Saturday, March 17, 2012

EARTH CHANGES: The Season of the Wind - Cyclone Lua Hammers the Pilbara Region!

As residents in Western Australia's Pilbara region assess the damage caused by Tropical Cyclone Lua overnight, Queensland's Gulf communities are being warned to prepare for a cyclone heading their way.

Satellite image of Australia on Saturday, 17 March 2012.
Pilbara residents emerged from a night of wild weather this morning after a cyclone crossed the coast north of Port Hedland as a category four system yesterday afternoon, before later weakening to category two strength. There are reports of extensive damage at the small community of Pardoo, while Nullagine, Newman and Marble Bar were also in the firing line overnight. It has now been downgraded to a category one system as it slowly moves inland towards the West Australian Goldfields. Recovery teams travelled to the remote Pilbara towns this morning to assess the damage. "We've only got scant reports of damage at this stage," Fire and Emergency Service manager Lez Hayter said. "We did have a call from Pardoo Roadhouse. They've taken another hammering which they seem to cop all the time - some fairly major structural damage. But luckily the people are in good spirits and they're safe."

A red alert is still in place for inland parts of the east Pilbara, including Nullagine, Newman, Jigalong, Woodie Woodie, Nifty and Moly Mines, with Lua now continuing inland towards Wiluna. Those on red alert are effectively in lockdown and are being advised to remain in shelter or go to shelter immediately. Meanwhile, Queensland's gulf communities are being warned to prepare for a tropical cyclone as a low pressure system over Karumba develops. The system is expected to move offshore today and develop into a category one system overnight. The cyclone, which will be named Mitchell, is expected to produce heavy rain, flash flooding, gales and unusually high tides. Rick Threlfall from the weather bureau says the system will linger and affect much of the state this week. Rainbands from an active monsoonal trough have already produced heavy falls on the north-east coast. Police have closed the Bruce Highway at Giru, south of Townsville, where water is rising. - ABC News.
WATCH: Residents assess cyclone damage.

EXTREME WEATHER: St. Patrick's Day Strong Storms - From Missouri to Indiana!

Strong thunderstorms are threatening to ruin St. Patrick's Day celebrations from southern Missouri to southern Indiana into this evening.

Photo of a towering thunderstorm cloud, submitted by Facebook fan Paul K. on Saturday.
Strong thunderstorms are threatening to ruin St. Patrick's Day celebrations from southern Missouri to southern Indiana this evening. The stage is set for more potent thunderstorms to erupt from St. Louis and Poplar Bluff, Mo., to Louisville, Ky., this evening with record warmth and moist air in place. Other cities in the path of the thunderstorms include Cape Girardeau, Mo., Paducah, Ky., and Evansville, Ind. Some of the same areas being threatened this St. Patrick's Day were the targets of the massive tornado outbreak earlier this month.

A repeat of that outbreak is not expected since any tornado that touches down into this evening will be an isolated event. Damaging winds, hail and flooding downpours are greater concerns. Even if a storm-related warning is not issued for your area, be sure to seek shelter immediately once thunder is heard. The sound of thunder means you are close enough to get struck by lightning. The severe weather danger will lessen across the lower Ohio Valley later this evening following the loss of daytime heating. Attention will then turn toward an outbreak of severe weather, including tornadoes, that will expand from the southern Plains to the South and Ohio Valley next week.
- AccuWeather.

SNOW DELUGE: Alaska's Largest City Eyes Snow Record - Anchorage Neighborhoods Buried Under Snowfall; Inches Away From 60-Year Record!

A near-record snowfall this winter has buried Anchorage neighborhoods, turning streets into snow-walled canyons and even collapsing some roofs. But some residents are hoping for more, at least another 3.3 inches. Then they could say they made it through the winter when the nearly 60-year record of 132.6 inches was broken.

In this Thursday, March 15, 2012, photo, a juvenile moose is dwarfed by deep
snow in Anchorage, Alaska. The state's largest city is 3.3 inches away from
breaking its record snowfall of 132.6 inches that was set in the winter of 1954-55.
"I want it destroyed," resident Melissa Blair said. "I want to see another foot and knock that record out of the park." Even by Alaska standards, this winter is unusual for the hardy residents of the state's largest city. But extreme weather isn't just affecting Alaska, it has also hit the Lower 48. The first three months of 2012 have seen twice the normal number of tornadoes. And 36 states set daily high temperature records Thursday. The Lower 48 had its fourth warmest winter on record, while Alaska had its coldest January on record. Two different weather phenomenon - La Nina and its northern cousin the Arctic Oscillation - are mostly to blame, meteorologists say. Global warming could also be a factor because it is supposed to increase weather extremes, climate scientists say. "When you start to see the extreme events become more common, that's when you can say that it is a consequence of global warming," University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver said. Nearly 11 feet of snow has fallen on Anchorage this winter, forcing the city to haul away at least 250,000 tons of snow - or around 500 million pounds - to its six snow disposal sites. The sites are close to overflowing. State and city crews are working around the clock to clear almost 2,500 miles of roads. City street maintenance superintendent Dan Southard said the 125,000 truckloads of snow hauled by city crews would stack up to almost 1,200 feet if they were dumped onto a football field surrounded by walls. That's not even counting the loads disposed of by state crews. "It's an enormous task," Southard said of this winter's challenges.

This winter is just fine with Kenny Withrow, owner of Popeye's Services, a snow-clearing outfit. He has been working well into the night, clearing driveways and parking lots and charging $350 to $1,200 for each roof clearing job. Last year, he cleared maybe five roofs. This year, he's done as many as 50, and the phone calls from worried residents keep coming. Withrow enjoys the snow because of its beauty and the snowmobiling adventures it makes possible. He does wonder if it's ever going to end, though. Still, he's rooting for more of the white stuff. There's that record to break. "We're so close," he said. "We might as well just get it done." To date, the city has received 129.4 inches of snow this winter, compared with the historical average of 69.5 inches. No more is expected in the coming days, but snow can typically fall well into April, which averages four inches. National Weather Service meteorologist Dave Strickland said it's hard to predict whether the city will win the big-snow crown. "Bring it on," said Strickland, an enthusiastic outdoorsman. "We could break the record every year and I'd be happy. But there probably would be a lot of unhappy people." Count Nick Wiederholt among them. He's sick of snow and cold and can't wait for the long, warm days of summer. But first, he's bracing for the mess ahead when the snow melts. "I always say I'll survive winter if I can get a good summer," he said. - Associated Press.

MASS INSECT DIE-OFF: Monarch Butterfly Numbers Take A Monumental Hit!

Monarch butterflies have taken a hit this year, according to researchers who monitor the colorful insects' numbers at their traditional overwintering grounds in a forest in central Mexico.

A cloud of monarch butterflies flutters above the overwintering colony in Mexico.
This winter's surviving population covers only about 7 acres (2.89 hectares), almost a third less than the area the butterflies covered in the 2010-2011 season. Each winter, the world's monarchs gather in a single swath of evergreen forest in Michoacán, Mexico, to spend the cooler months clustered together in a state of torpor, blanketing the trees by the thousands. This so-called "supergeneration" flies from its birthplace, in the northern United States and Canada, to the same patch of Mexican forest, year after year. The announcement from researchers with WWF and Mexico's National Commission for Natural Protected Areas appears to confirm the fears of some biologists, who said it was likely that scalding temperatures and extreme droughts affecting Texas and other parts of the United States in 2011 would take a toll on the butterflies.

The migrating monarchs can survive for only so long without nectar or water, and the leg of their journey through parched regions of the U.S. was likely a difficult one. "I call that a thousand miles of hell, from Oklahoma down to Mexico," Chip Taylor, a professor and insect ecologist at the University of Kansas, and the director of Monarch Watch, a nonprofit outreach organization, told OurAmazingPlanet in November. In recent years, winter monarch colonies appear to be shrinking. Since 1994, the average coverage is 18 acres (7 hectares), but the lowest numbers ever recorded have all occurred in the last 11 years, with a new record low in 2009 of a mere 5 acres (2 hectares) - an area only about one-eighth larger than the average Walmart Supercenter store. Overall, monarch populations have declined significantly over the last two decades. Deforestation in Mexico has been a factor, according to some biologists. Taylor says agricultural practices in the United States also play an outsize role in the butterflies' demise. The liberal use of herbicides has killed off milkweed - the only plant upon which the butterflies lay their eggs - from some 140 million acres (57 million hectares) in North America the last 10 years, Taylor said. - Our Amazing Planet.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Weird, "Horizontal Tornado" Cloud Spins Through Mississippi Sky?!

New images of a weird weather phenomenon known as a roll cloud have surfaced from Richland, Mississippi.

The images, taken on a camera phone by Mississippi resident Daniel Blake Fitzhugh, reveal a seemingly endless roll cloud, or arcus cloud, a low cloud formation that forms over the sea or at the edges of thunderstorms. Fitzhugh sent in an image and video of the cloud to LiveScience after seeing an earlier report of a roll cloud off the coast of Brazil.   Fitzhugh told LiveScience he captured the video and image of a roll cloud in 2010 in Richland, a town on the outskirts of Jackson, Miss. "It had been cloudy and windy all day," Fitzhugh wrote in an email. "I was heading north and the cloud was going west to east. I noticed it and was extremely surprised! I had never seen anything like it before."

The cloud was rolling around like a "sideways tornado," Fitzhugh said. In fact, roll clouds form where sinking cold air drives low-hanging, moist warm air upward, where cooler temperatures condense the moisture in that air to form clouds. Winds create the weird rolling effect. Their more commonly spotted cousin, shelf clouds, form on the leading edges of thunderstorms; while shelf clouds are attached to the bulk of a storm, these tubular clouds aren't. Tornadoes are also associated with storms, but they occur when thunderstorm updrafts tilt rotating air vertically. Unlike tornadoes, roll clouds aren't dangerous. They are rare, however. One of the best chances to see a roll cloud is off the coast of Queensland, Australia. Here, sea winds regularly form a reoccurring roll cloud known as Morning Glory during the fall months. - Live Science.
WATCH: Weird clouds over Richland.