Monday, February 18, 2013

GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS: The Effects Of Severe And Persistent Drought - 2012 Drought Devastates Crops In America, Corn And Soybean Hit Hard, Kentucky Suffered The Largest Overall Corn Crop Failure, Nebraska Lawmakers Preparing For "New Normal" Of Mega-Fires, Drought Stalls 20 Ethanol Plants In 5 American States!

February 18, 2013 - UNITED STATES - The searing U.S. drought of 2012 devastated the nation’s corn crop, pushing yields down in some states to their lowest levels in nearly 30 years. According to recently-released numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Missouri, Illinois and Indiana were among the hardest hit Corn Belt states, with yields at 28-, 26-, and 22-year lows, respectively.

Farmer Matt Johnson pauses while in a dead area of his popcorn crop fields on his family's farm in Redkey,
Indiana, June 28, 2012 Photograph: BRENT SMITH/Reuters.

2012 Drought Devastates Crops In The United States.
To put the severity and impact of the 2012 U.S. drought in context, the top 10 hardest-hit states for crop damage are illustrated in the interactive graphic below. With several states seeing their lowest corn crops in more than 20 years, along with damaged soybean and sorghum harvests, the interactive shows how 2012 ranks against the past 27 years for all 10 states.

Missouri was hit particularly hard, with corn yields down 42 percent below its 2002-2011 average and Iowa, Kansas and Kentucky were also devastated, with yields at 20-year lows. In Illinois and Indiana, yields were down by more than a third. Kentucky, not a major corn producing state, had the largest overall corn crop failure, with more than a 50 percent reduction in yield, compared to its 2002-2011 average.

In Colorado and Nebraska, where most corn crops are irrigated, far fewer acres of planted corn were even harvested in 2012. In Colorado, only 70 percent of crops were harvested, compared to an average of 85 percent between 2002-2011, and in Nebraska the harvest was down about 7 percent from the 2002-2011 average. In most other states, where crops depend on rain rather than irrigation, the harvest remained high, even as yields declined substantially.

On Friday, the USDA is expected to announce the final crop values for 2012. Even though last year’s drought touched more than 80 percent of U.S. agricultural land, at first glance those figures may not reflect the full extent of crop damage. That’s because the dwindling crop yields drove up prices of corn, soybeans and sorghum in the second half of 2012.

Overall, crop-related farm income was not down substantially in 2012, despite the severe drought. The unusually high crop prices and record insurance payouts — at least $14 billion in government aid has already been doled out — helped offset drought-related profit losses.

Bloomberg News recently reported that farmers are likely to see lower profits in 2013, even if the drought becomes less severe or disappears completely later this year because corn prices will be lower than last year and fewer farmers will qualify for insurance.

The second week of February marked the 34th consecutive week in which more than half the land area in the contiguous U.S. has been engulfed by drought, and the 33rd consecutive week in which more than 10 percent of that area was under “extreme drought,” or worse. As this historic drought rolls on through a dry winter, the chances of recovery rest increasingly on a far wetter-than-average spring.

The drought was most likely initially set into motion by the cooler-than-average water temperatures of La Nina in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which influences weather patterns across the continent. But some scientists suggest that the overall warmer climate created by manmade global warming may have amplified this already devastating drought, particularly by triggering more intense heat during the spring and summer of 2012.

A recently released draft of a new federal climate change assessment shows that as the climate continues to warm in the next few decades, drought events are likely to become more frequent and severe, leading to more significant water supply and agricultural impacts in much of the U.S.

Soybeans, the country’s second biggest crop — in both acres and sales — was also hit hard in some states. Kansas saw the most damage, where the average yield was nearly 30 percent lower than in recent years. Nationally, soybean yields were only 5 percent below normal, but Iowa, the biggest soybean producer in the country, had its second-lowest yield in a decade.

Large portions of sorghum crops were also ruined by the drought, particularly in Kansas, the country’s top sorghum producer (harvested sorghum grain is primarily used as animal feed). Throughout June, July, and August, the entire state was in drought (with as much as 90 percent in severe drought) and sorghum yields were about 50 percent lower than recent years. Nationally, sorghum yields averaged about 20 percent below normal. - Guardian.

Nebraska Lawmakers Preparing For "New Normal" Of Mega-Fires Due To Severe Drought.
Massive wildfires blamed on the summer drought are prompting lawmakers to rethink Nebraska's approach to fire safety.

Lawmakers will consider a bill this week that would add new firefighting resources in some of the most remote corners of Nebraska. The measure by Sen. Al Davis of Hyannis would station single-engine air tankers near Chadron and Valentine to help fight fires in the Panhandle and the Sandhills.

The bill would also require the Nebraska Forest Service to thin its forests and expand training programs for residents and volunteer firefighters.

State Forester Scott Josiah says Nebraska will likely see a "new normal" of mega fires because of heat, climate change and the spread of highly flammable pine trees.

Davis will present the measure Friday to the Legislature's Natural Resources Committee. - WOWT.

Drought Stalls 20 Ethanol Plants In 5 American States.
Many U.S. ethanol plants have halted production over the past year, mostly because the drought has made it difficult to get locally produced corn.

Most plan to restart, but it may not be until the 2013 corn crop is harvested in September.

Below is a list of idle plants in the region and the month they ceased operation:

—Midwest Renewable Energy LLC in Sutherland, February 2012.

—NEDAK Ethanol, in Atkinson, June.

—Valero-Albion in Albion, June.

—Aventine in Aurora-East, September.

—Abengoa in York, January.

—Abengoa in Ravenna, January.

—Central Minnesota Ethanol Co-op in Little Falls, August.

—Biofuel Energy in Fairmont, September.

North Dakota
—ADM in Wallhalla, March.

—East Kansas Agri-Energy in Garnett, August.

—POET in Macon, January.

- Star Herald.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: The Climate Contradiction Of Less Snow And More Blizzards - Scientists, Researchers And Global Warming Alarmists Are Confounded By Bizarre Earth Changes?!

February 18, 2013 - UNITED STATES - With scant snowfall and barren ski slopes in parts of the Midwest and Northeast the past couple of years, some scientists have pointed to global warming as the culprit.

Then when a whopper of a blizzard smacked the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow in some places earlier this month, some of the same people again blamed global warming.

How can that be? It's been a joke among skeptics, pointing to what seems to be a brazen contradiction.

Map shows a simulated prediction in the reduction of future snowfall in the U.S. based on CO2 levels.
But the answer lies in atmospheric physics. A warmer atmosphere can hold, and dump, more moisture, snow experts say. And two soon-to-be-published studies demonstrate how there can be more giant blizzards yet less snow overall each year. Projections are that that's likely to continue with man-made global warming.


- The United States has been walloped by twice as many of the most extreme snowstorms in the past 50 years than in the previous 60 years, according to an upcoming study on extreme weather by leading federal and university climate scientists. This also fits with a dramatic upward trend in extreme winter precipitation - both rain and snow - in the Northeastern U.S. charted by the National Climatic Data Center.

- Yet the Global Snow Lab at Rutgers University says that spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has shrunk on average by 1 million square miles in the last 45 years.

- And an upcoming study in the Journal of Climate says computer models predict annual global snowfall to shrink by more than a foot in the next 50 years. The study's author said most people live in parts of the United States that are likely to see annual snowfall drop between 30 and 70 percent by the end of the century.

"Shorter snow season, less snow overall, but the occasional knockout punch," Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer said. "That's the new world we live in."

Ten climate scientists say the idea of less snow and more blizzards makes sense: A warmer world is likely to decrease the overall amount of snow falling each year and shrink snow season. But when it is cold enough for a snowstorm to hit, the slightly warmer air is often carrying more moisture, producing potentially historic blizzards.

"Strong snowstorms thrive on the ragged edge of temperature - warm enough for the air to hold lots of moisture, meaning lots of precipitation, but just cold enough for it to fall as snow," said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center. "Increasingly, it seems that we're on that ragged edge."

Just look at the last few years in the Northeast. Or take Chicago, which until late January had 335 days without more than an inch of snow. Both have been hit with historic storms in recent years.

Scientists won't blame a specific event or even a specific seasonal change on global warming without doing intricate and time-consuming studies. And they say they are just now getting a better picture of the complex intersection of man-made climate change and extreme snowfall.

But when Serreze, Oppenheimer and others look at the last few years of less snow overall, punctuated by big storms, they say this is what they are expecting in the future.

"It fits the pattern that we expect to unfold," Oppenheimer said.

The world is warming so precipitation that would normally fall as snow in the future will likely fall as rain once it gets above the freezing point, said Princeton researcher Sarah Kapnick.

Her study used new computer models to simulate the climate in 60 to 100 years as carbon dioxide levels soar. She found large reductions in snowfall throughout much of the world, especially parts of Canada and the Andes Mountains. In the United States, her models predict about a 50 percent or more drop in annual snowfall amounts along a giant swath of the nation from Maine to Texas and the Pacific Northwest and California's Sierra Nevada mountains.

This is especially important out West where large snowcaps are natural reservoirs for a region's water supply, Kapnick said. And already in the Cascades of the Pacific Northwest and in much of California, the amount of snow still around on April 1 has been declining so that it's down about 20 percent compared to 80 years ago, said Philip Mote, who heads a climate change institute at Oregon State University.

Kapnick says it is snowing about as much as ever in the heart of winter, such as February. But the snow season is getting much shorter, especially in spring and in the northernmost areas, said Rutgers' David Robinson, a co-author of the study on extreme weather that will be published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

The Rutgers snow lab says this January saw the sixth-widest snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere; the United States had an above average snow cover for the last few months. But that's a misleading statistic, Robinson said, because even though more ground is covered by snow, it's covered by less snow.

And when those big storms finally hit, there is more than just added moisture in the air, there's extra moisture coming from the warm ocean, Robinson and Oppenheimer said. And the air is full of energy and unstable, allowing storms to lift yet more moisture up to colder levels. That generates more intense rates of snowfall, Robinson said.

"If you can tap that moisture and you have that fortuitous collision of moist air and below freezing temperatures, you can pop some big storms," Robinson said.

Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann points to the recent Northeast storm that dumped more than 30 inches in some places. He said it was the result of a perfect set of conditions for such an event: Arctic air colliding with unusually warm oceans that produced extra large amounts of moisture and big temperature contrasts, which drive storms. Those all meant more energy, more moisture and thus more snow, he said. - AP.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Indonesia Floods And Landslides Kill 17 - About 5,000 Houses Inundated!

February 18, 2013 - INDONESIA - Four children were among 17 people killed over the weekend in central Indonesia after heavy rains triggered floods and landslides, officials said on Monday.

The children, aged between two and nine, died along with 13 adults when flooding and landslides hit the northern part of Sulawesi island early Sunday, provincial disaster management agency spokesman Howke Makawarung told AFP.

Residents salvage their belongings while floods inundate the city of Manado on February 17, 2013.
Four children were among 17 people killed over the weekend in central Indonesia after heavy rains
triggered floods and landslides, officials said.

"We recorded 17 people killed. All bodies were found on Sunday," he said, adding that heavy rains had hit three areas, including the North Sulawesi provincial capital of Manado which saw water levels up to four metres (13 feet).

Water, which inundated around 5,000 houses in Manado, had receded by Monday and residents had begun cleaning up their homes.

A landslide which hit the city killed a six-year old boy.

"He was taking a bath in the morning when a landslide suddenly struck his house," the capital deputy mayor Harley Mangindaan told AFP.

Rescuers search for the victims of a landslide in Manado, North Sulawesi, Indonesia, on Sunday.
Landslides and floods triggered by torrential rain hit seven sub-districts in the provincial capital Sunday.
Photo: AP.
Indonesia is regularly affected by deadly floods and landslides during its wet season, which lasts for around six months.

Environmentalists blame logging and a failure to reforest denuded land for exacerbating flooding.

Heavy rains caused flooding in the capital Jakarta in January that left 32 people dead and at its peak forced nearly 46,000 to flee their homes. - France 24.

 WATCH: Various news coverage of the floods in Indonesia.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: "Powerful Firework Display" - Iceland Volcano Eyjafjallajökull Oozes Molten Lava!

February 18, 2013 - ICELAND - Cars sit in the shadow of a volcano spilling 1200-degree-centigrade molten lava in this remarkable set of pictures.

Daredevil - and decidedly hot - drivers parked their four-by-fours in the path of the thick liquid as it poured down the slopes of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland.

Lava flows down the Eyjafjallajˆkull volcano in Iceland. (Credit: Kristj·n Freyr firastarson/Barcroft).

Lava flows down the Eyjafjallajˆkull volcano in Iceland. (Credit: Kristj·n Freyr firastarson/Barcroft).
Thrill-seekers even got out of their cars to take a closer look at the eruption - some standing just half a metre away from the deadly liquid.

The images were posted online by 25-year-old student Kristján Freyr Þrastarson - and instantly went viral on the internet.

Within just a few days, they had received 300,000 hits - around the same as the entire population of Iceland.

Lava flows down the Eyjafjallajˆkull volcano in Iceland. (Credit: Kristj·n Freyr firastarson/Barcroft).

Lava flows down the Eyjafjallajˆkull volcano in Iceland. (Credit: Kristj·n Freyr firastarson/Barcroft).
Kristján, who spent three hours travelling across a dangerous glacier to reach the spot, said: "Some people were standing about half meter from the lava with their cars parked nearby.

"Recent tracks from jeep tires in the snow were disappearing under the lava - but because it was moving so slow we were not actually noticing any movements.

"The noise was really memorable - it sounded like a powerful firework display."

Lava flows down the Eyjafjallajˆkull volcano in Iceland. (Credit: Kristj·n Freyr firastarson/Barcroft).

Lava flows down the Eyjafjallajˆkull volcano in Iceland. (Credit: Kristj·n Freyr firastarson/Barcroft).
He added: "After a couple of hours, it started to get dark and the weather was getting worse.

"We decided to turn back, but on our way back down the glacier it was snowing so badly we could only see about three meters in front of the car - so it was very easy to get lost.

"At one point we lost the vehicle in front of us for around 20 minutes. We did not have GPS systems to tell us where to go so we were not in good place at all.

Lava flows down the Eyjafjallajˆkull volcano in Iceland. (Credit: Kristj·n Freyr firastarson/Barcroft).
"Finally we found the other group and we continued back home.

"When I got there and looked at the photos from the trip I felt how amazing it was the be able to experience something like that." - Huffington Post.

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: Hundreds Of Vultures Swarm North Carolina Neighborhood - Neighbours Complain The Packs Of Birds Hover Over Homes, Scare Pets And Made People Nervous?!

February 18, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Neighbors told Eyewitness News they have seen hundreds of vultures swarming along Peach Street in Shelby.

A Channel 9 reporter saw dozens hovering over homes, scaring pets and making people nervous.

"Just circling in like big, big packs and they are like big, big birds," said neighbor Jordan Walker.

"It makes me feel kind of creepy," said neighbor Ann McEntire.

McEntire said she saw so many perched on her neighbor's home "they completely covered it."

The birds normally pass through while migrating south for the winter, but an intern who has been studying the birds for the state agriculture service said the vultures stopped here because of the mild winter.

"We are just not getting cold enough to push them along," said Kristen Duren with the Cooperative Extension. "What used to be five to 10 birds is going up to 150 birds."

And they'll start breeding.

"Oh my goodness. I am not happy to hear that," McEntire said.

Turkey vultures will not attack children or small animals, but they will go after pet food and trash and they can wreck the value of property.

"If I were to try to sell this house, no one would even look at it," McEntire said.

Their droppings can discolor homes and cars and they can rip out shingles.

State agriculture agents say the birds have come to this neighborhood because of the dead trees, which the birds prefer. Getting rid of the old trees could be the first step in getting rid of the birds.

"I just wish there were some way to tell them to leave," McEntire said.

State law forbids shooting them, but there is another way: a scarecrow made to look like a dead bird could chase the vultures away.

"It kind of sends a message to the birds that these are not nice people," Duren said.

Until they get the message, more vultures are likely to come. - WSOC.

WATCH: Turkey Vultures Swarm N.C. Neighborhood.

PLANETARY TREMORS: California Disaster Precursor - 3.4 Magnitude Earthquake Rattles East San Diego, "We Feel Them Out Here All the Time, But Not Like This One"!

February 18, 2013 - CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES - A magnitude 3.4 earthquake shook East County Sunday.

"We feel them out here all the time, but not like this one," said Cheryl Gillott, a state parks worker in Ocotillo Wells. "It was pretty big."

USGS earthquake map and location.
The 9:04 a.m. temblor was centered about 16 miles east-southeast of Julian, or 16 miles due south of Borrego Springs. That spot would be in the isolated desert mountains about 51 miles east-northeast of downtown San Diego.

Persons scattered around East County reported feeling shaking from the quake, which was centered at a depth of about 3 miles below the surface. It was also reportedly felt in the cities of San Diego and Riverside.

USGS earthquake intensity map.
Gillott, an employee at the Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area Discovery Center, described the quake as having a rolling, as opposed to jolting, motion.

Automated seismographs and computers originally calculated the quake to be magnitude 3.3, but the data was reviewed by seismologists and the magnitude was changed to 3.4. - KFMB.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Pacific Ring On Fire - Magnitude 6.1 Earthquake Hits Northeast Of L'Esperance Rock, New Zealand!

February 18, 2013 - PACIFIC RING OF FIRE - A magnitude-6.1 earthquake struck northeast of L'Esperance Rock, New Zealand's North Island this morning.  The quake was located at 30.682°S 178.127°W.

USGS Earthquake map and location for New Zealand.

USGS Estimated Fatalities and Economic Losses for New Zealand.
The US Geological Survey reported it was centred 34.1 kilometres (21.2 miles) deep and about 111 kilometres north-east of L'Esperance Rock. 

USGS Earthquake intensity map for New Zealand.

USGS Earthquake intensity map for New Zealand.

USGS Population Exposure map.
The tremor, which stuck about 12:19:19 UTC was widely felt, although there are currently no reports of damage or injury.  A shallow magnitude-6.3 quake devastated Christchurch in February last year, leaving 185 people dead.  New Zealand is on the boundary of the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates, and experiences up to 15,000 tremors a year.

Tectonic Summary - Seismotectonics of the Eastern Margin of the Australia Plate.
The eastern margin of the Australia plate is one of the most sesimically active areas of the world due to high rates of convergence between the Australia and Pacific plates. In the region of New Zealand, the 3000 km long Australia-Pacific plate boundary extends from south of Macquarie Island to the southern Kermadec Island chain. It includes an oceanic transform (the Macquarie Ridge), two oppositely verging subduction zones (Puysegur and Hikurangi), and a transpressive continental transform, the Alpine Fault through South Island, New Zealand.  Since 1900 there have been 15 M7.5+ earthquakes recorded near New Zealand. Nine of these, and the four largest, occurred along or near the Macquarie Ridge, including the 1989 M8.2 event on the ridge itself, and the 2004 M8.1 event 200 km to the west of the plate boundary, reflecting intraplate deformation.

The largest recorded earthquake in New Zealand itself was the 1931 M7.8 Hawke's Bay earthquake, which killed 256 people. The last M7.5+ earthquake along the Alpine Fault was 170 years ago; studies of the faults' strain accumulation suggest that similar events are likely to occur again.  North of New Zealand, the Australia-Pacific boundary stretches east of Tonga and Fiji to 250 km south of Samoa. For 2,200 km the trench is approximately linear, and includes two segments where old (greater than 120 Myr) Pacific oceanic lithosphere rapidly subducts westward (Kermadec and Tonga). At the northern end of the Tonga trench, the boundary curves sharply westward and changes along a 700 km-long segment from trench-normal subduction, to oblique subduction, to a left lateral transform-like structure.  Australia-Pacific convergence rates increase northward from 60 mm/yr at the southern Kermadec trench to 90 mm/yr at the northern Tonga trench; however, significant back arc extension (or equivalently, slab rollback) causes the consumption rate of subducting Pacific lithosphere to be much faster. The spreading rate in the Havre trough, west of the Kermadec trench, increases northward from 8 to 20 mm/yr. The southern tip of this spreading center is propagating into the North Island of New Zealand, rifting it apart. In the southern Lau Basin, west of the Tonga trench, the spreading rate increases northward from 60 to 90 mm/yr, and in the northern Lau Basin, multiple spreading centers result in an extension rate as high as 160 mm/yr. The overall subduction velocity of the Pacific plate is the vector sum of Australia-Pacific velocity and back arc spreading velocity: thus it increases northward along the Kermadec trench from 70 to 100 mm/yr, and along the Tonga trench from 150 to 240 mm/yr. 

USGS historic seismicity for the region.
The Kermadec-Tonga subduction zone generates many large earthquakes on the interface between the descending Pacific and overriding Australia plates, within the two plates themselves and, less frequently, near the outer rise of the Pacific plate east of the trench. Since 1900, 40 M7.5+ earthquakes have been recorded, mostly north of 30°S. However, it is unclear whether any of the few historic M8+ events that have occurred close to the plate boundary were underthrusting events on the plate interface, or were intraplate earthquakes. On September 29, 2009, one of the largest normal fault (outer rise) earthquakes ever recorded (M8.1) occurred south of Samoa, 40 km east of the Tonga trench, generating a tsunami that killed at least 180 people.  Across the North Fiji Basin and to the west of the Vanuatu Islands, the Australia plate again subducts eastwards beneath the Pacific, at the North New Hebrides trench. At the southern end of this trench, east of the Loyalty Islands, the plate boundary curves east into an oceanic transform-like structure analogous to the one north of Tonga. 

Australia-Pacific convergence rates increase northward from 80 to 90 mm/yr along the North New Hebrides trench, but the Australia plate consumption rate is increased by extension in the back arc and in the North Fiji Basin. Back arc spreading occurs at a rate of 50 mm/yr along most of the subduction zone, except near ~15°S, where the D'Entrecasteaux ridge intersects the trench and causes localized compression of 50 mm/yr in the back arc. Therefore, the Australia plate subduction velocity ranges from 120 mm/yr at the southern end of the North New Hebrides trench, to 40 mm/yr at the D'Entrecasteaux ridge-trench intersection, to 170 mm/yr at the northern end of the trench.  Large earthquakes are common along the North New Hebrides trench and have mechanisms associated with subduction tectonics, though occasional strike slip earthquakes occur near the subduction of the D'Entrecasteaux ridge. Within the subduction zone 34 M7.5+ earthquakes have been recorded since 1900. On October 7, 2009, a large interplate thrust fault earthquake (M7.6) in the northern North New Hebrides subduction zone was followed 15 minutes later by an even larger interplate event (M7.8) 60 km to the north. It is likely that the first event triggered the second of the so-called earthquake "doublet". - USGS.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Solar System Disturbances - Bright Ball Of Light Flashes And Streaks Across Florida Night Sky!

February 18, 2013 - UNITED STATES - South Floridians who happened to be looking in the right place at the right time Sunday night saw one spectacular light show – possibly a sporadic meteor. The Coast Guard began getting flooded with phone calls about 7:30 p.m., with reports of folks seeing flare-like objects from Jacksonville to Key West, according to Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Sabrina Laberdesque. People called in, describing the flares “as orange or red fireballs in the sky,” Laberdesque said. The display was limited to the sky: No injuries were reported, Laberdesque said.

A sporadic meteor is basically a rocky object that comes from the asteroid belt, said Mike Hankey, operations manager for the American Meteor Society, based in Genesee, N.Y. The group logged 27 reports within about the first two hours of the event, he said.

"This is a lot of reports to come in quickly," Hankey said. 

Gauging by the reports, it happened somewhere over the ocean.

"These fireballs are common," Hankey said. "It’s rare for any one person to see one more than once or twice in their lifetime. But on any given night, it might happen somewhere in the globe a few times in a day." Hankey added: "People should not be scared of the sky falling or anything at all."

Amanda Mayer, of West Palm Beach, said she saw something in the sky and said she thought it was somebody flashing a light. She said she hit record on her camera.

"I was like, 'Wow! That's weird," Mayer said. "I just started videotaping, and that's when it happened."

It turned out to be good timing: The ball of light appeared as she recorded, she said.

"I was pretty sure it was a meteor because of everything else that's been happening," Mayer said.

The Coast Guard said it had suspected Sunday's sighting was a meteor shower, but Hankey disagreed. "Meteor showers usually are much dimmer and faster moving," Hankey said.

After a meteor exploded overhead near Chelyabinsk, Russia, on Friday, reportedly injuring more than 1,000 people, many people elsewhere in the world have wrongly thought that streaks they've seen in the sky, including planes, are meteors, Hankey said.

"We’re getting a lot more false reports," Hankey said.

But with false reports, the group tends to receive only one report describing an incident, Hankey said. If the same event is reported over and over in five or 10 minutes, then that’s more likely to be "a legitimate event,” or sporadic meteor, Hankey said.

In South Florida Sunday night, the Coast Guard found that the light streak vanished in an instant. The Coast Guard sent out a helicopter to check out a report of a flare near the MacArthur Causeway in Miami, but found nothing there, Laberdesque said. - NBC Miami.

A ball of light in the sky resembling a meteor was reported Sunday night by several people in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.  “Looking over the Biscayne Bay from downtown, I saw an object falling from the sky,” said Brad Greenberg, 30, of Miami in a tweet about 6:30 p.m. “At first, the object was faintly glowing and moving fast but not nearly as fast as a shooting star.”

He said the object burned bright, as though a fuse reached an explosive, and then it was gone.

“The whole thing last maybe three seconds,” he said.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office reported receiving several calls claiming there were “lights in the sky.”

Jeff Kleinman, day editor of The Miami Herald, was with his daughter at the Aventura Mall when she pointed out a flash in the sky.

“We thought it was a plane going down at first or an errant firework,” Kleinman wrote in an email. “Yellow to green flash from west to east, it seemed.”

On Friday, a meteor sped through the sky over Russia and exploded about 15 miles overhead near the town of Chelyabinsk. The shockwave reportedly injured more than 1,100 people. - Miami Herald.

WATCH: Fireball over Florida.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Volcano Discovery Report For February 17 And 18, 2013 - Updates On Stromboli, Paluweh, Kizimen, Shiveluch, Tolbachik, Taal, Etna,Popocatépetl, Santa María, Santiaguito, Nevado del Ruiz, Reventador, Torfajökull, Barren Island, Fuego, Tungurahua, Tahalra, Little Sitkin And Gorshkova!

February 18, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing report from the Volcano Discovery Group.

Thermal webcam image of the crater area of Stromboli (INGV).
Stromboli (Eolian Islands, Italy): The lava overflows have been active on and off and currently stopped. The explosion signals have become weaker, but tremor seems relatively strong. Overall, the volcano remains in a state of elevated activity.

Etna (Sicily, Italy): A strong phase of strombolian activity took place over night at the New SE crater, marked by a peak in tremor. No activity has been observed from Bocca Nuova. Tremor is rising and probably, this means that some strombolian activity is present in either New SE crater or Bocca Nuova, but visibility is poor due to bad weather.

Tremor signal from Etna (INGV).
Kizimen (Kamchatka): The lava dome continues to grow at the summit and produces hot avalanches on the western and eastern flanks. Strong gas-steam activity and moderate seismic activity accompany this process. Satellite data showed a thermal anomaly over the volcano. (KVERT)

Shiveluch (Kamchatka): KVERT reports moderate seismicity and a thermal anomaly over the volcano visible on satellite data, indicating that the lava dome remains active.

Tolbachik (Kamchatka): The eruption continues with little changes. Lava flows are erupting from the southern fissure and tremor levels are moderate.

A gas-steam plume containing small amount of ash raises up to 4 km a.s.l. from the active cinder cone and extends to the north-east of the volcano.

Taal (Luzon, Philippines): Earthquake numbers continue to be elevated. During the past 24 hours, PHILVOLCS detected 14 quakes. Other parameters monitored at the volcano show no alarming signs.

Paluweh (off Flores Island, Indonesia): New ash plumes reaching 13,000 ft (4.3 km) altitude and extending 40 nautical miles to the east were observed today. Most likely, more dome collapses and accompanying explosions have occurred.

Degassing plume from Popocatepetl.
Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): Activity has remained low, with less than 1 weak steam-gas explosion per hour. Weak incandescence remains visible at the summit crater.

Santa María / Santiaguito (Guatemala): Explosive activity remains at moderate levels with explosions reaching up to about 1 km height above the crater. Effusive activity was weak, no activity was observed at the lava flows on the flanks of the lava dome.

Fuego (Guatemala): A stronger phase of continuous ash emissions has been reported. An ash plume reaching 16,000 ft (4.8 km) was observed extending 10 nautical miles to the NW.

The mild effusive activity on the other hand has not changed much. The lava flow towards the Ceniza canyon continues to be active and was 500 m long this morning.

SO2 plume from Nevado del Ruiz (NOAA).
Nevado del Ruiz (Colombia): Activity, both internal and external, has shown an increase over the past days. Strong SO2 emissions visible on the latest satellite data suggest that a new batch of magma has intruded at shallow depth.

This corresponds to also to a seismic swarm visible on today's seismograms.

Current seismic signal from Reventador (CONE station, IG).
Reventador (Ecuador): The eruption at the volcano continues at fluctuating levels, which is reflected by the seismic signal. Yesterday, an ash column rose 2 km above the crater and drifted to the west. No reports of ash fall were received by IG.

Tungurahua (Ecuador): The volcano remains calm. Both internal and external activity have been decreasing, IG reported in its latest special report.

The only surface activity during the past 3 weeks were mild fumarolic activity and small steam emissions from the crater. Meanwhile, the seismic activity has been characterized by an average of 29 long period events and 2 volcano tectonic quakes per day, with numbers diminishing in the recent week. This seismic activity is interpreted as associated with the pressurization and mobilization of fluids and fracturing of rocks within the volcano. No explosions have occurred.

Tahalra Volcanic Field (Algeria): On 14 February, a Magnitude 4.3 earthquake at 2 KM depth occurred near a group of volcanic fields in Algeria (Manzaz, Atakor and Tahalra volcanic field's).

Because the reigon has had no serious tectonic earthquake activity and because the depth of the earthquake is only 2 KM, the EQ is considered to be volcanic in origin.

Barren Island (Indian Ocean): A new eruption seems to have started. An ash plume rising to 20,000 ft (6 km) altitude and drifting 120 nautical miles to the SW was reported last night by VAAC Darwin. The aviation color code was raised to RED.

Map of recent quakes under Torfajökull (Iceland Met Office).
Torfajökull (Iceland): A small earthquake swarm has started today. It includes about 20 quakes of small magnitude at shallow depths of 2-4 km.

Whether the swarm is related to magma movements is unknown.

Seismic signal from Little Sitkin on 16 Feb 2013 (AVO).
Little Sitkin (Western Aleutian Islands): An earthquake swarm occurred yesterday, but it's not strong enough to trigger a raise of alert level.

Photo of the Day: Gorshkova volcano, Kamchatka

Gorshkova volcano, Kamchatka (Photo: Anastasia).

EXTREME WEATHER: Heavy Snow, Strong Winds To Blast American Northeast - Forecasters Expect A Foot Of Snow In New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts; Power Outages And Flight Delays Are Possible!

February 18, 2013 - UNITED STATES - A winter storm initially expected to produce blizzard-like conditions in parts of New England brought moderate snow and strong winds to the region on Sunday.

Forecasters had said up to a foot of snow would be possible in areas of New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts, but the storm was moving out of the region Sunday afternoon after less than half that amount had accumulated.

Snow flurries shroud Washington Street in Kinston, N.C., on Saturday.
Janet S. Carter / The Free Press via AP.
For southeastern New England, including Boston, the snow totaled 3 to 5 inches, reported. The snow and ice in the city caused flights arriving to Logan International Airport to be delayed an average of 52 minutes.

Meanwhile, arctic air and heavy winds meant below-freezing temperatures in New England and wind chills in the single digits across the whole eastern U.S. over the weekend, reported.

“What will be noteworthy today are the winds which will be especially strong along the coast,” Meteorologist David Epstein said. “At times some coastal areas south of Boston could see wind gusts hit 50 miles per hour.”

The Weather Channel’s Dr. Greg Postel warned the strong winds could cause scattered power outages throughout the region.

The snow that was hitting the New England area came a day after the moving storm brought 2-3 inches of snow to the Carolinas.

Much of New England just finished digging out after a historic winter storm that dumped 30 inches of snow on parts of Massachusetts and even more in Connecticut. - NBC News.

WATCH: High winds, snow hit New England.

Heavy snow and strong winds may blow across the Northeastern coast Sunday and drop as much as 10 inches on parts of the region still buried by last week's storm.

A winter storm warning is in effect for the Boston area, where the National Weather Service said 4 to 8 inches of snow could fall by Sunday night. Snow up to 8 inches also is forecast for Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.

Strong winds are expected to accompany the snow, gusting up to 55 mph. The weather service said that by evening, temperatures with the wind chill could feel like minus 1.

© Postmedia News files.
Early Sunday, New York officials issued a high-wind warning for the Tappan Zee Bridge, reducing the speed limit to 35 mph and prohibiting empty trailers and motorcycles on the bridge. All trucks, trailers, and buses were advised to consider an alternate route.

Farther north, a blizzard watch is in effect for parts of Down East and Northeast Maine, where 10 inches of snow is possible along with wind gusts up to 60 mph. The weather service warned that whiteout conditions are likely with near-zero visibility because of blowing, drifting snow.

The storm isn't expected to be the epic event of last week, which dropped up to 3 feet of snow on some areas and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of utility customers. Cape Cod, which could be among the heaviest hit, had between 8 and 17 inches of snow from last week's storm.

But officials said the storm will be plenty bad enough at its peak to keep residents indoors.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said crews pretreated roads Saturday and plows were working through the night, but travel could still be treacherous on Sunday morning.

''I'm asking residents to use common sense, and stay off the roads while snowfall is heaviest,'' he said.

Providence Mayor Angel Taveras instituted a parking ban starting at 10 p.m. Saturday until further notice to ensure plows have room to clear the snow. Pawtucket, R.I., also banned parking starting at midnight and ending at 6 p.m. Sunday.

Providence can expect 6 to 8 inches, while central Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire could get up to 6. - Boston.