Sunday, April 8, 2012

SOLAR WATCH: Incoming Coronal Mass Ejection Delivers Glancing Blow to Earth's Magnetic Field - 25% Chance of Strong Geomagnetic Storms Around the Poles!

According to Space Weather, Sunspot 1450 has developed a beta-gamma magnetic field that harbors energy for M-class solar flares and a wide equatorial coronal hole is turning toward Earth. Solar wind flowing from the dark gash should arrive on April 12-13.

INCOMING CME: NOAA forecasters estimate a 25% chance of strong geomagnetic storms around the poles on April 8-9 when a CME delivers a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field. The cloud was propelled in our direction by a solar filament, which erupted on April 5th (movie). High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras. Aurora alerts: text, phone.
ANOTHER ERUPTION: For the past few days, magnetic filaments have been rising and snapping all around the sun. The latest eruption occurred during the late hours of April 7th, [and was captured] in an extreme UV video from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. A CME hurled into space by this eruption might deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field on or about April 9th. Like a CME observed two days ago, this one was visually confused by two other clouds leaving the sun from other blast sites at about the same time: movie. Stay tuned for updated analyses. - Space Weather.
WATCH: Solar Activity Update.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Disintegration of the Vast Ice Shelf in the Antarctica Peninsula - Shrunk by 85 Percent Since 1995?!

A vast ice shelf in the Antarctic peninsula, a hotspot for global warming, has shrunk by 85 per cent in 17 years, the European Space Agency (ESA) says.

Melting: A vast ice shelf in the Antarctic peninsula has decreased from 11,512 sq km
to 1670 sq km over the past 17 years.
Images taken by its Envisat satellite show that the so-called Larsen B ice shelf decreased from 11,512 square kilometres in 1995 to only 1670 sq km today.  Larsen B is one of three ice shelves that run from north to south along the eastern side of the peninsula, the tongue of land that projects towards South America.  From 1995 to 2002, Larsen B experienced several calving events in which parts of the shelf broke away. It had a major break-up in 2002 when half of the remainder disintegrated.  Larsen A broke up in January 1995.  "Larsen C so far has been stable in area, but satellite observations have shown thinning and an increasing duration of melt events in summer," the agency said.  Ice shelves are thick floating mats of ice, attached to the shore, that are created by the runoff into the sea from glaciers. 

Scientists say they are extremely sensitive to changes in atmospheric temperature and can be hollowed out from below by warmer ocean currents.  The northern Antarctic peninsula has been subject to atmospheric warming about 2.5C over the past 50 years, a figure that is several times greater than the global average.  Ice shelves are not the same as ice sheets, the vast blankets of frozen water that cover Antarctica.  If these melted, even partially, they would drive up sea levels, threatening small island states and coastal cities.  But the scientific evidence is that the ice sheets so far are stable.  "These observations are very relevant for measuring the future behaviour of the much larger ice masses of West Antarctica if warming spreads further south," ESA quoted Helmut Rott, a professor at the University of Innsbruck in Austria, as saying. - Herald Sun.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Mega-Quake Precursor - Middle America is Experiencing an Unprecedented and Massive Increase in 3.0+ Earthquakes?!

A new United States Geological Survey study has found that middle America between Alabama and Montana is experiencing an "unprecedented" and "almost certainly manmade" increase in earthquakes of 3.0 magnitude or greater. In 2011, there were 134 events of that size. That's six times more than were normally seen during the 20th century.

While the changes in the area's seismicity began in 2001, the trend has really accelerated since 2009, the geologists note. That happens to coincide with increased oil and gas production using new extraction techniques in some parts of the area. The new work is being presented at the Seismology Society of America's conference later this month. An abstract for the presentation is available online.In some regions, the increase in earthquakes is even greater than six fold. For example, in Oklahoma over the past half-century, there were an average of 1.2 quakes of greater than 3.0 magnitude per year. Since 2009, there have been more than 25 per year. A naturally-occurring rate change of this magnitude is unprecedented outside of volcanic settings or in the absence of a main shock, of which there were neither in this region," the scientists write. The conclusion that at least one environmental group has drawn from this data is that fracking, in one way or another, has caused these earthquakes. The Environmental Working Group notes that more than 400,000 wells were drilled between 2001 and 2010, a 65% increase over the previous ten-year period. They also note that the new extraction techniques require vast amounts of water to be injected into the ground: major producer Chesapeake estimates that it uses about 5 million gallons of water per well. Lots of wells plus lots of water injected underground could change the subterranean conditions and lead to more earthquakes.

That, at least, was the United States' Army's experience in doing deep well injection during the 1960s. "If you are doing deep well injection, you are altering the stress on the underlying rocks and at some point, the stress will be relieved by generating an earthquake," seismologist Dave Wolny explained back in 2007. "The events are generally small, but there is no way to predict how the injection process has altered stresses on the fault system in the area, and thus, no way to predict how large the events may get." The USGS scientists aren't willing to draw the causal connection between fracking and earthquakes. "While the seismicity rate changes described here are almost certainly manmade, it remains to be determined how they are related to either changes in extraction methodologies or the rate of oil and gas production," they conclude. But if it is not fracking, then ... What is it? At the moment, we don't have a whole lot of other hypotheses, just a lot of unexplained earthquakes in places where they don't normally strike
. - The Atlantic.

EXTREME WEATHER ANOMALIES: Anchorage Breaks Seasonal Snowfall Record - More Than 133 Inches; Highest Level Since 1954?!

While winter is a distant memory for most Americans, it continues unabated in Anchorage, Alaska -- where a new bout of precipitation this weekend helped the city break its record for seasonal snowfall, at more than 133 inches (3.38 meters).

A spring snowfall has broken the nearly 60-year-old seasonal snow record of Alaska’s largest city.
Some 3.4 inches of snow -- and counting -- had fallen as of 4 p.m. (8 p.m. ET) Saturday in Anchorage, according to the National Weather Service.  That brought the seasonal total for the city to 133.6 inches -- breaking the record of 132.6 inches, set in 1954-1955.  And with snow continuing to fall into early Sunday morning, the figure promises to get even larger.  " the records broken, could you please make the snow go away??!!" wrote one commenter of the Facebook page of the weather service's Alaska division.  Another said, "Oh, it's not chilly. I'm wearing a tee-shirt and shorts while cooking outside and enjoying this beautiful springtime weather @ 35 degrees." 

While snow is nothing new to Alaskans, this year's record haul in Anchorage is notable given that the average seasonal snowfall is 74.5 inches.  And it's also striking considering that, elsewhere in the United States, this past winter was known more for its warmth than its white stuff.  Across the United States, the 2011-2012 winter season was the fourth warmest ever recorded, according to the National Climatic Data Center.  The agency's report, issued in March, found that a relative dearth of snow throughout the contiguous United States contributed to snow cover levels in North America being the fourth lowest since such records were first kept.  Still, as much as Anchorage residents can revel in being standouts when it comes to snow in their country, they hardly merit top billing in their own state.  Other record-setters in the state include Haines, a community about 92 miles north of Juneau that saw about 360 inches of snow for the 2011-2012 season -- smashing the previous record of 309 inches set five years ago, according to the weather service. - CNN.

FUK-U-SHIMA: Pandora's Box at Japan's Nuclear Dead Zone - Humanitarian and Environmental Catastrophe Awaits, if Spent Fuel Pool Atop Reactor #4 Pool Collapses, it Will Spew Mass Death For 50 Years!

The crisis at the Fukushima-Daiichi power plants has not ended. While the first three reactors contained fuel and presented a serious threat since March 11, 2011, they have largely been contained. Reactor 4 contained no fuel when the earthquake hit. Instead, the spent fuel rods had been moved to a cooling pool on the second floor of the containment unit.

The unit suffered enormous damage during the tsunami—a hydrogen explosion blew the roof off, leaving the highly radioactive fuel pool exposed to the open air. If another high level earthquake hits the area, the building will certainly collapse. Japanese and American meteorologists have predicted that such a strong earthquake is indeed likely to hit this year. The meltdown and unprecedented release of radiation that would ensue is the worst case scenario that then-Prime Minister Kan and other former officials have discussed in the past months. He warned during his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos that such an accident would force the evacuation of the 35 million people in Tokyo, close half of Japan and compromise the nation’s sovereignty. Such a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe is unimaginable. Hiroshi Tasaka, a nuclear engineer and special adviser to Prime Minister Kan immediately following the crisis, said the crisis “just opened Pandora’s Box.”

The current Japanese government has not yet mentioned the looming disaster, ostensibly to not incite panic in the public. Nevertheless, action must be taken quickly. This website over the last year has published a running commentary from scientists explaining why Reactor 4 must be stabilized immediately, who might be able to accomplish such a task, and why the situation has largely gone unnoticed. We believe an independent, international team of structural engineers and other advisers must be assembled and deployed immediately. Mounting public pressure would force the Japanese government to take action. We hope these resources are helpful in educating the public about the crisis that we face. As the eminent German physicist Dr. Hans-Peter Durr said ten months ago, if the spent fuel pool spills, we will be in a situation where science never imagined we could be. - Akio Matsumura.
WATCH: Akio Matsumura talks about nuclear power plants, spent fuel pools, and the trouble with Reactor 4 at Fukushima.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Indonesia's Anak Krakatau Volcano Showing Increased Seismic Activity - Small Eruptions Reaches Heights of 150 Meters!

Indonesia's Anak Krakatau (Child of Krakatau) volcano in the Sunda Strait is showing increased seismic activity lately and there are fears there might be a bigger eruption at the volcano compared to the one in 2007.

On the morning of the 7th April 2012 Anak Krakatau started to produce small eruptions from the southern part of the crater. The eruption clouds only reached a height of 100-150 meters and only contained small amounts of ash and only a little rockfall, the eruptions was not of a explosive character.

The rest of the crater and its fumaroles are producing a continuous white cloud of steam/gas, rising to greater heights than the eruption clouds from the southern part of the crater. Additionally the southern/southwestern part of the outer part of the crater does now have fumaroles, indicating that magma is trapped under this part of the cone. - Oystein Lund Andersen.
WATCH: Eruptions at the Anak Krakatau volcano.

RATTLE & HUM: "The Sounds of the Apocalypse" - Mysterious Big Booms and Bright Flash Still Have Poconos Residents in Pennsylvania Buzzing?!

Was it a secret military exercise, the beginning of the Mayan prophesy or an alien invasion?  A loud boom, heard by Pocono residents and others throughout northeastern Pennsylvania the night of March 30, remains a mystery.  The boom, heard at about 10:10 p.m., shook cars and houses from Long Pond to Bushkill.  Pocono Record readers at the time speculated it was a tanker wreck on Interstates 80 or 380, a bunch of semi-trucks rolling down a quiet street or an exploding meth lab.  Some residents reported a bright flash in the sky that didn't appear to be lightning just before the blast.  But most readers agreed the sound was no routine thunder.

What it wasn't. 
One thing it probably wasn't was an earthquake.  The U.S. Geological Survey noted five reportable earthquakes worldwide between 10:02 and 10:22 p.m. The closest to the Poconos was a 1.6 magnitude quake in Seeley, Calif., more than 2,800 miles from northeastern Pennsylvania.  Ohio meteorologist and Pocono weather expert Ben Gelber said the sonic boom was probably due to thunderstorms.  "A similar boom was heard in Honesdale, which rules out a local explosion of some kind," he said. "Acoustic 'shock waves' triggered by a lightning flash trapped in a cold surface can be uncommonly and frighteningly loud."  Temperature readings that night were in the low 40s.  Thunder has been known to crack wood and shatter windows in extreme circumstances, according to Gelber. The sound waves are refracted or trapped in the lowest layers of the atmosphere just above us.  "The timing with storms present, a preceding flash and sonic boom reports separated by 45 miles fit with scattered thunderstorms along a warm front overrunning cold air near the ground," he said. 

Unlikely explanation.
An astronomer Gelber consulted said there was a remote chance that a fragmenting meteoroid could have been responsible for a sonic boom as it passed through a thicker atmosphere closer to the surface.  "This would be a rare situation, and almost certainly would have left some magnetized fragments locally for such a large explosion to occur, and simultaneously during a thunderstorm. However, this would likely not account for the sonic boom around Honesdale," Gelber said.  The Poconos are not alone in unexplained noises.  A small New England community has been beleaguered by mysterious blasts for more than 300 years, baffling scientists and residents, according to published accounts.  The town, Moodus, Conn., is about 30 miles outside of Hartford with a 2010 population of 1,413.  The Wangunk Indian tribe lived in the area during the middle and later parts of the second millennium. The town's name was derived from the Indian word meaning "place of noises."  For hundreds of years, residents spoke of unexplained underground thumps and thunders. They are reported to occur in a particular place about a mile deep and a few hundred yards wide.  The Wangunk tribe believed the booms were made by a spirit angered by the European colonists settling in the area. The settlers blamed the noises on the battle sounds of good and evil witches fighting for their puritanical souls.  Investigators have been unable to explain the noises, which could disappear for a decade at a time.  Geophysicists blamed "microquakes," which occur periodically, but that didn't really explain why they would make noises that sound like distant thunder or cannon fire. - Pocono Record.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Towering Colombia Volcano Showing New Activity - Gas, Vapor and "Strong Odors of Sulphur" Emanating From the Nevado del Ruiz Volcano!

Authorities in Colombia say a towering volcano is showing renewed activity and could erupt in weeks or days.

The Nevado del Ruiz volcano spews fumes near Herveo, Colombia, Friday April 6, 2012.
Gas and vapor has been rising periodically from the Nevado del Ruiz volcano since February and the country's geology institute says people in some areas are reporting "strong odors of sulfur."
As of Friday, officials have not yet ordered any evacuations around the 17,457-foot (5,321-meter) volcano roughly 90 miles (145 kilometers) west of the country's capital, Bogota.

A 1985 eruption at the volcano brought a river of rocks and mud sweeping across the town of Armero, killing 25,000 people.
- ABC News.

PLANETARY TREMORS: The Seismic Ripple Effects - Disturbances From March Earthquake in Mexico Registered in Nevada!

Ripples from a powerful earthquake last month that struck Oaxaca, Mexico, were felt all the way into Nevada, officials said Thursday.

Death Valley, Death Valley National Park.
Effects from the 7.4-magnitude quake, which struck Oaxaca on March 20, were recorded at Devil’s Hole, a part of Death Valley National Park in the Amargosa Valley, about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.  According to a release from the National Park Service, the effects became noticeable in a subterranean cave at the park about 10 minutes after the quake initially struck Oaxaca, and continued for about 20 minutes.

In a video posted online, waves can be seen in the subterranean pool as the water was rocked back and forth by the seismic activity.  Devil’s Hole is home to the endangered Devil’s Hole pupfish, but park officials said it’s unlikely the earthquake damaged the habitat.  At least two people were killed in the initial quake and thousands of homes were destroyed in Oaxaca, which is in the southwest part of Mexico, 1,700 miles from Las Vegas.  Seismic activity at the Nevada portion of Death Valley National Park is rare, according to the release, but the effects of another earthquake in September 1999 that also originated in Oaxaca were recorded there. - Las Vegas Sun.
WATCH: Devil's Hole - Death Valley National Park, March 20, 2012.

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.

Dallas, Texas - 3rd of April, 2012.

Monument Valley, Colorado Plateau, Arizona/Utah - 3rd of April, 2012.

Fresno, California - 5th of April, 2012.

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

SEVERE WEATHER: Red Flag Warning Has Been Issued For Minnesota - High to Extreme Fire Danger Across the State!

Officials are warning of an elevated fire danger through the weekend for much of Minnesota.

Fire danger ratings from the Department of Natural Resources show a high to extreme fire danger statewide due to low humidity and high winds.
The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning for roughly the western third of Minnesota on Friday. It says winds will be from the southeast at 20 to 25 mph with gusts to 35 mph, with relative humidity as low as 20 to 25 percent.
Weather conditions along with dry fuels will create dangerous fire weather conditions. An extreme fire danger rating means the situation is explosive and can result in extensive property damage. While campfires are allowed, authorities are urging caution so they don’t escape. - Albert Lea Tribune.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Alaskan Volcano Remains Active - Low-Level Eruptions at the Cleveland Volcano!

Alaska's Cleveland volcano in the Aleutian Islands is continuing to erupt.

The Alaska Volcano Observatory said Friday that low-level eruptions continue to occur inside the volcano located on a remote, uninhabited island 940 miles southwest of Anchorage. 

The volcano's lava dome in the summit crater was destroyed during a short explosive eruption on Wednesday. The resulting ash cloud reached about 15,000 feet above sea level. 

It was the third lava dome that has been destroyed by explosive events since the eruptions began in July 2011. - ADN.

MASS ANIMAL DIE-OFF: Bat-Killing Disease Continues Deadly Spread - White-Nose Fungus Confirmed in Missouri Bats!

A deadly disease that has killed millions of bats in the northeastern U.S. in recent years has been confirmed for the first time in Missouri, the state Department of Conservation said.  The disease, called white-nose syndrome, was discovered in three bats from two public caves in Lincoln County.

The name describes a white fungus typically found on the faces and wings of infected bats.  The U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis. confirmed the disease in a little brown bat in one of the caves and two tri-colored bats in a second cave north of St. Louis, the department said.  Evidence of the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome was first detected in Missouri in April 2010 on a little brown bat found in a private cave in Pike County.

A month later, signs of the disease was noticed on five federally endangered gray bats and on a northern long-eared bat netted outside a public cave in Shannon County.  The disease spreads mainly through bat-to-bat contact and hasn’t been found to infect humans or other animals.  The specific names and locations of the Lincoln County caves where the diseased bats were found aren’t being disclosed to prevent disturbance of any remaining bats. The caves are closed to public access. - STL Today.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Unusual Bacteria Strain - Officials Seek Source of Salmonella Outbreak in 19 American States?!

Federal and state health officials are investigating a salmonella outbreak in 19 states and the District of Columbia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC reports 93 people in 19 states and the District of Columbia have been sickened by an unusual strain of the bacteria called salmonella Bareilly.

Salmonella infections lead to diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps.
So far 10 people have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported, according to health officials. The first case of this particular food-borne illness was reported on January 28. The most recent case was reported Monday. "CDC is collaborating with public health officials in several states and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate a multistate outbreak of salmonella serotype Bareilly infections," CDC spokeswoman Lola Russell said in a statement. News of the investigation surfaced late Tuesday when an internal memo was inadvertently sent to everyone at the FDA, according to FDA spokesman Curtis Allen. He says the memo speculates about a possible source of contamination -- sushi -- but he says the FDA doesn't know the origins of the outbreak at this time. According to the CDC, state public health officials are interviewing those who became ill to find out what they may have eaten and been exposed to in the week before they got sick. This is how investigations into food-borne illnesses are typically conducted.
Russell said in "initial interviews, many of the ill persons reported consuming sushi, sashimi, or similar foods in a variety of locations in the week before becoming ill." However, it is still early in the investigation. According to the CDC, consumers are not being told to avoid any particular food or restaurants. Once a particular food is identified for this outbreak, the public will be notified, according to a CDC statement.
Consumers are advised to contact their doctor if they believe they became ill from eating potentially contaminated food. Salmonella infections lead to diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps between 12 and 72 hours after someone is exposed to the bacteria, and the sickness can last from four to seven days, according to health officials. The oldest and youngest patients and those with a weakened immune system are the most likely to suffer severe complications from a salmonella infection. Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C. have reported cases linked to this outbreak. - CNN.

SEVERE WEATHER: National Weather Service Assigns Red Flag Warning For Stutsman County - Extreme Fire Conditions on the North Dakota Rangeland!

Stutsman County was categorized as “extreme” on the North Dakota Rangeland Fire Danger Index today, meaning the county’s burn ban is in full effect.

The National Weather Service also assigned the county a red flag warning, meaning fire conditions were volatile and burning prohibited, with specific exceptions noted in the burn ban. The Stutsman County Commission agreed Tuesday to continue the fire emergency declaration and burn ban proclamation it had passed at an earlier meeting.

That ban takes effect when the Fire Danger Index reaches the “very high” or “extreme” categories, or if a red flag warning is issued. “Since the Commission meeting, there have been no grass fires reported in Stutsman County,” wrote Jerry Bergquist, the county’s emergency manager. The commission will review the continued need for the burn ban at its next meeting April 17. - The Jamestown Sun.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: "Unusually Cold and Long Winter" in Russia - Powerful Cycone and Snowstorm Hits Moscow!

Muscovites yesterday woke up to a blanket of snow covering the Russian capital after a powerful cyclone brought a winter storm in the middle of spring. "Last night a small but powerful cyclonic whirl hit the capital at a speed of 50 kilometres per hour bringing with it copious snowfall," weather forecaster Fobos said. "Moscow has become white once again," the weather forecaster said, adding however that frequent weather changes were fairly typical in the country in April.

Temperatures in the afternoon were expected to go up to two degrees Celsius. The snowstorm comes as a major test of patience for Muscovites who have endured an unusually cold and long winter lasting five months. Russians consider that spring begins on March 1. "Pedestrians and drivers are urged to be careful. Gusts of wind can fell trees and tear down advertising hoardings," said NTV television channel. Twenty-one planes bound for Moscow were yesterday redirected to back-up airports, including the central cities of Yaroslavl and Nizhny Novgorod, a spokesman for the Russian federal aviation authority Rosaviatsia said. The spokesman, Sergei Izvolsky, stressed however that the weather did not cause major disruptions at Moscow's airports where runways were de-iced. In another development, Russia’s longest-serving minister Sergei Shoigu, an ally of Vladimir Putin, was yesterday named to the key post of Moscow region governor as part of a shakeup ahead of the Russian strongman’s Kremlin return.

All 46 members of the legislature of the Moscow region approved the nomination of Shoigu, the long-serving emergencies minister, to the governorship, said Putin’s ruling United Russia party which nominated him to the post. The term of the current Moscow region governor, Boris Gromov, expires on May 11, four days after Putin returns to the Kremlin for a historic third term as president that is expected to trigger a sweeping cabinet reshuffle. Shoigu “put together a team of professionals who are efficient in emergency situations, (and) established a modern rescue service which is probably the best in the world,” senior Kremlin official Oleg Govorun said before the vote. Shoigu is Russia’s longest-serving cabinet minister, having worked in every government since 1991. He frequently appears on television and is personally in charge of search and rescue operations during the country’s frequent disasters. “I will do everything to live up to the trust not only of the country’s leadership but first and foremost that of the region’s residents,” Shoigu said in comments released by United Russia. In 2010, Putin’s chief of staff Sergei Sobyanin replaced free-wheeling Yury Luzhkov as the mayor of the Russian capital. - Oman Daily Observer.