Environment

California – Record for Lowest Snowpack Ever

California’s mountain snowpack will do little to slake the thirsty state this summer — only the tallest peaks are dusted with snow, and the most recent survey showed the driest snowpack in more than 100 years.

The Sierra Nevada snowpack typically supplies 30 percent of California’s water. But this year, the snowpack’s water content was just 5 percent of the average amount in the northern Sierra Nevada and 6 percent of the average in the central and southern Sierra Nevada during a snow survey by the water resources department on March 30. Today, at four key survey sites, they found no snow at all.

The snowpack’s previous record low, 25 percent of the average, was set during an earlier severe drought in 1977 and was repeated in 2014. The statewide snow records officially start in 1950, but in some areas, the records reach back to 1909, Rizzardo said.

Horsetail Falls, near California’s Lake Tahoe, seen here in March 2015, is usually covered in snow at this time of year.

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Disease

Disease threatens bee colonies in South Africa

South Africa’s food security is under threat as its bee colonies are being depleted by an outbreak of American foul brood (AFB) disease.

The chairman of the KwaZulu-Natal Bee Farmers Association, Craig Campbell, said the disease had wiped out thousands of colonies in the Western Cape and there were fears it could spread to other provinces. The first outbreak was in 2009 and it is believed that the disease arrived here through imported honey.

“There is no cure for AFB and there’s no guarantee that control measures in the Western Cape will prevent it from spreading,” he said.

The disease is transferred through contact with infected honey and equipment. Infected hives pose a risk to any other bee colonies within a 3km radius.

“What makes its particularly dangerous is that deadly spores can stay alive in the hive for 40 years or more, so it’s important for infected hives to be burnt to protect others,” said Campbell.

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Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity

Bagana (Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea): Ash emissions have been stronger over the past days, suggesting that activity has picked up. Darwin VAAC reported an ash plume extending 40 nautical miles to the NE this morning.

Sinabung (Sumatra, Indonesia): The volcano continues to extrude viscous lava, feeding the lava dome occupying the summit crater and a new lava lobe on the upper eastern flank. Collapses from this lobe and the dome have been producing frequent smaller to medium-sized pyroclastic flows on the eastern and sometimes northeastern flank. A moderately large pyroclastic flow yesterday at 11:45 local time reached approx. 3.5 km and produced an ash plume that rose to approx. 4 km altitude. Since 26 March, lava has also been overflowing from the dome onto the northeastern flank, which is why pyroclastic flows have now also been affecting this sector.

Dukono (Halmahera): Activity at the volcano remains elevated. VAAC Darwin frequently reports ash plumes drifting NE at 2-3 km altitude visible on satellite images.

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

6.0 Earthquake hits New Britain, Papua New Guinea.

5.5 Earthquake hits offshore Coquimbo, Chile.

5.4 Earthquake hits New Britain, Papua New Guinea.

5.3 Earthquake hits Kepulauan Tanimbar, Indonesia.

5.0 Earthquake hits Minahasa, Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

Super Typhoon 04w (Maysak), located approximately 139 nm northwest of Yap, is tracking west-northwestward at 13 knots.

Maysak, blamed for the deaths of at least four people on islands in the western Pacific Ocean has moved into the open sea and is expected to significantly weaken before reaching the Philippines later this weekend.

This image taken Tuesday March 31, 2015 shows Typhoon Maysak taken by astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti from the International Space Station.

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NewsBytes:

Malaysia – Subang Jaya was hit with flash floods following a three-hour downpour on Tuesday evening.

Wildfires

Wildfires – USA

A rash of grass fires, brush fires and forest fires broke out in a warm, windy weather regime from the Plains to the East Coast Tuesday, destroying at least one home in North Carolina and another in Iowa. The same weather pattern sparked numerous grass fires Monday, killing a Nebraska man. Wildfires also broke out in parts of the West Tuesday, prompting evacuations in at least one Southern California city.

The fires are just the latest round in a days-long series of virtually countless grass fires, most of them small and short-lived, mainly in the Plains states. One of those fires burned a cluster of abandoned cars near Kearney, Nebraska, on Monday. The body of a local man was found in one of the burned-out cars.

Arizona – Discarded ashes sparked a grass fire within the city of Flagstaff Tuesday, according to the Arizona Daily Sun. The fire briefly moved toward homes nearby before being quenched. There were no injuries or damage. Near-record warmth has baked northern Arizona in recent days, leading to the unusually early fire risk.

California – A significant wildfire broke out in the Victor Valley of San Bernardino County, California, Tuesday afternoon. KNBC-TV said evacuations were underway in the city of Apple Valley, where ground and air crews were attacking a two-pronged fire. One of the fire’s two fronts was threatening structures. Westerly winds were gusting to 30 mph in the area along with temperatures in the upper 70s and humidity below 15 percent Tuesday afternoon.

Illinois – The Galena Gazette said the Galena Fire Department was busy battling grass fires in that part of northwest Illinois Tuesday.

Iowa – KTVO says a grass fire broke out on a farm north of Bloomfield in southeast Iowa Tuesday afternoon. The fire was put out by mid-afternoon and there were no injuries.

Another fire destroyed a Sioux City home that contained an exotic bird store, according to The Associated Press. One person was inside the house when it caught fire, but escaped without injury. The homeowner gave authorities permission to take the birds to a pet shelter nearby, but AP did not have an update on the condition of the birds.

Montana – A large wildfire broke out Saturday near Columbus, Montana, as winds gusted to 74 mph during the passage of a cold front. The fire, dubbed the Pine Crest Fire, consumed two structures Saturday. A firefighter was slightly injured in the initial attack on the fire. By Tuesday, the fire was 85 percent contained, but officials were watching with concern as another cold front approached with the potential for shifting winds. The fire has burned 3,000 acres. Another wildfire, the West Fork Fire, has burned 400 acres just southwest of Red Lodge, Montana. The human-caused fire was 30 percent contained as of Monday evening, when 30 structures were threatened.

New Mexico – A grass fire ignited in Albuquerque Tuesday. According to the Albuquerque Journal, the fire started in the bosque, the strip of dense vegetation along the banks of the Rio Grande River. It was quickly brought under control by local firefighters.

North Carolina – A grass fire flared along a busy road in Winston-Salem Tuesday, according to WXII-TV.

North Dakota – A grass fire was reported north of Minot, North Dakota, Tuesday afternoon. AP reported that the fire burned about 100 acres of land and came close to a vacant school. Another grass fire broke out in Oliver County, north of Bismarck. This fire burned about 5,000 acres of land, or 8 square miles, according to AP. No injuries have been reported in any of the fires that were sparked in the state, AP added.

Virginia – A forest fire broke out near Churchville in Augusta County of western Virginia Tuesday, according to WHSV-TV. Gusty winds were observed in the area. Another fire broke out in Botetourt County, burning some 250 acres of land, WSLS-TV reported. This blaze is expected to grow as large as 500 acres before it’s fully contained. No injuries have been reported and the fire is under investigation, according to The Roanoke Times.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity

Colima (Western Mexico): The volcano continues to produce strong vulcanian-type explosions, with ash plumes rising 2-3 km above the volcano.

Mount Olympus (Mars): NASA scientists studying volcanic rocks from Mars came to the conclusion that the red planet´s volcano, Mount Olympus, is not dead or dormant but in fact an active volcano whose last eruption might have been as recent as a few years to decades ago.