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    In this undated photo released by Anthony Martin, escape artist Anthony Martin of Sheboygan, Wis., escapes from a wooden box that was locked and pushed out of a plane at 13,500 feet in August 1988, in Sandwich, Ill. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Anthony Martin)

    OTTAWA, Ill. (AP) - Imagine the terror of being handcuffed, chained and locked inside a wooden casket that is subsequently dragged out of an airplane at 14,500 feet.

    That's the scenario Anthony Martin faces later Tuesday when he takes to the sky over Serena in northern Illinois.

    "How many of us have never been in a situation that we wished we could get out of?" the 47-year-old escape artist asked recently with a sly grin.

    And he's quick to insist, he's no fake.

    Martin said his father shattered his early fascination with magic when he explained the trickery behind a floating pen illusion. So at age 6, he resolved to find a more respectable means of impressing an audience and began studying the art of escape.

    "I thought that skill and knowledge could surpass trickery and magic," he said.

    Martin took locks apart until he understood how the mechanisms operate and are put together.

    "At 10 I had pretty much started to specialize in escapes," Martin says. "By the time I was 13, the sheriff was locking me in his handcuffs. And I was getting out."

    Jumping from a raft into a lake at age 11 - naturally, with his hands cuffed behind his back - whet Martin's appetite for high risk escapes. So in February 1990, he performed his most dangerous water stunt, in which he was locked in a cage and lowered through a hole in the ice and into the frigid water at a Wisconsin quarry. It took him one minute and 45 seconds to emerge.

    "It was very, very cold," Martin said. "It doesn't take long for your fingers, even with gloves, to get numb and lose effectiveness ... you have to work very quickly."

    Martin now is planning to revisit arguably his most dangerous escape - an August 1988 stunt in which he escaped from a casket dropped from a plane at 13,500 feet. It was just his 17th skydive.

    On Tuesday, Martin will lay inside a plywood box with his hands cuffed to a belt around his waist and his right arm chained to the inside of the box. The casket's door will then be held tight with a prison door lock for which no key exists; a locksmith scrambled the tumblers.

    The box will be rolled out of the plane - a Short SC.7 Skyvan - at about 14,500 feet. Two skydivers will stabilize the box by holding handles on the side while a drogue similar to the parachutes used to slow drag-racing cars and fighter jets will further steady it from the top as Martin picks the locks. He expects to be free and tracking away at around 7,000 feet after about 40 seconds of free fall, and plans to land on a farm in Serena, 70 miles southwest of Chicago.

    On Monday, Martin exuded calm, saying his only concerns are for the other people involved in the jump.

    "You try to get yourself to the point where there's really not a lot of fear involved. Fear is one of those emotions that kind of distracts from your ability to think clearly and be effective," he said.

    And how did Martin plan to prepare the night before his escape-or-die skydive?

    "I'm just going to find something cool to watch on television," he said. "I'm not going to change a thing. It's just business."

    RELATED ON SKYE: Photos: Daredevil Skydiver's Incredible Leaps

     

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    Aug. 6, 2013
    Missouri Flood
    Justin Dougherty‏ tweeted this photo on Aug. 6, 2013. He wrote, '"@ChrisSmithWx: Roubidoux Creek just broke its record level. Old record was 18.5 feet. Now at 18.73 feet." PHOTO pic.twitter.com/Al3E9WSQDV' (realdougherty/Twitter)

    WAYNESVILLE, Mo. (AP) - A young child drowned, several people were rescued and dozens of others were forced out of their homes after flash flooding in south-central Missouri early Tuesday.

    The body of a child - believed to be between the ages of 4 and 6 - was found early Tuesday near Mitchell Creek on the west side of Waynesville, Pulaski County Sheriff Ron Long said.

    The child apparently had been in a vehicle that got caught in the flooding, Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Dan Crain said. Authorities did not immediately release the gender or name of the child.

    Crain also said several people were still unaccounted for Tuesday morning. Local officials estimated that 50 or more homes were flooded in Waynesville as the Mitchell and Roubidoux creeks rose after several inches of rain fell after midnight.

    The National Weather Service said more than 7 inches of rain fell at Fort Leonard Wood, which is near Waynesville, from midnight to mid-Tuesday morning. About one-third of Missouri's counties were under flood watches or warnings Tuesday, mainly in southwestern and south-central Missouri.

    Waynesville Mayor Luge Hardman said the floodwaters had torn loose several propane tanks and affected a public school. She said residents also were bracing for flooding from the Gasconade River.

    "It is raining, and we are expecting more rain this afternoon so we're kind of scared of what's coming," Hardman told the Associated Press.

    Long told The Springfield News-Leader that the floodwaters submerged houses, trailer courts and cars.

    "We have done many high-water rescues and many other rescues. We have even rescued our rescuers. It has been a very hairy evening here," Long told the newspaper. "It is not over yet. It is just daylight, so the hard work has begun."

    Crain said the Highway Patrol was among several agencies that responded with rescue boats. He said U.S. Army personnel from Fort Leonard Wood were on standby.

    National Weather Service hydrologist Mark Fuchs said gauges at the Army base received 7 inches of rain overnight, but unofficial gauges nearby had nearly 9 inches of rain.

    In fact, Fuchs said, the Fort Leonard Wood area has seen nearly a foot of rain since August began. This month's weather patterns are unusual, as there's usually little rain in August and "it's also normally a hot time of year," Fuchs said.

    "We're not seeing that either, and the two are connected. The jet stream is kind of over us right now, and embedded in that northwestern flow are disturbances that keep things unstable," he said.

    The downpours are causing several rivers and creeks to rise. The Gasconade River at Hazelgreen was at 3 feet on Saturday; it was nearly 28 feet Tuesday, but still short of the record of 34.9 feet in 2008.

    Roubidoux Creek, which cuts through Waynesville, had a similar rapid rise. Before the rain, there was only about a foot of water. On Tuesday, it stood at a record 21 feet.

    Several other rivers and creeks are expected to rise above flood stage, Fuchs said, including the Big Piney River near Fort Leonard Wood, the Current River at Montauk State Park, the Sac River at Caplinger Mills and the Marmaton River near Nevada.

    And the Missouri River could rise as much as 15 feet in central and eastern Missouri, Fuchs said, getting it near, but not above, flood stage. However, with a strong threat of heavy rain and thunderstorms for the next week or so in much of Missouri, Fuchs said things could change.

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    A bright meteor during Perseid meteor shower is captured in a star trail image of constellation Orion. (Photo by Babek Tafreshi/SSPL/Getty Images)

    Gear up to see some great balls of fire flashing through the sky this month.

    According to NASA research, the upcoming Perseid meteor shower produces more fireballs - bright meteors that streak across the sky - than any other annual shower, earning it the title of "fireball champion".

    During the peak of the Perseids, stargazers under dark skies could see more than 100 meteors per hour, but some bright fireballs can also be spotted in urban, light polluted areas.

    "We have found that one meteor shower produces more fireballs than any other," Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office said in a statement. "It's the Perseid meteor shower, which peaks on August 12th and 13th."

    Cooke and his team of scientists have used meteor cameras around the southern United States to track fireballs since 2008.

    The Perseids produced 568 tracked fireballs while the Geminid meteor shower came in a close second, producing 426 from 2008 to 2013. The Geminid fireballs, however, are not quite as bright as the Perseid-produced streakers. Scientists use a magnitude scale to rate the brightness of objects in the night sky. Lower numbers mean brighter objects, with negative numbers denoting exceptionally bright events.

    "The average peak magnitude for a Perseid observed by our cameras is -2.7; for the Geminids, it is -2," Cooke said. "So on average, Geminid fireballs are about a magnitude fainter than those in the Perseids."

    The high rate of fireballs could have something to do with the meteor shower's progenitor: Comet Swift-Tuttle. Every year, the Earth passes through a trail of dust left behind in the comet's wake. The dust burns up in Earth's atmosphere, creating the brilliant shower.

    It's possible that the size of Swift-Tuttle could cause the high number of fireballs produced during the meteor shower.

    "Comet Swift-Tuttle has a huge nucleus - about 26 kilometers [16 miles] in diameter," Cooke said in a statement. "Most other comets are much smaller, with nuclei only a few kilometers across. As a result, Comet Swift-Tuttle produces a large number of meteoroids, many of which are large enough to produce fireballs."

    Interested observers should look to the skies from 10:30 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. local time on the nights of Aug. 12 and Aug. 13, Cooke recommends. The rate of meteor activity will begin low and increase throughout the night and wee hours of the morning.

    "Get away from city lights," Cooke said. "While fireballs can be seen from urban areas, the much greater number of faint Perseids is visible only from the countryside."

    Editor's Note: If you snap an amazing picture of the 2013 Perseid meteor shower or any other night sky view that you'd like to share for a possible story or image gallery, send photos, comments and your name and location to managing editor Tariq Malik at spacephotos@space.com.

    Follow Miriam Kramer @mirikramer and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebookand Google+. Original article on SPACE.com.

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

     

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    August 6, 2013

    Above, a Portuguese man launched a miniature rooster -- a national symbol of honor -- high above the Earth. (Marco Neiva)

    OK, it wasn't a real rooster, and it didn't flap its wings to get there, but this bird took one wild, high-flying ride high up into the Earth's atmosphere last month. It didn't quite make it into space, but it had a pretty spectacular view.

    Marco Neiva rigged up a weather balloon that had a platform for the rooster, along with a camera that captured every moment of the journey. (He also got passers-by to write messages on slips of paper that he launched along with his bird.)

    A potent symbol of national pride in Portugal is the Galo de Barcelos (Rooster of Barcelos), represented by vividly painted wooden figurines. The rooster stands for integrity and honor, and can be spotted all over the country, according to Mashable. It dates back to a 17th-century folk tale in which a rooster saved the life of a wrongly accused man.

    Neiva's figurine made it all the way up to 33,000 feet, whereupon the weather balloon popped and plummeted to Earth.

    This high-altitude rooster was clearly no chicken.

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

     

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    For portions of the Midwest and the Northeast, the current cool weather pattern will have staying power through the third week of August.

    No heat waves are forecast through the middle of the month from the Upper Midwest to the Northeast. While the pattern will have some warm and humid days, they will tend to be brief. The pattern will make working outdoors more enjoyable and less risky.

    Unheated backyard pools may get a little chilly, but many people will still be able to enjoy some warm weather at the beach or swimming pool.

    High temperatures will generally range from the middle 70s to the middle 80s in the major cities and on the beaches with highs close to 70 at times in the mountains.

    Air conditioning will still be needed during some daytime hours in the big cities and urban areas, and some of the nights will be muggy.

    Heat will continue over Texas and much of the South Central states, while expanding to part of Deep South.

    A zone of frequent rain will continue along the boundary between the southern heat and northern tier coolness. This area is likely to reach from parts of the central Plains to the interior South and southern mid-Atlantic.

    Wet weather has and will continue play a role in mitigating temperatures.

    According to Brian Green, spokesman for Georgia Power, the utility company has not come close to their record demand, because of the mild, wet conditions this summer.

    The pattern will prevent tropical storms or hurricanes from turning northward along the Atlantic coast and the northern Gulf Coast but could drive some moisture into South Texas.

    While solar summer, the three months of the year with the highest sun angle, comes to an end on Aug. 6, officially summer does not end until Sept. 22. The warmest three months of the year, meteorological summer, continues through the end of August.

    A dip in steering level winds, known as the jet stream will continue to push wave after wave of cool air from the northern Plains to the Midwest, New England and mid-Atlantic through the middle of August.

    A couple of weeks ago, there was some indication that the cool pattern and southward dip in the jet stream would focus more over the Midwest after a week or two of cool air reaching the East. The latest indications are that cool weather will continue to be more far-reaching and longer-lasting in the East.

    There is still the potential for persistent warm and humid conditions to build in from the Atlantic Ocean later in the month into the first part of September. However, lengthening nights and lower sun angle would take the edge off this heat, translating to nothing like what occurred over a broad area during the middle of July.

    RELATED:
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    Solar Summer Comes to an End
    Flood Emergency in Parts of Missouri

    The frequent cool weather pattern is likely to continue over much of the Midwest moving forward into September.

    Weather Experts Evan Myers and Elliot Abrams discuss the short-term weather pattern in this video.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos

     

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    Jordann Lamborn and Jonathan Enriquez cross flooded Valley Rd. in Waynesville, Mo., on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/The Springfield News-Leader, Valerie Mosley )

    WAYNESVILLE, Mo. (AP) - The first sign of trouble came from a gurgling noise emanating from the sink, bathtub and toilet in Katie Knight's home. She looked out the window early Tuesday to see floodwaters already lapping at her back deck.

    "I panicked," said Knight, a 31-year-old disabled Army veteran. "It's an eerie feeling when you see waters rising, because you are at the mercies of God's hands."

    The sudden flood that swamped the south-central Missouri city of Waynesville killed a 4-year-old boy who was swept from a vehicle, and authorities were still searching the water Tuesday for a woman who is believed to be the mother of the boy, who was found just upstream from Knight's home.

    The floodwaters left others clinging to tree branches in swiftly moving high water and damaged about 100 homes and businesses, authorities said.

    "The quickness of the storm, the depth of it, the amount of water that was flowing freely, caused havoc," said Pulaski County chief sheriff's deputy John Groves.

    Although some of the water receded within hours, other larger rivers continued to rise throughout Tuesday and a forecast for more rain in the region led to fears of additional flooding in the coming days. About 200 Waynesville homes in low-lying areas were being evacuated because of the forecast.

    Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency, and the Missouri State Highway Patrol sent extra troopers and equipment to help emergency responders.

    The flooding was triggered after several days of rain in the region culminated in a rare August downpour.

    National Weather Service hydrologist Mark Fuchs said more than 7 inches of rain fell at Fort Leonard Wood, which is near Waynesville, from midnight to mid-Tuesday morning - but unofficial gauges nearby had nearly 9 inches of rain.

    When Knight saw the rising waters from a nearby creek, she called friends and her landlord and then waded through thigh-high water to a neighbor's porch to wait out the flood. She watched as a man sitting atop an SUV and clutching a tree branch screamed for help for several hours before rescue workers could reach him.

    At another site where people were stranded, a boat carrying rescue workers tipped over and additional crews had to be called in to rescue them, Crain said.

    Crain said that local officials planned a mandatory evacuation in low-lying areas to guard against the potential for a resurgence of floodwaters.

    Flo Vaughan, 77, said she was awakened in the middle of the night by rescue workers banging on her door, but did not immediately leave because she didn't know who was there. She watched as the floodwaters tore out her fence, washed away her shed and shifted her 350-gallon propane tank from its base. The smell of gas still hung in the air later Tuesday in the neighborhood, and water continued to bubble up from manholes and flow down the streets.

    "I'm a lucky one - it didn't get my house," Vaughan said.

    About a dozen propane tanks were seen floating through the floodwater. Many of the tanks leaked, and in some places, the gas was a foot or two deep above the floodwaters, a fire threat that kept rescue boats away until the gas cleared.

    Fuchs said the Fort Leonard Wood area has seen nearly a foot of rain since August began. This month's weather patterns are unusual, as there's usually little rain and higher temperatures in August.

    The downpours have caused dramatic rises in several rivers and creeks. The Gasconade River at Hazelgreen was at 3 feet on Saturday; it crested at 29.5 feet late Tuesday afternoon, but still was short of the record of 34.9 feet in 2008.

    Roubidoux Creek, which cuts through Waynesville, had only about a foot of water before the rain. On Tuesday, it reached a record 21 feet.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Epic Storm Photos from the Twittersphere

     

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    (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

    WASHINGTON (AP) - A new massive U.S. study says the world in 2012 sweltered with continued signs of climate change. Rising sea levels, snow melt, heat buildup in the oceans, and melting Arctic sea ice and Greenland ice sheets, all broke or nearly broke records, but temperatures only sneaked into the top 10.

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Tuesday issued a peer-reviewed 260-page report, which agency chief Kathryn Sullivan calls its annual "checking on the pulse of the planet." The report, written by 384 scientists around the world, compiles data already released, but it puts them in context of what's been happening to Earth over decades.

    "It's critically important to compile a big picture," National Climatic Data Center director Tom Karl says. "The signs that we see are of a warming world."

    Sullivan says what is noticeable "are remarkable changes in key climate indicators," mentioning dramatic spikes in ocean heat content, a record melt of Arctic sea ice in the summer, and whopping temporary melts of ice in most of Greenland last year. The data also shows a record-high sea level.

    The most noticeable and startling changes seen were in the Arctic, says report co-editor Deke Arndt, climate monitoring chief at the data center. Breaking records in the Arctic is so common that it is becoming the new normal, says study co-author Jackie Richter-Menge of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers' Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory.

    Karl says when looked at together, all the indicators show a climate that is changing over the decades. Individually, however, the story isn't as simple.

    Karl says surface temperatures haven't risen in the last 10 years, but he notes that is only a blip in time due to natural variability. When looking at more scientifically meaningful time frames of 30 years, 50 years and more than 100 years, temperatures are rising quite a bit, Karl said. Since records have been kept in 1880, all 10 of the warmest years ever have been in the past 15 years, NOAA records show.

    Depending on which of four independent analyses are used, 2012 ranked the eighth or ninth warmest year on record, the report says. Last year was warmer than every year in the previous century, except for 1998 when a record El Nino spiked temperatures globally. NOAA ranks 2010 as the warmest year on record.

    They don't have to be records every year, Karl says.

    Overall the climate indicators "are all singing the same song that we live in a warming world," Arndt says. "Some indicators take a few years off from their increase. The system is telling us in more than one place we're seeing rapid change."

    While the report purposely doesn't address why the world is warming, "the causes are primarily greenhouse gases, the burning of fossil fuels," Arndt says.

    The study is being published in a special edition of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

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

     

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    (Getty Images)

    Nearly 100,000 Africanized bees invaded a home near Houston, Texas, in June of 2013. The bees developed their colony in the home that was vacant for two years.

    KHOU-tv reported on June 6 that the defensive bees, commonly called "killer bees," swarmed the neighbors' dog, killing the family pet. The bees were removed and taken away by a trained beekeeper.

    The invasion could be the result of migration, researchers suspect. Jerry Hayes, the "honeybee guy" at Monsanto, said that Africanized bees migrate where there are warm temperatures. Research also suggests that the bees' behavior changes with weather and fluctuations in barometric pressure.

    Hayes describes the Africanized bees as "super-bees" which travel up to 300 miles per year to inhabit tropical to sub-tropical climates.

    Professor of Entomology at Penn State University and Director of the PSU Center of Pollinator Research, Dr. Christina Grozinger, said that temperature plays a key role in where the bees migrate. Africanized bees have been found within the last five years as far as the Southeast coast.

    Africanized bees originated in Africa and were brought over by researchers to Latin America. Researchers believed that since the climates were similar the bees would be able to survive and produce honey. Instead, they continued to migrate farther north due to the subtropicallike temperatures that occupy much of Arizona and Texas during the summer months.

    Africanized bees are unable to survive in cold climates. Once the temperature begins to change, they migrate south or die off.

    Hayes said that the bees can predict when winter is coming. Unlike Africanized bees, European bees, who originated from Europe, have the ability to survive during the winter.

    "European honeybees act as a thermostat, expand during summer and when it gets cold they contract over winter to maintain their temperature of 93 degrees F," he said.

    Africanized bees did not adapt to survive in cold temperatures; therefore, they will die in the winter months.

    Hayes also said that the bees start to behave differently when there is a change in barometric pressure. Before it rains, they retreat to their hive and can become more aggressive. The bees are attuned to vibrations and may come back to the hive more defensive than when they left.

    Due to the amount of predators Africanized bees faced in their native environment, they are naturally more aggressive than European honeybees.

    Researchers are now questioning whether humid air causes bees to be more defensive. Dr. Eric Mussen, extension apiculturist in the entomology department at the University of California-Davis, said that this question has not yet been answered.

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    Africanized bees are valued for their honey production and their ability to pollinate flowers. The bees, which were brought over to Brazil for economic gain, have made the country one of the leading producers of honey, according to Grozinger.

    RELATED ON SKYE: World's Freakiest Bugs

     

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    NOAA

    MIAMI (AP) - Hurricane Henriette has weakened a little as it moves across the Pacific, far from land.

    The hurricane's maximum sustained winds early Wednesday have decreased to near 85 mph. The U.S. National Hurricane Center says additional weakening is forecast by Thursday.

    Henriette is centered about 1,425 miles east of Hilo, Hawaii, and is moving west-northwest near 10 mph. The storm could potentially graze Hawaii by the end of this weekend.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 30 Stunning Photos Revealing the Power of Hurricanes

     

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    (Getty Images)

    Another round of strong thunderstorms with flooding downpours is set to roll through the southern Plains and Tennessee Valley on Wednesday and continue through Thursday.

    The worst of these storms will start in Colorado and Kansas and make their way eastward into Missouri through Wednesday night and into Thursday. A second area of heavy thunderstorms will develop ahead of these storms and move across the Tennessee Valley.

    Flash flooding will be the main concern with these storms, as inflow from the Gulf of Mexico will provide ample moisture to fuel heavy, flooding downpours. With so much moisture available, storms can easily drop an inch or two of rain in under an hour.



    With this much rainfall in such a short amount of time, small streams can turn into vigorous flowing bodies of water with little to no warning. If water is flowing over a roadway, you should avoid driving through it as less than 2 feet of rushing water can lift and move a car.

    Wichita, Kan., Springfield, Mo., St. Louis, Mo., Cape Girardeau, Mo., Nashville, Tenn., and Louisville, Ky., are just a handful of cities at risk for flash flooding as these storms develop and progress eastward.

    Southern Missouri and southeastern Kansas are particularly at risk for flooding following round after round of heavy thunderstorms over the past week. So far in the month of August, Springfield, Mo., has recorded 3.91 inches of rainfall; more than they typically receive in all of August.

    With the plethora of rainfall Kansas and Missouri has received so far this month, the ground has become very saturated. This saturation will result in a large amount of water runoff, resulting in flash flooding to occur much quicker than if the ground was not already saturated.

    Traveling during these storms can be treacherous, both for motorists and those taking to the skies. Blinding downpours can cause water to pool on roadways, raising the risk of hydroplaning and reducing visibilities. These storms can also lead to flight delays for both outbound and inbound flights across the area.

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    While flooding may be the greatest risk with these storms, some may produce severe weather, particularly in southern Kansas.

    These storms will be capable of producing small hail and damaging winds that could knock over trees and power lines.

    This could lead to localized power outages, as well as cause even more headaches for travelers as trees and power lines across roadways will lead to further travel days.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Epic Storm Photos from the Twittersphere

     

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    Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013

    (Photo by Renny Vandewege)

    As a meteorologist, I'm always looking up at clouds, and over the years, I've seen almost every variety: shelf, lenticular, mammatus. But one particular cloud had always eluded me.

    Until this week.

    As I walked out my back door here in Mississippi Tuesday afternoon, the air thick with humidity, I looked up and saw a big white cloud with a giant hole and blue sky in the middle. But this wasn't just any old gap in the clouds. Evaporating rain was falling from the hole.

    I couldn't believe it. I knew exactly what it was: a hole punch cloud. I'd seen photos of the clouds for years but never thought I'd see one in person.

    Hole punch clouds so rare and random that many veteran cloud spotters never see one. Unlike other clouds, hole punch are not tied to a particular weather pattern or type of storm system, which makes them almost impossible to seek out. Spotting one is pure luck.

    They're believed to form when cloud droplets are cold enough to freeze but are still in a liquid form known as supercooled droplets. Once the water vapor around these droplets evaporates, it causes a hole to form. Because of this evaporation process, these holes are also known as fallstreak holes. Hole punch clouds have been mistaken for UFOs because of their shape and rarity.

    As soon as I knew what I was seeing, I pulled my phone from my pocket, snapped a photo and posted it to Twitter, writing, "My first hole punch cloud!"

    I was outside with my dogs, but I continued to look up at the cloud, watching it expand over the next several minutes. Then, five minutes after I first spotted the cloud, the hole filled in, and just like that, the hole punch cloud was gone.


    There's something kind of miraculous about spotting a rare cloud. I imagine it's the way birders feel when they finally spot a rare species, or astronomers feel when they first see a faraway nebula.

    I hit the cloud-spotting lottery this week, and I couldn't be more thrilled.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 20 Breathtaking Photos of Clouds from Space

    Cloud Hole, Tasmania

     

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    (NOAA)

    MIAMI (AP) - Hurricane Henriette is getting smaller as it moves across the Pacific and is forecast to begin weakening.

    The hurricane's maximum sustained winds early Thursday are near 85 mph. The U.S. National Hurricane Center says weakening is forecast over the next two days and Henriette could weaken to a tropical storm by Thursday night.

    The storm is centered about 1,170 miles east of Hilo, Hawaii, and is moving west-northwest near 9 mph.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Stunning Hurricane Photos from Space

     

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    (AP Photo/Tracie Cone, File)

    LOS ANGELES (AP) - Coastal waters off California are getting more acidic. Fall-run chinook salmon populations to the Sacramento River are on the decline. Conifer forests on the lower slopes of the Sierra Nevada have moved to higher elevations over the past half century.

    That's just a snapshot of how climate change is affecting California's natural resources, a report released Thursday found.

    "There's certainly reason for concern," said Dan Cayan, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography who contributed to the report.

    The findings are an update to a 2009 report that documented how a warming California is impacting the environment, wildlife and people.

    Among the known impacts: Butterflies in the Central Valley are emerging from hiding earlier in the spring; glaciers in the Sierra Nevada have shrunk; and spring runoff from snowmelt has declined, affecting Central Valley farmers and hydroelectric plants that rely on snowmelt to produce power.

    The latest 258-page report, which cost $282,000 to produce, was compiled from existing climate studies and released by an arm of the California Environmental Protection Agency.

    Officials hope it will spur the state and local governments to plan ahead and adapt to a hotter future.

    Monitoring should continue "to reduce the impacts of climate change and to prepare for those effects that we cannot avoid," George Alexeeff, head of the state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, said in an email.

    Annual average temperatures across the state have risen by about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 Celsius) since 1895, with the greatest warming seen in portions of the Central Valley and Southern California.

    Levels of carbon dioxide, methane and other heat-trapping gases in the state increased between 1990 and 2011. In recent years, there has been a slight drop - the result of industries and vehicles becoming more energy efficient, the report said.

    Some of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is being absorbed by the ocean, altering its chemistry. Scientists have documented changes to waters at Monterey Bay, which have turned more acidic in recent years, raising concerns about impact to marine life.

    Ocean warming, among other factors, may be behind the dramatic drop of chinook salmon in Central California since 2004. And certain plant and animals species - such as conifers in the Sierra Nevada and small mammals in Yosemite National Park - have responded to a changing climate by moving to higher ground.

    Expect more heat waves, wildfires and higher sea levels as the state warms, the report said.

    The report "vastly overstates the impacts of greenhouse gases," said University of Alabama at Huntsville atmospheric sciences professor John Christy, who holds a minority view among climate scientists.

    Carnegie Institution ecologist Chris Field, an acknowledged leader in the field of climate impacts, said the observations in the report "are more or less the gold standard of where we are now today" and provide a peek of the future.

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

     

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    Shanghai, China (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

    Following a deadly heat wave that ended July, the temperature is soaring even higher in Shanghai this week.

    Temperatures climbed to 105.1 degrees F at Xujiahui Observatory, Shanghai's benchmark observing location, on Tuesday according to ShanghaiDaily.com. This equaled the previous all-time record high temperature.

    The record would be short lived as ShanghaiDaily.com reported the high reached 105.4 degrees F on Wednesday setting a new official all-time record high.

    Other temperatures across the city ranged from 102-106 degrees F Tuesday through Thursday.

    Unfortunately, the extreme heat will continue through the weekend making it increasingly dangerous to anyone in the region as heat of this magnitude for several days in a row can become deadly. Friday is expected to be the hottest days of this stretch with only a modest decline in temperatures over the weekend.



    Adding to the heat, high levels of humidity will make AccuWeather RealFeel temperatures soar into well into the upper 110s F. At these levels, anyone may be at risk of heat stress or heat stroke with symptoms such as dizziness, cramping, a throbbing headache, confusion or slurred speech. If you experience any of these symptoms, get into the shade and soak yourself with water.

    To prevent heat stress or stroke, try to stay out of direct sunlight, drink plenty of water, wear light-colored clothing, avoid strenuous activity and try to spend time in air-conditioned places.

    July ended with eight consecutive days above 100 degrees F and high temperatures of at least 102 degrees F occurring four times. Dozens of people were killed during the late-July heat wave, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

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    The average temperature has not been below normal in Shanghai since June 29, and temperatures are expected to remain well above normal into next week.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Photos: Massive Crowds Flock to Chinese Water Park

     

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    (Photo by Maddie Meyer/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

    Rounds of showers and thunderstorms will bring the threat of flash flooding and travel disruptions from the Ohio Valley to the mid-Atlantic and New England through Friday.

    The risk area covers a heavily populated and heavily traveled region of the country, home to tens of millions of people and daily commuters.

    A surge in humidity, combined with a very slow-moving front and a series of disturbances moving along it, will favor episodes of downpours, thunder and lightning.

    While most of the region will just experience a few doses of heavy rain and thunder, some locations can be hit much harder on one or more occasions through the end of the week.

    Cities that could be directly impacted by flash flooding include Cincinnati, Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, Boston, Hartford, Conn., and Portland, Maine.



    The pattern is part of the same setup that will continue to clobber the central Plains this week.

    It has the potential to bring a couple of inches of rain in as many hours to a few communities in the Ohio Valley, mid-Atlantic and New England as well. Some unlucky locations could be hit with 6 inches of rain into the end of the week.

    Similar to what occurred in June and July in the Northeast, some streets and highways could be flooded.

    The activity will not be limited to the afternoon and evening hours, which is typically the case this time of the year.

    Motorists and airline interests should be prepared for delays.

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    Over the weekend, the corridor of repeating downpours will shrink southward, so that much of New England, the northern mid-Atlantic and part of the Ohio Valley will dry out.

    However, that southward shift will grind to a halt. Flooding problems are possible from Kentucky and Tennessee to the Appalachians in Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland Saturday and Sunday. There is a chance the activity continues on to the coastal plain in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and southern New Jersey as well.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Epic Storm Photos from the Twittersphere

     

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    A Missouri state trooper watches over Interstate 44 near Jerome, Mo., where flooding shut down the interstate on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Robert Cohen)

    Another round of strong thunderstorms with flooding downpours is set to roll through the central Plains Thursday.

    The worst of these storms will start in Kansas and progress eastward into Missouri. Heavy storms will also develop ahead of the main batch of storms, extending the risk of flooding into part of the Tennessee Valley.

    Flash flooding will be the main concern with these storms, as inflow from the Gulf of Mexico will provide ample moisture to fuel heavy, flooding downpours. With so much moisture available, storms can easily drop an inch or two of rain in under an hour.

    With this much rainfall in such a short amount of time, small streams can turn into vigorous rivers of water with little to no warning. If water is flowing over a roadway, you should avoid driving through it as less than 2 feet of rushing water can lift and move a car.

    Wichita, Kan., Springfield, Mo., and Oklahoma City, Okla., are just a handful of cities at risk for flash flooding as these storms develop and progress eastward.

    Southern Missouri and southeastern Kansas are particularly at risk for flooding following round after round of heavy thunderstorms over the past week. So far in the month of August, Springfield, Mo., has recorded 4.42 inches of rainfall; this is more than they typically receive in all of August.

    With the plethora of rainfall Kansas and Missouri has received so far this month, the ground has become very saturated. This saturation will result in a large amount of water runoff, causing flash flooding to occur much quicker than if the ground was not already saturated.

    Traveling during these storms can be treacherous, both for motorists and those taking to the skies. Blinding downpours can cause water to pool on roadways, raising the risk of hydroplaning and reducing visibilities. These storms can also lead to flight delays for both outbound and inbound flights across the area.

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    While flooding may be the greatest risk with these storms, some may produce severe weather, particularly in southern Kansas and northern Oklahoma.

    These storms will be capable of producing small hail and damaging winds that could knock over trees and power lines.

    This could lead to localized power outages, as well as cause even more headaches for travelers as trees and power lines across roadways will lead to further travel days.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Epic Storm Photos from the Twittersphere

     

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    Twin Pines, Calif. resident Dave Clark tells some neighbors their home is ok while his own house burns behind him, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013 near Banning, Calif. (AP Photo/The Desert Sun, Richard Lui)

    BANNING, Calif. (AP) - A wildfire that broke out in the inland mountains of Southern California has expanded exponentially, burning homes, forcing the evacuation of several small mountain communities and leaving three people injured.

    About 1,500 people had evacuated as the wildfire of more than 9 square miles raged out of control Thursday in the San Jacinto Mountains near Banning, said Lucas Spelman, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

    Three were injured, including two firefighters taken to hospitals by ambulance and a burned civilian who was airlifted out, state fire officials said. They would give no further details on the injuries.

    Fire officials said about a dozen structures were damaged or destroyed, but could not say how many were homes. Footage from TV news helicopters and photos from the scene showed several houses in flames.

    They include the Twin Pines home of Dave Clark, whose parents were killed in a house fire in Riverside in April 2012 the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported. Prosecutors alleged Clark's sister Deborah Clark set the fire, and she was awaiting a mental-competency hearing to see if she was competent to stand trial for her parents' murder in a case that has received extensive local media coverage.

    A photograph taken by the Desert Sun newspaper showed Clark talking on his cellphone with the home fully engulfed in flames behind him.

    "He said he lost everything, he couldn't talk," brother Jeff Clark told the Press-Enterprise.

    About 800 people evacuated the Silent Valley Club, a private RV resort, state fire spokesman Lucas Spelman said.

    About 700 more were under evacuation order in the rural communities of Poppet Flats, Twin Pines, Edna Valley and Vista Grande, and evacuation centers were set up at high schools in Hemet and Banning. The communities are in the San Jacinto Mountains along Interstate 10 some 80 miles east of Los Angeles.

    Margaret Runnels of Poppet Flats was at work when her house came under an evacuation order. She was in Banning waiting for her husband to collect pets and valuables from their house.

    "I was hoping they would let me back up to get some personal items I knew my husband would forget like a jewelry box and stuff that means stuff," a crying Runnels told the Desert Sun. "You always tell yourself to prepare everything but you never take the stupid time to do it."

    More than 500 firefighters, helped by five helicopters and five air tankers, were working to protect homes and get ahead of the flames. All but three helicopters were grounded after night fall but were expected to return to the air Thursday morning.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos

     

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  • 08/08/13--04:30: America's Best State Fairs
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    Aug. 8, 2013

    Hurricane Sandy moves inland across the mid-Atlantic region on Oct. 30, 2012, in the Atlantic Ocean. (NASA via Getty Images)

    WASHINGTON (AP) - This Atlantic hurricane season may not be quite as busy as U.S. forecasters once thought, but they still warn of an unusually active and potentially dangerous few months to come.

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration updated its hurricane season forecast Thursday, trimming back the number of hurricanes they expect this year to between six and nine. That is a couple less than they predicted back in May.

    The forecast calls for three to five of those hurricanes to be major, with winds greater than 110 mph (175 kph). The updated forecast also predicts 13 to 19 named storms this year. Both of those predictions are just one less forecast three months ago.

    The chance that 2013 will be busier than normal remains at 70 percent. A normal year has 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major storms.

    "Make no bones about it, those ranges indicate a lot of activity still to come," said lead seasonal hurricane forecaster Gerry Bell of NOAA's Climate Prediction Center. "We're coming to the peak of hurricane season now."

    Hurricane season starts in June and runs until the end of November, but peak hurricane season runs from mid-August to mid-October.

    So far, there have been four named storms, the last one being Tropical Storm Dorian. Four storms in June and July is more than normal, when usually there are just one or two, Bell said.

    Bell is predicting a busier-than-normal season because of larger climate patterns that have been in place since about 1995. Atlantic waters are warmer than normal, wind patterns are just right, and there has been more rain in West Africa. This fits with a larger 25-to-40-year cycle of hurricane activity that meteorologists have seen over the decades.

    Bell slightly reduced the earlier forecast because a La Nina weather event - the cooling of the central Pacific that acts as the flip side of El Nino - is not happening and that usually increases hurricane activity. While the Atlantic is as much as half a degree Fahrenheit warmer than normal, it's not as warm as some of the busier years, nor is it predicted to be, Bell said.

    The forecasts don't include where storms might land, if any place.

     

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