Monday, May 13, 2013

SOLAR WATCH: Significant Uptick In Solar Activity - The Sun Unleashes Three X-Class Flares In Less Than 24 Hours; The Strongest Of 2013; The X3.2 Class Flare Is The 3rd Largest Of Solar Cycle 24; Non-Earth Directed Coronal Mass Ejections; More Explosions Are Expected!

May 13, 2013 - SUN - Solar activity is surging. A sunspot on the sun's eastern limb is crackling with powerful X-class solar flares. Just-numbered AR1748 announced itself during the early hours of May 13th, proving to be a big time flare producer, with an X1.7-class eruption (0217 UT), quickly followed by an X2.8-class flare (1609 UT) and an X3.2-class flare (0117 UT on May 14). These are the strongest flares of the year so far, and they signal a significant increase in solar activity. This is the third such explosion within the past 24 hours.

Attached is a new image by SDO and EVE capturing the major X3.2 Solar Flare.
Three major X-Class flares within 24 hours.

Two of the three solar flares is good enough to make it into the Top 10 List of strongest flares during Cycle 24. The active region is still not in the best position for Earth directed explosions, however that will change with each passing hour. NOAA forecasters estimate a 40% chance of more X-flares during the next 24 hours. More eruptions are in the offing.

WATCH: X3.2 Solar Flare - May 13, 2013.

Like the X1.7 eruption, the X2.8 produced another Strong Radio Blackout on the sunlit side of Earth. The source is again the active region rotating into view off the east limb. The latest event generated a Coronal Mass Ejection that looks to be directed mostly towards the east and away from Earth. The solar rotation will continue to carry the Sunspot into a more direct Earth view this week.

Image by SDO and EVE capturing the major X2.8 Solar Flare.

ALERT: Type II Radio Emission
Begin Time: 2013 May 13 1557 UTC
Estimated Velocity: 949 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: X2.8 Solar Flare - May 13, 2013.

ALERT: Type IV Radio Emission
Begin Time: 2013 May 13 1557 UTC
Description: Type IV emissions occur in association with major eruptions on the sun and are typically associated with strong coronal mass ejections and solar radiation storms.

Image by SDO and EVE capturing the major X2.8 Solar Flare.

10cm Radio Burst
Begin Time: 2013 May 13 1553 UTC
Maximum Time: 2013 May 13 1601 UTC
End Time: 2013 May 13 1618 UTC
Duration: 25 minutes
Peak Flux: 520 sfu
Description: A 10cm radio burst indicates that the electromagnetic burst associated with a solar flare at the 10cm wavelength was double or greater than the initial 10cm radio background. This can be indicative of significant radio noise in association with a solar flare. This noise is generally short-lived but can cause interference for sensitive receivers including radar, GPS, and satellite communications.

Both of today's flares have produced strong flashes of extreme ultraviolet radiation. The explosions also hurled coronal mass ejections (CMEs) into space. Coronagraphs onboard the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory are tracking the clouds: movie. The planet in the CME movie is Mercury. Although the CMEs appear to hit Mercury, they do not. In fact, no planets were in the line of fire. However, the CMEs appear to be on course to hit NASA's Epoxi and Spitzer spacecraft on May 15-16.

When the flaring began, the sunspot was hidden behind the sun's eastern limb, but now solar rotation is bringing the active region into view. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory captured this first look during the waning hours of May 13th:

The next 24 to 48 hours should reveal much about the sunspot, including its size, magnetic complexity, and potential for future flares. For the moment, there is no reason to expect the explosions to stop.

- Solar Ham | Space Weather.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Powerful 7.0 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes The Pagan Region, North Of The Mariana Islands!

May 13, 2013 - MARIANA ISLANDS A powerful earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale jolted the Pagan region, Northern Mariana Islands at 00:32:24 GMT local time or about 2:32 p.m. Hawaii time, and was centered about 244 miles north of Saipan and 26 miles west of Agrihan, Northern Mariana Islands, at a depth of 375 miles, on Tuesday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

USGS earthquake map and location.

The epicenter, was initially determined to be at 18.8180 degrees north latitude and 145.3820 degrees east longitude.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Observatory reported the quake at 6.5- magnitude.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center says there is no threat of a destructive tsunami from the strong and deep earthquake.

The warning center says, based on available information, a destructive Pacific-wide tsunami is not expected and there is no threat to Hawaii.

USGS earthquake map and location.

Tectonic Summary - Seismotectonics of the Philippine Sea and Vicinity.
The Philippine Sea plate is bordered by the larger Pacific and Eurasia plates and the smaller Sunda plate. The Philippine Sea plate is unusual in that its borders are nearly all zones of plate convergence. The Pacific plate is subducted into the mantle, south of Japan, beneath the Izu-Bonin and Mariana island arcs, which extend more than 3,000 km along the eastern margin of the Philippine Sea plate. This subduction zone is characterized by rapid plate convergence and high-level seismicity extending to depths of over 600 km. In spite of this extensive zone of plate convergence, the plate interface has been associated with few great (Magnitude greater than 8.0) ‘megathrust’ earthquakes. This low seismic energy release is thought to result from weak coupling along the plate interface (Scholz and Campos, 1995). These convergent plate margins are also associated with unusual zones of back-arc extension (along with resulting seismic activity) that decouple the volcanic island arcs from the remainder of the Philippine Sea Plate (Karig et al., 1978; Klaus et al., 1992).

South of the Mariana arc, the Pacific plate is subducted beneath the Yap Islands along the Yap trench. The long zone of Pacific plate subduction at the eastern margin of the Philippine Sea Plate is responsible for the generation of the deep Izu-Bonin, Mariana, and Yap trenches as well as parallel chains of islands and volcanoes, typical of circum-pacific island arcs. Similarly, the northwestern margin of the Philippine Sea plate is subducting beneath the Eurasia plate along a convergent zone, extending from southern Honshu to the northeastern coast of Taiwan, manifested by the Ryukyu Islands and the Nansei-Shoto (Ryukyu) trench. The Ryukyu Subduction Zone is associated with a similar zone of back-arc extension, the Okinawa Trough. At Taiwan, the plate boundary is characterized by a zone of arc-continent collision, whereby the northern end of the Luzon island arc is colliding with the buoyant crust of the Eurasia continental margin offshore China.

USGS earthquake shakemap intensity.

Along its western margin, the Philippine Sea plate is associated with a zone of oblique convergence with the Sunda Plate. This highly active convergent plate boundary extends along both sides the Philippine Islands, from Luzon in the north to the Celebes Islands in the south. The tectonic setting of the Philippines is unusual in several respects: it is characterized by opposite-facing subduction systems on its east and west sides; the archipelago is cut by a major transform fault, the Philippine Fault; and the arc complex itself is marked by active volcanism, faulting, and high seismic activity. Subduction of the Philippine Sea Plate occurs at the eastern margin of the archipelago along the Philippine Trench and its northern extension, the East Luzon Trough. The East Luzon Trough is thought to be an unusual example of a subduction zone in the process of formation, as the Philippine Trench system gradually extends northward (Hamburger et al., 1983). On the west side of Luzon, the Sunda Plate subducts eastward along a series of trenches, including the Manila Trench in the north, the smaller less well-developed Negros Trench in the central Philippines, and the Sulu and Cotabato trenches in the south (Cardwell et al., 1980). At its northern and southern terminations, subduction at the Manila Trench is interrupted by arc-continent collision, between the northern Philippine arc and the Eurasian continental margin at Taiwan and between the Sulu-Borneo Block and Luzon at the island of Mindoro. The Philippine fault, which extends over 1,200 km within the Philippine arc, is seismically active. The fault has been associated with major historical earthquakes, including the destructive M7.6 Luzon earthquake of 1990 (Yoshida and Abe, 1992). A number of other active intra-arc fault systems are associated with high seismic activity, including the Cotabato Fault and the Verde Passage-Sibuyan Sea Fault (Galgana et al., 2007).

USGS earthquake population exposure.

Relative plate motion vectors near the Philippines (about 80 mm/yr) is oblique to the plate boundary along the two plate margins of central Luzon, where it is partitioned into orthogonal plate convergence along the trenches and nearly pure translational motion along the Philippine Fault (Barrier et al., 1991). Profiles B and C reveal evidence of opposing inclined seismic zones at intermediate depths (roughly 70-300 km) and complex tectonics at the surface along the Philippine Fault.

Several relevant tectonic elements, plate boundaries and active volcanoes, provide a context for the seismicity presented on the main map. The plate boundaries are most accurate along the axis of the trenches and more diffuse or speculative in the South China Sea and Lesser Sunda Islands. The active volcanic arcs (Siebert and Simkin, 2002) follow the Izu, Volcano, Mariana, and Ryukyu island chains and the main Philippine islands parallel to the Manila, Negros, Cotabato, and Philippine trenches.

Seismic activity along the boundaries of the Philippine Sea Plate (Allen et al., 2009) has produced 7 great (Magnitude greater than 8.0) earthquakes and 250 large (Magnitude greater than 7) events. Among the most destructive events were the 1923 Kanto, the 1948 Fukui and the 1995 Kobe (Japan) earthquakes (99,000, 5,100, and 6,400 casualties, respectively), the 1935 and the 1999 Chi-Chi (Taiwan) earthquakes (3,300 and 2,500 casualties, respectively), and the 1976 M7.6 Moro Gulf and 1990 M7.6 Luzon (Philippines) earthquakes (7,100 and 2,400 casualties, respectively). There have also been a number of tsunami-generating events in the region, including the Moro Gulf earthquake, whose tsunami resulted in more than 5000 deaths. - USGS.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Novel Coronavirus SARS-Like Virus And H7N9 Bird Flu Strain Could Both Spark Global Outbreaks - WHO Says New Coronavirus May Be Passed Person To Person; SARS-Like Virus Kills 15 In Saudi Arabia; 11 investigated for H7N9 And 24 For Novel Coronavirus In Singapore; Second Case Of Deadly SARS-Like Virus Confirmed In France!

May 13, 2013 - EARTH The World Health Organization says it appears likely that the novel coronavirus (NCoV) can be passed between people in close contact.

WHO Says New Coronavirus May Be Passed Person To Person.

This comes after the French health ministry confirmed a second man had contracted the virus in a possible case of human-to-human transmission.

Two more people in Saudi Arabia are also reported to have died from the virus, according to health officials.

NCoV is known to cause pneumonia and sometimes kidney failure.

World Health Organization (WHO) officials have expressed concern over the clusters of cases of the new coronavirus strain and the potential for it to spread.

Since 2012, there have been 34 confirmed cases across Europe and the Middle East, with 18 deaths, according to a recent WHO update.

Cases have been detected in Saudi Arabia and Jordan and have spread to Germany, the UK and France.

"Of most concern... is the fact that the different clusters seen in multiple countries increasingly support the hypothesis that when there is close contact this novel coronavirus can transmit from person to person," the World Health Organization said on Sunday.

"This pattern of person-to-person transmission has remained limited to some small clusters and so far, there is no evidence to suggest the virus has the capacity to sustain generalised transmission in communities," the statement adds.

France's second confirmed case was a 50-year-old man who had shared a hospital room in Valenciennes, northern France, with a 65-year-old who fell ill with the virus after returning from Dubai.

"Positive results [for the virus] have been confirmed for both patients," the French health ministry said, adding that both men were being treated in isolation wards.

Meanwhile, the Saudi deputy minister of health said on Sunday that two more people had died from the coronavirus, bringing the number of fatalities to nine in the most recent outbreak in al-Ahsa governorate in the east of Saudi Arabia, Reuters news agency reports.

The Saudi health ministry said that 15 people had died out of the 24 cases diagnosed since last summer.

WHO officials have not yet confirmed the latest deaths.

In February, a patient died in a hospital in Birmingham, England, after three members of the same family became infected.

It is thought a family member had picked up the virus while travelling to the Middle East and Pakistan.

Novel coronavirus is from the same family of viruses as the one that caused an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) that emerged in Asia in 2003.

However, NCoV and Sars are distinct from each other, the WHO said in its statement on Sunday.

Coronavirus is known to cause respiratory infections in both humans and animals.

But it is not yet clear whether it is a mutation of an existing virus or an infection in animals that has made the jump to humans. - BBC.

 WATCH: WHO Says New Coronavirus May Be Passed Person To Person.

2 New Viruses Could Both Spark Global Outbreaks.
Two respiratory viruses in different parts of the world have captured the attention of global health officials - a novel coronavirus in the Middle East and a new bird flu spreading in China.

Last week, the coronavirus related to SARS spread to France, where one patient who probably caught the disease in Dubai infected his hospital roommate.

Officials are now trying to track down everyone who went on a tour group holiday to Dubai with the first patient as well as all contacts of the second patient. Since it was first spotted last year, the new coronavirus has infected 34 people, killing 18 of them. Nearly all had some connection to the Middle East.

The World Health Organization, however, says there is no reason to think the virus is restricted to the Middle East and has advised health officials worldwide to closely monitor any unusual respiratory cases.

At the same time, a new bird flu strain, H7N9, has been infecting people in China since at least March, causing 32 deaths out of 131 known cases.

WHO, which is closely monitoring the viruses, says both have the potential to cause a pandemic - a global epidemic - if they evolve into a form easily spread between people. Here's a crash course in what we know so far about them:

Q: How are humans getting infected by the new coronavirus?

A: Scientists don't exactly know. There is some suggestion the disease is jumping directly from animals like camels or goats to humans, but officials are also considering other sources, like a common environmental exposure. The new coronavirus is most closely related to a bat virus, but it's possible that bats are transmitting the disease via another source before humans catch it.

Q: Can the new coronavirus be spread from human to human?

A: In some circumstances, yes. There have been clusters of the disease in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Britain and now France, where the virus has spread from person-to-person. Most of those infected were in very close contact, such as people taking care of a sick family member or health workers treating patients. There is no evidence the virus is spreading easily between people and all cases of human-to-human transmission have been limited so far.

Q: How are people catching the bird flu H7N9?

A: Some studies suggest the new bird flu is jumping directly to people from poultry at live bird markets. Cases have slowed down since Chinese authorities began shutting down such markets. But it's unclear exactly what kind of exposure is needed for humans to catch the virus and very few animals have tested positive for it. Unlike the last bird flu strain to cause global concern, H5N1, the new strain doesn't appear to make birds sick and may be spreading silently in poultry populations.

Q: What precautions can people take against these new viruses?

A: WHO is not advising people to avoid traveling to the Middle East or China but is urging people to practice good personal hygiene like regular hand-washing. "Until we know how and where humans are contracting these two diseases, we cannot control them," said Gregory Hartl, WHO spokesman.

Q: Which virus should we be more worried about?

A: It's impossible to know. "We really don't want to play the game of predicting which virus will be more deadly than the other," Hartl said. At the moment, both are worrisome since so little is known about how they are infecting humans and both appear to cause severe disease. "Any virus that has the ability to develop the capacity to spread from human to human is of great concern to WHO," he said. - AP.

SARS-Like Virus Kills 15 In Saudi Arabia.
The World Health Organization says it is closely monitoring the novel coronavirus.
Saudi Arabian Health Minister Abdullah Al Rabie says at least 15 people have died from a new deadly respiratory virus related to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

“The number of people who contracted the virus in the kingdom since August/September is 24, of whom 15 have died,” Al Rabie told a news conference in the capital Riyadh on Sunday.

In addition, Al Rabie said three more people are suspected of having contracted the virus in Saudi Arabia.

The novel coronavirus, also known as nCoV-EMC, is a cousin of SARS. The virus first emerged in the Middle East, and was discovered on September 2012 in a Qatari man who had recently traveled to Saudi Arabia.

On Tuesday, the World Health Organization said 11 people had died in Saudi Arabia from the virus since last year.

Since September 2012, the World Health Organization has been informed of 30 confirmed cases of the virus, and 18 of the patients have died.

Cases have been reported in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the UAE, Qatar, Britain and Germany, and health officials have said the virus has likely already spread between people in some circumstances.

Health authorities are trying to find out how humans are contracting and spreading the virus and what the best remedy to treat it is.

It does not appear to be as contagious as SARS, which killed some 800 people in a 2003 epidemic.

The novel coronavirus is most closely related to a bat virus. Scientists are considering whether bats or other animals like goats or camels are a possible source of infection.

The WHO has advised countries to test any people with unexplained pneumonia. - Press TV.

11 investigated for H7N9 And 24 For Novel Coronavirus In Singapore.
Carrier pigeons are locked in a cage in Beijing on April 14 after the city reported its first human H7N9 bird flu case.  (AFP)
Eleven people in Singapore have been investigated for the avian flu virus H7N9 and another 24 for novel coronavirus to date.  But none was positive.  Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, who revealed this in Parliament on Monday, said that so long as there is no sustained human-to-human transmission of the two diseases, the risk of an outbreak in Singapore will remain low. 

Mr Gan said the H7 avian influenza virus has not been detected in tests on local and imported birds.  Singapore also does not import live poultry, birds or frozen poultry meat from China.  A potential concern, however, is the transmission of H7N9 to Singapore via migratory birds carrying the virus.  So surveillance testing on such birds has been stepped up.  Mr Gan said Singapore still needs to be vigilant against the possibility of cases in travellers coming to Singapore. 

Hospitals have been asked to look out for suspect cases of both H7N9 and novel coronavirus.  Mr Gan assured the House that plans are in place if there is a pandemic.  He said: "We have worked with hospitals and clinics to ensure that there is adequate surge capacity in healthcare infrastructure and beds.  "At the national level, we have sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) and antiviral stockpiles (for influenza), which can be deployed should the need arises. 

"Possible control measures include isolation of cases, quarantine of close contacts and social distancing measures to reduce community transmission, if necessary.  "With our experience in SARS, we are now much better prepared than 10 years ago.  "However with each new infectious disease, it will bring in new experiences, new challenges, new threats and therefore it is a continuing journey.  "So, our healthcare institutions are working together preparing for the possibility of the arrival of H7N9 or novel coronavirus patients in Singapore.  "I think our institutions are ready and will be able to manage them." - Channel News Asia.

Second Case Of Deadly SARS-Like Virus Confirmed In France.

French authorities have confirmed that a second person has been diagnosed with the SARS-like coronavirus. The case appears to have been one of human-to-human transmission.  On Sunday, French health officials confirmed a second case of the potentially fatal coronavirus, the patient having contracted the infection in a hospital ward. 

Professor Benoit Guery, head of the Lille hospital's infectious diseases unit, said infection indicated that it was possible that the virus could be passed on by airborne transmission.  "The transmission chain is becoming clearer," Guery told French broadcaster BFM Television.  Concerns have been raised over clusters of cases of the new coronavirus strain, nCoV, which began in the Gulf and since spread to France, Britain and Germany. Doubts still exist about the precise mechanism by which people contract the disease. 

The virus is a cousin of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which caused a scare 10 years ago after an outbreak in eastern Asia and spread to humans from animal hosts, killing some 800 people.  The French Health Ministry noted that the two patients had "close and prolonged contact."  Moved into isolation  The second case was in a 50-year-old man who had shared a hospital room in Valenciennes, northern France, with a 65-year-old taken ill after a visit to Dubai.

Both of the men are now being kept in isolation in the nearby city of Lille.  Health officials carried out screenings on 24 people who were in contact with the first case to have been confirmed. Laboratory tests were carried out on five individuals, with the second case the only one to have come back positive.  French authorities said they would broaden their screening program to extend to anyone in contact with the second case.  More than 30 cases of the disease have been reported since it was first detected in September 2012, with 18 fatalities. - DW.

EXTINCTION LEVEL EVENT: New Research Sees "Dramatic Decline" Warning For Plants And Animals - More Than Half Of Common Plant Species And A Third Of Animals Could See Serious Decline In Their Habitat!

May 13, 2013 - EARTH - More than half of common plant species and a third of animals could see a serious decline in their habitat range because of climate change.

New research suggests that biodiversity around the globe will be significantly impacted if temperatures rise more than 2C.

But the scientists say that the losses can be reduced if rapid action is taken to curb greenhouse gases.

The study looked at the impacts of rising temperatures on nearly 50,000 common species.

The paper is published in the journal, Nature Climate Change.

An international team of researchers looked at the impacts of rising temperatures on nearly 50,000 common species of plants and animals.

They looked at both temperature and rainfall records for the habitats that these species now live in and mapped the areas that would remain suitable for them under a number of different climate change scenarios.

The scientists projected that if no significant efforts were made to limit greenhouse gas emissions, 2100 global temperatures would be 4C above pre-industrial levels.

In this model, some 34% of animal species and 57% of plants would lose more than half of their current habitat ranges.

According to Dr Rachel Warren from the University of East Anglia, this would have major impacts for everyone on the planet.

"Our research predicts that climate change will greatly reduce the diversity of even very common species found in most parts of the world. This loss of global-scale biodiversity would significantly impoverish the biosphere and the ecosystem services it provides," she said.

"There will also be a knock-on effect for humans because these species are important for things like water and air purification, flood control, nutrient cycling, and eco-tourism."

The projected impacts on species will be felt more heavily in some parts of the world such as sub-Saharan Africa, Central America, the Amazon region and Australia.

In some regions, climate change could increase the area burned by wildfires.

However the researchers say that if global emissions of greenhouse gases are cut rapidly then the impact on biodiversity could be significantly curbed. If global emissions reach their peak in 2016 and temperature rises are held to 2C, then losses could be cut by 60%.

"The good news is that our research provides new evidence of how swift action to reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gases can prevent the biodiversity loss by reducing the amount of global warming to 2C rather than 4 degrees, said Dr Warren.

"This would also buy time – up to four decades - for plants and animals to adapt to the remaining 2 degrees of climate change." - BBC.

WAR ON MOTHER NATURE: Absolute Senseless Insanity - United States Approves Bee Death Pesticide As European Union Bans It?!

May 13, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Corporate politics is business as usual inside the United States, as I am once again shocked to report the EPA has sided with industry lobbyists over public health in approving a highly dangerous pesticide that the European Union recently decided to ban over fears of environmental devastation. Not only have neonicotinoid pesticides been linked repeatedly to mass bee deaths, also known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), but the continued use of such pesticides threatens other aspects of nature (and humans) as well.

What’s even more amazing is that the decision not only comes after the EU publicly discussed the major dangers surrounding the use of the pesticides, but after the USDA released a report surrounding the continued honeybee deaths and the related effects — a report in which they detailed pesticides to be a contributing factor. Just the impact on the honeybees alone, and we now know that these pesticides are killing aquatic life and subsequently the birds that feed upon them, amounts to a potential $200 billion in global damages per year. We’re talking about the devastation of over 100 crops, from apples to avocados and plums.

And there’s countless scientists and a large number of environmental science groups speaking out on this. The EPA has no lack of information the subject. And sure, there are other contributing factors to bee deaths, there’s no question about that. We have an environment right now being hit with Monsanto’s Roundup even in residential areas, we have chemical rain, we have insane amounts of EMF — but it’s pretty clear that neonicotinoid pesticides are at least a major contributing factor. And beyond that, they have no place in the food supply to begin with.

The Pesticide Action Network (PAN) details the EU ban that came right before the EPA acceptance of the death-linked  pesticide:

“The EU vote comes after significant findings by the European Food Safety Agency that these pesticides pose an unacceptable risk to bees and their use should be restricted. Along with habitat loss and pathogens, a growing body of science points to neonicotinoid pesticides as a key factor in drastically declining bee populations.”
 So why are they approving this pesticide to now pollute the United States in what potentially amounts to an even larger capacity than the EU? A move that will ultimately escalate the price of food worldwide due to the likely nature of continued bee deaths and subsequent crop impact? That’s the power of phony corporate science. - Natural Society.

GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS: Extreme And Persistent Weather - Drought, Cold Cripple United States Winter Wheat Crop!

May 13, 2013 - UNITED STATES - The winter wheat crop is expected to be far smaller this season compared to last, particularly for hard red varieties used in bread, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported Friday.

In the first government projection on the harvest's anticipated size, the National Agricultural Statistics Service estimated winter wheat production will be down 10 percent to 1.49 billion bushels, due to fewer acres — 32.7 million acres, some 6 percent fewer acres than a year ago — and a 1.8-bushel decrease in average yields, to 45.4 bushels per acre.

Ben McClure examines a wheat stalk in a Reno County, Kan., wheat field. Forecasts show a smaller crop due to drought and late-spring cold. Travis Heying / AP

The government's forecast comes amid a season marked by drought and late spring freezes in the Midwest's major wheat growing areas, particularly in Kansas — the nation's biggest wheat-producing state.

Dean Stoskopf, who is growing 900 wheat acres near Hoisington in west-central Kansas, expects to have an average or below-normal crop because of all the dry weather.

"We were fortunate enough to get some rains here, where not everybody did, but it is still a wait and see what we are going to end up with," Stoskopf said in a phone interview. His wheat greened up, but Stoskopf is mindful that there is no subsoil moisture to carry the crop to harvest if the weather turns hot and the rains stop.

The wheat heads — where the kernels develop — have just emerged, meaning it will likely be July before Stoskopf can harvest if all goes well.

"We have a ways to go before we have a wheat crop," he said.

A Kansas farmer holds up a head of wheat that's forming in the stalk. Travis Heying / AP

Nationwide production of hard red winter wheat, typically used to make bread, is expected to decline 23 percent to 768 million bushels. But that'll be offset somewhat by soft red winter wheat types — favored for cookies and pastries — which are projected to be up 19 percent at 501 million bushels.

One bushel of wheat yields about 42 pounds of flour — enough to make 73 loaves of bread.

Far western Kansas is considered a disaster area, and farmers told tour participants earlier this month that crop insurance agents have already begun writing off acres there. Wheat tour participants examined 570 fields, finding that in south-central Kansas, which got late winter snowstorms and heavy spring rains, the wheat looks good and production there is expected to offset a bit the losses elsewhere in the state. - NBC News.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Mexico On High Alert As Popocatepetl Shakes And Spews Steam - Mexican Authorities Impose A Seven-Mile Exclusion Zone After Increase In Seismic Activity!

May 13, 2013 - MEXICO - Seismic activity has increased at Popocatepetl volcano near Mexico City, causing authorities to impose a seven-mile exclusion zone around the crater.

Seismic activity around Popocatepetl volcano has increased in recent weeks.

Mexico's National Disaster Prevention Centre said the 17,886ft white-capped volcano spewed a plume of steam more than half a mile into the sky and over the weekend lava was thrown out over the crater.

The government has sent soldiers and police to the area in the event of a bigger eruption, with the authorities in towns in two central states placed on alert.

Popocatepetl is 50 miles from Mexico City.

Shelters have been prepared in the states of Mexico and Puebla.

Popocatepetl has emitted small eruptions of ash almost daily since a round of activity began in 1994.

The eruptions began strengthening two weeks ago and have increased over the weekend. - SKY News.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Megacryometeor - Giant Chunk Of Ice Slams To Earth Near Kids Playing In Gray, Tennessee?!

May 13, 2013 - UNITED STATESA Tri-Cities man has video of what appears to be a large chunk of ice that he says fell from the sky on Wednesday and landed in a yard in Gray, TN.

Photo by Andy Miller via WJHL

Andy Miller says his children were playing outside along Keeview Drive off Hales Chapel Road around 4 p.m. when they heard what sounded like a rocket.

"They ran into the house shaking," Miller said.  He used his phone to record video of the children inspecting the pile of pure white ice sitting in a gouged out hole in the ground near where they were playing.

Miller did a quick web search and found information that lead him to believe it's a megacryometeor.

For what it's worth, here's a quick definition we found on line:

"A megacryometeor is a very large chunk of ice which, despite sharing many textural, hydro-chemical and isotopic features detected in large hailstones, is formed under unusual atmospheric conditions which clearly differ from those of the cumulonimbus cloud scenario (i.e. clear-sky conditions). They are sometimes called huge hailstones, but do not need to form in thunderstorms." - WBTW.

WATCH: Giant chunk of ice slams to Earth near kids playing in Tennessee.

A megacryometeor is a very large chunk of ice which, despite sharing many textural, hydro-chemical and isotopic features detected in large hailstones, is formed under unusual atmospheric conditions which clearly differ from those of the cumulonimbus cloud scenario (i.e. clear-sky conditions). They are sometimes called huge hailstones, but do not need to form in thunderstorms. Jesus Martinez-Frias, a planetary geologist at the Center for Astrobiology in Madrid, pioneered research into megacryometeors in January 2000 after ice chunks weighing up to 6.6 pounds (3.0 kg) rained on Spain out of cloudless skies for ten days. An ice chunk was discovered in el kmeysat, Morocco in a farmer's field in December 2012.

More than 50 megacryometeors have been recorded since the year 2000. They vary in mass between 0.5 kilograms (1.1 lb) to several tens of kilograms. One in Brazil weighed in at more than 50 kilograms (110 lb). Chunks about 2 m in size fell in Scotland on 13 August 1849.

The process that creates megacryometeors is not fully understood, mainly in relation with the atmospheric dynamics necessary to produce them. They may have a similar mechanism of formation to that producing hailstones. Scientific studies show that their composition matches normal tropospheric rainwater for the areas in which they fall. In addition, megacryometeors display textural variations of the ice and hydro-chemical and isotopic heterogeneity, which evidence a complex formation process in the atmosphere. It is known that they do not come from airplane toilets because the large chunks of ice that occasionally do fall from airliners are distinctly blue due to the disinfectant used.

However, others have speculated that these ice chunks must have fallen from aircraft fuselages after plain water ice accumulating on those aircraft through normal atmospheric conditions has simply broken loose. However, similar events occurred prior to the invention of aircraft. Studies indicate that fluctuations in tropopause, associated with hydration of the lower stratosphere and stratospheric cooling, can be related with their formation. A detailed micro-Raman spectroscopic study made it possible to place the formation of the megacryometeors within a particular range of temperatures (−10 to −20 °C). They are sometimes confused with meteors because they can leave small impact craters. - Wikipedia.

ICE AGE NOW: A Year Without Spring - Plunging Lows Threaten Freeze For Washington D.C., Charlotte?!

May 13, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Cold temperatures in the Midwest and Northeast will sneak as far southward as northern Georgia to start the week.

On Sunday night, temperatures dipped to near freezing as far south as Tennessee and North Carolina.

The threat for a freeze, and even frost, will shift eastward for Monday night into the Northeast and mid-Atlantic.

More southern cities that will be affected include Washington, D.C.; Baltimore, Maryland.; Richmond, Virginia; and Charlotte, North Carolina just to name a few.

Plant could be damaged as temperatures plummet.
Photo by Paul Smith

Temperatures will plummet into the lower 40s south of the Mason-Dixon Line, making temperatures feel more like early April, rather than May.

As a result, precautions should be taken to protect warm-season plants that have already been planted. - AccuWeather.

MASS OYSTER DIE-OFF: Hundreds Of Tonnes Of Oysters Found Dead In Thanh Hoa, Vietnam - Tens Of Billions In Losses?!

May 13, 2013 - VIETNAM - Aquaculture farmers in the central province of Thanh Hoa have seen large numbers of their oysters die since the beginning of last month, leaving them tens of billions of dong out of pocket.

An official of the local Natural Resources and Environment Department’s Centre and a local farmer check the quality of oyster before harvesting in central Thanh Hoa Province. — VNA/VNS Photo Anh Tuan

The deaths wiped out 60-80 per cent of oysters raised across hundreds of hectares of aqua farms at coastal communes in Quang Xuong, Hau Loc, Nga Son and Hoang Hoa districts.

Tran Thi Hien, a farmer in Quang Xuong District’s Quang Nham Commune, said the oysters died due to polluted water being discharged into Quang Nham’s waterways and fishing areas.

In addition, workers harvesting jelly fish have seen the animals die after drifting into tidal areas. Polluted water filled with dead jelly fish also exacerbated the oyster deaths, she said.

More than 30 households raised oysters in Quang Nham Commune. Each household has 1-3ha of oysters. For each hectare, local farmers invest VND450-500 million (US$21,400-23,800) to buy baby oysters and run their business.

Le Van Thuan, a farmer in Hau Loc District’s Hai Loc Commune, blamed polluted water discharged in the Kenh De River for the oyster deaths. A number of livestock and poultry farms have been set up along the river.

Thuan said he has 7ha of oysters but dozens of tonnes of them died and he suffered a loss of VND700 million ($33,300).

Cao Thanh Tho, head of the Thanh Hoa Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Aquatic Product Breeding Division, said samples of water, soil and dead oysters were sent to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Department of Animal Health for tests.

No parasite causing diseases were discovered on the oysters.

However, the amount of ammonia in the water and soil exceeded regulated levels by ten times.

Tho said oysters were selling slowly this year so oyster farmers had large stocks in their ponds.

The density of oysters in aqua farms was more than 300 per square metres, while the regulated density is only 150-200 per square metre. The high density resulted in a lack of food for the oysters, which may also have led to the deaths.

An additional factor was that oysters were currently in their reproductive season, a time when their immunity is weak. Meanwhile, the weather in the province has been erratic, said Tho. Do Quoc Canh, chief of the provincial People’s Committee secretariat, said that the committee had received reports and proposals on support for farmers in Hau Loc and Hoang Hoa districts. - Talk Vietnam.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Major Solar System Disturbance - Meteorite Strikes Mahangu Field In Namibia, Africa!

May 13, 2013 - SKY - Thousands of people have flocked to the Omusati Region out of curiosity to view a small piece of meteorite that landed in a mahangu field in the village of Oshika, in Onesi Constituency, yesterday morning.


The incident created fear and panic among villagers who suggested the 'strange object' had something to do with the recent commotion over the 12 South African aircraft that were released after days of grounding at Ondangwa Airport. The aircraft of South African origin were grounded for several days and then sent back to South Africa, because they had no permits to use Namibian airspace.

People who came from all over the five northern regions, including the Kunene Region, flocking to Oshika, expressed fears that the tourists may have had something to do with the 'strange' object that fell in the mahangu field of Andreas Kamafo Ningilenimo.

"Maybe those people who came here with so many aircraft are responsible for this. Maybe that object is poisonous, we are scared, we won't even want to get close to it. If it is not taken away, we will not cultivate near it," said Selma Shikongo.

A piece of meteorite, the of a size of a small ball or two human fists put together made such an impact that people within a radius of over 200km were able to hear the explosive impact, feel the resulting tremor and observe the blinding light that followed as it landed.

A local engineer suggested that the object needs to be analysed to determine its chemical composition. According to the engineer, meteorites are rocks from outer space, and are referred to as meteors before they hit the ground. Once they hit the ground, the objects that are made of metallic substances, are then referred to as meteorites.

"They burn because of the high velocity at which they travel, that is why they look like burned metal when they hit the ground," said the engineer who requested anonimity. The engineer further said meteors are very fast and heavy which justifies the explosive sound and vibration while still in the air and as they hit the ground.

Selma Shikongo, the wife of Ningilenimo, said the incident took place at around 4.30 yesterday morning when the family was still in bed. "First we saw a light through our bedroom window, which my husband brushed off, thinking that it was car passing by. We then heard a sizzling sound, then a loud bang. The children ran to me saying that something had fallen near the entrance of the house, and we should run away. While I was comforting the children, we saw another bluish light - and once more there was a sizzling sound, then everything went silent," Shikongo explained.

According to Shikongo, the family went out of the house later in the morning in search for what had fallen but they couldn't find it immediately. It was only after they returned from the homestead of their neighbours, that they noticed the object that looked like burned metal lying in their own mahangu field - just a few metres from their homestead. That is when they reported the incident to the police. People who flocked to the scene from as far as the Oshana and Ohangwena regions, also claimed to have seen the light, while some claim to have heard the loud bang and even felt tremors.

"It sounded like a bomb, but it was so difficult to figure out the direction," said one person from the Ohangwena Region. Another person from the Oshana Region claimed that he saw the bright light through his bedroom window, but it was very fleeting, in the early morning hours. Simon Shingulu Josef a petrol attendant from Okaxwakangamba, a village near Outapi, said he was getting ready for work at around 4 o'clock in the morning when he saw a bright light accompanied by a whistling sound followed by explosive vibrations.

"The light came from the east to the west and it looked so bright, like the light of day and it was accompanied by a sizzling sound. The roof of my room was vibrating and I heard a loud bang that felt like a bomb exploding. When I came to work, people from faraway places, including Angola, were asking what had happened in Namibia," said Josef. Louise Geldenhuys, who was one of the thousands of people who went to witness the 'fallen star' said he had suspected that the unknown object was either a meteorite or something that came from space.

"But I suggested to the police officer that they should guard it, it could be valuable" he said. - All Africa.

SOLAR WATCH: Major X-Class Solar Flare Alert - The Sun Unleashes X1.7 Flare; Strongest Solar Flare Of 2013; Strong R3 Level Radio Blackout; Non-Earth Directed Coronal Mass Ejection!

May 13, 2013 - THE SUN - A major X-Class Solar Flare peaking at X1.7 was observed around an active region hiding off the east limb at 02:15 UTC, producing the strongest solar flare of the year so far.

A look at the major X1.7 solar flare.
Images by SDO/EVE.

This event was also responsible for a strong R3 Level Radio Blackout on the sunlit side of Earth. This region is currently seething with activity and should begin to rotate into view within the next 24 hours. Because of the sunspot location, any associated Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) should be directed away from Earth. 

X-Class Solar Flare peaking at X1.7 observed around an active region hiding off the east limb.

ALERT: Type II Radio Emission
Begin Time: 2013 May 13 0210 UTC
Estimated Velocity: 2347 km/s

SUMMARY: 10cm Radio Burst
Begin Time: 2013 May 13 0208 UTC
Maximum Time: 2013 May 13 0219 UTC
End Time: 2013 May 13 0222 UTC
Duration: 14 minutes
Peak Flux: 320 sfu
Description: A 10cm radio burst indicates that the electromagnetic burst associated with a solar flare at the 10cm wavelength was double or greater than the initial 10cm radio background. This can be indicative of significant radio noise in association with a solar flare. This noise is generally short-lived but can cause interference for sensitive receivers including radar, GPS, and satellite communications.

WATCH: X1.7 Solar Flare & CME - May 13, 2013.

Earlier, two moderate solar flares measuring M1.9 and M1.2 were also detected around a new active region off the east limb at 20:32 UTC and 22:44 UTC respectively on Sunday evening. This probable sunspot will rotate into view over the next few days.

Image by SDO.

The following video shows a large filament eruption on Saturday evening. This eruption was caused by an unstable filament of magnetism on the Earthside of the sun during late hours of May 11th to the early hours o May 12th. The event itself located in the northwest quadrant produced a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) that so far appears to be directed mostly away from Earth. The latest WSA-Enlil Solar Wind Prediction model suggests a possible glancing blow by May 15th, however geomagnetic activity is not expected from this eruption.

WATCH: Filament Eruption - May 11, 2013.

Emerging sunspots AR1745 and AR1746 pose a threat for M-class solar flares.

Credit: SDO/HMI

- Solar Ham.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Tracking Developments At The Giant Louisiana Sinkhole - Water Pouring Into Giant Louisiana Sinkhole After 4 Breeches In Containment Berm; Sinkhole Grew By 3 Acres Last Month To 15 Acres Total!

May 13, 2013 - UNITED STATES - According to Sonny Cranch with Texas Brine, heavy rain is to blame for the four breeches that opened in the containment berm before dawn Friday. Cranch says two of the four breeches have been repaired.

Western berm breach 5-10-13 (Source: Assumption Parish Police Jury).

About three weeks ago, officials decided to extend the berm wall because the primary berm wall was not holding its proper height and subsidence problems. They were 90 percent complete on the extension when the breeches happened.

"We made the decision to extend the western leg beyond that particular point to a point further west to assure that we would be in an area where there wouldn't be subsiding," said Texas Brine spokesperson Sonny Cranch.

Cranch says that slow sinking and Friday's rains caused the four breaches in the berm. He says the weather kept crews from repairing it.

Western berm breach 5-10-13 (Source: Assumption Parish Police Jury).

"In the meantime, we're taking all possible measures to prevent any, any possible escape of water from the within the immediate sinkhole area to the swampland beyond," said Cranch.

The berms are meant to contain any oil or salt from the sinkhole. Officials say the water flow coming into the berm area has stabilized and is no longer flowing. However, they have added a containment boom as a precautionary measure, around the outermost breech to keep possible contamination in the berm area.

WATCH: Water Pours Into Giant Louisiana Sinkhole After 4 Breeches.

The Department of Natural Resources is also keeping a close eye on developments in Bayou Corne.

"What we're trying to determine is there anything in the surrounding area that could create a future risk," said Patrick Courreges, Department of Natural Resources Communications Director. "We do know, as far as the surface area, the sinkhole probably will continue to get wider but shallower."

Aerial image of giant Louisiana sinkhole April 23, 2013 (Source: Assumption Parish OEP).

Courreges says scientists and crews are making progress in the search to find out what's going on underground. He says vent wells are releasing gases from the aquifer, and seismic imaging is complete. It just may take another month for their experts to analyze the images.

"The pressure to get folks answers and back in their homes is sometimes competing with the pressure to make sure we get this right. Because we cannot be...when we say it is safe for people to return home we cannot be wrong," said Courreges.

Courreges says it has been harder to get answers about what's going on with this particular sinkhole because they are dealing with nearly 5000 ft. of rock.

The sinkhole grew by three acres last month, bringing its total size to about 15 acres.

It has been nine months since hundreds living near the giant sinkhole were forced from their homes.

WATCH: Raw Video - Western Breach on May 10, 2013.

WATCH: Raw Video - Berm Breach on May 10, 2013.

Bubbles were spotted in Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou in June 2012. Two months later, the ground opened up and left a nine-acre sinkhole. Residents were evacuated and have been for the past seven months. Most affected residents began receiving weekly checks from Texas-Brine in the amount of $875 per week.

On March 13, Texas-Brine, the Houston based company that owns the salt dome that caused the sinkhole, announced it would begin assessing the homes and offering buyouts and settlements for the 350 people evacuated. - WAFB.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Town Being Swallowed By The Earth - Luxury California Neighborhood Abandoned As Landslips Cause Homes To Collapse!

May 13, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Homeowners in a wealthy Northern California neighborhood are facing a depressing reality.  The ground is swallowing their homes.  As the terrain continues to slide under roughly two-dozen houses in the small hillside community of Lakeside Heights, residents are struggling to figure out the root cause. 

Abandoned abode: Robin and Scott Spivey walk past the wreckage of their Tudor-style dream home they had to abandon when the ground gave way causing it to drop 10 feet below the street.

Potential water damage: Officials say water that has bubbled to the surface is playing a role, in the collapse of the hillside subdivision that has forced the evacuation of eight homes.
Uncertainty has led to growing fears and tensions in the community as homeowners and local officials continue to argue over who is responsible for the catastrophe.  The landslide, which began in late March, has damaged five homes so severely they are too dangerous to live in, while two of those homes are beyond repair and must be torn down.  The unstable terrain has led to the evacuation of eight homes and the notice of imminent evacuation of another 10.  The Lake County Board of Supervisors officially declared the site a local emergency on April 16.  The damage caused by the landslide is forcing the local government to move water and sewer lines, which could cost as much as $500,000, a county supervisor told The Press Democrat.  Lake County was shaped by earthquake fault movement and volcanic explosions which helped create the Coast Ranges of California.  Many natural hot springs and geysers receded underground in the early 1900s and have since been tapped for geothermal power, according to the Associated Press. 

Down home blues: In this photo taken Monday, May 6, 2013, the bedroom carpets hang from the home of Jagtar Singh, left, after the ground gave way in Lakeport, California.

Seemingly hopeless: Jagtar Singh gazes from the doorway of one of the bedrooms that collapsed as the ground gave way beneath his home.

Sign of danger: Shortly after Singh moved his wife, 4-year-old daughter and his parents out of the area, the hill behind his home collapsed.
Officials say water that has bubbled up to the surface is playing a role in the collapse of the hillside subdivision.  One report released by the Lake County government in early April cited a leak in a homeowner's irrigation line as a possible cause for water saturation along the hillside. The irrigation line was shut off to prevent further damage.  ‘Don't do half of the investigation,’ Fred Johnson, a local doctor, told state and county officials at a town meeting on April 29, as he held them responsible for finding the underlying cause of the problem.  Some residents say the the house-sinking dilemma may additionally be due to soil instability, while others are blaming it on ‘substandard work’ by the developers that built the collapsing homes there. 

Crack in the ground: Resident Randall Fitzgerald checks a fissure that has opened in a lot near his home in Lakeside Heights.

No more mail: A notice by the U.S. Postal Service warned residents of Lakeside Heights that due to the danger posed by the sinking ground, postal workers will no longer deliver mail to the area.

Desolate: Residents Janice and Mike Kropa walk past the empty homes of their neighbors who were forced to vacate as the ground beneath their houses began giving way.

The homes in Lakeside that are currently on the market were built as early as 1900 and as late as 2013, a search of properties on shows.  Others in Lakeside Heights are voicing fears of temporary evacuations and permanent loss of their houses, which are valued between $200,000 and $250,00, without relief of their monthly mortgage payments.  For now, the homeowners impacted by the landslide are being left to absorb their relocation and damage costs without a clear cause to place the blame on.  One resident told the Press Democrat that his insurance company said nothing could be done until the source of the problem was determined. - Daily Mail.

WATCH: California Neighborhood Sinking Into the Earth.