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Thursday, May 23, 2013

These 5 Science Breakthroughs Could Make 30-Minute Tornado Warnings Possible

A tornado in georgia

Approximately 16 minutes before the massive twister struck Oklahoma on Monday, meteorologists used satellites and radars to issue a tornado warning in Oklahoma City

Sixteen minutes may not be much time — but it’s certainly a major advance from 30 years ago, when the average lead time was five minutes.

In the 1950s, it was even illegal to predict tornadoes because of the uncertainty and panic that could result from a false forecast. Those 11 additional minutes likely saved more lives as people burrowed into safety shelters and basements.

But imagine if they had as much as 30 minutes or more? Would parents have picked up their children from school and sheltered them? Would there have been time to turn off gas sources to avoid fires? New scientific breakthroughs may soon be able to deliver those precious minutes.


Tornadoes are difficult to predict because a thunderstorm can turn into a violent tornado-producing storm within minutes, and tornadoes can form and disperse just as quickly — unlike hurricanes or blizzards that spend days forming and moving slowly across satellite maps.

The false-alarm rate for tornadoes is still at about 75 percent, according to Joshua Wurman, a meteorologist and president of the Center for Severe Weather Research (CSWR) in Colorado.

Categorizing a tornado after it strikes on the Fujita scale from F0 to F5 is also difficult because in addition to wind speed, damage levels need to be assessed. Monday’s tornado was originally classified as an F4, but was revised to an F5 because meteorologists found one spot they thought should be in a higher category.

"Even if one spot is rated F5, the tornado is deemed F5," says Wurman. "I don’t think it’s a good system, but it’s how the weather service does it."

The National Science Foundation (NSF) provides much of the funding for tornado research. The NSF’s current budget is $6.88 billion, $1.5 million of which goes to the CSWR. Oklahoma itself is a hub for much of the research — some $7 million of federal money goes to Oklahoma’s Department of Commerce for their National Severe Storms Lab every year, a unit of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Thanks to years of research, better mathematical models of thunderstorms, and scientists who "chase" tornadoes to study them (think of the 1996 film Twister), predicting tornadoes has come a long way.

Recently, there have been a few innovations in the field that could help improve the accuracy of predictions and increase warning times.

1. Multimission Phased-Array Radars (MPAR). These enhanced radars have beams that can scan faster while avoiding unwanted ground clutter — producing clearer, more readable images. Researchers at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, a federally funded research and development center, are trying to reduce costs in order to replace current radars on a mass scale and streamline the nation’s weather surveillance system.

2. Drones. Engineering students (with one group calling themselves "the Stormtroopers") from Oklahoma State University have developed unmanned aerial vehicles that can penetrate the eye of a tornado and collect important meteorological data. Flying the vehicles into a thunderstorm before a tornado hits could also help predict when one will occur. Other drones have been built by an ongoing research project called the Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment 2 (or VORTEX2) by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the NSF.

3. More comprehensive radar systems. A group called the Collaborative Adapting Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA) has been testing experimental radar systems that can provide a fresh image of a storm every minute — a big improvement from traditional radar that typically updates every five minutes. Traditional radars also have blind spots — they have trouble measuring storm activity close to the ground, where a lot of tornado-causing conditions form. The new radars are smaller, can be installed in more places, and send out waves that follow the curve of the earth, all of which helps improve coverage. The CSWR is also working on expanding its Doppler-on-Wheels project to increase the mobility in following a storm’s progress.

4. Gravity waves. Researchers at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, have been studying the effect of gravity waves on tornado formation. The waves are formed by a sudden change in the atmosphere — similar to ocean waves — and can push down on rotating thunderstorms to intensify the wind speed and form funnels. The ability to spot and predict the gravity waves sooner could increase the accuracy of a tornado prediction and save lives.

5. Supercomputing and sophisticated modeling. Supercomputers are behind the National Weather Services’ experimental warning system called Warn-on-Forecast — the researchers involved are hoping to produce accurate warnings 30 minutes to an hour before a tornado strikes. It involves taking extremely high-resolution images of a storm (that currently take too long to produce to track a storm in real-time), and comparing those with quick lower-resolution images.

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Newport News Greek Festival coming up May 30-June 2

Newport News Greek Festival coming up May 30-June 2
Daily Press (blog)
Celebrating 45 years, the annual Newport News Greek Festival takes place May 30 through June 2 on the grounds of Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church. Greek food plus music, dancing and a marketplace are the draw. Many of the events ...
Brooklyn Milestones In Faith For May 23Brooklyn Daily Eagle

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Greek Prime Minister says Ireland a model for Greece

Irish Times

Greek Prime Minister says Ireland a model for Greece
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said establishing trust with the Troika was a key lesson Ireland learned when it entered its bailout programme. He was speaking during a joint news conference with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras after 90 minutes of talks ...
Samaras says Ireland is model for Greek recoveryIrish Times
Greek PM invites China to 'join Greece's success story'Christian Science Monitor
Greek PM: Ireland shows us the
EurActiv -Kathimerini (press release)
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French singer-songwriter Georges Moustaki dies following illness

Greek-born Georges Moustaki, celebrated for his collaborations with Edith Piaf, has died aged 79

French singer and songwriter Georges Moustaki, beloved in France for his collaborations with Edith Piaf and songs celebrating liberty, died on Thursday after a long illness. He was 79.

The Greek-born singer grew up in Alexandria, Egypt, and arrived in Paris in 1951, where played guitar at nightclubs and met some of the period's best-known singers.

He was introduced to Edith Piaf in the late 1950s and started to write songs for the Parisian star, the most famous being Milord – about a lower-class girl who falls in love with an upper-class British traveller.

Developing a reputation as a singer in his own right in the mid-1960s, the hirsute and heavily bearded Moustaki achieved fame with songs such as the immigrant ballad Le Meteque, and Ma Libert̩ Рa hymn to the 60s free-living spirit.

A life-long advocate of left-wing causes, Moustaki ended his singing career in 2009, later telling newspaper La Croix thathe was suffering froman irreversible bronchial illness that made it impossible to carry on.

The French culture minister, Aurelie Filippetti, hailed an "artist with convictions who conveyed humanist values ... and a great poet", while Twitter was full of tributes to a singer many said had defined their childhoods. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


Stock markets lose nerve on fears of end to quantitative easing

Britain's top companies lose £36bn in value as stock markets react to US warnings on QE and drop in Chinese manufacturing

A day after the FTSE 100 came within 90 points of its December 1999 all-time high, the index slumped 143 points yesterday to 6696, wiping £36bn off the value of Britain's top companies.

The 2.1% fall was the index's worst in one day since it lost just over 2.5% a year ago to the day, on fears that Greece could leave the eurozone. But after its recent strong surge this latest fall in the blue-chip index merely wipes out the gains made since last Friday.

Stock markets around the world tumbled from their recent highs as investors took fright at weak Chinese manufacturing data and signs that the US Federal Reserve might end its bond-buying programme sooner than expected.

Markets have been buoyed in recent months by the various measures taken by central banks to stimulate the global economy by flooding it with cash. Measures include printing money, buying up mortgage-backed bonds and keeping interest rates at historic lows. Much of the recent economic data indicated the policy was having the desired effect, while the long-running eurozone crisis seemed to have entered a period of relative calm.

But analysts have been warning that any signs the money taps were about to be turned off or that the global economy was not recovering as expected would be taken badly by the markets.

Thursday's rout began with comments late on Wednesday from the Federal Reserve suggesting that America could end its quantitative easing, or QE, programme in the near future, and accelerated after a Chinese survey showed factory activity had fallen for the first time in seven months in May. The Nikkei 225 dropped more than 7% overnight on Wednesday to 14,483, its biggest one-day fall for two years. However, analysts pointed out that the Japanese index had almost doubled in value since November, so was still well ahead for the year.

European stock markets fell, with Germany's Dax and France's Cac both closing around 2.1% lower, while Italy's FTSE MIB fell 3% and Spain's Ibex was down 1.4%.

On Wall Street the Dow Jones industrial average, which had reached an all-time high this week, fell sharply when trading opened on Thursdaybefore staging a recovery. By lunchtime the US index was down just 15 points following stronger than expected weekly jobless claims and home sales.

Rupert Osborne, futures dealer at City broker IG, said: "The stronger home sales and jobless claims … fit with the idea that the US economy is approaching a point where a reduction in stimulus is appropriate. This neatly illustrates the irony of the position; traders across the world are openly hoping for poor US data since this keeps the Fed involved."

Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, had hinted on Wednesday about a possible easing of its $85bn-a-month bond-buying programme, in a testimony to Congress. These comments were later compounded by the minutes of the Fed's last policy-making meeting, which showed that some members thought such a move could come as soon as June, much earlier than any analysts had been expecting.

Michael Hewson, senior market analyst at financial spread-betting company CMC Markets UK, said: "There was an expectation after Bernanke's testimony on Capitol Hill that the latest Fed minutes wouldn't add too much to overall market expectations around the prospects for further easing against expectations of possible tapering.

"The release of the latest Fed minutes completely changed that dynamic with a single line, 'a number of participants express a willingness to reduce QE in June'.

"The disappointing Chinese manufacturing data gave markets the extra nudge over the edge that was needed and persuaded investors with money in the game to cash in."

In China the HSBC purchasing managers index fell to 49.6 points in May, from 50.4 the previous month. Any level below 50 produced by the survey of industry indicates a contracting sector. China is a major consumer of commodities, so the signs of a slowdown in the country put metal prices under pressure, with copper down more than 3%. Oil prices also slid lower, Brent crude falling nearly 1% to $102 a barrel.

But gold and silver edged higher as investors searched out safer assets amid the sell-off. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds



UPDATE 1-Greek betting firm OPAP posts lowest profit in 10 years

Thu May 23, 2013 11:15am EDT
* Q1 net profit 38.9 mln euros, lowest since Q4 2003
* Sales down 18 percent y/y, below analysts' forecast
* OPAP sticks to 2013 net profit forecast of 116 mln eur (Adds detail, background)
ATHENS, May 23 (Reuters) - Greek gambling monopoly OPAP posted its lowest quarterly profit in almost ten years and missed analysts' sales forecast on Thursday, hurt by ...


IMF board to discuss Greece on May 31 mission heading to Athens

WASHINGTON | Thu May 23, 2013 11:40am EDT
WASHINGTON May 23 (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund will send a team to Greece early next month for talks with Greek authorities and the IMF's bailout partners, following a meeting of the IMF executive board to discuss a review of Greece's program, the IMF said on Thursday.
The IMF has joined Greece's euro zone partners in ...


Before Midnight Captures Greek Romance

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Russian boy stabbed on vacation in Crete flown to Germany for further treatment

A Russian boy who suffered extensive injuries when he was stabbed during a vacation on the Greek island of Crete is being treated at a hospital in Germany.Berlin's Charite hospital said Thursday that the 12-year-old arrived overnight and is being treated in its children's clinic. It said it could give no further information because of patient confidentiality rules.The Russian boy was ...


Greece And The Rise Of Hate Over Europe

(Costas Bej/TNH) Then U.S. Ambassador to Greece Nicholas Burns (front), with (l-r): Chairman of the Board of Trustees Charlotte P. Armstrong, Pres. Panos Kanellis and VP Joann Ryding-Beltes. He's worried about Golden Dawn pushing a new Nazi agenda. IN ATHENS, a popular far-right party condemns Jews as a source of the country's misfortune and recycles the ancient lie depicting them as ...


Arrests Made In Ioannina Kidnapping

On January 31 in the Greek city Ioannina, a 59-year-old Greek was kidnapped by eight individuals, a Greek and seven Albanian, because of disputes between them, authorities said. The man was released on March 27 in Attica, without paying ransom. The case was solved and four of the perpetrators were arrested, police officials said. They said that the perpetrators and the victim were involved in a ...


Suspects questioned over kidnapping after botched drug deal

A 59-year-old Greek man and two Albanians, aged 32 and 33, are being questioned by police in connection with the abduction last December in the northwestern city of Ioannina of another Albanian national whom they are alleged to have tortured by cutting off three of his fingers after he botched a drug deal.The abductors sent the severed digits to the ...


Greek Justice Ministry official admits many young migrants are in limbo

Hundreds of underaged immigrants are either in police detention or unaccounted for as authorities were able to satisfy less than half the applications for hostel accommodation last year, the general secretary of the Justice Ministry responsible for human rights, Giorgos Sourlas, told a parliamentary committee on Thursday.According to Sourlas, ...


Gobles students' trip to Greece ends up in New York Times travel story

Gobles students' trip to Greece ends up in New York Times travel story
Mlive Kalamazoo
Mr. Wiseley said the American tour company he used was worried about people canceling trips to Greece this year. As a precaution, the group's hotel reservation was moved from the center of Athens to a location about half an hour away. “But that wasn't ...


Greek Fest-goers reminded of parking restrictions in area Email: | Twitter: @WWLTV NEW ORLEANS – New Orleans officials reminded residents of parking instructions prior to the 2013 Greek Festival on Bayou St. John near the Lakefront. The festival takes place Friday through Sunday at the Holy Trinity Cathedral complex at 1200 Robert E. Lee Blvd. Parking enforcement personnel will look out for illegal parking in the ...


Greek fighters chase off Turkish jets violating air space

Four Turkish jets entered Greek air space south of the Aegean island of Samos on Thursday morning and were chased off by Greek fighters, Defense Ministry sources said.


Greeks to see no tax relief until budget improves

Greece's prime minister says his government cannot lower taxes before the public deficit falls further, but pledged to eventually slash the corporate tax rate to a flat 15 percent. Prime Minister Antonis ...


Nearly a Quarter of People in Greece and the US Can't Afford Food

Nearly a Quarter of People in Greece and the US Can't Afford Food
The Atlantic
According to a new Pew report released today, almost a quarter of people (24 percent) in the United States and Greece answered "yes" to the question, "Have there been times during the last year when you did not have enough money to buy food your family ...


Greek debt could be cut further

Economic Times

Greek debt could be cut further
From €355 billion or 170.3% of GDP in 2011, Greece's debt fell to around €303 billion in 2012 or 156.9% of GDP, according to the Greek statistics agency. But it could climb to 175.2% of GDP this year according to EU estimates as Greece's recession-hit ...
Greek market ends (press release)
Eurozone decisions on direct bank recap and debt relief for Greece imminent ...Kathimerini

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