Wednesday, May 15, 2013

THE GREAT DELUGE: Experts Warn Risk To London From Rising Sea Levels "Worse Than Feared" - Melting Ice At The Poles Could Make Sea Levels Rise By Up To Three Feet!

May 15, 2013 - UNITED KINGDOM - Melting ice from the poles could make sea levels rise by up to three feet by the end of the century, scientists claim.  They claim there is a one in 20 chance that ocean levels around the British coast could be around a metre higher by 2100 as a result of climate change.  If such rises were to take place, London’s current sea defences would struggle to cope, with the capital at risk of flooding once a decade. 

How the South East could be hit: Researchers say the areas in red would be completely underwater, and believe the Thames Barrier would struggle to cope, with the capital at risk of flooding once a decade.

How melting glaciers cause sea rise: Using a model of ?medium? climate change, they expect ice melt will contribute between 3.5cm (1.4 in) and 36.8cm (14in) to average global sea levels by 2100. Warming temperatures also cause the sea to expand, in effect doubling the increase from ice melt.

The team of scientists from the European Ice2sea programme, including academics from the British Antarctic Survey and University of Bristol, are the first to try and accurately predict how polar ice melt will contribute to rises in future sea levels.  The authors say the report is the most detailed yet into the loss of ice from Greenland, Antarctica and glaciers.   Using a model of ‘medium’ climate change, they expect ice melt will contribute between 3.5cm (1.4 in) and 36.8cm (14in) to average global sea levels by 2100.  Warming temperatures also cause the sea to expand, in effect doubling the increase from ice melt.  

The Thames Barrier would struggle to cope with predicted storm surges, experts say, leaving London at risk of 'great floods'

Current defences are only adequate to provide protection to the one-in-one thousand years, shown by the dark black line. This would be substantially reduced with a change in regional sea level to approximately once in 12 years with a metre rise, the researchers say.

Once this is taken into account, alongside storm surges and weather patterns, the team say the ‘best guess’ for overall rise in sea levels globally could be from 6cm (2.4in) up to 69cm (27in).  Rises at the more extreme end of the scale would spell disaster for small Pacific island states like Tuvalu, and other low-lying nations such as the Maldives.  Cities inhabited by millions, including London and New York, will also have to have to build up defences.   Professor David Vaughan, of the British Antarctic Survey who is coordinating the programme, said: ‘Today as the glaciers and ice sheets lose their ice, the water that they once held has melted and flowed in to rivers and seas, increasing their volume and raising global sea levels.  ‘Current rates of sea level rise are already having impacts on the most vulnerable communities and ecosystems.  ‘It is likely some future ice loss and sea level rise is now unavoidable.

Ice2sea projections of regional variations in sea-level rise to 2100: The top image shows the 'mid-range' scenario of ice loss, and bottom the 'high-end' scenario. These scenarios were developed from ice2sea projections and take account of uncertainty in emissions, global climate, and glacial projections. The black lines show the contour of mean global sea-level rise due to continental ice-loss, thermal expansion of the oceans.

The team predict the rises could entirely wipe out the Maldives.

'But nevertheless, understanding why changes are occurring today and how they could increase in the future is the first step in maintaining the security of our coastal regions for future generations.’  The researchers said if climate change continued to accelerate, it would lead to bigger sea level rises and more extreme storm surges.  And they said rises in sea levels would not stop after 2100, with increases between 2100 and 2200 likely to be much greater than during the 21st century.  Capitals around the world would be hit.  Floods like brought by Superstorm Sandy could begin to devastate New York City every two years as sea levels rise by five feet by the year 2100, according to the startling new predictions released by climate scientists.  The sea level projections mean that much smaller floods will produce more catastrophic effects on the city. New York was proven to be extremely vulnerable by the 11-foot storm surge that battered the city in October.  The new data could reignite debate over whether the city should construct a $17billion system of flood barriers and spend another $12billion shoring up outlying areas of the city like the Rockaway Peninsula. - Daily Mail.

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: Plague Of Biblical Proportions - Israel Battles Huge Swarms Of Millions Of Locusts?!

May 15, 2013 - ISRAEL - Israel’s Negev Desert is alive – with locusts. Huge swarms of the newly hatched critters have begun marching across the sand, devouring everything in their path.

With the help of high-tech irrigation methods, much of Israel’s desert has been transformed into lush farmland that supplies supermarkets across the country with fresh produce. But the swarm of locusts, which locals say is the worst infestation in decades, is threatening crops and farms.

Israel’s Agriculture Ministry has deployed pickup trucks, planes and helicopters to spray pesticides on the locusts before they can inflict more damage.

“They are easy targets now, but in two or three days when their wings develop, it will be a disaster,” said Lior Katari, one of the Agriculture Ministry’s coordinators.

Adult locusts arrived in the area in March. Scientists say they likely originated in Sudan and crossed from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula into Israel. Then they mated and laid billions of eggs in the sand which are now hatching.

Teams of exterminators are working from sunrise to sunset, spraying the millions of young locusts as they move across the ground.

NBC News spent a few hours with a team of sprayers
equipped with a large tank of insecticide in a 4 x 4 pickup truck on Sunday. They received constant updates from observers in helicopters and colleagues on the ground telling them where to go.

“Quickly, we need to go to Revavim! It’s full of them,” said Yigal Maria, a specialist exterminator drafted from northern Israel to help out, referring to a small community near the border with Egypt.

His assistant, Yuval Bashari, leaned out of the window with a spray gun, dousing the locusts with pesticides.

“Look over there, you see all that green? It’s locusts! Can you believe it?” Bashari shouted.

The ground was covered with what looked like a slow-moving green carpet. Millions of locusts, all moving in the same direction, made a loud rustling sound as they devoured everything in their path.

WATCH: Israeli farmers battle plague of locusts. The Negev Desert is alive – with locusts. Huge swarms of the newly hatched critters have begun marching across the land, devouring everything in their path.

The spray team started to circle the swarm, moving slowly from the outer edge inwards. The locusts panicked, trying to leap out of the way of the vehicle and the milky white spray. Many perished under the wheels of the vehicle. It took about 30 minutes to finish them off.

“Let’s go, we are finished here,” Maria shouted. “We need to eat something before they call us again.”

The insecticides worked – but that doesn’t help organic farmers who can’t use pesticides.

“They were eating the weeds at first, they were small, so we ignored them,” said Golan Cohen, the owner of an organic farm that grows desert herbs used in the United States for medical research.

But when things got bad, they resorted to non-invasive, but also less effective, means to ward off the menace.

WATCH: Experts estimate that a swarm of 30 million locusts in Egypt will cause severe crop damage. The correlation to the plague of locusts in the Bible has the Internet buzzing.

“At first we just made noise, banging pots and shouting – and it worked,” said Dror Cohen-Chen, a worker on Cohen’s farm near the Egyptian border. But that technique didn’t last long.

“The next day we came back and they had destroyed everything,” said Cohen.

As he spoke, a busload of volunteers turned up to help.

“It’s really warming the heart to see [the volunteers]. It’s strengthening us, because we had a very hard week of struggling with the locusts.”

Eli Hanev, a sunburned and dust-covered local, had been up since dawn spraying pesticides in another area. He sauntered up to the organic farm, a 9mm pistol on his hip.

“Three thousand years ago God sent the Egyptians a plague of locusts, now we are getting them back….” he said, the rest of his sentence drowned out by a helicopter swooping low overhead. - NBC News.

EXTREME WEATHER: Hurricane Season Begins - Tropical Storm Alvin Forms Off The Coast Of Mexico!

May 15, 2013 - MEXICO - A tropical depression formed far off Mexico's Pacific coast on Wednesday morning, making it the first tropical cyclone of the Eastern Pacific hurricane season, forecasters said. The system is expected to become a hurricane but there is no threat to land.

Forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) had been following the weather system since Tuesday when a broad area of low pressure formed about 650 miles (1,045 kilometers) south of Acapulco, a major sea port on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. It quickly became better organized and strengthened into a tropical depression on early Wednesday.

The latest forecast path and wind speeds from the National Hurricane Center.

As of 8 a.m. PDT (1500 GMT), the center of Tropical Depression One-E was located about 650 miles (1,045 kilometers) south-southwest of Acapulco. It is moving toward the west at a speed near 12 miles (19 kilometers) per hour, according to hurricane specialist Robbie Berg at the NHC.

Wednesday also marked the first day of the 2013 Eastern Pacific hurricane season. "The Eastern North Pacific hurricane season has wasted no time getting started," Berg said. "The low pressure system that we have been monitoring south of the Mexican coast became better organized overnight, and a nearly unbroken band of deep convection now wraps around the southern and western side of the circulation."

Maximum sustained winds of One-E are near 35 miles (55 kilometers) per hour, with higher gusts, bringing it near tropical storm strength. The depression is expected to continue to strengthen and is likely to become a tropical storm by late Wednesday, and a hurricane by Friday.

"The depression is embedded in a zone of upper-level diffluence to the east of the subtropical jet, and it will be traversing the warmest waters of the Eastern North Pacific over the next few days," Berg explained. "This should support strengthening for at least the next 3 to 4 days before the system reaches strong upper-level westerlies and approach cooler waters."

So, where exactly is the cyclone's center located now? If you're plotting the storm along with us, you can get the latitude/longitude coordinates, distance away from the nearest land location, maximum sustained winds and central pressure (measured in millibars). 

The weather system, which will be called Alvin after it reaches tropical storm strength, is expected to remain far from land throughout the entire forecast. "Even though a mid-level trough is likely to amplify in the vicinity of California in the coming days, the depression is so far south that any effects on steering should be minimal," Berg said.

Tropical Depression One-E is the first tropical cyclone of the 2013 Eastern Pacific hurricane season, which was officially due to start on Wednesday. NOAA's Climate Prediction Center is expected to release a detailed forecast for this year's hurricane seasons sometime later this month.

How does the system look on satellite imagery. Click on "infrared" satellite imagery, to see how "cold" the cloud tops are. Brighter orange and red shadings concentrated near the center of circulation signify a healthy tropical cyclone.

An average Eastern Pacific hurricane season produces 15 to 16 named storms, with eight to nine becoming hurricanes and four becoming major hurricanes. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season runs from May 15 through November 30, with peak activity from July through September. - Wire Update.

WATCH: Hurricane Season Begins.

ICE AGE NOW: A Year Without Spring - Two Inches Of Snow, One Month's Rainfall In A Day And 65mph Winds Hit Britain In The Middle Of May?!

May 15, 2013 - UNITED KINGDOM - When the country basked in temperatures warmer than the Mediterranean  earlier this month, it seemed spring had finally sprung.  But just two weeks later, the weather is not so much balmy as barmy.  Villagers woke yesterday to discover two inches of snow in rural  Shropshire, while blizzards caught walkers and cyclists by surprise on the Cumbrian Pennines. 

Making their way: Ramblers tried their best to battle through the snow in the Pennines in Cumbria.

Tough conditions: Snow blizzards fall across the Pennines in Cumbria today, forcing ramblers to wrap up warm.

And in Devon – where businesses are turning their thoughts to the summer tourist trade – snow  flurries gave villages a winter  wonderland theme.  The scenes prompted Ladbrokes to slash the odds of snow falling over the bank holiday weekend.  Elsewhere, Devon and Cornwall were lashed by 65mph gales which caused power cuts, ripped slates from roofs and felled trees and telephone lines, while parts of Carmarthenshire were soaked with three inches of rain – a month’s worth in just one day.  Blizzards also fell over Wales as the unseasonal conditions swept north east towards the Pennines and Newcastle upon Tyne.  The miserable weather was a far cry from the May Day weekend, when temperatures peaked at 22C (71.6F) at Heathrow and Doncaster – a degree higher than parts of the Mediterranean.

Christmas scenes: Unseasonal snowy scenes greeted people waking up in Newcastle-on-Clun, Shrospshire.

Covered: Residents in the Shropshire village of Newcastle-on-Clun couldn't believe their eyes when they awoke.

Unusual scene: Mr Shackleton said he had only previously seen snow in Princetown, Devon, in the 1990s.

Yesterday Polly Smith, who lives near the village of Newcastle-on-Clun in Shropshire, said she was shocked to see snow covering her car and garden when she pulled back her bedroom curtains.  ‘We’ve been here 28 years and it is the first time we’ve had snow in May,’ she said.  Several roads in the county were also closed due to flash flooding.Around 1,800 homes around Penzance, Cornwall, were hit by power cuts caused by fierce winds.  Forecasters said the snow was caused by very wet and windy weather in the affected areas, combined with cooler than normal temperatures after sunset.  The Met Office said the last widespread snowfall in May was on May 17, 1955, when it covered much of England and Wales.  

Difficult for drivers: Snow blizzards fall across the Pennines in Cumbria, covering vehicles and roads in snow.

Cold grip: A snowball is held in the Pennines in Cumbria after an unusual amount of snow fell for mid-May.

Slippery surfaces: A car is covered in a layer of snow after blizzards fell across the Pennines in Cumbria.

Helen Chivers, from the Met Office, said: ‘Over the higher fells we would expect to see snow falling on between two to four days in May. It’s fairly rare but it’s not exceptional.’  The wet and windy weather is expected to continue today and tomorrow, with conditions likely to remain unsettled into next week.The Environment Agency said 16 flood alerts remained in place yesterday across Wales, the Midlands, the South East and South West.  Temperatures are likely to remain slightly below the May average of 16C (61F) in the North, and only marginally better further south.  ÷ Last month was the joint coldest April since 1989, averaging a temperature of 6.3C (43.3F), according to the Met Office. It shares the dubious honour with April last year.'  - Daily Mail.

WATCH: May Snow in Cumbria.

EXTREME WEATHER: The Atlantic Hurricane Season - Three United States Landfalls Predicted!

May 15, 2013 - ATLANTIC OCEAN - After a devastating blow to the East from Superstorm Sandy in October of 2012, residents and homeowners on the Atlantic coast should anticipate another active season in 2013.'s long-range team predicts 16 named tropical storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes for the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season. Of these, three are predicted to make landfall in the United States.

Atlantic Hurricane Season Key Points:

1. The season may begin quickly this year with development in the Caribbean in June.
2. is predicting strong storms this year with a strength of category 2 or higher.
3. Areas along the East coast to the Gulf of Mexico are at risk for impacts from a tropical system.

Warm water across the Atlantic and Caribbean, paired with less frequent wind shear, may result in an above-normal number of storms. The normal number of named tropical storms in a given year is 12, according to NOAA.

Additionally, 2013 could set the stage for stronger storms than were seen in 2012.

Episodes of Saharan dust, a factor that can stifle a storm's development, may be less frequent this season. The reduced amount of dust may allow storms with a strength of category 2 or higher to develop.

The season is predicted to be normal in development, compared to last year when two storms were named before the official start of Atlantic hurricane season, June 1.

Should storms brew early in the season, from late May to early June, the season total for storms may be even higher than originally forecast.

Last year's early storms were an "anomaly," Expert Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said. "We think that this year will be more in line with a typical active season."

The biggest concerns for the upcoming season include development in the Gulf of Mexico, an impact in Florida and also another East Coast impact.

Florida is long overdue for a direct hurricane hit, Kottlowski said. Though they have been impacted by named tropical storms in the last couple of years, a direct hit by a hurricane has not occurred since Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

Concern is high for the East because of the remaining devastation as a result of the October 2012 landfall of Superstorm Sandy.

"It would be very difficult for a storm to hit right where Sandy hit," Kottlowski said. However, impacts such as storm surge, strong winds and heavy rain are possible as far as a few hundred miles from a storm, he explained.

The areas impacted by Sandy remain vulnerable as powerful storm surge wreaked havoc on the dune systems that were in place along the coast. Without dunes, there is increased potential for severe inland flooding.

Overall, however, the exact areas to be directly impacted this season and the severity of those impacts remain unclear.

"Those are very, very difficult to compute early in the season," Kottlowski said. "As we get into the season and see how things are setting up, then it becomes a little bit more noticeable." - AccuWeather.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Cleveland And Pavlof - Lava Flows Detected On Two Restless Volcanoes In Alaska!

May 15, 2013 - ALASKAScientists say small lava flows have been detected on two restless volcanoes in Alaska. The Alaska Volcano Observatory says satellite images on Tuesday show the lava partly down a flank of Pavlof Volcano in a low-level eruption, 625 miles southwest of Anchorage.

Activity: The Alaska Volcano Observatory says satellite images Tuesday show the lava partly down a flank of Pavlof Volcano in a low-level eruption 625 miles southwest of Anchorage.

Geophysicist Dave Schneider says minor steam and ash emissions are visible from the community of Cold Bay 37 miles away. Pavlof is the second Alaska volcano to erupt this month. Cleveland Volcano, on an uninhabited island in the Aleutian Islands, experienced a low-level eruption in early May.

The observatory says analysis of satellite imagery shows a lava flow partly down a flank of the volcano.

Ash plumes can be an aviation hazard, but no ash clouds have been detected from Cleveland Volcano in the past week.

The reported eruption comes just days after a report that scientists monitoring Alaska's volcanoes have been forced to shut down stations that provide real-time tracking of eruptions and forgo repairs of seismic equipment amid ongoing federal budget cuts - moves that could mean delays in getting vital information to airline pilots and emergency planners.

Volcano: Pavlof is the second Alaska volcano to erupt this month.

The Alaska Volcano Observatory can no longer seismically monitor five volcanoes with real-time equipment to detect imminent eruptions.

Such equipment is especially important in helping pilots receive up-to-the-minute warnings about spewing ash that can cause engine failures and other problems.
Alaska has 52 active volcanoes, with many of them located on the Aleutians Islands along international air routes between Europe, North America and Asia. - Daily Mail.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Massive Underwater Volcano Has Been Discovered Off The Coast Of Southeast Alaska!

May 15, 2013 - ALASKA - About 10,000 years ago, give or take a couple thousand years, a volcano blew its top in the middle of Behm Canal. The crater is still there, covered by 150 feet or so of ocean. But when the volcano exploded many thousands of years ago, it was not underwater. That’s what makes it so interesting.

Well, that and the fact that nobody currently living knew it was even there until just a few weeks ago.

U.S. Forest Service Geologist Jim Baichtal, who is based on Prince of Wales Island, and Anchorage USGS geologist Sue Karl were looking at some hydrographic surveys, something geologists tend to do.

When we were done, I noticed the area from Thorne Arm to Rudyerd had been surveyed,” Baichtal said. “I zoomed in and there was this large… some kind of volcano, and two other dome-like structures.”

Karl added that, “This new NOAA survey allowed us to see things that people had never seen before.”

This graphic image provided by Forest Service Geologist Jim Baichtal shows the newly discovered volcano in Behm Canal near Misty Fiords National Monument.

Baichtal and Karl were in Ketchikan recently. They came by KRBD, along with UAS Juneau geology professor Cathy Connor, to talk about the underwater volcano.

Baichtal said that after spotting the cone-shaped mass, he used a special computer program to look more closely at the surveys, and they could see the vent still was intact. They also could tell that it erupted in the air, even though it’s now under quite a bit of water. But, how could they tell that, just by looking at it?

“Because of the shape of the feature itself, it talks about cinders, or some kind of ash that’s airfall,” he said. “It’s an airfall deposit that forms this … cone.”

Karl said a modern example of a similar eruption is Surtsey, a volcanic island in Iceland, which erupted from the sea floor in the 1960s, building itself up and eventually breaching the surface to form the island.

Karl points out that when the newly discovered volcano erupted, sea levels also were lower than they are now, but even with that, “We still have too much depth. We have to call on glacial loading and rebound.”

OK. What does that mean?

“When you get a thousand feet of ice sitting on the ground, it is very heavy,” she explains. “It actually depresses the earth’s crust. After the glacier melts back, the earth will rebound.”

Like a trampoline, or waterbed, but at a much slower pace.

“So at one time, in Misty Fiords, there was close to 4,000 foot of ice on that site, so the weight of that ice at least pushed down (created) as high as 400 feet of displacement,” Baichtal added.

So, in summary, the volcano erupted within the last 13,000 years, after the ice retreated, as the land was slowly bouncing back, and when sea levels were lower. They figured out most of this stuff just from examining the surveys.

But Baichtal wanted to see it in person, or as close to in person as possible. Luckily, he knows some people who can make that happen: Gary Freitag, with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Marine Advisory Program, and Barbara Morgan with Oceans Alaska. They have an ROV, or remote operated vehicle. It’s a small device that can dive to the bottom of the ocean, get clear video or photographs, and collect samples.

On an unseasonably snowy May morning, they went out with Baichtal on an Allen Marine boat to look for what he calls the “wee beastie on the bottom of the sea.” Using location data from the survey charts, the skipper was able to “park” the catamaran right on top of the crater, and they quickly sent the ROV into the water.

“From that, we could see the angle of the slopes,” he said. “We did one deep dive, about 340 feet down. You could kind of tell the way the thing was put together. The lower material was … lava that was quenched in the marine environment, and the upper stuff was the airfall.”

They also grabbed two rock samples, which will be chemically analyzed to determine a more exact age for the eruption.

Baichtal notes that southern Southeast Alaska isn’t well known for its volcanoes, but there are quite a few in this region.

“We know that we have a lot of volcanoes out in the Aleutians, but if you talk about volcanoes in Southeast, everybody imagines Edgecumbe … when in fact, south of Craig and south of Ketchikan here, we actually have a much larger number of vents and a bigger volcanic complex. It’s just less known,” he said.

That’s because some are underwater, and those that aren’t are covered by trees. Karl said as people explore more of the area’s wilderness, they’re discovering more vents.

Volcanoes show up along faults in the earth’s crust, so when the fault moves enough to expose magma, that can lead to a volcanic eruption. Since faults don’t go away, volcanic eruptions in Southeast Alaska are possible in the future.

“With the evidence that we have and the geologic age of the things that are there, there is no reason why it couldn’t,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it did.”

But, Karl said people shouldn’t get anxious about it.

“We have much better technology for detecting the initiation of one of these sorts of things now,” she said. “I don’t think people need to get too worried.”

The newly discovered volcano is very close to New Eddystone Rock, which is what’s left over from another volcano, which may have erupted around the same time frame. They are both near the entrance to Misty Fiords National Monument. - KRBD.

PLANETARY TREMORS: The Makran Subduction Zone - Western Indian Ocean Earthquake And Tsunami Hazard Potential Greater Than Previously Thought!

May 15, 2013 - INDIAN OCEAN - Earthquakes similar in magnitude to the 2004 Sumatra earthquake could occur in an area beneath the Arabian Sea at the Makran subduction zone, according to recent research published in Geophysical Research Letters. The research was carried out by scientists from the University of Southampton based at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton (NOCS), and the Pacific Geoscience Centre, Natural Resources Canada.

The location of the Makran subduction zone of Pakistan and Iran and locations of recorded earthquakes including the 1945 magnitude 8.1 earthquake (red dot to the north indicates the 1947 magnitude 7.3 earthquake). The profile for the thermal modelling of this study is the N-S trending black line, with distance given along the profile from the shallowest part of the subduction zone in the south (0 kilometers) to the most northern potential earthquake rupture extent (350 kilometers). Credit: University of Southampton Ocean and Earth Science.

The study suggests that the risk from undersea earthquakes and associated tsunami in this area of the Western Indian Ocean - which could threaten the coastlines of Pakistan, Iran, Oman, India and potentially further afield - has been previously underestimated. The results highlight the need for further investigation of pre-historic earthquakes and should be fed into hazard assessment and planning for the region.

Subduction zones are areas where two of the Earth's tectonic plates collide and one is pushed beneath the other. When an earthquake occurs here, the seabed moves horizontally and vertically as the pressure is released, displacing large volumes of water that can result in a tsunami.

The Makran subduction zone has shown little earthquake activity since a magnitude 8.1 earthquake in 1945 and magnitude 7.3 in 1947. Because of its relatively low seismicity and limited recorded historic earthquakes it has often been considered incapable of generating major earthquakes.

Plate boundary faults at subduction zones are expected to be prone to rupture generating earthquakes at temperatures of between 150 and 450 C. The scientists used this relationship to map out the area of the potential fault rupture zone beneath the Makran by calculating the temperatures where the plates meet. Larger fault rupture zones result in larger magnitude earthquakes.

"Thermal modelling suggests that the potential earthquake rupture zone extends a long way northward, to a width of up to 350 kilometres which is unusually wide relative to most other subduction zones," says Gemma Smith, lead author and PhD student at University of Southampton School of Ocean and Earth Science, which is based at NOCS.

The team also found that the thickness of the sediment on the subducting plate could be a contributing factor to the magnitude of an earthquake and tsunami there.

"If the sediments between the plates are too weak then they might not be strong enough to allow the strain between the two plates to build up," says Smith. "But here we see much thicker sediments than usual, which means the deeper sediments will be more compressed and warmer. The heat and pressure make the sediments stronger. This results in the shallowest part of the subduction zone fault being potentially capable of slipping during an earthquake.

"These combined factors mean the Makran subduction zone is potentially capable of producing major earthquakes, up to magnitude 8.7-9.2. Past assumptions may have significantly underestimated the earthquake and tsunami hazard in this region."

Smith, G.L., McNeill, L.C., Wang, K., He, J., and Henstock, T.J., 2013, Thermal structure and megathrust seismogenic potential of the Makran subduction zone: Geophys. Res. Lett., 40, doi:10.1002/grl.50374. - Terra Daily.

SOLAR WATCH: Monumental Activities On The Sun - Sunspot 1748 Unleashes X1.2 Solar Flare, The 4th Major Flare In Just 2 Days, The Strongest Flares Of The Year, Packing The Power Of Millions Of 100-Megaton Hydrogen Bombs, Active Region Now Earth-Facing!

May 15, 2013 - SUNNOAA forecasters estimate a 50% chance of X-class solar flares and an 80% chance of M-class solar flares today. The source would be active sunspot AR1748, which is turning toward Earth.

Sunspot 1748 does it again. When the week began, the sun hadn't unleashed an X-flare all year long. In only two days, sunspot AR1748 has produced four. The latest X-flare from this active sunspot occurred on May 15th at 0152 UT. The eruption was associated with Type II and IV Sweep Frequency Events and a 10cm Radio Burst (Ten Flare) measuring 490 sfu. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured the extreme ultraviolet flash:

X1-class flare.
X1-class flare.

The latest X-Flare event did generate a Coronal Mass Ejection. Because the blast location is still not in prime position, a majority of the plasma was directed away from Earth.

Predicting when a solar flare will happen is an imperfect science. Some sunspots will grow into large clusters without producing much in the way of activity. Others depending on the right magnetic conditions will continue to produce strong solar flares. Sunspot 1748 is a prime example.

Attached image by SDO using the 171 angstroms channel captures what is known as Coronal Loops magnetically attached between north and south polarity positions within a sunspot group. When these Coronal Loops cross paths, this is one of the mechanisms that can trigger a solar flare event. In the attached image you will see before and after shots of both the X3.2 and X1.2 flare events. Notice the Coronal Loops before the eruption and then again after. The solar flare event will alleviate some of the built up energy and the surrounding loops will disperse. Once energy is allowed to build up again and Coronal Loops emerge, another flare event may be possible.

There does appear to be a very minor Earth directed component, however it should have only a minor effect on our geomagnetic field at best.

X1-class flare.

In summary, AR1748 has produced an X1.7-class flare (0217 UT on May 13), an X2.8-class flare (1609 UT on May 13), an X3.2-class flare (0117 UT on May 14), and an X1-class flare (0152 on May 15). These are the strongest flares of the year, and they signal a significant increase in solar activity.

Screenshots of each Solar Flare event.

10cm Radio Burst
Begin Time: 2013 May 15 0133 UTC
Maximum Time: 2013 May 15 0143 UTC
End Time: 2013 May 15 0150 UTC
Duration: 17 minutes
Peak Flux: 490 sfu

X1-class flare.

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: Major X1.2 Solar Flare - May 15, 2013.

Although AR1748 is not directly facing Earth, its strong flares have nevertheless affected our atmosphere. UV and X-radiation hitting the top of the atmosphere ionizes atoms and molecules, creating ion waves over the dayside of the planet. Roberto Battaiola detected these waves on May 13th using a Sudden Ionospheric Disturbance monitor in Milan, Italy:

Sudden ionospheric disturbances--"SIDs" for short--make themselves known by the effect they have on low-frequency radio signals. When a SID passes by, the atmosphere overhead becomes an good reflector for radio waves, allowing signals to be received from distant transmitters. Battaiola monitored a faraway 21.75 kHz radio station to monitor the SIDs over his location. More SIDS are in the offing as NOAA forecasters estimate an 80% chance of M-flares and a 50% chance of X-flares during the next 24 hours.

Four images from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory of an X3.2-class flare from late at night on May 13, 2013. Starting in the upper left and going clockwise, the images show the flare in four different wavelengths. (Image: NASA/SDO)

Now, last night the sun unleashed its latest tirade: the third flare in as many days, and the most powerful one in 2013 so far. Exploding from the Sun’s surface with energy equivalent to millions of 100-megaton hydrogen bombs, the flare spewed intense radiation into space. It peaked last night at 9:11 p.m. EDT. It was not directed toward Earth, but NASA says solar material from all three of the recent flares will pass by the Spitzer Space Telescope  and could give a “glancing blow” to the STEREO-B and Epoxi spacecraft. All these spacecraft can be put into a protective safe mode.

The latest eruption was characterized as an X3.2-class flare. The X-class category is the most powerful, and each step up in number indicates a doubling of energy. So this flare was more than twice as powerful as Sunday’s X1.7-class flare. The panel of images above, from NASA’s Earth-orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft, shows the massive eruption of energy in four different wavelengths. Each panel shows what was happening at a different temperature. According to NASA, this provides scientists with insights into the causes of solar flares.

SOURCES: Solar Ham | Space Weather | Discover.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Global Volcano Report For May 14, 2013 - Updates On Sakurajima, Pavlov, Popocatépetl, Santa María, Santiaguito, Pacaya, Fuego, Reventador, Tungurahua And Sabancaya!

May 15, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing reports of volcanoes across the globe.

Sakurajima (Kyushu, Japan): Explosive activity has picked up again at the volcano. Today alone, several explosions have occurred, two of which of moderately large size with ash plumes reaching 10,000 and 12,000 ft (3 and 3.7 km) altitude. (VAAC Tokyo)

WATCH: Latest explosions at Mount Sakurajima.

Pavlov (Alaska Peninsula, USA): Seismic activity has decreased today, but remains elevated. MODIS data confirm a hot spot at the summit, which could suggest a small lava flow there...

MODIS hot spot data (past 2 days) for Pavlov volcano (ModVolc, Univ. Hawaii)

13 May: A new eruption has probably started. AVO raised the alert level to orange, following an increase in seismic activity this morning along with the presence of an intense thermal anomaly at the summit observed in latest satellite imagery.

Similar patterns of seismicity and elevated surface temperatures have previously signalled the onset of eruptive activity at Pavlof. Although not yet visually confirmed, a low-level eruption of lava has likely begun from a summit vent. No ash clouds have been detected... [read more]

Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): Activity has been lower today with lesser earthquakes and intermittent emissions.

Current seismic recording from Popocatépetl.

Santa María / Santiaguito (Guatemala): Activity has been generally low recently, with infrequent small explosions and occasional small avalanches produced from the weakly active lava flows on the dome's flanks.

Pacaya (Guatemala): Activity seems to have decreased. INSIVUMEH no longer reports and strombolian activity visible or audible.

Fuego (Guatemala): Activity has remained stable and at relatively low levels over the past days. The volcano has few weak to moderate strombolian-type explosions every now and then (5-10 per day), which produce small ash plumes rising up to 5-700 m above the crater.

Reventador (Ecuador): IG reported continued moderate activity with occasional (mostly unobserved) small explosions.

Tungurahua (Ecuador): IGPEN reports ongoing strombolian activity with lava ejected to 200 m above the crater, continuing emissions of steam and ash and occasional strong explosions with roaring sounds that produce ash columns up to 3 km high. Ashfall was reported overnight 12-13 May in the sector of Manzano.

Sabancaya (Peru): The possible ash emissions on 9 May have not been confirmed, but unrest in the form of increased earthquake activity and ground deformation has increased since early May, the Geophysical Institute of Peru (IGP) reported in its press release on 10 May.

Ground deformation (deflation) at Sabancaya volcano measured by InSAR (IGP).

So-called "hybrid" earthquakes (related to both the fracturing of rock and fluid movements) have increased since 2 May, while purely volcanic-tectonic quakes have remained stable... [read more]

Complete Earthquake list (worldwide) for May 14, 2013.

ICE AGE NOW: A Year Without Spring - Record Cold In The American Midwest And Northeast; Record Cold Springtime In Alaska; Still The Coldest Spring In US History?!

May 15, 2013 - UNITED STATES - It felt more like late March than mid-May across the Midwest and the interior mid-Atlantic on Sunday and Monday as cold Canadian air penetrated the United States once again this spring.

This cold snap began early on Saturday afternoon when a cold front pushed through the Great Lakes. Cold air filtered in behind this front and was accompanied by rain and snow showers that lasted into Sunday morning across Michigan and Wisconsin.

While temperatures fell to below 40 as far south as Arkansas and as far east as New York, snow through Sunday morning accumulated up to 5.5 inches in Sault Ste Marie, Mich.

These cold temperatures pushed eastward on Mother's Day with highs in the Ohio Valley running 15 degrees below normal. High temperatures ran as cold as 10 degrees below normal around this area from Minnesota through Mississippi and up into Pennsylvania.

With a mainly clear sky and low winds on Sunday night, record lows were set from Illinois to Tennessee and into Virginia with another night of sub-40 temperatures.

Kenton, Mich., dropped as low as 17 degrees F on Monday morning, while Silver Bay, Minn., plummeted to 18 degrees F on Monday morning.

This record-challenging cold continued through Monday with the coldest air being centered over central Pennsylvania and southwestern New York.

Sampling of Record Lows Set Monday Morning

With temperatures forecast to dip to or below freezing both on Monday and Monday night, farmers and homeowners were forced to take extra precautions to ensure that their plants do not get harmed from the freezing temperatures.

The good news is that relief from these unseasonably cold temperatures is on the way.

A warm front will lift through the Midwest today allowing hot air from the southern Plains to move into the region. Temperatures will rebound to around normal across the Ohio Valley and above normal west of Indiana.

With this front taking aim at the Northeast on Wednesday, the cold temperatures will be forced to retreat into New England. - AccuWeather.

Still The Coldest Spring In US History.
Almost half way through May, 2013 is still the coldest meteorological spring in US history. This year may finish spring warmer than 1917, but that is yet to be seen. Last year was the warmest spring in US history, with 1910 being the second warmest.

There has been no trend in springtime temperatures in the US since at least 1895. - Real Science.

Record Cold Springtime In Alaska.
The central and eastern United States are not the only areas experiencing a colder-than-average spring. Alaska is also hanging on to winter's chill and snow.

The five-week period from April 3 to May 7 was the coldest in 109 years of record keeping at Fairbanks, Alaska, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

Temperatures during this period averaged only 19.9 degrees and broke the old record for the same stretch of days set in 1924.

According to Expert Senior Meteorologist Joe Lundberg, "Fairbanks has not had a day above 50 degrees since Oct. 4, 2012."

The chilly streak was the fourth longest on record.

The normal high for May 8 is 58 degrees at Fairbanks.

While winter is finally breaking over much of Alaska this week, it has be a slow start to spring in much of the Last Frontier. ( image)

To go along with the cold, the city still had 10 inches of snow on the ground as of the midday hours on May 8, this was despite having a near-average amount of snow for the winter season at 68.5 inches. The average amount for Fairbanks is 64.5 inches.

Snow has been consistently covering the ground since Oct. 15 in Fairbanks.

As of May 8, there is about 18 hours of daylight.

In Nome, Alaska, temperatures have averaged close to 10 degrees below normal for the first week of May and 5 degrees below normal since April 1.

Farther south in Alaska, Anchorage only recently lost its snow cover.

"May 3 was the last day with 0.50 of an inch or greater of snow on the ground, and there has been snow consistently on the ground since Nov. 13," Lundberg said.

The record for the greatest number of days with 0.50 of an inch or more of snow on the ground for Anchorage is 193 days set during the winter of 1971-72, when snow was on the ground from Oct. 23 to May 3.

Anchorage has received about 92 inches of snow so far this winter season, compared to a normal of about 75 inches.

During the prior winter, Anchorage set a seasonal snowfall record with 134.5 inches. The old record was 132.6 inches during the winter of 1954-55, according to the NWS.

Interestingly, all 133 inches of snow from the winter of 2011-12 had melted by April 25.

"This just goes to show how consistently cold this spring has been over a large part of Alaska," Lundberg added.

Temperatures are forecast to reach the 50s to near 60 degrees over a large part of central and southern Alaska for multiple days over the next week, bringing closure to the winter for many folks over the Last Frontier. - AccuWeather.

EXTREME WEATHER: The Disaster Impact - Tropical Cyclone Mahasen Capsize Boats Carrying Scores Of Rohinya Refugees In Myanmar, Up To 150 Persons Possibly Dead!

May 15, 2013 - MYANMAR Several boats carrying as many as 150 people are believed to have capsized near the western coast of Myanmar as local residents scrambled to avoid a storm that's approaching the area, a U.N. agency said Tuesday.

The boats ferrying Rohingya, a long-suffering Muslim minority, are reported to have run into trouble on Monday night as they traveled from Pauktaw township in Myanmar's Rakhine state, said Kirsten Mildren, a spokeswoman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Bangkok.

One of the boats was towing the others, and between them they were believed to be carrying 100 to 150 people, she said, noting that the exact number of boats and people involved is uncertain as conflicting reports from Rakhine continue to emerge.

Some people are reported to have survived and made it to dry land, according to Mildren. Hindered by heavy rain and choppy waters, rescuers have found some bodies floating near the scene of the disaster, she said.

WATCH: Tropical cyclone Mahasen heads for shore - Evacuations are under way in Bangladesh and Myanmar as tropical cyclone Mahasen heads to shore.

The boats were part of an effort to relocate people in Rakhine away from low-lying areas, according to the OCHA, ahead the potential arrival of Cyclone Mahasen, a storm that may hit parts of Myanmar and Bangladesh later this week.

A community at risk
The advocacy group Human Rights Watch has expressed concerns about the safety of tens of thousands Rohingya and other Muslims who were driven from their homes and into camps during sectarian attacks by Buddhists in Rakhine last year.

Human Rights Watch estimated that half of the roughly 140,000 displaced Muslims are now "living in flood-prone paddy fields and coastal areas that may be hit by storm surges associated with Cyclone Mahasen."

"If the government fails to evacuate those at risk, any disaster that results will not be natural, but man-made," Brad Adams, the group's Asia director, said in a statement Tuesday.

WATCH: Mahasen becomes deadly, risk of more damage.

The OCHA said Myanmar authorities had begun late Monday to carry out a plan to move 138,000 displaced people to higher ground ahead of the storm.

The boats that capsized were part of that operation, Mildren said. They were traveling from Pauktaw, where thousands of Rohingya live in camps, to other Muslim communities in the area that were to provide shelter to the passengers, she said.

Pauktaw sits on a network of waterways near the coast of Rakhine, on the Bay of Bengal.

WATCH: Western Pacific Update.

"Most of the Rohingya there in the camps are in bad conditions to begin with," Mildren said. "Their shelters are not in any way cyclone-proof and these low lying areas where they are sheltering will flood."

Cyclone Mahasen is currently expected to make landfall Thursday near Chittagong, in southeastern Bangladesh. The Bangladesh border with Rakhine is a little over 100 kilometers south of Chittagong. - CNN.