Spain, Portugal Bake In Heatwave


http://earthchangesmedia.com/spain-portugal-bake-in-heatwave
Temperatures soared above 40 degrees across Spain and Portugal on Monday, prompting heat alerts, raising the risk of wildfires and drawing crowds to beaches and fountains.

Spain’s national weather office placed one province, Cordoba, on red alert, the highest level in the scale, meaning…

Temperatures soared above 40 degrees across Spain and Portugal on Monday, prompting heat alerts, raising the risk of wildfires and drawing crowds to beaches and fountains.

heat

Spain’s national weather office placed one province, Cordoba, on red alert, the highest level in the scale, meaning soaring temperatures posed an “extreme risk” to health.

About 40 other Spanish provinces were on orange alert — the second highest warning — due to the heatwave which was also affecting parts of neighbouring France.

Temperatures in the countryside in Cordoba, a region of whitewashed houses in Andalusia, were expected to climb to 44 degrees Celsius.

“These are not usual meteorological phenomena, of an exceptional intensity and with a very high level of risk for the population,” a spokesman for Spain’s national weather office said.

In the Andalusian capital of Seville, where temperatures soared to 42 degrees Celsius, children and adults soaked their feet in city fountains for relief from the heat while others jumped from bridges into the Guadalquivir river.

Beaches across Spain’s southern coast were packed as the heatwave coincided with the start of the high season for tourism.

In neighboring Portugal four regions were on orange alert, the second highest on its scale of four levels, because of the heat.

Authorities in both nations warned that the scorching temperatures generated a high risk of forest fires.

Nearly all of Spain faced an “extreme”, “very high” or high” risk of forest fires on Monday, according to the nation’s weather office.

Local authorities banned the use of firecrackers near wooded areas and urged smokers not to throw away cigarette butts.

Madrid city hall was advising everyone to remain hydrated throughout the day by drinking at least three litres of water per day and avoid drinking alcohol.

It also recommended that local residents keep their windows open and their blinds drawn and avoid being out in the streets between noon and 6:00 p.m. when temperatures are at their highest.

Temperatures in southern Britain could rise to more than 30 degrees Celsius later this week — high for this time of year — and have already soared in France as the heatwave sept across Europe’s western flank.

“The heatwave from Spain has been seen… very extreme temperatures, topping 40 degrees Celsius in some places,” said Francoise Benichou of Meteo-France.

The French health ministry has also warned of the risks from dehydration and heat strokes.

In 2003, a heatwave in Europe led to 70,000 deaths above the normal rate, mainly among elderly people.
– See more at: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2015/06/29/spain-portugal-bake-heatwave.html#sthash.mtBy8rnr.dpuf

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Guatemala Volcano Grows More Active, Spews Ash


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Guatemala City  – Guatemala’s Fuego volcano shook from explosions Sunday and spewed ashes over nearby communities as it entered a more intense phase of activity, authorities said.

The state Institute of Vulcanology reported “four or five explosions an hour accompanied by ashes …

Guatemala City  – Guatemala’s Fuego volcano shook from explosions Sunday and spewed ashes over nearby communities as it entered a more intense phase of activity, authorities said.

volcano

The state Institute of Vulcanology reported “four or five explosions an hour accompanied by ashes (rising) to an altitude of 4,600 meters (15,000 feet).”

The volcano is located 50 kilometers (30 miles) southeast of Guatemala City.

The sound of the explosions could be heard from a distance of 25 kilometers, and shock waves rattled roof-tops and windows in surrounding villages, it said.

Ash from the volcano was falling on villages on Fuego’s western slopes.

In February, a strong eruption forced authorities to close the international airport because of the ashfall.

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Updated AIR Hurricane Model for U.S. Features Storm Surge Module


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Catastrophe risk modeling firm AIR Worldwide has updated its hurricane model for the U.S. to help insurers and reinsurers better understand and quantify the risk from hurricanes.

The update features a hydrodynamic storm surge module that integrates storm parameters with elevation data to…

Catastrophe risk modeling firm AIR Worldwide has updated its hurricane model for the U.S. to help insurers and reinsurers better understand and quantify the risk from hurricanes.

storm

The update features a hydrodynamic storm surge module that integrates storm parameters with elevation data to simulate location-specific storm surge inundation depth and extent. Storm surge results from a combination of variables, including storm size, strength, speed, and path, as well as tidal heights and coastal geography.

“Hurricane storm surge can be devastating, resulting in substantial damage and high insured losses,” said Dr. Tim Doggett, assistant vice president and senior principal scientist, AIR Worldwide, in a statement on the product release.

Doggett said the steady growth in the value and density of property on the Gulf and East Coasts of the United States is increasing the need for reliable information on storm surge risk.

He said AIR’s new storm surge module represents “state-of-the-art modeling techniques and the latest research on storm surge hazard to accurately assess risk at very high resolution.”

The updated storm surge module incorporates the 30-meter National Elevation Dataset (NED) developed by the USGS — the same data set used in the AIR inland flood model for the U.S. It also uses a customized variation of the Sea, Lake, and Overland Surges from Hurricanes (SLOSH) model from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The new storm surge module also incorporates regional and seasonal data on tide heights and contains up-to-date data on levees, seawalls, floodgates, pump systems and other mitigating structures and equipment — including the most up-to-date levee information available for New Orleans, according to the Boston-based modeling firm.

The model updates also include the most recent North Atlantic hurricane database from NOAA, the latest reanalysis data from 1930 to 1945, and the 2011 release of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Land Cover Database. Additionally, the vulnerability module incorporates the latest observational data on the impact of square footage on wind losses for large, high-value homes and important updates that reflect the latest findings on the vulnerability of manufactured homes.

Estimates of damage from storm surge take into consideration information on primary building characteristics such as construction, occupancy, and height, as well as a host of secondary characteristics including base flood elevation, foundation type, number of basement levels, floor of interest, and custom flood protection. These can be entered by the model user.

The model estimates physical damage and time-element losses using functions that reflect local building codes and regional design practices, as well as damage survey findings, claims analyses, and engineering research, according to AIR.

“Our view of hurricane risk in the United States has been refined by new hazard data, enhanced modeling of storm surge and flood defenses, and an improved understanding of building vulnerability,” said Doggett. “The highly granular estimates produced by the model can help insurers better understand the risk from hurricane wind and storm surge, supporting improved risk selection, portfolio management and risk transfer decisions.”

AIR said its model has been validated against more than $6 billion in claims data from client companies for recent hurricanes and more than $10 billion from AIR’s parent and sister companies. AIR is owned by Verisk Analytics, which also owns ISO. AIR said the validation also uses detailed insurance company claims data and industry-level losses from ISO Property Claim Services collected over the past two decades.

The AIR Hurricane Model for the U.S. is available in the Touchstone 3.0 and CATRADER 17 catastrophe risk management systems.

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Indonesia Raises Alert As Mt Raung Volcano Erupts


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JAKARTA: Indonesian authorities on Monday (Jun 29) raised the alert level after Mount Raung in East Java erupted, causing ash to land in surrounding villages.

The eruption at Mount Raung on Sunday evening was heard 20 kilometres away, and ash fall was seen in villages about 10 kilometres away…

JAKARTA: Indonesian authorities on Monday (Jun 29) raised the alert level after Mount Raung in East Java erupted, causing ash to land in surrounding villages.

mt raung

The eruption at Mount Raung on Sunday evening was heard 20 kilometres away, and ash fall was seen in villages about 10 kilometres away from the summit. Aircraft pilots also reported seeing large amounts of ash at a height of 3,500 metres.

Authorities cordoned off a two-kilometre radius around the volcano, and raised the alert level to “Siaga”, the second highest level.

The Head of Prevention and Disaster Preparedness at the local Natural Disaster Mitigation Agency added the eruption could be seen from a lookout post in Banyuwangi, East Java.

Volcanologists have recorded an increase in volcanic activity and tremors on the 3,332-metre high Mount Raung since Jun 24.

Apart from Mount Raung, other volcanoes for which Indonesian authorities have raised the second highest alert level are Mount Karangetang, as well as Mount Soputan and Mount Lokon in Sulawesi.

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Consciousness Has Less Control Than Believed, According To New Theory


http://earthchangesmedia.com/consciousness-has-less-control-than-believed-according-to-new-theory
Consciousness — the internal dialogue that seems to govern one’s thoughts and actions — is far less powerful than people believe, serving as a passive conduit rather than an active force that exerts control, according to a new theory proposed by an SF State…

Consciousness — the internal dialogue that seems to govern one’s thoughts and actions — is far less powerful than people believe, serving as a passive conduit rather than an active force that exerts control, according to a new theory proposed by an SF State researcher.

consciencesness

Associate Professor of Psychology Ezequiel Morsella’s “Passive Frame Theory” suggests that the conscious mind is like an interpreter helping speakers of different languages communicate.

“The interpreter presents the information but is not the one making any arguments or acting upon the knowledge that is shared,” Morsella said. “Similarly, the information we perceive in our consciousness is not created by conscious processes, nor is it reacted to by conscious processes. Consciousness is the middle-man, and it doesn’t do as much work as you think.”

Morsella and his coauthors’ groundbreaking theory, published online on June 22 by the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences, contradicts intuitive beliefs about human consciousness and the notion of self.

Consciousness, per Morsella’s theory, is more reflexive and less purposeful than conventional wisdom would dictate. Because the human mind experiences its own consciousness as sifting through urges, thoughts, feelings and physical actions, people understand their consciousness to be in control of these myriad impulses. But in reality, Morsella argues, consciousness does the same simple task over and over, giving the impression that it is doing more than it actually is.

“We have long thought consciousness solved problems and had many moving parts, but it’s much more basic and static,” Morsella said. “This theory is very counterintuitive. It goes against our everyday way of thinking.”

According to Morsella’s framework, the “free will” that people typically attribute to their conscious mind — the idea that our consciousness, as a “decider,” guides us to a course of action — does not exist. Instead, consciousness only relays information to control “voluntary” action, or goal-oriented movement involving the skeletal muscle system.

Compare consciousness to the Internet, Morsella suggested. The Internet can be used to buy books, reserve a hotel room and complete thousands of other tasks. Taken at face value, it would seem incredibly powerful. But, in actuality, a person in front of a laptop or clicking away on a smartphone is running the show — the Internet is just being made to perform the same basic process, without any free will of its own.

The Passive Frame Theory also defies the intuitive belief that one conscious thought leads to another. “One thought doesn’t know about the other, they just often have access to and are acting upon the same, unconscious information,” Morsella said. “You have one thought and then another, and you think that one thought leads to the next, but this doesn’t seem to be the way the process actually works.”

The theory, which took Morsella and his team more than 10 years to develop, can be difficult to accept at first, he said.

“The number one reason it’s taken so long to reach this conclusion is because people confuse what consciousness is for with what they think they use it for,” Morsella said. “Also, most approaches to consciousness focus on perception rather than action.”

The theory has major implications for the study of mental disorders, Morsella said. “Why do you have an urge or thought that you shouldn’t be having? Because, in a sense, the consciousness system doesn’t know that you shouldn’t be thinking about something,” Morsella said. “An urge generator doesn’t know that an urge is irrelevant to other thoughts or ongoing action.”

The study of consciousness is complicated, Morsella added, because of the inherent difficulty of applying the conscious mind to study itself.

“For the vast majority of human history, we were hunting and gathering and had more pressing concerns that required rapidly executed voluntary actions,” Morsella said. “Consciousness seems to have evolved for these types of actions rather than to understand itself.”

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Earth’s Daily Rotation Period Encoded In An Atomic-Level Protein Structure


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A collaborative group of Japanese researchers has demonstrated that the Earth’s daily rotation period (24 hours) is encoded in the KaiC protein at the atomic level, a small, 10 nm-diameter biomolecule expressed in cyanobacterial cells.

This research group included: Dr. Jun Abe, Assistant…

A collaborative group of Japanese researchers has demonstrated that the Earth’s daily rotation period (24 hours) is encoded in the KaiC protein at the atomic level, a small, 10 nm-diameter biomolecule expressed in cyanobacterial cells.

protein

This research group included: Dr. Jun Abe, Assistant Prof. Atsushi Mukaiyama, and Prof. Shuji Akiyama of the Institute for Molecular Science (IMS) Research Center of Integrative Molecular Systems (CIMoS); Assistant Prof. Toshifumi Mori and Prof. Shinji Saito of the Department of Theoretical and Computational Molecular Science at IMS; Designated Prof. Takao Kondo of Nagoya University; and Assistant Prof. Eiki Yamashita of the Osaka University Institute for Protein Research.

The results of this joint research will help elucidate a longstanding question in chronobiology: How is the circadian period of biological clocks determined? The results will also help understand the basic molecular mechanism of the biological clock. This knowledge might contribute to the development of therapies for disorders associated with abnormal circadian rhythms.

In accordance with diurnal changes in the environment (notably light intensity and temperature) resulting from the Earth’s daily rotation around its axis, many organisms regulate their biological activities to ensure optimal fitness and efficiency. The biological clock refers to the mechanism whereby organisms adjust the timing of their biological activities. The period of this clock is set to approximately 24 hours. A wide range of studies have investigated the biological clock in organisms ranging from bacteria to mammals. Consequently, the relationship between the biological clock and multiple diseases has been clarified. However, it remains unclear how 24-hour circadian rhythms are implemented.

The research group mentioned above addressed this question using cyanobacteria. The cyanobacterial circadian clock can be reconstructed by mixing three clock proteins (KaiA, KaiB, and KaiC) and ATP. A study published in 2007 showed that KaiC ATPase activity, which mediates the ATP hydrolysis reaction, is strongly associated with circadian periodicity. The results of that study indicated that the functional structure of KaiC could be responsible for determining the circadian rhythm.

KaiC ATPase activity exhibits a robust circadian oscillation in the presence of KaiA and KaiB proteins. In the study reported here, the temporal profile of KaiC ATPase activity exhibited an attenuating and oscillating component even in the absence of KaiA and KaiB. A close analysis revealed that this signal had a frequency of 0.91 day-1, which approximately coincided with the 24-hour period. Thus, KaiC is the source of a steady cycle that is in tune with the Earth’s daily rotation.

To identify causal structural factors, the N-terminal domain of KaiC was analyzed using high-resolution crystallography. The resultant atomic structures revealed the underlying cause of KaiC’s slowness relative to other ATPases. “A water molecule is prevented from attacking into the ideal position for the ATP hydrolysis by a steric hindrance near ATP phosphoryl groups. In addition, this hindrance is surely anchored to a spring-like structure derived from polypeptide isomerization,” elaborates Dr. Jun Abe. “The ATP hydrolysis, which involves access of a water molecule to the bound ATP and reverse isomerization of the polypeptide, is expected to require a significantly larger amount of free energy than for typical ATP hydrolysis. Thus, the three-dimensional atomic structure discovered in this study explains why the ATPase activity of KaiC is so much lower (by 100- to 1,000,000-fold) than that of typical ATPase molecules.”

The circadian clock’s period is independent of ambient temperature, a phenomenon known as temperature compensation. One KaiC molecule is composed of six identical subunits, each containing duplicated domains with a series of ATPase motifs. The asymmetric atomic-scale regulation by the aforementioned mechanism dictates a feedback mechanism that maintains the ATPase activity at a constant low level. The authors of this study discovered that the Earth’s daily rotation period (24 hours) is implemented as the time constant of the feedback mechanism mediated in this protein structure.

Technological Implications

KaiC and other protein molecules are capable of moving on short time scales, on the order of 10-12 to 10-1 seconds. This study provides the first atomic-level demonstration that small protein molecules can generate 24-hour rhythms by regulating molecular structure and reactivity. Lab head and CIMoS Director Porf. Shuji Akiyama sees, “The fact that a water molecule, ATP, the polypeptide chain, and other universal biological components are involved in this regulation suggests that humans and other complex organisms may also share a similar molecular machinery. In the crowded intracellular environment that contains a myriad of molecular signals, KaiC demonstrates long-paced oscillations using a small amount of energy generated through ATP consumption. This clever mechanism for timekeeping in a noisy environment may inspire development of highly efficient and sustainable chemical reaction processes and molecular-system-based information processing.”

Glossary

1) Clock protein: A clock protein plays an essential role in the circadian pacemaker. Mutations and deficiencies in clock proteins can alter the intrinsic characteristics of circadian rhythm.

2) ATP: Adenosine triphosphate is a source of energy required for muscle contraction and many other biological activities. ATP, a nucleotide that mediates the storage and consumption of energy, is sometimes referred to as the “currency of biological energy” due to its universality and importance in metabolism. ATP consists of an adenosine molecule bound to three phosphate groups. Upon hydrolysis, the ATPase releases one phosphate molecule plus approximately 8 kcal/mol of energy.

3) Polypeptide isomerization: Protein polypeptide main chains undergo isomerization on a time scale of seconds or longer; therefore, protein isomerization is one of the slowest biological reactions. Most functional protein main chains have a trans conformation, and a few proteins have a functional cis conformation.

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Egypt Sees Sandstorm And Earthquake On The Same Day


http://earthchangesmedia.com/egypt-sees-sandstorm-and-earthquake-on-the-same-day
CAIRO – Egypt faced treacherous weather conditions Saturday as a sandstorm blanketed the north of the country and a magnitude-5.2 earthquake centered in the Sinai peninsula shook buildings more than 200 miles away in the capital, Cairo.

The epicenter of the quake was 4 kilometers (2.5…

CAIRO – Egypt faced treacherous weather conditions Saturday as a sandstorm blanketed the north of the country and a magnitude-5.2 earthquake centered in the Sinai peninsula shook buildings more than 200 miles away in the capital, Cairo.

sandstorm

The epicenter of the quake was 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) southeast of the beachside town of Nuweiba in the Sinai, and about 75 kilometers (46 miles) south of Egypt’s border with Israel, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Airports near Alexandria and Marsa Matrouh, along the Mediterranean coast, closed and diverted flights to Cairo due to poor visibility from the day’s sandstorm, Civil Aviation Minister Hossam Kamel said in a statement. Visibility reached as low as 500 meters at the Burg al-Arab airport near Alexandria, he said.

Fierce winds whipped through the capital as many residents took cover from the sand by staying indoors. Others were seen braving the storm wearing surgical masks or covering their faces with clothing, as the wind sent rubbish and dust swirling.

At its peak, the sandstorm covered the capital in a thick orange cloud, dramatically reducing visibility.

In the Red Sea town of Dahab, 68 kilometers (42 miles) south of the epicenter of the quake in the Sinai peninsula, the tremor shook loose clouds of dust that enveloped nearby mountains, according to a witness. The quake appeared to startle local residents and tourists. It also shook the nearby Gaza strip. No serious damage was immediately reported from the earthquake in Egypt or in Gaza.

The Egyptian Ministry of Health said in a statement that there were no reports of deaths or injuries anywhere in Egypt due to the quake.

Israeli media reported that very mild aftershocks of the earthquake were felt in some places in the south of the country, but that no damage or injuries were caused.

The extreme weather conditions provided fodder for social media humor. Some wondered which of the 10 Biblical plagues would come next, while the popular Zamalek football club tweeted that it wasn’t actually an earthquake–just preparation for their match tonight.

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