Monday, April 2, 2012

PLANETARY TREMORS: Oaxaca, Mexico Hit With 6.3 Magnitude Earthquake - Same Area Where the Powerful 7.4 Magnitude Hit in March!

An earthquake struck Mexico on Monday, shaking buildings in the capital and prompting people to stream out of their offices onto the street, although there were no immediate reports of damage.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was magnitude 6.3 and centered close to Ometepec in the southwestern state of Guerrero, where a much more powerful earthquake struck last month. It was measured at a depth of 6.2 miles, the survey said.

Marcelo Ebrard, the mayor of Mexico City said there were no initial signs of damage from a first flyover of the city, and telephones were still working. Phone lines went down during the March 20 earthquake which measured 7.4 magnitude and unleashed panic and damaged hundreds of buildings in Guerrero and neighboring Oaxaca state.
- Reuters.

TERMINATOR NOW: The Rise of the Machines - It Now Begins; Department of Defense Outlines Skynet and Terminator Development!

Technology is taking an ever larger role in the systems we rely on every day. The military is not immune to this, and in fact helps push forward innovation if it benefits them. Multiple projects funded by DARPA prove this. However, we have seen a fictional take on where too much reliance on machines and automation can lead. Yes, I’m referring to Skynet as depicted in the Terminator movies.

Now it seems the US Department of Defense is heading in exactly that direction with its research projects and investment. Zachary J. Lemnios holds the position of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering in the US Government. Yesterday he released a letter entitled, “The Department of Defense Is Placing a Big Bet on Big Data.” through a new government site called the Defense Innovation Marketplace. It broadly outlines how new systems are being developed and brought online to “understand and interpret” the growing amount of data being gathered by military sensors. That’s not the worrying bit, though. These so-called Big Data projects have a $250 million budget to spend every year, and one of the projects underway could be named Skynet it’s so close to the artificial intelligence seen in the movies.
The project does not have a name yet, but it could be multiple projects as far as we know. The aim is clear, though. The DoD wants to create a system that combines sensing, perception, and the ability to make decisions to create a “truly autonomous system.” The end result? A system that will be “agile … maneuver and understand their environment … make decisions by themselves … know when to call upon a human.” I think they should call it the T-100 as it’s a first attempt, don’t you? To achieve this intelligent, autonomous system the DoD is investing heavily in tools and techniques to analyze large amounts of data, that offer the ability to understand and react to real-world conditions, and act dynamically without human intervention. So basically a network of machines acting on their own based on the situation and commands sent down from a central command system. There is also a call for ideas to aid the project with 20 open solicitations available. Who is going to step up and offer to develop a foolproof kill switch? Read more at Defense Innovation Marketplace (PDF). - Geek.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Solar System Disturbances - Fiery "Meteor" Blazes Across the Night Skies of New Zealand!

Reports have come in of a bright light seen moving over the sky in Wellington and Christchurch.

There have been numerous reports of what appears to be a meteor shooting across the sky in the South Island and lower North Island. Sightings of a "ball of coloured flame" or "silver fireball" have been witnessed in Christchurch, Whanganui, Wellington, Kapiti Coast, Nelson and Kaikoura between 6pm and 7pm on Monday. One witness in Canterbury wrote on "Was like a flying ball left with a jet stream sort of thing in the sky and was really bright!"

"Fantastically big, bright, and racing across the sky," said another witness in Otaki, Kapiti Coast. Simon Holtham wrote on the website: "I saw this too, it was like something out of a movie, ball of coloured flame shooting towards the earth from west to east, a couple of flashes, lots of smoke which stayed in the sky for ages, and then gone." Another person said: "Seen bright light flying in high speed with huge tail over looking the Cook Strait."
- 3 News.
WATCH: Meteor over New Zealand.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Extreme Drought in the United Kingdom - Rivers Run Dry Across the Country; Worst Drought in 30 Years; Public Restricted to 4 Minutes in the Shower!

The south east of England is now officially in a state of drought, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said today. Some rivers and groundwater levels are lower than during the drought of 1976. People are being urged to cut down on the amount of water they use, from taking four-minute showers which they can clock using egg-timers being posted to households and turning off the tap while brushing teeth.

In the South East, Ardingly reservoir in West Sussex and Bewl in Kent are around two-fifths of their normal levels, according to the Environment Agency. Southern Water has applied for a drought permit to help refill Bewl reservoir, while late last year South East Water was granted a drought order to help refill Ardingly. Anglian Water has also been issued with two drought permits to refill two of its reservoirs. Speaking after today’s drought meeting at Defra, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said: 'Ensuring we have enough water this summer is vitally important, and that is why I called the summit today. 'Drought is already an issue this year with the South East, Anglia and other parts of the UK now officially in drought, and more areas are likely to be affected as we continue to experience a prolonged period of very low rainfall. 'It is not just the responsibility of Government, water companies and businesses to act against drought. 'We are asking for the help of everyone by urging them to use less water and to start now.' Thames Water said hosepipe bans were ‘likely’ in the next few months and has urged its 8.8million customers to spend less time in the shower and to turn off the tap while brushing their teeth. They urged them to use water-saving gadgets and Anglian Water and South East Water have been handing out free shower timers giving people just four minutes under the water. The company's sustainability director Richard Aylard said: 'None of us know how much rain we’re going to get this year, so to plan for the worst and hope for the best is a very sensible move. 'Much of south-east England already has got a drought situation.

'The worrying thing is we’ve had such little rain the groundwater stores that we rely on to keep the rivers flowing are very low. 'Things are going to get worse unless we have significant rainfall over the next couple of months.' A recent survey of Thames Water customers revealed that almost half (45 per cent) thought it was unlikely or very unlikely the region would face a drought this year - but that two-thirds accepted they could save water if there were shortages. Mr Aylard urged people to think about how much water they use. He added: 'There is a high chance we will need restrictions at some stage this summer unless either we get a lot of rain or fantastic co-operation from customers using less water.' Thames Water says people can save water with simple measures, such as turning off the tap while cleaning their teeth or taking shorter showers, fixing leaks and only washing full loads of laundry. The dry winter follows a balmy autumn in 2010, which was the second warmest on record. Resources could be stretched further this year if the dry spell continues into spring, especially in the South East, where the Environment Agency says the risk of drought is now the highest in the country. Meyrick Gough, Water Strategy Manager for Southern Water, said the application is a precautionary measure, which would conserve water in the reservoir and help to secure supplies. ‘We have applied for this permit now because taking water in winter is less likely to have any impact on the environment,’ he said.
- Daily Mail.

RATTLE & HUM: "The Sounds of the Apocalypse" - Mysterious Booms Heard in Ferndale, Michigan; Residents Report Saturday Night Sounds That Shook Homes?!

Ferndale Police are investigating what might have caused three loud booms and light flashes that shook homes and concerned many local residents Saturday night.

The booms were heard around 9:30-10 p.m. and may have originated near the area of Hilton and Marshall. More than 40 people posted on Ferndale Patch's Facebook page about the incidents — describing flashes of light seen in the sky, their homes vibrating with the noise, and helicopters heard overheard following the sounds.
A Ferndale Police dispatcher said last night at 12:30 a.m. that they investigated the noise but could not find its cause. He said fireworks were a possibility. Ferndale Police Lt. Casey O'Loughlin said Sunday morning that he was not aware of any reports made but said loud booms can be caused by fireworks. "That's usually what loud booms turn out to be are fireworks," he said. In Ferndale, any type of fireworks that explode or leave the ground are illegal, he said. O'Loughlin said he was not aware of any helicopters being sent out. Here's what some Patch readers had to say about the noise:
  • Agnes: I'm at W. Marshall and Pinecrest and we heard them. The first one shook my house too. I also heard low flying helicopters. Once, right before the first and loudest boom and then once again after the third "boom". I went outside a couple of times . . . but nothing seemed to be going on. I wonder what happened?
  • Cindy: There's absolutely no way those were fireworks to shake people's houses all over town, first of all...and, this is the 3rd or 4th time we've heard/felt some type of 'explosion' with absolutely no explanation from police at all. When/how are we going to get an answer!?
  • Chris: I was inside the New Way...didn't hear anything due to the music, but noticed a very bright flash of light out the window. It did not look like any fireworks I have ever seen...much brighter.
  • Melissa: I was at the stop spot on 9 mile we saw the sky light up three times. It looked like lightening, twice south of 9 once north of 9 the booms followed. It absolutely did not sound like fireworks. - Ferndale Patch.

CATASTROPHIC PLANETARY TREMORS: Japan's Disaster Nightmare - Japanese Experts Warn of Earthquakes That Could Produce 34-Metre High Tsunamis!

Much of Japan's Pacific coast would be inundated by a tsunami more than 34 metres (112 feet) high if an offshore earthquake as powerful as last year's occurred, according to a government panel of experts.

A tsunami hits residences in Natori, Miyagi prefecture, last March after the largest
earthquake in Japan's recorded history hit the country's east coast.
They report that a wave of such height could result from any tsunami unleashed by a magnitude-9.0 earthquake in the Nankai trough, which runs east of Japan's main island of Honshu to the southern island of Kyushu.  An earlier forecast in 2003 put the potential maximum height of such a tsunami at less than 20 metres (66 feet).  The revised tsunami projections, contained in a report posted on a government website, are based on research following last March's magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami, which spawned a 14-metre (45-foot) wave that devastated most of Japan's northeastern coast, triggered meltdowns at a nuclear power plant and killed around 19,000 people. 

The catastrophe and the ensuing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, prompted sweeping reviews of Japan's disaster preparedness and criticism over apparent failures to take into account potential risks.  The tsunami knocked out power at the 40-year-old coastal nuclear plant, leading to the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986. Tens of thousands of residents have had to leave the area, and it is unclear whether some will ever be able to move back.  The Fukushima plant was designed to withstand a 6-metre (20-foot) tsunami, less than half the height of the surge that hit it on 11 March, 2011.  The latest forecast shows a tsunami of up to 21 metres (69 feet) could strike near the Hamaoka nuclear plant on the south-eastern coast. Its operator, Chubu Electric Power Co, is building an 18-metre (59-foot) high sea wall to counter tsunamis. The wall is due to be completed next year.  The plant was shut down in 2011 due to estimates it has a 90% chance of being hit by a magnitude 8.0 or higher quake within 30 years. - The Guardian.

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.

Burbank, Washington - 23rd of March, 2012.

Birmingham, Alabama - 29th of March, 2012.

Dallas, Texas - 21st of March, 2012.

York, England - 26th of March, 2012.

Cleveland - 1st of October, 2011.

Hong Kong, China - 1st  of April, 2012.

Pic de Bugarach, France - 1st of April, 2012.

EXTREME WEATHER ANOMALIES: 'Astonishing' Heat in March Set Records for the Month in the United States - "It's Almost Like Science Fiction"!

For tens of millions of Americans, last month was the warmest March in their lifetimes.  Meteorologists used the terms "staggering," "astonishing" and "incredible" to describe the heat across the eastern two-thirds of the nation that set thousands of temperature records for March in cities and towns from the Dakotas to Maine to Florida.

"It's almost like science fiction," weather historian Christopher Burt of the private forecasting company Weather Underground reported last month.  Several large cities - including Atlanta, Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Nashville, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Tampa and Washington - had their warmest March since records started being kept.  It was nearly a record warm March for New York City, Philadelphia and Denver, too. But temperature marks fell just short, and March will be recorded as a second-place finish, the Weather Channel reported.  Although nationwide figures won't be available for a few days, it's likely that March 2012 will go down as the warmest March on record in the USA.  "Across the nation, over 7,500 daily record high temperatures were set in March 2012," Weather Channel meteorologist Chris Dolce reported.  In one week, from March 12-18, 3,125 daily record highs were set, which Weather Channel meteorologist Guy Walton said "is the most I have seen for a one-week period since tabulations began" in January 2000.  The warm month came on the heels of the fourth-warmest winter on record across the lower 48 states. 

According to meteorologist Jeff Masters of the Weather Underground, the unusual warmth was caused by a loop in the jet stream that created a large upper-level ridge of high pressure.  That ridge stuck over the Eastern USA - a phenomenon known as a "blocking pattern."  The bizarre warm spell has spilled into early April: Sunday in Plains states, temperatures soared into the 80s as far north as South Dakota.  The heat will continue Monday in parts of the Midwest , where a record high of 91 degrees is forecast for St. Louis by the Weather Channel.  The latest forecast from the Climate Prediction Center shows continued warmth expected over much of the central USA for the next week to 10 days.  The heat confused plants and insects in March, leading to an unusually early blooming of the cherry trees in Washington. Apple and peach trees are already blooming in the Midwest.  "The last year fruit trees bloomed this early in the Midwest was in 2007, which resulted in a late freeze on Easter weekend, an event that is now leaving orchard owners nervous that a similar freeze could happen again this year," the Midwestern Regional Climate Center reported.  The only part of the nation that experienced a cooler-than-average month was the West Coast.  Seattle residents had a particularly dismal month: Chilly temperatures seldom rose out of the dreary 40s and 50s. The city also had 24 of 31 days with measurable rain. - USA Today.

EXTREME WEATHER: Rivers in England to be Linked to Ease Drought - Officials Bracing For One of the Worst Droughts on Record!

Surplus water from rivers and underground sources in the Midlands, Cotswolds and even Wales could be pumped through pipelines or into canals to carry vital supplies to areas facing water shortages, according to the plans. Among the most ambitious schemes being considered is a connection between the River Severn and the River Thames, which would carry up to 65 million gallons of water per day to top up supplies to 14 million households in the region.

The River Severn in Gloucestershire.
Higher rainfall levels on the west of the country – and a lower population making use of the water – means the River Severn usually has three times the flow of the Thames. Engineering consultants for Thames Water are currently assessing a number of options to link the two rivers. Among the favoured options would be a £250 million upgrade for a system of canals to carry the water 36 miles past Stroud and Cirencester into the Thames. A pipeline running from the River Severn through Cheltenham and past Oxford is a second option, while supplies could be further bolstered by connecting the River Wye and the Craig Goch reservoir in Wales to the scheme. Severn Trent Water has also begun work on plans to transfer 6.5 million gallons of water a day from boreholes in Birmingham to Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, 80 miles away. The company says the scheme could provide enough water for 100,000 homes and can be in place by the summer to help relieve the drought crisis. It has also proposed building interconnects to link its water pipe network with neighbouring regions.

Both Thames Water and Anglian Water are among seven water companies in southern and eastern England that have announced bans after dry winter weather over the past two years have left reservoirs, aquifers and rivers well below normal levels. Last week parts of Yorkshire were officially declared to be in drought and river levels in many parts of the country are now at their lowest level since 1976. There were also warnings that the West Midlands and south-west England could also slip into drought without substantial rainfall.
Officials at the Environment Agency said the water industry was now bracing itself for one of the worst droughts on record. Trevor Bishop, head of water resources at the Environment Agency, said: "Water companies are starting to plan to see if there are any prudent actions that can be taken, which include further transfers of water between companies and even from river basin to river basin. "Water takes a lot of energy to transfer, so it won't be something that happens every day, but it can be very useful for meeting drought demands. There are risks, however, such as transferring invasive species and changing river chemistry, so we have to weigh this up." The scheme to transfer water from the Severn to the Thames is currently being examined by engineers, who hope it will secure water supplies for one of the most densely populated parts of the country. - Telegraph.

EXTREME WEATHER ANOMALIES: High Temperatures Shatter Oklahoma City March Record - Warmest Since 1910!

High temperatures last month broke the record for the warmest March in Oklahoma City since 1910, according to the National Weather Service.

The average temperature in March was 60.8 degrees. The previous record for March temperatures in the city was 60.5 degrees in 1910, according to temperature records that date back to 1891. Meteorologists said the average daily high temperature for the month was 71.8 degrees and the average daily low temperature was 49.8 degrees. On the first day of April, forecasters said temperatures will continue to rise in Oklahoma City with a high near 90 degrees and south-southwest wind between 18 and 20 mph with gusts as high as 28 mph.

Skies will be mostly sunny Sunday and mostly clear throughout the night with a low around 63 and south wind with gusts as high as 25 mph. Forecasters said the southwest winds and unusually warm temperatures will quickly lower the relative humidity in western Oklahoma and western north Texas. Winds throughout Oklahoma will be breezy with gusts about 30 mph at times. A Red Flag warning is also in effect for far western counties from noon to 9 p.m. Sunday. Temperatures will reach from 90 to 100 degrees and humidity levels will be between 14 to 20 percent.
- NewsOK.

DELUGE: Tourists Flee in Frantic Scenes as Devastating Floods Hit Fiji - Tropical Cyclone Daphne Kills 4 People and Leaves a Trail of Destruction!

A tropical storm which has already killed four people in Fiji has been upgraded to a cyclone.  Fiji's Meteorological Service said Cyclone Daphne was rated a Category One and had developed 550 km south-west of Nadi at 1pm today.

Winds were reported to have reached about 30 knots (75kph). The Meteorological Service said most of the cyclone would be tracking south of Fiji, and would most likely "fizzle out" once it hit cooler waters, but would not necessarily make the weather any worse in Fiji.  Tourists trapped in the flooded country were suffering nightmarish conditions while thousands of locals were shltering in evacuation centres across Fiji's Western Division. Four people are dead and three young boys are missing at sea.  The boys have been missing since Tuesday after leaving Volivoli in a fishing boat and failing to return as expected on Friday.  Kiwi Tony Travers was supposed to be celebrating his 10th wedding anniversary this week but has instead been contending with floods, power cuts, high winds and brown tap water in Fiji.  Travers, his wife Helena, and their two children have been stranded at the Westin Resort in Denarau for the past three days after rising waters cut access.  "We come from Wellington so are used to high winds but this is something different. 

"You wouldn't walk outside because coconuts are falling from trees and the rain has been unreal - constant and heavy. In the resort there has been massive flooding."  Flood waters swept over the only bridge into the resort on Friday, cutting access for three days.  Meal prices doubled to NZ$65 while the food options dropped off as shop shelves and hotel pantries emptied out.  Helicopter pilots were charging NZ$120 to airlift travellers out, but Travers said their family has decided to sit tight until their flight on Saturday.  "Everyone has been offering to get us out, but getting to the airport is an absolute nightmare," he said.  "It's been back to basics. You go into survival mode and teach your kids to be prepared. It's been a bit of learning curve."  Ann Wilson and her three grandchildren had to be flown by helicopter from a golf course to Nadi Airport after being stranded along with hundreds of other tourists.  They were forced to move from the Westin Hotel to the Sheraton as a result of the flooding, then she scrambled with other tourists to be selected for the helicopter, waiting 3½ hours before flying out of one of many danger zones.  ''People were getting mad, saying they were elderly or they had a baby,'' Wilson said. ''It felt like the Titanic.''  She said she tried to explain to her daughter-in-law what conditions were like, but she would not listen. ''She said to me 'I wish I could be stranded in Fiji','' said Wilson, who had been staying in Denarau. ''She doesn't understand. She could have been wading in sewage.''  - Stuff.
WATCH: Scenes of the flooding in Fiji.

EARTH CHANGES: Ice Covers Much of the Sea of Okhotsk - Arctic Ice Reach Maximum Extent in Winter 2011-2012!

In late March, 2012 sea ice hugged the shores of Russia’s Sakhalin Island and covered much of the Sea of Okhotsk.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Aqua
satellite captured this true-color image of the shifting sea ice on March 25, 2012.
As spring brings increasing sunlight to the region, the ice will begin to break up and flow out to the Pacific Ocean. On March 23, the Japanese Meteorological Agency predicted that ice would flow out of the Goyoumai Pass and the Kunashiri Pass near Hokkaido, Japan in the upcoming week, and warned ships to be cautious about the movement of sea ice.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) announced that the Arctic sea ice reached its maximum extent for the winter of 2011-2012 on March 18. The total extent was 15.24 million square kilometers (5.88 million square miles), which was below the 1979-2000 average, but still slightly above the record low, which was recorded during the winter of 2010-2011. The Sea of Okhotsk lies at a similar latitude as Portland, Oregon and Venice, Italy, and the Sea is the southernmost extent of Artic sea ice. It is generally icebound from November to June, and is frequently covered in heavy fog, making clear images, such as this one, difficult to acquire.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Alert Level Raised to "Green" For the Turrialba Volcano in Costa Rica - Gas Emissions and Towering Plumes of Smoke!

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de y Atención de Emergencias (CNE) has a preventive green alert and restricted access for the perimeter of the Turrialba National Park due to gas emissions from the Turrialba volcano of the last couple of days.

The gas emissions are causing problems of access and egress to the park and authorities are asking for visitors not to visit, but if they do to use extreme caution. Towering plumes of smoke were notices by residents of the Turrrialba this week, forcing authorities to take action. The CNE reminds that the Turrialba is an "active" volcano.

Other volcanoes that the CNE is cautioning visitors, though no alert has been issues, is the Rincon de la Vieja, Arenal, Poas and the Irazu. According to the CNE and eyewitness reports from residents near the Turrialba, the behaviour of the colossus can change at any time and create conditions of danger to visitors. The OVSICORI and the CNE are monitoring all the volcanoes, especially the Irazu, known as the sleeping giant, closest to the Turrialaba. The Turrialba volcano is one of the most active in Costa Rica. - Inside Costa Rica.

EXTREME WEATHER: England Grapples With the Worst Drought in 30 Years!

Dry times in southeastern England are seasoned with the favorite flavors of leaders in the arid American West: drought declarations, water restrictions, a desalination plant, and talk of piping “surplus” water to the south. Because of two consecutive dry winters, the driest six months on record in the eastern region, and the arrival of warmer weather, much of England should remain mired in a severe drought for the spring and summer, according to a forecast released on March 13 by the United Kingdom’s Environment Agency.

The cumulative effect of nearly 18 months of low precipitation in the south and east of England has prompted water utilities to restrict outdoor water use and has already caused a few streams to dry up this winter, when flows are usually highest. If the spring is drier than normal, as the agency predicts, water restrictions for agriculture will affect food production, and fodder for livestock will become scarce and expensive. Taken together, these circumstances are a harbinger. In February, Caroline Spelman, the environment minister, told the National Union of Farmers that a drier climate for England “may be the new norm,” according to the Guardian. Earlier that month, Spelman had convened a drought “summit,” where policymakers, environmental groups, water utilities, and farmers discussed what actions to take during England’s worst drought in more than 30 years. The minister’s assertions about new climate norms are backed up by government climate models. For the east and south of England, the Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs predicts an increase in winter precipitation, but a corresponding decrease in summer rainfall, when water demand is greatest. These findings were used recently in a study released earlier this year from ratings agency Standard and Poor’s.
The study — done in collaboration with TruCost, a group that analyzes environmental risk, and the Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University — found that, because of climate change and population growth, water shortages are likely in eastern England in the next two decades. The heart of the S and P report looked at how these changes will affect water and power companies. Electric utilities, most notably, will see costs rise because of scarcer processing water, higher maintenance costs, and operations curtailed by low water levels in rivers. Companies could also face political risks from changes to water withdrawal permits. The extent of these cost increases depends on future water availability and on the water-intensity of power generation. Neither EDF Energy nor RWE npower — two electric utilities in the east — have had operations affected by the drought, according to their media relations staff. Yet skimpy river flows, and myriad other environmental changes, are already apparent. Most of the rivers in drought-affected areas are “notably or exceptionally low” for this time of year, the Environment Agency noted in its report. The agency used the same language to classify groundwater levels for most of England. Soils are extremely dry as well, and many wetlands are at risk of desiccation, putting wildlife that depends on the boggy areas at risk. With the rainy season ending, there is little chance for these systems to be recharged in the coming months. - COB.