Wednesday, May 23, 2012

PLANETARY TREMORS: Strong Magnitude 6.1 Strikes Hokkaido, Japan Region!

A strong magnitude 6.1 earthquake has struck Hokkaido, off the coast of northeastern Japan, but no tsunami is expected. The tremor hit early Thursday (local time) and was centered about 107 kilometers (66 miles) northeast of Hachinohe at a depth of 40 kilometers (25 miles).

Japan's Kyodo News agency says the quake shook Aomori prefecture (state) and other areas of northeastern Japan but no abnormalities were reported at nearby nuclear power plants. No tsunami warning was issued.

Tohoku Electric Power has reported that there were NO power outages. The Mutsu nuclear installations and the Ogawara Nuclear plant are reported to be operating normally. Trains have been halted for a while during and after the quake. Aomori authorities have inspected various strategic buildings like airports, runways, etc and found no structural damage.

A massive magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami ravaged Japan's northeastern coastline in March last year, leaving some 19,000 people dead or missing and badly damaging the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Thousands of Dead Fish Wash up on the Mula-Mutha River Banks in India?!

The problem of fish dying in large numbers has come to the fore of the banks of the Mula-Mutha (Bheema) rivers again. Fish have been found dead along the banks of the Mula-Mutha because of rising pollution and the latest in the series was recorded at Hatvalan near the Pune-Daund border last week.

Dead fish at Hatvalan near Pune-Daund border.
Since last week, thousands of Mozambique Tilapia fishes were found dead on the river banks at Hatvalan in Daund division, about 76 km from Pune.  The fish apparently died because of thick blackish water flowing in the river bed. Ironically, Mozambique Tilapia is considered as one of the most resilient species of fish, known to withstand unfriendly environmental conditions.  To make matters worse, the same dead fish were taken to market to be sold by local fishermen. Pune and Mumbai are the primary markets for these fish. According to experts, in May freshwater springs that open into the river dry up, and hence the dissolving factor of oxygen in the water changes accordingly. 

This increases the pollution level, causing the fish to die. A study conducted by Jal Biradari and Maharashtra Vikas Kendra last year had shown that the nitrate level in the Bheema river was 10-50 mg per litre, whereas the permissible limit specified by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) is 45 mg/litre. The natural nitrate level should be less than 1 mg/litre, but due to pollutants, the level has shot up.  Dr Ashok Rasage, taluka medical officer of Daund, said, "For a week, large numbers of fish were found on the river banks. We have sent them and the samples of water to the state health laboratory and are waiting for the lab report."  Dr Sudhakar Kokane, district health officer, also confirmed the incident but said he would get more information from officials.  For activists though, the matter is of serious concern. Ankush Kotwal of Shetkari Sanghtana, said, "The chemical effluents from nearby factories which manufacture sulphuric acid enter the river directly. Also, the Pune Municipal Corporation(PMC) does not treat the sewage water and instead releases it directly into the river. This has caused havoc on the aquatic life here." - Pune Mirror.

ENVIRONMENT ALERT: 'Unprecedented' Tsunami Debris Clean-up Operation Begins on Alaskan Beaches - And there's still 1.5 Million Tons Still to Arrive!

An 'unprecedented' clean-up operation has been launched in Alaska after it became swamped by debris from last year's devastating Japanese tsunami.  Workers plan to spend 12 days clearing the beach on Montague Island, which is covered in items including balls, buoys, beer crates, Styrofoam and lunch boxes.  And they can expect to repeat this process in the future because an estimated 1.5million tons of flotsam and jetsam is yet complete the 3,500-mile journey to Alaska and elsewhere in North America.

Cluttered: Tsunami debris washed up on Montague Island, Alaska ahead of a 12-day clean-up mission.
Montague, which is the largest uninhabited U.S. island and lies 120 miles southeast of state capital Anchorage, is likely to receive another equally large quantity by the time the year has ended.  'The debris found on initial surveys of the island showed an absolutely unprecedented amount of buoys, Styrofoam and other high floating debris, Patrick Chandler of the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies told Fox News.  So far the wreckage floating away from Asia has included only the odd item - including the bizarre find of a Harley-Davidson and a football that was later reunited with its owner back in Japan.  But much bigger quantities are set to arrive thick and fast in the coming months as scientists are now saying the debris will cross the Pacific Ocean far sooner than previously thought.  The latest computer models estimate that a vast collection of debris - measuring 4,000 miles across at its longest - will start washing up this October and continue to do so into late 2013.  A recent satellite image from NASA's Earth observatory shows the marauding mass sprawled across the ocean's surface.  Around 4.8million tonnes - including parts of houses, factories, cars and ships - were pulled into the ocean when the earthquake and subsequent tsunami struck Japan in March last year.  While heavy items sank, at least 1.5million tonnes of lighter material such as buoys, oil drums and furniture were carried off by tides and the wind on a 4,500-mile journey to North America.  Projections made earlier this year by the International Pacific Research Centre (IPRC), in Honolulu, Hawaii, suggested most of the detritus would begin arriving between March 2013 and March 2014. 
On fast tides: The latest computer models predict that thousands of tonnes of debris, shown here in a
graphic interpretation of a NASA satellite image, from the Japanese tsunami will hit North American
shores far sooner than expected.
But predictions from the Japanese government and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has now pushed that date forward to October this year, according to a report in The Guardian. Indeed, many lighter objects began reaching land as early as last November.  Last month, a Japanese teenager who lost his home in last year's devastating tsunami spoke of his delight after his football washed up on a remote Alaskan beach 3,500 miles from Japan.  Misaki Murakami, 16, came forward to reveal that he was the owner of the ball discovered by American radar technician David Baxter on Middleton Island.  Mr Baxter, who also found a volleyball while out beachcombing, now plans to travel with his wife Yumi across the Pacific to return the ball.  And yesterday, the Japanese owner of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle said its discovery on a remote beach on the West Coast of British Columbia last week was a miracle.  The owner, Ikuo Yokoyama, a 29-year-old resident of the town of Yamamoto, in Miyagi Prefecture, was tracked down by a Harley-Davidson representative in Japan who saw the story, first reported by CBC News, the broadcaster reported today.  Peter Mark, was combing the beach on Haida Gwaii islands when he made the discovery.  A clearer picture of the debris is not expected to emerge before June or July when two privately-funded expeditions are due to travel into the north Pacific.  Washington state officials, which last week released posters advising residents what may arrive on their beaches, say it is highly unlikely any human remains will be found.  Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Alaska will get much of it, while most of California will be protected by currents pushing objects back out to sea, according to The Guardian. Hawaii, however, is in line for several deposits.  The US navy and coastguard will be monitoring the debris over fears it could pose a danger to shipping.  But for anyone worried that they may wake one day to a tsunami of trash heading towards them, Jan Hafner, of the IPRC, has these words of reassurances.  'Most people probably think there is a huge pile of debris moving across the ocean like a carpet. But it is very sparse, very patchy.' - Daily Mail.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Quake Hits Cheese Production in Northern Italy - Over 400,000 Wheels of Cheese Were Destroyed; Over 200 Million Euros in Damages!

The earthquake that struck northern Italy will affect production and export of some of the area's most internationally famous culinary delicacies - Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano cheeses.  National farmers' group Coldiretti has estimated damage to agriculture in the area, one of Italy's most fertile and productive zones, at more than 200 million euros.

Oriano Caretti looks at the overturned shelves with Parmesan wheels in his Parmesan cheese factory in San
Giovanni in Persiceto, Italy, Monday, May 21, 2012. A magnitude-6.0 earthquake shook northern Italy early
Sunday, killing at least three people and toppling some buildings, emergency services and news reports said.
The quake struck at 4:04 a.m. Sunday between Modena and Mantova, about 35 kilometers (22 miles) north-
northwest of Bologna at a relatively shallow depth of 10 kilometers (6 miles), the U.S. Geological Survey said.
Some of the worst damage was to the production of Parmigiano Reggiano, also called Parmesan cheese, and its eternal rival, Grana Padano.  Both of the very hard seasoned cheeses are grated over pasta dishes, thinly sliced on salads or served in small, irregular pieces at fashionable parties worldwide.  Their respective passionate devotees can be compared to fans supporting different sports teams in the same town.  Some 300,000 wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano and 100,000 of Grana Padano, each weighing about 40 kg (88 pounds), were damaged when they fell off shelves in warehouses where they were undergoing the two-year-long seasoning process.  Coldiretti said some 10 percent of the production of Parmigiano Reggiano and two percent of Grana Padano was affected by the quake.  At a retail price of some 25 euros a kg ($15.00 a pound) in Italy and more abroad, Parmigiano Reggiano is one of Italy's most expensive cheeses. The area produces 3.3 million wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano a year. 

Many Italian newspapers on Monday ran pictures of hundreds of big wheels of cheese that collapsed from seven-meter (23 feet)-high shelves piled like books on the floor of a bombed out library.  "We've lost two years of work," said Lorenza Caretti, whose family runs the Sant' Angelo cheese cooperative in the town of San Giovanni in Persiceto.  "We may be able to sell some of it for use in melted cheese products but that has only 20 percent of the value of the real thing," she said by telephone.  She said 22,000 wheels of hard cheese fell over in their warehouse during the quake.  "We still can't see the floor in many places," she said. "We will be lucky if we can somehow save half of it."  Production of milk used for cheese making in the area was also affected because many cows died in the collapse of stables or were left traumatized by the quake and its aftershocks, affecting the output and quality of milk, Coldiretti said.  Production of the Emilia-Romagna region's famed Prosciutto di Parma (seasoned Parma ham) was not believed to have been affected by the quake, an official of the Prosciutto di Parma consortium said.  While some pig farmers in the quake area saw their herds killed or injured, most of the pigs come from other parts of northern Italy and only the production process itself takes place in the Parma area, which was not hit, she said. - Reuters.

SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: Purple Skies - Planet Earth is Entering a High-Speed Solar Wind Storm, Causing Geomagnetic Activity at High Latitudes!

Earth is entering a high-speed solar wind stream, and this is causing geomagnetic activity at high latitudes. First contact with the stream on May 22nd turned the sky over Cumbria, United Kingdom, deep purple:

Image Taken: May 23, 2012.  Location: Shap, Cumbria, United Kingdom.
"The sky was bright because of twilight, but we could still see these faint auroras," says photographer Jon Cooper.

So far the solar wind has not caused a full-fledged geomagnetic storm, but this could change during the next 24 hours. NOAA forecasters estimate a 15% to 20% chance of storms around the poles as the solar wind continues to blow. - Space Weather.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Freak Storm and Unseasonably Heavy Rains Lashes Cannes Film Festival - Soaking Movie Stars at the French Riviera!

Lashing wind and rain damaged the roof of a Cannes screening room, organizers said on May 21, after soaked stars were left shivering on the red-carpet by a freak storm at the Riviera film festival.

Unseasonably heavy rains beat down on the French city on the night of May 20, forcing the cancellation of a 65th-anniversary fireworks display and leaving festival goers huddling under their umbrellas in puddles of water. French actress Isabelle Huppert was drenched as she climbed the red carpet for the Michael Haneke film "Love", as were the cast of the Danish thriller "The Hunt", starring heart-throb Mads Mikkelsen.

Organizers had to move two film screenings from the Salle du Soixantieme, built five years ago for the festival's 60th anniversary, to repair a section of roofing, although the room was operational again by mid-morning. The weather has also caused the cancellation of a string of the open-air parties that are usually a highlight of the glitzy event. The fireworks display will be staged on the night of May 23 if the weather permits. - AFP.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Three Massive Sinkholes Open up in Prince William County, Virginia!

The Virginia Department of Transportation is working to repair a massive sinkhole in Prince William County. The hole opened up in the middle of Aden Road early Tuesday morning. VDOT says this was one of three sinkholes to open up within the last 24 hours in Prince William County. VDOT believes heavy rain and flooding may be to blame. - WTVR.
WATCH: Giant sinkhole opens up in Prince William County.

EXTREME WEATHER: Thousands Mark Anniversary of Devastating Joplin Tornado - Twister Killed 161 People; Damage or Destroyed 7,500 Homes; Deadliest U.S. Tornado in Over 6 Decades!

An estimated 5,000 people participated on Tuesday in a "walk of unity" to Joplin, Missouri, along the path of a deadly tornado that tore through the city one year ago, killing 161 people. 

The anniversary of the tragedy also was marked by President Barack Obama, who traveled to Joplin to give the commencement address for graduating high school seniors whose school building was obliterated by the EF-5 tornado, the strongest on a rating scale for twisters.  "Just as you have learned the goodness of people, so have you learned the power of community," Obama said. He also honored two classmates of the graduates who died in the May 22, 2011, storm.  The tornado killed 161 people and damaged or destroyed 7,500 homes. It was the deadliest U.S. tornado in more than six decades.  The walk was intended to underscore how Joplin's 50,000 residents came together with some 130,000 volunteers from many other communities to rebuild the city. 

Some two-thirds of the homes destroyed in Joplin have been rebuilt or are in the process of being rebuilt. About 80 percent of damaged businesses have reopened, city officials said.  The walk began in the bordering community of Duquesne and ended at Cunningham Park in Joplin, where a ceremony and moment of silence was to be held at 5:41 p.m. - the time when the tornado touched down and began its 13-mile path of destruction that grew in stretches to three-quarters of a mile wide.  "It's been a great turnout," Lynn Onstot, Joplin's public information officer, said by telephone while participating in the walk. "This has been a healing process and I think people want to get on with the recovery efforts."  The unity walk included stops for groundbreaking at schools that will replace four destroyed in the tornado, including the high school.  At Cunningham Park, located in the middle of some of the worst destruction, a 161st tree was to be planted during the anniversary ceremony. Time capsules with material related to the tornado were to be buried in the park, with plans to open them on the tornado's 50th anniversary. - Chicago Tribune.

EARTH CHANGES: Weather Anomalies - Hurricane Season Comes Early This Year!

Spring came early this year, and so did hurricane season.

Image of Tropical Storm Alberto from NASA's Terra satellite.
Alberto, the first tropical storm of the year, formed on May 19, nearly two weeks before the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season on June 1, reported NASA's Earth Observatory. The storm troubled the waters off the coast of North Carolina with winds that reached up 60 miles (95 kilometers) per hour. An eye never formed and the storm didn't develop into a full blown hurricane.

By the next day, Alberto had petered out. No damage was reported on the mainland.
The annual hurricane heads-up from Colorado State University forecasted a slow hurricane season in 2012 with 10 named storms, four hurricanes and two major hurricanes. Alberto started the party early, so meteorologists have already notched one named storm off the list this year. - Discovery News.
WATCH: Analysis of the 2012 Hurricane season.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Huge Four-Metre Deep Sinkhole Opens Up In Montreal, Canada!

A four-metre square sinkhole opened up in a major downtown Montreal street just hours after a massive student protest had marched over it. 

The protest, which attracted tens of thousands of people, had already passed and gone down another street when the four-metre-deep sinkhole opened up late Tuesday afternoon.  Denis Roy, an operations chief with the Montreal fire department, said there were no injuries to any passersby.  Public works officials are attempting to determine the cause of the collapse.  The sinkhole is located not far from McGill University on Sherbrooke Street, one of Montreal's key east-west arteries.  The collapse, which happened around rush hour, added to the headaches of drivers already dealing with detours because of the huge student protest over tuition fee hikes and a special law to limit demonstrations. - CBC.
In March of this year, a sinkhole large enough to drive a car into opened up on a major Saskatchewan road causing traffic chaos.

The three-metre wide chunk of road opened up on Idylwyld Drive north of 39th Street just before 9 a.m. Monday forcing thousands of motorists to take several detours. It was caused by a break in a 20-centimetre pipe under the road causing water to swirl beneath the asphalt and led to the sinkhole.  "They are totally unpredictable," said public works manager Pat Hyde to the Saskatoon Star Phoenix. "This could have been happening for days or weeks."  The city received no reports of vehicles falling into the hole, but one commenter on Yahoo! Canada News joked, "I lost my car in there. It's on top of the Jeep, and under the BMW."  Holes are created because freezing and thawing cycles put pressure along underground pipes causing them to become weak and break. Snow melts forcing moisture into the cracks of roads and when it freezes it expands and makes the small cracks into bigger holes. The warmer winter across much of Canada is resulting in potholes being spotted earlier than normal.

Saskatoon isn't the place in Canada to have a huge sinkhole. 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 road just let go," said Murray Wightman, manager of street operation for Vancouver to CBC. The two Toronto sinkholes were caused by water main breaks and the Vancouver one is believed to be a result of the same thing.  But on a worldwide scale, these Canadian sinkholes are relatively small. In 2010, a 60-metre deep crater opened up in Guatemala City after it was hit by a tropical storm that dumped a metre of rain and caused mudslides. The sinkhole gobbled several buildings and nearly an entire intersection. According to CNN, there were no reports of death related to the sinkhole, but the tropical storm claimed more than 175 lives. As for the Saskatoon sinkhole, city crews plan to have the hole temporarily repaired by Tuesday, but a permanent fix will not happen until the city receives its first shipment of asphalt for the year. Hyde said this will happen within the month. He told the Star Phoenix, "We'll just backfill and compact it, gravel the top of it and once we have asphalt we'll come back and make a permanent fix." - Yahoo.