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Natural Disasters
Florida declares state of emergency as Tropical Storm Debby moves closer
June 25, 2012
tropical storm debby 2012
Florida's governor has declared a state of emergency in anticipation of flooding caused by Tropical Storm Debby, which is drifting languorously towards the state's Gulf coast.

The National Weather Service has issued a flood warning for the Tampa Bay area of Florida, as the storm's main threat comes from heavy rainfall rather than high winds. A storm warning from the National Hurricane Center applies to most of Florida's Gulf coast, from Destin to Englewood.

Florida's governor, Rick Scott, advised state residents to be "very cautious". One person has been killed in Florida so far.

Tropical storm Debby prompts emergency warnings along Gulf Coast
June 24, 2012
tropical storm debby
Coastal regions in three US states were under a tropical storm warning Sunday as Debby churned off the Gulf Coast, edging ever closer to landfall.

In Louisiana the governor declared a state of emergency to free up resources ahead of a possible soaking and strong winds. Warnings also were issued for coastal Alabama and parts of Florida, including the Panhandle.

Debby already had dumped heavy rain on parts of Florida and spawned some isolated tornadoes, causing some damage to homes and knocking down power lines. [link]

'Debby' to Develop; Take Aim on Gulf Coast
June 22, 2012
storm Debbie
AccuWeather.com meteorologists continue to monitor low pressure near the Yucatan which is expected to become "Debby" this weekend.

According to Expert Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski, "There is a slight chance this feature could become a tropical depression as early as tonight. However, we feel this system will become better organized this weekend and should become Tropical Storm Debby later Saturday or on Sunday."

Interestingly enough, there has never been a fourth named storm in June. Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski has more information in this story.

Did super-volcano drive out Neanderthals?
June 21, 2012
Campi Flegrei Caldera
A super-eruption of an Italian volcano that may have played a major role in the Neanderthals' fate was apparently even larger than thought, new research suggests.

For the new study, scientists investigated the Campi Flegrei caldera volcano in southern Italy. About 39,000 years ago, it experienced the largest volcanic eruption that Europe has seen in the last 200,000 years. This super-eruption may have played a part in wiping out or driving away Neanderthal and modern human populations in the eastern Mediterranean.

To learn more about this outburst, scientists measured 115 sites for the ash layer it laid down, known as Campanian Ignimbrite. They next analyzed this data with a 3D ash-dispersal computer model. 

Hurricane Carlotta kills two in Mexico before downgrade to tropical storm
June 16, 2012
Hurricane Carlotta
Hurricane Carlotta weakened into a tropical storm on Saturday after battering Mexico's Pacific coast and killing at least two children when their house collapsed in a landslide.

The government of Mexico lifted the hurricane warning from Salina Cruz to Acapulco after Carlotta made landfall in the southern state of Oaxaca on Friday, dumping rain on mountainous villages along the coast.

A mud-brick house collapsed in the town of Pluma Hidalgo, Oaxaca killing a 13-year-old girl and her 7-year-old sister, said Cyntia Tovar, a spokeswoman for the states' emergency services department. The girls' mother survived but was badly injured and taken to the hospital, Tovar said.

US braces for tsunami debris, but impact unclear
June 08, 2012
tsunami debris
More than a year after a tsunami devastated Japan, killing thousands of people and washing millions of tons of debris into the Pacific Ocean, the U.S. government and West Coast states don't have a cohesive plan for cleaning up the rubble that floats to American shores.

There is also no firm handle yet on just what to expect.

The Japanese government estimates that 1.5 million tons of debris is floating in the ocean from the catastrophe. Some experts in the United States think the bulk of that trash will never reach shore, while others fear a massive, slowly-unfolding environmental disaster. [yahoo]

Dock from Japan tsunami washes up on Oregon beach
June 07, 2012
japan tsunami debris dock

A floating dock swept away by the 2011 Japanese tsunami has washed up on an Oregon beach this week and authorities are debating how to remove it.

"This is the first object that has washed up that was unique enough to confirm that it was indeed from the tsunami," said Chris Havel, a spokesman for the Oregon parks and recreation department.

The Japanese consulate has confirmed the dock is from the tsunami. "It is from some area on the north-east coast of Japan," Havel said. [guardian]

Supervolcanoes that could destroy humanity 'may explode sooner than scientists thought'
June 03, 2012
supervolcanoes may explode sooner

Super-eruptions from massive volcanoes with the power to destroy humanity could take much less time to form than scientists previously thought, it was reported yesterday.

Supervolcanoes are a huge but little understood natural disaster waiting to happen. Only a handful of such volcanoes exist in the world, but should one erupt the effect would be devastating.

It is thought the sound of a super-eruption would be heard all over the planet, black rain would fall and the sky would darken across the earth. [IND]

As the Atlantic hurricane season begins, the forecasters are all over the map
June 03, 2012
2012 atlantic hurricane season

This weekend marks the first in the official Atlantic hurricane season.

Yet, a week prior to its launch the south-east coast of the United States was hit by tropical storm Beryl. Beryl and the previously formed tropical storm Alberto marked the first time in over a century that two named storms materialized before June 1.

Does this mean that the east and gulf coasts are in line for a parade of hurricanes? Not likely. [guardian]

New earthquake in northern Italy kills 16
May 29, 2012
new italy earthquake kills 16
A new earthquake has struck northern Italy, killing at least 16 people and injuring 200 others, officials say.

The magnitude 5.8 quake hit the Emilia Romagna region, damaging buildings and causing panic among residents living in tents after the earthquake on 20 May. That quake killed seven people and caused significant damage to the region's cultural heritage.

The number of people made homeless has now gone up from 6,000 to 14,000, the Italian government says.

Beryl upgraded to tropical storm as south-east US prepares for heavy rain
May 27, 2012
tropical storm beryl
Tropical Storm Beryl closed in on the US south-east coast on Sunday as beachgoers braced themselves for heavy rains and a Memorial Day washout. The second named storm of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to make landfall overnight.

The powerful pack of thunderstorms has prompted tropical storm warnings along the coastline in northern Florida, Georgia and parts of South Carolina.

As of 2pm ET, Beryl was packing sustained winds of 65 miles per hour and located about 110 miles east of Jacksonville, Florida, the US National Hurricane Center said.

Scientists observe 'tragic experiment' of tsunami debris
May 26, 2012
japan tsunami debris ship
Jeff Larson has seen just about everything wash up on the shores of Santa Cruz: bottles, toys, shotgun shells, busted surfboards and fishing floats that looked like they had bobbed across the Pacific.

When surging water driven by the magnitude 9.0 earthquake in Japan tore apart his city's harbor, he was there to scoop up the splintered docks and broken boats that were heaved onto the sand.

Now, more than a year after the catastrophe in Japan, Larson and fellow beachcombers up and down the West Coast are awaiting the flotsam that was set on a eastward course by the destructive surge of water. [latimes]

Subtropical Storm Beryl threatens Memorial Day washout
May 26, 2012
subtropical storm beryl
Subtropical Storm Beryl churned its way towards the US on Saturday, threatening to make Memorial Day a washout for residents and holidaymakers along the south-east coast.

Tropical storm warnings were in effect for Sunday from the Volusia/Brevard County line in northern Florida to Edisto Beach, South Carolina.

Beryl was technically still considered a "subtropical storm," but the system is expected to bring winds and rain to the area regardless of its official classification.

Storm chasers hope to look deep within vortex of tornadoes
May 21, 2012
storm chasers
Come tornado season, meteorologist Joshua Wurman spends his life on the road, zooming down highways in search of thunderstorms.

This summer, he and his colleagues will turn nomad to launch a first-of-its-kind program aimed at exploring tornado winds — not from the outside but from deep within the tornado vortex.

"Our goal is a much more integrated picture of the tornado," Wurman, president of the Center for Severe Weather Research based in Boulder, Colo., told OurAmazingPlanet. And that's a picture that could reveal how tornadoes deal their damage and save lives, he added. [msnbc]

Joplin tornado anniversary: town rebuilds but destruction is ever present
May 21, 2012
Joplin tornado anniversary
Tammy Niederhelman thought that nothing could be worse than the nightmares. What could be more wrenching than a dream in which your 12-year-old son is screaming for help and you cannot reach him?

A nightmare based on reality. On 22 May 2011 Niederhelman was at work in the intensive care unit of Freeman hospital in Joplin, Missouri, toward the end of her nursing shift, when it was announced that a storm was coming. She didn't think much of it – these warnings were two a penny – but she called her son Zach and told him to follow the drill: get into the bathtub and cover himself with pillows and wait it out.

Aftershocks rock Italy earthquake zone
May 20, 2012
Italy earthquake damage
Aftershocks continued to be felt in northern Italy on Sunday after a strong earthquake in the early hours killed at least four, injured more than 50 and reduced historic churches and castle towers to rubble.

The epicentre of the quake, which the US Geological Survey recorded at magnitude 6.0, was 3.2 miles below ground, north of Bologna in the Emilia-Romagna region, and was felt across Italy, from Liguria to the Veneto.

Hundreds of terrified residents fled their homes and hospitals were evacuated after the 20-second earthquake struck at 4.04am. While major towns including Bologna emerged unscathed, helicopters were flying over remote villages as day broke, looking for collapsed buildings in which survivors could be trapped. [guardian]

Flash floods are on the rise, while the budget to tackle them sinks
May 18, 2012
flooding disasters
A moving new exhibition of photographs at Somerset House shows the human impact of flooding around the world over the past five years and provides an insight into how climate change may already be disrupting lives and livelihoods.

The images from major flooding events in the UK, Pakistan, Australia and Thailand feature victims and survivors as they cope with the inundation of their homes and the aftermath. The photographer, Gideon Mendel, says his intention is "to depict them as individuals, not as nameless statistics". He adds: "Coming from disparate parts of the world, their faces show us their linked vulnerability despite the vast differences in their lives and circumstances." [guardian]

Tiny earthquakes may cause some surprisingly big tsunamis
May 18, 2012
small earthquake large tsunami
Mysterious small tremors in the most earthquake-prone areas on Earth may be the cause of surprisingly large tsunamis, researchers say. These findings might also shed light on the huge tsunami generated by the disastrous magnitude 9.0 quake that hit Japan in 2011.

Nearly all of the 10 largest recorded earthquakes on Earth happened along subduction zones, where one of the tectonic plates making up the planet's surface is diving beneath another. The shallow regions of these zones are often not seismically active by themselves, but occasionally strange tremors are recorded from these locales that are rich in very-low-frequency seismic waves.

Greater Insight Into Earthquake Cycles
May 13, 2012
earthquake cycles
For those who study earthquakes, one major challenge has been trying to understand all the physics of a fault -- both during an earthquake and at times of "rest" -- in order to know more about how a particular region may behave in the future. Now, researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have developed the first computer model of an earthquake-producing fault segment that reproduces, in a single physical framework, the available observations of both the fault's seismic (fast) and aseismic (slow) behavior.

"Our study describes a methodology to assimilate geologic, seismologic, and geodetic data surrounding a seismic fault to form a physical model of the cycle of earthquakes that has predictive power," says Sylvain Barbot, a postdoctoral scholar in geology at Caltech and lead author of the study. [SCIDAY]

Mexico volcano spews huge ash cloud, frightens villagers
May 12, 2012
Mexico Volcano
Mexico's Popocatepetl volcano spewed out huge clouds of ash and fiery rock overnight, closing a local airport on Saturday and frightening nearby villagers, already on edge after weeks of increased activity.

Popocatepetl, 50 miles (80 km) southeast of Mexico City, shook with tremors that belched out four large plumes of ash on Friday night and Saturday morning, the National Center for Disaster Prevention said in a statement on Saturday.

The biggest expulsion shot an ash cloud 2.5 miles (4 km) into the air and launched glowing rocks more than half a mile (1 km) from the crater, the statement said. [reuters]

Waterspouts: 5 Things You May Not Know
May 10, 2012


Tornadoes....Over Water!

Waterspouts are one of my favorite meteorological phenomena.  They combine the swirling power of a tornado with a large body of body of water to create an entrancing sight. We gathered some of the best waterspout photos uploaded to our iWitness weather page and we asked Tornado Expert Dr. Greg Forbes to weigh in on them.  We came up with 5 surprising facts you may not have known about waterspouts.  Read and enjoy! [weather]

Chile quake, tsunami altered ecosystems dramatically
May 07, 2012
Chile earthquake ecosystem
The earthquake and tsunami that rocked Chile in 2010 unleashed substantial and surprising changes on ecosystems there, yielding insights on how these natural disasters can affect life and how sea level rise might affect the world, researchers say.

The magnitude 8.8 earthquake that hit Chile struck off an area of the coast where 80 percent of the population lives. The massive quake triggered a tsunami reaching about 30 feet (10 meters) high that wreaked havoc on coastal communities : It killed more than 500 people, injured about 12,000 and damaged or destroyed at least 370,000 houses.

It makes sense that such earthshaking catastrophes would have drastic consequences on ecosystems in the affected areas. However, if researchers lack enough data about the environment before a disaster strikes, as is usually the case, it can be difficult to decipher these effects. With the 2010 Chile quake, scientists were able to conduct an unprecedented report of its ecological implications based on data collected on coastal ecosystems shortly before and up to 10 months after the event. [msnbc]

The surprising threat from Mexico's awakened volcano
May 03, 2012
Mexico Volcano Threat
North America's second-tallest volcano recently rumbled to life, putting authorities on edge. Big eruptions of Mexico's massive Popocatepetl volcano are "few and far between," as one geologist says. Yet even without any dramatic fireworks, 17,800-foot (5,425-meter) "Popo" has the power to wreak havoc.

Geologist Mike Sheridan, a professor emeritus at the University at Buffalo, said that Popo and, in fact, many other volcanoes around the world harbor a means of destruction that many people may not associate with volcanoes: mudflows. 

"And they don't even require an eruption, so they are less predictable," Sheridan told OurAmazingPlanet. [msnbc]

Some dinosaurs doomed before asteroid strike, study says
May 01, 2012
T-Rex Extinction
Some dinosaurs may have been headed toward extinction long before a natural disaster suddenly ended their reign.

A new study out Tuesday claims some large-bodied herbivores, like the triceratops, were in slow decline before being totally wiped out 65 million years ago.

"Did sudden volcanic eruptions or an asteroid impact strike down dinosaurs during their prime? We found that it was probably much more complex than that, and maybe not the sudden catastrophe that is often portrayed," said lead author Steve Brusatte, a Columbia University graduate student affiliated with the Museum of Natural History. [FOX]

UK faces floods and 60mph winds as wet weather continues
April 29, 2012
UK Flooding
South-west England and Wales face gusts of up to 60mph on Sunday while the rest of the UK is also expected to experience strong winds and further downpours.

Forecasters said trees could be brought down and already waterlogged areas could be flooded as up to 40mm of rain was predicted to fall in places. The wet weather is set to continue into next week.

England and Wales have experienced the wettest week since December with forecasters seeing no sign of the rain letting up and supermarkets reporting soaring sales of wellies and umbrellas amid the deluge. [guardian]

Study Indicates a Greater Threat of Extreme Weather
April 27, 2012
extreme weather events
New research suggests that global warming is causing the cycle of evaporation and rainfall over the oceans to intensify more than scientists had expected, an ominous finding that may indicate a higher potential for extreme weather in coming decades.

By measuring changes in salinity on the ocean’s surface, the researchers inferred that the water cycle had accelerated by about 4 percent over the last half century. That does not sound particularly large, but it is twice the figure generated from computerized analyses of the climate.

If the estimate holds up, it implies that the water cycle could quicken by as much as 20 percent later in this century as the planet warms, potentially leading to more droughts and floods. [nytimes]

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