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Hurricane Alex spins past oil rigs toward Mexico
The News - Natural Disasters
June 30, 2010
hurricane alex oil spill
Hurricane Alex picked up strength in the Gulf of Mexico as it headed for land on Wednesday, flooding parts of the Mexican coast but staying clear of oil fields to the relief of crude markets.

The first named storm of the 2010 Atlantic season, Alex's winds of 85 mph bent over palm trees near the port city of Matamoros across from Brownsville, Texas, while its rains swamped beaches. Soaked Mexican marines in towns in Tamaulipas state ushered residents and fisherman into shelters as 10-foot (3-meter)-high waves slammed into the shore.

"We're getting out of here, this looks really ugly," said a 50-year-old housewife who gave her name as Juana as she packed belongings into a truck in the beach town of Playa Bagdad. Alex looked set to grow into a robust Category 2 storm as it slams into Tamaulipas later on Wednesday then weaken back to a storm on Thursday, but its rains had already flooded highways as far inland as the industrial city of Monterrey. [ YAHOO NEWS ]

BP didn't consider hurricanes in its response plan
The News - Natural Disasters
June 30, 2010
Rep. Edward Markey says BP's disaster response plan for an oil spill doesn't mention hurricanes or tropical storms .Markey says the omission is yet another example of what the oil giant was not prepared to handle.

The Massachusetts Democrat's comments came during a congressional hearing on a law to improve technology intended to prevent disasters like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Officials responding to the oil spill in the Gulf Coast are scrambling to prepare for Hurricane Alex , which is expected to touch the lower half of the Rio Grande Valley tonight. The center of the storm is expected to hit 100 miles south of the U.S. border. [ KPLCTV.com ]

Visiting an asteroid: What's the point?
The News - Science-Astronomy
June 30, 2010
space asteroid visit

Why should we, as a race, support human spaceflight? This is one of the key questions hanging over the world's space agencies in these hard economic times. It turns out that one answer is very simple: to protect Earth from civilization-ending asteroid impacts .

Recently, President Obama spoke at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) to announce his new proposed direction for the US space agency: skip the moon, send man to a near-Earth asteroid (NEO) by the mid 2020's and use this new technological know-how to get humans to our ultimate goal — Mars.

Although the reasons for landing astronauts on asteroids are sound, NASA's proposed redirection has been met with fierce opposition. Most of this opposition is purely political, but the message is clear: We're no closer to replacing the space shuttle and there's no clear incentive to support an expensive manned space program. Just because we've proven we can live in space for long periods, for many policy makers, it doesn't mean we need to do it. Unfortunately, we probably won't understand the need to push into space until it is far too late . [ MSNBC ]

Strong Earthquake Hits Southern Mexico
The News - Natural Disasters
June 30, 2010
A strong earthquake has rattled southern Mexico, sending people fleeing into the streets in Pacific coast towns and in the nation's capital. The US Geological Survey said the 6.2-magnitude quake was centred in a sparsely populated, mountainous area of Oaxaca near the southern Pacific coast.

"It felt strong, very strong," said Tomas Herrera Sanchez, a police officer on duty in Santiago Pinotepa Nacional, the closest sizable town to the quake's centre. "There are people who got scared and left their houses," but there were no immediate reports of damage, he said.
Gulf beaches hit as distant hurricane pushes oil
The News - Natural Disasters
June 30, 2010
Rough seas generated by Hurricane Alex pushed more oil from the massive spill onto Gulf coast beaches as cleanup vessels were sidelined by the far-away storm's ripple effects.

The hurricane was churning coastal waters across the oil-affected region on the Gulf of Mexico. Waves as high as 6 feet and winds over 25 mph were forecast through Thursday just off shore from the Mississippi Delta in Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle.

In Louisiana, the storm pushed an oil patch toward Grand Isle and uninhabited Elmer's Island, dumping tar balls as big as apples on the beach. "The sad thing is that it's been about three weeks since we had any big oil come in here," marine science technician Michael Malone said. "With this weather,we lost all the progress we made."

Where will Tropical Storm Alex make landfall?
The News - Natural Disasters
June 29, 2010

Tropical Storm Alex is expected to intensify into Hurricane Alex in the coming hours, and become the first hurricane of the season, according to NOAA.

As of 10 a.m. CDT on Tuesday, Alex was about 355 miles (571 km) southeast of Brownsville, Texas, and had top wind speeds of 70 mph (112 kph). Tropical storms whose wind speeds increase to more than 74 mph (119 kph) are designated as hurricanes.

Alex is expected to continue on its northwestward path, and is currently moving at 12 mph (19 kph). The storm should stay on this course, with a slow turn toward Mexico anticipated overnight or Wednesday, according to NOAA. It is expected that the storm will make landfall late Wednesday night or in the early morning hours on Thursday, said Dennis Feltgen, a spokesperson for NOAA's National Hurricane Center in Miami. The storm will likely cross onto land in northern Mexico, just south of the Texas border. [ YAHOO NEWS ] - [ PREDICTED CONE IMAGE ]

Rescuers search for 107 in China landslide
The News - Natural Disasters
June 29, 2010
china landslide june 29
Hope of finding survivors was diminishing Tuesday as rescuers used heavy machinery including bulldozers to search for at least 107 people trapped under a landslide in rain-hit southwestern China.

Villagers huddled in tents set up at the site as rescuers searched for their family members. But there appeared to be little hope for survival, with no word on casualties or survivors by noon Tuesday, said Tian Maosheng, an official from Guizhou Communist Party Propaganda Department, who is helping with the rescue.

"The number 107 remains unchanged, and there is still no sign of life here," he said. [ YAHOO NEWS ]

Alex Update : Set to Become Hurricane as Swells Reach Gulf Spill
The News - Natural Disasters
June 29, 2010

Tropical Storm Alex, the first named system of the Atlantic hurricane season, strengthened today over open waters, forcing the evacuation of rigs in the Gulf of Mexico while pushing swells toward the worst U.S. oil spill.

The storm, packing maximum sustained winds of 70 miles (110 kilometers) per hour, was 380 miles southeast of Brownsville, Texas, heading north-northwest at 12 mph, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in a 7 a.m. CDT advisory. The circulating winds approached hurricane status of 74 mph.

A hurricane warning was issued for the coast of Texas near Padre Island to the mouth of the Rio Grande and south of the Mexico border to La Cruz, the hurricane center said. The storm will intensify and turn more to the northwest today, moving further from the oil spill, it said. BP Plc said efforts to contain the spill may be disrupted as weather conditions worsen.

Nature's Wrath in 2009 Tallied by Country
The News - Natural Disasters
June 29, 2010
natural disasters 2009

Asia took the brunt of natural disasters in 2009, experiencing more than 40 percent of Mother Nature's havoc, with the Americas coming in second, according to a new report. The Philippines, China and the United States were the countries most often hit by notable natural disasters last year.

Overall in 2009, 335 natural disasters were reported worldwide, killing 10,655 people and affecting more than 119 million others. The economic damages from these events exceeded $41.3 billion in U.S. dollars. The number of disasters is actually down compared with the 2000-2008 annual average of 392, mostly because there were fewer storms and other meteorological disasters last year. 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.

While there weren't any so-called mega-disasters , residents did feel the Earth shaking and burping scorching magma. The highest number of reported deaths was due to the earthquake in Sumatra, Indonesia on Sept. 30, which left 1,117 dead and more than 2.5 million others affected. The floods in July in Southern and Central China impacted the most individuals (39.4 million people).   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.

Nuclear Bombs Could Save Earth from Asteroids
The News - Science-Astronomy
June 29, 2010
asteroid impact nuclear explosion

If a massive asteroid is hurtling toward Earth and threatening to sterilize the entire planet, blasting it to pieces with nuclear bombs might seem fit for a Hollywood movie. But, it could, in fact, be a viable solution to the potentially apocalyptic event , according to scientists who have studied asteroids and possible solutions to prevent Earth impacts .

There are some strings attached: The interloping space rock would have to pose a definite asteroid threat to Earth in a relatively short timeframe to justify such a drastic option, the scientists said. And blowing up an asteroid runs the risk of creating more debris to worry about later, they added.

If an asteroid was expected to collide with Earth within the next 50 years , using nuclear explosives to divert or disperse the hostile space rock could be the best alternative, explained David Dearborn, a research physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif.

Alex to become hurricane, delay oil spill efforts
The News - Natural Disasters
June 28, 2010
Tropical storm Alex was set to become a hurricane on Tuesday, delaying BP Plc's efforts to increase siphoning capacity at the gushing oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico while some companies pulled workers from the area.

Forecasters said Alex was moving slowly away from Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

It is not expected to hurt current oil-capture systems at the BP oil spill or the company's plans to drill a pair of relief wells intended to plug the leak by August, a BP executive told reporters in Houston. [ YAHOO NEWS ]

First 2010 Atlantic season tropical depression forms in the Caribbean
The News - Current Events
June 26, 2010
tropical depression one
he weather system that might threaten efforts to stop the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, or drive ashore what's already spread, is now the season's first tropical depression - and as early as today, may be its first Tropical Storm: Alex.

The depression - denoting a tighter, more defined system - is far from South Florida, and mostly of interest only to those who keep box scores, though it is expected to steer rain to the area. But there is the threat to the gulf, so it's getting more attention than any of the many waves and depressions that come and go in June.

According to the National Hurricane Center's 6 p.m. tropical weather outlook, "Tropical Depression One" has become better organized as it approaches the Yucatan Peninsula, and is "expected" to become a tropical storm tonight or Saturday.

It has sustained winds of about 35 miles per hour, with higher gusts, the outlook said. It is still moving west-northwest at about 10 miles per hour, and should continue on that track "for the next couple of days," the forecast said. [ PALM BEACH POST ] Click image to enlarge.

2010 Atlantic hurricane season - update 2
The News - Natural Disasters
June 25, 2010
The 2010 Atlantic hurricane season is predicted to be much more active than usual, according to the nation's top two hurricane forecasting teams.

Colorado State University's research team, the nation's oldest and most well-known hurricane forecasters, predict that 2010 will be an unusually active hurricane season.

They predict that 15 named tropical storms will form in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico this year, of which 8 will become hurricanes. And of those eight, four are expected to be major hurricanes — Categories 3, 4 or 5 — with maximum wind speeds of 111 mph or greater.

Tropical disturbance over the western Caribbean could effect oil spill
The News - Current Events
June 25, 2010

With a storm threatening to disrupt oil-siphoning efforts at BP Plc's blown-out Gulf of Mexico well, the U.S. Coast Guard on Friday said collection efforts would be suspended five days before the forecast onset of gale-force winds.

A tropical disturbance over the western Caribbean could deal a big setback to efforts by BP to contain oil gushing from the well, estimated by the U.S. government at up to 60,000 barrels (2.5 million gallons/9.5 million liters) per day.

Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the U.S. government's point man on the oil spill, said it would be necessary five days before gale force winds are forecast to arrive to take down operations involving ships and other equipment siphoning some of the oil spewing from BP's ruptured deep-sea well. During this period, the oil could flow unchecked from the ruptured well into the sea for up to 14 days, Allen said.

Stunning images as storm breaks over Chicago
The News - Current Events
June 25, 2010
double lightning strike

This is the extraordinary moment a photographer captured bolts of lightning striking not one, but two Chicago landmarks at the same time.

Electricity rushed down the lightning rods atop the The Willis Tower and the Trump Tower at the exact same instant last night.

Seen through the rain from the Hancock Tower, the strikes lit up the sky around.

They came as severe storms rolled through the Windy City last night. There were tornado warnings as winds gusted to up to 80mph, and flooding closed some major roads.

The Department of Streets and Sanitation said 450 'tree emergencies' had been reported - but fortunately there were no injuries.

The storms grounded flights at O'Hare International Airport for nearly an hour. 

The Willis Tower, formerly the Sears Tower, is the city's tallest building at 108 stories and 1,451 feet. It was built in 1973.


Latest blunder feeds frustration in the Gulf
The News - Climate-Environment
June 24, 2010
bp oil spill
Earlier this month, BP boldly predicted the oil gushing from the bottom of the sea would be reduced to a "relative trickle" within days, and President Barack Obama told the nation last week that as much as 90 percent would soon be captured. But those goals seemed wildly optimistic Thursday after yet another setback a mile underwater.

A deep-sea robot bumped into the cap collecting oil from the well, forcing a temporary halt Wednesday to the company's best effort yet to contain the leak. The cap was back in place Thursday, but frustration and skepticism were running high along the Gulf Coast.

BP's pronouncements have "absolutely no credibility," Jefferson Parish Councilman John Young said. The latest problem shows "they really are not up to the task and we have more bad news than we have good news."

Another day of record-breaking temperatures
The News - Climate-Environment
June 24, 2010
Temperatures reached 100 degrees at Reagan National Airport at 3:07 p.m., according to the National Weather Service.Another day of record-breaking temperatures is on the books.

"It's the first time temperatures have reached 100 degrees in June since June of 1997," ABC 7 Meteorologist Alex Liggitt says.Heat index values were between 98 and 104 degrees Thursday afternoon as temperatures rose into the upper 90s. [ WTOP ]

BP Oil Slick Now Threatens 60 Percent of America's Tidal Marshes
The News - Climate-Environment
June 24, 2010

New data has been released showing that the massive BP oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico is already contaminating one major protected North American Marine Ecoregion, containing more than 60-percent of America's tidal marshes, and is threatening at least two more.

The site of the initial explosion that resulted in the BP oil disaster is within the boundaries of the Northern Gulf of Mexico Ecoregion which as described by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation as a marine protected area that:

"... contains over 60 percent of the tidal marshes of the United States, freshwater inputs from thirty-seven major rivers, numerous nursery habitats for fish and the Flower Gardens Banks." [ HuffPost ]

Galaxy collision : Cosmic hit-and-run gives galaxy starry tail
The News - Science-Astronomy
June 24, 2010
galaxy collision hit
A cosmic hit-and-run between two speeding galaxies has left one with a wispy tail speckled with stars, according to a new snapshot from a NASA space observatory.

The new galaxy tail photo reveals the aftermath of a collision between the galaxy IC 3418 and a member of its neighboring Virgo galaxy cluster.

The galactic smash-up occurred 54 million light-years from Earth and was spotted by NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) observatory. These new observations from GALEX will help give astronomers a better understanding of how stars form, researchers said. 

"The gas in this galaxy is being blown back into a turbulent wake," said Janice Hester of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., lead author of a recent study that was published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. 

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