Earthwatch: A Diary of the Planet

Global Warming

An international gathering of scientists and government experts in Madrid formally agreed that global warming is occurring. The opinion of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is that recent temperature rises cannot be explained by natural climatic variations, leaving human influence as the only possible cause.

Tropical Storms

Nine people were killed and 300 others were missing after a cyclone ravaged the Bangladesh coast. The storm forced 50,000 people to rush to cyclone shelters.


Aftershocks continued to rumble in the Middle East following a disastrous temblor on Nov. 22. No damage was reported from the aftershocks. Quakes were also felt in northern Spain, New Zealand, northern coastal Chile, northwest Alaska, the Aleutians, northwest Pakistan, the Kuril Islands, Japan's Hokkaido Island, southwest Iran, Argentina's Mendoza Province, southern Mexico and central parts of California.

Spider Invasion

Japanese scientists and volunteers searched graveyards and parks around Osaka, looking for a tiny poisonous spider native to Australia that has begun to breed near the port city since escaping from a ship two years ago. The recent discovery of about 70 redback spiders in the Takaishi port district prompted the Osaka search, which found 30 spiders. The insects have not yet harmed anyone in the area, but they can kill infants and elderly people with extremely painful bites that cause swelling, nausea and paralysis. About 200 other spiders were discovered in Yokkaichi, east of Osaka, late in the week.

Rabbit Deaths

Millions of wild rabbits are believed to have been killed by a virus that has spread through the outback in the state of South Australia. The virus escaped from a laboratory on Wardang Island several weeks ago; plans were under way for a possible controlled release on the mainland. The disease has now killed 2 million to 3 million rabbits, government virologist Tony Robinsin said in Adelaide.

Singing Sands

A series of singing dunes has been discovered in the Badainjaran Desert in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The Xinhua news agency reported that the find was made recently by the Chinese Academy of Science. The researchers found that in a soft wind, the dunes sing or groan, or make the sound of an airplane in flight. Zu Jiangiun, a young scientist, has deduced that the singing sound may be caused when grains of uniform size rub each other and move together.

Additional Sources: U.S. Climate Analysis center, U.S. Earthquake Information Center and the World Meteorological Organization.

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