Weather alert for Toronto, 5 January 2014

When I checked the weather alerts, I found that our ‘special weather statement’ has been updated to a warning.

City of Toronto
4:51 PM EST Sunday 05 January 2014
Freezing rain warning
for City of Toronto continued

A couple of hours of freezing rain likely north of lakes Erie and Ontario this evening. Significant freezing rain over Eastern Ontario overnight. Risk of a flash freeze for rush hour Monday morning.

An intensifying storm centred over Southern Indiana is forecast to cross the Greater Toronto area overnight reaching Petawawa Monday morning. Heavier snow is beginning to develop across parts of Southern Ontario in advance of the low. It will quickly spread across many areas this evening from Southwestern Ontario and to the east of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay.

The snow is forecast to transition to freezing rain then to rain later this evening as temperatures rise above the freezing mark. One or two hours of freezing rain is likely north of Lake Erie and around the west end of Lake Ontario. More prolonged freezing rain is possible overnight in Eastern Ontario with potentially several hours worth before temperatures rise above zero very early Monday. This is not expected to be anything like the recent severe ice storm.

In the wake of the storm, bitterly cold west to northwest winds will develop on Monday. There is a risk of flash freeze conditions near the path of the low where temperatures have briefly risen above zero then fall sharply early Monday. This may include the Greater Toronto area. These winds will also produce widespread dangerous wind chills beginning Monday night as some of the coldest air in years produces record-shattering cold. Wind chill warnings will likely be issued later tonight.

Travel conditions are expected to deteriorate and become hazardous due to slippery conditions from snow and freezing rain, especially on untreated surfaces.

Environment Canada will continue to monitor this evolving situation and update warnings accordingly.

Please monitor the latest forecasts and warnings from Environment Canada at http://www.weatheroffice.gc.ca.

I went out and bought milk and bread. I can stay home tomorrow, check my e-mail, and communicate by computer. That sounds like a good plan. Stay safe if you have to drive and bundle up if you have to be outside for long.

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Mapping can save African forests from logging

Mapping from satellite pictures can warn scientists and governments where illegal logging is taking place in Africa.

This March was the warmest on record for much of the U.S.

Temperature anomalies for March 2012 compared to average since 1981

The map above shows anomalies compared to the average from 1981-2010, which in itself is a shifted baseline since temperatures started to warm up noticeably in 1986.

Over 16,000 high-temperature records were broken in the U.S. during March 2012, and by large margins of around 4.5° Centigrade or 9.8° Fahrenheit. The U.S. Northeast was particularly warm, which enabled tornadoes to form. The Pacific Northwest coast was cooler than usual right along the ocean. All regions except the Pacific Northwest had unusual temperatures, with either above-average temperatures or an unusual number of warm days: “NOAA confirms unprecedented warmth in March.” Maps are available at NOAA.

The map below shows state temperature records for March. The red is warmest in 118 years. The orange is warmest in 113 – 117 years, and so on.

Temperature records: warmest/coldest in this many years

Spotted bats are at risk in British Columbia

A few scattered specimens of spotted bats have been found in B.C., north of where they were previously found. They are at risk, of course!

Seed magazine bails on Bhopal story

Effects of methyl isocyanate (MIC) on the body

Seed magazine declined to publish a science fact article about continuing contamination and health problems in Bhopal, 25 years after a devastating gas leak at the insecticide factory, because it might affect an advertising contract.

The image to the left shows how methyl isocyanate can harm the body. [Image from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency]

U.S. President Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize

I didn’t expect this, but the Peace Prize committee must hav looked at President Obama’s early initiatives and wanted to encourage him to keep going.

Cats and predation

Even well-fed domestic cats hunt small game as a paying hobby. Cats made themselves welcome at the beginning of the agricultural era by keeping down the numbers of rats and mice eating stored grains. They’re not as deadly as humans, who have wiped out many endemic species; but when humans also introduce cats into a balanced ecology, feral cats are death on native birds and small animals.

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more LOLcats and funny pictures

Cats are adaptable to heat and cold, can climb, and evolved in semi-desert environments. In a state of nature, they breed several times a year to make up for the high mortality rate of kittens, who are a nice morsel for a slightly larger predator or a bird of prey. In Australia, settlers’ cats simply disappeared into the country. Their descendants are catching too many small native marsupials, birds, and snakes; and New Zealand, they hunt the smaller flightless birds, as well.

Most of us are reluctant to condone trapping or killing cats that remind us of own dear pets. But out of place, they are harmful to biodiversity. Rats also harm native ecologies, eating birds’ eggs, but most people have no objections to trapping rats.

One Australian author is taking the “two birds with one stone” approach and making cat-catching a paying hobby itself: “Aussie serves up feral cat casserole“.  Lester Haines writes

An Australian kids’ book writer and illustrator has come up with a tasty plan to protect the Lucky Country’s indigenous wildlife from the feral cat menace – eat the blighters.

Brits brought the first cats to Oz in 1788, the Telegraph notes, and the felines quickly set about going native and laying into the local wildlife. Studies have shown they’ll eat just about anything they can get their claws on, including “lizards, small mammals and spiders, as well as 180 species of Australian native birds”.

Accordingly, Kay Kessing—who “campaigns to save wildlife from the depredations of cats and other introduced animals, including camels, donkeys and wild horses”—walked it like she talked it at a bush tucker competition held last weekend in Alice Springs by serving up wild cat casserole.

She reported: “It’s a white meat. They vary a lot. The first cat I cooked didn’t have a strong flavour. I put a lot of ingredients with it and made a beautiful stew. This cat that I’ve cooked is slightly larger. It has a slightly stronger flavour, but not as strong as rabbit.”

She should know that a delicate-flavoured meat is usually dry-cooked, and tougher, stronger-tasting meat is cooked with moist heat, e.g. in stew.

The article ends with a warning about eating meat that’s not inspected for disease. As always, cook well.

Is this a new Internet meme? “Pussycat—the other Other OTHER white meat”?

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