AP Photo/Jens Meyer1 of 10
A man walks beside a piano, part of the installation 'Klinger - Landscapes of Melancholy,' during the press preview of the exhibition 'World Creators: Richard Wagner, Max Klinger, Karl May' in the Museum of Fine Arts in Leipzig, central Germany, Wednesday, May 15.
AP Photo/Mel Evans2 of 10
A cameraman looks up at a halo in the atmosphere around the sun in Seaside Heights, N.J., Monday, May 13. The halo is caused by light refracted or reflected by ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere.
Interior/Twitter3 of 10
The US Department of Interior tweeted this photo of Rocky Mountain National Park on May 14, and wrote, "Spring is definitely in the air in Rocky Mountain National Park. @RMNPOfficial #colorado pic.twitter.com/TWh5gpRdpT"
AP Photo/Matt Rourke4 of 10An US Airways jet flies over a rainbow Tuesday, May 14, 2013, in Philadelphia.
AP Photo/Julio Cortez5 of 10
The claw of a crane tears through the structure of the Jet Star Roller Coaster, Tuesday, May 14, in Seaside Heights, N.J. Workers began to demolish the roller coaster, which fell in the ocean when part of the Casino Pier was washed away by Superstorm Sandy in October.
AP Photo/Andrew Medichini6 of 10
Jerzy Janowicz of Poland celebrates after defeating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France during their match at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome, Wednesday, May 15.
RichardGottardo/Twitter7 of 10
NASA Earth Observatory8 of 10
Dust plumes blew out of southern Argentina and over the Atlantic Ocean in early May 2013. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite captured this natural-color image on May 12. The dust blew out of the Patagonian Desert, and many of the plumes arose from sediments around a shallow lake.
AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon9 of 10Shaven-headed young boys with lanterns watch a screen at SK Telecom T.um Museum in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, May 15. They are among 10 children who entered a temple to experience monks' life for three weeks, called Little Buddha Camp, to celebrate upcoming Buddha's birthday on May 17.
AP Photo/Vincent Yu10 of 10Next: Today's 10 Must-See Photos: 5-14-2013
A deflated rubber duck created by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman is lifted up at Hong Kong's Victoria Harbor Wednesday, May 15. The 54-foot-tall inflatable rubber duck was deflated Tuesday evening.
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- 05/16/13--01:20: _Cyclone Mahasen Fiz...
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- 05/16/13--04:16: Photos: Tornadoes Tear Through North Texas
George Kourounis/twitter1 of 12
A series of tornadoes tore through several small communities in North Texas Wednesday night, leaving at least six people dead, dozens more injured and hundreds homeless.
Storm chaser George Kourounis tweeted this photo of a tornado in Millsap, Texas, on May 16 and wrote, "#Tornado at Milsap, Texas. It was close enough to hear it clearly. pic.twitter.com/AAUG2FcHRS"
Kelly7News/twitter2 of 12Morning news producer Kelly Schuberth tweeted this photo of a Texas tornado on May 16 and wrote, "#BREAKING PHOTO: Cleburne, Texas (near Dallas) declared disaster area after reported tornado. -@OmarVillafranca pic.twitter.com/xO4rubeQ8b"
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GrantJNBC5/twitter4 of 12Meteorologist Grant Johnston tweeted this photo of the Texas tornado aftermath on May 16. He wrote, "Tornado damaged home in #Granbury from Chopper5. Notice the clothes still hanging in the closet. @NBCDFW pic.twitter.com/1GDoWUx7tr"
AP Photo/The Dallas Morning News, Michael Ainsworth5 of 12Pete Alaniz looks for items on Thursday, May 16, to salvage after a tornado hit his home in Cleburne, Texas. His family of four and three dogs hid in his closet while the tornado destroyed his home.
AP Photo/The Dallas Morning News, Tom Fox6 of 12Storm chaser Travis Schafer looks at tornado damage to a house on Hyde Park Lane at Country Club Rd. in Cleburne, Texas, Wednesday night. Cleburne Mayor Scott Cain early Thursday declared a local disaster as schools canceled classes amid the destruction.
Nichole Tomlin/AP7 of 12This May 16 photo shows the backyard of Nichole Tomlin's home in Granbury, Texas, where Tomlin says there used to be a neighborhood.
thestormreport/twitter8 of 12The Storm Report retweeted this photo of the Texas tornado aftermath on May 16 and wrote, "RT @NewsBreaker: NEW PHOTO: Aerial view of tornado damage in Granbury, TX pic.twitter.com/5NFDdOIIyg - @NBCDFW"
Mike Fuentes/AP Photo9 of 12Johnny Ortiz, left, and James South, right, carry Miguel Morales, center, who was injured in a tornado, to an ambulance in Granbury, Texas, on Wednesday, May 15.
SimonStormRider/twitter10 of 12Storm chaser Simon Brewer tweeted this photo of giant hail on May 15 and wrote, "3 inch diameter hail in Ringold TX minutes before big tornado developed @JustonStrmRider #StormRiders pic.twitter.com/wKI0jJ6l9O"
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Mike Fuentes/AP Photo12 of 12Next: 18 Incredible Photos of TornadoesAn unidentified injured person is carried to an ambulance in Granbury, Texas, on Wednesday May 15.
- 05/16/13--04:34: Today's 10 Must-See Photos: 5-16-2013
AP Photo/Mike Fuentes1 of 10Johnny Ortiz (left) and James South (right) carry Miguel Morales, who was injured in a tornado, to an ambulance in Granbury, Texas, on Wednesday, May 15. Officials report the tornado caused multiple fatalities as it tore through two neighborhoods of a North Texas town.
Interior/Twitter2 of 10
The US Department of Interior tweeted this photo of Glacier Point and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park on May 15, and wrote, "Some sights are too beautiful for words. Like the view from Glacier Point overlooking Half Dome @YosemiteNPS pic.twitter.com/DeFSp6jazi"
AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky3 of 10Oleksiy Pinko, a circus artist, dances with a lion during presentation of the new program in Ukraine's National Circus in Kiev, Ukraine, Wednesday, May 15.
© George Kourounis, georgekourounis/Twitter4 of 10
AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus5 of 10An Afghan National Police officer mans a checkpoint on the outskirts of Maidan Shahr, Wardak province, Wednesday, May 15.
NASA6 of 10
This composite image of a galaxy released by NASA on May 16 illustrates how the intense gravity of a supermassive black hole can be tapped to generate immense power. The image contains X-ray data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory (blue), optical light obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope (gold) and radio waves from the NSF's Very Large Array (pink).
Cmdr_Hadfield/Twitter7 of 10
Astronaut Chris Hadfield tweeted this photo of the Mongolian highlands that he took while aboard the International Space Station on May 15. He wrote, "Today's photo is from the Mongolian highlands. Surreal to see a frozen lake surrounded by sand dunes. pic.twitter.com/InfNHUMc5p"
earthXplorer/Twitter8 of 10
AP Photo/A.M. Ahad9 of 10A Bangladeshi volunteer walks along the Bay of Bengal coast to evacuate people from Chittagong, Bangladesh, Thursday, May 16. Cyclone Mahasen struck the southern coast of Bangladesh on Thursday, lashing remote fishing villages with heavy rain and fierce winds that flattened mud and straw huts and forced the evacuation of more than 1 million people.
NASA10 of 10Next: Today's 10 Must-See Photos: 5-15-2013
Expedition 35 Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy, who currently is living and working aboard the International Space Station, is seen in the Quest Airlock prior to a spacewalk, in this photo released by NASA on May 16.
- 05/16/13--04:40: Fire Burns 3,500 Acres in Calif. National Forest
The claw of a crane, center, tears through the structure of the Jet Star Roller Coaster, Tuesday, May 14, 2013, in Seaside Heights, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. (AP) - Riding the Jet Star roller coaster as a girl vacationing at the Jersey shore, Nicole Jones said there was always that one breath-catching moment when the passenger cars swerved toward the ocean, as if threatening to dump riders into the surf.
When Superstorm Sandy hit last October, it was the roller coaster itself that plunged into the waves off the amusement pier where it had been anchored for decades.
Work crews, making better progress on Tuesday than anticipated, began tearing down the remains of the roller coaster and placing them on a huge storage barge, which was expected to carry away the last remnants of the beloved ride within 48 hours. About half of it was gone by mid-afternoon.
The image of the Jet Star, sitting in the ocean, was perhaps the most famous and enduring image of Superstorm Sandy. It appeared hundreds of times in media accounts and graced T-shirts, hoodies and car magnets, sold by the numerous charities raising money for storm victims.
"It was always a thrill. It didn't matter how many times you went on it," said Jones, now 21, who grew up in northern New Jersey but recently moved to the shore, where she was a regular visitor during the summers from the time she was 5. "It was that scary moment when it went around the curve at the top, and you felt like maybe you were going to fall in the ocean. But then somehow you never did.
"It's heartbreaking to see it like this," she added.
The ride is privately owned by Casino Pier, one of two amusement piers in Seaside Heights that were devastated by the Oct. 29 storm. Funtown Pier, at the southern end of the boardwalk, was so badly damaged it cannot open this summer, but will be back in 2014.
Casino Pier is being rebuilt and will include at least 18 rides this summer, including a new pendulum ride called The Superstorm, in defiance of Sandy.
The coaster's removal was delayed for months while the company wrangled with insurers and contractors over a rare engineering feat: Exactly how DO you snag a roller coaster out of the sea?
In the end, they came up with a fairly simple solution. The company hired Weeks Marine, an experienced maritime contractor, to bring a barge bearing a giant crane with the same sort of grasping claw featured in miniature in so many Seaside Heights arcades, where contestants maneuver the device and try to capture a stuffed animal or sports jersey as a prize.
Tuesday morning, shortly after Great Britain's Price Harry had wrapped up a brief visit to the boardwalk as part of a U.S. tour, the crane roared to life and began grasping and wrenching loose twisted sections of metal track, dropping them onto the barge for later removal.
Seaside Heights Mayor Bill Akers said the wind and weather had to be just right for the job - and were expected to be over the next 48 to 72 hours. Work would progress around the clock until the last of the coaster is gone.
The project also will remove three other rides that fell from the pier and into the ocean during the storm, but have been submerged and out of view since then, said Toby Wolf, a spokeswoman for the pier's owners. The Stillwalk Manor, a haunted house-type ride; The Centrifuge, and the Log Flume all plunged off the pier and into the waves.
A fifth ride that fell from the pier, the Music Express, landed on the beach and was salvaged a few days after the storm, Wolf said.
The boardwalk itself is nearing completion, and the mayor promises it will be done by Memorial Day weekend. The section of boardwalk upon which Prince Harry walked on Tuesday was just finished over the weekend by workers hastening to prepare for his visit.
RELATED ON SKYE: 25 Indelible Images from Superstorm Sandy
Lake Michigan (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - A decades-old effort to nurse the battered Great Lakes to health has made progress toward reducing toxic pollution and slamming the door on invasive species, but the freshwater seas continue to face serious threats, a U.S.-Canadian agency said Tuesday.
The International Joint Commission, which advises both nations on issues affecting shared waterways, said their governments had compiled a mixed record in restoring the Great Lakes, which for much of the 20th Century were fouled by industrial and household sewage and overrun with exotic fish and mussels.
Levels of some toxins have dropped, although the rate of decline has slowed and new chemicals have turned up, the commission said. Algae blooms were reduced dramatically, only to stage a frustrating comeback in recent years. Rising surface temperatures and shrinking winter ice cover are contributing to lower water levels, suggesting that the lakes' ecology may be linked increasingly to climate change.
The commission has provided regular progress reports since the U.S. and Canada signed the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement in 1972, when the system containing one-fifth of the world's fresh water was notoriously dirty and Lake Erie was widely described as biologically dead.
The latest report card focuses on the period since 1987, when the pact was updated with an emphasis on reducing toxins and cleaning up 43 highly contaminated areas. The two nations signed another version last year.
"We've proved that when we put our minds to it, we can clean up the lakes," said Lana Pollack, chairwoman of the U.S. delegation to the commission. "When we take our eye off the ball, we go backward."
The analysis is based on a variety of chemical, biological and physical characteristics used to measure the lakes' well-being.
It says concentrations of most chemicals observed in key species such as herring gulls, walleye and mussels have declined, although the drop-offs occurred mostly between 1987 and 2000. But levels of newly arrived chemicals - including those used as flame retardants - rose during the same period. Mercury levels have remained stable or risen in popular sport fish, and consumption advisories remain in effect across the region.
A crackdown on phosphorus in laundry detergent and upgrades to wastewater treatment systems helped rein in runaway algae during the 1980s and 1990s. But stepped-up levels of a particular type of phosphorus, caused largely by fertilizer runoff from farmlands, have caused a sharp uptick in harmful blooms on Lake Erie and parts of the other lakes.
"I'm starting to see algae in places I've never seen it before," Pollack said, describing it as one problem that the Great Lakes region can solve on its own - in contrast to issues such as climate change and atmospheric deposits of mercury, which would require international cooperation.
One of the most serious challenges during the 25 years covered by the new report was a flood of invasive species such as zebra and quagga mussels, most of which arrived in ballast water dumped into Great Lakes harbors by oceangoing vessels. The mussels are blamed for clogging water intake pipes and unraveling food webs.
But no invaders are known to have hitchhiked to the lakes in ballast tanks since 2006, as both nations have imposed tougher standards for water disposal and treatment.
The U.S. has allocated more than $1 billion to an Obama administration program called the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. It's designed to accelerate cleanups of toxic hot spots and prevent attacks by new invaders, including the feared Asian carp.
"Tight budgets on both sides of the border mean that cooperation and coordination of cleanup efforts are even more important," said Joe Comuzzi, chairman of the Canadian delegation to the commission.
In this Sunday, May 12, 2013, photo provided by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources are two bald eagles after they crash landed on a runway at Duluth, Minn., International Airport. (AP Photo/Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Randy Hanzal)
DULUTH, Minn. (AP) - Two bald eagles locked together by their talons in a midair battle survived a crash landing onto a runway at a northeastern Minnesota airport.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officer Randy Hanzal says the adult eagles couldn't separate Sunday before slamming into the tarmac at the Duluth International Airport.
Hanzal tried to take the birds to a Duluth wildlife rehabilitation center. He covered them with blankets and jackets on the back of his pickup and held them down with webbing straps. En route, Hanzal says, he heard a ruckus and saw one bird jump out and fly away.
The Duluth News Tribune says the other eagle made it to the rehab center and is now being cared for by the University of Minnesota in St. Paul's Raptor Center.
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In this photo provided by Mike Tickle, the Pavlof Volcano emits a minor steam and ash plume, as seen Tuesday, May 14, 2013, from the community of Cold Bay, Alaska. (AP Photo/Mike Tickle)
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Scientists say small lava flows have been detected on two restless volcanoes in Alaska.
The Alaska Volcano Observatory says satellite images Tuesday show the lava partly down a flank of Pavlof Volcano in a low-level eruption 625 miles southwest of Anchorage.
Geophysicist Dave Schneider says minor steam and ash emissions are visible from the community of Cold Bay 37 miles away.
Pavlof is the second Alaska volcano to erupt this month.
Cleveland Volcano, on an uninhabited island in the Aleutian Islands, experienced a low-level eruption in early May. The observatory says analysis of satellite imagery shows a lava flow partly down a flank of the volcano.
Ash plumes can be an aviation hazard, but no ash clouds have been detected from Cleveland Volcano in the past week.
RELATED ON SKYE: Breathtaking Volcanic Eruptions Seen from Space
Isolated strong-to-severe thunderstorms may impact afternoon and evening plans across portions of the mid-Atlantic on Wednesday.
Widespread severe weather is not anticipated, but a few stronger thunderstorms could produce wind gusts over 45 mph, which would produce wind damage in spots.
Cities that may be impacted by gusty thunderstorms include Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, Pa., Baltimore, Md., and Washington, D.C.
Travelers along Interstate 95, 81, 83 and 76 should be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions, including heavy downpours and strong, gusty winds.
The ingredients for these thunderstorms will come together as the day progresses. A warm front will push warmer, more moist air into the mid-Atlantic this morning.
Then, as a cold front moving down from the northwest interacts with this more moist air mass, scattered showers and thunderstorms will develop during the afternoon hours and continue into the evening.
Despite the increase in moisture, the air mass still will not be humid enough to support widespread strong-to-severe thunderstorm development.
Because of this, the thunderstorms will be spotty with some places even staying dry during the afternoon and evening. However, any thunderstorm that does form could produce wind gusts over 45 mph and lead to wind damage in some spots.
Low Tornado Threat May End This Weekend
Record Cold in the Midwest, Northeast
Severe Weather Center
People with outdoor plans across the mid-Atlantic on Wednesday afternoon or evening should watch for a changing sky and head indoors if thunder is heard.
The front moving through is the same one that helped produced the wild temperature swings over the Plains states over the past couple of days. While it will be noticeably warmer on Wednesday, temperature changes across the mid-Atlantic will not be nearly as impressive.
The cold front leading to the thunderstorms on Wednesday will slowly drift southward on Thursday, bringing drier weather to much of Pennsylvania. However, the front will still be close enough to spark a few thunderstorms around Baltimore, Md., and Washington, D.C.
RELATED ON SKYE: Epic Storm Photos from the Twittersphere
This image, taken from the International Space Station in September 2010, shows the unnamed cyclone that merged with Hurricane Earl. (NASA)
After a devastating blow to the East from Superstorm Sandy in October of 2012, residents and homeowners on the Atlantic coast should anticipate another active season in 2013.
AccuWeather.com's long-range team predicts 16 named tropical storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes for the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season. Of these, three are predicted to make landfall in the United States.
2. AccuWeather.com is predicting strong storms this year with a strength of category 2 or higher.
3. Areas along the East coast to the Gulf of Mexico are at risk for impacts from a tropical system.Warm water across the Atlantic and Caribbean, paired with less frequent wind shear, may result in an above-normal number of storms. The normal number of named tropical storms in a given year is 12, according to NOAA.
Additionally, 2013 could set the stage for stronger storms than were seen in 2012.
Episodes of Saharan dust, a factor that can stifle a storm's development, may be less frequent this season. The reduced amount of dust may allow storms with a strength of category 2 or higher to develop.
The season is predicted to be normal in development, compared to last year when two storms were named before the official start of Atlantic hurricane season, June 1.
Should storms brew early in the season, from late May to early June, the season total for storms may be even higher than originally forecast.
Last year's early storms were an "anomaly," AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said. "We think that this year will be more in line with a typical active season."
The biggest concerns for the upcoming season include development in the Gulf of Mexico, an impact in Florida and also another East Coast impact.
Florida is long overdue for a direct hurricane hit, Kottlowski said. Though they have been impacted by named tropical storms in the last couple of years, a direct hit by a hurricane has not occurred since Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
Concern is high for the East because of the remaining devastation as a result of the October 2012 landfall of Superstorm Sandy.
"It would be very difficult for a storm to hit right where Sandy hit," Kottlowski said. However, impacts such as storm surge, strong winds and heavy rain are possible as far as a few hundred miles from a storm, he explained.
The areas impacted by Sandy remain vulnerable as powerful storm surge wreaked havoc on the dune systems that were in place along the coast. Without dunes, there is increased potential for severe inland flooding.
Overall, however, the exact areas to be directly impacted this season and the severity of those impacts remain unclear.
"Those are very, very difficult to compute early in the season," Kottlowski said. "As we get into the season and see how things are setting up, then it becomes a little bit more noticeable."
RELATED ON SKYE: Stunning Hurricane Photos from Space
Tropical Cyclone Mahasen (01B), which is now centered several hundred miles south of Calcutta, India, will impact areas from northeastern India to Bangladesh and Myanmar over the next few days.
On Monday and Tuesday, heavy rainfall associated with Mahasen fell across parts of Sri Lanka. Rainfall totaled 5.76 inches in Ratnapura and 4.45 inches in Kurunegala during this time. The Sri Lankan Disaster Management Centre reported that at least seven people have died due to flooding from the cyclone.
Multiple boats carrying more than 100 evacuees from Myanmar capsized Monday night after the lead boat crashed into rocks, according to the United Nations. More than 50 people aboard the boats are feared dead.
A satellite image from Wednesday shows clouds associated with Tropical Cyclone Mahasen over northeastern India and the northern Bay of Bengal.
Mahasen is expected to take a northeastward track over the next few days. This track should bring the storm into an area of warm sea surface temperatures and lower wind shear giving it an opportunity to become better organized.
With this track, Tropical Cyclone Mahasen could bring life-threatening conditions to millions of people from northeastern India and into Bangladesh and even Myanmar. The greatest threats at this time appear to be flooding and mudslides; however, any storm surge can still be dangerous due to the low elevations of this region.
The storm is expected to approach Bangladesh Wednesday night into Thursday morning. During that time. it is expected to reach a peak intensity of near 60 mph (100 km/h). Mahasen may weaken somewhat prior to making landfall Thursday afternoon or evening.
An additional concern is that parts of Bangladesh and northeast India have received over 12 inches of rain during the past two weeks, which is a normal total for the entire month of May. In particular, the coastal Bangladesh city of Chittagong, a city of 2.5 million people, received more than 15 inches of rain between May 3 and May 11. As a result, additional heavy rainfall from a tropical cyclone would likely produce widespread flooding of both coastal and inland areas and possible mudslides.
Farther west, rainfall amounts will be considerably lighter as compared to Bangladesh and coastal Myanmar. Calcutta (Kolkata), India, a city of more than 5 million people, will be very close to the western side of the storm system. At this point in time, it appears that they will have just a few showers and thunderstorms while the worst of the storm passes to their east. However, if the storm tracks a little farther west, there is the potential for a steadier and heavier period of rain on Thursday which could total a few inches.
Atlantic Hurricane Season Forecast
Severe Weather Center
Cyclones that have hit these areas in the past have been some of the most deadly across the globe. In 2008, Tropical Cyclone Nargis devastated parts of Myanmar with some estimates of more than 100,000 people killed by the storm. A tropical cyclone that hit Bangladesh in 1991 reportedly killed more than 100,000 people as well.
Even though this storm is not expected to be as powerful as either of these, it shows how much damage can be done by a tropical cyclone in this part of the world.
For more weather news, visit AccuWeather.com.
RELATED ON SKYE: Stunning Hurricane Photos from Space
A scientists takes a sample of water from a mine deep underground in Ontario, Canada. The water turned out to be 2.6 billion years old, the oldest known water on Earth. (B. Sherwood Lollar et al.)
A pocket of water some 2.6 billion years old - the most ancient pocket of water known by far, older even than the dawn of multicellular life - has now been discovered in a mine 2 miles below the Earth's surface.
The finding, announced in the May 16 issue of the journal Nature, raises the tantalizing possibility that ancient life might be found deep underground not only within Earth, but in similar oases that may exist on Mars, the scientists who studied the water said.
Geoscientist Barbara Sherwood Lollar at the University of Toronto and her colleagues have investigated deep mines across the world since the 1980s. Water can flow into fractures in rocks and become isolated deep in the crust for many years, serving as a time capsule of what their environments were like at the time they were sealed off.
In gold mines in South Africa 1.7 miles (2.8 kilometers) deep, the scientists previously discovered microbes could survive in pockets of water isolated for tens of millions of years. These reservoirs were many times saltier than seawater, "and had chemistry in many ways similar to hydrothermal vents on the bottom of the ocean, full of dissolved hydrogen and other chemicals capable of supporting life," Sherwood Lollar said. [Strangest Places Where Life Is Found on Earth]
To see what other ancient pockets of water might exist, Sherwood Lollar and her colleagues investigated copper and zinc mines near the city of Timmins in Ontario, Canada. "As the prices of copper, zinc and gold have gone up, mines now go deeper, which has helped our search for long-isolated reservoirs of water hidden underground," Sherwood Lollar said.
"Sometimes we went down in cages - they're not called elevators underground - that dropped us to the levels we wanted to go," Sherwood Lollar told OurAmazingPlanet. "Other times, we went down ramp mines, which have curling spiral roadways, so we could actually drive all the way down."
The scientists analyzed water they found 2 miles deep. They focused on noble gases such as helium, neon, argon and xenon. Past studies analyzing bubbles of air trapped within ancient rocks found that these rare gases could occur in distinct ratios linked with certain eras of Earth's history. As such, by analyzing the ratios of noble gases seen in this water, the researchers could deduce the age of the water.
The scientists discovered the fluids were trapped in the rocks between 1.5 billion and 2.64 billion years ago.
"It was absolutely mind-blowing," Sherwood Lollar said. "These weren't tens of millions of years old like we might have expected, or even hundreds of millions of years old. They were billions of years old."
The site was formed by geological activity similar to that seen in hydrothermal vents. "We walked along what used to be ocean floor 2.7 billion years ago," Sherwood Lollar said. "You could still see some of the same pillow lava structures now seen on the bottom of the ocean."
Signs of life?
This ancient water poured out of the boreholes the team drilled in the mine at the rate of nearly a half-gallon per minute. It remains uncertain precisely how large this reservoir of water is.
"This is an extremely important question and one that we want to pursue in our future work," Sherwood Lollar said. "We also want to see if there are habitable reservoirs of similar age around the world."
Sherwood Lollar emphasized they have not yet found any signs of life in the water from Timmins. "We're working on that right now," she said. "It'd be fascinating to us if we did, since it'd push back the frontiers of how long life could survive in isolation."
And the implications of such a finding would extend beyond the extremes of life on Earth.
"Finding life in this energy-rich water is especially exciting if one thinks of Mars, where there might be water of similar age and mineralogy under the surface," Sherwood Lollar said.
If any life once arose on Mars billions of years ago as it did on Earth, "then it is likely in the subsurface," Sherwood Lollar said. "If we find the water in Timmins can support life, maybe the same might hold true for Mars as well."
RELATED ON SKYE: Breathtaking Images of Earth from Space
Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2013
MIAMI (AP) - Forecasters say the first tropical storm of the eastern Pacific hurricane season has formed off the coast of Mexico.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says Tropical Storm Alvin formed Wednesday. It had maximum sustained winds of about 40 mph (64 kph) and was moving west at 13 mph. It was centered about 665 miles (1070 km) southwest of Acapulco, Mexico.
Alvin could become a hurricane in several days. It isn't currently a threat to land.
The eastern and north Pacific season began Wednesday and runs through Nov. 30.
The National Hurricane Center says there is typically an average of 15 named storms each season, with four of those considered major hurricanes reaching at least Category 3 strength with top sustained winds of 111 mph.
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Wednesday, May 15, 2013
An internally displaced Rohingya woman stands outside her tent at a camp for displaced Rohingya in Sittwe, northwestern Rakhine State, Myanmar, Wednesday, May 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)
SITTWE, Myanmar (AP) - The cyclone was only a day or two away, churning through the Indian Ocean and carrying with it winds and rains that authorities warned could quickly turn deadly.
But in dozens of refugee camps that spatter Myanmar's western coast, where tens of thousands of displaced Rohingya people live in plastic-roofed tents and huts made of reeds, an order to evacuate ahead of the storm was met with widespread refusal.
In these camps, filled with people who barely exist officially, nearly any government order is distrusted.
Around 140,000 people - mostly Rohingya - have been living in crowded camps in Myanmar's Rakhine state since last year, when two outbreaks of sectarian violence between the Muslim minority and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists forced many Rohingya from their homes.
Nearly half the displaced live in coastal areas considered highly vulnerable to storm surges and flooding from Cyclone Mahasen, which is expected to make landfall early Friday.
"They say they'll take us someplace safe," said Kyaung Wa, a cycle-rickshaw driver who has spent nearly a year in a series of camps on the outskirts of Sittwe after his house was destroyed in the violence. If his current home is little more than a hut covered with a plastic sheet, he fears ending up someplace even worse, and living deeper in the countryside and away from work.
So he and the vast majority of his neighbors insisted they would stay, along with thousands of other Rohingya along the coastline.
Officials, he said, had been trying to empty his camp for months.
"Now they say, 'You have to move because of the storm,'" he said. "We keep refusing to go. ... If they point guns at us, only then will we move."
President's Office Minister Aung Min told reporters Wednesday that the government guarantees the safety of the Rohingyas during relocation and promises to return them to their current settlement when the storm has passed.
Mahasen appeared to have weakened Wednesday, with the cyclone downgraded to a Category 1 storm, according to the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
However, the center of the cyclone was heading toward Chittagong in Bangladesh and could, "depending on its final trajectory, bring life-threatening conditions for 8.2 million people in northeast India, Bangladesh and Myanmar," the U.N. office said in a Wednesday storm update.
There was no wind or rain in Chittagong on Wednesday afternoon, but about 170 factories close to the Bay of Bengal were closed in anticipation of the storm.
Cox's Bazar, a seafront town in Bangladesh in the expected path of the cyclone, experienced drizzling rain and high tides 3 to 4 feet (about one meter) above normal. There was flooding in low-lying areas of several nearby island towns, said Ruhul Amin, a government official, and tens of thousands of people had left their homes for cyclone shelters and schools and government buildings on high ground.
Related heavy rains and flooding in Sri Lanka were blamed for eight deaths earlier this week, said Sarath Lal Kumara, spokesman for Sri Lanka's disaster management center.
In Myanmar at least eight people - and possibly many more - were killed as they fled the cyclone Monday night, when overcrowded boats carrying more than 100 Rohingya capsized. Only 42 people had been rescued by Wednesday, and more than 50 Rohingya were still missing, said Deputy Information Minister Ye Htut.
Much attention was focused on western Myanmar because of fears over the fate of the crowded, low-lying Rohingya camps.
Myanmar's government had planned to move 38,000 people within Rakhine state by Tuesday but "it is unclear how many people have been relocated," the U.N. office said, adding that Muslim leaders in the country have called on people to cooperate with the government's evacuation.
With sprawling camps still crowded with people, it appeared very few Rohingya had agreed to leave, despite offers of additional food rations.
The ones that had left said they had little choice.
"They just put us on the truck and brought us here," said Mahmoud Issac, a day laborer now living with his family and about 500 other Rohingya on the grounds of a small mosque. His wife and five children live on the ground floor of a two-room school, while he and the other men sleep on the mosque's portico.
He has no idea if he'll be allowed to return to the camp that had become his home.
The Rohingya trace their ancestry to what is now Bangladesh, but many have lived in Myanmar for generations. Officially, though, they are dismissed as illegal aliens. They face widespread discrimination in largely Buddhist Myanmar, and particularly in Rakhine, where many of the Rohingya live.
Tensions remain high in Rakhine nearly a year after sectarian unrest tore through the region and left parts of Sittwe, the state capital, burned to the ground. At least 192 people were killed.
The violence has largely segregated Rakhine state along religious lines, with prominent Buddhists - including monks - urging people not to employ their Muslim onetime neighbors, or to shop in their businesses.
International rights groups and aid agencies urged that the evacuations be stepped up.
The British-based aid agency Oxfam welcomed the government's evacuation efforts, but said "swifter action is needed to ensure people are moved before the storm hits."
"It is essential that humanitarian principles are adhered to in moving all affected populations safely to suitable locations and that no one is left out," the group's director for Myanmar, Jane Lonsdale, said in a statement.
Weather experts have warned that the storm could shift and change in intensity before hitting land.
Myanmar's southern delta was devastated in 2008 by Cyclone Nargis, which swept away entire farming villages and killed more than 130,000 people. Two days before hitting Myanmar, Nargis weakened to a Category 1 cyclone before strengthening to a Category 4 storm.
Homes in Bethany Beach, Del., are surrounded by floodwaters from Hurricane Sandy on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Randall Chase)
WASHINGTON (AP) - An internal review says federal weather forecasts for Superstorm Sandy were exceptionally accurate last fall. But the warnings themselves were confusing.
The gigantic October storm lost tropical characteristics hours before landfall in New Jersey, so the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration dropped the hurricane warnings. Instead it shifted to flooding and high wind warnings. NOAA's self-assessment said that led to confusion by the public and the media, a complaint made by independent meteorologists.
The 66-page report uses the word "confusion" 88 times. It says future hurricane warnings should continue even when a storm changes from hurricane to a post-tropical cyclone.
The report says the biggest problem was warning of the massive storm surge. Nearly 4 out of 5 coastal residents surveyed said Sandy's storm surge was higher than they expected.
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A trucking company trailer landed on a car that was parked in front of a Lindsey Ln. home in Cleburne Texas after a powerful storm went through Wednesday night, May 15, 2013. (AP Photo/The Dallas Morning News, Tom Fox)
GRANBURY, Texas (AP) - A rash of tornados slammed into several small communities in North Texas overnight, leaving at least six people dead, dozens more injured and hundreds homeless. The violent spring storm scattered bodies, flattened homes, threw trailers onto cars.
In Granbury, the worst-hit city, a tornado tore through two neighborhoods around 8 p.m. Wednesday. Resident Elizabeth Tovar described the fist-sized hail that heralded the tornado's arrival, prompting her and her family to hide in their bathroom.
"We were all, like, hugging in the bathtub and that's when it started happening. I heard glass shattering and I knew my house was going," Tovar said, shaking her head. "We looked up and ... the whole ceiling was gone."
The powerful storm crushed buildings as it tore through the area, leaving some as just piles of planks and rubble. Trees and debris were scattered across yards, fences flattened.
Behind one house, a detached garage was stripped of most of its aluminum siding, the door caved in and the roof torn off. A tree behind the house was stripped of its branches and a vacant doublewide mobile home on an adjoining lot was torn apart.
Daniel and Amanda Layne initially thought they were safe sheltering under their carport. But then "it started getting worse and worse," and the couple took shelter in their bathroom, Daniel Layne said.
"The windows and the cars are gone. Both our cars are messed up. I had a big shop. Ain't a piece of it left now," Layne said with a shrug.
Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds described the devastating aftermath and the hunt for bodies in Granbury, about 40 miles southwest of Fort Worth.
"Some were found in houses. Some were found around houses," Deeds said. "There was a report that two of these people that they found were not even near their homes. So we're going to have to search the area out there."
Deeds said around midnight that 14 people were still missing but Mayor Pro Tem Nin Hulett told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Thursday morning that he believed most residents had been accounted for.
"Our highest priority right now is to try to get the people that are out there in those communities under a shelter somewhere," Hulett said.
Deeds said about 50 people were taken to a hospital in Granbury. Yet more gathered at a local elementary school where paramedics provided on-site treatment. Matt Zavadsky, a spokesman for MedStar Mobile Healthcare, estimated that as many as 100 people were injured.
Utilities said about 20,000 homes and businesses were without power early Thursday.
Another tornado that storm spotters told the National Weather Service was a mile wide tore through Cleburne, a courthouse city of about 30,000 about 25 miles southeast of Granbury.
Cleburne Mayor Scott Cain said early Thursday that no one was killed or seriously hurt, although seven people suffered minor injuries. He estimated that dozens of homes were damaged and declared a local disaster.
In one neighborhood, a trucking company trailer that had been parked on the street was picked up and dropped onto a nearby car and garage.
Another tornado hit the small town of Millsap, about 40 miles west of Fort Worth. Parker County Judge Mark Kelley said roof damage was reported to several houses and a barn was destroyed, but no injuries were reported.
Hail as large as grapefruit also pelted the area around Mineral Wells on Wednesday evening. A police dispatcher reported only minor damage.
An internally displaced Rohingya man pushes a rickshaw with children and belongings leaving a camp for displaced Rohingya people in Sittwe, northwestern Rakhine State, Myanmar, Thursday, May 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)
COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh (AP) - Cyclone Mahasan weakened Thursday afternoon into a tropical storm, causing far less damage than had been feared as it passed over coastal Bangladesh and spared Myanmar almost entirely.
At least 18 deaths related to Mahasen were reported in Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, but officials had prepared for a far greater storm. Bangladesh evacuated 1 million people from coastal areas and the United Nations warned that 8.2 million people could face life-threatening conditions.
The cyclone lost power as it shed huge amounts of rainfall and then veered west of its predicted path, sparing major Bangladeshi population areas, including Chittagong and the seaside resort of Cox's Bazar, said Mohammad Shah Alam, director of the Bangladesh Meteorological Department.
"Thank God we have been spared this time," local government administrator Ruhul Amin said.
The storm's impact in Myanmar, where officials were having trouble evacuating tens of thousands of displaced Rohingya people, was minimal.
"We are out of danger and the impact of the cyclone is almost over. There can be heavy rains in some areas because of the cyclone, but the danger is over," said Tun Lwin, the retired director general of Myanmar's meteorology department.
In Cox's Bazar, tens of thousands of people had fled shanty homes along the coast and packed into cyclone shelters, hotels, schools and government office buildings. But by Thursday afternoon, the sun was shining and Amin said he planned to close the shelters by the evening.
The storm's slow movement toward Bangladesh gave the government plenty of warning to get people to safety, Amin said.
"But for the evacuation, the casualties would have been higher," he said.
In addition, river ferries and boat services were suspended, and scores of factories near the choppy Bay of Bengal were closed. The military said it kept 22 navy ships and 19 Air Force helicopters at the ready.
A 1991 cyclone that slammed into Bangladesh from the Bay of Bengal killed an estimated 139,000 people and left millions homeless. In 2008, Myanmar's southern delta was devastated by Cyclone Nargis, which swept away entire farming villages and killed more than 130,000 people. Both those cyclones were much more powerful than Mahasen, which hit land with maximum wind speeds of about 62 mph and quickly weakened, said Alam, the meteorological official.
Bangladesh television stations reported the deaths of two men, one of whom was crushed by a tree uprooted by the wind.
Related heavy rains and flooding in Sri Lanka were blamed for eight deaths earlier this week. At least eight people - and possibly many more - were killed in Myanmar as they fled the cyclone Monday night, when overcrowded boats carrying more than 100 Rohingya capsized. Only 43 people had been rescued by Thursday, and more than 50 Rohingya were still missing.
Much attention was focused on western Myanmar because of the crowded, low-lying camps where many Rohingya refused to evacuate.
U.N. officials, hoping they would inspire greater trust, fanned out across the area to encourage people to leave.
In Rakhine state, around 140,000 people - mostly Rohingya - have been living in the camps since last year, when two outbreaks of sectarian violence between the Muslim minority and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists forced many Rohingya from their homes.
Nearly half the displaced live in coastal areas that were considered highly vulnerable to storm surges and flooding from Cyclone Mahasen.
"Pack and leave," a Rakhine state official, U Hla Maung, warned before the storm hit as he walked through a camp near Sittwe, the state capital. Accompanied by more than a dozen soldiers and riot police, he suggested that people living there move to a nearby railroad embankment, then left without offering help.
Some Rohingya took down their tents and hauled their belongings away in cycle-rickshaws, or carried them in bags balanced on their heads.
Ko Hla Maung, an unemployed fisherman, was among those who had not left as of Thursday morning.
"We have no safe place to move, so we're staying here, whether the storm comes or not," he said. "... The soldiers want to take us to a village closer to the sea, and we're not going to do that. ... If the storm is coming, then that village will be destroyed."
MIAMI (AP) - Tropical Storm Alvin, the first named storm of the east Pacific hurricane season, is gradually strengthening off the coast of Mexico.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Alvin's maximum sustained winds early Thursday are near 50 mph. The storm, which currently isn't a threat to land, could become a hurricane in the next day or two.
As of 5 a.m. EDT, Alvin was centered about 705 miles south-southwest of Manzanillo, Mexico, and moving west-northwest near 10 mph on a path that's expected to take it farther out to sea.
The eastern and north Pacific hurricane season began Wednesday and runs through Nov. 30.
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This Wednesday, May 15, 2013, photo shows all that remains of a home on Sand Lake near Barnes, Wis., after Tuesday's wildfire. (AP Photo/The Duluth News-Tribune, Bob King)
MILWAUKEE (AP) - Authorities are investigating whether logging operations may have sparked a massive wildfire in northwestern Wisconsin that destroyed dozens of buildings and forced at least 60 people from their homes, state officials said Wednesday.
The wildfire has consumed about 8,700 to 9,000 acres in Douglas and Bayfield counties but is about 95 percent contained, meaning firefighters have largely arrested the spread of the fire, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
"I would say we are really close to having this fire in hand," DNR spokesman Robert Manwell said Wednesday afternoon. "We are probably going to be here for another 36, 48 hours doing mop up, taking care of hotspots, things of that kind."
No injuries have been reported in the largest forest fire to hit northern Wisconsin in 33 years, according to the DNR.
Winds were expected shift from northwest to west, which could help push fire from more populated areas, according to the DNR.
The DNR was even expected to start taking people back to their properties Wednesday to check on damage and retrieve pets and supplies, Manwell said.
Gov. Scott Walker was scheduled to survey wildfire damage and visit with first responders and local officials Thursday. Walker will be accompanied by Adjutant General Donald Dunbar of the Wisconsin National Guard, DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp and Wisconsin Emergency Management officials.
Officials were investigating whether a spark from logging equipment could have started the fire around 2:30 p.m. near Simms Lake in Douglas County, said DNR spokesman Ed Culhane said.
At least 60 people have evacuated their homes and 22 of them stayed overnight at a high school in Drummond, 60 miles southeast of Duluth, Minn., the DNR said. Forty-seven structures were destroyed, including 17 homes, but firefighters were able to save 77 other buildings, according to the DNR.
Danny Archambeau told the Duluth News Tribune Wednesday morning that he evacuated his home near Ellison Lake at 8 p.m. Tuesday. He didn't know at that time if his house had damage.
"We thought the fire was going to go north of us," he said, "but when the wind switched it came at us so fast we had to run. I grabbed my guns, my mother-in-law and my wife - in that order - and we got out."
DNR spokeswoman Catherine Koele said they planned work throughout Wednesday night on the fire and monitor the fire line and put out hot spots on Thursday. She said they would also continue investigating the fire's cause. Winds were expected to be calmer Thursday, which would help but conditions are expected to be dry, she said.
She said expected the evacuation center at Drummond High School to be open for a second night Wednesday for evacuees in need of a place to stay.
Continued dry and windy weather pushed much of the state into the "very high" wildfire danger range prompting the DNR to suspend burning permits statewide. The DNR and National Weather Service issued a Red Flag Warning for Florence and Marinette counties, which means large forest fires were possible due to the weather conditions.
"We're urging extreme caution in all outdoor activities," Trent Marty, director of DNR Bureau of Forest Protection, said in a news release.
"We cannot afford another big fire today," he said.
The last major forest fire in northern Wisconsin happened on April 22, 1980 and consumed nearly 11,500 acres of forest. A central Wisconsin fire in May 2005 also burned more than 3,400 acres.
A shelter and a fire command post were set up in the village of Barnes Tuesday evening, but they were moved as the fire grew. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation closed state Highway 27 after the fire hopped over it northwest of Barnes Tuesday. The highway was reopened Wednesday.
Manwell said two Black Hawk helicopters from the Wisconsin Army National Guard and two "water bombers" fixed-wing aircraft from Canada were assisting firefighter with aerial support Wednesday. Crews from 19 fire departments and 52 fire trucks are in the field, the DNR has said.
Kyle Kriegl, regional executive officer at the Red Cross, said mental health professional services were available for evacuees at the high school.
"It's a range of emotions that people go through, especially when you are not sure whether your home is being destroyed," he said.
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A true-color image taken on May 5, 2000, by an instrument aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft, over the North Pole, with sea ice shown in white and open water in black. (Credit: Image by Allen Lunsford, NASA GSFC Direct Readout Laboratory; Data courtesy Tromso receiving station, Svalbard, Norway)
The North Pole's surprise trip toward Greenland is due to Earth's rapidly melting ice sheets, a new study finds.
The distribution of mass across the planet determines the position of Earth's poles. Because Earth is a bit egg-shaped, the North Pole is always slightly off-center. It's also been slowly drifting south, responding to long-term changes since the last Ice Age, as the enormous ice sheets that once covered large swaths of the planet melted and parts of the Earth rebounded from the lost weight.
But in 2005, the pole suddenly started making a beeline east for Greenland, moving a few centimeters eastward each year. The cause? Rapid melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet, finds a study published May 13 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Ice loss and the associated sea-level rise account for more than 90 percent of the polar shift, Nature News reported.
Melting ice moves mass around by adding water to the oceans and lightening the load on ice-covered crust. Although global ice melt plays a role in the pole's shift, Greenland itself is the primary contributor to the eastward movement, the researchers found. "Both of [those factors] are contributing, but now we can say glacial melting in Greenland produces an observable polar motion," said Clark Wilson, a study co-author at the University of Texas, Austin.
The change is small, dwarfed by the pole's broad wandering circles, which are caused by Earth's bulging midriff (the 14-month Chandler wobble) and an annual wobble related to seasonal shifts. However, "if you remove those effects, you'll see a long-term drift," Wilson told LiveScience.
Using data from NASA's GRACE satellite, which measures Earth's gravity field, the researchers tested whether Greenland's ice loss changed the pole position. The data can track how water and ice shift across the planet. "Mass is moving around all the time," Wilson said.
Knowing the precise location of the North Pole has become a critical part of modern life. It's the foundation of GPS, which guides people with mapping apps, as well as military systems and planes.
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The Grand fire releases a large plume of smoke as it burns more than 3,000 acres of wildlands near Frazier Park on Wednesday, May 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, Luis Sinco)
FRAZIER PARK, Calif. (AP) - Cooler temperatures and lighter winds gave hundreds of firefighters a slight reprieve Thursday with a 3,500-acre wildfire that has blackened rugged terrain in the Los Padres National Forest.
The fire that broke out Wednesday charred 3,500 acres of dry, thick trees, despite a heavy aerial effort to beat back flames in the largely unpopulated area.
The blaze was 15 percent contained.
No structures were threatened although a high school was evacuated as a precaution. No injuries have been reported.
The fire near Interstate 5 through Frazier Park, where Kern and northern Los Angeles counties meet, could be fanned by winds that may reach up to 35 mph Thursday. The blaze started just before 1:30 p.m. Wednesday and initially burned thick brush, seasonal grasses and sage, but then moved into the trees.
The cooler weather helped firefighters overnight clear brush and create breaks in hopes of slowing the blaze. Efforts on Thursday will be focused on the southern edge of the fire and an aerial assault of helicopters and tankers will help snuff out flames that can't be reached by ground crews, authorities said.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.