Earthweek: a diary of the planet
Whale song cypher
Chinese scientists say they have found a way to hide secret messages in recordings of sperm whale songs — a breakthrough that they say will help China’s military submarines avoid scrutiny.
Whale sounds are typically filtered out by underwater intelligence-gathering operations, which focus more on man-made encryption efforts in sonic signals that are obvious and easy to detect. But because whales inhabit most of the world’s oceans, the researchers from Tianjin University in China say their method would make it nearly impossible for adversaries to detect their new hidden messages.
There was no mention of how the encoded whale sounds could affect the whales themselves.
State officials indefinitely shut down a wastewater injection well associated with oil and gas extraction just outside Oklahoma City after a sharp earthquake hit near the facility. Earth movements
also were felt in northern Arizona, southern parts of the San Francisco Bay Area, the Philippine island of Mindanao, New Zealand’s North Island and western Sulawesi.
Far East Russia’s Ebeko volcano spewed a large column of ash nearly 3 miles into the sky above Paramushir Island, just off the southern tip of the Kamchatka Peninsula. A light rain of ash fell over the nearby settlement of Severo-Kurilsk, but there were no reports of damage or injuries from the eruption. An orange alert for ash was
issued for aviation. Ebeko is one of the most active volcanoes in the Kuril Islands.
Category 5 Typhoon Yutu dissipated off the coast of Hong Kong after a deadly twoweek rampage across the Pacific. Also this past week, Tropical Storm Xavier formed briefly off Mexico’s Pacific Coast.
Japanese officials say one of the country’s tiny islands has disappeared and slipped beneath the ocean’s surface after gradually being eroded by the elements. Just off the northern tip of Hokkaido Island and to the south of Russia’s Sakhalin Island, Esanbe Hanakita Kojima had been an important piece of real estate that extended Japan’s exclusive economic zone farther from its mainland territory.
The stratospheric ozone layer is healing at roughly 1 percent to 3 percent per decade, thanks mainly to a 30-yearold international agreement to ban chemicals responsible for its annual formation, a U.N. agency says.
The World Meteorological Organization also announced that it believes
Australian researchers say more than 60 common prescription drugs are finding their way through wastewater into rivers and streams, contaminating insects that wind up being eaten by other wildlife up the food chains.
The scientists at Monash University found 69 medications in insects collected in waters around Melbourne, including painkillers, antibiotics, antidepressants and blood-pressure treatments. They say that the highest levels of contamination were found near wastewater-treatment plants, but low levels also were detected in insects from more pristine areas.