Tornado touches down in Wyo.; at least 1 injured Associated Press – 1 hr 17 mins ago DENVER (AP) — Storms brought a tornado and 2-inch hail to Wyoming on Thursday, a day after thunderstorms pummeled parts of Wyoming and Colorado with golf ball-sized hail and heavy rain.Three homes were heavily damaged by the tornado Thursday, and 10 to 12 other structures also have damage, said Kelly Ruiz of the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security.One person was treated at a hospital for a cut on the head, said local radio station owner Kent Smith, speaking for the Platte County Sheriff’s Office.Some power lines also were downed, Ruiz said.The tornado touched down briefly near Wheatland, north of Cheyenne, in a sparsely populated area, officials said. One of the destroyed homes was vacant, Smith said.Hail the size of golf balls was reported in the Wheatland area, and 2-inch hail was reported in Laramie, National Weather Service meteorologist Tim Trudel said.The National Weather Service issued a tornado watch for parts of Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska through Thursday night. Forecasters said thunderstorms that can spawn tornadoes could develop and flooding was possible.In Colorado, a tornado was spotted near Calhan in El Paso County on Thursday night. Meteorologists were trying to confirm a report of a tornado to the north in Elbert County near Simla.On Wednesday, preliminary reports indicated about five tornadoes touched down in Colorado, including one near Denver International Airport. No serious damage was reported. Snowplows were called out in Douglas County, south of Denver, to clear hail up to 8 inches deep. About 40 people in Colorado Springs were rescued after cars became submerged in water and hail, including near Citadel mall, firefighters reported.The rain provided some help to firefighters who fully contained a 227-acre wildfire in northern Colorado, but the weather initially hurt efforts to control a 6,000-acre blaze in Wyoming’s Medicine Bow National Forest.Storms passed close to the Wyoming fire but mostly brought gusty winds that fanned the flames. Rain and hail fell later but didn’t make a significant difference, said fire spokeswoman Beth Hermanson.Kyle Fredin, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Denver, said the beginning of June is the peak time for such severe weather in Colorado. Most of the state has been experiencing moderate-to-extreme drought conditions.”It’s game-on for this type of thing,” he said.Rob Cox with the weather service in Cheyenne said hail measuring 2 inches in diameter was reported about 18 miles northeast of the city. Cheyenne and areas to the east received from 1 to 2 inches of rain, he said.Jim Elias, a city public works director, said the drainage system worked well considering that nearly 2 inches of rain fell in a little more than two hours in some areas.Cheyenne has spent millions of dollars improving drainage around the city since a flood in 1985 killed 12 people.Elias said crews were called to areas with deep water but most of the water had gotten into the drainage system and had been carried away.
Weather center: 50 percent chance of El Nino later this year Reuters – 1 hr 40 mins ago NEW YORK (Reuters) – There is a 50 percent chance the feared El Nino weather pattern which can trigger droughts in Southeast Asia and Australia and floods in South America may strike later this year, the U.S. Climate Prediction Center warned on Thursday.In its strongest prediction so far that El Nino could emerge, the CPC said conditions are still expected to be neutral between June and August, but there is a 50 percent likelihood that El Nino will develop in the remainder of the year.The CPC issues an El Nino watch when conditions are favorable for the coming six months. In its last update in May, it said it was still uncertain if it would develop.El Nino is a warming of sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific that occurs every four to 12 years and has far-ranging effects around the globe, particularly on food output.The CPC forecast will be closely watched by the U.S. crude oil industry as El Nino reduces the chances of storms in the Gulf of Mexico that could topple platforms and rigs there.Forecasters have already said they expect the Atlantic hurricane season, which started on Friday and runs to November 30, to be less active than last year.The phenomenon creates wind shear that makes it harder for nascent storms to develop into hurricanes in the Atlantic-Caribbean basin, but it also can produce drought and crop failure in parts of South Asia and unseasonably wet conditions in western coastal areas of South America.While drier conditions could benefit crops such as coffee and cocoa, which were hit by heavy rains last year, analysts have warned that prolonged heat can also hurt yields.Malaysia and Indonesia account for 90 percent of the world’s palm oil supplies, while most of the world’s rice is exported from Asia. Asia also produces nearly 40 percent of global wheat supplies and the bulk of natural rubber output.The last severe El Nino in 1998 killed more than 2,000 people and caused billions of dollars in damage to crops, infrastructure and mines in Australia and other parts of Asia.(Reporting by Josephine Mason; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)
El Niño’s Odds at 50% for 2012 By Douglas Main, OurAmazingPlanet Staff Writer | LiveScience.com – 7 hrs ago There’s a 50 percent chance that El Niño conditions will develop during the second half of 2012, the National Weather Service announced today (June 7).When El Niño conditions are in place, water temperatures in the tropical Pacific are warmer than normal, which has far-reaching consequences for climate and weather patterns around the globe.The prediction follows the end of a La Niña cycle — the „opposite” of El Niño, with cooler-than-average surface waters — which has prevailed for much of the last two years. This La Niña cycle had a substantial impact on the extreme winter weather of 2010-2011, as well as last spring’s terrible tornado season. La Niña conditions may have helped bring about some of the massive snows that blanketed much of the northern United States last winter, but its waning may actually have been the culprit in ramping up the tornado season.ENSO-neutral conditions have been in place since May (ENSO refers to the El Niño-La Niña climate cycle), which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expects to last throughout the summer. After September, the models scientists use to make predictions diverge, with roughly half predicting continued neutral conditions and half favoring continued warming associated with El Niño.The low-level trade winds and convection over the central equatorial Pacific were near average during May, measures that indicate neutral conditions.If El Niño conditions develop, the northern United States could be in for a warmer and drier winter than average, while the Southwest and Southeast could find itself with more rain than usual.Reach Douglas Main at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Douglas_Main. Follow OurAmazingPlanet for the latest in Earth science and exploration news on Twitter @OAPlanet. We’re also on Facebook and Google+.Copyright 2012 OurAmazingPlanet, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Climate change, ageing trees threaten African cocoa By Loucoumane Coulibaly | Reuters – 11 hrs ago ABIDJAN (Reuters) – Climate change, ageing plantations and a shortage of young farmers risk strangling Africa’s cocoa industry, a top official from a bloc of 10 producer nations said.Africa produced roughly three quarters of the world’s cocoa last year.Output on the continent has grown steadily over the past two decades and top growers Ivory Coast and Ghana, responsible for 60 percent of global supply, both produced record harvests in the 2011/2012 season.But that trend could soon change as a shift in global weather patterns creates increasingly dry conditions in Africa, said Nanga Coulibaly, general secretary of the Alliance of Cocoa Producing Countries (COPAL).”There are risks. Cocoa trees like certain climatic conditions, and we’re seeing that those conditions are changing in African cocoa producing countries,” he told Reuters on the sidelines of a three-day meeting of agronomists in Ivory Coast.The region’s once reliable rainy seasons are now less predictable. Nearly all of Africa’s cocoa producers have experienced abnormally long dry spells this year.As a result, the International Cocoa Organisation sees African production falling to 2.8 million tonnes, a drop of 12 percent from the 2010/2011 season.”The way things are looking, there is a need to concentrate on drought-resistant (tree) varieties. This is a phenomenon that must be prevented, and work is under way towards that,” he said.Even without the added concern of harsher weather conditions, replanting is a necessity, Coulibaly said.”There is a problem of ageing trees, which account for 50 to 60 percent of plantations. Those trees are either no longer doing well or are sensitive to certain diseases, and that affects production,” he said.Older trees require regular chemical treatment to ward off diseases including black pod and swollen shoot and protect against parasites, all of which are growing problems in West and Central Africa.Meanwhile, the depletion of nutrients in the soil on older plantations has also created a need for increased use of fertilisers in order to maintain production levels.
LOW INCOMES, LOW INTEREST–The investment required for these techniques remains beyond the means of many farmers, who have seen their incomes stagnate or fall.The rural poverty rate in Ivory Coast, for example, jumped from 15 to 62 percent between 1985 and 2008 despite a doubling of production.Low incomes and underdevelopment have in turn pushed many young people to seek work in Africa’s rapidly growing cities.”We’re seeing that the population of cocoa farmers is ageing, and in some cases there is a worrying lack of interest from the youth to take over,” Coulibaly said.”What we are recommending in this case is the transformation of rural zones, including (building) roads, hospitals, and general infrastructure to make living conditions attractive in order to retain the youth.”Several African countries have identified the threats to the sector and are beginning to take steps to combat them.Before the start of each campaign, Ghana fixes farmgate prices, guaranteeing farmer incomes and promoting reinvestment in plantations. The result has been rapidly expanding production and better quality cocoa.Ivory Coast is now following suit, abandoning more than a decade of sector liberalisation in favour of price guarantees for the 2012/2013 season.With the current high levels of production masking long-term perils, it could be some time before the impact of these measures is felt, however, and more countries must follow suit.”If in the coming years nothing changes, if strong decisions are not taken, we fear that cocoa production will decline considerably in relation to expectations and desired production,” Coulibaly said.