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SKYE on AOL

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    Kenya Ocean Sole Flip-Flop Company
    Carver Jackson Mbatha poses next to an unfinished large toy giraffe he is making from pieces of discarded flip-flops in front of a painted workshop wall at the Ocean Sole flip-flop recycling company in Nairobi, Kenya, on April 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

    NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) - The colorful handmade giraffes, elephants and warthogs made in a Nairobi workshop were once only dirty pieces of rubber cruising the Indian Ocean's currents.

    Kenya's Ocean Sole sandal recycling company is cleaning the East African country's beaches of used, washed-up flip-flops and other sandals.

    About 45 workers in Nairobi make 100 different products from the discarded flip-flops. In 2008, the company shipped an 18-foot giraffe to Rome for display during a fashion week.

    Company founder Julie Church says the goal of her company is to create products that people want to buy, then make them interested in the back-story.

    Workers wash the flip-flops, many of which show signs of multiple repairs. Artisans then glue together the various colors, carve the products, sand and rewash them.

    Church first noticed Kenyan children turning flip-flops into toy boats around 1999, when she worked as a marine scientist for WWF and the Kenya Wildlife Service on Kenya's coast near the border with Somalia.

    Turtles hatching on the beach had to fight their way through the debris on beaches to get to the ocean, Church said, and a plan to clean up the debris and create artistic and useful items gained momentum. WWF ordered 15,000 key rings, and her eco-friendly project took off.

    It has not made Church rich, however. The company turns over about $150,000 a year, she said. Last year it booked a small loss.

    But new investment money is flowing in, and the company is in the midst of rebranding itself from its former name - the FlipFlop Recycling Company - to Ocean Sole.

    The company aims to sell 70 percent of its products outside Kenya. It has distributors in the United States, Europe and new inquiries from Japan. Its biggest purchasers are zoos and aquariums.

    One of Church's employees is Dan Wambui, who said he enjoys interacting with visitors who come to the Nairobi workshop.

    "They come from far ... when they see what we are doing we see them really happy and they are appreciating. We feel internationally recognized and we feel happy about it," Wambui said.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Washed-Up Sandals Become Colorful Art
    Kenya Ocean Sole Flip-Flops

     

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    A ship sails across the Panama Canal, in Panama, on February 23, 2013. AFP PHOTO/ Rodrigo ARANGUA (RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/Getty Images)

    PANAMA CITY (AP) - The Panama Canal Authority said Wednesday it has adopted several water-saving measures to help save energy as the Central American country faces a power shortage because of a lack of rain.

    It said it has suspended use of hydraulic assistance to help push ships out as they leave locks and it will put two ships in a lock at a time rather than one.

    "The preventive measures were adopted after weather forecasts indicated that the dry season may extend at least 10 days," the authority said in a statement.

    Panama authorities on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in some regions affected by the lack of rain and ordered several energy-saving measures to avoid scheduled blackouts.

    Officials ordered all public schools, including universities, to close for three days, and told government offices and businesses to reduce hours and limit air conditioning. They also ordered supermarkets and nightclubs to limit their hours and to cut down on the number of illuminated billboards turned on at night.

    Panama gets about 60 percent of its energy from hydroelectric plants, whose output has been hit hard by drought.

    The Central American country of 3.4 million people is going through a construction boom and is one of Latin Americas fastest growing economies.

    "If (dry weather) conditions continue and consumption is not reduced, we will have to start rationing," said Marianela Herrera, assistant manager of the Electrical Transmission Co., which distributes power in the country.

    "For the kind of crisis we're going through, we need more (austerity measures)," she added.

    Authorities said they would reassess on Sunday whether to ease the measures.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 7 Surprising Health Effects of Drought

     

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    In this file photo released by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, a wolf stands in the snow near Ishpeming, Mich., in the Upper Peninsula. (AP Photo/Michigan DNR, Dave Kenyon)

    TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill Wednesday that clears the way to schedule Michigan's first gray wolf hunting season since the resurgent predator, reviled by some as a menace to farm animals and beloved by others as a symbol of untamed wildness, was driven to the brink of extinction in the lower 48 states a half-century ago.

    Michigan would become the sixth state to authorize hunting wolves since federal protections were removed over the past two years in the western Great Lakes and the Northern Rockies, where the animals are thriving. Hunters and trappers have killed about 1,100 wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. Officials estimate the remaining population at roughly 6,000.

    The measure that Snyder approved lets the state Natural Resources Commission decide which types of animals can be hunted - authority that previously rested entirely with the Legislature. The seven-member commission is expected to vote Thursday on a proposal by state wildlife regulators for a season this fall in which up to 43 wolves could be killed - about 7 percent of the 658 believed to roam the remote Upper Peninsula.

    "This action helps ensure sound scientific and biological principles guide decisions about management of game in Michigan," Snyder said. "Scientifically managed hunts are essential to successful wildlife management and bolstering abundant, healthy and thriving populations."

    The bill undercuts a statewide referendum sought by opponents of wolf hunting. They have gathered more than 250,000 signatures on petitions seeking a vote on a separate measure lawmakers approved in December that designated the wolf as a game species.

    If enough signatures are determined to be valid, the issue will be placed on the 2014 election ballot. But the new law makes the referendum a toothless gesture because regardless of the outcome, the commission will have the power to allow wolf hunting.

    The Michigan Department of Natural Resources last month asked the commission to schedule a two-month hunt this fall. The panel was discussing the matter Wednesday during its monthly meeting in Roscommon and is expected to make a decision Thursday.

    An opposition coalition called Keep Michigan Wolves Protected urged commissioners to wait until voters have had their say next year.

    "Michigan's 7.4 million registered voters would be discounted if the NRC doesn't respect the will of the people," said Jill Fritz, the group's director. "Legislative chicanery must not allow democratic principles to be circumvented and place Michigan's fragile wolf population at risk."

    The law was sponsored by Sen. Tom Casperson, an Escanaba Republican who described marauding wolf packs as a growing nuisance in Michigan's far north, preying on livestock, hunting dogs and household pets. He said his measure carried out the wishes of voters who approved a 1996 ballot initiative giving the commission, whose members are appointed by the governor and serve staggered terms, authority to set hunting policy in Michigan based on scientific data.

    The proposed hunt would be held in three zones where natural resources officials say they've received a high number of complaints and other control methods have failed.

    Pro-hunting and farm groups contend the opposition is fueled by out-of-state animal rights groups that want to ban all hunting.

    "We're happy to see that the DNR will finally have the management tools it needs to help limit wolf conflicts up here and that decisions about how it manages wildlife will be made based on sound science, not television commercials," said Joe Hudson, president of the Upper Peninsula Bear Houndsmen Association.

    Opponents acknowledge receiving support from elsewhere but insist their movement is home-grown. They argue that farmers and government officials already have the right to kill problem wolves and say the wolf population's situation remains tenuous, despite its rapid growth in recent decades in the western Great Lakes.

    "Hunting would unavoidably break up packs, the vast majority of which are not in conflict with farmers," Garrick Dutcher, program director of a national organization called Living With Wolves, said in a letter urging Snyder to veto the bill. The pack, he said, is "the social unit that defines the wolf and provides the collaboration they rely upon for survival."

    Wolves occupied most of the continent before Europeans settlers arrived. Hunting, trapping and poisoning wiped them out in most of the lower 48 states by the mid-20th century.

    After the wolf was placed on the federal endangered species list in 1974, a remnant population in Minnesota grew and migrated to the other western Great Lakes states.

    Another bill Snyder signed Wednesday guarantees a right to hunt and fish in Michigan.

     

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    A woman walks past the cuise ship Carnival Spirit at Sydney's Circular Quay, on May 9, 2013. (WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)

    SYDNEY (AP) - Authorities were conducting an air and marine search Thursday off Australia's east coast for two cruise passengers who were believed to have fallen overboard the night before.

    The couple, Australian citizens from New South Wales state, were discovered missing Thursday morning after the Carnival Spirit docked at Sydney's Circular Quay, at the end of a 10-day journey, said New South Wales Police Superintendent Mark Hutchings.

    He said surveillance camera footage showed that the couple - a 30-year-old man and a 26-year-old woman whose names have not been released - fell from the ship's mid deck Wednesday night, when the ship was about 65 nautical miles off the coast of Forster, a city 185 miles north of Sydney.

    "This is a tragic event at the moment, but we're holding out hope we might be able to find these people alive," Hutchings told reporters.

    Investigators were having the video enhanced in a bid to determine whether the couple had jumped or had fallen by accident, Hutchings said.

    The ship has around 600 surveillance cameras that are constantly monitored, although no one reported seeing the fall at the time.

    No life preservers were missing from the ship, Hutchings said. A missing life preserver might have indicated that one of the missing passengers had attempted a rescue.

    Jo Meehan, spokeswoman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is coordinating the search, said an airplane, a helicopter and police boats were searching a 300-square-nautical mile area of sea.

    The couple and seven of their family and friends were among 2,680 passengers on a South Pacific cruise. The ship's last stop was Mare Island in New Caledonia, which it left on Monday, bound for Sydney. The couple were discovered missing as passengers disembarked, said Peter Taylor, spokesman for the ship's operator, Carnival Cruise Lines.

    "The guests in question were traveling with family and friends, and initial reports indicate that the couple was last seen onboard the vessel last night," Taylor said in a statement.

    "The ship immediately initiated standard missing person procedures, including a full search of the vessel, as per protocol," he said.

    Police said in a statement there were alerted about two hours after the ship docked.

    Carnival Cruise Lines is a subsidiary of Miami-based Carnival Corp., the world's largest cruise operator.

    Carnival Corp. has been plagued by a series of high-profile problems in recent years. Last year, the Costa Concordia ran aground off the coast of Italy, killing 32 people. Also last year, the Costa Allegra caught fire and lost power in the Indian Ocean, leaving passengers without working toilets, running water or air conditioning for three days. Costa is a division of Carnival Corp.

    In February, passengers aboard the Carnival Triumph spent five days without power in the Gulf of Mexico after an engine-room fire disabled the vessel. Those on board complained of squalid conditions, including overflowing toilets and food shortages.

    Carnival Corp.'s representative in the South Pacific region, Ann Sherry, is chief executive of Carnival Australia, which represents 80 percent of cruise lines in the region.

    She told an Australian parliamentary inquiry into cruise ship safety in February that only two passengers had disappeared overboard from cruise ships in the South Pacific since she took her job more than five years earlier.

    She said both disappearances had been fully investigated by authorities and there had been no suspicious circumstances in either case.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 10 Travel Hot Spots for 2013

     

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    Skywatcher Joel Dykstra sent this photo of the solar eclipse taken on May 20, 2012. (Credit: Joel Dykstra)

    The moon will block part of the sun today (May 9) to create a potentially amazing "ring of fire" and you can watch the celestial sight live online.

    The "ring of fire" solar eclipse - known as an annular solar eclipse - will be viewable (weather permitting) over certain areas of Australia and islands in the Southern Pacific Ocean where the local time will be Friday (May 10). If you don't happen to live in those parts of the world, however, you can still catch the cosmic show.

    The online Slooh Space Camera will host a free webcast featuring live views of the eclipse today, beginning at 5:30 p.m. EDT (2130 GMT). You can watch it live on SPACE.com, courtesy of Slooh. [See Spectacular Photos of a 'Ring of Fire' Solar Eclipse]

    "The precise line up, or syzygy, of the sun, moon and Earth have intrigued primitive cultures for millennia," Bob Berman, contributing editor and monthly columnist for Astronomy Magazine, said in a statement. "Here are the two most important and influential celestial bodies, so far as life on Earth is concerned, and on that day we can actually watch their clockwork motions. We observe firsthand as the Moon orbits around us at 2,250 miles per hour, showing off its speed as it centrally crosses the disk of the sun. It's pretty dramatic."

    Slooh will stream in live video of the solar eclipse as seen by an observatory in Australia. Expert commentators, like Berman, will be on hand to discuss the event as well. The space camera will also host a live feed from the Prescott Solar Observatory to show viewers shots of the sun from Arizona. You can also follow the solar eclipse live via Slooh's iPad app and its website: http://events.slooh.com/

    This eclipse also marks the second solar eclipse in six months for skywatchers in Australia.

    Every eclipse is a unique event, Jay Pasachoff, an astronomer at Williams College in Massachusetts and the chair of the International Astronomical Union's working group on eclipses said. Pasachoff travelled to Australia earlier in the week to prepare for the eclipse with his 10-person team. This eclipse marks the 56th solar eclipse that Pasachoff has witnessed in person.

    "The beauty of an eclipse is that each one is so memorable," Pasachoff told SPACE.com. "They [annular eclipses] aren't as exciting as total eclipses but it will still be fun to see anyway."

    During this kind of eclipse, the moon covers about 95 percent of the sun, but that doesn't mean the sky will be noticeably darker, experts have said. Special camera and telescope filters, protective eyewear and other means of defense should be implemented to safely view the eclipse in person.

    "The eclipse in Australia begins shortly after sunrise and makes its way over the Pacific Ocean," officials from Slooh said in a statement. "Because the moon is very nearly at a point farthest from Earth, known as apogee, it appears too small to fully cover the sun, leaving a thin ring of sunlight or 'annulus' - known as the 'Ring of Fire.'"

    Weather permitting, the Hawaiian Islands, the southern Philippines, eastern Indonesia, parts of Australia, parts of Papua New Guinea and a sliver of New Zealand will be treated to at least a partial eclipse, although these parts of the world are outside of the path of annularity.

    Today's eclipse follows a partial lunar eclipse that shadowed the moon above Central Asia, Western Australia, Eastern Europe and Africa. Another minor lunar eclipse will occur on May 24.

    This isn't the only solar eclipse of the year. On Nov. 3, a rare annular eclipse that transitions into a total eclipse - called a hybrid eclipse - will be visible in the northern Atlantic Ocean and into equatorial Africa.

    WARNING: Never look directly at the sun during an eclipse with a telescope or your unaided eye. Severe eye damage can result and scientists use special filters to safely view the sun.

    Editor's note: If you live in the observing area of today's solar eclipse and safely snap an amazing picture of the sun that you'd like to share for a possible story or image gallery, send photos, comments and your name and location to Managing Editor Tariq Malik at spacephotos@space.com.

    Follow Miriam Kramer on Twitter and Google+. Follow us on Twitter, Facebookand Google+. Original article on SPACE.com.

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


    RELATED ON SKYE: Mind-Blowing New Photos from Space

     

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    Repeating downpours will continue the risk of flash and urban flooding around New York City and in parts of New Jersey, New York state, Connecticut and Pennsylvania into Thursday.

    Bands of heavy rain and thunderstorms will spiral around a slow-moving, land-based storm over the mid-Atlantic.

    It is the same storm which brought record May snowfall to parts of the Plains last week and flooding over the past weekend to portions of the Midwest and South.

    The rain bands will shift around with time and breaks of sunshine are possible in between. The storm can produce a couple of inches of rain locally over a several-hour period, which is more than enough to cause flooding problems and travel delays. This was the case around New York City on Wednesday, where over three inches of rain fell in a relatively short amount of time.

    The storm responsible for the downpours is slowly drifting northeastward, shifting the focus for heavier downpours into southern New England. This includes Boston, Mass., Hartford, Conn., and Providence, R.I. Even so, a few heavier showers and thunderstorms will still linger across the mid-Atlantic, where it will not take much rain to cause additional flooding in areas that saw heavy rain on Wednesday.

    Motorists are reminded not to drive through flooded roadways.

    RELATED:
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    Severe Weather Center


    It is possible that a few of the thunderstorms might cause lightning strikes to cluster in a small area. The storms also bring the risk of highly localized gusty winds and small hail.

    As the storm system finally pulls away on Friday, the showers will move away. However, a cold front approaching from the west will bring the risk for showers and thunderstorms from late Friday into Saturday.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Photos: Flash Flooding Soaks NYC, Hoboken

     

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    After thunderstorms brought large hail and damaging winds to portions of the southern Plains Wednesday, the threat for severe storms will continue Thursday.

    Severe thunderstorms could impact Dallas, Texas, Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Okla., and St. Louis, Mo., during the afternoon and evening hours.

    Showers and thunderstorms leftover from the overnight hours will persist into the morning hours Thursday, but the storms should remain under severe limits.

    Additional thunderstorms will develop mostly during the afternoon and evening, which is when the best ingredients for severe weather will be in place. A developing storm system over West Texas will draw up warm, moist air from the south. A slow-moving front sitting off to the west will help to trigger the storms.

    RELATED:
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    Science and Psychology: Why People Ignore Tornado Warnings
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    The main threats with these storms will be large hail and damaging winds. Just like on Wednesday, baseball-sized hail will accompany some storms from southern Oklahoma down into north-central Texas.

    "The weather pattern this week does not favor tornado development," AccuWeather.com expert senior meteorologist Henry Margusity said. While some of the strongest storms Thursday could produce an isolated tornado, these storms will be the exception. This continues the trend of the year so far, where the cooler spring has produced well-below average tornadoes across the country.

    The above graphic plots tornado reports since 2005. Note that 2013 is well below the average (625 through May 7).

    As Thursday night progresses, heavy rain will become a bigger threat than severe weather as the thunderstorms shift eastward into eastern Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana.

    The threat for severe thunderstorms will diminish a bit Friday, but a few strong thunderstorms may impact Houston and San Antonio, Texas, and Shreveport, La. Heavy downpours and localized flooding will likely be the bigger impact from these storms.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Epic Storm Photos from the Twittersphere

     

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    Honolulu firefighters look over the wreckage of a small helicopter that crashed next to a car near the intersection of Fort Street and Beretania Street in downtown Honolulu Wednesday, May 8, 2013. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

    HONOLULU (AP) - A small helicopter lost power and came crashing down on a busy downtown Honolulu street Wednesday afternoon, but no one was seriously injured, authorities said.

    "It's a pretty miraculous situation that no one was badly hurt by this," said Capt. Terry Seelig, a spokesman for the Honolulu Fire Department. "This is a pretty busy area."

    The helicopter was on a photography flight when it lost power, forcing a crash landing on Fort Street, which is home to a large apartment complex and Hawaii Pacific University. The area is usually full of university students and downtown office workers, and has a lot of vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

    The chopper ended up along a curb, badly damaging a parked car, Seelig said. A fire station is also on that street, so firefighters who heard the crash ran out to help.

    The pilot, Julia Link, told KITV everything seemed normal until all of the sudden it got quiet and the engine quit. Repeatedly training for this type of scenario helped her bring the helicopter to the ground, she said.

    "First I thought it was a joke and then, I was like, 'Oh my God, this is for real,'" said the 30-year-old.

    She was grateful the problems developed when the aircraft - which she said was brand-new - was 3,000 feet above ground as that gave her a lot of time to plan their descent.

    Link said she's glad everyone walked away alive and no one was seriously hurt.

    The 71-year-old male passenger was treated at the scene for minor injuries to his head, Honolulu Emergency Services spokeswoman Shayne Enright said.

    The chopper was operated by Mauna Loa Helicopters. Representatives of the company couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

    Preliminary information indicates the Robinson R22 Beta had an engine failure, said Allen Kenitzer, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

    RELATED ON SKYE: The World's Most Terrifying Airports

     

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    High winds howling in Alberta, Canada, on Monday night forced ice from Lac Ste. Anne into homes in Alberta Beach.

    A powerful cold front pushed across the area, stirring winds as high as 50-60 mph (80-90 km/h), on Monday night.

    The north-northwest winds blew across the length of the lake, which is about 6 miles (10 km).


    Ice surge into Alberta Beach from Lac Ste. Anne. Photo courtesy of Farah Dhalla.

    "The lake had a lot of ice and the wind helped to jam that ice into the community," AccuWeather expert Canada forecaster Brett Anderson said. "It is pretty unusual to have that much ice pile up from a wind event like this."

    It has been a cold winter across Alberta, Canada, so the amount of ice on Lac Ste. Anne is greater than normal. The temperature in Edmonton, Alberta, from December 2012 through March 2013 was 2.4 degrees F (1.3 degrees C) below normal.


    Photo of the ice's destruction in Alberta Beach, Canada, taken by Farah Dhalla.

    Temperatures have been near to above normal, 60 degrees F (15.6 degrees C), since the ice was deposited in Alberta Beach. However, the melting process will be slow due to the nature of the lake ice, Anderson said.


    View Larger Map

     

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    (Source: Cesar Ruelase)

    Disillusioned with local weather forecasts? If so, you probably aren't as frustrated as Chicago resident Cesar Ruelase. He wants Chicago TV meteorologist Tom Skilling held accountable for what Ruelase says are consistently erroneous forecasts, and he's gone so far as to launch a website and start a petition to have Skilling demoted from meteorologist to "weather guesser."

    "The reason I focused on Skilling," Ruelase told the Chicago Reader, "is people trust him even though they obviously shouldn't."

    According to Ruelase, "By calling himself a meteorologist, Tom Skilling has led us to believe he knows what the weather will be. In fact, he has no idea. He's just guessing and is usually wrong."

    Ruelase says he has been been comparing Skilling's predictions to actual temperatures every day since April 1. He's been tallying the variation and has counted a total difference more than 300 degrees. Ruelase told the Chicago Reader that Skilling is "a monster who seems intent on ruining our picnic plans, barbecues and wedding photos with his inaccurate forecasts."

    Wow.

    Skilling did not return SKYE's call for a comment. Here he is in action:

     

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    By Renny Vandewege

    (Source: YouTube)

    Most weather forecasts include predictions for at least the next seven days, but how accurate are these long-range forecasts? Can we really trust them?

    Yes and no. Predicting rainfall and exact temperatures seven days in advance is a daunting task. In general, seven-day forecasts tend to be pretty accurate for the first few days, but their accuracy often decreases during the last several days.

    The truth is that even measuring the accuracy of a forecast is challenging. Rain forecasts are usually based on the probability of precipitation over a given area - such as a 40% chance of rain across a television-viewing area. Most official rainfall data is recorded from gauges at select locations, so if rain fell elsewhere in the region but not over those gauges, the data wouldn't accurately depict actual rainfall in the region. Still, in various detailed studies, researchers have concluded that forecast accuracy goes down the farther into the future meteorologists tried to predict.

    The goal of a long-range forecast should really be to predict the trend in weather as opposed to exact details. This includes rain chances and temperature trends. Nevertheless, people want exact high and low temperatures in their forecasts, so meteorologists provide them. But in a meteorologist's perfect world, forecasts four to seven days in advance would include general trends. Instead of saying that the high on a given day would be 81, for example, a forecaster might say that highs would be in the upper 70s to low 80s.

    Why is forecasting four to seven days out such a challenge? For most forecasts, meteorologists analyze computer models. A computer model uses current weather conditions and mathematical equations to predict weather. In short-term forecasts - those covering the next one to three days - forecasters use high-resolution models. These models do a good job of factoring in small details, such as the exact positioning of cold and warm fronts and local terrain that might influence weather. This results in fairly accurate forecasts for the first three days.

    But once forecasters try to predict weather four to seven days off, they have fewer models to analyze, and the models they can look at don't take into account the same kinds of small, telling details. Forecasters must then employ a process known as "ensemble forecasting" that takes into account multiple models. When the models are consistent, meteorologists have more confidence in their forecasts.

    Another technique used for long-range forecasting makes use of something called teleconnections. A teleconnection is a series of weather data recorded at two locations very far apart. For example, the most well-known teleconnection is the El Niño Southern Oscillation index, which looks at ocean temperatures at the equator in the Pacific Ocean. ENSO offers insight into global patterns that may influence weather.

    Finally, meteorologists use climatological data to analyze how the atmosphere has performed historically in similar situations to get an idea of how an upcoming weather pattern may impact an area.

    Though meteorologists are good at identifying temperature and precipitation trends a week away, the exact details of a seven-day forecast can be hard to pinpoint. But there is good news: As computer models improve, the accuracy of seven-day forecasts will likely improve, too.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos from 2012

     

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    The Statue of Liberty. (Getty Images)

    NEW YORK (AP) - The Statue of Liberty is reopening July 4 after Superstorm Sandy flooded the island where it stands.

    The statue has been closed since Sandy struck the region on Oct. 29 and damaged much of Liberty Island's infrastructure. The statue itself is on higher ground and was not damaged.

    Ferry tickets to visit the island on July 4 - the U.S. Independence Day - or later may be purchased online or by phone. Tickets to the statue's crown are only available by reservation.

    A spokeswoman for the National Park Service says the nearby Ellis Island Immigration Museum will be partially open on July 4.

    Sandy brought 8 feet (2.4 meters) of water to Liberty Island, destroying boilers and electrical systems.

     

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    The Artemis Racing AC72 catamaran, an America's Cup entry from Sweden, lies capsized after flipping over during training in San Francisco Bay on Thursday, May 9, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

    SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Andrew "Bart" Simpson had already garnered an Olympic gold medal in sailing in 2008 and a silver at last year's games when Artemis Racing came calling with a chance to win yachting's top prize - the America's Cup.

    "Moving the family to San Fran for 6 months is pretty hectic!!!," Simpson tweeted in March. "The cup should be fun though!!"

    On Thursday, the British sailor drowned when Artemis' high-tech catamaran capsized and trapped him underwater for more than 10 minutes while on a practice run in the bay.

    Simpson, 36, served as the Swedish team's strategist.

    "The entire Artemis team is devastated by what happened," CEO Paul Cayard said in a statement on the team's website. "Our heartfelt condolences are with Andrew's wife and family."

    Cayard didn't take questions during a brief news conference Thursday evening and didn't return telephone calls.

    British newspapers reported that Simpson is survived by a wife and an infant child.

    Artemis Racing said doctors "afloat" with the team and on shore were unable to revive Simpson after he was freed from the wreckage. The other sailor suffered minor injuries, and the rest of the crew of about a dozen people was accounted for and taken back to their dock in Alameda.

    Officials said winds were blowing between 15 and 20 knots (17 to 23 mph) when the boat capsized. The National Weather Service later issued a small-craft advisory, warning inexperienced mariners to stay off the bay and indicating winds of between 21 knots and 33 knots.

    The Artemis boat flipped near Treasure Island, which is bisected by the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge. The armada of rescue boats and helicopters were visible from the roadway.

    Simpson and the unidentified injured sailor were brought to shore at the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco, where paramedics performed CPR on Simpson. He was pronounced dead a short time later.

    This is the second time a sailor has died during training for the America's Cup. In 1999, Martin Wizner of the Spanish Challenge died almost instantly when he was hit in the head by a broken piece of equipment.

    No deaths have been recorded during the actual racing since its inception in 1851.

    Simpson and his partner Iain Percy won an Olympic gold medal for England in 2008 in the Star class of sailing. The duo was expected to repeat in London in 2012 but was upset by a Swedish team and settled for silver.

    Percy is Artemis' director and the boat's tactician. The team announced Feb. 23 that Simpson was joining Artemis to "provide weather and tactics support" to the crew.

    Artemis Racing has had its share of upheaval in the buildup to the 34th America's Cup. Late last year, skipper Terry Huthinson of Annapolis, Md., was released. He was replaced by Nathan Outteridge of Australia, who won a gold medal at the London Olympics.

    The team has had technical problems, as well. Last fall, Artemis said the front beam of its AC72 catamaran was damaged during structural tests, delaying the boat's christening. A year ago, Artemis' AC72 wing sail sustained serious damage while it was being tested on a modified trimaran in Valencia, Spain.

    This also wasn't the first America's Cup boat to capsize on the hard-blowing San Francisco Bay. Oracle's $10 million boat capsized in 25-knot winds in October, and strong tides swept it four miles past the Golden Gate Bridge. No one was injured, but the rough waters destroyed the 131-foot wing sail, and the boat was sidelined until a new sail shipped from New Zealand was installed in February.

    Stephen Barclay, CEO of the America's Cup Event Authority, said officials were investigating Thursday's accident. He said it was unclear what effect the death will have on the America' Cup races, which are scheduled to run from July to September.

    It was too soon to answer questions about the safety of the high-tech boats on the San Francisco Bay, Barclay said.

    "Obviously a catamaran is more prone to capsizing than a mono-hull," he said. "Whether boats are safe or unsafe, we're not going to speculate on those things."

    In addition to sailors wearing crash helmets and life vests, chase boats carry doctors and divers, Barclay said.

    "There are lots of precautions that are taken, and some of those are as a result of Oracle's mishap last year," he said.

    The boats participating in the latest America's Cup more resemble a space craft than the traditional sloops that historically competed for the trophy.

    Financed by billionaire Larry Ellison, Oracle Team USA won the 2010 cup and made several changes to the races this year in an attempt to make the staid competition more fan- and TV-friendly.

    While much faster and more exciting than the sloops, the catamarans have proved hard to handle. The wing sail looks and acts like an airplane wing, improving the yacht's speed and maneuverability. The 7-ton boat's hulls are lifted out of the water and it skims along the waves on "foils," reducing the drag on the boat and increasing speed dramatically.

    Coast Guard Lt. Jeannie Crump said the agency did not know the extent of the damage to the Artemis boat. A commercial salvage boat would tow the vessel to Clipper Cove, between Yerba Buena Island and Treasure Island, Crump said.

    She added that Coast Guard officials weren't sure what caused the boat to capsize. The Swedish team has two boats, she said.

     

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    A lone boat lies in the Kwajalein Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands. (Getty Images)

    MAJURO, Marshall Islands (AP) - About 6,000 people who live on the remote northern atolls of the Marshall Islands are facing an acute shortage of fresh water as a severe drought worsens.

    The Pacific archipelago this week declared a state of disaster in its north. Australia announced it would provide $101,000 for the emergency supply of desalination units. The U.S. has also donated several reverse-osmosis machines, which covert salt water into fresh water.

    There is no end in sight to the drought, with fine weather forecast for at least the next 10 days. The drought has also affected the food supply, withering crops such as breadfruit, bananas and taro.

    Chief Secretary Casten Nemra, who chairs the national disaster committee, said many large families are surviving on as little as a gallon of water a day.

    "It's an increasingly desperate situation out there," he said. "The dry season should have ended six weeks ago."

    He said there have been no deaths recorded but there has been an increase in diseases like pinkeye and diarrhea. The government has deployed ships carrying food, water and medical supplies to the affected islands, he added.

    The Marshall Islands is home to about 70,000 people who live on far-flung atolls and islands. The capital Majuro, home to much of the population, has not been as badly affected by the drought.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 7 Surprising Health Effects of Drought

     

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    The moon begins to cross in front of the sun during a partial solar eclipse in Sydney, Friday, May 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

    SYDNEY (AP) - The moon glided between the Earth and sun, blocking everything but a dazzling ring of light, for the few skygazers lucky enough to see Friday's "ring of fire" eclipse in northern Australia and the South Pacific.

    The celestial spectacle is the second solar eclipse visible from northern Australia in six months. In November, a total solar eclipse plunged the country's northeast into darkness, delighting astronomers and tourists who flocked to the region from across the globe to witness it.

    Photos: 'Ring of Fire' Solar Eclipse
    An annular eclipse is not considered as scientifically important or dramatic as a total eclipse. The moon is farther from Earth and cannot completely black out the sun, so instead of seeming to turn day into night, an annular eclipse just dims the sunlight.

    "A total eclipse is overall far more spectacular, far more emotional," said Andrew Jacob, an astronomer at Sydney Observatory. Still, he said, Friday's eclipse "will give you a nice ring of sunlight in the sky - it will be quite different."

    At remote outposts across Australia, scientists and spectators gathered to watch as the eclipse began casting its approximately 200-kilometer-wide (120-mile-wide) shadow at dawn over Western Australia, before moving east through the Northern Territory and the top of Queensland state. The shadow was drifting across Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and the tiny island nation of Kiribati, and will eventually end in a largely uninhabited area of the Pacific Ocean.

    The eclipse lasted between three and six minutes, depending on its location, and blacked out around 95 percent of the sun at its peak. A partial eclipse was visible in other parts of Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.

    U.S. astronomer Jay Pasachoff, who traveled to Australia to view his 57th solar eclipse, drove to a remote hill in the Outback about 30 miles north of the Northern Territory town of Tennant Creek, where he and around 100 others enjoyed one of the best and longest views of the eclipse in Australia.

    Amateur astronomers clicked away on cameras and local high school students measured the drop in temperature as the moon moved in front of the sun and blocked out much of the light. The moment was magical, Pasachoff said.

    "The color of the light changes in an eerie fashion, and you sense that something very strange and weird and wonderful is going on," said Pasachoff, an astronomy professor at Williams College in Massachusetts.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Photos: 'Ring of Fire' Solar Eclipse

     

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    There is the potential for locally gusty thunderstorms to affect portions of Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and upstate New York Friday and Friday night and then areas farther east on Saturday.

    A disturbance will track east-northeastward from the Midwest, along a slowly advancing cool front. The disturbance will raise the intensity of thunderstorms along the frontal zone.

    The storms will bring a risk of damaging wind gusts, hail, blinding downpours and flash flooding to a few locations.

    Part of the I-70, I-79 and I-80 corridors will be impacted Friday.

    Cities in the general area that may experience strong thunderstorms during Friday include Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio, Pittsburgh and State College, Pa., Huntington and Morgantown, W.Va., and Elmira and Binghamton, N.Y.

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    Severe Weather Center


    During Saturday, the risk of locally damaging thunderstorms will shift to part of the I-81 and I-95 corridors from Roanoke, Va., and Raleigh, N.C., to Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York City.

    In areas that have received heavy rain recently, there is an elevated risk of flash and small stream flooding.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos

     

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