Earth ChangesS


US Global Warming: New York senators want disaster declaration for May freeze

Grape harvests hampered by unseasonably low temperatures have become a concern not only for area farmers, but United States Senators who are now calling for an emergency response from state officials.

Following a late seasonal frost in May, area grape growers suffered overall crop losses in the neighborhood of 15-20 percent - or upwards of $3-4 million in Chautauqua County alone, which farms around 17,000-20,000 acres - according to Jay Hardenburg, regional manager of member relations for National Grape Cooperative Inc., at the time. In the face of such devastating crop losses, area grape growers were left with doubts about future harvests in addition to the dead fruit hanging on their vines this year.

"The damage from the frost ... was fairly extensive, not just in Chautauqua County, but throughout the Lake Erie Grape Belt, stretching all the way from Hamburg-North Collins area to all the way out west towards Cleveland, Ohio," Hardenburg said in May.

On Wednesday, however, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand - the first New York Senator in nearly 40 years to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committe - urged New York state officials to request a disaster declaration for areas of Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Erie counties in order to provide urgently needed disaster assistance to the many farmers affected.


Iowa, US: Harsh winter leaves mark on flowers, trees, crops

The thermometer says another Iowa summer has arrived. But winter continues to hang around in the form of dead trees, flowers, plants and shrubs that were unable to rebound from one the snowiest and coldest seasons on record.

The state's summer palette might be a bit heavy on brown as a result.

"We've had some real damage here," Bob Atha of Appleberry Farm in Marshalltown said. "I don't know about other places, but we're expecting about half the apples we had last year, maybe a little less than half."

Experts call it "winterkill," and it's been reported from the alfalfa fields of Ontario to the wheat stands of Kansas to golf courses in Massachusetts.

In Iowa, the bitter cold and early snow was hard on even the hardiest evergreens. An early spring didn't help, either.

"We've had literally hundreds of people calling and complaining about" winter-ravaged bushes and shrubs, said Jeff Westphal, a salesman at Miller Nursery in Johnston. "Some of them were already weak going into the winter. But that doesn't explain what happened to the boxwoods and yews. I think it was just too cold for some of them."


Arizona, US: June record consecutive days of coolest high temps

Meteorologists are reluctant to call a month "nice." They have their data and their science and typically do not describe the weather in such subjective terms.

Except now, because the data prove it.

"It's probably the best June since I've been here, and I've been here most of my life," said the National Weather Service's Valerie Meyers, who is in her late 40s. "It's been really nice."

Possibly the nicest June ever.

It's that type of thing that is fun to say but hard to quantify.

Thursday, however, was the 14th consecutive day to stay below 100 degrees. That's the longest stretch of its kind in any June since 1913.

Bizarro Earth

Strong 5.4 magnitude earthquake jolts Anchorage, Alaska, US

A strong earthquake jolted Anchorage, Alaska, on Monday, sending people diving under desks and huddling in doorways but apparently causing no damage.

The U.S. Geological Survey said an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.4 struck about 24 miles from the town of Willow at 11:28 a.m. The epicenter was 58 miles from the state's largest city, Anchorage, where the rumbling continued for several moments.

"Things were swinging pretty good and shaking, like pictures on the wall, bottles rattling - and my blood pressure went up at least 20 points," said Pam Rannals, a bartender in Talkeetna, about 30 miles from the epicenter. "We had bears in the parking lot last night and now the earthquake. Those are the talk of the town."

Bizarro Earth

Locusts Swarm Ethiopia

© AFP/File/Tengku Bahar
Crops in large swathes of Ethiopia risk being destroyed by swarms of locusts coming from northern Somalia, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said Tuesday.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) "reports that locust swarms have been confirmed in seven regions in the country, including in areas where there is no previous record of infestation," a statement said.

"The government is expected to present a response plan specifying immediate and medium-term actions to be taken during the week," OCHA said.


US: So far, June sunlight in Boston is lowest in past century

Since the sun virtually disappeared on June 5, hidden behind an impenetrable pall of cement-colored clouds, Robert Skilling has tracked each overcast moment, anticipation building with each gray afternoon.

Peering out at the gloom from his perch at the Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory and Science Center, Skilling does not dwell on the canceled Little League games or postponed beach days.

Rather, he focused yesterday on the primitive, softball-sized glass sphere on the observatory's roof, a device that has burned lines on paper since 1885 to record nearly every burst of sunshine strong enough to cast a faint shadow. This month, the sun has been obscured by clouds more than in any other June in Skilling's 50-plus years of meteorology. With a little more than a week remaining, it is flirting with the all-time local record set in June 1903, when only 25 percent of the sun's rays penetrated the clouds to reach the Blue Hills.


The Ap Index says: "There will be no sunspots"

SOHO sun specks 06222009
© SOHOSun today - a speck group has appeared, specks 1022 & 1023 are cycle 24 specks.

Frank Hill's summoning up of sunspots from the vasty deep of the Sun's convection zone reminds me of some Shakespeare (Henry the Fourth):

I can call spirits from the vasty deep.

Why, so can I, or so can any man;
But will they come when you do call for them?

Frank Hill says that his sunspots will be with us in three to six months. The Ap Index suggests otherwise. There is a correlation between the geomagnetic indices (aa Index and Ap Index) at minimum and the amplitude of the following solar cycle. Earlier this year I produced this graph of the Ap Index plotted against solar cycle maxima when I thought that the Ap Index would bottom out at three, giving a maximum amplitude of 25:

Bizarro Earth

Earthquake magnitude 6.7 near New Guinea

A major undersea earthquake with a 6.7 magnitude struck off the remote New Ireland area of Papua New Guinea on Wednesday, the US Geological Survey said.

The epicentre of the quake, which struck at the early hours in the morning was located 95 kilometres south-southeast of Taron, New Ireland, the USGS said.

It took place at a depth of 35 kilometres.

Papua New Guinea sits on the so-called Pacific 'Ring of Fire", where continental plates meet.

Cloud Lightning

Tropical Storm Andres brushes Mexico; 1 killed

© Reuters
Tropical Storm Andres flooded homes and knocked down trees along Mexico's Pacific coast, killing at least one person as it headed toward a likely hurricane-force scrape with land on Tuesday.

Mexico issued a hurricane warning for the strip of coast from just south of Manzanillo to near Puerto Vallarta. To the south, the storm dumped heavy rains on Acapulco, where flooding forced about 200 people to evacuate their homes on Monday.

A fisherman drowned when choppy currents overturned his boat in a lagoon Monday in Tecpan de Galeana, between Acapulco and Zihuatanejo, a state police report said. The sun peeked through cloudy skies in Acapulco on Tuesday, but the government closed all schools.

Andres sped up as it headed on a course to graze the port city of Manzanillo at hurricane strength late Tuesday, then push along shore past towns such as Barra de Navidad that are home to some American and Canadian expatriates.


Why some monkeys are better liars

Some monkeys use deceit to fool other group members, and the ability varies from species to species - now researchers think they know why.