Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Strange animal behavior - A super-mega dolphin pod, which indulged in a feeding frenzy off the coast of San Diego over the weekend, is only the latest in a recent STRING OF ODD BEHAVIORS by large creatures of the sea.
Uncharacteristic feeding behavior from dolphins and whales is grabbing the attention of scientists – and the public – and so far is prompting more questions than answers about what's going on in the ocean depths. Blue whales, which usually hang out off Costa Rica this time of year, unexpectedly showed up in California's Monterey Bay over the past week, gorging on a sizable buffet of krill. Over the weekend, a huge population of short-beaked dolphins that stretched out over 35 miles indulged in a feeding frenzy off the coast of San Diego.
Last fall, sperm whales appeared uncharacteristically in Canada's Bay of Fundy. In December, rare right whales, calves in tow, showed up months earlier than usual to feed off Massachusetts' Cape Cod. Is all this unusual marine mammal activity a hint that some major disturbance is afoot in the oceans? These are the kinds of big questions that scientists are reluctant to answer quickly when dramatic events occur.
Take the recent reappearance of porpoises in San Francisco Bay, after a 65-year absence. “We like to study these long-term trends and really find out what is behind them,” says a member of Golden Gate Cetacean Research, a nonprofit organization set up to determine why porpoises suddenly returned to San Francisco after deserting the premises soon after World War II. Most researchers concur that the ocean's hungry giants will follow the food wherever it takes them. Indeed, record supply of other food favorites, such as squid and mackerel, off both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts is attracting the whales and dolphins.
On the Atlantic coast, scientists on Cape Cod and in Canada have noted that the ocean waters are warming, which could in turn affect the food supply for these big creatures. Warmer water speeds up growth rates of phytoplankton, the foundation of the food chain. That leads to more plankton, which are eaten by smaller fish who in turn are scooped up by the larger sea creatures.
But hard science is very hard to come by linking climate change to anecdotal moments such as the unexpected offshore mega-pods of dolphins and whales. “Clearly, something is going on, but what has changed about the feeding has not been thoroughly researched yet. All these events are part of all of us saying, ‘wow, we are observing something UNPRECEDENTED,' but we don’t know what it means yet....These are indicator species about the health of our oceans.” Most of the planet is made up of ocean life. “These species are the canaries in the mines of the most important life on our planet.”
[Site note - Yesterday a pair of ducks landed in my snow-covered yard and then procceeded to walk down the sidewalk and then on down the street. In February! I've lived in this house for 34 years and have never seen ducks around my house before in the winter. And it certainly is not unusually warm here; it is bitter cold and well below freezing.]

**When we try to pick out anything by itself,
we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.**
John Muir

Live Seismograms - Worldwide (update every 30 minutes)

This morning -

Yesterday -
2/19/13 -

4.9 Earthquake in China injures four people - A magnitude-4.9 earthquake shook the border of China's Sichuan and Yunnan provinces Tuesday, injuring four. Qiaojia County officials said the earthquake destroyed 56 houses. The earthquake rattled Zhaotong prefecture at 10:46am and occurred roughly ten kilometers below the surface of the earth.

Volcano Webcams

Italy's Mount Etna sent lava and gas shooting toward the stars early Tuesday morning, the first big eruption for the volcano in 2013. The famous Sicilian volcano burst to life overnight, sending a fountain of fire into the air. The dramatic scene was captured in a video by Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology.
Mount Etna, one of the world's most active volcanoes, had emitted signs of an imminent paroxysm in recent weeks. On Jan. 22, lava and strong flashes in the volcano's New Southeast Crater were clearly visible from the Sicilian foothills; these often herald a new paroxysm: short, violent eruptive bursts. The tallest volcano in Europe, Mount Etna is almost constantly spewing gas or lava. Its Bocca Nuova crater also erupted earlier this year, from Jan. 10 to Jan. 20. In 2011, Etna's violent bursts were spotted from space.

Popocatepetl Volcano in Mexico Sparks Fresh UFO Alert - Three moving lights appeared in the sky around the active volcano. Black and white footage of the volcano outside Mexico city sparked the interest of UFO-spotters and was broadcast on Foro TV.
The footage has caused a stir on local television news. One flying object appears to dive into the red hot cauldron of the volcano. Speculation that the moving lights were really meteors from a shower of space rock were dismissed by ufologists. Popocatepetl has literally become a hotspot for UFO sightings, with some theories claiming the site might have a special significance for extraterrestrials. So popular is the volcano as an alleged intergalactic meeting point that a media firm has a camera permanently trained on the summit.
Last year, footage captured a cigar shaped object apparently entering the volcano. Expert analysis by the International Astronomical Union ruled out a meteorite, as well as the likelihood of it being a piece of debris falling back to earth after being spat out of the volcano. Extended study of the mystery footage concluded the cigar-shaped UFO was an elaborate hoax. (video)

In the Western Pacific -
Tropical Depression 02w was located approximately 25nm north of Zamboanga, Philippines.

In the South Indian Ocean -
Tropical Cyclone 16s (Haruna) was located approximately 375nm west-southwest of Antananarivo, Madagascar - expected to track over southern Madagascar on Thursday.


Russian meteorite: hunt for debris, but was it a comet? Scientists say there are still many fragments to be found as debate starts over precise nature of celestial object.
The extraterrestrial origin of 53 rock fragments collected on the frozen surface of Lake Chebarkul was confirmed during analysis conducted by the Urals Federal University in the early hours of Monday. But this is just the start of the process of gathering the debris left by the large meteorite, which exploded on entering the earth's atmosphere and hit the ground in a series of fireballs on Friday. A member of the Russian Academy of Science's meteorite committee, has been put in charge of the scientific search operation. "There are a lot more fragments to be discovered in many other places … it's only a matter of time."
The search is being concentrated at the moment around a six-metre wide hole in Lake Chebarkul, about 50 miles from Chelyabinsk, discovered by locals shortly after the meteorite hit the ground. Military divers spent much of the weekend scouring the bottom of the lake, but were hampered by poor visibility and found nothing. Despite the failure of the divers, there was still likely to be a piece of meteorite in the lake of at least 50cm in diameter.
Local officials said on Sunday that the formal search was being abandoned, but scientists will continue the hunt. No one from the eight-strong scientific team has yet been able to examine the whole surface of the lake because of a cordon put in place by the authorities over the weekend. Analysis of the pieces recovered so far, none of which had a diameter greater than 1cm, suggests that 10% of the meteorite was made up of iron. Traces of sulphite and the mineral olivine were also present. "It was a stone meteorite that belongs to a class of ordinary chondrite meteorites."
Likely to be named Chebarkul after the lake where the first fragments were found, the meteorite is the biggest such object to hit the earth in more than 100 years. Within the academic community there appeared to be a difference of opinion on Monday as to the exact nature of the object, when some experts said it was conceivable that it was a comet that had struck southern Russia at 9.20am on Friday. "In Chelyabinsk we saw a type of comet in which there was almost no meteorite remaining," said a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Astronomy Institute. "It was mainly made up of a mass of ice, of which no trace is left."
The argument reflects the same debate that raged after the last big meteorite impact, the so-called Tunguska event in Siberia in 1908. For decades afterwards Russian scientists, trying to explain the absence of an obvious impact crater, argued over whether the blast was caused by a meteorite or a small comet. While the intellectual debate was beginning on Monday, the clean-up operation in Chelyabinsk was winding down. The shockwave caused by the meteorite shattered windows across the region and injured about 1,500. One woman was transferred to Moscow for treatment over the weekend and about 50 people remained in hospital. With night-time temperatures hovering around -20C, glass prices jumped as people rushed to replace broken panes.


UN urges hormone-disrupting chemical probe - Scientists have found mounting evidence of hormone-disrupting chemicals becoming a health risk.
Scientists suspect chemicals which disrupt the hormone system are linked to early breast development, poor semen quality, low birthweight in babies and other problems, but more research is needed. The UN Environment Program (UNEP) and World Health Organisation (WHO) said evidence was mounting that so-called endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) become a health risk when they enter the environment, but key knowledge gaps remain.
"Close to 800 chemicals are known or suspected to be capable of interfering with hormone receptors, hormone synthesis or hormone conversion. However, only a small fraction of these chemicals have been investigated in tests capable of identifying overt endocrine effects in intact organisms."
The report was commissioned against a backdrop of concern that EDCs - found in some pesticides, electronics, personal care products, cosmetics and food additives - are entering water supplies and the food chain through agricultural runoff, waste dumps and other sources.
In recent decades, scientists have observed a rise in endocrine-related disorders in humans and wildlife, including studied populations of deer, sea lions and sea otters. In some countries, up to 40 per cent of young men have low semen quality, which reduces their ability to father children. "Global rates of endocrine-related cancers - breast, endometrial, ovarian, prostate, testicular and thyroid - have been increasing over the past 40 to 50 years. There is a trend towards earlier onset of breast development in young girls in all countries where this has been studied. This is a risk factor for breast cancer."
Incidence of genital malformation in young boys, such as non-descending testes, has increased over time or levelled off "at unfavourably high rates." The emergence of these disorders over such a short time means that genetic factors can be ruled out. Laboratory studies back suspicions that EDCs are to blame. But there are big gaps in knowledge, especially grass-roots studies that compare incidence of these disorders and exposure to the chemicals. There could be other environmental causes, and age and nutrition could play a role.
In the quest for a fuller picture, the report called for more research and better international coordination on testing standards and urged governments, in the meantime, to be vigilant. "Worldwide, there has been a failure to adequately address the underlying environmental causes of trends in endocrine diseases and disorders....(The) disease risk due to EDCs may be significantly underestimated."

British man dies from novel coronavirus infection - One patient in a British family cluster of novel coronavirus (NCoV) infections, a 38-year-old man with an underlying medical condition, has died, and fresh details about a recently reported mild case have sparked new questions about how the virus is spreading and how big a threat it poses.


Nature's Variety has announced a recall of one batch of Instinct® Raw Organic Chicken Formula with a "Best if Used By" date of 10/04/13. This action is being taken because pieces of clear plastic may be found in some bags and could cause a potential choking risk to pets.