1. Macquarie Island expeditioners were treated to a rare sight on 6 November 2009 with a huge iceberg floating past the island. The iceberg was about 8 kilometres off the north-west of the island and was estimated to be about 50 metres high and 500 metres long. Australian Antarctic Division Glaciologist, Neal Young, said it's uncommon for icebergs to be so far north."The iceberg is likely to be part of one of the big ones that calved from the Ross Ice Shelf nearly a decade ago," Dr Young said.

  2. Toxic waste from the Turkish vessel Gulser Ana which went down off the coast in southern Madagascar in August 2009 has had severe impacts on the health of local people and on the rich coastal and marine environment, according to a study supported by WWF.While one to three whales normally beach in the area each year, nine whales beached in September alone, and some beach stretches seem to be real death zones, the report found.

  3. The European Union has begun an investigation into Las Tablas De Daimiel National Park, Spain that is being devastated by underground fires. With less than 1% of the park now covered by water, layers of underground peat have dried out and have started to spontaneously ignite. EU inspectors will investigate how for decades Spanish authorities have allowed thousands of illegal wells to be dug near the park. The Tablas de Damiel were declared a National Park in 1973. In 1980 the national park was extended and UNESCO included Las Tablas in a biosphere reserve. In the 1982 Las Tablas were included on the list of the Ramsar Convention. In 1988 Las Tablas were declared a Special Protection Area (or SPA), a designation under the European Union directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds.

  4. In 2009, World Ecological Debt Day or Earth Overshoot Day falled on 25 September. Earth Overshoot Day shows the day on which our total Ecological Footprint (measured in global hectares) is equal to the biocapacity (also measured in global hectares) that nature can regenerate in that year.

  5. On September 12, 2009 sea ice extent dropped to 5.10 million square kilometers. This appears to have been the lowest point of the year, as sea ice has now begun its annual cycle of growth in response to autumn cooling. The 2009 minimum is the third-lowest recorded since 1979, 580,000 square kilometers above 2008 and 970,000 square kilometers above the record low in 2007. The 2009 minimum is 1.61 million square kilometers below the 1979 to 2000 average minimum and 1.28 million square kilometers below the thirty-year 1979 to 2008 average minimum.

  6. Using NASA satellite data, scientists have found that groundwater levels in aquifers in areas of Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and the nation's capitol territory of Delhi (northern India) have been declining by as much as one foot per year over the past decade. More than 109 km³ of groundwater disappeared between 2002 and 2008 -- double the capacity of India's largest surface water reservoir, the Upper Wainganga. A team of hydrologists led by Matt Rodell of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., found that northern India's underground water supply is being pumped and consumed by human activities, such as irrigating cropland, and is draining aquifers faster than natural processes can replenish them. The results of this research were published on 12 August 2009 in Nature. The finding is based on data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), a pair of satellites that sense changes in Earth's gravity field and associated mass distribution, including water masses stored above or below Earth's surface. GRACE is a partnership between NASA and the German Aerospace Center, DLR. GRACE was launched in 2002.

  7. The highest elevation flowering plant ever recorded in Europe, a lush moss flora, one of the coldest places of permanent animal life (collembola, mites) and indications of mycorrhizal fungi were evidenced for the Dom summit (4,545 m, central Swiss Alps) between solid siliceous rock at 4,505–4,543 m, 46° N. Cushions of Saxifraga oppositifolia were found at 4,505 to 4,507 m a.s.l. A large individual (possibly >30 years old) was in full bloom on 12 August 2009.

  8. Radioactive brine has been found at the salt-mine nuclear waste storage facility in Asse, Lower Saxony, the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) confirmed on 15 July 2009. A routine check turned up the contaminated liquid at depths of 950 and 925-metres deep, the BfS said, adding that the level of contamination remains below levels allowed by the Radiation Protection Ordinance.

  9. The 2nd International African Penguin Conference took place from the 15-18th April 2009 in Gansbaai, Western Cape, South Africa. The conference brought together 80 delegates, both local and international, including conservation managers, research scientists, conservationists and seabird rehabilitation experts. The conference focused on the continued decline of the African penguin population. Recent data collected from the breeding colonies of the Western Cape of South Africa confirm that the number of African Penguins continues to decline at an alarming rate. There were 147,000 breeding pairs of African Penguins in 1956 while by 2008 there were only 28,000 pairs. Experts said the food supply may have been disrupted by overfishing, or by fish stocks moving with changing ocean currents due to the effects of global warming. Pollutants may also have weakened penguins and affected their ability to find fish. Other issues affecting penguins include increased predation by fur seals around some colonies and the continuing risk of oil spills.

  10. Two thirds (66 percent) of the German population want to continue with the nuclear phase-out as adopted by the government or even accelerate it. This was the result of a representative poll on the safety of nuclear power plants and the phasing out of nuclear energy, carried out by the FORSA polling institute on behalf of the Federal Environment Ministry (survey period: 20-22 April). The majority of the population (57 percent) consider nuclear energy a great hazard or a very great hazard to themselves and their families. This opinion is shared by a majority in almost all age groups, although in the age group 18 to 29, only 49 percent consider the hazard as very great or great.

  11. A volcano La Cumbre has erupted on the Galapagos islands, threatening some of the region's exotic wildlife. After four years of inactivity, La Cumbre began spewing lava, gas and smoke on the Fernandina Island on Saturday. The eruption is not a threat to people living on neighbouring islands, but lava flowing into the sea may harm marine life and iguanas.

  12. Noblella pygmaea is a midget frog, the smallest ever found in the Andes and among the smallest amphibians in the world. The popular name is Noble's Pygmy Frog and it has an average length of 11.4 millimeters. It was introduced in a paper recently published in the journal Copeia by Edgar Lehr, a German herpetologist at the Senckenberg Natural History Collection Dresden, and the Swiss-Peruvian ecologist Alessandro Catenazzi from the University of California at Berkeley, USA. - The pygmy was discovered during field work in the Wayqecha Research Station. Not only its small size left it undiscovered for so long. Its predominantly brown colour camougflages Noblella perfectly. But Noble's Pygmy Frog could be spotted with the assistance of the members of the native communities adjacent to the Manu National Park.

  13. WCS researchers have discovered a stronghold for one of the world’s rarest freshwater dolphins, the Irrawaddy, deep in the waterlogged jungles of Bangladesh. The scientists counted nearly 6,000 of the dolphins in the South Asian country’s Sundarbans mangrove forest and the adjacent waters of the Bay of Bengal. In 2008, the species was listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

  14. Following the loss of an ice bridge on the Antarctic Wilkins Ice Shelf, the northern ice front is now becoming unstable. The first icebergs broke off at this point on 20 April 2009. This was observed by scientists using the TerraSAR-X Earth observation satellite operated by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR).The TerraSAR-X images from 23 and 25 April 2009 show these 'calved' icebergs. These icebergs are breaking away at the failure zones which have gradually formed over the past 15 years.The spectacular break-up events on the Wilkins Ice Shelf in 2008 caused the ice bridge between Charcot and Latady Island, measuring some 40 to 50 kilometres in length, to be cut to a width of just 900 metres at its narrowest point. This plate of ice, only 250 metres thick, finally broke off on 5 April 2008. Ice shelves are stabilised by the islands adjacent to them, which to a certain extent hold them in check. The loss of this link to Charcot Island will inevitably give rise to instability in the northern ice front of the Wilkins Ice Shelf.

  15. As a result of accelerating climate change, April 2009 will likely be the hottest April since records began in 1891, according to the German Weather Service (DWD) on Wednesday 29 April, 2009. The month reached the top with new record measurements for temperature, duration of sunshine and, in some regions, dryness.

  16. Fishermen in the Philippines accidentally caught a megamouth shark, one of the rarest fish in the world and later ate it after it had been identified. Only 40 other sightings of the shark have ever been recorded, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

  17. In December 2008 Conservationists discovered a significant population of Bornean orang-utans. A team surveying mountainous forests in eastern Borneo counted 219 orang-utan nests, indicating a "substantial" number of the animals, said Erik Meijaard, of the US-based charity The Nature Conservancy.

  18. The Indo-German team of scientists from the National Institute of Oceaonography and the Alfred Wegener Institute has returned from its expedition on research vessel Polarstern. The cooperative project Lohafex has yielded new insights on how ocean ecosystems function. But it has dampened hopes on the potential of the Southern Ocean to sequester significant amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) and thus mitigate global warming. The scientists fertilized a 300 square kilometre patch of ocean inside the core of an eddy (a clockwise rotating water column with an area of about 10,000 square kilometres) with six tonnes of dissolved iron. They followed the effects of the fertilization on the plankton continuously for 39 days. Additionally they investigated ocean chemistry, particularly concentrations of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

  19. The oil spill from a damaged container ship off the country's east coast has been far worse than originally thought. Dozens of beaches, covering about 60 kilometres, have been declared disaster zones along the coast of the north-eastern state of Queensland. The container ship Pacific Adventurer was damaged by a tropical storm on 11 March 2009.

  20. In the European Union (EU27), 522 kg of municipal waste was generated per person in 2007. Municipal waste generated per person varied from 294 kg in the Czech Republic to 801 kg in Denmark. In Germany 564 kg of mnucipal waste was generated per person. The treatment methods differ substantially between Member States. In the EU27 in 2007, 42% of treated municipal waste was landfilled, 20% incinerated, 22% recycled and 17% composted. The Member States with the highest recycling rates for municipal waste were Germany (46%), Belgium (39%), and Sweden (37%). This information is published by Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Communities.

  21. 194 pilot whales and six bottlenose dolphins have stranded themselves on Naracoopa beach on Tasmania's King Island on sunday evening. About 140 of the animals had died. By late Monday, 48 animals had been returned to the sea by officials and more than 100 King Island residents who had volunteered to help.

  22. NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory satellite failed to reach orbit after its 1:55 a.m. PST liftoff Tuesday from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base. Preliminary indications are that the fairing on the Taurus XL launch vehicle failed to separate. The spacecraft did not reach orbit and likely landed in the ocean near Antarctica.

  23. Climatologists at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York City have found that 2008 was the ninth warmest year since continuous instrumental records were started in 1880. The ten warmest years on record have all occurred between 1997 and 2008. The GISS analysis found that the global average surface air temperature was 0.44°C above the global mean for 1951 to 1980, the baseline period for the study.

  24. At 55 percent of air measuring stations placed in urban areas in the vicinity of traffic, annual mean levels of nitrogen dioxide concentrations (NO2) in 2009 were above the 40 micrograms/cubic metre air (µg/m3) which is set as the cap as of 1.1.2010. Exceedences of threshold values occur primarily in cities and conurbations, that is, where the majority of the population resides. The main sources of nitrogen oxides are traffic emissions as well as industrial and household combustion processes. Particulate concentrations (PM10) in 2009 also rose above the statutory caps in place since 2005- despite measures taken at the federal, Laender and municipal levels. There were PM10 concentrations of 50 µg/m3 measured at 23 of the total 408 measuring stations in the network on more than 35 days. In general, particulate pollution was somewhat higher in 2009 compared to 2008, which was the year with the lowest levels of such pollution since 2000.

  25. Economic crisis causes biggest slump in emissions since foundation of the Federal Republic. According to initial calculations by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA), total greenhouse gas emissions in Germany at the end of 2009 had declined by some 80 million tonnes (minus 8.4 percent) over 2008 levels. Since 1990 Germany had reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 28.7 percent as of late 2009. The industrial sector and manufacturing industry produced 20 percent less emissions.

  26. Science, the academic journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, has obtained exclusive data from NASA that indicates that 2009 was the hottest year on record south of the Equator. Southern Hemisphere temperatures can serve as a trailing indicator of global warming, says NASA mathematician Reto Ruedy of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, given that that part of the globe is mostly water, which warms more slowly and with less variability than land. Ruedy says 2009 temperatures in the Southern Hemisphere were 0.49°C warmer than the period between 1951 and 1980. That makes 2009 the warmest year on record in that hemisphere.