Monday, May 16, 2011

PLANETARY TREMORS: Mt. Aso Volcano in Japan, raised to Level 2!

The Japan Meteorological Agency has raised the volcanic level for Mount Aso, the largest active volcano in Japan, to Level 2.

Visitors to Japan have been told not to go within one kilometre of Mount Naka, after the volcanic activity at Mount Aso was raised from level one to level two. The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), is concerned that debris from the active volcano could be launched from Mount Naka as well, the Associated Press reports. Earlier today (May 16th), a small eruption was recorded, with a 500-metre high plume of volcanic smoke observed in the skies during the morning. Mount Naka and Mount Aso are situated on Kyushu, Japan's third-largest island, and are they part of a range of five peaks in the central cone group. The nearby Mount Nakadake is a popular tourist spot, but is often closed off due to the volcanic gases it emits from time to time, so travellers with respiratory problems are not recommended to visit this site. - Inside Japan Tours.

EXTINCTION LEVEL EVENT: One-Fifth of ALL Vertebrate Species?!

According to Earth Times, one-fifth of all vertebrate species worldwide are threatened with extinction and many have undergone declines.
Several rabbit species also face similar circumstances and have become increasingly threatened with habitat loss. A new study, currently in press in Biological Conservation, identifies the provision of food supplements as a conservation measure to enhance rabbit survival. Last October a study published in Science listed one-fifth of the world's vertebrates as ''Threatened''. Moreover, this assessment, to which 174 scientists have contributed, clearly states that this figure is increasing, with an average 52 species of mammals, birds and amphibians moving one International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Redlist category closer to extinction each year. The main threats faced by these groups are agricultural expansion, logging, overexploitation, and invasive alien species. Rabbits have not been spared this drive to extinction, with intensified agricultural practices and land use changes reportedly suggested as the reason for the decline of several species, both in Europe and the US. The New England Cottontail (Sylvilagus transitionalis) is a rabbit species of New England, which populations have been reduced to 86 percent over the past 50 years, and to five disjunct populations that span less than 15% of the historic range of the species. This species is dependent upon forests and shrubland, which area has become increasingly reduced and fragmented, forcing the rabbits to move larger distances and to forage out of these patches to find food, and thus making them more visible to predators. This leads to increased likelihood of predation by coyotes and foxes. Researchers from the Department of Natural Resources and The Environment, from the University of New Hampshire in Durham, evaluated the use of supplemental food as an approach to improve overwinter survival rates. Rather than using the increasingly threatened New England Cottontail, they used eastern cottontails (Sylvilagus floridanus), as a research surrogate, because this species is readily available and has similar habitat requirements to New England cottontails. Transmitters were attached to rabbits to monitor their movement and feeders where periodically supplied with commercial rabbit chow. This strategy increased survival rates from 32 per cent in unfed rabbits to 70 per cent for those which had access to feeders, leading the researchers to conclude that supplemental feeding may improve survival of the remaining New England Cottontails. With several species worldwide facing extinction, as the activities of our own species remain the unique cause of the current mass extinction that characterises the present chronological period the Anthropocene, the long-term viability of such conservation measures is an important issue. While such techniques may be effective for rabbits, and several other charismatic species, conservation of the habitat is essential for maintaining biodiversity, of which hundreds of thousands of species (mainly invertebrates) remain unknown to science.

PLANETARY TREMORS: 5.0 Quake Strikes Jamaica, Causing Panic!

For the second time in just ten days, a moderate earthquake struck Jamaica, my homeland. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) the earthquake hit at 15:07:07 UTC or 10:07am local time and was located at 17.897°N, 77.895°W. The quake had a depth of 31.6 kilometres (km)or 19.6 miles. The epicentre was 62 km or 38 miles south of Montego Bay, the second city; 117 km or 72 miles west of Kingston, the capital city; 304 km or 188 miles southwest of Bayamo in Cuba; and 903 km or 561 miles southeast of Miami in Florida.

However, according our local newspapers, the magnitude on the Richter Scale is quite different than that indicated by the USGS.

Epicentre of the earthquake.
The earthquake which was felt islandwide this morning at 10:07 measured 5.0 on the Richter Scale, reports the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona Earthquake Unit.The unit reported that the epicentre was 20 kilometres offshore south of Black River in St Elizabeth. With a focal depth of 21 km, the unit said that it had intensity reports from Negril, Montego Bay, Mandeville, Santa Cruz, Spanish Town and Kingston... Eyewitnesses reported panic in Black River, St Elizabeth this morning following the magnitude 5.0 earthquake which struck 20 kilometres off the coast of the town. One man told the Observer that the quake shook goods off supermarket shelves and caused panic among his fellow shoppers. A businesswoman with premises on High Street in Black River reported feeling two jolts and said that the quake sent people “running up and down” and screaming. "People run out of the post office,” she said. “The zinc (roof of her store) was shaking and the light (electricity) wire dem on the pole just going to and fro.” Two hours after the quake struck at 10:07 am, the sea was described as "very calm”. The University of West Indies (UWI) Mona earlier reported that the quake had a focal depth of 21 km. The unit said that it had intensity reports from the towns of Negril, Montego Bay, Mandeville, Santa Cruz, Spanish Town and Kingston. Reports were also received by the Observer from residents in areas including Manchester, St Ann, St Mary and Kingston and St Andrew... THE tremor which hit Jamaica about 10:13 this morning was felt for about 10 seconds in central and western Jamaica, according to initial reports received by the Observer. Residents in western Jamaica, Manchester and St Ann reported the shock as "powerful". "It was very powerful, I felt my chair move," a St Elizabeth resident said.  - Jamaica Observer.  

Workers vacate building in Kingston.
A tremor was felt in sections of Jamaica at 10:07 this morning. According to the Earthquake Unit at the University of the West Indies, the magnitude of the quake was 5.0 on the Richter scale. The epicentre of the quake was located 20 kilometres south of Black River, St Elizabeth. The depth of the quake was 21 kilometres. As news of the quake unfolded information coming into our newsroom is that it was felt islandwide. Several persons on social networking site Twitter told The Gleaner that they felt it all over and were surprised. According to the Earthquake Unit the intensity of the quake was felt in Negril, Montego Bay, Mandeville, Santa Cruz, Spanish Town and Kingston. This is the latest tremor in a series of earthquakes to rock the island. Reports coming into our newsroom are that several buildings in New Kingston and downtown Kingston have been evacuated. Reports have also been coming in that several cracks have appeared in buildings in downtown Kingston along the waterfront. This has not been independently verified by The Gleaner. In the meantime, Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, Ronald Jackson is reminding the public of steps to take in case of an earthquake. Jackson said standing under a doorjam is also an effective method. However, he is advising the public to avoid crouching beside pieces of furniture.The Gleaner.
Ten days ago, a magnitude 4.2 earthquake struck 26 kilometres east of the Kingston, the capital; 145 kilometres east-south-east of the Montego Bay; 224 kilometres south from Santiago de Cuba in Cuba and 925 kilometres south of Miami, Florida.

It seems quite obvious that another major quake or mega-quake similar to the magnitude 7.0 that hit Haiti last year, is expected in the region imminently, given the escalating consistency of seismic tremors along the Caribbean Plate.

It is only a matter of time.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: UNUSUAL WIND CHANGE - Catastrophic Chaos As Wildfires Cause Devastating Destruction in Slave Lake, Canada?!

As sections of Canada try to recover from unprecedented flooding, in the town of Slave Lake, a catastrophic outbreak of wildfires is causing widespread chaos as it blazes a path of destruction and devastation across the community.

The northern Alberta town of Slave Lake is partially in ruins after a devastating, fast-moving wildfire caught community officials off guard. The damage is catastrophic. Hundreds of homes, churches and businesses have been destroyed. So too has the town hall, library and radio station. The power is out, cellphone service has been spotty, and 7,000 residents were forced to flee through a single road, the only highway open as fires rage on all sides. Fire crews had little control – they managed to save the south part of the town, but remained at the mercy of strong winds, gusting up to 100 kilometres an hour. “It’s extremely devastating, our loss. It’s difficult to articulate,” Slave Lake Mayor Karina Pillay-Kinnee said late Sunday. “A lot of things we’re battling now.” There were no reports of injuries. About 70 firefighters from the Edmonton area headed north to assist in the fight, and provincial officials say equipment and roughly 200 firefighters from B.C. and Ontario are expected to arrive by Tuesday to help. What’s perhaps most striking, however, is the pace at which the catastrophe took hold. By mid-afternoon Sunday, there was no evacuation order. In fact, officials were cautiously optimistic, even as two wildfires burned on the outskirts of town. “We kind of thought the thing was getting under control,” said Mel Knight, an Alberta cabinet minister in charge of forest-fire response who was in Slave Lake Sunday. “What happened [Sunday] afternoon is the winds picked up.” The strong gusts delivered the community a double blow. The winds stoked fast-moving flames, which jumped two highways before reaching Slave Lake. Meanwhile, they also grounded the province’s water bomber airplanes, a key part of fire defence. “The timing, it just occurred so fast. A difficulty communicating – all our firefighters and resources were actively fighting fires in numerous areas around our community,” Ms. Pillay-Kinnee said. “It just happened so quickly.” Over the next four hours, the fire spread almost unchallenged. That’s when the town fell into a communications meltdown – critically, the radio station, which had been broadcasting evacuation notices, lost its power and went off the air, hours before burning down itself. At least 30 per cent of the town has burned down, the mayor said Sunday. At first, residents were trapped – fires had closed all the roads out of town. “We are landlocked at the moment,” Ms. Pillay-Kinnee said in a text message just after 6 p.m. But later Sunday evening, around 7:30 p.m. local time, officials opened Highway 2, which would take residents east through a highway and dirt road, away from the flames. “Mandatory evacuation,” Ms. Pillay-Kinnee said at 10 p.m. One thing is certain – Slave Lake, as residents knew it, is a thing of the past. Thousands have fled to nearby communities, grabbing precious valuables and unsure when – or to what – they’ll return. “The smoke is terrifying, black and just billowing. I called everyone I could get a hold if and asked them to leave if they hadn't already,” Slave Lake resident Cindy Martin, 27, who fled with her daughter and three cats, said in an e-mail. “I'm very much in panic. At this point even if our home is OK, there will not be much of the community to go back to. Who even knows if we will have a job to go back to? Our entire lives were in Slave and now it will never be the same and the fire doesn't seem to be stopping anytime soon.” - The Globe and Mail.

WATCH: Raw video of the wildfires.

EARTH CHANGES: Record UK Heatwave - Hottest May in 353 Years!

In a previous article this morning, I highlighted the severe wildfires now blazing across Russia and Siberia, causing a record-setting heatwave; it now turns out that the United Kingdom will be expecting temperatures to reach as high as 20 degrees Celsius over the coming weekend, with the month of May to be one of the hottest on record, sparking fears about drought-like conditions and damages to crops and the environment.

A two-week heatwave is on its way to the UK as a result of warm weather sweeping in from Europe, say forecasters. If temperatures continue to stay high then experts believe records will show May to have been the hottest on record since records began 353 years ago. Although cooler conditions are predicted for this week, by Saturday forecasters believe temperatures will rise and 29C will be the average for the next two weeks. But while many people will be celebrating the continuous dry weather there are fears over the impact it is having on agriculture and environment. Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman has called for an emergency drought summit due to take place today. So far, May has been 2.6C warmer than average with central England recording 13C - already ranking May inside the top six per cent of hottest months since records began in 1659. Ms Spelman will meet with members of the water industry body Water UK, the National Farmers' Union, the Environment Agency and Natural England. Jonathan Powell, forecaster for Positive Weather Solutions, said: 'This is an astonishing year so far and may well continue to turn up more surprises. May is outperforming expectations, as did March and April. There will be some rain during the rest of May in the north and west, but no nearly enough to stave off drought concerns. 'We expect high pressure to build again during late May and through to the second week of June, with warm temperatures and possible humidity leading to thunderstorms.' Farmers are beginning to feel the strain with food production threatened without much needed rain. Richard Sykes, a farmer from Suffolk, wrote on his NFU blog: 'There is talk in this area of failed spring crops on the lighter land, a worrying lack of grass to feed livestock and an uneasy thought over what to feed the animals next winter if it does not rain soon. 'My second wheats, drilled late October, are flagging in the dryness with shallow rooting and a lack of nitrogen making them look more yellow than green. With the winter barley next door already in full ear it makes me wonder when harvest will be.' Parts of southern Britain have already been officially declared to be suffering from drought conditions after the warm April as the heatwave spreads across Europe. England and Wales received the lowest March and April rainfall since 1938 with some regions getting the lowest rain in records dating back more than 100 years. Waterflow in some rivers, including the Exe in south west England and the Ribble in the North West, were similar to those experienced in the drought of 1976. - Daily Mail.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: UNUSUAL SPRING - The Washington Highway is Buried under 75 Feet of Snow covering a 40-Mile stretch of Highway?!

So much for spring, heavy snowfall could keep the roads in the North Cascade Highway in Washington State, closed for another week, which would mark its latest spring reopening in 30 years. The roads is still closed to traffic for over 40 miles after 75-feet of snowfall. The snow stretches on for miles, with solid walls of snow, a seemingly insurmountable obstacle that could cripple and devastate local businesses if the opening of the highway is further delayed.

Running just south of the U.S. border with Canada, you’d expect the North Cascade Highway to be subject to some wintry weather occasionally. But this weekend drivers on State Route 20 – which passes from Port Townsend in west Washington State to Newport in the east – found that snow chains wouldn’t be sufficient after an incredible 75 feet of snow covered a 40-mile stretch of the highway. And the heavy snowfall could keep the road closed for another week, which would mark its latest spring reopening in 30 years. Officials from the Washington Department of Transportation officials say snow is 75-feet deep this year. They usually try to clear the snow by Memorial Day weekend, but WSDOT says it likely won't be cleared by then. ‘We're not too comfortable with making any kinds of predictions right now, just because of the unusual spring that it's been,’ said Dustin Terpening, spokesman for the Department of Transportation. ‘We've gotten a lot of snow really late in the spring.’ The North Cascade Highway, which typically opens for scenic spring driving at some point between late March and May, has only remained closed past Memorial Day weekend once before – in 1974. The ongoing delays after record snowfalls is likely to have a huge impact on businesses along the highway who are hoping for a spring boost to their takings. ‘I normally by this time have about four people working at my shop, and now I'm here by myself,’ Doug Mohre, owner of Sheri's Sweet Shoppe, was quoted by the Seattle Times as saying this week. Crews are also working hard to clear the snow that has engulfed and closed the Chinook and Cayuse passes in the same area. The last time all three passes were opened so late into the spring season was in 1974 - a year, like 2011, that saw the La Nina storm bring heavy snows. The North Cascade Highway is closed in the west from milepost 134, to the east of Diablo, and in the east from milepost 171, which sits around 14 miles west of Mazama. Crews working to remove the snows from each end of the closed stretch, as well as rocks and other detritus, from the highway are reportedly six miles apart but their efforts have been hampered by new avalanches in previously cleared stretches of road, according to the Bellingham Herald. - Daily Mail.

DELUGE: Columbia's Historic Floods - Worst Natural Disaster Ever!

The floods in Colombia can definitely be considered as an unprecedented tragedy. The torrential rains unleashed by the La Nina weather system has flooded the country, killing hundreds and forcing millions from their homes, leaving the Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to declare that: “There are going to be a lot of needy people, there has never been a tragedy of this scale in our history.”
Colombia is facing the worst natural disaster in its history as heavy rain and floods continue to cause widespread damage in the north of the country. In Barranquilla, in the Atlantico department, the water swamped roads and buildings and more than 60 cars were swept away and left piled up. There were no reports of any deaths or injuries in the city, which is Colombia's fourth largest. Colombia has experienced an extended rainy season recently and has suffered from devastating floods for nearly a year. An estimated three million people have been displaced from their homes and more than $250m (£154m) has been paid out in aid. It is believed the flooding is being caused by the La Nina weather phenomenon which occurs in the Pacific Ocean. - Sky News.
Flood waters swept away cars and buses in a busy street in the city of Barranquilla in Colombia. Passengers climbed on the roofs of their vehicles in order to escape the torrents of water, but there were no reported deaths or serious injuries. Colombia has suffered from heavy rains and floods for nearly a year, which has displaced around three million people and killed hundreds. - BBC.
WATCH: Worst ever natural disaster in Columbia.

Mystery: Symbols of an Alien Sky, Man-Made or Natural Phenomena? Meteor Believed to have Made Huge Hole in New Jersey Man's Lawn!

Local residents are still wondering if property damage at a Basking Ridge home, was actually caused by a meteorite? Officials and other experts still had not ruled out the possibility, even though no definitive proof was found in the large hole on Lafayette Lane. Police responded to a property damage report  and found a hole about seven foot long and four feet wide in the grass near the home driveway.
Are they here? It's a question asked in jest now that some people are wondering whether a strange visitor from another planet dropped by New J/ersey last week, leaving a large hole in the ground. Residents now believe it was a meteor, and have dubbed it the “Garden State's Meteor Mystery”. Pictures and video show the impact zone along Lafayette lane in Basking Ridge, NJ. The homeowners where the object landed weren't talking about the mystery tonight. Neighbor Leo Labbe told PIX 11 News, "It's a mystery. We don't now what happened, I was in the house, and heard absolutely nothing, until I came out at 4 o'clock and there was an army of police cars and everything else here...we haven't a clue what happened...public service and the gas company came along and took all kinds of tests - they did sniff tests for gas - there was no electrical interruption. It's just a bizarre thing that I've never seen before and probably never will again!" Bill McCain, an astronomer at the nearby Raritan Valley Community College Planetarium, told PIX 11 News, "It is a mystery, because I was over there and I saw it. All the details point towards something impacting. It also looks like there could have been an explosion from underground, but that's all been ruled out. The only thing left is an impact, but we can't find anything that actually caused the impact so it's really a mystery. I'm as baffled as you are at this point." The unidentified flying object landed near the front of a local homeowner's yard. Early suspicions were that it was a space rock but that remains unclear, because whatever object made the huge hole left no clues. It left no metal, no scorch marks, and no animal tracks. So far investigators have ruled out something falling off a passing airplane, fireworks or kids playing a prank as the cause of the mysterious hole. - WPIX
WATCH: Video presentation of “Garden State's Meteor Mystery.”

THE GREAT DELUGE: Floods Spread Across Canada's Farmlands!

In Canada, the flow of one kilometre of water every five hours has caused the government to deliberately institute a breach to help slow down the the Assiniboine River, as residents suffer from property damage and lost income.

A government controlled spill of the Assiniboine River has slowed the rate of the river's rise downstream, Manitoba flood officials said Sunday. "Today, even though more water is coming down the Assiniboine River, water levels downstream of the controlled release have not risen. The controlled release is within the much larger area that would be at risk of flooding by an uncontrolled breach," Manitoba said in its latest flood bulletin. "The water is dispersing slowly across fields and then filling behind roads and spilling at low points and is now flowing into the Elm River channel that eventually flows into the La Salle River," the bulletin said. Officials are keeping the flow of the deliberate breach to a rate of 500 cubic feet per second — or about one kilometre every five hours. They had warned that the rate could increase on Sunday, but so far that has not happened. Manitoba on Saturday made a deliberate diversion of Assiniboine River water to avoid a wider, uncontrolled flood. The controlled release of water could inundate a 180 square kilometres area east of the city of Portage la Prairie as Assiniboine water runs into the La Salle River watershed. The province has struggled with record flooding along the Assiniboine in central and western Manitoba and the breach is intended to take pressure off dikes downstream and spare 850 homes from being inundated. Floodwaters have swamped low-lying farmland, cut off roads and forced more than 1,300 people to leave low-lying areas in Brandon, where temporary dikes are the only thing keeping homes in the city's valley dry. Winnipeg, to the east, is not affected... “Resignation, rage, sadness, everything. It’s up and down,” said Robert Stanger, who lives three kilometres from the cut, on a farm built by his father 50 years ago. Stanger didn’t have the heart to tell his father, who died Friday, that his life’s work might soon be swamped or lost... The river is not expected to crest until some time between May 18 and 20 and its flow was already at half the rate of Niagara Falls earlier this week, according to provincial officials. - CBC.
WATCH: Widespread Flooding Swamps Manitoba.

UPDATE: Farmers clean up after Quebec floods - ‘Problems we’ve never seen before!’

A fish is lying in the mud at farmer Jacquelin Bisaillon’s feet. It’s a silver-scaled carp about 30 centimetres long, and dead. Which is odd, because Bisaillon is standing three-quarters of a kilometre away from the nearest river in what should be his field of freshly planted corn. Dealing with the worst spring flooding in 140 years along Quebec’s Richelieu River brings with it many unexpected challenges, farmers like Bisaillon are discovering, including how to pump out his flooded fields without having neighbours call the police, or being fined by Quebec’s Environment Ministry for harming carp swimming in the 4,000 hectares of farmers’ fields that are now lakes. “There are many problems we’ve never seen before,” he said Sunday, standing next to the hectares of water covering his land. “Like trying to pump out our fields, but we can’t because the dikes holding back the river are broken, and they can’t be repaired because there’s too much water.” Bisaillon is among roughly 80 farmers bordering the river spanning from St. Jean sur Richelieu 30 kilometres down to the U.S. border who are at risk of having part or all of their crops wiped out. They’re yet more victims of the flooding that has affected 3,000 homes in 20 municipalities and forced 1,000 people from their residences. After a string of days during which the water levels finally dropped, Environment Canada announced Sunday that between 20 and 55 millimetres of rain were forecast for the Richelieu Valley Monday, more again on Tuesday and Wednesday. The level of the Richelieu River was predicted to rise again. - Montreal Gazette.
UPDATE: Washout and landslide at railroad in Ontario!

EARTH CHANGES: Wildfires Spreads Across Russia And Siberia?!

In 2010, several hundred wildfires broke out across Russia due to record temperatures and drought, creating the hottest recorded summer in Russian history. A state of emergency was announced in seven regions for the fires, while 28 other regions were under a state of emergency due to crop failures caused by the drought. The fires estimated cost was roughly $15 billion USD in damages and 56,000 people in all died from the effects of heavy smog and the record-breaking heat wave.

In 2011, wildfires raging in Siberia, has spread from 560 hectares to 1,500 hectares in the past twenty-four hours, according to the Emergencies Ministry.

"There are 106 hotbeds of wildfires on a total area of 1,492.6 hectares in Siberia," the ministry said. Firefighters have localized 52 wildfires on an area of 988 hectares in the past twenty-four hours. The cause of forest fires is the activity of local residents, the ministry said. "Overall, 2,300 people and 534 pieces of equipment have been involved in the fire-fighting effort in the past twenty-four hours," the ministry said. A large number of wildfires have also been registered in the Trans-Baikal Territory, the Krasnoyarsk Territory, the Republics of Tyva and Buryatia, the Tomsk and Irkutsk Regions, the ministry said.  - RIAN.RU.
Firefighters are battling over 20 wildfires that have emerged in the Russian Far East in the past twenty-four hours and are still battling ten forest fires in the area, Russia's Emergencies Ministry said on Sunday.

"Over the past twenty-four hours, 31 wildfires have been registered in the Far Eastern Federal District on a total area of 811.8 hectares. Twenty-one fires on an area of 700.8 hectares have been extinguished," the ministry said, adding that ten wildfires were still raging on an area of 111 hectares. All the fires have emerged far from populated areas and pose no threat to people and enterprises. Over 400 persons and 73 pieces of machinery are involved in the fire-extinguishing effort, the ministry said. - RIAN.RU.