Tuesday, February 12, 2013

PLANETARY TREMORS: Intermountain Seismic Belt - Strong Magnitude 5.1 Earthquake Rattles Nevada, Northern California; Seismic Swarm Developing!

February 12, 2013 - NEVADA, UNITED STATES - A 5.1 earthquake shook Nevada around 4:15 p.m. PST Tuesday near the California border, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

The earthquake had a fairly shallow depth of 4.4 miles. It was centered 16 miles south of Tonopah Junction, between Reno and Las Vegas, the USGS said.

FEMA urged Nevada residents to take some recommended actions after an earthquake.

USGS earthquake map and location.
They listed the following excerpted list posted below on their website:  After: Expect aftershocks. These secondary shockwaves are usually less violent than the main quake but can be strong enough to do additional damage to weakened structures and can occur in the first hours, days, weeks, or even months after the quake.  --Look for and extinguish small fires. Fire is the most common hazard after an earthquake.  --Be aware of possible tsunamis if you live in coastal areas. These are also known as seismic sea waves (mistakenly called "tidal waves"). When local authorities issue a tsunami warning, assume that a series of dangerous waves is on the way. Stay away from the beach.  --Be careful when driving after an earthquake and anticipate traffic light outages.  At first it was reported by the USGS that the earthquake was measured at 5.2, but minutes later the report was changed to 5.1.  No injuries or deaths have yet been reported in Nevada as a result of the quake. - IBT.

USGS intensity map.
A Magnitude 5.1 earthquake occurred 45 miles west of Tonopah, Nevada in a remote area of the state at 4:10 PM Local Time, February 12, 2013. The earthquake was felt throughout the region. The earthquake has been followed by several aftershocks of Magnitude greater than or equal to 3. 

The earthquake took place within the Walker Lane Belt of western Nevada in a tectonic region termed the Mina Deflection. This area is area characterized by NE to EW striking left-lateral strike slip faults. Two Magnitude 5+ earthquakes in 2004 occurred about 30 miles west of today's event.  According to USGS, the earthquake was felt strongly in the Bishop-Mammoth Lakes, California area. The quake was also felt as far SW as Sacramento, Placer and Nevada counties. - Yubanet.

Seismic swarm in Nevada.
A 5.1-magnitude earthquake shook parts of Nevada Tuesday, U.S. seismologists said.  The U.S. Geological Survey said the temblor occurred about 4:10 p.m. local time and was centered about 44 miles west of Tonopah, 122 miles southeast of Carson City and 122 miles east-southeast of South Lake Tahoe at a depth of 7.7 miles.  MyMotherLode.com reported there were a few smaller aftershocks.  Several residents in the affected region told the news website the quake felt like a wave rolling toward them. Some reported their homes shook. - UPI

"A 5.2 earthquake centered 44 miles west of Tonopah, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, was felt throughout the Eastern Sierra at ten minutes after 4pm Tuesday. Bishop residents who contacted USGS said they were told the quake was centered 69 miles northwest of Bishop. At the Sierra Wave studios the quake seemed long and rolling. Nothing fell off the shelves.

USGS historical seismicity for Nevada.
We talked to the Mammoth Police Department and others in Mammoth and Bishop. Everyone felt the quake but, again, no damage of any kind reported. We also talked to someone at the Station Casino in Tonopah. She said the staff there felt nothing. At Northern Inyo Hospital in Bishop, where 200, 50-foot long foundation pylons brace the new hospital, they did not feel the earthquake at all. USGS reported several after shocks of lesser magnitude."  - Sierra Wave.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Volcano Discovery Report For February 12, 2013 - Updates On Sakurajima, Popocatépetl, Santa María, Santiaguito And Fuego!

February 12, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing report from the Volcano Discovery Group.

Small explosion from Popocatépetl.
Sakurajima (Kyushu, Japan): (11 Feb) The volcano has been in a phase of elevated activity during the past days.

Several moderate to large explosions occurred with ash plumes rising up to 12,000 ft (3.7 km) altitude. At least 6 explosions were counted yesterday alone and VAAC Tokyo reports phases of continuous ash emission.

Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): A phase of near continuous steam / gas emissions took place yesterday, with some explosions ejecting ballistics onto the crater's outer flanks and producing plumes with some ash rising up to 1 km. Activity declined again in the evening.

Santa María / Santiaguito (Guatemala): No significant changes have occurred over the past days. Explosions from the lava dome occur at rates of about 1-2 per hour and produce ash plumes rising a few 100 m.

The lava flows descending the dome, in particular on the SE side, are weakly active and produce small avalanches.

Fuego (Guatemala): After a short period with little effusive activity, a new lava flow has started to descend towards the Ceniza drainage. Strombolian activity at the summit remains weak.

Complete Earthquake list (worldwide) for today, Wednesday, 13 Feb 2013

- Volcano Discovery.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: The Giant Louisiana Sinkhole Massively Expands - Swallows Up Another 5,000 Square Feet; As Expert Declares That Fractures Are Occurring In The Disturbed Zone At The Surface Around The Sinkhole!

February 12, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Earlier today, there was a slough in at the sinkhole. An estimated 50 x 100 foot section sloughed in on the southwest side of the sinkhole. The slough in does not affect Hwy 70 as the event occurred on the opposite side of the sinkhole. - Assumption Parish Police Jury.

The 8.6-acre sinkhole in Assumption Parish got a little larger on Tuesday.

Parish officials reported another slough in the sinkhole Tuesday morning, estimating that the sinkhole swallowed a 5,000-square-foot section on its southwest side.

Officials estimated that the section was approximately 50 feet by 100 feet in size, adding that it will not affect traffic on La. 70 because the slough occurred on the opposite side of the sinkhole from the highway. - The Advocate.

Will Pettitt, General Manager of Itasca, a worldwide firm specializing in rock mechanics declares, in the following video of a public briefing, that fractures are now evident in the disturbed zoned at the surface around the sinkhole.
"This is our initial estimate of the maximum extent of that disturbed zone.

At the moment we’re putting in all our effort to try and understand the exact structure of this...

As you can see, it flows out from the cavern 3 and up to the surface around the sinkhole.

And what I think we’re seeing now is we’re actually starting to see fractures occurring in this disturbed zone at the surface."
WATCH: Public Briefing on the Sinkhole - February 6, 2013.

Watch all the public briefings HERE.

PARADISE LOST: Jamaica's Debt-Trap Hurricane - S&P Downgrades Jamaica's Credit Rating, Fitch Cuts Jamaica To C On Debt Exchange, Jamaica Dollar Continues Its Rapid Slide Against The United States Currency, As Government Starts Implementing "Painful" Measures On Citizens To Get IMF Approval! UPDATE: Finance Minister Announces New, Surprising And Severe $15.9 Billion Tax Package!

February 12, 2013 - JAMAICA - Standard & Poor's has downgraded Jamaica's sovereign credit rating from B- to selective default in response to the Government’s debt exchange programme.

S&P Downgrades Jamaica's Credit Rating.
Selective default occurs when a borrower elects to delay the repayment of some of its financial obligations while fully honoring others. Standard & Poor's says it sees the move by Jamaica as a default of its debt. S&P has also lowered the country's ratings on bonds and government securities. Under the National Debt Exchange launched this morning, the Government will be paying lower interest rates on local debt.

S&P says the ratings on bonds included in the proposed domestic debt exchange have been reduced to D while the ratings on government securities not included in the debt exchange programme have been lowered to CCC. According to Standard & Poor’s, it will assign a new sovereign credit rating to the new bonds upon the completion of the debt exchange and the issuance of the new bonds.

The agency says while the debt exchange will result in an ease in short-term liquidity strains, a sustained improvement in the government's debt profile will take years because of structural economic weaknesses. It estimates Jamaica's general government debt burden to remain high at above 115 per cent of gross domestic product in 2013.

The government is hoping that through the debt exchange and other measures it can reduce the national debt by about $17 billion each year up to 2020. - Jamaica Gleaner.

Fitch Cuts Jamaica To C On Debt Exchange.
Fitch on Tuesday cut Jamaica's sovereign credit rating to C on the country's debt exchange, following on the heels of a downgrade by Standard & Poor's earlier in the day.  If completed, the country's domestic debt exchange "would constitute a 'distressed debt exchange' (DDE)" in line with Fitch criteria, the rating agency said in a statement. 

"The debt exchange announced by the government entails extension of maturities and reduction in coupons for the affected debt instruments," the agency added.  "Although the operation does not involve a 'haircut' on principal, the proposed exchange does imply an adverse change in the terms of government domestic debt."  S&P earlier in the day cut Jamaica to selective default. Moody's Investors Service rates the country B3 with a stable outlook. - Reuters.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller
and Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips
giving a joint national broadcast last night.

Government Starts Implementing "Painful" Measures To Get IMF Approval.
Financial institutions and holders of domestic bonds will this morning be asked to take a haircut on interest for the second time in three years as the Government starts implementing measures critical to signing a funding arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips, in an unprecedented joint national broadcast last night, announced the Administration's plan for what they have termed a "National Debt Exchange Offer" which, they said, will be launched with the support of leading private sector financial institutions.  "This offer, which we urge bondholders to accept, will make possible the reduction of our debt to GDP ratios by 8.5 per cent or around $17b per year between now and 2020," Dr Phillips said.  "Let me assure bondholders that there will be no haircut on their principal investment," Dr Phillips said. "Essentially, this programme exchanges higher interest debt for lower cost debt and will entail significant sacrifices from our financial institutions and the holders of our domestic bonds; it will be painful and difficult, but we have no option."  Simpson Miller explained that the debt exchange is a critical component of both the IMF agreement and the Administration's debt reduction programme, adding that "It can only succeed with the fullest co-operation of the broad financial sector and the support of the entire country." 

Dr Phillips said that many bondholders will, with good reason, respond to the announcement with disappointment, given that they were asked to make a similar sacrifice for Jamaica three years ago when they were assured that their sacrifice would have put Jamaica on the path of growth and stability.  "I am only too aware of the fact that for them to be asked to make another sacrifice at this time is a burden that will be hard to bear," he said.  Phillips' reference was to the Jamaica Debt Exchange (JDX) launched in 2010 by the then Bruce Golding-led Government.  The JDX, which was pivotal to Jamaica's signing of a 24-month Standby Arrangement with the IMF, had been expected to save the Administration $40 billion in interest expenditure on domestic debt in the 2010/2011 fiscal year.  In April 2011, then Finance Minister Audley Shaw, in opening the budget debate, aid the JDX was largely responsible for the stable, but delicate, macro-economic environment.  However, a week later, in his contribution to the debate, then Opposition spokesman on finance Dr Omar Davies, saying that there were rumblings of a JDX 2, warned the Government against trying to "pull off" a second JDX.  Dr Davies said that while the virtues of the voluntary debt swap programme -- under which holders of Government bonds accepted lower interest rates and longer maturities -- had been lauded by the Administration, a second one would be suicide.  "The minister (Shaw), during Standing Finance Committee, gave the assurance that the Administration had no such intention. However, I want him to realise that there are persons, not necessarily within his ministry, but closely aligned to the Administration who are speaking about a JDX 2; we worked too hard to establish Jamaica's credit worthiness to sit idly by and see it destroyed," Dr Davies told parliamentarians.  "While we trumpet the success of the JDX, let the following be fully recognised: The JDX speaks only to interest rates. It does not affect the principal amount, and so the over $1.570-billion of debt will have to be repaid,"

Dr Davies said.  "I say very, very calmly and with all good intentions to the minister, let us not even contemplate taking any such step, I am referring to the possibility of a JDX 2," Dr Davies added.  Last night, Dr Phillips said that measures will be put in place to ensure that the objectives of the debt swap, as well as another round of public sector wage restraints, will be achieved.  "First, we shall be establishing, by the end of March 2013, a co-ordinating and implementing unit in the Ministry of Finance, staffed with persons recruited from outside and within the public sector charged with nothing else than ensuring that everyone -- all agencies and departments get with the programme and meet the timelines," Dr Phillips said.  "We will also be putting in place an Economic Programme Oversight Committee, including stakeholder representatives (such as the private sector and trade unions) and government officials to, among other things, monitor the compliance and progress of the ministries, departments and agencies with regard to the implementation of the IMF agreement with full authority on their part to inform the public of their findings. This is an unprecedented step of public accountability and transparency," he added.  Phillips said that one of the conditions stipulated by the IMF is a contract with public sector workers that will enable the achievement of a wage-to-GDP ratio of nine per cent by 2015/2016.  "We are in active discussion with the representatives of public sector workers to achieve this objective," the finance minister said.  He also said that the Government will have to take concrete steps to reduce and virtually eliminate discretionary tax waivers, details of which he will provide to the Parliament later this week.  The programme, he said, is designed to secure the major reforms up front, either as prior actions or benchmarks for the first year. "This, in itself, enhances the chances of success." 

Added Phillips: "The entire nation will be mobilised around the national objective of reducing Jamaica's debt ratio from over 140 per cent of GDP currently (using the higher IMF numbers) to approximately 95 per cent of GDP over the next seven years.  "I am satisfied that the agreement we are currently finalising is the best we could negotiate for Jamaica. However, the implementation process will require a national effort and a contribution from everyone," said the finance minister. "Even as we try to minimise the impact of the sacrifice we will all be called upon to make, we must seek to protect the poor and the vulnerable."  Prime Minister Simpson Miller said that in order to achieve the necessary level of debt reduction, greater accountability and discipline will be required.  "My Administration is setting the example," she said. "There is absolutely no room for non-performance. I insist on full accountability from everyone, every department, every ministry, every government entity, as we move confidently towards achieving our objectives."  The Government, she said, will redouble its efforts to collect the taxes that are due from every business enterprise and individual; do all it can to provide more efficient, effective and considerate public service; and lead the national fight against corruption to ensure that the public receives value for every dollar spent.  "My fellow Jamaicans, we can only come out of this crisis by taking extraordinary measures with the urgency that the situation demands," Simpson Miller said.  "If we pull together and stay focused we can bring down the debt," she said. "We can fix the economy. We can inspire a new sense of hope and possibility in our country." - Jamaica Observer.

Jamaica Dollar Continues Its Rapid Slide Against The United States Currency.
The US dollar today sold for an average of J$95.22, according to the Bank of Jamaica’s daily trading summary. The Canadian dollar went for an average of J$95.00 while the British pound went for J$149.66 to one. - Jamaica Observer.

Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips - File Photo.
Finance Minister Announces New, Surprising And Severe $15.9 Billion Tax Package.
The Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips has announced a raft of revenue measures aimed at raising an additional $15.9 billion. The announcement was made in Parliament a short while ago – one week after Phillips tabled a new Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure indicating a $10 billion cut in the national budget $602.5 billion. But despite the spending cut, Phillips said the Government is compelled to undertake the measures. Outside of the tax measures, Phillips says the National Housing Trust will be required to contribute $11 billion a year to the Government’s coffers throughout the life of the impending four-year agreement with the International Monetary Fund. Among the news measures will be: *An increase in the Education Tax of 0.5 percentage points paid by employers and 0.25 percentage points by employees. However, people earning minimum wage and who are below the income tax threshold will not be required to pay the new education tax. *An increase in the stamp duty from 3 per cent to 4 per cent; and from 4 per cent to 5 per cent. * An increase in the tax on dividends for Jamaican residents from 10 per cent to 15 per cent. *Lottery companies will also be asked to pay more gross profit taxes, but in exchange, lottery tickets may now be sold on public holidays and on Sundays. The announcement of the measures came hours after the Government launched the National Debt Exchange Programme as part of the series of measures to reduce the overall burden. The National Debt Exchange was announced last night in a national broadcast by Phillips and the Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller. The Opposition spokesman on finance, Audley Shaw, says the new measures will have far-reaching impact on the competitiveness of Jamaica. - Jamaica Gleaner.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Record Setting Asteroid 2012 DA14 Flyby - "Safeway-Size" Asteroid To Get Closer To Earth Than Satellites This Week, Will Miss Earth By Just "15 MINUTES", Could Take Out Your Phone?!

February 12, 2012 - SPACE - An asteroid half the size of a football field will buzz close by Earth on Friday, coming closer than many weather satellites, but there is absolutely no chance the space rock will hit the planet, NASA says. The asteroid 2012 DA14 will approach within 17,200 miles (27,000 kilometers) of Earth when it zips by the planet on Friday (Feb. 15). It will be 5,000 miles closer than the ring of weather, communications and GPS navigation satellites that orbit the Earth, but it poses no impact threat, NASA scientists assured.

According to detailed observations of the 150-foot (45 meters) 2012 DA14 since its discovery last year, "there is no chance that the asteroid might be on a collision course with Earth," NASA officials said in a statement. But the space rock encounter will mark the closest-ever known Earth flyby of an asteroid the size of 2012 DA14, with NASA scientists and astronomers around the world preparing to take advantage of the event to take a close look at how asteroids work. One study in particular seeks to pin down exactly how the asteroid spins on its axis. "Knowing the direction of spin is essential to accurately predicting its future path, and thus determining just how close it will get to Earth in the coming years," study leader Michael Busch of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) said in a statement.

Busch and his colleagues will use two huge radio telescopes in New Mexico, the Very Large Array and Very Long Baseline Array, along with NASA's Goldstone radar antenna in California in an attempt to determine the direction of asteroid 2012 DA's spin. The telescopes seek out so-called "speckles" in the radio signals reflected by the asteroid's uneven surface, and then compare which observatory detected the speckles first in order to determine the spin direction. Knowing an asteroid's spin is key to understanding how a space rock radiates heat from absorbed sunlight over time. That, in turn, can allow astronomers to project how an asteroid's orbit can change over long periods as it circles the sun. Asteroids, like Earth, have a warmest part of their day, during which time they develop a hotspot that can be observed in infrared light. Later, the asteroid emits the absorbed radiation back out into space, which can serve as a gentle — but firm — jet-like push forward, researchers said.

WATCH: Animation for the asteroid's path.

The phenomenon is called the "Yarkovsky effect" after the 19th-century Russian engineer I.O. Yarkovsky, who first identified it. "When the asteroid passes close to the Earth or another large body, its orbit can be changed quickly by the gravitational effect of the larger body, but the Yarkovsky Effect, though smaller, is at work all the time," Busch said.

This diagram shows how the Yarkovsky Effect slows an asteroid's orbital motion; opposite rotation direction would speed up the orbital motion. Astronomers around the world are preparing to study the close approach of asteroid 2012 DA14 on Feb. 15, 2013.  CREDIT: Alexandra Bolling, NRAO/AUI/NSF.
Asteroid 2012 DA14 was discovered in 2012 by astronomers with the La Sagra Sky Survey at the Astronomical Observatory of Mallorca in Spain. The asteroid will make its closest approach to Earth at 2:24 p.m. EST (1924 GMT) Friday, at which time it may be visible in telescopes and binoculars to observers in Asia, Australia and Europe, where the local time will be nighttime.

Visit SPACE.com each day this week for complete coverage of asteroid 2012 DA14 and its Earth flyby. - SPACE.

'Record Close' Asteroid May Miss The Earth, But It Could Take Out Your Phone.
Scientists have dismissed fears an asteroid due to whizz past the Earth on Friday will 'destroy London' - but it could take out vital telecommunications satellites.  Scientists say they are sure there is no chance of the 150ft (45.7m) wide space rock hitting the planet.  But there is a remote possibility that it could collide with one of more than 100 telecommunication and weather satellites in fixed orbits above the Earth.  The asteroid, 2012 DA14, has been closely tracked since its discovery a year ago.  It is predicted to reach its nearest point to the Earth at around 7.30pm UK time on Friday.  Experts have calculated it will stay at least 17,200 miles (27,681km) away - easily far enough to be safe, but a very close shave in astronomical terms. Scientists have never observed such a narrow miss before.   Dr Dan Brown, from Nottingham Trent University, said telecommunication satellites - that ping data between our mobile phones - could be in danger.  Travelling at between 12,427mph (20,000kph) and 18,641mph (30,000kph) - around five miles (8km) a second, or eight times the speed of a rifle bullet - the asteroid will fly inside the orbits of high geostationary satellites some 22,000 miles (35,406km) above the Earth. 

The path of asteroid 2012 DA14's approach to earth is shown in this graphic from NASA. Photo: NASA/REUTERS.

''These are the satellites that provide us with telecommunications and weather forecasts,'' said Dr Brown.  ''There are loads of them but you're talking about a very big area. It would be very unlucky if a satellite was hit. The asteroid is more likely to hit some space junk, but most of this is only about a centimetre across and the impact won't even be noticed.''  Through binoculars, the object should be visible as a tiny dot of light crossing the sky.  ''It will be too faint for the naked eye but with binoculars it should be visible if you know where to look. It will be low to the north-eastern horizon and moving quite quickly," said Dr Brown.  ''You'll be able to see it pass from the constellation Leo to roughly the Plough, more or less from anywhere in the UK, and it will be bright for about an hour.''  DA14 belongs to dangerous family of near-Earth objects (NEOs) that are small enough to be missed but large enough to cause serious damage.  It was detected in February last year by La Sagra Observatory in southern Spain as it fell under the spotlight of the Sun's rays.  The asteroid will pose no danger to the International Space Station, which orbits at an altitude of only a few hundred kilometres.  Precise calculations showed there was absolutely no possibility of DA14 hitting the Earth, Dr Brown said.  But scientists had a good idea of what the effect of such an impact would be because a similar sized meteor devastated a remote region of Siberia in 1908.  Exploding a short distance above the ground over Tunguska, the object generated a blast 1,000 times more powerful than the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Forest was completely flattened over an area of 830 square miles (2,150 sq km).

WATCH: 2012 DA14 Flyby.

"'We think the object that impacted at Tunguska would have been of a similar size to DA14,'' said Dr Brown.  ''Actually, it exploded in the air. It didn't destroy humanity, but if this object had exploded over London it would have wiped out London. It's not a global impact, but it's a severe impact.''  During the flypast, scientists will use radar to study DA14 and learn about its composition and structure. The knowledge could prove useful if steps have to be taken to remove the threat of another space rock.  The ''Hollywood option'' of blowing up an incoming asteroid has been ruled out by experts. Such a dramatic solution would only result in deadly debris raining down on Earth. Instead, scientists are looking at ways of gently nudging an asteroid onto a safer trajectory.  A future mission planned by the American space agency Nasa, called Dart, will fire a probe into an asteroid to see if it can be moved. However, this may not be for another 10 or 20 years, said Dr Brown.  Meanwhile astronomers are currently tracking up to 400 NEOs that, like DA14, have been categorised as a potential threat. While a number are about the same size as DA14 ''there will also be some considerably larger,'' Dr Brown added.  The American space agency Nasa launched its NEO programme 15 years ago with the aim of finding all ''extinction event'' asteroids and comets 0.62 miles (1km) across and larger. Later, it started focusing on smaller objects.  Dr Don Yeomans, who manages Nasa's near-Earth object office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said at a press conference held by the agency: ''Probably we'd not have found DA14 10 years ago and not known about this close approach. But we still have a lot of improvement to do in finding all of the hazardous asteroids.''  Experts will soon be gathering at the United Nations to discuss how to monitor and deal with potentially dangerous space objects.  Fewer than 10,000 of the asteroids which could one day pose a threat to the Earth have so far been identified.  Dr Lindley Johnson, who heads Nasa's NEO observations programme, said: ''That does represent less than 10 per cent of all the objects that may be out there. It does take quite a bit of capability, both in sensitivity - the ability to detect these small objects - and also time.  ''It is an effort that will take another decade or two even if we have the most sophisticated systems that feasible technology will allow us.'' - Telegraph.

WATCH: Bill Nye - Asteroid 2012 DA 14 Will Miss Earth By "15 MINUTES!"

SOLAR MAXIMUM 2013: A Solar "Superstorm" Is Coming - Experts Say Solar Superstorm May Be Imminent, Readiness Is Key!

February 12, 2013 - THE SUN - A solar superstorm may be brewing and there is little we can do to prevent it from disrupting our communications and electrical systems here on Earth. But there is more we can do to prepare for such an event, according to a new report by the Royal Academy of Engineering. Authors of the study said the UK should plan to mitigate the effects of a potentially dangerous solar storm now before it’s too late. While the UK is already better prepared than many other countries, the report said more can be done.

Image Credit: Photos.com
The report calls for the government to create an expert panel (UK Space Weather Board) to formulate a national plan to cope with blasts of radiation and high-energy particles produced by solar superstorms. These storms have the capability of causing major mayhem for our satellites, GPS systems, electrical devices, phone networks, and even the International Space Station (ISS). The report, Extreme space weather: impacts on engineered systems and infrastructure,” was implemented to help experts from many disciplines work together to devise strategies for dealing with a potentially dangerous solar storm. Solar storms are relatively common events; for the most part these eruptions of energy occur on a small scale, and many often do not hit earth, traveling harmlessly through space. However, a rarer event, a solar superstorm, has the potential to wipe out communications and electrical systems on the third rock from the sun, causing widespread power outages, and disrupting important communications with airlines, military and other critical systems.

Solar superstorms are estimated to occur every 100 to 200 years, with the last one hitting Earth in 1859—known as the “Carrington event.” And with the sun in the midst of a solar maximum, approaching its most active point in an 11-year cycle later this year, the news of an impending superstorm striking Earth is rather alarming. It is inevitable that such an extreme storm will occur sometime in the near future, but it is impossible to predict when one will actually occur, and no more than 30 minutes prior to such an event, experts warned. “The general consensus is that a solar superstorm is inevitable, a matter not of ‘if’ but ‘when?’,” said the report. This is why an expert panel should be implemented to provide leadership of space weather activities to ensure a viable space weather strategy is in place across the government. The authors of the report said more research is needed into the full effects of superstorms.

The UK is already well advanced for the most part; its National Grid has already taken measures to strengthen the electrical grid against such disruption and has strategies in place to mitigate any issues. The report authors said this should be built upon, improving forecasting, engineering and operational procedures.
RAEng recommends that all critical terrestrial mobile communications networks should be able to operate without global navigational satellite systems (GNSS) timing for up to three days should a superstorm occur. They said this should include network upgrades, including those with new 4G licenses, and upgrades to emergency services communications.

The report authors said a solar superstorm has the potential to render GPS and Galileo systems completely inoperable for three days or longer. Such a loss could potentially affect aircraft and shipping communications. Today’s aircraft are not wholly dependent on GNSS and rely in part on other navigation aids, and the authors warn that it is important that these alternative navigation options remain available just in case. “Our view is that solar superstorms will be a challenge for the UK to deal with, but it will certainly not be cataclysmic,” Paul Cannon of Qinetiq and the University of Birmingham, who chaired the space weather working group for the academy, told The Guardian. “Our motto is don’t panic, but do prepare,” he added.
While we have yet to have any major disruptions from solar storms, we have had close calls in the past. A solar storm in March 1989 disrupted Canada’s Hydro-Quebec power grid, leaving millions of people without power for up to nine hours.

A similar storm today would be far more disruptive, likely having a huge impact on mobile phone service in many countries. However, in the UK, mobile service is “fundamentally resilient to space weather because it does not rely on GPS signals for its timing,” said Cannon. “Interestingly, in the USA their cellular network does rely on GPS time. The cellular system in the US is far less resilient than ours in the UK.”

WATCH: A space weather expert speaks on Thursday about a Royal Academy of Engineering study urging the government to be aware of the effects a solar superstorm may have on the UK. Paul Cannon from the study group says 'there will be a challenge for the UK' when such a storm occurs, but that 'it will not be cataclysmic'. Solar superstorms are periodic blasts of radiation and high-energy particles from the sun and can damage electrical networks.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Extinction-Level Super Volcano Growing In The Pacific - Enormous "Thermochemical Piles" Of Molten Rock About 3,000 Miles Across; Could Prove Cataclysmic To Life On Earth!

February 12, 2013 - EARTH - Bad news, everyone - you have another near-certain world-ending catastrophe to look forward to.

Scientists have confirmed that two continent-sized chemical blobs of partially melted rock are converging in the Pacific, and look set to create a massive new volcano which could prove cataclysmic to life on Earth.
(In 100 million years.)

 Volcanic eruption (generic).
Geologist Michael Thorne at the University of Utah reports in Earth and Planetary Science that the collision is slowly happening 1,800 miles beneath the ocean. He says that the collision could lead in two possible directions - both of which are bad, and would wipe out millions of species.

One is just a massive single eruption, which would kill us all, the other is a thousand-year flood basalt eruption, which would also kill us.

The problem is that two enormous "thermochemical piles" of molten rock about 3,000 miles across are moving towards each other at the bottom of the Earth's mantle.

The piles have been known about for decades, but it was originally thought they were static.

But after extensive study with seismic waves, Thorne is convinced they're in fact moving together. The result is a massive, molten blob that will one day be created beneath the ocean, creating a huge amount of pressure that will eventually blow up in our face.

"What we may be detecting is the start of one of these large eruptive events that – if it ever happens – could cause very massive destruction on Earth," said Thorne.

Luckily the process is slow - it shouldn't happen for another 100 million years or so. And anyway, there are other super volcanoes to worry about first. - Huffington Post.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Doctors Struggling To Fight "Totally Drug-Resistant" Tuberculosis In South Africa - TB Kills More People Annually Than Any Other Infectious Disease Besides HIV!

February 12, 2013 - SOUTH AFRICA - In a patient's fight against tuberculosis—the bacterial lung disease that kills more people annually than any infectious disease besides HIV— doctors have more than 10 drugs from which to choose. Most of those didn't work for Uvistra Naidoo, a South African doctor who contracted the disease in his clinic. For those who contract the disease now, maybe none of them will. A new paper published earlier this week in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Emerging Infectious Diseases journal warns that the first cases of "totally drug-resistant" tuberculosis have been found in South Africa and that the disease is "virtually untreatable."

Like many bacterial diseases, tuberculosis has been evolving to fend off many effective antibiotics, making it more difficult to treat. But even treatable forms of the disease are particularly tricky to cure; drug sensitive strains must be treated with a six-month course of antibiotics. Tougher cases require long-term hospitalization and a regimen of harsh drugs that can last years. Naidoo, then an avid runner, says he continued training for months with the disease, which affects more than 389,000 South Africans annually (about one fourth of Africa's cases), according to the World Health Organization. It wasn't until he went to visit his family in Durban (he had been working with TB patients in a pediatric clinic in Cape Town) that his family noticed he had lost more than 30 pounds. "I had flu symptoms and chest pains, but I was still running so I didn't think anything was wrong," he says. But when he went in for an X-ray, doctors found that his entire right lung had filled with fluid. Within weeks, he was on his deathbed as his body wasn't responding to the most commonly prescribed antibiotics. "One night I nearly passed away—it didn't look good," he says. His father, also a physician, suggested that he may have had an emerging MDR, or a multi drug-resistant strain of TB. The emergence of MDR and its even more dangerous cousin, XDR (extremely drug-resistant TB), have pushed tuberculosis cure rates in the country from a high of 73 percent in 2008 down to 53 percent in 2010.

Patients of the TB center in Khayelitsha, South Africa, wait to see doctors, March 23, 2009. Tuberculosis is a contagious lung disease that spreads through the air, including through coughing and sneezing.
Naidoo survived the night and doctors eventually found a treatment regimen that worked, but he was in and out of the hospital for three years, and the drugs' side effects were almost unbearable, he says. He developed Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, a complication that causes layers of skin to separate from each other and can be deadly. He regularly bled from his eyes. He fell into a deep depression. "The TB doesn't feel like it's killing you, but the drugs do. I am a doctor and was informed that the drugs you take make you feel worse," he says. "My case was three years long. I don't think the average patient has that kind of patience." At King George V hospital in Durban—one of South Africa's most popular TB clinics, which specifically treats XDR patients—the 200 beds are always full, and there's a four- to six-week waitlist for new patients. William Bishai, of the Johns Hopkins Center for TB Research Laboratory and head of the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV in South Africa, works with Naidoo and says his commitment to getting better is uncharacteristic in South Africa. TB is particularly easy to contract among people who have compromised immune systems due to HIV infection—a group that makes up about 12 percent of the country's population.

  "There's a co-infection problem with HIV—a lot of XDR patients also have HIV and have to take eight TB drugs in addition to their HIV retrovirals," he says. "The average uneducated person would be prone to giving up. There have been a number of suicides at King George V."  Partial treatment of TB is one of the most important causes of drug resistance, says Karin Weyer, coordinator of the World Health Organization's Stop TB department on drug resistance. Any time a patient stops treatment, surviving bacteria have already been exposed to some level of antibiotics and are more likely to be resistant if the patient relapses, she says.  "The most important aspect of this is that we get the patient cured the first time around," Weyer says. "Every time a patient has to get treated again, you run the risk of amplifying resistance."  That has led to the cases of totally drug-resistant tuberculosis (TDR) described in the Emerging Infectious Diseases journal. Paul van Helden, director of South Africa's Centre of Excellence for Biomedical TB Research and one of the authors of the study, says it was only a matter of time before tuberculosis developed resistances to the last remaining effective antibiotics. TDR has previously been found in India, Iran, and Italy, but appears to be most prevalent in South Africa.

 "How long it's been out there is anyone's guess. We found nine cases in one small area; obviously it's something that's been out there for a while," he says.  Patients are rarely tested for a particular strain of tuberculosis, so it's unclear how prevalent TDR is worldwide. Major health organizations have yet to even define the parameters necessary for a case of tuberculosis to be considered TDR.  Bishai says van Helden's paper suggests that "TDR is extensive in South Africa."  "It's gone relatively unrecognized," he says. "This is evidence that it's emerged and is spreading—we're playing with fire here."  Drug-resistant TB isn't just a South African problem. In the early '90s, there was an outbreak of MDR in a New York City hospital. During that outbreak, 32 patients caught MDR over the course of a few months and 29 of them died. That outbreak was eventually controlled, but more than 100 cases of MDR have been detected in the United States over the past eight years, and there have been high-profile outbreaks in Peru, Russia, and India over the past decade.  Despite the high death rate during the New York City outbreak, public health officials were able to keep MDR from escaping into the general population, a task that took a concerted effort and many millions of dollars, van Helden says. South Africa, doesn't have that luxury.

"The fact that New York City managed the outbreak suggests we can contain it, but the cost was phenomenal," van Helden says. "We don't have the same resources as the U.S. South Africa is going to go through a lot of strain trying to combat this problem." But while tuberculosis appears to be getting more nefarious by the year, Bishai and other experts are more optimistic about humanity's chances for fighting TB than they are about some other drug-resistant bacteria. Global TB rates have been declining for years, and in the most developed countries, there are very few tuberculosis deaths. In the United States, 529 people died of TB in 2009 (the most recent year for which data is available from the CDC). About 10,000 Americans contract the disease each year. Today, 22 "high burden" countries (including South Africa) account for 80 percent of the world's TB cases, according to WHO. But the organization's most recent report notes that the "global burden of TB remains enormous." The disease killed 1.4 million people in 2011.Because of that burden, pharmaceutical companies are working on new drugs to treat it—which can't be said for some more innocuous bacteria that have developed drug resistances, such as gonorrhea.

In December, the FDA approved bedaquiline, the first new class of TB drug to be developed in more than 40 years. The drug will likely be approved in South Africa sometime this year. It's unclear whether the new drug will be effective against TDR, but scientists are optimistic. Weyer says bedaquiline is a good start, but if more new drugs aren't quickly developed, TB will develop resistance to that drug as well.  "The only game-changing effects will happen once we have enough drugs to put completely new treatment regiments into use," she says. "It's encouraging we have a few drugs in the pipeline, but we need several new ones, with new mechanisms of action, to protect against new resistances." In the meantime, researchers are working on getting better at identifying TDR, so doctors will know what they're up against if one of their patients has a highly resistant strain of TB. A lab can easily test whether a strain is resistant to the so-called "first line" of TB drugs, but detecting more highly resistant forms of the bacteria is more difficult. "There are not yet accepted assays for detecting resistance against second-line drugs," van Helden says. Often, doctors will have to wait months to determine whether a patient is actually responding to treatment. That's what happened in Naidoo's case: For a while, he was taking drugs that weren't having any affect on his disease. Today, Naidoo has permanent lung scarring, but he's otherwise healthy. The scars on his skin have begun to fade, and he recently started running again. He says the experience has allowed him to become a better TB doctor because he can empathize with patients. But many of his colleagues who have been infected as a result of their work have left the field. "Doctors and nurses are exposed so routinely to sick patients," he says. "We put our lives at risk every day." - US News.

ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE: "Dead Bodies Are Rising From Their Graves" - Hackers Use Emergency Alert System To Warn Of Zombie Apocalypse?!

February 12, 2013 - UNITED STATES - TV viewers in Montana briefly thought the zombie apocalypse was being televised on Monday.  During the Steve Wilkos show on KRTV, pranksters hacked into the local station's emergency announcement system and warned that the 'bodies of the dead are rising from their graves.'  In the middle of a 'Teen Cheaters Take Lie Detectors' episode an emergency message scrolled across the screen, accompanied by an eerie alarm signal.  This was followed by a deep and calm, but obviously fake, computerized voice intoning that the bodies were 'attacking the living.'  

Extremely dangerous? This is only a scene from hugely popular zombie drama The Walking Dead. Some suggested this hack could be viral marketing for the show.
The warning continued: 'Follow the messages on screen that will be updated as information becomes available.  'Do not attempt to approach or apprehend these bodies as they are considered extremely dangerous.'  Meanwhile, on the Wilkos show the teenagers continued to scream at each other about the lie detector test. No one is yet sure who hacked the system, how they did it and why. Gawker suggested it could be viral marketing for AMC zombie drama The Walking Dead.

'Rising from their graves': This alarming scene is from the 5th annual Zombie Walk in Mexico City in November 2012.
The post-apocalyptic show achieved another series-high rating of 12.3 million viewers, in direct competition with the Grammy awards on Sunday night.  Immediately after the hack KRTV quickly released a statement to calm the situation, both on air and posted on their website.  'Someone apparently hacked into the Emergency Alert System and announced on KRTV and the CW that "dead bodies are rising from their graves" in several Montana counties.  'This message did not originate from KRTV, and there is no emergency.  'Our engineers are investigating to determine what happened and if it affected other media outlets.' - Daily Mail.

WATCH: TV station is hacked and warns of zombie apocalypse.

On May 16th, 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted an article entitled Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse on their Public Health Matters Blog. Here are several passages from that article:

There are all kinds of emergencies out there that we can prepare for. Take a zombie apocalypse for example. That’s right, I said z-o-m-b-i-e a-p-o-c-a-l-y-p-s-e. You may laugh now, but when it happens you’ll be happy you read this, and hey, maybe you’ll even learn a thing or two about how to prepare for a real emergency. We’ve all seen at least one movie about flesh-eating zombies taking over (my personal favorite is Resident Evil), but where do zombies come from and why do they love eating brains so much? The word zombie comes from Haitian and New Orleans voodoo origins. Although its meaning has changed slightly over the years, it refers to a human corpse mysteriously reanimated to serve the undead. Through ancient voodoo and folk-lore traditions, shows like the Walking Dead were born... The rise of zombies in pop culture has given credence to the idea that a zombie apocalypse could happen. In such a scenario zombies would take over entire countries, roaming city streets eating anything living that got in their way. The proliferation of this idea has led many people to wonder “How do I prepare for a zombie apocalypse?” Well, we’re here to answer that question for you, and hopefully share a few tips about preparing for real emergencies too!

If zombies did start roaming the streets, CDC would conduct an investigation much like any other disease outbreak. CDC would provide technical assistance to cities, states, or international partners dealing with a zombie infestation. This assistance might include consultation, lab testing and analysis, patient management and care, tracking of contacts, and infection control (including isolation and quarantine). It’s likely that an investigation of this scenario would seek to accomplish several goals: determine the cause of the illness, the source of the infection/virus/toxin, learn how it is transmitted and how readily it is spread, how to break the cycle of transmission and thus prevent further cases, and how patients can best be treated. Not only would scientists be working to identify the cause and cure of the zombie outbreak, but CDC and other federal agencies would send medical teams and first responders to help those in affected areas (I will be volunteering the young nameless disease detectives for the field work). - CDC.
In September of this year, the Huffington Post revealed that the CDC, the U.S. military and law enforcement authorities were preparing for a widespread outbreak of virus that could lead to a zombie apocalypse.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is ready for a zombie apocalypse. Gun owners got prepared for a zombie apocalypse. Now, the military and law enforcement are getting ready.  And next month, they'll begin training.  Security firm HALO Corp. announced yesterday that about 1,000 military personnel, police officials, medical experts and federal workers will learn the ins and outs of a zombie apocalypse, as part of an annual counter-terrorism summit , according to the Military Times.  Sure, the lesson is tongue-in-cheek -- and only a small part of the summit's more serious course load -- but a zombie-like virus outbreak is a good training scenario. Visitors will learn to deal with a worldwide pandemic, where people become crazy, violent and fearful. Zombies will roam the summit grounds in San Diego, Calif. harassing troops and first-aid teams that will be participating.  Further details are unclear, but the Military Times made sure to note that zombies are not real.  The training comes at a time when the term "zombie apocalypse" is so viral that several branches of government have released statements on the matter. Earlier this month, the Department of Homeland Security reported that "the zombies are coming" as part of a hilarious bid to get citizens to prepare for a real disaster.  The CDC has released similar statements using zombies as a playful guise to get the public prepared for actual disasters. To assure that no one's confused by these announcements, CDC told The Huffington Post that zombies are not real. - Huffington Post.
Then, Paramount Pictures recently released the first trailer for a film that deals with a future world war against zombies. Entitled, World War Z, the movie stars Brad Pitt and is set to hit theatres on June 21st 2013.
The story revolves around United Nations employee Gerry Lane (Pitt), who traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments and threatening to decimate humanity itself. Enos plays Gerry's wife Karen Lane; Kertesz is his comrade in arms, Segen.
Are we being prepared for future reality through the predictive programming of Hollywood?

WATCH: World War Z Trailer.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Huge Glacial Lake Atop Himalayas A "Very High" Potential Catastrophic Danger - Covers 98.7 Hectares, Contains 19.7 Billion Liters Of Water, Sudden Outburst Could Create Devastating Floods Downstream!

February 12, 2013 - BANGALORE - A satellite-based study has indicated that a huge glacial lake has formed atop the Himalayas in Sikkim with a "very high" potential for it to burst and create devastation downstream.

Analysis of satellite data has revealed that the lake has formed at the snout of South Lhonak glacier, that is about 7,000 meters high on the mountain in the northeastern state. The lake, bounded only by loose soil and debris, could cause havoc downstream if it ruptures, according to scientists at the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) in Hyderabad.

In a report published in the latest issue of the journal Current Science, NRSC researchers Babu Govindha Raj and co-workers say the glacial lake is about 630 meters wide and 20 meters deep.

It covers an area of 98.7 hectares and contains 19.7 billion liters of water. A sudden outburst "can create devastating floods downstream," they warn, adding that the probability of this happening "is very high".

They however note this is only their preliminary assessment and more field studies are required to confirm the hazardous potential of this high altitude lake.

Data from the American Landsat, CORONA and Terra satellites besides imageries from India's own Resourcesat-1 satellite were used to estimate the size of the shrinking Lhonak glacier and the growth of the glacial lake at different times between 1962 and 2008.

Based on this study the scientists estimate that the Lhonak glacier had receded 1.9 km between 1962 and 2008.

The glacial lake that was initially a small body of water in 1962 grew in size with accumulation of melt water. The NRSC scientists say that the lake is still attached to the snout of the glacier but is expanding in area due to the glacier retreat.

"The rate of growth of the lake indicates possible developments of the hazard situation," the report says.

As Himalayan glaciers are retreating fast, it is necessary to make an inventory of glacial lakes and set up an early warning system for lake outburst floods in vulnerable areas, they say. - NDTV.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Electric Universe - Japan Earthquake Unleashed Surprising Torrent Of Energy!

February 12, 2013 - JAPAN - The devastating earthquake that struck Japan in 2011 may have unexpectedly released nearly all of the energy that had built up near the source of the resulting tsunami, new research suggests. These findings, detailed in tomorrow's (Feb. 8) issue of the Journal Science,may help lead to a better understanding of how earthquakes and fault zones work, "and with a better understanding, we may be able to anticipate extreme events or find out where super-large earthquakes might be possible in the world," researcher Fred Chester, a geophysicist at Texas A&M University, told OurAmazingPlanet. The magnitude 9.0 Tohoku-Oki quakewas the most powerful earthquake to hit Japan and the fifth-most powerful quake ever recorded, generating a tsunami that killed thousands and triggered a nuclear crisis. Research revealed the seafloor moved nearly 165 feet (50 meters) during the temblor.

Map of Japan earthquake and aftershocks. CREDIT: NASA Earth Observatory.
Earthquakes are caused by stress that builds up on faults in the Earth's surface. Usually, earthquakes are thought to release only a portion of this stress on the fault, but the catastrophic level of activity seen with the 2011 temblor suggested that this quake may have relieved significantly more energy in that area — a boundary region where the tectonic plates that make up Earth's surface meet. [7 Craziest Ways Japan's Earthquake Affected Earth].

Drilling into the fault
To explore this possibility, researcher Weiren Lin at Japan's Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technologyand colleagues set out aboard the scientific drilling vessel Chikyu to about 60 miles (93 kilometers) from the epicenter of the quakeabout a year after the disaster. The expedition analyzed rock as they drilled boreholes 2,790 feet(850 meters) into the seafloor about 22,600 feet (6,890 m) underwater. "The expedition was incredibly challenging — we were really pushing the depth limits and our equipment at this site," Chester said. "Another challenge was the 'rapid response' nature of this expedition — most scientific drilling operations like this in the deep ocean take years of planning, and we only had 13 months. We were delayed a lot by weather and by key equipment failures, but with perseverance and highly capable drilling engineers, we were able to succeed."

To measure the amount of stress in the rock, the investigators analyzed how resistant rock in the borehole was to the flow of electric current. The more stressed rock is, the more fractures result when drills bore into it, and the more fractured rock is, the lower its electrical resistivity (meaning the current flows more easily through it). By continuously measuring how electrically resistant the rock was as the borehole was drilled, the scientists could deduce the magnitude and even direction of the stress in the rock. The researchers found the present amount of stress on the fault is nearly zero, revealing the earthquake released nearly all the stress there.

Surprisingly little stress

"It is very surprising that this can occur," Chester said. "Studies over the past 30 or 40 years have shown that it's very hard to slide rock against rock due to the amount of friction involved, and studies have shown that in conventional earthquakes and smaller faults, only 10 percent or some other small fraction of the stress is released when these blocks of rock slip past each other. However, increasingly, it's becoming clear that these plate boundary faults are weak," Chester added. "It's as if there's much lower friction than one would expect, and they can release a substantial amount of their total stress." Analysis of rock samples gathered from one borehole and scientific instruments placed within another will glean further insights into the huge quake. "We're measuring the temperature across the fault zone after the earthquake," Chester said. "The higher the stress in an area, the more frictional heat is generated, so measuring temperature is another way at getting at the question of how much stress was relieved and the strength of the fault during the rupture." - Live Science.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Major Landslide At Lyme Regis, England - Coastguards Warn Over Coastline Landslides, England's Fragile South Coast Is Crumbling Into The Sea!

February 12, 2013 - UNITED KINGDOM - Coastguards were scrambled after fears that people might be trapped beneath a major landslide at Monmouth Beach, Lyme Regis, yesterday (Monday).

Rescue officers and the Portland-based helicopter were both initially despatched to establish whether members of the public on the beach at the time had been caught in the landslide.

Coastguards scrambled after fears people might be trapped under cliff fall at Monmouth beach.
But eye witness accounts reported to coastguards on scene and aerial surveillance quickly established that no persons were in immediate danger. - Midweek Herald 24.

WATCH: Lyme Regis landslide.

Coastguards Warn Over Coastline Landslides, Fragile South Coast Is Crumbling Into The Sea.
Amateur fossil hunters and beach goers are putting their lives at risk by ignoring warnings and closures at cliff edges. Coastguards say large sections of England's fragile south coast is crumbling into the sea, with landslides caused when heavy rainfall mixes with soft stone and rock to create "a potentially deadly porridge". Around a quarter-mile of Swanage Bay in Dorset, along the Jurassic Coast, has begun crashing into the sea this weekend, while Lyme Regis is among the areas also being carefully monitored by emergency services following days of torrential rain. The potentially deadly combination of heavy rainfall and fragile rockface was brought into sharp focus this summer following the death of 22-year-old Charlotte Blackman from Heanor, Derbyshire, who was on holiday when part of the cliff at Burton Bradstock collapsed and crushed her.Yet the following day, people were still sunbathing below overhanging cliffs within a short distance of where Miss Blackman died.

Parts of the cliffs along the Jurassic Coast have begun crashing into the sea, emergency services warned.
Despite the best efforts of coastguards and other emergency services, people are ignoring warnings about the perilous nature of the coastline. Philip Chappell, a coastguard in Weymouth, said: "Parts of the Jurassic Coast are notoriously fragile, particularly following this bad weather. The amount of rain we've had recently is turning parts of the cliff into a potentially dangerous porridge. The professional fossil hunters are no problem, they know the risks - but the amateurs don't really have a clue." In Swanage, local coastguards are keeping a watch on areas near the beach and beach huts as sections of cliff continue to move, and on Portland a section of coast path on the west of the island is particularly vulnerable. Further west, sections of beach and cliff near Charmouth have suffered from cliff falls and mudslides. Simon Dennis of Portland Coastguard said: "With the poor weather continuing, we're dealing with a number of landslips and mudslides along the Devon and Dorset coastline. In Lyme Regis, coastguards and Dorset Police are dealing with an area to the west of the town, with very significant movement, including buildings overhanging the cliff edge." Earlier this week, an amber landslide warning was put in place by the British Geological Survey for the South West, who urged walkers to take care along coastal routes.- MSN.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Is The Earth Cooking Up Another Super Volcano - Enormous Piles Of Blob Under Africa And The Pacific Ocean Moving Together?

February 12, 2013 - EARTH - Every few million years or so, the Earth burps up a gargantuan volcano.
These aren't like volcanoes in our lifetimes; these "super volcanoes" can erupt continuously for thousands of years. While they might be rare, you'd best look out when one hits. The ash and volcanic gases from these volcanoes can wipe out most living things over large parts of the planet. Michael Thorne, a seismologist at the University of Utah, has some clues about what causes these big eruptions.

Thorne uses seismic waves to get a picture of what's going on about 1,800 miles beneath the Earth's surface, where the planet's core meets the outer mantle. Think of the Earth as an avocado, and the pit is the core. The stuff you make guacamole with is the outer mantle. Thorne has been watching two enormous piles of rock that sit on the boundary between the core and the mantle. One pile is underneath the Pacific Ocean; the other under Africa.

Scientists have known about them for 20 years, but Thorne saw something different. "I think this is the first study that might point to evidence that these piles are moving around," Thorne says. Moving perhaps, but slowly, and the piles are maybe 3,000 miles across. Thorne thinks, in fact, that the pile under the Pacific is actually two piles crushing up against each other. And where they meet, there's a blob.

"We call it a blob of partially molten material," he says. "I mean it's big ... this one that we found is an order of magnitude, maybe 10 times larger, than any of the ones we've observed before." The blob is the size of Florida, and there are other, smaller blobs around the edges of the piles, too.

A hot spring at Yellowstone National Park. The super volcano that lurks below Yellowstone has blown its top three times in the past 2 million years. Jason Maehl.

So these great rock piles are being squished together and squeezing this huge molten blob at the middle of it like some kind of balloon, and it is going on right underneath us. Or at least, under Samoa. So should we care about these blobs?

"A possibility is that these blobs might represent sort of a deep-seated root, to where plumes arise all the way to the surface, giving rise to hot-spot volcanism," Thorne says. One example is the Yellowstone super volcano, which has blown its top three times in the past 2 million years.

Thorne published all this in the journal, Earth and Planetary Science Letters. He's rather calm about it, and says it is a slow process from blob to blowout — maybe 100 million years or so. Thorne says he has no plans to move just yet. - NPR.

THE PRIEST CLASS OF THE MAGI: A Signal From Above - Lightning Hits St. Peter's Hours After Pope Benedict Stuns Cardinals With First Resignation In 600 Years?!

February 12, 2013 - VATICAN CITY - The Catholic church was thrown into turmoil today after Pope Benedict XVI made the shock decision to quit the papacy because of his deteriorating health.  In a decision that has surprised even his closest aides, the 85-year-old Pontiff said his strength was 'no longer adequate to continue in office due to his advanced age'.  He announced his resignation in Latin to a meeting of Vatican cardinals this morning, saying he did not have the 'strength of mind and body' to continue leading more than a billion Roman Catholics worldwide.  

A sign from God? Lighting strikes the basilica of St.Peter's dome earlier this evening during a storm that
struck Rome on the same day Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation.
The decision is unprecedented. He is the first Pope to resign since Gregory XII in 1415 and no Pontiff in history has stepped down on health grounds. The move allows the Vatican to hold a conclave before Easter to elect a new pope, since the traditional mourning time that would follow the death of a Pontiff does not have to be observed.  There are several papal contenders, including Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson who is a front-runner to become the first black Pope. Although officials said there had been no pressure for Benedict to resign, the internet is already awash with speculation that there was a more sinister reason behind his decision.  Speaking in one of the Vatican's state rooms, the Pope today told cardinals: 'After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths due to an advanced age are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.  'I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only by words and deeds but no less with prayer and suffering.  'However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary - strengths which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.' 
Shock decision: Pope Benedict XVI announces his
resignation during a meeting of Vatican cardinals today.

Benedict, who at 78 became the oldest Pope in 300 years when he was elected in 2005, said he was making the decision in 'full freedom' but was 'fully aware of the gravity of this gesture'.  Several cardinals did not even understand what Benedict had said during the consistory, said the Reverend Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman.  Others who did were stunned.  A cardinal who was at the meeting said: ‘We listened with a sense of incredulity as His Holiness told us of his decision to step down from the church that he so loves.’  In a hastily arranged and, at times, shambolic press conference this morning, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said: 'It’s taken us a bit by surprise. We’ve had to organise ourselves very quickly.  ‘We’ve had no warning of what the Pope was about to announce. The declaration is crystal clear and we need to go through it word by word.  ‘The Pope says that he looked in a personal way and had a deep moment of reflection to consider the mission that he had received from God.’  A Vatican spokesman said he will officially stand down at 8pm Rome time (7pm GMT) on February 28.  The Pontiff, who was known as 'God's rottweiler' because of his stern stand on theological issues, will then retire to the Pope's summer residence near Rome before returning to the Vatican to spend the rest of his life in cloistered accommodation. 

Complete surprise: Several cardinals did not even understand what
Benedict had said during the consistory and those who did were
stunned, a Vatican spokesman said.
As he begins his retirement, cardinals in Rome will begin the process of choosing a successor.  Although the Pope's announcement this morning came as a huge shock to his colleagues, there have been rumours about his health over the last few years.  The Vatican stressed that no specific medical condition prompted Benedict's decision, but in recent years, the Pope has slowed down significantly, cutting back his foreign travel and limiting his audiences.  He now goes to and from the altar in St Peter's Basilica on a moving platform, to spare him the long walk down the aisle.  Benedict has acknowledged having suffered a hemorrhagic stroke in 1991 that temporarily affected his vision, but he later made a full recovery.  In 2009, the Pope fell and suffered minor injuries when he broke one of his wrists while vacationing in the Alps.  A doctor familiar with the pope's medical team said the Pontiff has no grave or life-threatening illnesses.  But the doctor said, like many men his age, the Pope has suffered some prostate problems.  Beyond that, the Pope is simply old and tired, the doctor said on condition of anonymity.  The Pope, who also uses a walking cane, is also understood to be suffering from a degenerative joint disease. - Daily Mail.

WATCH: Lightning Strikes St. Peter's Basilica As Pope Resigns.