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    Monday, June 10, 2013

    Breaking Weather: Mid-Atlantic Severe Weather Outbreak

    Severe weather broke out in the Mid-Atlantic region Monday afternoon, with reports of a tornado in Franklin, Ky., as well hail, strong winds and flooding elsewhere in the region.

    Shawn Tyler Gregory posted this photo of the tornado in Franklin, Ky., to Twitter on Monday and wrote, "@joeimel tornado in Franklin out prices mill pic.twitter.com/VaWFgSBSKx":


    RELATED ON SKYE: Epic Storm Photos from the Twittersphere

     

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    Firemen work in the old town of Lauenburg, northern Germany, flooded by the river Elbe on June 11, 2013. (CARSTEN REHDER/AFP/Getty Images)

    BERLIN (AP) - Thousands of homes are being evacuated along Germany's Elbe River as waters threaten to break through levees protecting several north German towns.

    Authorities say some 8,000 people left their houses Tuesday in the Saxony-Anhalt town of Stendal.

    The flooding in Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary has claimed at least 22 lives so far.

    A few kilometers upstream from Stendal, helicopters flew sandbags in to close a breach in a levee through which waters are streaming into the town of Fischbeck.

    In neighboring Schleswig-Holstein state, the old quarter of Lauenburg near Hamburg has been evacuated due to the rising waters of the Elbe.

    In southern Germany waters were receding and authorities began debating how to pay for the flood damage, estimated at more than $14.5 billion.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Massive Flooding in Central Europe
    Flooding Germany

     

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    One World Trade Center and large portions of lower Manhattan and Hoboken, N.J., are seen without power from Jersey City, N.J., Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, the morning after Hurricane Sandy made landfall on the East Coast. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)

    NEW YORK (AP) - Removable flood walls would be set up for much of lower Manhattan, a 15-to-20-foot levee would guard part of Staten Island and a system of gates and levees would protect a Brooklyn creek as part of a nearly $20 billion plan Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed Tuesday to transform how New York City girds itself for storms and global warming.

    Bloomberg's proposals also include building dunes in Staten Island and the Rockaways, firming up the shoreline with bulkheads in various neighborhoods and considering building a levee and a new "Seaport City" development at the South Street Seaport that would echo nearby Battery Park City.

    The mayor also is suggesting giving $1.2 billion in grants to property owners to flood-proof their buildings and $50 million to nursing homes to improve theirs; making hospitals even in rarely flooded areas upgrade their pumps and electrical equipment; and expanding beaches and marshes, among other ideas.

    "This plan is incredibly ambitious," Bloomberg said in a speech at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, acknowledging that much of the work would extend beyond the end of his term this year. "This is urgent work, and it must begin now.

    "Piece by piece, over many years and even decades, we can build a city that's capable of preparing better, withstanding more and overcoming anything."

    Fueled by the city's blow from Superstorm Sandy last fall, the sweeping proposals represent a sizeable step up in scale and urgency for a mayor who has for years emphasized the threat climate change proposes to the nation's biggest city, which has 520 miles of coastline.

    It remains to be seen how the ideas will fare in a future mayoral administration, and what kind of support - financial and otherwise - they might ultimately get from the federal government and other entities that would be involved, not to mention from New Yorkers themselves. Bloomberg acknowledged that some of the ideas could block views and otherwise prove controversial, but "if we're going to save lives and protect the lives of communities, we're going to have to live with some new realities," he said.

    Bloomberg said the city and federal money already allocated for Sandy relief would provide $10 million for the projects, and the city believed it could get at least an additional $5 million in federal money.

    The recommendations draw from updated predictions from the New York City Panel on Climate Change, a scientists' group convened by the city.

    The average day could be 4 degrees to nearly 7 degrees hotter by mid-century, the panel estimates. A once-in-a-century storm would likely spur a surge 5 or more feet higher than did Sandy, which sent a record 14-foot storm tide gushing into lower Manhattan.

    And with local waters a foot to 2½ feet higher than they are today, 8 percent of the city's coastline could see flooding just from high tides, the group estimates. Most of that coast is in a relatively undeveloped area near a bay.

    City Hall, the state government and others have released warnings over the years about climate risks. The city has required some new developments in flood zones to be elevated and has restored wetlands as natural barriers, among other steps.

    "Sandy, obviously, increased the urgency of dealing with this and the need to plan and start to take concrete steps," Deputy Mayor Caswell Holloway said Monday.

    The new projections echo 2009 estimates from the climate change panel, but the timeframe for some upper-end possibilities has moved up from the 2080s to mid-century.

    "The overall numbers are similar, but we have more compelling evidence now that (a more severe scenario from 2009) is looking like a more realistic possibility now," due to improved computer models and more evidence that some ice sheets are melting, said Radley Horton, a climate scientist with Columbia University's Earth Institute and a researcher with the city climate panel.

    Scientists have reached a consensus on global warming but still debate how severe the effects will be.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Off-the-Charts Hottest and Coldest Places on Earth

     

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    A series of severe storms produced a number of small tornadoes in Maryland, Kentucky, Virginia and North Carolina on Monday, June 10. As of Monday night, NOAA listed reports of at least 7 tornadoes in the region. In the above video, a tornado churns across Baltimore's harbor, and is believed to have caused damage to buildings in the Fells Point and Locust Point neighborhoods. Small tornadoes are relatively common in Baltimore County, but less so in the city, according to the Baltimore Sun.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 18 Incredible Photos of Tornadoes

     

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    A monstrous derecho with winds exceeding 100 miles per hour roars over south-central Kansas on July 3, 2005. (Getty Images)

    Complexes of strong, drenching and locally severe thunderstorms will reach from parts of South Dakota and Nebraska to Illinois, Ohio, western Pennsylvania and the Virginias during the middle of this week.

    Part of this area could be hit by an intense thunderstorm complex, known as a derecho.

    The pattern of thunderstorm complexes has the potential to bring localized incidents of flash flooding, damaging wind gusts, hail and frequent lightning strikes along a 1,000-mile swath spanning Tuesday, Wednesday and perhaps Thursday.

    Travel delays caused by thunderstorms, poor visibility and flooded roadways are possible in some locations. There is a risk of downed trees, property damage and power outages and in a few neighborhoods.

    The storms will affect areas on the Plains bound roughly by I-80 and I-90 Tuesday. During Wednesday, assuming the storms begin to turn to the right as they often do in these situations, the risk will shift to the Midwest and central Appalachians in areas approximately from I-64 to I-80.



    Cities in the path of the storms include Sioux Falls, S.D., Des Moines, Iowa, Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Charleston, W.Va.

    Some locations could be hit by more than one thunderstorm complex. In parts of the East, the storms will hit in the wake of Andrea's rainfall and additional storms early this week. In these areas the risk of flooding will be multiplied.

    Just southwest of the track of the thunderstorm complexes, there will be a higher risk for individual thunderstorms capable of producing tornadoes. This area could reach from portions of Nebraska to Missouri and Kentucky and may include St. Louis.

    The storms will be riding along the northern edge of a rim of heat building over the southern and central Plains this week.

    RELATED:
    Triple-Digit Heat This Week Colorado to Texas
    The June 2012 Derecho Event
    Severe Weather Center


    When this happens in the presence of a strong jet stream, complexes of severe thunderstorms, known as mesoscale convective complexes (MCCs) or mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) can occur affecting multiple parts of multiple states.

    The most intense, fastest-moving and longest-distance version of these is known as a derecho. These most severe thunderstorm complexes can bring wind damage to a large area, along a path covering hundreds of miles.

    A derecho is challenging to predict, but there is a possibility of a derecho forming in the thunderstorm pattern this week. Derechoes evolve from thunderstorm complexes.

    Depending on exactly where the parent complex of storms forms, the derecho could then track from the Midwest into part of the central Appalachians and the coastal mid-Atlantic given the steering winds and building heat to the south expected later this week.

    The pattern of building heat over the West and southern High Plains, as well as complexes of thunderstorms riding southeastward over the Midwest and into part of the mid-Atlantic was discussed in AccuWeather.com's Summer 2013 Forecast.

    More details on the thunderstorm complexes and potential derecho will be covered on AccuWeather.com by way of additional news stories, expert videos and forecasts this week.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Epic Storm Photos from the Twittersphere

     

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    (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

    Record-challenging heat will continue in the southern Plains on Tuesday and will persist through much of the week.

    Temperatures will once again climb into the 100s across the region with some areas nearing 110.

    This is shaping up to be the first major heat wave of the year for the region with highs forecast to climb into the lower to mid-100s every day through the middle of the week, nearly 20 degrees above normal.

    The primary focus of the heat will be the Texas Panhandle, western Oklahoma and Kansas, as well as eastern Colorado. However, heat will surge eastward as well extending beyond the Mississippi River.

    Denver is among the major cities that will be gripped by the heat wave. Highs will soar well into the 90s and near 100 degrees each day through Thursday. The last time the high hit 100 degrees in Denver was July 23, 2012.



    Highs will climb into the 90s in Dallas through midweek. A 100-degree high may be recorded in Dallas by Thursday. This would be the first time that the city has hit 100 degrees since Sept. 7, 2012.

    This caliber of heat is dangerous, especially since people have not endured this level of heat for many months. People are urged to stay indoors in air conditioning as much as possible. It is important to drink plenty of water, and if you have to be outdoors, it is best to wear loose-fitted, light-colored clothing and make sure to bring sunscreen.

    This intense heat is being caused by a strong upper-level ridge that is building over the region, the same ridge that brought record-challenging heat to the Southwest over the weekend.

    This pattern will remain firmly in place heading into the second part of the week, continuing the stretch of 100-degree days.

    RELATED:
    AccuWeather.com Summer Forecast: Drought in West
    AccuWeather Live: Interview with Storm Chaser Martin Lisius
    Texas Weather Center


    In addition to the scorching heat, this strong ridge will keep the southern Plains mainly dry through the week as well.

    Dry conditions will not help the region, which is currently in extreme drought.

    The next sign of relief appears to be next weekend when the main axis of the ridge shifts to the east.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 20 Tips for Surviving a Heat Wave

     

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    This Monday June 10, 2013 photo provided by the Nevada Highway Patrol shows a 26-vehicle pileup on Interstate 80, three miles west of Winnemucca, Nev. (AP Photo/Nevada Highway Patrol)

    Twenty-seven vehicles slammed into each other during a sandstorm that blinded drivers on Interstate 80 in rural northern Nevada, killing a truck driver, seriously injuring several other people and sapping already thin emergency resources, officials said.

    Humboldt County sheriff's dispatchers called in virtually every medical, law enforcement and fire worker in the sparsely populated area after drivers reported "near-apocalyptic" conditions Monday evening on I-80 at Winnemucca, according to officials at Humboldt General Hospital there. A mine rescue crew also assisted, while a charter bus helped transport victims.

    Nevada SandstormChicago resident Ravi Dyer, 51, was killed when his truck rear-ended another commercial vehicle in the zero-visibility conditions, according to the Nevada Highway Patrol. Two other trucks hit his from behind, seriously injuring his passenger.

    Humboldt General Hospital spokeswoman Nicole Maher said 26 people were treated at the hospital, including three in critical condition who were later transferred to a hospital in much-larger Reno, about 160 miles away.

    High winds at about 5 p.m. Monday whipped up dust - possibly loose from recently cleared fields - and created whiteout-like conditions, authorities said. Vehicles, including semitrailers, passenger cars and a tow truck piled up in both directions and shut down the highway, which is a major trucking corridor.

    Images from the scene showed crunched-up vehicles, at least one overturned SUV, and damaged big rigs with their loads spilling onto the road. Maher said Tuesday that it took about 3 1/2 hours to extricate one person from a vehicle.

    Traffic was still being diverted more than 12 hours later, troopers said.

    Hospital officials said the emergency response included some unusual helpers. The Winnemucca Police Department brought in a police transport vehicle, and the Coach America charter bus company sent a vehicle to transport victims.

    A mine rescue crew from Newmont Mining Corp. assisted, Maher said, along with the entire emergency room and operating room teams at the 52-bed Winnemucca hospital.

    Incident Commander Ken Whittaker also praised officials from Humboldt County who brought in water trucks and helped quell the brown dust so emergency crews could help the victims.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Incredible Photos of Dust Storms Around the World
    Sandstorm, Dust Storm, Arizona

     

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    We've seen our share of tornadoes here on Earth over the last several weeks, but we haven't seen any tornadoes on the Sun - until now. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this stunning video of the Sun over 34 hours from June 3-4, 2013. In it, plasma swirls across the Sun's surface, along with spinning "Sun tornadoes." The fiery scene makes Tornado Alley look pretty tame by comparison.

    SEE ON SKYE: 10 Stunning NASA Images of the Sun

     

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    Smoke from the Black Forest fire billows north of downtown Colorado Springs, Colo., on Tuesday, June 11, 2013. (AP Photo/The Colorado Springs Gazette, Mark Reis)

    COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) - A wildfire forced the evacuation of more than 900 prisoners at a state prison southwest of Colorado Springs early Wednesday, one of four blazes across the Front Range that destroyed dozens of homes and forced thousands of people to flee.

    Department of Corrections spokeswoman Adrienne Jacobson said prisoners from the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility were taken to other prisons around the Front Range overnight. The evacuation was ordered because of the danger from heavy smoke, she said. The fire has not reached the prison.

    "This was done as a precaution because it takes a lot of time to move the prisoners," Jacobson said.

    The medium- and low-risk prisoners were evacuated by bus, including 24 from an infirmary who were taken to a Denver facility to protect them from smoke, some in wheelchairs.

    That fire was burning south of the Royal Gorge Bridge and it destroyed three structures near Canon City.

    The Black Forest Fire in a heavily wooded residential area northeast of Colorado Springs burned 40 to 60 homes after it broke out Tuesday and prompted evacuations of about 2,300 homes, affecting about 6,400 people, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said late Tuesday.

    At the Black Forest Fire, six helicopters and an air tanker were on the scene, Maketa said. The office of Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., said C-130 cargo planes were expected to be prepared to help fight the fire Wednesday.

    The area is not far from last summer's devastating Waldo Canyon Fire that destroyed 346 homes and killed two.

    "It's very, very reminiscent of what we experienced in Waldo Canyon," Maketa said.

    However, there were no immediate reports of injuries in the fires.

    All of the fires moved quickly Tuesday, driven by record temperatures and strong winds. The conditions were making it difficult to build containment lines around the fires, and sparks jumped across them.

    "Weather is not working with us right now, but our guys are giving it a heck of a shot," Maketa said.

    In southern Colorado, the Bureau of Land Management said three structures have been lost in a fire on about 6 square miles near the Royal Gorge Bridge. Authorities evacuated Royal Gorge Bridge & Park, home of the soaring suspension bridge spanning the canyon across the Arkansas River.

    A third wildfire in southern Colorado erupted Tuesday in rural Huerfano County. The Klikus Fire had burned an estimated 45 to 50 acres west of La Veta, prompting evacuation orders for about 200 residences.

    The causes of those fires weren't immediately confirmed.

    A fourth wildfire sparked by lightning Monday in Rocky Mountain National Park quickly grew to an estimated 300 to 400 acres Tuesday. No structures were threatened.

    In the Colorado Springs area, George Gonzales, 74, and his wife stayed in their motorhome in the parking lot of a Red Cross shelter set up for evacuees from the Black Forest Fire. He said the two were eating lunch in town when his daughter got an alert on her phone about the fire and called them.

    An officer let them go home to retrieve their dogs, their motorhome and truck, and his heart medicine, George Gonzales said.

    "Sure, we're worried, but we're hoping for the best," he said.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency has authorized federal funds to defray costs of fighting the Black Forest and Royal Gorge fires.

    "There is nobody backing away and saying we're not going to attack this with everything that we've got," Gov. John Hickenlooper said late Tuesday.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Incredible Natural-Disaster Photos from Space

     

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    Updated Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 6:03 p.m. ET

    (AP Photo/KFOR-TV)

    CHICAGO (AP) - An unusually massive line of storms packing hail, lightning and tree-toppling winds was rolling through the Midwest on Wednesday and could affect more than one in five Americans from Iowa to Maryland.

    Meteorologists were even warning about the possibility of a weather event called a derecho (deh-RAY'-choh), which is a storm of strong straight-line winds spanning at least 240 miles. The storms are also likely to generate tornadoes and cause power outages that will be followed by oppressive heat, said Russell Schneider, director of the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.

    The weather service issued tornado warnings in several counties in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. The National Weather Service said a tornado touched down near Belmond, about 90 miles north of Des Moines, but it wasn't immediately clear if it caused any damage or injuries.

    "We're becoming increasingly concerned that a major severe weather event will unfold," Schneider said. "The main thing is for folks to monitor conditions and have a plan for what to do if threatening weather approaches."

    For the first time this year, the center was using its highest alert level for parts of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. In Chicago, Wednesday night's White Sox game against the Toronto Blue Jays was postponed in anticipation of bad weather and airlines canceled more than 120 flights at O'Hare International Airport.

    The storms were expected to push into northwest Indiana early Wednesday evening.

    The Northern Indiana Public Service Co., the region's largest utility, said it was increasing staff at its customer call center and scheduling extra work crews to handle any outages.

    In Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh was adding public safety and public works personnel and repositioning some equipment to prepare for possible flooding or downed trees and wires, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

    All told, the area the weather service considers to be under heightened risk of dangerous weather includes 74.7 million people in 19 states.

    Tornadoes and a derecho can happen at the same time, but at any given place Wednesday the straight-line winds are probably more likely. Straight-line winds lack the rotation that twisters have, but they can still cause considerable damage as they blow down trees and other objects.

    "Be prepared to move away from windows," Schneider said. Listen for weather warnings and go into a basement, if possible, and get underneath a study object like a table, he said, if a tornado warning is issued. "You want to know where your family's at so everyone can get to safety successfully."

    Last year, a derecho caused at least $1 billion in damage from Chicago to Washington, killing 13 people and leaving more than 4 million people without power, according to the weather service. Winds reached nearly 100 mph in some places and in addition to the 13 people who died from downed trees, an additional 34 people died from the heat wave that followed in areas without power.

    Derechoes, with winds of at least 58 mph, occur about once a year in the Midwest. Rarer than tornadoes but with weaker winds, derechoes produce damage over a much wider area.

    Wednesday's storm probably won't be as powerful as 2012's historic one, but it is expected to cause widespread problems, said Bill Bunting, operations chief at the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.

    The storms will move so fast that "by the time you see the dark sky and distant thunder you may have only minutes to get to safe shelter," Bunting said.

    For Washington, Philadelphia and parts of the Mid-Atlantic the big storm risk continues and even increases a bit Thursday, according to the weather service.

    The term derecho was coined in 1888, said Ken Pryor, a research meteorologist at the Center for Satellite Applications and Research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in College Park, Md. The word is Spanish for "straight ahead" or "direct," Pryor said.

    The structure of a derecho-producing storm looks distinctive in radar and satellite imagery, Pryor said. "The systems are very large and have signatures that are very extreme," he said. "You get large areas of very cold cloud tops that you typically wouldn't see with an ordinary thunderstorm complex. The storms take on a comma or a bow shape that's very distinctive."

    RELATED ON SKYE: Epic Storm Photos from the Twittersphere

     

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    The sun sets on Echo Bay at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Monday, June 10, 2013, near Overton, Nev. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

    LAS VEGAS (AP) - Authorities took a boat onto Lake Mead on Tuesday to gather water samples they hope could shed light on mysterious brown foam found floating on the lake's surface over the weekend.

    Park officials urged people to avoid the Overton Arm, a northern extension of Lake Mead, after several dozen carp were found dead and the foam was seen extending about eight miles from near the mouth of the Virgin River to Echo Bay.

    The Southern Nevada Water Authority is monitoring water quality at two intakes and so far hasn't found anything problematic, according to spokesman Bronson Mack. Typically, pollutants are diluted in the reservoir.

    "It really is a massive body of water, and that's one benefit from a drinking water perspective," Mack said, noting that water from the Overton Arm typically takes about a month to meander to the intake area.

    A park volunteer collected water samples several days ago and they turned up normal, Mack said. But the water agency wants to gather new samples using more precise methods.

    High winds and waves prevented crews from collecting water Monday, and the foam wasn't readily visible from the shore.

    "We're hoping we can still get samples" of the foam, Mack said.

    Lab tests on Tuesday's water collections are expected soon.

    Mack said the Nevada Department of Wildlife is handling the investigation into the fish deaths.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 15 Truly Bizarre Creatures of the Deep
    Mola mola

     

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    A Kansas dust storm (Credit: NOAA)

    The Old West was an infamously dusty place, the grime a symbol of the gritty frontier. But the West may be even dustier today than it was in the past, thanks to a combination of factors that include droughts, land-use changes and more frequent windstorms, a new study suggests.

    All that dust blowing around has implications both for the places that the dust comes from and the places that it lands, because "dust storms cause a large-scale reorganization of nutrients on the surface of the Earth," said study leader Janice Brahney, a doctoral student at the University of Colorado at Boulder when the research was done.

    While reports of dust storms from Western residents, along with observations of dust on mountain snowpacks, pointed to a rise in the amount of dust blowing around, "we don't routinely monitor dust in most places, which means we don't have a good handle on how the material is moving, when it's moving and where it's going," Brahney said in a university release on the research.

    Counting calcium

    To get a better, more quantitative look at just how much dust was blowing around the West, and to see whether that amount might be rising, Brahney and her adviser Jason Neff looked at the amount of calcium deposited by precipitation. Calcium can be whipped up into the atmosphere through power plant emissions, ocean spray and, key to this study, the erosion of soils. It is then washed back down the planet's surface by falling precipitation.

    Brahney and the study team looked at calcium deposition data from 175 sites across the country collected by the National Atmospheric Deposition Program between 1994 and 2010. They found that calcium deposition had increased at 116 sites, with the biggest rises found in the Northwest, Midwest and Intermountain West. In particular, Colorado, Wyoming and Utah saw big increases.

    The team cross-checked those increases against the potential sources, and found no increases in industrial emissions, ocean spray or forest fires, suggesting that windblown dust was the culprit and was indeed on the rise.

    The calcium measurements are likely an underestimate of the dust being blown around too, Brahney said, because some dust is simply blown around by the wind; not all of it collides with water in the atmosphere. And not all dust contains the same amounts of calcium.

    Dust impacts

    All this dust wafting through Western air has several potential impacts: It can cause declines in air quality; the impoverishment of the soils from which the dust is blown, because the wind picks up the smallest particles, which are the ones that contain the most nutrients; and faster snowpack melt, because dust landing on snow darkens it and causes it to absorb sunlight more quickly.

    Neff's lab hopes to get a better picture of dust being blow around by measuring it directly, using specific dust-measuring instruments installed at sites throughout the region, the release noted.

    The study, funded by the National Science Foundation, was recently detailed online in the journal Aeolian Research.

    Follow Andrea Thompson @AndreaTOAP, Pinterest and Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience.com.

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

    RELATED ON SKYE: Incredible Photos of Dust Storms Around the World
    Sandstorm, Dust Storm, Arizona

     

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    This image from the Netherlands appears to show some kind of object flying above Muiderslot Castle outside Amsterdam. (Credit: Elyktra Photoart)

    What started out as a casual sightseeing trip to a historic castle in the Netherlands took a bizarre turn for one Dutch woman, who claims she may have spotted some kind of UFO.

    Corrine Federer, 43, a business manager and amateur photographer, was visiting medieval Muiderslot Castle outside Amsterdam last month when she started taking pictures using her camera's high-dynamic range, or HDR, feature.

    "In order to create HDR images, you take three or more exposures ... at the same time, because you then overlap the images and it gives you the full spectrum of light," Federer told The Huffington Post. [Top 10 Alien Encounters Debunked]

    Federer took dozens of photos that day, but it wasn't until sometime later that she reviewed her HDR photos and saw a startling airborne shape in some of the images.

    "It was a tubular-shaped object that had an S-shaped fin on it," Federer said. "If it had been any type of missile, it would've had multiple fins, but facing the same direction. We heard nothing. It was completely quiet out. The more I flipped through the frames, it was kind of creepy."

    In HDR photography, several images are captured within a second, with each image using a different exposure level. The images are then combined to create a composite picture with a higher degree of clarity, depth and detail than would be possible with a single image.

    Using photographic software, Federer was able to enhance the contrast in one of her images to reveal the object seen in the photo above.

    Federer's images were analyzed by Ben Hansen, a former FBI special agent and host of the Syfy Channel's program "Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files." He believes the images were not faked or manipulated.

    "Having reviewed the raw files, there's no overt indication that the photos have been manipulated with post-editing software," Hansen told the Post. "The object's appearance is internally consistent with the rest of the photo."

    Hansen, however, isn't convinced that the photographs show an aircraft of any kind.

    "If I had to place my money on it, I would say that we're looking at insects," he said. "We typically see many wing protrusions on insect rod cases, but they do come in the single pair variety, too. It all depends on the shutter speeds and motion of the insects."

    Indeed, insects are often the real culprit behind alleged UFO sightings, according to experts like Larry Engel, associate director of American University's Center for Environmental Filmmaking.

    Insects are a consistent problem for filmmakers and photographers, Engel told LiveScience, "especially with wide-angle cameras or small-format cameras, as each emphasizes or records objects, including dust and bugs, close to the lens."

    Other possibile explanations for the strange image captured in Federer's photographs include an airplane, a missile test or a weather balloon.

    Federer, however, believes it's possible that the object she photographed could be some kind of UFO, even an extraterrestrial one. "I don't find it unreasonable to believe that there's another habitable planet somewhere that has started exploring space," Federer told the Post. "Maybe they're more advanced than we are and they've come by to see what's going on here."

    Follow Marc Lallanilla on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience.com.

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

    RELATED ON SKYE: Weather Balloon or UFO?
    Weather Balloon or UFO

     

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  • 06/12/13--05:28: Breaking News Banner
  • Dangerous Storms Take Aim at Midwest, Northeast - More here

     

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    Yes, Superstorm Sandy caused massive devastation along the East Coast. But watching the colorful storm swirl and move northward in this new NASA visualization, you could almost forget all that. In fact, watching it is almost relaxing.

    The video shows the path that NASA predicted the storm would take from Oct. 26-31, 2012. The agency's forecast turned out to be extremely accurate.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 25 Indelible Images from Superstorm Sandy
    Hurricane Sandy, Superstorm

     

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    A supercell near Booker, Texas from Mike Olbinski on Vimeo.

    Photographer Mike Olbinski shoots weddings around Phoenix, Ariz., where he lives, and often chases and photographs summer storms in the area. This week, his time-lapse video of a rotating storm cell over Booker, Texas, went viral. He captured the storm last week, on June 3, 2013. We caught up with the 38-year-old photographer by phone to ask about it.

    SKYE: Congratulations on this amazing video. You say in the notes that it was four years in the making. How so?

    Michael Olbinski: I chase the monsoons every summer in Arizona, but trying to get the big storms is the goal. For a couple of days a year for the last four years, I've been trying. Four years ago, I flew to Denver and drove to Nebraska and chased. The next year I chased all through Nebraska, South Dakota and Kansas for three days and didn't see anything. Last year, we [my friend Andy Hoeland and I] were planning to chase for three days but we went only for two because things didn't look good. It was a bust. After that, I was like, I'm done. I don't know that I can do that again. But of course, a year later, you forget all that.

    So what happened this time out?

    We landed in Denver on June 3 at 10:30 a.m. and drove for the southeast corner of Colorado and the Oklahoma panhandle. We were chasing storms in southwest Kansas and we kept chasing south. Then we finally got out of the rain and looked over and saw the giant cloud rotating.

    What did you think at the time?

    I'm driving. My buddy was looking at it. I'm like, my God, I've got to get to a road to get away from the rain, because with cameras you can't be out in the rain. We raced down this dirt road. I was hoping we'd get to the top of a hill or somewhere with a great view, and we did. I got the time-lapse going first. I do a lot of time-lapsing. In fact, I have four time-lapse clips of dust storms in the "North America" series on The Discovery Channel now.

    Anyway, I stood there and just watched it. I started tearing up and gave my buddy a hug. We were hooting and hollering. It was beautiful. When you're there, it feels like it takes up your whole vision.

    How many photos are in this time-lapse video?


    The first three sections have about 880 photos. They cover about 24 minutes. We had to move south a couple of miles in the middle of that.

    So what's next with your storm chasing?

    The storm season in Arizona starts up June 15.

    Good luck out there.

    Editor's note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Epic Storm Photos from the Twittersphere

     

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    Mid-Atlantic Storms

    Hail, cracked utility poles and roads closed by flooding or downed trees were reported in the early morning hours across Ohio, the Virginias and Pennsylvania on Thursday as Wednesday's severe storms pushed into the East. The severe conditions will clear up in the mid-Atlantic this afternoon and take aim farther south.

    Major cities facing the largest impact Thursday afternoon include Baltimore, Raleigh and Washington, D.C.

    UPDATES

    8:15 p.m. EDT Thursday: A Stanly County, N.C. emergency manager reports that multiple injuries have occurred as trees are downed on homes and mobile homes across the county. Shelters have opened to accommodate displaced residents. Albemarle, emergency manager cites, was hit hardest in the county.

    7:37 p.m. EDT Thursday: A severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado is within 20 miles of Atlanta, moving south toward the metro area. Click here for radar.

    7:21 p.m. EDT Thursday: Numerous trees and power lines reported down across Richmond County, N.C.

    7:00 p.m. EDT Thursday: "The heaviest thunderstorms have moved off the mid-Atlantic coast with just some lingering rain from southern New Jersey through the Delmarva Peninsula," AccuWeather Meteorologist Brian Edwards said. "The biggest concern through the remainder of the evening hours will be locally damaging wind gusts for the eastern third of North Carolina, upstate South Carolina and parts of northern Georgia and northern Alabama."

    6:38 p.m. EDT Thursday: Significant flight delays are being reported from Charlotte Douglas, Philadelphia, Reagan, Atlanta, JFK, La Guardia, Washington Dulles and Newark airports due to thunderstorms.

    5:37 p.m. EDT Thursday: Multiple reports of trees and utility lines down on cars and houses across Concord, N.C. as a result of thunderstorm winds.

    5:20 p.m. EDT Thursday: Baseball-sized hail reported by trained spotter in St. Marys County, Md.

    5:01 p.m. EDT Thursday: Widespread storm damage reported by emergency manager in Colonial Heights, Va. Numerous trees and electrical lines are downed. Most of the city is without power.

    4:30 p.m. EDT Thursday: Maryland Department of Highways reports that Security Boulevard is flooded and closed at the Baltimore Beltway in Woodlawn.

    4:21 p.m. EDT Thursday: According to NWS Baltimore/Washington, DC, a tornado was confirmed near Columbia, Md. at 4:06 p.m. and was moving eastward at 50 mph.

    4:15 p.m. EDT Thursday: Flash flooding reported by an emergency manager in Ilion and South Ilion in Herkimer County, N.Y. Multiple roads closed due to flooding including Route 51. Sandbags are in place to prevent additional flooding.

    3:50 p.m. EDT Thursday: A funnel cloud was observed by a trained spotter 2 miles east of Countryside, Va., at 3:31 p.m. EDT.

    2:40 p.m. EDT Thursday: With large storms just east of Johnson City, TN, winds are gusting to an estimated 65 miles per hour. Click here for radar.

    2:34 p.m. EDT Thursday: A trained spotter reported a funnel cloud reaching halfway to the ground near Fredericksburg in Spotsylvania County, Va.

    1:40 p.m. EDT Thursday: As the second round of storms ramp up, a wind gust of 75 miles per hour was recorded outside of Dorton, Ky., as reported by the monitoring stations at Mesonet.

    12:55 p.m. EDT Thursday: Up to 2 inches of rain have fallen in the Buffalo, N.Y., area. Street and lowland flooding have been reported by a trained spotter.

    12:30 p.m. EDT Thursday: According to AccuWeather Meteorologist Krissy Pydynowski, the severe storms are moving away from the mid-Atlantic and will take aim further south. Flooding will remain a concern for New York and southern New England, but the damaging wind, blinding downpours and tornado threat will be more focused on Washington, D.C., North Carolina and Virginia this afternoon.

    12:18 p.m. EDT Thursday: Multiple trees reported down from central Kentucky to along the West Virginia/Ohio border in the past hour.

    11:30 a.m. EDT Thursday: Excessive flight delays are being reported out of Dulles, Reagan, JFK, Newark, Baltimore and Philadelphia airports due to thunderstorms.

    11:04 a.m. EDT Thursday: At 9:50 a.m. this morning, lights were turned on in Gibbsboro, N.J., as dark green clouds made the sky look like dusk. Photo sent to us by Twitter user RobC_13:



    10:44 a.m. EDT Thursday: The Washington, D.C., office of the NWS stated that two waterspouts were spotted just south/southeast of Annapolis.

    10:30 a.m. EDT Thursday: An emergency manager reports that one person in Rising Sun, Md., has been injured by a lightning strike.

    10:07 a.m. EDT Thursday: A 57-mile-per-hour wind gust was recorded by a trained spotter in Woodbury, N.J.

    9:40 a.m. EDT Thursday: Emergency managers have sent multiple reports of trees downed across Frederick County, Md. In Carroll County, 4 miles west-southwest of Reese, hail as large as ping-pong balls have been reported by a trained spotter.

    9:17 a.m. EDT Thursday: Webster County, W. Va., has received 1.54 inches of rain in under 2 hours.

    8:40 a.m. EDT Thursday: The U.S. Open has suspended play in preparation of severe storms to arrive in Philadelphia. Related: Severe Storms, Rain Threaten US Open at Merion

    8:20 a.m. EDT Thursday: A trained spotter in Frederick County, Md., reports quarter- to halfdollar-sized hail.

    7:40 a.m. EDT Thursday: According to FlightStats, some airports are already reporting difficulties this morning. Flights are delayed coming out of LaGuardia, and the back up has already brought Cleveland Hopkins International Airport to a moderate level of delays. Newark is also high on the delayed list to start the day. Flight condition will only get worse as severe weather hits some of the country's biggest hubs, creating a ripple affect across other airports.

    7:20 a.m. EDT Thursday: A 911 call center in Greensburg, Pa., reports that three houses sustained minor damage following a lightning strike. They also reported minor road flooding and multiple downed trees throughout the county. One tree fell on a home.

    6:45 a.m. EDT Thursday: The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is reporting that accidents have lead to lane restrictions on Route 309 northbound and I-83 northbound at North Exit 28 - PA 295.

    6:30 a.m. EDT Thursday: Current radar over Pennsylvania:



    6 a.m. EDT Thursday: Flooding is already being reported Westmoreland County, Pa., as heavy rain comes down.

    Related:
    Severe Storms Threaten Philly, DC, Norfolk Thursday
    Latest Severe Weather Watches and Warnings
    Wednesday Severe Weather Recap


    RELATED ON SKYE: Photos: Massive Storms Surge Through Mid-Atlantic, Midwest

     

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