Wednesday, January 16, 2013

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Rapid Retreat Of Antarctica Glacier Is Called "Unprecedented" - Contributing To Rising Sea Levels!

January 16, 2013 - ANTARCTICA - Like a plug in a leaky dam, little Pine Island Glacier holds back part of the massive West Antarctic Ice Sheet, whose thinning ice is contributing to sea level rise. In recent decades, Pine Island Glacier's rapid retreat raised fears that the glacier could "collapse," freeing the ice sheet it buffers to flow even more rapidly into the southern seas. The West Antarctic Ice contributes 0.15 to 0.30 millimeters per year to sea level rise. The big question is whether the hasty retreat is a recent change, caused by climate change, or a more long-term phenomenon. "We need to know if what we observe today is something that started perhaps at the end of the last Ice Age or something that started in more recent times," said Claus-Dieter Hillenbrand, a marine geologist with the British Antarctic Survey.
Pine Island Glacier (right) and Thwaites Glacier (middle) in December 2012,
as seen by the MODIS instrument on NASA's Terra satellite.
Pine Island Glacier's small ice shelf, a platform of ice floating on the ocean's surface, acts as a plug, holding the rest of the ice stream in place on land. As warm ocean currents melt the ice shelf from below, inland glaciers flow down to the coast and feed the thinning ice shelf. Changes to Antarctic wind currents, driven by global warming, have pushed relatively warmer ocean waters beneath the ice shelves. In the past 20 years, Pine Island Glacier's grounding line, the location where the glacier leaves bedrock and meets the ocean, has retreated at a rate of more than 1 kilometer a year. The glacier itself has thinned at a rate of 5 feet (1.5 meters) a year since the 1990s, and its flow rate has accelerated by 30 percent in the past 10 years. Pine Island Glacier stretches only 45 miles (40 km) across where it meets the ocean, but it drains an area of 62,665 square miles (162,300 square km). To determine why Pine Island Glacier and its nearby cousin, Thwaites Glacier, are changing so rapidly, the British Antarctic Survey looked to the past. They studied sediments from Pine Island Bay, where the ice shelves stick tongues into the ocean. Microfossils in mud retrieved by ocean drilling aboard a research ship pinpoint when and were ice covered the bay. This is because the microscopic marine life is only present if the ice shelf is absent. Radiocarbon dating of the fossils gave researchers a 10,000-year history of the past location of the ice.

A massive crack in Pine Island Glacier is steadily growing, as seen in a Sept. 14, 2012, satellite image.
"For the first time, we can put these modern observations of fast grounding-line retreat in a long-term context," Hillenbrand told OurAmazingPlanet. "We can show that the present grounding-line retreat is really exceptional over a longer time scale, over the last 10,000 years," he said. "In the previous 10,000 years, the grounding line retreated by just about 90 kilometers (56 miles), but in the last 20 years, it retreated by 25 kilometers (15 miles)." The results appear in the January 2013 issue of the journal Geology. Hillenbrand and his colleagues also discovered there could have been three or four episodes of rapid retreat in the past 10,000 years, but these were short-lived, lasting just 25 to 30 years. Researchers found no evidence the glaciers had advanced in the past 10,000 years. "Some say the fast grounding-line retreat will stop in a few years, others in a few decades. Others say that this retreat will actually continue and may lead to the complete collapse of the Pine Island Glacier drainage system," Hillenbrand said. "What we know is that, on the basis of this data, the current retreat is unprecedented." As Pine Island Glacier retreats, it drops huge icebergs. In 2011, NASA's Operation IceBridge discovered a giant crack crossing the ice shelf. (The IceBridge expedition tracks yearly changes in the Antarctic ice.) The fissure, about 20 to 25 km inland from the edge of the ice shelf, could birth an iceberg the size of New York City. IceBridge scientists say the calving is part of the natural process by which glaciers flow to the sea. The last calving event (the sudden release of ice) let loose in an iceberg that measured 26 by 11 miles (42 km by 17 km) in 2001. The Pine Island Glacier seems to generate big bergs on a decade-long cycle, scientist say. The British team now plans to investigate what's driving the thinning of the glaciers in Pine Island Bay. "We're pretty sure the most important driver is warm ocean water, but this is still an open question," Hillenbrand said. "Now that we have this retreat history, we can study the past dynamic behavior of these glaciers, so we can predict better the future behavior of these ice streams and their contribution to future sea level rise." - MSNBC.

WATCH: Birth of a Giant Iceberg - Unprecedented Aerial View.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Volcano Discovery Report For January 14-16, 2013 - Etna, Colima, Popocatépetl, Santiaguito, Pacaya, Fuego, Nevado del Ruiz, Lokon, Reventador, Copahue, Kilauea, Sakurajima, White Island, Kizimen, And Tolbachik!

January 16, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing report from the Volcano Discovery Group.

Explosion from the NE crater in the evening today at the Stromboli volcano.
Stromboli (Italy): The lava overflow that started on Monday and reached about 400 m elevation on the Sciara del Fuoco has stopped (for now). Strong explosions felt in houses in the village continue to occur frequently and tremor remains elevated.

Etna volcano: The strombolian activity inside Bocca Nuova crater has ended abruptly yesterday.

Colima (Mexico) has entered a new eruptive phase with more explosions during the past days.

Popocatépetl (Mexico): Activity has not changed significantly: there are 1-2 weak emissions per hour, sometimes producing small quantities of ash. Glow from the summit remains visible at night. Some small volcanic earthquakes (below M2) have been occurring in the past days as well.

Santiaguito (Guatemala): The activity has remained essentially unchanged but lower than last week. During 14-15 Jan, few weak explosions occurred from the dome, and glowing avalanches were observed from the fronts of the active lava flows on its flanks.
Pacaya (Guatemala): Increased steaming has been observed today, but otherwise, there has not been any new activity. Numerous small earthquakes continue to be visible as evidence of fluid movements under the volcano.
Fuego (Guatemala): Activity has been decreasing with few explosions and the lava flow reducing its length to 300 m.

Nicaragua's San Cristobal, Masaya and Concepcion volcanoes have not shown appreciable changes in their (seismic) activity of varying amounts of volcanic earthquakes and tremor.

Nevado del Ruiz (Colombia): No other activity than degassing has been reported recently. Seismic activity remains elevated but at relatively low levels. A swarm of earthquakes occurred under the volcano on 15 Jan afternoon.
Very small, but numerous, earthquakes are occurring at Machin, Galeras, and Cumbal volcanoes in Colombia.

Reventador (Ecuador): Strong seismic activity including some explosion signals and a hot spot visible on satellite images suggest that the lava dome in the summit crater continues to be active.
Tungurahua is currently calm.

Copahue (Chile/Argentina border): No surface activity and no glow has been observed, but there is elevated seismic activity of low energy with more than 1700 events detected between 15-16 Jan. Alert level remains at Orange because of the risk of sudden phreatic explosions.

Lokon-Empung (North Sulawesi, Indonesia): Another explosion occurred this morning at 09:33 local time. It was weaker than the previous ones and produced a plume rising to about 12,000 ft (3.6 km) altitude and drifting NE, VAAC Darwin reported.

Kilauea (Hawai'i): Activity has been stable with good magma supply maintaining relatively high levels of the lava lakes and feeding lava flows that continue to reach the ocean.

Sakurajima volcano in Japan has maintained a rythm of 2-3 daily explosions with ash plumes rising to 6-10,000 ft (1.8-3 km) altitude.

White Island (New Zealand): The tremor has increased significantly during the past 24 hours. If this is caused by the volcano (and not wind), it could suggest a new eruption under way, but there have been no reports of any activity so far.

Kizimen (Kamchatka): The new lava flow from the summit dome continues to be active on the north-eastern flank of the volcano. Incandescence of the volcano summit, hot avalanches and strong degassing accompany this process, KVERT reports.

Tolbachik (Kamchatka): The eruption still continues with active lava flows being fed by the southern vent. KVERT reports tremor at higher levels than during the past week. - Volcano Discovery.

MASS BIRD DIE-OFF: Disaster Precursor - Thousands Of Dead Birds Wash Up On Michigan's Shorelines And Over 30 Birds Found Dead In Duson, Louisiana!

January 16, 2013 - UNITED STATES - The rapidly changing ecology of the Great Lakes Basin, brought on in large part by non-native, invasive species, is causing devastation among Michigan’s waterfowl, especially common loons.  The common loon, a beloved, iconic bird known for its eerily lonely, two-note call and its beautiful markings, suffered devastating losses along Lake Michigan’s northern shoreline this fall.

Photo courtesy of Common Coast Research and Conservation Dead loons lie along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Thousands Of Dead Birds Wash Up On Michigan's Shorelines.
Thousands of dead birds, mainly loons, washed ashore — from the Upper Peninsula, down to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. A large percentage of the dead loons had just entered their first year of breeding maturity.  The reason for the die-off, which follows similar incidents in 2006 and 2007, isn’t fully understood. But it is suspected that it is driven by the food chain linking the loon to invasive species, specifically, the quagga mussel, the zebra mussel and the round goby.  Since 1988, when the first zebra mussels in Michigan were found in Lake St. Clair, the invasive mussels have been clearing and “cleaning” Great Lakes water columns by consuming plankton. While the end result is a more aesthetically pleasing water column, the clearer water has allowed the sun’s rays to penetrate deeper, causing larger and larger algae mats to flourish on the bottom. As the algae mat builds upon itself and dies, it becomes anaerobic — depleted of oxygen — and type-E botulism bacteria develops. Gobies living in that environment at the bottom of the lake pick up the toxin produced by the bacteria. The gobies are then preyed upon by the loons and other fish-eating waterfowl, which become infected by the botulism. The toxin affects the bird’s nervous system and musculature, leaving it unable to fly. Soon, it can no longer keep its head aloft, and it drowns.

In just a 7-mile stretch of Lake Michigan beach near the Upper Peninsula town of Gulliver, 865 water birds showed up dead during a two-week period in October. Among these water birds were 302 common loons, 157 horned grebes, 142 long-tailed ducks, 103 white-winged scoters, 101 red-necked grebes and smaller numbers of ring-billed gulls, double-crested cormorants, herring gulls, red-breasted mergansers and common mergansers. All of the species are primarily piscivores, or fish eaters. That totaled an average of 121 dead birds per mile. Similar numbers were found further west, on beaches near the town of Manistique, as well as along the Lower Peninsula’s northern west coast and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. It is believed these areas saw the most dead birds wash ashore due to prevailing wind patterns at the time.  In the Sleeping Bear Dunes, 1,444 sick or dead birds representing 18 species were documented between June 21 and Nov. 20. Of those birds, 580 were common loons, with 422 found dead in October. Both numbers were the highest mortality rates ever recorded at the Lakeshore since accurate records began in 2007. Only 30 dead loons were recorded in 2011, and only 180 were recorded from 2007-2011. - Advisor & Source.

Over 30 Birds Found Dead In Duson, Louisiana.
An odd discovery was made Tuesday in Duson. More than 30 birds were found dead, and as of now no one knows why. The birds had no visible injuries and were just scattered in an area next to a sugar cane field.  "I came here this morning and saw birds all over the ground. One of them fell when I was walking around the property," James Wing said.  When Wing found the dead birds his first thought went to a deadly disease.  "I thought maybe it was West Nile. It was the first thing that popped in my head because they say, you see a dead bird you think it's West Nile," he said.  Wing called a state biologist to come in and investigate. The biologist collected around 30 of the dead birds for testing in Baton Rouge.  "We saw about a dozen of them that were ill. He said we'd probably see more until they could figure out what was the cause," Wing said.  Despite all the stormy and unusual weather, the biologist from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says it was likely not a factor in the deaths. Testing will give them a better idea of what happened by Thursday. - KATC.

WATCH: Dead Birds in Duson A Mystery.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Bird Flu Hits Four Places In Pokhara, Nepal - 2,200 Chickens Killed!

January 16, 2013 - NEPAL - Bird flu (H5N1) has been confirmed at least four places in Pokhara, the sub-metropolitan city on Tuesday.

Belongings being removed from a Cowseghari‚ Pokhara based chicken farm owned by a cooperative after the confirmation of Bird Flu (H5N1) on Wednesday January 16‚ 2013. Bharat Koirala.
All the chicken, used materials in the farms of all four places have been destroyed during this evening after the Bird Flu confirmation.

Regional Director at the Western Regional Animal Health Directorate Dr. Bamsi Sharma said that the officials from the directorate culled over 2200 chickens, destroyed their wastes, grains and medicines from five sheds of all four Bird Flu hit farms.

All the culled chicken, destroyed grains, their waste and medicines have been buried and all confirmed sites have been put under surveillance.

Dr. Sharma informed that the farmers were asked not to run any poultry farms in Bird Flu hit sites for at least another two months.

According to Sharma, further decision of letting farms run or not would be made after two months. - The Himalayan Times.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: 2012 Is 10th Warmest For World Since 1880 - Frightening Development For Global Food Production!

January 16, 2013 - PLANET EARTH - The year 2012 was declared the globe's 10th warmest since record keeping began in 1880 and the warmest ever for the Lower 48 U.S. states, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center.  Last year also marked the 36th consecutive year with a global temperature above the 20th century average, the federal agency said Tuesday. 

The drought has had a negative impact on corn in Le Roy, Illinois. The hottest year on record is
expected to drive up food prices by 2013 due to lower crop harvests.
"All 12 years to date in the 21st century (2001 to 2012) rank among the 14 warmest in the 133-year period of record (keeping). Only one year during the (20th) century — 1998 — was warmer than 2012," the center said.  In 2012, the contiguous United States experienced its warmest year since national record keeping began in 1895, the agency said. The new record broke the prior one, set in 1998, by 1 degree Fahrenheit, the center said.  The year's average temperature of 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit across the Lower 48 was more than 3.2 degrees warmer than the average for the 20th century, NOAA reported earlier this month.  Every state in the contiguous United States saw above-average temperatures in 2012, with 19 of them setting annual records of their own, NOAA said this month. Meanwhile, the country faced 11 weather disasters that topped $1 billion in losses each, including a lingering drought that covered 61% of the country at one point.
That drought shriveled crops across the American farm belt, which is expected to cause a rise in food prices in 2013, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. It also turned forests of the mountain West into stands of tinder that exploded into catastrophic wildfires over the summer, scorching millions of acres and destroying hundreds of homes.  In October, Superstorm Sandy, a post-tropical cyclone, killed at least 110 people in the United States and nearly 70 in the Caribbean and Canada. Damage estimates from the storm run around $80 billion in New York and New Jersey alone.  Most of the world saw warmer annual temperatures, including most of the Americas, Europe and Africa, the federal agency said. Western, southern and far northeastern Asia also had the same experience, officials said.

A single stalk of corn grows in a drought-stricken field near Shawneetown, Illinois, on July 16.
"Meanwhile, most of Alaska, far western Canada, central Asia, parts of the eastern and equatorial Pacific, southern Atlantic, and parts of the Southern Ocean were notably cooler than average. Additionally, the Arctic experienced a record-breaking ice melt season, while the Antarctic ice extent was above average," the U.S. agency said.  At the same time Tuesday, the world's warming trend was blamed for the postponement of a sled dog race in Minnesota.  The John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon and Mid-Distance Races were rescheduled to March 10 from January 27 because of scant snow.  "For the third time in six years, we've had to cancel or reschedule the Beargrease sled dog race due to lack of snow," race coordinator Pat Olson said.  "We recently had a big rain storm. Rain, but no snow, which messed up the trails. Lots of people [in the sled dog racing community] are doing what we're doing. There was a race scheduled for last weekend and this weekend, and both of those races were forced to be rescheduled due to lack of snow," Olson said. 

One musher cited global warming -- disputed by some analysts and politicians -- as an explanation.  "Last year all but one sled dog race was canceled in Minnesota," said Peter McClelland, a sled dog marathon racer and operator of a sled tour business in Minnesota. "Over the past five years, we've lost a month of snowy weather on either side of the typical winter season. That's a big deal, to lose a month when your season is only four months out of the year.  "It seems to be that this is just a climate change issue," McClelland continued. "Temperatures are going up. Historically we used to have snow by Thanksgiving, but that hasn't happened for over a decade."  The 400-mile marathon race is regarded as one of the most famous dog sled races, held on Minnesota's North Shore, along the usually frosty Lake Superior.  Last year, the Beargrease races were canceled because of "lack of snow and poor trail conditions," the race's board of directors said. - CNN.

SHADOW WARS: Escalating Towards World War III - Iran Navy To Deploy To Mediterranean!

January 16, 2013 - MIDDLE EAST - Iran will deploy a fleet of warships to the Mediterranean Sea, Navy chief Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said on Wednesday.

Iran Navy to Deploy to Mediterranean. © REUTERS/ Fars News/Hamed Jafarnejad.
“The Navy’s 24th fleet of warships will patrol the north of the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Aden, Bab-el-Mandeb, the Red Sea, Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea for three months and will even sail as far as southeastern Asian countries,” Sayyari was quoted by Press TV as saying.

The 23rd fleet of warships will return to the country next week, he added.

Referring to the Navy’s recent drill, dubbed Velayat 91, Sayyari said the maneuver displayed Iran’s naval capability and its ability to counter any threat against the interests of the Islamic Republic.

On Friday, Iran Navy launched six-day naval drills codenamed, dubbed Velayat 91, to “defend its maritime borders and maintain lasting peace in the region.”

The exercises covered a vast area including the Strait of Hormuz, the Sea of Oman, north of the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Aden and Bab-el-Mandeb Strait. - RIA NOVOSTI.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: America's Flu Epidemic - Twenty One Children Killed As Death Toll Hits Highest Level Since 2004!

January 16, 2013 - UNITED STATES - A four-year-old's death is being linked to this year's flu epidemic, which would make him the 21st under-18 to have died from the illness this flu season.  The death of Hunter Ewert, 4, of Boardman, Ohio, comes as flu vaccine stocks are put under increasing pressure by people now rushing to protect themselves from the illness.  The Ohio Health Department is investigating whether influenza caused the death of Hunter, who was discovered dead on Saturday, it was announced today.  He was found unresponsive in his parents bed after joining them on Friday night complaining of a sore throat and fever.   'The doctors at the hospital said his lungs filling up would have happened very quickly and the only way they would have been able to catch it was by doing an x-ray every hour," Shannon Ewert told  'At some point during the night, he made his way from his bedroom to ours. It appears he crawled into our bed and collapsed face down,' Mrs Ewert, who is a nurse, told the broadcaster.  

Victims: 20 children have been killed in the flu epidemic this year. More than 3,500 people have
now been hospitalized in the epidemic since October 2012.
She attempted to perform CPR but couldn't save her son.  'I am glad he came into our bed and did not die in his bed alone,' Ewert said.  Further tests will be carried out to determine whether he died from the flu.  If they are positive, he will be the 21st child fatality - one of the highest death tolls on record.  The child victims of the epidemic also include a 6-year-old girl from Maine, a 15-year Michigan school-band star, and a six-foot-four Texas high school senior Max Schwolert, who grew sick in Wisconsin while visiting his grandparents for the holidays.  It is one of the worst pediatric death tolls since the government began keeping track of flu among children in 2004.  The youngest victim is believed to be a 2 month-old baby from Delaware.   Tributes have been paid to the victims by families, friends and school teachers shocked and saddened by how the ferocious nature of this year's outbreak has claimed the lives of so many young and healthy children.  Avery Lane, a healthy first-grader at Benton Elementary School, Maine, was just six years old when she died from the illness last month.  She was described as a 'little angel' by relatives on Facebook and her grandmother Pam Souzer said she was 'very kind and very loving'  Principal Suanne Giorgetti sent a letter to parents that said the school had 'experienced the unthinkable' last month.  Her family have now set up a fund supporting the Somerset Animal Shelter called 'Avery's Kitties' in her honor. Avery loved the animals and had a collection of stuffed cat toys.  

Upwards trend: Google Flu Trends are monitoring
the increase of the illness and the cities reporting
high levels of outbreak.

'Avery's favorite stuffed kitty was named China. When she got the little stuffed cat. She asked my sister to read the tag "Made in China" ...Avery thought China was the perfect name,' her mother Tabitha Souzer wrote on Facebook.  'How she loved that stuffed kitty. This has helped our family knowing Avery is being remembered in a way that would bring a bigger smile to her sweet face.'  Tomorrow in Fenton, Michigan, a funeral will be held for Joshua Polehna, a 15-year-old freshman at Lake Fenton High School with a passion for the school's marching band, track and robotics. 'He was always caring and polite and always thinking about others,” Dave Polehna, Josh’s father told Michigan Live.  'Like any kid, he liked video games. He was in track (a hurdler) and did baseball. He was in the percussion section in the marching band. He worked hard and was very proud of that.'  'Every teacher that had him…they said he was a joy to have in class, absolute joy to be around and always made you smile.'  According to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, many states may have seen the peak of the flu epidemic for this year but others are yet to suffer the worst.  In its latest briefing, which covers the week up until January 5, it found 24 states were reporting high levels of flu.   That number was down from the 29 states reporting a high level of outbreak over Christmas but seven unaffected states were dragged into the epidemic for the first time.   Within states, the illness is also becoming more widespread. - Daily Mail.  

WATCH: D.C. pharmacy says flu shots are running out.

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Disaster Precursor - Thousands Of Dead Fish Mysteriously Wash Ashore Pawleys Island, South Carolina?!

January 16, 2013 - UNITED STATES - When you go to the beach you don’t expect to find hundreds of dead fish covering the shore.  Pat Hawkins was heading out to the beach Tuesday morning to enjoy the weather, but when she saw the sea of dead Menhaden fish she was in shock.

Courtesy viewer Lisa Mahan.
Pawleys Island isn’t the first place this week to see the dead Menhaden fish on their shores. DeBordieu Beach had the same issue the day before, according to Chief Michael Fanning of the Pawleys Island Police Department.  Events like this happen from time to time, last year an influx of Star Fish were found on the same beaches, Fanning said.  It may be confusing to the people who live nearby, but Fanning says the state is looking into what may have killed the fish.

Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and Department of Natural Resources (DNR) visited the area Tuesday and took water samples. No results were available at this time, but experts think a lack of oxygen caused the dead Menhaden to wash ashore.  The fish fell victim because they are more prone to feel the effects of the loss of oxygenated water, said Dr. Dan Hitchcock of Clemson University.  ‘When it’s one species like that the species is menhaden all over the beach that’s usually indicative of a low dissolve oxygen situation because they tend to be more fragile,’ Dr. Hitchcock said. The dead fish are washing out to sea and with the help of the sea gulls the shore will soon be clear. - WISTV.

WATCH: Something is fishy in Pawleys Island.

EXTREME WEATHER ANOMALIES: Most "Heartbreaking Destruction" - Freak Storm Ruins Tiny Western Australian Wheatbelt Town, Every Building Suffered Significant Damage!

January 16, 2013 - AUSTRALIA - The tiny West Australian town of Karlgarin has been virtually blown off the map after a freak storm blasted through the state's Great Southern region on Tuesday evening. 

These photos, taken by Kevin Lockyer and provided by show the damage wrought by Tuesday's storm in Karlgarin. The community general store was hit by the storm.
The State Emergency Service (SES) and Volunteer Emergency Service (VES) volunteers said they were working to help people in the Wheatbelt town, after destructive storms caused damage to up to 12 buildings in the small community.  Authorities said the storm front hit the town about 5pm (WST), bringing heavy rain and strong winds of up to 90km/ph.  Virtually every building in the tiny town suffered significant roof damage, including the local school, post office and caravan park.  Hyden VES volunteers were supported by local emergency services volunteers, with Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) staff in Karlgarin to assess the full extent of the damage.  Peter Webster, CEO of the Kondinin shire, said he was not sure if the historic town, which was first settled in the 1920s, could recover.  "It is small town, and it is paying the cost this morning," Mr Webster told ABC radio. 

At Tressie’s Caravan Park, many trees and a donga used for accommodation were flattened by the forceful winds.
"Every building has suffered damage, with most of the roofs blown off.  "It is heartbreaking to see the amount of destruction that has occurred. Being such a small community it might take a bit to come back from that, if it can at all."  Power utility Western Power crews are working to restore power to about 5600 people across the South West and Great Southern regions following storms overnight.  About 1600 people are without power in Bunbury, 850 in Bayonet Head, 600 in Corrigin, 300 in Hyden, 160 in Newdegate and about 100 people without electricity in Trayning and Karlgarin.  "While the damage to the network isn't severe, it is extremely widespread with faults spanning over an area of about 200 square kilometres," a Western Power spokesman said.  "Strong winds have flung trees, branches and other debris in to powerlines. The small town of Karlgarin appears to have suffered the most extensive damage."  A helicopter is also surveying the remote powerlines to check for faults. - News Australia.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Aftershocks To Philippine Quake Found Within Nearby Megathrust Fault!

January 16, 2013 - PHILIPPINES - On 31 August 2012 a magnitude 7.6 earthquake ruptured deep beneath the sea floor of the Philippine Trench, a powerful intraplate earthquake centered seaward of the plate boundary. In the wake of the main shock, sensors detected a flurry of aftershocks, counting 110 in total.

USGS Slab Model For Subduction Zones in the Philippines.
Drawing on seismic wave observations and rupture mechanisms calculated for the aftershocks, Ye et al. find that many were located near the epicenter of the main intraplate quake, but at shallower depth and all involving normal faulting. Some shallow thrusting aftershocks were located farther to the west, centered within the potentially dangerous megathrust fault formed by the subduction of the Philippine Sea plate beneath the Philippine Microplate, the piece of crust housing the Philippine Islands. In the past century, the most powerful earthquakes have occurred within megathrust faults.

The particular portion of the megathrust fault nearest to the 31 August intraplate earthquake, and the section that housed the shallow thrusting aftershocks, have not had a strong earthquake since at least 1600. That aftershocks from the main intraplate shock took place within the interplate boundary suggests that the two systems may be coupled. Previous research in other locales suggests that the rupture of a nearby megathrust fault sometimes follows on the heels of a large offshore intraplate thrust earthquake. Similarly, previous research has found that the stress accumulation that could lead to the rupture of an intraplate thrust earthquake can at least in part be explained by the build-up of stress in a nearby interplate boundary. The authors suggest that more work needs to be done to identify whether there is an accumulating slip deficit within the Philippine Trench megathrust fault. - PHYSORG.

MONUMENTAL GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS: U.S. Agriculture Secretary Declares That 2013 Is Already A Drought Disaster Year, As Food Prices Spike Across The Planet - Could Be Perfect Catalyst For 2013 Revolutions!

January 13, 2013 - UNITED STATES - The first month of 2013 is already a disaster for many farmers. Last week, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack declared 507 counties in 14 states natural disasters due to the ongoing drought. 

America's first official disaster areas of 2013 were designated because the 597 have experienced severe drought conditions for eight consecutive weeks, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.  Last year, 2,245 counties in 39 states were declared disasters by the USDA. With continued drought projected for much of the United States, farmers may have another hard year ahead of them. A hard year for farmers means a had year for anyone who eats. Global food prices are strongly affected by America's harvests.  The critical spring planting season hangs in the balance as drought threatens to make 2013 even worse than 2012. Light winter snows haven't given much of the central U.S. the moisture the soil desperately needs.  To mitigate the impact on farmers and consumers, the USDA has expanded crop insurance programs and streamlined the disaster relief process. Emergency disaster loan rates now stand at 2.25 percent. - Discovery News.

Hike In Food Prices Impacts Food Bank Stock In Texas.
You may have noticed an increase in food prices while at the grocery store. Consumers are not the only ones taking a hit. David Weaver of the South Plains Food Bank said they are getting less bang for their buck. "Our budget is pretty much the same we're just not able to purchase as much. And so that's where we're seeing the decline. Also, we get USDA commodities through the TFAT program which purchases food and their buying power has diminished as food prices have gone up."  Eddie Owens, Director of Communications and Public Relations at United Super Market said "what our guests are able to afford to provide to the Food Bank through their donations or through their cash donations are certainly impacted by the rising cost of food."  Doing more with less is the only way the food bank will be able to take care of vulnerable residents in the Lubbock area. Weaver adds "we're in the process of making plans to accommodate for some of those anticipated cuts and taking care of more people." - FOX34 News.

Chinese shoppers buy vegetables at a supermarket in Hefei,
Anhui province, China. First the US and now China is warning
about sharp increases in the prices of food. © AFP/Getty Images.
China's Inflation Accelerates As "Abnormal" Weather Boosts Food Prices.
China's inflation accelerated more than forecast to a seven-month high as the nation's coldest winter in 28 years pushed up vegetable prices, a pickup that may limit room for easing to support an economic recovery.  The consumer price index rose 2.5 percent in December from a year earlier, the National Bureau of Statistics said today in Beijing. That compares with the 2.3 percent median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of 42 economists and a 2 percent gain in November. The decline in the producer-price index eased to 1.9 percent.  Chinese stocks headed for the biggest drop in eight weeks on concern that the quickening in inflation makes further policy loosening less likely, after data yesterday on exports and credit growth underscored the strength of the economic rebound. Chen Yulu, a central bank academic adviser, said Jan. 8 that price gains may become a concern in the second half.  "With growth momentum firming up and inflation picking up, the likelihood of any further easing has disappeared and the next interest-rate move will probably be an increase," which could come as early as the fourth quarter, Zhu Haibin, chief China economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Hong Kong, said in a telephone interview. - Bloomberg.

German Food Prices Spike Due To Extreme Weather In 2012.
Food prices in Germany rose sharply in December, posting their strongest gains in four years. The rise added to higher costs for energy, keeping inflation in Europe's largest economy at a high level.  German inflation edged up at the end of 2012, rising to 2.1 percent in December compared with 1.9 percent in November, according to latest data released by the German Statistics Office, Destatis, Tuesday.  The consumer price index was boosted markedly by soaring food prices, which jumped 4.8 percent compared with the same month a year ago.  "This marks the strongest increase in food prices since September 2008," Destatis said in a statement.  Year-on-year, food prices rose 3.2 percent, adding to 5.2 percent higher prices for energy - the primary drivers of inflation in Germany last year. - Deutsche Welle.

Food prices around the world could soar this year if there’s a repeat
of 2012’s drought in the American Midwest. Reuters.
Food Prices May Be Catalyst For 2013 Revolutions.
What is the trigger for a revolution? Sometimes it a brutal act of repression. Sometimes it a lost war, or a natural catastrophe, that exposes the failings of a regime.  But more often than not, it is soaring food prices.  The easiest prediction to make for 2013 is that everything we eat will once again rise sharply in price. So where will the revolutions start this year? Keep an eye on Algeria and Greece — and if you want to feel very nervous, Russia and China. And if you are smart, keep your money out of those countries as well.  The link between the cost of feeding your family and political turmoil is too well-established to be ignored. We saw it most recently with the Arab Spring of 2011. The uprisings that deposed the autocracies of the Middle East had their roots in food inflation. Most of the Middle East countries import 50% or more of their food, making them acutely vulnerable to rising commodity prices. In Egypt the food inflation rate hit 19% in early 2011. For President Hosni Mubarak that was game over. The regime was finished.  It goes back much further than that, however. Failed harvests in France in 1788 and 1789 meant that the cost of bread soared. From taking 50% of the average working man’s wages it went up to 88%. The result? The French Revolution. The economists Helge Berger and Mark Spoerer have pinned the European revolutions of 1848 on the soaring price of wheat. Likewise, a shortage of food and soaring prices led to strikes in Petrograd in 1917 — and sparked the Russian Revolution.  So there isn’t any question that food inflation can create revolts. There are other factors at play as well, of course. The Swiss don’t take to the barricades when the price of fondue goes through the roof. It usually takes a repressive regime, a rising middle class, a lot of unemployment and an aging leader who has gotten out of touch to complete the picture.  But soaring food prices are often the spark: once that is lit, the flames take hold. - Market Watch.

2013 DOOMSDAY: "Is The End Near" - Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Holds "Doomsday Clock" At Five Minutes To Midnight?!

January 16, 2013 - UNITED STATES -  The hands of the infamous "Doomsday Clock" will remain firmly in their place at five minutes to midnight — symbolizing humans' destruction — for the year 2013, scientists announced on January 14.  Keeping their outlook for the future of humanity quite dim, the group of scientists also wrote an open letter to President Barack Obama, urging him to partner with other global leaders to act on climate change.

CREDIT: Dreamstime.
The clock is a symbol of the threat of humanity's imminent destruction from nuclear or biological weapons, climate change and other human-caused disasters. In making their deliberations about how to update the clock's time this year, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists considered the current state of nuclear arsenals around the globe, the slow and costly recovery from events like Fukushima nuclear meltdown, and extreme weather events that fit in with a pattern of global warming.  "2012 was the hottest year on record in the contiguous United States, marked by devastating drought and brutal storms," the letter says. "These extreme events are exactly what climate models predict for an atmosphere laden with greenhouse gases." [Doom and Gloom: 10 Post-Apocalyptic Worlds]  At the same time, the letter did give a nod to some progress, applauding the president for taking steps to "nudge the country along a more rational energy path," with his support for wind and other renewable energy sources.  "We have as much hope for Obama's second term in office as we did in 2010, when we moved back the hand of the Clock after his first year in office," Robert Socolow, chair of the board that determines the clock's position, said in a statement. "This is the year for U.S. leadership in slowing climate change and setting a path toward a world without nuclear weapons." 

The Doomsday Clock came into being in 1947 as a way for atomic scientists to warn the world of the dangers of nuclear weapons. That year, the Bulletin set the time at seven minutes to midnight, with midnight symbolizing humanity's destruction. By 1949, it was at three minutes to midnight as the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union deteriorated. In 1953, after the first test of the hydrogen bomb, the doomsday clock ticked to two minutes until midnight.  The Bulletin was at its most optimistic in 1991, when the Cold War thawed and the United States and Russia began cutting their arsenals. That year, the clock was set at 17 minutes to midnight.  From then until 2010, however, it was a gradual creep back toward destruction, as hopes of total nuclear disarmament vanished and threats of nuclear terrorism and climate change reared their heads. In 2010, the Bulletin found some hope in arms reduction treaties and international climate talks and bumped the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock back to six minutes from midnight from its previous post at five to midnight. But by 2012, the clock was pushed forward another minute. - Live Science.

NOTE: Thanks to Joann Chan McKeon for contributing to this post.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Volcanic Mountains On Eruption Alert In New Zealand - Mt Tongariro, Mt Ruapehu and White Island On Watch!

January 16, 2013 - NEW ZEALAND - The steam and super-heated gases which have been pouring from the side of Mt Tongariro since its two surprise eruptions last year are set to be a feature of the volcano for years.  And nearly two months since Mt Tongariro last blew, GNS volcanologists say there's every chance of another sudden eruption, just as at neighbouring Mt Ruapehu and White Island to the north.  Fresh activity at all three volcanoes last year forced authorities to raise their alert levels, which have since been reduced.  The latest check by GNS showed steam and gas plumes at the Te Maari craters on Mt Tongariro's northern face - the site of eruptions in August and November - had become a continuous feature at the site.  The gas was coming from a large fumarole and crack in a cliff just east of the Upper Te Maari crater, while the main Upper Te Maari crater was also discharging gas but at a lesser rate.  Volcanic gas from the plume, which could still be smelled downwind of the volcano, was stronger on some days because of atmospheric conditions.

Te Maari Crater eruption on Mt Tongariro. Photo / Ben Fraser.
Volcanologists expected these plumes to linger for several years.  The puffs of steam had occasionally led to excited reports of eruptions, GNS volcanologist Dr Craig Miller said.  A section of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, between Emerald Lakes and Ketetahi Rd, remained closed and Dr Miller said trampers should stay cautious when on the mountain.  "We still expect there could be a November type eruption."  The Department of Conservation reported large numbers of visitors to Tongariro National Park this summer, with vehicle congestion forcing the temporary closure of Mangatepopo Rd.  Adrift NZ tour guide Stewart Barclay, who chairs a group of 30 users of Mt Tongariro, said business was up because of the volcanic activity and would likely increase further when the crossing was fully open.  Meanwhile, the alert level at White Island was lowered from two to one this month, reflecting the end to an eruptive cycle that began in August, more than a decade after its last eruption.

 Scientists visiting the island on New Year's Day found a small lava dome that had risen throughout the cycle had not grown since previous inspections the month before.  Temperatures measured at the dome and at a nearby hot lake, which had reached 200C to 240C and 70C to 80C respectively, had also not changed. It suggested magma was not pushing out the cooler plug blocking it, Dr Craig Miller said.  "It's a bit like an old tube of toothpaste with a dry cap on top. If you stop squeezing it stops coming out.  "But we think there's still probably a lot of magma at a shallow depth - and while it remains there, there's always the potential for things to happen."  A similar process was likely occurring at Mt Ruapehu, where the crater lake was remaining worryingly docile despite fiery temperatures just below.  Since March last year, lake temperatures had hovered between 20C and 25C while temperatures beneath ranged between 700C and 800C.  The lake's temperature had reached 40C in previous years, and its stability suggested gases were being blocked, bringing the potential of a sudden and violent blow.  A 2km exclusion zone around the summit remained in place.  "Mt Ruapehu is still in a state of heightened unrest and people should be aware that it can do things with very little warning," Dr Miller said.  "It's got the ability to throw rocks large distances and send lahars down the mountain."

Volcano watch:

White Island
This week downgraded from alert level two to one (out of five). A recently-established lava dome has stopped growing, but scientists say a column of magma not far beneath still poses a threat.

Mt Ruapehu
Remains at alert level one with an exclusion zone around the summit. A suspected blockage below the crater lake may be causing a gas build up that could result in sudden eruption.

Mt Tongariro
Remains at alert level one with part of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing closed. Emitting large amounts of gas and sulphur dioxide and scientists still expect a repeat of the last eruption in November. - NZ Herald.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Rare Thundersnow In Dallas, Texas - Some Flights Delayed Or Cancelled!

January 16, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Drivers in North Texas faced tough road conditions this morning as a winter weather advisory was extended until noon for most of North Texas, including all of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  A rare thundersnow woke up many as it boomed in the early morning hours.  The widespread sleet and snow started to taper off in the Dallas-Fort Worth area around 9 a.m., with the system moving to the east.

Snow in the front yard of Donna Spies house in Van Alstyne, Texas --
about 50 miles north of Dallas.  Credit: Donna Spies (YouNews) / WFAA.
A freezing drizzle and some snow flakes would likely continue to hit some areas sporadically in North Texas until about noon.  Dozens of accidents were reported across the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  The command center at TxDOT said sand trucks focused on four major areas hit by the wintry mix:
  • 138 and 161
  • High Five Interchange
  • 114 and MacArthur
  • 35 and Woodall Rodgers
Rare and unusual meteorological phenomenon. Image: Texas A&M News.
The High Five Interchange was one trouble spot for drivers. A stalled car temporarily shut down an interchange ramp from North Central Expressway onto Interstate 635. However, it wasn't the only ramp that was a problem, as the interchange was backed with halted traffic as drivers maneuvered carefully on the slick roads.  The ramps were shut down several times as sand trucks covered the interchange.  Another trouble spot was reported on an exit ramp from northbound Interstate 35E to 121 south towards Fort Worth and 121 north towards McKinney in Denton County.  The exits were shut down for a short time as ice covered the ramp. It was re-opened, but traffic was still backed up.  At 7 a.m., Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport reported 40 departure cancellations and more delays as planes are de-iced. Dallas Love Field reported there were also cancellations.  An Oncor spokesperson reported only 30 residents without power in the Dallas-Fort Worth area as of 8:30 a.m. - KHOU.

WATCH: Snow falls across North Texas - Some flights delayed or cancelled.


EXTREME WEATHER: "Bomb Cyclone" - Heaviest Snow In Six Years Claims One Life, Injuries 900 In Japan!

January 16, 2013 - JAPAN - The heavy snow that blanketed eastern Japan over the holiday weekend left one man dead and injured more than 900 others, while Tokyo commuters dealt with slippery streets as they returned to work Tuesday.

 A low-pressure system, dubbed a "bomb cyclone" by the local media, dumped 8 cm of snow in nine hours, the heaviest snowfall in the Tokyo region since January 2006, the Meteorological Agency said. Eiji Tanaka, 71, in Shiojiri, Nagano Prefecture, died after falling into a drainage ditch as he cleared snow around his house and drowned, a fire department spokesman said.  NHK said at least 891 injuries were recorded in Tokyo and the area around it, many involving elderly people who slipped on snow-covered streets or motorists involved in accidents.  As of 7 a.m. Tuesday, Yokohama registered 7 cm of snow, while the Otemachi district in central Tokyo had 6 cm.  Traffic networks around the Tokyo metropolitan area continued to be disrupted Tuesday morning. Rail services were largely back to normal, but many domestic flights were canceled and some sections of key expressways were impassible. 

At Narita International Airport, about 3,400 travelers were forced to spend Monday night in a terminal after snow caused airlines to cancel 71 flights.  Airport officials distributed sleeping bags, water and crackers to the stranded travelers. Normal flight operations at Narita resumed Tuesday, except for a few delays.  At Tokyo's Haneda airport, two of the four runways were temporarily closed Monday while snow was removed.  On Tuesday, Japan Airlines Co. and All Nippon Airways Co. canceled more than 30 flights, mainly in the morning.  The Japan Road Traffic Information Center said some parts of expressways around the Tokyo area, including the Tohoku, Joban as well as metropolitan expressways, continued to be closed to traffic Tuesday morning.  Meanwhile, 49 schools and kindergartens closed in Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama.

The snow delayed mail and parcel deliveries as well.  "I left home early because I was worried that I might not be able to catch my shinkansen train," said Norimasa Goto, a 46-year-old Chiba resident who was heading from Tokyo to Osaka on business. "I walked 30 minutes to a nearby railway station from home because it was scary to drive on an icy road."  At Tokyo Skytree in Sumida Ward, employees were busy clearing snow and taking steps to prevent snow left on the tower from falling and hitting pedestrians.  Because Monday fell on Coming of Age Day, many women wearing kimono who attended ceremonies had difficulty walking in the snow.  Around 26,000 households lost power at least temporarily in Tokyo and five nearby prefectures as power cables were severed under the weight of snow. - Japan Times.

WATCH: Severe Winter Storm Slams Tokyo.