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Bizarro Earth

US Hurricane Forecast: Season To Be Worse Than Usual

This year's hurricane season is expected to be more active than usual, and communities along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts face a 69 percent risk of being buffeted by a major storm in the coming months, according to forecasters at Colorado State University.

Researchers said eight hurricanes and 15 named tropical storms are likely to form in the Atlantic basin during the 2010 hurricane season, which begins June 1 and extends through Nov. 30. Four of the storms are expected to develop into major hurricanes with sustained winds of 111 mph or greater.

The forecasting team based its predictions on weakening of El Nino conditions combined with abnormally strong warming of the tropical Atlantic waters.

"We believe that these two features will lead to favorable dynamic and thermodynamic conditions for hurricane formation and intensification," the team stated in an update of a report issued in December.

Led by pioneering forecaster William Gray, Colorado State University researchers have been forecasting hurricanes for 27 years. The team bases its predictions on historical data. The 2010 season shows similarities to conditions preceding the very active 1958, 1966, 1969, 1998 and 2005 hurricane seasons.


Giant Lizard Discovered in the Philippines

© Arvin C. Diesmos/AP Photo
A golden-spotted monitor lizard rests on a tree trunk in the Sierra Madre mountains, Philippines.
Researchers have concluded that a giant, golden-spotted monitor lizard discovered in the forested mountains of the Philippines six years ago is a new species, according to a study released Wednesday.

The 6.5-foot (2-meter) -long lizard was first spotted in 2004 in the Sierra Madre mountains on the main island of Luzon when local researchers saw local Agta tribesmen carrying one of the dead reptiles.

But it took until last year to determine it was a new species. After capturing an adult, researchers from the University of Kansas and the National Museum of the Philippines obtained DNA samples that helped confirm the lizard was new to science.

The Northern Sierra Madre Forest Monitor Lizard or Varanus bitatawa feasts on fruits and snails rather than carcasses, unlike many monitors, including its larger relative, the Komodo dragon, according to American and Filipino researchers who wrote about the discovery in Wednesday's peer-reviewed Royal Society journal Biology Letters. It spends much of its time in the treetops and has unique claws that allow it to reach its favorite fruits.

Cloud Lightning

95 dead after Brazil floods cause heaviest rain in Rio de Janeiro in decades

flooded Rio
© Reuters
Cars on a flooded street near Rodrigo de Freitas lake in Rio de Janeiro
The heaviest rains in decades caused floods and landslides that killed at least 95 people in Rio de Janeiro state.

Mudslides swept away shacks in Rio's hillside slums, turning the city's main lake and the sea brown during the round-the-clock heavy rains.

Morning flights in and out of the city of six million people - which will host the 2014 soccer World Cup and the 2016 Olympics - were canceled or seriously delayed and many neighborhoods were cut off from power and transport.

Cloud Lightning

Tornado downs trees, damages cars in Bahamas

© Pravda.ru
Police say the tornado touched down in at least two places on the island of Grand Bahama.
Freeport, Bahamas - Police in the Bahamas say a tornado has apparently touched down in at least two places on the island of Grand Bahama.

Police spokeswoman Loretta Mackey says there are no immediate reports of fatalities. Mackey says authorities are still checking reports of damage at the island's container port and elsewhere.

Monday's storm uprooted trees in the tourist area of Lucaya.

There are also reports of damaged cars and businesses.

A forecaster with the Bahamas Meteorology Department says heavy thunderstorms are expected to last until at least late afternoon.

Bizarro Earth

Magnitude 7.8 quake shakes Indonesia's Sumatra

sumatra earthquake map
© Reuters/U.S. Geological Survey/Handout/Combination
A major earthquake of magnitude 7.8 shook the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the U.S. Geological Survey said Tuesday.
A major earthquake of 7.8 magnitude shook the northwestern coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the U.S. Geological Survey said on Tuesday.

A local tsunami watch was in effect for Indonesia, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

"A destructive widespread tsunami threat does not exist based on historical earthquake and tsunami data," the center said.

But it added "there is the possibility of a local tsunami that could affect coasts" no more than 100 km (62 miles) from the epicenter of the quake.

The quake was centered 127 miles west-northwest of Sibolga and was at a depth of 28.6 miles, the USGS said. It initially reported the quake's magnitude at 7.6.

In December 2004, a magnitude 9.15 quake off the coast of Sumatra's Aceh province triggered an Indian Ocean tsunami that killed about 226,000 people in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and nine other countries.


Space station flies through big space storm

Earth Aurora
© Astro_Soichi
The International Space Station flies through Earth's aurora in this photo taken by Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi and posted on April 5, 2010. A Russian Soyuz spacecraft is visible docked to the station.
An astronaut has captured the rare view of the International Space Station zooming through a dazzling display of Earth's aurora as the strongest geomagnetic storm of the year hit the planet.

In the stunning space aurora photo, the International Space Station is seen flying 220 miles (354 km) over an Earth lit up by eerie green auroras peppered by red hues. A Russian Soyuz spacecraft is backlit by the cosmic light show in the image.

Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi took the stunning photo and posted it Monday on Twitter, where he has been chronicling his six-month mission to the space station under the name Astro_Soichi.

Bizarro Earth

Brazil: Rio de Janeiro's worst rains in history kill at least 81

© AP Photo/Jadson Marques, Agencia O Globo
A rescue worker carry a baby as other victims are helped after a landslide in a flooded area of Campo Grande neighborhood, Rio de Janeiro, Tuesday, April 6, 2010. Torrential rains in Rio de Janeiro triggered landslides that killed 81 people as rising water paralyzed traffic and suspended most business.
The heaviest rains in Rio de Janeiro's history triggered landslides Tuesday that killed at least 81 people as rising water turned roads into rivers and paralyzed Brazil's second-largest city.

The ground gave way in steep hillside slums, cutting red-brown paths of destruction through shantytowns. Concrete and wooden homes were crushed and hurtled downhill, only to bury other structures.

The future host city of the Olympics and football World Cup ground to a near halt as Mayor Eduardo Paes urged workers to stay home and closed all schools. Most businesses were shuttered.

Eleven inches (29 centimeters) of frain fell in less than 24 hours, and more rain was expected. Officials said potential mudslides threatened at least 2,000 homes in the city of 6 million people.

"It is not advisable for people to leave their homes," said Paes. "We want to preserve lives."

He told the Web site of the newspaper O Globo that the rainfall was the most that Rio had ever recorded in such a short period. The previous high was nine inches (24 centimeters) that fell on Jan. 2, 1966.

Bizarro Earth

Earth struck by most powerful space storm in three years

© Albert Jakobsson
A curtain of light is the backdrop for Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano.
The most powerful geomagnetic storm since December 2006 struck the Earth on Monday, a day earlier than expected.

On 3 April, the SOHO spacecraft spotted a cloud of charged particles called a coronal mass ejection (CME) shooting from the sun at 500 kilometres per second. This velocity suggested the front would reach Earth in roughly three days.

"It hit earlier and harder than forecast," says Doug Biesecker of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado.

Fortunately, the storm was not intense enough to interfere strongly with power grids or satellite navigation, but it did trigger dazzling auroras in places like Iceland (pictured).

Such storms highlight the uncertainty in the arrival times of CMEs, which can easily be 15 hours off predictions, Biesecker says. Better modelling of the solar wind, which can accelerate CMEs en route to Earth, could reduce the uncertainty.

Bizarro Earth

Large earthquake hits Iceland volcano site

© IceNews
An earthquake measuring 3.7 on the Richter Scale shook the area of the erupting volcano next to the Eyjafjallajokull ice cap in South Iceland this afternoon.

The earthquake is the strongest to hit the area since seismic activity began to build at the volcano at the beginning of March.

Steinunn Jakobsdottir, an Icelandic Meteorological Office geologist told Morgunblaðið newspaper that only very few of the regular quakes in the area since the beginning of last month have measured above 3 on the Richter Scale. Jakobsdottir added that it is not yet known if this afternoon's quake is an important development or if it should be considered as a large but normal earth movement. The quake has not had any immediate effect on the erupting volcano - neither has it had an immediate impact on the nearby dormant Katla volcano.

Bizarro Earth

Mexico: At Quake's Epicenter, Water Gurgled From Ground

Guadalupe Victoria -- After the ground shook violently, small cracks formed on the rich soil and cement floors. They quickly became big cracks, spouting groundwater.

That's how the Briseno family watched all seven of their homes sink to ruin on a single block, forcing them to sleep in their cars indefinitely.

The family has one of the more dramatic tales of loss from the epicenter of Easter Sunday's 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Mexico that has left many afraid to go inside, whether at home or at work.

"The earth just opened up, like a pencil goes across a sheet of paper, like a stripe goes across the floor," said Diona Garcia Briseno, the oldest of five siblings, who lost a home that she shared with her husband and their two children, 18 and 10.

Garcia Briseno, 38, saw the ground crack and cough up water as she waited out the quake outside her home. After the shaking, she went inside to find that her cement floor was gurgling muddy water from underground. It lasted about six hours.

"It didn't come out with lots of force, but it was constant," she said.