Friday, February 15, 2013

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Volcano Discovery Report For February 15, 2013 - Updates On Stromboli And Pacaya!

February 15, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing report from the Volcano Discovery Group.

Stromboli (Eolian Islands, Italy): Lava continues to overflow from the NE crater, which also sometimes produces quite strong explosions.

Webcam image of Stromboli's NE crater with an overflow and an explosion (INGV).
Pacaya (Guatemala): Residents of San Francisco de Sales (San Vincente) village at the foot of the volcano reported having heard explosion sounds overnight.

INSIVUMEH has not found other evidence of new surface activity and concludes that the sounds came from internal activity.

Photo of the Day: Volcanic stone field next to Zula at the historical site of Adulis , Gulf of Zula, Afar Triangle, Eritrea

Volcanic stone field next to Zula at the historical site of Adulis , Gulf of Zula, Afar Triangle, Eritrea.
Complete Earthquake list (worldwide) for yesterday, Friday, 15 Feb 2013

Complete Earthquake list (worldwide) for today, Saturday, 16 Feb 2013

FIRE IN THE SKY: Disaster Impact - Meteor Explodes Over Russia; Estimated To Be About Ten Tons; With Speed Of 33,000mph; About 1,100 Injured; 3,000 Buildings Damaged; First Images Of Meteorite Fragment Craters!

February 15, 2013 - RUSSIA - A meteor streaked across the sky and exploded over Russia's Ural Mountains with the power of an atomic bomb Friday, its sonic blasts shattering countless windows and injuring nearly 1,000 people. The spectacle deeply frightened many Russians, with some elderly women declaring that the world was coming to an end. Many of the injured were cut by flying glass as they flocked to windows, curious about what had produced such a blinding flash of light.

A circular hole is seen in the ice of Chebarkul Lake where a meteor reportedly struck the lake near Chelyabinsk, about 1500 kilometers (930 miles) east of Moscow, Russia, Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. (AP Photo).
The meteor estimated to be about 10 tons - entered the Earth's atmosphere at a hypersonic speed of at least 54,000 kph (33,000 mph) and shattered into pieces about 30-50 kilometers (18-32 miles) above the ground, the Russian Academy of Sciences said in a statement.  Amateur video broadcast on Russian television showed an object speeding across the sky about 9:20 a.m. local time, just after sunrise, leaving a thick white contrail and an intense flash.  The meteor released several kilotons of energy above the Chelyabinsk region, the science academy said.  "There was panic. People had no idea what was happening," said Sergey Hametov, a resident of Chelyabinsk, a city of 1 million about 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) east of Moscow.  "We saw a big burst of light, then went outside to see what it was and we heard a really loud, thundering sound," he told The Associated Press by telephone.

A meteorite is seen streaking across the sky over Chelyabinsk, Russia on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. It crashed in Russia causing sharp explosions. (AP Photo/
The meteor hit less than a day before Asteroid 2012 DA14 is to make the closest recorded pass of an asteroid to the Earth - about 17,150 miles (28,000 kilometers). But the European Space Agency in a tweet said its experts had determined there was no connection - just cosmic coincidence.  The Interior Ministry said 985 people sought medical care after the shock wave and 44 of them were hospitalized. Most of the injuries were caused by flying glass, it said.  There was no immediate word on any deaths or anyone struck by space fragments.  Meteors typically cause sizeable sonic booms when they enter the atmosphere because they are traveling so much faster than the speed of sound. Injuries on the scale reported Friday, however, are extraordinarily rare.  "I went to see what that flash in the sky was about," recalled resident Marat Lobkovsky. "And then the window glass shattered, bouncing back on me. My beard was cut open, but not deep. They patched me up, it's OK now."

In this photo provided by, municipal workers repair damaged electric power circuit outside a zinc factory building with about 600 square meters (6000 square feet) of a roof collapsed after a meteorite exploded over in Chelyabinsk region on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Oleg Kargapolov,
Another resident, Valya Kazakov, said some elderly women in his neighborhood started crying out that the world was ending.  Lessons had just started at Chelyabinsk schools when the meteor exploded, and officials said 204 schoolchildren were among those injured.  Yekaterina Melikhova, a high school student whose nose was bloody and whose upper lip was covered with a bandage, said she was in her geography class when they saw a bright light outside.  "After the flash, nothing happened for about three minutes. Then we rushed outdoors. I was not alone, I was there with Katya. The door was made of glass, a shock wave made it hit us," she said.  Russian television ran footage of athletes at a city sports arena who were showered by shards of glass from huge windows. Some of them were still bleeding.  City officials said 3,000 buildings in the city were damaged by the shock wave, including a zinc factory where part of the roof collapsed.  The vast implosion of glass windows exposed many residents to the bitter cold as temperatures in the city hovered around minus 9 Celsius (15.8 Fahrenheit). 

Cars pass by a zinc factory building with it's roof collapsed in Chelyabinsk, about 1500 kilometers (930 miles) east of Moscow, Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Boris Kaulin).
A circular hole is seen in the ice of Chebarkul Lake where a meteor reportedly struck the lake near Chelyabinsk, about 1500 kilometers (930 miles) east of Moscow, Russia, Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. (AP Photo).
The regional governor immediately urged any workers who can pane windows to rush to the area to help out.  Some fragments fell in a reservoir outside the town of Chebarkul, the regional governor's office said, according to the ITAR-Tass.  A six-meter-wide (20-foot-wide) crater was found in the same area, which could come from space fragments striking the ground, the news agency cited military spokesman Yaroslavl Roshchupkin as saying.  Small pieces of space debris - usually parts of comets or asteroids - that are on a collision course with the Earth are called meteoroids. They become meteors when they enter the Earth's atmosphere. Most meteors burn up in the atmosphere, but if they survive the frictional heating and strike the surface of the Earth they are called meteorites.  The site of Friday's spectacular show is about 5,000 kilometers (3,000 miles) west of Tunguska, which 1908 was the site of the largest recorded explosion of a space object plunging to Earth. That blast, attributed to a comet or asteroid fragment, is generally estimated to have been about 10 megatons; it leveled some 80 million trees. 

In this photo taken with a mobile phone camera, a meteorite contrail is seen in Chelyabinsk region, Russia on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. Many of the dozens of people hurt were hurt by broken glass. (AP Photo/Sergey Hametov).
A local resident repairs a window broken by a shock wave from a meteor explosion in Chelyabinsk, about 1500 kilometers (930 miles) east of Moscow, Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Boris Kaulin).
Scientists believe that a far larger meteorite strike on what today is Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula may have been responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs about 66 million years ago. According to that theory, the impact would have thrown up vast amounts of dust that blanketed the sky for decades and altered the climate on Earth  The panic and confusion that followed Friday's meteorite crash quickly gave way to Chelyabinsk residents' entrepreneurial instincts. Several people smashed in the windows of their houses in the hopes of pretending they were broken by the meteorite and receiving compensation, RIA Novosti news agency reported.  Other quickly took to the Internet and put what they said were meteorite fragments up for sale.  The Russian-language hashtags for the meteorite shot into Twitter's top trends, and the country's lively blogosphere quickly reacted with black humor.  One of the most popular jokes was that the meteorite was supposed to fall Dec. 21 last year - when many believed the Mayan calendar predicted the end of the world - but was delivered late by Russia's notoriously inefficient postal service.  Others joked that the meteorite was par for the course for Chelyabinsk, an industrial town long held to be one of the world's most polluted areas.

A dashboard camera, on a highway from Kostanai, Kazakhstan, to Chelyabinsk region, Russia on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013 shows a meteorite contrail. A meteor streaked across the sky of Russia’s Ural Mountains, causing sharp explosions and injuring dozens of people. (AP Photo/Nasha Gazeta,
The area around Chelyabinsk is also home to nuclear and chemical weapons disposal facilities.  Vladimir Chuprov of Greenpeace Russia noted that the area where the meteor exploded was 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Mayak nuclear storage and disposal facility, which holds dozens of tons of weapons-grade plutonium. He said the Russian government has underestimated potential risks of the region.  A chemical weapons disposal facility at Shchuchye in the Chelyabinsk region contains some 6,000 tons (5,460 metric tons) of nerve agent including sarin and VX, accounting for about 14 percent of the chemical weapons that Russia is committed to destroy.  The dramatic events prompted an array of reactions from prominent Russians.  Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, speaking at an economic forum in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, said the meteor could be a symbol for the forum, showing that "not only the economy is vulnerable, but the whole planet."  Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a nationalist leader noted for vehement statements, said "It's not meteors falling. It's the test of a new weapon by the Americans," the RIA Novosti news agency reported.  Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said the incident showed the need for leading world powers to develop a system to intercept objects falling from space.  "At the moment, neither we nor the Americans have such technologies" to shoot down meteors or asteroids, he said, according to the Interfax news agency. - TWC.

WATCH: Huge hole as Russian meteor smashes into icy lake.

More scenes out of Russia.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Land Subsidence And Planetary Transformations - American East Coast Faces Rising Seas From Slowing Gulf Stream! UPDATE: The Thick Sea Ice Is Disappearing From The Arctic - New Satellite Data Show!

February 15, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Experts on the sea level rise triggered by climate change have long known that it will proceed faster in some places than others. The mid-Atlantic coast of the U.S. is one of them, and the reason — in theory, anyway — is that global warming should slow the flow of the Gulf Stream as it moves north and then east toward northern Europe.

Waters from Hurricane Sandy start to flood Beach Avenue on Oct. 29, 2012, in Cape May, N.J. Later the full force of Hurricane Sandy would hit the New Jersey coastline bringing heavy winds and flood waters.
Now there’s a smoking gun that appears to validate the theory. A study in the February Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans ties the measured acceleration of sea level rise in this area to a simultaneous slowdown in the flow of the Gulf Stream. "There have been several papers showing (sea level rise) acceleration," said lead author Tal Ezer, of Old Dominion University’s Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography. “This new paper confirms the hypothesis for why it’s happening.” Even without faster-than-average sea level rise, America’s East Coast would be at high risk. On average, scientists have projected that the oceans should rise by about 3 feet by 2100, inundating low-lying land, contaminating water supplies and undermining roads, airports, port facilities and power plants.

Add the storm surges that come with hurricanes and other severe weather, and the danger gets even worse. A worldwide average of 8 inches of sea level rise since 1900 has already put millions of Americans at risk; 3 feet more will greatly multiply that risk; and the even higher levels that Americans could see will be a very bitter icing on top of that already unpleasant cake. The slowing of the Gulf Steam is not the only reason the U.S. coast will see higher sea level than the world average in coming decades, Ezer said. In some places, the land itself is slowly sinking as it readjusts to the disappearance of continental ice sheets more than 10,000 years ago. But that process can’t explain why sea level rise should actually be speeding up, as a report in the Journal of Coastal Research documented in October 2012.

Another study, which appeared in Nature Climate Change in June 2012, showed the same thing, and suggested that a Gulf Stream slowdown could be a contributing factor. Ezer’s own paper in Geophysical Research Letters in September 2012, documented the phenomenon in Chesapeake Bay, and once again, suggested the Gulf Stream’s possible role. What makes this new study different is that it includes actual measurements of the Gulf Stream’s flow, from instruments mounted on underwater cables that stretch across the Florida Strait. It also uses satellite altimeter data to document changes in the height of the ocean from one side of the Gulf Stream to the other.  Normally, the northeasterly flow of the stream literally pulls water away from the coast.

WATCH: Rising Sea Level Concerns.

“It keeps coastal sea level a meter or a meter and a half lower than the rest of the ocean,” Ezer said. In recent years, however, the satellites show that the midpoint of the Gulf Stream doesn’t have as high an elevation as it used to, and that the edges aren’t quite as low — again, evidence that the stream itself is starting to slow down. Theory says this is just what should be happening. Ordinarily, the Gulf Stream brings warm surface water from the tropics up along the U.S. coast, and then across to the eastern North Atlantic, where it cools and sinks to the bottom of the sea. The cold bottom water then flows south to the tropics, where it gradually warms, rises to the surface, and begins flowing north again. This constant flow, which meanders through all of the world’s oceans is sometimes called the global ocean conveyor belt, and the section that operates in the North Atlantic is called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. In a warming world, two things happen to throw a monkey wrench into the conveyor belt. First, melting ice, mostly from Greenland, dilutes the surface waters where the Gulf Stream reaches its northernmost extent.

Since fresh water is less dense than salty water, the water has a more difficult time sinking to begin its journey southward. Second, the surface water is warmer than it used to be, and since warm water is less dense than cold water, this just adds to the problem. Put the two together and you start to jam up the works, with the result that the whole conveyor belt slows down. And the water along the Atlantic coast of the U.S. begins to rise at an accelerating rate. While scientists expect sea level to rise by about 3 feet over the next 90 years or so, in places like New York City and Norfolk, Va., it could be significantly more. New York, where sea level is already a foot higher than it was in 1900, was just reminded of what happens when higher seas are pushed ashore by a major event like Superstorm Sandy. Add several more feet of sea level to that destructive equation, and the potential destruction is difficult to imagine. - TWC.

This is an Arctic sea ice ridge at one of the sites used to validate ice thickness measurements from the CroySat-2. Seymour Laxon / University College London.
Thick sea ice is disappearing from a broad swath of the Arctic, according to new satellite data that confirms estimates from computer models and suggests the region may be ice free during the summers sooner rather than later. The Arctic sea ice reached a new record minimum extent in 2012, when it covered nearly half the average area it did from 1979 to 2010. The new data show the Arctic sea ice volume in the fall, when it is at its lowest, has declined more than a third between 2003 and 2012. Ice volume in the winter has declined 9 percent. "Not only is the area getting smaller, but also its thickness is decreasing and making the ice more vulnerable to more rapid declines in the future," Christian Haas, a geophysicist at York University in Canada, told NBC News. Sea ice extent can change in response to melting from warmer ocean and air temperatures as well as getting shifted around by winds and currents, which can push it into thick piles. "The latter process would not change the volume of the ice," explained Haas. "But now we know that not only the area decreases, but also the thickness and therefore the total volume decreases."

The new observations are the first data analyzed from the European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 satellite, which was launched in 2010. It uses a technique called radar altimetry to measure the thickness of the sea ice, which reveals the volume of the ice there, not just how much of the Arctic it covers. A NASA satellite collected similar data between 2003 and 2008 and helped researchers verify a computer model used to compute ice volume based on weather records, sea-surface temperature and satellite imagery. In recent years, that model, called the Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System (PIOMAS), has generated some controversy because of the substantial ice loss it showed, according to the University of Washington, where it was built. "These (new) data essentially confirm that in the last few years, for which we haven’t really had data, the observations are very close to what we see in the model," Axel Schweiger, a polar scientist with the university’s Applied Physics Laboratory, said in a news release. "So that increases our confidence for the overall time series from 1979 to present."

Monthly sea ice volume anomalies from 1979 to the present calculated using the PIOMAS system. Axel Schweiger / UW.
In a follow-up telephone interview with NBC News, Schweiger added that for the eight-year satellite record, the estimates from PIOMAS have actually been less than what was observed. "We knew that our system was conservative, we had a sense of that," he said, "but this confirms it." Going forward, researchers will use the PIOMAS to forecast when the Arctic will be ice free in the summers, a phenomenon that may impact everything from global shipping to weather patterns. Some studies indicate that could come as early as 2040. "As the satellite measurements show that not only the area decreases but also its thickness, it is actually becoming more likely that the ice will disappear sooner rather than later," Haas told NBC News. - NBC News.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Solar System Disturbances - Numerous Sightings Of Fireballs Or Fiery Celestial Objects Over Cuba, Canada, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, And Kazakhstan!

February 15, 2013 - SKY - Here are several of the latest reports of fireballs, meteorites, or cometary fragments seen in the skies across the globe over the last two days.

Strange "Fluorescent Greenish" Light Spotted Over Dashwood, Canada.
Dashwood residents are abuzz about the latest odd sighting in the area - but this time it wasn't a monkey. Brian Vike, a UFO researcher in Houston, B.C. said he received a report of a strange light from a resident on Feb. 6.

"I woke suddenly because my bedroom was lit up fluorescent greenish," the report said. "I went to the bathroom then to the window as the light faded away to nothing. I can't explain if it was coming from the ground or sky. It was very odd it was approximately over the highway in Dashwood right at Larkdown road."

Vike said the light could have come from a flare, but suggested it could have come from a meteor. If that's the case, it won't be unusual - at least, not this year. "I have received so many reports of meteors and fireballs this year it isn't funny," Vike said. "There has been just a stack of them from across Canada and the United States." Anyone who has information about this sighting or others can report it here. - Parksville Qualicum Beach News.

Celestial Body Explodes Over Cuba.
Residents of a locality ‘in the central region of Cuba said they had seen an object that fell from the sky and exploded with a great noise, which shook the houses of the place: it is learned from testimonies collected by local television. In service published this morning by Rodas, town in the province of Cienfuegos, witnesses described a very bright light that has come to have large size, comparable to that of a bus, before exploding in the sky. - RAI News 24.

Huge explosion in the sky in Cuba Meanwhile, also from Cuba has been reported in an explosion sky. In the central region of the island has seen an object that fell from the sky and exploded with a great noise, which shook the houses in the place, reports on local television. In a report released this morning by Rodas, town in the province of Cienfuegos, witnesses described a very bright light that has come to have large size, comparable to that of a bus, before exploding in the sky. Marcos Rodriguez, a resident in region, as defined by the issuer an expert, reported that “everything seems to indicate that it was a fireball, which is a fragment of stone and metal that enters the Earth’s atmosphere at high speed.” Experts are now examining the area for possible remains Rodas minerals falling from the sky, the TV station added. - Repubblica [Translated].

Screen capture from RSOE EDIS.
In Cuba, eyewitnesses living in a local area in the central region of the island have reported seeing an object that fell from the sky and exploded causing a roar that. - RSOE EDIS.

Huge Fireball over Japan.
Huge fireball was seen flying over Japan on February 14, one day before the passage of Asteroid 2012 DA14.

WATCH: Huge fireball over Japan.

See more HERE.

Enormous fireball Seen From Belgium, The Netherlands And Germany.

Initial Sighting Reports

13 February 2013 - O'Neill Keegan. Florennes, Namur, Belgium 22.20 CET
15 seconds duration (very very long!). Northwest direction, moving from left to right (fell straight down more than anything). Yellow/orange/red colour, very bright friction point. There were two separate fragmentations that shone brightly. The fireball was in an almost vertical drop +-75°. It was really impressive because of how long it took to get down. I confused it for a plane at first.
13 February 2013 - Melissa. Riethoven, The Netherlands 22:30 CET
20 seconds duration. Northwest to Southeast direction. Red colour with long white tail. I went outside the house to walk the dog. We immediately saw something bright and big in the sky. It was amazing!
 Fireball seen across Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands, 13 February 2013.
© LunarMeteorite*Hunter / Google Earth.
13 February 2013 - Joe Lee. Friedrichsthal, Saarland, Germany 22:15 CET
5-10 seconds duration. Northwest to Southeast direction. First there was a short bright light that reminded me of lightning, than I saw it pass with an orange/yellow glow. I thought at first I was seeing a burning plane except for the object's speed. The center was as bright as the center of the sun... but smaller in size. I saw no parts falling off... just a fireball passing by. I was sitting in my living room, the lightning-like light got my attention and then I saw it passing by. As it was heading towards Ramstein AFB, I thought ther might be a fighter burning but that would have been smaller in size. I am still not sure what I actually saw but I thought maybe others saw it as well and wanted to report it.
13 February 2013 - Hylkema. Meppel, The Netherlands 22:30 CET
15 seconds duration. I was facing Southwest. Its direction: West to South. Fast moving white/red/orange light (fireball) with a long tail. It was as bright as the moon, but obviously much smaller.
13 February 2013 - Montie Davis. Siegen, Germany 22:40 CET
15-20 seconds duration. Southwest to Southeast. The fireball had orange flames. I would say it had candle-flame brightness. There was white explosive fragmentation. It traversed complete field of my view.
WATCH: Fireball over Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany.

- Lunar Meteorite Hunters.

Two Unidentified Objects Over Kazakhstan.
Early in the day, emergency officials in neighboring Kazakhstan said they were searching for two unidentified objects that reportedly fell in the country's Aktobe region. But no meteorite fragments had been found by Friday evening, local time, leading to speculation that if meteors had entered the Earth's atmosphere over the Central Asian country they had been vaporized before making impact. - RIANOVOSTI.

NOTE: Special Thanks to Joann Chan-McKeon and Jacqui Chasson for contributing to this post.

SHADOW WARS: Escalating Towards World War III - North Korea And Iran Are Partners In Nuclear And Missile Programs?!

February 15, 2013 - MIDDLE EAST - There is full awareness in Washington and Jerusalem that the North Korean nuclear test conducted Tuesday, Feb. 12, brings Iran that much closer to conducting a test of its own. A completed bomb or warhead are not necessary for an underground nuclear test; a device which an aircraft or missile can carry is enough.

DEBKAfile: North Korea N-bomb test sites attended by Iranians.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s boast this week that Iran will soon place a satellite in orbit at an altitude of 36,000 kilometers - and Tehran’s claim on Feb. 4 to have sent a monkey into space – highlight Iran's role in the division of labor Pyongyang and Tehran have achieved in years of collaboration: the former focusing on a nuclear armament and the latter on long-range missile technology to deliver it.

Their advances are pooled. Pyongyang maintains a permanent mission of nuclear and missile scientists in Tehran, whereas Iranian experts are in regular attendance at North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests. Since the detonation of the “miniature atomic bomb” reported by Pyongyang Tuesday - which US President Barack Obama called “a threat to US National security”- Iran must be presumed to have acquired the same “miniature atomic bomb” capabilities - or even assisted in the detonation.

Word of the North Korean atomic test reminded US officials of Ahmadinejad’s boast only a couple of days ago about the forthcoming launch of an Iranian satellite into orbit.  The two events clearly hang together as probably coordinated between Tehran and Pyongyang.

Ahead of the UN Security Council emergency session later Tuesday, Kim Jong Un’s government warned of “stronger actions” after the nuclear test.  Its diplomat warned the UN disarmament forum that his country will “never bow to any resolutions.”

The nuclear threat is not the only unconventional warfare peril looming closer. In Damascus, Syrian rebels are nearer than ever before to crashing through the capital’s last lines of defense. Tuesday, they were only 1.5 kilometers short of the heart of Damascus.

Western and Israeli military sources believe that if the Syrian rebels reach this target, the Syrian ruler Bashar Assad will have no qualms about using chemical weapons for the first time in the two-year civil war to save his regime. Both the US and Israel have warned him that doing so would cross a red line.

file’s military sources report that Syrian rebel forces, spearheaded by an Al Qaeda-allied Islamist brigade, gained entry Tuesday to the 4th Division’s (Republican Guard) main base in the Adra district of eastern Damascus and are fighting the defenders in hand to hand combat for control of the facility.

Other rebel forces are retaking parts of the Damascus ring road in fierce battles, thereby cutting off the Syrian army’s Homs units in the north from their supply lines from the capital.

These two rebel thrusts, if completed, would bring the Syrian army closer than ever before to collapse. Assad is therefore expected to use every means at his disposal to cut his enemies down. - DEBKA.

WATCH: Iran volunteer force kicks off Persian Gulf exercise.

WATCH: North Korea's nuclear program.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: GNS Vulcanologist Predicts "Little Or No" Warning Before Tongariro Eruption In New Zealand?!

February 15, 2013 - NEW ZEALAND - Further eruptions at Tongariro may occur with "little or no warning", according to a GNS vulcanologist.

GNS Science said today that activity at Tongariro remains low, but steam and gas plumes from the Te Maari area are always present.

Tongariro erupting on November 21. GNS.
"Tongariro has had no eruptive activity since the explosion on 21 November 2012."

Earthquake activity has been negligible since before the November 2012 eruption and the flux of volcanic gases has remained relatively stable for several months.

"After the eruption in November 2012 we had to consider the possibility that Tongariro might have entered an eruptive episode similar to one that occurred in the 1890s," GNS vulcanologist Brad Scott said.

"However, we do not know if further eruptions will occur or if the Te Maari crater area will just quietly discharge steam for several years. If further eruptions do occur we have to expect that they might have little or no warning."

Te Maari Crater eruption on Mt Tongariro. Photo / Ben Fraser.
GNS Science head vulcanologist Gill Jolly said it was difficult to be certain what would happen in the next few months.

"We expect that eruptions substantially larger than that in August 2012 should give us some warning signs."
In recent weeks GNS Science has received several reports describing unusually strong steam emission from the Te Maari crater area.

"Some of these can be attributed to weather conditions but others probably reflect natural variability in the steam and gas emission rates." - Stuff.

NOTE: Thanks to Brian Colarusso for contributing to this post.

STORM ALERT: Tracking Tropical Cyclone Gino - NASA Satellite Sees Gino's Rainfall Shoved Southward In The Indian Ocean!

February 15, 2013 - INDIAN OCEAN - TRMM flew over Cyclone Gino on Thursday, Feb. 14 at 0806 UTC (3:06 a.m. EST) and measured the rainfall rates occurring throughout the storm. The bulk of the rainfall stretched from south to southeast of the center.

The heaviest rain was falling at a rate of 2 inches (50 mm) per hour southeast of the center, and scattered throughout bands of thunderstorms. The bands of thunderstorms were wrapping from the east quadrant into the southwest quadrant of the storm.

NASA's TRMM satellite flew over Cyclone Gino on Feb. 14 at 3:06 a.m. EST. The heaviest rain was falling at a rate of 2 inches (red) per hour south of the center, and scattered throughout bands of thunderstorms. Credit: NASA/SSAI, Hal Pierce.
As Gino continues in a southerly direction the vertical wind shear that is already affecting the storm's rainfall is expected to increase, according to the forecasters at the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC). At 1500 UTC (10 a.m. EST), Cyclone Gino's maximum sustained winds had dropped to 70 knots (80 mph/129.6 kph).

Tropical-storm-force winds extend out 110 nautical miles (126.6 miles/203.7 km) from the center of circulation. Gino was located near 23.9 south latitude and 80.9 east longitude, about 1,110 nautical miles (1,277 miles/2,056 km) south-southeast of Diego Garcia and far from any land areas. Gino was moving to the south-southeast at 12 knots (13.8 mph/22.2 kph).

On Feb. 13 at 0505 UTC (12:05 a.m. EST) the MODIS instrument aboard NASA's Terra satellite captured this visible image of Tropical Cyclone Gino in the Indian Ocean. This close-up image clearly shows the ocean surface in the middle of Gino's eye. Credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team.

JTWC expects Gino to track southeastward along the southwestern edge of a subtropical ridge (elongated area) of high pressure where it will encounter strong vertical wind shear between 40 to 60 knots (46 to 69 mph/74 to lll kph) and sea surface temperatures as cool as 24 Celsius (75.2F). Sea surface temperatures of at least 26.6 C (80F) are needed for a tropical cyclone to maintain intensity.

Satellite Animations

Any temperatures cooler than that, will limit thunderstorm development and weaken the storm. According to JTWC forecasters, Gino should begin transitioning into an extra-tropical storm where the core of the storm changes from a warm core to a cold core, much like a typical mid-latitude low pressure area. Because of the increasing vertical wind shear and cooler sea surface temperatures, Gino may weaken quickly. - PHYSORG.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Controversy Erupts Over Lava Flow Threat From The Plosky Tolbachik Volcano In Russia's Far Eastern Kamchatka Peninsula!

February 15, 2013 - KAMCHATKA, RUSSIA - Emergencies Ministry officials on Thursday dismissed a scientist's claim that lava flowing from the ongoing eruption at the Plosky Tolbachik volcano in Russia's Far Eastern Kamchatka Peninsula might threaten a nearby research site.

Officials Deny Lava Threatens Volcano Scientists.
Yaroslav Muravyov, a scientist based at the Tolud volcanologists' research site next to the volcano, reported on Wednesday to the Kamchatka volcano observatory that the lava flow had closed to within 2.7 kilometers (1.7 miles) of the site.

Recent lava flow at the volcano.

“The lava keeps on moving,” the observatory, located some 60 kilometers (36 miles) from the foot of the volcano, said in a report.

The regional branch of the Emergencies Ministry dismissed the report on Thursday and said the moving lava poses no threat to scientists monitoring the volcanic eruption.

Flight over the Tolbachik Volcano: A close-up look at a geologic inferno.
“The lava flow is not a hazard to the research site as it is located on the other side of the brook flowing into the Tolud River,” Emergencies Ministry officials reported in a statement.

“Due to the specifics of the terrain, if the tongue of lava reaches that brook, it will follow it downstream, bypassing the site,” it said.

A unique show is taking place on Kamchatka these days: Four separate but nearby volcanoes are erupting simultaneously on the Russian peninsula.
The 3,085-meter Plosky Tolbachik volcano, located 343 kilometers (217 miles) from the region's capital of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, began erupting on November 27 for the first time in 36 years.

Kamchatka is one of the most volcanically-active areas in the world according to UNESCO, with 29 active volcanoes. - RIANOVOSTI.

WATCH: Rare Glimpse Of  Lava Flows From Russian Volcano.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Bright Meteorite Crash In Russia - Fireball Explosion Wreaks Havoc; UFO Fears Spark Panic In The Urals; 300 Buildings Damaged; Windows Blown Out; Over 900 Injured!

February 15, 2013 - RUSSIA - Army units found three meteorite debris impact sites, two of which are in an area near Chebarkul Lake, west of Chelyabinsk. The third site was found some 80 kilometers further to the northwest, near the town of Zlatoust. One of the fragments that struck near Chebarkul left a crater six meters in diameter.  Servicemembers from the tank brigade that found the crater have confirmed that background radiation levels at the site are normal.

Screenshot from YouTube user Gregor Grimm.
Experts working at the site of the impact told Lifenews tabloid that the fragment is most likely solid, and consists of rock and iron.  A local fisherman told police he found a large hole in the lake’s ice, which could be a result of a meteorite impact. The site was immediately sealed off by police, a search team is now waiting for divers to arrive and explore the bottom of the lake.  Samples of water taken from the lake have not revealed any excessive radioactivity or foreign material.  Russian space agency Roskosmos has confirmed the object that crashed in the Chelyabinsk region is a meteorite: “According to preliminary estimates, this space object is of non-technogenic origin and qualifies as a meteorite. It was moving at a low trajectory with a speed of about 30 km/s.”  According to estimates by the Russian Academy of Sciences, the space object weighed about 10 tons before entering Earth’s atmosphere.  Around 950 people have sought medical attention in Chelyabinsk alone because of the disaster, the region's governor Mikhail Yurevich told RIA Novosti. Over 110 of them have been hospitalized and two of them are in heavy condition.  Among the injured there are 159 children, Emergency ministry reported.

Screenshot from YouTube user Gregor Grimm.
A bright flash was seen in the Chelyabinsk, Tyumen and Sverdlovsk regions, Russia’s Republic of Bashkiria and in northern Kazakhstan. The Russian army has joined the rescue operation. Army units are searching for meteorite debris in several places in Chelyabinsk region and in the neighboring Tyumen region. Radiation, chemical and biological protection units have been put on high alert. Since the explosion occurred several kilometers above the Earth, a large ground area must be thoroughly checked for radiation and other threats.

Screenshot from YouTube user Gregor Grimm.
At least one piece of the fallen object caused damage on the ground in Chelyabinsk. According to preliminary reports, it crashed into a wall near a zinc factory, disrupting the city's Internet and mobile service.  The Emergency Ministry reported that 20,000 rescue workers are operating in the region. Three aircraft were deployed to survey the area and locate other possible impact locations.  Witnesses said the explosion was so loud that it seemed like an earthquake and thunder had struck at the same time, and that there were huge trails of smoke across the sky. Others reported seeing burning objects fall to earth.  The Urals regional center of the Emergency Ministry claimed it sent out a mass SMS warning residents about a possible meteorite shower. However, eyewitnesses said they either never received it, or got the message after the explosion had already occurred.  Classes for all Chelyabinsk schools have been canceled, mostly due to broken windows. Institute students have been dismissed until next Monday. Authorities also ordered all kindergartens with broken windows to return children to their families.

Screenshot from YouTube user Gregor Grimm.
Police in the Chelyabinsk region are reportedly on high alert, and have begun ‘Operation Fortress’ in order to protect vital infrastructure.  Office buildings in downtown Chelyabinsk are being evacuated. Injuries were reported at one of the city’s secondary schools, supposedly from smashed windows.  An emergency message published on the website of the Chelyabinsk regional authority urged residents to pick up their children from school and remain at home if possible.  Those in Chelyabinsk who had their windows smashed are scrambling to cover the openings with anything available – the temperature in the city is currently -6°C.  Chelyabinsk regional governor Mikhail Yurevich is urgently returning to the region. Yurevich said that preserving the city’s central heating system is authorities’ primary goal.  “Do not panic, this is an ordinary situation we can manage in a couple of days,” the governor said in and address to city residents.  Background radiation levels in Chelyabinsk remain unchanged, the Emergency Ministry reported.

Screenshot from YouTube user Gregor Grimm.
The regional Emergency Ministry said the phenomenon was a meteorite shower, but locals have speculated that it was a military fighter jet crash or a missile explosion.  “According to preliminary data, the flashes seen over the Urals were caused by [a] meteorite shower," the Emergency Ministry told Itar-Tass news agency.  The ministry also said that no local power stations or civil aircraft were damaged by the meteorite shower, and that “all flights proceed according to schedule.”  Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who also oversees the Russian defense industry, wrote on Twitter that he would speak with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev about the incident in the Urals.  “On Monday I will bring to Medvedev a straight picture of what has happened in the Urals and prospective proposals of how the country can find out about the dangers approaching Earth and deal with them,” Rogozin wrote.  Residents of the town of Emanzhilinsk, some 50 kilometers from Chelyabinsk, said they saw a flying object that suddenly burst into flames, broke apart and fell to earth, and that a black cloud had been seen hanging above the town. Witnesses in Chelyabinsk said the city’s air smells like gunpowder.

Local zinc factory was damaged the severest, some of its walls collapsing (Photo from user @TimurKhorev).
Residents across the Urals region were informed about the incident through a cellphone text message from the regional Emergency Ministry.  Many locals reported that the explosion rattled their houses and smashed windows.  “This explosion, my ears popped, windows were smashed… phone doesn’t work,”  Evgeniya Gabun wrote on Twitter.  “My window smashed, I am all shaking! Everybody says that a plane crashed,” Twitter user Katya Grechannikova reported.  “My windows were not smashed, but I first thought that my house is being dismantled, then I thought it was a UFO, and my eventual thought was an earthquake,” Bukreeva Olga wrote on Twitter.  The Mayak nuclear complex near the town of Ozersk was not affected by the incident, according to reports. Mayak, one of the world’s biggest nuclear facilities that used to house plutonium production reactors and a reprocessing plant, is located 72 kilometers northwest of Chelyabinsk.  It is believed that the incident may be connected to asteroid 2012 DA14, which measures 45 to 95 meters in diameter and will be passing by Earth tonight at around 19:25 GMT at the record close range of 27,000 kilometers.

Photo from user @varlamov.
Another Tunguska event?  
The incident in Chelyabinsk bears a strong resemblance to the 1908 Tunguska event – an exceptionally powerful explosion in Siberia believed to have been caused by a fragment of a comet or meteor.  According to estimates, the energy of the Tunguska blast may have been as high as 50 megatons of TNT, equal to a nuclear explosion. Some 80 million trees were leveled over a 2,000-square-kilometer area. The Tunguska blast remains one of the most mysterious events in history, prompting a wide array of hypotheses on its cause, including a black hole passing through Earth and the wreck of an alien spacecraft.  It is believed that if the Tunguska event had happened 4 hours later, due to the rotation of the Earth it would have completely destroyed the city of Vyborg and significantly damaged St. Petersburg.    When a similar, though less powerful, unexplained explosion happened in Brazil in 1930, it was named the ‘Brazilian Tunguska.’ The Tunguska event also prompted debate and research into preventing or mitigating asteroid impacts. - RT.

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