Friday, June 3, 2011

INDONESIA - Toxic gas at Dieng Volcano - Authorities have evacuated over 1, 200 residents from the slope of the volcano in Central Java as they raised the alert level. The status of Mount Dieng was raised to the second top alert on May 29 and an evacuation zone was delcared at one kilometer. "So far the seismic activity of the mount still fluctuates. ( But) the process of forming energy tends to rise and the formation of gas also tends to increase. So far, the danger from the mount is the gas released from the crater."
The evacuees have taken shelters at makeshift tents, school buildings and village office buildings. Mount Dieng is one of Indonesia's 129 active volcanoes.

**I collect stamps.
Basically I just stopped mailing stuff.**
Mitch Hedberg

This morning -

Yesterday -
6/2/11 -

6/1/11 -

5/31/11 -

5/30/11 -

No current tropical storms.

5 U.S. Cities That Could Be Due for a Hurricane. - San Diego, New York, Honolulu, Tampa Bay and Savannah haven’t had a hurricane in years. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be prepared.
The cities, in order of least to most overdue for a hurricane:
Tampa Bay, Florida -
Last Hurricane: Oct. 25, 1921: Category 2 hurricane that produced a storm surge of up to about 10 feet.
If it Happened Now: It could cause a storm surge of 15-20 feet and ocean penetration of 3 miles inland.
Savannah, Georgia -
Last Hurricane: Sea Islands Hurricane, 1893: Storm surge killed 1,000 – 2,000 people.
If it Happened Now: In a Category 4 or 5 one of the very few dry spots would be at Savannah International Airport.
New York, New York -
Last Hurricane: August 1893: Category 1 hurricane came onshore between Coney Island and where JFK Airport stands today, causing severe damage across the eastern part of the metro area.
If it Happened Now: If on a western track, it would cause more than 30 feet of storm surge. Hurricane-force winds would be even stronger on higher floors and would blow out many windows.
San Diego, California -
Last Hurricane: Oct. 2, 1858: Sustained hurricane-force winds resulted in extensive property damages.
If it Happened Now: Because of the cool ocean temperatures, it is rare for a hurricane to move fast enough, over waters just warm enough, for it to maintain its intensity until it reaches San Diego.
Honolulu, Hawaii -
Last Hurricane: No previous record exists.
If it Happened Now: Most homes are not built to withstand hurricane-force winds, many of them are perched on mountain slopes, and there are numerous high-rises that would lose windows especially on upper floors. Waves and storm surge would cause flooding and rainfall-induced flooding would send water rushing down the mountains from the opposite direction.


Extreme Weather May Be New Norm - Swings between the two climatic extremes El Niño and La Niña appear to have occurred more frequently in the past than previously thought and may increase in regularity in the future. Researchers say El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the sloshing of the warmest waters on the planet from the West Pacific towards the East Pacific every 2-7 years, continued during the Earth’s last great warm period, the Pliocene. It is these extreme ENSO events that cause droughts, forest fires, and flooding — like that in Pakistan last year and in Queensland, Australia this year, as well as changes in fishery production.
Researchers have used the Pliocene as a past analog and predictor of the workings of Earth’s future climate. The Pliocene (which lasted from 5 to 3 million years ago) had carbon dioxide levels similar to the present day, with global mean temperatures about 2-3ºC higher, so it is a useful test-ground for climate research. “We know from previous studies that the mean state of the Pacific during the warm Pliocene was similar to the climate patterns observed during a typical El Niño event that we see today. However, until recently it was believed that a warmer Pacific would reduce the climate swings that cause the dramatic weather extremes throughout the region, leading to a permanent state of El Niño. What we didn’t expect was that climatic variability would remain strong under these warmer conditions.”
“It is reassuring that ENSO kept on ticking during the warmer Pliocene as opposed to switching into some novel mode, which if it reoccurred in the future would have massive consequences for regional and global weather patterns and climate. Previously, many scientists had forewarned that a warmer world may experience a permanent El Niño state, a condition which could act to amplify warming.” A warmer future will continue to be affected, maybe even more regularly, by extreme climatic events.

U.S. -
At least two confirmed tornadoes descended upon towns in western Massachusetts on Wednesday, leaving at least four dead and smashing homes and buildings across a 40-mile stretch. One person was killed in Springfield, two in nearby Westfield and one in Brimfield, about 20 miles east. The storms struck shortly after 4 p.m. in Springfield, about 90 miles west of Boston. As many as 19 communities reported tornado damage Wednesday evening. The storm system moved east, with watches posted all the way to the Atlantic coast until late Wednesday.
"It's been particularly devastating in downtown Springfield." Springfield, Monson, Westfield and seven other towns -- Agawam, Charlton, Oxford, Palmer, Sturbridge, West Springfield and Wilbraham -- reported severe damage. The Massachusetts State Police said it had activated dog teams to look for people in damaged buildings and described many streets in Springfield as "impassable" due to fallen power lines and trees.
The damage came amid a wave of heavy thunderstorms that moved through the Northeast on Wednesday afternoon. Tornado watches were also issued for northern Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Maine until 11 p.m. Wednesday.
Though not as tornado-prone as much of the Midwest or South, Massachusetts has averaged two to three twisters per year since 1950. In 1953, a massive tornado that struck Worcester and nearby towns killed 90 people. The last tornado to hit the state was in 2008.

Tornado Warning Issued In Central And Northern California Wednesday - For the second week in a row, a strong storm system brought tornado warnings to parts of Northern California that RARELY experience such extreme weather. The National Weather Service in Sacramento issued tornado warnings for several areas of central and northern California starting at around 5:30 p.m. There was word of a tornado touchdown about 5 miles north of Yuba City, but no reports of any damage. Weather spotters reported the tornado about 5 miles north of Yuba City around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.
At 7 p.m. National Weather Service Doppler radar continued to indicate areas of strong thunderstorms from Butte County to Placer County. Heavy hail up to the size of pennies reportedly fell with these storms along with accumulating hail on roadways. Heavy rain, gusty winds and cloud-to-ground lightning also impacted the areas.. The same area of Butte County was affected by several RARE tornadoes last week that touched down, causing extensive damage to hundreds of acres of almond orchards and inflicting additional damage to structures.

Changes In Weather Patterns Create More Severe Storms - A Kansas State University climate expert attributes the increase in the number and severity of tornadoes and severe storms in 2011 to a change in weather patterns. He credits the increased tornado production this year to jet stream patterns in the upper atmosphere. The patterns have created synoptic events such as the April tornado outbreak in Alabama and recent tornado in Joplin, Mo. While these events are not unprecedented, they are significant. "To put them in all in one year, that's what has people talking about this stuff. The fact that this is happening all in one year and in a relatively short time frame is UNUSUAL."
Special circumstances are necessary for the creation of tornadoes in the Great Plains: A humid atmosphere with moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and the right jet stream pattern coupled with surface convergence help to spawn a thunderstorm. Uplift from the jet stream helps to create the towering clouds associated with severe thunderstorms. Add a wind pattern set up with air filtering into the storm from the south at low levels, from the southwest at mid-levels and the northwest at higher levels, rotation of the thunderstorm cloud begins and its possible for a tornado to form. "Unfortunately in terms of death and destruction, we've had too many of those events this year."
The National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center does not predict tornadoes, rather it attempts to predict jet stream patterns a month or so in the future. In the wintertime the jet stream tends to flow above the southern United States. It migrates northward by the summertime. The area receiving the most tornadoes tends to shift with jet stream location as well. Oklahoma usually has a higher frequency of tornadoes in April, while Kansas experiences most of its tornadoes in May. Synoptic patterns are different in autumn as the jet stream migrates back south, with much drier air across much of the U.S. While this does not preclude fall tornadoes from occurring, they are rare events. Connecting the surface conditions with the jet stream flow pattern helps a weather forecaster understand the likelihood for severe storms. "That's pretty important in terms of understanding the kind of environment that will produce the necessary thunderstorms that rotate."
Extreme examples of weather have not been isolated to tornadoes. Heat waves, blizzards and severe storms have been increasingly more frequent or more severe according to U.S. data. These changes can be attributed to changes in the climate system. "We have these good historical precedents for specific synoptic events, but they're starting to come more frequently together. That's what is very interesting, is that this weather system seems to be getting more variable."


Some areas in the tropics face famine because of failing food production, an international research group says. The Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) predicts large parts of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa will be worst affected. Hundreds of millions of people in these regions are already experiencing a food crisis. "We are starting to see much more clearly where the effects of climate change on agriculture could intensify hunger and poverty."
Agriculturalists have been slow to use global climate models to pinpoint regions most affected by rising temperatures. To assess how climate change will affect the world's ability to feed itself, CCAFS set about finding hotspots of climate change and food insecurity. Researchers identified regions where populations are chronically malnourished and highly dependent on local food supplies. Basing their analysis on the climate data amassed by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the team predicted which of these food-insecure regions are likely to experience the greatest shifts in temperature and precipitation over the next 40 years. By overlaying the maps, the team was able to pinpoint which hungry regions of the tropics would suffer most.
With many areas in Africa predicted to become drier, countries such as South Africa which predominately farm maize have the option to shift to more drought resistant crops. But for countries such as Niger, in western Africa, which already supports itself on very drought resistant crop varieties, like sorghum and millet, there is little room for manoeuvre. "West Africa really stands out as problematic. Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali. They are already dependent on sorghum and millet. In many places in Africa you are really going to need [a] revolution in farming systems. We need everything we can lay our hands on." Governments are aiming to limit the average increase in temperature to 2C by the end of the century. But if temperatures continue to follow their current trajectories "we are on for a 3-4C increase". If this is correct "things get very alarming". (map)


Spain seeks compensation for E. coli blame - Anger is growing in Spain over being blamed as the source of the E. coli outbreak that has killed 18 people and left hundreds more seriously ill. The outbreak - centred on Germany - is a NEW FORM of the E. coli bacterium. Seven people in the UK have the infection. They are all thought to have contracted it in Germany. Three people in the US, who have travelled recently to Germany, are suspected of having haemolytic-uraemic syndrome (HUS), which affects the kidneys and can be fatal.
Spanish fruit and vegetable exporters estimate they are losing 200m euros ($290m; £177m) a week in sales every week after Germany said earlier in the outbreak that it probably originated with Spanish cucumbers. No evidence of this has been found and researchers are scrambling to find the source. Tens of thousands of kilos of fresh fruit and vegetables grown in Spain are being destroyed. Sales to supermarkets across Europe have ground to a halt, not just cucumbers, but everything. Seeking to halt the spread of the outbreak to the east, Russia has banned imports of fresh vegetables from the European Union.
A leading microbiologist has warned the E. coli outbreak may worsen. Scientists described the outbreak as due to a new form of the E. coli bacterium that was "HIGHLY INFECTIOUS AND TOXIC". It is likely to be a new variant of the RARE strain O104 - possibly with a newly acquired ability to infect large numbers of people. "While there is a lot more that we need to learn about this bacterium, the evidence that is already available tells us that the German authorities have been dealing with something new." The World Health Organization said the variant had "NEVER BEEN SEEN IN AN OUTBREAK SITUATION BEFORE." The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the strain was PROBABLY THE MOST DEADLY YET. The head of the Robert Koch Institute, which monitors the infection in Germany, said the outbreak could last for months and that "we may never know" the original source.
HUS cases and deaths, by country -
Germany: 470 cases, 17 deaths
Sweden: 15 cases, one death
Denmark: Seven cases
The Netherlands: Three cases
UK: Three cases
Spain: One case
Scientists on Thursday blamed Europe's WORST RECORDED FOOD-POISONING OUTBREAK on a "super-toxic" strain of E. coli bacteria that may be brand new. But while suspicion has fallen on raw tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce as the source of the germ, researchers have been unable to pinpoint the food responsible for the frightening illness, which has killed at least 18 people, sickened more than 1,600 and spread to least 10 European countries. An alarmingly large number of victims — about 500 — have developed kidney complications that can be deadly.
Chinese and German scientists analyzed the DNA of the E. coli bacteria and determined that the outbreak was caused by "an entirely new, super-toxic" strain that contains several antibiotic-resistant genes. The strain appears to be a combination of two types of E. coli. "This is a unique strain that has never been isolated from patients before." The new strain has "various characteristics that make it more virulent and toxin-producing" than the many E. coli strains people naturally carry in their intestines.
Some questioned whether the strain is truly new, saying it had previously caused a single case in Korea in the 1990s. Genetic fingerprints may vary from specimen to specimen, but that is not necessarily enough to constitute a new strain. "Though it appears to have been around awhile, it hasn't called attention to itself as a major public health problem before."
Some scientists suspect the deadly E. coli might have been in manure used to fertilize vegetables. It is not uncommon for bacteria to evolve and swap genes. It is difficult to explain where the new strain came from, but bacteria from humans and animals easily trade genes. Previous E. coli outbreaks have mainly hit children and the elderly, but this one is disproportionately affecting adults, especially women. There might be something particular about the bacteria strain that makes it more dangerous for adults. Other experts said women tend to eat more produce. If antibiotics are being used to treat E coli patients in Europe, this might help explain the high risk of HUS in the outbreak.
The WHO recommends that to avoid food-borne illnesses, people wash their hands, keep raw meat separate from other foods, thoroughly cook their food, and wash fruits and vegetables, especially if eaten raw. Experts also recommend peeling raw fruits and vegetables if possible. The fact that the strain may be new may have complicated the response to the outbreak. "Officials may not have had the correct tests to detect it, which may explain the initial delay in reporting." The incubation period for this type of E. coli is about three to eight days. "Salads have a relatively short shelf life and it's likely the contaminated food would have been consumed in one to two weeks." But the outbreak could continue if there is secondary transmission of the disease, which often happens when children are infected. E. coli can be spread by sloppy bathroom habits, such as failure to wash one's hands. The outbreak is already considered the third-largest involving E. coli in recent world history, and it may be the deadliest. Twelve people died in a 1996 Japanese outbreak that reportedly sickened more than 9,000, and seven died in a Canadian outbreak in 2000.

New 'superbug' found in Danish and UK milk - An ENTIRELY NEW STRAIN of the drug-resistant MRSA superbug has been found in cow's milk and people in Britain and Denmark. The previously unseen variant "potentially poses a public health problem." There was no general threat to the safety of pasteurised milk and dairy products, but people working with animals could be at risk,.
Dubbed a "flesh-eating" bacteria in media reports, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has emerged as a major threat in hospitals around the world, becoming potentially deadly when it infects wounds.
"Although there is circumstantial evidence that dairy cows are providing a reservoir of infection, it is still not known for certain if cows are infecting people, or people are infecting cows. This is one of the many things we will be looking into next. Drinking milk or eating meat is not a health issue, as long as the milk is pasteurised." The process of making cheese also "generally kills most of the bacteria".
The main worry is that the new strain will be wrongly identified by traditional genetic screening tests as being drug-susceptible, meaning people could therefore be given the wrong antibiotics. It is "certainly worrying" to find the new strain in both cows and humans but the pasteurisation of milk will keep it out of the food chain.
The team stumbled on the new MRSA bug while investigating mastitis, a serious disease which affects dairy cows. They found MRSA bacteria with the same mutated gene in 13 of 940 samples from 450 dairy herds in south-west England. Tests on people treated for MRSA revealed the same new strain in 12 instances in Scotland, 15 from England and 24 from Denmark. The scientists also spotted a "clustering" of human and cow samples containing exactly the same new strain, suggesting transmission between cattle and humans.
Separately another study showed another new form of MRSA in hospitals in Ireland that is closely related to the previously unseen one found in Britain. Like the British one, it is not detected by current genetic tests and is also found in cows. "The results of our study and the independent United Kingdom study indicate that new types of MRSA that can colonise and infect humans are currently emerging from animal reservoirs in Ireland and Europe and it is difficult to correctly identify them as MRSA. This knowledge will enable us to rapidly adapt existing genetic MRSA detection tests, but has also provided invaluable insights into the evolution and origins of MRSA."
The announcement of the new types of MRSA came a day after the World Health Organisation said a lethal E.coli bacteria that has killed 18 people in Europe is "extremely rare" and had never been seen in an outbreak form before.