Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Alien encounters 'within twenty years'

A top Russian astronomer say he expects humans to encounter extraterrestrial civilizations within the next two decades Russian scientists expect humanity to encounter alien civilizations within the next two decades, a top Russian astronomer said on Monday. "The genesis of life is as inevitable as the formation of atoms ... Life exists on other planets and we will find it within 20 years," said Andrei Finkelstein, director of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Applied Astronomy Institute, according to the Interfax news agency. Speaking at an international forum dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial life, Finkelstein said 10% of the known planets circling suns in the galaxy resemble Earth.


Time: What Extreme Weather Costs the U.S.

It's not hard to imagine the damage weird weather inflicts on our planet. Hurricane Katrina, for example, obliterated coastal communities, wiped out businesses and left hundreds of dead bodies in its wake. Quantifying the dollar cost of such a one-off (we hope) event is pretty easy too: Katrina left us with a bill of $81 billion, according to the National Hurricane Center. But what about the year-in, year-out price tag of our increasingly volatile weather? It's a whole lot harder to calculate the cost of a chronic condition like that — or at least it was. Now, a study by the National Center for Atmospheric Research(NCAR) estimates that the bottom line cost of all the meteorological craziness is a staggering $485 billion per year in the U.S. alone, up to 3.4 percent of the country's GDP.

Read more: http://ecocentric.blogs.time.com/2011/06/27/sticker-shock-what-extreme-weather-costs-the-u-s/#ixzz1QaFR0PQp

Monday, June 27, 2011

FDA: Evergreen Produce sprouts may carry salmonella

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Health regulators advised people not to eat alfalfa or spicy sprouts under the Evergreen Produce brand on Monday as they investigate a possible link to a salmonella outbreak in five U.S. states. The outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis, which is not linked to Europe's recent food borne illnesses involving sprouts, has so far caused 20 reported cases, including one hospitalization, in Idaho, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota and Washington, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Raw or lightly cooked sprouts have been linked to at least 30 reported U.S. outbreaks of food borne illnesses since 1996, mostly salmonella and E. coli, according to the FDA.


SKYWATCH: Asteroid flyby

Asteroid 2011 MD is flying past Earth today, Monday June 27. At 1:00 p.m. EDT (1700 UT) the ~10-meter space rock will be only 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles) above the planet's surface. NASA analysts say there is no chance it will strike Earth.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Huge Solar Flares Could Spell Catastrophe for Earth

Jun. 23 2011 - By TOM BARLOW - Power lines and transformers fry across the nation. Communication satellites are knocked out, the GPS network no longer works, and even the space station is sucked into Earth’s gravity well. Americans are forced to go months without power, without water systems, without television or cell phones or other forms of communication. Sound like a disaster? You bet, but the culprit isn’t terrorists or hurricanes or a meteorite; it’s our old friend, the sun. Scientists are gathered this week to discuss a relatively under appreciated threat to our well-being, the impact a huge solar flare (also known as a solar mass ejection (SME) or solar electromagnetic pulse (EMP)) directed at Earth could wreak upon our modern technology.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fed dims outlook for jobs and growth for 2011

WASHINGTON — Federal Reserve officials are more pessimistic about prospects for economic growth and employment than they were two months ago. Reporters raise their hands to ask Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke a question during a press briefing at the Federal Reserve building on June 22, 2011 in Washington, D.C.
In an updated forecast, the Fed estimated Wednesday that the economy will grow 2.7% to 2.9% this year. That's down from its April estimate of 3.1% to 3.3%. The downgraded revision is an acknowledgement that the economy has slowed, in part because consumers have been squeezed by higher gasoline prices. Growth at the rate the Fed is projecting won't be enough to significantly lower unemployment, now at 9.1%. The Fed estimates that unemployment will still be around 8.6% to 8.9% by the end of the year. The Fed's downward revisions were in line with private economists, who have also been scaling back their forecasts to reflect a batch of weaker-than-expected reports in recent weeks. The latest poll of top econ


North Dakota mayor: Water to top dikes within hour

MINOT, N.D. (AP) — Water from the Souris River is expected to start pouring over dikes protecting the North Dakota city of Minot within the hour, the mayor said Wednesday morning. Mayor Curt Zimbelman, speaking by telephone to KXMC television, said there are several areas along the levees where officials aren't sure they control the dikes. Officials will sound the city's sirens when water starts overtopping the levees, and he said that's imminent. Zimbelman made the announcement "so people really do their last-minute thing and be prepared to move quickly," he told the station. The National Weather Service in Bismarck on Wednesday morning issued a flash flood warning along the Souris River from Burlington through Minot and Logan to Sawyer. The Weather Service said that means that flash flooding is occurring or imminent and it urged residents to move to higher ground.


SOLAR ALERT: Latest Coronal mass ejection - Revised forecast

A CME propelled toward Earth by the "solstice solar flare" of June 21st may be moving slower than originally thought. Analysts at the GSFC Space Weather Lab have downgraded the cloud's probable speed from 800 km/s to 650 km/s. Impact is now expected on June 24th at 0700 UT plus or minus 7 hours.


Getting Ready for the Next Big Solar Storm

June 21, 2011: In Sept. 1859, on the eve of a below-average1 solar cycle, the sun unleashed one of the most powerful storms in centuries. The underlying flare was so unusual, researchers still aren't sure how to categorize it. The blast peppered Earth with the most energetic protons in half-a-millennium, induced electrical currents that set telegraph offices on fire, and sparked Northern Lights over Cuba and Hawaii. This week, officials have gathered at the National Press Club in Washington DC to ask themselves a simple question: What if it happens again? "A similar storm today might knock us for a loop," says Lika Guhathakurta, a solar physicist at NASA headquarters. "Modern society depends on high-tech systems such as smart power grids, GPS, and satellite communications--all of which are vulnerable to solar storms."


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer solstice starts with sizzling solar storm

While powerful, it wasn't as big as other recent coronal mass ejections The sun unleashed a powerful solar flare and eruption Tuesday just in time for the summer solstice: the first day of the summer in Earth's Northern Hemisphere. The solar storm occurred in the early hours of Tuesday and was spotted by the space-based Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) operated by NASA and the European Space Agency, according to the website Spaceweather.com, which monitors space weather and skywatching events. Spaceweather.com officials said a moderate C7-class solar flare kicked off the solar storm and triggered a massive eruption of plasma, known as a coronal mass ejection. "Magnetic fields above sunspot complex 1236 erupted during the early hours of June 21st, hurling a coronal mass ejection (CME) almost directly toward Earth," Spaceweather.com stated in an alert. "The incoming CME does not appear to be particularly potent; nevertheless, the cloud could trigger polar geomagnetic storms when it reaches Earth on or about June 23rd."


SOLAR ALERT: Happy Summer Solstice!

In the Northern Hemisphere, summer solstice begins on June 21, 2011 at 1:16 P.M. EDT
Sol + stice derives from a combination of Latin words meaning "sun" + "to stand still." As the days lengthen, the sun rises higher and higher until it seems to stand still in the sky. As a major celestial event, the Summer Solstice results in the longest day and the shortest night of the year. The Northern Hemisphere celebrates in June, but the people on the Southern half of the earth have their longest summer day in December.Awed by the great power of the sun, civilizations have for centuries celebrated the first day of summer otherwise known as the Summer Solstice, Midsummer (see Shakespeare), St. John's Day, or the Wiccan Litha. The Celts & Slavs celebrated the first day of summer with dancing & bonfires to help increase the sun's energy. The Chinese marked the day by honoring Li, the Chinese Goddess of Light. Perhaps the most enduring modern ties with Summer Solstice were the Druids' celebration of the day as the "wedding of Heaven and Earth", resulting in the present day belief of a "lucky" wedding in June.


Monday, June 20, 2011


Monday, June 20, 2011 at 16:35:57 UTC
Location 21.945°S, 68.296°W

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Gamma ray blast traced to 'super-massive black hole'

Astronomers think they've nailed down the source of a mysterious blast of gamma rays that reached Earth in late March and continues, at reduced levels, even today. The culprit looks like a black hole, 3.8 billion light-years away, that swallowed and ripped apart a wandering star. On March 28, NASA's Swift satellite first noted the outburst of invisible radiation, a gamma ray burst, one of the most powerful explosions in the universe. Such blasts, thought to result from the explosion of massive stars, are regularly detected and usually die away within minutes. But this one continues today, and in its first two days, the intensity of the outburst measured in some wavelengths not visible to the naked eye as bright as a hundred billion suns, scientists report in Thursday's edition of the journal Science. That makes it one of the most intense cosmic explosions ever witnessed by astronomers. "This is probably the first time mankind has seen a phenomenon like this," says astronomer Josh Bloom of the University of California, Berkeley, lead author of one of two studies on the outburst The finding adds to evidence that most galaxies, including our own Milky Way, likely harbor titanic black holes at their center, mostly quiet, but always waiting to pull part anything that wanders too close.


SOLAR WATCH: Chance of sun flares

The magnetic field of sunspot 1236 harbors energy for M-class solar flares. NOAA forecasters estimate a 25% chance of such an eruption during the next 24 hrs.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Record 'dead zone' predicted in Gulf of Mexico

USA TODAY - The "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico – a region of oxygen-depleted water off the Louisiana and Texas coasts that is harmful to sea life and the commercial fishing industry – is predicted to be the largest ever recorded this year, federal scientists announced Tuesday. The unusually large size of the zone is due to the extreme flooding of the Mississippi River this spring. The dead zone occurs when there is not enough oxygen in the water to support marine life. Also known as "hypoxia," it is created by nutrient runoff, mostly from over-application of fertilizer on agricultural fields. It flows into streams, then rivers and eventually the Gulf. Forty-one percent of the contiguous USA drains into the Mississippi River and then out to the Gulf of Mexico. The majority of the land in Mississippi's watershed is farm land. Excess nutrients such as nitrogen can spur the growth of algae, and when the algae die, their decay consumes oxygen faster than it can be brought down from the surface, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). As a result, fish, shrimp and crabs can suffocate, threatening the region's commercial fishing industry.


Dow Down 175, Stocks Fall Amid Euro Zone Fears; Vix Spikes

Stocks added to previous losses Wednesday, wiping out the previous day's gains, amid investor jitters over renewed worries over the growing euro zone debt situation and following a handful of weaker-than-expected economic news.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged more than 100 points to trade below the psychologically-important 12,000 mark, after posting its biggest gain in almost two months during the previous session. Most blue-chip stocks were in the red, led by BofA. The S&P 500 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq were also lower. The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, surged almost 10 percent to trade above 20. All key S&P sectors were in the red, led by materials, financials and techs.


Monday, June 13, 2011

US Is in Even Worse Shape Financially Than Greece: Gross

CNBC.com Staff Writer - When adding in all of the money owed to cover future liabilities in entitlement programs the US is actually in worse financial shape than Greece and other debt-laden European countries, Pimco's Bill Gross told CNBC Monday. Much of the public focus is on the nation's public debt, which is $14.3 trillion. But that doesn't include money guaranteed for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, which comes to close to $50 trillion, according to government figures. The government also is on the hook for other debts such as the programs related to the bailout of the financial system following the crisis of 2008 and 2009, government figures show. Taken together, Gross puts the total at "nearly $100 trillion," that while perhaps a bit on the high side, places the country in a highly unenviable fiscal position that he said won't find a solution overnight.


Strong quakes again rock shaken New Zealand city

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Strong aftershocks rattled New Zealand's quake-devastated city of Christchurch again Monday, toppling one of the few buildings still standing downtown and sinking thousands of homes into darkness.

Bricks crashed down in the cordoned-off city center, where only workers have tread since it was devastated in February's major earthquake. About 200 people were there when the quakes struck Monday, and two were briefly trapped in a church. More than 40 people have been taken to hospitals with minor injuries from falling debris, the city council said.

"We are being enveloped with dust," Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker told New Zealand's National Radio. "It is very, very scary."

All across the city, people fled buildings in panic when a 5.2-magnitude quake struck during lunchtime; just over an hour later, a 6.0 hit, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Smaller quakes were also recorded.

Several buildings were damaged in the central city and suburbs.

"All the shops have fallen down," said Renee Murray, who works at a Domino's Pizza in a suburb. "Half of the roof has fallen in (but) they have not fully collapsed."

Thousands of aftershocks have followed the 6.3-magnitude quake that killed 181 people on Feb. 22. That tremor and its aftershocks have been very shallow, which along with proximity to the city, have made the quakes very destructive. Monday's temblors were six miles (10 kilometers) deep, according to the USGS.

About 47,000 homes in the city's eastern suburbs were without power Monday night, when temperatures were expected to approach freezing. Rocks tumbled down hills in the area, which was among the hardest hit in February, and silt bubbled from the earth — a process known as liquefaction that sometimes happens during a quake.

After the February quake, 300,000 tons of silt had to be scraped away, and the silt alone made thousands of homes uninhabitable.

On one road Monday, an SUV tipped front-first into a sinkhole that opened in the tarmac. A police car sank into another.

Roger Sutton, chief executive of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, said the extra damage to the city center means some buildings that had been salvageable "are now seriously damaged and will have to be brought down."

The group's demolition manager "was driving (during the 6.0 quake), and there were buildings coming down in front of him, coming down behind him," Sutton said. "He's very lucky to be alive."

Two people who were injured were salvaging windows from St. John's Church when the facade, the last wall standing after February's quake, collapsed. Police said they were rescued and taken to a hospital with cuts and bruises.

Another building nearby fell, according to police, and the dean of Christchurch Cathedral said the collapsed building suffered new damage.

"This has been a setback for Christchurch and its people, but it does not lessen our resolve to rebuild," Prime Minister John Key told reporters. "The people of Christchurch should know all New Zealanders are thinking of them and will continue to support and stand by them in this very difficult time."

New Zealand's earthquake monitoring service GNS Science says Monday's quakes were within a forecasted range but are likely to trigger new aftershocks themselves.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

First tornados and now hurricanes

QUAKE WATCH: Magnitude 4.5 - Baja California, Mexico

* Thursday, June 09, 2011 at 15:22:11 UTC
* Thursday, June 09, 2011 at 08:22:11 AM at epicenter
Location 32.615°N, 115.742°W
Depth 2.3 km (1.4 miles)
* 20 km (13 miles) SSW (194°) from Seeley, CA

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Sun uncorks a massive solar blast

NASA reports the sun has fired off a spectacular "coronal mass ejection", following a solar flare erupting from a sunspot region. Coronal Mass Ejection as viewed by the Solar Dynamics Observatory on June 7, 2011. "The large cloud of particles mushroomed up and fell back down looking as if it covered an area of almost half the solar surface," says a NASA Goddard Space Flight Center team statement. The space agency's Solar Discovery Observer recorded the peak of the blast, which also loosed a minor radiation storm, on Monday. The blast may disrupt some radio signals on Earth but poses no danger overall. Comments astronomer Phil Plait, on his Bad Astronomer blog, "the solar cycle is heating up and we can expect to see more incredible events from our friendly neighborhood star in the coming years."


'Wild and weird' weather across the U.S.

USA TODAY - Monster tornadoes, historic floods, massive wildfires and widespread drought: Springtime has delivered a wallop of weather-related destruction and misery across much of the nation this year. And it may all be related. Never mind the debate over global warming, its possible causes and effects. We've got "global weirding." That's how climatologist Bill Patzert describes the wide range of deadly weather effects that have whipped the nation this year, killing hundreds of people and doing billions of dollars in damage to homes, businesses, schools and churches. "Sometimes it gets wild and weird," says Patzert, a research scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. In more technical terms, weather forecasters searching for a unifying explanation point to the La Niña climate pattern, a phenomenon born far out in the Pacific Ocean that shapes weather across the globe, in combination with other atmospheric anomalies that have altered the jet stream flow of air across North America.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Summer snow in Hawaii, high on Mauna Kea

Snow on the summit of Mauna Kea: it’s not exactly a rare sight during a Hawaiian winter. But how about in June? With just a few days removed from the official start of summer, the summit of the Big Island’s biggest mountain was covered by white after a passing thunderstorm dropped inches of ice at the 13,000 foot level. Noteworthy weather for Waimea resident Pam Akao, her daughter and her friends… “It was hailing in Waimea!” said Pam. “I dont know if it has to do the with the world climate change, or what.” The Mauna Kea Access Road was closed for a period this weekend, but by Sunday afternoon, the summit was open to the public once more. Employees on the roofs of the summit observatories worked to clear as much snow from the telescopes as possible before nightfall.


Another Nasty Heat Wave Heading to the East

By Alex Sosnowski, Expert Senior Meteorologist - "The heat will be hard on the very young, elderly and those who must work outdoors." Heat that has been building in the mid-South in recent weeks was reached the Midwest Monday and will expand into the East through midweek. Intense June sunshine combined with building humidity and hot air will push AccuWeather RealFeel® temperatures to dangerous levels during the heat wave.


E. Coli confirmed in Virgina child that died, more cases in Tenn.

By Nate Morabito - Lab results confirm the presence of E. coli in the child that died this weekend and the presence of the bacteria in a close contact of the child, Virginia Department of Health Public Information Officer Robert Parker said. "The lab results confirm the presence of E. coli 0157:H7," Parker said. "That's a strain of E. coli that causes severe illness." Northeast Regional Health Office Medical Director Dr. David Kirschke also confirms a similar severe strain in Northeast Tennessee. "We have one case of the severe type in Tennessee," Dr. Kirschke said. "It may be similar to what the two kids from Virginia had." In the Tennessee case, Dr. Kirschke said a Northeast Tennessee child is suffering complications in a Knoxville hospital. Meanwhile, he says there are seven other confirmed cases of E. coli from four Northeast Tennessee counties.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Japan confirms 3 nuclear reactors melted down after quake

Tokyo (CNN) -- Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant experienced full meltdowns at three reactors in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami in March, the country's Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters said Monday.
The nuclear group's new evaluation, released Monday, goes further than previous statements in describing the extent of the damage caused by an earthquake and tsunami on March 11. The announcement will not change plans for how to stabilize the Fukushima Daiichi plant, the agency said. Reactors 1, 2 and 3 experienced a full meltdown, it said. The plant's owner, Tokyo Electric Power Co., admitted last month that nuclear fuel rods in reactors 2 and 3 probably melted during the first week of the nuclear crisis.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

WHO: E. coli outbreak caused by new strain

LONDON – An entirely new super-toxic bug is causing the frightening food poisoning outbreak that has sickened at least 1,600 people and killed 18, researchers and global health officials said Thursday. The DNA of the new E. coli strain, believed to have contaminated salad vegetables, was analyzed by Chinese and German scientists. It contains several genes that cause antibiotic resistance and is similar to a strain that causes serious diarrhea and is found in the Central African Republic, according to a statement from the Shenzhen, China- based laboratory, BGI. Those scientists were working together with the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf. "This is a unique strain that has never been isolated from patients before," Hilde Kruse, a food safety expert at the World Health Organization, told The Associated Press. 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.


An Interactive look at Food Contamination

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

STOCKS: Dow tumbles 280 points

Wall Street Baffled by Slowing Economy, Low Yields: Trader
Margo D. Beller - Wall Street is having a hard time figuring out what to do now that the U.S. economy appears to be sputtering and yields are so low, Peter Yastrow, market strategist for Yastrow Origer, told CNBC. "What we’ve got right now is almost near panic going on with money managers and people who are responsible for money," he said. "They can not find a yield and you just don’t want to be putting your money into commodities or things that are punts that might work out or they might not depending on what happens with the economy. "We need to find real yield and real returns on these assets. You see bad data, you see Treasurys rally, you see all bonds and all fixed-income rally and then the people who are betting against the U.S. economy start getting bearish on stocks. That’s a huge mistake." Stocks extended losses after the manufacturing fell below expectations in May and the private sector added only 38,000 jobs during the month. "Interest rates are amazingly low and that, thanks to Ben Bernanke, is driving everything," Yastrow said. "We’re on the verge of a great, great depression. The [Federal Reserve] knows it.