Earthweek: A Diary of the Planet 6.7.05

‘Leave the Land’
Another season of drought across Australia’s prime agricultural
heartland threatens severe crop losses, and has prompted one
leading scientist to urge affected farmers to

leave the land with dignity

due to ongoing climate change. Scant rainfall and scorching
temperatures have created the third-driest conditions on
record.
‘Leave the Land’

Another season of drought across Australia’s prime agricultural heartland threatens severe crop losses, and has prompted one leading scientist to urge affected farmers to “leave the land with dignity” due to ongoing climate change. Scant rainfall and scorching temperatures have created the third-driest conditions on record.

Drought prevails in the eastern coastal states of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, as well as South Australia and the usually lush southern island of Tasmania.

Professor Peter Cullen, member of a group of scientists devising a national water strategy for the dry continent, says that as much as 10 percent of agricultural land has become unsustainable for farming. He urges farmers weary of fighting drought to retire or find other work, and the government to help them make the transition.

Bird Flu Migration

China announced that at least 1,000 migratory birds have been found dead from the H5N1 strain of avian influenza in the west of the country. Jia Youling, director of the Ministry of Agriculture’s veterinary bureau, said the dead birds included bar-headed geese, great black-headed gulls and cormorants.

Jia said China was taking tough measures to ensure that the epidemic did not spread to domesticated bird populations or humans, including vaccinating domestic birds and banning people from entering the Lake Qinghai nature reserve, where most of the dead birds were found.

He added that there have been no cases of bird flu being transmitted to humans. In the last year and a half, 54 human deaths from bird flu have been recorded in Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.

Eruptions

India’s only active volcano spewed a flow of lava for the first time in 11 years in the Andaman and Nicobar island chain.

The Indian Express reported that the uninhabited Barren Island, where the eruption occurred, is home to bats, crabs, rats and several species of birds and goats.

The Andaman and Nicobar chain was devastated by the Dec. 26 tsunami, and Indian scientists say they are examining lava from the eruption to see if it could be linked to last year’s record seismic event.

• The most powerful eruption of Mexico’s Volcano of Fire in 15 years sent a column of rock, ash and lava almost 3 miles into the skies above the state of Colima. Ash forced the closure of the airport in the city of Colima as lava cascaded down the volcano’s flanks.

Earthquakes

Metropolitan Tokyo was shaken by three mild earthquakes, but no damage or injuries were reported.

• A strong aftershock of the Dec. 26 Indonesian temblor sparked panic in Aceh province.

• Earth movements were also felt in Japan’s Kyushu Island, Taiwan, northeastern India, northeastern and southern Iran, southern Greece, the New York-Quebec border area, the Tennessee-Arkansas border area and southwestern Guatemala.

Heat and Dust

An oppressive pre-monsoon heat wave across the Indian subcontinent has killed at least 50 people in India and southern parts of Nepal. Temperatures soaring to 117 degrees Fahrenheit sent hundreds to hospitals with heat-related symptoms. The annual season of “heat and dust” occurs until monsoon winds bring rain and more temperate conditions later in June.

Pacific Cyclone

Typhoon Nesat brought thunderstorms and gusty winds to Guam as it gained force south of the U.S. Pacific Territory. Nesat remained far from land areas, threatening only shipping lanes in the western North Pacific.

Warming and El Niño

A team of U.S. climate researchers says it has detected a link to ongoing global warming and more frequent occurrences of the El Niño ocean-warming phenomenon in the tropical Pacific. Writing in Geophysical Research Letters, the team says rising global temperatures tend to trigger El Niño events, unleashing various weather shifts worldwide. They say continued global warming is likely to trigger more El Niño events, which will be more frequent than the number of the reverse La Niña ocean-cooling episodes.

Killer Bee Attack

An attack of killer bees in the African nation of Cameroon killed one man and sent several schoolchildren to hospital. The attack occurred in the town of Baleng after the insects became agitated when some of the students attempted to remove honey from their hive. The swarm initially attacked the honey seekers then went after teachers and nearly 300 other children playing in the schoolyard. A man who tried to help the children died from numerous bee stings.

– By Steve Newman

Leave your comments