Rare ‘severe’ geomagnetic storm is hitting Earth right now

A rare G4, “severe” geomagnetic storm, is underway. It has the potential to disrupt radio transmission signals, cause problems with the electrical grid and have a range of other possibly costly impacts.

The event, which is just one notch below the highest category of solar storm, began at about 10 a.m. ET on Tuesday, according to the NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center. The geomagnetic storm is the result of a pair of coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, that left the Sun on March 15 and are now interacting with Earth’s atmosphere and geomagnetic field.

In a press briefing on Tuesday, NOAA scientists said the two CMEs may have unexpectedly combined as they sped toward Earth, which could explain why the geomagnetic storm has been so strong.

Coronal mass ejections, which are essentially magnetic clouds ejected at high velocity from the sun, can affect the electricity grid, radio transmissions and GPS signals, among other things, when they interact with the planet’s magnetic field. According to NOAA, there had not been any reported abnormalities in the U.S. power grid as of noon eastern time on Tuesday.

However, there have been numerous reports of “vivid” sightings of the Northern Lights across the northern tier of the U.S., including Washington State and Minnesota. The G4 solar storm is expected to lead to a widespread viewing of the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, on Tuesday night from Alaska across Canada and much of Eurasia.

It’s possible that the Northern Lights will be visible as far south as Tennessee, New Mexico and Oklahoma on Tuesday night, NOAA experts said, depending on the evolution of the event’s intensity.

Aurora forecast

Northern Lights forecast for March 17, 2015.

IMAGE: NOAA

The Space Weather Prediction Center issued a G1, or minor, geomagnetic storm watch for Wednesday in response to the two recent CMEs, with the first effects to be felt on Tuesday. Scientists think the two CMEs unexpectedly combined into “one sort of larger shock front traveling and intersecting Earth’s orbit,” according to Robert Rutledge of the Space Weather Prediction Center.

The CMEs in this case were not oriented head-on in relation to Earth, causing forecasters to think the planet would just receive “just a glancing blow,” rather than a severe geomagnetic storm, Rutledge says.

Severe solar storms such as this one have the potential to cause “possible widespread voltage control problems” in the electrical grid. It could also disrupt tracking of spacecraft, and impede the efficacy of high-frequency radio signals, such as those used by flights that travel across the Arctic between North America and Asia. These storms can also degrade the accuracy of satellite navigation.

According to the Space Weather Prediction Center, these storms tend to occur about 100 times per every 11-year solar cycle, or about 60 days per each 11-year cycle. According to the Space Weather Prediction Center, the ongoing event is one of just two G4 events in the current solar cycle.

Dalton Highway

The Northern Lights seen from the Dalton Highway in Alaska on March 17, 2015.

IMAGE: MARKETA MURRAY/SPACEWEATHER.COM

This event is nowhere near the strength that would be required to create a nightmare scenario that space weather specialists have been warning about for years. In that scenario, a powerful geomagnetic storm, a G5 on the five-point scale, shuts down the electrical grid, wreaks havoc on radio communications, GPS devices and aerial navigation systems, costing billions in damage.

Solar storm could disrupt GPS, cause Northern Lights show

This strong solar flare Wednesday is part of an ongoing solar storm that is bombarding earth with charged, magnetic particles today. NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory

This strong solar flare Wednesday is part of an ongoing solar storm that is bombarding earth with charged, magnetic particles today. NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory

Look outside. Believe it or not, it’s storming right now.

The Earth is presently being bombarded with a powerful geomagnetic storm. It’s the result of explosions on the sun two days ago that threw off coronal mass ejections, globs — a billion tons or so — of the sun’s plasma along with magnetic clouds of charged atomic particles, in the direction of Earth.

It’s the strongest geomagnetic storm — known as a category G4 — since fall 2013. While such storms can sometimes cause fluctuations in power grids, there are no reports of outages or other disruptions from this one, said Brent Gordon, space weather services branch chief for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center.

Satellite disruption is not expected, but people could see glitches with their global positioning systems today, center director Thomas Berger said. Services such as the Google Maps app rely on satellites to lock onto ground positions, but that signal must travel through the ionosphere, an area of Earth’s upper atmosphere with charged, magnetized particles, he said. As those particles are reacting to the solar storm, GPS service could be spotty, he said.

How long the solar storm will last is uncertain, researchers said. But if it continues into the evening, Michigan could be in store for a light show in the night sky. The aurora borealis, dancing bands of green and red light in the sky caused by electrical activity in the upper atmosphere, is typically confined to areas around the North and South Poles. But Alaska, Washington, the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin all saw the so-called northern lights shows before dawn today. And the aurora borealis could be seen as far south as the central U.S. tonight, Gordon said.

“If the storm continues into nighttime hours, Michigan is certainly going to be in a prime location to see this, given what we’ve seen so far,” he said.

Northern Lights may be visible tonight

California Is Turning Back Into A Desert And There Are No Contingency Plans

Drought-Public-Domain-300x204Once upon a time, much of the state of California was a barren desert.  And now, thanks to the worst drought in modern American history, much of the state is turning back into one.  Scientists tell us that the 20th century was the wettest century that the state of California had seen in 1000 years.  But now weather patterns are reverting back to historical norms, and California is rapidly running out of water.  It is being reported that the state only has approximately a one year supply of water left in the reservoirs, and when the water is all gone there are no contingency plans.  Back in early 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency for the entire state, but since that time water usage has only dropped by 9 percent.  That is not nearly enough.  The state of California has been losing more than 12 million acre-feet of total water a year since 2011, and we are quickly heading toward an extremely painful water crisis unlike anything that any of us have ever seen before.

But don’t take my word for it.  According to the Los Angeles Times, Jay Famiglietti “is the senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech and a professor of Earth system science at UC Irvine”.  What he has to say about the horrific drought in California is extremely sobering…

As our “wet” season draws to a close, it is clear that the paltry rain and snowfall have done almost nothing to alleviate epic drought conditions. January was the driest in California since record-keeping began in 1895. Groundwater and snowpack levels are at all-time lows. We’re not just up a creek without a paddle in California, we’re losing the creek too.

Data from NASA satellites show that the total amount of water stored in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins — that is, all of the snow, river and reservoir water, water in soils and groundwater combined — was 34 million acre-feet below normal in 2014. That loss is nearly 1.5 times the capacity of Lake Mead, America’s largest reservoir.

Statewide, we’ve been dropping more than 12 million acre-feet of total water yearly since 2011. Roughly two-thirds of these losses are attributable to groundwater pumping for agricultural irrigation in the Central Valley. Farmers have little choice but to pump more groundwater during droughts, especially when their surface water allocations have been slashed 80% to 100%. But these pumping rates are excessive and unsustainable. Wells are running dry. In some areas of the Central Valley, the land is sinking by one foot or more per year.

Are you starting to understand why so many experts are so alarmed?

For much more from Famiglietti, check out this 60 Minutes interview.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, essentially the entire state is suffering drought conditions right now.  And as you can see from the map below, most of the state is currently experiencing either the highest or the second-highest classification of drought…

US Drought Monitor California 2015

Nearly 40 million people live in the state of California at the moment.

What are they all going to do when the water is gone?

In some rural areas, reservoirs are already nearly bone dry.  And in other areas, the water quality has gone way down.  For example, in one Southern California neighborhood black water is now coming out of the taps…

Residents of a Southern California neighborhood are concerned about the fact that the water flowing out of the taps in their homes is the color black. That’s right; the water coming out of their faucets is indeed black — not gray, not cloudy — but black. Inky, opaque black water that the water company says is okay to drink.

Those who live in Gardena, California, are understandably skeptical when asked to consume water that strongly resembles crude oil or something emitted by a squid. The water reportedly also has an “odor of rotten eggs or sewer smell,” according to one resident.

Perhaps you don’t care about what happens to California.

Perhaps you believe that they are just getting what they deserve.

And you might be right about that.

But the truth is that this is a crisis for all of us, because an enormous amount of our fresh produce is grown in the state.

As I discussed in a previous article, the rest of the nation is very heavily dependent on the fruits and vegetables grown in California.  The following numbers represent California’s contribution to our overall production…

99 percent of the artichokes

44 percent of asparagus

two-thirds of carrots

half of bell peppers

89 percent of cauliflower

94 percent of broccoli

95 percent of celery

90 percent of the leaf lettuce

83 percent of Romaine lettuce

83 percent of fresh spinach

a third of the fresh tomatoes

86 percent of lemons

90 percent of avocados

84 percent of peaches

88 percent of fresh strawberries

97 percent of fresh plums

Without the agricultural production of the state of California, we are in a massive amount of trouble.

And of course there are other areas all over the globe that are going through similar things.  For instance, taps in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo are running dry as Brazil experiences the worst drought that it has seen in 80 years.

The world simply does not have enough fresh water left at this point, and that is why water is being called “the new oil”.  The following comes from CBS News…

It’s been said that the wars of the 21st century may well be fought over water. The Earth’s population has more than doubled over the last 50 years and the demand for fresh water — to drink and to grow food — has surged along with it. But sources of water like rainfall, rivers, streams, reservoirs, certainly haven’t doubled. So where is all that extra water coming from? More and more, it’s being pumped out of the ground.

Water experts say groundwater is like a savings account — something you draw on in times of need. But savings accounts need to be replenished, and there is new evidence that so much water is being taken out, much of the world is in danger of a groundwater overdraft.

And if scientists are right, what we are experiencing right now may just be the very beginning of our problems.  In fact, one team of researchers has concluded that the Southwestern United States is headed for a “megadrought” that could last for decades…

Scientists had already found that the Southwestern United States were at great risk of experiencing a significant megadrought (in this case meaning drought conditions that last for over 35 years) before the end of the 21st century. But a new study published in Science Advancesadded some grim context to those predictions.

Columbia University climate scientists Jason Smerdon and Benjamin Cook, and Cornell University’s Toby Ault were co-authors on the study. They took data from tree rings and other environmental records of climate from the Southwest and compared them to the projections of 17 different climate models that look at precipitation and soil moisture. When they made the comparison between past and future, they found that all the models agreed: the next big megadrought is coming, and it will be way worse than anything we’ve seen in over 1,000 years–including droughts that have been credited with wiping out civilizations.

Needless to say, along with any water crisis comes a food crisis.

Virtually everything that we eat requires a tremendous amount of water to grow.  And at this point, the world is already eating more food than it produces most years.

So what is going to happen to us as this water crisis gets even worse?

Discarded Russian submarines could cause a nuclear disaster in the Arctic

The Arctic could become a site of future turmoil, and not just because of the emerging geopolitical tensions and militarization in the region.

Beyond concerns of a frozen conflict in the icy north, there is the additional fear that the Barents and Kara Seas could become the location of a slow-motion nuclear disaster. Until 1991 the Soviet Union used the seas as a junkyard where it would dispose of its nuclear waste.

Sunken Russian Nuclear WasteGoogle

According to the Bellona Foundation, citing the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authorities (NRPA), the Soviet Union dumped “19 ships containing radioactive waste; 14 nuclear reactors, including five that still contain spent nuclear fuel; 735 other pieces of radioactively contaminated heavy machinery; 17,000 containers of radioactive waste,” and three nuclear submarines in the seas.

Disposing of nuclear waste and spent reactors at sea was actually a common practice around the world until the early 1970s. But the Soviet Union dumped a significant amount of material into bodies of water that were sometimes not that far from neighboring countries.

Three scuttled nuclear submarines are the most dangerous of the disposals for the overall safety of the region  — the K-27, the K-278, and the K-159, according to The Moscow Times. Of those, the K-27 is the one most likely to cause a Chernobyl-like event in which the casings of the reactors fail and dangerous amounts of radiation escape into the environment.

The K-27 is particularly risky, the BBC reports, due to its unique design. The submarine, which was launched in 1962, was experimentally developed with two previously untested liquid-metal cooled reactors. Soon after deployment the submarine began emitting high levels of radiation, poisoning its crew.

In 1981, the Soviet Union sunk the submarine in the Kara Sea. But the sub was scuttled at a depth of only 99 feet (30 meters), significantly below international guidelines.

The Moscow Times also reports that the K-159 and K-278 are potential causes for concern. The K-278 is at depths too deep for possible retrieval if it begins to leak radioactive material into the ocean.

The K-159, meanwhile, remains a point of contention between Russia and Norway — Oslo believes that the submarine and its potentially leaky reactor could disrupt fisheries along Norway’s northern shore.

Soviet Submarine K-159Reuters Photographer/REUTERSAn undated photo of a Russian 1960’s era November class nuclear attack submarine similar to the K-159 which sank in the Barents Sea on Saturday morning. The ageing submarine sank during a storm as it was being towed into port for scrapping and upto eight service men were feared killed, the Defence Ministry said.

“K-159 represents the biggest potential for emission, considering the levels of radioactivity in the reactors, compared with other dumped or sunken objects in the Kara Sea with spent nuclear fuel or radioactive waste,” Ingar Amundsen, the head of the NRPA told the Barents Observer.

In August 2014, the NRPA and Russian authorities conducted a joint investigation into possible nuclear leaks emanating from K-159. After the probe, Russian scientists reported that there were no signs that 800 kilograms of spent uranium fuel had begun leaking out of the submarine, Bellona reports.

National Geographic has previously reported that the chance of a leak from a nuclear submarine was miniscule in the near term, as reactors are shielded. Individual fuel rods within the reactor are then further encased in a special alloy to slow corrosion. This means that reactors should take centuries to leak into the ocean, by which time a majority of the nuclear material would have decayed.

But that assumes a level of durability that older Soviet models might not have. And a possible Russian-related environmental disaster in a contested geopolitical frontier like the Arctic could have unpredictable consequences.

Sign of the Apocalypse? Plague Is Back, With a Disturbing Twist

virus_crop380wIf you thought the film Contagion was frightening, this medical plot twist may scare you even more—because it’s real.

Back in November, the island nation of Madagascar confirmed 119 cases of plague, including 40 deaths. But the bad news recently took a disturbing turn: “The fleas that transmit this ancient disease from rats to humans have developed resistance to the first-line insecticide,” Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization, said in a new report.

You probably recognize the infectious disease as the one known as the “Black Death,” which during the 14th century became a devastating epidemic that claimed an estimated 50 million lives throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa. Caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis, the disease spreads from rodents to humans via infected fleas. Those infected generally develop bubonic plague—exhibiting swollen lymph nodes and flu-like symptoms—or, if it spreads to the lungs, the deadlier advanced form, pneumonic plague. Caught early, antibiotics can effectively treat the disease; left untreated, however, plague kills 30 to 60 percent of those infected.

Steamboats from India carried plague to Madagascar in 1898. What makes the recent outbreak there particularly troubling is that scientists have been warning about insecticide resistance in fleas for years. Plague surveillance in Madagascar was discontinued in 2006 due to a lack of funding, but almost 17 years ago—and just six years after the first-line insecticide was initially used in Madagascar—an article published in the Journal for Emerging Infectious Diseases closed with the admonition, “the increasing resistance of fleas to insecticides have caused much concern.”

A November 2014 study conducted by the health research center Institut Pasteur in Madagascar found conclusive evidence that more than 80 percent of the fleas tested were resistant to Deltamethrin, the insecticide referenced in the WHO report. Out of the 32 flea populations examined, only two demonstrated susceptibility to the insecticide. The report’s authors conclude, “In the…re-emergence of plague…in Madagascar, Deltamethrin is ineffective against fleas. Its use in Madagascar should be stopped and the control program for plague diseases needs to change to another insecticide.”

While the study explains that many factors could contribute to the fleas’ increased resistance to insecticides—including environment, climate, geography, urbanization, and human social and cultural behaviors—the core mechanism at work is natural selection. Each time a population of fleas is treated with insecticide, fleas that by some quirk have a built-in resistance survive and breed to create the next generation of fleas, born genetically resistant to the insecticide that wiped out their parents’ peers. Over time, the insecticide becomes less effective as the flea populations are increasingly comprised of only those with the quirk of DNA that protects against it. To compensate for its lowered levels of efficacy, a higher concentration of the insecticide is often used—which breeds a generation of fleas even more resistant than the last.

For the people of Madagascar, Deltamethrin restistance is a case of déjà vu all over again. Use of the insecticide, a man-made version of a natural insecticide that chrysanthemum flowers produce, began in the 1990s after insects developed resistance to the flea-control chemical being used at the time. Some scientists have hypothesized that fleas’ resistance to Deltamethrin may be a result of the species’ exposure to the old insecticide.

What can be done? For now, Institut Pasteur researchers are testing 12 insecticides to see which will be most effective at controlling flea populations. Without plague surveillance, however, there is no way to tell how long it will take for the fleas to build resistance to the next line of insecticides. Funding shortfalls also continue to stand in the way of those trying to track and control plague in Madagascar—not to mention the growing number of other health concerns the institute must deal with: When Sébastien Boyer, head of the medical entomology unit at the institute, was contacted for comment on the status of the insecticides currently being tested, he responded by e-mail, “No time…we are currently in malaria outbreak in Farafangana…sorry.”

Ebola Virus Out Breaks by Year

The rate of infection has slowed in Guinea, but it has increased in neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia.

As infection accelerates, some aid groups are pulling out to protect their own.

Samaritan’s Purse and the missionary group Serving in Mission have recalled all nonessential personnel from Liberia.

The Peace Corps announced Wednesday it is doing the same, removing its 340 volunteers from the three severely affected nations.

While there are no confirmed cases, a Peace Corps spokeswoman said two volunteers came into contact with someone who ended up dying from the virus.

Those Americans haven’t shown signs of Ebola but are being isolated just in case. The spokeswoman said they can’t return home until they get medical clearance.

Ebola is outstripping control efforts, top WHO official warns

Fears rose Friday that the Ebola virus may have spread as Nigerian authorities said they have quarantined two people who may have the disease and have another 69 under observation.

With fears the disease may get a toehold in Nigeria’s most populous city, Lagos, the head of the World Health Organization warned that the virus in West Africa was outstripping efforts to control it.

Dr. Margaret Chan was speaking at a meeting of the leaders of four West African countries in Conakry, the capital of Guinea, to discuss measures to bring the disease under control. The WHO said it planned to release $100 million to deploy hundreds of medical staff to fight the disease.

More than 1,300 people have been infected in the West African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia in the worst Ebola outbreak on record. Of those, 729 have died, according to the WHO.

In recent weeks the epicenter of the outbreak has shifted from Guinea to Sierra Leone.

“This outbreak is moving faster than our efforts to control it. If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences can be catastrophic in terms of lost lives but also severe socioeconomic disruption and a high risk of spread to other countries,” Chan said. “This meeting must mark a turning point in the outbreak response.”

In Nigeria, authorities insisted they had the situation under control after a Liberian, Patrick Sawyer, 40, became ill with Ebola while flying into the commercial capital, Lagos, and later died there in a hospital. The spread of the disease to Lagos has raised fears that cases may emerge farther afield in other parts of Africa, Europe, the United States or elsewhere.

The immediate worst-case scenario would be for the disease to take hold in Lagos – crowded, poverty-stricken in many areas, and at times chaotic, posing the risk it could spread throughout Africa’s most populous country.

“It would be foolish for us to think it couldn’t spread. I think this is a potential worldwide threat,” said Ebola expert G. Richard Olds, dean of the School of Medicine at UC Riverside, noting that in past outbreaks of highly infectious diseases, including SARS, AIDS and monkey pox, the diseases eventually reached the U.S.

“If it takes hold in Nigeria, we have a real problem on our hands. I’d be very concerned about that because Lagos would be the most concerning situation: It’s a very densely populated area and is in a situation where the healthcare infrastructure is probably ill prepared to deal with this type of virus.”

The chief medical officer of the Lagos Teaching Hospital, Akin Osibogun, said the hospital had tested 20 blood samples for possible Ebola cases, all of which tested negative, Nigerian media reported Friday.

However, there were signs of panic and chaos. A man’s corpse was brought into Anambra state in recent days as cargo from Liberia, underscoring doubts about whether adequate measures are in place to control the disease. The cause of the man’s death wasn’t known.

Authorities on Thursday cordoned off the morgue where the body was being held.

“We are surprised how the corpse came into Nigeria and Anambra state. It is shocking to us,” a local health official, Josephat Akabike, said. “We have directed the police to cordon off the area. Ebola is a very big threat and that is why we are taking all the measures.”

Uganda, Kenya and South Africa all said Friday they had no suspected cases of the disease.

South African authorities warned they would not allow anyone into the country who knowingly arrived with the Ebola virus — but said they would admit and treat anyone who arrived with symptoms if they were not aware they had the disease. The country has thermal scanners at airports capable of detecting people with elevated temperatures.

South Africa has had two reports of Ebola-like symptoms, both which turned out not to be Ebola, according to South Africa’s National Institute of Communicable Desease.

Ebola initially presents with common, flu-like symptoms — fever, headache and body aches. The disease, while highly contagious, is not airborne and is transmitted through contact with bodily fluids, including sweat and blood.

The terror in West Africa has hampered efforts to control it, with people running away rather than going into isolation wards, which are associated with death.

In her remarks, Chan said it was important to combat the popular view that Ebola was a certain death sentence, which impeded efforts to get people to seek help in hospitals and treatment facilities. People instead keep their loved ones hidden at home or turn to traditional healers, causing the virus to spread.

She warned that “public attitudes can create a security threat to response teams when fear and misunderstanding turn to anger, hostility, or violence.”

Chan also said it was also important to change cultural attitudes around burial.

For relatives of victims, washing and burying the body is culturally important, but also highly dangerous and one way in which the disease has spun out of control.

Olds said that while the disease has a high fatality rate – more than 50% – and was highly contagious, it is not as contagious as SARS, because it is not an airborne virus.

Previous outbreaks had occurred in remote areas of Africa, where the population wasn’t mobile, making it easier to contain, but this outbreak occurred in a more densely populated region with a highly mobile population, accounting for the rapid spread of the disease and difficulties containing it.

“It’s particularly dangerous when it gets into areas that are densely populated and have weak health infrastructure,” he said.

<A NOTE FROM DOOM> An aid worker  with Ebola was flown into Atlanta yesterday for experimental treatment.

Record-Setting Drought Intensifies in Parched California

The relentless heat that has plagued the western half of the country this summer has ratcheted up California’s terrible drought once again, bringing it to record levels. More than half of the state is in “exceptional” drought, the highest category recognized by the U.S. Drought Monitor, which released its latest update on Thursday.

“The heat has been and continues to be a factor in drought expansion,” Brad Rippey, a meteorologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and this week’s Drought Monitor author, told Climate Central.

New information coming in about reservoir levels, stream flows and Record-Setting Drought Intensifies in Parched California prompted Rippey to increase the amount of California covered by exceptional drought to 58 percent from 34 percent (all of the state is in some level of drought). That is a record amount of the state covered by this level of drought since the Monitor began in 1990.

While the drought can’t be directly linked to climate change, the warming of the planet is expected to make already dry places drier. And future droughts could be even worse.

The current drought — which rivals the terrible drought of the late 1970s — has been 3 years in the making, as three successive winter wet seasons went by with below-normal rainfall. The paltry snowpack this year really intensified matters, and the persistent pattern of heat in the West and cold in the East has kept much of California baking all year. In fact, the state had its warmest first six months of a year on record this year. July has followed suit with, for example, San Francisco registering an uncharacteristic 90°F on July 25, a full 12°F above normal.

“Excessive heat this time of year leads to heavy irrigation demands, deteriorating rangeland and pasture conditions, and higher evaporation rates,” Rippey wrote in an email.

These effects of the heat further reduce reservoir levels and stream flows and can send more towns and farmers in search of groundwater to pump. Reports of such changes can slowly trickle in as the impacts intensify and give the Drought Monitor authors reason to upgrade the level of drought in an area, or in this case, over a large swath of Northern California.

Reservoir storage in the state currently sits at about 60 percent of its normal level, above the record low of 41 percent set in 1977, but short about a year’s worth of reservoir storage. That shortfall is the result of the abysmal rains over the past 3 years: From July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2014, statewide precipitation averaged 45.05 inches, which was a record low.

“Effectively, only about 2 years of precipitation fell in that 3-year period from July 2011 to June 2014,” Rippey said.

(MORE: NASA Photos Show How Bad California’s Drought Has Gotten)

With such dismal numbers, water conservation is key.

“Conservation is certainly critical from this point forward, especially if drought-easing precipitation does not materialize during the 2014-15 cold season,” he said.

The state recently enacted mandatory water restrictions after a call for voluntary conservation failed to move the needle. For example, new regulations call for local agencies to fine anyone found wasting water up to $500 per day.

The depth of the drought and the heat have both helped fuel wildfires in the state, including a fire raging in Yosemite National Park that is 58 percent contained.

Officials have been hoping that a developing El Niño, currently foundering, would bring some relief in the form of winter rains this coming winter. But only strong El Niños are well correlated with rainier-than-normal conditions over Southern California, and this El Niño is looking less and less like it will be a strong one. However, even a weak or moderate El Niño could mean the wet season hits somewhat close to normal rainfall numbers.

Nigerian Government Confirms Ebola Death In City Of Lagos

ABUJA/GENEVA, July 25 (Reuters) – A Liberian man who died in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos on Friday tested positive for the deadly Ebola virus, Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said.

Patrick Sawyer, a consultant for the Liberian finance ministry in his 40s, collapsed on Sunday after flying into Lagos, a city of 21 million people, and was taken from the airport and put in isolation in a local hospital. Nigeria confirmed earlier on Friday that he had died in quarantine.

“His blood sample was taken to the advance laboratory at the Lagos university teaching hospital, which confirmed the diagnosis of the Ebola virus disease in the patient,” Chukwu told a press conference on Friday. “This result was corroborated by other laboratories outside Nigeria.”

However, at a separate press conference held by the Lagos state government at the same time, the city’s health commissioner, Jide Idris, said that they were only “assuming that it was Ebola” because they were “waiting for a confirmative test to double check” from a laboratory in Dakar.

Paul Garwood, spokesman for the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, said the U.N. health agency was also still waiting for test results.

“We’re still waiting for laboratory-confirmed results as to whether he died of Ebola or not,” he said.

It could not be immediately determined why there was a contradiction in the comments from central government and city officials.

If confirmed, the man would be the first case on record of one of the world’s deadliest diseases in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy and with 170 million people, its most populous country. Ebola has killed 660 people across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since it was first diagnosed in February.

Sawyer was quarantined on arrival and had not entered the city, a Nigerian official told Reuters.

“While he was quarantined he passed away. Everyone who has had contact with him has been quarantined,” the official said.

Liberia’s finance minister Amara Konneh said Sawyer was a consultant for the country’s finance ministry.

“Our understanding is that the cause of death was Ebola,” Konneh told Reuters.

The victim’s sister had died of the virus three weeks previously, and the degree of contact between the two was being investigated by Liberian health ministry officials, he said.

Earlier on Friday, WHO spokesman Paul Garwood said: “I understand that he was vomiting and he then turned himself over basically, he made it known that he wasn’t feeling well. Nigerian health authorities took him and put him in isolation.”

Nigeria has some of the continent’s least adequate healthcare infrastructure, despite access to billions of dollars of oil money as Africa’s biggest producer of crude.

Some officials think the disease is easier to contain in cities than in remote rural areas.

“The fear of spread within a dense population would be offset by better healthcare and a willingness to use it, easier contact tracing and, I assume for an urban population, less risky funerary and family rites,” Ian Jones, a professor of virology at the University of Reading in Britain, said.

“It would be contained more easily than in rural populations.”

There have been 1,093 Ebola cases to date in West Africa’s first outbreak, including the 660 who have died, according to the WHO.

National Guard Prepares For ‘An Event’ At Yellowstone National Park

If there is one part of the United States that truly has the potential for a doomsday scenario, it is easily Yellowstone National Park. Despite the fact hundreds of people visit the national park each day — probably to see all the geysers, hot springs and wildlife the park is famous for — what they don’t realize is that the park is sitting on one the largest active volcano in the world. That alone should be frightening!

As a matter of fact, we here at The Inquisitr reported numerous times on Yellowstone National Park or the conspiracy theory it is about ready to erupt. This includes articles that animals are escaping the park and that the USGS is hiding information about the park’s earthquake fissures. But everything should be all right because the bison aren’t leaving the park, so that means there is no issue, right?

Now another video has come to light on the internet showing that the National Guard is preparing for a Yellowstone National Park event, quite possibly the supervolcano eruption.

Uploaded by Tom Lupshu on his YouTube channel, the majority of the video is him talking about the upcoming eruption or the possibility of an upcoming eruption. It is very frightening how he makes it sound, and as the video comes to an end, it almost comes off as a conspiracy theory with no proof… until the very end shows the leaked video feed of the National Guard preparing for the monumental event. The cut is very short, but it shows a man who is probably in charge talking about how the ash is really heavy and comes in like a dense fog.

volcano-eruption

Another fringe websiteBefore It’s News, followed up on Tom Lupshu’s video, explaining what would be needed if the supervolcano at Yellowstone National Park were to erupt. The magnitude and strength of the volcano would require people to stock up on as much non-perishable food and clean water as well as have weaponry for hunting and defense.

If this video is real, let’s hope this is nothing more than a training exercise for the possibility of a catastrophic event instead of quick preparation for a predicted event in the near future. After all, most Americans would prefer to visit scenic Yellowstone to see the bison and the geysers. Preparing for the end of life as we know it is probably not high on most folk’s bucket list.

[Image Via Columbia Pictures and National Geographic]