Earth

Ophelia Became a Major Hurricane Where No Storm Had Before (arstechnica.com) 180

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The system formerly known as Hurricane Ophelia is moving into Ireland on Monday, bringing "status red" weather throughout the day to the island. The Irish National Meteorological Service, Met Eireann, has warned that, "Violent and destructive gusts of 120 to 150km/h are forecast countrywide, and in excess of these values in some very exposed and hilly areas. There is a danger to life and property." Ophelia transitioned from a hurricane to an extra-tropical system on Sunday, but that only marginally diminished its threat to Ireland and the United Kingdom on Monday, before it likely dissipates near Norway on Tuesday. The primary threat from the system was high winds, with heavy rains. Forecasters marveled at the intensification of Ophelia on Saturday, as it reached Category 3 status on the Saffir-Simpson scale and became a major hurricane. For a storm in the Atlantic basin, this is the farthest east that a major hurricane has been recorded during the satellite era of observations. Additionally, it was the farthest north, at 35.9 degrees north, that an Atlantic major hurricane has existed this late in the year since 1939.
United States

Leave It To the Heat to Dull Autumn's Glory (wsj.com) 140

It's autumn. Somebody tell the trees. From a report: Ordinarily, two signals alert deciduous trees that it's time to relinquish the green hues of summer in favor of autumn's yellows, oranges and reds. First, the days begin to grow shorter. Second, the temperature begins to drop. But this year, unseasonably warm weather across most of the U.S. has tricked trees into delaying the onset of fall's color extravaganza. Temperatures in the eastern half of the country have been as much as 15 degrees above normal since mid-September, and the warmth is expected to persist through the end of October. The unfortunate result for leaf peepers is a lackluster fall. Two kinds of pigments produce the season's liveliest foliage. Carotenoid, responsible for yellows and oranges, is always present in leaves but is usually masked by chlorophyll. The initial trigger for its appearance is shorter days. Anthocyanin, responsible for reds and deep purples, is different. Not all deciduous trees have this pigment, and those that do manufacture it from scratch in the fall. The primary trigger for its appearance is lower temperatures. Without that cooling cue, the colors of maple and other species that generally ignite New England with brilliant reds this time of year are likely to fizzle.
Science

Astronomers Strike Gravitational Gold In Colliding Neutron Stars (npr.org) 109

For the first time, scientists have caught two neutron stars in the act of colliding, revealing that these strange smash-ups are the source of heavy elements such as gold and platinum. From a report: The discovery, announced today at a news conference and in scientific reports written by some 3,500 researchers, solves a long-standing mystery about the origin of these heavy elements -- which are found in everything from wedding rings to cellphones to nuclear weapons. It's also a dramatic demonstration of how astrophysics is being transformed by humanity's newfound ability to detect gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of space-time that are created when massive objects spin around each other and finally collide. "It's so beautiful. It's so beautiful it makes me want to cry. It's the fulfillment of dozens, hundreds, thousands of people's efforts, but it's also the fulfillment of an idea suddenly becoming real," says Peter Saulson of Syracuse University, who has spent more than three decades working on the detection of gravitational waves. Albert Einstein predicted the existence of these ripples more than a century ago, but scientists didn't manage to detect them until 2015. Until now, they'd made only four such detections, and each time the distortions in space-time were caused by the collision of two black holes. That bizarre phenomenon, however, can't normally be seen by telescopes that look for light. Neutron stars, by contrast, spew out visible cosmic fireworks when they come together. These incredibly dense stars are as small as cities like New York and yet have more mass than our sun. Further reading: 'A New Rosetta Stone for Astronomy' (The Atlantic), and Gravitational Wave Astronomers Hit Mother Lode (Scientific American).

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