Friday, January 11, 2013

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Volcano Discovery Report For January 11, 2013 - New Activity At Stromboli And Etna, Explosion From Kizimen, Elevated Activity At Santiaguito, And Other Volcanoes Around The World!

January 11, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing report from the Volcano Discovery Group.

Heavy rain of glowing bombs from the explosion onto the outer crater flank of the Stromboli volcano.
(Photo: Tom Pfeiffer).
Stromboli (Eolian Islands, Italy): Activity continues to be elevated. Last night, the eastern lava over flow was weakly active at the outer flank of the NE cone. Strong glow over the summit, despite partially dense cloud cover, indicates that the magma column inside is high and ready to produce more lava flows. Stromboli volcano photos. Etna volcano: Weak strombolian activity and a small intra-crater lava flow inside Bocca Nuova's eastern pit could be seen on a webcam image this night. Tremor remains elevated.

Plosky Tolbachik volcano in Kamchatka continues to erupt fluid lava flows with no signs of the eruption ending soon. Slow effusive activity and a thermal anomaly visible on satellite images continue also at nearby Bezymianny although Tolbachik's seismic signal obscures the one from Bezymianny. Weak intermittent explosive activity continues at Karymsky (Kamchatka)Kliuchevskoi (Kamchatka) continues to have strombolian activity in its summit crater. Shiveluch (Kamchatka): effusive and explosive activity from the growing dome continue at moderate levels. Kizimen (Kamchatka): An explosion this morning produced an ash plume rising to more than 17,000 ft (5.2 km) altitude, the Tokyo VAAC reported. Gorely (Kamchatka): Moderate seismic activity continues to be registered and moderate gas-steam activity was observing on January 05-06 and 08

Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): the rate of emissions remains low at about 1 per hour. At 01:22 on 10 Jan, a stronger explosion occurred throwing incandescent fragments to a distance of 1 km from the crater.

In Guatemala, Fuego volcano continues with low-level strombolian activity and the slow effusion of a lava flow on the upper SW flank, currently about 600 m long. Santiaguito has been more active recently, with 4 lava flows from the lava dome and some stronger explosions with ash plumes rising up to about 800 m and occasional small pyroclastic flows.

San Cristobal (Nicaragua): The volcano continues to show a high level of internal unrest with periods of intensified volcanic tremor within a background of continuous low-level tremor. Masaya (Nicaragua): The volcano continues to have an elevated level of volcanic tremor. San Miguel (El Salvador): Phases of continuous volcanic tremor appear at the volcano with the addition of some small earthquakes.

Nevado del Ruiz in Colombia had a brief ash emission on 9 Jan. Galeras (Colombia) continues to have intermittent weak ash emissions and elevated seismic activity. Nevado del Huila (Colombia): Steaming and weak seismic unrest continue with little changes over the past months. Cerro Machin, Sotará and Cumbal continue to show weakly elevated seismic activity, but there have not been any signs of surface activity.

Reventador (Ecuador): Seismicity continues to be elevated including some tremor pulses and occasional explosion signals. Tungurahua (Ecuador): Over the past week, the volcano has continued to calmed down a lot, but remains active. IG reports weak ash emissions and light ash fall in Choglontus and El Manzano on 10 Jan. Seismic activity is characterized by weak volcanic tremor pulses and some few volcanic earthquakes.

Kilauea (Hawai'i): Some earthquakes have occurred on the eastern rift zone. Lava flows remain active on the coastal flat and there are 2 weak ocean entries.

Erta Ale (Ethiopia): People on a recent expedition to Erta Ale reported that the lava lake was quite active and only about 10 m below the rim of the pit crater. Intermittent lava flows from an active hornito in the south pit crater have continued to fill its crater floor.

Ambrym (Vanuatu): A SO2 plume is hovering over Ambrym today, indicating that the lava lakes are still active.

White Island (New Zealand): Weak tremor remains present at White Island. Two shallow earthquakes of magnitudes 2.6 and 2.5 occurred earlier today at 5 and 6 km depth under the southern part of the volcano.
Tongariro (New Zealand): Some local earthquakes are visible at the recent seismic recording.

Sakurajima (Japan): The volcano continues to produce small to moderate explosions at relatively high frequency of 3-4 per day. Ash plumes have been in the range of 6-9,000 ft (1.8-2.7 km). - Volcano Discovery.

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Hundreds Of Thousands Of Dead Fish Reported On Masonboro Island, North Carolina?!

January 11, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Hundreds of thousands of dead fish have been reported this week at Masonboro Island by state environmental officials, according to a spokesperson for the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.  Environmental officials explain that the fish, Atlantic menhaden, which travel in very large groups, took a wrong turn, up Loosins Creek. 

(Source: Michele Walker, NCDENR).
In under an hour, the area caused dissolved oxygen levels in the water to drop to close to zero, which ended up killing them.  As a result, the dead fish have been discovered along the island's beaches and in the water.  Officials say they've noticed a pattern of dead fish in winter months and attribute it to the menhaden tightening their school.  Workers with Coastal Management, Water Quality and Marine Fisheries are keeping an eye on the area, and throughout the weekend, dead fish will probably continue to surface.  The workers have a monitoring station set up that checks the water for dissolved oxygen levels, temperature, pH levels and other data. 

"This may be the first time we have had continuous monitoring of water quality in an area at the exact time of a fish kill," said Jim Gregson, Surface Water Protection supervisor for the state Division of Water Quality, in a statement. "The data recorded by Coastal Management's monitoring station was a big help in determining the cause of this event."  "You want to make sure it's not an algae or something that could be a concern for human health and a lot of times, you don't know what caused it," said Stephanie Garrett, who is with NCDENR. "Being able to look at what the physical conditions were at the time, you can see that they just ran out of oxygen."  Officials say that while the dead fish don't necessarily pose a danger to humans, they want to make visitors aware of the occurrence.  "With the weekend going to be nice and people going to be on the beaches, they're going to see dead fish," Garrett warned. - WECT.

EXTREME WEATHER: Governor Brewer Declares State Of Emergency As Arizona Braces For Cold - Historic Freezing Moving Into The Valley In The Midst Of Propane Shortage!

January 11, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Gov. Jan Brewer is allowing the transportation of propane anytime of the day should there be a shortage because of the freezing temperatures. “By lifting the law...we can make sure that people who need heating in homes or cabins throughout Arizona have access to that,” said Matthew Benson, Brewer’s director of communications.

The law allows propane transportation only during daylight hours. But Brewer on Friday declared a state of emergency, permitting shipping propane in the evening as well for the next 15 days. Only being able to transport propane during the day can create issues during winter weather, Benson said. As Valley residents brace for the cold, Phoenix Rescue Mission is prepared to hand out blankets this weekend to those in need , a Mission spokeswoman said. The Mission has about 400 blankets stocked up at their shelter, located on 1801 South 35th Ave., said Nicole Peña, director of public relations. They will continue to give out blankets as long as the cold weather persists, she said. Peña said the Mission will continue to restock blankets from their warehouse as the cold weather continues.

The shelter will also have 150 emergency beds made available, and they will place heaters on their patio to accommodate those unable to find shelter and need to escape the cold, Peña said. While the Mission is supplied with blankets, Peña said they are running low on beanie caps and gloves. “We usually get a good stock of those, but for some reason we haven’t gotten as many this year,” she said. Temperatures are expected to get into the low 30’s throughout the Valley and possibly reach the low 20’s in some areas, according to the National Weather Service. A Freeze Warning was issued for Maricopa County through Tuesday, officials said. This weekend’s temperatures will be the coldest Maricopa County has seen since February 2011. Weather officials recommended keeping pets inside during the night and covering any sensitive plants or outdoor plumbing. Any clothes and supplies donated to the Phoenix Rescue Mission can be brought to their donation office located at 1468 North 26th Avenue. - AZ Central.

WATCH: Historic freezing weather hits the Valley.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: New Strain Of Norovirus Spreads Around The World!

January 11, 2013 - ENGLAND - A new strain of the winter vomiting disease norovirus has spread to France, New Zealand and Japan from Australia and is overtaking all others to become the dominant strain in Britain, health officials said on Wednesday. 

The norovirus variant, known as Sydney 2012, was identified in a scientific paper last week and Britain's Health Protection Agency (HPA) said genetic testing showed it was now causing more cases in England and Wales than other strains.  Sydney 2012 does not carry worse symptoms than others but, like other norovirus strains, it can cause violent and projectile vomiting, diarrhea and sometimes fevers, headaches and stomach cramps.  Norovirus cases have risen earlier than expected this winter in Britain, across Europe, Japan and other parts of the world.  Although norovirus mostly causes just a few days of sickness, it is responsible for millions of infections every year and is notorious for its ability to evade control. 

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say norovirus causes 21 million illnesses a year, with 70,000 cases requiring hospitalization and around 800 ending in death.  Ian Goodfellow, a scientist who has studied norovirus for 10 years, describes it as "the Ferrari of the virus world" and "one of the most infectious viruses of man".  Latest HPA data showed a dip in reported norovirus cases over the Christmas period - something scientists had predicted - but with 4,140 cases so far in England and Wales, infections are still 63 percent higher than at this time last year.  For every laboratory-confirmed case, scientists estimate there are 288 unreported cases, since the vast majority of people affected don't go to a doctor. This means the number affected so far in Britain is more than 1.2 million.  "The emergence of a new strain does not mean that it causes more serious illness, and managing outbreaks and those with the illness remains the same," said David Brown, director of the virology reference department at the HPA.  "Noroviruses mutate rapidly and new strains are constantly emerging. At the start of the season it is normal for outbreaks to be caused by a range of different strains. However, as the season progresses, particular strains are more successful and become dominant."  There is no specific treatment for norovirus infection other than to let the illness take its course and try to stay hydrated by drinking regularly. Symptoms usually last around two days. - Yahoo.

MASS BIRD DIE-OFF: Bird Flu - Over 25,500 Ducks And Chickens Found Dead In South Sulawesi, Indonesia!

January 11, 2013 - INDONESIA - More than 25,500 fowl have died in Sidenreng Rappang (Sidrap) regency in South Sulawesi over the past month. The number is believed to be increasing.

Sidrap Husbandry Agency head Asis Syam said on Tuesday that the actual number could be higher as it was possible that many farmers had not yet filed reports with the agency.

“The dead fowl were positive for bird flu,” he added.

Of the 25,500 dead fowl, most were ducks (21,100). More than 4,000 were chickens.

Sidrap regency is one of the biggest poultry producers in South Sulawesi and has previously experienced a bird flu epidemic. Hundreds of fowl die of bird flu every year in the regency.

According to the agency, the fowl population stood at 7.3 million.

Asis said the agency had called on farmers to immediately burn the carcasses of dead fowl, adding that the agency did not have enough vaccines to inoculate the fowl.

“We still need around 7.3 million vaccines,” he pointed out. - The Jakarta Post.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Major Concern - Dozens Of Pigs Die Of Rare Disease In Barahona, Dominican Republic!

January 11, 2013 - DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - Dozens of pigs have died in recent days in two populations of the province, of a strange disease, which has caused concern among people engaged in parenting. Ruddy Medina, who made the complaint said farmers Habanero La Hoya and they expressed the situation who requested the intervention of the authorities of the Ministry of Agriculture.

He said that in his opinion, the disease that caused the deaths KC2 is called, which is determined as a result of the animal scrapie.

Said a farmer from the village of La Hoya was nine pigs, one of which appeared overnight with five dead and one of KC2 scrapie.

Medina said three days later, the three who remained, two died and the third had to sell a pound in a business they have.

"The authorities need to take action on the matter, because you can not let the poor peasants reach the point of losing all they have to survive," he said.

He said the disease affected KC2 swine population of the Dominican Republic between 1979 and 1980, where thousands of pigs were killed across the country, resulting alarm among the population.

"A person only nine were killed, another three were killed two and a four, was killed three, in the communities of La Hoya and Habanero of this province of Barahona," he said. - El Diario.

SHADOW WARS: Escalating Towards World War III - China Warns Citizens To "Prepare For The Worst" As It Sends Fighters To East China Sea!

January 11, 2013 - EAST CHINA SEA - After repeatedly flying surveillance aircraft into disputed airspace with Japan, and Tokyo scrambling F-15s in response, China's now sending fighters of its own on "routine flights" into the East China Sea.

China Daily:
A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Friday that Chinese military planes were on"routine flights" in relevant airspace over the East China Sea. Spokesman Hong Lei made the remarks at a press briefing in response to media reports that Japan sent fighter jets to head off a number of Chinese military planes spotted in Japan's "air defense identification zone" over the East China Sea on Thursday. "China firmly opposes Japan's moves to gratuitously escalate the situation and create tensions," Hong said.

The J-10. Sino Defence.
The area north of the Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands, known as the Diaoyus in China, is reportedly home to billions in oil and gas deposits claimed both by Japan and China. Responding to China's fighter deployment, Japan is considering permitting its F-15 pilots to fire tracer bullets, as warning shots, against Chinese planes. China's state-run Global Times calls this, "a step closer to war," warning a military clash is "more likely" while its people need to prepare "for the worst." The Chinese jets could be flying from air base Shuimen, built east of the islands in Fujian Province. Satellite imagery of the base first came to light in 2009, but experts believe it reached completion late last year. The Taipei Times reported in May 2012 that satellite images showed J-10 combat aircraft, Su-30 fighters, and various unmanned drones arriving at the base.

Island Map. Wikimedia Commons.
In addition to aircraft experts believe Russian made S-300 long-range surface-to-air missiles ring the airbase, providing some of the best missile protection in the world. The S-300 is comparable to the U.S. made Patriot missile recently sent to Turkey for its first line of missile defense against Syria. The Shuimen airbase compliment's China's East Fleet that maintains 35 ships in the region, including its newest warship the Type 054, seven submarines, and eight additional landing craft. Among the subs are four Kilo-class diesel-electric Russian made submarines capable of the most advanced underwater warfare. All of this located just 236 miles from the contested islands, which have been in dispute between Japan and China for some time. Han-Yi Shaw writes an interesting history of the dispute under Nick Kristof's On the Ground, for those interested in more background. While the U.S. takes no official position on who owns the Islands, it would be expected to honor its U.S.-Japan security treaty signed in 1960. Though it's a formal agreement to aid Japan if it comes under attack, there are few who believe the U.S. would risk a full-blown war with China over a few uninhabited islands, regardless of how much oil and gas lay beneath them. That may, or may not be, a reassuring thought as it doesn't look like the situation will de-escalate any time soon — and China has immense assets almost within the area itself — looking very well-equipped to enter an actual fight. - Business Insider.

EXTREME WEATHER ALERT: Very Potent Winter Storms Over America - Utah, Montana Snowstorm; Dakotas, Minnesota Blizzard; Near Hurricane Force Wind Gusts for New Mexico, Texas!

January 11, 2013 - UNITED STATES - A major snowstorm is riding the leading edge of cold air over a large part of the West and the northern Plains into Saturday. The storm will evolve into a blizzard as it emerges from the northern Rockies.  Snow will fall over thousands of square miles of the West initially, then over the northern Plains. 

Other cities in the path of the snowstorm include Billings, Mont.; Durango, Colo.; Casper, Wyo.; Rapid City, S.D.; Bismarck and Fargo, N.D.; and International Falls, Minn.
Utah, Montana Snowstorm; Dakotas, Minnesota Blizzard.
Snow has already covered the landscape around the Snake River and northern and eastern parts of the Great Basin.  **From one half to one foot of snow has fallen around Salt Lake City through early Friday morning. A foot of snow has blanketed Havre, Mont. Boise, Idaho has received about 2 inches of snow with 7 inches blanketing the Pocatello, Idaho area.**  The bulk of the snow is heading north of Denver, but enough snow can fall with plummeting temperatures to make for icy roads during Friday afternoon. A general 3 to 6 inches of snow is forecast for the Colorado Rockies with locally heavier amounts.  The latest snow map for is available on's Winter Weather Center.  Motorists should expect slow travel over the major cross-country arteries of the West, including I-15, I-25, I-70, I-80, I-90 and I-94.  There is the potential for close to a foot of snow over portions of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, northwestern Nebraska, the Dakotas and into northwestern Minnesota. Heavy snow will also graze Canada from southern Alberta to Northwest Ontario.

**Strong winds and heavy snow created blizzard conditions over Wolf Creek Pass, Colo., during the early morning hours Friday. Winds gusted to nearly 100 mph near Red Mountain Pass in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado were over a foot of snow has fallen.**  More general blizzard conditions will unfold as the storm tracks northeastward over the Dakotas and northwestern Minnesota.  **Winds gusting near 50 mph with snow and blowing snow has been slamming Rapid City, S.D., on Friday. Snow and winds were picking up around Philip, S.D., as well.**  While the snow and the overall moisture it brings is good for the region, very difficult, of not dangerous travel will unfold over portions of I-90 in western South Dakota and I-94 over much of North Dakota Friday.  Warmth preceding the storm will cause the initial snow to melt on the roadways. However, temperatures will plunge as the storm rolls to the northeast, in some areas temperatures will be 40 to 50 degrees lower than highs experience Thursday. Ice will form in some areas and will be hidden by the snow over the northwestern flank.  In the wake of the storm, many areas from the northern Rockies to the northern Plains will have highs in the single digits and teens with nighttime lows below zero into next week. - AccuWeather.

One more mild day of weather is expected farther east in Texas before the cold air rushes in.
This cold shot is the first in a series of arctic blasts headed eastward.
Near Hurricane Force Wind Gusts for New Mexico, Texas.
Howling winds out of the west will race across the western Plains on the southern side of a gathering storm that will bring blizzard conditions to the northern Plains.  Gusts up to 65 mph are likely in a corridor from northwest New Mexico to southeast Kansas across the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles. Larger cities that can be rocked by the winds include Clovis and Las Vegas, N.M., Amarillo, Texas, Lamar, Colo., and Dodge City, Kan.  While not everyone will have wind gusts to 65 mph, even gusts as strong as 40 and 50 mph can cause significant problems.  Blowing dust will be an issue in some places, significantly reducing visibility. Motorists using I-25 and I-40 should take extra caution today due to the high winds.  Big rigs should be especially careful due to the strong crosswinds on I-25.  These wind gusts also have the potential to down trees and power lines.  Very chilly Canadian air will accompany these strong winds. The combination of gusty winds and temperatures in the 30s will make it feel 10 to 20 degrees colder in parts of New Mexico, certainly prompting residents to bundle up.

Very windy conditions are not that uncommon in this region of the nation, especially during the winter. The clash of air masses across the area, developing storms, and barren landscape make it an ideal area for air to rush across.  Aside from the 65-mph wind gusts in the western Plains, blizzard conditions will unfold farther north later today into Friday night. While gusts are expected to only top out near 40 mph in this area, the combination of wind and snow will make for hazardous travel.  By Saturday, the gusty winds should shift into the Great Lakes but begin to slacken as well. - AccuWeather.

DELUGE: Louisiana Declares State Of Emergency Over Flooding As Storm Drenches Region!

January 11, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency Thursday, as the National Weather Service issued multiple flood warnings after severe weather drenched the state's southeast region.

Vehicles drive through floodwaters on Canal Boulevard in Thibodaux, La., Jan. 10. Gov. Bobby Jindal
declared a statewide emergency Thursday after storms rolled across Louisiana, dumping huge amounts
of rain and flooding some areas. The declaration lets Louisiana use state money to help local
governments recover from storm damage. Abby Tabor / AP.
In addition to flooding concerns, the National Weather Service confirmed at least three tornadoes touched down in Louisiana Thursday morning: one near New Iberia, another in Breaux Bridge and a third near Plaquemine.

"The state anticipates additional parishes will declare states of emergency and that assistance may be needed to assist the parishes in their response to this continuing threat," the declaration read.

The state's Acadia, Avoyelles, Concordia, East Carroll, Evangeline, Livingston and St. Landry parishes also made emergency declarations, which will help prepare funds and resources for responding to flooding from the storms, WDSU reported.

Widespread street flooding was reported in Ascension, St. James, St. John and Livingston parishes, according to WDSU.

The Louisiana National Guard is on standby and has sent high-water trucks to some areas, according to WDSU.

The region won't be drying out anytime soon. Another storm system is expected to bring heavy rainfall Saturday night through Monday, according to the National Weather Service. - NBC News.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Welcome To Flu Country - 47 States Now Reporting "Widespread" Infection, CDC Indicates That The Outbreak "Likely To Last For Several More Weeks"!

January 11, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Flu activity is now considered "widespread" in 47 states, according to the latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released this morning. Flu activity is considered "high" in 24 states and "moderate" in 16 states. Five states with "low" flu activity are Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota, Idaho and Alaska, and five states with "minimal" flu activity are California, Kentucky, Maine, Connecticut and Montana. However, ABC News reported that there were five fewer states with "high" flu activity in this week's CDC report (which includes flu activity from Dec. 30 to Jan. 5) compared to the one from the end of December.

"It may be decreasing in some areas, but that's hard to predict," Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, said Friday morning, as reported by ABC News. "Trends only in the next week or two will show whether we have in fact crossed the peak." The findings also show that deaths from pneumonia and flu are "slightly above the epidemic threshold," with 7.3 percent of all deaths occurring during that week-long period being caused by flu or pneumonia. Since Oct. 1, there have been 3,710 people hospitalized because of the flu. According to the new report, the proportion of people going to the doctor for flu-like illness from Dec. 30 to Jan. 5 was 4.3 percent, which is higher than normal. There were two deaths in kids from flu or pneumonia during this period, bringing the total number of kids' deaths from flu or pneumonia to 20 so far this flu season, according to the CDC report. CNN reported that the number of adult deaths from flu is not officially tallied by the CDC. As anyone who's ever gotten it can attest, flu manifests with fever, sore throat, cough, runny nose and fatigue. Even though the symptoms are unpleasant, the flu is generally not dangerous to most healthy people, who will recover within two weeks, the CDC reported. However, complications can occur -- like pneumonia, bronchitis or other infections. People who are at an increased risk for this include pregnant women, children, elderly people, and people who have other pre-existing conditions. The CDC recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older get a flu shot every year to be protected from the flu, particularly people in high-risk groups. (However, some people should not get a flu shot, including people allergic to eggs and people who have had Guillain–Barré Syndrome; for more information on who should or shouldn't get the flu shot, click here.)

USA Today reported that the effectiveness of this year's flu vaccine is at 62 percent. This year's flu season is one of the earliest in the U.S. over the last 10 years, Reuters reported. A Gallup report also released today seems to reflect this trend, with 3.2 percent of people in the U.S. saying in December that they had the flu the day before. Gallup researchers noted that this percentage is typically not seen until February, and is a higher percentage for December since Gallup started tracking this in 2008. And not only is it earlier than usual, it's more severe than usual, especially compared to last year's mild flu season. "In the past 10 years we have seen just two or three like" this year's flu season, CDC's Tom Skinner told the New York Daily News.
Last week, the city of Boston declared a "public health emergency" due to emergency rooms being packed with flu patients there, the Boston Globe reported. Flu is so severe in one Oklahoma school district that it even canceled classes today because a quarter of the student body had been sickened with the virus, ABC News reported. And not even celebrities can avoid it -- Betty White has confirmed through her representative that she is recovering from flu, People magazine reported. Some parts of the country have already begun running out of the flu vaccine, including the city of Somerville in Massachusetts, according to the Boston Globe. Walgreens has also announced potential shortages at some of its locations around the U.S., NBC News reported. Reuters reported yesterday that four out of six of the Fluzone flu vaccine formulations produced by Sanofi SA have already sold out. There are also some shortages of the children's version of Tamiflu (a liquid version made for kids). - Huffington Post.

WATCH: Flu Outbreak: 47 States Now Reporting 'Widespread' Activity.

ICE AGE NOW: Global Cooling Across The World - The Big Chill Hits California, Epic Cold Snap Of Unusual Freezing Weather And Snow, As The East Basks In Unseasonable Warmth?!

January 11, 2013 - UNITED STATES - While the East Coast basks in relatively warm weather for mid-January, California is being hit with a blistering cold front. The unusually frigid weather has brought snowstorms and temperatures below 30 degrees to the Pacific Coast state, alarming motorists, farmers and zookeepers, among others. The California Highway Patrol on Friday partially reopened a 40-mile stretch of Interstate 5, north of Los Angeles, that was closed by snow as the cold snap sent temperatures plummeting throughout the state.

Unexpected snowstorm: Snowy, foggy weather in the Southern California mountains has closed an
inland road and briefly slowed traffic on a major north-south freeway. Additional images.
The CHP began escorting southbound cars through the Grapevine section of the major north-south route after a 16-hour shutdown that prompted hundreds of truckers and other motorists to pull over and spend the night by the side of the road. 'There must have been 1,000 Mack trucks lined up,' one motorist, Heidi Blood, 40, said early Friday. Blood and her three youngsters had been visiting Orange County and set out at 4.30am Friday to head back north to their home in Kentfield, California, when they found the road shut down. 'I usually watch the news but I went to a spin class instead. I learned my lesson,' she said. Blood had to give an insulin shot in the car to her 13-year-old blind, diabetic dog, Barney. To pass the time, the family watched movies and read on their iPads, turning on the car every 30 minutes to use the heater.

'We're watching 'Nannie McPhee' in the car right now,' Blood said. 'I only have enough juice for another three hours.'  The shutdown severed a key link between California's agricultural Central Valley and Los Angeles.  The highway through Tejon Pass rises to 4,100 feet in the Tehachapi Mountains and frequently is shut down in winter by blowing snow and treacherous black ice on the roadway. California remained in the grip of a cold snap that's expected to last through the weekend. Morning temperatures fell into the 20s and 30s in many areas, and much lower in the mountains. A low of 12 degrees was recorded in the Big Bear mountain resort east of Los Angeles. Strawberry growers covered their crops, while San Diego zookeepers turned on heaters for the chimpanzees. In Sonoma County, homeless shelters started handing out extra warm clothes to protect the least fortunate from below-freezing overnight temperatures. Central Valley citrus growers braced for three days of sub-freezing temperatures. In Modesto, temperatures dipped into the 20s early Friday, several degrees colder than usual for this time of year. Napa, in the wine country, and Sacramento, farther north, both recorded 27. High temperatures in the Central Valley over the weekend were forecast for 50 degrees, 3 degrees lower than normal for mid-January, according to the National Weather Service.

In the south, forecasters warned that a low pressure trough sinking over San Diego County and parts of neighboring Orange County could keep nightly temperatures below the freezing point in coastal areas, the low deserts and inland valleys, threatening orange and avocado orchards and other sensitive plants. The coldest nights were expected to hit Friday and Saturday. Farmers were prepared to pull out giant fans to circulate the air and keep it from settling on their citrus trees, said Eric Larson of the San Diego County Farm Bureau. 'These guys are going to be up all night watching thermometers,' Larson said. Workers at SeaWorld in San Diego planned to crank up the heat for their macaws, toucans and parrots. San Diego zookeepers were also heating rooms for chimpanzees, apes and other tropical animals. 'They'll probably be huddling together and not be in areas where people will be able to see them,' said zoo spokeswoman Christina Simmons. - Daily Mail.

THE ANCESTRAL SPIRIT: The Rise Of The Indigenous Peoples - Idle No More Has Organized The Largest Mass Mobilizations Of Indigenous People In Recent History!

January 11, 2013 - CANADA - It took weeks of protests, flash mobs, letters, rallies, and thousands of righteous tweets, but Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper finally caved. He agreed to a meeting with the woman who had been petitioning him for twenty-four days, subsisting on fish broth, camped in a tepee in the frozen midwinter, the hunger striker and Chief of the Attawapiskat Theresa Spence. No, this is not normal parliamentary process. The hunger strike was a final, desperate attempt to get the attention of a government whose relationship with indigenous people has been ambivalent at best and genocidal at worst, and force it to address their rising concerns. The meeting, set for this Friday, January 11, is unlikely to result in any major changes to Canada’s aboriginal policy. Yet the mobilization around Chief Spence’s hunger strike has already grown to encompass broader ideas of colonialism and our collective relationship to the land. The movement has coalesced under one name, one resolution: Idle No More.

Closed-door negotiations spark a movement
The Idle No More movement arose as a response to what organizers call the most recent assault on indigenous rights in Canada: Bill C-45, which passed on December 14. Bill C-45 makes changes to the Indian Act, removes environmental protections, and further erodes the treaties with native peoples through which Canada was created.  On December 4, when representatives of First Nations came to the House of Commons to share their concerns about the proposed bill, they were blocked from entering . A week later, after being repeatedly denied a meeting with Harper, Chief Spence began her hunger strike. Since then, the movement has grown to encompass a hundred years’ worth of grievances against the Canadian government, which is required by Section 35 of the Constitution Act to consult with native people before enacting laws that affect them.

Idle No More Flash Mob outside of the Vancouver
Convention Centre on December 27. Photo by Caelie Frampton.
Indigenous leaders accuse the Harper administration of “ramming through” legislation without debate or consultation. Even worse is the bill’s “weakening of environmental assessment and the removal of lakes and rivers from protection,” says Eriel Deranger, Communication Coordinator of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, which is directly downstream from toxic tar sands mining. She knows firsthand the importance of protecting waterways from industrial pollutants. “Indigenous people’s rights,” she says, “are intrinsically linked to the environment.” She adds that the removal of such protections paves the way for resource extraction, bringing Canada closer to its self-stated goal of becoming a global energy superpower. This isn’t just a native thing, Deranger says; this is something that affects everyone. And so begins the largest indigenous mass mobilization in recent history. Native people and their allies from all over North America have gathered to peacefully voice their support for indigenous rights: they’ve organized rallies, teach-ins, and highway and train blockades, as well as “flash mob” round dances at shopping malls. With Twitter and Facebook as the major organizing tools, #idlenomore has emerged as the dominant meme in the indigenous rights movement. In addition to events across Canada, a U.S. media blitz tour has inspired solidarity actions all over North America, as well as in Europe, New Zealand, and the Middle East. Mainstream media and the Harper government are taking notice.

Idle No More Protesters.
Anger at environmental destruction in Canada boils over.
But why now? The answer, says Deranger, is that people are ready. Idle No More arose at a moment of growing awareness of environmental justice issues, frustration with lack of governmental consultation, and widespread opposition to resource extraction on indigenous land—like the tar sands in Deranger’s home province of Alberta and the diamond mines in Chief Spence’s Ontario. It comes after years of grassroots organizing around indigenous rights—which are, in the end, basic human rights. Visit almost any reserve in Canada, and you’re likely to see third world social indicators in a first world country: high incarceration rates, inadequate housing and sanitation, reduced life expectancy—due in part to abnormally frequent suicides—lack of employment and education opportunities, and substance abuse. This, after more than a century of colonization by a government that refuses to acknowledge its identity as a colonial power. Meanwhile, native youth are the fastest-growing segment of Canada’s population, according to Aboriginal Affairs. Is it any surprise that they’re taking on repressive legislation and using social media to organize? For Canadians—and potentially all North Americans—this is a moment of reckoning. Just as Chief Spence’s hunger strike forced the issue with Harper, Idle No More forces us all to confront the ugliness of our collective colonial history, and to recognize that colonization continues today. It holds up a mirror to our society, questioning the historical narrative we’re all taught to believe. It asks: On what values was our country founded? And, because identity is created out of that narrative: Who are we, really? And who do we want to be? - YES!

COSMIC MELANIN: The Waters Of NU - Galactic Pile-Up May Point To Mysterious Dark Force In The Universe!

January 11, 2013 - SPACE - By closely mapping the mass of an enormous galactic collision, astronomers may have uncovered a type of force that only affects dark matter.  The results come from observations of the Musket Ball Cluster, a vast celestial object located about 5.23 billion light-years away in the constellation Cancer. Galaxies are usually gravitationally bound to other galaxies, creating massive galactic clusters. The Musket Ball Cluster is an example of what happens when two such galactic clusters – each composed of hundreds of individual galaxies – crash into one another. Scientists know the visible stars in these galaxies make up only about 2 percent of the total mass in the cluster. About 12 percent of the mass is found in hot gas, which shines in X-ray wavelengths, while the remaining roughly 86 percent is made of invisible dark matter. Because the galaxies make up so little of the mass of the system and the spaces between them are so large, they don’t really do much of the crashing. Odds are that they will simply sail by one another as the clusters merge. It’s mostly the gas that collides, causing it to slow down and fall behind the galaxies.

The Musket Ball Cluster, two colliding galaxy clusters, which may reveal the interactions of dark matter and point to a new fundamental ”dark force.” The blue and pink colors denote the presence of large masses and hot gases, respectively. X-ray: NASA/CXC/UCDavis/W.Dawson et al; Optical: NASA/STScI/UCDavis/W.Dawson et al.
The dark matter is mapped using a quirk in Einstein’s theories of gravity. According to General Relativity, the gravitational fields of massive objects like galaxies bend light. If there is a large galaxy in the way of a distant light source, observers on Earth will see that light distorted, often into a ring-like shape, like the Hubble image at left. By looking at how light from a distant object is bent by the Musket Ball Cluster, scientists can infer where the dark matter is. But when astronomers did this with high precision, they discovered something odd: The dark matter clumps were slowing down relative to the visible galaxies in the cluster. “We see this offset between the dark matter and the galaxies of about 19,000 light-years,” said astronomer William Dawson of the University of California, Davis, who presented his team’s result during a talk Jan. 7 here at the American Astronomical Society 2013 meeting. The reason this is strange is that dark matter is thought to barely interact with itself. The dark matter should just coast through itself and move at the same speed as the hardly interacting galaxies. Instead, it looks like the dark matter is crashing into something — perhaps itself – and slowing down faster than the galaxies are. But this would require the dark matter to be able to interact with itself in a completely new an unexpected way, a “dark force” that affects only dark matter. This would be a new fundamental force of the universe, in addition to the four known forces: gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak forces. Such a force has been speculated theoretically in previous work and even searched for in small colliders but, if Dawson’s results turn out to be true, this would be the first observational evidence of its existence. Though the dark force is not part of any current model of physics, it could help explain certain behavior seen in dark matter.

In particular it would help solve the core/cusp problem, an outstanding mystery seen in dwarf galaxies and star clusters. If dark matter only feels the force of gravity, it should tend to clump in the center of these objects. But astronomers over and over observe the opposite: The dark matter in dwarf galaxies and star clusters is evenly distributed. If dark matter can interact through some sort of dark force, it can bump into itself and puff out, like a hot gas. The finding could help open up observations of the so-called “dark sector,” a hypothetical set of forces and particles that don’t affect our own ordinary matter. Though dark matter models tend to assume the particles are simple and have no extra forces, there’s no particular reason this should be. Dawson suggested imagining some alien, scientific beings composed entirely of dark matter, who might not even consider that our version of matter has many complex forces and interactions because they can’t detect them. While agreeing that the results are neat and have a potentially huge payoff, astronomer Douglas Finkbeiner of Harvard, who was not involved in the work, isn’t completely convinced by them yet. “It is good to remember that every such hint of exotic dark matter particle properties has always been wrong,” he wrote in an email to Wired. Finkbeiner should know. In 2008, he was part of research team that thought it had glimpsed a signal of a dark force in data from the PAMELA satellite. The results ended up being discounted a few years later. Dawson knows his findings are preliminary, and even he is fairly skeptical of the dark force interpretation. His team can say with roughly 85 percent confidence that what they are observing is due to dark matter interacting with itself. “Those are good odds in Las Vegas, but as scientists we can’t make grand claims with there still being a 15 or 20 percent possibility of this being noise in the measurement,” he said. The bending of light by massive objects is very tricky to observe, and it could turn out there is some problem in the team’s measurements. For now, Dawson is working with his collaborators to analyze data from other massive galaxy cluster collisions and also discover new ones. If they see the same results on these systems, it would bolster the idea of a possible dark force. Otherwise, it will mean that dark matter is fairly simple and scientists need other explanations for the core/cusp problem.
“We need observations to either reign in the theoretical musings or motivate people to think harder about their dark matter models,” said Dawson. - WIRED.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: At Least 42 Dead In Massive Landslide In China - Several Hundred Thousand Cubic Metres Of Watery Mud Buried All The Houses In Gaopo!

January 11, 2013 - BEIJING - A landslide killed at least 42 people including seven from a single family when it smashed into a remote village in southwestern China on Friday, state media said.  Another two people were sent to hospital after being rescued from the debris while at least two more were still missing after the landslip engulfed 16 homes in the village of Gaopo, the official news agency Xinhua said. 

Rescuers search for victims after a landslide hit Zhenxiong county, Yunnan province,
Jan 11, 2013. — Photo by Reuters.
Photos posted on Yunnan Web, run by the Yunnan provincial government showed rescuers in orange uniforms digging in wide swathes of clumpy mud against a backdrop of snow-covered, terraced hills.  A video posted on a Chinese social networking site appeared to show a group of villagers digging through thick mud and debris to uncover a body, which was carried away on a stretcher.  “The landslide, which brought about several hundred thousand cubic metres of watery mud to the village, buried all of the houses there,” Xinhua quoted a local rescue team leader, Sun Anfa, as saying.  The conditions “created great difficulties for rescue efforts amid low temperatures”, he added.  More than 1,000 rescuers wevre sent to the site of the landslide, which was estimated to be 300 metres long, 80 metres wide and 30 metres deep, according to authorities.  Snow was visible in images of the rescue, in an area that has experienced unusually low temperatures in recent weeks, with China suffering what authorities have called its coldest winter in 28 years. 

The Communist Party’s top leaders Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, along with Premier Wen Jiabao, ordered “all-out efforts to rescue victims”, Xinhua said, adding that more than 1,000 rescuers were on the scene.  Yunnan province, which borders Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, is a relatively impoverished area of China, where rural houses are often cheaply constructed.  Gaopo is in Zhenxiong county, in the northeast of Yunnan, a temperate province known for its tobacco industry and for being the home of Pu’er tea.  But its mountainous areas are prone to landslides and it is also vulnerable to earthquakes. Two in September, one of magnitude 5.7, left 81 people dead and hundreds injured.  Prime Minister Wen Jiabao made an overnight trip to the quake zone at the time to comfort survivors, many of whom had taken refuge in tents erected on a public square.  A county neighbouring Zhenxiong was hit by a landslide in October that killed 18 children, after one which killed 216 people in 1991, according to the United States Geological Survey.  An earthquake in neighbouring Sichuan province in 2008 claimed around 70,000 lives, the worst natural disaster to hit China in three decades, with shoddy buildings blamed for the high toll. - DAWN.

RED DAWN DOOMSDAY: Disaster Preparedness - China Is Massively Boosting Stockpiles Of Commodities And Food, For No Apparent Reason?! UPDATE: Chinese Google Earth Mystery - Strange Buildings Appear In The Middle Of The Desert On Satellite Images?!

January 11, 2013 - BEIJING - Yesterday, it was reported that China – not currently suffering from any food shortages – is amassing rice stockpiles. This past year, the country mysteriously imported four times the rice over 2011 purchases:
Chinese loading trucks and trailers with food.
United Nations agricultural experts are reporting confusion, after figures show that China imported 2.6 million tons of rice in 2012, substantially more than a four-fold increase over the 575,000 tons imported in 2011. The confusion stems from the fact that there is no obvious reason for vastly increased imports, since there has been no rice shortage in China. The speculation is that Chinese importers are taking advantage of low international prices, but all that means is that China’s own vast supplies of domestically grown rice are being stockpiled. Why would China suddenly be stockpiling millions of tons of rice for no apparent reason? Perhaps it’s related to China’s aggressive military buildup and war preparations in the Pacific and in central Asia.
Yesterday’s revelation follows reports over the past several years of the Chinese amassing commodities in warehouses through out the nation. For example, Reuters reported last year that
 At Qingdao Port, home to one of China’s largest iron ore terminals, hundreds of mounds of iron ore, each as tall as a three-storey building, spill over into an area signposted “grains storage” and almost to the street. Further south, some bonded warehouses in Shanghai are using carparks to store swollen copper stockpiles – another unusual phenomenon that bodes ill for global metal prices and raises questions about China’s ability to sustain its economic growth as the rest of the world falters.
Several months ago, at least one analyst speculated that a commodities buying spree involving 300,000 tons of metals in another Chinese province was motivated by an attempt to keep local smelters running, thereby ensuring continued tax revenues to government. But that doesn’t explain the rice-buying.  What we do know is that the world may be headed – led by the United States – toward a period of significant inflation if sovereign debt crises lead to additional “quantitative easing” and other expansions of the monetary supply.  In other words, China may be hedging its bets. Better to buy commodities than U.S. Treasuries that may ultimately be worth pennies on the dollar. - Restoring Liberty.

On the map: The complex of roads and large buildings in the middle of the desert in south
China to which there appears to be no explanation.
UPDATE: Chinese Google Earth Mystery - Strange Buildings Appear In The Middle Of The Desert?!
Satellite images taken by Google Earth have unveiled a mystery construction complex in the middle of the Chinese desert.  Former CIA analyst Allen Thomson was looking for an orbital tracking site near the city of Kashgar in southwestern China, when the strange lines and buildings caught his eye.  What appears to be a collection of structures and roads have baffled the expert who has been left puzzling what they might be. ‘I haven’t the faintest clue what it might be,’ he told Wired magazine.  But it’s extensive, the structures are pretty big and funny-looking, and it went up in what I’d call an incredible hurry.’  Mr Thompson, who left the CIA in 1985, has discovered similarly strange things on Google Earth before, such as the giant jigsaw grids in China in 2011 which appeared to be satellite calibrator grids. 

But this time he has been left with no clue as to what it may be.  It is not the first time strange patterns and buildings have been uncovered in remote parts of China using Google Earth.  In 2011 patterns were discovered in the Gobi desert in China's north-east interior which remain unexplained.  However, this did not stop people from guessing, taking to online forums to establish their origins.  Some claimed that they were 'codes' designed to be read by UFOs, to fears that they were missile practice targets modelled on U.S. cities, before researchers came to the slightly less scary conclusion that some, at least, were used to calibrate cameras in China's spy satellites.  Late the same year, also in the Gobi, buildings and ‘masonic-looking’ road structures led to a number of more or less serious theories as to what the secretive superpower might be up to including nuclear bomb-making, Jetplane test range and driving schools. - Daily Mail.

Read a much more extensive report these preparations HERE, courtesy of SHTF Plan.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Most Extraordinary - New Island Rises Off German Coast, Size Of 25 Football Pitches?!

January 11, 2013 - GERMANY - An island the size of 25 football pitches has appeared seemingly out of nowhere off the coast of Germany.

A new island has been discovered off the coast of Germany. Picture: Martin Stock/ LKN-SH.
The landmass, which is composed of sandbanks, gradually emerged from the violent waters of the North Sea over the past few years.

It lies 24 kilometres off the coast of Schleswig-Holstein in Germany's far north in a stretch of coastline known as the Wattenmeer, a marine national park.

Nature lovers and yachstmen noticed the appearance of Bird Island - named after the seabirds who rest, nest or feed on the sand dunes that are up to almost five metres high.

Winds blew seeds from across Europe, and 49 species of plants have been detected on it.

Detlef Hansen, head of the national park, said: "This is, for us conservationists, anything but ordinary."  - News Australia.

MONUMENTAL EXTRATERRESTRIAL MEMES: "Another Earth" - A New Twin, Scientists Announce Most Earth-Like World Yet Found, Boosting Chances In Search For Alien?!

January 11, 2013 - SPACE - An alien planet spotted by NASA's Kepler space telescope is the best candidate yet for an Earth-like world beyond our solar system, Scientists claim.  The planet - whose existence is yet to be positively confirmed. has a radius that is just 1.5 times that of our own and orbits in the 'habitable zone' of a star similar to our own Sun.  That means the planet would likely have a similar amount of gravity as Earth and liquid water could exist on its surface - making it a prime candidate to host alien life.  

Scene from the movie "Another Earth".
'This was very exciting because it's our fist habitable-zone super Earth around a sun-type star,' said Nasa astronomer Natalie Batalha at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society this week.  The announcement comes after it was revealed at the same meeting that analysis of data from Kepler had shown there are 17billion planets in the galaxy that are Earth-like in size.  The possible planet is called KOI 172.02 - with the initial trio of letters standing for Kepler Object of Interest, a prefix given to all planetary candidates found by Kepler until their existence is confirmed.  Dr Batalha said the find had the potential to be the closest so far to an Earth-twin beyond the solar system. It orbits a G-type star that is only slightly cooler than our own Sun, she said.  'Previously the ones we saw were orbiting other types of stars,' she was quoted as saying by  Analysis of Kepler's data indicates that the object takes 242 days to orbit its star, from which it is about three quarters as distant as the Earth is from the Sun.  Astrophysicist Mario Livio, of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, told that the find was a 'big deal'.  'It's definitely a good candidate for life,' he said.  Christopher Burke of the SETI Institute announced the discovery of the planet along with a batch of 461 new planet candidates spotted by Kepler since February last year.  Latest findings released by NASA show that since February last year there have been 461 potential new planets discovered.  These bring the total number of potential planets that have been identified by the Kepler mission to 2,740 and they orbit 2,036 stars.  

An artist's impression of Kepler-20e, one of the planets identified by the Kepler space telescope mission.
Among the most dramatic increases is in the number of Earth-sized and super Earth-sized planets.  Discoveries of Earth-sized planets increased by 43 per cent while those of super-Earths rose by 21 per cent.  Caltech planetary astronomer John Johnson said: 'We are showing that there is about one planet per star, and that gives us a total of about a hundred billion planets throughout our galaxy.  'The vast majority of those planets are orbiting stars that are very much different from our sun.'  Several of the planets being identified are in the same solar system, just as Earth is one of eight planets orbiting the Sun.  'The large number of multi-candidate systems being found by Kepler implies that a substantial fraction of exoplanets reside in flat multi-planet systems," said Jack Lissauer, planetary scientist at Ames.  'This is consistent with what we know about our own planetary neighborhood.'  The Kepler space telescope was launched by NASA in 2009 with the intention of finding Earth-like planets.  It pinpoints potential new planets by measuring the dimming of starlight as planets pass between stars and the telescope.  Not all dimming is caused by planets and it is only once dimming has been observed three times that it is formally attributed to a potential planet. 

A breakdown by size of potential planets identified by the Kepler mission.
Further measurements and observations are required to confirm the identification.  In the last year the number of confirmed planets pinpointed by Kepler has risen from 33 to 105.  Francois Fression of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center presented the latest Kepler findings at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Long Beach, California, on Monday.  The Astrophysical Journal has accepted a paper detailing the research for publication.  Christopher Burke, a scientist at the SETI Institute which researches signs off extra-terrestrial intelligence, said that 58 planets found so far are believed to be in their host stars' habitable zones.  That means that any water on them has a chance of being in liquid form because the region is close enough to the star to be warm enough for ice to melt but not so close that it all evaporates.   Planets orbiting close to their suns are likely to be infernos while planets in distant orbits are likely to be icy, he said. Burke also analyzed the latest Kepler data.  The Kepler Space Telescope launched on March 7, 2009, and has been active for 3 years, 10 months and 1 day as of January 8, 2013.  The space observatory was named in honor of the 17th-century German astronomer Johannes Kepler.  Kepler is part of NASA's Discovery Program which runs relatively low-cost scientific research missions.  The observatory’s mission going forward is to find and document Earth-sized planets at greater distances.  The more planets discovered with Earth-like orbits in their habitable zones, the greater the chances of extra-terrestrial life, scientists say. - Daily Mail.

WATCH: NASA's announcement of the monumental discovery.

SOLAR WATCH: Active Monster Sunspot Cluster Produces M1.2 Solar Flares - Increasing Chance Of X-Flares!

January 11, 2013 - THE SUN - According to Space Weather, Sunspots AR1652 and AR1654 have beta-gamma magnetic fields that harbor energy for M-class solar flares.

INCREASING CHANCE OF FLARES: NOAA forecasters have upped the odds of an M-class solar flare today to 50%. The likely source would be big double-sunspot AR1654. At the moment, the active region is crackling with lesser C-flares, such as this one recorded by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory during the late hours of Jan. 10th:

A significant flare from the active region would seem to be just a matter of time. AR1654 is slowly turning toward Earth, so the chance of an Earth-directed explosion is growing as well. This could be the sunspot that breaks the recent lengthy spell of calm space weather. - Space Weather.

Active Sunspot cluster 1654 continues to produce C-Class and low level M-Class solar flares. Region 1654, now classified as a Beta-Gamma-Delta magnetic group, produced a moderate M1.2 solar flare at 09:11 UTC, followed by a long duration M1.0 event peaking at 15:07 UTC Friday morning. NOAA forecasters have upped the odds of another M-class solar flare today to 50%. AR1654 is slowly turning toward Earth, so the chance of an Earth-directed explosion is growing as well. This could be the sunspot that breaks the recent lengthy spell of calm space weather. This region will continue to be a threat for moderate to strong solar flares within the next 24-48 hours.

A Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) is visible in the latest STEREO-Ahead COR2 imagery and was the result of a large prominence eruption from just beyond the eastern limb. The eruption is also visible in STEREO-Behind. The image above provided by SDO captured the impressive event as it took place just hours ago. The CME plasma cloud, unfortunately for sky-watchers, is not directed towards Earth. - Solar Ham.

WATCH: M1.2 Solar Flare - January 11, 2013.

ICE AGE NOW: Global Cooling Across The World - January Could Get Progressively Colder For Most Of The United States; 11 Dead As Mideast Battered By Hail, Snow, And Rain; Lowest Temperature In Bangladesh's History Brings At Least 80 Deaths; Heavy Snow, Torrential Rain, Gale-Force Winds Batter Greece; Phoenix To Break 25-Year Record Low - 15 Degrees Below Normal!

January 11, 2013 - UNITED STATES - AccuWeather reports that beginning near or just past the middle of the month, signs are pointing toward waves of frigid air moving southward across North America from the North Pole. Much of the nation has been experiencing higher-than-average temperatures and lower heating bills so far during the cold weather season, with the exception of some bouts the past couple of weeks. However, there are signs of a potential change on the way beginning during the second half of January. A phenomenon known as sudden stratospheric warming has occurred in the arctic region during the past few days. The stratosphere is located between 6 miles and 30 miles above the ground. Meteorologists predict that the second half of January will bring significantly colder patterns. Often when this occurs, it forces cold air to build in the lowest layer of the atmosphere then to drive southward.

© AccuWeather.
January Could Get Progressively Colder For Most Of The United States.
The problem is the exact timing and location of the emergence of this cold air is uncertain. Typically, the movement of cold air begins 10 to 14 days later. During the next week or so, a flow of milder Pacific air will invade much of the nation. Because of the time of year, some locations (the northern part of the Great Basin and northern New England) may hold on to the cold they have now due to long nights, light winds and weak sunshine. However, most locations will experience an upswing in temperature for at least a several-day period. Overlaying this with other tools,'s Long Range Team expects to see cold air spreading out from central Canada later next week into week three of January. It is possible the cold push will arrive in one big blast. However, it is more likely the cold will advance along in waves of progressively colder air with each wave driving farther south and east. According to Long Range Weather Expert Paul Pastelok, the early indications are that the initial thrust of the brutal cold will be directed over the Northwest, northern Rockies or northern Plains first, with subsequent waves reaching farther east. - AccuWeather.

11 Dead As Mideast Battered By Hail, Snow, And Rain.
Abnormal storms which for four days have blasted the Middle East with rain, snow and hail have left at least 11 people dead and brought misery to Syrian refugees huddled in camps. Officials reported that two women were found dead in the West Bank on Wednesday after their car was swept away in floods, while a 30-year-old man froze to death in Taalabaya, in Lebanon's Bekaa province, after he fell asleep drunk in his car. Snow carpeted Syria's war-torn cities but sparked no let-up in the fighting, instead heaping fresh misery on a civilian population already enduring a chronic shortage of heating fuel and daily power cuts. In Jerusalem, schools closed at midday and driving wind, hail and rain battered the city as temperatures hovered just above freezing and the polar air mass moving down from Russia sent temperatures plummeting as far south as Cairo.

Raging winds and flash floods caused widespread damage to infrastructure across the Palestinian territories. "The Palestinian infrastructure is deeply flawed and unable to handle weather like this," said Ghassan Hamdan, head of medical relief in the northern city of Nablus. Torrential rain since Sunday in a region unaccustomed to such deluges has sparked widespread flooding that has also led to transport chaos and helicopter evacuations. Met offices warned that the below-normal temperatures threatened to turn accumulated water to black ice and in Jordan police warned against all but essential travel as traffic accidents multiplied. They said hazardous driving conditions had caused more than 700 traffic accidents in 48 hours. In northern Jordan, conditions for Syrian refugees in the Zaatari camp near the border were miserable as they battled a sea of mud and plummeting temperatures. "My tent has been destroyed. I tried to fix it but it did not work. We don't know what to do," said Mohammad Hamed, 30, who fled the conflict in Syria a month ago. "We need help. Urgent help. If this situation continues, our children will die." Conditions were little better for Syrian refugees in neighbouring Lebanon, where the UN refugee agency began moving those living under canvas. "With this very harsh weather, shelters have been threatened and now that snow is hitting the Bekaa people are really in need of assistance," UNHCR external relations officer Cecile Fradot told AFP. - Space Daily.

WATCH: Storms Blanket Parts Of The Middle East In Snow.

A homeless man sits under a quilt at an open space on a
cold winter morning, Jan 3, 2013. — Photo by Reuters/File.
Lowest Temperature In Bangladesh's History Brings At Least 80 Deaths.
A cold snap which saw temperatures drop to 40-year lows in Bangladesh has killed around 80 people, officials said. According to AFP, Shah Alam, the deputy head of the weather office, said the lowest temperature was recorded at 3 degrees Celsius in the northern town of Syedpur. He said the last time the temperature dropped below that level was in February 1968 when Bangladesh was still part of Pakistan. "The temperature is the lowest in Bangladesh's history," he said. The Red Crescent said hospitals were packed with patients suffering respiratory illness. The society's general-secretary Abu Bakar said impoverished rural areas had been worst hit as many people could not afford warm clothing or heating. "They are not prepared for such extreme weather. Many could not even go to work," he said. "According to the reports of our district offices and local administrations, about 80 people have died due to cold-related diseases such as respiratory problems, pneumonia and cough." Bangladesh, which is a tropical country, normally sees temperatures fall to around 10 degrees Celsius at this time of year. - DAWN.

Cold spell break records in Pakistan.
Unprecedented Cold Spell Breaks 50-Year Records In Pakistan.
The winter, normally a season of feast and joy in the region, otherwise known for its enervating summers, has brought with it a strange phenomenon in recent weeks. Record chill has sent people scampering to keep themselves warm, and made commuting a dicey task, especially at night. The strange thing about this phenomenon this season has been that it gripped the Pothohar region and the plains of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well, contrary to the trend of the past few decades when nearly blinding fog mostly affected the plain areas of the Punjab. This time around, the 50-year cold records in the Punjab plains were broken, while also plunging the wide swathes of Pothohar and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in an unprecedented cold spell, which spread over a fortnight or even three weeks, with weather pundits saying that maximum temperatures fell by as much as 10 degree Celsius. After shivering even in the daytime during the two days in the 'aftermath' of fog-induced cold, Tuesday night brought with it some cheers for the winter-weary people, as a cloudy sky prevented fog to accumulate, also bringing visibility level back to normal for the traffic and keeping the temperatures from dipping to sub-zero level, as was seen in the previous two weeks. - Daily Times.

Cold snap hits Athens.
Heavy Snow, Torrential Rain, Gale-Force Winds Batter Greece.
Bad weather conditions of heavy snowfall, strong torrential rains, sub-zero temperatures and gale-force winds continued to batter parts of the mainland and the Aegean Sea islands in Greece on Wednesday for a third day this week, disrupting land and sea transport. Several mountainous areas in particular in northern and central provinces, some suburbs of the Greek capital, as well as the southern island of Crete, have been most affected with blocked motorways even for vehicles with snow chains and closure of schools. As winds of up to 8 on the Beaufort scale sweep the Aegean Sea, a ferry boat crashed into the dock of a port at the eastern island of Lesvos with no injuries or major damage caused, local authorities said. The Greek National Meteorological Service (EMY) reported the lowest temperature over the past few days, as the thermometer plunged to -11 Celsius in the northern city of Nevrokopi. Experts at EMY forecast that the cold snap will subside on Thursday. - Xinhua.

Phoenix To Break 25-Year Record Low - 15 Degrees Below Normal.
Crank up the heat: It's going to be plenty cold in the Valley this weekend. Weather analysts are forecasting four days of freezing temperatures, starting Saturday night, running through Tuesday. The last time the Valley had four straight sub-freezing mornings was 25 years ago. Rain also is expected to arrive between 9 p.m. and midnight Thursday. Chris Kuhlman with the National Weather Service said it will be a struggle to reach 50 degrees Friday. "It will be very cold. Some areas will see the mid-20s for lows," Kuhlman said. "Other areas will be right at the freezing mark and below. This is a very large system coming off the north Pacific and very cold. "Right now it's going across California and then we have a reinforcing shot of cold air coming down from western Canada on Sunday and that will keep our area temperatures about 15 degrees below normal." - KTAR.