Pretty Christmas cards with snow-laden New England landscapes are arriving. The desert town of Bethlehem, birthplace of Christ 2,000 years ago, is located 6 miles south of Jerusalem in today's West Bank in the Palestinian Territory. It probably didn't look like Bangor, Maine, back then, and it doesn't now.
A week ago, a winter storm brought record low temperatures to the Western states. Cold outbreaks aren't uncommon there in early December, but the severity of the chill amazed forecasters and the general population alike.
When Germany's Elbe River flooded in May this year, Hamburg and other communities along the waterway felt reminded of the catastrophic storm flood of February 1962. I remember TV images of people clinging to rooftops that were the only portions of houses still above the water.
Back in the 1950s, most hospitals were eerie places: Tiled walls, dimly lit hallways, gruff personnel. It would be tough to find such an old-style, stark facility in this country today.
The Pacific "Ring of Fire" is living up to its name again. After some rumblings in October, Mount Sinabung on the island of Sumatra (Indonesia) erupted with ash falls and lava flows last week. Five-thousand people were forced to flee the surrounding areas.
In 1520, when Ferdinand Magellan's little fleet emerged from the storm-whipped straits of the tip of South America into a vast ocean to the west, it seemed so peaceful to him that he named it "Pacific Ocean."
Colder weather is here, and we use more energy for lighting and heat. Even the car burns more gas when it has to start up at low temperatures. But it's also a time when we can realize energy savings. If you're still using the old-fashioned "Edison" incandescent bulbs, you're wasting electricity.
Recent news articles proudly displayed measures taken in New York to prevent future damage from hurricanes and similar storms.
In these times of terrorist attacks, the appearance of an "Urban Forest Strike Team" may raise concerns in some people's minds. But this particular task force has a purpose that's entirely in the interest of Georgia communities.
People in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota aren't unfamiliar with tornadoes. But during the night of Oct. 4, well outside severe weather season, a dozen strong tornadoes ripped across the Great Plains.
Recently, southwestern Pakistan was rocked by a 1-2 punch of major earthquakes. The first one Sept. 24 had a magnitude of 7.7. For comparison, the Loma Prieta Quake which struck the Santa Cruz-San Francisco, Calif., area in 1989 was a 6.9. That was sufficient to collapse parts of Interstate 880, burying motorists beneath concrete. On the Bay Bridge, an entire section disengaged, causing cars to fall into the gap.
If you take a trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway this season to watch the leaves turn color, you'll be treated to nice views. But much of the wooded countryside consists of second-growth forest, following long periods of attempts to farm the land. In the Eastern U.S., reserves of old-growth forest have become small and are threatened by logging and development. Some estimates indicate that our old-growth inventory has shrunk to 10 percent of what it was in the 1600s.
There's no room for doubts when the weather forecast calls for "100 percent chance of precipitation." Such was the case on the last day of summer, Sept. 21. An enormous cold front stretched a line of clouds and rain showers from its southernmost point, the State of Michoacan in central Mexico, to Killiniq Island. That's the northernmost tip of Quebec and Labrador, 4,000 miles from Mexico City.
One may not have heard of Lyons, Colo., before, but recent news brought this town into the spotlight. Isolated from all its surroundings by raging flood waters, this normally pretty town of 1,600 people took the brunt of heavy rains during the first weeks of September. Steep slopes on surrounding mountainsides funneled water straight through residential neighborhoods, causing death and injury, and making roadways collapse.
Turn the calendar back to October 1973. Israel was at war with Egypt, and Arab members of OPEC tried to stop the U.S. from supporting Israel by imposing an oil embargo. It caused gas shortages in the U.S. and much of Western Europe. Long lines and "no gas" signs at the pumps were the result over here.
The March 22 mudslide in Oso, Wash., raises the question whether something like this could happen here. It's not likely, because we don't have the deep soil that led to the Western disaster.
Late spring and early summer are some of the best times to visit Europe, especially the Upper Rhine Valley.
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