Monday, April 30, 2012

Surprisingly quiet today.
No update on Tuesday.

**Half of the modern drugs could well be
thrown out of the window,
except that the birds might eat them.**
Martin Henry Fischer

Live Seismograms - Worldwide (update every 30 minutes)

This morning -

Yesterday -
4/29/12 -

No current tropical storms.


Why all these strange storms, warmer temps? - Meteorologists are not giving much credence to what some say is the Mayan calendar’s prediction that the world will come to an end on Dec. 21. They say the strange weather patterns South Texas and the rest of the United States have been experiencing have no connection to the Mayan calendar and what some are calling its doomsday message. “That has nothing to do with the weather. I think on Dec. 22 we will all wake up that day and get ready for Christmas,” said the warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Brownsville. A series of freak hailstorms in the Rio Grande Valley over the past few weeks and unusually warm temperatures are attributed to changing weather patterns and not much more, officials said. “The reality is that sometimes it is just serendipity, the way the puzzle pieces come together in the atmosphere just right to give us an opportunity. I think the reason people get freaked out is that we don’t see it very often here." UNUSUAL weather patterns have occurred across the nation during the first four months of the year, from dozens and dozens of tornado outbreaks in months that do not usually experience such a high amount, to unusually warm weather on the East Coast that brought temperatures near 90 degrees to the Boston area. The only way to put a finger on the weather is to look at the past decades to see if there appear to be any trends. It probably will not be until 2020 or 2030 that meteorologists can determine whether any trends are actually occurring. “We have had some interesting years lately, but it hasn’t been enough to make a determination." If you look at history, you will see that it shows there have been big tornadoes, big hailstorms and big snow storms, but it is probably because there are more people now seeing and videotaping the incidents that it seems like more of these weather events are occurring. Officials are looking into the possibility that the changing weather patterns have something to do with the Arctic Oscillation changes, which have been increasing since the 1980s. The Arctic Oscillation is a large scale mode of climate variability, which is characterized by winds circulating counterclockwise around the Arctic at around 55°N latitude. “They are looking into that as a possible trend” with the weather shifting back and forth. “If that trend continues, basically we think that meteorologically the extremes will continue because these high oscillation patterns have been shown to correlate to extreme weather. The Mayan civilization, which reached its height from 300 A.D. to 900 A.D., had a talent for astronomy. Its Long Count calendar begins in 3,114 B.C., marking time in roughly 394-year periods known as Baktuns. Thirteen was a significant, sacred number for the Mayas, and they wrote that the 13th Baktun ends on Dec. 21, 2012. While some say the calendar predicts a cataclysmic event, others say that is a misinterpretation of the calendar.The doomsday theories stem from a pair of tablets discovered in the 1960s at the archaeological site of Tortuguero in the Gulf of Mexico state of Tabasco that describe the return of a Mayan god at the end of a 13th period. "The Maya are viewed by many westerners as exotic folks that were supposed to have had some special, secret knowledge. What happens is that our expectations and fears get projected on the Maya calendar." “We watch the weather all over the world, especially in the United States and Texas, the thing is we see a lot of weird weather every day. Some of it makes the news and some of it doesn’t." The weather pattern the area is currently experiencing is something that is normally experienced during the spring. What makes this year’s weather somewhat “unique” is that there has been more of a southeasterly wind flow from Mexico to South Texas. Usually, the winds are either light or coming from the west of the area. “When you have a large contrast between very warm weather and still the potential for cold weather to interact with that, you are going to see some very unusual situations setting up. What I find in meteorology is that people have short memories. They forget that we’ve had these events before."

Wind farms can affect weather in their immediate locality, raising night-time temperatures on the ground, researchers working in Texas have shown. They used satellite data to show that land around newly constructed wind farms warmed more than next-door areas. The scientists believe the effect is caused by turbines bringing relatively warm air down to ground level. They suggest that turbines in other places might not produce the same value of ground temperature change. The study area, in west-central Texas, saw a major turbine building programme in the middle of the last decade, with the number soaring from 111 in 2003 to 2325 just six years later. The entire region saw a rise, but it was more pronounced around wind farms. The researchers looked for other factors that could have affected the results, such as changes in vegetation, but found these were too small to produce the observed change. The change was not identical across all of the wind farms. Having averaged the data, the researchers say the scale of the effect they saw is equivalent to a warming of about 0.72C per decade. Recognising that this could wrongly be interpreted as suggesting the local temperature will continue to rise, thelead researcher cautiioned, "The estimated warming trend only applies to the study region and to the study period, and thus should not be extrapolated linearly into other regions or over longer periods. For a given wind farm, the warming effect would likely reach a limit rather than continue to increase if no new wind turbines are added." At night, air above ground level tends to be warmer than the ground. Researchers believe the turbine blades are simply stirring up the air, mixing warm and cold, and bringing some of the warmth down to ground level. "Daytime temperatures do not appear to be affected. This makes sense, (and) this same strategy is commonly used by fruit growers who fly helicopters over their orchards to combat early morning frosts." A 2010 study, also from the US, used data from a single location and computer modelling to show that wind turbines could produce local warming. "This article is a first step in exploring the potential of using satellite data to quantify the possible impacts of big wind farms on weather and climate. We are now expanding this approach to other wind farms, and building models to understand the physical processes and mechanisms driving the interactions of wind turbines and the atmospheric boundary layer near the surface."

Australians call it the Big Dry and, after nine parched years, it's over. It's the drought that has afflicted large areas of this vast country and now the federal government is about to declare it officially at an end. The final two areas to be given the all-clear are Bundarra and Eurobodalla in the south-eastern state of New South Wales. It's the end of "Exceptional Circumstances", or EC, to use the bureaucratic jargon. "The seasonal outlook is brighter than it has been for many years and the improved conditions are a welcome reprieve for farmers across Australia." The end of the drought will be a "a major milestone for agriculture in Australia". Since 2001, the government has provided 4.5bn Australian dollars ($4.7bn, £2.9bn) in EC assistance. That's the money handed out to struggling farmers, totalling between 400 and 600 dollars each, every fortnight. Some farmers say the move to take away the EC assistance is premature. The National Farmers Federation said the government's "snap decision" to cut subsidies was "baffling". Some farmers are opposed to declaring the end of drought "with no areas likely to be drought-declared in the near future and with a programme to develop alternatives already under way, we ask the question of government: why the rush?" Australia's current drought really took hold from 2003 and, depending on the area, has lasted on and off ever since. But this, the driest inhabited continent, has lived with the scourge of drought throughout its entire history. One of the first recorded was in 1803 when there were severe crop failures in New South Wales. Another, devastating nationwide drought followed in 1902. During that one, the total sheep population halved, from just over 100 million to about 50 million. It wasn't until 1927 sheep numbers recovered. One of the longest dry periods lasted through the Second World War, from 1937 to 1947, with eastern Australia again the worst affected. Other bad droughts followed at an interval of about one every decade. And the pattern has been repeated into the 21st Century. Australia is drought-prone because of its geography and changeable rainfall patterns. It's located in a subtropical area of the world that produces dry, sinking air which creates clear skies and little rain. That means for most of the country, the rainfall is very low and irregular. Another cause of drought is the El Nino weather pattern. When there are El Nino weather conditions, Australia becomes drier than normal and the chance of rain decreases. The succession of droughts has lead some to question the future of population growth in Australia. The environmental organisation, Sustainable Population Australia, says Australia cannot continue to maintain its current rate of population growth without becoming overpopulated, in terms of access to water. At the moment there are just under 23 million people in a country roughly the size of the United States, which has more than 300 million inhabitants. The population of Australia is about the same as Texas. But, even with only 23 million people, the pressures on water supplies are intense. This vast system, with the Murray and Darling rivers at its heart, covers most of the states of New South Wales, Victoria and parts of Queensland and South Australia. Just when it seems that Australians are doomed to live in a land lacking in water, comes news from the Bureau of Meteorology that 2011 was the third-wettest year on record and the wettest since 1970. It's this sustained onslaught of rain over the past two years, that has, in part, enabled the government to declare the end to droughts, even if, at the same time, it has also had to deal with the catastrophic flooding that has accompanied the deluge. The voluminous precipitation of recent times has been largely due to the influence of La Nina, the contrary cousin of El Nino. La Nina produced slightly warmer conditions in the western Pacific, creating more moist air, especially over the populated eastern states. But, as with everything Australian, that is not the complete picture, as while the East has been swamped with rain and cool conditions, out West temperatures soared beyond 49 degrees. That's just the way it is here, a people of moderation existing in a land of climatic extremes.