Tuesday, February 5, 2013

PLANETARY TREMORS: Seismic Uptick On The Pacific Ring Of Fire - Powerful Magnitude 8.0 Earthquake Strikes The Santa Cruz Islands! UPDATE: Tsunami Warning Issued For Pacific Islands As Aftershocks Rock Region, Reports Of Destruction!

February 05, 2013 - SANTA CRUZ ISLANDS - The 8.0 magnitude earthquake struck at a very shallow depth of only three miles about 200 miles east of Kira Kira in the Solomons, prompting reports that villages in some parts of the country had been destroyed.

USGS earthquake map and location.
 Shortly later, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii issued a tsunami warning for the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, New Caledonia, Kosrae, Fiji, Kiribati, and Wallis and Futuna islands.  A tsunami watch was issued for the rest of the South Pacific nations, including Indonesia, New Zealand and Australia, however, the Australian Weather Bureau said there was no threat to the nation's mainland or islands.

France issued a tsunami alert for its Pacific territory New Caledonia, saying the tsunami was scheduled to hit at 3pm local time (4am GMT). Residents near the coast were being advised to evacuate immediately. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre warned that the earthquake could cause a "destructive tsunami" near its epicentre. A surge of 3ft was recorded in one part the Solomon Islands.

USGS earthquake intensity map.

"Sea level readings indicate a tsunami was generated," said the tsunami centre. "It may have been destructive along coasts near the earthquake epicentre and could also be a threat to more distant coasts."

While residents in the Solomon Islands capital Honiara said they had not felt any shaking, a report from AFP quoted a hospital director saying that villages had been destroyed by the earthquake. "The information we are getting is that some villages west and south of Lata along the coast have been destroyed, although we cannot confirm this yet," the director at Lata Hospital on the main Santa Cruz island of Ndende, said. A staff member at the Solomons National Disaster Management Office said officials were concerned about the eastern province of Temotu.

"That's the province, which if it is going to have an effect, then they will be the first people to be impacted," the official said. They felt the quake." He said first reports from the area were that there was a tsunami wave but he had no further information. He added that the national disaster operation centre had been activated and they were trying to contact those in Temotu province.

In 2007 a tsunami following an 8.1-magnitude earthquake killed at least 52 people in the Solomons and left thousands homeless. The Solomon Islands are part of the "Ring of Fire", a zone of tectonic activity around the Pacific Ocean that is subject to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. - Telegraph.

According to the USGS, the region has been hit by a series of aftershocks since the first two initial earthquakes of 6.3 and 8.0 magnitudes. Take a look at the following image from the USGS website.

WATCH: Western Pacific Watch - Large 8.0 Quake / Tsunami Warnings Solomon Islands.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Weird Underwater Waves In The Caribbean Spotted From Space - Heights Of Up To 300 Feet, Width Spans Hundreds Of Miles?!

February 05, 2013 - CARIBBEAN - In the ocean, there are more waves than meet the eye.

Below the whitecaps breaking on the sea surface, so-called internal waves ripple through the water. These waves can travel long distances, but rarely does evidence of their existence surface - unless you're looking down from space, that is.

This photograph, taken on Jan. 18 by a crewmember on the International Space Station, shows internal
waves north of the Caribbean island of Trinidad. © NASA Earth Observatory.
This photograph, taken on Jan. 18 by a crewmember on the International Space Station, shows internal waves north of the Caribbean island of Trinidad, as featured by NASA's Earth Observatory. From space, the appearance of the waves is enhanced due to reflected sunlight, or sunglint, aimed back at the space station, making the waves visible to an astronaut's camera.

The most prominent waves can be seen in the upper left of the photograph, moving in from the northwest due to tidal flow toward Trinidad, according to the Earth Observatory. Another set can be seen moving in from the northeast, likely created at the edge of the continental shelf, where the seafloor abruptly drops off, the site reported.

Internal waves are seen throughout Earth's oceans and atmosphere, according to MIT's Experimental and Nonlinear Dynamics Lab. They are created by differences in density of water layers (from changes in temperature or salt content, for example) when that water moves over a feature such as an underwater mountain or a continental shelf.

The waves are huge, with heights up to 100 meters (about 330 feet) and widths that span hundreds of miles, according to a 2010 MIT press release on a new method for studying the waves.

A plume of milky sediment can also be seen moving to the northwest in the photograph. The sediment is carried by the equatorial current, which flows from east to west, starting in Africa, and is driven toward the Caribbean by strong easterly winds, according to the website. - OAP.

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: The Herring Apocalypse - 30,000 Tonnes Of Fish Worth Millions In Exports Die In Icelandic Lake!

February 05, 2013 - ICELAND - Stretching as far as the eye can see, dead herring blanket the ground in these chilling pictures taken today.  It is not yet known what is causing the mass fish deaths in Iceland, but today's grim find is the second such occurrence in two months. 

The Dead Sea: Millions of pounds of herring lie dead, believed to have been killed by building work. © AP.
The herring, weighing an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 tonnes and worth £18.9million, were found floating dead in in Kolgrafafjorour, a small fjord on the northern part of Snæfellsnes peninsula, west Iceland, according to the country's Morgunbladid newspaper.  Biologist Róbert Arnar Stefánsson estimates that 7,000 tonnes of herring is laying on the shore and there are many more at the bottom of the fjord.  Both this mass death and the one in December, where a similar amount of fish died, are thought to be due to a lack of oxygen in the fjord caused by a landfill and bridge constructed across the fjord in 2004. 

Fears over the costly deaths have prompted the Marine Research Institute of Iceland to visit and gather information, while Government ministers agreed to allocate money to research and monitor the situation.  School children in the nearby village of Grundarfjorour collected between 25 and 30 tonnes of the dead herring this morning for sale as animal fodder.  They raised an estimated £1,000 for use in sports and other activities through the collection.  The herring will be left to decompose naturally, according to a decision by the Environment Agency of Iceland and the West Iceland Centre of Natural History.  Nearby residents complained about the smell of the rotten fish and there is an ongoing dispute over the clean-up.  Tens of thousands of birds have been drawn to the site to feed, but there are fears the fish oil from the decaying herring might threaten these birds in the coming weeks and months.  The fishing industry is a major part of Iceland's economy, accounting for approximately half of the country's total exports. - Daily Mail.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Seismic Uptick On The Pacific Ring Of Fire - Magnitude 6.3 Earthquake Strikes The Santa Cruz Islands!

February 05, 2013 - SANTA CRUZ ISLANDS - The "Pacific Ring of Fire" was rocked again today by another strong earthquake. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit at 70km (43 miles) southwest of Lata, Solomon Islands, and has been recorded off the Santa Cruz Islands in the Pacific Ocean.

USGS earthquake map and location.
No tsunami alert was issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in the immediate wake of the tremor.

The region has been hit by a deluge of strong to powerful earthquakes. On January 31st, the islands were rocked by a 6.0 magnitude earthquake forty-six miles east of Lata.  Several hours later, another earthquake measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale jolted the same region, with a depth of 55.40 km. On February 1st, a powerful 6.7 magnitude earthquake jolted the Pacific island region, followed by a 6.1 the next day.

USGS earthquake intensity map.
According to official reports, no significant damage or casualties resulted from these tremors.

The Santa Cruz Islands form part of the Temotu Province of the Solomon Islands and lie approximately 400km to the southeast of the Solomons. Lata is the main town on the chain’s largest island, which is Nendo.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Volcano Discovery Report For February 05, 2013 - Updates On Etna, Tolbachik, Mt Fuji, Sheveluch, Taal, Bagana, Reventador, White Island, Manam, Kilauea, Popocatépetl, Santa María, Santiaguito, Fuego, San Miguel, Copahue, Kizimen, Karymski, Klyuchevskoi And Bezymianny!

February 05, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing report from the Volcano Discovery Group.

Etna this morning.
Etna (Sicily, Italy): The New SE crater has been producing occasional ash emissions and weak explosions over the past 24 hours, but so far, the volcano seems not to be in the mood of making another mini-paroxysm eruption. The tremor signal is at low levels, but unstable.

There are no significant changes in activity at any of the volcanoes in Kamchatka: Fluid lava continues to erupt from Tolbachik volcano, accompanied by stable, still relatively high tremor levels. Moderate seismicity suggests ongoing lava extrusion and dome building at Sheveluch and Kizimen. Low seismic activity was reported from Karymski and Klyuchevskoi volcano. The strong seismicity from Tolbachik obscures the signals from Bezymianny, which also continues to slowly build a lava dome. Gorely continues to show medium levels of tremor caused by fluid movements and strong degassing.

Earthquakes near Fuji in January, 2013.

Mt Fuji (Honshu): (4 Feb) The volcano remains calm. However, an increased number of small quakes near and under Mt Fuji are visible on our latest data plot of nearby earthquakes (within 30 km radius). While all of these are very small and the number is certainly not alarming, the volcano remains interesting to watch. According to a the Japan Times, a new eruption of Mount Fuji could force some 567,000 people to evacuate their homes (in the worst case scenario). The Shizuoka Prefectural Government ha worked on a new evacuation plan, which assumes that more than 130,000 people from approx. 50,000 households would have to relocate if "lava" were to reach residential districts in the city of Fuji located just south of the 3,776-meter mountain. "Depending on the number and locations of vents, evacuation from wider areas could be needed. The plan is based on a hazard map prepared by the central government based on Fuji’s last eruption, in 1707. "Under the evacuation plan, 10 zones have been designated at the foot of the mountain based on the expected direction of lava flows. "The plan specifies evacuation zones in four grades. The Yamanashi Prefectural Government is preparing a similar evacuation plan. "Plans will be finalized at a consultation forum involving Shizuoka, Yamanashi and Kanagawa prefectures and the central government. Joint evacuation drills in the three prefectures will also be conducted.

Taal (Luzon, Philippines): (4 Feb) Earthquake activity remains slightly elevated, but nothing else points toward a possible reawakening of the volcano in a near future. PHILVOLCS reported 10 quakes during the past 48 hours.

Bagana (Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea): Increased SO2 emissions can be seen today, suggesting ongoing activity at the volcano.  Also Manam volcano remains active and has produced a smaller SO2 plume.

White Island (New Zealand): Tremor and earthquakes have suddenly ceased.

Kilauea (Hawai'i): Not much has changed at the volcano's activity on the Big Island: lava flows enter the sea in numerous locations both inside and outside the Natl Park. The lava lake at the summit rises and falls, and lava erupts from several vents at Pu'u O'o crater on the rift zone. The crater is filled to the rim with lava and there are many overflows. Some recent aerial images can be found in our Image Pool.

Small explosion at Popocatepetl yesterday morning.

Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): The frequency of emissions increased a bit again during 3-4 Feb with about 1 event per hour, and a strong SO2 plume today suggests a phase of increased degassing. The image shows one of the "larger" emissions yesterday morning, which also vented some ash.

Santa María / Santiaguito (Guatemala): (4 Feb) Activity has remained the same. Some moderate explosions with plumes rising 800 m were observed during yesterday-today, as well as avalanches from the still active flows on the flanks of the dome.

Fuego (Guatemala): (4 Feb) Effusive activity has increased in favor of explosive again. The lava flow towards Ceniza canyon was 800 m long this morning, the second one towards Taniluyá canyon 400 m. No explosions were mentioned in the latest bulletin of the observatory.

San Miguel (El Salvador): Activity has somewhat increased during the past 24 hours, including a pulse of stronger tremor and numerous small volcanic quakes.

Reventador (Ecuador): Activity remains high with strong constant tremor visible, likely accompanying lava effusion from the rarely visible summit.

Copahue (Chile/Argentina): Seismic activity dropped drastically yesterday, with only one volcanic tectonic quake and low-energy continuous tremor registered. A white steam and gas plume with no ash rises about 1500 m above the volcano. Sernageomin lowered the status of the volcano to yellow. - Volcano Discovery.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Comet ISON, The Comet Of The Century - Comet ISON To Pass Through The Sun's Atmosphere In November, Possibly Triggering A Massive Electrical Charge! UPDATE: NASA's Deep Impact Spacecraft Eyes Comet ISON!

February 05, 2013 - SPACE - Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok of Roscosmos discovered Comet ISON last September. Named after their International Scientific Optical Network, which is essentially a night sky survey program aimed toward Jupiter, it appears as just a faint spec in the sky at this point. “Comet ISON is a sungrazer… The orbit of the comet will bring it very close to the sun, which we know can be a spectacular thing.”, said Karl Battams from the Naval Research Laboratory.

As ISON makes its way closer to the sun later this year it will be visible to the naked eye possibly even in the daylight. It was mentioned by a caller named Robert on The Power Hour radio show hosted by Joyce Riley that ISON could potentially strike up an electrical charge with the sun as the sun is already reacting to the Comet physically. The caller also noted, “An event is coming.”
The publication RedOrbit.com reports;
Comet ISON will travel through the sun’s atmosphere on November 28, passing just over one million kilometers from the stellar surface. It may not survive, but if it does, it could appear as bright as the Moon in our night sky. It could even be visibly near the sun, in broad daylight, for a short amount of time – leading some reporters to dub ISON the “Comet of the Century,” according to the agency. However, the moniker may be premature, NASA officials argue. “I’m old enough to remember the last ‘Comet of the Century’. It fizzled. Comets are notoriously unpredictable,” said Don Yeomans of NASA Near-Earth Object Program. Yeomans is referring to the 1973 comet known as Kohoutek, which failed to live up to expectations similar to those now attached to ISON, and even wound up becoming a punch line for late night comedians such as Johnny Carson, according to NASA.

“Comet ISON has the potential to live up to the hype, but it also has the potential to do nothing,” added Battams.  Solar radiation and tidal forces could destroy the comet, as happened to Comet Elenin when it approached the sun in 2011. Alternatively, Comet Lovejoy – which, while smaller than ISON, was closer in size to the current comet than the much tinier Elenin was – survived its journey through the sun’s atmosphere and emerged with a spectacular tail. “Comet ISON is probably at least twice as big as Comet Lovejoy and will pass a bit farther from the sun’s surface,” Knight said.  “This would seem to favor Comet ISON surviving and ultimately putting on a good show.”
The comet could also experience a partial split, which would make it look like “a string of pearls” when viewed using a telescope, Battams said. He added that, should such a phenomenon occur, ISON could wind up looking like “the famous Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 that hit Jupiter in 1994.”
Could this be the event NASA has warned about that might possibly trigger an Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) on earth, as mentioned in an episode of Jesse Ventura’s Conspiracy Theory TV show? - Intel Hub.

WATCH: NASA's Deep Impact Spacecraft Eyes Comet ISON.

EXTREME WEATHER ANOMALIES: Severe Winds, Snow Lash The United Kingdom - Rare Thundersnow Wakes Shivering Britons From Their Slumber As Country Braced For Return Of MORE SNOW And Gales!

February 05, 2013 - UNITED KINGDOM - A potent storm across the northern Atlantic is the culprit behind high winds blasting the United Kingdom. Windy and stormy weather will persist into Tuesday, causing treacherous travel.  The highest winds have been targeting the northwestern coast of Scotland as well as the higher elevations. A 120-mph gust (193 kph) and sustained winds of 77 mph (123 kph) were recorded on top of Cairngorm Summit at an elevation of around 4,085 feet early Monday morning, according to Mark Vogan.  Generally, winds of 40-60 mph (64-96 kph) will impact lower elevations and inland areas of Scotland, including Glasgow and Edinburgh. 

Crash: A car in the ditch after sliding off the A537 road running between Buxton and Macclesfield.
Extreme Winds, Snow Lash UK.
Many bridges have been closed due to the high winds, according to Traffic Scotland.  The combination of the howling winds and snow will lead to blizzard conditions for the Scottish Highlands into Tuesday. More than half of a foot of snow (15 cm) will pile up over some areas. Massive waves have also been resulting the extreme winds. Buoys showed waves of up to 62.3 feet (~19 meters) off the Western Isles on Monday. Meanwhile, gusty winds will be whipped southward across England through Tuesday, while rain and snow mix in around London. Accumulations will be held down because the precipitation will be mixed, but light coatings are possible. Higher elevations of northern England will receive all snow with higher amounts of 3-6 inches (8-15 cm). Flight delays may result the windy and wintry weather. Motorists are advised to check information with the Highways Agency before traveling for the Tuesday morning rush hour. - AccuWeather.

Stuck: Vehicles were abandoned near Castleton in Derbyshire after the roads were rendered impassible.
Rare Thundersnow Wakes Shivering Britons from Their Slumber as Country Is Braced for Return of MORE SNOW and Gales.
Britain faces another night of cold and wet weather as near-zero temperatures are coupled with snowstorms and howling gales.  Temperatures will drop down to 0C (32F) in parts of Scotland, with lows around 2C (36F) in most of the country.  The foul weather comes after the UK was hit with 'thundersnow' today, as the return of freezing weather combined with lightning storms to create the freak phenomenon.  Residents of northern England, Scotland and Northern Ireland were shocked to wake up to a blanket of snow after a night of storms, with reports of thundersnow in major cities including Manchester, Sheffield, Glasgow and Edinburgh.  

Meanwhile, motorists throughout the UK were bracing themselves for chaos on the roads as several inches of snow were forecast, combined with gale-force winds and sub-zero temperatures.  'Overnight we had snow showers packing in to the north and west of the UK, with up to 10cm in Northern Ireland and the south Pennines,' a Met Office forecaster said, adding that the snow was likely to turn to rain by the end of the day.   The most extreme conditions have been seen on the west coast of Britain, where sub-zero thunderstorms were created when 'deeply unstable and cold air runs over warm sea'.  STV meteorologist Sean Bell said that Glasgow saw thundersnow overnight, while a number of Twitter users wrote that parts of northern England including Manchester, Sheffield and Cheshire were also hit by the phenomenon. - Daily Mail

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Snowpocalypse Russia - The Snowiest Winter in 100 Years Paralyzes Moscow Traffic for 3,500 Km!

February 05, 2013 - RUSSIA - The snowiest winter in a century has hit the Russian capital, causing Muscovites to get stuck in traffic jams 3,500km in length on Monday evening – the distance from Moscow to Madrid.  ­Since the beginning of the winter, over 2 meters of snow has fallen on the Russian capital, the Moscow mayor’s aide in housing and public utilities Pyotr Biryukov told Interfax.

RIA Novosti / Vladimir Fedorenko.
Snowfall is expected in Moscow for four or five more days, he added.  On Monday, 45,000 community services employees and 15,000 units of equipment were attempting to cope with 26 cm of snow – nearly a fifth of the average annual fall.  The latest snowfall has become a nightmare for drivers with the capital’s commuters trapped in gridlock.  Many of those who left their workplace in the evening had to spend five to 10 hours getting home. The average speed of vehicles was no more than 7-9 km/h. The number of road accidents – 3,000 – was much higher than during an ordinary day, with minor accidents quadrupling, according to Channel One TV.

RIA Novosti / Vladimir Fedorenko.
Pedestrians were having a hard time, too, trying to make their way through ice and huge snowdrifts on the sidewalks. Over 50 people were injured after falling.  On Tuesday morning, the streets became virtual ‘skating rinks’, with passengers of minibuses forced to push the vehicles up the hill from time to time, and then jumping into the moving vehicles.  Overnight, almost 150 huge trucks became stuck on the Moscow ring highway, blocking it for hours.  Moscow’s Yandex Traffic Jams application showed that traffic was at level 10, the highest possible.  Meanwhile, over a hundred flights were grounded at Moscow airports.

RIA Novosti / Vladimir Fedorenko.
Notably, Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev’s plane was unable to land in Vnukovo airport, and proceeded to St. Petersburg. It’s not the first time that Moscow has seen massive snowfalls this winter – in mid-January the situation was similar in terms of heavy falls – and traffic. Yandex Traffic Jams also recorded level 10 at that time.  In December, the harshest temperatures in 70 years were recorded, with thermometers showing temperatures as low as -50 degrees Celsius in some regions of Russia.  Meteorologists predict more snow is in store for Muscovites in February and March.  “March is considered a winter month here,” one top Hydro Meteorological Center official indicated to Interfax. - RT.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN & FOOD CRISIS: Inflation Fear - Argentina Freezes Price To Break Inflation Spiral!

February 05, 2013 - ARGENTINA - Argentina announced a two-month price freeze on supermarket products Monday in an effort to break spiraling inflation. The price freeze applies to every product in all of the nation's largest supermarkets — a group including Walmart, Carrefour, Coto, Jumbo, Disco and other large chains. The companies' trade group, representing 70 percent of the Argentine market, reached the accord with Commerce Secretary Guillermo Moreno, the government's news agency Telam reported. The commerce ministry wants consumers to keep receipts and complain to a hotline about any price hikes they see before April 1.

A woman walks past a supermarket with a sign advertising discounts on meat in Buenos Aires,
Argentina, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013. (Photo: AP).
Polls show Argentines worry most about inflation, which private economists estimate could reach 30 percent this year. The government says it's trying to hold the next union wage hikes to 20 percent, a figure that suggests how little anyone believes the official index that pegs annual inflation at just 10 percent. The government announced the price freeze on the first business day after the International Monetary Fund formally censured Argentina for putting out inaccurate economic data. The IMF has given Argentina until September to bring its statistics up to international standards, or face expulsion from the world body in November.

President Cristina Fernandez and her economy minister, Hernan Lorenzino, responded over the weekend with a flurry of attacks on the IMF, saying the agency's data-gathering efforts had lost credibility in the lead-up to Argentina's historic 2001 debt default. They said IMF advice is leading Europeans astray by favoring big banks over measures that can grow economies out of crisis. However, Lorenzino also said that the government will begin using a new inflation index starting in fourth-quarter 2013 — just in time for the IMF's decision. - MYFOXNY.

SOLAR WATCH: Vast Coronal Hole Opens Up On The Sun - Spewing Stream Of Solar Wind Into Space!

February 05, 2013 - THE SUN - According to Space Weather, Sunspot AR1667 is in decay, and it is no longer crackling with C-class solar flares.

DECREASING CHANCE OF FLARES: Sunspot AR1667 is decaying, and this has prompted NOAA forecasters to lower the odds of an M-flare today to only 10%. Solar activity should remain low for the next 24 hours. 

A vast hole in the sun's atmosphere--a "coronal hole"--has opened up in the sun's northern hemisphere, and it is spewing a stream of solar wind into space. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory photographed the UV-dark gap during the early hours of Feb. 5th:

Coronal holes are places where the sun's magnetic field opens up and allows solar wind to escape. Material flowing from this particular coronal hole should reach Earth's orbit on Feb. 7-8. Because of the opening's high northern latitude, the solar wind stream will not hit Earth head on; instead it could be a glancing blow. Even so, the impact could spark polar auroras later this week. - Space Weather.

THE WAR ON EARTH: Red Dawn Pollution Doomsday - Japan Hit By Suffocating Smog From China, Air Pollution Levels Are Skyrocketing!

February 05, 2013 - JAPAN - Health warnings have been issued across Japan as the thick smog engulfing China has begun to move over the island nation; pollution levels across the country are reportedly skyrocketing.

­"Access to our air-pollution monitoring system has been almost impossible since last week, and the telephone here has been constantly ringing because worried people keep asking us about the impact on health," an environment ministry official told AFP.

This photo show site in China that experienced heavy air pollution in recent days. This combination of photos shows a file photo of the Guotai Chambers building from the historic Jingshan Park (top) during heavily polluted weather on January 31, 2013, and during clear weather (bottom) on February 1, 2013 (AFP Photo / Ed Jones).
Air pollution over western Japan has far exceeded government standards recently – up to 42 percent in some cases – straining the already-tense relations between the two Asian countries. "China is our neighbor, and all sorts of problems happen between us all the time," local resident Takaharu Abiko told AFP. "It is very worrying. This is dangerous pollution, like poison, and we can't protect ourselves. It's scary." Japanese officials and scientists have said that citizens should not panic over the pollution, as the smog was not as bad as in similar incidents two years ago. In 2011, a cloud of suffocating smog hung over western Japan for several days.

Authorities have also warned that people with respiratory illnesses and small children should take extra care to protect themselves from the health hazard. More air pollution will arrive in western Japan on Tuesday, the Japanese Ministry of Environment said, adding that the country's skies will start to clear by Wednesday.

About three weeks ago, China was struck with a major upsurge in air pollution levels. By the end of January, the government was forced to announce that the air pollution presented a health threat. The increase in pollution is mostly a result of the boom in factory manufacturing in China. - RT.

AUSTRALIAN WEATHER ANOMALIES: Severe Fire Warnings As Heatwave Hits Victoria!

February 05, 2013 - AUSTRALIA - Firefighting resources from across Victoria will boost crews battling two serious bushfires as the fire danger increases in hotter conditions over coming days.  The Harrietville fire in the alpine region now has 246 firefighters on the scene, with 140 at Aberfeldy in Gippsland, with dangerous fire conditions expected through until Sunday. 

A severe fire danger rating is forecast in the state's southwest and north-central districts, with a very high rating elsewhere ahead of hot, dry and windy weather.  Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley is urging Victorians not to lapse into a sense of false security after a week of cooler weather.  He says rainfall has been well below average over the past month.  "The lack of rain has completely dried most areas of grassland and bush across Victoria," Mr Lapsley said in a statement on Tuesday.

"This combined with heavy fuel-loads caused by rains and flooding across the state over the past couple of years means we are faced with a serious fire risk. Traditionally, we know that February is a bad month for fires. While we had a reprieve from the heat last week, it will only take a few days of hot weather, like we have coming up this week, to be faced with severe or extreme fire danger again."

Crews at both fires in the state's alpine and Gippsland regions have been focusing on back-burning and consolidating control lines in preparation for the unfavourable conditions. Back-burns have been completed to the south of Harrietville to offer greater protection to the town and another one northwest of Mount Hotham to limit the potential spread of the fire. Firefighters in Gippsland have built 300km of control lines while also conducting extensive back-burning. The Harrietville fire has burnt about 6500 hectares since it started on January 21 while the fire in Gippsland has burned about 75,000 hectares, killed a man and destroyed 21 homes. A total fire ban has been declared for the Wimmera, central, north central and southwest fire districts for Wednesday. - The Australian.

MONUMENTAL SOLAR SYSTEM CHANGES: NASA's Cassini Spacecraft Reveals Unprecedented And Massive Storm On Saturn "Eating" Its Own Tail?!

February 05, 2013 - SATURN - U.S. scientists say a monstrous thunder-and-lightning storm on Saturn churned around the planet until it "ate" its own tail and sputtered out. It the first time a storm has been observed to consume itself in this way anywhere in the solar system, NASA researchers said.

"This Saturn storm behaved like a terrestrial hurricane -- but with a twist unique to Saturn," said Andrew Ingersoll, a member of the imaging team for the Cassini mission orbiting Saturn. "Even the giant storms at Jupiter don't consume themselves like this, which goes to show that nature can play many awe-inspiring variations on a theme and surprise us again and again."

The storm, first detected in December 2010, spent months wrapping around the planet, throwing off lightning as it wrapped all the way around the globe, scientists said. Storms on Earth have never run into their own wakes, they said, because they encounter topographic features such as mountains and expend themselves. But Saturn has no land to stop its storms.

"This thunder-and-lightning storm on Saturn was a beast," Cassini researcher said Kunio Sayanagi at Hampton University in Virginia said. "The storm maintained its intensity for an unusually long time. The storm head itself thrashed for 201 days, and its updraft erupted with an intensity that would have sucked out the entire volume of Earth's atmosphere in 150 days."

This storm was the longest-running of the massive storms that appear to break out in Saturn's Northern Hemisphere once every Saturn year (30 Earth years), the researchers said. - UPI.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Record Setting Asteroid 2012 DA14 Flyby - "Safeway-Size" Asteroid To Get Closer To Earth Than Satellites!

February 05, 2013 - SPACE - An asteroid big enough to level a major metropolitan area (probably several of them, actually) will definitely not be doing any such thing this month, but it will come pretty darn close.
First spotted by a Spanish observatory last year, small asteroid 2012 DA14 (in this case "small" means about 150 feet in diameter, or roughly the size of a supermarket) will pass within 3.5 Earth radii of the surface of our planet on February 15. That means that this big, menacing, but ultimately harmless space rock will actually be closer to us than our many satellites in geosynchronous orbit about 22,000 miles above the equator.

NASA's near-earth object (NEO) program at its Jet Propulsion laboratory swears there is no chance the asteroid will strike the Earth, but let's be morbid for just a second and pretend it did. An object that size striking the Earth would be similar to the asteroid that created that really huge crater in Arizona, creating a massive explosion many times more powerful than the atomic bomb blast that destroyed Hiroshima, Japan.

The path of near-Earth asteroid 2012 DA14 is seen passing close to Earth on February 15, 2013.
(Credit: NASA/JPL Near-Earth Object Program Office).
Again, this nuclear winter storyline is pure fiction. But NASA says that asteroid 2012 DA14 will provide a unique opportunity for NEO observation and study on February 15:
On this date, the asteroid will travel rapidly from the southern evening sky into the northern morning sky with its closest Earth approach occurring about 19:26 UTC when it will achieve a magnitude of less than seven, which is somewhat fainter than naked eye visibility. About 4 minutes after its Earth close approach, there is a good chance it will pass into the Earth's shadow for about 18 minutes or so before reappearing from the eclipse. When traveling rapidly into the northern morning sky, 2012 DA14 will quickly fade in brightness.
So get out and enjoy the view and wave as the potential, but thankfully off-target destroyer of our society cruises by. - CNET.

WATCH: 2012 DA14 Flyby.

WORLD WAR III: Nightmare On The Korean Peninsula - North Korea Warns Of A "Dark Cloud Of War" As South Begins Naval Drills With The United States, Ahead Of "Imminent Nuclear Tests; North Korea Releases Video Showing U.S. City Destroyed In Flames After Missile Attacks, Using Michael Jackson's "We Are The World" As Soundtrack!

February 05, 2013 - KOREAN PENINSULA - South Korean and U.S. troops began naval drills Monday in a show of force partly directed at North Korea amid signs that Pyongyang will soon follow through on a threat to conduct its third atomic test. 

In this photo released by South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff via Yonhap, South Korean and U.S. warships
participate in their joint military drills in South Korea's East Sea on Monday.  Yonhap / The Associated Press.
The region has also seen a boost in diplomatic activity since last month, when North Korea announced it would conduct a nuclear test to protest U.N. Security Council sanctions toughened after a satellite launch in December that the U.S. and others say was a disguised test of banned missile technology.  Pyongyang’s two previous nuclear tests, in 2006 and 2009, both occurred after it was slapped with increased sanctions for similar rocket launches. As it issued its most recent punishment, the Security Council ordered North Korea to refrain from a nuclear test or face “significant action.”  North Korea’s state media said Sunday that at a high-level Workers’ Party meeting, leader Kim Jong Un issued “important” guidelines meant to bolster the army and protect national sovereignty. North Korea didn’t elaborate, but Kim’s guidelines likely refer to a nuclear test and suggest that Pyongyang appears to have completed formal procedural steps and is preparing to conduct a nuclear test soon, according to South Korean analyst Hong Hyun-ik. “We assess that North Korea has almost finished preparations for conducting a nuclear test anytime and all that’s left is North Korea making a political decision” to do so, South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told reporters Monday. 

The spokesman said he couldn’t disclose further details because they would involve confidential intelligence affairs. Recent satellite photos showed North Korea may have been sealing the tunnel into a mountainside where a nuclear device could be exploded. On Monday, the South Korean and U.S. militaries kicked off three days of exercises off the Korean Peninsula’s east coast that involve live-fire exercises, naval maneuvers and submarine detection drills. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the maneuvers are part of regular joint military training that the allies had scheduled before the latest nuclear tensions began. But the training, which involves a nuclear-powered American submarine, could still send a warning against possible North Korean provocation, a South Korean military official said, requesting anonymity because of department rules. Later Monday, Pyongyang’s state media said the drills showed that the U.S. and South Korea have been plotting to attack North Korea and increased the danger of a war on the divided peninsula. “The dark cloud of war is approaching to the Korean Peninsula,” North Korea’s official Uriminzokkiri website said in a commentary. “Our patience has the limit.”- National Post.

An image shows an underground test site where North Korea’s second nuclear test is thought to have been conducted in May 2009. It was released in a documentary broadcast by the North’s Korean Central TV in September 2010. (MND).
North Korea Nuclear Tests Keeps Outside World Guessing.
Desultory speculation continued Monday as the world waited with more or less bated breath to see whether North Korea is going to conduct another nuclear test. One Defense Ministry official claimed Seoul is discussing a possible military response with Washington. He did not go into detail but said "everything" is on the table. Military experts were reduced to extrapolating information from the little they know about the North's previous nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. In 2009, the ministry says the North dug a tunnel that ended in a spiral or pigtail-shape at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, and built nine blast doors and three walls aimed at absorbing the shock and preventing leakage of radioactive materials. This apparently made it more difficult for the outside world to come to any definite conclusions about the success or failure of the test. Experts now worry that a similar arrangement will once again leave them in the dark about whether North is using uranium or plutonium in the fresh test, because that depends on measuring escaped radioactive materials. The ministry also disclosed a diagram of the inside of the Punggye-ri nuclear test tunnel based on screen images aired by the North's own official KCNA news agency in September 2010. The ministry says it was able to reach some conclusions by discussing the picture with a research team led by a U.S. nuclear expert who has been to North Korea, Siegfried Hecker. - CHOSUN.

The Punggye-ri nuclear test facility in North Korea Photo: AFP.

North Korea "Preparing For Two Nuclear Tests"
Analysis of recent satellite images has shown new activity on the southern edge of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, while preparations at a second tunnel to the west were apparently completed earlier, a South Korean government source told the Chosun Ilbo newspaper.  The paper quoted a military official as saying, "There is a chance that the southern tunnel is a decoy, but we are not ruling out that the regime will conduct nuclear tests simultaneously at both tunnels."  There is a widespread belief that North Korea will go ahead with what would be its third nuclear test in the near future, with the regime still angrily denouncing criticism by the United Nations Security Council for the launch in December of what Pyongyang claims was a rocket to put a satellite into orbit.  That protestation has been undermined by North Korea putting on display in Pyongyang a section of fuselage from an identical vehicle and labelling it as a ballistic missile.  The South Korean military and international intelligence agencies have prepared for the North's anticipated nuclear test and hope that data they can retrieve will provide new pointers on just how far Pyongyang has advanced in its efforts to develop a nuclear warhead that is small enough to be attached to a ballistic missile. - Telegraph.

North Korea Releases Video Showing U.S. City Destroyed In Flames After Missile Attacks Using Michael Jackson's "We Are The World" As Soundtrack.
It begins benignly enough, with an image of a sleeping young North Korean man, and a genteel piano version of the US feel-good pop anthem We Are the World providing the musical backdrop. But the YouTube video recently posted by Uriminzokkiri, North Korea's official website, quickly takes a more sinister turn as the man's dream continues into the realms of Stalinist fantasy. Within seconds he is aboard a space shuttle, launched into orbit by the same type of rocket the North successfully launched in December. The shuttle orbits Earth, at one point passing over a jubilant and reunified Korean peninsula, before the focus switches to an unidentified city draped in the Stars and Stripes. What appear to be missiles rain down on the city, setting fire to high-rise buildings in scenes reminiscent of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York. "Somewhere in the United States, black clouds of smoke are billowing," the Korean-language caption says. "It seems that the nest of wickedness is ablaze."

The ease with which the North's dozing pilot circumnavigates the planet owes more to North Korea's ability in visual special effects than the reality of its space programme. But the video, which has received a relatively modest 38,000 views since it was uploaded at the weekend, is a timely reminder of the growing threat posed by the regime's ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programmes. South Korea's ambassador to the UN said on Tuesday a North Korean nuclear test was imminent, in protest at the condemnation and tougher security council sanctions that followed its rocket launch on 12 December. Kim Sook said the test, which would be the North's third, after similar controlled nuclear detonations in 2006 and 2009, looked increasingly likely given the "very busy activities" taking place at the test site. The UN has warned North Korea a nuclear test would invite "significant action" in response. - Guardian.

WATCH: North Korea releases video of missile attack on America.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Tracking The Giant Louisiana Sinkhole - Increased Seismic Activity Reported Near The Hole!

February 05, 2013 - UNITED STATES - According to the latest post from the Assumption Parish Police Jury, officials are now reported that there is increasing seismic activity near the giant Louisiana sinkhole.

Here's the brief note:
It has been reported to us, by Dr. Steve Horton, that there has been an above normal recording of seismic activity within the last few days. Should additional details or information regarding this situation become available, they will be posted. - Assumption Parish Police Jury.


View additional seismograms from the area HERE.

Additional Bubble Sites
Surface Seismic Array
Additional Vent Wells

BIG BROTHER NOW: The Rise Of The Machines And The Global Police State - Justice Department Memo Reveals Legal Case For Drone Strikes On Americans!

February 05, 2013 - UNITED STATES - A confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or “an associated force” -- even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.  The 16-page memo, a copy of which was obtained by NBC News, provides new details about the legal reasoning behind one of the Obama administration’s most secretive and controversial polices: its dramatically increased use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects, including those aimed at American citizens, such as the  September 2011 strike in Yemen that killed alleged al-Qaida operatives Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. Both were U.S. citizens who had never been indicted by the U.S. government nor charged with any crimes. 

The secrecy surrounding such strikes is fast emerging as a central issue in this week’s hearing of White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, a key architect of the drone campaign, to be CIA director.  Brennan was the first administration official to publicly acknowledge drone strikes in a speech last year, calling them “consistent with the inherent right of self-defense.” In a separate talk at the Northwestern University Law School in March, Attorney General Eric Holder specifically endorsed the constitutionality of targeted killings of Americans, saying they could be justified if government officials determine the target poses  “an imminent threat of violent attack.” But the confidential Justice Department “white paper” introduces a more expansive definition of self-defense or imminent attack than described  by Brennan or Holder in their public speeches.  It refers, for example, to what it calls a “broader concept of imminence” than actual intelligence about any ongoing plot against the U.S. homeland.  Instead, it says,  an “informed, high-level” official of the U.S. government may determine that the targeted American  has been “recently” involved in “activities” posing a threat of a violent attack and “there is  no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities.” The memo does not define “recently” or “activities.”

Read the entire 'white paper' on drone strikes on Americans

 As in Holder’s speech, the confidential memo lays out a three-part test that would make targeted killings of American lawful:  In addition to the suspect being an imminent threat, capture of the target must be “infeasible, and the strike must be conducted according to “law of war principles.” But the memo elaborates on some of these factors in ways that go beyond what the attorney general said publicly. For example, it states that U.S. officials may consider whether an attempted capture of a suspect  would pose an “undue risk” to U.S. personnel involved in such an operation. If so, U.S. officials could determine that the capture operation of the targeted American would not be feasible, making it lawful for the U.S. government to order a killing instead, the memo concludes. The undated memo is entitled “Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Qa’ida or An Associated Force.”  It was provided to members of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees in June by administration officials on the condition that it be kept confidential and  not discussed publicly. “This is a chilling document,” said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the ACLU, which is suing to obtain administration memos about the targeted killing of Americans.  “Basically, it argues that the government has the right to carry out the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen. … It recognizes some limits on the authority it sets out, but the limits are elastic and vaguely defined, and it’s easy to see how they could be manipulated.” - NBC News.

WATCH: Michael Isikoff, national investigative correspondent for NBC News, talks with Rachel Maddow about a newly obtained, confidential Department of Justice white paper that hints at the details of a secret White House memo that explains the legal justifications for targeted drone strikes that kill Americans without trial in the name of national security.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Supervolcano Awakening - Locals Nervous Over Naples' Campi Flegrei Supervolcano!

February 05, 2013 - ITALY - The ground of the Campi Flegrei ("burning fields"), also known as the Phlegraean Fields, has risen more in recent weeks than it has in a long time.  This does not necessary indicate a heightened risk of an eruption, however, says Thomas Wiersberg, a scientific drilling expert for the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) in Potsdam.  The Phlegraean Fields are a large caldera, or volcanic crater, lying mostly underwater off the Italian coast. The caldera is thought to have been formed by a massive eruption some 35 000-40 000 years ago. 

A restive "super volcano" west of Naples is raising nervousness in the local Italian population.
Campi Flegrei. Image by: Donarreiskoffer/ Wikimedia Commons.
The last major eruption in the fields of boiling mud and sulphurous steam holes, one of a few dozen super volcanoes worldwide, occurred in 1538.  Wiersberg is part of an international research team that began drilling into the ground not far from the caldera last summer to monitor possible early warning signs of an eruption.  The team has drilled a pilot hole to a depth of 500 metres but no data has been gathered yet, Wiersberg said in an interview with dpa.  Italy's Deparment of Civil Protection recently raised the alert level for the Phlegraean Fields, where Wiersberg said the ground was rising by about three centimetres a month.  There are concerns that a magma chamber under the fields - presumably connected to the one under Mount Vesuvius, east of Naples - is filling up, the rising pressure possibly heightening the danger of an eruption.  As Wiersberg pointed out, however, the two episodes of considerable ground uplift since the 1960s were not followed by an eruption. The uplift in the early 1970s - about 1.50 metres in three years - was somewhat greater than the current one, he said. 

NASA Space Shuttle photo of Campi Flegrei, with main features labeled.
"Many houses cracked," after which the ground deformation sharply subsided, Wiersberg said. "But it's true that the uplift has increased again during the past two or three months."  An eruption could have serious consequences for the heavily populated region with knock-on effects for the whole of Europe. There could also be worldwide impact, for example in the form of climatic changes.  No forecasts have been made thus far. Since super volcanoes seldom undergo massive eruptions, empirical data is lacking. "It's easy to assert there'll be an eruption sometime. That doesn't help us, though. We need more specific information," Wiersberg said.  He said the drilling project aimed in part to monitor the Phlegraean Fields over the long term and gain more knowledge of what had occurred earlier in the super volcano.  "First we've got to understand what's happening under the surface," Wiersberg said. Then it may be possible to say more about the likelihood of an eruption.  Fears of nearby residents - and some scientists - that the drilling could "awaken" the super volcano have proved to be unfounded.  "Technically, everything went smoothly. No additional volcanic activities were triggered, nor were there any problems with gases or fluids," he noted.  It has not yet been decided when the scientists will continue their project and begin drilling to a depth of 3 kilometres. "At the moment it's mainly a financial question," Wiersberg said. "There'll be deep drilling when Italy provides the necessary funds." - Times Live.

NOTE: Thanks to Chris Thomas for contributing to this post.