Wednesday, December 14, 2011

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: 'Fountains' of Methane 1,000m Across Erupt From Arctic 1ce - A Greenhouse Gas 30 Times More Potent Than Carbon Dioxide!

 'This is the first time that we've found continuous, powerful and impressive seeping structures, more than 1,000 metres in diameter. It's amazing.'

The Russian research vessel Academician Lavrentiev conducted a survey of 10,000 square miles of sea off the coast of eastern Siberia.

Far East Siberia: The melting of 'permafrost' under the sea has led to huge
releases of methane - far more abrupt and intense than anything on land.
They made a terrifying discovery - huge plumes of methane bubbles rising to the surface from the seabed. 'We found more than 100 fountains, some more than a kilometre across,' said Dr Igor Semiletov, 'These are methane fields on a scale not seen before. The emissions went directly into the atmosphere.' Earlier research conducted by Semiletov's team had concluded that the amount of methane currently coming out of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf is comparable to the amount coming out of the entire world’s oceans. Now Semiletov thinks that could be an underestimate. The melting of the arctic shelf is melting 'permafrost' under the sea, which is releasing methane stored  in the seabed as methane gas. These releases can be larger and more abrupt than any land-based release. The East Siberian Arctic Shelf is a methane-rich area that encompasses more than 2 million square kilometers of seafloor in the Arctic Ocean.
Methane bubbles trapped in ice: Normally, bubbles from the seabed turn into carbon dioxide
before reaching the surface, but the East Siberian Arctic Shelf is so shallow
the methane travels directly into the atmosphere.
'Earlier we found torch or fountain-like structures like this,' Semiletov told the Independent. 'This is the first time that we've found continuous, powerful and impressive seeping structures, more than 1,000 metres in diameter. It's amazing.' 'Over a relatively small area, we found more than 100, but over a wider area, there should be thousands of them.' Semiletov's team used seismic and acoustic monitors to detect methane bubbles rising to the surface. Scientists estimate that the methane trapped under the ice shelf could lead to extremely rapid climate change. Current average methane concentrations in the Arctic average about 1.85 parts per million, the highest in 400,000 years. Concentrations above the East Siberian Arctic Shelf are even higher. The shelf is shallow, 50 meters or less in depth, which means it has been alternately submerged or above water, depending on sea levels throughout Earth’s history. During Earth’s coldest periods, it is a frozen arctic coastal plain, and does not release methane. As the planet warms and sea levels rise, it is inundated with seawater, which is 12-15 degrees warmer than the average air temperature. In deep water, methane gas oxidizes into carbon dioxide before it reaches the surface. In the shallows of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, methane simply doesn’t have enough time to oxidize, which means more of it escapes into the atmosphere. That, combined with the sheer amount of methane in the region, could add a previously uncalculated variable to climate models. - Daily Mail.

MASS BIRD DIE-OFF: Extremely Strange Animal Behavior - Thousands of Birds Mysteriously Crash Land into Walmart Parking Lot in Utah?!

"I've been here 15 years and this was the worst downing I've seen," she told the newspaper.

Crews are cleaning up thousands of migratory birds that made a crash landing in Utah after apparently mistaking a Walmart parking lot and other areas as bodies of water.

Surviving grebes swim across the waters of Stratton Pond in
Hurricane, Utah following their release by Utah Division of Wildlife
Thousands of migratory birds died on impact after apparently mistaking a Walmart parking lot and other areas of southern Utah for bodies of water and plummeting to the ground in what one wildlife expert called the worst downing she's ever seen. Crews went to work cleaning up the dead birds and rescuing the survivors after the creatures crash-landed in the St. George area Monday night. By Tuesday evening, volunteers had rescued more than 2,000 birds, releasing them into nearby bodies of water. "They're just everywhere," said Teresa Griffin, wildlife program manager for the Utah Department of Wildlife Resource's southern region. "It's been nonstop. All our employees are driving around picking them up, and we've got so many people coming to our office and dropping them off." Officials say stormy conditions probably confused the flock of grebes, a duck-like aquatic bird likely making its way to Mexico for the winter. The birds tried to land in a Cedar City Walmart parking lot and elsewhere.

"The storm clouds over the top of the city lights made it look like a nice, flat body of water. All the conditions were right," Griffin told The Spectrum newspaper in St. George. "So the birds landed to rest, but ended up slamming into the pavement." No human injuries or property damage have been reported. Griffin noted most downings are localized "but this was very widespread." "I've been here 15 years and this was the worst downing I've seen," she told the newspaper. Officials said they were continuing the rescue effort that started Tuesday afternoon and included an enthusiastic group of volunteers. The surviving grebes were released into bodies of water in southern Utah's Washington County, including a pond near Hurricane. "If we can put them on a body of water that's not frozen over, they'll have a better chance of survival," said Lynn Chamberlain, a wildlife department spokesman. - The Sacramento Bee.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Planetary Tremors - 3.2 Magnitude Earthquake at the Kolumbos Submarine Volcano in Santorini, Greece; Largest Event in Months!

A 3.2 earthquake occurred at the little-known submarine volcano Kolumbos ca. 8 km NE of Santorini, Island, Greece. This marks one of the largest events in recent months.

The submarine volcano whose peak rises to just 18 m below sea level, is located on the tectonically active SW-NE fault system across Santorini which confines most volcanic vents of the Santorini volcanic complex in the past 500,000 years.

Kolumbus volcano last erupted in September 1650 following a year of frequent earthquakes. The eruption produced a large explosive pumice eruption, with ash fall recorded as far as Turkey, and built a temporary island. The main phase of the eruption triggered a devastating tsunami. Toxic gasses killed more than 25 people and hundreds of livestock on Santorini by suffocation (probably H2S).

There is no reason to state that new activity from Santorini or Kolumbus is likely in a foreseeable future but on the other hand, there are very few data available, unfortunately, to judge the situation. We regret that the Greek monitoring institutes are not publishing more details about the ongoing activity. Access to important earthquake details such as as their depth, are not published (they are available for earthquakes in all the other regions in Greece, raising some suspect why not for Santorini...) - Volcano Discovery.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Wintry Weather Conditions Cause Major Disruption in Northern Ireland - Massive Landslide Crushed Cars in Londonderry!

Wintry weather conditions are continuing to cause disruption to travel plans across Northern Ireland, after drivers were lucky to escape injury when a landslide crushed cars in Londonderry.

Heavy rainfall overnight, combined with snow and gales, made conditions for the Wednesday commute treacherous - while one driver in Derry's Marlborough Terrace didn't even get started after his van was buried under bricks from a collapsed wall. While a number of routes have since been re-opened after earlier closures and others are now passable with care, many more - particularly minor roads - are still closed to traffic. Translink is warning that Ulsterbus services across parts of Northern Ireland - include Antrim, Ballymena, Coleraine and Crumlin - are subject to delays and cancellations, while Stena is also reporting weather-related disruption to ferry sailings. The 10.30pm Stena ferry from Belfast to Liverpool has been cancelled and all passengers are asked to contact the reservations line on 08447 707070. The next available sailing will be at 10.30am on Thursday. Claudy will not be served by Ulsterbus until further notice and in Londonderry, further to the delays and cancellations, Goldline service 212 will operate hourly in both directions until 6pm.
The Ballymoney and Moyle areas - particularly the Glenariff and Ballyemon Roads - are among the worst affected by snow, while many smaller roads in the Ballymena and Larne areas remain difficult. In Belfast, the Crumlin Road, from Ligoneil Road to Flush Road; the Ballutoagh Road north of Flush Road; and the Upper Hightown Road, between Flush Road and Lylehill Road, are still closed. The Moneyneaney Road in Magherafelt is expected to remain closed for some time, due to a fallen power line in the area. The Coleraine Mountain Road has reopened, while the HGVs that got stuck on the Foreglen Road between Dungiven and Claudy have now been cleared. Although no roads are closed in the Strabane area at present, flooding is posing problems for drivers and the snow plough is in operation on the Glenelly Road from Plumbridge towards Draperstown. Flooding also led to three families being evacuated from their homes by the Fire and Rescue Service and the Red Cross, in the Lower Ballymagroarty area of Derry on Tuesday night. A mum and two children were among those taken to safety. Some roads were also closed due to fallen trees, after the Met Office issued an amber warning for gales across Northern Ireland - the second most severe alert used by the service. "Winds will gust to 60-65 mph in inland areas and perhaps to as much as 80mph on some exposed coastal locations," a forecaster said. Yellow warnings for icy conditions now extend into the weekend, with more wintry showers possible on higher ground. - UTV.
View a slideshow of the stunning incident HERE.

WATCH: Landslide in Londonderry wrecks vehicles.

WORLD WAR III: Countdown to Armageddon - Iran Seeks to be the Superpower of the Middle East Region, Propositions Saudis, Seeks Anti-America Pact, Offering Nuclear Cooperation; As US Troops Surrounds Syria on the Eve of Invasion!

A large Iranian delegation led by Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi visited Riyadh Monday, Dec. 12 and put a proposition before Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz: Why not bury the Saudi royal house's historic feud with the ayatollahs of Tehran and form an anti-US and anti-Zionist pact for leading the Middle East? The Iranians boasted that after the seizure of America's top secret drone technology by a successful cyber attack they must now be accepted as the superpower of the region.

Prince Nayef agreed to receive the delegation following a request from the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Moslehi is one of his closest advisers and a leading antagonist of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who was not told about the visit. debkafile's Iranian sources report that the Iranians pushed hard for a partnership with the Saudis on such issues as oil, Iraqi, Syria, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Yemen, on most of which Tehran and Riyadh are in direct collision. Saudi Arabia spearheads the Persian Gulf emirates' campaign to establish a bloc of Sunni Arab kings and rulers to fight off Iranian expansion and the influence of the Shiite Hizballah and Syria. The visitors to Riyadh pointed out that a Saudi-Iranian axis in the region would be strong enough to freeze out American and Turkish meddling in the Arab Revolt. It would draw its strength from the combination of Iranian military, intelligence and nuclear capabilities on the one hand and Saudi power and wealth on the other. For the sake of this pact, Moslehi said, Tehran was willing to share its nuclear program with Riyadh. The Moslehi delegation represented high-ranking Iranian military and intelligence chiefs, while Prince Nayef was attended by the heads of Saudi intelligence services, including Director of General Intelligence Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz. The two figures conspicuously absent were the top men orchestrating the Arab Revolt and Iraq from opposite sides of the table:  Saudi National Security Adviser Prince Bandar bin Sultan and commander of the Iranian Al Qods Brigades, Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

Bandar heads the apparatus funneling weapons, money and fighters to the Syrian opposition fighting President Bashar Assad, Tehran's senior ally, while Soleimani leads the counter-campaign for keeping the Assad regime extant. Nevertheless, the Iranian visitor is reported by debkafile’s sources as explaining to his Saudi hosts that an understanding between them had been reached before and could be reached again. He referred to the May 2008 agreement on Lebanon known as the "Doha Accord," under which Iran, the Persian Gulf states and Syria agreed that the Lebanese crisis would end without winners and losers but with a power-sharing arrangement granting representation to all the country's adversarial forces, including Hizballah. Tehran saw no reason why the same principle could not be applied to the Syrian crisis. The bloodshed and the horrors of civil war could be saved by bringing the opposition factions into the Damascus government. In return for these understandings, Moslehi proposed an Iranian-Saudi deal for the future of Iraq following the American withdrawal. Iran, he said, was willing to guarantee the rights of Iraq's Sunni community and their participation in Nouri al-Maliki’s government in Baghdad. Turning to the nuclear issue, debkafile’s military sources report the Iranian intelligence minister maintained that Tehran and Riyadh needn’t be rivals or develop separate nuclear programs, as proposed last week by Saudi Arabia's former intelligence chief, Prince Turki al-Faisal.

Turki said that if Iran continued with its weapons of mass destruction program, the Persian Gulf states (including Saudi Arabia) would have no choice but to develop their own. Tehran, said Moslehi, was ready to open up its nuclear program, like its space program, to Saudi participation. Our sources report that Crown Prince Nayef promised to bring the Iranian proposals before the king and senior princes and have an answer ready soon. But Riyadh was ready sooner than expected with a response. Before even addressing their overture, Nayef acted to take the Iranians down a peg or two from their self-appointed military and intelligence superpower status. In a broadcast Tuesday, the day after the Iranian visit, the Saudi television network Al Arabiya attributed the explosion at the Moadarress Iranian missile base in the Malard region west of Tehran on Saturday, December 10, to an assassination plot against Ayatollah Khamenei (which was first reported by DEBKA-Net-Weekly 519 on Dec. 2). Khamenei’s son Mojtaba and senior Revolutionary Guard officers were described in the broadcast as having been detained and questioned in connection with the plot. This TV item informed Tehran exactly how high the Saudis rate Iran's regional standing and the stability of its government. - Debka.
US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

A former official from within the ranks of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is reporting that US and NATO forces have landed outside of Syria and are training militants to overthrow the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, formerly a translator with the FBI, wrote over the weekend that American soldiers are among the NATO troops that have mysteriously and suddenly landed on the Jordanian and Syrian border. According to her, several sources internationally have confirmed the news, although the US media has been instructed to temporarily censor itself from reporting the news. Additionally, Edmonds says that American and NATO forces are training Turkish troops as well, to possibly launch a strike from the north of Syria. Edmonds writes that an Iraqi journalist based out of London has confirmed that US forces that vacated the Ain al-Assad Air Base in Iraq last week did in fact leave the country as part of President Obama’s drawdown of troops, but rather than return home, the soldiers were transferred into Jordan during the late hours of Thursday evening. Another source, writes Edmonds, informs her that “soldiers who speak languages other than Arabic” have been moving through Jordan mere miles from the country’s border with Syria. Troops believed to be NATO/American-affiliated have been spotted between the King Hussein Air Base in al-Mafraq and the Jordanian village of Albaej and its vicinity.

Nizar Nayouf, a correspondent for Edmond’s Boiling Frog Post whistleblower site, says an employee of the London-based offices of Royal Jordanian Airlines has further confirmed that at least one US aircraft transporting military personnel has brought American troops into Jordan in recent days. Nayouf, the former editor-in-chief of Sawt al-Democratiyya (Democracy's Vote), had previously been sentenced to a decade behind bars for critiquing the Syrian government. He later won several human rights awards and the 2000 UNISCO prize for press freedom. Since the uprising of rebel forces opposing al-Assad’s regime over Syria nearly a year ago, American officials have been critical of the country’s government but insist that they have otherwise distanced themselves from becoming involved in the protests. Following the deaths of dozens of protesters in the spring of 2011, the United States imposed strict sanctions against the official government of Syria. Navi Pillay, the United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights, revealed this week that the uprising in Syria has caused over 5,000 deaths since it began in early 2011. In the case of the crackdown against former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, NATO involvement began only one month into the uprising. Nine months later, the total death toll of the Libyan Civil War is estimated to be close to 30,000. In her report, Edmonds says that NATO troops have been training soldiers just outside of Syria since as early as May, and that US media is prohibited from reporting on it until today. The Turkish paper Milliyet also reports that defected Syrian colonel Riad al-Assad is preparing troops to take over the Syrian government as well. - RT.

FUK-U-SHIMA: Japan's Nuclear Dead Zone Spreading Far And Wide - Government to Designate "Difficult-to-Return Zones" Near Crippled Fukushima Nuclear Plant!

The government of Japan is expected to consider designating areas that are exposed to more than 50 millisieverts per year of radiation from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant as zones that are difficult for local residents to return to possibly for the next several decades and buying out tracts of land there.

The government has started to consider dividing the region affected by the Fukushima nuclear crisis into three zones according to levels of radiation they are exposed to. Under the current scheme, the region is divided into "evacuation zones" which fall within a radius of 20 kilometers from the troubled nuclear power station and "planned evacuation zones" that are exposed to more than 20 millisieverts per year of radiation. Under the new scheme, the government will divide the region into three zones; "preparatory zones" that are exposed to less than 20 millisieverts per year of radiation, "restricted residential zones" exposed to radiation of more than 20 millisierverts but less than 50 millisieverts per year, and "difficult-to-return zones" that are exposed to at least 50 millisieverts per year of radiation. In dividing the region into three different zones, the government will discuss details with local municipalities so that it could designate community-based zones in the region because levels of radiation differ from one place to the other in the same municipalities. At the meeting on Dec. 16 of its task force dealing with the nuclear crisis, the government is expected to decide that it has completed "Step 2" of the roadmap to contain the nuclear crisis with the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant being brought under control by achieving a stable state called a ''cold shutdown'' and unveil plans to review the current scheme of evacuation zones by the end of the year.

The "preparatory zones" with radiation exposure of less than 20 millisieverts per year are those areas to which local residents are supposed to make preparations to return to. There are still no residents living there, and therefore, the government will try to decontaminate living spaces and improve infrastructure such as water supply and sewerage systems, roads, schools, hospitals and so on in the zones. The government plans to lift the evacuation order for those areas where local residents can return to their homes in line with requests from local municipalities and progress in the work to improve infrastructure there. That could start sometime after spring of next year at the earliest. "Restricted residential zones" that are apparently difficult for people to live in for the next several years are areas the government plans to try to curb the levels of radiation below 20 millisieverts per year. Areas with high levels of radiation, which could be designated as "difficult-to-return zones," spread northwest from the area near the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Among those areas, there are some places where it is apparently difficult for people to live for the next several decades. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told the plenary session of the House of Councilors on Nov. 25, "There could be areas that are difficult for local residents to return to for a considerable period of time. The government wants to consider medium- and long-term measures responsibly including buying up tracts of land." There is an idea of attaching the word "long-term" to "difficult-to-return zones", but some people within the government say it should not be used out of consideration for the feelings of the affected people. The government is thus still discussing what to do. - MDN.
WATCH: Fukushima radiation exposure spreading continuously.

EURUZONE CRISIS: The Euro Prison - As the Economic Crisis Refuses to Calm, Scenarios of the Euro Collapse Appear!

The Euro rescue deal appeared to be in serious trouble as the single currency crashed on international money markets, as doubts emerged in several countries over whether an agreement struck late last week will ever come into force.

Despite the distracting political drama over the UK’s outlier rejection at last week’s European Union agreement on fiscal and budgetary coordination, it’s now become clear that main objective of the collective effort–to ensure the survival of the euro, and more broadly bolster Europe’s economic outlook–has not been attained, and that the currency has won a short-term respite at best. So with the monetary chaos and European debt crisis still looming large and posing troubling questions, it would be unwise to ignore hypotheses now arising about what might happen if certain countries dropped out of the euro zone—or if the entire currency imploded. While that is still very much “what if” theorizing at this point, such a potential crisis is worth examining, if only to identify signs of what may await if things continue to deteriorate. Tuesday’s New York Times continues its excellent coverage of Europe’s debt crisis by turning to Greece–the most weakened and vulnerable economy on the continent. It raises questions about the potential consequences of a return to the drachma. The picture isn’t pretty—involving bank runs, freezes on moving capital abroad, surging unemployment, rising prices and falling currency values, government default, isolation from international creditors and markets, and the sort of social and economic trauma and ruin associated with the Great Depression—or worse. “As the country descends into chaos,” the Times imagines, “the military seizes control of the government.”

Of course, the Times, isn’t saying a military coup is in the cards—just noting it wouldn’t be an impossible turn of events if things keep going wrong. But the mere evocation of armed forces taking over a European Union country helps highlight the likely peril. Such scenarios (multiple departures from the euro, the collapse of the currency) used to be considered outlandish. The fact they’re now being seriously pondered means a whole array of related consequences once also viewed as unthinkable are on the planning boards. In other words, if things get much worse for Europe, they risk getting really bad, very rapidly. The Times piece doesn’t get carried away in nightmare mode, however. Instead it sounds out experts more generally on how things could go wrong. For example, the article cites and links a study done by a French economist who has examined cases of past and potential monetary failures, providing a full and sobering picture of how the wheels may come off euro zone economies (if they come off). Those findings are in English, and very much worth consulting. An even wider (but far briefer) over-view of the main economic impacts in Europe if the euro were to fail have been put together by Agence France Presse using a variety of sources in this piece. It’s not the kind of cheer one usually equates with year-end activities, but well-informed contingency thinking. For Global Spin readers who can deal with French, another interesting report comes from Paris think-tank Institut Montaigne. In it, the institute’s experts explore the impacts of France being stripped of the euro. To get to that scenario, however, the study takes an entirely different angle: analyzing the presidential campaign pledge of extreme-right leader Marine Le Pen to pull France out of the single currency in favor of the franc. Those contrasting routes lead to the same dismal euro-less destination: a French economy in which as much as 19% of GNP would be destroyed in the space of a decade; and job losses would immediately mount into the hundreds of thousands, before creeping over the million mark towards the end of the first post-euro year. Ironically, the demise (or in this case, spurning) of the euro would in no way resolve the key factor underlying the crisis, the institute’s experts say: France’s current debt of around 85%, the predict, would shoot to 118% under the effects of currency devaluation, were the euro to be scrapped and the franc re-introduced.

That’s all pretty bleak—though some observers insist there may be a silver lining in the current black cloud of crisis. French researcher Emmanuel Todd argues that though the implosion of the euro would produce a period of economic pain, panic, and instability, he says that shock wouldn’t last as long as some predict (18, maybe 24 months), before companies and governments picked up and moved on. And because many euro countries would be starting anew after having brushed off huge amounts of debt through various degrees of default, Todd argues the post-euro economies could be re-constructed on more solid fiscal foundations. Another consequence of such default, Todd says, would be freeing economies and governments from control of what he calls the “oligarchy” of mega-rich investors whose fortunes and interests drive and shape bond markets—and whose gain through safe government securities have influenced political leaders into building up huge public debt in the first place.  Another benefit for European nations, Todd says, would be throwing off the domination of Germany, which he describes as dysfunctionally psycho-rigid, and so focused on its own national interests that it no longer cares about ruining its euro partners. Burning the rot from a teetering house, Todd suggests, will be hard and grim work, but at least leave enough of a sanitized structure to rebuild from. That may sound to some like too extreme of a blame-and-punish-the-rich view to take seriously, yet Todd isn’t an observer anyone should write off. An unabashed leftist who switched his early opposition to the euro to more recent resignation that the useful and beneficial currency is probably doomed, Todd is no ideology-blinded seer of capitalistic disaster. His 1976 book, “The Final Fall”, used demographic and economic data to predict the collapse of the Soviet Union almost to the year, and he has since written studies across a variety of sociological disciplines to accurately forecast (and explain) major developments in Europe. It’s for that reason few people in France are willing to write off Todd’s warnings that recent socio-political events make very real the possibility that authoritarian forces may seek or take power in Italy, Greece, Portugal, Spain, and perhaps elsewhere in Europe, particularly if E.U. turmoil results in monetary and economic failure. - Global Spin.
WATCH: Nigel Farage - Bully Boys in Brussels Building Euro Prison.

EXTREME WEATHER: Drought in Texas, Oklahoma and several Counties in Missouri - Record-Breaking and Prolonged Natural Disaster Zones!

Here are three reports about the worst single-year drought in Texas history, one of the worst periods of prolonged drought in Oklahoma and the designation of 101 counties in Missouri as natural disaster areas due to drought.

The worst single-year drought in Texas history.
This worst single-year drought in Texas history is affecting the roads. Last weekend’s rain was just a drop in the bucket for the parched soil in Central Texas. But every little drop counts, says Chris Bishop with the Texas Department of Transportation’s Austin District. The dry spell has sucked all the moisture out of Central Texas’s topsoil. And that’s caused cracks to form and bumps to pop up. As soil alongside the pavement heats up, moisture evaporates, and the soil then begins to compress. That can bend the edges of roads, and cause the asphalt to break. Bishop says this type of road damage happens all the time, but this year it’s significantly worse. “Especially where there’s clay soil, the highways can contract and compact as it dries out,” Bishop said. “And that means cracks may appear in the pavement, or a section of the base under a road, may fall away, may slump a bit.” Bishop says TxDOT generally waits to do repairs until the weather is cooler and the cracks have reached their maximum size. The recent rains could even help by allowing the soil underneath roads to re-expand.

But some of the road damage is already affecting drivers and needs to be fixed more urgently. “At a culvert or a bridge, regardless of the size, sometimes the drought will cause the road to slump right there, so you have a hard bump, maybe even a hard edge, getting onto the bridge or culvert section,” Bishop said. “That can be hard on the tires, so as soon as we hear about one of those, or we see one of those, we get a crew out to work on those immediately.” Timing for repairs is tricky, because water expands when it freezes, and that can cause the asphalt to break even further. And it’s not just state highways that are affected by the drought. Carolyn Perez with the Austin’s Department of Public Works says her office received lots of community requests this summer to fix dips or depressions in roads. And she says her office is doing its best to respond. “We realize that we are in the middle of what could be a long-term drought that doesn’t show any signs of abating,” Perez said. “The recent rain that we’ve had has not relieved it. And our engineers are always looking for solutions to this.” Neither TxDOT nor the city has been able to estimate the costs of drought-related road damage so far. But both agree on one thing: they need long-range plans to deal with them. - KUT.
One of the worst periods of prolonged drought in Oklahoma.
One of the worst periods of prolonged drought in Oklahoma state history is easing after nearly a year. The state experienced its hottest summer yet, and 69 percent of the state still was in exceptional drought at the end of summer, but thanks to November rains, only 10 percent of the state is in exceptional drought, said Gary McManus, associate state climatologist for the Oklahoma Climatological Survey. The worst may be over, but 85 percent of the state still remains in drought to some degree, compared to three percent at this time last year, McManus said. Now, farmers are dealing with the repercussions of the drought. “I couldn’t even get a cutting of hay off the fields this fall,” said Brad Burnett, owner of Ivy Acres Farm, which provides cage-free eggs to OU. “We let it grow in the summer and cut usually in September, and that lasts for the whole year, but nothing grew.” Burnett and other area farmers are having to find their hay, the main food source for their livestock during the winter, from Nebraska and Iowa at much higher prices, he said. To cope with the heat and dry conditions this summer, Burnett said he had to use a lot of creativity to keep his chickens cool. He rigged misters in his barn to spray the chickens and even resorted to hosing down the ground.

“Obviously, you have to get them in the shade, but they would come back in the barn, and it can still get to 110 degrees with no rain in a month,” Burnett said. “We would mist them down a couple times a day and do whatever we could to keep them cool.” Chickens conserve energy when it is this hot out, which includes decreasing their egg output, he said. Luckily, because it was summer, OU did not need as many eggs as usual. Burnett’s story is not unique, said Chris Kirby, who works with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food & Forestry. Kirby works with the Farm to School program, which buys food from local farmers for schools. Most of the farmers she works with experienced problems similar to Burnett’s. The eastern half of the state is expected to recover from drought conditions throughout the winter, but the western half might get worse, McManus said. Winter is a time of low water demand because there is no vegetation, but it also is a very dry period, which could make the drought worse in areas, according to a press release. Burnett, whose farm is in central Oklahoma, said he is starting to see some of his dried-up ponds coming back and is thinking his grass will be OK by spring. “Nothing in the past has been close to this,” Burnett said. “I don’t even remember it not raining and being that hot for that long. It was scary because we really didn’t know if we would survive. Hopefully, that’s a one-time deal.” - The Oklahoma Daily.
In October, the USDA designated 101 Missouri counties as natural disaster areas due to drought.
It may not look it, but many Missouri fields are hiding a deep, dry secret. University of Missouri soil scientist Randy Miles said dried-out subsoil at depths of 3 feet or more could trouble next year's crops in Missouri even if there is plenty of moisture in the topsoil. "For crops like corn it's not uncommon for roots to extend down 5-6 feet, and it's the soil moisture there that sustains the crop in the latter part of the growing season," Miles said. "When we have this deficit of moisture at that depth, we may not get grain fill to the extent of the plant's potential to perform." This moisture shortfall isn't likely to change soon. Miles estimates that Missouri farms need 16-18 inches of rainfall to replenish soil moisture enough to ensure a good crop next year. That's more than double normal winter precipitation, and would mean upwards of 13 feet of snowfall. "People think that if we get a few good rains that the problem is solved," said Miles. "Those rains will only put moisture into the first few inches of soil. We'll need extraordinarily persistent rains for the moisture to get down 5 feet where the roots of mature plants live. It could take many weeks and months for water entering the soil surface to move into the 3-5 feet depth of the soil profile." In October, the USDA designated 101 Missouri counties as natural disaster areas due to drought. This showed a recognition of crop losses caused by lack of rain and excessive heat during July and August.

Although U.S. farmers harvested the fourth-largest corn crop ever in 2011, the bushels per acre planted didn't quite measure up. Missouri's average corn yields dropped to 115 bushels per acre, compared to last year's 123 bushels, according to November crop reports from the USDA. Soybean yields received a similar hit, falling 4.5 bushels from last year's average of 41.5 bushels per acre. National averages told a similar story, with corn yields falling 6.1 bushels from 2010 and soybeans continuing the downward march to 2.2 bushels per acre lower."Missouri has more than 5 million acres of soybeans, so even though those 4 bushels per acre doesn't sound like much, it adds up to about $300 million in lost value this year," said Mike Collins, director of plant sciences with MU's College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. This shortfall hinted at the difference subsoil moisture can make. Crops depend on subsoil moisture, especially during hot, dry periods from June to August. When rain stopped falling in June, corn felt drought stress during critical silking periods, ears struggled to fill out fully and some soybeans in their pods looked more like BB's than beans. Crop farmers weren't the only ones affected by the heat and drought. Cattle farmers saw pastures dry up early, forcing many to start feeding hay far earlier than normal. Winter rain and snow can recharge the soil, building up its bank of available moisture. However, this winter's moisture will probably only mask problems that will trouble crops next summer. "I expect to see next year's crops be more dependent on current rainfall," Collins said. "If we don't get timely rain, I think we'll see crops shut down much quicker than we did this year." - KFVS.

MYSTERY: Symbols of an Alien Sky, Man-Made or Natural Phenomena - Jaime Maussan Reports on 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, as reported on by Jaime Maussan, the Mexican journalist and ufologist.

A daytime UFO case recorded in Tijuana, Mexico by Javier Flores on the 2nd of December, 2011.

WATCH: UFOs over Tijuana, Mexico.

Maussan and Marilu Carrillo reports on unknown lights recorded in the night sky over Crimea in Ukraine on the 19th of September, 2011.

WATCH: UFOs over Crimea, Ukraine.

Maussan reports on a translucent UFO in skies above Cinisello Balsamo in Italy. The strange object was recorded on the 13th of November, 2011 by Antonio Urzi.

WATCH: Strange object over Italy.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: WEATHER ANOMALIES - Record-Breaking Wave off Donegal Coast in Ireland, the Highest Wave Ever Recorded in Ireland, Measuring 20.4 Metres in Height?!

Surf's up? The highest wave ever recorded in Irish waters hit off the Donegal coast today, measuring 20.4 metres in height. Let's all thank those 140km/h winds, shall we?

So did you find today a tad windy? As it turned out, the most northerly tip of the country, Malin Head, experienced winds gusting at 140km/h (87mph). The result was a historic wave off the Donegal cast that came from a force ten storm. "At 14.00 today the M4 weather buoy off the Donegal coast recorded a maximum wave height of 20.4 metres (67ft), which is the highest maximum wave recorded in Irish waters," reported Met Eireann tonight. The wave itself was measured from a special buoy and was sent from 60 miles from the Irish coast. Amazingly, the buoy's recording, which was positioned 16km west of Rossan Point, trumped the previous wave record which was set just three hours earlier at 11am. “There was a record wave of 20.2 metres earlier but it didn’t last very long,” continued Met Eireann. “The previous record was something like 16 metres so it’s a significant jump in magnitude.”

In response to the historic wave, Coast Guard manager Declan Geoghegan is urging citizens for safety to be a priority. "The combination of tides, forecasted gale warnings for the next day or so, high sea conditions and swollen rivers may result in very dangerous conditions," he said, while urging people to stay away from exposed cliffs and coasts. “I would ask each and every road user to use the roads safely over the coming week," offered Noel Brett, CEO of the Road Safety Authority. “With bad weather forecast, we need to be prepared for these severe weather conditions of stormy winds, patches of ice and snow showers. Visibility for road users is severely decreased in such weather conditions, which increases the risk of collision. “Therefore motorists need to drive safely and slowly, and all pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists should wear high visibility clothing to give them the best chance on the road.” Although today's conditions are expected to ease up in the coming days, there is a possibility that a second storm, currently raging over the Atlantic, may hit the south and midlands of Ireland. Best to zip up your jacket in the morning then, we reckon. - JOE.

"THE ISLAND OF THE WIDOWS": Mysterious Epidemic Sweeping Through Central America - Second Biggest Cause of Death Among Men in El Salvador and Nicaragua!

"It is wasting away our populations,” says Maria Isabel Rodriguez El Salvador Health Minister.

A mysterious epidemic is sweeping Central America - it's the second biggest cause of death among men in El Salvador, and in Nicaragua it's a bigger killer of men than HIV and diabetes combined. It's unexplained but the latest theory is that the victims are literally working themselves to death.

In the western lowlands of Nicaragua, in a region of vast sugar cane fields, sits the tiny community of La Isla. The small houses are a patchwork of concrete and wood. Pieces of cloth serve as doors. Maudiel Martinez emerges from his house to greet me. He's pale, and his cheekbones protrude from his face. He hunches over like an old man - but he is only 19 years old. "The way this sickness is - you see me now, but in a month I could be gone. It can take you down all of a sudden," he says. Maudiel's kidneys are failing. They do not perform the essential function of filtering waste from his body - he's being poisoned from the inside. When he got ill two years ago, he was already familiar with this disease and how it might end. "I thought about my father and grandfather," he says. Both died of the same condition. Three of his brothers have it too. All of them worked in the sugar cane fields.

Kidney disease has killed so many men here that locals now call their community not simply La Isla - which means "The Island" - but La Isla de las Viudas - "The Island of the Widows." (You can see a slideshow from Nicaragua at PRI's The World). The epidemic extends far beyond Nicaragua. It's prevalent along the Pacific coast of Central America - across six countries. "It is important that the chronic kidney disease (CKD) afflicting thousands of rural workers in Central America be recognised as what it is - a major epidemic with a tremendous population impact," says Victor Penchaszadeh, a clinical epidemiologist at Columbia University in the US, and consultant to the Pan-American Health Organization on chronic diseases in Latin America.  El Salvador's health minister recently called on the international community for help. She said the epidemic is "wasting away our populations". At a health clinic in El Salvador, in the farming region of Bajo Lempa, Dr Carlos Orantes recently found that a quarter of the men in his area suffered from it. What's more, he says, most of the men who are ill show no signs of high blood pressure or diabetes - the most common causes of CKD elsewhere in the world.

"Most of the men we studied have CKD from unknown causes," he says. What the men in his area have in common is they all work in farming. So Dr Orantes thinks a major cause of their kidney damage is the toxic chemicals - pesticides and herbicides - that are routinely used here in agriculture. "These chemicals are banned in the United States, Europe and Canada, and they're used here, without any protection, and in large amounts that are very concerning," he says. But he's not ready to rule out other possible causes. For instance, the overuse of painkillers can damage the kidneys, and so can drinking too much alcohol. Both are major problems here, he says. In Nicaragua, the disease has become a political issue. In 2006, the World Bank gave a loan to Nicaragua's largest sugar company to build an ethanol plant. Plantation workers filed a complaint, saying the company's working conditions and use of chemicals were fuelling the epidemic. They said the loan violated the bank's own standards for worker safety and environmental practices.    

In response, the bank agreed to fund a study to try to identify the cause of the epidemic. "The evidence points us most strongly to a hypothesis that heat stress might be a cause of this disease," says Daniel Brooks of Boston University, who is leading the research. His team has found it's not just sugar cane workers who are falling ill. Miners and port workers also suffer high rates of kidney disease, yet they're not exposed to farm chemicals. What these men have in common, he says, is they all work long hours in extreme heat. "Day after day of hard manual labour in hot conditions - without sufficient replacement of fluids - could lead to effects on the kidney that are not obvious at first but over time accumulate to the point that it enters into a diseased state," says Mr Brooks. "This has never been so far shown to cause chronic kidney disease, so we would be talking about a new mechanism that has not so far been described in the scientific literature." But Mr Brooks says a new preliminary study bolsters this hypothesis. His team tested blood and urine from sugar cane workers who perform different jobs. The scientists found more evidence of kidney damage in the workers who have more strenuous jobs outside.

Professor Aurora Aragon of Nicaragua's National University in Leon says this explanation makes sense. She's long suspected that part of the problem is the way sugar cane workers are paid - receiving more money the more sugar cane they cut. "This way of working forces people to do more than they are able to do, and this is not good for their health," she says. "Working in the field made us feel dizzy and nauseous," says Jose Donald Cortez who cut sugar cane for 18 years. "We often had fevers." Cortez now has kidney disease and heads an organisation of sugar cane workers in Nicaragua who are ill. He's convinced that something on the sugar plantations is causing the sickness. Whatever it is, he says, those who are ill need treatment with dialysis - which can keep them alive when their kidneys fail. But few can get it because dialysis is extremely expensive and rarely available. "If you ask the ministry of health they say they don't have the money. If you ask the sugar company if they are responsible, they say 'No'." For their part, the sugar cane companies say they're not convinced that farm chemicals or working conditions on their plantations are to blame for the epidemic. Still, they say, they are trying to protect their workers' health.

One conglomerate that owns several sugar plantations in Central America - the Pellas Group - says it's started giving workers an hour-long lunch break and now employs staff to make sure the men drink water. The company also routinely tests its workers' kidney function. Company spokesman Ariel Granera says if a worker is found to have kidney disease, he is let go - out of concern, says Mr Granera, for his well-being. But the sick workers who have been dismissed say what they receive from the companies and from social security isn't enough to live on - and when they lose their jobs, they lose the right to be treated at company clinics. In La Isla, and many other villages like it, the men often take jobs with contractors who do not check for kidney disease. Everyone fears that working in the sugar cane fields is a big risk, but there are no other jobs around. "There is no alternative," says one woman, who recently lost her father. "No other way to support a family." - BBC.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Weather Anomalies - United States Sees Most Severe Precipitation Extremes on Record in 2011!

Through November, 2011 has experienced the most extensive coverage of severe drought and abnormally wet conditions on record. This follows news that a record number of billion dollar weather disasters has occurred this year in the U.S..

Percent of U.S. covered by extremely wet or dry conditions during the
January-November period between 1910-2011. (NOAA)
NOAA’s Climate Extreme Index (CEI) reveals that (for the period covering January through November) 56% of the U.S. is experiencing either severe drought or extremely wet conditions, way above the historical average of 22% (hat tip, Jeff Masters,  1934, due almost exclusively to pervasive drought, is the only year which even comes close to 2011 in terms of the area affected by precipitation extremes. More than 50% of the country was afflicted by drought conditions in that Dust Bowl year. 2011 is somewhat unique in the historical record in that it ranks in the top 10 for both drought and heavy precipitation coverage. In many of the other extreme years, it was either usually wet or unusually dry, not both. The prevailing La Nina pattern has supported the presence of a powerful jet stream slicing through the middle of the country, bringing bout after bout of stormy weather. But to the south and southwest of that jet stream, the moisture abruptly shutoff leading to historic drought. Global warming may have something to do with the contrasts in this pattern. Added heat to the atmosphere juices up the wet extremes by making more water vapor available, while speeding up evaporation and drying in drought areas.

Percentage of U.S. affected by extremely wet (top) versus extremely dry conditions (bottom)
between January and November from 1910 to 2011. (NOAA)
And in a new twist, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have identified the development of “superjets” in the Pacific ocean that may have fueled some of this year’s severe weather and heavy rains. These superjets form in the western Pacific when the subtropical jet stream lifts north and combines with polar jet stream. Jon Martin, one of the researchers, says these superjets can bring powerful storms to the Nation’s mid-section and Southeast 7-10 days after they form. “If the subtropical jet stream is rearranged and superposed on top of the polar jet stream, it might be the mechanism that allows for this very long delay, a disturbance that can have discernible effect on severe weather thousands of miles downstream, and a week or more later,” he said. Unusually strong jet stream winds were linked to some of the spring’s historic, deadly tornado outbreaks. An analysis of the frequency of these superjets has not been published, so it’s not clear if they were more common in 2011 or if there’s a global warming link. “Historic weather data should tell us whether there has been a change in the frequency of these overlapping events, and whether that might be linked to a change in high impact-weather events,” Martin said. - Washington Post.

EXTREME WEATHER: Anchorage Blown Away by Severe Weather - Hurricane-Force Winds And Blizzards Rip Through Alaska!

Anchorage: The Big Wild Life. They don't call it that for nothing, and it's not just about the wildlife. Ask yourself this: On the edge of what other city in North America can you get knocked flat by hurricane-force winds in a blizzard roaring up the suburban neighborhood street you've boldly started down in an effort to find out what caused the power outage?

And where else in the country would they knock on the door of a neighbor to tell him the high-voltage lines carrying power across the valley have been torn completely off the pole next to his house, leading him to look at you and ask, "You'll do anything for a cheap thrill, won't you?'' And then laugh as another gust hit, and his house shook, and the adjacent power line whipped around like it was going to crack? But then Brian Roberts had been through this a few times before. He noted that only a week earlier, the hurricane-force winds that rolled across the Anchorage Hillside tore a separate insulator loose from the same power pole and left the line bouncing and swaying in the wind. Chugach Electric Association (CEA) came out to fix it a few days later, he said. It was a different line from the one that tore an insulator out of the cross bar this time. That line then hit another, caused a whole lot of sparks, and kicked out a breaker.

Neighbor Richard Murphy got a spectacular light show. Shortly after the power went out, he called by cell phone from the only corner of his house that has decent cell coverage to offer a situation report. Daughter Katie was by then sitting at the dining room table studying for her GRE, a requirement for admittance to some post-graduate universities, by the light of a headlamp. It was time to fire up the trusty, old Coleman lantern. Everyone in Anchorage should own a Coleman lantern or some equivalent, as this is a city vulnerable to power outages either by wind or earthquake. Rogers and his girlfriend had candles lit when I dropped in. On up the hill, Murphy had an old-fashioned kerosene lantern burning. We sat in his kitchen enjoying it's glow for a while, sipping a nice Pinot Noir, enjoying some crackers and cheese, and feeling the whole house shake in the big gusts. It would go on like that for hours. Afterward, everyone would compare notes on the power of the wind. This is something of a neighborhood sport. A week earlier, Tim Kelley had registered 105 mph on his anemometer. He reported another neighbor closer to the Potter Creek ravine had 107 mph. My wind gauge said 100 mph. The semi-official report from the National Weather Service, recorded at yet another home in the neighborhood, was 97 mph.

When I met neighbor Mark Shasby, the interim director of Alaska Climate Science Center, out hiking on a neighborhood trail, he wondered if the big blows might be linked to the warming off the ocean. Storms generate significantly more energy over warm water than cold. The warm water in the North Pacific was thought to be a significant player in what some called the "Arctic hurricane'' that ripped into the Bering Sea and Western Alaska last month. The storm pounded the coast with winds up to 90 mph and left widespread damage. Gov. Sean Parnell later declared the region a disaster area. For some Anchorage Hillside residents, the Bering Sea's mother of all storms sounded a little like another blow. Though this year has produced more than its share of blasts (odd for a La Nina winter), Kelley noted his wind gauge has registered gusts as high before. I remember only too well. A neighbor's roof came off in one of those storms about 10 years ago. Another neighbor's roof -- a roof that had been only recently replaced -- was torn off in last week's storm. The latest storm is still too fresh for anyone to get a full damage assessment. It began to die on Sunday night,  sometime after the power came back on around supper time. Kelley later reported he helped restore power to at least part of the neighborhood. - Alaska Dispatch.

DELUGE: Tropical Depression Hits Central Vietnam - Causing High Tides and Destroying Many Houses!

For the past few days, the tropical depression moving in the East Sea has been causing high tides and destroying many houses in central Vietnam, the central Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting Center reported.

A woman in Quang Ngai Province's Binh Son District cried her
eyes out after her  house was destroyed by violent sea waves.
The depression, which was about 220 km from Truong Sa (Spratly) islands this noon, is moving at 10 km with winds of 63-75 kph and can be upgraded into a storm, the center warned. In the past few days, the depression has caused bad weather to many central provinces, including Binh Dinh, Quang Ngai and Phu Yen. The sea of Binh Dinh Province has been violently rough while its coastal areas have been suffering a northwest wind of 45-62 kph with gusts of 75 kph. Vessels of more than 447 fishing households in Nhon Chau Island Commune have failed to land on or leave Qui Nhon City for the last four days, causing a standstill of fishing activities in the area, said Ngo Van Quy, Chairman of the communal People’s Committee. Yesterday afternoon, the Khanh Hoa Province Border Guard Command asked the Border Guard High Command and the Foreign Ministry to request Malaysian authorities to allow 15 Vietnamese shipping boats to land on some Malaysian islands to take shelter from the tropical depression. These boats had earlier reported to the Command that they could not find any place as safe as some Malaysian islands to move to in the current bad weather.

Yesterday noon, the Binh Dinh Border Guard Command guided 9 fishing boats to move to Da Lat Island of the Truong Sa archipelago to take shelter from the depression after the vessels sent signals for help. In Quang Ngai Province, violent sea waves have destroyed at least 48 houses in coastal areas and high tides have caused serious landslides in An Cuong Hamlet in Binh Son District. 17 families have been evacuated to safe places and 170 others might be evacuated in days to come, Hoang Van Tien, head of the hamlet, said. In Phu Yen Province, high tides have been threatening residents in Tuy Hoa City’s An Phu Commune and Tuy An District’s An Ninh Dong Commune for the past few days, said the provincial Military Command. Especially, sea waves of 2 to 3 m have submerged An Phu Commune’s Ro Hamlet yesterday. Authorities evacuated more than 40 families to safe places but a number of houses were destroyed, the Command said. About 270 soldiers have also been mobilized to help locals set up embankments with bags of sand to prevent high tides, the Command said. In a separate development, northern Vietnam will suffer another cold snap as of December 15. The temperature will drop to 11 to 14 Celsius degree in daytime and 15 to 18 Celsius degree at night, the central Hydro- Meteorological Forecasting Center warned. In high mountainous areas like Mau Son, Sap, Sin Ho and O Quy Ho Pass, the temperature will plunge to 3-5 Celsius degree or lower, the center said. - Tuoitre News.

EXTREME WEATHER: Australia Weather Bureau Says Above Average Cyclone Risk Through December!

Australia's weather bureau
warned on Tuesday that the country faced an above average risk of tropical cyclones through December due to weather conditions in the Indian Ocean.

"The current MJO (Madden-Julian Oscillation) event spawned the first tropical cyclone for the Australian cyclone season, Severe Tropical Cyclone Alenga, which formed in the Indian Ocean last week," the bureau said in a regular climate note.

"The risk of tropical cyclone formation in the Australian region is likely to remain above average for most of December, with increased rainfall across northern Australia during this period," it said. - Reuters.

EXTREME WEATHER: Forecasters Say United Kingdom Should Expect More Severe Weather - Met Office Declares That More Storms And Hurricane-Force Winds Are Coming!

The UK's unsettled weather is set to continue, with stormy conditions expected across England and Wales at the end of the week.

The Met Office said it was keeping a close eye on the situation. It said worse weather was forecast for the end of the week and that another storm system could potentially affect parts of England and Wales. Tom Tobler, of Meteogroup, said 70mph gusts had been recorded in Devon on Tuesday. Thursday and Friday would experience potentially "the strongest winds of the week". In Scotland, the transport minister warned snow and strong winds could leave commuters facing rush hour disruption on Tuesday. The Met Office issued severe weather warnings of snow for eight regions of Scotland from 3am on Tuesday for a 24-hour period. Forecasters also warned of strong winds with gusts of up to 80mph across Argyll and Bute. Winds of more than 60mph are a possibility throughout the central belt. Heavy snowfall in areas above 200 metres could lead to blizzard conditions across higher ground. The warnings come after last Thursday's storm battered Scotland, leaving thousands of homes without electricity and causing widespread school closures.

The Met Office said one of the stormiest periods in the UK for several years was set to continue with heavy rain, strong winds and snow. On Monday, it said an Atlantic storm passing over the UK was due to bring stormy conditions to the whole country, with some particularly heavy rain in parts of Wales and south-west England. There was also a chance that parts of the UK could see snow on Tuesday, which would be likely to settle on higher ground in the Midlands and northern England. Wednesday is predicted to be "bright and breezy" for most places, according to the Met Office. Chief forecaster Tim Hewson said: "There is some uncertainty in the forecast for later in the week, but there is potential for a significant storm and we are keeping a close eye on the situation as it develops. We'll be regularly updating our forecasts and warnings, so we advise everyone to stay up to date with the latest situation." One man was rescued in the early hours of Tuesday after a tree collapsed in strong winds, trapping him in his bedroom in Winchester. A Hampshire fire and rescue spokesman said: "A crew from Winchester station used a ladder to gain access and escort the occupant to safety. "They received 12 calls throughout the night reporting trees that had fallen, mainly on roads. The details were handed over to the police as no involvement by Hampshire fire and rescue was necessary." A Hampshire police spokesman said the force had received 206 calls in the past 24 hours relating to floods and fallen trees, compared with 18 in a normal day. - The Guardian.
Ulster is bracing itself for more snow storms and gale force winds on Wednesday. Winds of 70mph in Magilligan and 67mph in Castlederg were recorded yesterday while the highest wave ever measured in local waters — 20.4 metres — was recorded off the coast of Donegal. The monster 67-footer was measured at a special buoy off the Donegal coast at 2pm yesterday as a force ten storm raged across the north coast. Meteorologists at Met Eireann said data from the sea conditions about 60 miles to sea were the most severe it has encountered that distance offshore. Even stronger winds of up to 80mph were expected to hit the north coast overnight with the minimum temperature across Northern Ireland expected to be around zero. This morning the temperature is expected to be a little warmer, up to 5oC, with rain, sleet and wet snow forecast for low areas, and snow on higher ground with up to 10cm in places like the Sperrin mountains. The Met Office has issued an orange “be prepared” warning for the high winds in Northern Ireland. The weather warning is in place until this evening, but by tomorrow the weather is expected to become calmer.

The extreme weather caused disruption to travel yesterday when several sailings of the Rathlin ferry were cancelled, while Translink said that the high winds will also lead to speed restrictions on all rail services throughout the day. They have warned passengers to expect some delays. Those using these services should check before travelling today. Drivers are also warned the roads will become icy at times. A fallen tree led to the closure of the Roshure Road in Desertmartin yesterday afternoon, with police advising motorists to seek alternative routes. The Farlough Road in Portadown was also closed yesterday due to a fallen tree, police said. Meanwhile in Co Down, waves were coming over the sea wall on the Portaferry Road leading to hazardous driving conditions and poor visibility. Across the water, high winds and heavy rain battered England and Wales while parts of Scotland faced blizzard conditions as the stormy weather continued. One man had a lucky escape when a tree smashed into his bedroom while he was asleep in Winchester, Hampshire. Former ambassador Richard Wilkinson, 65, suffered only an ear injury despite the beech tree crushing his bedroom. Luckily his wife Angela, 52, was away as the tree crashed onto her side of the bed.

The south of England and South Wales bore the brunt of the wind and rain last night with up to 40mm falling in some areas in 12 hours. But an even stronger storm that was forecast for later this week is now expected to be weaker and hit France and Germany, explained Chris Burton from MeteoGroup, the Press Association’s weather arm. “It’s not unusual to get a westerly flow from the Atlantic causing stormy weather over the UK during autumn and early winter,” he said. “For the last few years it’s been different with colder weather, so it seems worse than usual, but it’s not.” Gusts of 70mph were measured in Devon, 60mph in South Wales and 64mph was recorded in Langdon Bay, Kent, Meteogroup said. Last night the focus switched to Northern Ireland and South West Scotland where gusts of 80mph were expected. The Met Office said one of the stormiest periods the UK has seen for several years was set to continue with heavy rain, strong winds and snow for parts of the country. - Newsletter.
WATCH: Dangerous weather alert for UK - Winds up to 200 knots and 230 mph recorded.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Seismic Tremors - Small Earthquakes Shake Up Central Maine, Tectonic Plate Movements in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge!

Four minor earthquakes jostled the earth under central Maine on Sunday.

One quake, which measured 1.0 on the Richter scale, occurred at 4:42 p.m.; the second happened at 11:46 p.m. and measured 1.4. The quakes were detected near the small towns of  Millinocket, Lincoln, and Howland. Two other weaker quakes of less than 1.0-magnitude were also recorded in the area, said Justin Starr, a research assistant at the Weston Observatory. Starr said it was likely no one felt the quakes. “If you were standing right over the epicenter, you might hear a low rumbling noise,” he said.

Starr noted that there is debate among scientists about what causes earthquakes of this size in the region, but he said it may be a result of movement in the Mid-Atlantic ridge, the area where two tectonic plates meet in the middle of the ocean. The earthquakes are “way too small to cause any sort of damage,” he said. Michelle Tanguay, the director of Penobscot County Emergency Management Agency and a county resident, said, “I didn’t even realize we had an earthquake until I looked at the USGS site.” The earthquakes were located in an extensive forest area in the Central Penobscot region. The observatory, a geophysical observatory run by Boston College, operates the New England Seismic Network, which monitors earthquakes across New England. - Boston Globe.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Magnitude 7.1 Earthquake Rocks Papua New Guinea - Sections of the Country Now Without Power!

An earthquake measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale hit Papua New Guinea on Wednesday afternoon, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) said.

The tremor struck at a depth of 75 miles, about 137 miles north-northwest of the capital Port Moresby at 3:05 p.m. local time. Witnesses in Port Moresby told AFP that people came running out of buildings, power lines swayed and parked cars rocked. "It was pretty strong. Everybody felt it. I was sitting in my car when it hit and it was rocking, rocking, rocking," an AFP photographer said. According to Geoscience Australia, the tremor was not expected to create a tsunami.

"It's not tsunamigenic," seismologist Clive Collins said. "That's the assessment on the basis that it's about 2 miles inshore and also it's about 74 miles deep and that's too deep really to cause any tsunami problems." But Collins said the quake could cause other problems for the nearest largest town, Wau, about 12 miles from the epicenter, and Lae, 55 miles away. "It's in a mountainous area so there may be issues of landslides and things like that. That's what's the main problem in that particular part of Papua New Guinea," Collins said. Papua New Guinea is regularly hit by earthquakes due to its proximity to the so-called "Pacific Ring of Fire," a hotspot for seismic activity due to friction between tectonic plates.
- FOX News.
Some parts of Papua New Guinea were without power Wednesday after a major earthquake rocked the area. "I was at my desk when it hit," said Ella Hall in Lae, about 90 kilometers (55 miles) north-northwest of the quake's epicenter. "The house started to shake from side to side. I could hear glasses falling downstairs." The magnitude 7.1 quake hit a remote mountainous region, but was well underground at a depth of 121 kilometers (75 miles), the U.S. Geological Survey reported. Hall said it was her first "real quake" after experiencing tremors before.

"Running down the stairs was like walking on a silly ladder in a fun house, except it was no fun," she said. "I grabbed my daughter and ran outside, only to see the water in the pool sloshing and spilling around like water in a glass." Some shaking was felt in the capital about 220 kilometers (137 miles) to the south-southeast, said Sgt. Lawson Sakala of Papua New Guinea police in Port Moresby. There were no immediate reports of damage from the public, he said. No tsunami warning was posted. Papua New Guinea is along the Pacific "ring of fire," an area of high seismic and volcanic activity stretching from New Zealand in the South Pacific up through Japan, across to Alaska, and down the west coasts of North and South America. - CNN.