Wednesday, March 13, 2013

PRIEST CLASS OF THE MAGI: New Pope Chosen At The Vatican - Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio Of Argentina Is Elected Pope; The 266th Pope; Elected After 5 Rounds Of Voting; Takes The Name Francis I; First Pope From The Western Hemisphere; Was Second On Each Ballot In Last Conclave!

March 13, 2013 - VATICAN CITY - Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio Of Buenos Aires, has been elected to be the 266th pope of the Catholic Church, taking the name Pope Francis.

Francis was elected to the papacy after two days of conclave meetings with a total of five ballots cast. Voting in the conclave, which began Tuesday afternoon, is confidential and cardinals were sworn to secrecy, but Francis received at least 77 votes, which is the minimum two-thirds required to become pope. There were 115 cardinals eligible to vote in the conclave. All were under 80 before Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's retirement, as required by Vatican rules. In 2005, when Benedict was elected, it took two days and four votes to elect him.

Pope Francis I.

Francis, whose papacy is effective immediately, will be formally installed in the coming days. It's unclear when the installation Mass will happen, but Vatican spokesman Fr. Frederico Lombardi said earlier on Wednesday that Tuesday, March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, is a possible date. He spoke before white smoke signalled news of a new pope, and it was unclear if he expected a decision on Wednesday. Lombardi also said in the same interview that the new pope would likely celebrate Mass with cardinals the morning after his election.

White smoke rises from the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel.
The date of a papal installation typically begins visit with cardinals to the grottos of St. Peter's Basilica, where the first pope, St. Peter, is said to be buried. There, the new pope is expected to say, "I leave from where the apostle arrived" before a procession to the square and an installation Mass (the Mass lasted two hours for Benedict's installation in 2005).

At the installation Mass, Francis is expected to receive the Fisherman's Ring made for his papacy (the one Benedict wore was given up when he retired on Feb. 28 and purposefully damaged by Vatican authorities per tradition) as well as the pallium, the woolen stole that's a symbol of his authority.

French proto-deacon cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran (C) announces the name of the new Pope, Argentinian cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio on March 13, 2013 from the balcony of St Peter's basilica at the Vatican. AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE,FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images).
When Benedict was elected, 12 church representatives knelt in front of him at the installation: three cardinals, one bishop, a priest, a deacon, a married couple, a nun and man from a religious order, and two young people who have had their confirmations -- a key sacrament of the faith. A similar group is expected to kneel in front of Francis as a symbolic pledge of obedience.

After the Mass, the new pope customarily is driven around St. Peter's Square to greet groups of priests and laypeople from around the world who have come to see him. In the days after, he is expected to visit the three main Roman basilicas aside from St. Peter's: St. Paul's, St. John Lateran's and St. Mary Major's. The first visit is usually to St. Paul -- outside the Vatican City walls.

People in St. Peter's Square cheer and wave flags after the announcement March 13.
For his first few weeks as pope, Francis will live in a temporary apartment away from the official papal residence. Vatican spokesman Lombardi previously showed reporters a video of new pope's short-term home, which has a study, a sitting area and a carving of Jesus Christ's face on the headboard of the bed. Francis will stay there while the official papal apartment is renovated. The apartment was sealed after Benedict's resignation and church rules say it can't be reopened for any reason until there is a new pope. - Huffington Post.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio - Facts about the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina:
Source: USA TODAY research; Florida International University Libraries; the Vatican; Associated Press
By Katharine Lackey, USA TODAY.
Born: Dec. 17, 1936, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Education: Studied at Theological Faculty of San Miguel. Received licentiate in philosophy.

Ordained for the Jesuits on Dec. 13, 1969.

Languages: Besides his native Spanish, Bergoglio also speaks Italian and German.

Ordained titular bishop of Auca and auxiliary of Buenos Aires on June 27, 1992.

Became archbishop of Buenos Aires on Feb. 28, 1998.

Received title ordinary for the Eastern-rite faithful in Argentina who lack an ordinary in their own rite on Nov. 30, 1998.

Proclaimed cardinal by Pope John Paul II on Feb. 21, 2001.

Participated in conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.

Served as president of the Bishops' Conference of Argentina from November 2005 to November 2011.

Reportedly received the second-most votes after Joseph Ratzinger in the 2005 papal election.

Despite being Argentina's top church official, Bergoglio never lived in the ornate church mansion in Buenos Aires, preferring a simple bed in a downtown room heated by a small stove. For years, he took public transportation around the city and cooked his own meals.

Had a lung removed due to infection when he was a teenager.

Couldn't prevent Argentina from becoming the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage or stop its president, Cristina Fernandez, from promoting free contraception and artificial insemination. When Bergoglio argued that gay adoptions discriminate against children, Fernandez compared his tone to "medieval times and the Inquisition."

Critics accuse him of failing to stand up publicly against the country's military dictatorship from 1976-1983, when victims and their relatives often brought first-hand accounts of torture, death and kidnappings.

No Jesuit priest has ever served as pontiff. - USA Today.

WATCH: New Pope elected amid sex scandals and rising Islam.

SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: Extremely Rare Triple Quasar Found - For Only The Second Time In History!

March 13, 2013 - SPACE -For only the second time in history, a team of scientists have discovered an extremely rare triple quasar system.

For only the second time in history, a team of scientists including Michele Fumagalli from the Carnegie Institution for Science in the United States have discovered an extremely rare triple quasar system. Their work is published in the Oxford University Press journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Quasars are extremely bright and powerful sources of energy that sit in the centre of a galaxy, surrounding a black hole. In systems with multiple quasars, the bodies are held together by gravity and are believed to be the product of galaxies colliding.

It is very difficult to observe triplet quasar systems, because of observational limits that prevent researchers from differentiating multiple nearby bodies from one another at astronomical distances. Moreover, such phenomena are presumed to be very rare.

An infrared image of the triple quasar system QQQ J1519+0627, made using the 3.5-m aperture telescope of the Calar Alto Observatory. The three quasars are labelled A, B and C. Credit: Emanuele Paolo Farina.

The team led by Emanuele Farina of the University of Insubria in Como, Italy, combined observations from the New Technology Telescope of the European Southern Observatory at La Silla, Chile and from the Calar Alto Observatory in Spain with advanced modelling. This enabled them to find the triplet quasar, called QQQ J1519+0627.

The light from the three quasars has travelled 9 billion light years to reach us, which means the light was emitted when the universe was only a third of its current age.

Advanced analysis confirmed that what the team found was indeed three distinct sources of quasar energy and that the phenomenon is extremely rare.

Two members of the triplet are closer to each other than the third. This means that the system could have been formed by interaction between the two adjacent quasars, but was probably not triggered by interaction with the more-distant third quasar.

Furthermore, no evidence was seen of any ultra-luminous infrared galaxies (galaxies with very strong emission in infrared light), which is where quasars are commonly found. As a result, the team proposes that this triplet quasar system is part of some larger structure that is still undergoing formation.

“Honing our observational and modelling skills and finding this rare phenomenon will help us understand how cosmic structures assemble in our universe and the basic processes by which massive galaxies form,” Fumagalli said.

“Further study will help us figure out exactly how these quasars came to be and how rare their formation is,” Farina added.

Via Royal Astronomical Society

- Earth Sky.

GLOBAL COASTAL EVENT: Sea-Level Rise - Impacts And Mitigation Measures Around The World!

March 13, 2013 - EARTH - The following information consists of the latest research on sea level rise across the planet, the impacts and mitigation measures. 

Greenland Ice Sheet
The Greenland Ice Sheet is roughly 1.7 million square kilometres (656,000 square miles) in size and accounts for around 11% of the total surface ice on Earth.  Accumulations of snow built up over thousands of years have created a store of around 2.6 million cubic kilometres of ice which would raise sea levels by approximately seven meters (23 feet).  Recent research has shown that the ice sheet is losing a significant mass and at faster rates than previously observed.  In 2010 a piece of ice 260-square kilometre piece of ice (four times the size of Manhattan) broke off the Petermann Glacier in northwest Greenland.  A recent ten-year study (Box and Decker, 2011) of Greenland's 39 widest glacier outlets revealed the loss of an area totalling 1368-square kilometres.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimate sea levels rose on average 1.7 mm every year during 20th century, but recently that figure has risen to 3mm.  The majority of this has been caused by thermal expansion - as oceans warm up so their mass becomes greater - but contributions are also being made by sub-polar glaciers.  By the end of the 21st century, the IPCC estimate polar ice sheets could raise sea levels by one meter.

Miami, United States
Florida's 18.5 million residents are particularly vulnerable to sea level rise with Miami bearing the brunt of any rising waters.  A 2007 OECD report ranked Miami as the city with the most assets at risk from coastal flooding in the world with $400 billion currently at risk rising to an estimated $3,500 billion by the 2070s.  Projected sea level rises for this century would also have a devastating effect on the state's ecosystems.  Dan Kimball, superintendent of the Everglades National Park estimated in a testimony to the U.S. Congress in 2007 that the IPCC's projected rise of seven inches (17.8 cm) to 23 inches (58.4 cm) would submerge tidal flats, inland freshwater marshes and pinelands impacting on all manner of species.  Sea level rise would also threaten the source of drinking water for five million residents of southern Florida. According to a study by the University of Arizona published last year, Miami could lose more than 10% of its land by the end of the century if the top end of current sea level rise (around one meter) projections is borne out. Many states and cities bordering the Gulf and Atlantic coasts - including Louisiana, North Carolina, New York City, and Virginia Beach - face equally formidable challenges should waters continue to rise.

Guyana, South America
Around 90% of Guyana's 800,000-strong population live along the country's 430-kilometer (267-mile) coastal plain with its capital Georgetown actually sitting below sea level.  According to the CIA World Factbook, the economy is based 'largely on agriculture and extractive industries' with sugar, gold, bauxite, shrimp, timber and rice making up nearly 60% of GDP.  Terrible flooding in recent years has put an extra strain on the country's substantial network of irrigation and drainage canals and its water storage system called the East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC).  But with the help of outside partnerships the government is taking action against the rising tides.  The Conservancy Adaptation Project (CAP), supported by the World Bank and funded by the Global Environment Facility, aims to lead a comprehensive upgrade of the EDWC.  Guyana is also receiving financial help from the European Union to set up a mangrove restoration scheme.  Since 2010, the Guyana Mangrove Restoration Project together with 80 kilometers (50 miles) of manmade sea defences have been developed to protect homes and livelihoods from flooding.

Covering an area of 14 million square kilometres (5.4 million square miles) the Antarctic Ice Sheet is roughly the same size as the United States.  It stores an estimated 30 million cubic kilometres (7.2 million cubic miles) of ice and is up to five kilometres thick in some places.  If all the ice stored here melted, scientists estimate sea levels would rise by around 60 meters.  While the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (the largest section by far) remains relatively stable, other areas are witnessing significant melt.  The British Antarctic Survey ( (BAS) say that mean average temperatures on the Antarctic Peninsula in the north have risen sharply since records began 50 years ago.  Increases in mean air temperatures of around 2.8 degrees Celsius (around five degrees Fahrenheit) make it the most rapidly warming place in the southern hemisphere.  This area is relatively small and would contribute little to global sea level rise, but the West Antarctica Ice Sheet (WAIS) - which would add five meters to sea levels - is diminishing rapidly say the BAS, with coastal areas of the Amundsen Sea Sector thinning at a rate of one meter every year.

Rotterdam, Netherlands
The Netherlands is one of Europe's lowest lying nations and amongst the best prepared to deal with the threat of rising sea levels. Extensive flood barriers have protected the country's mainly flat landscape - half of which is below mean sea level -- since their implementation in the late 1950s. These structures stretch across the country's northern and western seaboards and are particularly fortified in and around port cities such as Rotterdam and The Hague. Over the years, these defences have been strengthened and augmented with more technologically complex modifications. The Maeslant barrier in Rotterdam -- which was completed in 1997 and uses a computerised system to calculate expected water levels, tweaking flood defences accordingly - is a testament to the sophisticated nature of Dutch anti-flood mechanisms. Further inland, hundreds of dikes and dams have been fashioned in the country's myriad inland waterways to strictly regulate and control the flow of canals and rivers. There are plans to upgrade these barriers in the coming years. A Dutch construction company has also begun to design and build houses that can cope with flooding by floating on water should these barriers ever be breached.

Venice, Italy
Venetian residents (and their many visitors) regularly contend with flood water lapping around their ankles (and higher) during the winter months. As sea levels rise and its buildings slowly sink (the city has subsided by around 25 centimeters over the past century), drastic measures are being implemented to save this architectural and cultural gem from the mire. Started in 2003, the $8 billion MOSE (Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico) project hopes to protect Venice from the worst of this tidal flooding by erecting 78 hinged steel gates. When a high tide is forecast, the hollow gates (measuring up to five meters thick and 20 meters wide) are filled with compressed air making them rise from the sea bed forming a protective barrier across the lagoon's three inlets. Another more recent solution to Venice's imperiled state has suggested that pumping water in to the increasingly compacted sediment beneath the city. According to scientists reporting in the journal Water Resources Research in late 2011, a decade's worth of continuous injection of seawater into the sediment could lift the city by as much as 30 centimeters.

Alexandria, Egypt
As the streets of Cairo have been transformed by revolution, rising sea levels have continued to quietly alter some of the country's most fragile ecosystems and cultural relics.  Saltwater from the Mediterranean Sea has already pushed up into the Nile Delta - home to more than three quarters of Egypt's population and over half of its agricultural production - according to the World Wildlife Fund.  This process has increased the salt content of groundwater used to irrigate crops, degrading the quality of surrounding farmland.  In coastal cities such as Alexandria, waters have visibly encroached on beaches and shorelines in recent years.  If left unchecked these developments will likely have a corrosive effect on the city's many historic buildings and monuments that date back to the times of Alexander the Great.  Concrete flood barriers have been erected to protect vulnerable shorelines while thousands of tons of sand have been added to beaches already succumbing to the advancing sea.  The prospect of creating man-made coral reefs in exposed coastal areas has also been suggested as a viable mitigation strategy in a study by the UK's University of Plymouth.

The Maldives
Rising sea levels are a particularly acute problem for the Maldives as its position as the world's lowest lying nation.  An archipelago of almost 1,200 islands scattered across a 249-square kilometres (96-square miles) of the Indian Ocean, the country has understandably been one of the most outspoken on the issue of rising sea levels.  The Maldives are only 2.4 meters above sea level at their highest point, meaning just a small increase could threaten the islands very existence.  A wide variety of mitigation and environmental restoration strategies have been explored in an effort to confront these dangers.  Both public and private reef regeneration projects have been authorized in an attempt to breathe new life into coral that can act as a natural barrier against sea level rises.  The possibility of evacuating the islands and buying land in either Sri Lanka, India or Australia to set up a new homeland has also been explored.  In 2009 the Maldivian government held under water cabinet meetings in land reclaimed by the sea to highlight the extent of coastal erosion.

The low lying and densely populated region of southern Bangladesh is extremely vulnerable to rising sea levels in the Bay of Bengal.  These dangers are amplified by the country's impoverished economic situation that ensures investment in expensive flood defences is nigh on impossible.  A 2010 study by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) claimed that Bangladesh could witness hordes of climate migrants leaving rural lands that are either submerged or no longer fertile because of increasingly saline waters.  The most likely destination for the displaced will be Bangladesh's already crowded cities, presenting yet more environmental challenges.  In spite of these difficulties the Bangladeshi government and local NGO's are attempting to implement strategies that will protect at-risk communities and help them adapt to their changing surroundings.  Farmers are being encouraged to rear animals that can cope with rising waters -- such as ducks instead of chickens -- and those who previously farmed rice or food stuffs requiring fresh water supply are being taught to grow crops that are more resilient.  The Bangladeshi government is also trying to attract international investment in a range of flood management and drainage schemes.

Guangzhou, China
Lying at the tip of the Pearl River Delta, Guangzhou is southern China's largest city with over 12 million residents. It is one of the country's main manufacturing hubs but faces severe threats to sea level rise.  The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development ranks it only second to Miami in future exposed assets - $3,357 billion by the 2070s.  Furthermore, the OECD estimated that 2.75 million of Guangzhou's population are exposed to coastal flooding. By the 2070s that number increases to more than 10 million.  Storm surges also 'greatly threaten' the economy of the wider Pearl River Delta region, according to the OECD. A 30cm (12 inches) increase in sea level will submerge an estimated 1,153 square kilometres (445 square miles), they predict.  The Chinese government's Second National Assessment Report on Climate Change published at the end of 2011 concluded that China's sea levels will rise by up to 130 millimeters over the next two decades.  These rises, according to the report, will submerge 18,000 square kilometres (6,950 square miles) of China's low-lying coastal land.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Vietnam will be the most seriously impacted country in East Asia according to a 2007 World Bank report. A five-meter rise would impact up to 16% of land, with acute difficulties along the Mekong Delta in the south and the Red River Delta to the north. A one-meter rise would impact around 11% of Vietnam's 87 million inhabitants, increasing to more than a third if sea levels rise by five meters, according to the World Bank. In 2009, the country's Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) published a range of scenarios for sea level rise and other climate-related events. A one-meter rise in sea level would wipe out almost a quarter of the Ho Chi Minh's land. Much of the country's rice production takes place in the wider Mekong Delta area, where a one-meter rise would swallow up nearly 40% of the land. As part of its climate change adaption plans, the Vietnamese government is examining ways of transforming irrigation in the Mekong Delta River.

Sydney, Australia

With around 80% of its 22 million citizens living on or near the coast, Australia is expected to experience 'significant impacts' from rising sea levels and storm surges, say OzCoasts, the government's online coastal information service. In a report published in 2009, the Australian government estimated that property worth a combined $156 billion(AUS$150 billion) was at risk. A one meter rise in sea levels would see shorelines retreat by between 50 and 100 meters, according to scientists. In the state of Queensland 250,000 properties are at risk, while in New South Wales (home to a third of the overall population) more than 200,000 properties are 'vulnerable.' The report recommended adopting a national policy that will coordinate building codes in coastal regions, along with a national evacuation and relocation strategy.

- CNN.

Water level visualizations: - data provided by NASA, Mapping: Ovi Maps, Google Maps

U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center, British Antarctic Survey, Aberystwyth University -UK, World Bank, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), U.S. National Park Service, Second National Assessment Report on Climate Change (2011) - China, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment - Vietnam, Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency - Australia

FIRE IN THE SKY: Daytime Fireball Explodes Over South Africa - Leaves Smoky Trail!

March 13, 2013 - SKY - Residents across Cape Town claimed to have sighted a meteorite on Tuesday after what appears to have been a fireball “exploded” in the sky.

File photo: A fireball blazed across the horizon, leaving a long white trail in its wake which could be seen as far as 200km away in Yekaterinburg, Moscow about two weeks ago.
It is said to have been sighted just after noon. Nicola Loaring, an outreach astronomer at the South African Astronomical Observatory, said they had received about four or five reports.
The green and blue light with a white tail that was reported to them appeared to be that of “a fireball, which is a bright meteor”.

Fireballs were caused by dust formed in space that enter Earth’s atmosphere.

“There are two meteor showers in March with one peaking on March 13 and this could be related to that.

Loaring said another meteor shower would start later this month and peak in April.”

“Meteor showers are best viewed in the morning. Up to eight an hour can be seen,” Loaring said.

People shouldn’t be alarmed since these were “common and predictable”.

Company director John Houston captured part of the event on camera while he was driving on the N1 from Stellenbosch.

There was a “huge” explosion that left a white cloud close to the Durbanville hills, he said. - IOL.

© LunarMeteoriteHunter / Google Earth
Initial Sighting Reports:
12 March 2013 - Hein Maij, Tulbagh, Western Cape, South Africa 12h30
5 seconds duration. East-West direction, I was facing South. Bright white light then explosion. Very white bright color.
12 March 2013 - Danni, Cape Town, SA 12:30
3-5 seconds duration. North-South direction. As bright as the Sun, it was white. It was burning and shooting down.
12 March 2013 - Leon Coetzee, Cape Town, SA 12:45
5 seconds duration. Southwest. Brilliant white colour, the whitest white, like a spot light. Part seemed to fall off. Very big white ball with long white tail. It looked like it was about 10 to 15 km away. Then an explosion, no more light just a huge ball of smoke. Most amazing thing I have ever seen in my life. Very exited. Don't know why it wasn't on the news. Didn't anybody else see it?????????
Photo taken through car windscreen of smoke "cloud" from meteor near Malmesbury, South Africa by Vriendelike G.
12 March 2013 - Ray Lowe, Somerset West, SA 12.30
10 seconds duration. West-east direction. Bright red & white colour, lots of cloud, no debris. It was same brightness as the sun.
12 March 2013 - Sandra Nortje, Hermanus, Western Cape, South Africa ~12:25 GMT
2-3 seconds duration. Southwest-Northeast direction. It had a yellowish tail. Less bright than the sun, more so than the moon. It had something of a split tail, brighter on the outsides than in the middle.
12 March 2013 - Jean Visser, Ashton, South Africa 12.30 GMT
I was driving from Montagu, SA to Ashton, SA and just 1km before Ashton, SA I saw this bright light on my right hand side. My eyes caught it immediately. It was this big fire ball coming down to earth with a lot of smoke at the end. I did tell people but they think I talk nonsense but on the other hand it was really really beautiful to see such a thing for 5 seconds.
- Lunar Meteorite Hunters.

Meteor. (AP).
The meteor that streaked across the sky over Cape Town is no cause for alarm because of its size, an astronomer has said.  "It's probably something like a pebble-sized piece of rock," Dr Nicola Loaring, outreach astronomer at the South African Astronomical Observatory, told News24.  She confirmed that based on reports, the object could be classed as a meteor.  "I've had about six reports in and just from those eyewitnesses; their descriptions - they described a bright white light with a white tail that shot across the sky in a couple of seconds - to me, personally, that definitely sounds like a meteor."  Meteor showers are often the result of the Earth passing through comet debris and the light show that results is when particles enter the Earth's atmosphere and burn up on their way.

Comet debris 
"The streak of light you see is actually emitted from the atmosphere and not the pebble or dust itself. The pebble travels so fast with so much energy that it excites the atmosphere, and when the atmosphere goes back to normal again, it has to get rid of that energy so it gives off energy in the form of light," said Loaring.  The gamma-Normid meteor is scheduled to peak around 15 March, but Loaring expressed doubt that the object seen on Tuesday could be related to this shower.  "Usually, when you've got a meteor shower, you have a number of meteors and they all appear to come from a particular constellation - in this case it would be the Norma constellation. This meteor may or may not be associated with the shower however the shower is best viewed looking south-east toward the constellation Norma between midnight and four am," she said.  Another astronomer explained that meteor showers are often the result comet debris.  "Basically what happens is that the comet breaks up and then the debris from the broken up comet spreads along its orbit. If it crosses Earth's orbit, we'll experience a meteor shower," said Dr Sarah Blyth of UCT.  Blyth will be one of the first astronomers to lead a team investigation using the MeerKAT (Karoo Array Telescope) in the Northern Cape province. - News24.

A bright, white beam of light with a long tail that move like lightning across the Peninsula on Tuesday, the phone lines to let astronomers unceasingly buzzing, The Citizen reported .  Even the city's disaster management department dr. Nicola Loaring, spokesman for the South African Astronomical Observatory, in Observatory called to make sure that everything is in order.  The fireball (a meteor the size of a marble) came about 12:30 on Signal Hill, "on the coast, and then in a north-easterly direction," she said after she caught calls.  More people downtown, Kraaifontein, Goodwood and Melkbosstrand phoned her. 

"It was a fireball that came through the atmosphere. The large and bright light is caused by the large amount of energy it produces. "  Hein Marais on the N7 near Malmesbury, said: "The light was so bright - if I did not have my sunglasses on the clock, I was blinded. It looked like someone welding. "  A Fireball is a small piece of rock from the solar system. Such rocks enters the earth's atmosphere regularly, but people do not like it mostly because it usually burn up in the atmosphere.  Because it moves so fast and therefore very hot gas gathering, it looks impressive and bigger than it really is. - NUUS24. [Translated]

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: NASA's GRACE Sees Major Water Losses In The Middle East - Tigris And Euphrates River Basin Has Lost Dead Sea-sized Quantity Of Water, "Among The Largest Freshwater Losses" Ever, Could Alter Earth's Mass In Particular Areas!

March 13, 2013 - MIDDLE EAST - Scientists using the twin gravity-measuring satellites of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) have found that a large portion of the Middle East lost freshwater reserves rapidly during the past decade.

The research team observed the Tigris and Euphrates river basins—including parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran—and found that 117 million acre feet (144 cubic kilometers) of fresh water was lost from 2003 to 2009. That amount is roughly equivalent to the volume of the Dead Sea. About 60 percent of the loss was attributed to the pumping of groundwater from underground reservoirs.

NASA Earth Observatory. Acquired September 7, 2006.

The two natural-color images above were acquired by the Landsat 5 satellite and show the shrinking of the Qadisiyah Reservoir in Iraq between September 7, 2006 and September 15, 2009. The first graph shows the elevation of the water in that reservoir between January 2003 and December 2009. The elevation is a proxy measurement for the total volume of water stored there; labels show the water elevation at the time of the satellite images.

NASA Earth Observatory. Acquired September 15, 2009.

The second graph shows the water storage for the entire study area as measured by GRACE from January 2003 to December 2009. The gray line depicts total water storage in the region—groundwater, surface water bodies, and soil moisture—while the green line depicts changes in surface water. The difference between those two lines reflects the change in water stored in underground aquifers (ground water). The total water storage shows a seasonal fluctuation, but also an overall downward trend, suggesting that groundwater is being pumped and used faster than natural processes can replenish it.

“GRACE data show an alarming rate of decrease in total water storage in the Tigris and Euphrates river basins, which currently have the second fastest rate of groundwater storage loss on Earth, after India,” said Jay Famiglietti, principal investigator of the study. “The rate was especially striking after the 2007 drought. Meanwhile, demand for freshwater continues to rise, and the region does not coordinate its water management because of different interpretations of international laws.”

NASA Earth Observatory. Acquired January 1, 2003 - December 31, 2009.

Obtaining ground-based data in Middle East can be difficult, so data from satellites such as GRACE are essential to providing a global picture of water storage trends. Within any given region on Earth, rising or falling water reserves alter the planet’s mass, influencing the gravity field of the area. By periodically measuring gravity in each region, the GRACE satellites tells us how water storage changes over time. (To learn more about GRACE’s ability to study fresh water on Earth, read The Gravity of Water.)

Variations in total water storage from normal, in millimeters, in the Tigris and Euphrates river basins, as measured by NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites, from January 2003 through December 2009. Reds represent drier conditions, while blues represent wetter conditions. The majority of the water lost was due to reductions in groundwater caused by human activities. By periodically measuring gravity regionally, GRACE tells scientists how much water storage changes over time. Image credit: NASA/UC Irvine/NCAR.

The researchers calculated that about one-fifth of the water losses in their Tigris-Euphrates study region came from snowpack shrinking and soil drying up, partly in response to a 2007 drought. Loss of surface water from lakes and reservoirs accounted for another fifth of the losses. The majority of the loss—approximately 73 million acre feet (90 cubic kilometers)—was due to reductions in groundwater. “That's enough water to meet the needs of tens of millions to more than a hundred million people in the region each year, depending on regional water-use standards and availability,” Famiglietti said.

© Shutterstock/Sadik Gulec.

The team was led by Famiglietti and Kate Voss of the University of California–Irvine (UCI) and Georgetown University, and included other researchers from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and the National Center for Atmospheric Research. - Earth Observatory.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Coronavirus - WHO Confirms 15th Case Of Deadly New Virus In Saudi Arabia!

March 13, 2013 - SAUDI ARABIA - A Saudi man infected with a deadly new virus from the same family as SARS has died, becoming the ninth patient in the world to be killed the disease which has so far infected 15, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.

A electron microscope image of a coronavirus is seen in this undated picture provided by the Health Protection Agency in London February 19, 2013.
Credit: Reuters/Health Protection Agency/Handout.

The 39-year-old developed symptoms of the novel coronavirus (NCoV) on February 24 and died on March 2, several days after being hospitalized, the WHO said in a disease outbreak update.

NCoV is from the same family of viruses as those that cause common colds and the one that caused the deadly outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that first emerged in Asia in 2003.

The new virus is not the same as SARS, but similar to it and also to other coronaviruses found in bats.

The WHO first issued an international alert in September after the virus infected a Qatari man in Britain who had recently been in Saudi Arabia.

Symptoms of NCoV include severe respiratory illness, fever, coughing and breathing difficulties.

"Preliminary investigation indicated that the (latest Saudi)patient had no contact with previously reported cases of NCoV infection," the WHO said. "Other potential exposures are under investigation."

Nine of the 15 people confirmed to have been infected with NCoV have died. Most cases have been in the Middle East or in patients who had recently traveled there.

Research by scientists in Europe has found that NCoV is well adapted to infecting humans and may be treatable with medicines similar to the ones used for SARS, which killed a tenth of the 8,000 people it infected.

The Geneva-based WHO said it was monitoring the situation closely and urged its member states to continue surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections and to carefully review any unusual patterns.

"WHO is currently working with international experts and countries where cases have been reported to assess the situation and review recommendations for surveillance and monitoring," it said, adding that national authorities should "promptly assess and notify" it of any new NCoV cases. - Reuters.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Volcano Discovery Report For March 12, 2013 - Updates On Etna, Tolbachik, Sakurajima, Paluweh, Yasur, Ruapehu, Popocatépetl, Santa María, Santiaguito, Pacaya, Fuego, Nevado del Ruiz, And Tungurahua!

March 13, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing report from the Volcano Discovery Group.

Etna's summit area in clouds (Radiostudio7 webcam).
Etna (Sicily, Italy): Views of the summit area have been limited due to mostly poor weather, but except for occasional weak glow from the New SE crater and Voragine, probably weak strombolian activity, there has not been any new major activity. Looking at the intervals of the past 7 paroxysms, it would be not surprising if an 8th one was to occur these days...

Something else interesting: INGV Catania has recently re-structured again their website and added new seismic data plots... [read more]

Tolbachik (Kamchatka): KVERT reports no changes at any of the volcanoes in Kamchatka. Tolbachik continues to erupt fluid lava and tremor has stayed at constant high levels (a bit higher than last weak).

Sakurajima (Kyushu, Japan): The volcano remains in a state of heightened activity, with many and relatively powerful vulcanian explosions. Yesterday alone, it produced at least SIX (6) explosions with ash plumes rising to 7-10,000 ft (2.1-3 km) altitude.

Paluweh (off Flores Island, Indonesia): Another relatively large explosion (and/or partial dome collapse) occurred this morning. According to local press, an explosion at around 10:00 am this morning, and followed by an earthquake at 10:15 local time produced an ash plume rising 1500-2000 m above the island, drifting east.

Darwin VAAC reported the volcanic ash plume at 13,000 ft (4 km) altitude and extending 20 nautical miles to the east... [read more]

Yasur (Tanna Island, Vanuatu): Strombolian activity has been comparably low recently and the volcanic activity level has been set to 1.

Ruapehu (North Island): The latest lake water temperatures readings and seismic recordings showed no particular signs of unrest in recent weaks and the volcanic alert status level has been reduced back to normal=green.

Small explosion with incandescent bombs visible from Popocatépetl on 10 March morning.
Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): Activity has remained stable, with 1-2 weak weak to moderate steam-gas-ash explosions per hour, some of which generated small ash plumes. Incandescent bombs can sometimes be seen ejected at night.

Santa María / Santiaguito (Guatemala): Activity remains essentially unchanged, and overall low. Explosions (1-2 per hour) from the dome produce ash plumes up to about 800 m high, and the viscous block lava flows descending the sides of the dome produce weak to moderate avalanches.

Pacaya (Guatemala): No new explosive activity or other surface activity except degassing / steaming has been observed over the past days.

Fuego (Guatemala): Activity remains weak, with few (8 counted during 10-11 Mar) strombolian explosions producing light-gray ash plumes rising about 500 m.

Steaming Nevado del Ruiz yesterday morning (INGEOMINAS).
Nevado del Ruiz (Colombia): A phase of increased degassing and weak ash venting is taking place. INGEOMINAS observed a continuous steam-gas-ash plume rising about 300 m high and drifting southwest.
This activity was accompanied by weak volcanic tremor and volcanic-tectonic earthquakes, located northeast of Arenas Crater with magnitudes less than 1.5 on the Richter scale at depths less than 3 km.

Current seismic signal from Tungurahua (RETU station, IG).
Tungurahua (Ecuador): Strombolian activity at moderate intensity continues, with incandescent lava bombs falling onto the outer slopes and rolling down. A strong SO2 plume is drifting southwest from the volcano and minor ash fall occurred in the areas of El Manzano, Choglontús and Pillate.

- Volcano Discovery.

MASS ANIMAL DIE-OFF: Number Of Dead Pigs Flooding Shanghai River Rises To Nearly 6,000!

March 13, 2013 - CHINA - The number of dead pigs found floating in a river flowing into Shanghai has reached nearly 6,000. The Shanghai municipal government said in an online announcement that 5,916 swine carcasses had been retrieved from Huangpu River by 3 p.m. Tuesday, but added that municipal water remains safe.

The Shanghai government announced on Tuesday that some 5,916 swine carcasses have been pulled from the Huangpu River. AP.
The surge in the dumping of dead pigs - believed to be from pig farms in the upstream Jiaxing area in the neighboring Zhejiang province - has followed police campaigns to curb the illicit trade of pork products harvested from diseased pigs.  Shanghai authorities said the city has taken proper measures to safely dispose of the pig carcasses and that the city's water plants are stepping up efforts to disinfect public water and testing for six common swine viruses.  

City officials say the municipal drinking water is still safe to consume.  Eugene Hoshiko/AP.

Officials believe the carcasses were dumped by farmers in a neighboring province. AP.
The Shanghai government reported no major swine epidemic, widespread pig deaths or dumping of pigs within the city boundaries of Shanghai.  The state-run China News news agency said Monday that Zhejiang province had reported no swine epidemic but that a provincial agriculture official blamed cold weather for the deaths of the pigs.  

Authorities check the dead pigs, not seen, which have been pulled out from the river on Monday. Eugene Hoshiko/AP.
The official, who was identified only by his family name Gu, told China News that the practice of dumping dead pigs into rivers lingers among some pig farmers in the city of Jiaxing. "We are still introducing the practice of collecting dead pigs," Gu was quoted as saying.  Shanghai authorities have been pulling out the swollen and rotting pigs, some with their internal organs visible, since Friday - and revolting images of the carcasses in news reports and online blogs have raised public ire against local officials.  Beijing-based writer Li Mingsheng expressed shock when he learned of the latest number of dead pigs in Shanghai.  "This is not only an environmental issue but also a public moral problem," Li wrote. "What's been polluted is not only Shanghai's river water but also the spirit of our country people." - NY Daily News.

WATCH: Dead Pigs Flooding Shanghai River Rises To Nearly 6,000.

ICE AGE NOW: Global Cooling Across The World - Heavy Snow In Europe Sparks Widespread Chaos And Disruptions Leaving Thousands Stranded!

March 13, 2013 - EUROPE - Snow has been causing travel mayhem in parts of Europe, leaving passengers stranded at airports, railway stations, on the roads and at sea.  Frankfurt Airport - Europe's third busiest - was shut down by heavy snowfall until further notice.  The airport had already cancelled more than 100 flights and reported many delays after the German city saw about 12cm (5ins) of snow.  It was not immediately clear how many more of the scheduled 1,200 flights would be cancelled due to the closure.

Rescue workers walk past the wreckage of cars following an accident on highway A45 between Giessen and Hanau near the city of Woelfersheim.
More than 100 cars were involved in a multiple pile-up.
More than 100 cars were involved in a multiple pile-up.
Travel in France was also affected, with a quarter of flights out of Paris cancelled by the city's two main airports - Charles de Gaulle and Orly.  The nearby Beauvais airport, serving mainly low-cost airlines, cancelled all flights.  At Orly, a Tunisair flight carrying 140 people from Djerba skidded off the runway on landing but no one was injured, an airport source said.  Several roads in the capital were closed too, while the French rail network SNCF advised rail users to stay at home because of "unfavourable weather conditions".

Scenes from the massive pile-up.

Scenes from the massive pile-up.

Scenes from the massive pile-up.

Scenes from the massive pile-up.
The unseasonable snowfall - coming only eight days before the official start of spring - also knocked out power to thousands of people in France and left hundreds of motorists stranded in their cars.  About 80,000 homes in the north and northwest of France were without power, following snowfalls of up to 60cm (24ins).  More than 2,000 people were stranded in their cars overnight as heavy snow paralysed roads in Normandy and Brittany, with many spending the night in emergency shelters.  "There are cars in front, there are cars behind. We're in a film, it's like the end of the world," said one trapped driver.  A traffic accident near Lille injured 14 people and a 58-year-old homeless man was found dead, presumably from the cold, outside a building in the town of Saint-Brieuc in Brittany.  Across the border in Belgium, motorists were hit by record traffic jams with many caught in treacherous conditions and battling icy roads, strong winds and reduced visibility due to snowdrifts.

Tailbacks on the E429 highway near in Belgium.

A blanket of snow covers Paris.
 Rail services were also affected - many cancelled - including some of the Thalys high-speed trains to Paris, Germany and the Netherlands, leaving thousands of commuters stranded on snowed-in platforms.  Long traffic jams because of snow and ice also snaked along motorways in the southern Netherlands, hampering travel to and from Belgium after more than 10cm (4ins) of snow overnight.  Eurostar suspended cross-Channel train services between London and Paris following heavy snow.  "Due to extremely difficult weather conditions in northern France and Belgium, with a major part of the high-speed train tracks closed, Eurostar trains have been suspended until further notice," it said.  "Our advice to passengers is not to travel today and not to come to our stations. Exchanges and refunds will be available to affected passengers."

People walk under heavy snow falls on Place de la Concorde in Paris.

Many flights hsve been cancelled at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.
 About 500 passengers on a ferry from Ireland to France were forced to spend the night anchored off shore after the vessel failed to dock due to high seas.  A number of French children on a school trip to Ireland were among those on board Irish Ferries vessel Oscar Wilde, which made numerous attempts to dock in Cherbourg in the north west of France  Passenger Caroline Mulreany told Sky News: "This boat, I feel, is in danger of a serious accident.  "Maybe more help is needed and they are not asking for it. The boat right now is swaying really, really bad and crashing in and out of the water.  "Everyone on board is violently sick and they don't have a doctor or anti-sick tablets."

Pedestrians walk through the snow in Cologne, western Germany.
 The company said the vessel had attempted to dock four times without success.  "The vessel remains off the port and it is expected that a further attempt will not be made until circa lunchtime today when some weather improvement is expected (or earlier, if possible)," it said.  "To complicate matters further, it is understood that the port area and roads around Cherbourg are gripped by snow and icy conditions.  "Save for the obvious discomfort of being delayed from going ashore, everyone on board is safe and reported to be in good spirits, are comfortable and are being well catered for on board.  In the docking attempt yesterday, one crew member suffered what is understood to be a fractured leg. It was not possible to evacuate him to hospital. He is being attended to by two doctors who were travelling as passengers.  The vessel is not due to make its scheduled return sailing to Rosslare until later today and no Ireland-bound passengers have yet been affected by the delay," it added. - SKY News.

WATCH: Snow causes travel disruption in Europe.

SOLAR WATCH: Chance of Storms - Geomagnetic Storm Category G1 Predicted!

March 13, 2013 - SUN - NOAA forecasters estimate a 65% chance of polar geomagnetic storms on March 15th when a CME might deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field. The CME was launched by a filament of solar magnetism that erupted on March 12th. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras when the cloud arrives

CHANCE OF STORMS: Space Weather Message Code: WATA20, Serial Number: 513, Issue Time: 2013 Mar 12 2041 UTC

Geomagnetic Storm Category G1 Predicted

Highest Storm Level Predicted by Day:
Mar 13:  None (Below G1)   Mar 14:  None (Below G1)   Mar 15:  G1 (Minor)


NOAA Space Weather Scale descriptions can be found at

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

MAGNETIC ERUPTION ON MARCH 12th: A magnetic filament in the sun's northern hemisphere slowly erupted on March 12th for more than two hours around 1107 UT. Extreme ultraviolet telescopes onboard NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the action:

WATCH: Filament Eruption - March 12, 2013.

WATCH: Filament Eruption - March 12, 2013.

The source of the explosion was active region AR1690 on the sun's central meridian. Although AR1690 is almost directly facing our planet, debris from the blast will mostly miss Earth. A CME produced by the explosion is traveling north of the sun-Earth line. Nevertheless, the southern fringe of the CME might hit Earth's magnetic field on March 15th. NOAA forecasters estimate a 65% chance of polar geomagnetic storms when the cloud arrives.

A quick release of energy was just observed around Sunspot 1689 in the southern hemisphere. The minor solar flare measured C3.6 and peaked at 22:46 UTC. Image by SDO.

Long duration, low level C-Class flare, this time originating around Sunspot 1692 in the northeast quadrant. So far there does not appear to be much in the way of released plasma from the eruption site.  Image by SDO.
SECOND ERUPTION: Another long duration, low level C-Class flare, this time originating near Sunspot 1692 in the northeast quadrant. The latest eruption did generate somewhat of a Coronal Mass Ejection. A plasma cloud is now visible in the latest STEREO Behind COR2 imagery. The latest CME Model released by the Goddard Space Flight Center is calling for a glancing blow impact on March 14th. A majority of the plasma cloud from this morning is heading north, but a small portion of the CME may lead to a marginal increase in geomagnetic activity at very high latitudes.

Eruption on the Sun.
The latest CME model released by the Goddard Space Flight Center.
SUNSPOTS & CORONAL HOLES: Sunspot complex AR1690-1691 is crackling with long-duration C-class solar flares.

Current sunspots on the stellar object.
There are no large equatorial coronal holes on the Earthside of the sun. Credit: SDO/AIA.

SOURCES: Space Weather | Solar Ham | NOAA/SWPC.