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Science File / An exploration of issues and trends
affecting science, medicine and the environment | Earthwatch:
A Diary of the Planet

Caribbean Eruption

July 16, 1998

A predawn eruption of the Soufriere Hills Volcano sent a massive cloud of ash soaring thousands of feet above Montserrat. Flows of superheated gas and rocks also cascaded down the mountain's flanks. It was the most violent eruption to strike the volcano-ravaged island in more than six months. The explosion was preceded earlier in the week by a sharp earthquake from within Soufriere Hills that shattered the relative calm that had returned to the island. Strong winds carried the ash across the water to neighboring Barbuda, St. Kitts, Nevis and Antigua, where residents awakened to a coating of the volcanic debris on their roads, roofs and cars.

Warmest Year Yet

The British Meteorological Office announced that global temperatures during the first six months of 1998 were the warmest during the first half of any year since records began in 1860.Preliminary data show that the global average was 1 degree Fahrenheit above the 1961-90 normal. Each month so far this year has also been the warmest since reliable records began.

Earthquakes

At least 10 people died and 1,000 others were make homeless by a powerful quake that wrecked parts of the Azores Atlantic archipelago.

More than 1,000 people were injured by powerful aftershocks of the previous week's deadly earthquakes in southern Turkey.

Earth movements were also felt in eastern Romania, the northern Philippines and southwestern Mexico.

Mediterranean Infernos

Temperatures soaring to 115 degrees Fahrenheit sparked scores of wildfires from Italy eastward to Lebanon and sent hundreds of people to hospitals with heat-related ailments. Dry winds blowing from the Sahara produced the hottest weather to strike the northern Mediterranean coast since 1965. One of the hardest-hit areas was southern Italy, including the island of Sicily, where 2,500 acres were blackened by wildfires.

Spanish Fish Kill

Tens of thousands of rotting fish littered several miles of river-bank in northeastern Spain, allegedly killed by environmental violations. The fish died when a section of the Llobregat River dried up and trapped them behind a mountain of gravel. Fishermen blamed local companies for draining the water from the river into a recently repaired canal at a faster-than-normal rate. The resulting swift current kept the fish from swimming to wider channels of the Llobregat.

Stalking Dingoes

Hungry dingoes near the central Queensland coast in Australia are stalking neighborhoods in their hunt for food. Rockhampton Deputy Mayor Jim Rundel said the wild dogs from the Mt. Archer National Park on the city's eastern boundary were causing alarm in nearby suburbs.

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

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