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

Nuclear Legacy

July 02, 1998

The International Atomic Energy Agency has confirmed fears that the area surrounding France's nuclear test sites in the South Pacific will be contaminated for centuries. the agency's report was made public more than two years after France ended its testing program and the day after the government officially closed its office responsible for conducting the tests. Several kilograms of deadly plutonium particles are scattered in the sediment of the lagoons at Mururoa and Fangataufa atolls from atmospheric explosions. Radioactive tritium produced by underground tests will migrate from fissues into the lagoon in a few thousand years, according to the French-commissioned study.

Ozone Hole to Grow

The World Meteorological Organization announced that the Earth's protective layer of ozone will reach its all-time thinnest level by 2000 or 2001. The depletion of the stratospheric layer of gas will continue despite forecasts that international measures to halt the trend will help the layer improve by the middle of the next century. The ozone holes are predicted to grow for the next 20 years before a recovery beginning in the middle of the next century gradually allows the layer to thicken back to levels observed in the 1960s.

Earthquakes

Northwest Australia's remote outback mining towns of Marble Bar and Nullagine were shaken by a mild temblor that sounded like a passing truck or a mining explosion. Quakes were also felt in northern New Zealand, various points in Japan, western China, Sicily, Spain and the Rocky Mountains.

Hurricane Blas

The season's first hurricane in the eastern Pacific formd over the warm waters off Mexico's southwestern coast. Hurricane Blas strengthened rapidly as it moved toward the west-northwest well offshore. The storm was predicted to weaken off Baja California late in the week.

Crow Slaughter

A wildlife conservation officer in Dar es Salaam said about 11,000 destructive Indian housecrows have been trapped and killed around the Tanzanian capital during the past year. Paul Nyiti said that the birds have posed a great threat to other bird species and the public health. Indian house crows were introduced in East Africa late last century, and their population has grown to such an extent that the birds are a significant pest.

Le Them Eat Rabbit

The Cuban government has suggested that its people raise and eat rabbits to help ease wide-spread food shortages across the Caribbean nation. The Communist daily newspaperGranma reported that are "the ideal machines for for generating animal proteins," and said they are inexpensive to raise. Cuba has difficulty producing enough food for its people despite the warm climate and fertile landscape.

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

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