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Meteor Streaks Over The Skies of Central Russia Causing Damage and Injuries

A meteorite traversed across the sky and exploded over central Russia near Chelyabinsk, Russia on Friday February 15, 2013 at 9:30 AM local time. It  Meteorite-2-jpgshowered fireballs over a large expanse while causing aerial explosions that damaged buildings, shattered windows and injured 1,200 people. The Interior Ministry said that the meteorite explosions are a very rare spectacle, it also unleashed a sonic boom.
The meteor was traveling at a speed of 30 km (19 miles) per second according to Russian space agency Roscosmos as it flared across the horizon, leaving in its wake a long white trail that could be seen as far as 200 km (125 miles) away.
The early-morning blast and subsequent shock wave blew out windows on Chelyabinsk’s central Lenin Street, buckled some shop fronts and rattled apartment buildings in the city center.
One piece of meteorite broke through the ice of the Cherbakul Lake near Chelyabinsk, leaving a hole several meters (yards) wide.
According to Russia’s Academy of Sciences the falling celestial body weighed about 10 tonnes and may have been made of iron, entered Earth’s atmosphere and broke apart 30-50 km (19-31 miles) above ground.
A wall and roof were badly damaged at the Chelyabinsk Zinc Plant but a spokeswoman said no environmental threat resulted.
Russia’s Emergencies Ministry said deaths were reported but 20,000 rescue and clean-up workers were sent to the region after President Vladimir Putin told Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov to ease the disruption and help the victims.
The Emergencies Ministry described Friday’s event as a “meteorite shower in the form of fireballs” and said background radiation levels were normal. It urged residents not to panic.
Simon Goodwin, an astrophysics expert from Britain’s University of Sheffield, said that roughly 1,000 to 10,000 tonnes of material rained down from space towards the earth every day, but most burned up in the atmosphere.
The Interior Ministry said about 1,200 people had been injured, at least 200 of them children, and most from shards of glass.
The regional governor in Chelyabinsk said the meteorite shower had caused more than $30 million in damage, and the Emergencies Ministry said 300 buildings had been affected.
The energy released when it entered the Earth’s atmosphere was equivalent to a few kilo-tonnes, the power of a small atomic weapon exploding.
The meteorite struck ironically just as asteroid 2012 DA14, a 46 m in diameter object was due to flyby closer to Earth than some of our orbiting satellites at a distance of 27,520 km (17,100 miles). This is nearer to our planet than any other known object of its size since scientists began routinely monitoring asteroids about 15 years ago.
“This is a record-setting close approach,” says Don Yeomans of NASA‘s Near Earth Object Program at JPL. “Since regular sky surveys began in the 1990s, we’ve never seen an object this big get so close to Earth.”
Scientists compared this recent meteor over Russia with an incident known as the Tunguska Event of 1908, when a meteorite was thought to have devastated an area of more than 2,000 sq km (1,250 miles) in Siberia breaking windows as far as 200 km (125 miles) from the point of impact.

Heat, Fires and a Summer for Weather Records to be Broken

The heat gripping the United States in a seemingly never ending fashion eased a bit this past Saturday as a cold front came through along the eastern half of the country .This has given a slight respite from the horrendous triple digit heat there. It’s a marginal silver lining, but at least temp’s will be in the low to mid 90’s in the eastern United States. Temperatures will begin to creep past the 100 degree mark in the Western states in cities like Salt Lake City, Utah by Wednesday in response to a developing high pressure over the Rockies.

The West will start to cook this week. Image Courtesy of The National Weather Service.

Out west high pressure will continue to build in further over the week pushing the jet stream northward into southwestern Canada, allowing the heat to advance north as well. The unbearable conditions from the heat wave have unfortunately claimed 74 lives across the U.S. since it began just two weeks ago.

The hot spell caused highways to buckle in Illinois and Wisconsin, officials said. In Maryland, investigators said heat likely caused rails to kink and led a commuter train to partially derail Friday. No one was injured. Many states in the Midwest have not seen heat like this since the Dust Bowl of 1936. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association 2012 has broken well over 40,000 daily heat  records nationwide. It was the countries hottest July 4th since recording began. Agriculture like corn and soy crops are being heavily damaged from the pressure cooking heat. Severe thunderstorms  blew through over a week ago knocking out power to millions in the eastern part of the U.S. . This has only added insult to injury from the already sweltering summer.

In lakes and rivers across parched areas of the U.S., heat and lower water levels are reducing oxygen levels thereby killing fish populations by the thousands. When water becomes hypoxic or lacks oxygen these large water animal die offs can occur. Wildfires continue to burn across the western United States, including wildfires in Colorado and the Fontenelle Fire in Wyoming.

Fires scorching the mountainside July 2012 in Colorado Springs, Colorado

NASA says the fires have a warming effect on the atmosphere due to the increased emission of aerosols, which are suspended solid or liquid particles in the air. These particles can absorb more radiation from the sun hence causing hotter weather and poorer air quality in the form of smog. Children and the elderly are the most susceptible to these adverse weather events. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids and wear sunscreen when venturing outside.

Senior Scientist in the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Dr. Kevin Trenberth talked with Judy Woodruff on PBS about the unusual warmth across North America.


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