Monday, April 8, 2013

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Costa Rica's National Seismological Network Warns That The Paos Volcano Lake May Evaporate Completely In Coming Months!

April 08, 2013 - COSTA RICA - The National Seismological Network (RSN) warned that the lake in the Poas Volcano could disappear entirely in the next few months, if weather conditions do not bring rainfall which is the main reason the lake exists.

Poas Volcano, Costa Rica.

The lake has left only 12 meters deep. The lake serves as a kind of filter that stops gases emanating from the volcano from going directly to the atmosphere. If the lack of rain continues, we could see the disappearance of the lake entirely.

Currently the lagoon holds temperatures between 45 ° and 50 ° C, when it should be around 25 ° or less, this causes more gas, sulfur and eruptions.

The RSN in conjunction with the Centre for Research in Geological Sciences from the University of Costa Rica obtained these results after visiting different volcanoes in the country, during the month of March.

The Lagun at Poas Volcano is the most acidic lake in the world. - The Costa Rica News.

GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS: Very Stubborn Drought Tests Cattle Ranchers - Another Summer Of Drought Looms For Texas And Western United States!

April 08, 2013 - UNITED STATES - The outlook for the western half of the U.S. continued to be bleak on Thursday, as forecasters said drought conditions are expected to expand and intensify all across the West and Southwest.

And Texas, which has been in the throes of drought for the better part of two years, may be hardest hit as its bone-dry conditions are expected to continue into summer, leading to shortages of drinking water.

Seasonal Drought Outook, April 4, 2013. Credit: NOAA.

An update to the Seasonal Drought Outlook released Thursday forecasts drought to intensify in southern and western Texas between now and June, thanks to a prevailing weather pattern that will bring a combination of above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation. The latest U.S. Drought Monitor, also released on Thursday, found that 88 percent of the "Lone Star State" is under some form of drought, with the worst impacts concentrated in southern Texas and the Texas panhandle. (Heavy rains fell in southeastern Texas during this week, but this occurred too late to be included in the Drought Monitor report.)

Drought conditions are also expected to worsen across the West and Southwest, where below-average winter snowfall has combined with low water supplies left over from 2012's bone dry summer to raise water supply concerns in states such as Colorado and New Mexico.

Drought has expanded significantly in California and Southern Oregon over the past three weeks, and time may be running short to avert a major year-long drought.

January to February precipitation in California during the 1895-2012 period, with the arrow pointing to the 2013 record low. Credit: NOAA/NCDC.

Precipitation in California during January and February hit record-low levels, and that has left all of the state in abnormally dry conditions. That dryness is expected to worsen since rainfall in California usually declines rapidly in the spring, In addition, this year’s lack of precipitation has left a light snowpack in the mountains, giving the state little water to feed its reservoirs as temperatures begin to rise.

The thin snow pack remains a serious concern across the Rocky Mountains, where the snow pack is between 70-90 percent of its normal levels, leading to worries that this spring’s snowmelt will not be enough to replenish the water deficits that began last year.

Daily soil moisture anomaly, March 31, 2013. The dark red shows the below average soil moisture across Texas, the High Plains, Florida and California.

The Drought Outlook called for improvements across the Midwest, and possible improvements across the Northern and Central plains, which have already seen some rain this spring. Relief may be bolstered by this winter’s snowpack in the northern part of the U.S.

Drought expanded slightly in central Florida this week, and that dryness led to the outbreak of a few isolated wildfires. However, those effects are expected to be short-lived, since Florida’s rainy season begins in June.

The cold temperatures that have clung to the central and eastern part of the country over the past several weeks may prove beneficial to drought relief. The cold spring temperatures are letting the snowpack melt slowly away and replenish the soil, rather than evaporating, as it did during the record warm March of 2012. That quick melt, which was accompanied by record heat, played a significant role in last year’s drought. - Wunderground.

Stubborn Drought Tests Cattle Ranchers.
Gary Price has been using sustainable ranching methods that support native grasses, smaller herd size and herd rotations to help his ranch survive through the past few years of a drought that has caused the demise of less fortunate cattle ranches across Texas.
Brandon Thibodeaux / New York Times News Service.
Gary Price is a rarity among cattle ranchers these days. He’s making money on his herd of 200 cows in this tiny town about an hour south of Dallas-Fort Worth.

“The market is very good, and we’ve been able to keep what we’ve needed to buy, feed and such, to a minimum," Price said, as he strolled in a pasture on his 77 Ranch, which is planted in native grasses, stands of mesquite and a fair number of what most people would call weeds. “That’s benefited us during this drought that has pushed prices higher."

More typical are Don and Marilyn Smith, proprietors of the Starridge Land and Cattle Co. about 100 miles northeast in Sulphur Springs. Don Smith has hung in, paring just 10 to 15 percent of his herd over the three years that drought has severely damaged this state, but it has not been easy.

“If we don’t get a normal rain this year, we will have to make some decisions," Don Smith said.

Struggling to survive

The persistence of the drought here has forced ranchers to use all the creative techniques they can muster to survive. For some, it has meant knowing as much about land management and grass as they know about the bloodlines of their herds. King Ranch Blue Stem, for example, makes for great grazing but is invasive; Snow on the Prairie aerates the land but cattle will not eat it.

As Price put it, “You’re now marketing the grass through the cow."

For others, it is knowing the right moment to sell calves or to gamble on something called “rain insurance."

The cattle herd nationwide is at its lowest level in 60 years, and nowhere is that more apparent than in Texas, the nation’s largest cattle-producing state. The Texas inventory of cattle and calves was 11.3 million on Jan. 1, a decline of 5 percent from a year earlier and the lowest level since 1967, according to the Agriculture Department.

The state’s beef cattle inventory fell even more, to 4.02 million head, down 12 percent from 2012, when similarly precipitous declines occurred. The sharp contraction, brought on by two years of drought in Texas followed by a year of drought across the Great Plains that drove feed prices sky high, has left some wondering if the state will ever again have herds as large as it once boasted.

Last year, when the Texas A&M University extension service offered a series of educational programs called “Rebuilding the Beef Herd," it had trouble attracting any interest. “It just kind of stagnated because it never did rain," said Ron Gill, a professor and extension service specialist. “It was all about preparing for when things got better, and they just haven’t."

The situation is so dire that several times during a drive around his ranch, tears sprang to Don Smith’s eyes as he spoke about the challenges he has faced maintaining not only his beef herd, which now stands at roughly 130 cows, but also some remaining dairy cows. That business, too, is no longer profitable.

Not enough water

“We can get two inches of rain and, in 24 hours, it’s all dry again," Don Smith said.

He needs 45 to 50 inches of rain a year to have enough forage to feed his herds and fill the “tanks," as ponds in this part of Texas are called, from which the animals drink. In 2010, his 450-acre ranch got 16 inches of rain; the next year, it got 12 to 14 inches. Half of the 200 trees on Starridge Ranch when the drought started have died.

Before the drought, he made as many as 1,500 round bales of hay off his property, about a third of which he sold at a profit. He made just 46 bales in 2011 and had to buy the rest at $60 to $80 a bale.

Water, piped in from the municipal system, added $200 to $300 a month to the Smiths’ bills.

The higher costs of maintaining the herd forced Don Smith, like other ranchers, to sell his calves to feedlots at lower weights, which pinched profits but meant he spent less on feed and water.

The upshot? “We’re not doing any better now with $1,000 calves than we were at $600," Don Smith said.

This year, the Smiths did something they had never done before. “We bought rainfall insurance," Don Smith said. Such insurance, which pays out based on expected rainfalls plotted over a grid, may not help him this year. Starridge has received more than six inches of rain, which is about normal for the time of the year.

Managing the land

Price and his wife, Sue, in Blooming Grove, said they would not count on normal rainfalls ever again. The Prices run fewer cattle on their 2,500-acre ranch than they could, with roughly 12 acres for each animal, and they look for ways to manage their land that will help them avoid buying food and water for their cattle.

“I almost think of Gary as more of a land manager than a rancher," said Gill, who is himself a rancher with 300 head of cattle on a 3,000-acre ranch.

Most ranchers, Gill said, focus on the lineage of their animals and their weight. “The glitz and glamour is in the genetics," he said. “The value they see in what they sell is in the calf, not their forage."

But with land these days commanding heady prices as financial investors snap it up to plant high-value crops like corn and owners put more into conservation easements, finding land cheap enough to simply raise forage for cattle is hard.

A parcel that the Prices would have liked to add to their ranch, for instance, recently was bought by a Florida couple as a retirement home. “What I could pay to use it for our cattle wasn’t close to what they could pay to make a vacation home work," he said.

Still, the Prices have had to buy hay to feed their cows during only two weeks in the last three years. Their animals graze the “bunch grasses" that were native throughout the prairie when the buffalo roamed and that Price reintroduced on his ranch after admiring their resilience on a small patch of virgin prairie left on his property.

Those grasses, which grow to 5 or 6 feet tall, have long roots that can tap into water far underground. Though they live a long time, when such grasses die, the roots deteriorate, helping to aerate the land for better water penetration. The thicker, taller grasses also create a kind of webbing that slows runoff, keeps sediment out of lakes and tanks, and creates shade that protects lower growing grasses and helps the ground retain water.

At times, Price rotates his cattle twice a day to give the grasses a chance to recover. He has not had to cull his herd, maintaining about 200 head throughout the drought, though he has not replaced cows as quickly as he would have if rainfall patterns were more normal.

He also has developed another source of revenue: hunters from Dallas and Fort Worth who pay to shoot the quail that like to nest in the bunch grasses on his land.

The Prices have won several awards for their land management practices. “I believe this is the best way to do it, not just for profit but also for sustainability," Price said. “But every ranch is a specific entity with its own resources — its own shade, its own water."

Asked whether he thought the Texas cattle industry would ever recover its former glory, Price thought for a moment. “We’re all very concerned about the decline in cattle numbers and also about the losses of infrastructure, feedlots and slaughtering facilities," he said.

Smith expressed sadness at what had happened to the business he loves. The Smiths have no children to take over Starridge, and Smith, who is 69 and has walked with the help of a cane since a battle with polio in 1949, worries about what will happen to it when he can no longer do the work to keep it going.

“Beef will come back," Smith said. “But who’s going to be left to produce it?" - Bend Bulletin.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Next Eruption Of The Vesuvius "Could Wipe Out Naples" - Threatening The Lives Of Three Million People!

April 08, 2013 - ITALY - The next eruption of Vesuvius will threaten three million people, including the entire city of Naples and its suburbs, according to one of the leading scientists monitoring the volcano.

Giuseppe Mastrolorenzo, a volcanologist at the Vesuvius observatory, based his estimates on geological surveys of villages destroyed by past eruptions, and on studies of victims' remains.

Computer-generated imagery of the eruption of Vesuvius in BBC/Discovery Channel's co-production Pompeii

He said: "We've done geological surveys and we've found villages destroyed in past eruptions up to nine miles away from Vesuvius. That means the whole city of Naples and its suburbs, which accounts for two million people, are in danger."

Mastrolorenzo warned the Italian government that it had seriously underestimated the danger, and called on authorities to ensure all three million people deemed at risk are included in evacuation plans.

The number is four times higher than previous estimates, and 10 times higher than the 300,000 death toll estimated by Italian contingency planners in 2007.

The Italian government recently put in place an emergency plan classifying the volcano's immediate surroundings into red and yellow zones, according to the threat posed.

Mastolorenzo added: "Pompeii is six miles from Vesuvius, about the same distance as Naples. If we don't know how to evacuate all these people, we should say so."

An artist's impression of the eruption of Vesuvius in 79AD, which destroyed the ancient city of Pompeii and left 16,000 dead.

An estimated 550,000 people would be in immediate danger from any eruption in the red zone. Further from the epicentre, in the yellow zone, roofs were deemed to be at risk of collapse under the weight of volcanic ash and falling pumice stone.

Vesuvius, which destroyed the ancient city of Pompeii in AD79 with the loss of 16,000 lives, last erupted in 1944. It has erupted on average once a century over the last 2,000 years.

The current evacuation plan covers 24 towns and villages, including three districts in the east of Naples.

Italy's civil protection chief Franco Gabrielli, warned that residents in the built-up areas that stretch as far as the slopes of the volcano were "excessively indifferent to, and don't know, the risks they are running."

Province of Naples, Italy.

Mastrolorenzo is due in London next month, to give a lecture at the British Museum linked to its blockbuster Pompeii exhibition.

His research uncovered traces of volcanic ash in central Naples, dating from an eruption about 3,800 years ago. "We studied the bones of the victims and the ashes in Pompeii and they died not of asphyxiation, as was previously believed, but instantly because they were exposed to temperatures of about 350 degrees," he told The Sunday Times. - IBT.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: "Like Being Thrown Around Like A Rag Doll" - Mudslide Derails Amtrak Train North Of Seattle!

April 08, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Sounder and Amtrak customers are riding buses again rather than rail lines north of Seattle because of a mudslide that derailed a passenger train Sunday — the latest in what has been an exceptionally bad season for mudslides in that area.

Sounder service between Seattle and Everett is canceled Monday and Tuesday, when Sound Transit will provide special express buses to and from the Sounder stations. Amtrak expects to resume service Tuesday morning.

There were 200 slides during the fall and winter, 50 of them blocking tracks, BNSF Railway said in February. The most spectacular hit a moving freight train in mid-December and derailed seven cars. A March 21 slide buried tracks in five feet of debris. Sound Transit has canceled a record number of Northline Sounder runs this rainy season.

None of the train’s 86 passengers and 11 crew members was hurt in Sunday’s slide just north of Howarth Park in Everett, which had little impact on some railcars but badly jostled others.

“We almost went over,” said Alicia Munds, of Silverdale, who had just awakened about 8:50 a.m. Sunday when the train suddenly jerked like something had hit it.

As her car, the last one on a train bound for Seattle, tipped to its side and started to pull up the tracks, Munds covered her sleeping 7-year-old daughter, Hannah, with her body. “It was like being thrown around like a rag doll," Munds said of the experience.

“They hit the brakes immediately,” she recalled. “That engineer saved our lives. We would’ve been drug over,” she said.

Other passengers saw mud and trees sliding down a cliff and striking the train.

“We saw chunks of mud coming down and hitting the train, but it was not as scary as you’d think,” said Sherry Brooks, who boarded Amtrak’s Empire Builder train in Chicago on Friday for a visit to her son in Seattle.

The train came to a halt with three cars derailed, two of them visibly tilted off the tracks. The train’s front cars transported passengers to Mukilteo, where they boarded buses for Edmonds and Seattle.

The slide, which BNSF Railway spokesman Gus Melonas described as 15 feet high and 30 feet wide, prompted the company to issue a 48-hour moratorium on passenger trains on the railway’s double main line.

About a quarter mile of track was damaged, but freight trains were able to get through on the adjacent line Sunday and will resume travel on the line where the train was derailed sometime Monday, Melonas said.

Until passenger service resumes, Amtrak will bus passengers between Seattle and Everett, according to Marc Magliari, an Amtrak spokesman in Chicago. It also plans to bus Empire Builder passengers between Seattle and Spokane, because they cannot travel the line’s usual route through Everett.

Construction is expected to begin later this year on a $16 million, federally funded project to stabilize six or seven spots along the Seattle-Everett corridor that have been prone to mudslides.

BNSF will construct retaining walls, remove loose soil and install drainage pipes in soggy areas.

A BNSF presentation to Sound Transit showed standing water near suburban homes in Mukilteo, and pointed to years of residential development as a contributor to slides. Some transit-board members wondered if global warming is causing wetter seasons.

The Washington Department of Transportation warns that much more work needs to be done to fully prevent mudslides. - Seattle Times.

Passengers from Amtrak's derailed Empire Builder line wait at the train station in Mukilteo for buses to take them to Edmonds and Seattle. Until passenger service resumes, Amtrak will bus passengers between Seattle and Everett.
BETTINA HANSEN / The Seattle Times
Another mudslide near the spot where an Amtrak train derailed Sunday will disrupt Amtrak service between Seattle and Everett until Wednesday.

The first mudslide, near Everett, first halted train service for Amtrak's Empire Builder line on Sunday morning around 7 a.m. An Amtrak spokesman said there were no reports of injuries to passengers aboard the train, which was on its way from Chicago to Seattle.

The train was heading south from Everett to Seattle when the slide occurred. Passengers were offered alternative transportation to Seattle, where the line terminates.

A spokesman for Burlington-Northern, which manages the tracks, said mud, trees, rocks and other debris hit a train and knocked three cars off the tracks at about 8:30 a.m.

Gus Melonas said the derailed cars were disconnected from the train, the passengers were moved and the train was taken to Mukilteo where all passengers were taken off the damaged train.

Melonas said the cars that derailed were a dining car and two coach cars and were the last three on the train. Because of an additional mudslide, which happened Monday around 11 a.m. on a stretch of track between Seattle and Everett, Amtrak service isn't expected to resume between Seattle and Everett until Wednesday at 11 a.m. - KPTV.

WATCH: Amtrak train derailed by mudslide.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Global Volcano Report For April 07-08, 2013 - Updates On Tjörnes Fracture Zone, El Hierro, Stromboli, Tolbachik, Lokon-Empung, Yasur, Popocatépetl, Colima, Santa María, Santiaguito, Pacaya, Fuego, Telica, Bagana, Batu Tara, Paluweh, Galeras And Sabancaya!

April 08, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing reports of volcanoes across the globe.

Earthquakes in the TFZ during the past 48 hours (Icelandic Met Office).

Tjörnes Fracture Zone (North of Iceland): The seismic swarm continues with a decreasing trend. "Only" 65 earthquakes have been counted so far today, the largest being a 3.3 event 14 km NE of Grímsey this morning.

Map of tectonic faults and rift zones in northern Iceland (Icelandic Met Office).

The powerful earthquake swarm that started a week ago continues, but at reduced intensity compared to 2 April when the large magnitude 5.4 quake struck. Each day, hundreds of earthquakes have been occurring (more than 200 > magnitude 2 during the past 2 days). The earthquake swarm is the result of release of tectonic stress that has accumulated in the crust and is being released at the moment. The area is one of the main so-called transform zones,- regions where the separating Eurasian and North-American tectonic plates move sideways along strike-slip faults rather than spreading apart directly as is the case in the main rift zones, where also the main volcanoes are located, because the opening movment here allows large batches of magma to rise easily.

Time and depth of recent quakes at the TFZ.

The transform zones separate the rift zones at spreading plate boundaries at regular intervals in order to accommodate differential movements that are a result of the earth's curved surface where rigid plates move apart. In the transform zones, the sideways movement can produce much more strain in the rocks and has therefore the potential of larger earthquakes. Recent GPS and seismic studies of the TFZ suggest that the plates at depth have been "locked" for a while and accumulated large stress, which is why the recent and present earthquake swarms are no a surprise. It seems that this stress has started to be released right now. However, the possibility of a larger earthquake (up to magnitude 7) remains in place.

The TFZ (as most transform zones) are not particularly prone to volcanic activity, although from time to time, (usually smaller amounts of) magma still can reach the surface in such areas as well. This happens much less so than in the rift zones, where most volcanic activity takes place. For the case of the TFZ, there has probably been an eruption in 1868 following an earthquake swarm, and little else is known about this event.
Whether the current activity is related to magmatic activity, or could lead to a submarine eruption in the TFZ is unknown, but unlikely. So far there are no signs that suggest that there IS an eruption going on at the sea floor.

Depth vs time of recent earthquakes under El Hierro.

El Hierro (Canary Islands, Spain): After being almost completely calm for several days, earthquake activity has again picked up during the past 48 hours (and is showing an increasing trend), but the intensity and frequency of quakes is (so far) nothing compared to the latest swarm two weeks ago. The largest event so far was a mag 3.0 quake 15 km west of the island, at 13 km depth. Inflation has halted and now shows a weak trend to deflation.

Seismic signal from Stromboli (ST8 station, INGV).

Stromboli (Eolian Islands, Italy): No significant changes have occurred recently. The seismic signal shows medium tremor levels with phases of medium to high values, and there are frequent (about 10 per hour), sometimes quite powerful strombolian explosions from the various active vents. Small amounts of lava sometimes overspill from the NE vent.

Tolbachik (Kamchatka): The eruption continues with no changes, but a weak decreasing trend in tremor levels is visible. KVERT reports no significant changes in the seismic and eruptive activity at the other 4 currently active Kamchatkan volcanoes: Sheveluch and Kizimen (lava dome building with occasional explosive/collapse events – moderate seismicity), Bezymianny (lava flow/dome extrusion – weak seismicity difficult to distinguish because of the strong signal from Tolbachik), Karymsky (occasional strombolian/vulcanian explosions - no seismic information due to technical problems), Gorely (strong degassing and hydrothermal activity, moderate seismicity).

Lokon-Empung (North Sulawesi, Indonesia): Another explosion occurred this morning just before 10:00 (local time, 02am GMT). A relatively large ash plume rose about 3 km above the crater to an altitude of 15,000 ft (4.5 km) and drifted SW. The eruption was heard up to 6 km away. The eruption was preceded by a strong increase in seismicity the volcano observatory recorded. After the main eruption, the volcano continued to produce ash venting... [read more]

Yasur (Tanna Island, Vanuatu): An increase in explosive activity has been noted since 2 April. Bombs have been ejected to the parking area below the summit cone, and the activity status (on a scale of 1-4) was raised from 1 to 2. If activity remains elevated, it will probably be further raised to 3 in the near future.

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

Colima (Western Mexico): The lava dome continues to grow more or less steadily and produce small explosions. Collapse of parts of the accumulating lava at the dome causes occasional pyroclastic flows (such as late on 6 April) and glowing rockfalls on the flank. Today, it has been comparably calm, though.

Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): The volcano has been comparably calm during the past days. CENAPRED reports an average of about 1 steam-gas-sometimes ash emissions per hour.

Santa María / Santiaguito (Guatemala): Activity has remained weak with infrequent, mostly small explosions from the dome, and no or little movement at the lava flows from the Caliente dome.

This morning's seismogram from Pacaya (PCG station, INSIVUMEH).

Pacaya (Guatemala): Weak strombolian activity continues. The seismic shows a mix of surface events (explosions) and small earthquakes ad weak tremor pulses related to fluid movements inside the volcano.

Fuego (Guatemala): Activity remains unchanged. Infrequent weak to moderate strombolian explosions (about 5-10 per day) generate ash plumes up to 1 km above the crater, causing small avalanches and light ash fall in nearby areas.

Current seismogram from Telica volcano (TELN station INETER).

Telica (Nicaragua): Seismicity remains strong. Still there are no reports by INETER, which probably means that they do not think that an eruption could be near.

Bagana (Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea): A stronger eruptive phase has been occurring since last night. Several ash plumes reaching 10,000 ft (3 km) altitude have been observed drifting 45 nautical miles to the WSW (VAAC Darwin).

Batu Tara (Sunda Islands, Indonesia): Explosions continue with sometimes stronger ones that send ash to 7,000 ft (2.1 km) altitude on a daily basis now.

Paluweh (off Flores Island, Indonesia): Frequent ash emissions are being reported by VAAC Darwin. Today, ash plumes rose to 10,000 ft (3 km) altitude and drifted 45 nautical miles to the WSW.

Small ash emission from Galeras yesterday (INGEOMINAS).

Galeras (Colombia): Ash emissions have become more frequent since 4 April - the Pasto observatory has reported daily small explosions since then. This marks a significant increase in activity. Before, the volcano had produced such emissions only a few times per month since September 2012.
No corresponding increase in seismic activity was reported and the (official) alert level remains at yellow (corresponding to "orange"="minor activity" on the scale we use).

Numbers of earthquakes at Sabancaya over the past weeks (IGP).

Sabancaya (Peru): Seismic activity has decreased at the volcano, the latest press release of IGP shows. It seems less likely now that the volcano will produce an eruption soon,- as in many cases, an intrusion has happened at depth without (so far) breaching the surface (= erupting).

Complete Earthquake list (worldwide) for April 08, 2013.

- Volcano Discovery.

MASS MAMMAL DIE-OFF: "Catastrophic Mortality" - Florida Algae Bloom Leads To Record Manatee Deaths; 241 Dead; Toll Expected To Climb?!

April 08, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Florida’s endangered manatees, already reeling from an unexplained string of deaths in the state’s east coast rivers, have died in record numbers from a toxic red algae bloom that appears each year off the state’s west coast, state officials and wildlife experts say.

The tide has killed 241 of Florida’s roughly 5,000 manatees, according to the state Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, and the toll appears certain to rise.

The number of deaths from the tide far exceeds the previous annual record of 151. Most occurred along the lower west coast of Florida near Fort Myers, where an algae bloom that began last fall was especially severe and long-lasting.

“Southwest Florida is an area where a lot of manatees are during the winter months,” Kevin Baxter, a spokesman for the research institute, said Friday. “It’s a warm-water area. The bloom has persisted there for quite a while.”

A manatee off Peanut Island, Fla.
Julio Cortez/Associated Press

Although the algae had largely dissipated by mid-March, he said, the manatee deaths are likely to continue for a few months because remnants of the toxin still cling to sea grasses. Manatees can eat 100 pounds of sea grass daily, said Pat Rose, an aquatic biologist and the executive director of the Save the Manatee Club in Maitland, Fla.

The state’s annual red tide affects a wide range of aquatic animals and can cause problems in people. The algae contain a nerve poison known as brevetoxin that is not only found underwater but that is also blown through the air when waves break open the algae’s outer casing.

Manatees, birds, dolphins and other animals can be killed by consuming the poison, either by accidentally eating the algae or by ingesting small organisms clinging to sea grass that have soaked up the poison while filtering seawater.

Residents and tourists regularly have respiratory problems after inhaling brevetoxins while strolling on beaches near red tides. People can also become ill after eating oysters and clams that have absorbed the toxin.

Experts are uncertain why this year’s algae bloom was so lengthy and toxic. Phosphorus runoff from fertilized farms and lawns may have contributed, because algae thrive on a phosphorus diet. The Caloosahatchee River, which runs through rural Florida farmland, empties into the ocean at Fort Myers.

But Mr. Rose and Dr. Martine DeWit, a veterinarian with the state’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, say a major cause may be an unfortunate coincidence of weather and timing.

Dr. DeWit said a mild, fairly windless winter helped the algae persist far longer than ordinary blooms, which generally die off late in the year. That meant large blooms remained offshore when the manatees, driven by a search for warmer waters, began moving to the Fort Myers area.

A manatee that had been exposed to red tide came up for air at the Lowry Park Zoo, in Tampa. The tide killed 241 manatees this year.
Steve Nesius/Reuters

Manatees are attracted there every year by a warm-water discharge from a local power plant, Dr. DeWit said.

“We’ve seen in the past that when algae blooms coincide with manatee movement, it results in catastrophic mortality,” she said.

The red-tide deaths come amid what is shaping up as a disastrous year for the manatee, whose numbers have slowly been growing in recent years. So far this year, at least 463 have died from a range of causes, more deaths than had been recorded in any previous comparable period.

At least 80 more manatees have been killed this year in the Indian River in east-central Florida, where a huge phytoplankton bloom in 2011 killed most of the sea grasses. The manatees there appeared outwardly healthy, but autopsies indicated that they had severe intestinal distress and that their stomachs were generally filled with a different strand of algae that they were apparently eating in the absence of the grass they normally eat.

What is killing those animals is not yet known, but Dr. DeWit said it appeared to be related to the algae and could — like the west coast’s red tide — be tied to a poison. - NY Times.

EXTREME WEATHER: Prolonged Winter - Blizzard Follows Weekend Warmth From Denver To Cheyenne To Rapid City; Strong Winds, Heavy Snowfall, Travel Disruptions!

April 08, 2013 - UNITED STATES - After a blast of weekend warmth, residents from Denver to Cheyenne to Rapid City may find it hard to believe that a blizzard is on the way.

The blizzard threatens to bring northeastern Colorado, southeastern Wyoming, western South Dakota and western Nebraska to a standstill Monday night through Tuesday.

Strong winds severely blowing around heavy snow will dramatically reduce visibility and make driving extremely difficult, if not impossible. Officials may be forced to close stretches of interstates 25, 70, 80, 76 and 90.

That is true even though the Front Range is in the midst of a mild stretch of weather, which has helped warm road surfaces, and the strength of the April sun. The snow will come down hard enough to overcome both obstacles.

Parents should prepare for school closures, while airline passengers will likely face cancellations and/or lengthy delays.

Cities in the path of the blizzard include Denver, Fort Collins and Sterling, Colo., Casper, Laramie and Cheyenne, Wyo., Scottsbluff and Chadron, Neb., and Rapid City, S.D.

Snowfall totals in and around these cities will approach or top a foot.

The blizzard is in the works despite the warm weekend that has unfolded across the Front Range. For many, the warmth will persist through Monday with temperatures set to soar back into the 60s across most of northeastern Colorado and western Nebraska.

This warmth will also help set the stage for another round of severe weather across the central and southern Plains later Monday.

Cold air plunging southward and interacting with the storm moving through the West is all that is needed for the blizzard to take shape.

The cold shot headed to Denver will be so intense that temperatures will plunge from the 60s at sunset Monday to the teens by daybreak Tuesday.

The difference in high temperatures from Monday to Tuesday will range from 20 to 40 degrees in Denver and elsewhere where the blizzard will howl.

A similar drop in temperatures will occur in Pueblo and Trinidad, Colo., despite these cities escaping the burying snow.

Before the blizzard unfolds in Denver, Cheyenne and Rapid City Monday night, accumulating snow will first push through Montana and North Dakota on Monday.

Then after the blizzard winds down Tuesday night, meteorologists will be monitoring the potential for the snow to shift eastward across the Upper Midwest.

The impending blizzard is not entirely bad news for the Front Range. Runoff from the snow, which will quickly melt once milder air arrives later in the week, will bring needed moisture to the region's parched soil.

Much of the Front Range is currently suffering from an extreme to exceptional drought, according to the latest report from the United States Drought Monitor. - AccuWeather.

RATTLE & HUM: Loud Booms Heard Across America - Series Of Mysterious Loud Booms In Union City, Michigan Is The "Talk Of The Town"?!

April 08, 2013 - UNITED STATES -The calls started to flood into the Branch County 911 Center around midnight.

Each one reporting deafening loud booms and everyone believed the boom happened somewhere close.

"We just heard a really loud bang outside our house and me and my kids are really scared, I don't know what it is and now we're afraid to outside," says one caller.

"I didn't see anything but I heard a big was like a big boom like someone was kicking in the door," says another caller. It was the talk of the town in Union City Wednesday, everyone with their own theories on what caused it.

"It sounded like a cannon going off is the only way I can describe it, kind of like a thunder boom but it was only the one time," says Michelle Reincke who lives in Union City.

"I think it's aliens to tell you the truth, I think it's aliens coming down to earth see us," says Tomika Dow. And adding to the mystery, this is not the first time.

One night last may the booms woke people up in Branch County and were heard all the way to Calhoun and Kalamazoo counties.

"It's the same time as last year, we had these loud crashing noises like either an explosion or a sonic boom kind of an earthquake," says Cynthia Shattuck.

There were no earthquakes recorded in the area overnight, the National Guard base in Battle Creek says there were no flights there last night. - WWMT.

WATCH: Series Of Mysterious Loud Booms In Union City, Michigan.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: One of Azerbaijan's Largest Mud Volcanoes Erupts - Creates 2 Kilometres Long By 2 Metres Deep Crack In The Earth!

April 08, 2013 - AZERBAIJAN - Akhtarma-Pashali mud volcano in Hajigabul region of Azerbaijan has erupted, head of the ANAS Institute of Geology's Mud Volcano Department Adil Aliyev told APA.

He said the eruption was recorded on April 1. The scientists of the Institute of Geology have carried out research in the area:

“This is one of the largest volcanoes of Azerbaijan. Volcano is located 35 km from Shirvan city - in the south-eastern Shirvan. The volcano erupted for the first time in 1948, this is the 7th eruption.”

Aliyev said that along with mud the eruption also spouted a great deal of various rocks. “The volcano mud covered 18 hectares, the total area is 220 000 cu m.

The average thickness of the spouted material is 120 cm. A lot of cracks have appeared as a result of the volcano.
One of them is too big.

It spread out over 2 km. The depth of the crack is 2 m, width between 30 – 80 cm. At present the volcano has calmed down.

Usually flames are observed when mud volcanoes erupt. No flame is observed in this volcano,” he said.

According to the department chief, the diameter of the volcano is about 10 sq km meters: “Several volcanic areas separated from each other are located in the crater of eruption.

Every time eruption occurs in a separated volcanic area. 21 percent of mud volcanoes in Azerbaijan pull a lot of oil out of surface.

This volcano is also spewing oil. Oil soaked into all wastes. It should be noted that there was also oil shale.

All of them will be studied in the laboratory and concrete information about the oil and gas resources of the area will be obtained after the tests.” - Azerbaijan News.

EARTH CHANGES: Early 2013 Hurricane Season Forecasts Suggest Active Year - Weather Services International Predicts 16 Named Storms, 9 Hurricanes And 5 Major Hurricanes!

April 08, 2013 - ATLANTIC OCEAN - The 2013 Atlantic tropical storm and hurricane season begins on the 1st of June and runs until the end of November. As ever, around this time of the year the forthcoming hurricane season features more heavily in insurance and reinsurance firms and catastrophe bond & ILS investors thoughts as the season approaches and the first forecasts of hurricane season activity are published.

Hurricane Sandy.

Early indications from forecasts released in the last few days suggest we could be in for an active storm season.

April sees the first forecasts emerge from some of the forecasters we choose to follow, selected for their longevity, trust within the reinsurance markets and relative accuracy over the years we've been following the Atlantic hurricane seasons development.

This year the early forecasts are all suggesting an above average Atlantic tropical storm season helped by sea temperatures which are above normal levels already and only likely to rise as the year progresses.

Today we've launched our 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season page, which features the usual tracking maps, storm by storm updates throughout the season, forecasts, satellite images and other useful links. Bookmark this page as it will be updated as each storm forms and the tracking map will automatically show every storms progress and development throughout the season.

Two forecasts are already available, the first from reinsurance broker Aon Benfield supported Tropical Storm Risk who we've followed for many years, while the second is from Weatherbell's Joe Bastardi, a well-known name in the forecasting world.

Another of our preferred forecasters, the Colorado State University Tropical research team, is due to publish its forecast for the season on the 10th April.

Tropical Storm Risk first. They forecast that the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season will see 15 named tropical storms, 8 of which they predict will become hurricanes and 3 of which will attain Category 3 status or higher becoming major hurricanes.

This is about 30% above the average storm formation levels and TSR said that it puts the above average nature of the 2013 hurricane season down to two factors.

Firstly, the forecast models suggest lighter than normal trade winds across the Caribbean Sea and tropical north Atlantic which can help to influence the cyclonic vorticity, or spinning up, of storms which can help to increase intensification.

The second factor is the long-range forecast for slightly warmer than normal sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic's main hurricane development zones during the peak months of August and September, again a factor that could help to intensify storms and cause more to form.

Next Weatherbell, a private forecasting firm, who employ well-known forecaster Joe Bastardi. His prediction for the 2013 hurricane season was released recently and it calls for 16 named tropical storms, a very high 12 hurricanes and 5 hurricanes reaching major status of Category 3 or higher. That's a very active season if it became reality!

Bastardi also puts a lot of emphasis on the warmer than average sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic ocean, saying that 2013 could be a very dangerous hurricane year for the Caribbean and the southeast U.S.

However he also forecasts above average activity up the East coast and into the Gulf and further west as well. He believes that 2013 will see hurricane activity shift back to the traditional paths we know from seasons such as 2004 and 2005, with hurricanes tracking a little further south than in 2012.

Both forecasts suggest that the northern Gulf of Mexico to the east coast of Florida are the areas with the highest landfall risk for hurricanes in 2013.

But both also stress that in an above average hurricane season landfalls are possible elsewhere as well and the Caribbean is certainly also at risk.

You can find details on the forecasts via our 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season page which launches today. We'll update you as more forecasts become available and as we move towards the beginning of the season in June.

Update: Weather Services International has just published its early season Atlantic hurricane forecast for 2013, predicting 16 named storms, 9 hurricanes and 5 major hurricanes. - Artemis.

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: "Tonnes" Of Dead Fish Found In Dannemore Lake, Sweden?!

April 08, 2013 - SWEDEN - Masses of fish found dead on a lake in eastern Sweden have left experts theorizing that the harsh winter and icy conditions prevented the fish from getting enough oxygen.

The Dannemore lake, near Östhammar in the east of Sweden, was discovered to be covered with floating fish this weekend as the ice began to melt. Among the dead fish were pike, perch, roach, and bream.

"It was not a pleasant sight, there were tonnes on fish on the lake," Timo Hakulinen, who made the discovery, told the Aftonbladet newspaper.

"It was my friend who tipped me off about it. He'd seen a bunch of sea eagles out on the ice and I went to look closer."

Hakulinen guessed that the fish had suffocated after a particularly long winter had left ice on top of the lake for longer than usual.

"It's been cold and no water has come. The lake was frozen to the bottom and the fish were trapped," he added.

In nearby Uppsala, experts agree that the sub-zero temperatures are likely the cause of the occurrence.

"I've not heard anything yet, but these things quite often are about lack of oxygen. The ice stays on top and the water doesn't get oxygenated," Lennart Nordvarg, head of the Uppsala County Board's Nature and Environment Department, told the paper.

"But you can never rule something else out." - The Local.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Yasur Volcano In Vanuatu Upgraded To Alert Level Two - Increase In Explosive Activity!

April 08, 2013 - VANUATU - Authorities in Vanuatu have upgraded the alert level of an active volcano on the island of Tanna.

The Department of Meteorology and Geohazards says there's been an increase in explosive activity at the Yasur volcano.

Yasur, which is known for its consistent eruptions, has been upgraded to alert level two due to an increase in explosions and ash eruptions being observed.

Volcanic ash billows from Yasur volcano on Tanna Island in Vanuatu, October 18, 2006.
Image: Wikipedia - Rolf Cosar

Geophysical engineer at the Department, Sylvain Todman, says communities living near Yasur have been warned to take precautions as activity grows.

"It means more explosions, an increase of explosivity, more ash falling down to the close village and a lot of ash and some (volcanic) bombs falling down," she said.

Ms Todman says the Department of Meteorology and Geohazards is closely monitoring the volcano and will prepare a response plan if the alert level increases to three. - Australia Network News.

Ash plain near Yasur Volcano.

The Department of Meteorology and Geohazards in Vanuatu says it has upgraded the danger level of the volcano on Mr Yasur due to more explosions and ash eruptions. The volcano on Tanna Island has been placed on alert level two, following an increase of activity recorded since last week.

Yasur Volcano.

A geophysical engineer at the Department, Sylvain Todman, says local communities are being warned to cover their water tanks and to be aware that ash could spoil gardens and fragile vegetables.
"It means more explosions, an increase of explosivity, more ash falling down to the close village and a lot of ash and some (volcanic) bombs falling down to the parking area and where the tourists used to witness the activity of the Yasur volcano."
Sylvain Todman says the Department of Meteorology and Geohazards is closely monitoring the activity and will prepare a response plan if the volcano increases to alert level three. - RNZI.