Saturday, January 7, 2012

SOLAR ACTIVITY UPDATE: Farside Blast on the Sun's Eastern Limb - Magnetic Filament Eruption Hurls Incoming Coronal Mass Ejection, Glancing Blow to Earth's Magnetic Field Expected!

According to NASA, Sunspots 1390 and 1392 are crackling with low-level C-class solar flares. In addition to this, a minor solar wind stream flowing from a coronal hole should reach Earth on January 13-14.

FARSIDE BLAST: A magnetic active region behind the sun's eastern limb erupted during the late hours of January 6th. SOHO recorded the flying debris. In a few days the blast site will rotate onto the Earthside of the sun for closer inspection. Stay tuned.

INCOMING CME? A magnetic filament in the sun's northern hemisphere erupted on January 5th and hurled a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) in the general direction of Earth. At first it appeared that the cloud would sail north of Earth and completely miss our planet. Subsequent work by analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab suggests a different outcome: the CME might deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field on January 7th. - Space Weather.
WATCH: Sunspots 1390, 1392 is crackling with C-class Solar Flares

WORLD WAR III: Countdown to Armageddon - Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States on War Alert for Early United States-Iran Clash?! UPDATE: Drill vs. Drill - Iran's Greatest Naval War Games "The Great Prophet" Dangerously Coincides With The Largest-Ever-Joint Drills by America and Israel, "Austere Challenge 12"! UPDATE: Royal Navy Sends its Mightiest Ship to Take on the Iranian Show of Force in the Gulf!

Here is the latest entry from Debka File on the latest developments in the Middle East,  as forces gather for appears to be an unprecedented military conflict:

The armies of Saudi Arabia and fellow Gulf Cooperation Council states stood ready Thursday Jan. 5, for Washington to stand up to Iranian threats and send an aircraft carrier or several warships through the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf. Riyadh has been leaning hard on the Obama administration not to let Tehran get away with its warning to react with "full force" if the USS Stennis aircraft carrier tried to reenter the Gulf or Iran's pretensions to control the traffic transiting the world's most important oil route.

Wednesday night, the Iranian parliament began drafting a bill prohibiting foreign warships from entering the Gulf without Tehran's permission. debkafile's Washington sources report that Saudi Arabia has warned the Obama administration that Iranian leaders mean what they say; their leaders are bent on provoking a military clash with the United States at a time and place of their choosing, rather than leaving the initiative to Washington. To this end, Iranian officials are ratcheting up their belligerence day after day. Notwithstanding their military inferiority, the Iranians believe they can snatch a measure of success from a military confrontation, just as the Lebanese Hizballah did in the 2006 war against Israel. In any case, they expect any clash to be limited – at least at first. The two sides will begin by feeling for the opposite side's weaknesses while endeavoring to hold the line against a full-blown war.

America's failure to rise to Iran's challenge will confirm its rulers in the conviction that the US is a paper tiger and encourage them to press their advantage for new gains. The assessment of British military experts Thursday, Jan. 5, was that the question now is: Who will blink first? Will the US follow through on the Pentagon's assertion that the deployment of US military assets in the Persian Gulf will continue as it has for decades? Or will Iran act on its warnings and block those waters to the entry of American warships?

President Barack Obama can't afford to cave in to Iran, especially while campaigning for reelection in Nov. 2012; Tehran, for its part, has made too many threats to easily back down. The entire region is now on tenterhooks for the next move, with US, Iranian and Gulf armies on the highest war alert. American and Iranian war planners both accept that their advantage lies in surprising the enemy – without, however, catapulting the Persian Gulf into a full-dress war. US Navy publications as of Wednesday, Jan. 4 showed a sign of the times:  One ran a series of photos of F-18 Super Hornet fighter-bombers standing on the runways of the USS Stennis aircraft carrier ready for takeoff at any moment. Another depicted for the first time ever row upon row of huge bombs in the carrier's hold to show the Iranians what they are taking on.

In the view of debkafile’s military sources, the fact that the US has deployed only one large aircraft carrier in the region does not signify any reluctance on Washington's part to preserve the freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf. There is no longer a need to rush more carriers to a flashpoint in these strategic waters. The US maintains five huge air bases in the Gulf region – two, the Ali Al Salem and Ahmed Al Jaber bases, in Kuwait;  the Al Dhafra base in the UAE; and the largest air bases outside the US – Al Adid in Qatar and the Thumrait in Oman. The concentration of aircraft carriers at any given location is no longer treated as the marker of an imminent US military operation. - Debka.
UPDATE: Thousands of U.S. Soldiers Heading to Israel to Start Unprecedented Drill!

Meanwhile, a US commander visited Israel to finalize missile drill as thousands of US soldiers will be heading to Israel.

Israel, US to hold largest ever missile defense exercise this spring; thousands of US soldiers will be deployed in Israel. Israel is moving forward with plans to hold the largest-ever missile defense exercise in its history this spring amid Iranian efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. Last week, Lt.-Gen. Frank Gorenc, commander of the US’s Third Air Force based in Germany, visited Israel to finalize plans for the upcoming drill, expected to see the deployment of several thousand American soldiers in Israel. The drill, which is unprecedented in its size, will include the establishment of US command posts in Israel and IDF command posts at EUCOM headquarters in Germany – with the ultimate goal of establishing joint task forces in the event of a large-scale conflict in the Middle East.

The US will also bring its THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) and shipbased Aegis ballistic missile defense systems to Israel to simulate the interception of missile salvos against Israel. The American systems will work in conjunction with Israel’s missile defense systems – the Arrow, Patriot and Iron Dome. Gorenc came to Israel for talks with Brig.-Gen. Doron Gavish, commander of the Air Force’s Air Defense Division. He toured one of the Iron Dome batteries in the South and the Israel Test Bed lab in Holon where the IAF holds its interception simulation exercises. The IAF is planning to deploy a fourth battery of the Iron Dome counter-rocket system in the coming months and is mulling the possibility of stationing it in Haifa to protect oil refineries located there. The Defense Ministry has allocated a budget to manufacture an additional three Iron Dome batteries by the end of 2012. IAF operational requirements call for the deployment of about a dozen batteries along Israel’s northern and southern borders. The IAF is also moving forward with plans to deploy Rafael’s David’s Sling missile defense system, which is designed to defend against medium-range rockets and cruise missiles. Rafael recently completed a series of successful navigation and flight tests of the David’s Sling’s interceptor and plans to hold the first interception test by mid-2012. - JPost.
 UPDATE: Drill vs. Drill - Iran's Greatest Naval War Games "The Great Prophet" Dangerously Coincides With The Largest-Ever-Joint Drills by America and Israel, "Austere Challenge 12"!

Iran is planning to hold new “massive” naval exercises near the strategic Strait of Hormuz within the next few weeks, the country’s Fars news agency has said, as Tehran’s tensions with the West continue to escalate following threats of new sanctions against the Islamic Republic over its controversial nuclear program. Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi was quoted in the Fars report as saying the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps was planning to conduct “its greatest naval war games” near the Straight of Hormuz in the near future. The announcement came just days after the Iranian navy completed its 10-day naval exercises near the Strait of Hormuz. The drills were held after the Islamic Republic threatened to block the waterway, where an estimated 40 percent of the world's seaborne oil passes, in response to Western plans to ban oil imports from Iran. The Islamic Republic derives some 60 percent of its budget revenues from oil exports.

The newly announced Iraninan drills, codenamed The Great Prophet, may coincide with major naval exercises that Israel and the United States are planning to hold in the Persian Gulf in the near future. AP quoted on Thursday a senior Israeli military official as saying the drills would be held in the next few weeks. The exercises, called Austere Challenge 12, which both Israeli and U.S. officials have described as the largest-ever joint drills by the two countries, are designed to improve missile defense systems and co-operation between the U.S. and Israeli forces. The United States on Saturday approved sanctions targeting Iran's oil industry, and the European Union will consider banning Iranian oil imports during a meeting of EU foreign ministers in late January. The sanctions are designed to persuade Iran to drop what Western powers believe is a secret nuclear weapons program developed by Tehran. Iran denies the claims, saying its nuclear program is for purely civilian purposes. - RIANOVOSTI.
WATCH: Russia Today looks at the military build-up along the Strait of Hormuz.

UPDATE: Royal Navy Sends its Mightiest Ship to Take on the Iranian Show of Force in the Gulf!

The Royal Navy's most formidable warship is being sent to the Gulf for its first mission as tensions rise in the strategically vital region, it can be disclosed.

Iran has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, which served as the conduit for 17 millions barrels of oil every day last year. Naval commanders believe the deployment of HMS Daring, a Type 45 destroyer, will send a significant message to the Iranians because of the firepower and world-beating technology carried by the warship. Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, has publicly warned Iran that any blockade of the Strait of Hormuz would be "illegal and unsuccessful". The Daily Telegraph understands that HMS Daring has been fitted with new technology that will give it the ability to shoot down any missile in Iran's armoury. The £1 billion destroyer, which will leave Portsmouth next Wednesday, also carries the world's most sophisticated naval radar, capable of tracking multiple incoming threats from missiles to fighter jets. Daring, with its crew of 190, will transit through the Suez Canal and enter the Gulf later this month to replace the Type 23 frigate currently on station.

Iran completed a 10-day naval exercise in the sensitive waters near the Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday, staging manoeuvrings which included firing three anti-ship missiles understood to be the Chinese-made C-802. Yesterday, Tehran said that another exercise would be held in the same area next month. Admiral Ali Fadavi, commander of the naval branch of the Revolutionary Guard, warned that this would be "different" from the most recent one. Speaking earlier, Mr Hammond said that "our joint naval presence in the Arabian Gulf" was "key to keeping the Strait of Hormuz open for international trade". A Navy source has indicated that more British ships could be sent to the Gulf if required. The second Type 45, HMS Dauntless, will also be available to sail at short notice. Daring's special software upgrades will significantly increase the ability of its Sampson radar and Sea Viper missiles to destroy incoming missiles.

During an intensive "swarm attack", the vessel could simultaneously track, engage and destroy more targets than five of it predecessor Type 42 destoyers. The Sea Viper is also one of the world's most agile missiles equipped with its own radar that can allow it to hit a target a hundred miles away. Lord West, the former First Sea Lord, described Daring as a "world beater", adding: "This warship has an unbelievably capable ability to track targets, spot the most dangerous and identify them for its missiles to take out. It's highly, highly capable. I would like to see the Type 45s show their potential in the region." The 8,000 ton destroyer will carry 48 Sea Vipers that can also be used to shoot down fighters as well as sea skimming missiles. It will also carry a Lynx helicopter capable of carrying Sea Skua anti-ship missiles and is capable of embarking 60 special forces troops. An MoD spokesman said: "While the newly operational Type 45 destroyer HMS Daring is more capable than earlier ships, her deployment East of Suez has been long planned, is entirely routine and replaces a frigate on station." - Telegraph.

"BIG TROUBLE": Climatic Reversal and Winter Pattern Disruption - United States Record-Breaking Snow Drought Conditions Could Have Very Serious Implications!

The snow drought across the U.S. so far this winter has raised questions about impacts on water supply, ski resorts and agriculture. Only 22 percent of the nation was covered by snow on Jan. 4, 2012.

A snow depth analysis on Jan. 4 from 2004-2012 reveals the smallest area of the U.S. is covered by snow this year. The year 2007 ranks as the second smallest area of the U.S. with snowcover of about 27 percent. The Intermountain West, especially the Sierra of California and the mountains of Nevada and Utah, shows a substantial snow drought this year when compared to normal and past years. The northern Plains and the upper Great Lakes are other areas that have little snowcover compared to past years.

Snow Drought in the West: Water Supply and Ski Impacts.

According to the California Department of Water Resources, a snow survey on Jan. 3, 2012, suggests one of the lowest mountain snowpacks on record for the date. The statewide snowpack's water content was found to be 19 percent of the Jan. 3 average and only 7 percent of the average April 1 average. The snowpack is usually at its peak early in April before melting in the spring. Mountain snow that melts in the spring and summer accounts for about 1/3 of the water for California's households, farms and industries reported the California DWR. "Fortunately, we have most of winter ahead of us, and our reservior storage is good," stated the DWR Director Mark Cowin in a recent press release. Expert Senior Meteorologist Ken Clark, who specializes in forecasting the weather in the West, analyzed the snow depth this year in the West compared to normal.

While snowfall amounts have been well below normal this season across the Sierra to the mountains of Utah, snow amounts were above normal across this same area last winter. "After last year's huge increases in the reservoirs, one year of drought may not bring massive changes in water allocations," explained Clark of the reservoir water storage. "The weather pattern we have seen for over the last month really does not change noticeably over the next couple of weeks . . . I see no reason why there is much to be optimistic about seeing a major recovery in the snow deficit the rest of the winter." "The big impact in the short term is on the ski industry," said Clark.

Snow Drought's Agricultural Implications.

The lack of snowcover across portions of the Midwest might spell "big trouble" for winter wheat yield later this year. "If there is an arctic cold outbreak with below-zero temperatures, that could cause big problems for winter wheat, which is planted in the fall and goes dormant in the winter. Subzero cold could cause stunted growth and reduce the production for this year's wheat crop," according to Expert Senior Agricultural Meteorologist Dale Mohler. meteorologists believe that a change in the winter pattern is on the horizon, and more cold waves might penetrate the U.S. Snowcover actually acts to insulate winter wheat from arctic cold snaps, keeping the soil temperature closer to freezing rather than subzero. Mohler said the lack of storms and mild weather are the factors that have left winter wheat vulnerable. Most of the other crops of the Midwest should not be damaged by the lack of snowcover. However, many crops in this region rely on moisture from melting snow during the spring. If there is a snow deficit in the winter followed by a dry spring, that would be bad news for other crops as well. - Accu Weather.

FUK-U-SHIMA: Japan's Nuclear Dead Zone Spreading Far And Wide - Plutonium, the Most Deadly Man-Made Element, Made It Around The Planet!

A recently published study in the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity confirms that the radioactive fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster reached Europe (Lithuania), and included plutonium, the most deadly manmade element (nanogram for nanogram) in existence.

According to the study's authors the radionuclide concentrations measured indicate there was "long-range air mass transport from Japan across the Pacific, the North America and the Atlantic Ocean to Central Europe as indicated by modelling." What this means is that every region under the jet stream -- which includes half of the planet north of its equator -- could have been exposed to some degree of plutonium fall-out; a fact that is all the more disturbing when we consider there is no such thing as a safe level, and that the harm (on the human scale of time) does not dissipate: the half life of plutonium-239 is 24,200 years, and that of uranium-238 is 4,460,000,000 years, which is older than our planet.

In a past exposé, where we identified the likelihood of the occurrence we are now reporting on, we published Jet Stream radiation dispersion projections from Germany's EURAD system which showed that Radioiodine-131 and Cesium-137 were within detectable concentrations thousands of miles away from Fukushima within days after the event. This was, after all, a nuclear explosion (as occurred also at Chernobyl) producing extremely small particles moving at extremely high velocity, and not a hydrogen-based conflagration, which was erroneously reported to be the case in the first days following the disaster. - GreenMedInfo.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Mass Evacuations Near Indonesia's Lewotolo Volcano - Alert Level Raised as Volcanic Activity Increases!

Hundreds of people living near a volcano in the Indonesian province of East Nusa Tenggara were evacuated on Thursday because of increased volcanic activity, the Antara news agency reported.

About 500 people residing near Mount Lewotolok in Lembata district abandoned their homes amid the volcano's mounting activity. "Most of them left for the nearest city, Lewoleba," said Lembata Deputy District Chief Viktor Mado Watun, as quoted by Antara. "All related government officials will soon hold a coordination meeting to deal with the latest situation."

"Black smoke columns are coming out of the mountain's crater, the air is filled with the smell of sulfur while rumbling sounds are heard around the mountain," he added.

Residents decided to leave due to the increasing activity of Mount Lewotolok over the past few days, even though the government has not yet announced an evacuation plan. Viktor said ten villages are likely to be affected and suffer material losses if the volcano erupts.

On January 2, the country's Volcanology and Geology Disaster Mitigation Center (PVMBG) raised the alert level at the volcano to level 3. The center uses a warning system with four levels of alerts, with level 1 being the lowest and level 4 being the highest.

Dozens of active volcanoes in Indonesia are part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, known for frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

One of Indonesia's most active volcanoes is Mount Merapi, which is located on the island of Java near Jogjakarta, the country's second-most visited area after Bali. In 2010, more than 300 people were killed in a series of eruptions between October and November which also displaced over 300,000 people. - Channel 6 News.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Unseasonably Warm Conditions - Record-Shattering Warmth in the American Plains Moves East!

The record-shattering warmth that engulfed much of the Plains on Thursday will move eastward into the Ohio and Tennessee valleys today.

The impressively warm temperatures broke records from Wyoming to Wisconsin and from North Dakota to Kansas Thursday. Residents of the Plains had to double-check their calendars to make sure they still said "January". Some places had records broken by over 10 degrees. However, in Philip, S.D., the mercury reached a balmy 74 degrees, which absolutely obliterated the old record of 46 set back in 2002. Yes, the record high for the date was broken by almost 30 degrees. That is some seriously warm air for the month of January in South Dakota. The record warmth was due to an area of upper-level high pressure, which allowed westerly winds to flow down the slopes of the Rocky Mountains. The warmth will then spread east into the Ohio and Tennessee valleys today, where temperatures will climb to 10 to 20 degrees above average.

Temperatures will range from the 50s and 60s in the Ohio Valley, to the 70s along the central Gulf Coast. Normal highs in these areas range from the 30s and 40s north to 50s and 60s south. Most records across the region will be safe; however a few places could see thermometers warm enough to approach or even break a record. In addition to the mild January temperatures, most places will see plenty of sunshine, making for a gorgeous springlike afternoon. The only areas that won't see as much sun will be along the central Gulf Coast, where spotty showers will fall. Still, despite the showery weather, temperatures will still climb into the 70s in most places in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Like the warm temperatures in the Plains, the unseasonably warm conditions in the South won't last long. A cold front that is currently pushing into the Midwest will knock temperatures back down to seasonable levels by the end of the weekend. - Accu Weather.

MYSTERY: 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.

Two fast moving UFOs over Scotland.

Amazing fleet filmed circling Hawaii.

Stunning pyramid UFO. Date and location are unknown.

Fireball/UFO investigation in Mansfield, Ohio.

UFO over Southern California.

UFO over Southeastern North Carolina.

UFO over Illinois.

UFOs seen over Mexico.

UFOs over a crop circle in Wiltshire, UK.

Giant UFO over Auckland, New Zealand.

Giant UFO or mothership hovering above the Fukushima power plant in Japan.

UFOs over New York City.

UFOs over Japan.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Seismic Swarm at the Lascar Volcano in Chile - 300 Earthquakes in a 26 Hour Period, Alert Level Raised to Yellow!

Chile’s government declared a state of alert following a series of tremors at the Lascar volcano in the northern region of Antofagasta, home to some of the world’s largest copper mines. The government is asking local authorities to prepare for a possible escalation in volcanic activity that could threaten miners and residents, including tourists in the town of San Pedro de Atacama, the emergency service known as Onemi said in a statement on its website.

This first came up in the news yesterday, but I thought it deserved its own spot. Lascar, one of the more active volcanoes of northern Chile, was placed on heightened alert status by the ONEMI (Chilean Emergency Management) on advice from the SERNAGEOMIN (Chilean Geologic Survey). The latest report from Lascar says that over 300 small earthquakes (pdf) have occurred at the volcano in the last 26 hours, leading to an elevation of its status to Yellow – however, there have been no indications of increased fumarolic activity at the volcano. Lascar has the potential to produce a large eruptive column – the 1993 eruption sent ash as fall east as Buenos Aires – with pyroclastic flows that could reach nearby towns such as Talabre.

The volcano has been through a number of cycles of significant explosive activity over its >43,000 year history. However, recent activity is mostly lava dome formation in the summit crater followed by crater collapse and vulcanian to plinian explosive eruptions such as the major eruption of April 1993. However, it also have the potential to produce small explosions that will only dust ash on the countryside surrounding the volcano as it has done at least 6 times in the last decade. ONEMI is preparing for possible evacuations for people near the volcano – mostly either miners in the area or tourists at San Pedro de Atacama. If anything does occur, there is a webcam pointed at Lascar to see the action.

In other news from Chile, it appears that the activity at Callaqui might have been merely very vigorous fumaroles rather than ash. The news in this week’s GVP Weekly Volcanic Activity Report mentioned a pilot seeing an “ash plume” from Callaqui, but the SERNAGEOMIN said they have seen no change in the seismicity (or lack thereof) at Callaqui. OVDAS (the volcano monitoring arm of the SERNAGEOMIN) mentioned that fumaroles are common at Callaqui, especially in certain weather conditions. - Wired Science.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: La Niña Forecast to Last Into Spring of 2012, Bringing More Drought Conditions to U.S. and South America - Sparking Concern in Grain, Oilseed, Sugar and Coffee Markets!

La Niña, the weather phenomenon widely blamed for withering drought in the southwestern United States and South America, will last into the Northern Hemisphere spring of 2012, the U.S. Climate Prediction Center said on Thursday.

"The latest observations ... suggest that La Niña will be of weak-to-moderate strength this winter, and will continue thereafter as a weak event until it likely dissipates sometime between March and May," the CPC said in its monthly update. The CPC is an office under the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). La Niña, which can last for several years, is the opposite number of the more infamous El Niño anomaly.

La Niña is caused by an abnormal cooling of waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. El Niño leads to warming of those waters. Both wreak havoc in weather patterns from South and North America to India and possibly even Africa. This La Niña is already sparking concern in grain, oilseed, sugar and coffee markets. The 2011/12 corn crop of Argentina, the world's No. 2 supplier, will be smaller than initially forecast due to dry weather linked to La Niña although output should still hit a record. In leading palm grower/exporter Malaysia, severe monsoon rains from La Niña could disrupt harvesting and boost palm oil prices. Rains in the December to March period are also posing a threat to the coffee crop in Colombia, the world's top source of high quality beans.

Country Hedging Inc senior analyst Sterling Smith said La Niña may increase a "little bit" that dry conditions will persist in many key producing areas. The CPC said La Niña means "drier-than-average conditions are more likely across the southern tier of the U.S." That could pose problems for farmers planning to sow wheat or cotton in the south of the United States. Farmers in Texas, which just saw a La Niña inspire once-in-a-century drought last year, may see a second year of drought hit their cotton crop. Texas is the biggest cotton growing state in the country. A La Niña which persists to the end of the northern hemisphere spring would bring the phenomenon to the cusp of the start of the annual Atlantic hurricane season which begins on June 1. - MSNBC.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Update on the Nyamuragira Volcano in DR Congo - New Satellite Images Show Active Lava Flows!

To the delight of our expedition group heading towards Nyamuragira and Nyiragongo tomorrow, the lava flows from Nyamuragira are still active. NASA Earth Observatory has released spectacular images from 3 January showing the vast lava flows from Nyamuragira volcano's current eruption.

Nyamuragira (also spelled Nyamulagira), is a massive basaltic shield volcano located north of Goma (DR Congo) and near the other active volcano, Nyiragongo, famous for its permanent lava lake. Nyamuragira is one of Africa's largest and most active volcanoes. Its current eruption started in November 2012 from a flank vent located in an uninhabited area about 10 km ENE side of the volcano's summit. - Volcano Discovery.

After bursting to life with 300-meter (1,000-foot) tall lava fountains in November 2011, the eruption of central Africa’s Nyamuragira Volcano continued into the new year. These satellite images show the volcano on the morning of January 3, 2012. In the natural-color image (top), an active lava flow snakes to the northeast, while the central vent and a volcanic plume rich in sulfur dioxide are also visible. According to volcanologist Erik Klemetti of the Eruptions blog, the orange color and narrow trace of the flow suggest that it is open to the air, unlike flows on Kilauea which are usually carried through lava tubes. Older flows and undisturbed forest are also visible.

The false-color image (lower) shows the summit of Nyamuragira and nearby Nyiragongo Volcano. The heat of the active lava flow causes it to glow in shortwave and near-infrared light, giving a bright red-orange appearance. A lava lake within the summit crater of Nyiragongo is also glowing. These images were acquired by the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) aboard the Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite. - Earth Observatory.

EXTREME WEATHER: "Catastrophe Zone" - Nearly 50 Wildfires Rages in Chile, Kill 6 Firefighters, 1 Missing, Hundreds of Houses Destroyed, Millions in Damage!

Shifting winds caused flames to sweep over a group of firefighters battling wildfires in Chile on Thursday, killing six of them, badly burning two and leaving another missing.

A 10th firefighter listed as missing after his brigade was trapped in the flames was later found unhurt, said Gov. Miguel Mellado of Cautin, a state about 450 miles south of the capital, Santiago. Nearly 50 wildfires have sprung up in southern Chile, destroying hundreds of houses, forcing the evacuations of thousands of people and causing millions of dollars in damage to the forestry and tourism industries that fuel the economy in the country's Patagonia region. The wildfires alongside the Cordillera de la Costa are being by fueled by strong winds, unusually high temperatures and dangerously dry conditions. A sudden shift in the high winds left the group of firefighters overwhelmed by flames. "The wind trapped them and the flames passed over" the firefighters, Mellado said.

Mellado originally said five firefighters were killed, but President Sebastian Pinera raised the toll to six. Fires have blackened much of the Torres del Paine park, which attracts 150,000 tourists annually, most during the brief southern summer, and destroyed at least part of a mill run by Chile's leading timber company. Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil have answered appeals for help from Pinera, who said Thursday that a number of the blazes appeared to have been set intentionally. "We have trustworthy information that makes us suspect that behind these fires there has been criminal intent," Pinera said at a news conference in the presidential palace. A criminal investigation is being opened under Chile's severe anti-terrorism law and will be used against anyone found responsible for starting a fire, he said. Earlier in the week, an elderly man in the Bio Bio region was killed in a fire after refusing orders to evacuate his home, and another resident was reported missing. - FOX News.
WATCH: Chile brings fires under control as probe expands.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Kilauea Volcanic Eruption Enters its 30th Year in Hawaii - Volcanic Smog Adds to Oahu Emergency Room Crowding!

After almost a week with no accessible lava, pressure returns to the Kīlauea volcano. This week marks the 29th anniversary of the start of the eruption at Kilauea. Hard to believe we’ve almost completed 3 decades of eruptions. The activity is still going strong according to the latest status report of the volcano from the Hawaii Volcano Observatory.

Hawaii's ever-erupting Kilauea volcano celebrated the 29th anniversary of its current eruption  on Tuesday. Kilauea means "spewing" or "much spreading" in the Hawaiian language, referring to its frequent outpouring of lava. The volume of erupted material from Kilauea covering the land there is enough to pave a road across the world three times, making it one of the most active volcanoes on the planet. Hawaiians born after Jan. 3, 1983, have never known a time when Kilauea's PuʻuʻŌʻō cone wasn't oozing lava. "It may seem out of the ordinary to us, because for children on the island the volcano has been erupting their entire lives, but it's not that out of the ordinary for Kilauea," said Janet Babb, a geologist with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory commemorated the anniversary with a lecture on the volcano's history. More than 200 people came to the talk, which was part of the observatory's "After Dark in the Park" lecture series.

2011 was an exciting year at Kilauea. Lava rocketed from a new fissure on Kilauea’s east rift zone, between the Pu'u`Ō`ō and Napau craters. A fissure is a split in a volcano that opens in a straight line. The new fissure, called Kamoamoa, created amazingly tall lava flows. In December, scientists reported their discovery of lava deposited by Kilauea's most deadly eruption in recorded history, which killed more than 400 people in November 1790. Today, people often walk near Kilauea's sluggish rivers of lava that flow down the mountain's slopes and into the ocean. These "gentle eruptions" are rarely a threat unless people are doing something foolish, such as treading too close to the hot lava. Big crowds have swarmed on Kilauea in recent days to watch a burst of lava pour into the ocean. The lava stopped has flowing into the ocean now, but it could start again in the coming days, Babb said. Later this month, the observatory will celebrate its 100th anniversary and will open its doors, which are normally closed to the public, for an open house on Jan. 21. - MSNBC.

Medical officials say patients affected by volcanic smog are taxing Oahu's emergency rooms after the recent closures of two hospitals. Volcanic gas emissions from the Big Island's Kilauea volcano create what's commonly known as vog. If the trade-winds stop or if wind blows in the opposite direction, other islands such as Oahu experience the condition.

Honolulu EMS Director Dr. Jim Ireland told KHON-TV ( Wednesday that thick vog this week contributed to numerous calls involving respiratory complaints, headaches and watery eyes. At one point Tuesday, when the vog rolled in, only two emergency rooms were accepting ambulance patients. Hawaii Medical Center closed two bankrupt hospitals in Ewa and Liliha last month. - Boston.

During 28 December-3 January, HVO reported that the lava lake circulated and periodically rose and fell in the deep pit within Kilauea's Halema'uma'u Crater, remaining below the inner ledge (75 m below the crater floor). Almost daily measurements indicated that the gas plume from the vent continued to deposit variable amounts of ash and fresh spatter nearby. Incandescence was visible from small spatter cones on the E and S edges of the Pu'u 'O'o crater floor and along the 21 September 2011 fissure on the SE flank of the Pu'u 'O'o cone. Geologists on an overflight reported that pahoehoe lava flows were significantly broader (700-1,000 m) across the coastal plain and were entering the ocean along a 900 m wide area of the coast on 27 December. Lava flows continued to be active about 6.8 km SE of Pu'u 'O'o and entered the ocean W of Ka'ili'ili on 28 December. During 29 December-2 January a web camera showed no surface activity on the pali, weak sporadic flows near the coast, and weak plumes from the ocean entry. At night during 31 December-2 January incandescence was seen above the pali; on the night of 1 January ground based observers reported lava on the pali. Clouds prevented observations from a web camera on 3 January.

Geologic Summary. Kilauea, one of five coalescing volcanoes that comprise the island of Hawaii, is one of the world's most active volcanoes. Eruptions at Kilauea originate primarily from the summit caldera or along one of the lengthy E and SW rift zones that extend from the caldera to the sea. About 90% of the surface of Kilauea is formed of lava flows less than about 1,100 years old; 70% of the volcano's surface is younger than 600 years. A long-term eruption from the East rift zone that began in 1983 has produced lava flows covering more than 100 sq km, destroying nearly 200 houses and adding new coastline to the island. - Global Volcanism Program.