DAILY DOSE: Hilary delivers widespread flooding and mudslides; Tense times at India’s space agency before moon landing.


Tropical Storm Hilary, the first tropical storm to hit Southern California in 84 years, caused widespread flooding and mudslides across the region. Dropping an amount equivalent to half a year’s average rainfall in some areas, including Palm Springs, it forced large school districts to cancel classes. Flash floods were warned across Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, with 13 people rescued from rising waters along the San Diego River. The storm made landfall in Mexico before moving to California, threatening mudslide-prone areas and improvised homes south of the U.S. border. While Hilary is expected to weaken, heavy rains and strong winds remain likely. Schools across the region, including the Los Angeles Unified School District, were closed due to safety concerns. An earthquake of magnitude 5.1 also hit near Ojai. Hilary’s impacts extend the list of recent climate disasters across North America, with Maui still recovering from a deadly wildfire and Canada facing its worst fire season. In Mexico, one person died due to Hilary’s onslaught, while troops and emergency personnel worked to clear damage and restore utilities. Amidst Hilary, the Atlantic Ocean showed increased storm activity with the formation of Tropical Storms Emily and Franklin. (Associated Press)


In the aftermath of a devastating wildfire near Maui County, specialists from the federal Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT) are working tirelessly to identify the charred remains of the victims. With over 100 deaths confirmed in the town of Lahaina, only a fraction have been identified, highlighting the challenges ahead. DMORT’s role is to step in when mass fatalities occur that local authorities cannot handle. They have 10 regional teams across the U.S., which deal with varied disasters, from plane crashes to terrorist attacks. Their process involves both analyzing remains and gathering information from surviving relatives. Due to the nature of fires, DNA and dental records may be compromised, making identification even harder. Established in 1992, DMORT’s role became particularly prominent post the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. With climate change predicted to amplify natural disasters, there are concerns about increased mass fatality incidents in the future, emphasizing the importance of DMORT’s role. (Reuters)


On Monday, India’s space agency, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), released images of the moon’s far side captured by the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft. This development follows the failure of Russia’s Luna-25 mission, with Chandrayaan-3 now poised for a landing attempt on the lunar south pole on August 23. The south pole’s shadowed craters, believed to contain water ice, could sustain future moon settlements. Chandrayaan-3, translating to “moon vehicle” in Hindi and Sanskrit, is India’s second south pole landing attempt after Chandrayaan-2’s lander crashed in 2019. Despite the challenging terrain, a successful landing would be historic, paving the way for resource extraction for future missions. The Chandrayaan-3 mission, costing a mere $74 million, underscores India’s prowess in cost-effective space engineering. If successful, India will become the fourth nation to land on the moon, underscoring its growing prominence in space exploration. Changes from previous missions and a bolstered space industry set the stage for this pivotal moment in India’s space history. (Reuters)

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Russia’s Luna-25 robotic spacecraft, aiming for the moon’s surface, crashed, according to an announcement by Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency. This is the latest in a series of setbacks for Russia’s space endeavors. Luna-25 was the first Russian attempt to reach the moon since the 1970s and had intended to explore the south polar region, believed to potentially harbor water ice. However, an “emergency situation” led to a loss of contact 47 minutes after an engine firing. An investigation into the failure is underway. Historically, Russia has faced numerous space-related challenges, from manufacturing defects to human errors. Recent missions by various countries aiming for lunar landings have encountered failures during their descent. Dr. Natan Eismont suggested the Luna-25’s engine did not perform as expected during maneuvers. The crash and subsequent failures dampen Russia’s space ambitions and may affect its geopolitical stance, given the significance President Vladimir Putin places on space achievements. Future Russian lunar missions face potential delays, and their space program struggles with financial and technological challenges, further exacerbated by sanctions post the Ukraine invasion. Meanwhile, India’s Chandrayaan-3 is set to attempt a lunar landing shortly. (New York Times)


Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan engaged with the head of Japan’s national fisheries federation, Masanobu Sakamoto, seeking support for the government’s plan to release treated radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean. The decision is set to be formalized in an upcoming cabinet gathering, with the release beginning by end of August. The fisheries federation is against this, fearing it would tarnish the image of seafood from Fukushima and neighboring areas. Kishida aims to assure the group of the water’s safety and measures to address potential reputational harm. The government has allocated funds for any reputational or economic damage and to aid local fishermen. The International Atomic Energy Agency confirms the release aligns with global safety standards. The Fukushima Daiichi plant has amassed large amounts of contaminated water since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The water is treated to remove most radionuclides except tritium, which is less harmful. The tanks storing this treated water are nearing full capacity. (Japan Times)


Shark nets will be redeployed in New South Wales (NSW) waters next month, despite protests against their use. These nets, which have been set up annually at 51 beaches since 1937, aim to safeguard beachgoers from shark attacks. Despite only one fatal attack at a netted beach since the program’s inception, there’s significant opposition due to the detrimental impact on marine life. In the 2022-23 season, 90% of the 228 animals caught were not the target sharks, with only 24 being target species. Alarmingly, 26% of those captured were threatened or protected species. While the state government justifies their use, stating alternatives aren’t effective enough, critics point to successful shark mitigation measures like smart drum lines, drones, and education programs. Marine biologist Lawrence Chlebeck argued that the nets offer a “false sense of security” as sharks can easily navigate around them. While Premier Chris Minns is not yet convinced by the efficacy of alternatives, opponents urge a move towards more sustainable solutions. (ABC)


In the 1960s, Italian-German ice cream maker, Dario Fontanella, created “spaghettieis” – ice cream shaped like spaghetti using a method he devised. Initially, children were disappointed, expecting a sundae but receiving what appeared to be pasta. Nowadays, around 30 million cups of spaghettieis are sold annually in Germany. Dario, a third-generation ice cream master, was inspired to develop spaghettieis after observing a chestnut dessert made using a spätzle maker in Italy. On introducing the creation in his Mannheim shop in the 1970s, it became an instant hit. Today, Fontanella’s operations encompass several shops, over 200 ice cream flavors, trucks, and a factory. Although molding ice cream isn’t new, the spaghetti shape is uniquely appealing, tapping into a history of desserts that deceive the eye. This ice cream, resembling a spaghetti dish complete with strawberry “sauce” and white chocolate “parmesan,” has been replicated worldwide. Although the concept isn’t trademarked, the Fontanella family is content with its widespread appreciation. (Smithsonian)


Italy faces an invasion of predatory blue crabs, a rapidly reproducing invasive species, which is endangering the nation’s marine ecosystem. The crabs are consuming large quantities of eels, clams, and mussels and damaging fishing nets. To combat the influx, the farm lobby group Coldiretti and fishing associations are encouraging Italians to consume the crabs as a culinary delicacy. This initiative includes events promoting crab-based dishes. Italy, being the largest clam producer in Europe, is particularly affected as these crabs endanger clam harvests, essential for the nation’s favorite dish, spaghetti alle vongole. Federagripesca, a fishing industry group, estimates that over 50% of this year’s shellfish production has suffered due to the crabs. Originating from the American coasts, these crabs have proliferated in the Mediterranean regions, including Albania, Spain, and France. Their rapid multiplication may be attributed to rising sea temperatures. Efforts are now being made to commercialize crab consumption, with some Italian restaurants offering crab dishes. The crabs sell for 8 euros per kilogram in Tuscany, and crab-based dishes have become increasingly popular among patrons. (Associated Press)

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

WORDS: The Biology Guy.

IMAGE CREDIT: Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies.

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