Sea level dip
The strong La Nina ocean-cooling that started two years ago halted and actually reversed the much-advertised rise in global sea levels of the past few decades. Researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and the University of Colorado in Boulder said between early 2010 and summer 2011, global sea levels fell by about a quarter of an inch. The unprecedented drop was caused when heavy rainfall brought on by La Nina temporarily "stored" a lot of water on land in parts of Australia and northern South America. Some of the storage was in vast flood disaster zones. But the ocean's loss was short-lived. That water eventually found its way back into the sea, bringing levels back up. The scientists say that, as predicted, the global mean sea level has not only recovered what it had "lost" during the strong La Nina downpours, but it has resumed a long-term mean annual rise of 0.13 inches per year.
Law enforcement and wildlife officials along the northern Gulf of Mexico are trying to track down who has been shooting, stabbing and mutilating dolphins there. At least four dolphins have been found savaged to death this month in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. "We think there's someone or some group on a rampage," said Institute for Marine Mammal Studies head Moby Solangi. "They not only kill them but also mutilate them." In Louisiana, a dolphin was found with its tail severed, while one found on Ship Island had its lower jaw hacked off. Officials are also examining a bullet that killed a dolphin and puncture wounds in another that appear to have been made by a screwdriver.
A large part of west-central Pakistan was jolted by a 5.4 magnitude earthquake centered in Balochistan province. Moderate shaking was felt in the cities of Quetta, Harnai and Pishin.
- Other earth movements were felt along the western Oregon- Washington border and in southern Illinois.
New Zealand blast
A volcano on New Zealand's North Island exploded with a sharp blast of ash, forcing aviation officials to cancel some flights and sending hikers scrambling for safety. Mount Tongariro's eruption was its second in less than four months. "This was just a small five- minute eruption and I don't think a lot of ash was put out. It was smaller than the one in August," said GNS Science expert Sarah Page. Vulcanologists said there were no warning signs before the eruption. They had been paying more attention to the adjacent Mount Ruapehu, which they believed had pressure building up beneath its crater lake.
Scientists think they have found where the recent outbreak of SARS virus in the Middle East originated. Dutch researchers sequenced the genetic code of a viral sample from a 60-year-old man who died in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, from a severe respiratory ailment back in June. Two other men also fell sick. "The virus is most closely related to viruses in bats in Asia, and there are no human viruses closely related to it," said Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam. He noted that Pipistrellus bats are present in Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries and could have spread the disease.
A weak tropical cyclone formed briefly over the warm waters of the Bay of Bengal, between India and Burma. Maximum sustained winds from Tropical Cyclone 3 reached only 40 mph with almost all of the clouds, rain and winds associated with the storm remaining well out to sea. Cyclones form most often over the Bay of Bengal as the wet summer monsoon season shifts to dry monsoon winds during October and November.
One species of penguins has been found to produce the most faithful mates in the animal kingdom. Researchers who studied Magellanic penguins for 30 years off the coast of Argentina, using satellite tracking, found that at least one couple remained loyal to each other during a 16-year period. …