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More than a million evacuated in China over flood threat
The News - Current Events
June 19, 2010
Iceberg in an ocean   Image: BBC
More than a million people living along rivers in China's south have been evacuated with water rising to dangerous levels, state media said Saturday, as torrential rains left at least 88 dead.

The government said more than 1.4 million residents living on river banks and in low-lying areas had had to move, according to the official China Daily.

Zhang Zhitong, deputy director of the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, said China's second-largest waterway, the Pearl River, which crosses the south, had breached warning marks on Thursday. [ YAHOO NEWS ]

 
3 killed, dozens injured in Minn. tornadoes
The News - Natural Disasters
June 18, 2010
minnesota tornado june
Police and National Guard soldiers blocked off neighborhoods Friday as city officials organized a cleanup from tornadoes that ripped through the city the night before, part of a turbulent system that fueled twisters across the state and killed at least three people.

Dozens more were injured in Thursday's heavy weather. The National Weather Service collected 36 reports of tornado sightings, with northwestern and southern Minnesota hit hardest. If the sightings are all confirmed, it would exceed the previous state record of 27 in one day, in 1992.

In northwestern Minnesota, a woman was killed in Almora and a gas station owner was killed in Mentor. In southern Minnesota, a woman was killed when her home west of Albert Lea was destroyed.

Wadena, a town of about 4,300 people that lies 70 miles southeast of Fargo, appeared to suffer the most extensive property damage. The storms destroyed or damaged dozens of homes and other buildings, toppled power lines and left a big chunk of the town without trees. Officials met Friday morning to plan the town's next step.  [ YAHOO NEWS ]

 
'World could be plunged into crisis in 2014' - prediction
The News - Weird-Strange
June 17, 2010
world crisis 2014
A "Doomsday " moment will take place in 2014, and will determine whether the 21st century is full of violence and poverty or will be peaceful and prosperous - according to a Cambridge University professor.

In the last 500 years there has been a cataclysmic "Great Event" of international significance at the start of each century, he claims.

Occurring in the middle of the second decade of each century, they include events which sparked wars, religious conflict and brought peace.

Professor Nicholas Boyle of Cambridge University, who carried out the research, has pinpointed the global financial crisis as the trigger for the next 'Great Event'. And he claims the U.S., with its waning economic influence but unrivalled military power, holds the key to determining the course and character of the next 90 years.

 
'Killer space rock' hunt to begin
The News - Science-Astronomy
June 17, 2010
killer asteroid hunt

A new telescope facility in Hawaii designed to search for asteroids and comets which could threaten Earth has been made operational.

The Pan-STARRS 1 telescope will map large portions of the sky each night to track not only close space objects, but also exploding stars (supernovae).

The telescope has been taking science data for six months but is now operating from dusk-dawn each night. Pan-STARRS 1 (PS1) is expected to map one-sixth of the sky every month. The facility boasts a huge digital camera: a 1,400 megapixel (1.4 gigapixel) device that can photograph an area of the sky as large as 36 full Moons in a single exposure. [ BBC NEWS ]

 
Our own extinction is forecast - Aussie Scientist
The News - Science-Astronomy
June 17, 2010

WE humans are about to be wiped out in a few decades. The grandchildren of many of us will not live to old age.

Hear it from Frank Fenner, emeritus professor of microbiology at the Australian National University and the man who helped eradicate smallpox.

"Homo sapiens will become extinct, perhaps within 100 years," he told The Australian this week.

 
Sea creatures flee oil spill, gather near shore
The News - Current Events
June 16, 2010
Dolphins and sharks are showing up in surprisingly shallow water just off the Florida coast. Mullets, crabs, rays and small fish congregate by the thousands off an Alabama pier. Birds covered in oil are crawling deep into marshes, never to be seen again.

Marine scientists studying the effects of the BP disaster are seeing some strange - and troubling - phenomena. Fish and other wildlife are fleeing the oil out in the Gulf and clustering in cleaner waters along the coast. But that is not the hopeful sign it might appear to be, researchers say.

The animals' presence close to shore means their usual habitat is badly polluted, and the crowding could result in mass die-offs as fish run out of oxygen. Also, the animals could easily get devoured by predators.

"A parallel would be: Why are the wildlife running to the edge of a forest on fire? There will be a lot of fish, sharks, turtles trying to get out of this water they detect is not suitable," said Larry Crowder, a Duke University marine biologist. [ AP NEWS ]
 
What's wrong with the sun?
The News - Science-Astronomy
June 16, 2010
where are the sunspots

SUNSPOTS come and go, but recently they have mostly gone. For centuries, astronomers have recorded when these dark blemishes on the solar surface emerge, only for them to fade away again after a few days, weeks or months. Thanks to their efforts, we know that sunspot numbers ebb and flow in cycles lasting about 11 years.

But for the past two years, the sunspots have mostly been missing. Their absence, the most prolonged for nearly a hundred years, has taken even seasoned sun watchers by surprise. "This is solar behaviour we haven't seen in living memory," says David Hathaway, a physicist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

The sun is under scrutiny as never before thanks to an armada of space telescopes. The results they beam back are portraying our nearest star, and its influence on Earth, in a new light. Sunspots and other clues indicate that the sun's magnetic activity is diminishing, and that the sun may even be shrinking. Together the results hint that something profound is happening inside the sun. The big question is what? [ NEW SCIENTIST ]

 
French storms and floods kill 19
The News - Natural Disasters
June 16, 2010
french floods kill 19
Flash floods caused by torrential rain killed 19 people and left seven missing near France's Mediterranean coast, an official said on Wednesday, after the worst downpours the region has seen since 1827.

More than 350 mm (14 inches) of rain fell on the Var department in southern France in a few hours on Tuesday.

The sub-prefect for the region said 19 people had died and seven others were missing.

More than 1,000 people found refuge in schools and other buildings after their homes were swamped. Helicopters flew over 450 rescue missions and some 100,000 households were without electricity. [ YAHOO NEWS ]

 
Bright green comet visible in UK skies for the rest of the week
The News - Science-Astronomy
June 16, 2010

A bright green comet is streaking its way across UK skies – for the first and last time.

Comet 2009R1 McNaught will be visible from our back gardens for the rest of the week before it disappears from our Solar System forever.

Professor John Mason from the British Astronomical Association said that the comet’s visit was a ‘once-in-a-lifetime event’. He said that even though it is not particularly bright at the moment the comet can still be viewed using a decent pair of binoculars. [ DAILYMAIL UK ]

bright green comet uk skies
 
Oil leaking up to 2.52M gallons daily - New estimate
The News - Climate-Environment
June 15, 2010
new oil spill size estimate
Scientists provided a new estimate for the amount of oil gushing from the ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday that indicates it could be leaking up to 2.52 million gallons of crude a day.

A government panel of scientists said that the ruptured well is leaking between 1.47 million and 2.52 million gallons of oil daily. The figures move the government's worst-case estimates more in line with what an independent team had previously thought was the maximum size of the spill.

"This estimate brings together several scientific methodologies and the latest information from the sea floor, and represents a significant step forward in our effort to put a number on the oil that is escaping from BP's well," Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a statement.

The latest numbers reflect an increase in the flow that scientists believe happened after undersea robots earlier this month cut off a kinked pipe near the sea floor that was believed to be restricting the flow of oil, just as a bend in a garden hose reduces water flow. BP officials has estimated that cutting the kinked pipe likely increased the flow by up 20 percent. [ YAHOO NEWS ]

 
Border jolted with big aftershock
The News - Natural Disasters
June 15, 2010
To the crowd of baseball fans cheering at San Diego's Petco Park, the jolt in the eighth inning came as a surprise.

But for scientists, Monday night's magnitude-5.7 earthquake was the kind of aftershock they expected from the deadly magnitude-7.2 Easter Sunday quake centered in Baja California two months earlier. Major shakers tend to produce aftershocks for months and sometimes years, scientists say. [ MSNBC ]

 
Solar flares from 'huge space storm' will cause devastation - NASA
The News - Science-Astronomy
June 14, 2010
solar flare 2012 2013 predictions

Britain could face widespread power blackouts and be left without critical communication signals for long periods of time, after the earth is hit by a once-in-a-generation “space storm”, Nasa has warned.

National power grids could overheat and air travel severely disrupted while electronic items, navigation devices and major satellites could stop working after the Sun reaches its maximum power in a few years.

Senior space agency scientists believe the Earth will be hit with unprecedented levels of magnetic energy from solar flares after the Sun wakes “from a deep slumber” sometime around 2013, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

In a new warning, Nasa said the super storm would hit like “a bolt of lightning” and could cause catastrophic consequences for the world’s health, emergency services and national security unless precautions are taken. Scientists believe it could damage everything from emergency services’ systems, hospital equipment, banking systems and air traffic control devices, through to “everyday” items such as home computers, iPods and Sat Navs.

 
Hurricanes could bust Gulf oil lines
The News - Natural Disasters
June 14, 2010
hurricanes break oil lines
Hurricanes roaring across the Gulf of Mexico create strong enough underwater waves to dig up and potentially bust open oil pipelines that run across the ocean floor, according to a new study that recorded the currents created by the massive storms.

The massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf has focused attentions on the potential for more such environmental disasters, particularly now that the 2010 hurricane season has started. Scientists and officials are not only worried about how a storm might exacerbate the current spill, but the potential for it to cause another one, possibly by causing a rupture in an oil pipeline.

At least 31,000 miles of pipelines snake across the floor of the Gulf, according to the Minerals Management Service, and hurricanes have long been known to cause a range of damage to them, from dents to full ruptures.

 
BP engineer called doomed rig a 'nightmare well'
The News - Climate-Environment
June 14, 2010
oil right doomed nightmare well
BP took measures to cut costs in the weeks before the catastrophic blowout in the Gulf of Mexico as it dealt with one problem after another, prompting a BP engineer to describe the doomed rig as a "nightmare well," according to internal documents released Monday.

The comment by BP engineer Brian Morel came in an e-mail April 14, six days before the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion that killed 11 people and has sent tens of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf in the nation's worst environmental disaster.

The e-mail was among dozens of internal documents released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is investigating the explosion and its aftermath. [ YAHOO NEWS ]

 
Tropical Storm Alex?
The News - Current Events
June 14, 2010
A tropical wave swirling in the Atlantic Ocean near the equator has a chance of growing into this year's first tropical storm but the disturbance is becoming less organized.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center give the low pressure area a 40 percent chance of reaching tropical storm strength by Wednesday as it moves west northwest at about 15 mph.

The disturbance is going through an area where atmospheric conditions are becoming less favorable for it to become becoming better organized , forecasters say. [ TBO.com ]

 
The end of the world as we know it
The News - Science-Astronomy
June 13, 2010
end of the world as we know it

Apocalyptic thought has a tradition that dates to the Persian prophet Zoroaster in the 14th century BC. Recently, anxiety has grown over the prediction of the end of the world in the Mayan calendar.

It's true that the Mayan odometer will hit zeros on 21 December 2012 , as it reaches the end of a 394-year cycle called a baktun. But this baktun is part of a larger 8,000-year cycle called a pictun, and there's no evidence that anything astronomically untoward will happen as the current baktun slides into the next. However, that hasn't stopped the feverish speculating that sells books and cinema tickets.

What kind of catastrophe would it take to end the world? Astronomical intruders provide a potentially serious threat. Asteroid impacts can be caused by stray rubble from the Asteroid Belt and the rocky snowballs that travel in highly elliptical orbits in the comet cloud. There are many fewer large bits of debris than small bits, so the interval between large impacts is much longer than the interval between small impacts.

That's good news. Every century or so, a 10-meter meteor slams into the Earth with the force of a small nuclear device . Tunguska was the site of the last , in 1908, and it was pure luck that that meteor landed in the uninhabited wilderness of Siberia. Every few thousand years, Earth can pass through unusually thick parts of the debris trail of comets, turning the familiar light show of a meteor shower into a deadly firestorm. Roughly every 100,000 years, a projectile hundreds of meters across unleashes power equal to the world's nuclear arsenals. The result is devastation over an area the size of England, global tidal waves (if the impact is in the ocean), and enough dust flung into the atmosphere to dim the Sun and kill off vegetation. That could ruin your day.

Then there's the "Big One". About every 100 million years, a rock the size of a small asteroid slams into the Earth, causing global earthquakes , kilometre-high tsunami waves , and immediately killing all large land animals. Creatures in the sea soon follow, as trillions of tons of vaporised rock cause drastic cooling and the destruction of the food chain based on photosynthesis. There's good evidence that this happened 65 million years ago and our tiny mammal ancestors were the beneficiaries as the giant lizards were extinguished.

 
We need a global debate on population
The News - Climate-Environment
June 13, 2010
global debate population

A growing number of scientists are going where politicians fear to tread by calling for a wider public debate on the sensitive issue of the global human population, which is set to rise from the present 6.8 billion to perhaps 9 billion by 2050.

Lord Rees, the president of the Royal Society, brought the subject up in his excellent Reith Lectures; Sir David Attenborough has become a champion of those who believe population has been relegated as an environmental issue; and more recently Professor Aubrey Manning, presenter of the BBC's Earth Story, has stated that the sheer number of humans on the planet is the greatest menace the world faces. [ INDEPENDENT UK ]

 
Rogue WMDs major threat to US
The News - War-Draft
June 12, 2010
rogue wmd's
The risk of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists is the gravest threat facing the United States, a Pentagon official has said.

Asked about the existential threats against Washington, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy said there were many, but warned that "the thing that keeps me awake at night is a nexus between terrorism and massive destruction."

She told a Washington symposium on US security that the United States needs to better prepare for "the possibility that a terrorist organization could either acquire a ready-made weapon or fabricate something improvised that would have a catastrophic effect for us." [ YAHOO NEWS ]

 
New spill total is bad news for BP, wildlife
The News - Climate-Environment
June 12, 2010

The astonishing news that the oil leak at the bottom of the sea may be twice as big as previously thought could have major repercussions for both the environment and BP’s financial health, killing more marine life and dramatically increasing the amount the company must pay in fines and damages.

Scientists now say the blown-out well could have been spewing as much as 2 million gallons of crude before a cut-and-cap maneuver started capturing some of the flow, meaning more than 100 million gallons may have leaked into the Gulf of Mexico since the start of the disaster in April. That is more than nine times the size of the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, previously the worst oil spill in US history.

 
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