A giant breach of Earth’s magnetic field, solar charged particles keep overloading, overcharging in our planet earth, mainly in the biosphere, massacring bees (colony collapse disorder), mass animal deaths, ravaging electroreception (animals’ navigation organ), causing brain death among almost all living creatures in the biosphere, and this massacre has been so many years.

Giant Breach in Earth’s Magnetic Field Discovered

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Dec. 16, 2008: NASA’s five THEMIS spacecraft have discovered a breach in Earth’s magnetic field ten times larger than anything previously thought to exist. Solar wind can flow in through the opening to “load up" the magnetosphere for powerful geomagnetic storms. But the breach itself is not the biggest surprise. Researchers are even more amazed at the strange and unexpected way it forms, overturning long-held ideas of space physics.

“At first I didn’t believe it," says THEMIS project scientist David Sibeck of the Goddard Space Flight Center. “This finding fundamentally alters our understanding of the solar wind-magnetosphere interaction."

The magnetosphere is a bubble of magnetism that surrounds Earth and protects us from solar wind. Exploring the bubble is a key goal of the THEMIS mission, launched in February 2007. The big discovery came on June 3, 2007, when the five probes serendipitously flew through the breach just as it was opening. Onboard sensors recorded a torrent of solar wind particles streaming into the magnetosphere, signaling an event of unexpected size and importance.

Right: One of the THEMIS probes exploring the space around Earth, an artist’s concept. [more]

“The opening was huge—four times wider than Earth itself," says Wenhui Li, a space physicist at the University of New Hampshire who has been analyzing the data. Li’s colleague Jimmy Raeder, also of New Hampshire, says “1027 particles per second were flowing into the magnetosphere—that’s a 1 followed by 27 zeros. This kind of influx is an order of magnitude greater than what we thought was possible."

The event began with little warning when a gentle gust of solar wind delivered a bundle of magnetic fields from the Sun to Earth. Like an octopus wrapping its tentacles around a big clam, solar magnetic fields draped themselves around the magnetosphere and cracked it open. The cracking was accomplished by means of a process called “magnetic reconnection." High above Earth’s poles, solar and terrestrial magnetic fields linked up (reconnected) to form conduits for solar wind. Conduits over the Arctic and Antarctic quickly expanded; within minutes they overlapped over Earth’s equator to create the biggest magnetic breach ever recorded by Earth-orbiting spacecraft.

Above: A computer model of solar wind flowing around Earth’s magnetic field on June 3, 2007. Background colors represent solar wind density; red is high density, blue is low. Solid black lines trace the outer boundaries of Earth’s magnetic field. Note the layer of relatively dense material beneath the tips of the white arrows; that is solar wind entering Earth’s magnetic field through the breach. Credit: Jimmy Raeder/UNH. [larger image]

The size of the breach took researchers by surprise. “We’ve seen things like this before," says Raeder, “but never on such a large scale. The entire day-side of the magnetosphere was open to the solar wind."

The circumstances were even more surprising. Space physicists have long believed that holes in Earth’s magnetosphere open only in response to solar magnetic fields that point south. The great breach of June 2007, however, opened in response to a solar magnetic field that pointed north.

“To the lay person, this may sound like a quibble, but to a space physicist, it is almost seismic," says Sibeck. “When I tell my colleagues, most react with skepticism, as if I’m trying to convince them that the sun rises in the west."


Here is why they can’t believe their ears: The solar wind presses against Earth’s magnetosphere almost directly above the equator where our planet’s magnetic field points north. Suppose a bundle of solar magnetism comes along, and it points north, too. The two fields should reinforce one another, strengthening Earth’s magnetic defenses and slamming the door shut on the solar wind. In the language of space physics, a north-pointing solar magnetic field is called a “northern IMF" and it is synonymous with shields up!

“So, you can imagine our surprise when a northern IMF came along and shields went down instead," says Sibeck. “This completely overturns our understanding of things."

Northern IMF events don’t actually trigger geomagnetic storms, notes Raeder, but they do set the stage for storms by loading the magnetosphere with plasma. A loaded magnetosphere is primed for auroras, power outages, and other disturbances that can result when, say, a CME (coronal mass ejection) hits.

The years ahead could be especially lively. Raeder explains: “We’re entering Solar Cycle 24. For reasons not fully understood, CMEs in even-numbered solar cycles (like 24) tend to hit Earth with a leading edge that is magnetized north. Such a CME should open a breach and load the magnetosphere with plasma just before the storm gets underway. It’s the perfect sequence for a really big event."

Sibeck agrees. “This could result in stronger geomagnetic storms than we have seen in many years."

A video version of this story may be found here. For more information about the THEMIS mission, visit http://nasa.gov/themis


Author: Dr. Tony Phillips | Credit: Science@NASA

more information
What happened to conventional wisdom? Researchers at the University of New Hampshire are using computer models to unravel the basic physics of the great breach. They’re finding that reconnection at the poles is key. Conventional wisdom held that equatorial reconnection was more important, which is why the giant breaches were not anticipated until THEMIS flew through one.View a video version of this story.

Space Weather resources:NOAA Space Weather prediction CenterSpaceweather.com

more stories about THEMIS:

Magnetic Portals Connect Sun and Earth — Science@NASA

Plasma Bullets Spark Northern Lights — Science@NASA

NASA Spacecraft Make New Discoveries about Northern Lights — Science@NASA

THEMIS, short for Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms, is the fifth medium-class mission under NASA’s Explorer Program. The program, managed by The Explorers Program Office at Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., provides frequent flight opportunities for world-class space investigations in Heliophysics and Astrophysics. The University of California, Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory managed the project development and is currently operating the THEMIS mission. Swales Aerospace, Beltsville, Md., built the THEMIS satellites.

NASA’s Future:US Space Exploration Policy


  • Space Weather

  • the effects of colony collapse disorder and other bee news

    Concerned about the worldwide bee crisis? IntroducingBuzzfeeds, a weekly analysis with our resident bee expert


    No birds, just bees. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

    In the past six years, more than 10m beehives have been wiped out from a mystery disease called colony collapse disorder. This destruction has serious implications on worldwide ecology and economy.

    Of the 100 crop species responsible for providing 90% of food worldwide, 71 are dependent on bee pollination, according to UN estimates (pdf). It’s difficult to pinpoint the financial implications of this destruction, but the international body says pollination is worth between $37bn and $91bn, annually.

    Stories about the declining population and its effect on the environment trickle through the news cycle each week. To bring awareness to these stories and contextualize the issues, we will highlight the major bee-related stories every Tuesday, with analysis from The Guardian’s Alison Benjamin, co-author of A World Without BeesBees in the City: The Urban Beekeepers’ Handbook and Keeping Bees and Making Honey. She is also a beekeeper.

    Honey bees in trouble? Blame farm chemicals, study says

    What happened?

    Bees pollinating crops including watermelon, cucumbers and blueberries return to their hives with pollen contaminated by agricultural chemicals – leaving insects more susceptible to a lethal parasite, according to a study published online last week. Pollen filled with fungicides, insecticides and other agriculture chemicals was fed to healthy bees, that were then more likely to be infected by Nosema ceranae – the parasite linked to the decimation of honey bees.

    Key quote

    Fungicides, which we didn’t expect to harm insects, seem to have a sub-lethal effect on bee health," Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an entomologist at the University of Maryland and senior author of the new study, told NBC News. He said this is important because fungicides aren’t heavily regulated.

    Why it matters:

    Colony collapse disorder is caused by a combination of factors – parasites, agricultural chemicals and poor nutrition. These all weaken the honeybees’ immune system and make them more susceptible to viruses and infections that can kill them. Up until now concerns around agricultural chemicals and honeybees have focused on the impact neonicotinoid pesticides are having and a temporary ban has been imposed on three types by the European Commission. Yet, this study shows that fungicides used on many crops pollinated by bees can also have serious consequences. Attention now needs to turn to these chemicals and to ensure that tests are conducted when they are registered for use which protects honeybees.

    Loss of bees can affect plants’ ability to reproduce, study finds

    What happened:

    The fact that different kinds of bees prefer different kinds of flowers lead two researchers in Colorado to wonder what would happen if an entire bee species disappeared. So they removed (using nets and traps) the most numerous bumble bee species from a meadow in Colorado. The question: would the other bee species pick up the slack and continue to pollinate the abandoned flowers? Or would they leave the plants to die?

    The result: the remaining bumblebees became less faithful to one flower species than they had been before the more populous bees had been around to keep them in line. This had a serious impact on the tall larkspur, a lovely purple wildflower, who needs its own pollen to reproduce (aka a faithful bee partner).

    Key quote:

    Because of the unfaithful bees, the researchers reported Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, plants produced about 30% less seed. The finding, they report, shows a surprising effect from a loss of biodiversity that could have implications for a variety of ecosystems.

    Why it matters:

    It is not just honeybees that pollinate crops and flowers, bumblebees and solitary bees do too. And there are many more varieties of bumblebees and solitary bees than there are honeybees. In fact we only have one species of honeybee in the US and Europe and Australasia – Apis Mellifera; the western honeybee. Many bumblebees and solitary bees have evolved to pollinate certain flowers. They have a symbiotic relationship – the flower needs the bee to pollinate it and the bee needs the nectar and pollen from the flower to provide protein and energy for itself and the baby bees. If the bee dies out that flower will soon follow and the ecosystems fall apart.

    We don’t keep bumblebees and solitary bees, but we can do things to improve their habitat from creating bee hotels – a collection of hollow plant stems – where solitary bees can lay their eggs to leaving a pile of leaves in the garden where bumblebees can nest.

    The rapid bee decline has inspired Martha Stewart to care for hives of her own

    What happened:

    We hit peak bee crisis this week when Martha Stewart, queen of domestic perfection, started tending to her own bee hives and coaching readers on how to take care of their own.

    Key quote:

    With the epidemic hive failures and disappearance of many colonies, beekeepers have new concerns about maintaining their hives. In fact, Martha’s own colony has experienced a collapse over the years as her own bees left in a “mass exodus," and she had to re-establish much of the colony within her four hives, prompting her to send out her message to all other would-be keepers out there.

    Why it matters:

    The decline in honeybees has led to an unprecedented surge in the number of new beekeepers around the globe. It has become very fashionable for young, urban professionals to keep bees on roof tops and backyards. But beekeeping is a perilous pastime because bees can die during the winter of starvation, or they can be overrun with the varroa parasite if not treated correctly. It can be expensive restocking your hive every spring. Probably a more effective way to save honeybees and other bees is to make your neighbourhood more bee-friendly by planting bee-friendly flowers and trees in your garden and in your parks and streets – bees need flowers throughout the year, from very early spring to late autumn – ditching any weed killers which can include harmful chemicals, and replacing driveways and decking with wildflowers.

    Trapper moving 30,000 bees from South Austin oak tree

    What happened:

    When bees become disruptive in cities, local governments are favoring the relocation of bees over extermination. This specialized process requires beekeepers and bee specialists to transport tens of thousands of bees to farms – in this instance Rodney Oakley moved 30,000 bees, the amount typically found in a small hive, in Austin, Texas. He told the Austin American Statesman that local honey bees struggle from the mix of drought conditions, increased used of pesticides and decreased diversity in crops.

    Key quote:

    As more attention has been focused on the honey bee and its importance and decline, more people have been calling," Rodney Oakley said. “In communities that are more conscious of environmental issues, like Austin, they will search me out so that the bees aren’t destroyed.

    Why it matters:

    Honeybees are important for pollination and to make delicious honey, so it’s never a good idea to kill bees. They can live in harmony with people in urban areas if the beekeeper is responsible and ensures his bees don’t swarm and annoy the neighbours. But if there are problems with the neighbours you should relocate your honeybees. And if you see a swarm of bees, you should contact a local beekeeping association or group. They will have a designated swarm collector who will come out and collect the bees and take them away.

    Government bee scientist behind controversial study joins pesticide firm

    What happened:

    UK government scientist Dr Helen Thomspon is set to join chemical giant Syngenta. Thompson’s research – including a field trial of neonicotinoids, the frequently used insecticide, on bees – was used by ministers to argue against a ban on pesticides.

    Key quote:

    UK government policy should be informed by unbiased and disinterested scientific research," said Joan Walley MP, chair of the environmental audit committee, whose report in April accused the environment secretary Owen Paterson’s department of “extraordinary complacency" over bees and pesticides. “This principle is undermined if the government research agency is too close to the pesticides industry and if scientists are zigzagging between the two.

    Why it matters:

    There has been huge controversy over the UK government’s stance against banning certain pesticides implicated in bee deaths across the globe. The ban was introduced earlier this year Europe-wide despite the UK government’s resistance. Environmental groups have accused the government of being too close to big agricultural companies such as Syngenta. Whether this is true or not, Dr Helen Thompson’s move from government scientist to Syngenta does not inspire confidence that this government was acting in an impartial manner. What of other government scientists – are they too looking for very well paid jobs with the chemical giants? If so are they likely to be providing advice that is critical of their potential future employers?

    The Mystery of Bee Colony Collapse


    | Wed Jul. 31, 2013 3:00 AM PDT

    What’s tipping honeybee populations into huge annual die-offs? For years, a growing body of evidence has pointed to a group of insecticides called neonicotinoids, widely used on corn, soy, and other US crops, as a possible cause of what has become known as colony collapse disorder (CCD).

    Rather than kill bees directly like, say, Raid kills cockroaches, these pesticides are suspected of having what scientists call “sub-lethal effects"—that is, they make bees more vulnerable to other stressors, like poor nutrition and pathogens. In response to these concerns, the European Union recently  suspended most use for two years; the US Environmental Protection Agency, by contrast, still allows them pending more study.

    But according to a new peer-reviewed paper, neonicotinoids aren’t the only pesticides that might be undermining bee health. The study, published in PLOS One and co-authored by a team including US Department of Agriculture bee scientist Jeff Pettis and University of Maryland entomologist Dennis vanEngelsdorp, found that a pair of widely used fungicides are showing up prominently in bee pollen—and appear to be making bees significantly more likely to succumb to a fungal pathogen, called Nosema ceranae, that has been closely linked to CCD. The finding is notable, the authors state, because fungicides have so far been “typically seen as fairly safe for honey bees."

    To analyze what exactly bees are bringing into their habitats to feed their colonies under real-world conditions, the authors looked at bee hives that had been hired out to pollinate seven crops: almonds, apples, blueberries, cranberries, cucumbers, pumpkins, and watermelons. (It’s common practice for large-scale growers to rent mobile honeybee hives from commercial beekeepers for pollination purposes.)

    They took pollen samples from the hives and tested them for pesticides—a category that includes chemicals that target insects (insecticides), funguses (fungicides), and weeds (herbicides). The researchers found insecticides and fungicides in every hive, and herbicides in nearly a quarter. Putting aside the bees’ health for a moment, one way to read the results is as a survey of what farmers are spraying on some of the main fruit and vegetable crops we eat. Looking at it that way, it’s alarming that organophosphates—an insecticide class known to be a powerful neurotoxin—were found in 63.2 percent of the hives. Another nasty pesticide class, pyrethroids, showed up in every sample.

    But it was the fungicides that caused the most concern in the second part of the experiment. The researchers took disease-free bees, divided them into groups, and subjected them to three kinds of diets: two control diets free of insecticides traces, and one featuring samples of pollen collected from each of the field sites. Then they exposed them all to Nosema spores, and examined which bees became infected, and which managed to fight it off.

    They then analyzed the data based on how much of each pesticide was in the pollen samples from the field. The result: The more fungicide in the pollen, the more likely the bees were to come down with Nosema. Overall, study co-author vanEngelsdorp told me in a phone interview, bees fed with fungicide-laced pollen were “two times more likely to come down with an infection" than control bees. One particular fungicide, pyraclostrobin, was found to make bees three times as susceptible to Nosema.

    Why would fungicides do that? The mechanism remains unclear, vanEngelsdorp says—the study didn’t look at causes. The chemicals could be hurting bees’ digestive system, he said, causing “abrasions and allowing easier infection" or killing beneficial gut microbes and providing a niche for Nosema.

    Interestingly, the other set of chemicals that had a similar effect were miticides—chemicals applied to hives by beekeepers in an attempt to control yet another threat, the Varroa mite. In waging chemical warfare on behalf of bees to control mites, beekeepers appear to be unwittingly helping another menace, Nosema, gain a foothold.

    What about neonicotinoids, that common pesticide family? The study found it in pollen drawn from only one crop: apples. And they found a surprising result: Bees exposed to neonic-laced pollen showed a reduced tendency to come down with Nosema. The result doesn’t exonerate neonicotinoids from the charge that it plays a role in CCD, because “we also know that apple pollen is really good for bees," vanEngelsdorp said, and “there was no way of separating the nutritional value of the pollen from the neonics" since they were in the same sample. He added that when “bees have access to really nutritious food sources, we know that’s it’s more likely that they’re able to fight negative effects from pesticides." Moreover, the current study looked only at pesticides’ interaction with Nosema. Neonicotinoids have been shown to have other effects on bees at very low levels—including, according to British researchers in a recent Nature paper, impeding their ability to forage.

    The research group was surprised to find such little exposure to neonicotinoids compared to other chemicals. “Neonics get a lot of attention and lot of research dollars and no doubt play a role [in CCD], but our research shows we need to be looking more broadly at the pesticides bees are exposed to," vanEngelsdorp said. “There are a lot of other [chemical] exposures going on that may have just as much, if not more, real effects on colony health."

    Meanwhile, use of fungicides on US farms is rising rapidly, according to a February report in the journal Environmental Health News. While the pesticide industry doesn’t release use data, the market research firm Lucintel recently estimated that the global fungicide market will increase at an annual compounded rate of 6.7 percent over the next five years. “North America witnessed the highest growth during the last five years and is expected to lead the industry during 2012 to 2017," Lucintel added. The pesticide industry markets fungicides to farmers as cheap way to boost crop yields, but a 2011 study by researchers from Iowa State, Ohio State, and other Midwestern universities found those claims dubious in the case of corn, the nation’s most-planted crop.

    The Swiss chemical giant Syngenta, which has come under fire as a major supplier of neonicotinoid pesticides, is also one of the largest US suppliers of chlorothalonil, one of the two fungicides identified in the PLOS One study.

    The other fungicide named in the study, pyraclostrobin, is marketed in the US by the German chemical titan BASF. Its marketing materials make impressive claims for a fungicide product called Headline, which contains the potentially bee-impeding chemical:

    Headline fungicide helps growers control diseases and improve overall Plant Health. That means potentially higher yields, better ROI and, ultimately, better profits. And that means more than just money in the bank. It can help secure a family’s future, fund a college education, finance an equipment upgrade, or maybe buy just a bit more of a vacation for the whole family. Perhaps that’s why Headline is the nation’s leading fungicide.

    And now science suggests it may also mean something very bad for bees.




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