Friday, September 6, 2013

PLANETARY TREMORS: Very Powerful 6.6 Magnitude Quake Strikes Guatemala Causing Panic Among Residents - Many Reports Of Damage And Injuries; Houses Collapse; Landslides Block Highways; Blackout In Some Areas; Quake Felt In Neighboring Countries; The 11th Magnitude 6.0 Or Over Tremor In JUST 8 DAYS!

September 06, 2013 - GUATEMALA - A 6.6-magnitude earthquake shook Guatemala's Pacific coastline on Friday evening, causing some adobe homes to collapse in a town near the epicenter. There were  immediate reports of injuries.

USGS earthquake location - Terrain View.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter was 6 kilometers (3 miles) south of the small town of Pajapita, near the border with Mexico, and 168 kilometers west of Guatemala City. It had a depth of 67 kilometers (41 miles).

EMSC is giving a magnitude of 6.5 at a depth of 95km. Both calculations show that this was a deep earthquake.

USGS earthquake location - Satellite View.

Guatemala's fire department issued a statement saying some poorly-built homes were destroyed in the town of Patzicia, located between the epicenter and the capital city. The Central American nation's natural disaster agency said that at least three uninhabited homes collapsed, and two highways were blocked by landslides.

Reports of Damage:

1:42 UTC:
-4 homes collapsed in San Miguel Sigüila, Quetzaltenango.
-A house collapsed in the village of San Sebastián Lemoa, Quiché.
-2 women were injured in San Marcos.
-There are damaged houses in Patzicia, Chimaltenango.
-A house caught on fire due to the quake in Tiquisate, Escuintla
-Damage can be seen on the roof of Rafael Landívar University.
-Ceiling fell on the Enriquez passageway in Xela.

1:14 UTC: There are collapsed and heavily damaged houses around Quetzaltenango. Also 1 person has been injured by falling debris in there.

1:08 UTC: Unconfirmed reports indicate that 3 houses, damaged on last years quake, have collapsed with no people inside.

1:03 UTC: People have been injured, most of them from traffic accidents.

12:49 UTC: There are reports of damaged houses as well as collapsed walls around Guatemala. A very big landslide has been reported in kilometer 214.

12:44 UTC: USGS expects that 41,000 people felt  a Very Strong shaking (Mercalli Scale of VII), 1,351,000 a strong shaking (MMI of VI) and almost 4 million people feeling a Moderate shaking (MMI V). If these values are correct then this is a very dangerous earthquake.

12:39 UTC: Damage has been reported in San Marcos, Guatemala. Broken windows have been observed in a municipal building of San Marcos.

12:37 UTC: Power is out in some locations around Guatemala. Landslides could had happened since the area has been hit by hard rains lately.

The quake was felt strongly in the capital of Guatemala City, and caused blackouts in some areas, but authorities did not immediately report any damage there.

"People living in Guatemala City's tall buildings were panicked," said Eddy Sanchez, director of Guatemala's National Institute of Seismology.

USGS earthquake shakemap intensity.

People ran outside their homes and some motorists stopped their cars in the capital. An aftershock of a lower magnitude further frightened capital-dwellers.

Eye-Witness Reports - USGS:

Guatemala City - The house started shaking and it got a little worse but is was only scary for a few seconds.
San Pedro La Laguna - Lasted about 40 seconds. Mild at first, everything stated rumbling when it peaked
Panajachel, Guatemala - I was on the phone with my mother who was calling from Panajachel as it happened, she said it was pretty strong and everyone was running outside.
Guatemala, City - very strong shaking :
Guatemala City - (I'm a pilot staying overnight in Guatemala City at the Crown Plaza by the airport. On the second floor my bed started moving as I watched TV and progressively got worse for about 10 seconds then subsided. A very weak aftershock occurred 5-10 min later. So far no damage can be seen.
Pacoxom - Light fixture swayed, dishes rattled, we exited house.
Quetzaltenango - On second floor of colonial hotel in center a good 30 second shake - quickly exited down stairs and out to the street with a number of other people as it stopped. Some folks were shaken up. Every cell phone was out. As others, felt aftershock about 10 minutes later - maybe 5-10 seconds in duration. And life goes on...
San Pedro La Laguna, Lago Atitlan - Everything was shaking, things fell of the shelf, I ran outside and all my puppies were crying.
Quetzaltenango - very strong shaking small items have fallen,
San Marcos La Laguna - My apartment was shaking very strongly for what felt like a minute or two. Lots of noise as windows and refrigerator and pots/pans shook. Only one small item fell on the floor, and no other visible damage, but the noise and shaking were quite strong.

Eye-Witness Reports - EMSC:

Panajachel - No objects knocked down, but good amount of shaking and seemed to be an aftershock w/in 5-10 minutes.
Guatemala - I felt my knees shake. And I ran out the door.
Antigua / Guatemala - was sitting on the bed with some friends watching a movie when the room began to shake and books fell off the shelves. ran outside and the ground continued to roll for a few seconds. moderate shaking - felt one weaker aftershock so far.
San Cristobal de las casas, Mexico - Started to feel the sway while at my desk. I ran outside and it lasted for what seemed to be about a minute. I am still feeling things settle into place, several minutes later.
Guatemala City - It was horrible.
Santa Cruz la Laguna - A few seconds. Nothing major.
San Jose Chacaya - Moderate shaking but very long... about 15 sec.
San Pedro La Laguna - Ground shook. What else to say?
Quetzaltenango - the quake was strong and long. still feeling aftershocks.
Guatemala City - Yea I was sitting on my bed then felt a little shake and boom it hit
Buena Vista - We have an Academy here and the block walls were waving up and down.
san marcos la laguna solola guatemala - I have a restaurant here in the village centre and the shake took bottles of the shelves.The building shook quiet a lot
Ciudad de Guatemala - stuff shook!
Antigua / Guatemala - the roof started creaking first and then the ground began to move. i got into a reinforced doorway and then the whole house began to roll like on a giant wave. no damage, other than to nerves
Guatemala City - Closet and shower door were moving. It went on about a minute.
Guatemala City - Shaking side to side in my hotel
Santa Cruz la Laguna - I felt shaking for approx. 15 seconds. Not as bad as the one in the fall of 2012, which was 7.2. Slight aftershock.
Antigua - light shaking felt inside and outside. small after tremor
centro dos south of nuva concepcion - Reading a book when it started felt pretty strong nothing broke here just a long period of shaking
Antigua - I was looking up information in Wikipedia on the Island of Garbage in the pacific, and also learning some icelandic when, Bam, here it comes, and I'm like, today is far too hung over a day to die.
Zone 14 Guatemala City - On floor 12 multi axis shaking 90 seconds with several aftershocks. On phone with person across town who also felt it. Strongest felt in 2 years.
Panajachel - The bed and closet units started moving around, floor shaking, lasted about 30 seconds, no damage!
Antigua - My 3 story hotel was rocking...pretty strong.

The temblor was also felt in neighboring Mexico and El Salvador, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage in those countries.

Google earthquake location.

Friday's temblor was one of the strongest in Guatemala since a 7.4-magnitude earthquake last November killed 42 people in the country's west. That quake was the strongest in 36 years and left thousands of people homeless and without electricity or water.

SOURCES: ABC News | Earthquake Report.

Tectonic Summary.
The September 7, 2013 (UTC) Guatemala earthquake (Mw6.6) occurred near the west coast of Guatemala in the Middle American trench. The event occurred at or near the interface between the Cocos and North America plates.   The style of faulting based on the W-phase source mechanism indicates slip likely occurred on a shallow thrust fault consistent with the subduction interface.  At the latitude of this event, the Cocos plate moves towards the north-northeast with respect to the North American plate at a rate of 78 mm/yr.

The broad scale tectonics of the western and southwestern coast of Central America are dominated by the northeastward subduction of the Cocos oceanic plate beneath the North America plate. Thrust- and normal-type earthquakes are a common occurrence along this plate boundary and the Guatemala region, with events occurring both within the subduction zone and in the overriding plate. Over the past 40 years, 27 events of M6.0 or greater have occurred within 300km of the September 2013 event. Events of note in this region include earthquakes on November 2012 Mw7.4 offshore of Guatemala, which killed 39 people; September 1993 M­w­7.2 offshore of Chiapas, Mexico, which killed one person; and December 1983 Mw7.0 offshore of Guatemala. Other early 20th century earthquakes in the Guatemala region include August 1942 Mw7.9, which killed 38 and April 1902 M7.5, which killed more than 5000 people.

Seismotectonics Of The Caribbean Region And Vicinity.
Extensive diversity and complexity of tectonic regimes characterizes the perimeter of the Caribbean plate, involving no fewer than four major plates (North America, South America, Nazca, and Cocos). Inclined zones of deep earthquakes (Wadati-Benioff zones), ocean trenches, and arcs of volcanoes clearly indicate subduction of oceanic lithosphere along the Central American and Atlantic Ocean margins of the Caribbean plate, while crustal seismicity in Guatemala, northern Venezuela, and the Cayman Ridge and Cayman Trench indicate transform fault and pull-apart basin tectonics.

Along the northern margin of the Caribbean plate, the North America plate moves westwards with respect to the Caribbean plate at a velocity of approximately 20 mm/yr. Motion is accommodated along several major transform faults that extend eastward from Isla de Roatan to Haiti, including the Swan Island Fault and the Oriente Fault. These faults represent the southern and northern boundaries of the Cayman Trench. Further east, from the Dominican Republic to the Island of Barbuda, relative motion between the North America plate and the Caribbean plate becomes increasingly complex and is partially accommodated by nearly arc-parallel subduction of the North America plate beneath the Caribbean plate. This results in the formation of the deep Puerto Rico Trench and a zone of intermediate focus earthquakes (70-300 km depth) within the subducted slab. Although the Puerto Rico subduction zone is thought to be capable of generating a megathrust earthquake, there have been no such events in the past century. The last probable interplate (thrust fault) event here occurred on May 2, 1787 and was widely felt throughout the island with documented destruction across the entire northern coast, including Arecibo and San Juan. Since 1900, the two largest earthquakes to occur in this region were the August 4, 1946 M8.0 Samana earthquake in northeastern Hispaniola and the July 29, 1943 M7.6 Mona Passage earthquake, both of which were shallow thrust fault earthquakes. A significant portion of the motion between the North America plate and the Caribbean plate in this region is accommodated by a series of left-lateral strike-slip faults that bisect the island of Hispaniola, notably the Septentrional Fault in the north and the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden Fault in the south. Activity adjacent to the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden Fault system is best documented by the devastating January 12, 2010 M7.0 Haiti strike-slip earthquake, its associated aftershocks and a comparable earthquake in 1770.

Moving east and south, the plate boundary curves around Puerto Rico and the northern Lesser Antilles where the plate motion vector of the Caribbean plate relative to the North and South America plates is less oblique, resulting in active island-arc tectonics. Here, the North and South America plates subduct towards the west beneath the Caribbean plate along the Lesser Antilles Trench at rates of approximately 20 mm/yr. As a result of this subduction, there exists both intermediate focus earthquakes within the subducted plates and a chain of active volcanoes along the island arc. Although the Lesser Antilles is considered one of the most seismically active regions in the Caribbean, few of these events have been greater than M7.0 over the past century. The island of Guadeloupe was the site of one of the largest megathrust earthquakes to occur in this region on February 8, 1843, with a suggested magnitude greater than 8.0. The largest recent intermediate-depth earthquake to occur along the Lesser Antilles arc was the November 29, 2007 M7.4 Martinique earthquake northwest of Fort-De-France.

USGS earthquake historic seismicity.

The southern Caribbean plate boundary with the South America plate strikes east-west across Trinidad and western Venezuela at a relative rate of approximately 20 mm/yr. This boundary is characterized by major transform faults, including the Central Range Fault and the Boconó-San Sebastian-El Pilar Faults, and shallow seismicity. Since 1900, the largest earthquakes to occur in this region were the October 29, 1900 M7.7 Caracas earthquake, and the July 29, 1967 M6.5 earthquake near this same region. Further to the west, a broad zone of compressive deformation trends southwestward across western Venezuela and central Columbia. The plate boundary is not well defined across northwestern South America, but deformation transitions from being dominated by Caribbean/South America convergence in the east to Nazca/South America convergence in the west. The transition zone between subduction on the eastern and western margins of the Caribbean plate is characterized by diffuse seismicity involving low- to intermediate-magnitude (Magnitude less than 6.0) earthquakes of shallow to intermediate depth.

The plate boundary offshore of Colombia is also characterized by convergence, where the Nazca plate subducts beneath South America towards the east at a rate of approximately 65 mm/yr. The January 31, 1906 M8.5 earthquake occurred on the shallowly dipping megathrust interface of this plate boundary segment. Along the western coast of Central America, the Cocos plate subducts towards the east beneath the Caribbean plate at the Middle America Trench. Convergence rates vary between 72-81 mm/yr, decreasing towards the north. This subduction results in relatively high rates of seismicity and a chain of numerous active volcanoes; intermediate-focus earthquakes occur within the subducted Cocos plate to depths of nearly 300 km. Since 1900, there have been many moderately sized intermediate-depth earthquakes in this region, including the September 7, 1915 M7.4 El Salvador and the October 5, 1950 M7.8 Costa Rica events.

The boundary between the Cocos and Nazca plates is characterized by a series of north-south trending transform faults and east-west trending spreading centers. The largest and most seismically active of these transform boundaries is the Panama Fracture Zone. The Panama Fracture Zone terminates in the south at the Galapagos rift zone and in the north at the Middle America trench, where it forms part of the Cocos-Nazca-Caribbean triple junction. Earthquakes along the Panama Fracture Zone are generally shallow, low- to intermediate in magnitude (Magnitude less than 7.2) and are characteristically right-lateral strike-slip faulting earthquakes. Since 1900, the largest earthquake to occur along the Panama Fracture Zone was the July 26, 1962 M7.2 earthquake. - USGS.

MASS MAMMAL DIE-OFF: Ten Pilot Whales Die After 100 Mysteriously Beach Themselves In Snaefellsnes, Iceland?!

September 13, 2013 - ICELAND - Up to 100 pilot whales swam into the harbor at Rif in Snæfellsnes, West Iceland, on Saturday. Attempts were made by local residents to direct the whales back out to sea but around ten whales died.

Around 200 people—both locals and tourists—gathered on the beach yesterday afternoon to view the dead whales, with some people cutting the meat from the carcasses to take home, reports.

WATCH: Pilot whales beaching in West Iceland.

However, Róbert Arnar Stefánsson, biologist at the West Iceland Institute of Natural History, says that proper procedures were not followed when the whales drifted into the harbor.

According to Róbert, the chief veterinary surgeon should decide on the right path of action and whether to kill or try to save the whales. He points out that a rifle should be used to kill the whales if they cannot be saved and that if the animals lie motion-free that does not necessarily mean that they are dead as they usually only breathe once per minute.

Róbert told that it is difficult to know whether it would have been possible to save the whales but that using knives to cut the meat would have been very painful if the whales had still been alive.

It is not yet known why the whales swam into the harbor. “They were clearly distressed and frightened,” he said.

Róbert warns against pregnant women and those with underlying diseases eating the meat due to high levels of persistent organic pollutants (POPs). - Iceland Review.

WORLD WAR III: United States Will Strike Syria On 9/11 Ritual Anniversary - President Obama To Address Nation Day Before 9/11 & Benghazi Anniversaries, Orders Pentagon To Expand Potential Targets In Syria, And Expands Syria War Plans With Long-Range B-2 And B-52 Stealth Bombers As U.S. Strike On Syria Will Be "Significantly Larger Than Expected"; Iran Plots Revenge, Sending Messages To Militants Ordering Reprisals In Iraq If Syria Hit, Ayatollah Khamenei Warns US against Syria Attack, Threatens Brutal Attacks On Americans, Promises To Rape And Kill Obama's Daughters; United States Evacuates Non-Emergency Staff From Beirut Embassy; And Turkey Reinforces Syria Border As Erdogan Backs U.S. Attack?!

September 06, 2013 - MIDDLE EAST - ABC reports US attack on Syria to last 48-hours, to include stealth bombers. WSJ reports US intercepted Iranian message to Iraqi terrorists calling on them to attack US facilities in case of attack. Meanwhile, Kerry attempts to revive international peace conference

United States Expands Syria War Plans With Long-Range B-2 And B-52 Stealth Bombers.
B-2 bomber.

US media outlets including CNN, ABC and The New York Times have reported Fiday that the potential US strike on Syria could be larger than previously anticipated. The possible US led air campaign could be two-days long and include long-range B-2 and B-52 stealth bombers which would takeoff from the US and fire guided missiles from beyond the range of Syria anti-air defense systems, Jonathan Karl of ABC News, who is traveling with President Barack Obama to Russia, reported.

If indeed the heavy bombers will be involved in the attack, one of their potential targets will be rockets used for chemical attacks as well as those capable of reaching Israel, ABC reported, in addition to some 200 tomahawk missiles which will be fired from US destroyers in the Mediterranean. According to the report, an official told the ABC journalist that the attack would cause Syrian President Bashar Assad more damage in two days than the rebels have caused in two years.

B-52 (Photo: Reuters)

In a possible reaction to news of the widening attack plan, The Wall Street Journal reported the US has intercepted an Iranian order aimed at Iraqi militants which instructed them to attack US facilities, including its embassy in Baghdad in the event of a Syrian strike, the paper quoted an official as saying. According to military officials, other possible retaliation threats could be from Iran's fleet of fast boats in the Persian Gulf – which threaten gulf-based US battle ships – as well as an attack on the US Embassy in Beirut by Hezbollah.

Diplomatic Front 
US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday phoned his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov seeking to give fresh impetus to plans to hold peace talks on Syria, officials said. After two days of major hearings in the Congress where he pleaded for backing to launch punitive US military strikes against Syria, Kerry returned his focus to the dormant political track, dubbed Geneva II. During a May visit to Moscow, Kerry and Lavrov hatched proposals to bring the Syrian opposition and the government of President Bashar Assad to the table to negotiate a transition of power. The talks were aimed at building on a ceasefire deal reached in Geneva in June 2012, which has so far failed to be implemented. Initially due to be held by the end of May, the second round of proposed talks have been repeatedly postponed and have never materialized amid deep divisions among the Syrian opposition and a dispute over exactly which nations should be invited to participate.

The diplomatic track has also languished amid deteriorating ties between Moscow and Washington. But US officials say they have remained focused on convening the talks despite President Barack Obama's plan for limited strikes on Syrian targets following last month's suspected chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime.  "It's important to note that even though we're focused here and the secretary's focused every day on working with Congress and working on building our international coalition for this specific targeted action, that we still continue to believe that there's no military solution," State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said.  "We do remain focused on Geneva and using that as a venue for a negotiated political settlement."  She said the United States was "still working through the details" and that it had been among issues discussed by Kerry in a Thursday morning call with Lavrov.

The Obama administration is seeking approval from Congress for military strikes to decimate the Syrian regime's chemical weapons capability.  Whether such action would force Assad to the negotiating table was uncertain, Psaki acknowledged, but stressing that the United States would like the talks to happen as soon as possible.  "I just don't want to predict what's going to bring every side to the table, but that's part of, of course, the ongoing discussion," she told reporters. It is likely significant however that the UN-Arab League envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, was in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on Thursday to attend a G20 summit. And Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, who recently spoke with Kerry, was to travel to Russia on Monday to discuss the crisis. Russia has been a key ally of Syria throughout the war now in its third year and has been working to get the regime to sit down with the opposition. For its part the United States has sought to build a cohesive opposition which would have the authority to negotiate for the fractured rebels seeking to oust Assad. - YNET News.

Obama Orders Pentagon To Expand Potential Targets In Syria.
People on Wednesday walked along a damaged street in
Deir al-Zour, an eastern city in Syria that has been a
recurrent battleground in the conflict. (Reuters)
President Obama has directed the Pentagon to develop an expanded list of potential targets in Syria in response to intelligence suggesting that the government of President Bashar al-Assad has been moving troops and equipment used to employ chemical weapons while Congress debates whether to authorize military action. Mr. Obama, officials said, is now determined to put more emphasis on the “degrade” part of what the administration has said is the goal of a military strike against Syria — to “deter and degrade” Mr. Assad’s ability to use chemical weapons. That means expanding beyond the 50 or so major sites that were part of the original target list developed with French forces before Mr. Obama delayed action on Saturday to seek Congressional approval of his plan. 

For the first time, the administration is talking about using American and French aircraft to conduct strikes on specific targets, in addition to ship-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles. There is a renewed push to get other NATO forces involved.  The strikes would be aimed not at the chemical stockpiles themselves — risking a potential catastrophe — but rather the military units that have stored and prepared the chemical weapons and carried the attacks against Syrian rebels, as well as the headquarters overseeing the effort, and the rockets and artillery that have launched the attacks, military officials said Thursday. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that other targets would include equipment that Syria uses to protect the chemicals — air defenses, long-range missiles and rockets, which can also deliver the weapons. - NY Times.

U.S. Strike On Syria To Be "Significantly Larger Than Expected".
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely.
Photo: REUTERS/ Lt. Cmdr. Corey Barker/U.S. Navy/Handout
Despite statements from both US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry that a US-led strike on Syria would be a "limited and tailored" military attack, ABC News reported on Thursday that the strike planned by Obama's national security team is "significantly larger" than most have anticipated.  According to ABC News, in additional to a salvo of 200 Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from four Navy destroyers stationed in the eastern Mediterranean, the US is also planning an aerial campaign that is expected to last two days.

This campaign potentially includes an aerial bombardment of missiles and long range bombs from US-based B-2 stealth bombers that carry satellite-guided bombs, B-52 bombers, that can carry air-launched cruise missiles and Qatar-based B-1s that carry long-range, air-to-surface missiles, both ABC News and The New York Times reported.  "This military strike will do more damage to [Syrian President Bashar] Assad's forces in 48 hours than the Syrian rebels have done in two years," a national security official told ABC News. - JPOST.

9-10 - President Obama To Address Nation Day Before 9/11 And Benghazi Ritual Anniversaries.
(Photo: Reuters)
President Barack Obama says he will address the nation about Syria on Tuesday as he seeks public and congressional authority for military action against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.  Obama wants to strike against the Syrian regime in response to a chemical attack on civilians last month that the Obama administration says was carried out by Assad's military. Obama says failing to chemical weapons use would , quote, "send a signal to rogue nations."

Obama spoke at a news conference at the conclusion of a Group of 20 summit in Russia where Syria dominated much of the discussion.  Amid tepid support for a strike, lawmakers have called on Obama to build support with the public by making such an address. - AP.

WATCH: 'Obama to attack Syria regardless how Congress votes'.

Iran Plots Revenge, Sending Messages To Militants Ordering Reprisals In Iraq If Syria Hit.
Ayatollah Khamenei says Obama administration will suffer loss if it attacks Syria. (Reuters)

The U.S. has intercepted an order from Iran to militants in Iraq to attack the U.S. Embassy and other American interests in Baghdad in the event of a strike on Syria, officials said, amid an expanding array of reprisal threats across the region.  Military officials have been trying to predict the range of possible responses from Syria, Iran and their allies. U.S. officials said they are on alert for Iran's fleet of small, fast boats in the Persian Gulf, where American warships are positioned. U.S. officials also fear Hezbollah could attack the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. 

While the U.S. has moved military resources in the region for a possible strike, it has other assets in the area that would be ready to respond to any reprisals by Syria, Iran or its allies. Those deployments include a strike group of the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier and three destroyers in the Red Sea, and an amphibious ship, the USS San Antonio, in the Eastern Mediterranean, which would help with any evacuations. The U.S. military has also readied Marines and other assets to aid evacuation of diplomatic compounds if needed, and the State Department began making preparations last week for potential retaliation against U.S. embassies and other interests in the Middle East and North Africa.

A delay in a U.S. strike would increase opportunities for coordinated retaliation by groups allied with the Assad government, including Shiite militias in Iraq, according to U.S. officials.  The destroyers positioned in the Eastern Mediterranean are equipped with—in addition to Tomahawk missiles that could be used against Syria—the Standard Missile-3, which could be used to intercept ballistic missiles should Iran launch a retaliatory strike, officials said.  Israel has so far been the focus of concerns about retaliation from Iran and its Lebanese militant ally Hezbollah. The commander-in-chief of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard Corps said last week that an attack on Syria would lead to the "destruction of Israel."  The State Department issued a new alert on Thursday warning against nonessential travel to Iraq and citing terrorist activity "at levels unseen since 2008." Earlier this year, an alert said that violence against Americans had decreased. That reassurance was dropped from the most recent alert.

The Iranian message, intercepted in recent days, came from Qasem Soleimani, the head of Revolutionary Guards' Qods Force, and went to Iranian-supported Shiite militia groups in Iraq, according to U.S. officials.  In it, Mr. Soleimani said Shiite groups must be prepared to respond with force after a U.S. strike on Syria. Iranian officials didn't respond to requests for comment.

Iraqi Shiites have been sympathetic to the Alawite-dominated government of Syria and oppose U.S. strikes against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.  U.S. officials said the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad was one likely target. The officials didn't describe the range of potential targets indicated by the intelligence.  Attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad have fallen since American forces left Iraq. In the past, Iranian-trained Shiite groups have fired rockets and mortars at the embassy, at the urging of the Qods Force, a paramilitary arm of the IRGC.  Militants also have used suicide bombers and IEDs to attack Americans leaving the embassy compound, one of the largest American diplomatic facilities in the world, located in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone.  Syrians could also respond with "a vicious offensive" against the opposition inside Syria, said Aaron David Miller, a former top Middle East negotiator in the State Department who now is a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson Center. Such a move, he said, would be a way "to demonstrate defiance" without running the risk of hitting American targets. - WSJ.

Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei Warns US against Syria Attack.
Iranian long-range missile.  (Reuters)

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei has warned the Obama administration against any proposed military strike on Syria.  Khamenei, who wields the ultimate authority in Iranian affairs, said Washington would "certainly suffer loss" if it attacked Bashar al-Assad's forces.

"In the case of Syria, the chemical attack is a pretext. The Americans try to play with words and pretend that they've become involved in this case for humanitarian aims.  "The Americans are making mistakes in Syria and they have felt the impact and will certainly suffer loss," the Iranian leader said.  A similar view was later echoed by Iran's recently elected president Hassan Rohani who said a US strike on Syria would not help anyone including America's key allies in the region.  Throughout the two-and-a-half-year long turmoil in Syria, Iran and Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based Shiite militant group, have strongly backed the Assad regime.  US authorities said they had intercepted an order from Iran to target American interests in the Middle East if Syria were attacked.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the US diplomatic facilities in Iraq, Lebanon and other volatile countries have been kept on high alert following Iran's order. The US embassy in Baghdad is said to be among the key targets for retaliation.

The Iranian order to Shiite militant outfits in the region is believed to have emerged from the chief of the country's Revolutionary Guards' Qods Force. The US State Department has also issued a fresh travel advisory note to Americans visiting Iraq about possible attacks. - IBTimes.

Iran Threatens Brutal Attacks On Americans, Promises To Rape And Kill Obama's Daughters.
Hassan Rouhani, The 7th President of Iran. (Reuters)
As Congress debates whether to support President Obama’s call for a limited strike against Syria for the alleged use of chemical weapons, Iran is vowing to back Bashar al-Assad’s regime to the hilt and threatening to unleash terrorism should the U.S. strike.  Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Forces, Wednesday told the Assembly of Experts — the body that chooses the supreme leader — that “[w]e will support Syria to the end.”  And in an unprecedented statement, a former Iranian official has warned of mass abductions and brutal killings of American citizens around the world and the rape and killing of one of Obama’s daughters should the United States attack Syria. 

Alireza Forghani, the former governor of southern Iran’s Kish Province, threw down the gauntlet last week. Forghani is an analyst and strategy specialist in the supreme leader’s camp and closely aligned with Mehdi Taeb, who heads the regime’s Ammar Strategic Base, a radical think thank, and thus speaks with the blessing of the Islamic regime.  “Hopefully Obama will be pigheaded enough to attack Syria, and then we will see the … loss of U.S. interests [through terrorist attacks],” he threatened. “In just 21 hours [after the attack on Syria], a family member of every U.S. minister [department secretary], U.S. ambassadors, U.S. military commanders around the world will be abducted. And then 18 hours later, videos of their amputation will be spread [around the world].”  A similar act was committed in a video of the torture of William Buckley, a CIA station chief who was abducted in Beirut in 1984 and later killed by Hezbollah on Iran’s order. That video was dropped off at the U.S. Embassy in Athens. Former CIA Director William Casey later described what he saw in the video: “They had done more than ruin his body. His eyes made it clear his mind had been played with. It was horrific, medieval and barbarous.”  - Daily Caller.

U.S. Evacuates Non-Emergency Staff From Beirut Embassy.
U.S. Embassy compound in Aukar, a hilly suburb north
of the Lebanese capital Beirut. (AP)
The US State Department said on Friday it had evacuated non-emergency personnel and family members from its embassy in the Lebanese capital Beirut, as Congress debates a military strike on neighboring Syria. "The Department of State drew down non-emergency personnel and family members from Embassy Beirut due to threats to US Mission facilities and personnel," a statement on the Beirut embassy's website said.

The US State Department urges "US citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon because of current safety and security concerns," the statement also said.  The State Department also moved to reduce its diplomatic presence at its consulate general in Adana, Turkey, due to security threats, it said Friday in a statement.  "The Consulate General in Adana has been authorized to draw down its non-emergency staff and family members because of threats against US government facilities and personnel," the department said.  It also recommended "that US citizens defer non-essential travel to southeastern Turkey," the statement said.

Navy Ships 
Earlier Friday, it was reported that Russia is sending its large landing ship Nikolai Filchenkov towards the Syrian coast, state news agency Interfax quoted a navy source as saying. "The vessel will dock in Novorossiysk where it will take special cargo on board and head to the designated area of military service in the eastern Mediterranean," Interfax quoted the unnamed navy source as saying. It gave no more details on the cargo. Russia, a key international ally of Damascus in the Syrian civil war, is rotating its navy vessels in the Mediterranean and says its presence there is a security guarantee. - Reuters.

Turkey Reinforces Syria Border As Erdogan Backs U.S. Attack.
Turkish PM Erdogan attends the first working meeting of the
G20 summit in St. Petersburg on Sept. 5, 2013. (Getty Images)
Turkey deployed tanks and anti-aircraft guns to reinforce its military units on the Syrian border, as the U.S. considers strikes against Syria.  Convoys carrying tanks and rocket-launchers headed to border areas in Hatay, Gaziantep and Sanliurfa provinces today and yesterday, according to Hurriyet newspaper and Anatolia news agency. Tanks, missile launchers and anti-aircraft guns on hilltops near the border town of Kilis were aimed Syria, state-run TRT television said. F-16s, tanker and cargo planes as well as at least one drone landed at southern Incirlik Air Base, Anatolia said.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has expressed a willingness to join any international coalition against Syria, yesterday vowed to respond to any attack from its southern neighbor. He spoke after Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad was cited by the Wall Street Journal as saying that Syria will strike U.S. allies Israel, Jordan and Turkey if the Obama administration attacks his country over its alleged use of chemical weapons on Aug. 21.  “Our country is ready for such a situation,” Erdogan said, according to Hurriyet. “Is Syria ready for this? I can’t know.”  The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is prepared to defend Turkey against a possible spillover of the civil war, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Sept. 2.  - Bloomberg.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Global Volcanism - Ocean Volcano In The Northwestern Pacific Ocean May Be The Largest On Earth, BIGGEST IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM?!

September 06, 2013 - PACIFIC OCEAN - A seamount in the northwestern Pacific Ocean may be the largest volcano on Earth, and could rival the largest in the solar system -- the mighty Olympus Mons on Mars -- according to oceanographers.

A three-dimensional map shows the elevation of Tamu Massif in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, off Japan.
It appears to be one continuous shield volcano, the largest on Earth and rivaling Olympus Mons, on Mars.
(Integrated Ocean Drilling Program)

Tamu Massif, a well-known seamount off Japan, turns out to be one continuous shield volcano, about the size of New Mexico or the British Isles, said geophysicist William W. Sager, lead author of a study published online Thursday in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Sager and team members had long ago given names to the formations jutting up from the Shatsky Rise, a California-sized oceanic plateau southeast of Japan. Tamu, the largest of three major features, stands for Texas A&M University, where Sager conducted his research for two decades before moving recently to the University of Houston.

Tens of thousands of seamounts pock the ocean floors planet-wide, and others may be larger, such as the Ontong Java Plateau near the Solomon Islands and the Kerguelen Plateau in the southern Indian Ocean. But thus far, none appears to be a single basalt shield volcano, but rather a composite of many such volcanoes, Sager said.

“One of the real things you have as a marine geologist or marine geophysicist is that these things have found a good place to hide,” Sager said. “It’s easier to study something on the surface of Mars in many ways than it is to study something that's right out there in the ocean. It’s not like we didn’t know that there was something out there. It’s just taken generations to get the time and money and to focus on it and get out there and study it.”

Sager’s team drilled core samples from the volcano, jutting from the ocean floor about 4 miles deep. Tamu rises about as high as many peaks of the Sierra Nevada – more than 13,000 feet. But much of its mass has sunk into the ocean crust, making it far shorter than Olympus Mons, which towers about 13 miles from the more rigid Martian surface.

But Tamu appears to have a larger base. Olympus Mons is about 374 miles in diameter, according to NASA; Tamu spans about 403 miles at its widest point and covers about about 8,000 more square miles, according to the study.

Sager was testing two competing theories of how these undersea volcanoes form. One holds that they are like continental volcanoes – the product of a rising plume of magma. Another, however, holds that the upper mantle melts without such a “hot spot” when there is a fracture or spread of the ocean lithosphere.

The question remains unresolved while geochronologists study the rock samples. “I’m still sitting on the fence,” said Sager. “Shatsky Rise sits right along a trace of a triple junction where mid-ocean ridges came together, but it also looks like what you’d expect it to look like if it was this big blob of hot material coming up.”

However the lava flowed, it flowed quickly and spread rapidly, according to the study. “We think that these things formed rapidly, within a million years or two – that’s rapidly to a geologist – and then they’re done, but we don’t know that for sure,” said Sager.

And all of the lava flow, some of it 75 feet thick, appears to trace back to one central point of origin that has a depression at its apex. “We can see that on any crossing that we make, they all seem to come from the center and go outward,” Sager said of the basalt flows. “That’s the basis of the finding that it’s one big volcano.”

Still, if you could stand on Tamu, you would not be able to discern its full profile, and might not even know which way is up. Its slopes are less than a degree – most volcanoes have slopes greater than 5 degrees.

It’s unlikely that Tamu ever was an island, even shortly after it formed about 145 million years ago. Fossils of shallow-water creatures in Tamu’s sediments indicate it came close to broaching the ocean surface before the ocean lithosphere sank to its present depth, Sager said.

Other pulses of magma may have formed nearby smaller shield volcanoes on the rise, said Sager. Those were likewise named for the universities involved in their early exploration: Ori stands for the Ocean Research Institute at the University of Tokyo, and Shirshov is for Russia’s P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology.

But very little of those researchers’ early work has attracted the attention now focused on “discovering” a volcano that may be the largest in the solar system, said Sager, who has written more than 100 scientific papers in his career at Texas A&M.

“It’s rare that you get something that will make people kind of go, huh, and look at your work,” he said. - LA Times.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Peru's Ubinas Volcano Spews Smoke And Ash - 8th Eruption This Week; Giant Ash Cloud Sparks Call For "Yellow Alert"!

September 06, 2013 - PERU - The Ubinas Volcano in southwest Peru spewed smoke and ash into the sky on Thursday (September 5), marking the eighth eruption this week.

Authorities closed schools and are recommending the evacuation of 150 residents of a community 4 kilometers from the volcano's crater.

Volcano specialists say they can expect further volcanic activity.

The 5,670-metre (18,600-foot) volcano is considered one of Peru's most active volcanos with more than 20 eruptions reported since the 16th century.

In 2006, authorities in Peru declared a state of emergency in towns close to Ubinas after they were showered by ash from the volcano. It had not erupted for 40 years prior to 2006.

The area is currently under a yellow alert and officials have distributed masks and goggles to area residents.

WATCH: Ubinas Volcano Spews Smoke And Ash In Peru.

WATCH: Ubinas Volcano Spews Giant Ash Cloud.

The increased volcanic activity comes as Peru experiences its heaviest snowfall in ten years. - IBTimes.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Global Seismic Uptick - 6.0 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Northern Philippines!

September 06, 2013 - PHILIPPINES - A strong 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck off the northern Philippines late Friday, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties, officials said.

USGS earthquake location.

The quake was recorded at 7:33pm local time (1133 GMT) with an epicentre about 42 kilometres (26 miles) south of Uyugan town in the Batan Islands, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said.

The United States Geological Survey said the quake had a depth of 178 kilometres.

Norma Talosig, the Batan Islands´ civil defence chief, said she contacted a Philippine navy detachment in Basco -- the capital of the sparsely populated island group near the sea border with Taiwan -- to check on the impact.

USGS earthquake shakemap intensity.

"I was told it registered as a low-intensity tremor there, with no visible damage," Talosig told AFP.

She said there were no immediate reports of casualties in Uyugan, a town of around one thousand residents, or nearby areas.

The Philippines lies in the so-called Pacific ring of fire, a chain of islands that are prone to quakes and volcanic eruptions. - My Republica.

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

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

USGS plate tectonics for the region.

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

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

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

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