Tuesday, March 13, 2012

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Mount Sakurajima In Japan, Erupts Violently - The Most Forceful Since 2009, Launching Foot-Wide Rocks Over A Mile Away!

The Sakurajima volcano in southern Japan erupted multiple times during Monday and Tuesday.

Zoom-in image of the latest eruption from Mount Sakurajima.
Sakurajima continued its second day of violent eruptions on Tuesday, spewing hot rocks and ash, but there was no major damage in the vicinity, the Japanese Meteorological Agency said. The agency said Monday’s powerful eruption was the most forceful since 2009. The volcano is located in the southern prefecture of Kagoshima. The Meteorological Agency added that the volcano has been erupting steadily for the last two years, but the eruption on Monday turned violent, throwing 50-centimetre (1 foot 6 inches) rocks nearly 1.2 miles away, the furthest since 2009. In response, the Meteorological agency extended the eruption warning to residents living further away from the mouth of the volcano. The volcano has already had over 300 eruptions this year. Sakurajima volcano, one of Japan’s more active volcanoes, resumed activity in 1955 and has been active ever since. Sakurajima volcano in Japan’s southern Kagoshima prefecture erupts violently in what officials say is the most powerful since 2009, though there has been no damage so far. - DigTriad.
WATCH: Sakurajima erupts violently.


GLOBAL ECONOMIC CONTAGION: The American Financial Crisis - Fed Unveils Doomsday Scenario for Banks?!

The Federal Reserve released its "worst-case scenario" bank stress test criteria Monday and said it will release full results Thursday at 4:30 p.m. ET.

The Fed will look at how the nation's 19 largest banks would survive a world with a 13 percent jobless rate, a 50-percent drop in stocks, a 21-percent decline in housing prices and a significant contraction of other major world economies.
The Fed conducts the tests on banks every year, but this is the first time since 2009 that it will release its results to the public. In 2009 the Fed found billions in insufficient funds on bank balance sheets.

The tests are designed to make sure banks have enough cash and cash-like securities to withstand catastrophic losses in a financial crisis.

The Fed wants banks to be strong enough to keep lending money to Americans and businesses. The Fed can stop banks from paying stock dividends or buying back their own stock if they fail the test.
- CNBC.
WATCH: Federal Reserve Stress Test Outline.

JURASSIC PARK NOW: Woolly Mammoth to be Cloned - Russian and South Korean Scientists Sign Deal To Bring Extinct Beast Back To Life?!

Russian and South Korea scientists have teamed up to recreate a woolly mammoth – a prehistoric creature that last walked the earth more than 10,000 years ago.

The deal was signed on Tuesday by Vasily Vasiliev, of North-Eastern Federal University of the Sakha Republic and stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-Suk of South Korea’s Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, AFP revealed. The team aim to get to work on thawed remains of the extinct mammal recovered after global warming thawed Siberia’s permafrost. The mammoth’s tissues are to be cloned by using eggs taken from a modern Indian elephant, the Korea Herald reported.

Once the tissues have undergone a nuclear transfer process, the eggs will be implanted into the womb of a live elephant. Hwang lost face in the international scientific community in 2005 when his breakthrough human cloning research involving embryonic stem cells was found to have been faked. He is also responsible for creating the world's first cloned dog, Snuppy, in 2005, an achievement which was independently confirmed. Last year Hwang and his team unveiled eight cloned coyotes in October last year. Sooam specialises in dog cloning, and claims “cloning technology is possible at Sooam for any dog no matter its age, size, and breed. Sooam not only performs dog cloning research, but also heal the broken hearts.” - Huffington Post.


DELUGE: Record Floodwaters Inundate Southern Louisiana - Up to 8 Feet on Some Roadways; State of Emergency in Several Areas!

Record floodwaters inundated parts of southern Louisiana early Tuesday after intense rains caused flash flooding and prompted hundreds of rescues.

Estimates by the National Weather Service put total rainfall at 12 to 18 inches across the region, with possible amounts of 20 or more inches in some areas. A flood warning has been issued until late Tuesday. Floodwaters were cresting overnight for Bayou Vermilion at Carencro at 5.5 feet over flood stage and 12 inches above the record set in May 2004. "We're still conducting rescues," Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office spokesman Kip Judice said Monday evening. "We've done over 150 rescues throughout the day today." One of those involved 16 middle school students whose bus became stuck after more than 4 feet of water covered the road. "It was really scary because we couldn't get out of the bus ... the water was closing it in," said student Cory McCall. "It was thundering and lightning." Boats and dump trucks were used to reach the children and bring them to safety, Judice said. The town of Carencro was among the hardest hit communities in Lafayette Parish, according to Capt. Craig Stansbury, who is also from the Parish Sheriff's Office. He noted there were reports of water as high as 8 feet on some roadways. Stansbury said fire department vehicles, tractors and conventional boats and airboats were being used to reach those stranded in homes and cars. "A lot of things that we have at our disposal, we're just going to go ahead and utilize," he said. "Whatever it takes to get to the people."
The parish declared a state of emergency in the midst of the high water. "We are working with local officials to ensure they get the resources and support they need to respond to the flooding," said Kevin Davis, director of the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. "We urge residents to be mindful ... and to take precautionary measures." A state of emergency was also declared in St. Landry Parish, where Government Administrative Director Jessie Bellard estimated that some 2,000 people had been affected. People were driving dump trucks to rescue residents who have flooding in their homes and can't get out. Bellard said several minor and major roads, including part of U.S. Highway 190, have experienced significant flooding. "It's just a terrible situation," Bellard said. Maj. Ginny Higgins of the St. Martin Parish Sheriff's Office said flooding affected at least 15 to 20 roads Monday in that parish. Several people were safely rescued after being trapped in their vehicles, she said. A state of emergency has been declared for that parish, Higgins said. Stansbury, from Lafayette Parish, said residents knew Monday would be wet but didn't foresee the volume or intensity. "There was a forecast of some heavy rains, but I don't think anybody could have predicted that amount of rain," he said. And while the worst precipitation is over, the headaches are not. Intermittent rain continued to fall. Judice, from Lafayette Parish, said water levels were continuing to rise in his area. "It's still a very crazy situation," he said. - CNN.
WATCH: Rains flood Cajun country.


WEATHER ANOMALIES: Hosepipe Ban Announced For 8 Million as Drought Bites - Two Unusually Dry Winters in Southern and Eastern England!

Water companies across southern and eastern England are bringing are introducing water restrictions as a result of two unusually dry winters which have left reservoirs, aquifers and rivers well below normal levels.

Some rivers and groundwater levels are lower than during the drought of 1976.
Southern Water, South East Water, Thames Water, Anglian Water, Sutton and East Surrey, Veolia Central and Veolia South East are all bringing in restrictions on water use in the drought-stricken South East and East Anglia regions. Last month the water companies warned that hosepipe bans were on the cards, as the Environment Department (Defra) declared the South East had joined most of East Anglia in a state of drought.Shortly afterwards, the rest of the Anglian region went into drought. Southern Water said it was bringing in a ban on hosepipes and sprinklers for domestic customers in Kent and Sussex from April 5 for the first time since 2005/2006, following the second driest 12 months on record in the region.
The use of hosepipes and sprinklers will also be banned for watering public parks and allotments, as well as for filling swimming pools, paddling pools, ponds and fountains. The company's water strategy manager, Meyrick Gough, said: "These measures are being brought in following an exceptionally dry 12 months. "Thanks to improvements made to our supply network, which enables us to move water from areas with a surplus to those with a shortage, our lowest ever leakage level, the ongoing installation of 500,000 water meters and customers being more water efficient, we are in a better position than we would have been in these circumstances in previous years. "But, as the weather gets warmer, the demand for water will rise and therefore, to safeguard supplies throughout the summer we need to restrict the amount of water used in gardens." Bewl reservoir in Kent, which supplies Southern Water customers, is only two-fifths full, and the company was given a drought permit last month to help refill it.  As a result of higher rainfall in the western part of the company's region, there are currently no plans for restrictions in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said: "These temporary restrictions will help protect the public's water supply in the areas most affected by the record low levels of rainfall we have experienced over the last 17 months. "We can all help reduce the effects of drought by respecting these restrictions and being smarter about how we use water. "Taking action now to reduce how much water we use will help us all in the future." - Telegraph.



ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: "Hogs Gone Wild" - Wild Boars With Razor-Sharp Tusks Invade Upstate New York?!

They roam by night, picking cornstalks clean, making off with apple crops. They have almost no natural predators, but they have razor-sharp tusks and a seemingly bottomless appetite for plants and animals. Their population can triple in one year.

Feral pigs forage as they are caught on a night-vision camera on land owned by Rulfs Orchard in Peru, N.Y.
They are feral pigs, and while they have long plagued parts of the Southern and Western United States, now they have become a problem in the peaceful Champlain Valley of New York, an agricultural heartland on the edge of the Adirondacks. Actually, they are rarely spotted. Since they hunt at night and steer clear of humans, few people ever see these pigs. But a pack of them was captured on camera foraging on Bob Rulf’s farm here, their eyes eerily aglow in the light of the flash. “I have yet to see one myself,” Mr. Rulf said. Mr. Rulf, 82, thought he had a deer problem. But when he dispatched a hunter to take care of them last spring, he learned the more disturbing truth. Alternately called wild boars and feral swine, the pigs are not the gentle, pink cousins of Wilbur from “Charlotte’s Web,” E. B. White’s children’s classic. They start to breed as early as 6 months of age, bearing litters of as many as 10 piglets. They carry disease and can be aggressive toward people. They have even inspired a new television series, “Hogs Gone Wild,” about efforts to hunt them from Hawaii to Alabama.

Perhaps most worrisome is their reputation as eating machines: the pigs devour ground-nesting birds and reptiles, fawns and domestic livestock, native vegetation and crops. Feral pigs have already proliferated in parts of western New York. But state officials are drawing a line in the topsoil, so to speak, determined to protect both the agrarian economy and the fragile ecosystem from the nascent herd — or “sounder” in swine-speak — in the town of Peru. “There’s a real sense of urgency,” said Ed Reed, a wildlife biologist for the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation. “Once the pigs get established, they are very difficult to eradicate completely.” Hunting the animals is tricky, given their nocturnal nature. State officials have settled on trapping as the best way to capture an entire sounder of swine. To that end, two technicians have been slowly assembling traps on Mr. Rulf’s property — corrals, 30 feet in diameter, in which dried corn and doughnuts laced with Jell-O powder are luring the estimated half-dozen pigs troubling his farm.With each extension of the traps, the pigs here have grown wary, staying away for a couple of nights before returning to nibble the bait. Officials hope that by the end of March, the pens will be finished and the pigs sufficiently acclimated to allow technicians to set trip wires closing the gates. The traps are circular because feral pigs have been known to crowd into the corners of other traps and climb atop one another to escape. - MSNBC.

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: Disaster Precursors - Snowy Owls Soar South From Arctic in Rare Mass Migration; "The Most Significant Wildlife Event in Decades"!

"What we're seeing now -- it's unbelievable. This is the most significant wildlife event in decades."

In a true mystery of nature, thousands of snowy owls are migrating into and across the U.S from their Arctic home this winter.

The snow-white owls have been spotted from the east coast to the west, in states as far flung as Idaho, Massachusetts, Montana and Missouri, and as far south as Oklahoma. A certain number of owls always fly south from their Arctic home during winter months, but for so many to travel so far is extraordinary. According to Denver Holt of Montana's Owl Research Institute, who has studied snowy owls in the Arctic for 20 years, "What we're seeing now -- it's unbelievable. This is the most significant wildlife event in decades." Snowy owls are birds of prey that feed on a wide variety of small animals and fowl. However their main food staple during mating season is the lemming, a rodent. According to Holt and other owl experts, lemmings were especially plentiful last season. This may have resulted in a higher than normal owl birth rate -- perhaps up to seven baby owls per breeding pair when the usual maximum number is just two. More owls means increased competition for food in their natural Arctic habitat. It's thought many of the younger males were forced to travel much farther south than normal in search of a food supply. And while human bird watchers are thrilled to see an Arctic snowy owl on a neighbor's rooftop or gliding over a city park, there is a distressing side to the migration as well.

People have reported seeing emaciated owls in some locations, as well as at least one that died of starvation. And in a heartbreaking turn of events, an owl that landed at an airport in Hawaii was shot and killed to avoid a potential collision with aircraft. Unfortunately, due to the remote and harsh conditions of the owls' home turf, research on these beautiful creatures is extremely limited. These owls have yellow eyes and black bills. They grow to around two feet in length, with wingspans of up to five feet, and weigh anywhere between 3.5 and 6 pounds. The snowy owl is one of the largest species of owls and is on average the heaviest owl in North America. Adult males are pure white. Females and youngsters have dark scalloping. Young birds are also heavily barred and may have marked dark spotting. The owls' plumage is thick and the taloned feet are heavily feathered. Snowy owls have few predators and are usually dominant over other raptors. Snowy owl populations are thought to be in decline, probably due to a dwindling food supply for lemmings, which account for about 90 percent of the owls' diet during mating season. - Mercola.
WATCH: Cornell Lab of Ornithology feature several stunning close-ups of these magnificent birds of prey.


EXTREME WEATHER: Mexico Withers Under Worst Drought in 71 Years - Could Cause Widespread Hunger For Years to Come!

Odon Leon has grown vegetables in San Luis de la Paz for 50 years, planting tomatoes, peppers, and onions. He says the arid community is fortunate to have wells they can use to water crops, but the water is getting scarcer amid Mexico's worst drought in 71 years. This year, Mr. Leon could only irrigate half of what he usually does, meaning his water-dependent onions suffered: The harvest was a fifth of what it usually is, the lowest ever. "We are not alone," says Leon. "All of us are experiencing low harvests." Food production has gone down by 40 percent across Mexico because of the drought, according to the National Confederation of Peasants.

An almost empty dam is seen next to the village of Puerto Grande in the state of Nuevo Leon.
Northern Mexico is suffering the worst drought in seven decades, causing severe shortage
of food and water and destroying crops.
Leon is one of 2.5 million Mexicans affected by an extreme bout of dry weather across two-thirds of Mexico's states. Humanitarian workers say that if this year's rainy season, which typically begins at the end of spring, is equally dry, some might struggle to grow food and feed their families for another two years. "In some parts of the country this has grown to be a bigger issue than even security," says Alejandro Aboytes, a farmer in Guanajuato and former president of a local producers group. "It is hardest for those who must rely on the rain to grow food. They cannot grow anything, so it means they don't eat."Mexico's drought gained international attention after rumors spread across social media that members of an indigenous group, the Tarahumara of Chihuahua State, were committing mass suicides because they couldn't feed their families. The Tarahumara, featured in the book "Born to Run," are famous for their long-distance running.

Those rumors were dismissed by the government, but the group – which lives amid the cliffs of Copper Canyon in northern Chihuahua, one of Mexico's premier tourism destinations – has been among the hardest hit, along with communities in the states of Durango, Coahuila, Zacatecas, and San Luis Potosí. The federal government, along with nongovernmental organizations such as the Red Cross and World Vision, has responded with food drives, water service, and temporary jobs. Mexico's Ministry of Social Development says it has provided 432 million liters of potable water and 360,000 food packets since May 2011. But David Muñoz, a spokesman in Mexico for World Vision, says that 2 million Mexicans still lack adequate food. One of the biggest problems is the isolation of some of the worst-hit areas. "The communities affected are very far from places where they can get food. Many communities are not accessible by truck," Mr. Muñoz says. "In some places, if a family wants to get food they have to walk three or four hours to the nearest village where they can buy food." In Guanajuato, the state government has provided support for small producers with an aid package worth 1.7 billion pesos, or nearly $135 million, according to the government. The drought in Guanajuato is not as extreme as some in the other affected states, but as one of the top producers of food, what happens here affects the entire country, says Mr. Aboytes. "We have no water," says Juan Manuel Ramirez, preparing a bean field for surface irrigation. "Nothing has come out. The land is so dry here." For people like Mr. Ramirez in Guanajuato, and thousands of others across the country, an increase in food prices has affected their wallets, a situation that translates to despair when nothing grows out of the ground. "I don't know what we will do if it doesn't rain this year," he says
. - MSNBC.


WEATHER ANOMALIES: Above-Normal Temperatures - Warmest Spring in Years to Fuel Active Severe Weather!

An active severe weather season is anticipated in the U.S. during spring of 2012 with the most widespread warmth since 2004.

"As far as the forecast for the spring of 2012, we do feel like it's going to be a mild spring for most of the nation from the eastern Rockies into the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes area," Paul Pastelok, expert long-range meteorologist and leader of the AccuWeather.com Long-Range Forecasting Team, said. "At least two-thirds of the nation could wind up with above-normal temperatures." The Northeast will be mild to start, while the central Plains and western Texas will be a particularly warm zone this spring. An exception to the mild weather will be the Pacific Northwest, where temperatures will be below normal.
Active Severe Weather Season Forecast
An above-normal number of tornadoes is forecast for this season with water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico running above normal for this time of year. The active severe weather season follows a deadly year with a near-record number of tornadoes in 2011. Typically, 1,300 tornadoes strike the U.S. a year. There were nearly 1,700 tornadoes in 2011, falling short of the record 1,817 tornadoes set in 2004. Rounds of wet weather with an active start to the severe weather season are in store for the Deep South, including eastern Texas and the Gulf states, during March. The rain early in the season will be beneficial for drought-stricken areas, including southern portions of Louisiana, Mississippi, southern Alabama, southwestern Georgia and the western Florida Panhandle. Near-normal precipitation is expected in this zone for the entire spring. "Areas that seemed to miss out on frequent severe weather last year may see an uptick this year," AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said. More frequent bouts of rain and severe weather will migrate northward to the mid-Mississippi and Ohio valleys, which were not hit as hard as the Deep South in 2011, mainly during April and May.


Above-normal rainfall is in store for the Tennessee and Ohio valleys as cooler, unsettled weather settles in the region during May. "The Tennessee Valley wild card will be whether cut-off lows bring below-normal temperatures and unsettled weather to the region during May," according to Pastelok. While portions of the South will have welcome rain and above-normal rainfall this spring, drought conditions may worsen in central and southern portions of Florida. Dry conditions are expected for central and southern Florida for most of the season. The increasing dry conditions may also lead to a high fire danger throughout this spring season. "By the summer, the pattern in Florida may flip around with more episodes of wet weather," Pastelok added.
- AccuWeather.

THE CELESTIAL CONVERGENCE: The Venus and Jupiter Conjunction in Mid-March - The Best Juxtaposition in Years!

For the Northern Hemisphere, mid-March 2012 presents the best time to see a Venus-Jupiter conjunction in the evening for years to come. At mid-northern latitudes, these two brightest planets – Venus and Jupiter – stay out for nearly four hours after sunset. That’s about the longest period possible at these latitudes. You can’t miss these two worlds in the west as darkness falls.

And in the opposite direction at nightfall – looking east – you can’t miss the ruddy planet Mars. This world won’t be so brilliant in our sky again until April 2014. Mars shines from dusk till dawn, whereas Venus and Mars set four hours after sunset at mid-northern latitudes. How to see Mars in March 2012 March 15, 2012 presents the exact date of conjunction, when these two worlds have the same right ascension (like longitude on Earth) in Earth’s sky. But Venus and Jupiter are close throughout the month of March 2012. They are like twin beacons – two very bright planets – near each other in the west as soon as the sun goes down. The next Venus-Jupiter conjunction after this one falls on May 28, 2013. Although Venus and Jupiter will be closer together on the sky’s dome during that conjunction, they won’t be as spectacular then as they are this month. That’s because, in May 2013, the two planets will set only a little more than one hour after the sun (at mid-northern latitudes).

Why are Venus and Jupiter up so long after sunset now? For any Venus-Jupiter conjunction to light up the nighttime for a maximum time after dark, a perfect storm of conditions has to prevail. First of all, Venus has to be at or near its greatest evening elongation – farthest angular distance from the setting sun. Second, the ecliptic – or pathway of the planets – has to make its steepest angle with the sunset horizon. Both of these conditions exist this month. The greatest elongation for Venus – when this planet is due to be farthest from the sunset – will happen on March 27, 2012. As for the angle of the ecliptic, it could not be more ideal than March for evening viewing, as seen from the Northern Hemisphere. The close coincidence of Venus and Jupiter in conjunction, the steep angle of the ecliptic and Venus’ greatest evening elongation keeps these worlds up for several hours after dark – and ensures the Northern Hemisphere of a beautiful gathering of worlds in the western evening sky this month. They are well worth getting outside to see. Bottom line: Venus and Jupiter are in conjunction on March 15, 2012. This is the best evening Venus-Jupiter conjunction for years, as seen from the Northern Hemisphere. Venus and Jupiter stay out for nearly four hours after sunset. Venus and Jupiter are close throughout the month of March 2012. They are like twin beacons – two very bright planets – near each other in the west as soon as the sun goes down.
- Earth Sky.

Try to catch them before the sky fades completely black. Venus and Jupiter surrounded by twilight blue is a wonderful sight indeed. IMAGES: from Jimmy Westlake of Stagecoach, Colorado; from Peter Wine of Dayton, Ohio; from Laurent Laveder of Pluguffan, Brittany, France; from Rhiannon Palframan of Cookham Dean, Berkshire, UK; from John Cordiale of Edgecomb Pond, Bolton NY; from Ulf Jonsson of Luleå, Sweden; from Alexander Birkner of Eppelborn, Germany; from Diana Bodea of Ibiza, Spain; from Andrey A. Belkin of Moscow, Russia; from Vesa Vauhkonen of Rautalampi, Finland; from Mitchell Krog of Magaliesburg, South Africa; from Sven Melchert of Stuttgart, Germany; from Bob Northup of Studio City CA. - Space Weather.




GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Current Activity at the Kilauea Volcano - Lava Advances Towards the Ocean!

Another week on Kīlauea brings another change! The volcano is in the midst of a larger-amplitude DI event of 5 microradians, propagating a small release of pressure from the summit through Pu‘u ‘O‘o on the east rift zone, and presumably through the lava tube system which is currently supplying the active flow front heading towards the ocean.

Lava flows on the pali and Kīlauea's coastal plain on March 8, 2012.
According to University of Hawai‘i - Hilo scientists, this flow front yesterday traveled to within 1.4mi/2km of the ocean, which means it has advanced 0.6mi/1km from the base of the pali over the past 6 days. However, our current DI event is likely to slow the advance of this flow-front -- and if it lasts long enough, could eventually stall it and force the creation of a new lava tube somewhere farther up the system, typically above the pali. It's too soon to guess what major change will come next, so as usual we'll wait and see what happens in the next few days, and in the meantime we still enjoy accessible lava on the coastal plain and fantastic views of summit and rift zone glow!

After the eastern lava flow branch referred to in our previous post, first to reach the coastal plain in 2012, almost entirely stalled, the western flow branch has also reached the coastal plain this week, still about 2mi/3km away from the ocean. This western branch is feeding inflating pahoehoe lava flows at the base of the pali, which should continue for several days to fill in a low spot. However, this flow branch looks to have enough momentum to start travelling across the plain towards the ocean, though only time will tell! Meanwhile, the lava lake within Halema‘uma`u crater at Kīlauea's summit continues to produce a bright orange glow which is visible from the caldera rim. The summit, generally inflating, is experiencing a series of small Deflation-Inflation events this week -- if these were a bigger amplitude, there would be a better chance they could disrupt the advance of the lava flows towards the coast as in the past, but for now these pressure changes are restricted to the summit region. Finally, there is also glow visible from Pu‘u ‘O‘o crater on the east rift zone, either from a larger distance at Pu‘u Huluhulu or from a shorter distance at Napau crater with a much longer hike! Small spots of red (distant lava flows on the hillside) are visible from the Public Viewing Area in Kalapana as well as the end of the Chain of Craters Rd within the National Park. - Volcano Discovery.

THE ELECTRIC UNIVERSE: Sunspot AR1429 Creates Unprecedented and Stunning Auroras - Lasting For Almost Two Weeks Around the Arctic Circle!

The recent sustained activity of sunspot AR1429 has kept the Arctic Circle alight with auroras for almost two weeks.

"I have spent many thousands of hours watching and photographing the Northern Lights," says aurora tour guide Chad Blakely of Abisko Sweden, "and I can honestly say that I have never seen the auroras this strong for so many days in a row." In a movie he made last night, March 12th, a green tornado of light swirls across Venus and Jupiter: "We were all absolutely stunned by the natural beauty of this display," says Blakeley. "I know I sound like a broken record, but sunspot 1429 just will not stop!"
The Antarctic Circle has been similarly active. Click on the links for recent shots of Southern Lights: from Dave Headland of Oamaru, New Zealand; from Ian Stewart of Tinderbox, Tasmania, Australia; from Nick Monk of Mountain River, Tasmania, Australia; from John Golja of Tooradin, Victoria, Australia; from Stephen Voss of Invercargill, New Zealand; from Dave Headland of Oamaru, Southern New Zealand. - Space Weather.
WATCH: Stunning auroras over the Arctic circle.


EXTREME WEATHER: Hurricane-Force Wind Gusts, Heavy Snow Hammer Northwest!

As locations east of the Rockies experience Maylike warmth, residents in the Pacific Northwest are in for a stormy week.

The first in a round of potent storm systems will continue to push onshore into tonight, bringing a variety of active weather conditions including hurricane-force wind gusts, feet of snow and heavy rain. A powerful area of low pressure barreling into British Columbia is responsible for the stormy conditions. Along the immediate Oregon and Washington coasts, winds will gust to 75 mph at times with sustained winds of 40 to 50 mph. These battering winds can lead to downed power lines and trees. The winds will whip the rain into sheets along the coast where 1 to 2 inches of rain will fall. By the time the storm winds down late tonight and on Tuesday, some locations could have received up to 4 inches of rain!

Farther inland, rainfall amounts will be less extreme, although a very wet day is in store from Portland to Seattle. In the higher elevations, heavy snow will pile up with blizzard conditions in the high country, when factoring in the strong wind and the snow in the Cascades. The heavy snow and poor visibility will spread southward into the northern Sierra Nevada through the middle of the week. Snow amounts farther inland will be lighter with a half foot in northern Idaho and northwestern Washington. The Cascades of Washington and Oregon as well as the Sierras in California can expect a foot of snow as well. As AccuWeather.com meteorologist Brian Edwards points out, "This pattern, while not favorable for outdoor activities, will help to alleviate some of the dry conditions and the lack of snowpack in the mountains." Edwards goes on to explain, "Snowpack in the Sierra Nevada of California was running at about 30 percent of normal as of the end of February. This is a far cry from the same time last year when snowpack and snow-water equivalent were above average in the vicinity of 120% of normal." This storm system will be the first in a string of moisture-laden disturbances that will impact the Northwest this week.
- AccuWeather.


GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Ijen Volcano in East Java, Indonesia - Eruption Warning Due to Increased Seismic and Degassing Activity!

 The official alert level for Ijen volcano in East Java, Indonesia, has been raised again to 3 ("alert") due to an increase in activity, our Indonesian correspondant Andi reports.

A new 10 m wide gas vent, which erupted buring gasses, was observed on 10 March at 17 m distance from the shore. Thick steaming, larger than usual, forming a thick white column of sulfur steam 200 m high was already noted since 3 March. Measurements of the lake water temperature at 5 m depth had also shown increased values of 42.70 deg C. On 10 March, the lake surface was 2 meters higher than normal, although this could be attributed to heavy recent rain fall. Another sign of increased activity is that many leaves of trees and other plants around the crater have died recently, suggesting higher than normal SO2 levels.

Seismic activity has been rising as well. Since 22 Feb, a near contiuous tremor signal has been being recorded. In the interval 22-31 Feb, there were 52 harmonic tremor periods lasting up to 20 minutes, as well as 17 2 low-frequency earthquakes, 38 mostly shallow volcanic quakes. This number increased to 306 tremor episodes lasting up to 25 minutes, 27 low frequency, and 125 mostly shallow volcanic earthquakes during the latest observation period between 1-10 March. Ijen volcano in East Java, famous for its turquoise acid lake Kawah Ijen and the sulfur mine inside its crater, had been on higher alert starting 18 December 2011, but was lowered to alert 2 on 4 Feb this year, but is now again at the second highest level of 3, meaning that volcanologist think an eruption could be imminent. Access to the crater is currently closed. - Volcano Discovery.


ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: Unusual Shark Feeding Frenzy - Australian Beach Closed After Predators Run Wild Near Shore?!

Remarkable video shot north of the Australian city of Perth shows approximately 50 sharks engaged in a feeding frenzy.

A sea rescue helicopter spotted a school of sharks in a feeding frenzy unusually close to shore off the coast of Perth. About 50 sharks were counted, including black tip whalers, bronze whalers and spinner sharks, some estimated to be over eight feet long.


The animals were feeding on a school of tuna which were themselves feeding on a school of smaller bait fish. A scientist from the Australian Department of Fisheries told local media that the event was unusual only in that it happened so close to shore. Yanchep beach just half a mile away was closed to swimmers for two hours before it was deemed safe. - Telegraph.
WATCH: Unusual shark feeding frenzy.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Rare, Unique and Valuable Meteorite Crashes in Oslo, Norway!

A family in Oslo got a surprise when they visited their allotment garden cabin for the first time this season and found that a 585-gram (20 oz.) meteorite had ripped a hole through the roof. The space rock was discovered "lying five or six metres away," the cabin's owner, Rune Thomassen, told the local newspaper VG.  Such an event is rare in Norway; since 1848 the country has noted only 14 meteorite discoveries.

This meteorite struck the Thomassen family's cabin in Oslo.
Astrophysicist Knut Jørgen Røed Ødegaard from the University of Oslo investigated the report and found it to be genuine. "You can tell immediately that it's genuine from the burned crust, and you can also recognize it from how rough and unusual it is. It gives me goosebumps," Ødegaard told VG.  NASA Astrobiology Institute's Hans Amundsen noted the meteorite's unusual composition: "This is a very rare meteorite because you can see from the cut of it that it contains fragments from many different kinds of rock that have cemented together, forming a so-called breccia."   Such meteorites are caused by previous collisions, cementing together different types of material from impacts with asteroids or planets.This means the meteorite that landed on the Thomassens' cabin may very well have been blown off the surface of Mars at some point in the distant past!

"This is unique. This is double-unique," Ødegaard noted to VG.  According to Amundsen, such a meteorite is very valuable to researchers as well as private collectors, who may be willing to pay highly for it. Chunks of Mars have fetched USD $877 per gram in the past... making the Thomassens' find potentially worth over $500,000!  Norway's geological museum has the country's only meteorite collection "and they're the right ones to determine what kind of meteorite this is," Amundsen said.  Read more on this story here, and see coverage with photos and video on the VG site here (in Norwegian). - Universe Today.