Tuesday, December 4, 2012

ICE AGE NOW: Blizzards, Freezing Temperatures Cause Chaos Across Northeast China!

December 04, 2012 - CHINA - Snowstorms caused travel chaos Monday with expressways in northeast China's Liaoning province forced to close and passenger ships departing from the port city of Dalian suspended.
Heavy snow causes traffic misery in Harbin, capital of northeast China's
Heilongjiang Province, Dec. 3, 2012. [Chinanews.com].
As of 4 p.m., more than 11,000 passenger buses were suspended due to the disruption on the expressways, provincial highways as well as the rural roads, according to the provincial transportation department.

Passenger ships sailing from the Dalian port to the island county of Changhai and east China's Shandong province were all suspended due to the gales, the department said.

Xiantao International Airport, which was closed Monday morning, resumed service at 2 p.m..

The Harbin-Dalian High-Speed Railway, which started operation on Saturday linking three provinces in the northeast China region, was not affected by the weather.

The snow stopped as of Monday afternoon with plunging temperatures all over the province, according to the provincial meteorological bureau. - China.org.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Are Monster Sinkholes An Indication That Major Earth Changes Are Coming Along The New Madrid Fault?

December 04, 2012 - UNITED STATES - The most powerful earthquakes in the history of the United States happened along the New Madrid Fault in 1811 and 1812.  Those earthquakes were reportedly felt more than 1,000 miles away.  Scientists assure us that one day we will once again see very powerful earthquakes along the New Madrid fault.  It is only a question of when it will happen. Today, the New Madrid fault zone covers portions of Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi.  However, a major earthquake of magnitude-8.0 or greater would likely have a dramatic effect all the way from the Great Lakes all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico.  When most Americans speak of the “big one”, they think of what may happen along the coast of California someday, but the truth is that a New Madrid earthquake could potentially do far more damage.  So is there evidence that the New Madrid fault zone is waking up?  Yes, there is.  According to Bloomberg, there has been “a sixfold increase in the number of earthquakes that have shaken the central part of the U.S. from 2000 to 2011″. 

Ohio Sinkhole Devours Four Football Fields Of Land, Stretch Of State Highway 516 Near Dover.
That is why so many people are so concerned about the monster sinkholes that have appeared in the region in recent months.  For example, a massive sinkhole down in Louisiana is now over 8 acres in size and it has forced hundreds of people to flee from their homes.  You can see video of the Louisiana sinkhole right here.  Over in Ohio, a giant sinkhole has suddenly formed that is more than 30 feet deep and that is the size of four football fields.  That sinkhole caused part of State Route 516 to collapse and authorities say that it will likely be closed for many months.  You can see video of the gigantic sinkhole in Ohio right here.  Are these monster sinkholes an indication that major earth changes are coming along the New Madrid fault? 

The sinkhole down in Louisiana is of particular concern because it has been venting natural gas.  A few days ago it reportedly “burped” which sounds kind of ominous.  Could we see some kind of an “explosion” at some point? Many of those living in the area may not be able to return to their homes for quite a long time.  The following is from a recent Huffington Post article…
At the eight-acre, Bayou Corne sinkhole in Assumption Parish, owners of slab houses are waiting for methane-gas monitors to be installed in December. The sinkhole deepened in November and coughed up debris and hydrcarbons late in the month. Cypress trees fell into the gap. Residents are watching natural gas being flared from the site and are ventilating homes while bayous around them bubble.
Sadly, even most Americans that are living in that part of the country don’t really understand how incredibly massive and how potentially destructive this fault zone actually is.  The following is from a recent report from WREG in Memphis, Tennessee
Many people don’t realize that north Alabama lies in the impact zone of the New Madrid fault line, a sleeping giant that is approximately twenty times larger than California’s famed San Andreas fault.  The biggest earthquake in U.S. history happened in the New Madrid seismic zone in 1812, and in just the last few weeks, activity along the fault line is starting to heat up. 
If the earthquakes that happened along the New Madrid fault zone in 1811 and 1812 happened today, the devastation would be unimaginable.  Back then, there were not that many people living in the area.  But even so, the destruction was incredible…
Accounts of the 1812 quake vary since there were no measuring instruments at the time, but most geologists say evidence shows it was at least a magnitude 8 earthquake, and possibly a 9 or higher.  The shaking was so intense that church bells started ringing as far away as Boston and New York. Chimneys toppled from the Deep South to Canada, and President James Madison was awoken by the violent shaking as he slept in the White House. Eyewitnesses said it even caused the Mississippi River to flow backwards for a time.
Unfortunately, there are now indications that the fault zone is becoming more active as a recent Examiner article explained…
Tuesday evening, two shallow earthquakes, although small, were felt in Mt. Carmel, Ill. as well as five miles outside Edmond, Okla. Illinois had the largest at 3.6 magnitude, leaving Oklahoma with a smaller 2.9 magnitude quake as reported by the USGS.
The fact that both of these quakes were shallow and follow on the heels of Kentucky’s 4.3 just 10 days ago makes the questions begin to fly. Is the New Madrid waking up? Is it gearing up for ‘the big one’? When Ky. Experienced a 4.3 two weeks ago, it was felt across 10-12 states. Although it didn’t knock runners off their feet, it did alarm many. Knoxville was among the cities that felt the quake. The shaking was not minor in many areas, and it scared people as walls shook and many began to pray.
This is something that I have written about previously, and we all need to keep our eyes open for more reports about earthquakes in the middle part of the country.  When the “big one” does finally hit the New Madrid fault zone, it will be one of the biggest news stories ever. We are talking about a catastrophe that would be so immense that it would be hard to imagine.  According to ABC News, a study by the Mid-America Earthquake Center found that in the event of a major earthquake along the New Madrid fault, “nearly 750,000 buildings would be damaged, 3,000 bridges would potentially collapse, 400,000 breaks and leaks to local pipelines and $300 billion in direct damage and $600 billion in indirect losses would occur.” You can ready much more about the New Madrid fault right here.

All of this is even more frightening when you consider that there are 15 nuclear reactors along the New Madrid fault zone. In the event that the “big one” strikes, we could be looking at Fukushima times 15.
We have been blessed to have avoided a major earthquake like that for so long in the middle part of the country, but there is no guarantee that the New Madrid fault zone will always be stable. There are even some that believe that eventually we will see an earthquake of magnitude-9.0 or higher along the New Madrid fault.  Such an earthquake could literally change the face of the entire continent.  We are talking about an event that could potentially change the course of the Mississippi River and create bodies of water where none existed previously. We seem to be moving into a time of increased seismic activity on the earth, and many scientists are convinced that the New Madrid Fault zone is definitely overdue for a major earthquake.
So will we see one in the coming years? - Market Daily News.

STORM ALERT: Drenched Northern California to Get Fourth Storm in Five Days!

December 04, 2012 - UNITED STATES - Just as Northern California residents recovered from a series of wet, windy storms, another system on the way is expected to drench the area.  With rain expected to start falling in far Northern California overnight Tuesday, some areas could see up to 5 more inches of rain before the storm moves out, the National Weather Service said. 

The rain could be especially heavy in areas north of Redding and across the Sierra Nevada, meteorologist Dan Keeton said.  Still, it should be nothing like the three previous downpours that dumped between 15 to 20 inches of rain in some areas over the five-day period that ended Sunday. Forecasters said the latest storm left the area faster than expected.  "It's going to be significant, but less impactful," Keeton said of the coming rain. "There will be some isolated impact in certain areas, but nothing as widespread compared to what we saw late last week. This was a down payment on our winter water supply accumulation."  Pacific Gas & Electric crews were still working to restore power to about 5,700 users, down from the height Sunday of 57,000 in areas stretching from Santa Cruz to Eureka and parts of the San Francisco Bay area.  Three powerful storms drenched the region within a week. In the high Sierra, more than 5 feet of snow during the stretch forced the closures of a major road and a secondary roadway through Yosemite National Park, officials said Monday.

Both roads typically close in the late fall when heavy snows arrive and reopen when weather allow in the spring.  Sunday's storm dropped as much as an inch of rain an hour in some areas while toppling trees, bringing flash flooding to roadways and knocking out power.  "I think everybody got nervous last week," Keeton said. "These storms came with plenty of warnings, but it rained so hard at times that many were still left surprised by what Mother Nature can do."  Rivers across Northern California swelled from the deluge but did not flood as much as expected. Flood warnings had been issued for the Napa and Russian rivers north of San Francisco, and for the Truckee River near Lake Tahoe.  In Napa, officials had handed out more than 8,000 sandbags and about 150 tons of sand, but the city appeared to avoid any major damage.  In Nevada, rescue crews searched for a homeless man in Reno who reportedly fell into the Truckee River from a limb Sunday night.  A sudden shift in the weekend weather turned rain into snow, keeping rivers and streams largely within their banks in Reno and Sparks, Nev., and Truckee, Calif.  In southern Oregon, the Coquille and Rogue rivers were both about 2 feet above flood stage as a result of storms.  The weather service said more rivers along the coast and inland in the Willamette Valley could be flooded amid heavy rains.  A Southern Oregon man was being held on $40,000 bail after being charged with disorderly conduct and recklessly endangering rescuers after a disagreement on whether to save his three boats that went downstream, authorities said. - Huffington Post.

DELUGE: Flash Flood Watch Extended For The Disaster-Ravaged Eastern Parishes In Jamaica!

December 04, 2012 - JAMAICA - A flash flood watch has been extended for low-lying and flood-prone areas of St. Ann, St. Mary, Portland, St. Thomas, Kingston and St. Andrew until 5 p.m. today.

Residents tried to cross a river in Mavis BanK, St . Andrew- file photo.
The Met Office says an unstable weather conditions associated with a Trough continues to produce showers over sections of eastern and central parishes.

The Met Office says periods of showers and thunderstorms will continue to affect these parishes throughout today in particular St. Mary, Portland and St. Thomas.

A gradual improvement is expected by Wednesday as the winds weaken.

All small craft operators over northern waters are urged to exercise caution due to strong winds and rough seas.

A flash flood watch means that flooding could occur quickly and residents should be prepared to take precautionary measures. - Jamaica Gleaner.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Disaster Precursors - Two Enormous Sinkholes Swallow Roads in Bay Area, California!

December 04, 2012 - UNITED STATES - Two giant sinkholes formed in separate Bay Area communities during the heavy rain from a powerful storm that passed through the Bay Area over the weekend.  In one instance, a giant sinkhole swallowed two lanes of a street in a residential neighborhood in Lafayette Sunday.

A storm caused a 20-foot sinkhole to form along Mountain View Drive in Lafayette on December 2, 2012.
High water levels and a clogged storm drain in Lafayette Creek destroyed a portion of Mountain View Drive Sunday, creating a sinkhole where the road once was, Lafayette City Manager Steven Falk said.  Erosion of the road accelerated when the heavy current of the creek clogged the storm drain with large debris, including branches and a bureau, some time between 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m., Falk said.  Water began to run over the top of the road, forcing its closure soon after. Around 3 p.m. Sunday, the road collapsed onto the storm drain and left a hole 80 feet long, 40 feet wide, and 15 feet deep, Falk said.

WATCH: Sinkhole to shut Lafayette Street for Months.

Utility agencies came out and shut off the gas and sewer lines that are below the road. East Bay Municipal Utilities District crews were still on scene at 2 p.m. Monday attempting to shut off the water line.  A handful of customers are still without water and one customer is without gas. PG&E has provided an alternate gas service for that one, Falk said.  Falk said the city's plan is to convey the water temporarily across where the road was, and create a temporary storm drain that will handle all the water from whatever remaining storms there are this season.  Once that is completed, a team of civil engineers will create a plan to permanently fix the storm drain and road. The collapse has left one home without access to its driveway but should not create a significant hardship to anyone in the area, Falk said.  The longest detour around the sinkhole is a block and a half, he said.  A second sinkhole opened up in the Santa Cruz mountains over the weekend as well.  A sinkhole swallowed a portion of roadway near the summit of Highway 17 on Vine Hill Rd.  That road was shut to traffic until repairs could be made. - CBS San Francisco.

WATCH: Sinkhole in Santa Cruz.

TERMINATOR NOW: The Rise of the Machines - A Step Toward Creating a Bio-Robot Hybrid!

December 04, 2012 - UNITED STATES -Would it be possible to integrate biological components with advanced robotics, using biological cells to do machine-like functions and interface with an electronic nervous system — in effect, creating an autonomous, multi-cellular biohybrid robot?

Researchers converted an optical signal
into a chemical signal (NO) in the cells;
an electrode detected the NO and
converted it into an electrical signal.
(LiOrr Yarkoni et al./Bioinspiration & Biomimetics).

Researchers Orr Yarkoni, Lynn Donlon, and Daniel Frankel, from the Department of Chemical Engineering at Newcastle University think so, and they’ve developed an interface to allow communication between the biological and electronic components*, described in an open-access article in Bioinspiration & Biomimetics journal. One of the major challenges in developing biohybrid devices is in the interface between biological and electronic components. Most cellular signals are simply not compatible with electronics.

However, manipulation of signal transduction pathways is one way to interface cells with electronics. So the researchers genetically engineered protein cells from a Chinese hamster ovary to produce nitric oxide (NO) in response to visible light.

Here’s how:
1. They genetically engineered the nitric oxide synthase protein eNOS by inserting a light-oxygen-voltage (LOV) domain into the gene. This created a photoactive version of the eNOS protein that could produce NO in response to excitation by visible light.

2. They attached these mutant cells to a nickel tetrasulfonated phthalocyanine (NiTSPc)-modified platinum electrode that detected the NO and converted it into an electrical signal.

Cyberplasm Vehicle.

In summary: they converted an optical signal into a chemical signal (NO), and converted the chemical signal into an electrical signal. This signal could, in turn, be used to control a robot.

Unlike solid-state photodetectors, the cells have the ability to self-reproduce and the potential to combine input signals to perform computation. With rapid advances in synthetic biology, manipulation of metabolic pathways to integrate with machinery will some day allow the development of advanced robotics, the researchers suggest.

* The research is part of a bigger project to build a swimming bio-robot hybrid called Cyberplasm, previously covered on KurzweilAI. - KurzweilAI.

EXTREME WEATHER: Heatwave in Eastern Australia Sparks Bushfires!

December 04, 2012 - AUSTRALIA - Authorities say the biggest threat to lives and homes from a bushfire, burning near Bremer Bay on WA's South Coast, is likely to come tomorrow morning. That is when winds are expected to push the fire, which is three kilometres north of the town, in its direction.

The Department of Environment and Conservation says if the blaze does break its containment lines, firefighters will have no hope of defending properties in the Port Henry subdivision. Incident controller Greg Mair says the fire could move very quickly. "A fire could travel quite rapidly and impact within the hour on the Bremer Bay community," he said. "That's the scenario we obviously hope won't happen but it's a scenario that we are preparing for." Mr Mair says the weather conditions are expected to deteriorate tomorrow. "The winds are forecast to be quite strong early in the morning, so as early as between 7:00 am and 9:00 am tomorrow; we can expect quite strong winds from the north-west," he said. A watch and act remains in place for the town's 250 residents. About 130 firefighters are battling the blaze which has burned through 11,000 hectares since Thursday. Crews have spent the day mopping up and strengthening defensive perimeters. Mr Mair says there are large fuel loads between the blaze and the town.

"There's quite extensive areas of bush and scrub land, as well as farmers' paddocks, between the fire and the community," he said. "And, the community itself does have quite a bit of bush in and around it." He says authorities are prepared for the worst. "We've got plans in place with the police and other agencies where we can raise the alarm and move people to a safer place and assembly area," he said. A safe shelter has been set up 75 kilometres north east of Bremer Bay in Boxwood Hill for people evacuating their homes. The Department of Child Protection's Moray McSevich says the shelter at the sports club will have basic beds, food and showers. "The message is to people that if they are getting out of Bremer and they can't [go to] any friends or relatives, go to this evacuation centre in Boxwood Hill, probably sooner rather than later," she said. People are being advised to take a kit containing, among other things, a portable radio, a torch, spare batteries, sleeping bags, essential medications and special foods, if necessary. The Bremer Bay Community Resource Centre manager, Lorraine Treeby, says residents are confident authorities can protect them. "The locals in the town are on alert, we're apprehensive but feeling that we'll be able to cope and we'll be safe enough," she said. "Most locals will be looking out their back door and seeing the big smoke cloud. "Some of the firefighters have been doing burning off, so one minute there's no smoke and the next minute there's big puffs of smoke." - Yahoo.

WATCH: Heatwave in Eastern Australia sparks bushfires.

EXTRATERRESTRIAL NARRATIVE: The Search for Life Suggests Solar Systems More Habitable than Ours!

December 04, 2012 - UNITED STATES - Scattered around the Milky Way are stars that resemble our own sun—but a new study is finding that any planets orbiting those stars may very well be hotter and more dynamic than Earth.  That’s because the interiors of any terrestrial planets in these systems are likely warmer than Earth—up to 25 percent warmer, which would make them more geologically active and more likely to retain enough liquid water to support life, at least in its microbial form.

The preliminary finding comes from geologists and astronomers at Ohio State University who have teamed up to search for alien life in a new way.  They studied eight “solar twins” of our sun—stars that very closely match the sun in size, age, and overall composition—in order to measure the amounts of radioactive elements they contain. Those stars came from a dataset recorded by the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher spectrometer at the European Southern Observatory in Chile.  They searched the solar twins for elements such as thorium and uranium, which are essential to Earth’s plate tectonics because they warm our planet’s interior.  Plate tectonics helps maintain water on the surface of the Earth, so the existence of plate tectonics is sometimes taken as an indicator of a planet’s hospitality to life.

Of the eight solar twins they’ve studied so far, seven appear to contain much more thorium than our sun—which suggests that any planets orbiting those stars probably contain more thorium, too. That, in turn, means that the interior of the planets are probably warmer than ours.  For example, one star in the survey contains 2.5 times more thorium than our sun, said Ohio State doctoral student Cayman Unterborn. According to his measurements, terrestrial planets that formed around that star probably generate 25 percent more internal heat than Earth does, allowing for plate tectonics to persist longer through a planet’s history, giving more time for live to arise.  “If it turns out that these planets are warmer than we previously thought, then we can effectively increase the size of the habitable zone around these stars by pushing the habitable zone farther from the host star, and consider more of those planets hospitable to microbial life,” said Unterborn, who presented the results at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco this week.

“At this point, all we can say for sure is that there is some natural variation in the amount of radioactive elements inside stars like ours,” he added. “With only nine samples including the sun, we can’t say much about the full extent of that variation throughout the galaxy. But from what we know about planet formation, we do know that the planets around those stars probably exhibit the same variation, which has implications for the possibility of life.”  His advisor, Wendy Panero, associate professor in the School of Earth Sciences at Ohio State, explained that radioactive elements such as thorium, uranium, and potassium are present within Earth’s mantle. These elements heat the planet from the inside, in a way that is completely separate from the heat emanating from Earth’s core.  “The core is hot because it started out hot,” Panero said. “But the core isn’t our only heat source. A comparable contributor is the slow radioactive decay of elements that were here when the Earth formed. Without radioactivity, there wouldn’t be enough heat to drive the plate tectonics that maintains surface oceans on Earth.” 

The relationship between plate tectonics and surface water is complex and not completely understood. Panero called it “one of the great mysteries in the geosciences.” But researchers are beginning to suspect that the same forces of heat convection in the mantle that move Earth’s crust somehow regulate the amount of water in the oceans, too.  “It seems that if a planet is to retain an ocean over geologic timescales, it needs some kind of crust ‘recycling system,’ and for us that’s mantle convection,” Unterborn said.  In particular, microbial life on Earth benefits from subsurface heat. Scores of microbes known as archaea do not rely on the sun for energy, but instead live directly off of heat arising from deep inside the Earth.  On Earth, most of the heat from radioactive decay comes from uranium. Planets rich in thorium, which is more energetic than uranium and has a longer half-life, would “run” hotter and remain hot longer, he said, which gives them more time to develop life. - Ohio State University.

SPACE: The Electric Universe - Voyager 1 Enters New Region of Space, Encounters "Magnetic Highway," NASA Claims!

December 04, 2012 - SPACE - NASA announced Monday that after 35 years of exploration, its Voyager 1 spacecraft has entered a new, unanticipated region of space near the edge of the solar system--a "magnetic highway" where charged particles take the "exit ramp" to interstellar space.

This still image show NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft exploring a new region in our solar system called the
"magnetic highway." In this region, the sun's magnetic field lines are connected to interstellar magnetic field
lines, allowing particles from inside the heliosphere to zip away and particles from interstellar space to zoom in.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.
The region connects the sun's magnetic field lines to interstellar magnetic field lines, allowing "lower-energy charged particles that originate from inside our heliosphere... to zoom out, and higher-energy particles from outside to stream in," according to a written statement issued by NASA partner Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab. The heliosphere is the "immense magnetic bubble containing our solar system, solar wind, and the entire solar magnetic field," according to NASA.

Scientists say they believe this is the final region Voyager 1 has to cross before reaching interstellar space.
Voyager 1's instruments showed a five-fold increase in high-energy charged particles, accompanied by a 1,000-fold drop in low-energy particles, NASA officials said. These data would be consistent with Voyager 1's exit from the heliosphere, but Voyager 1's magnetic-field reading instrument indicates otherwise.
It shows an East-West magnetic field orientation, indicative of the sun's influence. The magnetic field in interstellar space, influenced by winds from explosions of supernovae, is thought to have a roughly North-South orientation, according to NASA astrophysicist Leonard Burlaga.

This artist's concept shows plasma flows around NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft as it approaches interstellar space.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/JHUAPL.
Voyager 1 may remain within the heliopause for another two to three years, but it's hard to anticipate how long it will be until the probe leaves the solar system, NASA scientists said. The heliopause is where the interstellar medium and solar wind pressures balance, the outer boundary of the solar system. Launched in 1977 to explore the outer solar system, Voyager 1 and and its twin, Voyager 2, are the longest-serving spacecraft. Voyager 1 is currently 122 AU from Earth, and Voyager 2 is about 100 AU away. One AU, or astronomical unit, is equivalent to the distance from Earth to the sun. - Huffington Post.

WATCH: Animation of Voyager I as it enters the "Magnetic Highway" of space.

"CATASTROPHIC" STORM: Super Typhoon Bopha Hits the Philippines - Killing 41 People, Destroying Homes, Mass Stranding and Displacements!

December 04, 2012 - PHILIPPINES - At least 33 villagers and soldiers drowned in a southern Philippine town Tuesday when torrents of water dumped by a powerful typhoon cascaded down a mountain, engulfing emergency shelters and an army truck, officials said. The deaths raised the toll from one of the strongest storms to hit the country this year to at least 41.
Typhoon Bopha -- packing gusts of up to 210 kilometres (130 miles) an hour --
made landfall on Mindanao at dawn (AFP).
Gov. Arturo Uy said rain from Typhoon Bopha accumulated atop a mountain and then burst down on Andap village in New Bataan town in hard-hit Compostela Valley province. The victims included villagers who had fled from their homes to a school and village hall, which were then swamped by the flash flood. An army truck carrying soldiers and villagers was washed away.  "They thought that they were already secure in a safe area, but they didn't know the torrents of water would go their way," Uy told DZBB radio.  He said the confirmed death toll in the town was likely to rise because several other bodies could not immediately be retrieved from floodwaters strewn with huge logs and debris.  Army troops and police were not able to reach the town because access roads were blocked, he said.  Bopha slammed into Davao Oriental province region at dawn, its ferocious winds ripping roofs from homes and its 500-kilometer (310-mile) -wide rain band flooding low-lying farmland.  The storm, packing winds of 160 kilometers (100 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 195 kph (121 mph), toppled trees, triggered landslides and sent flash floods surging across the region's mountains and valleys.  Two entire provinces lost power and more than 100 domestic flights were canceled. About 60,000 people fled to emergency shelters.  The dead included three children who were buried by a wall of mud and boulders that plunged down a mountain in Marapat village, also in Compostela Valley. Their bodies were wrapped in blankets by their grieving relatives and placed on a stage in a basketball court.

"The only thing we could do was to save ourselves. It was too late for us to rescue them," said Valentin Pabilana, who survived the landslide.  In Davao Oriental, a poor agricultural and gold-mining province about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) southeast of Manila, an elderly woman was killed when her house was struck by a falling tree, said Benito Ramos, who heads the government's disaster-response agency.  The other casualties either drowned or were hit by trees, he said, adding that the death toll was expected to rise once soldiers and police gain access to villages isolated by floods, fallen trees and downed communications.  While some 20 typhoons and storms normally lash the archipelago nation annually, the southern provinces battered by Bopha are unaccustomed to fierce typhoons, which normally hit the northern and central Philippines.  A rare storm last December killed more than 1,200 people and left many more homeless and traumatized, including in Cagayan de Oro city, where church bells pealed relentlessly on Tuesday to warn residents to scramble to safety as a major river started to swell.  Officials were taking no chances this year, and President Benigno Aquino III appealed on national TV on Monday for people in Bopha's path to move to safety and take storm warnings seriously.  In Compostela Valley, authorities halted mining operations and ordered villagers to evacuate to prevent a repeat of deadly losses from landslides and the collapse of mine tunnels in previous storms.  Bopha, a Cambodian word for flower or a girl, is the 16th weather disturbance to hit the Philippines this year. Forecasters say at least one more storm may strike the country before Christmas. - Huffington Post.

Asia braces for 'catastrophic' typhoon.

WATCH: Deadly typhoon rips off roofs in Philippines, forces thousands to flee.

WATCH: Tracking Bopha's projected path.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Increasing Seismic Disturbance - Flurry of Earthquake Activity Across the Planet!

December 04, 2012 - EARTHQUAKES - Here are several recent reports of a flurry of earthquake activity across the globe.

Magnitude 5.8 Quake Rattles Anchorage, Alaska.
A strong earthquake Monday was felt over a 175-mile swath of Alaska, including the state's largest city, but there were no immediate reports of damage beyond items knocked off shelves.  The Alaska and West Coast Tsunami Warning Center said the magnitude-5.8 earthquake occurred at about 4:45 p.m. and was centered about 30 miles northwest of Anchorage.  The Alaska Earthquake Information Center said the center was 27 miles west of Anchorage.  Guy Urban, a geophysicist at the tsunami warning center, said the quake wasn't expected to generate a tsunami.  He said the center had reports of residents feeling the quake throughout the Anchorage metro area and beyond. It was also felt as far south as the fishing community of Homer, 125 miles southwest of Anchorage, and in Willow, 50 miles north of the city.  "No reports of damage thus far," said Anchorage police spokesman Lt. Dave Parker, who felt the quake at his home in Wasilla, about 45 miles north of Anchorage. "Just a little shaker-upper," he said. 

Beyond the very minor damage of items being knocked off shelves, there were no reports of building collapses or major structural damage, Parker said.  "It hit like a bam, really hard," said John Owens, who felt the quake at his home in East Anchorage.  That was followed by low shaking, which he estimated to last about 30 seconds. "And then it ended with a second bam," he said.  Karen Whitworth, an artist with an online gallery, was in her Wasilla studio when the rumbling began. She felt lightheaded as if her inner ears lost their sense of balance.  "Your Spidey senses are tingling," she said. Her paintings were swaying on the wall and the window blinds were going back and forth, but nothing was damaged.  It seemed to last more than a minute, but Whitworth wasn't scared enough to get out of her chair. Her husband shepherded their young son and daughter under a door.  After it was over, her children chatted excitedly what fun it was.  Alaska is seismically active and has frequent earthquakes, although most are too small or too remote to be felt.  Alaska is the site of the biggest earthquake recorded in North America -- a magnitude-9.2 quake on Good Friday 1964 that struck 75 miles east of Anchorage on Prince William Sound. The quake and the ensuing tsunami killed 115 people in Alaska and 16 people in California. - WPTV.

5.5 Magnitude Quake Hits Offshore Guatemala.
An earthquake measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale jolted offshore Guatemala at 2012-12-3 23:58:36 GMT Monday, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The epicenter, with a depth of 35.20 km, was initially determined to be at 14.2198 degrees north latitude and 92.3176 degrees west longitude. - Xinhuanet.

4.3 Magnitude Earthquake Rattles Slovenia.
An earthquake measuring 4.3 on the Richter scale rattled central and eastern Slovenia early on Monday morning. Epicentre of the quake was the village of Gornji Grad, some 30 km north-east of Ljubljana, the local Environmental Agency (ARSO) said.  The quake was powerful enough to be felt across the border in Carinthia according to the Austrian earthquake monitoring organisation which is part of the Austrian Weather Institute (ZAMG).  In a press release ZAMG said the earthquake had been most strongly felt in the Klagenfurt region.  There was no immediate reports of any damage or about anybody injured. - Austrian Independent.

4.8 Magnitude Earthquake Shakes Bulgaria's Black Sea Coast.
An earthquake with a magnitude of 4.8 on the Richter Scale has been registered along Bulgaria's northeast coast in the Black Sea.  The earthquake struck at 8:58 EET, with an epicenter located 21 km east of the town of Kavarna, at a depth of 2 km, the Mediterranean Seismology Center reported, as cited by BTA.  The tremor led the residents of the northeastern Bulgarian town of Shabla to leave their homes but according to Shabla Mayor Rayna Bardareva, there was no panic, as cited by Darik Radio.  Bardareva had no data about injured persons or damages caused by the new tremor.  Monday night's earthquake off the Bulgarian Black Sea coast is the second in the past 24 hours, as a 2.6-magnitude earthquake was registered 45 km southeast of Varna Sunday night.  The newest earthquake near Shabla had roughly the same magnitude as the 4.7-magnitude earthquake that hit the town in the summer of 2009 causing material damages. - Novinte.

Energetic Earthquake Swarm Reported At California's Coso Volcanic Field.
An energetic earthquake swarm centered beneath rhyolite domes in the Coso Volcanic Field (CA) continues, with over 20 earthquakes ranging between M1 and M3 so far today. Many smaller events (hundreds) are recorded as well. The swarm initiated on 27 November and has included earthquakes as large as M3.7. The Coso Volcanic Field is located in Inyo County, California, at the western edge of the Basin and Range geologic province and northern region of the Mojave Desert.  The Coso Volcanic Field is one of the most seismically active regions in the United States, producing dozens of tremors in the M1 and M2 range each week. Tremors in the M3 range occur at a rate of 2-6 per month and M4 quakes occur two-three times each year. Recent activity in the M5 range happened in 1996 and 1998 when tremors of M5.3, M5.1, M5.2, and M5.0 occurred with a day of each other.  These tremors were actually recorded along the eastern side of the Coso Volcanic Field, 15 miles (24 km). September 30, 2009 to October 6, 2009 there have been 429 earthquakes ranging from 0.1 up to a 5.2. Some days have activity just about one every minute. On October 2, 2009 there were three earthquakes (5.2, 4.7, and a 4.9) all within one hour of each other. Earthquake swarms are common in the Coso area, often producing hundreds of tremors over periods of time as short as a few days.  This kind of brisk and robust seismic activity is common in volcanic areas, such as Long Valley Caldera located near Mammoth Lakes, and Yellowstone Caldera at Yellowstone. Geologists say the last eruption of the volcanic fields occurred 30 to 40,000 years ago. - TEP.

Earthquake Of 2.3 Reported In York County.

Several people in York County reported a rumbling or shaking at 6:11 a.m. that has been confirmed as a small earthquake. Carrieann Bedwell, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey, said the quake measured 2.3 and was centered 18 miles northwest of Biddeford and one mile southwest of Lake Arrowhead.  York County emergency dispatchers said they received several calls, most from the Waterboro area, reporting the noise.  “I felt it in Hollis. It shook the whole house,” said Tom Hawley of the National Weather Service in Gray. “My neighbor felt it too. I guess it was an earthquake.” The quake does not show up on the default settings for the USGS earthquake website (earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/map/) because it typically shows quakes of 2.5 or greater magnitude, Bedwell said. (A drop down menu under “Choose data feed” can be changed to show all earthquakes.)  Dave Francoeur of the York County Emergency Management Agency said the agency was not asked to check on infrastructure.  “It sounds like the ground was shaking,” he said. Dispatchers received a few calls but there were no reports of damage, he said.  There was an earthquake of magnitude 4.0 centered in Hollis on Oct. 16. - Online Sentinel.

MONUMENTAL SOLAR SYSTEM CHANGES: Increasing Magnetism - The European Space Agency's Venus Express Probe Finds Solid Evidence of Active Volcanoes on Planet Venus!

December 04, 2012 - SOLAR SYSTEM - Scientists who have been monitoring the European Space Agency's Venus Express probe for the last six years might have found evidence of active volcanoes on the second planet from the Sun.  Data sent back by the unmanned probe has shown large changes in the sulphur dioxide content of the planet’s atmosphere, and one intriguing possible explanation is volcanic eruptions.

 Artist's impression of an eruption. Picture courtesy European Space Agency.
A new report from the ESA says: "The thick atmosphere of Venus contains over a million times as much sulphur dioxide as Earth’s, where almost all of the pungent, toxic gas is generated by volcanic activity.  "Most of the sulphur dioxide on Venus is hidden below the planet's dense upper cloud deck because the gas is readily destroyed by sunlight.  "That means any sulphur dioxide detected in Venus’ upper atmosphere above the cloud deck must have been recently supplied from below."  There are hundreds of volcanoes on Venus and solving the mystery of whether they remain active is an important scientific goal for Venus Express.  The mission has already found clues pointing to volcanism on geologically-recent timescales, within the last few hundreds of thousands to millions of years.  An analysis of sulphur dioxide concentration in the upper atmosphere of the planet provides a further clue.

Rise and fall of sulphur emissions. Picture ESA.
 Immediately after arriving at Venus in 2006, the spacecraft recorded a significant increase in the average density of sulphur dioxide in the upper atmosphere, followed by a sharp decrease to values roughly 10 times lower by today.  A similar fall was also seen during NASA's Pioneer Venus mission, which orbited the planet from 1978 to 1992.  Dr Emmanuel Marcq of Laboratoire Atmosphères in France, the lead author of the paper published in Nature Geoscience, said: "If you see a sulphur dioxide increase in the upper atmosphere, you know that something has brought it up recently, because individual molecules are destroyed there by sunlight after just a couple of days."  Co-author Dr Jean-Loup Bertaux, Principal Investigator for the instrument on Venus Express that made the detections, added: "A volcanic eruption could act like a piston to blast sulphur dioxide up to these levels, but peculiarities in the circulation of the planet that we don't yet fully understand could also mix the gas to reproduce the same result."  HÃ¥kan Svedhem, ESA’s Project Scientist for Venus Express, also pointed out: "By following clues left by trace gases in the atmosphere, we are uncovering the way Venus works, which could point us to the smoking gun of active volcanism."  Venus, slightly smaller than the Earth, was once touted as a sister planet and, in early science fiction, as a potential home from home.  But in 1970, it was found to host an atmosphere of carbon dioxide with a pressure 90 times that on Earth and a surface cooked to 457C (855F). - SKY News.

MONUMENTAL SOLAR SYSTEM CHANGES: Increased Magnetism - Titan’s Atmosphere Shifts Abruptly, South Pole Vortex Forms!

December 04, 2012 - SOLAR SYSTEM - New data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft shows that a shift in seasonal sunlight has resulted in an abrupt, wholesale reversal in the circulation of the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan. According to researchers, the data shows “definitive” evidence for sinking air at the moon’s south pole where previously the air was upwelling. A paper on the data published today in the journal Nature states that the “key” to air circulation in Titan’s atmosphere is the moon’s tilt in relation to the sun.

“Cassini’s up-close observations are likely the only ones we’ll have in our lifetime of a transition like this in action,” said Nick Teanby, the study’s lead author and a Cassini team associated at the University of Bristol. “It’s extremely exciting to see such rapid changes on a body that usually changes so slowly and has a ‘year’ that is the equivalent of nearly 30 Earth years.”

Image: ESA.
Titan is interesting to researchers because is is one of only a few objects in our solar system, along with Earth, Venus, and Mars, that has both a solid surface and substantial atmosphere. Models of Titan’s atmosphere have predicted atmosphere circulation changes for almost 20 years, but the Titan pole that is currently undergoing winter is normally pointed away from Earth. Cassini is finally observing the circulation changes directly.

“Understanding Titan’s atmosphere gives us clues for understanding our own complex atmosphere,” said Scott Edgington, Cassini deputy project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Some of the complexity in both places arises from the interplay of atmospheric circulation and chemistry.”

NASA also stated that Cassini has detected complex chemical production in Titan’s atmosphere at up to 600 kilometers (400 miles) above the moon’s surface. This means that atmospheric circulation extends to about 100 kilometers (60 miles) higher than scientists expected. The compression of that air as it sank lower created a “hot spot” high above Titan’s south pole. That suggested that changes would be coming to the moon’s atmosphere, and that a layer of haze first detected by NASA’s Voyager spacecraft may not be as “detached” as was previously thought. The haze, instead, may be where small haze particles combine into larger aggregates that drop in Titan’s atmosphere and give the moon it’s orange color.

“Next, we would expect to see the vortex over the south pole build up,” said Mike Flasar, Cassini’s composite infrared spectrometer principal investigator at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “As that happens, one question is whether the south winter pole will be the identical twin of the north winter pole, or will it have a distinct personality? The most important thing is to be able to keep watching as these changes happen.” - WebProNews.

WEATHER PHENOMENON: Strange Sea Anomalies in Australia - Mysterious Algae That Turned Sydney's Beaches Blood Red, Now Glows BLUE at Nights!

December 04, 2012 - AUSTRALIA - Rare algae that turned the waters at Sydney's beaches an unsettling shade of red has been found to have an altogether more picturesque effect by night - when it glows fluorescent blue.

Darkness: By day the tiny plants turned the sea water bright red around Sydney, Australia,
but in the dark the algae glowed neon blue.
Several popular beaches around the Australian city - including iconic surfers' mecca Bondi - were closed this week due to health fears when the enormous algae bloom left swathes of the seawater blood red. These pictures, taken just before daybreak at Stanwell Park beach, reveal the spectacular effect created by the algae, dubbed sea sparkle, when darkness falls.

Phosphorescence: The algae bloom that turned the water red at Sydney's beaches glowed blue when
darkness fell, as seen in this picture taken as dawn broke over Stanwell Park beach.
The natural phenomenon is caused when the tiny organisms flourish in one area. The appearance of the algae, called Nocturnal Scintillans, or sea sparkle, drove swimmers from the waters around the coast this week.

Karina Newmarch and her daughter Isabella check out the algal boom at Clovelly Beach.
Picture: Craig Greenhill Source: The Daily Telegraph.
Despite the warnings many swimmers were spotted venturing into the crimson waters, choosing to ignore its off-putting appearance - and odour. Local lifeguard Bruce Hopkins said of the algae: 'It has quite a fishy smell to it. 'It makes the surface look like it has a coating of tomato sauce coloured oil.' - Daily Mail.

WATCH: Blood Red Sea in Australia.