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    In an Oct. 17, 2011, file photo a staff member displays gold bullion bars during a news conference at the Chinese Gold and Silver Exchange Society in Hong Kong. (AP Photo, File)

    LOS ANGELES (AP) - A strange glow in space has provided fresh evidence that all the gold on Earth was forged from ancient collisions of dead stars, researchers reported Wednesday.

    Astronomers have long known that fusion reactions in the cores of stars create lighter elements such as carbon and oxygen, but such reactions can't produce heavier elements like gold.

    Instead, it was long thought that gold was created in a type of stellar explosion known as a supernova. But that doesn't fully explain the amount of the precious metal in the solar system.

    About a decade ago, a team from Europe using supercomputers suggested that gold, platinum and other heavy metals could be formed when two exotic stars - neutron stars - crash and merge. Neutron stars are essentially stellar relics - collapsed cores of massive stars.

    Now telescopes have detected such an explosion, and the observation bolsters the notion that gold in our jewelry was made in such rare and violent collisions long before the birth of the solar system about 4½ billion years ago.

    People "walk around with a little tiny piece of the universe," said lead researcher Edo Berger of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

    NASA's Swift telescope last month observed a gamma-ray burst that resulted from the crash of dead stars. The burst, in a distant galaxy, was some 3.9 billion light-years away. Each light-year is about 6 trillion miles.

    The burst lasted only a fraction of a second. Using ground telescopes and the Hubble Space Telescope, Berger's team noticed an odd glow that lasted for days. Infrared light in the glow could be evidence that heavy elements like gold had spewed out of the cosmic crash, the researchers said.

    The new work, which will appear in a future issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters, suggests gold was produced in a similar fashion in the Milky Way. It doesn't delve into how Earth was sprinkled with riches, but previous studies have suggested that a meteor shower may have delivered gold and other precious metals to the planet.

    If the new study's interpretation is correct, "this would be truly very exciting news," said Stockholm University astrophysicist Stephan Rosswog, who led the earlier supercomputing effort but didn't have a role in the latest study.

    More observations of gamma-ray bursts are needed, but it's looking more likely that mergers of neutron stars are "a major cauldron in which elements like gold are forged," Rosswog said.

    Such flashes are thought to occur in the Milky Way about once every 100,000 years. Berger said it's unlikely another will happen in our galaxy in our lifetime. But satellites can often detect such eruptions in distant galaxies about once a month.


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  • 07/18/13--01:30: When Will the Heat Wave End?

  • Children play on a fountain at Pier A Park during a heat wave, Wednesday, July 17, 2013, in Hoboken, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

    An end to the heat wave is coming to the Northeast and Midwest this weekend.

    The atmospheric heat pump will continue to run at full steam this week. However, folks suffering in urban areas or with limited means to keep cool will catch a break.

    Actual high temperatures in most areas will continue to be in the 90s through Friday. AccuWeather.com RealFeel(R) temperatures will be 10 to 20 degrees higher.

    Changes taking place this weekend will end the extreme heat. The pattern change should also take an edge off the humidity for a couple of days.

    The high pressure system responsible for driving the heat will shift westward, allowing a cool front to make progress to the east and south.

    Within a day or two of the frontal passage, thunderstorms will become more widespread with the likelihood of severe weather in some locations.

    Forecast Temperature Maps
    Summer's Worst Week of Heat for the Northeast
    Try AccuWeather Premium for More Detailed Weather Information

    Over the weekend, progressively less-extreme temperatures are forecast with the most noticeable drop in humidity around the Great Lakes, the interior Northeast and neighboring Canada.

    The heat wave will continue Saturday over much of the mid-Atlantic and in coastal New England, before being broken Sunday.

    Because of the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean this time of year, the advance of much cooler, less humid air from the northwest may slow to a crawl and could stall over the Tennessee Valley and the southern part of mid-Atlantic. The warm ocean water sometimes acts as a natural barrier for frontal passages during July and August.

    Despite this, over Virginia, the Delmarva Peninsula and over the Tennessee Valley, for example, 90- to 95-degree temperatures and high humidity are likely to be replaced with 80- to 85-degree temperatures and moderate humidity for a few days.

    If the front were to move along a bit more, then the cooling and the drop in humidity could be more pronounced farther south and right along the coast.

    Beyond the weekend, humidity levels are likely to creep back up throughout the region and the pattern of frequent showers and thunderstorms could soon follow.

    At this stage, it does not appear that extreme temperatures will be in a hurry to build back and stay for an extended period like it did during this week in the Northeast and in much of the Midwest.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Photos: Oppressive Heat Wave Affects Millions


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    Irene Jenke, evacuates from her home on Morris Ranch Rd. with her pets from the Mountain Fire near Lake Hemet on Tuesday July 16, 2013. (AP Photo/The Press-Enterprise, Frank Bellino)

    IDYLLWILD, Calif. (AP) - A wildfire that has burned huge swaths of wilderness turned toward the mountain community of Idyllwild, leaving the town of artists, inns and outdoorsmen virtually empty in a summer tourist season when it's normally booming.

    Some 6,000 residents and visitors in Idyllwild and smaller surrounding communities had to clear out Wednesday as the fire in the mountains southwest of Palm Springs surged in size and began burning toward towns, the U.S. Forest Service said.

    Some 2,200 homes were evacuated and 4,100 residences including hotels, condominiums and cabins were threatened, Forest Service spokeswoman Melody Lardner said.

    "Yesterday it was pushing away from the communities," Lardner said of the 30-square-mile wildfire. "There's a new front moving in that's changing the direction of the winds. It moved in a little earlier than anticipated."

    Residents and visitors from Idyllwild, a mountain vacation destination 100 miles southeast of Los Angeles that also has several thousand permanent residents, streamed down the two highways that led down the mountain toward the larger cities of Hemet and Banning.

    Roccio Gutierrez quickly collected her two daughters and clothes as she prepared to evacuate.

    "It's scary," Gutierrez told the Riverside Press-Enterprise. "I thought they had it under control."

    Firefighters were going door-to-door to make sure residents were leaving as a huge plume of smoke loomed about a mile away, but some evacuees were optimistic.

    "I don't see the town burning down," Elaine Moore, 73, who has lived on the mountain for more than 30 years, told the Press-Enterprise. "We've been through it before. We just have to keep chugging along."

    Temperatures were expected to linger near 100 degrees for the next two days before a weekend cooling trend.

    Tina Rose, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said the blaze was showing extreme behavior in an area that hadn't burned in many years.

    "The slightest little spark is going to make a run and torch trees," Rose said. "It's just so bone dry."

    Seven homes were destroyed or damaged by the wildfire soon after it broke out Monday, and firefighters have been able to stave off serious damages since.

    The blaze destroyed three houses, damaged another and destroyed three mobile homes, a cabin, a garage and about a half-dozen vehicles, the U.S. Forest Service said. Eleven outbuildings, five commercial buildings and several smaller structures also have been lost.

    Nearly 3,000 firefighters and 25 aircraft had the blaze about 15 percent contained.

    Camp Ronald McDonald, which hosts programs for children with cancer and their families, was also evacuated.

    The fire was burning in the San Jacinto Mountains, about 12 miles from the site of the 2006 Esperanza wildfire that killed five U.S. Forest Service firefighters and destroyed 34 homes.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos


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    Dinosaur paleontologist Scott Sampson,makes remarks as he stands next to a reconstruction of a "Nasutoceratops titusi" during a news conference at the Natural History Museum of Utah Wednesday, July 17, 2013, in Salt lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

    SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Researchers in Utah said Wednesday they discovered a new type of big-nosed, horned-faced dinosaur that lived about 76 million years ago in the area of what is now the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

    The discovery of the creature, named "Nasutoceratops titusi," was described in the British scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B and by officials at the National History Museum of Utah in Salt Lake City.

    The dinosaur was a wide-bodied plant-eater that grew to 15 feet long and weighed 2 1/2 tons, said Patti Carpenter, spokeswoman for the museum. It is considered unique for its oversized nose and its exceptionally long, curved and forward-pointing horns over the eyes. It also had a low, narrow blade-like horn above the nose.

    Research headed by Scott Sampson, former chief curator at the museum, determined that Nasutoceratops lived in a swampy and subtropical environment about 62 miles from the water.

    It was part of the same family as the well-known Triceratops, from which it derives part of its name. The second part of the name recognizes paleontologist Alan Titus for his years of research work in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

    The bones were discovered in 2006 by a University of Utah masters student, Eric Lund. Specimens are permanently housed and displayed at the museum at the University of Utah. Lund, who is now at Ohio University, is a co-author of the study with researchers Mark Loewen, Andrew Farke and Katherine Clayton.

    Sampson is now vice president of research and collections at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. He said researchers don't believe the large nose of the Nasutoceratops had anything to do with smell, since olfactory receptors were far back in the head.

    Horned dinosaurs or "ceratopsids," were four-footed herbivores that lived during the late Cretaceous period, when the North American continent was split in two by waters of a warm shallow sea.

    Researchers call the western portion of the continent Laramidia. It now yields dinosaur digs and research sites from Alaska to Mexico.

    Research was funded by the federal Bureau of Land Management, the National Science Foundation and the museums in Salt Lake City and Denver.


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    Thursday, July 18, 2013, 5:39 p.m.

    Javier Soler, 20, of West New York, N.J., flips his head back as water from a fountain runs off his hair during a heat wave, Thursday, July 18, 2013, in Union City, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

    WASHINGTON (AP) - The oppressively hot weather in the Northeast has surprised meteorologists: It's moving backward across America, something that rarely happens.

    The operations chief at the National Weather Service's prediction branch says the western Atlantic high pressure system behind the hot dry weather started moving east to west last week and by Tuesday was centered over lower Michigan.

    Jon Gottschalck said the high pressure was going the wrong way. Normally U.S. weather systems move west to east. He said the high pressure is about to return eastward, extending the Northeastern heat wave an extra day or so until the weekend.

    He said there's no evidence pointing at man-made climate change, but this is likely just natural chaos in the atmosphere.

    Thursday, the heat index hit 106 degrees in Washington and Philadelphia.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Photos: Oppressive Heat Wave Affects Millions


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    Two separate lightning strikes in Colorado caused serious injuries Thursday.

    In Fort Collins, Colo., nine farm workers were struck by lightning while out in the fields.

    Fire Protection District Chief of Wellington, Gary Green, said they were out in the field during a "crazy lightning storm" that moved through the area around 4:00 p.m. MDT.

    Two people were critically injured.

    Only a few hours earlier, a woman who was hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park was also stuck by lightning.

    Further more, these were not the first injury-causing lightning strikes this week.

    On Wednesday, two adults and young boy were struck by lightning in Montana while they were hiking in Glacier National Park. All three were initially knocked unconscious by the strike.

    AccuWeather Radar for the Southwest
    Current Watches and Warnings
    Wildfire Burns Near Colorado Springs

    While lightning is not the biggest weather-related killer, lightning can be extremely dangerous, killing 50-100 people in a typical year.

    As Samantha-Rae Tuthill explained during Lightning Awareness Week, the best shelter is in a sturdy enclosed building.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 11 Surprising Effects of Being Struck by Lightning
    Struck by Lightning, Scar


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    Tommy Grant drinks from an open hydrant while taking a break from gardening in the Jackie Robinson Community Garden, Wednesday, July 17, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

    "Energy usage could approach all-time records," New York's largest energy provider Con Edison warned on their website this week, urging customers to make conservation efforts as intense heat continues through Saturday.

    On Thursday, every state except for Alaska soared to 90 degrees or higher.

    The East, enduring its fourth heat wave of the summer, felt temperatures well into the 90s with RealFeel(R) temperatures of 105 to 110 degrees in Washington, D.C., and New York City.

    Major cities have braced for typical urban heat dilemmas such as power outages and mass transit delays.

    During heat waves, power loss is common as energy usage skyrockets with cranked up air conditioners, constantly running ceiling and oscillating fans and appliances like refrigerators and freezers working harder to stay cool.

    Downtown urban areas often suffer the worst as they lack permeable surfaces such as open land and vegetation and are instead plagued by concrete and infrastructure. This creates a phenomenon called an urban heat island effect.

    The annual mean air temperature of a city with one million people or more can be anywhere from 1.8 degrees to 5.4 degrees F warmer than its surroundings, the EPA reports.

    How Do I Know If I'm Dehydrated?
    How 100 Degrees Does a Number on You
    Hot Cars Can Kill: 20 Children Already Dead in 2013

    Power crews at companies such as Con Edison have been working 12-hour shifts pulling cables, replacing fuses and helping to restore power to thousands experiencing outages in the metropolitan area.

    The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) of New York was reporting few delays Thursday, despite warning that heat waves can result in power cuts and slower trains.

    An influx of the "age-old query" regarding when MTA will invest in air conditioned subway stations prompted a press release from the group Tuesday.

    "We really can't say," they wrote. "... Open at both ends as they are, trying to air condition subway platforms would be like trying to air condition an infinite space."

    Residents of Washington, D.C., faced their own share of problems this week, as 130,000 customers in Prince George's County are under mandatory water restrictions while repairs are made to a water main.

    Customers have been asked to stop all outside water use, limit flushing toilets and postpone the use of washing machines and dishwashers until further notice.

    Temperatures in the East are forecast to fall by the end of the weekend, putting the end in sight for those desperate for relief.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Photos: Oppressive Heat Wave Affects Millions


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    Updated: July 19, 2013, 4:30 p.m. ET

    A water tender makes his way back to the the Mountain Fire near Lake Hemet on Tuesday July 16, 2013. The 14,200-acre forest fire near Idyllwild Calif., has caused Idyllwild and adjacent communities east of Highway 243 to issued mandatory evacuations for hundreds of homes Wednesday. (AP Photo/The Press-Enterprise, Frank Bellino)

    IDYLLWILD, Calif. (AP) - Residents of another 700 homes were advised to retreat to safety on Friday as crews fighting a wildfire in the mountains above Palm Springs grew increasingly concerned about the possibility of unstable weather and erratic winds.

    The voluntary departures by people in Pine Cove, on the fire's western flank, came in addition to mandatory evacuations involving 6,000 others who spent a third day away from home as the fire spread in three directions.

    The blaze in the San Jacinto Mountains has expanded to roughly 39 square miles and was 15 percent contained, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Kate Kramer said.

    Some communities on the eastern edge of the fire were reopened to residents, but about 4,100 homes remained under potential threat.

    The fire was only about two miles from Idyllwild on its western flank and the same from Palm Springs, below on the desert floor. However, it was burning relatively slowly with the most active area south of town.

    An enormous plume of smoke could be seen from Palm Springs.

    A storm front headed toward the region could provide some relief with cooler weather and a chance of rain - but it might make the situation much more volatile, fire spokesman Capt. Mike Lindbery said.

    Combined with hot air on the ground, the unstable air could create a strong updraft that draws smoke high into the atmosphere.

    If the smoke column rises too high, moisture at the top could freeze and the weight of the ice could cause the column to collapse, creating a powerful downdraft in all directions, Lindbery said.

    "We're very concerned because this is the condition in the past that has definitely caused big firestorms and the death of citizens and firefighters," he said.

    "It makes it so there are not a lot places that are safe."

    Popular campgrounds, hiking trails and a 30-mile section of the Pacific Crest Trail that runs from the Mexican border to Canada, remained closed. A small stretch of a local highway was also closed.

    Some 3,300 firefighters, aided by nearly 30 aircraft, battled the fire, which stretched from 4,000 feet to 9,000 feet along the mountains. As a result, crews could be working in temperatures ranging from a comfortable 75 to a scorching 110 degrees.

    The arriving storm front could bring a 20 percent chance of rain and 15-24 mph winds with gusts to 40 mph that could push the flames in erratic ways.

    The fire, which began Monday, has burned six homes and mobile homes, one cabin, and more than a dozen other buildings. One home also was damaged.

    Idyllwild resident Dave Jones was back in his home on Thursday, a day after evacuating, but remained ready to leave again.

    The walls were bare in the home where he has lived for the past 40 years after the 64-year-old and his wife stowed valuable mementos, along with more practical items such as clothing, jewelry, medicines and a computer hard drive, before heading to their son's home in nearby Hemet.

    "The fire came right up by the ridge yesterday afternoon, gave everybody a pretty good scare that it was going to come down the hill," Jones said Thursday night.

    The last time he evacuated for a fire it was 1997, and he stayed away for four days. Jones said he considered the order he got on Wednesday to be "a light evacuation" and wasn't afraid because he knows of a controlled dirt road to use as an escape route if fire comes down that ridge.

    More than 100 evacuees, including campers rousted from spots in the danger zone, spent the night at a high school.

    Authorities said the fire was human-caused, but they wouldn't say whether it was accidental or intentional. There have been no reports of injuries. The fire has cost $8.6 million to fight so far.

    The fire was about 12 miles from the site of the 2006 Esperanza wildfire that killed five U.S. Forest Service firefighters and destroyed 34 homes and blackened an area that hadn't burned in many years.


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    A relic seawall in Bay Head, N.J., dating back to 1882, was uncovered by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. The forgotten structure staved off a significant amount of property damage. (Credit: Jennifer Irish, Virginia Tech)

    A buried and forgotten seawall built in 1882 may have significantly weakened Hurricane Sandy's grip on one New Jersey town, new research shows.

    Bay Head - a beach town located along the northeast shores of New Jersey - lay directly in the violent path of Hurricane Sandy when the storm barreled toward the Eastern Seaboard last October. And yet only one house from the town was lost to the storm. The neighboring town of Mantoloking, on the other hand, lost more than a quarter of its houses.

    To figure out how Bay Head thwarted Sandy's blow, a team of coastal engineers from Virginia Tech visited the region within two weeks of the storm to survey the area. They found what they believe to be their answer in a 4,000-foot-long wall of rocks that many residents hadn't even known was there, they reported earlier this month in the journal Coastal Engineering. [Jersey Shore: Before & After Hurricane Sandy]

    "Once we got there, we immediately saw the seawall," Jennifer Irish, an engineer at Virginia Tech and a co-author of the study, said in a statement. The team noted that dunes along the beaches of both Mantoloking and Bay Head likely helped beat back some waves, but that the seawall provided a clear advantage for Bay Head. "The beach and dunes did their job to a certain point, then the seawall took over, providing significant dampening of the waves. It was the difference between houses that were flooded in Bay Head and houses that were reduced to piles of rubble in Mantoloking."

    Two towns

    The team examined satellite imagery and beach data from the two regions to assess whether other factors could have played a role, but found nothing that stood out as strongly as the seawall.

    "Because of [the towns'] close proximity, and based on our survey, I feel confident that the conditions that they were exposed to were virtually identical," Irish told Livescience.

    The team believes that the combination of the hard seawall - which stands about 5 feet (1.5 m) above the sand - and overlying soft sand dune likely accounts for the structure's effectiveness.

    "A seawall on its own is detrimental to the beach," said Patrick Lynett, an engineer at the University of Southern California who was a co-author on the study. By deflecting waves seaward, seawalls increase the amount of wave energy hitting beaches and cause more sand to wash away, he explained. "The seawall is good at protecting the town from being flooded, but for an extreme storm, it's not good."

    The sand on top of the seawall provided extra cushioning, dampening the energy channeled back to the beach.

    Extreme erosion

    Other structures, like jetties that run perpendicular to beaches and breakwaters that sit underwater near shores, can also help prevent erosion, but usually not under extreme conditions like Hurricane Sandy. The team thinks that the combined seawall and dune could provide a good model for other beach towns looking to prevent erosion. But every beach is different and should be assessed on a case-by-case basis, Lynett said.

    The team now plans to look more closely at their data to try to better understand how storms as large as Sandy affect erosion and other beach processes.

    "We really hope we can learn a lot from this terrible event, and improve our ability to recover and increase the resiliency of coastal communities," Irish said.

    Follow Laura Poppick on Twitter. Follow LiveScience on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Original article on LiveScience.

    Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 25 Indelible Images from Superstorm Sandy
    Superstorm Sandy


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    Photo of feeding mosquito by Henrik Larsson.

    The intense heat wave and stifling humidity that has overtaken much of the country this week has helped increase mosquito populations, which spurs concerns over the potentially fatal West Nile Virus.

    A period of record-breaking rain earlier in the month helped create preferable conditions for mosquitoes to nest in, as they thrive in pools of stagnant water. Some areas in the South, from the Gulf Coast into the Carolinas, received more than a foot of rain in less than a month. Parts of the Ohio Valley into the Northeast received more than 8 inches. The heat that followed then aided the growing process for the insects, maturing them from egg to adult in as little as a week.

    According to Andy Kyle, section chief of Vector Management of the Department of Environmental Protection, the biggest threat that mosquitoes have is their ability to spread West Nile Virus, a disease with no vaccination and no known cure. While most people who get West Nile Virus are able to recover from it using over-the-counter medications to treat the few symptoms it creates, it can cause neurological complications or lead to death.

    Positive tests of West Nile Virus are picking up recently, which experts told AccuWeather.com is on track for an average season. Mosquito populations are usually worst in early August, so it is likely that the peak time for spreading the disease is fast-approaching. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists 23 total cases of West Nile Virus so far this year, resulting in three deaths.

    The Bugs of Summer: Why Am I a Mosquito Magnet?
    High Temperatures Spread Across the US
    One-Minute Mosquito Prevention

    "People should take precautions [against mosquitoes] now of course, but it will be especially important in the coming weeks," Kyle said.

    The heat will not only cause mosquitoes to mature at a more rapid rate, but it also helps the virus incubate in birds that have been infected. That will make it easier for mosquitoes to pick up the virus and spread it to humans.

    Fortunately, while the heat will accelerate the maturity process in mosquitoes, it will also shorten their lifespan. Kyle said that their typical lifespan is three to four weeks, but in the higher temperatures that have recently faced most of the country it may be shortened to only two weeks.

    Not all species of mosquitoes are capable of carrying the disease, so being bitten is not a surefire way to get infected.

    "Most mosquitoes are just nuisance mosquitoes," Kyle said.

    The best way for people to protect themselves from West Nile Virus is to prevent being bitten by a mosquito transmitting it:

    Tips for Avoiding Mosquitoes

    1. Check your property for pooling water after a rainstorm. Buckets, tarps, wheelbarrows and other containers that hold water can be breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

    2. Avoid being outside at peak hours. Mosquitoes hate the heat and will be more active at dusk and during early morning hours.

    3. Wear light-colored clothing. Mosquitoes are attracted to bright colors.

    4. Wear long sleeves and pants.

    5. Use an oscillating fan. Mosquitoes are weak fliers and can't reach you with a strong breeze.

    6. Use bug spray. Especially those with DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or certain essential oils.

    7. Have screens on windows and doors. Be sure they are intact and free of tears.However, West Nile Virus does not have very strong symptoms, so it may be hard to detect if someone is infected.

    West Nile Virus Symptoms

    1. According to the CDC, 70 to 80 percent of those infected will not have any symptoms.

    2. A smaller percentage of the infected population will experience fever, chills, vomiting, aches and possible rashes, which typically go away on their own.

    3. Severe symptoms of West Nile Virus can be a sign of a serious neurological complication and brain inflammation.

    4. Ten percent of those who develop a neurological infection from West Nile Virus do not survive it. These signs include neck stiffness, high fever, paralysis, tremors and disorientation. If experiencing any symptoms after a mosquito bite, people are urged to go to see a doctor or go to the hospital.

    Last year was the most deadly year yet for West Nile Virus cases in the U.S., with 286 fatalities. There have been 1,549 deaths attributed to the disease since it was first found in the U.S. in 2001. The first case of it was in New York, but it has now been found in all 48 contiguous states. Kyle does not see an end to it any time soon.

    "West Nile is here to stay. We're going to have to deal with it," Kyle said.

    RELATED ON SKYE: World's Freakiest Bugs


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    Weatherman Busts Up After Anchor Mentions Uterus
    What seemed to be little more than a quirky morning news story brought unplanned hilarity to one Springfield, Ill. station earlier this week. News anchor Natalie Sparacio was recounting a tale of a 17th-century Russian woman who allegedly had 69 children. "She's got quite the uterus," Sparacio quipped.

    And with that, weatherman Joe Crain completely lost his cool. Crain burst into a fit of giggles rendering him incapable of delivering the weather report. Eventually, the chuckling Crain ran off the set to crouch on the floor in a fit of hysterics. Crain did manage to get his own one-liner in, joking, "That's what her husband said."

    via The Daily Mail

    RELATED ON SKYE: 10 Most Weathery Weather Forecaster Names


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    Hurricane Emilia swirled over the Eastern Pacific Ocean soon after forming in early July 2012, as seen by NASA's Terra satellite. (NASA)

    The way radio signals from GPS satellites bounce around during storms can now help scientists deduce wind speeds in hurricanes, insights that could help better predict the severity of the storms and where they might be headed.

    Orbiting thousands of miles above Earth, global positioning satellite (GPS) networks constantly beam radio signals at the ground that reveal both where each satellite is and when the message was sent. These satellites thus serve as points that GPS receivers can refer to in order to calculate their own position.

    Radio waves can bounce off surfaces much like how visible light reflects off mirrors. Approximately 60 percent of the radio signals from GPS satellites reflect off bodies of water such as the ocean and back at the sky. However, unlike mirrors, the surface of the ocean is rarely calm and flat — wind blowing over bodies of water generates waves.

    "Imagine you blow on a hot bowl of soup," said researcher Stephen Katzberg, a research engineer at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. "The harder you blow, the bigger the waves are in the bowl."

    When GPS signals ricochet off a wave, the rough surface of the water distorts the reflection by scattering the signals in a variety of directions. By analyzing this distortion, Katzberg and his fellow researchers can reason how rough the water is and thus how strong the wind is blowing.

    "The GPS system for navigation contains all the elements of remote sensing. You just need to look at it the right way," Katzberg told LiveScience.

    Currently, scientists measure hurricane wind speeds by dropping a tube packed with scientific instruments into storms. These packages, called dropsondes, are strapped to small parachutes, jettisoned from airplanes and gather data as they fall. Each device measures pressure, humidity and temperature in addition to wind speed.

    The storm-hunting airplanes of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), nicknamed Hurricane Hunters, typically drop about 20 single-use dropsondes, each costing about $750, into each storm. The new GPS-based method of measuring wind speed could provide a far more extensive view of a storm's wind speeds for a much lower cost. [In Images: NASA's Hurricane Hunters]

    The GPS-based system involves GPS receiver chips located in aircraft. A computer compares radio waves coming directly from satellites above with reflected signals from the sea below and calculates an approximate wind speed with accuracy that's within 11 mph. For comparison, the wind speed of a midrange, Category 3 hurricane is about 123 mph.

    Since the dropsondes are expensive, they are released in a spread-out pattern, and meteorologists need to use some guesswork to fill in the gaps. In comparison, the GPS-based method can constantly gather data about the wind below.

    "You were already going to have these GPS systems onboard, so why not get additional information about the environment around you," Katzberg said.

    Complementary systems

    The GPS-based technique does have drawbacks, Katzberg cautioned. For instance, dropsondes currently provide wind speed measurements that are 10 times more precise than those from GPS. In addition, since the GPS-based method requires large bodies of water to work, it cannot be used over land. Moreover, in cases where the ocean's surface is choppy without any wind, such as the eye of a stormhurricane, Katzberg said other tools are needed to get an accurate wind speed measurement.

    "The GPS technique, while useful as it has been shown to be, has practical limits as well," Katzberg said.

    The ultimate goal of this GPS-based method is not to replace dropsondes, but to add a much broader view of wind speeds to the data the dropsondes provide. As GPS satellites improve, "wind speed detection by GPS can ultimately approach dropsonde accuracy, but the two measure mostly different things," Katzberg said.

    The new system is currently getting tested during flights on Hurricane Hunters. It may also be implemented on satellites in the future, Katzberg said in 2016, NASA plans to launch a system of small satellites called the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) to measure reflected GPS satellite signals from low orbit to monitor storm wind speeds from space.

    Radio waves from other kinds of satellites might help too, Katzberg said, including reflections of powerful satellite broadcasts from DirecTV and Sirius XM Radio.

    "Those signals are extremely powerful and easy to detect," Katzberg said. "These satellites cost hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars, but our system only costs a few hundred. We're taking advantage of the expensive infrastructure that's already there."

    Katzberg and his colleagues Jason Dunion and George Ganoe detailed their findings online June 1 in the journal Radio Science.

    Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos


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    In this photo taken on July 17, 2013, and released by the U.S. Forest Service, a DC-10 drops fire retardant along an edge of the Mountain Fire near Lake Hemet, Calif. The blaze about 100 miles east of Los Angeles had grown to more than 35 square miles in size and had destroyed at least six houses and mobile homes. (AP Photo/U.S. Forest Service)

    IDYLLWILD, Calif. (AP) - The threat of weekend thunderstorms could bring much-needed moisture to a huge wildfire in the Southern California mountains near Palm Springs.

    Unfortunately it could also bring wind, lightning and other volatile conditions that could make a tough firefight even worse.

    Combined with hot air on the ground, the unstable air could create a strong updraft that draws smoke high into the atmosphere, fire spokesman Capt. Mike Lindbery said.

    If the smoke column rises too high, moisture at the top could freeze and the weight of the ice could cause the column to collapse, creating a powerful downdraft in all directions.

    "We're very concerned because this is the condition in the past that has definitely caused big firestorms and the death of citizens and firefighters," Lindbery said.

    Storm cells approached the area Friday afternoon but dissipated before reaching the fire zone. But the threat would remain on Saturday and through the weekend, and fire officials hoped it would be mild cloud cover and high humidity that could help in the firefight.

    The blaze in the San Jacinto Mountains had expanded to roughly 42 square miles and was 15 percent contained, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Kate Kramer said.

    Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, filling in for a vacationing Gov. Jerry Brown, declared a state of emergency for the area Friday night, freeing up more state funding and other resources to help with the protracted firefight that has already cost nearly $11 million.

    Mandatory evacuations remained in place for a fourth day for about 6,000 people, and officials had advised another 700 to evacuate.

    Some communities on the eastern edge of the fire were reopened to residents, but about 5,600 homes remained under potential threat.

    The fire was less than two miles from Idyllwild on its western flank. It was a similar distance from Palm Springs below on the desert floor, where an enormous plume of smoke could be seen, but the blaze was showing little threat of moving toward the much larger city.

    Popular campgrounds, hiking trails and a 30-mile section of the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from the Mexican border to Canada, remained closed.

    Nearly 3,500 firefighters, aided by nearly 30 aircraft, battled the fire, which stretched in elevation from 4,000 feet to 9,000 feet along the mountains, putting crews in temperatures from a comfortable 75 degrees to a scorching 110.

    Authorities said the fire was human-caused, but they wouldn't say whether it was accidental or intentional. There have been no reports of injuries.

    The fire, which began Monday, has burned six homes and mobile homes, one cabin, and more than a dozen other buildings.

    Idyllwild resident Steve Hamlet had been watching a growing smoke cloud since Monday and evacuated his home with his 12-year-old grandson as flames crept closer.

    On Friday, he worried whether he had packed the right things -- and worried about his wife, who had stayed behind.

    "Do I take pictures? Do I take bills? Do I take legal documents? Or do I just take my grandson and I?" Hamlet said at a local evacuation shelter.

    He and his grandson tried to check on his wife Thursday but were turned away at a road block after driving 25 miles up the mountain, he said.

    "She knows enough when it's time to leave," he said.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos


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    The casino-lined Strip in Las Vegas was flooded by an intense thunderstorm on July 19, 2013. The site 28storms.com posted this photo to Twitter and wrote "Flash flood pic in Las Vegas."

    LAS VEGAS (AP) - A severe thunderstorm with strong winds swept through Las Vegas, knocking down trees and utility poles and scattering gamblers from the casino floor at Caesars Palace as flooding hit parts of the famed Strip.

    Some resorts on the Strip and Fremont Street were without power several hours after the fast-moving storm moved through the city at about 7 p.m. on Friday.

    The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that Clark County fire units also responded to several calls of people needing water rescue near the Strip.

    NV Energy was working on outages that affected 33,000 people across the Las Vegas area, company spokeswoman Kelley Mulroy said.

    A new daily rainfall record of 0.22 inches was set at McCarran International Airport, and more than an inch of rain was recorded in suburban Henderson. Some of the record rainfall kicked a hole in the roof of Gilley's Saloon, a Western-style bar at Treasure Island on the Strip where customers watched as sheets of water fell in.

    No injuries have been reported, but falling trees and gas lines severed by tornado-like winds forced the evacuation of 200 condominium units on the city's east side, Las Vegas fire spokesman Tim Szymanski said. Fifteen units were damaged by falling trees, and about 50 residents of the complex were expected to take shelter at a nearby high school.

    The National Weather Service says that a 71-mph wind gust swept through nearby Nellis Air Force Base. Multiple buildings in the area were struck by lightning.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Off-the-Charts Hottest and Coldest Places on Earth
    Hottet Places on Earth


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    The battle to halt a four-alarm fire Friday afternoon in Jersey City, N.J., caused more than 40 firefighters to be treated for heat-related and other injuries, officials said.

    A fire was reported on Boyd Street in the western part of the city around 12:20 p.m. Friday, Jersey City spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill said. The fire quickly escalated to four alarms with two other buildings affected by the blaze.

    Twenty-two Jersey City firefighters were taken to Jersey City Medical Center, mostly for heat injuries, Morrill said. Two firefighters, one each from Bayonne and North Hudson Regional fire departments, were also taken to the hospital.

    Two Jersey City firefighters hug after they helped battle a four-alarm fire, Friday, July 19, 2013, in Jersey City, N.J. Jersey City spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill says nine firefighters suffered heat exhaustion and one had an ankle injury. The cause has not yet been determined. The fire was reported around 12:30 p.m. Friday as temperatures in the region reached the high 90s. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

    Temperatures at the time of the fire were around 100 degrees with an AccuWeather RealFeel(R) temperature of 104 degrees, AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dave Samuhel said.

    "It was intense heat and humidity," Samuhel said. "The temperatures were about the same as Thursday, but the humidity is higher and feels more unbearable."

    Breaking Weather: Northeast Stays Steamy
    AccuWeather Severe Weather Center
    Heat Wave by the Numbers in Northeast, Midwest

    Thirty other firefighters were treated at the scene, Jersey City Medical Center spokesman Dave Robson told The Jersey Journal.

    The cause of the fire remains under investigation, Morrill said late Friday afternoon.

    Thumbnail photo by The Associated Press

    When overexposed to extreme heat, the human body will undergo heat exhaustion or, even worse, heat stroke. More than 40 firefighters were injured Friday afternoon in Jersey City., N.J., mostly from the heat and humidity.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 20 Tips for Surviving a Heat Wave


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    Vendors, shoppers and pedestrians take shelter from the sun under umbrellas in New York's Chinatown, Friday, July 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Jon Gerberg)

    Friday's intense heat and humidity led to New York City setting an all-time peak electric usage record.

    Electric usage in New York City and neighboring Westchester County topped out at 13,322 Megawatts (MW) at 5 p.m. EDT Friday, according to Con Edison.

    That breaks the previous all-time peak usage record, which was 13,189 MW from July 22, 2011.

    Temperatures at New York City's Central Park soared to 96 degrees on Friday.

    Detailed New York City Forecast
    Heat Wave Relief Comes at a Stormy Price
    New York City Radar

    As dew points generally held in the lower 70s and sunshine remained in control, AccuWeather.com RealFeel(R) temperatures eclipsed the century mark during the midday and early afternoon hours.

    Friday's high of 96 degrees fell short of challenging the day's record of 102 degrees from 1977. However, Friday's low of 83 degrees broke the day's long-standing warmest low temperature record of 81 degrees from 1878.

    A high of 84 degrees and a low of 69 degrees are more common on July 19.

    New York City and the entire Northeast's I-95 corridor is enduring one more day of intense heat and humidity this Saturday before severe thunderstorms late in the day bring the heat wave to an end for Sunday.

    Once temperatures hit the 90-degree mark in New York City on Saturday, it will extend this current heat wave to seven days and mark the longest heat wave for the city since the nine-day heat wave in August 2002.

    A heat wave in New York City is defined as three consecutive days of temperatures reaching or exceeding 90 degrees.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Photos: Oppressive Heat Wave Affects Millions


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    Saturday, July 20, 2013

    This grainy image -- taken of a CBS television broadcast of the Apollo 11 lunar landing -- is similar to what the author saw. (CBS)

    It's the first moment I remember. I was a very small child. I could not yet stand, but I recall my father holding me up close to our giant, '60s-era console TV set -- a boxy wooden behemoth much taller than me.

    My dad was very excited. He was pointing out grainy, black-and-white photos on the screen and stressing to me, his 23-month-old child, the extreme importance of what I was seeing. He wanted me, a baby, really, to remember this moment. That this was something huge.

    My dad did not often get excited, so I'm sure it was his enthusiasm that cemented the event into my brain. At that age, I had no idea there was such a thing as a moon...or an Earth. All I knew was to pay attention when Papa got excited, because that meant good things were happening. Up until that point, it meant things like ice cream and being tossed far, far, far up into the air and being caught.

    I believe it was Apollo 14, the third U.S. manned moon landing, that my father wanted to sear into my nascent memory. It was February of 1971, and I was not yet 2.

    I was born in late March of 1969, at the very height of the space race. I had a father who had a passion for all things airborne. By day he worked for Pratt and Whitney, an aerospace contractor, in Connecticut. At night, he studied to earn his private pilot's license.

    I grew up in hangars, inhaling the pungent smell of airplane fuel, and staying out of the way. I learned how to check for birds' nests in Cessna engines, how to read aeronautical maps, I even learned how to take control of the stick if my dad suddenly had a heart attack (he's a morbid realist, as am I).

    Looking back, I know that my father was right to be so excited -- and to want to pass that enthusiasm on to his firstborn. No human has set foot on the moon since December 1972 (the last was the Apollo 17 mission -- I was likely held up to the TV for that one, too). It's a shame. Of course, I understand that some people feel the nation's money should be spent helping people here on Earth. But the urge to explore, to go farther, to see what else is out there, is at the core of what it means to be human. NASA's Apollo missions represented the very best of what it means to be an American.

    To this day, I think the idea of taking off, of getting out there, of slipping "the surly bonds of Earth" -- a line from a sonnet, written by American pilot John Gillespie Magee, that hung in my dad's office -- is one of the most wondrous things one can do. (I am simply thrilled to get onto a plane, any plane, going anywhere.)

    Ultimately, I believe my father thought space travel might very well possible, common even, within his his young child's lifetime. There are a few options, but none affordable to an average American. Deep down, though the odds seem against it, I hope that my father was right, and that I'll someday have the thrill of seeing our planet from space. Till then I'll look back and marvel at Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon, taken exactly 44 years ago today.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 25 Amazing Photos of the International Space Station
    International Space Station, Shuttle


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