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May 2015
May 2015

Extreme heat waves like the one that killed more than 70,000 Europeans in 2003 may be the most visible examples of deadly weather, but cold days actually cause more deaths than hot ones, a new study says. 
<p>Memorial Day marks the unofficial start to summer and summer warmth will dominate the Northeast next week, but that does not mean an end to shots of cooler air.</p>
Santa Barbara County in California is in a state of emergency after a pipeline ruptured, spilling thousands of gallons of crude oil. We look at the extent of the damage, the environmental concerns and why these oil spills keep happening.
<p>Unbroken by major landmasses, Antarctica's ocean currents race around the icy continent with powerful force. Now, a new image from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico reveals in amazing detail the turbulent rush of swirling eddies and currents in the Southern Ocean.</p>
Memorial Day weekend may be the unofficial start of summer, but in parts of Maine it still looks a little like winter.
<p>California farmers who hold some of the state's strongest water rights avoided the threat of deep mandatory cuts when the state accepted their proposal to voluntarily reduce consumption by 25 percent amid one of the worst droughts on record.</p>
CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam reports on the impact of an oil spill off the coast of California.
Severe thunderstorms are expected to continue in the South and Plains through Memorial Day weekend. Storm Specialist Mike Bettes has the details.
Geologists were sent to earthquake-damaged mountain villages in Nepal this week to assess landslide risks before the rainy season begins next month, an official said Friday.
May 22, 2015; 12:25 PM ET The American Red Cross chapter in Dallas-Fort Worth has been assisting residents in Wichita Falls, Texas, who were evacuated because of the flooding in the community.
Each spring everyone who lives in the so called tornado alley keeps a close eye on the sky. Meteorologist Jim Cantore explains what causes twisters to from in tornado alley.
Despite a brutally cold and snowy winter across much the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, experts say tick populations across both regions are thriving this...
When fronts collide, trouble is coming
Mother Nature seems to have the weather flipped upside down with Fairbanks, Alaska, set to start the Memorial Day holiday weekend on a warmer note than...
Dramatic video shows a man caught in flood waters that surged down the streets of Izmir, Turkey. CNN's Derek Van Dam reports.
The massive shelves of ice that ring Antarctica have been shrinking over the past couple of decades, and that could have grave implications for sea level rise. It’s not the ice shelves themselves that pose a problem: they’re mostly afloat, so when they melt or dump massive icebergs, it doesn’t affect water levels any more than melting ice cubes make your drink rise and overflow. But the ice shelves serve as massive barriers that slow the flow of glaciers out to sea. As the shelves shrink, the barrier weakens, allowing glaciers to start moving faster. And since that ice is land-based, it adds to sea level rise. The Ross Ice Shelf at the Bay of Whales. Credit: NOAA This faster glacial flow has already been documented in several parts of the frozen continent. Now, a new report in Science has identified one more. Using satellite data from NASA and the European Space Agency, scientists have shown that glaciers flowing into the sea from the Southern Antarctic Peninsula have sped up markedly since 2009. Collectively, write the authors, these glaciers, most of them unnamed, are now adding enough ice to put an extra 56 billion metric tons of water into the oceans every year. That won’t add more than the tiniest fraction to the current annual sea level rise of about 3 mm per year (about a tenth of an inch) caused by melting ice worldwide along with sea water that is expanding as it warms. But if glaciers in Antarctica and Greenland keep moving faster as the century progresses, estimates of sea level rise by 2100, which now stand at between 10 and 32 inches at a minimum, may have to be revised upward. However much the oceans swell over the current century, that figure will come on top of the 8 inches of sea level rise the planet has already seen since 1900. That increase has made storm surges like the one launched by Superstorm Sandy far more devastating than it would have been 100 years earlier. It has also led to increased flooding risk in cities like Baltimore, Philadelphia, Charleston, Norfolk, and Honolulu, to name a few. By 2100, according to one study, as much as $210 trillion in property and infrastructure worldwide, along with tens of millions of people, could be at risk from coastal flooding. Projections of future sea level rise carry uncertainty because scientists aren’t sure how the vast ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica will respond to warming. This study is part of the effort to reduce that uncertainty. In this case the scientists didn’t measure the glaciers’ speedup directly. Instead, they measured their thickness, using radar from NASA’s Cryosat-2 satellite to gauge the height of the glaciers’ surfaces above sea level at many different points. “Cryosat has been doing this for all of Antarctica,” lead author Bert Wouters, of the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, said. “But we noticed a huge signal in this one little spot that nobody had seen before, so we decided to have a closer look.” The spot was located on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula where it joins the main Antarctic continent. The thinning amounted to meters per year in some places, Wouters said. Thinning can be caused by surface melting, but this degree of thinning couldn’t be explained by melting, he said. It can also happen when relatively fluffy ice on a glacier’s surface compresses under its own weight, but again, that couldn’t have produced such dramatic changes. In the end, they concluded, the ice must be thinning because it was being stretched by faster glacial flow. The European GRACE satellite, meanwhile, which measures changes in the mass of the glaciers, confirmed that the ice wasn’t just being packed tighter. It was actually thinning. Neko Harbor, an inlet on the Antarctic Peninsula. Credit: David Stanley/flickr “It’s not totally surprising, based on what we already know, but it’s worrisome,” Eric Rignot, of the University of California, Irvine and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said. Rignot, who co-authored a recent study on the disintegration of Antarctica’s Larsen B ice sheet, was not involved in this research. The meltback and disintegration of ice shelves in this area, in particular, are more worrisome than most because of the topography that lies under them. The so-called “grounding line” in this part of Antarctica — the point where the ice shelf is anchored to land — is on ground that slopes downward toward the continent’s interior. Scientists generally agree that this and other ice shelves are mostly melting from below, as warm ocean water eats at their undersides. In a case like this, however, if the ice shelf thins sufficiently, it will float free of the grounding line, allowing warm water to rush underneath and attack areas that were previously protected. “It’s hard to know, but that could mark a point of no return,” Wouters said. This configuration of ice and bedrock has already been documented in the Weddell Sea, on the other side of the Antarctic peninsula. “We learn something new every year about Antarctic changes,” Rignot said. Unfortunately, little of it bodes well for the world’s coastlines and the people who live there.
A protest at a Nestle bottling plant in Los Angeles over bottling water during the drought.
It might feel more like late October rather than late May in the Northeast on Friday night as temperatures dip well below normal. 
While the Western drought has its claws firmly dug in, the nearly five-year drought that has gripped Oklahoma and Texas is on its last legs, thanks to recent torrents of rain, government climate scientists said Thursday. “I think the Texas drought is pretty much all but over,” Victor Murphy, climate services program manager for the National Weather Service’s Southern Region, said during a press teleconference. The last vestiges will likely disappear over the next few months as forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) expect the summer to bring increased odds for above-normal precipitation to a swath of the country from the Intermountain West down through the Plains and through parts of the Southeast. The NOAA summer outlook also expects the uptick in soil moisture in the Southern Plains to help keep temperatures down, though the country’s coasts won’t be so lucky. The entire West up to Alaska, as well as parts of the East Coast are likely to see above-normal temperatures from June through August. The expected temperature and precipitation patterns are “fairly typical of El Niño summers,” David Unger, a seasonal forecaster with NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, said. The drought that hit Texas and Oklahoma began in 2010 with months upon months of hot, dry weather. It reached its nadir in 2011 when the entire area of both states was mired in drought. In October of that year, nearly three quarters of Texas and 60 percent of Oklahoma was in exceptional drought, the worst category recognized by the U.S. Drought Monitor. Both states have seen fits and starts of improvement since that low point, but it is the rains over the past few weeks that have sounded the drought’s death knell. Most areas of Texas have seen more than 200 percent of their normal precipitation over the past 60 days, recharging reservoirs and bringing moisture back into baked soils. The rains brought more than 3 trillion gallons of water into Texas reservoirs, Murphy said, most of which are nearly completely full, though some are still struggling. The amount of rain Texas and Oklahoma have recorded over the past 60 days (as a percent of normal). Click image to enlarge. Credit: NOAA “The rain’s been widespread; the improvement’s been widespread,” he said. And though residents may be getting a bit weary of rainy, stormy days — heavy rains in such short periods can bring threats of flooding — they look to be in for more of them. Forecast models suggest that the odds favor the Southern Plains seeing more above-average precipitation throughout the summer. Those odds extend from parts of Idaho and Montana, down through the Plains states, and over across much of the Gulf Coast states. That kind of precipitation pattern has been seen in many other El Niño summers, as this one is expected to be, with forecasters 90 percent certain the El Niño currently in place will last through the season. El Niño is a cyclical climate event that features warmer-than-normal surface waters in the tropical Pacific Ocean. The heat the ocean gives off alters the normal weather patterns over the region, which can then affect weather in other parts of the world. Expected summer temperature and precipitation patterns across the U.S. Click image to enlarge. Credit: NOAA While the climate signals that forecasters have to go on don’t give much indication of what most of the rest of the country might expect precipitation-wise, they do suggest that coastal Pacific Northwest will see below-normal rains. That, combined with expected above-average temperatures, is likely to exacerbate the region’s “wet drought,” brought on by a lack of snowfall over the winter. The northwest coast fared better than inland areas in the winter, as it depends more on rain than snow to fill reservoirs, but NOAA expects drought to develop there over the summer. The odds for warmer summer temperatures extend to varying degrees across the entire West, and won’t help the drought entrenched in California and other states, either. Scorching summer heat can increase water demand, and California has already had to introduce mandatory water restrictions statewide for the first time in its history. So while one drought, in Murphy’s words, “looks like it’s pretty much on it’s last breath,” another could be set to dig in even deeper.
May 21, 2015; 2:05 PM ET Colombian police jumped into a swollen and debris-filled river in Salgar to save a dog that had been swept away by the current.
Flames Sebastian Dooris/Flickr CC by 2.0 We tend to think of oil and gas as a resource that was only utilized by humans once we entered the industrial age and our appetite for oil exploded. But unlike in Civilization V, oil doesn't just appear out of nowhere as soon as you upgrade to a new technological era. In the real world, we've been using the substance for a very long time. Places where natural gas seeped out of the ground (called seeps) were once a source of wonder in the ancient world. When lit, they burned for long periods of time, kindling fervor and awe in people around the world. Some came to see a few of these sites as holy places, and temples were built around them, where pilgrims seeking answers to life's great questions could journey to find enlightenment. (Of course, thanks to Douglas Adams, we now know that the Answer is 42.) It turns out that the locations of those places may still hold a lot of answers to environmental and economic questions. In a chapter of his new book Natural Gas Seepage, researcher Giuseppe Etiope explains that knowing where and when natural gas bubbled to the surface in ancient times could help use understand how the resource moves through the Earth. Natural gas is, well, a gas. That means that it is highly unlikely to stay in one place for any amount of time, unless it is physically surrounded by something, like a balloon or rocks. But just like that shiny mylar balloon deflated after your birthday party, turning into a sad, crumpled heap on the floor as helium wriggled its way free of its cheerful prison, natural gas can escape the layers of rocks that keep it underground. Eternal Flame G. Etiope The Eternal Flame at the Zoroastrian Fire Temple in Azerbaijan used to be fed by natural gas seeping out of the ground. Now, it is fed by a pipe. But unlike your birthday balloon, natural gas can take a lot longer to seep out of the ground. Etiope suggests that by looking at ancient texts that describe temples built next to pillars of fire or furnaces, geologists can get a better idea of how gas might move underground. In many cases the natural gas source that powered these flames, such as the eternal flame at the Zoroastrian temple (seen above), went extinct, but that doesn't mean that we can't get new information from the long-dead wells. In the case of the fire temple, a new natural gas seepage cropped up about 5.5 miles away, likely from a related source. Figuring out how these seeps move, grow, and eventually die out over long time periods (in some cases, thousands of years) can help people working in the oil and gas industry figure out how natural gas leaks might move away from artificial wells. In addition, knowing how long the eternal flames have been burning could help environmental scientists estimate how much natural gas leaked into the atmosphere over the centuries. With greenhouse gas emissions on the rise researchers are trying to get an accurate count of how much gas is headed into the atmosphere from both natural and human-made sources. That means they want all the data they can get their hands on, even if it is a blast from the past.
Just a few months ago Wichita Falls, Texas was suffering through a terrible drought. Now there are evacuations in the city after days of rain.
May 21, 2015; 12:20 PM ET Families still have standing water from nearly two weeks ago in Evans, Colorado. More rain has the water rising.
After a tornado warning was issued for the Boonsville area Tuesday night, Christina Lopez and her husband, Pablo, tried to flee their small mobile-home community. But the gate wouldn't open, having been slammed shut by the strong winds. The couple were forced to ride out the storm in their car under a stand of trees. "We couldn't see...
Ahhh... Adam Klein/Flickr CC By SA 2.0 In these United States summer is unofficially the sunny, sweltering weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Yes, astronomically speaking, it’s June 21 to September 23. We’re choosing to ignore that here in favor of the cultural definition, because come on, early June feels way more like summer than mid-September. And this year, we get one extra week. Memorial Day (which is always the last Monday in May) is falling on its earliest possible date, and Labor Day (the first Monday in September) on its last possible date. That means summer stretches an endless 15 weeks instead of the usual 14. The last time this happened was 2009, and the next time will be 2020--see the handy chart below. So get out there and enjoy it. Length Of Cultural Summer Katie Peek/Popular Science Each dot here represents a day, starting with May 1 each year. The days that fall between Memorial Day and Labor Day are in yellow, rather than green. In some years, highlighted in gray, the two milestones capture an extra seven days. And 2015 is one of those magical years.
After a cooler and dry start to the holiday weekend across the Northeast, warmer weather will greet most Memorial Day cookouts and activities. 
In this edition of Brainstorm, we examine the speed of rain.
May 21, 2015; 11:20 AM ET Tasmania’s River Derwent lit up bright blue on Sunday night, May 17, thanks to an influx of billions of minute marine organisms that glow in the dark.
Meteorologist Ari Sarsalari discusses how cold temperatures could affect your wMemorial Day weekend.
May 21, 2015; 1:31 PM ET Recovery begins now after a tornado damaged many home and apartments in Runaway Bay, Texas.
AMHQ's Meteorologist Jim Cantore demonstrates the structure of a tornado in a 3D module.
President Barack Obama said Wednesday the threat posed by climate change is evident all around and that those who deny the "indisputable" science that it is real are putting at risk the security of the United States and the military sworn to defend it.Obama said refusing to act...
California farmers with century-old water rights in the San Joaquin River Watershed will no longer be able to draw water from the river as a result of...
<p>These pictures make it look as though you could be star gazing on some far off planet - but they were actually taken on the Isle of Wight.</p><p>A combination of the stars' light and a lack of light pollution causes a huge variety of colours to seep through the night sky and makes the stars look incredibly bright.</p><p>Chad Powell, who captured the images, said: "Being out there under the stars is an amazing and very surreal feeling.</p><p>"It really does make you feel very insignificant in the grand scheme of things."</p><p>The 23-year-old explained why there seems to be so many different colours coming from the night sky and how it was possible to see the Milky Way from Earth, seen as a large cluster of stars.</p><p>He said: "The cloudy area of the galactic core is where the Milky Way gets its name, which is more noticeable as a milky glow to the naked eye. This glow is produced by the light of young stars being absorbed by galactic dust.</p><p>"Stars and small areas in the sky can be seen as different colours depending on what elements are present.</p><p>"Light pollution plays a major role in the different colours seen throughout a particular image, often seen as an overpowering yellow glow."</p><p>He also explained why in one photo the moon looks as bright as the sun.</p><p>"The light emitted from the full moon, whilst behind a thin cloud, combined with a long exposure helped to create a scene which looks more like a sunrise."</p><p>Although these pictures may look as though they are taken on some far-flung planet, they were actually captured near the town of Ventnor, in the Isle of Wight.</p><p>"The Isle of Wight's southern location makes it one of the best locations to stargaze in England, and one of very few where the Milky Way can be visible to the naked eye."</p>
Click through to see amazing space photos from the last week.
People had to push stalled out cars off the roads in Charleston, South Carolina after they flooded.
A tornado ripped through Mineral Wells, Texas, a town just west of Dallas, on Tuesday night, tearing apart a building and causing widespread disruptions...
April capped a 12-month period that tied the warmest such stretch on record, according to data released Tuesday. That period, going back to May 2014, tied the previous record holder, the 12 months from April 2014 to March 2015. Of the 10 warmest 12-month periods on record, nine occurred in the past two years, most of them in back-to-back stretches. The 10 warmest 12-month periods on record. Click image to enlarge. Credit: NOAA The clustering of such warm periods is a marker of how much global temperatures have risen thanks to the human-driven buildup of heat-trapping gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. April’s heat also ensured that 2015 is still the warmest year-to-date on record. And with a healthy looking El Nino that could further intensify in the coming months, the chances that the year as a whole could best last year’s record-breaking temperature are boosted. Data released Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ranked this April as the fourth-warmest April in the past 136 years, with an average global temperature 1.33°F above the 20th century average. NASA’s similar database put the month tied for the third-warmest April; each agency treats global temperature data in slightly different ways, creating small differences, but overall broad agreement. The reason April dipped slightly in the monthly rankings compared to the winter months, which all ranked as the warmest or second warmest such months, is because of cooler land surface temperatures, Jessica Blunden, a climate scientist with ERT, Inc., at the NOAA’s National Center for Environmental Information, said. In Australia, for example, a March that ranked as the eighth warmest was followed by an April that was 88th warmest. “While there were a lot of warm areas, we didn't see as much widespread record warmth,” Blunden said in an email. The areas of the world that were colder or hotter than normal from January to April 2015. Click image to enlarge. Credit: NOAA Whether that trend will continue into May is difficult to say, she said, because “land surface temperatures can fluctuate a lot more rapidly than ocean temperatures, so it's difficult to forecast May temperatures based on land temperatures during the previous month.” NOAA still ranks the first four months of the year as the warmest year-to-date, coming in at 1.44°F above the 20th century average. It bested the previous record holder, 2010, by 0.13°F. NASA also ranked the year as the warmest to date. That ranking is, in part, a mark of just how warm the winter months were. “The early months drove the year-to-date temperature,” Blunden said. “And we can attribute a lot of the warmth to the continuing unusually warm ocean temperatures,” which change much more slowly than land temperatures. While the majority of the year still has to play out, the fact that an El Nino is in place and is expected to hang around through the end of the year tips the odds in favor of continued record warmth. Even if 2015 doesn’t take the record, it is likely to place among the hottest years. Of the 15 warmest years on record, 13 have occurred in the 21st century, which shows the clear warming effect that accumulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases have had on global temperatures. No record-cold year has been observed since 1911.
Memorial Day weekend is commonly referred to as the unofficial start of summer across the United States and is a time when many open up their pools, attend...
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