Wildlife

Polar Bears May Become Dependent on Humans for Survival

Polar bears may need to be fed in the wild, housed or relocated by humans within the next few decades to help them survive a warming climate, according to a new report. Climate change has resulted in accelerated loss of Arctic sea ice, which polar bears rely on to hunt for food.

If the Arctic becomes ice-free during summer within the next few decades as predicted, many bears will starve without human intervention.

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Some members of the 19 polar bear populations in Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Norway and Russia may even have to be placed in temporary holding compounds until enough ice forms for them to go back out into the wild to hunt.

Currently, none of those countries has plans to help the animals survive the loss of their frozen habitat.

But 12 research scientists from Arctic countries have crafted a crisis management plan designed to save as many of the world’s approximately 20,000 remaining polar bears as possible.

Part of the survival plan would be to have zoos take in as many bears as they can hold.

If none of these options can be taken, they say the only humane choice would be to euthanize bears that would otherwise suffer an agonizing death by starvation.

Storms and Floods

Floods and Landslides Kill 13 in Indonesia

Flooding and landslides hit North Sulawesi province’s capital city Manado early Sunday, killing at least 13 people and causing the evacuation of another 1200.

Disease

Smog Responsible for Underweight Newborns

The worse the air pollution, the more underweight the children were in the study group. A new U.K.-based study of more than 3 million human births in nine countries has shown that exposure to air pollution is linked to low birth weights. Scientists looked at the average level of air pollution expecting mothers were exposed to, specifically exhaust and power plant emissions.

They found that pregnant women living in areas with high pollution were more likely to have babies with low birth weight.

Being undersized at childbirth has been linked with infant mortality as well as a host of diseases and chronic health problems throughout a child’s life.

Previous studies had suggested a link between air pollution and low birth weight but contained too little data to confirm it.

While much has been done about air quality in Western nations over the past several decades, urban centers such as Beijing and other industrialized areas of Asia have shown a sharp increase in air pollution.

Beijing last month experienced air pollution that officials termed was “off the charts.”

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity:

Stromboli (Eolian Islands, Italy): Activity remains characterized by the magma column standing very high inside the craters. Small lava overflows and strong explosions can be seen on the webcams.

Torfajökull (Iceland): (17 Feb) A small earthquake swarm has started today. It includes about 20 quakes of small magnitude at shallow depths of 2-4 km. Whether the swarm is related to magma movements is unknown.

Little Sitkin (Western Aleutian Islands): (17 Feb) An earthquake swarm occurred yesterday, but it’s not strong enough to trigger a raise of alert level.

Fuego (Guatemala): A phase of strong activity took place at the volcano between the evening of 16 Feb and and yesterday. Increased lava effusion led to the rapid advance of the active lava flow on the steep upper southern slope. The flow produced many incandescent avalanches that turned into pyroclastic flows that produced ash plumes rising about 3,000 m and drifting 10 km to the west, the latest special bulletin of INSIVUMEH reports.

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.5 Earthquake hits the Kuril Islands.

5.3 Earthquake hits the Philippines.

5.2 Earthquake hits the Santa Cruz Islands.

5.2 Earthquake hits the southern Mid-atlantic ridge.

5.0 Earthquake hits southern Greece.

5.0 Earthquake hits the Hindu Kush, Afghanistan.

5.0 Earthquake hits Sulawesi, Indonesia.

4.9 Earthquake hits the Ionian Sea.

4.9 Earthquake hits southern Italy.

Space Events

Meteorites and Fireballs

Hours after a meteor exploded over Russia and injured more than 1000 people, locals in California and Cuba witnessed unusual flashes of light.

Residents in California reported seeing an unusual flash of light over the San Francisco Bay area that left many startled. Based on reports, the light streaking in the Northern California sky was a sporadic meteor, or fireball.

Cuba also apparently experienced a phenomenon similar to but smaller than the meteorite that hit Russia. Residents described a bright light in the sky and a loud explosion that shook windows and walls. There were no reports of any injuries or damage such as those caused by the Russia meteorite.

The object that exploded over Russia was a “tiny asteroid” that measured roughly 45 feet across, weighed about 10 tons and traveled about 40,000 mph. The object vaporized roughly 15 miles above the surface of the Earth, causing a shock wave that triggered the global network of listening devices that was established to detect nuclear test explosions. The force of the explosion measured between 300 and 500 kilotons, equivalent to a modern nuclear bomb.

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

6.6 Earthquake hits the Mariana Islands region.

6.2 Earthquake hits Mindanao in the Philippines.

6.0 Earthquake hits off the east coast of North Island, New Zealand.

5.5 Earthquake hits Fiji.

5.2 Earthquake hits Fiji.

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

5.0 Earthquake hits the mid-Indian ridge.

Environment

Ice-Free Arctic Ocean in 2030?

Vast uncertainty remains over the causes of melting Arctic sea ice and when it may disappear altogether during the summer, which would have consequences for oil explorers, shipping firms and the fight against climate change.

The answer will depend on the balance of natural and manmade causes.

Last September sea ice reached its lowest level in the satellite record, which dates back to 1979, a development that has implications for local native communities and wildlife, local coastal erosion and possibly northern hemisphere weather.

Under the albedo effect, dry snow reflects more than 80 percent of solar radiation; bare ice 65 percent; and open water just 5 percent.

And increasing expanse of open water each summer warms up faster than ice-covered sea, meaning new ice will be thinner and more vulnerable the following year.

There are various underlying causes of the melt.

Rising greenhouse gas emissions drive up air and sea temperatures.

Water from a warmer Atlantic entering the Arctic Ocean through the Fram Strait between eastern Greenland and Svalbard, an island due north of Norway.

A similar inflow of warmer Pacific water through the Bering Strait has long been identified as an important process that causes the thinning of ice in the central Arctic.

There are also weather effects that may be natural, partly natural or entirely due to greenhouse gas emissions affecting Arctic ice.

A particular weather pattern contributed to a big melt six years ago by sending warm air towards the central Arctic, according to researchers from the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany.

The cumulative impact from rising greenhouse gas emissions, which combined with a few freak summers, ice export and the albedo effect could finish off summer sea ice rather quickly.

Increasingly, scientists and researchers are coming to believe that a seasonally ice-free Arctic Ocean might be realized as early as 2030.

Wildfires

Wildfires in Chile

Dozens of homes were destroyed in Valparaiso, Chile by wildfires that burned out of control along several sections of the densely populated hills of the city; about 600 people were affected and evacuated to emergency shelters.

At least 75 houses were totally consumed by the flames in the Rodelillo and Los Placeres neighbourhoods of Valparaiso. The fire started Thursday, early afternoon, in bushy vegetation in the ravines that separate some of the city hills and quickly spread to the houses.

Incendio Valparaiso

Disease

Novel Coronavirus Infection – Update

The United Kingdom has informed the WHO of another confirmed case of infection with the novel coronavirus (NCoV). This is the third case confirmed in the country this month and is in the same family cluster as the two recently confirmed cases.

see: previous post

Bird Flu on Poultry Farm – Germany

German authorities said a case of H5N1 bird flu had been discovered during initial tests on a poultry farm in the eastern state of Brandenburg.

The case was discovered in a duck farm, which was carrying out its own tests, the Brandenburg state agriculture ministry said on Friday.

However, the bird flu virus could not be confirmed in final testing.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity:

Stromboli (Eolian Islands, Italy): Lava continues to overflow from the NE crater, which also sometimes produces quite strong explosions.

Pacaya (Guatemala): Residents of San Francisco de Sales (San Vincente) village at the foot of the volcano reported having heard explosion sounds overnight.

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.8 Earthquake hits Tonga.

5.3 Earthquake hits near the south coast of Papua, Indonesia.

5.1 Earthquake hits north eastern Sakha, Siberia, Russia.

5.1 Earthquake hits north eastern Sakha, Siberia, Russia.

5.0 Earthquake hits north eastern Sakha, Siberia, Russia.

Space Events

Meteorite Crash in Russia

A series of explosions in the skies of Russia’s Urals region, reportedly caused by a meteorite shower, has sparked panic in three major cities. Witnesses said that houses shuddered, windows were blown out and cellphones have stopped working.

According to unconfirmed reports, the meteorite was intercepted by an air defense unit at the Urzhumka settlement near Chelyabinsk. A missile salvo reportedly blew the meteorite to pieces at an altitude of 20 kilometers. A bright flash was seen in the Chelyabinsk, Tyumen and Sverdlovsk regions, Russia’s Republic of Bashkiria and in northern Kazakhstan. At least one piece of the fallen object caused damage on the ground in Chelyabinsk. According to preliminary reports, it crashed into a wall near a zinc factory, disrupting the city’s Internet and mobile service.

Witnesses said the explosion was so loud that it seemed like an earthquake and thunder had struck at the same time, and that there were huge trails of smoke across the sky. Others reported seeing burning objects fall to earth. Police in the Chelyabinsk region are reportedly on high alert, and have begun ‘Operation Fortress’ in order to protect vital infrastructure. Office buildings in downtown Chelyabinsk are being evacuated. Injuries were reported at one of the city’s secondary schools, supposedly from smashed windows.  At least 500 people have been injured.

15rdv meteorite tmagArticle

Environment

Thawing Permafrost May Be “Huge Factor” in Global Warming

Thawing permafrost is emitting more climate-heating carbon faster than previously realised. Scientists have now learned that when the ancient carbon locked in the ice thaws and is exposed to sunlight, it turns into carbon dioxide 40 percent faster.

There are 13 million square kilometres of permafrost in Alaska, Canada, Siberia and parts of Europe. A 2011 study estimated that global warming could release enough permafrost carbon to raise global temperatures three degrees C on top of what will result from human emissions from oil, gas and coal.

Human emissions are headed for four degrees C of global heating, warned the International Energy Agency (IEA) this week. A rapid “decarbonization of electricity supply” is needed to avoid that future.

Crack patterns in Arctic permafrost as viewed from a helicopter:

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Wildfires

Wildfires – Australia

Three fires burning in plantation forest and grassland are joining into one and racing towards a small town in central Victoria.

The large, fast-moving fire is expected to impact Middle Creek and Buangor anytime.

Twenty tankers and two aircraft are on scene.