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Death toll from Joplin tornado rises to 141
The News - Natural Disasters
June 06, 2011
joplin tornado death toll
The death toll from the May 22 Joplin, Missouri tornado has risen to 141, city officials said on Sunday. Lynn Iliff Onstot, public information officer for Joplin, said the city had identified three new victims who died from injuries sustained as a result of the twister.

The massive F-5 tornado cut a six-mile swath through the southwest Missouri city just as residents were sitting down to Sunday dinner. It was the deadliest single tornado in the United States since 1947.

Tornadoes have battered the country this spring, killing more than 500 people, mostly in the south. A twister even struck Massachusetts, where tornadoes are rare, last week, killing four people.

 
Major Step in Improving Forecasts of Weather Extremes, Floods and Droughts
The News - Climate-Environment
June 06, 2011
flood drought extreme weather prediction

Moisture and heat fluctuations from the land surface to the atmosphere form a critical nexus between surface hydrology and atmospheric processes, especially those relevant to rainfall. While current theory has suggested that soil moisture has had a positive impact on precipitation, there have been very few large-scale observations of this. A team of researchers from Columbia Engineering, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, and Rutgers University has now demonstrated that evaporation from the land surface is able to modify summertime rainfall east of the Mississippi and in the monsoonal region in the southern U.S. and Mexico. One of their main findings is that evaporation from the land is, however, only able to modify the frequency of summertime rainfall, not its quantity.

"This is a major shift in our understanding of the coupling between the land surface and the atmosphere, and fundamental for our understanding of the prolongation of hydrological extremes like floods and droughts," said Pierre Gentine, Assistant Professor of Applied Mathematics at The Fu Foundation School for Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University, and co-author of the paper "Probability of Afternoon Precipitation in eastern United States and Mexico Enhanced by High Evaporation," published online June 5 in the journal Nature Geoscience. The other co-authors are Kirsten Findell (Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory), Benjamin Lintner (Rutgers University), and Christopher Kerr (Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory).  [ sciday ]

 
3 nuclear reactors melted down after quake, Japan confirms
The News - Current Events
June 06, 2011
full meltdown 3 nuclear power plants japan

Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant experienced full meltdowns at three reactors in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami in March, the country's Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters said Monday.

The nuclear group's new evaluation, released Monday, goes further than previous statements in describing the extent of the damage caused by an earthquake and tsunami on March 11.

The announcement will not change plans for how to stabilize the Fukushima Daiichi plant, the agency said.

Reactors 1, 2 and 3 experienced a full meltdown, it said. The plant's owner, Tokyo Electric Power Co., admitted last month that nuclear fuel rods in reactors 2 and 3 probably melted during the first week of the nuclear crisis.

 
3,500 evacuate as volcano erupts in southern Chile
The News - Current Events
June 05, 2011
chile volcano eruption evacuation
A volcano in the Caulle Cordon of southern Chile has erupted violently, billowing smoke and ash high into the sky and prompting more than 3,500 people living nearby to evacuate and forcing cancellation of flights. Ash and gas continued to billow from the earth on Sunday

There were no reports of injuries from Saturday's eruption.

A column of gas six miles (10 kilometers) high and three miles (five kilometers) wide rose from Puyehue-Cordon Caulle complex, according to Chile's National Geology and Mining Service.

Chilean authorities evacuateed some 3,500 people from 22 settlements near the volcano, which produced an eerie show of lightning dancing through its clouds of ash overnight. [ yahoo ]

 
Asteroid zips close to Earth - 2009 BD
The News - Science-Astronomy
June 05, 2011

An asteroid the size of a small motorhome zoomed near Earth on Wednesday night, coming closer to us than the moon ever does.

The 23-foot-long (7-meter) space rock, named 2009 BD, came within 215,000 miles (346,000 kilometers) of Earth at around 8:51 p.m. ET. The moon's average distance from us is about 239,000 miles (385,000 kilometers).

2009 BD never threatened to hit Earth on this pass, researchers said. But even if the asteroid had slammed into us, it wouldn't have been a big deal. [ msnbc ]

 
Global Food Shortage Becomes Urgent as Planet Warms
The News - Climate-Environment
June 05, 2011
global warming climate food shortage

A growing global food shortage has caused prices to double in recent years, and a growing consensus of scientists now blames climate change as one factor in an equation that includes a burgeoning population and increasingly scarce water supplies. More people around the planet are going hungry as a result. 

Even as prices have also risen in the United States, most residents may not grasp the scope and severity of the problem.

Americans toss about 40 percent of their food in the garbage, according to a 2009 study. In this country, food waste per person has increased 50 percent since 1974. [ livescience ]

 
2011 deadliest US tornado season in 75 years
The News - Natural Disasters
June 03, 2011
2011 deadlist tornado season in 75 years

The deadliest US tornado season in 75 years has ripped babies from their mother's arms and transformed entire towns into apocalyptic scenes of destruction as the toll hit 523... And it isn't over yet.

While warmer summer weather should hopefully reduce their intensity, the peak tornado season runs through July and twisters can strike at any time.

The damage is as unimaginable as it is unpredictable.

Funnel clouds drop out of a darkened sky, tossing cars and mobile homes up into the air, pulling huge trees out of the ground and tearing buildings apart. The smaller ones touch down so briefly that one side of a street is flattened while the other is largely unscathed. The bigger ones stay on the ground for miles, destroying everything for blocks on either side of their random path. [ yahoo ]

 
Top 5 overdue Hurricane Cities - 2011
The News - Natural Disasters
June 03, 2011
top 5 cities overdue for hurricane
These and dozens of other U.S. cities, including those hit very recently, all are vulnerable and could be hit this year or any year, and everyone needs to be hurricane-prepared. Many residents of the cities on this list, however, might be among the starkest examples of people who truly believe their hometown is immune from hurricanes. As a result, they might not have chosen to make sure they have enough insurance to replace their home if damaged or destroyed by a hurricane.

They also might not have any idea if they’re in an evacuation zone, or might not know where to go if told to evacuate. And they might not have the critical supplies they need to survive the aftermath of a direct hurricane strike. It is my hope that by reminding everyone in all hurricane-vulnerable locations, including these cities that have been fortunate for a long time, that a hurricane could directly strike them. Yes, it could be that bad. And as you’ll see, emergency managers responsible for these areas take the threat seriously. [ weather ]
 
Geologists press for recognition of Earth-changing 'human epoch'
The News - Science-Astronomy
June 03, 2011
new epoch the anthropocene

Experts want the human imprint in the geological record to be acknowledged as a new epoch, the Anthropocene.

These are epoch-making times. Literally. There is now "compelling evidence", according to an influential group of geologists, that humans have had such an impact on the planet that we are entering a new phase of geological time: the Anthropocene.

Millions of years from now, they say, alien geologists would be able to make out a human-influenced stripe in the accumulated layers of rock, in the same way that we can see the imprint of dinosaurs in the Jurassic, or the explosion of life that marks the Cambrian. Now the scientists are pushing for the new epoch to be officially recognised.

"We don't know what is going to happen in the Anthropocene," says geographer Professor Erle Ellis of the University of Maryland. "But we need to think differently and globally, to take ownership of the planet."

 
Tornado winds topped 135 miles per hour
The News - Natural Disasters
June 03, 2011

The tornado that raced through western Massachusetts on Wednesday was at least a category EF3, meteorologists concluded today.

However, they have yet to complete their investigation into the damage the tornado wrought and may still upgrade the determination after they finish surveying damage today, said National Weather Service meteorologist Robert Thompson.

“It is possible it could end up being ranked higher. But at this time, we feel comfortable releasing the information,” said Thompson. “It was at least an EF3 in the hardest hit areas along its track, which certainly includes Monson.”

 
Germany steps up hunt for deadly E.coli source
The News - Current Events
June 03, 2011
Racing to curb the spread of a killer food bug, Germany set up a task force on Friday to hunt down the source of a highly toxic strain of E.coli that has killed 19 people and sounded alarms around the world.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, locked in a trade row with the European Union after banning imports of its raw fruit and vegetables, struck a dramatic note by saying he would not "poison" Russians by lifting the embargo.

Health authorities repeated warnings to avoid some raw vegetables in northern Germany -- rattling farmers and stores in the high season for salad -- and said 199 new cases of the rare strain of the bacteria had been reported in the past two days.

 
More Americans Think Economy Will Never Recover
The News - Economy
June 03, 2011

The mixed signals regarding the economy's health are taking a toll.

Shoppers

Americans are growing increasingly doubtful about direction of the US economy, according to the latest survey from business-advisory firm AlixPartners.

In fact, an increasing number, some 61 percent, say they don't expect to return to their respective pre-recession lifestyles until the spring of 2014, if ever.

What's worse, a full 10 percent said they expect they will never return to pre-recession spending.

That's a more pessimistic view than last year, when those surveyed expected that they could be back to pre-recession spending levels by the middle of 2013.
 
Comet plunges into sun after solar storm... again
The News - Science-Astronomy
June 02, 2011
comet plunges sun

A sun-watching spacecraft has recorded views of an ill-fated comet plunging into the sun just after a huge solar eruption — the second time in 10 days that a comet dive-bombed Earth's star during a solar storm.

Over May 20 and 21, the sun unleashed a big coronal mass ejection (CME), an immense burst of plasma that sent solar particles streaking into space at fantastic speeds. Shortly thereafter, a kamikaze comet barreled into the sun. And one of NASA's twin STEREO spacecraft caught it all on video, agency officials announced last week.

"Soon after (the eruption), as a bonus visual, a sun-grazing comet came streaking in (from the right) heading for the sun," NASA officials said in a May 27 statement. "Its tail could be seen elongating substantially as it approached the sun and apparently disintegrated." [msnbc ]

 
'Slow' Earthquakes Surprisingly Double Back on Themselves
The News - Natural Disasters
June 02, 2011
Slow earthquakes" are weird enough, with a sluggish pace that is at odds with the better-known quakes that rapidly shift the Earth's surface. Now researchers have discovered yet another strange feature of this recently discovered class of earthquakes. Slow-motion quakes can go backwards. Suddenly, and with more gusto.

These quakes that originate deep in the ground can double back along the path of their rupture.

"It is something that's surprising," said David Shelley, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. "This is yet another way that tremor migrates, and I think it's going to be a challenge for the community to figure out the physics that underlies this behavior." [ yahoo ]

 
Killer germ: First outbreak of 'rare' microbe
The News - Current Events
June 02, 2011

The strain of a lethal bacteria that has killed 18 people in Europe is "very rare" and had never been seen in an outbreak form before, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Thursday.

"This strain isolated from cases in the infection outbreak in Germany has never been seen in an outbreak before," Gregory Hartl, the WHO spokesman, said.

"It has been seen in sporadic cases and is very rare," he added.

 
Horror for US Economy as Data Falls off Cliff
The News - Economy
June 01, 2011
us economy horror great depression

The last month has been a horror show for the U.S. economy, with economic data falling off a cliff, according to Mike Riddell, a fund manager at M&G Investments in London.

"It seems that almost every bit of data about the health of the US economy has disappointed expectations recently," said Riddell, in a note sent to CNBC on Wednesday.

"US house prices have fallen by more than 5 percent year on year, pending home sales have collapsed and existing home sales disappointed, the trend of improving jobless claims has arrested, first quarter GDP wasn’t revised upwards by the 0.4 percent forecast, durables goods orders shrank, manufacturing surveys from Philadelphia Fed, Richmond Fed and Chicago Fed were all very disappointing." [ cnbc ]

 
Japanese Nuclear Disaster - Forgotten but Not Gone
The News - Current Events
June 01, 2011
super typhoon songda

Few in the United States have heard of Typhoon Songda. That is a very good sign. Typhoon Songda approached the Philippines as a super typhoon, the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean. Its projected track would have taken it near to the Fukushima nuclear facility in Japan, the site of at least three reactor meltdowns in the wake of a tsunami.

The typhoon lost all its energy, however, and just brought heavy rain the Japanese home islands. The difference, winds of over 150 mph vs. winds of less than 40 mph. The heavily damaged reactors at Fukushima were unprepared for a super typhoon.

The six reactors at the Fukushima site have faded from the news since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami struck Japan. The site has not become any less dangerous and the fix appears months if not years away. The site is unprepared for another earthquake or tsunami, and unprepared for any typhoon activity. In the 53 years from 1951 to 2004 Japan averaged 2.6 typhoons making landfall each year. [ yahoo ]

 
Could a cyber war turn into a real one for the U.S.?
The News - War-Draft
June 01, 2011
cyber war cyber warfare

The United States is warning that a cyber attack - presumably if it is devastating enough - could result in real-world military retaliation... Easier said than done.

In the wake of a significant new hacking attempt against Lockheed Martin Corp, experts say it could be extremely difficult to know fast enough with any certainty where an attack came from. Sophisticated hackers can mask their tracks and make it look like a cyber strike came from somewhere else.

There are also hard questions about the legality of such reprisals and the fact that other responses, like financial sanctions or cyber countermeasures, may be more appropriate than military action, analysts say. [ yahoo ]

 
European food outbreak soars, mystery deepens
The News - Current Events
June 01, 2011
european food outbreak scare

The number of people hit by a massive European outbreak of foodborne bacterial infections is a third bigger than previously known and a stunningly high number of patients suffer from a potentially deadly complication than can shut down their kidneys, officials said Wednesday.

The death toll rose to 17, with German authorities reporting that an 84-year-old woman with the complication had died on Sunday.

Medical authorities appeared no closer to discovering either the source of the infection or the mystery at the heart of the outbreak: why the unusual strain of the E. coli bacteria appears to be causing so many cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome, which attacks the kidneys and can cause seizures, strokes and comas.

 
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