Tuesday, March 26, 2013

PLANETARY TREMORS: Major Disaster Precursors - 300+ Tremors Recorded in Seismic Swarm In Nevada, As Early Warning System Predicts Shaking In California Earthquake!

March 26, 2013 - UNITED STATES - From a rooftop on the University of Nevada campus, seismologist Ken Smith oversees the lab that never sleeps… Nevada's earthquake monitoring headquarters. Standing by a rooftop dish, he told us, "This is seismic data, coming in at a high sample rate."

200 solar-powered monitoring stations are spread all over the state, where they transmit every little rumble to the dishes on the roof. From there, the data goes through a room full of computers to Ken's desktop, where he can see every tremor. He can see how big, how frequent, and where the most activity is. Pointing to a cluster of yellow dots, he told us, "These are the locations of the events in Dog Valley."

Recently there have been a lot of events and a lot of shaking. In just the past 11 days, a swarm of more than 300 earthquakes, so centralized the yellow dots all blend together. They are just south of Bordertown near the state line. So far, they're too small to feel. Smith says "As far as I know, no one's reported feeling any of the earthquakes out at Bordertown."

But they are there, and are still going on. Since yesterday, more than 20 quakes. Activity like this brings the lab to life. But this earthquake swarm is not that unusual. Smith compares it to 2008, "When we had the Mogul sequence west of Reno. That included several thousand earthquakes." As for whether the swarm can tell you a bigger event is coming, Smith says "No, can't tell. It could be over. This could be it today."

The science is improving. There's even an earthquake early warning system in California that can give 30 seconds notice before a quake. With early warning, NV Energy would have time to shut down. Trains could slow so they don't derail. Workers would have a chance to get away from hazardous materials. This is a system Japan has had since 2007. Smith would like to see it here too, saying "We're integrated with their systems in California through internet and we'd like to bring that technology eventually to Nevada."

For now, he says the pointy lines and yellow dots of the current swarm are not unusual. He does say they are another reason to be prepared, just in case. We have some preparation ideas for you and your family on our website. To learn more about earthquake preparedness, just click here. - KTVN.

WATCH: 300+ Tremors Recorded in Earthquake Swarm In Nevada.

Earthquake Early Warning Predicts Shaking In California Quake.

For the first time in California history, some Californians got an early warning before an earthquake. Although the quake was not technically predicted, an early warning system gave engineers and seismologists and 30 second warning that the ground was about to tremble. On Monday, March 11, a 4.7 quake struck near Anza, California. Hard-working Californinos got a morning shakeup, but it was really nothing of significance for most, who are accustomed to periodic quakes.  However, for a small group of people testing an early warning system for quakes, it was a big deal. The system provided seismologists at CalTech in Pasadena with 30 second of warning before the shaking could be felt.  The early warning system can't predict earthquakes, but can detect earthquakes as they start and before their seismic waves can be felt by humans.

Depending on a number of factors, the system can provide people with anywhere from 10 to sixty seconds of warning before the real shaking starts.  The system has been in place for about a year and seismologists have been waiting to see if it would work in real life.  It did.  The system was even able to predict with accuracy when the shaking would be felt in Pasadena. A countdown flashed on computer screens at CalTech letting seismologists watch, and save their coffee mugs, as the seconds to shaking fell away.  The shaking started right on time.  The space of 10 to sixty seconds may not seem like much time for a warning, but when dealing with earthquakes it's enough to duck and cover under a sturdy object or to get yourself away from brickwork or glass, which is responsible for many injuries during a quake.

It can even provide enough time for trains to slow down, and possibly stop, saving the passengers and cargo aboard from harm.  There remains some work done to perfect the system. Despite its accuracy, the system initially overestimated the quake, saying it was a 5.2 instead of a 4.7. This is a substantial difference.  Still, the system provided the same accurate warning that it would provide if the quake had been many times larger.  This practical test proves the system works and if funding is approved, it may become a statewide project with sensors distributed across the quake-prone region. Similar programs have already been deployed in Mexico and Japan. The system in Japan gave some 50 million residents an accurate warning before the massive 2011, 9.0 quake which resulted in a powerful tsunami.  Soon, Californians may enjoy a similar level of protection against dangerous quakes. - Catholic Online.

WATCH: Earthquake early warning predicts shaking in California quake.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Volcano Discovery Report For March 26, 2013 - Updates On Hekla, El Hierro, Batu Tara, White Island, Santa María, Santiaguito, Popocatépetl, Pacaya, Fuego, Telica, Reventador, Tungurahua And Heard!

March 26, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing report from the Volcano Discovery Group.

Hekla is a stratovolcano in the south of Iceland with a height of 1,491 metres (4,892 ft). Hekla is one of Iceland's most active volcanoes; over 20 eruptions have occurred in and around the volcano since 874. During the Middle Ages, Europeans called the volcano the "Gateway to Hell."

Hekla (Iceland): The Icelandic Meteorological Office has informed authorities about unusual seismicity at Hekla volcano, which could be a precursor to a new eruption, and increased the volcanic alert level to yellow. Monitoring of the volcano will be intensified, as Hekla is not only one of the most active, but also one of the potentially most hazardous volcanoes of the country. The last eruption was in March 2000. On average, the volcano has been erupting about every 10 years, and it would statistically seen be due for a new one. "Uncertainty level" was declared by Civil Protection as the lowest of 3 alert levels in case of natural hazards.

FILE - In this aerial image from video made Saturday May 8 2010 a renewed column of ash rises from Iceland's Eyjafjallajokul volcano. (AP Photo/ APTN).

Icelandic police say seismic activity near the Hekla volcano has prompted them to declare an "uncertainty phase" -- the lowest level of civil warning.  Monitoring of the area in southern Iceland has been increased. Police advise people not to hike in the area, though it is not forbidden.  Vidir Reynisson, the department manager for civil protection, said Tuesday that a swarm of earthquakes prompted the warning but are not necessarily a sign of pending eruption. Scientists worry that Hekla is overdue for an eruption; in recent decades it has erupted roughly every 10 years, most recently in 2000.  Concern about seismic activity in the north Atlantic nation has grown since April 2010, when ash from the Eyjafjallajokul volcano grounded flights across Europe for days, disrupting travel for 10 million people.

Depth vs time of today's quakes under El Hierro.

Location of recent quakes at EL Hierro (IGN).

El Hierro (Canary Islands, Spain): Earthquakes (more than 120 > M2 today so far) and volcanic tremor continue to be intense, and inflation has reached 10 cm on stations (HI05) located in western El Hierro. The foci of the quakes remains at about 15 km depth 5-10 km NW off the western top of the island, i.e. at the boundary to the crust beneath the island, suggesting that the still moving magma is for now not rising siginficantly into the harder layers that compose the islands' edifice. Whether and when this changes, i.e. magma starts to move vertically towards an eruption, is impossible to day, but a real possibility.

...26 Mar:
The situation has not changed much. The seismic swarm continues with pulsating medium to strong tremor and frequent earthquakes, in more or less the same area as yesterday, 5-10 km NW off the island at depths mostly between 13-20 km. The average magnitudes of quakes has continued to increase: yesterday alone, there were almost 50 earthquakes >magnitude 3 - probably a record number for El Hierro, including 2 quakes of M4 and 4.1. This trend is continuing today... [read more]

Batu Tara (Sunda Islands, Indonesia): The volcano has again become a regular visitor in today's eruption list. A new ash plume rising to 7,000 ft (2.1 km) was spotted today on satellite data by VAAC Darwin.

Current seismic signal from White Island (GeoNet).

White Island (New Zealand): In recent days, seismic activity including volcanic tremor have risen again. In its latest statement, GNS Science reported that "a pattern of repeating minor activity has become established at White Island over the last month."

"Periods of passive steaming and degassing have been accompanied by very low levels of volcanic tremor. This activity has alternated with minor mud and steam explosions from the active crater when there has been strong volcanic tremor. Tremor episodes have lasted from less than one day to over a week... [read more]

Santa María / Santiaguito (Guatemala)
: INSIVUMEH reports no significant changes in activity. The lava dome has been a little bit less explosive recently but continues to effuse blocky lava flows that descend its flanks and produce weak to moderate avalanches.

SO2 plume from Popocatépetl (NOAA).

Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): Activity has been showing a weakly increasing trend. Yesterday, the rate of explosions climbs to almost 2 per hour, with the largest ejecting glowing bombs to up to 500 m distance and producing plumes of steam and some ash rising 1.5 km above the crater. Satellite data continue show significant degassing. Today's seismogram shows the strong trace of some of the regional M4-5 earthquakes that hit Mexico today.

Pacaya (Guatemala): Weak strombolian activity continues at the McKenney crater.

Fuego (Guatemala): Activity is characterized by occasional weak to moderate strombolian explosions producing ash plumes rising 600-1000 m above the crater. Fine ash fall has been recorded in Panimaché I y II, Morelia and Santa Sofía.

Telica (Nicaragua): The earthquake swarm, presumably caused by a magmatic intrusion at shallow depth, still continues with hundreds of tiny quakes up to about magnitude 2 each day.

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

Reventador (Ecuador): Activity has remained stable at fluctuating moderate levels, but can rarely be observed directly due to near-constant cloud cover. Explosions and volcanic tremor, sometimes strong as earlier today, are visible on seismic recordings.

Tungurahua (Ecuador): The volcano has continued to calm down, both internally (seismicity) and externally. IG reported only weak steaming in recent days.

Satellite images showing activity at Heard Island in recent months (Smithsonian / GVP).

Heard (Australia, Southern Indian Ocean): The Smithsonian / GVP monthly Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network for Jan 2013 confirms that Heard Island volcano is in eruption. A series of satellite images compared side by side show that the volcano started to produce lava (over-)flows from the summit crater of the Mawson Peak on the SE flank since December past year.

Complete Earthquake list (worldwide) for March 26, 2013.

Photo of the Day:

Blubb - nice lava bubbles exploding in the hornito in the middle of Erta Ales north crater.

SOURCES: Volcano Discovery | CTV News.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Precursors To The Total Collapse Of The White Supremacy Paradigm - Euro-Zone Chief Says Personal Savings Accounts In Spain, Italy Will Be Raided To Save The Euro; Cypriot Youth Protest As Banks Stay Shut; "Wealth Tax" Contagion Is Rapidly Spreading Across Europe; Markets Take Fright At Idea That Cyprus Savings Raid Could Become Bailout Model; BRICS Nations Rising To Become World's Wealthiest Bloc In 30 Years!

March 26, 2013 - EUROPE - Savings accounts in Spain, Italy and other European countries will be raided if needed to preserve Europe's single currency by propping up failing banks, a senior eurozone official has announced. The new policy will alarm hundreds of thousands of British expatriates who live and have transferred their savings, proceeds from house sales and other assets to eurozone bank accounts in countries such as France, Spain and Italy. The euro fell on global markets after Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch chairman of the eurozone, told the FT and Reuters that the heavy losses inflicted on depositors in Cyprus would be the template for future banking crises across Europe. "If there is a risk in a bank, our first question should be 'Okay, what are you in the bank going to do about that? What can you do to recapitalise yourself?'," he said. "If the bank can't do it, then we'll talk to the shareholders and the bondholders, we'll ask them to contribute in recapitalising the bank, and if necessary the uninsured deposit holders." Ditching a three-year-old policy of protecting senior bondholders and large depositors, over €100,000, in banks, Mr Dijsselbloem argued that the lack of market contagion surrounding Cyprus showed that private investors could now be hit to pay for bad banking debts.

Euro-Zone Chief Says Personal Savings Accounts In Spain, Italy Will Be Raided To Save Euro.
"If we want to have a healthy, sound financial sector, the only way is to say, 'Look, there where you take on the risks, you must deal with them, and if you can't deal with them, then you shouldn't have taken them on,'" he said. "The consequences may be that it's the end of story, and that is an approach that I think, now that we are out of the heat of the crisis, we should take." The announcement is highly significant as it signals the mothballing of the euro's €700bn bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), which Spain and Ireland wants to be used to recapitalise their troubled banks. "We should aim at a situation where we will never need to even consider direct recapitalisation," he said. "If we have even more instruments in terms of bail-in and how far we can go on bail-in, the need for direct recap will become smaller and smaller." The eurozone had been planning to roll out the ESM as a "big bazooka" in mid-2014 that could help save banks and prevent financial turmoil in countries such Spain or Italy, a development that has been delayed by German resistance. Mr Dijesselbloem's comments will alarm countries like Ireland and Spain that had been hoping to access the ESM in order to restructure banks without killing off their financial sector by inflicting huge losses on investors. "I think the approach needs to be, let's deal with the banks within the banks first, before looking at public money or any other instrument coming from the public side," he said.

"Banks should basically be able to save themselves, or at least restructure or recapitalise themselves as far as possible." In a note published on Monday following the Cyprus bailout deal, Barclays warned that "the decision to bail in senior bank debt and large depositors will likely have a price impact on equity and credit instruments of those euro area banks that are perceived as the weakest". Mr Dijsselbloem acknowledged that "there is still nervousness" but claimed that any jitters on financial markets caused by the new approach would be a good thing because it would raise the cost of borrowing for unsound banks, an argument unlikely to win friend in Madrid or Rome. "If I finance a bank and I know if the bank will get in trouble, I will be hit and I will lose money, I will put a price on that," he said. "I think it is a sound economic principle. And having cheap money because the risk will be covered by the government, and I will always get my money back, is not leading to the right decisions in the financial sector." Last night, the Dutch finance minister tried to row back from his comments by insisting that "Cyprus is a specific case". "Macro-economic adjustment programmes are tailor-made to the situation of the country concerned and no models or templates are used," he said. Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades admitted the eurozone bailout deal he struck in Brussels on Monday was painful but said Cyprus could now make a fresh start after having come a "breath away" from collapse. He also said there would be a criminal investigation into the crisis. Banks in Cyprus will remain closed until Thursday, the nation's central bank announced. It had said earlier that banks would reopen today after a week-long shutdown, except for Laiki and Bank of Cyprus. - Telegraph.

Cypriot Youth Protest As Banks Stay Shut.
Students take part in an anti-Troika protest outside the Presidencial palace in Nicosia March 26, 2013.
REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
Cypriots vented anger in the streets on Tuesday and were desperate to learn what would happen to their savings, with the government yet to reveal details of controls it will impose to prevent a run when banks reopen after a painful bailout.  A special administrator was appointed to run the country's biggest bank, which will take over accounts from the second biggest bank as part of the restructuring package designed to bail out and rein in the oversized financial sector.    Cyprus's banks were ordered to remain closed until Thursday, and even then will operate under as-yet-undisclosed capital controls imposed to prevent depositors from emptying the vaults.  The Central Bank governor said the controls would be "loose" and would apply to all banks in the country. The restrictions would be "temporary" but he would not say what form they would take or how long they would last. Earlier, the finance minister said they could be in place for weeks.  Cyprus had faced bankruptcy and potential ejection from the European single currency without a rescue deal with international lending bodies. Now that the deal has been struck, it faces job losses and economic contraction.  Reuters journalists estimated up to 3,000 high school students protested outside parliament, the first major expression of popular anger after Cyprus agreed the 10 billion euro ($13 billion) bailout with the European Union.  "They've just gotten rid of all our dreams, everything we've worked for, everything we've achieved up until now, what our parents have achieved," said a student who gave his name as Thomas.  Outside the central bank, about 200 employees of the country's biggest commercial bank, the Bank of Cyprus, demanded the resignation of the central bank governor, Panicos Demetriades, chanting "Hands off Cyprus" and "Disgrace". - Reuters.

WATCH: Fear and loathing grips Cyprus as ECB hastens debtline.

"Wealth Tax" Contagion Is Rapidly Spreading Across Europe.
It was only yesterday that we wrote about comparable problems to those which Russian depositors may (or may not be?) suffering in Cyprus right, this time impacting wealthy Americans and their Swiss bank accounts, where as a result of unprecedented DOJ pressure the local banks will soon breach all client confidentiality and expose all US citizens who still have cash in the former tax haven under the assumption that they are all tax evaders and violators. And in the continuum of creeping wealth taxes which first started in Switzerland, then Cyprus, and soon who knows where else, there was just one question: "The question then is: how many of the oligarchs, Russian or otherwise, who avoided a complete wipe out and total capital controls in Cyprus, will wait to find out if the same fate will befall them in Switzerland? Or Luxembourg? Or Lichtenstein? Or Singapore?" Today we got the answer, and yes it was one of the abovementioned usual suspects. The winner is.... Lichtenstein.

Yes: the little principality that is an even greater tax (evasion) haven for the world's ultra wealthy, even more so than Zurich, Geneva or Zug, is now under Big Brother's microscope. But fear not. All the other tax havens listed above are quite certainly about to meet the iron, resolute fist of the US Department of Injustice. After all, unlike TBTF banks, depositors are hardly "systemic", and thus Eric Holder and his henchmen will have zero reservations when pursuing the full extent of the (selectively crony) US laws against them.
From Bloomberg:
The U.S. has asked Liechtenstein to hand over data on foundations that may have been used to hide untaxed American money from the Internal Revenue Service, a step that may threaten Swiss banks. 

The U.S. wants to know the number of foundations set up by fiduciaries -- lawyers, accountants, financial advisers and asset managers -- for American taxpayers, according to a letter sent by the Department of Justice to authorities in the Alpine principality. A “formal request” to fiduciaries will follow, the DOJ said. 

“Seeking documents from the Liechtenstein fiduciaries is an important investigative step,” which will shed light on “the roles of banks, of bankers outside of Liechtenstein,” the Justice Department wrote in the letter, adding that it looked forward to receiving the data by March 29.

The DOJ is investigating at least 11 financial firms, including Credit Suisse Group AG (CSGN) and Julius Baer Group Ltd. (BAER), for allegedly helping Americans hide money from the IRS. The Liechtenstein request will add to the information the IRS garnered as 38,000 Americans avoided prosecution through an amnesty program, which involved paying back taxes and penalties and disclosing their offshore accounts and bankers. 

“It’s a further evolution of the Department of Justice using third-party fiduciaries to gather more information on these structures and the banks involved,” said Milan Patel, a former IRS trial attorney who is now a partner at Zurich-based law firm Anaford AG. “This could be bad news for Switzerland, as the information could be used against more Swiss banks.”
In case anyone is still confused about what is going on, here is the summary: any geographic venue that for whatever reason was once considered a global tax haven in the "Old Normal", be it Switzerland, Greece, Luxembourg, Singapore, or as the case may be Lichtenstein, is now fair game for confiscation and otherwise expropriation of local capital.  Alas, as this money will not be enough to plug what is not a liquidity but global insolvency black hole, which is made worse daily by the endless interventions of central planners, once the deposits of the wealthy at these small, powerless to defend themselves countries is concluded, next come the entities with the really big deposits: the US, the Eurozone, and the grand daddy of them all: China.
In other words, the forced ~30% wealth tax on all financial assets is coming. Just as foretold here first in September of 2011 and as was recapped last weekend. - Zero Hedge.

Markets Take Fright At Idea That Cyprus Savings Raid Could Become Bailout Model.
Laiki, one of the two largest Cypriot banks, is to remain closed until Thursday.
Photograph: Milos Bicanski/Getty Images
Fears that bank accounts could be raided in any future eurozone bailouts spooked markets on Monday, as Cypriots prepared for their banks to reopen for the first time in over a week on Thursday following a deal to secure a €10bn lifeline.  Markets took fright after the head of the group of eurozone finance ministers indicated that the Cyprus rescue could be a template for similar situations. Cyprus is the first of five bailouts in the eurozone where depositors have been hit.  "What we've done last night is what I call pushing back the risks," Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister, told Reuters and the Financial Times after clinching an agreement for Cyprus. "If the bank can't do it, then we'll talk to the shareholders and the bondholders, we'll ask them to contribute in recapitalising the bank, and if necessary the uninsured deposit holders," he said.  Bank of Cyprus and Laiki, the two largest domestic banks, will remain shut until Thursday while the latter is split into a good and bad bank and a levy – of potentially 40% – is imposed on accounts of more than €100,000.  A big percentage of those deposits belong to Russians. On Monday the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said there would be a deal to rework the terms of a €2.5bn loan to the Mediterranean island, which had become attractive for its low tax regime and lax vetting laws.  Cyprus president Nicos Anastasiades made a televised address in which he admitted that measures would be in place to stop money pouring out of the banks when they reopen. "The central bank will implement capital controls on transactions. I want to assure you that this will be a very temporary measure that will gradually be relaxed," he said.  Markets were initially buoyed by news of the "painful" bailout for Cyprus, clinched late on Sunday night following threats by the European Central Bank to switch off liquidity to Cypriot banks, which, carried by international deposits, had grown to eight times the €17bn economy.  But markets reacted badly later in the day after Dijsselbloem's remarks. As markets tumbled, he issued a clarification insisting that bailout programmes were "tailor-made" and that "no models or templates are used".  Nevertheless, all markets erased their early gains to close down on the day. The FTSE 100 index lost 0.2% and the German stock market fell 0.5%. Bank shares fell across Europe while the euro, which had nudged up through $1.30 initially, fell back to below $1.29. US markets, which had largely shrugged off the Cypriot problem, were also lower, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down over 70 points, 0.5%. - Guardian.

BRICS Nations Plan New Bank To Bypass World Bank, IMF.

The biggest emerging markets are uniting to tackle under-development and currency volatility with plans to set up institutions that encroach on the roles of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. The leaders of the so-called BRICS nations -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- are set to approve the establishment of a new development bank during an annual summit that began today in the eastern South African city of Durban, officials from all five nations say. They will also discuss pooling foreign-currency reserves to ward off balance of payments or currency crises.  “The deepest rationale for the BRICS is almost certainly the creation of new Bretton Woods-type institutions that are inclined toward the developing world,” Martyn Davies, chief executive officer of Johannesburg-based Frontier Advisory, which provides research on emerging markets, said in a phone interview. “There’s a shift in power from the traditional to the emerging world. There is a lot of geo-political concern about this shift in the western world.”  The BRICS nations, which have combined foreign-currency reserves of $4.4 trillion and account for 43 percent of the world’s population, are seeking greater sway in global finance to match their rising economic power. They have called for an overhaul of management of the World Bank and IMF, which were created in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, in 1944, and oppose the practice of their respective presidents being drawn from the U.S. and Europe. “We need to change the way business is conducted in the international financial institutions,” South African International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said in a March 15 speech in Johannesburg. “They need to be reformed.”  The U.S. has failed to ratify a 2010 agreement to give more sway to emerging markets at the IMF, while it secured Jim Yong Kim, an American, as head of the World Bank last year over candidates from Nigeria and Colombia.  Finance ministers and central bank governors from the BRICS nations, who met in Durban today, agreed to set up currency crisis fund of about $100 billion, Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega told reporters today. He didn’t give details of proposed funding for the new bank, which Brazil wants established by 2014. The nation’s leaders are due to sign a final accord tomorrow. - Bloomberg.

WATCH: Geopolitical Giants - BRICS world's wealthiest bloc in 30 yrs.

WORLD WAR III: Escalation Towards Armageddon - North Korea Orders Artillery To Be Combat Read, Targeting U.S. Bases; Rockets Ready, Targeting Guam, Hawaii, And US Mainland; Syrian Rebels Ask US To Shoot Down Assad's Warplanes With Patriot Missiles; CIA Helping Boost Arms Shipments To Syrian Rebels; China Stepping Up Drone Deployment!

March 26, 2013 - WORLD WAR III - North Korea said on Tuesday its strategic rocket and long-range artillery units have been ordered to be combat ready, targeting U.S. military bases on Guam, Hawaii and mainland America after U.S. bombers flew sorties threatening the North.  The order, issued in a statement from the North's military "supreme command", marks the latest fiery rhetoric from Pyongyang since the start of joint military drills by U.S. and South Korean forces early this month. 

Soldiers of the Korean People's Army (KPA) take part in the landing and anti-landing drills of KPA Large Combined Units 324 and 287 and KPA Navy Combined Unit 597, as North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (not pictured) watches, in the eastern sector of the front and the east coastal area on March 25, 2013, in this picture released by the North's KCNA news agency in Pyongyang March 26, 2013.

North Korea Orders Artillery To Be Combat Read, Targeting U.S. Bases.
South Korea's defense ministry said it saw no sign of imminent military action by North Korea.  "From this moment, the Supreme Command of the Korean People's Army will be putting into combat duty posture No. 1 all field artillery units, including long-range artillery units and strategic rocket units, that will target all enemy objects in U.S. invasionary bases on its mainland, Hawaii and Guam," the North's KCNA news agency said.  The North previously threatened nuclear attack on the United States and South Korea, although it is not believed to have the capability to hit the continental United States with an atomic weapon. But the U.S. military's bases in the Pacific area are in range of its medium-range missiles.  South Korea's defense ministry said it had detected no signs of unusual activity by the North's military but will monitor the situation. The South and the U.S. military are conducting drills until the end of April, which they have stressed are strictly defensive in nature.  The North has previously threatened to strike back at the U.S. military accusing Washington of war preparations by using B-52 bombers which have flown over the Korean peninsula as part of the drills.  North Korea has said it has abrogated an armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War and threatened a nuclear attack on the United States. - Reuters.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) inspects the second battalion under the Korean People's Army Unit 1973, honoured with the title of "O Jung Hup-led 7th Regiment", on March 23, 2013, in this picture.

N. Korea Rockets Ready, Targeting Guam, Hawaii, And US Mainland.
 North Korea's military warned Tuesday that its artillery and rocket forces are at their highest-level combat posture in the latest in a string of bellicose threats aimed at South Korea and the United States.  Seoul's Defense Ministry said it hasn't seen any suspicious North Korean military activity and that officials were analyzing the North's warning. Analysts say a direct North Korean attack is extremely unlikely, especially during joint U.S.-South Korean military drills that end April 30, though there's some worry about a provocation after the training wraps up.  The rival Koreas have had several bloody naval skirmishes in disputed Yellow Sea waters since 1999. In November 2010, a North Korean artillery strike on a South Korean island killed two marines and two civilians. A suspected North Korean torpedo sank a South Korean warship earlier that same year, killing 46 South Korean sailors. North Korea denies the warship sinking.  North Korea, angry over routine U.S.-South Korean drills and recent U.N. sanctions punishing it for its Feb. 12 nuclear test, has vowed to launch a nuclear strike against the United States and repeated its nearly two-decade-old threat to reduce Seoul to a "sea of fire." Despite the rhetoric, outside weapons analysts have seen no proof that North Korea has mastered the technology needed to build a warhead small enough to mount on a missile.

Guam is 2,135 miles from North Korea. Hawaii is 4,669.

Tuesday, the North Korean army's Supreme Command said it will take "practical military action" to protect national sovereignty and its leadership in response to what it called U.S. and South Korean plots to attack.  The statement, carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency, cited the participation of nuclear-capable B-52 bombers in South Korea-U.S. drills.  North Korea's field artillery forces — including strategic rocket and long-range artillery units that are "assigned to strike bases of the U.S. imperialist aggressor troops in the U.S. mainland and on Hawaii and Guam and other operational zones in the Pacific as well as all the enemy targets in South Korea and its vicinity" — will be placed on "the highest alert from this moment," the statement said.  The North's recent threats are seen partly as efforts to strengthen internal loyalty to young leader Kim Jong Un and to build up his military credentials.  Kim "needs to show he has the guts. The best way to do that is to use the military might that he commands," said Lee Yoon-gyu, a North Korea expert at Korea National Defense University in Seoul. "This paves the way for greater praise for him if North Korea makes a provocation later and claims victory."  Kim will eventually be compelled to do "something provocative to prove the threats weren't empty," Lee said.  Tuesday is the third anniversary of the warship sinking, and new South Korean President Park Geun-hye urged the North again to abandon its nuclear weapons program. "Focusing its national strength on the development of nuclear weapons while its people are suffering starvation ... will only bring international isolation to themselves," Park said in a televised speech at a national cemetery south of Seoul where the 46 sailors are buried. - MSN.

WATCH: North Korea 'combat ready' to strike US mainland.

Syrian Rebels Ask US To Shoot Down Assad's Warplanes With Patriot Missiles.
A look back at the conflict that has overtaken the country.
Mohamed Al-husain / Shaam News Network / Reuters.
A Syrian opposition leader said Tuesday that he had asked the United States to defend rebel-held areas with Patriot missiles.   NATO already has Patriot surface-to-air missile batteries in NATO-member Turkey to help defend the country from potential airstrikes by President Bashar Assad's regime.  Syrian opposition leader Mouaz al-Khatib -- who appeared Tuesday as the representative of Syria at an Arab League summit meeting following the Assad regime's suspension -- said that he had asked Secretary of State John Kerry "to extend the umbrella of the Patriot missiles to cover the Syrian north and he promised to study the subject," Reuters reported.  The insurgents have few weapons to counter Assad's helicopter gunships and warplanes. Al-Khatib added that the United States should play a bigger role in helping end the two-year-old conflict in Syria, blaming Assad's government for what he called its refusal to solve the crisis. Al-Khatib, who is considered a moderate preacher, appeared at the summit despite his resignation as the head of the Syrian National Coalition on Sunday, when he slammed the lack of action by the international community. An estimated 70,000 Syrians have been killed in the two-year conflict.  “We have been slaughtered under the watchful eyes of the world for two years, in an unprecedented manner by a vicious regime,” he said Sunday.  “Everything that happened to the Syrian people – from destruction of infrastructure, arrest of tens of thousands of their children, displacement of tens of thousands, and other tragedies – is not enough for the world to make an international decision to allow people to defend themselves," he added.  However, NATO said on Tuesday that it was not going to get involved in the conflict. "NATO has no intention to intervene militarily in Syria," a NATO official told Reuters.

Anti-Assad forces suffered a further blow Sunday night when the founder of the insurgent Free Syrian Army had his leg severed by an explosion in an apparent assassination attempt, opposition sources told Reuters. Colonel Riad al-Asaad's wounds were not life-threatening and he was moved from Syria to a hospital in Turkey, a Turkish official said.  The West and Arab nations’ perceived inaction in the face of the slaughter and destruction infuriates many Syrian opposition members, who say they cannot topple Assad without military hardware like anti-tank mines and anti-aircraft missiles.  That hesitancy is especially galling for many in the opposition given that other countries are already involved in the war to an extent: Russia, Iran and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah support the regime more-or-less openly, while the United States, Europe and much of the Sunni Arab world are arrayed behind the rebels.  There are fears in the West that heavy weapons given to the rebels could fall into the hands of extremist groups fighting alongside them, such as Jabhat al-Nusra.  Despite of attempts to contain the crisis, the conflict is bleeding across its borders.  The civil war has already displaced an estimated 3 million Syrians, and sent more than a million fleeing into neighboring countries.  The conflict has also inflamed sectarian tensions in neighboring Lebanon, which suffered its own vicious civil war. Fears are growing that the violence will ignite simmering Sunni-Shiite tensions in Iraq.  On Monday, Jordan closed its main border crossing with Syria after two days of fighting there between Syrian troops and rebel fighters.  Rebels have also overrun several towns near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, fueling tensions in the sensitive military zone. - NBC News.

WATCH: Syrian leader loses leg in blast - The founder of the Free Syrian Army lost a leg in an explosion in Syria, according to Reuters. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

CIA Helping Boost Arms Shipments To Syrian Rebels.
Rebels clash with Syrian government forces.
AFP file
Assisted by the CIA, Arab nations and Turkey have dramatically increased military aid to Syrian rebels in recent months, The New York Times reported Monday.  The US Central Intelligence Agency was aiding their efforts, the newspaper added, citing air traffic data and interviews with unnamed officials and the rebel commanders.  The airlift has increased to include more than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military-style cargo planes landing at Esenboga Airport near Ankara, and at other Turkish and Jordanian airports, the report said.  US intelligence officers have helped the Arab governments shop for weapons, including a large procurement from Croatia. They had also vetted rebel commanders and groups to determine who should receive the weapons as they arrive.  According to The Times, Turkey had overseen much of the program, fixing transponders to trucks ferrying the military goods through Turkey so it could monitor shipments.  "A conservative estimate of the payload of these flights would be 3,500 tons of military equipment," Hugh Griffiths, of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), told the paper.  "The intensity and frequency of these flights," were "suggestive of a well-planned and coordinated clandestine military logistics operation", he added.  The armed uprising against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad sprang up in response to the Damascus regime's crackdown two years ago on opposition protests. - Israel National News.

China Stepping Up Drone Deployment.
China's CH-4 armed drone disclosed for the first time in November
 Source: Reuben Johnson.
China’s military is expanding its unmanned aerial vehicle forces with a new Predator-like armed drone and a new unmanned combat aircraft amid growing tensions with neighbors in Asia, according to U.S. intelligence officials.  New unarmed drone deployments include the recent stationing of reconnaissance and ocean surveillance drones in Northeast Asia near Japan and the Senkaku islands and along China’s southern coast. Drones also are planned for the South China Sea where China has been encroaching on international waters and bullying nations of that region in asserting control over international waters, said officials familiar with intelligence reports.  “Unmanned aerial vehicles are emerging as critical enablers for PLA long range precision strike operations,” said Mark Stokes, a former military intelligence official now with the Project 2049 Institute. “A general operational PLA requirement appears to be persistent surveillance of fixed and moving targets out to 3,000 kilometers of Chinese shores.”  Japan, meanwhile, is developing and purchasing military drone capabilities to counter what it regards as Chinese aggression and Beijing’s growing military capabilities as Tokyo’s dispute with China over the Senkaku islands intensifies, the officials said.  After Chinese aircraft intruded into Japanese airspace over the Senkakus undetected late last year, Tokyo stepped up efforts to seek drone capabilities. The efforts include building an indigenous missile-tracking drone and high-altitude U.S. drones.  So far, unlike Beijing, Tokyo asserts its drone will be unarmed, the officials said.  “China has started deploying UAVs for reconnaissance and oceanic surveillance purposes in the vicinity of disputed maritime territories, such as the Senkaku Islands,” said one military source.  Of particular concern to U.S. intelligence agencies are two new missile-equipped drones known as the CH-4 and Yi Long. The aircraft were shown off along with six other military drones at a major Chinese arms show last November in Zhuhai.  Photos of the drones reveal the designs appear to be copied from the U.S. Predator armed drone that has been leading the Obama administration’s war on al Qaeda in Pakistan and elsewhere. Photos of the CH-4 show it armed with Blue Arrow-7 anti-tank missiles that appear similar in size to the U.S. Hellfire fired from Predators.  Even more of a concern, according to the officials, are intelligence reports from Asia indicating that China is well along in building a large stealth unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV)—an upiloted jet—that was revealed recently in an online Chinese military video.  The drone combat jet is nearly identical in shape to the experimental batwing-shaped U.S. Air Force X-47B currently under development. The X-47B was tested on an aircraft carrier in December.  The Chinese UCAV is expected to have enough range to reach the U.S. island of Guam, some 1,800 miles from the Chinese coast and the hub of the Pentagon’s shift to Asia, officials said. - Free Beacon.

ICE AGE NOW: The New Normal - American Midwest And Northeast To Endure More Cold Waves Well Into April!

March 26, 2013 - UNITED STATES - While April will not be as cold as March, thanks to the strengthening sun, pockets of cold air will continue their invasion from the northern Plains to the Midwest and Northeast into the first half of the month.

As we progress through spring, warmth is highly dependent on sunshine. Through the first half of April, most of the northern tier states should bag more sunny days, compared to the first four weeks or so of March.

However, the overall weather pattern into the first part of April will continue to run about a month or so behind schedule. March behaved a lot like a typical February, and it appears the first half of April will be what March should have been like.

According to Expert Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson, "The pattern into the first half of April or so still favors blocking to some extent."

Anderson is referring to the configuration of strong winds high in the atmosphere, known as the jet stream. The blocking limits the general west to east movement of weather systems.

The current batch of cold air will reach its peak during the middle of this week but will back off briefly over part of the Easter Weekend, ahead of another push of cold air from the Midwest to the Northeast.

"The jet stream appears as though it will continue its antics of large southward dips, known as troughs, and northward bulges, known as ridges, "Anderson stated, "Occasionally these dips will break off from the main jet stream forming closed-off lows."

These closed-off lows represent a large puddle of cold air high in the atmosphere. The weather produced can range from strings of chilly, unsettled days with clouds and showers or days where it starts off sunny but yields to towering clouds and thundershowers with hail.

Once in a while, these lows can bring heavy wet snow to a small area from the Plains to the East Coast and continue to produce bouts of lake-effect snow around the Great Lakes to the central Appalachians.

So while the weather moving through the first half of April will bring some warm, sunny days, these could still be outnumbered by days with clouds, showers and chilly conditions.

Even in parts of the South, a few outbreaks of chilly air are possible.

In short, spring will continue to evolve slowly. In some cases, it could be six to eight weeks behind what it was last year at this time.

Spring is often a chaotic time of the year in terms of weather, but with the pattern remaining around this year there is the potential for very dramatic weather changes from day to day.

Even in an average spring, the challenge of hitting temperatures on the mark a few days in advance can be challenging. This spring will be especially challenging. One thing to keep in mind is that normal temperatures trend upward markedly. What may be a mild day now may be considered chilly a couple of weeks from now in the realm of normal average temperatures.

During the second half of April, AccuWeather.com long-range meteorologists expect the atmosphere to start to behave more like the calendar from the northern Plains to the Northeast.

The March lion is not in a hurry to leave. It appears it is April that will be in like a lion and out like a lamb.

According to Long Range Weather Expert Paul Pastelok, "The number of episodes of cold air should gradually fade away during week three and four of April with temperatures and the weather pattern finally trending toward normal."

As a consolation, a brief wedge of warmer air (relatively speaking) will build over the central states and shift eastward over the Easter weekend, prior to a wave of cold air with wind.

Flooding Concerns Addressed

The combination of the frequent chilly outbreaks, combined with strengthening sunshine will generally work against major flooding events in most areas. The pattern will allow a gradual thaw by day and a freeze-up at night.

However, because the snow cover will not rapidly dissipate on its own, such as over the northern Plains, Upper Midwest and in northern New England, there is some risk of flooding, providing a storm with heavy rain rolls in.

The geographical setup of the Red River (over the northern Plains/Upper Midwest) is a perennial trouble spot. It flows northward from warmer to colder climate zones.

AccuWeather.com meteorologists and National Weather Service hydrologists will be keeping an eye on the potential for this well into the spring. - AccuWeather.

FUK-U-SHIMA: Japan's Nuclear Disaster Spreads Far And Wide - Tsunami Debris Keeps Coming Into Washington State!

March 26, 2013 - UNITED STATES - A dock set adrift by the 2011 tsunami in Japan is now being dismantled and removed from the Washington state beach where it beached.

The dock washed ashore in a remote section of Olympic National Park and was found Dec. 18, 2012, by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter search. The area was at first all but impossible to access because of high seas and a swollen stream cutting off the approach, according to the Washington state government.

Japan tsunami debris. Photo by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Japan tsunami debris. Photo by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Now, the Undersea Company of Port Townsend, Wash., is dismantling the dock, which measures 65 feet (20 meters) long. The sea and wind have pushed sand and cobbles around the dock, so workers will first excavate it and then use saws to cut it into manageable pieces to be helicoptered out. The work began March 19 and is expected to take several days. 

Tsunami debris

Two years after the massive tsunami swept ashore in Japan, debris from the event is still trickling ashore on Pacific isles and along the Pacific coast of North America. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has confirmed 21 pieces of debris by serial number or other identifying marks, including the dock in Washington.

Other confirmed debris includes small, derelict boats, a 25-foot-long (11 m) steel tank and a soccer ball found by kayakers in Washington State. A second floating dock set adrift by the tsunami washed ashore in Oregon.

Japan tsunami debris. Photo by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Japan tsunami debris. Photo by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Japan tsunami debris. Photo by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Marine researchers and coastal dwellers have also reported seeing an uptick in Styrofoam and housing insulation. These materials can't be definitively tied to the tsunami, but the timing and sudden influx suggests that they were part of the estimated 5 million tons of materials dragged out to sea by the tsunami.

Much of that debris, an estimated 70 percent, sunk off Japan's coast, but little is known about the remaining 1.5 million tons and how much might end up on U.S shores.

Dock dangers

The docks are of particular concern, because both harbored marine species that could potentially establish themselves on the Pacific coast. The dock that washed ashore in Oregon held about 13 pounds (about 6 kilograms) of organisms per square foot, according to Oregon State University. Marine specialists immediately set to work removing and destroying these potentially invasive species.

After the Washington dock was spotted on Dec. 18, crews managed to reach the debris on Dec. 21. Tests showed no sign of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown that followed the tsunami, which is typical — so far, tsunami debris has not been radioactive.

Japan tsunami debris. Photo by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Japan tsunami debris. Photo by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The initial crew also attached a tracking buoy to the dock to ensure it could be found if it washed back out to sea. By the time experts trekked to the dock, wind and waves had scoured most of the organisms from its sides. But in January, a team removed the floatation bumpers from the sides of the dock and decontaminated them with a bleach solution to help prevent any more potential invasives from entering the surf.

The dock weighs 185 tons and stands 7.5 feet (2.3 m) tall. It's made of Styrofoam material encased in steel-reinforced concrete. Part of the reason it was crucial to remove the dock, according to the state government, is that the dock had been damaged, allowing Styrofoam to spill out and potentially be ingested by marine mammals, fish and birds. Containing the foam will be the first priority for the removal team. - Yahoo.

WATCH: Tsunami debris keeps coming in Washington State. From a fishing boat to the recent discovery of a shrine, debris from the 2011 Japan tsunami is still showing up on US shores. NBC’s Brian Williams reports.

The latest object to wash ashore in Oregon that appears to be Japan tsunami debris could have strong cultural significance in its homeland.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department said the 16-foot-long object was discovered Friday near Oceanside in Tillamook County.

Workers believe it could be the top of a torii, the gateway entrance to a sacred site.
Photo: Judson Randall.

It is made of heavy wood and has been painted red. Workers believe it could be the top of a torii, the gateway entrance to a sacred site.

The department said the shape closely resembles the top, horizontal part of the free-standing archways found in Japan.

 It is made of heavy wood and has been painted red.
Photo: Judson Randall.

The object was partially covered with marine organisms when it was found.

It is now being stored in a secured state park maintenance yard. The parks and recreation department is now waiting on word from the Consular Office of Japan in Portland on how to proceed.

Any visitor can report unusually large amounts of debris or other notable objects by calling 211 from the coast or sending an email with photos and location to beach.debris@state.or.us. - KPTV.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department said the 16-foot-long object was discovered Friday near Oceanside in Tillamook County.
Photo: Judson Randall.

More debris that may have come from the Japanese tsunami has been reported at Oceanside Beach.

The Oregonian quotes a resident who spotted the wooden debris, Judson Randall, as saying it may be the top of a Japanese temple gate.

Park rangers hauled away the orange-painted piece of wood after it washed ashore Friday. - Statesman Journal.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: World Faces Decades of Climate Chaos - Outgoing Chief Scientific Adviser Warns, Yet Continue To Falsely Blame Turbulent Weather On Man-Made Climate Change?!

March 26, 2013 - EARTH - The world faces decades of turbulent weather even if it takes drastic action to tackle climate change, the Government's chief scientific adviser said today in a final stark warning as he prepares to step down.

Professor Sir John Beddington said that time lags in the climate system meant that accumulations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere now will determine the weather we experience for the next 25 years.

Climate change is already manifesting itself in huge variations in the weather, clearly illustrated by the way Britain experienced both drought and extreme rainfall last year, he said.

The scientist said that the international community’s failure to agree binding targets for cutting carbon emissions meant problems were being stored up for the future.

“They may reach agreement, and they may start to reduce greenhouse gases in the next five years, or it may be a little longer,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“But they are still climbing, and when that increase is reversed, we will be left with the weather and the climate for the next 25 years from whenever that happens.”

He added: “The delays in the climate system mean that the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere now will determine climate and therefore weather for the next 25 years.”

Sir John said the world had huge problems of food, water and energy security as the global population increases, all of which will be exacerbated by climate change.

"In 12 years’ time there will be another billion people on the planet and we have big issues of food security, water security and energy security and many, many people will start to be living in cities," he said.

Professor Sir John Beddington, the Government's chief scientific adviser.
"These are massive problems. Climate change is just going to make it worse."

He admitted there were some "uncertainties" in the analysis of climate change but stressed that there was clear evidence that it is happening in the way that climate models suggest.

"For example the Arctic is heating up vastly faster than other parts of the world - this is exactly what the climate scientists are predicting,” he said.

Sir John's remarks were made as Britain experienced freezing cold weather and snow, with thousands of homes across the UK without power and many roads still impassable.

Almost 8,000 homes and businesses were flooded in 2012, as the UK was battered by repeated heavy rain, storms and floods.

England and Wales experienced 10 separate flooding events between April and December last year after widespread drought gave way to the wettest summer in a century, with unusually high rainfall totals and river levels around the country.

Sir Mark Walport, currently director of the Wellcome Trust, takes over as the Government's chief scientific adviser on April 1.

Responding to Sir John's comments, Craig Bennett, policy and campaigns director for the environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth, said: “Climate change is one of the biggest threats the planet faces – and unless we urgently act to cut emissions we face an economic and environmental catastrophe.

“From droughts and floods to snow storms, Britain is increasingly battered by extreme weather.

“Ministers must listen to Professor Beddington and other leading scientists and slash UK emissions – starting with an amendment in the Energy Bill to decarbonise the power sector by 2030.” - Telegraph.

MASS MAMMAL DIE-OFF: "Catastrophic Mortality" - Manatees Dying Mysteriously In Droves On Both Coasts Of Florida; Nearly 200 This Year?!

‘They’re not finding them alive. They’re finding carcasses.’

March 26, 2013 - FLORIDA, UNITED STATES - Large numbers of manatees are dying on both coasts of Florida.

In the southwest, a persistent red tide in the Gulf of Mexico has killed nearly 200 manatees this year. These tides are algal blooms, and occur when microorganisms called dinoflagellates proliferate, staining oceans and releasing toxins into the water and air. Harmful to organisms including fish, manatees and humans, the toxins attack the nervous system, causing short-term memory loss, paralysis, seizures and ultimately death.

Rescuers attend to a manatee affected by red tide near Fort Myers, Florida.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

In the east, near Cape Canaveral on the Atlantic Ocean, manatees are also dying. But there the cause is unknown.

“There are indications of the animals being otherwise completely healthy — but having died of shock and drowning,” said marine mammal biologist Ann Spellman, with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the state agency tasked with the investigation.

In July 2012, manatees started turning up dead in the Indian River Lagoon; now, there are 80 dead animals, 50 of them since the beginning of February.

“They’re all dying from a cause that we suspect is a common one — common to those manatees — but right now, is still unknown,” said Kevin Baxter, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Alligators aren’t a threat to manatees, but microorganisms and boat propellers are.
Photo: Patrick M. Rose/Save the Manatee Club

The gentle, blimp-shaped animals, with their bristled snouts and large, fanlike tails, have been on the federal endangered species list since 1967 (.pdf). Scientists estimate that roughly half the world’s West Indian manatees (Trichechus manatus) live in the shallow waters in and around Florida, where aside from microorganisms and mystery killers, the thousand-pound animals are threatened by watercraft, fishing gear and the loss of their warm-water habitats.

Now, the simultaneous mass-mortality events are threatening the state’s manatee population.

“This is very unusual and is unprecedented in magnitude,” said Patrick Rose, a former government biologist and current director of Save the Manatee Club. Rose has studied and worked with manatees since the late 1960s. “This is fast approaching the all-time record catastrophic mortality from cold shock and cold stress experienced in 2010,” he said. During that winter, more than 250 manatees died. “The difference here is that by this time, the cold stress issues were abating with the arrival of spring — and we don’t know when either of these unusual mortality events will extinguish.”

Red Menace
Red tides have thrived for as long as people have kept records of Florida’s seas, with centuries-old descriptions of fish kills and human illness. Now, Florida’s west coast sees a bloom almost every year, Baxter said, though the duration and location are hard to predict in advance. The last time red tide-related mortality was this high was in 1996, when 151 manatees were killed by algal blooms.

In September, a red tide began blooming off Florida’s southwest coast. In October, Sarasota newspapers called it the “worst red tide” in years, reporting tons of dead fish along Florida’s Gulf Coast beaches. Biologists and oceanographers tracked the bloom, watching its progress and sampling the stained waters. “This tide has pretty consistently been over 100, 150 miles long,” said Jason Lenes, a biological oceanographer with the University of South Florida. “The average bloom is generally between two and four months, and this one is lasting for almost six months at this point,” he said.

Occasionally, water tests have come back packed with more than 10 million cells per liter. The threshold for a “high” concentration is one-tenth of that. Though not anomalously high, Lenes said the bloom’s concentrations of cells have been sustained for a long period of time.

The bloom microorganisms are called Karenia brevis, dinoflagellates that thrive in warm water and are photosynthetic. But K. brevis excrete toxins into the water, compounds that attack nervous systems and cause paralysis, seizures and drowning. Brevetoxins are absorbed by shellfish, can lead to massive fish kills, and stick to seagrasses and other plants, contaminating food sources for herbivorous animals like manatees. At very high concentrations, such as those present periodically during the southwest Florida bloom, brevetoxins can also be inhaled by marine mammals and humans.

As of March 21, 193 manatees have died from the tide since January. Recently, many of the manatees recovered have been found in the vicinity of the Orange River, site of a warm-water aggregation spot near a power plant, where the animals go when ocean temperatures are too cold to tolerate.

The Orange River spills into the Caloosahatchee River, which opens into the Gulf. “Right in that mouth area, where they go to get to the river, is one of the areas where the bloom has been persistent,” Lenes said. With the bloom parked near the river’s mouth, the manatees upstream are trapped behind a wall of toxic water — an unfortunate collusion of timing and location.

Now, Rose says, the waters are warming and the manatees are heading back out to the sea and brackish estuaries nearer the coast. There, the seagrasses are likely coated with toxins — toxins that will stick to the grasses even after the bloom dissipates.

Rescuers hoping to help manatees have to act fast. Toxins can harm an animal within a few hours, depending on its size and location. Telltale signs of brevetoxins include listing while floating, muscle twitches and difficulty breathing — all signs that, since the beginning of the bloom, officials have been patrolling the waters and keeping an eye out for, Baxter said.

One of the red tide patients at the Lowry Park Zoo.
Photo courtesy of Lowry Park Zoo

So far, a dozen animals have been rescued early enough to be helped. The 12 manatees were taken to Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, where they’ve all recovered. “If we can get them early enough, we can usually get them through it,” said Larry Killmar, the zoo’s vice president for animal science and conservation. “But what’s happening is, they’re not finding them alive. They’re finding the carcasses.”

After they’re admitted, the zoo’s red tide patients — who now have names like “Threepio” and “Cheer” — are given antibiotics and rigged with a buoy system to keep them afloat. Then, staff members sit with the animals until they’re well enough to float on their own. Instead of seagrass, which is difficult to harvest and potentially contaminated, the zoo’s patients are fed romaine lettuce.

A lot of it.
“Manatees eat 10 percent of their body weight in food a day,” Killmar said. “At our peak, with 22 manatees on site, that was 5,200 heads of romaine lettuce a week.”

The animals won’t be released into the wild until the bloom is gone. As of this week, it’s still offshore and in the area of Lee and Charlotte counties, though the concentration of cells is decreasing. But danger lingers even after the blooms have dissipated, since toxins stick to and encrust the seagrasses manatees rely on for food. Just last week, 13 dead animals were recovered near Lee County.

“The good part is, if you can rescue the manatees, there are good methods for eliminating toxins from their system and their recovery is pretty quick,” Rose said. “In contrast, I don’t know of any manatees that have been found alive from what’s happening on the east coast.”

Manatees playing in Blue Spring.
Photo: Patrick M. Rose/Save the Manatee Club

Eastern Mystery
The Indian River Lagoon runs for 150 miles along Florida’s eastern shores. One section, the Banana River, shapes the western bank of Cape Canaveral, near where NASA launches rockets into space.

It’s here, near the Kennedy Space Center, that manatees are mysteriously dying. Since the beginning of February, 50 animals have been pulled from the lagoon’s estuarine waters – that’s more than half of the 80 manatees who’ve died in the area since July.

The killer in the east slays swiftly and leaves behind nary a clue.

“They were big adults, they had good fat storage. But they seem to have died very acutely,” said Martine deWit, a veterinarian who oversees the state’s marine mammal pathology lab. “Whatever killed them, it happened really fast.”

Two manatees found dead in the Indian River Lagoon.
Photo: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Other than being dead, the animals look normal. They’re not starving and show no signs of sickness. Many have bellies stuffed full of macroalgae, including Gracilaria, a nontoxic seaweed, but one that manatees rarely eat. Most look as though they’ve gone into shock and drowned – some so quickly that by the time rescuers respond to calls of a strangely behaving manatee, the animal is dead.

“Some still have intact pieces [of algae] in their mouths,” deWit said.

Without a live, sick animal to monitor, scientists are stuck searching for patterns, playing the roles of forensic investigators and looking for clues.

So far, there’s no easily identifiable affected age or size class. Tests for toxins in the water have turned up nothing. No brevetoxin, no domoic acid, no signs of anything known to kill manatees. The animals’ tissues don’t show signs of viral or bacterial infection, though deWit said a few show minor pathological signs associated with a toxin having entered their gut.

“We have tested for a couple biotoxins that do occur in Florida, and so far those are negative,” she said.

The most obvious links are where the animals are found, and their bellies full of the wrong kind of food.

Scientists suspect the manatees are turning to a foreign food source because their preferred meal, seagrass, is no longer around. Since 2011, two algal blooms have destroyed the lagoon’s invertebrates and grasses. The first was a green algae superbloom; the second, a brown algal bloom that turned the lagoon brown and wiped out 32,000 acres of seagrass. Together, the blooms shaded the water and prevented grasses from growing.

But, “The brown algae causing the death in the sea grasses is not killing these manatees,” said Dana Wetzel, a chemical oceanographer with Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota.

On their own, these blooms are harmless. Some suspect, though, that the blooms are fed by nitrogen- and phosphorous-containing nutrient-rich runoff – the wash that flows into the sea from fertilizer-laced lawns, storm drains and septic fields after it rains. Normally, seagrasses would sequester these extra nutrients or metabolize them, keeping the ecosystem balanced. But after the algal blooms kicked off and the grasses died, nutrients flooded the lagoon, fueling further algal growth and concentrating in the water.

How that’s related to manatees’ demise is unclear; scientists are still hard at work trying to figure out what’s going on. “As of right now, the mechanism has not been identified,” Spellman said “We don’t necessarily feel that where the animals are dying, the animals are eating.” But the fact that so many are recovered from the same place suggests that whatever is going wrong is something local. Wetzel and others say it’s possible a yet-to-be identified biotoxin is circulating in the ecosystem.

Manatees aggregate near warm-water sources; cold snaps, like in the winter of 2010-2011, can kill hundreds of the animals.
Photo: Ann Spellman

And there are other signs that the Indian River Lagoon is in distress: As of March 21, 200 dead brown pelicans have been found there this year, emaciated and infested with parasites. But right now, Baxter says, there’s no evidence that pelican and manatee mortality are linked.

It’s possible that something in the lagoon is affecting dolphins as well. Megan Stolen, a research scientist with Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, says teams in the area have recovered a slightly higher-than-normal number of deceased dolphins – four in January, five in February, three so far in March. “A number of them have been emaciated,” she said. “They’re really thin, skinny, and starvation mode.”

But there’s no lack of fish in the lagoon. “It’s not that they’re starving because there’s no fish. If they’re starving it’s because they can’t find food, can’t chase the food, can’t metabolize it,” she said.

So far, though, the numbers aren’t statistically significant – averages for those months are between two and three dolphin deaths — and again, there’s no obvious connection to the manatees’ demise. “I would say we’re on alert,” she said. “But right now, there’s not a reason to be worried.”

What does worry scientists is that there’s no way of knowing when the manatee die-offs in the lagoon will end – or when they’ll know what’s going on.

“That’s probably one of the most disturbing things,” Spellman said. “If this were a cold snap, we’d know. Right now, we don’t even know what to look for. They’re not even showing any outward signs. We have no idea when this will end." - WIRED.