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Analysis: Food crisis reaches Europe

Breaking Earth News
BERLIN, May 28 (UPI) -- The global food crisis has reached Europe: While EU countries aim to help stabilize food prices and increase aid to developing countries, dairy farmers in Germany and in several other European countries announced strikes that may render shelves empty.

Giant tortoises threatened as Galapagos volcano erupts

Breaking Earth News
A giant Galapagos turtle (© AFP/File - Martin Bernetti)

QUITO (AFP) - A volcano on the largest of the Galapagos islands has erupted and is threatening rare giant tortoises that live in the area, Ecuadoran officials said Friday.

The Cerro Azul volcano on Isabela Island began erupting on Thursday, officials with the Galapagos National Park said in a statement.

The island is home to rare and unique flora and fauna, including the Galapagos Giant Tortoise, which can weigh more than 230 kilos (500 pounds) and live more than 100 years.

Park rangers are monitoring the volcano's activity to make sure that "neither human lives nor the population of giant tortoises are at risk," the statement said.

There are five active volcanos on Isabela, including Sierra Negra, which erupted in October 2006. Cerro Azul last erupted in 1998.

Located 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) west of Ecuador's coast, the archipelago of 13 main islands and 17 islets is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Global Warming brings rare bird to Machu Picchu

Peru, S.A.
The Mountain Caracara, a species of bird of prey in the Falconidae family, has shown changes in its behavior pattern which indicate it is being affected by Peru's change of climate in the highlands. The caracara, a bird that usually lives between 3,500 - 5,000 meters (11,482 - 16,404 feet) above sea level, was venerated by the Incas. The Mountain Caracara has recently been found living at much lower altitudes and specialists are asking themselves what has brought the high-Andes bird closer to humans. According to biologists in Peru, the majestic bird is relocating because of weather alterations and abrupt changes in the climate. Specialists have noted that more of these birds can be seen at the Inca Citadel atop Machu Picchu, which is 2,400 meters (7,875 ft) above sea level. "These are visible consequence of climate change. Many speak of this phenomenon as if it were something distant. This is a concrete case of the changes that are taking place."

Drone planes research hurricanes

As the hurricane season takes off in the US so too will drone planes which will fly into the eye of the storms. It is part of an ongoing project funded by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to monitor the Earth's atmosphere. Two to five flights will be launched during the six month hurricane season and will send back a continuous stream of information. The planes can fly into the eye of a storm at just 300 feet above sea level. As well as predicting the intensity of hurricanes, researchers will also use the planes to track how fast Arctic summer ice will melt and whether Pacific storms will flood the west coast of America. In late 2008, large unmanned aircraft will observe sea ice conditions in the Arctic and track the locations of seal populations as the climate warms. In spring 2009, low and high altitude unmanned vehicles will fly over the Pacific to study atmospheric rivers. Future missions will monitor fisheries, track Greenland glaciers, preserve natural resources and examine murky plumes of volcanic emissions.

Mud Volcano Erupts in Arakan

Breaking Earth News
Myanmar (Burma)
A mud volcano erupted on an island in Manaung Township in Arakan twice on the night of Sunday, May 25, but there are no reports on any damaged caused by the eruption. The volcano, situated on Nantha Kyunt Island along the Arakan Coast, erupted first at 12:30 am and a second time at 4 am. Molten lava spewed from the mouth of the volcano, reaching estimated heights of 120 feet into the sky. After the lava erupted, the area surrounding the volcano was inundated with mud that came from the volcano. In Arakan State, there are a few mud volcanoes that occasionally erupt. On 5 January, 2008, Nagar Gri (Dragon) Volcano on Rambree Island also erupted and flooded nearby areas with lava.

Mass evacuation from quake lake

Breaking Earth News
In Photos: Lake Evacuation

Story: Aftershocks are continuing to rock the region, and on Tuesday 63 people were injured, including six critically, in Qingchuan county. The aftershocks, coupled with heavy rain, are hampering relief efforts. A total of 158,000 people (in about 30 towns) have now been evacuated from potentially vulnerable areas downstream from Tangjiashan lake. The lake's water level is rising by more than one metre pre day. It n
ow holds as much water as 50,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. If the water bursts through the natural barrier of rock and earth, more than one million people may have to be relocated.

RELATED NEWS: Chinese Disaster
Two further aftershocks have destroyed more than 420,000 houses in the Chinese region hit by a massive earthquake two weeks ago. Many of the homes appear to have been empty, but six people are said to have been critically injured in the tremors. One of the aftershocks measured magnitude 5.7. The same county was strongly shaken on Sunday, wrecking 300,000 more homes, killing eight people and injuring hundreds.

The 8.0 earthquake devastated the key agricultural province
of Sichuan. In the towns and villages around Mianzhu, everything speaks of collapse. Crushed pigs poke out from the remains of pulverised buildings. Terraced farms have been overrun by landslides. Irrigation trenches are either split and leaking or blocked and dry. Factories and mines are silent - their operations wrecked and their labour forces dead or evacuated. But the earthquake will barely register on global energy and commodity prices: the province produces 20% of China's natural gas, 3% of its aluminium and 3% of its coal, but the quake will not reduce those contributions significantly. Analysts are most worried about the longer-term impact on agriculture. With Sichuan being China's biggest producer of pigs and a leading grower of rice and vegetables, damage to agriculture could trigger surges in inflation, with food prices already extremely sensitive. A serious concern is what could unfold over the summer, particularly as the July rains pour down on crippled infrastructure. River blockages could starve large parts of the region of the water they depend on for irrigation.


Evolution of flu strains points to higher risk of pandemic

Some strains of bird flu are coming ever closer to developing the traits they need to cause a human pandemic, a study released Monday said. Researchers who analysed samples of recent avian flu viruses found that a few H7 strains of the virus that have caused minor, untransmissible infections in people in North America between 2002 and 2004 have increased their affinity for the sugars found on human tracheal cells. Investigators said the evidence suggests that the virus could be evolving toward the same strong sugar-binding properties of the three worldwide viral pandemics in 1918, 1957 and 1968. The authors said that if the viruses continue to evolve in this direction, the avian flu viruses could travel more easily between other animals and humans. They called for strict surveillance of avian flu viruses and continuing federal preparations for a possible future pandemic.

Sunscreens damage coral reefs

SUNscreen lotions used by beach-going tourists worldwide are a major cause of coral bleaching, according to a new study commissioned by the European Commission.
In experiments, the cream-based ultra-violet (UV) filters - used to protect skin from the harmful effects of sun exposure - caused bleaching of coral reefs even in small quantities, the study found.
Coral reefs are among the most biologically productive and diverse of ecosystems, and directly sustain half a billion people. But some 60 per cent of these reef systems are threatened by a deadly combination of climate change, industrial pollution and excess UV radiation.

The new study, published in US journal Environmental Health Perspectives, has now added sunscreens to the list of damaging agents, and estimates that up to 10 per cent of the world's reefs are at risk of sunscreen-induced coral bleaching.

Freak snowfall in Sweden

FREAK snowfall - A cold snap has caused confusion in Sweden, as heavy snow fell on northern parts of the country on Saturday. Residents, geared up for spring, were not expecting the large amount of snow, which caused large-scale power cuts. The meteorological agency of Sweden reported 14 to 15 centimetres of snowfall in Leksand, Malung and Rattvik in Dalarna. “It has snowed quite a lot, as far south as parts of Varmland. Further south than that the snow turns into slush.”

Rainfall decline linked to climate change


VICTORIA has experienced a 40 per cent decrease in autumn rainfall since 1950 and climate change is a key factor, a report has found.

There were also seasonal rainfall declines in Western Australia's southwest and southern Queensland.

A reduction in the number of La Nina events and changes in weather systems from the Indian Ocean were also partly responsible for late rainfall across Victoria, the CSIRO's Wealth From Oceans Flagship study found.

During the past 58 years, a decrease in alternating high and low pressure systems over Victoria had led to rising sea level atmospheric pressure, report co-author Dr Wenju Cai said.

"This weakening is reinforced by a warming of the Indian Ocean which is, at least in part, due to global warming," he said.

"This suggests that a component of climate change is active in southern Victoria receiving less rainfall."

Freak Storm Brings Tornadoes, Floods and Snow

Image Above: A funnel cloud reaches to the ground near March Air Reserve Base on Thursday afternoon, while just to the left, another one dissipates. Jeanne Prescott grabbed her camera and shot photos of the rare weather phenomenon after her 11-year-old son saw the first tornado out of their kitchen window.

California, USA
Two tornadoes barreled across Interstate 215 south of March Air Reserve Base on Thursday afternoon, knocking over a tractor trailer and several box cars in a FREAK STORM that also dumped snow in the mountains, triggered lightning, hail storms and mudslides, and flooded Inland roadways and homes. Cold, unstable ocean air collided with warm Southern California air, creating a volatile and UNUSUAL WEATHER PATTERN that could continue to produce thunderstorms and chilly weather through Saturday. "It's not just unusual, it's EXTREMELY UNUSUAL. You would expect this in January, February or March, but not in May." The wild weather system unleashed its fury throughout Southern California. It sparked 14 power pole and palm tree fires and triggered 20 weather-related traffic accidents in Riverside County. Mud flows swept down fire-scarred canyons in Orange County and thunderstorms broke out from Los Angeles to San Diego counties. Evacuation orders were issued to about 1,500 people. A column of dust and debris - more than 300 feet wide - swirled around the funnel cloud in a counter-clockwise motion, creating a funnel within a funnel. "I'm thinking, 'Tornadoes in California? No way." Motorists elsewhere in Riverside County encountered violent rain and hail the size of marbles. Some roads were flooded waist-deep. Snow fell overnight Wednesday in the mountains, coating some peaks but melting quickly at lower elevations. "It's bizarre. It's very late in the spring for this to be happening. I don't ever remember it snowing this late in the season." "This is the last gasp of Canadian air making the big break into Southern California. It's very cold, it's very unstable and when you get it in the late afternoon, you're getting the exact conditions that you get in the Midwest." But what made Thursday's events more unique was "the full menu" of weather - thunder, lightning, mudslides, hail and tornadoes. "This is a 10-courser."

Podcast: Wild Weather Stirs California

Food Crisis Rippling Out Like a "Tsunami"

World Food Crisis
UNITED NATIONS - “A rolling tsunami of social unrest is underway as we speak — hungry people are desperate people capable of taking desperate actions. This tsunami is rapidly enveloping the global South, and it won’t take much longer before it knocks at the door of the global North,” warned Vicente Garcia-Delgado, the U.N. representative for CIVICUS, the world alliance for citizen participation.

At a forum on the world food crisis held at the United Nations Friday, civil society groups stressed that over 800 million people are now at risk of starvation, while 100 million have joined the ranks of the extremely poor in just the last few months and are now living on less than a dollar a day.

The food price index of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation rose by 9 percent in 2006 and 23 percent in 2007. As of March this year, wheat and maize prices were 130 and 30 percent higher than a year earlier. Rice prices have more than doubled since late January.

Northern Zone drought killing cattle

Breaking Earth News
Costa Rica, C.A.

At least 257 cows have been confirmed dead as a months-old drought tightens its grip on Costa Rica's barren Northern Zone.

The deaths have spread across 54 ranches in the canton of Los Chiles, which borders Nicaragua in north-central Costa Rica.

The nation's ombudswoman, whose title in Spanish translates literally as the “defender of the inhabitants,” yesterday called for the government to declare an “agricultural and public health emergency,” the wire service ACAN-EFE reported.

“We are talking about a lot of people who live off agriculture and also need water to satisfy their basic food and cleaning necessities,” said Ombudswoman Lisbeth Quesada.

Midsummer rain throws life out of gear

New Delhi, May 21 (IANS): Waterlogged roads, traffic backed up for miles and stalled cars robbed Delhiites of the joy of the unexpected overnight rain Wednesday. The midsummer rain also brought to the fore concerns about whether it was one of the effects of climate change. The India Meteorological Department said the FREAKY WEATHER was due to two mini-cyclones, one over Rajasthan and adjoining areas of Pakistan, and the other over Himachal Pradesh and northern Haryana. Asked about the effect of the current weather on the all-important monsoon wind that largely determines India’s annual farm output, an expert said the mini-cyclones were still too local and too small to have any long-term effect. But he was worried about the effect a newly-developing low-pressure area in the southern Arabian Sea may have on the monsoon wind. That weather system may develop into a cyclone and move northwest towards the Arabian peninsula. In Delhi, the maximum temperature Tuesday fell to 29 degrees Celsius, a full 12 degrees below average. The met office has predicted that the current spell of wet and windy weather will continue till Friday. The prediction includes the possibility of hailstorms, which may be ruinous for the mango crop that has already been affected by the wet weather.

Terrified pandas coaxed from trees after quake

Breaking Earth News
Ordeal ... workers with rescued pandas at the famous Wolong breeding reserve after China's devastating earthquake / AFP

Terrified giant pandas
have been rescued after China's earthquake devastated their breeding grounds. Pandas clinging to tree branches had to be coaxed down. The quake uprooted forests and sent huge boulders crashing down from nearby mountains at the world-famous Wolong Reserve. The quake reportedly killed five staff members and destroyed 14 panda houses. Despite a major search operation, some of the 1600 wild pandas in the Sichuan district are missing, two of them from Wolong reserve, 32km from the earthquake's epicentre. The others were "very likely to be alive". "Both pandas were adults and they are more capable to escape from dangers than younger ones." The quake destroyed or damaged all 32 panda houses

Murray-Darling drought may be permanent

There is no end in sight to the drought afflicting the Murray-Darling Basin and the big dry could become a permanent feature of eastern Australia, experts warn.

The latest Murray System Drought Update contains nothing but bad news for farmers and communities struggling to cope.

Even grimmer news is that it could become worse next year.

Meteorologists have warned another dreaded El Nino weather pattern - which brings dry weather to eastern Australia - could be on the way.

Dr Wendy Craik, chief executive of the Murray-Darling Basin Commission which oversees the nation's major food bowl, painted an ominous picture of the situation as she delivered the update.

"Unfortunately there is no improvement in sight," she said.

"The prognosis for the future's not good."

Climate Change Is Inevitable. Get Used to It

The awful truth is that some amount of climate change is a foregone conclusion

Even if the US, Europe, and Japan turned off every power plant and mothballed every car today, atmospheric CO2 would still climb from the current 380 parts per million to a perilous 450 ppm by 2070, thanks to contributions from China and India. (Do nothing and we'll get there by 2040.) In short, we're already at least lightly browned toast. It's time to think about adapting to a warmer planet. Our ability to cope with global warming is far greater than our chances of stopping it entirely. Technology lets us build carbon-neutral houses 7,000 feet up in the Colorado Rockies. Monsanto and friends are engineering crops to withstand drought. For the hapless birds and bees, wildlife scientists are plotting what they call assisted migrations. Geo-engineering - invasive surgery on a planetary scale - is getting attention from serious scientists.

Unpredictable weather in Kashmir

People in the Kashmir valley are experiencing unpredictable weather conditions for the past one week. This is not an aberration, a weather office spokesman said when asked about the changing weather. He said due to above normal temperature during the day, the Western Disturbances (WD) gets fully developed in the afternoon causing rainfall in the evening. Several areas in the city experienced light rains, followed by lightning and strong winds. There was no immediate report about the damage caused by the winds. The night was hot after the minimum temperature was recorded at 13.6 degrees Celsius, about three degrees above normal. The maximum was also about three degrees above normal.

Video: Volcanologists Keep A Weary Eye on Mt Etna

A second eruption occurred on the evening of 13 May from a fissure that opened NE of the SE crater, about 800m long. Catania airport had to be closed because of ash emission from Etna. Apart from the emission of lava, the eruption at Etna emitted large amounts of sulphur dioxide (SO2), a colourless and toxic trace gas, into the atmosphere. It plays an important role in climate change if it finds its way to high atmospheric regions through volcanic eruptions, where it can lead to temporary cooling.

Video: Volcanologists Keep A Weary Eye on Mt Etna

Drought, high food prices slam Somalia

Villagers in Somalia say spiking food costs, coupled with a drought that is killing vital livestock, are producing a famine that has killed hundreds so far. Cattle are lying dead in the sand and prices for commodities are out of control. The combination of civil war, a refugee crisis and foreign aid jeopardized by the fighting means the humanitarian situation in the Horn of Africa is becoming desperate. The only thing standing between many Somalis and starvation is "a thin gruel made from mashed thorn-tree branches." At least 2.6 million Somalis - more than one-third of the country's population - need assistance. That represents a 40% increase since January. 600,000 more people in urban areas "either do not have enough food to sustain their households, or have been forced to sell assets to buy food, leaving them vulnerable to further deterioration."

Video: Apocalyptic Hailstorm Hits Belgrade

An Apocalyptic storm slammed into Belgrade yesterday afternoon. The BBC got some good footage of the rivers of hailstones.

Video: Apocalyptic Hailstorm Hits Belgrade

Wildlife populations 'plummeting'

Humans are wiping out about 1% of all other species every year, and ONE OF THE 'GREAT EXTINCTION EPISODES IN THE EARTH'S HISTORY IS UNDERWAY. Pollution, farming and urban expansion, over-fishing and hunting are blamed. Between a quarter and a third of the world's wildlife has been lost since 1970. Populations of land-based species fell by 25%, marine by 28% and freshwater by 29%. Over the next 30 years, climate change is also expected to become a significant threat to species. "Reduced biodiversity means millions of people face a future where food supplies are more vulnerable to pests and disease and where water is in irregular or short supply. No-one can escape the impact of biodiversity loss because reduced global diversity translates quite clearly into fewer new medicines, greater vulnerability to natural disasters and greater effects from global warming."

Chinese turn to rumour, superstition to explain disasters

HONG KONG (AFP) — In a culture where natural disasters have foretold the end of dynasties, China's massive earthquake has given way to rumour and superstition. With officials saying the number of people killed in the 7.9-magnitude quake that shook Sichuan Monday is likely to be more than 50,000, Chinese are looking for a cosmic explanation for their misery. Fantastic theories for the disaster - as well as the January snowstorms, March riots in Tibet and this month's disastrous cyclone in Myanmar - have become common. Even as the government has sought to capitalise on the predilection for portents by scheduling the opening ceremony of the Olympics for 8/8/08, at 8:08pm, some Internet users have given added significance to the fact that the date for each of this year's disastrous events adds up to eight. May 12, the day of the quake, adds up to eight (5, for May, + 1 + 2) and is 88 days before the opening ceremony. "One of the things the government is trying hard to avoid is normal people believing that the heavenly powers are displeased with what is going on here on earth." The 1976 Tangshan earthquake which claimed around 240,000 lives was widely regarded as a precursor to the death of Mao Zedong. According to Chinese astrological charts, 2008, the Year of the Rat on the Chinese lunar calendar, was destined to be one of tumult and disaster. "This is a year of earth and water, it means the earth is unstable and water is very powerful." The snowstorms - which crippled huge swathes of the country from January 25, which also totals eight - were the first natural disaster of 2008 and involved water. "The earth was unstable, and then the quake comes." The day of the quake was a "double rat day," with the rat in the northern hemisphere of the lunar chart sitting in conflict with the horse in the south. The Olympic mascots, five cartoon figures representing four animals and the Olympic torch, are also being linked to disasters that some chatroom visitors believe should have been foreseen. The antelope mascot, Yingying, foretold the Tibet riots. Huanhuan, the torch mascot, foretold the trouble that plagued the torch's controversial journey around the world. Nini, the kite, was a portent of an April train disaster in Shandong province, home of Chinese kite-flying, and Jingjing, the panda, which is found mostly in Sichuan, pointed to the earthquake. Whatever is foretold by the sturgeon mascot, Beibei, can only be imagined - "The worst might be yet to come".

Pandas had sensed China quake before it happened

Pandas sensed the quake before it happened. If eyewitness accounts are to be believed, pandas had sensed the massive earthquake that shook central China on May 12, with the animals behaving strangely just minutes before the quake struck. Several British tourists, who survived the disaster, said that captive pandas at the Wolong National Nature Reserve, which is near the epicenter, began acting strangely in the minutes before the devastating earthquake. Several tourists told how the animals stopped eating bamboo and became eerily agitated moments before the quake struck. The pandas had been really lazy and just eaten a little bit of bamboo, and all of a sudden they were parading around their pen. Other tourists reported that when the pandas were pacing up down and walking around, the land started shaking and the animals ran to the edge of the reservation.

German Beehives Hit by Mass Die-Off

Beekeepers are pointing the finger at a Bayer CropScience pesticide (clothianidin) marketed under the name Poncho, but government tests aren't conclusive. All up and down the Rhine river, farm fields usually buzzing with bees are quiet. Beginning late last week, helpless beekeepers could only watch as their hives were hit by an UNPRECEDENTED DIE-OFF. Many say one of Germany's biggest chemical companies is to blame. "It's an absolute bee emergency. Fifty to 60 percent of the bees have died on average, and some beekeepers have lost all their hives." The crisis hit its peak last weekend. As intensive agriculture becomes more and more common in Germany, the country's insects are beginning to suffer. The consequences could be dire—bees pollinate 80 percent of German crops, from apples to rapeseed. The latest die-off is hitting a bee population already battered by a particularly long, wet and cold winter. Infestations of bee parasites like the varroa mite have also taken a heavy toll on bees in the past few years.

Climate change speeding nature's clock

Breaking Earth News
Impact ... a study has pinpointed the changes in nature linked to global warming, including some polar bears resorting to cannibalism / Reuters / News Limited picture

Climate change
is making flowers bloom sooner and autumn leaves fall later and is turning polar bears into cannibals and birds into early breeders. The study of rising temperatures found declining water levels in western Victoria; a 50% decline in Antarctica's Emperor Penguin population; cannibalism and decline in population of polar bears; glaciers melting in the European alps; changes in 19 countries of leaf-unfolding and flowering of some plants; greater growth of Siberian pines in Mongolia; earlier break-up and thinning of river and lake ice there; and changes in the freeze depth of permafrost in Russia. "When you look at all of the glaciers and all of the snowpack and all of the birds laying eggs earlier and all of the plants having spring earlier across a continent, then we see we can detect anthropogenic signals."

More baches at risk from landslide

Breaking Earth News
New Zealand
HILLSIDE HORROR: A hillside that gave way, spewing rocks, mud and gravel into holiday houses at the fishing village of Ngawi, continues to threaten homes.

Story: A hillside that gave way, spewing rocks, mud and gravel into holiday houses at the fishing village of Ngawi, continues to threaten homes. About 10,000 square metres of hillside came rumbling down on Friday, smashing into four houses in Seaview Rd during heavy rain. The hilltop continues to crumble, and contractors say it could come down anytime. The rubble from the landslide, about six to eight metres deep, buried a large section of the road and raged down into the village to the foreshore.

Erupting volcano imperils two million sheep in Patagonia

Chile, S.A.
Two million sheep in the Argentine Patagonia province of Chubut are suffering the consequences of the ash blanket spewed by the eruption of the volcano Chaiten in neighboring Chile according to primary estimates from local authorities. "The situation is very serious because we already had sheep suffering from the drought and scarce grassland and unprepared for these exceptional circumstances." It’s still very difficult to quantify losses because the problem has not ceased and “we have to wait some sort of normality in the Andes to assess the real magnitude of the eruption’s consequences."

Tsunami Survivors Still Struggle

3 years after the Indian Ocean earthquake of December 2004, tsunami survivors still struggle. The scars of the 2004 Asian Tsunami can be seen everywhere. Your local travel agent might have you believe that it’s all over, that the resorts have been rebuilt and it’s business as usual on Thailand’s Andaman coast. But cycle a few hundred meters outside of the resorts and it’s a very different story. Many people have struggled to rebuild homes (unrecognisable as such by Western standards), and are having a hard time time living from the remaining natural resources which were devastated following the undersea earthquake, so large that our Earth wobbled on its Axis and our days are now 2.7 microseconds shorter. Survivors continue to mourn their losses, left with farm fields still contaminated by salt water, limited infrastructure for the treatment of sewage and provision of fresh water and the collapse of local fishing industries. The healthy return of tourism to the region is certainly helping to inject funds into local economies, and a sense of normality is slowly returning, but the memory of 26th December 2004 continues to traumatise many survivors struggling to scrape a living from a coastline still bearing many scars of the most deadly natural disaster in living memory.

Mysterious Fireball Lights Up New Mexico Night Sky

New Mexico, USA
A mysterious flash of lights over New Mexico's Sandia Crest early Monday morning had some residents wondering if they had seen an unidentified flying object.
But experts said the bright spot, spotted just after 2 a.m., was most likely a meteor.

Video of the flashing light was captured by an observatory near Santa Fe.

Mysterious Fireball Lights Up New Mexico Night Sky

China Quake 'predicted' 5 years ago

Breaking Earth News

Ahead of Monday's deadly earthquake
, many people reported seeing UNUSUAL animal behavior. On Saturday, local media reported that hundreds of thousands of toads had appeared on the streets of Manzhu, a city about 60 km southeast of Wenchuan. A resident was quoted as saying he saw countless toads killed by passing vehicles as they crossed roads, and that he had never seen anything like it. Similarly, on Friday, people in Taizhou, Jiangsu province, also said they saw tens of thousands of toads on the city's streets, local media said. Experts have said animals can give advance notice of quakes, as they sense tremors before they happen. Unfortunately, no one heeded the toads' "warning". In response to questions from the public about the reptilian swarms, officials in both Mianzhu and Taizhou said there was nothing unusual about them. "The move is because of the change of weather."

A seismologist warned more than five years ago that based on historical records and animal studies, a strong earthquake was likely in Sichuan. Sichuan stood a big chance of being hit by a huge temblor due to its geographic location, and records since 1800 showed the average interval between major quakes in the province was about 16 years. Since 1900, the area had experienced frequent big temblors, and records showed the longest interval between them was 19 years, with the average being 11 years. The paper said, "however, the area hasn't seen any earthquake measuring above 7 for 26 years, since a big temblor struck its Songpan and Pingwu counties in 1976. We must be prepared for a big earthquake after 2003."

Progam swaps bugs for food

An UNPRECEDENTED LOCUST PLAGUE has prompted local officials in some areas to offer wheat as a reward to residents for killing the insects. Some 300 tons of locusts have been killed by people in the northwestern province of Badghis in recent weeks. "This is a regional problem and is not limited only to Afghanistan."

The Story
NW Afghanistan Hit By Plague Of Locusts
Some 300 tonnes of locusts have been killed by people in the northwestern province of Badghis alone in recent weeks.

Some lakes still locked in ice

Minnesota, USA
For the fishing opener in Minnesota, usually the lakes are cold, windswept and generally unpleasant. But it’s a RARE opening weekend when so many lakes are still either locked in winter’s ice or just breaking up as is the case this year. A few of the more northern lakes report feet of ice, while others report melting, thinner ice cover. Nearly all the major fishing lakes, however, are cold. That is, too cold for fish to be on the bite. In some places, the spawn has yet to begin because of cold water.

The Awakening of Earth's Largest Volcano

Hawaii, USA
Is something happening at Mauna Loa volcano? Maybe. A resident has noticed that there are red-white hot spots shown in a newly uploaded Google Earth image of the Mauna Loa Volcano. These very clear satellite images show bright red, white, yellow and orange spots on the SW Rift Zone of Mauna Loa. Officials say that the red color is not lava and is due to oxidized cinder which erupted between about 500 and 1,000 years ago. They say that Mauna Loa is very quiet at this time and that the oxidized cider cones colors might have gotten enhanced somehow. But another resident mentioned strange gases, noises and helicopters above the Hawaiian Ocean View Estates (H.O.V.E.) subdivision. On May 6, a farmer mentioned her Swiss Chard was burned by a mysterious ground-hugging milky cloud that moved from above her farm down thru the fields and even thru a small farm building she had. She said the gas did not smell like had a very bad smell and she knew it was something different. She took samples of the chard that was burned, and swabs off her windows and had them tested by the state of Hawaii. They told her they could not find anything on the samples. This volcano has erupted 39 times since 1832. In the past, during some of those eruptions, lava went from vent to ocean in less than 3 hours.Slow extension of the volcano, as measured by GPS receivers on either side of the volcano, has resumed after a hiatus of a few weeks. Tiltmeters have recorded no significant changes. Gas sensors continued to record background gas concentrations within a crack in the crater floor. Hawaii island is also under a very heavy Vog Alert, (volcanic smog) which is coming from Kilauea Volcano, which is also located on the island. Vog has destroyed some local crops including some in the H.O.V.E. community.

Reservoirs low, despite heavy snows

Washington, USA
Reservoirs low, despite heavy snows - Usually, melting snows and spring rains combine to fill the lakes before the summer recreation season. “There’s a lot of snow, but we haven’t had a lot of rain.” So even though current measurements of mountain snowpack throughout Washington exceed historical levels, the delayed melt-off and scant recent rainfall together mimic a drought. That’s particularly true on the Cowlitz River, which feeds Riffe Lake, where the water level hasn’t been this low since the 2001 drought. That’s a troubling comparison for power managers because 2001 was a crisis year for energy supplies. "April stream flow data, it’s just way, way down." Many of the dozens of snowpack stations have SET RECORDS FOR SNOW ACCUMULATIONS AT THIS TIME OF YEAR. “IT'S NOT MELTING, AND IT SHOULD BE." Experts blame the delay on colder-than-normal April temperatures. Also, total April precipitation did not measure up to historical averages. Usually, mountain snows begin to melt between March and mid-April. By the end of April, it was already two weeks late. It’s too early to say whether this year will set any records for delayed melt-off. "It’s a really good year for late snowpack. It is UNUSUAL from the aspect that it’s not melting.” The late melt could reduce the effect of evaporation, leaving more water in the rivers for power production, as well as fish, later in the summer. On April 30, meteorologists came out with their latest 30-day outlook. The forecast: below-normal temperatures and precipitation.

Massive Quake Hits Central China

Breaking Earth News
A 7.8 magnitude earthquake has struck the central Chinese province, Sichuan. Initial reports say between 3,000 to 5,000 people are known dead, with official Chinese media predicting the death toll will continue to rise. VOA's Stephanie Ho reports from Beijing.
Rescuers search rubble of collapsed Juyuan middle school in Dujiangyan, Sichuan province, 12 May 2008

Ho report - Download (MP3) audio clip
Ho report - Listen (MP3) audio clip

Volcano blast meets storm in the Chilean sky

Chile, S.A.
Two of nature’s most spectacular forces produced an incredible brew in the skies of Chile as a volcanic eruption met a lightning storm. Tons of dust and ash from the eruption of the Chaitén volcano poured into the night sky just as an electric storm passed overhead. The resulting collision of two unstoppable forces created a spectacular and RARELY SEEN sight as lightning flickered around the dust cloud amid the orange glow of the volcano. Authorities in Chile were increasingly worried by the violence of the eruption Monday when lava began spewing out with increased ferocity. “The situation has changed suddenly. Today the volcano is erupting with pyroplastic material on a different scale.” The change in intensity of the eruption prompted the authorities to order the evacuation of the remaining 300 people from the area, including military personnel brought in to help. More than 4,000 people had already been evacuated from the town of Chaitén. Getting people out of the area has been complicated by difficult and remote terrain. They do not expect a catastrophic collapse of the volcano, but do expect a cloud of dense, very hot material to hit the surrounding area. “This produces a more complicated scenario. A dense cloud of pyroplastic material could move down its slopes, and that causes much more damage [than a spray of lava]...Lava flow would not reach Chaitén, but hot fragments, ash and gas could.” In the worst-affected areas, ash is more than 15cm thick in places, coating houses, vehicles and trees and contaminating water supplies. The authorities are moving cattle from the area.

Freak twister strikes Kenai

Alaska, USA
FREAK twister strikes Kenai. Either an incredibly small tornado or an exceptionally strong dust devil struck the parking lot outside of Katina's Greek and Italian Restaurant in Kenai Monday. Witnesses say the twister touched down behind The Salvation Army thrift store adjacent to the restaurant, punched holes in two signs, sent debris across the Kenai Spur Highway and dissipated before it crossed the road. "It was one of the most scary things I've witnessed...The tornado was probably about the size of my living room. It was huge. It was 20 feet tall or a little bit taller." The twister struck about 1 pm, stirring up rocks and debris. Letters from the Summit Cleaners sign were swept away and carried across the street, landing in the trees next to the United Pentecostal Church across the street. "Above the tree line you could see the sign floating down." Everything was calm just before the tornado struck. The incident lasted between 15 and 20 seconds, and afterwards it rained for about a minute. "It looked like a little tornado. It wasn't windy out or anything, it was beautiful." The twister spun a couple of times, it rained a lot and then it disappeared. "It just happened right here in this parking lot." When it was over everything was still floating in the air. It was awesome. I don't know where it came from or why, but it came from around the corner." Even though eyewitnesses say it was a tornado, the National Weather Service said there are no weather patterns going through the area that are consistent with a tornado. Cumulonimbus clouds, or thunderheads, typically spawn tornadoes, and there haven't been any thunder clouds in the area. "I don't think it was a tornado. There may have been a really strong wind gust that may have stirred up a dust devil. The dust devil is a by-product of strong winds and strong wind directional changes." The dust devil itself may not have been responsible for the damage to the signs, it may have been the strong wind gusts. As of 4 p.m. Monday the weather was mostly cloudy at the Kenai and Soldotna airports. They have been reporting occasional gusts at times, but they weren't sure if they were strong enough to create such damage. "There may have been some localized gusty winds in the area." Despite the damage to the signs, Katina's didn't notify the Kenai Fire or the Police departments. And even though the flight path for aircraft bound for the Kenai Municipal Airport is right above Katina's, the airport manager said she hadn't heard of strange weather either.

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