Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.
Andre Gide


This morning -

Yesterday -
3/9/10 -

Cyclone 18S was 308 nmi W of Saint Pierre, Reunion.

Tropical storm Eighteen (now a cyclone) is forecast to strike Madagascar at about 12:00 GMT on 10 March.


CHINA - Three people were killed and 20 others reported missing when the side of a mountain in north China came tumbling down early today, burying more than 10 homes.
Rescuers have dug out about 20 survivors of the landslide in Shaanxi province, which took place shortly after midnight, and were continuing to search for the missing. It was not immediately clear what triggered the landslide.

BANGLADESH - More than 200,000 people made homeless by a cyclone last year face a "catastrophic" humanitarian crisis because river embankments have not been repaired. Cyclone Aila, which tore through southern Bangladesh in May last year, killed 300 people and destroyed 4,000 kilometres (2,500 miles) of roads and river embankments, which prevent the flooding of low-lying areas. The breached embankments led to villages and fields being flooded, forcing 200,000 people from their homes, "many of whom are still living in appalling conditions on strips of raised land. If the embankments aren't repaired urgently, the humanitarian consequences will be catastrophic." Since the 1960s, the government has built up a network of embankments along rivers and canals in southern Bangladesh to prevent salt water flooding low-lying areas, allowing millions of people to cultivate the land. Less than a month ago, 18 charities criticised the government for not building the embankments quickly, forcing the victims to remain homeless indefinitely. The government maintains that reconstruction will be finished before the rainy season begins in May.


THAILAND - As Thailand enters the hot season, experts are warning that the drought which has already affected significant parts of the country could be the worst for several years. This will have a radical effect on agricultural production, related commerce and will also affect the households of the nation in general. Experts have started issuing national drought warnings, indicating that the drought this year caused by global warming, the WORST EL NINO PHENOMENON ENCOUNTERED IN THE LAST 10 YEARS and the falling level of the Mekong River, could have dire effects for the whole country, with water reserves already at a critically low point and cultivation affected in the Central Region of the country. (photos)

SOUTH AFRICA - Rains have failed during the wet season, which is now reaching an end, and the 11 reservoirs that supply the city of Port Elizabeth are falling by five per cent every month. On March 1, they were at just 39 per cent of capacity. The Churchill dam, which also serves two nearby cities, was at just 17 per cent.
"During the World Cup, we should be fine. It's after July that we are running in a very bad situation." The municipality is working out a "disaster plan" to ensure alternative water supplies, such as tapping underground water or desalinating sea water. In October, the municipality imposed water limits on its 1.1 milllion residents, and asked businesses and hotels to reduce their water use. Without enough water, farm production has been falling along the Garden Route that links the southern coastal towns that host the luxury hotels where Japan, France and Denmark will base their teams. "Several farms have already shut down. The problem is to get approval to extend existing dams and build new ones." But weather officials say the only real solution for the shrinking water supply is flooding when the rainy season begins again in September. The last big floods in the Eastern Cape province were in 1981, and to a lesser extent in 2006. "In Eastern Cape, we don't have normal rainfall. We have too much rain or too little. The drought is to be broken by the flood. The situation doesn't look promising for the end of the season. We need a flood to solve the situation. That will make problems too!"


Update - MYSTERY OF PHOBOS (from yesterday): According to gravity-field data just beamed back from Mars Express, mass is not evenly distributed throughout the moon’s interior. A detailed analysis is underway by ESA researchers.

MINNESOTA - 3/3/10 - A bright fireball was seen over Duluth and surrounding region last Wednesday. There were more than a dozen reports on the meteor. There were three reports of "distant rolling thunder" or rumblings associated with the Duluth fireball in the Stillwater-Lake Elmo-Hudson area east of the Twin Cities. While rumblings are a good sign that pieces of the meteor may have survived, "the pressure wave is coming from much higher in the atmosphere and can be heard for much greater distances." Translation: any potential fragments could be up to 100 miles from where the sounds were heard.
The American Meteor Society's Fireball Sighting Log

IRELAND - 3/7/10 - A suspected meteor shower lit up the night skies over Derry at the weekend. The celestial objects were spotted shooting across the sky in the early hours of Sunday morning by a man who says he saw the meteors at around 12:30am. "There were six of them in total. They were bright orange almost red, like balls of flames burning with a tail behind them." The lights passed over the hills of Donegal before disappearing from view. Meteor showers are caused by small fragments of cosmic debris entering the earth's atmosphere at extremely high speed. They vaporise due to pressure from the air, leaving a streak of light that can be seen from the earth but usually disappears very quickly.


Another pandemic wave seen as unlikely - European countries won't likely experience another wave of pandemic H1N1 influenza cases this spring and summer, though the virus will probably continue to circulate and be the region's dominant strain for the next flu season. However, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control warned that the outlook could change if there are "significant unrecognized uninfected populations" or if the pandemic virus changes to become more transmissible. Though over time all pandemics ease and the virus becomes the dominant seasonal strain, history shows the transition can happen quickly, such as in 1957, or take about two seasons, as for the 1918 and 1968 pandemics. The extent of transmission in European countries has been difficult to determine. So far, there have been few published serologic studies. The autumn-winter pandemic flu wave seemed to spread across Europe roughly from west to east and from north to south, similar to the interpandemic pattern. Though flu barometers have declined in most countries, low-level transmission and deaths continue to occur.
The big question now is whether there will be enough susceptible people to sustain transmission, given the observed low transmissibility of the pandemic H1N1 virus. Transmission will depend on how many people have pre-existing immunity, how many have already been infected, and how many have been immunized. Though the European Medicines Agency is gathering vaccination information from member states, some countries rolled out the pandemic vaccine so quickly that immunization records may be sparse or slow to be tabulated. However, early indications, such as the absence of a major resurgence in most of Europe through January, suggest that there aren't enough susceptible people to sustain large-scale transmission. The report advises countries to strengthen surveillance for severe respiratory infections and deaths and determine if any patterns are seen in specific age-groups.