Storms in Northeast knock out power, ground flights Reuters – 51 mins ago (Reuters) – Severe thunderstorms unleashed heavy rain and strong winds across parts of the Midwest and Northeast on Thursday, grounding hundreds of flights and leaving tens of thousands of people without power.The storms spawned a tornado that touched down in Elmira, New York, damaging a mall and a local country club, the National Weather Service said.There were no immediate reports of injuries. Meteorologists said 70 mile-an-hour winds were reported in parts of Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma.As the storms sent black, menacing clouds rolling across some cities, hail ranging from the size of a dime to a quarter fell in some areas of Pennsylvania, AccuWeather.com said.More than 51,000 customers were without power in Ohio, said American Electric Power of Ohio. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement that the storms knocked out power for nearly 93,700 utility customers across the state.In New Jersey, more than 10,000 customers suffered power outages.The storms formed along a cold front stretching from the Northeast into the Ohio Valley, threatening damaging winds, hail and tornadoes, according to the Weather Channel.The storm activity forced the cancellation of over 900 flights on Thursday, according to FlightAware, a Texas-based company that tracks the status of flights. The highest number of cancellations was at LaGuardia Airport in New York.Flight delays were also reported at airports in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia and Washington D.C., the Federal Aviation Administration said on its website.A severe thunderstorm watch was issued for portions of Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center said that „hail (up) to 2 inches in diameter, thunderstorm wind gusts to 80 miles per hour and dangerous lightning are possible in these areas.”Thunderstorms that swept through Westchester County, north of New York City, toppled trees and caused power outages.Trees fell across the tracks of the Metro North commuter rail system’s Harlem Line and brought train traffic to a halt on the line north of Chappaqua, the town that is home to former U.S. President Bill Clinton and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.(Reporting by Kevin Gray, Dan Burns and Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Stacey Joyce and Anthony Boadle)
Midday weather update shows minor relief By Sam Nelson | Reuters – 7 hrs ago CHICAGO (Reuters) – Little change was noted in midday weather updates for the crop-growing areas of the Midwest, indicating drought stress on U.S. corn and soybean crops is likely to continue for at least the next couple of weeks, an agricultural meteorologist said on Thursday.”There are only minor changes, a little drier in Indiana and Ohio for the next couple of days, a little more rain for Illinois Sunday and Monday,” said Andy Karst, meteorologist for World Weather Inc.Karst said weather maps early on Thursday had indicated 0.75 inch to 1.5 inches of rain could fall late this week in the eastern Midwest but at midday the maps indicated only 0.25 inch to 0.50 inch. For Sunday and Monday in central Illinois farmers can now expect 0.50 inch to 1.00 inch compared with early outlooks for 0.25 inch.The extended weather outlook for the first week of August indicated a stronger high pressure ridge over the U.S. Plains but there could „still be some rain,” he said.”It looks drier in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana and a little wetter in the north from August 7-10,” Karst said.Rain in the northern Midwest this week improved corn and soybean crop prospects, while heat and dryness in the southwestern section continued to stress crops.”There should be some improvement in areas like the Dakotas and Minnesota. They have had some good rains of up to an inch or more, and there should be more rain and more improvement over the next week,” Karst said.Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Illinois got some rains overnight, but they were too light to do much good. As a result, there will still be declining yields in those areas, Karst said, especially for corn.”Corn is already brown so whatever yield has been established for corn that will be the final count,” he said.Karst said there had been forecasts for 1.5 to 3 inches in portions of the southwestern Midwest, but the rains were lighter than had been predicted.There was generally a half inch or less, with locally heavier amounts, mainly in the north into Iowa of 1 to 1-1/2 inches. Heavier rainfall was very localized, he added.Karst said hot weather would continue in the southwest with highs in the 90s to low 100s degrees Fahrenheit, but more moderate temperatures in the 80s and low 90s would prevail elsewhere.Commodity Weather Group (CWG) on Thursday said roughly two-thirds of the Midwest would get up to 0.50 inch of rain or more by Monday.CWG said the rains would temporarily ease moisture stress, mainly aiding soybeans. Hot and dry weather is expected to return to much of the southwestern Midwest by the middle of next week, according to CWG.The most extensive drought in five decades intensified this week across the U.S. Midwest and Plains states that produce most of the county’s corn, soybeans and livestock, a report from climate experts showed on Thursday.Almost 30 percent of the nine-state Midwest was suffering extreme drought, nearly triple from the previous week, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor for the week ending July 24.Conditions in the Midwest, which produces roughly three quarters of the corn and soybean crops in the world’s largest producer and exporter, worsened despite the first measurable rainfall in a month in some areas.More than 53 percent of the United States and Puerto Rico are in moderate drought or worse, a record-large amount for the fourth straight week in the Drought Monitor’s 12-year history.(Reporting By Sam Nelson; Additional reporting by Michael Hirtzer in Chicago; editing by Carol Bishopric)(This story was refiled to correct Indiana from India in the fifth paragraph)
Arkansas wildfire contained, Nebraska fires still raging By Suzi Parker | Reuters – 8 hrs ago LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (Reuters) – Residents of a western Arkansas town that was evacuated ahead of an approaching wildfire were allowed to go home on Thursday, as firefighters brought the blaze under control in the drought-ravaged area.Officials said the wildfire that prompted Wednesday’s evacuation ofOla, Arkansas, had consumed about 1,400 acres before it could be contained. Governor Mike Beebe planned to tour the area on Thursday.Firefighters, meanwhile, continued to battle blazes in Nebraska, where three fires that have ripped across more than 72,400 acres were 50 percent contained, officials said Thursday. The largest is called the Fairfield Creek Fire.Three minor injuries have been reported and 10 structures plus some outbuildings have been destroyed, officials said. Some 150 buildings were in danger of being burned.There were 560 people working to fight the Nebraska fires, officials said Thursday.”We currently have sufficient fire resources on the incident,” Doug Fox, a regional emergency management director, said in a statement. „If additional resources are needed, local fire chiefs will put out a call for assistance.”Authorities said the Arkansas fire likely started when a mower contracted by the state hit a rock and sparked dry grass.More than half of Arkansas’ 75 counties are in a burn ban including Yell County, where Ola is located. The U.S. Drought Monitor reports that about one-third of Arkansas is in an exceptional drought, the most intense category.(Additional reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Eric Walsh)
Beijing flood death toll ‘rises to 77’ By Claire Cozens | AFP – 12 hrs ago The death toll from the worst rains to hit Beijing in more than 60 years has risen to 77, China’s official Xinhua news agency said Thursday, more than doubling previous figures.Many residents of China’s sprawling capital had expressed doubts about the official toll of 37 that Beijing authorities announced late Sunday, believing the true figure to be much higher.Saturday’s freak downpour, said to be the heaviest rain since records began in 1951, caused rivers to burst their banks and flood major highways, submerging large numbers of vehicles.In the worst-hit area of Fangshan, on the city’s mountainous southwestern outskirts, distraught residents on Monday reported cars being swept away and said many people were still missing.Since then, accounts have emerged of drivers stuck inside their vehicles, unable to open doors and windows as water levels surged, with rescue workers slow to reach them.Many people took to China’s weibos — Twitter-like microblogs — to condemn the official response to the disaster in the capital, which came at a time of heightened political sensitivity ahead of a 10-yearly handover of power.Some said the number of deaths and scale of destruction could have been lessened if the government had issued better warnings, including by SMS, and modernised Beijing’s ancient drainage systems.Authorities ordered state media to stick to stories „worthy of praise and tears”, while censoring the nation’s voracious microblogs and threatening arrests.„From today onward, we will severely strike at those using the Internet to… create and transmit political rumours and attack the (Communist) party, state leaders and the current system,” the Beijing Times quoted city police chief Fu Zhenghua as saying Tuesday.The threat, reported widely Thursday, did not appear to stifle critical comments, with one typical posting calling it „an open confrontation with the people”.Beijing city spokeswoman Wang Hui insisted earlier this week that authorities would not cover up the true number of deaths, acknowledging that the lack of official updates had given rise to public suspicion.She said authorities recognised the importance of disclosing casualty figures, citing the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic of 2003, when China faced an international backlash for trying to cover up the disease.The floods caused over 10 billion yuan ($1.57 billion)-worth of damage and affected more than 1.9 million people, Xinhua also said.City authorities said this week that Beijing’s mayor Guo Jinlong would step down, after many weibo users called for his resignation.Authorities however said the move was unrelated to the floods and that Guo was moving to become Beijing’s Communist party secretary, a more senior role.
NASA Greenland Ice Melt Report Sparks Global Warming Debate By Mark Whittington | Yahoo! Contributor Network – 7 hrs ago A NASA report describing an „unprecedented” instance of ice melting in Greenland has sparked a new debate about global warming and has elicited accusations that the space agency has become politicized where climate science is concerned.97 percent of Greenland’s ice sheet melted in July–According to the report, NASA satellite data suggests that at one time or another 97 percent of the ice sheet that covers Greenland had thawed due to the persistence of a warm air mass over that land mass. Ordinarily roughly half of Greenland’s ice sheet melts at one time or another during the summer. Scientists are not certain whether the phenomenon will increase the overall loss of ice in Greenland and cause the surface levels of the ocean to rise. The ice appears to be refreezing, however.Unprecedented except where it is not–The controversy that has arisen as a result of the report is due to the use of the word „unprecedented” in the title of the report. However, down toward the bottom of the NASA report, Lora Koenig, a Goddard glaciologist and a member of the research team analyzing the satellite data suggested that events such as these occur naturally every 150 years. Ice core data seem to confirm this finding.The question of climate change–The NASA findings have caused some speculation in the media whether the „unprecedented” ice sheet melt is being caused by climate change, or as it is sometimes called, global warming. While NASA itself has not suggested that the ice sheet melt was caused by man caused global warming, which is said to be caused when carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere by power plants and factories trap the heat of the sun, a story in NPR was not so coy. NPR quotes other news outlets such as Wired and the UK Guardian that the phenomenon is evidence of global warming.Climate change skeptics pounce–Fox News, on the other hand, quotes a number of climate change skeptics who suggest that fears that the Greenland ice sheet is being melted by man-caused global warming over overblown. Patrick J. Michaels, a climatologist, suggests in his blog that NASA is guilty of illiteracy by misusing the term „unprecedented” for something shown to have occurred every 150 years. Anthony Watts, a climate skeptic who runs a blog called Watts Up With That, suggests that the notion that global warming is causing the ice sheet melt in Greenland is similar to claims that droughts in North American are being caused by the same phenomenon.Temperatures rising in Greenland–Fox News also quotes NASA’s chief cryospheric scientist H. Jay Zwally as suggesting that temperatures over Greenland are rising faster than over the rest of the globe, contributing to the ice sheet melt. This in itself is not proof of global warming, however, and may be part of the 150-year natural cycle.Mark R. Whittington is the author of Children of Apollo and The Last Moonwalker. He has written on space subjects for a variety of periodicals, including The Houston Chronicle, The Washington Post, USA Today, the L.A. Times, and The Weekly Standard.
Mauritania and EU sign a new fishing accord AFP – 7 hrs ago Mauritania and the European Union signed a new fishing accord Thursday after months of heated debate to agree on the EU’s exactfinancial contribution.”We agreed on a two-year accord after a marathon 15 months of negotiations that were intense at times,” Mauritanian negotiatorCheikh Ould Baya said Thursday after signing the accord.The EU will contribute an annual 113 million euros ($138 million) in financing to Mauritania’s fishing industry, up from the 76.5 million it gave under the previous accord, he said.That four-year protocol agreement on fishing will expire Tuesday.Under the new accord, the two sides agreed that the EU boats fishing in Mauritanian waters would be staffed 60 percent by Mauritanians.According to official statistics, the fishing sector represents over 20 percent of budget revenue and employs more than 36,000 people in Mauritania.