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    Monday, April 21, 2014
    Relatives of climber killed in an avalanche on Mount Everest wait for the rally to start in Katmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 21, 2014.Buddhist monks cremated the remains of Sherpa guides who were buried in the deadliest avalanche ever recorded on Mount Everest, a disaster that has prompted calls for a climbing boycott by Nepal's ethnic Sherpa community. The avalanche killed at least 13 Sherpas. Three other Sherpas remain missing and are presumed dead. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)
    Relatives of Nepalese climbers killed in an avalanche on Mount Everest, wait for the funeral procession to begin in Katmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)

    KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) - Buddhist monks cremated the remains of Sherpa guides who were buried in the deadliest avalanche to hit Mount Everest, a disaster that has prompted calls for a climbing boycott by Nepal's ethnic Sherpa community.

    A Sherpa boycott could critically disrupt the Everest climbing season, which is key to the livelihood of thousands of Nepali guides and porters. Everest climbers have long relied on Sherpas for everything from hauling gear to cooking food to high-altitude guiding.

    At least 13 Sherpas were killed when a block of ice tore loose from the mountain and triggered a cascade that ripped through teams of guides hauling gear. Three Sherpas missing in Friday's avalanche are presumed dead.

    "Right now, I can't even think of going back to the mountain," said Tashi Dorje, whose cousin was killed. "We have not just lost our family members, but it is a loss for the whole mountaineering community and the country."

    Hundreds of people lined the streets of Nepal's capital, Katmandu, on Monday as the bodies of six of the victims were driven in open trucks decorated with Buddhist flags.

    During the cremation ceremony, dozens of nuns chanted for the victims' souls to be released as the bodies were covered in pine branches. A daughter of one of the climbers fainted and was taken to the hospital.

    While the work on Everest is dangerous, it has also become the most sought-after work for many Sherpas. A top high-altitude guide can earn $6,000 in a three-month climbing season, nearly 10 times Nepal's $700 average annual salary.

    The avalanche came just as climbing was to begin in earnest, with mountaineers set to begin moving above base camp and slowly acclimatizing to the altitude on the world's highest mountain. Most attempts to reach the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) summit occur in mid-May, when weather is at its most favorable.

    Since the avalanche, the Sherpas have expressed anger that there has not been a bigger response from Nepal's government, which profits from the permit fees charged to the climbing expeditions.

    Ang Tshering of the Nepal Mountaineering Association said Sherpa guides are considering a climbing boycott to press their demands. Without the guides, it would be nearly impossible for expedition teams to continue.

    Tshering said there were about 400 foreign climbers from 39 expedition teams on the mountain and equal number of Sherpa guides, along with many more support staff such as cooks, cleaners and porters in the base camp.

    The Tourism Ministry, which handles the mountaineering affairs, said it has not been told of any cancellations by expedition teams. Some Sherpas had already left the mountain by Monday, either joining the boycott or mourning their friends and colleagues.

    The government has announced an emergency aid of 40,000 rupees ($415) for the families of the deceased climbers, but the Sherpas are demanding better treatment.

    The "Sherpa guides are heating up, emotions are running wild and demands are being made to the government to share the wealth with the Sherpa people," said a blog post by Tim and Becky Rippel. Tim Rippel, an experienced Himalayan guide and owner of the Canada-based guiding company Peak Freaks, was at base camp when the avalanche happened.

    The post said many Sherpas were frustrated by their tiny share of the millions of dollars that flow into Nepal as a result of the climbing industry.

    "Things are getting very complicated and there is a lot of tension here and it's growing," the Rippels wrote, adding of the Sherpas: "They are our family, our brothers and sisters and the muscle on Everest. We follow their lead, we are guests here."

    The Sherpas want the minimum insurance payment for those killed on Everest to be doubled to 2 million rupees ($20,800), and a portion of the climbing fee charged by the government to be reserved for a relief fund. They also want the government to build a monument in the capital in memory of those killed in the avalanche.

    On Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Prakash Man Singh said the government has been working to help the Sherpas since the rescue began. "We will do what we can, keeping with the standard practice to provide compensation," he said.

    Sherpa Pasang of the Nepal National Mountain Guide Association said they have handed over a list of demands to the government seeking 10 million rupees ($10,400) for the families of dead, missing and injured Sherpa guides in immediate financial aid. They also want assurance that the government will bring regulations to protect them in the future.

    "The government has made no big response even after a big tragedy like this. Until they hear our pleas we will continue to put pressure," he said, adding they plan to meet top government officials later in the week.

    Hundreds of people, both foreigners and Sherpas, have died trying to reach the summit, and about a quarter of the deaths occurred in avalanches, climbing officials say.

    The previous worst disaster on Everest had been a fierce blizzard on May 11, 1996, that killed eight climbers, including famed mountaineer Rob Hall, and was memorialized in a book, "Into Thin Air," by Jon Krakauer.

    More than 4,000 climbers have reached the top of Everest since 1953, when the mountain was first conquered by New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 10 Amazing Survival Stories from Mount Everest


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    Monday, April 22, 2014
    Storm clouds over rural landscape

    A potent area of low pressure moving into the West will dictate the weather from Washington to Texas heading into the new week.

    The biggest impacts will be felt on Tuesday and Wednesday as the system delivers rain, snow, howling winds and severe thunderstorms to different portions of the West.

    Folks in the Northwest and the Rockies will want to keep their umbrellas handy both days as the slow-moving system spreads rain across the regions with some showers even dipping down into central California.

    The Cascades and Sierras are also expected to pick up some snow as well as the higher elevations of the Rockies.

    While moisture from this system will fail to reach the Southwest, it will still bring howling winds to parts of the region with wind gusts topping 40 mph.

    The combination of these strong winds and the unusually dry weather will result in a heightened risk of wildfires from Nevada to New Mexico on Tuesday.

    This area is expected to expand eastward heading into Wednesday, reaching into western parts of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

    If you are in the area being influenced by these gusty winds, you should take extra precautions to help prevent wildfires.

    Most wildfires in the United States are caused by humans. Even a smoldering cigarette can be enough to start a fire given the right conditions.

    In addition to the threat of wildfires, these winds may also kick up a few dust storms.

    Visibility can be significantly reduced for several hours as these storms pass through, making travel near impossible.

    Forecast Temperature Maps
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    While rain dampens the Northwest and winds whip the Four Corners, a different type of weather looks to develop over the Plains.

    Following a dry Tuesday, severe weather will erupt from Nebraska to western Texas on Wednesday afternoon and continue into Tuesday night.

    Storms that develop in this area will have the potential to produce damaging winds, large hail and even a few tornadoes.

    Looking ahead to the second half of the week, settled weather looks to make a return to much of the West as the low pressure system tracks eastward.

    However, another batch of rain may move into the Pacific Northwest right on the heels of this system.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 50 Incredible Photos of Forces of Nature
    Volcano Eruption


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    Monday, April 21, 2014

    A satellite image of the 2011 Las Conchas Fire in New Mexico shows the burned areas in magenta and the unburned areas in green. (Credit: Philip Dennison/MTBS)

    Across the western United States, wildfires grew bigger and more frequent in the past 30 years, according to a new study that blames climate change and drought for the worsening flames.

    "It's not just something that is localized to forest or grasslands or deserts," said lead study author Phil Dennison, a geographer at the University of Utah. "Every region in the West is experiencing an increase in fire. These fire trends are very consistent with everything we know about how climate change should impact fire in the West," Dennison told Live Science.

    The number of fires jumped by seven per year since 1984, and fires burned an additional 90,000 acres (36,000 hectares) each year, according to the study, published online April 4 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. [Yosemite Aflame: The Rim Fire in Photos]

    Dennison and his co-authors aren't the first to note that Western wildfires are getting worse. But with so many different landscapes in the West, from alpine forests to inland deserts, the reasons underlying the trend have been hotly debated. Causes could include bark beetle infestation, fire suppression policies, severe droughts, global warming and population increases in fire-prone areas.

    "There are a lot of different causes for fire and a lot of different things that contribute to a fire regime, and those vary tremendously across the West," Dennison said.

    But because the bump in wildfires seen in the study is so widespread, Dennison thinks one main factor likely underlies the trend: climate change.

    "This is over too short of a period to say this is definitely climate change, but it does point in the direction of changing climate having an impact on fire," he said.

    Dennison and his co-authors analyzed satellite data from the Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity Project. This relatively new database goes back to 1984 and contains all fires that burned more 1,000 acres (400 hectares) in the United States. They examined nine "ecoregions" - such as the Rocky Mountains, the Southwest desert and the Southern plains - and some 6,800 fires.

    Between 1984 and 2011, the increase in fire activity was greatest in regions that were also hit hard by drought, the researchers found. This includes the Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevada and Arizona-New Mexico mountains; the Southwest desert in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and parts of Texas; and the Southern plains across western Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and eastern Colorado.

    "Most of these trends show strong correlations with drought-related conditions, which, to a large degree, agree with what we expect from climate change projections," said Max Moritz, a study co-author and fire specialist at the University of California-Berkeley Cooperative Extension.

    Email Becky Oskin or follow her @beckyoskin. 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.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 50 Incredible Photos of Forces of Nature
    Volcano Eruption


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    Monday, April 21, 2014
    Lyrid meteor shower
    Astrophotographer Jeff Berkes captured this Lyrid meteor in the marshlands of southern Maryland on April 14, 2013. (Jeff Berkes)

    The Lyrid meteor shower peaks tonight (April 21) and if Mother Nature spoils your "shooting stars" display with bad weather, you can watch the celestial light show live online with two webcasts.

    The annual Lyrid meteor shower occurs every year when Earth passes through debris left behind by Comet Thatcher, which makes a full orbit of the sun once every 415 years. At its peak this year - which is expected to happen in the pre-dawn hours Tuesday (April 22) - the Lyrid shower should produce about 20 meteors per hour. You can watch the Lyrid meteor shower webcasts on Space.com via the online Slooh community telescope and NASA.

    The Slooh webcast will begin at 8 p.m. EDT (0000 April 22 GMT). You can also watch it directly on www.slooh.com. NASA's webcast will begin at 8:30 p.m. EDT (0030 April 22 GMT) and last through the night. You can follow NASA's live webcast directly at:
    http://www.nasa.gov/topics/solarsystem/features/watchtheskies/lyrids-ustream-2014.html. Both webcasts depend on clear skies for good views of the meteor shower. [Amazing Lyrid Meteor Shower Photos from 2013 (Gallery)]

    "Best viewing will be midnight until dawn on the morning of April 22, provided you have clear, dark skies away from city lights," NASA officials wrote in a skywatching advisory. "Northern Hemisphere observers will have a better show than those in the Southern Hemisphere."

    The Lyrid meteor shower has been observed for nearly 2,600 years. Chinese astronomers were the first to record the meteor display in 687 B.C.E., Slooh representatives said in a statement.

    "This is not one of the top meteor showers of the year like the Perseids and the Geminids, still the Lyrids produce around 20 meteors an hour, and they are moderately fast - coming in at 110,000 miles per hour," Slooh astronomer Bob Berman said in a webcast advisory. "That's about 30 miles per second, which is nearly 60 times faster than a rifle bullet."

    Stargazers in dark areas with clear weather could see some meteors. But the waning gibbous moon will probably wash out most of the show this year, meteor shower expert Bill Cooke of NASA told Space.com. "I would not set high expectations," Cooke said.

    Lyrid meteors appear to emanate from the star Vega in the constellation Lyra, the Harp.

    Meteor showers are created when pieces of space debris strike Earth's upper atmosphere. The bits of dust and rock heat up to extreme temperatures and glow, creating the streaks seen during meteor showers. Meteors compress the air in front of them, which heats the air, and in turn, heats the bits of debris.

    When in space, bits of space material - like the debris that creates the Lyrid meteor shower - are known as meteoroids. As they streak through the atmosphere, they are called meteors and any bits of rock that make it to Earth's surface are labeled meteorites.

    Follow Miriam Kramer @mirikramer and Google+. 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: 10 Breathtaking Photos of Comets


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    Monday, April 21, 2014

    A huge iceberg that broke off of Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier is heading toward the Southern Ocean, satellite images show.

    Between November 2013 and March 2014, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) -- an instrument on NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites -- tracked the massive iceberg as it drifted across Pine Island Bay in the Amundsen Sea. A time-lapse video also shows the motion of the ice island.

    Scientists are now monitoring the area surrounding the big 'berg. Icebergs from Antarctica can move north and threaten southern shipping lanes.

    "The iceberg got out beyond the bay, and looks like it's heading out into the Southern Ocean at the moment," Grant Bigg, of the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, told Live Science. "It's just at the cusp point to see whether it's a shipping hazard." [Gargantuan Iceberg - 8X Manhattan-Size – Has Left Glacier I Time-Lapse Video]

    As of April 11, 2014, the iceberg -- now called B31 -- measured 18 by 11 nautical miles (21 by 13 miles, or 33 by 20 kilometers), the U.S. National Ice Center reported. The island "has remained pretty much the same shape since early December and is still about six times the size of Manhattan," Bigg told NASA's Earth Observatory.

    Bigg's research team has been using synthetic aperture radar and visible satellite imagery to track the ice island and model its motion.

    "It has been surprising how there have been periods of almost no motion, interspersed with rapid flow," Bigg told NASA. "There were a couple of occasions early on when there might have been partial grounding or collisions with the seafloor, as B31 bounced from one side of the bay to the other."

    Researchers are still trying to figure out why the giant ice chunk calved from Pine Island Glacier, according to NASA's Earth Observatory. Scientists have been particularly interested in Pine Island Glacier in the past two decades because it has become thinner and has been draining quickly and, therefore, has contributed significantly to sea level rise.

    Follow Agata Blaszczak-Boxe on Twitter. Follow Our Amazing Planet @OAPlanet, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Live Science's Our Amazing Planet.

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


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    Tuesday, April 22, 2014

    Women look for their belongings after a tornado destroyed their home near San Pedro, in Misiones province, Argentina, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2009. (AP Photo/Ramon Gonzalez-El Territorio)

    The United States is unique in the frequent amount of tornadoes it experiences yearly. However, it is not the only country that possesses the prime ingredients and topography to harness these often life-threatening storms. Tornadoes are most often associated with continents in the mid-latitudes (Northern South America, South Mexico, Northern Australia, Southern Asia and most of Africa).

    "You can look at tornadoes like a family line. They start with a thunderstorm then require a change in wind veering and height to put a spin on the storm in the troposphere. That's the parent of a tornado, and it needs a very special environment to survive," AccuWeather Meteorologist Jim Andrews said.

    However, it is widely agreed upon that more than one location on the globe contains the selective environment to produce these violent storms. Besides areas in North America, South America, particularly Argentina and Brazil, receive a great deal of hail and tornadoes annually.

    "Internationally, we don't have a lot of data or reporting services, so it's difficult to say where the tornado alleys are internationally but if you look in a region of Córdoba, Argentina, down towards Buenos Aires and in Santa Catarina, Brazil, that's where the most tornadic storms happen. It's where we can see the biggest hail and where the most frequent hail falls on the planet and with that big hail you're likely to get a large number of tornadoes," Harold Brooks, senior scientist of Forecast Research and Development Division for NOAA, said.

    A Bangladeshi girl checks her doll in the wreckage of her home after a tornado hit the area at Dubula village in Brahmanbaria district, Bangladesh, Saturday, March 23, 2013.(AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)

    Comparing tornado frequency of South America to that of North America, there are similarities but the differences lie in how the tornadoes form in the two very different locations. For example, the infamous "tornado alley" gets a large source of its moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, whereas other locations pull much-needed moisture from a number of different sources.

    "You bring air over the Andes and the drawback you have there is that the Andes are taller than the Rockies. They're [the Andes] not as wide so the air doesn't spend as much time over that range of mountains. The Amazon is a source of moisture and even though it's really moist, it's not nearly as good as having a body of water near it [like the Gulf of Mexico in the United States Great Plains, for example]," Brooks said.

    North America, including northern Canada, receives its moisture, a key ingredient to producing tornadoes, from the Gulf of Mexico as well.

    "The Canadian experience is essentially an extended U.S. experience. It does take a lot longer for them to get moisture up from the Gulf of Mexico and as you go further along into their growing season, there is a lot of recycling of water vapor from plants so you end up getting a lot of moisture," Brooks said.

    Another international region to consider is the Indian Subcontinent, which is often associated with a monsoon season but not tornadoes. Andrews said tornadoes do not happen frequently here, but when they do strike, they are very severe.

    "Winters in this region are typically dry, the weather quite literally springs to life in the warmer months and it tends to become a very moist flow over the Bay of Bengal. If a very weak cold front were to move along the jet stream, it could produce some very severe weather," Andrews said.

    Areas near the mountain ranges that experience colder air yet are close enough to a source of moisture will see tornadoes.

    "We have tornadoes near Bangladesh and in the vicinity of the Himalayas," Brooks said.

    Rain storm in the Outback, Northern Territory, Australia. (Photo/Thinkstock)

    According to the AccuWeather almanac, in 1969, the city of Dhaka, India, experienced violent storms with estimated 90-mph wind gusts and the world's heaviest hail storm to date. Pieces of hail were found in Gopalganj, India, weighing in at 2.25 pounds; 540 people were killed in Bangladesh.

    Tornadoes often favor a large region of flat lands. The Bhubaneswar region of India, a flat river delta, is a prime location for a tornado to form. Mountains aren't bad for tornadoes, but they typically don't like to happen there, Andrews said, which is why areas like Australia may not get as many tornadoes.

    "Australia is limited by the fact that the area east of the Great Dividing Range and the Range itself aren't very high like the Rockies. The area west isn't very big so there is not much room to make storms or tornadoes. You're essentially saying, 'What would happen to storms in the U.S., if the Colorado-Kansas border was suddenly ocean?' The answer would be that there wouldn't be a whole lot of room in order to make storms and that's the same limitation in Australia," Brooks said.

    Sharing similar qualities in landscape to Australia, there are parts of even South Africa that resemble the popular region deemed as "tornado alley," in the United States.

    "Southeastern South Africa, most of which is a plateau [The Drakensberg Plateau], is about 1,500 meters above sea level. There is a small coastal region at sea level from Durban down toward Port Elizabeth that is the kind of place in South Africa that has the same kind of setup as Australia does. Except instead of a mountain range, it's kind of a nice sort of flat area that everything falls off which in some sense resembles eastern New Mexico or West Texas," Brooks said.

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    European countries such as France and Italy are no exception either, Andrews said.

    "France has been known to have quite a few tornadoes as well as Italy. One in particular comes to mind, in Taranto, Italy, in 2012, where it completely destroyed a steel plant and left a lot of people injured. People often forget that Italy is a very stormy place, especially in the spring and fall. It's no tornado alley, but it has its moments," Andrews said.

    There is research both for and against the multiple locations in the United States where conditions are prime to nurture a tornado. There are also several international locations that can claim the same.

    "[Tornadoes] can happen just about anywhere if the conditions are just right," Brooks said.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 10 Amazing Things Found in the Tornado Rubble


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    Tuesday, April 22, 2014

    Holland America Line employee Danielle Stoeck picks Japanese Knotweed, an invasive species, during Seattle Cruise Industry Employee Volunteer Day, on Tuesday, April 23, 2013, at Golden Gardens Park in Seattle. (Stephen Brashear/AP Images for Cruise Line International Association)

    Rain and thunderstorms are set to dampen Earth Day events across portions of the United States on Tuesday.

    Tuesday marks the 44th annual Earth Day, which started in 1970 to highlight environmental issues. Since then, over 1 billion acts of green have taken place.

    In Philadelphia, Greensgrow Farms is sponsoring a neighborhood greening event that participants will help plant flowers in various locations around the city. While a couple of showers and thunderstorms are forecast, much of the event -- which is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. EDT Tuesday -- will be rain-free.

    "The wet weather should hold off in Philadelphia until 3 or 4 p.m. Tuesday," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist John Gresiak said.

    Similar weather is expected in Washington, D.C., where the National Zoo is sponsoring some events.

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    A cold front will be responsible for the thundery rain as it advances from the Appalachians toward the East Coast Tuesday afternoon and evening.

    Events at the Atlanta Botanical Garden will be impacted by some showers and thunderstorms along the same cold front.

    While there will be some rain and thunderstorms in the East, severe weather is not forecast. However, if you hear thunder during these events, seek shelter. Remember to pack an umbrella or poncho.

    Allow extra travel time, since showers and storms may reduce visibility and create slick roads.

    Meanwhile, a chilly storm will advance into the Northwest on Tuesday, ushering in plenty of clouds, rain and gusty winds.

    Some Seattle area schools are planning to take classes outdoors at the Seward Park Environmental and Audubon Center to work on a restoration project in the park.

    "It will be mostly cloudy and cool with showers, but they'll be most numerous in the morning," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist and Western Expert Ken Clark said.

    Farther south, residents in the San Francisco Bay area will help revive Lafayette Square Park in Oakland, Calif.

    "Windy and cool weather will impact those in the Bay area," Clark said. "Clouds along with a shower or two will be around in the morning, but sunshine will return by the afternoon."

    While events will occur throughout the week across the country, many are planned for this upcoming weekend. Events are scheduled near Philadelphia, Baton Rouge, La., and Yosemite National Park on Saturday. Another pair of storms across the West and East may dampen these events.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Breathtaking Images of Earth from Space


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    Tuesday, April 22, 2014

    While remaining on a localized level through Tuesday, severe weather will ramp up across the Plains on Wednesday.

    The stage is being set for violent thunderstorms to line the central and southern Plains later Wednesday afternoon and night, from Nebraska to west-central Texas.

    Cities in the path of the outbreak include North Platte, McCook, Omaha and Grand Island, Neb.; Dodge City and Russell, Kan.; Gage and Clinton, Okla.; and Childress, Abilene and San Angelo, Texas.

    The worst of the severe weather, at this point, is expected to remain to the north and west of Wichita, Kan., but the city may still become the target of a strong and gusty thunderstorm overnight Wednesday.

    "If there is no change to the current thinking, [Wednesday] will be a busy day dealing with a myriad of severe weather of all kinds, including large hail, high wind gusts as well as tornadoes," stated AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions Storm Warning Meteorologist Eddie Walker.

    As night falls, more lives could be put at risk as tornadoes will be hard to see and some people may sleep through vital warnings.

    Calculate Your Ecological Footprint
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    The danger for severe thunderstorms and some tornadoes may not end with Wednesday.

    "It seems like at least portions of the eastern Plains into the Mississippi Valley will see severe threats on Thursday," Walker continued.

    AccuWeather.com meteorologists are zoning in on the corridor from central Missouri to southern Wisconsin for the greatest severe weather potential on Thursday.

    All residents across the nation's midsection should continue to check back with AccuWeather.com for the latest updates as the threat zone and severity of the situation is refined.

    The storm system set to trigger the midweek severe weather will first slam the West with rain, mountain snow and strong winds.

    This year's severe weather season has gotten off to an extremely slow start (in terms of climatology), which the AccuWeather.com Long Range team anticipated.

    The below graphic from NOAA's Storm Prediction Center (SPC) shows that the preliminary tornado count so far this year is running well below the minimum value on the inflation adjusted annual tornado trend chart.

    As the graphic declares, the preliminary count for 2014 has been multiplied by 0.85 to remove erroneous extra reports.

    Greg Carbin, Warning Coordination Meteorologist from the SPC, told AccuWeather.com that the bars on the graphic are only estimates and do not represent any year in particular.

    "[The graphic] is an attempt to define the ranges in the running annual total of U.S. tornadoes by removing the positive upward trend in reports of weak tornadoes over the past couple of decades when compared to the longer-term record," Carbin stated.

    The SPC also reported that Saturday was the 153rd day without an EF-3 or stronger tornado touching down in the United States. That is the fourth longest such stretch in the last 60 years.

    Listed third on the list is the 188 days from 1997, while 2004 ranks first with 249 days.

    Related on SKYE: The World's Wettest Places


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    Tuesday, April 22, 2014

    False color scanning electron microscope image of pollen grains from a variety of common plants: sunflower, morning glory, prairie hollyhock, oriental lily, evening primrose and castor bean. [Credit: Public domain image (created by the Dartmouth Electron Microscope Facility)]

    This year's long, brutal winter may mean the country's headed for pollen eruption and a harsh allergy season in the spring, doctors say.

    The freezing temperatures of the prolonged winter may have delayed the blooming of trees, and now that it's finally warming up, trees are expected to bloom at the same time as grasses, causing a dramatic rise in pollen, allergy experts said.

    "People who may have both tree allergies and grass allergies are probably going be doubly impacted, because both of those things are going to be blooming at the same time," said Dr. Lolita McDavid, a pediatrician at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. [The 5 Most Common Allergies]

    About 8 percent of U.S. adults suffer from seasonal allergies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms of these allergies typically include stuffy and runny noses, watery and itchy eyes, sneezing, and wheezing, especially on days with high pollen counts.

    "The allergy seasons seem to be getting intense in the last few years. We are not quite sure why," McDavid said. "We don't know if it's the climate change. It may be."

    Some doctors also contend that people have more allergies today perhaps because they are less exposed to allergens, such as pollen, than they used to be, McDavid said. "We used to get exposed to all kinds of things. We didn't have air conditioning, or air filtration systems."

    The severity of each year's allergy season depends on the temperatures, precipitation and amount of flowering grasses in an area that year, studies have shown.

    This year, in addition to low temperatures, heavy precipitation in many areas of the country, especially in March, may have temporarily suppressed pollen release. But that same precipitation may have actually encouraged the growth of trees and grass, resulting in greater pollen release later in the season, experts said.

    On top of the rain and humidity, melting of the recent snow is also contributing to mold growth, which can worsen allergies, McDavid said.

    To fight off an intense allergy season, McDavid suggests people who have allergies change their clothes when they get home, so that they don't walk around the home with the pollen they brought in.

    Experts also recommend people wash their hair before getting in bed.

    "If you have pollen on your hair and you're sleeping on a pillow, you're basically putting your face back down in the pollen," McDavid said.

    On days with high temperatures and high pollen counts, McDavid suggested people with allergies close the windows and turn on air conditioning.

    Lastly, people can take an antihistamine before going to bed, which helps prevent allergic reactions for 24 hours.

    "You can take them at night, so that you won't be drowsy in the day," McDavid said.

    Email Bahar Gholipour or follow her @alterwired. 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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    April 24, 2014

    The Moon's orbit about the Earth is not perfectly circular, so that at different times the Moon can be slightly closer or further away than usual. This composite shot shows the progress of an annular eclipse in May 2013. [Credit: Jia Hao | The National Maritime Museum | Royal Observatory Greenwich's Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2013]

    The sun will look like a ring of fire above some remote parts of the world next Tuesday (April 29) during a solar eclipse, but most people around the world won't get a chance to see it.

    Whereas lunar eclipses occur only when there's a full moon, and solar eclipses only happen during a new moon. Half the world saw a lunar eclipse during the full moon on April 15. When a lunar eclipse occurs, it usually means there is also a solar eclipse at the preceding or following new moon.

    Tuesday's solar eclipse is known as an "annular" - rather than "total" - lunar eclipse. That's because Tuesday's eclipse will occur when the moon is close to its farthest distance from the Earth, making it too small to cover the sun completely. The resulting effect looks like a ring of fire, called an "annulus," appears around the silhouette of the moon. ['Ring of Fire' Annular Solar Eclipse of April 29, 2014 (Visibility Maps)]

    But most people won't see the whole eclipse. The only place in the world where this annular eclipse will be visible is a small area in Antarctica. However, partial phases of the eclipse will be visible in other places. Most of those areas are in the ocean - rarely traveled ocean, in fact - but the entire continent of Australia will get a good view.

    The best view of the eclipse will be from the island state of Tasmania. From Hobart, the capital of Tasmania, the eclipse will begin with the moon taking a tiny nick out of the sun's edge at 3:51 p.m. local time (0551 GMT). Maximum eclipse will be at 5 p.m. (0700 GMT), and the sun will set at 5:17 p.m. (0717 GMT).

    The farther north you go in Australia, the less the moon will cover the sun. In Sydney, the eclipse will begin at 4:14 p.m. and will be at maximum - 52 percent covered - at 5:15 p.m. The sun will set in eclipse two minutes later.

    Skywatchers in the western parts of Australia will be able to see the end of the solar eclipse. In Perth, the eclipse begins at 1:17 p.m. (0517 GMT), is at maximum (59 percent) at 2:42 p.m. (0642 GMT), and ends at 3:59 p.m. (0759 GMT).

    WARNING: Never look directly at the sun during an eclipse with a telescope or your unaided eye; severe eye damage can result. (Scientists use special filters to safely view the sun.)

    Partial solar eclipses have the greatest potential for eye damage because at no time is the sun completely covered by the moon. The sun itself is no more dangerous during an eclipse. The danger comes from people's desire to look at it, to overcome the natural reflex that forces us to look away from the sun.

    The safest way to view a solar eclipse is to project its image. The easiest way to do so is with a pinhole camera. The longer the projection distance from the pinhole to the viewing screen, the larger the sun will appear. Natural pinholes are often formed by gaps between tree leaves, covering the ground beneath with miniature eclipses. A small mirror on a window ledge can project a fine image on the ceiling or far wall, suitable for viewing by a whole room full of people.

    You should never attempt to look directly at the sun without a proper solar filter, available from telescope stores, planetariums and science centers. This is especially true if you're viewing it through binoculars or a telescope. There is no way to create your own safe filter from ordinary materials, so don't risk it.

    Editor's Note: If you live in the populated visibility path and snap an amazing picture of the April 29 solar eclipse, you can send photos, comments, and your name and location to managing editor Tariq Malik at spacephotos@space.com.

    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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    Thursday, April 24, 2014
    Phinjum Sherpa, 17, daughter of Ang Kaji Sherpa, killed in an avalanche on Mount Everest, lights a butter lamp in front of a portrait of her father in their rented apartment in Katmandu, Nepal, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)

    KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) - Nepal's attempts to salvage the Mount Everest climbing season fell flat Thursday as major expedition companies canceled their climbs and many Sherpas quit the mountain after an avalanche killed 16 of their fellow guides last week.

    While the season has not been officially canceled, guides and Sherpas said it appeared increasingly unlikely that any summit attempts would be made this season from the Nepal side of the mountain.

    "Many of us think this year is not good for climbing and nobody should be going up the mountain at all," Tenzing, a 23-year-old Sherpa who goes by one name, said in a telephone interview from base camp. He described 2014 as a "black year" for Everest.

    "It was bad beginning to the climbing season and it should not get worse," he said.

    Friday's avalanche has laid bare deep resentments over Sherpas' pay, treatment and the disproportionate risks they take to help tourists ascend Everest. Dozens of Sherpas have packed up their gear and left the mountain, saying they want to honor the dead and pressure the government to protect their rights.

    Adrian Ballinger, founder and head guide of Alpenglow Expeditions, said he and most other guide operations on the mountain decided to pull out late Wednesday.

    "We all made the decision that it wasn't worth going against our Sherpas' hearts," he said, adding that he canceled out of respect for the Sherpas on his team.

    A government delegation met with Sherpas at base camp Thursday in an attempt to persuade them to keep working. Although both sides said the meeting calmed tensions somewhat, there was no sign that it would salvage the season.

    At least six expedition companies have canceled their climbs for 2014.

    After Thursday's meeting, Tourism Minister Bhim Acharya, who led the government delegation, said the Sherpas assured him that "there will be no trouble."

    "The ones who want to leave will leave and those who want to continue climbing would not be stopped or threatened," he said, referring to reports that some Sherpas demanded their colleagues walk off the job or face retaliation from the community.

    Still, the practical outcome of the meeting remained unclear. The Sherpas have no single leader who makes decisions.

    For some Sherpas who believe the mountain has near-mystical powers, the deaths, and the fact that three of the bodies still have not been found, mean the climbs should be canceled.

    "The signs say we should not continue," said Tenji Sherpa, a 30-year-old guide, speaking from base camp.

    But he remained conflicted about what he wanted - or even if he will climb this season.

    "There are many of us who are still undecided," he said in a telephone interview. "To return home would mean we would not have much money to support our families for the rest of the year. But to continue would also be difficult, knowing what just happened."

    Most attempts to reach Everest's summit are made in mid-May, when a brief window normally offers better weather. Without the help of the Sherpas, the tiny Himalayan community that has become famous for its high-altitude skills and endurance, it would be nearly impossible for climbers to scale Everest. Many climbers will have to forfeit most or all of the money they have spent to go up the mountain - $75,000 or more.

    Acharya said Thursday that expedition teams who have canceled plans to scale the peak can try again over the next five years, without having to pay the permit fees. Teams pay an average of $100,000 for a permit.

    Dave Hahn, who has scaled Everest more than a dozen times, said on Rainier Mountaineering's website that he met with other climbing team leaders and guides before deciding to halt the climb.

    "Those meetings convinced us that the right course was to give up on Mount Everest for spring 2014," Hahn wrote from base camp, adding that the risks outweighed the possibility of success.

    There were still ways to get up Everest, however. Chinese mountaineering officials said summit attempts were going ahead from their side of the mountain.

    Nepal's government has been heavily criticized for not doing enough for the Sherpas in the wake of last week's disaster.

    Immediately after the avalanche, the government said it would pay the families of each Sherpa who died 40,000 rupees, or about $415. But the Sherpas said they deserved far more - including more insurance money, more financial aid for the victims' families and new regulations to ensure climbers' rights.

    Nepal's government appeared to agree Tuesday to some of the Sherpas' demands, such as setting up a relief fund for those who are killed or injured in climbing accidents, but the proposed funding fell far short of the demands.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 10 Amazing Survival Stories from Mount Everest


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    The first widespread severe weather outbreak of the week began Wednesday, April 23, 2014, spanning from Nebraska down through west-central Texas.

    Lasting into early Thursday morning, the fierce thunderstorms brought damaging winds up to 70 mph and golf ball-sized hail to portions of Texas, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

    Dangerous Tornado Threat to Arise From Texas to Kansas This Weekend
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    REPORTS: Severe Storms Prowling From Nebraska to Texas

    In the wake of the storms, approximately 4,000 were left without power across Oklahoma and Nebraska. However, in Kansas the setting sun combined with storm clouds made for a picturesque sunset.

    While the severe weather threat diminished early Thursday morning for this region of the country, severe thunderstorms may fire up farther east across portions of southeastern Missouri, Arkansas, western Tennessee and northern Mississippi. Gusty winds and hail will be the biggest concerns with these storms.

    Another dangerous, multiple-day severe weather outbreak will arise this weekend. Tornadoes are among the threats that loom with this next round of storms.

    A dust devil forms near a southwestern Kansas roadway, as violent thunderstorms move into the area on Wednesday, April 23, 2014. (Photo/Cory Mottice)

    A supercell fills the sky over portions of southwestern Kansas on April 23, 2014. (Photo/Cory Mottice)

    Photographers capture footage of a storm near Wichita Falls, Texas, Wednesday night, April 23, 2014. (Twitter Photo/@BTSullivan91)

    A storm moves slowly towards southwest Kansas on Wednesday, April 23, 2014. (Photo/Cory Mottice)

    RELATED ON SKYE: 18 Incredible Photos of Tornadoes


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    Friday, April 25, 2014

    More springlike weather is headed to the Northern Hemisphere. Temperatures are beginning to creep out of the chill, and parts of the region are beginning to see an increasing number of warmer days. Trees are slowly being populated with blooms, and the grass is greening as the season of regrowth and rebirth is in swing.

    The spring shift in weather also affects annual behavior of animals as many emerge from hibernation and others prepare themselves for migration. Changes in temperatures can alter the cues used by species to regulate their behavior.

    Dr. Hannah Carey, professor of comparative biosciences at the University of Wisconsin, said that an animal's instincts will outsmart the ever-changing spring weather cycle.

    "When you're classified as a hibernator, you don't worry about the temperature outside, you know when it's time to sleep and time to emerge. These animals are on a circannual rhythm, or year-long pattern that allows them to not only hibernate but to do it well enough no matter the weather," Carey said.

    Despite the below-zero temperatures of this past winter, Carey said species native to her research area in Wisconsin were prepared to hibernate even with temperatures dropping and snowfall. She said even the toughest weather will not disrupt the ground squirrel's wintry slumber.

    "Ground squirrels will start to store up body fat [and energy] in the fall to get ready for an average winter of hibernation. But even this year, [when they emerge from hibernation] we don't expect it to be a terrible year for them even with the more-than-average days in the negatives.

    Usually ground squirrels don't concern themselves with freezing temperatures or the potential for snow.

    "These mammals sleep underground and use their body fat plus a combination of snow-covered areas as insulation. When they emerge, even a late snowstorm wouldn't put a dent in their annual rhythms," Carey said.

    Carey attributed the skill set that allows ground squirrels to be successful hibernators to their ability to live in temperate environments where a variation of weather conditions are expected.

    "Natural selection and evolution have prepared ground squirrels for this, but it has a lot to do with location. The temperate environment with varying temperatures and the extent of ice and snow cover are all things that prepare them to be good hibernators in a lot of different climates," Carey said.

    Animals have adapted their life cycles to the seasons and resource availability. Some animals have developed behaviors to cope with winter conditions, conserve energy and deal with food scarcity by hibernating, or in some cases, migrating to a warmer climate.

    Jeff Kelly, associate professor of biology of the University of Oklahoma Animal Migration Research group, said it may be a bit tougher on a species who migrate rather than hibernate, depending on climate and weather conditions.

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    "My research on song birds, for example, shows that they are long-distance migrators and based on the weather we've observed this year, they seem to be later in returning to their breeding grounds.

    Fickle weather will keep the long-distance migrators at bay.

    "Here in Oklahoma, we've had a spring of unpredictable weather where on a Saturday afternoon it could be 80 F, but then Monday it could be cold enough to snow. They aren't going to migrate where their food resources aren't in abundance because the weather hasn't let them grow," Kelly said.

    Long-distance migrants, in particular, are at more risk with changeable weather. They are too small to carry the fat and energy they need and therefore residing in a warm climate to collect the food is exactly what they need, Kelly said.

    "In contrast, short distance migrants will move on local temperatures, either north or south. Robins, for example, tend to migrate to the mid-Atlantic area and stay there based on the local conditions being conducive to their diet," Kelly said.

    Hummingbirds are another easily recognizable migrator that call the northeastern United States their nesting grounds. Tom Auer, biologist of the Important Bird Areas Program of the National Audubon Society, said that this year this species may be delayed in their arrival.

    "Migration is a very well-honed evolutionary process, but the risk lies in the shift in climate affecting the flowering schedule," Auer said.

    Hummingbirds rely on nectar sources upon their time of arrival, so they have a primary source of food.

    "They can survive a few days without food and can manage in frost-threatened areas but not if these conditions are long-standing. That's why most hummingbirds move on food and not temperatures in an area. They also work on a photoperiod, when the length of sunlight changes on a given day, and not warmth or cold," Auer said.

    Now that we're entering the last quarter of April, migration should really start picking up pace in the most noticeable format, diversity. More species of birds should be entering the area as photoperiods and food sources become more favorable for migrants, Auer said.

    The same can be said for hibernators as well. Be sure to keep an eye out for more wildlife to be gracing the backyard as fickle weather won't put a stop to the ever-continuous circle of life.

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


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    Friday, April 25, 2014

    Australian actor Liam Hemsworth, left, and the U.S. actors Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson, right, pose for photographers as they arrive at the German premiere of their movie "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" in Berlin, Germany, on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

    Film productions thrive on extensive planning and preparation; any delays would result in thousands of dollars wasted in the production budget.

    Glenn Williamson, film producer and adjunct film professor at the UCLA film school, said, "When you are scheduling a production, you map out every single day."

    When uncontrollable elements like weather set the stage during filming, productions must interestingly plan to improvise.

    However, even the most meticulous attention to detail can't stop the destructive powers of a hurricane, ice storm, drought or other weather phenomenon.

    Three blockbuster films - the original "Jurassic Park" (1993), "Mockingjay, Part One" (scheduled release in 2015) and "Field of Dreams" (1988) - had weather which unexpectedly impacted their completion into finished movies.

    Jurassic Park

    The classic blockbuster "Jurassic Park" production had the unfortunate coincidence of occurring at the same time and place as Hurricane Iniki, the strongest and most destructive hurricane to hit Hawaii in over a century.

    The storm hit the island of Kauaʻi on Sept. 11, 1992, when the production was scheduled to shoot on the island for the last day. According to the Washington Post, the entire production was halted as the 130 cast and crew members waited out the storm in their hotel.

    During interviews for the 25th anniversary re-release of the film with the TODAY show, "Jurassic Park" star Sam Neill said it completely shut down production. "It destroyed all our sets; we had to go back to L.A."

    Reminiscing about when the hurricane was approaching the island, Neil said, "I remember standing on a beach with Laura [Dern] and she said, 'Do you think we are going to be alright, Sam?' and I said, 'You know, I think we might die, Laura.' And she laughed."

    While the hurricane did not cause any fatalities or injuries amongst the production staff, Neill said, "It was a real adventure."

    Mockingjay: Part One

    The filming of the third installment of the Hunger Games franchise, "Mockingjay Part I," was disrupted by an ice storm that battered Atlanta, Georgia, in February of 2014, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

    A state of emergency was declared in 45 counties of Georgia, including the filming location, in anticipation of the dangerous storm.

    The production was reportedly scheduled to shoot in downtown Atlanta on an event space functioning as a stage set. Williamson, a film producer familiar with the effects of weather on a production, said, "If they were shooting on stages, obviously that would be affected by a power outage."

    Days scheduled on location, which is considered a production work day that occurs away from the studio lot or soundstage, are usually powered by trucks attached to generators. Being on location allows the production to circumvent that loss of power to a municipal grid, providing the cast and crew are able to complete their tasks safe from the inclement weather.

    The filming had to be halted due to the storm, and the production staff likely made adjustments to the remaining filming schedule to accommodate the delay.

    Even with stars Jennifer Lawrence and Sam Claflin due to film that day, the Hollywood Reporter said, "The storm stole the spotlight."

    Field of Dreams

    Weather events can be an unexpected plot twist not written in any script. The 1988 classic "Field of Dreams" starring Kevin Costner was negatively impacted by the weather.

    "Field of Dreams" was filmed in Iowa during the infamous drought of 1988. This may have not greatly disrupted the filming of most movies, but Jeff Carney, who worked on the production, said the corn stalks featured in the film were not only integral but were "almost another character in the film."

    The script explicitly stated the corn needed to be over 6 feet tall and taller than their star, Kevin Costner.

    Carney said, "What no one counted on that summer was the drought. It was so bad, that by the time we finished filming all the interiors and the shots in the city, the corn was only ankle high."

    The producers eventually decided to install an expensive but incredibly effective irrigation system around the corn to water the crop 24 hours a day until the scenes needed to be filmed.

    "By constantly watering it, the corn started to grow about 2-3 inches a day. By the fourth week, the corn was the proper height," he said.

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    As the viewers of the film can attest, the corn grew to the required height and provided the pivotal backdrop to the story.

    Even as film technology advances with 3D and special effects, the unpredictability of weather can always wrangle a meticulously planned and budgeted production.

    "It's costly to be caught by the weather because it can cost thousands and thousands of dollars. And on larger films, it can mean hundreds of thousands of dollars a day," Carney said.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 50 Incredible Photos of Forces of Nature
    Volcano Eruption


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    Friday, April 25, 2014
    (ARMEND NIMANI/AFP/Getty Images)

    A cold front moving east across the mid-Atlantic on Friday will trigger a round of strong to severe thunderstorms from southeastern Virginia into eastern North Carolina and northeastern South Carolina.

    Some of the cities most likely to see this activity include Norfolk, Va.; Raleigh, N.C.; and Myrtle Beach, S.C.

    While there will be a few showers or thundershowers around the region this morning, the atmosphere will become primed for a line of more significant thunderstorm activity to move through this afternoon from west to east.

    The greatest threats from these thunderstorms will be damaging winds in excess of 60 mph, large hail up to the size of quarters or ping-pong balls and blinding downpours.

    There could even be an isolated tornado in the absolute strongest activity.

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    Wind gusts to 60 mph and large hail will not occur in every location due to the localized nature of severe thunderstorms. However, winds this strong can down trees and power lines, leading to sporadic electricity outages. Hail as large as quarters or ping-pong balls can damage vegetation and dent vehicles.

    If you plan to be out and about this afternoon and evening, be on the lookout for rapidly changing skies. These thunderstorms will move quickly, and the weather can go from good to very poor in only 15-20 minutes.

    Be sure to understand the difference between a watch and a warning. A watch means that an area is being monitored for dangerous weather. A warning means that dangerous weather is imminent.

    Keep in mind that lightning is one of Mother Nature's most dangerous killers. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning, even if the sun is still shining.

    Related on SKYE: The World's Wettest Places


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    Friday, April 25, 2014
    Tornado clouds

    A dangerous multiple-day severe weather outbreak will begin this weekend over the South Central states and will include the potential for nighttime tornadoes in parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska.

    A storm will move slowly across the United States over the next seven to 10 days. The storm will affect Southern California with locally drenching rain and mountain snow on Friday. Its next stop will be the Central states this weekend.

    While the central and southern Plains are in need of rain, it will come with the price tag of violent storms.

    Since the parent storm will not arrive on the scene until late in the day Saturday, most storms are not forecast to ignite until the late-day and nighttime hours.

    Major cities at risk for severe weather this weekend include Dallas, Oklahoma City, Wichita, Kan., Omaha, Neb., and Kansas City, Mo.

    Because the storms will be passing through large metropolitan areas, the storms have the potential to bring extensive damage, risk to a great number of lives and significant travel disruptions.

    According to AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions Storm Warning Meteorologist Scott Breit, "Supercell thunderstorms will develop along the dry line from west-central Kansas to the Oklahoma Panhandle and northwestern Texas late Saturday afternoon with large hail and tornadoes a good bet."

    A dry line marks the boundary between desert air to the west and moist Gulf of Mexico air to the east. A supercell thunderstorm is a long-lived, intense storm that often develops rotation and has an elevated risk of producing tornadoes, damaging winds gusts, frequent lightning strikes and very large hail.

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    Aiding the development of severe thunderstorms will be a surge of warm, humid air on Saturday.

    The threat for violent storms, including a few supercells, will continue to push eastward Saturday night across rural and populated areas of central Kansas, central Nebraska, central Oklahoma and central Texas.

    The storms are likely to shift to the east of Oklahoma City in time for the Memorial Marathon Sunday morning. However, if the storms are slower to leave than expected, or damage occurred from the night before, a delayed start cannot be ruled out.

    Because many of the most violent storms will continue after dark, there is an elevated danger factor. People may not see that a tornado is approaching their location.

    Anyone traveling through the area or spending time outdoors will want to keep an eye out for rapidly changing weather conditions.

    "A widespread line of severe thunderstorms is likely from central and northeastern Texas to Missouri and perhaps as far north as eastern Nebraska and western Iowa on Sunday," Breit said.

    As the storm system crawls eastward, the risk of severe weather will reach into the Mississippi Valley and Deep South on Monday and parts of the East at midweek. By this time, the main threats will be hail, strong wind gusts and flash flooding.

    Now is the time to review tornado safety measures with your family.

    According to AccuWeather Senior Vice President and Chief Innovation Executive Mike Smith, "A reason for extra concern this weekend is that tornadoes have been nearly non-existent so far and people tend to forget what they have learned from year to year."

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Stunning Photos from the 2013 Tornado Season
    Kansas Torndao


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    Friday, April 25, 2014
    Jerry Starr is pictured with Tobi, his four-year-old shih tzu-yorkie mix dog at a park in Del City, Okla., Thursday, April 17, 2014. Starr was not allowed to take the dog into a shelter during the May 20, 2013, tornado and opted to stay outside the shelter in his car with his dog. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

    OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Jerry Starr thought he was taking the safe approach when a twister was reported heading toward his suburban neighborhood outside Oklahoma City last May. He grabbed his teenage daughter Dyonna and his dog and drove to the local City Hall, which serves as a public storm shelter.

    But when he arrived, a police officer told him that the only way they could come in was if Tobi, his shih tzu-yorkie mix, stayed outside. No pets allowed. So Starr and Tobi rode out the storm in his car, one of the most dangerous places he could be.

    "I love her and there's no way I was going to live knowing I was abandoning her," said Starr, of Del City.

    Modern forecasting technology now gives residents hours of notice of threatening conditions and precise projections of a storm's likely path. Residents are bombarded with broadcast warnings to take shelter.

    But as the spring storm season arrives in Tornado Alley, emergency officials are still wrestling with a dilemma posed by man's best friends. Since many public shelters won't accept animals, people wind up dashing across town to rescue their pets or staying in unprotected houses rather than hunkering down in safety.

    "Pets and sheltering is always a problem," said David Grizzle, emergency management coordinator for the college town of Norman, which closed its public shelters last fall because of problems with pets and overcrowding.

    "Pets come in and sometimes they're hard to control," he said, describing past scenes of dozens of frantic dogs along with snakes, chickens and even iguanas brought inside.

    Access to shelters has gotten special attention in Oklahoma this year after 79 tornadoes strafed the state in 2013, the second highest total in the nation, killing 34 people and injuring hundreds. Most of the victims were in cars, houses or unreinforced buildings. A joint state-federal program offered up to a $2,000 rebate to help eligible homeowners install fortified "safe rooms" or above or underground shelters.

    "One of the most common injuries that people may sustain during tornadoes, storms or straight-line winds are injuries from falling or flying debris, so it's important to take shelter," said Keli Cain, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.

    But while the number of in-home shelters is growing, most people in small towns and of modest incomes depend on sturdy public buildings like schools, hospitals and courthouses. And more than 60 percent of households have pets.

    At city council and campus administration meetings this spring, officials reviewing local emergency plans are again debating the implications of turning animals away.

    "People are so attached to their pets, I don't think it's even possible to ban them," said Byron Boshell, director of Security at Oklahoma City's Integris Baptist Medical Center, where people from surrounding neighborhoods come when funnel clouds approach.

    Staff members try to herd the pets to the basement garage, away from the patients. But at some shelters, 60 to 70 dogs may be packed in with the people.

    Southwestern Oklahoma State University, in Weatherford, used to allow pets into the campus buildings until several bad scenes involving dozens of barking, lunging dogs and other panicked animals.

    The animals "were kind of terrified from the storm and also strange people," said Rick Bolar, chief of the campus police.

    One of the final straws in Norman's decision to close its shelters came when one family was asked to put its dogs outside to make room for another family that had arrived.

    "The adults actually got into fights over that decision and trying to boil down the priority of who should be inside a facility during a storm: a pet or a person. It's a constant fight," Grizzle said.

    But holding to the no-pets policy isn't easy because of the chilling consequence - rebuffed people sitting outside in their flimsy cars as the twisters move in.

    When a tornado approached the community of Tuttle last May 31, Suzanne Brown, 48, rushed to shelter at the local city hall, which was equipped to accommodate 1,000 people. She managed to sneak in her cat, but not her Pomeranian, so she remained outside as the storm came through. She was unharmed, but eight people in nearby El Reno were killed.

    "My dog is like my child," she said. "I know some people don't understand that."

    The National Weather Service recognized the pet predicament in a recent report on last May's tornadoes in Oklahoma. The report recommended that local emergency managers get out the word on how to shelter pets during severe weather, but didn't have any options to suggest.

    Emergency officials say that at the very least, pet owners should think ahead about where they'll go. Brown said she's already thinking.

    "We understand that when we have to go, they get into a crate," Brown said.


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    Friday, April 25, 2014

    An X1.3-class solar flare (far right) erupts from the surface of the sun on April 24, 2014, EDT (April 25, GMT). (Credit: NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory)

    The sun erupted with a massive solar flare late Thursday (April 24), triggering a temporary communications blackout on some parts of Earth.

    The powerful flare peaked at 8:27 p.m. EDT Thursday (0027 April 25 GMT), and ranked as an X1.3-class solar storm, one of the strongest types of flares the sun can experience, according to a report from the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center. NASA's sun-watching Solar Dynamics Observatory captured video of the intense solar flare in several difference wavelengths.

    The solar flare erupted from an active sunspot region known as Region 2035 located on the far western side (or limb) of the sun as seen from Earth. Because of its position, the flare sparked a high-frequency radio blackout for about an hour on the daytime side of Earth, most likely over the Pacific Ocean and Eastern Pacific Rim, according to the SWPC update. [Photos: The Biggest Solar Flares of 2014]

    "Region 2035 is rotating out of view and won't pose any danger for much longer, but could in the immediate future," SWPC officials wrote in the update.

    When aimed directly at Earth, X-class solar flares can endanger to astronauts in space, as well as interfere with communications and navigation satellites in orbit. The most powerful X-class flares can also affect power grids and other infrastructure on the Earth.

    Thursday's solar flare was the fourth X-class solar flare of 2014. It followed an X1.2 solar flare on Jan. 7, a monster X4.9 solar flare on Feb. 24, as well as an X1 solar flare on March 29.

    While X-class flares are the most powerful eruptions on the sun, the star also experiences more moderate M-class solar flares (which can supercharge Earth's aurora displays) and weaker C-class storms. The sun is currently in an active phase of its 11-year weather cycle, and was expected to reach its peak activity in 2013.

    NASA and other space and weather agencies keep watch on the sun's activity using a fleet of spacecraft, including the Solar Dynamics Observatory, NASA's twin STEREO spacecraft and other probes.

    Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik and Google+. 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.


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    Friday, April 25, 2014
    (AP Photo/Brian Agnell)

    The extreme weather, including the notable outbreaks in El Reno, Okla.; Moore, Okla.; and Washington, Ind.; last year forced the debate of the impact of climate change on severe weather to resurface.

    While there has been research into the subject, there are still many unknowns.

    Is a Warming Climate Causing More Active Severe Weather Already?
    Before examining how climate change may affect severe weather in the future, it is important to analyze whether the frequency or strength of severe weather has changed already with rising temperatures.

    There is no strong evidence to support severe weather becoming stronger, more frequent or more widespread during the past 50 years in the United States. One of the reasons that the change in severe weather is hard to track is the fact that the reporting systems have changed so much over time.

    David Cabral, of Demolition and Debris Removal, helps to clear a lot in Moore, Okla., Wednesday, June 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

    Ted Fujita developed the Fujita Scale, which measures the intensity of tornadoes by examining damage and estimated winds, in 1971. Meteorologists did not start rating twisters using the Fujita Scale until 1973. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) went back through tornado reports from 1950 through 1972, retroactively rating tornadoes based on the damage information provided in the reports.

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    "Our best effort is to try to take care of those changes in reporting and indicate that we really haven't seen any changes [in severe weather]," Harold Brooks, research meteorologist at NOAA's National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla., said.

    However, with advancements in technology and social media, news of extreme and severe weather spread very quickly to all corners of the U.S.

    An SUV was tossed onto a tree in Tushka, Okla., after a 2011 tornado outbreak.

    "The big reason why we think that severe weather has gotten worse is our ability to communicate information about it. If you think back 100 years ago, a tornado that happened 10 or 20 miles away, you might not even be aware of it, if it didn't affect where you live directly. Now, you can watch people chasing tornadoes online live," Brooks said. "So it's the fact that we are more aware and able to communicate that information about events so much better than we used to be able to that it makes us think severe weather has increased."

    Future Climate Change Impacts on Severe Weather
    There are still many limits to our knowledge of how severe weather may change over time, but some preliminary conclusions can be made from research so far.

    "As the planet warms with more greenhouse gases, we really don't have very strong evidence as to what will happen with severe thunderstorms," Brooks said.

    Key ingredients for severe thunderstorms include warm, moist air to fuel thunderstorm initiation and growth and winds that change with altitude, or wind shear, to help organize a thunderstorm and create rotation. Big changes of wind with height, or high wind shear, are especially important for tornado and hail formation.

    Global Land-Ocean Temperature Index Graph from NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

    "As the planet warms, the moisture content of the atmosphere will also increase. And that's the basic fuel that drives thunderstorms. It's where the storms get their energy from... as we warm the planet that will increase the energy available for producing storms," Brooks said. "The other primary ingredient, the shear that organizes the storm, is likely going to decrease."

    The wind shear will likely decrease due to a lower temperature contrast from pole to pole.

    Since one major factor favors a more conducive environment for severe thunderstorms to spark with a warming climate and another is less conducive for severe thunderstorm organization, it is very difficult to determine how severe weather will change in the future.

    "We may see a shift toward non-tornadic wind storms in the future, but that's still a preliminary result," Brooks added. Straight-line winds may increase since high wind shear is not as much of an influence, while the frequency and strength of tornadoes may not change very much.

    It is difficult to conclude confidently whether the regions that get the most severe weather and tornadoes will shift as the climate warms.

    "The balance of the ingredients that we need [for severe weather and tornadoes]... are tied to really large-scale features on the planet," Brooks said. "Like the presence of the Rocky Mountains and the Gulf of Mexico. Since they aren't going to move in the future, the regions where tornadoes occur are likely to be tied to their relationship to those two features."

    How Do We Research Severe Weather in the Future?
    Researchers use a collaboration of climate models and basic concepts to examine the potential frequency and strength of severe weather in the future.

    "Our primary understanding of what will happen in the future with severe weather is actually based on our current understanding... Then we look in the future from climate models and from basic physical understanding of how the atmosphere works to understand how those basic environments will change," Brooks said. "So, we essentially try to approach the problem of future climate changes based on thinking about them as the day-to-day weather forecaster."

    There are still limits to research on severe weather changing with a warming climate due to the fact that the exact balance of changing thunderstorm ingredients is an unknown.

    Furthermore, there has been limited research on how inhibiting factors of thunderstorms would change due to climate change.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 18 Incredible Photos of Tornadoes


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    Saturday, April 26, 2014

    Throughout Friday evening, violent thunderstorms swept northeastward across the Carolinas, bringing tornadoes, golf-ball-sized hail, severe lightning and damaging wind gusts more than 60 mph.

    As the storm system moves off the coast, severe weather risks will dissipate into Friday night.

    "Strong storms may yet bring gusty winds, heavy rainfall and frequent lightning across coastal sections of North Carolina from Hatteras Island through Morehead City," AccuWeather Meteorologist Randy Adkins Jr. said.

    "That said, the worst storms have now pushed off the coast to the north of Kitty Hawk, with heavy rainfall a bigger issue across the Delmarva Peninsula."

    Early Friday evening, two tornadoes were reported in North Carolina followed by more tornado reports as the storm system moved northeastward toward Richmond, Va.

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    A tornado was reported to have touched down in Castoria, Greene County, N.C., according to the county fire department.

    Another tornado was reported near Aventon, Halifax County, N.C., according to the 911 call center.

    Tornadoes were reported later in the evening in Chocowinity, Beaufort County, N.C., and near Rabbit Corner, Pasquotank County, N.C.

    The National Weather Service in Newport/Moorehead City, N.C., said late Friday night that it would send a survey team into Pitt and Beaufort counties on Saturday morning to assess damage from the storms.

    Injuries were reported after storms hit Pasquotank County, the Virginian-Pilot reported.

    Golf ball-sized hail was reported throughout the state, with reports across Pitt and Halifax counties, N.C., according to an NWS spotter.

    In addition, flash flooding created problems for motorists near Garysburg, Northhampton County, N.C., as waters reached car windows and stranded cars along the Jackson bypass roadway, according to county emergency management.

    Numerous roads also remained impassable through the evening around Jackson, N.C., due to flash floods.

    At least 15 people were transported to the hospital on Friday evening after a reported tornado struck in Beaufort County, N.C., an emergency management official said early on Saturday.

    There were also an undetermined number of "walking wounded" who went to the hospital, Beaufort County Emergency Coordinator John Pack told AccuWeather.com.

    "The good news is that nobody died. That's remarkable in itself," Pack said.

    Areas affected by the Beaufort County storm were areas east of the town of Washington, N.C. A state of emergency was declared late Friday evening restricting travel in the affected areas from dusk to daylight except for residents who can prove they live there, Pack said.

    At least 140 homes were severely damaged or destroyed, Pack said.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos from 2013
    Lightning Hits the Grand Canyon


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