Sunday, January 27, 2013

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Volcano Discovery Report For January 27, 2013 - Increased Activity At Fuego, Reventador, Santa María, Santiaguito, Batu Tara, Popocatépetl, Karangetang, Etna, Tungurahua, Tolbachik, Tanaga, Katmai And Cleveland!

January 27, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing report from the Volcano Discovery Group.

The lava flow from Reventador on January 22, 2013.
Reventador (Ecuador): Activity remains at high levels. IG reports strong tremor and explosion signals. The current webcam image shows only a steam plume rising from the summit, but it is unclear if the lava flow seen on 22 Jan is still active.

Santa María / Santiaguito (Guatemala): Explosive activity continues to resume. 2 explosions occurred today at 5:45 and 6:03 am local time and produced ash plumes rising about 800 m. INSIVUMEH reports that such explosions occur at a rate of approximately 2 per hour.

Fuego (Guatemala): There have been no explosions or ash emissions during the past 24 hours. AActivity remains low although the lava flow towards the Taniluya canyon is still active, 600 m long today. Incandescent blocks rolling from its front reach the edge of the vegetation.

Degassing from Popocatépetl seen on the currrent webcam image.
Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): Activity continued to increase. No less than 137 emissions, twice as many as during the previous day, were counted during 25-26 Jan. A large SO2 plume is drifting from the volcano.

Karangetang (Siau Island, Sangihe Islands, Indonesia): A thermal hot spot is visible at the summit and suggests that some activity continues.

Batu Tara (Sunda Islands, Indonesia): A stronger than usual explosion produced an ash plume spotted on satellite data at 7,000 ft (2.1) km altitude today (VAAC Darwin).

Rabaul (Tavurvur) (New Britain, Papua New Guinea): A weakly enriched SO2 plume is visible at Rabaul today. Weak eruptive activity at Tavurvur probably continues.

Etna (Sicily, Italy): The volcano, now beautifully covered in snow, has gradually quieted (for now) after the recent short episodes of activity from Bocca Nuova and New SE crater.

Steam column from Tungurahua volcano in the afternoon of January 24, 2013.
Tungurahua (Ecuador): A new phase of activity could be in the making. In its latest special bulletin, IG reports an increase of earthquakes, steaming and some minor ash emissions that have taken place during the past days. The remaining parameters monitored by the Geophysical Institute have not shown significant variations. However, the increased seismicity associated with the surface activity indicate a potential change in the volcano's behavior, and an increase in activity in the coming days or hours is possible. Based on past episodes of activity, such a change into a new eruptive phase could occur both progressively and suddenly.

The eruption at Tolbachik in Kamchatka continues with little changes, as well as activity at the other active volcanoes there.

Tanaga (Aleutian Islands): Seismic activity is low. Some small local earthquakes including some aftershocks from the 21 Jan 5.1 quake are still occurring.

Katmai (Alaska Peninsula, USA): Seismic activity has increased. Pulses of small earthquake swarms are visible at the recent seismograms.

Cleveland (Aleutian Islands, Alaska): Satellite images continue to show elevated surface temperatures at the summit of Cleveland, but there has not been any other activity reported. (AVO). - Volcano Discovery.

GEOLOGICAL HAZARD ALERT: Study - Radon Levels High In Oregon, 10 Times Higher Than The Last Round In 2003!

January 27, 2013 - UNITED STATES - A new study by Portland State University geology professor Scott Burns and a team of students has discovered high levels of radon in the Portland area. According to The Oregonian, Burns and his team looked at radon tests from 33,000 homes in the Portland area, which is 10 times more than the last round in 2003.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency reports that radon is estimated to cause thousands of lung cancer deaths in the U.S. each year. Radon is a gas that can’t be smelled or tasted. The EPA warns that if you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is extremely high. Fortunately, testing your home for radon is easy and inexpensive. Writing for The Oregonian, Scott Learn notes that radon risk in the Portland area is higher because granite-infused sediment washed into the region from the Missoula Floods during the last ice age. The granite-infused sediment is said to be relatively high in uranium and radon is a byproduct of uranium’s breakdown.

“It’s a geological hazard that can be dealt with cheaply,” Professor Burns told the newspaper. “We need to reduce the amount of radiation in our lives, and this is one way of doing that.” Burns and his students found that one in every four houses in the Portland area accumulates radon above the level the EPA says is safe. The EPA recommends fixing your home if your radon level is 4 picocuries per liter or higher. However, the EPA also points out that radon levels less than 4 pCi/L sill pose a risk and usually can be reduced further.
According to The Oregonian, Burns found ZIP codes with higher or moderate average levels of radon at 79 percent, which is up from 69 percent in 2003. The new study also revealed high levels in a few unexpected areas, including parts of Banks, Boring, Clackamas, Gladstone, Lake Oswego, Newberg, Sandy, Sauvie Island, Sherwood and Wilsonville. - Science Recorder.

EXTINCTION LEVEL EVENT: Beekeepers Expect "Worst Year For Bees" - "We're Facing The Extinction Of A Species"!

January 27, 2013 - UNITED STATES - "We're facing the extinction of a species." That's what one Midwest-based large-scale commercial beekeeper told me last week at the annual gathering of the American Honey Producers Association (AHPA). And he meant it. Bee losses have been dramatic, especially in recent years. And beekeepers are feeling the sting. According to many who manage hives, commercial beekeeping won't pencil out in the future unless things change, and soon.

Beekeepers from across the country gathered in San Diego to swap stories and share best practices in the trade, as well as to learn more about the latest research on declines in bee populations (often referred to as Colony Collapse Disorder). Independent science continues to point to pesticides as one of the critical co-factors in bee losses - alongside nutrition and disease - and beekeepers continue to see major declines. And these losses parallel the ongoing increase in pesticide products used on seeds and in fields across the country.  As one beekeeper told me, "On average, 40% over-wintering losses across the country. That's what we're facing. And my losses are closer to 70% - this is likely gonna be the worst year for bees." But it isn't just this year; USDA reports major bee population declines since 2006. Another beekeeper told me he lost over $250,000 in honey business last year alone, and he's no longer pollinating melon and cherries. As he reminded me, this not only has direct impacts on him, but his employees, their communities, suppliers, vendors, the food system and agricultural economy.

Pesticide industry, front & center
Workshops [PDF] on pesticides were more common than ever at this annual AHPA conference, as evidence mounts showing pesticides to be a key catalyst in bee declines. And representatives from chemical giants like Arysta, Bayer and Monsanto made their presence known, even hosting workshops to pacify concerned beekeepers. These corporations have a lot at stake. With the market becoming increasingly consolidated, just a few companies manufacture many of the same seeds and pesticides implicated in honey bee losses. If history is any guide, these corporations will likely continue to object to finding healthy, sustainable and commonsense solutions to bee declines.

Toward commonsense solutions
By the end of the conference, several themes had emerged. Beekeepers, and the farmers they work with, don't have the necessary support from state and federal officials to protect pollinators and maintain productive businesses. They feel victim to a handful of powerful pesticide corporations and lax government regulators.

In order to support healthy pollinators, several beekeepers suggested the following:
  • Reduce pesticide use, especially near bees. With the weight of the evidence behind them, beekeepers are encouraging reductions in pesticide use, including the use of products like neonicotinoids and fungicides, and especially near bees.
  • Fix the system that tracks bee incidents. Beekeepers find it burdensome and ineffective to report pesticide-related bee kills, as the onus is often placed on them, and many states have failed to create systems for monitoring bee kills.
  • Create transparent state and federal systems for tracking pesticide use. Beekeepers, like rural and farmworker communities, are best served by knowing what's being used near them, including amount, type and weather conditions. The federal government and most states - except for California, New York and Oregon - have failed to create a meaningful pesticide use tracking program.
Some beekeepers have taken matters into their own hands, forming the National Pollinator Defense Fund. With a commitment to protecting bees and their livelihood, this new band of beekeepers will "defend managed and native pollinators vital to a sustainable and affordable food supply from the adverse impacts of pesticides."

No doubt it will take all of us to make sure they are successful, and to ensure we will have healthy bees and beekeepers for years to come. - PAN North America.

SHADOW WARS: Escalating Towards World War III - Israel Deploys Missiles as Netanyahu Sees Imminent Collapse Of Syria!

January 27, 2013 - ISRAEL - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel must prepare for the threat of a chemical attack from Syria as the army deployed its new Iron Dome anti- missile system near the border with its northern neighbor.  Netanyahu told members of the Cabinet during the weekly meeting in Jerusalem today that Israel faces dangers from throughout the Middle East.

FILE: A rocket launched from the Israeli anti-missile system known as Iron Dome in order to intercept a rocket fired by Palestinian militants. Photograph: Ariel Schalit/AP.
Top security officials held a special meeting last week to discuss what may happen to Syrian stocks of chemical weapons amid the civil unrest there, Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom told Army Radio.  “We must look around us, at what is happening in Iran and its proxies and at what is happening in other areas, with the deadly weapons in Syria, which is increasingly coming apart,” Netanyahu told his Cabinet, according to an e-mailed statement.  Syrian rebels, mostly Sunni Muslims, have been fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad since March 2011 in a conflict that the United Nations says has left at least 60,000 people dead. Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war. 

The Iron Dome system, which was used to shoot down hundreds of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip during Israel’s November conflict with Hamas and other militant groups, is being deployed at an unspecified site in the north, according to an Israeli army spokeswoman. She spoke anonymously in accordance with military regulations and said setting up the anti-missile battery was part of routine operations.  Israeli forces must be particularly alert during the period following last week’s election in which Netanyahu is trying to form a new coalition government and enemies are looking for signs of weakness, the prime minister said. Netanyahu’s Likud- Beitenu alliance lost 11 parliamentary seats in the vote and the prime minister said he needs a broad and stable coalition to deal with security threats from the region. - Bloomberg.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Tracking The Giant Louisiana Sinkhole - New Extended Flyover Video Of The Hole Reveals "That Things Actually Look A Bit Worse"?!

January 27, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Five weeks after our last update of December 24 on the Bayou Corne sinkhole, we are finding that things actually look a bit worse. The water levels seems higher, and the work efforts appear to have subsided. Equipment has been removed, and the homes to the west and northwest of the sinkhole look seriously unpopulated.  The recent seismic activity has people and the government concerned, and evacuees cannot expect to be able to return to their homes or communities any time soon.

The following Google Earth maps of our flight track show the background as it looked long before this sinkhole developed (the image is stamped with "©2013 Google" but the Google image was not taken in 2013!). The blue line is our flight track; each photo is a progressively tighter zoom in.  The third photo of the sinkhole in this group will give you a quick idea of how much the immediate area has changed, and how large a sinkhole has developed where previously there was none.

See photos and read more HERE.

Concerned citizens have kept information flowing with Facebook and email, and many have posted regular aerial videos on YouTube (see, e.g., this summary of videos between August 2012 and January 2013). Please see our December 24 and August 13 articles also for comparison with our prior photos and videos. - OWC.

WATCH: Flyover of Bayou Corne - January 26, 2013.

SHADOW WARS: Escalating Towards World War III - Iranian-Hezbollah Convoy Blown Up On Syrian Side Of The Golan Heights As Border Tensions Shoot Up, 8 Officers Killed!

January 27, 2013 - SYRIA - At least eight officers were killed in a mysterious twin-car bomb explosion Friday, Jan. 25 at Syrian regional intelligence headquarters in Quneitra on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. Some of the fatalities were Syrian, but Western intelligence sources disclosed to debkafile that most were high-ranking Iranian Al Qods Brigades and Hezbollah officers. The blasts sent tensions shooting up on the Israeli and Jordanian borders with Syria.  Israeli, Jordanian and US Special Forces posted in the kingdom went on high alert. Heavy Syrian reinforcements were seen streaming toward the two borders. Syrian regime sources said the explosive devices were attached to the intelligence command building’s outer walls.

But the Western sources report that two large bomb cars were lying in wait on both sides of the road leading to the Syrian HQ and were detonated as the two-car convoy of Iranian and Hezbollah officers drove by. There were no survivors. Those sources also refute reports that the al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusrah fighting with the Syrian rebels claimed responsibility for the attack. This was a rare occasion when no Syrian opposition group issued any statement at all, they said. The speed with which Syrian army helicopters flew in to remove the casualties indicated their high rank.  In the view of a Jordanian military source, this attack by an unknown hand has delayed Bashar Assad’s advanced preparations for an all-out armored offensive to finally crush the revolt against his regime. His first targets were to have been the rebel-held villages along the Israeli and Jordanian borders. The Syrian ruler was working to a plan of operations his generals had drawn up with Iranian Al Qods Brigades strategists. 

Saturday, Ali Akbar Velayati, an aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned that Iran would consider any attack on Syria an attack on itself: "Syria has a very basic and key role in the region for promoting firm policies of resistance [against Israel]... For this reason an attack on Syria would be considered an attack on Iran and Iran's allies." Meanwhile in Iran itself, the Fordo underground uranium enrichment plant was again reported targeted for sabotage, according to an unconfirmed report published by Reza Kahlil, who is described as a former Iranian Revolutionary Guards officer who worked under cover as a double agent for the CIA until he escaped to the United States.  Kahlil reported that at 11:30 a.m., Monday, Jan. 21, the day before Israel’s general elections, a large explosion occurred 100 meters deep inside the underground plant, trapping 240 nuclear staff in the third centrifuge chamber.  Among them, he said, were Iranian and Ukrainian technicians.

There was no information about casualties or the extent of damage to the 2,700 centrifuges which have been turning out 20-percent enriched uranium.  Khalil cited his source as Hamidreza Zakeri, a former Iranian Intelligence Ministry agent, who said the regime believes the blast was sabotage and the explosives could have reached the area disguised by the CIA as equipment imported for the site or defective machinery.  None of the information about an explosion at Fordo has been verified either by US officials or regime sources in Tehran. Thursday, Jan. 24, Israel’s Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz and Military Intelligence Director Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi ceremonially promoted Col. G., commander of the elite Sayeret Matkal, to the rank of major general in recognition of his unit’s “outstanding covert operations.” - DEBKA.

PERPETUAL REVOLUTION: Arab Winter - More Clashes In Cairo As Death Toll In Egyptian Soccer Riot Rises To 35! UPDATE: Mohammed Morsi Imposes State Of Emergency!

January 27, 2013 - EGYPT - Egypt's security forces regained control Sunday of a vital northeastern port city after a riot broke out following news that 21 people had been sentenced to death for their roles in last year's deadly clashes at a soccer match at the Port Said stadium.  The riot in Port Said follows other violence, which was tied more to unrest over Egypt's current leadership. They are nonetheless symptomatic of instability and insecurity two years after longtime President Hosni Mubarak was ousted.  By early Sunday morning, the death toll in Port Said climbed to 35, health officials said. More than 415 were injured.

Photo: AFP.
Security forces closed roads in and out of Port Said, which sits along the Mediterranean Sea at the northern entrance of the Suez Canal.  Army units, meanwhile, took control of the main Suez Canal administration building, provincial government buildings, banks and courts in Port Said, Gen. Ahmed Mohammed Ali, a spokesman for the Armed Forces, said. The troops also secured the power and water facilities in the city, he said. The buildings were either looted and burned or taken by rioters, according to state media reports.  The armed forces also appealed to Egyptians to protect public and state property, Ali said.  The violence began Saturday outside a prison after relatives of those convicted clashed with police and prison guards, the head of Port Said hospitals told state-run Nile TV.  Some of the defendants' relatives tried to storm the Port Said prison to free their loved ones being held inside, interior ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Osama Ismail told Nile TV.

They were angry because 21 of their relatives had just been sentenced to death for their role in a February 1, 2012, riot that occurred at the close of a match between Cairo's prestigious Al-Ahly football club and the host Al-Masry team.  When the riot was over at the stadium, 73 people were dead and more than 1,000 wounded.  Egypt's general prosecutor charged 75 people with premeditated murder and attempted murder, while three Al-Masry officials and nine police officers were charged with "assisting the murderers."  According to the prosecutor's office, those charged with assisting knew about the assault ahead of time, didn't confiscate weapons in advance, didn't stop them and -- in the case of an electricity engineer who was charged -- turned off the lights directly over the bleachers where the Al-Ahly fans were sitting right after the visiting team wrapped up its 3-1 victory.  Fans from both sides bashed each other with rocks and chairs, yet prosecutors claimed the Port Said supporters were also armed with knives and other weapons.  Many died after falling from bleachers inside the stadium, while others suffocated. As security forces tried to regain control of the streets in Port Said, clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces in Cairo entered its third day.  Police and soldiers used tear gas to quell a sometimes violent demonstration near Cairo's Tahrir Square -- the symbolic center of Egypt's revolution. Demonstrators threw rocks and burned tires and boxes, according to state-run Ahram newspaper. - CNN.

WATCH: Fresh anti Morsi protests in Egypt.

UPDATE: Mohammed Morsi Imposes State Of Emergency.
President Mohammed Morsi has imposed a state of emergency in Egypt after another weekend of violence claimed more than 40 lives.  Five people died on Sunday at funerals for some of the 31 people killed the day before, hospital officials said, after protests against death sentences handed down to football rioters were met with live fire as well as tear gas.  In an especially worrying development, protesters were also armed and fired shots at police lines.  The weekend violence in Port Said, at the Mediterranean end of the Suez Canal, followed fighting in cities across the country on Friday, the second anniversary of the Tahrir Square revolution. At least nine people were killed, bringing the weekend total to 45, with over 1,100 injured. 

Mr Morsi has now responded to the violence, announcing a state of emergency in Suez, Ismalia and Port Said for 30 days.  Earlier, one leading member of Mr Morsi's own Muslim Brotherhood had called on him to "step in with full force".  "What are you waiting for to interfere?" Mohammed el-Beltagy, a former MP said. "You need to stop the arson attacks, blocking roads, bridges and tunnels and provide security. It is your duty to immediately intervene to face this thuggery through all legitimate means provided by the constitution and the law, including declaring an emergency state."  The EU and Britain both called for calm. Alistair Burt, the Foreign Office minister for the Middle East, said: "We call on all parties to exercise maximum restraint and to ensure that all protests remain peaceful."  - Telegraph.

WATCH: 'West feeds Egypt unrest to make government follow its course'.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: At Least 16 Killed In Indonesia Landslides - Nine Missing, 15 Houses Covered!

January 27, 2013 - INDONESIA - Two landslides triggered by heavy rains have killed at least 16 people and left nine others missing on Indonesia's Sumatra island, officials said on Sunday.

The National Disaster Management Agency said 11 bodies were recovered and six others were injured in a landslide in Agam district in West Sumatra province early Sunday, and nine people were thought to be still buried in the debris.

Two landslides triggered by heavy rains killed at least 16 people and left 9 others missing on Indonesia's
Sumatra island, officials said on Sunday. (AFP PHOTO).
Three children were among the dead from the landslide that covered 15 houses, agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told AFP in a text message.

Separately a landslide caused by heavy rains late Saturday killed five workers at a drilling site belonging to PT Pertamina Geothermal Energy in Kerinci district in Jambi province, the company said in a statement.

Floods and landslides are common in Indonesia, which is prone to frequent periods of heavy rain.

Indonesian soldiers evacuate a dead body, the victim of a recent landslide that hit
Nagari Sungai Batang village in Agam. (AFP PHOTO).
The capital Jakarta was flooded this month following extreme rains that caused 32 deaths and at its peak forced nearly 46,000 people to flee their homes, officials said. - Channel News Asia.

HORROR: At Least 245 Dead In Brazil Nightclub Blaze - Hundreds More Injured, One Of The World's Deadliest Fires In A Decade!

January 27, 2013 - BRAZIL - A blaze raced through a crowded nightclub in southern Brazil early Sunday, setting off a stampede that killed at least 245 people attending a university party, police and firefighters said. It appeared to be the world's deadliest nightclub fire in more than a decade. 

Witnesses said that a flare or firework lit by band members may have started the fire.  Police Maj. Cleberson Braida told local news media that the 245 bodies were brought for identification to a gymnasium in the city of Santa Maria, at the southern tip of Brazil near the borders with Argentina and Uruguay  Television images showed smoke pouring out of the Kiss nightclub as shirtless, young male partygoers joined firefighters in wielding axes and sledgehammers, pounding at windows and walls to break through to those trapped inside. Teenagers sprinted from the scene desperately trying to find help – others carried injured and burned friends away in their arms.  "There was so much smoke and fire, it was complete panic and it took a long time for people to get out, there were so many dead," survivor Luana Santos Silva told the Globo TV network.  Silva added that firefighters and ambulances responded quickly after the fire broke out, but that it spread too fast inside the packed club for them to help.  Michele Pereira, another survivor, told the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper that she was near the stage and that the fire broke out after band members lit flares.  "The band that was onstage began to use flares and, suddenly, they stopped the show and pointed them upward. At that point the ceiling caught fire. It was really weak but in a matter of seconds it spread," Pereira said.  Civil Police and regional government spokesman Marcelo Arigoni told Radio Gaucha earlier that the total number of victims is still unclear and there may be hundreds injured. Officials earlier said 180 were killed.

 Rodrigo Moura, identified by the newspaper Diario de Santa Maria as a security guard at the club, said it was at its maximum capacity of between 1,000 and 2,000, and partygoers were pushing and shoving to escape.  Ezekiel Corte Real, 23, was quoted by the paper as saying that he helped people to escape. "I just got out because I'm very strong," he said.  The fire led President Dilma Roussef to cancel a series of meetings she had scheduled at a summit of Latin American and European leaders in Chile's capital of Santiago, and was headed to Santa Maria, according to the Brazilian foreign ministry.  "It is a tragedy for all of us. I am not going to continue in the meeting (in Chile) for very clear reasons," she said.  "Sad Sunday", tweeted Tarso Genro, the governor of the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. He said all possible action was being taken and that he would be in the city later in the day.  Santa Maria is a major university city with a population of around a quarter of a million.  A welding accident reportedly set off a Dec. 25, 2000, fire at a club in Luoyang, China, killing 309.  At least 194 people died at an overcrowded working-class nightclub in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 2004. Seven members the band were sentenced to prison for setting off the blaze.  A blaze at the Lame Horse nightclub in Perm, Russia, broke out on Dec. 5, 2009, when an indoor fireworks display ignited a plastic ceiling decorated with branches, killing 152  A nightclub fire in the U.S. state of Rhode Island in 2003 killed 100 people after pyrotechnics used as a stage prop by the 1980s rock band Great White set ablaze cheap soundproofing foam on the walls and ceiling. - Huffington Post.

WATCH: RAW - Nightclub Fire In Brazil Kills Hundreds!

AUSTRALIAN WEATHER ANOMALIES: Monumental Deluge - Bundaberg Set For Worst Flood In A Century As Insurers Declare Catastrophe For All Of Queensland!

January 27, 2013 - AUSTRALIA - The battered city of Bundaberg is bracing for one of its worst floods in history as it bears the brunt of ex-tropical cyclone Oswald. One man is confirmed dead and hundreds of homes and businesses are expected to be inundated on Sunday night as the Burnett River rises towards a peak not seen in the central Queensland town in over a century.  Premier Campbell Newman says at least 300 homes and 100 businesses in Bundaberg will be inundated if the flood peak on Sunday night eclipses the 2010/11 level, as it's expected to do.  Bundaberg Regional Council Mayor Mal Forman says about 40 homes have been flooded and the army has been called in to help evacuate people. 

Bundaberg Set For Worst Flood In A Century.
He says Burnett River will peak at 8.5 metres on Sunday night, well above the 7.92m peak of 2010/11.  It will reach a second peak of 9m on Tuesday, when water from the catchments flows downstream.  The only other time on record a flood peak reached 9m was in 1893-94, meaning the town was heading into unknown territory, Mr Forman said.  "It's going to challenge us. It will be our greatest challenge," he told AAP.  "We do ask people to have patience and let us do our job and hopefully we can all get through it with the least amount of damage and hurt."  About 460 people are already in two evacuation centres with many more fleeing to relatives' homes on higher ground, while about 150 businesses have also been evacuated.  Two defence force Blackhawk helicopters are flying in from Townsville to help.  Residents are being told to prepare to spend several nights away from their homes.  Meanwhile, the body of an elderly man was found in the tornado-hit coastal town of Burnett Heads, northeast of Bundaberg, on Sunday morning.  Police said he had fallen overboard from a yacht which had broken from its mooring.  On Saturday afternoon and evening five tornadoes ripped through the coastal region near Bundaberg, injuring more than a dozen people and damaging 250 homes.  Two people were critically injured when a giant pine tree fell on their parked car on the Esplanade at Bargara, and about a dozen more were injured by flying glass and other debris.  Two homes were completely destroyed in the mini-cyclone that struck Burnett Heads.  Community Safety Minister Jack Dempsey, whose electorate takes in the tornado-struck region, said shell-shocked locals told him the tornado sounded like a jet landing and afterwards it looked like a bulldozer had ploughed through the area.  "When the force hit the Esplanade in Bargara it wasn't just smashing things, it actually sucked the air out of the buildings and blew out the windows," he told AAP.  Premier Campbell Newman visited Bundaberg on Sunday morning as part of a tour of disaster-hit regions and later told a press conference of meeting a couple whose home, caravan and car had been significantly damaged.  "My heart goes out to them," he said.  Residents have been warned sewage will be present in floodwaters because the council's sewerage pump stations aren't operating. - Herald Sun.

Insurers Declare Catastrophe For All Of Queensland.
Flood and storm damage across Queensland has triggered a statewide catastrophe declaration from the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA).  Tornadoes, storms and flooding have hit the state's centre and southeast in recent days, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of homes and leaving tens of thousands more without power.  With the extent of the damage still unfolding, ICA chief executive Rob Whelan said a catastrophe declaration meant an industry taskforce would help coordinate the response.  "Insurers are greatly concerned about extreme weather expected over the next few days in Queensland, with severe inundation already having been experienced in several towns and cities, and major flood warnings now in place for every river from Cairns to the border," he said on Sunday.  "Unfortunately, this catastrophe declaration is the result of the first cyclone to come close to the coast this season, and the weather bureau has warned it's highly possible we will see more before the end of summer." - Herald Sun.

WATCH: Flood crisis in Queensland.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Increased Seismicity And Explosive Activity At The Reventador Volcano In Ecuador!

January 27, 2013 - ECUADOR - Activity continues, but likely has becoming more intermittent judging from the seismic signal. Visual observations are most of the time impossible.

In a special bulletin posted yesterday IGEPN summarizes the beginning of the new eruptive phase: Seismicity began to increase significantly on January 22. The same day, volcanologists received the first reports of sounds of explosions and rumblings heard.

Current seismic signal from Reventador (CONE station, IG).
On the evening of 22 Jan, new explosive activity produced an ash-rich plume rising 1500 m above the crater, and a new lava flow was detected on the southeastern flank, with its length estimated about 1500 m and the flow front at 2600 m elevation. Volcanologists have also could see on photographs taken that day, that the lava dome from the previous eruptive phase had grown. - Volcano Discovery.

ELECTRIC UNIVERSE: Colossal Quasar Discovered With Energy Output 100 Times Milky Way Galaxy!

January 27, 2013 - SPACE - This past December, researchers discovered a quasar known as SDSS J1106+1939 with the most energetic outflow ever, a finding that may answer questions about how the mass of a galaxy is linked to its central black hole mass and why there are so few large galaxies in the universe. The rate that energy is carried away by the huge mass of material ejected is equivalent to two trillion times the power output of the sun. The black hole at the heart of quasar SDSS J1106-1939 is massive, estimated to be a thousand times heavier than the black hole in the Milky Way. "This is about 100 times higher than the total power output of the Milky Way galaxy — it's a real monster outflow," said Nahum Arav, an associate professor of physics in College of Science at Virginia Tech and leader of the research team, which includes Benoit Borguet, now a postdoctoral researcher now at the University of Liege, Belgium; Doug Edmonds and Carter Chamberlain, both graduate research assistants at Virginia Tech, and Chris Benn, a collaborator who works with the Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes in Spain.

Researchers studied the quasar in great detail using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Paranal, Chile – the world's most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory, and found the most energetic quasar outflow ever discovered. The findings were released today (Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012) by the European Southern Observatory. Theorists have predicted energy flows of this magnitude, and simulations have suggested these outflows impact the galaxies around them, but it has all been speculation — until now. "For the last 15 years many theorists have said that if there were such powerful outflows it would help answer many questions on the formation of galaxies, on the behavior of black holes, and on the enrichment of the intergalactic medium with elements other than hydrogen and helium," Arav said. "This discovery means we can better explain the formation of galaxies. There are hundreds of people doing the theoretical side of the work. They hypothesize outflows in their simulations, and now we've found an outflow in the magnitude that has only been theorized in the past. Now they can refine their already impressive models and base them on empirical data." And while black holes are noted for pulling material in, quasars accelerate some of the material and eject it at high speed. The larger the quasar, the more material it can take, the higher speed it can accelerate it, and the further it can eject the material.

"Quasars have been known for 40 years," Arav explained. "We were able to figure out how to measure the mass of mechanical energy the black hole is putting out – by calculating the size of the outflow, how far away from the black hole it was, and how much mass it had per unit area." The quasar's outflow is at least five times more powerful than the previous record holder, also discovered by Arav and his research group in 2009, and material from the outflow is inferred to be about a thousand light years away from the black hole at the heart of quasar SDSS J1106-1939. Every year, according to the team's analysis, a mass of more than 400 times that of the sun is streaming away from the quasar at a speed of 8,000 kilometers per second.*"I've been looking for something like this for a decade," Arav said, "so it's thrilling to finally find one of the monster outflows that have been predicted." Research done in 2010 using precise measurements on the light from distant quasars suggested that the value of the fine-structure constant may have changed over the history of the universe. If the quasar results are ever confirmed, our concepts of space and time are sure to change our fundamental understanding of the universe.

The fine-structure constant, or alpha, is the coupling constant for the electromagnetic force. If alpha were just 4% bigger or smaller than it is, stars wouldn't be able to make carbon and oxygen, which would have made it impossible for life as we know it in our universe to exist. A 2010 study shows that alpha seems to have varied a tiny bit in different directions of the universe billions of years ago, being slightly smaller in the northern hemisphere and slightly larger in the southern hemisphere. One intriguing implication is that the fine-structure constant is continuously varying in space, and seems fine-tuned for life in our neighborhood of the universe. The physicists, John Webb from the University of New South Wales and his coauthors, used data from two telescopes to uncover the spatial dependence of the fine-structure constant. Using the north-facing Keck telescope in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and the south-facing Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Paranal, Chile, the researchers observed more than 100 quasars, which are extremely luminous and distant galaxies that are powered by massive black holes at their centers. By combining the data from the two telescopes that look in opposite directions, the researchers found that, 10 billion years ago, alpha seems to have been larger by about one part in 100,000 in the southern direction and smaller by one part in 100,000 in the northern direction. The data for this “dipole” model of alpha has a statistical significance of about 4.1 sigma, meaning that that there is only a one in 15,000 chance that it is a random event.

Quasars are highly luminous objects that emit light over a wide range of wavelengths, with peaks at several wavelengths due to emission by elements such as hydrogen, nitrogen, silicon, carbon and iron in the gas around the quasar. When light from the quasar passes near a galaxy on its way to Earth, the gas around the galaxy causes a distinct pattern of absorption lines in the quasar spectrum. By measuring the wavelengths of the absorption lines due to heavy elements we can determine both the redshift of the gas and the value of the fine-structure constant, alpha, at the time when the light from the quasar was absorbed. Such observations suggest that the value of alpha was slightly smaller billions of years ago. Quasars are compact but highly luminous objects -so luminous that they can be studied in intricate detail using ground-based telescopes despite being vast distances away from us. We think that quasars contain black holes at their centres and that the immense gravitational force exerted by the black hole is extremely efficient at converting matter in its vicinity into light. Since quasars are found in all directions in the sky, they provide a powerful way of charting almost the entire universe. Some quasars are so far away that we see them as they were billions of years ago. Indeed, by observing quasars scientists can chart a continuous “universal history” that starts when the universe was only about one billion years old and continues up to the present day. - Daily Galaxy.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Magmatic Intrusion Of The Canary Islands - Seismic Unrest At El Hierro Island!

January 27, 2013 - THE CANARY ISLANDS - Small earthquakes have started to occur again in increased numbers.

Map of recent earthquakes at El Hierro.
Following a period of calm with many days without any quakes, about 9 small quakes in the range of magnitude 1-2 have been recorded over the past 48 hours. Most of them were located at depths of 10-15 km depth under the central part of the island. - Volcano Discovery.

- 3 volcanic earthquakes today.
- IGN has confirmed that the stain earlier this week was because of degassing of the volcano edifice. This phenomenon can go on for some more weeks.
- The President of the Canary Islands, Mr. Ricardo Melchior, has made a statement that Involcan will get the necessary 240.000 euro to continue their work. - Earthquake Report.