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Winter Storm Pummels Heartland…Again

A second intense winter storm churned through the heart of the U.S. Wednesday, dumping more than a foot of snow on the nation’s winter-weary midsection.

Barreling through the central Plains and Midwest as residents were digging out from last week’s powerful blizzard, the system unleashed high winds and up to 12 inches of snow on parts of Oklahoma, CNN reports.

Michael Lacy, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tulsa, said hilly northwest Arkansas saw nearly a foot of snow in some areas, including Siloam Springs. He urged Arkansans not to travel, saying strong winds made for poor visibility.

A winter storm warning was issued across nine states, from Texas to Alabama, and a winter weather advisory affected Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina and Georgia, CNN said.

Heavy snow was reported as far south as Texas. Many school districts there and in parts of Kansas cancelled classes, AP reports.

Forecasters predicted 2 to 4 inches of snow for Memphis, Tennessee, with smaller snowfalls anticipated for Nashville; Birmingham, Ala.; and Atlanta.

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Winter Storm Shuts Down U.S. Heartland

An intense winter storm churned through the midsection of the U.S. Wednesday, leaving a third of the country buried under snow, sleet and ice.

The massive blizzard, one of the worst since the 1950s, blitzed the nation’s heartland, leaving thousands without power as it raged from Texas to Maine.

Paralyzing Chicago and parts of the Midwest, the storm also brought travel to a halt.

“The extreme conditions are making it extremely difficult for rescue personnel to reach the stranded,” the National Weather Service warned Wednesday.

“Before considering getting on the roads this morning, ask yourself if getting to your destination is worth risking your life.”

95,000 people reportedly lost electricity in Illinois, while 50,000 experienced outages in Indiana and tens of thousands more lost power around Cleveland, Ohio, AFP reports.

“Lurking behind this impressive winter storm is a powerful shot of Arctic air as a frigid surface high drops down from central Canada,” the National Weather Service said.
Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Oklahoma declared states of emergency.
Chicago was buried under 19.9 inches of snow as of 1545 GMT, and called a snow day for its public schools for the first time in 12 years.

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Snow Storm to Pummel Midwest

A massive snow storm is expected to blanket the United States’ midsection Tuesday, affecting a third of the country’s population.

Governors in Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Illinois declared states of emergency Tuesday as snow, sleet and freezing rain began to hammer the region from Texas to Ohio. Blizzard warnings were issued for more than half of the 50 states.

Kansas City, St. Louis and Milwaukee are bracing for a foot of snow or more, while Chicago expects its third-worst snow storm in recorded history and urged residents not to travel.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) warned residents that a system “of this size and scope needs to be taken seriously,” according to AFP.

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate advised that residents in the storm’s path “check on your neighbors, especially the elderly and young children — those who can be most vulnerable during emergencies.”

Meteorologists predicted that the brunt of the storm would bury the Midwest Tuesday afternoon, with intense winds and driving snow creating snow drifts as high as six to eight feet, AFP reports.

Pat Slattery, a spokesman for the National Weather Service, said it is crucial that residents refrain from attempting to travel.

“It doesn’t take a whole lot to make everything slick and if roads aren’t treated they’re going to get icy and then it’s going to snow on top of that, which is going to make matters worse because you can’t see the ice,” he told AFP.

“One of the concerns about the freezing precipitation is if it gets heavy and starts taking down power lines and trees because people have no way to keep their homes warm, and a bitter cold will follow right on the heels of the snow and freezing rain.”

After barreling through the Midwest, the storm is expected to travel into the Northeast.

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Chevron Under Fire by Utah Mayors over Pipeline

Two Utah mayors are voicing concerns over Chevron’s proposed plans to fire up a pipeline that burst twice last year and caused two major oil spills in the Salt Lake region.

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon say the petrochemical company should have consulted them before announcing that it had received the federal go-ahead to resume use of the line, which has been defunct since December, AP reports.

The U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration reportedly gave Chevron permission to restart the pipeline Feb. 1.

The pipeline first malfunctioned last June, spilling 800 barrels near Red Butte Garden and into Red Butte Creek. 500 more barrels drenched the same area in December.

“We have not had time to review the full startup plan to ensure it protects the interests of the Salt Lake Valley,” Corroon said in a statement, adding that regulators should have communicated with local authorities before giving the restart the green light.

Becker requested that Chevron delay use of the line until Salt Lake City and its independent consultant assess the new plan.

“Certainly our trust has not been restored in Chevron through the actions that they’ve taken here this week by deciding to move ahead with the restart when we haven’t even had a chance to review and comment on the restart plan,” Becker said, according to AP.

Chevron said it had given a copy of the plan to the city’s outside consultant on Wednesday before giving it to the mayor’s office.

The energy corporation also insisted it had performed a series of inspections and procedures to ensure added safety, according to spokesman Mickey Driver.

Becker on Friday planned to discuss the issue with Chevron and federal regulators in a Monday conference call, AP reported.

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Blizzard Pummels Northeast, Closes NYC Airports

A blizzard raged up the East Coast Monday, leaving thousands of travelers stranded in airports and bringing highway traffic to a standstill.

The National Weather Service said blizzard warnings would remain in effect for the coastal region from New Jersey to Maine, UPI said. Six states declared states of emergency.

The treacherous storm left New York City buried in knee-deep snow and forced the city’s three major airports to close Sunday night. Thousands of would-be passengers camped in terminals overnight with airport food supplies running low and frustrations running high.

“Here there are maybe 200 folding cots for 1,000 people,” traveler Lance Jay Brown, 67, told Reuters in JFK airport. “I paid $50 for three hot chocolates, a couple of candy bars and two sandwiches, and I was happy to get a sandwich. There are dozens of people twisted out of shape with frustration.”

Newark Liberty International Airport was scheduled to reopen at noon, LaGuardia at 2 p.m. and JFK at 4 p.m.

Southern Massachusetts was also hit with about a foot of snow. Boston’s Logan International Airport remains officially open, but most flights have been canceled, UPI reports.

On Sunday Amtrak suspended rail service between New York and Portland, Maine, but announced that the regular train schedule would resume Monday.

In an opinion piece for Sunday’s New York Times, former NASA scientist Judah Cohen writes that global warming is responsible for cooler winters in the world’s major cities.

Cohen, who is currently the director of seasonal forecasting at Atmospheric and Environmental Research, contends that climate change has caused increased moisture — and by extension, increased snowfall — in Siberia. This in turn creates “an unusually large dome of cold air next to the mountains,” magnifying the jet stream of atmospheric waves that pushes cold air south.

“That is why the Eastern United States, Northern Europe and East Asia have experienced extraordinarily snowy and cold winters since the turn of this century,” Cohen asserts. “Most forecasts have failed to predict these colder winters, however, because the primary drivers in their models are the oceans, which have been warming even as winters have grown chillier….The reality is, we’re freezing not in spite of climate change but because of it.”

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Lunar Eclipse to Shade the Sky Tonight

The year’s only lunar eclipse will occur late tonight or in the wee hours tomorrow, depending on where you live.

Providing the weather is clear, people in North and Central America and a small region of South America will have the best view of the phenomenon. Western Europe will catch only the beginning glimpses of the eclipse while western Asia will see only the end.

“It’s perfectly placed so that all of North America can see it,” eclipse expert Fred Espenak of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center told The Associated Press.

The event is expected to last about 3 1/2 hours, and will begin at 11:41 p.m. PST or 2:41 a.m. EST.

When the moon passes through the Earth’s shadow, the earth blocks the sun from illuminating the moon. This is only possible when the moon is full. The totality phase – when the Earth, moon and sun are perfectly aligned, blocking all of the sun’s rays from the moon – will last about 72 minutes.

Indirect sunlight will pass through the Earth’s atmosphere, coloring the moon an eerie orange or red. Scientists say ash and dust from recent volcanic eruptions may darken the eclipsed moon to a deeper red or brown.

North America is lucky enough to have the best seats in the house for 2010′s only total lunar eclipse, but won’t be so fortunate in 2011. The region will miss the June 2011 eclipse entirely, and catch only part of the eclipse expected to occur next December.

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Wind Energy: The Promise of City Turbines

Opponents of wind power keep a store of questions on hand about the method’s relevancy as an alternative energy source. Won’t it disrupt migratory bird patterns? Is it really enough support our needs?

And then there’s that other question, the one that’s less practical but still a prevalent concern: Won’t it look bad?

Sometimes it seems like that’s wind power’s biggest adversary–its own unsightly aesthetic. Challengers protest that fleets of turbines in rural areas mar the beauty of the landscape. They are, to most folks anyway, an eyesore, a disruptor of idyllic scenery.

But maybe all that’s about to change. Cleanfield Energy, an Ontario-based renewable energy company, recently spoke of its plans to install wind turbines in urban areas all over the world.

While traditional wind farms in remote areas require the construction of towers and transmission lines to transport power back to the market, the company’s urban turbines can be placed on rooftops to directly power city buildings.

“The market potential for urban wind is quite massive,” CEO Tony Verrelli said in a press release.

Urban windmills, called Vertical Axis Wind Turbines (VAWTs), have already been installed in the U.S., Canada, Slovenia, China and Ireland, and they are gaining popularity, the company says.

“We expect to be in a number of new markets in the months ahead,” Verrelli said.

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Carbon Dioxide Increases Caused by Humans

The French Government is set to release a report claiming that humans are the cause for the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The report notes that this increase in CO2 could soon become an international issue that must be addressed.

The report was based on a study of climate change from 1975 to 2003, and stated that the rise in CO2 levels cannot be explained completely by solar activity. The increase is ‘unequivocally linked to human activity’ the report stated.

The report also noted that the carbon dioxide increases could become a threat to not only our atmosphere, but also our climate and oceans which could impact sea levels, sea life and land habitats.

The changes to the climate and atmosphere can only be measured when assessed and observed over a long period of time the report explained.

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Jupiter's Lack of Atmospheric Neon Studied

BERKELEY, Calif., March 24 (UPI) — U.S. scientists hypothesize Jupiter’s interior conditions cause helium to condense into droplets, explaining the scarcity of neon in the plant’s atmosphere.

University of California-Berkeley scientists say neon dissolves in the helium raindrops and falls towards the deeper interior where it re-dissolves, depleting the upper layers of both elements, consistent with observations.

“Helium condenses initially as a mist in the upper layer, like a cloud, and as the droplets get larger, they fall toward the deeper interior,” said post-doctoral fellow Hugh Wilson, co-author of the study. “Neon dissolves in the helium and falls with it. So our study links the observed missing neon in the atmosphere to another proposed process, helium rain.”

Wilson’s co-author, Assistant Professor Burkhard Militzer, noted rain as we know it on Earth is actually an imperfect analogy to what happens in Jupiter’s atmosphere.

He said the helium droplets form about 6,000-8,000 miles below the tops of Jupiter’s hydrogen clouds, under extraordinarily high pressures and temperatures that make the “rain” really droplets of fluid helium mixed with neon falling through a fluid of metallic hydrogen.

The researchers say their study will help refine models of Jupiter’s interior and the interiors of other planets.

The research is detailed in the journal Physical Review Letters.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Spring Snowstorm Hits Denver Area

DENVER, March 24 (UPI) — Denver commuters struggled with snow, slush and rain Wednesday morning as a spring snowstorm moved out of the area.

The storm, which hit Colorado Tuesday, stranded thousands of travelers, The Denver Post reported.

About 5,000 people spent the night at Denver International Airport because of canceled flights, many of them sleeping on cots provided by the airport. More delays and long lines were expected Wednesday afternoon.

Schools were closed Wednesday in Denver and many surrounding districts. Traffic on roads in the Denver area was light and light rail and buses uncrowded, said Scott Reed, a spokesman for the regional transportation agency.

The National Weather Service up to 16 inches of snow could fall. Late March is usually the time with heaviest snowfalls in Colorado.

Hundreds of miles to the east near Buffalo, N.Y., nearly invisible black ice on the roads was blamed for hundreds of crashes.

No deaths or serious injuries were reported, The Buffalo News said. But several area highways were closed either because of dangerous conditions or multi-vehicle pileups.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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