Wednesday, June 15, 2011

MINI-ICE AGE: Solar Activity - Sun Heads Into Hibernation?!

I am not sure what to make of the following report that the Earth will be experiencing a mini-Ice Age 'within ten years' due to a rare drop in sunspot activity.

A decrease in global warming might result in the years after 2020, the approximate time when sunspots are expected to disappear for years, maybe even decades. While the effects of a calmer sun are mostly good - there'd be fewer disruptions of satellites and power systems - it could see a sharp turnaround in global warming. An absence of sunspots is not an unprecedented situation. It has happened before, but not since the early 18th century. Lead researcher Frank Hill, of the National Solar Observatory, said: 'The solar cycle is maybe going into hiatus, sort of like a summertime TV show.' While scientists don't know why the sun is going quiet, all the signs are that it will. Dr Hill and his team have based their prediction on three changes in the sun spotted by scientific teams - weakening sunspots; fewer streams spewing from the poles of the sun's corona; and a disappearing solar jet stream. 

Dr Richard Altrock, the study's co-author and an astrophysicist at the Air Force Research Laboratory, said these three cues show that 'there's a good possibility that the sun could be going into some sort of state from which it takes a long time to recover'. Their prediction is specifically aimed at the solar cycle starting in 2020. Experts say the sun has already been unusually quiet for about four years with few sunspots - higher magnetic areas that appear as dark spots. The enormous magnetic field of the sun dictates the solar cycle, which includes sunspots, solar wind and ejection of fast-moving particles that sometimes hit Earth. Every 22 years, the sun's magnetic field switches north and south, creating an 11-year sunspot cycle. At peak times, like 2001, there are sunspots every day and more frequent solar flares and storms that could disrupt satellites. Earlier this month, David Hathaway, NASA's top solar storm scientist, predicted that the current cycle, which started around 2009, will be the weakest in a century. Mr Altrock also thinks the current cycle won't have much solar activity, after tracking streamers from the solar corona, the sun's outer atmosphere seen during eclipses. The streamers normally become busy around the sun's poles a few years before peak solar storm activity. That 'rush to the poles' would have happened by now, but it hasn't and there's no sign of it yet. That also means the cycle after that is uncertain, he said. - Daily Mail.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Thousands of Lightning Strike in Hawaii?!

Hawaii is currently experiencing an exceptional and unusual amount of lightning strikes.

Lightning has knocked out the first large telescope ever built on Hawaii's Mauna Kea volcano, and engineers are working to bring it back online. The University of Hawaii's 2.2-meter telescope has been out since the weekend of June 4-5, when tens of thousands of lightning flashes were recorded around the state. Colin Aspin, the telescope's director, said Tuesday he's not sure if the problem was caused by a direct lightning strike or a strike on Saddle Road that affected power going to the mountain. None of the other dozen telescopes on the volcano appear to have suffered similar problems, indicating a direct strike may be the source.

When operators tried to open the telescope after the weather cleared, they couldn't get its electrical systems to work. Once they fixed that, they discovered it moved in the wrong direction, pointing north, for example, when operators had told it to point west. The 41-year-old telescope is smaller than its more famous neighbors — including the twin Keck telescopes that have mirrors measuring 10 meters — about 32 feet — in diameter. But the pioneering machine was the first to show Mauna Kea has some of the world's best conditions for observing the skies. In the early 1990s, astronomers used it to discover the existence of the Kuiper Belt, a region beyond Neptune home to large numbers of asteroid-sized bodies. Today, Pluto is commonly regarded as the largest known Kuiper Belt Object, not as the ninth planet... The telescope is primarily used by University of Hawaii graduate students and faculty, who have been looking forward to being able to use it again soon. "They're waiting patiently to get back on sky," Aspin said. The islands have had an unusual number of thunderstorms recently. Robert Ballard, the science and operations officer at the National Weather Service in Honolulu, said observers generally record about seven thunderstorm days at Honolulu airport in a typical year. But they reported 28 between Nov. 1 and June 1. "So we're more than four times normal for a year, and we haven't even gone the whole year yet," Ballard said.
The Republic.

MYSTERY: Extraterrestrial Memes - Russian Military Retrieves UFO?!

I'm not sure what to make of the following video that depicts an helicopter in Bodaybo in Russia transporting what appears to be an unidentified flying object (UFO) in broad daylight. During the flight another object was also filmed as well.

What do you make of this?

WATCH: Helicopter transporting UFO?

PLANETARY TREMORS: 4.2 Quake Hits Baja California/Mexico!

A magnitude 4.2 earthquake has struck Baja California, Mexico at a depth of just 8.6 kilometres (km) or 5.3 miles. The quake hit at 12:29:14 UTC Wednesday 15th June 2011 and was located at 31.673°N, 115.896°W. The epicentre was 33 km or 20 miles from Lazaro Cardenas; 71 km or 44 miles southeast of Ensenada; 116 km or 72 miles southwest of Mexicali; 121 km or 75 miles southeast of Tecate; and 2156 km or 1339 miles northwest of Mexico City.

This comes against the background of the discovery of a potentially dangerous new fault in California.

You’d think in a seismically-active area like California that every potentially earthquake-producing fault to be found would’ve been identified. It turns out there are plenty of such faults hiding in the ground, and one of them has just been found. And this fault holds the potential of producing more than just an earthquake — it could also release a flood from a nearby dam. Scientists with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were inspecting the Martis Creek Dam, which sits just outside Truckee, Calif., and about 35 miles upstream from Reno. It is one of 10 dams in the United States that has “urgent and compelling” safety concerns, according to the Corps, which owns the dam.

Data from the most recent evaluation revealed that, not only does the dam have significant leakage; it also lies in close proximity to not two, but three fault zones. The newly discovered, active, 22-mile-long strike-slip fault is named Polaris for the old mining town it runs through (by contrast, the San Andreas Fault is more than 800 miles long). The Polaris Fault was discovered using laser imaging technology known as LiDAR, which was used as part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ evaluation of the dam. LiDAR emits laser pulses down toward the ground from an airplane — even through dense vegetation — to get high-resolution topology maps. Once researchers stripped off the heavy pine tree layer from the maps, they found evidence of the fault sitting just 200 meters from the dam. The fault could produce an earthquake with up to a 6.5 to 6.9 magnitude, according to the study published by Hunter and his colleagues in the June issue of the Bulletin of Seismological Society of America. Because the fault connects to others in the area, the magnitude could be even higher if they ruptured at the same time. Although one USGS scientist described the finding to Hunter as like being “slapped in the face,” the reality is that there are likely countless smaller unknown faults in the region and around the world. Hunter said that throughout the east face of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, there are quite a few systems that are likely undiscovered but responsible for a large portion of tectonic movement.

EARTH CHANGES: Arizona's Wallow Wildfire Biggest In State History!

The wildfire that has roared out of control for more than two weeks in Arizona is now the largest in state history, having consumed over 469,000 acres.

The Wallow Fire, which authorities suspect started from an unattended campfire, has scorched dozens of homes and displaced as many as 10,000 people since it erupted on May 29 in the White Mountains region. The wind-whipped blaze has burned mostly in and around the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest, about 150 miles east of Phoenix, churning through vast stretches of thick ponderosa pine. Evacuation orders were lifted on Sunday for 7,000 to 8,000 residents forced to flee last week from two towns near the border with New Mexico, Springerville and Eagar. But authorities have warned returning families that lingering smoke and soot in the air pose health risks for children and people with respiratory problems.

An estimated 1,900 additional people from several nearby towns evacuated in the first week of the blaze were notified on Monday night that it would probably be at least a few more days before they would be permitted to go back home. While the blaze is far from being brought under control, fire managers said on Monday that they had turned a corner in their battle to curtail its advance toward populated areas. 'Nobody's really in the clear yet,' U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Suzanne Flory said today, but she added, 'Overall, there's a sense of optimism.'
- Daily Mail.
WATCH: CNN Recaps Arizona Wildfire: Wallow Fire Largest in State History!

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: Swarm of Bees Attack New York's Chinatown?!

A third swarm of bees hit New York city in less than a month, as 15,000 buzzed into Chinatown.
Bumblebees are vanishing from the U.S. at an alarming rate - except, it seems, in Manhattan. Yesterday 15,000 bees descended on a lamppost in Chinatown, in at least the third swarm in as many weeks. The NYPD cordoned off a stretch of the busy sidewalk, while their dedicated beekeeper was lifted up on a fire ladder to rescue the insects. Tony Planakis told DNAInfo: 'When I got up there, I was like, 'What the...It's bigger than I've ever had. It was huge.' Wearing a full beekeeping suit, Mr Planakis arrived in Mott Street at around 5.30pm and was hoisted up on an FDNY ladder to scoop the swarm into a bucket. He said he collected around five pounds of the insects, which will be taken to a new hive in Connecticut.

Swarms are a common sight in spring, but experts say this is the city's busiest season in years. Earlier this month a stretch of Mulberry Street in Little Italy was cordoned off for hours as a swarm of bees descended on a mailbox, and last week a group of bees with a taste for luxury gathered on a tree outside Bulgari on Fifth Avenue. In January scientists gave a grim warning bees were in decline, after they revealed their numbers have dropped by 96 per cent over the past few years in the U.S. alone.
- Daily Mail.
WATCH: Bees invade Little Italy in New York City.

KILLER GERM: E. COLI SUPERBUG - Death Toll Now Rises To 37!

A two-year-old boy has become the youngest victim of the deadly E.coli bacteria in Germany, the 37th person to die in the outbreak.

The child lost his battle with the killer bug after spending several days in intensive care at a hospital in the northern city of Hanover. His father and two siblings also fell ill but were recovering, authorities said. He is the first child fatality since the outbreak began in Germany in May. A 20-year-old woman was previously the youngest victim linked to the epidemic, which authorities have blamed on bean sprouts and shoots from a German organic farm. The boy's death comes as Europe's main disease control centre, the Robert Koch Institute, said the number of new infections appeared to be declining. More than 3,200 people have so far been taken ill with the E.coli strain in 14 European countries plus the United States and Canada. About a quarter of them have developed the serious complication called haemolytic uraemic syndrome, which affects the blood, kidneys and nervous system. German Health Minister Daniel Bahr warned more deaths were possible, with one expert saying that around 100 patients would need a kidney transplant or require dialysis treatment for the rest of their lives. The latest death also comes on the same day the European Union approved 210 million euros (£187m) in emergency aid for vegetable farmers hit by the fallout from the E.coli outbreak. But farmers have said it is not enough with one produce grower in France reacting by dumping a tip-truck load of cucumbers in front of the prefecture headquarters in the southwestern city of Perpignan. - Sky News.

Meanwhile,  the outbreak in Germany is the most costly in the country's history.

Some estimates are slowly starting to come in for the painful suffering and deaths associated with Europe's ongoing E. coli O104 outbreak. Until now, the price tags on the deadly outbreak have come from farmers throughout the European Union, who experienced crop losses when they could not sell fresh produce as the hunt for the source of O104 jumped from cucumbers to lettuce and tomatoes before settling on sprouts. The European Commission in Brussels has put up 210 million euros or about $304 million. It won't be enough. But the really big costs will come in care for the victims of the deadly outbreak. Most of those victims are being treated in about 20 university hospitals, primarily centered in and around Hamburg. According to the Federation of German University Hospitals, the costs of medical care are piling up.c German's government-backed insurance companies have an annual budget of about 180 billion euros for both the university and regional hospitals. The outbreak has now blown such a big hole in those budgets that the German hospitals are not going to make it through the current year without a financial infusion. A spokesman for the federation has estimated that treatment for E. coli patients requiring dialysis has already amounted to more than 20,000 euros per victim. Those who survive are looking at possible lifelong follow up treatments for everything from kidney to neurological issues. - Food Safety News.

MAJOR GLOBAL ALERT: Killer Solar Storms - United States & Britain Plans "Controlled" Power Cuts As The Sun Threatens The National Grids, While NASA Sends Out "Preparedness Plan" To Employees?!

According to the following article, the governments of the United States of America and Britain plans to start "controlled" power cuts as storms from the Sun will imminently threaten the national grids. This comes against the background of a significant sunspot group emerging over the Sun's eastern limb, planet Earth's entrance into a solar wind stream flowing from a new coronal hole and a volcanic lunar eclipse scheduled for Wednesday that will fully engulf the Moon in Earth's shadow for approximately 100 minutes - the longest lunar eclipse in nearly 11 years.

Officials in Britain and the United States are preparing to make controlled power cuts to their national electricity supplies in response to a warning of a possible powerful solar storm hitting the Earth. In an interview with The Independent, Thomas Bogdan, director of the US Space Weather Prediction Centre, said that controlled power "outages" will protect the National Electricity Grids against damage which could take months or even years to repair should a large solar storm collide with the Earth without any precautions being taken.  Dr Bogdan is in close discussions with scientists in the UK Met Office to set up a second space weather prediction centre in Britain to co-ordinate a global response to a threat viewed seriously by both the US and UK governments. One topic of discussion is how to protect national electricity grids from the immense power surges caused by the geomagnetic storms which happen when highly energetic solar particles collide with the Earth's magnetic field. The most vulnerable parts of the grid are the hundreds of transformers connected to power lines many miles long that can experience sudden current surges during a geomagnetic solar storm, Dr Bogdan said.

"It points to a potential scenario where large parts of either North America or northern Europe may be without power from between days or weeks, to perhaps months and, in extreme cases, there are estimates that it could last years," Dr Bogdan said. The aim of the joint US-UK collaboration is to improve solar weather forecasting to a point where it is possible to warn power companies of an imminent storm. There is a feeling that if a "category 5" solar storm – the biggest of the five categories – were to be predicted, then taking the grid off-line before it is due to hit Earth and letting the storm pass would be better than trying to keep things running, he said. In 1989, a solar geomagentic storm knocked out the electricity grid across large parts of Canada. The loss cascaded across the United States and caused power problems as far away as California. The greatest fear is a massive storm as big as the one documented by astronomer Richard Carrington in 1859, which burnt out telegraph wires. "The sort of storms capable of doing that are fairly rare events. We refer to them as 'black swans'," Dr Bogdan said. "If the Carrington event occurred today, and power grid operators did not take efforts to safeguard their infrastructure, then we could be facing a scenario like that."
- The Independent.
NASA have been harping about this for several years now, issuing out dire warnings to the public to get ready for a once in a lifetime solar storm. Dr Richard Fisher, head of NASA’s Heliophysics Division said in 2006 that: “We know it’s coming but we don’t know how bad it’s going to be.” However, “the next solar maximum should be a doozy” . NASA say’s the sun storm will be in full swing around 2012-2013, however the National Academy of Science says, “The solar storm could start any day now.” “Whoever is right, the storm is coming!” says NASA.

WATCH: NASA warns of super solar storms and killer flares.

What's more NASA recently sent out a "Family/Personal Preparedness Plan" to all of its employees.
NASA is the only federal agency responsible for its people's safety and well-being here on Earth and in space and has a longtime commitment to safety and emergency preparedness. Over the past year, Administrator Bolden has emphasized the importance of Family/Personal Preparedness for the entire NASA family. Family and personal preparedness plans are key to protecting our families and communities during potential emergencies such as fires, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, terrorist attacks and other unforeseen catastrophes.

The most important assets in the successful completion of NASA's mission are its people and their loved ones. The agency has developed a set of informational guides designed to prepare you, your families and pets for emergencies. These guides will provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to develop your Family Preparedness Plan. All employees are encouraged to download these guides, prepare plans, and review them with your families. The agency has taken the steps to prepare our NASA family; now it is your personal obligation to prepare yourself and/or your family for an emergency
. - NASA.
WATCH: Charles F. Bolden, head of NASA speaks on the preparedness plans.

For sometime now, NASA has placed blame for the current solar turbulence on an interstellar energy cloud or ribbon at the edge of the solar system that was discovered by the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) spacecraft, as well as the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 satellites. A cloud that seems to be charging the Sun, resulting in increased activity and output, which subsequently affects the magnetic fields of our planet. Others postulates that we are about to come in contact with either a rogue or wandering planet, or a binary dwarf star. Whatever the reason, it is becoming evidentially obvious that we are about to converge with something from the celestial sphere. It is not a question of if, but when.