Friday, November 8, 2013

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: From Natural Disasters To Mankind's Urban Sprawl - Stunning Satellite Images of Earth Reveal The Many Challenges Our Planet Faces!

November 08, 2013 - EARTH - Few images can beat those of Earth from space, which can display its magnificent vortices, stunning colours and abstract patterns in a way we rarely see.

These rows of oppositely spinning vortices, caused by the unsteady separation of flow of a fluid around blunt bodies,
can be seen over the United States, Alaska, Aleutian Islands. This phenomena is known as Kármán Vortex Street.

But its beauty can also highlight some of the world’s problems including pollution, desertification, urban sprawl, farming and natural disasters.

In this series of images, Paris-based environmental activist Yann Arthus-Bertrand aims to explore some of the world’s biggest environmental and sociological challenges using satellite imagery.

Compiled as part of his book, Earth from Space, Mr Arthus-Bertrand probes scientists and activists on how satellites can draw attention to some of these problems.

Among the images is one of the Mississippi delta that is notable for its stunning red and blue patterns.

But beneath its beauty the satellite picture reveals the devastation the Deepwater Horizon oil rig caused in April 2010.

An explosion on the semi-submersible drilling unit killed 11 workers and injured 16 others. It caused the Deepwater Horizon to burn and sink, resulting in a massive offshore oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Bombetoka Bay, the Betsiboka River's sludgy estuary, reached six miles on Madagascar's west coast. Islands
stretch out in the direction of the current and are covered by mangrove trees, seen in red in this image. In
the surrounding area, the cleared forest gives way to brush and cassava and rice plantations.

The Mississippi delta in 2010 after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. Red indicates plant cover, while
white and blue represent the water. Increased reflection on the surface, due to oil slicks, appear as a brighter white 

The image was released months after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. Oil slicks increase reflection on the surface and therefore appear as brighter white.

It reveals the extent to which hydrocarbon pollution penetrated the delta's marshlands, which are so rich in biodiversity.

Mr Arthus-Bertrand, who is also an environmental activist, arranged the scenes pictured in his book into themes including pollution, desertification, urban sprawl, farming and natural disasters.

Another image shows Bombetoka Bay, the Betsiboka River's sludgy estuary, reached six miles on Madagascar's west coast.

Islands stretch out in the direction of the current and are covered by mangrove trees, seen in red in this image. In the surrounding area, the cleared forest gives way to brush and cassava and rice plantations.

Grid patterns of fields and pastures surround the whirlpools created by the Mississippi, the largest hydrographic
basin in North America. A number of oxbow lakes are shown as the river moves south of Memphis, Tennessee 

The Ebro is Spain's most powerful river. Stretching for more than 550 miles (900 km), it flows into the
Mediterranean through a vast delta that juts far into the sea. Abundant alluvium and an ingenious
system of irrigation channels favour rice plantations, notably the famous bomba rice.

The Lena River flows north for over 2,800 miles (4,500 km) through Russian Siberia to the Arctic Ocean.
As the Lena enters the ocean, it divides into many channels and forms a large delta.
The Landsat 7 satellite took this image in July 2000.

Impressive phytoplankton blooms are also seen from space off Sweden’s Gotland Island.

Most Phytoplankton are too small to be individually seen with the unaided eye. However, when present in high enough numbers, they may appear as a green discoloration of the water.

Phytoplankton plays an important role in the ocean's carbon cycle by removing half of all CO2 from the atmosphere during photosynthesis and storing it deep under the sea.

Recent research has revealed that water temperature has a direct impact on maintaining the delicate plankton ecosystem of our oceans.

The Senegal River is a 1,790 km (1,110 mile) long river in West Africa that forms the border between Senegal
and Mauritania. In the Early Middle Ages (c. 800 CE), the Senegal River restored contact with the
Mediterranean world with the establishment of the Trans-Saharan trade route.

Detroit, the 'automobile capital of the world,' lies west of Lake Saint Clair and the Detroit River.

These impressive phytoplankton blooms as seen from space are shown off Sweden's Gotland Island.
Most phytoplankton are too small to be individually seen with the unaided eye. However, when
present in high enough numbers, they may appear as a green discoloration of the water .

Lützow-Holm Bay is a large bay, about 120 miles wide, indenting the coast of Queen Maud Land in Antarctica. It was
discovered by Captain Hjalmar Riiser-Larsen in two airplane flights from his expedition vessel, the Norvegia, in 1931.

The new research means that ocean warming will impact plankton, and in turn drive the cycle of climate change.

Other images include that of the Ebro, Spain's most powerful river, the Senegal River dividing Senegal and Mauritania, and the urban sprawl of Detroit.

Mr Arthus-Bertrand also recently directed two films for the United Nations: the film Forest, official film of the 2011 International Year of the Forest, and the film Desertification. Both were screened during UN General Assemblies. - Daily Mail.

MASS OYSTER DIE-OFF: Piles Upon Piles Of Dead Oysters Found At The Khairan Beach In Kuwait - Reason For The "Catastrophic And Unprecedented Massacre" Remains Unknown?!

November 08, 2013 - KUWAIT - The rate at which oysters are dying at the Khairan beach has doubled since the incident was first reported last Wednesday, an environmental organization warned in a statement yesterday in which they demanded extensive investigation to find the reasons behind this phenomenon. “The Kuwait Dive Team found piles of dead oysters in numbers that vastly exceed those first reported on Wednesday”, team leader and President of the Environment Voluntary Foundation Waleed Al-Fadhel said yesterday. He further indicated that other marine species such as crabs were found dead at the same site.

This comes as a government body rejected concern about a potential environmental phenomenon behind the massive number of dead oysters reported recently at the Khairan beach. “The dead oysters were likely disposed by people who caught them for consumption or to look for pearl”, said Dr Muna Husain, head of the biodiversity protection department at the Environment Public Authority. She further added in a statement Thursday that “dead oysters naturally do not float to the surface, but remain attached to the seafloor or rocks near the beach”.

Newspapers had quoted Al-Fadhel who insisted that what happened was not a result of human intervention. “Dead oysters were opened by 45 degrees whereas a person looking for pearl would open the shells by 180 degrees”, he explained in statements to Al-Watan daily. Al-Fadhel further indicated that three types of shellfish, in addition to squids and algae where recorded in the death site, which he says further supports the argument that what happened was a result of pollution or natural phenomenon.

The Green Line, meanwhile, seems to agree that the dead oysters were washed ashore after being first caught then dropped back in the sea. “According to eyewitnesses and scientific indicators compiled by marine specialists, there is no doubt that the oysters were first removed from the seafloor and then thrown back to the water by perpetrators looking for pearl”, Green Line President Khalid Al-Hajri said in a statement Thursday.

He further indicated that his group “managed to identify people suspected in this crime” through an “environmental inspection method that the Green Line exclusively adopts”. Al-Hajri also took the opportunity to criticize the EPA for “failing to protect the Kuwaiti shores as shown evident by the recent incident”, and also blamed “a voluntary organization which hosts a traditional pearl diving ceremony every year”.

Harvesting pearl oil is illegal in Kuwait’s territorial waters as per a Public Authority for Agricultural Affairs and Fish Resources decision made in 2007 to protect the marine species from overfishing. The dead oysters were found near a location known historically as the “best spot to fish for pear oyster in Kuwaiti waters”, according to Al-Fadhel.

“The spot located in front of Al-Khairan at depths ranging between 1 and 4 meters is considered the best pearl diving spot for the past 300 years for producing the most expensive kinds of pearl in the world”, said Al-Fadhel who called for procedures to protect “the national wealth”. Meanwhile, Al-Fadhel revealed that the Kuwait Dive Team recorded red tide in Al-Fentas Thursday, but did not connect between this phenomenon and the oyster deaths.

The reason for the catastrophic oyster massacre off Khairan seashore remains unknown. “Something massive happened there,” said Dr Manaf Behbehani, a scientist from Kuwait University’s Faculty of Science, pointing at the pile of dead oysters spread across the seashore in Khairan, south of Kuwait City. Speaking to Kuwait Times yesterday, he summed four possible causes of the kill as biological, chemical, physical or man-made. He explained that the reason for the fish-kill could be a natural biological cause, such as red tide or a virus or poisonous animals. According to him, the chemical cause could be from a desalination plant or chemical leakage and the physical reason could be sand covering the oyster bed. “Something happened there,” he said, elaborating that currently scientists and researchers are not excluding any cause. “For now we only have hypotheses,” he said.

Stressing that this is unprecedented for Kuwait’s seashores, Team Leader and President of the Environment Voluntary Foundation Waleed Al-Fadhel explained that the area where the fish-kill happened is the most popular site for oysters in Kuwait. ‘This is where our grandfathers used to dive and collect oysters,” Fadhel said.

The Kuwait Diving Team discovered that the oyster bed in Khairan area was normal yesterday; the density was also normal. Going northwards, however, they discovered that there were a smaller number of oysters in addition to dead oysters. Last week the lack of visibility did not allow the divers to investigate the reasons for the fish-kill. Yesterday, good visibility allowed them to see one meter under the seawater. But the Kuwait Diving Team said that they could not identify the reason for the fish-kill. The team managed to take a toxin sample which will be provided to the Environment Public Authority (EPA) laboratory for further tests and analysis.

Mahmoud Ashkanani, member of the Kuwait Diving Team, told Kuwait Times yesterday that the site was clean and there was no pollution detected. Asserting that investigations are still ongoing, he said that there is a law for the protection of seashells that individuals, companies and the authorities need to adhere to. “What we are sure is that whatever caused the oyster deaths, they were not pearl hunters,” Ashkanani explained.

What happens now?
According to Behbehani the first stage now is to quantify the size of the fish-kill followed by a thorough investigation of the cause. The latter undertaking would require the combined effort of various authorities and researchers from the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, the Environment Public Authority and Kuwait University. Currently, Behbehani said, who are separately investigating the reasons for the fish-kill. After the lab analyses and findings from KISR, EPA and KU are completed, the researchers will compare the results. Kuwait Times reported yesterday that the rate at which oysters were dying at Khairan beach has doubled since the incident was first reported a week ago. Due to sand shifting, however, the amount of dead oysters was visibly less yesterday.

Catastrophe or not?
Initially a government authority rejected the claims about a potential environmental catastrophe. “The dead oysters were likely disposed by people who caught them for consumption or to look for pearls,” Dr Muna Husain, head of the biodiversity protection department at the EPA was quoted as saying in a statement last week. She said that dead oysters naturally do not float to the surface, but remain attached to the seafloor or rocks near the beach. Moreover, last week the Environment Public Authority announced plans to take legal action against environmentalists who linked the massive oyster deaths to possible pollution.
Fadhel last week indicated that three types of shellfish, in addition to squids and algae, were found at the site, which he says supports the argument that what happened was a result of pollution or a natural phenomenon. Stressing that the large number of dead oysters found makes it impossible to assume that the shellfish were caught and opened by humans. “Dead oysters were open 45 degrees whereas a person looking for pearls would open the shells 180 degrees.”

According to Fadhel, harvesting pearls is illegal in Kuwait’s territorial waters as per a decision of the Public Authority for Agricultural Affairs and Fish Resources in 2007 to protect the marine species from overfishing. The environmental catastrophe sparked public attention since it was first reported by the local press last Wednesday, as it highlights an environmental concern stemming from various reports about the pollution of Kuwait’s marine environment in recent years, and is surrounded with mystery given the state in which the dead shellfish were found. - Kuwait Times.

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: "Hasn't Happened Here In Over Twenty Years" - Thousands Of Dead Fish Appear Near Crescent Lake Park In St. Petersburg, Florida?!

November 08, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Crescent lake is one of four Natural lakes in the city of St. Petersburg and is known for its pristine grounds. But just a few days ago that all changed.

Photographer: WFTS.

The city of St. Petersburg said that the smell from dead fish are from an ongoing fish kill in Crescent Lake.

It’s a natural occurrence that hasn't happened here in over 20 years.

Florida Fish and Wildlife is blaming a change in weather and a lack of oxygen in the water. The city thinks it's an overpopulation of Shad in the lake.

"We would expect that the over population would tend to correct itself. When there is sufficient food and

Oxygen to support the remaining shad, then it will cease and desist," said Michael Connors, Public Works City of St Petersburg.

WATCH: Dead fish causing a significant odor problem near Crescent Lake Park in St. Petersburg.

The dead fish can be found all along the shores of this lake. So many, in fact, the city has sent crews to clean up the thousands of pounds of them.

"We will continue to have a crew out there for the remainder of the week to dip those little fingerlings out," Connors said.

The city doesn't know how long the kill will last, but it poses no threat to humans, and it will keep monitoring the situation. - ABC Action News.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Seismic Activity Increasing - Latest Earthquakes In Oklahoma Could Be Tied To Lake Arcadia?!

November 08, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Oklahoma's 4-year-long earthquake swarm suddenly has more people talking. That is likely due to the fact that the most recent burst of seismic activity has been shaking homes and rattling nerves in northeast Oklahoma City, an area far more densely populated that other areas that have been hit.

This latest mini-swarm of earthquakes has been packed tightly in an area just south of Arcadia Lake,
and it seems they could be tied to the lake itself.

But the quakes also have Oklahoma's top earthquake researcher talking about a unique possible cause.
This latest mini-swarm of earthquakes has been packed tightly in an area just south of Arcadia Lake, and it seems they could be tied to the lake itself.

Geologists in the Corporation Commission's oil and gas division have been busy gathering data the last several days and send it off to the Oklahoma Geological Survey, as they do in the wake of most seismic events.

Typically, they put together information on nearby wells -- injection wells or just oil and gas producing wells -- and this case has been no different. Preliminary data shows a number of active disposal wells in the vicinity of the earthquakes, but none right on top of them.

"I think with the latest slate of earthquakes," said Corporation Commissioner Dana Murphy, "there really weren't any disposal wells any closer than, I think, six miles."

At the Oklahoma Geological Survey, research seismologist Austin Holland says the earthquakes are just too far from any active wells.

"And so there's no reason at this point to think [the earthquakes] are induced," Holland said, in a phone conversation this afternoon.

But the Corporation Commission also passed along data on lake levels at Arcadia -- data that certain got Holland's attention.

Normal water volume at Arcadia Lake is about 30,000 acre feet, but last June it spiked to 57,000 acre feet -- almost double the volume, and thus also the weight.

A graphic produced by the Corporation Commission shows a spiking water level in red, and the recent spike in seismic activity in blue, and they mirror each other almost exactly.

Latest Swarm Of OK Earthquakes Could Be Tied To Lake Arcadia.

Holland says there are known cases of seismicity being caused by the filling or draining of nearby reservoirs, and that could be the case here.

"There's oftentimes quite long delays," Holland explained, "three to six months between filling of reservoirs or large rainfall events, and these earthquakes that potentially get tied to those events."

Holland says there are couple of ways that Arcadia could have triggered the quakes. The sheer weight of the water this summer, or the sudden decrease in weight, as water was released. Either could have impacted a sub-surface that is already under stress.

He says he'll need more time and data, however, before he can draw any conclusions.
 - News9.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Global Volcano Report For November 8, 2013 - Updates On Yasur, Etna, And Momotombo!

November 08, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing reports of volcanoes across the globe, courtesy of  Volcano Discovery.

Yasur (Tanna Island, Vanuatu): Strong semi-continuous ash emissions and relatively strong strombolian explosions that eject large bombs outside the crater were reported by John Seach, a regular visitor to the volcano.

Ash emission from Yasur yesterday (webcam view).

The ash falls damage vegetation near the volcano and some ash fall was reported from Erromango Island located 150 km north of Yasur. John mentions large lava bombs of 4 meters in diameter.

Etna (Sicily, Italy): Explosions from the New SE crater continued over night and this morning, although their frequency and size has decreased. Tremor levels have remained essentially unchanged and are still low.

Strombolian eruption from NSEC this night.

Ash emission this morning

Current tremor amplitude (ECPNZ station, INGV Catania)

No significant changes have occurred today. Tremor has decreased to low levels, but mild strombolian explosions continue to occur from time to time.

Strombolian eruption from Etna's NSEC this evening

Current tremor amplitude (ECPNZ station, INGV Catania) this evening.

Momotombo (Nicaragua):   On Wednesday, November 6th, the intense swarm of shallow earthquakes under the volcano's SE flank seems to have more or less ended. If it was caused by an intrusion of magma, it has (as in most cases) not lead to an eruption although a second swarm could restart at any time.

Current seismic signal at Momotombo volcano (MOMN station, INETER)

Depth vs time of earthquakes at Momotombo volcano.

Map of recent quakes at Momotombo.

However, a small seismic swarm occurred at the volcano today, November 8th. A cluster of small earthquakes of magnitudes around 1 were detected previously under the southern flank.

Complete Earthquake list (worldwide) for November 8, 2013.

- Volcano Discovery.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Fourth Quake In Three Days Rattles Northeast Parker County - Region West Of Dallas, Texas?!

November 08, 2013 - UNITED STATES - A fourth earthquake in three days shook northeast Parker County Thursday night, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

The 2.9-magnitude quake, the biggest so far this week, was registered at 10:32 p.m. about 5 miles south-southwest of Springtown, the USGS reported.

“This is part of a continuing swarm of earthquakes,” said Dale Grant, a geophysicist at the USGS’s National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colo. “We consider this rather minor, but it was widely felt.”

There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

Grant said USGS scientists are unsure why northeast Parker County, an area not historically known for seismic activity, has been shaking.

The first quake registered 2.6 at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday about 2 miles east of Reno. An aftershock was recorded about 10 p.m. Tuesday. The third event, a 2.7-magnitude quake, was reported at 11:05 a.m. Wednesday, about 3 miles south-southwest of Springtown.

“Why they would spring up in this particular area is a mystery,” Grant said. “The Texas state geologist will begin an inquiry. Right now, we just keep monitoring them, but there is no way we can infer a cause and effect because we just don’t know.”

What about hydraulic fracking, a technique being used in North Texas to extract natural gas from the Barnett Shale? Several Star-Telegram readers have asked if that is a possibility.

“Everybody’s got an opinion on that,” Grant said. “Truthfully, we just don’t know until more investigation is done by people in that area. To speculate what might be the cause is just that — speculation.” - Star-Telegram.

MASS MAMMAL DIE-OFF: 4 Whales Found Dead On A Beach In New Brunswick, Canada?!

November 08, 2013 - CANADA - The carcasses of four whales found beached near Murray Beach Provincial Park near the Confederation Bridge this week have been buried in the sand.

The carcasses of four stranded pilot whales were buried six feet into the sand of a beach near
Murray Park Provincial Park. (Jessica Doria-Brown / CBC)

Fisheries and Oceans Canada officials and representatives from the University of Prince Edward Island examined the whales then the province was called in to dispose of the carcasses.

The four dead whales were buried in the sandy beach near the provincial park and that is raising questions from some.

David Crocker worries what will happen once the carcasses begin to decompose.

"I don't know how far it's buried in the sand, but as it decomposes over the winter and into the summer, it's going to attract a lot of seagulls, lot of flies, and it's gonna be really yucky on that beach because the mammals are not buried close enough to the embankment and deep enough," he said. "So it's gonna be a mess there when the summertime comes.

"If you don't smell it and you don't see it, I'll be very surprised," said Crocker.

Natural Resources officials say the carcasses were buried about two metres into the sand and that is the best way to dispose of them to protect the shoreline.

Crocker says beached whales are not a common sight in the area. He saw the carcasses before they were buried.

"There was a lot of damage around the head and lower part of the female's body," he said. "It looked like it possibly got hit by cruise ships or freighters in the area," he said.

"To see a mammal lying on the beach like that, it's sad."

Officials believe the damage to the whale carcasses was likely caused by waves brushing their bodies against nearby rocks.

The whales were two females and their offspring. Female long-finned pilot whales reach a length of 5.5 metres and weigh up to 1,300 kilograms.

Pilot whales are notorious for becoming stranded, especially in groups. There are a number of theories for the behaviour, including being confused by geomagnetic anomalies or following a sick member of their group who became stranded. - CBC.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Super Typhoon Haiyan Becomes The Most Powerful Cyclone In History, Lashing And Heavily Damaging The Philippines - Breaking ALL Scientific Intensity Scales; Storm Stretched Over 500 Miles Wide With 236 MPH Winds; At Least 4 Dead; Widespread Flooding, Landslides And Power Outages!

November 08, 2013 - THE PHILIPPINES - At least four people have died when Super Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest typhoon this year and estimated to be one of the strongest in history, slammed into the central Philippines on Friday. The powerful cyclone set off landslides and knocked out power and communication lines in several provinces. But the nation appeared to avoid a major disaster because the rapidly moving typhoon blew away before wreaking more damage, officials said.

The huge typhoon raced across a string of islands from east to west -- Samar, Leyte, Cebu and Panay -- and lashed beach communities, breaking all scientific intensity scales, stretching over 500 miles wide, with 236 mph winds.

Here are some of the latest information from the areas slammed by Haiyan:
  • Although Mindanao, the Philippines' southernmost island group, was spared from direct impact, some areas suffered damage. Surigao City was hit with strong winds and rain, which toppled trees and electric posts, although there have been no casualties reported to this point, ABS-CBN News said.
  • Kalibo and Caticlan airports, gateways to Boracay Island and its resorts, sustained damage, according to Civil Aviation Authority Deputy Director Capt. John Andrews. "We still don't know extent of damage in Caticlan Airport since we lost contact with them," he told ABS-CBN News.
  • At least 14 crew members of two cargo vessels in Guindulman, Bohol were rescued, according to ABS-CBN News. Power is also down in areas of Bohol, a province still recovering from the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck the area in October.
  • Tourists in Boracay were asked to stay in their hotels, Aklan Governor Florencio Miraflores told the Balitanghali TV program on GMA Network. Miraflores said the local government had asked hotel managers in Boracay to allow tourists to stay in the hotels at least until Saturday.

Due to cut-off communication, it was impossible to know the extent of casualties and damage. At least two people were electrocuted in storm-related accidents, one person was killed by a fallen tree and another was struck by lightning, official reports said.

"What we know from those people we had contact on the ground with is they have seen some massive destruction," said Bernd Schell of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, on the ground in Manila. "The center of typhoon has passed. As communication and power is down in most of the area, we don’t have really a full picture of what really has happened. The center of the typhoon made landfall this morning. Those areas are more or less cut off."

This animated image from NOAA shows Super Typhoon Haiyan hours before it made landfall in the Philippines.

Huge, fast-paced Typhoon Haiyan raced across a string of islands from east to west - Samar, Leyte, Cebu and Panay- and lashed beach communities with powerful winds.

Approximately one million people are in shelters across more than 20 provinces, reports
Thousands of passengers were stranded at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) on Friday after 200 domestic flights were canceled, according to ABS-CBN News. However, airports in Legazpi City, Surigao, Masbate and Iloilo have reopened, according to Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.

More than half of the nation's fourth-largest crop, sugar cane, has also been jeopardized by the storm, reports Quartz.

Southern Leyte Gov. Roger Mercado said the super typhoon triggered landslides that blocked roads, uprooted trees and ripped roofs off houses around his residence. At least 100 homes were demolished along the coast of that province, while landslides destroyed homes in the higher elevations, according to a Reuters report.

The dense clouds and heavy rains made the day seem almost as dark as night, he said.

Debris litter the road by the coastal village in Legazpi city following a storm surge brought about by powerful
Typhoon Haiyan in Albay province, Nov. 8, 2013, about 325 miles south of Manila, Philippines.
(AP Photo/Nelson Salting)

A farmer inspects his cornfields that was damage by the passing of Super Typhoon Haiyan into coastal
communities on the central island of Cebu on Nov. 8, 2013. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Residents clear the road after a tree was toppled by strong winds and damaged a van at the onslaught
of powerful typhoon Haiyan that hit the island province of Cebu, Philippines, Nov. 8, 2013.
(AP Photo/Chester Baldicantos)

In this photo courtesy of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, major damage is seen
to JFK Elementary School on the island of Kayangel, Palau, from Typhoon Haiyan. (OCHA Pacific)

A resident runs past an uprooted tree amidst strong winds as Typhoon Haiyan pounded Cebu City,
in central Philippines on Nov. 8, 2013. (Jay Directo/AFP/Getty Images)

A resident (R) walks past high waves pounding the sea wall amidst strong winds as Typhoon Haiyan hit the
city of Legaspi, Albay province, south of Manila on Nov. 8, 2013. (Jay Directo/AFP/Getty Images)

"When you're faced with such a scenario, you can only pray, and pray and pray," Mercado told The Associated Press by telephone, adding that his town mayors have not called in to report any major damage.

"I hope that means they were spared and not the other way around," he said. "My worst fear is there will be massive loss of lives and property."

Eduardo del Rosario, head of the disaster response agency, said a powerful typhoon that also hit the central Philippines in 1990 killed 508 people and left 246 missing, but this time authorities had ordered pre-emptive evacuation and other measures to minimize casualties.

He said the speed at which the typhoon sliced through the central islands — 25 mph — helped prevent its 375-mile band of rain clouds from dumping enough of their load to overflow waterways. Flooding from heavy rains is often the main cause of deaths from typhoons.

"It has helped that the typhoon blew very fast in terms of preventing lots of casualties," regional military commander Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda said. He said the massive evacuation of villagers before the storm also saved many lives.

The Philippines, which is hit by about 20 typhoons and storms a year, has in recent years become more serious about preparations to reduce deaths. Public service announcements are frequent, as are warnings by the president and high-ranking officials that are regularly carried on radio and TV and social networking sites.
"This is the third super typhoon (maximum sustained winds of at least 150 mph) in less than three weeks," said Michael Lowry, hurricane specialist at The Weather Channel. "Already, three typhoons have struck the Philippines this year."

A house is engulfed by the storm surge brought about by powerful typhoon Haiyan that hit Legazpi city,
Albay province, Nov. 8, 2013, about 325 miles south of Manila, Philippines. (AP Photo/Nelson Salting)

A view of the powerful typhoon Haiyan that hit Legazpi city, Albay province, Nov. 8, 2013, about 325
miles south of Manila, Philippines. (Twitter/Ritchel M. Deleon)

Residents clear a road after trees were toppled by strong winds at the onslaught of powerful typhoon Haiyan
that hit the island province of Cebu, Philippines, Nov. 8, 2013. (AP Photo/Chester Baldicantos)

A man walks past a tree uprooted by strong winds in Cebu.Zander Casas / Reuters

Residents rush to safety past a fallen tree during strong winds brought by Typhoon Haiyan that hit Cebu,
a city in the central Philippines.  Zander Casas / Reuters

Volunteers pack relief goods inside a Department of Social Welfare and Development warehouse in Manila
before shipping out to devastated provinces hit by Typhoon Haiyan.  Romeo Ranoco / Reuters

Provincial governors and mayors have taken a hands-on approach during crises, supervising evacuations, inspecting shelters and efforts to stockpile food and relief supplies.

President Benigno Aquino III assured the public of war-like preparations, with three C-130 air force cargo planes and 32 military helicopters and planes on standby, along with 20 navy ships.

Among the evacuees were thousands of residents of Bohol who had been camped in tents and other makeshift shelters since a magnitude-7.2 earthquake hit the island province last month.

Relief workers said they were struggling to find ways to deliver food and other supplies, with roads blocked by landslides and fallen trees.

The storm "unleashed fierce winds and harsh rains that uprooted big trees and toppled electric poles and power lines," said Aaron Aspi, a spokesman for World Vision in Bohol.

From Samar, the typhoon battered Leyte, then the northern part of Cebu and nearby islands before lashing Panay — islands with some of the best beach resorts in the Philippines.

As of 8 p.m., the typhoon was north of Palawan province, 200 miles southwest of Manila, and had weakened a bit with sustained winds of 134 mph.

WATCH:  Typhoon Haiyan Cebu Landfall.

WATCH:  Haiyan moves West leaving a trail of death and destruction.

Forecasters said the storm was expected to move out of the country and into the South China Sea on Saturday morning, where it was likely to pick up renewed strength on its way toward Vietnam.

Dozens of flights in the central and southern Philippines were canceled. A storm surge estimated at 15 feet damaged a seaside airport in Leyte's Tacloban city. Airport workers moved to the tower and were safe but no other details had been reported because communications were cut by the typhoon, aviation official John Andrews said.

"They've been incommunicado. The last message we got from them was that the airport was ruined," Andrews said.

Andrews said the typhoon also damaged the airport in Kalibo town in Aklan.

Before the storm, Jonathon Jennings, 37, of Cebu City, a Philippine city about 90 miles away from where Haiyan made landfall, told that he was preparing for the worst.

"If we take a direct hit, we stand no chance," said Jennings, a Tampa, Fla. native who moved to the Philippines to pursue mission work.

Jennings said that his family was boarded up in a solid concrete building, with a generator and plenty of water, but that he feared the worst for those who weren't so fortunate.

"The poor, if they're lucky, have metal roofs that aren't even held together with nails; they're held together with tires," said Jennings. "If we get 90-mph winds, if we get strong sustained winds, they're done."

Dr. Jeff Masters, meteorology director at Weather Underground, part of the Weather Company family, said the storm had been poised to be the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded at landfall. He warned of "catastrophic damage."

The U.S. Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center said shortly before the typhoon made landfall that its maximum sustained winds were 195 mph with gusts up to 235 mph. Those measurements are different from local weather data because the U.S. Navy center measures the average wind speed for 1 minute while local forecasters measure the average for 10 minutes, which can result in lower numbers.

If the U.S. figures are correct, they would be the highest ever for a tropical cyclone when it made landfall anywhere on Earth, beating out Hurricane Camille, which had wind speeds of 190 mph at landfall in the southeast United States 1969, said Dr. Masters. - TWC.

SOLAR WATCH: Activity On The Sun Is At Very High Levels - Sunspot 1890 Explodes With Major X1.1 Solar Flare And CME; Not Strongly Geo-Effective; Small Earth-Directed Component, Glancing Blow On November 11th!

November 08, 2013 - SUN - Solar activity is again at high levels with a major X1.1 solar flare detected around sunspot 1890 at 04:26 UTC.

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded a flash of extreme UV radiation from the blast site.

X1.1 SOLAR FLARE: Big sunspot AR1890 is crackling with strong flares. The latest, registered X1 on the Richter Scale of Flares.  This sunspot has a signature: It tends to produce very brief flares. The X1-flare was no exception as it lasted barely a minute. Brevity mitigates Earth-effects, so this intense flare was not strongly geoeffective--at least, not at first.

SDO captures the X1.1 solar flare around sunspot 1890 and the
coronal mass ejection (CME) associated with the event.

The event was associated with a 10cm Radio Burst (TenFlare) measuring 1000 sfu, along with Type II and IV sweep frequency events. A CME became visible in LASCO C3 imagery, following the explosion, and appears that a majority of the plasma was directed to the south.

Massive sunspot 1890 is an easy target for solar telescopes and Ron Cottrell sends us this nice
Calcium-K (CaK) image he captured yesterday at the Kitt Peak Observatory in Arizona.

There may be a small Earth directed component and the latest CME tracking model released by the Goddard Space Flight Center is showing a glancing blow impact possible by November 11th, possibly sparking polar geomagnetic storms. 

WATCH: Major X-Class Solar Flare - November 8, 2013.

It should also be noted that sunspot 1891 generated a moderate M2.3 flare at 09:28 UTC this morning.

More eruptions are in the offing. NOAA forecasters estimate a 60% chance of M-class solar flares and a 20% chance of X-flares on Nov. 8th.

SUNSPOTS: Below is an updated look at the visible solar disk on Friday. Sunspot 1890 remains the largest visible Earth facing region and retains a delta configuration within the trailing section of the group. The active region will be in a near perfect geoeffective position over the next 3 days and is likely that future eruptions would be at least partially Earth directed.

Visible solar disk.

Sunspot 1891 continues to possess a weak delta configuration and produced a moderate M2.3 solar flare at 09:28 UTC Friday morning. A new sunspot rotated into view off the east limb and should be numbered 1893 today. It appears to be stable with a simple magnetic layout. There will remain a chance for another isolated moderate to strong solar flare within the next 24 hours with 1890 being the most likely source.

CORONAL HOLE: Solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole could reach Earth on Nov. 10-11.

Credit: SDO/AIA.

SOURCES: Space Weather | Solar Watcher | Solar Ham.

FUK-U-SHIMA: TEPCO Prepares To Remove Nuclear Fuel At Fukushima Plant - "Big Step" With "Large Risk Potential" That Could Result In A Catastrophic Disaster; Very High Radiation Levels Are Preventing Entry To Some Areas; Contaminated Water Leaks Continue To Plague The Site!

November 08, 2013 - JAPAN - The 1,533 nuclear fuel assemblies were lined up in neat rows in the storage pool of the No. 4 reactor building amid new equipment and a clean environment.

But in stark contrast was the scene around the No. 4 reactor building at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The No. 4 reactor building of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in February 2013 before
the canopy was installed (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Concrete walls were still missing from the third and fourth floors of the No. 4 reactor building, raising questions among onlookers if the structure could withstand a huge earthquake.

On the sea side of the building, a piping system and metal rods were exposed behind collapsed walls of a former boiler building.

A truck swept up by the 2011 tsunami remained upside down by the side of the turbine building.

Amid these surroundings, Tokyo Electric Power Co. plans to start removing the nuclear fuel assemblies from the No. 4 storage pool as early as next week. The work would represent a new stage in the overall plan to end the nuclear crisis that started 32 months ago.

“It is a big step in the process to decommission the reactor,” Nuclear Regulation Authority Commissioner Toyoshi Fuketa said.

The entire decommissioning plan for the plant is expected to take 30 to 40 years to complete, and the strategy could change at any moment.

Workers still do not know the location of melted nuclear fuel in the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 reactors. High radiation levels are preventing entry to some areas. And contaminated water leaks continue to plague the site.

And removing the nuclear fuel from the No. 4 pool will require delicate procedures, considering the state of the building and the dangers involved.

NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka told TEPCO President Naomi Hirose to use extreme caution in removing the assemblies.

A canopy is seen on the walls of the No. 4 reactor building at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power
plant that were blown out by the March 2011 explosion. (Soichiro Yamamoto)

“The process involves a very large risk potential,” Tanaka told Hirose. “In a sense, it is more risky than the radioactive water crisis.”

TEPCO on Nov. 6 allowed reporters to see the spent fuel storage pool of the No. 4 reactor building and other areas of the stricken nuclear plant.

An elevator took the reporters to the top floor of the five-story building. A steel frame had been assembled near the pool, and a new fuel hoist and a new crane had been installed.

The No. 4 reactor building itself was covered by a canopy to replace the roof that was blown off in an explosion on March 15, 2011.

TEPCO plans to transfer the 1,533 nuclear fuel assemblies to a “storage pool for common use” 100 meters west of the No. 4 reactor.

WATCH: 'Fukushima beyond tragic, it's a crime'.

The removal and transfer is expected to be completed at the end of next year.

The assemblies contain both spent and unused fuel. Some bundles were moved to the pool from the reactor core because the No. 4 reactor was undergoing a regular safety check when the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami struck the plant on March 11, 2011.

The disaster knocked out the cooling system for the storage pool, sparking fears that it would dry up, leaving the fuel exposed and allowing huge amounts of radioactive substances to spew into the air.

That didn’t happen. However, the explosion four days after the tsunami left large chunks of debris in the storage pool.

Those chunks have been cleared, but a number of smaller pieces remain in the storage pool.

The fuel removal process will use a cask receptacle that is 5.5 meters long, weighs 91 tons and can hold 22 fuel assemblies. It will be submerged in the pool and receive one fuel assembly at a time to prevent a nuclear reaction from occurring.

A fuel hoist has been installed to remove nuclear fuel from a storage pool in the No. 4 reactor
building at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. (Soichiro Yamamoto)

A crane will lower the receptacle to the ground, where a vehicle will pick it up and take it to the common-use storage pool.

TEPCO plans to use two receptacles to speed up the transfer process and finish removing all the fuel in just over a year.

In addition to uranium, spent nuclear fuel contains highly toxic plutonium and other radioactive substances, which could be released if the fuel assemblies are damaged during the removal or transfer process.

TEPCO has taken measures to check for deformed fuel assemblies and to prevent the remaining debris from causing damage when the fuel is pulled out.

The company has also decided to use double wires to ensure the receptacles are not dropped by mistake.

The canopy covering the No. 4 reactor building is designed to contain radioactive materials in the event of an accident. The bottom of the storage pool has also been strengthened with concrete and other materials.

The reinforced storage pool could withstand shaking as strong as the magnitude-9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake, TEPCO officials said.


The government and TEPCO announced the three-stage road map for decommissioning the Fukushima reactors in December 2011.

The first stage involves preparatory work, such as clearing debris, followed by the second-stage program that includes the removal of nuclear fuel from the pool in the No. 4 reactor building.

According to the road map, work to remove spent nuclear fuel from the pool in the No. 3 reactor building should start in the first half of fiscal 2015. But high radiation levels have prevented workers from approaching the No. 3 reactor, meaning that remote-control equipment will be needed to assess the situation.

The road map does not specify when the removal work will be completed there.

Removing the melted nuclear fuel from the No. 1 to No. 3 reactors is part of the third stage, and it is expected to start in fiscal 2020 at the earliest.

Nuclear fuel assemblies are stored in a pool in the No. 4 reactor building of the Fukushima
No. 1 nuclear power plant. (Soichiro Yamamoto)

Operations of the Alps system to remove radioactive substances from water have been suspended.
(Soichiro Yamamoto)

Engineers will first study methods to deal with the melted fuel, followed by the installation of equipment for the task. Currently, remote-control robots are being developed to study the situation and reduce workers’ exposure to radiation.

The locations and the condition of the melted fuel for these reactors remain a mystery. It apparently dropped to the containment vessels through the inner pressure vessels housing the reactor cores.

In addition, TEPCO has not determined the extent of damage to the pressure and containment vessels.

TEPCO plans to insert a small remote-control device equipped with a camera into the suppression pool in the bottom part of the containment vessel of the No. 1 reactor on Nov. 13 at the earliest to get an idea of the internal situation.

The road map for decommissioning work could drastically change depending on the conditions of the melted nuclear fuel and the damage to the containment vessels.


One obstacle in the decommissioning plan is the continuous leaks of water contaminated with radioactive materials.

The Alps system that can remove 62 types of radioactive materials, including strontium, from water is scheduled to be put into full operation within this month.

It is considered a key piece of equipment to cut down the workers’ risk of exposure to radiation.

On Nov. 6, the Alps system was still not operational.

Under a tent the size of a gymnasium, where the Alps equipment is stored, workers were inspecting tanks and piping while using cranes hanging from ceilings to relocate containers.

Test runs of Alps started in March. But the operations were suspended in June after water was found leaking from some of the tanks in the system.

On Sept. 27, Alps operations were restarted, only to be shut down the same day due to a different problem.

Contaminated water is increasing by about 400 tons every day at the plant due to the continuing cooling of the reactors and groundwater entering cracks in the buildings and mixing with radioactive water.

TEPCO has removed only cesium from about 380,000 tons of contaminated water so far. And since even the Alps system cannot remove tritium, TEPCO has no choice but to store the radioactive water at the site.

The Asahi Shimbun.

In April, radioactive water was found to have leaked from an underground storage tank. In August, 300 tons of highly contaminated water had spilled from a tank and likely reached the ocean.

Other leaks have also taken place, spreading soil contamination in the plant’s compound.

Workers on Nov. 6 were seen heightening barriers and embankments to prevent radioactive water from spilling over the encasements surrounding tanks holding contaminated water.

About 200 workers have been assigned to monitor the tanks for possible leaks.

“The division to deal with contaminated water is different from the one to remove nuclear fuel. So we will be able to sufficiently carry out work for the two issues,” said Akira Ono, director of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

However, TEPCO Vice President Zengo Aizawa was not so optimistic.

“From the mid- and long-term perspective, I have concerns,” Aizawa said. - AJW.