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Cloud Lightning

15 die as storms wreak havoc in France and Spain

Four children killed when sports centre collapses in Barcelona, and a million people left without power

Fifteen people, including four children, died as violent storms swept across Spain and France, wrecking buildings, and knocking out power for more than a million people.

The children were killed when the roof of a sports centre collapsed during high winds in Sant Boi de Llobregat, near Barcelona, yesterday morning. "It was horrific," said Jose Antonio Godina, a parent at the sports centre. "We heard a loud noise and we thought a tree had fallen on a roof. But when we got here, the roof of the annex had literally flown off and the walls had fallen in on them." Up to 30 children were inside the building when it collapsed, local authorities said. Catalonian emergency services said four children had died and nine people had been injured.

Four adults died elsewhere in northern Spain. A policeman was killed by a falling tree in Galicia, a 51-year-old man was killed by a falling wall in Alicante, a 52-year-old woman also died when a wall collapsed on her in Barcelona, and another man was killed by a falling tree.

Cloud Lightning

Avalanche Kills 10 at Turkish Ski Resort

Turkey Avalanche
© DHA
Rescue efforts are continuing at the Turkish resort of Zigana, where 10 people have died.
At least 10 mountaineers were killed Sunday in an avalanche at a ski resort in northeastern Turkey, authorities said.

Rescue workers pulled out at least seven people alive from under the snow at the resort in Zigana, Enver Salihoglu, the governor of Gumushane, told CNN-Turk.

At least two of the survivors were hospitalized, he said.

The city of Gumushane is about 30 km (18 miles) from the site of the avalanche.

Rescue efforts to find possibly more people trapped may be suspended due to hazardous conditions.

Cloud Lightning

United Arab Emirates Mountain Covered in Rare Snow

Snow
© AFP
White blanket of snow covers the Jees Mountain in the Gulf emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah on January 25. Residents in the most northerly Gulf emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah woke up to a rare covering of snow reaching up to 20 centimetres in depth with temperatures falling to -3 degrees Celsius.
A blanket of snow has covered a mountain in a part of the United Arab Emirates, a rare phenomenon for the desert Gulf country, according to local media report.

Al-Jees mountain, 5,700 feet (1,737 metres) above sea level and 25 kilometres (15 miles) northeast of Ras al-Khaimah city, was covered in 20 centimetres (eight inches) of snow, the state news agency WAM said.

"Although limited snowfall was recorded on the mountain some years back, for the first time the peak of the mountain was fully covered in snow," it said.

Local authorities said temperatures plunged to minus 3 degrees Celsius (26.6 Fahrenheit) on Friday and again to below zero on Saturday, The National newspaper reported.

Info

Argentina faces farm emergency amid devastating drought

Image
© Unknown
Argentina is one of the world's top suppliers of wheat, corn, beef and soybeans exports

Argentina Friday convened its National Farm Emergency Commission to discuss coping with the drought that has devastated production across the country, a major world food exporter.

The drought, which has prompted several provinces to declare a state of emergency, has cost the country four billion dollars and has burdened the state with some 1.88 billion dollars in lost tax revenue, according to some private estimates.

Info

Danube Delta Holds Answers To Ancient Flood Debate

 Black Sea
© Jack Cook, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
The breach of the Bosporus sill connected the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara and the world ocean. As glaciers melted and global sea levels began to rise, the Black Sea also rose, bringing it to its present day level.
Did a catastrophic flood of biblical proportions drown the shores of the Black Sea 9,500 years ago, wiping out early Neolithic settlements around its perimeter? A geologist with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and two Romanian colleagues report in the January issue of Quaternary Science Reviews that, if the flood occurred at all, it was much smaller than previously proposed by other researchers.

Using sediment cores from the delta of the Danube River, which empties into the Black Sea, the researchers determined sea level was approximately 30 meters below present levels-rather than the 80 meters others hypothesized.

"We don't see evidence for a catastrophic flood as others have described," said Liviu Giosan, a geologist in the WHOI Geology and Geophysics Department.

Ambulance

Three killed in Scotland avalanche

Image
© Agence France-Presse

Three climbers were killed by an avalanche on a mountain near the town of Glencoe in the Scottish Highlands, local police said on Saturday.

Authorities had launched a major rescue operation following the avalanche on Buchaille Etive Mhor, with rescue dogs and helicopters deployed, after a climber alerted them to it at around noon (1200 GMT).

Initially two people were airlifted to a nearby hospital, but one was pronounced dead on arrival, and the other died shortly thereafter. Rescuers found a third dead body buried in the snow later.

Better Earth

Starving bacteria bumped up early Earth's oxygen

Image
© Image Source/Rex
Measurements of nickel prior to the "Great Oxygenation Event" 2.5 billion years ago suggest that hungry bacteria spewed less oxygen-eating methane.

Hungry nickel-grabbing bacteria could be to thank for the surge in atmospheric oxygen 2.5 billion years ago that made Earth hospitable to life.

Stefan Lalonde of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, and colleagues measured the concentration of nickel deposited in layered sedimentary rocks, or "banded iron formations". They found that levels had dropped by two-thirds in the 200 million years prior to the "Great Oxygenation Event".

The team speculate that this drop in nickel starved primordial ocean-dwelling bacteria called methanogens that used dissolved nickel in seawater to help turn food into energy and methane. As methane reacts with oxygen to remove it from the atmosphere, a decline in the methane produced by bacteria would have led to a build-up of oxygen.

Bizarro Earth

Magnitude 5.3 - Oruro, Bolivia

Image
© USGS

Date-Time

* Saturday, January 24, 2009 at 19:30:14 UTC

* Saturday, January 24, 2009 at 03:30:14 PM at epicenter

Location 19.078°S, 67.769°W

Depth 150.4 km (93.5 miles)

Distances:

140 km (85 miles) SSW of Oruro, Bolivia

220 km (135 miles) WNW of Potosi, Bolivia

255 km (160 miles) SW of Cochabamba, Bolivia

290 km (180 miles) S of LA PAZ, Bolivia

Frog

Native U.S. Lizards Adapting To Escape Attacks By Fire Ants

Fence lizards
© Tracy Langkilde, Penn State
Fence lizards rely on camouflage to avoid being eaten.

Penn State Assistant Professor of Biology Tracy Langkilde has shown that native fence lizards in the southeastern United States are adapting to potentially fatal invasive fire-ant attacks by developing behaviors that enable them to escape from the ants, as well as by developing longer hind legs, which can increase the effectiveness of this behavior.

"Not only does this finding provide biologists with an example of evolution in action, but it also provides wildlife managers with knowledge that they can use to develop plans for managing invasive species," said Langkilde. The results will be described in a paper to be published later this month in the journal Ecology.

Eye 2

US: Palin does no favors for musk oxen

In her recent State of the State address, Gov. Sarah Palin invoked the image of musk oxen circling up to protect their young as a reminder that Alaskans, and Americans in general, need to stand together in these dire times.

This misleading and not at all "poetic" simile comes from the person who has appealed the polar bear's listing as threatened and plans to do the same with regards to Cook Inlet's beluga whales. It comes from the person who, though allegedly "pro-life," supports aerial-predator control and the killing of wolf cubs in their dens. It comes from the very same person who seeks to reinstall wolf bounties and allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the "place where life begins." Her naive comment resurrected from memory an experience I had while guiding wilderness tourists in the refuge a few years ago . . .