Monday, December 5, 2011

MONUMENTAL DISCOVERY: Scientists Discover The BIGGEST Black Holes Ever Known To Exist - Black Holes Billions Of Times Bigger Than Sun Discovered!

Scientists have found the biggest black holes known to exist – each one 10 billion times the size of our sun.

A team led by astronomers at the University of California, Berkeley, discovered the two gigantic black holes in clusters of elliptical galaxies more than 300 million light years away. That's relatively close on the galactic scale. "They are monstrous," Berkeley astrophysicist Chung-Pei Ma told reporters. "We did not expect to find such massive black holes because they are more massive than indicated by their galaxy properties. They're kind of extraordinary." The previous black hole record-holder is as large as 6 billion suns. In research released Monday by the journal Nature, the scientists suggest these black holes may be the leftovers of quasars that crammed the early universe. They are similar in mass to young quasars, they said, and have been well hidden until now. The scientists used ground-based telescopes as well as the Hubble Space Telescope and Texas supercomputers, observing stars near the black holes and measuring the stellar velocities to uncover these vast, invisible regions. Black holes are objects so dense that nothing, not even light, can escape. Some are formed by the collapse of a super-size star. It's uncertain how these two newly discovered whoppers originated, said Nicholas McConnell, a Berkeley graduate student who is the study's lead author. To be so massive now means they must have grown considerably since their formation, he said. Most if not all galaxies are believed to have black holes at their center. The bigger the galaxy, it seems, the bigger the black hole. Quasars are some of the most energized and distant of galactic centers.

The researchers said their findings suggest differences in the way black holes grow, depending on the size of the galaxy. Ma speculates these two black holes remained hidden for so long because they are living in quiet retirement – much quieter and more boring than their boisterous youth powering quasars billions of years ago. "For an astronomer, finding these insatiable black holes is like finally encountering people nine feet tall whose great height had only been inferred from fossilized bones. How did they grow so large?" Ma said in a news release. "This rare find will help us understand whether these black holes had very tall parents or ate a lot of spinach." Oxford University astrophysicist Michele Cappellari, who wrote an accompanying commentary in the journal, agreed that the two newly discovered black holes "probably represent the missing dormant relics of the giant black holes that powered the brightest quasars in the early universe." One of the newly detected black holes weighs 9.7 billion times the mass of the sun. The second, slightly farther from Earth, is as big or even bigger. Even larger black holes may be lurking out there. Ma said that's the million-dollar question: How big can a black hole grow? The researchers already are peering into the biggest galaxies for answers. "If there is any bigger black hole," Ma said, "we should be able to find them in the next year or two. Personally, I think we are probably reaching the high end now. Maybe another factor of two to go at best. - Huffington Post.

GLOBAL FINANCIAL CONTAGION: S&P Puts 15 Eurozone Nations on Negative Credit Watch - George Soros Declares That The Global Financial System Is On The Brink Of Collapse!

It seems that the global financial market "contagion" has spread and the entire Eurozone is now mired deeply in the economic crisis. Today, after what appeared to be a perfectly good day for all markets across the globe, rating agency Standard & Poors slammed Europe by placing 15 Eurozone countries on downgrade watch.

Bombshell news that Standard & Poor's ratings service was about to place all 17 countries of the Eurozone on downgrade review—including the AAA-rated Germany, France, the Netherlands, Austria, Finland, and Luxembourg—stunned markets today. In total, 15 countries from the European Economic and Monetary Union were put on downgrade review. That added to Cyprus, which already under fire for a possible downgrade. Greece avoided today's downgrade watch carnage, but that's not saying much for the troubled Hellenic nation. According to the report, they'll try to wrap up the review as soon as possible after the EU summit concludes on December 8-9. The ratings agency threatened a one-notch downgrade for Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, and Luxembourg, but said that other countries—including France—could all drop two notches if they don't make progress to fix their fiscal positions.

S&P cited five reasons for the action in a press release (full version below):

(1) Tightening credit conditions across the Eurozone;

(2) Markedly higher risk premiums on a growing number of Eurozone sovereigns,  including some that are currently rated 'AAA';

(3) Continuing disagreements among European policy makers on how to tackle the  immediate market confidence crisis and, longer term, how to ensure greater  economic, financial, and fiscal convergence among Eurozone members;

(4) High levels of government and household indebtedness across a large area  of the Eurozone; and

(5) The rising risk of economic recession in the Eurozone as a whole in 2012.

- Business Insider.
 Read the full release HERE.

Meanwhile, billionaire investor George Soros says that the global financial system is on the brink of collapse.

Developed countries are falling into a "deflationary debt trap," in which consumer spending falls, products become more expensive, tax revenues drop, and sovereign debt grows, Soros said last week, according to the Wall Street Journal. As a result, he said, the global financial system is in a "self-reinforcing process of disintegration. The consequences could be quite disastrous," Soros, who was born in Hungary, said at the tenth anniversary of the International Senior Lawyers Project. Concern is mounting that the Eurozone may break up because of market pressure on European sovereign debt, which could plunge Europe into a depression and the world into a recession. Observers are already worried that Europe could suffer a recession and subsequent slow growth for several years even if it averts a Eurozone breakup, since products would remain expensive on the euro, making consumers more hesitant to buy them and forcing governments to curtail budgets even more as consumer spending falls.

The markets have forced pressure on the Eurozone because of these fears. Borrowing costs for Italy and Spain recently hit record highs, which economists say are unsustainable over the long term. Either of these countries would be forced to default on their debt if not enough investors are willing to buy their new sovereign debt at bond auctions. If Italy or Spain defaults on their sovereign debt and leaves the Eurozone, it would probably break up. Depositors likely would pull their investments from banks, large European banks would fail, borrowing costs for other countries would become unsustainable, and other countries would leave the euro. Such an outcome would depress lending and consumer spending and plunge Europe into a deep recession. European leaders will meet for a summit on Thursday and Friday to try to reach an agreement to stave off a breakup of the Eurozone -- a deal they haven't been able to come to for two years.

European stock markets have fallen in response to the crisis in Europe. The FTSE Eurofirst 300 is down 9.97 percent for the year, the DAX in Germany is down 11.78 percent for the year, and the CAC 40 in France is down 14.70 percent for the year, according to Thomson Reuters. Many economists say that the Eurozone can avert a breakup only if the European Central Bank steps up to become a lender of last resort for troubled European countries. But the ECB has been purchasing European sovereign debt only in limited amounts, and the central bank in Germany -- Europe's largest economy -- has expressed concerns that printing money to buy large amounts of European sovereign debt would violate the ECB's mandate to temper inflation. Nonetheless, sources close to German Chancellor Angela Merkel have said she is prepared to let the ECB buy more troubled European sovereign debt if those countries implement long-term budget cuts. The United States itself continues to grapple with federal debt that topped $15 trillion for the first time last month, according to ABC. - Huffington Post.
WATCH: Ratings agency threatens Eurozone downgrade.

EXTRATERRESTRIAL MEMES: Alien Planet in the "Goldilocks Zone" - Kepler Team Confirms First Earth-like Planet in a Habitable Zone, and Finds 1,094 More Worlds!

Astronomers, today, confirmed the monumental discovery of the existence of an Earth-like world orbiting a star like our Sun in its "habitable zone".

Kepler-22b, just 2.4 times the size of Earth, is the first planet known to comfortably circle in the habitable
zone of a sun-like star. Scientists do not yet know if the planet has a rocky, gaseous, or liquid
composition. It's possible that the world would have clouds in its atmosphere, as depicted here.
Nestled in the Goldilocks zone of a small, sun-like star is a room-temperature world a little more than twice the size of Earth. Scientists do not yet know if it is rocky or gaseous and whether it has water or clouds, but they do know that it’s the right size, and in the right place, for liquid water to exist. If it does exist, it may be one of the best places to look for life outside of our solar system. The new planet, Kepler-22, is about 600 light-years away and the smallest planet confirmed to exist smack in the middle of the habitable zone of a sun-like star. It’s one of the most stunning announcements from the Kepler Space Telescope, which stares at a field of stars in the constellations Cygnus and Lyra and looks for blips in brightness to find other planets. While Kepler has (as of today) found more than 2,000 possible planets, finding an Earth-like world in a sun-like environment has proved elusive — until now. “This is a major milestone on the road to finding Earth's twin,” said Douglas Hudgins, Kepler program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
Kepler-22 System: This diagram compares our own solar system to Kepler-22, a star system containing
the first "habitable zone" planet discovered by NASA's Kepler telescope. The habitable zone is the sweet
spot around a star where temperatures are right for water to exist in its liquid form. Kepler-22's star is a
bit smaller than our sun, so its habitable zone is slightly closer in. The diagram shows an artist's
rendering of the planet comfortably orbiting within the habitable zone, similar to where Earth circles the sun.
On top of this announcement today, the Kepler science team is sharing 1,094 more planet candidates, many of which are also potentially Earth-like and in habitable zones. Now there are 2,326 planet candidates in the sun-orbiting space telescope’s field of view, in a small sliver of the sky. Kepler-22b’s discovery was first announced last February, when the Kepler team shared its initial treasure trove of planet candidates. Among 1,235 candidate worlds, there were 54 habitable zone candidates, Kepler-22b among them. Now it’s the first of these to be confirmed. It takes 290 days to orbit around its star, Kepler-22, a G-class star a lot like the one we know best. “It’s almost a solar twin; it is very similar to our sun,” Natalie Batalha, Kepler deputy science team lead at San Jose State University, said in a press conference. The planet is about 15 percent nearer to its star than Earth is to the sun. But this is OK because the star is cooler (by about 220 degrees), a bit dimmer, and a little smaller than our star. So the planet is in a really analogous Earth-like orbit. The planet’s temperature is even pretty close to Earth’s, said William Borucki, the Kepler mission’s principal investigator at NASA’s Ames Research Center. “If greenhouse warming on this planet was similar (to atmospheric warming on Earth), its surface temperature would be something like 72° F,” he said. It will be a mighty nice place to look for signs of life, he added. Jill Tarter, director of the Center for SETI Research at the SETI Institute, said astrobiologists are taking that to heart. “We will give a higher priority to worlds that our colleagues tell us are not too warm, not too cold, but just right,” she said.

With so many exoplanets, astronomers will need to start making some catalog decisions, ranking planets by their habitability potential. Along with the Earth Similarity Index we covered last month, the Kepler team has their own proposed planetary directory to make this easier. The Habitable Exoplanets Catalog ranks planets by their surface temperature, similarity to Earth, and capacity to sustain organisms at the bottom of the food chain. Monday’s announcement came during the inaugural Kepler Science Conference in Mountain View, Calif. With the addition of 1,094 new candidate worlds, the number of planet candidates has increased by 89 percent and now totals 2,326. Of these, 207 are approximately Earth-size, 680 are super Earth-size, 1,181 are Neptune-size, 203 are Jupiter-size and 55 are larger than Jupiter. So since February, the number of Earth-size and super Earth-size candidates has increased by more than 200 and 140 percent, respectively. That’s a lot of numbers, and here’s another good one: 10. That’s the number of these new candidates that are near-Earth-sized and in the habitable zones of their host stars. Kepler-22b is not among that list, so that makes at least 11 places elsewhere in the galaxy that might look very, very familiar. There’s still a bit of work to do to quantify just what Kepler-22b looks like. Now that astronomers are convinced it’s a planet and they know where it is, confirming their findings with the Spitzer Space Telescope, they want to find out what it's made of. Ground-based telescopes like the Keck Observatory will start making some measurements next summer, when the field of sky that Kepler studies is visible from Earth. And there is still much more to come, according to NASA scientists. Some software improvements have made it a little simpler to sift through Kepler light-curve data and hunt for planet candidates, so there will be at least one more big batch, according to Batalha. Among those, there may be many more Earth-like candidates to join the ranks. “We are really zeroing in on the true Earth-sized habitable planets,” she said. - POPSCI.

WATCH: NASA announces Keplar telescope discovery of the 'new Earth'.

GLOBAL ALERT: Solar Watch - Space Weather Warns of Growing Threat of Solar Flares, Chance of Polar Geomagnetic Activity!

According to Space Weather, Sunspot 1363 has developed a delta-class magnetic field and the Earth is currently inside a solar wind stream flowing from the Sun.

GROWING THREAT OF FLARES: What a difference a weekend makes. Since Friday, sunspot AR1363 has nearly tripled in area and it has developed a delta-class magnetic field that harbors energy for X-class solar flares.  Despite its growing potential for explosions, the sunspot remains mostly quiet producing no flares stronger than C-class. Is this the quiet before the storm--or just plain quiet?

AURORA EXPLOSION: Saturday night on the border between Russia and Norway, the sky suddenly erupted in color. "It was like an aurora explosion," says Sebastian Voltmer of Kirkenes, Norway. "I was surprised to see a brightening snake forming an 'S' - like the first letter of my name, that appeared at 22.48 pm UT." During the outburst, Jupiter was surrounded by streamers of green light. "A very beautiful event!" says Voltmer. Auroras like these have been flickering and surging around the Arctic Circle for days. The source of the displays is a minor solar wind stream, which has been gently buffeting Earth's magnetic field since the month began. NOAA forecasters estimate a 14% chance of more polar geomagnetic activity tonight. - Space Weather.
WATCH: Solar Activity Update.

Meanwhile a report from a German insurance group, Allianz, is predicting that the planet's power grids could soon be under attack from solar storms.

An upcoming cycle of stormy solar activity risks causing damage to electrical transformers and threatening vulnerable energy infrastructure around the globe, a report by an insurance group says. The sun follows a predictable 11 year activity cycle, with the next period of stormy activity expected to begin in 2012-13. The report by German insurance group Allianz said a high impact solar storm, not easily predicted due to its recorded rarity, could cause blackouts and economic losses of over $1 trillion and that the worst case scenario would be even worse. "What we're coming into at the moment is the bad (space)weather period," Jim Wild of Britain's Lancaster University, an expert in solar plasma physics, told Reuters. A large explosion on the surface of the sun could release billions of tones of superheated magnetically charged gas at a speed of a million miles per hour, and when that gas hits the earth's magnetic field, it can trigger a big solar storm. The severity of a potential disruption has made experts at insurance and national security institutions take notice. "When you start to imagine not having electricity in a sizeable fraction of a country or a continent for weeks or even months ... it's serious business," Wild said.

The difficulty lies in predicting how often serious solar type events occur. The small lead time given by satellites is also a problem for preventing solar storm damage, as currently no satellite is close enough to the sun to give more than an hour's warning, Wild said. Updating the satellites to give the earth more preparation time would cost around $1 billion, he added. Space weather is a relatively new area of study, with sophisticated observations going back only 50 years and lacking an international coordinated tracking system such as that found with normal meteorological weather. "We have very little on a solar time scale," Wild said. The most damaging storm in recent memory was a 1989 outage in Quebec, Canada, which affected six million people. The first scientific recording of a large solar storm was made in 1859 by English astronomer Richard Carrington, who observed a white light explosion on the surface of the sun. Wild said: "what they didn't know back then was why about two or three days later you could see the northern lights over Cuba and all of the telegraph system was disrupted by geomagnetic activity." According to the Allianz report, an event on the same scale today would cause extensive damage to electrical infrastructure. - Reuters.

ICE AGE NOW: THE BIG FREEZE - Britain Braced for a White Christmas as Warm November Becomes Distant Memory with Snow and Frost Freezing the Country!

The big freeze finally hit Britain today, carpeting much of the north in snow and ice, while temperatures plummet across the rest of the country.

After the second-warmest November since records began in 1910, many woke up to widespread frost this morning and the task of de-icing their windscreens. Forecasters have warned that four inches of snow will fall in the next 48 hours causing misery for motorists. A lorry driver died this morning after his vehicle skidded off a trunk road in north Lincolnshire after driving conditions turned treacherous. Humberside Police said the white Scania lorry, which was fully loaded with meat, left the westbound carriageway of the A160 in South Killingholme at about 4.14am. Police across the north of England and Scotland are warning motorists to take extra care due to sleet and snow. The Met Office today issued severe weather warnings of snow and ice for most of Scotland, Northern Ireland, much of northern England and parts of the Midlands.

By the afternoon the Midlands had been downgraded however, but the Met Office has issued a yellow weather warning for ice in the region tomorrow. Around an inch of snow fell in Glasgow overnight, while East Kilbride had up to six inches in places. Eskdalemuir, in Dumfriesshire saw nearly 4.5inches overnight, while Spadeadam, near Carlisle in Cumbria had just over 2inches. While the Met Office said it was 'too early to tell' whether we can expect a white Christmas, bookies have now slashed the odds. Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle have all been reduced in price, while London's Heathrow Airport was also cut to 11-2 from 6-1. A fleet of 130 gritters were out in force overnight and used 3,000 tonnes of salt to treat roads in the northern parts of the country. But the M74 in South Lanarkshire was still down to one lane southbound after an HGV jack-knifed earlier today. The A74 in Dumfries and Galloway was also reduced to one lane when another lorry jack-knifed.
Assistant Chief Constable Allan Moffat, of Central Scotland Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers (Scotland), said: 'I would ask people to remember that both damp and snow-affected roads can hide the hidden danger of black ice, particularly in shaded areas. 'Our message is very much aimed at asking motorists to be aware of the dangers and travel with extra caution.' Police reported a loss of the 999 call service in the Rosehall area of Lairg in Sutherland, affecting 176 telephone lines due to the wintry weather conditions. The Met Office has predicted sub-zero temperatures and strong winds will continue for the rest of the week in northern and western parts, while gales with gusts up to 40mph are due to hit the region tomorrow morning. The south west and east will remain dry and bright but bitterly cold as the weeks moves forward, but there is a risk of fog and frost overnight. Gritters were put on stand-by and motorists warned to take extra precautions after up to three inches fell over the weekend. As children frolicked, drivers battled their way through untreated rural roads, with some having to dig themselves out before setting off. Cumbria, Northumberland and County Durham were hit first, but the freezing conditions are set to spread to parts of Yorkshire by midweek at the latest. Yet as snow blankets parts of the UK, France’s ski resorts are facing a potentially ruinous shortage. Just two of its 36 resorts in the Pyrenees are open, and it is unclear if the snowfall expected there this week will be enough to salvage the season for thousands of ­Britons looking forward to pre-Christmas breaks. - Daily Mail.

GEO-ENGINEERING: Could Scientists Reverse Global Warming - The U.N. Discusses Plans to Reflect the Sun to Cool the Earth?!

A group of scientists, philosophers and legal scholars are looking into radical geoengineering plans to artificially cool the Earth in a bid to reverse global warning.

A U.N. climate conference in South Africa on Friday said that - in theory - reflecting a small amount of sunlight back into space before it strikes the Earth's surface would have an immediate and dramatic effect. Within a few years, global temperatures could return to levels of 250 years ago, before the industrial revolution began dumping carbon dioxide into the air, trapping heat and causing temperatures to rise. But no one knows what the side effects would be. They could unintentionally changing weather patterns and rainfall. The idea of solar radiation management ‘has the potential to be either very useful or very harmful,’ said the study led by Britain's Royal Society, the Washington-based Environmental Defense Fund and TWAS, the academy of sciences for the developing world based in Trieste, Italy.

The final report is the climax of a year-long dialogue spanning experts in 22 countries. It was prompted by the failure of a 20-year U.N. negotiating process to take decisive action to curb greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels, responsible for climate change. 'The slow progress of international climate negotiations has led to increased concerns that sufficient cuts in greenhouse gas emissions may not be achieved in time to avoid unacceptable levels of climate change,' the report said. But geoengineering is not an alternative to climate action, said John Shepherd, a British oceanographer from the University of Southampton who was the lead author of the report. 'Nobody thought this provides a justification for not reducing carbon emissions,' Shepherd told AP.

'We have to stick with Plan A for the time being, and that could be a very long time indeed,' he said. 'This would buy time for people to make the transition to a low-carbon economy.' The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sees temperatures rising as much as 6.4 degrees Celsius (11.5 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100, swelling the seas with melted glacial water and disrupting climate conditions around the globe. Deliberately tinkering with nature to counter global warming can only be a stopgap measure, and is fraught with danger, the report said. Action such as spraying sulfur into the air or brightening clouds with sea water to reflect more sunlight would have to be sustained indefinitely because 'there would be a large and rapid climate change if it were terminated suddenly,' the report said. Theories of manipulating the climate to impede global warming have been on the fringe of scientific discussion for some time, but is now moving towards the mainstream. In the United States, a group of 18 U.S. experts from the sciences, social sciences and national security unveiled a report in October urging the federal government to begin research on the feasibility and potential effectiveness of geoengineering. - Daily Mail.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Powerful Eruptions Occurring at Ecuador Volcano!

There was no sign Sunday that eruptions at Ecuador’s Tungurahua volcano would cease any time soon, geologists monitoring the activity said.

Experts with the Geophysical Institute (IG) said that since dawn “powerful roars and explosions sounding like cannon blasts” coming from the volcano could be heard in the area, rattling windows and shaking the ground in nearby towns. Geologists also reported a columns “with a moderate to high load of ash” rising four kilometers (2.5 miles) above the crater. Ash was reported to have spread to a dozen nearby villages. On Saturday, and again on Sunday, there were two eruptions in which the volcano spewed gas, ash and red-hot rock, with lava pouring some 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) below the crater.

The 5,029-meter (16,500-foot) volcano is located about 135 kilometers (84 miles) south of the capital Quito. The volcano has been active since 1999 but its thermal activity has steadily increased since November 27. Eruptions at the Tungurahua, which means “Throat of Fire” in the indigenous Quechua language, peaked in 2006, killing six people in a village in Chimborazo province. The Geophysical Institute on Tuesday recommended people leave high-risk areas around the volcano. Several communities near Tungurahua, including the tourist town of Banos with 15,000 people, were forced to evacuate during the volcano’s violent eruption in 1999. Residents could only return to their homes one year later. - Raw Story.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Earthquakes Keep New Zealand Shaking!

New Zealand was hit by a series of earthquakes last night, a day after the biggest quake to hit the Marlborough region in 45 years.

At 10.46pm the North Island was rocked by a 4.8 magnitude quake centred 150km east of Te Araroa at a depth of 33km. GNS Science seismologist Brian Ferris said it could have been felt as far away as Wellington. There was no tsunami threat from the quake, he said. Shortly after 5pm a 4.9 quake west of Taupo was felt in Wellington and Hawke's Bay. Three weaker quakes were felt in the South Island within about three hours of each other. At 7.09 pm a 2.5 quake hit near Christchurch, followed by a 3.4 quake centred 10km northwest of Oxford at 8.15pm and a 3.3 magnitude quake centred 20km northeast of Cromwell at 9.33pm.

On Saturday Wellington and Picton residents were rattled by the biggest quake since the Seddon earthquake of 1966. The 5.7 magnitude earthquake was centred 30km east of Picton in the Marlborough Sounds at 7.19pm, at a depth of 60km. Wellington and Picton escaped major damage due to the depth of the quake. The quake was felt from New Plymouth to Christchurch. Many described hearing a loud "thunder-like" noise as the ground swayed, before the jolt hit, lasting about 20 seconds. - Stuff.

EXTREME WEATHER: Weather Anomalies - Windstorm Wreaks Havoc in Rocky View, Alberta!

Beiseker’s streets
looked like a scene from a movie after a wicked windstorm blew through the town, Nov. 27. Wind speeds reaching close to 100 km/h ripped the roofs off several buildings, brought down power lines and sent debris flying in the village.

The Beiseker Fire Station lost its corrugated metal roof in the early afternoon, according to local firefighter Jim Fox. “It was really scary,” he said. “I have never seen wind like that before, it was more like a hurricane.” Fox, the lieutenant in charge at the fire station at the time, was preparing a second crew to assist at a Linden-area grass fire when he heard a horrifying sound. “All of a sudden, I opened the door and (the roof) peeled up and flew off and landed right in front of me,” said Fox. “It was like a freight train coming through.” Resident Fred Walters also lost a portion of his roof. The Walters were in Airdrie when it happened, arriving home to a missing roof, but took the event in stride. “It happens,” said Walters, a Town councillor. “It is an act of God, there is nothing you can do about it.” Fox said he witnessed the damage being done to the private home. “The roof… flew off when I was walking by,” he said. “It took the power line out like a butter knife.” Shaken, Fox said he felt lucky to be unharmed. “When I finally got home that night, I grabbed my kids and held them tight,” he said.

Three large Dynagra grain bins were also knocked down in the storm and a Beiseker body shop’s roof peeled up, barely staying in place. Two other power lines were knocked down. According to Mayor Bruce Rowe the community has banded together to ensure the station is operable. Resident Mike Richter and local business, Cartel Energy Services Inc., provided room to house the department’s equipment. “They are really pulling together,” said Rowe, adding the station’s roof will be fixed as soon as possible with the funds coming from insurance. The town of Irricana was also hit with the storm, although the damage wasn’t as severe. “There was damage to roof shingles on private residences,” said Town staffer Patty Malthouse. “A lot of older, bigger trees had branches down and were broken.” A falling tree knocked down a light pole near the curling rink, but no one was hurt and there was no damage to Town buildings. “Things were blowing around,” said Malthouse. “It felt almost like gale force winds that we had never experienced before.” Malthouse said there were reports of items lost from backyards, such as a playhouse and slide, as well as siding ripping off of buildings. “It was unusual,” she said.

Crossfield resident Dawn Cuthbertson said her town also experienced damage, fallen trees and damage to private residences and store fronts. Power was also knocked out in the evening. “A few homes really got hit hard, so they have some very severe damage,” she said. “It was the worst wind that I have ever seen and I have lived here for 10 years. It was extreme weather and it snuck up on us and lasted all day so the houses were being pummelled for eight hours.” Mayor Nathan Anderson said the fire department received about 40 wind-related calls, and close to 30 trees went down. “It was gale-force winds,” said Anderson. “It was relentless, it wouldn’t let up.” The winds wreaked havoc in other communities in southern Alberta. Alberta Sheriff Jason Graw said the Airdrie Integrated Traffic Unit attended three scenes where semi trucks were blown over along Highway 2 between 12:15 and 2 p.m. No injuries were reported. The RCMP responded to 11 wind-related calls between noon and 5 p.m., including traffic hazards like signs blowing onto the highway. “The message to the public would be that during extreme weather, driving on Highway 2 is not advised unless absolutely necessary,” said Graw.

On Nov. 27, Environment Canada issued a warning, stating gusts could reach 90 km/h in Airdrie. It said the high winds were caused by “a strong pressure gradient” that developed over the region “as a result of a low pressure system…” According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) most of the damage, including broken windows, will be covered if comprehensive coverage has been purchased. “The good news is that most wind damage should be covered by insurance. Consumers whose property was affected by the storm should contact their insurance representative as soon as possible to start the claims process,” said Doug Noble, vice-president, Alberta, IBC. FortisAlberta activated its emergency response plan to address the widespread pockets of power outages in southern Alberta resulting from the windstorm. There were multiple downed poles and wires in widespread pockets throughout southern Alberta, including Okotoks, High River, Vulcan, Coaldale, Milk River, Claresholm, and areas west of Lethbridge. Additional crews and equipment from Lacombe, Sherwood Park, Fort Saskatchewan, Drayton Valley, Spruce Grove, St. Albert, Red Deer, Brooks, Strathmore, Airdrie, Pincher Creek, Redcliff and Taber were dispatched to fix the damage. At the peak of the storm, up to 20,000 Fortis customers were without power. - Rocky View Weekly.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Seismic Tremors in the "Holy Land" - 3.8 Magnitude Earthquake Felt in Northern Israel!

An unusual 3.8 magnitude earthquake has hit Northern Israel Monday morning. The tremor was felt in north Israel, Galilee, Golan Heights and further south.

The epicenter of an earthquake felt across northern Israel Sunday was in the Hula and Sea of Galilee (Kinneret) area, the Geophysical Institute of Israel stated. The earthquake's Richter scale impact was 3.8 and was felt by residents of Metula, Kiryat Shmona, and Tiberius. Police said there was no immediate knowledge of damages or injuries. In August this year an earthquake measuring 4.2 on the Richter Scale struck, and was felt in various parts of the country. There were no reports of injuries or damage.

The Geophysical Institute at the time confirmed that the epicenter of the quake was in the Mediterranean Sea, some 40 kilometers west of Binyamina. The institute received reports from people who felt the quake in Haifa, Afula, Tel Aviv, Herzliya and Kibbutz Nativ. Another earthquake struck Israel in April this year, although that tremor did not register on the Richter Scale. In July, the National Economic Council chair Professor Eugene Kendal said that Israel was not financially ready to cope with the aftermath of a large earthquake, Army Radio reported. "I don't recommend to anyone to rely on the government in such a scenario," Kandel said. - Jerusalem Post.

EARTH CHANGES: Tropical Storm Kills Fishermen in Sri Lanka - 19 Dead, 43 Missing, and 5,000 Homes Damaged!

Fishermen in the southern coast of Sri Lanka have accused the government of failing to take action to save their lives when a tropical storm hit several districts, last week.

JP Nishantha, a fisherman in Mirissa who has managed to swim through the tropical waves to safety, told BBC Sandeshaya that many lives could have been saved if the authorities sent rescue helicopters. "Even the navy and the coastguard that arrived in the scene were afraid of the strong currents," he said. "Some fishermen have been swimming against the strong currents for 4-5 hours. If the navy or air force sent a helicopter, many lives could have been saved," JP Nishantha told the BBC Sinhala service. The storms have left 19 people dead and 43, mostly fishermen, missing.  From 25 fishermen went missing from Mirissa after the storm, 14 bodies were already found. Eleven fishermen are still missing from the area, he said. "We saw people were struggling in the sea but our boats were not strong enough for a rescue mission," said JP Nishantha.

Sri Lankas navy later said it had deployed three vessels searching at sea for missing people. The deaths and missing people from sudden gales and rainstorms have been mostly in the southern district of Matara. But the bad weather has hit central and western areas as well, and some were killed while trying to cross swollen rivers. About 5,000 homes have been damaged. Fisherman Nishantha added that the government has offered up to about 15,000 rupees per person as compensation for the families of the killed fishermen. "Even a coffin would cost about 20,000 rupees. And there are other families who havent even seen the dead bodies of their loved ones," he added. - Sunday Observer.