Friday, November 30, 2012

THE AGE OF OBAMA: 2012 and Beyond, A New Paradigm - Obama Signs Whistle-Blower Protection Law, Signs Runyan Bill to Boost Veterans' Benefits, and Native Americans to Soon Receive Settlement Checks?!

"We have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America the best is yet to come". - President Barack Obama, November 6th, 2012.

November 30, 2012 - UNITED STATES - Against the background of President Obama's recent re-election to a second term, the following stories might give an indication as to what will happen for the rest of 2012 and beyond. Are we looking at symbolic moves that will ultimately lead to monumental change? Are we on the cusp of a new paradigm or are these just political ploys designed to temper lingering dissatisfaction?

Obama Signs Runyan Bill To Boost Veterans' Benefits.
Veterans will receive larger benefits checks next year after President Barack Obama signed federal legislation into law Tuesday. The law, which was authored by Rep. Jon Runyan, provides a 1.7 percent cost-of-living boost to the compensation paid to disabled veterans and the survivors of deceased vets. The increase will take effect Dec. 1 and will begin appearing in January checks. The dollar amount paid to Burlington County’s disabled veterans varies greatly, but county officials have said most receive about $1,100 a month. A 1.7 percent increase would amount to about $19 more for those veterans. More than 40,000 veterans live in Burlington County, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau estimates. The increase may seem trivial, but Runyan said the increase is important and sends a message of thanks. “Our nation’s veterans have sacrificed so much, putting their lives on the line to defend the United States,” he said in a statement. “A simple COLA is the least we can do for them.” - MSNBC.

Native Americans To Soon Receive Settlement Checks.
Federal officials are working to send out $1,000 checks in the next few weeks to hundreds of thousands of Native Americans. The money stems from a settlement of the Cobell case, a landmark $3.4 billion settlement over mismanagement of federal lands held in trust for Native American people. The case was brought by Elouise Cobell, a member of Montana's Blackfeet Tribe, and four other Native Americans in 1996. On South Dakota's Native American reservations, reactions are mixed. The checks will help Native Americans deal with the challenges of intense poverty during the cold winter months, but some say the government is still shortchanging those who were cheated out of royalties for decades.

Ben Good Buffalo of Red Shirt, S.D., an isolated community nestled in the Badlands of the Pine Ridge Reservation, is one of thousands of Native American trust landowners who could get a check before Christmas. Good Buffalo says many will spend their share of the Cobell settlement to heat their homes. "This house has so many cold winds coming in the winter; the propane that we use is just gone," says Good Buffalo. This case is rooted in the fact that land owned by tribal residents isn't theirs alone — Native American lands are held in trust by the federal government. So any royalties — from, say, an oil well, gold mine or even livestock grazing — are managed by the government. But for more than a century, Washington wasn't paying Native Americans the money they were owed. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is heralding this first payment of the settlement money. "This brings to an end years of contentious litigation that cast a dark cloud on the United States Department of Interior and on the nation-to-nation relationship with Indian Country," Salazar said. - NPR.

Obama Signs Whistle-Blower Protection Law.
During President Obama's first term as president, Obama was criticized often for his tough stance against government whistle-blowers. The administration charged six people under the 1917 Espionage Act -- more than all past presidencies combined. "Leaks that favor the president are shoveled out regardless of national security, while national security is twisted to pummel leaks that do not favor him," wrote Peter VanBuren in TomDispatch, a liberal website. Yet President Barack Obama signed legislation Tuesday that affords greater protection to federal employees who expose fraud, waste and abuse in government operations. Capping a 13-year effort by supporters of whistle-blower rights, the new law closes loopholes created by court rulings, which removed protections for federal whistle-blowers. One loophole specified that whistle-blowers were only protected when they were the first to report misconduct. The whistle-blower law makes it easier to punish supervisors who try to retaliate against the government workers. The federal official who investigates retaliation, Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner, said that her office "stands ready to implement these important reforms, which will better ensure that no employee suffers retaliation for speaking out against government waste or misconduct." - AOL.

HIGH STRANGENESS: "Site 911" - Why is the United States Building a Secretive and Mysterious $100 Million Underground Facility Outside Tel Aviv, Israel?

November 30, 2012 - ISRAEL - Leave it to legendary Walter Pincus from the Washington Post to flesh out a Request for Proposal construction project planned for Israel called Site 911. The oddly named project will cost up to $100 million, take more than two years to complete, and can only be built by workers from specific countries with proper security clearances. Palestinians need not apply.  When complete the well-guarded compound will have five levels buried underground and six additional outbuildings on the above grounds, within the perimeter. At about 127,000 square feet, the first three floors will house classrooms, an auditorium, and a laboratory — all wedged behind shock resistant doors — with radiation protection and massive security.  Only one gate will allow workers entrance and exit during the project and that will be guarded by only Israelis.

U.S. Army.
The bottom two floors are smaller, according to the full line of schematics uploaded to the Army's Acquisition Business Web Site, and possibly used for equipment and storage. As impressive as the American design features already are, Ada Karmi-Melamede Architects will decorate the entire site with rocks it chooses, but are paid for by the contractor, and provide three outdoor picnic tables.

Pincus also found this detailed description of the mezuzahs that will adorn every door in the facility:
These mezuzas, notes the [US Army] Corps, “shall be written in inerasable ink, on . . . uncoated leather parchment” and be handwritten by a scribe “holding a written authorization according to Jewish law.” The writing may be “Ashkenazik or Sepharadik” but “not a mixture” and “must be uniform.”
Also, “The Mezuzahs shall be proof-read by a computer at an authorized institution for Mezuzah inspection, as well as manually proof-read for the form of the letters by a proof-reader authorized by the Chief Rabbinate.” The mezuza shall be supplied with an aluminum housing with holes so it can be connected to the door frame or opening. Finally, “All Mezuzahs for the facility shall be affixed by the Base’s Rabbi or his appointed representative and not by the contractor staff.”

Along with this request is another called 911 Phase 2.

Also in the $100 million range, Pincus finds the “complex facility with site development challenges” requiring services that include “electrical, communication, mechanical/ HVAC [heating, ventilation, air conditioning] and plumbing” requirements telling; and along with the fact that the contractor must possess a U.S. or Israeli Secret Security Clearance, he believes this phase to be a secure command center. Pulitzer Prize winning, Yale grad, born in 1932 whose worked intelligence and media in D.C. since 1955 closes his piece with these shadowy words.
"The purpose of Site 911 is [un] clear." - Business Insider.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Tracking Activity at Tolbachik Volcano - Increased Signs of Unrest, Unusually High Temperatures and Apparent Ash Plume!

November 30, 2012 - RUSSIA - Tolbachik Volcano on Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula showed signs of unrest in late November 2012. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite detected unusually high surface temperatures and an apparent ash plume on November 29 (see image below). For comparison, the bottom image shows the volcano before any obvious activity occurred.

Image acquired November 29, 2012. NASA.

Image acquired November 26, 2012. NASA.
Both images are natural color. The red outlines in the November 29 image approximate the areas with high surface temperatures associated with volcanic activity. In both images, volcanic peaks cast long shadows to the north, thanks to the low angle of the Sun. By the time MODIS observed the region on November 29, the volcano had released a dark brown ash plume that settled on the snow.

Tolbachik is a shield volcano—a low-profile, broad structure with a shape resembling an ancient warrior shield. The volcano has a complex configuration, and the eruptive activity in late November reportedly occurred around the southern cone. Reports described eruptions from two fissures, a volcanic ash plume reaching 3 kilometers (9,800 feet) in altitude, and emissions of sulfur dioxide.

Tolbachik’s last known eruption occurred in 1976, according to the Global Volcanism Program at the Smithsonian. Volcanologist Erik Klemetti of Denison University remarked that, although the volcano showed signs of an eruption similar to what it experienced in the 1970s, “the magnitude of this new eruption is still very unclear.” Tolbachik is one of numerous volcanoes on the Kamchatka Peninsula, part of the Pacific “Ring of Fire” where earthquakes and volcanic activity occur frequently.

MODIS acquired additional images of Tolbachik in late November 2012, including another image from November 29, and an image from November 30. - Earth Observatory.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Unseasonable Temperatures - Near-Record Warmth Kicks Off December in the U.S.!

November 30, 2012 - UNITED STATES - As the calendar flips to December, one would think that snowflakes and frozen conditions would be in the forecast for the majority of the country. Right? Wrong. With the jet stream riding to the north and southerly winds at the surface, warm-than-average air will engulf a large portion of the country through the weekend and into early next week.

Above: Locations within three degrees of their daily record high temperature on Saturday.
Daily record highs will be threatened in numerous cities each day from Saturday through Monday. The interactive map above displays cities that are forecast to be within three degrees of their record high temperature on Saturday. The majority of the country's temperatures will moderate nicely by Saturday, with 50s and 60s stretching as far north as Rapid City, S.D. and Chicago, Ill. Farther south, it will start to feel less like late fall and more like spring, as afternoon temperatures soar to the 60s and 70s for Houston, Texas, Birmingham, Ala., and Charleston, S.C.

The unseasonable warm up will continue through Sunday and Monday, with many cities in the Midwest, South, Ohio Valley, Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic experiencing temperatures that are 10 to 25 degrees above average for early December. Chicago's forecast high around 60 degrees on Sunday and Monday is the average high in late October or the middle of April. The middle to upper 70s we expect in Dallas Saturday through Monday are more typical of the highs we see in middle or late October/April. Highs in the 60s will eventually push into the Mid-Atlantic by Monday and Tuesday, including Washington D.C. and Philadelphia. - The Weather Channel.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Volcano Activity Report For November 30, 2012!

November 30, 2012 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing report from geologist Richard Wilson who specializes in volcano seismicity and Armand Vervaeck.

KVERT reports that the Tolbachik eruption may have intensified with the opening of another fissure on the volcano’s north flank.  Satellite imagery still does not detect an SO2 cloud clearly (solely) related to the eruption. This is likely due to the eruption plume’s low altitude (less than 20,000 feet above sea level).

Exhalations at Popocatepetl volcano (Mexico) averaged about two per hour over the past 24 hours.  Continuous low-level volcanic tremor at the volcano appears to have given way to small discrete earthquakes.

Pacaya volcano (Guatemala) (station PCG) seems to be in a similar mode where continuous tremor has subsided and morphed-into numerous low-frequency earthquakes.  Seismicity at nearby Santa Maria volcano (station STG6) has also changed during the past 24 hours.  Continuous degassing produced tremor has changed to numerous “clone” earthquakes.  This type of activity has been frequently observed at dome-extruding volcanoes (Mount Saint Helens, Soufriere Hills, Mount Redoubt and others) and is an indication of lava extrusion.

Masaya volcano
(Nicaragua) (station MASN) continues to experience somewhat elevated levels of volcanic tremor and low-level volcanic tremor is apparent on records at nearby Concepcion volcano (station CONN) this morning.

Seismograms for the Colombian volcanoes have still not updated.
Eruptive activity has strengthened dramatically (at least according to volcano-seismicity there!) at

Reventador volcano
(Ecuador) (station CONE).
Volcanic tremor has strengthened and small earthquakes have become more numerous overnight at

Ruapehu volcano
(New Zealand).  Tremor also appears to be up at nearby Tongariro volcano and offshore at White Island volcano.

Recent satellite imagery shows a relatively strong SO2 plume over Nevado Del Ruiz volcano (Colombia), another over Nyiragongo volcano (DRC), and yet another “mystery SO2 plume” from either Manam, Langila, Uluwan, or Tavurvur volcanoes (New Guinea). - EarthQuake Report.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: The Rare and Bizarrely Active Hurricane Season of 2012 Draws to a Close - 19 Atlantic Tropical Storms 3 Consecutive Years, a 162-Year Record!

November 30, 2012 - UNITED STATES - The long and highly destructive hurricane season of 2012 has finally drawn to a close. The hurricane season of 2012 will long be remembered for spawning Hurricane Sandy--a freakish storm that was the largest, most powerful, and second most destructive Atlantic hurricane on record.

Hurricane Sandy at 10:10 am EDT October 28, 2012. Image credit: NASA/GSFC.
But this year's hurricane season had a number of unique attributes, making it one of the most bizarre seasons I've witnessed. Despite featuring a remarkable nineteen named storms--tied for the third highest total since record keeping began in 1851--this year's hurricane season had just one major hurricane. That storm was Hurricane Michael, which stayed at Category 3 strength for a scant six hours. This is the least number of major hurricanes in a season since the El Niño year of 1997, which had only Category 3 Hurricane Erika. There were no Category 4 or 5 hurricanes in 2012, for just the 3rd time since the active hurricane period we are in began in 1995. The only two other years since 1995 without a Category 4 or stronger hurricane were the El Niño years of 2006 and 1997. Both of those seasons had around half the number of named storms of 2012--nine in 2006, and eight in 1997. The relative lack of strong storms in 2012 helped keep the Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) down to 128, about 30% above average.

Vertical instability over the tropical Atlantic in 2004 - 2012 (blue line) compared to average (black line.) The instability is plotted in °C, as a difference in temperature from near the surface to the upper atmosphere (note that the same scale is not used in all the plots, making the black climatological line appear different, when it is really the same for each plot.) Thunderstorms grow much more readily when vertical instability is high. Instability was near average during the August - October peak of hurricane season in 2004 - 2009, but was much lower than average during the hurricane seasons of 2010 - 2012. There was an unusual amount of dry, sinking air in the tropical Atlantic during 2010 - 2012, and the resulting low atmospheric instability reduced the proportion of tropical storms that have intensified into hurricanes. Vertical instability from 2004 - 2011 is taken from NOAA/RAMMB and for 2012 from NOAA/SSD.
Since the active hurricane period we've been in began in 1995, the U.S. has averaged getting hit by 4 named storms per year, with an average of 1.7 of these being hurricanes, and 0.6 being major Category 3 and stronger hurricanes. This year, we were hit by 3 named storms (Beryl, Debby, and Isaac). One of these was a hurricane (Isaac). Sandy didn't count as a hurricane strike on the U.S., since it transitioned to an extratropical cyclone a few hours before landfall. No major hurricanes hit the U.S., making 2012 the 7th consecutive year without a major hurricane strike. The only other time we've had a streak that long occurred between 1861 - 1868, during the decade of the Civil War. For the third consecutive hurricane season, 2012 featured an unusual amount of dry, sinking air over the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean Sea. Due to warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures and an active African Monsoon that generated plenty of African waves, a remarkably high number of tropical storms managed to form, but the unusually stable air in the hurricane genesis regions made it difficult for the storms to become strong. When we did see storms undergo significant intensification, it tended to occur outside of the tropics, north of 25°N, where there was not as much dry, sinking air (Sandy's intensification as it approached landfall in Cuba was an exception to this rule.) If we look at the last nine hurricane seasons, we can see that the hurricane seasons of 2010, 2011, and 2012 all featured similar levels of highly stable air over the tropical Atlantic. This is in marked contrast to what occurred the previous six years. The past three seasons all featured a near-record number of named storms (nineteen each year), but an unusually low ratio of strong hurricanes. Steering patterns the past three years also acted to keep most of the storms out to sea. Is this strange pattern something we'll see more of, due to climate change? Or is it mostly due to natural cycles in hurricane activity? I don't have any answers at this point, but the past three hurricane seasons have definitely been highly unusual in a historical context. I expect the steering currents to shift and bring more landfalling hurricanes to the U.S. at some point this decade, though.

19 Atlantic Tropical Storms 3 Consecutive Years - A Truly Very Rare Event.
The 2012 Atlantic hurricane season closes this Friday with another top-five tally for named storms--nineteen. This is the third consecutive year with nineteen named storms in the Atlantic, which is a remarkable level of activity for a three-year period. The closest comparable three-year period of activity occurred during 2003 - 2004 - 2005, when each season had fifteen-plus named storms. Since 1851, only two seasons--2005 (28 named storms) and 1933 (20 named storms)--have been busier than 2010, 2011, and 2012.

Preliminary tracks of the nineteen named storms from 2012. Image credit: National Hurricane Center.
It is tremendously rare to get three consecutive top-five years in a database with a 162-year record. This would occur randomly just once every 34,000 years--assuming the database were unbiased, the climate were not changing, and a multi-year climate pattern favorable for active seasons were not present. However the database IS biased, the climate IS changing, and we have been in an active hurricane period that began in 1995. So, which of these factors may be responsible for recording three consecutive years with nineteen named storms? It is well-known that prior to the arrival of geostationary satellites in December 1966 and aircraft hurricane reconnaissance in 1945 that tropical storms in the Atlantic were under-counted. Landsea et al. (2004) theorized that we missed up to six named storms per year between 1851 - 1885, and up to four between 1886 - 1910. Landsea (2007) estimated the under-count to be 3.2 named storms per year between 1900 - 1965, and 1.0 per year between 1966 - 2002. Other studies have argued for lower under-counts. So, if we assume the highest under-counts estimated by Landsea et al. (2004) and Landsea (2007), here would be the top ten busiest Atlantic hurricane seasons since 1851:

2005: 28
1887: 25
1933: 23
1995: 20
2012, 2011, 2010, 1969, 1936: 19

So, 2012, 2011, and 2010 would still rank as top-five busiest seasons since 1851, but the odds of having three consecutive seasons with nineteen named storms would drop from a 1-in-34,000 year event to "only" a 1-in-5800 year event. - Weather Underground.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Eyjafjallajökull - Iceland Volcano Eruption Caused By Chain Reaction!

November 30, 2012 - ICELAND - According to NBC News, after nearly two centuries of dormancy, Eyjafjallajökull (AYA-feeyapla-yurkul) erupted many times over the course of 10 weeks. The eruptions spewed a huge plume of ash that caused extraordinary lightning displays, colored sunsets a fiery red across much of Europe, and forced widespread flight cancellations for days.

A group of researchers say that the eruptions of Iceland’s volcano Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 were apparently
triggered by a chain reaction of expanding magma chambers that descended into the Earth.
The eruptions began in 2010 when a fissure opened on the flank of Eyjafjallajökull in March, revealing that it was inflating with magma. An explosion then burst from the volcano’s summit in April, and three more major explosions from Eyjafjallajökull rocked Iceland in May. Analysis of material spewed from the explosions suggests each explosion involved separate chambers loaded with magma of distinct ages and compositions. To learn more about what caused this spate of eruptions, the researchers analyzed swarms of microearthquakes during the outbursts. The data suggests that the first explosion was rooted in a magma chamber about 3 miles (5 kilometers) below the surface, while the three later explosions stemmed from magma chambers at depths of about 7 miles (11.5 km), 12 miles (19 km) and 15 miles (24 km).
Interestingly, the researchers found that microearthquakes apparently occurred at greater depths with each outburst. Researchers now suggest that the series of eruptions was due to a “decompression wave” that essentially rippled downward, upsetting the volcano’s plumbing. The initial explosion spewed a massive amount of magma and melted about 650 feet (200 meters) of ice. The researchers suggest this relieved a great deal of pressure exerted from Eyjafjallajökull’s summit on its innards. This drop in pressure from above caused a magma chamber slightly lower down to begin inflating. When this led to an explosion, this liberated magma in another chamber slightly lower down, and created a cascade through successively lower chambers.

Jon Tarasewicz, a geophysicist at the University of Cambridge in England said:
“It’s novel to have been able to match the deep seismic observations to big changes in the eruption rate at the surface. In this case, it seems the volcanic plumbing system at depth responded to changes near the surface, rather than vice versa.”
Tarasewicz continued by saying:
“There are several examples around the world of volcanoes that are thought to have more than one magma chamber, stacked at different depths beneath the volcano. Understanding the pressure linkage and feedback between different magma storage reservoirs may help us to understand why some volcanoes like Eyjafjallajökull have prolonged eruptions with episodic surges in eruption rate.”
Although this research could yield insights on the magma underlying a volcano and how it might behave, Tarasewicz cautioned, “we are still not in a position to be able to predict accurately in advance when, or if, a volcano is going to erupt.” The scientists detailed their findings online October 13 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. - The Inquisitr.

DISASTER IMPACT: BP Oil Spill - Dispersant Makes Oil From Spills 52 Times More Toxic!

November 30, 2012 - GULF OF MEXICO - For microscopic animals living in the Gulf of Mexico, even worse than the toxic oil released during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster may be the very oil dispersants used to clean it up, a new study finds. More than 2 million gallons (7.5 million liters) of oil dispersants called Corexit 9527A and 9500A were dumped into the gulf in an effort to prevent oil from reaching shore and to help it degrade more quickly. However, when oil and Corexit are combined, the mixture becomes up to 52 times more toxic than oil alone, according to a study published online this week in the journal Environmental Pollution. "There is a synergistic interaction between crude oil and the dispersant that makes it more toxic," said Terry Snell, a study co-author and biologist at Georgia Tech. Using dispersants breaks up the oil into small droplets and makes it less visible, but, "on the other hand, makes it more toxic to the planktonic food chain," Snell told LiveScience.

This photograph shows windrows of emulsified oil (bright orange) sprayed with dispersant.
The photo was taken on April 26, 2010 as part of an aerial observation overflight.
Toxic mixture
That mixture of dispersant and oil in the gulf would've wreaked havoc on rotifers, which form the base of the marine food web, and their eggs in seafloor sediments, Snell said. In the study, Snell and colleagues tested ratios of oil and dispersant found in the gulf in 2010, using actual oil from the well that leaked in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the dispersant. The mixture was similarly toxic at the various ratios tested, the study found. His group exposed several varieties of rotifers to concentrations of the oil-dispersant mixture likely seen over a large area of the gulf. "The levels in the gulf were toxic, and seriously toxic," Snell said. "That probably put a big dent in the planktonic food web for some extended period of time, but nobody really made the measurements to figure out the impact." The dispersant makes the oil more deadly by decreasing the size of the droplets, making it more "bio-available" to small organisms, said Ian MacDonald, a researcher at Florida State University. "The effect is specifically a toxic synergy — the sum is worse than the parts," said MacDonald, who was not involved in the research. 

A cautionary tale
This is one of the first studies to look at the impact of the oil-dispersant mixture on plankton. A decline in populations of plankton could impact larger animals all the way up to whales, he said. In general, plankton can rebound quickly, although the toxicity to larvae in sediments is concerning, since it reduces the size of the next generation. This ocean-bottom oil slurry could also have impacted other species that spend part of their life cycles here like algae and crustaceans. "This is an important study that adds badly needed data to help us better understand the effects of oil spills and oil spill remediation strategies, such as the use of dispersants," said Stephen Klaine, an environmental toxicologist at Clemson University who wasn't involved in the research. "Species' differences in the sensitivity to any toxic compounds, including the ones in this discussion, can be huge." The results contrast with those released by the Environmental Protection Agency in August 2010. That study found that a mixture of oil and Corexit isn't more toxic than oil alone to both a species of shrimp and species of fish. However, several studies have found the mixture is more toxic than oil to the embryos of several fish species. The EPA could not immediately be reached for comment. "To date, EPA has done nothing but congratulate itself on how Corexit was used and avow they would do it the same way again," MacDonald said. However, Snell said the dispersant should not be used. It would be better to let the oil disperse on its own to minimize ecological damage, he said. "This is a cautionary tale that we need to do the science before the emergency happens so we can make decisions that are fully informed," Snell said. "In this case, the Corexit is simply there to make the oil disperse and go out of sight. But out of sight doesn't mean it's safe in regard to the food web. It's hard to sit by and not do something," Snell said. "But in this case, doing something actually made it more toxic." - MSNBC.

ICE AGE NOW: Astronomical Amounts of Snow Predicted to Bury Mount Shasta in California - Whopping Forecast of 218 Inches of Snow in Just 4 Days!

November 30, 2012 - UNITED STATES - If anyone lived on the summit of California's Mount Shasta, they'd need a mighty big shovel to dig out of the snowstorm that will bury the mountain in astronomical amounts of snow through the weekend -- amounts that could flirt with world records. The Thursday morning National Weather Service summit forecast for Shasta predicted an incredible 33 to 39 inches of snow -- just for Thursday alone. (By comparison, Atlanta, Ga., has reported 38.9 inches of snow since March 1, 1989 -- a period of over 23 years.)

But it gets crazier.

Add in another 37 to 43 inches of snow Thursday night, and additional amounts ranging from 21 to 35 inches every 12 hours through Saturday night, plus a light dusting of 11 to 17 inches on Sunday... ...and you get a storm total of 176 inches. On the low end. Add up the high end of the numbers and you get a forecast maximum of 218 inches of snow in four days!

A 1984 file photo of Mount Shasta in northern California. © USGS/Lyn Topinka.

How would that kind of four-day snow total stack up? Consider these major all-time snowfall records that would be broken with a 200-inch snowfall:
  • According to Weather Underground, the world record for a single snowstorm is 189 inches in six days -- guess where? Mount Shasta Ski Bowl in February 1959.
  • The National Climatic Data Center says California's heaviest four-day snowstorm was 145 inches at the Sierra-at-Tahoe Ski Resort near Echo Summit in March-April 1982.
  • The U.S. four-day snow record is 163 inches at Thompson Pass, Alaska, in December 1955.
If those numbers seem a little too hard to wrap your mind around, consider this:The snowiest season on record in snowy Syracuse, N.Y., only yielded 192.1 inches of snow in 1992-93.
  • If the tallest living player in NBA history, Gheorghe Muresan, were to balance a life-size wax statue of himself on his head, two feet of snow would bury the top of the statue.
  • The minimum clearance for an interstate overpass in rural areas is 16 feet. A 218-inch snow depth would cover the highway up to the bottom of the overpass, with 26 inches of snow on top of that.
Of course, if official records are to be broken, this extreme snow will have to fall at a location where someone can measure it. Today's Mount Shasta Ski Park tops out just above 6,500 feet in elevation, much lower than the old Ski Bowl was in 1959, and with this storm carrying so much warm air, snowfall amounts are likely to drop tremendously by the time you get down to that elevation.

Nobody lives on Mount Shasta's summit, and we hope nobody is foolish enough to climb the 14,179-foot mountain for a few days, so we may never know exactly how much snow this storm ends up dumping.

For the surrounding terrain, which is nearly 10,000 feet lower than the summit, this will be a massive rain storm with the potential for over a foot of rain.- Weather Channel.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Deadly New Coronavirus - Fifth Person Has Died From the New Respiratory Illness!

November 30, 2012 - JORDAN - A fifth person has died from a new respiratory illness similar to the Sars virus, according to the World Health Organization.  The WHO said the two latest deaths were in Jordan. The disease had previously been detected only in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, although one patient was transferred to the UK for treatment.  It brings the total number of cases of the infection to nine.
The source of the virus is uncertain.
There may also be evidence of human to human spread of the virus.  It causes pneumonia and sometimes kidney failure.  There was a series of severe cases of pneumonia in Jordan earlier in the year. However, the novel coronavirus had not been discovered at the time so did not appear in routine tests.  Two of the deaths in April have now been confirmed as being part of the outbreak.

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses ranging from the common cold to the Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome) virus. They infect a wide range of animals.  In 2002 an outbreak of Sars killed about 800 people after the virus spread to more than 30 countries around the world.  The WHO is still trying to work out where the infection came from. Studies show that the virus is closely related to one found in some species of bats.  How readily the virus spreads will be important for assessing how great a threat it poses.  The WHO said that, unlike Sars, the new coronavirus, "does not appear to transmit easily between people".  However, it warns that two clusters in Saudi Arabia and Jordan, "raise the possibility of limited human-to-human transmission" or they could have been exposed to the same source of the infection. - BBC.

EXTREME WEATHER: Northern California Swamped - Heavy Rain, High Winds Pummel U.S. West Coast!

November 30, 2012 - UNITED STATES - A deep dip, or trough, in the jet stream is currently in place over the eastern Pacific Ocean. This has been sending a parade of frontal systems and upper-level disturbances into the West Coast.  Thursday night into Friday, we saw the latest strong disturbance plow into northern California. Winds gusted in excess of 50 mph in San Francisco. Gusts of 120 mph were reported along the crest of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Rainfall totals in the last three days have now reached locally more than 10 inches in the northern Sierra Nevada mountains.

Though periods of rain will continue Friday night into Saturday, we should see an overall break in the intensity of the rainfall until the next potent system arrives.  The next major storm is slated to hit the West Coast Saturday night into Sunday and is expected to be the strongest and wettest that we have seen this week. We are forecasting another round of very heavy rain and strong wind gusts in much of northern California, southwest Oregon and adjacent parts of western Nevada. Since the plume of moisture will continue to focus on the same areas that have been soaked the last few days, flash flooding, river flooding, mudslides and debris flows are a big concern. This will particularly be the case in the coastal ranges of northern California and the Sierra foothills. Major flooding is currently forecast for the Truckee River near Truckee, Calif. on Sunday. This could cause damage to homes, roads and bridges.  After the Sunday storm departs, we should see a break on Monday before the next round of rain arrives in some of the same areas as before Tuesday into Wednesday.

Rainfall Totals Since Wednesday.
Additional rainfall amounts of up to six inches or more are possible in portions of northern California and southwest Oregon through Tuesday. Locally more than nine inches of additional rainfall is possible.  Strong, gusty winds could result in localized power outages and tree damage. This pattern will also produce heavy snow over the Sierra, not to mention parts of the Bitterroots, Tetons, and the Washington Cascades. For northern California our Winter Weather Expert Tom Niziol says, "The next major system comes through late Saturday through Sunday, working its way from northern California mainly across the Shasta Range Saturday night then south across the central Sierra Sunday with additional heavy snowfall above 7,000 feet. To put this in perspective, the highest elevation of I-80 through Donner Pass is about 7,230 feet., so right at the crest travel could be impacted by significant snowfall."  Niziol adds, "Farther north through the Washington Cascades  snow levels will drop to 3,000 to 4,000 feet later in the weekend with heaviest snows affecting the mountain passes along I-90.  Farther inland across the Central Idaho through Northern Wyoming ranges including the Sawtooth, Bitterroots and Tetons is where I expect the heaviest snowfall with well over two feet at highest elevations above 7000 feet." - Weather Channel.

MONUMENTAL GALACTIC CHANGES: Scientists Record the Most Powerful Quasar Blast Ever - The Most Energetic Outflow Ever Seen!

November 30, 2012 - SPACE - Astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) have discovered a quasar with the most energetic outflow ever seen, at least five times more powerful than any that have been observed to date. Quasars are extremely bright galactic centres powered by supermassive black holes. Many blast huge amounts of material out into their host galaxies, and these outflows play a key role in the evolution of galaxies. But, until now, observed quasar outflows weren’t as powerful as predicted by theorists. Quasars are the intensely luminous centres of distant galaxies that are powered by huge black holes. This new study has looked at one of these energetic objects — known as SDSS J1106+1939 — in great detail, using the X-shooter instrument on ESO’s VLT at the Paranal Observatory in Chile. Although black holes are noted for pulling material in, most quasars also accelerate some of the material around them and eject it at high speed.

Artist’s impression of the huge outflow ejected from the quasar SDSS J1106+1939.
We have discovered the most energetic quasar outflow known to date. The rate that energy is carried away by this huge mass of material ejected at high speed from SDSS J1106+1939 is at least equivalent to two million million times the power output of the Sun. This is about 100 times higher than the total power output of the Milky Way galaxy — it’s a real monster of an outflow,” says team leader Nahum Arav (Virginia Tech, USA). “This is the first time that a quasar outflow has been measured to have the sort of very high energies that are predicted by theory.”

Many theoretical simulations suggest that the impact of these outflows on the galaxies around them may resolve several enigmas in modern cosmology, including how the mass of a galaxy is linked to its central black hole mass, and why there are so few large galaxies in the Universe. However, whether or not quasars were capable of producing outflows powerful enough to produce these phenomena has remained unclear until now.

The newly discovered outflow lies about a thousand light-years away from the supermassive black hole at the heart of the quasar SDSS J1106+1939. This outflow is at least five times more powerful than the previous record holder. The team’s analysis shows that a mass of approximately 400 times that of the Sun is streaming away from this quasar per year, moving at a speed of 8000 kilometres per second.

We couldn’t have got the high-quality data to make this discovery without the VLT’s X-shooter spectrograph,” says Benoit Borguet (Virginia Tech, USA), lead author of the new paper. “We were able to explore the region around the quasar in great detail for the first time.

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As well as SDSS J1106+1939, the team also observed one other quasar and found that both of these objects have powerful outflows. As these are typical examples of a common, but previously little studied, type of quasars, these results should be widely applicable to luminous quasars across the Universe. Borguet and colleagues are currently exploring a dozen more similar quasars to see if this is the case.

I’ve been looking for something like this for a decade,” says Nahum Arav, “so it’s thrilling to finally find one of the monster outflows that have been predicted!


[1] The team observed SDSS J1106+1939 and J1512+1119 in April 2011 and March 2012 using the X-shooter spectrograph instrument attached to ESO’s VLT. By splitting the light up into its component colours and studying in detail the resultant spectrum the astronomers could deduce the velocity and other properties of the material close to the quasar.
[2] The powerful outflow observed in SDSS J1106+1939 carries enough kinetic energy to play a major role in active galaxy feedback processes, which typically require a mechanical power input of roughly 5% of the luminosity of the quasar. The rate at which kinetic energy is being transferred by the outflow is described as its kinetic luminosity.
[3] SDSS J1106+1939 has an outflow with a kinetic luminosity of at least 1046 ergs s−1. The distances of the outflows from the central quasar (300–8000 light-years) was greater than expected suggesting that we observe the outflows far from the region in which we assume them to initially accelerated (0.03–0.4 light-years).
[4] A class known as Broad Absorption Line (BAL) quasars.


- ESO.

ICE AGE NOW: Moscow Blanketed by Major Early Snowfall - Heaviest November Snow For 50 Years!

November 30, 2012 - RUSSIA - A large, early snowstorm raging in Moscow disrupted flights and created havoc on the roads on Thursday. Yelena Temakina, chief of the forecast department at Moscow’s Meteorological Office, said 20 centimeters (8 inches) of snow had fallen in 24 hours.

A woman walks in a snow-covered park in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. A record-breaking snowfall in Moscow has disrupted flights, created havoc on the roads, and forecasters say the storm will rage until Friday morning. Moscow's city hall said the Russian capital hasn't seen a bigger snowfall in November in about 50 years. Over 70 flights were disrupted overnight. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev).
That is half of Moscow’s typical amount of snow for the whole of November. Moscow’s City Hall said it expects the snowstorm, which is due to continue at least until Friday morning, to be the biggest in November in 50 years. The roads in the capital have been clogged up since early Thursday morning and about 70 flights from Moscow’s largest airport, Domodedovo, were disrupted overnight. On Thursday, all three of the capital’s airports were working normally. Motorists complained about the lack of efforts to clear the snow from the streets. In one section of Moscow’s beltway the traffic was paralyzed for at least 30 kilometers (18 miles) on Thursday afternoon, according to the traffic tracker Yandex.Probki. - Boston.

A woman walks between two snow covered cars in central Moscow. © AFP/Getty.
Moscow has recorded its heaviest November snowfall for half a century with a 24-hour snowstorm that has blanketed the city in more than four inches of cover. Officials in the Russian capital have called in 12,000 snow-removal vehicles to help combat the effects of the snow on the city's transport system but, in spite of lengthy efforts to minimise disruption, traffic jams have been reported to stretch back several kilometres on Moscow's roads. "I was speaking with the forecasters, and it's been more than 50 years since Moscow's seen something like this," said Deputy Mayor Pyotr Biryukov on a television interview. Further to gridlock in the city, flights from Moscow's airports have also faced major delays overnight. The capital's largest airport, Domodedovo, experienced over 70 flight delays, but was back to regular service by 5 a.m. Earlier this year, Moscow recorded near-record conditions when temperatures reached -19.3F (-28.5C) on February 13. The cold Siberian air struck large parts of Eastern Europe and regions were on the verge of a gas shortage when Gazprom struggled to meet the surge in demand. Weather reports suggest that the levels of snowfall for the last 24-hours would normally be expected over a third of a typical November month. Bulldozers will continue to operate around the city as the snowstorm is expected to continue until Friday morning. - Telegraph.

SOLAR WATCH: Sunspot Region 1625 is Crackling With C-Class Solar Flares - Moderate Chance of Polar Geomagnetic Storms!

November 30, 2012 - SUN - According to Space Weather forecast, emerging Sunspot AR1625 is crackling with C-class solar flares and solar winds flowing from a coronal hole on the western side of the Sun, should reach Earth on Dec. 2-3.

Sunspot 1625.
CHANCE OF STORMS: NOAA forecasters estimate a 55% chance of polar geomagnetic storms today, Nov. 30th, when a coronal mass ejection (CME) is expected to hit Earth's magnetic field. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras.

SOLAR ACTIVITY: The most active region on the solar disk today is emerging sunspot AR1625. It is crackling with C-class solar flares, like this one (C4.6) recorded on Nov. 29th by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. The eruption did not hurl a CME into space. Neither Earth nor any other planet will be affected. More flares could be in the offing as AR1625 emerges in close proximity to another active sunspot, AR1623. If the magnetic canopies of the two sunspots intermingle, they could reconnect and erupt, producing something stronger than a C-flare. - Spaceweather.

Current Earth-facing sunspots.

GEOMAGNETIC FORECAST: Solar activity has been at moderate levels for the past 24 hours. The largest solar event of the period was an M2/1f flare observed at 28v/2136Z from Region 1620 (S13W69). There are currently 5 numbered sunspot regions on the disk including newly-numbered Region 1625 (N13E50). No Earth-directed CMEs were observed. IB. Solar Activity Forecast: Solar activity is expected to be at low levels on days one, two, and three (30 Nov, 01 Dec, 02 Dec) with a chance for an isolated M-class flare. The geomagnetic field has been at quiet levels for the past 24 hours. Solar wind speed, as measured by the ACE spacecraft, reached a peak speed of 403 km/s at 28/2126Z. The geomagnetic field is expected to be at quiet to active levels on day 1 (30 November) due to a CME passage from merged CMEs observed on 26 and 27 November. Quiet to unsettled levels are expected on day 2 (01 December) as CME effects subside. Quiet conditions are expected on Day 3 (02 December). - NOAA/SWPC.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: The Euro-Zone Crisis - European Unemployment Rate Hits New High in October!

November 30, 2012 - EUROPE - The eurozone's unemployment rate hit a new record high in October, while consumer price rises slowed sharply.  The jobless rate in the recessionary euro area rose to 11.7%. Inflation fell from 2.5% to 2.2% in November.  The data came as European Central Bank president Mario Draghi warned the euro would not emerge from its crisis until the second half of next year.  Government spending cuts would continue to hurt growth in the short-term, Mr Draghi said.

The unemployment rate continued its steady rise, reaching 11.7% in October, up from 11.6% the month before and 10.4% a year ago.  A further 173,000 were out of work across the single currency area, bringing the total to 18.7 million.  The respective fortunes of northern and southern Europe diverged further. In Spain, the jobless rate rose to 26.2% from 25.8% the previous month, and in Italy it rose to 11.1% from 10.8%.  In contrast, unemployment in Germany held steady at 5.4% of the labour force, while in Austria it fell from 4.4% to just 4.3%. "The real problem is that we have a two-speed Europe," economist Alberto Gallo of Royal Bank of Scotland told the BBC. "The biggest increase in unemployment is being driven by Italy and Spain. "It is the same as you are seeing in financial markets," he explained. "The periphery [Spain and Italy] is the area where the banks are the least capitalised and need the most help, and the loan rates are the highest."

Data earlier this month showed that the eurozone had returned to a shallow recession in the three months to September, shrinking 0.1% during the quarter, following a 0.2% contraction the previous quarter.  The less competitive southern European economies, such as Spain and Italy - where governments have had to push through hefty spending cuts to get their borrowing under control, and crisis-struck banks have been cutting back their lending - have been in recession for over a year.  But the economies of Germany and France have also begun to weaken. Growth in the eurozone's two biggest economies came in at a disappointing 0.2%... "We have not yet emerged from the crisis," said Mr Draghi, speaking on pan-European radio. - BBC.

EXTREME WEATHER: "Exceptional" Drought Worsens in the U.S. High Plains - Winter Outlook Not Good!

November 30, 2012 - UNITED STATES - Drought is tightening its grip on the central United States as winter weather sets in, threatening to ravage the new wheat crop and spelling more hardship for farmers and ranchers already weary of the costly and ongoing dry conditions.  While conditions started to improve earlier in November, they turned harsh to close out the month as above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation proved a dire combination in many regions, according to the Drought Monitor, a weekly compilation of data gathered by federal and academic scientists issued Thursday.  Forecasts for the next several days show little to no relief and weather watchers are predicting a drier than average winter for much of the central United States. 

A tree trunk rests on the bed of a dried lake in Waterloo, Nebraska, on November 20.
"The drought's impacts are far reaching," said Eric Luebehusen, a meteorologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in the report. The U.S. High Plains, which includes key farm states of Nebraska, South Dakota, and Kansas, are the hardest hit. In that region, almost 58 percent of the land area is in extreme or exceptional drought, the worst categories of drought. A week ago, the tally was 55.94 percent. Nebraska is by far the most parched state in the nation. One hundred percent of the state is considered in severe or worse drought, with 77.46 percent of the state considered in "exceptional" drought - the worst level, according to the Drought Monitor.  Overall, roughly 62.65 percent of the contiguous United States was in at least "moderate" drought as of November 27, up from 60.09 percent a week earlier,  The portion of the contiguous United States under "extreme" or "exceptional" drought - the two most dire classifications - expanded to 20.12 percent from 19.04 percent. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said this week that U.S. farm income will drop by 3 percent this year due in part to the ravages of the worst drought in half a century. So far, crop insurers have paid $6.3 billion on losses this year, USDA said. Some analysts say the still-persisting drought in the Farm Belt will drive indemnities to $20 billion.  On top of the crop losses in 2012, more losses are likely for 2013 if soil moisture does not improve. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said this week that the condition of the winter wheat crop fell to an all-time low for late November with only 33 percent of the new crop rated good to excellent, and 26 percent was rated poor to very poor as the plants headed into winter dormancy.  In South Dakota, 64 percent of the crop was rated poor to very poor; and at least 40 percent of the wheat crop in Texas, Nebraska and Oklahoma was also rated poor to very poor. Top producer Kansas had 25 percent of its crop rated poor to very poor.  Though light showers are possible through the Mississippi Valley and possibly into southern Texas in the next few days, dry, warm conditions are expected across the remainder of the contiguous United States, the Drought Monitor said.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has forecast warmer-than-average temperatures in much of Texas, northward through the Central and Northern Plains and westward across the Southwest. A drier-than-average winter is forecast for Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas and through the upper Midwest. - NBC News.

TERMINATOR NOW: Rise of the Machines - Monumental March of Robots Into Chinese Factories, 51 Percent Increase in Industrial Robots in 2012, Will Become the World's Largest Industrial Cyborg Market by 2014!

November 30, 2012 - CHINA - Step into the factory of Chinese SUV and truck maker Great Wall Motors, and it’s easy to forget you’re in the world’s most populous country. Swiss-made robots pivot and plunge, stamping metal door frames and soldering them to the skeletal vehicle bodies of a mini-SUV called the Haval M4. The blue-smocked workers in yellow hard hats are few and far between here in Great Wall’s largest factory complex, located in Baoding, some 90 miles southwest of Beijing. “With automation, we can reduce our head count and save money,” says Hao Jianjun, Great Wall’s general manager, who has invested $161 million into mechanizing four plants with 1,200 robots. The average price of a factory-floor robot is around $50,000 before installation. “Within three years, this cost will be completely paid for in savings from reduced worker wages,” says Hao. After the robots were added, the number of welders at Great Wall dropped from 1,300 to around 400.

Welding robots piece together a car at Great Wall’s Tianjin plant.
Last year sales of industrial robots in China reached 22,577 units, up 51 percent over 2011. That puts China just behind Japan and South Korea, but ahead of Germany and the U.S., in the purchase of new robots. With robot sales quadrupling from 2006 to 2011, China is on track to become the world’s largest industrial cyborg market by 2014, predicts the Frankfurt-based International Federation of Robotics. China’s car industry has led the automation wave, particularly at its joint ventures with General Motors (GM), Honda Motor (HMC), and Volkswagen (VOW). Consumer electronics, food and beverage processing, and the plastics and textile industries are following suit.

“What we are seeing is robots increasing in a lot of industries where they are already common in the rest of the world,” says Yuchan Li, an analyst with economic consultancy GaveKal Research. “For China, there is still a lot of low-hanging fruit when it comes to automation.” China is now an important market for robot makers such as Japan’s Fanuc, Germany’s Kuka and Siemens (SI), and Rockwell Automation (ROK) of the U.S. Swiss-based ABB (ABB) has chosen Shanghai to base its global robotics business and produce robotic systems for auto and electronics clients. One factor driving the switch to robots is demographics. Next year China’s labor force will peak at 1 billion before starting to shrink, in part because of the nation’s one-child policy. Labor shortages are already common and are driving wage inflation, up around 20 percent annually in recent years. Beijing is encouraging automation by forcing up minimum wages. A rise in labor costs “ups the ante for manufacturing companies so they change their production processes and move up the value chain,” says Louis Kuijs, chief China economist at Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) in Hong Kong. - Bloomberg.

ELECTRIC UNIVERSE: Cosmic Catastrophism - Cosmic Rays Reveal Event in Earth's Magnetic Field History!

November 30, 2012 - PORTUGAL - The Earth's magnetic field forms an efficient shield that deflects charged particles of cosmic origin headed for Earth. Far from being constant, the magnetic field has undergone many reversals, with the North magnetic pole shifting to the South geographic pole. Such reversals are always accompanied by a disappearance of the magnetic field. The last such reversal took place 780 000 years ago. The magnetic field can also undergo excursions, periods when the field suddenly drops as if it was going to reverse, before recovering its normal polarity.

The most recent event of this kind, known as the Laschamp excursion, took place 41 000 years ago. Evidence for the event was uncovered by the researchers in sediment cores collected off the coasts of Portugal and Papua New Guinea. In the samples, they found an excess of beryllium-10, an isotope produced solely by collisions between particles of cosmic origin and atoms of nitrogen and oxygen. The beryllium-10 (10Be) produced in the atmosphere then falls to the Earth's surface where it is incorporated into ice and sediments. In sedimentary beds dating from the age of the Laschamp excursion, the researchers found up to twice as much 10Be as normal, evidence of the intense cosmic ray bombardment that the Earth underwent for several thousand years. Traditionally, the presence of various iron oxides, especially magnetite, in volcanic lavas, sediments and ancient pottery provides information on the history of the magnetic field by indicating its direction and strength at the time when these materials solidified.

This so-called paleomagnetic approach does not always allow global variations in the magnetic field to be quantified accurately. The researchers combined this method with the measurement of beryllium-10 concentrations in the same sedimentary records. This enabled them to demonstrate that peak concentrations of this isotope are synchronous and have the same dynamics and amplitude in Atlantic and Pacific sediments as in the previously analyzed Greenland ice cores. The method based on beryllium-10, which has been developed over the past 10 years at CEREGE, therefore makes it possible to obtain a continuous reconstruction of variations in the strength of the Earth's global magnetic field. It is also known that over the past 3000 years the magnetic field has lost 30% of its strength. This trend suggests that in the coming centuries, the Earth might undergo an excursion similar to the one that took place 41 000 years ago. Since high energy cosmic rays can cause mutations and cell damage, such an event would have a significant impact on biodiversity, and in particular on humans. This is why the researchers are seeking to find out the precise rates of the magnetic field's reversal and excursion sequences, in order to identify potential regularities in its behavior and thus shed light on the cause of these phenomena, which originate in the Earth's core. - PHYSORG.

STORM ALERT: Another Stormy Week is in Store For the United States West Coast!

Fig. 1: An array of watches and warnings are in
effect for the south Oregon and north California area.
Credit: NOAA/NWS.
November 30, 2012 - UNITED STATES - Thursday (Nov. 29, 2012) marks the one-month anniversary of Hurricane/Storm Sandy’s landfall on the New Jersey coast. Since that time, a “nor’easter” has brought rain, snow and wind to parts of the mid-Atlantic and Northeast and a monster storm has deluged the Pacific Northwest with widespread, heavy rainfall, mountain snow and high winds.

Now another storm is knocking on the door ready to bring widespread high winds, torrential rains and heavy mountain snowfall to Oregon and northern California (Fig. 1). This storminess, part of a larger storm system covering much of the Gulf of Alaska (Fig. 2), will be slamming into the northern California – southern Oregon area later today through Friday.

Fig. 2: Satellite derived winds atop a water vapor satellite
image showcase the size and scope of the major
Gulf of Alaska storm. Credit: University of Wisconsin - SSEC.

Computer models yield a large area of 10-inch rainfall (Fig. 3). Forecasters, recognizing the localized effects of the region’s topography and the strong upslope wind component, are indicating that as much as 20 inches of rainfall (either actual precipitation or melted liquid equivalent) will result, especially in mountain areas. This could translate into 20 feet of snow at the highest mountain elevations! Foothill regions can expect six to 10 inches of rainfall; even valley areas can see as much as half a foot of mostly welcome liquid precipitation.

Fig. 3: Five-day rainfall forecast showing excessive rainfall
 is on tap for the western U.S. Much of the rainfall is expected
to fall during the next three days. Credit: NOAA/NWS.

Since many reservoirs are far from being full, the precipitation is mostly welcome. However, in areas recently burned by wildfires, there is a significant risk of mud and debris flows. Urban, small stream and underpass flooding is also anticipated. Due to relatively warm temperatures, snow will most likely fall at elevations above mountain pass levels through the Cascade, Siskiyou and northern Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Strong southerly winds (gusts as much as 60 to 70 miles per hour in mountain areas and gusts to 45 to 50 miles per hour in lower elevations) will also lead to downed trees and limbs and associated power outages. Along the coast and offshore, high winds will generate large waves and swells. Storm warnings are in effect along the Oregon Coast with gale warnings posted along the entire West Coast (except extreme southern California).

Fig. 4: Surface weather map forecast for Wednesday
evening, Nov. 28, 2012. Credit: NOAA/NWS.
Even areas near southern Alaska are looking for winds up to gale force as the intense Gulf of Alaska low spins in nearly the same spot for the next three to four days. In fact, the central pressure of this low (expected to remain near 28.56 inches of mercury or 967 millibars) is not far away from the central pressure of Hurricane/Storm Sandy as she approached the New Jersey Coast last month (27.76 inches of mercury or 940 millibars).

For comparison, average global sea level pressure is 29.92 inches of mercury (1013 millibars). While all this weather action is taking place on the west coast, an upper level ridge will keep much of the Rocky Mountain region and the central U.S. dry, while bringing cooler than average weather to much of the eastern states (Fig. 4). Having a significant storm or hurricane (like Sandy) affect some part of the U.S. (a rather large land area – 3,794,000 square miles, including Alaska) during a week to 10-day period is not unusual. Balancing this is that when a stormy event occurs somewhere in the U.S., much of the rest of the Nation enjoys much more tranquil weather. - Examiner.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Louisiana Sinkhole Continues to Grow - Sinkhole Depth Increased to 145 Feet, 30 Feet Deeper in Just 13 Days!

November 30, 2012 - UNITED STATES - The following constitutes the latest update on the Louisiana Sinkhole from Texas Brine Company:

1. Work began today on the installation of a 450-foot deep well in which to install a geophone that will be used to monitor seismic activity. The well is expected to be completed by Friday morning.

2. This morning, a total of 19 barrels of liquid hydrocarbon was displaced to the surface from cavern #3. The controlled removal of the liquid hydrocarbon lasted for just under an hour when the well was shut in to stabilize casing pressure.

3. Work continued today to remove the hydrocarbons and debris that came to the surface of the sinkhole as a result of sinkhole fluid movement and gas bubbling activity that occurred yesterday. In addition, several trees that were leaning after the event fell into the sinkhole overnight. Oil containment boom was inspected and repositioned to contain the liquid hydrocarbon released from the surface debris. Measurements and soundings of the sinkhole taken on November 14 and reported yesterday indicated that the depth had increased to 145 feet, 30 feet deeper than when measured on November 1.

4. The shallow aquifer Relief Well #1 continues to vent natural gas to the surface where it is being safely flared. The actual flow rate for the past 24 hours was measured at 46,000 cubic feet. Venting and flaring will continue on a 24-hour basis.

5. The caprock Relief Well #2 remains shut in. The work plan for safely plugging the well that was submitted Saturday is being reviewed by LDNR. When approved, the well will be permanently closed. - Texas Brine [PDF].

100 Pounds Of Poisonous Hydrogen Sulfide Was Possibly Released Near Sinkhole.
The atmospheric release of hydrogen sulfide gas last week from a Texas Brine Co. LLC vent well in Assumption Parish did not require immediate reporting to state hazardous materials authorities, Louisiana State Police said... More than 100 pounds of hydrogen sulfide must be released within 24 hours to require reporting in a nonemergency, regulations say... Like the parish, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality did not find out about the release until the 3 p.m. conference Nov. 20. Officials said they are trying to calculate if the release could have reached more than 100 pounds to trigger formal reporting. “We’re still looking to see if it could reach that level,” said Rodney Mallett, DEQ spokesman... - The Advocate.

WATCH: iGEOtv - A possible catastrophe at the Louisiana sinkhole.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

STORM ALERT: Typhoon Watch - Tropical Storm Bopha is Forecast to Strike the Philippines as a Typhoon on December 4!

November 29, 2012 - PACIFIC OCEAN - Tropical storm Bopha is forecast to strike the Philippines as a typhoon at about 08:00 GMT on 4 December. Data supplied by the US Navy and Air Force Joint Typhoon Warning Center suggest that the point of landfall will be near10.0 N,127.0 E. Bopha is expected to bring 1-minute maximum sustained winds to the region of around 185 km/h (114 mph). Wind gusts in the area may be considerably higher.

According to the Saffir-Simpson damage scale the potential property damage and flooding from a storm of Bopha's strength (category 3) at landfall includes:
  • Storm surge generally 2.7-3.7 metres (9-12 feet) above normal.
  • Some structural damage to small residences and utility buildings with a minor amount of curtainwall failures.
  • Damage to shrubbery and trees with foliage blown off trees and large trees blown down.
  • Mobile homes and poorly constructed signs are destroyed.
  • Low-lying escape routes are cut by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of the centre of the storm.
  • Flooding near the coast destroys smaller structures with larger structures damaged by battering from floating debris.
  • Terrain continuously lower than 1.5 metres (5 feet) above mean sea level may be flooded inland 13 km (8 miles) or more.
  • Evacuation of low-lying residences within several blocks of the shoreline may be required.
There is also the potential for flooding further inland due to heavy rain. The information above is provided for guidance only and should not be used to make life or death decisions or decisions relating to property. Anyone in the region who is concerned for their personal safety or property should contact their official national weather agency or warning centre for advice. This alert is provided by TropicalStorm Risk (TSR) which is sponsored by Aon Benfield, Crawford & Company and University College London (UCL). - AlertNet.

2 More Cyclones Expected To Enter PAR In December.
MTSAT ENHANCED-IR Satellite Image 9 a.m., 30 November.
Two more cyclones are expected to enter the Philippine area of responsibility in December, the state weather bureau said Friday. As of posting time, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration is tracking a tropical storm that is most likely to enter the country by Monday. The tropical storm with international name “Bopha” is still over the Marianas Islands and is too far too affect the country. If it enters the PAR it will be named “Pablo”. The last cyclone to cross the country was tropical storm Ofel in late October. Meanwhile, an intertropical convergence zone is affecting southern Mindanao and will bring cloudy skies with occasional light to moderate rainshowers or thunderstorms in Davao region and the provinces of South Cotabato and Sarangani, Pagasa said. Metro Manila and the rest of the country will be partly cloudy with isolated brief rainshowers or thunderstorms mostly in the afternoon or evening, it also said. The cool Christmas weather also continues due to the northeast monsoon or “hanging amihan.” Friday’s coldest temperature was recorded at 20.3 degrees Celsius at 5a.m. Metro Manila and Baguio City experienced its coolest weather yet for 2012 on Thursday morning, with Metro Manila at 19.7 degrees Celsius and Baguio City at 13.4 degrees Celsius, Pagasa said. - Inquirer.

WATCH: Typhoon Bopha Update.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Russia’s Tolbachik Erupts - First Images of the Tolbachik Fissure Eruption!

November 29, 2012 - RUSSIA - KVERT posted a few images today of Tolbachik eruption in Kamchatka, including a show of the two fissures with accompanying ~3 km / 9,800 ft ash plumes. The description of the eruption indicates that it is centered in the southern cone area. The reports from observations on the ground suggest that it started as a series of discrete eruptions that coalesced into the two fissures — a common occurrence for this style of eruptive activity (see Kilauea).

The two fissure vents from the November 27, 2012 eruption of Tolbachik in Russia.
Image: Dmitry Melnikov, IVS FED RAS / KVERT

Terra/MODIS image of the Tolbachik eruption, seen on November 29, 2012. Red blocks are hotspots
in the thermal imager, likely eruption vents or lava flows. Image: NASA
This seems to suggest that Tolbachik is having an eruption similar in style to the 1975-76 eruptions — however, the magnitude of this new eruption is still very unclear. There appears to be significant SO2 from this eruption as well, according to reports from the USGS/AVO. Unfortunately much of the news is in Russian and what little KVERT has released is,well, scant. However, the conditions have cleared during the last Terra/MODIS pass, so you can see the plume and hotspots from the eruption on the image (see above). - WIRED.