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Archive for March 29th, 2010

Saturn-like Storms Strike Southeast U.S.

Posted by feww on March 29, 2010

Violent storm system damages homes, downs power lines, heads east

Powerful low pressure systems in the southerns United States and over the Ohio Valley wreaked havoc across  the region before moving toward the Mid-Atlantic on Monday.



Click Image to enlarge.  (24-Hr FE ED). Source SSEC/University of Wisconsin
Click HERE to Animate Image

At least 9 twisters struck a large swath of the southeast and were reported in Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina. Three were reports of widespread damage to trees buildings and power lines, as well as a mobile homes park.

There were reports of several injuries in the Linwood area, southwestern Davidson County, NC, and damage to about 50 homes  in High Point, Piedmont Triad.  In Thomasville, at least one home caught fire as a result of the storm.

The temperatures difference in the lower 48 states on Sunday was 86ºF from a low of 2ºF degrees at Yellowstone Lake, Wyoming, to a high of 88ºF at Anaheim, SoCal, National Weather Service reported.

Weather Forecast Map – Click Image to Enlarge Updated Image

Doppler Radar National Mosaic
NWS Radar Mosaic. Click Image to enlarge and update. (

Base reflectivity Radar Image.


For warning codes see: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service

Current NWS Weather Hazard Warnings (U.S.)

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Junk food is addictive: Study

Posted by feww on March 29, 2010

Rats Became “Addicted” to Fatty Food

Fatty, high-calorie foods can be as addictive as heroine, and could cause compulsive eating disorder and obesity, according to a new study

Experimenting with rats, researchers found that overconsumption of high-calorie food triggers responses which are similar to brain reactions to addiction.

“Obesity may be a form of compulsive eating. Other treatments in development for other forms of compulsion, for example drug addiction, may be very useful for the treatment of obesity,” researcher Paul Kenny of The Scripps Research Institute in Florida said.

Fat Donald by DonMak. CC 3.0 License. Click image to enlarge.

The obese rats were found to have fewer receptors for dopamine, a brain chemical that causes euphoria and reward, as it does in  drug-addicted humans.

Kenny and colleagues went on a shopping spree at a local grocery store hunting for fatty food.

“We basically bought all of the stuff that people really like—Ding-Dongs, cheesecake, bacon, sausage, the stuff that you enjoy, but you really shouldn’t eat too often,” he said.

One of the three groups of rats used for the experiment were fed high-calorie food. The group soon developed a liking for the fatty food and continued to eat unabated, quickly becoming obese, Kenny said.

The rats in the experiment had also been trained to expect a minor shock when exposed to a light. But when the rats that had unlimited access to high-calorie food were shown the light, they did not respond to the potential danger, Kenny said. Instead, they continued to eat their snacks.


Dopamine Pathways – Serotonin Pathways.
Brain pathways affected by drugs of abuse. The dopamine and serotonin pathways are two brain systems affected by drugs of abuse. They are illustrated here.  By altering activity in these pathways, abused substances can influence their function. Dopamine neurons (shown in yellow) influence pleasure, motivation, motor function and saliency of stimuli or events. Serotonin (shown in red) plays a role in learning, memory, sleep and mood. (source: USgov drug abuse site)
. Click image to enlarge.

“What we’re seeing in our animals is very similar to what you’d see in humans who overindulge,” he said. “It seemed that it was okay, from what we could tell, to enjoy snack foods, but if you repeatedly overindulge, that’s where the problem comes in.”

To see how far the rats were affected by [addicted to] their compulsive eating habit despite adverse consequences, they were trained that a painful electric shock would follow a flash of light.

The rats in the other two group, which had limited or no access to junk food, avoided the shock, whereas the “addicted” rats continued eating. “We see the same thing in animals with extended access to cocaine,” says Kenny.

The study of rats may not be directly related to causes of human obesity, however it could provide an understanding of how the brain mechanisms for food addiction work and help develop appropriate therapies, the researchers said.

“Once we start to consider obesity and pathological overeating as a psychiatric illness we’re going to move a lot closer towards understanding how to come up with therapies or treatments,” says Jon Davis, an addiction biologist at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio.

About 70 percent of adults and 35 percent of children in the US are obese or overweight and cost of treating obesity-related diseases could top $150 billion this year.

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Climate Change Causing China Drought

Posted by feww on March 29, 2010

Drought in southwestern China caused by climate change: Chinese experts

Chinese meteorologists say the ongoing severe drought in southwest China is caused by climate change.

The drought has left more between 18 and 62 million people and 11.7 million to more that 20 million livestock with insufficient drinking water “over a region encompassing the southwestern provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan, the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and the municipality of Chongqing, data from the Ministry of Civil Affairs showed.”

[Note: the figures vary widely depending on each day’s published definition of “affected by drought” and “short of drinking water.” See also data entries in 2010: Year One of Human-Enhanced Disasters.]

A parched reservoir in Green Pool Dame at Shilin County, Kunming City, Yunnan Province (February 2, 2010). Photo:AFP/Getty Images. Image may be subject to copyright. Click image to enlarge.

“The direct reason for the drought is light rain and high temperatures,” Ren Fuming, a leading expert at China’s National Climate Center, told Outlook Weekly, a popular magazine in China, Xinhua said.

Zhang Peiqun, another senior meteorologist with the center, who agrees with Ren Fumings, aid the rainfall in worst-affected Yunnan province is the lowest in living memory while the average temperature since the beginning of winter has been the highest on record.

“The decreased rainfall during the rainy season led to less water in store and high temperatures resulted in greater evaporation, directly causing the severe drought,” Zhang said.

Zhang believes complicated ocean currents and anomalous atmospheric circulation are responsible for the drought. [See: Kelvin waves in Your Worst Fears About El Niño.]

“Zhang said the lingering cold air mass that formed last September in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau had fenced off the warm and moist currents from the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal, and at the same time the cold air from the north has had difficulty reaching the Yunnan-Guizhou plateau hinterland.” Xinhua reported.

“The cold and warm currents can’t converge to produce rain, so there is little rain,” Zhang said.

Sun Honglie, director of the national expert committee on climate change, said he believed the drought was was caused by anomalous atmospheric currents.

“It is not an environmental or ecological problem,” he said. “But the drought is bound to have an impact on the ecological system.”

“Another expert, Chen Yiyu, an academic at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, also said the year has seen anomalous climate conditions globally and that the drought in China is part of the phenomenon.” Xinhua said.

[Note: They are probably refering to the impact of El Niño.]

Water Severely Rationed

In Fuyuan County there has been no tap water since late 2009, residents said, complaining that “rationed water supply has not been steady, and that they have had to fetch water themselves from a village three miles away.” Epoch Times said.

“Each family is given four water tickets every two weeks and each ticket entitles the bearer to 100 kg (about 26 gallons) of water, which is not enough for daily use at all, especially for a large family of six or seven. So we have to fetch water from somewhere else. I haven’t taken a shower for a few months.” a resident was reported as saying.

Statistics released recently indicated that as of March 17, 2010, some “43,486,000 hectares (about 17.6 million acres) of crops were affected by the drought, among which 940,000 hectares (about 380,566 acres) yielded zero production, causing a direct economic loss of 19 billion yuan (US$2.8 billion).”

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