Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

6.5 Earthquake hits Chiapas, Mexico.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or serious damage.

5.3 Earthquake hits the Sea of Okhotsk.

5.1 Earthquake hits Fiji.

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Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

Tropical depression 29w (Twenty-nine), located approximately 415 nm east of Zamboanga, Philippines, is tracking west-southwestward at 11 knots.

Wildlife

Importance of Female Elephants in Social Structure

When older members of an elephant family are killed, younger female elephants assume the roles once held by their mothers, maintaining the networks that keep extended families together, a new study has found.

Over a 16-year period, researchers evaluated the changing social dynamics in groups of elephants in western Kenya as mature matriarchs were killed by poachers who hunt elephants for the ivory in their tusks. Not only did younger female elephants take up new social positions when an older matriarch died, but the links they forged with other elephant daughters mirrored connections once held by their mothers.

The scientists paid especially close attention to mother-daughter relationships. Female elephants are known to hold important leadership roles in elephant social groups, and the researchers were curious to discover how mother elephants might prepare young females to forge their own connections and assume adult social responsibilities.

But African elephants face a stress that can devastate even the strongest social networks: poaching. According to the World Wildlife Fund, tens of thousands of elephants are poached each year. African elephant numbers have plummeted from 5 million in the last century to an estimated 470,000 in 2015, with 40,000 killed in 2011 alone. Elephants’ tusks — extended incisor teeth — are greatly prized for their ivory, and growing demand for ivory products in the Far East fuels the poaching, despite a 1990 global ban on international ivory sales, according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

The bigger the tusks, the more valuable they are to poachers, so older elephants with the biggest tusks are poachers’ favourite targets, the study reported. Older female elephants are also likely to occupy important roles within the “connectivity hub” of the group’s social network, the scientists found. Poaching not only dramatically reduces elephant populations, but could also be destroying the bonds that hold groups together.

After 16 years, scientists reported that an estimated 70 percent of the individual elephants occupying important social roles in the group had been replaced. They found that they could predict which younger elephants would step into vacant roles, based on whose mother had previously held that position, establishing connections to other young elephants whose mothers had interacted closely with their own mother, even if these young elephants had not previously been seen to spend much time together.

Elephants’ social flexibility in spite of poaching provides a ray of hope for the sustainability of their populations.

Elephant social networks

Global Warming

New Ice Haze Over Earth From Surge in Jet Traffic

A gradual brightening of Earth’s skies since the 1970s and 1980s is being linked to an icy haze in the upper atmosphere, brought on by an expansion of jet air traffic.

NOAA scientists announced the phenomenon at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

Chuck Long told the gathering that there is strong circumstantial evidence linking the icy haze to the greater number of aircraft contrails over the past few decades.

While Long doesn’t believe the haze is having a significant effect on the climate, he says it is an example of “accidental geoengineering.”

“If you look up the definition of geoengineering, it includes large-scale manipulation of parts of the climate system or the environment, and I believe this ice haze from jet traffic does satisfy that requirement,” Long told reporters.

Scientists say jet contrails, like these over northern California, are responsible for Earth’s new “ice haze.”

Ew151218b

Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 113.4 degrees Fahrenheit (45.2 degrees Celsius) at Mardie, Western Australia.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 59.1 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 50.6 degrees Celsius) at Russia’s Siberian community of Oimyakon.

Temperatures were tabulated from the more than 10,000 worldwide synoptic weather stations. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization sets the standards for weather observations, and provides a global telecommunications circuit for data distribution.

Disease

Human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus – China

On 11 December 2015, the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) of China notified WHO of 2 additional laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with avian influenza A (H7N9) virus.

Surge in swine flu cases in Delhi, India

City hospitals have alerted the Central Government about the rise in the number of swine flu cases that have started coming in.

The city reported 15 swine flu cases and one death between October and November this year.

Last year, the swine flu cases (10,000 reported) spiked during December, with the number climbing till February.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity

Dallol (Danakil desert, Ethiopia): We present a selection of photographs taken on the 23rd of November 2015 during our first Danakil volcano expedition of this winter season! It seems that this phenomenal hydrothermal system is increasingly becoming drier (more shades of yellow-orange-brown and less green colours) in comparison to a few years ago, e.g. December 2010 following a particularly rainy period. What could be causing this gradual “dehydration” of the Dallol hot springs? Despite the fact there are currently 3 companies which will be extracting groundwater for the mining of potash from the local salts (used as fertilizer), neither one of them has actually started the production phase of their mining activities. So it is unlikely that they are the (main) reason for the slowly drying out of the Dallol hydrothermal field. A conversation with the chief of the local Afar village of Hamadela, discussing the influence of growing tourist numbers on his people and their ways of living, brought to light the area´s staggering drought problem. Whereas 18 months is the longest time span within his life (ca 45 years) over which there was no rain falling in the Dallol area, there has now been no rain for over 50 months…