Tuesday, June 5, 2012

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Japan's Mega-Quake and Tsunami Disturbed Earth's Upper Atmosphere - 50 to 500 Miles Above the Planet's Surface?!

The massive earthquake and tsunami that hit Fukushima, Japan, last year wreaked havoc in the skies above as well, disturbing electrons in the upper atmosphere, NASA reported. 

The waves of energy from the quake and tsunami that were so destructive on the ground reached into the ionosphere, a part of the upper atmosphere that stretches from about 50 to 500 miles above Earth's surface.  The ionosphere is the last, thinnest part of the atmosphere, where solar ultraviolet radiation breaks up molecules and leaves a haze of electrons and ions. 

In images released on Friday, NASA showed how the earthly disturbances from the March 11, 2011, quake and tsunami were echoed in the movement of electrons far aloft. This movement was monitored by tracking the GPS signals between satellites and ground receivers.  Scientists have seen this phenomenon before, for tsunamis in Samoa in 2009 and Chile in 2010. The Japanese event, however, occurred in a region more closely monitored by a dense network of GPS receivers, NASA said in a statement. - Reuters.
WATCH: Japan earthquake and tsunami disturbed the upper atmosphere.

SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: The Monumental Celestial Convergence - Transit of Venus 2012, a Once-in-a-Lifetime Phenomenon!

The rare Transit of Venus is coming Tuesday afternoon in the United States, and it's a once-in-a-lifetime viewing chance for West Coast viewers. The next time this astronomical phenomena will happen is 2117.

At its heart, the exquisite show in the heavens is simple — Venus will cross paths between the sun and the Earth, and Earthlings will see a tiny dot floating across the surface of the sun over several hours. How to view the Transit of Venus? You could buy a pair of solar glasses from a planetarium, like the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, which will sell them Tuesday after 12 p.m. for $2.99 a pair. An even better view, also at the Observatory, is seeing the transit magnified by a telescope, equipped with special solar filters. You can also try buying No. 14 welder's glass from a welder's shop or home improvement store. Or use a pair of binoculars, preferably with more than seven times magnification, to project the sun's light onto the sidewalk or a piece of paper. If you're able to find an image of the sun, look for a tiny dot showing the image of Venus. Don't look at the sun directly. The sun's rays are so bright it will obscure Venus, and you could damage your vision. If all else fails, watch a live NASA webcast from Hawaii. This week's viewing will be only the eighth time the Transit of Venus has happened since the telescope was invented, according to NASA's Fred Espenak. It will begin at 3:06 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time, and hit the center of its journey at 6:25 p.m. The sun sets in Los Angeles at 8:02 p.m., but in points west — such as Alaska, Hawaii, Australia, eastern Asia, and most of Europe — the show will go on for two more hours. (The transit will occur on Wednesday for points west of the International Date Line.)

As long as clouds don't interfere with the view, most of the world will be able to see at least part of the Transit of Venus, except for southeastern South America, western Africa, Portugal and Spain. Entire lifetimes can go by with no one being able to see a Transit of Venus, but we're living in a lucky time to see what Espenak calls one of the rarest of planetary alignments. The viewings occur only twice every 120 years. Since the telescope's invention, Espenak says, it was only viewable in 1631, 1639, 1761, 1769, 1874 and 1882; the last viewable transit happened in 2004 but happened before sunrise in the western United States. Some viewers have said the Transit of Venus looks as if there were a black hole punched in the sun, according to a NASA video. The Transit of Venus has tantalized astronomers for centuries, and astronomers hoped that they could use the phenomenon to answer an enduring mystery — the distance between the Earth and Venus. According to NASA, in the 18th century, astronomer Edmund Halley — whose name graces Halley’s Comet — theorized that if the Transit of Venus was observed from various locations on Earth, scientists could use that data to calculate the Earth’s distance to Venus. European nations sent scientists on ships across the globe to observe the transit in 1769 in hopes of getting the data they needed. The British explorer James Cook was even dispatched to Tahiti to view Venus' journey. But according to a NASA video, “bad weather, primitive optics and the natural fuzziness of Venus’ atmosphere prevented observers from gathering the data they needed.” According to this NASA article, it would take another century — when observers used photographs — for scientists to get the data to measure the size of the solar system. - LA Times.
WATCH: The 2012 Transit of Venus

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The WIRED Eruption Update - 91 Explosions at Popocatepetl in Just 24 Hours; Ash Emissions Continue at Nevado del Ruiz and Lava Flows at Kilauea!

Rounding up some volcano-related news from around the world, courtesy of Erik Klemetti and WIRED:

Popocatepetl volcano.
Mexico: All eyes continue to be on Popocatépetl and the volcano clearly still deserves the attention. Over the weekend, Popo produced at least 91 explosions over a 24 hour period. However, none of the events were larger than what we’ve been seeing over the last week. In fact, UNAM scientist Giovanni Sosa Ceballos says that we shouldn’t be expecting a large Plinian eruption from Popo as its recent volcanic history doesn’t favor such behavior. This doesn’t mean that the volcano isn’t still dangerous and doesn’t entirely rule out a large event. However, looking at the past activity at a volcano is one of the best ways to know what to expect in the present. The Mexican government still has people and resources ready for evacuations if the activity gets worse. Check out the webcams to watch Popocatépetl’s activity (conditions permitting).

Colombia: Much like Popocatépetl, Colombia’s Nevado del Ruiz has been rumbling much of the spring. After a brief respite, the activity at the volcano has kicked back up this week, with almost continuous ash emissions over the last few days. However, the activity hasn’t increased since the volcano was placed back on Orange alert status last Tuesday. INGEOMINAS scientists say that these ash emissions could last for days to weeks, continuing to dust the region around Ruiz with coating of volcanic ash. The Colombian and regional governments have prepared shelters for potential evacuees if the volcano’s activity increases or lahars are generated from these rewned explosions. Be sure to watch the Ruiz webcams to see any changes at the volcano.

Hawaii: The lava flows (see above) and ups/downs of the Halema’uma’u Crater lava lake have continued into the early summer at Kilauea on the Big Island. The level of the summit lava lake has oscillated over the last week, changing as much as 60 meters (relative to the floor of the summit crater) and parts of the crater wall falling into the lava lake. You can also check out a brief piece of the earthquake and volcanic threat to another Hawaiian island, Maui.
Read more updates from Erik HERE.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Slump Alert as World Money Contracts - Any Further Falls, Will Risk a Full-Blown Global Recession!

The latest data show that the real M1 money supply – cash and overnight deposits – for China, the eurozone, Britain and the US has been contracting since the early Spring. Any further falls risk a full-blown global recession.  Clear signs of trouble are emerging in the US, until now the last bastion of strength. The New York Institute of Supply Management said its ISM business index – a proxy for business demand – flashed a "screeching halt" in May, crashing to 49.9 from 61.2 in April, where anything below 50 denotes contraction. Unemployment is rising again after grim jobs data for April and May, indicating that the economy may have fallen below stall speed. 

Real M1 for the G7 economies and leading E7 emerging powers peaked at 5.1pc in November
and has since plunged to 1.6pc in Apri
l.  Photo: Getty Images
Central bank governors and finance ministers from the G7 bloc are to hold an emergency teleconference call on Tuesday to grapple with Europe's escalating crisis. There is mounting anger in North America and Asia over the failure of the Europeans to use their vast resources to contain the brushfire in Spain.  The world money data collected by Simon Ward at Henderson Global Investors show that real M1 for the G7 economies and leading E7 emerging powers peaked at 5.1pc in November and has since plunged to 1.6pc in April. The data explain why commodity prices are falling hard, with Brent crude down to a 16-month low of under $97 a barrel.  China's money data are falling at the fastest pace since records began. The gauge – six-month real M1 – gives advance warning of economic output half a year ahead. "Europe needs to start quantitative easing [QE] immediately and China must ease policy," said Mr Ward. 

The Americans may act first. Goldman Sachs expects Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke to open the door for QE in testimony on Thursday.  Stock markets rallied in Madrid and Milan led by bank shares on rumours of an EU plan to recapitalise banks directly with funds from the EU bail-out machinery.  Olli Rehn, the EU economics chief, said use of the European Stability Mechanism to bail out lenders was a "serious possibility", adding that it was imperative to "break the link between banks and sovereigns".  However, there is no sign yet that Germany will be willing to drop its veto on such action, viewed by Berlin as the start of debt mutualisation. Chancellor Angela Merkel crushed talk of an instant "banking union" after meeting commission president Jose Barroso, saying their could be no quick fix. She called instead for EU banking supervision as a "mid-term goal".  Her spokesman said any options that "resemble eurobonds" are for the distant future. "It's up to national governments to decide whether they want to avail themselves of aid. That also applies to Spain," he said.  Use of the ESM for bank bail-outs would meet fierce resistance in the German, Dutch and Finnish parliaments. A senior EU official said even Germany's Social Democrats are cooling on eurobonds. "They looked at the polling data and shivered. The German people are not willing to send money into a bottomless pit," he said. - Telegraph.

EXTREME WEATHER: Powerful and Violent Storm Leaves Three Dead in Southeastern Missouri - Several Homes Damaged!

A sudden, violent storm in southeast Missouri has left a man and his two adult sons dead.

Authorities are assessing the damage after high winds, heavy rain and hail ripped through parts of Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky late Monday. The worst hit town is Diehlstadt, Mo., where winds blew over a mobile home, killing 70-year-old Loy Miller and his two sons, 50-year-old Jasper Miller and 48-year-old Randy Miller.
There have been several reports of damage to homes in and around Diehlstadt, a town of 163 residents in Scott County about 100 miles south of St. Louis. The National Weather Service in Paducah, Ky., reported large hail, heavy rain and wind gusts of more than 50 mph in southern Illinois and Kentucky. No other injuries have been reported. - USA Today.

MYSTERY: The Symbols of an Alien Sky, Man-Made or Natural Phenomena - The Latest UFO Sightings And Aerial Anomalies Around the World?!

Here are several of the latest unidentified flying objects (UFOs) seen recently across the globe.

British Columbia, Canada - 17th of May, 2012.

Paris, France - 27th of May, 2012.

Los Angeles, California, United States - 21st of May, 2012.

Rome, Italy - 3rd of June, 2012.

Ontario, Canada - 1st of May, 2012.

McKinney, Texas, United States - 2nd of June, 2012.

Milano, Italy - 3rd of June, 2012.

Taxco, Mexico - 4th of June, 2012.

Ivanovo, Russia - 2nd of June, 2012.

Miami, Florida, United States - 1st of June, 2012.

Captiva Island, Florida, United States - 31st of May, 2012.

EXTREME WEATHER ANOMALIES: Oklahoma Experiences Hottest Summer on Record - 86.9 Degrees; Hottest Since 1934; Warmer Than All Summers During the "Dust Bowl"!

Oklahoma and Texas have argued for years about which has the best college football team, whose oil fields produce better crude, even where the state border should run. But in a hot, sticky dispute that no one wants to win, Oklahoma just reclaimed its crown.

After recalculating data from last year, the nation's climatologists are declaring that Oklahoma suffered through the hottest summer ever recorded in the U.S. last year — not Texas as initially announced last fall.  "It doesn't make me feel any better," joked Texas rancher Debbie Davis, who lives northwest of San Antonio.  In the new tally by the National Climatic Data Center, Oklahoma's average temperature last summer was 86.9 degrees, while Texas finished with 86.7 degrees. The previous record for the hottest summer was 85.2 degrees set in 1934 — in Oklahoma.  "I'm from Oklahoma, and when you talk about the summer of 1934, there are a lot of connotations that go with that," said Deke Arndt, chief of the NCDC's climate monitoring branch in Asheville, N.C. "That whole climate episode — the Dust Bowl — that is a point in our state's history that we still look back to as transformative." 

Yet the summer of 2011, "was warmer than all those summers that they experienced during the Dust Bowl," Arndt said.  The record swap became apparent after extra data trickled in from weather stations and meteorological field reports across both states. That data also pushed up Oklahoma's mark as the hottest month ever by two-tenths of a degree, to 89.3 degrees in July 2011.  Oklahoma had experienced unusually dry, hot weather in the winter and spring, then summer brought regular triple-digit temperatures that fueled wildfires, prompted burn bans and led to water rationing in some communities.  "We didn't just barely surpass the previous summer record, we smashed it," said Gary McManus, Oklahoma's associate state climatologist. "That last summer was so far above and beyond what we consider normal, I don't think there will be another, compared to what we had." - MSNBC.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Firefighters Battle the Largest Wildfire in New Mexico's History - 18% Contained, But Officials See Signs of Hope!

Firefighters gained little ground Monday against the largest forest fire in New Mexico’s history, but officials saw signs of hope: Weather should stay stable this week, and the fire’s fuel is beginning to run out.  The U.S. Forest Service also identified two pilots who died Sunday fighting a blaze on the Nevada-Utah border. An air tanker carrying Todd Neal Tompkins and Ronnie Edwin Chambless, both of Boise, Idaho, went down in the rugged mountains of western Utah as they dropped flame retardant on the 5,000-acre blaze. 

In New Mexico, the Whitewater Baldy Complex fire has devoured 400 square miles of forest. The lightning-sparked blaze was 18% contained Monday night, barely up from 17% on Sunday.  “We haven’t seen much change in containment, but they’re starting to get confident with the lines,”  forest service spokeswoman Linda Torgerson Gonzales said Monday in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “If everything holds stable, we’re certain to get a handle on things.”  The local sheriff’s office also indicated optimism on Monday, lifting the fire’s only residential evacuation order. Mogollon, N.M., a privately owned ghost town on the National Register of Historic Places, had been evacuated May 26.  The forest service wrapped the town’s 20 homes in fire-resistant foil and kept them damp. No homeowners reported damage. The public will be allowed to return Wednesday, Gonzales said.  Extreme drought in the Southwest has made conflagrations like this more common. The second-biggest blaze in New Mexico history was the Los Conchas  fire, which destroyed more than 230 square miles of forest last summer. 

The winds are still too strong and flames still too high for crews to dig fire breaks, the most direct method of fighting forest fires, Gonzales said. Instead, crews are using wood chippers and low-intensity fires to destroy flammable debris before the fire reaches it.  “With the winds blowing like this, you can’t get in front of them,” Gonzales said. “All it takes is hot, dry and windy. Anything can create a spark.”  Firefighters are also banking on the fire running out of fuel, Gonzales said. Dense pine trees in the Gila National Forest fed the initial blaze, but the brush on the fire’s outer edges doesn’t have enough substance to keep feeding the flames.  Crews also had to contend with 85-degree temperatures Monday. It will be hot, dry and sunny for the rest of the week, with low humidity and winds of 10-15 mph, the National Weather Service said.  Firefighters will see similar conditions on the Nevada-Utah border, where Tompkins and Chambless died Sunday. The White Rock Fire had consumed nearly 12.5 square miles Monday.  “On behalf of the entire Interior family, I extend my deepest condolences to the families, friends and co-workers of the two courageous men who gave their lives on Sunday,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said in a statement. “Their loss is a stark reminder of the risks endured by the men and women who fight the wildfires that threaten lives and property across the West, and especially by those who take up that challenge from the air." - LA Times.
WATCH: Stunning scenes of the New Mexico wildfire.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Yellowstone About to Blow - Supervolcano Could Wipe Out Most of America and Scientists Fear it May be Due to Erupt?!

Supervolcanoes with the power to destroy human civilisations may have much shorter fuses than was previously thought, scientists believe.  The news could be bad for the US, where a supervolcano is said to be simmering beneath Yellowstone National Park.  If it erupted, two thirds of the country could be rendered uninhabitable.  Supervolcanoes are fuelled by giant pools of magma that form deep underground. 

Lava: The magma pool under Yellowstone is far larger than the one under Mount Etna, pictured here spewing lava.
Geologists had thought it took between 100,000 to 200,000 years for a supervolcano magma pool to build up enough pressure to erupt.  But the new study suggests that the giant magma bodies may only exist for a few thousand years, or even a few hundred, before exploding.  A magma reservoir six miles below Yellowstone has been rising at a record rate since 2004. The Wyoming park sits above a gigantic plume of hot and molten rock that begins at least 400 miles beneath Earth’s surface and rises to 30 miles underground, where it widens to about 300 miles across.  Blobs of magma occasionally break off from the top of the plume, and rise farther, resupplying the magma chamber beneath the Yellowstone Caldera.  Resembling the lid of a cooking pot, the caldera formed when the last super-eruption occurred 600,000 years ago.  The supervolcano has erupted a total of three times in the last 2.1 million years. Scientists believe it could be due to erupt again. 

A full scale eruption at Yellowstone would be 1,000 times more powerful than the volcanic blast that tore apart Mount St Helens in 1980. There is evidence that a similar super-eruption in Indonesia 74,000 years ago came close to wiping out the entire human species.  The new study was based on analysis of a super-eruption that occurred in eastern California 760,000 years ago.  Several independent lines of evidence indicated that the magma pool erupted within a few thousand years, perhaps within a few hundred years, covering half the North American continent with smouldering ash.  The scientists based their estimate on quartz crystallisation rates. Previous studies have relied on the growth of zircon crystals, which is said to be a less accurate method.  The research is published in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE.  Lead scientist Dr Guilherme Gualda, from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, said: “Our study suggests that when these exceptionally large magma pools form they are ephemeral and cannot exist very long without erupting.  “The fact that the process of magma body formation occurs in historical time, instead of geological time, completely changes the nature of the problem.”  He said regions such as Yellowstone should be monitored regularly to provide advance warning of a catastrophic super-eruption. - Mirror.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Legionnaires' Outbreak In Edinburgh - Six People in Intensive Care, 4 Others Are Suspected Cases!

Environmental health workers have been cleaning water-cooling towers in an area of Edinburgh after an outbreak of legionnaires' disease.  Six people were confirmed as having contracted the disease and four others are suspected cases.  At least three of the people infected are being treated in intensive care and one is in a high dependency unit. All are said to be "very poorly". 

Six people in Edinburgh have been diagnosed with legionnaires' disease.
Tests are being carried out on the four suspected cases - two women aged 49, and two men, aged 88 and 63.  All those affected are from an area covering Gorgie, Saughton and Stenhouse to the southwest of Edinburgh city centre. A total of 16 cooling towers in the area have been disinfected by environmental health workers.  A spokesman for NHS Lothian said they believe that bacteria had entered the atmosphere from a water cooling unit in the vicinity. Duncan McCormick, a consultant in Public Health Medicine for NHS Lothian, told Sky News: "Anybody who develops symptoms of legionnaires' disease should contact NHS 24 on 08454 24 24 24 immediately or go to their GP. 

"The safety of the public is our number one priority and we would urge people to look out for the symptoms of this disease."  Legionnaires' disease is contracted by breathing in small droplets of contaminated water.  However, the condition is not contagious and cannot be spread directly from person to person.  Large buildings such as hotels, hospitals, museums and office blocks, are more vulnerable to legionella contamination because they have larger, more complex water supply systems, in which legionella contamination can quickly spread.  Symptoms usually begin with an initial phase lasting 1 to 2 days, in which you experience mild headaches and muscle pain.  This is followed by the onset of more severe symptoms including high fever, usually a temperature of 40C (104F) or above, more severe muscle pain, and chills. - SKY News.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: New Series of Eruptions at the Manum Island's Volcano - Major Explosions Are Possible!

A new series of eruptions have begun on Manam Island off Madang in Papua New Guinea, with warnings to residents to take precautions. The volcano is one of the most active in PNG claiming several lives over the last decade.  Vents on the volcano are glowing at nights and explosions in the craters can be heard more than 15 kilometres away.  Ima Itakarai, the assistant director of the Rabaul Volcanology Observatory says it's possibility of a major explosion cannot be ruled out, but it's not imminent. - Radio Australia.