Friday, April 29, 2011

US tornadoes kill more than 300 - Whole neighbourhoods obliterated, trees snapped like toothpicks, huge billboards bent and twisted - southern US residents overnight battled scenes of utter devastation on their doorsteps. Tornadoes whirling across the southern United States tossed aside most obstacles in their path, and left at least 305 people dead in eight states in ONE OF THE WORST NATURAL DISASTERS IN YEARS. "Infrastructure has been absolutely devastated. When you look at this path of destruction, likely five to seven miles (eight to 11 kilometres) long and half a mile to a mile wide, I don't know how anyone survived."
As the long day dragged on, rescue workers battled to find missing people and to try to rescue survivors still trapped in the debris of their homes, as emergency services struggled to clear blocked roads. Houses looked like they had been blown inside out with the walls down and furniture spilling into the streets. In a parking lot at the University of Alabama, the tornado left behind 20 smashed cars, many of them piled on top of each other.
The towns of Hackleburg and Dadeville had taken direct hits. There were reports that 90 per cent of Hackleburg had been destroyed and whole neighbourhoods were barely recognisable. Birmingham also sustained major damage. "It looks like a war zone. All I want to do is get out." Some houses had been cleaved in half by toppled trees, others were completely levelled, leaving residents wandering the streets dazed and confused. Severed power lines dangled dangerously and sparked where they lay, cars overturned by the powerful winds littered the roads, mailboxes were uprooted, and fractured water lines gushed into the streets. Aluminum sidings hung off homes like frosting dribbling down the side of a cake in the densely populated Smithfield neighbourhood where some 40 homes were damaged or destroyed. "There are a lot of houses where the roofs are gone and houses that weren't there at all. A lot of porches gone. Trees cut in half. It was kinda crazy." The same community still has bitter memories of a major twister that struck in April 1977.
Wednesday's fierce storms scattered belongings as far as 80km away, caused a nuclear power plant to use back-up generators, and even forced the evacuation of a National Weather Service office. States of emergency have been declared in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia, and governors called out the National Guard to help with rescue and clean-up operations.
Alabama bore the brunt of the storm with more than 200 people killed but the storm system then veered north, laying waste to buildings in four north Georgia counties. Some 14 people were killed, and others were missing in Georgia. The usual street scenes of small American towns, complete with cafes, fast-food joints and stores, now resembled a wasteland. Several eastern states were still on tornado and severe thunderstorm alert on Thursday, while another major storm system was forecast to bring heavy rain and high winds on Saturday.

**Eagles may soar,
but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines.**
Bruce Graham

This morning -

Yesterday -
4/28/11 -

- For most of April 2010, a swarm of earthquakes has shaken the ground near Hawthorne, Nevada. The small- and medium-sized earthquakes are concentrated near Buller Mountain. Over 400 earthquakes above magnitude 1.0 have occurred in the area since April 10, up to a magnitude of 4.6.
Although the earthquake swarm has been adjacent to the Aurora-Bodie Volcanic Field, the earthquakes are tectonic in origin, not volcanic. Geologists distinguish between tectonic and volcanic earthquakes by looking at the waveforms recorded by seismographs. High-frequency events with a sharp onset — like a drum beat — are tectonic. Earthquakes that are long lasting and low- or medium-frequency — like a sustained note — are likely to be volcanic. The Hawthorne earthquake swarm occurred in the Basin and Range geologic province, an area of flat, low elevation valleys situated between linear mountain ranges. The Basin and Range stretches from the Sierra Nevada in the west to central Utah in the east, and the complex topography is caused by the uplift, stretching, and thinning of the North American crust. The stretching crust results in the frequent earthquakes and occasional volcanism in the area. (satellite photo of the locations)

No current tropical storms.

Ring around the hurricanes: Satellites can predict storm intensity - Meteorologists have seen large advances in forecasting technology to track the potential path of tropical storms and hurricanes, but they've had little success in predicting storm intensity. One of the biggest forecast problems facing the tropical meteorology community is determining rapid intensification, when storms suddenly transform into much stronger cyclones or hurricanes. "Rapid intensification means a moderate-strength tropical storm, something that may affect a region but not have a severe impact, blowing up in less than 24 hours to a category 2 or 3 hurricane. This big, strong storm appears that wasn't anticipated, and the effects are going to be very negative. If you don't have the evacuations in place, people can't prepare for something of the magnitude that's going to come ashore."
For example, Hurricane Charlie, which hit southern Florida in 2004, was initially forecast as a category 1 storm. However, when it made landfall less than 24 hours later, it had strengthened to a category 4, causing major damage. Rapid intensification is so hard to predict in part because it's driven by internal processes within the storm system, rather than the better-predicted, large-scale winds that determine the direction of the storms. The satellite imagery most commonly used for meteorology only looks at the clouds at the top of the storms, giving little insight as to what's going on inside the system.
The study revealed clear patterns in storm dynamics. They found that, consistently, low-shear storm systems formed a symmetrical ring of thunderstorms around the center of the system about six hours before intensification began. As the system strengthened into a hurricane, the thunderstorms deepened and the ring became even more well-defined. The study also looked at high-shear storms, a less common phenomenon involving atmospheric winds hanging with height.
Such storms showed a different structure when intensifying: They form a large, bull's-eye thunderstorm in the center of the system, rather than a ring around the center. "Now we have an observational tool that uses existing data that can set off a red flag for forecasters, so that when they see this convective ring feature, there's a high probability that a storm may undergo rapid intensification. This is really the first way that we can do this in real time rather than guessing with models or statistical predictions." Since passive microwave satellites orbit every three to six hours, meteorologists can use them to track tropical storms and watch for the telltale rings to give forecasters about a 30-hour window before a storm hits its maximum strength.

Storms unlikely to veer away from US coast again - Storms unlikely to follow last year's patterns. Count on a busy hurricane season, forecasters say, but not on the same fortunate weather that shunted last year's storms — including four extremely powerful hurricanes — away from the U.S. coast. Last year's hurricane season was UNUSUAL. It was one of the busiest on record, with 12 hurricanes — five of them major — and seven tropical storms, but none caused significant widespread damage in the U.S.
The story could have been much different had the hurricanes followed a more typical weather pattern. Instead, large high pressure areas formed over the middle of the U.S. and over the Atlantic, steering most of the season's storms — and all of the hurricanes — away from the east coast and the Gulf of Mexico states. That unusual pattern is unlikely to be repeated this year.
"In the peak of summer it's not unusual to get stuck in a pattern. But to have the same pattern back-to-back would be very unusual." In all, four major hurricanes, three lesser hurricanes and two tropical storms were steered away from the U.S. coast as they approached from the Atlantic in 2010. Two storms — Earl and Igor — struck Canada. Different weather patterns pushed the season's remaining 10 storms of the season, including one other major storm, into Mexico and the Caribbean. One tropical storm — Bonnie — passed briefly over Florida's southern tip. Hermine caused severe flooding in Texas and Oklahoma.
Several meteorologists have predicted a very active season this year. Forecasts range from 15 to 16 named storms, including eight to nine hurricanes, three to five of which produce winds higher than 110 mph. The forecasts are based on warmer-than-normal temperatures in the tropical Atlantic and weaker-than-normal upper level westerly winds, among several other factors. Warmer seas give storms more fuel and weaker upper level westerlies allow hurricanes an easier ride across the ocean.
Hurricane track forecasts are becoming more accurate, helping community leaders and residents to make better evacuation decisions. But this year, many of those decision-makers will be new to the job of evacuating the pubic and have no experience with hurricanes. Florida, Alabama, South Carolina and Virginia all have new governors. Elected leaders need to participate in drills now, to get practice making difficult evacuation decisions. Evacuations, especially in tourist areas, cost communities money and sometimes put people in hospitals and nursing homes at risk. But wrong decisions can have tragic consequences. The six-month Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1.

Stormless stretch fuels complacency in Florida - On a slide showing the tracks of hundreds of tropical storms and hurricanes through the decades, Florida was nearly hidden. Last year was a blessing and a curse, the National Hurricane Center’s director said. Even though the season’s 19 named storms, tied for third-most of all time, marked up the 2010 map like strands of spaghetti, not one hurricane struck the U.S. mainland for the second consecutive year. Why? A strong trough on the East Coast helped create an alley in the central Atlantic into which one storm after another shot north and stayed harmlessly off the North American coast. Move things a little to the west, and “how much different the story would be." It’s too early — and well nigh impossible — to predict whether a similar high pressure system will sit in essentially the same place day after day, as it did for much of last year, or whether “somewhere in the middle of August, a slight weakening of it, will send a big hurricane right over Florida.”
Since Wilma struck in 2005, no hurricane has had a Florida landfall. In the same five years, no major hurricane of Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale, with top sustained winds of at least 180 km/h, has struck the United States. That streak’s never gone six years, according to records that date to 1851. After that long a stretch, surveys show one in three Floridians has no hurricane plan at all. And one state study said population turnover, short memories, contentedness and laziness all add up to potential “dire consequences” should a substantial hurricane threaten Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast.
Colorado State University hurricane prognosticator William Gray noted there’s been a surge in major hurricanes, Category 3 or higher, in the past 16 years, but that, except for 2004-2005, no major storm has struck the East Coast. “We’ve been lucky." The hurricane region now is in a decades-long cycle of high hurricane activity. “If the future’s like the past, we probably have another 10, 15 years” of high numbers of major storms." For the hurricane centre director “my No. 1 concern is the same one I had last year: Haiti. Virtually nothing has changed from last year as far as the condition of the people devastated by the (January 2010) earthquake. They’re still living under tarps. If we have a major hurricane come at Haiti this year, that’s going to be my biggest gut check. I don’t know how that many people can be dealt with in a crisis of that magnitude."


U.S. - The Alabama city of Tuscaloosa has been among the hardest-hit by fierce storms which have battered the southern United States. A massive tornado - some estimates put it at a mile wide - tore through the city on Wednesday. Meteorologists say it could have been THE WORST IN THE STATE'S HISTORY. As the twister's approach was broadcast on local television, one presenter on WMBA told viewers: "That is something that you pray that you never, ever ever see."
The full scale of the destruction in Tuscaloosa is not yet clear, but more than 16 people are known to have been killed. The twister "cut a path of destruction deep into the heart of the city. What we faced today was massive damage on a scale we have not seen in Tuscaloosa in quite some time. We have hundreds of homes and businesses destroyed and hundreds more damaged."
The city's hospital is running on emergency generators after a nearby electricity substation was knocked out by the storm. There was relief when a child was found alive beneath one pile of debris and was carried away by firefighters. But officials have warned that with more storms forecast in the coming days, the danger is not yet over for the town.

April sets NEW RECORD FOR TORNADOES. - But experts say link to global warming tenuous. A day after a swarm of tornadoes tore across the South, killing hundreds, scientists who study the maddening, unpredictable storms were left with few answers Thursday - other than to say this deadly month will be one for the record books. Preliminary data from the National Weather Service show that more than 600 twisters have touched down in April, smashing the existing record of 267 set in 1974.
The outbreak — the DEALIEST IN NEARLY 40 YEARS — that devastated large swaths of north central Alabama and other southern states appears to follow a historic pattern. Over the decades, the annual number of tornadoes occurring in the U.S. has climbed — from a low of 201 in 1950 to a record high of 1,817 in 2004. Last year's total was 1,525. But the apparent increase in storm activity may be as difficult to explain as trying to determine the direction a twister will take as it races across the landscape, experts say. More tornadoes, particularly weaker versions, are being reported today than decades earlier. Urban development in the country's tornado belt and the spread of information technology are factors in the higher number, storm experts say. So is improved thunderstorm meteorology, including the use of Doppler radar to better pinpoint a severe storm and measure its velocity. The National Weather Service also has embarked on aggressive storm spotter training. At the same time, the numbers of hobbyists who chase twisters, laptops and cell phones in hand, have swelled along with trained local emergency management officials. "There's much better detection, basically. It's not that there are more tornadoes."
Four essential elements are necessary for twisters to develop: instability created by warm air at the surface and cold air at higher altitude, increasing wind speed at higher altitude, moisture at lower levels and, typically, a cold front. All those factors were abundant for the mayhem in Alabama. "If you were writing the book on what you were looking for, all those conditions (for tornadoes) were perfect, in a negative way." Particularly distinctive and devastating were the wind shears, the churning winds that kept the storms on the ground for hours. The most severe twisters carry winds of 250 miles per hour or more.
Some meteorologists suggest that La Nina, the unusually cold ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific, is playing a role in creating a stubborn blanket of cold air in the northern U.S. while warm air is pushing up from the south. The merging of those two systems through the mid-South and Midwest helps create a powerful jet stream where storms frequently can erupt, according to some meteorologists. But other experts dismissed that theory, contending that La Nina and its counterpart, El Nino, have little if any impact on stormy Midwestern and Southern springs. Still, April has been a particularly volatile month for tornadoes. "Nature kind of jumps around like that. Sometimes you get active periods and sometimes you don't. Things can turn around and change in two minutes." Any link between global warming and April's storms is tenuous at best. "Global warming is occurring, but this is not a manifestation of it."

VERMONT - Lake Champlain hits RECORD HIGH LEVEL; roads and ferries affected. On Thursday, county residents bordering on Lake Champlain watched with bated breath as lake levels climbed to record-breaking heights. As of 4:30 p.m. April 28, lake levels had topped out at 102.24 feet above sea level, then begun to slowly decline. The levels were far above flood stage, which is set at 100 feet, and they had already bested the previous record height of 102.1 feet, which was set in 1869.
Heavy rains on Wednesday and Thursday boosted river levels across the region, also raising the water level in Lake Champlain. As of Thursday afternoon, weather forecasters were predicting at least one more storm on the approach. On Thursday morning, as lake levels climbed, authorities shut down the ferry that runs between Charlotte and Essex, N.Y. Then, in the early afternoon, the state announced it had closed a low-lying stretch of Route 125. “It’s a mess. We have a pond and a creek, and now they’re combined.”
While National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration numbers reported three-day rainfall totals below 1.5 inches across the lower areas of Addison County, other areas of the Lake Champlain watershed reported upwards of four inches. The town had gotten at least enough rain to wash out five sections of road in the town. The damage was estimated at $105,000 so far.


BRITAIN - Crops hit by lack of rain. Farmers fear poor cereal and vegetable harvest Drought conditions could have a damaging effect on East Yorkshire's cereal and vegetable harvest. Worried farmers say the lack of rainfall in March and April has put crops such as beans and spring cereals under serious pressure. Farmers are now praying for rain amid fears the yields of all crops will be down and prices will rise in shops and supermarkets.
The food and farming industry is facing a double whammy – low global food stocks and extreme weather hitting growing crops. East Yorkshire farmers and growers HAVE NOT HAD TO COPE WITH SUCH A PROLONGED DRY SPELL SINCE THE DROUGHT OF SUMMER 1976.
Normally 50mm of rainfall a month is recorded in the Beverley area, but so far this April there has been just 4mm. "The food market is now international and dependent on the weather. A year ago cereal stocks were high, but a huge drought in Russia last summer has turned oversupply into undersupply, with soaring prices. Current extreme weather in the UK, US and Australia is hitting crops, so the food market could be facing a double whammy."
The drought has led to grass stopping growing, which is bad news for farmers who graze cattle and sheep and make fodder crops, such as hay and silage. "We are really concerned that it has become very dry so early. This is the time of the year when cattle are turned out to pastures and in a normal time there is plenty of grass for them to eat, but not this year. What has happened this spring shows how difficult it is for farmers to work with the weather. The real concern is over the supply and availability of vegetables and as every week goes by the need for rainfall becomes more critical."

Thursday, April 28, 2011

U.S. - Storms that spawned deadly tornadoes have flattened buildings and knocked out power lines across the central and southern United States, raising the death toll to at least 56. Forty-five people were killed in Alabama alone, and on Wednesday US President Barack Obama ordered the government to 'move quickly' to get search and rescue aid to the southern state. Earlier, states of emergency were declared in Alabama; Arkansas; Kentucky; Mississippi; Missouri; Tennessee; and Oklahoma.
UPDATE - More than 72 people in four states have been killed by the storms, including at least 15 in Tuscaloosa and 15 in Birmingham, Alabama. ‘We have way over 100 injuries throughout the city of Tuscaloosa. We have hundreds of homes and businesses destroyed and hundreds more damaged.’
Current death toll stands at 58 in Alabama, 11 in Mississippi, two in Georgia and one in Tennessee. The storm system spread destruction on Tuesday night and Wednesday from Texas to Georgia, and it was forecast to hit the Carolinas next and then move further northeast. The threat area on Thursday morning includes eastern Tennessee and Alabama, Georgia, northern Florida and parts of the Carolinas. Severe thunderstorms, damaging wind gusts, hail and isolated tornadoes are all possible. (Amazing photos & video)

**Things ain't what they used to be, and probably never was.**
Will Rogers

This morning -

Yesterday -
4/27/11 -

NEW ZEALAND - Christchurch, New Zealand's second-largest city, faces up to 20 years of rebuilding as a result of the earthquake in February that destroyed one-third of its central business district.

No current tropical storms.


NEW ZEALAND - The army has been called in to help evacuate people from some coastal towns in the Hawkes Bay, after extreme rainfall caused flooding overnight. Near Hastings, the extreme weather caused flooding and slips in three coastal settlements; Waimarama, Clifton and Te Awanga. At least 60 people in Te Awanga and Waimarama have been forced from their homes by rising waters, after 200mm of rain fell in just 24 hours. Roofs have been blown off, trees knocked down and power cut out. Fourteen Hawke's Bay settlements have been hit by flooding and slips, with up to 100 people evacuated in all. Firefighters spent an anxious couple of hours checking houses, making sure people were safe – but many had already self-evacuated.
A number of roads have also been closed. Army personnel have since arrived in the region and have made it through to Waimarama to help with evacuations. It was still raining heavily. "We are at the beginning of the season at the moment, so the soil isn't saturated. We will have some damage, but hopefully it will be more like silt rather than big slips."
Meanwhile, gale force winds are lashing much of the central and lower North Island. Workers in the capital were among those who had a hard time getting to work Wednesday morning, umbrellas rendered useless in the gusts – forecast to reach up to 100kmph. The storm cut power to about 11,500 Powerco customers yesterday. Extremely high winds were making restoration difficult.

A huge tornado levelled parts of the city of Tuscaloosa, in Alabama, killing at least 15, as storms tore through southern states from Texas to Georgia. Eleven more people were killed in storms earlier this week in the South. Governors in Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee have each declared a state of emergency as a result of the newest round of heavy winds, rains and tornadoes. "While we may not know the extent of the damage for days, we will continue to monitor these severe storms across the country and stand ready to continue to help the people of Alabama and all citizens affected by these storms."
Media reported a tornado near Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, just outside Washington DC, on Wednesday evening. Parts of Tuscaloosa have been decimated by their tornado. "The city experienced widespread damage from a tornado that cut a path of destruction deep into the heart of the city." A hospital in the city, which has a population of about 83,000, said its emergency room had admitted at least 100 people. The damage from the tornado that struck near Tuscaloosa was made worse by earlier storms, which allowed the new storm system to uproot entire trees out of loose, wet mud. At least 335,000 customers were without power in the region, with more storms on the way. "The number of outages could be as high as what we saw with Hurricane Ivan or Hurricane Katrina." Suspected tornadoes are being blamed for damaged roofs and downed power lines across the South. Mississippi was the site of seven more deaths on Wednesday. Downed trees blocked roads and highways in both Mississippi and Alabama, hindering rescue efforts by emergency responders. Storm systems have pummelled states across the southern US for weeks, with severe weather being blamed for the deaths of 10 people in Arkansas and one in Mississippi earlier this week. (video & photos)
Storms knocked out nuclear units - Severe storms and tornadoes moving through the Southeast dealt a severe blow to the Tennessee Valley Authority on Wednesday, causing three nuclear reactors in Alabama to shut and knocking out 11 high-voltage power lines. All three units at TVA's 3,274-megawatt Browns Ferry nuclear plant in Alabama tripped about 5:30 EDT (2230 GMT) after losing outside power to the plan. The plant's output had reduced power earlier due to transmission line damage from a line of severe storms that spawned a number of tornadoes as it moved through Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee. Early information indicated the units shut normally and the plant's diesel generators started up to supply power for the plant's safety system. Crews were working to restore service, but more severe weather was forecast.
Most of the damage so far has occurred in the western part of TVA's service territory in Mississippi, Alabama and western Tennessee and Kentucky. Rainfall amounts between four and seven inches have fallen since Tuesday in the area. Eight of the nine dams on the Tennessee River were generating at full power to move water through the river system to help control flooding.


Changes to a "neglected" ocean current near the southern tip of Africa could keep Europe warm even if the Gulf Stream switches off, scientists say. Warm water in the Agulhas Current flows from the Indian Ocean into the Atlantic where it brings changes further north. Researchers say this could compensate if the main northwards flow of heat, carried by the Gulf Stream, drops. This effect has largely been overlooked as a factor affecting climate change.
The Agulhas Current flows southwards down the eastern coast of Africa. When it reaches the continent's southern tip - Cape Agulhas - most of the water swings eastward and back into the Indian Ocean. But some of it forms giant eddies and rings, up to 300km (200 miles) across and extending from the top of the ocean to the bottom, that go in the other direction - rounding the cape and flowing into the Atlantic. This bit is known as the Agulhas Leakage.
Exactly how much water travels in this direction is not known, and is thought to vary markedly from year to year. But this team of scientists say wind shifts further south make it likely that leakage is increasing. "This prediction comes from a [computer] model - the leakage itself is very difficult to measure because it happens over a wide corridor of ocean and because of its eddying nature."
Once in the Atlantic, the warm and salty Agulhas water acts to strengthen the main current system, the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). A weakening Gulf Stream would bring colder weather to the shores of Western Europe Part of this circulation is the Gulf Stream, which brings hot water northwards, keeping parts of Western Europe and eastern North America several degrees Celsius warmer than they would otherwise be.
Thanks largely to the 2004 movie The Day After Tomorrow, the possibility that this would "switch off" in a warmer world is one of the best-known potential climate change impacts, even though there is a lot of uncertainty about whether it will happen. The scientists say an increase in Agulhas Leakage could compensate. "This could mean that current IPCC model predictions for the next century are wrong and there will be no cooling in the North Atlantic to partially offset the effects of global climate change over North America and Europe. Instead, increasing Agulhas Leakage could stabilise the oceanic heat transport carried by the Atlantic overturning circulation." Analysis of sediments shows the Agulhas Leakage has varied hugely in the past, notably at transitions between Ice Ages and the warm periods in between. Its modern behaviour is being studied by satellites and by instruments in the sea; but still, the record is short and much clearly remains to be discovered.
Further north in the Atlantic, the amount of water being carried in the AMOC varies, naturally, by almost a factor of 10; so discerning a long-term trend becomes very difficult.
Better measurements are one aim of scientists in the field, better computer models are another, with existing global models not able to replicate the circular eddies typical of the Agulhas system. In the long term, putting all of this together should lead to much better understanding of how the AMOC behaves - in particular, whether it can shut down stably for long periods, and what that would mean for Europe. "If you think about evaporation over the Atlantic, the ocean is clearly losing water, so the circulation system brings new water in to balance that. There are two pathways - warm, salty water from the Indian Ocean and colder, fresher water from the Drake Passage [between the southern tip of South America and Antarctica]. And there's pretty strong evidence that the balance between those pathways indicates whether or not the Gulf Stream is safe".

The Gulf Stream does not appear to be slowing down, said US scientists in March who have used satellites to monitor tell-tale changes in the height of the sea. Confirming work by other scientists using different methodologies, they found dramatic short-term variability but no longer-term trend.
The stream is a key process in the climate of western Europe, bringing heat northwards from the tropics and keeping countries such as the UK 4-6C warmer than they would otherwise be. It forms part of a larger movement of water, the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, which is itself one component of the global thermohaline system of currents. Between 2002 and 2009, the team says, there was no trend discernible - just a lot of variability on short timescales. The satellite record going back to 1993 did suggest a small increase in flow, although the researchers cannot be sure it is significant. "The changes we're seeing in overturning strength are probably part of a natural cycle. The slight increase in overturning since 1993 coincides with a decades-long natural pattern of Atlantic heating and cooling."
The first observations suggesting the circulation was slowing down emerged in 2005. Using an array of detectors across the Atlantic and comparing its readings against historical records, scientists suggested the volume of cold water returning southwards could have fallen by as much as 30% in half a century - a significant decline. The surface water sinks in the Arctic and flows back southwards at the bottom of the ocean, driving the circulation. However, later observations by the same team showed that the strength of the flow varied hugely on short timescales - from one season to the next, or even shorter. But they have not found any clear trend since 2004.
The team now has a chain of instruments in place across the Atlantic, making measurements continuously. "In four-and-a-half years of measurement, we have found there is a lot of variability, and we're working to explain it." The quantities of water involved are huge, varying between four million and 35 million tonnes of water per second. The team calculates that their system is good enough to detect a long-term change in flow of about 20% - but it has not happened yet.
Driven by Hollywood, a popular image of a Gulf Stream slowdown shows a sudden catastrophic event driving snowstorms across the temperate lands of western Europe and eastern North America. The scientists say that has always been fantasy - as is the idea that a slow-down would trigger another ice age. "But the Atlantic overturning circulation is still an important player in today's climate. Some have suggested cyclic changes in the overturning may be warming and cooling the whole North Atlantic over the course of several decades and affecting rainfall patterns across the US and Africa, and even the number of hurricanes in the Atlantic."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Evacuations as Ecuador volcano spews ash - Ecuador has suspended school in four towns near the Tunguarahua volcano as ash spews four kilometres into the sky, damaging crops and endangering the health of nearby residents. Authorities are urging people to cover their mouths and noses with masks and shut windows amid the furious venting of Tunguarahua that began Monday. Lava is flowing from the summit caldera down the flanks of the 5023 metre peak. The volcano is 135 kilometers southeast of Quito. Tunguarahua has been active since 1999. Its eruptions killed at least four people in 2006.

**There are some situations from which one can only escape
by acting like a devil or a lunatic.**
George Orwell

This morning -

Yesterday -
4/26/11 -

Rebuilding Japan's disaster-hit towns may take a decade.


Dark ash plume at Chile's Planchón-Peteroa volcano - Planchón-Peteroa has been producing intermittent plumes for the past year or so, some as high as 4.6 km / 15000 feet, but nothing in the way of a large eruption, which the volcano is definitely capable of. A fairly impressive ash plume was seen at Chile's Planchón-Peteroa on the webcam. The plume isn't especially tall, at least not from the vantage point of the webcam, but it is rather dark and grey in complexion, suggesting a lot of fractured rock or new magma in the plume itself. The activity has been fairly low as of late, with no update on the volcano since last October. This current plume is likely just more of the same from Planchón-Peteroa.

No current tropical storms.


NEW ZEALAND - Wild weather system 'worse than Cyclone Bola'. The storm wrecking havoc across the country has been described as worse than Cyclone Bola. "Wind bursts" have torn roofs off houses in Picton and Te Awamutu as high winds and heavy rains continue to lash the country.
The strong winds follow heavy rain overnight which brought flooding and slips to much of the top half of the North Island. Te Awamutu is one area taking a battering from the extreme gusts of wind, with a deputy fire station officer describing it as more severe than the destructive 1988 Cyclone Bola. "Anything that's not tied down is blown away." Many people walking around do not realise the damage and dangers of flying timber and iron. The roofs of three houses in the Picton suburb of Waikawa have been blown off by what the fire service described as a "small tornado". Similar "mini tornadoes" were also witnessed tearing up trees in Te Awamutu, but they were actually "wind gusts".
"Strong winds from the southeast are RARE, and gusts of around 120 km/h are strong enough to damage trees and power lines, especially about the central North Island forests. These gusts come to the ground in bursts - that's what they do. They've got the potential to take roofs off houses and cause damage." There are no thunderstorms, which are required for tornadoes, in the current system. MetService has issued severe weather warnings. "These warnings are the result of a strong southeast flow lying sandwiched between a slow moving low close to Auckland and a large intense high over the South Island."
Meanwhile crews are working frantically in hazardous conditions to restore power across the North Island. There are numerous faults on the network, as well as fallen trees bringing power lines down. Emergency crews and power companies have had a busy night with surface flooding, slips and downed power lines blocking roads around the North Island. A slip between Wellington and Masterton has also cancelled train services along the line, which will be replaced by buses. "We are requesting that the public only travel if they need to, and if they do, they should take extreme caution." Further south on State Highway 25, there were reports of rocks "as big as a dinner plate" on the road near Waihi. Slips were also causing havoc in the Tahorakuri Forest area near Taupo. Southeast winds had been predicted to strengthen over much of the North Island this morning.
Gales are expected in many places, with severe gale gusts of 120km/h or 130km/h likely in places. Low after low will be formed in the north Tasman Sea and Coral Sea areas. This combined with high pressure to the east and south of the North Island means long periods of heavy rain are extremely likely. "The set-up over the next 10 days also puts Taranaki and other central western areas of the country in the squash zone between low and high pressure - in other words, where the isobars will bunch up bringing strong winds at times from the easterly quarter." Despite a brief cold snap in the South Island, most of New Zealand will have temperatures above average, particularly at night, in the coming week.

U.S. - Tornado, floods kill 10 in the US. Severe storms that ripped through the US south and midwest have left at least 10 people dead in Arkansas, as authorities warn of "HISTORIC" FLOODING and urged people immediately to move to higher ground. Torrential downpours have drenched a swath of the US midwest in recent weeks, saturating the ground and leaving river levels precariously high, leading the National Weather Service to warn of catastrophic flash flooding. In flash flooding advisories for Missouri, it warned that the rising waters were "historic-type flooding that only RARELY occurs". Authorities were evacuating 1000 people along the swollen Black River near the Missouri city of Poplar Bluff, home to some 17,000 people, as a compromised levee had reportedly already failed at four points. Due to the placement of the failure, the river's flooding was headed for rural Butler County.
Flash flood warnings were issued by the weather service in Arkansas after severe thunderstorms flooded roads, fatally sweeping away at least six people in their vehicles. A deadly tornado, meanwhile, slammed the town of Vilonia late on Monday, killing four people. "There are a lot of responders still responding to yesterday's storm, and then preparation is under way for another round of even more severe (storms) than we saw yesterday, appearing later this afternoon, later this evening. The entire state is at very severe risk for storm."
Emergencies were declared by governors in Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky due to the flooding and the expected new round of storms.The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for westernmost Kentucky, saying the accompanying thunderstorm could also produce golf ball-size hail. Earlier the service issued an urgent warning for the small Kentucky town of Sulphur, where a dam was on the brink of bursting: "If you live near this river ... evacuate to higher ground now!"
The destructive weather come after weeks of storms sweeping the US midwest, including a huge tornado that tore through St Louis international airport on Friday. It ripped off the roof of the main terminal and blew out windows and doors, but caused no deaths. Powerful tornadoes also struck several southern and central US states earlier this month, killing 44 people and reducing neighbourhoods to rubble.
Record-breaking flood predicted in MISSISSIPPI - Less than one month after the Mississippi River crested over a foot and a half above flood stage in Natchez at 49.8 feet, the National Weather Service in Jackson is predicting another crest in the river for May that has the area preparing for the worst — a river level of 60 feet. A flood warning will go into effect Sunday for the Mississippi River at Natchez and will remain in place until further notice. The river sat at 45.5 feet Monday afternoon, and flood stage is 48 feet. The river is expected to rise above flood stage by Sunday morning and will continue to rise to near 60 feet by May 20.
The projected level of 60 feet is almost TWO FEET ABOVE THE HIGHEST KNOWN RIVER STAGE for the Natchez-Vidalia area, which happened in 1937 when the river rose to 58.04 feet.
The predicted rise stems from a stagnant storm system in the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys in the middle of the country. “There are some very severe and heavy thunderstorms projected for the next three to four days in those valleys. We are projecting between eight to 10 inches of rain to accumulate in those days.” Storm systems moving through Mississippi and Louisiana this week will also leave help raise the river level. With a record-setting river level projected, city officials on both sides of the river are working to get both cities prepared.

Cleveland, Ohio, BREAKS 50-YEAR-OLD RAINFALL RECORD - After .14" of rain fell Tuesday, the total of 6.72 inches broke the old record set back in 1961 of 6.61 inches. The total of 6.72 inches so far this month is almost 4 inches above normal rainfall for the month. It appears likely that they will add to this record-breaking total with rain in the forecast Wednesday, Thursday and possibly late Saturday. Over the weekend, Cincinnati also set a RECORD FOR THE WETTEST APRIL ON RECORD.

One-two punch of storms UNUSUAL - Even in Tornado Alley in springtime, it's unusual to get two storm systems as powerful as the one that spawned a deadly tornado in Arkansas and another that was working its way through Oklahoma and North Texas on Tuesday. At their simplest, storms occur when masses of cold air and warm air collide — and they occur pretty often in the central United States. But what gives Tornado Alley its name is the complicated mix of humid air off the Gulf of Mexico; cooler, dry air from the north; and jet streams that scream across the continent from east to west.
The combination contributed to storms Monday that killed 10 in Arkansas, and was in place again Tuesday — setting up areas from Texas to Tennessee for tornadoes, hail, high winds and flooding rains. Even by Tornado Alley standards the succession of bad weather is unusual.
"What's kind of interesting, it's basically in the same place for two days in a row. That doesn't happen very often. Such rapid succession doesn't give any time for a break." Weather patterns have to line up just so to designate a high risk area. April and May are historically the most active months. "The reason is that we get the combination of very strong winds in the jet stream and the contrast between warm springtime air masses and cooler, drier air masses. It's that transition from winter to spring that provides ingredients for severe storms." The jet stream comes in from the Pacific Northwest, dives southeast to the Four Corners region, arcs around the Southern Plains and Red River Valley before heading north to the Mississippi Valley. Within the jet stream are disturbances that are crucial for the development of severe storms.


Huge fire rages in Switzerland - Almost 300 firefighters and the army are battling strong headwinds and dry conditions to extinguish a huge fire in southern Switzerland.
Firefighters aided by helicopters struggled to contain the blaze after it broke out at an auto repair shop on the outskirts of Visp and quickly advanced on forestland in the Swiss canton of Valais.
The exact cause of the fire remains unknown. Authorities warned residents to remain inside their homes. Lack of snowfall and an UNUSUALLY MILD spring have contributed to low lake levels and dry tinder in the forests of many areas of Switzerland. Strong winds pushed the flames fast up the nearby mountains, blocking the main road to Visp, about 32 kilometres from popular ski area Zermatt and the famed Matterhorn.

PAKISTAN - Extreme hot weather conditions prevailing across country. Most parts of the country are experiencing extreme hot weather conditions and rise in temperatures up to 3-5 degrees Celsius, which are likely to continue during next few days. Southern Punjab and Sindh are under the grip of intense heat wave conditions and temperatures are rising in these areas. Maximum temperature in Larkana has reached to 47 C while the highest maximum temperature (48.7 C) was earlier recorded in April 2000.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Al-Qaeda has hidden a nuclear bomb in Europe? - The mastermind of the 9/11 attacks warned that Al-Qaeda has hidden a nuclear bomb in Europe which will unleash a "nuclear hellstorm" if Osama bin Laden is captured, leaked files revealed today. The terror group also planned to make a 9/11 style attack on London's Heathrow airport by crashing a hijacked airliner into one of the terminals. The mastermind told Guantanamo Bay interrogators the terror group would detonate the nuclear device if the Al-Qaeda chief was captured or killed, according to the classified files released by the WikiLeaks website.
Sheikh Mohammed, the self-professed mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, has been held at Guantanamo since 2006 and is to be tried in a military court at the US naval base on Cuba over the attacks. Sheikh Mohammed had told his interrogators he had set up two cells for the purpose of attacking Heathrow in 2002. The aim was to seize control of an airliner shortly after take-off from Heathrow, one of the world's busiest aiports, turn it around and crash it into one of the four terminals.
Sheikh Mohammed said one cell had been formed with the aim of taking flying lessons in Kenya, while the other had been tasked with recruiting participants. He said the plot had been discussed several times at the highest level of Al-Qaeda. One component had involved the infiltration of ground staff at the airport. Another attack given the green light in late 2001 would have targeted "the tallest buildings in California" with hijacked airliners. The attackers would have gained access to the airliner cockpits by setting off small bombs hidden in their shoes. His "confessions" should be treated with caution as they could have been extracted through torture. Sheikh Mohammed is known to have undergone the method known as "waterboarding."

**Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.**
Carl Sagan

This morning -

Yesterday -
4/25/11 -

INDONESIA - Dozens of houses damaged and people injured in Sunday's earthquake. The present earthquake is THE STRONGEST IN MORE THAN 10 YEARS. At least dozens of houses were severely damaged and in ruins in Moramo district which was supposedly the hardest hit area during this earthquake. A transform 6.2 magnitude earthquake at a depth of only 9 km is a potentially very dangerous event. The main reason that there will be hopefully no killed people is that the houses are made in wood or in bamboo. If these houses collapse the outcome is far better than with brick or concrete. The extend of this earthquake is (as usually with remote areas) far underestimated. Hundreds of houses are damaged in 10 villages close to the epicenter. 2 people suffered severe injuries. Some reports are also talking about cracks in walls from houses and some government buildings in Kendari. People in Kendari reported that aftershocks struck all day long. Thousands of people fled into the hills and many people are reported injured.
One of the villages which suffered the worst damage is Lakomea Village, District Moramo. Some houses did collapse and 4 people were reported injured in this village (2 serious and 2 light). The same village has also reported at least 8 locations where liquefaction occurred. The people who fled into the hills as they feared a tsunami stayed there for many hours.
The 5.2 aftershock had a epicenter closer to Kendari. People fled to the streets and were seeking for higher grounds as the rumor spread that a tsunami was under way. This happens over and over again in Indonesia (not alone in Indonesia) as the people have not enough information and have to make up their own own mind.

ARKANSAS - Earthquakes Continue to Rattle Faulkner County. After what has been a fairly quiet month, Central Arkansas is starting to feel the rumble of earthquakes again. Four quakes rattled the Greenbrier area Sunday morning, the largest was a 3.2 magnitude. The first quake struck shortly after 5 measured 2.6 on the Richter scale. The 3.2 trembler followed about an hour later. The third and fourth quakes hit after 8:00, those were about 20 minutes apart and registered 2.7 and 2.9.
Two natural gas wells in the area now known as the Greenbrier Guy Swarm have been temporarily shut down until researchers come to a conclusion on whether there is a direct correlation between those wells and earthquakes. There are several hundred injection wells in the state and thousands across country, but only a handful have been linked to earthquakes. When they were shut down earthquakes stopped in a matter of time.
The Arkansas Geological Survey has data showing NO record of seismic activity BEFORE the two wells went online in the middle of 2010. The fault hasn't been active in about 400-million years and it is growing, approaching 10-kilometers. If the entire fault ruptured at one time it could generate anywhere from a 5.5 to a 6 magnitude earthquake.

Health issues rife in Japan quake zone - Due to deteriorating hygiene caused by power blackouts, suspension of the water supply and poor nutrition from food distributed at evacuation centers, protecting disaster victims' health has become a serious issue in areas devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake.


Alert Level 2 raised for Taal Volcano in Philippines - An Alert Level 2 remained hoisted over Taal Volcano in Philippines on Monday after the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) recorded an UNPRECEDENTED INCREASE in seismic activity with up to 14 volcanic earthquakes in the region. Phiivolcs maintains the alert with the interpretation that magma has been intruding towards the surface, as manifested by CO2 being released in the Main Crater Lake and sustained seismic activity. According to field observation and measurements conducted by Phivolcs at the eastern sector inside the Main Crater Lake, the water temperature increased from 30.5°C to 31.5°C, raising fear over a possible eruption.The Philippine Fleet is ready in case Taal erupts. Their troops are already on standby to provide immediate evacuation and rescue assistance.
Mount Bulusan volcano in Irosin town of Sorsogon province, south of Manila in central Philippines, spewed ash in February this year, covering several villages and making hundreds of people flee homes and farms. However, the volcano's status remained at Alert Level 1, meaning the source of activity was hydrothermal and shallow.

RUSSIA - The Shiveluch volcano has spewed a new plume of ash 7.5 km above the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia's Far East. The ash cloud sprawled 143 km to the northwest. On Monday, the authorities had announced the orange alert level warning aircraft about volcanic dust and gases in the air. At present, there is no risk to human health. Shiveluch is one of Kamchatka's largest volcanoes.

Concerns about aircraft safety during the eruption of the Icelandic volcano in 2010 were well founded, according to a new scientific study. Ash particles from the early phase of the eruption were small and abundant, posing a potential threat to aircraft flying through the cloud. Such particles could have melted inside jet engines, potentially causing them to fail mid-flight. The particles were so small they travelled a longer distance from the volcano and remained in the area where the airplanes fly for a much longer time.” The analysis also reveals that ash particles from early in the eruption were particularly sharp and abrasive.
The outpour of ash from Eyjafjallajokull caused the largest closure of European airspace since World War II, with losses estimated at between 1.5bn and 2.5bn euros. Some 10 million travellers were affected by the shutdown. "I think the really important parts of it are: Number one, the aviation authorities were absolutely right in closing airspace. Number two, we have presented a protocol so that, if answers are needed quickly in future, they can be had. Then the data that are produced can be put into models to determine how far, how high and how wide the ash will spread that will be based more on fact than on guesswork."
Ash samples from the early phase of the eruption contained large quantities of fine dust compared with ash from later in the eruption. "The smaller the particles, the slower they come back down again. Normal ash is usually settled as it moves away from the volcano. But because the particles were so small, they travelled a longer distance from the volcano and remained in the area where the airplanes fly for a much longer time." "There's no way they could have allowed those aircraft to keep flying when it first happened.That was absolutely the right, safe decision, because no one knew any better. The amount of time it took to get going again is debatable."
In 1982, a British Airways 747 flew through an ash cloud during the eruption of Mount Galunggung in Indonesia. The ash sandblasted all the surfaces of the aircraft and caused all four jet engines to cut out when the melted ash coated their interior. Luckily for the 263 passengers and crew, the pilot was able to re-start three of the engines after they cooled during descent. He was able to land by peeking through a 2-inch strip on the side window that had avoided sandblasting.

No current tropical storms.


U.S. - Flood evacuations in Midwest, tornadoes in Arkansas. Thunderstorms from Texas to Ohio. A tornado destroyed 50 to 80 houses and killed at least one person in an Arkansas town on Monday, while a warning of imminent failure for a levee on the Black River in southeast Missouri prompted the mandatory evacuation of about 1,000 people. In Vilonia, Arkansas, a town of some 3,000 people north of Little Rock, one death was confirmed and between 50 to 80 houses were destroyed by a tornado. Police reported a path of destruction half a mile wide.
There was another fatality in Washington County in northwest Arkansas from a drowning when a woman was swept away by rapidly moving water. Arkansas's Governor declared a state of emergency in response to tornadoes and flooding, which have caused problems on a number of roads and highways. On Interstate 40 near Morrilton, vehicles were blown off the road. A church was destroyed at Morgan, Arkansas, just northwest of Little Rock. One tornado struck Little Rock Air Force Base, with initial reports indicating at least four homes in base housing were damaged. More than 100,000 people were without power in the state.
In Missouri, water was topping the Black River levee at several points, which may lead to a failure of the levee system between the city of Poplar Bluff and the town of Qulin, the National Weather Service said on Monday. County officials evacuated about 500 structures in the southeastern part of Poplar Bluff, which has about 17,000 residents.
Flood warnings on Monday prompted evacuations of hundreds of people in Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri following days of rain that led to rivers cresting over the flood stage. "The ground is very saturated - there are areas with 9-10 inches of rain." The Missouri governor criticized U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to intentionally breach Birds Point levee along the Mississippi River in southeastern Missouri. He said that would affect hundreds of families and "pour a tremendous amount of water into 130,000 acres of prime farmland." The Black River is expected to rise higher than it did in 2008 when heavy rains caused widespread flooding.
Parts of Utica in southern Indiana and Louisville, Kentucky, also had flooding. "This is the worst flooding we've had since 1997." More flooding was reported in western Kentucky and southern Illinois. People who live along the Ohio River near Louisville started leaving their homes ahead of the flood late last week, and some roads around the city were closed. They expect problems to be especially bad along the Taneycomo River in southwest Missouri. "It's only (going) to get worse over the next couple of days. There's going to be more water on top of water."

Monday, April 25, 2011

**When people show you who they are, believe them.**
Maya Angelou

This morning -

Yesterday -
4/24/11 -

Search for remains of quake victims - Japan plans to send more than 20000 soldiers into its northern disaster zone today in an intensive mission to recover the bodies of those killed in last month's earthquake and tsunami. More than 12000 people are missing and presumed dead from the twin disasters that hit March 11. Some were likely swept out to sea, while others are buried under the mass of rubble. About 14,300 are confirmed dead.
The military will send 24,800 soldiers to carry out a two-day search of the area. Police, coast guard and US troops will also be involved. Agriculture officials also plan to enter the evacuation zone around a stricken nuclear plant to check the fate of hundreds of thousands of animals abandoned by fleeing farmers.

No current tropical storms.


Colombia rainy season death toll raised to 93 - Ninety three Colombians have died and 12 are missing because of floods and landslides caused by this year's first rainy season. The latest victims are two children who were buried under a landslide just north of Medellin.
The extreme weather has left 52 injured and has damaged the homes or lands of more than 130,000 Colombians. 24 of the country's 32 departments have dealth with emergency situations following the torrential rains that began in February, only weeks after the disastrous rainy season of last year that killed more than 300 and left more than $5 billion in damages to private properties and infrastructure.
According to meteorologists, the extreme rains are the result of weather phenomenon La Niña, which also caused last year's extreme rainy season. The meteorologists warn that the worst of the rainy season is yet to come and may last until June. The Red Cross expressed its concern about the water levels of the Magdalena river, which is the country's largest rivers and goes from the south of the country to the Caribbean sea. Regions around other rivers are on high flood alert after torrential rains caused great parts of the cities Bogota and Cali to flood and are threatening to flood even larger areas particularly in the north where the Magdalena meets with the Cauca river. Santos has already announced that the extreme rainfall has exhausted the capabilities of the State.


BRITAIN - Hotter than LA, drier than Madrid. They are now in the fourth week of what may well be the warmest April on record. The days have been almost continuously sunny since 6 April; temperatures have, in southern parts, reached 26.5 C; and the gardens and countryside look more like mid-May than late April. Around London, south-facing wisteria has already peaked and the cherry blossom fallen, bluebells are blooming weeks early, and the first white flower buds of may trees have begun to show. Plants are not the only things perking up. In the parks, sunning lunch-timers loll on grass that should, according to the date, be too damp.
Search the history of their weather, and March, April and May are the benign, friendly months, conspicuous only for their reluctance to provide record floods, heat, cold, wind, snow – or, indeed, record anything. On the Met Office website, there are 39 extreme weather records for Britain. None is for March or April, and only two for May – one for the highest two-hour rainfall (West Yorkshire, 1989), the other for Scotland's sunniest month (Tiree, 1975).
By 13 April this year, (the latest available official data), the average maximum temperature was 3.7 C above the norm, and the South-east's rainfall a mere 4 per cent of the long-term average.
The recurring theme of those who care for the wildlife has, in the last decade, not been the sensuous joys of spring; rather the propensity for doom contained within its globally warmed and much earlier arrival. It comes more than two weeks sooner than 30-odd years ago, say repeated studies of flowerings, spawnings, and egg-laying; and possibly three weeks earlier than the 1950s. But never mind the longer growing season, say the pressure groups, that is a fools' premature paradise. Think instead, they insist, of earlier springs throwing our ecologies out of kilter: summer resident birds arriving as per their routine schedule, only to find the food their young depend on has already bred/pupated/hatched/or gone to ground; and plants flowering before their pollinators are on the wing. The whole finely balanced evolved timetable thrown into disarray. It is a disturbing prospect, and journalists have duly peddled it. But the evidence for it happening, several decades after the warming process began, has proved scant. Last year, a study was published that looked at 726 species of plants and animals, and found that 80 per cent of them experienced earlier events, the pace of change was accelerating, and predators were often slower to respond. But it found no direct evidence of species suffering as a result, and added: "The seasonal timing of reproduction is often matched to the time of year when food supply increases, so that offspring receive enough food to survive." Thus, although the threat remains, wildlife seems smarter and more adaptable than fretting campaigners would have us believe.
The other matter, just to complete the tour of possible downsides to this most glorious of springs, is water, or the lack of it. MARCH WAS THE DRIEST IN ENGLAND AND WALES FOR 50 YEARS – and April has been drier still. Up to the 13th of the month, England has had only 16 per cent of its long-term average rainfall, and it is probable that river levels will be very low by the end of this month. Already, the likes of the Daily Express and broadcasters wearing concerned faces have started to warn of possible shortages, and speculate on the chances of dessicated woodlands and heaths spontaneously combusting.
To that, there is only one response, and that is to remind ourselves what happened after the warmest April ever, that of 2007. The average maximum for the UK was 15.2C (16.3C for England), and temperature records were widely set as the pitiless April sun beat down. Newspapers reached for the D-word: drought, they warned, was the inevitable price we would have to pay for our month of pleasure. And then came the rains of May, followed by those of June, which were, in due and damp course, succeeded by the wretched floods of July. They were THE WETTEST SUCH MONTHS IN THE RECORD, and some areas had three times as much rain as normal.


-Satur Farms of Cutchogue, NY is recalling 138 pounds of Satur Farms Cilantro, because it has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.

Sunday, April 25, 2011


This morning -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday -
4/23/11 -

4/22/11 -

An expedition is getting under way in the South Pacific to investigate one of the most seismically-active fault lines in the world. Researchers are planning to study the Tonga Trench - a deep feature where the Pacific tectonic plate is being forced under the Indo-Australian plate. The island nation of Tonga is regularly hit by tremors - most recently a 6.4 magnitude quake offshore last month. The research expedition will last about one month.
The focus of the study will be an UNUSUAL zone on the seabed where undersea volcanoes are being dragged into the fault. Scientists want a better understanding of how the submarine mountains affect the likelihood of earthquakes. The volcanoes lie on the 4,000km-long Louisville Ridge and either act as a brake on the Pacific plate - or intensify the quakes which follow. The area where they are pulled into the seabed suffers relatively fewer tremors than other stretches of the fault line. "We want to know whether subducted seamounts are holding up earthquakes or whether they cause earthquakes. This is important to find out so that we can learn what controls earthquakes and make better assessments about where they may occur in the future."
Subduction zones like the Tonga Trench can trigger tsunamis - as happened off Japan last month and off Sumatra on Boxing Day 2004. One recent study of an earthquake in Peru in 2001 showed that underwater mountains may have held up the quake for 40 seconds before rupturing. A study of the Nankaido earthquake in Japan in 1946 successfully imaged a seamount that had been dragged 10km deep - and apparently limited the scale of the rupture and the tsunami risk.

Japan quake briefly cut US military computer links - The Air Force says computer links with some US bases in the Pacific were severed by the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, but one of its cyber squadrons restored them within five hours. The Air Force said Thursday that bases in Japan, Korea and Guam were affected. It wasn't immediately clear what the consequences were. The 561st Network Operations Squadron in Hawaii coordinated the repairs. The Air Force says the Hawaii squadron also canceled planned interruptions for maintenance on Pacific computer networks so they would remain open.


Three Philippine volcanoes active - Three volcanoes in the Philippines are currently active, with one showing signs of near eruptionand the rest initial signs of heating up, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology and Seismology said. Taal Volcano in Batangas, southern Philippines, had 19 volcanic quakes within 24 hours, Phivolcs said in a Saturday update. The temperature at the main crater's lake increased from 30.5 to 31.5 degrees Celsius, and Taal's magma was nearing the surface. Alert level two remained hoisted on Taal since last week, prompting residents to return to the crater's danger zone.
Meanwhile, four quakes were recorded in Bulusan Volcano and one in Mayon Volcano, both in the Bicol Region in southern Luzon. The Philippines has 22 active volcanoes.

HAWAII - Recent earthquake is a small piece to a much larger puzzle. On April 2, 2011, at 11:11 a.m. HST, a magnitude-3.6 earthquake occurred 9 km (5 mi) southwest of Volcano Village. HVO seismic analysts who reviewed the data from this earthquake verified that the earthquake occurred in a part of Kilauea volcano known as the Koa`e fault system.
The Koa`e system lies south of Kilauea’s summit caldera, extending southwest-to-northeast between Kilauea’s southwest and east rift zones. It is delineated by a series of cracks and mostly north-facing pali (cliffs). The most striking of these pali is possibly the one that visitors to Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park cross as they drive along Hilina Pali Road. The magnitude-3.6 earthquake was located at a depth of just 200 meters (650 ft) below the Earth’s surface. This is UNUSUALLY SHALLOW for an earthquake occurring outside Kilauea’s summit caldera or rift zones. Given its magnitude and depth, the earthquake would most likely have been felt only by people in very close proximity to the epicenter. Seismic energy released by the earthquake would have been severely dampened in the shallow crust.
Recent results clearly show a signal from the April 2 earthquake. The north side of the Kulanaokuaiki pali (eastern Koa`e fault zone) dropped relative to its south side by 1–2 centimeters (0.4–0.8 in) over a distance of 900 m (0.5 mi) along the pali. This week, HVO scientists resurveyed points along Kulanaokuaiki pali that were originally set up more than 40 years ago and measured repeatedly in the years since. They found that the pali had moved up relative to the north side by nearly 2 cm (0.8 in).
While a magnitude-3.6 earthquake is usually large enough to be felt, it is SOMEWHAT UNUSUAL that it would lead to ground disruption large enough to be visible in an InSAR image. Because of its location amidst Kilauea’s volcanically active summit caldera, rift zones, and mobile south flank, the Koa`e fault system has long been viewed as one of the most complex features of the volcano. For example, some scientists have suggested that the Koa`e fault system overlies a large zone of magma accumulation or that it is a connector between the east and southwest rift zones, which forms the northern limit of Kilauea’s mobile south flank. Others have suggested that the Koa`e faults provide evidence that a larger summit caldera complex may have existed in Kilauea’s earlier history.

No current tropical storms.


BRAZIL - Landslides and floods triggered by torrential rain have killed at least 10 people in southern Brazil. Among the dead were three children whose home was among several buried in the town of Novo Hamburgo in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. Floods and landslides in January killed about 800 people in a mountainous region near Rio de Janeiro. The latest flooding also caused deaths in Igrejinha, Fazenda Vila Nova and Sapucaia do Sul. Rescue workers were searching for two missing people after homes in Igrejinha were engulfed by mudslides. Surrounding areas believed at risk from further landslides are being evacuated. Flooding was also reported near Porto Alegre, state capital of Rio Grande do Sul, and about 100,000 residents there are reported to be without power.

US Experiences Wild Weather - The tornados that struck St. Louis this week are the latest in a RECORD-BREAKING NUMBER OF TWISTERS that have swept across the country this month. That's in addition to historic droughts and fires in Texas, record low temperatures in Seattle, and snow and flooding in the Midwest. What's going on with the weather? (audio article from National Public Radio)


A North Carolina vegetable and fruit distributor has recalled cucumbers distributed to nine states, after some of the vegetables distributed to Florida were found contaminated with salmonella. Only one lot of about 1,600 cartons of cucumbers distributed to wholesalers is affected. Because the cucumbers were picked on March 29 and FDA guidelines indicate cucumbers are fresh for 10 to 14 days after being harvested, they are already largely past their shelf life. L&M was not disclosing the wholesale distributors of the cucumbers, because they may have sold the produce to various retailers or restaurants. However, "the company has accounted for the entire lot of recalled product and requested that customers who may still have the recalled product in inventory remove it from commerce and destroy it immediately."
The company recalled the entire lot of cucumbers harvested in south Florida on March 29; the largest number of cucumbers were distributed in Florida and Mississippi, but other than Illinois and Indiana, the bulk cucumbers also were sold to wholesalers in New York, Tennessee, Nebraska, Wyoming and Texas. Because the cucumbers were distributed to wholesalers, they may have been distributed to other states as well. There are no reports of people becoming ill after having eaten the cucumbers, according to the company.

Friday, April 22, 2011

6.2-magnitude quake hits Japan as nuclear plant sealed off - Japan said on Thursday it would ban anyone entering a 20-kilometre evacuation zone around the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant north of Tokyo, weeks after the tsunami-wrecked facility began leaking radiation. An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.3 hit eastern Japan on Thursday evening, but no tsunami warning was issued and there were no immediate reports of any casualties or damage.
Tens of thousands of people left the zone after the March 11 quake smashed the Fukushima Dai-ichi power station, operated by Tokyo Electric Power, but some have gone back to collect belongings as the utility struggles to contain the world’s most serious nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986. Anyone breaking the ban can be fined up to 100,000 yen ($1,200) or be detained by police. TEPCO has said it may take the rest of the year or longer to bring the plant under control.
More than 130,000 people are living in school gymnasiums and other shelters more than a month after the March 11 quake and tsunami that left some 28,000 dead or missing. TEPCO wants a “cold shutdown” of the plant, 240 km from the capital, within six to nine months, a timeline experts say will be tough to meet. This week it began pumping highly contaminated water from one of the reactors, a key step toward repairing the cooling system that regulates the temperature of radioactive fuel rods. But water levels were unchanged, the latest in a litany of problems engineers have faced since the crisis began, which has included pumping radioactive water into the sea, to the concern of Japan’s neighbours.
The amount of radiation included in water released from April 1-6 into the sea was at 20,000 times the amount Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency allows for the plant to release outdoors annually. TEPCO insists that while fuel rods at three of its six reactors were damaged when they partially melted after the quake, they are not in “meltdown.”

**Do not blame God for having created the tiger,
but thank Him for not having given it wings.**
Ethiopian proverb

This morning -

Yesterday -
4/21/11 -
a cluster of moderate quakes in Baja California, Mexico

Here's why Japan's earth quake was so strong - The first two hours of Japan's massive magnitude-9.0 earthquake has revealed surprising information about how such huge earthquakes rupture. The earthquake ruptured several areas of a fault that in the past have ruptured alone, contrary to what many scientists would have predicted. If the earthquake had recruited still more nearby segments where massive aftershocks struck, the quake could have been even bigger.
The March 11 earthquake is now the fourth-largest ever recorded in the world. The quake struck off the coast of the Tohoku region of Japan, triggering a deadly tsunami that may have killed nearly 30,000 people. The rumbling didn't end with this massive rupture, and it hasn't stopped today. More than 60 aftershocks of magnitude 6.0 or greater have struck the region.
The main rupture lasted more than 3.5 minutes, although most of the energy was released in the first 2 minutes. The rupture associated with the main shock was about 155 miles long and 109 miles wide. Then came the aftershocks. Over the first few hours after the initial temblor, several aftershocks hit, many with a magnitude of 6.4 or greater. The largest aftershock to date was a magnitude 7.9 that struck less than an hour after the main shock. All told, the quake ruptured five areas within the region that have previously ruptured as separate earthquakes, according to preliminary data. The fact that these areas linked together during the March 11 quake is probably why it was unexpectedly large.
The way the quake ruptured is contrary to the previously held idea of segmentation — that the fault is segmented into areas that are more likely to rupture individually." "That's why the Japanese seismic hazard maps did not assume that an earthquake this large could hit this region — because in previous cases that area did not all rupture together in one big quake." (map)

NEW ZEALAND - Surfers, weekend trippers, the elderly and young children - many have left Christchurch in the two months since the quake, leaving it feeling a little too quiet and empty. And the aftershocks are continuing.
The latest tremor plonked a resident from his swivel chair on to the coffee table, threw his casserole dish and plates across the kitchen and splayed CDs from their rack as if they were clay pigeons. This was last Saturday. Then he discovered the pipes on the hot water cylinder had broken again and water cascaded from upstairs through the wardrobe below and across the bedroom.
Water and sewage pipes fracture on a regular basis and the 5.3-magnitude quake on Saturday caused the water main in the subur of Redcliffs to fracture and send a column of water streaking 30m (98ft) into the air. The road as it began to resemble a lake, with the orange road cones floating off. But even that was not too bad. The people of Brighton suffered more liquefaction (a phenomenon that afflicts loose sediments in a quake and is akin to a lateral landslide). The heavy rain gave the area the appearance of a wet cement lake. The stress of cleaning it all up again is becoming very wearing. A couple of dozen water mains burst across the city of Christchurch. Residents were told to use water sparingly as the system is still very fragile. The real problem is the sewage which is discharged into the Heathcote river estuary and into the sea. The treatment plant is only just coping and in danger of turning anaerobic and creating an almighty stink.
People have mostly moved to other parts of New Zealand. Wanaka, Timaru and Ashburton are popular. Some have gone to the North Island as well, if that is where they have family. They don't see so many weekend trippers these days and miss the weekend trippers who brought colour and money. Now they come with binoculars and cameras and stand and stare with disbelief, uttering "Oh my goodness". They have seen it on TV but now they are seeing for real the houses perched over the edge of the cliffs that have broken away, the gigantic boulders that have landed on and near houses. They usually come to enjoy the rhythm of the sea, now they feel seasick just travelling along the broken, bumpy roads.

No current tropical storms.


Ozone hole has dried Australia - The Antarctic ozone hole is about one-third to blame for Australia's recent series of droughts, scientists say. They conclude that the hole has shifted wind and rainfall patterns right across the Southern Hemisphere, even the tropics.
Their climate models suggest the effect has been notably strong over Australia. Many parts of the country have seen drought in recent years, with cities forced to invest in technologies such as desalination, and farms closing. The scientists behind the new study added the ozone hole into standard climate models to investigate how it might have affected winds and rains. "The ozone hole results in a southward shift of the high-latitude circulation - and the whole tropical circulation shifts southwards too."
Of particular interest was the southward migration of the Southern Hemisphere jet stream. These high-altitude winds are key to determining weather patterns, in both hemispheres. Much of the cold weather felt in the UK over the last couple of winters, for example, was caused by blocking of the Northern Hemisphere stream. Overall, the ozone hole has resulted in rainfall moving south along with the winds. But there are regional differences, particularly concerning Australia. "In terms of the average for that zone, [the ozone hole drives] about a 10% change - but for Australia, it's about 35%."
Their modelling indicated that global warming due to greenhouse gas emissions was also a factor - although natural climate cycles are also thought to be important, as Australia suffered severe droughts in the era before ozone depletion and before the warming seen in the late 20th Century.
"This study does illustrate the important point that different mechanisms of global change are contributing to the climate impacts we're seeing around the world. It's very important to unpack them all rather than assuming that any impact we see is down simply to greenhouse gas-mediated warming." Ozone depletion is caused by chemical reactions in the stratosphere, the upper atmosphere. The chemicals involved derive from substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and their relatives, which used to be staples in air-conditioning, refrigeration and aerosol cans.
Although the UN Montreal Protocol has significantly curbed emissions of these substances, they endure for decades in the atmosphere, and so their effects are still being felt.
The ozone layer blocks the Sun's harmful ultraviolet rays, which can cause skin cancer and other medical conditions. Earlier this month, the World Meteorological Organization revealed that the Arctic was experiencing THE WORST OZONE DEPLETION ON RECORD - a consequence of UNUSUAL weather conditions. But the forecast is that even the Antarctic ozone hole - which is more severe than its Arctic equivalent - should be repaired by 2045-60. This alone will not restore prior climate conditions to Australia or anywhere else in the Southern Hemisphere. "As the ozone hole repairs, it is going to work to reverse this trend; but there is also the rising trend in carbon dioxide, and that is acting in the same direction as the ozone hole."
Australia's persistently dry weather has caused major impacts on communities, farms and nature.
In recent years, the volume of water flowing into the reservoirs of Perth, the Western Australian capital, has been just one third of what it was during most of the 20th Century. The Murray-Darling basin, which lies in the highly populated southeast, is the subject of a somewhat controversial plan aiming to distribute water fairly against a backdrop of over-extraction, prolonged drought, natural climate variability and greenhouse gas-mediated global warming.

Firefighters killed in Texas wildfire. - MASSIVE wildfires ripping across the bone-dry state of Texas have claimed the lives of two firefighters and consumed more than 730,000 hectares and nearly 400 homes. A cold front which brought some relief after weeks of battling the blazes was expected to lift on Friday as higher temperatures returned to the Lone Star state. The fire service warned that it will take several consecutive days of rain to counter the underlying and persistent drought conditions across the country's second-largest state.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

RUSSIA - Putin orders weather forecasters not to play game of guessing. Meteorologists are working on their forecasts for the upcoming summer. Many Russians will never forget the summer of 2010, when the vast central territory of the country was suffocating in sweltering heat, smog and smoke from forest fires. It is an open secret that it is very hard and even impossible to predict what mother nature has in store for us. However, it is possible to minimize the consequences of what may happen. The head of Russia's Meteorological Center is certain that unbearable heat will not not hit the country again this year. "I can say for sure that there will be no extremely hot summer in Central Russia this year." However, the current temperatures are two or three degrees above the climate norm, he added.
The precision of weather forecasters in Russia became a subject for countless jokes a long time ago. 90 percent of meteorological equipment in Russia is out of date hopelessly. Russia has only two meteorological satellites, while 13 are needed. "We need an effective system for preventing natural disasters and states of emergency. A precise, correct and timely forecast gives us a possibility to minimize losses," Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said addressing the administration of the Meteorological Center.
Last year, the Center developed an activity strategy in the field of hydrometeorology up until 2030. The goal of the strategy is to create state-of-the-art weather service in the country. The prime minister was introduced to the first digital doppler meteorological radar DMRL-S. The radar is capable of sharing weather information with everyone in the radius of 250 kilometers every ten minutes. There will be 140 of such weather stations installed across the nation during the forthcoming five years. The system of radars, will let the weather service predict various natural disasters four or five days in advance. Nowadays, forecasters resort to such vague notions as "abundant precipitation" promising them on beautiful sunny days at times. In the nearest future, the new radars will help them distinguish between snow, rain, hail, etc. One radar station like that costs 90 million rubles ($3 million).
A senior official with the Russian Weather Service is certain that uncertainty will remain always. "A weather forecast is a complicated system of equations. Last year, which was an anomalous year in Russia, there were 17 thousand warnings about dangerous natural phenomena issued. Ninety percent of them was justified. By 2020, we have a goal to increase the index to the level of 95 percent."

**Love your neighbour, yet pull not down thy hedge.**
Old English Proverb

This morning -
a cluster of moderate quakes in Baja California, Mexico

Yesterday -
4/20/11 -


PHILIPPINES - Intensity 3 quake 'with rumbling sounds' felt near Taal Volcano. Intensity 3 and Intensity 1 volcanic earthquakes were felt in two villages near Taal Volcano Tuesday. A total of 13 volcanic earthquakes were detected in Taal Volcano during the past 24 hours. One of the quakes occured at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday. The tremor was accompanied by rumbling sounds. Meanwhile, field observation and measurements conducted at the eastern sector inside the main crater lake showed that the temperature increased from 30.5°C to 31.5°C. Alert Level 2 remains hoisted over the volcano, meaning "magma has been intruding towards the surface."

INDONESIA - Agency urges families to leave volcano. Residents living near Mt. Merapi should be evacuated because the VOLCANO WILL REMAIN ACTIVE FOR THE NEXT CENTURY AT LEAST, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency says. The BNPB said an exclusion zone of 1,300 hectares spanning Sleman regency, Yogyakarta and 10 hectares around Balerante village in Kemalang Klaten district, Central Java, should be established. “The position of the lava dome to the south causes hot gas clouds to travel to Gendol river and Opak river."
There are 2,682 families living in the proposed exclusion zone, and 617 families who are risk of being killed by lahar flows. The administration has produced three relocation scenarios. First, build permanent housing complexes in Gondang, Kuwang, Plosokerep, Dongkelsari and Kentingan. Second, pay the villagers for their lands and allow them to organize their own relocation. Third, provide the villagers with 12.5 hectares of farm land in Argomulyo village in exchange for giving up their lands.

RUSSIA - Spewing volcano threatens Kamchatka reindeer. The continuing eruption of the Kizimen Volcano in Kamchatka poses a threatto wild reindeer which are listed as endangered species. As the volcano continues to spew ash for hundreds of kilometers, reindeer are leaving their traditional habitat for lack of fodder. Reindeer moss, the animals’ only food in winter, is buried under a thick crust of ice and ash. Experts from the Krontosky Nature Reserve warn that Kamchatka’s less than 1,000 reindeer may die out as a result of the eruption. Kizimen, one of the 29 acting volcanoes in Kamchatka, has been spewing ash since December 2010.

No current tropical storms.


COLUMBIA - Mudslides cause major damage in Utica. More than 200 families have been left homeless in the central Colombian town of Utica after a mudslide swept away their houses. Heavy rains caused the local river to break its banks, sending torrents of water, mud and stones through the town's streets. Officials said one elderly woman died and two men are missing. Meteorologists say five of Colombia's provinces have seen double the average rainfall for April.
More than 80% of the town has been engulfed by the mudslide. 238 families have been "left with nothing". Residents recounted how they had been alerted to the approaching mudslide by the ringing of the church bells. Most were able to flee their homes in time. The government said it would send a group of experts to Utica to assess whether it was safe for residents to return to the town or if there could be sinkholes or other geological faults.
As meteorologists forecast more rain for the area, firefighters did not rule out the possibility of another mudslide. Government officials in Cundinamarca, where Utica is located, said they would decide over the next few days whether to rebuild the whole town on safer, higher ground. The heavy rains are not restricted to Cundinamarca. In central Tolima province officials have put the town of Honda on high alert as the level of the river Magdalena continues to rise. Nationwide, 12 major highways have been closed due to the continuing rains and flooding. Colombia has been suffering from a particularly wet winter, which officials say has affected almost three million people across the country.


The Alps have THE WORST SNOW COVER EVER RECORDED FOR APRIL thanks to the spring heatwave. This follows RECORD-BREAKING TEMPERATURES across the Alps in both January and February. The UNUSUALLY high temperatures coupled with the latest Easter for 68 years mean a disastrous end of season for many businesses, particularly those in lower resorts. Snow depths are up to 80 per cent less than average. Season staff have been laid off early and many resorts have been forced to close already because of the lack of snow. In France, the ski resort of Chamonix recorded THE HOTTEST APRIL DAY SINCE RECORDS BEGAN in 1951 when the mercury hit 79.5F (26.4C) on April 9. In Bourg St Maurice temperatures have soared to 83.5F (28.6C) and at the snow research centre in the Chartreuse the hottest April temperatures for 40 years have been recorded.

Britain heading for WARMEST EASTER WEEKEND ON RECORD - Temperatures are likely to reach 25C (77F) in the South East during the Easter weekend, the HOTTEST IN MORE THAN 20 YEARS. The last time Easter Saturday and Sunday was this hot was in 1984 when the mercury reached 23.7C (74.7F).
The late Easter means it will be warmer. Also, warm winds from the south east are warming Britain so the country is hotter than many parts of the continent, where there are cooler winds from the north west. Costa Brava is currently only seeing temperatures of 18C (64.4F), while in Crete it is just 16C (60.8F). “It is going to a be very warm and sunny weekend with 23/24C (73.4/75.2F) across the south East, it could even reach 25C (77F), so it could well be record breaking.” The whole of the UK will enjoy warm weather over the Easter Weekend, with temperatures in the low twenties as far north as Glasgow.
The whole month of April might be the warmest on record. So far April has been warmer than the typical mean temperature for the month, which is just 6.9C (44.4F). However farmers and gardeners are increasingly concerned about the lack of rain. March was THE DRIEST MONTH IN 50 YEARS in England and Wales and many reservoirs and rivers are exceptionally low for this time of year, prompting fears of a hosepipe ban.



-Jonathans Sprouts of Rochester, MA is recalling its conventional alfalfa sprout products with sell-by date of 4/23, as a precaution, because it has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.
-B&M, Inc. of Mount Vernon, Missouri is voluntarily recalling Archer Farms Ground Turmeric sold at Target stores in glass bottles with a net weight of 2.6 oz. (74g), due to elevated levels of lead.