Once-in-century Australian heatwave claims almost 30 lives


Spectators seek shade at the Australian Open in Melbourne

MELBOURNE (AFP) – Australia’s second-largest city Melbourne ground to a halt Saturday, crippled by a once-in-a-century heatwave that has claimed almost 30 lives and razed at least 17 homes.

Wildfires raged through the southeastern state of Victoria, where authorities said flames had come dangerously close to major electricity transmission lines which supplied power to Melbourne on Saturday.

More than 500,000 homes and businesses in Melbourne were left without power on Friday night after an electrical substation exploded in the heat, bringing the city to a standstill.

Temperatures in Victoria topped 43 degrees Celsius (109 Fahrenheit) for a record-breaking third consecutive day on Friday, when 10 homes and a timber plantation were destroyed in a 6,500 hectare (16,000 acre) blaze.

Read moreOnce-in-century Australian heatwave claims almost 30 lives

Residents face long, icy wait for power to return

A vehicle drives under a tree that is weighed down by ice on Old Wire Road as a result of wintry weather on Wednesday Jan. 28, 2009, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Beth Hall)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – More than a million homes and businesses were left in the cold without power Thursday in the wake of an icy winter storm could face a lengthy wait for electricity to come back, even as federal help was promised to two states hit hardest by the blast.

Read moreResidents face long, icy wait for power to return

World warned of ‘food crunch’ threat

The world faces “the real risk of a food crunch” if governments do not take immediate action to address the agricultural impact of climate change and water scarcity, according to an authoritative report out on Monday.

Chatham House, the London-based think-tank, suggests that the recent fall in food prices is only a temporary reprieve and that prices are set to resume their upward trend once the world emerges from the current downturn.

“There is therefore a real risk of a ‘food crunch’ at some point in the future, which would fall particularly hard on import-dependent countries and on poor people everywhere,” the report states. “Food prices are poised to rise again,” it adds.

The warning is made as agriculture ministers and United Nations officials gather from Monday in Madrid for a UN meeting on food security likely to conclude that last year’s food crisis, with almost 1bn people hungry, is far from over.

The UN will warn ministers in Madrid that “as the global financial crisis deepens, hunger is likely to increase” under the impact of rising unemployment and lower remittances, according to three officials briefed ahead of the meeting.

Read moreWorld warned of ‘food crunch’ threat

Cowskulls and dust: Worst Drought in 100 Years grips Argentina


Farmer Edgardo Vazquez walks by dead cows in Stroeder, Argentina, Monday, Jan. 19, 2009. Farmers nationwide are demanding the government’s help after a year long drought that has killed nearly one million animals and destroyed crops. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

STROEDER, Argentina (AP) – Skeletons of livestock are piling up in the scorching sun of the Southern Hemisphere’s summer as the worst drought in a generation turns much of Argentina’s breadbasket into a dust bowl.

The nation’s farm sector stands to lose $5 billion this year alone – a huge blow to the economy of Argentina, a top world exporter of soy, corn, wheat and beef – as well as to the government of President Cristina Fernandez, which faces billions of dollars in debt payments this year.

Wheat fields that once supplied flour for pasta-loving Argentines now resemble deserts, and spiny thistles are all that survive on cattle ranches in southern Buenos Aires province.

Nothing edible grows, said Hilda Schneider, a 65-year-old rancher who has lost nearly 500 cows to starvation.

Read moreCowskulls and dust: Worst Drought in 100 Years grips Argentina

US freezes as Arctic air blasts in from Canada

America is not unfamiliar with low temperatures, but the present cold snap is exceptional by any standards


Lake Michigan has been turned into a frozen wasteland by plunging temperatures (AP)

Alabama was colder than Alaska, water fountains froze into ice sculptures in South Carolina, and Florida shivered through an Arctic air blast as the coldest week of the winter continued to grip large parts of the US.

The Northeast in particular suffered from the bitterly cold air from Canada that sent temperatures plunging in some places below minus 34C (minus 30F) and left even hardy veterans of such weather reluctant to venture outdoors.

Related article: Weather Eye: temperatures in Western Europe go crazy (Times)

It brought to an end a week which will be remembered for some time in Chicago. The city has now suffered the most consecutive days of snow since records began in 1884 and, on Friday, the wind chill took the temperature to minus 40C.

The cold claimed at least six lives and contributed to dozens of traffic accidents.

One death involved a man in a wheelchair who was found in sub-zero temperatures stuck in the snow, a shovel in his hand, outside his home in Des Moines, Iowa.

Temperatures of minus 12C to minus 18C and sub-zero wind chills were expected in western New York through the weekend, with more seasonable conditions moving in early next week.

Read moreUS freezes as Arctic air blasts in from Canada

North Dakota gets blizzard on top of December’s record snow


This photo provided by bus passenger Maria Nasta shows a scene from a 59 vehicle pileup including three buses and two tractor-trailer rigs that crashed on a snowy highway on Sunday morning Jan. 11, 2009 on Interstate 93 at Derry, N.H. (AP Photo/Courtesy Maria Nasta)

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – A fast-moving blizzard clogged roads and closed schools in North Dakota on Monday, causing more headaches for residents still trying to dig out from a record snowfall last month.

And, forecasters said a blast of cold air was on the way that could send the thermometer as low as 30 below zero.

Related article:
Storm brings more snow and strong winds to Iowa (Chicago Tribune)
Dirty snow causes early runoff in Cascades (Seattle Post Intelligencer)
First the Snow, Then Comes the Bitter Cold (MSNBC)

“Four-wheel drives are useless – people are just snowed in,” Rhonda Woodhams, the office manager for the Williams County highway department. “People are calling in saying they’re out of milk and diapers for their kids, or they have doctor appointments they need to get to.”

Read moreNorth Dakota gets blizzard on top of December’s record snow

Heavy Snowstorm brings chaos to Madrid

MADRID, Spain (CNN) — A heavy snowstorm caused chaos Friday at Madrid’s Barajas Airport, where flights were suspended for hours before Europe’s fourth-busiest airport reopened in the late afternoon.

A woman enjoys the snow in Madrid, where the airport suspended flights because of the weather.
A woman enjoys the snow in Madrid, where the airport suspended flights because of the weather.

Planes were flying again at 4:40 p.m. (10:40 am ET).

“It’s a huge snowstorm. You don’t see this in Madrid often,” an airport spokeswoman said.

Related articles:
Cold snap in Europe takes its toll (AFP)
12 deaths blamed on snow and cold across Europe (AP)
Central Europe, France, UK, Italy Hit by Cold Air
(Bloomberg)
Thousands shiver in Europe’s big chill
(Reuters)

The airport has 1,205 daily inbound and outbound flights. But for the first time, the airport halted operations due to a weather problem, the spokeswoman said.

Read moreHeavy Snowstorm brings chaos to Madrid

Scientists find greenhouse gas hysteria to be myth

‘Global warming may not be occurring in quite the manner one might have imagined’ WND


Figures from the Compo and Sardeshmukh study

As dignitaries from around the world gather for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, attendees are unlikely to champion a recent study that demonstrates oceanic heat levels – and not man-made greenhouse gases – are to blame for increases in temperature on land.

An estimated 9,000 government, media and U.N. officials are meeting in Poznan, Poland, for the conference, discussing possible international action to combat global warming. According to media relations information provided by the conference, “Climate change is already happening, is unequivocal and this change can now be firmly attributed to human activity.”

Not so fast, says a study released earlier this year by Gilbert Compo and Prashant Sardeshmukh of the University of Colorado and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and presented in the scientific journal Climate Dynamics.

According to Compo and Sardeshmukh’s study, all the greenhouse gases humans have dumped in the atmosphere over the last 46 years – the primary factor most climate change proponents cite to blame humans for global warming – haven’t affected land temperatures at all.

The rise in land temperatures, the study states, can be tied directly to increased heat and humidity coming from warmer oceans, which in turn, the study admits, may be caused solely by natural forces.

Read moreScientists find greenhouse gas hysteria to be myth

Scientists Find Increased Methane Levels In Arctic Ocean

ScienceDaily (Dec. 18, 2008) – A team led by International Arctic Research Center scientist Igor Semiletov has found data to suggest that the carbon pool beneath the Arctic Ocean is leaking.

The results of more than 1,000 measurements of dissolved methane in the surface water from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf this summer as part of the International Siberian Shelf Study show an increased level of methane in the area. Geophysical measurements showed methane bubbles coming out of chimneys on the seafloor.

“The concentrations of the methane were the highest ever measured in the summertime in the Arctic Ocean,” Semiletov said. “We have found methane bubble clouds above the gas-charged sediment and above the chimneys going through the sediment.”

Read moreScientists Find Increased Methane Levels In Arctic Ocean

Ice storm knocks out power to 220,000 in US Midwest

NEW YORK, Dec 19 (Reuters) – Snow and ice storms across the U.S. Midwest knocked out power service to more than 220,000 homes and businesses in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio early Friday, local utilities reported.

The storm left 161,000 customers out in Indiana, 47,000 out in Illinois and 15,000 out in Ohio. The utilities said the outages would likely grow as the storm marches across the Midwest toward the Atlantic Coast.

Read moreIce storm knocks out power to 220,000 in US Midwest