Friday, November 18, 2011

PLANETARY TREMORS: Powerful 6.1 Magnitude Earthquake Hits New Zealand! Animal Behavior - Beached Whales & Disaster Precursors!

A series of powerful earthquakes have hit off the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand.

Two strong earthquakes struck off the east coast of the North Island in New Zealand on early Friday evening, seismologists said. There were no reports of damage or casualties. The first earthquake at 4.34 p.m. local time (0434 GMT) measured 5.8 on the Richter scale and was centered about 140 kilometers (87 miles) east of Tikitiki, a small town about 100 kilometers (62 miles) northeast of Gisborne. It struck about 33 kilometers (20 miles) deep, making it a shallow earthquake. Several hours later, at 7.51 p.m. local time (0751 GMT), a stronger earthquake measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale struck the same area at a depth of 40 kilometers (25 miles), according to the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GeoNet), the country's seismological agency.

GeoNet said especially the second earthquake could be felt in some parts of the eastern region of the North Island. However, officials said there were no reports of damage or casualties from either earthquake and no tsunami alerts were issued. New Zealand has been struck by several earthquakes during the past year. On June 13, a strong 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck near the city of Christchurch on the South Island, injuring 46 people. It followed a 6.3-magnitude earthquake on February 22 near the same city, killing 181 people and injuring more than 1,500 others. The earthquake in February was the country's deadliest disaster since a powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the Hawke's Bay region on February 3, 1931, killing at least 256 people and injuring thousands more. - Channel 6 News.
These earthquakes comes against the background of the mass stranding of sperm whales in New Zealand and Australia. In all, 24 sperm whales and two minke whales died in a stranding on and around remote Ocean Beach in Tasmania. In an equally remote New Zealand location, the tip of Farewell Spit in the South Island, 65 pilot whales died. 91. Though whale strandings are relatively common in both countries, the past few days have been particularly tough for conservation authorities.

It is believed that animals have a keen sense, developed in their avoidance of predators and ability to locate preys, that helps them to detect imminent or pending disasters. Scientists and experts theorizes that this is due to the sensing of the vibrations of the planet or the changes in the air or gases released by the Earth. Whatever the reason is, animals have been known to swarm, collect or move to a different area from their usual gathering spot prior to a devastating disaster such as an earthquake, tsunami or floods. This fact was noted in the 2004 tsunami, where an earthquake in the Indian Ocean caused a massive tsunami to take the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in Asia and East Africa, but didn't cause any mass die-off of animals.

Is it possible that there is a link between these mass stranding and the earthquakes? Take note of this, earlier this year, on February 21st, 107 pilot whales died after a mass stranding on a remote New Zealand beach. Several hours later a 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit the Canterbury Region in New Zealand's South Island. The earthquake caused widespread damage across Christchurch, especially in the central city and eastern suburbs, with damage exacerbated by buildings and infrastructure already being weakened by the 4 September 2010 earthquake and its aftershocks. Significant liquefaction affected the eastern suburbs, producing around 400,000 tonnes of silt. The earthquake was reported to be felt across the South Island and the lower and central North Island. In total, 181 people were killed in the earthquake, making the earthquake the second-deadliest natural disaster recorded in New Zealand. A month later, on March 4th, about 50 melon-headed whales were found to have beached on the shore in Kashima, Ibaraki Prefecture, in eastern Japan and only 22 were rescued and returned to the sea. Several days later, a strong 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Japan, followed by the 9.1 magnitude mega-earthquake on March 11th that shifted the Earth's axis, resulting in a mega-disaster that unleashed a devastating tsunami and a nuclear nightmare at Fukushima.

CELESTIAL CONVERGENCE: Monumental Solar System Changes - Storm on Planet Saturn Goes Wild, Lasts More Than A Year, Shatters 1903 Record!

"With a 200-day interval of intense, hissing convection, it holds the record as the longest-lasting Saturn-encircling storm ever."

Storms on Saturn make the ones we moan about on Earth seem positively puny - and this year's northern storm is a record-breaker, even by the standards of the gas giant's legendarily foul weather.

The storm - shown here in a mosaic of images collected by NASA's Cassini spacecraft - has been raging for 200 days. It encircles the planet, and breaks a record set by a 1903 storm which battered Saturn for five months. The large disturbance imaged 21 years ago by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope - and comparable in size to the current storm - lasted for only 55 days. Like Jupiter, Saturn is made mostly of hydrogen and helium. Its volume is 755 times greater than that of Earth. Winds in the upper atmosphere reach 1,600 feet per second in the equatorial region - by comparison, the strongest hurricane-force winds on Earth top out at 60 feet per second. These super-fast winds, combined with heat rising from within the planet's interior, cause the yellow and gold bands visible in the atmosphere. The Cassini spacecraft, orbiting Saturn since 2004, continues to explore the planet and its moons, rings and magnetosphere. By July 2009, Cassini had returned more than 200,000 images. The image of the storm shown above is a mosaic of Cassini photographs, colour-corrected to make the storm more visible. - Daily Mail.
"Over the past year, a great disquiet has swept across the face of Saturn..." It sounds like the beginning of a science-fiction movie, but it's actually the latest missive from Carolyn Porco, head of the imaging team for the Cassini mission to Saturn. Today, Porco and her colleagues presented a visual chronicle of the largest Saturnian storm in more than a decade. The storm was first noticed almost a year ago, as a spot near the line between day and night on the northern hemisphere. Since then, it's grown into a wide, bright band stretching around the entire planet. "With a 200-day interval of intense, hissing convection, it holds the record as the longest-lasting Saturn-encircling storm ever," Porco writes. "And it has become the largest by far ever observed on the planet by an interplanetary spacecraft, giving us an unparalleled opportunity to study in great depth the subtle changes on the planet that preceded the storm's formatin and the mechanisms involved in its development." The imaging team has bumped up the colors on a few of the images, like the one shown above, but the true-color images taken over the course of the past year tell a story that's just as dramatic. It's been 14 years and a month since Cassini was launched, and for seven and a half years it's been observing Saturn and many of its 60-plus moons. That puts Cassini right up there with the Mars rovers among NASA's most successful interplanetary missions. "And with any luck, there'll be a great deal more to come," Porco writes. - MSNBC.
Shown here in an amazing image, collected by NASA's Cassini spacecraft, it encircles the planet, and breaks a record set by a 1903 storm which battered the ringed celestial object for five months.

It is one of the largest and longest lived storms ever recorded in our Solar System. First seen late last year, the above cloud formation in the northern hemisphere of Saturn started larger than the Earth and soon spread completely around the planet. The storm has been tracked not only from Earth but from up close by the robotic Cassini spacecraft currently orbiting Saturn. Pictured above in false colored infrared in February, orange colors indicate clouds deep in the atmosphere, while light colors highlight clouds higher up. The rings of Saturn are seen nearly edge-on as the thin blue horizontal line. The warped dark bands are the shadows of the rings cast onto the cloud tops by the Sun to the upper left. A source of radio noise from lightning, the intense storm may relate to seasonal changes as spring slowly emerges in the north of Saturn. - NASA APOD.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Restless Underwater Volcano in Canary Island!

Steaming magma is bubbling onto the sea surface in the Canary Islands. The earth shakes, and a smell of sulphur floats in the air.

For over a month, residents of the Spanish Canary Island of El Hierro have lived with an active underwater volcano that not only poses a security threat, but also scares off tourists and endangers the inhabitants' livelihoods. Volcanic eruptions could continue for weeks, civil protection science representative Carmen Lopez said this week. However, the situation has been deemed safe enough for the 550 evacuated residents of the fishing village of La Restinga to return home, though the island was still being hit by earthquakes. The earth began trembling on El Hierro on July 19, in a sign that magma was rising towards the surface of the smallest Canary Island. The island of 11,000 residents has a large volcano and more than 250 craters. But its volcanic power had been dormant for centuries, with the last eruption reported in 1793.

El Hierro has now experienced more than 11,000 earthquakes since July. The vast majority were not noticed by the population, but grew in intensity. Dozens of people were evacuated for fear of rockslides in September, and an army unit was put on standby to help in the event of a mass evacuation. An underwater eruption occurred on October 10, following an earthquake of a magnitude greater than 4. Scientists observing seismic activity confirmed the eruption. Dead fish were seen floating on the water. Volcanic activity has since continued intermittently, with witnesses reporting jets of gas and ash spewing several metres above sea level. The eruptions have sent a large volume of greenish magma spilling into the sea. An oceanographic vessel discovered a 100-metre-high volcano with a 120-metre-diameter crater located at a depth of about 200 metres. It is thought possible that magma is also breaking through one or two other outlets. Some of the eruptions have been observed as close as 1.5 kilometres off El Hierro's southern coast.

The nearby La Restinga has been evacuated several times. There has also been concern over a possible eruption off Frontera, the island's economic capital in the north, following strong earthquakes in the area. More than 50 people were evacuated. 'The worst scenario would be an eruption on land,' Canaries security chief Juan Manuel Santana told the daily El Pais. There is even a remote possibility of eruptions resulting in new land. Possible names for a new Canary Island have already been suggested on the internet, such as Atlantis or Discovery. For the moment, however, experts are most concerned about the presence of toxic gases, though there is practically no evidence so far of health damage to the population. Most El Hierro residents are more worried about their livelihoods than about the simmering volcano.

The earthquakes and eruptions have brought fishing and touristic diving to a standstill in La Restinga, some of whose residents had to resort to emergency food aid. Life is now returning to the village while two nearby coves still remain closed to the public. The authorities are also maintaining some of the traffic restrictions imposed earlier. Traffic will remain limited in a key tunnel linking Frontera with the island's capital Valverde. The traffic problems have sparked more protests over economic losses. There were initial hopes that the volcano would draw more tourists to the island, which receives about 7,000 visitors annually. But the opposite happened, with more than 1,500 cancelling their holidays and causing losses worth hundreds of thousands of euros for the local tourism industry, its representatives said. Magma now covers some of the island's rich underwater flora and fauna at the Mar de las Calmas marine reserve, which was a favourite among tourists. Some El Hierro residents are preparing demonstrations, accusing Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's government of abandoning them. 'Other emergencies only last a certain time, but that is not the case now,' Santana said. 'What people want is a return to normality, to routine.' - Monsters and Critics.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Extinction Level Event - Amphibians Are Currently Facing A 'Terrifyingly' Rapid Rate Of Extermination!

"...about half of all amphibian populations are in decline. And that is just what is happening at the moment."

Researchers say tropical regions of richest diversity are most at risk of losing frogs, toads, newts and salamanders.

If the current rapid extermination of animals, plants and other species really is the "sixth mass extinction", then it is the amphibian branch of the tree of life that is undergoing the most drastic pruning. In research described as "terrifying" by an independent expert, scientists predict the future for frogs, toads, newts and salamanders is even more bleak than conservationists had realised. Around half of amphibian species are in decline, while a third are already threatened with extinction. But scientists now predict that areas with the highest diversity of amphibian species will be under the most intense threat in the future. And they warn that a three-pronged threat could also cause populations to decline faster than previously thought. Like many creatures, amphibians have been hit hard by climate change and habitat loss. But they have also been decimated by the spread of the deadly fungal disease chytridiomycosis.  One in three of the world's amphibians are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's red list of endangered species. These include the Malagasy rainbow frog that lives in the rocky forests of Madagascar. It has the ability to inflate itself when under attack and can climb vertical rock faces. Found in an area smaller than 100 square kilometres, it is a prime target for the pet trade. The Chinese giant salamander is also critically endangered. The largest of all amphibian species, it can grow to more than a metre long. Overexploitation for food has led to a catastrophic decline in the last 30 years. European species are also threatened. Scientists predict climate change, habitat destruction and disease could drive more than half of all Europe's frogs, toads and newts to extinction within 40 years.

Now the largest study of its kind has found that it is in areas where amphibian diversity is at its highest that the greatest threat lies. Researchers led by Dr Christian Hof, from the University of Copenhagen, used computer modelling to predict the impact of climate change, the effect of habitat loss from urbanisation and farming and, finally, the fungal disease on amphibian populations. "What we found looking at climate change, for example, is that many tropical regions, such as northern South America, the Andes and parts of Africa, will be highly impacted," said Hof. The team then compared this map of impact with the global distribution of more than 5,500 species of amphibians. The results, published in the Journal Nature, show that two-thirds of the areas with the richest diversity of frog and salamander species will be affected by one or more of these threats by 2080. Scientists also found that some of the threats overlapped. The regions where amphibian populations are expected to suffer most from climate change tended to overlap with the areas that could suffer most from habitat destruction. The fungal disease, on the other hand, was more isolated. "What we still have not really understood is the mechanistic interaction between them, like how does land use change or the fragmentation of habitats influence the potential responses of a species to climate change," said Hof. Overlapping threats could mean that estimates of the rate of amphibian decline are too optimistic and that populations could decline even faster than previously thought. Helen Meredith, amphibian conservationist at the Zoological Society of London, said: "Looking into 2080, it seems there will be more extinctions of species of amphibians, which is terrifying as a third of all amphibian species are threatened with extinction now. "Data is deficient for a quarter of them, which means we don't know whether they are threatened with extinction or not and about half of all amphibian populations are in decline. And that is just what is happening at the moment." - Guardian.

PLANETARY: 4.6 Quake Shakes North Central Washington!

USGS map of the Washington quake.
A light earthquake struck near the northern central Washington town of Omak Friday morning. The earthquake, which hit at about 5:09 a.m., was initially recorded as having a magnitude of 4.0 but was later upgraded to 4.6, the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network (PNSN) reported. The tremor had a depth of 5.1 km (3.2 miles), the quake hit at 13:09:00 UTC Friday 18th November 2011. The epicentre was 9 km ( 5 miles) southwest of Riverside, Washington; 9 km (6 miles) northwest (317°) from Omak, Washington; 12 km (7 miles) north (350°) from Okanogan, Washington; 186 km (115 miles) northwest (299°) from Spokane, Washington; and 223 km (139 miles) northeast (64°) from Seattle, Washington.

EMSC seismicity of the region.
A magnitude 4.6 earthquake rattled an isolated area of Washington state near the Canadian border. The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network said the quake occurred at 5:09 a.m. on Friday and was centered seven miles northwest of Omak, and 8 miles northwest of Okanogan. A dispatcher in the Okanogan County sheriff's office, Sarah Gibson, says there are no reports of injuries or damage. KPQ in Wenatchee reports callers in Leavenworth described it as a rolling motion. Some said it was strong enough to shake items off a shelf. - Sacramento Bee.

EARTH CHANGES: IPCC - Climate Impact Risk Set To Increase!

The risk from extreme weather events is likely to increase if the world continues to warm, say scientists.

A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said it was "very likely" that emissions had led to an increase in daily maximum temperatures. It added that emissions had also led some regions experiencing longer and more intense droughts. The findings of the Special Report were presented at the IPCC's 34th Session, which is being held in Kampala, Uganda. The details were outlined during a media briefing by the co-chairmen overseeing the compilation of two of the three segments of next IPCC assessment report. Introducing the Summary for Policymakers of the Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation, IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri said: "It underlines the complexity and diversity of factors that are shaping human vulnerability to extremes."

The summary stated: "Extreme events are rare, which means there are few data available to make assessments regarding changes in their frequency or intensity." However, it added: "There have been statistically significant trends in the number of heavy precipitation events in some regions." On the possible change to hurricane patterns, it said: "Average tropical cyclone maximum wind speed is likely to increase, although increases may not occur in all ocean basins. "It is likely that the global frequency of tropical cyclones will either decrease or remain essentially unchanged." The report also said that small island - as well as mountainous and coastal - settlements were likely to be particularly vulnerable as a result of sea-level rise and higher temperatures, in both developed and developing nations. "Rapid urbanisation and the growth of mega-cities, especially in developing nations, have led to the emergence of highly vulnerable urban communities," it added. - BBC.

CELESTIAL CONVERGENCE: Monumental Solar System Changes - NASA Orbiter Watches Stunning Sand Dunes Movement on Planet Mars!

Scientists are puzzled and surprised by the wind power produced on planet Mars' thin atmosphere.
The benefit of long-term observations from orbit became evident on Thursday with the release of images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter showing the subtly shifting motion of large sand dunes on the Red Planet, proving that the surface of Mars is much more dynamic than previously believed. The atmosphere of Mars is extremely thin — only 1 percent as dense as Earth’s. This means that Martian winds would seem barely perceptible to a human, and would have to blow at high speeds to move even the smallest particles on its surface. Although scientists have known that Mars contains many dunes and vast expanses of sandy regions it has been assumed that these features must move very slowly — if at all — due to the thin air.

Now, images taken at different intervals by MRO’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE, clearly show the shifting motion of several large sand dune features (called bedforms) in various locations on Mars. “Mars either has more gusts of wind than we knew about before, or the winds are capable of transporting more sand,” said Nathan Bridges, planetary scientist at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory and lead author of a paper published online in the journal Geology. “We used to think of the sand on Mars as relatively immobile, so these new observations are changing our whole perspective.” Sandy particles on Earth that could be moved by a 10 mph breeze would require an 80 mph gust of Martian wind. Weather data and climate models have shown that such winds should be rare on Mars. These findings from MRO indicate that either high-speed winds are more common than once thought, or else they are more capable of moving sand around. Or it could be a combination of both factors.

Not all of Mars’ dunes are so restless, though. The study found regions where no movement is shown. “The sand dunes where we didn’t see movement today could have larger grains, or perhaps their surface layers are cemented together,” Bridges said. “These studies show the benefit of long-term monitoring at high resolution.” Ten years ago the belief was that dunes on Mars are either static or move too slowly to detect. Thanks to MRO and the HiRISE team — and the authors of this new paper — we now know that idea is all just dust in the wind. - MSNBC.

ANCIENT ALIENS: Season 3 - Aliens, Gods And Heroes!

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 fifteen, entitled Aliens, Gods and Heroes and runs for 44 minutes. It examines whether the mythologies, stories and fairy-tales about Gods and Heroes are really about visitation from extraterrestrial entities.

"Superhuman strength... Supernatural powers... And the awesome ability to fly. Throughout history, mankind has told incredible tales of gods with extraordinary powers. But are these accounts merely tall tales, or could they be based on factual events? If mythical gods really did exist, were they, as ancient astronaut theorists believe, extraterrestrial beings? And could this help to explain the enduring popularity of gods, titans and other so-called "super-heroes"? " - The History Channel.

WATCH: Aliens, Gods And Heroes.