EARTHWEEK: DIARY OF A CHANG­ING WORLD

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - NATION & WORLD - By Steve New­man

Is­land erup­tion

Hawaii’s Ki­lauea vol­cano pro­duced a stun­ning yet be­nign burst of lava that flowed into the ocean on the Big Is­land’s south­east­ern coast. Lo­cal he­li­copter pilots and tour op­er­a­tors posted breath­tak­ing scenes of the on­go­ing erup­tion, which has drawn large crowds of vis­i­tors this month. The lava hasn’t threat­ened any struc­tures and is part of an is­land-build­ing process that is ex­pand­ing the size of the Big Is­land.

Monarch peril

While de­clin­ing monarch but­ter­fly pop­u­la­tions from Mex­ico to east­ern Canada have re­ceived the most at­ten­tion in re­cent years, sci­en­tists at Wash­ing­ton State Univer­sity Van­cou­ver say western pop­u­la­tions are now at greater risk of ex­tinc­tion. “In the 1980s, 10 mil­lion monar­chs spent the win­ter in coastal Cal­i­for­nia. Today there are barely 300,000,” said bi­ol­o­gist Ch­eryl Schultz. The ex­act causes of the de­cline are un­known, but Schultz fears habi­tat de­struc­tion and pes­ti­cide use across the West, where the monar­chs breed, are the likely cul­prits.

World of plas­tics

Amer­i­cans may be in­gest­ing up to 660 par­ti­cles of plas­tic each year in salt, seafood and other food they eat. Re­searchers from the State Univer­sity of New York at Fre­do­nia found that the sea salt used in menus around the world has joined other ed­i­bles now in­creas­ingly be­ing con­tam­i­nated with plas­tic pol­lu­tion. “Not only are plas­tics per­va­sive in our so­ci­ety in terms of daily use, but they are per­va­sive in the en­vi­ron­ment,” said lead re­searcher Sherri Ma­son. “Plas­tics are ubiq­ui­tous, in the air, wa­ter, the seafood we eat, the beer we drink, the salt we use — plas­tics are just ev­ery­where.”

Sting­ing in­va­sion

Beaches on Eng­land’s pic­turesque Corn­wall coast were forced to close as an un­prece­dented num­ber of Por­tuguese men-of-war washed ashore. The float­ing colonies of tiny or­gan­isms work­ing to­gether have ten­ta­cles that reach up to 165 feet in length and can de­liver an ex­tremely painful st­ing. The Corn­wall Wildlife Trust says the for­eign in­vaders were blown in by strong south­west­erly winds. The warm-wa­ter crea­tures typ­i­cally live far out to sea.

So­lar storm

Earth was bom­barded by a stream of charged par­ti­cles from the largest so­lar storm in eight years. The burst in the so­lar wind over­whelmed the planet’s pro­tec­tive ge­o­mag­netic field and reached the ground at some high-lat­i­tude lo­ca­tions. The so­lar flare re­spon­si­ble for the storm erupted Sept. 6 and pro­duced aurora dis­plays and high-fre­quency ra­dio black­outs two days later on Earth.

Trop­i­cal cy­clones

Record-set­ting Hur­ri­cane Irma ex­tended its path of cat­a­strophic de­struc­tion from the Lee­ward Is­lands dur­ing the pre­vi­ous week to Cuba, Florida and other parts of the south­east­ern United States. Hur­ri­cane Jose later skirted the Lee­ward Is­lands dis­as­ter zone be­fore mov­ing into the open wa­ters of the western At­lantic.

• Two peo­ple died along Mex­ico’s Gulf Coast when Cat­e­gory 2 Hur­ri­cane Ka­tia roared ashore.

• Typhoon Dok­suri pro­duced deadly flood­ing around the Philip­pine cap­i­tal of Manila be­fore tak­ing aim on Viet­nam.

• Typhoon Talim was bear­ing down on south­ern Ja­pan late in the week.

Earth­quakes

Nearly 100 peo­ple per­ished in south­ern Mex­ico as the coun­try’s strong­est quake in 85 years wrecked thou­sands of build­ings in Oax­aca and Chi­a­pas states.

• Earth move­ments were also felt in Ja­pan’s Akita pre­fec­ture, New Zealand’s Can­ter­bury re­gion, south­east­ern Idaho and along the south­ern In­di­ana-Illi­nois bor­der.

For week end­ing Fri­day

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