Tuesday, February 14, 2012

ICE AGE NOW: European Cold Snap Damages Rome's Coliseum!

Several small fragments from the top of Rome's Coliseum have fallen away because of the cold snap and bad weather that gripped Italy, La Repubblica reported on Tuesday.

The Coliseum, which is included in the list of the World's New Seven Wonders, was built 1,932 years ago and is now gradually falling apart with almost 3,000 cracks in its walls.  The recent heavy snowfalls and low temperatures that hit most of Europe may have caused the Coliseum's damage as little fragments had split from it, La Repubblica said.  An overall restoration of the ancient theater is scheduled for March, 2012.  The Coliseum, which was closed from tourists, will be reopening on Thursday, Italian media reported.

According to the Corriere della Sera, early on Sunday a Coliseum museum worker slipped on the ice inside the ancient theater and broke his leg so the opening was postponed until Thursday.  Other Roman tourist sites, including the Baths of Caracalla, the Palatine Hill, the Roman district of Ostia, and the ancient Appian Way were opened on Tuesday, La Repubblica said.  Freezing temperatures hit many European countries, including the Czech Republic, Italy, Poland, and Ukraine, where extremely low temperatures killed scores of people. - RIA Novosti.

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: Mass Stranding and Die-Off - At Least 11 More Dolphins Stranded on Cape Cod; Unexplained Phenomenon Total Rises to 177!

At least 11 more dolphins have stranded themselves on the shores of Cape Cod this morning as the mass strandings enter the second month. The International Fund for Animal Welfare said at least one of the 11 had died. The animal welfare group said the dolphins were found in an area commonly known as "the gut," a muddy area near the Herring River in Wellfleet.

"The team is out there now with 10 live dolphins," the group's spokesman Michael Booth said. "It could take quite awhile; it's a treacherous location with lots of mud. The team is trying to pull them out of the mud and bring them to our rescue trailers." On Monday morning, crews rescued and treated three dolphins near the Chequesset Yacht and Country Club in Wellfleet. All three dolphins were given medical evaluations and released at Scusset Beach in Bourne. A total of 177 dolphins have been stranded. Aside from the 10 who are still the subject of rescue efforts today, 43 have been rescued and 124 have died. The group said the cause of the strandings is still unknown. "So far no patterns have emerged, but the many lab analyses will take months to complete," Katie Moore, the group's manager of marine mammal rescue and research, said in a blog post. "We may yet find one." Since the mass stranding event began Jan. 12, the group, which relies on a small army of volunteers, said they have received an uptick in interest. The group, however, cannot increase its ranks until all potential volunteers are properly trained. "As soon as we get over this busy season, we'll have some training for folks," Booth said. "For now, we have to depend on our existing volunteers." - Boston.
WATCH: Mystery surrounding stranded dolphins.

THE AGE OF OBAMA: The American Police State - DARPA Set to Drop Computer "F-BOMBS" to Spy on the Public!

It's bad enough that drones have been welcomed by Congress into American skies, as well as already being used around the planet to conduct surveillance and bomb select countries from remote locations. The latest proposed addition to the drone spy program is even creepier:  disposable computers with software programs funded by DARPA to be dropped as self-destructing "bombs."

Now, not only will drones surveil and hack from above, but they will drop a payload to interface with hidden computers on the ground, completely integrating a full-spectrum data transmission and control grid. The name of the project, as well as its announcement at a hacker convention called ShmooCon, had this non-techie convinced that it had to be satire or a hoax, but the project has also been noted by Forbes and Wired, which only serves to illustrate how far off into our dystopian technocratic police state we have wandered.  It seems that we are being acclimated to how funny and cool our futuristic spy toys have become.  This fun has culminated in the planned dropping of F-BOMBS (Falling or Ballistically-launched Object that Makes Backdoors) to combat "Bad Men With Guns." The F-BOMB introduces the idea of disposable surveillance as a guard against forensic evaluation and the ability to track the source of the drop.  Creator, Brendan O'Connor, has received DARPA funding to implement a software package into his nearly non-traceable surveillance hardware as cheaply as possible with easy-to-obtain components. Back in August, another DIY project was introduced as the Wireless Aerial Surveillance Platform (since renamed Project Vespid).  This modified military drone was put together from parts legally obtained on the Internet by two hackers (intelligence agency consultants, actually) Rich Perkins and Mike Tassey, who presented their work at a Black Hat conference.  The release was supported by a breathless Wolf Blitzer who seized upon the announcement to illustrate the new threat of being hacked from above.  Brendan O'Connor has reduced the DIY cost of similar capabilities to no more than a few hundred dollars with his F-BOMB project.
WATCH: O'Connor summarizes the value and capabilities of his new Sacrificial Computing for Land and Sky concept in the video that follows, highlighting that his surveillance tool can be planted manually, or dropped from specialized drone aircraft:

Similar to the creators of the home-made WASP hacking drone, O'Connor states that he is merely exposing the vulnerabilities of networks and their users.
Despite its name, O’Connor says the F-BOMB is designed to be a platform for all sorts of applications on its Linux operating system. Outfit it with temperature or humidity sensors, for instance, and it can be used for meteorological research or other innocent data-collecting.  But install some Wifi-cracking software or add a $15 GPS module, and it can snoop on data networks or track a target’s location, O’Connor adds. As is often the case with these kinds of hacker projects, he says the devices are only intended for penetration testing–finding security flaws in clients’ networks in order to fix them–and wouldn’t comment on what DARPA might do with the technology (Source)
However, this rings false (or profoundly naive), as O'Connor also has received his funding from the very organization that is at the forefront of using taxpayer money to eradicate privacy around the world, including that of American citizens. As a result, the government already can: Hack your personal information (source), Monitor your private phone calls (source), Read your private e-mails (source), Spoof cell phone towers (source), Break down firewalls (source), Jam cellular frequencies causing denial of service (source), Disrupt and manipulate Wi-Fi signals (source), and Track your every move (source). Although O'Connor said that he wouldn't comment on what DARPA might do with the technology, his own business website Malice Afterthought indicates a solid working relationship with military intelligence:

Our principal, Brendan O'Connor, has taught at the US military's cybersecurity school as well as working for both VeriSign and Sun Microsystems in their security divisions; he has also worked for DARPA and startups as a combination engineer, dreamer, and mad scientist capable of making even the most challenging tasks into reality.
We should all know by now that we don't have to be technology experts to envision some rather dark applications that are no longer security challenges, but are part of an agenda to fundamentally alter our reality and perceived social contract within a supposedly free society.  That reality has little to do with protecting citizens' data and privacy, and everything to do with covering the tracks of government's ubiquitous intrusion into our private lives, as well as ramping-up their violation of the Constitution by presuming guilt over innocence, and subjecting citizens to their mad science and mad dreams. - Activist Post.

Additional sources:

EXTREME WEATHER: "Wild Scene" - Huge Hail Storm Pummels Sydney's Blue Mountains!

"It's like it's snowing in Katoomba ... I've never seen hail like this for ages," he said.

Thunderstorms lashed parts of Sydney's west after hitting the Blue Mountains earlier on Monday, leaving behind a white blanket of hail.

Residents of Katoomba and Blackheath in the Blue Mountains described it as a wild scene resembling a European winter. The Katoomba Sports and Aquatic Centre will be closed for several days after a roof and ceiling collapsed under the weight of hail. "Fortunately there's been no injuries but the building was evacuated," said Fire and Rescue spokesman Ian Krimmer.

"Fire crews have been involved and pumping out a large section of the building." Blue Mountains resident Grant told ABC Local Radio what the hail storm was like when it hit. "It's like it's snowing in Katoomba ... I've never seen hail like this for ages," he said. Hail also hit the New South Wales mid north coast. "We have had a report of hail about 20-cent-piece size at Tuncurry," said Andrew Hays from the weather bureau. Earlier there was a large thunderstorm on the far north coast around Murwillumbah.
- ABC News.
 WATCH: Huge hail storm hits Blue Mountains.

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: Mass Stranding - Third Common Dolphin Dies in South Jersey, After Beaching in Stafford Township!

A common dolphin found stranded but alive Monday in Barnegat Bay died soon after it was removed from the beach, making it the third dolphin death in recent days. Two other dolphins died this weekend, one in the Delaware Bay in Lower Township, the other in the Venetian Bayou Lagoon in Ocean City.

Examinations have been scheduled for all three dolphins to determine whether their deaths are related to a mass stranding last month in Cape Cod, Mass., Marine Mammal Stranding Center Director Bob Schoelkopf said. The Stranding Center in Brigantine had tried to save the dolphin, Schoelkopf said. The Ocean City dolphin is believed to be a juvenile, perhaps the calf of a common dolphin seen swimming freely in the lagoon Friday. No dolphins were seen in the lagoon Monday. The dead animals were trucked to the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine in New Bolton, Pa. A spokeswoman at the lab said getting results from the necropsies - the animal equivalent of autopsies - could take a week or more. The veterinary hospital treats large animals ranging from horses and cows to zoo elephants, spokeswoman Sally Silverman said.

Meanwhile, the Stranding Center is preparing for the possibility of more strandings. "It's not over yet," Schoelkopf said. "I imagine it's going to be an ongoing event. We have additional sightings of three animals this morning traveling through the Cape May Canal. They had some strandings in Rhode Island. The range of stranding events is spreading. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that Delaware has them now." More than 160 common dolphins - an open-ocean species found off New Jersey year-round - have stranded off Cape Cod this year, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. Most were found dead, but 40 were rescued and released into deeper water. Just what causes whales and dolphins to strand largely remains a mystery. Along with diet, disease and other factors, scientists are studying any correlation between military naval exercises and marine mammal strandings. "There's still a fight between the Navy and a lot of people over that," Schoelkopf said. "They know that sonar could be affecting dolphins, but the naval people say they weren't in that area so it wasn't us. And it's hard to prove differently." - Press of Atlantic City.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Florida Freeze Snaps Weather Records - 24 Degrees Fahrenheit, the Lowest Temperature Since 1981!

The Sunshine State was shivering cold over the weekend, with temperatures falling far below freezing during the state's first blast of winter.

The winter has been wimpy for most of the continental United States until recently. But a strong cold front moved through Florida this past Friday (Feb. 11) and snapped the state back into the reality of winter. The cold plunge turned Florida frigid, and a few weather records fell with the temperatures. Freeze warnings were issued, snow birds complained, and people across the state (gasp!) put on jackets. Jacksonville recorded a record low for Feb. 12 of 24 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 4 degrees Celsius), according to the National Weather Service. That snapped a record set in 1981 for the day. Daytona Beach tied a 1955 record low of 30 F (minus 1 C) on the same day. South Florida wasn't frosty, but it wasn't all sun and fun. The high temperature in Miami was a measly 61 F (16 C) yesterday (Feb. 12).
"Sixty-one is cold for south Florida," said the Weather Channel's Stephanie Abrams on "Wake Up with Al." In mid-state, counties around Tampa didn't set any records, but they were still under a hard freeze watch this morning, which left farmers worried about their crops. Low temperatures aren't uncommon this time of year for the Tampa region, so the reason for the cold was obvious. "The simple answer is that it's winter time," said Richard Rude, a meteorologist with the NWS office in Tampa. The freezing weather — technically caused by a strong high-pressure system following a cold front — is pushing east today (Feb. 13), Rude told OurAmazingPlanet, and mild winter temperatures for Florida are expected to return by midweek, according to the NWS. - Our Amazing Planet.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Scientists Warn - Stricken Fukushima Nuclear Plant at Dire Risk of Massive New Earthquake!

Seismic risk at the Fukushima nuclear plant increased after the magnitude 9 earthquake that hit Japan last March, scientists report. The new study, which uses data from over 6,000 earthquakes, shows the 11 March tremor caused a seismic fault close to the nuclear plant to reactivate.

The results are now published in Solid Earth, an open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU). The research suggests authorities should strengthen the security of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to withstand large earthquakes that are likely to directly disturb the region. The power plant witnessed one of the worst nuclear disasters in history after it was damaged by the 11 March 2011 magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami. But this tremor occurred about 160 km from the site, and a much closer one could occur in the future at Fukushima. "There are a few active faults in the nuclear power plant area, and our results show the existence of similar structural anomalies under both the Iwaki and the Fukushima Daiichi areas. Given that a large earthquake occurred in Iwaki not long ago, we think it is possible for a similarly strong earthquake to happen in Fukushima," says team-leader Dapeng Zhao, geophysics professor at Japan's Tohoku University. The 11 April 2011 magnitude 7 Iwaki earthquake was the strongest aftershock of the 11 March earthquake with an inland epicentre. It occurred 60 km southwest of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, or 200 km from the 11 March epicentre.

The research now published in EGU's Solid Earth shows that the Iwaki earthquake was triggered by fluids moving upwards from the subducting Pacific plate to the crust. The Pacific plate is moving beneath northeast Japan, which increases the temperature and pressure of the minerals in it. This leads to the removal of water from minerals, generating fluids that are less dense than the surrounding rock. These fluids move up to the upper crust and may alter seismic faults. "Ascending fluids can reduce the friction of part of an active fault and so trigger it to cause a large earthquake. This, together with the stress variations caused by the 11 March event, is what set off the Iwaki tremor," says Ping Tong, lead author of the paper. The number of earthquakes in Iwaki increased greatly after the March earthquake. The movements in Earth's crust induced by the event caused variations in the seismic pressure or stress of nearby faults. Around Iwaki, Japan's seismic network recorded over 24,000 tremors from 11 March 2011 to 27 October 2011, up from under 1,300 detected quakes in the nine years before, the scientists report.

The 6,000 of these earthquakes selected for the study were recorded by 132 seismographic stations in Japan from June 2002 to October 2011. The researchers analysed these data to take pictures of Earth's interior, using a technique called seismic tomography. "The method is a powerful tool to map out structural anomalies, such as ascending fluids, in the Earth's crust and upper mantle using seismic waves. It can be compared to a CT or CAT scan, which relies on X-rays to detect tumours or fractures inside the human body," explains Zhao. While the scientists can't predict when an earthquake in Fukushima Daiichi will occur, they state that the ascending fluids observed in the area indicate that such an event is likely to occur in the near future. They warn that more attention should be paid to the site's ability to withstand strong earthquakes, and reduce the risk of another nuclear disaster. The scientists also note that the results may be useful for reviewing seismic safety in other nuclear facilities in Japan, such as nearby Fukushima Daini, Onagawa to the north of Fukushima, and Tōkai to the south
. - Science Daily.

EXTREME WEATHER: Snow Everywhere - Incredible Scenes in Japan as Snow Piled 10 Metres High Along Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route!

We've dodged much of winter's wrath in Canada with higher than normal temperatures and smaller amounts of snow this year. The same can't be said for other parts of the world. A cold snap returned to Japan this week bringing blizzards and creating record snow piles in some areas.

The city of Niigata in central Japan has already seen 13 feet of snow and the weather agency is predicting up to 25 additional inches over the next few days, reports WFMY News. The village of Okura has received more than 10 feet of the white stuff and the Hokuriku area received three feet in less than 24 hours. It is no wonder this road in Japan has massive snow walls on both sides. The video below shows footage from a bus travelling up the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. Snow is as high as 10 metres above the road in some spots. In much of Europe, the situation is not different. The freezing temperatures have been responsible for taking hundreds of lives and transportation has all but stopped in many countries.

Thick ice covers the Danube River, halting ships and freezing many in place. In Italy, soldiers worked to free villages trapped in more than 10 feet of snow and distributed 4,000 spades to residents. Even the Coliseum in Rome was blanketed by the white stuff.  The record low temperatures are making life difficult for people still living in tents after an earthquake rattled Turkey in October. The country moved 134,000 into temporary homes, but there were still about 7,500 living in tents as temperatures dipped well below zero. The unusually cold and snowy weather is also providing some amazing images, including the one showing a car and tree trunks completely covered by ice in Switzerland. - Yahoo.
WATCH: Incredible footage of the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route in Japan.

GLOBAL ALERT: "Extremely Dangerous" Cyclone Giovanna Threatens Madagascar - “Massive Destruction” Possible! UPDATE: Madagascar Hit Hard by Cyclone Giovanna!

Extremely dangerous cyclone Giovanna, equivalent to a category 4 hurricane, is set to make landfall on the east coast of Madagascar today. The powerful storm contains maximum sustained winds of 145 mph (125 knots) and may produce extensive damage on this island off the southeastern coast of Africa.

Satellite image of tropical cylcone Giovanna as it nears the east coast of Madagascar Monday morning.
(Joint Typhoon Warning Center)
Satellite imagery reveals a storm with a well-defined eye, excellent symmetry and deep convection around its core. Its outer bands are already lashing the coast and the eye should move ashore late today. Concerns are mounting about the toll the storm may afflict on this relatively poor country, especially as it may target highly populated areas. John Uniack Davis, Madagascar’s director for the humanitarian organization CARE, told the United Nations news agency IRIN that if the storm center moves just south of the coastal port of Toamasina “it has the potential to cause massive destruction.”
Water vapor image of tropical cyclone Giovanna Monday morning (Colorado State University).
AccuWeather’s Jesse Ferrell, reviewing the history of storms to strike Madascar, found that Giovanna’s track most closely remembles cyclone Geralda from 1994. That storm “destroyed 80% of the city’s seaport Toamasina.” IRIN news said Geralda “killed about 200 people, displaced 40,000 and affected another 500,000.” In addition to the destructive category 4 intensity winds, a large storm surge and 4-8” or more of flooding rain are also likely with this storm. Wunderground’s Jeff Masters notes an elevated risk of damage relative to past storms due to deforestation over the last 30 years, which will worsen runoff from flood waters. As Giovanna crosses Madagascar, it will weaken considerably before it re-emerges over the water late Tuesday or early Wednesday. It is then forecast to strike Mozambique as a tropical storm or depression late this week. - Washington Post.
WATCH: Tracking Tropical Cyclone Giovanna.

UPDATE: Madagascar Hit Hard by Cyclone Giovanna! 
A tropical cyclone has hit the island of Madagascar, with winds of up to 194km (120mph) ripping up trees and electricity pylons. Cyclone Giovanna made landfall overnight near the eastern port city of Toamasina. Emergency service vehicles were out in the capital, Antananarivo, on Tuesday morning clearing up the debris. Meteorologists warn the damage may be as bad as in 1994, when a cyclone killed 200 people and displaced 40,000. At least one person has been killed in the inland sugar-producing town of Brickaville after an electricity pole fell on her, a government official told the Reuters news agency.

Antananarivo-based journalist Tim Healy told the BBC's Network Africa programme that the capital was experiencing very high winds and heavy rainfall - after the eye of the storm passed through about six hours after battering Toamasina, 200km (about 125 miles) away. People are staying at home as offices, schools and businesses have been shut and the power has been cut off. He says he has been unable to ask residents living in and nearby Toamasina - also known locally as Tamatave - about the extent of the damage there because telephone lines have been brought down by the cyclone. But he warns it could be serious - given that many coastal villagers live in simple houses built of wood and leaves. - BBC.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: USGS Establishes California Volcano Observatory - The Clear Lake Volcanic Field is Placed on Watch List!

The U.S. Geological Survey has established the USGS California Volcano Observatory, or CalVO, headquartered within existing USGS facilities in Menlo Park. Establishing CalVO will increase awareness of and resiliency to the volcano threats in California, many of which pose significant threats to the economy and well being of the state and its inhabitants.

“By uniting the research, monitoring, and hazard assessment for all of the volcanoes that pose a threat to the residents of California, CalVO will provide improved hazard information products to the public and decision makers alike,” explained USGS director Marcia McNutt. “This realignment is part of the USGS's efforts to build the National Volcano Early Warning System, a prioritized modernization of USGS volcano monitoring enabled through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.” The list of potentially threatening volcanoes on CalVO's watch list includes the Clear Lake Volcanic Field, which is located in Lake and Napa counties. Features within the volcanic field are The Geysers geothermal steamfield and the 300,000-year-old Mount Konocti. The area's most recent eruptions occurred around 11,000 years ago around Mount Konocti, according to CalVO.
The volcanic features are Quaternary and include rhyolitic lava dome complexes, cinder cones and maars of basaltic composition, the agency reported. “Although Clear Lake Volcanic Field has not erupted for several millennia, sporadic volcanic-type earthquakes do occur, and the numerous hot springs and volcanic gas seeps in the area point to its potential to erupt again,” CalVO reported. Other areas on the watch list include Mount Shasta, Medicine Lake Volcano and Lassen Volcanic Center in Northern California; Long Valley Caldera and Mono-Inyo Craters in east-central California; Salton Buttes, Coso Volcanic Field, and Ubehebe Craters in southern California; and Soda Lakes in central Nevada. CalVO's watch list is subject to change as new data on past eruptive activity becomes known, as volcanic unrest develops, as monitoring networks are upgraded, and/or as exposure factors change. CalVO takes on responsibility for research, monitoring, and assessing hazards for all of the potentially active volcanoes in California and coordinating with local and state emergency managers to prepare for responding to renewed volcanic activity. Previously, the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Wash was responsible for responding to volcanic unrest at some northern California volcanoes.

CalVO replaces the former Long Valley Observatory, established in 1982 to monitor the restless Long Valley Caldera and Mono-Inyo Craters region of California. The creation of CalVO will improve coordination with federal, state, and local emergency managers during volcanic crises, and create new opportunities for volcanic hazard awareness and preparedness. The realignment of USGS Volcano Observatories will further facilitate collaboration with federal and state partner agencies including the California Emergency Management Agency and the California Geological Survey.“California has always led the nation in comprehensive planning for potential disasters. Having the USGS take the initiative to enhance their volcanic threat capabilities and, most importantly, improve planning and coordination with California's emergency managers is welcomed news. At the end of the day, the public expects us to plan for all hazards, and this is another great example,” said Mike Dayton, Undersecretary of the California Emergency Management Agency.
“California is the most geologically diverse state in the nation. We are known for our earthquakes, landslides and flood hazards. But our nearly forgotten hazard is our volcanoes,” said Dr. John Parrish, the State Geologist of California. “The California Geological Survey welcomes the new CalVO with its expanded scope and organization, and we look forward to its successful operations. The new CalVO will streamline our emergency response operations since CGS has offices at the USGS Menlo Park complex, and CalVO’s authority now encompasses all of California's volcanic provinces in one center.” In 2005, the USGS issued an assessment entitled “Volcanic Threat and Monitoring Capabilities in the United States” (USGS OFR 2005-1164). Volcanic threat rankings for U.S. volcanoes were derived from a combination of factors including age of the volcano, potential hazards (the destructive natural phenomena produced by a volcano), exposure (people and property at risk from the hazards), and current level of monitoring (real-time sensors in place to detect volcanic unrest). Visit the new CalVO Web site at http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/observatories/calvo/. - Lake County News.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Tracking the Galunggung Volcano in West Java, Indonesia - Alert Status Raised Due to Changes in Crater Lake; Resulting in Mass Animal Die-Off!

The alert status of Galunggung volcano in West Java, Indonesia, was raised today (Monday, the 13th of February, 2012) due to an increase of its water temperature and a change in color.

Discoloration of the crater lake had started to be noticed in September 2011, but the changes have increased recently. According to the local volcanologists monitoring the volcano, the whole lake is now of muddy khaki color. In addition to the color change which could be caused by an increase of lake fumarole activity, an steep sudden increase by 13°C of the lake water temperature was detected, based on measurements taken on and before 5 February when it was at normal 27°C, and on 8 Feb, when it was 40°C warm.

Most fish in the lake have died and occasionally dead birds are found at the shore. No other signs of a possible volcanic awakening were detected at the moment. The ph level of the water is still at normal levels 7-8, and there is no sulfur smell. Also, no significant seismic activity has been detected. Nevertheless, PVMBG has now placed the volcano at alert level 2 ("watch", on a scale of 1-4) and recommends to stay away at least 500 m from the lake shore.

The last eruptions of Galunggnug was a small phreatic explosion in 1984, and the major destructive eruption in 1982-83, which produced violent explosions with ash columns reaching 20 km height, pyroclastic flows and large lahars. The eruption destroyed an older lava lake, killed many people and displaced up to 35,000. The eruption is infamous for the aircraft accident on 24 June 1982: a British Airways Boeing 747 with 262 people on board flew through the ash plume and had to make an emergency descent after the ash caused all 4 engines to fail; fortunately, the plane could land safely.

The present-day crater lake (Danau kawah Galunggung) has a diameter of 1000 m and is 11 m deep and contains a volume of about 8 million m3 of water. In the middle of the lake, a small 250 x 165 m diameter scoria cone which was produced during the final staged of the 1982-83 eruption rises to 30 m elevation. A main hazard of the volcano are phreatic and phreatomagmatic eruptions capable of draining the lake and producing mud flows. - Volcano Discovery.

ICE AGE NOW: The Big Freeze and Cold Snap in Europe - Emergency Food Flown into Stranded Towns as Death Toll Rises Above 600!

The death toll from Europe's recent cold snap has passed 600, with more than a third of that tally in Russia alone.  Military planes and police helicopters flew in tons of emergency food to snowbound villages and ships in the Balkans on Monday, after blizzards so fierce that some people had to cut tunnels through 15 feet (4 meters) of snow to get out of their homes.  Since the end of January, Eastern Europe has been pummeled by a record-breaking cold snap and the heaviest snowfall in recent memory. Hundreds of people, many of them homeless, have died in the bitter cold and tens of thousands have been trapped by blocked roads inside homes with little heat.

A Serbian police helicopter delivers food to sailors stuck on stranded boats on the
Danube river near Smederevo, Serbia, on Monday, Feb. 13.
Authorities declared a state of emergency Monday in eastern Romania, where 6,000 people have been cut off for days. About a dozen major roads were closed, 300 trains canceled and more than 1,000 schools shut down.  In addition to the flights, the defense ministry also sent 8,000 soldiers out clearing roads across Romania and helping those trapped by the overwhelming snow.  Emergency officials in Serbia used helicopters to deliver food and evacuate sailors stuck on icebound boats on the Danube river near the town of Smederevo. They also resupplied a Danube island near Pancevo, north of the capital of Belgrade.  Scores of flights across the region were canceled. The airport in the southern Romanian city of Craiova was closed after a plane carrying 48 people skidded during takeoff Monday and landed in a pile of snow, breaking its propellers. A female passenger broke her leg after she jumped from the plane. President Traian Basescu tried to assure Romanians the country has enough energy supplies to prevent shortages but said the government was deciding whether to stop exporting energy, which national energy company Transelectrica wants to do.

A tugboat on the Danube river, one of Europe's key waterways, was breaking up ice between the ports of Sulina and Tulcea in eastern Romania. The boat was also bringing in food to remote villages in the Danube Delta, where supplies have been affected after 700 kilometers (440 miles) of the river froze over last week. The Danube winds 1,785 miles (2,872 kilometers) through nine European countries to the Black Sea.  In Serbia, tens of thousands are still stranded by the snow, while schools and most businesses stayed closed for a second week due to emergency measures to save energy.  An avalanche hit western Serbia late Sunday near the artificial lake of Perucac, sweeping away a man as his wife and child waited in the car nearby. Rescuers say divers would look for the man in the lake.

In Montenegro, rescuers started evacuating some 50 passengers who have been stranded for three days on a train that was blocked inside a tunnel by an avalanche. So far, a little girl and two elderly people have been pulled out and evacuated by helicopter.  Rescuers in southern Kosovo over the weekend pulled a 5-year-old girl alive from the rubble of a house flattened by a massive avalanche that killed both her parents and at least seven relatives. Her home in the remote mountain village of Restelica was buried under 33 feet (10 meters) of snow.  In the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, the roof of the Grbavica stadium partially collapsed Monday under the weight of heavy snow but no one was injured. It was the second stadium roof collapse in Sarajevo in as many days.  Bosnia has been paralyzed with record snowfall for over a week. Temperatures as low as minus 22 Celsius (minus 8 Fahrenheit) have made it difficult to clear the snow. Even regions far from the Balkans have been affected by the deep freeze. North of Paris, icebreakers made their way Monday through the frozen Canal St. Denis. - MSNBC.

This winter has been an odd one so far in Italy. Earlier in February, Rome saw a surprisingly heavily snowfall. Later in the month, Venice's famous canals froze, as seen in the above picture.

On Feb. 6, 2012, Venice's famed canals were choked with ice.
Until this past weekend, much of North America -- except for Alaska -- has enjoyed a mild winter. The return of La Niña, a naturally occurring climate phenomenon featuring cooler-than-average Pacific Ocean temperatures that influences global weather patterns, has pushed the jet stream north, which is partly to blame for Alaska's snowy winter. But in the European region, the effects of La Niña are relatively weak and variable, according to the Met Office, the UK's weather service.  Regardless, cold air pouring southward into southern and eastern Europe has created a brutal winter. The cold has been blamed for tens to hundreds of deaths, according to news reports. - Our Amazing Planet.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Russia's Shiveluch Volcano Remains Very Active in 2012 - Slowly Growing Lava Dome, Frequent Ash Emissions and Rockfalls!

Slow growth of a lava dome characterizes the current eruption of Russia’s Shiveluch Volcano.

Lava domes are formed by magma that is too thick to form lava flows, so instead it builds a rounded mound. According to Denison University volcanologist Erik Klemetti, eruption rates also play a role, with low rates of lava extrusion likely to create lava domes and higher rates favoring formation of lava flows. (The expansion of the lava dome on Mount St. Helens from 2003–04 illustrates how lava domes grow from within.)

This false-color satellite image of Shiveluch was collected by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) aboard Terra on February 2, 2012. The dome itself is shrouded in a plume of steam and other volcanic gases. Light brown ash covers snow downwind of the lava dome, towards the southeast. The northern slopes of Shiveluch are in deep shadow, and the surrounding forests are red/brown.

Further Reading:
• Current Activity of Sheveluch Volcano.
• Kamchatkan and Northern Kuriles Volcanic Activity

- NASA Earth Observatory.

KVERT reported that low levels of seismic activity were detected at Shiveluch during 26 January-3 February. Satellite imagery showed a daily thermal anomaly over the lava dome. Ground-based observers noted that a viscous lava flow continued to effuse in the crater that was formed during a 2010 eruption. Moderate fumarolic activity at the lava dome and occasional hot avalanches were observed all week. Weak ash explosions from the lava dome were reported from the SE flank on 26 January. The Aviation Color Code remained at Orange. - Global Volcanism Program.

PLANETARY TREMORS: 6.5 Magnitude Earthquake Rattles the Solomon Islands - Shaking Homes Across the Island Chain as Global Seismic Unrest Escalates!

A magnitude 6.5 earthquake has struck the Solomon Islands, Tuesday, February 14, 2012 at 08:19:58 UTC. The tremor was located at 10.387°S, 161.262°E, with a depth of 54.7 km (34.0 miles).

The quake had an epicentre of 72 km (44 miles) west of Kira Kira, San Cristobal, Solomon Island; 178 km (110 miles) southeast of Honiara, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands; 189 km (117 miles) southeast of Auki, Malaita, Solomon Islands; and 2082 km (1293 miles) northeast of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

There are currently no reports of any damage or injuries at this time. According to NOAA's NWS Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre, based on an all available data, a destructive Pacific-wide tsunami is not expected and there is no tsunami threat to Hawaii.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Powerful 6.0 Magnitude Earthquake Rocks Japan - Tremor Hit Near the Crippled Fukushima Nuclear Plant!

A powerful earthquake rocked eastern Japan Tuesday, but no tsunami warning was issued and no damage was reported at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.

The US Geological Survey said the 6.0 magnitude quake, with an epicentre 10 kilometres (six miles) deep, was centred 166 kilometres east-northeast of Tokyo, where correspondents said buildings swayed. Japan’s meteorological agency also located the quake off the coast of Ibaraki prefecture, south of the stricken plant. A very small change of tidal level was forecast but was not expected to cause any damage.

Nuclear plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant remained stable. Office buildings in Tokyo swayed for around a minute when the quake struck at 3.21pm (0621 GMT), but there was no sign of panic in a city well accustomed to tremors.

A 9.0-magnitude earthquake in March 2011 triggered a monster tsunami that killed more than 19,000 people and crippled the cooling systems at the Fukushima plant, causing meltdowns in some of its reactors.

Radiation leaked into the air, soil and sea around the plant, forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes. A number of powerful aftershocks have shaken the region since the March quake. Japan, located at the junction of four tectonic plates, experiences 20 percent of the strongest quakes recorded on Earth each year. - Vancouver Sun.

PLANETARY TREMORS: 5.3 Magnitude Earthquake Shakes Greece!

Local authorities say an earthquake with preliminary magnitude of 5.3 has struck the north of Greece. The tremor was located at 40.160°N, 23.999°E, with a depth of 16.7 km (10.4 miles).

The Athens Geodynamic Institute says the undersea earthquake occurred at Tuesday, February 14, 2012 at 01:34:41 UTC, 151 miles north of the Greek capital, Athens, off the coast of the northern peninsula of the Athos monastic community. The epicentre was 93 km (57 miles) southwest of Kavalla, Greece; 104 km (64 miles) ESE of Thessaloniki, Greece; and 147 km (91 miles) northeast of Larisa, Greece.

Greece is in one of the world's seismically active areas, with hundreds of quakes occurring each year. The vast majority cause no injuries

No injuries or damage were immediately reported for this one.