Friday, March 30, 2012

WORLD WAR III: Countdown to Armageddon: Obama Clears Sanctions to Squeeze Iran; the "Most Severe Economic Pressure Ever"!

President Barack Obama said Friday he was plowing ahead with potential sanctions against countries that keep buying oil from Iran, including allies of the United States, in a deepening campaign to starve Iran of money for its disputed nuclear program.

The world oil market is tight but deep enough to keep the squeeze on Iran, Obama ruled. The sanctions aim to further isolate Iran's central bank, which processes nearly all of the Iran's oil purchases, from the global economy. Obama's move clears the way for the U.S. to penalize foreign financial institutions that do oil business with Iran by barring them from having a U.S.-based affiliate or doing business here. Obama's goal is to tighten the pressure on Iran, not allies, and already the administration exempted 10 European Union countries and Japan from the threat of sanctions because they cut their oil purchases from Iran. Other nations have about three months to significantly reduce such imports before sanctions would kick in. Still, administration officials said that Obama is ready to slap sanctions on U.S. partners and that his action on Friday was another signal.
At issue for Obama was ruling, by Friday, whether oil supplies were sufficient to keep demanding that nations cut off Iran - not an insignificant matter in a time of high election-year gas prices at home. Obama gave his OK after considering available reserves, increased oil production by some countries and global economic conditions. The White House emphasized that he would continue to keep an eye on the oil market to make sure that it - and its consumers - could withstand shrinking purchases out of Iran. With oil prices already rising this year amid rising tensions over the nuclear dispute between Iran and the West, U.S. officials have sought assurances that pushing countries to stop buying from Iran would not cause a further spike in prices. It is not year clear, at this stage of the process, how the sanctions could affect gas prices. The U.S. sanctions are set to take effect on June 28. A European oil embargo, approved in January, starts in July. Put together, Obama administration officials contend Iran is about to face its most severe economic pressure ever.

The United States imports no oil from Iran. The main importers of Iranian oil that have not received exemptions from the U.S. are China, India, Turkey, South Africa and South Korea. The administration would be loath to hit a close friend like South Korea or India, or a NATO ally like Turkey, with sanctions, and is working with those countries to reduce their imports. Turkey announced Friday it was shrinking oil imports from Iran by 20 percent, apparently bowing to pressure from the United States and the sanctions threat. U.S. officials hope ratcheting up economic pressure will both push Iran to abandon its nuclear program and convince Israel to give sanctions time to take hold before pursuing a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. The U.S. and allies believe that Iran is pursuing a nuclear bomb; Iran denies that.
Obama's diplomatic squeeze on Iran comes with strong bipartisan support from Congress, which approved the sanctions plan as part of a defense bill in December. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., who co-authored the sanctions legislation with Republican Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, said he welcomed Obama's support in targeting Iran's Central Bank. "Today, we put on notice all nations that continue to import petroleum or petroleum products from Iran that they have three months to significantly reduce those purchases or risk the imposition of severe sanctions on their financial institutions," Menendez said. - Charlotte Observer.

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: Mass Stranding and Die-Off - Ten More Dolphins Stranded at Cape Cod; Total Rises to 200 in Just 3 Months?!

At least 10 more dolphins stranded themselves on the beaches of Cape Cod this week, a Cape-based animal welfare group said. The strandings raised the annual total to more than 200 in just three months, an unusually high number that has left scientists scrambling to find a cause.

Rescue workers on Lieutenant Island in Wellfleet this afternoon, where six dolphins have stranded. At least
two have died. Ten other dolphins stranded in an area further north in Wellfleet today. Two of those were
rescued and may be released later in Provincetown.
"This week we had 10 common dolphins strand in various locations including Brewster, Wellfleet, and Orleans," Michael Booth, spokesman for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said. "We had four strand on Monday - one in Wellfleet and three in Brewster."  Six more dolphins stranded Tuesday -- two in Wellfleet, three in Brewster, and one in Orleans, Booth said. Nine of the 10 were released to the ocean; the 10th had to be euthanized because it had already sustained some injuries, he said.  In addition to rescuing and treating stranded dolphins, Booth said, the group has helped to lead nearly 100 dolphins out of dangerous situations since Jan. 1, including six that were herded out of the Herring River in Wellfleet on Monday. "Those are animals that have been in problematic areas where they would have surely stranded had we not gone out and herded these animals into deeper water," he said.

The most recent strandings come after the end of what was the largest single-species stranding event on record in the Northeast. Between Jan. 12 and Feb. 16, 179 dolphins were stranded on the shores of Cape Cod. In total this year, 208 dolphins have stranded themselves on Cape Cod beaches. Of the stranded dolphins, 94 were found alive and 114 were already dead when rescue groups got to them. After treating the live dolphins, IFAW was able to successfully release 71 dolphins into deeper water - a success rate of about 76 percent. "It's an all-time high for us," Booth said. "We have gotten better and better through the years. We did have a success rate before this of around 60 to 70 percent, but now with this particularly high stranding season, we've got that percent up to 76 percent, which is great." Booth said the month of near-daily strandings allowed the group to put its skills and resources to the test and hone the skills of its small army of volunteers. "It gave us the opportunity to put our systems in place. We have been fine-tuning that for a number of years now," Booth said. "To be able to consistently go out and rescue dolphins and have this high of a success rate is something we are very proud of." - Boston.

SIGNS & SYMBOLS: First Crop Circle of 2012 - Tula, Hidalgo, in Mexico!

In the following video, journalist and ufologist, Jaime Maussan, reports for Third Millennium on the first crop circle of the 2012 season in Mexico.

The crushing in the fields around the world have become more common. However, the February 27, 2012, weird crush appeared in a crop field in Tula, Hidalgo. The figures differ considerably from what we have seen in England. Residents of the area saw lights before such crushing appeared, so they may have been made by intelligent beings. - Third Millennium [Translated].
WATCH: Weird crop circles in Mexico.

FIRE IN THE SKY: "Comet Fever" - Bright New Comet Promises Skywatching Treat in 2013!

A year from now, it is possible that "comet fever" will be running high when a newfound comet emerges into view in the evening sky. But while some scientists have high hopes for a spectacular 2013 sky show by the comet, it is still far from certain.

 Discovery image of the newfound comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS),
taken by Hawaii's Pan-STARRS 1 telescope.
When astronomers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa announced last June that they had discovered the new comet, it was a distant and inconspicuous object. But preliminary calculations at once made it clear that this new object had the potential to become a naked-eye object of considerable interest for skywatching enthusiasts in the Northern Hemisphere.  The comet was christened C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS). Comets are usually named after their discoverers, but in this case a large team of observers, computer scientists, and astronomers was involved, so the comet was named after the telescope.  PANSTARRS stands for Panoramic Survey Telescope And Rapid Response System. It's a 1.8-meter prototype for a quartet of military-funded telescopes that astronomers hope to build on the lip of the extinct volcano Haleakala.

Finding Comet PANSTARRS. The comet was initially photographed on June 6 and was confirmed the following day. Actually, the comet had been unknowingly imaged nearly two weeks earlier, on May 24 from Arizona's Mount Lemmon Observatory. When it was discovered in the constellation Libra, Comet PANSTARRS was a 19th-magnitude object - so faint that only telescopes with sensitive electronic detectors could pick it up - some 759 million miles (1.2 billion kilometers) from the sun.  Astronomers measure the brightness of objects in space on a reverse scale; the higher an object's magnitude, the dimmer it appears to observers. The comet was so far away that at first there was difficulty in pinning down the exact date of when it would arrive at perihelion - its closest point to the sun. Initial estimates suggested anytime from early next February to the middle of April of 2013.  When I first wrote about comet PANSTARRS June 27 of last year, the date of perihelion was set for next April 17. But I also said at the time: "It may yet change again, so stay tuned."   And so it did, to March 9, 2013 - less than one year from today.  The comet will pass to within 28 million miles (45 million kilometers) of the sun on that date. Such an enormous change in solar distance would cause a typical comet to increase in brightness dramatically. And indeed, the comet has responded to the increasing solar warmth as it has approached the sun. On Feb. 13, the comet had brightened to magnitude 14.5, or in other words, it had increased in brightness by more than 60 times since it was first seen last June. The comet still has a long way to go - it's still over 500 million miles (820 million km) from both the sun and Earth - out near the orbit of Jupiter. But it still appears on target to possibly become a bright naked eye object by this time next year.
How bright could Comet PANSTARRS get? Just how bright Comet PANSTARRS will ultimately be still cannot be reliably predicted. Estimates (or maybe really "guesstimates") suggest that at perihelion on March 9, the comet might become as bright as zero magnitude, placing it in the same rank as the stars Arcturus, Vega and Capella; which are some of the brightest stars in the sky. Thereafter, the comet's rapid northward motion, owing to its orbital inclination of 84 degrees to the plane of the solar system will gradually carry it away from the sun and into the western evening sky. If there is a significant tail, it would probably be seen protruding almost straight up and perhaps tilted slightly to the right, relative to the horizon. But as is the case with the comet's brightness, we can only guess just how long it will be.In the week following its closest approach to the sun, the head of the comet will be positioned less than 6 degrees above the horizon during late-twilight; about an hour or so after sunset. You can measure how low this is by recalling that your clenched fist held at arm's length measures roughly 10 degrees in width.  So Comet PANSTARRS will be only about "half a fist" above the horizon as the sky is getting appreciably dark.  On the evening of March 12, the slender sliver of a crescent moon, just one day past new, will be positioned less than 5 degrees to the right of the comet, making for perhaps a very picturesque scene. Prospective observers will need to seek the most favorable conditions possible. Even a potentially bright comet, like this one, can be easily obliterated by thin horizon clouds, haze, humid air, smoke, sunset glow or city lights. Binoculars or a small telescope are recommended for locating both the moon and the comet. - SPACE.

MYSTERY: Symbols of an Alien Sky, Man-Made or Natural Phenomena - The Latest UFO Sightings And Aerial Anomalies Around the World?!

Here are several of the latest unidentified flying objects (UFOs) seen recently across the globe.

Denver, Colorado
- 29th of March, 2012.

British Columbia, Canada - 27th of March, 2012.

Boyton Beach, Florida - 27th of March, 2012.

Trekhgorny, Russia - 23rd of December, 2011.

MONUMENTAL SOLAR CORONA CHANGES: "The Beast" - Monster Solar Tornadoes Discovered; Tempests Measure Width of Several Earths; Swirling at Speeds of up to 190,000 Miles Per Hour!

For the first time, huge solar tornadoes have been filmed swirling deep inside the solar corona — the sun's superheated atmosphere. But if you're imagining the pedestrian tornadoes that we experience on Earth, think again. These solar monsters, measuring the width of several Earths and swirling at speeds of up to 190,000 miles per hour, aren't only fascinating structures; they may also trigger violent magnetic eruptions that can have drastic effects on our planet.

In the lower corona swirling magnetic fields and plasma create huge
solar tornadoes measuring several times the width of Earth.
In one example observed on Sept. 25, 2011, solar researchers from the UK used the high-definition cameras onboard NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) to track solar gases as hot as 2 million Kelvin (3.6 million degrees Fahrenheit) getting sucked from the bottom of a solar prominence and spiral high into the corona. The solar tornado then developed for three hours, gases traveling in spiral paths for around 200,000 kilometers (120,000 miles). "Prominences are tangled magnetic fields trapping cold and dense plasma in the solar corona," Xing Li, solar physicist at Aberystwyth University, told Discovery News. "These often erupt spectacularly and fly out into space as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), and large CMEs will impact our space weather and space technology in a significant way when they are heading toward the Earth. "What drives these eruptions is still not clear and is very important to gain an understanding of CME initiation (so that we can possibly predict such events)."

As mankind becomes more dependent on sensitive technology, it is critical that we develop new and more sophisticated ways to predict the sun's next "temper tantrum." As it turns out, these twisted tornadoes may hold the key to predicting when the next CME will be launched. "This unique and spectacular tornado must play a role in triggering global solar storms," said co-discoverer Huw Morgan, also at Aberystwyth University. "These tornadoes may help to produce favorable conditions for CMEs to occur," Li added, pointing out that the tornadoes his team studied coincided with CME eruptions as observed by other instruments monitoring the wider corona. Also, the tornadoes observed so far by Li and Morgan often occur at the root of where CMEs are initiated. As the dynamic structures wind-up magnetic fields and drag powerful electric currents high into the corona, these tornadoes could generate the conditions ripe for CME eruptions, they theorize. But to observe the tornadoes in the first place requires a bit of luck. Firstly, as they are magnetic structures, if the tornado is empty of radiating plasma, they will remain invisible. Only when hot plasma is being dragged high into the corona can they be seen. Conversely, should the tornado be completely flooded with plasma, you wouldn't see the motion of the material as the radiating plasma would be completely washed out.

Li highlights the need for discrete objects inside the swirling mass so they can be tracked as they move around the tornado. He likens this to the dust and bits of debris that a terrestrial tornado would pick up. Without these objects, we couldn't "see" the spinning wind currents. The same goes for solar tornadoes; discrete "blobs" of plasma can be tracked as they are accelerated and carried high into the corona by the tornado's magnetic field. "Also, we believe that the angle you view the tornado from is important," Li added. "For example, if you imagine the slinky structure mentioned above, if you view it from the side it may not appear so clearly as a tornado." In the past, observers have spotted prominences that they described as "tornadoes," but in the days before the SDO was launched, the necessary definition and rapid image capturing techniques simply weren't available.This research, including the first video of a solar tornado the researchers refer to as "the beast" (pictured top), was presented at the National Astronomy Meeting (NAM) in Manchester on Thursday. Animations of the tornado, plus more imagery, can be found on Li's research page. - MSNBC.

RATTLE & HUM: "The Sounds of the Apocalypse" - Mysterious Booms Have Return to Clintonville; Residents Say Recent Shaking Worst Yet; Scientists Step up Efforts to Solve Mystery?!

Geological officials said Wednesday they are considering putting a seismometer in a Wisconsin city where a small earthquake was recorded last week after strong booms and rumblings shook residents once again. Clintonville police received 65 calls Tuesday night between 10:35 p.m. and 11:40 p.m. and another 19 calls came in between 3:25 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Clintonville Police Chief Terry Lorge said. Several of the booms were heard by officials at City Hall, he said.

Residents reported the most recent booming as the worst yet, city administrator Lisa Kuss said. Most of the previous calls came in from March 18 to March 20, when a 1.5-magnitude earthquake was detected by the U.S. Geological Survey. The calls had since decreased. Jordan Pfeiler, 21, said the booms had been getting weaker so Tuesday night's big boom — followed by smaller ones into Wednesday morning — really scared her. "People started living their lives again because they were getting little," she said. "After last night I don't know what people are doing." The U.S. Geological Survey was unable to detect anything Tuesday night and is considering putting a seismometer in Clintonville to get a better reading of potential activity, said Geophysicist John Bellini, who is in Golden, Colo. He said he suspects it's a swarm of small earthquakes. That's because the agency has ruled out human-made causes, there was one detectable earthquake and multiple events are occurring.While such events are unusual in Wisconsin in recent history, Bellini said it happens several times a year in different parts of the country. He said quake swarms last anywhere from a few days to a few months. He said experts know about the larger ones that are near populated areas with seismometers, but they likely also happen in places without equipment or people to feel them. - Post Crescent.
After more than a week of strange sounds and sensations – the residents of “normally quiet” Clintonville, Wisconsin hope to get more answers.
They have already been stunned to learn that a 1.5 magnitude earthquake caused at least some of the vibrations, but they continue. A team of scientists is preparing to install seismometers in the community 40 miles west of Green Bay. The delicate devices register “shifts” in the earth. WUWM Environmental Reporter Susan Bence spoke with a few of the experts hoping to narrow down the location and source of the continuing seismic activity. Greg Waite is on the road when I reach him. He figures the trip from his lab in Michigan to Clintonville will take about four hours. He is less sure what is causing the seismic activity in the small Wisconsin town. It’s not that Waite doesn’t know his earthquakes. The Michigan Tech assistant professor of geophysics spends most of his time studying them. “Well actually most of my work is in other countries, in Central America and South America, I study volcanic seismicity mostly,” Waite says. Something as small as Clintonville’s 1.5 “rumbling” would normally be a blip on a monitor, but Waite’s interest was piqued by the continuing “swarm” of seismic activity. “It’s so rare to have earthquakes in the upper Midwest,” Waite says.
Waite will not only monitor ground vibration, he’s hoping special microphones will pick up the low frequency sounds residents are reporting – the creaks, cracks and rumbles. “It’s rare that there are good recordings of those sounds, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to try to collect good data to get a better of that phenomenon,” Waite says. Everything Waite’s equipment detects will be funneled to U.S. Geological Survey scientists in Golden, Colorado. Dr. Harley Benz is shipping is “cell modums” to Clintonville, to link Waite’s system with the Colorado facility. “It’s kind of a fancy cell phone in that it’s always on and it’s always transmitting data. So it connects to cell towers and so we can take data straight out of these seismograph stations. And if people feel something or hear something, we can look at the data immediately and figure out what it might have been,” Benz says. Benz echoes Greg Waite’s words - that a quake as small as Clintonville’s would normally go unnoticed, but the mystery of what is happening there, is worth investigating. - WUVM.
WATCH: Mysterious booms return to Clintonville louder than before.

EXTREME WEATHER ANOMALIES: "Weather Weirding" - Weather Runs Hot and Cold, So Scientists Look to the Ice?!

Some people call what has been happening the last few years “weather weirding,” and March is turning out to be a fine example.

Snow on tree blossoms in Tigard, Ore., last week reflected seesawing weather patterns.
As a surreal heat wave was peaking across much of the nation last week, pools and beaches drew crowds, some farmers planted their crops six weeks early, and trees burst into bloom. “The trees said: ‘Aha! Let’s get going!’ ” said Peter Purinton, a maple syrup producer in Vermont. “ ‘Spring is here!’ ” Now, of course, a cold snap in Northern states has brought some of the lowest temperatures of the season, with damage to tree crops alone likely to be in the millions of dollars. Lurching from one weather extreme to another seems to have become routine across the Northern Hemisphere. Parts of the United States may be shivering now, but Scotland is setting heat records. Across Europe, people died by the hundreds during a severe cold wave in the first half of February, but a week later revelers in Paris were strolling down the Champs-Élysées in their shirt-sleeves. Does science have a clue what is going on? The short answer appears to be: not quite.The longer answer is that researchers are developing theories that, should they withstand critical scrutiny, may tie at least some of the erratic weather to global warming. Specifically, suspicion is focused these days on the drastic decline of sea ice in the Arctic, which is believed to be a direct consequence of the human release of greenhouse gases. “The question really is not whether the loss of the sea ice can be affecting the atmospheric circulation on a large scale,” said Jennifer A. Francis, a Rutgers University climate researcher. “The question is, how can it not be, and what are the mechanisms?”

Some aspects of the climate situation are clear from earlier research. As the planet warms, many scientists say, more energy and water vapor are entering the atmosphere and driving weather systems. “The reason you have a clothes dryer that heats the air is that warm air can evaporate water more easily,” said Thomas C. Peterson, a researcher with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A report released on Wednesday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations body that issues periodic updates on climate science, confirmed that a strong body of evidence links global warming to an increase in heat waves, a rise in episodes of heavy rainfall and other precipitation, and more frequent coastal flooding. “A changing climate leads to changes in the frequency, intensity, spatial extent, duration and timing of extreme weather and climate events, and can result in unprecedented extreme weather and climate events,” the report found. Some of the documented imbalances in the climate have certainly become remarkable. United States government scientists recently reported, for instance, that February was the 324th consecutive month in which global temperatures exceeded their long-term average for a given month; the last month with below-average temperatures was February 1985. In the United States, many more record highs are being set at weather stations than record lows, a bellwether indicator of a warming climate. So far this year, the United States has set 17 new daily highs for every new daily low, according to an analysis performed for The New York Times by Climate Central, a research group in New Jersey. Last year, despite a chilly winter, the country set nearly three new highs for every low, the analysis found. - NY Times.

GREAT DELUGE: The Australian Weather Anomalies - New South Wales Floods Affect Area the Size of Spain!

New South Wales' summer flood crisis was the most significant for a generation and affected an area the size of Spain, State Emergency Service (SES) Commissioner Murray Kear said.

"This has been the most significant flood event that inland New South Wales has witnessed in a generation," Mr Kear said today.  "People should not be complacent about the dangers of Mother Nature, as we've seen many people trapped in floodwater needing rescue and sadly, in some cases, lives have been lost," he said.  Mr Kear said the state's storm season ends tomorrow, but warned that flooding will continue to affect parts of the state for days to come.  About 70 per cent of NSW - an area the size of Spain - has been affected by flooding since January.

The SES says about 20,000 people were evacuated from homes at the height of the crisis.  Worst affected communities included Wagga Wagga, Forbes, Gundagai, Yenda, Urana, Barellan, Hay and Darlington Point. Sign up for your free 2 month trial  Many of these communities are now recovering but Mr Kear warned that floodwater will continue to move across NSW, with communities in the state's southwest and northwest most vulnerable.  Evacuation orders remain in place at Maude in the southwest and Condobolin in the central west
. - Herald Sun.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Alaska's Fickle Cleveland Volcano Upgraded Again - Another Lava Dome Forms in the Crater; Showing Escalating Signs of Unrest!

It's hard to believe that volcanic activity can come to seem routine, but Mount Cleveland, an active volcano located in Alaska's Aleutian island chain, is almost becoming just that.

GeoEye IKONOS image shows a faint plume issuing from Cleveland Volcano.
On Wednesday, the volcano was again upgraded by the Alaska Volcano Observatory to alert level "Orange," meaning the volcano is showing "heightened or escalating unrest" and could potentially erupt at any time. It's become a regular song-and-dance for the volcano, which had been downgraded less than a week before after a series of small explosions earlier in March appeared to settle the steady activity that had been occurring over several weeks. In all, the volcano has been upgraded to "orange" five times in the last year, with a month or two of lessened activity before a sudden spike takes it back up.
The most significant eruptive activity to actually occur at the peak in since 2010 was a minor eruption on Dec. 29 of last year, which launched an ash cloud to 15,000 feet but signalled the end of further eruptive activity. The three small explosions detected by remote seismic sensors earlier in March 2012 followed. A lava dome building in the volcano prompted the most recent elevation. There is no real-time monitoring at Cleveland volcano, making updates sporadic and often based on satellite imagery. - Alaska Dispatch.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Unusual Late-March Tropical Cyclone Pakhar Aims Rain and Wind Towards Vietnam!

An unusual late-March tropical cyclone will send torrential rain and strong winds ashore in Vietnam over the weekend.

Typhoon Pakhar showing an impressive cloud swirl on Friday, March 30, 2012.
Southern Vietnam is to the left (west).(NRLMRY/MTSAT-2 image)
Tropical Storm Pakhar, which took shape over the southern South China Sea Thursday, could landfall in southern Vietnam by Saturday night or Sunday. Excessive rain and flooding is possible over a wide area along and north of Pakhar's direct path. Damaging winds will be possible as well. Friday, the center of Tropical Storm Pakhar was within about 300, or 480 km, east-southeast of Ho Chi Minh City, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. At the time, highest sustained winds were 75 mph, or 120 km/h, with storm movement towards the west at about 3 mph. A stretch of coast east of Ho Chi Minh City will be at greatest risk of a storm landfall, as shown by forecast tools available to

Flooding rainfall to at least 12 inches, or 30 cm, will be possible near the storm's track, but also northward along the coast to Nha Trang or even Qui Nhon. Any widespread heavy falls of rain would be unusual, as March into April marks the latter part of the yearly dry season in southern Vietnam. For instance, normal monthly rainfall in March is less than 2 inches, or 50 mm. April is also normally a rather dry month along the coast, but can bring increasing rainfall inland. The western North Pacific Ocean tropical basin is the most prolific in terms of number of named storms each year. However, March and April are within the seasonal lull in tropical cyclones. On average, a named storm happens about once ever three years in March. April storm frequency is about two-fold that of March.
- AccuWeather.
WATCH: Tropical Storm / Typhoon Pakhar forecast update.