Tuesday, January 24, 2012

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Arctic Ocean Freshwater Bulge Detected - The Growth of the Bulge is Some 8,000 Cubic km in Size, Up 15cm Since 2002!

UK scientists have detected a huge dome of fresh water that is developing in the western Arctic Ocean. The bulge is some 8,000 cubic km in size and has risen by about 15cm since 2002.

The team thinks it may be the result of strong winds whipping up a great clockwise current in the northern polar region called the Beaufort Gyre. This would force the water together, raising sea surface height, the group tells the journal Nature Geoscience. "In the western Arctic, the Beaufort Gyre is driven by a permanent anti-cyclonic wind circulation. It drives the water, forcing it to pile up in the centre of gyre, and this domes the sea surface," explained lead author Dr Katharine Giles from the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling (CPOM) at University College London.  "In our data, we see the trend being biggest in the centre of the gyre and less around the edges," she told BBC News. Dr Giles and colleagues made their discovery using radar satellites belonging to the European Space Agency (ESA). These spacecraft can measure sea-surface height even when there is widespread ice cover because they are adept at picking out the cracks, or leads, that frequently appear in the frozen floes. The data (1995-2010) indicates a significant swelling of water in the Beaufort Gyre, particularly since the early part of the 2000s. The rising trend has been running at 2cm per year.

Model prediction.

A lot of research from buoys and other in-situ sampling had already indicated that water in this region of the Arctic had been freshening. This fresh water is coming in large part from the rivers running off the Eurasian (Russian) side of the Arctic basin. Winds and currents have transported this fresh water around the ocean until it has been pulled into the gyre. The volume currently held in the circulation probably represents about 10% of all the fresh water in the Arctic. Of interest to future observations is what might happen if the anticyclonic winds, which have been whipping up the bulge, change behaviour. "What we seen occurring is precisely what the climate models had predicted," said Dr Giles. "When you have clockwise rotation - the fresh water is stored. If the wind goes the other way - and that has happened in the past - then the fresh water can be pushed to the margins of the Arctic Ocean. "If the spin-up starts to spin down, the fresh water could be released. It could go to the rest of the Arctic Ocean or even leave the Arctic Ocean."

If the fresh water were to enter the North Atlantic in large volumes, the concern would be that it might disturb the currents that have such a great influence on European weather patterns. These currents draw warm waters up from the tropics, maintaining milder temperatures in winter than would ordinarily be expected at northern European latitudes. The creation of the Beaufort Gyre bulge is not a continuous development throughout the 15-year data-set, and only becomes a dominant feature in the latter half of the study period. This may indicate a change in the relationship between the wind and the ocean in the Arctic brought about by the recent rapid decline in sea-ice cover, the CPOM team argues in its Nature Geoscience paper. It is possible that the wind is now imparting momentum to the water in ways that were not possible when the sea-ice was thicker and more extensive. "The ice is now much freer to move around," said Dr Giles.

"So, as the wind acts on the ice, it's able to pull the water around with it. Depending on how ridged the surface of ice is or how smooth the bottom of the ice is - this will all affect the drag on the water. If you have more leads, this also might provide more vertical ice surfaces for the wind to blow against." One consequence of less sea-ice in the region is the possibility that winds could now initiate greater mixing of the different layers in the Arctic Ocean. Scientists are aware that there is a lot of warm water at depth. At present, this deep water's energy is unable to influence the sea-ice because of a buffer of colder, less dense water lying between it and the floes above. But if this warm water were made to well up because of wind-driven changes at the surface, it could further accelerate the loss of seasonal ice cover. The CPOM team is now investigating the likelihood of this happening with Cryosat-2, Esa's first radar satellite dedicated to the study of the polar regions. "We now have the means to measure not only the ice thickness but also to monitor how the ocean under the ice is changing," says Dr Seymour Laxon, director of CPOM and co-author of the study, "and with CryoSat-2, we can now do so over the entire Arctic Ocean." - BBC.
WATCH: UK scientists have detected a huge dome of freshwater.

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: Mass Stranding and Die-Off - 100 Pilot Whales Stranded at Farewell Spit in New Zealand, Third Time in Two Months in the South Island, 34 Died Overnight!

Another effort is to be made today to try to free a group of pilot whales stranded on Farewell Spit. Around 100 whales stranded at the Spit, on the northwest tip of the South Island, around midday on Monday.

Pilot whales are stranded in the South Island for the third time in two months.
Thirty-four whales died overnight Monday, and while some did free themselves at high tide, about 40 remained beached yesterday. Efforts to refloat those whales at high tide yesterday were unsuccessful, and early today the Department of Conservation reported 35 live animals and four dead. DOC Golden Bay area manager John Mason said the whales that were still alive were in reasonable condition, and another attempt to refloat them would be made at high tide.

About 200 people, including DOC staff, Project Jonah members and volunteers, had tried to encourage the whales to swim away yesterday. But when the tide came in the animals had not wanted to leave from the area where they stranded, and when the tide went out they had remained beached. "We have a very short period of time to try to persuade them to leave. We tried very hard yesterday to physically push them out to sea. They didn't go." The spot where the whales were stranded is close to where 25 were stranded early in January. Seven of those whales died, while 65 whales died after becoming stranded in the same area in November. - Stuff.
WATCH: Pilot whales beached on Farewell Spit.

WATCH: Fight to save stranded New Zealand whales.

TERMINATOR NOW: Rise of the Machines: Researchers Plan to Make a Robot With Touchy-Feely Skin!

This robot, lovingly named Pumpkin, might look like it was made with an oversized LEGO Mindstorm NXT kit but in the future, it could be the closest thing to a human analog. The researchers at the University of Ottawa plan to make Pumpkin look like us, with a face that can express emotions and an artificial skin that can feel just like us.

The artificial skin the scientists plan to employ is made up of an elastic silicon impregnated with tactile and temperature sensors. The sensors in the skin will allow the robot feel contact, pressure, movement, texture, and temperature through its skin just like we do. The Ottawa team also plans to make interacting with Pumpkin more life-like and natural to the point of it being a human analog. To make touching a cold, life-less robot a bit more natural and warm, a network of tubes underneath the "skin" will circulate hot water.

Eventually, the researchers will replace its head with an anatomically correct human skull covered with the same skin and a spring-loaded jaw to replicate the motion of talking. The face will also be able to mimic facial expressions such as surprise and anger with a set of actuators beneath its skin. The researchers are also making Pumpkin’s bodily movements more human-like by using a Kinect. Rather than programming Pumpkins limbs to move a certain way, the researchers are using the Kinect’s depth sensing camera to motion capture themselves and transfer the data to wire models that tell the Pumpkin how to move organically.

If the project pans out, we could have our first human-like robot with a rubbery skin. Or... - PC World.
WATCH: Living with robots.

FUK-U-SHIMA: Japan's Nuclear Dead Zone Spreads Far And Wide - The TEPCO Cover-Up Unravels, “The Government Can No Longer Pull the Wool Over the Public’s Eyes”!

TEPCO have so far covered up the extent of the radiation released by Fukushima and its health effects on the Japanese people and others, but now the evidence is overwhelming and unraveling.

The New York Times notes:
The government inspectors declared Onami’s rice safe for consumption after testing just two of its 154 rice farms. Then … more than a dozen [farmers] found unsafe levels of cesium. An ensuing panic forced the Japanese government to intervene, with promises to test more than 25,000 rice farms in eastern Fukushima Prefecture, where the plant is located.

The repeated failures have done more than raise concerns that some Japanese may have been exposed to unsafe levels of radiation in their food, as regrettable as that is. They have also had a corrosive effect on public confidence in the food-monitoring efforts, with a growing segment of the public and even many experts coming to believe that officials have understated or even covered up the true extent of the public health risk in order to limit both the economic damage and the size of potential compensation payments.

Critics say … the government can no longer pull the wool over the public’s eyes, as they contend it has done routinely in the past. “Since the accident, the government has tried to continue its business-as-usual approach of understating the severity of the accident and insisting that it knows best,” said Mitsuhiro Fukao, an economics professor at Keio University in Tokyo who has written about the loss of trust in government. “But the people are learning from the blogs, Twitter and Facebook that the government’s food-monitoring system is simply not credible.”

“No one trusts the national government’s safety standards,” said Ichio Muto, 59, who farms organic mushrooms in Nihonmatsu, 25 miles northwest of the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
The Japan Times reports:
The government buried a worst-case scenario for the Fukushima nuclear crisis that was drafted last March and kept it under wraps until the end of last year, sources in the administration said Saturday. After the document was shown to a small, select group of senior government officials at the prime minister’s office in late March, the administration of then Prime Minister Naoto Kan decided to quietly bury it, the sources said.

“When the document was presented (in March), a discussion ensued about keeping its existence secret,” a government source said. In order to deny its existence, the government treated it as a personal document of Japan Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Shunsuke Kondo, who authored it, until the end of December, the sources said. It was only then that it was actually recognized as an official government document, they said. “The content was so shocking that we decided to treat it as if it didn’t exist,” a senior government official said.
Major Japanese broadcaster NHK purportedly stopped a reporter in mid-sentence on March 12th as he was discussing the exposure of the nuclear fuel rods above the cooling pool, telling him:
They say you mustn’t read this draft.
Finally, the Economist and Boing Boing note that a Canadian journalist was grilled about who he spoke with at Fukushima, and:
Held, threatened, and shaken down for bribes before being detained without counsel or a phone call. He says he was eventually deported, though not before being ordered to sign a falsified confession and being threatened by an official at gunpoint.
(Many journalists and nuclear experts are alleged to have been monitored, harassed or blocked by the Japanese government.)

SOURCE: Washington's Blog.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Earthquake Activity Continues to Shake the Dominican Republic!

An earthquake has struck in the Dominican Republic. The preliminary magnitude was 4.5, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). This tremor hit on Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 14:33:29 UTC. It was located at: 19.586°N, 70.061°W with a depth of 2.8 km (1.7 miles) (poorly constrained).

The epicentre was at a distance of 37 km (22 miles) northeast of San Francisco de Macoris, D.R.; 68 km (42 miles) northeast of Santiago, Dominican Republic; 125 km (77 miles) north of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; and 1246 km (774 miles) southeast of Miami, Florida.

Yesterday, a moderate quake in the northern Dominican Republic but there were no reports of damage or injuries. The USGS had a preliminary magnitude of 5.1 with the epicentre in the coastal town of Rio San Juan, about 155 miles (250 kilometers) north of the capital and 22 miles (35 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco de Macoris.

However, seismology institute at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo said its equipment recorded a magnitude of 5.4.

Tremors of both were felt as far away as Cap Haitien in northern Haiti and along the west coast of Puerto Rico.

THE AGE OF OBAMA: The End of America and Birth of the Big Brother Police State - "Minority Report" Realized, As Hi-Tech Police Surveillance in New Jersey Uses Flashy Red Spotlights to Mark "Precrime" Suspects!

It was only a few weeks ago, that I suggested that the strange sounds heard around the world, mirrored those heard in the opening scenes of the Steven Spielberg directed film "War of the Worlds" starring Tom Cruise. Now it seems that the storyline from another movie from the same director and actor is coming into fruition.

Have a look at the following trailer:

WATCH: "Minority Report".

In a glowing review of the rising prevalence of high-tech big brother surveillance gadgets in police force use, the Associated Press reports that East Orange, New Jersey plans to cut crime by highlighting suspects with a red-beamed spotlight– before any crime is committed– a “pre-crime” deterrent to be mounted on nearby street lights or other fixtures.
According to the report, police officers monitor hundreds of video feeds from across the city and opt to brand would-be criminals with a red glow if they believe they are about to engage in a crime, such as a street corner mugging. “Whereas London has talking cameras, we’re about to deploy light projecting cameras, better known as light-based intervention systems.” said William Robinson, Police Chief for East Orange. He added, “The message to criminals is, we’re observing you, the police are recording you, and the police are responding.” As Robinson mentioned, other “pre-crime” measures have been deployed both in the UK and United States, as well as other countries. Talking cameras in the UK bark orders at ‘anti-social’ offenders, while the Homeland Stasi here has partnered with Intellistreets to release “smart” street lights capable of saving energy while monitoring & recording citizens, as well as displaying government-mandated emergency alerts on digital banners. Now “pre-crime” spotlights that bathe surveillance targets in a criminally-branded red color will help complete the circle of preemptive suspicion.
But that’s just one flashy feature in a rash of new high-tech solutions provided to the crime-ridden city under federal grant money. In East Orange, and probably a locale near you, too, everyone is a “pre-crime” suspect until proven innocent. The video goes on to brag that officer squad cars also scan the license plates of every single vehicle they pass, checking them against a variety of lists– from terrorist monitor lists, to unpaid parking tickets, warrants and more. Officers can then pull over vehicles that match watch lists, even if the driver has committed no violations to draw attention from the patrol vehicle. Further, cameras tied into police video monitor stations can also be accessed from squad cars; officers can zoom in on nearby locations to determine if a situation is underway, or if a suspect can be identified. The red light is intended to help track a would-be criminal once surveillance is already underway. A spokesperson for the ACLU noted a worrisome climate of monitoring and spying on political groups, anti-abortion activists and more. Meanwhile, the MIAC Missouri law enforcement memo, as well as similar documents released from the Department of Homeland Security, have made clear that returning veterans and supporters of third party political candidates and many other groups are note only considered “domestic extremists,” but have been put on law enforcement watch lists as well as anti-terrorism databases. It has further been revealed that numerous non-violent political groups and grassroots campaigns have been labeled as “terrorists” and monitored by regional Fusion Centers. - Info Wars.
WATCH: Red Lights Newest "Precrime" Technique.

CELESTIAL CONVERGENCE: Signs in the Heavens - Rare and Stunning Astronomical Occurrence; Venus to Cross the Face of the Sun This Year!

On your 2012 calendar, be sure to put a big red circle around June 5.  On that day, a celestial occurrence that will not be seen by human eyes until well into the 22nd century — the year 2117 to be exact — will take place. The planet Venus will cross the face of the sun.

Through the balance of this winter season and well into the spring of 2012, Venus will gradually climb higher in the sky and grow progressively brighter, eventually becoming an "evening lantern" for those commuting home from work and school. By the end of May 2012, however, Venus will be rapidly dropping back toward the sun's vicinity, ultimately to disappear as it makes the transition back into the morning sky.  That transition day will come on June 5.

Normally, Venus would pass unseen, hidden in the brilliant glare of the sun. But not this time. From June 5-6, 2012, an exceedingly rare occurrence is to take place: from here on Earth, we will be able to see Venus cross in front of the sun, making itself evident as a small black spot slowly moving across the solar disk.

Rare celestial spectacle.

This is among the rarest of astronomical events. In fact, between the years 2000 B.C. and 4000 A.D., there have been only 81 Venus transits.  Humans have recorded witnessing only six of them (in 1639, 1761, 1769, 1874, 1882, and most recently, in 2004).  It's not impossible that a transit of this planet might have once been seen by chance in ancient times, near sunrise or sunset.  Or perhaps some ancient observer with a keen eye, viewing the sun on an unusually hazy day, might have glimpsed Venus's dark image (reporting it as "a dark mark on the sun") on the solar disk.

Soon after the transit of 1882 had taken place, the French astronomer Camille Flammarion, sometimes referred to as the "Carl Sagan of the 19th century" because of his many popular books and articles on astronomy, compiled a listing of transits running from 1631 to 2984. "We see that astronomers do not allow themselves to be taken unawares," Flammarion wrote. "Astronomy is, after all, the only science which enjoys the privilege of reading the future as it does the past, and it avails itself of it.  The special details of the 'approaching' transit of June 8 of the year 2004 have already been calculated with precision, as well as those of the transit of June 5, 2012, and we might almost say that the various expeditions are arranged, with the exception of the names of the astronomers who will take part in them."

The circumstances of the transits of Venus repeat themselves with great exactness after a period of 243 years. The intervals between individual transits (in years) currently go as follows: 8 + 121.5 + 8 + 105.5 = 243.  In other words, a pair of transits may occur over a time span of just eight years, but following the second transit, the next will not occur again for more than a century. Transits of Venus occurred on Dec. 9, 1874 and Dec. 6, 1882. The upcoming Venus transit of June 5, 2012 is the first one since 2004. Should anyone miss it, it will unfortunately be a long wait once again, until Dec. 11, 2117, when Venus will again pass in front of the sun — a bit too far into the future for most of us.

Regions of Visibility.

On June 5, the entire transit will last almost 6 3/4hours and will be visible in some form across approximately three-quarters of our planet. The beginning will be visible from the northwestern part of South America, and all of North America, Hawaii, central and western Asia, New Zealand and the eastern two-thirds of Australia. The end will be visible from northern and northwestern North America, New Zealand, Australia, Asia, the eastern half of Africa and most of Europe. From the contiguous 48 states as well as most of Canada, the beginning stages occur before sunset. For much of Europe, the sun will rise on the morning of June 6, with Venus already on the sun's disk with the transit nearly over.

Unfortunately, those living across the western half of Africa, southern and western parts of Spain, all of Portugal and the central and eastern parts of South America will be precluded from seeing any part of this spectacle, as the sun will be below the horizon when it is taking place. Quite unlike the transits of Mercury, those of Venus are readily visible with the unaided eye. When Venus is in transit across the solar disk, the planet appears as a distinct, albeit tiny, round black spot with a diameter just 1/32 that of the sun. This size is large enough to perceive with the naked eye.

However,prospective observers must take special precautions (as with a solar eclipse) in attempting to view the silhouette of Venus against the blindingly brilliant disk of the sun. Looking directly at the sun without eye protection could cause serious injury. - SPACE.

THE PACIFIC "RING OF FIRE": The Australasia Extreme Weather Watch - Severe Earth Changes Hits North Territory, East and West Coasts; Perth Braces for Record-Breaking Heatwave; Tropical Lows Combine to Form Monster Cyclone System!

Residents north of Brisbane have been told to evacuate as rising floodwaters threaten homes amid heavy downpours in the state's southeast.

Moreton Bay Regional Council warned residents of Dale St in Burpengary and the immediate surrounds should leave their homes. "Council is warning local residents there may be a significant risk of flood damage to low-lying properties in the area as the river height at the Dale Street gauge rose to 8.8 m at 3:30pm," a statement said. It's understood about a dozen properties are under immediate threat. Council staffers are standing by to man the Narangba Community Centre for residents who cannot stay with friends or family. Earlier, Moreton Bay Regional Council mayor Allan Sutherland said the district north of Brisbane had copped a drenching and the rain did not look like stopping. "Its fair to say it's going to be a long night," Mr Sutherland told AAP. Some houses in the Moreton Bay region were inundated one year ago during flash flooding in January's big wet. Mr Sutherland said some parts of the region had received 150mm of rain, and 50 roads had been closed with another 50 on the verge of being closed. "We could end up with somewhere in excess of 100 roads closed by tomorrow morning if this inundation continues," he said. Earlier four children were rescued from a swollen creek in the suburb of Morayfield, and there have been reports of homes evacuated on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts.

Meanwhile, water over train tracks between Sandgate and Shorncliffe, north of Brisbane, has delayed rail services. State emergency volunteers have received 280 calls for assistance for leaking roofs and minor inundation across Queensland between midnight and 4pm (AEST) on Tuesday. The Sunshine Coast has copped the heaviest falls, with 225mm of rain recorded at Sugar Bag Rd, north of Caloundra, since 9am. Earlier, Stieglitz Wharf, near Jacobs Well on the Gold Coast, recorded 76mm of rain in just one hour. NSW to be swamped as Perth sizzles. The rest of eastern Australia will also not be spared, with the monsoonal weather expected to head south down the NSW coast over the next few days and a record-breaking heatwave scorching Perth during Australia Day celebrations. A flood warning remains current for coastal rivers and streams from Rainbow Beach to the NSW border and adjacent inland catchments. The same warnings are current on the NSW mid-north coast, with some communities already cut off by rising waters. The SES reports the main concern is the town of Bellingen which could be cut off by this afternoon. The town's bridge is under water as rivers and creeks break their banks, weatherzone.com.au reports. Darcy Browning has lived in the upper Bellinger catchment for almost 50 years and says it is shaping up to be a big flood. "We have what I regard as, at this stage, the bottom end of what I consider to be a major flood and it's still raining very heavily," he told Fairfax Media.

Seven days of continuous rain is forecast in the region, with large swells expected. The bureau is predicting swells up to three metres, with beach closures around Port Macquarie. Lifeguards are warning swimmers to be extremely careful, especially over the Australia Day holiday. In more wild weather, a cyclone was predicted to form over the Top End this week, but has now been downgraded. The low pressure system is still hovering over the coastline, threatening heavy rain, damaging winds, large waves and abnormally high tides. The northern coast has seen progressively heavier falls over recent days, with the strengthening of the monsoon trough and the formation of a low pressure centre along this trough-line. While the Northern Territory and eastern states deal with a wet lashing, Western Australians are being warned to slip, slop, slap on Australia Day or stay indoors. Temperatures are expected to exceed 40+ degrees for the next seven days. As mercury soars, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) is urging people to stay hydrated and limit alcohol consumption. "With the combination of the hot weather, the high humidity and Australia Day celebrations, I would expect that there's going to be more people presenting with heat exhaustion and the symptoms of heat stroke," Richard Choong from the AMA said. "It's up to all of us to make sure that we're drinking enough water, wearing sunscreen, protected and taking time out of the heat." If you want to get away from the wild weather, it could be worth a trip to Victoria or South Australia this Australia Day holiday. More enjoyable temperatures are expected in southern states over the course of the next week. - News Australia.
Perth braces for record-breaking heatwave.

MERCURY RISING:  Perth set for record breaking heatwave.

Perth has begun what is expected to be a record-breaking heatwave this week, while Western Australia's North-West prepares for a potential cyclone and thunderstorms. The Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA) is urging people to ensure they are ready for all types of weather this week. Perth residents are expected to experience the city's hottest consecutive number of days of high temperatures since 1965, with the mercury forecast to hover around 40 degrees for the next seven days and peaking on Saturday with a 42C scorcher. Bureau of Meteorology manager of weather services Grahame Reader said the temperature was expected to hit 40C on Australia Day, before dropping to 30C during the evening. “The last time we saw 40 degree temperatures over four days was in 1933,” he said. FESA acting chief Lloyd Bailey said the although the conditions would be uncomfortable, they were unlikely to be extreme enough to trigger a catastrophic fire rating which could force the cancellation of the Skyworks show. In the north of the state, a tropical low which has formed off  the Exmouth coast has the potential to develop into a tropical cyclone. It has the potential to bring heavy rain and flooding to the Pilbara region over the next few days. - Perth Now.
Twin tropical lows could combine to form monster cyclone system, Bureau.

Wild weather is forecast for North Western Australia.
A low pressure system north of Karratha and north east of Broome has a high chance of forming a cyclone on Wednesday. But it's fighting for supremacy with another tropical low, further out in the Indian Ocean. Andrew Burton from the Bureau of Meteorology says there are three possible outcomes. We could see two cyclones form, but if they are too close to each other, they'll either suppress each other or merge to form one large system. "They'll either try to destroy each other or they'll wrap up and become one big monster system" said Mr Burton. A lot of rain is expected to be associated with this system. If it crosses the coast at Karratha, it could cause heavy rains as far away as Derby. It is also expected to generate a large swell that will affect the North West Coast. Another tropical low is developing north of Arnhem Land. The Bureau says there is a moderate chance that this system will become a cyclone this Wednesday. It's possible that it could track west and could bring wind and rain to the East Kimberley. - ABC Australia.

Chance of NT cyclone as monsoon develops. 

A tropical cyclone could develop off the Northern Territory coast later this week, with a severe weather warning already in place. The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) today predicted heavy rain, damaging winds and abnormally high tides off the north coast as a strengthening monsoon trough develops. There is a moderate chance a cyclone could form tomorrow or Thursday, duty forecaster David Matthews said. "At this stage there is a low chance a cyclone will develop on Tuesday," Mr Matthews said. Heavy rains resulting in flash flooding are expected today over the northern Darwin, Daly and Arnhem areas, including the Tiwi Islands and the Cobourg Peninsula. Monsoon squalls with damaging winds of up to 90 kilometres per hour are also forecast, with northwesterly winds likely to cause tides to exceed the normal high tide zone in coastal areas between Cape Don and Cape Shield. Between 9pm (CST) on Monday and 3am (CST) today, 59 millimetres of rain fell at Black Point on the Cobourg Peninsula, while the Tiwi Islands copped a battering of 50mm. "Isolated storms are continuing in those areas, with a very strong squall line expected to keep moving along the coast throughout the day," Mr Matthews said. - Herald Sun.

EXTREME WEATHER: Cold Snap Continues in United Arab Emirates - Met Department Records Sub-Zero Temperatures at Jebel Jais Area of Ras Al Khaimah, Lowest Temperatures for the Year!

The UAE will wake up to the 'chilling' news that the cold snap that has enveloped the country will continue through the week.

The weatherman at the National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS) recorded sub-zero temperatures at Jebel Jais area of Ras Al Khaimah and forecast that these conditions are set to continue for the rest of the week. Unaccustomed to the chill, UAE residents are putting up a brave front as a cold wave continues to spread across the length and breadth of the country, with extreme weather conditions sweeping mountainous regions and the country recording its lowest temperatures for the year yesterday.

According to the NCMS forecast for today, minimum temperatures are set to dip to 0°C in the UAE’s mountainous regions while internal areas could see temperatures dipping to a nippy 5°C and coastal areas could see minimum temperatures of 13°C. The NCMS forecast reads: “Cold weather during daytimes to very cold during night. The cloud amount will increase at times, especially over the northern areas, with chance of light rain. Winds will be west to northwesterly, moderate to fresh in general. Sea will be moderate to rough with wave height 3 - 5 / 6 ft offshore.” Rough weather has prompted a warning to beachgoers across the UAE to refrain from venturing into the sea. The UAE’s met department has predicted that the rough weather will continue until Friday. Strong winds have been buffeting Dubai since early morning and drivers are advised to be careful too. - Emirates 24/7.

EXTRATERRESTRIAL & UFO MEMES: Mysterious UFO Sighting in Devon, Plymouth, England - Glowing Red Object Shoots Across the Sky, Captured on Photograph!

Gary McDermott snapped the glowing red UFO, with bright flashing lights, after stopping his car to photograph a low-flying helicopter in Plymouth.

The disc-shaped UFO flashed across the sky - just as he was taking the picture - before it disappeared into the night at 9pm on Sunday. Mr McDermott, who was working night shifts on the city's famous Royal Albert Bridge, said: "I just couldn't believe what I had just seen. "It must have been a UFO - and I cannot believe I am saying that because I don't believe in them usually. I am always sceptical. "But this was definitely not a normal aircraft. It was red, the shape they say UFO aircraft is, and had two bright lights coming out of it.

"It came into shot just as I took the picture - then as soon as I said to my mate 'look what I have just seen', it disappeared. "Apparently there have been a few other similar sightings across Britain in recent weeks." On January 6 two mysterious bright lights were spotted floating over Chatham in Kent. Less than a week later four similar lights were seen over Essex - but none were as clear as Gary's Devon snap. Devon and Cornwall Police said they had not been informed of any reports of UFO sightings in the area. - Telegraph.

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Disaster Precursors - 5,000 Fish Found Dead in Perth's Swan River in Australia; Another Incident of Weird Animal Behavior in the Australasia Region!

Low oxygen levels and hot weather are believed to have killed thousands of fish in Perth's Swan River.

About 5,000 dead fish were discovered between the Middle Swan Bridge and the Ellen Brook in the upper reaches of the river. Swan River Trust spokesman Mark Cugley says recent rain and hot weather have decreased oxygen levels in the waterway and that particular area is outside the reach of the river's oxygenation plants.

"Sudden rainfall often drags nutrient-rich organic matter into the river and this typically causes oxygen levels to rapidly drop below levels suitable for fish and other aquatic fauna," he said. It is something that is of a concern, and although we believe the cause was low oxygen levels in the water column, we are monitoring the water quality and sending off samples of those fish for that to be clarified." Mr Cugley says most of the fish appear to be juvenile black bream with the remainder being trumpeter. - ABC Australia.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Academics Sees High Earthquake Probability in Tokyo - Scientists Declares Major Tremor is More Likely Than Government Says?!

A major earthquake is far more likely to hit Tokyo in the next few years than the government predicts, researchers at the University of Tokyo said on Monday, warning companies and individuals to be prepared for such an event.

Tokyo faces the possibility of being hit by a massive earthquake within the next four years, according to Japanese researchers. The University of Tokyo's Earthquake Research Institute predicts there is a 70% probability that the capital's metropolitan area will experience a magnitude-7 quake within four years and a 98% probability within the next 30 years. Nearly one year ago, a magnitude 9.0 quake struck off Japan's central Pacific coast, triggering a devastating tsunami and aftershocks that left more than 15,700 dead, according to a government report in December on Japan's recovery from the catastrophe. About 4,500 were listed as missing. Nearly 700 aftershocks registering magnitude 5 or greater followed last year's quake, the government report said.

The March 11 earthquake -- dubbed "Tohoku" after the region in which it occurred -- also damaged the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station, where three reactors experienced full meltdowns, creating a nuclear crisis for a country already grappling with disaster. The research institute cited for its findings the Gutenberg Richter Law, which states that an increase in small tremors will likely increase the number of larger earthquakes. According to another paper published in September, the institute concluded that the quake ruptured a fault area nearly 500 kilometers in length and 200 kilometers wide offshore.

The fourth strongest quake recorded in history, Tohoku caused abrupt stress changes in the upper plate and triggered widespread seismic activity throughout the Japanese island. The northern part of Ibaraki Prefecture, in particular, saw a significant increase of shallow seismicity after the quake compared with the extremely low rate eight years prior, the researchers said.

How precise are seismic forecasts?

Gary Gibson, a seismologist at Australia's Seismology Research Centre Seismology Research Centre, called the Earthquake Research Institute's findings "not at all unexpected," given the level of seismic activity and their model. "Seismologists cannot predict with certainty when, where and how large the next big earthquake will be," he wrote in an e-mail to CNN. "However, it is possible to forecast the probability of an earthquake in a particular time range (e.g. the next four years), location area (e.g. the Tokyo region), and magnitude range (e.g. greater than magnitude 7.0). "Long-term forecasts use average activity levels from past earthquakes, geological data from fault displacements, and data about plate movement and deformation from very precise GPS measurements and other methods to determine these probabilities."

What is the government saying?

The government's Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion had put a 70% probability of a magnitude-7 quake in Kanto region, which encompasses Tokyo and Yokohama, within 30 years, based on long-term seismicity and hazard studies. Scientists have already dubbed as "Tokai" an expected 8.0 quake near Suruga Bay, where large quakes have historically struck every 100-150 years, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. The last one, a magnitude-8.4 quake, occurred in 1854 -- nearly 160 years ago. According to Gibson, the seismologist, the enhanced seismicity in the area affected by the Tohoku quake may fall towards normal levels and could affect the research institute's findings. Results for the six-month period after the quake would become available after this coming March 11, the quake's anniversary, he noted.

Why is Japan so prone to earthquakes?

The Japanese archipelago and neighboring areas rest on or around four tectonic plates -- the Pacific, Philippine Sea, North American and Eurasian plates -- whose movements account for one of the most seismically active places on earth.

Can Tokyo withstand a 7.0 quake?

Gibson said that while the area is a very active one seismically, building standards are high, therefore reducing the damage caused by earthquakes. Buildings in Tokyo held up well in the face of the "Tohoku" quake. Reinforced concrete and anti-seismic systems in buildings are among features that have helped absorb shocks when earthquakes occur.

Watch Tokyo's quake-proof communities.

"A magnitude 7.0 earthquake is very much smaller than the magnitude 9.0 Tohoku earthquake," he wrote. "It would need 1,000 magnitude-7.0 earthquakes to release as much strain energy as the magnitude 9.0. The fault rupture size is tens of kilometers, rather than hundreds of kilometers, and the fault displacement two to three meters rather than 20 to 30 meters." Serious damage could be limited, if it occurs offshore, he added. And the shallower the quake, such as within 10 kilometers of the surface, the more localized the damage. - CNN.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Explosive Volcano May Lurk Beneath California's Death Valley - Dramatic Crater Ubehebe Might Still be Restive, and Plenty of Liquid Hot Magma May Still be Lurking Beneath it!

California's Death Valley, already one of the hottest places on Earth, may have the potential to get a whole lot hotter - and live up to its name in a surprising (and possibly scary) new way, according to new research.

Scientists have long known that the craters that pepper this dry landscape were formed by long-ago volcanic eruptions, triggered when hot magma ascending from inside the planet hit pockets of water. Some researchers now think the area erupted far more recently than thought, meaning the parched swath of central California, home to desolate salt flats and scalding temperatures, could be primed for a follow-up. Dates for the geological catastrophe are fuzzy, but researchers used to think that Death Valley's largest crater, a half-mile (0.8 kilometer) wide gash in the Earth nearly 800 feet (240 meters) deep, formed in 4000 BC. Yet new evidence uncovered by a team of scientists at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory suggests the dramatic crater, called Ubehebe, last erupted only 800 hundred years ago.

Although that may sound like ancient history, in geological time 800 years is a mere blip. And because the crater formed relatively recently, it might still be restive, and plenty of liquid hot magma may still be lurking beneath it. The cataclysmic explosion that formed the crater was likely a terrifying spectacle, according to the study's authors, whose work is published in the current issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters. When the hot magma hit groundwater, the interaction likely produced a powerful explosion that smashed a hole through the overlying rocks, sending out a scalding-hot mushroom cloud of deadly gases that raced across the ground at 200 mph (320 kph).

"It would be fun to witness - but I'd want to be 10 miles away," said study co-author Brent Goehring, in a statement from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. The evidence comes from chemical signatures trapped in small fragments of rocks the team gathered near Ubehebe. Dating techniques and analysis revealed that the rocks were birthed by eruptions that happen once every 1,000 years or so, and that the most recent large eruption occurred around the year 1300. That could put the present day within the geological cross hairs, according to Nicholas Christie-Blick, a Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory professor. "There is no basis for thinking that Ubehebe is done," Christie-Blick said in a statement. However, there's a good chance the crater would provide plenty of warning ahead of any deadly fireworks. The awakening volcano could set off small earthquakes and open steam vents as early as a year before an eruption, the scientists noted. - Our Amazing Planet.

DELUGE: Mozambique Double-Punched by Two Indian Ocean Storms - Cyclone Funso Kills 12 in Central Mozambique; 5,000 People Have Been Displaced; Just Days After Tropical Storm Dando Pounded the Southern Region, Killing 5, the First Storm to Hit the Area Since 1984!

At least 12 people have been killed and thousands displaced when cyclone Funso hit central Mozambique at the weekend, state television said Monday.

"The deaths occurred in five districts in Zambezia" province, Mozambique Television said, citing the National Disaster Management Institute. Seven deaths were reported in Manganja da Costa, two in Nicoadala, one in Namacurra, one in Pebane and one in the provincial capital Quelimane, the report said. About 5,000 people were displaced when heavy rains pounded the region, causing damage to the only road linking the capital Maputo and the northern areas.

National Institute of Meteorology spokesman Sergio Buque predicted that Funso will continue to batter the coast of Zambezia, Sofala and north of Inhambane provinces, with heavy rains and gusts up to 120 kilometres (75 miles) per hour on Monday. Cyclones accompanied by heavy rains often hit Mozambique in the early part of the year. Five people died last week when tropical storm Dando pounded southern Mozambique, sending thousands of people fleeing to higher ground. - Times Live.

Tropical Cyclone Funso still a danger to Mozambique. 
Powerful, dangerous Tropical Cyclone Funso has continued to lash central Mozambique with flooding rain and damaging winds, even as it drifts away from the immediate coast. At least 10 people in Mozambique have been killed, and thousands of people have been driven from their homes, owing to a series of storms that began early last week, the AP said on Monday. In an incident related to the early stages of Funso's development, there were apparently no survivors from ferry carrying 54 people that sunk on Jan. 18 off the Comoros Islands, the French language linfo.re said. At least 15 bodies were recovered. The Category 2 to Category 3 storm hovered nearly stationary within 50 to 100 miles the coast between the towns of Angoche and Quelimane between Friday and Sunday, when its center began to pull slowly away to the southeast. Highest sustained winds since Friday have ranged mostly from 105 to 115 mph, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC).

Owing to the long duration of high winds and torrential rain, reaches of the coast near the storm's offshore center may have suffered severe damage. High waves and storm tides undoubtedly battered the coast. Early Tuesday morning, top winds were reckoned by the JTWC to be about 130 mph, or those of a Category 3 hurricane. Drifting southeastward at less than 5 mph, the storm's eye had slipped to more than 500 miles off the coast of Mozambique. Official forecasts, such as that of the JTWC, have Funso remaining a powerful, dangerous cyclone over water for much of the week. Intensity is expected to reach Category 4 status. Movement is forecast to be mostly towards the east between Mozambique and Madagascar. Forecast tools seen by AccuWeather.com tend to support the intensity and path favored by official meteorologists. The most likely path would steer the worst of the storm's potentially catastrophic winds away from land. Even so there is at least a small chance for a turn towards land. - Accu Weather.

Mozambique struggles with flooding after storms.

Double-punched by two Indian Ocean storms, the southern African nation of Mozambique on Tuesday struggled with the destruction of a portion of its main national highway, cut-off communications and a reported death toll of 18, according to the nation's National Institute for Natural Disasters. Tropical Cyclone Funso is lashing the central portion of the country, causing flooding along the Incomati River. Officials fear fuel and food shortages will start hit northern cities in Mozambique that usually get supplies via roadway from the capital, Maputo. Funso currently has winds of 213 kph (about 132 mph), which would make it equal to a Category 4 major hurricane if located in the Atlantic, said CNN Senior Meterologist Brandon Miller. The center of circulation is in the Mozambique Channel, between central Mozambique and the island of Madagascar.

It is forecast to strengthen as it meanders south through the Mozambique Channel over the next several days, Miller said. The storm is spreading rainfall over much of Mozambique and Madagascar, and this will continue for several days as the storm is moving very slowly, Miller said. Last week, southern Mozambique was hit by heavy rains from tropical depression Dando. Cecilio Grachane, the chief of the National Roads Administration, expects provisional repairs will be done on the nation's critical north-south highway by Wednesday. But because of poor communication, traffic continues to move toward the place where the waters of the Incomati are overwashing the highway. Prime Minister Aires Ali visited the area on Sunday, urging people to not move on the road before they get clear advice on road and weather conditions. On Monday, small boats were helping move people trapped by floodwaters along the highway. The Movene River, a tributary of the Umbeluzi, has risen substantially, limiting access to the Umbeluzi water treatment station on which Maputo relies for its water supply. Water used by residents of the capital city now has a brown color. - CNN.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Magnitude 4.7 Earthquake Rocks Big Island, Hawaii - Tremor Strikes Near Kilauea Volcano!

A magnitude-4.7 earthquake and several small aftershocks shook Hawaii's Big Island on Sunday, but there were no reports of injury or damage.

The quake struck beneath the south flank of Kilauea volcano in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park at 4:36 p.m. (6:36 p.m. PST) at a depth of five miles, according to a report from the U.S. Geological Survey. The epicenter was about 25 miles south of Hilo and 220 miles southeast of Honolulu. The National Weather Service said there was no tsunami threat. About 20 small aftershocks came in the hours that followed, the largest a magnitude-3.1 about 10 minutes after the original quake. The temblor was widely felt in Hilo and throughout the island, with about 600 people reporting that they felt light-to-moderate shaking, according to the USGS website.

The quake was initially measured at magnitude-5.0, but it was adjusted to magnitude-4.7 after a seismologist's review. Joe Lopez, 70, said he felt a "pretty good jolt" at his home in Hilo. Lopez told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser the quake sent books and other items tumbling to the floor. There have been no reports of injury or damage, said Michael Yoshimura of Hawaii State Civil Defense. Yoshimura said the agency opened its Hilo Emergency Operating Center immediately after the quake, but closed it down when no calls came in after 45 minutes. The quake struck near the so-called Holei Pali area of Kilauea's south flank has had 16 earthquakes of magnitude-4.5 or greater in the past 50 years — eight of them since 1983, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory spokeswoman Janet Babb said in a statement Sunday night. The observatory has not detected any significant changes in activity at the summits or rift zones of the Kilauea or Mauna Loa volcanoes, Babb said. - Huffington Post.

DELUGE: Deadly Storm Batters Fiji Island - 1 Dead, Mass Evacuations, the Worst Floods on the Northern Island of Vanua Levu in 3 Years!

More than 400 New Zealanders are understood to be in Fiji as the island nation is battered by a deadly storm.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Tourism said last night it had no reason to suspect any Kiwis were in any danger, but urged them to contact the High Commission if they needed help. Yesterday heavy flooding struck the Fijian tourist hub of Nadi and the northern city of Ba as a large tropical depression hit the region. By last night, more than 20 evacuation centres had been set up in Nadi while Ba was under nearly 2m of water. The flooding has already claimed one life after a 30-year-old farmer trying to save his pigs in Dogoru River, Labasa, was caught in the rushing waters and became trapped in branches. In Ba alone, 133 evacuees are at a kindergarten while five more families have taken shelter in a school, Fiji Broadcasting reported.

The heavy rain in Fiji also caused the worst floods on the northern island of Vanua Levu in three years. A spokesman from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Tourism said there were 428 New Zealanders registered as being in Fiji. But he said they had no reason to suspect any of them would be in the areas most affected by the flooding. "We would advise that anyone over there to keep in touch with their family and friends over here and to register their travel details on the Safe Travel website - safetravel.govt.nz. "And the other bit of advice for New Zealanders is that if they are in trouble and need assistance, they should contact the High Commission."

Forecasters predicted there would not be any relief from the flooding until at least tomorrow. The Fiji Meteorological Service said heavy rain would continue to fall over much of Fiji until tomorrow, causing more flooding in low-lying areas throughout the country. But despite the flood warning, Fiji's Ministry of Information said the first day of the school term would be tomorrow as scheduled. Education district officers were asked to closely monitor the situation and it was at their discretion as to whether a school needed to be closed. The ministry also asked members of the public to refrain from crossing flooded roads and rivers and to continue listening to the radio for further updates on the weather. In 2009, hundreds of tourists from New Zealand and Australia were stranded by flooding in the same areas that have been hit this week. At the time, authorities declared a state of emergency in areas struck by a tropical storm, which killed eight people and left more than 9000 displaced. - NZ Herald.