Fermi Telescope Catches Thunderstorms Hurling Antimatter into Space

Scientists using NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope have detected beams of antimatter produced above thunderstorms on Earth, a phenomenon never seen before.

Scientists think the antimatter particles were formed in a terrestrial gamma-ray flash (TGF), a brief burst produced inside thunderstorms and shown to be associated with lightning. It is estimated that about 500 TGFs occur daily worldwide, but most go undetected.

"These signals are the first direct evidence that thunderstorms make antimatter particle beams," said Michael Briggs, a member of Fermi's Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM) team at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). He presented the findings Monday, during a news briefing at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle.

Fermi is designed to monitor gamma rays, the highest energy form of light. When antimatter striking Fermi collides with a particle of normal matter, both particles immediately are annihilated and transformed into gamma rays. The GBM has detected gamma rays with energies of 511,000 electron volts, a signal indicating an electron has met its antimatter counterpart, a positron.


Winter weather slams US South with snow, icy roads

Several inches of snow and freezing rain were expected to make the Monday morning commute for those forced to venture out nearly impossible in parts of the South, including Atlanta, where countless cars were stuck on impassable highways and roads while the world's busiest airport canceled thousands of flights.

The winter blast rolled across the South on Sunday, coating bridges and roads with snow, sleet and freezing rain and causing at least one death in Louisiana. The governors of Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee declared emergencies and schools and colleges called off classes. Snow and ice had blanketed several cities, including up to 3 inches in parts of Atlanta, which rarely gets so much.

"We don't have weather events like this," Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said in an on-air interview with CNN. "I think the amount of snow we're getting is probably a 10-year event for the city of Atlanta."

Despite officials imploring people to stay off the roads, interstates around Atlanta were clogged with cars early Monday.

Cloud Lightning

Fresh storms hit Queensland - Australian flooding in photos

© AP Photo/Anthony SkermanA wallaby stands on a large round hay bale, trapped by rising flood waters outside the town of Dalby in Queensland, Australia on Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010
Heavy rains fell in eastern Australia on Thursday, bringing fresh misery to flood-hit communities as the mayor of the flooded city of Rockhampton warned it could take up to a year to recover from the worst flooding in decades.

Officials were only beginning to see the scope of the damage as river levels across Queensland started dropping despite new thunderstorms. Floodwaters were expected to stay high in many areas for at least another week and officials warned evacuated residents to stay away from their waterlogged homes.

"It's important for the community to remember that this event is not over yet," said Brad Carter, mayor of the inundated city of Rockhampton, which has evacuated 500 people. "Those residents who were required to evacuate their homes will not be able to return to their homes until the flood waters recede."

Four thousand people across Queensland have been evacuated from their homes since driving rains that began just before Christmas left much of the region under a sea of murky water. Around 1,200 homes have been inundated, with another 10,700 suffering damage in the flood zone, an area greater than France and Germany combined.


US: Winter storm bringing more snow to blizzard-weary North

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© Reuters/Lucas JacksonSnow falling in Times Square, January 7, 2011.
Snow fell across the mid-Atlantic and Northeast states on Friday, bringing several inches of fresh accumulation to a region that has scarcely dug out from the Christmas weekend blizzard.

The latest winter storm will drop snow from the Great Lakes east to the Atlantic seaboard and New England throughout Friday and into early Saturday, forecasters said.

The Northeast could see one to five inches of snow from Maryland north into Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut, forecasters said. Two to four inches accumulation was likely in New York City, they said.


India shivers in deadly cold snap: dozens killed

© Associated PressIndian-administered Kashmir has been hardest hit by the cold weather
An intense spell of cold weather has disrupted life across northern India, reportedly claiming two dozen lives.

The capital, Delhi, has been badly hit by the cold snap, along with Indian-administered Kashmir, Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.

In Leh in Kashmir, temperatures dropped to -23.6C - this winter's lowest - on Sunday, weather officials said.

Delhi, which is experiencing one of its coldest winters in years, has been hit by thick fog which disrupted flights.

Sunday was Delhi's coldest day this winter with temperatures dipping to 7.8C - cold by the standards of the Indian capital.

Indian homes rarely have central heating - a regular feature in buildings in the West.

Bizarro Earth

Cold weather kills dozens in northern India

© Unknown
Lucknow, India - Near-freezing temperatures and icy Himalayan winds have killed dozens of people in northern India over the past two weeks and forced schools to close in the capital, officials said Wednesday.

A spokesman for worst-hit Uttar Pradesh state said five people died from the cold overnight, pushing the number of deaths there to 41.

Uttar Pradesh is one of India's poorest states and nearly a fifth of its 180 million people are homeless.

In New Delhi, at least 10 homeless people died from the cold weather over the past two weeks despite a drive by police and welfare officials to persuade people living on the streets to sleep in 80 city-run shelters.


Freezing weather leads to south China evacuations

Beijing - Freezing temperatures have forced the evacuation of nearly 60,000 people from their homes and caused more than $200 million in economic losses in southern China, the government said Wednesday.

Ice and sleet have collapsed the roofs of more than 1,200 homes and forced the evacuation of 58,000 people across the southern regions of Jiangxi, Hunan, Chongqing, Sichuan and Guizhou, the Ministry of Civil Affairs reported.

Freezing weather has also damaged nearly 300,000 acres of crops, including cabbage and rice, and caused about $203.8 million in economic losses across southern China, the ministry said.

Cloud Precipitation

Icy Rains Force 58,000 to Evacuate in Southern China

© ReutersFrozen plants are seen as vehicles travel on a highway in Guiyang, Guizhou province January 3, 2011.
Torrential icy rain across five provinces in southern China has forced 58,000 people to evacuate from their damaged homes, causing economic losses of $203.8 million, the ministry of civil affairs said on Wednesday.

Freezing rain has pummeled the provinces of Jiangxi, Hunan, Chongqing, Sichuan and Guizhou in the past few days, killing one person and causing more than 1,200 houses to collapse, the ministry added.

The harsh weather in southern China, where winter is usually relatively mild, has damaged 142,400 hectares of crops in the provinces that produce rice, timber and coal and caused economic losses of 1.35 billion yuan ($203.8 million) as of Tuesday, the ministry added.

In southwestern Guizhou province, 22,800 people were forced to evacuate from their homes on Tuesday, state news agency Xinhua reported.


More than 20,000 Evacuated from Homes in Southern China Due to Freezing Temperatures

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Freezing temperatures have forced the evacuation of more than 20,000 people from their homes in southern China, as the region braces for more temperature drops in the coming days.

Ice and sleet have collapsed the roofs of more than 200 homes and forced the evacuation of 22,800 people across the southern province of Guizhou, the official Xinhua News Agency reported late Tuesday. Thousands of cars were stranded and some ice-covered roads were closed, the report said.

"People, especially those living in the mountains and the elderly, are being evacuated from their homes," a Guizhou Meteorological Bureau official, surnamed Zhao, said Wednesday. "Roads and homes with poor infrastructure are being impacted by the icy conditions."


Emergency declared as blizzards bring massive blackouts to Moscow region

© Denis VoroninEmergency declared in Moscow region districts hit by blackout
Moscow region Governor Boris Gromov on Sunday declared a state of emergency in a range of the region's populated areas due to continuing massive power outages, Gromov's spokesman Andrei Barkovsky said.

The emergency situation regime will be in force until the appearance of new instructions from Gromov, the spokesman added.

Earlier in the day, Moscow United Electric Grid Company (MOESK) announced that heavy snowfalls and strong winds have cut electricity supply to over 88 populated areas outside Moscow.

Massive blackouts began in the Moscow Region on December 26 after an ice storm. Freezing rain broke many power transmission lines, causing serious power outages.