Saturday, December 22, 2012

EXTRATERRESTRIAL MEMES: Getting Very Close - Potentially Habitable Planet Detected Around Nearby Star!

Artist's impression of five possible planets orbiting
the star Tau Ceti, which is just 11.9 light-years from
Earth. Photo By J. Pinfield for the RoPACS network
at the University of Hertfordshire.
December 22, 2012 - SPACE -  A sun-like star in our solar system's backyard may host five planets, including one perhaps capable of supporting life as we know it, a new study reports.  Astronomers have detected five possible alien planets circling the star Tau Ceti, which is less than 12 light-years from Earth — a mere stone's throw in the cosmic scheme of things. One of the newfound worlds appears to orbit in Tau Ceti's habitable zone, a range of distances from a star where liquid water can exist on a planet's surface.  With a minimum mass just 4.3 times that of Earth, this potential planet would be the smallest yet found in the habitable zone of a sun-like star if it's confirmed, researchers said.  "This discovery is in keeping with our emerging view that virtually every star has planets, and that the galaxy must have many such potentially habitable Earth-sized planets," study co-author Steve Vogt, of the University of California, Santa Cruz, said in a statement. "They are everywhere, even right next door."  The five planet candidates are all relatively small, with minimum masses ranging from 2 to 6.6 times that of Earth. The possibly habitable world, which completes one lap around Tau Ceti every 168 days, is unlikely to be a rocky planet like Earth, researchers said.  "It is impossible to tell the composition, but I do not consider this particular planet to be very likely to have a rocky surface," lead author Mikko Tuomi, of the University of Hertfordshire in England, told via email. "It might be a 'water world,' but at the moment it's anybody's guess."

Spotting signals in the noise. 
Tau Ceti is slightly smaller and less luminous than our sun. It lies 11.9 light-years away in the constellation Cetus (the Whale) and is visible with the naked eye in the night sky. Because of its proximity and sun-like nature, Tau Ceti has featured prominently in science fiction over the years.  Astronomers have searched for exoplanets around Tau Ceti before and turned up nothing. But in the new study, researchers were able to pull five possible planetary signals out from under a mountain of noise.  Tuomi and his team re-analyzed 6,000 observations of Tau Ceti made by three different spectrographs, instruments that allow researchers to detect the tiny gravitational wobbles orbiting planets induce in their parent stars.  The three instruments are the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS), on the European Southern Observatory's 3.6-meter telescope in La Silla, Chile; the University College London Echelle Spectrograph (UCLES) on the Anglo-Australian Telescope in Siding Spring, Australia; and the High Resolution Echelle Spectrometer, or HIRES, on the 10-meter Keck telescope atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii.  Using new analysis and modeling techniques, the team spotted the five faint signals, successfully separating them from noise caused by stellar activity and other factors.  "We pioneered new data modeling techniques by adding artificial signals to the data and testing our recovery of the signals with a variety of different approaches," Tuomi said in statement. "This significantly improved our noise modeling techniques and increased our ability to find low-mass planets."  The new analysis methods should aid the search for small planets, allowing more and more of them to be spotted throughout the galaxy, researchers said.

 A nearby planetary system? 
The five planets remain candidates at this point and will not become official discoveries until they're confirmed by further analysis or observations. And that's not a sure thing, researchers said.  "I am very confident that the three shortest periodicities are really there, but I cannot be that sure whether they are of planetary origin or some artifacts of insufficient noise modelling or stellar activity and/or magnetic cycles at this stage," Tuomi said, referring to the potential planets with orbital periods of 14, 35 and 94 days (compared to 168 days for the habitable zone candidate and 640 days for the most distantly orbiting world).  "The situation is even worse for the possible habitable zone candidate, because the very existence of that signal is uncertain, yet according to our detection criteria the signal is there and we cannot rule out the possibility that it indeed is of planetary origin," he added. "But we don't know what else it could be, either."  If the Tau Ceti planets do indeed exist, their proximity would make them prime targets for future instruments to study, researchers said.  "Tau Ceti is one of our nearest cosmic neighbors and so bright that we may be able to study the atmospheres of these planets in the not-too-distant future," James Jenkins, of the Universidad de Chile and the University of Hertfordshire, said in a statement. "Planetary systems found around nearby stars close to our sun indicate that these systems are common in our Milky Way galaxy."  If confirmed, the Tau Ceti planets would not be the closest exoplanets to Earth. That title still goes to Alpha Centauri Bb, a roasting-hot, rocky world recently spotted just 4.3 light-years away, in the closest star system to our own.  The new study has been accepted for publication in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics. - Yahoo.

DISASTER IMPACT: IMF - Cyclone Evan's Economic Impact on Samoa as Bad as 2009 Tsunami!

December 22, 2012 - SAMOA - The economic impact of Cyclone Evan on Samoa will be at least as bad as the deadly tsunami that caused widespread damage in 2009, the International Monetary Fund says.

Photo: The IMF says Samoa will take a long time to fully recover from Cyclone Evan. (Instagram: @rob_ahsam).
The IMF's resident advisor on the Pacific, Yangzheg Yang, said it will take a long time for the country to recover and restore vital infrastructure. "It's quite devastating, a lot of houses have been blown away, collapsed roads and bridges washed away. Water and electricity facilities are all badly damaged, so it's pretty horrific," Mr Yang told Radio Australia. He said there was also considerable damage to agricultural crops which could cause food shortages. Tourism operators have also been badly affected. "The impact of this cyclone is probably just as great, if not greater, than the damage caused by the tsunami in 2009," he said. Mr Yang said the cyclone's impact on Fiji was less severe than initially feared. - Australia Network News.

Samoa’s power utility is negotiating to hire additional diesel generators because damage from Cyclone Evan cut power production by about 60 percent. The general manager of the Electric Power Company, Tile Tu’imalealiifano, says a head pond at a hydro plant on Upolu was wrecked by a landslide. And he says flooding washed away a pipe from a second head pond that provided cooling at the main diesel generation plant. Mr Tu’imalealiifano says that pond is a mass of fallen trees and other debris. He says with both ponds out of action, the impact is significant.
“Both the power plant as well as the diesel station because the cooling system of our diesel main station feeds from the pipe line of that hydro scheme. So we are not only having problems with the hydro plant itself but the main diesel power station that feeds to whole island. It is about 60 percent of the capacity. So we are trying to cope with what we have.”
The general manager of the Electric Power Company, Tile Tu’imalealiifano. The government has said it hopes to have power available to all the island by tomorrow. - Radio New Zealand.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Probability of a Major Quake in Kanto, Japan Rises Sharply!

December 22, 2012 - JAPAN - The government has upgraded the probability of a powerful earthquake--lower 6 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 7, or stronger--to hit cities in the Kanto region within 30 years, with Mito at 62 percent and Chiba at 75 percent.

The Earthquake Research Committee of the government's Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion released an earthquake probability map for the first time in two years. Taking into consideration the effect of the Great East Japan Earthquake, the committee upgraded the magnitude of earthquakes predicted in waters off the quake-hit regions, compared with the 2010 map. The committee predicted a quake with a maximum magnitude of 8 could occur off Ibaraki Prefecture or the Boso Peninsula--where plate boundary deformations associated with earthquakes remain. The probability of being hit by large quakes grew dramatically, mainly in the coastal areas of the Kanto region, at 62.3 percent in Mito and 75.7 percent in Chiba.

The probability is also high along the Nankai Trough--which stretches from off Shizuoka Prefecture to the Shikoku and Kyushu regions--where magnitude-8 quakes, such as the Tonankai and Nankai earthquakes, have repeatedly occurred. The map indicated Shizuoka had an 89.7 percent possibility and Tsu, 87.4 percent. The map shows the probability of the country's future earthquakes with an intensity of lower 6 or stronger in the next 30 years beginning Jan. 1 next year. The map has been produced since 2005, excluding 2011. The committee, which is currently reviewing measures to predict quakes following last year's Great East Japan Earthquake, released the provisional version Friday. As regions with a low probability of quakes have been hit by major quakes, the committee is working to improve the accuracy of the map. The committee said it plans to release a revised map based on new measurements as early as next year. - The Yomiuri Shimbun.

SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: The Moon And Planet Jupiter Are Converging For A Christmas Show!

As the Moon nears full, it lands between Jupiter and Aldebaran on
Christmas evening for the longitudes of the Americas. European
observers: move each Moon symbol a quarter of the way toward
the one for the previous date. The Moon is shown three times
actual size. Sky & Telescope diagram.
December 22, 2012 - SPACE -  The Moon and Jupiter are converging for a heavenly sky show on Christmas 2012. Got a telescope? Something extra-special is happening on Jupiter that makes it an appealing target for backyard optics.

 Saturday, December 22 - Every year during Christmas season, Sirius rises in the east-southeast, far below Orion, around 7 or 8 p.m. When Sirius is still low, binoculars often show it twinkling in vivid colors. All stars do this when low. But Sirius is the brightest, making the effect more pronounced.

 Sunday, December 23 - With the coming of winter, the Great Square of Pegasus is once again balancing on one of its corners as it descends the western evening sky. It's a busy evening at Jupiter. Ganymede, Jupiter's largest satellite, emerges from behind Jupiter's eastern limb at 7:26 p.m. EST — then just 6 minutes later it disappears into eclipse by the planet's shadow. Ganymede emerges from Jupiter's shadow farther out from the planet at 9:42 p.m. EST. Twenty-two minutes after that, Io starts crossing the planet's face, followed by Io's tiny black shadow at 10:36 p.m. EST. And at 10:45 p.m. EST, Jupiter's Great Red Spot should cross the planet's central meridian.

 Monday, December 24 - The Moon, nearly full, shines upper right of Jupiter and Aldebaran early this evening, as shown above. Look too for the Pleiades closer left of the Moon. By around 9 p.m. Jupiter and the Moon are level with each other, when they're both very high overhead.

Tuesday, December 25 - Christmas conjunction of the Moon and Jupiter, with Aldebaran right nearby! Jupiter and the Moon are only a degree or two apart, depending on your location (in the Americas) and the time of evening. Watch them change separation and orientation as the night progresses. Binoculars show stars of the big, loose Hyades cluster in their background. - Sky and Telescope.

WATCH: NASA ScienceCasts - Christmas Sky Show.

HIGH STRANGENESS: Another "Time Slip" Reported in La Pampa, Argentina?!

December 22, 2012 - ARGENTINA - Two young men whose duties cause them to travel National Route No. 5 on a regular basis between the communities of Catriló and Santa Rosa reported feeling “disoriented” during the trip on three separate occasions. After several minutes had elapsed, they noticed that they continued the trip without any further incident, but without any recollection of the distance they had already covered.

This occurred to them on three separate instances and at different times, both noon and sunset, without any apparent explanation. Joel, one of the protagonists of the strange story, told CEUFO that they were chatting normally at one point and suddenly became disoriented, having no idea of what happened to them, but upon reacting, they realized they had covered several kilometers without any memory of doing so. The stretch of road where this alleged incident occurred is a segment of some 35 kilometers between the towns of Lonquimay and Anguil.

A similar incident befell a driver some ten years ago in the vicinity of Lonquimay. He stopped at a service station to ask “where he was” as he had no idea how he’d gotten there, although he had envisioned driving along that road. The driver continued his journey in the area in question, feeling disoriented once again. He reached the locality of Toay without knowing how he’d accomplished the trip. The event became widely known and a source of discussion among residents of Lonquimay and its environs, but was not picked up by the media.

For this reason, the Centro de Estudios OVNI issued a communiqué aimed at “people driving along National Route No. 5, specifically the segment between the localities of Lonquimay and Anguil, and who may have sensed time anomalies, should please report it immediately to CEUFO, as we have received reports of three cases at different times and days within the past month.”

Taking into consideration the request made by the Fundación Argentina de Ovnilogía (FAO) in La Plata, which was also aware of similar incident, it is a matter of vital importance to gather as much information as possible in order to perform the necessary studies toward understanding such an unusual phenomenon and its causes. - Inexplicata.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Increase Activity at Copahue Volcano on the Border of Chile and Argentina - Authorities in Both Countries on High Alert!

December 22, 2012 - CHILE - Increased activity at a volcano on the border of Chile and Argentina has authorities in both countries on alert. 

A family watches the Copahue volcano spewing ashes from Caviahue, Neuquen province, Argentina. Authorities in Chile and Argentina issued yellow alerts due to the eruption of the Copahue volcano, placed in the border between
both countries. AFP/Antonio Huglich Source: AFP.
The Copahue volcano in Argentina's Neuquen province and Chile's Biobio region began spewing ash and gas early on Saturday, but officials say it's still in an early eruption stage.  Chile's Mining Minister Hernan de Solminihac says the volcano's smoke plume led Argentine emergency officials to issue a yellow alert and constantly monitor its activity in case of a full eruption.

View of the Copahue volcano spewing ashes behind the lagoon of Caviahue, Neuquen province, Argentina.
AFP PHOTO / Antonio Huglich.
Flights expected to pass by the area around the volcano have been warned.  Officials say there's no need yet to evacuate people near the volcano, which is part of the Andes mountain chain. A volcano in southern Chile erupted last year, forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights and the evacuation of more than 600 people. - Daily Telegraph.

HIGH STRANGENESS: "Giant Serpent" Invades Island Near Phuket, Thailand?!

December 22, 2012 - THAILAND - Mysterious giant tracks appeared overnight on Friday (December 14) on Koh Mai Pai (Bamboo Island, just north of Phi Phi), emerging from the forest, going through the local school and then into the sea, leaving students, parents and teachers worrying that they were made by some enormous serpent. The tracks consisted of a long line of pairs of circles, each circle 20 centimetres in diameter. Local experts estimated that the serpent that made the tracks must be at least 15 metres long.

© Phuket News.
Pannee Atwaree, a teacher at the school, said that the islanders' fear was ratcheted up by theories that the appearance of the tracks might be an omen of the great disaster some have been predicting for next Friday (December 21) when the Mayan calendar - and possibiy the world - comes to an end. Mrs Panee alerted Damrong Sinto, President of the Koh Panyee Tambon Administration Organization (OrBorTor), who went to inspect the tracks, which emerged from the forested hill in front of the school, then wound through the school entrance, across the playing field, through the open ground floor of the school and out into the back, before disappearing into the waters of Phang Nga Bay.

Baan Koh Mai Pai village chief Anan Sansamuth noted that the night before they saw the trace, the sea level was very high. Around 11pm he heard some ducks quacking frantically, but though nothing of it. He said some goats and ducks on the island had disappeared recently but villagers had thought they were eaten by a python - many years ago an eight-metre python weighing 70 kilos was caught on the island. After surveyed the tracks, Mr Damrong ordered Mr Anan to run the island's electricity generator all night and to prepare implements for catching or at least defending against the supposed serpent. Mr Damrong and Koh Panyee OrBorTor officers, along with Bamboo Island civil defence volunteers, have also established a 24-hour watch until the mysterious animal is found. - Phuket News.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Geological Upheaval - Study Says Hawaiian Islands Are Dissolving From Within!

December 22, 2012 - HAWAII - Most of us think of soil erosion as the primary force that levels mountains, however geologists have found that Oahu's mountains are dissolving from within due to groundwater.

Hawaiian islands are dissolving from within.
Someday, Oahu's Koolau and Waianae mountains will be reduced to nothing more than a flat, low-lying island like Midway.  But erosion isn't the biggest culprit. Instead, scientists say, the mountains of Oahu are actually dissolving from within.  "We tried to figure out how fast the island is going away and what the influence of climate is on that rate," said Brigham Young University geologist Steve Nelson. "More material is dissolving from those islands than what is being carried off through erosion."  The research pitted groundwater against stream water to see which removed more mineral material. Nelson and his BYU colleagues spent two months sampling both types of sources. In addition, ground and surface water estimates from the U.S. Geological Survey helped them calculate the total quantity of mass that disappeared from the island each year. 
Someday groundwater will dissolve Hawaii's islands completely.
(Credit: Image courtesy of Brigham Young University).

"All of the Hawaiian Islands are made of just one kind of rock," Nelson said. "The weathering rates are variable, too, because rainfall is so variable, so it's a great natural laboratory."  Forecasting the island's future also needs to account for plate tectonics. As Oahu is pushed northwest, the island actually rises in elevation at a slow but steady rate. You've heard of mountain climbing; this is a mountain that climbs.  According to the researchers' estimates, the net effect is that Oahu will continue to grow for as long as 1.5 million years. Beyond that, the force of groundwater will eventually triumph and the island will begin its descent to a low-lying topography.  Undergraduate student Brian Selck co-authored the study, which appears in the journal Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. Unfortunately for him, he joined the project only after the field work in Hawaii took place.  Instead, Selck performed the mineralogical analysis of soil samples in the lab back in Provo. The island's volcanic soil contained at least one surprise in weathered rock called saprolites.  "The main thing that surprised me on the way was the appearance of a large amount of quartz in a saprolite taken from a 1-meter depth," Selck said.  After he graduates from BYU, Selck will pursue a career in hydrogeology. BYU geology professor David Tingey joins Nelson and Selck as a co-author on the new study. - Science Daily.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Global Seismic Uptick - One Earthquake A Day In Indonesia Throughout 2012! DISASTER IMPACT: 1,200 Natural Disasters in 2012 - 487 Deaths; 667,000 Displacements; 33,847 Houses Damaged!

December 22, 2012 - INDONESIA - Indonesia was hit by considerably fewer natural disasters in 2012 compared to last year, but the number of deaths and damage was substantial.  There were 1,200 disasters recorded this year, down from 1,663 in 2011. Still, they accounted for 487 deaths, while 667,000 people were displaced and injured. The toll on damaged houses was 33,847. 

“There were 730 natural disaster incidents through the first week of December,” said National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) head Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, referring to the number that his agency counted. “If this data are combined with data from ministries and other institutions, I’d say it’s about 1,200 [which is down from last year]. The decline is strongly related to natural factors, such as the weather, environment, and geology.”  Sutopo said that 85 percent of the disasters was hydrometeorology disasters such as floods, landslides, droughts and whirlwinds.  He also noted a shift in the type of disasters that hit the country, saying that while floods topped the list of disasters from 2002 to 2011, this year it was mostly whirlwinds.  The number of whirlwinds in the 2002-11 period increased 28 times, and that affected 404 districts and cities inhabited by 115 million people. The whirlwind trend has become worrisome because of their unpredictability.  “Whirlwinds used to happen during the transition period from the rainy season to drought, but now they happen in almost all seasons,” Sutopo said. “They’re also spreading in cities and rural areas.” 
A volcanic eruption is just one type of natural disaster
common in Indonesia. (Reuters Photo).

Indonesia has yet to develop a technology to detect whirlwinds. BNPB has lightning censors in several stadiums, but they are ineffective in monitoring whirlwinds.  “For now, we can only call on the people to stay away from trees or billboards when it’s raining because most of the victims died after being hit by trees or billboards,” Sutopo said.  Sutopo predicted more whirlwinds to happen next year in line with the worsening global warming.  Indonesia was jolted by 365 earthquakes this year with eastern Indonesia areas experiencing the most tremors.  Sutopo said that most of the earthquakes measured between 5 and 5.5.  There were at least three strong earthquakes that hit Aceh and several other provinces in Sumatra in April that measured 8.3. One quake left 11 people dead, the result of stroke and heart attack.  Sutopo called on officials in eastern Indonesian areas to take extra precautions on earthquakes because they are living in areas where they are most vulnerable and are the least prepared.  He said that building quake-resistant houses could help minimize the number of deaths and injuries. Unfortunately, he said, people’s motivation to build quake-resistant houses remains low despite his frequent campaign to promote its importance.  Sutopo attributed higher construction costs as one of the reasons for the low public enthusiasm to build quake-resistant houses.  He added that Indonesia’s local customs originally included safety precautions, but they have been gradually abandoned over time. - The Jakarta Globe.

ICE AGE NOW: Heavy Snow Blast Hit Ontario, Quebec - Thousands Without Power in Western Quebec!

December 22, 2012 - CANADA - Heavy snow blanketed parts of Ontario and Quebec Friday, and a storm system headed north from the U.S. resulted in some travel delays during the busy holiday season.  "Today is officially the start of winter, and we're getting hit — and hit hard with snow," CBC weather specialist Craig Larkins said Friday afternoon as he described the weather in some parts of Ontario and Quebec.  Environment Canada had winter storm warnings in effect around Sudbury and parts of eastern Ontario on Friday afternoon, including the Ottawa area. Winter storm warnings were also in effect for a broad stretch of southern Quebec. 

Shane Morris sent this photo of the OC Transpo bus in a ditch along Woodroffe Avenue.
Hydro Quebec said at 4:30 p.m. Friday that more than 18,000 people in western Quebec were without power. A Hydro One map showed there were also scattered outages in eastern Ontario.  As the low-pressure system from Colorado, also called the Colorado Low, churned northeast, the National Capital Region got a blast of wintry weather. CBC Ottawa climatologist Ian Black said that as of noon Friday, 21 centimetres of snow had fallen in the city. The snow was expected to continue through the night and into Saturday morning. "This is where the nasty weather is, Ottawa and east [of Ottawa]," CBC meteorologist Jay Scotland said Friday. "And we're looking at that heavier snow really working its way through southern Quebec.… It's a messy one today thanks to this [Colorado] low. If you are travelling, do check for travel delays."  At Toronto's Pearson International Airport, there were dozens of cancellations of inbound and outbound flights during the busy travel day. At 7 p.m. ET, the online tool showed that most evening departures from Pearson were leaving as scheduled, but there were still many delays and some cancellations listed for inbound flights. The busy international airport expected more than 100,000 people to pass through on Friday.  The Ottawa airport and Montreal-Trudeau Airport also had some delays and cancellations. 

“It’s already looking like one of the busiest travel days of the year,” CBC reporter Trevor Dunn said from Toronto's Pearson airport on Friday morning. “Check-in lines are long here at Terminal 1 … but on the whole, flights look like they're moving well right now."  The delays weren't only in Canada. In Chicago, aviation officials said more than 350 flights were called off at O'Hare International Airport on Thursday and more than 150 at Midway International Airport. But on Friday, as the storm continued its crawl eastward, only about 50 flights were cancelled and a similar number faced delays of up to two hours at the Chicago airports.  Downtown Toronto will avoid the worst of the winter storm, but lake effect snow bands are expected off Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, Scotland said Friday. Montreal can expect mostly rain and wind, he added.  In Ottawa, however, the wintry blast led to more than 100 collisions on roads throughout the city Friday morning, according to city and provincial police. All Ottawa school bus services were cancelled, but schools in both the public and Catholic boards remained open.  In Atlantic Canada, mainly rain and wind are forecast for Friday and Saturday, Scotland said, but this could turn to snow in some parts by Sunday as the temperatures drop.  Newfoundland and Labrador will not see much of this storm until late Saturday, with freezing rain possible, but it will be primarily rainy and windy Sunday, with some snow to the north for Labrador, he added. People in Western Canada can expect much calmer weather.  Vancouver, which received an uncharacteristic 20 centimetres of snow earlier this week, can expect mild precipitation with a high of 5 C, said Scotland.  However, more snowfall is expected for the B.C., with a messy mix of rain and snow showers for the coast, he added.  In Alberta, snow is tapering off, but the temperatures are frosty, Scotland said.  In Saskatchewan, expect flurries n Saskatoon, but slightly above seasonal temperatures in the southern portion of the province, he added. - CBC.

WATCH: Snow blankets Ottawa.

WATCH: Winter blast snarls travel.

DELUGE: Flood Warnings After Heavy Rain in Parts of Scotland!

December 22, 2012 - SCOTLAND - A number of flood warnings remain in place across parts of Scotland, with Tayside and Fife the worst affected areas.  There are currently 16 flood warnings in force across the country.  Police said numerous roads were closed in the Tayside area. Train services were disrupted between Gleneagles and Perth after a landslip on Friday.  With more rain forecast over the weekend, the public have been urged to remain vigilant. 

Trains were affected by a landslip between Gleneagles and Perth.
The Met Office has issued amber warnings for heavy rain and strong winds across Grampian, Central, Tayside and Fife on Saturday into Sunday. Yellow warnings have been issued across the rest of Scotland.  On Friday all trains between Edinburgh and Perth were ending their journey at Ladybank, with buses operating between there and Perth.  Services between Edinburgh and Inverness were diverted via Dundee, adding extra time to journeys.  Serco NorthLink Ferries said that sailings between the Northern Isles and Aberdeen had been disrupted due to adverse weather conditions.  Loganair has put on an extra flight between Aberdeen and Shetland on Saturday and retailer Tesco has charted a Hercules transporter plane to fly supplies to the islands to restock empty shelves.  Fife Fire and Rescue said it had received calls, mainly from the north east of the area, asking for help to stop flood water getting into houses and to rescue people from trapped cars.  Two families had to be evacuated from their homes in Cupar due to rising flood waters. The council was rehousing them.  A taxi driver was rescued from his cab on the A923 in Coupar Angus, when flood water had reached his doorsills.

The River Eden in Cupar was among several that burst their banks due to flooding.
A number of rivers also burst their banks, including the River Eden in Cupar and the Leet in Coldstream, in the Borders. Portmoak Primary in Perth and Kinross was closed on Friday. The school itself was unaffected, but several access roads were flooded.  Angus Council distributed sand bags and flood barriers to residents living alongside the South Esk River in Brechin.  At its peak, the river was about 5in from breaking its banks.  Dundee City Council said it had received a number of reports of flooding and had supplied sandbags where requested. It was working with Tayside Police and provided signage for road closures.  Tayside Police criticised some drivers for not heeding advice and driving at speeds unsuited to the difficult conditions.  The force said it had dealt with a number of collisions as a result of poor driving, although it added that no-one had been seriously hurt. - BBC.

ICE AGE NOW: Extreme Cold Conditions Prompts State of Emergency in Altai, Russia - Nearly 200 Killed in Cold Snap in Russia and Eastern Europe!

December 22, 2012 - RUSSIA - Temperatures of up to minus 45 degrees Celsius in the Altai region in southeast Siberia have prompted the authorities to declare a regionwide state of emergency. This is Altai's coldest December on record. It was minus 36 degrees in the region's administrative center Gorno-Altaisk on Wednesday night. - Voice of Russia, RIA.

Photo: Telegraph  REUTERS/Marian Striltsiv.
A vicious cold snap across Russia and eastern Europe has claimed nearly 200 lives, officials figures showed yesterday, as forecasters warned it would last until Christmas Eve.  In Russia, the cold has killed two people in the past 24 hours, the Ria-Novosti agency reported, citing medical sources, bringing the total number of deaths over the past week to 56.  The freeze had also left 371 people in hospital. Thermometers have been stuck below minus 20 degrees Celsius in Moscow – and below minus 50 degrees in some parts of Siberia – for a week.  Russian weather forecasters said temperature in the Khabarovsk region in eastern Russia had dropped to minus 43 Celsius, while Krasnoyarsk in Siberia reported minus 47. This “abnormal” frost would last till Monday because of a persistent anticyclone, they added.  In Russia’s European region, meanwhile, the mercury is expected to fall to minus 31 degrees Celsius on Christmas Eve before rising rapidly afterwards.  Other European countries hit hard by the extreme temperatures were counting the toll as temperatures gradually started to return to normal.  Authorities in Ukraine, which has been battling heavy snowfall for weeks, said 83 people had died of cold, with 57 of the victims found on the street.  The homeless are traditionally the hardest-hit by the region’s bitter winters.  Another 526 cold victims were reportedly receiving hospital treatment in Ukraine.  Overnight temperatures in Ukraine reached an average minus 15 degrees Celsius, which is common at this time of year.  Ukrainian authorities said 93 villages – mainly on the Crimean peninsula in the south of the country – were still hit by a power outage. - Times of Malta.