Friday, April 26, 2013

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: More Sinkholes Keep Popping Up In America - Sinkhole Collapses Road Outside Folsom Field On University Of Colorado Boulder Campus; Residents In Monroe County, Illinois Are Concerned About 13,000 Sinkholes; Florida Homeowners Experience An Ever-Growing Pain Of Constant Sinkholes; Huge 25 Feet Deep Sinkhole Opens Up In Orleans County, Vermont, Swallowing Two Cars; A 20-Foot Fissure Opens Up Beneath Hillside House In Grand Terrace, San Bernardino, California!

April 26, 2013 - UNITED STATES - A sinkhole opened up Thursday in the middle of the road near Folsom Field on the University of Colorado Boulder campus.

Sinkhole Collapses Road Outside Folsom Field On University Of Colorado Boulder Campus.
Folsom Street was closed between Taft Street and Colorado Avenue while City of Boulder crews repaired the sinkhole. Video from AIRTRACKER7 showed that the sinkhole was in the middle of both lanes and was initially the size of a car. "I've never seen (a sinkhole) this big, not in the middle of a city," said Mike Keuter who works at CU. Officials said a 16-inch water main broke under the road causing Folsom Street to collapse around 3:30 a.m.

Mike Banuelos with the city of Boulder said the main broke due to pipe erosion. He said a water main broke in the same area about a year ago. Banuelos said the buildings on Folsom between Taft Drive and Colorado Avenue are currently without water, but that the University of Colorado was not affected. Water service was restored to the area at approximately 7:50 p.m. The closure may be in place until Friday morning.

The sinkhole is along the Bolder Boulder route. - 7 NEWS.

WATCH: Sinkhole collapses road outside Folsom Field.

Residents Are Concerned About 13,000 Sinkholes In Monroe County, Illinois.

Many Monroe County residents could be living on a sinkhole and not know it.  Sinkholes in the county are nothing unusual. In fact, they're quite common, according to C. Pius Weibel, senior geologist with the Illinois Geological Survey.  "There are probably more sinkholes in Monroe County than any other county in Illinois," Weibel said.  Although a man fell into a sinkhole last month at Annbriar Golf Course near Waterloo, the known sinkholes -- about 13,000 -- are not the primary concern of the county's residents, professional geologist Philip Moss said. The documented sinkholes are visible as depressions in the ground, but there are an unknown number of hidden sinkholes that can only be definitively identified through geophysical surveys.  The primary area of concern is within the sinkhole plain in the western part of the county. Moss said that, to his knowledge, there has been no effort made to map these hidden sinkholes, which could number in the tens of thousands.  "The tests would be expensive and labor intensive," Moss said. "If someone has a particular interest, they need to have a survey done on the property they are interested in." Commercial developers should consider paying for a geophysical survey before construction, Moss said. Private homeowners should be careful about where they choose to build.  "Within the sinkhole plain, flat spots are very suspicious to me," Moss said. "If I were a homeowner, I wouldn't build on flat land."  The land given preferential treatment for development in Monroe County is the least productive farmland, which is hilly, he said. The land with the most hills contains the most sinkholes. It's Moss' contention that the flat areas between the hills are most likely to have hidden sinkholes, which, like visible sinkholes, formed over thousands of years as holes that formed in the soil and migrated toward the surface.  More land is being developed as the county's population continues to grow. The census bureau estimated that 33,357 people lived in Monroe County in 2012, a 21 percent increase since 2000. The county experienced a 23.2 percent growth rate between 1990 and 2000. 

A dilemma for those who live in the sinkhole plain is that they probably do not know they live in a problem area. Much of western Monroe County and a portion of southern St. Clair County are in the plain. Although the sinkhole plain has been well-documented, its exact location is very difficult for the average citizen to determine.  Moss said neither the Monroe County Geographic Information System website ( nor the Illinois Department of Natural Resources website make the information easily available to the public. The Illinois DNR website has maps that identify the sinkhole plain, but Moss said the maps are too encompassing and include areas not in the sinkhole plain.  The Monroe County Comprehensive Plan maps all known sinkholes in the county, but does not indicate what land is in the sinkhole plain. Property owners or perspective buyers can buy special software to view sinkhole plain maps, or contact an engineering company that may be willing to share the information.  Monroe County Zoning Administrator Mike Fausz said that a soil and water report must be completed on all land being developed. The report will tell whether the land has "karst" characteristics.  Karst is a landscape formed by the process of soluble (dissolvable) rocks being broken down under the ground. About 9 percent of Illinois and 33 percent of Monroe County is karst, which is characterized by sinkholes, caves and underground drainage systems.  A potential developer may not know what karst is, but they have a duty to educate themselves, Fausz said.  "Can I tell you that everyone knows what karst is? No. But if someone is going to do development, they will need to do their due diligence," Fausz said.  The Monroe County zoning code has regulations for developing on known sinkholes and restricts mobile home parks from being built on karst topography. There are no codes for other types of development on karst, Fausz said. - BND.

Sinkholes Are An Ever-Growing Pain For Florida Homeowners.

Southwest Marion County residents Roy and Pat Meinson noticed cracks continually re-appearing in the home where they have lived for 19 years.  “It was shocking,” Pat Meinson said.  “It” was a sinkhole.  Foundation Services of Central Florida was called to handle the remediation, which involved 15 truckloads of grout being pumped into 29 injection points around the house and patio.  Foreman Trevor Nameth watched job-site gauges, monitoring the accumulated pressure of the grout and checking the sensitive, surveying-type equipment, which can detect movement of a structure as slight as thirty-second of an inch.  Florida has the highest occurrence of sinkhole activity of any state, according to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.  “The I-4 corridor from Clearwater to Daytona, including St. Petersburg, Tampa, the Pasco-Hernando county areas, (parts of) Marion and Sumter counties and the Tallahassee” area are all prone to underground anomalies, said Tony Randazzo, a retired professor emeritus with the University of Florida Department of Geological Sciences who now works with Geohazards Inc. consultants in Gainesville.  “There are sinkholes all over Central Florida; it’s really a matter of degrees,” Randazzo said.  Indeed, Foundation Services of Central Florida performs compaction grouting on 100 to 125 jobs per year within a 100-mile radius of Ocala.  On the Meinson job, a representative or monitor from the firm providing the engineering blueprint ensured that injection point placement and other job requirements were met.  The Meinsons remained in their home during the roughly three week drilling-and-filling job. - Ocala.

25 Feet Deep Sinkhole Opens Up In Orleans County, Vermont, Swallowing Two Cars.
A Vermont family are lucky to be alive after a massive sinkhole opened up in the middle of a mountain road during a rainstorm, swallowing their two cars.  Brian and Angel Richardson were driving up Mines Road in their hometown of Lowell early Saturday morning after picking up their son, Alex, from the airport, when the roadway caved in.  Their two vehicles fell 5 feet straight down, but the Richardsons managed to climb out to safety just before the ground gave way and their cars sank another 20 feet. Once the parents and their son were back on solid ground, water, rocks and dirt showered down on their stranded vehicles and the sinkhole deepened. Lowell Road Commissioner Reginald Pion told WCAX that a quick rainstorm caused a flash flood, which was too violent for a 5-foot plastic culvert installed in the road last year to handle. As a result, the conduit uprooted and the asphalt on top gave way, opening into a sinkhole 30 feet wide and about 25 feet deep. Lt Kirk Cooper, of the Vermont State Police, told The Newport Daily Express that the incident happened just before 3am Saturday when Angel Richardson was driving her 16-year-old son back from the airport to their home in Lowell. Angel's husband, Brian, was following his wife and son in his own car on the sleek blacktop.

Swallowed up: The Richardsons' two cars are pictured at the bottom of a 25-foot chasm that opened up in the middle of Mines Road in Lowell, Vermont.

Shoddy work: Officials believe a quick rainstorm caused a flash flood, which was too violent for a 5-foot plastic culvert installed in the road to handle.

Stormy night: It was dark and raining hard at the time of the accident, so the Richardsons were unable to see the washout in the middle of the road.

Life-saving move: Angel Richardson drove her car into the sinkhole, followed by her husband, who at the last moment turned the wheel to avoid landing on top of his wife's vehicle.

When you're driving down the road - it's safe to bet, the road will be there. Well, for one family, that was apparently just too much to assume.

The woman did not see the washout because it was dark and raining at the time, and drove into the abyss that opened in the middle of the roadway.  Her husband also did not see the chasm and followed his wife, but the quick-thinking motorist managed to turn the wheel just in time so his car would not land on top of his wife's, which likely ended up saving the lives of Angel and Alex Richardson.  Family friend Ryan Sargent saw the Richardsons later in the day and said they escaped with little more than some bumps, bruises and a broken arm.    On her Facebook page, Angel Richardson wrote that her son, Alex, went on a trip to Costa Rica last week, and she was looking forward to seeing him.  Pion believes that the 5-foot culvert, which replaced a 30-inch culvert in 2012, may not have been properly installed because the select board was operating on a shoestring budget and picked a contractor whose bid was the lowest of all.  ‘It makes me sick. When you first see your neighbor, your friend, with her face all blood because they crashed in your road-- you want to cry,’ Pion said.  State transportation officials are expected to launch an investigation to determine what type of drainage structure is required for the road. Pion estimates repairs could cost more than $100,000, which will be footed by taxpayers. - Daily Mail.

WATCH: Massive Sinkhole Swallows Family.

20-Foot Fissure Opens Up Beneath Hillside House In Grand Terrace, San Bernardino, California.
The earth gave way under a hillside home in Grand Terrace on Tuesday, April 23, carving out a 20-foot-wide chasm beneath it. The two occupants escaped unscathed after a tow-truck driver at the foot of the hill alerted rescuers to the growing gap beneath the home, which was swiftly condemned by county authorities.  San Bernardino County firefighters at the scene blamed a broken water pipe near the single-story home at 22846 Vista Grande Way for saturating the ground underneath it and causing it to fall away at about 8 a.m. It was unknown how long the pipe was broken.  An approximately 20-foot wide section under the home’s back deck gave away and the fissure continued for about 10 or 15 feet under the house, said San Bernardino County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Ed Noble. The deck was standing, but in danger of collapsing.

A swath of mud and debris slid down the hill from a house on Vista Grande in Grand Terrace on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. KURT MILLER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

 A broken water pipe was the probable culprit according to fire representatives.

The house was red-tagged – condemned for occupation – after firefighters found a half-inch crack through the foundation, said County Fire Department spokesman Capt. John Lansing.  Homeowners Dr. Arthur Jimenez, a family-practice physician with an office in Victorville, and his wife Rosalinda, were later allowed by firefighters to go into the home along with some friends and retrieve belongings. They were the only people living in the home.  Jimenez told reporters that he heard a loud noise before 8 a.m. as he was in the house preparing to go to work. Then firefighters appeared at his door and told him and his wife they had to leave the house immediately, Jimenez said. He said he didn’t have a chance to finish tying his tie before he and his spouse were out the door. Jimenez said he loves the view from the home and plans to restore it.  Noble said the collapse was not reported from the home, but from a 911 call by a tow truck driver who was on his break.  The driver was parked in a lot down below the hill, at Washington Street and Mount Vernon Avenue when he “heard something that sounded like a plastic trash can being dragged across the parking lot…he looked up and saw the hillside coming down,” Noble said.  The house appears to be about 1,500-square feet and the deck had a north-northwesterly view toward the San Bernardino Mountains. About six county fire units initially responded to the scene along with the department’s Urban Search and Rescue Team. - PE.

WATCH: Fissure opens up beneath hillside house.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Monumental Solar System Changes - NASA Probe Observes First Direct Evidence Of Meteors Colliding With Planet Saturn's Rings!

April 26, 2013 - SATURNNASA's Cassini spacecraft has provided the first direct evidence of small meteoroids breaking into streams of rubble and crashing into Saturn's rings.

Five images of Saturn's rings, taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft between 2009 and 2012, show clouds of material ejected from impacts of small objects into the rings. Clockwise from top left are two views of one cloud in the A ring, taken 24.5 hours apart, a cloud in the C ring, one in the B ring, and another in the C ring. Arrows in the annotated version point to the cloud structures, which spread out at visibly different angles than the surrounding ring features.

The clouds of ejected material were visible because of the angle sunlight was hitting the Saturn system and the position of the spacecraft. The first four images were taken near the time of Saturn equinox, when sunlight strikes the rings at very shallow angles, nearly directly edge-on. During Saturn equinox, which occurs only every 14.5 Earth years, the ejecta clouds were caught in sunlight because they were elevated out of the ring plane. The last image was taken in 2012 at a very high-phase angle, which is the sun-Saturn-spacecraft angle. This geometry enabled Cassini to see the clouds of dust-sized particles in the same way that dust on a surface is easier to see when the viewer is looking toward a light source.

The angle that the clouds are canted gives the time elapsed since the cloud was formed (see PIA14941). The A ring cloud formed 24 hours before its first apparition in the top left box; it formed 48.5 hours before the top middle image. The other three clouds were approximately 13 hours, four hours, and one hour old (respectively) at the times they were seen. See PIA11674 for more information on ring impacts.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit and

These observations make Saturn's rings the only location besides Earth, the moon and Jupiter where scientists and amateur astronomers have been able to observe impacts as they occur. Studying the impact rate of meteoroids from outside the Saturnian system helps scientists understand how different planet systems in our solar system formed.

The solar system is full of small, speeding objects. These objects frequently pummel planetary bodies. The meteoroids at Saturn are estimated to range from about one-half inch to several yards (1 centimeter to several meters) in size. It took scientists years to distinguish tracks left by nine meteoroids in 2005, 2009 and 2012.

Details of the observations appear in a paper in the Thursday, April 25 edition of Science.

This photograph of the meteor streaking through the sky above Chelyabinsk, Russia, on Feb. 15, 2013, was taken by a local, M. Ahmetvaleev. The small asteroid was about 56 to 66 feet (17 to 20 meters) wide.

Image Credit: Copyright M. Ahmetvaleev

Results from Cassini have already shown Saturn's rings act as very effective detectors of many kinds of surrounding phenomena, including the interior structure of the planet and the orbits of its moons. For example, a subtle but extensive corrugation that ripples 12,000 miles (19,000 kilometers) across the innermost rings tells of a very large meteoroid impact in 1983.

"These new results imply the current-day impact rates for small particles at Saturn are about the same as those at Earth -- two very different neighborhoods in our solar system -- and this is exciting to see," said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

"It took Saturn's rings acting like a giant meteoroid detector -- 100 times the surface area of the Earth -- and Cassini's long-term tour of the Saturn system to address this question."

The Saturnian equinox in summer 2009 was an especially good time to see the debris left by meteoroid impacts. The very shallow sun angle on the rings caused the clouds of debris to look bright against the darkened rings in pictures from Cassini's imaging science subsystem.

"We knew these little impacts were constantly occurring, but we didn't know how big or how frequent they might be, and we didn't necessarily expect them to take the form of spectacular shearing clouds," said Matt Tiscareno, lead author of the paper and a Cassini participating scientist at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. "The sunlight shining edge-on to the rings at the Saturnian equinox acted like an anti-cloaking device, so these usually invisible features became plain to see."

This illustration depicts the shearing of an initially circular cloud of debris as a result of the particles in the cloud having differing orbital speeds around Saturn. The numbers in the lower left of the panels in the still image show how quickly a cloud can be elongated. After the cloud is formed, each particle within it follows its own simple orbit. The cloud begins to elongate as particles closer to the planet orbit at a faster speed than the particles farther from the planet. Scientists can use the angle the clouds are canted to infer the time elapsed since it was formed. This method was used to determine the times of the impacts that created the clouds in Saturn's rings that were captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft (see PIA14938 for more information).

An animated version of this graphic can be seen at PIA14942.

For more information on clouds of ejected material see PIA11675

Image credit: NASA/Cornell

Tiscareno and his colleagues now think meteoroids of this size probably break up on a first encounter with the rings, creating smaller, slower pieces that then enter into orbit around Saturn. The impact into the rings of these secondary meteoroid bits kicks up the clouds. The tiny particles forming these clouds have a range of orbital speeds around Saturn. The clouds they form soon are pulled into diagonal, extended bright streaks.

"Saturn's rings are unusually bright and clean, leading some to suggest that the rings are actually much younger than Saturn," said Jeff Cuzzi, a co-author of the paper and a Cassini interdisciplinary scientist specializing in planetary rings and dust at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. "To assess this dramatic claim, we must know more about the rate at which outside material is bombarding the rings. This latest analysis helps fill in that story with detection of impactors of a size that we weren't previously able to detect directly."

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras. The imaging team consists of scientists from the United States, England, France and Germany. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

For images of the impacts and information about Cassini, visit: and - NASA.

EXTREME WEATHER: America Under Attack - Severe Storms Friday Night For Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas; And Major Flooding Potential On The Red River Next Week!

April 26, 2013 - UNITED STATESA strengthening storm early Friday will bring the potential for severe weather in the southern Plains Friday evening and overnight.

Severe Storms Friday Night For Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas.
The storm will track slowly eastward over the southern third of the nation through the weekend.

The threat of strong, potentially severe, thunderstorms will stretch from northeastern Texas, southeastern Oklahoma, much of Arkansas and southern Missouri.

With these storms, the greatest risks will be damaging wind gusts, flash flooding and a few incidents of large hail.

These impacts will not affect every place in the outlined area, but gusts could potentially bring down trees and power lines. While there is a low risk of tornadoes with this event, severe thunderstorms occasionally produce such dangerous conditions.

The rain from Friday's storms is not expected to bring widespread problems, like the dangerous flooding in the Midwest earlier this week, initially. However, as the excessive water from the northern portions of the Mississippi works downstream and meets up with the rain falling this weekend, significant rises are possible on stretches of the Lower Mississippi into next week. Flash and urban flooding is the primary concern farther east this weekend.

Like all thunderstorms, these will also pose the threat of lightning strikes. As reported by NOAA recently, the first lightning death of 2013 occurred on Tuesday, April 23. In Pomona City, Missouri, a woman was struck and killed while standing under a tree.

Time lapse photo of lightning strikes spanning about 2.5 minutes by Flickr user Bo Insogna.

Developing or fast-moving thunderstorms can give little or no notice of lightning about to strike. Severe thunderstorms can cause multiple lightning strikes within a small area. Seek shelter indoors as storms approach.

A car or truck can offer adequate protection from lightning. However, avoid remaining in a vehicle beneath a tree during a storm as strong winds can case large limbs to crash down. Golf carts and picnic pavilions do not offer sufficient protection from lightning.

Major Flooding Potential On The Red River Next Week.
The combination of an unusually deep late-season snowpack and surging warmth this weekend will set into motion rising water on the Red River.

An end of cold, snowy pattern is coming quickly to the northern Plains and the Upper Midwest. However, the sudden shift to more seasonable temperatures will lead to problems.

Much of the existing snow cover will wither away this weekend into early next week. As this happens, water locked up in the snow (the equivalent of 2 to 6 inches and in some cases more) will be released.

A larger version of this snow water equivalent map is available at the National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center.

Hope is for the meltdown to be gradual enough to limit the flooding to manageable levels.

If heavy rain avoids the area, then there is still a chance that flooding could stop short of record levels. However, even with this scenario, there would still be moderate to major flooding in unprotected areas.

The Red River flows northward along the border of North Dakota and Minnesota and reaches into Manitoba, Canada.

Temperatures are forecast to climb into the 60s and 70s during the day but remain above freezing at night in most areas. The milder conditions at night will thwart a natural slowing of the thaw which normally takes place at night earlier in the spring.

Levees would have to hold back water for possibly a couple of weeks with some unprotected areas being under water for a longer period of time.

Significant rises on the Red River will occur this weekend.

The Red River will continue to rise into next week, reaching major flood stage in some areas.

As of April 26, National Weather Service hydrologists expect water levels to reach major stages along the Red River during late April into early May, due to melting snow and minor rainfall events.

A gradual crest is forecast on the river next week at Fargo, barring any heavy rainfall. A crest would not occur until late next week or later farther downstream to the Canada border.

More information on official river forecasts and flooding is available at the National Weather Service.

More information on official river forecasts and flooding is available at the National Weather Service.

Spring flooding is not uncommon for the river which flows across a vast plain. There are not steep hillsides to contain the river. During a flooding event, when left unchecked, the river can stretch for hundreds of square miles beyond its banks.

The river also flows from south to north from a warmer climate to a colder climate, which can amplify flooding in certain situations, such as from ice jams or heavy rain in one part combined with heavy snow in another.

According to the Associated Press, preparations have been under way to protect the cities of Fargo, N.D., and Moorhead, Minn., to a river level of 41 feet. However, flooding of unprotected areas begins well below this level.

Normally, with late-season snowstorms, a thaw occurs in between. This allows the ground to warm up and absorb some of the melting snow.

However, this season the weather has remained very cold between the storms, so the ground has not thawed as it normally would at this point in April.

The frozen ground increases the runoff potential into the river system.

Record flooding occurred in Fargo during 2009, when waters reached a level of 40.84 feet on March 28. The 2009 flood was the fourth highest on record at Grand Forks, N.D., with a level of 49.33 feet on April 1.
The most recent flood on the Red River occurred in during the middle of April in 2011. At Grand Forks, waters crested at 49.33 feet. During this flood, the forth highest crest on record occurred at Fargo with a state of 38.81 feet.

The record crest at Grand Forks was 54.35 feet during the April 22, 1997, flood. The 1997 flood brought the second highest crest on record at Fargo with 38.72 feet on April 18.

Other recent significant floods occurred along the Red River in March 2010, April 2006, April 2001, April 1999 and April 1996. - AccuWeather.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Tracking Developments At The Giant Louisiana Sinkhole - Officials Indicate That The Wall Around The Sinkhole Must Be "Re-Routed" Due To Ongoing Surface Subsidence As The Land Is Sinking Outside The Boundary!

April 26, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Here is the latest update from the Assumption Parish Police Jury on the giant Louisiana sinkhole:

Photo: On The Wings Of Care.

The Office of Conservation, in consultation with Assumption Parish Incident Command, is advising the public that Texas Brine is preparing to re-route the western wall of the sinkhole containment berm further west, and extend the northern and southern berm walls accordingly, due to ongoing surface subsidence in a portion of the existing western berm wall.

While the sinkhole’s western boundary remains more than 100 feet away from the existing western berm wall, ongoing filling of the failed Texas Brine Oxy 3 cavern and compaction of the disturbed rock zone surrounding the sinkhole have created an area of surface subsidence outside the sinkhole boundary.

The current western wall siting was chosen in order to make use of an already existing well access road to more quickly provide containment around the sinkhole, and Texas Brine will continue to use fill material to maintain the existing western wall until containment is established with the new route.

In addition, the currently existing berm will be partially maintained following construction of the new containment route in order to provide access to the vent wells and monitoring wells installed along the original western berm. The Office of Conservation and Assumption Parish Incident Command are continuing to monitor developments in the area to ensure all necessary steps are taken to protect public safety and the environment. - Assumption Parish Police Jury.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Global Volcano Report For April 26, 2013 - Intense Strombolian Activity At Etna, And Volcanic Eruption Followed By Strong Steam Plume At Popocatépetl!

April 26, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing reports of volcanoes across the globe.

Ash emission from Etna's New SE crater (Etna Trekking webcam).

Etna (Sicily, Italy): Relatively intense strombolian activity and ash emissions continue at the New SE crater. INGV tremor data seems currently not to be available to see whether this is rising or not, and might be the beginning of another paroxysm.

A steam and ash plume is rising about 1 km above the volcano.

Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): Activity is on the increase again at the volcano, which currently is producing a strong steam plume illuminated by the glowing lava in the summit crater.

Steaming and glow from Popocatépetl this morning.

This rise in activity was preceded by a moderate explosion late on 24 April (which could not be observed due to cloud cover) and during yesterday, the rate of small to moderate emissions of gas-steam-ash rose to about two per hour.

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

- Volcano Discovery.

WAR DRUMS: North Korea Threatens AGAIN - Pyongyang Ready To Launch ICBM Nuclear Kamikaze-Like Attacks On The United States, As South Korea And America Engage In War Games Amid Growing Nuclear Tension?!

April 26, 2013 - KOREAN PENINSULA - On an anniversary known for military showmanship, North Korean generals on Thursday declared that their forces were ready to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles and kamikazelike nuclear attacks at the United States if threatened.

“Stalwart pilots, once given a sortie order, will load nuclear bombs, instead of fuel for return, and storm enemy strongholds to blow them up,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency quoted its Air and Anti-Air Force commander, Ri Pyong-chol, as saying during a ceremony in observance of the anniversary of the founding of the North Korean People’s Army.

Another general, Kim Rak-gyom, the Strategic Rocket Force commander, reiterated the claim that the North is “one click away from pushing the launch button.”

“If the U.S. imperialists and their followers dare make a pre-emptive attack, they will be made to keenly realize what a real nuclear war and real retaliatory blows are like,” he said.

Threats to launch nuclear strikes and warnings of “nuclear holocaust” have become common since the country’s latest nuclear test, its third, in February. Although North Korea is believed to have a small nuclear weapons arsenal, most analysts doubt it could follow through on threats to deliver them to the United States by missile.

One American intelligence agency recently said it had “moderate confidence” that the North had mastered the technology of building a weapon that could fit on a missile warhead, but the Obama administration said that was not the consensus among the United States’ 15 other intelligence agencies. Most analysts believe that Kim Jong-un, the North’s leader, is using the nuclear bluster to consolidate the support of his people and bolster his leverage in dealing with Washington and its allies.

The threatening statements come after days of relative quiet that followed weeks of warnings of dire consequences if the United States and South Korea provoked the North. Mr. Kim’s government was already angered by United Nations sanctions punishing it for the nuclear test in February and by particularly robust joint exercises by the American and South Korea militaries.

The timing of the latest threats appeared to be tied to the military anniversary. North Korea’s military, the backbone of Mr. Kim’s dynastic rule, has traditionally used the date to swear its loyalty to the Kim family and vent its anti-American vitriol.

WATCH: Joint US-S. Korea war games amid growing nuclear tension.

During the military ceremony on Thursday, Mr. Kim saluted columns of soldiers marching past, and airplanes made demonstration flights, the North Korean news agency said.

Earlier Thursday, South Korea said it was giving the North until Friday to respond to its proposal for dialogue about the two countries’ joint industrial park or face a “grave measure” by the South. The statement by the Unification Ministry stopped short of saying whether South Korea was contemplating withdrawing 176 South Korean managers still remaining in the factory park in North Korea or even terminating the joint economic project, which has survived years of political tensions on the divided Korean Peninsula.

The future of the project, the Kaesong Industrial Complex, located in the North Korean border town of the same name, has been in doubt ever since North Korea pulled out its 53,000 workers in early April. It also blocked supplies and South Korean managers who were south of the border from entering the economic zone.

The number of South Korean managers at Kaesong dwindled from the usual 900 to 176 as of Wednesday as supplies were running out. On Thursday, the South Korean government said that those who were still in Kaesong, hoping for the reopening of the complex, would not be able to remain much longer.

A spokesman for the government said that when it had tried Wednesday to send a letter to the North asking permission to send emergency food and medical supplies to the South Koreans in Kaesong, the North had not even accepted the document. - NY Times.

MASS ANIMAL DIE-OFF: "Catastrophic Mortality" - Questions Abound In Mysterious Deaths Of Manatees And Pelicans At Indian River Lagoon, Florida?!

April 26, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Whatever is killing manatees and pelicans northern Indian River Lagoon remains unknown, but apparently wildlife along the Treasure Coast won't become victims.

Since July and 2012, a total of 220 manatees have died in the lagoon in Brevard County, about 100 of them under mysterious circumstances; and since February, between 250 and 300 dead pelicans have been found in the same area.

Since July and 2012, a total of 220 manatees have died in the lagoon in Brevard County, about 100 of them under mysterious circumstances; and since February, between 250 and 300 dead pelicans have been found in the same area.
Photographer: CHRISTOPHER ARNOLD, Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers
Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Thomas R. "Tom" Reinert, a research administrator with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, told members of the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program Advisory Board on Wednesday that researchers have been stumped in their efforts to find the cause - or causes.

Asked if the mysterious deaths could migrate south into the lagoon along the Treasure Coast, Reinert replied, "I can't answer that. The cases seem to be localized, with the zone in Brevard County from Sebastian to Titusville being where the deaths are concentrated. And it appears it will remain that way."

In March alone, Reinert said, 56 sea cows died from unknown causes in Brevard County, where the annual manatee death count from all causes averages 111.

Reinert said dead manatees have been reported "here and there" along the Treasure Coast, but the numbers are within the usual mortality rate.

According to the commission's website, six manatees have died in Indian River County, four in St. Lucie County and three in Martin County from Jan. 1 to April 19.

Statewide, 566 manatees have died over the same period. A record 766 manatees died in Florida in 2010.

"We're on a trajectory to eclipse that," Reinert said.

Reinert said the deaths of the manatees and the pelicans "could be completely unrelated. At least they're not directly related. They don't show the same symptoms at all. Of course, they could be tangentially related. There could be some ultimate cause that effects manatees and pelicans differently."

Reinert said the manatees that died mysteriously appeared to be healthy but drowned due to toxic shock-like symptoms similar to the hundreds of sea cows on Florida's West Coast that have died from toxins in the so-called "red tide" algae blooms.

"We've tested for (the toxin found in) red tide," Reinert said, "but there's no red tide present (in the lagoon manatees). There's no evidence of disease or viruses, or of any known toxins. We're not finding anything special that would explain the toxic shock."

The dead pelicans, on the other hand, have been emaciated and parasite-ridden.

"The parasites may be a coincident of the pelicans being sick and then getting the parasites rather than the parasites causing the sickness," Reinert said. "Whatever they had made them stop eating."

Necropsies of the dead pelicans didn't show signs of diseases such as avian flu or West Nile virus.

Researchers believe the manatee deaths are the result of a dietary shift, he added, "but that's not been confirmed."

WATCH: Mystery deaths at Indian River Lagoon.

Over the last few years, Reinert noted, the northern lagoon "has gotten hammered" by a series of algae blooms. The blooms have resulted in the loss of massive areas of seagrass, the manatees' primary food, while the amount of macroalgae, seaweed known as "the tumbleweeds of the Indian River Lagoon," has expanded.

Reinert said researchers initially focused on the fact that the first manatees to die mysteriously had lots of red macroalgae in their stomachs.

"But in the later deaths, we didn't find the same species of macroalgae," he said.

Whatever is killing manatees and pelicans, Reinert said, doesn't seem to pose a danger to humans.

"Well," he said, "I'm not testing anybody." - WPTV.

ICE AGE NOW: Global Cooling Across The World - Sudden European Temperature Plunge Over The Last Decade, Are We On The Brink Of A Little Ice Age?

April 26, 2013 - UNITED KINGDOM - The UK Met Office long term Central England Temperature record has kept a continuous and consistent data set since the 1660s. It appears to be reliable and to have maintained its quality. It has not been adjusted as have so many other official temperature record.

© Met Office

Although the CET record covers only a small part of the northern hemisphere, it has shown a consistent rise since the end of the Little Ice Age in 1850 at a rate of about +0.45°C/century or about +0.67°C in the last 150 years. This rise accords well with other temperature records.

However since the year 2000, diminishing solar activity in solar cycle 24 (moving back towards little ice age patterns) appears to be having a real effect.

So since 2000 the CET shows an annual temperature diminution at the rate of -0.49°C/decade or -0.59°C in 12 years: this negates almost the entire CET temperature rise since 1850. Although this is a very short period, the extent of the climate change that has been observed since the turn of the millennium is remarkable.

Using the March 2013 CET value, it is possible to show the winter temperature values up until March 2013 with a combination of the four months December - March for the first 13 years of this century. The diminution of the four winter months temperatures is more remarkable at a rate of -1.11°C/decade or -1.41°C in the last 13 years. This compares with a winter temperature increase rate from 1850 to the year 2000 of +0.45°C/century or +0.68°C for the whole 150 year period.

There are substantial shorter term fluctuations in temperature, and since about 1850 world temperatures have been recovering from a Little Ice Age up by about +0.7°C up until the year 2000. These fluctuations have correlated well with solar activity observable by the number of sunspots. There was a particularly active solar period from about 1970 onward coinciding well with sunspot cycles 21 - 22 - 23: it led to comparatively rapid warming.

However the current cycle 24 is very much weaker and sunspots are diminishing to the levels of the earlier Little Ice Age.


According to some [2]: "so begins a Little Ice Age". These colder conditions lead to a southwards diversion of the Jet Stream over Europe, as could be seen on 2/4/2013 [3], when the upper atmosphere air flow was passing over Northern Africa, rather than to the North of Scotland as is normal in warmer times.

Such a jet stream pattern leads to very wet summer conditions and remarkably cold winters as have occurred in the last 5 years throughout Northern Europe and the rest of the Northern hemisphere. This adverse colder climate could well persist for decades or even hundreds of years, as it certainly did for the pervious Little Ice Age.

Humanity has thrived in our current Holocene interglacial world. The comparatively warm last 10,000 years have been responsible for the development of the whole of civilisation. The GRIP [4] Greenland ice core data, supported reinforced by several other similar long term ice core records, show this effect very clearly.

Over the past 10,000 years the current Holocene epoch has been progressively cooling since the early "climate optimum". Overall in the 10,000 years the world has cooled gradually by about 1.0 °C. There were other well documented temperature high points during the period, including the Minoan, Roman and Medieval warm periods.

However the most recent period of 1000 - 2000 AD was the coolest millennium of the whole epoch: see John Kehr the Inconvenient Sceptic [5].

A longer term record shows that only 13,000 years ago the world was in the depths of a real ice age with temperatures about 12°C lower than at present.

So interglacial periods of about 12,000 years have been occurring regularly about every 120,000 years. They are interspersed by real 100,000 year long ice ages, when vast ice sheets cover large parts of the world.

The previous Eemian interglacial epoch was some 130,000 years ago. At its peak it was about 3°C warmer than our current Holocene interglacial: hippopotami thrived in the Rhine delta. The Eemian also lasted about 12,000 years.

The pattern repeats itself [6], there have been 5 interglacial events in the last 500,000 years.

At ~10,500 years our current cooler but benign Holocene interglacial is coming towards its end and the reversion of our planet to a real ice age is foreseeable.

[1] see:
[2] see:
[3] see:
[4] see:
[5] see:
- NTZ.

MASS BIRD DIE-OFF: "I've Never Seen This Before" - Duluth Man Watches As Waxwings Began "Dropping Out Of The Sky"?!

April 26, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Two off-course flights into downtown buildings this week resulted in the deaths of almost 30 Bohemian waxwings and the injury of several others.

Wildwoods, a wildlife rehabilitation center in Duluth, is caring for three Bohemian waxwings that were injured downtown in the past two days, said Peggy Farr, a Wildwoods rehabilitator and board member. Five other Bohemian waxwings died in that incident, Farr said.

Bohemian Waxwing© Andreas Trepte,

"We're on a major migration route," said Farr. "This is a good time of year to close the blinds so the birds don't get faked out by the windows."

Separately, about 25 Bohemian waxwings were found dead Monday, April 22, in the plaza area adjacent to the Minnesota Power building in downtown Duluth, said Amy Rutledge, manager of corporate communications for Minnesota Power. The birds apparently had flown into tinted glass partitions adjacent to the building as the birds were flying up to trees.

Rutledge said Minnesota Power plans to put stickers on the glass panels that the waxwings hit so birds will be more likely to see the panels.

"Something like this has never happened before," Rutledge said. "It seems to be an anomaly."

Bohemian waxwings, just smaller than robins, often move and feed in large flocks. In this area, they frequently feed on berries of mountain ash or crabapple trees, and these birds were observed eating mountain ash berries.

"In talking to the employee who saw this, they did see the birds eating berries that may have been fermented,"Rutledge said. "They may have become disoriented."

Duluth birder and birding guide Erik Bruhnke said that sometimes happens.

"I know that waxwings become intoxicated because of alcohol when the berries are fermented," Bruhnke said. "They can have varied levels of alcohol in their bodies. I've seen them flying together in close-knit groups with no problem at all.

"But I have seen, a couple times, where the whole flock will sit on the ground in a slight daze after eating large amounts of fermented berries and fruits."

But the more common problem is birds hitting windows, said Duluth birder Laura Erickson, birding author and host of the For the Birds radio program.

"It's a problem everywhere where fruit trees are close to windows, or close to highways and roads," she said.

The American Bird Conservancy sells tape that reflects ultraviolet light, which is visible to birds while minimizing the visibility to humans, Erickson said.

Fifty percent of birds that hit windows die, Erickson said.

Birds often strike the windows of homes in Duluth when the birds are coming to or leaving bird feeders, Erickson said.

"The safest place to have a birdfeeder is right smack on your window," she said, "either nailed to the frame or sticking to the glass. That way, they see the window. If they do hit the glass, they aren't going full speed."

"This is a wake-up call," Farr said, "to look for opportunities to make our city even better for wildlife than it is."

The Duluth Audubon Society is initiating a project called Birdsafe, an effort to reduce the number of birds killed or injured when they collide with buildings, said Jane Cleave, president of Duluth Audubon Society.

Tim Pohl, a contract employee who works at Minnesota Power in facilities management, witnessed the Bohemian waxwing die-off Monday.

Pohl had gone outside to put money in a parking meter on the Michigan Street side of the building when he saw a large number of Bohemian waxwings flying up toward a tree.

He saw many of the birds hit tinted glass partitions and the building itself.

"There were hundreds of them flying," he said. "They were bouncing off the glass and the retaining wall underneath. I'll bet of the 100 I picked up, 37 of them died. It all happened within five minutes. It was like a horror movie. There were birds falling out of the sky not even near the wall. They were just dropping out of the sky not even hitting the wall.

"They would hit (the partitions or building) or drop out of the sky," he said. "Their wings were straight out, twitching. They were on their backs. I would hold them for a second, then put them on the ground. ... There was a liquid discharge. They left wet spots. Within seconds, they would fly away. But a bunch got worse."

Three crows nearby were preying on the injured waxwings, Pohl said.

"Crows were picking off the live ones," he said.

"I've never seen this before," Pohl said of the event. "I've worked here 12 years."

He said he stayed outside for about a half-hour, picking up birds and putting the dead ones in a pile.

"The crows picked up quite a few of them," he said. - Duluth News Tribune.

WAR DRUMS: A Very Thin Red Line - United States Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel "Confident" Chemical Weapons Used In Syria, Intelligence Points To Small-Scale Use Of Sarin!

April 26, 2013 - SYRIA - The United States has evidence that the chemical weapon sarin has been used in Syria on a small scale, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday. But numerous questions remain about the origins of the chemical and what effect its apparent use could have on the ongoing Syrian civil war and international involvement in it. When asked whether the intelligence community's conclusion pushed the situation across President Barack Obama's "red line" that could trigger more U.S. involvement in the war, Hagel said it's too soon to say. "We need all the facts. We need all the information," he said. "What I've just given you is what our intelligence community has said they know. As I also said, they are still assessing, and they are still looking at what happened, who was responsible and the other specifics that we'll need."

REUTERS/Rauf Maltas/Anadolu Agency.

In a letter sent to lawmakers before Hagel's announcement, the White House said that intelligence analysts have concluded "with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin."  The White House cautioned that the "chain of custody" of the chemicals was not clear and that intelligence analysts could not confirm the circumstances under which the sarin was used, including the role of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime. But, the letter said, "we do believe that any use of chemical weapons in Syria would very likely have originated with the Assad regime."  The Syrian government has been battling a rebellion for more than two years, bringing international condemnation of the regime and pleas for greater international assistance.  The United Nations estimated in February that more than 70,000 people had died since the conflict began.

WATCH: U.S. - Intelligence points to small-scale use of sarin in Syria

Caution urged 
The Obama administration said it is working to gather more information on the reports and is calling for a full-scale United Nations investigation into what may have happened.  "Given the stakes involved, and what we have learned from our own recent experience, intelligence assessments alone are not sufficient -- only credible and corroborated facts that provide us with some degree of certainty will guide our decision-making," the letter said. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the U.S. is working with its allies to get to the bottom of what may have happened. He said the intelligence assessments were "not the final corroborative facts we're looking for."  "We want the highest possible level of confidence because of the seriousness of the matter," he said.

Lawmakers call for action 
After the announcement, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said the United States needs to take action, but offered different proposals for what the next steps should be.  "It is clear that 'red lines' have been crossed and action must be taken to prevent larger-scale use," Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, said in a statement. "Syria has the ability to kill tens of thousands with its chemical weapons. The world must come together to prevent this by unified action which results in the secure containment of Syria's significant stockpile of chemical weapons."  Rep. Eliot Engel, D-New York, said the U.S. government -- which currently supplies "nonlethal aid" to Syrian rebels -- must start "to immediately arm vetted elements of the Syrian opposition."  Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, urged the administration to work for the establishment of a safe zone for Syrian rebels.  "Everything that the non-interventionists said would happen in Syria if we intervened has happened," he said. "The jihadists are on the ascendency, there is chemical weapons being used, the massacres continue.

"The president of the United States said that if Bashar Assad used chemical weapons that it would be a game changer, that it would cross a red line," the Arizona senator said. "I think it is pretty obvious that red line has been crossed."  Later, McCain said the reported use of chemical weapons was only a matter of time and that the United States "should have intervened a long time ago whether Bashar al-Assad was using them or not."  "No one should be surprised that he would do such a thing. We all know he will do whatever's necessary to hang on to power," McCain told CNN's Jake Tapper on Thursday. "And why should, frankly, chemical weapons be a red line when he's slaughtering and massacring, raping and torturing, his own people?"

WATCH: US Defense Sec. Hagel 'confident' chemical weapons used in Syria.

Searching for evidence 
The White House letter, signed by legislative affairs director Miguel Rodriguez, indicates that the assessment is based "in part on physiological samples."  On Wednesday, Syrian Free Army leader Gen. Salim Idriss told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons in several places, including Homs, Aleppo and Otaiba, near Damascus.  Idriss said rebel forces had some of the people reportedly exposed to chemical weapons examined by doctors, and they took soil and blood samples.  "And the samples were tested, it was very clear that the regime used chemical weapons," he said.  The British Foreign Office said Thursday that it had "limited but persuasive" evidence of chemical weapons use in Syria, and it urged al-Assad to allow unfettered access for international investigators.

Ventrell told reporters on Thursday that allowing a team of U.N. experts to investigate would be the "most direct way" to find out what happened. "We have the U.N. ready to deploy inspectors on a couple of days notice. We're already pre-deploying out in the field near Syria and ready to go in," he said. "And you have the regime resisting a full and thorough and credible investigation within Syria. So we urge the regime to allow these inspectors in. That currently is the most direct route to getting to the bottom of what may have occurred."

NATO leaders discuss the issue 
The administration disclosure comes two days after Secretary of State John Kerry urged NATO members to prepare for the possible use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime, while Russia's foreign minister accused the West of politicizing the search for such weapons, comparing it to the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned Tuesday that reports of chemical weapons in Syria must be carefully investigated to avoid a repetition of the "Iraqi scenario" in which unconfirmed allegations that the regime of Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction were the basis for the U.S.-led invasion.  He accused Western nations of trying to "politicize the issue" and broadening the investigation. Experts were supposed to be sent to Syria to study the possible use of chemical weapons in Aleppo. Instead, Lavrov said, investigators demanded access to all facilities in Syria and the right to interview all Syrian citizens.  "I believe that is too much," he said.  NATO remains conflicted about Syria's two-year civil war. While members are concerned about the mounting causalities, millions of refugees and the potential for a wider regional spillover, they are loath to become embroiled in another Middle Eastern conflict.

WATCH: Rebel Rise - EU-born jihadis flock to Syria to fight Assad.

Israeli evidence 
Earlier this week an Israeli intelligence official said Damascus was using weapons banned under international law against its own people in the country's civil war.  On Wednesday, Israeli President Shimon Peres said that he expected the United States to fall in line with its estimate on chemical weapons use in Syria.  "I think the United States and us and others will do whatever we can to meet this very dangerous weapon," he said. "The sooner the better."  Syria has said it is rebels who have used chemical weapons. Sarin gas is an odorless nerve agent that can cause convulsions, paralysis and respiratory failure. Nerve agents are the most toxic and rapidly acting of the known chemical warfare agents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Sarin quickly evaporates from liquid to vapor form to disperse into the environment. It also mixes easily with water and can poison a water supply. - CNN.

US Has A Range Of Military Options In Syria.
An illustrative photo of US Marines during a drill in California (photo credit: LCpl Ali Azimi/US Marines)
US commanders have laid out a range of possible options for military involvement in Syria, but they have made it clear that any action would likely be either with NATO backing or with a coalition of nations similar to the NATO-led overthrow of Libyan dictator Col. Muammar Gadhafi in 2011.  The White House announced Thursday that intelligence officials have concluded that the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad has twice used sarin gas on its own people. But even though President Barack Obama has called that a “red line” for taking some kind of further action to assist the rebels, administration officials said Thursday the intelligence wasn’t solid enough to warrant such a move.

On Thursday, US officials said that there has been no new movement of US military assets to the region.  The military options could include establishing a no-fly zone or a secured area within Syria, launching airstrikes by drones and fighter jets and sending in tens of thousands of ground forces to secure the regime’s chemical weapons caches.  Setting up a no-fly zone over Syria would present a greater challenge than it did in Libya because Syria has a more sophisticated and robust air defense system. Crippling it would require jamming the radars and taking out the missile sites, or possibly even using some type of cyberattack to interfere with the system.  According to a report by the Institute for the Study of War, Syria’s largely Soviet-era air defense system includes as many as 300 mobile surface-to-air missile systems and defense systems, and more than 600 static missile launchers and sites. 

Some senators have also pressed for the US to set up a narrow, so-called safe zone inside Syria, along its border with Turkey where citizens could go and be safe. To do so would also require neutralizing Syria’s air defenses. US hunter-killer drones, fighter jets and missile launches from ships could be used to attack the air defense sites.  During a recent Senate Armed Services hearing, Adm. Jim Stravidis, the top US commander in Europe and NATO’s supreme allied commander, said there is a “great deal of discussion” among allies about the various options, including the no-fly zone and providing additional lethal support to the rebels.  The US has taken only minimal military steps so far, including the deployment of about 200 troops to Jordan to assist that country’s military. The US also participated in NATO’s placement of Patriot missile batteries in Turkey near the border to protect against an attack from Syria.  A new army headquarters unit is being deployed to replace the 200 troops in Jordan, giving the US a stronger command and control unit, if the decision is made to send any additional forces.  In testimony to Congress last week, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked whether he was confident that US forces could secure the chemical weapons caches within Syria.  “Not as I sit here today, simply because they’ve been moving it and the number of sites is quite numerous,” Dempsey said. - Times of Israel.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: The Cyanobacterial Disease Epidemic - Outbreak Of Deadly Coral Disease Along Kaua'i's North Shore In Hawaii Is Worsening, Targeting More Than One Species Of Montipora Coral!

April 26, 2013 - HAWAII - The outbreak of deadly coral disease along Kaua'i's North Shore may be targeting more than one species of Montipora coral

The spread of the disease was described as an "epidemic" in a November 2012 report by the U.S. Geological Survey

Until recently, the cyanobacterial disease was thought to be exclusive to the common rice coral. But after returning to Kaua'i this week, Dr. Thierry Work, head of infectious disease for USGS, said the blue rice coral species is also in trouble.

Dr. Thierry Work, a wildlife disease specialist at the U.S. Geological Survey, collects tissue samples Monday from a diseased blue rice coral at Wainiha on Kaua‘i’s North Shore.© Terry Lilley/Contributed photo

"The blue rice coral definitely has lesions on it," he said. "Of course, we'll have to do the analysis to see if it's the same (disease)."

He said the lesions look similar to what he saw at 'Anini and Tunnels beaches.

Work spent Monday and Tuesday diving at several locations along Kauai's North Shore, including reefs near Ha'ena, Wainiha and Waipa. He collected 30 coral tissue samples, which he took back to the lab in Honolulu for DNA testing.

"It's another piece of information that we can add to the pile to document what is going on with these reefs," Work said.

Accompanying Work during his dives were Don Heacock, Kaua'i district aquatic biologist for the Department of Land and Natural Resources' Division of Aquatic Resources, and Hanalei-based diver and biologist Terry Lilley, who has been tracking the disease with underwater video ever since discovering the outbreak more than a year ago.

"We saw thousands of diseased corals in the last two days," Lilley said.

Lilley believes the situation facing Kaua'i's reefs has reached a new level of urgency now that the disease has "jumped species" to the blue rice coral, one of 66 coral species theNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is proposing to list under the Endangered Species Act.

"I'm expecting a heck of a lot of government interest moving forward," he said.

This disease - which consists of three different bacteria working together - is the first Heacock has seen in his 31 years as an aquatic biologist. Most puzzling, he said, is that it is being found in areas with strong currents, a lot of water movement and low pollution levels.

"It's not the kind of place you would expect to see an organism, like coral, to be diseased," he said.

One thing all three researchers agree on is that something is causing significant amounts of stress and rapidly killing corals in Kaua'i's coastal waters.

"It's a complex thing, and I'm not really sure what's causing it," Work said.

Lilley said he has documented a large amount of disease in areas surrounding underwater lava tubes, where fresh water flows out onto the reefs.

A diseased blue rice coral is pictured at Wainiha. Scientists believe it is the same cyanobacterial disease that is killing a different species of rice coral along Kaua‘i’s North Shore. The white area is the coral’s dead skeleton.© Terry Lilley/Contributed photo

"This is giving us a little bit of a clue that this stuff may be caused due to runoff," he said.

While Lilley believes the origin is likely land-based, Heacock is less convinced.

"If that was the case, we would probably see these diseases in places like Nawiliwili Bay," he said. "It appears we're not seeing these diseased corals adjacent to where there's most likely a pollutant coming off the land. That's what's puzzling."

Whatever the source - land or ocean - Heacock said it is a question that must be answered, as corals are "the canary in the proverbial coal mine."

"We're dealing with a fragile ecosystem," he said.

Of all the sites he visited Monday and Tuesday, Work said Waipa, on the east side of Hanalei Bay, is most affected by the disease. The area is littered with the white skeletons of dead coral colonies.

"Waipa looks really bad," he said. "That reef is hurting."

Work fears Waipa is following in the footsteps of 'Anini reef, one of the main sites he and Dr. Greta Aeby, a coral expert with the Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology at the University of Hawai'i, have been studying since September. In November, Work described the amount of sediment in the water there as "horrible."

"I wouldn't be surprised if (Waipa) starts looking like 'Anini in a few months," he said Tuesday.

Work said Kaua'i's reefs are trying to tell us something and that the community should be listening. While not much can be done locally to reduce rising sea levels and global warming, he said Kaua'i can address local problems, including land-based pollution and overfishing.

"It is really up to the community to decide what they want the reefs to look like," he said. "They don't need to be reef ecologists to see that the reefs are dying."

Work added that the Hawaiian Islands cannot afford to make the same mistakes as in the Caribbean, where he said 80 percent of the coral cover has been lost.

Heacock said the only way to protect our ocean resources is for the community and government agencies to work together.

"Things have to change," he said. "They have to."

Work said it will take several weeks to analyze the tissue samples collected earlier this week. The results will be released in a diagnostic report once he is finished.

On April 29, a team of scientists from NOAA - led by coral disease specialist Bernardo Vargas-Angel - will fly to Kaua'i to begin augmenting efforts started last year by USGS and UH.

"I just got notice our plan was a go a few days ago," Vargas-Angel said Thursday, adding that the team will be on island for up to a week to collect data and conduct prevalence surveys around the island. - The Garden Island.