Saturday, November 5, 2011

GLOBAL ALERT: Solar Watch - Sun Blasts Out X2-Class Solar Flare! UPDATE: NOAA Forecasts 20% Chance That X-Flares Will Hit Earth! UPDATE: Huge Sunspot Turns Towards Earth, Possible Eruptions!

Space Weather has just issued an alert regarding a new X-Flare coming from the Sun.

X-FLARE: Earth-orbiting satellites have just detected an X2-class solar flare. The source is huge sunspot AR1339. MAGNIFICENT SUNSPOT: One of the largest sunspots in years is rotating over the Sun's northeastern limb. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory took this picture of AR1339 during the early hours of November 3rd. Measuring some 40,000 km wide and at least twice that in length, the sprawling sunspot group is an easy target for backyard solar telescopes. Two or three of the sunspot's dark cores are wider than Earth itself. Naturally, such a large sunspot has potential for strong flares. NOAA forecasters estimate a 50% chance of M-class solar flares during the next 24 hours. One such eruption has already occured: An M4-flare at 2200 UT on Nov. 2nd produced a bright flash of extreme UV radiation (SDO movie) and hurled a coronal mass ejection (CME) into space. The CME is not heading our way. Future CMEs could have greater effect as AR1339 turns toward Earth in the days ahead.

NORTHERN LIGHTS: November began with a geomagnetic storm. A shock wave in the solar wind swept past Earth during the early hours of Nov 1st, sparking strong magnetic disturbances around the Arctic Circle. More auroras are possible on Nov. 4th. A coronal mass ejection (CME) left the sun on Oct. 31st when a solar filament erupted; the cloud could deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field this Thursday.
In the latest updates, NOAA is forecasting a 75% chance for Class M solar flares in the next 48 hours and a 20% chance for Class X solar flares in the same time period. Plus, a 5% chance for severe geomagnetic storms to cause significant disturbances to the high latitudes of Earth's magnetic field during the next 48 hours as well.

Interestingly, Space Weather is indicating that there have been only 2 days or 1% of spotless days in 2011, in stark contrast to 2010, which saw 51 days or 14% and 2009, that had 260 days or 71%. A clear indication of the uptick in solar activity this year.

WATCH: A look at sunspot group AR11339 over the past 2 days. The observation is by the 171 Angstrom wavelength channel from SDO/AIA.

UPDATE: NOAA Forecasts 20% Chance That X-Flares Will Hit Earth!

New update from Space Weather and NOAA:

CHANCE OF FLARES: NOAA forecasters have upgraded the chance of X-class solar flares today to 20%. The source would be AR1339, one of the biggest sunspots in many years.

The active region rotated over the sun's eastern limb two days ago and now it is turning toward Earth. The sunspot has already unleashed one X-flare on Nov. 3rd around 2027 UT. Click on the arrow on the leftto view the movie from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory that shows the extreme ultraviolet flash.

The flare created waves of ionization in Earth's upper atmosphere, altering the normal propagation of radio waves over Europe and the Americas. In Ireland, the flare's effect was felt even after dark. A cloud of plasma or "CME" raced away from the blast site at 1100 km/s. The CME is not heading for Earth. It is, however, heading for Mercury and Venus. Click on the arrow on the right to view a movie of the CME's forecast track:

Analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab say the CME will hit Mercury on Nov. 4th around 16:14 UT. NASA's MESSENGER probe in orbit around Mercury will be monitoring the effects of the impact. If the CME overwhelms Mercury's relatively weak magnetic field, it could scour material off the planet's surface creating a temporary atmosphere and adding material to Mercury's comet-like tail. The CME should hit Venus on Nov. 5th; the gossamer cloud will probably break harmlessly against the top of planet's ultra-dense atmosphere.
WATCH: The Solar Watch Report.

UPDATE: Huge Sunspot Turns Towards Earth, Possible Eruptions!

Here is the latest update from Space Weather:

POLAR BLAST: A magnetic filament curling around the sun's north pole erupted during the early hours of Nov. 5th. Material propelled by the blast is heading out of the plane of the solar system and will not impact any planet. [SDO movie]. BIG SUNSPOT: Sunspot AR1339 has quieted since Nov. 3rd when it unleashed an X2-class solar flare. Nevertheless, it still poses a threat for powerful eruptions. The behemoth sunspot has a "beta-gamma-delta" magnetic field that harbors energy for more X-flares. Eruptions this weekend could be Earth-directed as AR1339 turns toward our planet. AR1339 is one of the largest sunspots in years, and it looks spectacular though backyard solar telescopes. Each of the primary dark cores is about the size of Earth, and the entire group sprawls more than 100,000 km from end to end. The sunspot is so big, it's starting to attact the attention of people looking into the sunset. NORTHERN LIGHTS: Last night sky watchers in Scandinavia witnessed a vivid display of green auroras. It was so bright, even the rocks and water got involved: The display was caused by the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF), which tipped south and partially canceled Earth's own north-pointing field. This created a crack in Earth's magnetosphere; solar wind flowed in to fuel the auroras.

WATCH: Solar Activity Update.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Giant Sinkhole Closes Road in Ontario!

It seems that several regions in Canada are undergoing some form of geological upheaval, the sudden and violent disruption of land areas.

Earlier this year, in June, a massive mudslide buried and closed a section of the Trans-Canada Highway in British Columbia. The  massive slide came roaring down a mountainside, sweeping across both east and west-bound lanes of highway one burying at least one vehicle and stopping a freight train in the process. In the same month, a huge sinkhole measuring over 50 feet deep in sections caused a swift upheaval and slippage of land in Manitoba. The hole covered about three acres, the size of two Canadian football fields. Residents in Quebec have been witnessing the mysterious appearance of large and deep sinkholes since the month of May. Here is a report that I posted several days ago, of these sinkholes:

Officials in Quebec City are trying to figure out what has caused dozens of sinkholes to appear in a north-end neighbourhood. They served evacuation papers on Wednesday to about 15 homes and one business in the city's Charlesbourg district. Almost 40 holes between five and eight metres wide appeared in the last week. The holes were mostly found in a field, but another was in a resident's driveway. One is big enough to fit a car. "The field is is like, there is nothing, no trees or anything and you see everywhere some holes, some deeper than others, like 30 or 40 holes everywhere on the field. You can see this is not normal. You can see this is a problem on this land," said city spokesperson François Moisan. As of Thursday afternoon, only half of the approximately 40 affected residents had left their homes. "The city is very prudent and ask people to leave their house because there is some danger. We don't know what kind of danger, we don't know if it's a real threat to their property but we prefer take no chances and ask them to leave," said Moisan. Moisan said the field where the holes are appearing used to be the site of a sandpit, and he said experts will be on the site Friday to find out what's causing the sinkholes. Just over a year ago, a family of four died in Saint-Jude, Quebec during a massive landslide. - CBC.
WATCH: French television station TVA features the sinkholes in Quebec, plus extensive coverage of the widespread deluge of floods.

Yesterday, CBC provided the following the story of another sinkhole in Canada.

A large sinkhole that resembles something out of a Hollywood movie has closed a section of Bayview Avenue to traffic. It happened overnight on Thursday after a water main break. Bayview Avenue just north of Steeles Avenue is closed between Proctor Avenue and Laureleaf Road as crews work to fix the buckled pavement. In some sections, the crack is as wide as a traffic lane.

CBC’s Lorenda Reddekopp was at the scene and said York Regional police officers were describing the nine-metre deep sinkhole as “something out of Jurassic Park.” “You just do not expect to see a huge crack down the middle of the road and then the road just buckled in at the middle,” Reddekopp reported. “Crews are starting to dig but this is not an easy problem to fix. It’s going to take days, maybe even weeks.” Police say people will need to find another route not just for today, but for the days ahead. - CBC.
WATCH: Sinkhole in Markham.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Freak US Snowstorm Kills 22 People!

The freak snowstorm that pounded the eastern United States late last week, cutting power to hundreds of thousands of people, killed at least 22 people, officials said Thursday.

In Massachusetts, at least six deaths were related to the storm, and a seventh was under investigation, said Peter William Judge, public information officer for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. Four of the deaths were linked to carbon monoxide poisoning; one person was electrocuted by a downed power line and one person died in a house fire blamed on the storm, he said. In New Jersey, eight storm-related fatalities were tallied, including three people who burned to death in house fires, one person who died when a branch fell on him, another who died when a tree fell on him, and three people who died in motor vehicle accidents. A ninth death was under investigation. In Connecticut, eight people died, four of them from carbon monoxide poisoning, said Gov. Dannel Malloy. In all, 91 shelters and 111 warming centers were to be open in the state Thursday night, he said.

An estimated 831,000 customers lost electricity during Saturday's storm, according to Connecticut Light & Power officials and the attorney general's office. The storm dropped at least a foot of snow in a band from West Virginia to Maine. By Thursday afternoon, power had been restored to slightly more than half of the affected customers, said Dave Radanovich, a CL&P spokesman. He predicted power would be fully restored by Monday morning. The utility -- using workers from 20 states -- deployed 867 line crews composed of two or three workers each to repair downed transmission lines; another 628 tree crews and 550 support crews were aiding the effort, Radanovich said. President Barack Obama has signed emergency declarations for New Hampshire and Connecticut, clearing the way for federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts. - CNN.
WATCH: Most of Farmington, Connecticut still in the dark.

WATCH: Sunday restoration is 'possible' CL&P says.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Earthquakes In China Force Mass Evacuation Of 3,800 People - Economic Losses Are Estimated At $10.5 Million!

After an earthquake shook the Xinjiang-Uighur, a northwest region of China, extensive damage was reported, media said.

Chinese seismologists measured the quake at 6-magnitude. It struck Tuesday morning, destroying at least 800 homes, and forcing the evacuation of more than 3,800 people, the official Xinhua news agency reported.  No casualties were reported, said. Though the quake was centered in Yining and Gongliu ,counties in the Kazak region, it was felt in several nearby counties, the report said. Direct economic losses were estimated at about $10.5 million, reported.

As two rescue teams were dispatched for recovery work, schools in the area remained closed. Relief supplies were being sent to the area, including tents, beddings and shoes, the regional bureau of civil affairs said. In addition to destroying homes, the quake also triggered a landslide on a national highway in the region. However, normal traffic had resumed Wednesday. This quake was one of two that hit China Tuesday morning.

Another one, a 5.4-magnitude quake, rocked Sichuan and Gansu provinces in western China, but no casualties were reported. There were no immediate reports of damage in the two provinces. China's worst quake in recent years was a 7.9-magnitude quake in Sichuan province in May 2008. It killed nearly 90,000 people. - Third Age.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: November Snow Surprise for New Zealand!

The following story was published in TVNZ yesterday and provides more evidence of the consistent and pervasive nature of the "new normal" of weather anomalies sweeping across the planet.

Downes says it's a rare weather event to occur in November.

Snow could reach sea level in parts of the southern South Island tonight. About 20 centimetres has already fallen on the Milford Road. There have also been reports of snow at Lake Heron and the higher parts of Porters Pass and Arthur's Pass. Cold air is set to blast Fiordland, Southland and parts of Otago tonight. MetService severe weather forecaster Andy Downes says there's a deep low passing the south of Stewart Island and this will bring strong gales with gusts possibly reaching warning levels along coastal Southland and South Otago. Downes says it's a rare weather event to occur in November.

Residents in Invercargill woke up to 4 degrees this morning. "As more cold air comes in it will drop the snow level down, perhaps briefly to low levels, maybe even sea level, but where it will accumulate will probably be above two, three hundred metres," MetService's Dan Corbett told Radio New Zealand. Wind chill from the strong westerlies would make the temperature feel like it was below freezing in parts of Southland, he said. Thunder and hail could follow the cold mass of air over parts of the region, MetService said. The cold snap is predicted to be over by Saturday evening.

PLANETARY TREMORS: 3 Earthquakes Rocks Central Oklahoma!

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reports a 4.7 magnitude earthquake struck Oklahoma at 2:13 Saturday morning.  The tremblor was centered about nine miles north of Prague in Lincoln County.  The sheriff's office there says there have been some reports of damage in the Sparks area between Prague and Chandler.  The USGS says the quake was felt as far as northern Arkansas, southern Kansas and western Missouri.  A 3.4 magnitude aftershock hit 15 minutes after the initial quake.  The strongest earthquake ever recorded in OKlahoma was a 5.5 magnitude that hit in April , 1952.

At least three earthquakes shook much of central Oklahoma early Saturday, the U.S. Geological Survey said. A 4.7 magnitude quake struck at 2:12 a.m. (3:12 a.m. ET), with an epicenter about six miles north of Prague in southern Lincoln County, the USGS reported on its website. That is about 50 miles east of Oklahoma City. The USGS said a 3.4 magnitude quake was also recorded at 2:27 a.m. and a 2.7 magnitude quake at 2:44 a.m.

People felt rumbling as far away as Oklahoma City, Tulsa and outside of the state in Wichita, Kan. and Kansas City, Mo., NewsOK reported.
"We have a solid house on a slab, and it felt like it was coming apart," Joe Bill Moad, who lives west of Oklahoma City in Yukon, told the newspaper. Lincoln County sheriff officials said there have been no reports of injuries but several people reported items falling off walls. Oklahoma City police officials said they have received several 911 calls, but have no reports of injuries or damage. - MSNBC.
According to the following report, the USGS is indicating that fracking or hydraulic fracturing operations caused 50 earthquakes in Oklahoma.
In a surprising turn of events, Cuadrilla Resources, a British energy company, recently admitted that its hydraulic fracturing operations “likely” caused an earthquake in England. Predictably, this news quickly sent a shockwave through the U.K., the oil and natural gas industries, and the environmental activist community. And it certainly feeds plenty of speculation that the same phenomenon could be occurring elsewhere.

Speculation that would be well-founded, evidently. Right on the heels of Cuadrilla’s announcement, news is spreading that the United States Geological Survey has released a report (pdf) that links a series of earthquakes in Oklahoma last January to a fracking operation underway there. Evidently, a resident reported feeling some minor earthquakes, spurring the USGS to investigate. They found that some 50 small earthquakes had indeed been registered, ranging in magnitude from 1.0 to 2.8. The bulk of these occurred within 2.1 miles of Eola Field, a fracking operation in southern Garvin County. The U.S.G.S. determined that “from the character of the seismic recordings indicate that they are both shallow and unique.” From the report:
Our analysis showed that shortly after hydraulic fracturing began small earthquakes started occurring, and more than 50 were identified, of which 43 were large enough to be located. Most of these earthquakes occurred within a 24 hour period after hydraulic fracturing operations had ceased. There have been previous cases where seismologists have suggested a link between hydraulic fracturing and earthquakes, but data was limited, so drawing a definitive conclusion was not possible for these cases.
The report is still under peer-review, and even then, the correlation between fracking and the quakes is inconclusive. The U.S.G.S. notes that region has historically been seismically active, though the summary states that the “strong correlation in time and space as well as a reasonable fit to a physical model suggest that there is a possibility these earthquakes were induced by hydraulic fracturing.” Needless to say, it’s become much less far-fetched to presume that fracking has a serious impact on seismic activity. And so, yet another reason emerges to be wary of the secretive processes that underly the nation’s most controversial gas-extraction process: Fracking earthquakes. - Care2.

MYSTERY: Symbols of an Alien Sky, Man-Made or Natural Phenomena - The Latest UFO Sightings And Aerial Anomalies Around The World?!

Here are several of the latest unidentified flying objects (UFOs) seen recently across the globe.

Possible UFO sighting recorded from the Shenzhou 8, an unmanned flight of China's Shenzhou rocket program, launched on Monday, the 31st of October 2011, by a modified Long March 2F (CZ-2F) rocket which lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

WATCH: UFO near China's Shenzhou 8 rocket.

Two videos of UFO activity over Phoenix in Arizona filmed in early November 2011.

WATCH: UFO over Phoenix, Arizona.

This strange flashing light was recorded in the night sky above Coquitlam in British Columbia, Canada on Sunday, the 30th of October, 2011.

WATCH: UFO over Coquitlam, BC, Canada.

New footage of UFO activity in the skies above Fresno in California. This was recorded on Saturday, the 4th of November, 2011 around 5:30 am.

WATCH: UFO activity over Fresno, California.

This footage of unknown flashing lights in the night sky was recorded in Tucson, Arizona on Wednesday, the 2nd of October, 2011.

WATCH: UFO over Tucson, Arizona.

This video of unknown bright objects was filmed in Cidade Ademar in Sao Paulo, Brazil on Monday, the 31st of October, 2011.

WATCH: UFOs over São Paulo, Brazil.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: 310 Square Mile Ice Shelf of the Pine Island Glacier is Cracking - Creating a Massive Antarctica Iceberg!

"It looks like a significant part of the ice shelf is ready to break off."

After more than two weeks of successful flights over Antarctica and its surrounding waters and sea ice, one of the more interesting things NASA's Operation IceBridge team has seen this year is a large crack running across the floating ice shelf of Pine Island Glacier.

The team observed the crack on the DC-8's Oct. 14 flight. The flight was designed to get better measurements of the region around the ice shelf's grounding line - where the shelf meets the landmass under the water. It was also flown to collect data along lines that a ground-based expedition will traverse in the coming months. That data was collected, as expected. What wasn't expected was the crack. Pine Island is one of the largest and fastest-moving glaciers in Antarctica. It has captured scientists' attention for years because of the rate at which its ice is thinning.

The ice shelf thins, the grounding line retreats and the speed of the glacier increases. As it sits on bedrock below sea level - West Antarctica is the last place with such so-called "marine glaciers" - and drains about 10 percent of the West Antarctica ice sheet, scientists are concerned about the impact Pine Island's continued thinning will have on sea level. Ice shelves naturally calve icebergs to shed ice that flows from the landmass to the sea. However, given Pine Island's prominence as a target of study for glaciologists, the crack is at the very least an interesting observation. "It's part of a natural cycle, but it's still very interesting and impressive to see up close," said IceBridge project scientist Michael Studinger. "It looks like a significant part of the ice shelf is ready to break off." The IceBridge team made a preliminary calculation that the area that could calve in the coming months covers about 310 square miles (800 square kilometers), Studinger said. Peter Rejcek, Editor of The Antarctic Sun, wrote a piece about the crack that notes its location is about nine miles north of where a largely National Science Foundation-funded team, led by Bob Bindschadler of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, will drill this December and January. The team will put instruments below the ice shelf to provide data about ice sheet-ocean dynamics.

Rejcek writes: Bindschadler had previously calculated the propagation of earlier iceberg-releasing cracks at less than 50 meters per day. This crack must have moved much faster across the ice shelf, he said via e-mail. "The characteristics of the PIG crack that I find surprising are the fact that it is so far across the ice shelf after not having been observed up until the end of last season," he said. The location of the crack is near where past rifts have appeared in the ice shelf, according to Bindschadler. He estimated that a new, rather large iceberg will probably form in the coming months, if not weeks. "I hope that our field team will have enough time to get onto the ice shelf and set up GPS receivers before the calving event," Bindschadler said. "We'd like to measure if the ice shelf notices the loss." Ted Scambos, lead scientist at the Boulder, Colo.-based National Snow and Ice Data Center, agreed that it's likely that the crack is part of a natural cycle. "These are cyclical, occurring every few years, very similar in size and even shape," said Scambos via e-mail. "As a cyclical process, they are not part of the real climate-change/ice-shelf disintegration story."

In 2002, the Larsen B Ice Shelf on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula disintegrated in spectacular fashion, losing about 3,250 square kilometers of ice in a single season. More recently, the Wilkins Ice Shelf on the western side of the peninsula has started to collapse. Scientists believe both events are linked to climate change, though some researchers have suggested that wave action from distant storms could have helped break up the Wilkins Ice Shelf. "If something different happened this time; for example, the pace of calvings changed, or this one was farther upstream from the past ones, then it might signal some major change in the Pine Island system," said Scambos, adding that the area is changing in other ways, but the rate of calving has been steady over the last few decades. - Terra Daily.
WATCH: 310-Mile ice shelf cracking.