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Earth Diary: December 19, 2001

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Temperature Extremes

High temperature extreme:
Telfer, W. Australia +109 degrees


Low temperature extreme:
Oimyakon, Siberia -64 degrees


Second-warmest Year

The Earth's average temperature in 2001 is expected to be the second-highest in 140 years of global record keeping, according to a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report.
The year's temperatures are slightly higher than those of 1997, which was previously the second-warmest year. The warmest of all years in modern history was 1998. WMO deputy secretary general Michel Jarraud said, "Temperatures are getting hotter, and they are getting hotter faster now than at any time in the past." Jarraud said that the warmer temperatures had sparked an increase in the severity and frequency of storms and droughts, as well as other unusual conditions.


Trans-Pacific Pollution
The highest levels of arsenic pollution in Nevada's air have been identified by research scientists as originating in the Mongolian desert, halfway around the world.
Atmospheric scientist Thomas Cahill of the University of California at Davis is part of a team studying the content of Asian dust plumes that cross the Pacific, then spread over North America before drifting out over the Atlantic. The researchers have found that toxic metals and other pollutants attach themselves to desert dust in an effective long-distance transport system. They noted that the plumes are also sometimes beneficial, by picking up quartz dust and other particles that become part of a system that sustains life in distant regions.



European Chill
A freak outbreak of wintry weather was responsible for hundreds of deaths across Europe and spread a variety of icy weather problems southward to the normally temperate Mediterranean.
Traffic was paralyzed by heavy snowfall from Spain to the Balkans. At least 1,000 people on a Turkish train bound for Istanbul were left stranded without food near the city of Catalca after snow and ice blocked the rail line. In Greece, soldiers battled blizzards to rescue another 108 passengers who had been trapped overnight on an Athens-bound train. The worst blizzard since record keeping began in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi left the city of 300,000 with massive blackouts and blocked highways.




 

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Tropical Storm
Tropical storm Faxai drifted around Micronesia for several days before attaining typhoon strength and taking aim on the U.S. territory of Guam late in the week.




Earthquakes
At least five people were killed and 40 others were injured when a prison building in the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka collapsed during an earthquake.
The nearest tremor detected by the global seismic network registered a magnitude of 4.5 about 200 miles south-southeast of Dhaka in neighboring Myanmar.
Earth movements were also felt in the Egyptian capital of Cairo, southern Iran, southern Sumatra, central Japan and from Taiwan to Okinawa



Ebola Update
At least 16 people in central Africa's country of Gabon have died so far in a fresh outbreak of the deadly Ebola disease.
Officials from the World Health Organization reported that 27 suspected cases, including those who have died, have been identified in the country. Health specialists are working with residents to restrict movement, improve hygiene and stop the year-end tradition of eating meat from chimpanzees and gorillas, which could possibly be infected with Ebola.


Nuclear Vintage
Winemakers in frosty Finland plan to grow grapes for wine production around a nuclear power plant, using warm water from the reactor's cooling system.
Reijo Sundell of the power group Teollisudden Voima says that plastic pipes have been buried beneath a field near the nuclear plant to keep the soil thawed even during the country's frigid winters. Sundell told reporters that, "I suppose about half (the grapes) will become juice." But it has not yet been decided who will turn the blue Latvian Zilga grapes into wine for the anticipated 2003 vintage. The warmed fields will also be used to grow crops such as watermelons, garlic and other vegetables that normally cannot survive the bitter Finnish winters.

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