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May 2015
May 2015

Casey Stegall reports on historic rainfall
<p>A waterspout uprooted an inflatable bounce house with three children inside it on a South Florida beach Monday, sending it flying above palm trees, across a parking lot and over four lanes of traffic, police said.</p>
A volcano in the Galapagos Islands erupted for the first time in more than 30 years Monday, spilling streams of bright orange lava and raising fears for the world's only colony of pink iguanas.
<p>When Gov. Jerry Brown ordered Californians to reduce urban water use by 25 percent, he declared war on the ubiquitous manicured lawn that — more than palm trees or pools — has for more than half a century been the beloved badge of Southland suburbia.</p>
California's longest and sharpest drought on record has its increasingly desperate water stewards looking for solutions in Australia, the world's driest inhabited continent.The struggle to survive with little water is a constant thread in the history of Australia, whose people now view drought as an inevitable feature of the land poet Dorothea Mackellar dubbed "a sunburnt country."Four years into a drought forcing mandatory 25 percent water cutbacks this year, Californians have taken a keen interest in how Australia coped with its "Big Dry," a torturous drought that stretched across the millennium, from the late 1990s through...
Following a cool and even frosty start to the Memorial Day weekend, many areas in the Eastern states will have consistent summerlike warmth and a buildup...
Meteorologist Jim Cantore jumped right in to the assignment on how to survive a flood.
Close call for a driver in Texas after he drove onto a flooded roadway. The man was rescued from his SUV before his was carried downstream in Boerne, TX.
The world’s oceans are playing a game of hot potato with the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gas emissions. An illustration showing movement of water from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean. Click image to enlarge. Credit: Lee et al., 2015 Scientists have zeroed in on the tropical Pacific as a major player in taking up that heat. But while it might have held that heat for a bit, new research shows that the Pacific has passed the potato to the Indian Ocean, which has seen an unprecedented rise in heat content over the past decade. The new work builds on a series of papers that have tracked the causes for what’s been dubbed the global warming slowdown, a period over the past 15 years that has seen surface temperatures rise slower than they did the previous decade. Shifts in Pacific tradewinds have helped sequester heat from the surface to the top 2,300 feet of the ocean. But unlike Vegas, what happens in the Pacific doesn’t stay in the Pacific. Since 2003, upper ocean heat content has actually been slowly decreasing in the Pacific. “When I first saw from the data that Pacific temperature was going down, I was very curious and puzzled,” Sang-Ki Lee, a scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies, said. Lee, who led the new research published in Nature Geoscience, looked at records going back to 1950 and noticed that the Indian Ocean heat uptake “was pretty much flat” until 2003. Suddenly, heat began to build there, but it wasn’t coming from above. By running ocean circulation models, he found that the heat stashed in the Pacific had hitched a ride on the ocean conveyor belt and danced its way through the Indonesian archipelago, ending up in the Indian Ocean. The Indonesian shuffle means that the Indian Ocean is now home to 70 percent of all heat taken up by global oceans during the past decade. “This is a really important study as it resolves how Pacific Ocean variability has led to the warming slowdown without storing excess ocean heat locally,” Matthew England, a professor at the University of New South Wales, said. “This resolves a long-standing debate about how the Pacific has led to a warming slowdown when total heat content in that basin has not changed significantly.” England led previous research that examined the role of the tradewinds in the Pacific’s heat uptake. Tom Delworth , a climate modeler at Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory who has also examined the Pacific trade winds in the hiatus, agreed, though he noted, “the results are very interesting, but I’m not sure they help us with predicting the future evolution of the hiatus.” Ocean heat content has risen dramatically over the past decade even as surface temperatures have not. Globally, oceans account for 93 percent of the heat that has accumulated on the planet since 1970 due to human greenhouse gas emissions. A flurry of recent research shows that the current slowdown in surface warming could end in the near future as Pacific trade winds shift, allowing for less heat to enter the ocean. Trade winds along the equatorial Pacific are in part responsible for a warming slowdown and western U.S. drought says new research. Credit: Earth Wind Map In its current location, Lee said it’s possible that the warm water in the Indian Ocean could affect the Indian Monsoon, one of the most important climate patterns in the world that affects more than 1 billion people. The current El Niño stewing in the Pacific could be also be affected. “It seems pretty clear that an El Niño event (such as this year) would reverse this anomaly, at least while the El Niño is underway,” Delworth said. What its means for future El Niño cycles is less clear, however. Lee said it’s likely to continue globe trotting along the ocean conveyor belt and find its way to the Atlantic in the coming decades. “If this warm blob of water in upper Indian Ocean is transported all the way to North Atlantic, that could affect the melting of Arctic sea ice,” Lee said. “That can also increase hurricane activity and influence the effects of drought in the U.S. These are simply hypotheses that need to be tested and studied in the future work.”
Meteorologist Danielle Banks discusses how the already drenched Southerm Plains could expect more flooding in the coming days.
<p>The Southern Nevada Water Authority determined nearly a decade ago that 70% of its water went right into the ground, with no chance for recycling, thanks to an army of indulgent blue-collar homeowners, mostly married guys, who over-watered their lawns.</p>
An extremely dangerous and life-threatening flooding situation will continue into Memorial Day, across portions of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas and...
Four giant craters were found by accident in the muddy floor of one of Switzerland's largest lakes, a new study reports. Researchers surveying Lake...
As summer approaches, people are thinking about the beach and other outdoor activities. Summer also means that lifeguards along the East and Gulf coasts are prepared to deal with one of the greatest dangers: rip currents.
Parts of the East this coming week will feel more like July than May, with temperatures well above average.
Extreme heat waves like the one that killed more than 70,000 Europeans in 2003 may be the most visible examples of deadly weather, but cold days actually cause more deaths than hot ones, a new study says. 
<p>Children, especially those who live along coastal areas, should understand what a hurricane is and how to prepare for one.</p>
<p>Unbroken by major landmasses, Antarctica's ocean currents race around the icy continent with powerful force. Now, a new image from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico reveals in amazing detail the turbulent rush of swirling eddies and currents in the Southern Ocean.</p>
Santa Barbara County in California is in a state of emergency after a pipeline ruptured, spilling thousands of gallons of crude oil. We look at the extent of the damage, the environmental concerns and why these oil spills keep happening.
Memorial Day weekend may be the unofficial start of summer, but in parts of Maine it still looks a little like winter.
<p>Memorial Day marks the unofficial start to summer and summer warmth will dominate the Northeast next week, but that does not mean an end to shots of cooler air.</p>
<p>California farmers who hold some of the state's strongest water rights avoided the threat of deep mandatory cuts when the state accepted their proposal to voluntarily reduce consumption by 25 percent amid one of the worst droughts on record.</p>
CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam reports on the impact of an oil spill off the coast of California.
Geologists were sent to earthquake-damaged mountain villages in Nepal this week to assess landslide risks before the rainy season begins next month, an official said Friday.
Each spring everyone who lives in the so called tornado alley keeps a close eye on the sky. Meteorologist Jim Cantore explains what causes twisters to from in tornado alley.
Despite a brutally cold and snowy winter across much the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, experts say tick populations across both regions are thriving this...
When fronts collide, trouble is coming
Dramatic video shows a man caught in flood waters that surged down the streets of Izmir, Turkey. CNN's Derek Van Dam reports.
The massive shelves of ice that ring Antarctica have been shrinking over the past couple of decades, and that could have grave implications for sea level rise. It’s not the ice shelves themselves that pose a problem: they’re mostly afloat, so when they melt or dump massive icebergs, it doesn’t affect water levels any more than melting ice cubes make your drink rise and overflow. But the ice shelves serve as massive barriers that slow the flow of glaciers out to sea. As the shelves shrink, the barrier weakens, allowing glaciers to start moving faster. And since that ice is land-based, it adds to sea level rise. The Ross Ice Shelf at the Bay of Whales. Credit: NOAA This faster glacial flow has already been documented in several parts of the frozen continent. Now, a new report in Science has identified one more. Using satellite data from NASA and the European Space Agency, scientists have shown that glaciers flowing into the sea from the Southern Antarctic Peninsula have sped up markedly since 2009. Collectively, write the authors, these glaciers, most of them unnamed, are now adding enough ice to put an extra 56 billion metric tons of water into the oceans every year. That won’t add more than the tiniest fraction to the current annual sea level rise of about 3 mm per year (about a tenth of an inch) caused by melting ice worldwide along with sea water that is expanding as it warms. But if glaciers in Antarctica and Greenland keep moving faster as the century progresses, estimates of sea level rise by 2100, which now stand at between 10 and 32 inches at a minimum, may have to be revised upward. However much the oceans swell over the current century, that figure will come on top of the 8 inches of sea level rise the planet has already seen since 1900. That increase has made storm surges like the one launched by Superstorm Sandy far more devastating than it would have been 100 years earlier. It has also led to increased flooding risk in cities like Baltimore, Philadelphia, Charleston, Norfolk, and Honolulu, to name a few. By 2100, according to one study, as much as $210 trillion in property and infrastructure worldwide, along with tens of millions of people, could be at risk from coastal flooding. Projections of future sea level rise carry uncertainty because scientists aren’t sure how the vast ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica will respond to warming. This study is part of the effort to reduce that uncertainty. In this case the scientists didn’t measure the glaciers’ speedup directly. Instead, they measured their thickness, using radar from NASA’s Cryosat-2 satellite to gauge the height of the glaciers’ surfaces above sea level at many different points. “Cryosat has been doing this for all of Antarctica,” lead author Bert Wouters, of the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, said. “But we noticed a huge signal in this one little spot that nobody had seen before, so we decided to have a closer look.” The spot was located on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula where it joins the main Antarctic continent. The thinning amounted to meters per year in some places, Wouters said. Thinning can be caused by surface melting, but this degree of thinning couldn’t be explained by melting, he said. It can also happen when relatively fluffy ice on a glacier’s surface compresses under its own weight, but again, that couldn’t have produced such dramatic changes. In the end, they concluded, the ice must be thinning because it was being stretched by faster glacial flow. The European GRACE satellite, meanwhile, which measures changes in the mass of the glaciers, confirmed that the ice wasn’t just being packed tighter. It was actually thinning. Neko Harbor, an inlet on the Antarctic Peninsula. Credit: David Stanley/flickr “It’s not totally surprising, based on what we already know, but it’s worrisome,” Eric Rignot, of the University of California, Irvine and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said. Rignot, who co-authored a recent study on the disintegration of Antarctica’s Larsen B ice sheet, was not involved in this research. The meltback and disintegration of ice shelves in this area, in particular, are more worrisome than most because of the topography that lies under them. The so-called “grounding line” in this part of Antarctica — the point where the ice shelf is anchored to land — is on ground that slopes downward toward the continent’s interior. Scientists generally agree that this and other ice shelves are mostly melting from below, as warm ocean water eats at their undersides. In a case like this, however, if the ice shelf thins sufficiently, it will float free of the grounding line, allowing warm water to rush underneath and attack areas that were previously protected. “It’s hard to know, but that could mark a point of no return,” Wouters said. This configuration of ice and bedrock has already been documented in the Weddell Sea, on the other side of the Antarctic peninsula. “We learn something new every year about Antarctic changes,” Rignot said. Unfortunately, little of it bodes well for the world’s coastlines and the people who live there.
A protest at a Nestle bottling plant in Los Angeles over bottling water during the drought.
May 21, 2015; 2:05 PM ET Colombian police jumped into a swollen and debris-filled river in Salgar to save a dog that had been swept away by the current.
Flames Sebastian Dooris/Flickr CC by 2.0 We tend to think of oil and gas as a resource that was only utilized by humans once we entered the industrial age and our appetite for oil exploded. But unlike in Civilization V, oil doesn't just appear out of nowhere as soon as you upgrade to a new technological era. In the real world, we've been using the substance for a very long time. Places where natural gas seeped out of the ground (called seeps) were once a source of wonder in the ancient world. When lit, they burned for long periods of time, kindling fervor and awe in people around the world. Some came to see a few of these sites as holy places, and temples were built around them, where pilgrims seeking answers to life's great questions could journey to find enlightenment. (Of course, thanks to Douglas Adams, we now know that the Answer is 42.) It turns out that the locations of those places may still hold a lot of answers to environmental and economic questions. In a chapter of his new book Natural Gas Seepage, researcher Giuseppe Etiope explains that knowing where and when natural gas bubbled to the surface in ancient times could help use understand how the resource moves through the Earth. Natural gas is, well, a gas. That means that it is highly unlikely to stay in one place for any amount of time, unless it is physically surrounded by something, like a balloon or rocks. But just like that shiny mylar balloon deflated after your birthday party, turning into a sad, crumpled heap on the floor as helium wriggled its way free of its cheerful prison, natural gas can escape the layers of rocks that keep it underground. Eternal Flame G. Etiope The Eternal Flame at the Zoroastrian Fire Temple in Azerbaijan used to be fed by natural gas seeping out of the ground. Now, it is fed by a pipe. But unlike your birthday balloon, natural gas can take a lot longer to seep out of the ground. Etiope suggests that by looking at ancient texts that describe temples built next to pillars of fire or furnaces, geologists can get a better idea of how gas might move underground. In many cases the natural gas source that powered these flames, such as the eternal flame at the Zoroastrian temple (seen above), went extinct, but that doesn't mean that we can't get new information from the long-dead wells. In the case of the fire temple, a new natural gas seepage cropped up about 5.5 miles away, likely from a related source. Figuring out how these seeps move, grow, and eventually die out over long time periods (in some cases, thousands of years) can help people working in the oil and gas industry figure out how natural gas leaks might move away from artificial wells. In addition, knowing how long the eternal flames have been burning could help environmental scientists estimate how much natural gas leaked into the atmosphere over the centuries. With greenhouse gas emissions on the rise researchers are trying to get an accurate count of how much gas is headed into the atmosphere from both natural and human-made sources. That means they want all the data they can get their hands on, even if it is a blast from the past.
Just a few months ago Wichita Falls, Texas was suffering through a terrible drought. Now there are evacuations in the city after days of rain.
After a tornado warning was issued for the Boonsville area Tuesday night, Christina Lopez and her husband, Pablo, tried to flee their small mobile-home community. But the gate wouldn't open, having been slammed shut by the strong winds. The couple were forced to ride out the storm in their car under a stand of trees. "We couldn't see...
Ahhh... Adam Klein/Flickr CC By SA 2.0 In these United States summer is unofficially the sunny, sweltering weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Yes, astronomically speaking, it’s June 21 to September 23. We’re choosing to ignore that here in favor of the cultural definition, because come on, early June feels way more like summer than mid-September. And this year, we get one extra week. Memorial Day (which is always the last Monday in May) is falling on its earliest possible date, and Labor Day (the first Monday in September) on its last possible date. That means summer stretches an endless 15 weeks instead of the usual 14. The last time this happened was 2009, and the next time will be 2020--see the handy chart below. So get out there and enjoy it. Length Of Cultural Summer Katie Peek/Popular Science Each dot here represents a day, starting with May 1 each year. The days that fall between Memorial Day and Labor Day are in yellow, rather than green. In some years, highlighted in gray, the two milestones capture an extra seven days. And 2015 is one of those magical years.
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