Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Scientists and explorers will shortly set off on an expedition aiming to discover how Arctic sea ice melts. This year's Catlin Arctic Survey will focus on the thin layer of water immediately under the floating ice. Arctic ice is melting faster in summer than many computer models predict. Survey data could improve forecasts of the region's future, and also show how likely it is that the flow of warm water in the North Atlantic, known as the Gulf Stream, will switch off. This would bring colder weather to the UK and other parts of western Europe.
"The Arctic is one of best barometers of climate change, where we see big changes taking place today. This is not just about polar bears - it's about our lives in the UK and in North America." In early March, four explorers will set off on foot from the geographic North Pole, trekking across the ice and ending up 10 weeks later in Greenland. They will make regular stops to drill holes through the floating ice and lower a package of instruments into the water on the end of a piece of rope - instruments that measure the water's temperature, salinity and flow.
This data will allow scientists to calculate the rate at which the water is sinking. "The hypothesis has been that the layer stays there, trapped, acting to insulate the cold ice from the warm salty water below. On the other hand, the water might be taken away more quickly - and that might accelerate the rate of Arctic melting."
The findings could prove to be crucial in terms of projecting the future for Arctic sea ice. Both the area and volume of summer sea ice are steadily shrinking; and the last four summers have seen ice extent fall to sizes that a few years ago were being projected for the latter half of this century. If mixing in the crucial top ocean layer is happening more, that could help explain the trend and refine models. "Overall, if these changes... contribute to a lowering of the salt content of the North Atlantic, it could have a major impact on the entire planet - from significant temperature drops in Europe to intensified monsoons in Asia. It may also impact weather patterns throughout North America, including a dramatic increase in the frequency and intensity of severe storms, including hurricanes and tornadoes across the eastern US." Recent work suggests it would be a quick change - if it happens. Results from the season's work are expected to be ready for publication in science journals in the first half of next year. The £1m project is sponsored by the Catlin insurance group. (maps)

**Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence
but also internal violence of spirit.
You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.**
Martin Luther King, Jr.

This morning -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday -
1/25/11 -


CALIFORNIA - A quick-thinking Australian watching a surf event in California has rescued an unconscious surfer after a "FREAK SET" OF GIANT WAVES struck, smashing boards and leaving several contestants in peril. The drama occurred at the notorious Mavericks, a famous break about 30 kilometres south of San Francisco that has claimed a number of lives over the years. Hospital officials say the surfer who nearly drowned after being pummelled and washed through rocks by one of the big waves is expected to recover. He was rescued by an Australian firefighter who was on a jet ski taking photographs on Saturday when the large group of waves known as a "freak set" caught surfers who were too close to shore.
The event featured average-sized waves by Mavericks standards, maybe 4.5- to 5.5-metre surf. The waves can get nine metres or higher at certain times of year. All of a sudden a rogue set of waves estimated at about 7.6 metres high appeared on the horizon. "You could see that first wave coming, all of the surfers started paddling toward it." A group of about five surfers did not make it over the encroaching wave before it broke. "I saw all the broken boards and people waving for help." If that wave alone were the only one, the surfers would have been able to get rescued quickly but 20 seconds later another large wave crashed on the surfers who had been hit by the first. After the whitewater calmed a bit, the firefighter said he drove his watercraft to a rocky area near where the waves break, and saw a body floating past the rocks."We dragged him up onto the beach and found a strong pulse. I was pretty surprised."

Cyclone ANTHONY was 773 nmi E of Townsville, Australia.
Cyclone BIANCA was 109 nmi NE of Port Hedland, Australia.
Cyclone WILMA was 874 nmi NNE of Auckland, New Zealand.

Ex-tropical cyclone Anthony has started to move back towards the Queensland coast. The low is currently sitting about 1,000 off the coast near the Town of 1770, north of Bundaberg in south-east Queensland. The Bureau of Meteorology says it could reform into a cyclone tomorrow or Friday. But it is expected to be a weak category one or two.

Residents on West Australia's Pilbara coast have been urged to get ready to take shelter as tropical cyclone Bianca closes in. The Bureau of Meteorology said the category two cyclone is currently lingering about 285 kilometres south-west of Broome, moving in that direction at about 24 kilometres per hour. The bureau warns Bianca is expected to intensify later on Wednesday and into Thursday as it moves parallel to the Pilbara coast. "Destructive winds with gusts up to 160 kilometres per hour are possible between Port Hedland and Karratha later today and moving further west overnight." People in Port Hedland and Karratha are being warned about the potential for a dangerous storm tide. "Tides may rise significantly above the normal high tide mark with damaging waves and dangerous flooding."

Cyclone Wilma's eye catches attention of NASA satellites. Tropical cyclone Wilma was seen by the TRMM satellite shortly after attaining hurricane intensity on Jan. 24. NASA's Aqua satellite captured visible and infrared images of Cyclone Wilma in the Southwestern Pacific Ocean and her eye was clearly visible from space. AIRS Infrared imagery showed strong, very cold thunderstorm cloud tops around Wilma's center of circulation. The cloud tops were as cold as or colder than -63 Fahrenheit (-52 Celsius) indicating strong convection (rapidly rising air that creates the thunderstorms that power a tropical cyclone). AIRS instrument data also showed what appears to be a large "tail" from Wilma's center, stretching several hundred miles (kilometers) to the northeast of the storm's center. The system had mostly moderate rainfall, falling at rates between .78 to 1.57 inches (20 and 40 mm) per hour.
On January 25 at 0900 UTC (4 a.m. EST), Tropical Cyclone Wilma had maximum sustained winds near 85 knots (97 mph/157 km/hr). It was located about 360 nautical miles southeast of Nadi, moving southwestward near 24 knots (27 mph/ 44 km/hr). A Tropical Cyclone Warning is in force for areas of Tonga and for areas of Fiji. On its projected path, Tropical Cyclone Wilma is expected to pass about 124 miles (200 km) south-southeast of Ono-i-lau by midnight local time tonight.
Wilma is forecast to continue moving southwest parallel to Fiji and New Caledonia as it makes its way toward New Zealand. On January 28 it is forecast to change course and head southeast bringing rains and gusty winds to northern New Zealand.


U.S. - About 6 inches (15 centimeters) of snow may fall on Manhattan, with a little less in Washington and Baltimore and as much as 10 inches across southern Massachusetts and into Boston’s suburbs. “In New York it should be getting underway by the evening commute."
Winter storm watches and more severe warnings stretch from the coast of Maine to Alabama as the system is expected to bring as much as 4 inches across parts of the U.S. South. The storm also caused the weather service to issue severe thunderstorm warnings and tornado watches across Florida into last night. A weather service accumulation map shows slightly more than 10 inches across Rhode Island, including Providence, and into Boston’s southern suburbs. Boston is shown receiving 9.9 inches. There have been eight major snow events in the U.S. so far in the winter of 2010-2011.
On Jan. 12, every state except Florida had snow cover. Hawaii’s highest mountains were covered with snow. The last four winters have seen above average snow cover in North America. Part of the reason for the increased severity in winter is due to the a difference in pressure at the highest latitudes called the Arctic Oscillation. When there is high pressure over the pole and low pressure at mid-latitudes, known as a negative phase of the oscillation, resulting in warmer air rushing north and colder air moving south. In the last two years, that pressure differential has meant temperatures 9 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal have been recorded at the North Pole and across Canada, while temperatures across the U.S. as whole have been 9 degrees below normal. Theories on the reason include below-normal levels of sea ice at the Pole, increased snow cover across Siberia and Arctic sea surface temperatures.


MALAYSIA has released about 6000 genetically modified mosquitoes into a forest in the first experiment of its kind in Asia aimed at curbing dengue fever. The field test is meant to pave the way for the official use of genetically engineered Aedes aegypti male mosquitoes to mate with females and produce offspring with shorter lives, thus curtailing the population. Only female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes spread dengue fever, which killed 134 people in Malaysia last year. They released the non-biting sterile male lab mosquitoes in an uninhabited forest area in eastern Malaysia on December 21. The institute gave no indication of how the experiment has fared so far.