Wednesday, May 1, 2013

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: A New Ice Age Is Here, A Year Without Spring - The Jet Stream Dip Has Brought Record Snow This Spring; Record Cold In Interior Alaska Heads Into United States; US Headed For The Coldest Spring On Record; Historic Snowstorm Potential For Omaha To Minneapolis!

May 01, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Spring has gotten off to a colder- and snowier-than-average start in parts of the United States, particularly in the eastern Rockies and Upper Midwest.

Jet Stream Dip Has Brought Record Snow This Spring.

Snow depths on April 23, 2013. © NOAA

Duluth, Minn., for example, has seen 51 inches (130 centimeters) of snow this April. That's not only the most snow the town has seen in any April - breaking the old mark of 31.6 inches (80 cm) - but the most snow the town has received in any month, ever, according to government records. As of Monday (April 22), a total of 995 snowfall records have also been broken so far this month, according to AccuWeather. Over the same time period last year, 195 snowfall records had been broken.

More than 91 percent of the upper Midwest also has snow on the ground as of today (April 24), meteorologist Jason Samenow wrote at the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang blog. "Snow cover in the previous 10 years on this date hasn't even come close to reaching this extent (ranging from 19 percent to much lower)," he wrote.

So why has spring failed to take hold? Blame the jet stream.

The record snow and below-average cold is due to a trough or dip in the jet stream, which has brought blasts of freezing air as far south as the Mexican border, said Jeff Weber, a scientist with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

Whence the snow?

This dip in the jet stream has also brought moisture from the Pacific to the Eastern Rockies. Boulder, Colo., for example, saw 47 inches (119 cm) of snow in April, breaking the old record of 44 inches (112 cm).

From the dip, the jet stream then swoops up to the north toward Minnesota, bringing new moisture with it from the Gulf of Mexico, Weber said. That has made for snowy conditions throughout the region.

This persistent trough has largely stayed in place during much of April, due in part to a stubborn mass of warm air over Greenland and the North Atlantic, Weber said. A similar system was also responsible for the record cold seen in March throughout much of the Eastern United States.

This mass of air has blocked the normal eastward progression of the jet stream, which normally brings warm air from the south and west into the central United States. Instead, this "buckled" jet stream has been stuck in place, bathing the Rockies and Upper Midwest in cold, and often moist, air, Weber said.

Warming up

But now, the mass of warm air over the North Atlantic is finally dissipating, and higher temperatures are expected by this weekend from Colorado to Minnesota, Weber said. While temperatures have recently dipped into the single digits (below 10 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 12 degrees Celsius), they should reach above 80 F (27 C) by the weekend throughout much of this region, he said. [6 Signs that Spring Has Sprung]

WATCH: May Snow Piles Up.

This will lead to a lot of melted snow, which could cause some of the worst flooding ever seen in the Upper Midwest, Weber said.

The persistent cold has helped tamped down severe weather and tornadoes, which thrive on the interaction of warm, moist air with cold, dry air, Weber said. However, he expects to see a lot more severe weather and tornadoes in the near future, particularly in the Southeast. - Live Science.

US Headed For The Coldest Spring On Record.
At the two-thirds mark for meteorological spring, 2013 was the second coldest spring on record, slightly warmer than 1975.

Data is from here : Index of /pub/data/ghcn/daily/hcn/

But 1975 had an unusually warm May at 17C. The two warmest May’s were in 1934 and 1896.

The forecast for the first two weeks of May is well below normal, so odds are that the spring of 2013 will be the coldest on record in the US.  This is what Fort Collins looked like at 7pm today (May 1.)

- Real Science.

Record Cold In Interior Alaska - Heading Into The USA, Agriculture At Risk.
reader "agimarc" writes:
As with the Lower 48 states, spring is late and cold here in central Alaska. Fairbanks reported a record low of 2 degrees F above zero Sunday, breaking the previous record of 8 from 1924.

Here in Anchorage, looks like we are around 3 - 4 weeks late with ice of local lakes and snow off the ground. Winter was not particularly hard, but it all changed with a very cold April. And at this point it does not appear things will be warming up soon. So much for manmade global warming due to carbon dioxide emissions.
Story here:

Yes, have a look at the image above.

Click HERE for a complete list of record lows for Alaska in the past 7 days, where 996 new record lows were set 

And the cold is now creeping into the USA, look at the difference between Denver and Kansas City:

Expect a whole new crop of record lows for the USA, and some serious issues to develop with agriculture in the nation's breadbasket as a result.

Only 5% Of Corn Crop Planted
This in contrast to last year at this time of 49% of the corn crop planted and the five year average of 31%
The Weather Channel picked the wrong year to name winter storms, the snow and cold may be their Achilles Heel (h/t to Steve Goddard):

Winter Storm Achilles: Snow and Cold Kick Off May | Weather Underground


 Historic Snowstorm Potential For Omaha To Minneapolis.
The same storm bringing heavy snow to Denver and Cheyenne Wednesday has the potential to bring a swath of heavy, wet snow from eastern Nebraska to northwestern Wisconsin and the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan by Thursday.

The storm, like many in recent weeks, seems to be ignoring the date and, if all the right pieces were to fall into place, could bring 6 inches to a foot of snow on its northwestern flank over the central Plains into the Upper Midwest.

As of the middle of the day Wednesday, the northwest Iowa counties of Lyon and Sioux have received between 3 and 5 inches of snow. That snow is forecast to expand eastward and southward later Wednesday into Thursday.

Such an unprecedented storm could not only bring heavy snowfall to non-paved areas, but also downed trees and power outages. Most roads will be wet, but there can be slushy and slippery spots.

Forecast Challenge:
In order for it to snow and accumulate, let alone bring this sort of snowfall away from the higher elevations in May, conditions have to be perfect with just the right balance of warm, moist air and cold, dry air. Typically in this situation, a very narrow band or a small area of heavy snow falls, rather than a broad leaf of snow that is often observed during the middle of winter. Most often, the snow this time of year last only a few hours, changes to rain or melts as it falls. In May, accumulating snow must also overcome a warm ground, sun effect and marginal temperatures. It must snow hard for a small accumulation to occur away from the High Plains and Rockies, especially in the area of eastern Nebraska, neighboring Kansas, Iowa, southeastern Minnesota and the lower part of northwestern Wisconsin. In order for there to be a foot of snow, it must snow extremely hard for a long period of time. The position of this band of intense snow is critical. A shift in the estimated track of the anticipated heavy band by 50 to 100 miles would mean the difference between a heavy accumulation, snow melting as it falls and heavy rain.

As a result, there is a much greater chance of error with a May snowstorm as opposed to a similar storm during the middle of the winter. Odds favor much less snowfall, on the order of a few inches in a narrow band.

The arrival of fresh cold air on the scene will lay the groundwork for an unprecedented May snowstorm.

The accumulation of snow would vary tremendously in a local area from hilltops to shallow valleys, as well as from road surfaces to grassy areas to tree tops. The snow is more likely to melt on most warm road surfaces but could cling to tree limbs. Cars would have to be cleaned off. Patches of roads and sidewalks that don't receive direct sunlight on a clear day might be more receptive to the snow in this situation.

May Snowstorms: A Historical Perspective
There have been some snowstorms in May in the region, but they are rare. 1907 sticks out as a benchmark year for a number of locations. However, multiple years during the mid-1940s also brought snow events to the region for several years in a row. According to National Weather Service records for May, there have never been more than 2.0 inches of snow in Omaha, Neb. On May 9, 1945, 2.0 inches of snow fell. There have been two snowfalls on May 3 over the years in Omaha. One was 1.3 inches in 1907 and another was 1.0 inch in 1967. The heaviest May snowfall on record for Des Moines, Iowa, was during 1907, when 1.2 inches fell on the third day of the month. There has been measurable (0.1 of an inch or more) snow as late at May 15, which was set the same year.

So it seems the odds are greatly stacked against a heavy snowfall for areas this far south with this storm.
Farther north, the odds increase for more substantial snow. About 100 miles north of Des Moines, along I-35, in Mason City, Iowa, there has been 4.0 inches of snow as late as May 28 in the year 1947. That storm continued into the next day and brought a grand total of 4.5 inches. Meanwhile, the Minneapolis-St. Paul area has received measurable snow as late as May 15, during 1907. On May 11, 1946, a storm brought 2.8 inches of snow. Records for the area date back into the late 1800s. In Eau Claire, Wis., records only date back to 1949. The only measurable snowfall during May since then was 0.7 of an inch on the ninth day of the month in 1960.

Get Ready for a Snowstorm:
While the storm is likely to bring accumulating snow, a swath of 6 to 12 inches of snow would be unprecedented this late in the season from Omaha to Minneapolis and vicinity.
Given the weather pattern of recent weeks and months, such a snowfall is a strong possibility in this case. Despite a recent warm surge, cold air has been lingering in southern Canada and is again dropping southward, ready to dive into the storm. At the very least, while the storm will bring another dose of needed moisture to some areas on the Plains, it will also add to planting delays and flooding problems in areas that have received an overabundant amount of moisture in recent weeks. Stretches of I-29, I-35, I-80 and I-90 could be adversely affected by this storm. Delays are possible on these highways and others. Flight delays could occur at airports in the region due to deicing operations. - AccuWeather.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Moderate 5.8 Magnitude Earthquake Rocks Eastern Kashmir - 1 Dead, 59 Injured!

May 01, 2013 - KASHMIR - A 5.8-magnitude earthquake killed one person and injured 59 others in Indian-administered Kashmir on Wednesday, a government statement said.

The earthquake also damaged scores of private and government buildings, particularly in the three mountainous districts of Doda, Kishtwar, and Ramban closer to the epicenter, which was on the border with the eastern neighboring state of Himachal Pradesh.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported the moderate quake's magnitude at 5.7. It said its epicenter was 17 kilometers (10.6 miles) northeast of Bhadarwah, India, and took place nine kilometers (5.6 miles) underground.

The government statement said a senior official is supervising the rescue and relief operation and reaching out to victims. A critically injured victim has been flown to the main city of Jammu for specialized treatment.

The statement said tents and blankets have been sent to the affected areas to provide warmth and shelter to the people who are now homeless.

"Teams are being sent to assess the loss to life and property in the tremor-hit areas," it said.

Government officials have also been asked to accommodate homeless people in community halls and other suitable government buildings, the statement said.

Kashmir was recently rocked by two moderate earthquakes that caused no casualties or property damage.

A 7.8-magnitude earthquake in 2005 claimed thousands of lives, left many people injured and severely damaged property in the Indian- and Pakistani-administered parts of Kashmir. - CNN.

WATCH: Earthquake jolts Eastern Kashmir.

DELUGE: Fourteen Killed, Four Missing In Heavy Saudi Arabia Rainfall - 4,213 Reports Of Accidents!

May 01, 2013 - SAUDI ARABIA - Fourteen people have died and four are missing due to torrential rain, said the Saudi Civil Defense General Directorate.

Fourteen people have died and four are missing due to torrential rain according to the Saudi Civil Defense General Directorate. (Courtesy: WAM)

From Monday night until midday Tuesday, Saudi authorities received more than 4,213 reports from across the kingdom of accidents resulting from torrential rainfall.

Classes have been suspended in affected areas of the country.

Civil Defense forces said they have saved more than 937 people trapped in their homes and cars, and have housed and helped more than 695 families.

There have been 307 reports of traffic accidents and people trapped in their cars, but no fatalities have been recorded in these incidents. - Al Arabiya.

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Mysterious Fish Kill At Eagles Mere Lake In Pennsylvania, America?!

May 01, 2013 - UNITED STATESDead fish found at one of our area’s most pristine lakes has caught the attention of state officials. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat commission is trying to find out what caused the dead fish to wash ashore at Eagles Mere Lake in Sullivan County.

In these clear blue waters in Sullivan County, dozens and dozens of dead fish have been floating to the surface. Mostly sunfish, trout and bass have been found dead. Some people who work in the Eagles Mere lake community say it’s more than fishy.

“It`s scary because people fish out of there, there`s kids in here in the summertime,” said Brittany Mapes of Forksville.

Doug Rider is a realtor in Eagles Mere and says he walked by the lake just this past week and didn’t notice the dead fish. He isn’t too concerned just yet.

“When I heard about it it was surprising to me, but I have heard in the past that after the lake turns, the ice melts that the oxygen level is a little low for the fish,” said Rider.

Maintenance crews have been combing the beach and shallow waters for the dead fish and burying them a short distance away in the woods. They contacted the Fish and Boat Commission and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Officials with the Fish and Boat Commission say they can`t say for certain what`s causing all of these dead fish to turn up here at Eagles Mere Lake, but they will be investigating.

DEP officials told Newswatch 16 “The department has been told that there were about 40 dead fish found today, many of which were sunfish, in Eagles Mere Lake. At this point, we have no reason to believe the kill was caused by any pollution entering the lake.”

The Fish and Boat Commission does not think the dead fish were caused by low oxygen levels in the lake. The commission is now asking to do more tests on the lake water.

“Hopefully it is something that can be fixed very soon and that it is just the fish and not anything else,” said Mapes.

Whatever the cause, residents are sure this lake-based community will move quick to fix any problems.

WATCH: Mysterious Dead Fish at Eagles Mere Lake.

“And it`s something that we would definitely look at and move forward and rectify if there is any situation,” said Rider.

Officials with the Fish and Boat Commission say they’ll be having one of the dead fish from Eagles Mere Lake analyzed to help determine the cause. - WNEP.

EXTREME WEATHER: Over 30 Degrees Centigrade - The First "Heat Wave" Of The Year Sets In As Record Temperatures Hit The Balkans; One Of The Hottest April Ever!

May 01, 2013 - BALKANS - The last day of April brought high temperatures and high UV radiation values throughout the Balkan region.

Temperatures in excess of 30 degrees centigrade have been reported in Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia, and Albania, while citizens are advised not to stay in the sun for prolonged periods of time.

"This is certainly one of the hottest April since measurements are being taken," Nedeljko Todorović of Serbia's Hydro-Meteorological Service (RHMZ) said.

He noted that the hottest day so far was April 30, 2003, when the temperature in Belgrade reached the high of 32.5 degrees.

This Tuesday, the temperature in the Serbian capital city was 32 degrees.

The weather was similar during several past days, and forecasters say it will continue through the end of this week. - B92.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Big Ben Is Rumbling Fiercely, Ready To Erupt - Lava Is Spilling From Australia's Only Active Volcano; NASA Images Reveal Lava Lake Has Overflowed Crater?!

May 01, 2013 - AUSTRALIA - New NASA photo reveals the lava lake on Australia's only active volcano has overflowed the crater, showing possible signs of eruption.

An image taken by NASA's EO-1 satellite shows the lava flow on Australia's only active volcano widening at the top.
Picture: NASA  

NASA's EO-1 satellite snapped the shot of Big Ben, which is located on the remote Heard Island, about 4,100km southwest of Perth, in the sub-Antarctic, on April 20.

When compared to another image taken on April 7, it appears the lava flow is widening at the top, NASA said.

The volcano's caldera appears to have filled with so much lava that some has since cascaded down Mawson Peak.

In October 2012, satellites measured subtle signals that suggested volcanic activity on remote Heard Island. These images, captured several months later, show proof of an eruption on Mawson Peak. By April 7, 2013, Mawson’s steep-walled summit crater had filled, and a trickle of lava had spilled down the volcano’s southwestern flank. On April 20 the lava flow remained visible, and had even widened slightly just below the summit. These natural-color images were collected by the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on the Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite.
Picture: NASA

Heard Island's remoteness and Mawson Peak's altitude of 2745 metres mean there's nothing to fear from the eruption, The Register reports.

No permanent human presence exists on the island, beyond an automated weather station. - Herald Sun.

SOLAR WATCH: The Sun Comes Alive - Massive And Most Spectacular Prominence Eruption On The Farside; Resulting Coronal Mass Ejection Was Not Earth-Directed!

May 01, 2013 - THE SUN - One of the largest prominence eruptions in quite some time was observed off the eastern limb. This image by SDO using the 304 angstroms channel captures the massive blob of plasma in action. A Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) is to be expected, however because of the location, it should be directed mostly away from Earth.

Will May begin with a solar flare? Two sunspots (AR1730 and AR1731) have 'delta-class' magnetic fields that harbor energy for strong eruptions. NOAA forecasters put the odds of an M-class solar flare today at 40%.

Actually, May did begin with a solar flare--on the farside of the sun. An active region located behind the sun's eastern limb erupted during the early hours of May 1st, hurling a plume of red-hot debris into space. Coronagraph images from NASA's twin STEREO probes confirm that a CME emerged from the blast site. Earth was not in the line of fire. Next week, however, we might be as the sun's rotation turns the active region toward our planet.

The large eruption from just beyond the east limb may have been in conjunction with a solar flare around old Sunspot 1719. The image above, provided by STEREO Behind captures the flash of the flare event. The solar rotation will carry old region 1719 into view later this week.

A bright Coronal Mass Ejection is now visible in the latest STEREO imagery. Because this event took place beyond the east limb, the plasma cloud should have little impact on Earth.

WATCH: Huge Prominence Eruption - May 1, 2013.

AURORA FORECAST: The Bz component of the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) is currently tipped sharply south. This combined with a gusty solar wind could stir up geomagnetic activity at very high latitudes.

WARNING: Geomagnetic K-index of 4 expected
Valid From: 2013 May 01 0530 UTC
Valid To: 2013 May 01 1200 UTC
Warning Condition: Onset
Potential Impacts: Area of impact primarily poleward of 65 degrees Geomagnetic Latitude.
Induced Currents - Weak power grid fluctuations can occur.
Aurora - Aurora may be visible at high latitudes such as Canada and Alaska.

SUNSPOTS: Sunspots AR1730 and AR1731 have delta-class magnetic fields that habor energy for X-class solar flares.

Credit: SDO/HMI.

CORONAL HOLES: Solar wind flowing from this minor coronal hole should reach Earth on ~May 3rd.

Credit: SDO/AIA.

SOURCES: Space Weather | Solar Ham.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Global Volcano Report For April 30 To May 01, 2013 - Updates On Hekla, Stromboli, Tungurahua, Tolbachik, Telica, Popocatépetl, Santa María, Santiaguito, Pacaya, Fuego, Poas, Nevado del Ruiz And Reventador!

May 01, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing reports of volcanoes across the globe.

Hekla (Iceland): The famous Icelandic volcano is showing further signs that indicate an eruption could occur in a near future. Significant rapid inflation, concentrated in the northern part of the volcano, has been detected since early April and likely represents accumulation of rising magma underneath.

GPS-measured deformation of HEKR station (Univ. Iceland), north of the volcano.

Already in mid March this year, an earthquake swarm, volcanic tremor and deformation caused an alert, because it was believed that this was caused by rapid movement of magma under the volcano... [read more]

Stromboli (Eolian Islands, Italy)
: After decreasing a bit yesterday, the overflow of lava from the NE vents has gained in strength this morning again, accompanied by constant rockfalls, relatively strong explosions and higher tremor.

Lava overflow on the Sciara del Fuoco (INGV thermal webcam).

Tolbachik (Kamchatka): KVER reports no change in the ongoing eruption of the volcano and ongoing high tremor values at levels similar to the past weeks. Recent field reports however suggest that the eruption continues its slowly declining trend and might actually be ending soon.

A group who visited the volcano on 29 April could not see lava flows or explosions at the active cone on the southern fissure. It was even possible to walk on the now cooling lava flows. However, weak incandescence and a MODIS hot spot remain visible. It is likely that the still elevated tremor signal indicates that the magma continues to be fed into lava tubes and emerges in places that are difficult to see or access. Although it would not come at all as a surprise if the eruption ends, after almost half a year, it is certainly still too early to announce its end right now.

Telica (Nicaragua): Seismic activity has declined and is now again near normal levels (which include frequent earthquakes typical for Telica volcano's behavior).

Current seismogram from Telica volcano (TELN station INETER).

Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): Activity has decreased again to average levels of the past months. CENPARED reported less than 1 weak steam-gas-ash emission per hour during the 24 hours since yesterday. A slightly more powerful explosion this morning produced an ash plume rising 800 m and ejected incandescent bombs onto the NE crater rim.

Santa María / Santiaguito (Guatemala): Activity remains more or less stable, with occasional explosions from the lava dome producing ash plumes up to about 800 m high. Effusive activity in the form of avalanches from the blocky lava flows on the sides of the Caliente dome has remained relatively weak.

Pacaya (Guatemala): Small strombolian activity continues from the Mackenney crater.

Fuego (Guatemala): Lava effusion feeding the two active flows remains abundant and there are now near-constant strombolian explosions from the summit crater, accompanied by locomotive-like degassing sounds.

Fuego volcano yesterday morning.

Some of the explosions generate shock waves. Ash reaches about 6-700 m above the crater and drifts 10 km to the S and SW.

Tungurahua (Ecuador): Eruptive activity remains strong with ash emissions interrupted by strong vulcanian-type explosions. An explosion at 18h30 local time the day before yesterday produced an ash plume rising 5 km above the crater, and ejected incandescent blocks to 400 m distance from the crater.

Strong noises were heard from Pondoa. Yesterday morning, the volcano was mostly hidden in clouds, but generated dark gray ash emissions drifting ESE. Several explosions occurred that rattled windows and caused vibrations of the ground. Ash falls were reported in the areas of El Manzano, Cahuají, Puela, Penipe and Riobamba.

Ash emissions and explosions of moderate size have continued and generated a plume averaging 1-2 km in height above the crater. During the night, incandescence is visible at the summit. Some of the stronger explosions are accompanied by cannon-shot noises.

Poas (Costa Rica): A small earthquake swarm occurred yesterday, probably caused by fluid movements bringing heat into the crater lake. Seismicity has calmed down today again.

Yesterday's signal from Poás volcano.

Nevado del Ruiz (Colombia): A shallow (5 km depth) earthquake of magnitude 3.8 occurred yesterday at 10:24 local time north of the Arenas crater and has been followed by an ongoing earthquake swarm.

Current seismic recording from Nevado del Ruiz (OLL station, INGEOMINAS).

The quake was felt in nearby areas including Manizales and Villamaria. Possibly, this could mean a new magmatic intrusion, but so far no reports of increased surface activity have become known.

Reventador (Ecuador): Activity remains moderate with frequent small explosions detected on seismic signals and strong degassing producing a plume that was observed yesterday rising 800 m.

Seismic signal from RETU station (IG).

Complete Earthquake list (worldwide) for May 01, 2013.

- Volcano Discovery.

FUK-U-SHIMA: Japan's Nuclear Dead Zone - Flow Of Tainted Water Is The Latest Crisis At The Nuclear Plant, TEPCO Is Barely Hanging On Day-By-Day, Struggling To Find Places To Store Radioactive Water!

May 01, 2013 - JAPAN - Two years after a triple meltdown that grew into the world’s second worst nuclear disaster, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is faced with a new crisis: a flood of highly radioactive wastewater that workers are struggling to contain. 

Gray and silver storage tanks filled with radioactive wastewater are sprawling over the grounds of the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Kyodo News, via Associated Press

Groundwater is pouring into the plant’s ravaged reactor buildings at a rate of almost 75 gallons a minute. It becomes highly contaminated there, before being pumped out to keep from swamping a critical cooling system. A small army of workers has struggled to contain the continuous flow of radioactive wastewater, relying on hulking gray and silver storage tanks sprawling over 42 acres of parking lots and lawns. The tanks hold the equivalent of 112 Olympic-size pools.

But even they are not enough to handle the tons of strontium-laced water at the plant — a reflection of the scale of the 2011 disaster and, in critics’ view, ad hoc decision making by the company that runs the plant and the regulators who oversee it. In a sign of the sheer size of the problem, the operator of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, plans to chop down a small forest on its southern edge to make room for hundreds more tanks, a task that became more urgent when underground pits built to handle the overflow sprang leaks in recent weeks.

“The water keeps increasing every minute, no matter whether we eat, sleep or work,” said Masayuki Ono, a general manager with Tepco who acts as a company spokesman. “It feels like we are constantly being chased, but we are doing our best to stay a step in front.”

While the company has managed to stay ahead, the constant threat of running out of storage space has turned into what Tepco itself called an emergency, with the sheer volume of water raising fears of future leaks at the seaside plant that could reach the Pacific Ocean.

That quandary along with an embarrassing string of mishaps — including a 29-hour power failure affecting another, less vital cooling system — have underscored an alarming reality: two years after the meltdowns, the plant remains vulnerable to the same sort of large earthquake and tsunami that set the original calamity in motion.

There is no question that the Fukushima plant is less dangerous than it was during the desperate first months after the accident, mostly through the determined efforts of workers who have stabilized the melted reactor cores, which are cooler and less dangerous than they once were.

But many experts warn that safety systems and fixes at the plant remain makeshift and prone to accidents.

The jury-rigged cooling loop that pours water over the damaged reactor cores is a mazelike collection of pumps, filters and pipes that snake two and a half miles along the ground through the plant. And a pool for storing used nuclear fuel remains perched on the fifth floor of a damaged reactor building as Tepco struggles to move the rods to a safer location.

The situation is worrisome enough that Shunichi Tanaka, a longtime nuclear power proponent who is the chairman of the newly created watchdog Nuclear Regulation Authority, told reporters after the announcement of the leaking pits that “there is concern that we cannot prevent another accident.”

Operators of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are trying to find places to store radioactive water created by groundwater that is pouring into the reactor building at a rate of almost 75 gallons a minute.

A growing number of government officials and advisers now say that by entrusting the cleanup to the company that ran the plant before the meltdowns, Japanese leaders paved the way for a return to the insider-dominated status quo that prevailed before the disaster.

Even many scientists who acknowledge the complexity of cleaning up the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl fear that the water crisis is just the latest sign that Tepco is lurching from one problem to the next without a coherent strategy.

“Tepco is clearly just hanging on day by day, with no time to think about tomorrow, much less next year,” said Tadashi Inoue, an expert in nuclear power who served on a committee that drew up the road map for cleaning up the plant.

But the concerns extend well beyond Tepco. While doing a more rigorous job of policing Japan’s nuclear industry than regulators before the accident, the Nuclear Regulation Authority has a team of just nine inspectors to oversee the more than 3,000 workers at Fukushima.

And a separate committee created by the government to oversee the cleanup is loaded with industry insiders, including from the Ministry of Trade, in charge of promoting nuclear energy, and nuclear reactor manufacturers like Toshiba and Hitachi. The story of how the Fukushima plant ended up swamped with water, critics say, is a cautionary tale about the continued dangers of leaving decisions about nuclear safety to industry insiders.

When Tepco and the government devised the current plans for decommissioning the plant in late 2011, groundwater had already been identified as a problem — the plant lies in the path of water flowing from nearby mountains to the sea. But decision makers placed too low a priority on the problem, critics say, assuming the water could be stored until it could be cleaned and disposed of.

According to some who helped the government plan the cleanup, outside experts might have predicted the water problem, but Tepco and the government swatted away entreaties to bring in such experts or companies with more cleanup expertise, preferring to keep control of the plant within the collusive nuclear industry.

Tepco also rejected a proposal to build a concrete wall running more than 60 feet into the ground to block water from reaching the reactors and turbine buildings, and the Trade Ministry did not force the issue, according to experts and regulators who helped draw up the decommissioning plan.

Instead, Tepco made interim adjustments, including hastily building the plastic- and clay-lined underground water storage pits that eventually developed leaks.

It was only after the discovery of those leaks that the regulation agency was added as a full-fledged member to the government’s cleanup oversight committee.

But the biggest problem, critics say, was that Tepco and other members of the oversight committee appeared to assume all along that they would eventually be able to dump the contaminated water into the ocean once a powerful new filtering system was put in place that could remove 62 types of radioactive particles, including strontium.

The dumping plans have now been thwarted by what some experts say was a predictable problem: a public outcry over tritium, a relatively weak radioactive isotope that cannot be removed from the water.

Tritium, which can be harmful only if ingested, is regularly released into the environment by normally functioning nuclear plants, but even Tepco acknowledges that the water at Fukushima contains about 100 times the amount of tritium released in an average year by a healthy plant.

“We were so focused on the fuel rods and melted reactor cores that we underestimated the water problem,” said Tatsujiro Suzuki, vice chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, a government body that helped draw up Tepco’s original cleanup plan. “Someone from outside the industry might have foreseen the water problem.”

Tepco rejects the criticism that it has mishandled the growing groundwater problem, saying that the only way to safely stop the inflow is by plugging the cracks in the damaged reactor buildings. It contends that no company in the world has the ability to do that because it would require entering the highly radioactive buildings and working in dangerously toxic water several feet deep.

“We operate the plant, so we know it better than anyone else,” said Mr. Ono, the Tepco spokesman. He then teared up, adding, “Fixing this mess that we made is the only way we can regain the faith of society.”

For the moment, that goal seems distant. The public outcry over the plans to dump tritium-tainted water into the sea — driven in part by the company’s failure to inform the public in 2011 when it dumped radioactive water into the Pacific — was so loud that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe personally intervened last month to say that there would be “no unsafe release.”

Meanwhile, the amount of water stored at the plant just keeps growing.

“How could Tepco not realize that it had to get public approval before dumping this into the sea?” said Muneo Morokuzu, an expert on public policy at the University of Tokyo who has called for creating a specialized new company just to run the cleanup. “This all just goes to show that Tepco is in way over its head.”  - NY Times.

WAR DRUMS: A Very Thin Red Line - President Obama Says Chemical Weapons In Syria Would Be A "Game Changer," Sends Lethal Weaponry To Syrian Rebels!

May 01, 2013 - SYRIA - President Obama is preparing to send lethal weaponry to the Syrian opposition and has taken steps to assert more aggressive U.S. leadership among allies and partners seeking the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad, according to senior administration officials.

The officials said they are moving toward the shipment of arms but emphasized that they are still pursuing political negotiation. To that end, the administration has launched an effort to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin that the probable use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government — and the more direct outside intervention that could provoke — should lead him to reconsider his support of Assad.

But Obama, who spoke by telephone with Putin on Monday and is sending Secretary of State John F. Kerry to Moscow in the coming days, is likely to make a final decision on the supply of arms to the opposition within weeks, before a scheduled meeting with Putin in June, the officials said.

Confirmation that the Assad government has used chemical weapons, Obama said Tuesday, would mean that “there are some options that we might not otherwise exercise that we would strongly consider.”

WATCH: Obama threatens Assad with intervention if chemicals used by govt.

At a news conference, he emphasized the need to “make sure I’ve got the facts. . . . If we end up rushing to judgment without hard, effective evidence, we can find ourselves in a position where we can’t mobilize the international community to support” additional action. Administration officials have made repeated reference to the George W. Bush administration’s inaccurate claims of weapons of mass destruction to justify its 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Yet even as Obama voiced caution in responding to what he has called the “red line” on chemical weapons, the senior officials described him as ready to move on what one described as the “left-hand side” of a broad spectrum that ranged from “arming the opposition to boots on the ground.”

“We’re clearly on an upward trajectory,” the senior official said. “We’ve moved over to assistance that has a direct military purpose.”

The officials did not specify what U.S. equipment is under consideration, although the rebels have specifically requested ­antitank weapons and surface-to-air missiles.

WATCH: Syria Next - 'US interventions only spawn millions of enemies'.

Syria’s neighbors and, according to recent polls, the American public oppose the insertion of U.S. troops in a conflict that is estimated to have killed more than 70,000 people. Such a move remains highly unlikely barring a spillover of the conflict into major regional instability, significant use of chemical weapons or indications that those weapons are falling into the hands of al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militants fighting alongside Syrian opposition forces.

U.S. and allied military and contract personnel have been training Jordanian and rebel forces to deal with the chemical weapons threat. U.S. intelligence also has tried to contact Syrian government units charged with protecting the weapons to warn against their use, and U.N. experts are preparing to secure chemical sites in the event of a negotiated cease-fire. - Washington Post.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: China's H7N9 Bird Flu Cases Keep Rising, Are We Looking At An Epidemic - Overall Total Reaches 126, 24 Dead!

May 01, 2013 - CHINA - Shanghai on Monday reported another H7N9 bird flu death, an 89-year-old man who was admitted to a city hospital on April 12, according to the state-published Shanghai Daily newspaper. The latest fatality raises to 13 the number of H7N9-related deaths in the city, which is one of China’s most important international business hubs. Nationwide, 24 people have died, the paper said.

Shanghai Reports 13th H7N9 Death, 24 In China Now.

The total number of H7N9 cases in the mainland stands at 125, not including one illness in Taiwan. China’s government, which has territorial disputes with a number of Asian countries, also claims sovereignty over Taiwan’s 23 million people, and combines H7N9 case reporting from the two.

The newly discovered H7N9 disease has spread from eastern China both northward and southward, leading to the closure of wet markets where live chicken is sold as a preventative measure. Early damage estimates to the country’s poultry industry have been at more than $1 billion.

Shares in Chinese chicken processors, already hurt by concerns about safety following the discovery of excessive use of antibiotics by some breeders at the end of last year, have been falling.

China’s restaurant industry has also been affected, as consumers worried about getting sick from eating chicken have shunned poultry even, though the government has said cooked meat is safe. Same-store sales at the YUM! chain, which has relied on growth from its KFC fried chicken chain in China for much of its growth in recent years, were down 20% in the country in the first quarter.

H7N9 flu has mostly struck people that have come into contact with chicken. There has also been occasional human-to-human transmission, according to a World Health Organization official. - Forbes.

Chinese Toddler Contracts H7N9 After His Dad Was One Of The First To Catch Virus.
A toddler has contracted the H7N9 strain of bird flu in China after his father was one of the first people to catch the deadly virus. Health officials revealed yesterday that the four-year-old boy, who tested positive for the virus after developing a fever, is in a stable condition in hospital.  The pair are from the Shandong province and The Jinan Times said the family have not had contact with chicken but live near a poultry market.  This is the latest of several 'family clusters' of the H7N9 bird flu strain to be reported.  The deadly virus has so far infected 126 people, and the death toll rose to 24 on Monday after an 89-year-old man died from bird flu in Shanghai.  The Shandong health department said there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission.

A janitor sprays disinfectant at empty chicken cages in New Taipei.

However, an American virologist warned that health authorities need to be prepared for the possibility that the H7N9 bird flu strain will mutate.  Anthony Fauci said: "One of the things we need to be concerned about is this might gain the capability of going human-to-human which up to this point has not happened and is somewhat encouraging news.  "But we still need to be very prepared for the eventuality of that happening."  Researchers are reportedly developing a diagnostic test to identify the H7N9 strain of bird flu along with a virus.  Clinical trials are due to take place in July or August. - Express.

Discovering The Source Of The H7N9 Flu Infection.
The H7N9 strain of bird flu has so far infected 126 and killed 24 people.
The nation reported its first confirmed case of H7N9 avian influenza on Wednesday last week, when the Central Epidemic Command Center said a 53-year-old Taiwanese man who had been working in Suzhou in China’s Jiangsu Province had tested positive for the virus.  There are quite a few Taiwanese businesspeople in Suzhou, and the city has long been listed as an infected area by the Chinese government.  One would think that this would mean that there should have been more group infections among local residents, but to this day, only three individual H7N9 cases have been reported in the city.  One cannot help but wonder how these people became infected with the virus.  According to information about the outbreak released by the Chinese government, more than 100 people have been infected with the H7N9 avian flu virus, and more than 20 people have died.  In general, infected areas are limited to big cities in Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, Henan, Shandong and Jiangxi provinces, in addition to Beijing and Shanghai. 

Chinese authorities said that between 40 and 50 percent of the people infected claim that they had not had contact with any poultry or birds at all.  WHO experts assisting China on the matter have not verified this.  A few days ago, a flu expert at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) commented that some of the infected might have unknowingly had contact with birds.  However, he added that the percentage of the infected who claimed to have had no contact with poultry was clearly too high.  In the past, almost all Asian-type H7 avian flu viruses were found in birds, but this time, researchers said the H7N9 strain appeared to have undergone some kind of mutation and had become infectious to humans.  The expert at the CDC therefore believes that there could be another source of infection other than birds, such as mammals.  Whether those mammals are cats, pigs or other animals is something that is still being investigated by experts.  Since both the Taiwanese and Chinese media have been reporting on the H7N9 outbreak almost every day, Taiwanese businesspeople working in China and their family members must surely be familiar with the necessary preventative measures and are paying close attention to personal hygiene.  Given the circumstances, how did the Taiwanese man still become infected with H7N9 in Suzhou?  No wonder some Taiwanese media outlets brandished this report under sensational headlines such as that H7N9 is now “attacking” or “invading” Taiwan.  The public is terrified of being infected by an unknown source.  Will our experts and academics be able to promptly solve this mystery? - Taipei Times.

At What Stage Is The Spread Of The H7N9 Virus Considered An Epidemic?
The H7N9 virus, a new strain of the bird flu in China, has so far claimed twenty-four victims and officials are watching its spread closely. Most worrying, at least one case has turned up in Taiwan, and three of the victim's healthcare workers have developed flu symptoms, suggesting both that this epidemic has crossed country borders and that it can pass from person to person. Even more distressing, the healthcare workers wore full protective gear.  There are three stages to infectious disease spread, and the boundaries between them are a bit fuzzy. The first, outbreak, starts with the initial case(s) in people or animals, typically as a virus mutates or exploits a new ecological opportunity to infect a broader range of species. An example of this is the H5N1 avian flu, which periodically breaks beyond birds to infect (and often kill) humans. 

The term epidemic is applied if that virus (or bacterium) manages to spread from person-to-person for two "generations." If John passes his virus to Jill, that is one generation of transmission; if Jill then passes infection to Mary, that's a second generation. Public health officials usually grow especially alarmed if a third generation of spread occurs, as that indicates genuine contagion is unfolding. Examples of this would be the 2003 initial Chinese SARS epidemic, and this month's bird flu in China.  Finally, a pandemic is an epidemic that spreads from one continent to another, threatening the entire world. The so-called swine flu, caused by H1N1 influenza in 2009 would be an example of this. The World Health Organization tried to create a standard pandemic alert system, but the biology of outbreaks and microbes defies simple algorithms.  One can only hope that the new H7N9 virus is not a new pandemic being born, but we will have to wait and see. - CFR.

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: Disaster Precursors - Unbelievable Swarm Of Flies Hits City Of Kraljevo, Serbia?!

May 01, 2013 - SERBIA - An unprecedented cloud of flies almost buried in swarms the city of Kraljevo. It is a natural phenomenon, according to the Veterinary Inspection.

Kraljevo tonight was engulfed by an unprecedented cloud of flies that are in swarms, with the first dusk, almost buried the entire city.

Miodrag Rajkovic of the Veterinary Institute in Kraljevo says that it is a natural phenomenon.

WATCH: Swarm of flies hits city of Kraljevo, Serbia.

Weather conditions, high temperatures and humidity shorten the development cycle of these flying insects explained Rajkovic. - KVO Kraljevo Online. [Translated]

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Massive Landslide Near Durdle Door, Dorset - 100m Stretch Of Cliff Falls Into The Sea Along The United Kingdom Coastline!

May 01, 2013 - UNITED KINGDOM - A section of the South West Coast Path in Dorset has been destroyed by a massive landslip.

Portland Coastguard said the cliff fall happened overnight at St Oswald's Bay, east of Durdle Door.

The cliff fall happened overnight at St Oswald's Bay

A coastguard spokesman said: "It is huge - a massive fall has taken out part of the cliff. It is rather extraordinary."

The path has been sealed off by council workers. People have been advised to keep clear of the affected area.

A spokesman for the Lulworth Estate which owns the land called it a "substantial" landslip.

Nick Kelly said the estate would co-operate with the county council in re-routing the coast path away from the area of the cliff fall.

He said cliffs along the Dorset coast were in a "fragile" state due to wet weather over the past 12 months, followed by recent dry conditions.

"Visitors should exercise awareness of their surroundings and pay attention to warning signs when walking near the cliffs," he added.

However the Maritime and Coastguard Agency Twitter account later posted a photograph of people still walking along the path, with the caption: "What do you think they are doing on the edge of a collapsed cliff? There's a reason we give advice."

'Unusually large'

Jurassic Coast manager Sam Rose said 20m (65ft) of the coast path had fallen away,

"The rock has fanned out on the beach so it looks rather spectacular. It is an unusually large fall for this area."

Earlier this month several landslips happened at nearby White Nothe and a section of cliff came down on Swanage beach just before Christmas.

Dr Simon Boxall of the University of Southampton described the latest landslip as "awesome" and said it was likely the fall happened "in one sudden go".

"It is a relief this didn't happen during a busy weekend. There would have been very little warning anything was going to happen.

"It's very difficult to predict where and when these landslips are going to happen," he said. - BBC.

There have ben no reported injuries after the landslide.

Cliff walkers in Dorset have been urged to take extra caution after a big landslide close to the popular Durdle Door beach.

There are no reported injuries after a 100m stretch of cliff at St Oswald's Bay fell into the sea.

It is believed to have occurred overnight, a coastguard told Sky News.

Nick Lonsdale, duty watch manager at MRCC Portland, said: "The landslide was first reported to us at 8am. To our knowledge, no one was harmed by it, but it is too early to speculate.

"We are making arrangements to divert the coastal path that was damaged by the landslide.

"We would urge walkers to observe signs and stay away from the edge, as tempting as it might be to look over the edge."

Dorset's jurassic coastline and picturesque cliff-top paths are popular tourist attractions.

Mr Lonsdale said it was not always possible to predict when a landslide would occur, or which sections of the coast were vulnerable.

"Along the UK's entire coastline, there are sections that will crumble and fall away, sometimes without warning of any sort," he said. - SKY News.

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: Disaster Precursors - Rare Sighting Of 14 Sperm Whales In Firth Of Forth, Scotland?!

"Sperm whales are rarely seen in the Firth of Forth." - Erich Hoyt, Marine conservationist.

May 01, 2013 - SCOTLAND
The largest group of whales thought to have been seen travelling together in or near the Firth of Forth has been recorded from the air.

The pod of 14 sperm whales was seen on Thursday heading from the island of Fidra to the Lamb, just a mile offshore at North Berwick in East Lothian.

Experts were able to identify the whales' tail flukes, dorsal fins and plumes of spray.

The whales then changed direction, heading towards Crail in Fife.

They were reported to the Scottish Seabird Centre by microlight pilots who saw them from a height of 500ft.

The whales were also spotted by Scottish Natural Heritage staff and other researchers on the Isle of May who were able to identify the whales' tail flukes, dorsal fins and plumes of spray.

Erich Hoyt, North Berwick-based marine conservationist and author, said: "Sperm whales are rarely seen in the Firth of Forth, and to see 14 of them travelling together is very special.

"The previous close sighting of sperm whales in North Berwick was exactly 10 years ago this month when a large sperm whale landed on the beach at Canty Bay, but this is certainly the largest group of living whales we've seen travelling together in or near the Firth of Forth.

"Sperm whales are usually residents of deeper waters off the north and west of Scotland where they hunt squid."

Tail fluke

He added: "The images confirm that they are sperm whales, including a few that are either immature males or females.

"Sperm whales in groups are usually either all males or females with juveniles and calves, so given the absence of calves and the location this is most probably a group of young males.

"The one tail that is visible is consistent with a sperm whale tail fluke."

David Pickett, Scottish Natural Heritage's National Nature Reserve Manager on the Isle of May, said: "This was a thrilling experience. We were able to get distant views of two pods of sperm whales, distinguished by the flattened dorsal fin, the way the plume of spray went forward rather than up, and their enormous size."

Tom Brock, CEO of the Scottish Seabird Centre, said: "This sighting is truly wonderful news and helps to highlight some of the amazing wildlife that can be spotted right here on our doorstep.

"It's thrilling that such a large pod of whales were seen so close to the Seabird Centre." - BBC.

MASS BIRD DIE-OFF: 17 Crows, I Pigeon Mysteriously Found Dead On Yokohama Street, Japan?!

May 01, 2013 - JAPAN Health authorities on Tuesday were trying to determine what killed 17 crows and one pigeon whose bodies were found on the street in Yokohama earlier in the day.

According to police, the birds were found dead at around 8 a.m. in a 200-meter radius in an entertainment district about 400 meters from JR Kannai Station.

NTV quoted police as saying there were no external injuries on the birds.

WATCH: 17 crows, 1 pigeon found dead on Yokohama Street, Japan.

Health authorities said there was no sign of bird flu and believe the birds must have ingested poison of some kind. - Japan Today.

GLOBAL COASTAL EVENT: Geological Upheaval - Rising Seas Clearly Evident Along South Carolina Coast!

May 01, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Living in a coastal town or city with seawalls and docks on the waterfront, it can be difficult to notice the sea level rise by increments each year. But effects of higher sea level are very clear down a winding dirt road in Georgetown County where acres of what was once a forested wetland have morphed into a salt marsh of dead trees jutting toward the sky.

"When you go into the field, you really see a lot of trees dying. That's the first thing that catches your eye," said Alex Chow, who teaches biosystems engineering at Clemson University's Baruch Institute of Coastal Ecology and Forest Science located at Hobcaw Barony, a 17,500-acre wildlife refuge northeast of Georgetown.

Strawberry Swamp at Hobcaw Barony just outside Georgetown, S.C., is seen in this April 12, 2013 photograph. Clemson University researchers have mapped the advance of salt water due to rising sea levels at the swamp during the past six decades. The dead trees are trees those that can no longer survive in the salt water environment. The study found a 300 percent increase in the salt marsh during the period. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)

Chow and two other colleagues at the institute used aerial photos to map how the salt water has advanced into freshwater Strawberry Swamp from nearby Winyah Bay.

Their study found that over the past six decades, the amount of salt marsh in the area has increased from about 4 acres to more than 16 acres. The study was published in December in "Wetland Science and Practice," the quarterly journal of the international Society of Wetland Scientists.

"Over long periods — and what we looked at is over 60 years — the maritime forest retreats at approximately the same rate sea level rises," said Tom Williams, a professor emeritus of forestry and natural resources who is a co-author.

He's not ready to say the all the change over six decades is the work of global warming.

Strawberry Swamp at Hobcaw Barony just outside Georgetown, S.C., is seen in this April 12, 2013 photograph. Clemson University researchers have mapped the advance of salt water due to rising sea levels at the swamp during the past six decades. The dead trees are trees those that can no longer survive in the salt water environment. The study found a 300 percent increase in the salt marsh during the period. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)

"Sea level rises and falls based on earthquakes and changes in a great number of things. I'm not the expert to say how much sea level rise in the last 20 years is climate change and how much is other things," he said.
Bo Song, and assistant professor of forestry and natural resources also contributed to the study.

The study notes that along the state's north coast, the sea level rise has average 3 to 4 millimeters a year during the past century or so.

William Conner, a professor of forestry and natural resources at the institute, said that what is happening in Strawberry Swamp is similar to what is happening throughout the Southeast where the shorelines tend to be flattened. The dead trees along the Cape Fear River in Wilmington are an example, he said. In areas where rivers are dredged for shipping, it also makes it easier for salt water to impinge on freshwater areas.

"It's been a little more dramatic in recent years," he said.

Clemson University researchers, from left, Bo Song, Alex Chow, William Conner and Tom Williams discuss sea level rise at Strawberry Swamp at Hobcaw Barony just outside Georgetown, S.C., on April 12, 2013. Clemson researchers have mapped the advance of salt water due to rising sea levels at the swamp during the past six decades. The study found a 300 percent increase in the salt marsh during the period. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)

"Based on the calculations in this study, you can see it's happening much faster in the past two decades," Chow said.

In natural areas sea level rise will mean a lost habitat for animals and birds that inhabit freshwater swamps. Salt marshes are also an abundant area for various species. But it can take years for the salt marshes created out of other land to become productive as a spawning ground for shrimp and other creatures.
"I call it a degraded swamp," Chow said. "It will take some time for that to happen." - Yahoo.