At least 10 people were killed Monday when a powerful tornado blasted an area outside of Oklahoma City, ripping roofs off buildings, leveling homes, and cutting a wide path of destruction the scale of which is just starting to be made clear.
The victims’ bodies were being sent to Oklahoma’s office of the chief medical examiner, the office’s Amy Elliott told CNN, confirming the tornado’s first fatalities. Authorities had no immediate estimate on the number of injured.
After the ear-shattering howl of the killer storm subsided, survivors emerged from shelters to see an apocalyptic vision — the remnants of cars twisted and piled on each other to make what had been a parking lot look like a junk yard. Bright orange flames roaring from a structure that was blazing even as rain continued to fall.
At least one school was in the tornado’s devastation zone in Moore, Oklahoma. Lance West, a reporter for CNN affiliate KFOR, said that rescuers were searching for students trapped in debris at Plaza Towers Elementary School. There were no immediate reports on the condition of the children but rescuers swarmed to the scene to begin a painstaking search.
There were 75 students and staff at the school when the storm hit, KFOR reported.
“Our worst fears are becoming realized this afternoon,” Bill Bunting, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center, told CNN soon after the tornado struck. …
“We certainly hope everyone heeded the warnings, but it’s a populated area and we just fear that not everyone may have gotten the word,” he said.
The preliminary rating of damage created by the tornado is at least EF4 (winds 166 to 200 mph) — the second-most severe classification on a scale of zero to five — the National Weather Service said.
The tornado was estimated to be at least two miles wide at one point as it moved through Moore, KFOR reported. Lando Hite, shirtless and spattered in mud, told the affilaite about the storm hitting the Orr Family Farm in Moore, which had about 80 horses.
“It was just like the movie ‘Twister,’” he said, standing amid the debris. “There were horses and stuff flying around everywhere.”
The tornado damaged several barns and he was worried many of the animals were killed. Hite said he did not hear any warnings or sirens.
“It was real windy and everything stopped. Being from Oklahoma, I knew that was not right.”
Twenty patients, including 12 adults and eight children, were in trauma rooms at Oklahoma University (OU) Medical Center and at the Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center, said spokesman Scott Coppenbarger. Injuries ranged from minor to critical. Moore Medical Center in Oklahoma was evacuated after it sustained damage, a hospital spokeswoman said. All patients were being evacuated to Norman Regional Hospital and Health Plex Hospital, and residents injured in the storm were being told to go to those centers as well. Interstate 35 in Moore was closed as a result of debris from the tornado, Oklahoma Department of Transportation spokesman Cole Hackett said. Crews were heading to the north-south highway to start the cleanup process.
“People are trapped. You are going to see the devastation for days to come,” said Betsy Randolph, spokeswoman for Oklahoma Highway Patrol. She did not say how many people were trapped. More than 38,000 electricity customers in Oklahoma are without power, according to local power providers. Even as authorities and rescue workers struggle to get handle on the damage, NOAA’s Bunting warned the worst may be yet to come.
“These storms are going to continue producing additional tornadoes. They’ll also produce some very, very large hail, perhaps larger than the size of baseballs. We’re also concerned that there may be an enhanced and widespread damaging wind threat with storms as they merge together,” he said.
“As bad as today is, this is not over yet.” … A combination of factors — including strong winds and warm, moist air banging against dry air — means severe weather could continue sweeping across a wide swath of the United States for days, Petersons said.
“Keep in mind we have all the ingredients out there that we need,” she said. Tornado watches were in effect for portions of southeastern Kansas, western and central Missouri, northwest Arkansas, central and eastern Oklahoma and northwestern Texas until 10 p.m. (11 p.m. ET).
Archive for the ‘Earth’ Category
Posted by Xeno on May 21, 2013
Posted by Xeno on May 16, 2013
Water drilled from rock in a North American mine is among the oldest yet found on Earth, say scientists.
Novel dating techniques used by the Canadian and UK team suggest the fluid is at least 1.5 billion years old.
The water was probably once on the surface and then percolated through the ground where it became trapped at a depth of 2.4km.
The discovery, made under Timmins, Ontario, is reported in this week’s edition of the journal Nature.
Although far from any light source, particular types of micro-organism could survive in the water – it has the right chemistry; it is rich in dissolved gases like hydrogen and methane.
The team is currently testing its samples to determine whether any such lifeforms are indeed present.
“There are similar waters in South Africa with almost identical chemistry that are tens of millions of years old, and they contain microbes that have adapted to that environment,” explained Prof Chris Ballentine from Manchester University.
“These are microbes that can survive on the energy from the natural water-rock interactions,” he told BBC News.
A positive identification would have fascinating implications for our understanding of how life evolved on the early Earth and where it could exist underground today on other planets, such as Mars, Prof Ballentine added. …
The water was recovered from deeply buried sulphide ores containing zinc and copper. The researchers collected the water as mineworkers drilled new exploratory holes. Temperature increases with depth and so the fluid emerged at 40-50C. Three dating techniques were employed to work out how long the water trapped in the rock had been isolated.
A key method involved studying the different types, or isotopes, of xenon dissolved in the fluid. The noble gas can be used as a marker to time when the fluid was last in contact with the atmosphere at the Earth’s surface.
This approach only produces a broad age range, so the best the team can say is that the Timmins water had been resident underground for between 1.5 billion and 2.6 billion years. Even so, this is still hundreds of millions of years older than samples recovered from deep under South Africa’s Witwatersrand Basin.
The only water known to be more ancient is found in minute quantities trapped in the voids in some rock minerals. These inclusions can be billions of years old. …
Members of the research group at Toronto University are now examining the Timmins samples for their biological content.
Identifying microbes would go to the heart of issues about the habitability of deep Earth environments and for the prospects of finding life on other worlds. …
Scientists said Wednesday they had found life-giving chemicals in water at least 1.5 billion years old, which they are now combing for signs of microscopic organisms surviving from a prehistoric age.
The water, isolated in pockets deep underground for billions of years, is now pouring out of boreholes from a mine 2.4 kilometres (1.5 miles) beneath Ontario, Canada, they wrote in the journal Nature.
“This water could be some of the oldest on the planet and may even contain life,” the team said in a statement.
Not only that — the similarity between the rocks that trapped the fluid and those found on Mars raised hopes that similar life-sustaining water could be buried deep inside the Red Planet, they said.
Posted by Xeno on May 12, 2013
The cracks soon turned into gaping fractures, and within two weeks their 600-square-foot garage broke from the house and the entire property — manicured lawn and all — dropped 10 feet below the street.
It wasn’t long before the houses on both sides collapsed as the ground gave way in the Spivey’s neighborhood in Lake County, about 100 miles north of San Francisco.
“We want to know what is going on here,” said Scott Spivey, a former city building inspector who lived in his four-bedroom, Tudor-style dream home for 11 years.
Eight homes are now abandoned and 10 more are under notice of imminent evacuation as a hilltop with sweeping vistas of Clear Lake and the Mount Konocti volcano swallows the subdivision built 30 years ago.
The situation has become so bad that mail delivery was ended to keep carriers out of danger.
“It’s a slow-motion disaster,” said Randall Fitzgerald, a writer who bought his home in the Lakeside Heights project a year ago.
Unlike sinkholes of Florida that can gobble homes in an instant, this collapse in hilly volcanic country can move many feet on one day and just a fraction of an inch the next.
Officials believe water that has bubbled to the surface is playing a role in the destruction. But nobody can explain why suddenly there is plentiful water atop the hill in a county with groundwater shortages.
“That’s the big question,” said Scott De Leon, county public works director. “We have a dormant volcano, and I’m certain a lot of things that happen here (in Lake County) are a result of that, but we don’t know about this.”
Posted by Xeno on May 9, 2013
Never peer directly at the sun – even through clouds – at any time. The sun is so blindingly bright that, unless it’s completely blocked by the moon during a total solar eclipse, it can permanently damage your eyes. The eclipse happening today (May 9 for those east of the International Date Line; May 10 for those west of it) is essentially a partial eclipse in that the sun will not ever be completely covered by the moon. Instead, at mid-eclipse, a thin ring of the sun’s outer surface will appear in a circle around the silhouetted moon, to those standing along the eclipse path running through Australia and the Pacific Ocean. You will need to watch online or use a safe filter or projection technique, to view the May 9-10 solar eclipse.
Posted by Xeno on May 8, 2013
Russian physicists Alex Gurevich and Anatoly Karashtin claim, in a paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, they have found more evidence to support their idea that lightning is caused by cosmic rays. The notion was first proposed by Gurevich back in 1992, and has been a source of debate ever since.
No one really knows what causes lightning to form and strike—the prevailing view is that it comes about as a result of collisions between ice crystals in clouds and hail stones. But because clouds and the lightning they produce are unpredictable and hard to pin down, no one has been able to prove this theory. Another theory, proposed by Gurevich twenty years ago, says that lightning is formed from the collisions between cosmic rays and water droplets present in thunderclouds. Now he and a colleague claim to have found evidence to support this idea.
Gurevich suggests that cosmic rays entering thunder clouds cause the air in them to be ionized, resulting in a lot of free electrons floating around. The electronic field already present in the cloud, he continues, leads to the free electrons being boosted to higher energies. When the electrons present in the air collide with water atoms, more electrons are released, setting off what he describes as an avalanche of high-energy particles that eventually give way to a “runaway breakdown”—a discharge that is witnessed as a lightning strike.
As with other theories regarding the origins of lightning, Gurevich’s ideas haven’t been proved. But he hasn’t been sitting still. In this new effort, he along with Karashtin have been measuring and analyzing radio waves in storm clouds as lightning occurs. The idea is that if such strikes are due to interactions with cosmic rays, there should be measurable amounts of radio waves given off.
Gurevich and Karashtin set up equipment to monitor storm clouds over Russia and Kazakhstan—recording radio waves emitted during 3,800 lightning strikes. In analyzing the data, they found that hundreds, and perhaps even thousands of short radio wave pulses occurred just as a bolt of lightning was about to form. Perhaps more importantly, they matched the models Gurevich had built years before. There was on hitch however, the amount of energy delivered by the cosmic rays in the model don’t happen often enough in the real world to cause lightning strikes in most every thunderstorm.
Gurevich and Karashtin say the discrepancy can be explained by the addition of energy into the system by free electrons passing near hydrometeors (bits of hail or water droplets). When that happens, very small discharges result, adding to the total charge. Taken together they say, enough energy is added to cause the cascade that leads to lightning formation.
Posted by Xeno on May 7, 2013
One of the Philippines’ most active volcanoes rumbled to life Tuesday, spewing room-sized rocks toward nearly 30 surprised climbers, killing five and injuring others who had to be fetched with rescue helicopters and rope.
The climbers and their Filipino guides had spent the night camping in two groups before setting out at daybreak for the crater of Mayon volcano when the sudden explosion of rocks, ash and plumes of smokes jolted the picturesque mountain, guide Kenneth Jesalva told ABS-CBN TV network by cellphone.
He said rocks “as big as a living room” came raining down, killing and injuring members of his group, some of whom were in critical condition. Jesalva said he rushed back to the base camp at 3,000 feet to call for help.
Among the dead were three Germans and their Filipino guide, said Albay provincial Gov. Joey Salceda. He said everyone on the mountain had been accounted for at midday, except for a foreigner who was presumed dead.
Eight people were injured, and Salceda said the others were in the process of being brought down the mountain. Ash clouds have cleared over the volcano, which was quiet later in the morning.
“The injured are all foreigners. … They cannot walk. If you can imagine, the boulders there are as big as cars. Some of them slid and rolled down. We will rappel the rescue team, and we will rappel them up again,” he said from Legazpi, the provincial capital at the foothill of the mountain.
An Austrian mountaineer and two Spaniards were rescued with small bruises, he said.
Tuesday’s eruption was normal for the restive Mayon, said Renato Solidum, the head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.
The 8,070-foot mountain about 210 miles southeast of Manila has erupted some 40 times during the past 400 years.
In 2010, thousands of residents moved to temporary shelters when the volcano ejected ash up to 5 miles from the crater.
Solidum said no alert was raised after the latest eruption and no evacuation was being planned.
Climbers are not allowed when an alert is up, and the recent calm may have encouraged this week’s trek. However, Solidum said that even with no alert raised, the immediate zone around the volcano is supposed to be off limits because of the risk of a sudden eruption.
Salceda said he would enforce a ban on climbers.
Despite the risks, Mayon and its near-perfect cone is a favorite spot for volcano watchers. Most enjoy the occasional nighttime spectacle of the rim lit by flowing lava, viewing from the safety of hotels in Legazpi.
The volcano has a trail to the crater that is walkable, though it is steep and strewn with rocks and debris from past eruptions. …
Posted by Xeno on May 1, 2013
On April 19, a truck delivering waste from a fracking operation in Greene County, Pennsylvania, was quarantined after being rejected by a hazardous waste landfill as too dangerous.
The truck was carrying highly radioactiveradium-226 in concentrations 86 times higher than allowed per EPA limits.After being quarantined at a the landfill, the truck was sent back to the fracking site, which is operated by Rice Energy.
Radium, it should be noted, is a routineby-product of fracking — the fossil fuel extraction method behind the ongoing “natural gas boom.”
“Radium is a well known contaminant in fracking operations,” writes Jeff McMahon at Forbes. John Poister, a spokesperson for Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection, said “the material in question is radium 226, which is what we expect from shale drill cuttings.”
Radium-226 is linked to various forms of cancer and other diseases. “Radium-226 causes bone sarcomas and carcinomas of the paranasal sinuses and mastoid process,” according to the National Institutes of Health’s Toxicology Data Network.
“External exposure to radium’s gamma radiation increases the risk of cancer to varying degrees in all tissues and organs,” according to the EPA. In addition to radium, fracking involves the use of hundreds of other toxic chemicals. As reported on Planetsavepreviously, many of these chemicals are known carcinogens, such as benzene and formaldehyde, which are subsequently found in local air and water supplies.
One 2011 study linked 25% of the known chemicals used in fracking with cancers and mutations; another 2012 study by the US Geological Survey identified toxic chemicals found in local water supplies in Wyoming linked to nearby fracking operations.
This year, further reports have detailed the risks of silicosis (a fatal lung disease) faced by well operators due to high levels of silica dust in fracking operations.
There remains, however, scant legal requirements for the industry to disclose which chemicals are used, or how much they are used. There currently exist no federally mandated reporting requirements for disclosing the chemicals used in fracking, due largely to the infamous “Halliburton Loophole” — a law enacted in 2005 (at the behest of Vice President Cheney) that remains unchanged under President Obama. The law exempts the natural gas industry from regulatory and reporting requirements otherwise mandated under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The natural gas industry has also played an active role in suppressing public knowledge about the health risks of the chemicals they routinely use — including lobbying successfully to ban doctorsfrom freely discussing with their patientsthe links between symptoms and the chemicals used in nearby fracking operations.
The New England Journal of Medicine last year accused the natural gas industry of ”infringing on the doctor-patient relationship.”
Rice Energy, the operator of the fracking site in Greene County, operates 59 fracking wells throughout Pennsylvania.
Not to be deterred by the rejection of its highly radioactive, carcinogenic waste by-product, however, the company is applying for a new permit to allow the disposal of more radioactive materials in Pennsylvania, according to Forbes.
Posted by Xeno on April 25, 2013
Yellowstone’s underground volcanic plumbing is bigger and better connected than scientists thought, researchers reported here today (April 17) at the Seismological Society of America’s annual meeting.
“We are getting a much better understanding of the volcanic system of Yellowstone,” said Jamie Farrell, a seismology graduate student at the University of Utah. “The magma reservoir is at least 50 percent larger than previously imaged.”
Knowing the volume of molten magma beneath Yellowstone is important for estimating the size of future eruptions, Farrell told OurAmazingPlanet. …
Geologists believe Yellowstone sits over a hotspot, a plume of superheated rock rising from Earth’s mantle. As North America slowly drifted over the hotspot, the Yellowstone plume punched through the continent’s crust, leaving a bread-crumb-like trail of calderas created by massive volcanic eruptions along Idaho’s Snake River Plain, leading straight to Yellowstone. The last caldera eruption was 640,000 years ago. Smaller eruptions occurred in between and after the big blasts, most recently about 70,000 years ago. …
The magma chamber seen in the new study fed these smaller eruptions and is the source of the park’s amazing hydrothermal springs and geysers. It also creates the surface uplift seen in the park, said Bob Smith, a seismologist at the University of Utah and author of a related study presented at the meeting.
“This crustal magma body is a little dimple that creates the uplift,” Smith said. “It’s like putting your finger under a rubber membrane and pushing it up and the sides expand.” …
Posted by Xeno on April 25, 2013
Geneticists Richard Gordon of the Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory in Florida and Alexei Sharov of the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore have proposed, in a paper uploaded to the preprint server arXiv, that if the evolution of life follows Moore’s Law, then it predates the existence of planet Earth.
Moore’s Law, of course, famously suggests that the complexity of computers grows at a rate of double the transistors per circuit every two years, resulting in exponential growth. Looking at the complexity of computers today and working Moore’s Law backwards shows that the first microchips came about during the 1960s, which is when they were actually invented. In their paper, Gordon and Sharov take the same approach, only they apply it to biological complexity.
The two researchers acknowledge their ideas are more of a “thought exercise” than a theory proposal, but at the same time suggest their calculations ought to be taken seriously. They start with the idea of genetic complexity doubling every 376 million years—working backwards, they say, means that life first came about almost 10 billion years ago, which of course predates the creation of Earth itself. Most scientists agree the Earth formed just 4.5 billion years ago. Assuming that Moore’s Law does apply to biological complexity, this would suggest that life began somewhere other than on Earth and migrated here.
Of course there are other possibilities to explain what happened, as the two acknowledge—life could have evolved following Moore’s Law during certain periods but not at others—a deep freeze could have temporarily halted changes in complexity, for example, or cataclysmic events could have periodically killed off the more advanced biotic life forms. There is also the possibility that the development of life had to reach a certain stage of development before it began to conform to Moore’s Law. Then of course, there is the very real possibility that the beginnings and evolution of life don’t conform to Moore’s Law at all.
Gordon and Sharov’s paper is likely to set off multiple rounds of discussion regarding not just the origin of life on Earth, but in the galaxy as well. If life truly predates our planet, and it can be proved, what impact might that have on religious thought and what might it mean to those looking for meaning in its very existence?
An extrapolation of the genetic complexity of organisms to earlier times suggests that life began before the Earth was formed. Life may have started from systems with single heritable elements that are functionally equivalent to a nucleotide. The genetic complexity, roughly measured by the number of non-redundant functional nucleotides, is expected to have grown exponentially due to several positive feedback factors: gene cooperation, duplication of genes with their subsequent specialization, and emergence of novel functional niches associated with existing genes. Linear regression of genetic complexity on a log scale extrapolated back to just one base pair suggests the time of the origin of life 9.7 billion years ago. This cosmic time scale for the evolution of life has important consequences: life took ca. 5 billion years to reach the complexity of bacteria; the environments in which life originated and evolved to the prokaryote stage may have been quite different from those envisaged on Earth; there was no intelligent life in our universe prior to the origin of Earth, thus Earth could not have been deliberately seeded with life by intelligent aliens; Earth was seeded by panspermia; experimental replication of the origin of life from scratch may have to emulate many cumulative rare events; and the Drake equation for guesstimating the number of civilizations in the universe is likely wrong, as intelligent life has just begun appearing in our universe. Evolution of advanced organisms has accelerated via development of additional information-processing systems: epigenetic memory, primitive mind, multicellular brain, language, books, computers, and Internet. As a result the doubling time of complexity has reached ca. 20 years. Finally, we discuss the issue of the predicted technological singularity and give a biosemiotics perspective on the increase of complexity. …
Wow. We may not be alone, but we may be the smartest aliens on the block
Posted by Xeno on April 21, 2013
… “ The bottom line is that the reactors have lost containment. There are not “some leaks” at Fukushima. “Leaks” imply that the reactor cores are safely in their containment buildings, and there is a small hole or two which need to be plugged. But scientists don’t even know where the cores of the reactors are. That’s not leaking. That’s even worse than a total meltdown.
” This is a daily, ongoing ecological catastrophe. Being ignored and denied by American and by proxy Japanese goverments to preserve and proliferate pro-nuclear energy policy…
A quick calculation shows that Chernobyl released around ten thousand times more radioactive cesium each day during the reactor fire. But the Chernobyl fire only lasted 10 days … and the Fukushima release has been ongoing for more than 2 years so far.
Indeed, Fukushima has already spewed much more radioactive cesium and iodine 131than Chernobyl. The amount of radioactive cesium released by Fukushima was some 20-30 times higher than initially admitted.
Fukushima also pumped out huge amounts of radioactive iodine 129 – which has a half-life of 15.7 million years. Fukushima has also dumped up to 900 trillion becquerels of radioactive strontium-90 – which is a powerful internal emitter which mimics calcium and collects in our bones – into the ocean.
And the amount of radioactive fuel at Fukushima dwarfs Chernobyl … and so could keep leaking for decades, centuries or millenia. …
Almost two years after a natural disaster ravaged a Japanese nuclear plant, Bluefin tuna that test positive for radiation poisoning continue to be caught off the coast of California.
Is Fukushima Radiation Causing the Epidemic of Dead and Starving Sea Lions In California?
…CBS News reported last week: ”They’re very sick,” said Keith Matassa, who runs the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach. His team is nursing 115 sea lions back to health. “A normal sea lion at this age — 8 to 9 months old — should be around 60, 70 pounds,” said Matassa. “We’re seeing them come into our center at 20 to 25 pounds, and really they look like walking skeletons.”…
Get a Geiger counter now. I use mine to monitor background radiation levels. Get baseline measurements now and know what levels are normal in your area. Know what levels are dangerous. Treat it as if there was a nuclear war and we need to monitor fallout.