Saturday, May 18, 2013

FIRE IN THE SKY: Major Solar System Disturbance - NASA Records Giant Explosion On The Moon As Boulder Crashes At 56,000mph; Glowed Like A 4th Magnitude Star; Visible To The Naked Eye On Earth; Might Be Part Of A MUCH LARGER EVENT!

May 18, 2013 - MOON - For the past 8 years, NASA astronomers have been monitoring the Moon for signs of explosions caused by meteoroids hitting the lunar surface. "Lunar meteor showers" have turned out to be more common than anyone expected, with hundreds of detectable impacts occurring every year.

They've just seen the biggest explosion in the history of the program.

This artist's illustration shows a meteor crashing into the surface of the moon. Scientists say hundreds of space rocks impact the lunar surface every year. (NASA)

"On March 17, 2013, an object about the size of a small boulder hit the lunar surface in Mare Imbrium," says Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office. "It exploded in a flash nearly 10 times as bright as anything we've ever seen before."

Anyone looking at the Moon at the moment of impact could have seen the explosion--no telescope required.  For about one second, the impact site was glowing like a 4th magnitude star.

Ron Suggs, an analyst at the Marshall Space Flight Center, was the first to notice the impact in a digital video recorded by one of the monitoring program's 14-inch telescopes.  "It jumped right out at me, it was so bright," he recalls.

This photo shows the bright flash of the light that resulted from a huge boulder slamming into the moon's surface March 17, 2013. (NASA)

The 40 kg meteoroid measuring 0.3 to 0.4 meters wide hit the Moon traveling 56,000 mph.  The resulting explosion packed as much punch as 5 tons of TNT.

Cooke believes the lunar impact might have been part of a much larger event.

"On the night of March 17, NASA and University of Western Ontario all-sky cameras picked up an unusual number of deep-penetrating meteors right here on Earth," he says. "These fireballs were traveling along nearly identical orbits between Earth and the asteroid belt."

This means Earth and the Moon were pelted by meteoroids at about the same time.

NASA's lunar monitoring program has detected hundreds of meteoroid impacts. The brightest, detected on March 17, 2013, in Mare Imbrium, is marked by the red square. (Science@NASA)

“My working hypothesis is that the two events are related, and that this constitutes a short duration cluster of material encountered by the Earth-Moon system," says Cooke.

One of the goals of the lunar monitoring program is to identify new streams of space debris that pose a potential threat to the Earth-Moon system.  The March 17th event seems to be a good candidate.

Controllers of NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter have been notified of the strike.  The crater could be as wide as 20 meters, which would make it an easy target for LRO the next time the spacecraft passes over the impact site.  Comparing the size of the crater to the brightness of the flash would give researchers a valuable "ground truth" measurement to validate lunar impact models.

These false-color frames extracted from the original black and white video show the explosion in progress. At its peak, the flash was as bright as a 4th magnitude star.

Unlike Earth, which has an atmosphere to protect it, the Moon is airless and exposed.  "Lunar meteors" crash into the ground with fair frequency. Since the monitoring program began in 2005, NASA’s lunar impact team has detected more than 300 strikes, most orders of magnitude fainter than the March 17th event.  Statistically speaking, more than half of all lunar meteors come from known meteoroid streams such as the Perseids and Leonids.  The rest are sporadic meteors--random bits of comet and asteroid debris of unknown parentage.

U.S. Space Exploration Policy eventually calls for extended astronaut stays on the lunar surface.  Identifying the sources of lunar meteors and measuring their impact rates gives future lunar explorers an idea of what to expect. Is it safe to go on a moonwalk, or not?  The middle of March might be a good time to stay inside.

"We'll be keeping an eye out for signs of a repeat performance next year when the Earth-Moon system passes through the same region of space," says Cooke. “Meanwhile, our analysis of the March 17th event continues.” - NASA.

WATCH: NASA records giant explosion on the Moon.

MASS ANIMAL DIE-OFF: Hundreds Of Dead Animals Washed Up On The Shores Of Punta Choros, Chile?!

May 18, 2013 - CHILE - Chilean Navy discovers more than 600 dead animals in Punta de Choros, a small fishing town north of La Serena.

The bodies of sea lions, cormorants and penguins littered a seven mile stretch of beach in Punta de Choros, northern Chile on Sunday. The crime scene is in close proximity to the Humboldt Penguin Nature Reserve.

Two days prior the Movement in Defense of the Environment (MODEMA) reported a band of ten fishing boats off the coastline of Punta de Choros. MODEMA and other environmental groups accused the boats of blast fishing — using explosives to catch mass quantities of fish.

Sernapesca, Chile’s National Fishing Service, investigated the scene and determined that all the animals were killed by the same incident. Autopsies report animales with fractured skulls, missing rib cages and multiple abrasions.

Local authorities promptly called in the Investigative Police’s (PDI) Environmental Crime Brigade for further investigation. Microbiological and chemical analysis tests are currently being run to determine if blast fishing is the cause of death.

In Chile, blast fishing is illegal. Companies caught fishing in this manner face prison time and fines. The monetary amount depends on the damage to the ecosystem. However, causing the death of penguins during commercial activities is a jailable offense. Officials from Sernapesca told The Santiago Times that the combined offenses amount to a “serious crime.”

“This situation is quite complicated because of the crime scene’s location near the penguin reserve,” Cristián Felmer, an environmental expert, stated to the press. "This is one of the most important environmental incidents we’ve had in recent memory.”

This isn’t the first environmental calamity at Punta de Choros. In April of last year, 350 Guayano cormorants washed up on the beach. The next month, Sernapesca reported the deaths of more than 80 sea lions.  

In light of the most recent crime, the international marine conservation group Oceana is pushing to have Punta de Choros made a Marine and Coastal Protected Area (AMCP). The proposal would limit human activity along the more than 175-mile coastline to eco-friendly tourism.

"While there are two marine reserves in the area, this ecosystem is much larger and has little protection from threats such as those that apparently killed all these birds,” Alex Muñoz, executive director of Oceana, told press.

Oceana filed a joint proposal with scientists from Universidad Católica and the Center for Advanced Studies in Dry Areas (CEAZA) to make Punta de Choros a AMCP in 2010. The proposal came amid plans to build a thermoelectric power plant in the area. The highly controversial plan was scrapped after generating a wave of protests.

Punta de Choros is a small fishing village of 320 people. It is home to the largest population of Humboldt penguins in the world. The site attracts thousands of tourists annually.

To see Sernapesca's report on the incident, click here. - Santiago Times.

WATCH: Hundreds of dead animals litter Chilean beach.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: The Natural Resources Defense Council - Michigan And Ohio Had A Stunning 235 RECORD-BREAKING Extreme Weather Events In 2012!

May 18, 2013 - UNITED STATES - At least 75 record-breaking extreme weather events occurred in Ohio during 2012.

Nationally, 3,527 monthly weather records for heat, rain and snow were broken by extreme weather events, according to an updated review released by the Natural Resources Defense Council , an environmental group.

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The figures reveal an increase over the 3,251 weather records smashed in 2011.

Among the record-breaking events in Ohio, the Buckeye State had:

• Record-breaking heat in 26 counties, with a total of 55 new heat records

• Record-breaking rainfall in nine counties, with a total of 10 new rainfall records

• Record-breaking snow in nine counties, with a total of 10 new snow records

• 1 large wildfire

“2012’s unparalleled record-setting heat demonstrates what climate change looks like,” said Kim Knowlton, the NRDC’s senior scientist.

“This extreme weather has awoken communities across the country to the need for preparedness and protection,” Knowlton added. “We know how to reduce local risks, improve our lives and create more resilient communities. Now our leaders must act.”

The monthly weather records are compared against prior records set during the last 30 years at each location.

In 2012, Americans experienced the hottest March on record in the contiguous U.S., and July was the hottest single month ever recorded in the lower 48 states.

As a whole, 2012 was the warmest year ever recorded in the U.S., according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Summer 2012 had the worst drought in 50 years across the nation’s mid-sectiont, with more than 1,300 U.S. counties in 29 states declared drought disaster areas.

Further, Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge height -- 13.88 feet -- broke the all-time record in New York Harbor.

Groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council say the extreme weather events are caused by human activity, and want governments to reduce carbon emissions. Some conservatives, however, counter that the events are due to natural fluctuations in the planet’s weather cycle that occur over long periods of time. - WCPO.

In 2012, at least 160 record-breaking extreme weather records were set in Michigan. Nationwide, 3,527 monthly weather records for heat, rain and snow were broken by extreme weather events that hit communities throughout the US, according to an updated interactive extreme weather mapping tool and year-end review released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council. 2012 tallies reveal even more monthly weather records set than the 3,251 records smashed in 2011, with record-breaking extreme events that occurred in every state.

In 2012, Michigan experienced:
• Record-breaking heat in 44 counties with a total of 139 new heat records
• Record-breaking rainfall in 14 counties with a total of 18 new rainfall records
• Record-breaking snow in 3 counties with a total of 3 new snow records
• 4 large wildfires

“2012’s unparalleled record-setting heat demonstrates what climate change looks like,” said Kim Knowlton, NRDC Senior Scientist. “This extreme weather has awoken communities across the country to the need for preparedness and protection. We know how to reduce local risks, improve our lives and create more resilient communities. Now our leaders must act.”

Because these monthly weather records compete against prior records set over at least the last 30 years at each location, the 3,527 monthly records-broken highlight notable patterns of extreme weather in the US. And in fact, from 1980 through 2011, the frequency of weather-related extreme events in North America nearly quintupled, rising more rapidly than anywhere else in the world, according to international insurance giant MunichRe.

In 2012, Americans experienced the hottest March on record in the contiguous US, and July was the hottest single month ever recorded in the lower 48 states. As a whole, 2012 was the warmest year ever recorded in the US, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) State of the Climate report released last week. NOAA has also estimated that 2012 will surpass 2011 in aggregate costs for U.S. annual billion-dollar disasters, and MunichRe also recently revealed that in 2012, more than 90 percent of the world’s insured disaster costs occurred in the US.

Some of 2012’s most significant weather disasters include:
• The summer of 2012 was the worst drought in 50 years across the nation’s breadbasket, with over 1,300 US counties in 29 states declared drought disaster areas.
• Wildfires burned over 9.2 million acres in the US, and destroyed hundreds of homes. The average size of the fires set an all-time record of 165 acres per fire, exceeding the prior decade’s 2001-2010 average of approximately 90 acres per fire.
• Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge height, 13.88 feet, broke the all-time record in New York Harbor, and ravaged communities across New Jersey and New York with floodwaters and winds. The cost of Sandy reached an estimated $79 billion with at least 131 deaths reported.

New this year, the interactive map at also ranks all 50 states for the percentage of weather stations reporting at least one monthly heat record broken in 2012. The ten states showing the highest percentage with new heat records are: Tennessee (36%), Wisconsin (31%), Minnesota (30%), Illinois (29%), Indiana (28%), Nevada (27%), West Virginia (26%), Maine (26%), Colorado (25%), and Maryland (24%). Especially hard-hit regions include the Upper Midwest, Northeast, northern Great Plains, and Rocky Mountain states.

There are proactive steps government decision-makers can take to minimize the impact on communities increasingly vulnerable to climate change. NRDC encourages all states to undertake the following key actions to protect public health:
• Enact plans to limit carbon emissions from power plants, vehicles and other major sources of heat-trapping pollution; coupled with increased investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
• Emergency planning must incorporate risks from climate change. States and local governments should develop, prioritize, support and implement comprehensive climate change mitigation plans to address climate risks.
• The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) must also prioritize addressing and preparing for climate change by providing guidance and resources to state and local governments.
- ABC10.

DELUGE: More Rain Forecast After Deadly Storms Hit China - 33 People Dead, 12 Missing!

May 18, 2013 - CHINA - Chinese authorities say rainstorms that battered southern China this week have killed 33 people and left 12 people missing.

The Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs website says at least nine provinces have had storms and some flooding and landslides since Tuesday.

It says Guangdong province has been hit the hardest with 19 deaths and 11 missing people.

Guangdong's weather service said some areas received more than 8 inches (21 centimeters) of rain in nine hours on Thursday.

It forecasts more rain in the coming days and warns of mudslides. - ABC News.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Rare Meteorite Near Miss In New Zealand - Whakamarama Man Has Geologists Excited After Meteorite Narrowly Missed His Head!

May 18, 2013 - NEW ZEALAND - A Whakamarama man has geologists excited after a meteorite soared into his garage moving buckets and narrowly missing his head.

The man, who does not wish to be named, was in his garage talking with his neighbour last Monday when a meteorite soared past his head.

"It must have missed me by a couple of feet. I thought it was a gun shot."

Andrew says the meteorite is the size of a pea.© Zoe Hunter/SunLive

He didn't hear or see the meteorite, but noticed the buckets were moving in the garage. Together with his friend the pair began searching.

"It's about the size of a fly. I reckon there's probably more in the garage," he says.

After waiting about a week, the man decided to show geologist Andrew Hollis.

Andrew, a geologist for around 20 years, says at first, he didn't think it was a meteorite due to the rarity of the event, but a closer look confirmed it is.

"They're mostly magnetic and really dense. But it certainly looks as if it's been subjected to heat.

"Things like this are pretty rare, certainly in the day and in New Zealand. Having a meteorite land near people is quite rare."

Andrew says it is likely the meteorite came from Halley's Comet - a comet that returns to Earth about every 75 years.

He says there was a good chance a meteor shower called 'Eta Aquarid' hit Earth during May 5-9. The meteorite which hit the Whakamarama home happened on May 6.

WATCH: Rare meteorite near miss in New Zealand.

"That is said to be coming from a debris trail left by Halley's Comet about 2000 years ago and if that's the case then it's likely to have come from Halley's Comet, that's come on the 6th of May."

The last time Halley's Comet was here was in 1986.

Andrew says the dangers of meteorite hitting the earth depend on their size.

"These ones are really common. We've got meteors and asteroids going past us pretty frequently and anything larger than perhaps 100 metre in diameter is going cause a catastrophe wherever it lands."

He says the most dangerous is the 'Apophis' asteroid which is expected to hit earth in 2029.

"The most dangerous one that we know of at the moment is an asteroid called Apophis which is going to come close to us in 2029 and then again in 2036. It's assumed that it won't hit us but it's certainly going to come close enough that it's going to cause a lot of concern." - SunLive.

WAR ON MOTHER NATURE: Great Lakes Are Loaded With Chemicals, Even Cocaine - 47 Out Of 50 Minnesota Lakes Contained At Least One Chemical!

May 18, 2013 - UNITED STATES - From urban and developed to remote and isolated, lakes around Minnesota contain a wide range of chemicals, including DEET, BPA, prescription drugs and even cocaine.

The findings, which came out of the first large-scale, systematic statewide study, suggest that it might be worth taking a wider look at bodies of water around the country for chemicals that have potential consequences for both the environment and human health.

A nor'easter off of Lake Superior pounds Minnesota's North Shore near Tettegouche State Park.© Layne Kennedy/Corbis

For now, it's not clear how all of the chemicals are getting into Minnesota's lakes or exactly what effects they might be having on animals or people.

"It's not as though people should worry about going to the lake or taking their dogs to the lakes," said Mark Ferrey, an environmental scientist at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, which published the new report. "We're talking about how we're affecting lakes and rivers in ways that we probably don't understand yet."

"It's disquieting," he added. "We could be affecting fish populations or entire ecosystems in ways that are largely invisible to us."

Starting about a decade ago, in routine reconnaissance, Ferrey and colleagues began collecting surface waters from rivers and streams around Minnesota. As expected, analyses showed contaminants downstream from wastewater treatment plants and in other highly developed areas. But the researchers were surprised when chemicals also turned up in background samples collected in lakes with mostly untouched shorelines.

For the new study, which was part of a larger national project, sampling crews collected water from 50 Minnesota lakes, which were randomly chosen by a computer program that picked geographic coordinates. Samples were then analyzed in a Vancouver lab for suite of 125 chemicals.

Forty-seven out of 50 lakes contained at least one chemical on the list, the researchers reported. The bug-repellent DEET was the most widespread, turning up in 76 percent of the lakes sampled. BPA, a plasticizer that has been linked to reproductive and developmental problems, showed up in 43 percent of the lakes.

About a third of the lakes contained cocaine. A similar proportion contained the antidepressant amitriptyline. And the same number contained carbodox, an antibiotic used in pigs, which showed up even in lakes that were not surrounded by agricultural land. Triclosan, a chemical used in antimicrobial soaps, appeared in 14 percent of the lakes.

It's still a mystery how all of those chemicals are getting into lakes in the first place, but Ferrey suspects that some may be riding on specks of dust in the air. One study in Italy found that cocaine attaches to particles that are about 2.5 microns in size, and more cocaine floats through the air in places where cocaine use is more prevalent.

Concentrations of chemicals were very low, measurable as parts per trillion. But some research suggests that hormone-disrupting chemicals can have effects even at those low levels, Ferrey said. In one study in an experimental lake, dosing the water with an estrogenic contraceptive at five parts per trillion caused populations of fathead minnows and trout to plummet. When researchers stopped adding the chemical to the water, the fish rebounded.

"Even at very low doses," Ferrey said, "things that are hormones or hormone-like don't have to be toxic or poisonous to exert strong effects."

The new findings add important detail to previous work that had documented the presence of a smaller number of compounds in lakes around the country, said research hydrologist Dana Kolpin, head of the emerging contaminants and environment project at the U.S. Geological Survey in Iowa City.

For now, the new study remains a one-time snapshot of what's out there, he said. Future work will determine if levels change throughout the seasons and whether the findings are cause for concern.

"I want to be middle of the road," Kolpin said. "I don't want to say the sky is falling. But these certainly are compounds that wouldn't be occurring naturally. That means this warrants more research to see if there is something we need to be concerned about." - Discovery News.

MASS BEES DIE-OFF: Global Food Crisis - Thousands Of Bees Suddenly Die In Winthrop, Minnesota?!

May 18, 2013 - UNITED STATES - As farmers get underway with their spring planting, some bee farmers in Minnesota are already counting their losses.

In the last couple days one major producer reported that thousands of honey bees suddenly died.

In 2005, Minnesota was the sixth largest honey producer in the nation. But since 2006, millions of bee colonies have died off in Minnesota and across the nation.

“Whatever it is, it’s affecting the nervous system of the bees,” said Rand Honl of Honl’s Bees, Inc.

When Honl checked on his hives Tuesday morning, it wasn’t the bees in the air that caught his attention but the ones on the ground.

Bee keeping runs in the family. Every spring Honl and his wife bring thousands of honeybees cross-country from Texas to Winthrop, Minn. Their honey is shipped across the country. But in more than 50 years of business, Honl has never seen this.

Their bees were fine last week, now most of the worker bees are gone.

Each bee box Honl has produces about 100 pounds of honey. Worker bees make all of the production possible.

Worker bees bring in the pollen, and Honl thinks by venturing into farm fields his bees were hit by pesticides.
“It’s something to do with farm chemicals. Right now, you know, they’re planting. They’re spraying. It’s got to be something to do with farm chemicals,” Honl said.

And Honl believes he isn’t alone. Other beekeepers across the country have reported similar problems. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture took samples of his dead bees, as did Bayer Crop Science, a company that makes pesticides.

It’s still too early to determine what killed Honl’s bees.

WATCH: Minnesota farmer blames pesticides for big bee die off.

In a statement, Bayer said: “Reports of this kind should be carefully investigated. (We) understand the necessity for healthy bees as pollinators for agriculture and food production.”

Whatever the cause, it’s a major buzzkill for Honl’s business.

“You see this, and it’s just the pits, you know,” said Honl.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has reported that there isn’t one specific cause for the drop in bee colonies in the United States.

In addition to certain pesticides, the USDA says mass planting of a single crop and certain parasites have also been factors. - CBS Minnesota.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Strong Magnitude 6.0 Earthquake Strikes Japan Off Fukushima Coast - No Tsunami Warning Issued, No Initial Reports Of Damage!

May 18, 2013 - JAPAN - An earthquake with a magnitude measured at 6.0 by Japan’s Meteorological Agency has struck the northeast of the country. The epicenter was close to the Fukushima coast and only 200km from Tokyo, causing buildings in the capital to shake.

USGS earthquake map and location.

The quake struck at 2:48 pm (05:48 GMT) in the Pacific Ocean, approximately 50km (31 miles) from land. The United States Geological Survey recorded the earthquake initially, as being of magnitude 6.1, with a depth of 33km (20.5 miles).

USGS earthquake shakemap intensity.

No tsunami warning has been issued, despite the offshore quake’s close proximity to Fukushima prefecture, where the magnitude 9.0 quake in March 2011 instigated the Tsunami, which led to the deaths of at least 16,000 people and nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s two nuclear plants in the prefecture reported no immediate irregularities as a result of the quake, according to the local Kyodo news agency.

USGS earthquake shakemap intensity.

Miyagi prefecture, further north, suffered the strongest impact from the quake. No information has been released on potential injuries. However, its Onagawa nuclear plant also recorded no irregularities, according to its operator Tohoku Electric Power Co.

“We have received no reports of damage so far,” an official from Fukushima prefecture told AFP. - RT.

Tectonic Summary - Seismotectonics of Japan and Vicinity.
Japan and the surrounding islands straddle four major tectonic plates: Pacific plate; North America plate; Eurasia plate; and Philippine Sea plate. The Pacific plate is subducted into the mantle, beneath Hokkaido and northern Honshu, along the eastern margin of the Okhotsk microplate, a proposed subdivision of the North America plate. Farther south, the Pacific plate is subducted beneath volcanic islands along the eastern margin of the Philippine Sea plate. This 2,200 km-long zone of subduction of the Pacific plate is responsible for the creation of the deep offshore Ogasawara and Japan trenches as well as parallel chains of islands and volcanoes, typical of Circumpacific island arcs. Similarly, the Philippine Sea plate is itself subducting under the Eurasia plate along a zone, extending from Taiwan to southern Honshu that comprises the Ryukyu Islands and the Nansei-Shoto trench.

USGS earthquake population exposure.

Subduction zones at the Japanese island arcs are geologically complex and produce numerous earthquakes from multiple sources. Deformation of the overriding plates generates shallow crustal earthquakes, whereas slip at the interface of the plates generates interplate earthquakes that extend from near the base of the trench to depths of 40 to 60 km. At greater depths, Japanese arc earthquakes occur within the subducting Pacific and Philippine Sea plates and can reach depths of nearly 700 km. Since 1900, three great earthquakes occurred off Japan and three north of Hokkaido. They are the M8.4 1933 Sanriku-oki earthquake, the M8.3 2003 Tokachi-oki earthquake, the M9.0 2011 Tohoku earthquake, the M8.4 1958 Etorofu earthquake, the M8.5 1963 Kuril earthquake, and the M8.3 1994 Shikotan earthquake. - USGS.

ICE AGE NOW: A Year Without Spring - United Kingdom's Rare Spring Butterflies Make A Late Show!

May 18, 2013 - UNITED KINGDOM - The UK's spring butterflies are being welcomed by enthusiasts, but weeks later than they usually arrive. The second-coldest March on record contributed to the delayed emergence of many rare species, according to the charity Butterfly Conservation.

"First sightings" recorded by the public showed the insects typically appeared a fortnight later than normal.

Threatened pearl-bordered fritillaries finally emerged at the end of April.

One rare species - the grizzled skipper - emerged a month later than last year.

The pearl-bordered fritillary was another rare butterfly to make a late show. Last year the insects were first spotted on 1 April but were not recorded until 27 April this year.

Threatened wood whites could be seen by 10 April last year, but this year were delayed until early May.

And the Duke of Burgundy butterfly made an appearance in late April this spring, around three weeks later than last year.

Last spring saw butterflies emerging earlier than normal following an unusually mild February and March. But the extreme wet weather that followed resulted in a terrible year for most species.

Butterfly Conservation's findings, which focus on the UK's rare and threatened species, show a large contrast with last years' spring sightings.

Week-long lives

Butterflies emerging late from their chrysalises is not necessarily a problem for the insects, but the weather over the next few weeks may be crucial to their success.

Wet weather prevents butterflies from flying, which they need to do to find mates and plants on which to lay their eggs, explained Butterfly Conservation surveys manager Richard Fox.

"If those [weather] conditions carry on for the duration of your life as a butterfly - which might only be a week at best - then you leave no offspring."

And this year, butterflies appear to be in "very low numbers" following last year's poor weather.

"They really need some fine spring weather and a successful breeding season in order to start rebuilding their populations," said Mr Fox.

He added that generally the UK's butterflies have suffered decades of decline, largely due to human destruction of their natural habitats.

Grizzled skippers made a particularly late appearance this spring.

"Nowadays these butterflies are so endangered... that a few years of bad weather might well drive colonies to extinction. And that's obviously exactly what we want to try and avoid."

Butterfly Conservation revealed its findings, gathered from public sightings of butterflies around the UK, ahead of Save Our Butterflies week which aims to introduce people to rare and threatened spring butterflies through a series of events and butterfly walks.

Mr Fox commented: "People tend to think of butterflies as at the height of summer and indeed that is when you tend to see most butterflies in your garden.

"But actually we have quite a lot of species, including some of our rare and threatened ones, which only come out at this time of year." - BBC.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Scene Of Fire And Ice - NASA's Earth Observatory Captures Steam Explosions, And Towering Ash Plume Reaching 12,000 Feet At The Pavlof Volcano!

May 18, 2013 - ALASKA - A towering ash plume, cascading debris, and steam explosions suggested that the eruption of Pavlof Volcano had intensified several days after it began. On May 16, 2013, the Alaska Volcano Observatory reported ash plumes reaching up to 12,000 feet (3,700 meters) above the volcano’s summit. The plumes were accompanied by lava fountains and a lava flow that descended the steep northern flank of the volcano.

NASA Earth Observatory.

This natural-color satellite image, collected by the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on the Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite, shows Pavlof on May 16, 2013. A brown ash plume blew from the summit towards the southeast, and gray ash from earlier explosions covered the snow on the volcano’s upper slopes. To the northeast, additional ash rose from an ongoing lava flow.

Explosive vaporization of snow by the hot lava and debris is likely converting a mild flow into a violent pyroclastic flow—an avalanche of extremely hot gas, ash, and volcanic rocks. Further to the northwest, rising steam and volcanic gases trace the path of the debris, a slushy mix of ash, rock fragments, ice, and water called a lahar. Additional debris from the flows left dark trails on Pavlof’s northern flank.

Located near the western end of the Alaska Peninsula, Pavlof isn’t a direct threat to any large cities or towns. However, ash from an eruption could disrupt air traffic from Asia to North America and Europe. - EO.

MASS BIRD DIE-OFF: Plagues & Pestilences - Over 55,000 Birds Killed Due To Avian Flu In Mexico And Tibet!

May 18, 2013 - MEXICO - Outbreaks of highly pathogenic bird flu have been reported on farms in Mexico and Tibet.

Mexican authorities confirmed last week that there had been an outbreak of highly pathogenic H7N3 bird flu on a farm in the state of Puebla.

The National Service of Health, Food Safety and Food Quality (SENASICA) said that it had been alerted that birds on a farm in the town of Palmar de Bravo were showing signs of the disease earlier this month. Samples were sent for testing and came back positive for H7 bird flu.

The agency said that preliminary investigations suggested the virus originated from laying hens, which had been introduced to the farm from other states. It added that Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA) had ordered immediate implementation of bird flu actions in the area, and that 55,000 birds had been slaughtered on the farm, which had been thoroughly disinfected.

Additionally, SENASICA inspectors have stepped up surveillance and visited 271 farms in Puebla, collecting 12,000 samples, but have so far not found any other birds suffering from the virus.

The agency has distributed more than 33 million doses of vaccine to over 100 commercial poultry farms in the region and movement control has been imposed on birds and poultry products in the area. The outbreak has also been reported to the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE).

Tibet outbreak

Meanwhile, China, which continues to battle H7N9 bird flu, has announced an outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu on a farm in the village of Qionglin in Linzhi, Tibet.

The country’s Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) informed the OIE that 35 birds had died after exhibiting symptoms of the disease and had tested positive for the virus. Officials destroyed 341 chicken and 31 geese in a bid to prevent the virus spreading and have sterilised the farm and surrounding area.

Poultry movement controls have been imposed in the surrounding area. - Global Meat News.

WAR DRUMS: Tensions Mount On The Korean Peninsula - North Korea Fires Three Short-Range Missiles Into The Sea Of Japan!

May 18, 2013 - NORTH KOREA - North Korea has fired three short-range missiles from its east coast, South Korea's defence ministry says, but the purpose of the launches was unknown.

Launches by the North of short-term missiles are not uncommon, but the ministry would not speculate whether Saturday's launches were part of a test or training exercise.

"North Korea fired short-range guided missiles twice in the morning and once in the afternoon off its east coast," an official at the South Korean Ministry of Defence spokesman's office said by telephone.

The official said he would not speculate on whether the missiles were fired as part of a drill or training exercise.

"In case of any provocation, the ministry will keep monitoring the situation and remain on alert," he said.

Al Jazeera's Harry Fawcett in Seoul quoted a government spokesperson who would not be named as saying it was probably a KNO2-type missile, that is a short-range guided ballistic missile - the shortest of North Korea's arsenal.

The missile travelled in a northeasterly direction, he said.

"That's interesting because it takes the missiles away not only from South Korean territory but also from Japanese territory."

The ministry said the country had reinforced monitoring and was maintaining a high-level of readiness to deal with any risky developments.

A Japanese government source, quoted by Kyodo news agency, noted the three launches, but said none of the missiles landed in Japan's territorial waters.

'Retaliation unlikely'

Tension on the Korean peninsula has subsided in the past month after running high for several weeks following the imposition of tougher UN sanctions against North Korea following its third nuclear test in February.

The North had for weeks issued nearly daily warnings of impending nuclear war with the South and the US.

Our correspondent said that this could be seen as a way of backing up some of the rhetoric, but doing so in a relatively conservative manner.

"These sorts of short range tests don't attract the same kind of approach that longer range or nuclear tests carry with them and they were fired north easterly. So they are likely not to provoke any sort of retaliatory measure from South Korea or Japan."

Tensions had eased until Saturday's missile launch by North Korean, led by Kim Jong-un [AFP]

North Korea conducts regular launches of its Scud short-range missiles, which can hit targets in South Korea.

It conducted a successful launch of a long-range missile last December, saying it put a weather satellite into orbit.

The US and its allies denounced the launch as a test of technology that could one day deliver a nuclear warhead.

During the weeks of high tension, South Korea reported that the North had moved missile launchers into place on its east coast for a possible launch of a medium-range Musudan missile.

The Musudan has a range of 3,500km, putting Japan in range and possibly the US South Pacific island of Guam. - Aljazeera.

WATCH: North Korea fires three short-range missiles into East Sea.

MASS BIRD DIE-OFF: Plagues & Pestilences - 13,000 Birds Killed Due To Avian Flu In Lower Saxony, Germany!

May 18, 2013 - GERMANY - A new outbreak of low-pathogenic avian influenza A(H7N7) has been reported at a farm in Lower Saxony.

The veterinary authority sent an Immediate Notification dated 16 May to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

Courtesy of Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

 Courtesy of Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

 Courtesy of Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

The report describes one outbreak of avian flu on a farm at Langförden near Vechta in Lower Saxony. It started on 15 May. All 13,000 birds in the flock were destroyed after the sub-clinical infection was confirmed.

Map of outbreak locations.  Courtesy of Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

The last outbreak of this virus type in Germany was in August 2011. - The Poultry Site.