Wednesday, June 12, 2013

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Mother Nature Strikes Back - "PRETTY HIGH THREAT" As Unusually Massive Line Of Storms May Affect ONE IN FIVE AMERICANS (75 Million People) With Derecho Risk From Chicago To Columbus; Cluster Of Thunderstorms, Large Hail, Lightning, Heavy Rainfall, Fierce Winds And Damaging Tornadoes!

June 12, 2013 - UNITED STATES - A gigantic line of powerful thunderstorms could affect one in five Americans on Wednesday as it rumbles from Iowa to Maryland packing hail, lightning and tree-toppling winds.

Meteorologists are warning that the continuous line of storms may even spawn an unusual weather event called a derecho, which is a massive storm of strong straight-line winds spanning at least 240 miles. Wednesday's storms are also likely to generate tornadoes and cause power outages that will be followed by oppressive heat, said Bill Bunting, operations chief at the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.

The risk of severe weather in Chicago, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio, is roughly 45 times higher than on a normal June day, Bunting said. Detroit, Baltimore, Washington, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and Louisville, Ky., have a risk level 15 times more than normal. All told, the area the weather service considers to be under heightened risk of dangerous weather includes 64 million people in 10 states.

"It's a pretty high threat," Bunting said, who also warned that the storms will produce large hail and dangerous lightning. "We don't want to scare people, but we want them to be aware."

Wednesday "might be the worst severe weather outbreak for this part of the country for the year," said Jeff Masters, meteorology director at Weather Underground.

Tornadoes and a derecho can happen at the same time, but at any given place Wednesday the straight-line winds are probably more likely.

Last year, a derecho caused at least $1 billion in damage from Chicago to Washington, killing 13 people and leaving more than 4 million people without power, according to the weather service. Winds reached nearly 100 mph in some places and in addition to the 13 people who died from downed trees, another 34 people died from the heat wave that followed in areas without power.

Derechoes, with winds of at least 58 mph, occur about once a year in the Midwest. Rarer than tornadoes but with weaker winds, derechoes produce damage over a much wider area.

Wednesday's storm probably won't be as powerful as 2012's historic one, but it is expected to cause widespread problems, Bunting said.

The storms will move so fast that "by the time you see the dark sky and distant thunder you may have only minutes to get to safe shelter," Bunting said.

The storms will start late morning or early afternoon in eastern Iowa, hit Chicago by early afternoon and move east at about 40 mph, Bunting said. If the storm remains intact after crossing the Appalachian Mountains, which would be rare for a derecho, it should hit the Washington area by late afternoon or early evening, he said.

For Washington, Philadelphia and parts of the Mid-Atlantic the big storm risk continues and even increases a bit Thursday, according to the weather service. - FOX News.

WATCH: Big Storm Threat Brewing From Iowa to East Coast.

Derecho Risk From Chicago To Columbus.
Ingredients are coming together across parts of the Midwest and Ohio Valley for a dangerous outbreak of severe weather with widespread wind damage similar to that of a derecho. Meteorologists are concerned that an initial tornado threat Wednesday afternoon and evening could evolve into a complex of storms with widespread wind damage occurring.

Some of the cities and towns most at risk for severe weather into Wednesday night include Chicago, Ill.; Columbus, Ohio; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Aurora, Ill.; Dayton, Ohio and Louisville, Ky., to name a few.

Strictly speaking, a derecho is a widespread, long-lived wind storm that is associated with a band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms. These showers and thunderstorms produce wind damage over a large swath of land.

While wind gusts form derechos can sometimes reach speeds over 80 or even 100 mph, the vast majority of observed wind reports are usually between 60 and 70 mph.

Wind speeds of 60 or 70 mph can uproot trees, snap off large branches and bring down utility poles and wires. Due to the widespread nature of these wind gusts, power outages can also be far-reaching.

Additionally, these kinds of wind speeds can cause minor damage to structures, including roofs on houses, and they can easily blow around any unsecured objects left outside.

Even if a derecho does not evolve Wednesday night, powerful thunderstorms will still be quite numerous across much of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

Thunderstorms will begin along a corridor from east-central Iowa through northern Illinois Wednesday afternoon into Wednesday evening. The thunderstorms that develop initially in this location will have the ability to take on some rotation, and a few tornadoes are possible, especially in and around Davenport, Iowa, Rockford, Ill.; Sterling Ill.; Ottawa, Ill. and Chicago.

The thunderstorms will then begin to congeal into a bowing, or backward 'C' shaped line as they reach northern Indiana and southwestern Michigan. How much of a bowing shape the thunderstorms can take on will play a role in determining how much wind the storms can produce, and ultimately, whether or not a "derecho" fully evolves.

The worst of the storms will likely be in the afternoon and evening across western Iowa into northern Illinois and Indiana. In places such as Ohio, the most dangerous storms may hold out until the evening hours or even after dark. Still, there could still be a stray thunderstorm around even before the main line arrives.

If you will be out and about or have any plans Wednesday afternoon through the night, you will need to pay special attention to the weather as this could be a particularly dangerous situation.

Once thunderstorms develop, they will strengthen quickly, and dangerous conditions could follow soon after.

One added concern across the region will be very heavy, potentially flooding rain. This storm system will have the ability to produce a large area of 2-3 inches from Chicago into Detroit, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Rain of this magnitude, on top of already saturated soil, will cause flash flooding and the possibility of renewed flooding or larger waterways.

Current technology has advanced enough over recent years to provide ample alert of the potential for severe weather and the approach of localized severe storms. Be sure to understand the difference between a watch and a warning. A watch means that an area is being monitored for dangerous weather. A warning means that dangerous weather is imminent. When a warning is issued, there may be too little time to travel across town or across a county to escape the storm. The time to have a plan of action and move to the general vicinity of a storm shelter or safe area is when a watch is issued.

Keep in mind that lightning is one of Mother Nature's most dangerous killers. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning, even if the sun is still shining. - AccuWeather.

EXTREME WEATHER: Colorado Wildfire Could Destroy 100 Homes And Fatalities Are Feared - Between 40 And 60 Houses Were Destroyed In The Black Forest; 12 Square Miles Burned; 7,000 People Evacuated In An Area Over 47 Square Miles!

June 12, 2013 - UNITED STATES - The number of houses destroyed by a wildfire near Colorado Springs could grow to around 100, and authorities fear it's possible that some people who stayed behind might have died.

Authorities initially estimated that between 40 and 60 houses were destroyed in Black Forest, a heavily wooded residential area northeast of Colorado Springs, but they are still surveying the damage. El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said Wednesday he believes around 80 have been lost and he wouldn't be surprised if the figure reaches or tops 100.

Maketa said there are no reports of anyone missing in the fire, however he fears for those who chose to ignore evacuation orders and stay behind.

"One of my worst fears is that people took their chances and it may have cost them their life," he said.

Maketa said gusty winds expected later in the day could cause the fire to spread unpredictably.

The fire was one of several that broke out along Colorado's Front Range Tuesday and quickly spread in high winds and record heat. The fire has burned about 12 square miles and forced the evacuation of more than 7,000 people in an area over 47 square miles. The area is not far from last summer's devastating Waldo Canyon Fire that destroyed 346 homes and killed two.

"Everywhere you looked, you saw scattered fires, almost like there was a huge convention of campfires everywhere, and periodically you'd see trees just pop into a fireball," Maketa said.

Wildfires were also burning in New Mexico and California, where a smokejumper was killed fighting one of dozens of lightning-sparked fires. Luke Sheehy, of Susanville, Calif., was fatally injured by part of a falling tree in Modoc National Forest.

In Colorado, about 60 miles to the southwest of the Black Forest Fire, a 6-square-mile wildfire near Royal Gorge Bridge Park remains 0 percent contained Wednesday morning, but winds are pushing the fire away from Canon City and structures.

The Royal Gorge Fire has destroyed three structures near Canon City, but the soaring suspension bridge spanning a canyon across the Arkansas River appears undamaged.

The bridge has wood planking but is suspended by steel supports. It's normally a tourist attraction but firefighters are now using it to access the fire.

More than 900 prisoners at the nearby Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility were taken to other prisons overnight because of the danger from heavy smoke, she said. The fire has not reached the prison, built in 1871 and the oldest in the state's system.

"This was done as a precaution because it takes a lot of time to move the prisoners," Adrienne Jacobson said.

The medium- and low-risk prisoners were evacuated by bus, including 24 from an infirmary who were taken to a Denver facility, some in wheelchairs.

A third wildfire in southern Colorado erupted Tuesday in rural Huerfano County. The Klikus Fire had burned an estimated 45 to 50 acres west of La Veta, prompting evacuation orders for about 200 residences.

The causes of those fires weren't immediately confirmed.

WATCH: Sheriff - Colorado Wildfire Could Burn 100 Homes.

Another fire sparked by lightning Monday in Rocky Mountain National Park has now grown to an estimated 300 to 400 acres. No structures were threatened. Naturally started fires are usually allowed to burn in the park, but fire managers are working to suppress it because of drought conditions and reduced resources, park spokeswoman Kyle Patterson said.

Cindy Winemiller, of Black Forest, was driving back from Austin, Texas, with her boyfriend after visiting her son when a friend called to tell them the forest was on fire. They saw the big plume of smoke from Pueblo, about 30 miles away. After arriving home, they gathered insurance information and a few photos but didn't have time to get anything else because of the smoke and glow of the fire to the north.

"I'm hoping that it's OK. Probably smoke damage, but who knows. The winds are picking up," Winemiller said Wednesday.

Last year she volunteered to help victims of the Waldo Canyon fire sift through the rubble and find personal belongings. Winemiller said she will do the same this time around "and hope it's not my home." - Mercury News.

EXTREME WEATHER: Massive "Apocalyptic" 27-Car Pileup During Dust Storm In Winnemucca, Nevada - One Dead, Others Fighting For Their Lives, Dozens Injured!

June 12, 2013 - UNITED STATES - A 27-car pileup in a dust storm on Interstate 80 just west of Winnemucca sent dozens of people to the hospital Monday and killed at least one commercial trucker.

Image: DEE HOLZEL - Free Press Corespondent.

Four people were flown to a Reno hospital with serious injuries and at least 33 motorists were admitted to Humboldt General Hospital for non-life threatening injuries.

Interstate 80 reopened on Tuesday around noon, nearly 20 hours after the crash happened, according to Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Jim Stewart.

NDOT and other crews were still cleaning debris from the road Tuesday afternoon.

White paper littered much of the highway for a square mile. The papers were labels for canned peaches, which were packed into one of the commercial trucks involved in the crash, said NHP Sgt. Jake Harp.

Image: DEE HOLZEL - Free Press Corespondent.

Image: DEE HOLZEL - Free Press Corespondent.

Image: DEE HOLZEL - Free Press Corespondent.

Two planes out of Winnemucca transported four injured people to Reno last night, an airport employee said.

The dust storm blew over from neighboring farmland just before 5 p.m. Monday, dropping visibility to “zero,” according to Stewart.

Cars and trucks began to pile up around milemarker 175, with eight to nine vehicles crashing on the eastbound side and 17 to 18 vehicles crashing on the westbound side, Stewart said.

Officials identified the fatality in the pileup as 51-year-old Chicago truck driver Ravi Dyer, who was driving westbound and rearended another commercial truck, according to NHP officials. Two other commercial vehicles then hit Dyer’s truck.

An unnamed passenger in Dyer’s truck was in serious condition at a Reno hospital, according to the NHP.

According to a release from Humboldt General Hospital, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Dispatch sent out a call for all possible medical, law enforcement and fire resources in the region shortly before 5 p.m. after motorists reported “near-apocalyptic conditions” on the interstate. Officials tentatively attributed the dust to recently plowed fields and high winds.

Image: AP

Insurance adjusters were already surveying the scene and taking photos Tuesday morning, preparing for claims from the commercial trucking companies involved, said one adjuster.

The Winnemucca Police Department, Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department, Humboldt County EMS, and the Nevada Department of Transportation provided assistance at the scene, Stewart said. - Elko Daily.

WATCH: 1 man dead in 27-car Nevada sandstorm pileup.

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Thousands Upon Thousands Of Dead Fish Mysteriously Found In West Pond, Texas?!

June 12, 2013 - UNITED STATES - There was an old man from the Freedman's town of Joppa named Bad Leg Fred who once ran a private fishing concession here in the 70s and 80s. For a buck or two, he'd let you drown worms for an afternoon in the pond the locals called Bad Leg Fred Lake. Stocked with bass, crappie, perch, catfish and carp the place was popular with locals who wanted a cheap place to fish.

Thousands of bloated and decaying fish at West Pond in the Great Trinity Forest, Joppa Preserve, June 8, 2013.

Old Fred has most likely passed away. Unfortunately so has his lake and the fish in it.

That old pond sits inside River Oaks Park, part of Joppa Preserve and one of the trailheads for the Trinity River concrete trail at 4800 River Oaks Road.

The Corps of Engineers calls the place West Pond. North of River Oaks Road and about 5 acres in size this body of water is most likely an old gravel pit excavated for dam construction and improvement of Lemmon Lake which sits due east. An archeological site was identified there in the 1940s and is noted on the inset map as 41DL78. The pond was most likely used in the 50s and 60s to draw water for cement manufacturing.

The pond has no true inlet or outlet. When the Trinity Forest Trail was constructed in 2008-2009 the design did not take into account the complex storm water runoff that feeds West Pond and Lemmon Lake. The resulting construction cutoff the water to both lakes. The small channelized creek that once fed the lakes now bypasses them heading due east for the Trinity River.

Decaying fish at West Pond.

West Pond is most likely recharged via a shallow water table. It sits just high enough and far enough from the Trinity River that only the largest floods reach it. As a result the sport fish, the bass, perch and catfish that have been stocked here over the years all stay put. Makes for a great fishing lake that is free from many of the undesirable rough fish that fill other lakes.

I wonder what went wrong here. The pond here has never seen a fish kill according to the fishermen who have angled here back to the Bad Leg Fred era. In 2011 when Dallas saw a record drought the pond held full all summer. This spring the periodic rains every few days have turned the woods around the Trinity River green and lush, the kind of rain that allows aquatic life to flourish.

Clues to what might have caused the fish kill probably lie in the off-color of the water. The once green-blue water is now clear, stained a shade of light brown. It was a mass extinction event that killed all the fish, top to bottom, big to small. Surprised to see the larger carp die off. In the heat of the summers here, the carp are the very last fish species to die in the shallow water of drying lake beds. They can live in what amounts to a muddy pudding. To die in a large pond is a question that needs an answer.

Dead Largemouth Bass at Joppa Preserve.

Anatomy of a fish kill
It must have been from an extreme lack of oxygen in the water that killed off all the fish. One could only guess if it was natural or man made.  One of the most common types of fish kills in ponds is caused by depletion of dissolved oxygen in the water. Oxygen must be present in the water at or above certain minimum concentrations for fish to survive. The symptoms of an oxygen depletion fish kill are as follows--the fish will be swimming near the surface, attempting to gulp air; large fish will be killed first, followed by smaller fish; the kill will occur at night or in the early morning hours; the majority of fish will be killed within a few hours time.

Oxygen depletion fish kills are most commonly caused by a die-off of the microscopic green plants (phytoplankton) in the pond, or overturns in which oxygen deficient water from the deeper levels of the pond mixes with water in the upper levels. Phytoplankton imparts a green color to the water in a healthy pond. It is essential as part of the food chain and as a supplier of oxygen. A sudden die-off of these plants may occur when the plants use more oxygen than they supply to the pond. As the phytoplankton die and decompose, the remaining oxygen in the pond is consumed and within a short time, a fish kill occurs due to oxygen depletion.

Dead Bluegill at Joppa Preserve.

I'm not sure what caused the die off to be honest. The absence of turtles, frogs and birds might suggest something man made. A nearby railroad line and a tractor trailer lot sit just to the west. 

The Fallout
One of the only public fishing spots accessible to South Dallas residents, the pond here has been a haven for anglers without the means of transportation to other larger bodies of water. Some take DART. Some hitchhike. Some walk. Some walk miles to get here. I feel for those folks. Their refuge from the day to day grind has evaporated for the summer.

Little Lemmon Lake went dry last summer and has only refilled due to spring rains. The customary winter rains that usually send the Trinity out of her banks did not flood the Great Trinity Forest, leaving Little Lemmon Lake without any fish. It's as barren as West Pond.

Dead Buffalofish at Joppa Preserve.

A historic grove of oaks sit adjacent to the pond. Since emancipation the oaks have served as a traditional gathering spot for Juneteenth events and many family reunions. A damn shame that the focal point of the park, the pond, is now devoid of fish.

The wildlife will need to find a new place to find food. Buffalo fish are a favorite meal of the resident River Otters. The fish kill will put them in a bind as they need to find a new place to hunt for food.

How the lake gets restocked and whatever caused the problem in the first place will be something not likely to be fixed soon. Even 311 calls to get the downed powerlines that have been knocked out for over a month have not yielded results. - Dallas Trinity Trails.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Major Solar System Disturbance - New Comet Discovered, C/2013 L2 (Catalina)!

June 12, 2013 - SPACE - New discovery of an apparently asteroidal object with cometary features was announced on June 9, 2013 (CBET 3548).

C 2013 L2 CATALINA captured by Ernesto Guido & Nick Howes of Remanzacco Observatory in Italy on June 4,5 2013 (Credit : Ernesto Guido & Nick Howes, Remanzacco Observatory)

New comet (discovery magnitude ~19.6) was found by R. A. Kowalski on CCD images obtained with the Catalina Sky Survey 0.68-m Schmidt telescope on June 02, 2013. New discovery was confirmed by Minor Planet Center and the new comet has been officially named C/2013 L2 (CATALINA).

JPL's orbital diagram of Comet C/2013 L2 (Catalina)

The team of observers of Remanzacco Observatory in Italy performed follow-up measurements of this object, while it was still on the MPC's NEO confirmation page.

Stacking of 18 R-filtered exposures, 30-sec each (obtained remotely, from the Haleakala-Faulkes Telescope North on  June 4 and 5, 2013) through a 2.0-m f/10.0 Ritchey-Chretien + CCD (operated by Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network), showed that this object is a comet having sharp central condensation, surrounded by a faint coma nearly 4" in diameter.

SOURCES: Remanzacco Observatory | Minor Planet Center | NASA/JPL.

RATTLE & HUM: Loud Booms Heard Across United States - Mystery Boom Shakes Residents Of Sharon, Pennsylvania, And Early-Morning Mystery Boom Heard In Some West Seattle Neighborhoods!

June 12, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Memorial Day weekend started out "relatively quiet" for police, except for another mysterious "sonic boom."

Mystery Boom Shakes Residents Of Sharon, Pennsylvania.
At 7:29 p.m. Friday, the explosion rocked Shenango Township. A resident in the 3500 block of Hubbard-West Middlesex Road heard "a loud sonic boom," a Mercer County 911 dispatcher said. The caller told the 911 operator "it shook the house; it was not like a transformer blew.

"All of the neighbors came outside to see what happened, so many people felt it."

Southwest Mercer County Regional police were dispatched, but could not find anything.

It was the second such incident reported in as many weeks. On May 13, dozens of callers from Mercer to Sandy Lake to Grove City reported hearing a "massive explosion" at about 9 p.m. Officials have not been able to explain the noise.

The 911 dispatcher said "typical holiday weekend" calls were from all over Mercer County. Early Friday, an alleged "streaker" shocked some callers from Sharon. Later Friday, a reported gas leak near Lake Latonka was cleared up by 11:45 p.m.

At about 5 p.m. Saturday, a kid in a "black hoodie" gave Sharon police a run for their money over "some minor crime."

A couple of hours later, there was a report of a burglary on Tamarack Drive in South Pymatuning Township. About 8 p.m., police in Hermitage responded to a hit-and-run accident with no apparent injuries. - The Herald.

Early-Morning Mystery Boom Heard In Some West Seattle Neighborhoods.
Just in case you came here looking for information about an explosion-type sound around 2:45 am - this morning we have received several e-mails asking about it, describing it as loud enough to wake them up and scare their pets.

So far, checking fire and police logs, we haven't found anything confirming what it was.

Those who say they heard it are in Gatewood, Lincoln Park, and Lowman Beach areas, but at least one person thinks it could have happened some distance away, to the east. We were on watch at that time, and though we're over south Lincoln Park, we didn't hear it.

So we're posting this in hopes someone out there might have direct knowledge to solve the mystery. - West Seattle Blog.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Global Volcano Report For June 12, 2013 - Updates On El Hierro, Mauna Loa, Kilauea, Telica, Veniaminof, Pavlof, Popocatépetl, Fuego, San Cristobal, Nyiragongo, Cerro Negro And Copahue!

June 12, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing reports of volcanoes across the globe.

Location of quakes during the past 2 weeks (IGN).

El Hierro (Canary Islands, Spain): Seismic activity of the island has been calm over the past weeks. The number of daily small earthquakes continues to be weakly elevated, with hypocenters clustered under the central and western parts of the island.

Mauna Loa (Big Island, Hawai'i)
: The latest update of the USGS mentions that minor inflation of a shallow magma reservoir beneath Mauna Loa may be occurring. Seismicity rates were slightly elevated. However, the level of observed seismicity is far from alarming and the alert level remains at green. No eruption is expected in the near future.

From the USGS report... [read more]

Kilauea (Hawai'i)
: No significant changes in activity have occurred over the past weeks. The summit is currently in a phase of slow inflation while the lava lake level in Halema'uma'u remained fairly steady. The 2 lava flow fields fed from Pu'u 'O'o continue to be active: on the middle east rift zone, the Kahauale`a II lava flow was recently conquering new land and burning forest north of Pu`u `O`o.

Halema'uma'u lava lake today (HVO webcam).

Southeast of Pu`u `O`o, the Peace Day flow had active breakouts at the base of the pali and on the coastal plain. Most of the flow, however, stayed within its lava tube until reaching the ocean on both the east and west sides of the Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park boundary. Gas emissions from the volcano remained elevated.

Veniaminof (Alaska Peninsula, USA)
: Seismic tremor continued to slowly but steadily increase yesterday, then dropped temporarily and has been increasing again today. AVO reports an intermittent, low-level steam plume issuing from the central cone within the caldera. No elevated surface temperature were visible in satellite images. No other activity was confirmed by AVO.

Current webcam view of Veniaminof (AVO).

Pavlof (Alaska Peninsula, USA)
: Ash emissions continue, and possibly, a small lava flow is effusing from the summit.

MODIS hot spot data (past 7 days) for Pavlov volcano (ModVolc, Univ. Hawaii).

Seismic tremor and explosion signals are recorded by AVO and intermittent elevated surface temperatures consistent with lava effusion were observed over the past day in satellite images. (AVO)

Popocatépetl (Central Mexico)
: A cluster of several (7) volcanic earthquakes up to magnitudes 2.4 has occurred this morning, perhaps heralding some more vigorous activity in he near future.

Current webcam view of Popocatépetl.

Apart from this, activity has remained stable with about 2 weak steam-gas-sometimes ash-containing explosions per hour. A steam plume often rises about 1 km above the volcano.

Fuego (Guatemala)
: INSIVUMEH reports no significant changes in activity. 9 strombolian-type explosions with incandescent bombs ejected to 100 m and ash plumes rising about 500 m were observed during the past 24 hours.

Telica (Nicaragua)
: Seismicity has been at low levels recently. Today's seismogram is shown for comparison (see updates from earlier this year).

Seismic recording from Telica this morning (TELN station, INETER).

San Cristobal (Nicaragua)
: Seismic activity has returned to normal (low) levels.

Current seismic recording from San Cristobal volcano (CRIN station, INETER).

Cerro Negro (Nicaragua)
: Seismic activity has returned to low levels.

Today's seismic recording from Cerro Negro (CNGN station, INSIVUMEH).

Nyiragongo (DRCongo)
: A very large SO2 plume is visible hovering over the East Virunga region around Nyiragongo on NOAA's satellite data today. This leaves no doubt that the volcano's lava lake is still very active.

SO2 plume from Nyiragongo (NOAA).

Copahue (Chile/Argentina): Seismic activity has dropped sharply from 13 events / hour to only one per hour during only 9 hours. No corresponding changes were observed at the surface. The volcano continues to emit a small plume of steam and gas.

Complete Earthquake list (worldwide) for June 12, 2013.

- Volcano Discovery.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: The Great Deluge - The German Floods Could Cost Insurers $4 Billion!

June 12, 2013 - GERMANY - Damage from the past week's flooding in Germany likely will lead to insurance claims of up to 3 billion euros ($4 billion), a credit rating agency said Tuesday as flood levels on the Elbe river in the country's north appeared to stabilize.

An 11-year-old crosses the flooded market place of the city of Wehlen at river Elbe, Germany.
(Image: AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Further south, the peak of the flood on the Danube - Europe's second-longest river - moved away from the Hungarian capital, Budapest, toward Serbia.

The Elbe, the Danube and other rivers have overflowed their banks following weeks of heavy rain, causing extensive damage in Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary.

Fitch Ratings said that the total cost to insurers of the floods in Germany alone is likely to total between 2.5 billion and 3 billion euros.

That's well below the expected total cost of the flood damage, which Fitch put at about 12 billion euros. It said the difference is down to the fact that many residents in flood-prone areas may have been unable to get insurance cover for natural hazards, at least at a reasonable price.

There was no immediate estimate available of the flooding's cost in the other central European countries affected.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the governors of the country's 16 states plan to discuss the aftermath of the floods at a meeting Thursday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel toured flooded regions and pledged at least 50 million euros (65 million U.S. dollars) in immediate federal help and holding out the possibility for more. (Image: AP Photo/Bundesregierung, Steffen Kugler)

Waters were receding on the Danube in southern Germany, while the crest of the swollen Elbe river is now making its way through a largely rural swath of the country's northeast.

By Tuesday, flood levels in the eastern city of Magdeburg were more than 2 feet (about 70 centimeters) below their peak, and water levels further downstream were largely stable. The Interior Ministry said that German authorities have ordered more than 1.6 million unfilled sandbags from other European countries in recent days to help keep pace with their needs.

In Hungary, high flood walls saved most of Budapest from major damage. Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the high waters were expected to exit Hungary for Serbia on Thursday.

"We have ... two difficult days ahead of us," Orban said. "If we get through those, we will be close to declaring success, but it will demand two more days of intense work and attention." - Wunderground.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: China Confirms 131 H7N9 Bird Flu Cases With 39 Deaths - Federal Officials Weigh Vaccine Options!

June 12, 2013 - CHINA - A total of 131 H7N9 avian flu cases have been reported on the Chinese mainland, including 39 cases resulting in deaths, authorities said. Of the total, 78 H7N9 patients have been discharged from hospitals after receiving treatment. The other 14 patients are being treated in hospitals, reported Xinhua Sunday citing the National Health and Family Planning Commission. It said the China’s confirmed H7N9 virus cases are isolated and there has been no sign of human-to-human transmission.

The H7N9 bird flu is a form of the Influenza virus A. Detecting the presence of this virus is very difficult because it does not cause illness in poultry. It is a virulent form of the H1N1 virus and has a much higher fatality rate.  

What is H7N9?
H7N9 bird flu is a form of avian flu that is spread from infected poultry to humans. In the name given to the disease, the H7 stands for haemaglutinin or HA. Haemaglutinin is a glycoprotein found on the surface of the influenza virus. Its main function is to cause the agglutination (clumping of particles/cells) of blood. HA has 17 different parts and they are labeled as part H1 to H17. H7 is the type of haemaglutinin found in this particular virus. The ‘N7’ stands for Viral neuraminidase, its main function is to help viral DNA enter the patients’ cells and cause infection. Like Haemaglutinin, Viral neuraminidase also has a number of parts and N9 is the type of neuraminidase found in this particular virus.

The H7N9 bird flu is a form of the Influenzavirus A. It has been found to commonly infect people who handle poultry infected with the virus. Detecting this virus is very difficult because it does not cause illness in poultry. It is a virulent form of the H1N1 virus and the CDC and WHO(World Health Organisatiom) are still looking into its origin, the way it is transmitted and a possible vaccine for the condition.

 According to the CDC and WHO the symptoms of mild avian flu are the same as having a viral fever. Symptoms include sore throat, running nose, muscle aches. Symptoms of infection by a more virulent form of the disease include severe respiratory illness, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, pneumonia, acute respiratory distress, viral pneumonia, respiratory failure, multi-organ disease, sometimes accompanied by nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, confusion, dizziness etc.

Diagnosis of Avian Flu:
The avian flu cannot be diagnosed by clinical signs and symptoms alone, there are a few basic tests that a physician is likely to prescribe in such a case. To perform the test, a lab technician will take a swab of the throat of the person. This will then be used to culture the organism in the lab. Tests usually performed are molecular analysis and culture (growing the organism) analysis. In cases where there is a severe form of the disease, the technician might take a swab from the lower respiratory tract (a region a little lower in the throat). This again will be analyzed like a normal swab. If the Influenzavirus A is still not detected, the lab may perform a test called the viral antigen detection test. This test is used to identify if the patient’s body has produced antigens (fighting cells) against the influenza virus.

In the case of the H7N9 virus, the time of testing is crucial to accurate diagnosis. A person cannot be tested at the onset of the disease nor when he/she has fully recovered. This is because the virus is very rarely detected under such circumstances.
Treatment options:

The CDC and WHO has found that the H7N9 virus is sensitive to neuramidase inhibitors such as oseltamivir or zanamivir. These are drugs sold under the commercial name of Tamiflu. As a precaution doctor says that people should avoid the indiscrimate use of this drug as it could lead to  antibiotic resistance in patients.

Methods of prevention:

The influenza virus A or the Avian flu can be prevented by simple measures. Firstly, people working with poultry should take adequate protection before handling them. Protective measures such as wearing a mask and gloves are the best methods. People should also ensure that they wash their hands well before eating or touching their face or nose. Currently the CDC has not been able to pinpoint the exact mode of transmission from human-to-human, but they do suggest that people should avoid contact with patients infected with the virus.  It is also suggested that patients should be effectively quarantined during the time of the infection. All in all the H7N9 hasn’t given the authorities much to worry about till now! - Health India.

Federal Officials Weigh H7N9 Vaccine Options
Intensive federal deliberations are under way on whether to stockpile a vaccine against the H7N9 flu virus that emerged this spring in China, similar to the government's response to the H5N1 avian flu threat, health officials said today.

In the meantime, vaccine companies are getting ready to produce enough vaccine for clinical trials, which are slated to begin in August, according to an update presented before the National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC), an outside group that assists the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The meeting was broadcast live on the Web.

Robin Robinson, PhD, director of the HHS' Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) told the group that over the past 4 years federal health officials have used an assessment tool to weigh the risks of novel flu viruses and consider any steps to take with vaccine and other preparedness activities.

He said the risk weighting for H7N9 virus and the 2009 H1N1 virus bear some resemblances, with an uncanny similarity in timing. "It's been 4 years and 1 week since I was here to talk about possible pandemic vaccine efforts [for the 2009 pandemic H1N1 virus]," Robinson said.

When the variant H3N2 virus popped up at state and county fairs in the United States last summer, federal officials used the same risk-assessment tool and decided to go only as far as making enough vaccine for clinical trials, he said. However, if the H7N9 virus evolves to support sustained human-to-human transmission, the government would consider a large-scale vaccine campaign.

In stockpiling discussions, federal officials are weighing factors such as whom to vaccinate, what vaccine platforms to include, production capacity, timing, and cost, Robinson said. A decision on stockpiling could come this summer, he added.

Vaccine development details

So far nine different H7N9 seed strains have been developed for vaccine production, and most of them were made with reverse genetics. However, Robinson said some classic reassortants are starting to emerge.

Reminiscent of the 2009 H1N1 vaccine, health officials are seeing disappointing yields of antigen with the vaccine seeds used with traditional egg-based production methods, Robinson said. Lower-than-expected antigen yield was one factor that hampered the H1N1 vaccine in its early stages of production. However, he said one change from 2009 is that scientists can recognize that issue up front. Officials saw antigen yield increase in 2009 as production of the pandemic vaccine hit its stride.

A major difference between 2009 and now is that the H7N9 trials will include two new platforms—cell based and recombinant. "We have more tools in our toolbox," he said.

In October 2012 a 3-year review of existing influenza vaccines called out gaps in protection, especially in older people. Its researchers said the newest vaccine technology targets the same part of the flu virus—the hemagglutinin (HA) head—as traditional vaccines and aren't likely to yield substantial efficacy improvements.
The group, from the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, publisher of CIDRAP News concluded that new approaches are needed, such as vaccines that target the HA stalk, and that major national and global efforts are required to overcome significant challenges in producing a game-changing flu vaccine.

Progress on the recombinant vaccines is running a little ahead of the traditional vaccines, with better antigen yields so far, Robinson said, predicting that the first vaccine lots will be released in July, with the first clinical trials to launch in August. "That may sound familiar, because that's when we started testing the H1N1 vaccine," Robinson said.

BARDA has been supporting an H7N1 vaccine candidate made by GlaxoSmithKline, and trials of that vaccine will launch in early July, he said. Given that the vaccine is a "cousin" of the H7N9 vaccine, those trials are likely to produce interesting findings shortly in advance of the H7N9 results. The H7N1 virus is one of a handful of flu strains considered to have pandemic potential.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already started work on the potency assay reagents that will be used to assess the candidate H7N9 vaccines, Robinson said. He added that at least two alternate potency assays are being assessed. A federal countermeasure assessment and a White House review of the 2009 H1N1 vaccine campaign both suggested that new vaccine potency assays might be one way to shorten pandemic vaccine production timelines.

H7N9 challenges ahead

Looking ahead to the H7N9 trials, federal officials and researchers will have some daunting challenges. "Historically, H7 vaccines haven't provided a very rosy picture for us," Robinson said. "We have our work cut out for us."

Earlier trials of inactivated subunit H7 vaccines with and without adjuvant haven't shown a strong immune response, he said. "That is alarming."

Robinson said live-attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) trials with H7 strains have shown modest immunity, for what can actually be measured. More recently, studies have hinted that priming with LAIV H7 vaccine followed by vaccination with inactivated vaccine may produce a robust response, he told the group.

Last month, CIDRAP Director Michael T. Osterholm, PhD, MPH, and colleagues said in a Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) commentary that if the H7N9 evolves into a pandemic strain, the world is unlikely to make enough of the vaccine in time to dampen the impact. Besides the limited effectiveness of H7 vaccines tested so far, the global public health community remains unprepared, they wrote, despite added vaccination production capacity.

The group projected that at the 90-microgram (mcg) dose used for the H5N1 vaccine, the global capacity for H7N9 vaccine would be 757 million doses, less than 15% of the global need.

Robinson said researchers don't know what dosage is needed, but given the lack of population immunity to H7 strains, the amount of antigen in a dose of unadjuvanted vaccine might require as much as 90 mcg, as with the H5N1 version. He predicted that two doses of H7N9 vaccine would be needed. With that estimate, it would take 18 months to provide enough vaccine for everyone, with the cost likely to be prohibitive, he said.
As federal officials weigh different H7N9 vaccine scenarios, one decision they have made is that its production should not delay seasonal flu vaccine manufacturing, he said.

The combination of factors involves may increase the possibility that a dose-sparing adjuvanted vaccine would be needed in an H7N9 immunization campaign, Robinson said. Unlike in many other parts of the world, adjuvants haven't been used in US flu vaccines, and their inclusion in a pandemic vaccine would create challenges in pitching it to a public that is unfamiliar with the vaccine boosters.

NVAC members asked federal health officials about H7N9 vaccine efforts under way in China. During the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, China was the first country to bring a vaccine to market. Robinson said several different companies in China are developing H7N9 vaccines. "They are probably at the same point we are," he said. - CIDRAP.

EXTREME WEATHER: Most Stifling Record-Challenging Heat Gripping Denver, Dallas Spills Eastward - Temperatures Will Climb As High As 110 Degrees!

June 12, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Highs climbing well into the 90s and 100s have been challenging records along the Front Range of the Rockies and the southern Plains this week.

Temperatures will once again climb into the 100s across the region with some areas nearing 110 degrees across the southern Plains. Temperatures will soar into the 90s for areas farther east at midweek, including Little Rock, Nashville, Atlanta and Raleigh. It will feel more like the 100s with humidity factored in.

Denver is among the major cities that have been in the core of the heat wave. The high climbed to 100 on Tuesday, breaking the old record of 95 degrees set in 1956. The last time Denver hit 100 degrees was on July 23, 2012.

Temperatures will climb into the 90s, just a few degrees shy of 100, in Dallas through midweek.

This caliber of heat is dangerous, especially since people have not endured this level of heat for many months. People are urged to stay indoors in air conditioning as much as possible. It is important to drink plenty of water, and if you have to be outdoors, it is best to wear loose-fitted, light-colored clothing and make sure to bring sunscreen.

This intense heat is being caused by a strong upper-level ridge that is building over the region, the same ridge that brought record-challenging heat to the Southwest last weekend.

This pattern will remain firmly in place heading into the second part of the week, continuing the stretch of 100-degree days.

In addition to the scorching heat, this strong ridge will keep the southern Plains mainly dry through the week as well.

Dry conditions will not help the region, which is currently in extreme drought.

The next sign of relief appears to be next weekend when the main axis of the ridge shifts to the east. - AccuWeather.