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For week ending 14 August 1998
By Steve Newman
© 1998, Earth Environment Service. Dist. by Los Angeles Times Syndicate

To check out this week's natural events, click on any icon


Warmest Month Ever

U.S. Vice President Al Gore told reporters that the latest data compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reveals that July was the hottest month on record around the world. Gore said that the heat reflects a dangerous trend certain to get worse unless steps are taken to stop global warming. According to the NOAA report, the average global temperature last month was 16 degrees Celsius, about 1.26 degrees higher than the long-term normal for July.

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Fierce Floods

Heavy rains returned to South Korea, worsening the already record flooding that has left 234 people dead and 92 others missing across the country. Public cemeteries around Seoul were thrown into chaos after flash floods washed away thousands of tombs. Roads leading to two of the graveyards on the northern fringes of the capital were jammed as family members rushed to try to recover the remains of the dead.

In India and Bangladesh, ongoing severe flooding has now killed at least 600 people this summer and another round of high water threatens to inundate more lowland areas.

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Eruption's End

Scientists announced that they believe the Soufriere Hills Volcano on the Caribbean island of Montserrat is settling down, and residents soon will be allowed to return to their devastated communities to rebuild. A massive cleanup of ash around Old Towne and Salem is due to start in the near future, and the towns' approximately 1,200 residents still on the island will move back when all of the ash has been removed. Vulcanologists say the mountain should become dormant and remain mainly quiet for at least 30 years.

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Killing Heat

Ongoing heat baking a wide area of the Mediterranean and Middle East killed 35 people in Cyprus alone and caused others to collapse from heat stroke across Lebanon, Israel and the Gulf state of Bahrain. Most of the victims on Cyprus, where temperatures soared to over 43 degrees Celsius, were children and the elderly. In Bahrain, officials said that the country has been experiencing its hottest summer weather since records began in 1902.

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A sharp temblor along California's San Andreas Fault shook a wide area of Northern California, swaying buildings in downtown San Francisco and knocking items off shelves in southern parts of the Bay Area.

Quakes were also felt in western Japan, Taiwan, southwest India and around Anchorage, Alaska.

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Tropical Storms

Hurricane Georgette formed off western Mexico and was predicted to remain well offshore while paralleling the coast of Baja California before dissipating over the weekend. Tropical storm Penny made landfall along the coast of Yangxi county in China's Guangdong Province then lost force as it swirled westward into Guangxi Province.

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Australian Fireball

A meteor believed to be the size of a baseball briefly brightened the nighttime sky across parts of Australia. The flash was seen from Alice Springs to Mornington Island, 1,000 km to the northeast. An officer in charge of the remote Avon Downs police station, Sergeant Bob Jeffries, said the flash of light lit up his backyard like daylight. "That's not bad considering my backyard out there is about a million acres." The fireball is believed to have been part of the Perseid meteor shower.

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Mink Menace

Officials in England said that the animal-rights activists who freed 6,000 mink from a fur farm in the south of the country are provoking a potential wildlife disaster in the area. The Animal Liberation Front said they smashed cages and cut wires at a factory farm near Ringworm, allowing the ferocious predators to escape into the New Forest - named by the Rio Earth Summit as a vital environmental haven. Forest officer Howard Taylor said the massive release of the mink into the forest was a nightmare. "The mink is at the top of the food chain. They are not fussy about what they eat, whether it's birds, eggs, small mammals, fish, anything."

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Additional Sources: U.S. Climate Analysis Center, U.S. Earthquake Information Center and the World Meteorological Organization.

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