Friday, March 15, 2013

WORLD WAR III: Countdown To Armageddon - United States Deploys Ground-Based Missile Interceptors As North Korea Steps Up Threats; North Korea Fires Missiles Into The Sea Of Japan; North Korea Under Massive Cyber Attack; President Obama Intimates US To Strike Iran In A Year If Diplomacy Fails; Israel Claims That Iran Has Force Of 50,000 In Syria And That Assad Is Ready To Use Chemical Weapons; Russia Warships Dock In Beirut Port Awaiting Departure To Syria!

March 15, 2015 - UNITED STATES - The U.S. is deploying 14 new ground-based missile interceptors in Alaska to counter renewed nuclear threats from North Korea and Iran, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday.

The new interceptors will be based at Fort Greely, an Army launch site about 100 miles southeast of Fairbanks, Alaska, and are projected to be fully deployed by 2017, Hagel said. The additions will bring the U.S.-based ground interceptor deployment from 30 to 44, including four that are based in California.
That will boost U.S. missile defense capability by 50 percent and "make clear to the world that the United States stands firm against aggression," he said in a briefing at the Pentagon.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday, March 14,
that 14 new ground-based missile interceptors would be
in place by 2014. Win McNamee / Getty Images.
The announcement comes as North Korea has been making bellicose threats to void the armistice that ended the Korean War and launch a nuclear attack on the U.S. The U.S. and South Korea began annual military drills this week despite the North Korean threats.

Hagel said the U.S. would also shift some "resources," which he didn't specify, from the delayed Aegis anti-missile program in Europe to U.S.-based defenses, saying the Aegis program was "lagging" because of reduced congressional funding. And he reiterated previously announced plans to add a second U.S. anti-ballistic missile radar installation in Japan.

WATCH: North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is trying to prove his strength, causing experts to worry that Pyongyang's threats could get out of control. NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports.

Taking all of the moves together, "we will be able to add protection against missiles from Iran sooner while also proving protection against the threat from North Korea," he said.  Even before the announcement, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., a member of the Armed Services Committee, criticized the news, saying it was too little and too late.  "I applaud the Obama administration's decision, but it shouldn't have taken the predictable saber-rattling from North Korea to bring this about," Ayotte said in a statement Friday.   Pointing to Iran's nuclear program, Ayotte called on the Obama administration to "move expeditiously to construct an East Coast missile defense site."  "Americans living in the Eastern United States should have the same level of missile defense protection as those in the West," she said. - NBC News.

North Korea Fires Missiles Into Sea Of Japan.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with his generals.
The United States is set to bolster its missile defences in the face of growing threats from North Korea which sparked outrage today by firing missiles into the sea of Japan.  The controversial move comes in response to recent aggression from the pariah state led by tyrant dictator Kim Jong-un  Earlier today the communist nation caused international anger when it reportedly fired short-range missiles close to Japan.  Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel is expected to reveal tonight the deployment of 14 ground based missile interceptors on the US West Coast. 

The move will also involve the re-opening of a missile field in Alaska, and some based in California.  It would take two years for all of the systems to come online.  Today's short-range missiles launches into the sea of Japan are the latest in a string of aggressive acts by Kim Jong-un and is sure to further escalate tensions in the region.  And although no one is thought to have been killed the missile firing has enraged the international community.  It comes just a week after Kim Jong-un vowed to launch a nuclear strike on the US and a month after they conducted secret underground nuclear tests, causing a huge earthquake.  The missiles used in this firing are presumed to be the KN-02 short-range type, which have a reach of about 75 miles.  Details were apparently leaked to a South Korean news agency by a source within the South’s military.  They said: “The launch was seen as testing its capability for short-range missiles.  “It seemed to be conducted on a military-unit level, not at a national level.”  This would apparently indicate that the launch was not ordered by Kim Jong Un directly.  - The Sun.

North Korea Under Massive Cyber Attack.
North Korea has fallen victim to a massive cyber attack since Wednesday morning, a senior South Korean government official said. He added Seoul is trying to find out who is behind it.  "Internet resources of the country have come under a powerful hacker attack from abroad," Russia's ITAR-TASS news agency, which has a branch in Pyongyang, reported on Wednesday night. The country's websites apparently all went offline until late Thursday afternoon.  They included propaganda outlets like the Rodong Sinmun, the KCNA news agency and Naenara, which are blocked in South Korea.  An expert at a government-funded think tank in Seoul said it is unlikely that an attack on this scale was launched by an individual hacker since all websites with North Korea-based servers were affected and the attack lasted for two days.  The official insisted the South Korean government has nothing to do with it.  "It's inconceivable that the Internet network of the North has been under hacker attack for such a long period of time," said Ryu Dong-ryeol at the Police Science Institute. "It's likely that the regime has staged the incident itself as a way out of its current international impasse." - CHOSUN.

Obama Intimates US To Strike Iran In A Year If Diplomacy Fails.
US President Barack Obama is interviewed on Channel 2 News,
Thursday, March 14 (photo credit: image capture Channel 2)
Iran can produce a nuclear weapon in just over a year and diplomatic efforts have just less than that to halt Iran’s drive to the bomb, US President Barack Obama said Thursday, intimating that should diplomatic efforts fail this year or early next year, America will be forced to carry out military action against Iran.  Contrary to statements by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the moment of truth concerning Iran’s nuclear program was spring 2013, Obama said that the US estimates that Iran can produce a bomb only in about a year given its current rate of progress. “There is a window, not an infinite period of time, a window of time where we can resolve this diplomatically,” Obama said. ”Right now we think that it would take over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon, but we obviously don’t want to cut it too close.”  Speaking in an interview on Israel’s Channel 2, ahead of his three-day visit to Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian territories next week, Obama emphasized that he has been “crystal clear” that a nuclear-armed Iran was a “red line,” and that the US was committed to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon with which it could threaten Israel or trigger a regional arms race.  Though he said he prefers a diplomatic resolution to the international standoff with Iran over its unsanctioned nuclear program, Obama said that strikes on Iranian military targets remain on the table.  “If we can resolve it diplomatically, that’s a more lasting solution,” Obama said, but added: “When I that say all options are on the table, all options are on the table. And the US obviously has significant capabilities.”  “We’ve set up the toughest sanctions ever; it’s having a significant effect… on Iran’s economy, but that has an impact in terms of how they think about both the costs and benefits of pursuing a nuclear program,” the president said.  “They’re not yet at the point, I think, where they’ve made a fundamental decision to get right with the international community and the IAEA and the UN resolutions that they’ve been violating, but I do think that they’re recognizing that there’s a severe cost for them to continue down the path that they’re on, and that there’s a door open.” - Times of Israel.

Iran Has Force Of 50,000 In Syria, Claims Israel.
Maj Gen Kochavi said Iran’s nuclear programme
had been slowed but not sufficiently
Major General Aviv Kochavi said Tehran had provided the funds for the army which had then been trained by Hizbollah, the Lebanese Shiite group which is a close ally of the Islamic regime. It planned to expand the force to 100,000 men, he said.  Speaking at the annual Inter-Disciplinary Conference in Herzliya, Maj Gen Kochavi said Iran and Hizbollah had supported Mr Assad in the two-year civil war that has cost an estimated 70,000 because they were fearful of losing a strategic ally. But they were developing contingency plans for the day when he would fall from power.  “The damages of the imminent fall of Syria are very high for both Iran and Hezbollah,” he said.  “Iran is losing a sole ally in the region surrounding Israel. It will lose the ability to transfer weaponry through Syria to Hizbollah.  "Iran and Hizbollah are also preparing for the day after Assad’s fall, when they will use this army to protect their assets and interest in Syria.” - Telegraph.

Israel Intelligence Chief Claims That Assad Is Ready To Use Chemical Weapons.
IDF Home Front Command soldiers take part in a 2011
defense drill simulating a chemical attack
(photo credit: Gili Yaari/Flash 90)
Israel’s military intelligence chief on Thursday said Syria’s embattled president, Bashar Assad, is preparing to use chemical weapons.  Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi told a security conference in the coastal town of Herzliya that Assad is stepping up his offensive against rebels trying to oust him. He claimed Assad is making advanced preparations to use chemical weapons, but has not yet given the order to deploy them. He did not disclose information about why he thinks Assad is preparing to use them.  Kochavi spoke for the better part of an hour, detailing the effects on Israel of the transformation of the Middle East in recent years.  Kochavi said that across the region, a lack of water, a rising demand for energy and an increasing difficulty in providing food for civilians, coupled with rising religious extremism and the overthrow of the long-enduring dictatorships, have thrown the region into profound tumult, creating “a completely different Middle East.”  The four primary Muslim powers in the region — Turkey, Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia — are all governed by religious rule, and Israel, “for the first time in decades,” faces strife on four of its borders — Syria, Lebanon, Sinai and Gaza.  Increasingly, continued Kochavi, the Islamist groups on Israel’s borders were veering away from global jihad and toward “local jihad.”  In Syria, the air force is flying 40-50 sorties per day against civilians. The price of bread has gone up sevenfold over the past year. Oil production is down 40 percent. The army is able to draft only 20 percent of each recruited class. Some 45,000 troops have defected. Morale is low, the structure of command is weak, the troops are scattered. Finally, 11 of 17 border crossings are currently in rebel hands.  “Syria as a whole state no longer exists,” Kochavi claimed.  Israel has long expressed concerns that Assad’s stockpile of chemical weapons could end up in the hands of groups hostile to Israel like Hezbollah or al-Qaeda-inspired organizations.  Israel has kept out of Syria’s civil war, but it is concerned that violence could spill over the border into northern Israel. - Times of Israel.

Russia Warships Dock In Beirut Port Awaiting Departure To Syria.
Three Russia warships docked on Thursday in Beirut Port, and al-Mayadeen television reported that they will stay in Lebanese waters for three days before departing to Syria.  "The warships carry 700 soldiers and are planning to stay in Mediterranean waters for three days,” al-Mayadeen said, adding that they will then sail to the Syrian port of Tartus.  Russia's emergencies ministry on Tuesday had airlifted 103 Russians and citizens of former Soviet republics from Syria amid continuing violence in the strife-torn country and on February 19, Syrian authorities announced that it will send four ships to the Mediterranean, in anticipation of a possible evacuation of Russia expats in the country.  Moscow has airlifted small groups of its citizens from Syria on at least two prior occasions.  Russia has vetoed three rounds of U.N. Security Council sanctions against President Bashar Assad and has said that the Syrian strongman must be taken at his word when he says he has no intention to quit.  It is one of the only bakers of the government in Syria, where the U.N. says more than 70,000 people have been killed in an uprising launched two years ago. - Naharnet.

SOLAR WATCH: Sunspot 1692 Erupts With Earth-Directed Coronal Mass Ejection - Geomagnetic Storm Category G2 Predicted!

March 15, 2013 - THE SUN - As expected, a coronal mass ejection (CME) hit Earth's magnetic field on March 15th at approximately 0500 UT. The impact was weak, but conditions for geomagnetic storming could develop as Earth passes through the CME's wake. High latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras on March 15th and 16th.

POSSIBLE EARTH-DIRECTED CME: A magnetic filament snaking around sunspot AR1692 erupted on March 15th at about 0600 UT. The slow explosion, which took hours to unfold, produced an M1-class solar flare and a bright CME. SOHO (the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) captured the CME just as it was leaving the sun:

WATCH: Full Halo CME - March 15, 2013.

WATCH: H-Alpha movie by the Learmonth, Australia observatory showing what has the potential to be a significant eruption around Sunspot 1692.

GEOMAGNETIC STORM CATEGORY G2 PREDICTED: According Code WATA30 from the NOAA / Space Weather Prediction Center, a solar watch is now on for a Geomagnetic Storm Category G2.

Highest Storm Level Predicted by Day:
Mar 16:  G1 (Minor)   Mar 17:  G2 (Moderate)   Mar 18:  None (Below G1)


Potential Impacts: Area of impact primarily poleward of 55 degrees Geomagnetic Latitude.
Induced Currents - Power grid fluctuations can occur. High-latitude power systems may experience voltage alarms.
Spacecraft - Satellite orientation irregularities may occur; increased drag on low Earth-orbit satellites is possible.
Radio - HF (high frequency) radio propagation can fade at higher latitudes.
Aurora - Aurora may be seen as low as New York to Wisconsin to Washington state.

NOAA Space Weather Scale descriptions can be found at

A full-halo Coronal Mass Ejection, directed almost squarely towards Earth.

A 10cm radio burst indicates that the electromagnetic burst associated with a solar flare at the 10cm wavelength was double or greater than the initial 10cm radio background. This can be indicative of significant radio noise in association with a solar flare. This noise is generally short-lived but can cause interference for sensitive receivers including radar, GPS, and satellite communications.

LONG DURATION ERUPTION AND EARTH-DIRECTED CME: A long duration and potentially significant eruption was observed early Friday morning around Sunspot 1692. The eruption peaked at M1.2 and generated a Full-Halo Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). Based on the location of the eruption site and new imagery from Lasco C2, there is a good chance the CME is almost squarely directed towards Earth. This could lead to Geomagnetic Storming within 24-48 hours.

CME FORECAST UPDATE: The WSA-Enlil Solar Wind Prediction model has been updated to include the Coronal Mass Ejection from the long duration M1.2 event around Sunspot 1692 this morning. The fast moving cloud should directly impact Earth by tomorrow evening. The predicted Solar Wind speed past Earth is expected to exceed 800 km/s as per the model. Geomagnetic Storming which could lead to Aurora displays will be possible.

SUMMARY: 10cm Radio Burst
Begin Time: 2013 Mar 15 0631 UTC
Maximum Time: 2013 Mar 15 0649 UTC
End Time: 2013 Mar 15 0651 UTC
Duration: 20 minutes
Peak Flux: 150 sfu

The CME track released by the Goddard Space Flight Center is similar to the WSA-Enlil forecast released earlier this morning by NOAA. A direct hit tomorrow could lead to strong geomagnetic storming and widespread aurora.

Geomagnetic activity near our poles is currently low, however that could change by tomorrow night once a fast moving CME is expected to sweep past Earth. A geomagnetic storm watch has been issued by the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center. They are calling for Moderate G2 Level Geomagnetic storm conditions heading into Sunday (UTC time).

Sunspot AR1692 was involved in an M1-class sola flare on March 15th. Solar activity is picking up. 

Credit: SDO/HMI.
Solar wind flowing from this coronal hole could reach Earth on March 19-20.
Credit: SDO/AIA.

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

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Ice Age Now, The Ice Fields Of GUERNSEY - Record-Breaking Cold Spell Sees Rare 8 Foot High Snowdrifts Hit What Is Usually One Of The United Kingdom's Warmest Spots; Over 15,000 Tons Of Snow Swamp Airport?!

March 15, 2013 - UNITED KINGDOM - It describes itself as the warmest corner of the British Isles ... not that you’d know it from this picture.  The worst snow storms in 26 years have caused havoc on the Channel Islands this week, leaving drifts up to 8ft deep. 

Wintry: These are the incredible scenes of 8ft snow drifts which wreaked havoc in the holiday isle of Guernsey - the warmest corner of the UK.

The airport on Guernsey had to be shut for two days while more than 15,000 tons of snow were removed from the runway.     The islands caught the same storms that crippled northern France, where shoulder-deep drifts led to Channel Tunnel trains being cancelled and long queues on the M20 as lorries waited for delayed ferries.

Although most of the Guernsey and Jersey snow is now melting, weather men predict another cold snap next week. This picture was taken by Danielle Stonebridge, 21, a Guernsey resident and part- time photographer, of her father Dave, 61. She said: ‘I have never seen snow like this before, my dad can remember something like this when he was around ten years old, but there is just so much of it. It brings the child out in me and I have been out in the snow playing, it has been great.

Deep: The Channel Island has ground to a halt over the past few days following the worst snow storms in decades.

Snowy: These pictures were taken by Danielle Stonebridge, 21, of her father Dave, 61.

Although it is hard to get around, a five minute journey took me three hours, the roads are absolute carnage.’ The blizzard conditions were the worst seen on the islands for almost three decades, the senior forecaster at Guernsey Met Office said. Martin Crozier added: ‘You have to go back to January 1987 to have the sort of depth of snow and drifting.

‘This one has thrown up some enormous drifts which I don’t think we had in 1987 so people will compare it to the 1970s and even 1963.’ On mainland Britain, things look a little more promising with temperatures set to rise slightly over the weekend.  But the respite may be over quickly as heavy rain and overnight frosts are forecast by Tuesday accompanied by a return of the biting easterly winds that brought temperatures recently down to as low as minus 8C.

Bleak: The unseasonably cold weather was still felt across Britain today after temperatures plummeted overnight to -8C. Although conditions were not as bad as this in Guernsey.

Freezing: Many people woke up to work this morning to find heavy frost on gardens and windscreens. Temperatures in Teesdale fell to -7C last night.

Cold: Britain was still feeling the unseasonably cold weather today after temperatures plummeted overnight. Bob Ripley, 62, from Richmond, looks at the icicles at The Bow Lee Beck at Gibsons Cave in Teesdale.

Stunning: This picture of The Bow Lee Beck at Gibsons Cave in Teesdale looked like it could have been taken in the middle of December.

Chris Burton, forecaster for Meteogroup, warned that though not as bitter as the past week, temperatures are ‘definitely not warming up anytime soon’. He said: ‘It will be a touch milder over the next couple of days but still cold for the time of year. ‘It will remain unsettled with quite heavy rain on Friday and this will still be cold enough to form sleet and snow on higher grounds.

‘There are hints that there could be another cold spell developing next week, certainly enough to make overnight frosts quite likely. It’s definitely not warming up any time soon.’ - Daily Mail.

EXTREME WEATHER: Very Strong Cross-Country Storm To Deliver Snow, Storms And Flooding Across The United States - Could Disrupt Travel From Northwest To Northeast!

March 15, 2013 - UNITED STATES - A storm forecast to roll ashore in the Pacific Northwest Saturday will spread a swath of snow, rain, thunderstorms and wind across a large part of the nation next week.

The storm will be strong enough at times to cause travel disruptions, flooding and sporadic power outages from wind, rain, heavy snow and thunderstorms.

The northern Cascades and northern Rockies will be the first to get snow from the storm, where over a foot can accumulate in the high country over the weekend. The snow can dip as low as Snoqualmie Pass on I-90 Saturday night into Sunday.

During Sunday, the storm will emerge east of the Rockies. By then, it will throw snow and gusty wind over the Plains of Montana and North Dakota with portions of I-94 being affected. Local whiteout conditions are possible at times.

The worst of the storm will stay north of Denver as discussed on earlier this week.

As the caboose of Alberta Clipper storms exits the East later this weekend, the new cross-country storm will already be putting down heavy snow over part of the northern Rockies and northern Plains.

Sunday night and Monday, the storm will begin to focus over the Midwest. Windblown snow is possible over portions of Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Meanwhile, rain and thunderstorms will be gathering farther south over the Ohio and lower Mississippi valleys.

The snow can be intense in some areas across the north, while the storms and downpours can be quite heavy farther south. The snow across the north could result in significant travel issues; the rain in the south could be heavy enough to cause incidents of flooding.

The track of the storm will determine whether or not heavy snow swings as far south as Chicago and Detroit. Minneapolis appears to be in line for a heavy snowfall.

After the storm reaches the Midwest, it may split into two parts Monday night and Tuesday with one center swinging toward the eastern Great Lakes and a new center developing near or east of the central Appalachians.

At this point, a second area of drenching rain is possible over portions of the mid-Atlantic Tuesday, spreading into southeastern New England. For all intents and purposes, it appears this storm will be a rain producer for much of the I-95 mid-Atlantic. However, low visibility and low ceilings, combined with locally gusty wind, could lead to flight delays.

Showers and thunderstorms are likely to affect the Southeast, including areas in need of rain from South Carolina to northern Florida. There is a possibility that some of the storms will become severe enough to cause damage, however.

Exactly how that second, new low pressure area tracks and strengthens will determine the extent of snow from the central Appalachians to interior and northern New England.

The greatest potential for heavy snow exists from parts of central and northern Pennsylvania to upstate New York, northern New England and neighboring Canada. However, depending on how much warm air is circulating around the storm (and there is likely to be a strong circulation with a great deal of wind), the area of snow could be smaller than this or be mixed with rain for a time over a large part of the same area.

More Problems Likely with Next Week's Storm
Because of snowfall over the winter and recent rain, there is the risk of flooding problems with the storm over the Northeast, in particular over New England. Some streams and rivers may rise to bank full. Unprotected areas prone to flooding in the spring will want to monitor this storm.

As far as coastal flooding and beach erosion are concerned, with the track of the secondary storm anticipated, the greatest risk is for New England but may not be limited to eastern Massachusetts. Southeast winds could drive some water toward Long Island, the South Coast of New England and farther north along the New England coast. Fortunately, the astronomical impact will be minimal with the moon near the first quarter stage around the time of the storm.

As previously stated, the storm will generate a significant amount of wind. Wind on the back side is likely to be greater for most areas than on the front side of the storm, especially from the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes to the Ohio Valley, Southeast and mid-Atlantic, where flight delays are possible Tuesday night and Wednesday. This includes Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City and Boston.

It is also possible the winds could be strong enough to cause sporadic power outages in these areas and on the front side of the storm in portions of New England, and in general in the heavy, wet snow areas of the interior Northeast.

The storm system will create another big southward dip in the jet stream over the northeastern part of the nation, reinforcing cold air and favoring snow showers in a number of locations for the rest of next week. - AccuWeather.

WATCH: New Winter Storm Next Week?

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Montserrat Volcano Poses A Constant Danger To Island's Inhabitants - Even When It Is Not Erupting, Say Scientists!

March 15, 2013 - MONTSERRAT - New research has found evidence of previously unknown eruptions and landslide deposits. And some of the landslides occurred when the volcano was not considered to be erupting.

'It seems Montserrat was more active than we previously thought,' says Dr Jessica Trofimovs from Queensland University of Technology, who led the research.

The international team, which included researchers from NERC's National Oceanography Centre, mapped the volcano's eruption history by taking cores of sediment from the surrounding ocean, bringing together ten years of research into these sediment deposits.

The Soufrière Hills volcano (French Sulphur Hills) is an active complex stratovolcano with many lava domes forming its summit on the Caribbean island of Montserrat.

The Soufriere Hills volcano in Montserrat has been erupting since 1995. In that time it has built a dome of lava so large that it regularly collapses, causing huge avalanches of hot rock and gas called pyroclastic flows.

The volcano is so unstable that large landslide events called mass flows, lead to the sides of the volcano falling into the ocean. By building the eruption history, the team showed these mass flows happened during times where they had thought the volcano was resting.

'We're seeing this evidence of two styles of instability. One associated with eruptions and another where the flanks of these islands go unstable and slump,' says Professor Stephen Sparks, co-author of the paper, from the University of Bristol.

Previous studies had mapped the volcano's history using material from eruptions which ended up on land. The current study went into more detail by examining the material from the volcano which finished underwater.

'75 per cent of erupted material ends up in the sea. On land, eruptions are buried or eroded away by the next eruption,' explains Trofimovs. 'But in the sea they form clear layers that we can date in order to get a good eruption history.' 'This expedition has given us a wonderful picture of the history of the volcano from the submarine record, which is more complete since every time there's an eruption, there is something deposited on the sea floor,' adds Sparks.

Rebuilding Montserrat
'People had thought the volcano might erupt for a few years, then sleep again for hundreds or thousands of years. If that had been case then the south of the island could be redeveloped, Plymouth could be rebuilt and the long term strategy for the island would be very different.'

Sparks continues, 'The problem with finding evidence for eruption pulses is that planning for the development of the island needs to take account of the high probability of further eruptions in the coming decades.

The largest mass flow during the current eruption resulted in around seven billion cubic feet (210 million cubic metres) of material racing into the sea – enough to fill the Royal Albert Hall two thousand times. It resulted in a ten metre high tsunami along Montserrat's coastline.

These huge mass flows can happen during an eruption, but the study found they are often unrelated to volcanic activity.

'The volcano has been quiet for three years now, and if that continues and it goes back into a quiet phase maybe they can open up the south for tourism and get some economic benefit from it, but they need to live with the idea it may well erupt again,' Sparks says.

'It's important for future planning to consider tsunamis and landslides. They need to be added into risk assessments,' Trofimovs says.'Reoccupation and development of the south of the island does not seem an option for the foreseeable future,' concludes Sparks.

Clock tower in centre of Plymouth, Montserrat.

Tsunamis and landslides
Recently, there has been interest in the possibility of huge landslides occurring on other volcanic islands, which could result in devastating tsunamis, particularly at the Canary Islands.

This debate has centred on whether these landslides occur incrementally or in one go, with the entire side of the volcano falling into the sea at once – an event which could cause an extreme tsunami.

'What we've seen in Montserrat is evidence for both styles of collapse. We have evidence that the single units we see in the cores come from a landslide where the whole side of the mountain went in one go,' Trofimovs explains. 'But the largest deposit we have evidence for, the largest landslide we see, fell in stages.'

The study, published in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems identified the deposits of four landslides and six pyroclastic flows in the last 12,000 years from just one tenth of the five-metre-long cores that were recovered.

The interest in this work has led to an Integrated Ocean Drilling Program expedition which will take cores of 200m, enough to map Montserrat's eruption history for the past ten million years and to find out more about how and when these devastating landslides can occur. - Planet Earth.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Major Rupture Readjustment - 4 Earthquakes Hit Off British Columbia Coast!

March 15, 2013 - CANADA - Four earthquakes have occurred off the north BC coast, the latest in a series that has rattled the area since last fall.

According to Earthquakes Canada the quakes with magnitudes 4.3, 4.0, 3.9, and 3.6 struck south and southwest of Sandspit on the Haida Gwaii islands.

USGS earthquake map and location.

Two other quakes of similar magnitudes occurred in February in the same region.

According to Michael Bostock of UBC’s seismology department, they are still the after-effects of the 7.7 earthquake of Haida Gwaii back in October.

The aftershocks and even the odd mid-sized earthquake are very common even months after the initial earthquake.

USGS earthquake shakemap.

“When you have a major rupture like that, you do alter the stress field in the region. There is a regular readjustment that occurs. But we should see these earthquakes tail off,” he explains.

“There shouldn’t be any large earthquakes in the immediate future, but experience from places like Italy tells us earthquakes are very unpredictable,” he notes.

In 2009, a deadly earthquake hit L’Aquila, Italy, after months of smaller tremors. Scientists had told residents the tremors were not a warning that a large earthquake was in the making.

USGS historic seismicity for the region.

Bostock points out it’s impossible to monitor the factors that determine where an earthquake will occur, like the state of the stress on the earth’s crust and the movement of fluids in that crust.

Looking back, he says considering the magnitude of the October quake, it’s amazing nothing was damaged and no one was hurt. - News1130.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Volcano Discovery Report For March 15, 2013 - Updates On Tolbachik, Kamchatka, Karkar, Dukono, Ambrym, Colima, Galeras, Nevado del Ruiz, Paos, Reventador, Tungurahua, Sacabaya, Stromboli, San Cristobal, Sabancaya And Sakurajima!

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

Tolbachik lava flows. CREDIT: NASA Earth Observatory.

Tolbachik and other Kamchatka Volcanoes (Russia): (March 15) Tremor from Tolbachik remains high, although a bit lower today according to KVERT's daily update, and the eruption continues with lava effusion from the now single vent on the southern fissure. No significant changes were reported for any of the other volcanoes in Kamchatka: Moderate seismicity accompany dome building at both Sheveluch and Kizimen volcanoes. Seismic activity remains weak at Bezymianny, which also has an active dome and at Kliuchevskoi, where mild strombolian activity might still be going on in the summit crater. Seismicity fluctuates at Karymsky between weak to moderate levels, when bursts of strombolian/vulcanian explosive activity occur. Seismicity related to strong degassing and internal fluid movements remains high at Gorely volcano.

Fresh basaltic lava coats the slopes of Tolbachik volcano, in Russia's Kamchatka peninsula, in a NASA satellite image taken March 6.
CREDIT: NASA Earth Observatory.
Fresh lava flows down Tolbachik volcano in Russia's Kamchatka peninsula in a new space snapshot from NASA's Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite. The fiery volcano erupted on Nov. 27, 2012, pouring fast-moving basalt lava through snow and ice on its steep flanks. A near-permanent ash plume rose from Tolbachik, visible in the March 6 satellite image. The volcanic edifice records a complex geologic history. The western half of Tolbachik is a steep-sided stratovolcano, like Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens in Washington, according to NASA's Earth Observatory. The eastern half is a broad, flat shield volcano, like Hawaii's Kilauea volcano, with nested calderas at the summit. Calderas are bowl-shaped depressions left behind when a volcano violently explodes, emptying its magma chamber.

With more than 300 volcanoes crowded into a California-size peninsula, Russia's Kamchatka is home to the world's highest concentration of active volcanoes. Only 29 are currently active, according to the Smithsonian Institution's Global Volcanism Program.

Karkar (Papua New Guinea):  (March 15) A larger explosive eruption from Karkar produced an ash plume rising to 28,000 ft (8.5 km). The plume is rapidly drifting NW.

Dukono (Halmahera): (March 15) A SO2 plume is visible on today's NOAA satellite data, suggesting a phase of elevated activity at the remote volcano.

Ambrym (Vanuatu): (March 15) SO2 emissions remain high.

Today's seismic recording from Colima volcano (Soma station, Univ. Colima).

Colima (Western Mexico): (March 15) The number of small explosions, rockfalls and volcanic quakes is on the increase. The volcano remains very active with many volcanic earthquakes, explosion and rockfall signals showing up on recent seismograms.

Galeras (Colombia): (March 15) Activity has remained more or less unchanged, with occasional weak ash emissions and degassing observed at the crater. A magnitude 3.1 earthquake located 5.6 km WNW of the crater was recorded yesterday at 06:12:38 local time. In the past week, there were 2 seismic swarms with a total of 260 weak quakes on 11 and 12 March.

Nevado del Ruiz (Colombia): (March 15) During the last few days, INGEOMINAS has been recording weak continuous tremor of low energy and observed increased gas emissions, which produced a plume reaching up to about 1.5 km above the crater. The increased SO2 emission is also visible on NOAA's satellite images.

Earthquakes associated with rock fracturing (caused by intruding magma at depth) remain in the same area as before, to the northeastern sector of Arenas crater, and to a lesser extent under the crater itself at depths between 2 and 6 km.

Current seismic signal from Reventador (CONE station, IG).

Reventador (Ecuador): (March 15) Activity fluctuates between relatively calm phases and strong ash emissions. In the evening of 13 March, a steam and ash column was seen rising 3 km above the crater.

Tungurahua (Ecuador)(March 15) Yesterday, IG the volcano showed an almost continuous emission of gas and various amounts of ash whose average height was 500 m. Individual explosions, sometimes accompanied by loud cannon-shot noises, produced eruption columns rising up to 3 km, mainly yesterday afternoon.

At night, explosions increased again and incandescent blocks were seen ejected to up to 500 m below the crater rim.

Sacabaya (Northern Chile, Bolivia and Argentina): (March 15) INGEMMET reports increased fumarolic gas emissions (but no ash so far) creating a gas column rising 400 to 1000 meters above the crater. The report also mentions that since 28 Feb, there has been an average number of 400 to 500 earthquakes per day, mostly volcano-tectonic quakes related to rock fracturing in return probably related to intruding magma at depth. The volcano remains closely monitored.

Thermal webcam image of the crater area of Stromboli (INGV).

Stromboli (Eolian Islands, Italy): (March 14) The lava flow is still weakly active, but has decreased considerably in length again. Tremor remains high, suggesting that this phase of increased activity is far from over.

San Cristobal (Nicaragua)(March 14) Small volcanic earthquakes continue to occur at high frequency and occasionally merge into pulses of volcanic tremor. A swarm of small quakes at shallow depth shows up on 13 March.

Similar earthquakes appear to be returning to their background level at nearby Telica volcano, while volcanic earthquakes, normally frequent at Concepcion remain sparse.

Poas (Costa Rica)(March 14) A small swarm of local earthquakes occurred at or near Poas yesterday, possibly related to or indicating small hydrovolcanic explosions.

Sabancaya (Peru)(March 14) A 4.7 magnitude earthquake occurred near the volcano (35 km to the east) this morning, another indication that some unrest, probably caused by an intrusion of magma from depth, continues to affect this volcano.

Complete Earthquake list (worldwide) March 15, 2013.

Photo of the Day: Sakurajima Volcano, Japan.

Eruption plume and small pyroclastic flow at a vulcanian explosion from Sakurajima volcano, Japan (2013)
(Photo: Martin Rietze)

SOURCES: Volcano Discovery | Live Science.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Scientists Warn Oregon Legislators Of Cataclysm When Earthquake, Tsunami Strike - More Than 10,000 People Could Die; Towns Could Be Inundated, And Economic Damage Could Hit $32 Billion!

March 15, 2013 - UNITED STATES - More than 10,000 people could die when -- not if -- a monster earthquake and tsunami occur just off the Pacific Northwest coast, a new study predicts.

Coastal towns would be inundated. Schools, buildings and bridges would collapse, and economic damage could hit $32 billion.

Seawater hits the city of Seaside on the Oregon coast in a simulation at the O. H, Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory at Oregon State University. The event will be brought about by the Cascadia Subduction Zone thrust fault approximately 50 miles offshore. The USGS says there is a 14% chance of this event occurring in the next 15 years. Such events have happened along the Oregon coast every 500 years. 
The chilling report by the Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Commission was presented Thursday to Oregon legislators.

In 2011, the Legislature authorized the study of what would happen if a quake and tsunami such as the one that devastated Japan hit the Pacific Northwest.

The Cascadia Subduction Zone, just off the regional coastline, produced a megaquake in the year 1700. Seismic experts say another monster quake and tsunami are overdue.

"This earthquake will hit us again," Kent Yu, an engineer and chair of the commission, told legislators. "It's just a matter of how soon."

When it hits, the report says, there will be devastation and death from Northern California to British Columbia.

Many Oregon communities will be left without water, power, heat and telephone service. Gasoline supplies will be disrupted.

The 2011 Japan quake and tsunami were a wake-up call for the Pacific Northwest. Governments have been taking a closer look at whether the region is prepared for something similar and discovering it is not.

Oregon legislators requested the study so they could better inform themselves about what needs to be done to prepare and recover from such a giant natural disaster.

The report says that geologically, Oregon and Japan are mirror images. Despite the devastation in Japan, that country was more prepared than Oregon because it had spent billions on technology to reduce the damage, the report says.

Jay Wilson, who works for the Clackamas County emergency management department and is vice chair of the commission, visited Japan and said he was profoundly affected as he walked through villages ravaged by the tsunami.

"It was just as if these communities were ghost towns and for the most part there was nothing left," he said.

Wilson told legislators that there was a similar event 313 years ago in the Pacific Northwest, and "we're well within the window for it to happen again" - Oregon Live.

Cascadia Subduction Zone: Two Contrasting Models of Lithospheric Structure.

The subduction of the Juan de Fuca plate beneath North America changes markedly along the length of the subduction zone, notably in the angle of subduction, distribution of earthquakes, volcanism, geologic and seismic structure of the upper plate, and regional horizontal stress. To investigate these characteristics, we conducted detailed density modeling experiments of the crust and mantle along two transects across the Cascadia subduction zone. One crosses Vancouver Island and the Canadian margin, and the other crosses the margin of central Oregon. Both density models were constructed independently to a depth of approximately 50 km. We gathered all possible geologic, geophysical, and borehole data to constrain the density calculations. The final densities for the Oregon and Vancouver lithosphere models were obtained from gravity inversions.

Our results confirm that the downgoing slab of the Cascadia subduction zone dips significantly steeper beneath Oregon than beneath Vancouver Island, lending support to the idea that the Juan de Fuca plate is segmented from north to south. In addition, our gravity models indicate that the mantle wedge beneath western Oregon (i.e., below the western Cascades) is lighter than the mantle beneath the Canadian continental crust. This low density agrees with the low mantle velocities observed in the mantle and the present day extensional regime of the Pacific Northwest.

View the Vancouver or the Oregon profile at a larger scale annotated with density values.

A gravity low at the deformation front of the Oregon margin, absent along the Vancouver margin, can be explained by the different bathymetry of the two regions and by the depth to the top of the subducting Juan de Fuca plate. If the accretionary prisms along these profiles were modeled with equal densities, a density inhomogeneity in the lower part of the models would be necessary. Thus that the density of the accretionary prism for the Vancouver profile must be approximately 0.1-0.2 g/cm3 greater than that for Oregon. A density difference within the accretionary prisms also agrees with other data. We note that the volume of accreted sediments is approximately twice as large along the Vancouver profile than along the Oregon profile, and the prism reaches a greater depth (approximately 20 km as compared with 12 km for the Oregon profile). This implies that the sediments within the accretionary prism at Vancouver Island are at a higher metamorphic grade, and therefore have higher densities.

We find that a substantial part of the coastal gravity maxima for both lines is caused by increasing density with depth in the subducting plate. In the proposed model, the maximum possible density of the slab was used to satisfy constraints for the average density of the near coastal crust for both profiles. If a density increase with depth is not introduced into the model, very high densities would be required for the near surface coastal and continental crustal blocks. - USGS.

SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: Solar Halos - Heavenly Pictures Show The Sun Ringed By A HALO Over Tibet!

March 15, 2013 - TIBET - Looking at these pictures it is perhaps unsurprising that a new Pope has been elected.  Thanks to a rare phenomenon the blazing sun has been pictured over Tibet looking as if it is wearing a halo.  The bizarre bright ring also makes it look like as though a huge eye is in the sky.  Also known as a 'sundog', a solar halo is a distant cousin of a rainbow caused by sunlight shining through a thin layer of cloud called Cirrostratus, which is made up of millions of tiny ice crystals.

Angelic: This incredible halo around the Sun was captured by a Russian photographer as she travelled across the Tibetan desert.

The thin cloud cover is up anywhere about 9km above sea level where the temperature is between minus 30C and minus 35C.  The spectacular images were taken by Russian photographer Elena Belozorova who spotted the extraordinary sight while driving to Darchen city.   The 38-year-old from Vologda said it was a truly magical moment.   'I have seen lots of things in my life but I've never seen anything like this before,' she said.

How they form: Also known as a 'sundog', a solar halo is a distant cousin of a rainbow caused by sunlight shining through a thin layer of cloud called Cirrostratus, which is made up of millions of tiny ice crystals.

The phenonemen is officially called a pathelia but is also known as a 'sundog', 'halo' or 'mock sun'. The sight is more commonly seen when the sun is low in the sky and not in the middle of the day.  Cultures around the globe have traditionally given great significance and meaning to a sun dog when they see one.  In medieval times and early aboriginal forecasting halos were a sign of rain on its way - with rain predicted for Friday when the halo will disappear.

'We were stunned': Miss Belozorova said even her local guides were amazed to see the halo form.

Portentous: Cultures around the globe have traditionally given great significance to the phenomena.

'The light in Tibet is very special, it's fantastic. I've never seen such colours in the sky before. It was all so clear and vivid,' said Ms Belozorova.  'The sky is very changeable, every minute there is a different light or pattern.  'We saw the halo as it was created and transformed. We were stunned.  'Even our guides were totally amazed. It looked like a huge eye and occupied half of the sky.  'It almost looked like the entrance to another world.'  - Daily Mail.

FIRE IN THE SKY: The Sunset Comet - Comet Pan-STARRS Shines In The Evening Sky With A Magnitude Of +0.2, Seen In Many Places With Unaided Eye! [PHOTOS & VIDEOS]

March 15, 2013 - SPACE "There seem to be a lot of pictures, but a shortage of magnitude estimates for Comet Pan-STARRS," says Richard Keen, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Colorado. "I saw it for the first time this evening, and got a magnitude estimate before the comet slipped behind a narrow cloud bank." Keen is an expert observer of astronomical brightness, especially that of lunar eclipses which he uses to study aerosols in the stratosphere. "The comet is magnitude +0.2 with a short, but bright vertical tail. It was quite visible to the unaided eye. After the [head of the comet] set behind the mountains, the tail was visible for two or three more minutes."

A growing number of observers say they can see the comet with their unaided eye. Here it is on March 14th at sunset over Valley Forge, PA:

"The comet looked fantastic through my 10x70 Fujinon binoculars, and it was barely visible to the naked eye," says photographer John Chumack. Note: "Barely visible" is an improvement over recent nights.

Visibility should continue to improve in the nights ahead as Pan-STARRS moves away from the sun. Keen's magnitude estimate of +0.2 means that the comet is approximately twice as bright as a first magnitude star. When it is framed by darker skies, it will really stand out. - Space Weather.

WATCH: Comet Pan-STARRS has survived its encounter with the sun and is now emerging from twilight in the sunset skies of the northern hemisphere. A NASA spacecraft monitoring the comet has beamed back pictures of a wild and ragged tail.

Here are several of the latest images of the stunning comet:

C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS on March 14, 2013. Taken in Hachimantai City Japan. Credit and copyright: Jason Hill.
A first capture of Comet PANSTARRS on March 14, 2013. Credit and copyright: Adam Wipp.
Another first view of Comet PANSTARRS from Valencia, Spain on March 14, 2013. Credit and copyright: Alejandro Garcia.
Comet PANSTARRS on March 14, 2013, as seen in the Arizona skies. Credit and copyright: Chris Schur.
Comet PANSTARRS as seen from Aarhus, Denmark (56.2 N, 10.2 E). Credit and copyright: Jens Riggelsen.
Comet PANSTARRS on March 13, 2013 as see from Newington, New Hampshire, USA. Credit and copyright: John Gianforte (
Comet PANSTARRS on March 13, 2013 as see from Newington, New Hampshire, USA. Credit and copyright: John Gianforte (
Comet PANSTARRS and the lunar crescent in an Arizona sunset, March 12, 2013. Credit: Chris Schur.

Here are several videos of the comet:

Austin, Texas.

Altadena, California.


See Comet Pan-STARRS Live In Webcast.
An online observatory will broadcast live views of the Comet Pan-STARRS from Italy today (March 15), but only if weather allows. The Virtual Telescope Project in Ceccano, Italy, will webcast views of Comet Pan-STARRS beginning at 1 p.m. EDT (1700 GMT). The comet is currently visible just after sunset to stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere, and can be seen low on the western horizon. "We are so excited," astrophysicist Gianluca Masi, who runs the Virtual Telescope Project, told in an email. "A lot of people are waiting for this event!" You can watch the Comet Pan-STARRS webcast on here.

The source webcast will also be available at the Virtual Telescope Project website.

Comet Pan-STARRS has been visible in the Northern Hemisphere evening sky since last week, though stargazers in the Southern Hemisphere were tracking the comet for months before it moved into the northern sky. The comet made its closest approach to the sun on Sunday (March 10), and was at its brightest at that time. - SPACE.

WATCH: NASA's Stereo-B sun observatory also captured a video of Comet Pan-STARRS with the Earth and planet Mercury this month.