Tuesday, January 31, 2012

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: Disaster Precursors - Mass Stranding Continues in Massachusetts With Mysterious Cape Cod Beachings?!

More than 100 dolphins have stranded themselves along Cape Cod's 25-mile coastline in the last three weeks, and the number is growing.

Two stranded common dolphins wait to be transported to a waiting vehicle by a team from the
International Fund for Animal Welfare at Herring River in Wellfleet, Mass., Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012.
Rescuers there say it's just about the worst they've ever seen. And scientists are still looking for answers. The alarming number of dolphins beaching themselves along the 25-mile Cape Cod coastline was baffling scientists for a third week. On Monday, they responded to a call that three dolphins were approaching shore. Two swam away unharmed, but one got too close to the beach and needed intervention by rescuers from the International Fund for Animal Welfare. The animal later died and, along with three more carcasses discovered over the weekend, the number of dolphin beachings swelled to 102, nearly the normal amount for an entire year.

Katie Moore, manager of the Marine Mammal Rescue Team, says she simply doesn't know why this is happening. Marine biologist Misty Niemeyer has been examining the bodies of dolphins that did not survive, looking for clues. "One thing it might tell us," she explains, "is, if all of these animals do look healthy, than we know that they were a healthy group of dolphins and that it was more likely something geographic or weather-related, something like that -- not an emerging disease or toxins or anything like that."

Two dozen of those stranded dolphins were saved and safely released back into the ocean, with electronic tags enabling scientists to track their movements.  While many of the dolphins have traveled far away from Cape Cod, the already overworked rescue crews continue to monitor dozens of dolphins that remain offshore in Cape Cod Bay.  Is this the most intense two-week period of Niemeyer's career?  "It's been about the most intense," she responded. "We've had a few strandings like this in the past, but these last few weeks have definitely been pretty intense as far as the numbers of animals that have been coming in in a short period of time (is concerned)."  Scientists are scheduled to brief Congress on the situation later this week. - CBS News.
WATCH: CBS News reports.

EXTREME WEATHER: Harsh Drought Dries Up Mexico's Marijuana Crop - Forcing Drug Cartels to Increase Production of Synthetic Drugs!

Drug growers in Mexico are feeling the heat, but not from enhanced government security. A harsh drought has reduced their crops of marijuana and opium poppies and is forcing cartels to ramp of their production of other, synthetic drugs.

A soldier stands guard among marijuana plants at an illegal plantation found during a military operation
on Friday at the Culiacan mountains, northern Mexico, Monday, Jan. 30, 2012. The drought in northern
Mexico is so bad that it has hurt even illicit drug growers and their normally well-tended crops of
marijuana and opium poppies, Gen. Pedro Gurrola, commander of army forces in the state of Sinaloa,
said Monday. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte) (AP2012)
One effect of the lack of rains is that drug planting has "declined considerably," said Gen. Pedro Gurrola, commander of army forces in the state of Sinaloa, the cradle of the drug cartel by the same name. Gurrola said army surveillance flights have detected fewer plantations than in previous years. "We can see a lot less than in other years," Gurrola told reporters. "It depends a lot on conditions. As you can see, everything is dry."

Mexico's Drought Hurting Marijuana Growers

He said planters were still trying to eke out crops. "They try to adapt. Where there is a stream, a pit, they put pumps and hoses in there and try to produce as much as they can." But an army spokesman, Gen. Ricardo Trevilla, stressed that didn't mean a drop-off in the overall production of drug cartels. Trevilla, who was interviewed separately, said cartels have been increasingly turning to the production of synthetic drugs like methamphetamine, because they are easier to produce and are more profitable. He said synthetic drugs can be made faster, need less storage space and are harder to detect.

Jobless Mexicana Flight Attendants Pose for Calendar

Mexican authorities have been seizing increasing amounts of chemicals used in the manufacture of methamphetamine as well as finding increasingly large and sophisticated meth labs. Authorities seized 675 tons of a key precursor chemical in December alone, an amount that experts say was enough to produce an enormous amount of drugs.
- FOX News (Latino).

WATCH:  Mexico Drought So Bad, Even Drug Trade Affected.

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: Huge Population of Pythons Wiping Out Large Numbers of Everglades Mammals in Florida - Scientists Fear Widespread Disruption of Food Chain and Environmental Balance!

A burgeoning population of huge pythons - many of them pets that were turned loose by their owners when they got too big - appears to be wiping out large numbers of raccoons, opossums, bobcats and other mammals in the Everglades, a study says.

A Burmese python is wrapped around an American alligator in Everglades National Park, Fla.
The study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that sightings of medium-size mammals are down dramatically - as much as 99 percent, in some cases - in areas where pythons and other large, non-native constrictor snakes are known to be lurking. Scientists fear the pythons could disrupt the food chain and upset the Everglades' environmental balance in ways difficult to predict. "The effects of declining mammal populations on the overall Everglades ecosystem, which extends well beyond the national park boundaries, are likely profound," said John Willson, a research scientist at Virginia Tech University and co-author of the study.

Tens of thousands of Burmese pythons, which are native to Southeast Asia, are believed to be living in the Everglades, where they thrive in the warm, humid climate. While many were apparently released by their owners, others may have escaped from pet shops during Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and have been reproducing ever since. Burmese pythons can grow to be 26 feet long and more than 200 pounds, and they have been known to swallow animals as large as alligators. They and other constrictor snakes kill their prey by coiling around it and suffocating it.

The National Park Service has counted 1,825 Burmese pythons that have been caught in and around Everglades National Park since 2000. Among the largest so far was a 156-pound, 16.4-foot one captured earlier this month. For the study, researchers drove 39,000 miles along Everglades-area roads from 2003 through 2011, counting wildlife spotted along the way and comparing the results with surveys conducted on the same routes in 1996 and 1997.

The researchers found staggering declines in animal sightings: a drop of 99.3 percent among raccoons, 98.9 percent for opossums, 94.1 percent for white-tailed deer and 87.5 percent for bobcats. Along roads where python populations are believed to be smaller, declines were lower but still notable. Rabbits and foxes, which were commonly spotted in 1996 and 1997, were not seen at all in the later counts. Researchers noted slight increases in coyotes, Florida panthers, rodents and other mammals, but discounted that finding because so few were spotted overall. "The magnitude of these declines underscores the apparent incredible density of pythons in Everglades National Park," said Michael Dorcas, a professor at Davidson College in North Carolina and lead author of the study.

Although scientists cannot definitively say the pythons are killing off the mammals, the snakes are the prime suspect. The increase in pythons coincides with the mammals' decrease, and the decline appears to grow in magnitude with the size of the snakes' population in an area. A single disease appears unlikely to be the cause since several species were affected. The report says the effect on the overall ecosystem is hard to predict. Declines among bobcats and foxes, which eat rabbits, could be linked to pythons' feasting on rabbits. On the flip side, declines among raccoons, which eat eggs, may help some turtles, crocodiles and birds.

Scientists point with concern to what happened in Guam, where the invasive brown tree snake has killed off birds, bats and lizards that pollinated trees and flowers and dispersed seeds. That has led to declines in native trees, fish-eating birds and certain plants. In 2010, Florida banned private ownership of Burmese pythons. Earlier this month, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a federal ban on the import of Burmese pythons and three other snakes. Salazar said Monday that the study shows why such restrictions were needed.   "This study paints a stark picture of the real damage that Burmese pythons are causing to native wildlife and the Florida economy," he said. - Yahoo.

EXTREME WEATHER: Deep Freeze Grips Much of Alaska - Temperatures Dip to Minus 62 Degrees Below Zero! UPDATE: Bitter Cold Records Broken in Alaska!

Even if it has been warmer than usual in much of the United States, there's no denying Alaska is seeing a real winter, even by its standards.

Downtown Anchorage, Alaska, has seen a snowy and icy winter, including this scene from January 18.
Anchorage is shivering through one of its coldest January's on record, while in Fairbanks, folks preparing for a sled dog race were being tested by temperatures nearly 50 degrees below zero. Farther inland, Fort Yukon has ranged from minus 50 to minus 62 degrees over the last three days, getting close to its record of minus 78. Downtown Anchorage, Alaska, has seen a snowy and icy winter, including this scene from Jan. 18.

Anchorage's average temperature for January has been 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, the Alaska Daily News reported. That's well below its average of 15 degrees, and only three other years (1947, 1925 and 1920) have been colder, National Weather Service data show.

It's so cold for Anchorage, the Daily News reported, that:
  • Cross country ski practices by the Junior Nordic League have been canceled due to temps dipping below the official cut-off of minus 4 degrees.

  • Tow trucks are so busy helping folks with dead car batteries that it can take up to four hours to get service.

  • Some schools have had only a handful of outdoor recess days this month.
In Fairbanks, where the Yukon Quest sled dog race starts on Saturday, some racers have had a hard time moving their trucks around due to a freeze that kept engines from starting, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

Fort Yukon, for its part, dipped to 62 degrees below zero on Saturday, then hit 59 below on Sunday, the National Weather Service reported.

The deep freeze is in addition to the record snow and blizzard conditions seen earlier this month in towns like Cordova and Valdez. Even Anchorage is on track to see a record snow season, having received more than twice its average amount so far.  - MSNBC.

UPDATE: Bitter Cold Records Broken in Alaska!

While the continental USA has a mild winter and has set a number of high temperature records in the last week and pundits ponder whether they will be blaming the dreaded “global warming” for those temperatures, Alaska and Canada have been suffering through some of the coldest temperatures on record during the last week. For example in  Circle Hot Springs, AK on Sunday, 29 Jan 2012 the HIGH temperature was a blistering -49°F, breaking the  -44°F record which has stood since 1917. It gets better.
That same day in Circle Hot Springs the low temperature was  -58°F   breaking the old record of  -52°F set  in 1941 by six degrees.

Here’s a list of temperature records in Alaska from the past week:


EARTH CHANGES: 35-Foot Waves Pound the Shores of Hawaii - Big Waves Draw Big Crowds on the North Shore!

Surf's up! Gigantic waves up to 35 feet high drew hoards of spectators and surfers to the shores of Oahu on Monday, with more monstrous swells expected today.

Known to the locals as "winter waves," the massive breakers even forced the postponement of the Volcom Pipe Pro surfing competition along the island's North Shore. A large northwest swell was responsible for the monstrous waves on the north- and west-facing shores of the Hawaiian islands. The energy driving the waves was even making for some hearty waves on the leeward Kona Coast of the Big Island. A powerful Pacific storm and its associated cold front approaching from the west is stirring the big waves.

A few hearty surfers ventured out into the huge swells on Monday evening at Waimea, hoping to catch the perfect wave. For some, the power of the ocean proved to be too much. "First wave for me out there, not really sure what happened. But the end result was I dislocated my hip," surfer Charlie Herr told HawaiiNewsNow.com. Scores more enjoyed the waves from a safe distance onshore.

The show will continue today, albeit with slightly smaller waves. Small, is a relative term though, with surf expected to remain as high as 15 to 30 feet, down from 25 to 40 feet on Monday. Local officials noted that the forecast was somewhat conservative, as some waves will be more than twice as high as the significant wave height forecast! - Accu Weather.
WATCH: Giant waves at Waimea Bay.

RATTLE & HUM: "Sounds Of the Apocalypse" - Strange Sounds in the Sky Explained by Scientists; Expect Sharp Rise in Strong Quakes, Volcanic Eruptions, Tsunamis and Extreme Weather Events With Peak Levels in 2013-2014!

The following is an interview of Professor Elchin Khalilov, a Geophysicist, who works in the area of geodynamics and geotectonics. In the discussion with the GeoChange Journal, he provides his own theory and explanation for the strange sound phenomena heard across the Earth. In addition, he also forecasts what the answer means for the geology of the planet.

Mr. Khalilov, what is the nature of the unusual very low-pitched sounds reported by a great number of people in different parts of the planet since the summer of 2011? Many call them "The Sound of the Apocalypse". Information about that comes from all over the world: US, UK, Costa Rica, Russia, Czech Republic, Australia, etc.

We have analyzed records of these sounds and found that most of their spectrum lies within the infrasound range, i.e. is not audible to humans. What people hear is only a small fraction of the actual power of these sounds. They are low-frequency acoustic emissions in the range between 20 and 100 Hz modulated by ultra-low infrasonic waves from 0.1 to 15 Hz. In geophysics, they are called acoustic-gravity waves; they are formed in the upper atmosphere, at the atmosphere-ionosphere boundary in particular. There can be quite a lot of causes why those waves are generated: earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, storms, tsunamis, etc. However, the scale of the observed humming sound in terms of both the area covered and its power far exceeds those that can be generated by the above-mentioned phenomena.

In that case, what could be causing this humming in the sky?

Professor Elchin Khalilov.
In our opinion, the source of such powerful and immense manifestation of acoustic-gravity waves must be very large-scale energy processes. These processes include powerful solar flares and huge energy flows generated by them, rushing towards Earth's surface and destabilizing the magnetosphere, ionosphere and upper atmosphere. Thus, the effects of powerful solar flares: the impact of shock waves in the solar wind, streams of corpuscles and bursts of electromagnetic radiation are the main causes of generation of acoustic-gravitation waves following increased solar activity.

Given the surge in solar activity as manifested itself in the higher number and energy of solar flares since mid-2011, we can assume that there is a high probability of impact of the substantial increase in solar activity on the generation of the unusual humming coming from the sky. It should be pointed out that solar activity began to rise sharply since early 2011, with its amplitude significantly higher than all forecasts given by a number of influential scientific institutions in 2010 and 2011. Meanwhile, the observed increase in solar activity is fully consistent with the forecast of the International Committee GEOCHANGE published in the Committee's Report in June 2010. If this growth rate of solar activity continues, its amplitude by the end of 2012 will be higher than the amplitude of 23rd solar cycle, and in 2013-2014 the solar activity will reach its peak the amplitude of which was predicted by us to be 1.5 - 1.7 times higher than the amplitude of the 23rd cycle.

But you said that the cause of the "sky hum" can lie within Earth's core as well, what does it mean?

There is one more possible cause of these sounds and it may lie at the Earth's core. The fact is that the acceleration of the drift of the Earth's north magnetic pole which increased more than fivefold between 1998 and 2003 and is at the same level today points to intensification of energy processes in the Earth's core, since it is processes in the inner and outer core that form the Earth's geomagnetic field. Meanwhile, as we have already reported, on November 15, 2011 all ATROPATENA geophysical stations which record three-dimensional variations of the Earth's gravitational field almost simultaneously registered a powerful gravitational impulse. The stations are deployed in Istanbul, Kiev, Baku, Islamabad and Yogyakarta, with the first and last one being separated by a distance of about 10,000 km. Such a phenomenon is only possible if the source of this emanation is at the Earth's core level. That huge energy release from the Earth's core at the end of the last year was some kind of a start signal indicating the transition of the Earth's internal energy into a new active phase.

Intensification of the energy processes in the Earth's core can modulate the geomagnetic field which, through a chain of physical processes at the ionosphere - atmosphere boundary level, generates acoustic-gravity waves the audible range of which has been heard by people in the form of a frightening low-frequency sound in different parts of our planet.

In both cases, even though the causes of acoustic-gravity waves are of a quite understandable geophysical nature, they are indicative of the expected significant increase in solar activity and the geodynamic activity of our planet. There is no doubt that processes in the core rule the internal energy of our planet, therefore, we should expect by the end of 2012 a sharp rise in strong earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and extreme weather events with peak levels in 2013 - 2014.

Recently, researchers using NASA's fleet of five THEMIS spacecraft have discovered a form of space weather that packs the punch of an earthquake and plays a key role in sparking bright Northern Lights. They call it "the spacequake."
A spacequake is a temblor in Earth's magnetic field. It is felt most strongly in Earth orbit, but is not exclusive to space. The effects can reach all the way down to the surface of Earth itself. "Magnetic reverberations have been detected at ground stations all around the globe, much like seismic detectors measure a large earthquake," says THEMIS principal investigator Vassilis Angelopoulos of UCLA.

It's an apt analogy because "the total energy in a spacequake can rival that of a magnitude 5 or 6 earthquake," according to Evgeny Panov of the Space Research Institute in Austria. Panov is first author of a paper reporting the results in the April 2010 issue of Geophysical Research Letters (GRL). In 2007, THEMIS discovered the precursors of spacequakes. The action begins in Earth's magnetic tail, which is stretched out like a windsock by the million mph solar wind. Sometimes the tail can become so stretched and tension-filled, it snaps back like an over-torqued rubber band. Solar wind plasma trapped in the tail hurtles toward Earth. On more than one occasion, the five THEMIS spacecraft were in the line of fire when these "plasma jets" swept by. Clearly, the jets were going to hit Earth. But what would happen then? The fleet moved closer to the planet to find out.

"Now we know," says THEMIS project scientist David Sibeck of the Goddard Space Flight Center. "Plasma jets trigger spacequakes." - NASA.

WATCH: Spacequakes Rumble Near Earth.

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Massive Fish Deaths Hit Lake Sebu, Philippines - 49 Metric Tons of Fish in the South Cotabato Province!

Around 49 metric tons of fish have been found floating dead in Lake Sebu in South Cotabato province.

The local Tilapia fish, in 50 cages, was valued at 3.8 million pesos, said Rex Vagas, provincial fishery coordinator. He said 46.5 tons of Tilapia were found dead last Friday and 2.5 tons on Monday.  He attributed the massive death of fish to "annual occurrence," which locals call "kamahong" when water temperature rises during this period.  "We ask consumers to avoid buying and eating Tilapia fish from Lake Sebu until further notice from us," Vargas said.

Rogelio Aturdido, a provincial health officer, said eating dead Tilapia fish might cause abdominal discomfort and diarrhea.  The provincial agriculture office said the oxygen level in Lake Sebu had been depleted because of overstocking and water pollution, probably from fish feeds.  Fish cage operators were told by the agriculture office to temporarily stop feeding the surviving fish for at least a week to allow water's oxygen level to return to normal.  Around 13 tons of Tilapia died last July under similar circumstances. - PHIL Star.

DELUGE: Natural Disaster Zones Declared in New South Wales - Severe Flooding Damaged Critical Infrastructure, Property and Road Networks!

The New South Wales Government has declared five natural disaster zones in the state's north after days of severe flooding.

Stuck ... Sam and Josie Townsend are pictured on a flooded roadway as they
wait for their friends whose home is cut off, to arrive by boat, at
Maclean, north of Grafton on the NSW mid-north coast.
Emergency Services Minister Mike Gallacher declared the zones for the Bellingen, Byron, Kyogle, Lismore and Richmond Valley local government areas this evening. The announcement unlocks government funding to help pay for repairs. "This weather system has caused a lot of damage to critical infrastructure, property and road networks," Mr Gallacher said in a statement. The government would monitor other flood-affected areas and declare further natural disaster zones if necessary, he said. Around 1500 people remain isolated by the floods, which began on January 24. "About 1250 are on the mid-north coast and north coast of NSW," State Emergency Service (SES) spokesman Phil Campbell said. He said most should have access restored by tomorrow.

The 250 residents of Goodooga, north of Bourke, are expected to be isolated for two more days. The state opposition criticised the government for not declaring natural disaster zones sooner. "A timely declaration of a natural disaster is vital in allowing local councils to assess damage, clean up debris and fix roads and other infrastructure," opposition primary industries spokesman Steve Whan said. Although there have been no flood rescues in the past 24 hours, helicopters, flood boat crews and volunteers remain on high alert in flood affected regions. "There's a long list of new river systems affected by potential flooding in the coming days," Mr Campbell said. "The biggest concern for us coming in late tomorrow and Thursday will be the Macleay River, where there is the potential for moderate to major flooding. "There's also the potential for major flooding around the Orara River behind Coffs Harbour, affecting several rural properties. "Things could ramp again from late tomorrow." The Pacific Highway has now reopened at Grafton after heavy rain and localised flooding closed it late last week. - Herald Sun.

Heavy rain has brought more flooding to northern New South Wales, with two people rescued from swollen inland waterways this morning. The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a fresh flood watch for many rivers inland and along the north and mid-north coasts. The State Emergency Service's controller for the Namoi region, Kath Cain says the two rescues this morning came after heavy falls. "We've had reports of up to 300 millimetres of rain around the Brigalow Creek area, out near Cuttabri and towards Pilliga," Ms Cain said. "We've had one person who managed to get through one creek this morning and then couldn't get any further, so he was stranded between two creeks. "We've also had one person who drove around a road closed sign on the Old Bingara Road. They got bogged, so that person has also been rescued." The SES has renewed its advice for people not to enter flooded causeways or creeks.

The weather bureau says there is a 70 per cent chance of moderate to major flooding in the Gwydir, Bellinger, Nambucca and Macleay valleys. An SES spokesman for the Oxley region, Steve Hart, says door-knocking has begun to warn residents living along the Lower Macleay. "Especially to the farmers, we're just asking them to monitor the weather system," Mr Hart said. "If they've relocated some of their livestock from last week's event, if they can hold off moving everything back in at this stage. "Let's just see over the next 48 hours what does happen." Late yesterday the New South Wales Government declared a natural disaster across five local councils in the state's north. The Emergency Services Minister Mike Gallacher extended the declaration across the Bellingen, Byron, Kyogle, Lismore and Richmond Valley local government areas. The move unlocks assistance for residents, businesses and farmers to recover from the flooding.

Today Mr Gallacher said more more declarations are likely, as reports have not yet come through from some of the hardest-hit areas. "There is a good possibility that I'll be declaring the Tweed Valley a natural disaster area, today in fact," Mr Gallacher said. "I expect that report will be put to me this afternoon. I haven't seen anything finalised in relation to Grafton, but there's no doubt, as the flood waters recede and as councils are in a position to get around to look at bridges and other infrastructure, it will become evident that this was a significant rain event." - ABC.

WATCH: Northern NSW residents still cut off by flood waters.

ICE AGE & GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Scientific Research Suggest That Volcanic Origin Was the Source for the Little Ice Age - Could Heightened Volcanism Play the Same Pivotal Role in Our Modern Times, Creating a Deadly Ice Age?!

An international research team studied ancient plants from Iceland and Canada, and sediments carried by glaciers. They say a series of eruptions just before 1300 lowered Arctic temperatures enough for ice sheets to expand. Writing in Geophysical Research Letters, they say this would have kept the Earth cool for centuries. The exact definition of the Little Ice Age is disputed.

Plants trapped under Iceland's icecaps store a record of ancient temperatures.
While many studies suggest temperatures fell globally in the 1500s, others suggest the Arctic and sub-Arctic began cooling several centuries previously. The global dip in temperatures was less than 1C, but parts of Europe cooled more, particularly in winter, with the River Thames in London iced thickly enough to be traversable on foot. What caused it has been uncertain. The new study, led by Gifford Miller at the University of Colorado at Boulder, US, links back to a series of four explosive volcanic eruptions between about 1250 and 1300 in the tropics, which would have blasted huge clouds of sulphate particles into the upper atmosphere. These tiny aerosol particles are known to cool the globe by reflecting solar energy back into space.

"This is the first time that anyone has clearly identified the specific onset of the cold times marking the start of the Little Ice Age," said Dr Miller. "We have also provided an understandable climate feedback system that explains how this cold period could be sustained for a long period of time." The scientists studied several sites in north-eastern Canada and in Iceland where small icecaps have expanded and contracted over the centuries. When the ice spreads, plants underneath are killed and "entombed" in the ice. Carbon-dating can determine how long ago this happened. So the plants provide a record of the icecaps' sizes at various times - and therefore, indirectly, of the local temperature. An additional site at Hvitarvatn in Iceland yielded records of how much sediment was carried by a glacier in different decades, indicating changes in its thickness.

Putting these records together showed that cooling began fairly abruptly at some point between 1250 and 1300. Temperatures fell another notch between 1430 and 1455. The first of these periods saw four large volcanic eruptions beginning in 1256, probably from the tropics sources, although the exact locations have not been determined. The later period incorporated the major Kuwae eruption in Vanuatu. Aerosols from volcanic eruptions usually cool the climate for just a few years. When the researchers plugged in the sequence of eruptions into a computer model of climate, they found that the short but intense burst of cooling was enough to initiate growth of summer ice sheets around the Arctic Ocean, as well as glaciers. The extra ice in turn reflected more solar radiation back into space, and weakened the Atlantic ocean circulation commonly known as the Gulf Stream. "It's easy to calculate how much colder you could get with volcanoes; but that has no permanence, the skies soon clear," Dr Miller told BBC News. "And it was climate modelling that showed how sea ice exports into the North Atlantic set up this self-sustaining feedback process, and that's how a perturbation of decades can result in a climate shift of centuries." Analysis of the later phase of the Little Ice Age also suggests that changes in the Sun's output, particularly in the ultraviolet part of the spectrum, would also have contributed cooling. - BBC.

SOLAR CYCLE 24: Strongest Solar Flare of 2012 Follows Worst Radiation Storm Since 2003 - Study Reveals That Solar Storms Wipe Out Electrons in Earth’s Radiation Belt!

Within a week of each other, the sun has thrown off two rounds of massive solar flares. The second, recorded on Jan. 27, was the strongest flare recorded this year and emanated from the same area as the last flare, which caused the worst solar radiation storm in eight years.

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory and the Solar Heliospheric Observatory were among several spacecraft that recorded the strongest flare to erupt from the sun's surface thus far this year. The flare exploded into space on the afternoon of Jan. 27 (1:37 p.m. EST), according to Space.com, and scientists labeled it an X-class eruption, the worst kind of solar flare. Luckily, the location of the eruption, sunspot 1402, was facing away from the Earth. Scientists believe there will still be heightened levels of radiation from the coronal mass ejection (CME, the charged particles sent into space by the solar flare) but do not believe they pose a threat. "The radiation storm will almost certainly be weaker," Doug Biesecker, a physicist at NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center, told SPACE.com. "The coronal mass ejection seems to be headed well away from Earth, which is good because this one seems like a bigger beast than the last one, but that's still preliminary."

Scientists designated the flare an X1.7. By comparison, last week's eruption was ranked as an M9 flare, which is still considered a mid-range flare (but close to the borderline with the more powerful X-class). The last massive solar flare also erupted from sunspot 1402, a region of the sun that has shown increasing activity of late. Erupting on Jan. 22, that particular flare sent electromagnetic particles streaming toward Earth, bombarding the planet with waves of charged particles beginning on Jan. 24. According to the Space Weather Center (per Space.com), the resulting storm was the worst radiation storm since 2003. Scientists still considered the radiation storm "moderate." The solar flare that set off the solar storm in 2003 was ranked an X45 by NASA. The most powerful ever recorded, as can be seen listed on Space.com, was the 2006 X-class flare that registered an X9 on the space weather scale.

The sun's activity and other space weather conditions are monitored by NASA to determine any potential hazards to astronauts. This once included the shuttle astronauts but since the shutdown of the U. S. manned spaceflight program in 2011, reports are conducted solely for those aboard the International Space Station. A NASA spokesman, Kelly Humphries, noted that the six space denizens currently in orbit were not in any imminent danger. Solar flares and storms are also monitored due to their potential for disrupting the operations of satellites in space, not to mention power grids and communications infrastructure on Earth. Scientists see the increased activity thus far in 2012 as a ramp-up to the an even more active period in 2013. The sun's activity ebbs and flows in an 11-year cycle, which is approaching solar maximum. - Huliq.
WATCH: NASA SDO - January 2, 2012 Eruption. 

As the sun approaches solar maximum in 2013, new light has been shed upon the effect of solar events on our planet’s magnetosphere, according to a study to be published in Nature Physics on Jan. 29. Astronomers at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) have discovered that most of the electrons in the Earth’s outer radiation belt vanish at the start of a geomagnetic storm, only to reappear a few hours later. This doughnut-shaped region is full of energetic electrons traveling at almost light speed. “It’s a puzzling effect,” said study co-author Vassilis Angelopoulos in a press release. “Oceans on Earth do not suddenly lose most of their water, yet radiation belts filled with electrons can be rapidly depopulated.” Originally noticed by scientists in the 1960s, the team elucidated this mystery using data collected from a fleet of orbiters, including NASA’s THEMIS spacecraft (Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms).

“What we are studying was the first discovery of the space age,” said study co-author Yuri Shprits in the release. “People realized that launches of spacecraft didn’t only make the news, they could also make scientific discoveries that were completely unexpected.” A 2006 study suggested that the electrons could be lost to the interplanetary medium. However, the new research shows that some of the electrons fall into our atmosphere, but most are pushed away from Earth as solar wind particles from geomagnetic storms begin to bombard the radiation belt. “This is an important milestone in understanding Earth’s space environment,” said study lead author Drew Turner in the release. “We are one step closer toward understanding and predicting space weather phenomena.”

When the sun undergoes events such as coronal mass ejections, highly charged particles strike Earth’s magnetic field, causing geomagnetic storms that can damage satellites needed for weather monitoring, communications, and global positioning. Understanding the effects of solar activity on Earth’s radiation belts can help to protect these satellites and astronauts traveling through the belts who are highly at risk from such radiation. “While most satellites are designed with some level of radiation protection in mind, spacecraft engineers must rely on approximations and statistics because they lack the data needed to model and predict the behavior of high-energy electrons in the outer radiation belt,” Turner said.  “As a society, we’ve become incredibly dependent on space-based technology,” he concluded. “Understanding this population of energetic electrons and their extreme variations will help create more accurate models to predict the effect of geomagnetic storms on the radiation belts.”UCLA researchers are now working with scientists at Russia’s Moscow State University to measure these high-energy electrons with greater accuracy using the Lomonosov spacecraft, which is planned to launch this spring. - The Epoch Times.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Glacial Outburst Flood from Grímsvötn Volcano!

It is believed that a glacial outburst flood (jökulhlaup) occurred in the Grímsvötn volcano in Vatnajökull yesterday as the river Gígjukvísl was dark in color in the afternoon and commuters smelled sulfur in the air by the bridge across the Ring Road in south Iceland.
However, according to Morgunblaðið, the glacial outburst is not considered to be a matter of concern. Heavy rain and high temperatures in the past days after excessive snowfall caused snow to melt, damaging parts of the Ring Road between Núpsvötn and Gígjukvísl in Skeiðarársandur, as well as to the east of Gígjukvísl, Fréttablaðið reports.

The police in Hvolsvöllur asked drivers passing through Skeiðarársandur yesterday to be careful; in the afternoon there was a risk of the road being cut. At that point the rain had subsided after continuous downpour between Hvolsvöllur and Kirkjubæjarklaustur.

The highest rainfall was recorded in Kvísker in Öræfi, south Iceland, 97.8 millimeters, and the temperature rose to 15.2°C (59.4°F) in Siglufjörður, north Iceland, Morgunblaðið reports. According to weather forecasts, the heaviest rainfall has passed and it doesn’t appear that roads will suffer any further damages. Repairs began yesterday afternoon. Today, road conditions are slippery.
Click here to read about the thaw warning and here to read about last year’s volcanic eruption in Grímsvötn. - Iceland Review.

PLANETARY TREMORS: More Strong Earthquakes Predicted for Haiti, Dominican Republic - The Island of "Hispaniola Should Prepare for Devastating Future Earthquakes," says USGS Seismologist William Bakun!

The island of Hispaniola, which includes the nations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, may soon experience a period of strong earthquakes on par with the one that ravaged Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas two years ago, according to a report by a report by a U.S. Geological Survey researcher.

USGS seismologist William Bakun, who spent the past two years studying the region, suggests that more quakes of a similar magnitude will take place in the near future, citing the region’s cyclical history of seismic activity in his 58-page manuscript for the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. “The 2010 Haiti earthquake may mark the beginning of a new cycle of large earthquakes on the Enriquillo fault system after 240 years of seismic quiescence,” he said, referring to the fault lines that lie under Hispaniola. The fault system, Bakun writes, “appears to be seismically active; Haiti and the Dominican Republic should prepare for future devastating earthquakes there.”

Bakun and his team noted there were a number of powerful quakes of magnitudes from 6.6 to 7.5 that struck the fault, beginning in 1701 and ended in 1770. They found no evidence of significant earthquakes on the Enriquillo fault in the 200 preceding years nor since—until 2010. The seismologists used stories from the many European and African island settlers that were recorded to note the quakes’ intensity, location, and other aspects. They discovered that the series of devastating quakes that struck Haiti in the 18th century started with the one on Nov. 9, 1701, the epicenter of which was very near the 2010 quake. Bakun points out that the fault lines underneath the San Francisco Bay and surrounding areas in California have experienced seismic activity similar to the Enriquillo fault, with a period of intense activity followed by a period of relative calm. In the past several weeks, low-to-moderate quakes have hit the Dominican Republic but there have been no reports of damage or injuries.

Ill-Prepared Then and Now.

The Jan. 12, 2010, the magnitude-7.0 earthquake killed at least 300,000 people in Haiti and left more than a million displaced. “The magnitude 7.0 Jan. 12, 2010, Haiti earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince, largely because the city was not prepared. Southern Haiti had been seismically quiet in living memory,” said the report. The United Nations estimates that 500,000 Haitians remain displaced and many are still living in tents in the city, so another massive quake could be catastrophic. “Building materials and construction practices in Hispaniola have likely been poor in both the near and the distant past,” the report stated. The January quake wrought significant damage to Port-au-Prince “because many structures were vulnerable to even modest levels of earthquake shaking,” it added.

According to independent journalist Giordano Cossu, who co-authored a Web documentary on post earthquake reconstruction in Haiti called “Goudou Goudou, The Ignored Voices of Reconstruction,” Haiti will be just as ill-prepared today if another quake hits any time soon.
Cossu says he and Haitian journalist Ralph Joseph with ENDK radio asked several local institutions what would happen in the event of another quake. “Most avoided to give a direct answer, but their hesitation was as meaningful to us,” Cossu commented via email.
Even two years later, there is still no centralized plan, no rules or bodies to oversee anti-seismic construction, and the money and training required to build safer structures are both desperately lacking. “Despite the greater awareness of earthquake risks today people are confronted with hard choices: those who have the means, will accept spending money to live in a ‘safe’ house, where as the majority of the population will have to make do with what they can. Until the next earthquake,” says Cossu. - The Epoch Times.