Friday, October 8, 2010

UN condemned over 'appalling' Haiti earthquake camps - A report titled 'Haiti: Still Trapped in the Emergency Phase' says camps for displaced Haitians are squalid and close to anarchy. UN agencies in charge of the refugee camps for victims of Haiti's earthquake are inexperienced, understaffed and dysfunctional. More than a million people were left homeless by the quake.
The most striking thing about this report from an independent aid agency is its utter condemnation of the management of the crisis by the United Nations.The people of Haiti are "still living in a state of emergency, with a humanitarian response that appears paralysed". "Living in squalid, overcrowded camps for a prolonged period has led to aggravated levels of violence and appalling standards of living. Despite these alarming conditions, the UN co-ordination system in Haiti is not prioritising activities to protect people's rights." UN police officers don't patrol the camps consistently and, almost incredibly, the few UN patrols there are do not have translators, so they cannot communicate with camp residents. Many of the camps have no police presence at all.
A UN spokeswoman said that the organisation was doing its best, but that the scale of the disaster made their job very difficult. The UN says the camps are relatively peaceful places, and that they have doubled the numbers of police since September. She said many of the problems Haiti faces - including high rates of sexual violence - had plagued the Caribbean nation before the quake, and had little connection to the refugee camps.
Refugees International says there should be much more involvement in managing the camps by local Haitian civil society groups who understand the situation - but the report points out that none of the UN meetings about camp management is held in the local language, Creole.
Former US President Bill Clinton, who has been visiting a camp, has vowed that US aid long promised to Haiti but yet to materialise will soon be released. Mr Clinton's foundation pledged $500,000 (£313,000) to help the camp. The former US president spoke of his frustration about the slow arrival of funding - with the US still to deliver on ANY of the $1.15 billion of aid promised at a donors' conference in March. The former president said that the money was being held up by a "rather bizarre system of rules" in the US Senate.

Weather report:
A man and his wife were sound asleep when the phone rang.
The husband picked up the phone and said, "Hello?.....
How the heck do I know?"
He slammed the phone down and exclaimed,
"That was some idiot who thinks I'm a weatherman.
He wanted to know if the coast was clear."

This morning -

Yesterday -
10/7/10 -


Scientists have discovered the explanation for why the world's explosive volcanoes are confined to bands only a few tens of kilometres wide, such as those along the Pacific 'Ring of Fire'. Most of the molten rock that comes out of these volcanoes is rich in water, but the team has shown that the volcanoes are aligned above narrow regions in the mantle where the mantle melts in the absence of water. Melt rising from this region blazes a trail for more water-rich magma to follow all the way to the surface where it erupts to form volcanoes.
"It has been recognised for almost 50 years that the volcanic arcs form where one oceanic plate sinks beneath another, but while many models of this process have been put forward, none has been able to explain the location, and narrowness, of the volcanic arcs." The eruptions of volcanoes in the Ring of Fire are extremely violent because the molten rock contains a high proportion of water which, as superheated gas, provides the power for the explosive eruptions. This water is liberated from the plates descending beneath the volcanoes and lowers the melting point of rocks in the mantle. These volcanic chains have been responsible for the most devastating eruptions in history, such as that of Krakatoa in 1883, and the huge eruption of Toba about 74,000 years ago, whose aftermath may have come close to extinguishing the human race.

Tropical storm OTTO was 338 nmi N of San Juan, Puerto Rico

CARIBBEAN - Heavy rain forced government offices, businesses and schools to close early Thursday afternoon as the tail end of now tropical storm Otto continue to drench St. Kitts and Nevis. The sun shone for the first time in three days Thursday morning, but this was short-lived as the new delugue by mid-day caused several ghuts around the island to run heavy. It also hampering another day of efforts to clean up the silt and debris deposited around the islands overnight and Thursday morning. One major road into downtown Basseterre remained closed as heavy swells continue to eat away at the retaining wall on the Irish Town Bay Road. There is also a report of downed electrical poles and lines in a new housing development in Old Road, six miles west of the capital.


U.S. - Arizona was hit by a RARE SWARM of tornados on Wednesday with four twisters ripping through parts of the state causing considerable damage. Arizona experienced its usual ANNUAL quota of tornados in a single day. The region usually experiences only four tornados during the entire year but an extraordinary 22 extreme weather warnings were issued Wednesday. There have been no reports of any casualties as a result of the FREAK weather but numerous homes and vehicles were destroyed. Several train carriages were also derailed as a result of the tornado. The extreme weather system was the result of a low-pressure system which had been parked over central and southern California. Meteorologists described the weather in Arizona as 'EXCEPTIONAL' with the storm system now moving northwards. Earlier in the week the weather system moved across the west of the U.S. dropping a RECORD amount of rain in northern Nevada. (photos)


Everyone who's been noticing that the sun seemed brighter over the past 6 years, was right. - A new look at the sun's connection to Earth's climate has returned some surprising results. A study found that during the most recent lull in the sun's weather cycle, the amount of energy that reached Earth increased, instead of decreasing as predicted. The planet may have experienced a slight warming effect as well, researchers said.
The study used satellite measurements taken from 2004 to 2007, the declining phase of the latest 11-year solar weather cycle. As the sun becomes less active, it typically releases less energy in the form of radiation. Previously, this was understood as a decrease in the total amount of radiation that reaches the top of the Earth's atmosphere. In examining solar emissions during this declining phase, however, the researchers found that a large decrease in ultraviolet radiation was roughly compensated for by an INCREASE in visible radiation. "Visible radiation is the only kind that, in any substantial quality, gets to the Earth's surface and heats the lower atmosphere. We found that as the sun's activity declined from 2004 to 2007, more of this radiation was entering into the lower atmosphere."
Ultraviolet radiation is largely absorbed in the stratosphere, where it combines with ozone molecules to form what is known as stratospheric ozone. As stratospheric ozone depletes, more UV radiation is able to pass through to the Earth's surface. Visible radiation, on the other hand, more readily penetrates into the Earth's lower atmosphere. So, if more visible radiation reaches the Earth's surface, the heating of our planet's lower atmosphere results in a warming of the climate. "In just over three years of observation, we conclude that the visible radiation was going to be warming the planet as the solar activity declined."
An extremely long stretch of low solar activity in recent years has baffled scientists, and the expected minimum of solar activity between 2008 and 2009 was unusually quiet. The ebb and flow of the sun's magnetic activity, and the amount of energy it puts out, make up the solar cycle. Typically, a cycle lasts about 11 years, taking roughly 5.5 years to move from a solar minimum to a solar maximum. The total energy that reaches Earth from the sun varies by only 0.1 percent across the solar cycle, and atmospheric physicists and meteorologists have struggled to link such a small variation to the ups and downs of Earth's natural weather and climate patterns. "In the past, it was thought that the changes were too small to do anything. People knew there was a UV component that was heating the stratosphere, but it was thought to be unimportant to the climate."
The findings of this new study, however, could be a step toward piecing together the puzzle."The sun has been behaving VERY STRANGELY over the past few years. We need to know more about how strange it is before we extrapolate the findings to other periods of time. But it does suggest that our previous understanding of how the sun affects the Earth's climate may be in need of revision." Now that the sun has presumably awoken from its solar minimum, scientists are keen to observe the star as it ramps up its activity. "It'll be very interesting. If the visible radiation starts to decline as solar activity goes up, that would be very, very interesting."
"It's quite clear that we have to understand what the sun does to our climate and how much more or less solar activity affects the atmosphere. We need to work out the solar component of climate change. This is not at all to suggest that the sun is causing climate change, but I do think we need to accurately know what the sun is doing, so that we can better assess the human component."


H1N1 flu may have diverted attention from other disease threats - The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control says the number of new (emerging) threats reported in 2009 was down 28% from the previous year. It attributed the decrease to the H1N1 pandemic diverting attention and reporting away from other new threats. 192 threats were monitored in 2009, 174 (91%) of them new. Events are considered public health threats if they meet predetermined criteria; threats are documented and monitored through a dedicated database called the Threat Tracking Tool. In contrast to the decrease in new threats reported, the number of messages posted in 2009 through the ECDC's Early Warning and Response System increased fivefold compared with the previous 2 years, with 88% of them relating to influenza. Threats of note other than flu in 2009 included Salmonella, verotoxin-producing Escherichia coli, mumps, measles, legionellosis, West Nile virus, Q fever, and malaria. Foodborne and waterborne threats were at an all-time low, perhaps due to decreased reporting from health departments busy with the flu or possibly to increased hand washing. [same link for article below]

Dengue in India at 20-year high - India, currently hosting the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, is experiencing a 20-year high in cases of dengue fever, with at least 50 people dead and 12,000 cases reported. WHO officials warn that 2.5 billion people worldwide are at risk for the mosquito-borne disease, 70% of them in Asia. They attribute the rising number of cases across Asia to higher temperatures, a growing population, and more international travel. Countries with the highest incidence so far this year are Indonesia with more than 80,000 cases, Thailand with about 58,000, and Sri Lanka with more than 27,000. The prevalence in the Indian population grew from 3.4% in 2006 to 9.1% in 2009. An Indian official blamed late preparation for the Commonwealth Games, which left puddles and rubble ripe for mosquito breeding, for some of the increase in cases there.