Earthweek: Diary of a planet 1.4

Earthquakes
A natural disaster of unprecedented scope occurred following a
magnitude 9.0 temblor off the coast of Sumatra. The resulting giant
tsunami swamped low-lying islands and coastal strips from Thailand
to East Africa, causing well over 100,000 deaths.
Earthquakes

A natural disaster of unprecedented scope occurred following a magnitude 9.0 temblor off the coast of Sumatra. The resulting giant tsunami swamped low-lying islands and coastal strips from Thailand to East Africa, causing well over 100,000 deaths. Sea level changes were recorded around the world, and the force of the tectonic slip caused a detectable change in the Earth’s rotation. Aftershocks of the initial quake rocked a 1,000-mile stretch of the tectonic plate responsible for the disaster.

n A seismologist in Australia believes that a strong quake between Australia and Antarctica may have contributed to the Sumatra temblor.

n A magnitude 5.0 quake in southwest China’s Yunnan province killed one person and caused unspecified damage in Shuangbai county.

n Earth movements were also felt in northern Japan, the northern Philippines, eastern Nepal and British Columbia.

Holiday Blizzard

A massive and bitter winter storm shut down long stretches of highway in the American Midwest and brought the Gulf Coast of Texas its first white Christmas in 86 years. Wintry conditions also snarled air traffic at the height of holiday travel and stopped last-minute shoppers in their tracks. Blizzard conditions later blasted Atlantic Canada, causing whiteouts and trapping people in their homes without power.

Indian Ocean Cyclone

The warm waters of the central Indian Ocean spawned Tropical Storm Chambo, which formed to the southeast of Diego Garcia.

Antarctic Grass

Scientists from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) report that grass has become established in the Antarctic for the first time in recorded history, indicating the continent is warming to temperatures unseen for 10,000 years. Tufts of grass have previously grown on patches of Antarctica during summer, but the scientists have now observed bigger areas surviving the winter and spreading in summer months.

Australian Swarms

Victorian farmers braced for what could be their worst locust season ever after the first major swarm crossed into the Australian state from neighboring New South Wales. Heavy rains during November and December have provided ideal conditions for the insects, which have darkened the skies of rural New South Wales, where they stripped crops and created serious road hazards. Victorian Agriculture Minister Bob Cameron warned that the locusts could strip a dairy farm bare of grass in a single night, and if Victoria was hit with large swarms, farmers could lose millions

of dollars.

Amazon Spill

A natural gas pipeline operated by Peru’s controversial Camisea project in southeastern Peru burst and spilled an unknown amount of liquid petroleum into a jungle river in the southeast of the country. A statement by the Ministry of Energy and Mines did not mention how much of the highly volatile liquid spilled, but did claim that half of it “evaporated immediately.” However, Francisco Panera, a Catholic priest whose parish includes the area near the spill, said he found hundreds of dead fish and scores of families affected by the pollution. Environmental activists and advocates for indigenous people have long argued the Camisea project would harm Peru’s Amazon rainforest and native communities.

Cockroach Discovery

Researchers from the Nature Conservancy say they have discovered the world’s largest cockroach, among other previously unknown exotic creatures inside Indonesia’s steamy jungles. The group added that even more rare species were awaiting discovery in a vast area of limestone cliffs, caves and waterfalls on Borneo, but warned their existence is under threat. Scott Stanley, program manager for the group, said: “We admit the world’s largest cockroach isn’t exactly charismatic, but it’s representative of a niche in the ecosystem, and if you take that out, you get a domino effect that could have a catastrophic effect on the whole food chain.”

The Early Bird

A comprehensive study by birdwatchers across Britain has determined that the blackbird is the nation’s earliest bird. The BBC reported that nearly 5,500 people across the nation took part in a survey to see which winged species got to the breakfast table first in mid-winter, and blackbirds beat out robins by three minutes. Blackbirds arrived within 13 minutes of first light and robins after 16, while the great spotted woodpecker was the laziest, arriving more than a half-hour after dawn. The research was carried out by the British Trust for Ornithology and the BBC’s Today program.

– By Steve Newman

Leave your comments