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Archive for February 25th, 2010

El Niño Weekly Update [22 February 2010]

Posted by feww on February 25, 2010

ENSO Cycle: Recent Evolution, Current Status and Predictions

El Niño Weekly UPDATE prepared by Climate Prediction Center / NCEP –  22  February 2010

The latest weekly SST departures are:

  • Niño 4   ~  1.1ºC
  • Niño 3.4  ~  1.2ºC
  • Niño 3 ~ 0.8ºC
  • Niño 1+2 ~ 0.4ºC

El Niño Map. [SOURCE: NOAA/ Climate Prediction Center / NCEP]

SST Departures (ºC) in the Tropical Pacific During the Last 4 Weeks
During the last 4-weeks, equatorial SSTs were more than 1.0°C above average between 175°E and 125°W.

Global SST Departures (ºC)
During the last four weeks, equatorial SSTs were above-average across the central and eastern Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans.

Weekly SST Departures (oC) for the Last Four Weeks

  • Weeks•During the last four weeks, positive SST anomalies have extended from 170°E eastward to the South American coast.
  • During the last 30 days, equatorial SST anomalies have decreased across the central Pacific and increased in the extreme eastern Pacific

Sub-Surface Temperature Departures (ºC) in the Equatorial Pacific

  • In mid January 2010, positive subsurface temperature anomalies increased in the eastern equatorial Pacific in association with the downwellingphase of an oceanic Kelvin wave.
  • The most recent period (below) indicates another downwellingphase of an oceanic Kelvin wave is increasing temperatures in the east-central equatorial Pacific Ocean.

Atmospheric Circulation over the North Pacific & North America During the Last 60 Days
From mid-December to early January, strong mid-latitude westerlies(East Asian and Atlantic jets) were accompanied by troughs over the North Pacific and the eastern U.S. The troughs contributed to below-average temperatures across portions of the U.S. At higher latitudes, strong ridging led to above-average temperatures across parts of Canada. Since mid January,the East Asian jet extended farther east and a trough became established over the eastern Pacific. Over N. America, strong ridging over Canada contributed to above-average temperatures across Canada and the northwestern U.S. During early February, troughing and below-average temperatures became reestablished over the eastern and central United States.

Pacific Niño 3.4 SST Outlook

  • A majority of the models indicate that the Niño-3.4 temperature departures will gradually decrease at least into the summer.
  • The models are split with the majority indicating ENSO-neutral conditions by May-July 2010 and persisting into the Fall. Several models also suggest the potential of continued El Niño conditions or the development of La Niña conditions during the Fall.


  • El Niño is present across the equatorial Pacific Ocean.
  • Sea surface temperatures (SST) are more than 1.0ºC above-average across much of the central and east-central equatorial Pacific.
  • Based on current observations and dynamical model forecasts, El Niño is expected to continue at least into the Northern Hemisphere spring 2010.

Related Links:

El Niño Updates – Last 4 Weeks:

  • El Niño [Main Page, Links to Weekly Updates Archive]

Posted in Climate Prediction, El Niño, El Niño 2010, El Niño report, El Niño update | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

No Nuke Dump Site Quite Like Nevada

Posted by feww on February 25, 2010

South Carolina to sue President “Chauncey Gardiner” over Yucca Mountain nuke dump site plan reversal

South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster has threatened to take legal action to stop President Obama from abandoning plan to build a nuke waste dumping site in Yucca Mountain, Nevada.

The Yucca Mountain designated by US Congress as deep geological repository storage facility for the country’s radioactive waste. In 2009 the Obama Admin. proposed to eliminate all funding in the 2009 United States Federal Budget. In March 2009, Energy Secretary Steven Chu told a Senate hearing “the Yucca Mountain site was no longer viewed as an option for storing reactor waste.”

In January, Obama administration announced it was abandoning  a plan to build a  nuclear waste storage site at Yucca Mountain near Las Vegas, Nevada [for political reasons, rather than environmental concerns.]

[Temporary] storage areas for the US nuclear mess.

“McMaster said that he would file a petition to intervene with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission this week and plans to take additional legal action in appellate courts in Washington and Virginia on Friday.” Reuters reported.

“South Carolina has a vested interest in insuring that the Yucca Mountain licensing proceedings continue, so that the spent fuel and other nuclear material now being temporarily stored in our state will be safely placed in the Yucca Mountain repository, as mandated by the United States Congress,” McMaster said.

The site at Yucca Mountain was considered an ideal nuclear waste repository by Congress in 1987  to store most of the  nation’s high level radioactive waste, which is currently piling up at numerous [“temporary”] locations throughout the country including Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

“Reached for comment, McMaster said he planned to file either a temporary restraining order, a writ of mandamus, or both, to either the District of Columbia Court of Appeals or the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., on Friday.” Reuters said.

“There seems to be no other alternative … The Obama administration is attempting to stop a process that was begun many years ago and was confirmed and ordered by federal law,” he said.

“We have seven nuclear power plants in South Carolina. The nuclear waste is still there and in temporary storage and has been there since the beginning … Our position is it ought to go to Yucca Mountain.”

Annotated astronaut photo of the Savannah River Site, South Carolina, USA. Picture taken from the International Space Station by ISS Crew. Labels by NASA Earth Observatory newsroom.

Why shouldn’t OUR nuclear waste be dumped in someone else’s backyard, McMaster might have been tempted to say 😉 .

America’s energy requirements could be reduced PAINLESSLY and MANY NEW JOBS could be created, if the government cared!

Related Links:

Posted in Savannah River Site, South Carolina, United States Congress, Yucca Mountain, Yucca Mountain repository | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Significant ‘Red Tide’ to Plague New England in 2010

Posted by feww on February 25, 2010

Shelfish such as Mussels and clams accumulate biotoxins produced by Alexandrium, which can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning in humans who ingest them.

NOAA Public Release

Researchers Issue Outlook for a Significant New England ‘Red Tide’ in 2010

Seed Population on Seafloor Points to a large ‘Red Tide’; Impacts will Depend on Ocean Conditions and Weather

Researchers at Gulf of Maine Toxicity project have issued an outlook for a significant regional bloom of a toxic alga that causes ‘red tides’ in the spring and summer of this year, potentially threatening the New England shellfish industry.

Microscopic image of Alexandrium fundyense cysts, the “seeds” that fall to the ocean bottom at the end of one season’s blooms.  Under the right conditions, these cells can germinate the following year to initiate another season’s blooms.
High resolution (Credit: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

The outlook is based on a seafloor survey of the seed-like cysts of Alexandrium fundyense, an organism that causes harmful algal blooms, sometimes referred to as ‘red tides’. Cysts deposited in the fall hatch the following spring; last fall the abundance of cysts in the sediment was 60 percent higher than observed prior to the historic bloom of 2005, indicating that a large bloom is likely in the spring of 2010.

The cyst bed also appears to have expanded to the south, so the 2010 bloom may affect areas such as Massachusetts Bay and Georges Bank sooner than has been the case in past years.

Maps showing the concentration of Alexandrium cysts buried in Gulf of Maine seafloor sediments over four years. The cyst abundance in 2009 is higher than ever observed and the Alexandrium cyst “seedbed” extends further to the south than was ever observed before.  High resolution (Credit: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Although the algae in the water pose no direct threat to human beings, toxins produced by Alexandrium can accumulate in filter-feeding organisms such as mussels and clams, which can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning in humans who consume them. In order to protect public health, shellfish beds are monitored by state agencies and closed when toxin concentrations rise above a quarantine level. There have been no illnesses from legally harvested shellfish in recent years despite some severe blooms.

“’Red tide’ is a chronic problem in the Gulf of Maine and states have limited resources to handle it,” said Darcie Couture, director of Biotoxin Monitoring for the Maine Department of Marine Resources. “When we get this information about the potential severity of a bloom season and the dynamics of the bloom once the season has started, then it gives us an advantage in staging our resources during an otherwise overwhelming environmental and economic crisis.”

More …

Posted in Alexandrium fundyense cysts, Biotoxin, Gulf of Maine, New England, shellfish poisoning | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Leave Orcas (Dolphins) Out of Your Circus Act

Posted by feww on February 25, 2010

Orcas (Dolphins) Can and Do Kill

Killer whale (orca) kills trainer at SeaWorld amusement park in Orlando, Florida

A female trainer was killed by a 6.5 ton killer whale (orca) at SeaWorld’s Shamu Stadium in Orlando, Florida, police and local media reported.

Orcas perform at Shamu Stadium at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida. Credit: David Bjorgen.  Copyleft. Multi-license with GFDL and Creative Commons CC-BY-SA 2.5

The killer whale, who is called Tilikum, or “Tilly,” is actually an orca (Orcinus orca) aka blackfish, the largest member of the dolphin family. Orcas are wild, powerful animals who can and do kill, especially when they feel threatened.

Two mammal-eating “transient” killer whales photographed off the south side of Unimak Island, eastern Aleutian Islands, Alaska. Photo Credit: Robert Pittman/NOAA.

Dawn Brancheau, 40, an experienced “trainer” at the famous Florida tourist attraction, was killed by the killer whale Tilikum after she accidentally fell into the holding tank.

“She apparently slipped and fell into the tank and was fatally injured by one of the whales,” police spokesperson said. “Brancheau was pronounced dead at the park after being recovered from the pool. Orange County Sheriff’s Office homicide investigators continue to investigate the death of the trainer who was reported to have 16 years of experience working with killer whales.”

According to eye-witness reports, the orca at the park’s Shamu Stadium grabbed the woman by the waist, “thrashed her about and dragged her underwater,” minutes before a public performance was about to start.

“There were conflicting reports about how the incident occurred. The Orlando Sentinel quoted a spectator as saying the whale came up from the water and grabbed the trainer by her waist. The sheriff’s official said preliminary accounts indicated she slipped and fell in, but that was still under investigation.” Reuters reported .

“He was thrashing her around pretty good. It was violent,'” an eyewitness  said.

The whale “took off really fast in the tank, and then he came back, shot up in the air, grabbed the trainer by the waist and started thrashing around, and one of her shoes flew off,” she added.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, “Tilly” was blamed for drowning of one of his trainers at  Sealand of the Pacific in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1991 during a performance.

SeaWorld bought Tilly in 1992, and 7 years later he was reportedly involved in a second incident when the park authorities found the body of a naked man lying across his back.

They claimed the man was drowned after suffering hypothermia.

How the US Woman Emily May Harper Was Killed in NZ

Emily May Harper, 27, had a cardiac arrest while swimming with dolphins in Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand, October 20, 2009. Matthew Hawkins had proposed to Emily Harper. (Courtesy Matthew Hawkins )

In October 2009, a  27-year-old American woman was killed in New Zealand while swimming with [agitated] dolphins.

The New Zealand authorities, worried about losing substantial income from their “eco-tourism” industry, tried to cover-up the incident, claiming that the victim had died of natural causes. More …

Related Links:

Tilikum Bio
Tilikum, sometimes misspelled Tillikum, is a bull Orca who lives at SeaWorld Orlando. He was captured near Iceland in November 1983 at about two years of age. Tilikum measures 22 feet 6 inches long and weighs in at 12,300 pounds (as of 2007). His pectoral fins are six and one half feet long, his massive flukes curl under, and his 6-foot-tall dorsal fin is flopped completely to his left side, and weighs close to 200 pounds. He is the largest Orca in captivity and also the most successful sire in captivity, with 13 offspring, 10 of which are still alive. His name means friend in Chinook Jargon, usually spelled Tilicum and also meaning “people/tribe” or “kin”. [Wikipedia]

Posted in Dawn Brancheau, Emily May Harper, Matthew Hawkins, Swimming with Dolphins, Tilly | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »