by Steve Newman
European Bird Flu
The lethal H5N1 strain of avian influenza spread dramatically across Western Europe, with the virus 3.8 detected initially in dead mute swans in Greece, Italy and Germany. It was found during the next few days in the same species in Austria and Denmark, as well as in Slovenia and Croatia. Health officials believe the swans were driven westward 4.9 from their usual wintering grounds on the Black Sea by the recent Siberian chill that blanketed Russia and Ukraine. Many of the newly affected countries Week Ending February 17, 2006 ordered poultry moved indoors to prevent contamination of the about 1,070 minke whales around flocks. No domesticated poultry have Antarctica and in the western North tested positive so far for the virus in the Pacific in 2006 — 400 more than last year. European countries where the dead swans were found.
Two soldiers died in a landslide triggered by a magnitude 5.7 earthquake in the tiny Indian state of Sikkim. The shaking also sent people running from their homes in the neighboring state of West Bengal. • A broad stretch of central New Zealand was gently shaken by a magnitude 5.9 tremor centered deep beneath the northeastern corner of the South Island. No damage was reported. • Earth movements were also felt in northern Pakistan, northwest Sumatra, eastern Romania, central coastal Chile and central Colorado.
Deadly Tropical Chill
Whale Chow Japan’s whale meat industry has encountered such difficulty in selling the marine mammal flesh to the country’s human consumers that it has resorted to using it in dog food, according to an environmental charity. “Whaling is a cruel activity, and the fact that Japan is killing these amazing animals to produce dog food is shocking,” said Mark Simmonds of the British-based Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. In an attempt to clear out a burgeoning stock from years of whaling, Japan subsidizied the sale of whale burgers and whale meat in schools. Children are enticed to eat it by colorful pamphlets that declare whale hunting “a national heritage.” Despite the slump in demand and falling prices, Japan’s “research” whaling program plans to kill
Remote villages in Indonesia’s easternmost province of Papua have been enveloped by freak cold waves in recent weeks, resulting in cold-related ailments that have killed nearly 100 people. Temperatures dipped to as low as 41 degrees Fahrenheit in mountain communities where readings are typically above 68 degrees. Health officials say the stress caused by the cold has created outbreaks of acute pneumonia, tuberculosis, dysentery and diarrhea. Emergency coldweather shelters were being rushed to the area, along with medical supplies.
Eruptions Increased activity at Montserrat’s Soufriere Hills Volcano produced columns of steam and ash that soared high
66° 54° Low 43° 75
5.7 5.0 +107
Mardie, W. Australia
Vostok, Antarctica into the eastern Caribbean sky. Ash fallout from the eruption was reported as far away as the Virgin Islands and parts of Puerto Rico. The volcano roared to life in 1997 after remaining dormant for more than a half a century. It has remained active since covering the now-abandoned capital of Plymouth with a deep layer of ash. • Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano is now producing its largest eruptions for the past five hundred years. Recent visitors to the island have been treated to spectacular nighttime views as the glowing lava lighted up the sky while entering the ocean.
South Pacific Cyclone Damaging winds and torrential rainfall from Cyclone Vaianu brought Tonga’s capital to a near standstill as the storm lashed the South Pacific kingdom for two days. Extensive damage was reported to crops on Tongatapu.
Total Feb. Rain through 19th: 2.61" Atlantic Normal: 2.0" For the month: +.61" Total 2006 rain: 5.55" Gulf Stream Normal: 5.95" For the Year: -.40"
Average: Water: High
Evolving Invaders The 70-year invasion of toxic cane toads in northern Australia is likely to occupy new territory at a faster rate due to the unwanted anuran evolving to grow increasingly longer legs. Scientists, writing in the journal Nature, say the toads are now covering distances about five times faster than when they were imported in 1935 to tackle insect pests in cane fields. They have since multiplied and migrated to cover an enormous area in what many consider to be an ecological disaster. The scientists tagged the toads with radio transmitters and discovered those on the advancing front had much larger legs than members of established colonies. The report authors say the cane toad’s evolution should alert governments to the need to combat invasive species quickly, “before the invader has had time to evolve into a more dangerous adversary.” ◗
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