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Cloud Lightning

Australia's once-in-a-century deluge worsens floods

Floods described as a once-in-a-century deluge have left thousands stranded or isolated on Australia's east coast. Nearly 4,000 people may remain cut off until the weekend, and emergency crews are conducting food and supply drops.

In Queensland, heavy rains and strong winds led to flash floods, blocking roads and causing widespread blackouts. More storms have been forecast. Meanwhile, four areas have been declared disaster zones, with some 70cm (27.6in) of rain recorded in 48 hours.
Frog

US: What is that creature?

Largest salamander
© Unknown
Local conservation agent recently investigated a Dunklin County resident's discovery of this animal, Missouri's longest salamander.
"What in the world is that? A snake, eel, possibly a salamander?"

These are the questions that likely traveled through the mind of a Dunklin County resident who recently located a strange looking creature in a ditch positioned in the front yard of his home.

According to local Missouri Department of Conservation Agent, Eric Heuring, he recently visited the area residence to exam the animal and found himself, like the homeowner, in awe.

"After arriving at the residence and taking a look at it, I found myself speechless," Heuring said of the strange find.

It turns out that the once unidentified creature is actually Missouri's longest salamander, a Three-toed Amphiuma, growing to more than 30 inches.
Better Earth

Earth's Population Limit Exceeded

© US Census Bureau
Current world population - 6.8bn
Net growth per day - 218,030
Forecast made for 2040 - 9bn
There are already too many people living on Planet Earth, according to one of most influential science advisors in the US government.

Nina Fedoroff told the BBC One Planet programme that humans had exceeded the Earth's "limits of sustainability".

Dr Fedoroff has been the science and technology advisor to the US secretary of state since 2007, initially working with Condoleezza Rice.

Under the new Obama administration, she now advises Hillary Clinton.

"We need to continue to decrease the growth rate of the global population; the planet can't support many more people," Dr Fedoroff said, stressing the need for humans to become much better at managing "wild lands", and in particular water supplies.
Fish

6,000 Rare Dolphins Found in South Asia

© Irrawaddy dolphin
Although not considered an acrobatic animal, the Irrawaddy dolphin occasionally leaps into the air.
A huge population of rare dolphins threatened by climate change and fishing nets has been discovered in South Asia.

Researchers with the Wildlife Conservation Society estimate that nearly 6,000 Irrawaddy dolphins, marine mammals that are related to orcas or killer whales, were found living in freshwater regions of Bangladesh's Sundarbans mangrove forest and adjacent waters of the Bay of Bengal.

There has been hardly any marine mammal research done in this area up to this point.

Each discovery of Irrawaddy dolphins is important because scientists do not know how many remain on the planet. Prior to this study, the largest known populations of Irrawaddy dolphins numbered in the low hundreds or less.
Better Earth

Rainforests may pump winds worldwide

© Kim Eijdenberg/Flickr/Getty
The rainforests may be the heart as well as the lungs of the planet.
The acres upon acres of lush tropical forest in the Amazon and tropical Africa are often referred to as the planet's lungs. But what if they are also its heart? This is exactly what a couple of meteorologists claim in a controversial new theory that questions our fundamental understanding of what drives the weather. They believe vast forests generate winds that help pump water around the planet.

If correct, the theory would explain how the deep interiors of forested continents get as much rain as the coast, and how most of Australia turned from forest to desert. It suggests that much of North America could become desert - even without global warming. The idea makes it even more vital that we recognise the crucial role forests play in the well-being of the planet.

Scientists have known for some time that forests recycle rain. Up to half the precipitation falling on a typical tropical rainforest evaporates or transpires from trees. This keeps the air above moist. Ocean winds can spread the moisture to create more rain. But now Victor Gorshkov and Anastassia Makarieva of the St Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute in Russia say that forests also create winds that pump moisture across continents.
Magic Hat

Rise of sea levels is 'the greatest lie ever told'

© Unknown
Computer-model based political scaremongering, as it turns out
The uncompromising verdict of Dr Mörner is that all this talk about the sea rising is nothing but a colossal scare story.

If one thing more than any other is used to justify proposals that the world must spend tens of trillions of dollars on combating global warming, it is the belief that we face a disastrous rise in sea levels. The Antarctic and Greenland ice caps will melt, we are told, warming oceans will expand, and the result will be catastrophe.

Although the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) only predicts a sea level rise of 59cm (17 inches) by 2100, Al Gore in his Oscar-winning film An Inconvenient Truth went much further, talking of 20 feet, and showing computer graphics of cities such as Shanghai and San Francisco half under water. We all know the graphic showing central London in similar plight. As for tiny island nations such as the Maldives and Tuvalu, as Prince Charles likes to tell us and the Archbishop of Canterbury was again parroting last week, they are due to vanish.
Nuke

NASA: Deep Solar Minimum

Sunspot graph
© NASA/MFSC/Hathaway
The sunspot cycle from 1995 to the present. The jagged curve traces actual sunspot counts. Smooth curves are fits to the data and one forecaster's predictions of future activity.

The sunspot cycle is behaving a little like the stock market. Just when you think it has hit bottom, it goes even lower.

2008 was a bear. There were no sunspots observed on 266 of the year's 366 days (73%). To find a year with more blank suns, you have to go all the way back to 1913, which had 311 spotless days: plot. Prompted by these numbers, some observers suggested that the solar cycle had hit bottom in 2008.

Maybe not. Sunspot counts for 2009 have dropped even lower. As of March 31st, there were no sunspots on 78 of the year's 90 days (87%).

It adds up to one inescapable conclusion: "We're experiencing a very deep solar minimum," says solar physicist Dean Pesnell of the Goddard Space Flight Center.

"This is the quietest sun we've seen in almost a century," agrees sunspot expert David Hathaway of the Marshall Space Flight Center.

Comment: Note on this NASA article from Joseph D'Aleo of IceCap:
Still some level of uncomfortable denial on the part of Hathaway who in late 2006 had proclaimed solar minimum and that solar cycle 24 was underway. It is at the very least like the cycles of the early 1900s but may be more like the early 1800s, the Dalton Minimum. As they said, time will tell.
Solar Cycle length
© unknown

sunspot cycle compares dalton minimum with current
© unknown
Comparison of sunspot cycles, Dalton Minimum to current sunspot cycle.


Bizarro Earth

US: More snow, more blizzards on the way

Snow weahter map April
© AccuWeather

Storms with paralyzing snow will continue to roll in off the Pacific Ocean, through the Northwest and Rockies and onto the Plains through the weekend. The new storms will continue to impact travel and shipping as a result.

One storm has already cleared the Northwest and is pushing through Colorado and the central Plains tonight. The storm can bring up to half a foot of travel snarling snow along Interstate 70 in portions of western and northern Kansas and much of Colorado.

Gusty cross winds in the southern and central Plains and Rockies associated with the storm can create tricky handling and a challenge to inexperienced drivers of small cars and 18-wheelers.
Evil Rays

US: Denver Blizzard Potential

March April Blizzards severe weather US
© AccuWeather

What a remarkable string of major snowstorms! Three blizzards in a row, two for the northern Plains and one for the southern Plains. Now a fourth storm will bring snow, but no blizzard, to parts of the central and southern Plains on Wednesday night into Thursday.

As if all this were not enough, still another storm will cut a path across the Rockies to the Great Plains, this time at week's end. It will bring snow and, at its worst, could whip up yet another blizzard.

However, one thing will be different this time. This storm will target the stretch of Plains crossed by Interstate 80, mostly over Nebraska and eastern Wyoming and it will reach south into Colorado along I-25 to at least Denver. At its worst, this storm will leave a windswept snowfall of 6-12 inches, which could be disruptive enough to interrupt travel along the major highways in this region.

Comment: The waves and waves of cold and snow keep coming. Along with it are many spring all time record cold and record snow amounts.

You can see some of them here:

Record snowfall March 27, 2009

Record Low Minimum Temperatures March 27, 2009

Cloud Lightning

US: Blizzard pummels Southern Plains

March blizzard plains
© Stephen Spillman / Amarillo Globe-News
This stretch of Interstate 40 in Amarillo, Texas, was among those shut down Friday by blizzard conditions.

Dallas - A major spring blizzard plodding eastward over the Southern Plains shut down major highways and paralyzed the region as residents braced Friday for up to a foot of snow, freezing 45 mph winds and massive snowdrifts.

Schools and government offices were closed and hundreds of travelers were stranded by the storm, which left some areas in a coat of ice. The snowfall was expected to be unprecedented for this time of year in Oklahoma, and the National Guard was called out in the Texas Panhandle, where snowdrifts as high as 11 feet were predicted before the storm moves on Saturday.

"It's blowing furiously," said Jerry Billington of Faith City Ministries in downtown Amarillo, which was under whiteout conditions. The 200-bed shelter was one of several setting up extra beds and encouraging homeless people to come in off the street.
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