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SKYE on AOL

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    Image courtesy of AccuWeather.com Astronomy Facebook Fan Carl Cohen.

    The night of July 22 was illuminated by an enormous thunder moon, and skygazers took to social media to post pictures of the celestial event.

    As the name suggests, the thunder moon occurs during the middle of the summer, in the midst of high heat and thunderstorms.

    Following suit, severe weather and thunderstorms broke out across the globe over the past week, putting on a light show in many major cities, including London, New York and Las Vegas.

    London received significant attention for the active weather, as the royal baby boy was born Monday afternoon. Spectators lined the gates of Buckingham Palace hoping to catch a glimpse of the new arrival.

    Meanwhile, the London Eye, the Tower Bridge and other national monuments were illuminated to celebrate the birth, giving photos that captured a brightness that is rarely seen.

    The storms did not produce much rainfall in London; London Heathrow International has recorded only 0.06 of an inch since the start of July.

    The storms helped slice the scorching temperatures that plagued the city last week and resulted in the fourth official heat wave of the summer.

    One photog managed to capture a vivid bolt that occurred against a backdrop of the iconic Las Vegas strip. In the night sky, the bolt runs parallel to the spotlight shining from atop the Luxor.

    Nearing the peak of monsoon season, Vegas has had problematic rainfall over the past several days. On Friday, more than 6 inches of water was reported flowing across roadways. The Mirage Casino also reported a roof collapse due to heavy rain and damage to guest elevators.

    Image was originally a Reuter's Editor's Choice photo. Image taken by Steve Marcus for Reuters.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Lightning Strikes 10 Famous Landmarks
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    A street vendor adjusts his signs advertising cold water on Canal Street in the Chinatown neighborhood of Manhattan, Friday, July 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

    After an uncomfortable heat wave enveloped much of the Midwest and Northeast from about July 14 to July 20, there has been a renewed focus on the conversation around global warming and man-made climate change. While some make the argument that the hot summer and recent global temperatures are proof that our planet is changing, others are not so convinced.

    AccuWeather.com senior expert meteorologist Bernie Rayno does not dispute that humans may be impacting temperatures. Rayno said that building up in cities has increased temperatures in those areas, a phenomenon known as the urban heat island effect. He disagrees, however, that human activity is causing drastic changes to the climate on a global scale or that heat waves can be blamed on it.

    "This is the time of year for heat waves," Rayno said. "Mid-July to mid-August. I'd be more concerned if we weren't seeing heat waves right now."

    Rayno also emphasized that this most recent heat wave is nothing historic or out of the ordinary. What made the recent rash of heat seem so unpleasant was high humidity, not necessarily high temperatures.


    This AccuWeather.com graphic from the heat wave shows that highs during the heat wave were less than 10 degrees above normal in some areas.

    "Everyone is putting more of an emphasis on heat indices instead of actual temperatures," Rayno said. "Most of the week [of the heat wave] we weren't seeing a lot of records broken for high temperatures. It was not a historic heat wave."

    Though temperatures in some cities set new records, most were unusually high nighttime low temperatures. Raleigh, for example, broke the old warm-night record of 73 degrees set in 1925 when it hit 75 on July 16. The old record itself showed, however, that periods of high overnight temperatures are not entirely new experiences. Washington, D.C., had several consecutive days where temperatures failed to drop below 80 degrees.

    Overall for this summer, however, temperatures have not been ordinarily hot. On the contrary, as of July 22, Washington, D.C., has only had 20 days over 90 degrees. During an average summer, the city will experience 36 days that hit 90 degrees or more. Philadelphia has had 19 days in the 90s so far this summer, compared to their average of 27 days. Though the summer is not yet over, trends show that high temperatures for these areas are on track to end up near typical averages.

    While many climate scientists agree that no one particular heat wave can be blamed on a changing climate, they contend that an increasing pattern over time has indicated weather is being affected by global warming.

    Martin Tingley, a climatologist at Harvard University, told Ker Than of National Geographic, "Can we attribute this particular heat wave to an anthropogenic impact on the climate? The only safe answer is, well, probably not ... But what we're seeing now, there seems to be a trend toward more hot extremes and fewer cold extremes. That's a pattern that's consistent with an anthropogenically forced increase in temperatures."

    Rayno points out that the planet has seen these sort of fluctuations before, citing the medieval warming period, where research has shown that the planet warmed significantly from the ninth to 13th centuries, then cooled for the "Little Ice Age" from the 15th to 19th centuries.

    Though recent heat has been a focus in the debate, other extreme weather events are often at the heart of the global discussion as well. A major hurricane formed then hit New York and New Jersey in the fall of 2012 in the form of Superstorm Sandy, an EF-5 tornado struck Moore, Okla., and areas of excessive drought in the West have all been the topics of discussion in the climate debate.

    Rayno does not deny that human actions can contribute to the climate but states that blaming current weather events, from Sandy to droughts to the heat wave, is "absurd."

    "We live on a planet where extreme weather is not the exception; it's the rule," Rayno said. "Talking about events that have happened in the past few decades, temperature records that have only been kept for a little over a hundred years, you are only looking at a fraction of time when you consider how old the Earth is."

    Rayno also believes that emphasis on recent weather extremes does not take into account the changes that have been made in the way weather events are tracked and measured. The scale used for tornadoes, for example, has evolved, making it seem as if there has been an increased number of severe tornadoes taking place, when they have actually not increased in number of tornadoes or in severity. Tornadoes are now given higher ratings with lower wind speeds.

    The May 2007 Greensburg, Kan., tornado, for example, was labeled an EF-5 with estimated winds of 205 mph. Had this tornado occurred before the enhanced measurement scale was put into effect, it would have only been an F-3.

    Dr. Michael Mann, professor of meteorology and the director of the Earth System Science Center at the Pennsylvania State University, disagrees, stating, "Scientists at NOAA have spent decades carefully accounting for any changes in instrumentation, etc., and the [Global Historical Climatology Network] data of NOAA are considered the gold standard for quality-assured long-term climate data."

    Dr. Mann said that this data supports an increase in extreme weather, from heavy rainfall to hurricanes, a point also made in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, "Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation." The report cites a statistical increase in the numbers of warm nights and a reduction in the numbers of cold nights for 70 to 75 percent of the world, which they attribute to human causes.

    The report goes on to list the ways that man-made climate change will impact temperatures, cyclones, drought, wind, waves and precipitation, but not all experts in the field agree with these results.

    Dr. Chris Landea, a leading hurricane expert and science and operations officer for the National Hurricane Center, disagrees that any contribution by human action will have an impact of hurricanes. Following Hurricane Katrina, Dr. Landsea resigned from the IPCC over claims stating otherwise.

    "All previous and current research in the area of hurricane variability has shown no reliable, long-term trend up in the frequency or intensity of tropical cyclones, either in the Atlantic or any other basin... The evidence is quite strong and supported by the most recent credible studies that any impact in the future from global warming upon hurricanes will likely be quite small," he wrote.

    Scientists on both sides of the climate change debate disagree on what long-term trends and history records tell us about the human impact on the environment and our ability to change the climate. One thing they do all agree on, however, is that individual events cannot be considered on their own as evidence for global warming.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 20 Tips for Surviving a Heat Wave
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    Updated Wednesday, July 24, 2013 at 11:55 p.m. ET

    (NOAA)

    MIAMI (AP) - Forecasters say Tropical Storm Dorian has formed in the eastern Atlantic and remains far from land.

    The storm's maximum sustained winds Wednesday were near 50 mph. The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says it is moving quickly across the Atlantic at 21 mph.

    The storm is centered about 410 miles west-southwest of the Cape Verde Islands, off the coast of west Africa. Dorian could get a bit stronger Wednesday, though it is forecast to weaken some on Thursday as it moves over cooler water.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 23 Amazing Hurricane Images from Space

     

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    A May 28, 2013, file photo shows a hiker taking a photo on a rock formation known as "The Wave" in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona. (AP Photo/Brian Witte, File)

    SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - They left their two young children with relatives and set off to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary at one of the most beautiful hiking destinations in the Southwest.

    Months earlier, the luck of a draw had brought Anthony and Elisabeth Ann Bervel coveted hiking permits for "The Wave," a region of richly colored sandstone patterns near the Utah-Arizona border.

    But just hours into Monday's trek, 27-year-old Elisabeth Bervel died of cardiac arrest, becoming the third hiker in a month to succumb to the brutal summer heat and disorienting open country where no marked trail shows the way.

    The deaths have prompted officials to reassess the dangers for people who make the hike and perhaps seek an outside investigation of the risks, said Kevin Wright, manager of Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.

    "We're considering everything at this point," he said.

    Only 20 hikers are granted permits each day, a limit defended as necessary to protect the rock formations and preserve a sense of wilderness around the signature rock formation said to be one of the most photographed spots in North America.

    Hikers are given plenty of warnings about how to survive. They also get pictures of prominent landmarks and access to eight guides who can lead the way.

    "It's not like going to Zion National Park and hiking on an asphalt trail," said Kane County sheriff's Sgt. Alan Alldredge. "Once you hit the slickrock, nothing distinguishes the trail."

    "It seems to go well for people going to The Wave," he added. "But for some reasons on the way back, they end up getting lost."

    The Bervels, of Mesa, Ariz., lost their way on a three-mile cross-country route back to a trailhead, forcing them to spend extra hours under blazing sun in 90-degree temperatures and humidity, he said.

    Officials said Elisabeth Bervel's legs gave out hiking in soft sand, and her husband kept going to find a cellphone signal to call for help.

    He appeared to be in no danger from the heat or exertion. But Kane County officials said he was distraught when he sat down Monday night to recount the tragedy. A phone listing for Anthony Bervel had been disconnected Tuesday.

    "This event once again demonstrates the inherent risks associated with hiking in southern Utah's desert country," the Kane County Sheriff's Office said in a statement. "Even though the Bervels had tried to make sure they were prepared for this hike, the elements proved to be stronger."

    The latest death led to further questions about the lottery system that makes it hard to land a permit for the hike that starts in Utah before reaching The Wave in Arizona. More than 48,000 people applied last year for 7,300 available permits, officials said.

    Half of the 20 daily permits are doled out on a walk-in basis at a visitor's center in Kanab, with as many as 100 people showing up to get a permit for the next day.

    The rest are awarded through an online lottery, with winners given a specific hiking date months in the future. For many, it's a lifetime opportunity, and the difficulty in getting permits prompts some people to go in the heat of the summer.

    On July 3, Ulrich and Patricia Wahli of Campbell, Calif., were found dead in 106-degree heat.

    About a year ago, a 30-year-old California man who spent much of a day at The Wave and tried to return after nightfall died after falling into a slot canyon, officials said.

    "It does come back to personal discretion, and making choices," said Rachel Tueller, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Strip District of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which controls The Wave. "Anytime you go out on public land, it's a risk. You have to know your own capabilities."

    RELATED ON SKYE: 20 Inspiring Photos of America's National Parks

     

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    This photo released by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement shows natural gas spewing from the Hercules 265 drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana, Tuesday, July 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement)

    NEW ORLEANS (AP) - An out-of-control natural gas well off the Louisiana coast continued to burn Wednesday after it caught fire following a blowout that prompted the evacuation of 44 workers, authorities said.

    Meanwhile, officials stressed that Tuesday's blowout wouldn't be close to as damaging as the 2010 BP oil spill, in which an oil rig, the Deepwater Horizon, exploded off the Louisiana coast, killing 11 workers and eventually spewing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

    No injuries were reported as a result of Tuesday night's fire, Eileen Angelico, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, told The Associated Press.

    She said it wasn't known what caused the gas to ignite. It also wasn't clear early Wednesday how and when crews would attempt to extinguish the blaze. BSEE said earlier Tuesday that a firefighting vessel with water and foam capabilities had been dispatched to the scene.

    Wild Well Control Inc. was hired to try to bring the well under control. Angelico said Wild Well personnel approached the well earlier Tuesday night, before the fire, but they determined it was unsafe to get closer when they were about 200 feet away from it.

    The gas blowout was reported Tuesday morning.

    The Coast Guard kept nautical traffic out of an area within 500 meters of the site throughout the day. The Federal Aviation Administration restricted aircraft up to 2,000 feet above the area.

    BSEE said inspectors flying over the site soon after the blowout saw a light sheen covering an area about a half-mile by 50 feet. However, it was dissipating quickly.

    Earlier this month, a gas well off the Louisiana coast flowed for several days before being sealed.

    Chris Roberts, a member of the Jefferson Parish Council in south Louisiana, said the travel restrictions might pose an inconvenience for participants in an upcoming deep sea fishing tournament.

    "It could change some plans as to where some people plan to fish," he said.

    Tuesday's blowout occurred near an unmanned offshore gas platform that was not currently producing natural gas, said Angelico. The workers were aboard a portable drilling rig known as a jackup rig, owned by Hercules Offshore Inc., which was a contractor for exploration and production company Walter Oil & Gas Corp.

    Walter Oil & Gas reported to the BSEE that the rig was completing a "sidetrack well" - a means of re-entering the original well bore, Angelico said.

    The purpose of the sidetrack well in this instance was not immediately clear. A spokesman for the corporation did not have the information Tuesday night. Industry websites say sidetrack wells are sometimes drilled to remedy a problem with the existing well bore.

    "It's a way to overcome an engineering problem with the original well," Ken Medlock, an energy expert at Rice University's Baker Institute said. "They're not drilled all the time, but it's not new."

     

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    Massive waves made for an unusual day in Chicago on Tuesday. Typical July weather in the region is warm with little more than a breeze in the air. Not so yesterday, when high temperatures dropped into the 70s and wind gusts up to 30 mph blew along the lakefront. The combination brought mighty waves up to 10 to 15 feet high to Chicago's shores. This beautiful time lapse video captures the scene.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos

     

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    Wednesday, July 24, 2013
    Lightning, Arizona
    (Getty Images)

    FREDONIA, Ariz. (AP) - Two people were killed and a boy injured when lightning struck near a scenic overlook in northern Arizona.

    Coconino County Sheriff's officials say the names of the man and woman who died were being withheld until relatives could be notified.

    The two lived outside the United States, but their hometowns and ages weren't immediately available and it's unclear if they were a couple.

    Sheriff's officials say a lightning bolt struck about 3 p.m. Tuesday in the area of the LeFevre Scenic Outlook on Highway 89A some eight miles north of Jacobs Lake.

    The man and woman were in a group of people at the overlook and were pronounced dead at the scene.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 11 Surprising Effects of Being Struck by Lightning
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    Wednesday, July 24, 2013


    It's the ultimate nightmare space exploration scenario: a routine space walk turns into chaos when satellite debris crashes into the space shuttle.

    In this clip from upcoming Warner Bros. film "Gravity," that's just what happens and Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is catapulted into space. As she spins farther into the void, astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) radios, "Houston, I've lost visual of Dr. Stone."

    Director Alfonzo Cuarón released this stunning teaser at the annual Comic-Con convention last week in San Diego. The film is scheduled to hit theaters Oct. 4.

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    An area of rain will erupt along the East coast, from southeastern Virginia to southeastern New England Thursday into Friday.

    Some beach communities right could be thoroughly drenched. A few spots could be hit with flash and urban flooding. Rain will brush some of the I-95 cities in the Northeast, as well.

    While cooler, less humid air continued to expand over the Northeast Wednesday, it will not be enough to prevent a new swath of rain from affecting many coastal areas.

    The cool pattern, with and without rain, in the Northeast will represent a big change from the heat and high humidity from last week. AccuWeather.com RealFeel(R) temperatures in some areas with the rain may be more than 30 degrees lower, when compared to the heat, sunshine and high humidity recently.

    Some rain is likely to fall Thursday into Friday from Norfolk, Va., to around New York City and Boston.

    There is a chance of heavy rain, lasting several hours from the Virginia capes to the Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and Long Island beaches to Cape Cod.

    Farther west, the rain is more likely to be spotty from southern Virginia to Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, Hartford, Conn., Worcester, Mass., and Portland, Maine.

    The rain is likely to stay away from much of West Virginia, western Maryland, Pennsylvania, upstate New York and northwestern New England Thursday and Friday, before returning over the weekend.

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    According to Mark Mancuso, "There is a slight chance a very weak tropical system forms in the pattern along the Atlantic coast before the end of the week."

    A series of disturbances rotating in from the central Plains will take a left turn along the East coast into the end of the week.

    "The systems will tap into tropical moisture as they reach Atlantic waters and can bring very heavy rainfall in a narrow zone right along the coast," Mancuso added.

    While the pattern favors a quick rebound in humidity levels, it does not favor extreme heat at the same time. High temperatures will tend to average below normal through the weekend.

     

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    A woman sheltering from the sun under an umbrella cools herself with water from a fire hydrant on Canal Street in New York's Chinatown, on Friday, July 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Jon Gerberg)

    So far this summer, the nation has experienced an array of severe weather. From wildfires and lightning storms in the West and extreme heat in the Northeast to extensive flooding in the South and Central regions, the United States has already been clobbered by some of the summer's worst. However, three weather phenomena prove to be the worst of the worst, causing the most fatalities every year: heat, flooding and lightning.

    #1: Heat

    Easily claiming hundreds of lives, according to National Weather Service (NWS) Meteorologist Paul Stokols, heat tops the chart for summer's deadliest weather.

    In July of 1995, Chicago, Ill., alone reported 514 deaths after the city experienced a 10-day heat wave.

    The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported there were 7,233 heat-related deaths in the United States between 1999 and 2009, with an average of 658 heat-related deaths per year. Last summer, in just two weeks alone at least 32 lives were taken in a heat wave that hit Maryland, Virginia, Ohio and West Virginia.

    While official reports for the number of heat-related deaths for this summer are not expected to be out for some time, already 20 children died from heat stroke after being left behind in cars.

    According to AccuWeather meteorologist Erik Pindrock, RealFeel temperatures hit close to 110 degrees last Friday in Washington, D.C., and other portions of the Northeast. This heat wave also increased the risk of heat-related illnesses, including dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

    "With an increasing heat index, temperatures 105 to 110 degrees, and temperatures above body temperature, it becomes very difficult for our bodies to properly cool off," said Stokols.

    When temperatures are high, the human body reacts by perspiring, in an attempt to cool itself down. However, high heat and humidity cause that perspiration to fall off the body more quickly than it otherwise would, not only making it tougher to bring down the body's temperature but also causing the body to lose more water. This fact makes hydration a key when confronted with extreme heat.

    "A lot of elderly are on their own and they tend not to drink a lot," said Stokols. "They think they can stand the heat without turning on the air conditioning."

    People at a higher risk for heat-induced sicknesses are those who are already in a weaker state, including the elderly, young children and those with compromised immune systems, as well as those who work outdoors.

    Heat illnesses unlike other forms of illnesses are very sneaky, building up over time. Usually death is not a far call away after the initial heat sickness occurs if it is not dealt with and treated immediately.

    "Heat builds on you. Heat death is very violent," said Stokols. "A lot of times you don't realize you're in trouble until it's too late."

    During a heat wave, like the one in the Northeast last week, daytime is not the only time when heat becomes a health risk.

    The air at night also tends to be warm and this does not allow any recovery time to relieve the body from the high temperatures, Stokol explained to AccuWeather.com. This allows heat illnesses to fester, building day by day until the body hits a critical threshold when it can no longer function correctly.

    To help ensure that you "beat the heat," see the tips below from NWS Meteorologist Paul Stokols.

    Tips to Beat the Heat:

    - Limit sun exposure and physical activity, especially during peak hours

    - Stay hydrated, drink two to four glasses of fluids after heavy exercise

    - Check on those who are not aware or who are at higher risk for heat illnesses

    - Do not let kids or pets stay in the car for any amount of time

    - Do not drink fluids that contain alcohol or lots of sugar, these can cause dehydration

    - Wear light clothing and sunscreen

    - Stay indoors when possible; use fans, air conditioning or seek heat-relief shelters

    #2: Flooding

    This week, heavy downpours and thunderstorms will return to the Midwest and the Northeast. Flash flooding is once again the main threat for these areas, bringing with it the possibility of low driving visibility, swift-moving water on roads and highways, overflowing river and stream banks and, occasionally, mudslides.

    "Water may not seem powerful but only a few inches can stall your car," said Katie Garrett, outreach coordinator for the Hydrologic Services Division at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

    Each year, flooding is the cause of an average of 95 fatalities, not including flooding deaths from tropical storms. These numbers can change depending on the number of weather events that given year and where geographically they occur.

    Driving vehicles through standing and rushing water is what contributes to the majority of the fatality averages.

    "Just a few inches of rushing water can easily knock a person over," said Garrett.

    A prime example of the dangers of flooding was the July 1977 flood in Johnstown, Pa. The flood occurred the night of July 19 and in just one night, 76 people died.

    Last year, according to the CDC, 39 people drowned in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Half of these victims drowned in their own homes.

    According to Garrett, the most important thing to do is to be aware of your situation, understand if you are in a flood plain and understand exactly what that means.

    A flood plain is simply the area of land next to a river or stream that is susceptible to flooding during a storm, Pindrock said.

    Like our number three on the list of summer's deadliest weather, lightning, flooding can also happen very quickly. The best place to be during a potential flood situation is inside.

    "It is up to you to keep yourself safe," said Garrett. "Utilize the information yourself and be your own force of nature."

    Read the flood safety tips below from the CDC.

    Tips to Prepare for a Flood:

    - If a warning is out, take immediate action

    - Have an emergency plan including evacuation routes and shelters

    - Gather emergency supplies to keep inside your home

    - Stay tuned to your local television and radio stations for updates, warnings and watches

    - Bring in or tie down outdoor possessions

    - If ordered to evacuate, do not drive or walk through flooded roads

    #3: Lightning

    Rounding out the list of summer's deadliest weather is lightning. Lightning deaths usually peak in the month of July but are most prevalent in the summer months of June, July and August. Already this year, there have been 12 lightning fatalities.

    Each year, lightning accounts for on average 37 deaths. This number has decreased in the past 10 to 15 years, as averages just a few decades ago were in the seventies, according to NOAA Lightning Safety Specialist John Jensenius.

    "People are more apt to be outside during the summer months and, in the U.S., lightning peaks in the summer," said Jensenius. "Two-thirds of lightning fatalities are from people enjoying outdoor activity."

    Last week, three adults and one boy were struck by lightning while hiking in various national parks.

    According to a study conducted by NOAA, 64 percent of lightning deaths occurred when people were participating in leisure activity since 2006. Fishing attested to be the leisure activity resulting in the most lightning deaths, with a total of 26 deaths.

    In this study, camping followed fishing with a total of 15 lightning deaths, and close behind boating came in third, with a total of 14 deaths. The other deaths associated with leisure activity included swimming, picnicking, soccer and golf.

    Contrary to popular belief, a person is at risk to be struck by lighting as soon as thunder is heard. It does not matter how far away the storm is perceived to be, if thunder can be heard, lightning is a risk.

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    Similar to flooding, the safest place to be during a thunderstorm is indoors. Nowhere outdoors can protect you completely from a lightning strike. NOAA's lightning safety advertising is a staple for this fact with their tagline, "When Thunder Roars Go Indoors!"

    Despite declining yearly averages of lightning deaths, the dangers of lightning are especially prominent in the summer months. Before participating in outdoor activities be sure to check the local forecast. To reduce your risk of being struck, see the tips below from NOAA and NOAA's lightning safety specialist John Jensenius.

    Lightning Safety Tips:

    - If you hear thunder, get to a safe place, preferably, a sturdy enclosed building

    - Get inside immediately

    - Get out and away from bodies of water immediately

    - Plan ahead when participating in outdoor activity

    - Never use a cliff, tree or elevated area as a shelter

    - Stay away from objects that conduct electricity

    - Stay in a safe shelter for a minimum of 30 minutes after the last sound of thunder


    RELATED ON SKYE: 11 Surprising Effects of Being Struck by Lightning
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    Updated Thursday, July 25, 2013, 3:58 pm. ET

    (NOAA)

    Dorian could bring tropical storm conditions to the Leeward Islands Sunday and may approach the southeastern U.S. late next week.

    A tropical system that moved off the coast of Africa last weekend became a tropical storm Wednesday and strengthened a bit Wednesday night into Thursday morning over the central Atlantic.

    A slightly north of west path is forecast with Dorian through this weekend into early next week, most likely taking the center of feature just north of the Lesser Antilles.

    Tropical Storm Dorian

    Conditions in the Leeward Islands this weekend will depend upon the exact path and strength of the tropical storm. There is a possibility of gusty, drenching squalls developing in the area Sunday into Monday, even if the system just misses to the north.

    Many of the islands of the northern Caribbean have received above-average rainfall since April. San Juan, P.R., has received nearly 44 inches of rain since April 1. A tropical disturbance brought nearly 10 inches of rain to the area recently, during July 17-18, so a system bringing a dose of heavy rainfall would bring an elevated risk of flash flooding and mudslides.

    According to AccuWeather.com Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski, "The vast area of dry air surrounding the system to start the week has diminished and would tend to favor strengthening during the middle of the week."

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    At 8:00 a.m. EDT Wednesday, the system may have already been a tropical storm. Enhanced satellite images during the morning hours indicated a concentrated area of thunderstorms with some rotation.

    At 10:30 a.m. EDT Wednesday, winds were officially estimated to be sustained at 50 mph near the center, and the system was named Dorian.

    At 5:00 a.m. EDT Thursday, sustained winds were estimated to be 60 mph.

    Official investigation by the National Hurricane Center will continue. Sustained winds must reach 74 mph for the system to be classified as a hurricane.

    Tropical Storm Dorian

    "Thursday into Friday, Dorian will move into a zone of cooler waters, which may cause the system to plateau or even weaken," Kottlowski stated.

    The path of Dorian next week will depend on the strength of the tropical system itself and other weather systems surrounding it. Currently, Dorian was moving swiftly along to the west-northwest at around 17 mph.

    Tropical Storm Dorian

    "It is too early to say with confidence for next week where Dorian will track and what the strength will be," Kottlowski added.

    It could be scooped up by the back side of high pressure near Bermuda over the Atlantic Ocean. In this scenario, the feature could then travel along the East coast of the United States.

    Another scenario allows Dorian to miss the "right turn lane" and continue west-northwestward brushing northern shores of Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and Cuba.

    In the middle of this wide window and a third scenario is for the system to reach the southeastern U.S. with drenching rainfall more than a week away from now, around the first weekend of August.

    In addition to potential fringe-effect impact in the Lesser and Greater Antilles, people in the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos should closely monitor the path and strength of Dorian. These areas are currently in a higher risk for the storm to pass very close by next week.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 30 Stunning Photos of Hurricanes
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    By the end of the century, average temperatures rise in both scenarios: 4.5 degrees F (low emissions, left) versus 8 degrees F (high emissions, right). Credit: NASA


    The United States will be a much hotter place at the end of the 21st century, according to a new climate change visualization released by NASA this week.

    The video illustrates a small component of the upcoming National Climate Assessment, set to come out in 2014, which provides Congress with the most up-to-date information on the state of climate change in the country from more than 240 contributing climate scientists. The last report was published in 2009.

    Researchers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center teamed with scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) in Asheville, N.C., to create a new video, which compares two different climate change scenarios: One in which atmospheric carbon dioxide levels increase from today's level of 400 parts per million to 550 ppm, and a second in which carbon dioxide levels double to 800 ppm. (Parts per million means that, for example, for every million molecules of air, 400 of them are carbon dioxide.)

    These carbon dioxide concentrations are based on high- and low-emissions scenarios proposed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and are based on a variety of factors, including potential world population growth, economic development and global commitment to sustainability. The first scenario would require some kind of mitigation and curtailment of greenhouse gas emissions, while the second would occur if emissions continued to increase.

    Both scenarios would result in significant temperature changes across the United States, according to NASA. The conservative scenario of 550 ppm could increase average U.S. temperatures by up to 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit (about 2 degrees Celsius) and the more extreme scenario of 800 ppm could heat the country up by 8 F (about 4 C). [Video: Dramatic Future U.S. Warming]



    Which scenario?

    These results are based on data compiled from 15 different climate models, and use the average temperature from 1970 through 1999 as a baseline for comparison.

    While the real outcome in 2100 remains unknown and will depend on a number of factors, including the amount of fossil fuels burned in coming decades, the latest research suggests that the more extreme scenario of 800 ppm is more likely.

    "It seems from the most up-to-date literature that the higher emissions scenario is what we are going towards," said Laura Stevens, an NCDC scientist based at the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites who was involved in creating the video. The 550 ppm scenario would require significant efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, Stevens said, and the country has not yet taken the actions necessary to follow this lower-emissions path.

    By focusing the video on the United States, Stevens noted that these results may provide motivation for Americans to start thinking about adaptive strategies to prepare for change.

    "These visualizations communicate a picture of the impacts of climate change in a way that words do not," Allison Leidner, a NASA scientist who coordinates NASA's involvement in the National Climate Assessment, said in a statement. "When I look at the scenarios for future temperature and precipitation, I really see how dramatically our nation's climate could change."

    Depends on us

    The average American emits about 20 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere per year, according to climate scientist Michael Mann at Penn State University, who was not involved in the assessment.

    "If you condensed all of that gas into solid form and placed it on a scale it would weigh the same as two large male African elephants," Mann told LiveScience. "That's the huge mass of carbon that each of us is, on average, putting into the atmosphere."

    For comparison, Mann noted that the average emissions across the entire world are closer to 4 metric tons, which amount to the size of one baby elephant.

    "If each of us could reduce our annual emissions to a small baby elephant, we'd go a long way towards making the cuts we need to stabilize carbon dioxide below dangerous levels," Mann said.

    Mann remains optimistic that humans will rise to the occasion and take the steps necessary to reduce emissions, but said that the opportunity to do so is slipping away and that the time to act is now.

    The final National Climate Report will provide three chapters that address ways in which humans can adapt to these significant changes, as well as the actions that people can take to slow the rate of change. A draft of the report is currently available to the public online.

    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.

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    Harp seals can grow up to 6 feet long and weigh 400 pounds. (Credit: NOAA)

    Harp seals mate and rear their young on the sea ice off the east coast of Canada in the spring and move north as the weather warms. But increasing numbers of seals are ending up stranded along the U.S. East Coast, as far south as the Carolinas, far away from where they should be at this time of year.

    As ice levels in the North Atlantic have declined, the number of seals that have wound up on beaches, either dead or in poor health, has increased, new research shows.

    The study, published this month in the journal PLOS ONE, suggests that the decline of sea ice is at least partially responsible for the increase in seal strandings, said Brianne Soulen, a study co-author and biologist at the University of North Texas. Demographic factors also play a major role: A large portion of stranded seals are young, and the majority (62 percent) are male, said Soulen, who performed the research while a graduate student at Duke University. [Gallery: Seals of the World]

    Stranded young males

    Males may be more likely to get stranded because they tend to wander farther afield once on their own, Soulen told LiveScience.

    The study was able to mostly rule out the possibility that strandings are due to inbreeding, finding that stranded seals are just as genetically diverse as non-stranded seals.

    "Genetics didn't seem to have an influence," Soulen said.

    The snow-colored harp seals mate and give birth on sea ice, then mothers nurse and stay with their young. After that, the pups are on their own. The researchers hypothesize that in years with less ice, the ice that exists becomes crowded, and some seals are forced into the water before they've learned how to navigate or how and where to fish, Soulen said. This may lead them to follow groups of fish moving south, or allow them to become disoriented, she added.

    Between 1991 and 2010, nearly 3,100 seals were stranded along the U.S. East Coast. Some of the seals washed ashore dead, while others, found to be sick or dehydrated, were treated and released, Soulen said. Over the past 30 years, sea ice cover in April - a prime time for seal pupping - declined by 8 percent in the Arctic, said Cecilia Bitz, a researcher at the University of Washington, who wasn't involved in the study.

    Seals and other animals like polar bears that depend on sea ice to survive are threatened by the retreat of sea ice, said Peter Boveng, a marine mammal biologist at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, who also was not involved in the study. The threat posed by the decline of sea ice in Alaska has led two species of seals, ringed and bearded seals, to be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, Boveng told LiveScience.

    Email Douglas Main or follow him on Twitter or Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook or Google+. Article originally on LiveScience.com.

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

    RELATED ON SKYE: 10 U.S. Cities Most at Risk from Rising Sea Levels

     

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    Thursday, July 25, 2013
    Tropical Storm Flossie, Hawaii

    Tropical Storm Flossie will remain on a path to Hawaii through next week.

    Flossie is more than a thousand miles away from land, but that distance will shrink through next week as the tropical storm remains on a west-northwest track toward Hawaii.

    Over the warm waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean, Flossie took shape early Thursday morning.

    The arrival of Flossie in Hawaii is anticipated around Tuesday.

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    The good news is that Flossie should not be a tropical storm at that time. After becoming a stronger tropical storm through Friday, Flossie is expected weaken to a tropical rainstorm by Tuesday.

    That does not mean that Flossie will pass unnoticed across Hawaii. Enhanced shower activity will spread from east to west across the islands Monday night through Wednesday, threatening to put a damper on outdoor activities.

    AccuWeather.com meteorologists will be monitoring the possibility for localized downpours, while residents and visitors may even see rare flashes of lightning.

    Flossie should also kick up the surf along the shores of Hawaii, creating hazards for beachgoers.

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    Sure, you can BASE jump off a 460-foot bridge while standing on the edge. Yawn. Or you can ratchet up the rush by leaping from the roof of a moving van, as this guy did as he passed the Viaduc de Verrieres in France.

    What do you think: Brilliant or boneheaded?

    Let us know in the comments below.

    (via The Adventure Blog)

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    Dorian could bring tropical storm conditions to the Leeward Islands Sunday and may approach the southeastern U.S. late next week.

    A tropical system that moved off the coast of Africa last weekend became a tropical storm Wednesday and strengthened a bit Wednesday night into Thursday morning over the central Atlantic.

    A slightly north of west path is forecast with Dorian through this weekend into early next week, most likely taking the center of feature just north of the Lesser Antilles.

    Conditions in the Leeward Islands this weekend will depend upon the exact path and strength of the tropical storm. There is a possibility of gusty, drenching squalls developing in the area Sunday into Monday, even if the system just misses to the north.

    Many of the islands of the northern Caribbean have received above-average rainfall since April. San Juan, P.R., has received nearly 44 inches of rain since April 1. A tropical disturbance brought nearly 10 inches of rain to the area recently, during July 17-18, so a system bringing a dose of heavy rainfall would bring an elevated risk of flash flooding and mudslides.



    According to AccuWeather.com hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski, "The vast area of dry air surrounding the system to start the week has diminished and would tend to favor strengthening during the middle of the week."

    Official investigation by the National Hurricane Center will continue. Sustained winds must reach 74 mph for the system to be classified as a hurricane.

    "Thursday into Friday, Dorian will move into a zone of cooler waters, which may cause the system to plateau or even weaken," Kottlowski stated.

    The path of Dorian next week will depend on the strength of the tropical system itself and other weather systems surrounding it. Currently, Dorian is moving swiftly along to the west-northwest at around 20 mph.

    "It is too early to say with confidence for next week where Dorian will track and what the strength will be," Kottlowski added.

    It could be scooped up by the back side of high pressure near Bermuda over the Atlantic Ocean. In this scenario, the feature could then travel along the East coast of the United States.

    Another scenario allows Dorian to miss the "right turn lane" and continue west-northwestward brushing northern shores of Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and Cuba.

    RELATED:
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    In the middle of this wide window and a third scenario is for the system to reach the southeastern U.S. with drenching rainfall more than a week away from now, around the first weekend of August.

    In addition to potential fringe-effect impact in the Lesser and Greater Antilles, people in the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos should closely monitor the path and strength of Dorian. These areas are currently in a higher risk for the storm to pass very close by next week.

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    FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) - The deaths of two people at a scenic overlook in northern Arizona this week bring to 14 the number of people killed by lightning strikes in the U.S. this year, according to the National Weather Service. Many of the victims were enjoying summertime activities like sightseeing, boating, camping and fishing. Weather experts say when thunderstorms roar, you should get out of the water, drop the sporting equipment and flee to a safe area inside a building or a vehicle.

    'WHEN THUNDER ROARS, GO INDOORS'

    Lightning flashes some 30 million times per year in the continental United States, mostly from cloud to cloud, said Richard Orville, professor at Texas A&M University's Department of Atmospheric Sciences. About 10 percent of lightning hits the ground, where it can travel through trees, soil, plumbing and electric wiring. Those cloud-to-cloud strikes start about 15 minutes before the ground strikes and thunder will roar, giving people a heads-up on when to seek shelter, Orville said. "It's not a hard rule, there are exceptions to it. But in terms of a guideline, it works." The National Weather Service advises people to stay indoors 30 minutes after that first flash of lightning or clap of thunder.

    LEADING IN LIGHTNING STRIKES

    Arizona and Florida are leading the nation so far this year in lightning fatalities, with three each. Places like Florida and Texas that have the right combination of moisture and heat have lightning strikes year-round, but in Arizona they are most common during the monsoon season. The couple that was killed Tuesday near Jacob Lake, Ariz., was sitting beneath a rock wall at a scenic overlook that got hit by lightning, authorities said. Others killed this year have been under trees in Missouri and New York, fishing on a boat in Louisiana, walking on the beach in Florida, camping in California and at a park in Illinois.

    MORE LIKELY THAN WINNING LOTTERY?

    Your odds of being struck by lightning depend on where you live, the climate, how much time you spend outdoors and the time of year. People in the central Florida peninsula where the lightning concentration is the highest in the United States, according to the National Weather Service, are more likely to be hit by lightning than people in the Pacific northwest where thunderstorms are rare.

    "People in this region who spend much of their lives indoors might win the lottery before they were struck by lightning," the weather bureau said.

    Knowing where lightning will strike is mostly unpredictable, weather experts say. While it tends to favor tall, isolated objects it "has a mind of its own," said Chris Outler, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Flagstaff. "It will really do what it wants."

    OUTDOORS UNSAFE

    Most lightning deaths occur between June and August when people are outdoors enjoying the warmer weather, according to the National Weather Service. Nearly two-thirds of the 238 people killed by lightning in the past seven years were enjoying recreational activities - a number that varied from 26 in 2011 to 48 in 2006, according to a study by lightning safety specialist John Jensenius Jr. The study dispels the myth that golfers are highest on the fatality list. Fishing led the list of 12 activities that accounted for more than half of the deaths from 2006 to 2012, followed by camping and boating. Golfing came in at No. 9.

    DANGER INSIDE

    When inside, weather experts say you should unplug electric appliances, avoid talking on a phone that's connected to the wall and not take a shower or bath when thunderstorms are brewing. A few years ago, Orville's home sustained $5,000 in damage when lightning hit a tree in his backyard, moving through electrical circuits and destroying the garage door opener, washer and dryer, and lighting in the swimming pool.

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    If you picture the North Pole as a massive sheet of frigid ice and snow, well, think again. At the moment, ice around the North Pole has melted, creating a shallow lake. A disconcerting time-lapse video comprised of images taken from the North Pole Environmental Observatory's webcam tracks the Pole from 2000 to present. Melting of the ice (and yes, this is ice melt, not encroaching seawater) appears to have been occurring since 2002.

    The melting has become an annual occurrence, though temperatures in 2013 have been particularly high - 1 to 3 degrees C higher than average, according to The Atlantic. Watch the dramatic change begin at 1:14 in the video. Not how you'd expect the North Pole to look, is it?

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