Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

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The Remnants of Pali are dissipating near the Equator far southwest of Hawaii.

Hurricane Alex is located about 50 mi…80 km SSE of Terceira island in the central Azores and about 105 mi…170 km ESE of Faial island in the central Azores with maximum sustained winds…75 mph…120 km/h. Present movement…N or 5 degrees at 24 mph…39 km/h. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Sao Miguel and Santa Maria in the eastern Azores.

Tropical Cyclone Victor is located approximately 262 nm east of Pago Pago, and is tracking west-southwestward at 07 knots.

NewsBytes:

India – A landslide in Darjeeling district of West Bengal state of India has claimed the lives of two people and injured five others.

Wildlife

Mass Starvation Occuring in Pacific Seabirds

Thousands of dead and dying seabirds have been washing up on beaches from California to Alaska, apparently dying of starvation.

Wildlife researchers believe a potent El Niño in combination with climate change could be why the common murres’ typical food supply has disappeared.

The species typically spends the winter months offshore. But the birds have recently been gathering along the coast and even showing up as far inland as Fairbanks.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service scientists say the murres have also been foraging in unfrozen sections of rivers and lakes, which is very odd behaviour for the seabirds.

Unusually warm waters along the Pacific coast of North America have in recent months been responsible for shifts in wildlife that have also left California seals starving and brought in exotic species typically seen much farther south.

Dead murres were scattered along the shore of Alaska’s Prince William Sound during early January.

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Manatees Are Making a Comeback

Manatees — the gentle, roly-poly marine mammals once mistaken by sailors for mythic mermaids — have been classified as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) since 1967. But that classification may soon change, and for the best possible reason: Manatees have been making a comeback.

Citing reduced threats and “significant improvements” in both manatee population numbers and their habitat conditions, the USFWS issued a statement on Jan. 7 announcing its proposal to change the West Indian manatee’s status from “endangered” to “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

“Their numbers are climbing, and the threats to the species’ survival are being reduced,” Michael Bean, principal deputy assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks at the Department of the Interior, said in the statement. Working together, a number of agencies, including the USFWS and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, established more than 50 protected areas for manatees — an effort that played an important part in helping the species recover.

The West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus) includes two subspecies: the Florida manatee (T.m. latirostris) and the Antillean manatee (T.m. manatus). In 1967, when manatees were first assigned an endangered status, their Florida populations numbered in the hundreds. Manatee populations worldwide are currently estimated to be around 13,000, and more than 6,300 of those are found in Florida. That represents a 500-percent increase in their numbers since 1991, when aerial surveys of Florida waters counted 1,267 individuals, according to the USFWS’s website.

Although the manatee’s future looks brighter than it has for decades, the USFWS noted that the status change shouldn’t be taken as a sign that conservation work for the species is over. Manatees will continue to enjoy the protection of government agencies and legislation like the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and efforts will continue to further rebuild “sea cow” populations, manage threats and support their role as a “sentinel species,” which serve as early warning indicators of environmental disturbances.

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Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 111.9 degrees Fahrenheit (44.4 degrees Celsius) at Nullarbor, South Australia.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 60.7 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 51.1 degrees Celsius) at Russia’s Siberian community of Toko.

Temperatures were tabulated from the more than 10,000 worldwide synoptic weather stations. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization sets the standards for weather observations, and provides a global telecommunications circuit for data distribution.

Space Events

Space Weather

3 close asteroids went by earth this week – closer than the moon’s distance to earth:

(2016 AQ164), January 10, 0.3 Lunar distance away, Estimated Diameter 2.8 m – 6.3 meters. (2016 AH164), January 12, 0.07 Lunar distance away, Estimated Diameter 3.2 m – 7.1 m. (2016 AN164), January 14, 0.1 Lunar distance away, Estimated Diameter 2.1 m – 4.7 m.

2016 Meteor Showers

Courtesy of NASA, here’s the meteor shower lineup for 2016, all times Eastern.

Jan. 4: The first meteor shower of the year was the Quadrantids, most visible at 3:01 a.m.

April 22: The second meteor shower of the year is the Lyrids, most visible at 1:30 a.m.

May 4: Eta Aquarids will be most visible at 2:45 p.m.

July 27: Delta Aquarids will be most visible at 4:32 p.m.

Aug. 12: Perseids, most visible at 8:26 a.m.

Oct. 21: The Orionids, most visible at 12:45 a.m.

Nov. 5: South Taurids, most visible at 12:13 a.m.

Nov. 11: North Taurids, most visible at 11:29 p.m.

Nov. 17: Leonids, most visible at 5:47 a.m.

Dec. 13: The Geminids will be most visible at 6:57 p.m.

Dec. 22: The final meteor shower of 2016 will be the Ursids, which will be most visible at 3 a.m.

Environment

Toxic Chemical Discovered in San Francisco’s Fog

Fog rolling in off the Pacific brings iconic beauty to San Francisco, but scientists say it also carries with it something much less pleasant: toxic mercury. The fog along the coast of California deposits a neurotoxin called monomethyl mercury — at a concentration about 20 times that of rain — as it sweeps across the city. “On a relative scale, the levels of mercury are quite low and of no health concern. But it does bioaccumulate,” or build up in organisms.

Disease

Ebola Outbreak Declared Over in West Africa

West Africa is now free of Ebola, marking an end to the devastating epidemic that plagued the region for two years.

The three hardest-hit countries — Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone — have not had any new Ebola cases for at least 42 days, according to a statement from the World Health Organization released today (Jan. 14). Health officials typically wait 42 days to declare a country Ebola-free, because this is twice as long as the 21-day incubation period of the virus (the time it takes for a person infected with the virus to show symptoms).

Liberia was the most recent of the three countries to be declared Ebola-free — today marks 42 days since the last person to have Ebola there was cured of the disease, according to WHO. Liberia was previously declared Ebola-free twice during 2015, but each time the country subsequently experienced small “flare-ups” of the disease. Sierra Leone’s Ebola outbreak was declared over in early November 2015, and Guinea was declared free of Ebola in late December.

However, officials warn that new cases of Ebola could still appear in the region, and that efforts are needed to prevent and respond to any new outbreaks.