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Scripps researchers discover new force driving Earth's tectonic plates

Image
© Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego
Reconstruction of the Indo-Atlantic Ocean at 63 million years, during the time of the superfast motion of India which Scripps scientists attribute to the force of the Reunion plume head. The arrows show the relative convergence rate of Africa (black arrows) and India (dark blue) relative to Eurasia before, during and after (from left to right) the period of maximum plume head force. The jagged red and brown lines northeast of India show two possible positions of the trench (the subduction zone) between India and Eurasia depending on whether the India-Eurasia collision occurred at 52 million years or 43 million years.
Bringing fresh insight into long-standing debates about how powerful geological forces shape the planet, from earthquake ruptures to mountain formations, scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego have identified a new mechanism driving Earth's massive tectonic plates.

Scientists who study tectonic motions have known for decades that the ongoing "pull" and "push" movements of the plates are responsible for sculpting continental features around the planet. Volcanoes, for example, are generally located at areas where plates are moving apart or coming together.

Scripps scientists Steve Cande and Dave Stegman have now discovered a new force that drives plate tectonics: Plumes of hot magma pushing up from Earth's deep interior. Their research is published in the July 7 issue of the journal Nature.

Bizarro Earth

Indonesia: Lokon volcano erupts near Tomohon

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© AFP
The Lokon volcano erupts near Tomohon on July 15, 2011.
An Indonesian volcano erupted late on Thursday, spewing rocks, lava and ash hundreds of metres into the air, an official said, three days after its alert status was raised to the highest level.

There has been a significant rise in volcanic activity at Mount Lokon on Sulawesi island since June 9, prompting hundreds of people to evacuate the area.

'There was a big eruption around 10.31pm local time (1531 GMT, 11.31pm Singapore time), which saw ash, sand and rocks thrown 1,500m into the air,' government volcanologist Kristianto told AFP.

Grass and shrubs in an area stretching 500m around the volcano were on fire but there was no immediate danger to people living nearby, he said. The volcano's status was raised to its highest red alert level after it spewed ash 500m into the air over the weekend, leading to a 3.5km evacuation zone being established in case of a bigger eruption.

Bizarro Earth

Another Blast of Heat to Hit U.S.

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© Reuters/Lucas Jackson
Children cool off in the fountain inside of Washington Square Park on a hot summer day in New York July 12, 2011.
A massive heat wave is expected to develop over much of the central and eastern United States beginning on Friday with heat index values that could reach 115 degrees.

The big story for the coming weekend will be the building heat," said Jim Keeney, a National Weather Service meteorologist. "It looks like it's going to be a long-term heat wave."

In the thick of the heat wave is Oklahoma where Governor Mary Fallin asked Oklahomans to pray for rain this Sunday.

"The power of prayer is a wonderful thing, and I would ask every Oklahoman to look to a greater power this weekend and ask for rain," Fallin said in a news release on Thursday.

Fallin on Thursday also issued a ban on outdoor burning for the western half of the state because of the extreme drought conditions.

"The number of wildfires we have had over the last few months is extremely tough on our state firefighters," Fallin said.

Umbrella

US, Colorado: More severe weather for the Front Range

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© Helen H. Richardson / The Denver Post
Monica Savage of Ft. Lauderdale takes pictures of an approaching storm near Denver International Airport.
More severe weather hit the Denver area and eastern Colorado Thursday, unleashing heavy rain on already-soaked areas and adding to the debris and mud that closed canyon roads west of Boulder.

A rock slide closed a lane of a highway in the mountains west of Boulder, where crews were still trying to clear mud from roads after up to 1.3 inches of rain pounded the area Wednesday night. State transportation officials said most of the rocks were small and no one was injured.

Some roads were closed again Thursday afternoon and an evacuation center was reopened at a YMCA. A flash flood warning was issued for the area where a wildfire burned away vegetation on thousands of acres last fall.

Two large surges of flood water in Boulder Creek Wednesday night prompted warnings to people to get to high ground. No serious flooding occurred.

Several counties in north-central Colorado and the Denver area were under a severe thunderstorm watch Thursday. Sheets of rain swept through Denver and the suburbs as evening rush hour started. Cars were partially submerged in spots where water backed up and water gushed through normally dry gulches.

Property owners were still assessing the hail damage from Wednesday night's storms.

State Farm Insurance said it expects to get about 6,500 auto claims and 4,000 home claims. Damage includes broken windshields and roof and siding damage.

Cloud Lightning

Severe weather hits the Netherlands

The Dutch national weather centre (KNMI) is warning of severe gusts of wind and heavy rainfall affecting large areas of the Netherlands today. Winds have already wreaked havoc across the country and caused delays at Schiphol Airport.

Twenty flights were cancelled Thursday, according to an airport spokesperson. Further delays are expected as the stormy weather continues.

Southern, central and eastern areas of the Netherlands have been put on yellow alert. Coastal areas have been on yellow alert since Wednesday evening. Yellow alerts are issued when 25 to 50 mm of rainfall is expected with wind gusts of up to 80 kilometres per hour.

In The Hague, the danger of those gusts became all too apparent after a 51-year-old woman was hosptialised in critical condition after a being hit by a wind-swept tree. A 19-year-old boy was also injured in the accident.

Winds are threatening to send a 60 meter tall chimney on the Rotterdam Keileweg to the ground. Police have cleared out a radius of 100 metres around the area in case the tower collapses.

Conversely, the ANWB automobile association says traffic has so far not been too badly affected by the unseasonal weather.

Sun

US: Drought engulfs 14 states

Now to what some are calling, the great drought of 2011. The State of Texas, for one, one of the 14 states suffering and sweltering through this disaster, some have been comparing to the dust bowl of the 1930's. An Epic drought the experts started tracking back in February..


Igloo

US: Hail storm damages 40 planes, strands passengers

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© Unknown
More than 100 flights have been cancelled at Denver International Airport after hail damaged about 40 planes and stranded about 1000 passengers overnight.

Airport spokeswoman Laura Coale said on Thursday that all damaged planes had to be evaluated, slowing operations. She says an unknown number of planes have been taken out of service because of damage.

Frontier Airlines says it expects more cancellations on Friday.

The airport was pummelled by three-quarter-inch hail for about 15 minutes on Wednesday night.

Among those stranded at the airport was Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. He tweeted that he slept on the floor of a conference room after airport staff got him a blanket and pillow.

The airport didn't distribute cots and blankets to all passengers because airlines didn't request help. About 200 people typically spend the night at the airport.

Comment: More info from MSNBC:




Alarm Clock

Another Iceland volcano ready to burst?

© STR/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Grimsvoetn erupted in May, sending clouds over Iceland and causing flight delays
Iceland is making itself felt again on the world scene, with news that Hekla, one of its more active volcanoes, may be on the verge of spewing more of that flight-disturbing ash in the near future.

Hekla has erupted about every 10 years for the past 30 (in 1981, 1991 and 2000). Eyjafjallajökull's eruption in April 2010 created the worst peace-time disruption in air traffic ever, grounding as many as 100,000 flights and stranding millions (and losing airlines hundreds of millions of dollars). This May, Grimsvoetn erupted, shutting airports, and either delaying or cancelling several hundred flights.

There's of course no way to prepare for the eruption, and if you've got flights booked to, through or over Western Europe, you might take comfort from Icelandic geophysicist Pall Einarsson, who told Ice News last week, speaking of recent fears regarding Hekla, "I've been saying this for three or four years and 'soon' means different things to journalists and geologists."

No Entry

US, Colorado: Sink hole closes road in Longmont

© Joshua Buck/Times-Call
Weld County Sheriff Deputy Chad Walser talks with Longmont Emergency Unit crews and a firefighter from Mountain View Fire Rescue about closing Weld County Road 20 1/2 at Weld County Road 1 as a sinkhole grows Wednesday evening.
A 4-foot wide sinkhole in the roadway has forced emergency crews to close Weld County Road 20 1/2 between county roads 7 and 1.

A broken culvert has exposed a 15-foot by 15-foot cavern under the roadway and it is growing, officials on scene said as water gushed below. A Weld County Public Works crew left to pick up barricades in Johnstown and would return later this evening, Deputy Chad Walser said.

It was not known how long the road would be closed, but emergency crews on scene said they thought at least a week, as most of the area would have to be dug up.

Arrow Down

England, Dorset: Beach-goers warned to stay away from landslide in Britport


The massive landslip along the coast between Eype and West Bay
Beach-goers and fossil hunters have been warned to keep away from a massive landslip at West Bay.

Councils and coastguards sealed off the coast between West Bay and Eype after the landslide from the cliff to the waterline.

Now they are warning people to beware of the danger amid fears more earth may collapse.

West Dorset District Council technical services manager Steve Woollard said: "We have put up warning signs on both sides of the beach leading up to the landslide and also at the end of the Esplanade at West Bay.