Monday, March 19, 2012

Britain has added volcanoes and solar storms to floods, flu and terrorism on a list of threats to national security. The highest-priority risks to Britain are pandemic influenza, coastal flooding, terrorist attacks and — a new addition — volcanic eruptions in Iceland, according to the recently published 2012 edition of the government’s National Risk Register for Civil Emergencies.
“Severe space weather” poses a threat to communications systems, electronic circuits and power grids, the list said. Solar storms — eruptions of magnetic energy and charged particles — are part of the sun’s normal 11-year cycle, which is expected to reach a peak next year. The storms can’t hurt people, but can disturb electric grids, GPS systems and satellites. In 1989, a strong solar storm knocked out the power grid in Quebec, cutting electricity to 6 million people. Last week, the strongest solar storm since 2004 passed without major disruptions. Last month, Parliament’s defense committee called on the government to prepare for disruptions to electrical supplies and satellites from electromagnetic pulses — whether caused by the sun or by a nuclear weapon exploded in space. Space war is not included on the British government’s risk register. “We are becoming more and more reliant on technology, and that technology is becoming more and more delicate. BE AFRAID, VERY AFRAID.”
Launched in 2008, the risk register assesses threats that are likely to endanger human welfare, the environment or security in Britain. It is the public version of the National Risk Assessment, which is classified. Volcanic eruptions have been added to the list since the last edition in 2010. Ash from the April 2010 eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano grounded European air travel for several days. But the British government says a more serious risk is posed by an effusive, or gas-rich, eruption. The 1783-84 Laki eruption in Iceland sent out noxious gases that spread as smog across Europe, causing crop failures, famine and thousands of deaths. The government said such an eruption “is now one of the highest-priority risks” Britain faces.

**The strength of criticism lies in
the weakness of the thing criticized.**
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

This morning -

Yesterday -
3/18/12 -


Italy's Mount Enta erupts - Europe's most active volcano, Mount Etna erupted on Sunday sending a four mile-long plume of smoke and ash into the sky. The eruption is the fourth of its kind this year sending a lava stream into Sicily's uninhabited valley of Valle del Bove.

No current tropical storms.


U.S. - While it was unseasonably warm across most of the United States Sunday, a late winter storm dropped upward of 5 feet of snow on Arizona's mountains with more expected Sunday night.
The snow forced the closure of numerous roads and there were reports of many vehicles skidding into ditches and other accidents. A winter storm warning was in effect from the Mexican border to the northern outskirts of Utah Sunday, at the same time the East and Midwest was experiencing temperatures in the 70s -- 76 in Bangor, Maine. Phoenix was experiencing the storm in the form of its first rain since December. An inch of rain fell in the region Sunday. "Phoenix is known for its dry climate, but this is normally a wet time of the year. Phoenix typically receives nearly 3 inches of rain from late December through mid-March."


The winter of 2011-12 might well earn the title of "the winter that wasn't" in many parts of the United States. The season has entered the books as the fourth warmest on record for the Lower 48 states. Despite several powerful snowstorms that crossed the continent during the season, the extent of the country blanketed with snow was the third smallest since satellites began keeping track 46 years ago. The amount of rain was also below normal.
What a contrast with the winter before. Who could forget the seemingly endless conga line of storms that traversed the country? That winter also was somewhat colder than normal, which meant the snow didn't melt significantly between storms. "This year was dramatically different." Yet both winters began the same way – with La Niña reigning in the tropical Pacific. La Niña is the cooler half of what's called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. El Niño brings warmer-than-normal waters to the equatorial eastern Pacific, where it piles up against the coasts of Central and South America. La Niña brings colder-than-normal waters to the same region. Both alter atmospheric-circulation patterns in ways that are felt far beyond the tropics.
Typically, La Niña pushes the eastward-flowing jet stream – which serves as a kind of superhighway for storms – farther north than usual. That pattern appeared last year in a relatively stark boundary between a very wet northern half of the country and a parched southern tier, stretching from Arizona to northern Florida and up into the Carolinas. This year, even with a somewhat weaker La Niña, the average path of the jet stream has moved farther north still, leaving the northern US drier than normal. Without extensive snow cover to help keep a lid on winter temperatures, the stage was set for a warmer-than-normal winter.
The back-to-back La Niñas have a marked effect on rivers in the Southwest and Southeast. "We've had 10 cases in the last century of double-dip La Niña events." If the initial event is strong – last year was one of the Top 3 La Niñas in the past 50 years – the second, weaker one tends to bring drier conditions to the Southwest and southern tier. The difference shows up strikingly in river flows. They tend to be even lower coming out of the second event than they were at the end of the first event. "That's what we're looking at now for the Colorado River, and it's also what we're looking at for parts of the Southeast – Florida, Georgia, places like that." One glaring exception this winter was Texas, where several storms helped moderate the state's severe drought.
Elsewhere, the reduced blanket of snow is likely to give areas ravaged by last year's floods along the Mississippi River a much-needed break. A year ago, runoff from heavy snows, combined with intense spring storms, brought record floods in many parts of the Midwest.

Historic March heat wave continues in Chicago; headed towards another record breaking day. Coming off their warmest St. Patricks Day in 141 years of records, the historic March heat wave continues. Sunday was expected to become their 5th straight record breaking day and 5th consecutive 80+ degree day across the Chicagoland area. This RECORD-BREAKING STREAK HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE SO EARLY IN THE SEASON in Chicago. Over the past week, more than 1,200 RECORDS HAVE BEEN SET and for the month of March, more than 2,000 RECORDS HAVE BEEN SET.
This UNPRECEDENTED March heat wave is as a result of a weather pattern known as a "blocking pattern" where a stubborn high pressure has just been stuck over the eastern two-thirds of the nation. This pattern has been responsible for pumping in heat and Gulf moisture into the Great Plains, Midwest, Great Lakes, and Northeast regions. This historic March heat wave is expected to continue into the middle of next week before a cooler airmass moves into the region late next week. Until then, there will be the likelihood of more records broken.


Resistance to antibiotics could bring "the END OF MODERN MEDICINE AS WE KNOW IT". - The world is entering an antibiotic crisis which could make routine operations impossible and a scratched knee potentially fatal, the head of the World Health Organisation has claimed.
Bacteria are starting to become so resistant to common antibiotics that every antibiotic ever developed is at risk of becoming useless, making once-routine operations impossible. This would include many of the breakthrough drugs developed to treat tuberculosis, malaria, bacterial infections and HIV/AIDS, as well as simple treatments for cuts. We could be entering into a “post-antibiotic era”.
Replacement medicines could become more expensive, with longer periods of treatment required to bring about the same effect. “Things as common as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could once again kill.
Antimicrobial resistance is on the rise in Europe and elsewhere in the world. We are losing our first-line antimicrobials. Replacement treatments are more costly, more toxic, need much longer durations of treatment, and may require treatment in intensive care units. For patients infected with some drug-resistant pathogens, mortality has been shown to increase by around 50 per cent."
The stark warning comes shortly after the World Health Organisation published a new book warning of the “global crisis”, entitled “The evolving threat of antimicrobial resistance. The current situation was blamed largely on the misuse of antibiotics, which are not prescribed properly and used too frequently and for too long. The WHO has now appealed to governments across the world to support research into the antimicrobial resistance.