Thursday, March 28, 2013

WORLD WAR III: Escalation Towards Armageddon - US Sends Nuclear-Capable B-2 Bombers To South Korea In Show Of Force; North Korea 'Burning With Hatred' For US After Stealth Bomber Missions; Putin Orders Large-Scale Military Exercises In Black Sea! UPDATE: Kim Jong-Un Puts Rocket Units On Standyby For An Attack On US Bases - Hagel Says U.S. Has To Take North Korean Threats Seriously!

March 28, 2013 - KOREAN PENINSULA - The U.S military says two nuclear-capable B-2 bombers have completed a training mission in South Korea amid threats from North Korea that include nuclear strikes on Washington and Seoul.

A U.S. airforce B-2 Spirit stealth bomber (L) flies over Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul, South Korea 
Photo: REUTERS/Sin Young-keun/Yonhap

The statement Thursday by U.S. Forces Korea is an unusual confirmation. It follows an earlier U.S. announcement that nuclear-capable B-52 bombers participated in ongoing U.S.-South Korean military drills.

The U.S. says the B-2 stealth bombers flew from a U.S. air base and dropped munitions on a South Korean island range before returning home.

The announcement will likely draw a strong response from Pyongyang. North Korea sees the military drills as part of a U.S. plot to invade and becomes particularly upset about U.S. nuclear activities in the region.

Washington and Seoul say they the annual drills are routine and defensive. - Washington Post.

North Korea 'Burning With Hatred' For US After Stealth Bomber Missions.
North Korea claimed its people were "burning with hatred" for the US after Washington confirmed it had flown B-2 stealth bomber "deterrence" missions over South Korea.

The deployment of the stealth bombers was clearly meant to deliver a potent message to Pyongyang about the US commitment to defending South Korea against any aggression as military tensions on the Korean peninsula soar.

It came after the North severed its last-remaining military hotline with South Korea on Wednesday and put its rocket units on combat status with a threat to target US bases in the Pacific region.


It also emerged on Wednesday that North Korea had "Photoshopped" an image of a troop landing drill as part of Pyongyang's renewed military propaganda war. The two B-2s, from Whiteman Air Force base in Missouri, flew the 13,000 mile (20,800 kilometre) round-trip in a "single continuous mission", dropping dummy ordnance on a target range in the South, the US military said in a statement.

"This ... demonstrates the United States' ability to conduct long-range, precision strikes quickly and at will," the statement said.

The bombers were participating in South Korean-US military exercises that have incensed North Korea, which has threatened to unleash a second Korean War and launch pre-emptive nuclear strikes on South Korea and the US mainland.

"How can we pardon the Yankees who hatched even a sinister plot to defame the supreme dignity, which we regard dearer than our own lives, not content with staging madcap nuclear war drills?" Cha Ok Chol, a Korean People's Army officer said according to the Korean Central News Agency.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (Reuters).

An editorial put out by the KCNA described "hideous politically-motivated terrorism of the US and the South Korean puppet forces targeting the dignified social system in the DPRK".

North Korea also stated on Thursday it planned to "sweep away" America's Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, according to KCNA.

Earlier on Thursday, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told his South Korean counterpart that Seoul could rely on all the military protection the United States has to offer – nuclear, conventional and missile defence.

The US and South Korean militaries signed a new pact last week, providing for a joint military response to even low-level provocation by North Korea.

While most analysts have dismissed the bulk of the North Korean threats as rhetorical bluster, there are concerns that even a minor incident could swiftly escalate in such a volatile environment. - Telegraph.

Putin Orders Large-Scale Military Exercises In Black Sea.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during closing remarks at the fifth BRICS Summit in Durban, March 27, 2013.
Credit: Reuters/Rogan Ward
President Vladimir Putin ordered the launch of large-scale Russian military exercises in the Black Sea region on Thursday, his spokesman said, in a move that may create tensions with Russia's post-Soviet neighbors Ukraine and Georgia.

Putin issued the order to start the previously unannounced maneuvers at 4 a.m. Moscow time (12.00 a.m. EDT) as he flew back from an international summit in South Africa, his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters by telephone.

"These are large-scale unannounced test exercises," Peskov said, adding that 36 warships and an unspecified number of warplanes would take part. "The main goal is to check the readiness and cohesion of the various units."

He did not say how long the exercises would last.

Putin has stressed the importance of a strong and agile military since he returned to the presidency last May after four years as prime minister. In 13 years in power, he has often cited external threats when talking of the need for unity in Russia.

Russia's Black Sea fleet, whose main base is in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol, was instrumental in a war with Georgia in 2008 over the Russian-backed breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Disputes with Kiev over Moscow's continued lease of the Black Sea navy base have been a thorn in relations with its former Soviet neighbor.

Peskov said that Russia is under no obligation to warn neighbors ahead of time of plans to hold the air and sea military exercises as long as fewer than 7,000 servicemen participated in the maneuvers. - Reuters.

WATCH: Large-scale military drills in Black Sea following order from Putin.

UPDATE: Kim Jong-Un Puts Rocket Units On Standyby For An Attack On US Bases.
North Korea's leader has told rocket units to be on standby for an attack on US bases, according to state media.  The country's KCNA news agency said Kim Jong-Un had signed off on the order to train sights on American bases in South Korea and the Pacific after a midnight meeting with top generals.  It comes after two American stealth bombers flew over South Korea in a show of force to Pyongyang, following an escalation of rhetoric from the North's young leader. 

State TV reports on a missile being launched during a drill on March 20.
The North's threats have become more frequent.

The two nuclear-capable B-2 planes flew a 13,000-mile round trip from an air base in Missouri, dropping a dummy bomb on a target range in the South.  The planes were taking part in a joint South Korea-US military exercise that has inflamed tensions with Pyongyang, which earlier this month threatened to unleash an "all-out war" backed by nuclear weapons.  "This .... demonstrates the United States' ability to conduct long range, precision strikes quickly and at will," the US military said in a statement.  "The B-2 bomber is an important element of America's enduring and robust extended deterrence capability in the Asia-Pacific region."  KCNA reported that Mr Kim had "judged the time has come to settle accounts with the US imperialists in view of the prevailing situation". 

The agency said: "He finally signed the plan on technical preparations of strategic rockets of the KPA, ordering them to be standby for fire so that they may strike any time the US mainland, its military bases in the operational theatres in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in South Korea."  The US has denied the exercise was provocative but said it was "committed to a pathway to peace" and "prepared to deal with any eventuality" in the region.  Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the B-2 bombers were a message intended more for allies than Pyongyang.  "The North Koreans have to understand that what they're doing is very dangerous," Mr Hagel said.  "I don't think we're doing anything extraordinary or provocative or out of the ... orbit of what nations do to protect their own interests."  The US, he added, must make it clear to South Korea, Japan and other allies in the region that "these provocations by the North are taken by us very seriously, and we'll respond to that". - SKY News.

UPDATE: Hagel Says U.S. Has To Take North Korean Threats Seriously.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Thursday that North Korea's provocative actions and belligerent tone had "ratcheted up the danger" on the Korean peninsula, but he denied that the United States had aggravated the situation by flying stealth bombers to the region.  "We have to take seriously every provocative, bellicose word and action that this new young leader has taken so far" since coming to power, Hagel told a Pentagon news conference, referring to Kim Jong-un. - Yahoo.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: 2013 - Meteorologists Warn Of Active Severe Storm Season For The United States!

March 28, 2013 - UNITED STATES - AccuWeather long-range forecasters are predicting an active severe storm season during the mid-spring and early summer of 2013, despite a slow March this year, compared to last year. In short, atmospheric conditions that have kept a lid of severe weather thus far will soon change.

"People can't let their guard down," AccuWeather Expert Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said. "It looks like everybody is going to be vulnerable to severe weather this year from the Gulf of Mexico in early April up to the Midwest by late in the spring and early summer."

Storm Threats and Areas of Concern
AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok is forecasting an average ramp-up of severe storm events with damaging wind and hail moving forward.

"The Deep South is going to be under the gun during during April," Kottlowski said.

According to Severe Weather Expert Henry Margusity, "The blocking pattern responsible for sending cold, dry air masses over the South and Gulf of Mexico should wind down during April."

The pattern has driven the jet stream well to the south, a necessary ingredient for providing energy for severe thunderstorm and tornado development.

"Weighing in a slightly later start to the severe weather season, the atmosphere will be hard-pressed to produce an above-normal amount of tornadoes this season, but we are likely to see the counts of tornadoes increase as we normally would moving forward from April onward through the spring," Margusity added.

Water temperatures have trended to near normal in the Gulf of Mexico after running below normal during the late winter.

That means low-level moisture supply (higher dew point temperatures) for the Deep South is poised to return when winds swing in off the Gulf.

Moisture-rich (high dew point) air is essential in the development of severe storms. However, Pastelok said that when a storm system is strong enough, it can compensate for the lack of moisture.

"We have seen a couple events already, and I think there are a couple more events coming in the next few weeks," Pastelok said.

The ingredients may come together for more violent outbreaks of severe storms and tornadoes during the second half of April and May. As water temperatures increase in the Gulf of Mexico and more humid air reaches the South, the northward shift of the jet stream will also be coming together.

Rotating severe storms, which parent tornadoes, require rapidly increasing wind speed or a change in direction with increasing height to help create a twisting motion in the atmosphere. This is known to meteorologists as wind shear.

The proximity of the jet stream to a potential severe thunderstorm formation area often increases wind shear and exploits other atmospheric conditions, tipping the scale toward development.

The transition time where the jet is slowly shifting northward during late April and May can set the stage for the worst outbreaks of the year.

"The quickness at which severe weather parameters come together is what usually determines how bad a severe weather outbreak is," Kottlowski said.

While severe thunderstorms and tornadoes are expected in the traditional tornado alley over the Plains, the prime threat area for tornadoes is skewed farther east this year (similar to last year), due to an anticipated building zone of high pressure at most levels of the atmosphere centered over the Rockies.

During the heart of the severe season, when the threat of tornadoes should be highest, an area to watch will be the lower Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee valleys. Little Rock, Memphis and Nashville are among the cities that lie in the zone of greatest risk this year.

Overall, the number of tornadoes is expected to be near to slightly below average* in 2013.

*- The 10-year estimated average number of tornadoes to hit the U.S. annually is 1,300. However, the actual annual average is not known due to observing and reporting methods that have changed drastically over time.

Comparison to Last Year
This year is expected to be a more active severe weather year than 2012 when only 939 tornadoes occurred, according to the Storm Prediction Center. February and March only account for a small percentage of tornadoes, on average for the season. - AccuWeather.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Tracking Developments At The Giant Louisiana Sinkhole - Office Of Conservation Raises Sinkhole Monitoring Alert Status To Code 2; Elevated Subsurface Activity Detected; Trees And Access Ramp Slough-in From The Oxy 3 Well Pad As The Sinkhole Expands!

March 28, 2013 - UNITED STATES - The following constitutes a new advisory from the Assumption Parish Police Jury:

 « 1:25 p.m. Slough-In Occurrence/Advisory from the Office of Conservation
The Office of Conservation, in consultation with Assumption Parish Incident Command, is advising the public that the Oxy 3/sinkhole monitoring alert status has been raised to Code 2 – requiring all work directly in and over the sinkhole to cease until further notice.

Seismic monitoring has detected elevated subsurface activity in the area around the sinkhole and Oxy 3 area indicative of fluid and gas movement below the sinkhole, and a further slough-in was observed along the southeastern side of the sinkhole this morning, with the access ramp from the Oxy 3 well pad to the sinkhole having sloughed in, along with several trees on either side of the ramp.

The seismic activity is limited to the Oxy 3/sinkhole area, showing no indication of impact to the Oxy 1 area. Monitoring is constantly ongoing in the area and Conservation will continue to advise the public of significant changes in subsurface conditions. - Assumption Parish Police Jury.

Louisiana Sinkhole Expands Again.
About 25 trees fell into the Assumption Parish, La., sinkhole and officials say a new crack formed Monday night in a well pad south of the lake-like slurry hole.

The Advocate reports experts working for the state Office of Conservation believe the collapse and cracked well pad are linked to now-calmed seismic events from late last week.

Because of that connection, agency officials said the discovery did not halt work around the sinkhole and the area remains in emergency officials’ lowest “alert” status.

Parish officials also estimated that the edge collapse, or slough-in, probably bit off a quarter-acre from the formerly 13-acre sinkhole’s southeastern edge.

The sinkhole is located in swamps between the Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou communities and has required the continued evacuation of more than 350 people in those areas.

A failed Texas Brine Co. LLC cavern in the Napoleonville Dome is suspected of causing the sinkhole and related consequences. The cracked surface pad had been used for the original access well to the failed cavern, Oxy Geismar No. 3.

Early on Friday, experts detected an uptick in “very long period” tremors, a type of stretched-out seismic event, that have been linked to fluid and gas movement underground.

The tremors were detected under the sinkhole and around the failed Texas Brine cavern.

Past increases in tremors sometimes have preceded slough-ins and burps by the growing sinkhole.

The edge collapse happened roughly opposite from a nearly 1-acre slough-in on the western edge of the sinkhole that followed other tremors earlier this month.

That earlier slough-in, combined with other measurement changes, had boosted the sinkhole’s area to 13 acres.

The new crack is in an out-of-use ramp connecting the well pad to the sinkhole. The crack is parallel to the sinkhole’s southern edge. - Insurance Journal.

Here are the latest seismographs, courtesy of The University of Memphis' Center for Earthquake Research and Information:

See all of the graphs HERE.

WATCH: New Flyover Videos - March 28, 2013.

MONUMENTAL INCREASE IN METHANE: What Is Causing Washington's Exploding Manholes - Methane Levels Triples In Just One Century; 1,800 Parts Per Billion?!

March 28, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Drive around Washington, D.C., and the phrase “passing gas” takes on a whole new meaning. Researchers who mapped methane concentrations on the streets of the nation’s capital found natural gas leaks everywhere, at concentrations of up to 50 times the normal background levels, they reported here last week at a meeting of the American Physical Society. The leaking gas wastes resources, enhances ozone production, and exacerbates global warming — not to mention powering the city’s infamous exploding manholes.

Most of the natural gas we burn for heat and on stovetops in the United States is methane, a simple carbon atom surrounded by four hydrogens. Carbon dioxide gets more press, but methane is the more powerful agent of global warming, 21 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. And methane levels are rising fast. Methane levels in the atmosphere were just 650 parts per billion a century ago, versus 1800 ppb today.

Image: John M/Flickr

Unlike carbon dioxide, methane sources tend to be diffuse. Landfills, cattle, rice paddies, swamps, forest fires, and oil and gas production wells are some of the biggest sources of methane leakage into the atmosphere. Only the production well leaks are easy to stem and only sometimes. But the evidence gathered on the streets of Washington, D.C., by ecologist and chemical engineer Robert Jackson of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, suggests that another major source of methane is literally under our noses. And this one, we might be able to fix.

Jackson and his research team suspected aging infrastructure in older cities might also contribute to methane entering the atmosphere. To test the idea, they drove along every street in the District of Columbia and regularly sampled the air, mapping the concentration of methane over a period of 2 months. They found thousands of places with air concentrations significantly above the 2 parts per million background level typically found in cities, with some areas as high as 100 ppm. Although Washington’s residents often joke that the city was built on a swamp, carbon isotope analysis showed that the methane in the air came from fossil fuels, not modern swamp microbes. Fossil fuels tend to contain more carbon-13, a carbon isotope with seven neutrons in its nucleus instead of the more common six. The metabolic processes of modern methane-producing bacteria tend to preferentially use lighter carbon isotopes such as carbon-12.

Methane leakage at the levels reported by Jackson’s team isn’t a direct health risk. But it can promote the formation of ground-level ozone, which irritates the lungs and at high levels makes it dangerous for people with respiratory problems to be outside. If other large cities with older infrastructures are leaking on a scale comparable to Washington, D.C. — and Jackson’s group has similar data from Boston that suggests they are — leaky city pipes make a significant contribution to methane in the atmosphere.

Even more disturbing than the thousands of large leaks on the street were the levels of methane in manholes. In some, the researchers found levels as high as 10,000 ppm. Natural gas companies typically consider 4000 ppm to be the threshold for a risk of explosion. D.C. manholes have a tendency to blow up — there are an average of 38 “manhole incidents” per year in the district, according to a report by Stone & Webster Consultants in Boston, including one yesterday on 33rd Street in Georgetown that forced the evacuation of a cupcake shop. Although Jackson cannot say for certain that leaking natural gas is the reason for these blasts, the leaks certainly don’t contribute to safety.

The researchers aren’t sure why D.C. has so many gas leaks, but the city is old and has corroded iron pipes carrying gas. Old, rusted-out iron pipes are the culprits in Boston, Jackson’s team found.

The instrument that Jackson and colleagues used to take the air samples is relatively new, and that may be one reason why no one had done this study before. But another reason is that no one thought to look, says William Schlesinger, a global biogeochemist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York. “The important part of the work is that we’ve overlooked this as a source. If the situation in D.C. is repeated in big cities across the country, that could be a notable source of methane to Earth’s atmosphere.” Not to mention a significant drain on the pockets of natural gas companies who don’t get to bill for the lost gas.

“I hope that by making this information public, it will provide incentive to fix the leaks,” by pushing gas companies to test their service areas for leaks and replace badly corroded pipes, Jackson says. “It’s relatively cheap and quick, can save some money, improve safety, and help the environment.” - WIRED.

RATTLE & HUM: Florida Weather Anomalies Continues - Very Mysterious Boom Shakes Windows In Several Counties In The Sunshine State?!

March 28, 2013 - UNITED STATES - A sonic boom of some sort caused windows and walls to shake over several counties in North Central Florida Thursday night, and Alachua County sheriff's officials got the explanation that it was "military manuevering of some kind."

Alachua County Sheriff's Lt. Art Forgey said late Thursday night that the "west side of Gainesville flooded our communications center" around 9 p.m. with calls about a window-clattering and wall-shaking boom felt by many residents, particularly those in west Gainesville.

"We've been in contact with the State Warning Point, and 'military manuevering' " was the extent of the explanation, Forgey said. The State Warning Point is a clearinghouse staffed 24/7 to serve as Florida's primary point of contact for coordination in times of emergency.

Forgey did say that several counties reported experiencing a similar sonic boom, but he was not aware of which counties were reporting such an incident. - Gainesville.

ICE AGE NOW: Freezing Weather Creates Widespread Chaos And Disruption Across Europe - Black Ice Coating Causes 100 Vehicles Deadly Pileup In Austria, One Dead!

March 28, 2013 - AUSTRIA - A pile-up involving about 100 vehicles on a snow-hit Austrian motorway has left at least one person dead.

Emergency officials said the crash scene on the west-bound A1 west of Vienna stretched for more than 2km (1.2 miles).

Six regional fire departments have been at the scene with ambulances and an emergency services helicopter, broadcaster ORF said.

Officials said 60 cars and about 40 lorries were involved in the pile-up

A spell of freezing weather is causing disruption across Europe.

Officials said the accident happened near St Poelten, about 60km from the capital, and involved about 40 lorries and 60 cars.

Franz Resperger of the Lower Austrian fire department said the icy carriageway was a likely factor in the crash.

In southern Austria, at least 29 people were injured - six seriously - in two accidents inside road tunnels in the state of Styria, ORF reported. The A2 motorway, which runs through the tunnels, was blocked in both directions.

Elsewhere, record-breaking snowfall in the Ukrainian capital Kiev has caused traffic chaos and seen many residents taking to skis instead, AFP news agency reported

Heavy snow blanketing three regions of Romania has closed schools and disrupted road traffic.

The freezing weather has also caused chaos on Serbia's northern border with Hungary where lorries queued for hours amid heavy snowfall.

Black ice coating roads in neighbouring Croatia has caused a spate of accidents, national TV reports said. - BBC.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: The White Cliffs Collapse - Tonnes Of Chalk Crash From World Famous Landmark Into The English Channel Near Dover!

March 28, 2013 - UNITED KINGDOM - They are one of the most iconic symbols of British independence and the inspiration for one of the most famous wartime songs.  But walkers have been warned to take care when walking along a stretch of the famous White Cliffs of Dover after tonnes of chalk crashed into the English Channel when part of the cliff-face sheared off.  A giant mound of clay was left on the shore near St Margaret's Bay after the collapse between between Dover and Deal in Kent. 

Landslide: Tonnes of chalk were left piled on the Kent coastline after part of the White Cliffs of Dover collapsed.

Dover Coastguard said a bench and fencing which sat on the cliff-top were also sent tumbling to the base, prompting warnings to coastal walkers.  Fortunately, no one was hurt.  The collapse is thought to have been caused by a combination of high winds and rain freezing after being absorbed into the chalk and then expanding, causing the cliff to weaken. 

A similar collapse saw a chunk of the cliff-face slip in March last year.  A Dover Coastguard spokesman said: 'There was a similar fall in 2012 but this one is smaller than that one. A bench and fence have gone down with it. 

'Coastguard rescue officers were tasked to make an assessment of the area and take some pictures which were sent off to the relevant authorities.  'The cliff-fall extends about 150 yards from the base of the cliff towards the sea at ground level, and the fall is about 15ft to 20ft high.'

Warning signs: The collapse happened in St Margaret's Bay between Dover and Deal in Kent.

The National Trust, which owns the land, were told of the collapse and have put up signs warning walkers to beware.

A National Trust spokesman said: 'This cliff fall is part of a process of natural regeneration that happens on this world famous stretch of the Kent coast, helping to keep this special place, recognised by millions across the world, so distinctive.

'We’ve installed signs and information to help keep access open to this British icon.

'Throughout the year we closely monitor how the elements affect the chalk cliffs, helping us to manage the coastal footpath.'

The National Trust has now put up signs telling walkers to beware further collapses in the area.

The Kent landmark, immortalised by Dame Vera Lynn’s wartime song The White Cliffs of Dover, has suffered large falls before, and is thought to recede by around half an inch each year.

Experts believe that the cliffs could move up to 200 yards further away from France by the end of the century.

Parts of the cliffs are now supported by concrete.

The chalk cliffs have stood over dramatic moments in English history, including the first arrival of the Romans and the return of British forces rescued from Dunkirk in the Second World War.

Rubble: The National Trust, which owns the stretch of land said that the collapse was smaller than a similar one last March.

Collapse: The cliff-fall extends about 150 yards from the base of the cliff towards the sea at ground level, and the fall is about 15ft to 20ft high.

Famous: The White Cliffs of Dover are an iconic symbol of British freedom and independence and were the inspiration for one of the most famous wartime songs by Dame Vera Lynn.

They are also home to a rich array of wildlife such as the Adonis blue butterfly and peregrine falcons, Kent’s only kittiwake, and plants including oxtongue broomrape and sea carrots.

Last year, the National Trust, which owns five miles of the white cliffs, successfully raised money to buy a mile of the coastline from a private owner in a campaign backed by celebrities including Dame Judi Dench, singer Joss Stone and chef Rick Stein.

More than 16,000 people and organisations backed the appeal, which was launched in June last year and saw an average donation of £40.21, including Gift Aid, from members of the public. - Daily Mail.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Scientists Image Deep Magma Beneath Pacific Seafloor Volcano - Huge Reservoir Of Magma Under Pacific And Cocos Plates!

March 28, 2013 - PACIFIC OCEAN - Since the plate tectonics revolution of the 1960s, scientists have known that new seafloor is created throughout the major ocean basins at linear chains of volcanoes known as mid-ocean ridges. But where exactly does the erupted magma come from?

Researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego now have a better idea after capturing a unique image of a site deep in the Earth where magma is generated.

Using electromagnetic technology developed and advanced at Scripps, the researchers mapped a large area beneath the seafloor off Central America at the northern East Pacific Rise, a seafloor volcano located on a section of the global mid-ocean ridges that together form the largest and most active chain of volcanoes in the solar system. By comparison, the researchers say the cross-section area of the melting region they mapped would rival the size of San Diego County.

The deep melting region where magma is generated in the mantle beneath the mid-ocean ridge volcano. Green to red colors show regions of partially molten material created by upwelling due to the divergence of the Pacific and Cocos tectonic plates. This image was made by analyzing data collected by an array of seafloor electromagnetic instruments, shown as inverted triangles. Shaded colors in the upper panel show the seafloor topography around the survey region. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of California - San Diego).

Details of the image and the methods used to capture it are published in the March 28 issue of the journal Nature.

"Our data show that mantle upwelling beneath the mid-ocean ridge creates a deeper and broader melting region than previously thought," said Kerry Key, lead author of the study and an associate research geophysicist at Scripps. "This was the largest project of its kind, enabling us to image the mantle with a level of detail not possible with previous studies."

The northern East Pacific Rise is an area where two of the planet's tectonic plates are spreading apart from each another. Mantle rising between the plates melts to generate the magma that forms fresh seafloor when it erupts or freezes in the crust.

Data for the study was obtained during a 2004 field study conducted aboard the research vessel Roger Revelle, a ship operated by Scripps and owned by the U.S. Navy.

The marine electromagnetic technology behind the study was originally developed in the 1960s by Charles "Chip" Cox, an emeritus professor of oceanography at Scripps, and his student Jean Filloux. In recent years the technology was further advanced by Steven Constable and Key. Since 1995 Scripps researchers have been working with the energy industry to apply this technology to map offshore geology as an aid to exploring for oil and gas reservoirs.

"We have been working on developing our instruments and interpretation software for decades, and it is really exciting to see it all come together to provide insights into the fundamental processes of plate tectonics," said Constable, a coauthor of the paper and a professor in the Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at Scripps. "It was really a surprise to discover that melting started so deep in the mantle -- much deeper than was expected."

Key believes the insights that electromagnetics provides will continue to grow as the technology matures and data analysis techniques improve (last week Key and his colleagues announced the use of electromagnetics in discovering a magma lubricant for the planet's tectonic plates).

"Electromagnetics is really coming of age as a tool for imaging the earth," said Key. "Much of what we know about the crust and mantle is a result of using seismic techniques. Now electromagnetic technology is offering promise for further discoveries."

Key also has future plans to apply electromagnetic technology to map subglacial lakes and groundwater in the polar regions.

In addition to Key and Constable, coauthors of the paper include Lijun Liu of the University of Illinois and Anne Pommier of Arizona State University.

The study was supported by the National Science Foundation and the Seafloor Electromagnetic Methods Consortium at Scripps. - Science Daily.

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: Plague Of Biblical Proportions - Billions Of Locusts Infests Impoverished Madagascar; Everywhere The Eye Can See, Eating Most Everything In Sight?!

March 28, 2013 - MADAGASCAR - Billions of locusts -- everywhere the eye can see, eating most everything in sight.

That's the harsh reality affecting roughly half the island nation of Madagascar, infested by swarms of the bugs flying in sometimes mile-long packs. Run for 30 to 45 minutes, and you still might not be able to shake them.

The locust plague is described as the worst to hit Madagascar since the 1950s.

"It's like you are in a movie, it's incredible," said Alexandre Huynh of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO, from the country's capital of Antananarivo. "You don't see anything except locusts. You turn around, there are locusts everywhere."

Locusts' targets aren't people, but they do ravenously devour what people eat -- directly in the form of crops, and indirectly in the form of pastureland that livestock and other animals graze on.

Without concerted and effective action, experts say the crisis could very easily prove deadly in a nation such as Madagascar, where the U.N. estimates more than two-thirds of residents lived in poverty before this crisis.

Doing nothing would mean the locust plague could spread across two-thirds of the island, which sits in the Indian Ocean off Africa's southeastern coast. Even after a lull in winter, they'd wake up in the spring in greater numbers and, without action, remain a devastating presence for a full decade, Huynh said.

This year's infestation is the worst since the 1950s.

Older farmers who remember that crisis and see the big swarms nowadays "stop farming, because they know that it's useless," said Huynh, the FAO's emergency and rehabilitation coordinator in Madagascar.

"They know there's hunger coming on."

By virtue of its distinct location, Madagascar is one of the world's most ecologically diverse areas. About 90% of its plant species exist nowhere else on the planet, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society, and many of its bird, reptile and animal species -- including all the world's lemurs in the wild -- are endemic.

The quality of life, however, for Madagascar's more than 22 million people is low compared to many other countries. Some 77% of its residents live on less than $1.25 per day, according to UNICEF official Natascha Paddison. It's infant mortality rate of 47.40 deaths per 1,000 live births ranks 47th highest out of 223 ranked by the CIA World Factbook.

The situation has been compounded by natural disasters like Tropical Cyclone Haruna that killed at least 23 people and adversely affected some 22,000 others, as well as a prolonged political crisis after an effective military coup in 2009. That was followed by criticism of Madagascar's new leaders -- such as from U.S. Embassy Charge d'Affaires Eric Wong, who noted reports that press freedoms had been restricted, political enemies were being held for years without trial, and civilians were raped or executed while their villages burned. The criticism contributed to a sharp drop in foreign aid, which accounted for 70% of the government budget.

But the international community remains involved in Madagascar -- including the United States, which donates $70 million annually. Even more help is urgently needed, FAO officials said, in order to prevent an even worse humanitarian crisis tied to the locust plague.

Long-term, the U.N. organization is seeking $19 million for an early warning system -- so the next time locusts appear, authorities can act quickly and decisively to prevent their spread.

But it's too late for that this time, Huynh said. That's why the agency is seeking $22 million through June to carry out a large-scale spraying operation. These figures do not include whatever food and humanitarian assistance Madagascar could need.

"There is no more use in preventing anything," said Huynh, stressing the pressing need to fight the infestation. "It is really an emergency situation." - CNN.

How locust swarms form:

1. Egg - The female locust lays her eggs directly into the soil, sealing the hole with a protective froth

2. Solitary locust - After around two weeks 'hoppers' emerge. These are green, flightless, nymphs called solitary locusts

3. Gregarious locust - If large numbers of solitary locusts interact together they become gregarious locusts, changing colour in the process

4. Swarm - The gregarious nymphs form into bands moving along the ground, then as the locusts become adults they form a flying swarm - BBC.

WATCH: Plague of locusts infests impoverished Madagascar

PLANETARY TREMORS: Seismic Expert Urges Jamaica To Prepare, Reduce Risks Before A Mega-Quake Hits In The Near Future?!

March 28, 2013 - JAMAICA - A U.S. seismic expert on Wednesday urged authorities in Jamaica to start long-term efforts to prepare for another major earthquake on the island, where the seaside capital was mostly destroyed by a big temblor just over a century ago.

It's impossible for scientists to determine if the next big quake will hit in days or decades, but geophysics professor Eric Calais of Purdue University is urging the island's government and various stakeholders to understand that the threat is very real based on the area's history and active seismic activity.

USGS earthquake map and location for a magnitude 4.9 that hit on February 11, 2013.

Calais, visiting the island over four days as part of a mission with the United Nations Development Program, said most scientists agree that Jamaica will most likely be exposed to a quake with a magnitude of 7 or 7.5. An earthquake of magnitude 7 on the Richter scale is considered "major," and capable of widespread, heavy damage.

Jamaica's southern capital of Kingston was destroyed and roughly 1,000 people killed in a 6.5-magnitude quake in 1907. Researchers with the University of the West Indies have said that if Jamaica were to be hit by a quake like that one now the island could suffer a $6.5 billion loss, nearly half of the island's gross domestic product.

"A 6.5 in the harbour by the capital could be a tremendous threat," said Calais during a Wednesday visit to Port Royal, a town just outside of Kingston which was the island's main city in the 17th century until an earthquake and tsunami submerged two-thirds of the settlement in 1692.

Calais' call is especially sobering because in March 2008 he was among a group of scientists who warned officials in Haiti that their country was ripe for a major earthquake after detecting worrisome signs of growing stresses in a fault. Two years later, that fault unleashed a 7.0 quake that devastated the Caribbean nation, with the government putting the death toll at 316,000 people.

Jamaica has a "good foundation" to tackle risks, especially when compared to nearby Haiti, he said. The island is situated along the same seismically active plate boundary as Haiti and experiences about 200 earthquakes per year, most of them small.

ODPEM Director General, Ronald Jackson (right) speaks with Head of the Earthquake Unit at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Dr. Lyndon Brown (left), during a press conference to launch Earthquake Awareness Week 2013. Looking on is Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Noel Arscott.

"But at the same time, I think it's important to realize the foundation is not at the level that's sufficient to face a challenge of a possible magnitude seven or seven-and-a-half," said Calais, adding that he does not believe that the level of hazard has changed in Jamaica since the 2010 quake that levelled Port-au-Prince.

Earthquakes typically occur along fault lines, areas where two sections of the Earth's crust grind past each other. When decades of centuries of accumulated stress become too great at a fault boundary, the land gives way, causing a quake.

Lyndon Brown, head of Jamaica's government-funded earthquake unit, said the island needs to pass legislation to update building codes and then enforce the law to ensure that buildings can better withstand earthquakes.

Now, squatters and developers in Jamaica too often build along unsafe gully banks, steep hillsides and embankments, even visibly eroding riverbeds. - The Windsor Star.

Massive Earthquake Coming to Jamaica - on the Same Scale as the One That Sank a Section of Port Royal More Than 300 Years Ago!
Jamaica is due to experience an earthquake on the same scale as one that sank a section of Port Royal more than 300 years ago, according to the Earthquake Unit at the University of the West Indies. "The past is a key to the future, so what has happened before will happen again," Dr Lyndon Brown, research fellow and head of the Earthquake Unit, told The Gleaner yesterday. Brown said that although he was certain the island would be hit by another major earthquake, he could not give an accurate time frame for his prediction. "There have been some calculations about 144 years after the 1904, some about 84 (years), but it's really not accurate," he told The Gleaner. "We believe these are cycles but we don't know the recurrent intervals. Some calculations have been done based on the history of earthquakes, we don't know what has happened before, we have not done enough research to understand the history of earthquakes prior to this. So any calculations that have been done or any recurrent interval that is calculated is just based on a short history, so it's really not accurate."

Meanwhile, Senior Deputy Superintendent in charge of operations of the Kingston and St Andrew Fire Department, Maxwell Hinds, says his division is not prepared to manage anything of the magnitude that hit the island in 1692, claiming the lives of more than 3,000 people. "The Kingston and St Andrew division of the Jamaica Fire Brigade is, I would say, equipped to respond to fires and some search and rescues, but in a major disaster, we would have problems," Hinds said. Speaking with The Gleaner at the National Simulation and Training Exercise Programme (NSTEP), Hinds said: "If it becomes a mass situation, we might have to seek multi-agency assistance but if it's just confined to a section, we might be able to manage and we would get resources from neighbouring parishes, so it all depends on the extent of the situation." NSTEP was established by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management and yesterday held its National Simulation Exercise, on the challenges that would affect the education sector in the aftermath of a major earthquake, at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston. - Jamaica Gleaner.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Volcano Discovery Report For March 27, 2013 - Updates On Stromboli, Etna, Askja, Krafla, El Hierro, Manam, Paluweh, Colima, Popocatépetl, Santa María, Santiaguito, Pacaya, Fuego, Telica And San Cristobal!

March 28, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing report from the Volcano Discovery Group.

Today's seismic signal from Stromboli (ST8 station, INGV).

Stromboli (Eolian Islands, Italy): It seems that activity has shifted a bit from effusive to explosive. The tremor signal has shown an increase today and includes very powerful explosion signals. On the other hand, lava overflows from the NE vent have decreased during the past days.

Etna (Sicily, Italy): 10 days since the last paroxysm, tremor is still low and doesn't suggest a new eruption is imminent. Bad weather mostly prevented observations during the past days. No glow could be seen last night from any of the summit craters.

Map of recent quakes near Askja.

Askja (Central Iceland): Small earthquakes have also been more frequent under and near the Askja caldera and Bardabunga volcano (to the SW of Askja) in the past few days.

Map of recent earthquakes under Krafla volcano.

Krafla (Northeastern Iceland): A weak swarm of earthquakes has occurred at Krafla over the past days.

Current tremor signal (IGN).

El Hierro (Canary Islands, Spain): After a day of weakened activity, the seismic swarm has increased with higher energy tremor and stronger earthquakes than ever. Hundreds of earthquakes have occurred so far, including about 25 > magnitude 3 and no less than 4 above magnitude 4 (M4.1-4.6).

Current tremor signal (IGN).

It seems plausible that magma has once again built up pressure and has broken new fractures into the low crust beneath the NW part of the volcanic edifice. Many quakes are now at 11-15 km depth, i.e. the epicenters, or the likely present location of the intruding magma, has perhaps started to rise. The likelihood of a new eruption in a possible near future thus once again increased.

The latest CO2 measurements show a significantly higher than normal level of gas emission, consistent with fresh magma arriving from deeper sources. INVOLCAN has released the following graph comparing current levels (1684 ± 72 tons of CO2 per day) with measurements during the previous eruptions and crises. Unfortunately, there is a large data gap for the past months.

The earthquake swarm has slowed down a bit, but continues with more than 70 quakes > magnitude 2 so far today, in a similar area as yesterday at depths mostly around 15 km. Tremor has weakened for the time being. This could either suggest that magma is currently stagnating and building up pressure (in which case a few stronger quakes could be expected) or that magma supply is slowly easing. It is certainly to early to draw any conclusions.

MODIS hot spot at the summit of Manam volcano (Univ. Hawaii).

Manam (Papua New Guinea): A weak SO2 plume is visible today above Manam, indicating some ongoing activity. A hot spot at the summit is visible on MODIS data, likely indicating that a lava dome is growing there.

Paluweh (off Flores Island, Indonesia): Another ash plume was reported today rising to about 10,000 ft (3 km) altitude and drifting 20-30 nautical miles to the NE.

Current seismic signal from Colima volcano (Soma station, Univ. Colima).

Colima (Western Mexico): Activity has continued to increase both internally and at the surface, with frequent explosions and glowing rockfalls and small pyroclastic flows traveling down the flank of the volcano.

SO2 plume from Popocatépetl (NOAA).

Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): The rate of steam and sometimes ash emissions climbed to over 3 per hour yesterday. The larger emissions produced plumes with some ash content up to 1 km above the crater.
SO2 emission remains elevated.

Santa María / Santiaguito (Guatemala): Activity remains more or less unchanged, but relatively weak. The volcano observatory reported to have heard 5 explosions during the past night, and notes ongoing weak to moderate avalanches from the active lava flows on the flanks of the Caliente lava dome. Fine ash fall has again occurred in the fincas El Faro and La Florida.

Pacaya (Guatemala): Weak explosions producing small plumes of steam and some ash and degassing were reported this morning.

Fuego (Guatemala): Activity remains at weak levels, with 9 small to moderate explosions generating ash plumes rising up to 800 m above the crater and drifting W and SW where fine ash fall occurred.

Current seismogram from Telica volcano (TELN station INETER).

Telica (Nicaragua): The earthquake swarm still continues and appears to show a slow trend towards increasing magnitude earthquakes including a magnitude 3 event two days ago.

This morning's seismic recording from San Cristobal volcano (CRIN station, INETER).

San Cristobal (Nicaragua): A series of probably volcanic earthquakes of magnitudes between 2.8 and 4.9 shock the volcano during last Sunday evening (local time), and INETERS has increased monitoring of the volcano.  At the moment and during the past days, seismicity has remained low.

Complete Earthquake list (worldwide) for March 27, 2013.

Photo of the Day:

Strombolian activity from the crater of Batu Tara volcano, Indonesia (Photo: jorge).

- Volcano Discovery.