Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.3 Earthquake hits Jujuy, Argentina.

5.0 Earthquake hits Fiji.

5.0 Earthquake hits northern Sumatra, Indonesia.

5.0 Earthquake hits offshore Chaipas, Mexico.

5.0 Earthquake hits Mindanao in the Philippines.

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Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

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In the South Indian Ocean: Tropical cyclone 05s (Dineo), located approximately 78 nm west of Europa island, is tracking southwestward at 03 knots.

Newsbytes:

Wyoming, USA – Residents along the Bighorn River in northern Wyoming are battling major flooding with the help of National Guard troops and others. The flooding began over the weekend when warm temperatures melted snow and ice jams caused water to back up. More than 100 homes were evacuated in Worland.

Western Australia – Update – Most of Western Australia – an area the size of Western Europe – has been declared a natural disaster area following flooding that has killed at least one person. The flooding that has lashed the state is the worst in 30 years in some areas and is estimated to have caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage with roads, bridges and farms affected.

Global Warming

Sea Ice Hits Record Lows at Both Poles

    

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Arctic temperatures have finally started to cool off after yet another winter heat wave stunted sea ice growth over the weekend. The repeated bouts of warm weather this season have stunned even seasoned polar researchers, and could push the Arctic to a record low winter peak for the third year in a row.

Meanwhile, Antarctic sea ice set an all-time record low on Monday in a dramatic reversal from the record highs of recent years.

Sea ice at both poles has been expected to decline as the planet heats up from the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. That trend is clear in the Arctic, where summer sea ice now covers half the area it did in the early 1970s. Sea ice levels in Antarctica are much more variable, though, and scientists are still unraveling the processes that affect it from year to year.

The large decline in Arctic sea ice allows the polar ocean to absorb more of the sun’s incoming rays, exacerbating warming in the region. The loss of sea ice also means more of the Arctic coast is battered by storm waves, increasing erosion and driving some native communities to move. The opening of the Arctic has also led to more shipping and commercial activity in an already fragile region.

Sea ice area isn’t the only way to measure the health of Arctic sea ice; the thickness of the sea ice has also suffered during the repeated incursions of warmth.

Antarctic sea ice is an altogether different beast. Instead of an ice-filled ocean surrounded by land, it is a continent surrounded by ocean that sees much more variability in sea ice levels from year to year for reasons that aren’t fully understood.

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For several of the past few years, the sea ice that fringed Antarctic reached record highs. That growth of sea ice could have potentially been caused by the influx of freshwater as glaciers on land melted, or from changes in the winds that whip around the continent (changes that could be linked to warming or the loss of ozone high in the atmosphere).

But this year, a big spring meltdown in October and November suddenly reversed that trend and has led to continued record low sea ice levels as the summer melt season progressed. On Monday, Antarctic sea ice dropped to an all-time record low, beating out 1997.

Sea ice has been particularly low in the Amundsen Sea region of Western Antarctica, thanks to unusually high temperatures there. But it’s not clear what is ultimately driving this dramatic reversal in Antarctic sea ice, or whether it will be temporary or marks a longer-term shift.

Humans accelerating global warming by 170 times: study

Humans are driving the warming of the Earth 170 times faster than natural forces, according to a new mathematical formula.

Scientists in Australia and Sweden have developed the equation, which assesses the impact of human activity on the climate and compares it to events such as volcanic eruptions and changes to the planet’s orbit.

Professor Will Steffen, a climate scientist from the Australian National University (ANU), said no natural events came close to the impact humans have made.

“Over the last century or so, we can see that the impact of humans – through fossil fuels, through forest clearing, through all sorts of changes to the biosphere – have become more important than these other forces,” he said.

Professor Steffen, who is also on the Climate Council, and his fellow researchers have labelled the formula the Anthropocene Equation.

Officially, the Earth is in the Holocene period, but scientists such as Professor Steffen are pushing for the modern era to be reclassified to reflect the massive impact humans have had. The scientists behind the formula found the biggest change in the climate has come since 1970.

“Since 1970, temperature has been rising at a rate of about 1.7 degrees per century,” Professor Steffen said.

“When you compare those two, since the 1970s, the climate has been changing at a rate 170 times faster than that long-term background rate.”

Wildlife

Climate Threat to Wildlife May Have Been Massively Underreported

More than 700 of the world’s threatened and endangered animal species may be directly affected by climate change, according to a new study — vastly more than the number of animal species scientists initially thought would face risks from global warming.

Scientists had previously determined that only 7 percent of mammals and 4 percent of birds on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) “Red List” of threatened species are affected by climate change. However, a new study finds that the threat from climate change may have been massively underreported.

In a comprehensive analysis of 130 previous studies on the subject, researchers found that nearly half of the world’s threatened and endangered mammals and nearly a quarter of birds are already seriously impacted — more than 700 species total.

Most climate change studies focus on impacts in the future, but the researchers said the effects of global warming are being felt “here and now.” And research on present threats were focused on specific species and were spread across numerous journals, according to study co-author James Watson, director of the Science and Research Initiative at the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Primates, in particular, are threatened because they have specialized diets and their tropical homes are vulnerable to extreme weather events caused by climate change. In some cases, species can adapt to the changes, but others are facing dire consequences.

For instance, mountain gorillas live on top of mountains — they’ve got nowhere else to go if the climate changes,” Watson said. “They’re stuck on top of these mountains, so they might not survive climate change because they can’t move anywhere else.”

Though birds can fly from mountaintop homes, the researchers found that species that live at higher altitudes and experience little seasonal temperature changes are negatively affected by climate change. Animals that dwell in aquatic environments also face even higher risks because these ecosystems are among the most vulnerable to global warming, according to the scientists.

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Nature – Images

Interesting Images

Supernova

Life in this universe begins and ends with supernovae. In a spectacular eruption powerful enough to outshine a galaxy, a star is killed — and new elements are forged. The shock wave from the star’s death throes can cause nearby clouds of gas to collapse, triggering the birth of new suns. The ashes of the exploded star spread out into the dark void of space, filling it with ingredients for future stars and planets. Supernovae are creative catastrophes.

This image made by the Hubble Space Telescope shows the tattered remains of a supernova explosion known as Cassiopeia A.

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Disease

Lassa Fever – Liberia

Two people from Nimba County, Liberia have died from infections of Lassa fever, according to the Ministry of Health (MOH) last week. Dr. Thomas Nagbe, Disease Prevention and Control head at the MOH said the first three Lassa fever cases were from Nimba, which included two fatalities and one individual who has hospitalized for the past two week. In addition, at least 100 contacts are being observed. Dr. Nagbe is calling Lassa a “major threat” that has now been seen in three counties: Bong, Lofa and Nimba.