Wildlife

Whale ‘Scratchathon’

A leading British marine biologist says that he has found that sperm whales gather in groups as large as 70 to engage in a mass “scratchathon,” during which they exfoliate their outer skin.

Luke Rendell of the University of St. Andrews was studying the social life of the whales when he made the discovery.

“The shedding of skin is part of a natural antifouling mechanism to stop them being encrusted with other marine animals and parasites.” said Rendell. New Scientist reports he found that the whales “love touching against each other,” and can engage in the group grooming and frolicking for hours or days at a time.

On the Brink

No more than 30 miniature porpoises with cartoon like features are left in the northern Gulf of California, where experts are now considering keeping some in sea pens to prevent the marine mammals from going extinct.

Since 2011, 90 percent of the snub-nosed vaquita population has fallen victim to Asian appetites for an endangered fish called the totoaba, which swim in the same Mexican waters.

The porpoises get trapped and drowned in the curtains of illegal gill nets set to catch the totoaba, which can earn Chinese restaurants thousands of dollars each.

Wildfires

Wildfires – Texas, USA

Firefighters have more fully contained two large wildfires in West Texas, including one that destroyed four homes and prompted the evacuation of nearly 1,200 others.

Texas A&M Forest Service spokesman Phillip Truitt said Wednesday that a fire in Swisher County is now 85 percent contained after burning about 2,200 acres and threatening the town of Tulia, about 50 miles south of Amarillo.

He says a fire in Hockley County, west of Lubbock, also is 85 percent contained after burning about 8,500 acres and spreading near the town of Sundown.

Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 109.0 degrees Fahrenheit (42.8 degrees Celsius) in Kedougou, Senegal.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 70.0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 56.7 degrees Celsius) at Vostok, Antarctica.

Temperatures were tabulated from the more than 10,000 worldwide synoptic weather stations. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization sets the standards for weather observations, and provides a global telecommunications circuit for data distribution.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity – New Activity for the week of 22 February-28 February 2017

Etna | Sicily (Italy) : INGV reported that Strombolian activity at Etna’s New Southeast Crater (NSEC) cone that began on 23 January gradually began to intensify at 1700 on 27 February. A lava flow quickly reached the base of the cone and traveled SW towards Monte Frumento Supino. Ash plumes drifted E and caused ashfall in Zafferana and Linguaglossa.

Pacaya | Guatemala : INSIVUMEH reported that during 21-28 February weak Strombolian explosions at Pacaya’s Mackenney cone ejected material as high as 20 m above the crater rim. Lava flows traveled 150 m NW towards Cerro Chino cone, and 75 m W.

Piton de la Fournaise | Reunion Island (France) : OVPF reported that during 25-26 February observers noted ejections of material from the active vent at Piton de la Fournaise. Lava was mainly transported through a lava tube, and a few branches coming from the end of the tube remained active. Late at night on 26 February tremor began to decline, and ceased at 1010 the next morning. Mid-day on 27 February observers confirmed that no material was being ejected from the vent, and that only white plumes were rising; gas emissions ceased at 1930.

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.5 Earthquake hits southern Alaska.

5.5 Earthquake hits eastern Turkey.

5.0 Earthquake hits the Solomon Islands.

5.0 Earthquake hits off the east coast of South Island, New Zealand.

Global Warming

UN reports Antarctica’s highest temperatures on record

The UN’s World Meteorological Organization published the highest temperatures on record in three Antarctic zones on Wednesday, setting a benchmark for studying how climate change is affecting this crucial region.

For the entire Antarctic region – all land and ice below 60 degrees South latitude – the highest temperature recorded was 19.8 degrees Celsius (67.6 degrees Fahrenheit), on January 30, 1982, at a research station on Signy Island.

For the continent itself, a maximum of 17.5 C was recorded on March 24, 2015, near the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Finally, the highest temperature for the Antarctic Plateau – at or above 2,500 metres was minus 7 C, on December 28, 1980, at a weather station.

Getting a better grip on how global warming might impact the world’s largest ice mass is of more than academic interest.

Spanning an area twice the size of Australia, Antarctica’s ice sheet – up to 4.8km thick – contains 90% of the world’s fresh water, enough to raise sea levels by about 60 metres were it to melt.

The continent’s western peninsula, close to the tip of South America, is already among the fastest warming regions on the planet, hotting up by 3 C over the last half century – three times the global average.

The lowest temperature yet recorded by ground measurements for the Antarctic Region – and the whole world — was minus 89.2 C at Vostok station on July 21, 1983.

Northern hemisphere sees in early spring due to global warming

Spring is arriving ever earlier in the northern hemisphere. One sedge species in Greenland is springing to growth 26 days earlier than it did a decade ago. And in the US, spring arrived 22 days early this year in Washington DC.

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Disease

Cholera in the Philippines.

Two areas in the Central Visayas are reporting cholera outbreaks, according to a ABS-CBN News report Wednesday. Nearly 200 cases of the serious bacterial infection have been reported from areas of Cebu and Bohol islands.

Health officials say 75 people from Sitio Badjao Bridge, Bohol were hospitalized and treated last week, while on Carnaza Island, Cebu, more than 100 people were affected.

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.6 Earthquake hits off the coast of Aisen, Chile.

5.5 Earthquake hits the Banda Sea.

5.5 Earthquake hits Tajikistan.

5.5 Earthquake hits the Andreanof Islands in the Aleutian Islands.

5.2 Earthquake hits the Kuril Islands.

5.1 Earthquake hits the Mariana Islands.

5.0 Earthquake hits the northern Mid-Atlantic ridge.

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

5.0 Earthquake hits Kepulauan Obi, Indonesia.

Global Warming

Climate change unfreezes 200,000-year-old ‘doorway to hell’

Siberia’s enormous “hellmouth” crater in the melting permafrost is growing fast — and it’s opening a portal to a 200,000-year-old world.

The Batgaika crater, known to the local Yakutian people as the “doorway to the underworld,” is one of the largest of a growing number of pits collapsing across the Siberian landscape as the ice beneath the surface turns to slush — and methane gas.

But this crater in particular offers some form of a silver lining.

It’s revealing eons of climate change in the region, along with long-buried animal carcasses and petrified forests.

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Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

No current tropical storms.

Newsbytes:

California – Record rains on Monday across San Diego led to power outages, swollen rivers and flooding that closed roads and prompted several water rescues on Tuesday.

Wildfires

Wildfires – South Africa

Wildfires destroyed an estimated 122 700 hectares in the Western Cape at the start of 2017, says an interim report.

“Our initial data shows that natural vegetation, grazing, agricultural infrastructure such as fencing and water pipelines, and a range of crops and fynbos were hardest hit,” economic opportunities MEC Alan Winde said in a statement.

The report was compiled by the Western Cape agriculture department to help the province with future planning.

Nature – Images

Interesting Images

Deep-Sea Stroll: This fish, an armoured sea robin, ‘walks’ on the ocean floor – these fins are made for walking.

Noaa sea robin