LARGEST QUAKES -
This morning -
None 5.0 or higher.
5.2 UNIMAK ISLAND REGION, ALASKA
5.1 OFF COAST OF OREGON
TROPICAL STORMS -
No current tropical cyclones.
HEAVY SNOW / EXTREME COLD -
UNITED KINGDOM - The COLDEST MAY NIGHT SINCE 1996 was felt in many parts of the UK on Tuesday night. The night-time UK average is normally 4 - 7C at this time of the year. But BBC weather forecasters say -6C was recorded in the Highlands of Scotland, -3.1C in Oxfordshire, -4.3C in Wales, -5.3C in Cumbria -3.9C in East Anglia and 0C in London. There was even some snow on higher ground. The cold weather was caused by area of cold, coming from the direction of Iceland, which should move away by the end of the week.
Meanwhile, two different forecasters have given conflicting predictions for this summer’s weather. Piers Corbyn from London Weather Action has predicted that they’re in for a washout of a summer. “I’m afraid it’s not going to be a hot summer. It might be humid and muggy at times but we’re certainly not in for massive amounts of sunshine."
However, rival weather forecasters Positive Weather Solutions, who correctly predicted this winter’s cold snap, reckon that they’ll have a hot summer, with spells of dry weather. “This Summer will be a 'favourable' Summer, and not a washout.” Adding that they could even be in for some hot BBQ weather: “When we look back upon Summer 2010, it will register as a warmer than average Summer, possibly featuring in the top five warmest Summer's on record.”
EXTREME HEAT / WILDFIRES / DROUGHT / CLIMATE CHANGE -
INDIA - This is Hyderabad's WORST SUMMER SINCE 1966, when temperatures soared to 45.5 degrees Celsius, and it doesn't look like it will end any time soon. Temperatures that are usual to Ramagundam have become commonplace to Hyderabad this season - the city recorded 44 degrees Celsius on Wednesday. Streets wore a deserted look all of this week, as people tried to keep away from the blistering heat. And Ramagundam touched the half century mark on Wednesday.
Weather officials say the heat wave is being caused by hot and dry winds blowing from the north-western regions of the country, originating in Rajasthan and travelling through Maharashtra. Increasing levels of pollution are also being blamed for the ruthless weather. Meanwhile, the electricity department is facing higher demand thanks to the heat forcing people to switch on air coolers and A/Cs and since there's already a shortage of power, the department has resumed the 2-hour power cut schedule all over the city. The bad news is that it isn't over yet - the heat wave is likely to continue for a few more days.
THAILAND - RICE CROP - Rice production in Thailand, the largest grower, may decline 4.3 percent in the next crop year starting October because of drought.The government has told farmers to delay planting by a month to the end of June, when normal rainfall is expected. “If plantings start now, it would affect productivity because of inadequate water supply. Rice from the next crop will come onto the market later than it usually does." The main rice crop is usually planted in May and harvesting begins in October, accounting for around 75 percent of the nation’s total production.
Drought is spreading across 34 of Thailand’s provinces, mostly in the north and northeast, which are major planting areas for rice and sugar. Drought linked to the El Nino weather pattern has affected a swathe of Asia and damaging crops from southern China to Southeast Asia. Rice production in Thailand and Vietnam, the two largest exporters, may be hurt by dry weather that has parched farms and cut water levels along the Mekong River. The Thai harvest of second-crop rice that began in April, accounting for about 25 percent of annual output, may drop to 7 million tons from 8.4 million last year. Output from Vietnam’s end-of-year harvest “may be affected."
HEALTH THREATS -
Study finds side effects with mass antiviral 'blanket' - Last June when pandemic H1N1 struck 17% of students and staff at a UK elementary school, 92% of students and 91% of staff received the antiviral drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu) for treatment and prevention. Of those, 41% (113/273) of students and 47% (25/53) of staff reported adverse effects. Overall, 14% of students and 20% of staff did not complete the course of oseltamivir, primarily due to adverse effects. The authors say potential benefits of mass treatment must outweigh possible side effects.
An influenza expert who formerly headed the World Health Organization's flu program and now works for Novartis has suggested developing a prepandemic vaccine to get the jump on the next flu pandemic — an idea that other experts are greeting with caution or skepticism. He proposes developing a vaccine containing a "cocktail" of flu strains deemed likely to cause the next pandemic, along with an adjuvant (immune-system stimulant). He suggests a prepandemic vaccine could contain H2, H5, H7, and H9 flu subtypes, plus adjuvants "designed to provoke a long-term immune response to a range of virus subtypes, even viruses different from the original strain."
The idea of prepandemic vaccination has been around for years, fueled by some studies suggesting that adjuvants can make flu vaccines protective against more than just the specific viral strain they are based on. But because of the many uncertainties facing such an approach — including safety questions and the unpredictable timing of pandemics — it has never gained much traction.
Other experts agreed that new approaches are needed to solve the problem of providing pandemic flu vaccines, but they said the strategy would face serious obstacles, including possible public rejection of an adjuvanted vaccine against an uncertain future threat. Using an adjuvant would raise safety questions, since adjuvanted flu vaccines have not been used widely, and not at all in the United States. One problem is that a vaccine against a given flu subtype does not guarantee protection against another strain of the same subtype, as was demonstrated in the H1N1 pandemic. From a practical point of view, the biggest advantage of adjuvants is that they lower the dose of vaccine needed, stretching the supply.
The public is likely to be skeptical about the need for and safety of a prepandemic vaccine. The pandemic H1N1 vaccine "was basically identical in safety to standard seasonal vaccine, and yet all sorts of safety misconceptions and fears were widely promoted, with no evidence."
"There's a good argument to say this [prepandemic vaccination] is the way to go, but you have to realize that he represents a company that makes the adjuvanted influenza vaccine that he's saying should be given to the entire world."