Thursday, December 22, 2011

PLANETARY TREMORS: 5.8 Magnitude Earthquake Rocks New Zealand - Series of Temblors Rattles the City Of Christchurch; 7,000 Tremors Since September, 2010! UPDATE: Dozens Injured as a Magnitude 6.0 Aftershock Tremor Rocks Christchurch! UPDATE: One in 10 Persons Set to Leave Christchurch Due to Frequency and Violence of Seismic Swarms!

A series of strong earthquakes struck the New Zealand city of Christchurch on Friday, rattling buildings, sending goods tumbling from shelves and prompting terrified holiday shoppers to flee into the streets. There was no tsunami alert issued and the city appeared to have been spared major damage.

One person was injured at a city mall and was taken to a hospital, and four people had to be rescued after being trapped by a rock fall, Christchurch police said in a statement. But there were no immediate reports of serious injuries or widespread damage in the city, which is still recovering from a devastating February earthquake that killed 182 people and destroyed much of the downtown area. The first 5.8-magnitude quake struck Friday afternoon, 16 miles (26 kilometers) north of Christchurch and 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) deep, the U.S. Geological Survey said. Minutes later, a 5.3-magnitude aftershock hit, and about an hour after that, the city was shaken by another 5.8-magnitude temblor. Both aftershocks were less than 3 miles (5 kilometers) deep.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue an alert. The city's airport was evacuated after the first quake and all city malls shut down as a precaution. Warwick Isaacs, demolitions manager for the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, said most buildings had been evacuated "as an emergency measure." The area has recorded more than 7,000 earthquakes since a magnitude-7 quake rocked the city on Sept. 4, 2010. That quake did not cause any deaths. Rock falls had occurred in one area and there was liquefaction – when an earthquake forces underground water up through loose soil – in several places, Isaacs told New Zealand's National Radio. "There has been quite a lot of stuff falling out of cupboards, off shelves in shops and that sort of thing, again," he said. Isaacs said his immediate concern was for demolition workers involved in tearing down buildings wrecked in previous quakes.

"It ... started slow then really got going. It was a big swaying one but not as jolting or as violent as in February," Christchurch resident Rita Langley said. "Everyone seems fairly chilled, though the traffic buildup sounds like a beehive that has just been kicked as everyone leaves (the) town (center)." The shaking was severe in the nearby port town of Lyttelton, the epicenter of the Feb. 22 quake. "We stayed inside until the shaking stopped. Then most people went out into the street outside," resident Andrew Turner said. "People are emotionally shocked by what happened this afternoon." About 15,000 homes were reported without power after electricity lines were felled in the city's eastern suburbs. Sewerage services were also cut. Hundreds of miles of sewer and fresh water lines have been repaired in the city since the February quake.

One partly demolished building and a vacant house collapsed after Friday's quakes, police said. Central City Business Association manager Paul Lonsdale said the quakes came at the worst possible time for retailers, with people rushing to finish their Christmas shopping. Despite the sizable quakes, there was no visible damage in the central business district, where 28 stores have reopened in shipping containers after their buildings were wrecked by the February quake, he said. - Huffington Post.
UPDATE: Dozens Injured as a Magnitude 6.0 Aftershock Tremor Rocks Christchurch!

Dozens of people suffered minor injuries when a series of powerful earthquakes rocked Christchurch, sending terrifed Christmas shoppers fleeing. The quakes - including one of magnitude 6 and two above 5 on the Richter scale - damaged buildings, cut power, and caused mud and sewage to bubble into streets. Several buildings which were partially demolished after previous quakes collapsed completely. A spokesman for the St John ambulance service said they had received around 150 emergency calls. About 60 people were treated for minor injuries, heart attacks, panic attacks and collapses. Thousands of shoppers were evacuated from malls, where goods tumbled from shelves on what should have been one of the busiest days of the year for retailers. One woman customer said: “We saw the staff running out, so we thought if they are off, we’re going too.”
Frightened workers also ran out of office buildings across the city. The international airport was closed for checks after the main terminal “shook violently", causing havoc for hundreds of passengers. Residents in low-lying eastern suburbs were again hit hard by liquefaction, a process in which water oozes out of the ground, creating a tide of evil-smelling mud. In hillside suburbs, the biggest danger came from rockfalls as loose boulders were dislodged. Coastguard officials rescued four people who were trapped by a rockfall in Boulder Bay.

The energy supply company Orion was struggling to reconnect power to 26,000 properties. Large pot-holes and cracks appeared in roads, which soon became gridlocked with traffic. More than 7,000 aftershocks have rocked the city since a magnitude-7 quake struck on September 4, 2010. A shallow 6.3 quake on Feb 22 this year killed 182 people and devastated the city centre business district, where ruined buildings are still cordoned off. Many people were reduced to tears by the latest earthquakes, coming just as residents were daring to hope that the worst of the aftershocks were over. John Key, the New Zealand Prime Minister, said the quakes were “frightening and disheartening” for residents. "My heart goes out to the people of Christchurch and Canterbury at this time,” Mr Key said. "However, residents can be confident that the authorities are on to the situation, and government resources stand ready to assist wherever they are needed.” He pledged that his government’s resolve to rebuild the city remained unchanged. Bob Parker, the mayor, interrupted a Christmas break in the North Island to head back to his city. He said the shakes would take a large emotional toll on people. "Many of them are just sitting around and in tears,” he said. - Telegraph.
WATCH: Quake-plagued New Zealand city hit by more tremors.

WATCH: Two major earthquakes hit Christchurch

WATCH: Raw video of the tremor.

WATCH: Raw video of the Liquefaction in Christchurch.

UPDATE: One in 10 Persons Set to Leave Christchurch Due to Frequency and Violence of Seismic Swarms!
Christchurch is today facing a grim future after being hit by yet another violent earthquake, its third major tremor in 15 months - with scientists predicting many more to come. Experts predict the quakes will continue to hit New Zealand's second city for the next four years as residents rapidly lose the will to stay with the cost of making good after each disaster spiralling upwards. The latest quake was registered at 5.8 magnitude, and although no lives were lost fears are growing that Christchurch could soon become a 'ghost town'.

One in 10 residents is preparing to leave the region as it becomes increasingly difficult to rebuild property and then insure it, say worried economists.
People fled into the streets and flights were diverted when today's quake, and its subsequent four aftershocks, hit with buildings swaying in the city and at the airport shortly before lunchtime. It was not immediately known if anyone had died - but one person was injured at a city mall, four people were rescued after being trapped by a rock fall and 60 were treated for minor injuries. There were no immediate reports of widespread damage and a tsunami alert was not issued. - Daily Mail.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: At Least 20 Persons Have Been Killed and Many More Missing From Unusual Heavy Rains, Widespread Flooding and Geological Upheaval in Tanzania - One of the Worst Floods to Hit the Dar Es Salaam and Musoma Regions in Decades!

According to an official at least 20 people are reportedly killed and many others are missing after the city Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania was hit by the worst floods in decades for two consecutive days.

At least 20 people have died in floods after unusually heavy rains hit Tanzania's main city of Dar es Salaam. The Tanzania Meteorological Agency (TMA) has warned that the downpours are set to continue and has told those living in the city's valleys to move. The BBC's Aboubakar Famau in Dar es Salaam says the city's business activities have come to a standstill. Several main roads that link the centre to the suburbs are flooded and some bridges have been destroyed.

According to TMA, these are the heaviest rains Tanzania has experienced since independence in 1961. Hundreds of people living in the city's valleys have been left homeless. Taabu Kibwa said her whole house was covered by water. "We have lost all our properties, in fact we are left with empty hands. Everything in the house has been lost including television sets and refrigerators," she told the BBC. "I have three children, one of whom I don't even know where he is." Another resident, Shaaban Ramadhan Hussein, said he worked and lived in his home which was now under water. "Everywhere is flooded, people are on top of their house roofs, no rescue has come so far. We are not happy, it is like the government doesn't care about us," he said.

Our correspondent says the floods seem to have caught many by surprise, yet it was only a few days ago that the Tanzania Meteorological Agency warned of possible devastation by heavy rains. The police commander for Dar es Salaam, Suleiman Kova, has urged people to leave the valleys, but he said some residents were refusing. "We went [to] rescue some and they then refused to vacate saying they are keeping an eye on their properties," he said. Our correspondent says the government has set up 12 centres to temporarily accommodate an estimated 5,000 people displaced by the floods. There is little chance of them relocating to their home villages or regions before the festive season because the weather agency has cautioned that the rains are not going away, he says. "We have been having heavy rainfall the day before yesterday, yesterday and today - we will therefore have more floods," said Agness Kijazi, TMA's director. - BBC.

QUEST FOR THE "GOD PARTICLE": CERN's Large Hadron Collider, the Atom Smasher, Discovers First New Particle - Heavy Variant of a Sub-Atomic Particle!

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), famously engaged in the quest for the Higgs boson, has turned up a heavier variant of a sub-atomic particle first discovered a quarter-century ago, scientists reported Thursday.

European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) scientists control computer screens showing traces
on Atlas experiment of the first protons injected in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) during its
switch on operation in CERN's control room, near Geneva, Switzerland.
The newcomer is called Chi-b(3P), which was uncovered in the debris from colliding protons, according to research published in the open-access online journal arXiv.  Like the elusive Higgs and the photon, it is a boson, meaning it is a particle that carries force. But while the Higgs is not believed to be made of smaller particles, the Chi-b(3) comprises two relatively heavy particles, the beauty quark and its antiquark. They are bonded by the so-called "strong" force which also causes the atomic nucleus to stick together. The Chi-b(3P) is a heavier version of a particle that was first observed around 25 years ago. "The Chi-b(3P) is a particle that was predicted by many theorists, but was not observed at previous experiments," said James Walder, a British physicist quoted by the University of Birmingham in a press release. Described by some as the world's largest machine, the LHC is located in a 17-mile (27km) ring-shaped tunnel near Geneva that straddles the Franco-Swiss border up to 580 feet (175m) below ground.

Streams of protons are fired in opposite, but parallel, directions in the tunnel. The beams are then bent by powerful magnets so that some of the protons collide in four giant labs, which are lined with detectors to record the sub-atomic debris that results. On December 13, physicists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) said they had narrowed the search for the Higgs -- the so-called "God particle" that may confer mass. The theory behind the Higgs is that mass does not derive from particles themselves. Instead, it comes from a boson that interacts strongly with some particles but less, if at all, with others. Finding the Chi-b(3P) is a further test of the powers of the LHC, which became the world's biggest particle collider when it was completed in 2008. "Our new measurements are a great way to test theoretical calculations of the forces that act on fundamental particles, and will move us a step closer to understanding how the Universe is held together," said Miram Watson, a British research fellow working on the CHi-b(3) investigation. A massive collaborative effort that brings in physicists from around the world, the LHC has cost more than 6.03 billion Swiss francs (roughly $4.5 billion). - FOX News.
WATCH: The God Particle - Does it Really Exist?

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Increased Seismicity and Large Scale Earthquake Activity at the Bardarbunga Volcano in Iceland - Magma Rising at Great Depth in the Centre, Possibility of an Imminent Eruption!

This past spring, while the eruption at Eyjafjallajokull was taking place, there was large scale earthquake activity at Bardarbunga. The increased seismic activity in the area then, and again just a couple of weeks ago, created a lot of discussion and deliberation. Bardarbunga is a big volcano under the Vatnajokull ice cap with a large ice-filled caldera some 6-700 metres deep and a lateral volcano at Hamar to the south of the main crater. Bardarbunga is a central volcano in the Icelandic volcano system. The system’s fissure swarm stretches from the northeast to the southwest from the central highlands under the glacier; all the way from Tungnaa in the south to the lava fields west of Askja in the north. The system is over 100 kilometres long.

The northern part of the volcano lies under the Dyngjujokull outlet glacier and at Dyngjuhals, a ridge with crater rows and lava flow, cutting into the Odadahraun lava fields. The last eruption to take place there was in the second half of the 18th Century, both under Dyngjujokull and at Dyngjuhals. A J√∂kulhlaup (otherwise known as a glacier meltwater flood) ensued in the Jokulsa a Fjollum river. It is likely that Askja has not erupted in recorded history (since Iceland was settled), but volcanic activity at Gjalp in 1996, near to Bardarbunga, indicates it is part of the Grimsvotn system, according to the lava’s chemical composition. The southern part of the volcanic system is more active than the other half. Many large eruptions took place there in prehistoric times. Around the time of the settlement age in 870 AD, there was a powerful eruption (mainly tephra) and another powerful eruption cycle around 1480, with lava and tephra eruptions. The eruptions took place where there were a lot of lakes and many more were created in the craters, which are now popular trout fishing spots. The eruption fissure is around 40 kilometres long and the amount of volcanic material produced was huge, at some 1,500 million cubic metres. This volcanic activity on both occasions caused eruptions in the Torfajokull system and created, for example, the lava at Landmannalaugar.

It is often forgotten that an eruption took place near the present-day research station close to Tungnaarjokull, to the west of Vatnajokull, in 1862-64 Рprecisely in the southern part of the Bardarbunga system. It was not a particularly active series of eruptions, but the row of craters with a few separate sections is still 16 kilometres long, with many spatter and scoria craters and the lava field (Trollahraun) is around 30 square kilometres in area. The next series of eruptions at Bardarbunga could of course happen anywhere, but the recent earthquakes indicate that an eruption could take place in a similar location to in the 18th Century. There are signs that magma is rising at great depth underneath the Bardarbunga volcanic centre. A future eruption under the glacier would be accompanied by a jökulhlaup, most likely in Kreppa and Jokulsa a Fjollum. Tephra would also likely be produced Рpossibly in large quantities. There are also other possibilities, for example an eruption in the southern part of the system, but for now geologists at the Icelandic Meteorological Office are stressing that the earthquakes do not mean that an eruption is imminent. - Ice News.

EXTREME WEATHER: Blistering and Life-Threatening Heat Wave in Argentina - Record High Temperatures in the Northern and Central Regions, Spreading Rapidly to the Rest of South America!

Blistering heat with temperatures near all-time highs baked a wide area of northern and central Argentina on Wednesday.

The life-threatening heat, having temperatures to at least 115 degrees, spread over some key growing areas in which crops have already been stressed by recent heat and low rainfall. While relief was in store, borne of a sluggish north-bound cold front triggering thunderstorms, it was not before at least one more excessively hot day in many areas on Thursday. At San Miguel de Tucuman, Wednesday's high of 43.7 degrees C (110.7 F) exceeded the standing all-time maximum of 42.1 degrees C (107.8 F), according to data accessed on the Argentina's National Weather Service website. La Rioja, which hit 46.0 degrees C (114.8 F), as well as the city of Cordoba, whose airport reached 42.4 degrees C (108.3 F) also rivaled all-time highs.

Other hot spots were Chamical and Santiago del Estero, at 112 degrees. Stifling heat also spread eastward and northward, covering much of Uruguay, Paraguay and neighboring southern Brazil. Highs of 100 to 105 degrees were the rule with hot spots reaching about 110 degrees. Summer crops, such as corn and soybeans, in Argentina's fertile breadbasket have been stressed by low December rainfall in tandem with recent heat, according to commodities forecaster Dale Mohler. Northern parts of the bread basket, taking in a swath of Cordoba, Santa Fe and northern Buenos Aires provinces, withstood severe heat on Wednesday. An overnight cold front then brought the heat wave to an end, although welcome thundershowers afforded only localized drought relief. - Accu Weather.

TERMINATOR NOW: Rise of the Machines and the Coming Global Police State - International Business Machines (IBM) Predicts Mind-Reading Machines!

Century-old technology colossus IBM on Monday depicted a near future in which machines read minds and recognize who they are dealing with. The " IBM 5 in 5 " predictions were based on societal trends and research which the New York State-based company expected to begin bearing fruit by the year 2017.

"From Houdini to Skywalker to X-Men, mind reading has merely been wishful thinking for science fiction fans for decades, but their wish may soon come true," IBM said in its annual assessment of innovations on the horizon. "IBM scientists are among those researching how to link your brain to your devices, such as a computer or a smartphone," it continued. IBM gave the examples of ringing someone up just by thinking it, or willing a cursor to move on a computer screen. Biological makeup will become the key to personal identity, with retina scans of recognition of faces or voices used to confirm who people are rather than typing in passwords, the company forecast.

"Imagine you will be able to walk up to an ATM machine to securely withdraw money by simply speaking your name or looking into a tiny sensor that can recognize the unique patterns in the retina of your eye," IBM said. "Or by doing the same, you can check your account balance on your mobile phone or tablet," it continued. Technology will also be able to produce electric power from any types of movement from walking or bicycle riding to water flowing through pipes of homes, IBM predicted. Mobile phones will narrow the digital divide between "haves and have-nots" by making information easily accessible and junk email will be eliminated by smarter filtering and masterful targeting of ads people like, according to IBM. - My FOX NY.
WATCH: The "IBM Next 5 in 5: 2011" video.

DELUGE: Colombia Flood Death Toll Reaches 170 - Red Alert as Heavy Rains and Landslides Disrupts the Lives of Over 800,000 People, $500 Million Disaster, Worst Rainy Season in Decades!

Heavy rains and ensuing landslides have killed 170 people in Colombia, as the South American nation continues to grapple with one of its worst rainy seasons in decades, Colombian authorities have said.

Widespread flooding, caused by torrential rains which began in September, have disrupted the lives of over 800,000 Colombians, washed away swathes of food crops and damaged around 135,000 homes, according to the latest report by Colombia’s Disaster Risk Management Agency (DGR). Four major rivers across Colombia are at high risk of flooding and are on red alert, the agency says.

Thousands of Colombians living in the worst affected regions in the country’s northern provinces and along its Pacific coast have been forced to leave their homes as flood waters continue to swamp homes and farmland. Fighting by Colombian rebel groups and roads blocked by debris and landslides have made it difficult to reach affected communities with humanitarian aid in Colombia’s northeastern region of Catatumbo, near neighouring Venezuela, said the United Nations humanitarian agency (OCHA). “The situation regarding humanitarian access in the Catatumbo region is made difficult not only because of the consequences of the rainy reason, but also because of fighting by armed groups,” OCHA’s latest report states. Some communities have been without access to clean water for more than a week, the report adds.

Earlier this month, the government of Juan Manuel Santos set up a special ministerial taskforce and a new state disaster risk management agency to deal with the flooding and aftermath. The government has allocated $500 million to deal with the disaster, promising families affected by flooding up to $1,550 each to rebuild their homes and businesses. But the high death toll has renewed calls for local government authorities to implement better prevention measures and ensure families living in flood-prone areas are evacuated ahead of the annual rainy season. There are several ongoing investigations by Colombia's chief ombudsman and the attorney general's office to determine whether some local authorities have mismanaged state funds allocated for disaster risk prevention, whether they have failed to put prevention measures in place, like improving drainage systems, or failed to identify residential areas at risk from landslides. The government recently defended its record on dealing with the flooding. “In general terms the truth is that the response has been robust. Wherever a landslide happens the machinery is there,” Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, told local radio earlier this week. - AlertNet.

EXTREME WEATHER: Rapid Rise in Wildfires in Large Forest Regions of Canada - The Average Size of Fires Mysteriously Tripled Since 1980, Dramatic Increase in the threat to the Yellowstone National Park, and Forests Might Eventually Disappear!

Large forest regions in Canada are apparently about to experience rapid change. Based on models, scientists can now show that there are threshold values for wildfires just like there are for epidemics. Large areas of Canada are apparently approaching this threshold value and may in future exceed it due to climate change.

As a result both the area burnt down annually and the average size of the fires would increase, write the researchers of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the University of Michigan in the December issue of the journal The American Naturalist. The strategies for combating wildfires in large parts of Canada should therefore be reconsidered. According to media reports, after weeks of drought around 1,000 hectares of forest and scrubland were burnt down in the West Canadian province British Columbia in the summer of 2009 alone. 11,000 people had to be evacuated. Are such events on the rise as a result of climate change? This question is being hotly debated by ecologists all over the world. In July a group of US researchers led by Anthony Westerling of the University of California forecasted similar changes in the journal PNAS. They believe that climate change might result in a dramatic increase in the threat of wildfires in Yellowstone National Park and that the forests might disappear here in the 21st century. Fires are an important factor in many terrestrial ecosystems. They are a result of the interaction of the weather, vegetation and land use, which makes them very sensitive to global change.

"Changes in the wildfire regime have a significant impact on a local and global scale and therefore on the climate as well. It is therefore important to understand how the mechanisms which shape these wildfires work in order to be able to make predictions on what will change in future," explains PD Dr. Volker Grimm of the UFZ. For their model, the scientists evaluated data from the Canadian Forest Service, which had recorded fires greater than 200 hectares between 1959 and 1999, and sorted these by ecozone. This showed that three of these ecozones in Canada are close to a turning point: the Hudson Plains south of the Hudson Bay, the Boreale Plains in the Mid-West the Boreale Shield, which stretches from the Mid-West to the East coast and is therefore the largest ecozone in Canada. The closest to a turning point is apparently the Boreale Shield. In order to check their model and the theory of a threshold value for wildfires, the scientists looked at the fires in this region more closely. Around 1980 the average size of the fires in this part of the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba tripled rapidly.

"In our opinion this is a sign that there are also threshold values for forests above which the wildfire regime drastically changes," reports Volker Grimm. "It is likely that the Boreale Plains have in recent decades, particularly around 1980, experienced a change to a system characterised by wildfires. This has fundamental repercussions for the environment and the combating of wildfires. Small changes in the fire propagation parameters have a great impact on the size of the fires." Gradual changes, such as those which can be expected due to climate change, can therefore result in an abrupt and sharp increase in the size of the fires. The scientists were also interested in the parallels with disease propagation. Prevention strategies, which reduce combustible material, are in a way similar to the vaccinations which are used against the spread of diseases such as the measles. Here too there is a threshold value above which a disease spreads and below which it falls. Other modellers from the UFZ were therefore able to turn this theoretical threshold value into a practical value. With foxes it was shown that only 60 per cent had to be vaccinated against rabies in order to successfully combat the disease. The scientists therefore hope to find out more in future studies which cover both disciplines. - Terra Daily.

EXTINCTION LEVEL EVENT: Mass Animal Die-Off - Rudolph and his Friends Under Threat as World's Largest Reindeer Herd Loses 24,000 in One Year?!

They're as much a part of Christmas as Santa. But now conservationists have warned Rudolph’s reindeer friends are under threat, as the world’s largest herd has gone into decline  – and could be wiped out within a few years.

More than 90 per cent of the George River population, which roams northern Canada, has vanished in the past two decades. Numbers have fallen by 24,000 in the last year alone. Experts say the reason for the drop is not clear, but large engineering projects such as road-building and an iron mine may have separated the reindeer from their calving grounds. In 1992, there were between 800,000 and 900,000 animals in the herd, but today there are just 50,000, according to the latest figures obtained by charity Survival International. Last year there were 74,000.

Jonathan Mazower of the charity said: ‘We just don’t know why it is happening, the local people believe it is the large industrial projects, or it could be a lack of the food they forage on, moss and lichen, but it has been so dramatic.’ Known as caribou in North America, reindeer have provided food and livelihoods to indigenous people who live in the vast tundra, particularly the Innu tribe – for centuries. This year they have been banned from hunting them. Canadian officials said other factors such as ‘predation, disease, parasites, and the effects of climate change, may also be contributing to the decline’. Innu Chief Georges-Ernest Gregoire said: ‘The caribou is central to our culture, our spiritual beliefs and to our society as hunters that have lived on our homeland for thousands of years. The food chain cycle will be broken and many will suffer in the end.’ - Daily Mail.