Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

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In the Western Pacific: Tropical Storm 03w (Muifa), located approximately 328 nm northwest of Yap, is tracking northwestward at 06 knots.

NewsBytes:

Melbourne, Australia – Parts of Victoria have already received almost double the average rainfall this month, and some areas have recorded the wettest April in 16 years. As Melbourne dealt with another wintry blast and rainfall that caused the closure of two train stations, the weather bureau revealed Melbourne had received 107 millimetres of rain this month

North & South Carolina, USA – Days of rain are causing floods in several southeastern states including South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee. The heavy rain has swamped homes and businesses in North Carolina. The National Weather Service issued a flood warning until 11:30 p.m. for Raleigh, the state capital, and surrounding counties.

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Global Warming

Climate Change Continues Unabated in the Arctic

Evidence continues to mount that climate change has pushed the Arctic into a new state. Skyrocketing temperatures are altering the essence of the region, melting ice on land and sea, driving more intense wildfires, altering ocean circulation and dissolving permafrost.

A new report chronicles all these changes and warns that even if the world manages to keep global warming below the targeted 2°C threshold, some of the shifts could be permanent. Among the most harrowing are the disappearance of sea ice by the 2030s and more land ice melt than previously thought, pushing seas to more extreme heights.

The findings, released Monday in the Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic (SWIPA) assessment, come after a winter of extreme discontent for the region. Sea ice receded a bit in November, a rare occurrence, and hit a record-low maximum for the third year in a row. Temperatures averaged 11°F above normal, driven by sustained mild weather that was punctured by periods of almost unheard of heat when temperatures reached up to 50°F above normal.

The decline of sea ice is well documented. It’s disappearing in all seasons with the fastest shrinkage in the summer months. Old ice, which has formed the bedrock of sea ice for decades, is also declining precipitously. That leaves new ice in its place and susceptible to melt.

The new analysis shows that the average number of days with sea ice cover has dropped by 10-20 days per decade since 1979. Some areas, such as the Barents and Karas seas, have seen even steeper declines. Disappearing sea ice means the darker ocean left in its wake absorbs more energy from the sun, speeding the warming in the region.

Arctic soil holds up to 50 percent of the world’s soil carbon. Rising temperatures are melting permafrost, causing it to release some of the carbon into the atmosphere.

While the carbon release so far has been relatively small, rising temperatures have the potential to rapidly reshape the landscape and speed the melt.

The biggest impact for the globe is the melt of land ice from Greenland’s massive ice sheet. It’s the biggest land ice driver of sea level rise, and it’s been melting at a quickening rate since 2011.

The SWIPA report uses new data and findings to update the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sea level rise estimates made just four years ago.

If carbon emissions continue on their current trends, the report indicates 29 inches would be the low end of sea level rise estimates by 2100, roughly 9 inches higher than the minimum IPCC estimate. And that’s just the low end, with more sea level rise possible as scientists untangle the web of melting in Greenland as well as the Antarctic.

The massive rush of freshwater into the Arctic Ocean is also reshaping ocean circulation and the ecology of the region. Researchers have seen a marked slowdown in North Atlantic circulation as cold, fresh water off Greenland’s southern tip has acted as a roadblock to the currents that steer water through the region. That has the potential to mess with ocean circulation as well as weather patterns, particularly in Europe.

Research shows global warming making oceans more toxic

Climate change is predicted to cause a series of maladies for world oceans including heating up, acidification, and the loss of oxygen. A newly published study published online in the April 24 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences titled “Ocean warming since 1982 has expanded the niche of toxic algal blooms in the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans,” demonstrates that one ocean consequence of climate change that has already occurred is the spread and intensification of toxic algae.

Toxic or harmful algal blooms are not a new phenomenon, although many people may know them by other names such as red tides. These events can sicken or kill people who consume toxin-contaminated shellfish and can damage marine ecosystems by killing fish and other marine life.

The problem is worsening.

The distribution, frequency and intensity of these events have increased across the globe and this study links this expansion to ocean warming in some regions of the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans.

Marine algae are so tiny—50 of them side by side span only the width of a single hair—that they may seem harmless. But when billions of toxic cells come together, they can poison humans, kill marine life, and economically harm coastal communities.

Wildlife

Baby whales ‘whisper’ to mothers to avoid predators

Newborn humpback whales and their mothers whisper to each other to escape potential predators, scientists reported on Wednesday, revealing the existence of a previously unknown survival technique.

Whales are known for their loud calls, congregating fellow members of the pod. Male humpback whales also emit reverberating sounds to attract females during the mating season.

But this is the first time scientists have observed a unique, intimate form of communication between humpback mothers and calves.

Potential predators such as killer whales could listen to their conversations and use that as a cue to locate the calf and predate on it, if the conversations were louder.

While a male’s cry can resound over an area covering several kilometres, the pairs in the study could only hear each others’ calls within a distance of less than 100 metres.

The faint sounds are also a way to keep mate-seeking males from interfering in the humpback’s nurturing, a crucial time in the newborn’s life as it braces for an arduous 8 000km journey back home to the Antarctic, the researchers speculated.

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Environment

Ancient underground water sources not immune to today’s pollution

New research suggests ancient underground water sources long believed to be shielded from modern-day contaminants may not be as safe as previously thought.

The study, led by University of Calgary hydrogeologist Scott Jasechko, involved delving into data collected from 6,000 groundwater wells around the world.

The research yielded two interesting findings – up to 85 per cent of the fresh, unfrozen water in the upper kilometre of the earth’s crust is more than 12,000 years old and it’s possible for ancient and recent water sources to mingle deep underground.

The implication of that finding is that, unfortunately, even deep wells are vulnerable to modern land uses.

The tests released a specific radioactive hydrogen isotope into the environment called tritium, which has been useful in dating water samples. Trace levels of tritium – too low to pose any danger – were found in deep groundwater wells, demonstrating there is a way for old and new water to mix.

“Its presence alone indicates that some of the water in the well is recent rain and snow,” said Jasechko. “And the fact that we find that at deep depths implies that even deep wells are vulnerable to modern-era contaminants.”

Disease

Mystery Disease in Liberia

Health officials in Sinoe County, Liberia announced the investigation into the “mysterious deaths” of at least six people, including students, in the port city of Greenville.

The Ministry of Health reported: “Since 5 a.m. Tuesday, six persons have died from suspected fever of unknown cause”. A rapid response team has taken specimens from the deceased for testing.

Another website titled their post: “Ebola Scare Hits Liberia”. However, there is no evidence as yet that this is Ebola.

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

6.7 Earthquake hits offshore Valparaiso, Chile.

A powerful earthquake with an initial magnitude 7.1 has struck off the west coast of Chile, rocking the capital Santiago and generating at least two significant aftershocks. No major damage was immediately apparent, according to an assessment by Chile’s emergency services. The Chilean Navy and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the quake was not expected to cause a tsunami.

5.5 Earthquake hits off the coast of Valparaiso, Chile.

5.4 Earthquake hits Tonga.

5.4 Earthquake hits offshore Valparaiso, Chile.

Two 5.1 Earthquakes hit offshore Valparaiso, Chile.

5.0 Earthquake hits the Sunda Strait, Indonesia.

5.0 Earthquake hits Guam.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

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In the Western Pacific: Tropical depression 03w (Three), located approximately 244 nm north-northwest of Yap, is tracking northwestward at 04 knots.

NewsBytes:

Australia – Homes were damaged and drivers trapped in their cars as flash flooding wreaked havoc in the Geelong area last night. Videos uploaded to social media showed roads looking more like rivers, and water spouting out of gutters like fountains. There were reports of flash floods, building damage and flooded homes.

Tennessee, USA – Officials say heavy rain that fell over the weekend has caused road flooding and school closures in Middle and East Tennessee. In the Nashville suburb of Franklin, portions of the Harpeth River overflowed into a section of a sewer system under repair — sweeping raw sewage into streets. Schools in about a dozen counties were closed Monday. Parts of the Tennessee River overflowed its banks on Monday after TVA engineers opened spillways on the Chickamauga dam.

Environment

Plastic-eating caterpillar

A caterpillar that munches on plastic bags could hold the key to tackling plastic pollution, scientists say.

Researchers at Cambridge University have discovered that the larvae of the moth, which eats wax in bee hives, can also degrade plastic. Experiments show the insect can break down the chemical bonds of plastic in a similar way to digesting beeswax.

Each year, about 80 million tonnes of the plastic polyethylene are produced around the world. The plastic is used to make shopping bags and food packaging, among other things, but it can take hundreds of years to decompose completely.

However, caterpillars of the moth (Galleria mellonella) can make holes in a plastic bag in under an hour.

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Wildfires

Wildfires – Georgia, USA

Georgia’s wildfire season is underway, and true to form, a major blaze is burning land in the southern part of the state. The West Mims fire has scorched more than 36,000 acres around the Okefenokee Swamp. It’s just over 4 percent contained.

Wildfires – Arizona, USA

A wildfire that broke out Sunday near Madera Canyon, southeast of Green Valley, had burned 4,500 acres and continued to grow on both state lands and the Coronado National Forest Monday. As of Monday morning, containment was estimated at 5 percent.

Wildfires – Florida, USA

Evacuations due to wildfires have been lifted in Lee and Collier Counties. 7000 acres burned in Collier at 30th Avenue in Golden Gate Estates that was 50% contained as of Sunday afternoon. Three homes were destroyed. The cause of that fire is still under investigation.

Disease

Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) – United Arab Emirates

Between 9 and 11 April 2017, the National IHR Focal Point of United Arab Emirates (UAE) reported two additional cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

Malaria in Burundi

The Burundi Ministry of Health declared a malaria epidemic on Mar. 13 due to increased numbers of malaria in the country. Just during the first three months of 2017, Burundi has reported 1,960,620 with 869 deaths. This prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue a travel notice for Burundi today.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

There are no current tropical storms.

NewsBytes:

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Bangladesh – The embankment around the waterbody in the district’s Tahirpur Upazila was breached on early Sunday in three locations inundating the Boro crops as the harvesting season nears. “Locals have been making efforts to keep the dam intact for the last 20 days as heavy rains and flash floods continued,” said Upazila Chairman Md Kamruzzaman. The agriculture department’s local office said crops on about 8,300 hectares of land at the Shanir Haor were inundated on Sunday. Flash floods and heavy rains in early April already inundated crops in several haors in Sunamganj, Kishoreganj, Netrokona, Moulvibazar, Sylhet, Habiganj, Moulvibazar and Brahmanbaria districts. The crisis has been blamed on corrupt officials for neglect of duty in building or restoring embankments to protect backswamps.

Bangladesh – About 50,000 hectares of land were brought under jute cultivation in Rajbari this year. Most of the jute fields in Sadar and Baliakandi upazilas of Rajbari district have been flooded following last few days’ heavy rainfall. Jute growers fear huge losses as the stagnated water has been showing no sign of receding.

Jamaica – The Clarendon Municipal Corporation (CMC) says an estimated 5,000 people were affected by the floods and it has begun to provide relief. The CMC says at least 1,000 homes were flooded by the heavy rains that pelted the parish over the last two days.

Nature – Images

Interesting Images

Tree stump on Mars?

NASA reports that the image was taken by the Mastcam onboard NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity. Although it may be just one of the many rocks found on the Red Planet, it has been suggested that it could be the petrified remnants of a Martian tree.

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