Sunday, December 9, 2012

MASS BIRD DIE-OFF: Hundreds of Chickens Culled in Taiwan - Due to High Pathologic H5N2 Avian Flu!

December 09, 2012 - TAIWAN - Outlying Penghu Island has reported the first highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak and all chickens on the affected farm have been destroyed, an official from the Council of Agriculture (COA) said Friday.

Huang Kuo-ching, deputy director of the COA’s Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine, said the owner of the chicken farm first detected a massive die-off of 150 chickens Nov. 19 and alerted the health authorities.

Another 50 chickens died the next day and test results obtained Nov. 22 showed that H5N2 was to blame, prompting the Penghu county government to order the surviving 431 chickens killed.

According to scholars, the H5N2 virus is normally low pathogenic, but the latest outbreak was caused by a highly pathogenic strain that they said could be a mutation of the virus.

Huang said the farmer had bought chickens at an auction in Chiayi Nov. 14 and speculated that the outbreak was caused by these birds.

There are three other chickens farms around the affected one, but the bureau said it had detected no abnormalities so far, although it added. - Focus Taiwan.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Topographical Protuberance - The Japanese Government Warns of 8.0 Magnitude Mega-Earthquake That Can Hit At Anytime!

December 09, 2012 - JAPAN - Concerns are rising that Japan could be hit by another massive earthquake after a magnitude-7.3 quake struck off the coast of northeastern Japan on Friday.

The quake struck in the same region that was battered by last year's massive earthquake and tsunami that triggered the Fukushima nuclear crisis. High-rise buildings in Tokyo swayed for minutes during Friday's quake and at least two people were injured. Japan's Asahi Shimbun reports that aftershocks could continue and warned residents in the northeastern region to exercise caution. Japan's Defense Science and Technology Institute says the latest tremor is especially alarming, adding an earthquake with a magnitude of eight or over could soon strike the country. - Arirang.

Image: The Asahi Shimbun.
December 7.3 Earthquake - Larger Aftershocks Possible.
The magnitude-7.3 temblor that rocked northeastern Japan on Dec. 7 is now considered an aftershock of last year’s Great East Japan Earthquake–and it may not be the last. At least one expert has warned of a potentially larger temblor still to come. “The 2011 magnitude-9.0 earthquake could be followed by a magnitude-8 aftershock,” said Yoshimitsu Okada, president of the National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention. “The Dec. 7 event should be taken as a warning for that.”... Seismic activity in the area has yet to return to normal levels... The Dec. 7 earthquake arose from what is known as a "normal-fault" mechanism, which involves slippage along a geological fault line under tensile stress. Experts said it could have occurred at any time.

The stress arose because the March 2011 quake caused tectonic plates to shift against each other, turning compressive stress in the oceanic plate into tensile stress... Parts of the crust in the “outer rise,” a topographical protuberance farther off the coast from the plate boundary, were under this tensile stress when they slipped Dec. 7... A normal-fault earthquake in the outer rise carries a high tsunami risk. Slippage in pieces of crust under tensile stress generally results in large vertical movement. The seabed is deformed and much water is displaced. The tsunami risk remains even if the seismic source happens to be far from land... The tsunami risk remains even if the seismic source happens to be far from land... Giant earthquakes of magnitude 8 or greater may involve ground movement of long oscillation periods, causing high-rise buildings to sway, experts say. The Japan Meteorological Agency has called for continued vigilance. - The Asahi Shimbun.

EXTRATERRESTRIAL NARRATIVE: The Next Earth - 7 Possibly Habitable Worlds Identified?!

December 09, 2012 - SPACE - A new catalog aims to list all the known planets in the galaxy that could potentially be habitable to life. The count is at seven so far, with many more to come, researchers said. The online listing, called the Habitable Exoplanets Catalog, celebrated its first anniversary this week. When it was first released last year, it had two potential habitable planets to its name.

More exoplanets than expected in the first year of the Habitable Exoplanets Catalog. Image released Dec. 6, 2012.
(PHL @ UPR Arecibo, ESA/Hubble, NASA).
According to lead researcher Abel Mendez, the team expected to add maybe one or two more in the catalog's first year. The addition of five suspected new planets was wholly beyond anyone's expectations. "The main purpose is for research, but then I realized that also for the public, it was very important," said Mendez, director of the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo's Planetary Habitability Laboratory. "There are many press releases announcing discoveries of habitable planets ... and that is confusing," Mendez told "So having a catalog that everyone can check what is available right now is useful." Mendez also said scientists are getting smarter about finding exoplanets, and the pace of discovery is increasing. There are 27 candidate planets waiting for inclusion in the habitable portion of the catalog. Meanwhile, the HARPS (High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher) instrument in Chile and orbiting Kepler Space Telescope, among others, are quickly finding new exoplanets every month. Preliminary parameters for life Mendez's team principally assesses the potential of life on a planet using three metrics: the variability of energy from the host star that the planet receives, the mass of the planet and the planet's size. Simplistically, bigger gas giants orbiting variable stars are less likely to host life than smaller, rocky planets near stable stars.

Much of the catalog's data come directly from the research teams involved in an exoplanet's discovery. The catalog also includes information from the Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia and the NASA Exoplanet Archive. Mendez cautions that the information is preliminary. So far, most of what we know about exoplanets comes from a simple physical assessment. Much less is known about chemical and biological information. Also, sometimes a planet is found that can't be confirmed through independent observation. One famous example is Gliese 581g, which was discovered by one team but could not be found by another team using a different instrument. New datasets have been released, but there still is a debate. Mendez calls these situations "tricky." "There are two versions of the story, and the two versions can be supported by data," he said. "But because we think that there's still the sense that planet could exist, we are including it [as a candidate]." - FOX News.

EXTREME WEATHER: Emergency Situation - Tornado in Yogyakarta, Indonesia Injuries Dozen, Damage 519 Houses, Collapse Trees!

December 09, 2012 - INDONESIA - More than a dozen people have been injured and hundreds of houses left damaged after a tornado swept through the Yogyakarta district of Sleman on Friday.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesman said on Saturday that the tornado — which had a radius of two kilometers at a speed of 60 kilometers per hour — lasted for 10 minutes and hit 10 villages in Sleman, with the Bromonila village in the subdistrict of Purwomartani reporting the most damages.

“Two people were seriously injured and have to undergo treatment now, and 12 others were lightly wounded,” BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo said in a statement published at

Sutopo said 519 houses in total were damaged and dozens of cattle sheds and hundreds of trees also reportedly collapsed.

The district head of Sleman has declared the area an emergency situation until Dec. 11.

“The Sleman office of the BPNB has established an emergency station and a [makeshift] kitchen in Bromonila village,” said Sutopo, adding that people displaced from their houses had been evacuated to safe places.

The tornado also disrupted some flights to and from the Adisucipto International Airport in Yogyakarta. A Merpati Airlines plane from Bandung was forced to reroute to Surabaya and a Garuda Indonesia flight from Jakarta was forced to turn back. - Jakarta Globe.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Chicago Snowless Record Could Be Broken After 18 Years - Most Consecutive Days Without "Measurable" Snowfall!

December 09, 2012 - CHICAGO, UNITED STATES - In Chicago, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas--just not a white one. As of Sunday, the city is poised to break an 18-year record for most consecutive days without "measurable" snowfall, according to the National Weather Service.

If there is no snow by Monday, Dec. 11, Chicago could break an 18-year snowless record. (Flickr/Cooperweb).
1994 set the record with 280 days between measurable snowfalls, reports the Tribune. To break the record in 2012, Chicago will have to remain snowless until Monday.

A smattering of snow fell at O'Hare International Airport in mid-November, breaking the second-longest snowless streak in Chicago weather history, according to The Weather Channel. However, the snowfall was only considered a "trace" (less than a tenth of an inch) in meteorologic parlance.

"Measurable" is the key for breaking the 18-year record by Monday; to qualify, any snowfall Sunday will have to accumulate to one-tenth of an inch or more, The Tribune reports.

WGN-TV meteorologist Steve Kahn explained the record is on the table now due to the drought that has hit the area this year. The Tribune said 2011's winter's snowfall measured only 19.8 inches—a little more than half of the 36.7 inches marked as the average at O'Hare.

Though Chicago teeters close to breaking the long-standing record, a wintry storm with heavy snowfall is ripping across the upper Midwest Sunday which could keep the '94 record standing, according to a Reuters report. Meanwhile, Chicagoans will have to wait and see if the snowless record falls or if Monday takes the city back to winter business as usual: snow, salt and really warm boots. - Huffington Post.

EXTINCTION EVENT: Big Cats in "Significant" Crisis - Populations Dramatically Decline!

December 9, 2012 - AFGHANISTAN - Boone Smith is on a search for the world's most elusive big cat in one of the most dangerous places on the planet: Afghanistan. It's not a military mission that has brought expert trapper Smith into the battleground, but a conservation group that hopes to save the snow leopard, one of several big cat species in dramatic decline. "It's the only cat I'd follow into a war zone," Smith says. "The snow leopard is this mystical, legendary creature, and it's the toughest cat in the world to catch and to find." Smith has been tasked with the challenge of finding and trapping a snow leopard and collaring it with a GPS locator.

A female tiger cools off in the water at the Ranthambhore National Park in Rajasthan, India. National Geographic
Channel is celebrating these animals with a series called Big Cat Week, which starts Dec. 9.  By Aditya Singh, NGC.
The collar will give the researchers a chance to collect 13 months of data to study the cat and attempt to protect the species. "We know so little about snow leopards, so everything we gain from these GPS collars is new," Smith says. "It's little dots and pieces at first, but once it comes together, it will be huge." There are only 100 to 200 snow leopards in all of Afghanistan and 2,000 left in the world. Because of their elusiveness, snow leopards haven't been studied as closely as other species. National Geographic is kicking off its third annual Big Cat Week with a special on Smith and the snow leopard of Afghanistan this Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on Nat Geo WILD. The week is part of National Geographic's Big Cats Initiative, an effort to stop poaching, protect habitats and save several species of big cats. Smith's fieldwork was led by a team of Wildlife Conservation Society members and Afghan veterinarians, and it was sponsored by National Geographic Society, Nat Geo WILD and the U.S. Agency for International Development .

"The tiger is one of the greatest and saddest losses," says Peter Zahler, deputy director of the Asia Program for the Wildlife Conservation Society. Tigers have seen a 97% decline in the past 100 years. There are only 3,000 to 3,200 left, Zahler said. "That is a pretty staggeringly significant decline in that amount of time," Zahler says. More than two-thirds of the African lion population has disappeared in the past 50 years, according to a recent study in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation. The study estimates the number of lions living on the savanna to be as low as 32,000, down from nearly 100,000 in 1960. The Cheetah Conservation Fund estimates that in 1900, more than 100,000 cheetahs were found in at least 44 countries throughout Africa and Asia. The species is extinct from more than 20 countries, and about 10,000 animals remain. "In many cases, we are looking at the loss of some of the world's most astonishing organisms on the planet," Zahler says. "If nothing is done, it will leave a gaping hole, not just in the ecosystem but for all of us." - USA Today.

ICE AGE NOW: 6 Dead as Heavy Snow Hits Balkans - Blizzard Shut Down Travel in Southwestern Europe!

December 09. 2012 - BELGRADE, SERBIA - Freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall have killed at least six people and caused travel chaos across the Balkans, with rescue teams struggling to reach passengers stranded in buses and cars in Serbia on Sunday. 

Residents walk on a snow covered street in downtown Zagreb, Croatia, on Saturday.(Photo: Darko Bandic, AP).

Officials said four people have died in Croatia and two in Serbia as a result of blizzards in the region of southwestern Europe over the weekend, closing airports and roads and blocking public transportation in big cities.  People traveling in vehicles waited for hours on several roads in Serbia's northern province of Vojvodina, including the main highway leading from Belgrade to the Hungarian border, before rescue teams could free them from 20 inches of snow that had fallen in just a few hours.  A woman gave birth to a healthy baby in a stranded truck on her way to a hospital, and named her Snezana, or "Snow White" in Serbian, state TV reported. 

By late afternoon, 660 people, including 30 children, were evacuated from stranded vehicles, Serbia's emergency authorities said, adding that army tanks were used to remove heavy trucks that skidded and blocked highways.  Ivica Dacic, who serves as Serbia's prime minister and interior minister, ordered all available police personnel to take part in the rescue operations.  The airport in Zagreb, Croatia, was closed for several hours Saturday, and some roads were closed because of high winds and heavy snow. The situation improved in Croatia on Sunday, but a warning against driving remained in place because of icy roads.  Croatian authorities said it was the heaviest snowfall in Zagreb in 57 years.  Authorities in Serbia and Croatia warned people to stay indoors.  Blizzards also hit Slovenia and Bosnia.  As the storms headed east across the Balkans on Sunday, Romania's army was trying to clear snowbound roads as the country voted in a parliamentary election. - USA Today.

WORLD WAR III: Over 10,000 US And NATO Troops Mass Ahead of Syria Invasion - Patriot Missiles Deployed in Turkey!

December 09, 2012 - MIDDLE EAST - For the third time in as many decades the United States is massing soldiers and military assets on the border of a middle eastern country.

The USS Eisenhower, an American aircraft carrier that holds eight fighter bomber squadrons and 8,000 men, arrived at the Syrian coast yesterday in the midst of a heavy storm, indicating US preparation for a potential ground intervention. While the Obama administration has not announced any sort of American-led military intervention in the war-torn country, the US is now ready to launch such action “within days…” …If the US decides to intervene militarily in Syria, it now has at its disposal 10,000 fighting men, 17 warships, 70 fighter-bombers, 10 destroyers and frigates and a guided military cruises. Some of the vessels are also equipped with Aegis missile interceptors to shoot down any missiles Syria might have at hand…
With mainstream reports alleging Syria is preparing to deploy sarin gas attached to bombs against rebels and populace areas in the country, the West and its allies is on a war-footing, ready to attack by sea or land:
NATO moved forward Thursday with its plan to place Patriot missiles and troops along Syria’s border with Turkey to protect against potential attacks. Assad’s regime blasted the move as “psychological warfare,” saying the new deployment would not deter it from seeking victory over rebels it views as terrorists. Whether the threat is real or just another WMD psychological operation on the order of Iraq is very quickly becoming irrelevant. In fact, we may be so close to another mid-eastern war that Syrian President Bashir Al-Assad is emphatically trying to find an exit:
In a regional tour conducted last week, Syrian Vice-Minister of the Exterior Faisal al-Miqdad delivered requests on behalf of al-Assad to Venezuelan, Cuban, and Ecuadorian authorities.
The letters allegedly enquire into the possibility of asylum for al-Assad, his family, and a tightknit circle of advisors and collaborators. Venezuelan authorities confirmed that President Hugo Chávez had received a letter from al-Assad before travelling to Cuba for continued cancer treatment.
And he’s not the only one trying to get out ahead of what is sure to be a massive bombardment should NATO forces decide to take preemptive action. With war raging between rebels and the Assad government, thousands of refugees have been getting out of harm’s way since November:

Thousands of Syrians fled their country on Friday in one of the biggest refugee exoduses of the 20-month civil war… An estimated four million people will need humanitarian aid by early next year when the country is in the grip of winter.
War is coming.
The same “intelligence” used to persuade Americans to invade Iraq is being used once again to justify intervention in Syria. Likewise, the media propaganda machine that warned Americans of the dangers of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction is blaring the sirens again. Not much has changed, except that this time those who were against Bush’s war in 2003 are fully in support now that a democrat President says it’s the truth. - The Intel Hub.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: The Global Food Crisis - "Catastrophic" and "Costly" Drought Raises Major Concerns For Our Agricultural Future!

December 09, 2012 - UNITED STATES - The nation’s most expensive weather event in 2012 was not Superstorm Sandy, but the continuing drought, according to a report by the World Wildlife Fund.  The WWF says that more than 62 percent of the United States is still experiencing drought conditions, which will remain in effect into early 2013 at least.  Major findings in the WWF’s year-to-date review, issued Dec. 6, are: 

U.S. Drought - The Costliest Weather Disaster Of 2012.
Most extreme weather: Through November, weather in the contiguous U.S. has been the most extreme on record.  Costly year: 2012 has the potential to be the most costly year on record.  WWF estimates that costs from 2012’s 11 largest weather-related disasters in the U.S. will cost between $160 billion and $235 billion.  According to data assembled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for the period 1980 through 2011, 2005 was the costliest year, with $187.2 billion (2012 dollars) in damages (Hurricane Katrina alone accounted for $146.3 billion of that).  Drought disaster: The costliest weather disaster of 2012 has been the worsening drought, which could reduce Gross Domestic Product this year by as much as 1 percent, or by roughly $150 billion.  Impacts from the drought will spill over into the new year, which will start with far more serious drought conditions than at the beginning of 2012.  As of Dec. 4, more than 62 percent of the Unites States was in drought, twice the area in drought a year ago.  The “Seasonal Drought Outlook” issued by NOAA Dec. 6 indicates that while conditions will improve in some parts of the U.S., the drought will persist or intensify over most drought-affected areas.  Hottest year on record: 2012 is on track to be the hottest year on record in the contiguous U.S. According to NOAA “It appears virtually certain that 2012 will surpass the current record (1998, 54.3°F) as the warmest year for the nation.” - Daily Gazette.

U.S. Drought Revives Old Water War Among River States.
The water wars are raging again in America’s heartland, where drought-stricken states are pleading for the increasingly scarce water of the Missouri River – to drink from their faucets, irrigate their crops and float the barges that carry billions of dollars of agricultural products to market. From Montana to West Virginia, officials on both sides have written President Barack Obama urging him to intervene – or not – in a long-running dispute over whether water from the Missouri’s upstream reservoirs should be released into the Mississippi River to ease low water levels that have imperiled commercial traffic.  The quarrel pits boaters, fishermen and tourism interests against communities downstream and companies that rely on the Mississippi to do business.  “We are back to the age-old old battle of recreation and irrigation verses navigation,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri.  If the water is held back, downstream states warn that shipping on the Mississippi could come to a near standstill sometime after Christmas along a 180-mile stretch between St. Louis and the southern Illinois town of Cairo. But if the water is released, upstream communities worry that the toll of the drought could be even worse next year for farms and towns that depend on the Missouri. - Daily Chronicle.

Is The Drought Coming Back In Houston?
Much of the area received some much needed rain this week, but even with the rain there are concerns about a returning drought across the state.  "October and November of this year were the five driest October and Novembers on record. So this is not a good start for the winter. We have seen drought conditions getting worse across much of the state," said Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, Texas State Climatologist.  The U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook currently shows a persistent drought through the middle of the country including a developing drought in southeast Texas. "We have very hot waters off the Atlantic and that is helping to create heat waves and hurricanes," said Evelyn Browning - Garriss, editor of The Browning Newsletter. "The interior of the United States, including, unfortunately, Texas, tends to be slightly drier than normal and hotter than normal, so even what rain they get evaporates quickly."  Browning-Garriss is a historical climatologist who advises everyone from Texas cattle raisers to Midwestern utilities to Canadian banks about what the coming season will bring.  "This drought, I would expect to ease up over the next two years, but Texans need to start thinking like they did in the 1950s, when water was a very special resource and they had to be intelligent about the way they used it," said Browning-Garriss. "Normally this is the time of year we see the ground get wet and stay wet through the rest of the winter. We see reservoirs recharging. None of that has happened yet and it is like the recharge season is two months late already and counting," said Nielsen-Gammon. "In most of Texas, this drought is now in its third year and if we don't get significantly above normal rain fall, then we will be talking about a drought comparable to the 1950s." - Click2Houston.

WATCH: Devastating drought conditions in Texas.

Catastrophic Drought In The Horn Of Africa Delays Migrating Birds.
The catastrophic drought last year in the Horn of Africa affected millions of people but also caused the extremely late arrival into northern Europe of several migratory songbird species, a study published December 6 in Science shows. Details of the migration route was revealed by data collected from small backpacks fitted on birds showing that the delay resulted from an extended stay in the Horn of Africa. The extensive 2011 drought in the Horn of Africa had significant consequences for European songbirds such as thrush nightingale and red-backed shrike. These birds visit northern Europe every spring to mate and take advantage of ample summer food resources.  However, their spring migrating route from southern Africa to northern latitudes passes directly through the Horn of Africa, where the birds stop to feed and refuel for the next stage of their migration.  "Our research was able to couple the birds' delayed arrival in Europe with that stopover in the Horn of Africa. Here they stayed about a week longer in 2011 than in the years before and after 2011. Because of the drought, the birds would have needed longer to feed and gain energy for their onward travel, causing delayed arrival and breeding in Europe. This supports our theory that migrating animals in general are dependent on a series of areas to reach their destination,"says Associate Professor Anders Tøttrup from the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at the University of Copenhagen. - Science Daily.

Ongoing Drought Raises Big Concern For Agricultural Future.
Agriculture is critical to Nebraska’s future, but Gov. Dave Heineman said the ongoing drought presents a challenge to the future of the state’s largest industry, which represents about 45 percent of the state’s gross domestic product.  From massive flooding along the Missouri River in 2011 to a massive drought that has engulfed all of Nebraska this year, Heineman told members of the Nebraska Farmers Union Friday that the weather has made a 180-degree turn from one extreme to another.  And the main concern is now “what is going to happen next year and the year after that,” he said... “What I really worry about is what is going to happen next year,” he said. “I think there is going to be a great deal of tension if we don’t get enough moisture, between agriculture users of water resources, businesses and cities.”... “But what we are concerned about, if we go through a second or third year of the drought, is its impact on agriculture,” he said. “Looking down the road, an extended drought will definitely have an impact on our state and it will be a difficult situation.” - The Independent.

Experts: Winter Wheat Farmers May Abandon More Than 25% of New Wheat Crop.

US winter wheat farmers could abandon more than a quarter of the new wheat crop due to devastating weather, though decisions on abandonment will not be made until spring, experts said this week. Historic drought, coupled with record warm weather and high winds sweeping across the Plains, have left the new crop in the worst condition in decades. With no significant improvement soon, many farmers could give up on their wheat acres.  Abandonment levels could exceed 25 percent, said Mark Hodges, a wheat industry consultant and executive director of Plains Grains Inc, which represents producers from around the Plains. "The potential is there," he said. "We are nowhere near a normal crop. But Mother Nature is very fickle," Hodges said. "Should we get some moisture, and I'm not saying the likelihood is high ... we could still produce some wheat. But the likelihood of significant moisture is not great before spring." - Business Recorder.

U.S. Drought Expands, Concerns Mount About Wheat and Rivers.
Drought continued to expand through the central United States even as winter weather sets in, wreaking havoc on the nation's new wheat crop and on movement of key commodities as major shipping waterways grow shallow. Unseasonably warm conditions have exacerbated the harm caused by the lack of needed rainfall. The average temperature for the contiguous United States last month was 44.1 degrees Fahrenheit, 2.1 degrees above the 20th century average, and tying 2004 as the 20th warmest November on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The year-to-date marks the warmest first 11 months of any year on record for the contiguous United States, and for the entire year, 2012 will most likely surpass the current record as the warmest year for the nation, NOAA said.     The warm weather accelerates evaporation of any precipitation that does fall, and keeps plants - like the new wheat crop - trying to grow, rather than slipping into normal winter dormancy. "We have not seen hardly any rain or snow around the Plains states. It is still very dry. And with these temperatures when you are having 60- or 70 degrees and high winds... it's going to be problematic," said Brian Fuchs, climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Areas of drought expansion last week were noted across parts of Texas, central Louisiana, east-central Missouri, eastern Kansas, and the Panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma, according to the Drought Monitor's weekly compilation of data gathered by federal and academic scientists and issued each Thursday.  The U.S. High Plains, which includes key farm states of Nebraska, South Dakota, and Kansas, are the hardest hit. In that region, 58.39 percent of the land area is in extreme or exceptional drought, the two worst categories of drought. A week ago, the tally was 57.89 percent. Nebraska remained by far the most parched state in the nation with fully 100 percent of the farm state in severe or worse drought, and 77.46 percent of the state considered in "exceptional" drought - the worst level, according to the Drought Monitor. Overall, roughly 62.37 percent of the contiguous United States was in at least "moderate" drought as of Dec. 4, a slight improvement from 62.55 percent a week earlier,  The portion of the contiguous United States under "extreme" or "exceptional" drought expanded, however, to 20.63 percent from 20.12 percent. - Reuters.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Volcano Discovery Report For December 3-9 - Tolbachik, Klyuchevskoi, Kizimen, Sheveluch, Lokon, Paluweh, Manam, Langila, Fuego, Ulawun, Chirpoi, Ol Doinyo Lengai, Kilauea, Ruapehu, Popocatépetl, Santiaguito, and Sakurajima!

December 09, 2012 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing report from the Volcano Discovery Group.

While we were on expedition in Indonesia, the eruption from Tolbachik volcano in Kamchatka dominated the news. It counts certainly as one of the most remarkable eruptions this year. At the moment, the eruption continues at decreased intensity. Seismic activity has dropped during the past days, but the lower of the eruptive vents continues to feed a lava flow that has reached more than 10 km length in the relatively flat area at the eastern foot of the volcano and spreads there.

3 other volcanoes in Kamchatka continue to erupt as well: Kizimen volcano still produces lava flows are active from the summit and on the E flank, and hot avalanches descend from the dome on the S flank.

Klyuchevskoi volcano still has strombolian activity in its summit crater.

Sheveluch volcano keeps building up its lava dome, producing a viscous lava flow and strong steaming. Explosions could occur any time.

In Indonesia, small to medium-sized explosive ash eruptions continue to occur frequently (every 1-3 days) at Lokon volcano in North Sulawesi (Indonesia). Eruption plumes were observed on 3, 6, 7, and 9 Dec and reached altitudes of (estimated) 10-17,000 ft (3-5 km) altitude, both observed from ground and via satellite data.

The activity at the new lava dome of Paluweh volcano off Flores in Indonesia continues. Ash plumes reaching 10-12,000 ft (3-3.6 km) altitude are observed almost daily.

Manam volcano in Papua New Guinea is in a phase of elevated activity. During 2 Dec and during 6-8 Dec, ash plumes rising 10-12,000 ft (3-3.6 km) altitude and drifting 20-40 nautical miles were detected via satellite.

Eruptive activity also continues at Langila volcano on New Britain Island in Papua New Guinea. An ash plume was detected at 7000 ft (2.1 km) altitude extending 60 nm to the NW on 6 Dec. Satellite images showed a sulfur dioxide plume as well.

Also in Papua NG, ash emissions occurred from Ulawun volcano during late November, the Rabaul Volcano Observatory reported to USGS.

A thermal hot spot continues to be visible at the summit of Chirpoi volcano in the Kuriles. A dense steam plume rising from the Snow peak of the volcano is sometimes visible on satellite images when the volcano is not obscured by clouds.

Spattering and flows of black carbonatite lava at Lengai volcano in Tanzania have been recently observed by climbers. The activity takes place inside the deep summit crater which formed during explosive activity in 2008. The crater is gradually being filled by spatter cones ("hornitos") and small lava flows, but it might take many years still until the crater floor might become accessible again, in order to be able to witness this unique activity from close range.

At Kilauea volcano on Hawai'i lava flows continue to spread in the coastal flata and have been producing intermittent (and currently active) ocean entries of lava flows near Kupapa`u. The lava lake remains active at Halema'uma'u Crater with fluctuating levels. At Pu'u 'O'o Crater on the rift zone, the perched lava lake in the NE part of the crater and spatter cones on the SE part and on the NW edge remain active as well. Lava overflowed the lava lake on 24 November and 2 December.

Popocatépetl volcano in Mexico has not changed significantly with fluctuating intensity and frequency of small emissions. The volcano produces a strong steam plume and during 7-8 Dec, CENAPRED recorded an increase to about 3 weak emissions per hour. Ash plumes rose to a maximum of 500 m above the crater and lava glow at night confirms that magma continues to rise slowly within the conduit.

In Guatemala, Fuego volcano has remained at relatively low levels of mostly effusive activity. Few and weak explosions, sometimes noisy degassing, and the continuing effusion of a lava flow, 300 m long this morning, characterize the currently low activity of the volcano.

A bit to the north, Santiaguito lava dome continues to feed several lava flows that descend slowly from the dome and produce incandescent avalanches. Compared to late November, when some larger collapses of flow fronts formed pyroclastic flows, the dome has returned to a more average lower level of activity.

In Japan, Sakurajima volcano in Japan had one of its more active days on 6 Dec with 5 moderate explosions and ash up to 10,000 ft (3 km) altitude, but has returned to an average of 1-2 explosions per day again. Ash plume heights were reported as 4-7,000 ft (1.2-2.1 km) altitude.

Weak seismic unrest continued at Ruapehu volcano in New Zealand, but has been lower compared to earlier in November.

DISASTER IMPACT: Super-Typhoon Bopha Death Toll May Reach 1,000 - Strongest Cyclone to Ever Hit in the First Week of December! UPDATE: Western Pacific Weather - Bopha Dies, Snow in Japan and Storms in Australia!

December 09, 2012 - TAGUM CITY, PHILIPPINES - Authorities fear that the death toll due to typhoon Bopha (local codename: Pablo), the strongest ever tropical cyclone to hit Philippines in the first week of December 2012, could reach 1,000 as almost 600 bodies have been recovered in the two hardest-hit Mindanao provinces. The stench of rotting bodies have become unbearable, prompting rescuers to immediately bury the bodies after they were found, said Capt. Raul Villegas, of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division, based in Mawab town, in Compostela Valley. “We are still hoping we can find survivors,” Villegas said on Sunday. “But the chance (of finding anyone alive) is getting thinner by the hour.”

Residents affected by typhoon Pablo (Bopha) crowd as relief goods are distributed at New Bataan, Compostela Valley, on Sunday Dec. 9, 2012. Authorities fear that the death toll due to typhoon Pablo could reach 1,000 as almost 600 bodies have been recovered in the two hardest-hit Mindanao provinces. AP PHOTO/BULLIT MARQUEZ.
Search operations on the fifth day after the disaster were concentrated in the devastated town of New Bataan, where sniffer dogs have been deployed to lead teams from police, Army and rescue groups to bodies buried under fallen trees or thick mud that enveloped a large swathe of the desolate town. At least 316 bodies have been found in Compostela Valley, 165 of them in New Bataan alone. The death toll there included four soldiers belonging to the Charlie Company of the Army’s 66th Infantry Battalion, said Villegas. At least 441 people are still missing in New Bataan, and 20 others in other areas of the 11-town Compostela Valley. Villegas said Davao Oriental has recorded 276 dead, including 122 in Baganga and 103 in Cateel municipalities. About 61 persons are still missing in that province. Villegas said search operations would not be stopped, “’til we can.” He said identification of the bodies has been a problem due to the heavy stench. “The bodies are buried immediately with the consent of the relatives,” the military official said. In Cateel, Davao Oriental, boys and girls are either just loitering aimlessly on the streets, helping their parents in the many tasks at hand, or are begging for food.

Darryl Blatchley, a member of a religious ministry in Davao city, who arrived with a jeepney loaded with relief goods, was overwhelmed with what he saw in the town. “The villagers badly need food and we have yet to go to remote areas where people are in great need. It’s so sad that help has not reached to their area yet,” he said. Due to the lack of resources, some villagers opted to bury their dead relatives in the lot where their houses once stood. “Several of our neighbors had no choice. They do not have money to have a decent burial for the dead,” said Jerry Terio, 40, who has been helping his brother-in-law, who lost his parents and several other family members. Liza Ayeng, 43, expressed her frustration over the fact that help from the government has not arrived. “We have asked local politicians for help, but they just told us they have nothing to give,” Ayeng said. Residents in Baganga town have also complained that they have not received relief goods from the government. They said relief goods were poured in Cateel, the hometown of Governor Corazon Malanyaon. Leonor Escodillo said she had to leave Baganga for Mati City because they were getting hungrier by the day. “Walang dumating na relief galing sa gobyerno. Mabuti pa ang GMA 7 nagbigay (No relief goods came from the government. It’s a good thing GMA 7 (television network) gave,” said Escodillo, who was with her one-year-old son on a bus to Mati City to live with her sister. - Inquirer.

RATTLE & HUM: Widespread Reports of Loud Booms in Cities Across the United States!

December 09, 2012 - UNITED STATES - Columbia County officials say that more people reported hearing mysterious booms over the last few days. Some people said the blasts were so loud that they were awakened from sleep. Local experts still don't know what the cause is, but now the reports aren't limited to just Columbia County.  Early this week, reports starting flooding into the Columbia County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) about loud booms in the area.  "Appling, Harlem is the typical area we are looking at here. Of loud booms, rumbling.

Now we're hearing about pictures being moved on walls," says Pam Tucker, who is the director of the Columbia County EMA  A man who lives on Louisville Road, near Grovetown, says he also heard the mysterious booms. He wouldn't speak to us on camera, but he told us the blast shook his house early Tuesday morning. He says when he walked outside, his driveway had new cracks in it. Since he lives near a rock quarry, he figured that's what it was.  "We have already checked and our seismologist says that there is no activity on any of our equipment, as far as earthquakes. We've already called all the rock quarries, there was no blasting during any of those times," says Tucker.  Friday afternoon, Tucker says she may have found a lead on what the cause of the booms could be.

In a YouTube video, people are shooting at a device called an Earth Shaker. It's full of gun powder and when it explodes, it's apparently powerful enough to shake the ground. But this week there have also been other reports of loud booms in other cities, some in Arizona, Rhode Island, Alabama, and Texas. Could there be another explanation?  Tucker says, "I'm concerned because we do have a lot of credible people who are telling me these things. Law enforcement, fire, county employees, citizens, all of who are credible because they are people I know, people who go through our training. You don't have clusters of people that are all telling you the same thing and it's not happening. Something is making those loud booms, what it is, I don't know."  Several theories are popping up about methane gas pockets exploding underground, military testing, and the fact that we are a few weeks away from the end of the Mayan calendar.  We were contacted Friday morning from a newspaper reporter in central Arizona who saw Thursday's posting about the Columbia County story on The reporter tells us there were similar occurrances there during the same timeframe as the occurrances in Columbia County. - WJBF.

WATCH: Report on the loud booms heard across America.

ICE AGE NOW: United Kingdom Endures the Coldest Autumn Since 1993 - Sixth Coldest Autumn in the Last 50 Years!

December 09, 2012 - BRITAIN - The UK Met Office report that the UK has just had its coldest autumn for nineteen years, leaving 2012 on course to be second coldest year since 1996.  Mean temperature in November was 0.4C below the 1981-2010 average, the third month in a row when temperatures have been well down on normal. The average temperature for the autumn in the UK was 8.6C, compared to the long term average of 9.5C and the coldest since 1993. It is also the sixth coldest autumn in the last 50 years.

The year as a whole is currently running as the second coldest since 1996, beaten only by the exceptionally cold year of 2010. Temperatures so far in December are 2 degrees below normal, and the Met Office are forecasting that this will continue for the foreseeable future. One of the features this autumn is just how persistent the cold weather has been. There have not been any exceptionally cold interludes, as, for instance, we saw with the heavy snow in November 2010. Instead, the weather has just been consistently cold.
Figure 1: Rainfall totals for the UK during the autumn amounted to 374mm, about 8% above normal, but
nothing exceptional. For instance, this total has been beaten six times in the last 30 years.
Figure 2: Several areas were affected by floods towards the end of November, particularly in SW England and
Wales, and the map below shows rainfall totals were well above normal there during the month.

However, as Figures 3 & 4 show, the rainfall totals just experienced in that part of the country, during both November and the autumn as a whole, are actually very commonplace. Indeed, it can be seen just how variable the UK's weather can be!
Figure 3.

Figure 4.
Met Office Autumn Forecast

At the end of August, the Met Office 3-month outlook forecast:-
The balance of probabilities suggests that September will be slightly warmer than average whilst for the period September-October-November UK-averaged temperatures will be near the 1981-2010 climate mean.
For UK averaged rainfall the predicted probabilities weakly favour below normal values during September. For the period September/October/November as a whole the forecast favours a slightly higher than usual risk of above average rainfall, whilst the risk of dry conditions remains around climatological levels.

All Met Office data is available here.