Sunday, April 15, 2012

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Mount Sakurajima in Japan, Erupts Violently - Spewing Hot Rocks and Ash!

Sakurajima volcano in southern Japan has erupted again, spewing hot rocks and ash for over a mile around, continuing its record-breaking performance. The eruption on Saturday was one of the most forceful this year. Foot-wide rocks were expulsed over a mile away, although there was no major damage reported in the vicinity. The volcano has been erupting consistently over the past two years, with over 300 eruptions in 2012.

Sakurajima, one of Japan's most active volcanoes, is a post-caldera cone of the Aira caldera at the northern half of Kagoshima Bay. Eruption of the voluminous Ito pyroclastic flow was associated with the formation of the 17 x 23-km-wide Aira caldera about 22,000 years ago. The construction of Sakurajima began about 13,000 years ago and built an island that was finally joined to the Osumi Peninsula during the major explosive and effusive eruption of 1914. Activity at the Kita-dake summit cone ended about 4,850 years ago, after which eruptions took place at Minami-dake. Frequent historical eruptions, recorded since the 8th century, have deposited ash on Kagoshima, one of Kyushu's largest cities, located across Kagoshima Bay only 8 km from the summit. The largest historical eruption took place during 1471-76. - Weekly Volcanic Activity Report.
The following video, taken from a closed-circuit television, captured several of spectacular images.

WATCH: Sakurajima erupts violently.

THE SEARCH FOR EXTRATERRESTRIAL INTELLIGENCE: The "Astonishingly" Remarkable Solar Twin - Scientists Submit Paper Declaring HIP 56948 as Prime Target in the Quest for Other Earths and Aliens!

As of March 2011, the stellar object HIP 56948 (also known as HD 101364), was declared as the most sun-like star yet discovered. Located 217 light years away in the constellation of Draco, halfway between Polaris and Alpha Ursae Majoris, HIP 56948 is a solar twin star of type G5V, the same classification as our sun, Sol.

This week, several scientists, astronomers and researchers, concluded that given the close resemblance to the sun, the planetary system around it, should make it a prime target for other Earths and extraterrestrial intelligence. Jorge Melendez, Maria Bergemann, Judith G. Cohen, Michael Endl, Amanda I. Karakas, Ivan Ramirez, William D. Cochran, David Yong, Phillip J. MacQueen, Chiaki Kobayashi, and Martin Asplund submitted the following statement about the remarkable solar twin,  HIP 56948:

We study HIP 56948, the best solar twin known to date, to determine with an unparalleled precision how similar is to the Sun in its physical properties, chemical composition and planet architecture. We explore whether the abundances anomalies may be due to pollution from stellar ejecta or to terrestrial planet formation. We perform a differential abundance analysis (both in LTE and NLTE) using high resolution (R = 100,000) high S/N (600) Keck HIRES spectra of the Sun and HIP 56948. We use precise radial velocity data from the McDonald and Keck observatories to search for planets around this star. We achieve a precision of sigma = 0.003 dex for several elements. Including errors in stellar parameters the total uncertainty is as low as sigma = 0.005 dex (1 %), which is unprecedented in elemental abundance studies.

The similarities between HIP 56948 and the Sun are astonishing. HIP 56948 is only 17+/-7 K hotter than the Sun, and log g, [Fe/H] and microturbulence are only +0.02+/-0.02 dex, +0.02+/-0.01 dex and +0.01+/-0.01 km/s higher than solar, respectively. HIP 56948 has a mass of 1.02+/-0.02M_Sun and is 1 Gyr younger than the Sun. Both stars show a chemical abundance pattern that differs from most solar twins. The trend with T_cond in differential abundances (twins - HIP56948) can be reproduced very well by adding 3 M_Earth of a mix of Earth and meteoritic material, to the convection zone of HIP 56948. From our radial velocity monitoring we find no indications of giant planets interior to or within the habitable zone of HIP 56948. We conclude that HIP 56948 is an excellent candidate to host a planetary system like our own, including the possible presence of inner terrestrial planets. Its striking similarity to the Sun and its mature age makes HIP 56948 a prime target in the quest for other Earths and SETI endeavors. - Spaceref.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Fireball Seen Across Seven American States - "Brighter Than The Planet Venus"!

People in seven states reported seeing a fireball in the sky last night.

File photo.
They weren't sure exactly what was streaking across the sky, but astronomers from the Adler Planetarium confirm it was a meteor. "This was a very bright meteor," said astronomer Dr. Mark Hammergren. "It was brighter than the planet Venus is in the sky.

So almost as bright as like a quarter moon. So that's very bright as far as these go." There's no predicting meteors, but astronomers say April tends to be a good time for spotting fireballs because there's a higher concentration of debris from the asteroid belt at this time of the year. - ABC 7 News.

WATCH: Fireball seen across seven American states.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Stunningly Massive 200 Foot Wide "Entrance to Hell" Opens up in Sweden - Mysterious Hole in Malmberget is 150 Metres High?! UPDATE: Incredible Images Show Giant Sinkhole Expanding!

APRIL 15, 2012 - SWEDEN - Have a look at the following image of a massive land subsidence in Sweden, that mysteriously collapse to reveal a 200 foot wide open.

Now LKAB's taken new pictures of the pit over Fabian ore. In the pictures you see the new Fabian pit which was expanded during the night between Tuesday and Wednesday in the former cavity full width. The pit is square and 150x150 meters high. - NSD [Translate].
See more images HERE.

UPDATE: Incredible Images Show Giant Sinkhole Expanding!

It looks like something taken straight from a horror movie. An enormous hole leading to hell, some would say. But this is not a movie.  This is a real and dangerous phenomenon. New shocking images clearly show the enormous pit in Sweden is expanding.  The 200 foot wide open pit is called the "Fabiangropen" (Fabian pit) and is in the Malmberget area is located at Gällivare, 75km from Kiruna, Sweden.  As you can see on the map, it is in the northern regions of Sweden. Due to presence of many orebodies, mining at Malmberget is conducted at different levels at 600m, 815m and 1,000m. 

The mining company LKAB has now taken new pictures of the pit.  In the pictures you see the new Fabian pit which has expanded during the night between Tuesday and Wednesday in the former cavity full width.  The pit is square and 150×150 meters high.  This is naturally very bad news for people who live close to this giant sinkhole and many are afraid and also annoyed because of the loud noises. According to the locals sometimes the tremor around here can last up to 45 minutes! " I'm scared, I do not want to be alone in the house when it happens. It is so loud and it only gets louder and louder. It is like having an aIRplane flying low above the house. It is just like the beginning of a volcano eruption," said Berit Hannu who lives very close to the pit.    The problem is by no means over. The giant sinkhole keeps expanding and the future remains uncertain. - Message to Eagle.

BIG BROTHER NOW: The Cashless Society and the Emerging Global Police State - Japanese Bank to Install Machines to Scan Hand for ATM Cash, No Card Required!

In a move that seems like it should have happened in the year 2000, a Japanese bank announced it will be installing about a dozen automated teller machines that can read customers' palms to identify them. Ogaki Kyoritsu Bank will be the country's first to introduce the system.

First, Ogaki Kyoritsu Bank (Japanese site) customers will register their biometric information at a branch, according to Gizmag's Darren Quick. Then they'll be able to go to one of the new ATMs and get cash simply by scanning a hand, typing in their birthdate and a four-digit PIN.  This being technophilic Japan we're talking about, I would have thought every bank there has body scanning ATMs by now. The thing is, the scanning technology is already out there but still requires every customer to use a card. Essentially the scanning has been an extra security measure. Following the massive earthquake and tsunami more than a year ago in Japan, scanning started to be seen in a new light. Instead of being extra security, it could mean standard security for customers who need cash in an emergency but don't have their bank cards on them.

The AFP reports that Ziraat Bank in Turkey was the first to use the palm-scanning bank machines that don't need a card. In Japan, Ogaki Kyoritsu plans to install the new ATMs at 10 branches, two mobile banks, and a drive-through location this September. Sliding a well-worn piece of plastic into a machine to get cash has long seemed archaic, but I guess adding going card-free in the U.S. would pretty much guarantee higher bank fees. Ugh. As long as old-school plastic still works, I'm in no hurry to scan body parts for a $20 bill.  Then again, there's something potentially freeing about not needing a plastic card. Look, guys, I just place my hand here and cash comes out! Still, I do feel kind of bad for parents who will have to explain how this works to little kids: "No, sweetie. I can't always just make money appear."
- Discovery News.

EXTREME WEATHER: Violent Storms and Tornadoes Cut Across the Central Plains - 75 Percent of Thurman in Iowa Obliterated By Tornado! UPDATE: Twisters Kill 5 in U.S. Midwest!

A series of powerful thunderstorms spawned dozens of reported tornadoes across parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa on Saturday, damaging homes, at least one hospital and nearly wiping out an entire small town, but causing only minor injuries and no deaths, the authorities said.  Most of the reported tornadoes were either short-lived or struck largely rural areas, causing only minor damage, but there were a few exceptions.

In Iowa Saturday night, a possible tornado struck the Greater Regional Medical Center in Creston, a town of 7,800 about 75 miles outside Des Moines. The hospital sustained roof damage, but no injuries were reported and patients were being moved to a hospital about 30 miles away. The town’s mayor, Warren Woods, told The Weather Channel that about half the city was without power, and there were numerous trees and power lines down. Late into the evening Saturday, there were other reports in Kansas of high winds or tornadoes damaging the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport and five homes in rural Saline County. Elsewhere in Iowa, a possible tornado battered the small community of Thurman, a town of roughly 300 about 43 miles south of Omaha, Neb.Mike Crecelius, the emergency management director for Thurman’s Fremont County, said that 75 percent of the homes in the town were either damaged or destroyed, and that the entire community was on lockdown for safety reasons and without power. “Luckily, we have no injuries and no deaths,” Mr. Crecelius said in a telephone interview. “Mostly everybody was able to get to cover before it hit.”

On Friday, forecasters with the National Weather Service had predicted a tornado outbreak that had the potential of being a “high-end, life-threatening event,” issuing a rare high-risk warning for parts of Oklahoma and Nebraska. The warning, made more than 24 hours in advance of the storms, set the stage for a tense weekend across much of the Central Plains, as local emergency officials, residents and forecasters monitored a series of storms that appeared to gain strength on Saturday as evening approached. Russell Schneider, the director of the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said Saturday there was a “strong potential for damaging, long-track tornadoes” across large swaths of Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma, including the metropolitan areas of Omaha, Wichita, and Oklahoma City.

At its most damaging, authorities were bracing for winds up to 70 miles per hour in some areas, Mr. Schneider said, with the chance of hail the size of “a golf ball, even tennis baseball, maybe even baseballs.” The storms were expected to shift eastward on Sunday, moving toward Wisconsin, Illinois and Missouri. The high-risk warning forecast, issued by the Storm Prediction Center, came after a recent announcement from the weather service that increasingly ominous terms, like “mass devastation” or “catastrophic,” would be tested in warnings issued across areas of Kansas and Missouri. The goal, said Mike Hudson, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Kansas City, is to increase the likelihood that residents will heed the agency’s warnings during the most extreme weather events. “When we have a day like today, with a very significant risk for very significant weather, those are the days we want to be calling out the level of risk in our warnings,” he said. “This will be the first opportunity.”
- NY Times.
WATCH: Twin tornadoes over Waynoka and Ada in Oklahoma destroying several buildings.

UPDATE: Twisters Kill 5 in U.S. Midwest - Levels Town of Thurman in Iowa!
At least five people were killed when a series of suspected tornadoes tore through the Midwest all day Saturday and into Sunday.  The National Weather Service received more than 88 reports by late Saturday of tornado touchdowns in Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa, said Pat Slattery, a spokesman for the service's Central Region in Kansas City, Missouri.  Authorities in the four states reported more than a dozen new ones by Sunday morning.  Five people, including two children, died from injuries related to a suspected tornado in the northwest Oklahoma town of Woodward early Sunday morning, said Amy Elliott of the state Medical Examiner's Office.  Woodward Mayor Roscoe Hill said 37 people were injured, including several critically, in the storm that struck the town shortly after midnight. 

A tornado warning siren that had sounded a day earlier failed to go off when the suspected tornado struck, Hill said. He said it was unclear if the warning system was damaged by the storm.  "Everything is dark. Buildings have been tore up," he said.  Authorities were still working to assess the damage. But Hill said a suspected tornado touched down in front of his nephew's house, destroying several buildings, including a carpet store. There was also extensive damage to a new residential area in the town, he said.  "It's a typical tornado scene. It flattened the west part of our town," he said.  In Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback declared of a state of disaster emergency to help speed relief to areas affected by storms.  Emergency officials, stymied by the dark and heavy rainfall in their welfare check of residents, will resume their search Sunday morning, the Kansas Emergency Management Agency said.  Despite extensive damage reported in many parts of the state, no deaths were reported, officials said.  About 11,000 customers were without power across the state, Westar Energy said.  

In southwest Iowa, officials evacuated the entire population -- roughly 300 people -- of the town of Thurman after a suspected tornado struck Saturday, damaging or destroying three out of every four homes.  By early Sunday morning, many Thurman residents who took up temporary shelter at a high school in nearby Tabor were again in the path of a storm that spawned suspected tornadoes in neighboring Kansas.  "I can hear the rumbling in the distance. You can see the lightning. Whatever is in Kansas is coming this way," said Mike Crecelius, Fremont County's emergency management director.  A sign in a park that bears the town's name is one of the few things still standing, Crecelius said.  "That's about all there is. About 75% of the homes are damaged or destroyed," Crecelius said. "From the looks of things, there won't be a tree left in that town either."  Across the south and central Plains, storm chasers broadcast images of funnel clouds roaring through rural landscapes. - CNN.
WATCH: Twister kills 5 in U.S. Midwest - Levels town of Thurman.

PLANETARY TREMORS: "Pacific Ring of Fire" Coming to Life - 6.1 Magnitude Earthquake Rocks off the West Coast of Sumatra!

A magnitude 6.1 earthquake has struck off the west coast of Northern Sumatra on Sunday, April 15, 2012 at 05:57:38 UTC. The tremor was located at 2.549°N, 90.277°E with a depth of 15.2 km (9.4 miles).

The epicentre was 651 km (404 miles) southwest of Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia; 687 km (426 miles) southwest of Mohean, Nicobar Islands, India; 1254 km (779 miles) southeast of Colombo, Sri Lanka; and 2077 km (1290 miles) WNW of Jakarta, Java, Indonesia.

This tremor represents a continuance in a series of seismic disturbances along the Pacific Ring of Fire, in particular along the strike-slip faults near Indonesia. As one of the world's most seismically active places, Indonesia is located on the "Pacific Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanos and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin. On Wednesday, a massive earthquake struck off Indonesia's Sumatra island. The quake was followed by a magnitude-8.2 aftershock. Both were strike-slip quakes. The largest strike-slip event ever. A preliminary analysis indicated one side of the fault lurched 70 feet past the other - a major reason for the quake's size. By contrast, during the 1906 magnitude 7.8 San Francisco earthquake along the San Andreas, perhaps the best known strike-slip event, the ground shifted 15 feet.  The Sumatra coast has been rattled by successive seismic swarms since Wednesday's mega-quake.

WATCH: "Pacific Ring of Fire" coming alive?

GLOBAL ECONOMIC CONTAGION: The Euro Zone Crisis and the Human Death Spiral - Financial Crisis Leads To Suicide Surge In Europe!

On New Year’s Eve, Antonio Tamiozzo, 53, hanged himself in the warehouse of his construction business near Vicenza, after several debtors did not pay what they owed him.

Three weeks earlier, Giovanni Schiavon, 59, a contractor, shot himself in the head at the headquarters of his debt-ridden construction company on the outskirts of Padua. As he faced the bleak prospect of ordering Christmas layoffs at his family firm of two generations, he wrote a last message: “Sorry, I cannot take it anymore.” The economic downturn that has shaken Europe for the last three years has also swept away the foundations of once-sturdy lives, leading to an alarming spike in suicide rates. Especially in the most fragile nations like Greece, Ireland and Italy, small-business owners and entrepreneurs are increasingly taking their own lives in a phenomenon some European newspapers have started calling “suicide by economic crisis.”  Many, like Mr. Tamiozzo and Mr. Schiavon, have died in obscurity. Others, like the desperate 77-year-old retiree who shot himself outside the Greek Parliament on April 4, have turned their personal despair into dramatic public expressions of anger at the leaders who have failed to soften the blows of the crisis. A complete picture of the phenomenon across Europe is elusive, as some countries lag in reporting statistics and coroners are loath to classify deaths as suicides, to protect surviving family members. But it is clear that countries on the front line of the economic crisis are suffering the worst, and that suicides among men have increased the most.

In Greece, the suicide rate among men increased more than 24 percent from 2007 to 2009, government statistics show. In Ireland during the same period, suicides among men rose more than 16 percent. In Italy, suicides motivated by economic difficulties have increased 52 percent, to 187 in 2010 — the most recent year for which statistics were available — from 123 in 2005. Researchers say the trend has intensified this year as government austerity measures took hold and compounded the hardships for many. While suicides often have many complex causes, researchers have found that severe economic stress corresponds to higher suicide rates. “Financial crisis puts the lives of ordinary people at risk, but much more dangerous is when there are radical cuts to social protection,” said David Stuckler, a sociologist at the University of Cambridge, who led a study published in The Lancet that found a sharp rise in suicides across Europe, particularly in seriously affected countries like Greece and Ireland from 2007 to 2009, years that coincided with the downturn. “Austerity can turn a crisis into an epidemic,” Mr. Stuckler added. Veneto, a region that was the engine of Italy’s economic growth in the 1990s, has been especially hard hit. In this part of the country, which includes the cities of Treviso, Vicenza and Padua, more than 30 small-business people have committed suicide in the last three years for reasons tied to their work as the area has been whipsawed by global trends including a drop in industrial orders, competition from China and tight bank credit. Though the phenomenon has been particularly acute in the region, it has recently spread to Bologna, Catania and Rome. - NY Times.

RATTLE & HUM: "The Sounds of the Apocalypse" - Mysterious Sound Boomed Over San Diego?!

Moments after a mysterious sound was heard in San Diego, people started sending messages out via social media asking "what was it?" NBCSanDiego received a number of reports from residents of a shaking or a loud noise just before 9 a.m.

The U.S. Geological Survey has not reported a nearby earthquake. Officials at MCAS Miramar said the noise or vibration was not a sonic boom from their aircraft. Reports came in from different sections of the county including La Mesa, University City, Point Loma, Paradise Hills and La Jolla. Marielle Bravo-Saltzman of Carmel Valley posted to NBCSanDiego's Facebook page, "I felt a shake at 8:38, but no boom." Paul Prince of Pacific Beach sent a note to @nbcsandiego via Twitter "All my windows shook in the PB area..." San Diego State University Professor Emeritus Pat Abbott felt and heard it and stepped outside his home. “The only time you hear an earthquake is when you’re directly over the epicenter,” Abbott said. In his opinion, the sound was atmospheric.

Thunder and lightning were in the forecast Friday, but NBC 7 Meterologist Jodi Kodesh looked into it and said there weren't any storm cells near the area producing thunder and lightning at that time. When lightning strikes, the discharge of energy can be felt 5 to 10 miles away as a rumble or a boom, Kodesh said. The closest rumble of thunder at the time would have been north of Los Angeles. Sometimes, a military exercise known as chaff can cause a similar sound. Strips of metal foil dropped by an aircraft are used to temporarily hide an aircraft from radar detection. The National Weather Service couldn't confirm if the sound was a result of chaff and an MCAS Miramar official told us he was not aware of possible chaff in the area. - NBC San Diego.
WATCH: Mystery boom over San Diego.