Monday, January 21, 2013

ICE AGE NOW: Monumental Snowfall In Europe - More Flight Disruptions Across The Continent, As Heavy Snow Causes Widespread Chaos!

January 21, 2013 - EUROPE -  Hundreds of flights were cancelled and hazardous roads and railways disrupted traffic and caused countless accidents across Europe on Monday as heavy snow and freezing weather gripped the continent.  Frankfurt airport, Germany's main air hub, cancelled around 500 departing and arriving flights, representing 40 percent of its daily schedule.

A car drives on a snow covered street near the Franz-Josef-Strauss airport in Munich, on
January 21, 2013 (AFP, Christof Stache).
The busiest airport in Europe, London Heathrow, scrapped more than 200 flights.  Heathrow said a decision was taken 24 hours in advance to cancel 130 flights due to predicted poor visibility, but problems elsewhere in Europe were having an impact too.  "The additional cancellations are because a number of airports elsewhere in Europe are experiencing problems so that has a knock-on effect for us," an airport spokesman said.  Heathrow has spent 36 million pounds ($57 million) on upgrading its snow-clearing equipment since 2010, when freezing temperatures and snow almost brought the airport to a halt in the approach to Christmas.  Freezing rain and snow also led to treacherous conditions on railways and roads, triggering numerous accidents.  In southwestern Germany, police recorded more than 1,000 weather-related accidents and in the northeast, near Berlin, an entire section of motorway was shut to traffic. In Belgium, three people died and two others were seriously injured when a minibus they were travelling in skidded off the road, overturned and caught fire at a motorway exit near Bruges, local authorities said.  One woman died in the southern English coastal town of Deal after collapsing in the snow.  Further snowfall was forecast for Frankfurt late Monday, with a spokesman for the city's airport telling AFP that it expected further disruption to flights on Tuesday.  When asked how many flights would be affected, the spokesman added: "we can only wait and see what happens tonight."  Europe's number three airport, Paris's Charles de Gaulle, was also hit.  France's civil aviation authority DGAC said it expected to scrap 40 percent of flights to and from Charles de Gaulle and Paris's other main airport, Orly, as a precautionary measure following heavy snowfall on Sunday.  Even Munich, a city usually accustomed to taking snow in its stride, cancelled 161 flights at its airport as it grappled with the exceptional conditions.

Employees de-ice an airplane in Munich, southern Germany, on January 21, 2013 (AFP, Christof Stache).
In Spain, flights bound for Paris, Munich and Frankfurt were hit, leading to the cancellation of 16 flights to and from Barcelona.  Smaller airports in Britain were virtually closed down after fresh snow fell in northern and central England overnight, with planes grounded at Manchester, East Midlands, Leeds Bradford and Doncaster Sheffield.  Under-sea train services between Britain and continental Europe were also hit, with Eurostar cancelling six trains linking London with Brussels and also Paris due to speed restrictions on the tracks in northern France.  In Moscow, unusually heavy snowfall of almost 50 centimetres (20 inches) caused traffic jams but did not affect flights at its airports, which are well-equipped for snowstorms.  The snowfall over the last four days in the Russian capital exceeded the average for the whole month of January, said Moscow Deputy Mayor Pyotr Biryukov. - AFP.

WATCH: Heavy snow covers Europe.

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Countless Number Of Dead Fish Wash Ashore On Sarasota Beaches, Florida, America?!

January 21, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Countless dead fish washed ashore Thursday morning on Southwest Florida shorelines, including Siesta Public Beach, as a red tide bloom moved northward, causing respiratory problems for beachgoers and an eyesore for tourists vital to the region's economy.

Dead fish washed ashore on Siesta Public Beach on Thursday morning. (Staff photo / Mike Lang).
The greatest concentrations of red tide were reported along Siesta Key, from Turtle Beach at Midnight Pass Road south to Blind Pass Beach. Fish kills and respiratory difficulties have also been reported on Holmes Beach and as far north as the tip of Anna Maria Island.

The bloom and its toxins are expected to linger offshore for about a day and then return south as winds shift, blowing from the north, said Jason Lenes, a researcher with the Center for Prediction of Red Tide at the University of South Florida.

"The bloom has the potential to leave the area but could linger," Lenes said, adding that the bloom could be sustained if algae near the ocean bottom rise to replace departing algae near the surface.

By Saturday or Sunday, the bloom is expected to move southward along the shores in south Sarasota and Charlotte counties, Lenes added, and then possibly move west into the Gulf.

Windy weather is forecast to continue today, creating high surf conditions on the beach. Forecasters expect breezy conditions to continue through Saturday, with gusts exceeding 20 mph.

Florida red tide blooms are caused by single-cell algae called Karenia brevis. The algae occur naturally at very low levels, usually about 30 miles offshore. Typically during the fall, ocean currents move the red tide to the coast. If conditions are right, the cells proliferate into a toxic bloom. - Herald Tribune.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Freak "Thundersnow" Storm Wrecks Havoc In Toronto!

January 21, 2013 - CANADA - A freak weather system slammed into the GTA overnight.  The rare "thundersnow" system brought heavy wind, rain, snow and the occasional flash of lightning.  Gusts of 90 km/h toppled trees and traffic lights and a wind warning issued by Environment Canada remained in effect for much of southern Ontario Sunday morning. 

Wind blew ice off Wellers Bay and packed it onto the shoreline, wrecking a dock in the process. © Mark Stones.
Fallen trees and hydro wires shut down Rosedale Valley Rd between Bayview Ave. and Park Rd. overnight.  Toronto Hydro reported multiple pockets of power outages across the city, the largest being east of Yonge St. and south of Danforth Ave.  Toronto Hydro spokesperson Thelma Hatzis said about 10,000 customers lost power overnight.  Hatzsis said power should be restored across Toronto by the afternoon. 

A number of house fires are being pinned on the storm.  In Vaughan, the attic of a home near Islington Ave. and Major Mackenzie Dr. caught fire after it was struck by lightning. The residents were at home sleeping when it hit, police said, but managed to escape unscathed.  While parts of downtown Toronto got pounded by rain, suburban communities experienced heavy snowfall and, in the case of Brampton, golf-ball sized hail.  According to Environment Canada winds in Toronto remained around 55 km/h with gusts of up to 70 km/h, as of 9 a.m. Sunday. Flurries are expected later in the day, the weather agency said. - The Star.

PLANETARY TREMORS: One Dead, Seven Injured In 5.9 Magnitude Indonesia Earthquake!

January 21, 2013 - INDONESIA - One person was killed and seven were injured Tuesday when an earthquake hit the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, according to a government agency.

The 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck 37 kilometers (23 miles) under Aceh province, and a 4.7-magnitude aftershock followed 26 minutes later, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The casualties occurred in an area where several homes were damaged, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency. - CNN.

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Low Oxygen Levels Kill About 2,000 Fish In Grand Island Lake, Nebraska, America!

January 21, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Wildlife officials are investigating after an estimated 2,000 dead fish have turned up in one Grand Island lake.  An angler ice fishing on Suchs Lake reported the fish kill to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission last week.  "We had an angler who went over there to the lake to ice fish last week, and when he started drilling holes through the ice to fish, he noticed some dead fish floating up through them," fish and wildlife biologist Brad Eifert, of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, said.  

Suchs Lake.
A preliminary investigation revealed that low oxygen levels in the water led to the die-off, Eifert said.  "We had oxygen levels below one part per million, which is lethal to most fish species," he said.  One cause for those low oxygen levels, he said, could be the recent snow fall, covering the lake's surface, making it impossible for fish to breathe.  "The heavy snow cover inhibits sunlight penetration into the water," Eifert said, "which doesn't allow the plants to photosynthesize and produce oxygen, so when that happens, the plants actually use oxygen and then the oxygen levels drop fairly rapidly."  Officials say these kinds of fish kills aren't uncommon, but they usually occur later in the winter season.  "Normally they happen later in the year," Eifert said. "We haven't had ice for very long -- about three weeks now or about a month -- and the snow cover really wasn't as thick as we sometimes get, so it was a little unusual that way."  "It's a natural occurrence, it happens throughout the Midwest and it seems to happen to a lot of the smaller lakes and ponds," Todd McCoy, director of the Grand Island Parks and Recreation Department, said. 

Also adding to the problem, city officials say, is the large number of geese that inhabit the lake.  "Sometimes the waterfowl with their deposits in the lake sometimes can make the lake not as clear, and that reduces the visibility, reduces the light that gets into the lake," McCoy said. "And in the winter time when you get the ice on top of the lake, you get snow on top of the lake, and then if you have murky conditions then some of the plants don't grow, and that reduces the oxygen levels."  So how will the die-off affect fishing at the popular lake?  "There'll be less fish in there for anglers to catch this spring, and probably a lot smaller fish for people to catch," Eiefert said.  But experts say it's likely that some of the fish will survive.  "The ones that do survive will actually grow larger, and they'll actually thrive a little bit more now that they'll have a little more space, a little more oxygen for them," McCoy said.  Officials plan to go in to the lake in the spring when it thaws and remove all the dead fish, which they say could cause a strong odor for a while.  "There'll be a lot of dead, floating carcasses, but they typically decompose rather quickly," McCoy said. "The smell will be around for a week or two, and then be gone."  Eifert says replacing the possible thousands of fish lost will be costly. At about $1.50 per fish, restocking the lake could add up to about $3,000. - NTV.

WATCH: Low oxygen levels kill an estimated 2,000 fish in Grand Island Lake.

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Thousands Of Dead Fish Found Near The Jatiluhur Dam In West Java, Indonesia!

January 21, 2013 - INDONESIA - Thousands of dead fish float belly-up in the Jatiluhur Reservoir in Purwakarta, West Java, on Thursday. A change of current and temperature in the reservoir is thought to have reduced the oxygen level in the water, killing thousands of fish. - The Jakarta Post.

A fisherman looks at dead fish floating near the Jatiluhur dam at Purwakarta, West Java. (Photo:AP).
Thousands of tons of dead fish were found following torrential rains around the area. (Photo:AP).

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: The Viral Haemorrhagic Septicaemia - 9,000 Fish Culled Due To A Viral Outbreak In Scotland!

January 21, 2013 - SCOTLAND -  A viral outbreak at NAFC Marine Centre has led to the cull of more than 9,000 fish, in an effort to contain the infection.

The fish were ballan wrasse, which were due to be released to salmon farms in the islands. The wrasse feed on sea lice, which are a serious problem for salmon farmers, and Scottish Sea Farms are experimenting with the fish in the hope that they may provide a safe and organic solution to the scourge.

However, wrasse are vulnerable to marine Viral Haemorrhagic Septicaemia (VHS), and the infection was found at NAFC’s Marine Centre last month.

The virus is not dangerous for salmon or for humans, but is highly infectious and can be deadly in wrasse. - The Shetland Times.

SHADOW WARS: Escalating Towards World War III - Russia Sends Aircraft To Evacuate Citizens From Syria - Moscow And Iran Arming Assad For A Major Armored Push?!

January 21, 2013 - MIDDLE EAST - The Russian emergency ministry said Monday, Jan. 21 that it is sending two planes to Beirut to evacuate 100 Russians from Syria - the first such effort since the uprising against Bashar Assad began in March 2011. Moscow also announced contingency plans to lift 30,000 Russian nationals from the embattled country. 

A Russian naval force holding exercises in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, over the last days few days.
This evacuation of Russian nationals starting Tuesday was decided after the Syrian high command received orders from President Assad to organize mobile armored strike groups with massive fire power for a big push to run the rebel forces out of the towns, villages and areas they have captured, mostly in the north and southeast.  debkafile’s military sources report that, because they are in a hurry, the Syrian army chiefs decided to use only seasoned officers and men with experience in active service against the rebels, rather than new recruits who would need weeks of combat training. The divisions or brigades holding the line in such trouble spots as Aleppo, Homs and Deraa, are being depleted, some of their units detached for service in the new armored strike groups. Our sources report that Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps officers are supervising the effort for what Assad sees as his biggest assault yet to finally crush the revolt against his regime. Its timing marks two fundamental developments in Syria’s bloody civil war:  1. The self-confidence of Assad and his top military staff is gaining in direct contrast to the weakening of the insurgency. It was therefore decided in Damascus that the time was ripe for a major offensive to push the rebels out of the strategic areas from which they could threaten central government. 2. Western-Arab arms supplies to the rebels have slowed down steeply because the funding from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAR has dried up. The high-grade weapons still in rebel hands were mostly looted from Syrian army bases and stores. 3.  According to debkafile’s military sources, Russian officials up to the level of President Vladimir Putin examined the Iranian-Syrian armored strike group tactics and approved.

These developments, according to Western intelligence sources familiar with the Syrian situation, explain the recently intensified coordination between Moscow, Tehran and Damascus and the resulting accelerated flow of Russian and Iranian weapons to the Syrian army.  Russian arms ships are lining up at the Syrian port of Tartus to unload their freights, while Iranian air transports are touching down and taking off at speed from Damascus and Aleppo military airports. Arms deliveries are coming in aboard large Russian naval vessels, including the Azov and Aklexander Shabalin landing craft, the amphibious Kaliningrad and others.  To camouflage heir rapid movements in and out of Tartus, the Russian navy Sunday, Jan. 20, announced a large-scale sea maneuver would take place in the Mediterranean up until Jan. 29. None of the ships taking part in the drill were identified except to say that they came from Russia’s Baltic, North and Black Sea fleets. Our military sources report that the Russian deliveries consist mainly of armored vehicles, self-propelling recoilless guns, all-purpose vehicles for rough terrain and a variety of missiles and rockets for combat in built-up areas – all items clearly designed to outfit Assad’s new armored strike units. Tehran, for its part, is sending ammo, spare parts for Syrian tanks and artillery and missiles. According to those sources, the Syrian army plans to kick off its new offensive at Daraya, a small town near Damascus which is held by the Free Syrian Army. - DEBKA.

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: Disaster Precursor - Deep-Water Whale Strands In Shock Repeat In New Zealand?!

January 21, 2013 - NEW ZEALAND - A second rare whale has been euthanised by the Department of Conservation after beaching itself at Sandy Pt yesterday.  It was the second time in 24 hours DOC had to put down an Arnoux's beaked whale, which is relatively rare.  Acting area manager for Murihiku/Southern Islands, Alan Christie, said the whale stranded at Sandy Pt less than a day after an unsuccessful DOC and community effort to save a whale at Omaui Beach. 

Rescuers attempt to re-float the whale overnight but are unsuccessful.  JO MCKENZIE-MCLEAN.
DOC staff were notified of the second whale's beaching yesterday morning, he said.  The 8-metre-long whale was in a highly distressed state and DOC made a difficult decision, in consultation with local iwi, to euthanise the whale and end its suffering.  While an attempt to refloat the whale would have been ideal, several factors, including the tides and the whale's condition, made this impractical, Mr Christie said.  Among several parallels between the two strandings, he said, were that both whales were females of the same species and yesterday's stranding occurred at the Sandy Pt entrance of Invercargill Estuary, almost immediately opposite the first stranding. 

It was reported that a second whale nearly beached on Saturday afternoon. The latest stranding might have been that whale, he said.  The whale euthanised on Sunday appeared to have been attacked by a shark and might have come close to shore to find safety, DOC said.  A similar scenario for the second whale had not been discussed by DOC biodiversity staff at the site, Mr Christie said.  Beaked whales were a deep-water species and the pod's proximity to land and shallow water might have been a factor in the beachings, Mr Christie said.  Scientific testing would be done on both whales for research purposes, and the results might help explain the cause of the beachings.  "Both strandings have placed pressure on DOC staff who are saddened by the outcomes," said Mr Christie. "DOC is grateful for the support that has been given by the community, iwi and Project Jonah staff." - The Southland Times.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Hendra Virus And White-Nose Syndrome - 100 Bats Found Dead In North Adelaide Parklands In Australia, And Bat-Killing Fungus Found At Kentucky's Mammoth Cave National Park!

January 21, 2013 - AUSTRALIA - The virus was found in a tissue sample taken from flying foxes that died during extreme temperatures earlier this month. About 100 of the animals were found dead in the North Adelaide parklands with heat stress the likely cause. South Australia's chief veterinary officer Rob Rahaley said people should be alert but not alarmed by the discovery. He said while the virus could be transmitted to horses some simple precautions could be taken by horse owners to minimise the risk.

Pteropus, bats of the genus Pteropus, belonging to the megabat suborder, Megachiroptera, are the largest bats in the world. They are commonly known as the fruit bats or flying foxes among other colloquial names.
Hendra Virus Has Been Detected In Flying Foxes In Adelaided For The First Time.
"While this is the first time Hendra virus has been found in bats in SA, it was expected, as our flying fox population most likely originated from Victoria and New South Wales, where evidence of Hendra virus infection in flying foxes was demonstrated some time ago," Dr Rahaley said. "It has always been assumed local flying foxes would have a similar status to animals in those states. "However we believe local factors such as vegetation and climate mean the risk to South Australian horses is much lower than it is in Queensland and northern NSW." Dr Rahaley said the Hendra virus had never been detected in a horse in SA, Victoria or southern NSW. "But the discovery serves as a reminder to all South Australian horse owners to take steps to minimise the potential for contact between flying foxes and horses. "Owners should prevent their horses being near fruiting and flowering trees that flying foxes may frequent and cover feed bins and troughs." Hendra virus is also a rare but serious and sometimes fatal disease in people. But all known cases have been acquired from contact with infected horses and there have been no reports of people being infected directly from flying foxes. - 9 NEWS.

White-nose syndrome, which can be transmitted between animals through direct contact, gets its name from the powdery, white substance that appears around muzzles, ears and wings of affected bats. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).
Bat-Killing Fungus Found At Kentucky's Mammoth Cave National Park.
A fungus that has killed roughly 6 million bats in North America and Canada has now been found for the first time in Kentucky's Mammoth Cave National Park, federal authorities announced Wednesday. White-nose syndrome, discovered in New York in 2006, has been confirmed in nine national parks and 19 states as far west as Missouri. "I am incredibly sad to report this," Mammoth Cave National Park Supt. Sarah Craighead said at a news conference. "A northern long-eared bat showing symptoms of white-nose syndrome was found in Long Cave in the park. The bat was euthanized on Jan. 4 and sent for laboratory testing. Those tests confirmed white-nose syndrome." Long Cave, an undeveloped cave about 1.3 miles long, is not connected to 390-mile long Mammoth Cave, a popular historic site visited by about 400,000 each year. The park service will continue giving tours of Mammoth Cave, which annually generate about $3.9 million in fees from visitors. To prevent spread of the disease, the parks service screens all visitors before they go on a tour and has them walk across decontamination mats as they exit, Craighead said.

The rapidly spreading fungus, which scientists know as Geomyces destructans, hits hardest among the 25 species of hibernating bats. The disease "could persist in cave environments for decades even in the absence of bats," said Jeremy Coleman of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. White-nose syndrome, which can be transmitted between animals through direct contact, gets its name from the powdery, white substance that appears around muzzles, ears and wings of affected bats. Bats with white-nose syndrome exhibit unusual behavior during cold winter months, including flying outside during the day and clustering near the entrances of caves and mines where they hibernate. Bats have been found sick and dying in unprecedented numbers near these hibernacula during a portion of the year when there are no insects to eat. In November, U.S. Geological Survey scientists and collaborators at the National Institutes of Health hypothesized that bats recovering from white-nose syndrome show evidence of an inflammatory condition first described in HIV-AIDS patients. If confirmed, the discovery could prove significant for studies on treatment for AIDS, Marcia McNutt, director of the U.S. Geological Survey, said recently. - LA Times.

PLANETARY TREMORS: The South Atlantic Anomaly - Unusual 5.8 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Off East Coast Of Brazil?!

January 21, 2013 - BRAZIL - A rather shallow 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck the ocean floor just off the coast of Brazil, south of the popular tourist destination of Natal.

The eastern coast of Brazil is relatively free from faults and is not located on the border of any major tectonic plates. So this earthquake is quite unusual. If we look at the seismic hazard map of Brazil (below), it’s clear to see that most of Brazil’s seismic hazards lie in the western part of the country. See local quake map of Brazil.

In 2010, Brazilian seismologist João Carlos Dourado, from Universidade Estadual Paulista, explained in an interview to G1 that Brazil is located at the center of the South American tectonic plate and therefore away from the stresses on the plate edges, which cause earthquakes of the magnitude that plague Chile and countries on the western coast of South America. Today’s earthquake struck at a depth of 15.1 km (9.4 miles) under the Atlantic Ocean floor. The epicenter of the earthquake was 93 km (57 miles) E of Itamaraca, Brazil. 1

Unusual: Is this quake from a previously unknown fault this close to the shoreline or might other factors be at work here…like the area of growing weakness of the planet’s magnetic field in the South Atlantic Anomaly? Natal is virtually near the epicenter of the SAA. The South Atlantic Anomaly (SAA) is an area where the Earth’s inner Van Allen radiation belt comes closest to the Earth’s surface dipping down to an altitude of 200km (124mi). This leads to an increased flux of energetic particles in this region and exposes orbiting satellites to higher than usual levels of radiation. The effect is caused by the non-concentricity of the Earth and its magnetic dipole, and the SAA is the near-Earth region where the Earth’s magnetic field is weakest. - The Extinction Protocol.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Freak Tennis Ball Sized Hail Storm Hits Malta!

January 21, 2013 - MALTA - Insurance companies were faced with a flood of claims yesterday following Tuesday's freak hail storm that hit the north and east of Malta.  Certain crops can be replanted but some will have lost everything  Middlesea Insurance said they received a flurry of claims for damage at property located in Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq, St Andrew's, Għargħur, Mosta, Naxxar and San Pawl Tat-Tarġa. 

© Niki Caruana.
These came in the wake of reports of tennis ball-sized hailstones lashing certain localities around midday on Tuesday.  Claims under property insurance policies were submitted for damage to solar water heaters, photovoltaic panels, glass and water pipes, said Middlesea's chief claims officer, Patrick Muscat.  A number of private motor vehicle claims were also filed under comprehensive policies.  Asked if hail was considered an 'act of God' by insurance companies, Mr Muscat said the term was an old misnomer that should be avoided. "It is now standard practice to have storm cover under most, if not all, property insurance policies," he explained.  Mile-End car repairs and towing services said it was busier than usual when the storm hit.  "We were called to accidents in Rabat, Mosta and Naxxar. The water on the road was a big problem," a spokesman said.  However, they did not have an unusually high number of repairs yesterday - "just a few for spark plugs caused by water damage".  The hail mostly caused slight cosmetic damage to vehicles, the spokesman added. 

Farmers also suffered with some having their crops destroyed by the hail, according to Joe Galea, president of the Rural Manikata Cooperative.  Although the farms around Manikata were unaffected, Mr Galea said farmers in the Mosta, Rabat and Ta' Qali areas were not so fortunate, with potatoes and onions badly hit.  "The storm did not hit everywhere but some farmers were very unlucky. Certain crops can be replanted but some will have lost everything," he said.  "It's too early to say if they will ask for compensation from the Government," Mr Galea said.  There were widespread reports of the hailstones denting solar panels even though a spokesman for Solar Solutions in Naxxar said they had received no calls about damage to products they had sold as of 11am yesterday.  "Our solar heaters have thick security glass and are designed to withstand some punishment. Good quality solar panels would not normally be damaged by hailstones," he said.  In Għargħur, which bore the brunt of the storm, locals enjoying morning refreshments in San Bartilmew band club said many cars belonging to residents were dented and windows were broken.  One woman said her adult son was distraught after his 35 racing pigeons, costing some €2,000, were caught in the hailstorm.  "Lots of them did not come home and the ones that did were badly injured. One lost an eye," she said.  The parish priest also suffered extensive damage to his home, according to locals, but he was not available to comment when The Times visited his house. - Times of Malta.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: The New Normal - Climate Change Featured Most Prominently In President Obama's Second Inauguration Speech!

January 21, 2013 - UNITED STATES - In his second inauguration speech on January 21, President Barack Obama addressed climate change and emphasized the country's need to respond and lead.
Obama said:

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 21: U.S. President Barack Obama gives his inauguration address during the public ceremonial inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol January 21, 2013 in Washington, DC.
(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images).
We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.
Obama's speech comes after Vice President Joe Biden told environmentalists that Obama will not ignore climate change in his second term, according to Politico. He said, "Keep the faith," at Sunday's Green Ball. He added, "There is science in the White House." Despite an absence of climate change dialogue during the presidential campaign, Obama reiterated his views on climate change in his first press conference after winning re-election in November. "I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions," Obama said. "And as a consequence, I think we've got an obligation to future generations to do something about it." Forecast the Facts campaign manager and climate activist Brad Johnson said in an emailed statement Monday, "Obama must strive on to finish the work we are in, to do all which may achieve freedom from the tyranny of fossil fuels. If he does not confront the scourge of climate change, he will let our nation perish." - Huffington Post.

WATCH: Obama speaks on climate change.

Obama said more about climate change in his inauguration speech – and expressed it more forcefully – than he did at any point in the 2012 election campaign, and during much of his first term. The attention caused excitement among environmental groups, but unlike Obama's first four years, they called on the president to back up the talk by setting out a detailed action plan. “Today’s address is an important first step for using the power of the Presidency to spur a practical national conversation on climate change. The importance of the President regularly raising his voice on this issue cannot be overstated,” said Lou Leonard, who heads climate change for the World Wildlife Fund. - Guardian.

Read the rest of Obama's speech at the Washington Post here.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: The Giant Louisiana Sinkhole Burps Again - Officials Are On High Alert, Alarming Event At The Sinkhole, Major Cracks In Well Pad, Land Is Sloughing In Towards The Hole!

January 21, 2013 - UNITED STATES - State and Parish leaders are on alert in Assumption Parish after the sinkhole "burped" again today. It happened at 10am and caused heightened anxiety in an already tense area.

Parish officials said hydrocarbons and debris bubbled up to the surface and caused major cracks in a well pad. All activity at that well pad had to be shut down.

"There is additional cracking that has occurred on well pad three," John Boudreaux, Assumption OEP Director said. "They are an inch wide and a ruler goes down 14 inches. It seems that land is sloughing in toward the sinkhole."

Officials will continue monitoring the situation. State Police sent their helicopter in the air to monitor the sinkhole from above. - WBRZ.

WATCH: Louisiana sinkhole burps again.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Volcano Discovery Report For January 19-21, 2013 - Eruptions At Stromboli And Etna, Explosions At Shiveluch And Colomo, Lava Flows From Tolbachik, And Much More!

January 21, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing report from the Volcano Discovery Group.

Explosion from the NE crater of the Stromboli volcano.
Stromboli (Eolian Islands, Italy): Activity (both tremor and strength of explosions) seems to have decreased a bit for the moment. No new lava overflows were seen. During Saturday, we noticed that the vibrations caused by the strong explosions of the NE cone felt had become longer-lasting.

Etna volcano (Italy): Short eruptive phase have occurred at intervals of 1-2 days at both Bocca Nuova and the New SE crater.

Tolbachik (Kamchatka, Russia): Tremor amplitude has decreased a bit during the past 24 hours, but lava flows continue to be active.

Shiveluch (Kamchatka): The lava dome continues to grow. A moderate explosion occurred last night, producing an ash plume that rose to between 8,000 ft (1.8 km) (VAAC Tokyo) and 13,000 ft (4 km) (KVERT) altitude. KVERT reports moderate seismicity and strong gas-steam activity.

Colima (Western Mexico): The volcano continues to wake up and become more active. At least 3 ash explosions have occurred over the weekend (two on Saturday, one on Sunday). The eruptions produced relatively small ash plumes rising a few hundred meters. A 5 km radius from the summit exclusion zone is in effect at the National Park.

Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): The rate of emissions has decreased to less than 1 per 2 hours, but activity remains essentially unchanged with small steam and ash explosions, glow from the slowly growing dome, strong SO2 emissions and occasional small earthquakes.

Santiaguito (Guatemala): Activity remains relatively low. No recent explosions were reported. The lava flows on the southern and SE side of the dome continue to produce glowing avalanches.

Fuego (Guatemala): Activity remains low and mostly effusive. There were 7 weak strombolian explosions during 19-20 Jan. The lava flow has increased to 600 m length on 20 Jan morning.

Concepción (Nicaragua): Seismic activity (numbers and magnitudes of volcanic earthquakes) has decreased.

San Cristobal (Nicaragua): Volcanic earthquakes continue to diminish in number and amplitude.

Masaya (Nicaragua): Volcanic tremor is present and fluctuates at low energy levels.
Nevado del Ruiz (Colombia): Numerous volcanic earthquakes, sometimes of higher energy levels continue to occur beneath the volcano. Weak periodic (at 45 min to 1 hour intervals) volcanic tremor appeared at during 20 Jan.

Machin (Colombia): Many tiny earthquakes continue to occur beneath the volcano.

Reventador (Ecuador): Strong seismic activity with many volcanic quakes and tremor accompanies strong degassing and sometimes small explosions from the growing lava dome. The activity seems currently to be increasing.

Tungurahua (Ecuador): Activity has remained low. Small earthquakes and weak tremor continue to be recorded with an increase visible on the most recent seismogram.

Villarrica (Central Chile): Weak, deep-seated explosive activity has appeared during the past 2 weeks, POVI reported. This is the first activity in about 6 months and it is expected that during the coming months this could again bring lava visible to the surface.

White Island (New Zealand): Volcanic tremor remains strong, but there is no surface activity.

Ruapehu (New Zealand): Seismicity remains low.

Mammoth Mountain (California, USA): A small earthquake swarm occurred at Mammoth Mountain during 14-20 Jan and seems to have ended.

Spurr (Cook Inlet, SW Alaska): Small local earthquakes continue to appear on seismic recordings.

Tanaga (Aleutian Islands): Relatively high numbers of small earthquakes continue to be recorded at the volcano.

Makushin (Aleutian Islands): Occasional small local earthquakes have been recorded recently. - Volcano Discovery.

THIRD SINO-JAPANESE WAR: China-Japan Island Dispute - Beijing Orders Helicopter Units To Be Combat Ready!

January 21, 2013 - CHINA - Amid rising tensions with Japan over disputed islands, Chinese army in a bid to scale up battle readiness has ordered its armed helicopters to shift focus from logistic missions and gear up for combat operations. The People's Liberation Army (PLA) planned to change the training strategy of its army aviation unit as more and more armed helicopters joined the service, PLA Daily which is the official newspaper of the military quoted an army aviation unit as saying.

(In this September 14, 2012 file photo, Chinese surveillance ship Haijian No. 51, left, and a Japan Coast Guard vessel
sail near disputed islands called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, seen in the background, in the East China Sea.
(AP Photo)).
The focus of army aviation unit will be shifted from logistics missions to combat ones, from building the capacity for non-war military actions to core military actions, state-run Xinhua news agency quoted the daily as saying. The unit will work on major missions such as long-distance tasks, large scale offshore operations, attack coordination with other units and large scale airborne operations, it said, adding that the unit will also aim to improve its operation capability based on IT technologies. Both China and Japan have scaled up military operations after the escalation of the dispute over the islands called Diaoyu by China and Senkakus by Japan. The PLA move comes in the backdrop of recent military drills conducted by the Japanese army helicopters to defend the islands from enemy raids.

Chinese military exercises in recent months involving ships and aircraft focused on taking the islands and retaining them. While naval ships of both the countries patrolled the waters of the islands, the two also scrambled aircraft last week to intercept surveillance planes. Conflict over the islands escalated after Japan, which retained the administrative control over the islands bought them from a private party. Objecting the move, China sent its ships into the island waters. On January 15, General Staff Headquarters of the PLA had asked commanders and soldiers to strengthen their readiness for possible war with a directive to stage more exercises. "The General Staff Headquarters of PLA has pledged to stage more military drills that simulate real combat, urging commanders and soldiers to strengthen their readiness for possible war", the PLA daily reported. In a directive on military training in 2013, the headquarters said the PLA is determined to improve its combat capability by holding more military exercises to mock real situations on the battlefield, according to the report. All servicemen and servicewomen should always bear in mind the awareness of war and the sense of crisis, the directive said. - Times of India.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Massive Landslide Demolishes Football Field-Sized Portion Of Newfound Gap Road (US 441) In North Carolina!

January 21, 2013 - UNITED STATES -  Park officials now believe they know what caused the massive landslide, which took out a football field-sized portion of Newfound Gap Road (US 441) on the North Carolina side.  Officials said they found a subsurface spring underneath the landslide site and they aren't quite sure how long its been there.

Landslide at Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Charles Sellars of the National Park Service points to the landslide that has caused the closure of U.S. 441 in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The slide occurred about nine miles from Cherokee, NC on January 16, 2013. (John Fletcher 1-20-13).
They said the spring, along with last week's massive amounts of rainfall, contributed to the landslide Wednesday morning, near mile marker 22 between Collins Creek and Webb Overlook.  "We were unaware of this subsurface spring which causes embankment failure," said Acting Deputy Superintendent Alan Sumeriski.  Approximately 90,000 cubic yards of dirt, rock and roadway crashed 45-50 feet down the side of the mountain. Officials surveying the damage said the area is still not stable as debris continues to fall. 

Officials hope to have an estimate of how much it will cost to repair the road and a rough time frame of when construction could start by next week.  According to the park, about 6,000 people use US 441 to travel between North Carolina and Tennessee during the holidays.  "While it's a challenging project to think of repair solutions, it's not impossible," Park spokesperson Dana Soehn.  The park said it also has environmental concerns regarding the landslide.  About 9,000 truckloads of dirt and roadway fell just short of the Beech Flats Prong watershed below. Sumeriski said the park would be setting up soil control and erosion measures Monday to stop soil from getting into the watershed. - WBIR.

WATCH: Officials believe they know cause of US-441 landslide.

THIRD SINO-JAPANESE WAR: Japan Warns It May Fire On Chinese Aircraft Over The Disputed Islands - China Retorts That "There Will Be No Second Shot"!

January 21, 2013 - JAPAN - Japan says it may fire warning shots and take other measures to keep foreign aircraft from violating its airspace in the latest verbal blast between Tokyo and Beijing that raises concerns that a dispute over hotly contested islands could spin out of control.  Japanese officials made the comments after Chinese fighters tailed its warplanes near the islands recently. The incident is believed to be the first scrambling of Chinese fighters since the tensions began to rise last spring.  According to Chinese media, a pair of J-10 fighters was scrambled after Japanese F-15s began tailing a Chinese surveillance plane near the disputed islands in the East China Sea. China has complained the surveillance flight did not violate Japanese airspace and the F-15s were harassing it. 

Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-15 fighters fly together as they wait for airborne refueling from a KC-135R Tanker, not shown, of U.S. Airforce 909th Air Refuelling Squadron, based in Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, southern Japan, during a joint US-Japan air refuelling exercise over the East China Sea, on April 21, 2005. (AP file photo).
It was the first time the Chinese media has reported fighters being mobilized to respond to Japanese air force activity in the area and comes amid what Japan says is a rapid intensification of Chinese air force activity around the islands, where Japanese and Chinese coast guard ships have squared off for months.  Though there have been no outright clashes, the increased sea and air operations have fueled worries that the situation could spin out of control.  Such concerns have grown over official comments suggesting new Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Cabinet are considering the use of "tracer" fire as a means of responding to airspace incursions. Tracer rounds are designed to burn brightly to get the attention of a pilot who may have missed other warnings due to a radio malfunction, while also indicating that the aircraft firing them is prepared to take further action.  "Every country has procedures for how to deal with a violation of its territory that continues after multiple cautionary measures," Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said on Jan. 16 when asked if tracer shots would be fired against intruding aircraft that refuse to change course. "We have response measures ready that are consistent with global standards."  Onodera said the use of warning shots has long been provided for under Japan's defense policies and is widely accepted under international rules of engagement.

Japan's air force has not actually resorted to them since 1987--against a Soviet aircraft--and none were fired last week.  But Chinese and Japanese media have suggested Tokyo is publicly floating the possibility to test China's reaction.  The escalation of tensions has worried the United States, with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton saying on Jan. 18 that while the U.S. doesn't take a position on who has sovereignty over the islands, it opposes "any unilateral actions that would seek to undermine Japanese administration."  That brought a sharp retort from the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Jan. 20. The comments "ignore the facts" that the islands are China's inherent territory, spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement that urged the U.S. to adopt "a responsible attitude."  In Beijing last week, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said China is on "high alert" and suggested Japan is escalating the tensions over the islands, called the Diaoyu in China and the Senkaku in Japan. Taiwan also claims the small isles, which are uninhabited but may be surrounded by valuable underwater natural resources.  "Chinese planes and ships are exercising normal jurisdiction in the waters and airspace surrounding the Diaoyu Islands," spokesman Hong Lei said. "We are opposed to the operations of Japan's planes and ships, which violate our rights around Diaoyu. We are on high alert against this escalation."  As is often the case, Chinese media quoted military academics with a much more fiery response.  "Japan's desire to fire tracer warning shots as a way of frightening the Chinese is nothing but a joke that shows the stupidity, cruelty and failure to understand their own limitations," Maj. Gen. Peng Guangqian of the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences was quoted as saying by the China News Service and other state media.  "Firing tracer bullets is a type of provocation; it's firing the first shot," he said. "Were Japan to dare to fire tracers, which is to say fire the first shot, then China wouldn't stint on responding and not allow them to fire the second shot."  Peng said Japan may have put out the report to generate discussion and gauge China's response. - The Asahi Shimbun.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Tracking The Giant Louisiana Sinkhole - Officials Find "Mother Of All Bubbles," New Bubbling Site Spotted Near Bayou Corne!

January 21, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Assumption Parish officials said the most recent bubbling site near the Bayou Corne sinkhole is the biggest pool they have seen yet. Office of Emergency Preparedness workers refer to it as the "mother of all bubbles." The new bubbling site is an estimated 3,000 feet away from residences and camps. Nick Romero, a homeowner, has seen bubbling in his yard. "It's a little scary because now I know it's all around me," Romero said.

He knew it was only a matter of time before the evidence would surface after gas was detected on his property. "It's (the geo probe) identified there's a gas zone down below my property here and it's near 25 to 35 foot down," Romero said. Romero's only comfort is the air monitor attached to the outside of his work shed and the gas monitors inside. The parish has been reading the monitors and double checking Texas Brine's work. Homeowner, Mike Schaff, said he has lost faith in Texas Brine. "They were saying there were no detectable levels of hydrocarbons when they were doing the testing. They said that for several weeks until the sinkhole collapsed and then they changed their tune. In a few weeks they said it was thermogenic," Schaff said.

Residents said they are sure anyone is going to fix the problem. Some are convinced Mother Nature has already taken over. They want the state to step up. "I'm not so much worried about the governor coming down here and having a handshaking session. I'd like to see them put a little more pressure on them to get them to move to get the residents who want to be bought out, get us out of here. How long can you keep a community in an evacuated situation," Romero said. Texas Brine has installed vent wells to flare the gas. But residents fear they won't work fast enough to keep the pressure from building in the bayou. "Honestly I don't think they know the problem," Schaff said. Sonny Cranch, a spokesman for Texas Brine said the company has obtained right-of-way agreements to start building a road which will allow them to install at least three more vent wells between Bayou Corne and the sinkhole. That process is expected to start this week. - WAFB.

Click here to see seismic measurements from the site.

WATCH: New bubbling site spotted near Bayou Corne sinkhole.

ICE AGE NOW: Frigid Cold - Coldest Air Of The Season Arriving In The U.S. Midwest And Northeast, Lowest Level In More Than Four Years!

January 21, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Are you ready to freeze your ____ off?  (We were thinking fingers and toes. Not sure how you were filling in the blank.)  Hopefully, with a little help from our forecast, that won't happen to you. Scarves, stocking caps, long underwear -- all of it will come in handy for millions of you this week. 

The coldest air of the season is now plunging into the Midwest and will spread to the Northeast early in the new week ahead. This year, there is another blast of cold air on its way toward Washington, D.C., but it will not be nearly as cold as it was 28 years ago.  In fact, it now appears the cold blast will be ever-so-slightly delayed, allowing temperatures to sneak into the low to mid 40s on the Capitol steps on Monday.  Farther west, though, it will be an atrocious start to the week, with blustery winds across much of the central U.S. making it feel even worse.  Subfreezing highs will arrive in the Ohio Valley.   Temperatures will struggle to reach the teens in Chicago. 

Monday will be the coldest day of the cold snap for most of North Dakota and Minnesota, with some places shivering through highs in the double digits below zero!  Extremely dangerous wind chills of 40 to 50 below zero will grip northern North Dakota and northern Minnesota Monday.  In Minneapolis, Monday will likely be the first day with a subzero high temperature in just over four years; the last one was Jan. 15, 2009. The city, notorious for its frigid winters, has never recorded such a long spell without a subzero high in 141 years of record keeping.  The winter of 2011-12, an especially mild one in the Twin Cities, had only one subzero low all winter!  A weak low-pressure system will spin up some snow showers for parts of New York state and Pennsylvania, and lake-effect or lake-enhanced snow showers will continue across the rest of the Great Lakes region as well. - Weather.

WATCH: Frigid cold across the United States this week.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Scientists Warn Of Another Mount Tongariro Eruption - Continuous Feature Of Emissions And Gas Plumes!

January 21, 2013 - NEW ZEALAND - Scientists are warning Mount Tongariro may erupt again as the Department of Conservation looks at re-opening the remainder of the iconic Tongariro Crossing next month. GNS Science say emissions of steam and a gas plume have been a continuous feature of the mountain since the August 2012 eruption. Scientist Tony Hurst said the volcano is still in an "active" state.

Te Maari Crater eruption on Mt Tongariro. Photo / Ben Fraser.
"Therefore we have to be prepared there will be other events like that without any warning," said GNS Scientist Tony Hurst. The risk of another eruption is causing concern for the Department of Conservation as it prepares to reopen the northern section of the Tongariro Crossing which was damaged in the August eruption. Department of Conservation Ruapehu Area Manager Jonathan Maxwell told ONE News the eruption had not dampened the popularity of the 19.4 kilometre walking track. He said DOC was forced to close an access way to the track shortly before Christmas when tourists began flocking to the area. "It's become a destination so in the end total anarchy broke out with cars and buses," said Maxwell. "There were wing mirrors being knocked off and cars damaged as well as people trying to park in incredibly stupid places."

GNS Scientists are also concerned neighbouring Mt Ruapehu may be due to erupt. Gas samples show there could be a blockage underneath the volcano's surface. The blockage could burst and erupt without warning. Tourism operator Stewart Barclay from Adrift Outdoors said tourism on Mt Ruaphu and Mt Tongariro is reliant on the findings of GNS scientists. "We can't do anything until the scientists scratch their heads and reckon it's all safe to go up," said Barclay. DOC has closed the area within 2km of the centre of crater lake at the summit of Mt Ruapehu.- TVNZ.

WATCH: Hopes over full Tongariro Cross reopening.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Spectacular Fireball Seen Across Kanto Region In Japan - Bright Shooting Star Create Loud Booms Over The Area!

January 21, 2013 - JAPAN - A shooting star accompanied by a loud boom was observed before dawn Jan. 20 across broad areas of the Kanto region, igniting intense interest on the Internet with the posting of video footage and eyewitness accounts.

A shooting star observed before dawn on Jan. 20 near the Dodaira astronomical observatory in Tokigawa, Saitama Prefecture. Exposure time: 16.8 seconds. © Fumiaki Goto.
Fumiaki Goto, 28, an office worker in Tokigawa, Saitama Prefecture, captured footage of the fireball by chance while taking photos of the night sky just after 2:40 a.m.

The plume was enhanced suddenly after its color turned to bluish white from light green and fell toward Ibaraki Prefecture, finally with a reddish hue, said Goto.

The fireball was likely a meteorite, experts said. Video footage taken from a car had more than 200,000 hits.

Chikara Shimoda of the Japan Fireball Network, a group of amateur astronomers, said the fireball disappeared at an altitude of about 30 kilometers.

"It may have burnt up, or perhaps it hit the sea," said Shimoda, 55. - The Asahi Shimbun.

WATCH: Fireball seen over Kanto region.