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The Smithsonian Institution is releasing a whopping 2.8 million high-res, two- and three-dimensional images from its collections to a new Open Access online platform. The material comes from all 19 Smithsonian museums, nine research centers, libraries, archives and the National Zoo, and it's available for free to anyone with a web browser.
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This geostationary operational environmental satellite image (GOES) East image was captured on March 20, 2019, at 8 a.m. ET prior to the equinox. (Photo courtesy NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS)) Those hoping for an early spring this year will get their wish.The vernal equinox will take place on March 19 throughout the entire United States including Alaska and Hawaii, almost 18 hours ahead of when the vernal equinox occurred in 2019. Moreover, the 2020 equinox will have arrived earlier than any other equinox in the last 124 years.The vernal equinox falling on March 19 is a phenomenon that has not occurred in the U.S. since 1896, according to Geoff Chester, the public affairs officer for the U.S. Naval Observatory. This is the same year Utah became the 45th state and automobiles became available to the public.The U.S. Naval Observatory oversees the so-called Master Clock, a system that keeps precise time for a host of clocks around the world used in GPS devices, cellphones and computers, among other things.Each year, the equinox is expected to take place either on March 20 or 21, but in 2020, the entire U.S. will experience the equinox on March 19.This shift in timing comes from the uneven amount of days fitting into a calendar year. Each rotation of Earth takes 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4.1 seconds, and doesn't fit exactly into a 24-hour day.The reason the 2020 equinox is particularly noteworthy is that it will be the first equinox since the one in 1896 to arrive early enough that it ends up occurring on March 19 throughout all U.S. time zones, Bob Berman, an astronomer at Slooh, told AccuWeather.During 2016, the most recent leap year, the equinox occurred on March 19 for Pacific and Central time zones, but not in the Eastern time zone where it fell on March 20.This year, the equinox will occur at 11:50 p.m. Eastern time on March 19, Chester explained, adding that the equinox will occur an hour earlier in each time zone going from east to west.In the Central time zone, the equinox will occur at 10:50 p.m. and spring will officially arrive at 9:50 p.m. and 8:50 p.m. in the Mountain and Pacific time zones, respectively.He said that in universal time, the equinox this year will take place at 3:50 UTC on March 20, while in 1896 it occurred at 2:23 UTC, meaning that the 2020 equinox will not break the record.In 2028, however, the equinox will occur at 2:18 UTC, beating the 1896 record. The next record to beat will be 15:04 UTC on March 19, which happened way back in 1696 and was the earliest equinox of the 17th century. The year 1600 was also a leap year. Balloons fly over the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan, Mexico, on the Spring equinox at sunrise, Thursday, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte) In 2096, the last leap year of the century and therefore the year with the earliest equinox, it will occur at 14:06 UTC on March 19. Therefore, the 1696 record will not be broken at any point in this century.The Gregorian calendar, created by Pope Gregory in 1583, factors in the extra 56 minutes and 4.1 seconds by including an extra day in February every four years as a leap year. However, an extra day every four years is an overcorrection to the calendar, and Pope Gregory accounted for this. For every century year, the calendar resets by skipping leap year. Every 400 years, it does not reset and maintains the leap year. The year 2000 was a year that did not reset; therefore, it had an extra day.Berman said the skipped leap year will cause the remainder of the 21st century to have earlier leap year equinoxes. Each leap year for the rest of the century will arrive 43 minutes earlier than the leap year prior."We say that this is the earliest equinox of our lives, but we're going to keep saying that," Berman told AccuWeather. "We're going to be able to say that now every four years ... So we're going to keep having earliest-ever starts of spring," Berman said.In the years 300-400 A.D. the equinoxes fell on March 21, but because of the Julian calendar used at the time, which did not have the same 400-year system as the Gregorian calendar, the vernal equinox continued to occur earlier each year until it ended up landing on March 15 by the year 1000.If Pope Gregory had not replaced the calendar when he did, the calendar would be about 20 days off at this point, affecting not only the equinoxes but also seasons as a whole and holidays like Christmas, according to Berman. People walk through the candles during the spring equinox celebration at Cathedral Square in Vilnius, Lithuania, Wednesday, March 20, 2019. Lithuanians celebrate equinox every year around 20-21st of March. Spectacular fire signs and music mystery play are held in Vilnius center at that time. This tradition began in 1992, but it is in accordance with the ancient pagan rituals and symbolizes light victory against dark. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis) "If we stayed on the old Julian calendar, you would have a discrepancy of one day, roughly every 128 years. With the Gregorian system now we have a discrepancy of one day in something like 3,500 years," Chester told AccuWeather.The year 1583 was the first in which the new Gregorian calendar was adopted in Europe, and the equinox occurred on March 21, and a change was clearly in order. The year prior to the adoption of the new calendar, the Julian calendar miscalculated the equinox by 11 days. It "occurred" on March 10 in 1582.CLICK HERE FOR THE FREE ACCUWEATHER APPAccording to Berman, the inaccuracy of the Julian calendar was an issue for ancient people, who relied on equinoxes, as they are the only times that the sun rises exactly in the east and sets exactly in the west.Ancients would use the equinoxes to orient themselves and their homes. They also used it as a way to determine when the seasons were changing, which allowed them to prepare for the migration of animals they would hunt for food and determine what types of crops to begin planting.In modern times, many look to spring as the end of winter, with warmer weather ahead. Even though winter wasn't as harsh this year in many parts of the U.S., anyone longing for the milder air of spring should consult the AccuWeather 2020 Spring Forecast for a peek at what our forecasters say is in store after March 19.This year, meteorological winter is set to conclude on Feb. 29. It began on Dec. 1.In the year 2100, the leap year will be skipped, resetting the calendar and pushing the equinox back to March 21. Chester said after this century, there will not be another equinox on March 19 until the year 2436."It's all normal, it's all part of the plan," Berman said. "Nothing to worry about, but it is producing the earliest equinox of our lives."Keep checking back on AccuWeather.com and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.
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It's here. AccuWeather's annual spring forecast for Asia is out -- and meteorologists are expecting a warmer-than-average season for much of the continent in 2020.While a large swath is set for ample rain this season, other locations will face building drought.Additionally, coastal areas will be at risk for a few tropical cyclones. Meanwhile, a couple of early-season cold outbreaks are forecast from eastern Siberia into northeastern Mongolia and the northern Heilongjiang province of China, but even these areas will finish the three-month period from March through May with near- to above-average temperatures.Only in the area from northern Pakistan to northern India and the Tibetan region of China will temperatures be likely to be near normal for the spring.A frequent storm track across the Middle East will carry clouds and precipitation through these areas during the first half of the spring."The pattern would slow the seasonal heating of the Indian subcontinent, similar to last spring," AccuWeather Lead International Meteorologist Jason Nicholls said.Increased soil moisture from the storms should mitigate the heat over northern India, including in New Delhi."It would still get hot in these areas as it typically does, but the warmup should be lower than average with bouts of extreme heat likely to be more infrequent than usual," Nicholls stated.Central and southern India are predicted to warm up much faster than average this spring. Heat waves will be more frequent across these areas due to limited soil moisture to begin with. An Indian woman walks carrying a child covered with scarf to shield themselves from sun on a hot summer day in Jammu, India, Monday, June 3, 2019. Many parts of India experienced heat wave conditions with temperature hovering above 45 degree Celsius (113 F). (AP Photo/Channi Anand) There is a chance that pre-monsoon rains develop in southern India and Sri Lanka late in the spring. If this materializes, the heat will be limited."There is even the chance the southwest monsoon can reach Kerala toward the end of May, which would be sooner than in 2019," Nicholls said.Drought conditions, which developed during autumn, are forecast to ease over Indonesia and Malaysia."The combination of warmer waters over the western tropical Pacific and and the evening out of water temperatures over the Indian Ocean should allow rainfall to return to near average and may even swing above average as the spring progresses," Nicholls said.Farther northwest, drought conditions are expected to worsen over in the area from Russia's Volga Valley to much of the Ukraine.This area of Asia and Eurasia has been experiencing very warm and abnormally dry or drought conditions since the autumn with few precipitation events. People enjoy warm weather as they walk at Zaryadye Park, with the Kremlin in the background, in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Feb. 17, 2020. Russian capital's residents experienced an unusually warm winter as temperatures have averaged 8 degrees Celsius (14.4 degrees Fahrenheit) above normal in Moscow and 6.5 C (11.7 F) above normal in Kiev, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko) "Even through a slightly wetter pattern developed from late January to the first part of February, a drier pattern is forecast to return this spring," Nicholls said. "Some rainfall may occur from late April to early May, but overall, dry conditions are likely to get worse with the potential for severe drought."As winter grains emerge from dormancy and the planting of crops follows later this spring, yields may be significantly reduced as a result of the dryness.Additionally, warm weather which occurred this winter may cause grains to emerge from dormancy a little ahead of average. Any cold shots into the spring could lead to damage."Fortunately, the odds of a late Arctic blast this spring look to be minimal at this time," Nicholls added.The pattern responsible for some of the dryness in southwestern Russia and the Ukraine may also supply part of the Middle East with spring rainfall.As a semi-permanent area of high pressure develops near the surface and the jet stream level of the atmosphere, this blocking pattern may force storms to barrel farther south across Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.Several rounds of rain and mountain snow can fall in these areas as a result, especially during March and April.The same pattern would tend to produce cool fronts that can bring brief opportunities for some rain as far south as Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, northern Oman and part of Saudi Arabia early in the spring.There is the chance of thunderstorms to erupt on a few occasions in southwestern Saudi Arabia and Yemen later in the spring.Farther to the northeast, China's Yangtze Valley and North Plain are expected to have adequate rainfall."Growing conditions should be good as winter grains and rapeseed emerge from dormancy and the spring planting begins for summer crops in the Yangtze Valley," Nicholls said. "Favorable growing conditions are also in store for northeastern China and much of the Korean Peninsula this spring."While Japan can start the spring on a wet note, there is a chance for dryness to evolve in South Korea, Taiwan and southern Japan during May. These areas will be influenced by an area of high pressure at most levels of the atmosphere that is forecast to settle over the western part of the Pacific Ocean.A sluggish start to the east Asia monsoon is forecast, threatening building drought in some regions."Because of the slow start to the monsoon, dryness may evolve into drought in some cases over Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand," Nicholls said. In this Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019, photo, sightseers play on a sandbar in the Mekong River in Nakhon Phanom province, northeastern Thailand. Experts say the water levels have also become unusually low, exposing sandbanks in the middle of the river. (AP Photo/Chessadaporn Buasai) Dozens of hydroelectric dams along the Mekong River in southeastern Asia and the lack of rain already have the life-giving waterway at very low levels, the Asia Times reports.AccuWeather's early outlook on the 2020 western Pacific typhoon seasonAnother cause of dryness in southeastern Asia is likely to be related to a slow start to the western Pacific typhoon season."While limited tropical activity would lower the number of tropical threats for the Philippines, it would translate to lower rainfall and raise the potential for drought to develop on the islands," Nicholls said. Water temperatures over the Indian Ocean play a huge role in the western Pacific typhoon season, and last year, meteorologists say this was a significant factor.Chilly water over the eastern part of the Indian Ocean resulted in a more rounded shape of high pressure than expected over the western part of the Pacific Ocean last year. Tropical systems, such as typhoons, tend to travel around the edge of high pressure areas, rather than travel straight through them."In 2019, very chilly waters on the eastern part of the Indian Ocean overrode some of the routine parameters that we look at to make a call on the upcoming season," AccuWeather Tropical Weather Expert Dan Kottlowski said.Rather than a large number of typhoons slamming into the Asia mainland, like with a flattened oval-shaped high pressure area, there were more storms that took a curved path toward Japan."Water temperature anomalies over the Indian Ocean were in record-high territory during 2019," AccuWeather International Meteorologist Tyler Roys said.The water temperature anomaly has gone away over the Indian Ocean and is now close to average."So for 2020, we expect the high pressure area over the western Pacific, winds high in the atmosphere, wind shear and water temperatures in the western Pacific and the status of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) to be the main engines for the outcome and nature of the typhoon season," Kottlowski said.The western Pacific typhoon season starts at a slow pace, but this year may be even slower than average with perhaps no organized systems at all through May or June."We are basing our forecast on neutral ENSO conditions, above-average water temperatures in the western part of the Pacific, average wind shear, west to east winds aloft and a fairly round area of high pressure over the western Pacific," Kottlowski said.AccuWeather is predicting a near- to slightly-above-average number of tropical storms (29), a near-average number of typhoons (17) and a slightly below-average number of super typhoons (five). The average number of tropical storms is 26, whereas there are typically 17 typhoons and six super typhoons."We expect more impacts on the Philippines, compared to last year, once the season gets going during the summer and continues into the autumn," Kottlowski said. "We believe more typhoons are likely to take a curved path, rather than push toward the Asia mainland like in 2019."This would mean multiple impacts on Taiwan and Japan, but there could still be a few storms that reach the East Asia mainland."We always like to remind people that even though early projections may not indicate that a great number of typhoons can hit an area, one powerful storm alone can define a season and cause significant loss of life and devastation," Kottlowski cautioned. Surging waves hit against the breakwater and a lighthouse as Typhoon Hagibis approached the port town of Kiho, Mie prefecture, central Japan Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. Hagibis, a super typhoon, went on to be the costliest typhoon in recorded history with damage topping $15 billion in U.S. dollars. At least 98 people lost their lives as a result of the storm. Winds peaked at 160 mph (260 km/h). (AP Photo/Toru Hanai) AccuWeather's early-season Indian Ocean tropical cyclone outlook for 2020As is often the case for the weather in India and the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula, early-season tropical activity over the northern Indian Ocean will be a wildcard."This spring, especially during April and May, conditions look to be conducive for a bit more pre-monsoonal tropical activity over the northern Indian Ocean than the two named cyclones from 2019," Nicholls said.AccuWeather is projecting two to three named cyclones in the northern Indian Ocean with the potential for several low pressure areas to evolve into deep depressions."Forecast steering winds mean that southeastern India, Sri Lanka and the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula into Somalia may be targets for impacts somewhat similar to last year," Nicholls said.Steering winds are expected to result in more west- or northwest-tracking systems.In 2019, Very Severe Cyclonic Storm Hikaa traveled westward into Oman during September, while Super Cyclonic Storm Kyarr spun toward the west in late October and weakened just off the coast of Somalia on Nov. 1.There were 12 depressions, of which, 11 were deep depressions, eight cyclonic storms and one super cyclonic storm in 2019. It was the second-costliest North Indian Ocean cyclone year on record with at least $11 billion in U.S. dollars in damage and more than 170 fatalities.
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