Wednesday, November 30, 2011

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Eurozone Collapse - Banks Told To "Prepare For Armageddon"?!

Despite a bold and unprecedented coordinated move by the Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank (ECB) and other central banks of the wealthiest countries to prevent the the debt crisis in Europe from exploding into a monumental global panic, the situation seems to be only getting worse as banks in Britain are been told to prepare for the imminent collapse of the Eurozone.

City regulator the Financial Services Authority has told banks to ready themselves for Armageddon by running "stress tests" on their balance sheets. FSA chief Hector Sants met the heads of BARCLAYS, SANTANDER, HSBC, LLOYDS and RBS last week. News of the shock warning came as the world's biggest central banks today launched a desperate bid to save the global economy by flooding markets with cheaper cash. The Bank of England was one of six pledging to make it cheaper for big banks to access "unlimited amounts" of US dollars. And EU chiefs warned Europe had TEN DAYS to solve the debt crisis or face catastrophe. The central banks' shock action should make it easier for businesses and households to borrow — and for banks to fund themselves. Stock markets around the world soared, with the FTSE 100 up 152 points by 2pm. Germany's DAX leapt four per cent. In a statement, the Bank of England said: "The purpose of these actions is to ease strains in financial markets and thereby mitigate the effects of such strains on the supply of credit." The Bank of England was joined by the European Central Bank, the US Federal Reserve, Bank of Japan, Bank of Canada and the Swiss National Bank. They launched weekly and then three-monthly auctions of dollars in September in a bid to make more cash available. But lowering the cost is a clear sign of the growing fear that the Eurozone crisis will spark a crippling double-dip. Earlier today, EU monetary chief Olli Rehn warned: "We are now entering the critical period of ten days to complete and conclude the crisis response of the European Union." France's central bank governor Christian Noyer added: "We are now looking at a true financial crisis." - The Sun.
Yesterday, Standard & Poor’s cut its credit ratings for many of the world’s largest banks, including Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America.
The move follows S&P’s shift, announced earlier this month, in the methods it uses for rating the banks. Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Corp. each had their long-term credit rating downgraded a single notch to A- from A. Similar cuts were applied to JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM), Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC) and Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS). Dozens of other banks were also affected by S&P’s new criteria and many of the downgrades stemmed from the affected banks’ exposure to the European debt crisis. S&P cited weaker confidence in governments' ability to bail out struggling banks. - Fox Business.
Meanwhile the Eurozone unemployment rate rose slightly to 10.3% in October, up from a revised 10.2% in September, with the number of people unemployed rising by 126,000 from September to 16.3 million. European Council President Herman Van Rompuy is warning of the growing seriousness of the crisis.
"The trouble has become systemic. We are witnessing a full-blown confidence crisis," he said in the run-up to the finance ministers' meeting. "Some may blame it on the irrationality of the market, but it's a fact and we need to confront it."... the latest figures from the European Central Bank (ECB) show that Eurozone banks are becoming increasingly nervous about lending to each other. Banks deposited 300bn euros with the ECB on Tuesday night, a rise of 100bn euros over the past two weeks. The increase "shows that parts of the Eurozone are close to a credit crunch, if not already in one," said the BBC's business editor Robert Peston. - BBC.
If, that was not enough, reports are coming out of Europe and around the world that international companies are preparing contingency plans for a possible break-up of the Eurozone.
Concerned that Europe's political leaders are failing to control the spreading sovereign debt crisis, business executives say they feel compelled to protect their companies against a crash that can no longer be wished away. When German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Nicolas Sarkozy raised the prospect of a Greek exit from the eurozone earlier this month, it marked the first time that senior European officials had dared to question the permanence of their 13-year-old experiment with monetary union. "We've started thinking what [a break-up] might look like," Andrew Morgan, president of Diageo Europe, said on Tuesday. "If you get some much bigger kind of ... change around the Euro, then we are into a different situation altogether. With countries coming out of the Euro, you've got massive devaluation that makes imported brands very, very expensive." Executives' concerns are emerging as Eurozone finance ministers weigh ever more radical options to tackle the sovereign debt crisis, including the possibility of funnelling European Central Bank loans to struggling countries via the International Monetary Fund. Car manufacturers, energy groups, consumer goods firms and other multinationals are taking care to minimise risks by placing cash reserves in safe investments and controlling non-essential expenditure. Siemens, the engineering group, has even established its own bank in order to deposit funds with the European Central Bank. - CNN.
Financial analysts and economists are forecasting that even a strengthening of the United States growth would not be enough to withstand the severe damage from the thunderstorms in Europe, that the possibilities exists for a financial meltdown that would result in global havoc. China is already cutting the amount of money, banks need to hold in reserve, a desperate effort to free up those funds to stimulate the Chinese economy. The European Union is China's largest export market, so a Eurozone recession would cause a major slowdown in China, dragging down other Asian countries, as well. And, if you believe the following report from World Net Daily, then it becomes even more obvious that we are dealing with a problem on a extraordinary and monumental scale.
China's debt is about $36 trillion yuan (or $5.68 trillion USD). This number is astronomical considering that it is just a little more than one-third of the U.S. total debt, but the difference between the U.S. and China is that the U.S. national income per capita is $47,140, whereas China's national income per capita is $4,260 – not even one-tenth of the U.S. amount. To be on par with the U.S., China's total debt should be around $1.5 trillion USD, but it is three times that! Considering that the U.S. has an unsustainable debt position, China's is ridiculously out of control and puts that country in extreme danger of a financial collapse of epic proportions. China's officially published interest rate of 6.2 percent is fabricated. In reality China's inflation is 16 percent. This is eerily similar to the United States as well. The U.S. official inflation of around 3 percent is nowhere close to unofficial inflation estimates of 10-13 percent. What does this mean for China? This means that cost of living, wages and cost of goods sold in China will have to rise, and instead of exporting deflation, China will be exporting higher priced goods, thus affecting the rest of the world that purchases its goods. The world is on the verge of an inflationary cycle like we have never seen. Additionally, central banks around the globe are printing money on a massive scale to try to stimulate liquidity and spending (this is the definition of inflation!). Add to this a rising price structure in China, the major exporter to the world, and we could be preparing for a global hyperinflation.

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Red Tide - Fish Kills Causing a Stink on Sanibel Island, SW Florida?!

Officials say a red tide bloom is causing dead fish to wash ashore along southwest Florida's coastline. According to officials, this red tide is the worst ever experienced since 2006.

The effects of red tide are making their way towards Southwest Florida beaches. In fact, dozens of dead fish have already washed ashore on Sanibel Island. The beach on Sanibel Island is littered with dead fish, crabs and shells - some of them victims of red tide. Others have been dead for a while and were washed up onto the beach by Monday's storm. And local experts we spoke to say more dead sea life could be headed this way. "It's really weird to see that much on the beach, really," said tourist Krystal Ferrell, who was on Sanibel Island Tuesday. "We found a lot of starfish and a lot of conch - some things that I guess you wouldn't normally see. She says those things really stink up the beach. "Too bad there's not smell-o-vision," said Dr. Bruce Neill, with the Sanibel Sea School.

But Sanibel is not alone in seeing the effects of red tide. More dead fish were reported belly up on Bonita Beach in Lee County, as well as Barefoot, Tigertail and Conner Park beaches in Collier County. Experts say that makes sense, given the latest satellite image of red tide taken Sunday. The red color on the map [shown to the right] indicates red tide. It's about 25 miles off-shore and about 40 miles long. "We will continue to see small pockets of red tide blooming very efficiently. These are very intensive population blooms of red tide that we're seeing and I would anticipate over the next weeks or so, that we'll see small pockets here and there," said Dr. Neill. He added those pockets can strengthen or weaken depending on the weather. "Red tide doesn't do very well in very cold water. So as the water temperature continues to decrease, the likelihood of a big bloom will decrease," Dr. Neill said. If you come in contact with dead fish, experts say it's best to avoid them. - WZVN.
WATCH: Red tide and mass fish die-off in Florida.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Georgetown Sinkhole Swallows Up Building! UPDATE: Georgetown Sinkhole Worsens After a $14 Million Drainage Project!

This article was originally posted on November 20th, 2011.

A sinkhole in a Georgetown may be to blame for collapsing the front portion of the Parrish Place building on North Fraser Street, also known as Highway 17, about 11 p.m. Thursday.

Nearly three weeks ago, a noticeable sinkhole was discovered next to Parrish Place. At about 10:30 p.m. Thursday, a newly formed sinkhole swallowed part of the office building adjacent to U.S. Highway 17. Tony Jordan, the owner of the building at the intersection of North Fraser and Prince streets, said he is relieved it happened late at night rather than during the day when the building would have been full of workers and customers. It houses the UPS Store, Nationwide Insurance, the Marine Recruiting Station and Floyd Brace Co. Parrish Place is not the only building that has suffered damage -- although it is the most severe. Cracks were found on the walls of the County Judicial Center about a block away last week. Workers checked Thursday night and noted more cracks had formed. They also said there was a noticeable "drop" in the area of the courthouse where the holding cells are located. There were also some cracks found on the walls of Bank of America at the Highmarket Street-U.S. 17 intersection. The Citgo gas station across from Bank of America was closed when the collapse of the adjacent building occurred. Another sinkhole formed near the Highmarket and Dozier Street intersection. It was the second to form at that location in less than two weeks. Jeepy Ford, whose family owns the land across from the now-collapsed Parrish Place, said he has started to see damage in his building -- the former showroom of Parrish Motor Co. "I am starting to see cracks in there," he said. "Last week, I saw cracks in the parking area."

He said he has also seen damage inside the building. Ford said there are at least five buildings known to be damaged because of the sinkholes. "And mine may be number six," he said. In recent weeks, workers have been pumping out water from underground which, according to City Administrator Chris Eldridge, is necessary so the concrete needed for the city drainage project can be poured underground. It is estimated about 60,000 gallons of water per hour for the past few weeks has been pumped from underground. Ford said the water pumping is to blame for the damage. "These buildings have been there for decades and nothing has changed except they pumped the water from underground," he said. Jordan was on the scene watching with his family as emergency crews started examining the damage. Since the first sinkhole formed, he has hired several experts to try to figure out what is causing them. Jordan does not know for certain the water pumping is what caused the sinkholes, but he has said he wonders "if it is just a coincidence" that the holes formed not long after the project began. Jordan said he had already been looking at vacant buildings around the city where his tenants can relocate in case the problem got worse. "Right now the only thing I want to say is I am so grateful no one was in that building and no one was hurt," Jordan said. - Post and Courier.
Inspection teams are beginning to check out several buildings and at least four separate sinkholes in Georgetown this morning after a building housing a UPS Store collapsed late Thursday night. Debris from the UPS Store fell into the parking lot and onto a sidewalk. Building owner Tony Jordan said, gas, water and electricity were cut off to the building following the collapse. Georgetown Assistant Fire Chief Bill Johnson says, because of the instability of the ground, and for the safety of people in the area several major roads are blocked this morning. Johnson added, "the closure of Fraser street is likely to last well beyond the morning so motorists should prepare for some delay during the morning commute". Smaller sinkholes have formed about a block away from Parrish Place at the corner of Fraser and Dozier Streets.  Firefighters are inspecting the buildings, and found cracks in some of the walls, including the courthouse. Crews will inspect the building again today to see if the cracks are related to the sinkholes. There was a fourth sinkhole on hazard found about a month ago. The DOT worked on that hole. There have been no injuries reported. The sinkhole has closed portions of US Highway 17 from Front Street to Market Street.  Officials say drivers heading northbound on Highway 17 should use Hazard Street while drivers heading southbound should use Merriman Street. Drivers should consider using U.S. Highway 17 Alternate rather than passing through Georgetown. Officials say, the ground is unstable and drivers should not drive around barricades. Drivers can still access Front Street at the Fraser Street intersection.  City Hall is closed to the public Friday. - News 2 NBC.
WATCH: Partial building collapse re-routes Georgetown traffic, sinkhole to blame.

UPDATE: Georgetown Sinkhole Worsens After a $14 Million Drainage Project!
A sinkhole in South Carolina has caused buildings to fall and pavements to crack. Allegedly, 14 claims from business owners have been filed with Department of Transportation officials due to a drainage problem.  A Georgetown SC business district looks as if it has been hit by a bomb within a four block area: buildings are cracking and falling apart, tons of earth moving equipment inhabit the area, irrigation ditches for concrete piping encompass the streets, roads are closed, police warning tapes surrounds a whole geographical block and adjacent buildings, cracks are appearing on concrete and asphalt ground areas, and a rust coated bronze water tower shadowing its pump station with its dilapidated sign borders the south – all in view of a very old Georgetown steel plant.

Yet a modern day looking Georgetown City Hall and Fire Station sits cozily by – between the damaged properties and the Sampit River. It’s little wonder why this area has become an environmental and business planning disaster. One wonders just how much weight of concrete, earth moving equipment, and building material can be put on an area of land that is less than ½ mile away from the river. The freshly dug water channels for piping add to the problem of sinkholes developing with poor drainage off Route 17. The nearby Citgo station with its underground storage tanks is not an innocent victim with a cracking parking lot. According to the Myrtle Beach Sun News, 14 claims from business owners have been filed with SC Department of Transportation officials. - Demotix.

SOLAR WATCH: Volcano & Earthquake Alerts - Coronal Mass Ejection Hits Earth's Magnetic Field, as a Line of Sinuous Sunspots Stretch Across the Sun!

According to Space Weather, new sunspots are emerging on the Sun, as a solar wind flowing from the southern coronal hole heads towards the Earth.

As predicted by analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab, a coronal mass ejection (CME) hit Earth's magnetic field at approximately 2145 UT on Nov. 28th. The impact was weaker than expected, but it still produced bright auroras around the Arctic Circle. "I am really glad I decided to go out last night for the forecasted CME," says photographer Ole C. Salomonsen of Tromsø, Norway. "Mind-blowing auroras were all over the sky, and I was running like a madman between my two cameras to change composition throughout the night."

SINUOUS SUNSPOTS: A line of sunspots stretching across the sun's northern hemisphere appears to be an independent sequence of dark cores. A telescope tuned to the red glow of solar hydrogen, however, reveals something different. The sunspots are connected by sinuous filaments of magnetism. "These sunspots writhe and squirm energetically as they rotate away from us!" says John Nassr, who took the picture on Nov. 28th from his backyard observatory in Baguio, the Philippines. The connections suggest an interesting possibility. While each sunspot individually poses little threat for strong solar flares, an instability in one could start a chain reaction involving all, leading to a widespread eruption. Readers with solar telescopes are encouraged to monitor developments.
Here are the solar watch, and volcano / earthquake watch from The Solar Watcher:
CME Impact: At 21:30 UTC, the ACE Spacecraft detected a sudden burst of Solar Winds Increasing levels from 380 km/s to near 550 km/s. This indicated the arrival of the Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) sweeping past the spacecraft. A sudden impulse measuring 45nT was detected at 21:55 UTC. The K-Index did increase somewhat, however it did not reach geomagnetic storm status (Kp=4). Minor activity will be possible at very high latitudes.
WATCH: CME Impact / Solar Watch.

Targeting Coronal Hole(CH486) in the Southern Hemisphere. After analysis I have isolated 24-28° (+- 2°) S Latitude with solar symmetry to earth. Best fit regions for a possible 6.6 Magnitude Earthquake are: Antofagasta Chile, Atacama Chile, Salta Argentina, Santiago del Estero Argentina, South OF Fiji Region, Easter Islands Region or the Kermadec Islands Region.

Second watch is targeting the rear flank of the Coronal Hole(CH486) and isolated to 36-40° (+- 1°) S Latitude. Best mapped areas at risk for this event are: North Island New Zealand Region, Bio-Bio Chile, Mendoza Argentina. Possible magnitude 6.2-6.3. Time frame for this event suggests Dec 3-4.

OLR Anomalies this week are: Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Northern Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Northern Territory Australia, Hawaii, Straight Of Gibraltar and the Carlsberg Ridge.

Ionospheric anomalies this week are: Samoa Region, Solomon Islands and South West Indonesia.

Possible 5.5 Magnitude Earthquake for the South Sandwich Islands Region is also a possibility during this watch due to several newly formed coronal holes extending from the pole region.
WATCH: Volcano / Earthquake Watch Dec 1-4 , 2011.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Oklahoma Geological Anomalies - Massive 40 Feet Wide & 40 Feet Deep Sinkhole Appears Overnight?!

Residents in Beckham County near Sayre say a massive sinkhole suddenly appeared overnight. They say it's so big a small house can fit inside it. Jack Damron cares for the property and says the hole formed just two days after Oklahoma's last earthquake about two weeks ago.

Experts say it most likely isn't related. Either way, the hole is still growing day by day. "Kind of spooky. You don't want to mess with it today," Damron said. Because whatever lies beneath the flat Oklahoma soil, isn't quite finished. "We've got to let it finish settling, because we don't know how deep it's going to get. It's still growing," he said "When it first formed you could actually sit here for 30 minutes and see stuff just move."

Damron has been farming the land where the sinkhole formed for nearly 20 years, but overnight he says the hole suddenly appeared. It's a pretty scary scenario considering he's been driving tractors over this exact spot, never dreaming the ground beneath him could give way and collapse. "You can see the tractor went right over it. It would have swallowed the tractor," he said. "We had a lot of onlookers." The sinkhole is about 40 feet deep and 40 feet wide. "Glad my house wasn't over it," neighbor Tony Bills said. Sinkholes are not uncommon in western Oklahoma, but how this one got here is still unknown. "Man, I don't know," Damron said. Geologists at the Oklahoma Geological Survey say several things could have caused the sinkhole including salt or rock formations dissolving or a drought. They also say old coal mines are often full of water and when that water drains, there is no support causing the soil above it to collapse. - KFOR.
WATCH: Massive sinkhole in Oklahoma.

EXTINCTION LEVEL EVENT: Total Wipeout - Humans Could Join List of Threatened Species in a Mass Extinction!

20,000 species are being lost each year. The cause of these extinctions is being blamed on the number of humans and their consumption habits.

It is 65m years since an asteroid is believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs, along with three-quarters of the species in existence at the time. Now, some scientists believe we are in the middle of another period of mass extinction and this time it could include us. In 1953, there were about 2.5bn people on earth. Today there are 7bn. We have nearly trebled our numbers in half a century. Mankind’s expansion has led to overexploitation of natural resources, causing a series of potentially devastating effects, including climate change, ocean acidification, ozone depletion and the spread of invasive flora and fauna. Douglas Crawford-Brown, director of the Cambridge Centre for Climate Change Mitigation Research in the UK, estimates the earth is losing about 20,000 species a year: “The real cause of this loss of diversity is habitat destruction, driven by the number of people and how much they’re consuming.” His view is shared by Prince Charles, who referred to himself as a member of an “endangered species” in his inaugural speech as president of the Worldwide Wildlife Fund in September.

He said that without biodiversity, which is severely threatened, we will not be able to survive, and he called for a “sustainability revolution” that would transform the world economy, so that growth does not come at the expense of nature. However, not everyone takes such an extreme view. While civilisation as we know it may collapse, complete extinction of the human race is unlikely, says Niles Eldredge, curator emeritus at the American Museum of Natural History, New York. “The species would probably cling on, rather as in the Amazon there are still tribes speaking languages related to those of the Mayans and the Incas.”
Dr Eldredge suggests the “system” would collapse first, as happened in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. “On the other hand, nobody could imagine extinction of the passenger pigeon in the US – there were millions,” he points out. The last died in a Cincinnati zoo in 1914, and the same almost happened to American bison, which, from millions in the 19th century, at one point fell to a few hundred individuals. “We can’t say just because there are 7bn people it would be impossible to erase them.”

Scientists believe the planet could support up to 13bn or 15bn, possibly even more. But protecting the human race is partly a matter of sharing resources more equally, says David Nally, geography lecturer at Cambridge university, UK. “The number of obese is higher than the number of starving, and there is lots of surplus; the amount of waste in the US alone would be enough to feed the world’s malnourished.” Dr Eldredge agrees the distribution of wealth needs to be more even. “In the mid-1990s, Americans had more than their share of the world’s resources, and now they have more – and wealth is now concentrated in a smaller percentage of the US population.” Although the Horn of Africa is rich in minerals such as diamonds, gold and uranium, its land is being bought by countries such as Yemen, Saudi Arabia and China for their own use. So resources are not being used for the benefit of local people. Legislation is needed to protect farmland, for example by requiring the use of crop rotation and natural means of fixing nitrogen in soil, says Mr Nally. “We need regulations so resources can’t be pillaged with impunity.” A different economic approach is needed, he says. For example, he suggests the ending of agricultural subsidies in rich countries that make farming uneconomic in the developing world. Companies selling pesticides and fertilisers say they are essential to feed the world’s population, However, Mr Nally says: “But in costing such systems, we don’t take into account the destruction of habitats or how nitrogen causes acidification when washed into lakes, rivers and the sea.” He adds: “The good news is that if we can have a negative impact, we can also have a positive one.”

Economic prosperity, along with education and a culture of women working, tends to lead to a reduction in birth rates, he points out. There are promising signs. Mr Crawford cites financial incentives being introduced to stop the burning of forests to plant crops. “The European Union has taken a big lead in this, and the UK has tried hard too, with programmes that pay people to keep virgin forests in the Pacific Islands.” There are programmes that encourage farmers to plant diverse crops rather than the same few strains of rice, corn and wheat. It is difficult ensure funds end up in the right place, but progress is being made, Mr Crawford says. He is not convinced that we are facing the sort of mass extinction that would follow an asteroid hitting Earth. That goes beyond what science can determine, he says, but loss of biodiversity deserves just as much attention as climate change. For the developed world, protecting biodiversity tends to mean nature conservation, saving pandas and tigers, says Dr Crawford. “But for the vast majority of the 4bn people living at the bottom of the economic pyramid, in aching poverty, when the ecosystem is damaged it affects their livelihood.” - FT.

ANCIENT ALIENS: Season 3 - Aliens and the Creation of Man!

Ancient Aliens.
The History Channel continues its popular series on extraterrestrials, alien theorists and ancient civilizations with season three of Ancient Aliens.

The following video playlist constitutes program sixteen, entitled Aliens and the Creation of Man and runs for 44 minutes. It examines whether humans were seeded and developed on this planet through the intervention of extraterrestrials.

"Why are humans so different from every other species on Earth? Did we evolve from ape--or is our intelligence the result of contact with an otherworldly source? Could unexplained advances in human evolution be the work of interstellar beings? 10,000-year-old petroglyphs link our ancient ancestors with star beings. Might evidence of alien contact help unlock the mystery of the Creation of Man?" - The History Channel.

WATCH: Aliens and the Creation of Man.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Orange Alert - Ecuador's Government Urges Residents to Evacuate as the Tungurahua Volcano Violently Spews Out Fiery Rocks!

According to the Associated Press, Ecuador's government is urging four villages to evacuate because of increased activity in the Tungurahua volcano not far from the country's capital. Authorities in the South American nation say about 700 people live in the mainly farming communities on the slopes of the volcano in the Andes.

Ecuador's Tungurahua volcano spewed red-hot rock and ash Tuesday as officials upgraded their eruption warning level to orange and some at-risk communities began evacuations. The 5,029-meter (16,500-foot) volcano in the country's central Andes, about 135 kilometers (84 miles) south of the capital Quito, has been active since 1999 but its thermal activity has steadily increased since Sunday, sending pyroclastic boulders into the air and cascading down from the summit. Good weather prevailed on Monday night, allowing scientists to observe ``the continuous output of incandescent material,'' the Geophysical Institute said in its latest report.

``This activity was characterized by the expulsion of incandescent boulders, rising more than 300 meters above the crater and rolling down all sides of the volcano.'' The increased activity prompted authorities to raise the alert level from yellow to orange, just below the highest alert level or red, in the impact zone which includes several communities on the volcano's slopes, according to the National Secretariat for Risk Management (SNGR). Authorities have inspected and prepared shelters ahead of possible evacuation orders, while the military and police were being told to coordinate efforts in the area, SNGR said. ``Given the level of alert, populations located in risk areas such as Cusua, Juive, Palictahua and Manzano voluntarily evacuated to safer locations,'' the relief agency said Monday.

The Geophysical Institute on Tuesday recommended people leave high-risk areas ``because the current eruption process began abruptly and has generated several pyroclastic flows that have affected the upper flanks of the volcano.'' Several communities in the shadow of Tungurahua, including the tourist town of Banos with 15,000 people, were forced to evacuate during the volcano's violent eruption in 1999. Residents could only return to their homes one year later. A red alert was declared last December when Tungurahua _ which means ``Throat of Fire'' in the indigenous Quechua language _ reactivated, prompting a temporary evacuation of residents and tourists. - Bangkok Post.
WATCH: Eruption of the Tungurahua Volcano, seven months ago.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Antarctica Climate Crisis - Scientists Sound Alarm Over Southern Ocean Warming!

New research shows the Southern Ocean is storing more heat than any other ocean in the world.

The study, carried out by Tasmania's Antarctic Climate and Ecosystem centre, has found that carbon dioxide levels in the Southern Ocean will be corrosive to some shellfish by 2030 if current trends continue. Scientists say deep moving currents around Antarctica are the reason why the Southern Ocean is warming faster than other oceans. "The Southern Ocean occupies about 22 per cent of the area of the total ocean, and yet it absorbs about 40 per cent of the carbon dioxide that's stored by the ocean and about half the heat that's stored by the ocean," climate scientist Steve Rintoul says.

Dr Rintoul says the warming extends for four kilometres, from the ocean surface to the sea floor. He says satellite measurements show the Southern Ocean has been warming by about 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade. "One of the impacts of a warming ocean may be that the ice that flows off Antarctica into the ocean may melt more rapidly," he said. "Once that ice reaches the ocean and is floating, if we melt it, it doesn't change the sea level because that ice is already floating, just like an ice cube in your drink, when it melts it doesn't cause the cup to overflow. "But what does happen is that as the ice floating around the edge of Antarctica thins and breaks up and disappears, the ice that's on the continent slides off the continent into the sea more rapidly, and that does increase sea level rise. "In the last few years we found that some parts of Antarctica are thinning rapidly, indicating that ice is flowing off the continent into the ocean and causing an increase in sea level."

The Southern Ocean has helped absorb the Earth's excess heat and carbon dioxide. But Dr Rintoul says as carbon dioxide dissolves, it changes the chemistry of sea water. "As we dissolve carbon dioxide in the ocean we change the chemistry and eventually we'll cross the threshold between waters [where] the shells are stable, and waters where the sea water's actually corrosive to the shell material and starts to dissolve the shells that the animals are making," he warned. "We used to think that threshold would be crossed in about 2050 in the Southern Ocean. We now understand that that's likely to happen a few decades earlier, perhaps as soon as 2030. "This is important in part because animals that make these shells are important prey for bigger animals like whales." The research is a collation of more than 40 peer-reviewed publications. - ABC News.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Yellowstone Deformations - Geologists Are Monitoring Yellowstone's Underground Shifts!

Geologists here are getting a better feel for what’s going on beneath Yellowstone’s 2.2 million acres of ever-shifting earth thanks to advances in technology.

Last week, park officials released Yellowstone’s “vital signs” report, documenting more than 24 natural resource indicators that affect the park’s ecological and environmental stability, from wildlife disease to climate change. The report also noted the park’s geological activity. The ground near the White Lake recording station has swelled 25 centimeters — more than 10 inches — since 2004, while more than 3,200 earthquakes rattled the park in 2010 — the largest concentration of tremors recorded since 1985. Knowing what it all means, however, remains something of a mystery. “Yellowstone seems to breathe,” said Yellowstone’s chief geologist, Hank Heasler. “That’s the best way to describe it. It goes through cycles of uplift and subsidence. That detailed pattern of ground deformation, well, we’re still in the process of figuring that out.”

Heasler attributed the increase in geological events to improving technology. Scientists can now detect earthquakes that passed unnoticed just 30 years ago. Deformations in the ground can be measured down to the millimeter. To say there are more earthquakes now than before, Heasler said, is akin to saying people get more phone calls now than they did 30 years ago. Technology makes the difference. “We’re finally getting good enough technology to suggest models over what’s causing the ground deformation,” Heasler said. “There are some very good ideas, and some scientists are very passionate about their theories. But we’re still in the debate phase, and that’s one of the more fascinating components of science.”

Yellowstone has bulged and shifted in various places over the years. Between 1996 and 2002, Heasler said, an area near Norris Junction lifted 12 centimeters as Yellowstone’s central caldera sank. “There might be a slow inhalation in one area and an exhalation in another,” Heasler said. “We need more data to really confirm the exact pattern and cause. But there are two great ideas out there that try to explain the deformation.” The deformation may be related to Yellowstone’s vast hydrothermal system, Heasler said. Like a blister under the skin, the park bulges and shifts under pressure.

Molten rock underlies the second theory. As the red-hot balloon of magma and gas moves toward the surface, Heasler said, it causes the ground to lift. “As an independent scientist, I can say both models have problems,” Heasler said. “There’s a lot of great work and scientific debate going on to understand what this ground deformation is really telling us.” The park is not only rising and falling, it’s also moving side to side. Over a four-month period in 2010, Yellowstone endured a swarm of 2,500 earthquakes — a swarm being “more earthquakes than normal in any period of time.” The temblors varied up to magnitude 3.8, which was recorded on Jan. 20. “People in this park can feel down to a magnitude 2.2 or so, depending on how sensitive they are and where they are,” Heasler said. “But if you put all the 2010 quakes into a single earthquake, it would only be equal to a magnitude 4.4.”

In comparison, the single strongest quake in the 1985 swarm measured 4.5. That swarm of quakes 26 years ago packed more energy than the latest swarm — so much so, Heasler said, people began leaving the West Yellowstone area. “They got tired of being rattled,” Heasler said. “With this 2010 swarm, we had 16 earthquakes felt in the Old Faithful area. Swarms are just a way of life in Yellowstone.” Yellowstone has experienced about 90 swarms since the mid-1990s alone. While some look at the figures and suggest that the world’s largest volcanic feature is beginning to stir, Heasler cautioned about jumping to such conclusions. “The seismometers have improved immensely,” Heasler said. “They’re able to sense an order of smaller magnitude earthquakes that seismographs in the early 1980s couldn’t.”

In the 1930s, park surveyors established benchmarks along Yellowstone’s interior roads noting their elevation. In the 1970s, as crews went back to relocate the benchmarks, they found the old readings off by as much as two feet. While they first believed that the earlier surveyors had taken sloppy readings, they soon realized that their readings hadn’t been wrong. Areas of the park had actually risen, something geologists are keenly aware of today. If a big volcanic eruption were coming, Heasler said, geologists would see it coming well in advance. And that’s not what the data is telling them. “Our monitoring not only allows us to see subtle changes, but it can also be used to predict a large eruption, or even a minor one. The bigger the eruption, the more indicators you’ll have and the farther in advance you’ll have them.”

Heasler said it’s not impossible that Yellowstone could experience a small eruption with little notice. The elements are there — earthquake swarms, ground deformations, thermal venting and volcanic gases. Yet the events aren’t occurring at the magnitude needed for something big, Heasler said, and they’re not occurring over the same spot. Yellowstone has seen 80 lava flows since the last giant eruption 640,000 years ago, Heasler said, and each of those technically classifies as an eruption. “Those areas of smaller eruptions are the most likely type that would occur,” Heasler said. “There’s always the possibility of a Hawaiian-type volcano that would only affect a small region of Yellowstone. But it wouldn’t have any regional catastrophic effects.” - Billings Gazette.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Seismic Swarm - Oklahoma Continues String of Recent Mild Earthquakes!

The generally placid, well-mannered state of Oklahoma has developed a very West Coast habit of late: the state, it seems, has got the shakes.

Oklahoma has been hit by nine earthquakes since last Monday, most of them concentrated in the area just east of Oklahoma City, according to the National Earthquake Information Center, a division of the United States Geological Survey. The recent tremors have all been slight — the strongest, which hit Thursday, had a magnitude of 3.7 — the sort of event that makes a water glass tremble, but will not knock the wedding china to the floor. Nonetheless, residents accustomed to more stable ground beneath their feet have been startled. “It’s certainly getting a lot of people’s attention,” said Austin Holland, a research seismologist with the Oklahoma Geological Survey.

Oklahoma lies in the middle of the North American tectonic plate, as opposed to more quake-prone areas like Japan or California, where plates rub together. But there are fault lines that run through the state. Last week’s quakes came as part of a larger period of increased activity that stretches back at least six weeks, the National Earthquake Information Center said. This month, at least 23 earthquakes were recorded in a single weekend, one with a magnitude of 5.6. That Sunday, Oklahoma residents awoke to collapsed chimneys and sections of buckled highway.

“It’s been going on for quite a while,” said Don Blakeman, a geophysicist at the National Earthquake Information Center. “We don’t know exactly why it occurs, but it doesn’t indicate that anything huge and terrible is going to happen.” But Mr. Holland said that increased earthquake activity in Oklahoma could be traced back as far as two years. Possible causes, including the process of extracting oil and gas from the ground below, are still under investigation, he said. “It keeps me up at night,” Mr. Holland said. But Oklahomans should not be nervous, he added. “It’s because I’m curious.”

PLANETARY TREMORS: 6.0 Quake Rocks Northern Philippines!

A strong magnitude 6 earthquake struck off Zambales province in northern Philippines on Wednesday morning.

An official said an earthquake with a magnitude of 6 shook the capital and parts of the northern Philippines. There are no immediate reports of damages or injuries. Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology chief Renato Solidum said movement in the Manila Trench off the country's western coast set off the earthquake Wednesday but it occurred deep under the ocean floor and did not cause any destruction.

Solidum said the quake was felt in metropolitan Manila and in the nearby provinces of Zambales, Bulacan, Pangasinan and in the mountain resort city of Baguio. The Philippines is located in the Pacific "Ring of Fire" where earthquakes and volcanic activity are common. A magnitude-7.7 quake killed nearly 2,000 people in Luzon in 1990. - USA Today.
Intensity was also felt in Quezon City; Manila; Mandaluyong City; Ortigas, Pasig; Makati City; Obando, Bulacan; and Baguio City. The following aftershocks were recorded:

8:41 a.m. – magnitude 3.1 (94 kms northwest of Palauig)
9:07 a.m. – magnitude 2.9 (103 kms northwest of Palauig)
9:27 a.m. – magnitude 3.8 (90 kms northwest of Palauig)

More aftershocks are expected given the earthquake’s high magnitude.

A separate report from the US Geological Survey (USGS) also measured the magnitude of the earthquake at 6.0. The agency said the earthquake took place 230 kms west northwest of Manila.

THE GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS: United Nations - Quarter of World's Farmland Degraded!

The United Nations has completed the first-ever global assessment of the state of the planet's land resources, finding in a report today that a quarter of all farmland is highly degraded and warning the trend must be reversed if the world's growing population is to be fed.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that farmers will have to produce 70 per cent more food by 2050 to meet the needs of the world's expected nine billion-strong population. That amounts to one billion tons more wheat, rice and other cereals and 200 million more tons of cow and other livestock. But as it is, most available farmland is already being farmed, and in ways that actually decrease its productivity through practices that lead to soil erosion and wasting of water. That means that to meet the world's future food needs, a major "sustainable intensification" of agricultural productivity on existing farmland will be necessary, the FAO said in ``State of the World's Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture". The report was released today, as delegates from around the world meet in Durban, South Africa, for a two-week UN climate change conference aimed at breaking the deadlock on how to curb emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants.

The report found that climate change coupled with poor farming practices had contributed to a decrease in productivity of the world's farmland following the boon years of the Green Revolution, when crop yields soared thanks to new technologies, pesticides and the introduction of high-yield crops. Thanks to the Green Revolution, the world's cropland grew by just 12 per cent but food productivity increased by 150 per cent between 1961 and 2009. But the UN report found that rates of growth have been slowing down in many areas and today are only half of what they were at the peak of the Green Revolution. It found that 25 per cent of the world's farmland is now "highly degraded", with soil erosion, water degradation and biodiversity loss. Another eight per cent is moderately degraded, while 36 per cent is stable or slightly degraded and 10 per cent is ranked as "improving". The rest of the Earth's surface is either bare or covered by inland water bodies. - Herald Sun.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Arctic Sea Ice Melting Faster!

Global sea level is currently rising as a result of both ocean thermal expansion and glacier melt, with each accounting for about half of the observed sea level rise, and each caused by recent increases in global mean temperature.

For the period 1961-2003, the observed sea level rise due to thermal expansion was 0.42 millimeters per year and 0.69 millimeters per year due to total glacier melt (small glaciers, ice caps, ice sheets) (IPCC 2007). Between 1993 and 2003, the contribution to sea level rise increased for both sources to 1.60 millimeters per year and 1.19 millimeters per year respectively (IPCC 2007). Antarctica and Greenland, the world's largest ice sheets, make up the vast majority of the Earth's ice. If these ice sheets melted entirely, sea level would rise by more than 70 meters. However, current estimates indicate that mass balance for the Antarctic ice sheet is in approximate equilibrium and may represent only about 10 percent of the current contribution to sea level rise coming from glaciers.

However, some localized areas of the Antarctic have recently shown significant negative balance, e.g., Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers, and glaciers on the Antarctic Peninsula. There is still much uncertainty about accumulation rates in Antarctica, especially on the East Antarctic Plateau. The Greenland Ice Sheet may be contributing about 30 percent of all glacier melt to rising sea level. Furthermore, recent observations show evidence for increased ice flow rates in some regions of the Greenland Ice Sheet, suggesting that ice dynamics may be a key factor in the response of coastal glaciers and ice sheets to climate change and their role in sea level rise. In contrast to the polar regions, the network of lower latitude small glaciers and ice caps, although making up only about four percent of the total land ice area or about 760,000 square kilometers, may have provided as much as 60 percent of the total glacier contribution to sea level change since 1990s. - NSIDC.
WATCH: Arctic Sea Ice Melting Faster

EXTREME WEATHER: Weather Anomalies - Toronto Drenched in Record-Breaking Rainfall!

Toronto has gotten a major soaking and Tuesday’s rainfall has set a new one-day record.

As of 7 p.m., Pearson airport got 42.2 millimetres of rain, exceeding the previous one-day rainfall record of 20.2 millimetres set in 2005. Environment Canada issued a special weather statement about the potential for heavy rainfall which encompasses a large swath of southern Ontario, including Toronto and the GTA, Barrie, Hamilton, Peterborough and as far east as Ottawa.

The Toronto Region Conservation Authority also issued a high water safety bulletin warning of high water levels in rivers and streams. Freezing rain prompted school bus cancellations in Muskoka on Tuesday morning. A large and slow-moving low pressure system was responsible for the soggy conditions. It was also windy, but at least it was relatively mild with a forecast high of 8 C. The temperature is set to drop a few degrees Wednesday to 4 C with the chance of some wet snow. - City TV.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Chile Volcano Ash Disrupts Flights!

The ongoing risk from an active South American volcano in Chile continues to cause disruption of flights by airlines.

Ash from Chile’s Puyehue volcano caused flight delays and cancellations Saturday out of Uruguay after a week of frustrations for air travelers here, officials said. Flights to and from Buenos Aires were scrapped due to the danger, while international flights by Spanish flag carrier Iberia to and from Madrid faced heavy delays as authorities assessed the risks from the ash cloud. One Spain-bound Iberia flight was rescheduled for Sunday.

Since the volcano’s eruption on June 4, air travel in much of the southern cone of South America, and as far away as Australia, has been periodically disrupted by ash clouds streaming east out of the Chilean Andes. Chile’s National Geology and Mining Service said that ash from the Puyehue volcano — which continues belching, though at a lower intensity — could affect air travel for months. Airlines fear the ash can play havoc with aircraft engines. - Vancouver Sun.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Daily Eruptions at Japan's Sakurajima Volcano!

The ongoing eruptions continue at Sakurajima Volcano in Japan. Today, we see resumed activity. Sizeable projectiles of volcanic lava bombs, launched thousands of feet into the air.

An alert was issued several weeks ago, by the Tokyo Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC), the japanese agency which monitors the volcano. The alert covers the threat of a large eruption covering multiple miles of the surrounding area with heavy ash and also threat of pyroclastic flow from the mountain. 

Here is the Weekly Volcanic Activity Report from the Smithsonian's Global Volcanism Program and the US Geological Survey's Volcano Hazards Program.
Based on information from JMA, the Tokyo VAAC reported that during 16-17 and 19-22 November explosions from Sakura-jima produced plumes that rose to altitudes of 1.8-3 km (6,000-10,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted S, SE, E, and N. Satellite imagery on 16 and 21 November showed ash emissions that later dissipated. On 19 November a pilot reported an ash plume at an altitude of 3 km (10,000 ft) a.s.l.

Geologic Summary. Sakura-jima, one of Japan's most active volcanoes, is a post-caldera cone of the Aira caldera at the northern half of Kagoshima Bay. Eruption of the voluminous Ito pyroclastic flow was associated with the formation of the 17 x 23-km-wide Aira caldera about 22,000 years ago. The construction of Sakura-jima began about 13,000 years ago and built an island that was finally joined to the Osumi Peninsula during the major explosive and effusive eruption of 1914. Activity at the Kita-dake summit cone ended about 4,850 years ago, after which eruptions took place at Minami-dake. Frequent historical eruptions, recorded since the 8th century, have deposited ash on Kagoshima, one of Kyushu's largest cities, located across Kagoshima Bay only 8 km from the summit. The largest historical eruption took place during 1471-76.
WATCH: Sakurajima eruption with static discharge lightning.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

PLANETARY TREMORS: Seismic Swarm - More Quakes Hit Central Vietnam!

A minor earthquake, the third in a month, shook the central province of Quang Nam in Vietnam, Sunday night, local authorities said.

Dang Phong, chairman of the Bac Tra My District People’s Committee, told Tuoi Tre newspaper the quake had shaken glasses, cups, and furniture in his house. There were many aftershocks until early the following morning, he said, adding many residents had rushed out of their houses for fear of being crushed by furniture. The magnitude of the earthquake is not known yet. Also Sunday evening a small quake lasting 30 seconds shook Nam Tra My District in Quang Nam. No damage was reported.

On Nov 17 a 3.5-magnitude earthquake accompanied by subterranean noises shook the Bac Tra My District. Terrified residents fled their homes in the middle of the night as the sounds lasted more than six hours until early the following morning. Scientists said the quake could have been caused by the construction of the Song Tranh 2 Hydropower Plant in the vicinity. Dr Cao Dinh Trieu of the Institute of Geophysics said the earthquake could have occurred because water from the Song Tranh 2 reservoir had been absorbed into the faultline in the area and caused the seismic waves and the explosions. Phong said the local authorities had reported to the Quang Nam Province Department of Science and Technology, but it had yet to arrive at a conclusion about the cause of the earthquakes. - Thanhniennews.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Warm Weather in Washington - Temperature Sunday Hits Record 70 Degrees at Dulles?!

“Feels like mid-April” said a post on the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang site. “Amazing weather!” exclaimed another.

It was unusually warm in the Washington area Sunday, warm enough to set a record at one of the area’s airports and warmer than it might get for the rest of the year.

Temperatures at all three of the area’s airports reached into the 70s, and at Dulles International Airport, the maximum of 70 was a record. The old record at Dulles was 68, set in 1976. At Reagan National Airport, where Washington’s official readings are made, it was even warmer, 72 degrees. That made for an enjoyable afternoon for many, but it fell three degrees short of the record of 75, set 115 years ago. “Feels like mid-April” said a post on the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang site. “Amazing weather!” exclaimed another. 

Travelers returning to the area after the Thanksgiving weekend found it much warmer than in Chicago, where Sunday’s high was 46, or Cleveland, where the high was 59, or New York, where the Central Park high was 63. It was just a little cooler in Washington than Atlanta’s 73, or at Raleigh-Durham airport in North Carolina, where 75 was measured. According to a National Weather Service analysis of Washington weather data, 2011 has about a 50-50 chance of ending without another day quite so warm or atmospherically amazing as Sunday.

An examination of Washington records going back to 1872 shows that in all the years since then, temperatures from Nov. 28 to Dec. 31 have reached 70 only 70 times, the weather service said. That means, the service said, that a 70-degree day from now to year’s end occurs, on average, about once every two years, which suggests that residents and visitors who rejoiced in Sunday’s balmy sunshine and shirt-sleeve conditions may not see anything quite like it again in the last 34 days of this year. In a Sunday forecast, The Post’s weather gang anticipated that the highs Monday would reach the 60s. The weather service also called for 60s. But it said that more sunshine would make possible another 70-degree day. Sunday was Washington’s second-warmest day this month at National, one degree short of the high of 73 reached Nov. 14. - Washington Post.

EXTREME WEATHER: The Zimbabwe Heatwave - Country Experiences Record-Breaking Temperatures Over the Past Several Weeks!

In the past few weeks, Zimbabwe experienced record-breaking temperatures which saw temperatures in some parts of the country soaring to 46 degrees Celsius, pretty extreme than ever in the last half a century.

The country was abuzz with talk over the sweltering heat. "Iyi ndiyo climate change chaiyo," a young woman remarked fanning himself with a hat in a street in the city centre. But does a mere variation in temperature mean that Zimbabwe is now experiencing climate change? A workshop held recently on climate change organised by the Community technology Development Trust (a local NGO) was a good one to check on how seasonal climate variations is stacking up against expectations. People's perception of climate change usually differ from the one held by academics and the scientific community. To most people, the fact that temperatures hit the 46 degree barrier in Chiredzi and Buffalo Range is a sure indicator of climate change in Zimbabwe. But for scientists, it is not enough to conclude that Zimbabwe is now experiencing climate change because of this sudden upsurge in temperature. "An extreme event is sometimes confused with climate change, although there might be some correlations, but this does not necessarily mean a changed climate," said Tirivanhu Muhwati, a weather expert from the Zimbabwe Meteorological Services Department. "We should not confuse temperature variations with climate change."

Climate change, he said, can be described as an identifiable statistical change in the state of the climate which persists for an extended period of time while climate variation referred to variations in the mean state and other statistics relating to the climate on all temporal and spatial scales beyond that of individual weather events. "For example, Harare has an average mean rainfall of 600mm per year and if this mean falls to 550mm then we can conclude that climate change has taken place. If this mean (600mm) does not change over say a 30-year period, then no climate change has taken place," the weather expert said. Muhwati presented statistical figures on rainfall patterns from around the 1900s to 2010 as well as temperature patterns from 1962 to 2008. Zimbabwe is increasingly experiencing temperature changes as a result of global warming or global climate disruption, as some meteorologists would argue. The Zimbabwe average minimum temperatures increased from 13 degrees Celsius in 1962 to 14 degrees Celsius by 2008 while average maximum temperatures went up from 26 degrees Celsius in 1962 to 27,2 degrees Celsius by 2008. "Debate is healthy as it helps us to do better analysis. The temperature data base goes back to 1962. Zimbabwe is experiencing a gradual increase in temperatures - year to year variability. It's showing an increasing trend," he said.

"One of the most contentious issues in the climate change debate is attribution. We need to prove that climate change is really taking place. The link is very difficult to explain. What evidence do you have that warming is causing a decrease in rainfall. This is what climate skeptics normally ask us." A University of Zimbabwe CTDT study report on the perception of smallholder farmers from UMP, Murehwa, Chiredzi and Tsholotsho of climate change indicated that the most prominent feature they identified as a sign of climate change included rainfall distribution change in rainfall patterns in the last 30 years, changes in temperature, changes in forest vegetation, recurrent droughts and very high ambient temperature, drying up of water sources, warm winter season and the extension of the winter season. "This is how they perceive climate change to be taking place. We had to conduct research to verify their perceptions with data on climate change from the Met Office," said Dr Emmanuel Mashonjowa of the UZ Agri-Meteorology Department.

"In all districts, farmers stated that rainfall amounts, and distribution, have changed in the past ten years. They say there has been a general decline in the rainfall amounts, recurrent droughts, drastic changes in the rainfall distribution - delayed onset dates of the rainy season and increased frequency and length of mid-season dry spells." Farmers, he also said, stated that the climate had become warmer in recent years with higher than normal day time temperatures, warm nights and warm winter seasons. "Farmers' perceptions of climate change generally agree with findings of analyses of rainfall and temperature data. These show that in the last 20-30 years, there has been an increase in rainfall variability and frequency and severity of droughts," Dr Mashonjowa said. Generally, according to the UZ-CTDT study, there was an observed delay in the onset dates of the rainy season in Chiredzi and UMP, shortening of the length of the growing period in these districts something that tallied with farmers' perceptions. Findings also suggest that there was general warming of temperatures in all the three districts by about 0,3 to 0,4 Degrees Celsius and that most of the warming occurred during the period after 1980 the period with higher than usual occurrences of droughts. - All Africa.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Seismologist - Trinidad and Tobago on the Cusp of Big Earthquake!

Trinidad and Tobago requires “serious political will” from Government and an almost equal contribution from civil society to provide funding and resources urgently to pre-finance and prepare for earthquakes and major disasters. “It requires Government and us as a people to make decisions quickly, and to act quickly,” seismologist at the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre (SRC), Dr Richard Robertson, has said.

Robertson made the comment at a recent workshop, titled “Lessons Drawn from the Seismological Experience in Chile and its Application to Trinidad and Tobago”, at City Hall, Port-of-Spain. “We have been monitoring seismic hazards for some time and we are exposed to the hazards, and can be impacted by a large magnitude earthquake. As professionals in the field, we don’t think as country or a region we have gotten it right,” he said. “There are initiatives from people like Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ), CARICOM, and people doing things locally, but we think they are moving too slow.”Research Fellow in Earthquake Engineering at the SRC, Dr Walter Salazar, said the Government, through the Town and Country Planning Division and SRC, had attempted to put things in place by initiating a Microzonation Database Programme.

The database, which will detail seismic hazard risk for all areas of the country, is being funded by Government and will cover a ten-year period. In an address on the occasion of World Town Planning Day on November 8, Planning Minister Bhoe Tewarie said, “It is hoped this project will guide the establishment of new building codes and modify site development standards that will take into consideration the potential and very real risks our present and future structures face from seismic activity.” It is necessary, he said, “for all new attempts at land use planning to be informed by hazardous assessments so that mitigation planning can be filtered into design and land use policy conceptualisation.” The issue of proper land planning and usage was reinforced by last weekend’s severe flooding in north-west Trinidad, which many attributed to the ill-advised removal of vegetation on hillsides by developers for housing. Addressing the issue earthquakes, Robertson said, “To get to the stage where we are resilient to seismic hazard, it will take years. We need to start, but we are taking too long to start. An earthquake may occur before anything could be done.” From interaction with engineers, he said, “we are concerned about the buildings environment and the extent to which they can withstand the kinds of events we would expect. We have lots of problems. How the buildings are built, problems with respect to regulations and codes.”

Dr Richard Robertson.

Most Caribbean islands, he said, have building codes that may not be up to date, but are regulated in terms of enforcement mechanisms. In addition to seismologist and engineers, he said more persons from other fields need to get involved in preparation for seismic hazards. The earthquake of January 12, 2010, in Haiti, he said, “should have, as a region, made us aware of the problems.” How Chile manages seismic hazards, he said, “should have indicated to us what we should move from and what we should move to in terms of our building stock.” Professor of Structural Engineering at the University of the Andes, Jorge Crempien, in addressing the earthquake problem in Chile, said Chilean seismic regulations started with the Chilean Ordinance for Construction (ChOC) in 1928 after the Talca earthquake. It addressed only construction issues. It was updated in 1939 after the Chillan earthquake that year. Following the 1960 “Great Earthquake”, the ChOC was complemented by the Seismic Design Code for buildings, which incorporated “the mandatory dynamic analysis of buildings”. The seismic design code, he said, restricted the design of buildings only to structural engineers for buildings of more than three stories.

The seismic design code, he said, had “tremendous success” in the 7.8 magnitude earthquake of 1985 in the central zone of Chile. After this earthquake, the code was updated to include seismic macro zones. The seismic data obtained from the seismic macro zones helped to define the code in use during the 2010 earthquake. “It worked very well,” Crempien said. Acting Director of the UWI Seismic Research Centre, Dr Joan Latchman, said, “Our engineers are expressing concern about the stock of our buildings, even those that are engineered.” The engineers in TT and the region, she noted, could learn from the Chilean experience. TT also needs to legislate on building codes, Latchman said, noting that a building code committee is currently looking to get a code that can be used here. Along with the code, she said, “there must be enforcement mechanisms in place to ensure monitoring at all stages of the building process to ensure that buildings meet code requirements.” “What we put in place now should stand. The resources that we are using to put these things in place are not renewable resources. When we spend that money foolishly investing in something that is going to fall down the next time we have a major earthquake, we must ask ourselves ‘Where are the resources coming from?’” Research Fellow in Earthquake Engineering at the SRC, Dr Walter Salazar, said the priority for TT is to conduct risk assessment in critical facilities and public buildings, such as hospitals and schools, that have high levels of occupancy, and economic installations.

Research Fellow in Instrumentation at the SRC, Lloyd Lynch, said, “The truth is that no assessment has been done to determine how safe public buildings are.” Indicators such as building codes in keeping with international standards, building standards and practices, and monitoring and inspection of the construction process, would determine the safety of buildings, Lynch said. Engineers at the seminar expressed concern that these indicators were either absent or inferior to international standards. Even before a building goes up, Lynch said, strong local government institutions, such as Town and Country Planning, should ensure that a location or site is suitable to build on. “Unfortunately, our institutions have not been effective in putting measures in place. Even buildings that are engineered have deficiencies because of the lack of quality assurance and monitoring.” Giving the reason for the absence of an up-to-date building code, Lynch said that engineering professionals in the 1970s recognised that benefits were to be obtained from the use of the code. “At that time, attempts were made to put together a Caribbean unified building code. It was 75 per cent complete in the late 1980s. By the time it was completed the world had moved on. In the early 1990s, the three organisations governing building codes in the US formed an International Building Code Council and introduced ‘The International Building Code’, which was radically different from the previous codes. This rendered the Caribbean effort at obtaining a regional code obsolete.” On pre-financing for disasters, Lynch said that Government subscribes to the Caribbean Catastrophic Risk Insurance Facility (CRIFT), which was set up to provide quick funds to take care of contingency expenses in a disaster until more permanent arrangements could be made. Apart from CRIFT, he said, “We have private insurance but the amount of private insurance for disasters in the Caribbean is rather low.“Less than 15 per cent of infrastructure is insured. Even those that are insured, are under-insured.” Insurance regulations, he said, “are so archaic we risk the possibility that in the event of a large earthquake or any major catastrophe, some of these insurance firms will go insolvent.”

Another problem, he said, is that many companies do not submit financial statements on a timely basis, so things can go awry without being detected. Governments need to put aside more funding to deal with major disasters that will inflict huge financial losses, because they will be faced with huge contingent liability. “We need to look at things such as a residential catastrophe pool, or a business contingency pool or insurances for businesses. It will need radical changes in terms of incentives that government gives to financial entities such as insurances companies,” he said. “We need to accept the fact that before all these measures are put in place, we could get a large earthquake and as such, we need to have measures in place to pre-finance the disaster so that businesses can recover quickly.” Given all that is at stake, Lynch said that if Government was serious about sustainable development, and meeting the Millennium Development Goal “it would be necessary to spend more on preparedness for earthquakes”. Since the country had gained political independence, he said the economy had grown four times. However, this growth has gone in areas of human development and standard of living, noting citizens benefit from Government’s Chronic Disease Assistance Programme; students benefit from Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses and the population benefit from gas subsidies. A large earthquake, or a shallow moderate one occurring under San Fernando or Port-of-Spain, he said, “can easily inflict damage that is so large that a lot of these subsidies will have to be taken away. The budget would have to be adjusted so as to make amends for the damage inflicted, and all of those development gains will go out the door.” Questioning the amount of capital invested in the accumulation of buildings and infrastructure, including bridges and overpasses, he said, “In an earthquake, a lot of that could be shaken to rubbles in seconds. It is very important we pay more attention to this. It is inevitable.”

Earthquakes in developing countries, he said, tend to be quite costly in terms of the amount of repairs that need to be done to infrastructure afterwards, business opportunities lost and the impact on human societies based on lives lost. Some of the preliminary estimates that have been done, he said, indicate that an earthquake could wreak damage in the tune of US$6 billion in San Fernando alone. Residential housing stock alone in Port-of-Spain could be in the sum of TT$10 million. “We have to work hastily to start putting measures in place to start transforming the building stock and to put emergency measures in place to respond to the inevitable,” he said. The level of shaking of the earthquake and the depth determines the extent of damage, the experts said. Dr Latchman said a shallow 5.8 magnitude earthquake destroyed Managua in 1972 because it occurred at a depth of seven kilometres right under the Nicaraguan city. “We have a shallow earthquake in the magnitude range of 6.1 to 6.5 on the Richter scale occurring every ten or so years somewhere around Trinidad that could destroy a city within seconds,” she said. “All of these earthquakes, had they occurred under Port-of-Spain, would have been completely devastating. “It is just that they have been slapping at our heels, occurring off the island. It just takes one such earthquake to occur under Port-of-Spain or San Fernando and it would be a completely different story.” In San Fernando, Lynch said, the SRC has uncovered in recent times geologic structures in the Central Range Fault that “may be accumulating strain and could rupture sometime in the future”. He said these geological structures cut right through some of the most productive regions of the island, including Point Lisas, San Fernando’s residential areas and Point-a-Pierre. In the event of a large earthquake, these communities will suffer strong shaking and are likely to experience huge amount of damage. As nationals, Lachman said, “we need to take some personal responsibility for our own safety, given that we would be living in structures that may not live up to a massive earthquake. So we need to have our disaster bag, medical kit batteries, torch- lights and have them stocked. Have family plan at every time. Earthquake has no respect for season. They can occur at any time of the year.” - News Day.

PLANETARY TREMORS: 6.4 Quake Strikes Papua New Guinea!

A strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck off Papua New Guinea's remote New Britain region on Monday but there was no danger of a tsunami, seismologists said.

USGS map of the Papua New Guinea quake.
The US Geological Survey said the quake hit at 10:26 pm (1226 GMT) at a depth of 50 kilometres (30 miles) about 221 kilometres southeast of Rabaul, New Britain. Geoscience Australia gave the quake a preliminary measurement of magnitude 6.0. The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there were no tsunami warnings or advisories in effect following the quake.

Quakes of such magnitude are common in the New Britain region of Papua New Guinea, which sits on the so-called "Pacific Ring of Fire", a hotspot for seismic activity due to friction between tectonic plates. A 6.7-magnitude jolt hit the country last month but there were no reports of damage in the impoverished Pacific island state. A giant tsunami in 1998, caused by an undersea earthquake or a landslide, killed more than 2,000 people near Aitape, on the country's northwest coast. - Yahoo New Zealand.
Seismicity of the region.
On the 18th of October, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake has struck the New Britain Region, Papua New Guinea at a depth of 9.9 km (6.2 miles) and was located at 5.886°S, 150.994°E.

EXTREME WEATHER: Violent Storm Kills 6 in Durban, South Africa!

A violent storm killed six people in Durban and Pietermaritzburg in South Africa on Sunday night and destroyed scores of homes.

The extreme weather, which struck hours before the opening of the UN climate change conference in Durban, caused flooding and widespread damage. The Sunday night deaths brought the number of people killed by floods in KwaZulul-Natal to 11 in less than two weeks. Last week, five people died in the province due to heavy rains. KwaZulu-Natal cooperative governance department spokesman, Mthatheni Mabaso said six people were killed in Umlazi and Clermont townships, south and west of the city, on Sunday night. "We have been told they died when their houses collapsed. We have also been told that about 100 homes were flooded and damaged in Isipingo," he said on Monday. Homes were flooded in Durban's affluent areas such as Umhlanga and Newlands. "This shows that even the posh areas are not spared of the effects of climate change," said Mabaso.

Cooperative governance MEC Nomusa Dube would visit some of the affected areas on Monday. "She will be accompanied by her disaster management team. They will assess the damage," he said. Several people, including a one-year-old baby, were rescued from their Durban homes early on Monday after flash floods, Netcare 911 spokesman Chris Botha said. Families in four homes on Randles Road were stuck in waist-deep water after a heavy downfall. "At around 1am, Netcare 911 paramedics, their rescue team as well as the SAPS search and rescue were called to the four houses that had flooded to waist deep in the heavy rain.

"Rescue personnel assisted an elderly lady and a baby less than one year to safety. Both were treated for the cold and the elderly patient had to be treated for an asthma attack." In Pietermaritzburg several areas were damaged by heavy rains on Sunday night. Paulpietersburg, Gingindlovu, Nkandla and Eshowe were the most affected during last week's floods. Three people died in Paulpietersburg, and two in the eThekwini municipality. Up to 20,000 delegates from more than 190 countries are gathered in Durban to thrash out a plan to counter global warming and the catastrophic climate change, including extreme weather, it is causing in many parts of the world. - Times Live.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Weird Weather - Alabama Gets First November Snow in 35 Years!

Last night it wasn't the stars, but the snow that fell on Alabama.

It wasn't much, but yesterday (Nov. 28) was the first time since 1976 that Alabama has had snow during November. Making the day even weirder weather-wise, temperatures in the Deep South dipped to near the freezing point while temperatures in many places in the Northeast topped 70 F (21 C). New York City yesterday set a record high temperature of 70 F for the date, breaking a record set in 1896 and tied in 1990. The white stuff that fell across Alabama mostly fell in the northeast part of the state.

"It looks like they had an inch or so, maybe more," said Andy Kula, senior forecaster with the National Weather Service in Huntsville, Ala."None of it has really stuck because it's too warm on the ground." The most recent occurrences of November snow in Alabama came in 1976 when flakes fell on Huntsville and 1969 when snow came to Muscle Shoals, Kula told OurAmazingPlanet. Kula said snow and a wintry mix has been steadily falling on Huntsville since last night. The southern slide into winter is due to a "cold bubble" that has formed over the South, according to meteorologists. A large area of low pressure in the atmosphere has settled over the middle of the country. The bottom of that dip, or trough, has closed off into a large upper atmosphere low-pressure system - the cold bubble - centered over Mississippi. The cold bubble is on the move - slowly - toward Northeastern cities, where it should lose some energy, but could still bring wintery weather with it. - Our Amazing Planet.