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Russian heatwave kills 5,000 as fires rage out of control
The News - Climate-Environment
August 07, 2010
russia fires heat wave

Russia's devastating summer heatwave has cost almost 5,000 lives, according to officials who conceded yesterday that the state was struggling to gain control over the worst wildfires in decades.

The ministry for emergencies issued an urgent call for volunteers to join fire brigades to bolster the fight against the peat and forest fires raging out of control around Moscow.

Temperatures in Russia have hit records for the time of year on at least six occasions in recent weeks. Forecasters said there would be no respite from temperatures above 97F (36C) for at least another week.

Death rates have escalated steadily since the heatwave began, according to statisticians. “We recorded 14,340 deaths in Moscow in July, that is 4,824 deaths more than in July, 2009,” said Yevgenia Smirnova, an official from the Moscow registry office.  [ TELEGRAPH UK ]

Global Tropical Forests Threatened by 2100
The News - Climate-Environment
August 07, 2010
tropical forrest threat 2100

By 2100 only 18% to 45% of the plants and animals making up ecosystems in global, humid tropical forests may remain as we know them today, according to a new study led by Greg Asner at the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology. The research combined new deforestation and selective logging data with climate-change projections. It is the first study to consider these combined effects for all humid tropical forest ecosystems and can help conservationists pinpoint where their efforts will be most effective. The study is published in the August 5, 2010, issue of Conservation Letters.

"This is the first global compilation of projected ecosystem impacts for humid tropical forests affected by these combined forces," remarked Asner. "For those areas of the globe projected to suffer most from climate change, land managers could focus their efforts on reducing the pressure from deforestation, thereby helping species adjust to climate change, or enhancing their ability to move in time to keep pace with it. On the flip side, regions of the world where deforestation is projected to have fewer effects from climate change could be targeted for restoration."

Tropical forests hold more then half of all the plants and animal species on Earth. But the combined effect of climate change, forest clear cutting, and logging may force them to adapt, move, or die. [ SCIENCE DAILY ]

Giant ice island breaks off Greenland
The News - Climate-Environment
August 07, 2010
giant ice island breaks off

An ice island four times the size of Manhattan broke off from one of Greenland's two main glaciers, scientists said Friday, in the biggest such event in the Arctic in nearly 50 years.

The new ice island, which broke off on Thursday, will enter a remote place called the Nares Strait, about 620 miles south of the North Pole between Greenland and Canada.

The ice island has an area of 100 square miles and a thickness up to half the height of the Empire State Building, said Andreas Muenchow, professor of ocean science and engineering at the University of Delaware.

Muenchow said he had expected an ice chunk to break off from the Petermann Glacier, one of the two largest remaining ones in Greenland, because it had been growing in size for seven or eight years. But he did not expect it to be so large.[ MSNBC ]

'Spacequakes' - Can affect auroras and generate "space twisters"
The News - Science-Astronomy
August 07, 2010
space earthquakes spacequake

Scientists using NASA's THEMIS mission have come across a new form of space weather. They have dubbed it a "spacequake"

A spacequake - a strong vibration in the planet's magnetic field - can affect auroras and generate "space twisters" powerful enough to bring down power lines.

In general, Earth's magnetic field lines can be thought of as rubber bands stretched taut by the solar wind, which is actually charged particles flowing in all directions from the sun, said study co-author Vassilis Angelopoulos, a space physicist at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Earth's magnetic tail is the part of the field that's stretched out like a windsock by the sun's steady bombardment.

Pakistan floods 'hit 14m people'
The News - Natural Disasters
August 06, 2010
pakistan flooding severe

The worst floods in Pakistan's history have hit at least 14 million people, officials say.

Twelve million are affected in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab provinces, while a further two million are affected in Sindh.

In Indian-administered Kashmir, at least 113 people died in mudslides.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that a charity connected to a group with alleged al-Qaeda links has been providing flood relief.

Flooding has submerged whole villages in the past week, killing at least 1,600 people, according to the UN.

And the worst floods to hit the region in 80 years could get worse, as it is only midway through monsoon season. [ BBC NEWS ]

Amazingly fast eruption on the sun photographed
The News - Science-Astronomy
August 05, 2010
solar eruption sun

One of the fastest big solar eruptions in years has been observed streaking away from the sun at more than 2.2 million mph by two NASA spacecraft.

The flare occurred Aug. 1 and created a massive sun eruption called a coronal mass ejection that struck Earth's magnetic field Tuesday, creating dazzling aurora displays. NASA's twin STEREO spacecraft recorded the eruption and beamed images of the sun storm back to Earth. ( Photo of the sun eruption.)

The material ejected from the sun was seen speeding toward Earth at more than 1,000 kilometers per second, or just over 2.2 million mph. Another wave from the event was expected to hit Earth's magnetic field on Wednesday. NASA's two STEREO spacecraft, which monitor the sun's weather in 3-D, also recorded a video of the sun eruption.

Peak of storm season will be busy
The News - Natural Disasters
August 05, 2010
hurricane peak 2010 season
Record high ocean temperatures and the development of a climate phenomenon known as La Nina will keep the Atlantic hurricane season on track to be the busiest since 2005, government forecasters said Thursday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration slightly lowered the outlook it released in May, but an above-normal season was still expected, said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center in Washington.

The updated forecast calls for 14 to 20 named tropical storms, down from a range of 14 to 23. The hurricane season started June 1 and ends Nov. 30, but the peak period for hurricanes runs from August through October.

Eight to 12 storms could become hurricanes, and four to six of those hurricanes could become major storms, blowing winds of 111 mph or more, forecasters said.

"August heralds the start of the most active phase of the Atlantic hurricane season and with the meteorological factors in place, now is the time for everyone living in hurricane prone areas to be prepared," NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco said in a statement. Historically during active storm seasons, multiple hurricane strikes are much more likely for both the Gulf Coast and the East Coast in the U.S.

Exploding star 'viewed in 3D'
The News - Science-Astronomy
August 04, 2010
exploding star supernova

Astronomers have for the first time obtained a 3D view of the aftermath of a star exploding (which is known as a supernova).

The team used the Very Large Telescope in Chile to study the supernova 1987A, which lies 168,000 light-years away.

The results show the original blast was very powerful and concentrated in one particular direction.

Seen in 1987, it was the first supernova visible with the naked eye to have been observed for some 383 years.

The 3-D view shows the explosion was stronger and faster in some directions than others, leading to an irregular shape with some parts stretching further out into space.

Did Churchill and Eisenhower cover up UFO encounter?
The News - Weird-Strange
August 04, 2010

With a civilian population haunted by the Blitz and the Second World War still in the balance, it was one development Winston Churchill could have done without – an incursion into British airspace by an arrow-shaped metallic object feared to contain an invasion force of little green men.

Such was the sensitivity of an alleged UFO sighting by an RAF bomber crew returning to England from a mission over Germany that Churchill ordered it to be covered up with the words: "This event should be immediately classified since it would create mass panic amongst the general population and destroy one's belief in the Church."

This at least was the allegation put to the Ministry of Defence by relatives of a senior British military aide who claimed to have witnessed the cigar-chomping Prime Minister discuss the incident with General Dwight Eisenhower as part of a meeting about a succession of "foo fighter" sightings by Allied air crews in the Second World War. [ INDEPENDENT UK ]

2010 the year of extreme weather?
The News - Current Events
August 04, 2010

While Pakistan has been hit by catastrophic flooding, Russia has endured a lethal heatwave.

Some 1,200 people have been killed in the deluges sweeping Pakistan, but in Moscow more than 30 are reported to have died in wildfires as temperatures have soared to a new record for the region of 38C (100F).

It marks out 2010 as the year of  extreme weather - and experts predict the pronounced conditions will continue across the globe. [ DAILY MAIL UK ]

Pakistan floods ravage lives of millions
The News - Natural Disasters
August 03, 2010
pakistan flood map

The worst floods in memory in Pakistan have devastated the lives of more than 3 million people, a U.N. spokesman said on Tuesday, while outrage over the unpopular government's response to its people's plight spreads.

The catastrophe, which started almost a week ago and has killed more than 1,400 people, is likely to deepen as more rains are expected. A breakout of water-borne diseases such as cholera could create a health crisis.

The disaster has also, once again, called into question the leadership of President Asif Ali Zardari, already hampered by problems ranging from a stubborn Taliban insurgency, widespread poverty to chronic power cuts in the nuclear-armed U.S. ally.

Pakistan's civilian governments have long been perceived as riddled by corruption and largely ineffective, leaving the powerful military to step in during troubled times.

Poorly resourced Pakistani authorities are struggling to help flood victims, many of whom have lost everything and say they received no warnings that raging waters were heading their way.
Solar Tsunami to Strike Earth
The News - Science-Astronomy
August 03, 2010

Earth is bracing for a cosmic tsunami Tuesday night as tons of plasma from a massive solar flare head directly toward the planet. 

The Sun's surface erupted early Sunday morning, shooting a wall of ionized atoms directly at Earth, scientists say. It is expected to create a geomagnetic storm and a spectacular light show -- and it could pose a threat to satellites in orbit, as well. 

"This eruption is directed right at us and is expected to get here early in the day on Aug. 4," said Leon Golub of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. "It's the first major Earth-directed eruption in quite some time."

The solar eruption, called a coronal mass ejection, was spotted by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory , which captures high-definition views of the sun at a variety of wavelengths. SDO was launched in February and peers deep into the layers of the sun, investigating the mysteries of its inner workings. [ FOX NEWS ]

solar tsunami august 2010
Sun storms may bring northern lights farther south
The News - Science-Astronomy
August 02, 2010
sun solar storms activity
The sun may be about to put on a colorful light show.

That's because of two minor solar storms that flared on Sunday and are shooting tons of plasma directly at Earth.

Scientists said residents of northern regions — from Maine to Michigan and anywhere farther north around the globe — may see unusual northern lights.

Usually only regions closer to the Arctic can see the aurora of rippling reds and greens, but solar storms pull them south.

The federal Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colo., said the plasma will likely arrive late Tuesday night or early Wednesday. The storms are not much of a threat to satellites or power grids.

Until recently, the sun was in a phase with few storms. [ YAHOO NEWS ]

'2.5m people affected' by Pakistan floods officials say
The News - Natural Disasters
August 02, 2010

Up to 2.5 million people have been affected by devastating floods in north-west Pakistan, the International Red Cross has said.

Rescuers are struggling to reach 27,000 people still cut off by the floods, which are the worst in 80 years. At least 1,100 people have died and thousands have lost everything.

"In the worst-affected areas, entire villages were washed away without warning by walls of flood water," the Red Cross said in a statement. There are fears diarrhoea and cholera will spread among the homeless. Food is scarce and water supplies have been contaminated by the floods.

Tropical cyclone expected to form in open Atlantic
The News - Current Events
August 02, 2010

A weather disturbance in the Atlantic Ocean had a 90 percent chance of developing into a tropical cyclone in the next couple of days, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said on Sunday.

The system was midway between the Cape Verde Islands and the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean, and posed no immediate threat to land.

It was moving west to west-northwest on a path that could take it well east of the Bahamas by Friday. [ YAHOO NEWS ]

Floods ravage NW Pakistan, kill 430 people
The News - Natural Disasters
July 30, 2010
flooding pakistan
Boats and helicopters struggled to reach hundreds of thousands of villagers cut off by floods in northwest Pakistan on Friday as the government said 430 people had been killed in the deadliest such disaster to hit the region since 1929.

The flooding capped an already deadly week in Pakistan, which is no stranger to calamities, natural or otherwise. A passenger jet flying in bad weather slammed into hills overlooking the capital, Islamabad, on Wednesday, killing all 152 people on board.

Three days of heavy monsoonal rains across the northwest caused scores of rivers to burst their banks, tearing down 60 bridges and scores of roads and buildings. Hundreds of villages and towns, along with massive swaths of agricultural land, were under several feet of water. [ YAHOO NEWS ]

Major Chile earthquake possible "any day"
The News - Natural Disasters
July 30, 2010
chile earthquake imminent

Chilean authorities are working with seismologists in order to prepare for a possible earthquake that could strike the country "any day".

A group of researchers studied the effects of the massive earthquake that jolted the nation in February, killing almost 500 people.

They found that the quake raised the land by as much as 2.5m near the coast and shifted the coastline out to sea.

The findings appeared in the journal Science.

An international team of scientists, led by University of Chile geologist Marcelo Farias, measured land-level changes at 24 sites along the county's coast and in nine estuarine valleys.

They said the 8.8-magnitude earthquake was "the fifth largest event in modern seismology".

Gulf environmental disaster over hyped?
The News - Climate-Environment
July 30, 2010
gulf oil spill hype

The environmental damage caused by BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill may have been grossly exaggerated, a growing body of experts is suggesting.

In a bold move, scientists have dismissed the torrent of grim predictions from President Obama and environmentalists as ‘hype’ with no data to back it up.

Instead, those working on the ground say the oil is breaking up far more quickly than expected and the number of birds being killed is low.

Just days after the Deepwater Horizon leak was capped two weeks ago, coastal grass began to grow back, as did trees which serve as breeding grounds for fish and other wildlife.[ DAILYMAIL UK ]

US casualties in Afghanistan soar to record highs
The News - War-Draft
July 30, 2010
afghan war casualties
In a summer of suffering, America's military death toll in Afghanistan is rising, with back-to-back record months for U.S. losses in the grinding conflict. All signs point to more bloodshed in the months ahead, straining the already shaky international support for the war.

Six more Americans were reported killed in fighting in the south — three Thursday and three Friday — pushing the U.S. death toll for July to a record 66 and surpassing June as the deadliest month for U.S. forces in the nearly nine-year war.

U.S. officials confirmed the latest American deaths Friday but gave no further details. Five of the latest reported deaths were a result of hidden bombs — the insurgents' weapon of choice — and the sixth to an armed attack, NATO said in statements.

U.S. commanders say American casualties are mounting because more troops are fighting — and the Taliban are stiffening resistance as NATO and Afghan forces challenge the insurgents in areas they can't afford to give up without a fight. [ YAHOO NEWS ]

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