Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Scientists are now 99 per cent certain mass extinction events on Earth are as regular as clockwork. The good news? There are still 16 million years to go until the next one. That's the finding from scientists who have mapped out all Earth's extinction events from the past 600 million years. According to what they've seen, life on Earth is wiped out every 27 million years.
Unfortunately for our planet, it passes through a shower of comets every 27 million years, and it very rarely escapes unscathed. Of the last 20 times we made a galactic run for our lives through the comet shower, Earth escaped with most of its biological organisms intact on only six occasions. The most widely publicised event was 65 million years ago, when a 15km wide asteroid hit the Earth in Mexico with the force of a billion atomic bombs and wiped out the dinosaurs. The last event occurred 11 million years ago, so at least Doomsday cult members can now set their clocks for the year 16,002,010, rather than the fashionably Hollywood mark of 2012. There's one caveat - the extinction scenario rate is not strictly accurate. Sometimes the asteroids ambush all life on Earth up to 10 million years earlier than they should.

**Life at its longest is brief enough.**
Eugene O'Neill

This morning -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday -
7/13/10 -

Tropical storm CONSON was 35 nmi WSW of Subic Bay, Philippines.

Typhoon Conson ripped through the Philippines' main island, leaving at least three people dead, sweeping shanties into the sea and leaving a trail of wreckage in Manila. Nineteen fishermen who were at sea when the typhoon, packing maximum gusts of 120km/h, hit the South-East Asian archipelago were also missing. With communication systems down amid the chaos of the typhoon's aftermath, disaster relief officials were still trying to determine the extent of the damage and there were concerns the death toll could rise.
Electricity was knocked out throughout the main island of Luzon, including Manila, where fallen tree branches and other debris littered the streets today.The capital's overhead railway system was also shut down due to the power outage that brought much of the city to a standstill. Shanty towns erected by squatters on the coastal areas near Manila were also swept away, leaving the shocked, drenched residents to scavenge scrap wood to build makeshift shelters. "The wind howled like a child screaming ... it was so strong, our houseboat nearly got flipped over." Conson blew past Luzon and into the South China Sea this morning, but some international flights in and out of Manila were still cancelled while others were delayed.
Conson was the first typhoon of the season, and its ferocity took the 12 million residents of Manila by surprise. The President let rip at the state weather service today for not warning Manila's residents that Conson would hit the city. Many people in Manila went to bed late yesterday having been lulled by forecasters' bulletins that Conson would hit the northern provinces instead of Manila. However, the weather service failed to mention that the typhoon had a wide radius of 300km. The ill-equipped Philippine weather service came in for criticism in September last year when it failed to warn the residents of Manila about the threat from Tropical Storm Ketsana, which killed 464 people.

Conson, the first tropical storm of the year may hit Hong Kong as early as Friday, weather forecasters warn. It is expected to bring heavy rain to Hong Kong and Guangdong. That will add to woes in the mainland, where at least 107 people have been killed in floods and landslides. Conson will enter the South China Sea later today, intensify, and head for Guangdong, west of Macau. Hong Kong may be feeling its effects from late on Thursday. Meanwhile, the very hot weather warning remained in force yesterday with temperatures reaching 35.1 degrees Celsius.


GERMANY - Twister injures 11 at campsite on a German island in the North Sea. The small twister built up quickly at around 3.15 p.m. (1315 GMT) Monday over Duene island, off the coast of Helgoland, a larger island north of the German mainland. About 100 people were at the site when the storm hit, causing broken bones and other injuries that required hospital treatment. After a string of UNUSUALLY HOT days, storms also hit other parts of the country. A woman was killed by falling branches during a storm in Lower Saxony and trains were stopped by fallen trees.


Scientists have identified a massive eruption from the sun in April that reached all the way to Earth and may be responsible for knocking out a satellite, creating a so-called "zombie satellite." The huge explosion of plasma and magnetic energy, called as a coronal mass ejection (CME), occurred on April 3. The solar storm appears to have disabled the Intelsat communications satellite Galaxy 15. Galaxy 15 lost contact with its ground controllers on April 5 and has been drifting around Earth ever since. The observations suggest the coronal mass ejection flung material away from the sun at a PHENOMENAL 1,000 kilometers per second. The solar eruption was moving at 2.2 million mph (3.6 million kph) while it was still close to the sun on April 3. It then slowed down to about 700 kilometers per second (1.5 million mph or 2.5 million kph) when it reached Earth on April 5.
There is an odd twist to the Galaxy 15 satellite failure. While the satellite has stopped communicating with its ground control center, its C-band telecommunications payload (which provided broadcast services to customers) is stuck on, earning it the "zombie satellite" nickname. The now-aimless electronic signal from Galaxy 15 has forced other communications satellites to conduct evasive maneuvers from time to time to avoid signal interference. But the chances of the Galaxy 15 spacecraft hitting another satellite are so remote, they are non-existent, Intelsat officials have said. This month, Galaxy 15 will be flying near two other Intelsat satellites (Galaxy 13 and Galaxy 14).

High latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras on July 14th and 15th. NOAA forecaster's estimate a 50% chance of geomagnetic activity today and tomorrow, when a solar wind stream is expected to hit Earth's magnetic field.


Could the Deepwater Horizon spill cause a massive eruption of methane that destroys civilization as we know it?
Some writers have examined the research of scientists at Northwestern and Texas A&M and conclude that the BP oil spill may cause the world to end. "BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling operation may have triggered an irreversible, cascading geological Apocalypse that will culminate with the first mass extinction of life on Earth in many millions of years. The oil giant drilled down miles into a geologically unstable region and may have set the stage for the eventual premature release of a methane mega-bubble."
In prehistoric times, an undersea bubble of methane erupted, causing the great Permian extinction of 251 million BC. 55 million years later, it happened again, with similar results. If a similar eruption were about to happen, there would be three ominous signs: large undersea gashes in the sea floor, an increase in pressure causing an elevated seabed and a steady stream of methane bleeding out into the ocean. All three have been reported in the area around the Deepwater Horizon spill, causing some to think that a 20-mile-wide bubble of methane may soon emerge from the ocean floor, pop and then kill us.
But ABC News has taken a stand against the methane bubble rumors. The network has found a credible source to say very politely that the methane theory is a crazy crackpot fear. "The idea that there could be a catastrophic cave in, or a methane gas explosion, that's not a reasonable worry. The rock formations on top of this oil deposit have enough strength that nothing like that is going to happen."

BP testing delayed on Gulf oil fix - BP is delaying critical tests on a new well cap designed to finally stop the flow of oil in the Gulf of Mexico, after government officials said further checks needed to be carried out on the procedure. BP engineers were scheduled to start slowly shutting off valves on the cap today, aiming to stop the flow of oil for the first time in three months. A series of preliminary steps were completed, including mapping the seafloor. The decision was reached after National Incident Commander Allen met with federal officials, scientists and geologists.
BP is poised to test whether a huge 75-tonne cap can seal the leak without threatening the structural integrity of the well. The device, which contains three giant valves, was lowered late on Monday and latched onto the ruptured pipe 1.6 kilometres down on the sea floor where only underwater robots can operate. Once given the go-ahead, BP engineers will gradually close the valves on the cap and shut down the flow of oil in a process expected to last between six and 48 hours. But US officials fear that if the pressure caused by closing the valves increases too quickly the cap could send oil shooting up from a new leak on the sea floor.


Mumbai seeing widespread flu - Pandemic flu in Mumbai, India, this year has reached 150 cases and is no longer localized, prompting officials to alter their strategy. In last year's wave they could identify pockets of flu and focus efforts, but now they say the virus is "in the air," and they'll shift to informing the public on how best to prevent the disease. "We are getting swine flu patients from everywhere in the city. We have to maintain vigilance all over." The city's slums have been hardest hit.

Most UK H1N1 fatalities had no underlying illness - UK researchers found that 55% of 631 hospitalized H1N1 patients and 59% of fatal cases were otherwise healthy. Racial minorities and pregnant women were overrepresented. Thirteen percent of patients were admitted to a "high dependency" or intensive care unit, and 5% died. Of 349 patients who had chest x-rays, 29% had evidence of pneumonia, which was associated with a severe outcome. Other risk factors for severity were obesity, certain pulmonary conditions, and raised C-reactive protein levels.