Monday, May 21, 2012

FIRE IN THE SKY: Fireball Appears Northwest of Perth in Australia!

The skies in the north west were alight on Saturday night. We've had a couple of reports of giant orange things dropping from the sky.

You can check out some of the reports on our facebook page.

Ralph Martin is the Acting Government Astronomer at the Perth Observatory...   Listen to the audio file of this radio broadcast HERE. Download the audio file HERE (MP3). - ABC Perth.
In March this year, a fiery meteor lit up the sky over Victoria and Tasmania. The object was described as a "glowing red fireball moving horizontally across the sky." An unusual sight for that time of year, according to astronomer David Reneke.
Observers say the meteor was visible for about 20 seconds. Professor Reneke says he and his colleagues are at a loss to explain the timing and exact nature of the meteor. It may have been a slow-moving piece of rock that ignited or a piece of space junk, he said. "It's unprecedented, we don't seem to be in a meteor shower period at the moment," Professor Reneke said. "(Fireballs) tend to be very slow moving and they travel more horizontally than vertically... if you ever see one, they stick in your mind for the rest of your life."  Professor Reneke says he has received dozens of reported sightings from across Victoria and Tasmania. Social network site Twitter was abuzz on Monday with reports of the meteor. The phenomenon comes after a fireball was reported in skies over the United Kingdom on Saturday, with police inundated with calls from concerned residents, The Guardian reports. It is impossible to be sure if the sighted meteors in the UK and Australia are the same, Professor Reneke says. - 9NEWS.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Over 100 Aftershocks Rattle Emilia-Romagna Region in Italy - Over 4,000 People Forced to Sleep in Temporary Locations! UPDATE: Tremor Caused a Loss of Around 200 Million Euros to Italy's Agriculture Sector!

More than 100 aftershocks rattled the Emilia-Romagna region on Sunday and continued into Monday as 4,000 residents were forced to sleep in cars, tents and temporary accommodation following a major earthquake that killed seven people and toppled churches and castles. 

The Italian culture minister said tens of millions of euros would be needed for restoration.
Heavy rain made life more miserable for people fleeing their homes in small towns on the plains north of Bologna where the 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck just after 4am on Sunday.  Experts were meanwhile working out the extent of the destruction from the quake, which was the most damaging to Italy's cultural heritage since the two in 1997 that damaged the basilica of St Francis in Assisi.  In Finale Emilia, where rubble littered the streets, the cathedral, town hall, three churches and a castle were all seriously damaged, while a clock tower built in 1213 collapsed, although an official at Italy's culture ministry said it might be rebuilt using the same bricks which now lie in a pile on the street.  In San Felice sul Panaro, where three churches were ruined, only one of four towers at the town's castle was left standing and a large crack suggested it too might fall.  In Sant'Agostino, firefighters used a crane to lift a large painting from the shell of the church of San Carlo on Sunday. The Estense castle in Ferrara was also lightly damaged, while a clock tower in Poggio Renatico collapsed.  The Italian culture minister, Lorenzo Ornaghi, called the damage "very serious" and said tens of millions of euros would be needed for restoration. 

The flatlands of the Po valley were long considered far from Italy's seismic danger areas, but a scientist said on Monday he had predicted a major quake could hit the area.  "After identifying fluxes in activity we used algorithms to identify an area stretching across northern Italy and down the Apennines where there was increased probability of an earthquake measuring over 5.4 between March and September," said Giuliano Panza, professor of seismology at the University of Trieste, who presented his findings to the Italian government earlier this year.  "It is a very large area so we couldn't issue a red alert, but I do believe more prevention is called for," he said.  Four of the people killed were working night shifts in factories which collapsed. "We need to reflect on the fact that buildings built in the last decade were collapsing," said the head of Italy's civil protection agency, Franco Gabrielli.  Two more people reportedly died of shock and one was hit by a falling beam.  The last major quake to strike the area was in Ferrara in 1570, but seismic activity has increased this year, with a 5.4 quake felt in Parma in January.  "The area was not considered dangerous until 2004 when classifications were changed to reflect scientific findings – in this case the fractures in the Apennines – instead of history," said Gian Vito Graziano, head of the Italian Council of Geologists. "Sunday proved the new classification right."  The area avoided casualties on the scale of the 2009 earthquake in L'Aquila, which killed 300, because it was less built up, he added.  In a front-page editorial, Corriere della Sera pointed out that preparation for earthquakes in Italy was negligible, despite 88 earthquakes larger than the L'Aquila one striking in the last five centuries, one every five years, killing 200,000 people. - Guardian.
The earthquake that struck Italy Sunday caused a loss of around 200 million euros (over $250 million) to agriculture, a trade association said Monday. 
The Coldiretti farmers' association estimated the cost by calculating the loss of 400,000 wheels of parmesan cheese, damage to farm buildings and machinery and the loss of animals.  The Emilia Romagna region felt the worst quake in around 700 years, that killed at least seven people. The quake was followed by 170 aftershocks.  The government is yet to put an estimate on the total damage.  Around 3,500 people slept in tents and cars Sunday night after their homes were damaged or they were too scared to return.  Prime minister Mario Monti returned early from a NATO summit in Chicago to lead the government's response to the disaster and to attend the funeral of a 16-year-old girl killed in a bomb explosion outside her school in southern Italy's Brindisi May 19. - Zee News.

EXTINCTION LEVEL EVENT: Seas Without Fish - Dead Zones of Ocean Life Captured in Dramatic Pictures!

Imagine a sea full of slime, where only jellyfish flourish – and fish have been slaughtered in their millions by stinging tentacles.  Imagine oceans full of “dead zones” where nothing lives, the water poisoned by fertilizers and human sewage. 

Imagine seas so acidic the water damages seashells – and oceans so over-fished that many of the species we take for granted no longer exist. This apocalyptic vision is only 40 to 50 years away, according to The Ocean of Life, a new book by marine biologist Professor Callum Roberts. And in some of our seas it is already a reality. Prof Roberts shows pictures of fish landed in Key West, Florida in the 1950s. Smiling, bare-chested fishermen pose with their enormous catch – fish with names like “Goliath Groupers” that dwarf the humans on the quayside. In the 1980s, at the same spot, the fish are about half the size. Then, there are pictures of fishermen at the same quay now, with a catch of tiddlers. The tourists are still smiling, he says, because they don’t know any different. But the fish have completely changed.
“The oceans have changed more in the past 30 years than in all of human history before,” says Prof Roberts, who advised the BBC on natural history series The Blue Planet. “In most places, the seas have lost upwards of 75 per cent of their megafauna — large animals such as whales, dolphins, sharks, rays, and turtles — as fishing and hunting spread in waves across the face of the planet. “For some species, like whitetip sharks, American sawfish and the once common skate, numbers are down as much as 99%.” In some cases, he says, there will be “seas without fish” and some marine turtles also face extinction. Prof Roberts says some scientists are also worried about “The Rise of Slime” – where jellyfish rule vast sea empires. Jellyfish thrive in seas contaminated by fertilisers and can then eat their usual enemies while they are still small. “Mediterranean resorts have been plagued by jellyfish outbreaks in the past 20 years,” Prof Roberts says. “The main problem species is the mauve stinger, whose tentacles inflict slashing welts on the tender bodies of bathers. “In the summer of 2004, an estimated 45,000 swimmers were treated for stings in Monaco alone.”

The mauve stingers have slaughtered hundreds of thousands of fish in Ireland, Japan, India and the US. The crisis in the seas is caused by three main factors – all of which are man made. Firstly, the seas have helped us absorb a third of the carbon monoxide we have created since the Industrial Revolution by burning fossil fuels and replacing forests with cities. That has spared us much deeper consequences on land, but increased the acidity of seawater, with potentially disastrous consequences for sealife. Secondly, the fertilisers we use and the sewage we create is drastically altering the chemistry of seawater. Thirdly, we are catching fish a lot quicker than they can reproduce and we are destroying sea beds with huge dredgers The good news is the problem can be solved if we stop overfishing, reduce greenhouse gases and reduce the pollutants we put in the sea. “We know what to do,” says Prof Roberts. “And if we were to act decisively, it would take only 15 years to fix most of what has gone wrong.” - Mirror.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Strong 5.8 Magnitude Quake and Aftershocks Rattles Bulgaria - Toppling Chimneys, Cracking Walls and Breaking Windows!

A strong 5.8-magnitude quake has rocked Bulgaria, the country's Seismological Institute says.  The quake struck shortly after 3.00am (1000 AEST) on Tuesday just outside the capital Sofia.

'The magnitude measured so far was 5.8 on the Richter scale with the epicentre near Sofia, between the towns of Pernik and Radomir,' a spokeswoman at the institute told AFP.  'We have been registering many aftershocks since then,' she added.  There were no immediate reports of casualties or damages, but the jolt was felt very strongly on the top floors of buildings in Sofia.  Residents of tall apartment buildings in Sofia said objects crashed to the ground during the tremor which lasted several minutes and was immediately followed by at least one aftershock.  'Everything was shaking like crazy. I ran out shouting.... I won't go back home today,' teenager Maria told AFP outside her apartment building in a western Sofia neighbourhood. 

People, who were still sitting outside in their pyjamas over an hour after the first jolt, said they felt a new tremor around 4.30am (1130 AEST).  The seismological institute measured it at 4.2 - 4.3 on the Richter scale, it said.  Civil defence chief Nikolay Nikolov said his service received many reports of toppled chimneys and cracked walls and even broken windows in the region of Pernik, some 30 kilometres southwest of Sofia.  There were no reports of interruptions of electricity or communications.  The quake comes on the heels of Sunday's 6.0-magnitude earthquake around the northern Italian city of Ferrara that killed six people and reduced homes and historic buildings to rubble.  In August 2009, a 5.0 magnitude earthquake hit the Black Sea between Bulgaria and Romania to the southeast of the Kaliakra Cape. No serious damage was reported. - SKY News.

FUK-U-SHIMA: Japan's Battered Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Plants - A Global Catastrophe Waiting to Happen?!

Akio Matsumura is a former UN diplomat who is very worried about the damaged Fukushima-Daiichi power plants in Japan.

He believes the highly radioactive spent fuel assemblies at the plants present a clear threat to the people of Japan and the world, noting that Reactor 4 and the nearby common spent fuel pool contain over 11,000 highly radioactive spent fuel assemblies, many of which are exposed to the open air.  "The cesium-137, the radioactive component contained in these assemblies, present at the site is 85 times larger than the amount released during the Chernobyl accident. Another magnitude 7.0 earthquake would jar them from their pool or stop the cooling water, which would lead to a nuclear fire and meltdown. The nuclear disaster that would result is beyond anything science has ever seen. Calling it a global catastrophe is no exaggeration," writes Matsumura in a new article sounding the alarm on what he says is a very bad moon rising. Matsumura is puzzled. He says if political leaders really understand the situation and the potential catastrophe, "I find it difficult to understand why they remain silent." Matsumura argues there are four things that leave little to question.
1. Many scientists believe that it will be impossible to remove the 1,535 fuel assemblies in the pool of Reactor 4 within two or three years.

2. Japanese scientists give a greater than 90 percent probability that an earthquake of at least 7.0 magnitude will occur in the next three years in the close vicinity of Fukushia-Daiichi.

3. The crippled building of Reactor 4 will not stand through another strong earthquake.

4. Japan and the TEPCO do not have adequate nuclear technology and experience to handle a disaster of such proportions alone.
A very real problem says Matsumura is that when looking at the scope of the damage to the plants and surrounding areas, the fact that TEPCO's December 21, 2011 remediation roadmap proposes to take up to ten years to complete spent fuel removal from all of the pools on the site, is unfathomable in light of the current and near term risks to the people of Japan and the world. Matsumura argues, as do others, that when considering the compromised nature of these plants due to the events of March 11, 2011, that type of a time schedule "carries extraordinary and continuing risk if further severe seismic events were to occur." Has the government of Japan and other world leaders considered the facts above that would lead to a global catastrophe, and do they have a clear strategy to prevent this worst case scenario, he asks? Matsumura is of the opinion that the government of Japan should lead the way and "embrace all means at its disposal in order to prevent a disaster that would affect our dozens of generations of our descendants." - Sky Valley Chronicle.
The full piece can be read HERE.

WATCH: Akio Matsumura talks about nuclear power plants, spent fuel pools, and the trouble with Reactor 4 at Fukushima.

WORLD WAR III: The Countdown to Armageddon - Top Iranian Commander Reiterates Iran's Commitment to the Full Annihilation of Israel!

Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Hassan Firouzabadi said threats and pressures cannot deter Iran from its revolutionary causes and ideals, and stressed that the Iranian nation will remain committed to the full annihilation of the Zionist regime of Israel to the end.   

Addressing a defense gathering here in Tehran on Sunday, General Firouzabadi said that nations should realize the threats and dangers posed by the Zionist regime of Israel.  He reiterated the Iranian nation and Supreme Leader's emphasis on the necessity of support for the oppressed Palestinian nation and its causes, and noted, "The Iranian nation is standing for its cause that is the full annihilation of Israel."  The top military official reminded that the Iranian Supreme Leader considers defending Palestine as a full religious duty and believes that any kind of governance and rule by anyone other than the Palestinians as an instance of usurpation.
Earlier this year, Supreme Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei stressed in explicit remarks Iran's direct involvement in the Palestinian and Lebanese confrontation with Israel, including the Lebanese Summer 2006 33-day resistance against the Zionist regime.  "Wherever Iran interferes, it announces it in a very straightforward manner. For instance, we interfered in confrontations against Israel, which resulted in the (Lebanese) victory in the 33-day war and (Palestinians' victory in) the 22-day (Gaza) war," Ayatollah Khamenei said, addressing millions of Friday Prayers worshippers on Tehran University Campus in February.  "In future too, we will support and help everyone who opposes the Zionist regime," the Leader underscored.  "The Zionist regime is a real cancerous tumor that should be cut and will be cut, God Willing," Ayatollah Khamenei underscored. - FARS News Agency.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Thousands of Arctic Sites Releasing Ancient Methane - Could Have "Significant Impact" on Climate Change!

Scientists have identified thousands of sites in the Arctic where methane that has been stored for many millennia is bubbling into the atmosphere.  The methane has been trapped by ice, but is able to escape as the ice melts.  Writing in the journal Nature Geoscience, the researchers say this ancient gas could have a significant impact on climate change. Methane is the second most important greenhouse gas after CO2 and levels are rising after a few years of stability.  There are many sources of the gas around the world, some natural and some man-made, such as landfill waste disposal sites and farm animals. 

Many of the sites were bubbling methane that has been stored for millennia.
Tracking methane to these various sources is not easy.  But the researchers on the new Arctic project, led by Katey Walter Anthony from the University of Alaska at Fairbanks (UAF), were able to identify long-stored gas by the ratio of different isotopes of carbon in the methane molecules.  Using aerial and ground-based surveys, the team identified about 150,000 methane seeps in Alaska and Greenland in lakes along the margins of ice cover.  Local sampling showed that some of these are releasing the ancient methane, perhaps from natural gas or coal deposits underneath the lakes, whereas others are emitting much younger gas, presumably formed through decay of plant material in the lakes.  "We observed most of these cryosphere-cap seeps in lakes along the boundaries of permafrost thaw and in moraines and fjords of retreating glaciers," they write, emphasising the point that warming in the Arctic is releasing this long-stored carbon.  "If this relationship holds true for other regions where sedimentary basins are at present capped by permafrost, glaciers and ice sheets, such as northern West Siberia, rich in natural gas and partially underlain by thin permafrost predicted to degrade substantially by 2100, a very strong increase in methane carbon cycling will result, with potential implications for climate warming feedbacks."
Atmospheric methane concentration is rising again after a plateau of a few years.
Quantifying methane release across the Arctic is an active area of research, with several countries despatching missions to monitor sites on land and sea.  The region stores vast quantities of the gas in different places - in and under permafrost on land, on and under the sea bed, and - as evidenced by the latest research - in geological reservoirs.  "The Arctic is the fastest warming region on the planet, and has many methane sources that will increase as the temperature rises," commented Prof Euan Nisbet from Royal Holloway, University of London, who is also involved in Arctic methane research.  "This is yet another serious concern: the warming will feed the warming."  How serious and how immediate a threat this feedback mechanism presents is a controversial area, with some scientists believing that the impacts will not be seen for many decades, and others pointing out the possibility of a rapid release that could swiftly accelerate global warming. - BBC.

FUK-U-SHIMA: Extinction Level Event - Fukushima Nuclear Reactor 4 Poses a Massive Global Risk?!

More than a year after a devastating earthquake and tsunami triggered a massive nuclear disaster, experts are warning that Japan isn't out of the woods yet and the worst nuclear storm the world has ever seen could be just one earthquake away from reality.  The troubled Reactor 4 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is at the centre of this potential catastrophe.  Reactor 4 -- and to a lesser extent Reactor 3 -- still hold large quantities of cooling waters surrounding spent nuclear fuel, all bound by a fragile concrete pool located 30 metres above the ground, and exposed to the elements. 

Cranes stand around tsunami-crippled four reactors, from left, Unit 1 to Unit 4, at Fukushima-Daiichi
nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan Sunday, March 11, 2012.
A magnitude 7 or 7.5 earthquake would likely fracture that pool, and disaster would ensue, says Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer with Fairewinds Energy Education who has visited the site.  The 1,535 spent fuel rods would become exposed to the air and would likely catch fire, with the most-recently added fuel rods igniting first.  The incredible heat generated from that blaze, Gundersen said, could then ignite the older fuel in the cooling pool, causing a massive oxygen-eating radiological fire that could not be extinguished with water.  "So the fear is the newest fuel could begin to burn and then we'd have a conflagration of the whole pool because it would become hotter and hotter. The health consequences of that are beyond where science has ever gone before," Gundersen told in an interview from his home in Vermont.  Worst-case scenario  There are a couple of possible outcomes, Gundersen said.  Highly radioactive cesium and strontium isotopes would likely go airborne and "volatilize" -- turning into a vapour that could move with the wind, potentially travelling thousands of kilometres from the source.  The size of those particles would determine whether they remained in Japan, or made their way to the rest of Asia and other continents.  "And here's where there's no science because no one's ever dared to attempt the experiment," Gundersen said. "If it flies far enough it goes around the world, if the particles stay a little bigger, they settle in Japan. Either is awful."  Essentially, he said, Japan is sitting on a ticking time bomb.  The damaged Reactor 4 cooling pool was reinforced by workers who went in and "jury-rigged" it after the tsunami, but the structure still contains a massive amount of fuel, Gundersen said.  Reactor 3 has less fuel inside its cooling pool, but it has not been strengthened since the disaster and poses a greater risk of failing.  "Reactor 3 has a little less consequences but a little more risk, and Reactor 4 has more consequences but…a little less risk," he said.  Finding a fix  The solution, Gundersen said, is for the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to immediately begin the process of transferring the fuel rods from the cooling pools to dry cask storage -- a massive and costly endeavour, but one he said is absolutely essential.  To even begin the removal process at Reactor 4, TEPCO would first have to construct a crane capable of lifting the 100-tonne fuel rod canister, since the original crane was destroyed in the disaster last year.  In order to do that, they would have to build a massive structure around the existing pool to support the new crane, which would then be used to lift the fuel rod canister from the water, down to the ground and into a steel and concrete dry-cask.  All this of course, has to be done in a highly contaminated area where workers must wear protective suits and limit their radiation exposure each day, adding time and expense to the process.  Still, with the consequences so high, Gundersen said there's no time to lose.  "This is a 'now' problem, this is not a 'let's-wait-until-we-get-the-cash-flow-from-the-Japanese-government' problem. The consequences of a 7 or 7.5 earthquake don't happen every day, but we know it happened last year so you have to anticipate that it will happen," Gundersen said.  ‘Fate of the world' depends on Reactor 4.

He's not alone in pressing the Japanese government to adopt a sense of urgency about the Reactor 4 dilemma.  Robert Alvarez, a former top adviser at the U.S. Department of Energy, also expressed concern in a letter to Akio Matsumura, a Japanese diplomat who has turned his focus to the nuclear calamity.    Matsumura had asked Alvarez about the risk associated with Reactor 4.  "The No. 4 pool is about 100 feet above ground, is structurally damaged and is exposed to the open elements," Alvarez said in his response. "If an earthquake or other event were to cause this pool to drain this could result in a catastrophic radiological fire involving nearly 10 times the amount of Cesium-137 released by the Chernobyl accident."  Mitsuhei Murata, Japan's former ambassador to Switzerland and Senegal, has also made it his mission to convince the UN and the world that urgent action is needed.  "It is no exaggeration to say that the fate of Japan and the whole world depends on No. 4 reactor," Murata said in a recent letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in which he urged him to back efforts to address the problem.  Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said most major threats have been eliminated and "cold shutdown" status had been achieved in December.  But Noda declined to comment directly on the risk posed by Reactor 4, only telling The Wall Street Journal's Asia edition that it was important to "remain vigilant."  "We have passed a situation where people have to run far away or evacuate," he said. "Ahead of us are time-consuming tasks like decontamination and decommissioning (of the plants). We will proceed with the utmost care."  Gundersen said the remaining challenges at the Fukushima Da-Ichi site are not technological. Everyone knows what needs to be done and how to do it, he said. The challenge lies, rather, in convincing Japan that action must be taken now.  That will require international pressure, as well as international investment, on a grand scale, he said.  "We're all in a situation of having to pray there's not an earthquake. And there's the other half of that, which is pray to God but row toward shore. And Tokyo's not really rowing toward shore right now," Gundersen said. - CTV News.
WATCH: Arnie Gundersen discuss the situation at Fukushima.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Northeast Italy Earthquake Was the Biggest Tremor Since the 1300s!

One of the worst quakes to hit northeast Italy in hundreds of years rattled the region around Bologna early Sunday, killing at least four people, collapsing factories and sending residents running out into the streets, emergency services said. The magnitude-6.0 temblor struck at 4:04 a.m., with its epicenter about 22 miles north of Bologna at a relatively shallow depth of 3.2 miles, the US Geological Survey said. Civil defense agency official Adriano Gumina said the quake was the worst in the region since the 1300s.

Scene of damaged buildings in northeast Italy.
It left bell towers cracked, chunks of church facades lying in the streets, and roofs caved in. Agency chief Franco Gabrielli put the death toll from quake damage at four — all overnight-shift factory workers who died as buildings collapsed in three separate locations. In addition, he said, two women died — apparently of heart attacks possibly sparked by fear, shortly after the quake rocked the area. Sky TG24 TV reported one of them was about 100 years old.  Gabrielli said "dozens" were injured, although it was too soon for a definitive count.  Two of the dead were workers at a ceramics factory in the town of Sant'Agostino di Ferrara, who died when the cavernous building collapsed into a pile of rubble, leaving twisted metal supports jutting out at odd angles amid the mangled roof.  "This is immense damage but the worst part is we lost two people," said fellow worker Stefano Zeni. News reports said one of the dead had worked the shift of an ill colleague. Elsewhere in the town, another worker was found dead under factory rubble.  In the town of Ponte Rodoni di Bondeno, a worker also died as his factory collapsed, news reports said, citing emergency workers.  Pope Benedict XVI, in his traditional Sunday appearance from his studio window overlooking St. Peter's Square, said he was "spiritually close" to those affected by the quake, and asked people to join him in prayers to God for mercy for the dead and relief for the wounded.

Emilio Bianco, receptionist at Modena's Canalgrande hotel — housed in an ornate 18th century palazzo — said the quake "was a strong one, and it lasted quite a long time." The hotel suffered no damage and Modena itself was spared, but guests spilled into the streets as soon as the quake hit, he said.  Many people were still awake at 4 a.m. and milling about town since stores and restaurants were open all night. Museums were supposed to have remained open as well, but closed following the bombing Saturday of a school in southern Italy that killed one person.  The epicenter was between the towns of Finale Emilia, San Felice sul Panaro, and Sermide but felt as far away as Tuscany and northern Alto Adige. One woman in Finale Emilia told Sky a child had been trapped in her bedroom by falling rubble for two hours before she was rescued.  The initial quake was followed around an hour later by a 5.1-magnitude temblor, USGS said. And it was preceded by a 4.1-temblor.  In 2009, a temblor killed more than 300 people in the central city of L'Aquila, where the historic center is still largely uninhabited and in ruins. - Christian Science Monitor.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Indonesia's Mt. Sirung Volcano Erupts - Causing a Host of Problems For People; Mass Evacuations; and Complaints of Respiratory Ailments!

Various ailments, including coughs and other respiratory conditions, have affected hundreds of people seeking safety in temporary shelters after the eruption of Mount Sirung on Pantar island in the Eastern Nusa Tenggara District of Alor, an official said on Monday. 

Mount Sirung, a 862-meter-high volcano, erupted on May 13, forcing some 250 people from the Mauta village on its slope to seek safety elsewhere in the district.  The volcano was put on the third level of alert after it began to show increased activity on May 8.  “Residents are beginning to be affected by ailments such as coughs, sneezing, and other respiratory conditions,” Viktor Tanghana, the head of the Alor district Disaster Mitigation Office said.  Viktor said children were the most vulnerable among the displaced. 

He said the district had already deployed a medical team to the temporary shelters to provide some help, and the authorities had also sent food aid such as rice, corn and instant noodles and cans of sardines.  The evacuation of Mauta, approximately 300 meters from the crater, was conducted by the local authorities at the request of the Vulcanology and Geology Disaster Mitigation Center in Bandung (PVMBG), Viktor said. 

He said although the people of the village had been evacuated to the temporary shelters, they continued to return to their fields to work.  Viktor also berated the shortage of face masks at the district level, and called on the disaster mitigation office in Kupang, the provincial capital to send at least 500 such masks to the district for distribution. - The Jakarta Globe.

PLANETARY TREMORS: The Geological Mechanisms of the African and Eurasian Plates - Why Italy's Earthquake Was Weird?!

The intensity of shaking from the 6.0 magnitude earthquake that struck northern Italy on May 20, 2012. A strong and unusually shallow earthquake struck northern Italy over the weekend, fracturing pavement, sending torrents of brick and rubble raining down from buildings, and killing seven people. The powerful shaking was a first for the region in centuries - and fairly surprising to seismologists. 

The intensity of shaking from the 6.0 magnitude earthquake that struck northern Italy on May 20, 2012.
Data indicate the magnitude-6.0 quake, which struck just after 4 a.m. local time on Sunday (May 20), just north of Bologna, was a thrust quake - the type of earthquake caused when two tectonic plates smash together - yet it occurred at a depth of just 3 miles (5 kilometers).  "It is kind of surprising that it's that shallow, because it's pretty far from the plate boundary," said Paul Caruso, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey. "Normally we expect things to get deeper as they move northward," he told OurAmazingPlanet.  Shallow shaking  The quake hit about 470 miles (750 km) north of the plate boundary - the place where the two colliding plates meet - which runs along the sole of Italy's "boot."  It is here that the African plate is plowing slowly northward, crashing into the Eurasian plate.  Caruso explained that the shallower a quake, the more damage it can cause. "If a quake is 500 kilometers deep, and you're right on top of it, you're going to feel it a lot less strongly than if it's 5 kilometers deep," he said. "As the seismic energy moves through the ground some of it is dissipated." 

The strong quake rocked an area with a long history of earthquakes, yet one that has kept relatively quiet for hundreds of years.  "There has not been a whole lot of action in that area," Caruso said. "The fact that they do have records of earthquakes going back a couple thousand years shows this area hasn't been seismically active for a long time," he said.  Thousands of people were displaced by the quake, and many people spent the night in tents hurriedly erected on soccer fields.  The most powerful quake to hit Italy in decades occurred in 2009, in central Italy, near Rome. The 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck the medieval city of L'Aquila, killing close to 300 people and causing widespread damage.  After that earthquake, Italian officials put several Italian scientists on trial for manslaughter for not providing better warnings ahead of the deadly shaking, a move that has caused an outcry in the international scientific community.  The two Italian quakes were caused by different geological mechanisms. The L'Aquila earthquake was caused when massive rock faces jerked away from one another, where as the recent earthquake was caused by their collision.  Several aftershocks have rocked the affected region, and it's not clear if this recent earthquake is a harbinger of things to come.  "We don't know if this is going to trigger more activity in this area or not," Caruso said. "We would expect to see aftershocks in the area for a while." There have already been at least 100 aftershocks.  The shaking could continue for weeks or months, he said. - Our Amazing Planet.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC CONTAGION: The Euro Zone Crisis - Former Greek Finance Minister Believes That the Greece Crisis Threatens to "Open Door to Hell"?!

Greece's former finance minister has told Sky News that if Greece reneges on its bailout deal with the EU and the IMF it will "open the door to hell".  Sky News last interviewed George Papaconstantinou two-and-a-half years ago.  In December 2009 he told how Greece could survive independently and Greece's creditors had nothing to fear - they would get back every euro they were owed.  A lot has changed since then.  Greece is in the process of borrowing 240bn euros of emergency loans from the EU and the IMF (in return for pledges to raise taxes, cut spending and balance the books) and investors holding Greek debt have been forced write off up to 50% of their money.

Even now Greece remains heavily in debt, deep in recession (now in its fifth year) and without a functioning elected government.  Mr Papaconstantinou lost his position as finance minister last summer, shortly after the second bailout package was agreed.  In the general election, two weeks ago, he also lost his seat as an MP. He was not alone as support for his Pasok party collapsed.  The result of the election was inconclusive and, ultimately, no party was able to form a coalition government. In four weeks' time Greece will vote again.  The opinion polls suggest that were an election to be held tomorrow the result would, once again be inconclusive, but the Syriza party, which is promising to "tear up" the bailout agreement with the EU and the IMF, continues to attract support.  Mr Papaconstantinou is the man who negotiated Greece's participation in the bailout deal and he says understands that the people of Greece are angry. "People have had wage cuts, pension cuts, tax rises... and unemployment has gone through the roof - we need to respond to this," he told Sky News.  Interestingly, he admits there are elements of the bailout deal that he would seek to renegotiate but he says if Greece were to do what Syriza's leader, Alexis Tsipras, is proposing and fail to honour the promises the country has made in return for emergency funding then the results would be disastrous.

"The extremist parties are lying to the Greek people because they are not telling them that reneging on the agreement means that you have opened the door to hell," he said.  Syriza is promising voters it will not only reject the austerity measures it says are keeping Greece in recession but will also keep Greece in the eurozone.  Mr Papaconstantinou is clear that Syriza cannot deliver on both.  "The first thing that happens is the money (from the EU and IMF) stops flowing to Greece, the second thing that happens is people start worrying about their deposits in the banks, the third thing that happens is the banking system is in danger of collapsing and then you have to defend it even by sending in the army and the police on to the streets to avoid a bank run," he said.  "There are no easy solutions. Either we stay within the framework we have all agreed or we tear it up, in which case we have a complete and utter catastrophe."  In the general election in 2009 Syriza attracted barely 5% of the vote. Two weeks ago it managed 17%.  Some of the most recent opinion polls suggest Syriza is now Greece's most popular party and that 25% of the population say they will vote for the party on June 17.  That is not quite enough support for Syriza to form a government but it does suggest that the party's aggressive, defiant message is increasingly capturing the public mood.  It is also more than enough support to unsettle the financial markets and give the leaders of other eurozone countries a few sleepless nights. - SKY News.
WATCH: George Papaconstantinou speaks to Sky News.

SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: The "Ring of Fire" - Rare Annular Solar Eclipse Captivates People Across the Globe!

The shadow of the moon swept across the globe from Hong Kong to the Texas Panhandle as a rare annular solar eclipse began Monday morning in Asia and traversed the Pacific.  The sun appeared as a thin ring behind the moon to people in a narrow path along the center of the track, which began in southern China.

Joel Dykstra unexpectedly captured the ring of fire from his backyard in Roswell, New Mexico.
Heavy clouds obscured the view in Hong Kong, but residents of Tokyo and other cities were able to get a spectacular view for about four minutes around 7:32 a.m. Monday (6:32 p.m. ET Sunday).  Events were held at schools and museums in Japan, while many more people took in the unusual astronomical event at home or on street corners. After whizzing across the Pacific, the shadow emerged over northern California and southern Oregon, where thousands of people attended parties to watch the event, the first to appear in the United States since 1994.  Experts warned that hopeful viewers should not peer up at the sky without special viewing equipment, since looking at the sun with the naked eye can cause blindness.  Derek Ralston, a professional photographer, said he used a welding filter to capture a direct view of eclipse in the foothills above Oroville, California. He shared the photo on CNN iReport.  Noting "the rather slim swath of the globe who could see the impact of the eclipse," Ralston said he wanted to enable "the rest of the world to see how clear it looked to those of us who were fortunate enough to see it."

The sliver of sunshine then traveled southeast across central Nevada, southern Utah and northern Arizona, and then New Mexico. It passed over Albuquerque, New Mexico, about 7:34 p.m. (9:34 p.m. ET) before petering out east of Lubbock, Texas, according to NASA.  An annular eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the Earth and sun at the farthest point of its orbit, meaning it will block less than the entire sun. That leaves a large, bright ring around it as it passes.  Patrick Wiggins, a NASA ambassador in Salt Lake City, said he always looked forward to seeing people's reactions to such events.  "You get everything from stoic, staring into the sky ... to people breaking down and crying, they're just so moved," he said.  Aaron Lin, an 8th-grade student from Moraga, California, said a tree in his family's yard had served as unexpected natural viewing device on Sunday.  The leaves of the tree, whose shadow falls on the side of the family's house, broke up the light from the eclipse into scores of tiny crescents on the wall, he said.  "I was so shocked by these shadows because it looked like a painting or computer art," said Aaron, 13.  The next solar eclipse will be on November 13, and is expected to be visible over northern Australia, according to NASA. - KTLA.
WATCH: Rare annular solar eclipse seen across Asia.

RATTLE & HUM: "The Sounds of the Apocalypse" - Mysterious Boom Shakes Buildings and Frighten Residents in Channel Islands?!

An investigation has been launched into the cause of a mysterious boom which shook buildings across the Channel Islands on Saturday afternoon. 

Hundreds of Islanders reported hearing a loud bang – similar to a sonic boom – at 1.04 pm.  The boom was so loud it rattled doors and windows from Gorey to St Ouen and even measured on the Island’s seismograph in St Aubin. 

But despite speculation that the noise was caused by a military jet travelling faster than the speed of sound, Jersey Airport has confirmed that no aircraft capable of causing such a noise was in the Island’s airspace at the time.  And Jersey Met Office has confirmed that it is unlikely that any meteorological phenomenon could have caused the noise. - TIJ.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Costa Rica Upgrades the Threat Level to Yellow For the Turrialba Volcano - An Eruption is "Probable" Given Increased Seismic Activity!

Costa Rica's National Seismological Network has upgraded the color threat level to yellow of Turrialba Volcano, in the province of Cartago east of the capital.

National Seismological Network volcanologists are keeping an eye on Turruialba Volcano,
which they say could erupt soon.
A statement issued by Raúl Mora-Amador, coordinator of Seismology, Volcanology and Geophysical Exploration at the University of Costa Rica, indicates a threat level of yellow means that the National Seismological Network believes an eruption is "probable" in a matter of days, weeks or a few months. The upgrade in the threat level is due to "important changes in seismic activity of Volcano Turrialba associated with the movement of fluids, gas and magma beneath the surface, different from that observed in past years," Mora-Amador's statement says.

Temperatures around some fumaroles on the volcano have risen to as much as 800° Celsius, accompanied by eruptions of ash. High-temperature emissions of volcanic gases including sulfur dioxide have increased, causing incandescence in some of the fumaroles, Mora-Amador said, adding that the internal wall of the active crater is very weak due to hydrothermal changes in the volcano. Mora-Amador indicated this could mean a major eruption could jettison material into the atmosphere. Turrialba is the only volcano in the country currently with a yellow threat-level indicator. An upgrade to red would mean an eruptions is imminent. - Tico Times.