San Francisco Chronicle - (Sunday)

EARTHWEEK: A DIARY OF THE PLANET

For the week ending Friday, April 30.

- By Steve Newman Dist. By: Andrews mcmeel syndicatio­n www.eArthweek.Com © 2021 earth Environmen­t service

Lightning capital florida, especially around tampa bay, has long been renowned as the u.s. capital of lightning strikes. but researcher­s from finnish environmen­tal monitoring company vaisala say oklahoma has narrowly surpassed the state for that distinctio­n. its research found there were 83.4 lightning events per square kilometer in oklahoma from 2016 to 2020, compared with 82.8 in florida. but a vaisala meteorolog­ist says that with statistics that close, it’s hard to say that one state has overtaken the other.

Melting hazards boulders and rocks long frozen in place high across the world’s mountainou­s regions are tumbling downslope because of the glacial melt brought on by global heating. a tragic example occurred in february when rock and ice broke loose from a himalayan peak, killed more than 200 people and destroyed a hydroelect­ric dam. researcher­s in switzerlan­d have begun releasing “test rocks” from high in the alps to better understand the dangers posed by the growing phenomenon.

Lion Famine a protracted drought and unbridled livestock grazing, which have parched parts of namibia, are also causing desert-adapted lions to die or appear emaciated near human settlement­s in the southwest african nation. a researcher says dry conditions have caused several of the big cats to either die from starvation or be euthanized by the environmen­t ministry.

Japanese eruption a strong blast from southweste­rn japan’s sakurajima volcano spewed ash high above kagoshima prefecture. clouds of superheate­d debris also cascaded down the mountain but did not threaten any populated areas.

Tropical cyclones tropical storm jobo spared tanzania the flooding and wind damage predicted before the weakened cyclone made landfall just south of the capital, dar es salaam. only two other cyclones have struck the coast of tanzania in modern times, in 1872 and 1952.

Polar drift earth’s axis is being shifted by the human activities causing the climate emergency and redistribu­tion of water resources through the pumping of groundwate­r for irrigation. internatio­nal researcher­s say the shift started in the 1990s when global heating began to melt glaciers, sending much of the runoff into the oceans. earth’s axis naturally drifts a bit each year because of changes in winds, ocean currents and atmospheri­c pressures. but the redistribu­tion of water from land to oceans accelerate­d the drift from 1995 to 2020 by about 17 times.

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