Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.8 earthquake hits the Bouvet Islands.

5.7 earthquake hits Mindanao in the Philippines.

5.6 earthquake hits the west Chile rise.

5.1 earthquake hits the Rat Islands in the Aleutian Islands.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

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In the Southern Hemisphere: Tropical cyclone (tc) 17s (Haleh), located approximately 843 nm east-southeast of St Denis, Reunion, is tracking southwestward at 10 knots.

NewsBytes:

Johannesburg, South Africa – Heavy rain and hail flooded several roads across Johannesburg on Tuesday night. Traffic around Johannesburg was gridlocked. Roads were also flooded in Jet Park, Boksburg. The M1 north leading towards Pretoria was also flooded. A number of homes in Soweto and Eldorado Park were damaged.

Afghanistan – Update – The Norwegian Refugee Council says more than 32 people have now died and thousands displaced as heavy rains and flooding swept away homes across Afghanistan. The NRC says hundreds of homes were destroyed and around 4,000 families are in need of assistance in southern Kandahar province alone. The flooding began Friday and subsided Monday. Relief efforts were ongoing Tuesday. Heavy snowfall across Afghanistan has raised fears of severe flooding this spring and so far this year nearly 50 people have already died from flooding. Even before the floods this week, 6.3 million people were thought to be in need of humanitarian assistance across Afghanistan. At least 25 people have died in flooding in neighbouring Pakistan.

Wildlife

Party Balloons Are Killing All the Seabirds

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Forget about plastic straws: The deadliest ocean garbage for seabirds is balloons.

In a recent survey of over 1,700 dead seabirds, more than a quarter of the deaths were linked to eating plastic. Four in 10 of those deaths were caused by soft debris such as balloons (which are often made of plastic), even though it made up only 5 percent of the inedible trash in the birds’ stomachs.

Seabirds frequently snap up floating litter because it looks like food; once swallowed, it can obstruct birds’ guts and cause them to starve to death. If a seabird swallows a balloon, it’s 32 times more likely to die than if it had gulped down a piece of hard plastic, researchers reported in a new study.

With an estimated 280,000 tons (250,000 tonnes) of floating marine debris worldwide, about half of all seabird species are thought to ingest plastic on a daily basis, the study authors reported. Birds are especially likely to swallow dangerous balloons because they closely resemble squid, according to the study.

Opium-Addicted Parrots Are Terrorizing Poppy Farms in India

Poppy farmers in the state of Madhya Pradesh in India have reportedly run into some trouble while cultivating this season’s crops. In addition to inconsistent rainfall putting a damper on things, flocks of persistent parrots — presumed to be addicted to opium — are rampaging through the poppy farms, sometimes making 40 visits a day to get their fix.

“One poppy flower gives around 20 to 25 grams of opium. But a large group of parrots feed on these plants around 30 to 40 times a day,” one poppy cultivator said. “This affects the produce. These opium-addicted parrots are wreaking havoc.”

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Global Warming

Climate change forces Arctic animals to shift feeding habits

Seals and whales in the Arctic are shifting their feeding patterns as climate change alters their habitats, and the way they do so may determine whether they survive, a new study has found.

Researchers harnessed datasets spanning two decades to examine how two species of Arctic wildlife — white whales and ringed seals — are adapting to their changing homes.

Both species traditionally hunt for food in areas with sea ice and particularly at so-called tidal glacier fronts, where glaciers meet the ocean. But with climate change melting sea ice and prompting glaciers to retreat, researchers in Norway decided to look at whether and how animals in the affected areas were adapting.

The data showed that two decades ago, both species spent around half their time foraging at glacier fronts and eating a diet dominated by polar cod.

Seals stuck with their old diet, but appeared to spend more time searching for the food at the glacier fronts. White whales meanwhile are spending less time near glacier fronts and more time in the centre of fjords.

The “flexible” response apparently shown by the whales “improves their chances of adapting to warming conditions”, the researchers added. By contrast, the apparent doubling down by the ringed seals on their traditional hunting grounds despite the shifting climate “reflects limited adaptability and resilience”. And that could be bad news for the seals in a changing world, the study warns.

Wildfires

Wildfires – Australia

More than a dozen wildfires continued to burn across the Australian state of Victoria early this week as more residents were warned that they were in the path of the blazes. At least 11 buildings have been destroyed by the fires including homes and a winery.

New emergency warnings were issued for Dargo and areas near Licola on Tuesday as more than 2,000 firefighters continued to battle the blazes across eastern Victoria.

Disease

Measles – New York, USA

In a follow-up on the measles outbreak in Brooklyn and Queens, city health officials report a dozen new cases, bringing the total to 133 since October. Most of these cases have involved members of the Orthodox Jewish community.