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NASA's WISE Eye searches for Near-Earth Asteroid
The News - Science-Astronomy
January 26, 2010
NASA WISE Asteroid program
NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, has spotted its first never-before-seen near-Earth asteroid, the first of hundreds it is expected to find during its mission to map the whole sky in infrared light. There is no danger of the newly discovered asteroid hitting Earth.

The near-Earth object, designated 2010 AB78, was discovered by WISE Jan. 12. The mission's sophisticated software picked out the moving object against a background of stationary stars. As WISE circled Earth, scanning the sky above, it observed the asteroid several times during a period of one-and-a-half days before the object moved beyond its view. Researchers then used the University of Hawaii's 2.2-meter (88-inch) visible-light telescope near the summit of Mauna Kea to follow up and confirm the discovery.

The asteroid is currently about 158 million kilometers (98 million miles) from Earth. It is estimated to be roughly 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) in diameter and circles the sun in an elliptical orbit tilted to the plane of our solar system. The object comes as close to the sun as Earth, but because of its tilted orbit, it will not pass very close to Earth for many centuries. This asteroid does not pose any foreseeable impact threat to Earth, but scientists will continue to monitor it.

 
Deadly Quake in a Seismic Hot Zone
The News - Natural Disasters
January 26, 2010

To scientists who study seismic hazards in the Caribbean, there was no surprise in the magnitude 7 earthquake that devastated the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, two weeks ago.

Except, perhaps, in where on the island of Hispaniola it occurred.

“If I had had to make a bet, I would have bet that the first earthquake would have taken place in the northern Dominican Republic, not Haiti,” said Eric Calais, a geophysicist at Purdue University who has conducted research in the area for years.

The fault that ruptured violently on Jan. 12 had been building up strain since the last major earthquake in Port-au-Prince, 240 years ago. Dr. Calais and others had warned in 2008 that a quake could occur along that segment, part of what is called the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault zone, although they could not predict when.

haiti earthquake deadly seismic hotzone
 
Are we alone? We may soon find out
The News - Weird-Strange
January 26, 2010
Rapid technological leaps forward in the last 10 years mean mankind is closer than ever before to knowing whether extra-terrestrial life exists in our galaxy, one of Britain's leading scientists said on Tuesday.

Astronomer and President of the Royal Society (academy of science) Martin Rees said science had made enormous progress in the search for planets grouped around other distant stars — a discipline he stressed did not exist in the 1990s.

"Now we know that most of the stars, like the sun, are likely to have planetary systems around them and we have every reason to suspect that many of them have planets that are rather like our earth," Rees told Reuters in an interview.

 
Scientists predict California 'super storms'
The News - Natural Disasters
January 24, 2010
california super storm
Think the recent wild weather that hammered California was bad? Experts are imagining far worse.

As torrential rains pelted wildfire-stripped hillsides and flooded highways, a team of scientists hunkered down at the California Institute of Technology to work on a "Frankenstorm" scenario — a mother lode wintry blast that could potentially sock the Golden State.

The hypothetical but plausible storm would be similar to the 1861-1862 extreme floods that temporarily moved the state capital from Sacramento to San Francisco and forced the then-governor to attend his inauguration by rowboat.

The scenario "is much larger than anything in living memory," said project manager Dale Cox with the U.S. Geological Survey.

 
UN Climate change blunders - Global Warming / Natural Disasters
The News - Climate-Environment
January 24, 2010
The world's leading climate change scientists have been caught out making unfounded claims about global warming for the second time in just over a week.

Experts appointed by the United Nations said rising temperatures were to blame for an increase in the number and severity of natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods.

But it has emerged that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change based the statement, made in 2007, on an unpublished report that had not been properly reviewed by other scientists. 

  Cockermouth flooding

False warning? Ministers linked floods in Cumbria last year to global warming

The report's author has since withdrawn the claim, saying there is not enough evidence to link climate change to worsening natural disasters, and criticised the use of his data as 'completely misleading'.

t follows the IPCC's admission that it was wrong to state in its influential 2007 Fourth Assessment Report that Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035.

That assertion was based on ' speculation' featured in an eight-year-old article in New Scientist magazine.

 
Aliens could be hostile! Duhhh...
The News - Weird-Strange
January 24, 2010
hostile aliens

Scientists searching for alien life should get governments and the UN involved lest we unwittingly contact hostile extraterrestrials, a British astronomer has warned.

Mr Marek Kukula, public astronomer at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, said: "Part of me is with the enthusiasts and I would like us to try to make proactive contact with a wiser, more peaceful civilization."

But he warned: "We might like to assume that if there is intelligent life out there it is wise and benevolent, but of course we have no evidence for this.

"Given the consequences of contact may not be what we initially hoped for, then we need governments and the UN to get involved in any discussions," he told The Sunday Times.

 
Haiti capital earthquake death toll 'tops 150,000'
The News - Natural Disasters
January 24, 2010
Haiti Earthquake 150,000 dead

The confirmed death toll from Haiti's devastating earthquake has risen above 150,000 in the Port-au-Prince area alone, a government minister has said.

Communications minister Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue said the count was based on bodies collected in and around the capital by state company CNE.

Many more remain uncounted under rubble in the capital and elsewhere, including the towns of Jacmel and Leogane.

The search for survivors has officially ended and the focus has shifted to aid.

As the death toll in Haiti has risen, it has become clear the 12 January quake is one of the worst natural disasters to have struck in recent years.

 
Terrorist threat level raised to 'severe'
The News - War-Draft
January 24, 2010

Britain's terrorist threat level was raised tonight from “substantial” to “severe” - meaning that counter-terrorism agencies believe an attack is “highly likely”.

The measure was approved at a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergency committee and announced by Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary.

The Times understands that the decision to raise the threat level is connected to the conference on Afghanistan taking place at Lancaster House, London, next Thursday.

Sources said there had been intensive discussions throughout the day relating to intelligence suggesting a possible attempted “spectacular” by an al-Qaeda affiliated group.

 
U.S. must do more about asteroids
The News - Science-Astronomy
January 24, 2010
us asteroid impact policy
The United States must do more to safeguard Earth against destruction by an asteroid than merely prepping nuclear missiles, a new report has found.

The 134-page report, released Friday by the National Academy of Sciences, states that the $4 million spent by the United States annually to identify all potentially dangerous asteroids near Earth is not enough to do the job mandated by Congress in 2005.

NASA is in dire need of more funding to meet the challenge, and less than $1 million is currently set aside to research ways to counter space rocks that do endanger the Earth — measures like developing the spacecraft and technology to deflect incoming asteroids — the report states.

An early draft of the report, entitled "Defending the Earth: Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard-Mitigation Strategies," was released in August 2009. The final report, written by a committee of expert scientists, says NASA is ill-equipped to catalog 90 percent of the nearby asteroids that are 460 feet (140 meters) across or larger, as directed by Congress.

The United States should also be planning more methods of defending Earth against an asteroid threat in the near-term. Nuclear weapons should be a last resort — but they're also only useful if the world has years of advance notice of a large, incoming space rock, the report states.

 
Could tsunamis offer an electric warning?
The News - Natural Disasters
January 24, 2010
A killer surge of sea water racing across an ocean should, theoretically, generate an electrical current that ought to be detectable by existing undersea cables, say researchers.

The idea has been successfully modeled using what's known about the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. It looks like the wave moving through the Earth's magnetic field probably generated a small electrical current. That, in turn, could be absorbed by undersea cables and ought to be noticed as a telltale power surge.

If so, then undersea cables could be a quick way to detect and monitor dangerous tsunamis in the open ocean.

 
Haiti earthquake could be 3rd largest deathtoll in past 100 yrs
The News - Natural Disasters
January 23, 2010
The Haitian government said Friday that more than 110,000 people have been killed in the deadly Jan. 12 earthquake, which could make the number of deaths resulting from a quake the third highest since the beginning of the 20th century. (KYODO NEWS )
 
Earth Not Properly Protected from Asteroids
The News - Science-Astronomy
January 22, 2010

The United States must do more to safeguard the Earth against destruction by an asteroid than merely prepping nuclear missiles, a new report has found.

The 134-page report, released Friday by the National Academy of Sciences, states that the $4 million spent by the United States to identify all potentially dangerous asteroids near Earth is not enough to do the job mandated by Congress in 2005. NASA is in dire need of more funding to meet the challenge, and less than $1 million is currently set aside to research ways to counter space rocks that do endanger the Earth — measures like developing the spacecraft and technology to deflect incoming asteroids — the report states.

An early draft of the report, entitled "Defending the Earth: Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard-Mitigation Strategies," was released in August 2009. The final report, written by a committee of expert scientists, says NASA is ill-equipped to catalogue 90 percent of the nearby asteroids that are 460 feet (140 meters) across or larger as directed by Congress.

 
Strong hurricanes may double?
The News - Natural Disasters
January 22, 2010

The strongest Atlantic hurricanes may almost double in frequency by the end of the century as the planet warms, US scientists said yesterday in the journal Science.

Occurrence of the most destructive hurricanes may rise 81 percent over 80 years while the total number of storms, including weaker systems, is projected to drop by 28 percent, the researchers said. The net effect may be to increase property damage by 30 percent, Tom Knutson, a coauthor of the study, said.

“There will be fewer storms, more of these more intense storms, and it works out to some increase in damage potential,’’ said Knutson, a climate scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The 81 percent rise translates to about a doubling over a century, he said.

 
Haiti at risk for another big aftershock
The News - Natural Disasters
January 21, 2010
haiti risk big earthquake aftershock
Haiti can expect more aftershocks in coming weeks, and while the usual pattern suggests they will become weaker and less frequent, another one as strong as Wednesday's jolt is certainly possible, scientists say.

The battered nation has felt more than 45 significant aftershocks since the Jan. 12 quake. Wednesday's event, originally estimated at magnitude 6.1 but later revised to a 5.9, tied an earlier aftershock as the strongest so far.

These events are a sign the land is adjusting to "the new reality of the rock layers," said Bruce Pressgrave, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Eric Calais of Purdue University, who has studied earthquake potential in the region, said aftershocks could continue for several weeks and that another jolt as strong as Wednesday's would not be surprising.

"They will be less and less frequent, but large ones can still strike," he said. So buildings are still at risk, especially those already weakened, he said.

 
Humans Might Have Faced Extinction 1 Million Years Ago
The News - Science-Astronomy
January 21, 2010
New genetic findings suggest that early humans living about one million years ago were extremely close to extinction.

The genetic evidence suggests that the effective population—an indicator of genetic diversity—of early human species back then, including Homo erectus, H. ergaster and archaic H. sapiens, was about 18,500 individuals (it is thought that modern humans evolved from H. erectus), says Lynn Jorde, a human geneticist at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. That figure translates into a total population of 55,500 individuals, tops.
 
Eight UFO cases that generate news
The News - Weird-Strange
January 21, 2010
ufo cases explored
UFO investigators see references to rocket ships, aliens and astronauts that go back to the days when humans first put chisel and paintbrush to rock. More than 6,000 years later, objects that are unidentified - at least at first - continue to appear in the skies and generate buzz.

Take, for example, the blazing pinwheel that appeared in Norwegian skies in December 2009, shown here. The sight sparked speculation that aliens were sending earthlings a signal. Other researchers speculated – and the Russian military later confirmed – that a missile failed.

NBC space analyst James Oberg says the incident fits into a long tradition of UFO sightings over Russia that are caused by secret military and space activities. Even when there's a prosaic explanation for the sightings, they can provide useful information about covert activities. ( 8 Pages @ MSNBC )

 
Istanbul Earthquake? Expect one along the North Anatolian Fault
The News - Natural Disasters
January 19, 2010
istanbul earthquake future
The chain of earthquakes along the North Anatolian fault shows a gap south of Istanbul. The expected earthquakes in this region represent an extreme danger for the Turkish megacity. A new computer study now shows that the tensions in this part of the fault zone could trigger several earthquakes instead of one individual large quake event.

In the latest issue of Nature Geoscience Tobias Hergert of the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology and Oliver Heidbach of the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences present the results of the computer simulation, which was developed within the framework of the CEDIM (Centre for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction Technology).project "Megacity Istanbul."

The Izmit-Earthquake of August 1999 resulted in 18,000 death victims and was, with a magnitude of 7.4, the most recent quake of a series, which began in 1939 to the east of Turkey and gradually ran along the plate border between the Anatolian and the Eurasian Plate from east to west. Therefore, the next quake in this series is expected to take place west of Izmit, i.e. south of Istanbul. The city has, thus, a threatening earthquake risk.

 
Yellowstone swarm of earthquakes
The News - Natural Disasters
January 19, 2010
Yellowstone National Park has been rattled by more than 250 earthquakes in the past two days following a period of 11 months of quiet seismic activity in the park.

The quakes have been gaining strength, with a 3.1 tremor recorded at 11:03 a.m. today. A 2.9 quake was recorded at 12:38 p.m.

Prof. Robert B. Smith, a geophysicist at the University of Utah and one of the leading experts on earthquake and volcanic activity at Yellowstone, said that the activity is a "notable swarm."

"The swarm is located about 10 miles northwest of Old Faithful, Wyo., and nine miles southeast of West Yellowstone, Montana," said Smith.

Jamie Farrell, a doctoral student in geophysics who works with Smith at the University of Utah, said that as of 3 p.m. today, 270 quakes have been recorded in the past two days. Farrell said the quakes are occurring in an area about 5 miles from where the largest swarm of quakes was ever recorded in October 1985. Quakes in the current swarm have ranged in magnitude of 0.5 to 3.1.

Farrell said there have been reports of at least one of the tremors being felt in the park, but he is expecting more reports as the earthquakes continue.

Smith said such swarms are "relatively common." Today's tremors seem to be normal tectonic activity, and is "not an indication" that some sort of volcanic activity will occur.

 
Earthquake Threat Lurks For United States
The News - Natural Disasters
January 17, 2010
As disaster crews and scientists investigate the havoc wrought in Haiti, questions emerge as to whether such a vastly destructive disaster could happen at home in the United States. In fact, cities are located near dangerous earthquake zones all throughout the country, from the most infamous on the West Coast to potential time bombs in the Midwest and even on the Eastern Seaboard.
 
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