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SCIENCE FILE | Earthwatch: A Diary of the Planet

Diary of the Planet

May 08, 1997

Red Tide

For the second time in April, thousands of rock lobsters "walked out" of the sea along the coast of South Africa's Western Cape province. An estimated 200 tons of teh crawfish were dying along the beaches because of an ongoing outbreak of red tide, or algal bloom, in the coastal waters of the Indian Ocean. Sea Fisheries spokesman Eugene Swart warned that the lobsters could not be gathered for food because the hunting season for the protected creatures had expired.

Smoking Mountain

Residents just southeast of Mexico City were awakened by loud explosion before dawn April 29 as the Popocatepetl Volcano began a series of smoky eruptions. Volcanologists say the activity was technically an explosion, or a pulse of pressure, below the magma chamber. Glowing grit and ash soared three miles high, then rained down on the upper slopes. Several grass fires were sparked by the falling incandescent material.

Drought

A severe drought continues to cause extensive crop damage in Italy and southern France, westward to Portugal. Light showers during the week did little to alleviate the three-month -long dry spell, which has driven up wheat prices on the world's commodities markets.

Earthquakes

A moderate quake damaged several houses and triggered a landslide when it struck the Croatian port of Dubrovnik. The Los Angeles Basin was rocked by a series of strong aftershocks of the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Items were knocked off some store shelves, but there was no significant damage.

Earth movements were also felt in southeastern Japan, eastern Taiwan, central Nicaragua, western Mexico and Wyoming.

The "Red Sea"

The level of the Red River, swollen up to 50 miles outside of its banks by severe spring flooding, dropped steadily in North Dakota, but continued to threaten parts of Manitoba, Canada. Rescue officials in Winnipeg braced for potentially disastrous flooding after a key dike began leaking south of the provincial capital. Nearly 8,000 residents were ordered from their homes, while military and local emergency personnel raced to shore up the earthen barriers.

Lightning Deaths

Lightning from pre-monsoon thunderstorms across southern India killed six people, including two children, in the states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Most of the victims were struck while working in the fields. A herder reported that 28 goats were killed by one bolt.

Further north, in Nepal, four other people were killed when lightning struckthe village of Ikudol.

Additional Sources: Environment Canada, U.S. Climate Analysis Center, U.S. Earthquake Information Center and the United Nations World Meteorological Organization.

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