Sunday, January 13, 2013

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Volcano Discovery Report For January 12-13, 2013 - Stromboli, Lokon-Empung, Kizimen, Tolbachik, Manam, Popocatepetl, Colima, Fuego, Santa Maria, Pacaya, San Cristobal, Masaya, San Miguel, Nevado Del Ruiz, Machin, Galeras, Tungurahua, Reventador And Copahue!

January 13, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing report from the Volcano Discovery Group.

Bursting lava bubble from the NE vent seen from Bastimento on 2 January, 2013. (Photo: Tom Pfeiffer).
Stromboli (Eolian Islands, Italy): During a larger explosion of the NE crater, part of the northern crater wall collapsed. The explosion and resulting rockfall caused a large ash and steam plume that drifted over the island and scared many of the inhabitants.  When we visited the Sciara del Fuoco in the afternoon, a small lava flow was actively issuing from the effusive vent (that had been active intermittently during the previous days) located just beneath the new crater breach. The flow was about 10 meters wide and had previously reached about 150 m length where a cooling flow front was still visible. During the afternoon / evening, the flow continued to be quite active, producing many incandescent avalanches of blocks tumbling down the Sciara.

Lokon-Empung (North Sulawesi, Indonesia): Further ash explosions occurred today and yesterday. VSI maintains status 3 (out of 4) of the volcano and recommends not to approach the Tompaluan crater within a radius of 2.5 km.

Kizimen (Kamchatka): An ash plume was observed at 15,000 ft (4.6 km) altitude 12 Jan morning, possibly from a pyroclastic flow or an explosion at the growing lava dome.
A new lava flow extrudes from the summit on the north-eastern flank of the volcano. Incandescence of the volcano summit, hot avalanches on the western and eastern volcanic flanks and strong gas-steam activity accompany this process.

Tolbachik (Kamchatka): The eruption continues with little changes. KVERT reports constant high tremor and effusion of lava flows from the southern fissure.

Manam (Papua New Guinea): An large explosion occurred yesterday morning. VAAC Darwin reported an ash plume rising to 45,000 ft (approx. 14 km) altitude.

Other volcanoes: No significant changes have occurred at most volcanoes we monitor. summarizes the activity of volcanoes in Central and Southern America as follows (12 Jan):

Exhalations continue to occur at a reduced rate (less than once per hour on average) at Popocatepetl volcano (Mexico). Small volcanic earthquakes continue at Colima volcano, suggesting further surface activity should be expected there.

Seismicity is reduced at Fuego volcano (Guatemala) and Santa Maria volcano. Both seismicity and a volcanocam photo indicate a recent exhalation from the Santiaguito Dome Complex (Santa Maria volcano). Nearby Pacaya volcano chatters with frequent volcanic earthquakes.

Banded volcanic tremor at San Cristobal volcano (Nicaragua) has become more pulsatory and diminished during the past 24 hours. Elevated volcanic tremor continues at Masaya volcano and volcanic earthquakes (and a train of volcanic tremor) continue to affect Concepcion volcano today. Volcanic tremor has diminished at San Miguel volcano, but occasional volcanic earthquakes have struck the volcano the past few days. Numerous small earthquakes rattle Colombian volcanoes: Nevado Del Ruiz, Machin, and Galeras today.

Tungurahua volcano (Ecuador) has returned to slumber, internal activity appears on the increase again at Reventador volcano, and a few small earthquakes have affected Cotopaxi volcano during the past few days.

SERNAGEOMIN reports that seismicity has diminished slightly beneath Copahue volcano during the past 24 hours. Just over 1000 events occurred during that period. - Volcano Discovery.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Climate Change Set To Make America Hotter, Drier And Disaster-Prone!

January 13, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Draft report from NCA makes clear link between climate change and extreme weather as groups urge Obama to take action.  Future generations of Americans can expect to spend 25 days a year sweltering in temperatures above 100F (38C), with climate change on course to turn the country into a hotter, drier, and more disaster-prone place.  The National Climate Assessment, released in draft form on Friday , provided the fullest picture to date of the real-time effects of climate change on US life, and the most likely consequences for the future.

The report says steps taken by Obama to reduce emissions are 'not close to sufficient' to prevent
the most severe consequences of climate change. © Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP.
The 1,000-page report, the work of the more than 300 government scientists and outside experts, was unequivocal on the human causes of climate change, and on the links between climate change and extreme weather.  "Climate change is already affecting the American people," the draft report said. "Certain types of weather events have become more frequent and/or intense including heat waves, heavy downpours and in some regions floods and drought. Sea level is rising, oceans are becoming more acidic, and glaciers and Arctic sea ice are melting."  The report, which is not due for adoption until 2014, was produced to guide federal, state and city governments in America in making long-term plans.  By the end of the 21st century, climate change is expected to result in increased risk of asthma and other public health emergencies, widespread power blackouts, and mass transit shutdowns, and possibly shortages of food.  "Proactively preparing for climate change can reduce impacts, while also facilitating a more rapid and efficient response to changes as they happen," said Katharine Jacobs, the director of the National Climate Assessment.  The report will be open for public comment on Monday.  Environmental groups said they hoped the report would provide Barack Obama with the scientific evidence to push for measures that would slow or halt the rate of climate change - sparing the country some of the worst effects.  The report states clearly that the steps taken by Obama so far to reduce emissions are "not close to sufficient" to prevent the most severe consequences of climate change.  "As climate change and its impacts are becoming more prevalent, Americans face choices," the report said.

A heatwave swept across the US in 2011, with temperatures
reaching over 110F (43C). © Photograph: Timothy A Clary/AFP.
"Beyond the next few decades, the amount of climate change will still largely be determined by the choices society makes about emissions. Lower emissions mean less future warming and less severe impacts. Higher emissions would mean more warming and more severe impacts."  As the report made clear: no place in America had gone untouched by climate change. Nowhere would be entirely immune from the effects of future climate change. Some of those changes are already evident: 2012 was by far the hottest year on record, fully a degree hotter than the last such record - an off-the-charts rate of increase.  Those high temperatures were on course to continue for the rest of the century, the draft report said. It noted that average US temperatures had increased by about 1.5F since 1895, with more than 80% of this increase since 1980.  The rise will be even steeper in future, with the next few decades projected for temperatures 2 to 4 degrees warmer in most areas. By 2100, if climate change continues on its present course, the country can expect to see 25 days a year with temperatures above 100F.  Night-time temperatures will also stay high, providing little respite from the heat.  Certain regions are projected to heat up even sooner. West Virginia, Maryland and Delaware can expect a doubling of days hotter than 95 degrees by the 2050s. In Texas and Oklahoma, the draft report doubled the probability of extreme heat events.  Those extreme temperatures would also exact a toll on public health, with worsening air pollution, and on infrastructure increasing the load for ageing power plants.

This 8 November 2011 image shows a storm bearing down on
Alaska. © . Photograph: Ho/AFP/Getty Images.
But nowhere will see changes as extreme as Alaska, the report said.  "The most dramatic evidence is in Alaska, where average temperatures have increased more than twice as fast as the rest of the country," the draft report said. "Of all the climate-related changes in the US, the rapid decline of Arctic sea ice cover in the last decade may be the most striking of all."  Other regions will face different extreme weather scenarios. The north-east, in particular, is at risk of coastal flooding because of sea-level rise and storm surges, as well as river flooding, because of an increase in heavy downpours. "The north-east has experienced a greater increase in extreme precipitation over the past few decades than any other region in the US," the report said. Between 1958 and 2010, the north-east saw a 74% increase in heavy downpours.  The midwest was projected to enjoy a longer growing season - but also an increased risk of extreme events like last year's drought.

A flooded farm along the Mississippi River is seen in Cairo,
Illinois. © Photograph: Stephen Lance Dennee/AP.
By mid-century, the combination of temperature increases and heavy rainfall or drought were expected to pull down yields of major US food crops, the report warned, threatening both American and global food security.  The report is the most ambitious scientific exercise ever undertaken to catalogue the real-time effects of climate change, and predict possible outcomes in the future.  It involved more than 300 government scientists and outside experts, compared to around 30 during the last such effort when George W Bush was president. Its findings were also much broader in scope, Jacobs said.  There were still unknowns though, the report conceded, especially about how the loss of sea ice in Greenland and Antarctica will affect future sea-level rise.  Campaign groups said they hoped the report would spur Obama to act on climate change in his second term. "The draft assessment offers a perfect opportunity for President Obama at the outset of his second term," said Lou Leonard, director of the climate change programme for the World Wildlife Fund. "When a similar report was released in 2009, the Administration largely swept it under the rug. This time, the President should use it to kick-start a national conversation on climate change. "  However, the White House was exceedingly cautious on the draft release, noting in a blogpost: "The draft NCA is a scientific document - not a policy document - and does not make recommendations regarding actions that might be taken in response to climate change." - Guardian.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: "Wild, Wild Day" - Toronto Breaks Heat Record As Newfoundland Digs Out From Monster Snowstorm!

January 13, 2013 - CANADA - While typical Canadian weather in January means earmuffs, winter coats and snow tires, regions across Canada are experiencing a wide range in temperatures Saturday, from the record-breaking warmth forecast in Southern Ontario to snowstorms in Newfoundland. “It’s a wild, wild day here in the middle of January across all of Canada,” said Dave Phillips, senior climatologist at Environment Canada. “It’s like the dead of winter in some places, it’s like the end of April in other places... It shows you what a big country it is.”

While typical January weather in Toronto is usually around –2 C, Torontonians were sipping drinks on the patio of The Black Bull on Queen St. W. The city reached a record-breaking high of 13 C as of 1 p.m. Saturday, with the warm weather expected to continue until Monday. Before Saturday, the warmest Jan. 12 hit a high of 9.5 C in 2006. Terry Hancock said she was planning on taking her kids tobogganing and skating on the weekend until she felt the weather outside. “They’ve asking me if it’s still winter!” said the mother of four with a laugh. “It’s been a lovely day... We literally are just walking out and seeing what we find to do through the neighbourhood.” Outdoor adventures are usually less common for kids in January, said local parent Kirby Anderson. While his nine-year-old normally stays inside playing video games, Saturday morning was spent playing baseball and football outside. “Do you think it’s warm enough for shorts?” he asked his daughter. She responded with an enthusiastic head nod. Southern Ontario may be breaking records for warmth, but Newfoundland saw on Saturday “one of the worst storms they’ve seen in years,” Mr. Phillips said.

A massive blizzard could dump as much as 100 cm of snow on parts of Newfoundland.
St. John’s International Airport closed due to 111 km/h winds after a massive dump of snow, and Newfoundland Power reported outages from the Avalon Peninsula of southeast Newfoundland to Corner Brook on the west coast. Since the snowfall stopped around 7:30 p.m. last night, most of the province experienced rainfall Saturday. “It’s like cement trying to shovel that snow,” said Mr. Phillips. “They went from blizzard conditions to now rain, and temperatures that are above the freezing line.” He added that Newfoundland is still expected to have high winds, further worsening the storm. Similarly, temperatures were about a dozen degrees colder than usual in areas like Regina on Saturday, which stood at –23 C as of 1 p.m. Residents of Winnipeg experienced snowfall for hours Saturday morning and “brutally cold weather” at –33 C, according to Mr. Phillips. But on the west coast, Vancouverites were almost as fortunate as patio-dining Torontonians. Though temperatures are cooler, the sun was shining all day Saturday. “Who would have thought that Vancouver would go seven days with dry and sunny weather, when normally it would be cloudy with days of rain?” said Mr. Phillips. The sunshine in the city is expected to continue all through the week. - The Globe And Mail.

EARTH CHANGES: The "Unknown Marine Source" - Researchers Reveal Gas That Triggers Ozone Destruction?!

January 13, 2013 - ENGLAND - Scientists at the Universities of York and Leeds have made a significant discovery about the cause of the destruction of ozone over oceans. They have established that the majority of ozone-depleting iodine oxide observed over the remote ocean comes from a previously unknown marine source. The research team found that the principal source of iodine oxide can be explained by emissions of hypoiodous acid (HOI) – a gas not yet considered as being released from the ocean – along with a contribution from molecular iodine (I2).

Since the 1970s when methyl iodide (CH3I) was discovered as ubiquitous in the ocean, the presence of iodine in the atmosphere has been understood to arise mainly from emissions of organic compounds from phytoplankton—microscopic marine plants. This new research, which is published in Nature Geoscience, builds on an earlier study which showed that reactive iodine, along with bromine, in the atmosphere is responsible for the destruction of vast amounts of ozone – around 50 per cent more than predicted by the world's most advanced climate models – in the lower atmosphere over the tropical Atlantic Ocean. The scientists quantified gaseous emissions of inorganic iodine following the reaction of iodide with ozone in a series of laboratory experiments. They showed that the reaction of iodide with ozone leads to the formation of both molecular iodine and hypoiodous acid. Using laboratory models, they show that the reaction of ozone with iodide on the sea surface could account for around 75 per cent of observed iodine oxide levels over the tropical Atlantic Ocean.

Professor Lucy Carpenter, of the Department of Chemistry at York, said: "Our laboratory and modelling studies show that these gases are produced from the reaction of atmospheric ozone with iodide on the sea surface interfacial layer, at a rate which is highly significant for the chemistry of the marine atmosphere. "Our research reveals an important negative feedback for ozone – a sort of self-destruct mechanism. The more ozone there is, the more gaseous halogens are created which destroy it. The research also has implications for the way that radionucleides of iodine in seawater, released into the ocean mainly from nuclear reprocessing facilities, can be re-emitted into the atmosphere." Professor John Plane, from the University of Leeds' School of Chemistry, said: "This mechanism of iodine release into the atmosphere appears to be particularly important over tropical oceans, where measurements show that there is more iodide in seawater available to react with ozone. The rate of the process also appears to be faster in warmer water. The negative feedback for ozone should therefore be particularly important for removing ozone in the outflows of pollution from major cities in the coastal tropics."  - PHYSORG.

UFO SIGHTINGS: UFO Mystery Talk Of The Town In Amherst, Massachusetts?!

January 13, 2013 - UNITED STATES - A "flying saucer," signs of extraterrestrial life, or an unidentified flying object; whatever you call it, some people in Amherst say they saw it.

Witnesses told the Daily Hampshire Gazette
that on Tuesday night, an object the size of two or three cars was seen hovering over Belchertown Road in Amherst.  One woman said that it wasn't far from her car.
The unusual news was all the talk at the Black Sheep Deli on Main Street Thursday.

“If people saw something, they saw something. But I don't believe that an object in the sky was necessarily or was at all alien,” Amy Ware of Sunderland said. “I believe in it, because we are such a speck in the universe,” said Juliet Rose of Bernardston. “Who are we to think that we are the only ones?”

Police say they did receive one call, but didn't investigate. Westover Air Reserve Base has a radar tower in Amherst, they told the Gazette radars didn't pick up any aircrafts in the area at that time. - WWLP.

WATCH: Eye-witness report of the UFO.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Multicolored Fireball Blazes Over Northeastern United States On January 5, 2013 - The American Meteor Society Received 50 Reports!

January 13, 2013 - UNITED STATES - The American Meteor Society has received 50 reports of a bright meteor that occurred near 06:33 EST on Saturday evening January 5, 2013. Brightness estimates of this fireball vary considerably, but the average lies near magnitude -18, which lies between the light produced by the full moon and the sun. Every color of the rainbow has been reported with green being most mentioned. Below is a map of the witness reports for the NE USA fireball event and can also be found in the fireball logs, refer to event 28 for 2013.

For those not familiar with meteors and fireballs, a fireball is a meteor that is larger than normal. Most meteors are only the size of small pebbles. A meteor the size of a softball can produce light equivalent to the full moon for a short instant. The reason for this is the extreme velocity at which these objects strike the atmosphere. Even the slowest meteors are still traveling at 10 miles per SECOND, which is much faster than a speeding bullet. Fireballs occur every day over all parts of the Earth. It is rare though for an individual to see more than one or two per lifetime as they also occur during the day, on a cloudy night, or over a remote area where no one sees it. Observing during one of the major annual meteor showers can increase your chance of seeing another one of these bright meteors.

January 5th, 2013 East Coast Fireball. © American Meteor Society.
Meteors often appear much closer than they really are. I receive countless reports that the object landed just over the hill when in fact it was several hundred miles away and was witnessed over several states. It is your perspective that makes meteors appear to strike the horizon when in fact they are still high in the atmosphere. This is much like a jetliner seen low in your sky. It appears low to you but for someone located many miles away in that direction, the jetliner is passing high overhead. Meteors become visible at approximately 50 miles above the Earth's surface. Friction slows these objects down until they fall below the velocity necessary to produce light. At this point they still lie at least 5 miles high in the sky. They are invisible below this altitude and cannot be seen as they basically free falling to the ground at 200mph. Very few meteors actually reach the ground as 99.99% completely disintegrate while still 10-20 miles up in the atmosphere. - American Meteor Society.

THE WAR ON EARTH: China Air Pollution Levels Still Hazardous - Surpasses "Health Hazard" Levels In Beijing, Authorities Issue Orange Alert, Advising Citizens To Stay Indoors?!

January 13, 2013 - CHINA -  The haze in China’s northern and central regions remained on Sunday. Beijing authorities warned against outdoor activity and businesses reduced emissions as air quality hit one of the worst levels on record in more than a decade. 

Haze in China's northern and central parts has remained on Sunday.
The Beijing Observatory issued the first orange alert for smog in the city’s history on Sunday.  The density of PM2.5 particulates surpassed 700 micrograms per cubic meter in many parts of the city, according to the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center.  The World Health Organization considers a safe daily level to be 25 micrograms per cubic meter.  PM2.5 are tiny particulates that can penetrate deep into the lungs. Measuring them is considered a more accurate reflection of air quality than other methods.  Beijing authorities recommended that children and old people should stay indoors, and others should avoid outdoor activities. 

As Beijing's air started to worsen on Thursday, 54 Beijing enterprises reduced their emissions by 30 percent, and 28 construction sites have stopped earth-work so far, the official Xinhua News Agency reported on Sunday.  A common source of PM2.5 is from the burning of fuels in vehicles and power plants.  Hyundai Motor Group (China) Ltd., a Chinese subsidiary of South Korea's Hyundai Motor Group, stopped production for a day on Sunday, Xinhua said.  Pan Xiao Chuan, a professor at Peking University's public health department, told the Associated Press that pollutants can easily accumulate and fail to dissipate with lacking wind in recent weather.  "Recent pollution doesn't mean there is an increase in the discharge of pollutants," he was quoted as saying.  Air pollution is a major problem in China due to the country’s rapid pace of industrialization. The Beijing monitoring center has said the pollution is expected to linger until Tuesday.  Other Chinese cities, including Tianjin, Wuhan and Chengdu, have also reported severe air pollution over the last few days. - Morning Whistle.

WATCH: Air pollution in Beijing surpasses 'health hazard' levels.

EXTINCTION LEVEL EVENT: Pacific Bluefin Tuna In Trouble, Scientist Say - Nearly 97 Percent Down From Pre-Fishing Levels!

January 13, 2013 - PACIFIC OCEAN - Populations of bluefin tuna in the western Pacific Ocean are down by nearly 97 percent from pre-fishing levels, according to a stock assessment by researchers.  "We found the Pacific bluefin stock is being overfished," said Steve Teo, a fisheries biologist at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, Calif., who was involved in the assessment. 

Bluefin tuna. © Richard Herrmann /
The news comes a few days after an enormous, 489-pound (222-kilogram) tuna fetched $1.76 million at a Japanese auction, the Associated Press reported. Strong demand for tuna, primarily for use in sushi, has driven increased harvesting of the fish. Over the past 15 years, its population in the western Pacific has steadily declined and is now at or near an all-time low, Teo told LiveScience.  There are currently no catch limits for tuna in the western Pacific. About 90 percent of the fish that are caught are juveniles, according to the stock assessment. Amanda Nickson, director of global tuna conservation for the Pew Environment Group, called for a temporary halt to fishing. "We think the most responsible thing to do is to suspend the fishery until we can put measures in place that will ensure that the population decline is reversed," Nickson said.  She called on the governments of the countries that harvest the fish - including Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Mexico and the United States - to do something about the tuna's plummeting numbers. 

What to do? 
Nickson said that fishers should avoid catching tuna in their breeding grounds, which is currently a common practice since it's an easy way to find a lot of fish in one place; she also urged fishers to target larger, mature fish, allowing more fish to survive to be able to reproduce, she said. She also suggested that overall catch limits should be put in place for the entire Pacific Ocean.  Pacific bluefin tuna migrate between the eastern and western Pacific. In the east, a quota was placed on the number of fish caught for the first time last year. This is a good - albeit insufficient - first step toward managing the species, Nickson said. But it makes no sense to have a quota in the east and none in the west, when the fish traverse both areas, she said.  What happens if fishing doesn't decline? Teo said fishery scientists don't know exactly the outcome, but they are concerned that bluefin tuna numbers could decrease low enough that the fishery would collapse. "We may get into really serious trouble," Teo said.  "If the fishing continues as is, the species is on its way to [disappearing]," Nickson added. "But with good management, it could reverse its decline." - LiveScience.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Massive Explosions At Stromboli Volcano In Italy - Collapse Of Part Of The Northern Outer Crater Wall!

January 13, 2013 - ITALY - The large event around noon today was a large explosion coupled with the collapse of part of the northern outer crater wall of the NE crater. The explosion combined with the resulting large rockfall of hot material sliding down the Sciara del Fuoco into the sea produced a huge ash and steam plume, which scared many in the village (including us).

Active new lava flow from the effusive vent on the N side of the NE crater cone; the new
breach is visible to the left of the vent.
When we visited the Sciara del Fuoco in the afternoon, a small lava flow was actively issuing from the effusive vent (that had been active intermittently during the previous days) located just beneath the new crater breach. The flow was about 10 meters wide and had previously reached about 150 m length where a cooling flow front was still visible. During the afternoon / evening, the flow continued to be quite active, producing many incandescent avalanches of blocks tumbling down the Sciara. Ash whirled up by detaching lava sometimes resembling small pyroclastic flows.

Explosive activity continued from the summit craters. The NW vents had typical, often ash-rich eruptions at more frequent intervals (20-30 minutes) than during most previous days. The northern hornito next to the NE vent had only intermittent and weak spattering, but also tall, candle-like jets of lava reaching 150-200 m high. The dominant activity remained large bursts of fluid lava from the main NE vent, with ejections into all directions, reaching 300-500 m height, and accompanied by loud detonations. Bombs can often be seen from the village. [original post:] A very large explosion, or possibly a partial crater collapse has just occurred. We felt a strong shaking and shortly afterwards, a large ash plume blacking out the sun drifted SE over the house onto the sea. When more details are available, we will update on this event. - Volcano Discovery.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Strong 5.5 Magnitude Quake Strikes Gulf Of California!

January 13, 2013 - MEXICO - A Mexico earthquake today 2013 has erupted in Sinaloa. The Mexico earthquake today Sunday, January 13, 2013 began within the hour. And while one of the strongest quakes to strike the country this month, the quake was not centered on land. Its epicenter, in contrast, was centered in the Gulf of California.

Officials tell news that a 5.5 magnitude Mexico earthquake began moments ago. Erupting at 9:28 am local time, the quake was shallow. USGS indicates to news that the quake began only six miles below sea level. As a result, the quake could be felt across the Sinaloa region.

USGS indicates to news that the Mexico earthquake was fifty-six miles from Ahome. The quake was sixty miles from the Sonora town of Huatabampo. Officials also tell news that the quake was seventy miles west of Los Mochis and roughly six hundred miles from Tijuana.

Today’s quake was close to the July and September quakes to strike the country. On July 18 last year, a series of quakes struck roughly fourteen miles from Baja California’s Guadalupe Victoria. The quakes were thirty-five miles from the Sonora town of San Luis Río Colorado and roughly one hundred miles from Tijuana. USGS also told news at the time that the quakes were roughly thirty miles from the Arizona community of San Luis. - LA Late.

RED DAWN DOOMSDAY: Disaster Preparedness - China Hardens Subways For Nuclear And Gas Attacks In Beijing?!

January 13, 2013 - CHINA - China recently upgraded its subway system in Beijing and revealed that its mass transit was hardened to withstand nuclear blasts or chemical gas attacks in a future war, state-run media reported last month. The disclosure of the military aspects of the underground rail system followed completion and opening of a new subway line in the Chinese capital Dec. 30, along with the extension of several other lines. The subway upgrade is part of an effort to ease gridlocked traffic in the city of 20 million people. According to Chinese civil defense officials quoted Dec. 5 in the Global Times, a newspaper published by the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee, the subway can “withstand a nuclear or poison gas attack.”

A U.S. official said the disclosure of the subway’s capabilities to withstand attack is unusual since it highlights Beijing’s strategic nuclear modernization program, something normally kept secret from state-controlled media. The strategic nuclear buildup includes the expansion of offensive nuclear forces, missile defenses, and anti-satellite arms. China is building new long-range mobile missiles, including the DF-41, and plans to deploy up to eight new ballistic missile submarines. Reports from Asia indicate the Chinese military is also planning to build new long-range strategic nuclear bombers. Russia too is expanding its nuclear forces with new submarines and missiles. Moscow announced last year that it is also constructing some 5,000 underground bomb shelters in Russia’s capital in anticipation of a possible future nuclear conflict. By contrast, the U.S. government has done little to bolster civil defense measures, preferring the largely outdated concept of mutual assured destruction that leaves populations vulnerable to attack and building only limited missile defenses that the Obama administration has said are not designed to counter Chinese or Russian nuclear strikes.

The Obama administration instead is seeking deep cuts in U.S. nuclear forces as part of President Barack Obama’s policy of seeking the elimination of all nuclear arms. According to the Global Times report, the new subway lines were “designed to be used in the event of an emergency, for underground evacuation from one station to another, emergency shelter, and storage for emergency supplies.” A military engineer identified only as Hu and as part of the Chinese military’s Second Artillery Corps, which builds and deploys China’s nuclear arsenal, helped design the civil defense aspects of the subway. Special steel-reinforced gates installed on all subway tunnels and used to separate stations are one key feature of the reinforced subway. Hu said it is designed to protect people who seek shelter during a heavy storm, toxic gas attack, or a nuclear strike. “The station has three hours of breathable air after the gates are closed, isolating the station from the outside world,” Hu was quoted as saying. “Although each gate weighs around 7 tons, it takes just three minutes for two adults to open or close it manually,” she said. The new blast gates were introduced into subway construction projects in 2007. A second Chinese official, identified in the report as Liang, said each subway also has an air filtration system in case of a chemical weapons gas attack. The system is designed to keep air flowing into the station. “People can actually shelter in the subway for more than three hours because of this system,” Liang said. Above-ground subway exits also can be sealed during an attack, Liang said, using heavy blast doors concealed behind temporary walls. Additional civil defense barriers and doors are being installed in the Beijing subway later, according to Cao Yanping, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Civil Air-Raid Shelter. Jiang Hao, a Chinese military engineer from the 4th Engineer Design & Research Institute of General Staff Department, told the newspaper that blast gates already are in use in cities such as Nanjing, in Jiangsu Province, and Shenyang, in Liaoning Province.

“The new facilities also have other defensive capabilities like emergency communication equipment at each station, which makes effective communication possible during a conflict,” Jiang Hao, the engineer, told reporters in Beijing. China’s network of underground tunnels for nuclear weapons and missiles was disclosed only recently, and highlighted in Georgetown University’s Asian Arms Control Project, dubbed it China’s “Great Underground Wall.” The Pentagon first disclosed the nuclear tunnel complex stretching an estimated 3,000 miles in its annual report to Congress on the Chinese military in 2011. “China’s strategic missile force, the Second Artillery Corps (SAC), has developed and utilized [underground facilities] since deploying its oldest liquid-fueled missile systems and continues to utilize them to protect and conceal their newest and most modern solid-fueled mobile missiles,” the report stated. The facilities are used for storing and hiding missiles and nuclear warheads, and for command bunkers hardened against nuclear attacks. China has been tunneling and hiding its nuclear forces since the early 1950s but the first public disclosure of the effort came in 2010 during the anniversary of the Second Artillery Corps. Until then, both Beijing and the Pentagon kept most details of Chinese underground nuclear facilities and arms secret. - The Washington Free Beacon.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Large Explosive Eruption At The Manam Volcano In Papua New Guinea Sending Ash Plume To 45,000 Feet Altitude!

January 13, 2013 - PAPUA NEW GUINEA - An large eruption seems to have occurred this morning around 05:30 GMT from Manam volcano north of New Guinea. VAAC Darwin reported an ash plume rising to 45,000 ft (approx. 14 km) altitude.

A hot spot is visible on MODIS satellite data. For the moment, no precise other information about the nature of the eruption is available, as the island is remote and most of its population had been relocated after the last major activity in 2004. - Volcano Discovery.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Earthquake Wakes Northern Tasmania, Australia - Creating Sharp Tremors To Nearby Communities, No Reports Of Damage!

January 13, 2013 - AUSTRALIA - Residents on Tasmania's northern coast have woken to tremors after a 3.4-magnitude earthquake struck 10km from the shore.

The earthquake, about 10 to 12 kilometres from Wynyard, hit at 7.21am (AEDT), sending short and sharp tremors to nearby Burnie and as far away as Launceston, said Geoscience Australia seismologist Jonathan Bathgate. Mr Bathgate said the agency received around 100 calls from residents who felt the tremors. “It's been fairly widely-felt across that section of Tasmania,” he said. “They generally hear a loud noise and feel a sharp, sudden jolt. “The phones have been just ringing constantly. “I think it woke a few people up.” Mr Bathgate said it was not uncommon to get earthquakes in the area which experienced a 3.6-magnitude earthquake in 2006 and a 3.8 in 2007.

He said an earthquake of this size, and so far from shore, was unlikely to have done any damage and no reports of damage had been received. Burnie resident Lyn Paine said the tremor shook her house for 10 seconds. “I just thought `what the heck is that?”' Ms Paine said. “It felt like if a big truck goes past your house. “It wasn't enough to lose pictures off the wall or anything. “That's a pretty unusual thing for here - I've never experienced it.” A Tasmania police spokesman said they had received calls reporting the tremor but no reports of damage. - The Australian.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: 4.6 Earthquake Strikes Near Mount Redoubt Volcano - Rattling Dozing Anchorage!

January 13, 2013 - ALASKA - A magnitude 4.6 earthquake struck deep beneath the Alaska Peninsula southwest of Cook Inlet early Sunday morning, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The 3:45 a.m. shaker hit some 80 miles underground just across the inlet from communities along the western Kenai Peninsula. Data from the University of Alaska earthquake center pegged it 55 miles west of Nikiski but only a few miles from Mount Redoubt, an active volcano in Cook Inlet that last erupted in 2009.

Despite its depth and distance it was strong enough to rattle dishware and trigger car alarms in South Anchorage, about 115 miles northeast of the epicenter, according to data from the earthquake center.

There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries. - Alaska Dispatch.