these seeds will take root and sprout, bringing the forest slowly back to life one tree at a time.

The job is a serious one, but for the dogs, it's an excuse to have fun, says their owner, Francisca Torres.

Comment: "Border collies are supersmart!" This is a great example of a very smart dog owner giving her working dogs an important task in helping to restore the damaged ecosystem.


Wolf

Multiple cities in southern Ontario, Canada are being invaded by wild coyotes

Coyotes
© @Josefpittner | Dreamstime.com
Coyotes
Coyotes are commonly found in parks and ravines throughout the Greater Toronto Area, but recently have recently been invading urban areas in southern Ontario with greater frequency.

Several isolated incidents with coyotes have been reported in the following cities, all within the first two months of 2018:

Collingwood

A Collingwood family reported wild attack on their dog by what they believe was a pack of coyotes. The incident occurred right in their backyard on Jan. 23.

"She got out and I ran to grab her and call her back in and she had headed to the backyard and that's when I heard these noises," Kristina, the mother, said. "I took her into the vet and they saw fang marks. She had to have surgery, there is a drainage tube sticking out."

Apparently, this wasn't the first coyote sighting in the area — according to a community-formed Facebook group, a pack of three tried to attack another neighbourhood dog on Jan. 15 and 20.

Arrow Down

Six sinkholes open in The Villages, Florida

Sinkholes in The Villages, FL
© Austin L. Miller/Star-Banner
Two homes affected by the sinkholes have been evacuated. Two other homes have been evacuated as a safety precaution.

A south Marion County woman was surprised early Thursday morning by sinkholes opening up near her home.

The house is at 17092 SE 79th McLawren Terrace in The Villages, Emergency Management Director Preston Bowlin said.

That home and a neighboring one affected by the sinkholes were condemned, he said. Two other homes have been evacuated as a safety precaution. Seven people have been displaced.

Bowlin said there were six sinkholes.


Binoculars

Wrong place, wrong time: Rare eastern imperial eagle turns up in Denmark

An eastern imperial eagle.
© wrangel/Depositphotos
An eastern imperial eagle.
A rare eastern imperial eagle has been spotted near Aabenraa Fjord in southern Denmark.

Sightings of the species, which has a wingspan of just under two metres, are very rare at Danish latitudes.

"This is probably the only imperial eagle in the whole of northern Europe right now," said ornithologist and birdwatching guide author Klaus Malling Olsen.

The eastern imperial is one of the rarest eagles in Europe, with the population of the bird estimated to be around 500 pairs.

No more than 30 sightings of the species have been registered in Denmark since records began, and most of these have come during the spring or autumn.

Info

How microplastics are contaminating seabirds in the remote Aleutian Islands, Alaska

A red-faced cormorant on its nest on St. Paul Island in summer 2015.
© Veronica Padula
A red-faced cormorant on its nest on St. Paul Island in summer 2015.
Coal mines had their canaries. When it comes to microplastics in the ocean, Alaska has its seabirds.

A nearly decade-long University of Alaska project to monitor the ecology of puffins, crested auklets and other seabirds that flock to the storm-tossed Aleutian Islands has produced crucial baseline information about microplastics contamination in marine waters off Alaska.

Of more than 200 Aleutian birds initially examined, nearly 1 in 5 turned out to have some type of organic materials in their stomachs, researchers found.

Further investigation revealed that plastic contamination goes well beyond items in birds' guts.

Nearly all of the birds subsequently examined tested positive for at least one type of phthalate in their muscle tissue, said Veronica Padula, a PhD candidate focusing on plastics contamination. There are many types of phthalates, but Padula tested the birds for the six that are considered high priorities by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Blackbox

Mysterious enriched uranium particle detected in skies over Alaska's Aleutian Islands

Uranium particles detected
© Berliner Verlag / Global Look Press
Scientists have found a "highly unusual" particle enriched with uranium in the skies over Alaska's Aleutian Islands. The source of the substance, which is typically used in nuclear fuel and bombs, is still unclear.

The mysterious substance "containing a very small amount of enriched uranium" was found at an altitude of 7km (4.3 miles) above Alaska's Aleutian Islands, according to a report issued by the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity.

It is the first time the group of US scientists has detected enriched uranium-235 in their 20-year study. They were making no special attempt to sample radioactive material, when they came across it during a routine flight to check atmospheric conditions in August 2016.

"During 20 years of aircraft sampling of millions of particles in the global atmosphere, we have rarely encountered a particle with a similarly high content of 238U [uranium-238] and never a particle with enriched 235U [uranium-235]," an abstract from the article says, with the full study to be published in April.

Cloud Precipitation

Hailstorms cause extensive damage to crops in 984 villages across Madhya Pradesh, India

crop DAMAGE

Crop damage
As many as 984 villages in Madhya Pradesh were hit by recent hailstorms that caused extensive damage to crops, an official said today.

Villages in Sehore, Bhopal, Hoshangabad, Shivpuri, Ashoknagar, Raisen and other districts in the state were lashed by hailstorms between Sunday and Monday.

State Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan yesterday held a meeting here and took a review of the post-hailstorm situation. He directed the officials to estimate the crop damage in a transparent manner, a public relations department official said.

During the meeting, Chouhan was informed that 984 villages were affected by hailstorms, he said.


Comment: See also this report from the state of Maharashtra: Unusual hailstorm kills 2 and damages crops in India


Wolf

Man killed in dog attack in Owensboro, Kentucky

canine attack
© Angela Antunes / CC by 2.0
Owensboro Police confirm a man was killed and a woman was injured in a dog attack Thursday evening.

Police say this happened at a home on Heritage Park Drive on the city's southwest side. We're told at least three dogs were living at the home, but, it is unclear how many were involved in the attack.

Police said one of the dogs tried to attack responding officers and was shot and killed.

Detectives are still trying to piece together what happened.

We will pass along updates as we learn more.