SPECIAL REPORT: Was Washington State Mudslide a ‘Lahar’?

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With this new information indicating magma pools can form several miles away from its source, is it possible the event which occurred 55 miles NE of Seattle connected to Glacier Peak volcano? When you look at the photos of this event killing at least 14 and 176 people still missing, it has all…

With this new information indicating magma pools can form several miles away from its source, is it possible the event which occurred 55 miles NE of Seattle connected to Glacier Peak volcano? When you look at the photos of this event killing at least 14 and 176 people still missing, it has all the markings of a “lahar” which is usually related to volcanic activity. (see article: http://bit.ly/1oYbUpu)

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Glacier Peak is the most remote of the five active volcanoes in Washington State, and more than a dozen glaciers descend its flanks, prompting its name. The peak wasn’t known by settlers to be a volcano until the 1850′s, when Native Americans mentioned to naturalist George Gibbs that “another smaller peak to the north of Mount Rainier once smoked.” Glacier Peak is not prominently visible from any major population center, and so its attractions, as well as its hazards, tend to be overlooked.

washington_lahar_m

Yet since the end of the most recent ice age, this volcano has produced some of the largest and most explosive eruptions in the conterminous United States. Within this time period, it has erupted multiple times during at least six separate episodes. Glacier Peak and Mount St. Helens are the only volcanoes in Washington State that have generated very large explosive eruptions in the past 15,000 years.

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Surprising New Class of ‘Hypervelocity Stars’ Discovered Escaping the Galaxy

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An international team of astronomers has discovered a surprising new class of “hypervelocity stars” — solitary stars moving fast enough to escape the gravitational grasp of the Milky Way galaxy.
The discovery of this new set of “hypervelocity” stars was described at…

An international team of astronomers has discovered a surprising new class of “hypervelocity stars” — solitary stars moving fast enough to escape the gravitational grasp of the Milky Way galaxy.

The discovery of this new set of “hypervelocity” stars was described at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society this week in Washington, D.C., and is published in the Jan. 1 issue of the Astrophysical Journal.

“These new hypervelocity stars are very different from the ones that have been discovered previously,” said Vanderbilt University graduate student Lauren Palladino, lead author on the study. “The original hypervelocity stars are large blue stars and appear to have originated from the galactic center. Our new stars are relatively small — about the size of the sun — and the surprising part is that none of them appear to come from the galactic core.”

The discovery came as Palladino, working under the supervision of Kelly Holley-Bockelmann, assistant professor of astronomy at Vanderbilt was mapping the Milky Way by calculating the orbits of Sun-like stars in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, a massive census of the stars and galaxies in a region covering nearly one quarter of the sky.

“It’s very hard to kick a star out of the galaxy,” said Holley-Bockelmann. “The most commonly accepted mechanism for doing so involves interacting with the supermassive black hole at the galactic core. That means when you trace the star back to its birthplace, it comes from the center of our galaxy. None of these hypervelocity stars come from the center, which implies that there is an unexpected new class of hypervelocity star, one with a different ejection mechanism.”

Astrophysicists calculate that a star must get a million-plus mile-per-hour kick relative to the motion of the galaxy to reach escape velocity. They also estimate that the Milky Way’s central black hole has a mass equivalent to four million suns, large enough to produce a gravitational force strong enough to accelerate stars to hyper velocities. The typical scenario involves a binary pair of stars that get caught in the black hole’s grip. As one of the stars spirals in toward the black hole, its companion is flung outward at a tremendous velocity. So far, 18 giant blue hypervelocity stars have been found that could have been produced by such a mechanism.

Now Palladino and her colleagues have discovered an additional 20 sun-sized stars that they characterize as possible hypervelocity stars. “One caveat concerns the known errors in measuring stellar motions,” she said. “To get the speed of a star, you have to measure the position really accurately over decades. If the position is measured badly a few times over that long time interval, it can seem to move a lot faster than it really does. We did several statistical tests to increase the accuracy of our estimates. So we think that, although some of our candidates may be flukes, the majority are real.”

The astronomers are following up with additional observations. The new rogues appear to have the same composition as normal disk stars, so the astronomers do not think that their birthplace was in the galaxy’s central bulge, the halo that surrounds it, or in some other exotic place outside the galaxy. “The big question is: what boosted these stars up to such extreme velocities? We are working on that now,” said Holley-Bockelmann.

Katharine Schlesinger from the Australian National University, Carlos Allende Prieto from the Universidad de La Laguna in Spain, Timothy Beers from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson, Young Sun Lee from New Mexico State University and Donald Schneider from Pennsylvania State University also contributed to the discovery.

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Icy Wreckage Discovered In Nearby Planetary System

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Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope have discovered the splattered remains of comets colliding together around a nearby star; the researchers believe they are witnessing the total destruction of one of these icy bodies once every five minutes.
The…

Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope have discovered the splattered remains of comets colliding together around a nearby star; the researchers believe they are witnessing the total destruction of one of these icy bodies once every five minutes.

The “smoking gun” implicating this frosty demolition is the detection of a surprisingly compact region of carbon monoxide (CO) gas swirling around the young, nearby star Beta Pictoris.

“Molecules of CO can survive around a star for only a brief time, about 100 years, before being destroyed by UV radiation,” said Bill Dent, a researcher at the Joint ALMA Office in Santiago, Chile, and lead author on a paper published in the journal Science online at the Science Express website. “So unless we are observing Beta Pictoris at a very unusual time, then the carbon monoxide we observed must be continuously replenished.”

Comets and other icy bodies trap vast amounts of CO and other gases in their frosty interiors. When these objects collide, as is common in the chaotic environment around a young star, they quickly release their stored gases. If these collisions were occurring randomly in this system, then the CO would be more or less evenly distributed.

But the new images from ALMA show something else: a single compact clump of CO approximately 13 billion kilometers (8 billion miles) from the star — or about three times the distance of Neptune to the Sun. “This clump is an important clue to what’s going on in the outer reaches of this young planetary system,” says Mark Wyatt, an astronomer at the University of Cambridge and coauthor on the paper.

Earlier observations of Beta Pictoris with other telescopes revealed that it is surrounded by a large disk of dusty debris and harbors at least one planet orbiting approximately 1.2 billion kilometers (750 million miles) from the star.

The new ALMA data suggest, however, that there may be a second, as-yet-undetected planet orbiting much farther out. The gravity from such a planet would shepherd millions of cometary bodies into a relatively confined area. A similar phenomenon is seen in our own Solar System where the planet Jupiter keeps a group of so-called Trojan asteroids in a confined orbit around the Sun.

“To get the amount of CO we observed — which is equal to about one-sixth the mass of Earth’s oceans — the rate of collisions would be truly startling, with the complete destruction of a large comet once every five minutes,” noted Aki Roberge, an astronomer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and coauthor on the paper. “To get this number of collisions, this would have to be a very tight, massive swarm.”

The astronomers propose an alternate possibility for the origin of this swarm of icy bodies; two Mars-size icy planets smashing together within the past million years could have produced the compact, cometary debris around the star. Such an occurrence, however, would be rare and there is a low likelihood that it could have occurred recently enough for the remnants to still be so concentrated.

Both possibilities, however, give astronomers reason to be optimistic that there are many more planets waiting to be found around Beta Pictoris, which is located a relatively nearby 63 light-years from Earth in the southern constellation Pictor.

ALMA’s unprecedented resolution and sensitivity enabled the astronomers to detect the faint millimeter-wavelength light emitted by both the dust grains and CO in the system.

“And carbon monoxide is just the beginning; there may be other more complex pre-organic molecules released from these icy bodies,” adds Roberge.
The astronomers hope that further observations with ALMA will shed more light on this system and help us understand what conditions were like during the formation of our own Solar System.

ALMA, an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA construction and operations are led on behalf of Europe by ESO, on behalf of North America by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), and on behalf of East Asia by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) provides the unified leadership and management of the construction, commissioning and operation of ALMA.

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Wind Storm Hits Bolivia

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An unusual wind storm has swept across the Bolivian cities of La Paz and El Alto, killing at least one person and causing widespread damage, destroying homes and power lines.
Raul Chuquimia, a 29-year-old laborer from capital La Paz, was killed on Thursday by a falling 22ft tree branch,…

An unusual wind storm has swept across the Bolivian cities of La Paz and El Alto, killing at least one person and causing widespread damage, destroying homes and power lines.

Raul Chuquimia, a 29-year-old laborer from capital La Paz, was killed on Thursday by a falling 22ft tree branch, according to local media reports.

Chuquimia, a father of three, was clearing another branch from the street when he was hit.

Television footage showed the 70-80 kph winds knocking over electricity posts and trees and tearing roof tiles off homes.

People struggled to walk through the winds and a thick cloud of dust hung over both cities.

Some residential areas to the east and west of La Paz were left without electricity.

“I never knew this could happen. I thought it was the rain but the strong winds brought a lot of dust,” an unidentified street seller said, reflecting surprise expressed by many residents.

According to Bolivia’s National Service of Meteorology and Hydrology, the storm was caused by a phenomenon called “convex cloud”, which forms from water vapor carried by powerful upward air currents.

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Laboratory dynamos attempt to generate magnetic fields the way planets and stars do

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Daniel Lathrop spent seven years and $2 million building the stainless steel sphere in his laboratory. It’s two spheres, actually — nestled one within the other like a pair of Russian dolls. Only these dolls contain 12 tons of molten metal and spin independently at astonishing speeds.
With his co…

Daniel Lathrop spent seven years and $2 million building the stainless steel sphere in his laboratory. It’s two spheres, actually — nestled one within the other like a pair of Russian dolls. Only these dolls contain 12 tons of molten metal and spin independently at astonishing speeds.

With his contraption, Lathrop, a physicist at the University of Maryland in College Park, hopes to re-create the Earth’s spinning metal heart. As the planet rotates on its axis, electrically conducting liquid iron churns thousands of kilometers down in the outer core. The iron’s sloshing motion, in a process called a dynamo, creates and sustains Earth’s magnetic field.

Given the crucial role the planet’s magnetic field plays in guiding navigators and protecting Earth from solar storms, scientists know surprisingly little about it. Geophysicists don’t know exactly how the magnetic field got started billions of years ago or how it has managed to sustain itself for so long. It’s even a mystery why Earth has a magnetic field in the first place. Not all planets do. Tiny Mercury has one, for instance, while Mars has none. Stars like the sun generate powerful internal dynamos as well, and laboratory models filled with superhot metal might be able to re-create them.

Lathrop’s goal is to provide some hard science about where Earth’s magnetism comes from. His Russian dolls live in a laboratory at the university, where they stand in as a miniaturized version of the Earth. Liquid sodium filling the space between the inner and outer spheres replaces the planet’s liquid iron outer core. Lathrop hopes that the swirling sodium will create its own dynamo and generate a self-sustaining magnetic field.

If the experiment works, Lathrop’s team will be able to study the forces that drive Earth’s dynamo and determine what might happen to our magnetic field in the future. It has flipped quasi-regularly in Earth’s past, so that magnetic north becomes magnetic south, and vice versa. Some scientists think the planet is due for another flip. “We could be headed for a reversal right now, but that’s just a hunch,” says Lathrop. “We’re stuck between hunches and science.”

Since last spring, when his device was first filled with sodium, Lathrop has turned it on about once a month. Flip a switch on Monday morning, and by midday Tuesday all the sodium — which is solid at room temperature — has gotten hot enough to melt. Flip another switch and the spheres begin whirling like dervishes, churning the liquid sodium between them.

DYNAMICS OF A DYNAMO Click to View larger image To simulate Earth’s dynamo, the space between the inner and outer spheres of the University of Maryland device is filled with liquid sodium. The spheres rotate independently at varying velocities. The setup allows the team to study how heat and rotation might affect the movement of the iron in Earth’s outer core. Source: S. Young/Nature 2011; Image: M. Atarod DYNAMICS OF A DYNAMO
Click to View larger image To simulate Earth’s dynamo, the space between the inner and outer spheres of the University of Maryland device is filled with liquid sodium. The spheres rotate independently at varying velocities. The setup allows the team to study how heat and rotation might affect the movement of the iron in Earth’s outer core.
Source: S. Young/Nature 2011; Image: M. Atarod

Instruments around the device gather information about how the liquid is flowing and whether it is generating any magnetism. No dynamo yet, but the device allows the team to generate huge amounts of data very quickly. “Every one second in our experiment mimics 5,000 years of Earth’s history,” says Lathrop. “In a few hours, I can deliver millions of years of high-quality data.”

Building a better dynamo

“What’s interesting from an experimental point of view is that dynamos are a threshold phenomenon — you either get one or you don’t get one,” says Peter Olson, a geodynamicist at Johns Hopkins University. “You have two options for making one: You can start with the most Earthlike configuration and try to work up to that threshold, or you can start with a less realistic configuration, make a dynamo and then start removing the unrealistic bits.”

The latter approach is how three groups have already achieved dynamos in a lab. The first two were reported in 2000, in Riga, Latvia, and in Karlsruhe, Germany. Both forced liquid sodium in cylindrical tanks to flow in a helical pattern — a twisty motion that was enough for the fluid to generate a dynamo.

Building on that, physicists put together a third sodium experiment in Cadarache, France. “It’s modeled after a French washing machine — a great agitating device,” says Olson. It uses a copper cylinder filled with liquid sodium stirred by a disk at each end. The disks can rotate in the same or opposite directions, essentially pushing or pulling the sodium and setting up all sorts of chaotic flows.

In 2006, the Cadarache experiment generated a dynamo. The device shows a much richer variety of magnetic behavior than the earlier two. For example, the direction of the magnetic field in the device reverses direction every so often, as Earth’s does.

 

GIANT MAGNET Click to View larger image Circulating electric currents in the molten iron outer core give rise to Earth’s magnetic field, which is like a bar magnet tilted 11 degrees from the spin axis of the planet and thus from the geographic poles. Lines of the field converge where magnetic force is strong, at the poles, and spread out where it is weak. Globe: Umberto Shtanzman/Shutterstock; Illustration: M. Atarod GIANT MAGNET
Click to View larger image Circulating electric currents in the molten iron outer core give rise to Earth’s magnetic field, which is like a bar magnet tilted 11 degrees from the spin axis of the planet and thus from the geographic poles. Lines of the field converge where magnetic force is strong, at the poles, and spread out where it is weak.
Globe: Umberto Shtanzman/Shutterstock; Illustration: M. Atarod

But the machine works only because it contains some of those unrealistic bits Olson refers to. In particular, it makes a dynamo only if one or both of the stirring disks are made of iron. That introduces an extra magnetic force that helps the dynamo get going. Take out the iron, and the Cadarache machine no longer crosses the threshold.

The latest suite of sodium experiments uses spheres, not cylinders, to rotate the fluid in a more planetlike scenario. Earth is, after all, round. None of these experiments has yet achieved a dynamo, but they have contributed to some important discoveries that may help Lathrop create his. In particular, researchers have learned a lot about turbulence, the unpredictable changes in direction that a flowing liquid sometimes takes.

Imagine a fast-flowing river in which eddies carry the water from the center current to the stationary banks. Those eddies — the turbulence — suck speed from the middle of the river and move it to where it rapidly decays. Turbulence of the same sort normally plays havoc with an experimental dynamo, says Cary Forest, a physicist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Forest and his colleagues have been working with a sodium experiment smaller than Maryland’s. In 2006, they reported that turbulence within the sodium flow in their device generates its own weak magnetic field. That, in turn, lowers the conductivity of the sodium, making it hard to get enough electrical charges flowing fast enough to set off a true dynamo.

“That’s a big killer,” says Forest. “You have to spin your system five times as fast to get it up to the point where you thought you had to be.” Nevertheless, the discovery helped explain why the new generation of sodium experiments hasn’t been able to generate dynamos yet.

On the other hand, if you get a dynamo going in the first place, turbulence may not be so much of a problem. In an experiment in Grenoble, France, scientists have forced a strong magnetic field onto the flowing sodium. Because of that they can essentially suppress much of the turbulence that usually roils the liquid, says team leader Henri-Claude Nataf of the University of Grenoble.

That, Nataf says, indicates what is happening in planetary cores. Once a planet like Earth starts spinning and generating its own magnetic field, that magnetism tamps down turbulence. The scientists at Grenoble can now study how that happens inside the flowing sodium in their experiment.

Turbulence (seen here in water dyed green) complicates experiments trying to create a dynamo and a magnetic field by swirling hot liquid sodium.From video by Daniel P. Lathrop, Santiago A. Triana, Daniel S. Zimmerman Turbulence (seen here in water dyed green) complicates experiments trying to create a dynamo and a magnetic field by swirling hot liquid sodium.
From video by Daniel P. Lathrop, Santiago A. Triana, Daniel S. Zimmerman

Lathrop’s spinning spheres at Maryland are without a doubt the big daddy of the sodium experiments, and while the sodium portion is just getting under way, the team tested the experiment with water several years ago to be sure all the mechanical parts worked before tanking up with a liquid metal that can give off a highly flammable gas.

Even then, the scientists began discovering unexpected things. The water showed flows forced by Earth’s precession, the wobbling of the planet’s rotational axis in space. That observation, Lathrop says, supports the idea that similar flows exist in Earth’s core.

Starting in late 2011, the Maryland scientists drained the water from between the spheres to make way for sodium. The metal is commercially available for making indigo dye for blue jeans, and Lathrop’s team ordered 62 barrels of the stuff. Just heating it up enough to liquefy it and then loading it all in took almost five months.

“I wouldn’t want to do that again,” says Lathrop. He and local fire safety officers had to get creative because liquid sodium is so dangerous. They invented a new way to put out laboratory fires in case of any accidents. And for safety’s sake the experiment initially ran at two revolutions per second, which is half of the fastest speed it can achieve.

Even at that speed, and before achieving a dynamo, the Maryland machine is hinting at new discoveries. The team has documented 15 different flow states. Like weather patterns in Earth’s atmosphere, each flow comes with its own complications. “We are sailing out into uncharted territory,” Lathrop says.

He thinks the machine will have no problem generating a dynamo once it powers up to full speed, probably later this year. Among other things, Lathrop will be looking for magnetic field reversals like those seen on Earth.

Ever since scientists generated the first global model of Earth’s magnetic field nearly 180 years ago, its strength has decreased by some 10 percent. That might indicate that the planet is heading into a reversal right now (the last one happened 780,000 years ago; they generally take about several thousand years from start to finish). If Lathrop’s machine can generate a dynamo and then start flipping direction, scientists might have more insight into what triggers such changes on Earth — and how likely it is that we are headed for another one.

Beyond sodium

Not all scientists are content with sodium experiments, even very big ones. At Wisconsin, Forest is trying to take the idea of a dynamo up a notch. Quite a few notches, actually — with the superheated state of matter known as plasma.

Liquid metals are a good generalization for studying Earth’s core, Forest says. But most dynamos in the universe, those within stars, are entirely different beasts. They operate in magnetic regimes far beyond Earth’s.

Scientists measure the strength of a dynamo with something called the magnetic Reynolds number. A low magnetic Reynolds number means that the dynamo is weak and could soon dissipate. A high number means that the dynamo is powerful. Earth’s magnetic Reynolds number is on the order of 100. The sun’s is on the order of 100 million. And plasma streaming between galaxies can have a magnetic Reynolds number more like a million billion.

Forest designed his plasma experiment to mirror magnetic regimes far beyond Earth’s. If successful, it could give researchers an unprecedented glimpse of what happens around black holes and within the hearts of stars. “There’s so much to learn,” he says.

The problem is that plasma is difficult to contain. In research machines such as fusion reactors, scientists use strong magnetic fields to confine plasma, but those fields interfere with seeing what might happen during a natural dynamo. “It’s almost impossible to study how magnetic fields come into being using plasma because you need a magnetic field there to begin with,” says Forest. “It violates the rules of the dynamo game.”

Forest figured out a work-around by putting the whole machine in a sort of magnetic bucket and then attaching 3,000 strong magnets to the surface of the outer sphere. The surface magnets clear out the plasma in the outermost portion of the device and stir the plasma remaining within to create turbulent flows for study.

At 3 meters in diameter, the Madison plasma experiment is the same size as the Maryland sodium one. Forest’s team can pump in a little helium or argon gas, add voltage and create a plasma at some 50,000° to 100,000° Celsius. “It looks even more cool than Dan’s,” Forest says. A clear window on the side of the outer sphere offers a view of the glowing plasma flickering within, like the ethereal dance of the northern lights.

Forest and his colleagues created plasma for the first time in the device last fall, and since then have been measuring its density, temperature and other properties. Some of the flows zip along at nearly 10 kilometers per second, allowing them to achieve very high magnetic Reynolds numbers.

Already, the team is seeing quirky viscosity in the flows. Forest thinks the machine is on the verge of mimicking astrophysical phenomena such as accretion disks of gas and dust swirling into a black hole.

So the race is now on to see which team might achieve a dynamo first: the Madison plasma experiment or the Maryland sodium one. Both are so huge that they may succeed out of sheer size. If so, then physicists are going to be busy for a very long time, says Forest: “Nobody’s ever built anything like this.”

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‘Catastrophic’ Storm Moving Up the East Coast

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Hundreds of thousands of customers are without power throughout the South as a massive ice storm barrels through the region, slowing traffic, grounding flights, and shuttering schools and businesses.
The storm churning its way up the East Coast is expected to dump up to a foot of snow on parts…

Hundreds of thousands of customers are without power throughout the South as a massive ice storm barrels through the region, slowing traffic, grounding flights, and shuttering schools and businesses.

The storm churning its way up the East Coast is expected to dump up to a foot of snow on parts of the South, a region ill-prepared for such conditions. Meteorologists are predicting that Atlanta, the region’s commercial and travel hub, could be covered in up to a half inch of ice.

In Georgia nearly 145,000 people are without power, according to Georgia Power. Between North and South Carolina, there are more than 200,000 customers without electricty as the sun set and temperatures dropped this evening, according to utilities there.

Thousands of flights were grounded and emergency declarations were issued in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana ahead of the storm.

Elected leaders and emergency management officials began warning people to stay off the roads, especially after two inches of snowfall caused an icy gridlock two weeks ago and left thousands stranded in vehicles overnight. It seemed many in the region around the state’s capital obliged as streets and highways were uncharacteristically unclogged.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, during a news conference at the Georgia Emergency Management Agency’s special operations center Tuesday evening, implored people to get somewhere safe and stay there.

“The message I really want to share is, as of midnight tonight, wherever you are, you need to plan on staying there for a while,” Reed said. “The bottom line is that all of the information that we have right now suggests that we are facing an icing event that is very unusual for the metropolitan region and the state of Georgia.”

The forecast drew comparisons to an ice storm in the Atlanta area in 2000 that left more than 500,000 homes and businesses without power and an epic storm in 1973 that caused an estimated 200,000 outages for several days. In 2000, damage estimates topped $35 million.

A National Weather Service memo issued today called the storm “an event of historical proportions,” identifying it as “catastrophic … crippling … paralyzing … choose your adjective.”

More than 200 utility vehicles from surrounding states — including Florida and North Carolina — gathered in a parking lot near one of the grandstands at Atlanta Motor Speedway, prepared to help, as needed.

“It’s certainly going to be a challenge for us. Ice is definitely different than snow,” state Transportation Commissioner Keith Golden said.

Atlanta has a painful past of being ill-equipped to deal with snowy weather. Despite officials’ promises after a crippling ice storm in 2011, the Jan. 28 storm proved they still had many kinks to work out.

Like state and local officials, many commuters learned their lessons from that storm.

“Last time, I was totally unprepared. I was completely blindsided,” said Lisa Nadir, of Acworth, Ga., who sat in traffic for 13 hours and then spent the night in her car when the storm hit Jan. 28. “I’m going to be prepared from now on for the rest of my life.”

Nadir was telecommuting from home starting Tuesday and she had kitty litter in her trunk in case she needed to put it down on icy roads for extra traction.

Around the Deep South, slick roads were causing problems. In North Texas, at least four people died in traffic accidents on icy roads –- including a Dallas firefighter who was killed when a car, sliding on the ice, knocked him off an overpass while he was trying to help a fellow driver, authorities said.

While officials remained worried about the South, the Northeast was expected to get slammed, too. Winter storm warnings expanded to include Philadelphia and New York City this morning, with those warnings lasting from midnight Thursday until 6 a.m. Friday.

The storm was expected to intensify and move up the East Coast today into tonight, with snow forecast to fall in Washington, D.C., and New York City overnight, leading to a slow, cold morning commute for the Northeast.

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Long-Duration Flare

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On March 23rd around 0330 UT, the magnetic canopy of sunspot AR2014 became unstable and erupted, producing a long-duration C-class solar flare. Although C-class flares are considered to be minor, this one lasted so long (several hours) that it unleashed the energy-equivalent of a much stronger…

On March 23rd around 0330 UT, the magnetic canopy of sunspot AR2014 became unstable and erupted, producing a long-duration C-class solar flare. Although C-class flares are considered to be minor, this one lasted so long (several hours) that it unleashed the energy-equivalent of a much stronger flare. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the action.

Slow flares usually produce CMEs and this one was no exception. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) recorded a bright cloud emerging from the blast site. The CME appears to have an Earth-directed component that could reach our planet in ~3 days.

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