Saturday, May 17, 2014

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: The Great Balkan Deluge - Over 300 Landslides Hit Bosnia, Croatia And Serbia As Unprecedented And Catastrophic Rainfall Swamp The Balkan Region In The Worst Flooding Since Modern Records Began; At Least 25 Dead; THREE MONTHS Worth Of Rain Fell In JUST THREE DAYS! [PHOTOS+VIDEO]

May 17, 2014 - THE BALKANS -  Landslides triggered by unprecedented rains in Bosnia have left hundreds of people homeless, officials said Sunday, while thousands more have fled their homes in neighboring Croatia and Serbia as Balkan countries battle the region's worst flooding since modern records began.

Serbian army soldiers evacuate people in amphibious vehicles in the flooded town of Obrenovac, southwest of Belgrade,
May 17, 2014. Emergency services pulled seven dead bodies from flooded homes in Bosnia on Saturday and soldiers
rushed to free hundreds of people stranded in a school in Serbia during the worst floods to hit the Balkans in over a

Throughout hilly Bosnia, floods are triggering landslides covering roads, homes and whole villages. About 300 landslides have been reported, and stranded villagers often are being rescued by helicopter.

"The situation is catastrophic," said Bosnia's refugee minister, Adil Osmanovic.

Three months' worth of rain fell on the region in a three-day burst, creating the worst floods since rainfall measurements began 120 years ago.

Observed from the air, almost a third of Bosnia chiefly in the northeast resembles a huge muddy lake, with houses, roads and rail lines submerged. Officials say about a million people — more than a quarter of the country's population — live in the worst-affected areas.

The hillside village of Horozovina, close to the northeastern town of Tuzla, was practically split in two by a landslide that swallowed eight houses. More than 100 other houses were under threat from the restless earth. Residents told stories of narrow escapes from injury or death.

"I am homeless. I have nothing left, not even a toothpick," said one resident, Mesan Ikanovic. "I ran out of the house barefoot, carrying children in my arms."

Ikanovic said 10 minutes separated him and his family from likely death. He carried his 7-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son to safety.

Map shows extent of flooding in Bosnia and Serbia; 2c x 3 inches; 96.3 mm x 76 mm

Serbian police officers carry a man from a military helicopter during flood evacuation from Obrenovac, some 30
kilometers (18 miles) southwest of Belgrade Serbia, Saturday, May 17, 2014. Record flooding in the Balkans
leaves at least 20 people dead in Serbia and Bosnia and is forcing tens of thousands to flee their homes.
Meteorologists say the flooding is the worst since records began 120 years ago. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

People help old women out of a military truck during evacuation from Obrenovac, some 30 kilometers (18 miles)
southwest of Belgrade Serbia, Saturday, May 17, 2014. Record flooding in the Balkans leaves at least 20 people
dead in Serbia and Bosnia and is forcing tens of thousands to flee their homes. Meteorologists say the
flooding is the worst since records began 120 years ago. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

Ikanovic said he secured a mortgage and moved in only last year. "Now I have nothing," he said, adding, "Where will I go now? Where will we live?"

Semid Ivilic's house in the lower part of the village was still standing. But as he looked upward at the mass of earth and rubble that engulfed his neighbors' homes, Ivelic said he was worried.

"Nobody is coming to help us," he said.

Ivilic described the moment when, sitting inside his home, the terrain outside begun to slide. "It sounded like a huge explosion. People started running out of houses, screaming," he said.

While water levels are receding in some parts of Bosnia, land flanking the Sava River remains submerged, and water levels there are still rising in many areas. Hundreds of people have been plucked by rescue helicopters from flooded towns and villages.

The mayor of Orasje made a special appeal for help. The town is caught between the Sava on one side and another flooding river, the Bosna, on the other.

WATCH:  Residents Evacuated During Deadly Serbian Floods.


More than 10,000 already have been rescued from the town of Bijeljina, in northeast Bosnia. Trucks, buses and private cars were heading north with volunteers and tons of aid collected by people in cities outside the disaster zone.

In Sarajevo, volunteers went from door to door collecting whatever people would donate.

The Bosnian Army said it was evacuating people with helicopters and has 1,500 troops helping on the ground. But many roads remain closed by floods and hundreds of landslides. Bridges have been washed away and this has left many towns and villages completely depending on air lifts.

Helicopters from the European Union, Slovenia and Croatia also are aiding rescue efforts. They are deployed in areas around five cities in central and northeastern Bosnia where the situation is considered the most dangerous.

Bosnian people hang from the back of a car during evacuation from their flooded homes in the village of Dvorovi, near
Bijeljina 200 kms north of Sarajevo, Bosnia, Saturday May 17, 2014. Packed into buses, boats and helicopters, carrying
nothing but a handful of belongings, tens of thousands fled their homes Saturday in Bosnia and Serbia, seeking to
escape the worst flooding in a century. Authorities said 20 people have died but warned the death toll could rise further.
(AP Photo/Amel Emric)

Serbian police officers carry an old woman from a military helicopter during evacuation from Obrenovac, some 30
kilometers (18 miles) southwest of Belgrade Serbia, Saturday, May 17, 2014. Record flooding in the Balkans leaves
at least 20 people dead in Serbia and Bosnia and is forcing tens of thousands to flee their homes. Meteorologists
say the flooding is the worst since records began 120 years ago. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

Bosnian people walk on a broken road after a landslide which swept away eight houses near Kalesija, Bosnia, 150 kms
north of Sarajevo, Sunday May 18, 2014. Packed into buses, boats and helicopters, carrying nothing but a handful of
belongings, tens of thousands fled their homes in Bosnia and Serbia, seeking to escape the worst flooding in a century.
(AP Photo/Amel Emric)

Members of the Bosnian Army rescue people from their flooded homes, in the Bosnian town of Maglaj, 150 kms north of
Sarajevo, Friday May 16, 2014. Two people drowned in Serbia and the country declared a national emergency Thursday
as rain-swollen rivers across the Balkans flooded roads and bridges, shut down schools and cut off power. Hundreds of
people had to be evacuated. In Serbia and neighboring Bosnia, meteorologists said the rainfall was the most since
measuring started 120 years ago. Belgrade authorities say the average rainfall of
a two-month period hit the city in just 40 hours. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)

In the eastern sections of neighboring Croatia, two people are missing and hundreds have fled their homes as the Sava River also breached flood barriers there. The overflowing river rolled over villages and farm land in the relatively flat terrain.

In Serbia, more than 20,000 people have been forced from their homes. Officials there fear more flooding later Sunday as floodwaters travel down the Sava and reach the country.

Serbian officials said that the flood wave might be lower than initially expected, because the river broke barriers upstream in Croatia and Bosnia. Experts said they expect Sava floodwaters to rise for two more days, then subside.

"What happened to us happens not once in 100 years, but once in 1,000 years," Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said at a government meeting broadcast live on Serbian television. "But it should be over by Wednesday."

At least 25 people have died in the Balkan floods. - Yahoo.

CLIMATE CHANGE: Atlantic Current Strength Decline Explained As Natural Variation - But Threat Of "TIPPING POINT" Looms?!

May 17, 2014 - ATLANTIC OCEAN - The marked slowdown in the past decade of the warm Atlantic Ocean currents that bring mild weather to northwestern Europe may be caused by natural variation and not anthropogenic climate change, as has been previously suggested.

Nature magazine

The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is part of the great ocean 'conveyor belt' that ceaselessly circulates sea water, heat and nutrients around the globe. In particular, it transports large amounts of warm water from the tropics to the poles, warming the British Isles and maritime northern Europe along the way (see 'Current affair'). But since 2004, ocean sensors have detected a significant decline in the strength of the currents and a cooling of the subtropical Atlantic as a result. From mid-2009 to mid-2010, for example, the circulation slowed to two-thirds of its usual strength - and some oceanographers suggested that the drop caused the harsh weather in the United Kingdom and western Europe that winter (see Nature 497, 167 - 168; 2013).

Climate scientists had speculated that the slowdown is linked to man-made climate change. But an analysis presented last month by a team of British scientists at the annual assembly of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna suggests that the AMOC's slowing could just be part of natural oceanic fluctuations. The researchers added, however, that it will take more long-term monitoring to definitively rule out climate change as a factor.

Scientists think that the AMOC might be subject to abrupt changes that have probably played a part in ancient climate events, such as the sudden temperature swings 18,000 to 80,000 years ago during the last glacial period. The AMOC's main engine - the sinking of cold, dense water to the bottom of the North Atlantic - has been identified as a potential 'tipping element' in Earth's climate system, in which small climate perturbations could push the system past a critical threshold, with potentially large consequences for humans and ecosystems.

Since 2004, 22 moored sensors have been deployed between the Canary Islands and Florida along the latitude line at 26.5° north - where the AMOC emits its maximum heat. The sensor array, known as the RAPID Climate Change monitoring array, has continuously monitored the strength and temperature of the current at different depths.

RAPID measurements previously revealed that the circulation weakened by 3% per year on average between 2004 and 2008, with a mean strength of 17.5 million cubic metres per second. Most of the past decade's observed decline occurred between April 2008 and March 2012, when the AMOC was around 15% weaker on average than in the previous four years. The measurements also showed that the strength of the currents varied by up to 70% from year to year, depending on wind and seawater temperature.

To find out whether the observed long-term decline lies within the range of natural yearly fluctuations, Chris Roberts, a climate scientist at the UK Met Office's Hadley Center in Exeter who led the latest analysis, compared the observed trend with estimates of circulation strength derived from 14 state-of-the-art climate - ocean models. If the variability in modelled circulation strength were to differ substantially from observed trends, it could suggest that the decline is down to an external forcing factor such as climate change.

Although the results suggested that the downward trend is extremely unusual, Roberts knew that models can substantially under­estimate the actual year-to-year variability in the strength of the AMOC. When he and his team adjusted the models to incorporate more-realistic natural fluctuations, the downward trend was statistically in line with the expected variations. Even if the slowing continues at the current rate, the trend will not differ significantly from plausible estimates of natural variability for 18 more years, the team concluded. But it will take at least 10 more years of continuous observation to detect any influence of man-made climate-change effects, says Roberts.

"There's nothing at the moment that would suggest that something dramatically worrying is going on," says David Smeed, an oceanographer at the UK National Oceanography Center in Southampton and a lead researcher in the RAPID programme. He suggests that the weakening of the AMOC could be because of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation - a natural cycle of ocean variability in which Atlantic temperatures dip every 60 to 70 years.

RAPID, which was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council in Swindon, UK, was last year extended to run until 2020. Another array, funded mainly by UK and US science agencies, will be deployed this summer in the North Atlantic between Labrador, Greenland and Scotland to monitor the AMOC in subpolar regions. Together, data from the two arrays should help to explain the mechanisms behind the changes in circulation, says Susan Lozier, an oceanographer at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, especially because the subpolar array is along a similar latitude to the main driver for the Atlantic Ocean circulation system.

Regardless of the cause of the AMOC's decline, if the trend persists "it could have significant consequences for society" in terms of the climate in northwestern Europe, says Roberts. Nevertheless, being able to predict the strength of the current could help to improve short-term regional climate forecasts, he says. - Scientific American.

ELECTRIC UNIVERSE: New Research - Solar Winds Tied To Increased Lightning Strikes!

May 17, 2014 - ELECTRIC UNIVERSE - Solar winds hitting Earth may trigger an increase in lightning, a new study suggests.

April 23, 2014: Huge lightning strikes cross the skies as thunderstorms supercells
pass through areas in Archer City, Texas.Reuters

The research finds an increase in the number of lightning strikes after the streams of plasma and particles known as solar wind arrive on Earth from the sun. Exactly why this correlation exists is unclear, but researchers say the interaction of solar particles might somehow prime the atmosphere to be more susceptible to lightning.

"As the sun rotates every 27 days these high-speed streams of particles wash past our planet with predictable regularity. Such information could prove useful when producing long-range weather forecasts," study researcher Chris Scott, a professor in space and atmospheric physics at the University of Reading, said in a statement.

Triggering lightning
The idea that lightning has roots in space is not a new one. In 2013, researchers found evidence that cosmic rays, which are high-energy beams of particles that likely originate in supernovas, may trigger lightning when they enter Earth's atmosphere. As they stream through the atmosphere, cosmic rays knock electrons off of atoms, potentially causing a chain reaction when those electrons knock into other atoms, dislodging even more electrons. In the 2013 study, researchers found that thunderclouds contain already-charged water droplets and ice crystals, meaning a normal level of cosmic rays could push these clouds over the edge into lightning territory.

Not all researchers are convinced that cosmic rays play a role in generating lightning. But if they do, strong solar winds' magnetism should strengthen the magnetic field that surrounds Earth, Scott said in a video about the new findings.

Sun-lightning link?

That's not what Scott and his colleagues found, however. The researchers compared a record of lightning strikes from the U.K. Met Office lightning detection program from between 2000 and 2005. They focused on strikes within a 310-mile radius of central England. They then analyzed the lightning strikes in comparison with solar wind data from NASA's Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) spacecraft.

Instead of seeing solar winds strengthening Earth's protective magnetic field, keeping cosmic rays out and preventing lightning, the researchers found the opposite. There were more lightning strikes after a significant gust of solar wind than before. After the arrival of a strong solar wind, there were an average of 422 lightning strikes in the study area over the next 40 days, compared with 321 on average in the 40 days prior.

The measurements might be the result of a greater number of lightning strikes, the researchers note, or it might be that strikes are stronger and are thus picked up on weather-monitoring instruments.

The lightning peaked 12 to 18 days after the solar winds arrived, researchers report Wednesday in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

"As one of these streams washes past the Earth, it brings with it a population of energetic particles that penetrate the atmosphere and appear to help modulate lightning rates," Scott said in the video.

Solar winds are predictable, Scott said, so if the phenomenon proves legitimate, it might be possible to forecast times of increased lightning risk. - FOX News.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Meteor Shoots Across Tennessee Sky!

May 17, 2014 - TENNESSEE, UNITED STATES - Bill Cooke, head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office, said the very bright meteor entered the atmosphere over Columbia, S.C. at 9.38 p.m.


The basketball-sized meteor flew northwest at speeds reaching more than 78,000 miles-per-hour, eventually burning 52 miles above Pikeville, Tenn., just north of Chattanooga. In all, the meteor flew 290 miles, which Cooke said is quite rare.

The video below is from Cooke's blog and shows the meteor shooting across the sky.

WATCH: Earthgrazer seen in the southern sky.

NASA said the fireball wasn't part of any meteor shower and belongs to a class of meteors known as Earthgrazers. These types of meteors skim along the upper part of the atmosphere before burning up.

At 10:15 p.m. that night, sonic booms were heard in West Virginia, but nothing was recorded. Cooke said sonic booms indicate that a meteorite landed somewhere, but he knows it didn't land in Tennessee. - WBIR.