Tuesday, April 24, 2012

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Mount Etna Spews Lava in Spectacular Show - Erupting For the 7th Time in 2012!

Europe's only active volcano, Mount Etna, put on a spectacular display on Monday evening with red hot lava spewing into the night-time sky.

Sicily’s Mount Etna continues to spew volcanic ash, having erupted for the seventh time since the beginning of the year.  The volcano has caused a column of ash hundreds of meters high and torrents of gushing lava which are streaming in the direction of Valley of the Ox.  Catania Airport has been working as normal, with no flights cancelled.  Thousands of tourists are flocking to the island to marvel at the eruption of Europe’s highest acting volcano.  The volcano’s previous “outburst” took place on April 12th. - Voice of Russia.
WATCH: Mount Etna's latest eruption.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Land Subsidence Continues Unabated in China - Massive Unseen Sidewalk Sinkhole Swallows up a Girl in Xi'an!

A teenage girl walking along a sidewalk in China fell six metres into a sinkhole after the seemingly normal section of pavement collapsed right under her feet. She was talking on her phone, but that distraction can't be blamed for this unknown weak section of sidewalk in Xi'an, the capital of the China's northwest Shaanxi Province. Luckily, a taxi driver named Wang Wei saw the girl fall, stopped his cab in the middle of the street and jumped out to help.

Scenes from other recent sinkholes in China.
"I called out to her and she didn't respond," said the cab driver and Good Samaritan in the video above. Wei then climbed into the pit. "After I shook her a little she came to."  Firefighters arrived on scene and lowered a ladder into the narrow pit. Wei told local media the girl seemed scared because the ladder didn't seem stable so he said he'd protect her as she climbed up.  The hole was caused by underground water eroding the ground, causing a cavity under the pavement. Therefore there was not enough earth under that section of sidewalk and the pavement was not strong enough to support her weight. Water moving underground is a similar reason for the creation of many sinkholes, including some big ones in Canada.

Last month, one opened up on a major Saskatoon road that was large enough to drive a car into. It was caused by a break in a pipe under the road that caused water to swirl beneath the asphalt and erode the dirt. In November, a 30-metre long one opened up in the Toronto area on Bayview Ave. north of Steeles Ave. closing the street for a week. In September, a 10-metre long hole opened up near Woodbine and Steeles avenues also in the Toronto area closing part of the road for some time. And in Vancouver, a sinkhole swallowed a 14-metre long chuck of SE Marine Drive. The two Toronto sinkholes were caused by water main breaks and the Vancouver one is believed to be a result of the same thing.   The accident in China actually happened on March 25, but the video was just uploaded Monday and started making the rounds. - Yahoo.
WATCH: Sinkhole swallows up girl in China.

PLANETARY TREMORS: NASA Tests GPS Monitoring System for Big U.S. Earthquakes?!

The space-based technology that lets GPS-equipped motorists constantly update their precise location will undergo a major test of its ability to rapidly pinpoint the location and magnitude of strong earthquakes across the western United States. Results from the new Real-time Earthquake Analysis for Disaster (READI) Mitigation Network soon could be used to assist prompt disaster response and more accurate tsunami warnings.

Location of the more than 500 real-time GPS monitoring stations in the western United States
that make up the Real-Time Earthquake Analysis for Disaster Mitigation Network.
The new research network builds on decades of technology development supported by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, NASA, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The network uses real-time GPS measurements from nearly 500 stations throughout California, Oregon and Washington. When a large earthquake is detected, GPS data are used to automatically calculate its vital characteristics including location, magnitude and details about the fault rupture.  "With the READI network we are enabling continued development of real-time GPS technologies to advance national and international early warning disaster systems," said Craig Dobson, natural hazards program manager in the Earth Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "This prototype system is a significant step towards realizing the goal of providing Pacific basin-wide natural hazards capability around the Pacific 'Ring of Fire.'" 

Accurate and rapid identification of earthquakes of magnitude 6.0 and stronger is critical for disaster response and mitigation efforts, especially for tsunamis. Calculating the strength of a tsunami requires detailed knowledge of the size of the earthquake and associated ground movements. Acquiring this type of data for very large earthquakes is a challenge for traditional seismological instruments that measure ground shaking.  High-precision, second-by-second measurements of ground displacements using GPS have been shown to reduce the time needed to characterize large earthquakes and to increase the accuracy of subsequent tsunami predictions. After the capabilities of the network have been fully demonstrated, it is intended to be used by appropriate natural hazard monitoring agencies. USGS and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are responsible for detecting and issuing warnings on earthquakes and tsunamis, respectively.  "By using GPS to measure ground deformation from large earthquakes, we can reduce the time needed to locate and characterize the damage from large seismic events to several minutes," said Yehuda Bock, director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography's Orbit and Permanent Array Center in La Jolla, Calif. "We now are poised to fully test the prototype system this year." - NASA.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Strong Earthquakes in the Past 10 Years as Much as During the ENTIRE 20th Century!

Russian scientists announced last week alarming observations about the strong earthquakes that shook the Earth.

In the first decade of the 21st century there were almost as many earthquakes measuring above 6.0 on the Richter scale as there were during the entire 20th century. 14 such cases were registered in the 2001-2011 period compared to 17 strong tremors during the 20th century, the Super 19 Minuti weekly reads.  Astrologists believe that this might have something to do with entering the Age of Aquarius. By a terrifying coincidence it was on 11 March 2011 that the Fukushima disaster happened.  Seismologists have not disregarded the planetary influences that their colleagues "star-gazers" study. Still, they consider the excessive drilling for new energy sources to be a more influential factor. In the U.S. for example the shale gas revolution has led to a sharp increase of earthquakes. - Focus News Agency.
WATCH: Global Earthquakes - 2011 Visualization Map.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Solar System Disturbances - Fireball Lights Up Daytime Sky in Nevada and California!

On Sunday morning, April 22nd, just as the Lyrid meteor shower was dying down, a spectacular fireball exploded over California's Sierra Nevada mountain range.

The loud explosion rattled homes from central California to Reno, Nevada, and beyond. According to Bill Cooke, head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office, the source of the blast was a meteoroid about the size of a minivan.  "Elizabeth Silber at Western University has searched for infrasound signals from the explosion," says Cooke. "Infrasound is very low frequency sound which can travel great distances. There were strong signals at 2 stations, enabling a triangulation of the energy source at 37.6N, 120.5W. This is marked by a yellow flag in the map below."  "The energy is estimated at a whopping 3.8 kilotons of TNT (about one fourth the energy of the 'Little Boy' bomb dropped on Hiroshima), so this was a big event," he continues.

"I am not saying there was a 3.8 kiloton explosion on the ground in California. I am saying that the meteor possessed this amount of energy before it broke apart in the atmosphere. [The map] shows the location of the atmospheric breakup, not impact with the ground."  "The fact that sonic booms were heard indicates that this meteor penetrated very low in atmosphere, which implies a speed less than 15 km/s (33,500 mph). Assuming this value for the speed, I get a mass for the meteor of around 70 metric tons. Hazarding a further guess at the density of 3 grams per cubic centimeter (solid rock), I calculate a size of about 3-4 meters, or about the size of a minivan."  "This meteor was probably not a Lyrid; without a trajectory, I cannot rule out a Lyrid origin, but I think it likely that it was a background or sporadic meteor." - Space Weather.
WATCH: Fireball Lights Up Daytime Sky in Nevada and California.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: You Call This Spring - Rain and Snow Hit Parts of Ontario, Quebec & New Brunswick Causing Widespread Power Outages?!

Rain and wet snow are sweeping through parts of Atlantic Canada, Ontario and Quebec, where Hydro-Québec reports more than 28,000 customers are without power.  The winter may have been mild in Ontario, but it's going out strong, with snow in some areas and wind and rain in many others.

Ottawa-area residents woke up to strong winds, ice pellets and some flurries Monday morning, as the temperature hovered around 0 C. By midday, the ice and snow had turned to rain in many areas, but Environment Canada cautioned that rain mixed with wet snow could return overnight.  Southern Ontario was also dealing with a wet and windy morning, CBC weather specialist Jay Scotland said.  "I was in flip-flops a week ago and now I had to pull out the boots. Not happy," Toronto resident Ally Mixemong said.  Snow accumulation isn't expected in the Toronto area, but the snow could stick around in areas north of the Haliburton Highlands or along the escarpment, he said.  But the cold weather isn't covering the whole province - in Thunder Bay, it was mainly sunny and 14 C.  The wet, blustery weather conditions led to power outages in many parts of Quebec, but 165 crews were out trying to deal with the outages, Hydro-Québec said Monday afternoon.  As of 1 p.m. ET, 28,341 customers were without power. Twenty-thousand of those customers were in the Quebec City region, where wind and rain warnings were in effect. 

Wind and rain were the issue in Montreal, but some parts of the province were bracing for another blast of winter-like weather.  "In an axis between Abitibi and Manicouagan, we expect however that the snowfalls will be significant beginning this afternoon," Environment Canada said in a statement early Monday.  In New Brunswick, heavy rain was hitting a large swath of the province, prompting Environment Canada to issue weather warnings for several communities.  Two school districts were closed because of freezing rain and people were being urged to monitor weather statements.  A rainfall warning was also in effect over southwestern Nova Scotia, with up to 55 millimetres forecast for Monday and Tuesday.  The cold, windy weather is also being felt in communities south of the border. Driving wind and rain were hammering some communities along the U.S. East Coast, while heavy snow was expected in some parts of the northeast.  Travellers flying through those parts of the U.S. are being advised to check their flight status before heading to the airport.  Not all Canadians were dealing with chilly, wet weather. In parts of Alberta, temperatures were expected to creep up to the mid-to-high 20s on Monday. Parts of Saskatchewan and Manitoba were also expected to be into the 20s later in the day, Environment Canada said. - CBC.
WATCH: Rain and Snow Hit Parts of Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Orange County Quake Could be First on Recently Discovered Fault!

The earthquake may have measured only 3.9, but it still could make history in Orange County.  Monday's temblor, centered in the southern suburb of Laguna Niguel, could be the first measured on a fault discovered only 13 years ago, which runs along the coast from Newport Beach and Costa Mesa to San Juan Capistrano -- close to the San Onofre nuclear power plant.

The little-known fault - - called the San Joaquin Hills thrust -- is similar to the fault that triggered the deadly Northridge quake 18 years ago in the San Fernando Valley.  Unlike the famous San Andreas fault, which is visible from the ground, the fracture in the Earth's crust that makes up the San Joaquin Hills thrust fault is entirely underground. Because there is no visible break in the Earth's crust at ground level, the fault is perhaps more dangerous because it's unclear exactly where the boundaries of the fault are.  Scientists weren't aware of the blind thrust faults that triggered the 6.7 Northridge quake in 1994, nor the 6.0 Whittier Narrows quake in 1987 until after the ground began shaking.  Experts said Monday's temblor should serve as a wake-up call, particularly to Orange County residents who mistakenly believe that quakes are more an L.A. problem. Scientists believe that the San Joaquin Hills thrust fault is capable of generating a magnitude 7 quake or greater.  The U.S. Geological Survey in 2003 conducted a scenario of such a quake, and found it could trigger severe shaking all along southern Orange County, including Costa Mesa, Irvine, Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano.

"If this morning's earthquake was on this fault, this is an example of what the fault is capable of doing," said Lisa Grant Ludwig, a UC Irvine associate professor who was the lead author of a paper in the journal Geology in 1999 announcing the discovery of the San Joaquin Hills thrust fault.  "I think there's an under appreciation of the seismic hazard in Orange County," Grant Ludwig said. "There is a general perception in Orange County that we don't have as much earthquake hazard" - - in part because Orange County has not suffered a major, destructive earthquake since 1933, when the area was sparsely populated.  Scientists discovered the San Joaquin Hills thrust fault after noticing evidence of ancient sea life in what are now the hills. The researchers hypothesized that the land was once below sea level, but over hundreds of thousands of years, the fault caused the earth to move upward, creating the hilly terrain.  In a follow-up report printed in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America in 2002, Grant Ludwig found evidence of marsh deposits about 3 to 12 feet above the current shoreline. That suggested that the fault generated a magnitude 7 earthquake sometime between the mid-17th to mid-19th centuries - - which "may have generated the largest earthquake in the Los Angeles Basin since western explorers reached the area."  There were no reports of damage in Monday's quake, which hit at 10:37 a.m. Southern California Edison said there was no effect on its San Onofre nuclear power plant, which has been shut down since January because of safety concerns. - LA Times.

MASS BEES DIE-OFF: Silent Hives - Colony Collapse Disorder and Pesticides!

In 2006, when beekeepers began to report that their hives were suffering from a mysterious affliction, a wide variety of theories were offered to explain what was going on. The bees were suffering from a virus, or a fungus, or a mite, or from stress, or, according to one much publicized hypothesis, they were being addled by cell-phone signals. (Supposedly the transmissions interfered with the bees' navigational abilities.)

The Pennsylvania beekeeper Dave Hackenberg was one of the first to draw attention to the problem of Colony Collapse Disorder, or C.C.D., and, as a result, he became a celebrity, at least in apian circles. I interviewed Hackenberg in the spring of 2007, and he told me he didn't believe that the culprit was a virus or a fungus or stress. Instead, he blamed a new class of pesticides called neonicotinoids. Now it looks like Hackenberg was onto something. Over the last few weeks, several new studies have come out linking neonicotinoids to bee decline. As it happens, the studies are appearing just as Silent Spring, Rachel Carson's seminal study of the effect of pesticides on wildlife, is about to turn fifty: the work was first published as a three-part series in The New Yorker, in June, 1962. It's hard to avoid the sense that we have all been here before, and that lessons were incompletely learned the first time around.

In the first of the new studies, published online in the journal Science, British scientists raised bumblebees on a diet of pollen, some of which had been treated with a widely used neonicotinoid called imidacloprid. Those colonies that had received the treated pollen suffered significantly reduced growth rates and produced dramatically fewer new queens. In the second, also published in Science, French researchers equipped honeybees with tiny radio-frequency tags. They fed some of the bees sucrose treated with thiamethoxan, another commonly used neonicotinoid. Then they let the bees loose to go foraging. The bees that had been exposed to thiamethoxan were much less likely to return to their hives. "We were quite surprised by the magnitude of the effect," said one of the study's authors, Mickaël Henry, of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research in Avignon. In a third study, to be published soon in the Bulletin of Insectology, seemingly healthy honey colonies were fed high-fructose corn syrup that had been treated with imidacloprid. Within six months, fifteen out of the sixteen hives that had been given the treated syrup were dead. In commercial beekeeping operations, bees are routinely fed corn syrup, and corn is routinely treated with neonicotinoids.

"I believe one reason that commercial beekeepers are experiencing the most severe Colony Collapse Disorder is because of the link between high-fructose corn syrup and neonicotinoids," said the lead author of the study, Chensheng Lu, a professor at Harvard. (Bayer CropScience, one of the world's largest producers of neonicotinoids, has disputed Lu's paper, as well as the other two.)   After the results of Lu's study were reported, I reached Hackenberg on his cell phone. He was in Pennsylvania, where his bees were pollinating apple trees, and he was preparing to take them up to Maine to pollinate blueberries. He told me that because of the freakishly warm weather in the Northeast last month everything was flowering two to three weeks earlier than normal. "This more or less proves what we thought all along," Hackenberg said of the three recent studies. He pointed me to a lawsuit that several beekeeping organizations filed in March against the Environmental Protection Agency. It charges that the E.P.A. violated its own rules by allowing clothianidin - yet another neonicotinoid - to be widely used despite the fact that the field studies the agency had ordered on the effects of the pesticide had never been performed. In a leaked memo from 2010, two E.P.A. staff members raised concerns about allowing mustard and cotton seed to be treated with clothianidin, noting that the field tests that had been completed had been deemed to be inadequate. "I think we've got a toxic mess," Hackenberg told me. "I know we do."

Neonicotinoids, which were introduced in the nineteen-nineties, are neurotoxins that, as the name suggests, chemically resemble nicotine. They're what are known as systemic pesticides: seeds are treated with the chemicals, which then are taken up by the vascular systems of the growing plants. According to the Pesticide Action Network, at least a hundred and forty million acres were planted with neonicotinoid-treated seeds in 2010. This is an area larger than California and Florida combined. In Silent Spring, Rachel Carson wrote of systemic pesticides with particularly vivid horror:
The world of systemic insecticides is a weird world, surpassing the imaginings of the brothers Grimm. It is a world where the enchanted forest of the fairy tales has become a poisonous forest. It is a world where a flea bites a dog and dies...where a bee may carry poisonous nectar back to its hive and presently produce poisonous honey.
"The hives were dead silent," Lu, the author or the corn-syrup study, said of the boxes treated with imidacloprid. "I kind of ask myself: Is this the repeat of Silent Spring? What else do we need to prove that it's the pesticides causing Colony Collapse Disorder?" - New Yorker.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Mexico's Popocatepetl Volcano Keeps Residents Awake in Fear - "We've Never Heard a Noise Like it"!

Residents at the foot of Mexico's Popocatepetl volcano no longer sleep soundly since the towering mountain roared back into action over a week ago, spewing out a hail of rocks, steam and ash.  "We close our eyes, but we don't sleep much. In the past, there was only smoke but this time it's stronger," said Francisco Jimenez, who lives in the nearby town of Xalitzintla in central Mexico, 55km from Mexico City. 

Local residents report hearing a continuous roar as Popocatepetl's activity increases.
The volcano, Mexico's second highest peak at 5 452m, started rumbling and spurting high clouds of ash and steam on 13 April, provoking the authorities to raise the alert to level five on a seven-point scale.  The alert extended a security cordon around the volcano but stopped short of starting evacuations of about 685 000 residents from nearby communities.  Over the weekend, residents watched as Popocatepetl, which means "smoking mountain" in the indigenous Nahuatl language, lived up to its name, spouting glowing rocks and shaking the ground beneath their feet.  "When we went out to see, my son cried: 'We have to leave!' We were ready to leave for Mexico City but then it calmed down a bit," said 67-year-old Leopolda Perez of Xalitzintla.   Authorities from the National Centre of Disaster Prevention maintained their alert level and said on Monday that the volcano remains at a "relative calm" state.  After moderate activity during most of the 20th century, Popocatepetl registered more intense rumblings from 1994, with the strongest in December 2000, when nearby communities were evacuated.  Juan Carlos Salazar, head of civil protection for the central state of Puebla, said that while many people thought lava was now coming out of the volcano, the crater was only spewing glowing rocks, with no risk to the population. 

Popocatepetl is an explosive volcano that can suddenly erupt at tremendous force, thrusting out rocks and ashes at large distances. That kind of volcano can be more dangerous than those releasing only flowing lava.  Residents say they are used to the permanent threat of the volcano, which they affectionately nickname "Don Gregorio" or "Don Goyo", but many say the new activity makes them nervous again.  "We've been watching out for many nights, waiting to see what happens," said Gabino Santibanez, mayor of San Pedro Benito Juarez, a small town only 9km from the glowing crater.  Locals said that most frightening was the unusual rumbling coming from the volcano, which many compared to an aircraft turbine.  "We've never heard a noise like it," said Maximiliano Grajales.  About 4.5 million people live on the outskirts of the volcano, which lies at the crossroads of the states of Puebla, Morelos and Mexico.  Officials in the area have prepared temporary shelters for possible evacuations and even taken stock of livestock, in case of possible theft.  "Some people won't want to leave because of their animals. Thieves pillaged houses during the 2000 evacuation," Grajales said.  Some now wear face masks to protect their lungs from falling ashes as Don Goyo rumbles and smokes nearby. - News 24.

WORLD WAR III: Countdown to Armageddon - The Pentagon's Hypersonic Falcon Travels 13,000 MPH; U.S. Military Could Strike Anywhere Less Than an Hour!

The results are in from last summer’s attempt to test new technology that would provide the Pentagon with a lightning-fast vehicle, capable of delivering a military strike anywhere in the world in less than an hour. In August the Pentagon's research arm, known as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, carried out a test flight of an experimental aircraft capable of traveling at 20 times the speed of sound.

An artist's rendering of the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2.
(Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency / April 20, 2012
The arrowhead-shaped unmanned aircraft, dubbed Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2, blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, northwest of Santa Barbara, into the upper reaches of the Earth's atmosphere aboard an eight-story Minotaur IV rocket made by Orbital Sciences Corp. After reaching an undisclosed altitude, the aircraft jettisoned from its protective cover atop the rocket, then nose-dived back toward Earth, leveled out and glided above the Pacific at 20 times the speed of sound, or Mach 20. The plan was for the Falcon to speed westward for about 30 minutes before plunging into the ocean near Kwajalein Atoll, about 4,000 miles from Vandenberg. But it was ended about nine minutes into flight for unknown reasons. The launch had received worldwide attention and much fanfare, but officials didn’t provide much information on why the launch failed. On Friday, DARPA said in a statement that the searing high speeds caused portions of the Falcon’s skin to peel from the aerostructure. The resulting gaps created strong shock waves around the vehicle as it traveled nearly 13,000 mph, causing it to roll abruptly.

The Falcon, which is built by Lockheed Martin Corp., is made of durable carbon composite material, which was expected to keep the aircraft's crucial internal electronics and avionics -- only a few inches away from the surface -- safe from the fiery hypersonic flight. Surface temperatures on the Falcon were expected to reach more than 3,500 degrees, hot enough to melt steel. “The initial shock wave disturbances experienced during second flight, from which the vehicle was able to recover and continue controlled flight, exceeded by more than 100 times what the vehicle was designed to withstand,” DARPA Acting Director Kaigham J. Gabriel said in a statement. “That’s a major validation that we’re advancing our understanding of aerodynamic control for hypersonic flight.” The flight successfully demonstrated stable aerodynamically controlled flight at speeds up to Mach 20 for nearly three minutes. Sustaining hypersonic flight has been an extremely difficult task for aeronautical engineers over the years. While supersonic means that an object is traveling faster than the speed of sound, or Mach 1, "hypersonic" refers to an aircraft going five times that speed or more. The Falcon hit Mach 20. At that speed, an aircraft could zoom from Los Angeles to New York in less than 12 minutes -- 22 times faster than a commercial airliner. - LA Times.
WATCH: Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Volcano Behind the Atlantis Legend Re-Awakens - Geological Deformation & Magma Movement at the Santorini Volcano!

The volcano that may have given rise to the legend of Atlantis has awakened, researchers say. The cataclysmic eruptions at the Greek isle of Santorini about 3,600 years ago that spewed forth about 9.5 to 14.3 cubic miles (40 to 60 cubic kilometers) of lava devastated the ancient seafaring Minoan civilization, potentially inspiring the legend of the lost city of Atlantis. From the air, the resulting caldera, or volcanic crater, appears as a small cluster within the larger collection of Greek islands in the Aegean Sea.

One of the largest volcanic eruptions in the past 10,000 years occurred around 1620 BC on the island of
Santorini, seen here in a satellite image. Event may have inspired the legend of the lost continent of Atlantis.
Over the next four millennia, the largely underwater caldera at Santorini has experienced a series of smaller eruptions, with five such outbursts in the past 600 years, ending most recently in 1950. After a 60-year lull, Santorini awakened in January 2011 with a swarm of tremors, each magnitude 3.2 or less, new GPS research has revealed. Investigators had installed a GPS monitoring system in the area in 2006. These sensors keep track of their location in space, and can thus shed light on when the Earth is moving. The scientists found that by June 2011, the 22 GPS stations had been pushed 0.2 to 1.3 inches (5 to 32 millimeters) farther from the caldera than they had been just six months earlier. The researchers then improved the existing GPS stations and installed two more GPS stations, and data from September 2011 to January 2012 showed the land near the volcano was swelling at an accelerating rate, reaching 7 inches (180 mm) of growth per year. Computer models of the deforming Earth suggested the swelling was due to an influx of nearly 500 million cubic feet (14.1 million cubic meters) of magma into a chamber 2.5 to 3.1 miles (4 to 5 kilometers) below the surface. The scientists note this ongoing influx of magma does not necessarily signal an impending explosion — this swelling is only a fraction of that behind the Minoan eruption.  "We've witnessed similar deformation events at other large calderas — Yellowstone, Long Valley California, and Campi Flegrei— without eruption," said researcher Andrew Newman, a geophysicist at the Georgia Institute of Technology. "Globally, we've observed that on average, 90 percent of magmatic intrusion events do not reach the surface."

"However, we cannot say for certain that this will not erupt either," Newman told OurAmazingPlanet. "Every volcano is somewhat different, and thus we cannot yet directly relate what we've learned at other volcanoes and apply them with complete confidence to this one." And, even a small eruption can spew dangerous ash, or trigger landslides and tsunamis, the scientists cautioned. With the instruments currently monitoring Santorini, "we now have sufficient on-the-ground instrumentation to measure ongoing activity," Newman said. "This is vital, as we are capturing this period of unrest with data density sufficient to use in models that explore details of the internal structure of the magma reservoir as well as the mechanical structure of the volcano. This information will prove extremely useful for evaluating the physical parameters responsible for unrest, and potentially eruption." The effort to tease out the volcano's inner workings has problems to contend with, though. "Our greatest obstacle in this environment is the water itself," Newman said. The land at Santorini is mostly deforming in a region entirely underwater. Without seafloor instrumentation, "we may miss some of the most scientifically interesting results, as well as potentially the most crucial data necessary for creating imminent warnings." The scientists detailed their findings online March 30 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
- FOX News.

WORLD WAR III: Tensions on the Korean Peninsula & the Countdown to Armageddon - North Korea is Preparing For a Third Nuclear Test, Promising to Kill the "Rats" in the South With "Unprecedented and Peculiar Means"!

North Korea has almost completed preparations for a third nuclear test, a senior source with close ties to Pyongyang and Beijing told Reuters, which will draw further international condemnation following a failed rocket launch if it goes ahead.

Rockets are carried by military vehicles during a military parade to celebrate the centenary of the
birth of North Korea's founder Kim Il-sung in Pyongyang on April 15, 2012, in this picture
released by the North's KCNA news agency
The isolated and impoverished state sacrificed the chance of closer ties with the United States when it launched the long-range rocket on April 13 and was censured by the U.N. Security Council, including the North’s sole major ally, China.  Critics say the rocket launch was aimed at honing the North’s ability to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the United States, a move that would dramatically increase its military and diplomatic heft.  Now the North appears to be about to carry out a third nuclear test after two in 2006 and 2009.  “Soon. Preparations are almost complete,” the source said when asked whether North Korea was planning to conduct a nuclear test. - National Post.
Yesterday, the North Korean regime threatened South Korea, saying they would stage “a special action by revolutionary forces” against the Blue House and local media. 
“The special actions of our revolutionary armed forces will start soon to meet the reckless challenge of the group of traitors,” the North’s Korean People’s Army’s “unit for special action strategy” said in a statement yesterday.  “The target of our special action is Lee Myung-bak’s traitor group and his rats, including the conservative media that swings public opinion.  “Once the above-said special actions kick off, they will reduce all the rat-like groups and the bases for provocations to ashes in three or four minutes, or faster than that, by unprecedented, peculiar means and methods of our own style,” they said.  The so-called “special unit” pointed out a series of actions by President Lee, which they considered insulting to their sovereign state and the dignity of their leader.  “On April 20, [President Lee] appeared at the Institute for Unification Education, which is a nest of rats, and said, ‘Now what North Korea needs is not only bread but liberty and human rights,’” the statement said. “And he said if we don’t give up our will to develop missiles, they should focus on ‘a change of the North’s system,’ and they should make us ‘reform agriculture and dissolve the cooperative farms,’ which is none of his business.”  The statement continued: “On the previous day, April 19, [Lee] also appeared at a puppet organization called the Agency for Defense Development and touched some shoddy missiles, saying they have the precision and capacity to ‘immediately bomb’ any part of our sacred state. And there, the puppet Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin and other military, war-like freaks danced to his tune.”  In a response to the North’s failed rocket launch on April 13, the Ministry of National Defense unveiled two high-end missiles never before seen by the public, saying they could attack anywhere in North Korean territory. - Korea Joongang Daily.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Residents Evacuated Over Eruption Fears at Mount Lokon - Alert Status Raised to Level 3!

Local residents around Mount Lokon in Tomohon, North Sulawesi, have been asked to evacuate the area, following the mountain’s steady increase of activity since 4 p.m. Monday.

"We are on alert status [Level 3]," National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said on Monday.  "We ask that local disaster mitigation agencies follow the technical recommendations we have given them. There should be no community activity within a 2.5 kilometer radius of the volcano’s crater.”  Mt Lokon is located on the outskirts of Tomohon. It is 1,580 meters high and is located 20 kilometers west from Manado, North Sulawesi. 

According to the Volcanic and Geological Disaster Mitigation Center (PVMBG), Mt Lokon last erupted on June 14, 2011, sending ash and debris 1,500 meters into the sky.  The following day, another eruption threw volcanic material 600 meters into the air. Two residents died as a result of the eruptions.  Other eruptions occurred in 1991 and 2001, with the earlier one causing Rp 1 billion (US$108,000) in damage, as well as the death of Swiss tourist Vivian Clavel.  The 2001 eruption covered Manado in ash and debris. The dust coming from the mountain formed a 400 meter plume. - The Jakarta Post.

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: "Iceberg" - All-White, Possibly Albino, Killer Whale Spotted Off Russia's East Coast?!

An all-white, and possibly albino, killer whale has been spotted in seas off eastern Russia, scientists reported Monday, dubbing the adult male "Iceberg."

"Iceberg" travels with his pod near Bering Island off Russia's coast.
"In many ways, Iceberg is a symbol of all that is pure, wild and extraordinarily exciting about what is out there in the ocean waiting to be discovered," Erich Hoyt, co-director of the Far East Russia Orca Project, said in a statement. "The challenge is to keep the ocean healthy so that such surprises are always possible." The researchers, who are studying killer whales in an area that's also seen as an opportunity for oil development, say Iceberg is the first adult, all-white male orca to have been documented. Young, all-white orcas have been seen before -- including two in Iceberg's pod -- but none has ever been recorded living into adulthood. Iceberg and his pod of 12 relatives were first spotted off Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula.

"We have no genetic data" on Iceberg's pod, Hoyt wrote in a blog post Sunday, "but we are hoping to meet them again in summer 2012 and learn more about the phenomenon of white whales, why they occur, what it means and whether Iceberg is a true albino — perhaps we can catch a glimpse of a pink eye — or 'just' one of the most beautiful orcas anyone has ever seen." The area where Iceberg was first seen is inside Russia's largest marine reserve and the scientists hope it will be expanded to create a "network of reserves."  "Such a call is in response to local overfishing in some areas, and increased oil and gas exploration, which poses a threat to marine mammals from increasing noise levels, ship traffic and potential oil spills," the scientists stated. "As noise levels increase, the ability of whales to communicate over long distances may be compromised." - MSNBC.
WATCH: "Iceberg" - All-White Killer Whale.

RIPPLE EFFECTS: Weather-Driven Demand Boosts UK Gas Prices - Higher-Than-Normal Temperatures Forecast For Europe!

British prompt gas prices rose on Monday morning as supply lagged demand amid colder-than-average temperatures forecast until the end of the month, while curve gas slumped with weakening oil prices.  However, average summer temperatures across Europe will be higher-than-normal between May and July, with the exception of southeastern parts of the continent, forecaster Weather Services International (WSI) said.

May gas prices rose slightly despite warm weather forecasts on the back of ongoing uncertainty over liquefied natural gas (LNG) supplies and bullish momentum feeding in from the prompt market.  UK day-ahead gas rose 0.35 pence to 60.45 pence per therm, while gas for immediate delivery gained half a penny to 60.75 pence.  May gas edged 0.15 pence higher to 58.55 pence.  The market was undersupplied by 10 million cubic meters/day, due to a sharp cut in storage withdrawals compared with last week levels. Withdrawals dropped to zero by 1030 GMT versus 23 mcm/day on Friday.  Higher imports from Norway and the Netherlands somewhat narrowed the supply-demand imbalance.  Offshore gas output is currently 120 mcm/day, slightly up from Friday's average of 118 mcm/day. That rate should drop on Sunday as Shell's Bacton terminal starts its scheduled one-day maintenance, resulting in a forecast supply loss of 11 mcm. 

The current LNG send out rate is 57 mcm/d, roughly in line with Friday's average of 62 mcm/d and also over the weekend.  Despite five gas tankers expected in Britain between now and early May, planned maintenance at three Qatargas production plants at the end of April could trigger a slowdown in arrivals.  "This results in a loss of production capacity of 3.2 million tones per annum per train. As a result, UK terminal operators could be more careful with their send out rates," analysts at Point Carbon said.  Qatar provides the majority of Britain's LNG supply, leaving it exposed to supply disruptions.  In France, striking workers at GDF Suez LNG terminals on Friday opted to extend their strike until today, while workers at the Montoir LNG port resume work last week.  Further out, benchmark front-season prices slumped as softer oil prices led bearish trading activity on the forward curve.  Winter 2012 gas prices traded down 0.65 pence at 69.35 pence per therm.  Spot baseload power fell 1.75 pounds to 43.60 pounds per megawatt-hour (MWh). - Reuters.