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Science File / An exploration of issues and trends
affecting science, medicine and the environment | Earthwatch:
A Diary of the Planet

January 08, 1998

Balmy Britain

England has experienced the third-warmest year since record-keeping began more than 300 years ago. The annual average temperature in the heart of the country was 51.03 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to the record warmth of 51.13 degrees in 1990. Government meteorologists believe the rise in temperature over recent years is a serious sign of worldwide global warming. "We are becoming increasingly confident that recent warming on a global scale is due in part to man-made emissions of greenhouse gases," said Met Office chief scientist Paul Mason. The government agency predicted in November that, globally, 1997 is likely to be the warmest year on record.

Volcanic Eruptions

Activity within Mexico's giant Popocatepetl volcano subsided after a Christmas Eve eruption that spewed black smoke four miles high and belched lava down its slopes. Residents of nearby Tiaxcala and Puebla states said a shower of ash fell briefly after the blast.

Remaining residents on the Caribbean island of Monsterrat were put on a renewedstate of alert after the Soufriere Hills volcano erupted with a blast of pyroclastic debris. The super-heated cloud of gas and ash passed over the evacuated communities of Morris, Reids, St. Patrick's and Trials.

Warm Warnings

One-fourth of the world's population is expected to suffer from freshwater shortages by 2050, according to the German Foundation of the World Population based in Hannover. High birthrates and changing climate are predicted to be the main causes of the shortages. The foundation warned that increasing rivalry over the scarce water resources, mainly in the Euphrates-Tigris basin, the Nile River basin and southern Africa, could lead to open conflicts among the countries concerned.

Winter Twister

A predawn tornado tore through Haines City, Fla., producing at least $6 million in damage but causing no fatalities.

Earthquakes

A fresh swarm of volcanic tremors rumbled beneath California's Mammoth Lakes ski resort area. Seismologists believe the last six months of renewed activity is the result of magma building a new dome in the long- dormant volcano.

Earth movements were also felt in Southern California, including a 4.3 quake in Chino Hills, and in Burma, Taiwan, Kuwait and Romania.

Holiday Fatalities

Approximately half a dozen penguins have been run over and killed by cars during the Christmas rush at a popular South African beach resort. The deaths apparently occurred because the birds hid under parked vehicles for shade. Cape Argus reported that nature conservation authorities were handing out leaflets at Boulders Beach near Cape Town to warm midsummer tourists to check under their cars before driving off. Hundreds of the penguins live on the beach and surrounding gardens, showing little or no fear of tourists.

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

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