More blazes in Portugal after respiteView gallery 4 hours ago NaturePortugalFirefighter About 700 firefighters were battling blazes in northern and central Portugal on Monday, with two people arrested on suspicion of starting fires, officials said.The firefighters were being supported by five French and Croatian aircraft.”This evening we have 14 major fires under way in the north, in particular in the Porto, Viseu, Castelo Branco and Braga districts”, civil protection spokesman Carlos Guerra told AFP.Police announced that a 40-year-old woman and a 12-year-old boy were arrested Monday on suspicion of starting separate fires in central and northern Portugal.”The wind blows with such an intensity that it constitutes the main obstacle to firefighters,” said Jose Bismarck, commander of the firefighters in Aveiro.View gallery.”A firefighter holds a hose in front a wildfire around Caramulo, central Portugal, on August 30, 2013 …Portugal had enjoyed a lull in its battle against forest fires since Friday after mastering blazes in the mountainous region of Caramulo where three firefighters have been killed.”We thought we were in a war zone,” Marta Rosa, a young resident of the village of Caramulo, told AFP.”The firefighters who came to save the house of my parents told me it was like a firestorm.”The period of respite came after „less intense winds on Saturday night and Sunday”, said Guerra, from the national authority of civil protection.However, he noted 313 new fires had been recorded by the authorities since Saturday.A desperate Portugal had requested reinforcements from its European neighbours. Spain, France and Croatia had responded, sending aircraft to help fight the blazes.Portuguese firefighters remain on alert as the weather forecast predicts more high temperatures and strong winds until Tuesday.
Japan unveils $470 mn plan for Fukushima water leaksView gallery Shingo Ito 21 minutes ago NatureTokyo Electric Power CompanyJapanThe Japanese government on Tuesday unveiled a $470 million plan to stem radioactive water leaks at Fukushima, including freezing the ground underneath the stricken nuclear plant, as it pledged to lead from the front.Chiding operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) for its haphazard management of the spiralling problems, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his administration will spend public money to get the job done.”The government needs to resolve the problem by standing at the forefront,” he told a meeting of his nuclear disaster response team.”Discarding the current, impromptu response, we will set up our basic policies for a fundamental resolution of the contaminated water problem.”The government will do its best and take the necessary fiscal action,” he said, referring to tapping taxpayer funds.Tokyo’s move comes just days before a decision in Argentina by the International Olympic Committee on who should host the 2020 Games, with observers warning the situation at Fukushima could prove the undoing of Tokyo’s bid.Thousands of tonnes of radioactive water is being stored in temporary tanks at the site, 220 kilometres (135 miles) north of the Japanese capital, much of it having been used to cool molten reactors wrecked by the tsunami of March 2011.The discovery of leaks from some of these tanks or from pipes feeding them, as well as radiation hotspots on the ground even where no water is evident, has created a growing headache for TEPCO.Some of the highly toxic water that has escaped may have made its way into the Pacific Ocean, TEPCO has admitted.On top of this, the natural flow of groundwater from the surrounding hillsides which goes underneath the plant and out to sea is also causing problems.View gallery.”Nuclear watchdog members inspect the site at Fukushima on August 23, 2013. The government has vowed …As it pours through the soil it is mixing with polluted fluid that has seeped into the ground under the reactors.TEPCO says up to 300 tonnes of this mildly radioactive groundwater is making its way into the sea every day.Under the 47 billion yen ($470 million) scheme announced Tuesday, scientists will freeze the soil around the stricken reactors to form an impenetrable wall they hope will direct groundwater away from the plant.This will entail burying pipes vertically and passing refrigerant through them. Officials estimate the whole project will take two years and cost around 32 billion yen.A further 15 billion yen will be spent on equipment to remove radiation from water currently being stored.On Monday the head of Japan’s nuclear watchdog said it was „unavoidable” that water would have to be released into the ocean at some point, although he stressed it would have to be largely decontaminated first.TEPCO’s clean-up at Fukushima has come in for increasing criticism from politicians, academics and Japan’s usually quiescent public.Last week a government minister compared its approach to plugging leaks with „whack-a-mole”, the anarchic fairground game in which players must hit furry creatures with a mallet as they pop up at random.The utility — one of the largest in the world — has been effectively nationalised by vast government bailouts needed to stop it from sinking beneath the weight of bills from the clean-up and compensation claims.While the natural disaster that sparked the nuclear emergency at Fukushima claimed more than 18,000 lives, no one is officially recorded as having died as a direct result of the radiation leaks.However, vast tracts of land had to be evacuated, with tens of thousands of people still displaced.
Sandy’s ‘freaky’ path may be less likely in futureView gallerySETH BORENSTEIN 9 hours ago NatureWASHINGTON (AP) — Man-made global warming may further lessen the likelihood of the freak atmospheric steering currents that last year shoved Superstorm Sandy due west into New Jersey, a new study says.But don’t celebrate a rare beneficial climate change prediction just yet. The study’s authors said the once-in-700-years path was only one factor in the massive $50 billion killer storm. They said other variables such as sea level rise and stronger storms will worsen with global warming and outweigh changes in steering currents predicted by the study’s computer models.”Sandy was an extremely unusual storm in several respects and pretty freaky. And some of those things that make it more freaky may happen less in the future,” said Columbia University atmospheric scientist Adam Sobel, co-author of a new study on Sandy. But Sobel quickly added: „There’s nothing to get complacent about coming out of this research.”The study published Tuesday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looks at the giant atmospheric steering currents, such as the jet stream. A spate of recent and controversial studies have highlighted unusual kinks and meanders in the jet stream, linking those to extreme weather and loss of sea ice in the Arctic. This new study looks only at the future and sees a lessening of some of that problematic jet stream swerving, clashing with the other studies in a scientific debate that continues.Both camps agree on what happened with the weird steering that shoved Sandy, a late season hurricane that merged with a conventional storm into a massive hybrid, into New Jersey. The jet stream plunged in an odd way. A high pressure system off the coast of Canada and Greenland blocked the storm from moving east, as most do.View gallery.”FILE – In this Nov. 9, 2012 aerial-file photo, people stand near damaged homes along the Atlantic Oc …That high pressure block now happens once or twice a year in August, September and October. Computer models show the jet stream will move further north, so the „giant blob of high pressure” will be even less frequent next century, said study lead author Elizabeth Barnes of Colorado State University.But Barnes and Sobel said because so many other factors are involved this doesn’t mean fewer storms hitting the New York region. This is only one path; storms usually come from the south instead of from the east like Sandy.Scientists agree that future storms will be slightly stronger because of global warming and that sea level is rising faster than researchers once thought, Sobel said. Those factors likely will overwhelm the predicted change in steering currents, he said.Rutgers University climate scientist Jennifer Francis, one of the major proponents of the jet-stream-is-changing theory, said she doesn’t see the jet stream becoming stronger and moving north as Barnes says the models predict. Her work and others points to more Sandy-like storms, especially because there seem to be more late-season tropical storms.”The matter is not settled,” said Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann.
Japan to fund leak control measures at nuke plantView gallery
8 Years After Katrina, New Orleans on the Rebound Stacey Plaisance Published: Aug 29, 2013, 4:46 PM EDT Associated Press Eyewitness to DisasterEyewitness to DisasterNew Orleans Ready for Next Big StormThe power of KatrinaNEW ORLEANS — Eight years after Hurricane Katrina, the Ferris wheel at the abandoned former Six Flags amusement park sits idle. The roller-coaster humps are familiar sights to passing motorists, and the weed-choked lot is a thorn in the side of officials who have overseen one of the most extensive city-rebuilding projects in U.S. history.(MORE: Vermont Marks Two Years Since Irene)New Orleans officials have yet to seal a deal for redeveloping the Six Flags lot. But such eyesores aside, city leaders say they’re turning a corner since the day the levees broke under Katrina’s fury on Aug. 29, 2005.City figures show about 80 percent of the pre-storm population has returned. Investment in a massive medical corridor and an influx of technology companies offer new hope. And many blighted neighborhoods have been restored, vacant lots aside.1 / 21New Orleans, La.