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SKYE on AOL

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    A large tornado touches down near Dallas on April 3, 2012. (Credit: Brandon Sullivan - StormChasingVideo.com/TornadoTitans)

    The start of spring brings blooming flowers, balmier temperatures and something else not so pleasant: the threat of tornadoes.

    Tornadoes are some of the toughest weather Mother Nature can dish out, often appearing with little warning and possessing strong winds that can cause serious damage.

    Some 1,200 tornadoes touch down across the United States each year, most commonly in the spring months, a transition time when unsettled weather is more likely to occur. [50 Amazing Tornado Facts]

    Even if you don't live in Tornado Alley, you could experience a tornado, and preparation and understanding your risk is key. Here are four things you need to know about tornadoes and tornado season:

    1. Tornadoes can happen anywhere, any time of year.

    In the popular imagination, tornadoes are associated with the wheat fields and prairies of Kansas and the other Great Plains states - what is popularly called Tornado Alley - but tornadoes happen outside this area every year and, in fact, they can happen all over the world.

    Twisters aren't as well documented in other parts of the world as they are in the United States and are typically only noted when they cause significant damage or happen to be caught on camera, according to the U.S. Storm Prediction Center (SPC), part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). But the data that is available suggests that outside of the United States, other tornado-prone areas include Canada's prairie provinces, northeastern Mexico, northern Argentina, southern Brazil, Britain, Bangladesh and parts of southern Russia, according to the SPC.

    The United States is essentially the world capital of tornadoes because of a fluke of geography. The worst tornadoes form from so-called supercell thunderstorms when warm, moist air is trapped underneath cool, dry air and when winds high up travel in a different direction than those at ground level. This setup is common over the central United States in spring when warm Gulf air meets cold Arctic air and the jet stream dips back down over the country after its winter sojourn up north.

    What can happen in these storms is that rising warm air hits that change in wind direction and begins to rotate like a pinwheel. The heat continues to build underneath the pinwheel until it punches through this "cap" and turns the pinwheel on its side, creating a mass of rotating clouds called a mesocyclone that can spawn a tornado (though they don't always, and scientists aren't sure why).

    Though this setup is most common over Tornado Alley, it can happen anywhere that conditions are right. And some tornadoes, known in storm-chaser parlance as "landspouts," don't form from supercell thunderstorms and have been observed all over the country. Waterspouts also typically don't form from supercells.

    While the peak time for tornadoes tends to be in the spring, there is no defined tornado season like there is for hurricanes. The peak in tornado formation in the United States tends to shift from south to north from the late spring to midsummer, according to the SPC.

    A so-called second tornado season typically ramps up in November, again because of the transitional weather common in the fall. But tornadoes have happened in every month of the calendar.

    Tornadoes can also happen at all times of the day. Storms tend to sweep from west to east across the country, which makes the time that tornadoes occur in particular areas vary. Areas nearer the Rockies are less likely to see the late afternoon and early evening tornadoes that are more common in the East. Research has found that nighttime tornadoes are twice as likely to kill people as daytime tornadoes, largely because people are asleep and may not hear weather radios or sirens. The threat of nighttime tornadoes increases in the winter as daylight hours shrink, and the mid-South leads the nation in experiencing nocturnal twisters.

    Hurricanes and tropical storms can produce tornadoes when they form in the summer and fall months, typically in the thunderstorms in their outer bands. The circulations that produce them are often smaller and shorter-lived than in the storms on the Great Plains and so are harder to detect and to warn for, though the tornadoes they spawn can be just as dangerous.

    2. The difference between tornado watches and warnings.

    This trips a lot of people up, but the difference is pretty simple: A tornado watch is issued by the National Weather Service when weather in a particular area could produce tornadoes (often this means thunderstorms are in the area). But it doesn't mean tornadoes will definitely occur, it just means you need to be alert and paying attention to weather updates.

    If you're under a tornado warning, it means that a tornado has been spotted on the ground in your area or that the storm circulation seen on Doppler radar could produce a tornado. Now is the time to seek shelter. It's entirely possible that the tornado will miss you or that one won't form, but it's best to be safe.

    To boil that down: If there's a tornado watch, be watching the weather. When there's a warning, that's your warning to take shelter.

    3. Don't open your windows. Or shelter under an overpass.

    There are a lot of tornado safety myths out there, and many of them can put you in danger instead of making you safer. Here's what you need to know:

    Opening your windows doesn't help, it just makes it more likely debris will fly through them into your house. Sheltering under a bridge or overpass if you're on the road is very dangerous, as a tornado's winds could blow you out from underneath or the structure could collapse on top of you. No topographic features or the fact that you're in a big city are barriers against a tornado strike, as plenty of big cities have been hit in the past and likely will be again in the future. [5 Tornado Myths Busted]

    If you're under a tornado warning, or see a tornado near you, and you're in a building, you want to get away from any windows and any shelves or other things that could fall on you. Basements and cellars are good places to take shelter, but if you don't have either, an interior space on the lowest floor of the structure is probably your best bet. Bathtubs can also provide shelter and covering yourself with a mattress is a good tip.

    For more safety tips and ideas on making a tornado safety plan, visit the SPC tornado safety site.

    4. Tornado season can't be forecasted.

    Again, unlike with hurricane season, there's no forecast for the whole of tornado season, though various large-scale atmospheric patterns, such as the El Niño-La Niña cycle, can affect how a tornado season plays out. Tornado season starts roughly in March and is at its most active from May to June, but plenty of tornado outbreaks buck that pattern.

    While some tornado seasons start out busy, they can peter out, like the 2012 season did. Atmospheric patterns last year put the jet stream farther north than it might typically sit in spring. This meant that the air on its southern side wasn't as laden with Gulf moisture and tamped down the tornadic fireworks.

    Climatologists can look at the likely atmospheric patterns that will come into play in a given spring to deduce whether it might be a blockbuster year or a quiet one, but individual tornadoes are just too small to be able to predict far in advance.

    Effectively, forecasters can only say when and where a given storm system is likely to produce tornadoes with the next few days or hours, then watch for signs of them on radar or for spotters to see one on the ground and send a warning that generally only amounts to a few minutes. But those few minutes can be crucial. So, if you're under a tornado warning, pay it heed.

    Follow Andrea Thompson @AndreaTOAP, Pinterest and Google+. Follow OurAmazingPlanet @OAPlanet, Facebook and Google+. Original article at LiveScience's OurAmazingPlanet.

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

    RELATED ON SKYE: 18 Incredible Photos of Tornadoes

     

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    April 12, 2013
    Northern Lights, Iceland
    Aurora borealis on Iceland. (Getty Images)

    A solar flare that occurred around 2 a.m. Thursday may create a spectacular display of northern lights Saturday evening. The midlevel flare had a long duration and was directed at Earth. According to AccuWeather.com Astronomer Hunter Outten, who stated that this flare was "impressive," these are the best conditions for seeing a direct effect on our planet. On the Kp index scale, the flare has been categorized at 6 to 8.

    The radiation from such a flare may cause radio wave disturbances to electronics such as cell phones, GPS and radios, causing services to occasionally cut in and out. Although traveling slower than was originally anticipated, the flare effects are moving towards Earth at 1,000 km per second.

    The flare is also expected to cause vibrant northern lights from the Arctic as far south as New York, the Dakotas, Washington and Michigan, with a smaller possibility of the phenomenon reaching Pennsylvania and Iowa, even Kansas. The lights are currently estimated for 8 p.m. EDT Saturday arrival, with a possible deviation of up to seven hours. If the radiation hits much after dark settles on the East Coast, the lights may be missed and will instead only be visible in the West.

    Solar flares create auroras when radiation from the sun reaches Earth and interacts with charged protons in our atmosphere. The effects are greater at the magnetic poles and weaken as they move south from the Arctic or north of the Antarctic. In the Northern Hemisphere, the results are called the aurora borealis, with the aurora australis being its southern counterpart. The result is a spectacular display of light and color for areas with clear enough views.

    View more on information on AccuWeather.com's Astronomy Facebook Page.

    For more weather news visit AccuWeather.com.

    RELATED ON SKYE: The Best Places to See the Northern Lights

     

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    Smoke is emitted from chimneys of a cement plant in Binzhou city, in eastern China's Shandong province on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013. (AP Photo)

    WASHINGTON (AP) - China, the world's largest producer of carbon dioxide, is directly feeling the man-made heat of global warming, scientists conclude in the first study to link the burning of fossil fuels to one country's rise in its daily temperature spikes.

    China emits more of the greenhouse gas than the next two biggest carbon polluters - the U.S. and India - combined. And its emissions keep soaring by about 10 percent per year.

    While other studies have linked averaged-out temperature increases in China and other countries to greenhouse gases, this research is the first to link the warmer daily hottest and coldest readings, or spikes.

    Those spikes, which often occur in late afternoon and the early morning, are what scientists say most affect people's health, plants and animals. People don't notice changes in averages, but they feel it when the daily high is hotter or when it doesn't cool off at night to let them recover from a sweltering day.

    The study by Chinese and Canadian researchers found that just because of greenhouse gases, daytime highs rose 0.9 degree Celsius (1.7 degrees Fahrenheit) in the 46 years up to 2007. At night it was even worse: Because of greenhouse gases, the daily lows went up about 1.7 degrees Celsius (3 degrees Fahrenheit).

    China is the world's biggest producer and consumer of coal, which is the largest source of man-made carbon dioxide emissions. While the country has made huge investments in alternative energy such as wind, solar and nuclear in recent years, its heavy reliance on coal is unlikely to change any time soon.

    About 90 percent of the temperature rise seen by the researchers could be traced directly to man-made greenhouse gases, the study said. Man-made greenhouse gases also include methane and nitrous oxide, but carbon dioxide is considered by far the biggest factor.

    The study appeared online in late March in the peer-reviewed journal Geophysical Research Letters.

    The study uses the accepted and traditional method that climate scientists employ to attribute a specific trend to man-made global warming or to rule it out as a cause.

    Researchers ran computer simulations trying to replicate the observed increase in daily and nighttime high temperatures in China between 1961 and 2007. They first plugged in only natural forces - including solar variation - to try to get the heat increase. That didn't produce it.

    The only way the computer simulations came up with the increase in daily high and low temperatures that occurred was when the actual amounts of atmospheric heat-trapping greenhouse gases were included.

    "It is way above what you would expect from normal fluctuations of climate," study author Xuebin Zhang of the climate research division of Canada's environmental agency said in a telephone interview. "It is quite clear and can be attributed to greenhouse gases."

    China did not become the largest emitter of greenhouse gases until 2007; for much of the period studied, it had a smaller economy. Because carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for about a century, China and its defenders maintain that the U.S. and other developed nations bear more responsibility for climate change.

    Outside experts praised the research as using proper methods and making sense. An earlier study didn't formally blame the proliferation of U.S. heat records to a rise in greenhouse gases but noted that they were increasing substantially with carbon dioxide pollution.

    "The study is important because it formalizes what many scientists have been sensing as a gut instinct: that the increase in extreme heat that we've witnessed in recent decades, and especially in recent years, really cannot be dismissed as the vagaries of weather," said Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann.

    China has rapidly grown from a nation of subsistence farmers at the end of the 1970s into the world's second-largest economy behind the U.S., and the environmental costs of such change are often visible.

    Beijing is no longer dominated by bicycles but by cars, and the skyline is barely visible at times because of thick pollution. More people are living in cities, buying air conditioners and other energy-hungry home electronics and consuming more energy for transportation and heating.

    China passed the United States as the No. 1 carbon dioxide emitter about six years ago and "the gap is widening, it's huge," said Appalachian State University professor Gregg Marland, who helps track worldwide emissions for the U.S. Energy Department.

    When developed countries around the world in 1997 agreed to limit their greenhouse gas emissions, developing countries, including China, were exempted.

    U.S. Energy Department statistics say that China gets 70 percent of its energy from coal, compared with 20 percent in the United States. China is also a world leader in the production of cement, a process that also causes greenhouse emissions.

     

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    (AP Photo)

    DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A cool, rainy spring is easing dry conditions in parts of the nation's farm belt that saw the worst of last year's drought.

    But optimism is being tempered, as that weather pattern has kept anxious farmers in most of Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois and Wisconsin from planting.

    The latest drought monitor released Thursday shows snowmelt and rain replenished ground moisture in parts of eastern Iowa, northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. Central Iowa counties are improved but still short of moisture.

    Rain has helped drought-parched areas of Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska, but many counties remain woefully dry.

    There is enough topsoil moisture in much of the farm belt to allow plants to emerge, but no deep moisture to rely on if the rain stops again.

     

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    The author stands before an EF2 tornado in Faith, S.D., May 24, 2010.

    What weather event scares you the most?

    Meteorologists often argue about what's worse: tornadoes, hurricanes or lightning. Some storm chasers insist that lightning is scariest because it strikes without warning. Others argue that hurricanes are more frightening because they can cause so much devastation, and you have to travel hundreds of miles to outrun them. They're good arguments, but I'm not entirely sold.

    I grew up in Lincoln, Neb., in the heart of tornado alley. The sounds of tornado sirens were common in spring, but they still sent chills through me every time I heard them. I always imagined a giant tornado emerging from the rain and barreling through our home. Fortunately, that never happened, but that fear led me to obsess over weather. When my friends were all watching cartoons, I was glued to the Weather Channel, humming along to its "Local on the 8s" theme music. I became so consumed with spotting tornadoes that, as soon as I got my first driver's license, I started chasing storms.

    Over the next 13 years, I chased about 30 tornadoes, always watching them churn from a safe distance. Nothing could have prepared me for what happened April 15, 2011.

    I finished my teaching duties for the day and spotted a tornadic storm on radar traveling through Jackson, Miss. Reports came in through the National Weather Service Chat of total destruction to several neighborhoods in Clinton, Miss., a Jackson suburb. I plotted the storm's course and estimated that it would pass through Scooba, 60 miles south of my location, in two hours and 20 minutes.

    After a quick stop for gas and chips, I raced down Highway 45 in my white Nissan Titan. I began seeing the familiar look of a thunderstorm anvil, and a thin veil of clouds signifying intense winds in the upper-atmosphere steering the storm in my direction. I called a colleague to check its status, only to hear more reports of destruction and damage. This was it. A big one was heading my way.

    As I rolled into Scooba, I positioned myself in the parking lot of the football stadium at East Mississippi Community College, providing the best possible view among a forest of tall, skinny pine trees. The lightning was horrific. Bolts darted across the horizon. Debris -- roofing shingles and tree branches -- began raining from the sky. The tornado was still 15 miles to my west.

    I wanted to get a better view, so I headed west on Highway 16, only to find my friend and fellow storm chaser, Greg, racing over 70 mph in the other direction, honking his horn in a desperate attempt to warn those headed west. Then I saw it less than five miles away: a V-shaped cloud -- presumably a large tornado -- whose base was obstructed by the Mississippi pine. It was the widest tornado I'd ever seen and it had me in its crosshairs.

    I wrenched the wheel and made a U-turn. The combination of debris falling from the sky and whirring tornado sirens sent my nerves into high gear. My foot shook as I pressed the gas pedal, racing east toward the Alabama state line. In my rear view mirror, I saw the mile-wide wedge tornado that had just missed Scooba. I saw trees and power lines whipping across the road less than a mile behind me. Inflow winds -- the gusts of warm, humid air fueling to the thunderstorm -- were as strong as I'd ever seen them, easily gusting over 80 mph, bending the trees along highway. For once, a tornado was chasing me.

    I sped to a southerly bend in the road and pulled off to the side of a catfish farm, where I had an open view. There, out of harm's way, I watched an EF3 tornado with winds of 150 mph cross the road I'd just driven moments before, snapping every tree in its path. I was in awe.

    ***
    Nearly two weeks later, I'd see how a tornado can devastate a town -- in this case, Smithville, Miss., 40 miles from my home. An EF5 tornado killed more than a dozen people. I visited the next day. Half the buildings in Smithville were destroyed, heaped into piles of rubble. Children were left without parents. Parents were left without children. It was devastating.

    Tornadoes produce the strongest winds of any weather event. In just a matter of seconds they can rearrange lives and property. I've seen the damage hurricanes can do, too. As a meteorologist, I covered Hurricane Katrina and witnessed the horrific flooding of New Orleans and the storm surge that battered Mississippi's coastline. I've also seen my share of close lightning strikes. But for me, nothing quite rivals the destructive power of a tornado.

    To this day, the sound of a tornado siren sets my nerves on edge. Oddly enough, I have no problem standing in a field in a safe position, watching a tornado pass. But in my home, in the dark, and especially when a twister is bearing down on my truck, nothing can match the white-knuckle fear evoked by a powerful tornado.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 18 Incredible Photos of Tornadoes

     

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    Men look at fallen gravestones at a stone shop following an earthquake in Awaji, Hyogo prefecture, western Japan, Saturday.

    TOKYO (AP) - A strong earthquake shook Japan on Saturday near the southwestern city of Kobe, leaving 23 people injured, seven of them seriously - mostly elderly tripping while trying to flee, police said. No one was killed.

    The magnitude-6.3 quake left some homes with rooftop tiles broken and cracked walls, while goods fell off store shelves, according to the Meteorological Agency and Japanese TV news footage.

    The earthquake was centered on Awaji Island, just south of Kobe, at a depth of 9 miles.

    The quake was in the area where a magnitude-7.2 temblor killed more than 6,400 people in 1995.

    TV news footage showed that some areas of the island had liquefied, a common effect of strong earthquakes.

    The agency warned there may be aftershocks for about a week.

    Japan is among the most quake-prone nations in the world. In March 2011, northeastern Japan was struck with a giant earthquake and tsunami, killing nearly 19,000 people and setting off a nuclear disaster.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Incredible Natural-Disaster Photos from Space

     

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    One of the most arresting sights in the Southern Hemisphere sky is the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way that appears as a bright cloudy smudge on the sky. Clara Moskowitz/SPACE.com

    NEW YORK - Living in New York City, I often forget to look up at the sky when walking outside at night - after all, with so much light pollution, what's the point? But on a recent trip to the Chilean desert, I could barely pay attention to anything but the sky at night.

    It was my first visit to South America - to the Southern Hemisphere at all. The opportunity to see certain constellations I'd never before seen, some of which are visible only from below the equator, was one of the experiences I was most looking forward to on the trip.

    I flew to Santiago, Chile, on March 9, and a day later arrived in the small oasis town of San Pedro de Atacama in Chile's Atacama Desert - popularly known as the driest place in the world. It's also well-known as one of the best spots on Earth for stargazing, as evidenced by the plethora of world-class observatories built on its mountains.

    I was one of a group of North American journalists visiting for the inauguration of the ALMA telescope (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array), on a trip sponsored by the U.S. National Radio Astronomy Observatory. [Photos: Chile's Amazing Night Sky]

    On our first evening in San Pedro, I was still getting used to the new altitude, new language and new season in which I'd arrived. Walking to the hotel from dinner, my eyes took in the sky above me before my brain realized what I was seeing. Something was off, and I felt momentarily bewildered and confused by the striking constellation directly in front of me - familiar, and yet not.

    "It's the Southern Cross!" said one of my companions, and I realized in amazement it was true: Four dazzlingly bright stars stood out against a crowded backdrop in a diamond formation low in the sky. I'd glimpsed, for the first time, the most famous Southern Hemisphere constellation.

    Officially called Crux, the constellation is made of five stars, four of which are very bright to the naked eye and are arranged in the shape of a cross. I'd seen pictures of it before, and the distinctive shape immediately jumped out at me, my eyes recognizing it before my mind did.

    It was a powerful experience, and it kept happening over the next few days. I'd gaze distractedly up at night, and be momentarily confused by the new sights greeting me, which were different from the familiar constellations I'd grown up with.

    From horizon to horizon, the scene was stunning. Packed to the brim with twinkling stars, bright planets and the unmistakable river of the Milky Way hanging down the scene's center, the Atacama sky was a wonder.

    Probably the most amazing sight to a Southern Hemisphere newbie like me was the Large Magellanic Cloud. This mini galaxy has about one hundredth the mass of the Milky Way, and orbits our galaxy as a satellite. Through a telescope, it reveals itself to be a galaxy in its own right, but with the naked eye, it looks like a cloudy smudge of light - hence the name.

    There's nothing quite like this in the Northern Hemisphere night sky, and the sight of the Large Magellanic Cloud in person for the first time amazed me. It's fairly big, and immediately noticeable, as a unique celestial splendor.

    What's more, once you notice the Large Magellanic Cloud, you can easily spot its miniature sibling, the Small Magellanic Cloud, just a bit below it. This is another satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, and is even smaller than the Large Magellanic Cloud, containing just a few hundred million stars (compared with the Milky Way's 300 billion). In person, the Small Magellanic Cloud is another one-of-a-kind sight, a mini white cloud of light shining against a blanket of stars.

    On my short trip to Chile, I spent a few precious hours staring up at the heavens. It reminded me why I love astronomy and space so much: Looking at these new (to me) stars, I felt again how small, yet connected, I am to a vast universe all around me. I recommend the Southern Hemisphere sky view to any avid stargazer from the North - it's an experience not to be missed.

    Follow Clara Moskowitz on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on SPACE.com.

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

     

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    Jessica Lee tweeted this photo of a dark sky in New York, writing, "No #northernlights over the Statue of Liberty at this point. Photo: pic.twitter.com/iahVTtdlsY" jessicalee27/Twitter

    United States star-gazers hoping to catch a rare glimpse of the Northern Lights on Saturday were left disappointed. While the Aurora Borealis was visible in Canada, it didn't seem to make an appearance farther south. A solar flare had left astronomy buffs hopeful that the lights could be visible as far south as New York, Virginia and Seattle, but it was not to be.

    "No Aurora Borealis for us last night," tweeted Lavel Miller of the Jersey Shore Sunday morning. "We gave up cold and wet around midnight."

    "
    This must be what Linus felt like waiting for The Great Pumpkin," wrote Carrie Arick of Milton, Del., on Accuweather.com's Astronomy page around 3 a.m. "I'm going to have to pack it in for the night."

    "
    Couldn't see the Aurora Borealis last night in Jersey," tweeted Chris T. "I feel so lied to."

    But some remained optimistic that perhaps the Northern Lights would put on a show for Americans Sunday night - perhaps like the one captured by Twitter user in gerardbeekmans north of Winnipeg:



    RELATED ON SKYE: The Best Places to See the Northern Lights

     

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    Iranians Face Up to Quake Aftermath

    Iran says rescue operations are finished following a 6.1-magnitude earthquake that killed at least 37 people on Tuesday, and is now focusing on building tents and providing food and water to the survivors.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Incredible Natural-Disaster Photos from Space

     

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    A man with King County Search and Rescue runs toward scene of avalanche at exit 47 along I-90 near Snoqualmie Pass, Sat., April 13, 2013. (Photo by Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times)

    SNOQUALMIE PASS, Washington (AP) - A female snowshoer died hours after she was dug out of an avalanche by fellow hikers, and a man remained missing Sunday, one day after a pair of spring avalanches struck separate groups hiking in the Cascade Mountains east of Seattle, authorities in Washington state said.

    Sgt. Katie Larson, with the King County Sheriff's Office, said a team of rescuers worked through the night in blizzard-like conditions to carry the female snowshoer off the mountain just after midnight.

    Medics confirmed that the woman had died when they reached the base of the mountain, Larson said.

    "The conditions yesterday were horrific," Larson said Sunday. "It took 25 rescuers about five to six hours" to bring her off the mountain in a sled.

    The woman, whose identity was not known, had been hiking with her dog near a group of a dozen other people Saturday afternoon when an avalanche hit Red Mountain near Snoqualmie Pass.

    She was buried in five feet of snow but was dug out with the help of a group of a dozen snowshoers, who had also been caught in the avalanche.

    Members of the group told authorities that it took them 45 minutes to find the woman. "They did their best to try to warm her up," Larson said.

    This is the first avalanche fatality reported in Washington state for the 2012-2013 season, according to the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center in Seattle. Nationwide, 16 others have died avalanches this season, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

    Meanwhile, the search for a 60-year-old hiker who was swept down the mountain in a separate avalanche at Granite Mountain Saturday was suspended indefinitely due to the poor weather conditions.

    "There was a heavy snow dump last night, and conditions are still very hazardous," Larson said.

    The man, from Kent, Washington state, was with two other friends when the avalanche carried them more than 1,200 feet down the mountain. The two friends emerged from the snow, but their friend did not. The two survivors suffered injuries that were described as not life-threatening. One of them was taken to a hospital for treatment, but Larson did not know his condition.

    The avalanches occurred as heavy snow fell near Snoqualmie Pass.

    Kenny Kramer, director of the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center, said between 20 and 30 inches of snow fell over the weekend and the center warned of dangerous avalanche conditions.

    "We had a considerable danger," the meteorologist said Sunday. "We were expecting a lot of snow."

    All that new snow was weakly attached to the old snow crust, making it more unstable, Kramer said.

    Avalanches during the spring are not a rare occurrence, he said, noting that there's a secondary peak of incidents during this time because the Northwest still sees winter-type storms that brings lots of snow. When that snow falls in the spring, it often warms up quickly, creating unstable conditions, he said.

    Won Shin, 56, of Mukilteo, Washington state, was among the group of 12 snowshoers who were on Red Mountain at the time of the avalanche.

    He told the Seattle Times that when the avalanche hit, "the only thing I thought about was just, 'Get out of here.' I've never felt anything like that."

    RELATED ON SKYE: The 10 Snowiest Places on Earth

     

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    In this April 16, 2012, file photo, runners approach the finish line of the 116th Boston Marathon in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

    BOSTON (AP) - The heat was unprecedented and so was the offer: Any of the 27,000 runners in last year's Boston Marathon could skip the race and automatically qualify for the 2013 edition instead.

    About 2,300 people took race organizers up on the deal.

    Smart move.

    By restarting their training and postponing their plans for a year, they are expected to be greeted with temperatures in the mid-50s on Monday when the 117th Boston Marathon reaches Copley Square.

    Perfect running weather - good news not just for the runners, but for organizers coming off a year in which the record-setting heat sent record numbers of runners for medical attention.

    "We got a bye," race director Dave McGillivray said this week. "And that's good, because we need this year to regroup."

    A year after perfect weather helped pace Geoffrey Mutai to the fastest marathon in history, forecasts for the 2012 race climbed toward 90 degrees and Boston Athletic Association encouraged any inexperienced or ill runners to stay home. For those that decided to brave sweltering pavement that reached triple digits, extra water and doctors were available.

    Winner Wesley Korir cramped up in the final mile but moved back into first place when those ahead of him faded even faster. His heat-slowed time of 2 hours, 12 minutes, 40 seconds was almost 10 minutes slower than Mutai's 2:03:02.

    Sharon Cherop completed the Kenyan sweep, outkicking Jemima Jelagat Sumgong to win by 2 seconds in 2:31:50. The women's winner was decided by a sprint down Boylston Street for the fifth consecutive year - all of them decided by 3 seconds or less.

    Both defending champions are back, leading a field that includes not just one American contender but two- both on the women's side: Olympic bronze medalist Shalane Flanagan, of nearby Marblehead, and her training partner, Kara Goucher, a two-time Top 5 finisher here.

    "I was a little girl, just north of here, and dreamed of running this race. It's surreal," said Flanagan, who finished second in the New York City Marathon in 2010 and finished 10th at the London Olympics. "I expect a hard run. I expect to die a thousand deaths. I don't know what to expect."

    No U.S. runner has won the race since Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach took the women's title in 1985; the last American man to win was Greg Meyer in 1983. Jason Hartmann, who was fourth last year, is the top American contender on the men's side after Olympians Meb Keflezighi and Ryan Hall withdrew because of injuries.

    "This needs to happen," Goucher said. "We want an American to win, period."

    Korir, a Louisville alum, can continue a remarkable year for the Cardinals. After he won last year, Louisville followed that up with a victory in the Sugar Bowl and the men's basketball national championship while losing in the finals of the women's NCAA tournament.

    Korir, who graduated in 2008, said he worked on the maintenance crew in the basketball team's dorm and knew Peyton Siva. He said watched the men's championship game against Michigan and drew inspiration from the Cardinals' late comeback.

    "The way they are patient, the way they wait to kill the competition until the end of race, it's very educational," Korir said. "The winner is not the one that starts fastest. (That is) definitely my strategy."

    Not long after the last of the sweaty and the sickened crossed the Back Bay finish line last year, B.A.A. officials gathered as always to discuss what they'd learned and how they can improve the next race. McGillivray said the keys were streamlining the ways they could ramp up the services in case of extreme heat: More water, more doctors, more buses to remove the ill or injured from the course.

    That might come in handy someday.

    Not this year.

    "It's good that we don't have to implement it," McGillivray said after reciting the latest "wet bulb globe" forecast, which takes into account not just the temperature but also the humidity that can make it feel even hotter.

    But not all the potential problems are weather-related. Last Monday, a week before the race, there was a water main break on the course near the start in Hopkinton and another near the finish in Boston.

    "We spent 12 months planning for a 100-degree day because it could happen," McGillivray said. "You're planning for a weather event, and then something like this happens."

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    (AP Photo)

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - The body of a 9-year-old boy who disappeared while snowmobiling with his father has been recovered from a crevasse in an Alaska glacier.

    Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said by email that the body of Shjon Brown, of Fairbanks, was recovered at 12:40 a.m. Monday.

    The boy was on a Saturday snowmobile outing with his father and others in the Hoodoo Mountains south of Delta Junction. As his father took a break on the side of a hill, Shjon drove around a small mound and did not reappear. His father traced the boy's tracks and discovered that he had fallen through a moulin, a hole formed when water on the glacier's surface melts ice to a crevasse below.

    Climbers from the North American Outdoor Institute and an emergency room doctor reached the bottom of the crevasse an estimated 200 feet from the surface. A climber spotted the boy's goggles and helmet and the partially visible snowmobile.

    Climbers who descended into the hole late Sunday said they found Shjon's body buried in six to eight feet now snow underneath his snowmobile.

    The glacier is about five miles northwest of the site of the Arctic Man Classic, a race involving snowmobiles and skiers or snowboarders.

    Personnel from the Army's Black Rapids high angle rescue team also responded to the scene.

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    The second major storm in many weeks will begin on Monday, bringing another round of heavy snow to the Rockies and Plains through at least the middle of the week.

    Major cities along the Front Range, such as Denver and Fort Collins, will start as rain on Monday. As a steady flow of cold air works in from the north, a change to all snow is expected by late in the day or at night.

    Snowfall amounts in Denver are dependent upon how much cold air is in place and how much moisture there will be. At this time however, it looks as if anywhere from 4-8 inches will fall across the metro area with the highest accumulations in the western suburbs and the lowest in the eastern suburbs.

    Farther north in Boulder and Fort Collins, rain will change to snow more quickly, and there will be more moisture present to work with. Snowfall accumulations here will range from 6-12 inches.

    All snow will fall north and west of Denver along the foothills and in the mountains. This includes places such as Eldorado Springs, Crescent, Wallstreet, Jamestown, Nederland, Ward and Estes Park, to name a few. All snow will also fall farther north into southeastern Wyoming, across cities such as Cheyenne and Laramie.

    Snowfall of 12-24 inches is likely across these areas. Blowing and drifting snow could lead to drifts of several feet high along north-facing sides of buildings and out in open areas.

    This storm will also impact the plains of eastern Colorado and western Nebraska. Locations from Greeley and Sterling in Colorado northeastward to Scottsbluff and Chadron in Nebraska could have as much as 6-12 inches by Wednesday night.

    Major travel disruptions are expected from this storm, especially along important interstates. Snow will fall at close to 2 inches per hour at times, and when combined with wind gusts of 30-40 mph, travel will become very dangerous, if not impossible, along parts of Interstate 80 in southern Wyoming.

    Similar dangerous travel is along Interstate 76 in northeastern Colorado and Interstate 25 from Denver to Cheyenne.

    Your best course of action will be to avoid traveling during this storm. If travel is absolutely necessary, be sure to have a winter weather survival kit with you in your vehicle.

    This kit should include a flashlight, blankets, hand warmers, food and water, flares and a snow shovel.

    RELATED:
    AccuWeather.com Winter Weather Center
    Spring Blizzard to Hit Northern Plains, Bismarck
    Midweek Severe Weather Threat: Dallas, Oklahoma City, Little Rock


    This will be a long-duration storm with the heaviest snow arriving in several rounds. It will not come to an end until Wednesday night and Thursday.

    Stay with AccuWeather.com for the latest updates on this potential dangerous and disruptive winter storm.

    As always, you can find our latest snowfall forecasts and maps in the AccuWeather.com Winter Weather Center.

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    In this 1912 file photo, the Titanic leaves on her maiden voyage from Southampton, England. (AP Photo/Frank O. Braynard Collection, FILE)

    The threat of icebergs still exists 101 years after the RMS Titanic sank to the bottom of North Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 1912.

    One reason icebergs may still be a danger to ships is due to the size of the iceberg.

    Although an iceberg may seem to be small floating on the surface of the ocean, the majority of the iceberg is under water. Almost 90 percent of an iceberg is under water, according to newfoundlandlabrdor.com.

    A certain time of year could also prove to be dangerous for sailors in the trans-Atlantic shipping lanes. Icebergs start to break off of ice shelves usually around April and into May. During the months of May and June icebergs can usually be seen below 48 degrees North latitude.
    AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Brett Anderson said that icebergs tend to break off as soon as the melt season begins.

    Another reason why icebergs could still be hazardous to ships is due to how in the winter months ships can't travel that far north, but as the melt season begins, it gives ships access to northern waters, which may be home to icebergs, according to Anderson.

    In 1914 only a few years after the sinking of the RMS Titanic, The International Ice Patrol was created to help monitor and warn vessels of potential danger.

    "Our job is to monitor the iceberg danger near the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and provide the iceberg limit to the maritime community," Chief Scientist at the International Ice Patrol Michael Hicks said.

    Other ways icebergs are detected are by radar and sonar. Sonar picks up sound waves from underwater objects, such as icebergs. According to britannica.com, icebergs make a popping and cracking sound underwater and a high pitched hissing sound in the summer due to the deposit of bubbles from the ice.

    The potential increase in icebergs and correlation between icebergs and climate change is something that has been debated, but not proven.

    "We see variability in the count of icebergs that are delivered to the shipping lanes every year," Hicks said.

    However, Hick also said that the Greenland glaciers, where iceberg production occurs, is moving faster and thinning.

    "The number of icebergs we see that affect trans-Atlantic shipping has much more to do with complex oceanographic and meteorological processes that affect the iceberg delivery system than on the impact of climate change," Hicks said.

    In order for icebergs to be a hazard to shipping vessels in the trans-Atlantic shipping lanes, the icebergs have to get to the shipping lane.

    Dr. Richard Alley, a professor in the GeoSciences department at the Pennsylvania State University said that periods of warming have a lot to do with how quickly icebergs get to the lanes.

    "The bergs have to get to where the ships are, and that depends on how fast and which way the winds blow and currents flow, and how warm the air and water are to melt the bergs on their way," he said.

    Although the role that climate change plays in iceberg production is still uncertain, icebergs remain a threat to vessels today.

    For more weather news, visit AccuWeather.com.

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    Red wood ant mounds on an earthquake fault in Germany. (Credit: Gabriele Berberich)


    Ants with the world's worst taste in real estate seem to sense earthquakes before they strike, according to research presented April 11 at the European Geosciences Union annual meeting in Vienna.

    Active faults, fractures where the Earth violently ruptures in earthquakes, are the preferred housing site for red wood ants in Germany. Researcher Gabriele Berberich of the University Duisburg-Essen in Germany has counted more than 15,000 red wood ant mounds lined up along Germany's faults, like candy drops on a conveyor belt.

    For three years, Berberich and her colleagues tracked the ants 24-7 with video cameras, using special software to catalog behavioral changes. There were 10 earthquakes between magnitude 2.0 and 3.2 during the study period, 2009 to 2012, and many smaller temblors. The ants only changed behavior for quakes larger than magnitude 2.0, which also happens to be the smallest quakes that humans can feel.

    During the day, ants busily went about their daily activity, and at night the colony rested inside the mound, mirroring human diurnal patterns, Berberich said at a news conference today. But before an earthquake, the ants were awake throughout the night, outside their mound, vulnerable to predators, the researchers found. Normal ant behavior didn't resume until a day after the earthquake, Berberich said.

    So how do ants know an earthquake is coming? Berberich suspects the insects pick up changing gas emissions or local shifts in the Earth's magnetic field.

    "Red wood ants have chemoreceptors for carbon dioxide gradients and magnetoreceptors for electromagnetic fields," she said. "We're not sure why or how they react to the possible stimuli, but we're planning on going to a more tectonically active region and see if ants react to larger earthquakes," Berberich added.

    Email Becky Oskin or follow her @beckyoskin. Follow us @OAPlanet, Facebook or Google+. Original article on LiveScience's OurAmazingPlanet.

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

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