Firefighters make headway against latest deadly California blaze By Steve Gorman10 hours agoA home burns as the Butte Fire rages near Mountain Ranch, California in this September 11, 2015 file …By Steve Gorman Related Stories
(Reuters) – Firefighters have gained significant ground against the latest deadly blaze to inflict mounting property losses in California while chasing thousands of residents from their homes in a wildfire season shaping as one of the worst on record.Containment of the so-called Tassajara Fire, a measure of how much of its perimeter has been enclosed within buffer lines carved through vegetation by ground crews, stood at 30 percent on Monday – triple the figure reported a day earlier.More than 1,000 evacuees from the fire were allowed to return to their homes on Sunday.The blaze erupted on Saturday in the Carmel Valley of Monterey County, 125 miles south of San Francisco, and has scorched more than 1,000 acres while destroying or damaging 10 homes and claiming this year’s eighth California wildfire fatality.The circumstances of the latest death, that of an unidentified civilian on Saturday, remained under investigation, fire officials said.The Tassajara Fire pales in comparison to two larger and more devastating blazes that have preoccupied fire crews farther to the north over the past two weeks, together laying waste to more than 1,400 homes and nearly 900 other structures.Firefighters have largely curtailed those conflagrations, dubbed the Valley Fire and the Butte Fire, which rank as the most destructive among thousands of blazes that have raged across the drought-stricken western United States this summer.Evacuation orders were being lifted in both fire zones in recent days for many of the estimated 20,000 people displaced at the height of the threat.The Valley Fire, which ignited Sept. 12 in the hills north of Napa County’s wine-producing region, has blackened nearly 76,000 acres and reduced 888 homes to ruins but was listed as 70 percent contained on Monday.The Butte Fire has charred almost 71,000 acres and leveled 545 dwellings since it broke out on Sept. 9 in the historic Gold Rush country of the Sierra Nevada foothills, but was nearly 75 percent contained.Five people lost their lives in the two Northern California infernos, including two people who authorities said defied evacuation orders in the Butte Fire and an elderly disabled woman trapped in her home by the Valley Fire.Two firefighters were killed battling two other California wildfires in August, one in the Modoc National Forest and one near Lake Tahoe. Three more firefighters died together in an initial assault against a major wildfire in August in Washington state.(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Grant McCool)
California fires destroy over 1,500 homes 5 hours agoLos Angeles (AFP) – More than 1,500 homes have been destroyed in two immense fires that have torn through California over the last week, causing millions of dollars in damage, state officials said Monday.Related Stories
The Valley and Butte fires, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from San Francisco, will cost „in the tens of millions, if not in the hundreds of millions,” Brad Alexander, spokesman for the state’s Office of Emergency Services, told AFP.He said the exact economic cost „will take a long time to assess” and will include clearing debris, rebuilding homes and other structures, and reimbursing lost wages for residents displaced by the flames.The two fires have started to come under control in recent days, allowing damage assessment to begin and evacuation orders to be eased.The fires have killed at least six residents so far and Alexander said that tally could rise as damage assessment continues.In total, 2,600 structures have been destroyed by the two blazes so far, including the 1,500 homes, according to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), which said six large fires remain in California and the state is their „top priority.”On Sunday, California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) said the Valley and Butte fires had become, respectively, the sixth and seventh most destructive ever in the state.Both are approximately 70 percent now contained.But new fires continue to start in the drought-parched state. CalFire spokesman Daniel Berlant said that firefighters responded to 150 new wildfires just last week.The largest current fire in the state, the Rough Fire, has alone burned 141,600 acres, though mainly in federally operated forests with little threat to homes or residents.
Tropical Storm Ida Spinning in the Atlantic Published Sep 21 2015 10:59 PM EDT weather.com Bryan Norcross, senior hurricane specialist, tracks Tropical Storm Ida in the Atlantic.
- Tropical Storm Ida was named Friday night and is located more than 900 miles east-northeast of the northern Leeward Islands as of late Monday night.
- Ida is moving to the north-northwest over open waters and is expected to become nearly stationary by Tuesday.
- Despite warm sea surface temperatures, wind shear will likely not allow Ida to strengthen over the next few days.
- If Ida survives, upper-level winds will become more conducive to allow strengthening late this week.
- Tropical Storm Ida is not a threat to land over the next five days.
- For the most complete track and forecast information, go to our interactive storm tracking map for Ida.
(MORE: Expert Analysis | Hurricane Central) Storm InfoProjected PathMORE ON WEATHER.COM: Hurricane Images Amazing Hurricane Images: Felix – 2007 (NASA)1 of 10 Powerful Category 5 Felix was photographed over the western Caribbean by a crew member aboard the International Space Station on September 3, 2007.
Oldest traces of heavy metal pollution caused by humans uncovered 7 hours agoThis photo released by the CNRS on September 2, 2014 shows a view of the Gorham’s Cave in Gibralta (AFP Photo/F. D’errico)Madrid (AFP) – The oldest signs of heavy metal pollution caused by human activity, dating from the early Stone Age, have been found in caves in Spain and Gibraltar, officials said Monday.The findings, published in the journal Scientific Reports, indicate prehistoric humans inhabited caves with high heavy metal levels caused from fires, fumes and ashes which could have played a role in their tolerance of environmental pollution.The highest levels of heavy metals — copper, lead, nickel and zinc — were found in Gorham’s Cave in Gibraltar, a tiny British territory on Spain’s southern tip, where well preserved Neanderthal hearths have been found.”It is the earliest known evidence of heavy metal pollution resulting from human activity,” the government of Gibraltar said in a statement.Traces of heavy metal pollution were also found in Vanguard Cave in Gibraltar from fires as well as in El Pirulejo in southern Spain linked to the use of galena, a lead sulphide used as a source of pigment or as raw material to manufacture beads, according to the study.The scientists also found heavy metal pollution at Gran Dolina, a cave site in the Sierra de Atapuerca region of central Spain near Burgos. But they concluded that this came from bat and bird droppings and not from human activity.They said the sites mentioned comprised „earliest evidence of pollution by heavy metals in archaeological sites” anywhere in the world.”Despite these high pollution levels, the contaminated soils might not have posed a major threat to Homo sapiens populations,” the study said.”Altogether, the data presented here indicate a long-term exposure of Homo sapiens to these elements, via fires, fumes and their ashes, which could have played certain role in environmental-pollution tolerance, a hitherto neglected influence.”
This Fearless Lion Made The Ultimate Sacrifice For Her Cubs Posted on Sep 18 2015 – 10:02am by Joshua Nevett When it comes to protecting their young, lions can be one of the most fiercely protective predators in the animal kingdom. These dramatic pictures show the moment one selfless mother lioness went above and beyond for her cubs.Surveying the area for a safe passage to cross the river, the cautious pride of lions linger on the fringes of the river bank at the Okavanga Delta, in Botswana, poised to make the crossing.
Killing of endangered Sumatran elephant sparks anger 13 hours agoYongki was found dead close to the camp where he lived in a national park on the western island of Sumatra (AFP Photo/Str)A critically endangered Sumatran elephant who had patrolled Indonesia’s jungles to help protect threatened habitats has been killed for his tusks, an official said Monday, sparking a surge of anger online.Yongki, a tame creature who worked with teams of elephant keepers, was found dead close to the camp where he lived in a national park on the western island of Sumatra, said park official Timbul Batubara.His one-metre (three-foot) tusks had been hacked off, leaving just bloody stumps, and his legs still bore the chains put on him by his keepers to ensure he stayed in the camp.There are estimated to be less than 3,000 Sumatran elephants remaining in the wild. They are frequently targeted by poachers for their tusks, which fetch a high price for use in Chinese traditional medicine.Batubara, from the Bukit Barisan Selatan national park, said it was not yet known how Yongki was killed.His body, which was found Friday, bore no bullet wounds but he had a blue tongue. Elephants have in the past been poisoned.Yongki, aged about 35, was well-known among the local „mahouts” or elephant keepers. Nazaruddin, the head of the Indonesian Mahout Forum, said keepers in the area were „very shaken”.”We are mourning the lost of an elephant who has been helping us in handling conflicts and helping forest rangers patrol the forest, and he was a good elephant,” Nazaruddin, who goes by one name, told AFP.The elephant was involved in patrols aimed at reducing tensions, with the tame elephants stopping wild elephants from rampaging through villages. The patrols also help rangers keep a lookout for illegal logging and poaching that threaten Indonesia’s vast rain forests.There was anger on social media after pictures of the elephant’s body circulated, with users posting comments on Twitter next to the hashtag RIPYongki.”It is time we enforce life sentences for hunters of legally protected animals,” said Facebook user Aprilia Putri.Protection group the International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies the Sumatran elephant as critically endangered. It is one of many species that are under threat in Indonesia.
Costa Ricans Stunned By Rare Iridescent ‘Rainbow’ Cloud Published Sep 21 2015 12:51 PM EDT weather.com Mysterious Iridescent Cloud Over Costa Rica Meteorologist Ari Sarsalari explains what a mysterious cloud in the skies over Costa Rica really is. Last Tuesday, Costa Ricans looked to the sky and saw something rare in the clouds.It looked like a cloud was morphing into a rainbow over several of the country’s major cities, including the capital of San Jose, according to USA Today. What they were seeing is known as cloud iridescence, according to weather.com senior meteorologist Nick Wiltgen.”In clouds, iridescence is a byproduct of sunlight being diffracted by water droplets or ice crystals, causing the various wavelengths of light – which we see as colors – to emerge at different angles,” he said. „As they reach the observer’s eye, the observer perceives a pattern of various colors as those different wavelengths reach his or her eye from distinct directions, rather than being jumbled together and appearing whitish.”(MORE: Check Your Winter 2015-16 Forecast)Here’s where it gets really wild: the rainbow cloud suddenly appeared on Costa Rica’s Independence Day, ABC News reported. Many residents paused during celebrations and festivals to post pictures of the spectacle, with some describing it as an „end of times” scene, ABC News also said.”It was breathtaking,” Escazu resident Jessie Montealegre told ABC News. „It’s like a sign of God.”The cloud was very popular on social media as well.This happened yesterday in beautiful Costa Rica PURA VIDA Clouds Photo credit. @kevinotway puravida costarica escazuCostaRica ootd clouds photooftheday mysticalMORE ON WEATHER.COM: Lenticular Clouds Lenticular Cloud Over Mt. Rainier in Washington Credit: National Park Service Facebook
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is investigating Volkswagen for violating the Clean Air Act by using defeat devices for manipulating its cars pollution levels, and this could be the push the auto industry needs to adopt new uniform standards.The EPA accuses the US arm of VW of using devices on its diesel engines to „bypass, defeat or render inoperative elements of vehicles’ emission control system.” The company is alleged to have used technology that makes its cars ‘ace’ a test but under normal driving conditions emit between 10 and 40 times more nitrogen oxide than the US Clean Air Act allows.On Monday, Volkswagen’s CEO Martin Winterkorn, issued an official statement on the matter. „I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public. We will cooperate fully with the responsible agencies, with transparency and urgency, to clearly, openly, and completely establish all of the facts of this case. Volkswagen has ordered an external investigation of this matter,” he said.The accusations are serious and potentially costly. Each of the 500,000+ cars affected will have to be recalled. There will be fines and possibly criminal charges. But VW is by no means the only company to have resorted to extraordinary measures, and the saga could help push through legislation for unifying and overhauling the current systems used for reporting a car’s performance figures. Something that would benefit all drivers, all around the world.It’s no secret that car makers do anything they can to improve fuel efficiency or cut emissions in testing. A Transport & Environment (T&E) study published in 2013 exposed how firms have sealed door joints with tape, disconnected the alternator, or used special lubricants to boost fuel economy in the lab. None of which is illegal, but is simply a result of there being too many loopholes in the current approach.Earlier this month, T&E also published data that shows despite the introduction of new Euro 6 emissions legislation only one in 10 new diesel cars built to meet the new ruling actually does in real world tests. Greg Archer, T&E’s clean vehicles manager, said: „Every new diesel car should now be clean but just one in 10 actually is. This is the main cause of the air pollution crisis affecting cities.”From 2018, this will change as car companies in Europe will have to perform on-road rather than laboratory tests for their cars’ emissions, and the UN would like to see all car companies around the world adopt the unified World Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) that would make it clearer and easier for consumers to compare any two new cars’ CO2 emissions and fuel economy no matter where in the world they were built.Car companies agree to the WLTP in principle but have been stalling on an adoption date. However, if the Volkswagen saga continues to gain headlines the new system could be a global standard before the end of the decade.