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The Science of Flash Floods
The News - Natural Disasters
June 11, 2010

The flash floods that swept through Arkansas today, taking the lives of at least 20 people and leaving others missing, are a reminder of a little-known fact: Flash floods are the No. 1 cause of weather-related deaths in the United States, according to the National Weather Service.

Two key factors that lead to flash flooding are the intensity of the rainfall and its duration. For this reason, most flash flooding is caused by slow-moving thunderstorms, thunderstorms that move repeatedly over the same area, or heavy rains from hurricanes and tropical storms, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Intense rainfall led to the Arkansas flash flooding, causing the Caddo and Little Missouri rivers to rise quickly overnight, sometimes faster than 8 feet (2.4 meters) per hour, according to news reports.[ LIVE SCIENCE ]

Worst Locust Plague in Two Decades Threatens Australian Harvest
The News - Natural Disasters
June 11, 2010
locust plague australia
The worst locust plague in more than two decades is threatening to strike Australia, the world’s fourth-largest wheat exporter, after rainfall boosted egg-laying by the insects in major crop growing regions.

“There are hundreds of millions of dollars worth of crops and pastures that are potentially at risk,” Chris Adriaansen, director at the Canberra-based Australian Plague Locust Commission said in an interview by phone. “Tens of millions of dollars” will be spent during the southern hemisphere spring to reduce the affects of the infestation, he said.

The forecast plague could cost Victoria’s agriculture sector A$2 billion ($1.7 billion) if left untreated, the state government said today. Widespread egg-laying across south- eastern Australia has set the scene for the biggest hatching for at least 25 years, according to the commission, which describes locusts as the nation’s most serious pest species.  [ BLOOMBERG ]

16 dead, dozens missing in Arkansas floods
The News - Natural Disasters
June 11, 2010
Flash floods swamped valley campgrounds along a pair of southwestern Arkansas rivers early Friday, killing 16 and leaving anguished families pleading with emergency workers for help in finding dozens of missing people.

More than 40 people were unaccounted for after the Caddo and Little Missouri rivers rose quickly overnight — at times faster than 8 feet per hour, said Gary Fox, a retired emergency medical technician who was coordinating with families to determine who had died and who had yet to be found.

"This is not a one- or two-day thing," Fox said outside a command post near Langley next to the Little Missouri. "This is going to be a week or two- or three-week recovery."

"DOOMSDAY scenario" about new Oil Spill developments
The News - Climate-Environment
June 10, 2010
Two More Gulf Spills?
The News - Climate-Environment
June 08, 2010
The BP oil spill is still dominating headlines, 50 days after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded. But how much oil leaks into the Gulf on any other day of the year? Satillite images and photographs from the region indicate that there may be two other offshore drilling units leaking oil into the ocean.
Gulf Oil Spill predictions & monitor
The News - Climate-Environment
June 08, 2010

BP's live video stream of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico is simultaneously tragic and hypnotic. With each passing second, more gallons of crude oil and natural gas escape into the ocean.

Until Thursday, BP and NOAA had stood by their early estimate -- produced April 29, a week after the Deepwater Horizon rig sank -- that about 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) were leaking per day from the damaged well, although they had acknowledged that the estimate was not precise.

And after the world first witnessed the 30-second video clip that BP released on May 12, scientists began to wonder more loudly how the estimate could be that low.

Now, thanks in part to congressional pressure, we have a way to watch the environmental crisis unfold in real time via a live video feed. We modified our original Gulf Leak Meter because the video takes our sliding scale out of the abstract and into reality.

Stories of hurricane winds and rain lashing the coasts of Florida, Louisiana and other southeastern states pop up in the news constantly during the summer, but warnings of Pacific storms such as Jimena are few and far between.In fact, only one hurricane is thought to have ever struck California, and that was clear back in 1858. Could it happen again? Not impossible, but also extremely unlikely in any given year.

The disparity is a result of the oceanic and atmospheric conditions at play in both basins, which send hurricanes in the Atlantic toward land and hurricanes in the Pacific away from it, generally sparing West Coasters from the rages of these storms.

The hurricanes that swirl over both oceans form through the same mechanism, whereby warm ocean waters fuel the rotating storms. (Typhoons are also the same phenomenon; the name is simply the designation used in the western Pacific and Indian Oceans.)

Subsea oil plumes found 142 miles from rig
The News - Climate-Environment
June 08, 2010
subsea oil plumes
Clouds of oil have been found drifting underwater in the Gulf of Mexico as far as 142 miles from the wrecked Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, government officials said Tuesday.

At a briefing, Jane Lubchenko, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said that tests conducted at three sites by a University of South Florida research vessel confirmed oil as far as 3,300 feet below the surface.

The oil was found 42 miles northeast of the well site and also 142 miles to the southeast. Lubchenko said the tests "indicate there is definitely oil sub surface. It's in very low concentrations" of 0.5 parts per million.

There have been reports of such underwater "plumes" previously, but BP had questioned whether oil was actually forming below water. [ MSNBC ]

World's Oceans Remain Largely Mysterious
The News - Climate-Environment
June 08, 2010
The ocean covers 70 percent of the Earth's surface, but on this World Oceans Day (June 8, 2010) scientists say they still know shockingly little about the mysterious deep blue sea.

With 95 percent of the ocean unmapped, more is known about the moon's surface than the ocean depths, said aquatic filmmaker Fabien Cousteau, grandson of ocean diving pioneer Jacque Cousteau. In fact,12 men have stepped foot on the moon, but only two have been to the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean at roughly 7 miles (11 kilometers) deep. [ LIVE SCIENCE ]

mysterious ocean
Gulf Oil Spill: Cap only collecting fraction of leaking oil
The News - Climate-Environment
June 05, 2010
gulf oil spill cap
The wildlife apocalypse along the Gulf Coast that everyone has feared for weeks is fast becoming a terrible reality.

Pelicans struggled to free themselves from oil thick as tar that gathers in hip-deep pools, while others stretch out useless wings, feathers dripping with crude. Dead birds and dolphins have washed up onshore, coated in the sludge. Seashells that once glinted pearly white under the hot June sun are stained crimson. Scenes like this played out along miles of shoreline Saturday, nearly seven weeks after a BP rig exploded and the wellhead a mile below the surface began belching millions of gallon of oil.

"These waters are my backyard, my life," said boat captain Dave Marino, a firefighter and fishing guide from Myrtle Grove. "I don't want to say heartbreaking, because that's been said. It's a nightmare. It looks like it's going to be wave after wave of it and nobody can stop it."

NASA Keeps a Wary Eye on Space Weather
The News - Science-Astronomy
June 05, 2010
solar activity sun increase

Earth and space are about to come into contact in a way that's new to human history. To make preparations, authorities in Washington DC are holding a meeting: The Space Weather Enterprise Forum at the National Press Club on June 8th. Richard Fisher, head of NASA's Heliophysics Division, explains what it's all about:

"The sun is waking up from a deep slumber, and in the next few years we expect to see much higher levels of solar activity. At the same time, our technological society has developed an unprecedented sensitivity to solar storms. The intersection of these two issues is what we're getting together to discuss."

The National Academy of Sciences framed the problem two years ago in a landmark report entitled "Severe Space Weather Events—Societal and Economic Impacts." It noted how people of the 21st-century rely on high-tech systems for the basics of daily life. Smart power grids, GPS navigation, air travel, financial services and emergency radio communications can all be knocked out by intense solar activity. A century-class solar storm, the Academy warned, could cause twenty times more economic damage than Hurricane Katrina.

Reports accuse WHO of exaggerating H1N1 threat
The News - Current Events
June 05, 2010

European criticism of the World Health Organization's handling of the H1N1 pandemic intensified Friday with the release of two reports that accused the agency of exaggerating the threat posed by the virus and failing to disclose possible influence by the pharmaceutical industry on its recommendations for how countries should respond.

The WHO's response caused widespread, unnecessary fear and prompted countries around the world to waste millions of dollars, according to one report. At the same time, the Geneva-based arm of the United Nations relied on advice from experts with ties to drug makers in developing the guidelines it used to encourage countries to stockpile millions of doses of antiviral medications, according to the second report.[ WASHINGTON POST ]

Disaster Laws: Will Gulf Oil Spill Change Anything?
The News - Current Events
June 05, 2010

Earlier this week, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) responded to the continuing Gulf oil leak by proposing new legislative action that would raise the liability BP could face for the disaster. Sen. Schumer’s action is merely the latest move in Washington’s month-long reaction to the Deepwater Horizon explosion, and if history is any guide, it won’t be the last.

Throughout the last century, environmental and industrial catastrophes have often provoked an outraged citizenry to demand action from their elected officials, resulting in new regulations aimed at preventing future catastrophes. Experts point out, however, that many of those regulations failed to stop subsequent calamities, leading some to question whether the responses to the Gulf oil leak will have a lasting effect.

What are the Bilderberg Group really doing in Spain?
The News - Cover-Up-Conspiracy
June 05, 2010
bilderberg group conspiracy

If the conspiracy theorists are on to something, they could be plotting the invasion of Iran, planning the funeral of the Euro or scheming to wipe out French poodles in pink sweaters at this very minute.

Or perhaps the world's financial and political leaders are simply schmoozing about their golf game as they enjoy a "chocolate massage" followed by the "honey body scrub" and the "spectacular oxygen Echo2 facial" at the Dolce Hotel's spa in Sitges.

It is also possible that the world's executives, media moguls, and financial gurus came to the elegant seaside town near Barcelona to study the booming gay tourist market there (although they missed the wild Carnival celebration by a few months) and to sneak a preview of next year's international horror film festival.

But ordinary citizens can only guess at the goings-on at the annual meeting of the secretive Bilderberg Group, a media-barred pow-wow of the global elite that in the past has reportedly attracted former US President Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and David Cameron, and US treasury secretary Timothy Geithner. Even the late Enoch Powell once attended.  [ INDEPENDENT

Caught in the oil
The News - Climate-Environment
June 04, 2010
AP Photographer Charlie Riedel just filed the following images of seabirds caught in the oil slick on a beach on Louisiana's East Grand Terre Island. As BP engineers continue their efforts to cap the underwater flow of oil, landfall is becoming more frequent, and the effects more evident. (8 photos total )
'Hint of life' on Saturn's moon Titan found
The News - Science-Astronomy
June 04, 2010
life on titan

Scientists have found evidence that there may be some form of life on Saturn's biggest moon Titan.

They have discovered clues that might show that microscopic aliens are breathing in Titan's atmosphere and feeding on fuel at the surface.

Data from Nasa's Cassini probe has analysed the complex chemistry on the surface of Titan - the only moon known to have a dense atmosphere.

Its surface is covered with mountains, lakes and rivers which has led astronomers to call it the most Earth-like world in the solar system.

Organic chemicals had already been detected on the 3,200-mile wide moon. But the liquid on Titan methane, rather than water, and scientists expect life there to be methane-based.

Asteroid Impact on Jupiter, with video
The News - Science-Astronomy
June 04, 2010
Amateur astronomers Anthony Wesley of Australia and Christopher Go of the Philippines have independently observed an impact event on Jupiter. The strike occurred at 20:31 UT on June 3rd and produced a bright flash of light in the giant planet's cloudtops:

Photo credit: Anthony Wesley, Broken Hill Australia

"I still can't believe that I caught a live impact on Jupiter," says Go, who has made a must-see video of the event. [ SPACEWEATHER.com ]

Gulf Oil Spill Could Spread to Atlantic Ocean
The News - Climate-Environment
June 03, 2010
gulf oil spill enter atlantic ocean

The huge oil slick that has spread across the Gulf of Mexico could soon extend its reach, traveling around the tip of Florida and entering Atlantic waters, a computer model suggests.

"I've had a lot of people ask me, 'Will the oil reach Florida?'" said one of the scientists who worked on the model, Synte Peacock of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). "Actually, our best knowledge says the scope of this environmental disaster is likely to reach far beyond Florida, with impacts that have yet to be understood."

The oil slick caused by the explosion and subsequent sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20 has grown since the first days of the disaster, though the oil has largely stayed confined to a relatively stagnant area of the Gulf near the Louisiana and Alabama coastlines. But that could change as the oil slowly drifts towards faster-moving currents in the Gulf.

North Korean envoy warns war could erupt soon
The News - War-Draft
June 03, 2010
A North Korean envoy said on Thursday that war could erupt at any time on the divided Korean peninsula because of tension with Seoul over the sinking of a South Korean warship in March.

"The present situation of the Korean peninsula is so grave that a war may break out any moment," Ri Jang Gon, North Korea's deputy ambassador in Geneva, told the United Nations-sponsored Conference on Disarmament.

North Korea's troops were on "full alert and readiness to promptly react to any retaliation," including the scenario of all-out war, he told the forum.

See Also : U.S. to Join South Korean Military Exercise Off North Korea Coast

Nuclear Option on Gulf Oil Spill?
The News - Current Events
June 03, 2010

The chatter began weeks ago as armchair engineers brainstormed for ways to stop the torrent of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico: What about nuking the well?

Decades ago, the Soviet Union reportedly used nuclear blasts to successfully seal off runaway gas wells, inserting a bomb deep underground and letting its fiery heat melt the surrounding rock to shut off the flow. Why not try it here?

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