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Mystery Comet/Holmes Baffles Onlookers

Breaking Earth News
Comet Holmes Continues to Baffle and Amaze Onlookers

Astronomers around the world agree. Exploding Comet 17P/Holmes is one of the strangest things they've ever seen.

Full Story with Video at The Great Red Comet

Epic Drought Threatens the US: No Relief in Sight

Earth News Alert
(AP) -- An epic drought in Georgia threatens the water supply for millions. Florida doesn't have nearly enough water for its expected population boom. The Great Lakes are shrinking. Upstate New York's reservoirs have dropped to record lows. And in the West, the Sierra Nevada snowpack is melting faster each year.

Across America, the picture is critically clear - the nation's freshwater supplies can no longer quench its thirst.

Drought slashes Australian wheat crop

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia's wheat, barley and canola winter crops were again revised lower Tuesday due to the severity of the long-running drought, the country's official forecaster said.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics said the winter wheat crop for 2007/08 would drop from the September estimate of 15.5 million tonnes to 12.1 tonnes due to a lack of drenching rains.

Barley would fall from a projected 5.9 million tonnes to 5.0 million tonnes and canola drop from 1.1 million tonnes to 900,000 tonnes, it said.

The bureau said rainfall during the crucial September to October period had been well below average in the country's main grain-growing regions, with some areas of New South Wales recording their lowest ever levels for those months.

"This lack of rainfall, combined with hotter than average daytime temperatures and strong winds, has led to the rapid deterioration of crop yield potential and in many areas has resulted in total crop failure," ABARE executive director Phillip Glyde said.

'Confused' trees sprouting buds

Ohio, USA
Michael Starks of Covington walked his dog past trees that are blooming now as if it were springtime.

'Confused' trees sprouting buds - extreme conditions have not only weakened trees, they have confused them. Several days of soaking rains and mild temperatures in the past week here have prompted some trees to bloom. The reason actually traces back to this summer's drought. Trees reacted to the hot, dry weather - the area got just over five inches of rain total for all of May, June, July and August, a four-period that recorded 39 days of 90 degrees or hotter - by going dormant, just as they do in the winter. Now, the weather of the last week has triggered a spring-like reawakening in some trees. Flowering fruit trees, like cherry, crab apple and pear, are especially susceptible to blooming now. "It was almost like spring time again." The same thing is happening to trees in Mississippi. Not all trees blooming early will die. Older trees that have established root systems generally fare better during weather-related trials. But they likely will have lower bloom counts next spring.

Major Iraq dam could collapse, killing 500,000: report

Image: Mosul Dam

IRAQ's largest dam is in serious danger of collapse and up to 500,000 people could die if it does, an alarming US assessment has found. US officials concluded that Iraq's second largest city, Mosul, could be left under almost 20 metres of water and parts of Baghdad could be under 4.5 metres. "The Mosul dam is judged to have an unacceptable annual failure probability." A U.S. project to strengthen the dam has been marred by incompetence and mismanagement. The dam, built in the early 1980s, has major structural problems because it was built on top of gypsum, which dissolves when it comes into contact with water. Millions of tonnes of material have been applied to the dam wall to shore it up since then, but US officials say the structure still represents a very significant threat.

Archaeologists look to the earth for Minoan fate

Layers of Mystery
The Minoans created extraordinary artifacts for hundreds of years, revealing an aesthetic sensibility that influences Western civilization to this day. Then they simply disappeared. Scholars are seeking answers to one of the great mysteries of the ancient world: What happened to the Minoans of Crete, who controlled a thriving Mediterranean trade network from around 2,200-1,450 BC? NOVA reports on new evidence that a massive tsunami struck the Bronze Age society 3,500 years ago, destabilizing the culture to such a degree that social chaos brought about its ultimate destruction. “It was clear that after the ash from the Thera volcano had dusted the town, a gigantic tsunami hit Palaikastro Bay.” The tidal wave was “terrifyingly destructive,” perhaps larger than the Indian Ocean tsunami that hit Banda Aceh in 2004. A revised computer model now suggests that the wave generated by the Thera eruption was 10 times larger, wider, longer than originally estimated. When it hit Palaikastro, it may have been around 15 meters high.

Pollution warning over US fires

California, USA
Residents hit by the deadly California wildfires have been warned to beware of extremely hazardous air quality. Residents in five southern counties were urged to stay indoors due to pollution levels that are three times higher than normal. The fires dumped into the atmosphere the equivalent greenhouse gas emissions that 440,000 cars would emit over a one year period. Officials confirmed 640,000 people had fled their homes, the biggest mass evacuation in California's history. At least 14 people died as a result of the fires. Damage in San Diego county alone is estimated at about $1bn (£487m), with nearly 800 sq miles (2,072 sq km) of land scorched. At least 1,800 homes and other buildings have been destroyed. About 23,000 homes are still at risk from five major fires across three counties but many blazes have now been contained. The central San Bernardino Mountains, parts of the San Bernardino Valley and areas in Orange and Riverside Counties are badly affected. Satellite photographs revealed thick smoke over much of southern California. "This is still a very fluid situation that's going to go on for a number of days."

Save the planet? It's now or never, warns landmark UN report

Warning from the United Nations

NAIROBI (AFP) - Humanity is changing Earth's climate so fast and devouring resources so voraciously that it is poised to bequeath a ravaged planet to future generations, the UN warned Thursday in its most comprehensive survey of the environment.

The fourth Global Environment Outlook (GEO-4), published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is compiled by 390 experts from observations, studies and data garnered over two decades.

The 570-page report -- which caps a year that saw climate change dominate the news -- says world leaders must propel the environment "to the core of decision-making" to tackle a daily worsening crisis

"The need couldn't be more urgent and the time couldn't be more opportune, with our enhanced understanding of the challenges we face, to act now to safeguard our own survival and that of future generations," GEO-4 said. Image Above: File photo shows congested traffic on the 405 freeway in Los Angeles, California.

Rain washes out 107-year-old record, but is the drought over?

Drought Pressure Eases

The University of Minnesota's St. Paul campus reported that the first 16 days of October were THE CLOUDIEST STRETCH FOR THAT TIME OF YEAR IN 45 YEARS that the observatory has been measuring solar radiation, measuring less than three-quarters of average. The 18.91 inches of rain that fell in the Twin Cities during August, September and October SET A RECORD FOR THE 3 MONTH PERIOD - well before October ends. The drought has been retreating, particularly in the past week, having largely disappeared along the Canadian border and the North Shore of Lake Superior. It continues to hang on stubbornly in a pocket of central Minnesota, near Wadena County. That news is good for the state's farmers, already looking toward next year's growing season, though the recent rains came too late to have much effect on this year's crops. An exceptionally wet early fall says precisely nothing about the coming winter. "The pattern could break any day now, or it could hang around awhile."

NZ Scientists To Lead Submarine Investigation



New Zealand and American scientists will join Italian colleagues next week for the first-ever systematic investigation of submarine hydrothermal activity in the Mediterranean Sea. Over the past nine years they have found up to 60% of the 90 submarine volcanoes between the Bay of Plenty and Tonga are hydrothermally active. This means hot mineral-rich fluids are being expelled into the sea at about 55 of the volcanoes along the Kermadec Arc. In addition, metal-rich mineral deposits and communities of unusual marine life occur at many of these seafloor vents. The focus in the Mediterranean is the Aeolian Arc, a near-circular chain of about a dozen submarine volcanoes north of Sicily. The project will shed light on the area’s marine geology, which is not well understood. The area has a rich volcanic history and is known as the cradle of volcanology. The cluster of volcanoes located around the Tyrrhenian Sea – Vesuvius, Etna and Stromboli – have been producing spectacular and destructive eruptions for thousands of years. Mt Etna in Sicily, the largest and most active volcano in Europe, is presently erupting. Stromboli is one of the most active volcanoes on Earth and has been in nearly continuous eruption for about 2000 years. It has given its name to a particular type of eruption – a strombolian eruption. Ancient seafarers knew it as the ‘torch of the Mediterranean’

A Strange Planet-Like Comet Lights Up the Evening Skies

Image: Comet 17P/Holmes, October 2007


Astronomers around the world agree, Comet 17P/Holmes is one of the strangest things ever to explode in the night sky. It's a comet, yet it looks like a planet with a golden core and a green atmosphere

Full story and photos at: The Great Red Comet

An Interview with James Hoggan, PR Executive and Founder of DeSmogBlog

From the Editor's Desk
Skywatch-Media News
October 25, 2007

Last Night James Hoggan, Chairman of the David Suzuki Foundation and PR Executive for Hoggan and Associates of Vancouver, B.C. spoke out on the most important issue of our day, climate change and global warming. During his interview on the Earth Frenzy Radio Show he emphasized the importance of exposing the climate change skeptics (doubters, as he calls them)who are twisting the truth about the reasons for the extreme weather in an attempt to keep the public confused, primarily for monetary gain. Mr Hoggan, through his website, DeSmogBlog has successfully educated and informed the general public about the environment and what can be done to save our planet.

You can hear the entire broadcast(podcast)at the following links:

Earth Frenzy Radio

RSS Feeds

Live Broadcast Tonight: James Hoggan, Canadian PR Executive and Founder of DeSmogBlog

Live Broadcast at 8:00PM CST, 6PM PST-Tonight
October 24, 2007

Earth Frenzy Radio

The North Pole and the Greenland Ice Sheet are disappearing at an alarming speed according to recent observations by leading researchers. Learn
more about this dire meltdown, and it's implications on society, with leading pr executive and founder of DeSmogBlog, James Hoggan.

James Hoggan is the president of the public relations firm James Hoggan & Associates. Over the past two decades, Jim has earned a reputation as one of Canada’s leading public relations professionals. His clients have included A&W Foods, the North West Cruise Ship Association, Vancouver Port Authority, Canadian Tire, Business Objects and Canadian Pacific Rail.

He is the author of the PR Tips that regularly appear on the front page of the business section in The Vancouver Sun, and In 2003, James Hoggan & Associates won the Public Relations Society of North America’s most prestigious award – The Silver Anvil for the best crisis communications campaign in North America.

Mr.Hoggan is Chair of the David Suzuki Foundation, an executive member of the Urban Development Institute and Future Generations and a Trustee of the Dalai Lama Centre for Peace and Education. He helped establish the Suzuki Foundation Business Council on Sustainability to encourage collaboration between the environmental and business communities.

Jim’s interest in climate change and his commitment to practicing ethical public relations converged recently in the creation of the popular website DeSmogBlog. The blog exists to identify unethical PR tactics and to expose the PR people who are trying to confuse the public about climate change.

NP NowPublic
Copyright © 2007 Skywatch-Media. All Rights Reserved

Global warming will 'cull world's species'

Warning from Leading Scientists
Global warming could cut a swathe through the planet's species over the coming centuries, warns a study which shows a link between rising temperatures and mass extinctions reaching back half a billion years. Each of five major eras of declining biodiversity - including one in which 95% of the Earth's species disappeared - correspond to cycles of severe warming over the 520-million-year period for which there are fossil records. If emissions of greenhouse gas rise unchecked, the predicted increase in global temperature over the next several hundred years could fall within a similar range as these peaks.

Climate change makes south too dry for lizards

United Kingdom
Male common lizard (top) and female common lizard

Climate change makes south too dry for lizards - What has happened to the common lizard? Alarm bells are sounding in herpetological circles because it seems to be no longer living up to its name in some parts of Britain. While habitat loss from development and intensive agriculture are likely to have had an impact, some experts suspect climate change could be the major cause, with the species possibly no longer feeling at home in increasingly warm and dry southern regions. Lately, there have been reports of it becoming less numerous in - or even disappearing altogether from - areas where formerly there was an abundance. "My own experience over the past 30 years bears out such reports. I can think of places which used to be alive with baby lizards during August and September but that no longer seems to be the case. This would be understandable if the sites had undergone major change but I am aware of such situations in locations where the habitat looks ideal." Circumstances like that have roused suspicion that climate change may have influenced the puzzling declines and disappearances noted in southern Britain. "Common lizards seem to have declined or disappeared at most of the sites where I knew them 20 or more years ago, and several other people seem to have had similar experiences."

CNN takes stock of a 'Planet in Peril'

Image: This undated photo, supplied by CNN, shows correspondent Anderson Cooper, right, and ' Animal Planet' wildlife biologist Jeff Corwin get up close with elephants during a visit to Thailand. This was one of the sites they visited for CNN's two-night, four-hour documentary, 'Planet in Peril,' which airs Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 23-24, 2007.(AP Photo/CNN)

NEW YORK - It's a tough world, all right. Too bad it's not tougher. Right now Earth is looking pretty fragile as it suffers from increasing human punishment.
This isn't really news, of course. But CNN has packed the two-night, four-hour "Planet in Peril" with information and images that give a familiar story new urgency. Here is an eye-opening, often heart-wrenching exploration.
Airing Tuesday and Wednesday at 9 p.m. EDT, "Planet in Peril" dispatched correspondents Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, as well as Animal Planet wildlife biologist Jeff Corwin, to report on far-flung instances of "environmental change." This term encompasses four key areas: climate change, vanishing natural habitats, disappearing species and human overpopulation.

Blazing Meteor Terrifies Australian Witnesses For Two Straight Nights

Western Victoria, Melbourne (AHN) - Tension gripped Western Victoria residents after witnessing bright light in heavens for two straight nights believed to be a meteor form outer space.

Full Story at The Great Red Comet

City Breaks Heat Record On Summer-Like October Day

Toronto, Canada
Click the Image to View Video
The mercury rose to 26C at one point on Sunday in Toronto, BEATING THE RECORD of 24.1C set back in 1979 for this day of the year. It's been a warmer than usual fall in general, with a few cool days breaking up what's otherwise been a steady stream of heat and humidity. On October 8, they SET A NEW FALL AND DAY RECORD at 32C. But there is a down side. Weather experts warn the change for the warmer could be evidence of a chilling reality that lies ahead. "We've been breaking records left, right and centre this fall. So if we keep seeing these types of dramatic changes in the weather that's going to cause all sorts of problems for ecosystems and ultimately for human beings." Since the start of 2007, the city has seen 393 millimetres of rain while normal levels would be 663 millimetres.

Floods Trash Upper Mississippi River Refuge

(AP) Minnesota City, Mn.
Before the flood of the century on August 18-19, the part of the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge that lies just beyond Minnesota City was a sanctuary. Now it looks like an asteroid hit it. The woods around Garvin Brook have been erased. A crushed car sits buried in chocolate-colored muck. A semitrailer container still slumps in the brook bed, all but buried. The impact of August's floods on the refuge may not be as jaw-dropping as the demolished foundations and waterlogged homes along the Minnesota-Wisconsin border. But federal officials estimate the raging waters caused nearly half-a-million dollars damage on the refuge - blowing out culverts, ripping new paths for Mississippi tributaries and leaving behind tons of sediment and debris. "That kind of rain event hasn't happened in our recorded history." Now boaters must watch out for new sandbars. Fish could have a tough time surviving the winter. Aquatic plants could starve for sunlight next spring. The refuge - a collection of islands, channels, forests and marshes - stretches about 260 miles from southern Minnesota to northern Illinois. The floodwaters were so powerful they forced the Whitewater River over its banks. Before the flood the Whitewater emptied into the Mississippi just north of Minnieska, but the volume of water was so overwhelming the river carved a new bed and now joins the Mississippi a half-mile farther north, complete with a fresh, sediment-built delta. The story was the same with the Root River near Brownsville, which pumped so much dirt into its Mississippi mouth it, too, created a new delta. Biologists aren't sure what long-term effects the flooding may have, but the refuge's backwaters were "severely affected."

South Africa: Iceberg off St Francis Bay

South Africa
An iceberg, 25 meters in length and 20 metres in height, has been spotted south-east of St Francis Bay, Eastern Cape, the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI)has said.

"This is very unusual and in fact we don't know of anything in recent history that has being reported this close to South African waters," said NSRI spokesman Craig Lambinon.

The iceberg was spotted around 6pm on Monday by those aboard a fishing vessel, the Ntini. It was floating 35 nautical miles south-east of St Francis Bay.

Lambinon said maritime authorities were taking the report "quite seriously" and the maritime radio services were broadcasting a warning to vessels in the area.

The situation would be monitored throughout the night to try to determine the direction and speed of the drift of the iceberg.

Climate Change Drives Endangered Seabird Into UK Waters

United Kingdom
Balearic shearwater about to land. (Credit: Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Photo by Kris Gillam)

Climate change drives endangered seabird into UK waters - northeast Atlantic sea surface temperatures rose by 0.6 degrees Celsius in the mid-1990s, triggering a northwards shift in the Balearic shearwater's prey fish species and with it the birds that feed on them. "Just 20 years ago Balearic shearwaters were scarce visitors to South West waters, but they are now regularly recorded from headlands throughout the UK. Since 2003 we have even started seeing birds staying throughout the winter off Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, which is a completely new phenomenon linked to elevated winter sea temperatures." Changes in fish distribution and abundance mean that many Balearic shearwaters are being forced to migrate 20% further - over 400 miles - in search of food than they did a few years ago. Experts say the effects on survival of individual birds are hard to assess, but could well be contributing to the species highly endangered status.

Bee deaths wane, cause unknown

Minnesota, USA
Whatever it was that was causing bees to die has seemingly come and gone. Scientists have dubbed the fatal phenomenon 'colony collapse disorder', or CCD, and it can decimate a worker bee population in a matter of weeks for unlucky beekeepers. Honeybees are responsible for the pollination of 90 percent of flowering crops, including strawberries and blueberries, so the impact of a honey bee decline would be felt far and wide. "One of the main reasons bees die is that they are infected with tracheal mites who infest the breathing tubes of the bees and cause the bees to die by piercing the trachea." "At this time, there is no apparent decrease in pollination in fruit crops such as apples, plums or tree fruits." Minnesota was one of the top five honey-producing states in 2005, with production value at $7.4 million. "While all of Minnesota wasn't affected, we were certainly concerned." Honey production last year in Minnesota from producers with five or more colonies was up 13 percent from the year before. However, nationwide honey production declined from 2005 by 11 percent to 155 million pounds. "We just don't have as many beekeepers anymore because of the bee health problems and just because it's harder to make a profit from it." Those who have reported the heaviest losses associated with CCD are large commercial migratory beekeepers, some of whom have lost 50 percent to 90 percent of their colonies. Surviving colonies are often so weak that they cannot pollinate or produce honey. "There's definitely a big difference in the concern level of a hobby beekeeper and a commercial beekeeper."

Rare Creatures Found In "Coral Triangle"

MANILA, Philippines(AP) Scientists exploring a deep ocean basin in search of species isolated for millions of years found marine life believed to be previously undiscovered, including a tentacled orange worm and an unusual black jellyfish. Image: A1 centimeter-long juvenile boxfish was collected by a diver in the surface waters off Celebes Sea in southern Philippines on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2007. (AP/Ocean Geographic Magazine/Aw)

Project leader Dr. Larry Madin said Tuesday that U.S. and Philippine scientists collected about 100 different specimens in a search in the Celebes Sea south of the Philippines.

Madin, of the Massachusetts-based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, said the sea is at the heart of the "coral triangle" bordered by the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia -- a region recognized by scientists as having a high degree of biological diversity.

The deepest part of the Celebes Sea is 16,500 feet. The team was able to explore to a depth of about 9,100 feet using a remotely operated camera.

"This is probably the center where many of the species evolved and spread to other parts of the ocean, so it's going back to the source in many ways," Madin told a group of journalists, government officials, students and U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney and her staff.

Drought Grips Nearly Half Of U.S.

Image: Exposed lake bed and beached boat docks are shown at Lake Lanier in Cumming, Ga., Friday, Oct. 12, 2007. (AP)
Click the Image to See Video

Buford, Ga. (CBS/AP)
If there's a ground zero for the epic drought that's tightening its grip on the South, it's once-mighty Lake Lanier, the Atlanta water source that's now a relative puddle surrounded by acres of dusty red clay.

Tall measuring sticks once covered by a dozen feet of water stand bone dry. "No Diving" signs rise from rocks 25 feet from the water. Crowds of boaters have been replaced by men with metal detectors searching the arid lake bed for lost treasure.

Lake Lanier's the primary source of drinking water for more than 4 million people, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann. But levels have plunged to eight feet below normal. And without rain in another month, levels could drop another five feet, passing the record low.

"This lake is a survivor," Jeff "Buddha" Powell told a worried customer at his bait shop along the barren banks.

"If you panic, you don't help Mother Nature," he added. "It's going to rain when it rains."

But this is a once-a-century drought, reports Strassmann. In the best estimate, without rain, metro-Atlanta has 120 days left of usable drinking water.

Gore's climate crusade

California, USA

Thousands of earthworms in Taiwan vineyard trigger quake fears

Breaking Earth News
Taipei - Hundreds of thousands of earthworms appeared in a Taiwan vineyard, prompting the owner to consult an expert out of fear that a strong earthquake might be coming soon, a newspaper said on Monday. According to the China Times, the worms crawled out of the earth and covered the surface of Wu Ching-chuan's vineyard in Changhwa County, west Taiwan, Sunday morning. Wu, who bought the vineyard 40 years ago, said he has never seen so many earthworms in his vineyard before and estimated there were 200 to 300 kilograms of them. Seeing the large numbers of earthworms Wu feared that a major quake might be coming because worms and snakes are known to come to the surface when disturbed by seismic activity.

Researchers try to defuse African time bomb

Image: Lake Kivu, pictured from the Rwandan side

Swiss scientists are helping the government of Rwanda to extract potentially lethal methane from a dangerous lake for much needed electricity production. The threat in the Lake Kivu area comes from billions of cubic metres of gas dissolved deep underwater that could kill large numbers of people if it were to escape. At present, the gas remains dissolved deep underwater as a result of high pressure and the extremely stable water layers of the lake, which limits exchanges between the bottom and surface zones. But if gas concentrations continue to increase or if a severe disruption happened - following a volcanic eruption or a major earthquake - large quantities of gas bubbles could rise to the surface, possibly triggering a massive gas eruption. The release of a mixture of carbon dioxide and methane gas could have catastrophic consequences on the densely populated shores of the lake where about two million people live. Hundreds of thousands could be asphyxiated. At present the lake is in principle "very stable" and it would need a huge earthquake or magma input directly in the bottom of the lake to trigger a gas eruption. However, extracting the methane is not without risks. "One thing that is important is to maintain the stable stratification of the lake because otherwise the gases could rise near the surface and this would increase the risk of catastrophic eruption."

World food shortage forcing food price increase

If we stopped harvesting corn, milking cows or slaughtering animals, there would only be food supply enough for 57 days. It seems a faintly ludicrous suggestion that in this world where we expect an endless supply of food and drink to be available at the supermarket 24 hours a day that world food stocks are so limited, but they are - and the reserves are getting smaller. At the end of World War II the globe had a year's worth of food banked up but in the last sixty years that has dwindled down to just 57 days and sometimes goes much lower than that. Eggs, bread, milk and bacon are just some of the staples that have had a price increase, or if not yet, they will very soon.

Weather May Account for Reduced Honey Crop

U.S. - the news that the 2007 honey crop has been disappointing won't surprise anyone who has picked up the newspaper in recent months. Since early spring, colony collapse disorder, a disease that causes honeybees to suddenly, mysteriously disappear from their hives, has made headlines around the world. But some experts say the more likely reason for this year's weak honey crop, which the National Honey Board says is on track to be smaller than last year's below-par 155 million pounds, is something much more obvious: the weather. In the South, drought and wildfires have prevented flowers from blooming. In the Midwest, a late freeze brought nectar flows in many areas almost to a halt. And in California, the country's No. 2 honey producer, coastal beekeepers reported that there were almost no flowering plants in July.

How a soggy summer led to the biggest apple harvest in history

Bumber harvest: Fruit farmer Melvyn Newman (left) with the Mail's Robert Hardman

A combination of an exceptionally warm April and an exceptionally wet July is responsible for this year's freak apple crop - the BIGGEST APPLE HARVEST IN HISTORY.

APPLES - NEW YORK - While extreme weather conditions have put a 7 percent dent in US apple production since last year, New York is having a tremendous season. Favorable weather conditions have New York State slated to BREAK A RECORD in apple crop production this year. Of 32 apple producing states, seven, including New York, are forecasting increases.
Employee Carlos Guterez unloads a barrel of Gala apples at Twin Orchards, Friday, August 31, 2007 in New Hartford. The apples are picked when they have 50 percent color.

A half-year's rain comes down in 3 weeks

Florida, USA
Because of the heavy rain, flooding occurred at 16th Avenue South and Ninth Street in Jacksonville Beach Friday.

A half-year's rain comes down in 3 weeks - In Jacksonville, just over 23 inches of rain, almost a half-year's worth, fell at the Beaches through the last three weeks as northeasters and other turbulence soaked the region. The deluge from Sept. 17 to Oct. 5 brought the Beaches' 2007 rainfall total to 47.7 inches. The Beaches typically receive about 50 inches of rain a year.

Bird flu virus mutating into human-unfriendly form

A worker injects a duckling with the bird flu vaccine at a duck farm following an outbreak of bird flu, in Panyu district of Guangzhou, south China's Guangdong province, September 18, 2007

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The H5N1 bird flu virus has mutated to infect people more easily, although it still has not transformed into a pandemic strain, researchers said on Thursday.

The changes are worrying, said Dr. Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"We have identified a specific change that could make bird flu grow in the upper respiratory tract of humans," said Kawaoka, who led the study.

"The viruses that are circulating in Africa and Europe are the ones closest to becoming a human virus," Kawaoka said.

Recent samples of virus taken from birds in Africa and Europe all carry the mutation, Kawaoka and colleagues report in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Pathogens.

"I don't like to scare the public, because they cannot do very much. But at the same time it is important to the scientific community to understand what is happening," Kawaoka said in a telephone interview.

The H5N1 avian flu virus, which mostly infects birds, has since 2003 infected 329 people in 12 countries, killing 201 of them. It very rarely passes from one person to another, but if it acquires the ability to do so easily, it likely will cause a global epidemic.


Oceans interact to dry Australia further

SYDNEY, Oct 8 (Reuters) Interactions between major oceans, triggered by climate change, will produce increasingly dry conditions in southern parts of Australia for decades to come. A full recovery would take around 600 years, IF carbon dioxide emission increases were halted. "The recovery takes a long, long time.... Not in our lifetime." As it stands, the CSIRO is forecasting a further 10-15 percent decline in rainfall in southeast Australia and a decline of over 20 percent in southwest Australia by 2050. This takes in Australia's capital cities, almost all of the national population of around 20 million, and farmlands which produce one of the biggest exportable surpluses of agricultural produce in the world. As crops wilt and die for lack of rain, this year's spring rainfall could be as much as 40 percent below average because of an UNUSUAL weather pattern last seen in 1967 - but which is now more likely to recur because of climate change. Australia is presently being affected by the conflicting influences of a "wet weather" La Nina event in the Pacific and a "dry weather" Indian Ocean Dipole effect in the west. In southwest Western Australia, the drying-out is being intensified by westerly wind jets shifting towards the Antarctic in response to ozone depletion over the last 30 years. The overall effect is reduced rainfall for southern Australia in winter and spring - exactly when it is needed to grow the country's main crops of wheat, barley and canola. The effects are threatening permanent closure for many southern farmlands, already on the brink in the driest inhabited continent in the world. No relief is seen from the present dry spell until November - too late for wheat, with at least 40 percent of the crop now lost. Talk is beginning to emerge of a long-term solution in moving farms to the high-rainfall belt in the far north. Howver, more work needs to be done to see if this pattern will last.

Unseasonal weather has plants confused

Image: Joel Miller, Nursery Manager at Goldner Walsh Nursery in Pontiac, looks at a Leather Leaf Viburnum. The Viburnum is starting to bloom again, though it's normally blooms in the spring.
Tim Thompson/Journal Register News Service

Unseasonal weather has plants confused. Horse chestnut trees are flowering. "They think it's the warm season again." And who could blame them? All around the town of Royal Oak, it felt like high summer Monday as temperatures climbed to an astounding 90 degrees, BREAKING A RECORD set in 1939. Irises and day lilies are flowering in backyards. And azalea buds are "plumping up a bit." "I thought it was UNUSUAL because the lilies are usually spent by now."

Ivorian town sinking under waves

Image: "Look at that chunk of concrete in the sea - that used to be a lighthouse!"'Jack Bauer''' Grand Lahou resident

The historic old colonial town of Grand Lahou is in danger of being swallowed up by the sea.

Once one of the first points of contact between Africans and the French in what is now Ivory Coast, Grand Lahou is threatened by a combination of climate change and other factors.

Some predict the town will be completely under water within 10 years, and it is widely accepted it is doomed unless drastic action is taken.

If it does disappear under the waves it will be something like a second death for the town.

First the imposing old French colonial buildings were abandoned, and now the current ramshackle houses that sprang up alongside the old French buildings are threatened.

Fashion warms to reality of climate change

Breaking Earth News
Leading international fashion designers and industry experts say unpredictable and typically warmer weather worldwide is wreaking havoc on the industry. It is forcing fashion houses to ditch traditional seasonal collections for transeasonal garments that may lead to a drastic overhaul of fashion show schedules and retail delivery dates. "The whole fashion system will have to change. The fashion system must adapt to the reality that there is no strong difference between summer and winter any more...You can't have everyone showing four times a year to present the same thing. People are not prepared to invest in these clothes that, from one season to the other, use the same fabrics at the same weight." So worried are some fashion houses about the impact climate change is having on the way we dress and shop, they are calling in the climate experts. "A lot of my garments are more transeasonal and rather than dropping them into store twice a year like I used to, I tend to move things in and out of store every couple of weeks, depending on the weather." From January 2008, Target will sell swimwear year-round.

Arctic heat wave worries scientists

The Arctic
Audio: Arctic Heat Wave Could Devastate Environment

Canadian researchers have recorded a heat wave on Melville Island, high in the Arctic. The island is usually one of the coldest places in North America, but the mercury soared to a record 22 degrees on some days in July. That's more than 15 degrees higher than average.

One of the researchers is Scott Lamoureux, a Professor of Geography at Queen's University in Ontario.

Professor Lamoureux says the jump in temperature may devastate the local environment, but it's too early to confidently attribute the change to global warming.

"What we measured this summer were temperatures that were typically over 10 degrees, and frequently over 15 degrees Celsius," he said.

"The highest temperatures we recorded were 22. So, in all, this really points to an extremely warm period this past summer in the area."

He says some summers in the past have had not a single day in that range.

"In the five years we've been working at this site, we've recorded those temperatures above 10 degrees [on] a few days, in five years," he said.

Three-headed dog cruels spring hopes

Drought-stricken farmers could face spring rainfall that is up to 40 percent below average because of a RARE weather pattern last seen 40 years ago. Australia is experiencing an UNUSUAL combination of two events: a La Nina phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean in the east, and an Indian Ocean Dipole phenomenon in the west. "The only time in [recorded] history we had this kind of combination was in 1967." In that year, spring was extremely dry in the south and east of the country, and this could provide an indication of what is ahead in the next few months. Although La Nina usually brings more rainfall to eastern Australia, it appeared to have been overwhelmed in 1967 by the positive Indian Ocean Dipole, which reduces rainfall across Australia, including in the south-east. Separate research on an Antarctic ice core suggests this drying may represent a VERY UNUSUAL event. A team has identified a link between rainfall in the south-west and snowfall at a site called Law Dome in East Antarctica. The study of an ice core from Law Dome that covers the past 750 years suggests that the last 30 years in south-west Australia has been the driest period, and longest period of reduced rainfall, since the year 1250. "So media suggestions that the DROUGHT IN AUSTRALIA IS A 1-IN-1000-YEAR EVENT is not unreasonable, at least for the south-west."

Summer of 2007: Driest ever recorded on east slopes of Cascades

Washington, USA
The Cascades
The summer of 2007 was the DRIEST ON RECORD for the east slopes of the Cascades in central Washington, though the region still managed to escape the drought conditions and catastrophic forest fires that typically accompany dry years. Precipitation at five Yakima Irrigation Project reservoirs this summer was recorded at 18.91 inches between April and September, just 43 percent of average. The previous record low was 20.72 inches in 1939. Record-keeping began in 1912. There was much less lightning activity to spark large fires this summer. When lightning or human-caused fires did get a start, the weather conditions weren't right for fires to quickly spread because there was more moisture in the air and winds were light. Total acreage burned in the Okanogan and Wenatchee forests, and on land managed by the southeast region of the state Department of Natural Resources, was 14,777 acres, compared with 293,137 acres in 2006. The lack of lightning appears to be related to a weather pattern called the four-corners high pressure system, which tends to pull subtropical moisture in a northeasterly pattern toward the Northwest. The system centers on the area where the states of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico meet. That system, while generally in the same location this year, appeared to wobble slightly. The change sent more of the moisture stream toward eastern Oregon, northern Idaho and Montana, areas that saw more lightning and more wildland fires this summer. The national Climate Prediction Center predicts a La Nina weather phenomenon will affect weather in the western United States this winter. During La Nina events, the Northwest climate tends to be wetter than normal and the Southwest is drier than normal.

Ancient documents portend major earthquake

The Middle East
An Israeli scientist said ancient documents suggest a major earthquake triggered by the Dead Sea Fault is long overdue in the Middle East. Although seismologists don't know when the next big earthquake will occur, earthquake patterns recorded in historical documents indicate the region's next significant quake might be imminent. Based on the translations of hundreds of ancient records from the Vatican and other religious sources, a series of devastating earthquakes occurred across the Holy Land during the last 2,000 years. The major ones were recorded along the Jordan Valley in the years 31 B.C. and in 363, 749 and 1033 A.D. "So roughly we are talking about an interval of every 400 years. If we follow the patterns of nature, a major quake should be expected any time because almost a whole millennium has passed since the last strong earthquake of 1033. When it strikes - and it will - this quake will affect Amman, Jordan, as well as Ramallah, Bethlehem and Jerusalem."

Mysterious Fireball Blazes Across the Minnesota Sky

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A flaming object over Minnesota skies this afternoon may have been a meteor.

Shortly after 2 p.m., people across the Twin Cities reported seeing a "metallic" object or "flaming ball" falling from the sky.

Broadcasters and emergency dispatchers got hundreds of calls from people who saw the object traveling from the northeast to the southwest.


Tamiflu may create resistant bird flu

Breaking Viral News

The frontline weapon in any bird-flu pandemic - cannot be broken down by sewage systems and could help the virus mutate dangerously into a drug-resistant strain. Countries around the world are stockpiling Tamiflu in the belief it will help curb any future outbreak of H5N1 avian flu among humans. Tamiflu is not a cure for flu but can ease its symptoms, thus aiding vulnerable patients such as the elderly, and reduce the time of illness, thus easing the burden on caregivers. In the 2004-5 influenza season, 16 million Japanese fell ill with flu, and six million received Tamiflu. At such dosages, the amount of Tamiflu released into the Japanese environment is roughly equivalent to what is predicted in areas where the drug would be widely used in a pandemic. Coincidentally, Japan also has a high rate of emerging resistance to Tamiflu. Among a small group of infected Japanese children, 18 percent had a mutated form of the virus that made these patients between 300 and 100,000 times more resistant to Tamiflu.

Springtime lamb born in October?

United Kingdom
Farmer Jim Wilkinson, from Northallerton, with a Lamb born in September, which is virtually unheard of as the lambing season is February to April

The sight of a new born lamb gambolling in a field is usually a sign spring is upon us. So a farmer was astonished when he discovered a spring lamb running among his Yorkshire flock, five months early. He did not even realise one of his sheep was pregnant. The lambing season runs between February and April, and experts say a ewe giving birth at the end of September is VIRTUALLY UNHEARD OF. "It is very strange in the farming world because they don't lamb at this time of year...It is a strange phenomenon. It couldn't have been born more out of season." "For a lamb to be born in July or August it is not too uncommon. But a lamb born in September is VERY UNUSUAL. It's the earliest spring lamb I have ever heard about." A farm in Buckfastleigh, Devon, is also welcoming unseasonal arrivals with the hatching of a new clutch of bright yellow ducks. Farm animals are not the only part of country life affected by Britain's barmy weather. Following one of the wettest summers on record, Halloween is set to be a little greener than usual this year. Pumpkins - normally bright orange in October - have failed to ripen thanks to the torrential rain of June and July. A farmer who harvests two million pumpkins a year says he has never known such a green harvest. "I have never known a year like this one in 35 years of growing pumpkins. We have just picked one 25-acre field and they are all green. It just hasn't been warm enough to ripen them. We have green pumpkins stored inside in 25 degrees to try and turn them orange in time."

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