May 26, 2013

Hurricane Sandy expands.     Photo: NOAA GOES-13 Satellite

Key Weather Satellite Fails

NOAA turns to spare satellite

A satellite designed to track sever weather has failed on the eve of the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season. Attempts are being made to reactivate the failing satellite, but NOAA reported that there is "no estimate on its return to operations." A spare satellite has been activated to provide coverage of the Eastern Seaboard.

Typically, two satellites are used to spot troubling weather—one each over the West and East coasts—with a third satellite in reserve. If the second functioning satellite fails, NOAA would be forced to rely on polar-orbiting satellites and more infrequent reports.

"We’re not blind in the Atlantic, so we shouldn’t have to worry about anything sneaking up on us that would go unobserved,” Thomas Renkevens, deputy division chief with NOAA's satellite products and services division, told Climate Central.

Experts say that America's weather and climate observing abilities have fallen into severe disrepair due to budget difficulties and poor management. The Government Accountability Office included "mitigating gaps in satellite data" on a list of the top 30 challenges facing the federal government. The next weather satellite won't be launched until 2015, though the sequester may delay the mission. Additionally, a year-long gap in polar satellite coverage is expected in 2017, potentially affecting the accuracy of medium-range forecasts.


The U.S. is baking in the heat     Photo: Laurie MacGregor/Flickr

Thousands Join Protest of Monsanto

Decry the use of GMOs

Protestors rallied in 436 cities across 522 countries Saturday in opposition to seed giant Monsanto and the genetically modified food it produces. The "March Against Monsanto" movement began several months ago when organizer Tami Canal created a Facebook page calling for a rally against the company's practices.

The protests followed the defeat of California's Proposition 37, which would have required companies to label fresh produce and processed foods whose DNA had been altered by scientists. Fifty-three percent of people who voted in California opposed the bill.

Opponents of the bill argued that it was expensive, bureaucratic, and filled with loopholes, while supporters expressed concern over the integrity of their food. This week, the Senate overwhelmingly rejected a bill that would have required states to label genetically modified foods, a requirement that many farming interests oppose.


    Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Tiger Kills UK Zoo Worker

Died in the enclosure

A British zoo worker was mauled to death by a Sumatran tiger Friday while working in the big cat enclosure at South Lakes Wild Animal Park in Dalton-in-Furness.

While the enclosure usually employs a complex system of locks and doors to ensure that keepers and animals are kept separate at all times, Sarah McClay, 24, somehow ended up in the same space as the tiger. "At some stage [the system] failed and the animal and Sarah came together with tragic consequences,” said the constabulary in a statement. “The police are working to establish whether this was a result of human or technical factors."

Zoo owner David S. Gill posted a statement on the zoo’s Facebook page Saturday, asking for the public’s support and prayers. "The park is a very safe environment and never at any stage were any other public or staff in danger," he said. "We have been given the all clear by the authorities after initial investigations yesterday and we hope you will allow us all to work through this tragic event."