Earth ChangesS

Cloud Lightning

US: Storm reaches southern California; flash-flood watch issued

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© Nick Ut/APHeavy rains in the forecast for Southern California through the weekend.
A powerful winter storm dumped about a half-inch of rain on Los Angeles and forecasters say more wet, messy weather is expected.

The National Weather Service says another mass of cold air moving into Southern California could bring thunderstorms Saturday afternoon and into Sunday.

This latest storm could drop up to four inches of snow at elevations as low as 3,500 feet, causing potential traffic snarls on mountain passes.

Rain began to move into the region from the north Friday afternoon and made a mess of the evening commute. The California Highway Patrol says there were approximately 158 collisions between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Friday, compared with 80 for the same time period one week ago.

A flash-flood watch was issued for mountain areas that have been scorched by wildfires in recent years, but there are no immediate reports of any problems.

Bizarro Earth

US: Mysterious Outbreak Killing Pines in Montana

Pine Trees
© Patrick Verdier / Wikipedia
Salmon, Idaho - Bob Appleby will learn this spring if the evergreen tree in his yard in Montana has survived a mysterious outbreak threatening to kill thousands of Austrian pines across the state.

"It was a real pretty tree; we just want it to stay alive," the Bozeman, Montana man said about a towering Austrian pine cropped to 15 feet to stem the onslaught of what scientists say is an ailment of unknown origins happening in epidemic proportions.

Although native to Europe, the tree has gained extensive ground in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, where the pine's dense needles, uniform shape and tolerance of tough conditions have made it a popular planting in downtowns, parks and private properties.

In a trend experts say has emerged in recent months, the tree's top branches brown and die at the start of what appears to be a march down the trunk despite preventative pruning.

"As we go through winter, these trees are continuing to die; it's one big laboratory out there," said Linnea Skoglund, plant disease expert with Montana State University.

Skoglund said the school's Schutter Diagnostic Lab has been flooded with calls from city foresters, tree surgeons and landscapers, all alarmed by the sudden decline of Austrian pines.

Bell

Natural disasters have tripled in Germany since 1970: Munich Reinsurance Co.

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After a Hail Storm, Leipzig, Germany (16th of June 2006)
German insurers' losses from natural catastrophes are rising as global climate change causes more inundations and storms, Munich Reinsurance Co. said.

Weather-related events have more than tripled in the country over the past 40 years, Peter Hoeppe, who heads the Munich-based reinsurer's Geo Risks Research Department, told journalists in Dusseldorf, Germany, on Thursday. A rising trend is also measurable worldwide, he said.

Insurers' claims costs related to natural disasters rose last year. Allianz S.E., Europe's biggest insurer, recorded "high losses from natural catastrophes and bad weather conditions" in the three months ended September 2010, it said in the quarterly report on its website. Flooding, windstorms and a hailstorm cost the firm about €137 million ($186 million) in Germany in the period, it said. Munich Re, the world's biggest reinsurer, also owns primary insurer Ergo Versicherungsgruppe.

Bizarro Earth

Waves Of Ionization Rippling Through Atmosphere

Waves of ionization are rippling through Earth's upper atmosphere in response to the recent onslaught of solar flares. This affects the propagation of radio signals--suppressing some frequencies and boosting others. By monitoring distant transmitters at a frequency of 23.4 kHz, of Bojnice, Slovakia detected nearly a dozen sudden ionospheric disturbances (SIDs) on Feb. 18th:

Ionization Chart
© Rudolf SlosiarHere is a chart from an observatory in Bojnice, one of the upcoming SID monitor the network. Individual peaks match exactly with the events as recorded by satellite SDO. It turns out that the greater the ionospheric D layer exposed to more radiation, the results of this method are more persuasive. Image taken: Feb. 18, 2011. Location: Bojnice, Slovakia
"Each surge in signal strength corresponds to a specific solar flare," notes Slosiar. "Individual peaks exactly match events recorded by Earth-orbiting satellites."

More waves of ionization are iin the offing as sunspot complex 1161-1162 continues to crackle with M-class solar flares. The next SID could be over your backyard. Do-it-yourself SID monitors are available from Stanford University.

Megaphone

Lava Lake at Kilauea has Reached One of its Highest Levels Ever

lava lake @ Kilauea
© Hawaii News Now
Scientists on the Big Island say it's been an especially active week at Kilauea volcano - as it continues to erupt in two locations: on the east rift zone and at the summit.

The volcanic activity along the summit has died down a little since Monday - when the lava lake at Halemaumau crater reached one of the highest levels ever observed. But it's still fascinating for both geologists and tourists alike.

Kilauea's fiery summit cauldron ripped open this week, and its beauty is matched only by the roar of its fury. Summit activity isn't as intense as it was earlier in the week, but the changes have delighted scientists.

"It is an exciting time for volcanologists," says Janet Babb of the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. "This is the job that we're trained to do and the kind of research that we're involved in, so it has been exciting."

On Monday, they watched as a number of rocks fell into Kilauea's summit vent. Sulfur dioxide emissions remain elevated. Babb explains, "Large sections of the rim of the vent fell into the lava lake below. It caused a lot of degassing, and in a few instances, some explosive events that caused a lot of dusty, ashy plumes to rise skyward."

Cloud Lightning

Goma Volcano Set for Another Eruption

eruption of Mt. Nyamuragira
© planetdiary.comPrevious eruption of Mt. Nyamuragira
Previous eruptions in recent times may be dwarfed by the expected next eruption of Mt. Nyiragongo, which towers over the Eastern Congolese city of Goma. Nine years ago, in January 2002, when the region's most active volcano erupted, the reportedly rather liquid lava swiftly covered a sizeable part of the city and even brought air transport to a complete standstill, when a portion of the runway was covered by lava, which when finally cooled down, was measured to be 6 and more feet thick and as wide as a kilometer, leaving total destruction in its wake and making over 120,000 residents homeless.

The eruption then reached as far as Lake Kivu and only a major effort supported by the UN and international partners made the airport somehow usable again, albeit with a still shortened runway, which makes the use of larger aircraft impossible and impacts on the operations of the airport even with smaller jets. Accidents have, in fact, been recorded at Goma attributed at the shortened runway making every landing and take off an adventure of sorts.

An earlier major eruption in 1977 also caused similar havoc, but population numbers were considerably less back then and the main path of the lava was not directed frontally against Goma. There are reportedly only two main exit routes for the lava, as researchers have established and, therefore, the chance of Goma being hit again during the next eruption is 50/50.

Evil Rays

Ghana: Parts of Accra Metropolis experience tremor

Residents of some communities in Accra at dawn on Wednesday experienced what eyewitnesses described as an earth tremor.

The incident, which occurred around 0400 hours affected communities like Taifa, Dome, Tantra Hills, Achimota, Kwabenya, Ashongman and East Legon, from where residents called a local radio station for confirmation.

Official sources, however, could not confirm the incident to the Ghana News Agency (GNA) as the nation did not have the equipment to measure incidence of earthquakes or tremors.

Evil Rays

Update: Seventeen Earthquakes Shake Greenbrier, Arkansas Wednesday

Click here to watch the video.

People who live in northern Faulkner County are feeling the ground shake again.

Seventeen earthquakes happened in the Greenbrier area Wednesday between 3:30 in the morning and 11:05 in the evening. The strongest of those registered 3.5 on the Richter Scale. The second strongest was a 2.9 tremor.

There have been dozens of quakes since Monday around Greenbrier according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Click here for more information.

According to Wikipedia, earthquakes that register 2.0 to 2.9 in magnitude are classified as minor and are generally not felt. There are about 1,000 of these everyday around the world.

Those that measure 3.0 to 3.9 are also classified as minor. They are often felt, but rarely cause damage and there are 49,000 of them around the world daily.

Cloud Lightning

Crocodile Tears For the Magnates: Rio, Woodside Affected as Two Cyclones Lash Australia

Two cyclones in Australia's north have caused storms and flooding, affecting mining and energy projects for companies including Rio Tinto Group and Woodside Petroleum Ltd.

Tropical Cyclone Dianne was 385 kilometers (240 miles) northwest of the Western Australian town of Exmouth and near stationary at about 11 p.m. local time, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. The storm is forecast to intensify from Category 2 to Category 3 by 11 p.m. tomorrow as it moves southwest. Flood warnings are in place for some Pilbara and Mid West regions.

The storm slowed transport at Rio Tinto's iron ore operations in the Pilbara and halted production at Woodside's Enfield oil field. A La Nina event has brought wet weather to Australia's east and north and typically increases the number of cyclones during the November to April period, according to the bureau.

Bizarro Earth

Fewer Big Fish in the Sea

Overfishing
© Getty ImagesTuna fishing in the Indian Ocean. A study shows the world's large fish have declined by two-thirds.

Fewer big, predatory fish are swimming in the world's oceans because of overfishing by humans, leaving smaller fish to thrive and double in force over the past 100 years, scientists said Friday.

Big fish such as cod, tuna, and groupers have declined worldwide by two-thirds while the number of anchovies, sardines and capelin has surged in their absence, said University of British Columbia researchers.

Meanwhile, people around the world are fishing harder and coming up with the same or fewer numbers in their catch, indicating that humans may have maxed out the ocean's capacity to provide us with food.

"Overfishing has absolutely had a 'when cats are away, the mice will play' effect on our oceans," said Villy Christensen, a professor in the UBC Fisheries Centre who presented the research findings at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual conference in Washington.

"By removing the large, predatory species from the ocean, small forage fish have been left to thrive."