Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.0 Earthquake hits near the east coast of Honshu, Japan.

5.0 Earthquake hits the Banda Sea.

5.0 Earthquake hits the Andreanof Islands in the Aleutian Islands.

5.0 Earthquake hits eastern New Guinea, Papua New Guinea.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms

Hurricane Henriette, tiny in size, is spinning down as quickly as it spun up during its recent intensification phase, and has decreased from hurricane to tropical storm strength. To the east of it there’s a massive zone of thunderstorms being monitored for one or more storms to spin up.

In the Western Pacific: Tropical Depression 11W continues to get better organized and is close to tropical storm strength. The Joint Typhoon Warning Centre (JTWC) still forecasts it to become a typhoon, though not as intense a one as previously predicted. The expected track is still toward the northern Philippines this weekend. Regardless of the wind speeds, heavy rain will fall in that country, which is prone to flash flooding and landslides. Then the storm will move toward China.

NewsBytes

Mudslide, flash flooding have injured at least three people and stranded several cars in Colorado Springs, USA.

Landslide in Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone has claimed the lives of at least six people.

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Hailstorms in eastern China have claimed the lives of at least six people and injured three. A hailstorm hit Dangshan and Xiaoxian counties in Anhui province Friday morning. Severe hail damage has been reported in Anhui with disruption of power supply and road closures.

Floods in Iwate prefecture in Japan have claimed the lives of at least two people and left five others missing.

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Wildlife

Honeybee Collapse May Have Complex Cause

Scientists have been trying to discover why millions of beehives have collapsed and died during the past six years. According to a new study, the reason for the phenomenon — known as colony collapse disorder (CCD) — may be much more complex and disconcerting than researchers originally realized.

CCD has killed off more than 10 million beehives in North America since 2007 alone. Scientists have tried repeatedly to identify the root cause for the beehive collapses — with possibilities ranging from certain classes of pesticides to parasites or nutrition — though the search is complicated by the dozens of different chemical types that may be combining to contaminate the pollen bees collect for their hives.

So academic researchers from the University of Maryland and federal scientists from the Department of Agriculture decided to collect pollen from seven major types of crops along the East Coast where CCD has been especially destructive — where bees had been in serious decline — and fed the pollen to healthy bees .

The collected pollen contained an average of nine types of pesticides and fungicides —one pollen sample contained 21 different anthropogenic chemicals.

According to the study, which appeared in the open-access journal PLOS One, the researchers discovered healthy bees that ate the fungicides — which are supposedly harmless to bees — were actually three times more likely to become infected with a parasite that’s known to cause CCD than bees not exposed to the chemicals.

The study also indicated that there may not be a single cause of the collapse of bee colonies in North America — the deaths may result from the impact of a complex web of chemicals spanning different types and classes of pesticides and fungicides.

Fungicides are used to control things like fungus on apples, and weren’t expected to have an impact on healthy bees. Since the study has shown that bees eating such fungicides are much more likely to become infected with a deadly parasite, USDA may need to change the way it regulates the use of those chemicals around crops and the bee colonies that pollinate them — and the agency may need to change the way it advises farmers and beekeepers about the fungicides’ risks.

Likewise, if CCD is linked to other components of the complex array of anthropogenic chemicals in pollen, it will become even more difficult to protect bee colonies — not to mention the other forms of life subjected to those chemicals as they spread through the food web and the broader environment.

To make things even more complicated, in the recent study, the researchers found that healthy bees they sampled had mostly foraged from weeds and wildflowers — not crops — meaning that bees across North America are likely much more exposed to pesticides than previously thought.

More research is needed about “how honey bees are exposed to pesticides outside the field in which they are placed,” the authors wrote in PLOS One. “We detected 35 different pesticides in the sample pollen, and found high fungicide loads,” they added. “Our results highlight a need for research on sub-lethal effects of fungicides and other chemicals that bees in an agricultural setting are exposed to.”

CCD isn’t just about the bees — food crops and agriculture economies are affected too. Because bee populations are so low in the United States, for example, the surviving colonies are working overtime to pollinate crops in California and elsewhere. More than $30 billion worth of crops in the United States could be seriously at risk if the continuing die-off of honeybees were to reach critical levels .

While the researchers were careful not to directly link the complex web of pesticides found in the pollen samples directly to colony collapse disorder, the inference is hard to ignore.

It’s also just common sense. Something has been causing CCD in different parts of North America, and it would make sense that chemicals designed to kill certain things like pests or weeds might also have unintended consequences when combined and later spread outside crops.

The solution could be as simple as labelling the harmful fungicides. But, it could also be vastly more complicated, and involve tighter regulation of the regions and instances where different sets of chemicals are used in and around crops pollinated by honeybee colonies.

Right now, pesticide labels tell farmers not to spray when bees are known to be pollinating, but those regulations don’t apply to the chemicals used to kill fungus on the crops as those substances were thought to be harmless to bees.

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Feds Investigating Large Dolphin Die-Off on East Coast

An unusually large number of bottlenose dolphins are washing up on the shores of the Mid-Atlantic U.S. Coast, most of them already dead. Federal scientists have declared it an “unusual mortality event” and are investigating the cause. The number of dolphins stranded in July is more than seven times higher than average according to scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The strandings began at the beginning of July, and have accelerated in the past two weeks, said Teri Rowles, National Marine Mammal Stranding Coordinator with NOAA Fisheries.

Higher-than-average levels of dolphin strandings have been seen in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, scientists said. In July, a total of 89 dolphins were stranded in these areas. As of yesterday (Aug. 7), a total of 35 strandings have occurred already in the month of August.

Although the cause is not yet known, the primary suspect is morbillivirus, an infectious pathogen, Rowles said. One dead dolphin has tested positive for this virus, she added.

Only seven of the stranded dolphins have ended up on shore alive, but none of these survived, Rowles said. All of them died on the beach or were humanely euthanized because they were beyond the point of treatment, she said.

Animals can survive exposure and infection to morbillivirus, although it’s not clear what percent do, Rowles said.

Morbillivirus was the culprit in the last large die-off of bottlenose dolphins, which occurred in 1987-1988. In that event, a total of 740 bottlenose dolphins died, according to NOAA figures. If another outbreak is indeed occurring now, there is likely nothing officials can do to stop it. The outbreak would have to end on its own.

Bottlenose dolphin

Global Warming

Is the Antarctic Ozone Hole Causing Warming?

A satellite view of the status of the ozone layer over the Antarctic pole on Aug. 5:

Ozone hole

The hole in the planet’s ozone layer may be shifting wind patterns and cloud cover over Antarctica in a way that could be triggering slightly warmer global temperatures, a new study finds.

Using computer models, researchers examined how the ozone hole may be altering winds in the jet stream over the Antarctic region, pushing clouds closer to the South Pole. These changes in cloud cover could affect how much of the sun’s radiation is reflected by the clouds, leading to a slightly warmer planet, the scientists said.

As the clouds migrate toward the South Pole, the amount of energy they can reflect is reduced, which means more radiation can reach the ground.

How much the ozone hole may be warming the planet is unknown, but the scientists estimate an increase of less than 0.09 watts per square foot (1 watt per square meter) of energy could be reaching the ground. This type of warming is still a much smaller effect than the global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

The study’s findings may help climatologists develop more accurate predictions of future climate conditions in the Southern Hemisphere.

Volcanos

Indonesian Volcano kills 6

Mount Rokatenda in East Nusa Tenggara province erupted early Saturday morning, according to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency.

Gushing hot lava killed six people sleeping in a beach village in eastern Indonesia on Saturday, after ash and smoke shot up to 2,000 meters (6,560 feet) into the air,

Nearly 3,000 people were evacuated from the area on Palue island.

The volcano has been rumbling since October 2012.