Saturday, May 4, 2013

EXTREME WEATHER: Massive Tornado Rips Through Italy - Leaves A Wide Trail Of Devastation In Bentivoglio; 11 Injured; Several Houses Damaged!

May 04, 2013 - ITALY - Amateur video distributed via YouReporter, a web portal for citizen journalists, showed dramatic scenes from towns and villages close to the regional capital of Bologna.




Footage from the small village of Bentivoglio showed the tornado cone directly over the town, whipping up debris into the air.





Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported that 11 people were injured and several houses were damaged.







The governor of Emilia Romagna, Vasco Errani, asked the central government to declare a state of emergency. - Telegraph.

WATCH: Massive Italy tornado caught on tape, leaves trail of destruction.



WAR DRUMS: The Syrian Crisis Escalates - U.S. Believes Israel Has Conducted Airstrikes Into Syria; Bombing Hezbollah-Bound Missiles!

May 04, 2013 - SYRIA - The United States believes Israel has conducted an airstrike into Syria, two U.S. officials first told CNN.


The United States believes Israel has conducted an airstrike into Syria.
Image: AP

U.S. and Western intelligence agencies are reviewing classified data showing Israel most likely conducted a strike in the Thursday-Friday time frame, according to both officials. This is the same time frame that the U.S. collected additional data showing Israel was flying a high number of warplanes over Lebanon.

One official said the United States had limited information so far and could not yet confirm those are the specific warplanes that conducted a strike. Based on initial indications, the U.S. does not believe Israeli warplanes entered Syrian airspace to conduct the strikes.

Both officials said there is no reason to believe Israel struck at a chemical weapons storage facilities. The Israelis have long said they would strike at any targets that prove to be the transfer of any kinds of weapons to Hezbollah or other terrorist groups, as well as at any effort to smuggle Syrian weapons into Lebanon that could threaten Israel.


Based on initial indications, the U.S. does not believe Israeli warplanes entered Syrian airspace to conduct the strikes.
Image: AP 

The Lebanese army website listed 16 flights by Israeli warplanes penetrating Lebanon's airspace from Thursday evening through Friday afternoon local time.

The Israeli military had no comment. But a source in the Israeli defense establishment told CNN's Sara Sidner, "We will do whatever is necessary to stop the transfer of weapons from Syria to terrorist organizations. We have done it in the past and we will do it if necessary the future." - CNN.

WATCH: Israel strikes Syria.





Israel Bombs Hezbollah-Bound Missiles In Syria.
An Israeli air force F15-E fighter jet takes off for a mission over the Gaza Strip, from the Tel Nof air base in central Israel November 19, 2012. Credit: Reuters/Baz Ratner

Israel has carried out an air strike targeting a shipment of missiles in Syria bound for Hezbollah guerrillas in neighboring Lebanon, an Israeli official said on Saturday.

Israel had long made clear it is prepared to resort to force to prevent advanced Syrian weapons, including President Bashar al-Assad's reputed chemical arsenal, reaching his Shi'ite Muslim Hezbollah allies or Islamist insurgents taking part in a more than two-year-old uprising against his government.

Hezbollah, allied with Israel's arch-enemy Iran, waged an inconclusive war with the Jewish state in 2006 and remains a potent threat in Israeli eyes. Israelis also worry that if Assad is toppled, Islamist rebels could turn his guns on them after four decades of relative calm in the Golan Heights border area.

The target of Friday's raid was not a Syrian chemical weapons facility, a regional security source earlier said.

A U.S. official, who also declined to be identified, had told Reuters on Friday the target was apparently a building.

The Israeli official who acknowledged the raid and described its target spoke on condition of anonymity. Israel's government has not formally taken responsibility for the action or confirmed it happened.

The attack took place after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet approved it in a secret meeting on Thursday night, the regional security source said.

CNN quoted unnamed U.S. officials as saying Israel most likely conducted the strike "in the Thursday-Friday time frame" and its jets did not enter Syrian air space.

The Israeli air force has so-called "standoff" bombs that coast dozens of kilometers (miles) across ground to their targets once fired. That could, in theory, allow Israel to attack Syria from its own turf or from adjacent Lebanon.

Lebanese authorities reported unusual intensive Israeli air force activity over their territory on Thursday and Friday.

A Lebanese security source said his initial impression was that Israeli overflights were monitoring potential arms shipments between Syria and Lebanon, potentially to Hezbollah.

"We believe that it is linked to Israel's concerns over the transfer of weapons, particularly chemical weapons, from Syria to its allies Lebanon," said the official, who asked not to be named.

Syrian government sources denied having information of a strike. Bashar Ja'afari, the Syrian ambassador to the United Nations, told Reuters: "I'm not aware of any attack right now."

ANTI-AIRCRAFT MISSILES TARGETED?

But Qassim Saadedine, a commander and spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army, said: "Our information indicates there was an Israeli strike on a convoy that was transferring missiles to Hezbollah. We have still not confirmed the location."

Rebel units were in disagreement about what type of weapons were in the convoy. A rebel from an information-gathering unit in Damascus that calls itself "The Syrian Islamic Masts Intelligence" said the convoy carried anti-aircraft missiles.

The rebel, who asked not to be named, said: "There were three strikes by Israeli F-16 jets that damaged a convoy carrying anti-aircraft missiles heading to the Shi'ite Lebanese party (Hezbollah) along the Damascus-Beirut military road.

"One strike hit a site near the (Syrian) Fourth Armoured Division in al-Saboura but we have been unable to determine what is in that location".

Saadedine said he did not think the weapons were anti-aircraft. "We have nothing confirmed yet but we are assuming that it is some type of long-range missile that would be capable of carrying chemical materials," he said.

In January this year, Israel bombed a convoy in Syria, apparently hitting weapons destined for Hezbollah, according to diplomats, Syrian rebels and security sources in the region.

Israel has not formally confirmed carrying out that strike.

Lebanese acting foreign minister Adnan Mansour was critical. "Attacks such as these will result in more tension and blow up the situation which it promoted," he said.

"This will not give Israel the peace or security that it wants, in its own way, rather it will push the region into an inflamed struggle and into the unknown."

Giora Eiland, a former Israeli army general and national security adviser, said the apparent deadlock in Syria's civil war, now in its third year, meant the Netanyahu government had to be prudent in any military intervention.

"I don't anticipate far-reaching consequences in Lebanon or Syria (from Israel's actions)," Eiland told Israel Radio. "Israel appears to be conducting itself judiciously."

Israel remains technically at war with neighboring Syria. It captured Syria's Golan Heights in the 1967 Middle East war, built settlements and annexed the land. Yet belligerence was rare and the borderland has remained largely quiet for decades.

But Israeli security concerns have risen since Islamist fighters linked to al-Qaeda assumed a prominent role in the insurrection against Assad.

They have also worried that Hezbollah could eventually obtain his chemical arsenal and other advanced weaponry. But there is no risk of that happening for the time being, a senior Israeli official said on Saturday.

"Syria has large amounts of chemical weaponry and missiles. Everything there is under (Assad government) control," Defence Ministry strategist Amos Gilad said in a speech. - Reuters.

WATCH: Israel bombs Hezbollah-bound missiles in Syria.






EXTREME WEATHER: The Massive California Fire Monster - Ventura County Wildfire Grows To 28,000 Acres; 4,000 Homes Threatened; 950 Firefighters On Scene; 15 Homes Damaged; Mass Evacuations!

May 04, 2013 - UNITED STATES- A quickly spreading wildfire, called the Springs Fire, started burning in Ventura County, Calif., on Thursday morning. According to the Ventura County Fire Department, it has forced hundreds of evacuations.

As of 6:45 p.m. PDT Friday, the fire was estimated at 28,000 acres, and it was only 20 percent contained. More than 950 firefighters have been on the scene. Overnight firefighting efforts will be concentrated in the Yerba Buena Road area.


A helicopter makes a water drop on a hotspot over a hill near Thousand Oaks, Calif., on Thursday, May 2, 2013. Authorities have ordered evacuations of a neighborhood and a university about 50 miles west of Los Angeles where a wildfire is raging close to subdivisions. The blaze on the fringes of Camarillo and Thousand Oaks broke out Thursday morning and was quickly spread by gusty Santa Ana winds. Evacuation orders include California State University, Channel Islands. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

A water-dropping helicopter gets ready to make a drop on a fire burring in Point Mugu State Park during a California wildfire that has burned several thousand acres.(Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP)

A firefighter faces a wall of flames on April 2 in Camarillo, Calif.  Kevork Djansezian, Getty Images.

The Pacific Coastal Highway was closed late Thursday between Las Posas and Yerba Buena.

The Ventura County Fire Department reports that recreational vehicles were ablaze in the Camarillo Springs area. More than 4,000 homes have been threatened by the wildfire and 15 have sustained damage.

Along with heat, there are gusty winds and very dry conditions in place.

According to AccuWeather Western Forecasting Expert Ken Clark, "I can't remember seeing this magnitude of Santa Ana winds this late in the year."


Dark smoke billows over the U.S. Naval Base Ventura County at Point Mugu, a premier naval installation. Fireifighters said flames had jumped the Pacific Coast Highway Friday morning and threatened the base.(Photo: U.S. Navy photo by Vance Vasquez)

Firefighters battle a blaze Thursday in Camarillo, Calif.(Photo: Kevork Djansezian, Getty Images)

Winds of 30-40 mph through Thursday evening helped to quickly fan the flames of the fire.

Relative humidity dropped as low as 1-2 percent on Thursday. Vegetation is so dry it is more like it would be in the middle of the summer, Clark said.

The Los Angeles area is forecast to experience highs near the 90-degree mark through the remainder of the week.

"You're just asking for problems," Clark said.





However, there is some good news ahead in the near future.

Temperatures are forecast to throttle back over the weekend with less wind aiding firefighting efforts.

AccuWeather.com long-range weather experts are projecting a rough summer for heat, drought and wildfires over a large part of the West. - AccuWeather.

WATCH: Fire Season Starts Early in California.





SOLAR WATCH: The Sun Produces Strong M5.7 Solar Flare - Second M-Class Flare In An Hour; Coronal Mass Ejection Generated; Plasma Cloud Not Earth-Directed!

May 04, 2013 - THE SUN - An active region just over the sun's eastern limb exploded on May 3rd at 1730 UT, producing a strong M5-class solar flare. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory caught a plume of hot plasma flying up from the blast site:




The strong solar flare reaching M5.7 was detected around old Sunspot 1719 near the northeast limb. Because this region is not squarely Earth facing, any associated Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) may be directed mostly away from Earth. This is the second M-Class flare within the hour with the first being centered around Sunspot 1731.

This is also, the second time in three days that this same farside active region has unleashed a strong flare. The sun's rotation is carrying the sunspot around the bend, and it should emerge into view from Earth during the weekend. After that, Earth-directed flares are possible. An uptick in geoeffective solar activity appears to be in the offing.

The M5 event around old Sunspot 1719 did generate a CME. As expected, the plasma cloud appears to be directed mostly towards the east and away from Earth.






ALERT: Type II Radio Emission
Begin Time: 2013 May 03 1745 UTC
Estimated Velocity: 1297 km/s
Description: Type II emissions occur in association with eruptions on the sun and typically indicate a coronal mass ejection is associated with a flare event.

WATCH: Strong M5.7 Solar Flare - May 3, 2013.




As indicated before, several minutes prior to the 5.7 solar flare event, a low level M-Class flare initially peaking at M1.3 was detected around Sunspot 1731 at 16:53 UTC.




The flare itself was fairly long in duration and still ongoing at the time of this update.

SUNSPOTS: Solar activity has been fairly low since the M5 event. Most activity has been centered around Sunspots 1734 and 1739. Sunspot 1739 produced a minor C5.6 flare at 12:36 UTC this morning. Although not a large region in terms of visible sunspot area, magnetically it appears that it has the potential to produce another isolated M-Class event within the next 24-48 hours.
Sunspot AR1739 is probably connected to yesterday's M5-class solar flare. Credit: SDO/HMI
New Sunspot 1739 (ex-1719) on Saturday.
Image: SDO

Sunspot 1731 which is currently making its trek towards the west limb, continues to slowly decay and has lost its Beta-Gamma-Delta magnetic classification. It is now classified Beta-Gamma. Small new Sunspot 1740 was numbered after rotating into view off the southeast limb. This looks to be the return of old region 1721 from the previous region. Old region 1722 was trailing 1721 and could re-emerge off the east limb within the next 24 hours. There will remain a chance for an isolated M-Class event today.


CORONAL HOLES: Solar wind flowing from this minor coronal hole should reach Earth on May 6-8.
Credit: SDO/AIA.

SOURCES: Space Weather | Solar Ham.


GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Tracking Developments At The Giant Louisiana Sinkhole - Officials Issue Code 2 Alert Due To Increasing Trend Of Micro-Quakes And Shifting In And Below The Sinkhole Area!

May 04, 2013 - UNITED STATES - The following, constitutes the latest update from the Assumption Parish Police Jury about the giant Louisiana sinkhole. The update indicates that a Code 2 alert has been issued due to increasing trend of micro-earthquakes and shifting in and below the sinkhole area.




The Office of Conservation, in consultation with Assumption Parish Incident Command, is advising the public that the Oxy 3/sinkhole monitoring alert status has been raised to Code 2 – requiring all work directly on the sinkhole to cease until further notice.

Seismic monitoring has detected an increasing trend of micro-earthquake (MEQ) activity in the area around the sinkhole and Oxy 3 over the past few days. Such activity has previously been noted as a likely indication of shifting and sloughing in the sinkhole and the area below it.

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

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Global Volcano Report For May 03, 2013 - 3-4 Daily Explosions At Sakurajima; Earthquake Swarm At Popocatépetl; Explosions At Fuego; Elevated Seismic Activity At Nevado del Ruiz; Ongoing Steam And Ash Emissions At Tungurahua!

May 04, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing reports of volcanoes across the globe.




Sakurajima (Kyushu, Japan)
: Since 1 May, activity has been increasing again from relatively low levels during the weeks before. Over the past 3 days, several explosions have produced ash plumes rising to 10,000 ft (3 km) altitude and on most days, there have been 3-4 daily explosions (for Sakurajima, this is a large number).

Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): Some small earthquake swarms have occurred at the volcano in the past days, probably associated with some batches of fresh magma intruding into the system at shallow depth.


SO2 plume from Popocatépetl yesterday (NOAA).

This resulted in increased degassing, visible as a significant SO2 plume on NOAA satellite data. Surface activity, however, has remained low with very few emissions and only faint glow at the summit.

Fuego (Guatemala): Activity has further decreased with very few explosions reported since yesterday, and no activity at the lava flows.

Also, Santiaguito has been rather calm today, and no direct observations could be made at Pacaya.

Nevado del Ruiz (Colombia): Seismic activity is still elevated, but has been decreasing today, possibly meaning that the most recent magma intrusion is coming to an end (with no eruption).


Seismic signal from Ruiz this morning (OLL station, INGEOMINAS).

Tungurahua (Ecuador): Eruptive activity has not changed much. The volcano observatory reported ongoing steam and ash emissions producing a plume oscillating between 1.5-3 km height above the crater and drifting into westerly directions, and occasional small to moderate explosions.


Current seismic signal from RETU station (IG).

Light ash fall occurred in Cevallos and Mocha. Incandescence was visible at the summit.



Complete Earthquake list (worldwide) for May 3, 2013.


- Volcano Discovery.



ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: Disaster Precursors - Weather Changes Impact Millions Of Migrating Birds, They're Literally Falling Out Of The Sky?!

May 04, 2013 - UNITED STATESExperts say there has been an increase in the number of migratory birds falling from the sky in the region.

They said recent weather changes may be affecting the migrating species. Some residents reported finding dead birds in their yards.




"I heard the (bird) slam on the ground ... on the pavement," Norma Lopez said.

She found a second dead bird Monday morning.

"I didn't really get next to it or touch it, but I did see it open its mouth a few times. That was it," Lopez said. She said her friends in other Valley cities have witnessed the same phenomenon.

"I heard my friends had some outside their window. (I) also heard of another one in Brownsville," Lopez said.




Roy Rodriguez, a bird specialist at Bentsen State Park, said random bird deaths aren't new. Still, he said they are rare in the region.

"A fall out is a phenomenon where birds literally fall out of the sky after flying into a head wind," Rodriguez said.

Recent cold fronts and micro storms in the coast are making migration difficult for millions of birds, he said.




"They have to seek shelter and land. The first thing they do is head west," Rodriguez said.

Experts said another storm surge Monday could force more birds to fall out of the sky. They said people can help those birds. If the bird is breathing, place it in a box and let it rest.

"There is a lot of danger on the ground, especially from cats. Pick the bird up and put it in the box and let it rest," Rodriguez said.

WATCH: Weather changes impact migrating birds.




Rodriguez said the bird should have water and food - like a piece of fruit. Bird seed is not recommended for exhausted birds. - KRGV.




BP OIL SPILL DISASTER: Mutated And Deformed Gulf Coast Fish Species - Health Defects Found In Fish Exposed To Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Three Years Later!

May 04, 2013 - GULF OF MEXICO - Crude oil toxicity continued to sicken a sentinel Gulf Coast fish species for at least more than a year after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, according to new findings from a research team that includes a University of California, Davis, scientist. With researchers from Louisiana and South Carolina, the scientists found that Gulf killifish embryos exposed to sediments from oiled locations in 2010 and 2011 show developmental abnormalities, including heart defects, delayed hatching and reduced hatching success. The killifish is an environmental indicator species, or a "canary in the coal mine," used to predict broader exposures and health risks.


Gulf killifish embryos exposed to sediments from oiled locations show developmental abnormalities, including heart defects, delayed hatching and reduced hatching success.© Benjamin Dubansky

The findings, posted online in advance of publication in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, are part of an ongoing collaborative effort to track the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on Gulf killifish populations in areas of Louisiana that received heavy amounts of oil.

Other species that share similar habitats with the Gulf killifish, such as redfish, speckled trout, flounder, blue crabs, shrimp and oysters -- may be at risk of similar effects.

"These effects are characteristic of crude oil toxicity," said co-author Andrew Whitehead, an assistant professor of environmental toxicology at UC Davis. "It's important that we observe it in the context of the Deepwater Horizon spill because it tells us it is far too early to say the effects of the oil spill are known and inconsequential. By definition, effects on reproduction and development -- effects that could impact populations -- can take time to emerge."

Killifish are abundant in the coastal marsh habitats along the Gulf Coast. Though not fished commercially, they are an important forage fish and a key member of the ecological community. Because they are nonmigratory, measurements of their health are indicative of their local environment, making them an ideal subject for study.

The researchers collected Gulf killifish from an oiled site at Isle Grande Terre, La., and monitored them for measures of exposure to crude oil. They also exposed killifish embryos in the lab to sediment collected from oiled sites at Isle Grande Terre within Barataria Bay in Louisiana.

"Our findings indicate that the developmental success of these fish in the field may be compromised," said lead author Benjamin Dubansky, who recently earned his Ph.D. from Louisiana State University.

Whitehead said the report's findings may predict longer-term impacts to killifish populations. However, oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill showed up in patches, rather than coating the coastline. That means some killifish could have been hit hard by the spill while others were less impacted.

Whitehead said it is possible that some of the healthier, less impacted killifish could buffer the effects of the spill for the population as a whole.

The research was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative and the National Institutes of Health.

The other researchers in the study are Fernando Galvez, associate professor of biological sciences at Louisiana State University; and Charles D. Rice, professor of biological sciences at Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina. The researchers have tracked the impact of the oil on killifish since the Deepwater Horizon spill occurred in April 2010. - Science Daily.



MASS BIRD DIE-OFF: Nearly 3,000 Birds Die From Chemical Spill in English Channel - One Of The Worst Marine Pollution Incidents In The United Kingdom In Decades!

May 04, 2013 - UNITED KINGDOM - Nearly 3,000 birds have been killed or injured by a chemical spill in the English Channel, conservationists said on Friday.


A dead guillemot. About 20 species have washed up covered in a sticky substance on beaches across the south coast of England since February. Photograph: Teresa Naylor/PA

The RSPB, RSPCA and local wildlife charities described it as one of the worst UK marine pollution incidents in decades and said it was more devastating than the MSC Napoli disaster six years ago.

About 20 species have washed up covered in a sticky substance on beaches across the south coast of England since February.

The RSPB said the death toll has exceeded the number affected by the MSC Napoli beaching off Devon in 2007.

The birds have been affected by the chemical polyisobutene (PIB), a lubricant used to improve engine performance. It can be legally discharged when ships wash out their tanks.

Wildlife charities want international action to stop the chemical, which does not break up easily, being discharged into the sea.

The RSPCA, RSPB, Devon, Cornwall and Dorset wildlife trusts and the British Trust for Ornithology said an estimated 2,400 birds had died and more than 500 live but "disabled" birds had been rescued and taken for treatment.

The true death toll is thought to be even higher, they said.

It said PIB becomes strongly adhesive in the sea, coating the birds and restricting their movements and their ability to feed.

Tony Whitehead, from the RSPB, said: "This is one of the worst marine pollution incidents in decades, bringing to mind other disasters going right back to the Torrey Canyon in 1967."

Adam Grogan, from the RSPCA, said: "The dumping at sea of this lethal chemical must be stopped.

"It was heartbreaking enough after the first incident in February to see so many birds arrive at our centres in such a poor state.

"The sticky substance coated their feathers and made it difficult for them to feed and move so staff had to work around the clock to wash it off and get them fit enough to survive in the wild again.

"For it to happen twice in quick succession is inexcusable and unacceptable."

The charities have urged members of the public to sign petitions by Avaaz and 38 Degrees to support their call for a ban of dumping chemicals at sea.

Post-mortem examinations have been carried out on hundreds of the dead birds by the British Trust for Ornithology and the results are due to be published within the next few weeks. - Guardian.