Monday, January 3, 2011

More than 1,000 blackbirds fall out of Arkansas sky - Officials are investigating why more than 1,000 birds - most of them dead - fell out of the sky in the US state of Arkansas on New Year's Eve. The Arkansas Fish and Game Commission said it began receiving reports of the falling birds at about 2330. By midnight, more than 1,000 red-winged blackbirds had fallen in one area of the city of Beebe. The birds could have been hit by lightning or high-altitude hail. About 65 dead birds have been sent off for scientific analysis to determine the cause of death. It does not appear as though the birds were poisoned. "Since it only involved a flock of blackbirds and only involved them falling out of the sky, it is unlikely they were poisoned, but a necropsy is the only way to determine if the birds died from trauma or toxin. "
Severe weather over Arkansas could be the cause of the mystery deaths. Tornadoes swept through Arkansas and neighbouring states on 31 December, killing seven people. However, the AFGC did not say whether the blackbird deaths could also be attributed to the storms. City authorities have hired a specialist waste-disposal firm to collect the dead birds from gardens and rooftops, and dispose of them. (photos)
An estimated 100,000 fish have died in the northwest of Arkansas, the same state where up to 5000 dead birds recently fell from the sky. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission said it suspected disease was to blame for the death of the drum fish, which floated in the water and lined the banks of a 30 kilometre stretch of the Arkansas River near Ozark, about 200km northwest of Little Rock. Ozark is about 200km west of the town of Beebe, where game wardens were trying to find out why up to 5000 blackbirds fell from the sky just before midnight on New Year's Eve. The game and fish commission said fish kills occurred every year, but the size of the latest one was UNUSUAL, and suggested some sort of disease was to blame. "The fish kill only affected one species of fish. If it was from a pollutant, it would have affected all of the fish, not just drum fish." A tugboat operator discovered the dead fish on Friday night, and fisheries officials collected some of the dying animals to conduct tests.
Meanwhile, the game and fish commission said the blackbirds found in Beebe showed physical trauma, and speculated that "the flock could have been hit by lightning or high-altitude hail". The AP said more than 1000 birds fell from the sky, but CNN put the number at up to 5000. The commission said that New Year's Eve revellers shooting off fireworks in the area could have startled the birds from their roost and caused them to die from stress. The birds fell over a two-kilometre area, and an aerial survey indicated that no other dead birds were found outside of that area.

**Give a man a fish and he eats for a day.
Teach him how to fish and you get rid of him for the whole weekend.**
Zena Schaffer

This morning -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday -
1/2/11 -

A strong earthquake has shaken central Chile, disrupting power and communications but causing no casualties or serious damage. The quake had a magnitude of 7.1 and its epicentre was 70km (45 miles) northwest of Temuco with a depth of 25km. Hundreds of people in coastal areas fled to higher ground for fear of a tsunami, but no alert was issued. "Up until now we don't have any reports of injuries, there's no damage, just overloaded telephone lines and some partial power cuts." An 8.8-magnitude quake in the same area last February caused huge destruction. Chile is still rebuilding after February's massive quake, which smashed infrastructure and triggered a tsunami that devastated several coastal towns, killing more than 400 people. (map)


RUSSIA -Thin layer of ash from the active Kizimen volcano on Sunday covered the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky where 60 percent of the Kamchatka Peninsula residents live. "A taint of grey ash typical of Kizimen can be seen on the snow, on the cars and on all of the surfaces in the city." The layer is tiny - about 0.5 millimeters and the current situation does not pose a threat to the health of the local residents. However, the ash could affect the operations of aircraft. The Kizimen volcano is located 265 kilometers away from Petropavlovsk Kamchatsky. Kizimen's previous eruption occurred at the end of 1920's, but it started to exhibit activity last June and a new eruption began a month ago.

Indonesia reduces Merapi volcano alert level - Indonesia has downgraded the alert level for volcano Mount Merapi, more than a month after it began erupting, killing more than 350 people. Most of the 250,000 people who had been living in evacuation shelters can return home. An area on the volcano's southern slope remained off limits. The volcano is still spewing smoke but the threat of a deadly eruption is thought to have passed for now. "The volcano's threat is now limited to only some parts on the southern slope." Merapi, on Java island, began erupting on 26 October. Most of the 353 people who died were caught in the biggest eruption on 5 November when Merapi shot out jets of boiling gas and rock. A wide area around the volcano was covered in a thick layer of ash and many homes were destroyed.

No current tropical cyclones.

Authorities maintained a warning in Western Australia state for a potential tropical cyclone as the low pressure system moves away from coastal regions. The tropical low, which may develop into a cyclone today, “is not expected to affect the mainland” at it moves west at 26 kilometers an hour (16 miles per hour). While strong winds are forecast for coastal waters, the bureau said gales are no longer predicted.


AUSTRALIA - Dozens of moviegoers have been injured after the roof of a cinema complex in central western New South Wales collapsed. Heavy rains caused the false ceiling at The Metro Cinema at Bathurst to collapse at 12.45pm (AEDT) today. Thirty-six people were initially trapped when the roof collapsed, with emergency services using thermal imaging cameras to find them in the rubble. A worker in a neighbouring shop said he couldn't hear the ceiling collapse because it was raining so heavily at the time. “You could barely hear anything due to the large amount of rain coming down." There was enough rain in 10 to 20 minutes to collapse the roof. Paramedics were treating those at the scene as they emerged, but said they had only minor injuries.
Floodwaters in the Australian city of Rockhampton are rising faster than expected, Queensland authorities say. The city has already been badly hit, with many people being forced to flee. More than 20 towns have already been cut off or flooded across an area larger than France and Germany, with more than 200,000 people affected. Earlier, a woman swept from the road in her car has become the first victim of the widespread flooding, and at least two others are reported missing. While waters are receding in some areas, in Rockhampton - a city of 77,000 - they have yet to reach their peak. Floodwaters are expected to reach nine metres (30 feet) on Monday and peak at 9.4 metres on Wednesday, threatening as many as 4,000 homes. There are fears that damage from the floods could cost billions of Australian dollars to repair. Rockhampton's airport, a major regional hub, was closed to commercial traffic due to flooded runways, while many main roads and railways into the town had been cut off, and power supplies were disrupted. The city could be isolated for up to 10 days. "These waters are exceptionally fast, they're not to be trifled with and they're not to be taken lightly."
Meanwhile, the weather bureau has warned Queensland residents of another severe storm, which is forecast to bring "damaging winds, very heavy rainfall, flash flooding and large hailstones". One Rockhampton resident said there had been panic-buying in the city. About 40% of the city could be affected, and the floods swept snakes downstream. "Snakes have been swimming at people's feet as they make their way through the waters. I know one guy who killed four snakes this morning, one of which was a Taipan - the more it bites, the more it injects venom that could easily kill." Officials have warned that the mining, farming and tourism industries will all suffer.
Recovery efforts are beginning in some areas where flooding has subsided, including the severely affected towns of Emerald and Bundaberg. Residents are preparing to return home, though the towns of Theodore and Condamine, which were completely evacuated, remain empty. In some areas, helicopters have been used to deliver supplies and food to cut-off householders. (photos & map)

2010 WRAP-UP -

CALIFORNIA - Highlights of San Diego's odd 2010 weather. -
JANUARY: "Probably influenced by El Nino, a strong polar jet developed over the Pacific and brought several storm systems to the coast with periods of strong wind, heavy rain, and mountain snow from the 18th to the 22nd. The barometric pressure reached an ALL-TIME RECORD LOW of 29.21 inches on the 20th at Lindbergh Field. Strong southerly winds allowed deep moisture to invade the deserts. Rainfall ranged from 2 to 8 inches in the deserts, 4 to 8 inches west of the mountains, and 6 to 12 inches on the coastal slopes. Snowfall of 40 to 60 inches was reported at the higher resorts with up to seven feet at the highest ski resorts ... On the 19th, a tornado hit Costa Mesa and Newport Beach, and another hit Laguna Beach, both causing local property damage. Winds were measured above 90 mph in Newport Harbor that day."
MARCH: "An extensive low pressure trough stretching along the West Coast of North American guided several weak-to-moderate storm systems through the region during the first 10 days of the month. This was replaced by a high pressure ridge around mid-month which brought an extended period of dry and warmer-than-normal weather until the final days of the month when a cold trough pushed in from the northwest. Despite the moist start, March came up decidedly dry, continuing the trend of dry Marches in recent years."
APRIL: "A broad area of low pressure in the upper atmosphere dominated the weather through much of April, bringing above average precipitation (rainfall and snowfall) and below average temperatures to Southern California."
MAY: "The cool spring conditions continued with average monthly temperatures generally between 2 and 4 degrees below normal. On the 23rd, a very cold, late season storm slid through Southern California accompanied by thunderstorms, RECORD COLDd, and moderate rain and snow showers. Up to 5 inches of snow piled up at higher elevations. After this storm, the rainfall season came to an abrupt end."
JUNE: During the second week, a large trough developed bringing cooling, and a deeper marine layer with periods of drizzle west of the mountains. The cool spring conditions continued with average monthly temperatures generally between 2 and 4 degrees below normal."
JULY: "A broad and persistent upper-level trough dominated the weather during the month, keeping temperatures well below the seasonal average. West of the mountains a deep marine layer dripped some light rain and drizzle from time to time. The trough retrograded west as high pressure built over the interior of the U.S. during the second week, bringing fleeting warm weather and our first surges of monsoonal moisture. Low pressure quickly redeveloped just off the coast again and persisted through the end of the month, allow a deep moist marine layer to keep it cool, and even produce some drizzle and measurable light rain. "Numerous LOW MAXIMUM DAILY RECORDS WERE SET throughout the month. The all-time record low maximum for San Diego for July was tied on the 8th with 64 degrees."
AUGUST: "For month of the mont, temperatures were 4-5 degrees below normal along the San Diego County coast due to a strong cool sea breeze. The seasonally strong subtropical high did make a move north and west during the third week, setting an easterly monsoonal flow of moist and unstable air ... The moist and unstable monsoonal flow was quickly snuffed out by a strong low pressure trough during the final week. August continued trend observed much of the summer.".
SEPTEMBER: "High pressure aloft and offshore flow developed bringing the hottest weather of the year west of the mountains the day after summer ended. Many RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURES were reached on the 26th and 27th. Some of the highest all-time temperatures were reached on the 27th, like the 113 degrees at downtown Los Angeles. All significant rain for the month fell with a storm on the 30th.
OCTOBER: It was a wet month. In fact, it was the 4th wettest on record in San Diego. In the beginning of the month, a low pressure trough pumped moist and unstable air into Southern California and produced several rounds of showers and thunderstorms. Most of the storms were concentrated in the mountains and deserts and were fast-moving. Some of these storms were considered by long-time residents in the high desert as THE MOST INTENSE EVER EXPERIENCED. Local flooding resulted. By mid-month, a second vigorous storm system came through the region. Some rain fell west of the mountains almost every day from the 15th through the 25th before the atmosphere finally dried out with a brief episode of Santa Ana winds."
NOVEMBER: "During the first week, high pressure aloft caused RECORD-BREAKING HEAT, and in San Diego it produced the HOTTEST NOVEMBER DAY IN HISTORY on the 4th with a reading of 100 degrees. It was actually hotter at the coast than it was inland.
DECEMBER: "The first half of the month was dry with weak high pressure dominating our weather. Then a strong subtropical jet stream from the central Pacific sent a long fetch of moisture into California for a week. From the 17th to the 23rd more than 28 inches of rain fell in Lytle Creek and Crestline, 6'' to 12'' in Orange County and most valleys, over 8'' in parts of the high desert, almost 5'' in San Diego. Numerous RAINFALL RECORDS WERE BROKEN. It was the wettest week since January 2005. A final quick storm hit on the 29th, which brought DECEMBER RAINFALL TOTALS AMONG THE GREATEST ON RECORD for many locations."