Thursday, February 16, 2012

ELECTRIC UNIVERSE: Space Weather - Geomagnetic Activity Ripples Around the Arctic Circle, and Produces an Outbreak of Stunning Auroras!

According to Space Weather, with no sunspots actively flaring, the sun's X-ray output has flatlined again. NOAA forecasters put the chance of an M-class flare during the next 24 hours at no more than 1%. Solar activity should remain low. However, the magnetic disturbance that I reported on earlier this week is still continuing, providing more puzzles for scientists.
AURORA WHIRLPOOL: Sometimes the sky surprises us. On February 14-15, with little warning, geomagnetic activity rippled around the Arctic Circle, producing an outbreak of auroras that veteran observers said was among the best in months. At the height of the display, a US Defense Meteorological Program satellite photographed a whirlpool of Northern Lights just north of the Bering Sea:

"A number of images from the DMSP F18 satellite captured the dramatic auroral event of the last couple nights," says analyst Paul McCrone, who processed processed the data at the US Navy's Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center in Monterey, CA. The reason for the outburst is still not completely clear. It got started on February 14th when a magnetic disturbance rippled around the Arctic Circle. No CME was obvious in local solar wind data at the time; the disturbance just ... happened. Once begun, the disturbance was amplified by the actions of the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) near Earth. The IMF tipped south, opening a crack in our planet's magnetic defenses. Solar wind poured in and fueled the auroras.

More images:
from Göran Strand of Östersund, Sweden; from Heidi Pinkerton of Birch Lake, Babbitt, Minnesota; from Roger Schneider of Tromso, Norway; from Hanneke Luijting of Tromsø, Norway; from Peter Rosén of Abisko NP, Sweden; from Jesper Grønne of Silkeborg Denmark

FIRE IN THE SKY: UFO/Meteorite/Aerial Anomaly Explodes Over South Carolina - Bright Flash and Loud Boom Woke Many Residents?!

Many people across the Upstate called FOX Carolina and said they were awakened by a loud boom and flash of light early Monday morning.

Most of the reports of the unusual phenomenon came from people living in Cherokee, Spartanburg and Greenville counties at about 1:45 a.m. Officials at the National Weather Service at the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport said that based on eyewitness reports, the event was likely a meteor. The Weather Service said there was a flash in the sky about 1:46 a.m. and they recorded a very faint flash with their cameras. Spartanburg police told the Weather Service that they had received numerous calls from the public. They said that one of their officers said they saw a flash light up their car and saw various pieces disintegrate in the sky. Greenville resident Joseph Fidler sent security camera video from his home showing a bright light illuminating his neighborhood and a reflection of the meteor in the windshield of his car below.

Stuart McDaniel, of Lawndale, NC, sent in video to FOX Carolina that shows a large fireball streaking across the lower horizon at about the same time as the meteor was reported in the Upstate. Dr. Scott Howard, a geologist with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, said the chances of finding a meteorite are very slim. He said only six have ever been found in South Carolina, three of which were found in the Upstate. Howard said objects coming into the atmosphere, known as meteors, are common and are usually called shooting stars. He said if something hits the ground, it is then called a meteorite.

If someone does find something they believe may be a meteorite, Howard said it is safe to pick it up once it cools off because they are not radioactive. The SCDNR reports three basic ways to identify a meteorite. The first way is to use a magnet on a string. The meteorite will sway or attract to the magnet. Second, you can compare the weight to an earth rock of the same size. The meteorite is very heavy, according to the SCDNR. Third, you can observe the exterior of the meteorite. The SCDNR said the meteorite should have a shiny black crust, areas of rust and indentations, like a what thumb leaves in clay. Dr. Charles St. Lucas, with the Roper Mountain Science Center, said the timing of the meteor is uncommon, since astronomers can usually predict them based on when the earth will pass through the tail of a comet. - FOX Carolina.
WATCH: Meteorite over South Carolina.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Very Rare and Deadly Snow in North Africa - Highest Amount of Snowfall in Seven Years, Dozens Die in Algeria Cold Snap!

Think of Algeria and a snow storm does not usually come to mind. But the people of the Mediterranean country are having to get used to unprecedented amounts of the white stuff that have caused widespread chaos.

Dozens of deaths are being linked to the cold snap, amid traffic accidents and carbon monoxide poisoning caused by faulty heaters. And there is anger among residents of mountain villages which have been totally cut off, with fuel and food supplies dwindling. - Euro News.

Algeria turned white by rare snowfall.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: H1N1 Pandemic - The FEHD Releases Latest Results of the Influenza Virus Surveillance in Pigs; Human and Swine Strains Are Now Combining!

The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) today (February 14) announced the latest round of results of the regular influenza virus surveillance programme for pigs at the Sheung Shui Slaughterhouse conducted by the University of Hong Kong (HKU).

Among some 1,500 samples collected and tested from mid-October 2011 to January 2012, one sample tested positive for the human swine influenza virus (pandemic H1N1). A total of 27 samples were found to contain viruses that were essentially swine influenza viruses but had picked up some genes of human swine influenza virus. Among them, two samples were detected with a swine influenza, H3N2, while the remaining 25 samples had H1N2. Swine influenza viruses carrying the genes of the human swine influenza virus were also found in the last two rounds of the surveillance programme (i.e. for May to July and August to October last year).

According to Professor JSM Peiris, the HKU expert in charge of the surveillance programme, given the wide transmission of the pandemic H1N1 virus in humans, detection of the virus in pigs is no surprise. Positive findings might continue to appear from time to time in future. "There have been similar reports from many parts of the world showing that swine influenza viruses carried the genes of the human swine influenza virus. Such viruses are unlikely to pose any major human health risk or cause problems in food safety," Professor Peiris added.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Glacial Loss - Alaska Glaciers Losing 46 Billion Tons of Ice Each Year!

Alaska glaciers have been shedding about 46 billion tons of ice each year, making America's Arctic state the world's single biggest contributor to glacier-fed sea level rise outside of Greenland or Antarctica, say new estimates published this week in the online edition of the journal of Nature.

Icebergs floating in Bear Glacier Lake give off an eery, luminous neon blue.
Still, Alaska remains a wee player in the global ice frappe, producing only about 8.5 percent of the world's annual glacier shrinkage of 526 billion tons, according to the study, led by a team at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The total mass ice loss from Greenland, Antarctica combined with all of Earth's other glaciers and ice caps amounted to about 1,000 cubic miles -- about eight times the water volume of Lake Erie, explained UC-Boulder physicist John Wahr in this story about the work. "The total amount of ice lost to Earth's oceans from 2003 to 2010 would cover the entire United States in about 1 and one-half feet of water," added Wahr, a fellow at the CU-headquartered Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.
Most of Alaska's annual ice loss occurs in the snow-bound coastal ranges that crown the Gulf of Alaska, and it's a huge chunk -- contributing about one third of the 150 billion tons of total annual ice loss from 18 regions around the globe outside of the two much larger continental sources. Southern Alaskans take note: we are seasonal witnesses to this process. The inexorable retreat of Portage Glacier from view at Portage Lake, and other shrinkage by ice tongues in Anchorage's Chugach State Park, have all made tiny-but measurable-additions to this overall glacier breakdown. Only shrinkage by the glaciers on Baffin Island (about 35 billion tons) and the Ellesmere Island area (about 34 billion tons) rival the Alaskan retreat, the study reported. Still, size matters. The loss of ice from Alaska and the Canadian Arctic remains small when compared to the losses seen in the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica. Between 2003 and 2010, the continental ice sheets on Greenland dumped 222 billion tons annually, while Antarctica lost 165 billion tons. - Alaska Dispatch.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Lava Formations in Eastern Oregon Resulted From the Outpouring of Magma - Forced Out of a Breach in a Massive Slab of Earth?!

Like a stream of air shooting out of an airplane's broken window to relieve cabin pressure, scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego say lava formations in eastern Oregon are the result of an outpouring of magma forced out of a breach in a massive slab of Earth.

Their new mechanism explaining how such a large volume of magma was generated is published in the Feb. 16 issue of the journal Nature. For years scientists who study the processes underlying the planet's shifting tectonic plates and how they shape the planet have debated the origins of sudden, massive eruptions of lava at the planet's surface. In several locations around the world, such "flood basalts" are marked by immense formations of volcanic rock. A famous example is India's Deccan flood basalt, a formation widely viewed as related to the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Such eruptions are thought to typically occur when the head of a mantle plume, a mushroom-shaped upwelling of hot rock rising from deep within Earth's interior, reaches the surface. Now Scripps postdoctoral researcher Lijun Liu and geophysics professor Dave Stegman have proposed an alternative origin for the volcanic activity of Oregon's Columbia River flood basalt.

Liu and Stegman argue that around 17 million years ago the tectonic plate that was subducting underneath the western United States began ripping apart, leading to massive outpourings of magma. Their proposed model describes a dynamic rupture lasting two million years -- a quick eruption in geological terms -- across the so-called Farallon slab, where the rupture spread across 900 kilometers (559 miles) along eastern Oregon and northern Nevada. "Only with a break of this scale inside the down-going slab can we reach the present day geometry of mantle we see in the area," said Liu, "and geochemical evidence from the Columbia River lavas can also be explained by our model."

"When the slab is first opened there's a little tear, but because of the high pressure underneath, the material is able to force its way through the hole. It's like in the movies when a window breaks in an airplane that is at high altitude -- since the cabin is at higher pressure, everything gets sucked out the window," said Stegman, an assistant professor with Scripps' Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics. Liu and Stegman came upon their new mechanism by attempting to describe how the complicated structure of Earth's mantle under the western U.S. developed during the past 40 million years. The final state of their model's time-evolution matches the present day structure as imaged by the USArray, the National Science Foundation's transportable seismic network of 400 sensor stations leapfrogging across the United States. - E! Science News.

DELUGE: Over 8,000 Flood Victims in Northern New South Wales Will Remain Isolated Until April!

More than 8000 people remain isolated two weeks after a deluge struck communities in northern NSW. Most of these flood victims will remain cut off for up to another month while a smaller number of them might have to wait until April to see dry land.

"Our estimation is that floodwater in some areas could take anywhere between two to four weeks to clear," said State Emergency Services (SES) spokeswoman Becky Gollings. "In some more remote areas it could take up to eight weeks." Flooded communities in the northwest of the state are getting about 50 tonnes of relief goods delivered daily. The food, mail and medication are being airlifted by helicopter to Lightning Ridge, Collarenebri, Walgett Goodooga and the Aboriginal community of Weilmoringle.

Ms Gollings said river levels were dropping slightly or holding steady. But the floodwaters are slowly moving further west and are expected to swamp towns such as Brewarrina, Bourke, Tilpa and Louth. Local shopkeepers are stepping in to take the orders from people in their area before passing them on to the SES. "It's easier to manage a whole batch of orders this way, instead of receiving calls from each individual home," Ms Gollings said. "We distribute relief goods to each individual house via helicopter." Phil Lalor, SES Macquarie deputy region controller, said several highways and local roads would remain closed until the floodwaters clear.

"Thankfully, no major injuries have been reported but people should still heed vital flood safety warnings", he said on Thursday. Mr Lalor also warned people to stay out of the floodwaters. "(It) can hide many hazards like rubbish and diseases as well as fast-flowing undercurrents that can wash people and vehicles away - even four wheel drives," he said in a statement. "People who are intending to travel to these areas should postpone their plans until the floodwater clears." The NSW government this week extended natural disaster declarations to Brewarrina and Walgett, taking the total number of zones to 23. Federal government hardship funds have also been made available to flood victims in these areas. - Herald Sun.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Ancient Yellowstone Eruptions Not from Supervolcano, Study Says!

Ancient giant eruptions in the Pacific Northwest may actually have been caused by the tearing of a titanic slab of rock and not the supervolcano underlying Yellowstone National Park, scientists now suggest. Supervolcanoes are capable of eruptions dwarfing anything ever recorded by humanity.

A propagating rupture inside the Farallon slab closely follows the eruption sequence of the Steens-Columbia
River flood basalt from 17 to 14 million years ago, where the strong upwelling below the tear should have
melted the slab to form large volumes of basaltic magma.
There are roughly a dozen supervolcanoes on Earth today, one of which sits beneath Yellowstone National Park. Volcanism at Yellowstone is thought to have started with the Steens-Columbia River flood basalts. A flood basalt is the result of a large volcanic eruption that covers vast areas with lava, and the Steens–Columbia River flood basalts erupted more than 55,000 cubic miles (230,000 cubic kilometers) of molten rock over approximately 2 million years, spewing out more than 1 million times the notorious Mount St. Helens eruption in 1980. Flood basalts are thought to typically occur when the head of a giant mushroom-shaped upwelling of hot rock rising from near the Earth's core, known as a mantle plume,reaches the surface. Now researchers suggest a new way for these massive eruptions to form — a breach in a massive slab of the Earth's crust.
Ripping rock

Scientists generated computer models of how the complicated structure of the Earth's mantle layer under the western United States evolved over the past 40 million years. They based their work on data from the USArray, a mobile seismic networkof 400 sensor stations traveling across the United States. The researchers suggest that about 17 million years ago, a giant chunk of rock known as the Farallon slab that was diving underneath the western United States began ripping apart. This led to massive outpourings of magma, the pattern and timing of which appear consistent with the Steens–Columbia River flood basalts. "When the slab is first opened, there's a little tear, but because of the high pressure underneath, the material is able to force its way through the hole," said researcher Dave Stegman, a geophysicist at the University of California, San Diego. "It's like in the movies when a window breaks in an airplane that is at high altitude — since the cabin is at higher pressure, everything gets sucked out the window." Volcanoes are most often seen at the boundaries of tectonic plates. These new findings shed light on a way — in addition to mantle plumes — that volcanoes can emerge within tectonic plates, the researchers said. "Only with a break of this scale inside the down-going slab can we reach the present-day geometry of mantle we see in the area," said researcher Lijun Liu, a geophysicist also at UC San Diego. "Geochemical evidence from the Columbia River lavas can also be explained by our model.
" - Our Amazing Planet.

DELUGE: Tropical Cyclone Giovanna Kills 16 in Madagascar - 65 People Injured and 11,000 Others Have Been Left Homeless!

Cyclone-racked Madagascar is still assessing the toll following the destructing landfall of Giovanna. Reports vary, but estimates of the death toll so far range up to sixteen.

People cross a flooded road in the Sabotsy Namehana commune.
At least 16 people have been killed this week when a category four cyclone lashed Madagascar's eastern shores, rescue authorities said on Wednesday. Some 65 people were injured and about 11,000 people left homeless after Cyclone Giovanna pummelled the country's eastern seaboard causing power shutdowns in parts of the island's port city of Tamatave, rescue officials said. The eye of the storm had made landfall south of Tamatave and was now headed towards the Mozambique channel. Rescue officials said the death toll could rise. "It is still a provisional toll and it may still change," Liva Randrianambinina, a communication officer at the National Bureau of Risk Management and Disaster, told Reuters.

Madagascar is prone to cyclones and tropical storms, especially in the rainy season from February to May. In 2008, Cyclone Ivan smashed Madagascar, killing more than 80 people and leaving over 200,000 homeless. Madagascar, the world's biggest producer of vanilla, is the world's fourth largest island at about size of Texas or France. The island is also one of the world's poorest countries.

The worst of the storm was over by late Tuesday when the authorities cut off power in the capital Antananarivo, and ordered drivers to stay off the roads and businesses to shut their doors as torrential rains persisted. On Wednesday, electricity remained unstable in Antananarivo, said residents. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the national office for disaster response and humanitarian agencies are gearing up to help those affected by cyclone. "What needs to be done now is a proper assessment so we can understand the exact dimensions of this natural disaster," said Dominic Stolarow, UNICEF's emergency coordinator in Madagascar. - Reuters.

Madagascar already has a wary eye on another tropical cyclone churning in the Indian Ocean and heading westward, although its exact path remains uncertain and it is still days away from any possible landfall.

WATCH: Tropical Cyclone Giovanna Blasts Madagascar.


ICE AGE NOW: Deep Freeze Turns Amsterdam Canals into Skating Rinks - Temperatures Drop to -10 Degrees Celsius in the Netherlands!

For the second time in three years, Amsterdam's famous canals have frozen. You know what that means? It's time to lace up the ice skates.

After temperatures dropped to 14 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 10 degrees Celsius) this past weekend, Dutch young and old flocked to the city's famous waterways, gliding across the frozen surfaces on ice skates. The canals also froze in 2010, which was the first time it happened in more than a decade. When this year's freeze was imminent, Dutch authorities closed the canals to motorized traffic, quickening the freeze. A video of the action shows one of the few bright spots in an otherwise brutal European winter. Across the continent, hundreds have died from exposure to the cold. Amsterdam's frozen canals are the latest European waterway to freeze this winter. Earlier this month, Venice's famous canals froze, a rare feat. Europe's second-longest river, the Danube, has also frozen. At least four Balkan nations suspended shipping on the Danube yesterday (Feb. 14) because of heavy ice on the river.

Keeping Europe frozen is a climate pattern called a "Russian Winter." In this pattern, a strong Siberian anticyclone hovers over northern Russia and triggers intense cold and snow, according to a NASA statement. That cold has lingered long enough to freeze stretches of the Danube. The Danube flows through 10 countries, so precise records of its last freezing are not easy to come by. But an obvious reason for this year's freeze is the teeth-chattering cold. Taking the Danube city of Belgrade, Serbia, as one example, this year's cold streak is the worst in more than 20 years, said Jim Andrews, senior meteorologist at The deep freeze on Europe's waterways hasn't been deep enough for some in the Netherlands. Ice skating fans here had hoped that the beloved "Elfstedentocht," a 125-mile (200-kilometer) skating marathon, would be held for the first time in 15 years. The race is run on 22 separate stretches of canals, rivers and lakes, but race officials said not every stretch had the required 6 inches (15 centimeters) of ice. - Our Amazing Planet.

WATCH: Ice skating on Amsterdam Canals.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Activity Update at the Cleveland Volcano in Alaska - Lava Dome Grows 25%!

The lava dome covering Mt. Cleveland volcano in Alaska has grown by 25 percent since last week. The dome was reported to be 40 meters across on Monday Feb. 6., and has now increased to 50 meters in size, according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO).

"We got indications from satellite data that the dome had grown slightly," Alaska Volcano Observatory Research Geologist Matt Haney said. "The recent expansion shows that growth has not ceased." The current lava dome is much smaller than the dome was before the last eruption of Mt. Cleveland. "The previous lava dome that was removed by explosive activity on Dec. 25 and Dec. 29 covered most of the 200-meter-diameter summit crater. So, indeed it was larger than the current dome," said Haney. Given that the current lava dome is still significantly smaller than the dome in December, does that mean the explosion would be smaller if it happened from this smaller lava dome?  "No, a larger dome doesn't necessarily mean a larger yield from the explosion," said Haney. "We're still expecting the same type of altitude for the ash cloud. It should interrupt Trans-Pacific flights."

The dark summit dome on Cleveland volcano seen in August 2011. This dome was destroyed
during the explosive eruptions on December 25 and 29, 2011, but a new dome is already forming.
This cycle of dome growth and destruction is common at volcanoes such as Cleveland.

Satellite radar image from the TerraSAR-X sensor, showing the summit of Cleveland Volcano. Image collected
on Feb. 10, 2012, and shows the presence of a small lava dome within the summit crater. The summit crater is
about 200 meters across. Note that satellite radar images have some inherent topographic distortion due to
the manner in which they are collected. Alaska Volcano Observatory
The new lava dome is still expanding, but when it is finished, it could stay inactive for years. "This recent expansion shows that the growth has not ceased," said Haney. "Eventually, there will be a final dome. When the dome in the crater finishes growing, it can stay inactive for quite a while, but this dome is definitely still slowly growing." When asked if the dome could still potentially explode, Haney said, "It doesn't rule anything out. There's certainly the possibility (with dome growth) that we could see explosions in the future." If the volcano erupts, the dome could actually collapse beforehand. The lava dome could become too massive and cave in on itself before an explosion happens. "Think of it almost like pressing down too hard on a balloon," said Haney. "The moment before a balloon pops, the outside of it collapses and then the air inside expands outward." The volcano is still at an "orange watch" level, which means the volcano is "exhibiting heightened or escalating unrest with increased potential of eruption," and the timeframe is uncertain, according to the AVO. In the event of eruption, the AVO asks you to consult their Ash preparedness website. - Accu Weather.

THE GREAT DELUGE: The Australia Extreme Weather Phenomena - Catastrophic Flood Could Sink Sydney Suburbs!

As Queensland carries out an inquiry into deadly flooding in that state, the spotlight has turned to other parts of Australia and how well they would be prepared for a catastrophic flood.

Up to 70,000 people would have to be evacuated if a major flood was to hit. (file photo)
The Hawkesbury Nepean Valley in Sydney's outer suburbs has a history of massive floods, and while there has not been a big one for more than a century, plans are in place for such an event. The suburbs of Penrith and Emu Plains straddle the high banks of the Nepean River in what is a typical picture of Australian suburbia - lots of brick houses, probably built around the 1960s and '70s. But up to 70,000 people would have to be evacuated if a major flood was to hit the area. The suburbs sit in a flood plain, and if a flood like the one which hit in 1867 was to occur, the whole area could go under. Newspaper reports from the time describe an inland sea that destroyed houses, farms and crops and killed at least 13 people. The town of Windsor, downstream from Emu Plains, was submerged.

Steven Molino is principal of Molino Stewart, an environment and natural hazards consultancy that has been working on flood plain management for 20 years. "The 1867 flood was around 19.5 metres here. So all of these houses would be flooded at least to the eaves, if not higher, in a repeat of the 1867 flood," he said. He says a major flood today would probably destroy many houses in Emu Plains. Steve Opper, director of community safety with the State Emergency Service, says the Hawkesbury Nepean Valley has a unique shape that can lead to catastrophic flooding. "The Hawkesbury Nepean Valley is throttled down by a narrow gorge down near what's called Sackville, which is just upstream of Wiseman's Ferry," he said. "The result of that is that the water can flow into the top of the system very, very rapidly, can't get out, and so you get very dramatic rises in the level of the river. "So normal river level might be two metres; if you're at the town of Windsor and in the most extreme thought possible, that could rise up to 26 metres, which is a number that's quite hard to comprehend." That is seven metres higher than the 1867 flood which submerged the valley. Even if the 1867 flood was repeated, tens of thousands of people would have to be moved. Mr Opper has designed the evacuation plan for the valley. "Our contingency planning for evacuation for that valley indicates that we would have to evacuate between 40,000 and 70,000 people just depending on the level of flooding that we're expecting," he said. "It's a very large number; it would no doubt be probably the largest evacuation of its kind in New South Wales.

Alan Ashworth's house in Emu Plains overlooks the Nepean River and is in the firing line. It is a double-storey house set high on his block and seems way above the level of the river below. But the historic record shows his house could be flooded. Mr Ashworth says he does not have a detailed flood plan. "Basically anything downstairs you'd move upstairs. By the time we get water on this section of the road, basically you've lost Richmond, Windsor and all that," he said. Even so, Mr Opper says moving everything upstairs may not be good enough. "The difference with this valley is that if people stay there, then the depths the water could get to are almost certainly fatal," he said. "And so you can't even take an option of saying well, maybe if people don't get out it'll be OK because they'll be able to survive in their house; that's just not an option in this valley." Because of this, a spillway has been built on the Warragamba Dam upstream from the river and roads have been built and upgraded to help with the evacuation. These measures will help, but when a big flood comes - and the odds say it will - it will not be stopped. Mr Molino says the 1867 flood had about a one-in-200 chance of occurrence. "It can happen. And we have sedimentary evidence from the gorge upstream of Penrith that there's been at least one, if not more floods as large as or larger than a one-in-500 flood in this valley," he said. "Elsewhere in the country we've had floods of that probability. "These things do happen. They don't always happen where there's people or houses, but when they do we have a major catastrophe." - ABC News.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Tracking Activities at the Canary Islands - Sharp Increase in Small Earthquakes at El Hierro Volcano; New Magma Intrusion and Rupturing in the Crust!

The submarine eruption south of El Hierro Island could be in a process of change: While visible activity on the sea surface above the vent, as well as harmonic tremor signal (thought to be more or less proportional to erupting magma flux) have nearly ceased, the number of earthquakes under the island has increased sharply since yesterday.

New bathymetric map (9-13 Feb 2012 survey) published by IEO.
On 15 February, more than 20 quakes were measured. Most of the earthquakes were very small, well below magnitude 2, and were clustered beneath the NW and SW sectors of the island at depths of around 10 km. There is no conclusive interpretation of this measurement. A possible (and usually assumed) scenario is that rising new magma from the mantle reservoir is creating new intrusions and rupturing rock to create pathways in the crust under El Hierro, not using the same paths as until now. That would explain why less magma is currently being erupted at the current vent(s). In that scenario, the eruption will continue, perhaps even from a different vent, and an increase in magma output is going to be expected any time soon. However, this is speculation.
The earthquakes could as well be related to some other (known or unknown) process, e.g. gravity-induced adjustments that respond to pressure changes and occur within previously ruptured areas of the crust beneath the island... 

The eruption has once again paused or perhaps even stopped. There is no longer any significant tremor signal and only a very weak stain can be seen on the ocean. Small earthquakes continue, however, suggesting that it is probably once again only a pause in the eruption. On the other hand, the clear trend of decreasing overall activity over the past 3 months is continuing as if the eruption ends with a very long decreasing tail. The submarine eruption south of El Hierro Island could be in a process of change: While visible activity on the sea surface above the vent, as well as harmonic tremor signal (thought to be more or less proportional to erupting magma flux) have nearly ceased, the number of earthquakes under the island has increased sharply since yesterday.
On 15 February, more than 20 quakes were measured. Most of the earthquakes were very small, well below magnitude 2, and were clustered beneath the NW and SW sectors of the island at depths of around 10 km...

The Instituto Espaniol de Oceanografia (IEO) has published the results of a recent bathymetric survey of the submarine topography of the ongoing eruption south of La Restina (see map). The data were collected on board the Spanish Ramón Margalef research vessel during 9-13 February. The most interesting finding is perhaps that the submarine edifice, which sits on the steeply descending floor of a submarine canyon, and is about 100-150 m tall, has not grown significantly in height over the past weeks and there is a secondary prominent vent that has accumulated enough lava to form a small flank cone about 80 m tall and peaking at 200 m depth. The depth of the principal vent is still at about 120 m below sea level. If current eruption rates continue, it seems extremely unlikely that the eruption, within a foreseeable time, is able to breach the surface to produce Surtseyan explosions or even form a new island. Whether magma-water explosions can breach the surface depend on mainly 2 factors: the water depth, i.e. containing water pressure, and the flux of magma. Both parameters are probably long outside the range to produce significant explosions visible at the surface... - Volcano Discovery.

WATCH: The Guardia Civil's video from their last overflight showing the vent area near La Restinga.