Earthweek: Diary of a planet 1.25

Climate Balance
Researchers in the United Kingdom say that rivers in the far
north are discharging an increasing volume of fresh water into the
Arctic Ocean – a trend that could have profound effects on global
climate. Researchers Peili Wu, Richard Wood and Peter Stott of the
Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research used simulations
that took into account both human

inputs

and natural factors, such as solar variability and volcanic
eruptions.
Climate Balance

Researchers in the United Kingdom say that rivers in the far north are discharging an increasing volume of fresh water into the Arctic Ocean – a trend that could have profound effects on global climate. Researchers Peili Wu, Richard Wood and Peter Stott of the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research used simulations that took into account both human “inputs” and natural factors, such as solar variability and volcanic eruptions. The results showed that the steady increase in Arctic river discharges, especially since the 1960s, would not have happened at all without greenhouse gas emissions or other manmade influences. Writing in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, the team said the trend could be altering the Earth’s rainfall patterns and circulation. One effect could be on the large-scale Atlantic currents that keep northern Europe far milder than other areas at the same high latitude.

Solar Storm

The frigid climes of Alaska, Canada and parts of northern Europe experienced vivid displays of the aurora borealis after ae massive explosion on the sun sent a burst of charged particles rushing into Earth’s magnetic field. The largest solar flare in 15 years on Jan. 20 was predicted to produce vivid displays farther south late in the week.

Tropical Cyclones

Guam and Saipan received rainfall from the outer bands of Tropical Storm Kulap. Cyclone Daren moved over the open waters of the central Indian Ocean after weak cyclone 02B passed just to the east of Sri Lanka.

Early Awakenings

The warmest January since records began more than a century ago in parts of Eastern Europe has brought bears and other animals out of hibernation months ahead of schedule. The Belarussian Meteorological Centre said the early awakenings are due to January temperatures between 10 and 17 degrees Celsius instead of the usual minus 5 to minus 15 degrees in the former Soviet republic. Black bears, hedgehogs, badgers and other hibernating wildlife have begun spring foraging about two months ahead of time as a result of the unseasonable warmth.

Earthquakes

A magnitude 6.8 temblor well off Japan’s eastern coast was felt in metropolitan Tokyo, and produced a 30-cm tsunami that washed against Miyake Island, south of the capital. Minor damage was reported on Hokkaido from a strong quake along the east coast of the country’s northernmost main island.

n Earth movements were also felt in New Zealand’s North Island, the Micronesia island of Ulithi, western Nepal, a wide area from eastern India to northern Burma, northwestern Iran, Zanzibar, Slovenia, the French Pyrenees and south-central Alaska.

Costa Rica Flood Disaster

Costa Rica’s National Emergency Commission announced that torrential rains during the previous week unleashed widespread flooding that caused more than $25 million in damage. It said that $20 million of that amount was in losses to the country’s key banana and pineapple export crops. The floods have killed at least four people, left five missing and forced 8,500 others to evacuate.

Flu Vaccine Development

Canada’s ID Biomedical Corp. said it has acquired the prototype virus for a vaccine it will design to protect against a deadly strain of bird flu, similar to the one that killed millions during a global pandemic in 1918. The Vancouver company says it is in negotiations with the federal government for a contract to produce trial batches of the vaccine. ID Biomedical’s research began in 2001, long before the UN warned that the current outbreaks of avian influenza in Asia threaten to produce a deadly viral mutation, which could spread rapidly among the world’s human population.

Rabies Victims

Health officials in Peru said that at least 12 children have died of rabies after being bitten by infected vampire bats in a remote province at the headwaters of the Amazon. All the victims were attacked between September and January in Condorcanqui province, which borders Ecuador. Another 2,300 people were bitten during the same period, mainly at night while sleeping. The flying mammals usually feed on the blood of livestock or other animals. They use their sharp teeth to make tiny cuts in the skin of a sleeping animal. They then lap up the blood that oozes from the wound while a chemical produced in their saliva numbs the victim’s skin and keeps it from awakening. The Health Ministry has launched a massive vaccination campaign, and will attempt to treat the rabies-carrying bats by spraying them with anti-bacterial agents.

– By Steve Newman

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