Earth ChangesS

Cloud Lightning

Frequency of Atlantic hurricanes doubled over last century, climate change suspected

About twice as many Atlantic hurricanes form each year on average than a century ago, according to a new statistical analysis of hurricanes and tropical storms in the north Atlantic. The study concludes that warmer sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and altered wind patterns associated with global climate change are fueling much of the increase.

The study, by Greg Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and Peter Webster of Georgia Institute of Technology, will be published online July 30 in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London.

"These numbers are a strong indication that climate change is a major factor in the increasing number of Atlantic hurricanes," says Holland.

The analysis identifies three periods since 1900, separated by sharp transitions, during which the average number of hurricanes and tropical storms increased dramatically and then remained elevated and relatively steady. The first period, between 1900 and 1930, saw an average of six Atlantic tropical cyclones (or major storms), of which four were hurricanes and two were tropical storms. From 1930 to 1940, the annual average increased to 10, consisting of five hurricanes and five tropical storms. In the final study period, from 1995 to 2005, the average reached 15, of which eight were hurricanes and seven were tropical storms.

Bizarro Earth

Greece: Fire strikes Attica again

The Fire Service said last night that it had managed to control a wildfire that broke out in the northern Athens suburb of Stamata yesterday before it reached homes and business premises.

Cloud Lightning

China summer storm deaths approach 700

Deaths from floods, lightning and landslides across China this summer have reached nearly 700, state media said on Monday, with experts warning that global warming is likely to fuel more violent weather.

Over the weekend alone, fierce storms and hail killed 17 people across four provinces.


Not-So-Elementary Bee Mystery

The disappearance of large numbers of U.S. honeybees is so odd that it's attracted Ian Lipkin. Since last fall, beekeepers in at least 35 states have reported colonies that shrank rapidly for no apparent reason. Adult bees just go missing, leaving behind young bees in need of tending. This colony-collapse disorder (CCD), as it's now called, has got bee researchers coast to coast stirred up and looking for causes and remedies.

Honeybees pollinating crops (here, canola) add an estimated 5 billion to U.S. agriculture by boosting yields and quality. Hence the concern when beekeepers in most states (inset) reported mysterious colony collapses.


Lake Superior warming, shrinking

Something seems amiss with mighty Superior, the deepest and coldest of the Great Lakes, which together hold nearly 20 per cent of the world's fresh surface water.

Superior's surface area is roughly the same as South Carolina's, the biggest of any freshwater lake on Earth. It's deep enough to hold all the other Great Lakes plus three additional Lake Eries. Yet over the past year, its level has ebbed to the lowest point in eight decades and will set a record this fall if, as expected, it dips 7.6 more centimetres.

Its average temperature has surged about 4.5 degrees Farenheit since 1979, significantly above the 2.7-degree rise in the region's air temperature during the same period. That's no small deal for a freshwater sea that was created from glacial melt as the Ice Age ended and remains chilly in all seasons.

Cloud Lightning

Massachusetts: 6,000 homes lose power in storms

About 6,000 Massachusetts households lost power yesterday afternoon as storms raged throughout the day before subsiding around 6 p.m.

The number of power outages peaked statewide around 1:30 p.m., said NStar spokeswoman Margaret Coughlan. "We had between 6,000 and 7,000 without power," she said. "It was all storm-related."

But by 11:30 last night, power was restored in all areas affected by the strong winds and heavy rain, according to National Grid spokeswoman Vanessa Charles. Outages were most prevalent in North Andover and Weymouth, she said.

Extra NStar crews were dispatched to handle the large volume of homes without power.

Light Saber

Russia sends plane to combat forest fires in Montenegro

Russia has sent a plane to Montenegro to combat forest fires raging in the Balkan country, a spokesman for the Russian emergencies ministry said Sunday.

Scorching weather has caused large-scale forest fires throughout the Balkan Peninsula this summer.

An Il-76 aircraft, which can carry up to 42 metric tons of water, has been sent to Montenegro at the request of the country's leadership as the efforts to extinguish raging forest fires have been unsuccessful, Viktor Beltsov said.

Beltsov also said that another firefighting plane would soon fly to Greece to combat forest fires.

Cloud Lightning

15,000 displaced by Cape floods in South Africa

About 15,000 people have been displaced by heavy rains in the Cape peninsula.

About 49 residential areas, mostly in informal settlements, had indicated they needed help, SABC news reported

Yesterday spokesman for Cape Town's Disaster Risk Management Centre, Johan Minnie said an estimated 10,000 people, mainly residents of the hard-hit informal settlements on the Cape Flats east of the city, had been affected by the flooding.

Cloud Lightning

Lightning deaths rise in China

Lightning strikes have killed 403 people in China so far this year, equalling the total number of deaths from lightning in the whole of last year, the China Meteorological Administration said.

The administration attributed the higher rate of deaths to more frequent and severe lightning storms, Xinhua news agency reported.

Cloud Lightning

Lightning kills five South Koreans climbers

Five South Koreans were killed by lightning in mountains near the capital on Sunday, while six other climbers were injured, KBS news said.

Two men and two women were struck and killed near a hill at Bukhan Mountain, northeast of Seoul, when heavy rains swept through the area, the report said, citing police and rescue workers.