Storms and Floods

Severe Storms Across USA Midwest.

A massive line of storms packing hail, lightning and tree-toppling winds rolled through the Midwest Wednesday evening driving people into basements for shelter, tearing down power lines and causing flooding in low-lying areas. Forecasters predicted that by the time the storms were done, they could affect more than one in five Americans from Iowa to Maryland.

Small tornadoes were reported in parts of Iowa and in Illinois. In Iowa, at least two businesses and a home were “completely damaged,” authorities said. A storm ripped through a farm in rural Alexander, destroying a motor home. Tens of thousands of people across the Upper Midwest lost power.

Other News:

Lightning near the Bulgarian town of Gotse Delchev, Southern Bulgaria has claimed life of a woman and injured two others.

A heavy storm has destroyed at least six houses in the Pratten area, southwest of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

A heat wave has claimed the lives of at least six people in Assam, India in the last 24 hours. Temperatures of 38.5 degrees Celsius were recorded on Wednesday in Guwahati which is the highest in the last 33 years. All private and government schools in Kamrup (Metro) district are closed for next two days.

Torrential rains have flooded parts of Metro Manila in the Philippines today.

Nature – Images

Interesting Images:

This stunning image shows a sky-watcher looking up at a the Milky Way and the arch of the northern lights over the Godafoss waterfall in Iceland. Taken by Stephane Vetter, the digital stitch of four frames won first prize in the 2013 International Earth and Sky Photo Contest’s Beauty of the Night Sky category, organised by The World at Night.

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Wildlife

Honey bee losses double in a year due to poor winter – UK

This winter’s losses of honey bee colonies were the worst since records began six years ago, according to a survey carried out by the British Beekeepers Association.

It says more than a third of hives did not survive the cold, wet conditions.

All regions of England saw dramatic declines with the numbers lost more than double the previous 12 months.

This year’s poor winter, following on from a disastrous summer, is said to be the main reason for the losses.

British beekeepers have been surveyed at the end of March for the last six years. They are asked to compare the number of colonies that are still alive compared to the numbers they had back in October.

With overall losses at 33.8%, this year’s figures are the worst yet recorded. The hardest hit region was the South West where over half of the hives were lost.

The weather also posed problems for newly emerged queen bees – “virgin queens”. The growth of colonies depends on these bees being able to mate properly so they can lay fertilised eggs. But the poor weather hampered these activities as well.

If the weather is changeable, a queen may not execute her mating flight properly. “If she doesn’t get properly mated she can only lay drones, and if she is doing that, that’s the death knell for the hive.”

A colony that has only drones and no workers will not survive.

Another weather-related factor that has worked against the bees is what is called isolation starvation. Because of the cold, the bees cluster very closely together to maintain hive temperature and consume the stores of honey closest to them.

If the weather is so cold that they can’t actually move, the bees will starve – although there may be plenty of food sources nearby.

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Wildfires

Wildfires burn out of control in Colorado

A fire has destroyed 92 homes and forced more than 7000 residents to flee in Colorado in the US. The wildfire, fuelled by hot temperatures, gusty winds and bone-dry forests has destroyed 92 homes and prompted more than 7000 residents northeast of Colorado Springs to flee.

A separate Colorado wildfire to the south has destroyed 20 structures, including some in Royal Gorge Bridge & Park, and prompted evacuations of about 250 residents and nearly 1000 inmates at a medium-security prison.

To the north, another fire burned in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Wildfires also were burning in New Mexico, Oregon and California, where a smokejumper was killed fighting one of dozens of lightning-sparked fires.

Crews were so busy battling blazes across the West that the US Forest Service said on Wednesday it was mobilising a pair of Defense Department cargo planes to help – a step taken only when all of the Forest Service’s contracted tankers already are in use.

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Disease

New Drug for MultiDrug-Resistant TB

WHO estimates that up to half a million new cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) occur worldwide, each year. For the first time in over 40 years, a new TB drug with a novel mechanism of action – bedaquiline- is available, and was granted accelerated approval by the United States Food and Drug Administration in December 2012.

Hawaii Warns of Possible Syphilis Outbreak

Hawaii health officials are warning the public about a possible outbreak of a sexually transmitted disease on the Big Island.

The state Department of Health is investigating five cases of syphilis reported over the past five months, primarily on the Big Island.

The health department said Wednesday that while most of the cases were reported in men who have sex with men in West Hawaii, cases related to the outbreak may develop on the other islands.

The disease is passed on during unprotected sex. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that annually about 55,000 people in the United States get new syphilis infections. Untreated syphilis infections can cause long-term complications or death.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity:

El Hierro (Canary Islands, Spain): Seismic activity of the island has been calm over the past weeks. The number of daily small earthquakes continues to be weakly elevated, with hypocentres clustered under the central and western parts of the island.

Mauna Loa (Big Island, Hawai’i): The latest update of the USGS mentions that minor inflation of a shallow magma reservoir beneath Mauna Loa may be occurring. Seismicity rates were slightly elevated. However, the level of observed seismicity is far from alarming and the alert level remains at green. No eruption is expected in the near future.

Kilauea (Hawai’i): No significant changes in activity have occurred over the past weeks. The summit is currently in a phase of slow inflation while the lava lake level in Halema’uma’u remained fairly steady. The 2 lava flow fields fed from Pu’u ‘O’o continue to be active: on the middle east rift zone, the Kahauale`a II lava flow was recently conquering new land and burning forest north of Pu`u `O`o. Southeast of Pu`u `O`o, the Peace Day flow had active breakouts at the base of the pali and on the coastal plain. Most of the flow, however, stayed within its lava tube until reaching the ocean on both the east and west sides of the Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park boundary. Gas emissions from the volcano remained elevated.

Veniaminof (Alaska Peninsula, USA): Seismic tremor continued to slowly but steadily increase yesterday, then dropped temporarily and has been increasing again today. AVO reports an intermittent, low-level steam plume issuing from the central cone within the caldera. No elevated surface temperature were visible in satellite images. No other activity was confirmed by AVO.

Pavlov (Alaska Peninsula, USA): Ash emissions continue, and possibly, a small lava flow is effusing from the summit. Seismic tremor and explosion signals are recorded by AVO and intermittent elevated surface temperatures consistent with lava effusion were observed over the past day in satellite images. (AVO)

Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): A cluster of several (7) volcanic earthquakes up to magnitudes 2.4 has occurred this morning, perhaps heralding some more vigorous activity in he near future. Apart from this, activity has remained stable with about 2 weak steam-gas-sometimes ash-containing explosions per hour. A steam plume often rises about 1 km above the volcano.

Fuego (Guatemala): INSIVUMEH reports no significant changes in activity. 9 strombolian-type explosions with incandescent bombs ejected to 100 m and ash plumes rising about 500 m were observed during the past 24 hours.

Telica (Nicaragua): Seismicity has been at low levels recently. Today’s seismogram is shown for comparison (see updates from earlier this year).

San Cristobal (Nicaragua): Seismic activity has returned to normal (low) levels.

Cerro Negro (Nicaragua): Seismic activity has returned to low levels.

Nyiragongo (DRCongo): A very large SO2 plume is visible hovering over the East Virunga region around Nyiragongo on NOAA’s satellite data today. This leaves no doubt that the volcano’s lava lake is still very active.