Thursday, December 16, 2010

**The only words that ever satisfied me as describing Nature
are the terms used in fairy books - charm, spell, enchantment.
They express the arbitrariness of the fact and its mystery.**
G. K. Chesterton

This morning -

Yesterday -
12/15/10 -


RUSSIA - Double volcanic eruption in Kamchatka. Residents of Russia’s far eastern Kamchatka Peninsula have witnessed the eruption of two volcanoes at a time. The volcanoes Shiveluch and Karymsky spewed ash to the altitude of 5 kilometers, causing a breakdown of volcanic rock. Although remaining in a vigorous phase of activity for the last few years, Shiveluch and Karymsky are said to be posing no threat to the nearby settlements.

No current tropical cyclones.


GERMANY - brought to near standstill by 12 hours of solid snowfall. Not a single train ran without delays in the whole of the country. In the state of North Rhine-Westphalia in the west there were some 700 accidents on the autobahns during 12 hours of snowfall. And even international airports like Dusseldorf had to shut down on Monday night as the snow blew in. Jack-knifed trucks littered the motorway network across the country. Many fellow truckers trying to pull lorries free of snowdrifts found themselves suddenly trapped.
Rising temperatures at the weekend followed by a plunging thermometer on Monday created black ice across the country. The S-Bahn network in Berlin that carries most commuters to work was severely delayed due to frozen points.
Hamburg saw 400 road accidents within 12 hours and in the former British army garrison town of Osnabrueck all public transport was suspended because of the state of the roads. “It is absolute chaos here." On the A9 autobahn leading into Munich the traffic jam into the city reached 18 miles long. In Nuremberg a sports hall and stadium were closed due to the build up of ice and snow on the roof. Usually Germany is held up as the model to follow when it comes to combating winter. Teams of snowploughs are deployed on autobahns and trunk roads
within minutes of the first flakes of snow dropping from the skies. “But this front came in hard and fast and caught everyone on the hop." Several people were killed in the accidents and dozens more hospitalised with injuries. The damages bill is already in the double digit millions.


No 'Tipping Point' for Sea Ice in Polar Bears' Future - Polar bears may be threatened, but they aren't yet doomed. While Arctic sea ice will continue to retreat under the glare of rising global temperatures, the ice is unlikely to collapse in spectacular fashion, causing hope that, with aggressive greenhouse gas emissions cuts and wildlife management, polar bears may retain viable habitat into the next century, a team of scientists reports. Several years ago, government scientists projected that two-thirds of the world's polar bears would go extinct by midcentury under current emissions scenarios. Those estimates, though uncertain in their specifics, remain unchanged by the current work. However, what seems increasingly unlikely is that the retreat of summer sea ice could cascade out of control. Rather, its decline is entirely contingent on controlling human emissions of greenhouse gases. "Conserving polar bears largely seems to be a matter of containing temperature rise."
The notion that no "tipping point" exists for Arctic ice decline has spread in climate science for several years, supported by deeper examination of the North's physics. Initially, the media exaggerated fears that the loss of ice, which naturally reflects light, would expose more heat-absorbing water to the sun, causing runaway decline. However, scientists now widely believe this feedback is balanced by a host of other phenomena, like increased flows of hot air from the tropics, improved ice formation efficiency under thinning conditions and the region's general cloudiness. Despite the growing scientific awareness that ice loss has an inch-by-inch relationship to rising temperatures, though, the public has largely been left with the message that prospects were grim for polar bears, no matter what steps were taken to limit global warming. That message was hardly a call to action and, more importantly from a scientific view, lacked validity. "If people and leaders feel there's nothing they can do, they will do nothing."
There's one thing nearly every model agrees on: that there is a gradual relationship between rising temperatures and ice loss. In 2007, the Arctic lost more than 1.6 million square kilometers of ice, an area larger than Alaska; by September, sea ice covered half the area it had during the early 1950s. However, since that shocking decline, the ice has modestly expanded during the summer, perhaps the best evidence that Arctic ice won't drop off a cliff. The 2007 loss was "spectacular," but "one would not expect to see it very often." Scientists do expect that ice fluctuations will become increasingly steep and difficult to predict, largely thanks to the floes' declining girth. Simply put, the thinner ice is more susceptible to the weather. Sweltering summers will cause large retreats in sea ice, while chilly years will cause equally large increases. (The mid-1990s saw a one-year ice advance almost as large as the 2007 loss.) The era of Arctic ice impassively gliding through these variations is over.
The lack of a physical threshold for ice loss also does not eliminate a biological threshold for polar bear decline, though. Animals seek to retain their populations until stress forces them into collapse, and while the bears are well-adapted to annual ice fluctuations, the overall retreat will cause stress across the Arctic's 19 different subpopulations, each of which will respond differently. "We expect to see 19 different responses as sea ice changes." While models may need to improve, basic physics show that the Arctic ice will decline, scientists said. Polar bears may the most visible creatures harmed, but there are many other species, like the ringed seal, that are at risk. "I hope the public can appreciate the many other species that are potentially threatened."


BRITAIN - swine flu kills ten. A 32-year-old mother, from Liverpool is the latest swine flu victim. She is the tenth person to have succumbed to the virus this winter. She had been discharged from hospital where she was being treated for asthma. However, her condition deteriorated and she was readmitted. Doctors discovered she had the virus but she died the following day in intensive care.
An outbreak of the virus has claimed up to five lives in a 30-mile radius. The cluster of five cases was reported in the North-West of England. Another 29-year-old woman from Liverpool and three men from Greater Manchester have also died following complications caused by the disease. Experts have been surprised at the fatality rate from swine flu and fear this winter’s outbreak could be worse than predicted. The Health Protection Agency confirmed there had been 12 flu deaths in the past six weeks - ten were H1N1 related and two were influenza B related. Health officials are investigating a serious flu outbreak at a secondary school in Wales.
More than 120 cases of sickness absence have been reported at the private school in Cardiff and test samples have confirmed the presence of swine flu. Swine flu is also known as H1N1 influenza. The virus has been included in this year's flu vaccine, which is free for high-risk groups. It is spread in the same way as ordinary cold and flu viruses, through droplets expelled during coughs and sneezes. You can reduce your chance of catching it by washing your hands regularly and regularly cleaning surfaces.

About 17% in US get sick from food each year - One in six Americans gets sick from food every year, and about 3000 die from those illnesses.