Thursday, January 10, 2013

SOLAR WATCH: "The Evil Twins" - A Pair Of Monster Sunspots, Large Enough To Swallow The Earth, Rotates Over The Sun's Eastern Limb; Strong Eruptions Are Possible!

January 10, 2013 - THE SUN - According Space Weather, Sunspot AR1652 has a beta-gamma magnetic field that harbors energy for M-class solar flares, but another large sunspot region looms on the eastern side of the sun.

EVIL TWINS? A pair of large sunspots has rotated into view over the sun's eastern limb. The two dark cores, collectively known as AR1654, are each big enough to swallow Earth four times over. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory took this picture of the twins during the early hours of January 10th. The two sunspots are connected by a canopy of strong magnetic fields, which are presently crackling with low-level C-flares. Much stronger eruptions are possible. NOAA forecasters estimate a 40% chance of M-class flares and a 5% chance of X-flares during the next 24 hours. - Space Weather.

SOLAR UPDATE: Big Sunspot 1654 continues to rotate more directly into Earth view on Wednesday. This large group consists of two main cores, in which the leader spot appears to be the most complex. This region will continue to rotate into better position over the days ahead. Sunspot 1652 and 1654 remain the largest threat for moderate solar flares, but so far only C-Class flares have been detected. Region 1652 is classified as a Beta-Gamma-Delta magnetic group, while Region 1654 remains a large Beta group, that continues to develop in complexity. Sunspot 1654 produced a long duration C8.0 solar flare at 17:46 UTC on Thursday afternoon. - Solar Ham.

WATCH: Pair of large sunspots.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: How Dry Is The United States - Current Drought Reminiscent Of Dust Bowl Days?!

January 10, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Almost 62 percent (61.8%) of the continental United States experienced drought in July 2012, making it the largest drought-affected area since the end of the “Dust Bowl" era in December 1939, when 62.1 percent of the U.S. was drought-stricken, the USDA said. According to the Palmer Drought Index – which covers 113 years and is used for historical comparison purposes -- the worst drought ever recorded was in July 1934, when 79.9 percent of the continental U.S. was affected.

(From USDA Website).
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, since 1999, has used a new Drought Monitor to determine the extent of agricultural drought. As of Jan. 1, the Drought Monitor showed that 61.09 percent of the continental U.S. was experiencing drought – down from the September 2012 peak of 65.45 percent. Despite the slight decline in overall U.S. drought coverage, the central portion of the nation experiencing the worst drought category – D4, or exceptional drought – has been slowly rising. Exceptional drought covered 6.75 percent of the nation on January 1, the greatest coverage since November 2011. (See map) In the past week, there has been “above-normal precipitation” in the southeastern U.S., but drought conditions expanded in southwestern and central areas that didn’t get any rain. “The cumulative impact of precipitation during this week and previous weeks resulted in contraction of drought areas in the West, South, and East,” according to the National Drought Summary for Jan 1, 2013.

"But drought expanded in those areas which missed out on the beneficial precipitation.” The Associated Press reported on Jan. 2 that climatologists predict it will take as much as 8 feet or more of snow during the winter months to restore farmland soil to pre-drought conditions. On Wednesday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack designated 597 counties in 14 states as primary natural disaster areas because of drought and heat, making all qualified farm operators in the areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans. These are the first disaster designations made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2013. In 2012, USDA designated 2,245 counties in 39 states as disaster areas due to drought, or 71 percent of the United States. At the height of the 2012 drought, USDA announced a series of actions to help to farmers, ranchers and businesses impacted by the 2012 drought, including lowering the interest rate for emergency loans, working with crop insurance companies to provide flexibility to farmers, and expanding the use of set-aside conservation acreage for haying and grazing. Those same actions continue to bring relief to producers ahead of the 2013 planting season, USDA said on Wednesday. - CNS News.

FIRE IN THE SKY: The Comet Of The Century - Comet ISON Approaches, Image Captured Of The Sungrazer, One Of The Best Comets In Many Years!

January 10, 2013 - SPACE - Later this year, Comet ISON could put on an unforgettable display as it plunges toward the sun for a fiery encounter likely to turn the "dirty snowball" into a naked-eye object in broad daylight. At the moment, however, it doesn't look like much. John Chumack sends this picture, taken Jan. 8th, from his private observatory in Yellow Springs, Ohio:

"Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) is currently in the constellation Gemini, moving between the heads of the twins Castor and Pollux," says Chumack. "It is still pretty faint, near 16th magnitude, but don't be fooled by that. This could become one of the best comets in many years."

Comet ISON is a sungrazer. On Nov. 28, 2013, it will fly through the sun's outer atmosphere only 1.2 million km from the stellar surface below. If the comet survives the encounter, it could emerge glowing as brightly as the Moon, visible near the sun in the blue daylight sky. The comet's dusty tail stretching into the night would create a worldwide sensation.

Comet ISON looks so puny now because it is so far away, currently near the orbit of Jupiter. As it falls toward the sun in the months ahead it will warm up and reveal more about its true character. By the summer of 2013, researchers should know whether optimistic predictions about Comet ISON are justified. Possibilities range from "Comet of the Century" to disintegrated dud. Stay tuned! - Space Weather.

ARMAGEDDON WEATHER: Apocalyptic Wildfires in Australia - Tornadoes Of Fire Destroy Homes As Family Takes Refuge Under A Jetty!

January 10, 2013 - AUSTRALIA - The grandfather who helped his wife and five grandchildren escape a Tasmanian bushfire by leading them to safety under a jetty returned to his house to find it completely destroyed, he revealed today. Tim Holmes, 62, built his home himself but was helpless to save it as 'tornadoes of fire' swept through his village of Dunalley. As they became surrounded by flames, his only option was to shepherd his family into the sea, where they sought refuge for nearly three hours before fleeing in a dinghy.

Escaping the flames: The family's pet dog Polly also sought safety on the jetty as the family
huddled together in the water.
They were later reunited with the children's mother, who feared they had all perished after hearing they had become trapped in the water. Mr Holmes said: 'It’s all gone, every last item, but it’s a great sense of relief to think that we lost not one hair on a child’s head. 'All the things that we've lost, yeah, there's some precious memories there. But they can be replaced, material things. 'But my wife and children, not so easily replaced. Yeah, I just feel blessed that my family's all together.' Speaking after their emotional reunion, the children's mother, Bonnie Walker, said she 'prayed like I never prayed before' that her family would survive. She had left her children - Charlotte, two, Esther, four, Caleb, six, Liam, nine, and Matilda, 11 - in the care of her parents on Monday as she had to attend a funeral. But it was only after leaving the area she realised the marauding wildfires had swept into the village. Mrs Walker drove to the service in the capital Hobart as fire ravaged the land either side of her and just made it through before the flames crossed the road and cut her off from her family. Meanwhile, her husband, David, was hiking along Tasmania's southern coastline unaware of the unfolding drama. She told Australia's ABC network: 'We just waited by the phone and received a message at 3.30pm to say that mum and dad had evacuated, that they were surrounded by fire, and could we pray. 'So I braced myself to lose my children and my parents.' Mr Holmes told how he and his wife Tammy led their five grandchildren into the sea as their only hope as he watched the house he had built himself go up in flames. Even there, their terror was not over as flames licked the wooden jetty they clung to and they struggled to breathe in the smoke-filled air. With the oxygen supply quickly running out in the polluted air, Mr Holmes 'rallied against all the odds' to retrieve the dinghy from the foreshore. The ordeal was photographed by 62-year-old Mr Holmes, who moved to Australia from Wales, as he feared his daughter my never see her children alive again. The iconic image of them huddling under the jetty has now been seen around the world. Mr Holmes said: 'We saw tornadoes of fire just coming across towards us and the next thing we knew everything was on fire, everywhere, all around us. 'By that time I had sent Tammy with the children to go down to the jetty because there was no escape, we couldn't get off.'

Divine intervention: A building burns near the jetty. The family credits God with their survival from the fire that destroyed around 90 homes in their town of Dunalley as the country was hit with record temperatures.
After two and half hours in the water, he found a dinghy and ferried the family to safety. ‘We had water up to our chins and could barely breathe, it was so toxic,’ he said. Mr Holmes told how he sent his wife, their grandchildren and pet dog Polly to the nearby sea jetty when he saw smoke from the looming wildfire rise from a nearby ridge. Despite the arrival of three fire trucks, the 62-year-old realised he could not defend the home he had built himself. 'I looked at the firefighters and said, "I have to go to Tammy and the kids",' he told the West Australian. 'For the next two-and-a-half hours, we huddled under the jetty as the fire intensified and produced a plume of smoke, ash and debris that left us with very little oxygen. 'There were times when we had to move out deeper because it was too hot and there were times when the jetty itself caught fire. I was able to scoop some water onto the jetty and put it out.' They eventually made their way to safety as the fire burnt itself out. The family credits God with their survival from the fire went on to destroy more than 100 homes in the village. Mrs Walker said: 'I spent a lot of time with good friends and prayed like I've never prayed before and I think those prayers have been answered.' Meanwhile, it emerged today that raging bushfires in south-east Australia are heading towards an army range littered with unexploded bombs. The blaze at Dean's Gap, in New South Wales, is just a kilometre away from an area that the military used as a bombing range until the 1970s. Firefighters are confident that they can stop the fires, which are the result of soaring temperatures and protracted spells of intensely hot temperatures that have been felt in all corners of the country. Fires continue to cause concern in western, central and southern areas, and Tasmania has been hit particularly hard. A large blaze is still burning out of control by the Tasman peninsula, near areas already hit by major blazes over the weekend. More than 20,000 hectares of land and 120 homes have been destroyed, but no deaths have been reported. - Daily Mail.

WATCH: Family tells of their incredible escape from wildfire.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Flu Epidemic In United States - 44 States Report Widespread Flu Activity, Boston Declared A Public Health Emergency, FDA Urges Flu Vaccine!

January 10, 2013 - UNITED STATES - A nationwide rise in flu activity has Americans on edge. As of Wednesday, 44 U.S. states are declaring widespread flu activity, CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook reported, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added that the percentage of Americans going to the hospital has doubled within the past month. Boston, a major Northeast city with a population of at least 600,000 people, declared a public health emergency on Wednesday after confirming 700 cases -- by this time last year there were only 70 confirmed influenza infections in the city. Hospitals in Chicago are seeing so many flu patients that several had to turn away ambulances.

One Pennsylanvia Hospital, Lehigh Valley Hospital, had to set up tents outside its emergency room to deal with the extremely busy flu season. With influenza sweeping the country, the Food and Drug Administration is reminding everyone 6 months and older to get a flu shot, warning the disease could be especially dangerous for kids. "Everyone seems to know that the elderly are particularly vulnerable, but so too are children," Dr. William Rodriguez, a pediatrician at the FDA said in a statement Wednesday. "Severe complications are most common in children under age 2." In the last 10 flu seasons, between 43 and 153 children have died from flu in the United States, according to Rodriguez, with an average of 20,000 children under 5 hospitalized each year. The CDC's most recent flu report, which measured disease activity for the week of Dec. 23 through Dec. 29, shows 18 children have already died. The agency updates the public on U.S. flu activity every Friday. The CDC has said there's "no excuse" to skip the flu shot. However LaPook reports only about 37 percent of Americans have been vaccinated this year, which is about average.

For those heeding the advice to get a flu shot this week, the FDA notes that immunization takes several weeks to take effect. While many people have been immunized in the fall, they still should be protected through the remainder of the flu season, which typically peaks in January or February. Cases, however, can continue through the spring. "This is particularly late in the flu season for very young children, because to optimize immune response, children between the ages of 6 and 35 months need two shots, four weeks apart, during their first season of vaccination," said Rodriguez. "However, even one shot provides some protection, so even now there is time to get some benefit." It is true that the flu shot does not guarantee protection against the virus -- the vaccine has been about 60 to 70 percent effective in recent years, according to LaPook. Dr. William Shaffner, an infectious disease researcher at Vanderbilt University who served on the committee that decided what went into the vaccine, told the CBS Evening News Wednesday that this year's shot is well-matched to most of the strains out there. However, "There is an influenza B strain that's out there, an additional strain that's causing about 10 percent of the mischief," he said. "And that's not in the vaccine and that accounts for some of the influenza that's out there." One misconception about the shot, LaPook notes, is people will get the flu after getting vaccinated. The CDC told him that's not true, but the vaccine can cause a reaction that might cause flu-like symptoms such as aches, pains and a low-grade fever. The symptoms typically go away in a day or two. Besides vaccination, maintaining proper hygiene with everyday actions such washing hands with soap and water, avoiding close contact with sick people, keeping your hands out of your eyes, nose and mouth could reduce risk. - CBS News.

WATCH: Not too late to get flu vaccine, FDA urges.

STORM ALERT: Tropical Cyclone Narelle Forecast To Strike Australia As An Intense Storm System On January 13th! UPDATE: Narelle Batters Bali With Strong Winds!

January 10, 2013 - AUSTRALIA - Tropical cyclone Narelle is forecast to strike Australia as an intense tropical cyclone at about 16:00 GMT on 13 January.Data supplied by the US Navy and Air Force Joint Typhoon Warning Center suggest that the point of landfall will be near25.7 S,112.1 E. Narelle is expected to bring 1-minute maximum sustained winds to the region of around 185 km/h (114 mph).Wind gusts in the area may be considerably higher.

According to the Saffir-Simpson damage scale the potential property damage and flooding from a storm of Narelle's strength (category 3)at landfall includes:
  • Storm surge generally 2.7-3.7 metres (9-12 feet) above normal.
  • Some structural damage to small residences and utility buildings with a minor amount of curtain wall failures.
  • Damage to shrubbery and trees with foliage blown off trees and large trees blown down.
  • Mobile homes and poorly constructed signs are destroyed.
  • Low-lying escape routes are cut by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of the centre of the storm.
  • Flooding near the coast destroys smaller structures with larger structures damaged by battering from floating debris.
  • Terrain continuously lower than 1.5 metres (5 feet) above mean sea level may be flooded inland 13 km (8 miles) or more.
  • Evacuation of low-lying residences within several blocks of the shoreline may be required.
There is also the potential for flooding further inland due to heavy rain.

The information above is provided for guidance only and should not be used to make life or death decisions or decisions relating to property. Anyone in the region who is concerned for their personal safety or property should contact their official national weather agency or warning centre for advice.
This alert is provided by Tropical Storm Risk (TSR) which is sponsored by Aon Benfield, Crawford & Company and University College London (UCL). - AlertNet.

WATCH: Cyclone Narelle Pushes Towards Australia.

UPDATE: Narelle Batters Bali With Strong Winds!
Strong winds and high waves, the result of the Narelle tropical cyclone, have affected many areas across Bali as, causing the island's ferry ports in Gilimanuk and Padang Bai to stop operations yesterday. Strong winds have also caused severe damage to public facilities, as well as houses and trees in Gianyar, Denpasar, Badung, Tabanan and Bangli. The head of Bali Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency predicted that the tropical cyclone would now head toward Western Australia. The Narelle tropical cyclone is the eighth tropical cyclone to form during this cyclone season in the southern Indian Ocean. In Indonesia, the cyclone is centered south of Bali’s closest neighbor, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), with winds of up to 40 kilometers per hour. In Selemadeg village in Tabanan regency, a woman reportedly died after a large tree fell on her. Trees have also damaged a temple, family homes and other buildings in Denpasar. “This is a normal situation for the period between January and February when tropical cyclones frequently occur in the Indian Ocean affecting weather conditions all over Indonesia."

They warned people who live in the coastal areas of the southern part of Bali to remain vigilant. “The waves may reach up to 5 meters high, endangering fisherman and those who want to take water transportation." Tourists who planned to take part in water sports, such as diving, surfing and snorkeling, must be very careful due to the heavy rains, strong winds and high waves. Due to the rough sea, Gilimanuk ferry port in Jembrana (connecting Java and Bali) and Padang Bai ferry port in Karangasem (connecting Bali and NTB) have had to be closed temporarily. Three traditional fishing and crossing ports in Klungkung regency were also closed, forcing hundreds of residents to wait for transport for hours. Local fishermen also stayed home over the last few days because of the high waves. People living on the remote islands of Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan in Klungkung regency have been isolated as there were no vessels heading to the islets to bring basic food and supplies to the local residents. The peak wet season in Bali will arrive in the middle of January and would intensify in February. “People must be on alert for the possible strong winds, torrential rains and rough seas during this season." - The Jakarta Post.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Japan Quake Study Sounds Alarm At "Creeping Fault" Doctrine - Japan Trench Could Amplify Seismic Hazard, May Have Dangerous Repercussions For The San Andreas Fault?!

January 10, 2013 - JAPAN - Seismologists said Wednesday they have found clues as to why Japan's 2011 mega-earthquake occurred on a fault previously deemed to be of little threat. The findings have repercussions for the country's earthquake strategy and for other locations, including California's notorious San Andreas fault, with a similar seismic profile, they said.

Hiroyuki Noda of the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology and Nadia Lapusta of the California Institute of Technology based their findings on a computer model of the March 11, 2011 quake, which triggered a tsunami that killed about 19,000 people and wrecked the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, sparking the world's worst atomic crisis in a generation. The 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck off northeastern Japan in part of the so-called Japan Trench, where the Pacific plate ducks beneath the Okhotsk plate, on which the Japanese archipelago lies. Its epicentre was about 200 kilometres (120 miles) east of Honshu island's Sendai, at the heart of a lozenge-shaped area of ocean floor. This area of the Japan Trench had been generally considered to be stable, as it was a "creeping" segment, meaning that any movement of the plate there was smooth and regular.

According to a commonly accepted theory, this steady movement prevents stress from building up to the point where the fault rips open -- rather like a safety valve on a steam engine. But Noda and Lapusta suggest that fault segments which experience long-term, stable "creep" in fact become weakened when a nearby section of the fault ruptures. And if the fault is infiltrated by hot geological fluids, this acts as a lubricant, helping a big slip to occur. "Steadily creeping fault segments are currently considered to be barriers to earthquake rupture. Our study shows that they may join large earthquakes, amplifying seismic hazard," said Noda in an email exchange with AFP. The authors said they hope their work will be factored into Japan's earthquake awareness programme. Some experts have accused the programme of focussing obsessively on the risk to Tokyo, south of where the 2011 event occurred. The findings also have implications for risk assessment for the San Andreas fault, which runs down the coast of California, according to the study published in the journal Nature. The San Andreas also has a creeping segment regarded as a blocker for big earthquakes, said Noda. "But whether it always acts as a barrier or can join a great earthquake is not a trivial question," he warned. "Looking for an evidence of rapid slip or frictional heating in the middle of currently creeping segment would be an important project to judge if the conventional scenarios should be revised." - Yahoo.

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

January 10, 2013 - WORLDWIDE UFOs - Here are several of the latest unidentified flying objects (UFOs) seen recently across the globe.

Worldwide - 2012.

Cape Town, South Africa - 29th of December, 2012.

Bucharest, Romania -  1st of January, 2013.

Venice, California, United States  -  2nd of January, 2013.

Arkhangelsk, Russia  - 4th of January, 2013.

Victoria, Australia - 4th of January, 2013.

United States -  6th of January, 2013.

Colombia - 8th of January, 2013.

Miami, Florida, United States - 8th of January, 2013.

Mora, Sweden - 9th of January, 2013.

SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: Massive Star Explosion Of Cassiopeia A Captured By NASA!

January 10, 2013 - SPACE - NASA has released a brilliant photo of the aftermath of a massive star explosion. The supernova remnant, Cassiopeia A, is 11,000 light-years from Earth.

(Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/DSS).
A supernova is caused by a large star collapsing onto itself, usually shrinking into a dying star, such as a white dwarf. During the supernova, the matter of the star gets expelled outward, causing a shockwave, through the space surrounding the star. Gasses and other particles are heated and collected as the explosion expands in an almost spherical shape, according to NASA.  The supernova remnant of the star explosion was captured using NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), an X-ray telescope. The goal of NuSTAR is to capture supernovae and black holes, events that occur at much higher energies than previous X-ray telescopes could capture. The light from the star explosion captured by NuSTAR is believed to have first reached Earth nearly 300 years ago, taking 11,000 years to reach our planet, according to NASA. The star is long dead, notes NASA, but there is much to learn following the star’s explosion. 

In the detailed photo, the spherical supernova remnant is surrounded by a blue ring which, according to NASA, is caused by the resulting shockwave of the supernova colliding with space debris surrounding the star. The shockwave propels the space debris to speeds that are just a fraction of 1 percent below the speed of light, according to NASA.  The other colors represent the energy as captured by X-ray light. Blue areas have the highest energy, 10 to 20 kiloelectron volts, green areas are between eight and 10 kiloectron volts and red areas contain energy between 4.5 and 5.5 kiloelectron volts.  NuSTAR has allowed NASA to capture a star explosion in much more detail, leading to a better understanding of supernovae, supernova remnants and black holes. Fiona Harrison, NuSTAR principal investigator at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, said in a statement, “Before NuSTAR, high-energy X-ray pictures of this galaxy and the two black holes would be so fuzzy that everything would appear as one pixel.”  Speaking about Cassiopeia A, Brian Grefenstette, a lead researcher at California Institute of Technology, said, “Cas A is the poster child for studying how massive stars explode and also provides us a clue to the origin of the high-energy particles, or cosmic rays, that we see here on Earth.” - IB Times.

UFO SIGHTINGS: Mysterious Lights Reported In Skies Over Yankton Area, South Dakota?!

January 10, 2013 - UNITED STATES - A resident just west of Yankton claims he has seen unexplained lights in the sky on multiple recent nights.  A male resident along Rainbow Street in Riverside Acres reported to the Yankton County Sheriff’s Office at 8:40 p.m. Friday that he had observed an unknown object in the sky.  Sheriff Jim Vlahakis said two of his deputies subsequently observed the light and believed it to be a satellite or, more likely, an airplane due to the flashing red light common on all aircraft.  A message was left by the Press & Dakotan at the residence of the individual who reported the light, but it was not returned by press time.  According to Jim Klancnik, the state director for the Mutual UFO Network, Inc. (MUFON) who resides in Spearfish Canyon, the same individual submitted a report to the organization’s public UFO case files Sunday. MUFON is a Greeley, Colo.-based organization dedicated to the study of unexplained flying objects.  In the report, the man said he was outside around 10:15 p.m. Jan. 3 when he noticed what looked like police lights in the sky to the south of his location.

 “The part of the sky I was looking at is a pretty busy flight path,” the report states. “On any day at any time of the day, I see planes and, especially, helicopters flying by, usually flying (northeast). This was definitely not a plane or helicopter.”  While watching the light, the man said a smaller object appeared to fly out of and away from it in parabolic curve toward the ground.  “As soon as object #2 disappeared behind background trees and houses I heard a herd of cows about a mile away freak out briefly,” the report reads. “Nothing really happened; no cows were harmed and the diving craft didn’t crash.”  Looking around, he said about four more similar lights were observed.  On Friday night, the man said he saw about six of them. Approximately 11 lights were spotted around 1 a.m. Saturday night.  As the report was being written around 6:30 p.m. Sunday, the witness said they were directly overhead.  “I can see the shape of it (maybe triangle or stealth fighter shape),” he states.

“There are no military bases around here or anything else that should bring so much aircraft other than the usual traffic of private planes, crop duster planes and medical helicopters.”  The sheriff’s office has received no other reports of strange aerial activity.  MUFON allows photos to be attached to the reports but none were submitted.  Klancnik said it’s not the first instance of a possible UFO sighting in the region in recent times.  “I’ve had about six different reports within 100 miles of Yankton of a lot of different UFO sightings,” he stated. “Most of them have to do with orange lights.”  For example, a witness reported May 17 of last year that two sets of orange orbs were spotted in the sky at Pickstown.  “They appeared only for a few seconds then disappeared,” the Pickstown report states. “I tried to get the images on my camera and it was unsuccessful. (Fifteen minutes) later a squadron of jet fighters circled the area and looked like they were sweeping the area around the (site). At first, we thought it was military training activities with flares. The more I thought about it, flares don’t stay stationary. Or do they?”  Klancnik said he planned to conduct an interview with the witness in Yankton. During his investigation process, he attempts to gauge the reliability of the individual to make sure they aren’t just making up a story.  “For all of the reports we receive, 98 percent of them are explainable,” Klancnik added. “About 2 percent are not, and that’s the stuff that makes us wonder.”  You can follow Nathan Johnson on Twitter at - Press & Dakotan.

RATTLE & HUM: Even More Mystery Booms Reported In Utah, California?!

January 10, 2013 - UNITED STATES - They showed up this week in Oklahoma, were then recorded in Massachusetts, and one reader even reported them in Indiana, but it seems that the "Mystery Booms" are still going strong with new reports coming out of the West Coast.

The first new set of strange explosions were heard in Weber County, Utah last night around 9:00 PM, prompting hundreds of concerned citizens to phone the local authorities. Interestingly enough, when Fox 13 News rang up the University of Utah to check in with the Seismograph department, they claimed that while there were no earthquakes to speak of, they did pick up some unidentified "sonic activity" around the time the booms were reported.

One resident believed that the noises were related to aircraft:
Sonic booms. They're not supposed to break the sound barrier of the continental U.S., but they did so. I know they're doing some night training over the West Desert because I saw a string of tracers being fired high in the sky tonight, about 10 or 11 o'clock. Way out west of Skull Valley.
The local Hill Airforce base, on the other hand, claims that they had no aircraft in the air after 6:00PM. Likewise, the National Guard stated that had no weapons training that day, while the ATF told reporters that there were not rocket tests that day either. Hrmm..

Eric Anderson believes the noises were coming from none other than Area 51, but that we shouldn't start blaming the extraterrestrials:
The Area 51 guys could also be playing around with their latest hypersonic gadgets. (NOT "aliens". Area 51 is an actual air base where they test things they won't officially talk about for another 10 years or so.)
The next reports of strange booms in the sky came from North Hollywood, California at 9:30PM. The LA Times blog reported that folks first thought the noise had emanated from a North Hollywood metro station, but as of now the source of the explosion is still unknown to authorities.

"Seriously, any leads what the hell this boom was in North Hollywood? Im shook up a bit" tweeted @RajRawal37. - Who Forted?

ICE AGE NOW: Killer Whales Trapped In Quebec Sea Ice!

January 10, 2013 - CANADA - Locals in Inukjuak said the mammals have gathered around a single hole in the ice—slightly bigger than a pickup truck—in a desperate bid to get oxygen. Mayor Peter Inukpuk urged the Canadian government Wednesday to send an icebreaker as soon as possible to crack open the ice and help them find open water. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans said it is sending officials to assess the situation.

In this Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013 photo provided by Marina Lacasse, killer whales surface through a small hole in the ice near Inukjuak, in Northern Quebec. Mayor Peter Inukpuk urged the Canadian government Wednesday to send an icebreaker as soon as possible to crack open the ice and help the pod of about a dozen orcas find open water. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans said it is sending officials to assess the situation.
(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Marina Lacasse).
"Fisheries and Oceans Canada is assessing the situation and are exploring every possible option, but will only be in a position to determine what—if anything—can be done once our specialists arrive on site," spokesman Frank Stanek said in a statement. A hunter first spotted the pod of about a dozen trapped whales Tuesday at the hole, which is on the eastern shore of the Hudson Bay. Inukjuak is about 1,500 kilometers (900 miles) north of Montreal. Dozens of villagers made the one-hour snowmobile ride Tuesday to see the unusual spectacle.

In this Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013 photo provided by Marina Lacasse, killer whales surface through a small hole in the ice near Inukjuak, in Northern Quebec. Mayor Peter Inukpuk urged the Canadian government Wednesday to send an icebreaker as soon as possible to crack open the ice and help the pod of about a dozen orcas find open water. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans said it is sending officials to assess the situation.
(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Marina Lacasse).
They snapped photos and shot video footage of the killer whales surfacing in the opening—and even thrusting themselves skyward while gasping for air. One woman who made the journey to the gap in the ice said even a curious polar bear approached the hole amid the commotion. Siasie Kasudluak said the bear was shot by a local hunter for its meat. The trapped orcas appeared to be in distress, but locals were ill-equipped to help out. Kasudluak said the hole appeared to be shrinking in the freezing temperatures. Inukpuk believes the sudden drop in temperature recently caught the orcas off guard, leaving them boxed in under the ice. - PHYSORG.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Meteor Sighting In Skies Over Moose Jaw, Canada!

January 10, 2013 - CANADA - Moose Jaw resident Greg Wheler saw a meteor in the northern Moose Jaw skies close to 10 p.m. Monday night.

"It turned bright white with a blue centre and burned up as it flew east to west," said Wheler in an email to the Times-Herald. "It caught my eye through my living room window." Chris Beckett, volunteer and national observatory chairman of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Regina centre, said the meteor sighting was most likely part of the tail end of the Quadrantid meteor shower that peaked last week. "There's a couple of meteor showers that peak right now and these tend to be brighter, slower-moving meteors," said Beckett. "I've seen lots of them in years past and they'll get your attention even from the city."

He said meteor sightings are more common in the winter, but there are other peak times during the year. When the showers happen, he said the sightings tend to last for about a week or two. The peak meteor shower period is between October and the beginning of May, but he said there is another big shower during the summer. "Right now, there's one almost every two or three weeks so you do get some overlap. So there's a lot more meteor activity," said Beckett. "They do tend to take people a bit by surprise." - The Moose Jaw Times Herald.

ICE AGE NOW: Global Cooling Across The World - Winter Storm Takes Toll Across Mideast; Russian Trans-Caucasian Highway Closed By Heavy Snow; Snow Closes Roads And Schools In Athens, Greece; Historic Cold Snap Is Causing Dizzying Inflation In China; Biggest Winter Storm In A Decade Slams Israel; And Storm Hits Displaced Syrians!

January 10, 2013 - MIDDLE EAST - The fiercest winter storm to hit the Mideast in years brought a rare foot of snow to Jordan on Wednesday, caused fatal accidents in Lebanon and the West Bank, and disrupted traffic on the Suez Canal in Egypt. At least eight people died across the region.  In Lebanon, the Red Cross said storm-related accidents killed six people over the past two vdays. Several drowned after slipping into rivers from flooded roads, one person froze to death and another died after his car went off a slippery road, according to George Kettaneh, operations director for the Lebanese Red Cross. 

Syrian refugee children have a snowball fight at
the mountain town of Bhamdoun.
© Bilal Hussein/The Associated Press.

Winter Storm Takes Toll Across Mideast.
In the West Bank town of Ramallah, a Palestinian official said two West Bank women drowned after their car was caught in a flash flood on Tuesday. Nablus deputy governor Annan Atirah said the women abandoned their vehicle after it got stuck on a flooded road, and their bodies were apparently swept away by surging waters. Their driver was hospitalized in critical condition.  In the Gaza Strip, civil defence spokesperson Mohammed al-Haj Yousef said storms cut electricity to thousands of Palestinian homes and rescuers were sent to evacuate dozens of people.  Parts of Israel were bracing for snow a day after the military was forced to send helicopters and rubber dinghies to rescue residents stranded by flood waters. In Jerusalem, streets were mostly empty as light snow began to stick Wednesday night. School was cancelled for the next day because of the weather, which Israeli meteorologists said was the stormiest in a decade.  The unusual weather over the past few days hit vulnerable Syrian refugees living in tent camps very hard, particularly some 50,000 sheltering in the Zaatari camp in Jordan's northern desert. Torrential rains over four days have flooded some 200 tents and forced women and infants to evacuate in temperatures that dipped below freezing at night, whipping wind and lashing rain.  "It's been freezing cold and constant rain for the past four days," lamented Ahmad Tobara, 44, who evacuated his tent when its shafts submerged in flood water in Zaatari. A camp spokesperson said that by Wednesday, some 1,500 refugees had been displaced within the camp and were now living in mobile homes normally used for schools.  Weather officials said winds exceeded 70 kilometres an hour and the rain left 70 centimetres of water on the streets.  The storm dumped at least 30 cm of snow on many parts of Jordan and was accompanied by lashing wind, lightning and thunder. It shut schools, stranded motorists and delayed international flights, Jordanian weather forecaster Mohammed Samawi said. The unusually heavy snowfall blocked streets in the capital Amman and isolated remote villages, prompting warnings from authorities for people to stay home as snowplows tried to reopen clogged roads. It forced at least 400 families to evacuate their homes and move to government shelters overnight.  Samawi called it the "fiercest storm to hit the Mideast in the month of January in at least 30 years." - The Record.

© RIA Novosti.

Russian Trans-Caucasian Highway Closed Due To Heavy Snowfall.
The Trans-Caucasian highway, which links Russia with South Ossetia has been closed due to heavy snowfall. 

This road also links Russia with Armenia, Georgia and other countries of the Caucasus region.  An official with the local emergency ministry department said that the thickness of snow cover on the slopes along the highway exceeds 80 centimeters and there is a risk of avalanche. - The Voice of Russia.


Athens Snow Closes Roads And Schools - City Opens Homeless Shelters.
Heavy snowfall in northern parts of the Greek capital on Tuesday prompted authorities to close roads and schools, while municipal authorities made three public buildings to the homeless shelters as temperatures dropped to the 0-Celsius mark. The Penteli ring road was closed early on Tuesday due to ice and fog and was reopened to traffic later in the morning, while Dionysos Avenue remains off limits from Anatoli to Dionysos and drivers were advised to use snow chains on the road between Katsimidiou and Aghiou Merkouriou in Tatoi.  The old national highway linking Thiva to Athens was shut off to lorries and other heavy vehicles, with regular cars allowed access only with snow chains, as the road leading from the funicular to Mont Parnes Casino on Mount Parnitha remained closed from Sunday.  Several schools were also given the day off in Dionysos, Penteli, Nea Penteli, Kapandriti, Kalamos, Malakasa, Petroupoli and Liosia, among other parts of northern Attica.  Meanwhile, the city of Athens opened three emergency centers for the homeless on Monday at buildings on the corners of Lenorman and Alexandreias, Mamouri and Dymis, and Aghiou Meletiou and Xenagora. The 1960 hotline will also be operating 24 hours a day where citizens can report the location of homeless people in distress. - Ekathimerini.

A Wounded Syrian refugee makes his way over
water and mud at the Zaatari Syrian refugee camp,
near the Syrian border in Mafraq, Jordan, on Tuesday.
© AP/Mohammad Hannon.

Storm Hits Displaced Syrians, Turning Jordanian Camp Into Freezing Swamp.
A winter storm is magnifying the misery for tens of thousands of Syrians fleeing the country's civil war, turning a refugee camp into a muddy swamp where howling winds tore down tents and exposed the displaced residents to freezing temperatures.  Some frustrated refugees at a camp in Zaatari, where about 50,000 are sheltered, attacked aid workers with sticks and stones after the tents collapsed in 35 mph (60 kph) winds, said Ghazi Sarhan, spokesman for the Jordanian charity that helps run the camp. Police said seven Jordanian workers were injured.  After three days of rain, muddy water engulfed tents housing refugees including pregnant women and infants. Those who didn't move out used buckets to bail out the water; others built walls of mud to try to stay dry.  Conditions in the Zaatari camp were "worse than living in Syria," said Fadi Suleiman, a 30-year-old refugee.  Most of Zaatari's residents are children under age 18 and women. They are some of the more than 280,000 Syrians who fled to Jordan since the uprising against President Bashar Assad broke out in March 2011. As the fighting has increased in recent weeks, the number of displaced has risen.  About a half-million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries including Turkey and Lebanon to escape the civil war that has killed an estimated 60,000 people in nearly two years of fighting. Wet and wintry weather across the Middle East has made conditions miserable for refugees in those countries as well - even flooding two camps in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley after a river overflowed its banks.  Several large pools of standing water - including one nearly the size of a football field and about 4 inches deep - have spread in the Zaatari camp. Children clad only in plastic sandals waded in despite the frigid water. An old woman wore plastic bags on her feet as she walked to pick up some food. - The Times of Israel.

Biggest Winter Storm In A Decade Slams Israel Bringing Snow, Floods.
Snow envelops northern Israel, roads close due to ice; police close Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway; hundreds of people rescued from their homes after massive floods.  As Israel battled its stormiest winter in a decade, cities across the country found themselves nearly paralyzed. Major highways closed, power outages were reported, the entrance to Tel Aviv was all but blocked, and residents of some neighborhoods awaited possible word of evacuation.  The Ayalon River near Tel Aviv, usually a dry bed, flooded beyond capacity as storms overtook central Israel overnight Tuesday. The nearby Ayalon Highway was closed between Glilot Junction and Hashalom Street in both directions over the course of the morning, opening up from Hahalakha Junction northbound in the afternoon. Highway 1 was closed between Shapirim and Kibbutz Galuyot junctions in the early afternoon, and traffic was halted or congested across Tel Aviv through the morning and afternoon hours. The Israel Police has asked drivers to stay out of central Tel Aviv, and to avoid driving if possible. - Haaretz.

WATCH: Israel Superstorm 2013 - worst weather in a decade hits the Holy Land.

Historic Cold Snap In China Is Causing Dizzying Inflation In The Price Of Vegetables.
A cold snap in China hasn't gotten much attention here, but it might start to get more, as it's causing massive food inflation.

The Daily Dim Sum translates a Xinhua article:
Monitoring results of the Ministry of Agriculture show that prices of 27 vegetables in the first week of 2013 increased 4.5 percent week-on-week for an average price of CNY 4.17/kg. In the past ten weeks, average price of vegetables has jumped 55 percent. reports on the exact weather numbers:
China is experiencing unusual chills this winter with its national average temperature hitting the lowest in 28 years, and snow and ice have closed highways, canceled flights, stranded tourists and knocked out power in several provinces. China Meteorological Administration on Friday said the national average was 25 degrees Fahrenheit since late November, the coldest in nearly three decades. The average temperature in northeast China dipped to -4.5 degrees F, the coldest in 43 years, and dropped to a 42-year low of -18.7 degrees F in northern China.
- Business Insider.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Mount Etna Current Activity - New Strombolian Activity At Bocca Nuova!

January 10, 2013 - SICILY - This night at around 1:00 am local time, eruptive activity, most likely strombolian eruptions from the eastern vent, resumed in the Bocca Nuova, accompanied by a rise in tremor. Images indicate that the activity gradually increased until about 3:15 and the stabilized.

Etna's New SE crater on 26 Dec 2012.
Tremor signal from Etna.
Occasional ash emissions have been observed recently from the New SE crater. Will there be more paroxysms as during 2011-April 2012? No one knows. - Volcano Discovery.

MASS ANIMAL DIE-OFF: Cold In China Kills About 180,000 Cattle, Threatens Power!

January 10, 2013 - CHINA - The coldest winter in decades is causing blizzards in northern China and threatens electric power supplies in the south where the government is not used to dealing with such freezing temperatures, China media said Wednesday.  About 180,000 cattle have died in the north while hundreds of emergency shelters have opened in southern China to help people who do not have adequate housing or heat to survive the below-average cold. 

Fishermen try to dig out a fishing boat trapped in ice in the Jiaozhou harbor in Qingdao,
in east China's Shandong province, on Jan. 5.(Photo: AP).
The National Meteorological Center reiterated Wednesday that southern China will be under heavier-than-normal snow, rain and freezing temperatures for the next few days, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency. Shelters equipped with quilts, coats and food have opened in Hefei, capital of Anhui province.  "You can find shelters and aid stations for the elderly and homeless in all communities and villages in our district," Zou Zhongxian, a civil affairs official in the city's Luyang district, told Xinhua.  Record cold has struck India as well, and even the Middle East.  The fiercest winter storm to hit the Middle East in years brought a rare foot of snow to Jordan on Wednesday, caused fatal accidents in Lebanon and the West Bank, and disrupted traffic on the Suez Canal in Egypt. At least eight people have died across the region.  In Israel, snow fell outside Jerusalem, an unusual occurrence. Three feet of snow fell on Mount Hermon, and flakes were falling in Nazareth as well as in Galilee. Several roads were closed in northern Israel because of heavy snowfall. 

The Weather Underground reported that the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, where New Delhi is located, has seen temperatures fall to a low of 35.4 degrees on Sunday, and the high temperature a few days before was 49.6, the coldest daily high in 44 years.  In China, freezing weather has sent temperatures diving to a national average of 25 degrees Fahrenheit since Nov. 20, the lowest average temperature in 28 years, says the China Meteorological Administration (CMA).  In China's frozen northeast, where the city of Harbin hosts a popular snow and ice festival each winter, temperatures over the same period averaged minus 5 degrees, a 43-year low, according to the CMA.  The CMA said ice had covered 10,500 square miles of the sea surface, the most expansive since 2008, when authorities began to collect ice data, and it said the ice coverage will likely continue to grow.  Blizzards were forecast for western regions along the Yangtze and Huaihe rivers, as well as the northern part of southern China. Similar cold weather hit China in the winter of 2008, when more than 120 people died.  China Southern Power Grid was working to melt ice on power lines to prevent electricity outages, Wang Xiaochun, the company's publicity manager, told Chinese state media.  About 1 million people in normally temperate south China have been going through unusually cold weather in recent days. - USA Today.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Strong Strombolian Explosions And Intermittent Lava Overflows From Northeast Crater Of The Stromboli Volcano In Italy!

January 10, 2013 - ITALY - New lava overflows occurred this night (on the northern side) and this morning (eastern side) of the SE crater.

Thermal webcam image of the crater area (INGV) showing a new overflow on the northern side of
the NE crater and the cooling overflow on the northern side (r) from this night.
Strong detonations from large exploding magma bubbles can be felt and heard in the village, rattling doors and windows. - Volcano Discovery.