Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.1 earthquake hits near the east coast of Honshu, Japan.

5.1 earthquake hits southeast of the Loyalty Islands.

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

Two 5.0 earthquakes hit southeast of the Loyalty Islands.

Global Warming

Global warming today mirrors conditions leading to Earth’s largest extinction event: study

More than two-thirds of life on Earth died off some 252 million years ago, in the largest mass extinction event in Earth’s history.

Researchers have long suspected that volcanic eruptions triggered “the Great Dying,” as the end of the Permian geologic period is sometimes called, but exactly how so many creatures died has been something of a mystery.

Now scientists at the University of Washington and Stanford believe their models reveal how so many animals were killed, and they see frightening parallels in the path our planet is on today.

Models of the effects of volcanic greenhouse gas releases showed the Earth warming dramatically and oxygen disappearing from its oceans, leaving many marine animals unable to breathe, according to a study published Thursday in the peer-reviewed journal Science. By the time temperatures peaked, about 80 percent of the oceans’ oxygen, on average, had been depleted. Most marine animals went extinct.

By this century’s end, if emissions continue at their current pace, humans will have warmed the ocean about 20 percent as much as during the extinction event, the researchers say. By 2300, that figure could be as high as 50 percent.

Space Events

Asteroid to Skim the Earth before Christmas

An asteroid measuring more than one mile in diameter will fly past the planet on a so-called Earth Close Approach, space agency NASA revealed, but thankfully the odds of it hitting Earth are minimal.

At its closest, the space rock will reach the planet within 0.01890 astronomical units (AU). One astronomical unit measures approximately 93 million miles (149.5 million km) and describes the distance between the Earth and the Sun. Asteroid SD220 will close this distance down to just 1.7 million miles (2.8 million km). This is the equivalent of 7.36 Lunar Distances (LD) or 7.36-times the distance between the Moon and Earth.

On the cosmic scale of distances, this is an incredibly close brush with the killer space rock.

Wildfires

Wildfires – Australia

A fast-moving grass fire that burnt more than 1200 hectares southwest of Melbourne is now under control. Almost 100 firefighters continued to battle the fire near Little River overnight after a late cool change made efforts to contain the blaze easier.

About 19 bushfires had started in Victoria by mid-morning Friday, with the worst in the Little River area, southwest of Melbourne where an evacuation order was issued.

Disease

Ebola – DR Congo

The second-largest Ebola outbreak in history has spread to a major city in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, as health experts worry whether the stock of an experimental vaccine will stand up to the demands of an epidemic with no end in sight.

Butembo, with more than 1 million residents, is now reporting cases of the deadly hemorrhagic fever. That complicates Ebola containment work already challenged by rebel attacks elsewhere that have made tracking the virus almost impossible in some isolated villages.

Sweden – Ancient Strain of Plague Discovered

In a nearly 5,000-year-old tomb in Sweden, researchers have discovered the oldest-known strain of the notorious bacterium Yersinia pestis — the microbe responsible for humanity’s perhaps most-feared contagion: the plague.

The finding suggests that the germ may have devastated settlements across Europe at the end of the Stone Age in what may have been the first major pandemic of human history. It could also rewrite some of what we know of ancient European history.

The researchers discovered the previously unknown strain of plague in the remains of a woman at the Frälsegården excavation site. The limestone tomb was dated to the Neolithic, or New Stone Age, the period when farming began.