Thursday, May 31, 2012

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Weekly Volcanic Activity Report - New Activities and Unrest From May 23rd - 29th, For Fuego, Galunggung, Nevado del Ruiz, Sirung and Soputan!

The following constitutes the new activity and unrest report from the Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, a cooperative project between the Smithsonian's Global Volcanism Program and the US Geological Survey's Volcano Hazards Program.

FUEGO Guatemala 14.473°N, 90.880°W; summit elev. 3763 m
INSIVUMEH reported that during 22-23 May explosions from Fuego produced ash plumes that rose 700 m above the crater and drifted W and SW. Explosions produced shock waves and rumbling noises, and avalanches descended the SW flank towards the Ceniza drainage. Seismic data suggested that on 25 May lava was emitted in the crater, although lava flows were not observed the previous few days. Plumes rose 2 km above the crater and drifted SE, SW, and W. Ashfall was reported in Sangre de Cristo (8 km WSW), Yepocapa (8 km WNW), and in the department of Chimaltenango (21 km NNE). A pyroclastic flow traveled SW down the Las Lajas drainage. During 26-29 May explosions produced ash plumes that rose as high as 1 km above the crater and drifted N, NE, S, and SE. A lava flow traveled 200 m SW and avalanches from the lava-flow front traveled 300 m during 26-27 May. Pulses of incandescence 100 m high were observed during 28-29 May. Map.

GALUNGGUNG Western Java (Indonesia) 7.25°S, 108.058°E; summit elev. 2168 m
CVGHM reported that, since the Alert Level was raised on 12 February, seismic activity at Galunggung had drastically decreased through 27 May. During 27 April-27 May plants around the crater area looked green and lush, small fish were swimming in the water, and insects around the crater were active. Based on seismic data, crater lake water temperature and pH data, and visual observations, CVGHM lowered the Alert Level from 2 to 1 (on a scale of 1-4) on 28 May. Map.

NEVADO DEL RUIZ Colombia 4.895°N, 75.322°W; summit elev. 5321 m
According to INGEOMINAS, the Observatorio Vulcanológico and Sismológico de Manizales reported that on 22 May a seismic signal possibly indicated an ash emission from Nevado del Ruiz, though it was not confirmed due to poor weather conditions. On 29 May activity significantly increased; at 0307 seismic signals indicated ash emissions that were confirmed by officials and residents near the volcano as well as with a web camera. The Alert Level was raised to II (Orange; "eruption likely within days or weeks"). A gas-and-ash plume rose 1 km above the crater and ashfall was reported in Anserma (65 km NW), Aranzazu (45 km NNW), Chinchiná (30 km WNW), Dosquebradas (40 km W), Filadelfia, La Merced (60 km NNW), Manizales (30 km NW), Marmato (70 km NNW), Neira (37 km NW), Palestina (40 km WNW), Pereira (40 km WSW), Risaralda (78 km WNW), Salamina (60 km NNW), San José (56 km NW), Santagueda (40 km NW), Santa Rosa de Cabal (33 km W), Supia (72 km NNW), Villamaria (28 km NW), and Viterbo (65 km WNW). Ash also fell in all municipalities in the department of Risaralda (76 km WNW) and El Aguila (85 km W, N of Valle del Cauca). Sulfur dioxide plumes were detected by satellite and a sulfur dioxide odor was reported in multiple towns. Later that day ash emissions rose 600 m above the crater. Map.

SIRUNG Pantar Island (Indonesia) 8.508°S, 124.13°E; summit elev. 862 m
CVGHM reported that during 13-18 May diffuse white plumes from Sirung rose 10-50 m above the crater. Seismicity was elevated during 12-17 May then decreased through 23 May, although levels remained above background. On 25 May the Alert Level was lowered to 2 (on a scale of 1-4). Map.

SOPUTAN Sulawesi 1.108°N, 124.73°E; summit elev. 1784 m
CVGHM reported that observers in the village of Maliku noted that during 21-27 May white plumes rose 50-150 m above the crater of Soputan. Seismicity increased significantly on 25 May. CVGHM raised the Alert Level to 3 (on a scale of 1-4) on 28 May based on visual observations and increased seismicity. Map.

 For the complete list of ongoing volcanic activity and additional geological summary, click HERE or select the specific volcano name below for additional details:

ONGOING ACTIVITY: Bagana, Bougainville | Cleveland, Chuginadak Island | Dukono, Halmahera | Karymsky, Eastern Kamchatka (Russia) | Kilauea, Hawaii (USA) | Popocatépetl, México | Sakura-jima, Kyushu | Sangay, Ecuador | Santa María, Guatemala | Shiveluch, Central Kamchatka (Russia) | Tungurahua, Ecuador

TERMINATOR NOW: The Rise of the Machines - First Integrated Chemical Circuit Made of Ions Could Bring Computing Into Your Cells?!

The human body isn't a metal machine, but it's still plenty complicated, and regulating it like a machine is tough to pull off. That's why a new discovery by Klas Tybrandt, a doctoral student in Organic Electronics at Linköping University, Sweden, is exciting: he's developed the first integrated chemical chip, similar to silicon-based electronics, but for biologic material.

Chemical Circuit: A chemical chip can deliver a neurotransmitter like acetylcholine,
which enables chemical control of muscles.
Linköping University, Sweden
A chemical circuit made from it lets chemical substances—different types with different purposes—travel through the body, but still keeps them under control. Send a certain chemical to muscle synapses that aren't signaling, for example, and guide it via the circuit. (The big chemical contender in this seems to be the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which enables control of muscles.)
Scene from the movie Terminator.
Before this, the Organic Electronics research group at Linköping University had already developed transistors for transporting molecules, but this circuit offers a lot more flexibility—what was once delivery to single cells is now entire pathways. Researchers are hoping this opens the gate for a whole new field of circuit technology based on ions and molecules instead of electrons and holes. - POPSCI.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Chile Mudslide Leaves 3,000 People Stranded - Bad Weather Kills 2 With Over 3,500 Property Damage!

Some 3,000 people living in the towns of Palena and Futaleufu, in the southern Chilean region of Los Lagos, on Wendesday remained isolated because of a mudslide that buried the road leading to the area, authorities said. 

The mudslide, about 120 meters (390 feet) long and 20 meters (65 feet) deep, occurred late Tuesday during a storm that affected the area, in the vicinity of Villa Santa Lucia, some 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) south of Santiago.  That is what Andres Ibaceta, the regional head of the National Emergency Management Office, or Onemi, told local media, adding that although the road link for the affected communities with the rest of Chile had been interrupted, the border pass to Argentina is open. 

"You can't get to Palena from the Chilean side, although it is possible from the Argentine side," said Ibaceta, while the Highway Department said that the effort to clear the road could take between two and three days.  Ibaceta emphasized that the weather conditions had improved in recent hours, something that he said will enable work crews to accelerate the clearing of mud, rocks and other debris from the road.  The storm also resulted in power outages and the loss of telephone communications, a situation that authorities said they had resolved over the past few hours.  The front of bad weather that affected several regions of Chile over the past few days left two people dead and 3,542 with some sort of property damage, according to figures compiled by Onemi. - LA Herald Tribune.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Extreme Weather - New Mexico Fire Shatters Record for the Largest Fire, as Southwest Wildfires Rage – Over 265 Square Miles Burned; 170,000 Acres, 0% Contained!

While dry and hot conditions continue to fuel wildfires across the Southwest, one state is now fighting the largest fire in its history.   In southwestern New Mexico, a massive wildfire that has burned more than 265 square miles in the Gila National Forest has become the largest fire in New Mexico history, fire officials confirmed Wednesday. 

This image provided by the U.S. Forest Service shows a May 29, 2012 photo, of the massive blaze in the Gila
National Forest is seen from Cliff, N.M. Fire officials said Wednesday the wildfire has burned more than 265
square miles has become the largest fire in New Mexico history.
The erratic blaze grew overnight to more than 170,000 acres, surpassing a blaze last year that burned 156,593 acres in Los Conchas and threatened the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the nation's premier nuclear facility.  And experts says the mammoth fire may be just a preview of what's to come in part of the western United States after months of drought and dry conditions.  “It hasn’t rained on the fire zone in over two weeks, and humidity levels fell below 5 percent on Wednesday," said meteorologist Nick Wiltgen. "Enough moist air may arrive to trigger an isolated shower or thunderstorm Friday, but the danger of lightning strikes will more than offset the meager benefits of any scant rainfall.”   Fire officials say about 1,200 firefighters from around the state were battling the growing blaze, but that they continue to face low humidity and shifting winds in their effort. 

“The weather will offer no help to firefighters any time soon,” says Wiltgen. “Shifting wind directions will pose additional problems as this weather system moves through.”  The Gila forest fire also is the largest burning in the country. It formed last week when two lightning-sparked blazes merged in an isolated mountainous area in southwestern New Mexico, where it has destroyed about a dozen homes and prompted evacuations of nearby towns and health alerts for some of the state's largest cities. The fire has not been contained, and officials worry that shifting winds and dryness related to the state's record drought may cause the blaze to grow even more. The blaze so far has threatened few communities and was burning away from many of New Mexico's largest towns and cities. But state officials issued air quality alerts for cities as far as Albuquerque, nearly 170 miles away, and Santa Fe last weekend, and Perry said parts of southern New Mexico could expect to see smoke from the fire. Wiltgen said another prolonged period of windy weather will follow for the weekend and early next week across the Southwest.
Here's a roundup of other fires burning across the nation: Colorado: Hundreds of firefighters are at an 8-square-mile fire in western Colorado near that state's border with Utah, and at a separate 4-square-mile blaze about 200 miles southwest of Denver. Michigan: Crews are working to ensure that no more structures are damaged by a wildfire burning across more than 30 square miles of Michigan's Upper Peninsula as high winds in the forecast threatened to test firefighting efforts, an official said. The Department of Natural Resources said 97 structures have been destroyed, including 34 homes or cabins. No injuries have been reported. Some progress was marked by the reopening of part of a state park that's popular with tourists and campers that had to close because of smoke and ash problems. Vermont: Fire broke out in three houses in Barre within an hour Tuesday after severe thunderstorms rolled through the state. Lightning strikes are suspected, but the exact cause of each fire hasn't been determined. Sixteen fire departments from central Vermont helped battle the blazes in hot, humid weather. One firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion; no one else was hurt. - The Weather Channel.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: State of Emergency Declared in An Giang, Vietnam Over Massive Landslide - Dozens of Houses Falling Into the River; Many 20-Meter Sized Holes on the River Bottom!

On May 26-27, a landslide occurred along the 120m section of the Hau Riverbank, in Binh Khanh ward in Long Xuyen city. Six houses and an ice making factory fell into the river. 

On May 28, four more houses began to sink and crack while 20 others were in danger. All people were excavated urgently.  The Provincial Authorities declared a state of emergency in this area. All families were removed in the dangerous area. Families who live along the riverside have been WARNED of the danger. The riverside is now guarded 24/7. 

Mr. Tran Anh Thu, deputy director of the local Department of Natural Resources and Environment, said that there are many holes of at least 20 meters deep on the river-bottom, the section crossing Duc Binh ward, which can cause landslide for 4.3km of riverbank.
If these holes are not handled, landslide area will expand.  An Giang Authorities have gán the local Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to deal with these holes.  While landslides along the Hau River has not been solved, a landslide has been reported along the Tien River, with 19 houses fell into the water on May 29. - Vietnam Net [Translated].

WORLD WAR III: The Syrian Passage to Iran and the Countdown to Armageddon - Israel and Iran Prepare For Clash Amid High Anticipation of U.S. Intervention in Syria!

Addressing the Iranian threat, Northern Command Chief Maj. Gen. Yair Golan said, “Iran is here, we fight an indirect war against Iran on a daily basis – against Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon. The negative influence of Iran is extremely significant in our region as well as its involvement both here and in Syria.” 

Maj. Gen. Golan spoke on Wednesday at the Bar-Ilan University Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, addressing the current security conditions at Israel’s northern border in the face of terrorist organizations operating against Israel at the various fronts.  “The IDF has the capability to take over in a relatively short period of time the launching sites which threaten Israel’s home front, and defeat Hezbollah terrorists at these sites,” emphasized Maj. Gen. Golan. “In all my years in the IDF, I fought against Hezbollah, I know their fighting techniques and can confidently say they are capable of interrupting but not stopping the IDF.”  Also on Wednesday, acting Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani said that any crisis caused by a military intervention in Syria would definitely engulf Israel.  “U.S. military officials probably have a poor understanding of themselves and regional issues because Syria is in no way similar to Libya, and (the effects of) creating another Benghazi in Syria would spread to Palestine, and ash rising from the flames would definitely envelop the Zionist regime,” Larijani stated. 
Northern Command Chief Maj. Gen. Yair Golan.
“It seems that the United States and the West are seeking to pave the way for a new crisis,” he added.  For his part, Maj. Gen. Golan warned that “al-Qaeda terrorists located in Syria today and operating against the Syrian regime might in time attack Israel.” He estimated that “the Syrian threat against Israel demands our attention,” suggesting a clash with the Syrians “will not happen tomorrow morning, but it might happen in the coming months.”  The Northern Command Chief said that the arsenal of weapons at the Syrian regime’s disposal poses another threat to Israel. “Syria has mass-destruction weapons alongside a large, advanced arsenal that includes surface-to-surface missiles, anti-ship missiles, and nuclear weapons. The fact that Syria is a weapon storage facility that supplies terrorist organizations in the region – bothers us a great deal.”  Israel has been warning for years now that Syria provides Hezbollah with advanced weapons systems. Hezbollah operates training bases in Syria and keeps its own arsenals of weapons there. Recently Syria was reported to have moved Scud missiles to Hezbollah camps in Lebanon, and set up advanced SA missiles on the mountains of Lebanon.  With the Syrian regime nearing collapse, terrorist elements could be in position to acquire Syria’s cache of weapons. - Jewish Press.
WATCH: 'Rebels behind Houla massacre, US plan to destabilize and save Syria in full swing'.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Italian Earthquake - Over 800 Aftershocks in the Emilia-Romagna Region and "More to Come"!

Emilia Romagna, the Italian region that has some of the country's finest culture and produces what many consider Italy's best food, was coming to terms on Tuesdaywith the idea that it could be shaking violently for years to come.  Residents were told by experts that there was no telling when the spate of earthquakes would subside.  "It is likely they could continue for years," said Giuliano Panza, professor of seismology at the University of Trieste. 

An earthquake on 29 May in Modena, Emilia-Romagna, leaves a building shattered and collapsed in a
Cavezzo street. Photograph: Maurizio Degl'Innocenti/EPA
Since they were first thrown out of bed in the early hours of 20 May by a 6.0-magnitude quake, residents' nerves have been jarred by 800 aftershocks. But Tuesday's 5.8 jolt was nothing less than an entirely new earthquake, said Italy's civil protection chief, Franco Gabrielli.  According to Giulio Selvaggi, the director of Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology, the two quakes originated from two entirely different faults deep below the surface. But he said they were caused by the same phenomenon.  "It is down to the pressure caused as the Apennine mountains push slowly north under the Po valley," he explained. "The whole area has been shaking for a year, with shocks above 4.5, and we just cannot say if we have reached the climax yet."  Selvaggi said that nearby Ferrara was hit by a quake in 1570, only to be struck again four years later. "History teaches us everything and I cannot rule out a repeat of that," he said.  Experts point out that Italy is, and always has been, a seismic hotspot, most recently seen in L'Aquila, where 300 died in 2009.  "Calabria has been shaking for two years, with a 4.3 registered two days ago, and that is nothing to do with what  is happening in Emilia Romagna," said Selvaggi. 

Panza was part of a team who used algorithms to identify a swath of northern Italy and the Apennines where there was increased probability of an earthquake measuring over 5.4 between March and September.  "We will be doing another calculation in July to see if the prediction is still valid to September," he said.  The current anti-quake building in Emilia Romagna was too soft, he warned. "Our findings suggest the area should be moved up from third level danger to second level," he said.  Local campaigners claimed they were right to contest the planned building of a massive gas storage container deep underground in the province of Modena, where Tuesday's quake struck, fearing it could make the risk of future earthquakes worse.  The Italian firm ERG is in partnership with the UK company Independent Resources concerning a proposal to dig a tank measuring six hectares, more than two miles underground and capable of holding 3.7m cubic metres of compressed gas. "The process is still under evaluation," a spokeswoman said on Tuesday.  Maurizio Melucci, a tourism assessor with the regional government of Emilia Romagna, said that it would be business as usual this summer at the coastal resort of Rimini, which had escaped the quake.  The region is famous for its cheese, prosciutto ham and Ferraris. - Guardian.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Scientific Study - Super-Volcanoes Can Form and Erupt in Hundreds of Years, Not Thousands?!

The largest volcanoes on our planet may take as little as a few hundred years to form and erupt.  These "supervolcanoes" were thought to exist for as much as 200,000 years before releasing their vast underground pools of molten rock.  Researchers reporting in Plos One have sampled the rock at the supervolcano site of Long Valley in California.
Long Valley is the site of one of the world's "supervolcanoes"
Their findings suggest that the magma pool beneath it erupted within as little as hundreds of years of forming.  That eruption is estimated to have happened about 760,000 years ago, and would have covered half of North America in its ash.  Such super-eruptions can release thousands of cubic kilometres of debris - hundreds of times larger than any eruption seen in the history of humanity.  Eruptions on this scale could release enough ash to influence the global weather for years, and one theory holds that the Lake Toba eruption in Indonesia about 70,000 years ago had long-term effects that nearly wiped out humans altogether.  What little is known about the formation of these supervolcanoes is largely based on the study of crystals of a material called zircon, which contains small amounts of radioactive elements whose age can be estimated using the same techniques used to date archaeological artefacts and dinosaur bones.  Zircon studies to date have suggested that the time between the formation of the enormous magma pools and the eventual super-eruptions can be measured in the hundreds of thousands of years. 

Now, Guilherme Gualda of Vanderbilt University and his colleagues present several lines of evidence from the Bishop Tuff deposit at Long Valley, suggesting that the pools are "ephemeral" - lasting as little as 500 years before eruption.  Initially, the magma pools are nearly purely liquid rock, with few bubbles or re-crystallised minerals.  Over time, crystals develop, but the process stops at the point of the eruption. As a result, the characteristic development time of these crystals can also give an estimate of how long a magma pool existed before erupting.  Rather than zircon, the team's target was crystals of the common mineral quartz.  Because the processes and timescales of quartz formation in the extraordinary underground conditions of a magma pool are well-known, the team was able to determine how long the crystals were forming within Long Valley's supervolcano before being spewed out in the eruption.  Their estimates suggest the quartz formed over a range of time between 500 and 3,000 years.  "Our study suggests that when these exceptionally large magma pools form they are ephemeral and cannot exist very long without erupting," said Dr Gualda.  "The fact that the process of magma body formation occurs in historical time, instead of geological time, completely changes the nature of the problem."  At present, geologists do not believe that any of Earth's known giant magma pools are in imminent danger of eruption, but the results suggest future work to better understand how the pools develop, and aim ultimately to predict devastating super-eruptions. - BBC.

GLOBAL SEISMIC ALERT: The Geospatial Information Authority of Japan - Expect a Massive Earthquake Off the Boso Peninsula Soon!

Japanese researchers say a massive earthquake could occur off a peninsula to the east of Tokyo, in an area separate from the one that triggered the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.

The Geospatial Information Authority of Japan reported to a government panel on Wednesday that analysis of global positioning system data shows that the tip of the Boso Peninsula has been moving about 3 centimeters north each year since 1997.

The authority says quake-causing strain may be building up in the area, where a marine tectonic plate slides under a continental plate.

The situation is similar around the Miura Peninsula to the south of Tokyo, near Yokohama.

Pressure there was released in the 1923 earthquake, but the area off Boso Peninsula has not had a major quake for at least 300 years.

Researcher Takuya Nishimura says an earthquake occurring in this zone could have a magnitude of around 8. He says the authority will continue its analysis to increase the accuracy of its estimations. - NHK.
WATCH: Massive quake expected off Boso Peninsula.

MYSTERY: The Symbols of an Alien Sky, Man-Made or Natural Phenomena - 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.

Blue Springs, Missouri, United States - May, 2012.

Seneffe and Nivelles, Belgium - 28th of May, 2012.

San Antonio, Texas, United States - 27th of May, 2012.

Tlalpan, Mexico - 29th May 2012.

International Space Station - 29th of May, 2012.

EXTREME WEATHER: Massive Michigan Wildfire Still Going Despite Rains - 97 Structures, Including 34 Homes Destroyed; Nearly 22,000 Acres Burned; 47% Contained!

The wildfire in Michigan's Upper Peninsula was 47% contained Tuesday, slightly worse than the prior day's 51% containment, as the conflagration has destroyed 97 structures, including 34 homes and cabins, a motel, and a store, authorities said. 

The Duck Lake Fire has burned 21,694 acres and is still going despite recent rains, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources reported on its website.  The other structures lost in the fire are 22 garages, 22 sheds and outbuildings, and 17 campers, the agency said. Crews have about 40 miles of fire lines set up to try to control the situation, including six miles along the shore of Lake Superior, but 21 miles are uncontained, the agency said.  A lack of roads in the area has complicated efforts. 

The fire's south end is about 14 miles north of Newberry and seven miles west of the Tahquamenon Falls State Park campgrounds.  Lightning sparked the wildfire last Wednesday afternoon, leaving firefighters little time to contain it before dark. The flames picked up significantly the next day, fanned by strong winds and high temperatures.  Dry conditions have exacerbated the fire danger throughout the region, but one-quarter inch to three-quarters of an inch of rain fell on the first late Monday, with more rain falling on the southern end of the wildfire, authorities said.  On Friday, Gov. Rick Snyder banned outdoor burning in 49 counties in northern Michigan in hopes of preventing wildfires. - CNN.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Land Subsidence Continues in China - 3 Dead, 1 Missing in Chongqing Rain-Triggered Landslide!

Three people have died and one remains missing since torrential rain began to hit southwest China's Chongqing municipality on Monday, local authorities said Wednesday.

The victims included one farmer who was killed in a house collapse and two construction workers who died in a rain-triggered landslide, according to a statement from the municipal flood control and drought relief headquarters.

A total of 37,100 local people were affected in 19 towns among five counties and districts in the municipality. Direct economic loss is estimated at 11 million yuan (1.74 million U.S. dollars), the statement said.

Chongqing is expected to encounter another round of thunderstorms on Thursday. - CRI.

PLANETARY TREMORS: New Evidence Suggests That the Seattle Fault Zone Poses Seismic Threat to the Puget Sound Region - 900-930 AD Quake Was Large Than Previously Thought!

A fresh look at sedimentary evidence suggests the 900-930 AD rupture of the Seattle fault possibly produced a larger earthquake than previously recognized. The Seattle fault zone, a series of active-east-west trending thrust faults, poses seismic threat to the Puget Sound region.

The 900-930 AD rupture is the only known large earthquake along the Seattle Fault, making geological records of prehistoric events the only clues to the earthquake potential of the fault. While a graduate student at the University of Washington, Maria Arcos looked at tsunami and debris flow deposits – both evidence of a paleo-quake – in the coastal marsh at Gorst, Washington. She also identified evidence of at least three meters of uplift that preceded a , which was followed by a sandy debris flow from Gorst Creek, and suggests that the 900-930 AD quake covered a greater geographic area than previous fault interpretations.

The revised height and width of deformation caused by the quake may influence current interpretations of the Seattle fault's structure. This study found a minimum of three meters of uplift at Gorst, which is double the amount of previous fault models for the same location. A broader zone of deformation, says Arcos, may indicate either a wider zone of slip along the dip of the , a shallower dip or splay faults farther to the south.

More information:
"The A.D. 900 – 930 Seattle Fault Zone Earthquake with a Wider Coseismic Rupture Patch and Postseismic Submergence: Inferences from New Sedimentary Evidence," published in
BSSA, Vol 102:3; DOI:10.1785/0120110123.PHYSORG.

EXTREME WEATHER ALERT USA: Severe Thunderstorms Forecast for the Ohio Valley, Texas and East Coast Thursday to Friday - Widespread Threat of Strong Winds, Large Hail and a Few Tornadoes!

A broad zone of severe thunderstorms is expected Thursday ahead of a cold front and strong upper-level dip in the jet stream.

Today's Severe Weather Threat.
While damaging straight-line winds and large hail will be the primary threats from the Ohio Valley to Texas Thursday, a threat of a few tornadoes exists in the Ohio Valley during the late afternoon and early evening hours. (MORE: TOR:CON tornado risk forecast)

Friday, the cold front sweeps into the East, with a widespread threat of damaging straight-line winds.  Large hail and a few tornadoes are also possible in this swath from eastern Georgia and the Carolinas to the Middle Atlantic states, including Charlotte, Raleigh, and Washington, D.C.   - The Weather Channel.

SEASON OF THE WINDS: Deadly Tornado Spins Off From Tropical Storm Beryl Remnants on NC Coast - 3 Homes Destroyed; 40 to 50 Others Damaged!

The remnants of Tropical Storm Beryl spun off a tornado that destroyed three homes and damaged dozens of others near the North Carolina coast Wednesday as the system sped toward the Atlantic, authorities said.  Between 40 and 50 homes were damaged near Peletier in the western part of Carteret County, said county Emergency Services Director Jo Ann Smith.

Tropical storm Beryl caused minimal damage overnight to roofing of Waccamaw High School, knocked down tree
limbs and blew off a 10-foot swath of shingles from a portable classroom there according to principal Dr. David
Hammel on Wednesday, May 30, 2012. The remnants of Tropical Storm Beryl spun off a tornado that destroyed
three homes and damaged dozens of others near the North Carolina coast Wednesday as the system sped toward
the Atlantic, authorities said. (AP Photo/The Sun News, Steve Jessmore) / Steve Jessmore/AP
She said there were no reports of injuries.  Many homes suffered only minor damage, but three were destroyed when the winds came through shortly before noon, she said.  Casey Dail, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Morehead City, said investigators confirmed it was a tornado that caused the damage but said the strength of the twister had not yet been determined.  The remnants of the storm were skimming the North Carolina coast and prompting flood watches in eastern North Carolina. Beryl was expected to gain strength even as it loses its tropical characteristics.  Heavy rains from the storm caused some scattered street and lowland flooding near Wilmington, N.C., as the system approached. Loris., S.C., near the border of the two Carolinas, received more than 3 inches of rain, and radar showed heavy showers along the Interstate 95 corridor in the two states. 

The tropical depression gained some strength overnight and winds increased to near 35 mph (56 kph)  At 11 a.m. Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said the storm was losing its characteristics as a warm core weather system as it interacted with a weather front. The center was located 5 miles (8 kilometers) west of Wilmington and was moving northeast at 20 mph (32 kph).  Forecasters said Beryl was expected to become a post-tropical storm by late Wednesday and could strengthen to maximum 50 mph (80 kph) winds well out in the Atlantic by Saturday. Tropical storm force winds of more than 39 mph (63 kph) were expected to stay off the North Carolina coast Wednesday, so no coastal warnings had been posted.  Reid Hawkins, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, said the storm had picked up speed and was expected to dump between 1 and 3 inches of rain in eastern North Carolina. Earlier forecasts had called for upward of 8 inches in areas. He said Wilmington had received about 2.5 inches of rain by late Wednesday morning. - Citizen Times.

EXTREME WEATHER: Severe Storms and Softball-size Hail Hammer Oklahoma for 2 Days - Leaving Over 100,000 People in the Dark!

Severe storms left evidence of their wrath across Oklahoma on Monday and Tuesday, with property damage stretching from Lawton to Grove and hailstones leaving at least three people reporting injuries.

A power line was downed by storms Tuesday at NW 164 near Western Avenue in northwest Oklahoma City.
Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman
Tuesday night, nearly 100,000 people lost power in the metro area. Downed power lines caused traffic snags, and high water trapped some people in vehicles.  Bethany, Edmond, Nichols Hills, Piedmont, The Village and Warr Acres were in the path of the storm, according to the National Weather Service. Some hailstones larger than softballs were reported in the Piedmont and north Oklahoma City areas. Large hail fell across the Oklahoma City metro area and Canadian County.  A gust of 76 mph was recorded at Will Rogers World Airport about 10 p.m., according to the National Weather Service, and the Oklahoma Mesonet recorded a 70 mph wind gust four miles west-southwest of Guthrie in Logan County about 9 p.m.  A large metal roof was torn off a building in downtown Holdenville, according to a Hughes County emergency manager. 

Two people reported being hit by hailstones and one was hit by debris Tuesday evening, EMSA officials said.  EMSA field supervisor Tony McCarty said one person was hit by a flying sign near Interstate 40 and Robinson Ave.  Of the two people hit by hailstones, one was taken to a hospital with a non-life-threatening injury. One of the victims was injured at NW 103 and Pennsylvania Avenue. The other hail injury location was not available Tuesday night.  Medics also responded to 14 wrecks directly attributable to the storms, “whether by low visibility, sliding through pooled water or disregarding traffic laws at intersections where power was off to traffic lights,” McCarty said.  About 500 people went to Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City to take cover, spokeswoman Rachel Wright said. She said there was no structural damage reported at the hospital.  Oklahoma City police Lt. Don Holland and Oklahoma City Fire Department Deputy Chief Marc Woodard confirmed downed power lines and report. - NewsOK.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

MASS ANIMAL DIE-OFF: 16 Animals Killed in Mysterious Anthrax Outbreak in Northern Colombia?!

One person has skin lesions and 16 animals have died in an anthrax outbreak in northern Colombia, near the Venezuelan border.  A notification on the website for the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) said the outbreak has affected two farms in the department of La Guajira.

Colombia's Agriculture Ministry sent the information to the OIE on May 28.  The source of the deadly bacteria has not yet been determined, the report said. One of the affected populations "belongs to an indigenous community in the department of La Guajira," the notice states.  "The community has been informed of the protocol to be applied to dispose of the carcasses, mainly the fact that, under no circumstances, the dead animals must be neither manipulated nor consumed," the report said.  Humans commonly contract anthrax through close contact with infected animals or eating ones that have died from the disease.  "Susceptible species are being vaccinated. An intense epidemiological surveillance is being conducted in the area together with the public health authorities," the notification continued. 

The animals will be also be quarantined in response to the outbreak.  Three goats, three sheep and two pigs have died from the outbreak on one farm. Another five goats and two pigs have died on a separate farm.  Anthrax, also used as a biological weapon, is caused by the spore-forming bacteria Bacillus anthracia, the OIE website states. The disease causes dark ulcers on the skin of infected people when contracted from exposure to infected animals, and it occurs on all the continents.  "Anthrax spores in the soil are very resistant and can cause disease when ingested even years after an outbreak," the OIE stated. "The bacteria produce extremely potent toxins which are responsible for the ill effects, causing a high mortality rate."  The last anthrax outbreak in Colombia was in April 2011. An outbreak in 2010 caused the government to declare a state of emergency in La Guajira after 77 people developed lesions, a common symptom of the disease. - Colombia Reports.

BIG BROTHER NOW: The Emerging Global Police State - The New Cyber Weapon, "Flame," Can Turn on Your Computer's Microphone, Take Screenshots, Copy Data and Record Communications!

Evidence suggest that the virus, dubbed Flame, may have been built on behalf of the same nation or nations that commissioned the Stuxnet worm that attacked Iran’s nuclear program in 2010, according to Kaspersky Lab, the Russian cyber security software maker that took credit for discovering the infections. Kaspersky researchers said they have yet to determine whether Flame had a specific mission like Stuxnet, and declined to say who they think built it.

Cyber security experts said the discovery publicly demonstrates what experts privy to classified information have long known: that nations have been using pieces of malicious computer code as weapons to promote their security interests for several years... Symantec Security Response manager Vikram Thakur said that his company’s experts believed there was a “high” probability that Flame was among the most complex pieces of malicious software ever discovered... Kaspersky’s research shows the largest number of infected machines are in Iran, followed by Israel and the Palestinian territories, then Sudan and Syria.
The virus contains about 20 times as much code as Stuxnet, which caused centrifuges to fail at the Iranian enrichment facility it attacked. It has about 100 times as much code as a typical virus designed to steal financial information, said Kaspersky Lab senior researcher Roel Schouwenberg. Flame can gather data files, remotely change settings on computers, turn on PC microphones to record conversations, take screen shots and log instant messaging chats. Kaspersky Lab said Flame and Stuxnet appear to infect machines by exploiting the same flaw in the Windows operating system and that both viruses employ a similar way of spreading... “The scary thing for me is: if this is what they were capable of five years ago, I can only think what they are developing now,” Mohan Koo, managing director of British-based Dtex Systems cyber security company. - Reuters.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Preventive Alert Declared For Three Costa Rican Volcanoes - Significant and Seismic Activity!

The National Emergency Commission (CNE) on Wednesday declared a preventive “green alert” due to recent seismic activity at three volcanoes: Rincón de la Vieja, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, Poás, northwest of San José in the province of Alajuela, and Turrialba, in the eastern province of Cartago.

Rincon de la Vieja volcano is showing activity at significant levels experts from the RSN said. 
Courtesy of National Seismological Network
“The CNE’s alert is supported by reports from technical and scientific agencies that note the volcanoes are in constant activity,” the commission stated. Turrialba Volcano, 70 kilometers east of the capital, has seen significant volcanic and seismic activity in recent months, prompting the National Seismological Network to upgraded its own color threat level to yellow.

Emissions of gas at Poás Volcano are expected to increase, and Rincón de la Vieja Volcano has also seen significant volcanic activity, the CNE noted. Despite the warning, access to the volcanoes will remain open to the public, but visitors must follow guidelines issued at each national park’s entrance.
- Tico Times.

WORLD WAR III: The Syrian Passage to Iran and the Countdown to Armageddon - It's Official, Senior Iranian Officer Confirms That Tehran Sent Troops to Syria!

A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander has admitted that Iran has sent its troops to help the regime of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fight opposition forces. 

A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander has admitted that Iran has sent its troops to help the
regime of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fight opposition forces.
“Before our presence in Syria, too many people were killed by the opposition but with the physical and non-physical presence of the Islamic republic, big massacres in Syria were prevented,” Ismail Gha’ani, the deputy head of Iran’s Quds force, a shadowy branch of the Revolutionary Guards in charge of overseas operations, said in an interview with the semi-official Iranian Student’s News Agency (ISNA), according to a report by the Persian-language GozaraNews website.  ISNA published the interview on Sunday night, but subsequently removed it from its website “under pressure,” the report said.  Syria is Iran’s most important regional ally, and Tehran has long used its neighbor’s territory as a base for operations to maintain a lifeline to militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas, Iran’s proxies in southern Lebanon and Gaza. 

Rumors that Iran has provided military support to Assad, to assist his crackdown on the popular uprising that has challenged his family’s 40-year grip on power, have circulated since the outbreak of protests in Syria in March 2011.  The Gha’ani remarks followed the weekend massacre of more than 100 civilians, including dozens of children, in the Houla township in western Syria, which has triggered an international outcry, including a Sunday statement by the UN Security Council describing the massacre as an “outrageous use of force against civilian population.”  Syrian opposition activists have blamed the killings on pro-government fighters, an accusation categorically denied by the Syrian authorities, who said the tragedy was a terrorist plot aimed at undermining the regime.  UN observers working in Syria have confirmed that tanks and artillery were used in the weekend attacks on Houla, as well as that many of those killed were stabbed or shot at point-blank range, raising questions among observers about who could benefit from the tragedy. - Ria Novosti.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Nevado del Ruiz Volcano in Colombia, Rumbles With Intense Seismic Activity - 500 People Evacuated, Airport Flights Briefly Suspended!

A light spewing of ash amid renewed rumblings in the Nevado del Ruiz volcano prompted Colombian authorities to evacuate 500 people from beneath its flanks and briefly suspend flights at four airports.
The volcano's seismic activity was more intense than episodes in April and early May, when it emitted columns of steam, said the government geological agency Ingeominas. The 17,160ft volcano spouted ash that fell on population centres including the western city of Manizales. - Herald.
WATCH: Volcano covers Colombian cities in ash.

DELUGE: Montreal Floods Are "Exceptional" Says Major - Flash Flooding Overwhelms Low-Lying Neighbourhoods!

Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay says the "exceptional" rain that fell Tuesday overwhelmed the city's sewer system.  "No sewer collector network would have been able to manage the quantity of water that we saw yesterday evening," Tremblay told a news conference today. 

Several boroughs that reported record rainfall saw widespread basement flooding.  Tremblay said city crews were sent out to repair sewer pipe covers and handle the overflow.  Efforts are underway to mop up flooding after Tuesday’s massive downpour caused water accumulation in basements, on highways and streets, in city buses and in the underground subway system.  Environment Canada said up to 80 mm of rain fell in some areas in less than an hour. Streets became rivers, metro tunnels were flooded and the Ville Marie tunnel was shut.  Jacques-Alain Lavallée, spokesman for the City of Montreal, said they are still evaluating the property damage.  He said sewers overflowed and the flooding was widespread. Four boroughs were hit the hardest: Ville-Marie, Lasalle, the Southwest and Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.  Lavallée said the problem wasn’t the city’s aging infrastructure – it was the sheer amount of rain. Downtown universities and public institutions were also hit hard.  Part of the lower level of the Grande Bibliothèque flooded. 

Students writing an exam at Dawson College were ushered out of the building as the water started to rise. Donna Varrica, spokeswoman for the college, said placement exams for incoming students scheduled for late this afternoon have been cancelled and will be rescheduled.  The gym where the exams were to take place needs to dry out, she said.  Concordia University’s library remains closed due to water damage and some classes had to be moved. The University of Quebec in Montreal also closed several pavilions and parking lots.  Several schools on Montreal’s South Shore were also forced to close because of water issues. In many parts of the island, hundreds of people will continue to clean up flooded basements.  Michael Murray said his son called him during the storm and said water was gushing up from the toilet and shower drain.  This morning he had windows open and fans going at his home on Percival Avenue to try and dry out some of the water. However, he said much of his finished basement will need to be ripped out and redone.  The old sewer system in Montreal West just couldn’t keep up with the deluge of rain, he said.  “Probably everyone’s sump pumps were working, flowing into the sewers and that just overflowed the whole system so it came back,” he said.  Other residents said even people with specially installed back-up systems saw those systems fail and ended up with flooded basements. - CBC.
WATCH: "Exceptional" floods in Montreal.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC CONTAGION: The Euro Zone Crisis - Spain Faces "Total Emergency" as Fear Grips Markets!

Spain is facing the gravest danger since the end of the Franco dictatorship as the country is frozen out of global capital markets and slides towards an epic showdown with Europe.  “We’re in a situation of total emergency, the worst crisis we have ever lived through” said ex-premier Felipe Gonzalez, the country’s elder statesman. 

A screen displays the IBEX 35 at Madrid's stock exchange on Wednesday. Photo: AFP
The warning came as the yields on Spanish 10-year bonds spiked to 6.7pc, pushing the “risk premium” over German Bunds to a post-euro high of 540 basis points. The IBEX index of stocks in Madrid fell 2.6pc, the lowest since the dotcom bust in 2003.  Chaos over the €23.5bn rescue of crippled lender Bankia has led to the abrupt resignation of central bank governor Miguel Ángel Fernández Ordóñez, who testified to the senate that he had been muzzled to avoid enflaming events as confidence in the country drains away.  Markets are on tenterhooks as Spanish yields test levels that forced the European Central Bank to respond last November with its €1 trillion liquidity blitz. “Nobody is short Spanish debt right now because they are expecting ECB intervention,” said Andrew Roberts, credit chief at RBS. “If it doesn’t come -- if we take out 6.8pc -- we’re going to see a hyberbolic sell-off,” he said.  Italy felt the full brunt of contagion from Spain on Wednesday, with 10-year yileds back near 6pc.

The euro fell to a 2-year low of $1.239 against the dollar. Crude oil and metal prices plummeted and save-haven flight pushed rates on 2-year German debt to zero. Gilt yields fell to 1.64pc, the lowest in history. Mr Roberts said the collapse in Spanish tax revenues is replicating the pattern in Greece. Fiscal revenues have fallen 4.8pc over the last year, and VAT returns have slumped 14.6pc. Debt service costs have risen by 18pc.  The country is caught in a classic deflationary vice: a rising debt burden on a shrinking economic base. “Once you get into such a negative feedback loop, you can move beyond the point of no return quickly,” he said. The European Commission has softened its stance, giving Madrid an extra year until 2014 to cuts its budget deficit from 8.9pc to 3pc of GDP, though this still amounts to a fiscal shock. Brussels told premier Mariano Rajoy to widen the VAT base and speed retirement at 67.  There is no sign so far that the ECB is ready to relent as Frankfurt and Madrid cross swords in an escalting test of will. The ECB has scotched Mr Rajoy’s tentative plans to recapitalize Bankia by drawing on ECB funds.  “It is dangerous to play chicken when you are driving a Seat and the ECB is driving a tank,” said professor Luis Garicano from the London School of Economics (LSE). - Telegraph.

EXTREME WEATHER: "State of Natural Catastrophe" - Hailstorm Wrecks Havoc With French Vineyards!

Nearly 6,000 hectares of Cotes-de-Provence and Coteaux-Varois vineyards (between 70% to 100%) were destroyed after a heavy hail storm hit southeastern France last Sunday, writes Elizabeth Gabay MW.

The vineyards around the villages of Pignans, Carnoules, Flassans-sur-Issole, Carcès, Besse-sur-Issole, Brignoles, Correns, Cotignac and Le Val et Montfort-sur-Argens in the central Var were at the centre of the storm.  For some vineyards, the hail was violent enough to not only destroy this year’s harvest but also those of next year and possibly even 2014.  In a primary survey, around ten co-operatives and between thirty to forty independent domains have been affected. 

A special committee has been set up to evaluate the damage to the individual wine domaines and for compensation to be available. Local mayors have asked for a state of natural catastrophe to be declared.  The President of the ‘Syndicat des Vignerons du Var’ said he had never seen a hail storm of this violence. The minister of Agriculture, Stéphane Le Foll, is looking into the extent of the damage, promising support for those hit by the hail. - TDB.

EXTRATERRESTRIAL & UFO MEMES: The Baltic Anomaly - "The Truth is Out There About UFO in the Baltic Sea, Swedish Scientists Say?!

Swedish scientists plan to explore a mystery ripped straight from the “The X-Files.”  Rather than Mulder and Scully, this adventure features Swedish researchers Peter Lindberg and Dennis Asberg. They too know the truth is out there -- and in mere days plan to visit what they call the “Baltic Anomaly.”  Last summer, while on a treasure hunt between Sweden and Finland, the pair and their research associates made headlines worldwide with the discovery of a 200-foot wide unidentified object at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. Now a team of oceanographers, engineers and deep sea divers will return to the site Friday, June 1, for a 6 to 10 day trip. 

Team Ocean Explorer said this image shows 300m "drag marks" around an unidentified --
possibly flying -- object. (Ocean Explorer/Peter Lindberg)
They want to find out once and for all what it really is.  “We don’t know whether it is a natural phenomenon, or an object,” Lindberg, captain of the Ocean Explorer, told “We saw it on sonar when we were searching for a wreck from World War I. This circular object just turned up on the monitor.”  The discovery was a worldwide news event, covered in the popular press, the scientific press and in the blogosphere. Many speculated that the discovery was of a long-lost unidentified flying object (UFO), that crashed into the sea -- evoking Duchovny’s alien-hunting character on the TV show.  Lindberg is clearly aware of the connection: The logo for his “OceanX Team” is clearly meant to evoke the X-Files logo. But is the truth out there this time? He aims to find out.  “We’ll be searching the area in a number of ways,” Lindberg explained. “We’ll use sonar to make 3D images of the bottom, the clay bottom, of that part of the sea. We’ll send down deep-sea divers too. And a camera robot. We’ll also take samples from the sea bed and measure them for toxicities and radiation.”  At this point, Lindberg said, he and his colleagues “don’t know more than anyone else what it is” down there for certain.  But he’s willing to speculate as to the possibilities. The crash debris could be from a meteor, he told

It could a naturally occurring gas well discovery -- located interestingly enough in international waters, he added. Or, he muses, it could be the remains of a Russian warship from the late 19th century.  “I don’t think it’s an ordinary stone formation, or cargo dropped from a ship,” Lindberg said. “But it can be a lot of things. If it’s not manmade, and was made by another form of intelligent life, it would be very lucky. I’ve never won the lottery before!”  His colleague, Dennis Asberg, agreed. “If this were a UFO, that would indeed be a strange thing.” He too speculates that it could be a gas well finding, or the remains of a meteor. “I’m just not sure,” he said. “But we’ll see soon.”  Others claim that the object, located 300 feet beneath the surface of the Baltic Sea, may be a natural formation, or even an emerging volcano.  Earlier this year, Lindberg told the media he thought this discovery might be a “new Stonehenge.”  The Ocean Explorer crew includes 13 researchers, including a sonar expert, and a camera crew from Swedish TV that will document the event. Lindberg said he is in negotiations with Microsoft to see if the event can be carried live on the Internet, from the remote location in international waters via video streaming.  “We’re working with Microsoft on that, but nothing is final yet. Tell them we want to do a deal,” he joked.  The exploration is funded by private investors and bank notes that Ocean Explorer has secured, said Lindberg. The initial discovery of the unidentified sea object was made during a trek to find Swedish commercial ships sunk by the German Navy during World War I last summer. - FOX News.
WATCH: Baltic Sea anomaly.

EXTREME WEATHER: Memorial Day Holiday Weather Anomalies - Record Daily Highs; Hottest May Day on Record; "Exceptionally Rare" Storms Before June; Record Southwest Wildfires and Powerful Complex of Thunderstorms!

The Memorial Day Weekend brought a rare combination of extreme weather events to much of the U.S., with everything from record heat to wildfires, plus the most intense tropical storm on record to make landfall prior to June 1. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most notable extreme weather events:

Record temperatures set or tied on May 28. Credit: Climate Central.
Heat: At Chicago's O’Hare International Airport, the temperature hit 97°F on May 27 — the earliest date on record that the mercury has gone this high (it hit 98°F on May 31, 1931). Chicago is on track to have its warmest spring season on record.  Cleveland's Hopkins International Airport set a record high for May 28 of 92°F, surpassing the old record of 89°F, which had stood since 1991, while Toledo hit 96°F.  In Detroit, the temperature soared to 95°F during the weekend, another record. On May 26, at least nine airports in the Midwest had their hottest May day on record, and 58 out of 456 U.S. observing stations set daily high temperature records.  Early season heat waves such as this one are a more significant public health risk compared to heat waves that take place during the middle of the summer, in large part because people have not yet become used to warmer weather. This graphic published in the Washington Post provides useful insight into how the human body adapts to the heat, and why people respond in different ways.  Nationwide, 884 daily record highs were set over the past week, compare with just 97 record lows. For the month to date, the nation has seen 127 all-time highs for any day in May, and just 18 all-time lows. In recent years, including 2012 so far, record daily highs have been outpacing record daily lows in a pattern that can't be explained by natural variability alone; something else must be involved, and human-caused global warming is an obvious culprit. The picture is even more lopsided when you look at monthly record highs compared with record lows. If the climate weren't warming overall, you'd expect these longer-term ratios to be closer to 1-to-1, on average. The picture was very different in the northern Rockies, where a late winter storm hit the mountains on May 26. Daytime highs on Monday were 10 degrees below average in Boise, Idaho; and 6°F below average in Laramie, Wyo. Both the record heat and cold weather were tied to the same dip in the jet stream, as a low pressure area drove cold air into Montana and Idaho, while at the same time drawing hot and humid air northward into the Midwest and Ohio Valley.

Tropical Storm Beryl: Tropical Storm Beryl made landfall in Jacksonville Beach, Fla., on May 28. With maximum sustained winds of 70 mph, Beryl was close to hurricane strength when it struck land. Meteorologist Brian McNoldy posted a fascinating radar animation showing Beryl as the storm approached Florida, and the images make clear that the storm was intensifying in the hours prior to landfall. Beryl is the second tropical storm to form in the Atlantic during May, which is extremely rare. As McNoldy noted on his blog, "It is exceptionally rare to have two storms form prior to June 1 . . . this is only the third time in known history (back to 1851). The actual hurricane season doesn’t start until June 1, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasting a near normal season, with between nine and 15 named storms, of which four to eight will strengthen to a hurricane with top winds of 74 mph or higher.  Beryl has brought beneficial rainfall to northern Florida, southeast Georgia, and parts of South Carolina. These areas have been suffering from severe drought conditions, and widespread 5-to-8 inches of rain have made a dent, although they have not completely alleviated the drought. During the next two days the remnants of Beryl is forecast to drop several inches of rain in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina before heading out to sea.

Southwest Wildfires: Wildfires in New Mexico and Arizona continued to burn out of control during the weekend. Two lightning-sparked fires that had merged last week in Gila National Forest grew dramatically in steep terrain that is difficult for firefighters to access. The Whitewater-Baldy Complex fire has now burned152,012 acres — just 5,000 acres shy of the total acreage burned in New Mexico’s largest-ever wildfire, which occurred just last year. Firefighters are battling low humidity levels, drought conditions, and erratic and strong winds, making it very difficult to gain the upper hand over the fire. Smoke from the fire is reducing air quality throughout much of the Southwest and beyond.
Severe Weather: The weekend also featured several rounds of severe thunderstorms from the U.S.-Canadian border southwestward to Texas. Drenching rains repeatedly doused the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, with flash flooding a key concern. The Twin Cities received so much rain during the past two weeks that they’ve now had the second-wettest May on record, according to meteorologist Paul Douglas' blog. On May 27, a powerful complex of thunderstorms barreled across Pennsylvania toward Maryland and Washington, D.C. Extensive damage in the form of downed trees and power lines occurred in Franklin County, Pa., where a wind gust to 87 mph was recorded by a trained weather spotter. - Climate Central.
WATCH: Record heat fuels wildfires across US.

FUK-U-SHIMA: Pandora's Box at Japan's Nuclear Dead Zone -New "Hidden Danger" In Reactor 4 Spent Fuel Pool Found?!

The following transcript was taken from a conversation on Japan TV, where it was disclosed that a new and hidden danger lurks at Fukushima's Nuclear Reactor 4

We have been thoroughly investigating the hidden danger which lies with the reactor 4. And we have discovered a new fact. When it reached the latter part of 700 degree C, what has happened to the fuel rod?      This is the new hidden danger of the fuel rods. During the heat test, a change has occurred when the temperature of the fuel rod reached latter part of 700 degree C. The fuel cladding has ruptured now. When it ruptured, the temperature was at 780 degree C. You can see the rod is red hot. The fuel cladding is supposed to contain the radioactive fuels but it has expanded and a hole has appeared. This is the ruptured hole after it has been heated. In reality, other than meltdown, there was another way in which the fuel rods could be damaged.

Furthermore, when fuel rods are subjected to a rapid temperature change, not only it creates holes, the whole fuel rod could disintegrate completely. When the temperature rises, the strength of the fuel cladding, which holds the fuel pellets, is reduced. At the same time, internal pressure rises so generally the fuel cladding ruptures when the temperature reaches over 700 degree C. According to the previous experiment conducted by the JAEA, most of the fuel cladding ruptured when the temperature reached between 700 to 900 degree C.  If the spent fuel pool or the reactor 4 building collapses for whatever the reasons, and if spent fuel rods pile up in one place, cooling becomes impossible, which means that even before meltdown occurs, it is possible that the fuel rods could rupture, as a result, there is a possibility that gradual release of the radioactive materials could occur.  What would TEPCO says?     

Q: We’ve obtained an experiment result which shows that the fuel rods rupture above 700 degree C.      Did you know about this?     

TEPCO: Did you say rupture?     

Q: Yes. 

TEPCO: I have no knowledge about it. I think it is possible that cracks or rupture could occur due to weakened fuel rods.
WATCH: New danger at Fukushima.

English subtitles are available. Click ‘CC’ button in toolbar of the YouTube player.

SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: New Yorkers Get Second Chance to See Monumental Manhattanhenge!

The first night of this year's Manhattanhenge season was a washout, due to cloudy weather, but there's another chance to see the sunset turn the streets of New York aglow tonight.  Manhattanhenge refers to the perfectly placed alignment of the setting sun amid the canyons of midtown Manhattan's east-west streets. The phenomenon, sometimes known as the Manhattan solstice, occurs every year around Memorial Day and major-league baseball's All-Star break.
The sun shines down 42nd Street below the
landmark Chrysler Building at sunset on
July 12, 2009, during Manhattanhenge.
The Hayden Planetarium's director, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, says future archaeologists might well conclude that these spots on the calendar marked important rites of summer for New Yorkers. (And they wouldn't be far wrong.)  Tyson's the one who came up with the term "Manhattanhenge." Think of it as a modern-day, unintentional version of Stonehenge, with New York skyscrapers standing in for the stones of the 5,000-year-old monument in England. Stonehenge was constructed to have its stones line up with the rays of the sun on important astronomical dates such as the summer solstice. Manhattan's street grid, however, doesn't line up with the solstice or the equinox. The relevant streets, which reflect the Commissioner's Plan of 1811, are offset 29 degrees from east and west. That would spoil the sunset view on an equinox or a solstice — but on the proper dates, the sun reaches the cleft between skyscrapers just in time to set the streets aglow.

This year's first opportunity for seeing Manhattanhenge's glory came Tuesday night at 8:17 p.m. ET. Under ideal conditions, a pretty half-setting sun could have been seen centered in the gap between the buildings. Unfortunately, conditions were not ideal. In disappointed Twitter tweets, the sight quickly came to be termed "Cloudhenge." "A cloudy and stormy night, so no sun," reported Andrew Dallos, a producer for "The Rachel Maddow Show" on MSNBC who camped out on 42nd Street.  Tonight, on Wednesday night, New Yorkers could get a chance to see the sun's full disk just touching the horizon in the gap at 8:16 p.m. ET. It all depends on the weather: The current forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with a slight chance of thunderstorms — which at least sounds more promising than last night's weather.  Even if tonight's opportunity is clouded out, there'll be a Manhattanhenge replay after the summer solstice, with a full-sun viewing at 8:24 p.m. on July 11 and a half-sun opportunity at 8:25 p.m. July 12.  To enhance your Manhattanhenge viewing experience, Tyson suggests positioning yourself as far east as possible, while still making sure you can see New Jersey when you look west across the avenues. "Clear cross streets include 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd, 57th and several streets adjacent to them," he writes in his viewing guide. "The Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building render 34th Street and 42nd Street especially striking vistas.
" - MSNBC.
WATCH: Manhattanhenge 2011.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Italians Count the Human and Economic Cost of Quake - 17 Dead; 14,000 Homeless; 500 Million Euros in Estimated Damage!

Italy raised tax on petrol to help pay for the damage from an earthquake that struck northern Italy as shaken survivors woke up on Wednesday to a landscape of collapsed warehouses and ruined factories.  Overnight 14,000 people slept in tents, shelters or cars outside their wrecked homes and more than 60 aftershocks jolted the area around the city of Modena in the Emilia Romagna region.

People stand in front of a collapsed building in Cavezzo, northern Italy, May 30, 2012.
Some who were not assigned a shelter by civil protection units had to travel as far as Verona, 100 km (60 miles) away to buy tents.  Most of the 17 known victims perished under the rubble while at work when a 5.8-magnitude tremor struck shortly after 0700 GMT on Tuesday, the second strong earthquake to strike the area in nine days.  The residents of one of Italy's most productive regions, dominated by the fertile valley of the River Po, are now torn between the fear of more tremors and the fear of losing their jobs in the recession-hit country.  "After the first quake many people went back to work because there is an economic crisis here and they wanted to save their jobs," said Mauro Baraldini, whose two sons survived when the factories where they worked collapsed in the quake.  "Now they will think twice before going back."  Several factories in the area around Modena, a flatland dotted with manufacturing plants, farms and vineyards, had opened on Monday after a week of stoppage due to the previous tremor.  Mario Monti's government, which has already imposed austerity measures to head off a debt crisis, said it was raising excise duties on petrol by 2 cents per liter to fund earthquake relief. National spending curbs on local authorities will also be suspended for the towns hit by the quake.

Mirandola, birthplace of Renaissance philosopher Giovanni Pico della Mirandola and home to a cluster of biomedical firms, was one of the towns hardest hit by both earthquakes.  Two workers and a company owner died under the rubble in the second tremor and on Wednesday supplies were already running low in a local bar mainly serving coffee to victims after it ran out of ice creams.  Dozens of residents who could not enter their homes pedaled around on bicycles, some stopping to look wistfully towards the cordoned off city centre.  "We had put workers on an temporary lay-off scheme but we were working to get things back working," said Stefano Rimondi, Chief Executive of Bellco, outside its damaged biomedical plant.  "That plan has now gone out of the window. This is a big blow for us, but also for the sector."  Listed biomedical group Sorin, also based in Mirandola, had to halt production at its local factory.  Italy's big business association Confindustria said the two quakes, which together killed more than 20 people, will have a prolonged impact, adding to an already deep recession in the euro zone's third largest economy. 

Farmers' association Coldiretti estimated damage to the agricultural sector would reach 500 million euros.  "It's a total disaster. Many people here were already under a temporarily lay-off scheme because of the crisis. Now everything has stopped and we do not know when things will start again," said 32-year-old Alex, who works in a ceramic factory near San Felice sul Panaro, another badly-affected town.  A psychologist was called to the scene in San Felice to help survivors overcome the trauma.  Italy has been hit by numerous earthquakes over the centuries. In Irpinia, near Naples, more than 2,000 people died in 1980 and aftershocks lasted for years. In central L'Aquila, where a quake killed some 300 people in 2009, 21,000 residents have not yet returned to their homes.  National Geophysical Institute head Stefano Gresta said tremors could continue to hit the Modena area, couched in the Po valley and pressed against the Appennine mountains, for months.  Environment Minister Corrado Clini said Italy must learn lessons from the fact that the quake had hit a region considered at relatively low seismic risk. The last big quake in Emilia Romagna struck in 1570.  While pessimism prevailed in San Felice sul Panaro, some residents were still focusing on the need to get back to work before the economic crisis deepened and more jobs were lost.  "I'm not scared," said Claudio Furia, who works at farm equipment maker Vam. "I want to work and go back to normality."
. - Reuters.
WATCH: Overhead view of the damage in Italy.