Wednesday, December 28, 2011

WORLD WAR III: Countdown to Armageddon - The Influential Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Says It's "TIME TO ATTACK IRAN"!

Matthew Kroenig, the Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and the author of Exporting the Bomb: Technology Transfer and the Spread of Nuclear Weapons, has boldly declared that it is "Time to Attack Iran." He believes that opponents of military action against Iran assume that the United States would be far more dangerous than simply letting Tehran build a bomb. In the following piece, he argues that a carefully designed attack by Washington would mitigate the costs and spare the region and the world from an unacceptable threat. A clear signal that a Middle East conflict and World War III is inevitable.

In early October, U.S. officials accused Iranian operatives of planning to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States on American soil. Iran denied the charges, but the episode has already managed to increase tensions between Washington and Tehran. Although the Obama administration has not publicly threatened to retaliate with military force, the allegations have underscored the real and growing risk that the two sides could go to war sometime soon -- particularly over Iran’s advancing nuclear program.

For several years now, starting long before this episode, American pundits and policymakers have been debating whether the United States should attack Iran and attempt to eliminate its nuclear facilities. Proponents of a strike have argued that the only thing worse than military action against Iran would be an Iran armed with nuclear weapons. Critics, meanwhile, have warned that such a raid would likely fail and, even if it succeeded, would spark a full-fledged war and a global economic crisis. They have urged the United States to rely on nonmilitary options, such as diplomacy, sanctions, and covert operations, to prevent Iran from acquiring a bomb. Fearing the costs of a bombing campaign, most critics maintain that if these other tactics fail to impede Tehran’s progress, the United States should simply learn to live with a nuclear Iran.

But skeptics of military action fail to appreciate the true danger that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to U.S. interests in the Middle East and beyond. And their grim forecasts assume that the cure would be worse than the disease -- that is, that the consequences of a U.S. assault on Iran would be as bad as or worse than those of Iran achieving its nuclear ambitions. But that is a faulty assumption. The truth is that a military strike intended to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, if managed carefully, could spare the region and the world a very real threat and dramatically improve the long-term national security of the United States. - CFR.
WATCH: Hillary Clinton admits that the CFR runs America's foreign policy.

THE AGE OF OBAMA: Unprecedented Natural Disasters Hit America - 12 Separate Billion Dollar Weather/Climate Disasters With a Damage Total of Approximately $52 Billion Dollars in 2011!

United States set a record with 12 separate billion dollar weather/climate disasters with a damage total of approximately $52 billion in 2011

2011 has been a year of broken records and a plethora of extreme weather all around the world.  From the earthquake and ensuing tsunami in Japan, extreme drought in Africa to epic floods in Thailand, the United States also saw its fair share of natural disasters.  Not to be overlooked due to the devastation of natural disasters, the year was also been riddled with other rare once in a lifetime natural and not-so-natural events.

The year began relatively calmly with January coming and going without much fanfare.  As February arrived so did the epic Groundhog Day Blizzard which plowed through the Midwest.  Stranded cars along Lake-Shore Drive in Chicago, Illinois told the story of the 2ft of snow and 60 mph winds that inundated the city. Through April 4th & 5th The Midwest and Southeast experienced the first of the Nation's record twelve billion dollar disasters.  Damaging winds and tornadoes were to blame for $2 billion in damages. Tornadoes touched down in Arkansas, Kentucky and Mississippi. A week later from April 8th-11th the nation's second billion dollar disaster occurred as severe weather barreled through the Midwest and Southeast. An EF-3 tornado tore through and wiped out over 20% of a tiny town of only 1,200 residents. Later that week over 200 tornadoes tore through 16 states including 30 confirmed tornadoes in North Carolina.  The most devastating of these tornadoes in North Carolina was the EF-3 tornado with winds of 160 mph that ripped through Sanford and remained on the ground for 63 miles as it headed towards Raleigh. Six people lost their lives from this tornado alone with 38 fatalities resulting from the entire outbreak.

From April 25th-30th, what would become to be known as the Super Outbreak, produced 343 tornadoes in 21 states. This outbreak became the largest tornado outbreak ever recorded, producing an astounding four EF-5 tornadoes.  April 27th, was particularly devastating as 188 tornadoes touched down in the Southeast, four of which were rated an EF-5. Major metropolitan areas such as Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Chattanooga were impacted by these strong tornadoes. The entire outbreak claimed the lives of at least 321 individuals.  Over $7.3 billion were reported from insured losses, with total losses estimated to be greater than $10.2 billion. May 22-27 saw an outbreak of tornadoes over the central and southern U.S. (MO, TX, OK, KS, AR, GA, TN, VA, KY, IN, IL, OH, WI, MN, PA).  An estimated 180 tornadoes formed over the six day period which were responsible for at least 177 deaths.  The most notable of the 180 tornadoes was the EF-5 tornado that struck Joplin, MO on May 22nd resulting in at least 160 deaths, making it the single most deadly tornado to strike the U.S. since modern tornado record keeping began in 1950.  This outbreak produced a price tag of greater than $9.1 billion across 15 states.

Of much lesser consequence, the brood XIX 13-year cicada invaded parts of the Southeast, including the Triad.  An estimated 1.5 million Cicadas per acre were in some locations through the months of May and June. Tornadoes broke out again between June 18th-22nd over the central U.S. (OK, TX, KS, NE, MO, IA, IL) with an estimated 81 tornadoes.  The same storm system continued to travel east and produced additional wind and hail damage across the Southeast including in North Carolina. Total losses from this event amounted to greater than $1.3 billion.  This event was also responsible for at least 3 deaths. Lasting from the spring through the fall, the Southern Plains/Southwest drought, heatwave and wildfires were responsible for over $10 billion is direct losses to crops, livestock and timber.  Major impacts were felt from drought and heatwave conditions across Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, southern Kansas, and western Louisiana.  In Texas and Oklahoma, a majority of range and pasture land was classified in 'very poor' condition for much of the 2011 crop growing season.

Through the spring and into the summer months, persistent rainfall combined with melting snowpack caused record flooding along the Mississippi River.  The river began to swell in the beginning of May, flooding every state from Illinois down to Mississippi and Louisiana.  As the river continued to rise and historic flooding continued to occur, the Morganza Spillway was opened on May 14th by the Army Corps of Engineers in effort to save Baton Rouge and New Orleans.  The opening of the spillway flooded over 4,600 square miles of Louisiana.  A federal disaster was declared by President Obama in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi.   The National Climatic Data Center estimates $4 billion in damages resulted from this flood, although it is noted that the final amount might not be fully realized. As the snow continued to melt and above-average precipitation fell across the Northern Rocky Mountains the Missouri and Souris Rivers began to breach their banks through the summer months across the Upper Midwest (MT, ND, SD, NE, IA, KS, MO). Many levees were breached along the Missouri River, flooding countless farms and producing losses that are estimated to exceed $2 billion.

In July, while much of the country was roasting in well above average temperatures, Oklahoma actually set the record for the hottest month for any state. Oklahoma's average temperature (including daily high and low temperatures) for the month of the July was 89.1 degrees.  The previous record was also set by Oklahoma in July of 1954 with an average temperature of 88.1 degrees. North Carolina was pulled into the fray again on August 27th when Hurricane Irene slammed into the Outer Banks. Irene moved ashore near Cape Lookout as a Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of 185 mph.  Irene continued to move northward along the East Coast producing copious amounts of rainfall and flooding into the Northeast.  Over seven million homes and businesses lost power during the storm.  Estimated damages and costs amounted to $7.3 billion and at least 45 fatalities resulted from Hurricane Irene.

While much of the country was tracking Hurricane Irene before it slammed into North Carolina, many people along the East Coast were rattled by a 5.8 magnitude earthquake in northern Virginia on August 23rd.  The earthquake occurred at 1:51 pm and was felt from Georgia to Maine and as far west as Detroit, Michigan. Tropical Storm Lee was the storm that wouldn't quit.  Lee moved ashore in Louisiana on September 4th and dropped copious amounts of rain across the eastern half of U.S. as it slowly moved to the northeast.  Damage estimates from Lee exceed $1 billion from Louisiana to New York. One of the hardest hit cities was Binghamton, New York (population 47,000), where record rains from Lee's remnants brought a 1-in-500 year flood to the city's Susquehanna River.  The flooded river rose 8.5 inches higher than the city's flood walls and spilled into the city causing tens of millions of dollars in damage.

After a steady decline through the summer months, the Arctic Ice extent finally stabilized. On September 15th the National Snow and Ice Data Center announced that the area of ice in the Arctic was so small that it was the 2nd lowest on record. Through the middle of September, chatter began to build about a dead satellite that would soon plummet back to Earth.  On September 24th NASA's Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS), which was the size of a school bus and weighed six tons, fell back to earth after being in orbit for a successful six year mission.  No injuries were reported as pieces of the satellite landed across the Pacific Ocean. October typically brings a slow turn into autumn, but this year a rare early season storm brought snow to the North Carolina Mountains on October 1st.  A total of 0.5" was reported at Beech Mountain and was enough to make it the earliest snowfall ever recorded in North Carolina history.

At the end of the month, from October 28th through the 30th another rare early season snowstorm brought over $3 billion in damage to Northeast.  The storm wound up being the most extraordinary snowstorm in over two centuries with some snow totals exceeding the great October snow of 1804.  More than 30" of snow in some locations piled up on trees that had not lost their leaves which resulted in widespread snapped branches and fallen trees leaving at least 2.5 million without power. Next, a rare string of earthquakes rattled, of all places, Oklahoma. On November 5th, 6th and 8th Oklahoma experienced three separate earthquakes. The strongest of the three earthquakes was a magnitude 5.6 which occurred on November 6th. On November 16th, a late season severe weather outbreak produced tornadoes through the southeast and into North Carolina. A strong EF-2 tornado with winds of 135 mph touched down in Davidson County and carved a 12.5 mile path to the northeast into Randolph County.  The tornado claimed the lives of two people in Davidson County. In all, the United States set a record with 12 separate billion dollar weather/climate disasters with a damage total of approximately $52 billion in 2011. The previous record for billion-dollar weather/climate disasters in one year was nine, set in 2008.  The National Climatic Data Center reports that the twelve disasters alone resulted in a tragic loss of at least 646 lives.  The National Weather Service reports that, for the year, over 1,000 deaths occurred across all weather categories. - Digtriad.
WATCH: Tornadoes To Earthquakes, 2011 Saw It All.

Extreme weather came in fast and furious in 2011, with unwavering intensity for all twelve months of the year. From snowstorms to drought, hurricanes to wildfires, epic floods to heat waves -- 2011 shattered records with “a total of twelve weather and climate disasters,” according to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), with "each causing $1 billion or more in damages -- and most regrettably, loss of human lives and property.” The New Year started off with a bang as an unusually intense -- and poorly timed -- January 2011 snowstorm in the Washington DC area left some motorists stranded in their cars for more than 10 hours during an evening commute. The following month, an even larger, monster winter storm brought Chicago to an utter standstill. The Groundhog Day Blizzard brought two feet of snow to the area, while wind gusts as high as 60 mph piled snow drifts in some spots 10 feet high! Cars were left abandoned on major thoroughfares like Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue. This wallop of a storm didn’t just impact Illinois, but many central, eastern, and northeastern states. According to the National Climatic Data Center, it brought insured losses greater than $1 billion and total losses greater than $1.8 billion and unfortunately 36 deaths.

The spring thaw that followed did not evoke calmer conditions to the U.S. In both April and May, devastating record-shattering tornado outbreaks slammed the South, Midwest and other regions. In late April, an outbreak of 343 tornadoes in central and southern states caused 321 deaths. Of those fatalities, 240 occurred in Alabama alone. The deadliest tornado of the outbreak, an EF-5, hit northern Alabama on April 27, killing 78 people. On May 22, an EF-5 (winds over 200 mph+) tornado struck Joplin, Missouri. It was one mile wide and traveled for 22 miles on the ground. According to NOAA, the Joplin tornado was the deadliest single tornado to strike the U.S. since modern tornado record-keeping began in 1950. 158 people lost their lives in this weather event.

Hot and dry would be two good words to describe the summer of 2011: It was a season plagued by drought and extreme heat. Temperatures not only soared, but stayed unbearably scorching for weeks! Dallas, Texas saw 71 total days of 100+ plus temperatures. That’s the highest total number of 100 degree + days the city has ever seen. The Northeast wasn't spared from triple digit temps either. Newark, New Jersey set a new all-time record high of 108 on July 22, shattering the old record of 105 degrees, set on August 9, 2001. The combination of hot temperatures and lack of rainfall caused Texas to see “its most severe one-year drought on record,” according to John Nielsen-Gammon, the Texas State Climatologist and professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University. “Twelve month rainfall was the driest on record across much of Western, Central and Southern Texas,” he concluded. Many areas saw less than 25% of their annual precipitation. 

The heat and drought led to a record wildfire season in many states. This occurred in the summer of 2011 and into the fall. Fires that ignited in states like Arizona and Texas were not only enormous in size, but also incredibly destructive. For example, the Bastrop Fire in Texas destroyed more than 1,500 homes and in Arizona. The Wallow Fire consumed more than 500,000 acres, making it the largest on record in the state. While some areas didn’t receive enough water, others were inundated. In the Ohio Valley, rainfall totals increased by around 300%. This, combined with melting snowpack, caused catastrophic flooding along the Mississippi River. Further north, according to the National Climatic Data Center, “an estimated 11,000 people were forced to evacuate Minot, North Dakota due to the record high water level of the Souris River, where 4,000 homes were flooded.” Fast forward to the start of the Atlantic hurricane season on June 1. An “above average” season was predicted by forecasters at Colorado State University, and it lived up to that prediction. There were 19 tropical storms in the Atlantic this year, making 2011 the 3rd busiest season since record keeping began in 1851. One hurricane that developed in August grabbed the headlines with ferocity. That’s because this hurricane’s forecast track was headed directly towards a major metropolitan city that hadn’t seen a hurricane make landfall since 1985: New York City. For several days in late August, Hurricane Irene had the entire east coast on alert.

On August 26, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made this memorable announcement from City Hall: “The sun is shining, but don't be misled. There is a very dangerous storm headed in our direction, and it could go slightly to the east or slightly to the west. It could speed up, it could close down, it could grow or diminish in intensity, but there is no question that we are going to get hit with some wind and high water that is very dangerous ... We are today issuing a mandatory -- I repeat the word mandatory -- evacuation order for all New Yorkers who live in the low-lying Zone A coastal areas in all five boroughs that are at greatest risk of damage relating to Irene.” It was the first mandatory evacuation the city had ever seen. It was also the first time the New York City transit system was ever shut down in advance of a storm.

Hurricane Irene initially struck the U.S. as a Category 1 hurricane in eastern North Carolina on Saturday, August 26, and then moved northward along the Mid-Atlantic Coast. According to NOAA, “wind damage in coastal North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland was moderate, with considerable damage resulting from falling trees and power lines.” Luckily, the worst case scenario did not occur when Irene made its final landfall as a tropical storm in the New York City area. However, Irene did dump excessive rainfall in the Northeast that caused widespread flooding. More than 7 million homes and businesses lost power during the storm, and Irene caused at least 45 deaths and more than $7.3 billion in damages. And winter begins... Finally, the last month of the 2011 brought a life-threatening early start to winter for residents of the Plains states. In the week before Christmas, a paralyzing blizzard struck the region. White-out conditions caused road closures of highways in Kansas, New Mexico, and Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado on December 19th and 20th. That’s two days before the official start of winter on December 22. - HLN.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Strong 6.6 Magnitude Earthquake Rocks Southwestern Siberia, Russia! UPDATE: Scientists and Russian Government Officials Have Declared That the Siberian Earthquake Reached an Intensity of 9.5 Magnitude - The Most Powerful Earthquake Ever Recorded!

A strong earthquake on Tuesday hit Russia's Siberian region of Tyva on the border with Mongolia but caused no casualties or damage, Russian officials said.

A 6.6-magnitude quake shook south-western Siberia some 58 miles (94 kilometres) east of Tyva's main city of Kyzyl, US seismologists earlier said. The shallow quake, which struck at 10:21 pm (1521 GMT), hit at a depth of 3.7 miles (six kilometres), the US Geological Survey said in a statement.
The Russian emergencies ministry confirmed that a strong earthquake hit Tyva. "According to preliminary information, there are no casualties or destruction," a spokesman for the Siberian branch of the emergencies ministry, told AFP. He declined further details.

The ITAR-TASS news agencies said residents of the larger Siberian cities of Krasnoyarsk and Abakan, hundreds of kilometres from Kyzyl, had reported feeling tremors but there were no reports of damage there. The epicentre of the quake was in a sparsely populated region near the border with Mongolia. - NDTV.
UPDATE: Scientists and Russian Government Officials Have Declared That the Siberian Earthquake Reached an Intensity of 9.5 Magnitude - The Most Powerful Earthquake Ever Recorded!

The most powerful earthquake, ever recorded, occurred in Russia on Tuesday at 19:21 Moscow time in the Kaa-Khem district of the Republic of Tuva(Tyva) (see the map at the top of this article). Chairman of the Ministry for Emergency Situations of Russia Sergei Shoigu said at the meeting, that the force of the earthquake in Tuva was 9.5 on the Richter scale. The epicenter was located 94 kilometers off the Kyzyl City. Immediately after the first earthquake followed by several smaller aftershocks, with underground vibrations were felt in eight regions of Siberia, Russia. On this night, many residents of the Republic of Tuva had no home, and were located in the evacuation centers. The most amazing thing- is not informed about the victims of the earthquake. Chairman of the Ministry for Emergency Situations of Russia demanded to take all necessary measures to prevent possible undesirable consequences in the event of aftershocks. Already given in full readiness all the powers of the Siberian Regional Center of the Ministry for Emergency Situations of Russia and mountain rescue teams. In the Government of the Republic of Tuva note, that there is no cause for great panic, but we need to ensure of all safety measures. - Hainanwel.
The intensity of a powerful earthquake that rocked the southeastern part of Siberia on Tuesday reached 9.5, Russian Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu said at a teleconference in the early hours of Wednesday. "The earthquake's intensity in the epicenter has been estimated at 9.5. The main threat will come tomorrow morning. As soon as the people wake up, they will see cracks in the walls, stoves, and chimneys," he said. It was reported earlier that an earthquake reaching 8-9 in the epicenter had been recorded in the Kaa-Khemsky district of Tyva 100 kilometers east of Kyzyl at a depth of 10 kilometers at 7:22 p.m. Moscow time on Tuesday. The earthquake's magnitude reached 6.7. The tremors were felt in Tyva, Khakasia, the Krasnoyarsk territory and the Irkutsk region. Preliminary reports indicate that the quake did not cause casualties and significant destruction. The population of the Kaa-Khemsky district is about 12,700 people. Emergency Situations Ministry experts are examining communities now. - KYIV Post.

EXTREME WEATHER: Unrelenting Bombardment of Storms and Severe Weather Systems Across America - Parade of Storms to Barrage the Pacific Northwest, Wild Wind Heading to the Northeast, Tornado Slams Through Georgia!

An unrelenting bombardment of storms will lash the Pacific Northwest over the next several days.

Parade of Storms to Barrage the Pacific Northwest.

The parade of storms will bring periods of rain and snow to much of Washington, Oregon and Idaho. The higher elevation mountainous areas will have snow while the valleys have rain. There will be less than a day of dryness between storms, with not much time for residents to catch their breaths before the next storm slams into the region. Other than rain and snow, another aspect of these storms will be the winds. Ferocious, howling winds will batter the Washington and Oregon coastline. Strong winds and heavy rain have the potential to cause beach erosion and coastal flooding.
Rain, snow and winds could also cause difficult travel, both on the ground and in the air. The parade of storms will be caused by an energetic, westerly jet stream. This corridor of intense wind speeds high up in the atmosphere will flow over the northeastern Pacific Ocean and the Pacific Northwest through the end of the week. With no end to the train of storms in sight, the northwestern U.S. will almost certainly end the year of 2011 on a wet and stormy note. - Accu Weather.
High winds will blow Tuesday night into Wednesday along the Eastern Seaboard.

Wild Wind Heading to the Northeast.

Winds gusting up to 50 mph will hit New Jersey up to eastern New England after a rainstorm passes through the area. AccuWeather Expert Meteorologist Elliot Abrams and resident punster said of the wind storm that "icy needles of wind will maraud through the Midwest, whistle through Wisconsin, irritate Illinois, ice Iowa and mesmerize Michigan."

Tuesday night and into Wednesday, "the cold will continue to penetrate Pennsylvania, nip New Jersey, cool Connecticut, rush through Rhode Island, march through Massachusetts, dash through Delaware and torque through New York." According to Expert Senior Meteorologist Henry Margusity, "High winds could cause some scattered power outages. Air travel could be impacted at the major airports as well due to the howling winds." The strong winds will gradually subside Wednesday night into Thursday. - Accu Weather.
The sounds of chainsaws whirring and tree limbs crashing to the ground still permeated West Rome on Monday as the community continued to cope with Thursday’s tornado.

December Tornado Destroys 29 Georgia Homes and Businesses.

Twenty-three homes and six businesses were destroyed in the initial assessment after the F-2 tornado, said Floyd County EMA Director Scotty Hancock. A more detailed assessment should be completed this week, he said. Wiyanne Blalock was delivering pizzas to those affected by the storm as others worked to cut down trees on Cherry Street in West Rome. “We just wanted to get them something,” Blalock said. She was with her husband, Brian Blalock and another couple, the Yourkeivitzs. The couples had planned to purchase the pizzas but they were given to them for free when they arrived a Little Caesar’s Pizza. Patty Garrett was grateful for the pizza. She has been staying at her daughter’s house since there is no heat in hers because the gas has not been restored. Garrett was folding clothes, like she did every Thursday and her husband was watching the History Channel when the storm hit. “It was like two trains coming by the house,” she said of the sound. “It was a very scary sound.”

Garrett’s husband has a hearing problem so she grabbed him and took him to a safe place in the house. Despite all of the destruction, only three minor injuries were reported, said Hancock. On Friday, information was sent to state emergency management officials to see if the area will be declared a natural disaster area. A declaration will make affected residents eligible for disaster assistance. Hancock said so far his office has received only two calls for assistance and they were referred to local nonprofits. Thursday’s tornado was the second one to blow through Floyd County this year. In April, an F-2 tornado destroyed forty homes and damaged 24 businesses. Authorities at a National Weather Service office outside Atlanta say the Rome tornado and two others in North Georgia last week bring their total for this year to 29. That makes it the third-highest total for the area covered by the Peachtree City office. The office covers 96 counties in north and central Georgia, including Northwest Georgia. The highest number of tornadoes for the Peach­tree City forecast area was in 2008, when 38 tornadoes were recorded. - Rome News.

2012 DOOMSDAY: "World Dangerously Unprepared For Future Disasters" - United Nations' Disaster Response Funding System Severely Underfunded?!

Rich countries are failing to contribute to an international emergency fund leaving the world "dangerously unprepared" for future disasters, the International Development Secretary has warned.

Andrew Mitchell said the United Nations' disaster response funding system is expected to be left severely underfunded. Mr Mitchell's warning comes after a wave of large-scale disasters over the last year, including famine in the Horn of Africa, the Japan tsunami, the New Zealand earthquake and floods in Pakistan and the Philippines. Growing numbers of people living in vulnerable areas means the number of those affected by major tragedies is expected to increase in future, he added.

The Government is giving £20m to the Central Emergency Response Fund (Cerf) next year, in addition to £40m already pledged, and has called on the international community to "wake up" to the challenge ahead. It said many rich countries wait until a disaster strikes before responding, which means critical emergency first response work could be put at risk. The fund - set up following the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami to provide a coordinated international response - is expected to have a shortfall of £45m next year. Mr Mitchell said: "This year the world has been rocked by devastating disasters and the evidence suggests this trend is likely to continue.

"The past shows that international responses could have been more effective if they had been properly planned and coordinated as part of one single system instead of a patch-quilt approach we see all too often. "The system is in place but too many countries and agencies are failing to back it, leaving the world dangerously unprepared for the scale and number of shocks that lie ahead. "In those first critical hours when, for example, survivors are still trapped in the rubble of an earthquake, delays and confusion can mean the difference between life and death. "The international community must wake up to this challenge and unite its efforts under one umbrella." - Sky News.
Meanwhile, scientists trying to study extreme weather events are being hampered by funding and politics.
For two years in a row, the United States has been subjected to an abnormal amount of extreme weather events, raising the question of global warming’s impact on the earth. But government scientists have struggled to gain approval from Congress for expanding their research into weather-related disasters. This year the U.S. was hit with a dozen weather events that caused at least $1 billion in damages each—far above the usual number of three to four that occur. The large-scale fires, floods and tornadoes that impacted 2011 will wind up costing the country about $50 billion total.
In an attempt to better respond to the deluge of climate-change questions it’s been receiving from farmers, insurance companies and others, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) sought to reorganize some of its offices into a National Climate Service. Modeled after the National Weather Service, the new climate service would have provided better climate forecasts to businesses, citizens and local governments. The idea was first developed under the George W. Bush administration. But this year House Republicans saw it as an Obama initiative designed to create climate “propaganda” to further endorse the theory that global warming is man-made, which many in the GOP refuse to accept. So the National Climate Service idea died. The federal budget crisis was cited as reason for the decision, even though the NOAA said the reorganization would not have required any additional money. - ALLGOV.

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Dozens of Dead Fish Found Floating Near Fort Myers Beach in Florida - Officials Say Red Tide Bloom is the Cause, but the Mystery Continues?!

Dozens of dead fish are floating towards the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River. Many fear red tide is to blame, and some charter fishermen worry this could affect their bottom line.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says a high concentration of red tide bloom is lingering near the shores of Sanibel and floating down to Collier County. Fort Myers Beach is packed with tourists playing in the waves and enjoying the sun. But just offshore, Charter Captain George Howell noticed a disturbing sight lurking a few miles off Fort Myers Beach. "We noticed some dead fish, and the bait fish we caught in the well died within about two minutes," said Howell. He believes red tide is to blame. He snapped photos with his phone, and says as the day wore on, the fish kill was moving in. "By four this afternoon it had moved into the mouth of the Caloosahatchee river," he said.

"There's a haze over the water today. We have got a huge fish kill happening. We've had clients call and cancel the next couple of days." His wife Lynda Mastronardo is the publisher of the local guide SWFL Naturally. With the recent red tide concerns, she says she's afraid to let her young son swim in the water, and worries about her husband's business.  "It's affecting our health, people are catching these fish and eating the fish, it's in turn affecting them and making them sick. Tourist dollars are going to be hurt," she said. "People that are vacationing here now, if they have a bad experience with red tide or fish kill, next year when they plan their vacation, they may decide to go somewhere else," said Howell. He said a bad fish kill hasn't affected his business in five years, and he hopes the tide will push it out. - WINK News.

EXTREME WEATHER: "WEATHER BOMBS" Hit Australia - Severe Thunderstorms, Wild Tornadoes, Damaging Winds, Flooding Rain and "Baseball-Sized" Hail! UPDATE: Tracking Tropical Cyclones Thane and Grant!

Residents in Taylors Lakes woke to the realisation they had copped the worst of the storm that ruined Christmas for many Melbourne families.

A tornado ripped through the suburb late on Sunday afternoon, leaving residents scrambling to make repairs in what some described as a "war zone". Lola Johnson, 74, escaped serious injury when a bedroom ceiling caved in. The grandmother of 10 returned from a family lunch to find her home flooded. "I had a look around and there was water flooding in, then I went to one of the bedrooms where I keep my granddaughter's Barbies," she said. "I looked up at the roof and saw a crack and then within a second it fell on top of me. I was right under it and it all fell on me, the whole thing. I couldn't believe it."

Mrs Johnson said she could not contact her insurance company yesterday and was concerned the home was going to collapse. Charlie Gavriel was entertaining 25 people at his Angourie Cres home when the lights went out about 4pm. He was still waiting for power to be restored yesterday afternoon. "It just came out of nowhere. It was like a bomb hit, I haven't seen anything like it before ... it killed our Christmas," Mr Gavriel said. Peter McKernan described the area as a war zone. "There were people crying, everything was smashed up," he said. - Herald Sun.
A freight train was swept off a bridge during flooding caused by a cyclone in northern Australia.
The two drivers were rescued after being trapped in the vehicle and were flown to hospital in Katherine, south of Darwin, it was reported. The Edith River Bridge collapsed and some carriages from the derailed train floated downstream in the incident, a local MP told ABC News. Environmental authorities in the Northern Territory are believed to be investigating if chemicals from the 20-car iron ore train leaked in the flooded river.

Heavy rain from Cyclone Grant led to isolated flooding in the territory, cutting off roads as drivers became stranded. One couple climbed on to their car roof after the vehicle stalled but they were swept along into the Edith River. They clung to a tree branch until they were rescued. Katherine Police Sergeant Simon Freson told ABC: "They initially reported that they were on the roof of the car. "But as the water came up, they were washed off and thankfully emergency services got there on time to get them out of the trees." - Sky News.
WATCH: Train derailed in Australia flood.

In south-east Queensland, storm cuts power to more than 2500 homes.

Thousands of homes have lost power in south-east Queensland after storms and strong winds swept though the area. Electricity has been cut to more than 2,500 properties in the Logan and Beenleigh region and almost 1,000 homes in the Redcliffe and Caboolture area. Energex says the outage also affected homes in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast. - Yahoo Australia.
In Wagga, flash flooding swamped the region, when a storm hit the city at 4pm and left within an hour.
State Emergency Service (SES) duty officer for the Murrumbidgee region Shane McLachlan said there were 10 calls for assistance in Wagga for damage which included broken roofs, fallen trees and flash flooding. Adjin Street and Waranga Avenue in Mount Austin and Halloran Street in Turvey Park were temporarily closed after they became inundated with water. Bolton Park also became flooded from the deluge. SES crews were called into Junee as the storm moved into the region at around 5pm.

At approximately 6.30pm Coolamon SES attended Ganmain Showground after they were notified of roof damage to the pavilion caused by strong winds. A tree was also reported to have fallen down in Kooringal on Sunday night. The SES are reminding people not to walk, drive or attempt to go through flood-water and to stay away from fallen trees and powerlines. The SES are volunteers who have given up their time during Christmas and on Boxing Day. - Daily Advertiser.
Here are two visual presentations on Tropical Cyclones Thane and Grant and the effects on Australia, the Western Pacific and Asia.

WATCH: Tropical Cyclones Thane & Grant.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: TWO Springs and NO Summer in Britain - Leaves British Plants in Confusion, Unusual Bumper Crop of Christmas Apples?!

One on the warmest autumns on record has left Britain with a huge stock of apples this year.
And with the mild weather continuing long into the winter, apple trees across the country are still heavy with fruit. But it is not only apples that have flourished in during 2011's unseasonal weather, insects and flowers have also been enjoying a bountiful year, according to the National Trust. The hot early spring was a boon for insects, while the autumn's warm temperatures and sunshine saw something of a "second spring" with shrubs and plants such as dandelions and white dead nettle flowering again.
But the polarised weather, which saw the summer months hit by wet conditions in the north and a cold drought in central and eastern England, caused species such as the purple emperor butterfly to suffer. The purple emperor laid hardly any eggs, while drought conditions hit species on a localised basis including frogs and toads which require shallow water for breeding and some birds such as waders which saw their food supplies affected. But the dry conditions meant herbs and plants which get crowded out by coarse grass in wet years, including orchids, did extremely well, the Trust said.

Matthew Oates, wildlife adviser at the National Trust, said the year's weather had been "fantastically quirky", confusing native wildlife, but that some species had done well. "It was a mixed year. The overall winners were spring insects - not just butterflies and moths, but all the other things like mining bees and bee flies, many of which have done really well. "But the late summer insects fared very badly and there will be knock-ons for them in 2012."  Early insects and birds nesting in spring benefited from the good weather, he said."There were no periods of foul and abusive weather, which kill things off, until June. "There weren't any gusty storms knocking everything out or drowning things in their nests."

The warm autumn, following on from a good spring, saw an abundance of fruits and berries from spring-flowering shrubs and trees with a great year for apple, hawthorn, sloes, beechnuts and acorns, while holly and mistletoe berries were also in good supply. The autumn feast has provided deer, badgers and grey squirrels with plenty of food, and winter birds should also benefit, the National Trust said. But with erratic weather dominating the year, Mr Oates said it was now a question of "what next?!"

A mixed year for wildlife across the UK.
A year of unusual weather in the UK saw winners and losers in the natural world. Here are some of the highlights in 2011: January: Waxwings, a migrant winter bird, were widespread and Hazel catkins were profuse, leading to early hayfever for some people late in the month. February: An annual count of 38 National Trust gardens on Valentine's Day showed a 17 per cent increase in the number of flowering plants and bulbs, suggesting spring was arriving earlier than in 2010. March: One of the driest and sunniest Marches on record saw an abundance of marsh fritillary caterpillars on Dorset and Wiltshire downs. Frog and toadspawn was late as a result of the cold December, and tadpole development was hindered in some areas by ponds and pools drying up.

April: The warmest April on record saw masses of bluebells and spring blossom, but a poor year for the rare pasque flower due to the dry conditions. The month was great for spring insects including mining bees and parasitic bee flies. May: Vegetation and blossom were three to four weeks early. The good weather broke at the end of the first week of the month, leading to frost damage in many areas and oaks defoliated. June: Despite a cool, cloudy and wet month, especially in the north, the National Trust saw another record year for its large blue butterfly colony at Collard Hill reserve in Somerset. The purple emperor butterfly was recorded emerging at Bookham Common on June 13, the earliest national appearance since 1893.

July: The first blackberries were on bushes before the middle of the month - roughly a month earlier than normal. The cool conditions meant insects were reluctant to fly on many days, but wet and windy weather in the north did see the first waxcap fungi in the Lake District. August: Poor feeding conditions for young bats due to the cold weather and rain this month. Rare heathland broad-headed bug discovered by National Trust team at Dunkery Beacon in Exmoor, along with scarce cow-wheat shieldbug. Rare tiger beetle wasp discovered at Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire. September: Early autumn leaf fall due to spring and autumn drought. Common crane fly numbers - an important food source for bats and some birds - continued to make a slow recovery after population crash in 2007. October: An unseasonable heatwave began the month. Fantastic season for fruits and berries from spring-flowering shrubs including apple, hawthorn, sloe, beechnuts and acorns, but poor season for fungi in many places.

November: Second warmest November in 100 years leads to a "second spring" with spring plants including dandelions and white dead nettle flowering again, along with garden plants and shrubs. Record-breaking grey seal breeding season at Blakeney Point, Norfolk, with 750 pups born between November and mid-December. December: Most places have a great year for holly and mistletoe berries, as a result of the hot spring. Fifteen short-eared owls overwintering at Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire, suggesting good success in their Scandinavian breeding grounds and possible population crash in vole population there. Also seen at Wimpole, Cambridgeshire and North Wiltshire downs. - Daily Mail.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Mount Gamalama Continues its Eruption - Leaves Bitter Taste, Dead Crops and Damaged Farms in Spice Islands, Indonesia! UPDATE: Fast-Moving Mudflows Streaming From the Volcano Kills Four Villagers!

Mount Gamalama continues to spew thick ashes and gas from Ternate, Indonesia, since December 5. The mud and ash left from the explosion have decimated local farmers' crops, leaving many with little hope of making ends meet.

Muhammad Kasim, a 35-year-old clove farmer, has had to delay his plan to go on the Hajj pilgrimage next year because of damage to his crops on the slopes of Mount Gamalama following an eruption earlier this month. The clove fields surrounding Moya subdistrict in Ternate, North Maluku, have been blanketed in volcanic ash since the December 5 eruption. “The crops are damaged and the harvest this year will not bring in anything significant,” Kasim said.

He said he had been counting on receiving Rp 70 million ($7,705) for his crops, Rp 32 million of which he would have set aside to fund his pilgrimage. Kasim, however, can count himself more fortunate than many of his neighbors, as he also runs a small store close to his home that brings him Rp 2 million a month. Kirman, a nutmeg farmer, said he had initially planned on using the proceeds from the harvest to build a house, but the eruption has put an end to such prospects. The volcanic ash has destroyed most of his mangosteen and durian crops as well. “I don’t know how I’ll make ends meet,” he said. “I don’t have any other source of income.”

Thousands of farmers in Ternate face similarly bleak prospects, but they are not the only victims of the disaster. The lahar — mudflow of volcanic debris deposited in rivers and streams — has destroyed more than 100 houses along riverbanks, the municipal administration reports. “We estimate the cost of the damage due to the eruption at Rp 15 billion,” said Jemmy D. Brifing, head of the local Regional Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD). Members of the Ternate legislative council called on the Ternate and North Maluku administrations, as well as the central government, to send aid to farmers and other affected residents. Local councilor Asgar Saleh said that people in the area were struggling to pull through. “I’ve asked Ternate officials to gather data on the affected people so any assistance we can offer them can be included in the administration’s budget,” he said.

If funds from the Ternate budget are insufficient, Asgar added, he will seek funds from the provincial and central governments. He also called on large businesses in the province to step in and aid the relief effort. Marlison Hakim, the central bank representative in Ternate, said there was a need for farmers to manage their finances better. Clove and nutmeg farmers in the area reap tens of millions of rupiah, and sometimes hundreds of millions, during each harvest. However, the money is quickly spent on consumer goods, he said, adding that if a certain amount were put in a savings account after each harvest, the farmers would have a financial safety net. Ternate Mayor Burhan Abdurrahman said the city and provincial administrations were committed to helping the victims of the eruption rebuild. Mt. Gamalama’s most recent eruptions were in 1980, 1992 and 2003. The largest eruption on record took place in 1712. Debris from that eruption can today be seen throughout Ternate. - Jakarta Globe.
Officials say fast-moving mudflows streaming from the mouth of a volcano in eastern Indonesia have killed four villagers. About 1,000 others have fled their homes. Mount Gamalama, located in the Molucca Islands, sprang back to life this month with a powerful, non-fatal eruption. Government spokesman Yusuf Sunnya said Wednesday that days of heavy rains triggered flows of cold lava, rocks and other debris that slammed into villages near the base Tuesday night. He said four people were killed and more than a dozen others were hospitalized with injuries ranging from broken bones to head wounds. Indonesia is a vast archipelago with millions of people living on mountains or near fertile flood plains. Seasonal downpours here often cause landslides. - Time.

DELUGE: Torrential Rains Cause Huge Floods in Indonesia - Forcing Mass Evacuations in Java and Sumatra!

At least 500 homes in Kampar district, Riau, were inundated with a meter of water after a flash flood hit the nearby Sebayang River on Monday.

Jafri Datuk, a community elder in Kampar Kiri subdistrict, said four villages had been affected by the flood: Domo, Padang Sawa, East Teluk Paman and Kuntu.“Of the four villages, we can only monitor Kuntu,” Jafri said, adding that there had not been any information from the three other villages because the surging water had cut off much of the access to them. “There are 500 homes that are now inundated, and many of residents there have evacuated,” he added. The flood hit at around 4 a.m. on Monday. No casualties have been reported, Jafri said. Riau and the eastern part of West Sumatra have seen torrential rains for a week. On Saturday, hundreds of homes in Pekanbaru, the capital of Riau, were hit with at least 50 centimeters of water.

“The water has not receded since Saturday,” local resident Uli, 40, said on Monday. Some residents, Uli said, had refused to evacuate because they did not want to leave their possessions behind. In the Meranti Pandak and Umban Sari wards, which at the height of the flood on Saturday were inundated with one and a half meters of water, residents were slowly returning to their homes, which were covered in thick mud. “The [Pekanbaru] city government is handling the flood halfheartedly,” said Syarif, 37, a resident of Meranti Pandak. “Flooding occurs in our neighborhood time and time again, but there has been no long-term solution. The pumps are only used when people’s homes have been drowned.”

Flooding also was reported elsewhere in the country. In Pasuruan, East Java, heavy rains that started to fall on Sunday evening have flooded the busy north coast road, forcing vehicles traveling from Surabaya and Probolinggo to take alternative routes through Pandaan and Purwosari. The same rain also was to blame for the surge of the Welang River, which caused hundreds of homes in Pohjentrek and Kraon subdistricts to drown in flooding that topped one meter. Floods were also reported in the subdistricts of Kalirejo, Kalianyar and Tambaan. In Cirebon, West Java, hundreds of homes in Gunungjati subdistrict were flooded after hours of rain that started on Sunday evening caused the Condong River to surge. “We have evacuated most of the women and children and the elderly,” said Denny Agustin, head of the Cirebon social welfare agency. The flooding has also cut off access from Cirebon to Indramayu. Traffic has been redirected onto smaller roads, causing heavy congestion. - Jakarta Globe.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Weird Christmas Weather - Australia Tornadoes and Unusual Warmth in the United Kingdom and the South Pole?!

While large parts of the U.S. experienced serene Christmas skies, violent thunderstorms tore through parts of Australia. Meanwhile, temperatures spiked to record levels in Antarctica and near record levels in the United Kingdom.

Australia thunderstorms and tornadoes.

A Santa on his sleigh or wicked witch on a broomstick? Some Australians were more likely to see the latter December 25. Severe thunderstorms produced damaging winds, flooding rain, “cricket-ball” size hail, and tornadoes around Melbourne. The radar image to the right shows a pronounced “hook echo” indicative of a tornado to the west of Melbourne. Notice the hook is in the northwest part of the thunderstorm, opposite of where it would be located in northern hemisphere. The associated tornado “picked cars off the ground” according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The Sydney Herald reports the Bureau of Meteorology called the event “one of the most widespread severe storms [Melbourne] has seen”

Antarctica (South Pole) record warmth.
Meteorologist Paul Douglas at the Minneapolis Star Tribune blog reports that on December 25: “the U.S. South Pole station set a new all-time record for maximum temperature, of -12.3C (9.9 F). The previous record (apart from a nearly identical temperature on 24 December) was -17.2C (1 F) in 1978. A NOAA-18 AVHRR false color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) displayed a variety of low cloud and high cloud features across the region at 11:17 UTC. Station identifier NZSP marks the location of the Amundsen-Scott station. A listing of available NZSP surface reports is shown below — the maximum temperature actually occurred at 02:50 UTC (15:50 local time). Note that there was also snow (S), light snow grains (SG-), or ice crystals (IC) being reported during much of the day that experienced the record high temperature! 

"A NOAA-18 AVHRR 3.7 µm shortwave IR image depicted a number of patches of low altitude clouds composed of supercooled water droplets — these low cloud features appeared darker (warmer) since the shortwave IR channel is also sensitive  to the reflection of solar radiation off the cloud tops. On the other hand, the corresponding NOAA-18 AVHRR 10.8 µm IR image showed that there were high altitude cirrus clouds (cyan to dark blue color enhancement) in the vicinity of station NZSP. These high cirrus clouds could have been contributing to a “seeder-feeder effect” to help produce the periods of light precipitation that were observed on that day."

Read more on Douglas' findings HERE.

United Kingdom warmest in 90 years.

The United Kingdom recorded its warmest Christmas day temperature in 90 years, rising to 15.1 C (59.2) in Dyce, Scotland. That was just 0.5 degrees shy of the UK’s all-time Christmas day high of 15.6 (60 F). "What a difference a year makes! While Christmas Day in 2010 saw most of the United Kingdom blanketed in snow, Christmas Day 2011 has been unseasonably mild. In fact, Murlough in County Tyrone in Northern Ireland saw record-breaking warmth, whereas Dyce in Aberdeenshire in Scotland was the place to be for the highest temperature in the whole of the UK." Source: BBC.

- Washington Post.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Mount Bulusan Becomes Restive - Showing Signs of Abnormal Activity Over the Last Two Weeks, Imminent Explosion Possible!

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) on Saturday warned the residents living near Mount Bulusan in Sorsogon not to enter the implemented 4-kilometer radius permanent danger zone.

In an interview with radio dzMM, Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum said the residents should remain vigilant because Mt. Bulusan showed volcanic activities in the last 2 weeks. Solidum said the volcanic activities were above normal and there were 10 seismic earthquakes recorded. In a ground survey that was conducted, Solidum said the authorities detected a change in land form surrounding the volcano. Solidum said that because of this, it is possible that there will be an ash explosion. Phivolcs also requested the Civil Aviation Authority to remind the pilots to avoid flying near the crater of the volcano. - ABS/CBN News.
Sorsogon's Mount Bulusan has been showing signs of abnormal activity these past two weeks. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology Director Renato Solidum said at least 10 quakes were felt around the volcano. Solidum said they  noted changes in the form of soil around Mt. Bulusan. Phivolcs warned of possible ash explosion and advised residents to observe the four-kilometer radius permanent danger zone around the mountain. The agency  advised the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines to tell  their pilots to avoid flying near the volcano. - Journal Online.
Bulusan volcano (Philippines) could be close to a new eruption. The volcano has been showing increased seismic activity and slight inflation on the NNE flank during the past 2 weeks, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHILVOLCS) reports. A warning for possible eruptions was issued and it is advised to stay out of a 4 km radius around the volcano and not to fly over it. - Volcano Discovery.
Bulusan Volcano’s (12.7667°N, 124.0500°E) in Sorsogon province, on the other hand, Alert Level 1 status is strongly reiterated over Bulusan Volcano following manifestations of some restiveness recently. Phivolcs reminded anew the local government units and the public are reminded that entry to the four-kilometer radius Permanent Danger Zone (PDZ) is strictly prohibited due to the possibility of sudden steam and ash eruptions. The institute also advised civil aviation authorities to warn pilots to avoid flying close to the volcano’s summit as ejecta from sudden eruptions may be hazardous to aircraft. Furthermore, people living within valleys and along river/stream channels should be vigilant against sediment-laden stream flows and lahars in the event of heavy and prolonged rainfall. (MAL-PIA V/ALbay)

Mayon Volcano’s alert status remains at Alert Level 1. Although this means that no eruption is imminent, Phivolcs explained, it is strongly advised that the public refrain from entering the six-kilometer radius Permanent Danger Zone (PDZ) due to the threat of sudden steam-driven eruptions and rockfalls from the upper and middle slopes of the volcano. The institute also warned that active stream/river channels and those identified as perennially lahar prone areas on all sectors of the volcano should also be avoided especially during bad weather or when there is heavy and prolonged rainfall. - PIA.