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February 2017
February 2017

<p>The Storm Prediction Center says nearly 40 million people in an area stretching from Arkansas to Ohio are at risk for stormy weather Tuesday.</p>
Mount Etna has erupted in a fiery show of lava in eastern Sicily.
Global warming could mean that mountain snow melts at a slower pace, researchers said Monday, a peculiar finding that might be bad news for the West and other regions that depend on snow for water.Scientists have long known the annual snowmelt is starting sooner as the climate warms. New...
Meteorologist Danielle Banks forecasts more rain and snow headed to the West this week.
Meteorologist Danielle Banks takes a look at damage done in parts of Massachussetts and Pennsylvania.
To study greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, go north. Really far north.
Meteorologist Danielle Banks tracks the rise in temperatures across the southeast.
Nearly 200 storm chasers paid tribute Sunday to the late actor Bill Paxton by spelling out his initials using GPS coordinates on a map depicting the heart of Tornado Alley.The effort coordinated by Spotter Network spelled out "BP"...
Why is it so nice out?
While the balmy conditions this February may seem nice on the surface, an early spring can come with all kinds of downsides.
<p>Soaking rain and locally severe thunderstorms will take aim at the eastern United States around the middle of next week.</p>
The Earth welcomes its first solar eclipse of 2017 on Feb. 26
The bill to repair California's crumbling roads, dams and other critical infrastructure hammered by an onslaught of storms this winter could top $1 billion, including nearly $600 million alone for damaged roadways that more than doubles what the state budgeted for road repair emergencies, officials said Friday.Adding to the problems, many communities have drained their emergency budgets and are looking to the state and federal government for help. But on top of the latest damage, the nation's most populated state is struggling with a $6 billion annual backlog of repairs for roads, highways and bridges that leaders...
Billions of dollars in flood projects have eased fears of levee breaks near California's capital and some other cities, but state and federal workers are joining farmers with tractors in round-the-clock battles this week to stave off any chain-reaction failure of rural levees protecting farms and farm towns.As the wet winter forces operators of dams to send more water roaring downstream, the struggle to spot and shore up weak spots in nearly 1,600 miles of levees in the Central Valley...
<p>A collection of the week's best weather photography.</p>
Temperature records are falling in the Northeast as spring-like warmth has descended on the region.Boston hit 71 degrees, making Friday the warmest February day ever recorded in the city. The National Weather Service says Newark, New Jersey, reached 74 degrees, breaking the previous high of 73 for the date,...
At Squaw Valley, seven feet fell in just the past week.
Dr. Adam Watts of the Desert Research Institute is standing by the side of the road near Donner Pass, shouting over the wind into his phone to talk about a recent test flight. “We built a robot that can fly itself and bring more water out of clouds,” he says, capturing the technological promise at hand in just a few words. Together with Nevada’s Drone America, the team flew a cloud-seeding drone beyond the pilot’s line of sight. It’s the next step in a gradual and ambitious process, aimed at solving a decades-old problem: can the desert pull more water from the sky, and can it do so without injuring anyone along the way? Cloud seeding itself dates back to the late 1940s, and appeared in Popular Science as early as 1950. Early attempts to pull rain from clouds, like Project Cirrus by the U.S. Army Signal Corps, released dry ice B-17 bombers to encourage the moisture to coalesce into ice crystals that then fall as rain. Another method injects silver iodide into clouds, where it works as a sort of dust that the water in the cloud freezes around. (As an aside: the silver iodide method was discovered by no less than Dr. Bernard Vonnegut, brother of the science fiction novelist Kurt Vonnegut. The concept of seeding ice with a little particle may have influenced Ice-9, a doomsday weapon in Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Cat’s Cradle). Much of the early research into cloud seeding, like Project Cirrus, aimed to alter the direction and force of hurricanes, tornadoes, and hail, though the results were disputed at best. And there was American military research into weather, which acknowledged the warming effects of greenhouse gases in 1958 but was more preoccupied with fears Russian cloud-seeding and weather control. There were also economic arguments from the start, extrapolating from an expected modest increase in rainfall to greater hydroelectric power and agricultural yields. By the 1970s, the limitations of cloud seeding were clear: cloud seeding can only work when certain conditions are present. As we wrote in 1977: “Weather modification, specifically cloud-seeding, was suggested as a way of setting things right. But, said experts, seeding only works when certain types of clouds are present: the method cannot break a drought.” Silver iodide alone is no silver bullet. Still, it doesn’t need to end drought on its own to be a valuable enterprise. The Desert Research Institute estimates that it costs between $7 and $18 per additional acre-foot of water released from the clouds it seeds. The institute estimates its seeding operations contribute between 20,000 to 80,000 acre-feet of additional precipitation annually. For desert states like Nevada, that’s valuable enough that pilots have repeatedly flown into storms for cloud seeding. For the Desert Research Institute, that effort twice met with tragedy: in 1980, the institute lost two pilots and two scientists to a fatal plane crash. Then, in April of 2000, a plane contracted on a cloud-seeding mission for the institute crashed, killing all three people on board. “There’s inherent risk in conducting aerial cloud seeding operations,” says West, “because the aircraft have to fly under dangerous conditions: low altitude, usually close to mountain terrain, in icing conditions, and quite often in high winds.” Drones are the best solution for getting the same effect of an airplane without putting a human pilot at risk by physically being in the vehicle. This is a common thread in drone use by scientists. In 2015, NOAA flew drones over gray whale others and calves, to track blubber accumulation, which is a much easier task to do when the humans recording the results are safely at a distance. Scientists used a drone with a petri dish attached to collect whale snot, a task previously done by humans in motorboats with crossbows. To study shark predator behavior, researchers with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries baited sharks into biting an underwater robot, something that’d be hard to do with a human-carry vessel. In an experiment echoing one done in Switzerland in the early 1980s with helicopters and vaccinated chicken-heads, last summer the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service used drones to shoot vaccine-loaded M&amp;Ms at prairie dogs, all to save an endangered ferret species. And in a more direct parallel, flying drones can directly save the lives of scientists. From Audubon: Light-aircraft crashes are the No. 1 killer of wildlife biologists. Between 1937 and 2000, 91 biologists and other scientists died in the field, according to a 2003 study in the Wildlife Society Bulletin, and 60 of them were killed in plane or helicopter crashes. What’s more, the study says, most of those 60 appeared to have been flying at the low altitudes necessary for observing and tracking wildlife. Recent years have seen more deaths. David Maehr, for instance, crashed and died in 2008 tracking radio-collared black bears in Florida, and Kristina Norstrom perished last year trailing caribou in Alberta. Getting the pilot out of the plane is the best way to reduce that risk, and so many wildlife biologists are adopting drones instead. (Though this is not an entirely neutral choice: while drones are great for observing birds, who don’t seem to mind so long as the drones keep a respectable distance, drones freak out bears.) And for cloud seeding, which requires flight in dangerous conditions, a drone is the ideal tool. Last May, the Desert Research Institute, together with Drone America, flew a drone up to 1,200 feet, where it released a pair of silver iodide flares. That was an early test of the program, showing that the drone body itself can do the job. Last week, the program completed the next step of its development, flying for 30 miles, almost all beyond the line of sight of the pilot, before it landed. “This demonstrates that the technology is ready for us to routinely go beyond line of sight,” notes West, “and the next steps will be to do so under realistic cloud-seeding conditions. We did this under great weather and a lower altitude, and the next steps will be to turn up the weather so to speak, to make the conditions like you’d encounter when you’re actually seeding clouds.” As for what those conditions actually are? “Well, I’m sitting in them right now as I go over Donner Pass from San Francisco to Reno,” laughed West, “If you picture a mountain range that’s experiencing winter storms, you’ve probably got high winds, you’ve got clouds that may or in some cases may not be snowing or raining, if you’re talking from the standpoint of aviation you can have icing conditions, so it’s quite risky from the standpoint of aviation, and that goes back of course to the reason we had the idea to use an [Unmanned Aerial System]. It’s pretty nasty weather conditions, honestly.” Taking the pilot out of the cloud seeder makes the act of cloud seeding a lot safer for the pilot, but West cautions that cloud seeding alone should not be seen as a one-stop solution to drought. He notes the role of conservation in a water-limited state, and that while cloud seeding can increase regional water supply, it can’t will it out of thin air. “You have to have clouds, and clouds under certain conditions in order to seed those clouds. So you can’t literally bring water out of nothing,” says West, “but it can enhance precipitation when it’s properly done.”
Coral reefs may not survive the century because of global warming. CNN columnist John Sutter travels to Madagascar, where a village depends on reefs for survival.
After a few wet winter months, scientists said Thursday that California is 83 percent drought-free compared with just 6 percent a year ago — the lowest drought levels have been since 2011. The U.S. Drought Monitor reported that Northern California is completely in the clear and this is the first time in four years that no part of the state is under an “extreme drought” designation. The only counties in the ...
Global warming is already shrinking the Colorado River, the most important waterway in the American Southwest.
The Morning Glory Spillway was once so dry that it became an unofficial skateboard park -- now it's become a bit of a tourist destination
Gillian Bura, her boyfriend and the boat captain were sailing near Cape Henry, Virginia, when they saw an awe inspiring sight, a humpback whale taking a giant leap on February 19.This video shows the whale from a distance as it leapt out of the water near a boat. It even managed to soak a few people on the boat nearby, according to reports. The same event, shot from a different angle, can be seen here. Credit: Gillian Bura via Storyful
Pedestrians brave the strong winds crossing London's Millennium Bridge.
The federal science agency continues to share plenty of information about climate change.
Reed Timmer recorded this stunning video of a huge wall of snow by Lake Tahoe. It is reported to be 52 inches high.
The six ocean hot spots that teem with the biggest mix of species are also getting hit hardest by global warming and industrial fishing, a new study finds.An international team looked at more than 2,100 species of fish, seabirds,...
Security camera footage in Puebla, Mexico captured this footage on January 24, 2017.A strange light appeared in the distance and grew bigger as it flew above the town. The cause of the ball of light is unknown. Credit: webcamsdemexico via Storyful
This is why winter has been more spring-like this year.
The multi-coloured glow appeared in the late afternoon, to the delight of people in the city-state.
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