Thursday, February 7, 2013

MONUMENTAL DISASTER IMPACT: The Solomon Islands Mega-Quake And Tsunami Kills 9 - The Death Is Toll Expected To Rise As Major Aftershocks Continue, Hundreds Of Homes Destroyed, Several Villages Flattened!

February 07, 2013 - SOLOMON ISLANDS - An earthquake with a preliminary 6.2 magnitude has struck near the Solomon Islands this evening, the US Geological Survey says, the latest in a series of aftershocks following a major tremor that sparked a tsunami which killed at least nine people.  The latest quake was measured 10 km deep, 362 km east southeast of Kira Kira, near the epicentre of the 8.0 magnitude quake that hit yesterday.  There was no immediate tsunami warning or word of any further damage in the remote region.  The Solomon Islands National Disaster Management Office has confirmed nine people died in the tsunami yesterday, including a child who was swept out to sea, and about 100 homes are believed to have been destroyed.  A spokesman for the Solomon Islands prime minister, George Herming, said the 1.5 metre waves that roared into Santa Cruz Island on Wednesday were too fast to outrun for some villagers.  Among the dead was a group of five elderly people and a child who were unable to escape.  Solomon Islands authorities said it was hard to assess the damage caused to the island nation, but said several villages were believed badly damaged or destroyed.  "It is too early to have a clear picture of the damage caused," the nation's disaster management office said.  "The high number of aftershocks and the difficulties inherent in accessing Temotu makes gathering swift accurate information a challenge.  "The concern is for the more remote areas of Temotu where no reports have been forthcoming thus far."  Herming said several other people were missing today and strong aftershocks were keeping frightened villagers from returning to the coast.

A photo believed to be of the tsunami-damaged Venga village in the Solomon Islands. Supplied.
Planes are not yet able to bring relief to the tsunami and earthquake-hit Solomon Islands because of damage to an airport inundated by tsunami surges.  Sipuru Rove, a spokesperson from the National Disaster Management Office in Honiara, said the relief effort was hindered by debris at Lata airport.  "We will not be able to put a plane to the disaster site because the runway is still full of debris," he said.  "We have to clear away the debris, enough space for the plane to land. Then we will fly."  He said two boats would be sent to the area later this morning, carrying medical supplies, water containers, food, bottled water, and clothing.  Rove said he had received reports overnight that the public water system in the affected area was either damaged or destroyed, so many did not have access to clean water.  He said the disaster office would take a team of about 20 people, including doctors and nurses, to the area.  Though the assessment of the damage was still underway, Rove said four schools had been destroyed and more than 400 households destroyed or damaged.

In Wellington today, Prime Minister John Key said the New Zealand Government was in touch with Solomon Islands authorities, but as yet had received no formal request for help. "Obviously they've been affected. I'm not fully aware of all of the devastation that's taken place as a result of the tsunami," Key said.  Foreign Minister Murray McCully said New Zealand would give $200,000 in emergency assistance to the Solomon Islands.  Additional assistance would be considered in due course. The money would be for humanitarian supplies and support to the Solomon Islands Government assessment teams.  "The earthquake and subsequent tsunami, which hit the remote Temotu Province, caused damage to a number of homes, and sadly there are reports that lives have been lost," McCully said.  "Due to the remoteness of the area it might take some time for the Solomon Islands Government and relief agencies to gain a full picture of the damage." - Stuff.

 WATCH: Solomon Islands mega-quake and tsunami major destruction.

SOLAR WATCH: NOAA / Space Weather - Geomagnetic Storm Category G1 Predicted!

February 07, 2013 - THE SUN - According to the NOAA / Space Weather Prediction Center, a minor geomagnetic storm of category GI is predicted for February 08th, 2013.

Space Weather Message Code: WATA20. Serial Number: 511. Issue Time: 2013 Feb 07 1721 UTC.

WATCH: Geomagnetic Storm Category G1 Predicted

Highest Storm Level Predicted by Day:
Feb 08:  G1 (Minor)   Feb 09:  None (Below G1)   Feb 10:  None (Below G1)


NOAA Space Weather Scale descriptions can be found HERE.

Potential Impacts: Area of impact primarily poleward of 60 degrees Geomagnetic Latitude.
Induced Currents - Weak power grid fluctuations can occur.
Spacecraft - Minor impact on satellite operations possible.
Aurora - Aurora may be visible at high latitudes, i.e., northern tier of the U.S. such as northern Michigan and Maine. - NOAA/SWPC.

DARK SPIRAL: Decaying sunspot AR1667 erupted on Feb. 6th, producing a double-peaked C9-class solar flare that lasted more than ten hours from beginning to end. The slow explosion hurled a twisting, inky-dark plume of plasma into space. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the spiral:

The darkness of the material is a sign that the plasma was dense and cool relative to the surrounding atmosphere of the sun. This isn't the first time that the sun has produced a dark explosion. Since the launch of Solar Dynamics Observatory in 2010, researchers have cataloged many instances of cool plasma emerging from flare sites. "Cool" has a special meaning, however, on the sun. The temperature of the dark blobs is "only" about 20,000 K vs. 40,000 K to 1,000,000 K for the gas in the surrounding atmosphere.

Decaying sunspot AR1667 probably won't erupt again. NOAA forecasters put the odds of a significant (M-class or stronger) flare today at 10% or less. - Space Weather.

EXTREME WEATHER: Historic New England Blizzard - Forecasters Predicts Snowfall Will Be One For The Record Books, Major Winter Storm On Its Way!

February 07, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Two storms will merge quickly enough to bring colder air, tremendous snow and damaging wind to New England. The storm will do more than end a recent snow drought in part of the New England. The list is long on storm characteristics and impacts. Some areas will be hit with an all-out blizzard and buried under a couple of feet of snow and massive drifts. The worst of the storm will hit the Boston area late Friday and Friday night and will wind down Saturday morning. However, lingering effects from blowing and drifting snow, blocked roads and other travel problems are likely to linger into much of the weekend. Numerous flight delays and cancellations are possible centered on New England, but these problems will be felt elsewhere across the nation. Strong winds will not only cause white-out conditions and massive drifts, but also coastal flooding and power outages. Gusts can approach hurricane force in coastal areas. If the power goes out, it could take a while for crews to repair the lines.

At the height of the storm, snow can fall at the rate of 2 to 4 inches per hour and may be accompanied by thunder and lightning. The intense snowfall rate anticipated is making the forecast especially challenging. A matter of a couple of hours versus 12 hours of intense snow will make the difference between a manageable few inches and a debilitating few feet of snowfall. Nearby to the south (and east) of this intense snow, a rain/snow mix or plain rain will fall for a time. Many people could be caught offguard Friday evening. While the drive to work or school may be manageable but slippery Friday morning, weather conditions for the drive home in the evening are likely to grow worse by the minute in southern and central New England. A person traveling northeastward from New York City to Boston Friday evening along I-95 would encounter increasingly challenging and potentially dangerous weather conditions. With such intense snowfall, vehicles can become stuck and people can become stranded. Weak and/or flat roofs could collapse under the weight of the snow, which could be greatly uneven due to drifting. The hardest-hit areas are likely to include Hartford and Providence to Boston, Worcester, Concord, Portsmouth and Portland. The worst of the storm will hit coastal areas of northern New England and southern Nova Scotia later Friday night into Saturday.  Coastal flooding is forecast with this storm in eastern Massachusetts and to some extent along the northern shore of Long Island. - AccuWeather.

New England blizzard: Forecasters are predicting more than 2 feet of snow in New England, and blizzard conditions, including high winds, blowing snow, and coastal flooding. A major winter storm heading toward New England may not be one for the record books, but even some of the nation's snow-hardiest people should proceed with caution, according to at least one expert.

The National Weather Service forecasts blizzard conditions in New England by late Friday afternoon.
As much as 2 feet of snow could fall on a region that has seen mostly bare ground this winter, the National Weather Service said. That's exciting for resort operators who haven't had much snow this year. The storm would hit just after the 35th anniversary of the historic blizzard of 1978, which paralyzed the region with more than 2 feet of snow and hurricane force winds from Feb. 5-7. "This has the potential for being a dangerous storm, especially for Massachusetts into northeast Connecticut and up into Maine," said Louis Uccellini, director of the weather agency's National Centers for Environmental Prediction. Uccellini, who has written two textbooks on Northeastern snowstorms, said Wednesday it was too early to tell if the storm would be one for the record books. But he said it will be a rare and major storm, the type that means "you can't let your guard down." The snow will start Friday morning, with the heaviest amounts dumped on the region that night and into Saturday as the storm moves past New England and upstate New York, the National Weather Service said. A blizzard watch for parts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island said travel may become nearly impossible because of high winds and blowing snow. A coastal flooding watch also is in effect for some shore communities in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Long Island. Thanks to the ability to make their own snow, the region's larger ski resorts aren't as dependent on natural snowfall, though every bit helps. - CS Monitor.

Threatens 2 feet of snow...

Could Rival Biggest Ever For Boston...


GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Tracking The Giant Louisiana Sinkhole - "Tremor-Induced Damage" Near Sinkhole, "My Slab's Already Broken To Hell... It Looks Like Spider Web"?!

February 07, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Louisiana Commissioner of Insurance Jim Donelon said Tuesday his office is making a general inquiry into allegations that insurers are not renewing homeowner’s policies of residents evacuated due to the large sinkhole in Assumption Parish.  Donelon cautioned that his office has not received a formal complaint but has been asked by the parish Police Jury to look into the matter and more recently was informed by the Independent Insurance Agents of Louisiana about alleged non-renewal of policies.  “We are looking into the subject generally because we’re getting reports of non-renewal here and there,” he said.  He said his office would look at the “totality of the situation,” including the rights of residents to be covered by Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state’s insurer of last resort.  In interviews with two evacuated residents and parish officials in the past two weeks, some said insurers were not renewing or had threatened not to renew their policies because their homes had been left vacant for more than 30 days. 

In another case, a non-renewal letter cited “increased hazard” and a “substantial change in risk” after a resident filed a claim due to tremor-induced damage. The claim was also denied. The resident and company agreed to part ways.  Residents also reported agents asked them to consider policies designed to cover vacant dwellings.  Parish President Martin “Marty” Triche, who has spoken with a few of the same affected residents, said the non-renewals on the basis of vacancy are “totally inappropriate because there is a mandatory evacuation.”  Neither Donelon nor Triche had a firm fix on how many people have been affected.  “It sounds like now it’s more than one and two,” Triche said. “It sounds like there’s several running into the same” situation, he said.  Sonny Cranch, a spokesman for Texas Brine Co. LLC, said the company asked residents about insurance concerns during the company’s weekly assistance check distribution on Thursday.  He said the company found two instances where policies were not renewed and two more where residents had questions.  “It’s not widespread as far as we can see,” Cranch said.  Triche ordered the evacuation Aug. 3, the same day the sinkhole was found on property leased and managed by Texas Brine. Scientists think a Texas Brine salt cavern in the Napoleonville Dome failed deep underground, setting loose crude oil and gas from natural formations and causing the sinkhole.  Both issues — uncertainty about underground instability that spawned the sinkhole and freed the trapped oil and gas — factor into the evacuation sustained for more than six months.  Under a 1992 state law, insurers cannot “non-renew” homeowner’s polices or change coverage or deductibles if the insurer and consumer have been together for three years or more, Donelon said. - The Advocate.

In the following video, a resident declares: "We want to find out what’s going to happen with our homes […] My slab’s already broken to hell. I’ve been living in Bayou Corne for 26 years, never had but 1 small crack. Now it looks like spider web. So you’ve got to try and understand our skepticism here."

WATCH: Texas Brine Updates Bayou Corne Residents - January 30, 2013.

SHADOW WARS: Escalating Towards World War III - Ayatollah Khamenei Rejects Biden Offer For Talks, Threatens USA, As Iran Shows Footage Of Captured US Drone!

February 07, 2013 - MIDDLE EAST - Iran's supreme leader today rejected the possibility of direct talks with the United States, nixing a proposal by Washington to ease the stalemate over Iran's nuclear program.  Six world powers – including the US – are due to resume nuclear talks with Iran on Feb. 26 in Kazakhstan, after an eight-month hiatus. Few expect a breakthrough, not least because Iran is preparing for elections in June. But the words of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – who has the final say on all strategic decisions in Iran, as official holder there of the title "God's deputy on earth" – appear to have scuppered chances of an immediate direct dialogue with the US.  "You [Americans] are pointing the gun at Iran and say either negotiate or we will shoot. The Iranian nation will not be frightened by the threats,"Ayatollah Khamenei told Air Force commanders in a speech today.

In this file photo released by an official website of the Iranian supreme leader's office, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei waves to the worshippers, in front of a portrait of the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, before he delivers his Friday prayers sermon at the Tehran University campus last week. Office of the Supreme Leader/AP/File.
"Some naive people like the idea of negotiating with America [but] negotiations will not solve the problems," Khamenei said in the remarks, which were posted on his website. "If some people want American rule to be established again in Iran, the nation will rise up to face them." US Vice President Joe Biden said on Feb. 2, that Washington was ready for one-on-one talks "when the Iranian leadership, supreme leader, is serious." And in recent days, both President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran's foreign minister issued cautious, but explicit and positive, signals about possible direct contact with the US. Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said there would be "positive consideration" of Biden's words, and that there was "no red line for bilateral negotiations" if the US was sincere.

But yesterday the US tightened sanctions against Iran, forcing Iranian oil importers into barter arrangements to further restrict cash flow into the country. The sanctions are the latest in a host of measures by the US and European Union that have crippled Iran's economy by choking its oil exports, central bank, and most financial transactions.   The moves taken yesterday were described by a senior Obama administration official as "a significant turning of the screw" that will “significantly increase the economic pressure on Iran.”  "Does imposing, in your own words, crippling sanctions show goodwill or hostility?" Khamenei asked today. "Iran will not accept to negotiate with he who threatens us with pressure. The offer of talks is meaningful when the other side shows goodwill."  Khamenei has nevertheless authorized Iran's talks with the six world powers, and said today, via Twitter, that "having relationships and negotiating with countries who had no deceit against us, is in our national interest." - CS Monitor.

Iran has long claimed it managed to reverse-engineer the RQ-170 Sentinel, seized in December 2011 after it entered Iranian airspace from its eastern border with Afghanistan, and that it's capable of launching its own production line for the unmanned aircraft. After initially saying only that a drone had been lost near the Afghan-Iran border, American officials eventually confirmed the Sentinel had been monitoring Iran's military and nuclear facilities. Washington asked for it back but Iran refused, and instead released photos of Iranian officials studying the aircraft. The video aired late on Wednesday on Iranian TV shows an aerial view of an airport and a city, said to be a US drone base and Kandahar, Afghanistan. The TV also showed images purported to be the Sentinel landing at a base in eastern Iran but it was unclear if that footage meant to depict the moment of the drone's seizure. In addition, the TV also showed images of an Iranian helicopter transporting the drone, as well as its disassembled parts being carried on a trailer. In another part of the video, the chief of the Revolutionary Guard's airspace division, Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, said that only after capturing the drone, Iran realised it "belongs to the CIA."  "We were able to definitively access the data of the drone, once we brought it down," said Gen Hajizadeh.  He described the Sentinel's capture as a huge scoop for Iran, saying that at the time, Tehran did not rule out a possible punitive US air strike over the drone. - Telegraph.

WATCH: Iran TV shows 'proof' US RQ-170 Sentinel drone decoded.

SHADOW WARS: Escalating Towards World War III - Two Russian Jets "Breach" Japanese Airspace, Tokyo Scrambles Warplanes!

February 07, 2013 - JAPAN - As if Japan didn't have enough on its national defense plate before, two Russian Su-27s allegedly slipped Thursday into its airspace. Tokyo's now scrambling jets to chase off Russia, while maintaining a territorial feud with China. Japan's island dispute with China has been simmering for months, deep to the south off Okinawa and into the East China Sea, but now it looks like Russia could press its own dispute with Tokyo.

The AFP reports
that the pair of Su-27s were picked up on radar off the coast of northernmost Hokkaido island for over a minute. The incursion came after Japan's new prime minister Abe said he wanted to work on the Russian dispute to the satisfaction of both countries. Abe's referring to a decades old territorial dispute with Russia and a long overdue peace treaty Tokyo would like to sign with Moscow. Reuters now reports that Russia has flatly denied the trespassing accusation while acknowledging it's been conducting military maneuvers throughout the area all week.
Russia has administered all islands northeast
of Hokkaido since 1945. Wikimedia Commons.

The intrusion is supposed to have unfolded on Japan's "Northern Territories Day", where rallies and demonstrations are held calling for the return of the Japanese islands. The dispute stems from the Russian seizure and population of northern Japanese islands in the waning days of WWII.

From AFP
Soviet forces seized the isles, which stretch out into rich fishing waters off the northern coast of Hokkaido, in the dying days of WWII and drove out Japanese residents. The islands were later re-populated by Russians but remain a poor and undeveloped part of the country.

So Thursday in northernmost Hokkaido—where the temperature will reach a low today of 10 degrees Fahrenheit—demonstrations fueled by sixty years of anger took place nearly within sight of major Russian military maneuvers. The timing of each could be entirely unrelated, but coming together like this it's not altogether surprising accusations are flying. And it's not as though this is the first time Japan has responded to Russian aircraft encroaching on its airspace. A 2011 Wall Street Journal piece points out the island nation scrambled jets against Russia 106 times that year. - Business Insider.

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Thousands Of Fish Found Dead In The Fitzroy River In Australia?!

February 07, 2013 - AUSTRALIA -  Tests on the Fitzroy River following the deaths of thousands of fish have found oxygen levels too low for them to survive. Environment Minister Andrew Powell said the Rockhampton Regional Council test found dissolved oxygen levels were between 1.7 and 1.8 mg/l.

"The optimal dissolved oxygen level for fish is 5 mg/l. Below 2 mg/l they are not likely to survive," Mr Powell said.

"Fish need oxygen to live; it's as simple as that.

"The fact is that this incident, as unfortunate and distressing as it is, is a natural phenomenon which is a result of the natural disaster that hit Queensland last week.

"We have similar reports of fish kills up and down the coast, in Gladstone and the Boyne River." Environment Department staff also were investigating but low oxygen levels were most likely the result of large amounts of organic material being washed into river by heavy rain.

"The organic material decomposed and consumed oxygen, which made it impossible for fish to survive," he said. - The Telegraph.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Volcano Discovery Report For February 07, 2013 - Updates On Cleveland, Campi Flegrei, Rabaul, Paluweh, Dukono, Colima, Fuego, Popocatépetl, Santiaguito, San Cristobal, Machin, Nevado del Ruiz, Tolbachik, Sheveluch, Karymski, Kizimen, Klyuchevskoi, Bezymianny And Gorely!

February 07, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing report from the Volcano Discovery Group.

Cleveland (Aleutian Islands, Alaska): After finding evidence of a new lava dome growing in the summit crater, AVO raised the alert level of Cleveland back to orange. The decision was based on satellite obtained on 30 Jan that indicate that a lava dome has grown in the summit crater. As of January 30 the dome was about 100 m in diameter and may have begun forming as early as January 24 when elevated surface temperatures were observed in satellite images. The size and shape of the dome appears to be unchanged through February 2 according to the most recently available satellite data. AVO has received no reports of activity or ash emissions since elevated surface temperatures were first observed around the 24th of January.
Inflation of the ground by about 10 cm since
1 Jan 2012 (OV / INGV).

Campi Flegrei (Phlegrean Fields) (Italy): (6 Feb) A new fumarole vent has been detected recently in the Campi Flegrei in the hydrothermal field of Pisciarelli. The new vent was seen ejecting hot gas as well as geyser-like fountains of water reaching 4-5 meters of height. This will inevitably trigger headlines in the press about the possibility of a volcanic eruption in the area, however, it should be looked at in a context that such phenomena are a normal part of the behavior of (very) active hydrothermal systems such as the Campi Flegrei have. Since 2006, the maximum temperatures at the Pisciarelli fumaroles have climbed to peak in July 2012, and then oscillated at values near water boiling point. Judging from temperature readings, the Vesuvius Observatory believes that the new vent opened on 23 Jan, when gas temperatures from nearby fumaroles suddenly climbed to values of 98 deg C and then steeply dropped to values oscillating between 75-80°C was recorded. The heavy rainfalls that day might have caused a stream of water blocking one fumarole vent and triggering the opening of the new one. A sudden addition of cold water into the system would also explain the temperature drop, but further studies will be necessary to conclude better what is happening. Scientists warn about the possibility of some weak phreatic explosions that could be the result of accumulating overheated water at shallow depth. In the meanwhile, the slow inflation of the ground near Pozzuoli continued at a rate of about 1 cm peer month, and seismic activity has remained relatively low. According to the observatory, these levels are not considered alarming, but of course, these parameters are very closely being monitored.

Rabaul (Tavurvur) (New Britain, Papua New Guinea): Small to medium-sized ash eruptions from Tavurvur continue. VAAC Darwin detected ash plumes this morning rising to 8,000 ft (2.5 km) altitude and maintains aviation alert code orange.

Dukono (Halmahera): (6 Feb) Increased activity has generated a SO2 plume visible on today's NOAA satellite data.

Colima (Western Mexico): (6 Feb) Small explosion and rockfall signals have become more frequent over the past days.

SO2 plume from Popocatépetl (NOAA).

Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): Gas emissions (SO2) remain high, while the rate of emissions has decreased again to less than 1 per hour.

Activity of the Guatemalan volcanoes Fuego and Santiaguito has been becoming increasingly explosive in favor of effusive. Both have mild strombolian explosions and weakly alimented lava flows.

San Cristobal (Nicaragua): Surface activity and tremor remain low, but there has been an increase in small volcanic quakes.

In Colombia, Machin continues to show seismic activity above background, mainly in the form of frequent tiny volcanic earthquakes. Nevado del Ruiz produces a steam and gas plume sometimes mixed with some ash. Seismic activity has been low.

Terra/MODIS image of potential pyroclastic flow deposits
in the ocean west of Paluweh in Indonesia, taken
February 2, 2013.( Image: R. Simmon / NASA.
annotated by Erik Klemetti).

Paluweh (off Flores Island, Indonesia): (6 Feb) It seems that activity has decreased since the large explosion on Sunday. Erik Klemetti on the eruptions blog has compiled a number of interesting satellite images to compare the extent of pyroclastic flow deposits before and after the event, which probably was a combination of a larger partial dome collapse with an explosion (triggered by the sudden pressure release).
It also appears that the initial estimations of Darwin VAAC of the height of the ash plume (43,000 ft) were overestimated (but in such cases, it is better to over- than to underestimate!), and that the true height was more in the range of 13-16,000 ft (4-6 km). "If the dome continues to collapse, we might expect more small explosive eruptions from Paluweh, although activity has declined since the weekend", Erik remarks.

Lava flow emission remains unchanged at the ongoing eruption of Tolbachik volcano. Moderate seismicity accompanies the lava dome building at Sheveluch and Kizimen. Seismicity remained low at Karymski and Klyuchevskoi volcano, although small explosions probably continue at both volcanoes. The strong seismicity from Tolbachik still makes it impossible to read the signals from Bezymianny, which also has been active and building a lava dome for years. Gorely has medium levels of tremor that relate to fluid movements and strong degassing. - Volcano Discovery.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: The Sinking of Indonesia - Jakarta Faces Up To A High Flood-Risk Future!

February 07, 2013 - INDONESIA - On 17 January water flooded into several Jakarta neighbourhoods, claiming more than a dozen lives and causing the evacuation of 18,000 residents. Even the city centre was affected. The papers featured pictures of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono paddling in the garden of his official residence, his trousers rolled up to the knee. "I have sent a letter to the Agency for Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) to move the clouds to the north [the sea]," city governor Joko Widodo told reporters at city hall last month. He did not go into details about how this might be done, explaining that it was possible to use weather engineering technology to control clouds.

Deep water... A man carries his child as a family makes its way through north Jakarta.
Photograph: Ulet Ifansasti/Getty.
Indonesian meteorologist Armi Susandi was dubious about this strategy's chances of success. "Most likely the rain will fall in Jakarta instead of the sea," he told the daily Jakarta Post. Floods are a recurrent problem for the Indonesian capital. In 2007, harsh conditions caused 50 fatalities and displaced 300,000 people. According to specialists, channels need to be built to contain the city's 13 rivers, with tunnels to divert floodwater and pumping stations on the northern, seaward side. Widodo admitted that combating flooding is an uphill task. "It's a very complicated problem. The Dutch built 300 dams and lakes, but there are only 50 left. The wetlands, woods and other green spaces north of the city have been taken over by housing complexes and malls. You can't just demolish everything," he said. Forecasters fear there will be more heavy rainfall before the end of the monsoon in March, as the battle against the rising tide remains a problem.

Sukristiono Sukardjo, a professor of mangrove ecology at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), published a gloomy opinion piece in the Jakarta Post last month, echoing the governor's fears: "The city represents an exceptional concentration of 10 million people located close to the sea's edge and therefore vulnerable to rising sea levels […] It is now only a matter of time before mangroves are totally erased from the map of Jakarta," he wrote. Sukardjo highlighted the contradiction between the "unbridled urbanisation and industrialisation programmes initiated by the government, which, in the same breath, pronounces its concern about Jakarta's ecological balance". It remains to be seen whether Widodo, 52, will live up to his reputation. He was elected governor last September. At the beginning of the year he finished third in the 2012 best mayor contest organised by the World Mayor Project, a tribute to his success at his previous job in the city of Solo, Java. Establishing a green belt round the town is thought to have prevented a repetition of the flooding which hit Solo in 2005. But the capital is a much bigger challenge. - Guardian.

TERMINATOR NOW: The Rise Of The Machines - Meet REX, The One Million-Dollar Bionic Man With A Working Heart, Set Of Lungs And Human Face!

 February 07, 2013 - UNITED STATES -   When Luke Skywalker received a perfect bionic replacement for the hand that was cut off in Star Wars Episode V, the idea of replicating human organs and body parts seemed far-fetched.  Thirty years later, the idea is no longer just science fiction. Scientists, among them the creators of “Rex” – the world’s most complete bionic man, unveiled in London this week – believe they can now replicate about two-thirds of the human body.  “We were surprised how many of the parts of the body can be replaced,” said Rich Walker, managing director of the robotics team Shadow, who built Rex.

“There are some vital organs missing, like the stomach, but 60 to 70 per cent of a human has effectively been rebuilt.” This is heralded, then, as the dawn of the age of bionic man – although specialists caution that we are still feeling our way.  Social psychologist Bertolt Meyer, who also worked on Rex, has an interesting perspective: he was born without his left hand and has a prosthesis. “I have looked for new bionic technologies out of personal interest for a long time and I think that until five or six years ago nothing much was happening,” he said. “Suddenly we are at a point where we can build a body that is great and beautiful in its own special way.”  Not everyone in the field believes the recent progress, impressive as it is, places us on the road to complete replication of human limbs, organs and tissue. “We have motors which can lift things but, if you want to mimic the dexterity of a hand, we are not there yet,” said Professor Steven Hsiao of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.  “What we are beginning to achieve is building prostheses which look like human body parts, but we are a long way away from making ones which relay sensory information the way the human body does.” 

Professor Hsiao drew the comparison between Star Wars and real life, saying: “The goal is the scene in the film where Luke Skywalker gets his new hand tested and is able to feel pain: we are not there. In 10 years, we will be able to build a robot which has the dexterity to pick up a pen and write with it, but it will not be able to send back sensory information.”  Rex, billed as the pinnacle of robotics achievement to date, will meet his public from tomorrow at the Science Museum in London. Dubbed the Million-Dollar Man (that’s how much he cost to make), he consists of a prosthetic face, hips, knees, feet and hands, all of which are commercially available. Other off-the-shelf items include an artificial retina, cochlea and heart.  Rex’s other internal organs, among them a pancreas, a set of artificial lungs and bladder, are still in development. Some of the technology cannot work without human input; bionic hands, for example, need muscles and signals from the brain to function. Other parts, such as the heart and pancreas, are designed to work on their own.  Other body parts remain out of the reach of scientists.

Mr Walker says: “The only artificial stomach we have seen is very large and generates electricity, so you couldn’t use it to replace a human stomach, but I am sure there are people in the regenerative medicine community working on that.”  And replication of the human brain, the most complex structure known to man, was not even on the radar, Mr Walker said. “This is a showcase for prosthetic parts, it shows exactly where we’ve got to in being able to replace parts of a human.”  Bertolt Meyer adds: “I’d say it’s highly unlikely that, in our lifetimes or in that of our grandchildren, we will see a fully articulate human body with an artificial intelligence.”  Mr Meyer said there would be ethical issues surrounding prostheses if they began to outperform human body parts. “Should I be allowed to cut off my real hand and replace it with something, does that gives me an unfair advantage over people who cannot afford this? I’m not saying that is going to happen but these are questions that should be on the table before that technology becomes available.” - The Independent.

HUMAN DEVOLUTION: Six Spanish Tourists Raped By Masked Gunmen In Mexico - Three Days After Pair Of Tourists Were Shot In Acapulco!

 February 07, 2013 - MEXICO - While much is still unknown about a brutal attack on six Spanish tourists in Mexico, authorities say they are fairly certain about one thing: it had nothing to do with drugs or organized crime.  A group of armed and masked gunmen raped and attacked the tourists, who were staying in the Mexican resort of Acapulco, the latest chapter of violence that has tarnished the once-glamorous Pacific coast resort.  The attackers burst into a house the Spaniards had rented on the outskirts of Acapulco, in a low-key beachside area, and held 12 Spanish men and women and one Mexican woman at gunpoint before dawn on Monday. 

Navy marines stand at a roadblock due to stepped up security after masked armed men broke into a beach home, raping six Spanish tourists who had rented the house in Acapulco, Mexico, Tuesday Feb. 5, 2013. According to the Mayor of Acapulco, five masked men burst into a house the Spaniards had rented on the outskirts of Acapulco, in a low-key area near the beach, and held a group of six Spanish men and one Mexican woman at gunpoint, while they raped the Spanish women before dawn on Monday. (AP Photo/Bernandino Hernandez) (AP2013).
"This is a regrettable situation, and of course it is going to damage Acapulco," said Acapulco Mayor Luis Walton. The once-glittering resort that attracted movie stars and celebrities in the 1950s and 60s has already been battered by years of drug gang killings and extortion, but except for a very few incidents, the violence largely had not touched tourists.  The attackers tied up the six men with phone cords and bathing suit straps and then raped the six Spanish women, said Walton at a press conference later Monday.  He said he believed, but wasn't sure, that the assailants in Monday's attack didn't belong to a drug gang. Mexico's Foreign Relations Department issued a statement saying it regretted the attack, and suggesting it was not drug-cartel related – meaning local authorities would probe the matter.  "From what the attorney general has told me, I don't think this was organized crime, but that will have to be investigated, we don't know," Walton said.  In Mexico, federal authorities investigate drug-related crimes. Security and drug analyst Jorge Chabat said that, after years of drug gang activity in Acapulco, the distinction may be merely semantic. 

"At this point, the line between common and organized crime is very tenuous, there are a lot of these gangs that take advantage of the unsafe situation that currently exists, they know the government can't keep up," Chabat said. "Everything points to this being organized crime, because several gangs have operated there for years ... it's probably not the big cartels, but there are smaller groups that carry out crimes on a permanent basis."  The Spanish Embassy in Mexico City said the victims were receiving consular assistance.  The attackers gained access to the house because two of the Spaniards were in the yard and apparently were forced to open the door, Walton said. The house is on a more isolated stretch of beach east of the city.  The victims were "psychologically affected" by the attack and received treatment, the mayor said. The lone Mexican woman in the group was not raped. 

Guerrero state Attorney General Martha Garzon Guzman said witness descriptions of the attackers were more difficult to obtain because they wore masks.  Spain's Foreign Ministry had already issued a travelers advisory on its website for Acapulco before the Monday attack, listing the resort as one of Mexico's "risk zone," though not the worst.  "In Acapulco, organized crime gangs have carried out violence, though up to now that has not affected tourists or the areas they visit," the advisory states. "At any rate, heightened caution is advised."  The attack came just three days after a pair of Mexican tourists returning from a beach east of Acapulco were shot at and slightly wounded by members of a masked rural self-defense squad that has set up roadblocks in areas north of Acapulco, to defend their communities against drug gang violence. - FOX News.

MASS ANIMAL DIE-OFF: Sudden Mass Sea Turtle Deaths Shock Conservationists Along Chennai Coast In India - Nearly 300 Dead Turtles Since 2013!

 February 07, 2013 - INDIA - A sudden increase in the number of deaths of Olive Ridley turtles along the 134-km stretch of the Chennai coast from Napier Bridge up to Marakkanam has shocked conservationists.
More than 120 turtles were found dead from near Napier Bridge to Neelankarai by the Students Sea Turtle Conservation Network (SSTCN) between the end of December and January 31. Another 119 deaths were recorded on the shoreline from Neelankarai up to Marakkanam by the volunteers of TREE Foundation.
Akila Balu of the SSTCN said since last month, the volunteers of the group recorded at least five dead turtles along the stretch every night during their turtle walks. One night, the volunteers sighted 14 dead turtles between Napier Bridge and Neelankarai.

Shocked conservationists cite high mast lamps, trawler fishing in the vicinity as reasons.
The volunteers have taken the issue to the notice of Chief Wildlife Warden, Tamil Nadu, who promised to take up the issue with Fisheries and Environment departments.  Some years ago, following a request from conservationists, the Chennai Corporation agreed to switch off the high mast lights along the shore during the turtle nesting season between December and ends in March, Ms. Akila said. A G.O. in this regard was also issued. But, the lights are not regularly switched off and this attracted the turtles towards the shore, resulting in their deaths, she said. Supraja Dharini of TREE Foundation attributes the increase in the number of deaths to the tendency of trawlers to fish close to the coastline and use of gill net by fishermen. With an increase in the demand for seer fish, many fishermen have started using these nets. Dr. Dharini explained that the gill net wraps the turtle, leading to its death.

The turtles have to come up to the surface once in every 45 minutes to breathe and if caught in a net, they drown. Inspection of the carcasses revealed the bloating of the body and bulging of both eyes and the neck, she said. Another problem is the use of ray fish net. She said turtles often get entangled in this net which has a wide mesh with a strong rope. They are unable to wriggle out, she said. Dr. Dharini said: “Sea turtles have been categorised under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act on par with lions, tigers or leopards. Killing any animal or marine organism falling under this category would attract severe punishment. But, due to lack of awareness, the death of marine organisms such as sea turtles are not given due importance.” - The Hindu.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Geological Upheaval In Alaska - Scientists Are On High Alert As The Cleveland Volcano Dome Grows, Reaching 328 Feet In Diameter!

February 07, 2013 - ALASKA - Alaska's Cleveland Volcano is heating up and scientists are on alert in case it sends up an ash cloud that could threaten trans-Pacific flights.  The Alaska Volcano Observatory detected elevated surface temperatures Jan. 24 at Cleveland's summit. Satellite data obtained last week indicated that a growing lava dome on the floor of the summit crater had reached about 328 feet, or 100 meters, in diameter.  The summit crater itself is nearly 10 times that size, said Chris Waythomas of the U.S. Geological Survey. 

This Monday, Aug. 8, 2011 file aerial photo provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows Cleveland Volcano, left, located in the Aleutian Islands 939 miles southwest of Anchorage, Alaska. The volcano, which has sent up major ash eruptions in the past, is heating up near its summit. Scientists at the Alaska Volcano Observatory say satellite data obtained a week ago indicates a lava dome is growing in the summit crater. The observatory has changed its alert level for aircraft. © AP Photo/NOAA, Kym Yano.
"It does this from time to time and it's a fairly small lava dome," he said Wednesday. "It's not gigantic."  Lava domes form a lid on a volcano chamber that holds magma. When they grow big enough, lava domes can become unstable and collapse. Decompression of the magma chamber can lead to an explosion as the conduit inside the volcano suddenly becomes unsealed and gasses escape.  The new lava dome led the observatory to change the volcano's alert level to "orange," indicating heightened or escalating unrest. Development of a lava dome indicates sudden explosions of ash higher than 20,000 feet - a threshold for concern for international air carriers - could be produced with little warning.  The volcano in the past has sent ash clouds much higher. Cleveland Volcano's last major eruption was 12 years ago. It began in February 2001 and produced three explosive events that produced ash clouds as high as 39,000 feet.  Cleveland has had burst of smaller plumes nearly every year since then.

In December 2011, Cleveland sent up an ash cloud to 15,000 feet that did not disrupt international air carriers. Scientists last detected minor ash emissions in November.  Alaska's Redoubt Volcano blew on Dec. 15, 1989, and sent ash 150 miles away into the path of a KLM jet carrying 231 passengers. Its four engines flamed out and the jet dropped more than 2 miles, from 27,900 feet to 13,300 feet, before the crew was able to restart all engines and land the plane safely at Anchorage.  Cleveland Mountain is a 5,675-foot peak on uninhabited Chuginadak Island about 940 miles southwest of Anchorage. The nearest village is tiny Nikolski on another island about 50 miles east. Previous eruptions of Cleveland were not considered a threat to Nikolski's 16 permanent residents.  The observatory is a joint program between the USGS, the University of Alaska Geophysical Institute and the state Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys.  The observatory has no real-time seismic equipment on Cleveland. Pressure sensors on Okmok Volcano -74 miles away- have in the past detected a pressure wave from an explosion, Waythomas said.  "We have a couple people who are watching for that," he said. - News Miner.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Subduction Zone - What Caused The Solomon Islands Earthquake And Tsunami?!

February 07, 2013 - SOLOMON ISLANDS - The deadly earthquake and tsunami that hit the Solomon Islands today struck along a subduction zone, the same geologic setting responsible for the world's most powerful earthquakes. In a subduction zone, two of Earth's tectonic plates meet and one slides beneath the other into the mantle, the deeper layer beneath the crust. The Solomon Islands sit above the collision between the Australia and Pacific plates. In the region of today's magnitude-8.0 earthquake, the Australia plates dives beneath the Pacific plate toward the east-northeast at a geologically speedy 3.7 inches (94 millimeters) per year, according to the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS).

The earthquake hit at a depth of 17.8 miles (28.7 kilometers) and was the second-largest earthquake in the Solomon Islands region in almost 40 years, IRIS said in a statement. Several aftershocks followed; the largest measured magnitude 6.6, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).  The tsunami generated by the quake, reported as 3 feet (0.9 meters) in height, hit villages on Santa Cruz Island, destroying structures and homes, according to news reports. A tsunami watch was issued for Australia, Indonesia and New Zealand, but not for the rest of the Pacific, according to the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center.

WATCH: Solomon Islands Tsunami kills at least five.

Subduction zone quakes shove the seafloor in one sudden movement, which may generate a tsunami by pushing the ocean water above. However, depending on the depth and size of the earthquake, the actual seafloor surface may not move a significant amount, so a big earthquake doesn't always produce a massive wave.For example, a magnitude-7.6 subduction zone earthquake in the Philippines in August 2012, which started deep in Earth's crust, did not trigger a tsunami. There were dozens of earthquakes around the Solomon Islands in the month leading up to today's massive quake, the USGS reported. More than 40 magnitude-4.5 quakes shook the islands in the past week alone, and seven of those temblors were larger than a magnitude-6.0, the USGS said. - OAP.