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Ancient City Reveals Life In Desert 2200 Years Ago

Earth News
The ancient city "Round Sand" is located in the center of the Taklimakan Desert (pictured).
Urumqi, China (XNA) May 31, 2006
Chinese and French archaeologists claim to have discovered the ruins of an ancient city which disappeared in the desert in Northwest China more than 2,200 years ago.
The ancient city, shaped like a peach, is located in the center of the Taklimakan Desert, the second largest shifting desert in the world, covering a total area of 337,600 square kilometers, in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
The perimeter of the city walls is 995 meters, with the height ranging from three meters to 11 meters. Archaeologists found traces of city gates and passages at the southern and eastern walls.

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Bird flu could become endemic in Africa

Photo: Coastal birds bask on a rock as the sun sets over Clifton Beach in Cape Town, South Africa

ROME, May 30 (Reuters) - Bird flu may become a permanent feature in Africa due to lack of funds to fight the deadly disease, a senior Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) official said on Tuesday.
Since re-emerging in Asia in late 2003, the virus has spread especially fast in the past six months, moving into parts of the Middle East, Europe and Africa. It has killed 127 people, according to the World Health Organisation.
"Africa is the continent where we are really worried to see endemicity becoming established," FAO's chief of animal health services, Joseph Domenech, told Reuters Television in an interview.
"If this is the case, it will be a new plague for African farmers and will be a permanent reservoir for re-infection to other regions through trade and wild birds."
Domenech said the continent was particularly vulnerable to the deadly H5N1 bird flu because of lack of funds and people to monitor and fight the virus. He said other countries should focus efforts on helping Africa to eradicate the disease.
"The risk (of bird flu spreading) is everywhere, but Africa is the most worrying region," he said.


Bird Flu Update
The World Health Organisation
(WHO) said that
seven deaths from avian
influenza in a single
Indonesian family may mean the
virus was passed between the humans
instead of through contact with
infected poultry. A WHO statement
said that all the confirmed cases could
be directly linked to “close and prolonged”
exposure to a woman during
a severe phase of the illness.
Spokesman Peter Cordingley said no
sick animals were found in the family’s
• A leading U.S. virologist cautioned
that sick poultry and infected
people are more likely to bring bird
flu into the United States rather than
migratory birds. "There is no H5N1
in the United States, and I don't think
it is going to get there this year by
wild birds — maybe not even next
year," Robert Webster of St. Jude
Children’s Research Hospital told an
animal health gathering. He believes
international trade in poultry is the
greatest threat.

Kenyan Lion Killings
Ritual killing of Kenya’s
famed lions could drive
the big cats to extinction,
according to warnings
from wildlife experts. A study by the
Kilimanjaro Lion Conservation Project
and experts from the University
of California blames the Maasai tribe
for the sharp decline of Maasailand
lions in recent years. It says that in
addition to traditional warrior rituals,
the tribe also slays the lions with
snares and poison in retaliation for the
death of their livestock. But Daniel
Ole Osoi, a senior Maasai leader, told
the French news agency that such ritual
killings of lions are a thing of the
past. He said the tribe realizes the
lions are part of their heritage and
attract tourists.

A massive collapse of the
lava dome at Montserrat’s
Soufriére Hills Volcano
sent a plume of ash soaring
6 km into the eastern Caribbean sky.
The volcanic debris forced the cancellation
of several flights in the
region and blanked the British protectorate
with an inch of ash. Sue
Loughlin, director of the Montserrat
Volcano Observatory, said while the
collapse was a “fairly serious event,”
getting rid of the dome was a good
thing because it had become very
large. “If it had gotten much bigger,
it would have been a significant threat
to populated parts of Montserrat,”
Loughlin said.
• Ecuador’s 5,044-metre Tungurahua
Volcano spewed several
columns of gas and ash-laden vapour
above the Andes nation. It followed
a week of the loudest and most frequent
rumblings since the mountain
rumbled to life seven years ago after
more than 80 years of dormancy.

Monsoon Flood Disaster
Two days of torrential
rainfall in northern Thailand
unleashed flooding
that swept houses and
vehicles into swollen rivers and may
have killed 100 people. The country’s
agriculture minister said many
had ignored flood warnings because
the region had been spared monsoon
inundations for the past 60 years.

A small earthquake
caused panic in the
Swedish capital of Stockholm
when inhabitants
mistook a loud boom that accompanied
the shaking for an explosion.
• Earth movements were also felt
in Indonesia’s Ambon region and
Papua province, metropolitan Tokyo,
western India, northwest Pakistan,
southeastern Turkey, eastern Zimbabwe,
eastern parts of the San Francisco
Bay Area and along the California-
Mexico border.

Fish Extinction Warning
The World Wildlife Fund
warned that fish stocks
on the high seas are being
plundered to the point of
extinction due to lack of protection by
the world’s governments. It said that
species such as tuna and orange
roughy are among the most threatened.
The environmental group said
the widespread use of bottom trawling
to catch fish also traps them, along
with marine mammals, destroying
ecosystems. The warnings were
released in a report published before
a meeting in New York in which governments
will review the United
Nations Fish Stocks Agreement.

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Earth News: A Journal of the Planet
© 2006 Earth Frenzy Radio.Com-All Rights Reserved

What on Earth is going on?

Robert Frost wrote, "Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice." He didn't guess who would be right only that both "would suffice."

Skeptics of man-made climate change are frequently treated as heretics. But they shouldn't be dismissed

Joseph Brean, National Post
Published: Saturday, May 27, 2006
Among users of Internet chat rooms, Godwin's Law states that as any discussion grows longer, the probability of someone making a comparison to Hitler or the Nazis approaches 100%.
Meteorologists seem to have a similar law: that in discussions about mankind's effect on the weather, it is only a matter of time before someone makes a crack about believing the Earth is flat.
Ptolemy's Law, as a scientist might call it, was at work on the grounds of the London Zoo recently, where some of the world's most eminent climate experts gathered for lectures of the Royal Meteorological Society.
The victim of the inevitable quip, a television weatherman, had said that public debate on the Kyoto accord is polarized between alarmism and industry-funded skepticism, neither of which satisfy him as a professional communicator. He asked whether there might be a "middle way."
Everyone turned to get a look at this heretic. They knew what was coming.
"Sorry to be provocative," Henry Derwent, Britain's climate-change representative to the G8, replied to the weatherman. "But round Earth, flat Earth. Where's the middle way in that?"
The room came alive with chortles of agreement.
Mr. Derwent -- a politician and former investment banker, not a scientist -- meant that there is no middle way, that the "anthropogenic" or man-made nature of climate change is now established beyond all but the most frivolous skepticism, wilful blindness or complete ignorance. "The last few years have seen the elimination of hiding spaces for skeptics," he said later in an interview.
Few of the experts in his audience would have contradicted him. To them, doubting whether humans are responsible for the warming air and rising oceans, or whether we can now do anything to reverse these trends, or whether we should, or even whether Kyoto is the best of various possible approaches, is as stupid as worrying about falling off the edge of the Earth. The situation is much the same in Canada. On climate change, skepticism has become Nazism.
This is why Rona Ambrose, Canada's Environment Minister, got such a cool reception at the recent climate-change talks in Bonn, Germany, where she acknowledged Canada would neither meet its 2012 emissions targets under the Kyoto Protocol nor commit to further ones.
Believers like to say, "Climate change is real." Skeptics like to say, "The only constant about climate is change." And insofar as either of these slogans mean anything at all, they are both correct.
With excruciating delicacy, the Summary for Policymakers by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change put it like this in 2001: "In the light of new evidence, and taking into account the remaining uncertainties, most of the observed warming over the past 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations."
Questions about why the climate changes are not new. The French physicist Joseph Fourier first explained the greenhouse effect in 1824, and the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius investigated it in 1896. Ever since, the public has been baffled. In 1920, the poet Robert Frost wrote, "Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice," but he never ventured a guess as to who was actually correct, only that both "would suffice."


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Bird flu deaths spark human infection fear

Published: 25 May 2006
Seven out of eight members of the same family who contracted bird flu have died from the disease in what the World Health Organisation describes as the "most worrying incident so far".

It is the largest cluster of human cases of infection with H5N1 since the outbreak began three years ago and scientists have been unable to identify the source.

The seven relatives in northern Sumatra, Indonesia, died earlier this month but extensive tests have failed to turn up any sign of diseased poultry in the area. Scientists are left facing the possibility that the virus passed among the family by human-to-human transmission.


Bird flu spreads in Romania
Bird flu continued to spread through Romania with the discovery of 11 new outbreaks including one in the south of the capital Bucharest.
"Overnight Wednesday 200 people in the fourth district of Bucharest were placed under quarantine, taking the number of isolated inhabitants in the Romanian capital to 400," Marius Dobrescu, a spokesman for the mayor's office, told AFP.

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Mountain Moved 62 Miles in 30 Minutes

May, 2006
A mountain near the Montana-Wyoming border once moved 62 miles in a half-hour in a catastrophic scenario that could be repeated elsewhere, scientists say.
Rock at the summit of Heart Mountain is 250 million years older than at its base. That suggests the top and the bottom have not always been together.
The presumed migration to its present home has puzzled scientists for years. They have known the mountain moved, but no one has explained how it happened or how long it took.
A new explanation comes from deep underground, where lava bubbled up to the surface and sent the mountain on its way in surprisingly quick fashion.
Slip-slidin' away
A large number of vertical cracks, or dikes, in the rock sets the geology of the wandering hill apart from others. The dikes filled with lava, funneling it through a zone of limestone saturated with water.
"A unique feature that helped this strange scenario is that Heart Mountain had a deep confined fluid layer," said geophysicist Einat Aharonov at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. "Into this layer many, many dikes intruded in close sequence — such dike density is also not extremely common."


Underwater Volcano Erupts on Video
New videos show the first ever observations of deep submarine volcanic eruptions.
Most of the Earth's volcanic activity happens underwater, anywhere from the surface all the way down to depths greater than 2.5 miles.
However, this underwater activity has rarely been seen directly. Previous accounts were either after the eruptions or by surface vessels that couldn't get close enough to the action.

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How Did Continents Split

IMAGE: A depiction of the supercontinent Pangaea some 250 million years ago shows regions where oxygen was insufficient for animal survival. Because oxygen levels decrease with increasing altitude, the more mountainous "hatched" areas would have prevented intermingling and reproduction between nearby animal populations. Throughout Earth's history, there have been six major continental assembly and breakup events, about 500 million years apart. Currently the Earth is in breakup cycle in which the Atlantic and Indian oceans are opening.

Athens OH (SPX) May 25, 2006
Like pieces in a giant jigsaw puzzle, continents have split, drifted and merged again many times throughout Earth's history, but geologists haven't understood the mechanism behind the moves. A new study now offers evidence that continents sometimes break along preexisting lines of weakness created when small chunks of land attach to a larger continent.
The paper — the cover story in the latest issue of Geology, the journal of the Geological Society of America — is the first to provide an explanation for the breaking patterns of continental plates, and uses the formation of an ocean about 500 million years ago to demonstrate that principle.


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African Bird Plague
Nigerian officials say
that swarms of quela
birds have invaded farmlands
in the north of the
country, destroying crops and threatening
the region’s harvests. The government
is providing funds for farmers
to purchase a combination of millet
and pesticides to poison the birds.
Sokoto state agricultural commissioner
Abubakar Sayinna told the
French news agency that the birds
move in swarms, covering the sky
like dark clouds and destroying many
fields within a few hours.

Eruption Alert
Indonesia’s Mount Merapi
spewed lava, superheated
clouds and rock over
densely populated central
Java, prompting nearby residents,
who had ignored earlier mandatory
evacuation orders, to flee their
homes. Vulcanologists said the hot
clouds and lava had not reached
inhabited areas, but ash fell as far as
6 miles from the crater. Merapi’s alert
status was raised to its highest level,
meaning a full eruption could come
at any time. The volcano’s most
deadly eruption took place in 1930,
when 1,369 people were killed. It also
erupted in 1994, claiming 66 lives.

New England Floods
Days of torrential rainfall
across New England
unleashed some of the
worst flooding to strike
the region in 70 years. Massachusetts
Gov. Mitt Romney described the
inundation as “almost biblical” in
scope. Thousands of people were
forced to flee their submerged neighborhoods
after water filled their basements
and surged over some rooftops.
In neighboring New Hampshire,
more than 600 roads were damaged,
destroyed or under water.

Yucatan Blazes
Wildfires on Mexico’s
Yucatan Peninsula
charred thousands of acres
and damaged the ancient
Mayan cities of Chichen Itza and
Oxtankah. The blazes were the latest
of 22 wildfires that began to erupt in
February due to parched conditions.
Mexico’s National History and
Anthropology Institute (INAH) said
the wildfires damaged a fourth-century
building in Chichen Itza, which
is about 110 miles west of the popular
resort of Cancun. INAH added
that fires also hit Oxtankah, a fourthcentury
Mayan market city near
Chichen Itza. Some historic areas will
be closed to the public until restoration
can be completed.

Typhoon Chanchu
At least 37 people were
killed in the central Philippines
when Typhoon
Chanchu pounded the
island of Luzon. The storm then
attained Category 4 strength over the
South China Sea, but weakened
before making landfall along the border
of China’s Guangdong and Fujian
provinces. Floods and high winds
killed 11 people and forced a million
coastal residents to be evacuated.

A powerful temblor centered
near the remote
Kermadec island chain
was felt widely across
New Zealand, more than 700 miles
away. The magnitude 7.4 undersea
quake was too deep to create a
tsunami, and caused no significant
damage in New Zealand.
• Other earth movements were felt
in the New Zealand capital of
Wellington, Tonga, northwest Sumatra,
Java, Japan’s southern Honshu
Island, southern Bulgaria, southern
Greece and northwestern Ohio.

Bird Flu Vaccine
Two independent
research groups from the
United States and Europe
say they have each developed
an efficient and cost-effective
vaccine strategy to control avian
influenza in poultry and prevent its
spread to humans. They claim that
through genetic engineering, they
have created a combination vaccine
to protect against both bird flu and
another bird virus called Newcastle
disease. The dual vaccine strategies
may provide methods for controlling
the growing public health threat of
avian flu.
• The World Health Organization
confirmed five more human deaths
from bird flu in Indonesia and that the
disease has spread to the Horn of
Africa. European health officials
warned that the disease would spread
again in the autumn when migratory
birds return.

First Grizzly-Polar Bear cross found
TESTS have confirmed a bear killed by an American hunter in Canada's far north was the first grizzly-polar bear cross ever discovered in the wild."It actually is a hybrid," said Judy McLinton, a spokeswoman for the Northwest Territories' environment and natural resources department in Yellowknife.
Jim Martell, 65, who paid $50,000 Canadian dollars ($58,241.12) to hunt Polar bears last month, shot the animal, described by local media as a "pizzly", a "grolar bear", or Mr Martell's favourite, a "polargrizz" on April 16.
The Idaho native said: "Everybody thought it was a Polar bear, and then they started looking more and more and they seen other features that resembled some of a Grizzly as well."
The bear had thick, creamy white fur, typical of Polar bears, but its long claws, humped back and shallow face, as well as brown patches around its eyes, nose, back and on one foot were Grizzly traits.

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Earth News: A Journal of the Planet
© 2006 Earth Frenzy Radio.Com-All Rights Reserved

Forecast warns of shower of frogs

22 May 2006 06:05
This may be the summer of drought - but instead of rain over the next few months people in Yarmouth have been told to brace themselves for a downpour of … frogs.That is the unusual conclusion of a senior weather forecaster who has labelled the resort as the most likely spot for a downpour of BFOs - bizarre falling objects.The town was showered in two-inch sprats in August 2000 while other BFO outbreaks recorded around the country in previous centuries include larger fish, tomatoes and even coal.Recent changeable weather conditions such as storms, droughts and sudden downpours have vastly increased the chances of objects falling from the sky, according to Jim Dale, of British Weather Services, who says they can be caused by heat and air pressure coupled with atmospheric instability.He has been studying BFOs for a new report and has concluded that outbreaks could occur in east Manchester, Ipswich - but are most likely in Yarmouth.He told the EDP: “People may be surprised to hear this happens but while it might be unusual it really does.“We've spent some time looking into where this phenomenon could occur and homed in on the east and south east, before finally settling on Yarmouth.“You need converging air, warm land mass, instances of lightning and thunderstorms and chances of tornadoes - and Yarmouth has that all more than anywhere else in Europe.”Tornados created from thunderstorms can whisk up objects in their path, such as fish from the sea, frogs from a pond or tomatoes from a field, carry them along in clouds and dump them up to two miles away.Mr Dale said: “With this week being as unusual as it's going to be all summer in terms of changing weather patterns, it's a great recipe for things being sucked up and then deposited.”The claim was yesterday met with scepticism in the town - but officials said it was best to be safe than sorry.Bert Collins, chairman of Yarmouth Tourism Authority, said: “It seems remarkable to me. There's something slightly fishy about this.“It would be unique - though I'm not sure our famous Mile would be so golden if it was covered in frogs.”John Hemsworth, head of Yarmouth environmental health, added: “Yarmouth is always open to new experiences but as it's a natural phenomenon there's not a lot we can do to plan for it - save to remind people to bring an extra-strong umbrella!”

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1 000s quarantined in Bucharest

May 22, 2006
Bucharest - About 13 000 people were quarantined in the Romanian capital on Monday as troops and police sealed off streets in response to the city's second bird-flu outbreak, said officials.
The mayor of the southern fourth district, Adrian Inimaroiu, said residents would be cut off and all businesses in the area would be closed during the quarantine period of up to three weeks.
The move came after the agriculture ministry earlier on Monday confirmed the presence of the H5 bird-flu virus in dead chickens found in the neighbourhood, the latest of dozens of outbreaks of avian flu in Romania this spring.
Inimaroiu said, urging residents to stay calm, that "about 40 streets have been blocked" in the Luica quarter.
He said the quarantine would last for "a period of a week to 21 days and all the institutions in this quarter will be closed".
"About 2 500 birds from this area will be slaughtered as rapidly as possible," said the mayor.
A neighbourhood on the northern outskirts of the capital was put under quarantine on Sunday evening with fences blocking a dozen streets and police preventing anyone from going in or out, except for medical emergencies.

Iraq, Vietnam, China, Russia, Bosnia, Italy, France - the virus is spreading. View the photos in the gallery.

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America the Titanic

Published on Monday, May 15, 2006 by the Boston Globe
For Syndication to Earth Frenzy Radio Blog Archives

America the Titanic
by James Carroll
The last living American survivor of the Titanic died last week. Lillian Gertrud Asplund was 5 when the luxury liner sank after hitting an iceberg in 1912. Her father and three brothers were lost. She, another brother, and her mother survived.
At death, Asplund was 99. In reading her obituary, one could not escape the feeling that her entire life was shadowed by this tragedy. Is such a thing true more broadly? Does her passing mark the end of the Titanic story? What was that story anyway?
Many ships have been ill-fated. Why did the fate of that particular one so grip the world's imagination? The Hollywood blockbuster of a few years ago brought the story to a new generation, but its pins were already deeply planted in human consciousness. Why? The Titanic, as the unsinkable vessel that sank on its maiden voyage, became an ultimate symbol of hubris, a cautionary tale warning that human inventiveness can always be trumped by nature.
But the Titanic took on mythic significance only because of what soon followed in its wake. It was in hindsight that the catastrophe of The Great War took on the implicit character of the unforeseen obstacle into which Europe crashed.
The unbridled optimism of the Enlightenment, a belief in the ''unsinkability" of progress, drove full speed into the abyss of trench warfare. A generation of European males was lost, and for what? Kaiser? King? The Archduke of Sarajevo? A dynamic set by arms merchants?
After the fact, what came to be called World War I could only be understood as an act of civilizational suicide. For year after year, Germany, Britain, France, and other nations sent their very futures ''over the top" into the maw of machine guns that refused to falter. It was as if the man at the helm of the Titanic sailed into the thick of icebergs he had been warned were certainly there. The story of the ship became one of pure foreboding.
The entry of the United States into the war was decisive, but it remained marginal to the agonies and the destructiveness, and so inherited the century. In America, it seemed possible to regard the Titanic tragedy as a morality tale meant for Europe, just as one could think of The Great War as the death rattle of the ''Old World."
That sense of relatively immune superiority was only confirmed by World War II. Though US losses were greater than before, so was the benefit when the ''New World" emerged uniquely whole, soon to become the engine of the global economy. Commanding from the bridge of ''the West," American leaders went full speed ahead into a sea of icebergs, but now the true hazards had been created by the geniuses who had built the ship. The icebergs this time were thousands upon thousands of nuclear weapons. The Soviet Union joined the United States in the manufacture of an ever growing danger. The stage for a second act of civilizational suicide was set.
By sheer dumb luck the USS America navigated the Cold War without hitting one of the nuclear icebergs, but the helmsmen credited their own skill while slaphappy passengers celebrated -- again -- a claim to unsinkability. We had ''won" the Cold War, and now we were the ''indispensable nation." Not even awareness of the dangers posed by unmoored nuclear weapons -- ''loose nukes" -- made America's geniuses see the hazard as applying to them. That alone is why, against reason and law, Washington can maintain its fleet of nuclear icebergs even now. Tragedy, nuclear or otherwise, is a fate awaiting other peoples, not Americans, who remain the last Enlightenment optimists.
Oddly, the blow of 9/11 reinforced this exceptionalism. The anguish of that day was real, but it equaled neither what other nations suffered in the world wars, nor what the earth narrowly survived in the Cold War. Nor does it compare to what lies dead ahead if the captains of our ship hold course -- ''Steady as she goes."
Looming obstacles include an Islamic world enflamed by American belligerence, Russians feeling pushed into a new Cold War, China in an arms race, and a demonized Iran acting -- no surprise -- like a demon. All of these threats have their stimulus, if not their origins, in the old hubris of the New World.
What America has done over the last six years makes plain that the lesson of the Titanic, even with its last US survivor gone, has yet to be learned in Washington. It is 1912 again.

James Carroll's column appears regularly in the Globe.

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Where have all the icebergs gone?

The British-funded Ice Patrol is usually busy in May, protecting shipping from rogue bergs. But it's all gone alarmingly quiet this year, as Michael Park discovers

Published: 21 May 2006
"There is no doubt in my mind that major climate change is happening," says Murphy who has been a professional oceanographer for 22 years. "Studies in Greenland show that the glaciers are moving twice as fast as before. That means a lot of production of ice. My expectation has always been if the Greenland glaciers started moving faster there would be increased production [of icebergs] for decades and there should be an increase in the number of icebergs into the shipping lanes. That was my model. But the last couple of years that hasn't happened, and I'm having a hard time understanding what is going on except that there are complicating factors having to do with increased storms. Maybe the destruction processes dominate over the production processes."


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Merapi Eruption-A Cause To Rejoice?

Photo Above: Lava flows from the Mount Merapi volcano near the city of Yogyakarta, in central Java, May 18, 2006. (REUTERS)

SRUMBUNG, Indonesia, May 20 (AFP)
Many on the slopes of Indonesia's Mount Merapi view the volcano as a generous benefactor more than a destroyer, even if it does spit out lava and gush deadly heat clouds once in a while.
Eruptions of the 2,914 meter (9,734 foot) volcano destroy houses, cattle and plantations and sometimes claim lives, but when it calms down again people living on its flanks rejoice at the gifts left behind.
Minerals from the molten rock flows enrich the soil, while heavy rains wash down the hardened lava that accumulates at its peak to provide an abundant source of building materials such as sand, gravel and stones.



Indonesia's Merapi guardian walks to placate volcano
May 19, 2006
MOUNT MERAPI, Indonesia (Reuters) - The spiritual keeper of Indonesia's Mount Merapi performed a midnight ritual walk around villages to calm the mountain as vulcanologists warn the country's most dangerous volcano could still massively erupt.

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Linking Climate Change Across Time Scales

Woods Hole MA (SPX) May 19, 2006What do month-to-month changes in temperature have to do with century-to-century changes in temperature? At first it might seem like not much.
But in a report published in this week's Nature, scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have found some unifying themes in the global variations of temperature at time scales ranging from a single season to hundreds of thousands of years. These findings help place climate observed at individual places and times into a larger global and temporal context.


IMAGE: Many large urban areas in developing and developed countries alike are at risk of flooding from storm surges. Ho Chi Minh City, with a population of more than 6 million, many of whom live within 100km of the coast and at less than 10m elevation, is one of two major urban centers in Vietnam partly within the low-elevation coastal zone.

The Risks Of Living In Low-Lying Coastal Areas
Tuvalu Islands, South Pacific Ocean (SPX) May 18, 2006For many, sea-level rise is a remote and distant threat faced by people like the residents of the Tuvalu Islands in the South Pacific, where the highest point of land is only 5 meters (15 feet) above sea level and tidal floods occasionally cover their crops in seawater.

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Meltdown fear as Arctic ice cover falls to record winter low

Monday May 15, 2006
The Guardian: Full Article published for syndication to Earth Frenzy Radio Archives

Record amounts of the Arctic ocean failed to freeze during the recent winter, new figures show, spelling disaster for wildlife and strengthening concerns that the region is locked into a destructive cycle of irreversible climate change.
Satellite measurements show the area covered by Arctic winter sea ice reached an all-time low in March, down some 300,000 square kilometres on last year -an area bigger than the UK.
Scientists say the decline highlights an alarming new trend, with recovery of the ice in winter no longer sufficient to compensate for increased melting in the summer. If the cycle continues, the Arctic ocean could lose all of its ice much earlier than expected, possibly by 2030.
Walt Meier, a researcher at the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado, which collected the figures, said: "It's a pretty stark drop. In the winter the ice tends to be pretty stable, so the last three years, with this steady decline, really stick out."
Experts are worried because a long-term slow decline of ice around the north pole seems to have sharply accelerated since 2003, raising fears that the region may have passed one of the "tipping points" in global warming. In this scenario, warmer weather melts ice and drives temperatures higher because the dark water beneath absorbs more of the sun's radiation. This could make global warming quickly run out of control.
Dr Meier said there was "a good chance" the Arctic tipping point has been reached. "People have tried to think of ways we could get back to where we were. We keep going further and further into the hole, and it's getting harder and harder to get out of it."
The Arctic is rapidly becoming the clearest demonstration of the effects of mankind's impact on the global climate. The temperature is rising twice as fast as the rest of the planet and the region is expected to warm by a further 4C-7C by 2100. The summer and winter ice levels are the lowest since satellite monitoring began in 1979, and almost certainly the lowest since local people began keeping records around 1900. The pace of decline since 2003, if continued, would see the Arctic totally ice-free in summer within 30 years - though few scientists would stake their reputations on a long-term trend drawn from only three years.
Experts at the US Naval Postgraduate School in California think the situation could be even worse. They are about to publish the results of computer simulations that show the current rate of melting, combined with increased access for warmer Pacific water, could make the summertime Arctic ice-free within a decade. Dr Meier said: "For 800,000 to a million years, at least some of the Arctic has been covered by ice throughout the year. That's an indication that, if we are heading for an ice-free Arctic, it's a really dramatic change and something that is unprecedented almost within the entire record of human species."
The winter ice has declined all around the region - bad news for polar bears, which spend summer on land before returning to the ice in spring to catch food.

Interactive guides
Global warming
The slowdown of the Gulf Stream

Special reports
Special report: climate change
Special report: G8

Useful links
UN framework convention on climate change

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Emerging Diseases
A newly arrived collection
of nasty viruses circulating
around Europe
could be killing people
without even being detected, according
to British scientists. Ernie Gould,
of the University of Oxford, told the
journal New Scientist that at least one
of these new bugs can cause
encephalitis in humans, similar to the
West Nile virus. He warned that
Tahyna is now common across the
European Union in mosquitoes, rabbits
and birds. According to Gould,
such diseases may already be infecting
and killing humans. He cautions
that about 50 Britons die every year
from viral encephalitis, with fewer
than 40 percent of the deaths ever
linked to a specific pathogen. The
report warns that wildlife is a huge
reservoir of potentially deadly new
diseases, and more monitoring
should be conducted.

Activity within Java’s
Mount Merapi increased
further, prompting Indonesia’s
vice president to order
the evacuation of some 12,000 people
living near the mountain. Lava
was observed flowing out of Merapi’s
crater, and vulcanologists cautioned
that residents living in danger
zones should be aware of the risks
they face if the volcano releases hot
and poisonous clouds or larger lava
• Columns of ash soared above
Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula as
Bezymianny Volcano produced an
explosive eruption. Residents of the
nearby western Aleutian Islands were
warned of the potential for ash falls.

A sharp tremor rocked
southeastern Iran’s Kerman
province, injuring
nearly 80 people and
severely damaging many homes near
the epicenter. Officials warned they
expect that more than 60 percent of
damaged homes in the city of Zarand
will no longer be inhabitable.
• Earth movements were also felt
in Sumatra, Taiwan, the eastern
Philippines, Tonga, northwestern
and northern Greece, eastern Bulgaria,
northern Colombia and near
San Diego.

Drought Blazes
A prolonged drought in
western Cuba sparked
wildfires that blackened
more than 1,500 acres of
forest in Pinar del Rio province.
Authorities could not determine the
exact cause of the blazes, but said the
region was suffering from the worst
drought in 105 years. Since the beginning
of this year, at least 254 fires
have hit the region, damaging nearly
13,000 acres of forest.

Heat and Dust
A broad swath of northern
and western India was
in the grip of a blistering
heat wave that killed at
least 22 people. Daytime highs averaged
between 107 and 111 degrees
Fahrenheit in most areas. The annual
season of heat and dust usually sets
in during early May and lingers well
into June, when the southwest monsoon
eventually brings welcome rain
and cooler temperatures.

Tropical Cyclone
Category 2 Cyclone
Chanchu was bearing
down on the west coast of
the central Philippines late
in the week. The center of the storm
was expected to pass near the capital,
Manila, before emerging over water
again in the South China Sea.

City in the Sky
Thousands of people in
eastern China’s Penglai
city witnessed a prolonged
mirage of “high
clarity” that lasted for more than four
hours, according to state media. The
official Xinhua news agency reports
mists rising on the shore of the Shandong
province port created an image
of a city with modern high-rise buildings,
broad streets with bustling cars
as well as crowds of people. Experts
quoted by the agency said that many
such mirages have been recorded
throughout the history of Penglai,
earning the city a reputation as a
dwelling place of the gods. They
explained that a mirage is formed
when moisture in the air becomes
warmer than the temperature of sea,
which refracts rays of sunlight to create
optical illusions in the sky.

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