- Progressive satellite images depict the
effects of El Nino in the equatorial Pacific Ocean
- September 16, 1997 Web posted at: 2:05
p.m. EDT (1805 GMT)
- LOS ANGELES (AP) -- El NiÒo is anything but little. Signs tracked by satellites
in space show that the globally disruptive weather phenomenon could well
live up to its stormy billing. For one thing, its mass of warm water in
the Pacific Ocean has grown to 1 and 1/2 times the size of the continental
United States. And other data mean the southwestern states could well be
pounded with winter storms.
- In May, when scientists at NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena announced that satellite images showed
a brewing El NiÒo, the warm mass was two-thirds its current size.
- Worldwide weather experts said 1997-98
could bring the worst El NiÒo in 150 years.
- "As the satellite has mapped El
NiÒo across the Pacific, what we've seen continually throughout
the summer and into September now is that early indications actually have
persisted and intensified," said Bill Patzert, a research oceanographer
with the TOPEX-Poseidon project at JPL.
- The TOPEX-Poseidon satellite looks at
sea height. Because water expands as it heats up, the higher the sea, the
warmer the water. The satellite bounces radar signals off the ocean's surface
to measure the precise distance from the satellite.
- The cyclical weather phenomenon occurs
when westward-blowing trade winds weaken, allowing a mass of warm water
normally located off Australia to drive eastward to western South America.
The unusually warm water acts on jet stream patterns, altering weather
- El NiÒo got its name from the
Spanish words for baby Jesus because the pool usually arrives around Christmas.
- Strong storms for southwest U.S. possible
- In another sign of rough weather to come,
water vapor measurements from another satellite are providing signs that
southwestern states could get pounded this winter with storms crossing
the Pacific from Hawaii.
- An instrument called the Microwave Limb
Sounder aboard the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite is detecting "an
unusually large buildup of water vapor in the atmosphere" about 8
miles up, which can create the intense winter storms, said William Read,
a JPL researcher.
- That's the most vapor seen since an El
NiÒo of 1991-92, he said.
- This year's El NiÒo is shaping
up to be at least as strong as one that devastated many parts of the world
in 1982-83, bringing destructive storms to California's coast, droughts
to Australia and parts of Latin America and typhoons to Polynesia.
- "For many countries, the El NiÒo
has been here all summer," Patzert said. Chile, Peru and Ecuador have
seen extreme weather due to high sea levels, while Indonesia and the Philippines
are going through severe drought, he said.
- Secondary signs of an El NiÒo
are appearing off North America with warm-water fish migrating north this
summer and the fueling of Hurricane Linda, the strongest-ever eastern Pacific
hurricane, off Mexico last weekend.
- Copyright 1997 The Associated Press.
- INDONESIA STEPS UP FIGHT AGAINST
HAZE-PRODUCING BRUSH FIRES
- September 24, 1997 Web posted at: 1:37
p.m. EDT (1337 GMT)
- JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- Hundreds
of Malaysian firefighters arrived in neighboring Indonesia Wednesday to
help battle the massive brush fires that have sent a health-threatening
haze across six countries.
- An official on the Indonesian island
of Sumatra said the 1,040 firefighters were rushed to three provinces there.
- Malaysian C-130 aircraft also were to
be used in what is known as cloud seeding, an attempt to induce rain to
help clear the air. But at least some of the aircraft were grounded by
the dense haze.
- The Ministry of the Environment said
Wednesday that the latest satellite imagery showed more than 50 hot spots,
mainly in eastern and southern Sumatra and Kalimantan on Borneo.
- Azwar Anas, coordinating minister for
people's welfare, told reporters that the fire and haze crisis was a national
- Many of the bush fires have been blamed
on forestry companies, plantations and small farmers using slash-and-burn
techniques to clear the land.
- A forestry expert said there were growing
fears that huge tracts of peat underlying the rain forests could catch
fire -- resulting in a much more serious situation.
- "If you get tens of thousands of
tons of peat burning per hectare, it adds a whole new dimension,"
said Jeffrey Sayer, director-general of the Center for International Forestry
Research at Bogor, near Jakarta.
- There were already reports of peat catching
fire, but the size of the problem was not yet known. Peat fires in some
parts of the world are known to have burned for hundreds of years.
- In the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur
and surrounding areas the Air Pollutant Index (API) remained at about 150
on Wednesday. But in Kuching, the capital of Sarawak state on Borneo, the
API was still well above the hazardous mark, at 651.
- The authorities in Kuching declared an
emergency Friday, and many people heeded the government's advice and stayed
indoors. By Wednesday, however, many were going about their business,
although many wore masks, residents said.
- The emergency does not involve a curfew,
but schools, most factories and offices remained closed.
- Environmental organizations in Malaysia
-- which is affected along with Singapore, Brunei, the southern Philippines
and southern Thailand -- accused the government of not doing enough.
- Health Department director Shukor Mohamed
Noor said 15,000 Malaysians, most of them children and elderly, had been
treated for haze-related illnesses.
- The U.S. embassy in Kuala Lumpur said
Wednesday that it was evacuating family members of diplomats on a voluntary
basis to escape the smog.
- The Canadian embassy was sending its
staff for a week's leave in Australia on a rotating basis to give them
a break from the haze.
- Jakarta Bureau Chief Maria Ressa and
Reuters contributed to this report.
- MYSTERY AILMENT KILLING TROPICAL
FISH ALONG FLORIDA COAST
- Copyright c1997 Nando.net Copyright c1997
The Associated Press
- MIAMI (September 16, 1997 11:15 a.m.
EDT) -- Biologists are investigating a mysterious ailment that is killing
reef-dwelling fish off the shore of southeastern Florida and the Keys,
"The Miami Herald" reported Tuesday.
- Scientists suspect the culprit could
be a parasite or natural toxin, perhaps from poisonous algae, the newspaper
- Similar fish kills have been reported
as far away as Venezuela, said Jan Landsberg, research administrator at
the state Department of Environmental Protection Marine Research Institute
in St. Petersburg.
- Thousands of tropical fish have been
found covered with lesions or coated with a blotchy white slime, dive boat
captains and tropical fish collectors said.
- "It appears to be a white glaze
and it wipes out the slime coat, a protective coating fish have,"
said Scott Hutchinson, a collector from Little Torch Key. "It just
devours the tails, the fins. They just disintegrate."
- "They're weakened so they get the
gamut of parasites and bacteria," said Landsberg.
- State officials say the 30 or 40 scattered
incidents involved from a few fish to thousands, affecting 20 or 30 species,
including angelfish, parrotfish and triggerfish.
- The Department of Environmental Protection
laboratory is testing samples of fish tissue and water, sediment and algae
from areas where the dead fish have been found.
- MALAWI'S BIGGEST RIVER IS DRYING UP,
- 23 September 1997 Web posted at: 21:54
SAT, Johannesburg time (19:54 GMT)
- BLANTYRE, Sept 23 (Reuter) - Malawi's
biggest river, which supplies the country's hydro-electric power plant
and major industrial city, is shrinking and may dry up entirely as a result
of falling water levels in Africa's third largest lake, experts said on
- Richard Watts, professor of hydrology
at the University of Malawi, said the Shire River was already very shallow
and a drop of one metre (three feet) as forecast for Lake Malawi, its main
feeder, could gradually dry the river up.
- "The danger is that the Shire River
will get critically low, and Malawi's electricity depends on this river,"
Watts told Reuters.
- Malawi's entire hydro-electric power
supply relies on water from the Shire River. Blantyre, the country's major
industrial city, also gets its water supply from the Shire River.
- The larger part of the Sugar Corporation
of Malawi (SUCOMA)'s sugar plantations on the lower Shire in southern Malawi
also rely on sprinkler irrigation water supplied by the Shire River.
- Hydrologists say the level of Lake Malawi
has been dropping over the past five years and will drop to about 473 metres
above sea level by October this year.
- The lake's water level fell to 469.9
metres at the beginning of the century, which led to the complete drying
up of the Shire River.
- Watts said that unless the shallow strip
between the Shire and Lake Malawi was dredged to increase its depth or
large pumps were installed to pump water into the river, hydro-electric
schemes would be seriously affected.
- The problem was made worse by damage,
caused by soil erosion, to ESCOM (Electricity Supply Commission of Malawi)
equipment, he said.
- Experts from the British Institute of
Hydrology who recently conducted a study on Lake Malawi also warned that
problems could occur if the water level dipped too low.
- "The possibility of a return to
historically low levels is of great concern to hydrologists and engineers,
particularly in relation to the maintenance and planning of future hydro-power
developments," the institute said in a report.
- Raynold Duncan, chief executive of ESCOM,
said contingency plans were being made to avert power cuts.
- He said ESCOM planned to build a wall
to control the flow of water in the Shire River, and studies were under
way to explore the use of coal in power generation.
- ESCOM was also discussing importing power
from the Cahora Bassa dam in Mozambique, he added.
- Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited.
- HUNGRY NORTH KOREANS FACE ANOTHER
- Copyright c1997 Nando.net Copyright c1997
The Associated Press
- BEIJING (September 23, 1997 3:15 p.m.
EDT) -- North Koreans, facing their third grim harvest in as many years,
are too malnourished and too low on medicine to survive hunger and disease
this winter, an aid worker said Tuesday.
- People are stretching rations as far
as they can, said Kathi Zellweger of the Caritas relief agency. In one
county, a local mill stores bags of dried grass that have been turned into
a powder to add to the thin rice and corn gruel most people live on.
- "The resistance of the people is
low. They have no medicine, little food. And the next year, if there is
no water, we will have a major catastrophe," said Zellweger, who returned
Tuesday after a week in famine-stricken North Korea.
- Drought has so damaged crops that the
crucial fall harvest likely will be less than half the 4.5 million tons
of grain North Korea needs to feed its 24 million people, Zellweger said.
- The shortfall is far worse than last
year's, meaning North Korea's food supply will give out in April at the
latest and force the secretive, communist country to rely on international
aid for at least another year.
- Two years of flooding, followed by last
summer's drought, ruined an economy already weakened by chronic mismanagement.
- Despite the crisis, aid workers have
seen little evidence that the Stalinist political order is breaking down.
Kim Jong Il, son of the revolutionary leader Kim Il Sung, is expected to
become head of the ruling Workers' Party later next month.
- A health ministry official told Zellweger
that people are dying because there is no medicine. Tuberculosis, diarrhea
and infectious diseases will spread without immediate aid from abroad.
- Aid is making a difference. Children
in nurseries looked less malnourished to Zellweger than they did in July,
when she last visited and many children were too frail to stand on their
- The World Food Program found 17 percent
of children in North Korean nurseries and kindergartens malnourished. Administrators
say children are dying of hunger.
- Caritas delivered a 2,400-ton shipment
of lentils, fertilizers and other food to North Korea on Thursday, part
of the $8 million in aid the group has sent this year.
- Without aid, prospects for survival are
bleak. The long, harsh winter is coming. Fuel is scarce, and Zellweger
said the drought has left water supplies low.
- "Drought is the worst natural disaster
you can have. You can do nothing but wait for the water," she said.