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Sun, 18 Feb 2018
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Wildlife dying en masse as Pilcomayo river runs dry in Paraguay

A cattle carcass on the Agropil ranch, in Boquerón, on the border between Paraguay and Argentina. The Pilcomayo River is suffering through its worst drought in almost two decades while cattle and wildlife pay the price.
© Jorge Adorno
A cattle carcass on the Agropil ranch, in Boquerón, on the border between Paraguay and Argentina. The Pilcomayo River is suffering through its worst drought in almost two decades while cattle and wildlife pay the price.
Vultures rest in the tree's upper branches, their black bodies in stark contrast to the blanched wood beneath their feet. Below them, caimans and capybaras crawl in sucking mud through the Agropil lagoon, seeking water that is unlikely to arrive for many months. The river has dried up, and there is nowhere for them to go.

The lagoon, located in the western Paraguayan province of Boquerón, is just one of many stretches of the Pilcomayo River suffering an extensive die-off of caiman, fish, and other river creatures. There have not been any official estimates from the Ministry of the Environment, but Roque González Vera, a journalist for ABC Color in Paraguay, reports utter devastation in some places: Up to 98 percent of caimans (Caiman yacare) are suspected dead, and 80 percent of the capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) population has died.

Paraguay is in the midst of an ecological crisis.

Blue Planet

Water windfall: Scientists discover deep sources of groundwater in California's Central Valley, but oil activities pose threats

California aqueduct
© Rob Jackson, Stanford University
The California Aqueduct, with the Lost Hills Oil Field in the background
California's drought-stricken Central Valley harbors three times more groundwater than previously estimated, Stanford scientists have found. Accessing this water in an economically feasible way and safeguarding it from possible contamination from oil and gas activities, however, will be challenging.

"It's not often that you find a 'water windfall,' but we just did," said study co-author Robert Jackson, the Michelle and Kevin Douglas Provostial Professor at Stanford. "There's far more fresh water and usable water than we expected."

The research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of June 27, highlights the need to better characterize and protect deep groundwater aquifers not only in California but in other parched regions as well.

"Our findings are relevant to a lot of other places where there are water shortages, including Texas, China and Australia," said study co-author Mary Kang, a postdoctoral associate at Stanford School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences.


Excavators of Canopus and Thonis-Heracleion, the 'Egyptian Atlantises' present first results

sphinx great pyramid
© Flickr/ Sam Valadi
Giza Pyramids & Sphinx - Egypt
British archaeologists have presented the first results of their underwater excavations in the Hellenic cities of Canopus and Thonis-Heracleion, which sank into the Mediterranean Sea somewhere around the 8th century AD, Nature magazine wrote. Canopus and Thonis-Heracleion were two major port cities that existed in the Nile Delta in the 5th century BC.

Founded by Greek and Macedonian colonists during the 26th dynasty of Egyptian pharaohs, the cities survived the country's' occupation, first by Persians and then by Alexander of Macedonia's armies before being taken over by Rome during Queen Cleopatra's reign.

Then, around 750-800 AD the millennium-old cities were mysteriously submerged several meters into the Mediterranean and their location was lost for centuries before a team of British and French archeologists began large-scale excavations in the Abu Qir Bay in the Nile Delta.


250 bats scorched to death in Dahod, India

Dead bats
At least 250 bats were scorched to death in Dahod district's Devgadh Baria town, forest officials said Saturday. The flying foxes dropped dead from two banyan trees along a lake and a temple of Lord Shiva - the only location where the mammals nest.

Forest officials have sought help from the fire department to create "artificial rain showers" to save the surviving bats from the bout of scorching summer. R B Jadav, Range Forest Officer of Devgadh Baria, said that the mammals have the capacity to bear temperatures up to 40 degrees Celsius, beyond which they suffer severe dehydration.

Jadav told The Sunday Express, "This is the first time that such a large number of bats have died during the summer as the temperatures have risen beyond normal range. On Friday, with the help of the local civic body, we disposed of the carcasses by burying them with salt, as per the procedure."

Arrow Down

Colorado's Lake Mead drops to lowest ever level

The nation's largest reservoir has broken a record, declining to the lowest level since it was filled in the 1930s.

Lake Mead reached the all-time low Wednesday night, slipping below a previous record set in June 2015.

The downward march of the reservoir near Las Vegas reflects enormous strains on the over-allocated Colorado River. Its flows have decreased during 16 years of drought,
and climate change is adding to the stresses on the river.

As the levels of Lake Mead continue to fall, the odds are increasing for the federal government to declare a shortage in 2018, a step that would trigger cutbacks in the amounts flowing from the reservoir to Arizona and Nevada. With that threshold looming, political pressures are building for California, Arizona and Nevada to reach an agreement to share in the cutbacks to avert an even more severe shortage.

© Mark Henle/ The Arizona Republic
A "bathtub ring" on Lake Mead in late 2014 shows how far the water level has fallen.


Animals die as Cambodia is hit by worst drought in decades

A pumping machine in an empty lake in Kandal province, Cambodia. The country is facing its worst drought in decades.
© Mak Remissa/EPA
A pumping machine in an empty lake in Kandal province, Cambodia. The country is facing its worst drought in decades.
Schools face water shortages and government says entire nation is affected as rainy season is forecast to be delayed by months

Behind a clutch of huts that hug the major route between Cambodia's capital and its famed Angkor temples, rice farmers Phem Phean and Sok Khoert peer into a cement hollow.

It is several meters deep, and one has to crane over the top to see all the way down. At the bottom, all that is left is a small pool of warm, dirty-looking water; it has run all but dry, along with two other wells, meaning the farmers and four other families have just one working well left from which to drink. And that, too, is fast running out.

Behind them, hundreds of acres of parched earth bake under an unrelenting sun in a relatively cloudless sky. If a rice harvest is even possible this year, they fear it is set to be poor and their main concern right now is being able to get enough water to drink.


Hyenas attack starving women in Somaliland as drought hits

Hyenas Attack Starving Women As Drought Hits

Hyenas attack starving women
Women collapsing from hunger are being set upon by animals amid Somaliland's worst drought in living memory.

Starving women are being attacked by packs of hyenas in drought-hit Somaliland, an aid agency has warned.

People in the East African state say it is the worst drought in living memory, caused by successive poor rainy seasons made worse by El Nino conditions in the Horn of Africa.

Adan Shariff Gabow, from charity Islamic Relief, said there are cases of women collapsing from hunger and being set upon by starving hyenas.

"They fell down, malnourished, and we understand they were then set on by the animals," he said.

The severe weather conditions have killed thousands of goats and cows, bringing the risk of wide-spread famine, aid workers said.


Russia: Sorry, Israel, Golan Heights is Syrian territory


Illegal occupiers in Golan Heights.
Russia will abide by the UN Security Council resolutions on the Golan Heights, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday.

Moscow's stance on the Golan Heights remains unchanged and is in line with UN Security Council resolutions, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday.

"The Russian stance is not changing in any way, it is in line with the relevant Security Council resolutions, there are no new elements to this position," Peskov told reporters.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting on Thursday that the Golan Heights would remain under Israel's control. The UN Security Council defines the region as occupied Syrian land.


Movement of water around the world contributes to Earth's rotational wobbles says NASA

Earth's Spin Axis
© NASA/JPL-Caltech
Earth does not always spin on an axis running through its poles. Instead, it wobbles irregularly over time, drifting toward North America throughout most of the 20th Century (green arrow). That direction has changed drastically due to changes in water mass on Earth.
Using satellite data on how water moves around Earth, NASA scientists have solved two mysteries about wobbles in the planet's rotation -- one new and one more than a century old. The research may help improve our knowledge of past and future climate.

Although a desktop globe always spins smoothly around the axis running through its north and south poles, a real planet wobbles. Earth's spin axis drifts slowly around the poles; the farthest away it has wobbled since observations began is 37 feet (12 meters). These wobbles don't affect our daily life, but they must be taken into account to get accurate results from GPS, Earth-observing satellites and observatories on the ground.

In a paper published today in Science Advances, Surendra Adhikari and Erik Ivins of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, researched how the movement of water around the world contributes to Earth's rotational wobbles. Earlier studies have pinpointed many connections between processes on Earth's surface or interior and our planet's wandering ways. For example, Earth's mantle is still readjusting to the loss of ice on North America after the last ice age, and the reduced mass beneath that continent pulls the spin axis toward Canada at the rate of a few inches each year. But some motions are still puzzling.


State of emergency: Drought-stricken Palau could dry up this month

Palau drought
© dailynews.lk
Not how we typically think of gorgeous Palau!
The tiny country of about 18,000 people declared a state of emergency last month, the latest Pacific island nation to do so as one of the worst ever El Nino-induced droughts in the region worsens.

Drought-stricken Palau could dry up completely this month, officials warned on Monday (Apr 4) as the Pacific island appealed for urgent aid from Japan and Taiwan, including shipments of water. "We're still in the state of emergency, there's a sense of urgency to address the crisis," a government spokesman told AFP as the National Emergency Committee (NEC) met to discuss strategy.

An NEC report prepared for President Tommy Remengesau offered a bleak outlook for the already-parched country. "Based on the current water level and usage rates, and assuming conditions persist unabated, a total water outage is likely to occur in the next two to three weeks," it said. Access to tap water is already rationed to three hours a day or less in the capital Koror and schools are only open half days because they cannot give students enough to drink.

"The NEC has been in contact with the governments of Japan and Taiwan regarding support of materials and equipment, as well as direct shipments of water as necessary," it said. The Japanese embassy in Palau confirmed it had received a request for assistance and discussions were ongoing about what form it would take. "The nature of what type of assistance and in what volume is expected to be finalised as soon as possible," it said in a statement.