Last month was a particularly busy time for Worldwatchers, with first of all, an announcement of a potential meteorite strike in 2019, followed by some fairly severe flooding in Europe, China and South Asia. We also had lots of hot air from Earth Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.
NT7 - close, but no cigar
In late July, we awoke to the announcement from asteroid watchers that a newly discovered asteroid, NT7 had an orbit which would take it very, very close to our planet in 17 years time, with an outside chance that it might indeed hit us at full force. Although scientists were at pains to stress that it was very much an outside chance, this did not stop the world's media from jumping on the story, and generating vast hectares of newsprint dedicated to the topic. The scientists announced a few days later that NT7 was not going to hit after all, and the story all but disappeared from the headlines over the following days. As we learn more about these near-earth asteroids, I am sure such announcements will become more and more commonplace.
On a related topic, it was discovered that an interesting structure in the North Sea off Norfolk may actually be an impact crater dating back 65 million years - making it the first ever impact crater ever discovered in the UK.
Water, water everywhere
Flooding was the major news story of the last month. In central Europe, torrential rains from a slow moving weather system caused massive flooding and claimed the lives of hundreds. The city of Prague was particularly badly hit, and as the rainwater made its way to the sea, the cities of Dresden and Leipzig also suffered terrible damage. Damages are estimated in the billions of euro. Analysts are at loggerheads over whether it is a sign of Global Warming, or 'just one of those things' that happen every now and again.
It was not just Europe that was badly hit. China also received it's fair share. Over the last few days, Lake Dongting, a lake the size of Luxembourg, started reaching crisis flood levels. Although this lake's defences had been reinforced after another bout of flooding 4 years ago, there was a real risk that, should a breach take place, 10 million people would have been affected. Fortunately flood levels have begun to recede there over the past few days.
Another forlorn chance to save the Earth
With the absence of George W. from the Earth Summit in Johannesburg, the signs are not that good that anything much will be done about the unprecedented destruction of natural resources taking place all over the globe. George isn't listening. As if that wasn't bad enough, Dubya is considering knocking down the trees on the west coast of the US to prevent wild-fires... it's not as if there isn't enough data to prove that global warming is happening: last month saw more stark evidence of melting glaciers, this year is set to be (once again) the warmest year on record, a poisonous thick smog stretches across south-east Asia, and the residents of Pacific island states such as Tuvalu are now scratching their heads about their living quarters in 50 years time, when the ocean is expected to completely inundate their islands.
Earth Shakes and Burps
In the meantime, there were a number of volcanic eruptions, the most notable being a mountain in Papua New Guinea, where a growing magma chamber is threatening to cause an even bigger explosion very soon. There was another big eruption in the Congo. Bali, Costa Rica, Turkey and New Zealand experienced significant earthquakes, but fortunately there were few casualties.
It's official - the Earth's waistline is getting bigger. Scientists have found that the circumference of the earth is increasing by a few millimetres each year. That's what happens when you have 6 billion kids to look after, you stop looking after yourself...
See you next month...
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