Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi attends the third session of the Arab Economic Summit, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013. Saudi Arabia is hosting the Arab Economic Summit on January 21 and 22. (AP Photo)
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Egypt’s Islamist president on Monday stated his opposition to France’s military intervention in Mali, saying its actions there would create a “new conflict hotspot” that separates the Arab north from its African neighbors to the south.
Addressing the opening session of an Arab economic summit in Saudi Arabia, Mohammed Morsi also declared his support for Algeria against threats to its security — a reference to the takeover by Islamic militants of a gas complex last week in that nation’s remote southeast. Thirty-eight hostages and 29 militants died in the attack.
The Masked Brigade, the group that claims to have masterminded the takeover, has warned of more such attacks against any country backing France’s involvement in Mali. French forces there are trying to help stop an advance by Islamic extremists.
An analyst says Britain, the US and their puppets Saudi Arabia and Qatar which have in the first place played a role in the creation of rebels are the root cause of incidents such as that which took place in Algeria.
The comment comes as militants in Algeria say they have repelled an attack by the Algerian Army trying to rescue tens of kidnapped foreigners, among them French, British and Americans nationals.
The incident occurred late Wednesday when Nigerian soldiers made an attempt to enter the gas installation in the country’s eastern town of In Amenas, where armed men are holding up to 41 foreigners.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Lawrence Freeman with the Africa Desk at the Executive Intelligence Review (EIR) weekly magazine to further discuss the issue.
A deluge of articles have been quickly put into circulation defending France’s military intervention in the African nation of Mali. TIME’s article, “The Crisis in Mali: Will French Intervention Stop the Islamist Advance?” decides that old tricks are the best tricks, and elects the tiresome “War on Terror” narrative.TIME claims the intervention seeks to stop “Islamist” terrorists from overrunning both Africa and all of Europe. Specifically, the article states:
“…there is a (probably well-founded) fear in France that a radical Islamist Mali threatens France most of all, since most of the Islamists are French speakers and many have relatives in France. (Intelligence sources in Paris have told TIME that they’ve identified aspiring jihadis leaving France for northern Mali to train and fight.) Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), one of the three groups that make up the Malian Islamist alliance and which provides much of the leadership, has also designated France — the representative of Western power in the region — as a prime target for attack.”
What TIME elects not to tell readers is that Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is closely allied to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG whom France intervened on behalf of during NATO’s 2011 proxy-invasion of Libya – providing weapons, training, special forces and even aircraft to support them in the overthrow of Libya’s government.
As far back as August of 2011, Bruce Riedel out of the corporate-financier funded think-tank, the Brookings Institution, wrote “Algeria will be next to fall,” where he gleefully predicted success in Libya would embolden radical elements in Algeria, in particular AQIM. Between extremist violence and the prospect of French airstrikes, Riedel hoped to see the fall of the Algerian government. Ironically Riedel noted:
Algeria has expressed particular concern that the unrest in Libya could lead to the development of a major safe haven and sanctuary for al-Qaeda and other extremist jihadis.
North Texas is not on any major fault lines, and area residents are likely more familiar with tornadoes than other violent natural disruptions, but the two earthquakes that struck West Dallas and Irving on September 29 registered a 3.4 and 3.1 on the Richter scale, respectively. A third quake in Irving the next day registered at 2.1.
The quakes were strong enough to be felt, but there have been no reports of the seismic shifts causing any damages or injuries.
“Anything that can be felt is a noticeable earthquake in Texas,” geography professor Reid Ferring said.
North Texas does not have the geological conditions necessary to create large earthquakes, and historical data indicates that the recent seismic activity is not necessarily indicative of future earthquakes, Ferring said.
Environmental activists questioned whether there was a connection between the quakes and gas drilling at the Barnett Shale in North Texas.
A recent study conducted by Cliff Frohlich, a senior research scientist at the University of Texas’ Institute for Geophysics, found a connection between injection wells used to dispose of fracking wastewater – a byproduct of a drilling method used frequently in North Texas – and small quakes in North Texas.
The study found that most earthquakes in the Barnett Shale region occur within a few miles of one or more injection wells used to dispose of wastes associated with petroleum production, according to a University of Texas press release. The study indicates that fracking itself does not lead to an increase in earthquakes, but that there is some correlation between disposal of fracking wastewater and tiny quakes.
Other experts have said there is little connection between gas drilling in North Texas and these recent earthquakes.
Seismologist and SMU professor Brian Stump told NBC News that he does not believe fracking or gas drilling was a cause for the earthquakes, and Ferring said last month’s tremors were likely just fluke occurrences.
“It could just be a really natural rare event and very difficult to relate to any human activity,” Ferring said.
According to the United States Geological Survey, the largest earthquake ever recorded in Texas was a 5.8 in 1931 near Valentine, Texas.
“They may be alarming to some people. We don’t like to hear our houses shake,” Ferring said. “But I don’t think there’s any real threat to property, to buildings, to people or to water that we drink.”
A significant earthquake has shaken an area of eastern Canada, serving as a reminder of the region’s potential for seismic instability.
Wednesday’s magnitude 3.9 temblor struck shortly after midnight, local time, with an epicenter near Beloeil, about 20 miles northeast of Montreal, Quebec, the USGS Earthquake Hazards website showed.
The shallow quake had a focal depth of 6 miles.
Epicenter for magnitude 3.9 earthquake near Montreal, Quebec, on Oct. 10, 2012 (USGS Earthquake Hazards Program).
Natural Resources Canada, meanwhile, pegged the quake magnitude at 4.5.
There were no immediate reports of injury or damage, the CBC News website said.
Even so, the shaking caused a bit of a stir. Calls to 911 spiked, and some people even left their homes briefly, the CBC said.
Buildings rumbled during that quake, lasting about 10 seconds.
The quake was felt in southern Quebec, easternmost Ontario and nearby border areas of the U.S., respondents to the USGS website reported. A few Ottawa residents felt the quake, according to the CBC.
Widespread perception is that eastern North America, both in the U.S. and Canada, is relatively stable and free of earthquakes. After all, eastern North America has no known active plate boundaries, unlike the notorious “Ring of Fire” seismic belts bordering the Pacific Ocean.
However, seismic records show that earthquakes are not at all uncharacteristic of the area.
A quake hits the area, mostly unfelt, about once every five days, CBC meteorologist — and seismologist — Johanna Wagstaffe said.
This latest temblor happened near the eastern edge of what the USGS calls the “Western Quebec Seismic Zone.” Historic earthquakes have been felt here for three centuries, and at least two were damaging.
Outline of the Western Quebec Seismic Zone (USGS).
The first of two historic damaging quakes within this seismic zone happened in 1732 and was of magnitude 6.2, according to the USGS.
Then, in 1935, a magnitude 6.1 earthquake rocked the Montreal area, where significant damage resulted.
A number of faults have been traced and mapped in this seismic zone. It is likely that many more remain undetected, the USGS said.
There are a number of known seismic areas in eastern North America, one of which is found north and east of the city of Quebec.
Others known to have yielded damaging earthquakes are found in the Boston area and in South Carolina.
The Central Virginia Seismic Zone sparked a damaging magnitude 5.8 earthquake that was felt in much of the mid-Atlantic states on Aug. 23, 2011.
Authorities in Pakistan’s largest city have launched an urgent investigation after a rare water-borne “brain-eating” amoeba killed 10 people in four months, officials said Tuesday.
The water company and health officials monitoring water in Karachi, home to 18 million people, have been ordered to trace the source of the Naegleria fowleri outbreak.
Saghir Ahmed, health minister of southern Sindh province of which Karachi is capital, said the drinking supply, swimming places and facilities used for the ritual ablutions Muslims must perform before prayers were all under investigation.
“There is no reason to panic and citizens should stay calm and take precautions,” Ahmed said.
“It is a water-borne infection and we are thoroughly inquiring about its arrival and spread here.”
Shakeel Malick, a health ministry official, said the amoeba had caused 10 deaths so far this year. He said there have been cases in the past, but so few that detailed numbers were not recorded.
The amoeba causes primary amoebic meningitis, a disease with a fatality rate of over 99 percent, said Faisal Mehmood, an expert in infectious diseases.
Naegleria fowleri is found in warm fresh water and usually infects people when contaminated water enters the body through the nose. The amoeba passes through the nasal membranes and destroys brain tissues.
The ablutions Muslims must perform before praying involve rinsing inside the nose and Ahmed said people should use boiled water for the purpose while the outbreak was going on.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said nine cases had been confirmed and one more was suspected. It is working with Pakistani officials to investigate the cases and work out steps to prevent further infections.
“We are visiting houses of the victims and profiling their history,” Musa Khan, WHO’s head of disease early warning system in Pakistan, told AFP.
Misbahuddin Farid, who heads the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board, said chlorine concentration was being increased in reservoirs and supply stations as a precaution.
A health ministry statement referring to recent lab tests said 22 per cent of 913 samples drawn from water supply sources in the last three months were found to be non-chlorinated.
A 26-year-old man died of viral fever at Stanley Medical College and Hospital on Tuesday. While doctors initially said Sathya of Madhavaram died of hemorrhagic shock caused by dengue, they later said the death was caused by an unknown fever. “He didn’t test positive for dengue. It looks like a viral fever,” said a doctor in the emergency ward. An official in the Chennai Corporation’s health department said, “We don’t know what fever it was. He was brought very late to the hospital.” Doctors say many hospitals in the city are already crowded with hundreds of patients with severe viral infections.
Unknown hemorrhagic fever
Viruses and bacteria that cause severe to fatal disease in humans, and for which vaccines or other treatments are not available, such as Bolivian and Argentine hemorrhagic fevers, H5N1(bird flu), Dengue hemorrhagic fever, Marburg virus, Ebola virus, hantaviruses, Lassa fever, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, and other hemorrhagic or unidentified diseases. When dealing with biological hazards at this level the use of a Hazmat suit and a self-contained oxygen supply is mandatory. The entrance and exit of a Level Four biolab will contain multiple showers, a vacuum room, an ultraviolet light room, autonomous detection system, and other safety precautions designed to destroy all traces of the biohazard. Multiple airlocks are employed and are electronically secured to prevent both doors opening at the same time. All air and water service going to and coming from a Biosafety Level 4 (P4) lab will undergo similar decontamination procedures to eliminate the possibility of an accidental release.
Puerto Rico’s health department has declared a dengue epidemic. Health Secretary Lorenzo Gonzalez says at least six people have died, including two children younger than 10. A total of 4,816 cases have been reported, including 21 cases of the potentially fatal hemorrhagic dengue. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 342 new cases were reported in one week last month, twice the number of cases during the same period last year. Dengue cases usually flare up from August to January. The mosquito-borne virus causes fever, severe headaches and extreme joint and muscle pain. Dengue claimed a record 31 lives during a 2010 epidemic that saw more than 12,000 suspected cases. Gonzalez made the announcement on Monday.
Bacteria and viruses that can cause severe to fatal disease in humans, but for which vaccines or other treatments exist, such as anthrax, West Nile virus, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, SARS virus, variola virus (smallpox), tuberculosis, typhus, Rift Valley fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, yellow fever, and malaria. Among parasites Plasmodium falciparum, which causes Malaria, and Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes trypanosomiasis, also come under this level.
(CIDRAP News) – The number of patients sickened in a fungal meningitis outbreak linked to steroid injections for back pain rose to 137 today, including one more death, and clinicians are facing tough decisions about how to manage patients in light of unusual features of the outbreak.
In its latest update, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it has received reports of 18 more cases since yesterday, along with news of another fatality, which raises the number of outbreak-related deaths to 12. The number of states reporting cases remained the same at 10.
A CDC conference call for clinicians today drew 2,000 participants, which the presenters called an “overwhelming response.” Two of the CDC’s experts were on hand to share the latest information on the illness and field many questions from health workers, ranging from pain clinic employees worried about their patients to an emergency department physician overwhelmed by the number of patients exposed to the recalled drug who are experiencing symptoms and need lumbar punctures to check for evidence of fungal meningitis.
The CDC experts included Melissa Schaefer, MD, a medical officer who works on ambulatory care and healthcare-related infection issues, and Tom Chiller, MD, MPH, a medical epidemiologist whose study emphasis has included fungal diseases. Both are with the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.
Schaefer said the CDC is coordinating active outreach to patients exposed to one of the three recalled lots of preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate that have been implicated in the outbreak. She said 75 facilities in 23 states received the medication and that about 13,000 patients had at least one injection from one of the lots.
Some patients also received joint-space injections with the recalled steroids, but she said so far the CDC hasn’t received any reports of infections related to those procedures.
The CDC’s investigation and clinical guidance are evolving quickly, and she advised health workers to consult the CDC’s outbreak Web page for daily updates.
Chiller said testing so far has confirmed that 10 of the infections involve Exserohilum, a type of black mold. “A rare and unique mold—not something we have seen causing meningitis previously,” he said. Tests have also identified Aspergillus fumigatus in one patient’s samples.
He said officials still don’t know if other types of mold are involved in the outbreak, a factor that—combined with unusual Exserohilum meningitis infections—makes it a challenge to craft treatment recommendations. For now, the CDC is recommending powerful doses of two antifungal drugs for infected patients that can penetrate the central nervous system and provide broad coverage against a range of fungi.
The CDC officials said experts are also wrestling with what to tell clinicians about the incubation period. Some patients have gotten sick after just 4 or 5 days, while others clearly started having symptom beyond 4 weeks, which was initially thought to be the outer limit of the incubation period.
“We know that fungi can be indolent and progression can be slow,” Chiller said.
Health officials are still collecting and analyzing information about the illnesses, Chiller said, but so far, the most common presenting symptoms seems to be headache, neck pain, nausea, and new neurologic deficits.
For the fatal cases, they said so far the most frequent cause of death is stroke or a complication of stroke. Schaefer and Chiller emphasized that the analysis of cases is still in the early stages, so it’s difficult to make definitive statements about the illness features and treatment protocols.
As the clinical picture continues to evolve, they urged clinicians to aggressively seek a diagnosis in suspected cases and to check the CDC’s Website each day for changes in recommendations as the outbreak and its investigation unfold.
MessageToEagle.com – In the science fiction genre – black holes, weighing millions to even billions times more than our sun, are a very popular phenomenon but scientists still don’t know much about them.
They know how black holes born, where they use to be found, and why they exists in different sizes.
Still, there is much to be learned about this phenomenon lurking in the centers of most galaxies. These mysterious regions in space possess both large mass and gravitational force that not even light can escape from them.
It was in 2009, when Dartmouth researchers proposed a new way of creating a reproduction black hole in the laboratory.
Now, a team of scientists at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh will create laser pulses whose energy is measured in trillions of watts. They will be used to simulate conditions found around a black hole – a place where gravity is so strong that light cannot escape and the normal laws of physics break down.
It’s an ambitious and fascinating scientific idea to mimic black holes in a laboratory – on a very small scale. It’s also fascinating to look at how matter and energy interact.
Steven Hawking, who demonstrated that black holes radiate energy according to a thermal spectrum, based his famous calculations on assumptions about the physics of ultra-high energies and quantum gravity.
Scientists at Heriot-Watt University can’t yet take measurements from real black holes, instead they will work in the lab.
“What we are creating is the same space-time structure which characterises a black hole. But we’ are doing this with a light pulse, so we don’t actually have the mass which is associated with black holes,” Daniele Faccio, the lead scientist, explained.
“Gravitational black holes are generated by a collapsing star. We don’t actually have this collapsing star, so there’s no danger of being sucked into the black holes we are generating here,” Faccio added.
“Future studies will hopefully unravel other settings or combinations of materials and wavelengths that may indeed lead to the first experimental black hole laser,” scientists write in their paper. “In the meantime, this remains a fascinating scenario in which to combine technologies and ideas developed in the area of photonics to the study of owing media and horizon physics”.
MessageToEagle.com - NASA’s Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41.
RBSP is made of two spacecraft carrying identical instruments.
Each eight-sided satellite is approximately 6 feet across, 3 feet high, and weighs 1,475 pounds (including 62 pounds of propellant).
One spacecraft follows the other along nearly identical orbits.
The orbits lie nearly in the Earth’s equatorial plane and are highly elliptical, coming in as close as 375 miles and reaching out almost to 20,000 miles above Earth’s surface, thus traveling through diverse areas within the radiation belts.
Observations from both spacecraft will be compared by scientists, who can distinguish between different events;
those occurring simultaneously throughout the belts;
those that happen in only a single point in space, and
those that move from one point to another over time.
It’s a very important mission to explore our Earth’s radiation belts and find out:
“The $686 million Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) mission will help scientists to understand more about the chaotic regions overhead. The invisible particles within the belts make even determining their shifting size a challenge.” “In order to measure them, you have to fly through them with sensitive instruments,” said Berry Mauk, RBSP project scientist.
What’s the sun’s influence on the Earth and near-Earth space? What makes the radiation belts so dangerous? And why do they react so strangely to solar storms?
After the deployment of both spacecraft from the Centaur stage of the Atlas V rocket Some 90 minutes after launch, the RBSP team at the Mission Operations Center (MOC) began to establish contact with the twin probes, and make sure the spacecraft deployed their solar panels and were receiving power from them.
With those power and communications systems checked out, the RBSP spacecraft and teams had little time to celebrate – there was much to do on RBSP’s first day in orbit.
The twin Electric and Magnetic Field Instrument Suite and Integrated Science (EMFISIS) booms (two on each spacecraft, located at the edges of two solar panels) were the first instruments to be powered up and deployed.
This was done so that the magnetic signatures of the other instruments could be observed as they were powered up.
In addition to providing science data for the EMFISIS team, magnetometers on the booms are used by the mission operations team (along with sun sensors) to help determine the attitude of the spacecraft, which in this case is the angle at which they are pointed at the sun.
Van Allen Radiation Belts to be Explored by NASA RBSP Storm Probes
Additionally, the Radiation Belt Storm Probes Ion Composition Experiment (RBSPICE) instrument was turned on – though only with low voltage, just enough to power up the Engineering Radiation Monitor (ERM), which keeps track of the amount of radiation entering RBSP.
The identical Radiation Belt Storm Probes follow similar orbits that take them through both the inner and outer radiation belts. The highly elliptical orbits range from a minimum altitude of approximately 373 miles (600 kilometers) to a maximum altitude of approximately 23,000 miles (37,000 kilometers). (Courtesy JHU/APL)
The first Saturday of the mission (Sept. 1) saw the first full powering-up of one of the many instruments on the spacecraft. At about 3 a.m. EDT, the Relativistic Electron Proton Telescope (REPT) instrument of the Energetic Particle, Composition, and Thermal Plasma Suite (ECT) aboard spacecraft A was turned on, and useable data began to immediately stream back to the REPT team. REPT-B was powered up 12 hours later.
Saturday’s achievements didn’t stop there:
The Relativistic Proton Spectrometer (RPS) on spacecraft B was turned on, while its sibling on spacecraft A was powered up on Sunday, Sept. 2.
Some radiation makes it through the atmosphere, but most of it is absorbed by the atmosphere or trapped by the Earth’s magnetic field into the radiation belts. Credit: NASA
During the first two weeks of orbit, the spacecraft completed a series of small changes in velocity and also adjusted the angle at which they face the sun, known as “precession.” These were done to optimize the orbit and operation of the spacecraft.
“Things are going very smoothly with the spacecraft,” says Ray Harvey, RBSP mission operations manager.
“We’ve also begun to send out preliminary test data for the space weather broadcast from the spacecraft, in the same format as the final broadcast will be, so the partner institutions can verify they are receiving it.”
On Wednesday, Sept. 5, the Instrument Data Processing Unit (IDPU) for Electric Field and Waves Suite (EFW) was powered up to prepare for the upcoming deployment of EFW’s four booms (per spacecraft), and on Thursday, Sept. 6, the eight Magnetic Electron Ion Spectrometers (MagEIS, another of ECT’s three instruments) were powered up; each spacecraft has four MagEIS instruments that measure widely different energy ranges.
The next major instrument activity is the EFW boom deployment, which begins on Sept. 13, when both RBSP spacecraft will be spun up to seven RPM from their normal five RPM. This will prepare them for the change in momentum following the initial deployment of the EFW spin-plane booms.
The doors containing the booms will open, and then on Friday, Sept. 14, the first four meters of the booms will be deployed. Over the following days, more of each boom will be deployed every day, until the four booms (each is 50 meters long) are fully out.
In roughly the middle of this process, the RBSP MOC team will also send a command to open the door to the aperture on the RBSPICE instrument that will allow it to begin full science operations.
Sometime in mid to late October – the final RBSP instrument – (an ECT instrument: the Helium Oxygen Proton Electron (HOPE) instrument) will be powered up.
After that, the spacecraft have deployed all their booms and completed their commissioning-phase maneuvers.
The Aurora Borealis fills nearly the entire sky in Cleary Summit, Alaska. Credit: Jason Ahrns on Flickr.
With just a glancing blow from a coronal mass ejection (CME) this week, skywatchers in the northern latitudes have been enjoying some beautiful views of the Aurora Borealis. Here are a few stunning views from last night (October 8-9, 2012), including this jaw-dropping aurora that filled the entire sky for Jason Ahrns in Cleary Summit, Alaska. “This lens has a near-180 degree field of view from corner to corner – this swirl covered the entire sky, and put off enough light to read the focus indicator on my lens,” Jason wrote on Flickr.
See more below:
This view is from Kilmany, Scotland. “You could see the rays moving left – so stunning,” said photographer Corinne Mills.
This view came from the AuroraMAX camera in Yellowknife, NWT taken at 00:53 MDT on October 9, 2012. Credit: AuroraMAX.
“I’ve been tracking aurora activity all day and it peaked again tonight,” writes photographer Gareth Paxton on Flickr. “There was a substantial glow in the sky – this was taken from Linlithgow (Scotland).”
Analysis of small, repeating earthquakes in an Antarctic ice sheet may not only lead to an understanding of glacial movement, but may also shed light on stick slip earthquakes like those on the San Andreas fault or in Haiti, according to Penn State geoscientists.
“No one has ever seen anything with such regularity,” said Lucas K. Zoet, recent Penn State Ph. D. recipient, now a postdoctoral fellow at Iowa State University. “An earthquake every 25 minutes for a year.”
The researchers looked at seismic activity recorded during the Transantarctic Mountains Seismic Experiment from 2002 to 2003 on the David Glacier in Antarctica, coupled with data from the Global Seismic Network station Vanda. They found that the local earthquakes on the David Glacier, about 20,000 identified, were predominantly the same and occurred every 25 minutes give or take five minutes.
The researchers note in the current Nature Geoscience that, “The remarkable similarity of the waveforms … indicates that they share the same source location and source mechanisms.” They suggest that “the same subglacial asperity repeatedly ruptures in response to steady loading from the overlying ice, which is modulated by stress from the tide at the glacier front.”
“Our leading idea is that part of the bedrock is poking through the ductile till layer beneath the glacier,” said Zoet.
The researchers have determined that the asperity — or hill — is about a half mile in diameter.
The glacier, passing over the hill, creates a stick slip situation much like that on the San Andreas fault. The ice sticks on the hill and stress gradually builds until the energy behind the obstruction is high enough to move the ice forward. The ice moves in a step-by-step manner rather than smoothly.
But motion toward the sea is not the only thing acting on the ice streaming from David glacier. Like most glaciers near oceans, the edge of the ice floats out over the water and the floating ice is subject to the action of tides.
“When the tide comes in it pushes back on the ice, making the time between slips slightly longer,” said Sridhar Anandakrishnan, professor of geoscience. “When the tide goes out, the time between slips decreases.”
However, the researchers note that the tides are acting at the ground line, a long way from the location of the asperity and therefore the effects that shorten or lengthen the stick slip cycle are delayed.
“This was something we didn’t expect to see,” said Richard B. Alley, Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences. “Seeing it is making us reevaluate the basics.”
He also noted that these glacial earthquakes, besides helping glaciologists understand the way ice moves, can provide a simple model for the stick slip earthquakes that occur between landmasses.
“We have not completely explained how ice sheets flow unless we can reproduce this effect,” said Alley. “We can use this as a probe and look into the physics so we better understand how glaciers move.”
Before 2002, this area of the David glacier flowed smoothly, but then for nearly a year the 20-minute earthquake intervals occurred and then stopped. Something occurred at the base of the ice to start and then stop these earthquakes.
“The best idea we have is that during those 300 days, a dirty patch of ice was in contact with the mount, changing the way stress was transferred,” said Zoet. “The glacier is experiencing earthquakes again, although at a different rate. It would be nice to study that.”
Unfortunately, the seismographic instruments that were on the glacier in 2002 no longer exist, and information is coming from only one source at the moment.
The image shows how the Caribbean plate is pushed to the east relative to the South American plate, causing the Caribbean Islands’ distinctive arc shape.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Meghan Miller and Thorsten Becker
The movement of Earth’s viscous mantle against South America has pushed the Caribbean islands east over the last 50 million years, according to a study published Monday (Aug. 20) in the journal Nature Geoscience.
The University of Southern California, in announcing the study, said the findings upend previous hypotheses of the seismic activity beneath the Caribbean Sea and provide an important new look at the unique tectonic interactions that are causing the Caribbean plate to tear away from South America.
The Caribbean plate is being pushed eastward due to a thick section of the South American plate called a “cratonic keel.” This section of crust is three times
Meanwhile, part of the South American plate is being pushed beneath the Caribbean plate, a process called subduction. Intense heat and pressure gradually force water-containing magma to rise into the Earth’s mantle and fuel the many active volcanoes in the region.
All of this pushing and pulling formed the distinctive arc shape of the Caribbean islands and has created a very complex system of faults between the two plates, in northern South America, according to the USC statement. The study mapped several of these strike-slip faults, which are similar to California’s San Andreas Fault.
Recent earthquakes in the area helped the two researchers develop an image of the Earth’s deep interior. The earthquake waves move slower or quicker depending on the temperature and composition of the rock.
“Studying the deep earth interior provides insights into how the Earth has evolved into its present form,” researcher Meghan S. Miller said in the statement.
For their study, the researchers used earthquake data to develop 176 computer models, USC said
Mount Tongariro volcano (New Zealand) showed some seismicity earlier today (see seismogram below). The activity can only be seen in Oturere and West Tongariro seismograms (close to the Te Maari craters). Below also one of the rara clear view images of Mt. Tongariro with a strongly steaming vent. N report from GNS science about the seismicity however. The Park service has announced that the trekking trails at Mount Tongariro would be reopened. A 3 km hazard and risk zone will remain in place for some time and might be further reduced once new information of the gas and ash composition is known.
According to INGEOMINAS, the Observatorio Vulcanológico and Sismológico de Popayán reported that during 8-14 August seismic activity at Sotará increased. The seismic network recorded 110 magnitude 0.2-1.6 events mainly located in an area 0.1-5 km NE of the peak, at depths of 2-6 km. Inflation was detected in the NE area, coincident with the zone of increased seismicity. Web-camera views showed no morphological changes. The Alert Level was raised to III (Yellow; “changes in the behavior of volcanic activity”), or the second lowest level. (Smithsonian Institute)
KVERT reported moderate seismic activity from Karymsky during 10-20 August. Satellite imagery showed a weak thermal anomaly on the volcano during 10-13, 15, and 18-20 August. The Aviation Color Code remained at Orange.
KVERT reported that during 10-18 August weak seismic activity was detected at Shiveluch. Observers noted gas-and-steam activity during 15-17 August; weather conditions prevented observations of the volcano on the other days. Satellite imagery showed a thermal anomaly on the lava dome during 10, 12-13, and 18-19 August. Seismic activity increased to moderate levels and hot avalanches were observed during 19-20 August. The Aviation Color Code remained at Orange.
Insivumeh reports 2 moderate explosions at Santiaguito (Santa Maria), Guatemala. The other Guatemala volcano, Fuego sends a white plume approx. 50 meter in the air and grumbles every 1 to 3 minutes. See also seismograms from both volcanoes.
Activity observed by satellites
VAAC reports still the same volcanoes which can be dangerous for aviation ; Sakurajima, Batu Tara and a very active Tungurahua
SO2 satellite imagery shows SO2 clouds at the following volcanoes : Etna, Kilauea and Nevado del Ruiz. Clouds of a number of other volcanoes are not defined enough to be sure.
A smoking Nevado del Ruiz yesterday – image courtesy Ingeominas Colombia
Some scientists say that questions over whether man-made warming is disrupting the Earth’s climate are diminishing Severely damaged corn stalks due to a widespread drought are seen at sunset on a farm near Oakland City, Indiana, August 15, 2012. Heatwaves, drought and floods that have struck the northern hemisphere for the third summer running are narrowing doubts that man-made warming is disrupting Earth’s climate system, say some scientists. Heatwaves, drought and floods that have struck the northern hemisphere for the third summer running are narrowing doubts that man-made warming is disrupting Earth’s climate system, say some scientists.
Climate experts as a group are reluctant to ascribe a single extreme event or season to global warming. Weather, they argue, has to be assessed over far longer periods to confirm a shift in the climate and whether natural factors or fossil-fuel emissions are the cause. But for some, such caution is easing. A lengthening string of brutal weather events is going hand in hand with record-breaking rises in temperatures and greenhouse-gas levels, an association so stark that it can no longer be dismissed as statistical coincidence, they say. “We prefer to look at average annual temperatures on a global scale, rather than extreme temperatures,” said Jean Jouzel, vice chairman of the UN’s Nobel-winning scientists, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Even so, according to computer models, “over the medium and long term, one of the clearest signs of climate change is a rise in the frequency of heatwaves”, he said. “Over the last 50 years, we have seen that as warming progresses, heatwaves are becoming more and more frequent,” Jouzel said. “If we don’t do anything, the risk of a heatwave occurring will be 10 times higher by 2100 compared with the start of the century.” The past three months have seen some extraordinary weather in the United States, Europe and East and Southeast Asia. The worst drought in more than 50 years hit the US Midwest breadbasket while forest fires stoked by fierce heat and dry undergrowth erupted in California, France, Greece, Italy, Croatia and Spain. Heavy rains flooded Manila and Beijing and China’s eastern coast was hit by an unprecedented three typhoons in a week.
Last month was the warmest ever recorded for land in the northern hemisphere and a record high for the contiguous United States, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Globally, the temperature in July was the fourth highest since records began in 1880, it said. James Hansen, arguably the world’s most famous climate scientist (and a bogeyman to climate skeptics), contends the link between extreme heat events and global warming is now all but irrefutable. The evidence, he says, comes not from computer simulations but from weather observations themselves. In a study published this month in the peer-reviewed US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Hansen and colleagues compared temperatures over the past three decades to a baseline of 1951-80, a period of relative stability. Over the last 30 years, there was 0.5-0.6 C (0.9-1.0 F) of warming, a rise that seems small but “is already having important effects”, said Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. During the baseline period, cold summers occurred about a third of the time, but this fell to about 10 percent in the 30-year period that followed. Hot summers which during the baseline period occurred 33 percent of the time, rose to about 75 percent in the three decades that followed. Even more remarkable, though, was the geographical expansion of heatwaves. During the baseline period, an unusually hot summer would yield a heatwave that would cover just a few tenths of one percent of the world’s land area. Today, though, an above-the-norm summer causes heatwaves that in total affect about 10 percent of the land surface. “The extreme summer climate anomalies in Texas in 2011, in Moscow in 2010 and in France in 2003 almost certainly would not have occurred in the absence of global warming with its resulting shift of the anomaly situation,” says the paper. In March, an IPCC special report said there was mounting evidence of a shift in patterns of extreme events in some regions, including more intense and longer droughts and rainfall. But it saw no increases in the frequency, length or severity of tropical storms.
A wildfire burning on military land south of Fairbanks has grown to 42,000 acres, and smoke continues to cause hazy conditions. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports the Dry Creek Fire is growing because of shifting winds. The fire was more than 28,000 acres on Thursday, and spread 14,000 acres throughout the day. The fire located on land co-managed by the U.S. Army and the Bureau of Land Management about 25 miles south of Fairbanks. Air quality advisories have been issued. The fire is not being actively fought since there’s no threat to people or resources. However, that could change if the fire jumps the Tanana River. The National Weather Service expects winds to shift the fire away from population centers on Friday, when rain could also suppress the fire.
A Malian refugee pulls a jerry-can of water in Mauritania Enlarge A Malian refugee pulls a jerrican of water at the Mbere refugee camp on May 3, 2012, near Bassiknou, southern Mauritania. The worst effects of drought could be avoided if countries had a disaster management plan to confront the problem, the UN World Meteorological Organization said Tuesday. The worst effects of drought could be avoided if countries had a disaster management plan to confront the problem, the UN World Meteorological Organization said Tuesday.
With world food prices 6 percent higher now than at the start of the year and approaching the 2010 record, “it’s time for countries affected by drought to move towards developing a policy”, said Mannava Sivakumar, director of the WMO’s Climate Prediction and Adaptation Branch. Such a global approach would also help counter the “major impact” of El Nino, said Sivakumar, in reference to the weather system credited with causing dry conditions in countries including Australia, India and much of east Africa, and flooding in Latin American countries. Initial forecasts for El Nino show that water temperatures in the Pacific are likely to be warmer than normal for September and October, he said, echoing recent Japanese meteorological research that the phenomenon is likely to last until winter in the northern hemisphere. “If it continues through the winter months there could be some consequences but we will carefully monitor (them),” said Sivakumar. Despite repeated droughts throughout human history and their long-term impact compared with other natural disasters, Australia is the only country in the world to develop a risk management policy for drought, Sivakumar said. “To fill the existing vacuum in virtually every nation (for drought management)” the WMO is to host a high-level meeting on national drought policies in Geneva next March, the UN agency said in a statement. Such measures would include better drought monitoring by countries, implementing early-warning systems and most importantly putting in place an “effective system to help the poorest of the poor”, Sivakumar said. Communicating the information to largely uneducated rural farming communities was essential, said Sivakumar, since this would enable them to avoid the worst effects of droughts by taking measures such as thinning crops to reduce the overall water requirement. This would ensure that they would have “some crop instead of no crop”, said Sivakumar.
This NOAA GOES-13 satellite image taken on Aug. 21 at 7:45 a.m. EDT shows three of the four tropical systems being watched in the Atlantic Ocean basin. From left to right are: System 95L, Tropical Depression 9 and System 96L. Post-tropical Storm Gordon is just beyond the horizon. Credit: NASA/NOAA GOES Project.
The Atlantic Ocean is kicking into high gear with low pressure areas that have a chance at becoming tropical depressions, storms and hurricanes. Satellite imagery from NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites have provided visible, infrared and microwave data on four low pressure areas. In addition, NASA’s GOES Project has been producing imagery of all systems using NOAA’s GOES-13 satellite to see post-Tropical Storm Gordon, Tropical Depression 9, and Systems 95L and 96L.
Tropical Storm Gordon is no longer a tropical storm and is fizzling out east of the Azores. Tropical Depression 9 was born on Aug. 20 and continues to get organized. Behind Tropical Depression 9 in the eastern Atlantic is another low pressure area called System 96L. In the Gulf of Mexico lies another low, called System 95L.
In an image taken from NOAA’s GOES-13 satellite on Aug. 21 at 7:45 a.m. EDT, all of the systems were visible except for post-tropical Storm Gordon. The storms are seen lined up along the Atlantic basin from left to right with System 95L in the Gulf of Mexico, Tropical Depression 9 just east of the Caribbean Sea and System 96L in the eastern Atlantic Ocean.
NOAA manages the GOES-13 satellite, and NASA’s GOES Project uses the data to create images and animations out of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
Tropical Depression 9 On Aug. 20 at 0435 UTC (12:35 a.m. EDT) before System 94L organized into Tropical Storm 9, NASA’s Aqua satellite passed overhead, and the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument captured an infrared image of the storm.
It showed that the strongest convection (rising air that forms the thunderstorms that make up the tropical cyclone) were located south of the center of circulation.
Those thunderstorms had cold cloud top temperatures of -63 Fahrenheit (-52 Celsius) that indicated there was strong uplift in the low pressure area, and were an indication that the system could strengthen, which it did later into a depression.
Tropical Depression 9 has been the cause for tropical storm warning posts in a number of islands. On Aug. 21, a Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Dominica, Guadeloupe, Desirade, Les Saintes, Marie Galante, and St. Martin.
TD9 appears as a rounded storm on the GOES-13 satellite image from Aug. 21. In the image, low pressure area “System 96L” trails to the southwest of TD9.
On Aug. 21 at 8 a.m. EDT (1200 UTC) Tropical Depression 9 (TD9) had maximum sustained winds near 35 mph (55 kmh) and is expected to strengthen into a tropical storm later [today]. It was located about 645 miles (1,035 km) east of Guadeloupe near latitude 15.1 north and longitude 51.8 west. TD90 is moving toward the west near 20 mph (32 kmh) and is expected to continue moving in that direction for the next couple of days, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).
NHC said that the cyclone should move through the central Lesser Antilles on Wed., Aug. 22 and move into the Caribbean Sea the next day. NHC expects rainfall between 4 and 8 inches to affect the northern Windward and the Leeward Islands, accompanied by heavy surf and rip tides. System 96L in Eastern Atlantic
System 96L appears well-defined on the GOES-13 satellite imagery. It is associated with a tropical wave, and is spinning about 425 miles southwest of the Cape Verde Islands. The NHC said that System 96L could very well become the tenth tropical depression of the Atlantic Hurricane Season in the next day or two. It is moving to the west at 15 mph.
System 95L Struggles in the Gulf of Mexico The eastern-most low pressure area in the Atlantic Ocean basin is System 95L, located in the western Gulf of Mexico. It is producing disorganized showers and thunderstorms just off-shore of the northeastern coast of Mexico. The low-level center of circulation is also elongated, which is a bad sign for a tropical cyclone trying to organize. Tropical cyclones need a strong, rounded circulation to strengthen.
The NHC noted that slow development is still possible before System 95L moves inland in northeastern Mexico later in the day on Wed. Aug 21. The system has a 30 percent chance of developing before that happens. Once inland, its chances for development are greatly reduced because it will be cut off from its life-giving warm water supply.
Tropical Storm Gordon is History On Monday, August 20, satellite imagery and surface data revealed that Tropical Storm Gordon lost his tropical characteristics, making it a post-tropical cyclone. According to Reuters news, Gordon caused some power outages, fallen trees and minor flooding.
The National Hurricane Center issued their final advisory on Gordon on August 20 at 5 p.m. EDT (2100 UTC). At that time, Gordon still had maximum sustained winds near 45 mph (75 kmh) and was weakening.
Gordon was about 370 miles (595 km) east-northeast of the Azores, near latitude 39.2 north and longitude 20.3 west. Gordon was moving east-northeast near 16 mph (26 kmh) and was expected to turn southeast while weakening further. Gordon is expected to dissipate in a couple of days east of Portugal.
Over the past 10,000 years, climate changes in the Dead Sea region have led to surprisingly swift desertification within mere decades. This is what researchers from the University of Bonn and their Israeli colleagues found when analyzing pollen in sediments and fluctuations in sea levels, calling the findings ‘dramatic.’ They are presented in the current issue of the international geosciences journal Quaternary Science Reviews, whose print version is published on 23 August.
The Dead Sea, a salt sea without an outlet, lies over 400 meters below sea level. Tourists like its high salt content because it increases their buoyancy.Â “For scientists, however, the Dead Sea is a popular archive that provides a diachronic view of its climate past,” says Prof. Dr. Thomas Litt from the Steinmann-Institute for Geology, Mineralogy and Paleontology at the University of Bonn. Using drilling cores from riparian lake sediments, paleontologists and meteorologists from the University of Bonn deduced the climate conditions of the past 10,000 years. This became possible because the Dead Sea level has sunk drastically over the past years, mostly because of increasing water withdrawals lowering the water supply. Oldest pollen analysis In collaboration with the GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam (German Research Centre for Geosciences) and Israel’s Geological Service, the researchers took a 21 m long sediment sample in the oasis Ein Gedi at the west bank of the Dead Sea. They then matched the fossil pollen to indicator plants for different levels of precipitation and temperature. Radiocarbon-dating was used to determine the age of the layers. “This allowed us to reconstruct the climate of the entire postglacial era,” Prof. Litt reports. “This is the oldest pollen analysis that has been done on the Dead Sea to date.” In total, there were three different formations of vegetation around this salt sea. In moist phases, a lush, sclerophyll vegetation thrived as can be found today around the Mediterranean Sea. When the climate turned drier, steppe vegetation took over. Drier episodes yet were characterized by desert plants. The researchers found some rapid changes between moist and dry phases.
Transforming pollen data into climate information The pollen data allows inferring what kinds of plants were growing at the corresponding times. Meteorologists from the University of Bonn took this paleontological data and converted it into climate information. Using statistical methods, they matched plant species with statistical parameters regarding temperature and precipitation that determine whether a certain plant can occur. “This allows us to make statements on the probable climate that prevailed during a certain period of time within the catchment area of the Dead Sea,” reports Prof. Dr. Andreas Hense from the University of Bonn’s Meteorological Institute. The resilience of the resulting climate information was tested using the data on Dead Sea level fluctuations collected by their Israeli colleagues around Prof. Dr. Mordechai Stein from the Geological Services in Jerusalem. “The two independent data records corresponded very closely,” explains Prof. Litt. “In the moist phases that were determined based on pollen analysis, our Israeli colleagues found that water levels were indeed rising in the Dead Sea, while they fell during dry episodes.” This is plausible since the water level of a terminal lake without an outlet is exclusively determined by precipitation and evaporation. Droughts led to the biblical exodus According to the Bonn researchers’ data, there were distinct dry phases particularly during the pottery Neolithic (about 7,500 to 6,500 years ago), as well as at the transition from the late Bronze Age to the early Iron Age (about 3,200 years ago). “Humans were also strongly affected by these climate changes,” Prof. Litt summarizes the effects. The dry phases might have resulted in the Canaanites’ urban culture collapsing while nomads invaded their area. “At least, this is what the Old Testament refers to as the exodus of the Israelites to the Promised Land.”Â Dramatic results In addition, this look back allows developing scenarios for potential future trends. “Our results are dramatic; they indicate how vulnerable the Dead Sea ecosystems are,” says Prof. Litt. “They clearly show how surprisingly fast lush Mediterranean sclerophyll vegetation can morph into steppe or even desert vegetation within a few decades if it becomes drier.” Back then, the consequences in terms of agriculture and feeding the population were most likely devastating. The researchers want to probe even further back into the climate past of the region around the Dead Sea by drilling even deeper. More information: Holocene climate variability in the Levant from the Dead Sea pollen record, Quaternary Science Reviews 49 (August 2012), dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2012.06.012 Journal reference: Quaternary Science Reviews search and more info website Provided by University of Bonn search and more info website
Ice melts next to the village of Ny-Aalesundin Norway in 2009. The Arctic ice cap is melting at a startlingly rapid rate and may shrink to its smallest-ever level within weeks as the planet’s temperatures rise, US scientists said Tuesday. The Arctic ice cap is melting at a startlingly rapid rate and may shrink to its smallest-ever level within weeks as the planet’s temperatures rise, US scientists said Tuesday.
Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder said that the summer ice in the Arctic was already nearing its lowest level recorded, even though the summer melt season is not yet over. “The numbers are coming in and we are looking at them with a sense of amazement,” said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the university. “If the melt were to just suddenly stop today, we would be at the third lowest in the satellite record. We’ve still got another two weeks of melt to go, so I think we’re very likely to set a new record,” he told AFP. The previous record was set in 2007 when the ice cap shrunk to 4.25 million square kilometers (1.64 million square miles), stunning scientists who had not forecast such a drastic melt so soon. The Colorado-based center said that one potential factor could be an Arctic cyclone earlier this month. However, Serreze played down the effects of the cyclone and said that this year’s melt was all the more remarkable because of the lack of special weather factors seen in 2007. Serreze said that the extensive melt was in line with the effects of global warming, with the ice being hit by a double whammy of rising temperatures in the atmosphere and warmer oceans. “The ice now is so thin in the spring just because of the general pattern of warming that large parts of the pack ice just can’t survive the summer melt season anymore,” he said. Russia’s Roshydromet environmental agency also reported earlier this month that the Arctic melt was reaching record levels. Several studies have predicted that the cap in the summer could melt completely in coming decades. The thaw in the Arctic is rapidly transforming the geopolitics of the region, with the long forbidding ocean looking more attractive to the shipping and energy industries.
Five nations surround the Arctic Ocean — Russia, which has about half of the coastline, along with Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United States — but the route could see a growing number of commercial players. The first ship from China — the Xuelong, or Snow Dragon — recently sailed from the Pacific to the Atlantic via the Arctic Ocean, cutting the distance by more than 40 percent. Egill Thor Nielsson, an Icelandic scientist who participated in the expedition, said last week in Reykjavik that he expected China to be increasingly interested in the route as it was relatively easy to sail. But the rapid melt affects local people’s lifestyles and scientists warn of serious consequences for the rest of the planet. The Arctic ice cap serves a vital function by reflecting light and hence keeping the earth cool. Serreze said it was possible that the rapid melt was a factor in severe storms witnessed in recent years in the United States and elsewhere as it changed the nature of the planet’s temperature gradients. The planet has charted a slew of record temperatures in recent years. In the continental United States, July was the hottest ever recorded with temperatures 3.3 degrees Fahrenheit (1.8 Celsius) higher than the average in the 20th century, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Most scientists believe that carbon emissions from industry cause global warming. Efforts to control the gases have encountered resistance in a number of countries, with some lawmakers in the United States questioning the science.
Virginia’s largest city may get up to 45,000 acres smaller over the next century, due to an anticipated 2.3 to 5.2 feet of relative sea-level rise expected in Virginia Beach – a rise that would also impact the entire Hampton Roads region and the Eastern Shore. Recognizing the challenges this will pose, the University of Virginia’s Institute for Environmental Negotiation is assisting citizens and decision-makers in long-range planning. Under director Frank Dukes, associate director Tanya Denckla Cobb and graduate associate Melissa Keywood – all from U.Va.’s School of Architecture – the institute is working to develop awareness of, and strategies to face, rising sea levels. Beginning in March 2011, the institute established partnerships with the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, Wetlands Watch and the city of Virginia Beach to host four listening sessions for Hampton Roads and Eastern Shore citizens to share their experiences of sea-level rise and ideas for confronting it. Following these gatherings, the institute has been working with its partners to synthesize its findings and develop recommendations for action. Later this week, it will release a report on a May 9 session in Virginia Beach, at which the institute facilitated a meeting of a diverse group of 15 regional stakeholders. There, the project partners sorted through 56 potential policies and chose the five most important, and relevant, policy categories for Virginia Beach, discussing in detail the costs and benefits of each category. These included preparing educational materials, tools and online programs; the use of transfer or purchase of development rights; reasonable restrictions and rolling easements; special tax districts for improvements; and updating the zoning code to prepare buildings in vulnerable areas. “I feel strongly that planners need to play a pivotal role in helping communities prepare for these difficult challenges. However, this is not an issue we can address with traditional planning tools, like zoning, alone,” said Keywood, who developed the coastal listening sessions (for which she earned the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Walter B. Jones Award for Excellence in Coastal and Ocean Management in June). Nearly 200 citizens and elected officials turned out June 13 for a Coastal Flooding Workshop in Melfa on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Denckla Cobb, the project coordinator, said the turnout was “record-breaking,” and remarked on participants’ enthusiasm and desire for local government to boost its involvement in education and outreach regarding rising sea levels – a sentiment also heard in Virginia Beach. A vast majority of the Melfa participants said they had noticed changes in wetlands and beaches, she said. “They know that rising sea levels are having real impacts, such as causing more frequent flooding during storm events. It’s also clear that people want more information, not just about what’s happening and why, but also about specific ways communities can prepare for sea-level rise.” “It was clear that people were very interested in catalyzing action to implement new policies to address this concern,” said Keywood, a graduate of the Architecture School’s master’s program in urban and environmental planning. According to a survey taken in Virginia Beach, people considered themselves fairly knowledgeable about sea-level rise and its potential consequences, ranging from wildlife habitat concerns to potential road blockages. “Participants in our workshops are very in tune with their local environments and are acutely aware of the changes they’ve observed over time in regards to habitat loss, shoreline erosion, business loss and others,” Keywood said. Nevertheless, Denckla Cobb saw that many were less aware of strategies and tools they could implement on an individual or local level – reinforcing the need for the institute to play a role in facilitating the development of practical solutions. Sea-level rise is a “multifaceted issue for which there are not a lot of practical, usable tools, unless political will changes,” she said, adding, “There is a difference between knowing what is needed and getting it done.” In addition to the efforts of the institute, Virginia Sea Grant has funded graduate student fieldwork in Hampton Roads as part of architecture professor Timothy Beatley’s “Climate Change and Coastal Planning” course. Its final report focuses on adaptation and accommodation as ways to mitigate sea-level rise, specifically through strategies of land use and growth management, resilience and knowledge dissemination. Since 1980, the Institute for Environmental Negotiation has worked throughout Virginia to mediate natural and man-made environmental issues, such as re-mediating coal mines, revitalizing tobacco farms and mitigating sea-level changes. For more on its Community Resilience in Coastal Virginia initiative, including the new focus group reports, visit its website. Provided by University of Virginia search and more info website
Spotless Days Current Stretch: 0 days
2012 total: 0 days (0%)
2011 total: 2 days (<1%)
2010 total: 51 days (14%)
2009 total: 260 days (71%)
Since 2004: 821 days
Typical Solar Min: 486 days
Update 25 Aug 2012
Scientists have long suspected that the Sun’s 11-year cycle influences climate of certain regions on Earth. Yet records of average, seasonal temperatures do not date back far enough to confirm any patterns. Now, armed with a unique proxy, an international team of researchers show that unusually cold winters in Central Europe are related to low solar activity — when sunspot numbers are minimal. The freezing of Germany’s largest river, the Rhine, is the key.
Although Earth’s surface overall continues to warm, the new analysis has revealed a correlation between periods of low activity of the Sun and of some cooling — on a limited, regional scale in Central Europe, along the Rhine.
“The advantage with studying the Rhine is because it’s a very simple measurement,” said Frank Sirocko lead author of a paper on the study and professor of Sedimentology and Paleoclimatology at the Institute of Geosciences of Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. “Freezing is special in that it’s like an on-off mode. Either there is ice or there is no ice.”
From the early 19th through mid-20th centuries, riverboat men used the Rhine for cargo transport. And so docks along the river have annual records of when ice clogged the waterway and stymied shipping. The scientists used these easily-accessible documents, as well as other additional historical accounts, to determine the number of freezing episodes since 1780.
Sirocko and his colleagues found that between 1780 and 1963, the Rhine froze in multiple places fourteen different times. The sheer size of the river means it takes extremely cold temperatures to freeze over making freezing episodes a good proxy for very cold winters in the region, Sirocko said.
Mapping the freezing episodes against the solar activity’s 11-year cycle — a cycle of the Sun’s varying magnetic strength and thus total radiation output — Sirocko and his colleagues determined that ten of the fourteen freezes occurred during years when the Sun had minimal sunspots. Using statistical methods, the scientists calculated that there is a 99 percent chance that extremely cold Central European winters and low solar activity are inherently linked.
“We provide, for the first time, statistically robust evidence that the succession of cold winters during the last 230 years in Central Europe has a common cause,” Sirocko said.
With the new paper, Sirocko and his colleagues have added to the research linking solar variability with climate, said Thomas Crowley, Director of the Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment, and Society, who was not involved with the study.
“There is some suspension of belief in this link,” Crowley said, “and this study tilts the argument more towards thinking there really is something to this link. If you have more statistical evidence to support this explanation, one is more likely to say it’s true.”
The study, conducted by researchers at Johannes Gutenberg and the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science in Zurich, Switzerland, is set to be published August 25 in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.
When sunspot numbers are down, the Sun emits less ultraviolet radiation. Less radiation means less heating of Earth’s atmosphere, which sparks a change in the circulation patterns of the two lowest atmospheric levels, the troposphere and stratosphere. Such changes lead to climatic phenomena such as the North Atlantic Oscillation, a pattern of atmospheric pressure variations that influences wind patterns in the North Atlantic and weather behavior in regions in and around Europe.
“Due to this indirect effect, the solar cycle does not impact hemispherically averaged temperatures, but only leads to regional temperature anomalies,” said Stephan Pfahl, a co-author of the study who is now at the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science in Zurich.
The authors show that this change in atmospheric circulation leads to cooling in parts of Central Europe but warming in other European countries, such as Iceland. So, sunspots don’t necessarily cool the entire globe — their cooling effect is more localized, Sirocko said.
In fact, studies have suggested that the extremely cold European winters of 2010 and 2011 were the result of the North Atlantic Oscillation, which Sirocko and his team now link to the low solar activity during that time.
The 2010 and 2011 European winters were so cold that they resulted in record lows for the month of November in certain countries. Some who dispute the occurrence of anthropogenic climate change argue that this two-year period shows that Earth’s climate is not getting any warmer. But climate is a complex system, Sirocko said. And a short-term, localized dip in temperatures only temporarily masks the effects of a warming world.
“Climate is not ruled by one variable,” said Sirocko. “In fact, it has [at least] five or six variables. Carbon dioxide is certainly one, but solar activity is also one.”
Moreover, the researchers also point out that, despite Central Europe’s prospect to suffer colder winters every 11 years or so, the average temperature of those winters is increasing and has been for the past three decades. As one piece of evidence of that warming, the Rhine River has not frozen over since 1963. Sirocko said such warming results, in part, from climate change.
To establish a more complete record of past temperature dips, the researchers are looking to other proxies, such as the spread of disease and migratory habits.
“Disease can be transported by insects and rats, but during a strong freezing year that is not likely,” said Sirocko. “Also, Romans used the Rhine to defend against the Germanics, but as soon as the river froze people could move across it. The freezing of the Rhine is very important on historical timescales.”
It wasn’t, however, the Rhine that first got Sirocko to thinking about the connection between freezing rivers and sunspot activity. In fact, it was a 125-mile ice-skating race he attended over 20 years ago in the Netherlands that sparked the scientist’s idea.
“Skaters can only do this race every 10 or 11 years because that’s when the rivers freeze up,” Sirocko said. “I thought to myself, ‘There must be a reason for this,’ and it turns out there is.”
Information courtesy of NASA, NOAA, the US Library, the Goddard Space Flight Center, the Jet Propulsion Lab, the Environmental Visualization Laboratory, the NASA Earth Observatory, SDO, SOHO, Stereo, ISWA, SSEC, HAARP, and SolarIMG – Your information, images, and videos were essential to this video.
Research presented Aug. 23, 2012 at the International Astronomical Union General Assembly in Beijing has found the first group of galaxies that is just like ours, a rare sight in the local Universe.
This image shows one of the two ‘exact matches’ to the Milky Way system found in the survey. The larger galaxy, denoted GAMA202627, which is similar to the Milky Way clearly has two large companions off to the bottom left of the image. In this image bluer colours indicate hotter, younger, stars like many of those that are found in our galaxy. (Credit: Dr. Aaron Robotham, ICRAR/St Andrews using GAMA data)
The Milky Way is a fairly typical galaxy on its own, but when paired with its close neighbours — the Magellanic Clouds — it is very rare, and could have been one of a kind, until a survey of our local Universe found another two examples just like us.
Astronomer Dr Aaron Robotham, jointly from the University of Western Australia node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) and the University of St Andrews in Scotland, searched for groups of galaxies similar to ours in the most detailed map of the local Universe yet, the Galaxy and Mass Assembly survey (GAMA).
“We’ve never found another galaxy system like the Milky Way before, which is not surprising considering how hard they are to spot! It’s only recently become possible to do the type of analysis that lets us find similar groups,” says Dr Robotham.
“Everything had to come together at once: we needed telescopes good enough to detect not just galaxies but their faint companions, we needed to look at large sections of the sky, and most of all we needed to make sure no galaxies were missed in the survey”
Sophisticated simulations of how galaxies form don’t produce many examples similar to the Milky Way and its surrounds, predicting them to be quite a rare occurrence. Astronomers haven’t been able to tell just how rare until now, with the discovery of not just one but two exact matches amongst the hundreds of thousands of galaxies surveyed.
“We found about 3% of galaxies similar to the Milky Way have companion galaxies like the Magellanic Clouds, which is very rare indeed. In total we found 14 galaxy systems that are similar to ours, with two of those being an almost exact match,” says Dr Robotham.
The Milky Way is locked in a complex cosmic dance with its close companions the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, which are clearly visible in the southern hemisphere night sky. Many galaxies have smaller galaxies in orbit around them, but few have two that are as large as the Magellanic Clouds.
Dr Robotham’s work also found that although companions like the Magellanic Clouds are rare, when they are found they’re usually near a galaxy very like the Milky Way, meaning we’re in just the right place at the right time to have such a great view in our night sky.
“The galaxy we live in is perfectly typical, but the nearby Magellenic Clouds are a rare, and possibly short-lived, occurrence. We should enjoy them whilst we can, they’ll only be around for a few billion more years,” adds Dr Robotham.
Dr Robotham and colleagues have been awarded further time on telescopes in New South Wales and Chile to study these Milky Way twin systems now that they’ve been found.
The Galaxy and Mass Assembly (GAMA) survey is an international collaboration led from ICRAR and the Australian Astronomical Observatory to map our local Universe in closer detail.
ICRAR is a joint venture between Curtin University and The University of Western Australia providing research excellence in the field of radio astronomy.
As beach season winds down, a number of Manitoba lakes are dealing with blue-green algae. Pelican Lake in southwest Manitoba reported toxic algae – signs have been posted and drinking and swimming is not recommended. Algal blooms were reported at Rock Lake, Oak Lake beach, Inverness Falls beach, Ochre Beach, Victoria, Patricia and West Grand beaches on Lake Winnipeg. Algal blooms were also reported at Stephenfield Reservoir, Big Whiteshell Lake, Lake Minnewasta and Poplar Bay on Lac du Bonnet, and the Salt Lake campground beach.
Blue-Green (cyanobacteria) Algae bloom
This does not included biological hazard category.
State of California, Burbank [700 block of Screenland Drive]
Health officials are trying to stop the spread of the potentially deadly disease Typhus, primarily transmitted by fleas. “Murine typhus, which is a disease transmitted primarily by fleas, has been slowly increasing in Los Angeles County,” said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of the L.A. County Department of Health. “It is not an epidemic. We had a total of 38 cases reported last year. We’ve had 15 confirmed this year and another 17 that we’re investigating.” Health officials say people can get typhus when their pets come in contact with wild, flea-infested animals like possums, rats, feral cats and others. “And some of the fleas have moved from those animals to your animals,” said Fielding. If one of those fleas from your pet bites you, you could end up with typhus. Health officials say the symptoms of typhus are similar to a bad case of the flu: headaches, high fever, chills, muscle aches and more. Another sign of typhus is a rather large rash that can break out over your body. “The good news is when it’s diagnosed it’s very treatable with antibiotics,” said Fielding. At least one human infection had been confirmed so far this year in Burbank, and two have been verified in the San Fernando Valley. Another three cases are under investigation, according to public health officials. In Los Angeles County, 15 cases of typhus have been confirmed so far this year, while another 17 were still under investigation, according to Fielding. The latest infections are part of a trend in which county officials have noticed a slight increase in flea-borne typhus cases over the past five to six years.
State of Texas, Mount Pleasant [Pilgrim's Pride Corporation]
An ammonia leak at a northeast Texas meat packing plant has sickened dozens of people. A spokeswoman at Titus Regional Medical Center in Mount Pleasant says hospital staff was advised to prepare to receive as many as 40 patients. Spokeswoman Shannon Norfleet says the cases were said to be minor and examinations were expected to be precautionary. The leak was reported about 2:30 p.m. Friday at the Pilgrim’s Pride poultry plant in Mount Pleasant, about 110 miles northeast of Dallas. Pilgrim’s Pride spokeswoman Margaret McDonald said she was gathering details on how the leak occurred.
About 45,000 gallons of cyanide water solution spilled onto a mine road at the Fort Knox gold mine late Thursday after a bulldozer struck a supply line, according to a Friday notice from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. The DEC reported that much of the spill zone is atop a lined area of the heap leach pile, which is an area that holds material that is treated with the cyanide water solution. The buried 12-inch pipeline carrying the cyanide solution was broke open when it was struck by the bulldozer’s ripper blade, the DEC report said. The rupture and spill were discovered at 9 p.m. Thursday and were reported to DEC less than an hour later. The DEC report said mine operators used heavy equipment to create a raised berm along the spill area to prevent the liquid from spreading and to keep it away from vehicle traffic. DEC sent an investigator to the site and will monitor the cleanup, the report said. The area is also being surveyed to determine the extent of the affected area. Fort Knox is located 26 miles northeast of Fairbanks. The mine, owned by Kinross, began operating in 1996 and in April 2011 poured its 5 millionth ounce of gold. It is expected to continue operating until 2021.
HONG KONG — One of the longest bridges in northern China collapsed on Friday, just nine months after it opened, setting off a storm of criticism from Chinese Internet users and underscoring questions about the quality of construction in the country’s rapid expansion of its infrastructure.
The collapse left three people dead and five others injured.
A nearly 330-foot-long section of a ramp of the eight-lane Yangmingtan Bridge in the city of Harbin dropped 100 feet to the ground. Four trucks plummeted with it, resulting in three deaths and five injuries.
The 9.6-mile bridge is one of three built over the Songhua River in that area in the past four years. China’s economic stimulus program in 2009 and 2010 helped the country avoid most of the effects of the global economic downturn, but involved incurring heavy debt to pay for the rapid construction of new bridges, highways and high-speed rail lines all over the country.
Questions about the materials used during the construction and whether the projects were properly engineered have been the subject of national debate ever since a high-speed train plowed into the back of a stopped train on the same track on July 23 last year in the eastern city of Wenzhou. The crash killed 40 people and injured 191; a subsequent investigation blamed in particular flaws in the design of the signaling equipment.
According to the official Xinhua news agency, the Yangmingtan Bridge was the sixth major bridge in China to collapse since July 2011. Chinese officials have tended to blame overloaded trucks for the collapses, and did so again on Friday.
Many in China have attributed the recent spate of bridge collapses to corruption, and online reaction to the latest collapse was scathing.
“Corrupt officials who do not die just continue to cause disaster after disaster,” said one post on Friday on Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblogging service similar to Twitter.
Another Internet user expressed hope “that the government will put heavy emphasis on this and investigate to find out the real truth, and give both the dead and the living some justice!” A third user was more laconic, remarking, “Tofu engineering work leads to a tofu bridge.”
Chinese news media reported that the bridge had cost 1.88 billion renminbi, or almost $300 million.
A general view of the first session of the new Egyptian parliament on January 23, 2012
The Muslim Brotherhood has rejected the military’s decision to dissolve the Egyptian parliament and has demanded that a referendum be held on the issue.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which secured the biggest bloc of seats in two rounds of parliamentary elections in December 2011 and January 2012, issued a statement on Saturday saying “dangerous days” were ahead and the political gains of the revolution that toppled former dictator Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011 could be wiped out.
The parliament should only be dissolved by a popular referendum, and the order to dissolve the assembly “represents a coup against the whole democratic process,” the statement added.
The Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) — the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood — said in another statement that the decision showed the military council’s desire to “take possession of all powers despite the will of the people.”
Egypt’s ruling military council formally announced the dissolution of the parliament on Saturday following a Supreme Court ruling earlier in the week.
Some critics have compared the move to the beginning of Algeria’s civil war in 1992, when the army cancelled an election an Islamic party was winning.
Egyptians are casting their ballots in a two-day presidential runoff election that began on Saturday and runs until Sunday which pits the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, Mohammed Morsi, against former Prime Minister Ahmad Shafiq.
More than 50 million people are eligible to vote.
Early results of expatriates’ votes show Morsi has won 78 percent.
The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has vowed to hand over power to the winner of the election by July 1.
Many Egyptians fear that Shafiq is the undeclared candidate of the junta and that the military-appointed election committee overseeing the election will rig the vote in favor of Shafiq.
Angry Egyptian protesters have held many demonstrations across the country in which they urged the authorities to ban all remnants of the Mubarak regime from running as candidates in elections.
Large swathes of farmland are threatened by locusts in Niger even as the drought-prone African nation is grappling with a severe food crisis, a pest-control official said Wednesday.
“Unless swarms are destroyed very early, locusts will reproduce and reach the cropland,” Yahaya Garba, director of the CNLA agency in charge of pest-control, said in the latest bulletin of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Niger.
At least 500,000 hectares (1.2 million acres) of farmland and one million hectares (2.5 million acres) of pasture land could be devastated.
“Locusts are about to reach the Sahel (region), and notably northern Mali and Niger,” Garba said adding that the migratory species was invading the area from southeast Algeria and neighbouring Libya.
The first swarms were spotted in northern Niger late last month and have started to migrate south where most Niger farmland is concentrated.
More than 80 percent of Niger’s population of 15 million live on farm produce and six million are facing a new food crisis already, out of 18 million in the entire Sahel belt, according to United Nations figures.
“The fight (against the locusts) must be fought intensively and immediately,” warned Garba, appealing for international assistance.
There was a major risk that locusts invade the area from Mali where state agencies do not have access to locust reproduction zones as the north is under the control of armed rebel groups.
The UN’s Rome-based food agency said earlier this month that political insecurity and conflicts in North Africa were hindering efforts to control the swarms of desert locusts.
An earthquake measuring 3.9 on the Richter scale hit the western Odisha region covering Balangir, Nuapada and Kalahandi on Saturday.
According to the Bhuabneswar Regional Meteorological Office, “The earthquake of slight intensity having its magnitude at 3.9 on the Richter scale occurred at 1.45 pm and the epicentre of the earthquake was located at latitude 20.1 degree North and longitude 82.9 degree East in Kalahandi district.”
The people of the three districts tossing under the impact of continued heat-wave condition, felt the tremor that caused vertical cracks in the buildings at some places but there was no reports of any loss of life and property, official sources said.
The earthquake in Kalahandi district was felt in parts of Bhawanipatna town, Kesinga, Junagarh, Dharmagarh, Golamunda and other areas, said an official of the local Met office in Bhawanipatna.
The people of the affected districts who felt the tremor for about 10-15 seconds along with a mild rumbling under earth were panicked and came out of their houses fearing mishap.
Meanwhile, with the pre-monsoon rains in some coastal, southern and northern areas, there was remarkable slide in the day’s temperature by at least four degrees Celsius on Saturday in the costal and southern districts.
However, there was no respite from the intense heat-wave conditions in western Odisha districts as the sunstroke deaths in the State rose to 32 officially against unofficial reports that heat-wave deaths had touched 140.
Twelve places recorded above 40 degrees Celsius on the day while it was between 43 and 46 degrees in nine places in the western districts.
According to Met office, Sundergarah was the hottest spot on the day with The maximum temperature of 45.8 degrees Celsius followed by 45.5 degrees at Hirakud and 45 degrees in three places- Sonepur, Titilagarah and Sundargarh. While Jharsuguda recorded 44.8 degrees, Talcher was at 44.2, Angul 43.6 and Bhawanipatna 43.5. In Balangir the day’s temperature was recorded at 41.5 degrees Celsius.
Though the temperature in the coastal areas was below 40 degrees, the State capital region recorded 40.5 degrees Celsius.
Meanwhile, the local Met office in its forecast said rain or thundershowers may occur at a few places over coastal Odisha and at one or two places over the interior parts.
However, the Met office warned that thunder squall accompanied with hail and gusty surface wind reaching a speed up to 60-70 km per hour may occur at one or two paces over the State during next 24 hours. In Bhubaneswar, the sky would remain partially cloudy and the maximum day temperature would be around 39 degrees Celsius, the office said.
A powerful earthquake has shaken Greece’s island of Rhodes and southwestern Turkey. No deaths or serious damage have been reported, but officials say six people were hurt in Turkey by jumping out of buildings.
The Athens Geodynamic Institute says the quake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.8 struck at a depth of 37 kilometres in the Aegean Sea at 3:44 p.m. (1244 GMT) Sunday. That is between the Greek island of Rhodes and western Turkey.
Turkey’s Kandilli Observatory gave a stronger preliminary magnitude of 6.0, with aftershocks of 4.9 and 4.7. Areas of Turkey shaken by the quake included the popular Aegean resort town of Oludeniz, the Aegean port of Izmir, and the Mediterranean city of Antalya.
Police in Rhodes said there are no reports of injuries or damage.
No serious casualties were reported in Turkey either, but officials said half a dozen people who jumped out of windows in panic over the temblor were injured.
These regions of Greece and Turkey are in seismically active areas and suffer frequent earthquakes.
Guatemalan volcanoe Fuego increased their activity in the last hours and the authorities recommended on Monday took all the necessary precautions with the surrounding air traffic. The Insivumeh reported white and blue plume up to 100 meters above the crater, with displacement to the southwest, in the case of Fuego volcano, whose height is 3,763 meters above sea level and is located between the departments of Sacatepequez, Chimaltenango and Escuintla (center south).
An inland lifeboat crew search a flooded caravan park near Aberystwyth. Photograph: Rnli/PA
Hundreds of residents and holidaymakers spent Saturday night in refuge centres after floodwater ravaged their homes and holiday caravans in west Wales.
Around 150 people were evacuated as caravan parks and villages near Aberystwyth were inundated when more than 5 inches (13cm), twice the local average rainfall for June, fell in 24 hours.
As high river levels remained a risk in some areas, police put the overall number of people who fled their homes at 1,000.
Andy Francis, of Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, told the BBC: “There’s mass scale damage to caravan parks and private dwellings throughout the area.
“A lot of floodwater’s gone through them, leaving a huge amount of damage, and a residual danger as well from the biohazards; from sewerage, and other contaminants.
“Lots of sewers may have been damaged, and indeed gas and water supplies damaged, so my advice to anybody entering their properties this morning is to take sensible precautions.”
The Environment Agency said the rain had now passed the area while one flood warning for the River Teifi at Lampeter and Llanybydder remains in place.
Francis said high river levels remained a risk. “Please do not go near the water, it’s still extremely dangerous, and don’t try to drive through it either, because you will end up becoming a casualty and requiring rescue.”
Outside of Wales, flash floods also struck two villages near York, inundating properties. North Yorkshire fire crews said they pumped water out of Flaxton and Stockton-on-the-Forest after torrential rain on Saturday afternoon. The flooding was concentrated in Main Street in Flaxton and Sandy Lane in Stockton-on-the-Forest.
Meanwhile, tributes have been paid to the emergency services who ensured there were no serious casualties during the flooding in Wales. At one point, an inshore lifeboat team had to be airlifted to safety after getting into difficulties while helping to pluck a disabled man from a flooded caravan.
Four holiday camps along the River Lery were evacuated when the swollen waters breached its banks.
Dozens of people took refuge in a community centre in Talybont while three people were winched away from the Riverside caravan park in Llandre by RAF Sea King helicopters. Dyfed-Powys police said three people needed treatment for minor injuries.
Other rescues took place throughout the day at Aberystwyth Holiday Village in Penparcau, Sea Rivers caravan park in Ynyslas, Borth and Mill House caravan park in Dol-y-Bont, Borth.
Crews on Saturday battled a fast-moving wildfire in northern Colorado that has scorched about 8,000 acres and prompted several dozen evacuation orders. Larimer County Sheriff’s Office spokesman John Schulz said the fire was reported just before 6 a.m. Saturday in the mountainous Paradise Park area about 25 miles northwest of Fort Collins. The blaze expanded rapidly during the late afternoon and evening and by Saturday night, residents living along several roads in the region had been ordered to evacuate and many more were warned that they might have to flee. An evacuation center has been set up at a Laporte middle school. Officials didn’t specify how many residents had evacuated but said they had sent out 800 emergency notifications alerting people to the fire and the possibility that might have to flee. “Right now we’re just trying to get these evacuations done and get people safe,” Schulz told Denver-based KMGH-TV, adding that “given the extreme heat in the area, it makes it a difficult time for (the firefighters).” Temperatures near Fort Collins reached the mid-80s Saturday afternoon with a humidity level of between 5 percent and 10 percent. Ten structures have been damaged, although authorities were unsure if they were homes or some other kind of buildings. No injuries have been reported. The cause of the fire was unknown. Aerial footage from KMGH-TV showed flames coming dangerously close to what appeared to be several outbuildings and at least one home in the area, as well as consuming trees and sending a large plume of smoke into the air. Two heavy air tankers, five single-engine air tankers and four helicopters were on the scene to help fight the blaze, which appeared to be burning on private and U.S. Forest Service land and was being fueled by sustained winds of between 20 and 25 mph. “It was just good conditions to grow,” National Weather Service meteorologist Chad Gimmestad told The Associated Press. “The conditions today were really favorable for it to take off.”
Legionnaires’ disease in Edinburgh has claimed the life of a man in his 50s, as health authorities disclosed they were dealing with more than 30 confirmed and suspected cases. The man, who had other underlying health problems, died at the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh on Tuesday. He was one of 15 people in a critical condition being treated in hospital, as the Health and Safety Executive stepped up their efforts to track the source of the outbreak. NHS Lothian said 13 men and two women aged between 33 and 74 were in a critical condition with the disease. They are being treated in intensive care in hospitals in the Lothian area. There were also 15 suspected cases affecting 10 men and five women, similarly concentrated on the Dalry, Gorgie and Saughton neighbourhoods of south-west Edinburgh. The number of people involved in the outbreak has escalated sharply in the past 48 hours, since the first case emerged on last Thursday. Industrial cooling towers in the area are believed to be a potential source of the outbreak and Edinburgh council environmental health staff have treated 16 cooling towers in an effort to halt its spread. One person among the 17 confirmed cases, initially involving men aged between 30 and 65, has already been sent home.
Dr Duncan McCormick, a consultant in public health medicine, said medical staff were now trying to identify other unidentified cases to establish the true scale of the outbreak. “I would like to reassure the public that household water supplies are safe and that Legionnaires’ disease cannot be contracted by drinking water,” he said. “Older people, particularly men, heavy smokers and those with other health conditions, are at greater risk of contracting the disease.” It might take up to 10 days before results are available, since legionella is difficult to culture. Meanwhile, those responsible for maintaining the towers have been advised to carry out additional chemical treatment to water in the systems as a precaution. Other possible sources are not being ruled out. Legionella bacteria is often found in rivers and lakes but can end up in artificial water supply systems, such as air conditioning systems, water services and cooling towers. Spread by minute droplets of water, it cannot be transmitted from person to person. Symptoms usually begin with a mild headache and muscle pain but become more severe after a day or two. These might include high fever, with a temperature of 40C (104F) or more, and increasing muscle pain and chills.
Once the bacteria infect the lungs, carriers may also experience a persistent cough, later including mucus or blood, shortness of breath and chest pains. A third of people with the disease will experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea or loss of appetite. About half may also experience changes to their mental state. Bacteriologist Hugh Pennington told BBC Radio Scotland that the disease was preventable. “Industrial water cooling towers are quite a common source of the bug. The bug lives in warm, fresh water. Basically disinfectant should be put in the water to stop the bug growing.” Legionnaires’ was a “very, very severe pneumonia” but it was often hard to track down the source,” Pennington added. “If there are several water cooling towers in an area you have to look at them all and find out which is the source of the bug.”
Viruses and bacteria that cause severe to fatal disease in humans, and for which vaccines or other treatments are not available, such as Bolivian and Argentine hemorrhagic fevers, H5N1(bird flu), Dengue hemorrhagic fever, Marburg virus, Ebola virus, hantaviruses, Lassa fever, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, and other hemorrhagic or unidentified diseases. When dealing with biological hazards at this level the use of a Hazmat suit and a self-contained oxygen supply is mandatory. The entrance and exit of a Level Four biolab will contain multiple showers, a vacuum room, an ultraviolet light room, autonomous detection system, and other safety precautions designed to destroy all traces of the biohazard. Multiple airlocks are employed and are electronically secured to prevent both doors opening at the same time. All air and water service going to and coming from a Biosafety Level 4 (P4) lab will undergo similar decontamination procedures to eliminate the possibility of an accidental release.
This past winter, an extended cold snap descended on central and Eastern Europe in mid-January, with temperatures approaching minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit and snowdrifts reaching rooftops. And there were the record snowstorms fresh in the memories of residents from several eastern U.S. cities, such as Washington, New York and Philadelphia, as well as many other parts of the Eastern Seaboard during the previous two years. File image courtesy AFP.
The dramatic melt-off of Arctic sea ice due to climate change is hitting closer to home than millions of Americans might think. That’s because melting Arctic sea ice can trigger a domino effect leading to increased odds of severe winter weather outbreaks in the Northern Hemisphere’s middle latitudes – think the “Snowmageddon” storm that hamstrung Washington, D.C., during February 2010.
Cornell’s Charles H. Greene, professor of earth and atmospheric sciences, and Bruce C. Monger, senior research associate in the same department, detail this phenomenon in a paper published in the June issue of the journal Oceanography.
“Everyone thinks of Arctic climate change as this remote phenomenon that has little effect on our everyday lives,” Greene said. “But what goes on in the Arctic remotely forces our weather patterns here.”
A warmer Earth increases the melting of sea ice during summer, exposing darker ocean water to incoming sunlight. This causes increased absorption of solar radiation and excess summertime heating of the ocean – further accelerating the ice melt. The excess heat is released to the atmosphere, especially during the autumn, decreasing the temperature and atmospheric pressure gradients between the Arctic and middle latitudes.
A diminished latitudinal pressure gradient is associated with a weakening of the winds associated with the polar vortex and jet stream. Since the polar vortex normally retains the cold Arctic air masses up above the Arctic Circle, its weakening allows the cold air to invade lower latitudes.
The recent observations present a new twist to the Arctic Oscillation – a natural pattern of climate variability in the Northern Hemisphere. Before humans began warming the planet, the Arctic’s climate system naturally oscillated between conditions favorable and those unfavorable for invasions of cold Arctic air.
“What’s happening now is that we are changing the climate system, especially in the Arctic, and that’s increasing the odds for the negative AO conditions that favor cold air invasions and severe winter weather outbreaks,” Greene said. “It’s something to think about given our recent history.”
This past winter, an extended cold snap descended on central and Eastern Europe in mid-January, with temperatures approaching minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit and snowdrifts reaching rooftops. And there were the record snowstorms fresh in the memories of residents from several eastern U.S. cities, such as Washington, New York and Philadelphia, as well as many other parts of the Eastern Seaboard during the previous two years.
Greene and Monger did note that their paper is being published just after one of the warmest winters in the eastern U.S. on record.
“It’s a great demonstration of the complexities of our climate system and how they influence our regional weather patterns,” Greene said.
In any particular region, many factors can have an influence, including the El Nino/La Nina cycle. This winter, La Nina in the Pacific shifted undulations in the jet stream so that while many parts of the Northern Hemisphere were hit by the severe winter weather patterns expected during a bout of negative AO conditions, much of the eastern United States basked in the warm tropical air that swung north with the jet stream.
“It turns out that while the eastern U.S. missed out on the cold and snow this winter, and experienced record-breaking warmth during March, many other parts of the Northern Hemisphere were not so fortunate,” Greene said.
Europe and Alaska experienced record-breaking winter storms, and the global average temperature during March 2012 was cooler than any other March since 1999.
“A lot of times people say, ‘Wait a second, which is it going to be – more snow or more warming?’ Well, it depends on a lot of factors, and I guess this was a really good winter demonstrating that,” Greene said. “What we can expect, however, is the Arctic wildcard stacking the deck in favor of more severe winter outbreaks in the future.”
Core samples were collected at the sites noted in the North Pacific Ocean. Credit: Jonathan LaRiviere/Ocean Data View.
Until now, studies of Earth’s climate have documented a strong correlation between global climate and atmospheric carbon dioxide; that is, during warm periods, high concentrations of CO2 persist, while colder times correspond to relatively low levels. However, in this week’s issue of the journal Nature, paleoclimate researchers reveal that about 12-5 million years ago climate was decoupled from atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. New evidence of this comes from deep-sea sediment cores dated to the late Miocene period of Earth’s history.
During that time, temperatures across a broad swath of the North Pacific were 9-14 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than today, while atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations remained low–near values prior to the Industrial Revolution.
The research shows that, in the last five million years, changes in ocean circulation allowed Earth’s climate to become more closely coupled to changes in carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere.
The findings also demonstrate that the climate of modern times more readily responds to changing carbon dioxide levels than it has during the past 12 million years.
“This work represents an important advance in understanding how Earth’s past climate may be used to predict future climate trends,” says Jamie Allan, program director in the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Division of Ocean Sciences, which funded the research.
The research team, led by Jonathan LaRiviere and Christina Ravelo of the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC), generated the first continuous reconstructions of open-ocean Pacific temperatures during the late Miocene epoch.
It was a time of nearly ice-free conditions in the Northern Hemisphere and warmer-than-modern conditions across the continents.
The research relies on evidence of ancient climate preserved in microscopic plankton skeletons–called microfossils–that long-ago sank to the sea-floor and ultimately were buried beneath it in sediments.
Samples of those sediments were recently brought to the surface in cores drilled into the ocean bottom. The cores were retrieved by marine scientists working aboard the drillship JOIDES Resolution.
The microfossils, the scientists discovered, contain clues to a time when the Earth’s climate system functioned much differently than it does today.
“It’s a surprising finding, given our understanding that climate and carbon dioxide are strongly coupled to each other,” LaRiviere says.
“In the late Miocene, there must have been some other way for the world to be warm. One possibility is that large-scale patterns in ocean circulation, determined by the very different shape of the ocean basins at the time, allowed warm temperatures to persist despite low levels of carbon dioxide.”
The Pacific Ocean in the late Miocene was very warm, and the thermocline, the boundary that separates warmer surface waters from cooler underlying waters, was much deeper than in the present.
The scientists suggest that this deep thermocline resulted in a distribution of atmospheric water vapor and clouds that could have maintained the warm global climate.
“The results explain the seeming paradox of the warm–but low greenhouse gas–world of the Miocene,” says Candace Major, program director in NSF’s Division of Ocean Sciences.
Several major differences in the world’s waterways could have contributed to the deep thermocline and the warm temperatures of the late Miocene.
For example, the Central American Seaway remained open, the Indonesian Seaway was much wider than it is now, and the Bering Strait was closed.
These differences in the boundaries of the world’s largest ocean, the Pacific, would have resulted in very different circulation patterns than those observed today.
By the onset of the Pliocene epoch, about five million years ago, the waterways and continents of the world had shifted into roughly the positions they occupy now.
That also coincides with a drop in average global temperatures, a shoaling of the thermocline, and the appearance of large ice sheets in the Northern Hemisphere–in short, the climate humans have known throughout recorded history.
“This study highlights the importance of ocean circulation in determining climate conditions,” says Ravelo. “It tells us that the Earth’s climate system has evolved, and that climate sensitivity is possibly at an all-time high.”
Other co-authors of the paper are Allison Crimmins of UCSC and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Petra Dekens of UCSC and San Francisco State University; Heather Ford of UCSC; Mitch Lyle of Texas A and M University; and Michael Wara of UCSC and Stanford University.
New sunspot AR1504 is crackling with impulsive M-class solar flares. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory photographed the extreme UV flash from one of them, an M2-class flare on June 10th at 0645 UT:
So far none of the blasts have been Earth directed, but geoeffective eruptions are possible in the days ahead as AR1504 turns toward Earth. NOAA forecasters estimate a 45% chance of more M-flares today.
As the solstice approaches on June 20th, the International Space Station is spending some extra time in the sun. Ironically, this means you’re more likely to see it in the night sky. Mark Humpage photographed three ISS flybys over his home in Lutterworth UK on June 10th:
“There were actually four flybys this evening at 2207, 2343, 0119 and 0256 hrs, however, the first was clouded out,” says Humpage. “I added a few bursts of flash just before the first flyby to light up the garden and then left the camera running all night. The following morning I extracted all the images and stacked them to produce the final composite.”
New research shows that the meteorite which crashed into the Earth 60 to 70 million years ago, wiping out dinosaurs, gave us large, red tomatoes as well. This can be deduced from a tomato genome analysis.
Scientists who mapped the tomato genome have established that the genome of the original tomato plant suddenly tripled in size about 60 to 70 million years ago.
“Such a big genome expansion points to extremely stressful conditions,” says René Klein Lankhorst, the Wageningen UR coordinator of the tomato genome research project.
“We suspect that the meteorite crash and the resulting solar eclipse had created conditions difficult for plants to survive.A distant ancestor of the tomato plant then reacted by expanding its genome considerably in order to increase its chances of survival.”When conditions subsequently improved again, this ancestor of the tomato got rid of a lot of genetic ballast, but the genetic base for fruit formation had already been developed by then, the tomato fruit acquired its red colour and certain genes which produced toxins disappeared, says Klein Lankhorst.
In this way, the tomato differentiates itself from a family member, the potato, which has no edible fruits.
The plant researchers could “look back” very far into the past by comparing the tomato plant genome with family members in the nightshade and other plant families. And they had the advantage of having almost mapped all the 35 thousand genes of the tomato, which made even small changes noticeable.
For example, a comparison of the locally produced vegetable crop with the wild ancestor Solanum pimpinellifolium (probably brought to Europe by the Spanish) showed that the genome of the Dutch tomato differs by only 0.6 percent from that of its wild ancestor from the 15th Century.
Dinosaurs roamed the Earth for around 180 Million years.
Image credit & copyright: National Geographic Society/Corbis So the tomato’s red color was acquired in part because of the meteor crash, as well as its edibility.
Incredibly, the genetic makeup of tomato plants all around the world can be traced to these tomato plant ancestors, proving the link between the dinosaur extinction causing meteor and the common red fleshy fruits.
MessageToEagle.com based on information provided by Wageningen UR
An earthquake swarm with possibly hundreds of small quakes has been detected at Chile’s San Pedro-Pellado (or Tatara-San Pedro) volcano. Not many details about this activity are available and reports are in parts contradictory, as the Eruptions Blog who brought this to our attention points out. There is little known about the eruptive history of the volcano except that it most likely has erupted during the past 10,000 years and can be considered an active volcano. Any reawakening would thus mark its first historic eruption, something that would remind what has happened at Chaitén volcano in 2008.
This three-dimensional perspective view of Long Valley, Calif., was created from data taken by the Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C/X-band Synthetic Aperture Radar on board the space shuttle Endeavour. Credit: NASA/JPL.
Enormous volcanic eruptions with potential to end civilizations may have surprisingly short fuses, researchers have discovered. These eruptions are known as super-eruptions because they are more than 100 times the size of ordinary volcanic eruptions like Mount St. Helens.
They spew out tremendous flows of super-heated gas, ash and rock capable of blanketing entire continents and inject enough particulate into the stratosphere to throw the global climate into decade-long volcanic winters.
In fact, there is evidence that one super-eruption, which took place in Indonesia 74,000 years ago, may have come remarkably close to wiping out the entire human species.
Geologists generally believe that a super-eruption is produced by a giant pool of magma that forms a couple of miles below the surface and then simmers for 100,000 to 200,000 years before erupting. But a new study suggests that once they form, these giant magma bodies may only exist for a few thousand years, perhaps only a few hundred years, before erupting.
“Our study suggests that when these exceptionally large magma pools form they are ephemeral and cannot exist very long without erupting,” said Guilherme Gualda, the assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at Vanderbilt University who directed the study, which appears in the May 30 issue of the journal PLoS ONE.
The study was performed on the remnants of the Bishop Tuff, the Long Valley super-eruption that occurred in east-central California 760,000 years ago. Using the latest methods for dating the process of magma formation, Gualda and his colleagues found several independent lines of evidence that indicate the magma pool formed within a few thousand years, perhaps within a few hundred years, before it erupted, covering half of the North American continent with smoldering ash.
These giant magma pools tend to be shaped like pancakes and are 10 to 25 miles in diameter and one half to three miles deep. In the beginning, the molten rock in these pools is largely free from crystals and bubbles.
After they form, however, crystals and bubbles form gradually and progressively change the magma’s physical and chemical properties, a process that halts when an eruption takes place.
As far as geologists can tell, no such giant crystal-poor magma body currently exists that is capable of producing a super-eruption. The research team believes this may be because these magma bodies exist for a relatively short time rather than persisting for hundreds of thousands of years as previously thought.
According to Gualda, the estimates for the 100,000 year-plus lifetimes of these giant magma bodies appears to be an artifact of the method that geologists have used to make them. The measurements have been made using zircon crystals.
Zircons are commonplace in volcanic rocks and they contain small amounts of radioactive uranium and thorium, which decay into lead at a set rate, allowing scientists to accurately determine when the crystals formed. They are extremely useful for many purposes because they can survive most geologic processes.
However, the fact that zircons can withstand the heat and the forces found in a magma chamber means that they are not good at recording the lifetimes of crystal-poor magma bodies.
Gualda and his colleagues took a different approach in his studies of the Bishop Tuff. They determined crystallization rates of quartz – the most abundant mineral in the deposits – to gather information about the lifespan of these giant magma bodies.
They developed four independent lines of evidence that agreed that the formation process took less than 10,000 years and most likely between 500 to 3,000 years before the eruption.
They suggest that the zircon crystal measurements record the extensive changes that take place in the crust required before the giant magma bodies can begin forming as opposed to the formation itself.
“The fact that the process of magma body formation occurs in historical time, instead of geological time, completely changes the nature of the problem,” said Gualda.
Instead of concluding that there is virtually no risk of another super-eruption for the foreseeable future because there are no suitable magma bodies, geologists need to regularly monitor areas where super-eruptions are likely, such as Yellowstone, to provide advanced warning if such a magma body begins to form.
According to a 2005 report by the Geological Society of London, “Even science fiction cannot produce a credible mechanism for averting a super-eruption. We can, however, work to better understand the mechanisms involved in super-eruptions, with the goal of being able to predict them ahead of time and provide a warning for society. Preparedness is the key to mitigation of the disastrous effects of a super-eruption.”
Vanderbilt doctoral student Ayla S. Pamukcu, Mark S. Ghiorso of OFM Research, and Alfred T. Anderson Jr.,Stephen R. Sutton and Mark L. Rivers from the University of Chicago participated in the study, which was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation
The research team during the descent from the “Celestial Mountains” at an altitude of around 3,300 metres. Photo courtesy Timm John, Universitat Munster.
In the depths of the earth, it is anything but peaceful: large quantities of liquids carve their way through the rock as fluids, causing magma to form. A research team led by the University of Munster, has shown that the fluids flow a lot faster through solid rock than previously assumed. In the Chinese Tian Shan Mountains, fluids pushed their way to the earth’s mantle from great depths in just 200 years rather than in the course of tens or even hundreds of thousands of years.
The researchers from Munster, Kiel, Bochum, Erlangen, Bethlehem (USA) and Lausanne (Switzerland) present their findings, based on an innovative combination of fieldwork, geochemical analysis and numerical calculations, in the current issue of the journal Nature Geoscience. The RUB geoscientists are experts in determining time scales using numerical models.
How the “Ring of Fire” is formed When tectonic plates move towards each other and push over each other at the edges, so-called subduction zones are formed. The descending plate is heated and continuously releases the water stored in its rocks as fluid.
The fluid penetrates the earth’s mantle, which is located above the descending plate. The fluids thus lower the melting point of the mantle rocks, and the liquid rock formed rises to the volcanoes as magma.
This magma feeds the many volcanoes throughout the world that occur along the convergent plate boundaries and form the “Ring of Fire”, a volcanic belt that encircles the Pacific Ocean. The fluids are commonly assumed to flow through the rock in a defined flow system. Geologists call these structures veins.
Only two hundred years During field work in the Chinese part of the Tian Shan Mountains (Celestial Mountains), the research team found structures in the rocks they were studying which can be ascribed to massive fluid flows at great depth.
“Our investigation has shown that a great deal of fluid must have flowed through a rock vein at about 70 km depth and that this fluid has obviously already covered a distance of several hundred meters or more – the transport of such large quantities of fluid over such a great distance has not been demonstrated by anyone before us” explains Timm John from the Institute for Mineralogy, University of Munster.
“And the most exciting thing is that this amount of fluid flowed through the rock in what is for geological processes a very short time, only about two hundred years”, adds Nikolaus Gussone of the same institute.
Like in a reservoir The release of fluids from minerals in the descending plates is a large-scale and continuous process that takes place at depths up to two-hundred kilometres and takes millions of years. During this time, the fluids first accumulate.
As the researchers have now shown for the first time, the released fluids then flowed through the plate on their way to the mantle in pulses in a relatively short time along defined flow paths. “It’s like a reservoir that continuously fills and then empties in a surge through defined channels” Timm John points out.
“The fluid release is focused in space and time, and is much faster than expected – almost like a jet through solid rock”.
The researchers hope to be able to show the spatial and temporal correlations between such fluid pulses and volcanic activity in future studies. It is also possible that such focused fluid releases are associated with the occurrence of earthquake events in subduction zones. To be able to demonstrate such relations, however, intensive research is still needed.
RUB experts for time scales The RUB’s petrologists were involved in modelling the chemical data. This enabled the research team to determine the time it took the fluids to make their way to the mantle.
Determining the time scales of various geological processes is a particular expertise of Bochum’s petrologists. Among other things, they use minerals and rocks with zones that exhibit a different chemical composition.
T. John et al. (2012): Volcanic arcs fed by rapid pulsed fluid flow through subducting slabs. Nature Geoscience, doi: 10.1038/NGEO1482
Tatara-San Pedro seen in February 2006. Image by Michael Dungan (Univ. Geneva)
UPDATE June 8, 2012 at 2:30 PM EDT: This hasn’t entirely been settled, but the latest report in 24Horas.cl has the SERNAGEOMIN ruling out any volcanic origin to the spate of earthquakes near San Pedro-Tatara (San Pedro-Pellado). This report, however, implicates Laguna del Maule as the potential location of volcanic unrest.
Quick report tonight brought to my attention by Eruptions reader GuillermoChile. Apparently, the SERNAGEOMIN has been monitoring an earthquake swarm at Chile’s Tatara-San Pedro (also known as San Pedro-Pellado), possibly numbering in the hundreds of small earthquakes over the last few days. The reports are a little scant and the information coming from different parts of the Chilean government are contradictory: the regional governor of the area was quoted as saying that “it is of volcanic earthquakes, so we are on alert” while the regional director from ONEMI said “at first thought that we were facing a volcanic earthquakes, but known reports of the analysis has led to the conclusion that we were facing tectonic type earthquakes“. The article in La Tercera also mentions that the volcano hasn’t erupted in “decades” while the Global Volcanism Program’s entry for San Pedro says that the last eruption is “unknown”, likely in the Holocene (last 10,000 years). So, there seems to be lots of confusion (not to mention La Tercera calling the volcano “Catinao”). If this is renewed activity at the volcano, it is potentially the first in recorded history.
Tatara-San Pedro has been a focus of a lot of petrologic study, so any new activity would get the geologic community’s attention quickly. I’ll keep this updated with any new information as it arrives, but hard to tell what exactly is going on at the Chilean volcano.
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POINT ST GEORGE TO POINT ARENA
POINT ARENA TO POINT CONCEPTION
SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA
LOS ANGELES/OXNARD CA
EL PASO TX/SANTA TERESA NM
GRAND JUNCTION CO
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The tornado that cut a swathe through Perth’s northern suburbs on Thursday was strong enough to send shopping trolleys flying, the Bureau of Meteorology says.
Spokesman Neil Bennett said the tornado that hit Dianella and Morley brought wind speeds of at least 125km/h, so anyone in the area was lucky not to have been hurt by flying debris.
Estimates of wind speeds up to 180km/h were guesses and were probably too high, Mr Bennett said.
“We can’t measure the winds directly, so a structural engineer goes off to look at the damage, then gives us an assessment of the type of wind speeds that may have caused that damage, so we’re waiting on confirmation,” Mr Bennett told AAP on Friday.
Tornadoes were not particularly unusual, with a handful usually hitting the Perth metropolitan area and South West region during the cool season from May to October, he said.
The State Emergency Service (SES) on Friday said the tornado caused damage to around 100 homes and buildings.
The SES said eight homes sustained major damage, with five deemed uninhabitable.
Mr Bennett said a low-pressure frontal system was approaching the South West region, so it was at risk of wild weather on Monday.
Limited access to safe water sources is a major problem in the DRC (file photo)
KINSHASA, 8 June 2012 (IRIN) – A growing cholera outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has claimed nearly 400 lives and affected more than 19,100 people since January, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
“The total number of cholera cases in 2012 is around 90 percent of cases reported last year. Since January 2011, 983 people have died from the outbreak affecting eight of 11 provinces of the country,” Yvon Edoumou, OCHA spokesman, told a news conference.
Since the outbreak started, more than 40,795 cases have been reported. Edoumou said the growing epidemic had put a strain on ongoing humanitarian interventions funded mainly by a US$9.1 million grant by the UN Central Emergency Response Fund, which provides rapid response grants for humanitarian emergencies.
Experts have blamed the continued spread of cholera in the DRC on poor hygiene, lack of awareness about transmission mechanisms, limited access to protected and monitored water sources and a general lack of sanitation infrastructure.
Thomas Naeraa in Greenland. Image courtesy Anders Schersten.
The current theory of continental drift provides a good model for understanding terrestrial processes through history. However, while plate tectonics is able to successfully shed light on processes up to 3 billion years ago, the theory isn’t sufficient in explaining the dynamics of the earth and crust formation before that point and through to the earliest formation of planet, some 4.6 billion years ago.
This is the conclusion of Tomas Naaeraa of the Nordic Center for Earth Evolution at the Natural History Museum of Denmark, a part of the University of Copenhagen. His new doctoral dissertation has just been published by the esteemed international scientific journal, Nature.
“Using radiometric dating, one can observe that the Earth’s oldest continents were created in geodynamic environments which were markedly different than current environments characterised by plate tectonics.
Therefore, plate tectonics as we know it today is not a good model for understanding the processes at play during the earliest episodes of the Earths’s history, those beyond 3 billion years ago.
There was another crust dynamic and crust formation that occurred under other processes,” explains Tomas Naeraa, who has been a PhD student at the Natural History Museum of Denmark and the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland – GEUS.
Plate tectonics is a theory of continental drift and sea floor spreading. A wide range of phenomena from volcanism, earthquakes and undersea earthquakes (and pursuant tsunamis) to variations in climate and species development on Earth can be explained by the plate tectonics model, globally recognized during the 1960′s. Tomas Naeraa can now demonstrate that the half-century old model no longer suffices.
“Plate tectonics theory can be applied to about 3 billion years of the Earth’s history. However, the Earth is older, up to 4.567 billion years old. We can now demonstrate that there has been a significant shift in the Earth’s dynamics.
Thus, the Earth, under the first third of its history, developed under conditions other than what can be explained using the plate tectonics model,” explains Tomas Naeraa. Tomas is currently employed as a project researcher at GEUS.
Central research topic for 30 years Since 2006, the 40-year-old Tomas Naeraa has conducted studies of rocks sourced in the 3.85 billion year-old bedrock of the Nuuk region in West Greenland. Using isotopes of the element hafnium (Hf), he has managed to shed light upon a research topic that has puzzled geologists around the world for 30 years.
Naeraa’s instructor, Professor Minik Rosing of the Natural History Museum of Denmark considers Naeraa’s dissertation a seminal work: “We have come to understand the context of the Earth’s and continent’s origins in an entirely new way. Climate and nutrient cycles which nourish all terrestrial organisms are driven by plate tectonics.
So, if the Earth’s crust formation was controlled and initiated by other factors, we need to find out what controlled climate and the environments in which life began and evolved 4 billion years ago.
This fundamental understanding can be of great significance for the understanding of future climate change,” says Minik Rosing, who adds that: “An enormous job waits ahead, and Naeraas’ dissertation is an epochal step.”
View from the cockpit of the Falcon during a measurement flight.
Thunderstorms have a significant effect on the formation of ozone. Nitrogen oxide is produced as a result of lightning; this in turn yields ozone at altitudes of 10 kilometres. Strong updraughts in thunderstorms also transport emissions from the ground into the upper atmosphere. But how significant is this effect – compared to aviation, for example?
Researchers at the German Aerospace Center, in collaboration with the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), NASA and other partners, are studying such questions. To this end, they will be conducting measurement flights in the United States until mid-June. The researchers are looking to increase the existing body of data and gain a better understanding of the processes that take place in thunderstorms.
“Thunderstorms are like vacuum cleaners,” explains Heidi Huntrieser from the DLR Institute of Atmospheric Physics. The DLR project leader is supervising the measurement flights in the United States.
“Thunderstorms suck air up from the ground, sometimes at speeds surpassing 100 kilometres per hour, and carry it to an altitude of about 10 kilometres, to what is known as the ‘anvil region’. This is the mushroom-shaped layer high above the storm, where the air can only flow horizontally and hardly upwards at all.”
If polluted air, such as that from vehicle emissions on the ground, is transported to this region, the chemistry of these emissions is altered by the low temperatures, differing humidity and more intense solar radiation there; they take much longer to break down, and the production of ozone is increased. “At these altitudes, nitrogen oxide can produce up to 10 times as much ozone as on the ground,” says Huntrieser.
Huntrieser and her project partners intend to use the measurements to increase the existing data pool.
“Previous measurements lead to the conclusion that global aviation produces about one teragram of nitrogen oxide per year, but thunderstorms are responsible for about five times as much. All nitrogen oxide sources jointly contribute about 50 teragrams of nitrogen oxide to the atmosphere each year, so thunderstorms are responsible for about 10 percent,” explains Huntrieser. A teragram is 10 to the power of 12.
New model simulations show that thunderstorms exert a great influence on ozone. “These were somewhat surprising results,” says Huntrieser. “Now we need more measurement data to confirm this.”
Use of three research aircraft Three research aircraft are being used for the mission: the DLR Falcon research aircraft will take measurements at an altitude of 10 kilometres, while the American HIAPER research aircraft will take measurements at up to 15 kilometres. A DC-8, a much larger aircraft, will mainly operate at lower altitudes. “Our ambitious goal is for all the aircraft to operate simultaneously at different altitudes in the vicinity of thunderstorms. It would be a first,” says Huntrieser.
Influence exerted by different types of lightning Besides the transportation processes from the ground to the upper atmosphere, the studies will focus on the influence exerted by different types of lightning. There are relatively short lightning bolts a few kilometres long, and some that stretch horizontally over a distance of 100 kilometres or more.
The formation of lightning also depends on the type of storm; previous measurements over Europe indicate that storms with large amounts of hail and frozen rain that occur at mid-latitudes can contain relatively more and sometimes longer lightning bolts.
By comparison, measurements in tropical storms in Brazil indicate fewer ice particles, more cloud droplets and many – but shorter – lightning bolts. Previous measurements also indicate that less nitrogen oxide per lightning bolt is produced in storms with shorter lightning bolts than in those with longer lightning bolts. Due to the varied climatic conditions in the United States, the researchers can investigate both types of storms.
Over Alabama there are storms with less ice, and over Colorado there are those with more frozen rain and hail. Oklahoma is known for its violent storms, also known as supercells, which can also trigger tornadoes.
The research flights are very challenging, but not dangerous for the occupants: “We are not flying directly into the storms. That would be much too dangerous because of the strong turbulence, risk of ice formation, lightning strike and the high wind speeds.
Our measurements are being taken in the calmer anvil region,” explains Huntrieser. The robust Falcon is ideal for this. The DLR pilots have already carried out numerous similar measurements with the research aircraft over Europe, Brazil, Australia and Africa.
The researchers are also breaking some new ground with their measurement flights. Between 12 and 48 hours after the storm has dissipated, the scientists are planning to carry out measurement flights inside the storm’s residual air mass and determine, for example, how much ozone has been produced and how the chemical composition has changed as a result of the storm.
The shape of an RNA molecule remains the same with either magnesium (Mg) or iron (Fe).
When life began on Earth, iron may have done the job of magnesium, making life possible. On the periodic table of the elements, iron and magnesium are far apart. But new evidence discovered by the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) team at the Georgia Institute of Technology suggests that three billion years ago, iron did the job magnesium does today in helping Ribonucleic acid (RNA), a molecule essential for life, assume the molecular shapes necessary for biology.
The results of the study are scheduled to be published online in the journal PLoS ONE.
There is considerable evidence that the evolution of life passed through an early stage when RNA played a more central role, doing the jobs of DNA and protein before they appeared. During that time, more than three billion years ago, the environment lacked oxygen but had lots of available iron.
“One of the greatest challenges in astrobiology is understanding how life began on Earth billions of years ago when the environment was very different than it is today,” said Carl Pilcher, director of the Astrobiology Institute at NASA’s Ames Research Center Moffett Field, Calif.
“This study shows us how conditions on early Earth may have been conducive to the development of life.”
In the new study, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, used experiments and numerical calculations to show that under early Earth conditions, with little oxygen around, iron can substitute for magnesium in RNA, enabling it to assume the shapes it needs to catalyze life’s chemical reactions. In fact, it catalyzed those reactions better with iron than with magnesium.
“The primary motivation of this work was to understand RNA under plausible early Earth conditions.” said Loren Williams, a professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Georgia Tech and leader of the NAI team. “Our hypothesis is that RNA evolved in the presence of iron and is optimized to work with iron.”
Free oxygen gas was almost nonexistent more than three billion years ago in early Earth’s atmosphere. When oxygen began entering the environment as a product of photosynthesis, it turned Earth’s available iron to rust, forming massive banded iron deposits that are still mined today.
When all that iron got tied up in those deposits, it was no longer available. The current study indicates that RNA then began using magnesium, resulting in life as we know it today.
In future studies, the researchers plan to investigate what unique functions RNA can perform with iron that are not possible with magnesium.
In addition to Williams, Georgia Tech School of Biology postdoctoral fellow Shreyas Athavale, research scientist Anton Petrov, and professors Roger Wartell and Stephen Harvey, and Georgia Tech School of Chemistry and Biochemistry postdoctoral fellow Chiaolong Hsiao and professor Nicholas Hud also contributed to this research.
This study was funded by the NASA Astrobiology Institute, a virtual institute located and managed at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
A NASA mission to study the tiny algae vital to the ocean’s food chain has turned up a massive amount of phytoplankton where scientists least expected it — under the Arctic ice.
In a project that uses both satellites and on-site measurements to study this important food source for many of the ocean’s creatures, NASA sent a team to sample the ice pack off the Chukchi Sea along Alaska’s coast.
Researchers aboard the US Coast Guard icebreaker ship, Healy, sampled beneath the 0.8-1.3 meter (2.4-4.0 feet) thick sea ice and found phytoplankton biomass was “extremely high, about fourfold greater than in open water.”
The “massive under-ice bloom” also appeared to extend about 100 kilometers (60 miles) into the ice shelf, until “the waters literally looked like pea soup,” mission leader Kevin Arrigo told reporters.
“We were astonished. It was completely unexpected. It was literally the most intense phytoplankton bloom I have ever seen in my 25 years of doing this type of research,” said Arrigo, a scientist at Stanford University in California.
“Just like the tomatoes in your garden, these and all phytoplankton require light and they require nutrients to grow,” Arrigo explained.
“It has been presumed that there was very little light under the ice and we didn’t expect to see much.”
Known formally as “Impacts of Climate on Ecosystems and Chemistry of the Arctic Pacific Environment,” or ICESCAPE, mission scientists went on two expeditions in June-July of 2010 and 2011.
The latest findings are published in the June 7 edition of the journal Science.
Arrigo said the discovery caused “a fundamental shift in our understanding of the Arctic ecosystem,” which was previously believed to be cold and desolate.
Before, the tiny single-celled plants were not believed to grow until the ice melted.
“If you rank all the phytoplankton blooms anywhere in the world by the amount of phytoplankton that is contained in them, the under-ice bloom that we saw during ICESCAPE would finish at the very top of the list,” he added.
“And it was growing beneath a layer of sea ice as thick as a five-year-old child is tall.”
Phytoplankton were scarcer and deeper in the open waters, and were “greatest at depths of 20 to 50 meters (66-164 feet) because of nutrient depletion near the surface,” said the study.
More research is needed to determine how these under-ice phytoplankton affect local ecosystems.
Phytoplankton blooms in the Arctic have been observed to peak as many as 50 days earlier than they did a dozen years ago, a development that could have implications for the larger food web, scientists have said.
“My concern is that if phytoplankton continue to develop and grow earlier and earlier in the year, it is going to become increasingly difficult for those animals that time their life cycle to be in the Arctic… to be there at the right time of year,” Arrigo said.
The microscopic organisms are the base of the food chain and drive the food and reproductive cycles of fish, seabirds and polar bears. How larger animals may react to phytoplankton changes remains unknown.
Phytoplankton are also important because through the process of photosynthesis they remove about half of the harmful carbon dioxide produced by the burning of fossil fuels worldwide.
Previous research has shown the microscopic organisms have been disappearing globally at a rate of one percent per year.
Since 1950, phytoplankton mass has dropped by about 40 percent, most likely due to the accelerating impact of global warming, said a 2010 study in the journal Nature.
Paving a highway across South America is providing lessons on the impact of road construction elsewhere. That’s what a University of Florida researcher and his international colleagues have determined from analyzing communities along the Amazonian portion of the nearly 4,200-mile Interoceanic Highway, a coast-to-coast road that starts at ports in Brazil and will eventually connect to ones in Peru.
The results of their five-year study provide a holistic picture of the social, environmental and economic effects of the highway project, including relationships with climate change. Among the findings:
+ Highway paving facilitates migration and population growth in communities, which can result in forest clearing and conflicts over natural resources.
+ Highway paving has left the Amazon rainforest more vulnerable to clearing with fire, which results in carbon emissions.
+ Improved access to markets may give people an economic boost, however, financial security is dependent on access to a range of diverse raw materials whose availability is declining in many areas.
“The vast majority of road studies look at only one of those pieces,” said Stephen Perz, a UF sociologist and lead author on the paper, which was published in March in the journal Regional Environmental Change. “But it is necessary to consider what is gained and what is lost by paving highways.”
The southwestern Amazon, situated along the borders of Bolivia, Brazil, and Peru, is considered a biodiversity “hot spot” because of its extreme variety of plant and wildlife species. Scientists are creating models to better understand how paving of the Interoceanic Highway increases deforestation and degrades forest habitats in this sensitive area.
Forest loss and degradation can cause an upsurge in susceptibility to future fires, which results in a forest-burning domino effect that raises carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to climate change. At the same time, the Amazon’s worsening droughts, which are also associated with climate change, make fires more dangerous to forests.
Perz and his colleagues found that people are often ill-equipped to control fires by themselves and live in places that firefighters cannot access in time to extinguish outbreaks.
The Interoceanic Highway was a decades-long dream of many governments seeking to develop the Amazon and it was finally paved in 2010, although several side roads remain to be connected. The process of paving gave the researchers an opportunity to examine how a road brings opportunities as well as problems to local communities.
“For an anthropologist it’s hard, because you kind of romanticize people who live sustainably,” said paper author Jeffrey Hoelle, an adjunct assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado at Boulder who interviewed Brazilian families when he was a UF graduate student working on the study.
“But everyone has basic needs, and if the road gets people better access to education and health care, they are going to take advantage of it.”
The researchers say economic success in the region is dependent on whether the road gave people opportunities to use a diversity of materials from the rainforest and the ability to sell their products in regional markets. These factors ultimately contributed to whether communities showed resilience to rapid changes from development.
As construction continues and new roads become off-shoots from the highway, additional rainforest resources will be diminished. Previous roads through Brazil pushed rubber tappers away from their economic livelihood that once was provided by the indigenous rubber plant of the rainforest. This forced workers to relocate to local towns, where they were unprepared to find jobs, often resulting in urban poverty.
In June, world leaders will meet in Brazil at the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, otherwise known as the Rio+20, to discuss forests and patterns of production and consumption, among other topics.
It comes on the heels of recent protests in Brazil about proposed reforms legalizing the deforestation of millions of acres of the Amazon. And in Peru, protests continue to surround further road development that may venture into areas inhabited by some of the country’s isolated rainforest tribes.
The researchers in this study are using the information they gathered to contribute to a model that governments and communities can use when planning highways to avoid some of the negative outcomes of paving.
“Is the road good or bad? It depends on who you ask and what you choose to study,” Perz said. “But a broader planning approach requires an open, public process in which communities need to participate.”
The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Research partners in Brazil, Bolivia and Peru include the following institutions: Amazonian University of Pando, Bolivia; Federal University of Acre, Brazil; and the National Amazonian University of Madre de Dios, Peru.
There are several larger environmental implications to the group’s findings, too. Because plants grow more efficiently under diffuse light conditions such as this, global photosynthetic activity could increase, pulling more of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
One idea for fighting global warming is to increase the amount of aerosols in the atmosphere, scattering incoming solar energy away from the Earth’s surface. But scientists theorize that this solar geoengineering could have a side effect of whitening the sky during the day.
New research from Carnegie’s Ben Kravitz and Ken Caldeira indicates that blocking 2% of the sun’s light would make the sky three-to-five times brighter, as well as whiter. Their work is published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.
Carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of coal, oil, and gas have been increasing over the past decades, causing the Earth to get hotter and hotter. Large volcanic eruptions cool the planet by creating lots of small particles in the stratosphere, but the particles fall out within a couple of years, and the planet heats back up.
The idea behind solar geoengineering is to constantly replenish a layer of small particles in the stratosphere, mimicking this volcanic aftermath and scattering sunlight back to space.
Using advanced models, Kravitz and Caldeira-along with Douglas MacMartin from the California Institute of Technology-examined changes to sky color and brightness from using sulfate-based aerosols in this way. They found that, depending on the size of the particles, the sky would whiten during the day and sunsets would have afterglows.
Their models predict that the sky would still be blue, but it would be a lighter shade than what most people are used to looking at now. The research team’s work shows that skies everywhere could look like those over urban areas in a world with this type of geoengineering taking place. In urban areas, the sky often looks hazy and white.
“These results give people one more thing to consider before deciding whether we really want to go down this road,” Kravitz said. “Although our study did not address the potential psychological impact of these changes to the sky, they are important to consider as well.”
There are several larger environmental implications to the group’s findings, too. Because plants grow more efficiently under diffuse light conditions such as this, global photosynthetic activity could increase, pulling more of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
On the other hand, the effectiveness of solar power could be diminished, as less sunlight would reach solar-power generators.
“I hope that we never get to the point where people feel the need to spray aerosols in the sky to offset rampant global warming,” Caldeira said. “This is one study where I am not eager to have our predictions proven right by a global stratospheric aerosol layer in the real world.”
The search for alternatives to fossil fuels has prompted growing interest in the use of wood, harvested directly from forests, as a carbon-neutral energy source. But a new study by researchers at Duke and Oregon State universities finds that leaving forests intact so they can continue to store carbon dioxide and keep it from re-entering the atmosphere will do more to curb climate change over the next century than cutting and burning their wood as fuel.
“Substituting woody bioenergy for fossil fuels isn’t an effective method for climate change mitigation,” said Stephen R. Mitchell, a research scientist at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. Wood stores only about half the amount of carbon-created energy as an equivalent amount of fossil fuels, he explained, so you have to burn more of it to produce as much energy.
“In most cases, it would take more than 100 years for the amount of energy substituted to equal the amount of carbon storage achieved if we just let the forests grow and not harvest them at all,” he said.
Mitchell is lead author of the study published in the peer-reviewed journal Global Change Biology Bioenergy. Mark E. Harmon and Kari E. O’Connell of Oregon State University co-authored the study.
Using an ecosystem simulation model developed at Oregon State, the team calculated how long it would take to repay the carbon debt – the net reduction in carbon storage – incurred by harvesting forests for wood energy under a variety of different scenarios.
Their model accounted for a broad range of harvesting practices, ecosystem characteristics and land-use histories. It also took into account varying bioenergy conversion efficiencies, which measure the amount of energy that woody biomass gives off using different energy-generating technologies.
“Few of our combinations achieved carbon sequestration parity in less than 100 years, even when we set the bioenergy conversion factor at near-maximal levels,” Harmon said.
Because wood stores less carbon-created energy than fossil fuels, you have to harvest, transport and burn more of it to produce as much energy. This extra activity produces additional carbon emissions.
“These emissions must be offset if forest bioenergy is to be used without adding to atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations in the near-term,” he said.
Performing partial harvests at a medium to low frequency – every 50 to 100 years or so – could be an effective strategy, O’Connell noted, but would generate less bioenergy.
“It’s a Catch-22,” she said. “Less intensive methods of harvesting release fewer emissions but yield less energy. The most intensive methods, such as clear-cutting, produce more energy but also release more carbon back into the atmosphere, prolonging the time required to achieve carbon sequestration parity.”
Given current economic realities and the increasing worldwide demand for forest products and land for agriculture, it’s unlikely that many forests will be managed in coming years solely for carbon storage, Mitchell said, but that makes it all the more critical that scientists, resource managers and policymakers work together to maximize the carbon storage potential of the remaining stands.
“The take-home message of our study is that managing forests for maximal carbon storage can yield appreciable, and highly predictable, carbon mitigation benefits within the coming century,” Mitchell said. “Harvesting forests for bioenergy production would require such a long time scale to yield net benefits that it is unlikely to be an effective avenue for climate-change mitigation.”
The research was funded by a NASA New Investigator Program grant to Kari O’Connell, by the H.J. Andrews Long-term Ecological Research Program, and by the Kay and Ward Richardson Endowment.
This area is only 25 miles north of San Francisco, yet it is surrounded by 5 oil refineries, 3 chemical companies and scores of toxic waste sites. Health experts say the environment is taking a toll on residents’ health.
Homes stand amidst the Chevron oil refinery July 14, 2008, in Richmond, Calif. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
NORTH RICHMOND, Calif. — From the house where he was born, Henry Clark can stand in his backyard and see plumes pouring out of one of the biggest oil refineries in the United States. As a child, he was fascinated by the factory on the hill, all lit up at night like the hellish twin of a fairy tale city. In the morning, he’d go out to play and find the leaves on the trees burned to a crisp. “Sometimes I’d find the air so foul, I’d have to grab my nose and run back into the house until it cleared up.”
The refinery would burn off excess gases, sending “energy and heat waves that would rock our house like we were caught in an earthquake,” recalled Clark, now 68. When the area was engulfed in black smoke for up to a week after one accident, “nobody came to check on the health of North Richmond.”
With all of the frequent explosions and fires that sent children fleeing schools, parks and a swimming pool within a mile of the refinery, “we just hoped that nothing happened that would blow everybody up,” Clark said. “People still wonder when the next big accident is going to happen.”
For 100 years, people — most of them blacks — have lived next door to the booming Chevron Richmond Refinery built by Standard Oil, a plant so huge it can process 240,000 barrels of crude oil a day. Hundreds of tanks holding millions of barrels of raw crude dot 2,900 acres of property on a hilly peninsula overlooking the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. About 5,000 miles of pipeline there move gasoline, jet fuel, diesel and other chemical products.
During World War II, African Americans like Clark’s family moved to homes in the shadow of this refinery because they had nowhere else to go. Coming to California looking for opportunity, they quickly learned that white neighborhoods and subdivisions didn’t want them.
The people of Richmond live within a ring of five major oil refineries, three chemical companies, eight Superfund sites, dozens of other toxic waste sites, highways, two rail yards, ports and marine terminals where tankers dock. The city of 103,701 doesn’t share the demographic of San Francisco, 25 miles to the south, or even Contra Costa County, or the state as a whole.
In North Richmond — the tiny, unincorporated neighbor of Richmond — Latinos, blacks and Asians make up 97 percent of the 3,717 residents, compared with 82.9 percent in Richmond and 59.9 percent in California, according to 2010 U.S. Census figures.
Most houses sell for below $100,000, among the lowest prices in the Bay Area, in the ZIP code shared with the Chevron refinery, and residents complain of a lack of paved streets, lighting and basic services. Short on jobs and long on poverty, there’s not a grocery store or cafe in sight. The median income in North Richmond — $36,875 in 2010 — is less than Richmond’s modest $54,012 and less than half of Contra Costa County’s $78,385.
Low-income residents seeking affordable homes end up sharing a fence line with a refinery and a cluster of other polluting businesses. They may save money on shelter, but they pay the price in health, researchers say.
Decades of toxic emissions from industries — as well as lung-penetrating diesel particles spewed by truck routes and rail lines running next door to neighborhoods — may be taking a toll on residents’ health. The people of Richmond, particularly African Americans, are at significantly higher risk of dying from heart disease and strokes and more likely to go to hospitals for asthma than other county residents. Health experts say their environment likely is playing a major role.
While most coastal cities breathe ocean breezes mixed with traffic exhaust, people in north and central Richmond are exposed to a greater array of contaminants, many of them at higher concentrations. Included are benzene, mercury and other hazardous air pollutants that have been linked to cancer, reproductive problems and neurological effects. People can’t escape the fumes indoors, either. One study showed that some of the industrial pollutants are inside Richmond homes.
It’s the triple whammy of race, poverty and environment converging nationwide to create communities near pollution sources where nobody else wants to live. Black leaders from the Civil Rights Movement called the phenomenon environmental racism, and beginning in the early 1980s, they documented the pattern at North Carolina’s Warren County PCBs landfill, Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley,” Chicago’s South Side, Tennessee’s Dickson County, Houston’s Sunnyside garbage dump and other places across the country.
About 56 percent of the 9 million Americans who live in neighborhoods within three kilometers of large commercial hazardous waste facilities are people of color, according to a landmark, 2007 environmental justice report by the United Church of Christ. In California, it’s 81 percent. Poverty rates in these neighborhoods are 1.5 times higher than elsewhere.
Those numbers, however, reflect a miniscule portion of the threats faced by nonwhite and low-income families. Thousands of additional towns are near other major sources of pollution, including refineries, chemical plants, freeways and ports.
Richmond is one of these beleaguered towns, on the forefront of the nation’s environmental justice struggle, waging a fight that began a century ago.
Nowhere else to go
In the San Francisco Bay Area, African Americans didn’t move next to an oil refinery by chance.
Early black settlers came to California as part of a migration between 1890 and the 1920s, many following family and friends to emerging industry in the East Bay. They escaped Jim Crow traditions of the South, but “lived a tenuous existence on the outer edges of the city’s industrial vision, trapped at the bottom of the economic and social hierarchy,” according to Sacramento State University professor Shirley Ann Wilson Moore in her book, “To Place Our Deeds.”
During World War II, blacks again arrived, mainly from southern states seeking jobs in shipbuilding plants built under government contract with industrialist Henry J. Kaiser. Henry Clark’s father, Jimmy Clark of Little Rock, Ark., came seeking opportunity as the first town barber.
Richmond turned to segregated housing in the decade after its 1905 incorporation. When Kaiser got the war contract for shipbuilding in 1941, most of Richmond’s African American population was concentrated in and around North Richmond. Early records describe North Richmond as bordering a garbage dump with few streetlights, scarce fire and police protection and unpaved streets turning to “muddy quagmires in the rain.”
The Richmond Housing Authority, in 1941, was told by the federal government to provide low-cost housing to the shipyard workers who swelled Richmond to a city five times its earlier size. But by 1952, no African American had lived in any of Richmond’s permanent low-rent housing. There was nothing in rentals or sales available to blacks in the central city.
Nonwhites were pushed to unincorporated North Richmond and other neighborhoods dominated by the refinery, chemical companies, highways, rail yards and ports.
“It was the only land available to them when they wanted to purchase property. People don’t put themselves in harm’s way intentionally,” said Betty Reid Soskin, 93, who moved to the Bay Area with her family when she was 8. She lectures on the African American experience in World War II at the National Historical Park’s Rosie the Riveter project in Richmond. “Real estate developers could determine where you lived. The local banker could determine who could get mortgages.”
“Social policy determines history,” Soskin said. “We have developed sensitivities to environmental injustice, and those sensitivities did not exist during that time.”
The pattern of neglect continues today, said the Rev. Kenneth Davis, who used to come to North Richmond from San Francisco in the 1970s to visit friends and blues clubs.
“It’s like we’re on an island,” Davis said. “No grocery store to get fresh fruits and vegetables and meat. The only things you can buy are drink and dope. There’s nothing but old nasty rotten food on the shelves and plenty of beer, wine and whiskey.”
Davis, who moved to a senior apartment in North Richmond in 2006, said he can see the refinery from his third-floor window, and blames Chevron and other companies for his chronic cough since moving here. As a pastor, he wonders about the deeper effects pollution and poverty. “I’m beginning to think there’s a correlation between the toxic fumes that we’re breathing and the violence that is so prevalent in our community.”
Joining the African Americans are newcomers from Laos, Latin America and the Pacific Islands, again seeking refuge and opportunity here amongst the factories and freeways in North Richmond.
The United Nations warned today that croplands in Niger and Mali are at imminent risk from Desert Locust swarms that are moving southward from Algeria and Libya.“How many locusts there are and how far they move will depend on two major factors – the effectiveness of current control efforts in Algeria and Libya and upcoming rainfall in the Sahel of West Africa,” a Senior Locust Forecasting Officer with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said Keith Cressman, said in a news release.Groups of locusts have recently been found in northern Niger, arriving from infestations further north.According to FAO, the Desert Locust swarms can be dense and highly mobile – varying from less than one square kilometre to several hundred square kilometres, with at least 40 million and sometimes as many as 80 million locust adults in each square kilometre of swarm, and able to travel about five to 130 kilometres or more in a day.A Desert Locust adult can consume roughly its own weight in fresh food per day, equivalent to about two grams every day. A very small part of an average swarm – or about one tonne of locusts – eats the same amount of food in one day as about 10 elephants or 25 camels or 2,500 people.FAO says locust-control efforts in the region are being hindered by continued insecurity along both sides of the Algerian-Libyan border. Political insecurity and conflict in Mali could also hamper monitoring and control efforts if the locusts reach that country.Locust infestations were first reported in southwest Libya near Ghat in January 2012 and in south-east Algeria. In late March, FAO warned that swarms could arrive in Niger and Mali by June. Continued rains and the resulting growth of vegetation led to the formation of swarms by mid-May.
FAO notes that both Algeria and Libya have been working hard to treat infested areas, covering a total of 40,000 hectares in Algeria and 21,000 hectares in Libya as of the end of May.
“In a normal year, Algeria and Libya would have been able to control most of the local swarms and prevent their movement towards the south, but insecurity along both sides of the Algerian-Libyan border is getting in the way of full access by local teams and by FAO experts who need to assess the situation,” Mr. Cressman said. “Libya’s capacity to carry out control efforts has also been affected in the past year.”
Niger last faced Desert Locust swarms during the 2003-05 plague that affected farmers in two dozen countries.
The FAO Commission for Controlling the Desert Locust in the Western Region has provided $300,000 in funding to tackle locust infestations in Libya, and FAO has added an additional $400,000 to address the problem.
One of FAO’s mandates is to provide information on the general locust situation to all interested countries and to give timely warnings and forecasts to those countries in danger of invasion.
Noah Goodman, right, and Michael Frank, both assistant professors of psychology, discuss their research at the white board that covers the wall in Goodman’s office.
Language is so much more than a string of words. To understand what someone means, you need context. Consider the phrase, “Man on first.” It doesn’t make much sense unless you’re at a baseball game. Or imagine a sign outside a children’s boutique that reads, “Baby sale – One week only!” You easily infer from the situation that the store isn’t selling babies but advertising bargains on gear for them.
Present these widely quoted scenarios to a computer, however, and there would likely be a communication breakdown. Computers aren’t very good at pragmatics – how language is used in social situations.
But a pair of Stanford psychologists has taken the first steps toward changing that.
In a new paper published recently in the journal Science, Assistant Professors Michael Frank and Noah Goodman describe a quantitative theory of pragmatics that promises to help open the door to more human-like computer systems, ones that use language as flexibly as we do.
The mathematical model they created helps predict pragmatic reasoning and may eventually lead to the manufacture of machines that can better understand inference, context and social rules. The work could help researchers understand language better and treat people with language disorders.
It also could make speaking to a computerized customer service attendant a little less frustrating.
“If you’ve ever called an airline, you know the computer voice recognizes words but it doesn’t necessarily understand what you mean,” Frank said. “That’s the key feature of human language. In some sense it’s all about what the other person is trying to tell you, not what they’re actually saying.”
Frank and Goodman’s work is part of a broader trend to try to understand language using mathematical tools. That trend has led to technologies like Siri, the iPhone’s speech recognition personal assistant.
But turning speech and language into numbers has its obstacles, mainly the difficulty of formalizing notions such as “common knowledge” or “informativeness.”
That is what Frank and Goodman sought to address.
The researchers enlisted 745 participants to take part in an online experiment. The participants saw a set of objects and were asked to bet which one was being referred to by a particular word.
For example, one group of participants saw a blue square, a blue circle and a red square. The question for that group was: Imagine you are talking to someone and you want to refer to the middle object. Which word would you use, “blue” or “circle”?
The other group was asked: Imagine someone is talking to you and uses the word “blue” to refer to one of these objects. Which object are they talking about?
“We modeled how a listener understands a speaker and how a speaker decides what to say,” Goodman explained.
The results allowed Frank and Goodman to create a mathematical equation to predict human behavior and determine the likelihood of referring to a particular object.
“Before, you couldn’t take these informal theories of linguistics and put them into a computer. Now we’re starting to be able to do that,” Goodman said.
The researchers are already applying the model to studies on hyperbole, sarcasm and other aspects of language.
“It will take years of work but the dream is of a computer that really is thinking about what you want and what you mean rather than just what you said,” Frank said.
South Carolina man starts urban garden to feed those in need, teach people how to grow food
By Jonathan Benson,
(NaturalNews) The relatively modest, two-and-a-half acre plot of formerly unused land behind the Wild Radish Health Store in Greenville, South Carolina, is quickly burgeoning into a cornucopia of organic squash, kale, blueberries and other fresh fruits and vegetables. Thanks to the vision of one local man with a heart for the needy, and the efforts of hundreds of his neighbors, the Greenville area will soon have access to free, organic produce as part of a new initiative known as The Generous Garden…
Let me preface this article with full disclosure. I am not a Psychiatrist! My background is mostly Naval Aviation (Wings of Gold, baby!), some sales, including owning my own business, running someone else’s much larger business, and lots of leadership experience. Currently I’m professionally teaching & training Military personnel.
First, if you’re freaked-out that The End-of-The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI) is happening tomorrow, or December 21st, of January 13th, 2013: relax.
Just stop with the drama and don’t fall for the hype. Do I think trouble is coming? Absolutely. Preparedness is essential, but don’t panic.
Fortune favors the bold, and bold people are not panicked.
Let’s talk about the psychology and personalities of prepping; what drives people to behave the way do, and how we might use this information to better communicate with our spouse, and also friends & relatives that may be included in your prepper network, so you effectively communicate the reasoning behind your desire to be prepared and everyone can get “On-board” with the program.
I must first go back to Plato’s works on personalities. Plato postulated that there are four different basic personality types¹: Phlegmatic, Sanguine, Melancholy, and Choleric. Those of you that have received Sales training have probably seen versions of this (MBTI, Owls and Dolphins, etc.). I’ll spare you the boring College-level analysis of Plato’s work and ideas; I’ll give an overview of it by means of a short story analogy.
There’s a fire in a rather large building! The first person that shows up is the Phlegmatic. He stands there on the corner across the street and looks around timidly, and mumbles to himself, “Isn’t anybody going to do anything?” The second person to show up is the Sanguine. She looks at the fire and happily squeals “Wow, a fire, let’s get some weenies and have us a weenie roast!” (She’s not taking it seriously.) The third person that shows up is the Melancholy. He looks at the building on fire, and noticing the building is ten stories tall, and one-hundred feet wide by about 200 feet deep, pulls out his whiz-wheel and begins to calculate how much water it’s going to take to put the fire out. While the Melancholy is still calculating how many thousands of gallons of water are required, the Choleric shows up. He immediately looks at the first person and commands “You, call 911”, then to the other two people he yells “come on you two, grab that ladder and hose and let’s go!”
While you were reading this story, you’ve probably already thought to yourself, that one sounds like my friend, that one my spouse, and so on. Here’s the point; if we know how people behave, then maybe we can identify what in their personality is driving them to respond or to shut down, and enables us to better communicate with them.
Glow-in-the-dark cats? It may sound like science fiction, but they’ve been around for years. Cabbages that produce scorpion poison? It’s been done. Oh, and the next time you need a vaccine, the doctor might just give you a banana.
These and many other genetically modified organisms exist today because their DNA has been altered and combined with other DNA to create an entirely new set of genes. You may not realize it, but many of these genetically modified organisms are a part of your daily life — and your daily diet. Today, 45 percent of U.S. corn and 85 percent of U.S. soybeans are genetically engineered, and it’s estimated that 70 to 75 percent of processed foods on grocery store shelves contain genetically engineered ingredients.
Here’s a look at the some of the weirdest genetically engineered plants and animals already in existence — and many that are coming your way soon. (Text: Laura Moss)
The Charlotte Observerreported on an American Indian village unearthed in Morganton, North Carolina, in Catawba Meadows Park. Archaeologists have been pulling artifacts from the ground in Burke County for some time now. The Observer spoke to Emma Richardson, who has been part of the team researching the village.
Richardson told the Observer that village hugged the banks of the Catawba River in present-day Morganton, and was likely circled by a wooden palisade, with village structures rising in a meadow where gardens flourished thank sto the rich river-bottom soil.
“Richardson also imagines a day in the 16th-century when villagers may have looked up from their toil and seen Spanish explorers arrive,” Observer reporter Joe DePriest writes. “The story of this clash of cultures will be told in a major living history project going up on the actual site of the village, now occupied by Morganton’s Catawba Meadows Park.”
Eventually there will be a Catawba Meadows Archaeology Interpretive Center that will focus on the American Indians and Spanish explorers who lived in the Catawba Valley long before the English arrived on Roanoke Island on the coast of North Carolina. The center’s exhibit will also showcase artifacts found some ten miles away in the remains of another Indian village, this one called Joara, as well as artifacts from a fort built by Spanish explorer Juan Pardo in 1567. Scientists maintain that the fort was the first European settlement in the interior of the United States. Archaeologists have turned up thousands of pieces of history from the fort, including spike-like nails, lead balls for a harquebus, a type of gun. National attention in the form of National Geographic, Smithsonian and Archaeology magazines have been interested in the site. For more on this story, click here.
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