Thursday, April 11, 2013

SOLAR WATCH: The Magnetic Field Of Sunspot 1719 Erupts - Produces A Strong M6.5 Solar Flare, Coronal Mass Ejection Headed To Earth, Chances Of Geomagnetic Storms By This Weekend! UPDATE: NASA - Solar Flare, 2013's Most Powerful So Far, Sparks Radio Blackout! UPDATE: NOAA/SWPC Forecast - Geomagnetic Storm Category G2 Predicted!

April 11, 2013 - THE SUN - A strong solar flare reaching M6.5 took place at 07:16 UTC Thursday morning. The flare was centered around sunspot AR11719.

STRONG SOLAR FLARE: The magnetic field of sunspot AR1719 erupted on April 11th at 0716 UT, producing an M6-class solar flare. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the explosion's extreme ultraviolet flash:




Coronagraph images from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory show a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) emerging from the blast site: movie. The expanding cloud will probably deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field late on April 12th or more likely April 13th. Stay tuned for updates about this significant explosion.

WATCH: M6.5 Solar Flare - Sunspot 1719 (4/11/2013).



WATCH: M6.5 Solar Flare - SDO/AIA Multiple Wavelengths (4/11/2013).



WATCH:
Earth Directed Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) - Lasco C3 (4/11/2013).



This is the strongest solar flare in quite some time. A  CME is now visible in the latest STEREO Ahead and STEREO Behind COR2 imagery. Because 1719 is now squarely facing Earth, the plasma should be directed this way. This will raise the chances of geomagnetic storming by this weekend.


A moderately strong solar flare was observed around Sunspot 1719 at 07:16 UTC. A Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) was generated and looks to be directed mostly to the east. There is however an Earth directed component that could deliver at least a glancing blow or more to our geomagnetic field within 48 hours. Energetic Proton Levels streaming past Earth are on the rise following the flare event.

 A minor R1 Level Radiation Storm is currently in progress.  A couple more solar flares of the smaller variety were observed following the initial M6.5 event. A minor flare measuring C4.2 was detected around 1721 in the southeast quadrant at 10:13 UTC. Departed Sunspot 1713 off the west limb produced a flare measuring C6.2 at 10:46 UTC.

WATCH: Powerful M6.5 Solar Flare - April 11, 2013.





SUMMARY: 10cm Radio Burst
Begin Time: 2013 Apr 11 0658 UTC
Maximum Time: 2013 Apr 11 0702 UTC
End Time: 2013 Apr 11 0718 UTC
Duration: 20 minutes
Peak Flux: 470 sfu

ALERT: Type II Radio Emission
Begin Time: 2013 Apr 11 0702 UTC
Estimated Velocity: 1370 km/s
Description: Type II emissions occur in association with eruptions on the sun and typically indicate a coronal mass ejection is associated with a flare event.

ALERT: Type IV Radio Emission
Begin Time: 2013 Apr 11 0702 UTC
Description: Type IV emissions occur in association with major eruptions on the sun and are typically associated with strong coronal mass ejections and solar radiation storms.


CME Update: A bright Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) is visible within the new Lasco imagery. It appears in this image that a bulk of the plasma is directed towards the east, however although hard to see in the image below, there is an earthward component that should impact Earth.


Proton Levels: Energetic Proton levels streaming past Earth are now on the rise following the solar flare from earlier. A minor radiation storm is currently in progress.

ALERT: Proton Event 10MeV Integral Flux exceeded 10pfu
Begin Time: 2013 Apr 11 1055 UTC
NOAA Scale: S1 - Minor
Potential Impacts: Radio - Minor impacts on polar HF (high frequency) radio propagation resulting in fades at lower frequencies.


SUNSPOTS: Sunspots AR1718 and AR1719 pose a threat for M-class solar flares.


Credit: SDO/HMI

CORONAL HOLES: There are no large coronal holes on the Earthside of the sun.

Credit: SDO/AIA.

SOURCES: Space Weather | Solar Ham.

UPDATE: NASA - Solar Flare, 2013's Most Powerful So Far, Sparks Radio Blackout.
The most powerful solar flare of the year erupted from the sun today (April 11) sparking a temporary radio blackout on Earth, NASA officials say. The solar flare occurred at 3:16 a.m. EDT (0716 GMT) and registered as a M6.5-class sun storm, a relatively mid-level flare on the scale of solar tempests. It coincided with an eruption of super-hot solar plasma known as a coronal mass ejection. "This is the strongest flare seen so far in 2013," NASA spokeswoman Karen Fox explained in a statement. "Increased numbers of flares are quite common at the moment, since the sun's normal 11-year cycle is ramping up toward solar maximum, which is expected in late 2013." NASA's sun-watching Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded a stunning video of the strongest solar flare of 2013, showing it extreme detail. The spacecraft is one of several space-based observatories keeping track of the sun's solar weather events.


NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of a powerful M6.5 class flare, the strongest of 2013 at the time, at 3:16 EDT on April 11, 2013. This image shows a combination of light in wavelengths of 131 and 171 Angstroms.

NASA officials dubbed today's solar flare as a "spring fling" for the sun, which has been relatively calm as it heads into its peak activity period. Today's M-class solar flare was about 10 times weaker than X-class flares, which are the strongest flares the sun can unleash. M-class solar flares are the weakest solar events that can still trigger space weather effects near Earth, such as communications interruptions or spectacular northern lights displays. The solar flare triggered a short-lived radio communications blackout on Earth that registered as an R2 event (on a scale of R1 to R5), according to space weather scales maintained NOAA, Fox added. When aimed directly at Earth, major solar flares and coronal mass ejections can pose a threat to astronauts and satellites in orbit. They can interfere with GPS navigation and communications satellite signals in space, as well as impair power systems infrastructure on Earth. Fox said NASA officials are tracking the coronal mass ejection to see if it poses any space weather concerns for Earth. Meanwhile, the Solar Dynamics Observatory and other space observatories will continue to monitor the sun's activity. "Humans have tracked this solar cycle continuously since it was discovered, and it is normal for there to be many flares a day during the sun's peak activity," Fox explained. - Huffington Post.


UPDATE: NOAA - Geomagnetic Storm Category G2 Predicted.
The following constitutes the latest information from NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center:

Space Weather Message Code: WATA30
Serial Number: 102
Issue Time: 2013 Apr 11 1403 UTC

WATCH: Geomagnetic Storm Category G2 Predicted

Highest Storm Level Predicted by Day:
Apr 11:  None (Below G1)   Apr 12:  None (Below G1)   Apr 13:  G2 (Moderate)

THIS SUPERSEDES ANY/ALL PRIOR WATCHES IN EFFECT

NOAA Space Weather Scale descriptions can be found at www.swpc.noaa.gov/NOAAscales

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


Joint USAF/NOAA Solar Geophysical Activity Report and Forecast
SDF Number 101 Issued at 2200Z on 11 Apr 2013

IA.  Analysis of Solar Active Regions and Activity from 10/2100Z to 11/2100Z: Solar activity has been at high levels for the past 24 hours. The largest solar event of the period was a M6 event observed at 11/0716Z from Region 1719 (N10W00). There are currently 6 numbered sunspot regions on the disk.

IB.  Solar Activity Forecast: Solar activity is expected to be low with
a chance for M-class flares and a slight chance for an X-class flare on days one, two, and three (12 Apr, 13 Apr, 14 Apr).

IIA.  Geophysical Activity Summary 10/2100Z to 11/2100Z: The geomagnetic field has been at quiet levels for the past 24 hours. Solar wind speed, as measured by the ACE spacecraft, reached a peak speed of 507 km/s at 11/1243Z. Total IMF reached 7 nT at 11/0712Z. The maximum southward component of Bz reached -4 nT at 11/0916Z. Protons greater than 10 MeV at geosynchronous orbit reached a peak level of 114 pfu at 11/1645Z. Protons greater than 100 MeV at geosynchronous orbit reached a peak level of 2 pfu at 11/1400Z. Electrons greater than 2 MeV at geosynchronous orbit reached a peak level of 385 pfu.

IIB.  Geophysical Activity Forecast: The geomagnetic field is expected to be at quiet levels on day one (12 Apr), quiet to major storm levels on day two (13 Apr) and unsettled to major storm levels on day three (14
Apr). Protons are expected to cross threshold on day one (12 Apr), have a chance of crossing threshold on day two (13 Apr) and have a slight chance of crossing threshold on day three (14 Apr).

III.  Event probabilities 12 Apr-14 April
Class M    50/50/50
Class X    15/15/15
Proton     99/30/10
PCAF       red

IV.  Penticton 10.7 cm Flux
Observed           11 Apr 137
Predicted   12 Apr-14 Apr 138/135/130
90 Day Mean        11 Apr 113

V.  Geomagnetic A Indices
Observed Afr/Ap 10 Apr  005/004
Estimated Afr/Ap 11 Apr  004/005
Predicted Afr/Ap 12 Apr-14 Apr  006/005-018/026-028/045

VI.  Geomagnetic Activity Probabilities 12 Apr-14 Apr
A.  Middle Latitudes
Active                10/30/30
Minor Storm           01/35/45
Major-severe storm    01/10/15

B.  High Latitudes
Active                15/10/15
Minor Storm           15/20/25
Major-severe storm    10/60/35

- NOAA/SWPC.

WORLD WAR III: Escalation Towards Armageddon - North Korea Shifts Missile Locations Ahead Of Imminent Launch, Claims It Has "Powerful Striking Means"; Missile Spotted In ‘Launch Position’, United States And South Korean Armed Forces Placed At ‘Vital Alert’ Watchcon 2; Allied Forces On High Alert Amid North Korea Missile Threats! UPDATE: Bombshell - Lawmaker Declares That North Korea May Have Nuclear Missiles!

April 11, 2013 - KOREAN PENINSULA - As South Korea and the United States brace for a possible missile launch by North Korea, the communist nation appears to be moving several missiles repeatedly on its east coast in an apparent attempt to interfere with intelligence monitoring, sources familiar with the matter said Thursday.  According to intelligence analysis, the North has moved two Musudan intermediate missiles, which had been concealed in a shed in the eastern port city of Wonsan, in and out of the facility. Four or five wheeled vehicles, suspected to be so-called transporter erector launchers (TEL), were also spotted being moved around in South Hamgyeong Province. "There are signs the North could fire off Musudan missiles any time soon," an intelligence source said, asking for anonymity. "But the North has been repeatedly moving its missiles in and out of a shed, which needs close monitoring."  South Korean and U.S. intelligence officials have been closely monitoring the North Korean facility believed to contain the Musudan missiles mounted on the TELs. The missile can fly 3,000-4,000 kilometers, making it capable of hitting the U.S. base in Guam in the Pacific Ocean.


North Korea's Musudan missile on a wheeled vehicle during a military parade (Yonhap file photo)

North Korea Shifts Missile Locations Ahead Of Imminent Launch.
Another source said the North's latest move is aimed at adding extra "fatigue" to South Korean and U.S. officials so as to thwart their efforts to immediately capture the moment of the missile launch.     The South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command on Wednesday declared "Watchcon 2" status, up one level from normal conditions, to step up monitoring and increase the number of staff on emergency standby around the clock.     Seoul officials say there are high chances that Pyongyang could fire off a missile around April 15 to mark the birthday of late founding leader Kim Il-sung, the current ruler Kim Jong-un's grandfather. Last year, the North unsuccessfully conducted a rocket launch days before the 100th anniversary of Kim's birth.     On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se told lawmakers that there is a very high probability North Korea would test launch medium-range missiles at any time, with the timing depending on a political decision.     While some media reported that the North is believed to have finished fueling its missiles, the last step for a liftoff, the shift of missile locations raised questions about the information because moving fuel-injected missiles could destabilize them.     Experts say the single-warhead, liquid-fuel missile can be on standby up to one week after it is filled with fuel, which reportedly takes about 30 minutes.    

Officials in Seoul say there are possibilities that the North may fire off several missiles from different sites, in case of an unsuccessful launch of the Musudan missile, which has never been tested in the nation before.     According to military officials, the TELs in South Hamgyeong Province were believed to be launch platforms for short-range Scud missiles, which have a range of 300-500 kilometers, and medium-range Nodong missiles, which can travel 1,300-1,500 km.     The trajectory remains unclear as the North has not yet notified its neighbors, like it did before firing off a long-range rocket in December. The North claimed the December launch was to send a working satellite into space.     Although Seoul officials largely believe the potential launch is for testing, not for hitting a specific target, the defense ministry said it is ready to shoot down incoming missiles with its Patriot missile system if they attack the South.     "Our military is fully prepared in case the North's missile threatens our people and territory," ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said in a briefing. "Although Patriot missiles do not cover the whole nation, they can strike down missiles that come within the range."     South Korea currently operates Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-2) batteries, which can hit an incoming missile at the altitude of up to 30 km. On Thursday, Japan's Kyodo News Agency reported at least one cruise missile on the east coast of North Korea has been put in the launch position on its mobile launcher, citing a Japanese defense ministry official with access to satellite imagery.     Seoul's defense ministry did not verify the information, saying it needs further analysis to figure out whether it means an imminent launch.     Ahead of the late founding leader's birthday, the North has been mobilizing military personnel and equipment to practice for a massive military parade at Mirim airport near Pyongyang, a senior military official said.

As the world braces for a potential missile launch by the unpredictable nation, its front-line troops seemed to be less focused on preparing for a war and instead concentrating on spring farming, a senior military official said.     "Front-line North Korean troops near the military demarcation line have started farming," the defense ministry official said, noting the number of military training exercises dropped sharply compared to last month.     The latest move was seen as less tense compared to when the North in late March put its strategic rocket force on its top level of combat readiness.     After weeks of near-daily war threats, the North's state media on Wednesday toned down its inflammatory language and largely focused on upcoming events.     Despite repeated war threats from Pyongyang, an increasing number of North Korean soldiers have gone AWOL from their front-line combat units in recent months, prompting senior officials to conduct tougher inspections of troops. In the first three months of this year, more than 40 soldiers have fled from their front-line barracks, which is much more than in previous years. Seoul officials suspect the uptick reflects rising discontent in the rank and file suffering from grueling winter training and food shortages.     The North has relied on international handouts since the late 1990s when it suffered a massive famine that was estimated to have killed 2 million people. - YONHAP News.

WATCH: Russia agrees with US on N. Korea, but warns against military drills.




Allied Forces On High Alert Amid North Korea Missile Threats.
South Korea and the U.S. stepped up their intelligence and surveillance activities on Wednesday amid growing signs of North Korea’s imminent multiple missile launches.  The allied forces raised the Watch Condition, or Watchcon, by one notch to level 2, and bolstered their intelligence personnel. Intelligences indicated Pyongyang has finalized preparations to launch its Musudan intermediate-range missiles from its east coast. Seoul officials said. “North Korea can fire missiles at any time now, if it has the political determination to do so,” a military source said, declining to be named.  Seoul officials believe Pyongyang could launch multiple missiles such as its Musudan, Scud and Rodong missiles on the same day.  “In addition to the two Musudan missiles spotted in the Wonsan area of (the North’s) Gangwon Province, we identified four to five transporter-erector-launchers (mobile launchers) around the Donghan bay spanning South Hamgyeong Province and Gangwon Province,” a senior government official told reporters.  The mobile launchers are known to be used to carry the North’s Scud or Rodong missiles.  Scud missiles with ranges of 300-500 km put South Korea within striking range while Rodong missiles with ranges of some 1,300 km and Musudan missiles with ranges beyond 3,000 km can strike Japan and Guam, respectively.




All three missiles have been deployed before while Taepodong-2 missiles with ranges of longer than 6,700 km are still under development. The intercontinental missiles are capable of striking the U.S. mainland.  In the past, Pyongyang launched multiple missiles in the same day. On July 5, 2006, it launched a Taepodong-2 missile, four Scud missiles and two Rodong missiles while on July 4, 2009, it fired five Scud missiles and two Rodong missiles.  Mobilizing their core intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance assets including South Korea’s Aegis-equipped destroyers, the South Korean and U.S. militaries here kept closer tabs on North Korean movements.  The South Korean military ran a taskforce, consisting of some 10 senior officers, to prepare for the possible missile launch.  To better handle ballistic missile threats, Seoul seeks to establish the “Air and Missile Defense-Cell” by July. The AMD-Cell tasked with analyzing missile information gleaned from early warning satellites and radars, is a key part of the low-tier missile shield Seoul plans to build.  During a parliamentary session, Seoul’s Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se confirmed the possibility of North Korea launching missiles was “considerably high.”  “Based on our and U.S. intelligence, the missile could be the Musudan missile. Its range is around 3,500 km, but how far it will travel hinges on North Korea’s intentions,” he said.  Experts said the range of the missile can be adjusted according to the amount of the fuel, the angle at which it flies, and other factors.  Stressing its nuclear and missile capabilities had reached a “considerable level,” Yun warned another missile launch would constitute a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions that ban any missile tests by the provocative state.  “Upon any additional launch, the UNSC would immediately convene. As we all need to thoroughly analyze the nature of the missile launch, it is yet difficult to predict what kinds of measures the UNSC would adopt for another launch,” he said.  The minister also underscored that Washington would not hold talks with Pyongyang should it continue to set off provocations and refuse to show sincerity in the multilateral efforts to denuclearize it.  “The U.S. stresses that inter-Korean talks should precede any talks between Washington and Pyongyang, (though be held) in close coordination with Washington,” he said.  During a Senate Armed Services Committee session, Adm. Samuel Locklear, the commander of U.S. Pacific Command, said the U.S. military has the ability to intercept a North Korean ballistic missile. But he added that a decision on whether a missile should be intercepted would be based on where it is aimed and expected to land.  “I believe we have the ability to defend the homeland, Guam, Hawaii and defend our allies,” said Locklear, pointing out that the reclusive state’s nuclear weapons and missiles posed a “clear threat” to the U.S. and its regional allies.  The Pentagon plans to deploy a land-based “terminal high-altitude area defense system” to Guam in the coming weeks as a precautionary move to counter a possible missile attack.  It has also unveiled its plan to strengthen missile defense against the North by installing 14 additional ground-based interceptors at its bases in Alaska and California by September 2017.  White House spokesperson Jay Carney characterized North Korea’s nuclear war threat as “unhelpful, concerning and provocative,” noting it was a pattern of combative statements and behavior that the leadership in Pyongyang has shown for years.  Another U.S. official said North Korea’s test missile launches could occur without Pyongyang issuing a standard warning to commercial aviation and maritime authorities.  “We hope they issue a notification, but at this point we don’t expect it. We are working on the assumption they won’t,” the anonymous official was quoted by CNN as saying. - Korea Herald.

WATCH: 'US want regime change in North Korea, not war'.





Missile Spotted In ‘Launch Position’, United States And South Korean Armed Forces Placed At ‘Vital Alert’ Watchcon 2.
North Korea delivered a fresh round of rhetoric on Thursday with claims it had ''powerful striking means'' on standby for a launch, Fox News reports. On the streets of Pyongyang, meanwhile, North Koreans celebrated the anniversary of leader Kim Jong Un's appointment to the country's top party post - one in a slew of titles collected a year ago in the months after father Kim Jong Il's death. Reports that North Korea is ready to file a nuclear missile come after the rogue nation was said to be 'shuffling' its mobile missile launchers after Japan reported spotting one in a "ready to fire" position. US, South Korea declare "Watchcon 2" - the highest level of alert. 'Multiple launches' are expected as more missiles have been spotted. US Secretary of State John Kerry has been pictured taking a walk in Green Park during a break in the G8 Foreign Ministers meeting in central London on Thursday. G8 Foreign Ministers are holding a two-day meeting, with the situation between North and South Korea topping their agenda on day one. G8 foreign ministers including US Secretary of State John Kerry have held a second day of talks in London with the crisis on the Korean peninsula topping the agenda.  Kerry has already met with his Russian and Japanese counterparts to discuss the Korean crisis, in which US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Pyongyang was ''skating very close to a dangerous line''




The secretive communist state has threatened nuclear strikes against the United States and South Korea, and observers are expecting a missile launch at any time.  Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov of Russia, which maintains close ties to North Korea's key ally China, warned after talks with Kerry on Wednesday against exacerbating tensions with military manoeuvres.  While stressing that Russia and the United States had ''no differences'' on North Korea, Lavrov said: ''One just shouldn't scare anyone with military manoeuvres and there's a chance that everything will calm down.''  Kerry also held talks late Wednesday with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, where they discussed China's role and how to ''change the dynamic'' in North Korea, according to a US State Department official.  The US secretary of state, who will visit South Korea on Friday, ''emphasised the importance of continuing to put pressure on North Korea with economic sanctions,'' the official said.  The Group of Eight rich nations are Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.  Britain, which holds the rotating chairmanship of the group this year, will host a leaders' summit in Northern Ireland in June. - Herald Sun.

UPDATE: Bombshell - Lawmaker Declares That North Korea May Have Nuclear Missiles.
Warning sign: North Korea's December 12 rocket launch shows
the country has likely developed the technology to fire a missile
that could reach the U.S. West Coast
An unclassified Pentagon report not yet released to the public suggests that North Korea can arm missiles with nuclear warheads, a lawmaker revealed Thursday. The results of a classified Defense Intelligence Agency report indicate that “North Korea now has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles.” That was the bombshell out of a House Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday.  It came when Rep. Doug Lamborn (R) of Colorado began quoting from what he said was an unclassified version of the DIA report, which has not yet been made public. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, the nation’s top military officer, appeared caught off-guard. The Pentagon has in recent days sought to strike a balance between words of warning to the North and attempts to calm the situation. General Dempsey's reaction suggested that he was not pleased to have the DIA assessment made public, as it could further stoke anxieties over what is already a enormously tense international standoff.  Representative Lamborn read from the report toward the end of a defense budget hearing.  “They say, ‘DIA assess with moderate confidence the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles. However, the reliability will be low.’ General, would you agree with that assessment by DIA?” he asked

“I can’t touch that one,” Dempsey answered.  The problem was that the report hasn’t been released, he said. “Some of it’s classified, some of it’s unclassified.”   Lamborn tried asking the question again, heedless of the sensitivity of the topic. “This is public; this is unclassified, so I can make it public.”  “And your question is do I agree with the DIA’s assessment?” Dempsey repeated.  “Yes,” Lamborn responded.  “Well,” Dempsey answered, “You said it’s not publicly released, so I choose not to comment on it.”   Only a day ago, Dempsey told reporters during a Pentagon briefing that “the proximity of the North Koreans to achieving a miniaturization of a nuclear device on a ballistic missile ... is a classified matter.”  If North Korea does have nuclear-armed missiles, it could strike South Korea, Japan, or US forces in Japan. It could perhaps also hit Guam, but Hawaii and the mainland US are out of the North's missile range, according to US intelligence estimates.  North Korea is expected to launch a missile soon as a show of defiance against the West. The administration said Thursday there is no indication that the missiles readied for launch are nuclear-armed, media reports said.  The exchange between Lamborn and Dempsey was not the only enlightening information about North Korea to emerge from Capitol HIll Thursday. At a different hearing, senior US intelligence officials were sharing some of the most telling details yet to emerge about the personality and motivations of the North's new young leader, Kim Jong-un. - CS Monitor.

EXTREME WEATHER: Apocalyptic Storm System Spawn Fierce Tornadoes, Damaging Winds, And Large Hail Across American Southeast - Severe Damage In Missouri, Arkansas; Greatest Risk On Thursday For Alabama, Georgia And The Florida Panhandle!

April 11, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Possible tornadoes, damaging winds and large hail are threatening a large swath of the Southeast, forecasters say.

A round of severe weather is expected Thursday across the eastern Ohio and Tennessee River Valleys, as well as the southern Mid-Atlantic and Southeast, the National Weather Service said.

The greatest risk for severe weather is focused on portions of Alabama, Georgia and the Florida Panhandle, the agency said.


Wreckage of Botkinburg Foursquare Church on Wednesday April 10, 2013 after a tornado demolished it just north of Clinton. (AP Photo/Log Cabin Democrat, Eric White)

Benjamin Pierce, a patron of the Botkinburg Foursquare Church, sifts through the wreckage of the church on Wednesday April 10, 2013 after a tornado demolished it just north of Clinton. (AP Photo/Log Cabin Democrat, Eric White)

A tree fell on a home on Lynn Haven Lane in Hazelwood, Missouri during a storm that caused extensive damage to homes and businesses on Wednesday, April 10, 2013. (AP Photo/David Carson, Post-Dispatch)

A car lays on its side in Hazelwood after a storm blew through the area on Wednesday, April 10, 2013. (AP Photo/David Carson, Post-Dispatch)

Earlier, the storm system struck Missouri and Arkansas, where residents are grappling with the aftermath of a series of storms that spawned at least two tornadoes.

At least 24 homes in Hazelwood, Missouri, sustained severe damage from Wednesday night's storms, the St. Louis County Office of Emergency Management said.

One tornado touched down in the St. Louis suburb, ripping the roofs off of several homes, Hazelwood communications manager Tim Davidson said. No serious injuries were immediately reported.

Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency in Missouri after a series of storms pummeled the St. Louis area and elsewhere across the state. Nixon will tour damaged areas Thursday, his website said.

WATCH: Twisters tear through Arkansas.


Another tornado touched down in Arkansas, damaging at least 33 homes and leaving three people injured in Van Buren County, about 75 miles north of Little Rock.

The twister demolished the sanctuary, fellowship area, classrooms and a pavilion at Botkinburg Foursquare Church, its pastor said.

"If the tornado would have come an hour and a half later, we would have been caught in it," said Senior Pastor Ester Bass, referring to Wednesday night services.

No members of the church were injured.

But a passing motorist who parked his truck in the church drive-through to get out of the dangerous weather had a close call when the storm struck.

WATCH: Severe storm system hits Arkansas.


"It shook the truck and just lifted the roof right off the drive-through," said Bass. "He was all right."

Bass, 63, said his congregation of about 100 was left stunned.

"It is just devastating. My wife and I are just torn," he said. "We put a lot of sweat and hard work and it was paying off. The church was growing."

As church leaders prepared to meet with their insurance adjuster, the pastor was thankful for a loyal membership.

"They will be with me," he said. "They are ready to buckle down and do what we have to. With the Lord's help, we are going to rebuild."

Damage also was reported in Fulton County, near the Missouri border, and in Conway, Lincoln and White counties. About 15 homes were damaged in Izard County, said Tommy Jackson of the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management.

WATCH: Tornado darkens sky, touches down.


Storm spotters reported overturned vehicles along U.S. 65, north of Clinton.

The severe weather season started late in Arkansas because of a chilly March, Robinson said. So far this year, six tornadoes have been reported -- about half the normal number. - CNN.



GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Massive Sinkhole Splits Ground In The Central Region Of Portugal - 100 Meters Deep And 17 Meters In Diameter!

April 11, 2013 - PORTUGAL - Excess water in the soil may be the cause of geological phenomenon occurred in Marvão in Alto Alentejo, which resulted in the opening of a crater about 100 meters deep and 17 in diameter.

The geologist Victor Lambert explained this Tuesday Lusa that this is "a typical phenomenon" of areas where there are limestone and situations that exist in Portugal 'similar', although 'not have this dimension. "

The geologist, who develops work for research institutions and ornamental rocks, reported in the local area that has Marvão caves and type of existing rock (limestone) tends to 'dissolve', forming caves.






"Here in Marvão, we had lots of rain a year. The water in these structures infiltrates, circulating inside, and in lime, circulates at high speeds, ie, the impact may cause is greater ", explained.

With the existence of underground rivers, where water circulates at great depths and velocities before and a year of heavy rain in the Alentejo, Victor Lambert indicated that these rivers' flow can not give. "

"When the water reaches the top of the cave lava accumulated material and that material, dragged through the water, killing it all. Therefore, it has the dimension "mentioned.

However, the geologist pointed out that the crater in Marvão is' interesting ', because of the depth and' three small consumers ", but was keen to stress that this case is not an episode of 'aliens'.

On private property where the phenomenon occurred, situated near the village of Porto da Espada, is also another smaller crater, having been created around that whole area a perimeter security authorities.

Speaking to Lusa, Mario Gallego, tenant of the property where the phenomenon occurred, was "surprised" by the situation and considered it "scary."

"On Friday afternoon we ran it, we do not know the exact day that this happened, probably Wednesday or Thursday. It's an annoying situation and just thinking a few days ago and had animals here that could have shaken ... "he declared.






The Mayor of Marvão, Victor Frutuoso, told Lusa that the council wants to know the 'impacts' that the situation may cause.

"We have to know the impact this might have in terms of stability with respect to property that is used and the access of people. Therefore, we have to control a number of situations in terms of security and realize what the consequences are that we can have, "he said.

With a security perimeter and created with elements of the GNR in place, the area has been subject to visits by popular not resist the curiosity to see firsthand the geological phenomenon. - TVI24. [Translated]

WATCH: Massive sinkhole in Portugal.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Crashing Continents Caused Deadly Iran Earthquake - Arabian Plate Grinds Northward By 0.4 Inches A Year, Pushing Into The Eurasian Plate!

April 11, 2013 - IRAN - Crashing continents caused today's (April 9) deadly earthquake in Iran, which killed dozens, according to news reports.

The magnitude-6.3 Iran earthquake hit in the southern Zagros Mountains, a stunning range that marks the boundary between the Arabian and Eurasian tectonic plates, said Bill Barnhart, a research geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey's (USGS) Denver office. The Arabian plate is grinding northward at about 0.4 inches (10 millimeters) a year, pushing the boot-shaped Arabian peninsula into the Eurasian plate, which covers most of Europe and Asia.

Just like the Himalaya Mountains, whose grand height and complex tectonics reflect the impact between the Indian and Eurasian plates, the Zagros Mountains are a mix of different earthquake fault styles, Barnhart told OurAmazingPlanet.


The Zagros Mountains mark the boundary between two colliding continental plates.
CREDIT: NASA Earth Observatory

Today’s quake was a thrust fault earthquake, meaning the ground on one side of the fault moved vertically up and over the other side, shortening the distance between the two sides. The epicenter was 55 miles (89 kilometers) southeast of Bushehr, the city where Iran's only nuclear power station is located. The quake originated 6.2 miles (10 km) below the Earth's surface and struck at 4:22 p.m. local time (7:52 a.m. EDT), the USGS reported.

The magnitude-6.3 earthquake was not unusual for southwestern Iran.Thanks to the region's long historical record, scientists know temblors along the plate boundary typically range from magnitude 5.5 to 6.3, Barnhart said. And small earthquakes ranging from magnitude 4 to magnitude 5 frequently shake the region. "Earthquakes are very, very common here," he said.


In Iran's Zagros Mountains, salt layers have pushed through overlying rock, flowing like glaciers. CREDIT: NASA Earth Observatory.

But poor construction means these magnitude 6 quakes are often very destructive. "When these moderate earthquakes happen close to cities, they're not prepared for this level of shaking. That's why Bam was so destructive and deadly," Barnhart said, referring to the huge earthquake that struck the historic city in 2003.

In 2003, some 26,000 people were killed by a 6.6 magnitude quake that flattened Bam, located about 400 miles (650 km) east of today's earthquake. The Bam earthquake was a strike-slip, meaning the ground on either side of the faults moved mostly horizontally, as California's San Andreas fault does.

The Zagros Mountains are known for their unusual rock formations, including ancient salt layers that formed in the Precambrian Era, before complex life appeared in Earth's fossil record. As the tectonic plates have slammed into each other, contorting the mountains, the salt layers have pushed to the surface like toothpaste from a tube, forming salt domes and salt glaciers called namakiers. - NBC News.

WATCH: A magnitude 6.3 earthquake shakes Iran killing at least 30 people and raising concerns about the safety of a nearby nuclear power station. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.



ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: Billions Of Cicadas, Flying Bugs, Set To Invade The East Coast Of The United States - The Once-In-17-Years Event Generates Early Buzz!

April 11, 2013 - UNITED STATES - After hanging around underground for 17 years, billions of flying bugs known as cicadas are due to sweep over the East Coast starting sometime in the next month. And although it's too early to predict exactly where or when the brood will appear, this spring's emergence should rate as the most closely watched bug-out in history.


Take a closer look at the curious 17-year life of the flying bug as the East Coast prepares for an invasion. John Pryke / Reuters

"For entomophobes, this is the season of despair. For the entomophiles, this is the season of joy," said University of Maryland entomologist Michael Raupp, using highfalutin terms for bug-haters and bug-lovers.
The outbreak is expected to start in the Carolinas in April or early May, and work its way up northward to Washington, Philadelphia and New York by early June. Some observers have already reported the first signs of the emergence. The timing depends on the weather: Cicadas dig "escape chimneys" up from the ground where they've been maturing for the past 17 years — and when the temperature reaches 64 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius), that signals the insects to rise up, wriggle out of their shells, take wing and look for mates.

Be ready for the buzz
The bugs are mostly harmless to plants and humans. The worst a cicada can do is poke you with its pointy proboscis. But the 90-decibel buzz of a sky-darkening swarm can be a bit unnerving to the unprepared. Raupp recalls one harrowing tale from 1962's outbreak, when "the kids were shrieking in the playgrounds as cicadas divebombed them."

In Raupp's view, however, the pluses far outweigh the minuses. The cicada nymphs help aerate garden soil with their burrowing, and when they emerge, the bugs represent a culinary bonanza for birds and other species. (They're said to taste like asparagus. Or shrimp.)

Besides, cicadas are cool. "Without a doubt, they are a true marvel of nature and one that should be enjoyed whenever possible," Raupp writes on his Bug of the Week blog.

WATCH: When the ground warms to 64 degrees Fahrenheit, a group of cicadas known as Brood II will infect the East Coast from North Carolina to New York's Hudson Valley. NBC's Anne Thompson reports.


It's thought that the 17-year life cycle arose to keep the cicadas' predators off their game, and perhaps make the most of climatic variations. Scientists even suspect that the number 17's status as a prime number plays a role. (Some periodical cicada species emerge every 13 years, and 13 is also a prime number.)

This particular group of cicadas, known as Brood II, hasn't surfaced since 1996. But other broods have had their own day in the sun during the intervening years. The big ones include Brood X ("The Big Brood"), which last came out in 2004; and the 13-year Brood XIX ("The Great Southern Brood"), which emerged in 2011.

The buzz online

This year's brood is notable in that it should spread out over the United States' most densely populated region. Entomologists expect the cicadas to show up in the countryside, in woodsy suburbs and even in urban locales such as New York's Central Park.

The New York-based Radiolab science show is preparing for "Swarmageddon" by helping citizen scientists build soil thermometers. Readings from the "cicada detectors" are being shared via an interactive Cicada Tracker map. Meanwhile, the Magicicada website keeps up its own database of cicada sightings. That website, supported by the National Geographic Society, also provides tons of information about the species and what to do with them. (But if it's recipes you need, you might have to look elsewhere.)

WATCH: University of Connecticut researcher John Cooley tells NBC's Anne Thompson cicadas are "noisy and active."


Thanks to the rapid rise of crowdsourcing and social media, this year's event is sure to become the most tweeted cicada emergence in history: Cicada Mania suggests using the hashtag #BroodII for the 2013 outbreak, and #Cicadas for general cicada issues. If you want to see the Twitterverse from the cicadas' point of view, just follow @Brood_II. There's a Cicada Mania Facebook page for entomophiles. And if you're an entomophobe, you'll find kindred spirits on the "I Hate Cicadas!!!!!!" Facebook page.

Whether you're an entomophobe or an entomophile, this will all be over soon: Once it starts, the emergence typically lasts only four to six weeks — long enough for Brood II's cicadas to mate, lay their eggs, and get the next generation settled for their 17 years of life underground as root-sucking nymphs. - NBC News.




MASS BIRD DIE-OFF: Rare Birds Killed Off After Migration North Sees Them Face Freezing Temperatures Back In The United Kingdom!

April 11, 2013 - UNITED KINGDOM - Remains of 8 malnourished stone curlews recently back from Africa and Spain found in Norfolk, Suffolk and Wiltshire. Rare birds have fallen victim to Britain's prolonged cold weather with the bodies of several breeds found dead across the country.

The remains of eight malnourished stone curlews - one of the UK's most threatened birds, recently returned from their wintering grounds in Africa and Spain - were discovered in fields in Norfolk, Suffolk and Wiltshire in the past few days, the RSPB has reported.


The stone curlew is one of the UK's most threatened birds and has recently returned from their wintering grounds in Africa and Spain

The malnourished creatures, which weighed around 300g each compared to a healthy weight of 450g, are believed to have died after struggling to find enough food to survive following their annual migration to the UK.

A number of puffins and other seabirds including razorbills and guillemots were found dead off the coast of Scotland and North East England two weeks ago as a result of continuous freezing conditions and stormy seas making it hard to find food.

There have also been reports of short-eared owls and barn owls found dead after cold weather hindered their ability to hunt.

The late onset of spring has meant a lack of activity usual for this time of year. An influx of migrant birds should be returning to British shores to breed and build nests, but conservationists have noted very little activity. There has been a much lower number of sightings of chiffchaffs, willow warblers and blackcaps than is usual for this time of year, which is worrying given last year's poor breeding season.

A number of birds have been confused by lower than normal temperatures. Winter migrants like waxwings, fieldfares and redwings are still present in large numbers across the countryside, showing little sign of preparing to head north. Starling murmurations - traditionally a winter evening spectacle - were recorded as late as the Easter weekend in areas including Swindon and Aberystwyth Pier.

RSPB conservation director Martin Harper said: "I can't remember a spring like this - nature has really been tested by a prolonged period of very cold weather.

"We should be hearing the sound of chiffchaffs calling from the trees - a classic sign that spring is here - but that isn't the case. Some may have stalled on their migration route, while for others the severe lack of insect food available means they are conserving what little energy they have.


"The discovery of eight stone curlews is a stark reminder of how fragile this species is. This amounts to around one per cent of the total UK population of these birds but the total number of deaths is likely to be higher. Many of these birds are only here because of the dedication of farmers who have been creating safe habitats for them in key areas." - The Independent.