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SKYE on AOL

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    Monday, April 7, 2014
    Severe Weather
    Firefighter Rusty Murphy wades through flood waters in a mobile home park in Pelham, Ala., on Monday, April 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)

    BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (AP) - Severe thunderstorms crawled across the U.S. Southeast on Monday, dumping heavy rains and causing flash flooding in central Alabama, where crews in small boats and military trucks had to rescue more than two dozen people from their homes and cars.

    In Mississippi, a 9-year-old girl was missing and feared swept away in a flash flood after the storm dropped nearly 7 inches (18 centimeters) of rain over the last two days. A possible tornado damaged homes hurt seven people in another part of the state.

    The storms hit Mississippi on Sunday and spread overnight into Alabama and Georgia. Strong winds downed trees, power lines and snarled rush hour commutes.

    In Pelham, just south of Birmingham, more than 4 inches (10 centimeters) of rain fell from 7 p.m. Sunday to 7 a.m. Monday. Police and firefighters rescued people who became trapped in townhomes and a mobile home park that flooded because of a nearby swollen creek.

    Severe Weather
    Flood waters cover a street in a mobile home park in Pelham, Ala., on Monday, April 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)

    Dozens of cars had water up to their roofs, and fast-moving water rushed by the bottoms of the mobile homes. Rescue workers wearing life jackets waded through muddy water nearly to their chests to reach stranded residents. Hundreds of more people in mobile homes on higher ground were isolated because water covered the only entrance to the complex. Street signs stuck out of the high water.

    At an apartment complex in the suburb of Homewood, rescue crews used a boat to help several residents and pets get out of flooded first-floor units.

    Some roads in Birmingham became impassable, and schools delayed opening in many areas of central Alabama due to the heavy rains.

    In Augusta, Georgia, where the Master's golf tournament is being held this week at Augusta National, practice round play was temporarily suspended Monday because of severe weather.

    Alabama Power Co., the state's largest electric utility, reported 11,000 homes and businesses without power, wit h 6,200 in the Birmingham area.

    In Mississippi, a 9-year-old girl was last seen playing in floodwater near her parents' house around 7 p.m. Sunday in Yazoo City, the Delta region northwest of Jackson. Search crews and volunteers looked for her in drainage ditches and other areas where water remained, police Maj. Tilmon Clifton told broadcaster WLBT-TV.

    In metro Atlanta, heavy rains slowed cars on the interstates and traffic lights were knocked out. Rain was expected to continue for much of Monday and flood warnings were in effect across the region.

    The National Weather Service also warned people that more tornadoes and severe thunderstorms were possible.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos
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    Tuesday, April 8, 2014
    (Photo/G.Jones: Columbus Zoo and Aquarium)

    With arctic air plunging the Midwest and Northeast into a deep freeze cold enough to ice over the Great Lakes while surpassing nearly two decades of winter records, the 2013-2014 season has contributed to the death of thousands of wild ducks.

    Even indigenous species may find it hard to adjust to extraordinarily cold winters and lingering cold during spring, which has motivated zookeepers to prepare their facilities to accommodate their exotic wildlife for all seasons.

    Wild temperature swings and cold snaps continued through March with winter refusing to relinquish its grip as the spring season began. Toledo, Ohio, experienced their snowiest winter ever, with a record-breaking snowfall of 84.8 inches. Weather data for the city has been collected since the late 1800s.

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    "There was a delay to any significant warmups in March across the East due to the unusually persistent cold pattern locked into place," AccuWeather.com meteorologist Andy Mussoline said.

    "Depending on the temperatures, they'll either have access (to the exhibits) or we'll keep them in," Lanandra Russell, Zoo New England head administrative assistant to animal management, said.

    Zoo New England manages the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston and the Stone Zoo in Stoneham, Mass.

    Russell said if temperatures are low but safe for the animals, the team lets the animals decide if they want to be outdoors.

    If temperatures are too low, the team will prevent the animals from being outdoors at all.

    Special accommodations and installations are also made within the exhibits to maintain a comfortable environment for the animals, she said.

    Lions and tigers, who are acclimated to warmer climates in their natural habitat, have heated rocks installed in their exhibits, which they can lounge on during cold days.

    "It's built onto the exhibit," Russell said, adding the heated rock acts like an electric blanket for the animal.

    Columbus Zoo and Aquarium also provides heated rocks for the lions and tigers living in the Midwest, organization spokeswoman Patty Peters said.

    "We have indoor habitats," Peters said. "Depending on the animal's ability (to withstand outdoor temperatures), they have access. They have the option to go in or out. If it's really bad out, we won't let them go out."

    Animals who are acclimated to cooler climates are also taken care of during the spring and summer months with special air conditioned facilities, according to Russell and Peters.

    "Our Red Pandas are more acclimated to cooler temperatures," Russell said. "They can go into the air conditioned area."

    During hot summer days when animals retreat into the cool air, a camera allows visitors to view the Pandas in the facility.

    Peters said Reindeer also need to be kept cool throughout the year with habitat misters because of their need for cold climates.

    Polar bears are given the ability to cool off and take a swim in the summer with a pool of water that is kept at a constant 55 to 60 degrees F, which also keeps the water from freezing in the winter months, Peters said.

    (Photo/G.Jones: Columbus Zoo and Aquarium)

    Throughout the year, special treats are also provided to the animals.

    "For the lions and tigers we freeze meatballs for them," Russell said. "We provide ice treats for the different animals."

    In addition to maintaining seasonal accommodations, certain exhibits are only featured in the spring and summer months, including Zoo New England's annual butterfly exhibit and Budgie exhibit.


    RELATED ON SKYE: The Arctic Fox and More Amazing Cold Weather Creatures

     

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    Tuesday, April 8, 2014

    The above satellite image shows Tropical Cyclone Ita on Monday, courtesy of UW-CIMSS.

    Over the weekend, Tropical Cyclone Ita strengthened as it moved westward through the Coral Sea.

    Ita currently contains winds equal to that of a tropical storm in in the Atlantic Ocean. The storm is expected to continue to strengthen as it moves west and then southwest in the coming days.

    Ita is expected to strengthen to the equivalent of a hurricane during this time and will then remain at this strength as it approaches the northern coast of Queensland on Friday.

    The expected track will take the cyclone into an area north of Cairns, an area known primarily for mining.

    Peak winds at the time of landfall could reach as high as 215 kph (135 mph), leading to down trees and power lines with the potential for some minor structural damage.

    Rainfall will also be a concern as 50-100 mm (2-4 inches) will be common across the northern half of the Cape York Peninsula with 1-2 inches expected farther down the coast including Cairns and Townsville.

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    The heaviest rainfall can total more than 150 mm (6 inches) near where Ita makes a landfall and along its track over the Cape York Peninsula.

    Ita has the potential to re-emerge over the Gulf of Carpentaria over the weekend which could allow for restrengthening and further impacts to northern Queensland into early next week.


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    Tuesday, April 8, 2014
    MELTDOWN CITIES
    (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

    Warm, sunny weather will be the theme for the Southwest through midweek with several cities challenging record high temperatures.

    Tuesday could turn out to be the warmest day of the year so far for many locations, including Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and Albuquerque.

    More of the same is on tap for Wednesday as temperatures are expected to remain well above normal across the region.

    A large area of high pressure centered over the Southwest is responsible for the record-challenging warmth, promoting abundant sunshine for both Tuesday and Wednesday.

    Tuesday looks to bring the first 90-degree day of the year to Phoenix, Ariz., as well as the first 100-degree day to the infamous Death Valley.

    Palm Springs, Calif., may be another location that flirts with the 100-degree mark.

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    AccuWeather.com RealFeel(R) temperatures can run as much as 10 degrees higher than the actual temperature under the cloud-free sky.

    This could make it feel closer to 100 degrees in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday afternoon when temperatures are forecast to approach the record value of 92 degrees.

    Folks planning to spend time in the outdoors should plan accordingly by wearing sunscreen and protective clothing.

    Anyone partaking in more strenuous activities in the outdoors should also have more drinking water available to stay hydrated.

    Temperatures are expected to fall by a few degrees each day heading into the weekend as the main core of the heat shifts to the east.

    Dry weather will be here to stay though with very little rain in sight for the entire Southwest through the first half of next week.

    This is bad news when it comes to the ongoing drought across the West.

    According to the most recent report given by the U.S. Drought Monitor on April 1, 2014, 60 percent of the West is experiencing a moderate drought with the worst conditions being found across California and western Nevada.

    "There is a glimmer of hope," said AccuWeather.com western U.S. weather expert Ken Clark, "but it is on the far distant horizon."

    "El Niño conditions are expected to develop through the summer, and if the magnitude holds into next winter, we very well could be in for an abundance of storms next winter," said Clark.

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    Tuesday, April 8, 2014

    An Indian man holds an umbrella and waits to cross a road during heavy downpour in Kolkata, India, Friday, Sept. 27, 2013. India's monsoon season, which runs from June to September, brings rain that is vital to agriculture. (AP Photo/Bikas Das)

    Cherrapunji, India, is one of the wettest places on Earth, thanks to monsoon rains each year.

    Cherrapunji now holds the world record 48-hour rainfall with a whopping 2,493 mm, or 98.15 inches, of rain on June 15-16, 1995, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced Friday.

    The WMO's Commission on Climatology made its decision after an investigation into whether the rainfall total should be included in the WMO World Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes.

    Cherrapunji is so wet because it gets an almost unimpeded flow of moisture from the Bay of Bengal across the lower elevations of Bangladesh to the south, AccuWeather.com Manager of International Forecasting and Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls said.

    The city sits on a plateau at about 4,869 feet (1,484 meters), so as the moist air pushes north, it is forced to rise quickly, which forces it to condense into clouds and rain.

    The moist air upslopes over the area as it attempts to rise into the Himalayas just north of Cherrapunji.

    Cherrapunji also holds the one-year world record for rainfall with 26,470 mm (86 feet, 10 inches) of rain from August 1860 to July 1861, the WMO said.

    While India depends on monsoon rains for its agriculture, there could be a problem this summer with weaker rains and below-normal rainfall, Nicholls said.

    The monsoon rains are very important for India since that is when most of their annual rain will fall. India's economy is still largely agriculturally based so farmers rely on these rains for their crops, Nicholls said.

    AccuWeather.com meteorologists expressed confidence that El Nino is developing and may reach moderate strength this summer.

    While El Niño may bring beneficial rains to California and tame the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season, it typically means a weaker monsoon and below-normal rainfall, especially in the key growing areas of northwest India.

    "However, El Niño is not the only factor, a more important factor discovered fairly recently is the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD)," Nicholls said. "A positive IOD tends to enhance rainfall during the monsoon, while a negative IOD tends to suppress rainfall."

    The IOD is projected to be largely neutral this summer while El Niño is projected to develop, so El Niño may be the more dominate signal. This could mean below-normal monsoonal rains for northern India.

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    The latest monsoon influenced by El Niño forming in summer was 2009, which led to well below-normal rainfall across central and northern India.

    The lack of rainfall sank the Indian economy into recession, Nicholls said.

    "The one difference from 2009 versus this year is the IOD which went strong negative in June 2009, then rebound to neutral then weakly positive late in the summer," he said. "The IOD is expected to be different in 2014, so the impacts may not be as extreme, but if the El Nino forms as expected then there should be rainfall shortfalls across portions of northern India, which would stress crops and could ultimately stress India's economy."

    Related on SKYE: The World's Wettest Places

     

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    Tuesday, April 8, 2014
    CORRECTS DATE TO APRIL 7 Firefighters rescue a family from their home, surrounded by floodwaters, in a mobile home park in Pelham, Ala., on Monday, April 7, 2014. Overnight storms dumped torrential rains in central Alabama, causing flooding across a wide area. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)
    Firefighters rescue a family from their home, surrounded by floodwaters, in a mobile home park in Pelham, Ala., on Monday, April 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)

    BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (AP) - Severe thunderstorms dumped heavy rains across the U.S. Southeast on Monday and caused flash flooding in central Alabama, where crews in small boats and military trucks had to rescue dozens of people from their homes and cars.

    In Mississippi, a 9-year-old girl was swept away and killed after the storms dropped nearly 7 inches (18 centimeters) of rain there over the last two days. A possible tornado in another part of the state damaged homes and hurt seven people, and in Georgia a motorist in metro Atlanta was found dead after driving into a creek swollen with rainwater.

    Strong winds downed trees, power lines and snarled rush hour commutes. NationalWeather Service forecasters in North Carolina say video indicates a tornado touched down near the town of Belhaven in the eastern part of the state. Authorities say a pickup truck was lifted off the highway, injuring a man and his son.

    In Pelham, just south of Birmingham, more than 4 inches (10 centimeters) of rain fell from 7 p.m. Sunday to 7 a.m. Monday. Police and firefighters rescued people who became trapped in flooded townhomes and a mobile home park.

    Dozens of cars had water up to their roofs. Rescue workers wearing life jackets waded through muddy water nearly to their chests to reach stranded residents. Hundreds of people in mobile homes on higher ground were isolated because water covered the only entrance to the complex.

    Pelham Fire Battalion Chief Mike Knight said people realized at daybreak that the water, 7 feet (2.1 meters) deep in some places, was surrounding their homes. Some people had to abandon cars after driving into areas where the flood water was deeper than expected.

    A development of townhomes along a creek in Pelham also flooded, with some units getting 4 to 5 feet (1.2 to 1.5 meters) of water. Some residents went to their second floors to wait for the water to recede, while others evacuated.

    Shannon Martin said she had water up to the top of her toilet bowl in her first floor. She and a friend waded through flooded streets to get inside and floated out some of her belongings in a cooler.

    Martin, a renter, said she had insurance to cover her belongings, but doesn't know where she will live. "I just moved here," she said.

    At an apartment complex in the suburb of Homewood, rescue crews used a boat to help several residents and pets get out of flooded first-floor units. Mudslides toppled trees and blocked several roads.

    Some roads in Birmingham became impassable due to flood waters and fallen trees, and schools delayed opening in many areas of central Alabama due to the heavy rains.

    At one point, Birmingham-based Alabama Power Co. reported 11,000 homes and businesses without electricity. That was cut to about 4,500 Monday afternoon.

    In Augusta, Georgia, where the Master's golf tournament is being held this week, practice round play was halted Monday two hours after it began. It was the first time in 11 years that weather washed out a Monday practice round.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos
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    Wednesday, April 9, 2014
    Looking through a rain-covered window on a chilly, dreary day, a pedestrian passes by a boarded up window on West Washington Street in downtown Orlando, Fla., Thursday, March 6, 2014. (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel/MCT)
    (Getty Images)

    Two areas of gusty and locally severe thunderstorms will bring locally dangerous conditions and disruptions to daily activities in the South Tuesday.

    As the storms rumble through large metro areas such as Orlando, Tampa and Miami, Fla.; Jackson, Miss.; Birmingham, Ala.; Little Rock, Ark.; Memphis, Tenn.; and Alexandria, La., flight delays are possible and poor visibility and runoff can slow traffic on roadways.

    Thunderstorms will ramp up ahead of an advancing cool front over central and South Florida Tuesday. Those heading to theme parks, the beach or the golf course should keep an eye out for rapidly changing weather conditions.

    According to senior meteorologist Mark Mancuso, "The greatest threats from the Florida storms will be flooding downpours, frequent lightning and strong wind gusts."

    A couple of the strongest storms could produce a short-lived tornado.

    "Motorists should be on the lookout for high water on roadways and golfers should quickly exit courses if they hear thunder," Mancuso said.

    The storms can affect the central counties of the peninsula at any time during the day, but they will hold off until the afternoon and evening hours in the southern counties.

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    Meanwhile, a pocket of chilly air high above the ground will allow showers and thunderstorms to erupt in portions of Louisiana, Mississippi Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, the western part of the Florida Panhandle and southern parts of Missouri and Kentucky.

    "The afternoon and evening storms over the lower Mississippi Valley have the potential to bring damaging wind gusts, brief blinding downpours and hail ranging in size from peas to marbles," Mancuso said.

    A couple of the strongest storms can produce golf ball-sized hail.

    The storms will diminish to showers and drift toward the southern Atlantic Seaboard Tuesday night, including Augusta National Golf Course, site of the 2014 Masters.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos
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    Wednesday, April 9, 2014
    The cherry trees on Capitol Hill in Washington blossom amid a spring rain and after a cold, lingering winter, Monday, April 7, 2014. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

    Another surge of warmth is forecast to spring across the Midwest and East Thursday into Friday.

    The pattern has the potential to bring some of the highest temperatures of the season so far.

    Temperatures are forecast to rise well into the 60s to lower 70s from the Ohio Valley to the interior Northeast and mid-Atlantic. The only cool spots will be where a breeze blows off the chilly waters of the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean. Temperatures will climb well into the 70s across the South.

    It will be dry and mild for those with outdoor plans or just trying to exercise. Many people will be able to shed jackets and long sleeves.

    Some cities where weather conditions will be dry and clear for Major League Baseball on Thursday include Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and New York City.

    There is the risk of a shower in Chicago as the Cubs take on the Pittsburgh Pirates, but most of the time will be rain-free.

    A storm system with rain and thunderstorms will travel from the Midwest to the Northeast, spanning Friday, Friday night and Saturday morning.

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    If temperatures do not breach their high mark for the season Thursday into Friday, there will be another opportunity this weekend in the wake of the storm system.

    Highest Temperature So Far This Year

    Location
    Highest Temperature
    (Degrees Fahrenheit)
    New York City
    67
    Boston
    60
    Philadelphia
    69
    Washington, D.C.
    73
    Detroit
    64
    Chicago
    68
    Buffalo, N.Y.
    68
    Indianapolis
    68
    Cleveland
    71


    RELATED ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos
    Lightning Hits the Grand Canyon

     

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    Wednesday, April 9, 2014

    A pollen-coated car sits in front of a North Carolina home. (Flickr/ivydawned)

    With springlike weather and a spike in the temperature pushing its way across the United States, conditions are priming for a ramp up of seasonal spring allergies.

    With as many as one in three adults suffering from springtime pollen allergies, people find themselves reaching for the antihistamines to contain their symptoms this time of year. However, Dr. Inderpal Randhawa, allergist and pulmonologist with the UCLA school of medicine, told AccuWeather.com that not all people who respond well to antihistamines in the spring actually have allergies. In fact, a recent study showed that 60 percent of people who had allergy skin tests administered after responding positively to antihistamines tested negative for any pollen allergies.

    "Antihistamines have a drying agent which are also found in cold medicines," Randhawa explained.

    According to Randhawa, because of the prevalence of springtime allergies, if a person is congested and is then affected by an irritant such as dust or smog after being outside in the spring, that person may then attribute their runny nose to a seasonal allergy and reach for an over-the-counter antihistamine. The drying agent in the medication treats their symptoms; that person may then automatically assume there is an allergy at play.

    "A response to antihistamines does not mean allergies in and of itself," Randhawa said.

    People who are more prone to infections or who suffer from chronic congestion issues such as vasomotor rhinitis are among those who may be more likely to falsely attribute symptoms to a seasonal allergy.

    Not all parts of the country have a typical allergy season, either, Randhawa said.

    Classic allergy seasons are most prevalent from the Southeast to the Northeast, where the climates allow for sudden bursts of tree pollen in the spring, grass pollen in the summer and weed pollen in the fall. Some parts of the country to the west may also have times of bursting allergies, such as areas near dense tree populations in Texas or where grass numbers are high in the northern Plains. However, most other areas will not have a traditional allergy season.

    This is especially true for tropical or subtropical climates, such as Florida, which essentially have an "allergy season" that spans the length of the year.

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    Randhawa explained that allergies for these types of regions are less seasonal and don't have easy to follow start and stop dates. Whereas in the North, there will be a break between the outbreak of tree pollen, before the outbreak of grass pollen, subtropical climates have much more of an overlap between the pollen outbreaks, essentially leading to an "allergy season" that lasts from January to November.

    To be sure whether or not a person actually suffers from seasonal allergies and not another condition that happens to respond to antihistamines, Randhawa recommends getting an allergy test. A confirmed allergy will be easier for doctors to help treat, and may open patients up to treatment opportunities that are only available with a prescription, including a newly FDA-approved pill that helps contain allergy symptoms.

    Randhawa said that this pill contains actual pollen components to help the body combat symptoms, rather than being an all-out cure for seasonal allergies. He added that the timing can be complicated, as it is meant to be taken for the duration of an allergy season. For locations that have less-defined allergy seasons, this can complicate the timelines.

     

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    Wednesday, April 9, 2014
    This March 21, 2014 photo shows Chris Talbott standing with a pile of tumbleweed in front of his home in Colorado Springs, Colo. Parts of Colorado are being overrun with tumbleweeds because of the drought affecting much of the western U.S. (AP Photo/P Solomon Banda)
    In this photo taken on Tuesday, March 18, 2014, dust blows tumbleweeds against a fence east of the Comanche Power Plant near Pueblo, Colo., as high winds caused visibility and air quality problems across the area. (AP Photo/The Pueblo Chieftain, Chris McLean)

    ORDWAY, Colo. (AP) - Mini-storms of tumbleweed have invaded the drought-stricken prairie of southern Colorado, blocking rural roads and irrigation canals, and briefly barricading homes and an elementary school.

    Firefighters even had to cut a path through them to get to a pregnant woman who feared she'd be trapped in her home if she went into labor.

    The invasion of the tumbleweed, an iconic symbol of both the West's rugged terrain and the rugged cowboys who helped settle it, has conjured images of the Dust Bowl of 80 years ago, when severe drought unleashed them onto the landscape.

    "It never ends," said Chris Talbott, as he used a snow shovel to push the weeds off his lawn into a stack on the street in Colorado Springs.

    The latest drought, which began in 2010, has created tumbleweed trouble in parts of New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. Desiccated Russian thistle, a woody leafy plant, and kochia (KOH'-sha), both invasive weeds from Eurasia, are the culprits.

    In Colorado, herds of cattle would eat the tumbleweed, helping to keep it in check, but many ranchers in recent years have reduced or gotten rid of their animals because of the drought. After the first winter freezes in November, the plants broke loose and began rolling with the wind.

    "They looked like sheep running across the prairie because the whole prairie was alive," Ordway rancher Doug Tecklenburg said of a March 15 wind storm. He's taken to driving with a pitchfork in his truck to get through clogged roads.

    For municipal authorities, there's a big price tab for that tumbleweed.

    Crowley County, high plains country of ranching and farming east of Pueblo in southern Colorado, has spent $108,000 since November - more than a third of its annual budget - clearing roads and bridges of tumbleweed to make sure residents and emergency vehicles can move.

    It's labor-intensive work. "Gathering tumbleweeds is like gathering kindergarteners with a bunch of balloons and trying to keep them in one location," said Russell Bennett, a county roadman employed by Crowley County.

    El Paso County, which includes Colorado Springs, has spent $209,000.

    "Try pushing them with heavy equipment and they just roll on you, fly over the top," said Alf Randall, the county's acting public works director. "The frustrating part is once you get the first wave beat down, packed down and out of the road, the wind comes up and here comes the next batch."

    Aside from the roads, the tumbleweeds have buried cars and blocked houses in new developments on the outskirts of Colorado Springs.

    Officials have tried to attack the tumbleweed with snow blowers and rotary attachments on tractors used to cut crops like alfalfa. They've even tried to bale it for cow feed. But the wiry, springy weed clogs machinery, and baling is too expensive to be economical.

    Burning it is another option - one authorities are wary of in wildfire-prone Colorado.

    Some residents have suggested making biofuel pellets out of the weed. "We're really not set up for that," said Crowley County Commissioner Gary Gibson. "If anybody wants to do that, all I can say is, if they want to come down here, they're welcome to."

    Bennett, the roadman, cobbled together a device from bit pieces of machinery, leftover steel from a bridge project and belts donated by a neighbor. The device, which looks like an old fashioned push mower, grinds tumbleweed to dust.

    The county is using the machine, christened "Puff the Magic Dragon," to clear weeds off roads.

    County Commission Chairman Tobe Allumbaugh said other counties have contacted him about how to build one.

    More work is in store. Irrigation ditches that crisscross the region have snagged tons of tumbleweed. All of it will have to be cleared so that farmers and cattle ranchers can water their fields and pastures.

    Given the cost, at least three Colorado counties - El Paso, Crowley and Pueblo - are considering local states of emergency that would allow them to seek financial help from the state.

    At his county commission office, Allumbaugh played for a reporter a song called "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" - popularized by Gene Autry's 1935 film of the same name - and said that people often think of it as they dismiss tumbleweeds as a harmless bit of nostalgia of a wide-open West.

    He said he has even drawn snickers when he mentions that the county has a "tumbleweed emergency."

    "What we have is not funny," he said.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 7 Surprising Health Effects of Drought

     

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    Tornado Alley Tracks
    The National Weather Service (NWS) Storm Prediction Center (SPC) routinely collects reports of severe weather and compiles them with a Graphic Information System (GIS). This file contains track information regarding known tornados during the period 1950 to 2006.

    Moore, Okla., is in the heart of an area known as Tornado Alley. The people who call Moore home are still rebuilding from last year's devastating tornado that struck the area on May 20, 2013. In fact, HelpMooreRebuild.org is just one website where requests for help can be made as well as an area for people to sign up, serve and donate.

    According to NOAA, about 1,300 tornadoes hit the United States per year and about 60 people die from a tornado-related death such as falling debris, per year. With severe weather season already underway, it is important to be able to identify where tornadoes touch down most frequently.

    The most popular answer, Tornado Alley, is a stretch of land famous for its frequent tornado watches and warnings during the spring. Tornadoes, however, can occur almost anywhere in the United States, including west of the Rockies and east of the Appalachians. In fact, some weather experts suggest there is more than one tornado alley and up to as many as four different domestic locations.

    Senior Vice President of AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions and Tornado Expert Mike Smith said that he believes in only two domestic tornado alleys: the classic stretch from Dallas to Des Moines, Iowa and Dixie Alley.

    "Dixie consists of northeastern Arkansas, western Tennessee, northern Mississippi and Alabama. This area can estimate seeing about eight to 13 tornado watches per year and it's because of the low pressure systems that come through the area that mixes with moisture from the Gulf," Smith said.

    The collision of cool air and warm, moist air is also what makes the Plains such a prime location for frequent tornadoes.

    "The Great Plains is so susceptible to tornadoes because of the collision between moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, cool air from Canada, and most uniquely, very dry air from New Mexico and California that collides with the moisture," Smith said.

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    Those same ingredients can be found just about anywhere on the map of the United States, thus sporting the theory that there may be a Hoosier Alley (Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio) and Carolina Alley (North Carolina and South Carolina) as well.

    "The basic ingredients start with a thunderstorm: warm and moist air at low levels, cold and dry air above that and something that lifts the warm, moist air up. The air is going to be less dense and it will rise up like a hot air balloon. For a tornado, it needs to be organized in the atmosphere where the wind increases with height and a change in direction aloft," Harold Brooks, senior scientist of Forecast Research and Development Division for NOAA, said.

    Since it's not rare for the atmosphere to bring these conditions together, some say it's nearly impossible to define one tornado alley, let alone multiple.

    "I don't think there are any [tornado alleys]. It isn't a well-defined concept and it's pretty clear if you ask different meteorologists that they will draw different maps. If you ask the public, I think they would draw an area that would be something that would be based on occurrence," Brooks said.


    Dawn breaks over the rubble that used to be homes, left earlier in the week when a tornado hit Moore, Okla., Friday, May 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

    There are several different ways that a tornado alley could be defined.

    It could be based on how often tornadoes touch down in an area, how often you include path lengths, if there is a definable severe weather season, or you could talk about impacts and where the most damage occurs, Brooks said.

    Dixie Alley is characterized by the presence of a defined severe weather season in the springtime as well as a strong fall signal which is slightly different from the definitive severe weather season of the Plains.

    "There has been a high fatality rate from the 1950s through the present with F2 storms or higher in Dixie. These are the kind of storms that can take out a person's home," Smith said.

    Defining an alley based on frequency or damage is not as easily agreed upon in areas referred to as Carolina Alley and Hoosier Alley.

    "Carolina Alley is something that I don't buy. An interesting theory, as is Hoosier Alley, but they are terms for broad regions between the Rockies and the Appalachians where there is enhanced tornado occurrence, but the strength of that seasonal cycle weakens as you go east from the Plains," Brooks said.

    Average Annual Number of Tornadoes

    Although Brooks does not buy into Carolina or Hoosier Alley's there is research that disagrees with him.

    Despite the location, it's important to pass on and understand the difference between tornado watches and warnings.

    "Tornado Alley receives 10-15 watches per year and this is when the forecast conditions are just right for a severe weather event to occur, but a warning is when a specific area is advised to take cover," Smith said.

    "Essentially, the Plains are an ideal place to make storms very frequently because it's easy for the atmosphere to do it there. You need something to initiate it and get the storm started and that the conditions to support the storms in April and May are perfect. But again, this can happen just about anywhere if the conditions are just right," Brooks said.


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    April 10, 2014

    The FBI collected data from its Uniform Crime Reports and calculated the occurrence of crimes in the U.S. for 2012, the most recent year of complete data. (Photo/FBI)

    There will be more violent crimes through the end of the 21st century as a result of climate change, according to a new study.

    The study, published in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, showed that climate change will cause an additional 22,000 murders, 180,000 cases of rape, 1.2 million aggravated assaults, 2.3 million simple assaults, 260,000 robberies, 1.3 million burglaries, 2.2 million cases of larceny and 580,000 cases of vehicle theft in the United States between 2010 and 2099.

    There are two main theories about why higher temperatures lead to more crime, study author Matthew Ranson said.

    "The first is that when temperatures are warmer, there are more opportunities to commit crime. People leave their windows open, more potential victims are out on the streets and people are more likely to get together and interact," Ranson said. "The second theory is that temperature has a direct effect on human aggression. For example, in laboratory studies, subjects make more aggressive choices when they are in a hot room instead of a comfortable room."

    Ranson analyzed 30 years of monthly crime and weather data for 2,997 U.S. counties.

    The crime data was taken from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Reports, which includes monthly information on crimes in the jurisdictions of various police departments.

    Historically, serious crime rises in the warmer months of the year.

    "Whether you look at daily, weekly or monthly data, there is a strong relationship between historical temperatures and crime. For example, crime rates are highest in warm months of the year. This seasonality is strongest in the northern areas of the U.S., which is where the seasonal temperature differences are also largest," Ranson said.

    The social cost of increased crimes as a result of climate change is calculated to cost between $38 billion and $115 billion, according to Ranson. This rise in crime is also estimated to require a permanent 4 percent increase in police forces across the U.S.

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    "The cost I report in the paper is the cost of victimization, based on evidence such as the value of lost property, medical bills and pain-and-suffering jury awards to victims," he said.

    Although, Ranson admits that predicting the future may prove to be difficult.

    "We don't know what the year 2100 is going to be like," he said. "What we do know, however, is that climate change is likely to lead to higher temperatures, and historically, higher temperatures have caused more crime. So, while the predictions in the paper could be quite inaccurate, the takeaway message is that climate change is likely to cause a significant increase in crime."

    However, not all experts agree. A George Washington University professor said the projected rise in crime is a bit more nuanced than what Ranson reported.

    "It's not as straightforward as that. There are some findings that show there is not a linear relationship between crime and temperatures," Sabrina McCormick, an associate professor in the Department of Environmental & Occupational Health at GWU's Milken Institute School of Public Health, said.

    The relationship appears to be more like an upside-down U, with lower rates of violent crimes during colder weather and higher rates as the temperature rises. But with extreme heat, the rate comes back down, according to McCormick.

    "So, there is the potential that he is incorrect about that [relationship]," she said.

    The message McCormick sees in Ranson's research is that climate change threatens the fabric of our society.

    However, there are things people can do to help mitigate the effects of climate change, including tree planting and the building of "social capital" in communities where crime rates are high.

    "It will empower them to protect themselves and adapt more effectively to climate change," McCormick said.

    In Philadelphia, each neighborhood has a block captain, a person who volunteers to act as the community leader on their block and notify the city about problems such as needed street light and pothole repairs, McCormick said.

    In the event of a heat wave, the block captain is in charge of going door-to-door to alert neighbors.

    Despite a cold winter across the nation, this summer should not have abnormally high temperature extremes.

    There will be fairly average temperatures this summer in the eastern United States, AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist and member of the Long-Range Forecasting Team Jack Boston said.

    "It will be hot and dry from the southern Plains to the Southwest and the Northwest. Burbank, Calif., in the Los Angeles area, is forecast to be above normal during June, July and August," he said. "The northern Plains and Great Lakes will be back and forth with temperatures; Minneapolis will be 1.5 degrees above normal in June, 1 degree below normal and a half degree above normal in August."

     

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    Thursday, April 10, 2014
    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 15: New Yorkers enjoy the sun in Central Park on March 15, 2014 in Manhattan, New York, USA. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

    The warmest weather since early last October will surge into many areas of the East on Monday, featuring 80-degree temperatures in some locations. The warmup may bring a surge in pollen.

    Mild air building in the Eastern states through Saturday will be just a tease compared to the warmth coming Sunday into Monday for many areas east of the Mississippi River.

    After flirting with some of the highest temperatures of the season so far over the next few days, the warmth will be quite noticeable by early next week.

    The warmth is likely to reach all the way into northern New England and the Maritimes. However, the warm weather will be accompanied by a stiff south to southwesterly breeze.

    Only locations with a southern exposure to chilly ocean, sound or bay waters will stay relatively cool.

    Forecast High Temperatures Monday, April 14

    City
    Forecast High (Degrees Fahrenheit)
    New York City
    72
    Philadelphia
    78
    Boston
    72
    Washington, D.C.
    81
    Baltimore
    79
    Newark, N.J.
    75
    Dover, Del.
    76
    Hartford, Conn.
    75
    Albany, N.Y.
    70
    Burlington, Vt.
    61
    Portland, Maine
    66
    Richmond, Va.
    83

    Despite Monday's warmth, temperatures will stop short of record levels in most areas. For many locations, record highs this time of the year are well into the 80s and lower 90s.

    The combination of mild air and recent rainfall helped to bring the cherry blossoms to peak around Washington, D.C., this week.

    The surging warmth will allow more lawns to green up, blossoms to emerge and early spring flowers to bloom.

    Along with the surging warmth will be an explosion of tree pollen in southern portions of the mid-Atlantic and in parts of the Ohio Valley.

    To some extent, the stiff breeze will allow some of the tree pollen to push northward for a time into areas where vegetation is still dormant.

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    The combination of tree pollen, mold, emerging grasses, old winter brush and other conditions could have some allergy sufferers running for cover.

    However, these factors may not necessarily be the source of allergy symptoms for many people.

    Despite the upcoming warm surge, this does not mean the end of unseasonable chill for portions of the Midwest and the East.

    Another substantial dip in temperatures is in the forecast for much of the North Central states and the Northeast during the middle of next week.

    Marking the change from very warm conditions to chilly weather will be a front accompanied with showers, thunderstorms and perhaps even severe weather.

    A bit of wet snow is possible at the tail end of the rain at midweek in parts of upstate New York and northern New England.

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    Thursday, April 10, 2014

    Diversions from the San Joaquin River near Stockton, Calif. (Credit: Sara Larsen)

    As California's San Joaquin River meanders down from the Sierra Nevada across the Central Valley toward the San Francisco Bay, it loses water to farms and communities along the way. Now, amid drought, a national river conservation agency is calling on California to manage the San Joaquin's much-needed water more efficiently.

    The nonprofit American Rivers announced today (April 9) that it has deemed the San Joaquin the most endangered river in America. The organization highlights 10 rivers each year facing threats and management decisions that could make or break their futures.

    "The San Joaquin has lots of problems from dams, levees and water diversions," said John Cain, the conservation director for California floodplain management at American Rivers. "It's had these problems for a long time, but this year, it's really at a tipping point." [Under Threat: See the 10 Most Endangered Rivers of 2014]

    Fork in the river

    There are two big legislative and management decisions facing the San Joaquin. The first is that the state's Water Resources Control Board is updating its Bay Delta Water Quality Plan. This plan governs the enormous estuary that connects the San Joaquin to the Pacific, the Bay Delta; it's the largest estuary on the west coast of either North or South America, said Eric Wesselman, executive director of the California conservation organization Friends of the River.

    The estuary is a crucial habitat for fish, including the economically important Chinook salmon, Wesselman, who was not involved in the American Rivers report, told Live Science. The water board has the power to increase flows down the San Joaquin into the estuary, improving the water and habitat quality. Though there is pressure from agricultural interests to keep that water for irrigation, environmental advocates argue that increased flows are necessary to protect both the environment and the economy.

    "If the estuary collapses, then these fisheries collapse," Wesselman said.

    There are also farmers near the estuary who would prefer more water get downstream, Cain added. And 23 million Californians get drinking water from the San Joaquin and south delta.

    "Today, that supply is really compromised by the low quality and quantity of the San Joaquin river," Cain said.

    The San Joaquin and its tributaries are extensively dammed, and water diversions remove 70 percent of the natural flow of the river, American Rivers reports. More than 100 miles (160 kilometers) of the river have run dry for half a century because of the diversions.

    A second tipping point for the river involves attempts in Congress to overturn a settlement agreement to restore the San Joaquin. This settlement, hard-won over the course of two decades of litigation, is threatened by the pressures on the river's water. The problems have only worsened as California's drought drags on. In February, the Fresno Bee newspaper reported that planned water releases for the restoration have been put on hold until at least 2015.

    The drought is "like putting gasoline on the fire for water politics," Wesselman said.

    Water solutions

    The drought, however, is not the reason American Rivers chose to highlight the San Joaquin this year, Cain said. The river's problems run deep, and would require a solution no matter how much rain California was getting, he said.

    American Rivers is urging Californians to push for a sustainable management plan for the San Joaquin. Wesselman said that probably the most efficient route for reaching the Water Resources Control Board's ear is to pressure the state's governor, Jerry Brown, who appoints the board. [See Images of the San Joaquin River]

    Nationally, citizens can urge their senators to oppose attempts to overturn state and federal laws that safeguard rivers from excessive diversion, Cain said.

    "What we're advocating for is better water management regimes so that there is enough water for farms and fish," Cain said. "That would really require water conservation in all years and actively recharging our aquifer in wet years, so it can serve as a buffer in dry years."

    About 80 percent of California's water goes to agriculture, so conservation by farmers is key, Wesselman said. Possible solutions include installing drip rather than spray irrigation; planting annual crops such as lettuce that can be tailored to wet and dry years versus plants such as nut trees that must be watered no matter the weather; and lining canals so that precious water doesn't seep into the soil instead of irrigating crops.

    "The drought, in a way, is the opportunity for California to put itself on a path to a sustainable water future," Wesselman said.

    American Rivers highlighted nine other endangered rivers in its report, as well. Threats range from excessive diversions to outdated dams to polluted runoff. The full list is:

    1. San Joaquin River, California

    2. Upper Colorado River, Colorado

    3. Middle Mississippi River, Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky

    4. Gila River, New Mexico

    5. San Francisquito Creek, California

    6. South Fork Edisto River, South Carolina

    7. White River, Colorado

    8. White River, Washington

    9. Haw River, North Carolina

    10. Clearwater and Lochsa rivers, Idaho

    Follow Stephanie Pappas on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

    Copyright 2014 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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    Thursday, April 10, 2014
    Visitors walk under the new experimental aircraft
    Visitors walk under the new experimental aircraft "Solar Impulse 2" during the official presentation at the airbase in Payerne, Switzerland, Wednesday, April 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Keystone, Laurent Gillieron)

    PAYERNE, Switzerland (AP) - The Swiss-made airplane built for the first round-the-world solar flight has wings longer than a Boeing 747 jumbo jet yet weighs only about as much as a large car.

    The Solar Impulse 2, unveiled to the world Wednesday at Switzerland's Payerne Air Force Base, is a bigger and better version of the single-seater prototype that first took flight five years ago.

    The original plane demonstrated that a solar-powered plane can fly through the night, hop from Europe to Africa and cross the width of the United States.

    But its successor needs to be able to stay in the air far longer, because the pilots expect the lumbering aircraft to take at least five days and five nights to cross the Pacific and Atlantic oceans on its journey around the globe next year.

    The new version can theoretically stay airborne indefinitely, according to Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, who founded the Solar Impulse project over a decade ago. Piccard and Borschberg, who will pilot the plane, admit that now they are the weakest link.

    To help them, the plane has an autopilot function, a toilet, a comfortable business-class seat and enough space in the ergonomic cockpit for the pilot to lie down and either exercise a little bit, or get some rest.

    "I mean, the airplane can fly a month. The question is, What can the pilot do?" Borschberg said in an Associated Press interview. "So we have a sustainable airplane in terms of energy; we need to develop a sustainable pilot now."

    American businessman and adventurer Steve Fossett completed the longest nonstop flight in aviation history in 2006, flying 26,389 miles in about 76 hours but stopping early because of mechanical problems.

    Compared to its predecessor, Solar Impulse 2 has better batteries for storing energy soaked up from the sun by the roughly 17,200 solar cells that cover the massive wings, which at 72 meters (236 feet) are equal to those of the largest passenger airplanes.

    The wingspan, in fact, is eight meters longer than the first prototype - longer even than the wings of a Boeing 747 - but the entire airplane still weighs only 2.3 metric tons (2.54 tons), about the same as a family vehicle. To maintain its weight budget, the materials in the updated plane are lighter than before, and it has more efficient electric motors.

    That's important, because while the journey will be broken up into several stages, the aircraft's maximum speed of 140 kilometers per hour (87 mph) means it will have to stay in the air for several days in a row during the long transoceanic legs.

    "I think we're going to be in this cockpit being aware of the privilege it is to fly in the first and only airplane that can stay in the air forever," Piccard told AP.

    Borschberg said the trip next year would take about 20 flying days, spread over three months. The pilots said they wanted to unveil the plane now because they just finished building it and will test it during May and June.

    The first plane needed perfect weather each day to recharge the battery, and it was smaller and not built to be as trouble-free.

    The new plane can cross small cloud layers, and "if it's partly cloudy during the day we can cope with that as well," Borschberg told AP. It can't fly in thunderstorms, but because it has no fuel restrictions the pilots can more easily wait out bad weather.

    Borschberg said the pilots are training to fly long periods in a flight simulator, then resting for very short periods, using yoga, meditation, and breathing techniques. In simulations the pilots also are experimenting, he said, with flying four days and sleeping just two hours a day, split into 20-minute stages.

    "It's learning how do I feel, how do I react when I am too tired? It's an exploration of oneself at the same time," he said.

    The solitary nature of the flight could be a problem. But adding a second seat would have meant adding too much weight to the plane because another parachute and more oxygen, water and food also would have been needed.

    The purpose of the round-the-world flight is to showcase cutting-edge renewable technologies developed by some 80 companies involved in the project. The plane is so energy efficient, Piccard said, that if its various technologies were deployed elsewhere the world could halve its energy use in transportation, construction, housing, heating and cooling, and lighting.

    "What we really wanted to demonstrate is how many incredible things we can make with renewable energies, with clean technologies," he said. "Because so often we believe that clean technologies is a limit, for comfort, for mobility, for prosperity. And it's the opposite."

    RELATED ON SKYE: Breathtaking New Photos of Earth From Space

     

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    Thursday, April 10, 2014

    Astrophotographer Amir H. Abolfath snapped this view of the total lunar eclipse of Dec. 10, 2011, from an observing spot in the Zagros mountains of Iran. Abolfath is a photographer with the skywatching imagery group The World At Night (TWAN)

    There has been a lot of interest recently in an upcoming series of lunar eclipses that begins April 15. These are usually described as "four blood moons" and taken by some to prophesy upcoming disasters.

    The total lunar eclipse of April 15 will begin a so-called tetrad series of eclipses that is making the rounds online as a potential harbinger of doom, due in part to a recent book on the four blood moons that makes the dubious claim.

    Astronomers rarely if ever use the term blood moon. When they do, they are usually using it as an alternate name for the Hunter's Moon, the full moon that follows the Harvest Moon, usually in late October. The Hunter's Moon, like the Harvest Moon, rises slowly on autumn evenings so that it shines through a thick layer of the Earth's atmosphere, and is colored red by Rayleigh scattering and air pollution. [Four Blood Moons: Lunar Eclipse Tetrad Explained (Video)]

    Lunar eclipses explained

    A lunar eclipse is something quite different. It occurs when the moon passes through the Earth's shadow.

    The Earth's shadow consists of two parts: a dark inner core called the "umbra," and a lighter outer part called the "penumbra." Rather than being truly dark, the inner shadow is usually tinted orange or red by light passing through the ring of atmosphere surrounding the Earth.

    Depending on the atmospheric conditions on Earth in the band of atmosphere through which the sun's light is passing, the umbra may take on a range of colors from light coppery-red to almost total black. The light illuminating an eclipsed moon is coming from thousands of sunsets and sunrises around the Earth. During some eclipses, these sunsets and sunrises are clear, and much light passes through; during others, clouds may block the light, causing a dark eclipse.

    The blood moon

    On rare occasions, the light reaching the moon is exactly the color of blood, but there is no way of predicting this in advance. So there are no grounds to call any particular lunar eclipse a blood moon until it actually shows its color.

    Because the moon's orbit is slightly tilted with respect to the sun's path across the sky, most of the time the moon passes above or below the Earth's shadow, and no eclipse occurs. Sometimes it passes only through the penumbra and produces what is called a penumbral eclipse, a moon so lightly shaded that the casual observer might not even notice a difference. There were two such penumbral eclipses in 2013, on May 25 and Oct. 18. [Total Lunar Eclipses: Blood Red Moon Explained (Video)]

    Sometimes the moon only dips slightly into the central shadow, and it produces a partial lunar eclipse. One of these occurred last year, on April 25.

    The rarest of all lunar eclipses are those in which the moon passes through the darkest part of the shadow, a true total lunar eclipse. This last happened on Dec. 10, 2011.

    Four Blood Moons: The lunar eclipse tetrad

    What is unusual about this month's lunar eclipse is that it is the first of a series of four total lunar eclipses in a row. Called a tetrad, such a series of four total eclipses in a row is a fairly rare event. The last such series happened in the years 2003 and 2004. It will only occur seven more times in the current century.

    So while a tetrad of total lunar eclipses is somewhat rare, it is not extraordinarily so, and probably nothing to make a fuss about. After all, the only thing that happens during a lunar eclipse is that the moon spends a couple of hours passing through the Earth's shadow, hardly something to be concerned about.

    Unfortunately, there are still many superstitious people in the world. Such is the case in the book "Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change" (Worthy Publishing, 2013) by John Hagee, which suggests a link between the new total lunar eclipse tetrad and biblical prophecy about the end times.

    When the mechanisms behind eclipses were less well understood, they were thought to be omens of bad tidings, just as comets were. Now people know that these are just normal events in the clockwork of the solar system, things which have occurred regularly for thousands of years and which will occur for thousands of years into the future.

    Associations between "disastrous" events and normal astronomical events are all fabrications of the human mind, as people attempt to find explanations for why disasters affect them. Because of the Internet and cable news channels, people now hear reports of disasters from around the world, including earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions, which they never would have been aware of in the past. It's almost inevitable that something bad will happen right after an eclipse or a visit from a comet.

    As an ardent skywatcher who derives much pleasure from beautiful events like lunar eclipses, it saddens me that there are "prophets of doom" in the world who view these life-enriching events as portents of disaster.

    The good news about these forthcoming lunar eclipses is that all four will be visible to most skywatchers in North America. I hope that you will manage to observe one or more of them, and share their beauty with your friends. The eclipse on April 15 will require most North Americans to stay up into the wee hours of the morning, but it will be well worth it.

    This article was provided to Space.com by Simulation Curriculum, the leader in space science curriculum solutions and the makers of Starry Night and SkySafari. Follow Starry Night on Twitter @StarryNightEdu. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.

    Copyright 2014 SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 15 Stunning Photos of the Moon

     

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    Friday, April 11, 2014
    FILE - In this May 20, 2013, file photo, a tornado moves through Moore, Okla. as northbound traffic on Interstate 35 stops at Indian Hills Road in Moore, Okla. The National Weather Service in Norman has used Twitter and Facebook for years to disseminate weather warnings. But they tried a new approach recently, holding an online ìtornado drill.î (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams, File)
    In this May 20, 2013, file photo, a tornado moves through Moore, Okla., as northbound traffic on Interstate 35 stops at Indian Hills Road in Moore, Okla. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams, File)

    There is the potential for severe thunderstorms to erupt over a portion of the South Central states on Sunday as warmth and chill collide.

    Warm air will surge northeastward Sunday and Monday over the eastern third of the nation, while a chilly air mass pushes southward across the Plains.

    While the pattern will bring some of the warmest weather since early last October to parts of the Northeast and an April snowstorm to Denver and vicinity, it is also likely to ignite robust thunderstorms from portions of central and northeastern Texas to parts of Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri.

    Travel along portions of I-20, I-35, I-30 and I-40 could be impact by the storms. Cities that could be hit with some of the storms include Dallas; Little Rock, Ark.; Shreveport, La.; and Springfield, Mo.

    At this early stage, the potential impacts of the storms cover the full spectrum of severe weather, ranging from damaging wind gusts and large hail to flash flooding, frequent lightning strikes and a few tornadoes.

    More will be known on the precise nature, timing and areal coverage of the storms over the next couple of days. However, the most likely time for damaging storms is from the mid-afternoon Sunday into the first part of Sunday night.

    What typically happens in a situation like this is spotty storms ignite ahead of an advancing cold front during the afternoon hours. These storms bring a higher risk for isolated tornadoes as they mature into severe thunderstorms. During the evening, the storms tend to grow together, move along at a brisk pace and form what is known as a squall line, or perhaps a dangerous cluster of storms, known as a mesoscale convective system (MCS).

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    Both systems can bring sudden shifting and damaging winds, while an MCS can bring both damaging wind gusts and flooding rainfall. A squall line can bring brief blinding rain.

    The storms have the potential to spoil a Sunday stroll or picnic and cause travel delays for those heading home from weekend adventures.

    Sunday, storms and a few other batches of severe weather are occurring in a zone expected to be the prime area for severe weather during April.

    Prior to the severe weather risk on Sunday, a few of areas can be affected by locally gusty, drenching thunderstorms with hail.

    One area to watch is over the Ohio Valley and the central High Plains during Thursday afternoon and evening.

    A few storms from northern Arkansas and southern Missouri to the Delmarva Peninsula can be locally heavy and gusty during Friday.

    On Saturday, there is a chance of locally gusty thunderstorms around Nebraska, Iowa, eastern Kansas and northern Missouri.

    People can keep track of forecast adjustments on the severe weather by checking back on AccuWeather.com or with mobile Apps.

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    Friday, April 11, 2014

    In this photo taken on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, at a hatchery in Parkdale, Ore., hatchery technician Keith Moody feeds about 30,000 salmon smolts in a rearing pond. (AP Photo/Gosia Wozniacka)

    Baby salmon have been taking a road trip by land instead of the normal river route because of the extended California drought.

    The 2016 fishing season will rely on the survival of the salmon hatchlings hitching a ride to the Delta, according to a recent press release. California's salmon industry currently rakes in $1.4 billion, annually, and employs tens of thousands of people from Santa Barbara to northern Oregon.

    "As more and more fresh water is extracted from the Sacramento River and Delta for delivery to San Joaquin Valley agribusiness, the salmon's migration corridor downstream and through the Bay-Delta estuary has become a deadly gauntlet," Zeke Grader, who is the executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations and vice chairman of the Golden Gate Salmon Association, said.

    "Add drought, and the Central Valley rivers and Delta become virtually impassable for salmon."

    The salmon-truck run goes from Coleman National Fish Hatchery near Redding, Calif., to the San Francisco Bay and its delta. California officials also planned similar efforts, Spokesman Andrew Hughan of the California Department of Fish & Wildlife said.

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    There has been some rain during the last month in Northern California, but now the state is moving into its dry season where the amount of rain is normally minimal, AccuWeather.com Western Weather Expert Ken Clark said.

    "It won't have any effect on improving the drought status at all," he said. "But I doubt it gets much worse right now."

    The amount of water coming out of the California foothills will be noticeably less on streams, potentially affecting both fishing and recreational rafting, Clark said.


    RELATED ON SKYE: 7 Surprising Health Effects of Drought

     

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    Friday, April 11, 2014
    INDIO, CA - APRIL 21: Ben Wahamaki of The Lumineers performs on stage at 2013 Coachella Music Festival on April 21, 2013 in Indio, California. (Photo by Helen Boast/Redferns via Getty Images)
    Ben Wahamaki of The Lumineers performs on stage at 2013 Coachella Music Festival on April 21, 2013, in Indio, California. (Photo by Helen Boast/Redferns via Getty Images)

    Warm weather will be in tune this weekend for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, being held in Indio, Calif.

    The first weekend of the festival is set to begin Friday, April 11 and continue through Sunday, April 13.

    Folks headed to the festival can expect dry weather with temperatures within a few degrees of 90 F each day.

    Although those going to the festival may welcome the dry weather, it is still important to be prepared for other aspects of the weather.

    Keeping hydrated and staying protected from the sun should be in the minds of everyone at the festival, from the fans in the audience to the lead singer of your favorite band.

    Wearing sunscreen, light-colored clothing and sunglasses will help protect those planning on spending long periods of time out in the sun.

    Drinking water is the best way to stay hydrated. Beverages such as soft drinks and alcohol will only accelerate dehydration.

    Friday is forecast to be the hottest day at the festival with afternoon temperatures topping out in the mid-90s.

    This will be followed up by a cooler, more seasonable day on Saturday with highs in the middle to upper 80s.

    Despite the afternoon heat, things will cool off during the overnight hours, dipping down into the upper 50s or lower 60s.

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    Early indications are showing that similar conditions will be in play next weekend for the second half of the festival.

    Weekend two of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is set to start on Friday, April 18, and last until Sunday, April 20.

    With the second weekend shaping up to be nearly a carbon copy of the first, those attending both weekends should take the same precautions to stay protected from the afternoon heat and the blazing sun.

     

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