A four-night Royal Caribbean cruise ended on a queasy note Friday, when dozens of passengers contracted a stomach illness that caused gastrointestinal issues including vomiting and diarrhea.
Of the 2,500 passengers on the ship, 66 were affected by what the company said is likely norovirus, a contagious bug spread through food, water or contaminated surfaces, CNN reports. Two crew members on the Royal Caribbean International ship, which docked in Miami Friday, were affected as well.
The incident is the latest in a series that has hurt the cruise industry, including a fire on the Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas cruise ship last May and an engine room fire on the Carnival Triumph in February.
MAGNITUDE 5.4 – NORTHERN MID-ATLANTIC RIDGE
Subject To Change
Depth: 10 km
Distances: 2064 km NE of Saint John’s, Antigua and Barbuda / pop: 24,226 / local time: 18:19:29.0 2014-01-18
2110 km NE of Gustavia, Saint-Barthelemy / pop: 5,988 / local time: 18:19:29.0 2014-01-18
2122 km NE of Marigot, Saint-Martin / pop: 5,700 / local time: 18:19:29.0 2014-01-18
After a spring-like hiatus, winter is expected to return to the island later today with a storm watch for western Newfoundland and a snowfall warning for the southwest coast.
Environment Canada has issued a winter storm watch for the Bay St. George, Corner Brook and vicinity, Deer Lake and Humber Valley and the Green Bay-White Bay areas.
Total snowfall accumulations of 10 to 15 centimetres are expected in these areas tonight and Sunday morning. However, amounts may possibly exceed 15 centimetres.
Environment Canada said people should be on alert for the potential development of dangerous winter weather conditions in these regions.
A snowfall warning is in place for the Channel-Port aux Basques area and the Burgeo-Ramea area, with total snowfall accumulations of 15 to 20 centimetres expected tonight and Sunday morning.
The snow is expected to begin falling in the southwestern region this evening and turn to blowing snow overnight as wind gusts reach up to 60 kilometres per hour overnight.
The snow is expected to begin in the Bay St. George and Corner Brook areas after midnight and winds will reach gusts of 50 kilometres in the areas under the winter storm watch.
A low pressure system south of Cape Cod will move northeastward and intensify today then lie south of Cape Breton Island overnight. The low is forecast to cross southeastern Newfoundland Sunday morning then continue out to sea.
Snow, at times heavy, will develop over southwestern Newfoundland this evening and spread northeastward throughout the night. The heaviest snow is expected from the southwest coast to the northeast coast.
Is Our Sun Falling Silent?
“I’ve been a solar physicist for 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” says Richard Harrison, head of space physics at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire.
He shows me recent footage captured by spacecraft that have their sights trained on our star. The Sun is revealed in exquisite detail, but its face is strangely featureless.
“If you want to go back to see when the Sun was this inactive… you’ve got to go back about 100 years,” he says.
This solar lull is baffling scientists, because right now the Sun should be awash with activity.
It has reached its solar maximum, the point in its 11-year cycle where activity is at a peak.
This giant ball of plasma should be peppered with sunspots, exploding with flares and spewing out huge clouds of charged particles into space in the form of coronal mass ejections.
But apart from the odd event, like some recent solar flares, it has been very quiet. And this damp squib of a maximum follows a solar minimum – the period when the Sun’s activity troughs – that was longer and lower than scientists expected.
“It’s completely taken me and many other solar scientists by surprise,” says Dr Lucie Green, from University College London’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory.
The drop off in activity is happening surprisingly quickly, and scientists are now watching closely to see if it will continue to plummet.
“It could mean a very, very inactive star, it would feel like the Sun is asleep… a very dormant ball of gas at the centre of our Solar System,” explains Dr Green.
This, though, would certainly not be the first time this has happened.
During the latter half of the 17th Century, the Sun went through an extremely quiet phase – a period called the Maunder Minimum.
Historical records reveal that sunspots virtually disappeared during this time.
Dr Green says: “There is a very strong hint that the Sun is acting in the same way now as it did in the run-up to the Maunder Minimum.”
Mike Lockwood, professor of space environment physics, from the University of Reading, thinks there is a significant chance that the Sun could become increasingly quiet.
An analysis of ice-cores, which hold a long-term record of solar activity, suggests the decline in activity is the fastest that has been seen in 10,000 years.
“It’s an unusually rapid decline,” explains Prof Lockwood.
“We estimate that within about 40 years or so there is a 10% to 20% – nearer 20% – probability that we’ll be back in Maunder Minimum conditions.”
The era of solar inactivity in the 17th Century coincided with a period of bitterly cold winters in Europe.
Londoners enjoyed frost fairs on the Thames after it froze over, snow cover across the continent increased, the Baltic Sea iced over – the conditions were so harsh, some describe it as a mini-Ice Age.
And Prof Lockwood believes that this regional effect could have been in part driven by the dearth of activity on the Sun, and may happen again if our star continues to wane.
“It’s a very active research topic at the present time, but we do think there is a mechanism in Europe where we should expect more cold winters when solar activity is low,” he says.
He believes this local effect happens because the amount of ultraviolet light radiating from the Sun dips when solar activity is low.
This means that less UV radiation hits the stratosphere – the layer of air that sits high above the Earth. And this in turn feeds into the jet stream – the fast-flowing air current in the upper atmosphere that can drive the weather.
The results of this are dominantly felt above Europe, says Prof Lockwood.
“These are large meanders in the jet stream, and they’re called blocking events because they block off the normal moist, mild winds we get from the Atlantic, and instead we get cold air being dragged down from the Arctic and from Russia,” he says.
“These are what we call a cold snap… a series of three or four cold snaps in a row adds up to a cold winter. And that’s quite likely what we’ll see as solar activity declines.”
So could this regional change in Europe have a knock-on effect on for the rest of the world’s climate? And what are the implications for global warming?
In a recent report by the UN’s climate panel, scientists concluded that they were 95% certain that humans were the “dominant cause” of global warming since the 1950s, and if greenhouse gases continue to rise at their current rate, then the global mean temperature could rise by as much as 4.8C.
And while some have argued that ebbs and flows in the Sun’s activity are driving the climate – overriding the effect of greenhouse gas emissions, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concludes that solar variation only makes a small contribution to the Earth’s climate.
Prof Lockwood says that while UV light varies with solar activity, other forms of radiation from the Sun that penetrate the troposphere (the lower layer of air that sits above the Earth) do not change that much.
He explains: “If we take all the science that we know relating to how the Sun emits heat and light and how that heat and light powers our climate system, and we look at the climate system globally, the difference that it makes even going back into Maunder Minimum conditions is very small.
“I’ve done a number of studies that show at the very most it might buy you about five years before you reach a certain global average temperature level. But that’s not to say, on a more regional basis there aren’t changes to the patterns of our weather that we’ll have to get used to.”
But this weather would not be the only consequence of a drawn out period of inactivity, says Dr Green.
“If the Sun were to get very quiet, one of the few things that would happen is that we’d have very few displays of the northern lights. They are driven by solar activity, and we’d miss out on this beautiful natural phenomenon,” she explains.
However, there could be positive effects too.
“Solar activity drives a whole range of space weather, and these are ultimately effects on the electricity networks, on satellites, on radio communications and GPS on your sat-nav,” she explains.
And while scientists cannot discount that the random bursts of activity may still occur, calmer periods of space weather would help to maintain the technological infrastructure that we rely so heavily on.
While the full consequences of a quietening Sun are not fully understood, one thing scientists are certain about is that our star is unpredictable, and anything could happen next.
“This feels like a period where it’s very strange… but also it stresses that we don’t really understand the star that we live with.” says Prof Harrison.
“Because it’s complicated – it’s a complex beast.”
region and is gathering strength as it heads south towards New Caledonia and New Zealand.
A warning has gone out to all shipping in the path of Cyclone June to expect heavy swells and gale force winds.
June, which formed in the Coral Sea near the Solomon Islands as a category one cyclone, is expected to have intensified to category two before hitting Norfolk Island, between New Caledonia and New Zealand, on Sunday.
“Tropical Cyclone June is expected to produce a prolonged period of gale force winds, heavy rainfall and moderate to heavy swells over Norfolk Island on Sunday and Monday,” Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said on Saturday.
“Damaging winds averaging above 75 kilometres per hour with gusts of about 100 kilometres per hour are expected to develop on Norfolk Island by about midday on Sunday.”
Meanwhile, recovery operations continued in Tonga after Cyclone Ian slammed into the Pacific kingdom last week as a maximum category five storm and packing winds in excess of 200km/h.
It left at least 4000 people homeless and destroyed vital crops in the central Ha’apai islands.
The Tongan government said in a statement there was concern about the shortage of food and the supply of clean and safe drinking water.
The health inspector in charge of water and sanitation, Folau Hola, told Radio New Zealand the low-lying areas of Ha’apai were in a critical situation because of rising sea levels contaminating wells, and most rooftop collection systems were destroyed during the cyclone.
Second Landslide Hits Gravesend Today At Sole Street Station, UK
A SECOND landslide has occurred in the North Kent area this morning (Jan 17).
A landslip had closed one of the lines at Longfield earlier, around a mile from the station, which has been resolved but another incident has occurred near Sole Street Station, in Gravesend, at 11.45am blocking the line from Swanley towards Chatham.
Because of this, buses are replacing trains from Swanley towards Chatham and trains that usually run this way will be diverted via Dartford. Journey times may be delayed by around 30 minutes.
Trains from Chatham towards Swanley are able to run as normal.
A Network Rail spokesman said: “We were made aware of the situation at around 11.45am and our crews are on their way.
“It happened 50 yards from Sole Street Station.”