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Best Earth Images of the Week Dec. 7, 2012

Sleepy Panda

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(Image credit: Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo)

Xiao Liwu, the 4-month-old giant panda cub at the San Diego Zoo, is getting more svelte though not less sleepy. The baby bear dozed off during his exam this week, caretakers said, but they were able to get a good look at him before his nap.

Tracy Clippinger, a veterinarian at the San Diego Zoo, said the cub's muscles are getting stronger and he is thinning out, improving his ability to crawl. Clippinger added that she counted eight teeth in his mouth and could feel more ready to break through the gums, before he fell asleep.

[Full Story: Sleepy Panda Cub Gets Stronger]

Our Black Earth

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(Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory.)

You may have seen Earth's lights from space but never quite like this.

Today (Dec. 5), NASA and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a slew of images showing what the planet looks like when the sun goes down. The amazing images were announced in a news conference at the American Geophysical Union's annual meeting in San Francisco and were taken by an instrument aboard the Suomi NPP satellite in recent months.

[Full Story: Black Marble: Stunning New Images of Earth at Night]

The 'Pineapple Express'

A storm over Bodega Bay, California

(Image credit: NOAA)

Nature generally doesn't time its storms so well. A "Pineapple Express" weather system so named because of its origins near the pineapple-rich Hawaiian Islands dumped large amounts of rain on San Francisco and Northern California this past weekend, just ahead of the announcement of a new system for forecasting and assessing exactly that type of storm.

These storms, aptly and more technically known as atmospheric rivers, bring huge amounts of moisture across the Pacific. They are narrow bands in the atmosphere that funnel moisture from the tropics into more northerly latitudes. Over the course of several days, or even longer, the moisture in the system is dropped on a wide area and can potentially cause flooding and reservoir overflow, as has happened in some West Coast communities with the current system. That system also brought strong, hurricane-force winds to some regions and dozens of inches of snow to others.

[Full Story: 'Pineapple Express': New Sensors to Monitor Torrential Storms]

Super Typhoon Bopha

The MODIS instrument on NASA's Terra satellite captured this visible image of Super Typhoon Bopha approaching the Philippines on Dec. 2, 2012 at 0145 UTC (Dec. 1 at 7:45 p.m. EST).

(Image credit: NASA MODIS Rapid Response Team)

A massive typhoon, equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane, has formed in the western Pacific and is headed toward the Philippine island of Mindanao, which doesn't usually get hit by these types of storms and isn't well-prepared, according to reports.

Bopha is likely to be the strongest typhoon ever recorded in Mindanao, according to Jeff Masters at the weather blog Wunderground.

[Full Story: Super Typhoon Bopha to Hit the Philippines ]

Haunting the Night

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(Image credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

The Eastern screech owl in the above photo looks quite surprised perhaps because this species isn't used to being spotted by humans, despite living in the suburbs.

Eastern Screech Owls are a nocturnal animal, so despite being common in residential neighborhoods in eastern North America, most people never notice them. They call out at night especially during the spring mating season but their call isn't actually a screech, like from a hawk, but more of a haunting, trembling sound.

[Full Story: Photo: Eastern Screech Owl Haunts The Night ]

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