Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Earth sees about 760 thunderstorms every hour, scientists have calculated. The figure is substantially LOWER than numbers that have been used for nearly a century. The new research uses a global network of monitoring stations that detect the electromagnetic pulses produced by major bolts of lightning. It confirms that thunderstorms are mainly a tropical phenomenon - and the Congo basin is the global hotspot. Thunderstorms also track the passage of sunlight across the world, with sunny conditions producing greater convection in the air.
Earlier research calculated there were around 1,800 per hour on average across the world. But research suffered from incomplete data and mistaken assumptions - including that storms were equally distributed over land and sea, whereas the vast majority occur over land. The new research uses a completely different technique, with more than 40 stations around the world geared up to detect electromagnetic pulses produced by strong lightning bolts. Analysing this data for September 2010 produced the average hourly figure of 760. Each continent shows peaks during its daytime - and globally, the peak time is around noon GMT. Thunderstorms cluster in the centre of continents in the tropics, with the Congo basin standing out. "That's perhaps because it's drier there than in the Amazon, for example - thunderstorms seem to form more easily in drier conditions." The network is looking to add new observation points to improve results, and recently initiated a programme to detect explosive volcanic eruptions via the lighning flashes that occur in the ascending plumes of hot ash.

**The more you let yourself go, the less others let you go.**
Friedrich Nietzsche

This morning -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday -
4/6/11 -


Oregon volcano to be monitored - The US Geological Survey says it wants to monitor a volcano in Eastern Oregon to record any future rumblings of activity as soon as possible. The Newberry volcano, about 20 miles southeast of Bend, will get eight seismic and GPS monitoring stations under a USGS proposal. "We're doing this on Newberry because it's a potentially active volcano. And as far as volcanoes go, it's one that, were it to reactivate, we'd be pretty concerned about because there are substantial numbers of people and infrastructure nearby."
The seismometers can detect earthquakes caused when magma moves below the surface, and the GPS will signal changes in the shape of the surface that could be caused by the shifting magma below. There is currently one seismic detector on the volcano, but to detect the exact location of cracking or fracturing rock signaling a possible eruption requires at least four. Nine stations is something of a minimal number for a volcano the size of Newberry and can measure its normal behavior on a day-to-day basis. With the last eruption just 1,300 years ago - relatively recently, geologically speaking - volcanologists say the more measurements, the better. "It's just a big honking volcano and it deserves more than we have on it right now."

No current tropical storms.


Australian rats scurry to desert en masse after rains. A mass migration of rats is under way into the inland deserts of Australia after a run of high rainfall seasons, scientists say. The native long-haired rat, or rattus villosissimus, normally lives in the Barkly Tableland of the Northern Territory and in western Queensland. But now it has been spotted in Alice Springs for the FIRST TIME IN 25 YEARS.
"Some of them get up to about 30cm [12in] long - fair lump of a rat. They will run around and hide under a little bit of shrub there, and you can get pretty close to them."
An acting scientist with Northern Territory Biodiversity Conservation said the phenomenon was a "HUGE EVENT" which he attributed to a run of consecutive good, high rainfall seasons. "It is UNUSUAL in the rodent world but rattus villosissimus are unique in that way and they are pretty famous for their eruptions. Probably the only similar expansion by a rodent is seen in the lemmings in the northern hemisphere with their eruptions. There is nothing else in Australia which erupts over such a large area."
Alice Springs generally has no rats because of its arid climate. The long-haired rodent was first sighted around the middle of last year on the edge of the Simpson Desert, south-east of the town. Its ability to produce 12 babies every three weeks gives it the highest reproductive potential of any rodent in Australia. They were unlikely to stay put in the country's "Red Centre". "It's not really ideal for them. The chances are they are just moving through and they won't set up camp or be too much of a nuisance."


A DEADLY superbug has been found in about a quarter of water samples taken from drinking supplies and puddles on the streets of New Delhi, according to a new study. Experts say it's the latest proof that the new drug-resistant bacteria, known as NDM-1, named for New Delhi, is widely circulating in the environment - and COULD POTENTIALLY SPREAD TO THE REST OF THE WORLD. The superbug can only be treated with a couple of highly toxic and expensive antibiotics. Since it was first identified in 2008, it has popped up in several countries, including the United States, Australia, Britain, Canada and Sweden. Most of those infections were in people who had recently travelled to, or had medical procedures in India, Pakistan or Bangladesh. "This is not a problem that is looming in the future .. there are people dying today from infections that can't be treated." As a comparison, the scientists also took 70 water samples from a water treatment centre in Cardiff, Britain with no superbug genes found.
The superbug is being spread through New Delhi's water supply, but experts did not know how many people were being sickened by it. Since the superbug was found in the UK last year, British officials say there have been about 70 cases, including a small hospital cluster. "We have a vested interest in sorting out sanitation problems in India." The West should invest more money in clean water projects in Asia. "Otherwise (superbugs) could filter out from Asia and will spread through the world."
Other experts weren't sure how prevalent the NDM-1 superbug would become, but were preparing for the worst. "It's like asking in the 1980s if a few HIV cases should be a big worry. The fact that (NDM-1) has emerged is worrisome, but forecasting what it will do is very difficult." Resistant strains sometimes mysteriously disappear. "The potential for wider international spread .. is real and should not be ignored."

Salmonella finding prompts spinach recall - Fresh Express, a produce company based in Salinas, Calif., said that it was recalling 2,939 cases of spinach after a random sample tested positive for Salmonella. The company said it wasn't aware of any illnesses. The subject of the recall is 9-ounce bags of fresh spinach that have product codes starting with H081 and H082, a UPC code of 7127913204, and use-by dates of Apr 6 and 7. The spinach was distributed in eight states: Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Maine. In addition, it may have been redistributed in the District of Columbia, New Jersey, Virginia, Delaware, Vermont, New Hampshire, and West Virginia.

[same link as above] Australian states hit hard with early flu season - The southern Australian states of Victoria and South Australia are seeing an early influenza season that is producing four to five times the number of flu cases reported at this time last year. Victoria's health department has confirmed 353 flu cases this year, compared with 67 at the same time last year. A flu specialist attributes the phenomenon to increased rainfall, which may be keeping people indoors, as well as a mild flu season last year. In South Australia, lab-confirmed flu cases have reached 172, compared with 40 at this time last year. "What this means is that the upsurge that happens annually is coming earlier this year."