Monday, November 11, 2013

FIRE IN THE SKY: Monumental Signs In The Heavens - Comet ISON Now Sprouts A Double Tail; One Week Following The Discovery Of A Newfound Asteroid With Six Comet Tails!

November 11, 2013 - SPACE - Amateur astronomers are getting a better look at Comet ISON as it dives toward the sun for a Nov. 28th close encounter with solar fire.

As the heat rises, the comet brightens, revealing new details every day. This photo, taken Nov. 10th by Michael Jäger of Jauerling Austria, shows a beautiful double tail:

One tail is the ion tail. It is a thin streamer of ionized gas pushed away from the comet by solar wind. The filamentary ion tail points almost directly away from the sun.

The other tail is the dust tail. Like Hansel and Gretel leaving bread crumbs to mark their way through the forest, ISON is leaving a trail of comet dust as it moves through the solar system.

Compared to the lightweight molecules in the ion tail, grains of comet dust are heavier and harder for solar wind to push around. The dust tends to stay where it is dropped. The dust tail, therefore, traces the comet's orbit and does not point directly away from the sun as the ion tail does.

Comet ISON is currently moving through the constellation Virgo low in the eastern sky before dawn. Shining like an 8th magnitude star, it is still too dim for naked eye viewing, but an increasingly easy target for backyard optics.

Amateur astronomers, if you have a GOTO telescope, enter these coordinates. Special dates of interest are Nov. 17th and 18th when the comet will pass the bright star Spica.

Sky maps:
Nov. 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19. - Space Weather.

This news comes one after the discovery of a new asteroid masquerading as a bizarre comet, one that astronomers in a new study are outright calling, “weird and freakish.”

First spotted by the Hawaii-based Pan-STARRS sky survey telescope this Spring, the bizarre object caught  astronomers’ attention because of its unusually fuzzy appearance. The Hubble Space Telescope’s high-resolution cameras were trained on it in September, and that’s when they noticed it’s startling, mutant comet appearancethe asteroid sports 6 tails streaming out into space in all directions.

This NASA Hubble Space Telescope image reveals a never-before-seen set of six comet-like tails radiating from
a bizzare body in the asteroid belt, designated P/2013 P5. Credit: NASA, ESA, and D. Jewitt (University of
California, Los Angeles), J. Agarwal (Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research), H. Weaver
(Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory), M. Mutchler (STScI),
and S. Larson (University of Arizona)

“It’s hard to believe we’re looking at an asteroid,” said lead author of the new study David Jewitt, a astronomer at University of California at Los Angeles in a statement.

“We were dumbfounded when we saw it. Amazingly, its tail structures change dramatically in just 13 days as it belches out dust.”

Astronomers think that the space rock, dubbed P/2013 P5, has had its spin rate increase significantly in the last 5 months for some yet unknown reason. The faster spin rate is causing the asteroid to eject dust in wild, episodic eruptions that lead it to resemble a rotating lawn sprinkler in the newly-released images.

According to one theory, radiation pressure bellowing out from the sun may have caused P/2013 P5 to spin more rapidly, collecting the ejected dust into comet-like tails.

This artwork shows the structures seen around an active asteroid designated P/2013 P5. One interpretation
is that the pressure of sunlight sweeps the erupting dust into multiple long tails.
Credit: NASA, ESA, and A. Feild (STScI)

Jewitt and his team believe the comet-like asteroid may be a fragment of an ancient asteroid collision some 200 million years ago. What we are witnessing now is simply an end-of life phase common to most small, fragmented asteroids in the asteroid belt located between Mars and Jupiter.

Which means more such space rocks likely await discovery.

“In astronomy, where you find one, you eventually find a whole bunch more,” Jewitt said. “This is an amazing object and almost certainly the first of many more to come.”

The comet-like asteroid find is reported online in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. - National Geographic.

FUK-U-SHIMA: Scientists Warn Of Extreme Risk - Greatest Short-term Threat To Humanity Is From Fukushima Fuel Pools!

November 11, 2013 - JAPAN - We’ve long said that the greatest short-term threat to humanity is from the fuel pools at Fukushima.

The Japanese nuclear agency recently green-lighted the removal of the spent fuel rods from Fukushima reactor 4′s spent fuel pool. The operation is scheduled to begin this month.
The head of the U.S. Department of Energy correctly notes:
The success of the cleanup also has global significance. So we all have a direct interest in seeing that the next steps are taken well, efficiently and safely.
If one of the pools collapsed or caught fire, it could have severe adverse impacts not only on Japan … but the rest of the world, including the United States. Indeed, a Senator called it a national security concern for the U.S.:
The radiation caused by the failure of the spent fuel pools in the event of another earthquake could reach the West Coast within days. That absolutely makes the safe containment and protection of this spent fuel a security issue for the United States.
Award-winning scientist David Suzuki says that Fukushima is terrifying, Tepco and the Japanese government are lying through their teeth, and Fukushima is “the most terrifying situation I can imagine”.

Suzuki notes that reactor 4 is so badly damaged that – if there’s another earthquake of 7 or above – the building could come down. And the probability of another earthquake of 7 or above in the next 3 years is over 95%.

Suzuki says that he’s seen a paper that says that if – in fact – the 4th reactor comes down, “it’s bye bye Japan, and everyone on the West Coast of North America should evacuate. Now if that’s not terrifying, I don’t know what is.”

The Telegraph reports:
The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant … will begin a dry run of the procedure at the No. 4 reactor, which experts have warned carries grave risks.

Did you ever play pick up sticks?” asked a foreign nuclear expert who has been monitoring Tepco’s efforts to regain control of the plant. “You had 50 sticks, you heaved them into the air and than had to take one off the pile at a time.
“If the pile collapsed when you were picking up a stick, you lost,” he said. “There are 1,534 pick-up sticks in a jumble in top of an unsteady reactor 4. What do you think can happen?
I do not know anyone who is confident that this can be done since it has never been tried.”
ABC reports:
One slip-up in the latest step to decommission Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant could trigger a “monumental” chain reaction, experts warn.

Experts around the world have warnedthat the fuel pool is in a precarious statevulnerable to collapsing in another big earthquake.
Yale University professor Charles Perrow wrote about the number 4 fuel pool this year in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.
“This has me very scared,” he told the ABC.
Tokyo would have to be evacuated because [the] caesium and other poisons that are there will spread very rapidly.
Perrow also argues:
Conditions in the unit 4 pool, 100 feet from the ground, are perilous, and if any two of the rods touch it could cause a nuclear reaction that would be uncontrollable. The radiation emitted from all these rods, if they are not continually cool and kept separate, would require the evacuation of surrounding areas including Tokyo. Because of the radiation at the site the 6,375 rods in the common storage pool could not be continuously cooled; they would fission and all of humanity will be threatened, for thousands of years.
Former Japanese ambassador Akio Matsumura warns that – if the operation isn’t done right – this could one day be considered the start of “the ultimate catastrophe of the world and planet”:
(He also argues that removing the fuel rods will take “decades rather than months.)
Nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen and physician Helen Caldicott have both said that people should evacuate the Northern Hemisphere if one of the Fukushima fuel pools collapses. Gundersen said:
Move south of the equator if that ever happened, I think that’s probably the lesson there.
Harvey Wasserman wrote two months ago:
We are now within two months of what may be humankind’s most dangerous moment since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Should the attempt fail, the rods could be exposed to air and catch fire, releasing horrific quantities of radiation into the atmosphere. The pool could come crashing to the ground, dumping the rods together into a pile that could fission and possibly explode. The resulting radioactive cloud would threaten the health and safety of all us.

A new fuel fire at Unit 4 would pour out a continuous stream of lethal radioactive poisons for centuries.
Former Ambassador Mitsuhei Murata says full-scale releases from Fukushima “would destroy the world environment and our civilization. This is not rocket science, nor does it connect to the pugilistic debate over nuclear power plants. This is an issue of human survival.”

Even Japan’s Top Nuclear Regulator Says that The Operation Carries a “Very Large Risk Potential”

Even the head of Japan’s nuclear agency is worried.  USA Today notes:
Nuclear regulatory chairman Shunichi Tanaka, however, warned that removing the fuel rods from Unit 4 would be difficult because of the risk posed by debris that fell into the pool during the explosions.

It’s a totally different operation than removing normal fuel rods from a spent fuel pool,” Tanaka said at a regular news conference. “They need to be handled extremely carefully and closely monitored. You should never rush or force them out, or they may break.”

He said it would be a disaster if fuel rods are pulled forcibly and are damaged or break open when dropped from the pool, located about 30 meters (100 feet) above ground, releasing highly radioactive material. “I’m much more worried about this than contaminated water,” Tanaka said
The same top Japanese nuclear official said:
The process involves a very large risk potential.
BBC reports:
A task of extraordinary delicacy and danger is about to begin at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power station.

One senior official told me: “It’s going to be very difficult but it has to happen.”

Why It’s Such a Difficult Operation

CNN notes that debris in the fuel pool might interfere with operations:
South China Morning Post notes:
Nothing remotely similar has been attempted before and … it is feared that any error of judgment could lead to a massive release of radiation into the atmosphere.

A spokesman for Tepco … admitted, however, that it was not clear whether any of the rods were damaged or if debris in the pool would complicate the recovery effort.

Professor Richard Broinowski – former Australian Ambassador to Vietnam, Republic of Korea, Mexico, the Central American Republics and Cuba – and author of numerous books on nuclear policy and Fukushima, says some of the fuel rods are probably fused.

Murray E. Jennex, Ph.D., P.E. (Professional Engineer), Professor of MIS, San Diego State University, notes:
The rods in the spent fuel pool may have melted …. I consider it more likely that these rods were breached during the explosions associated with the event and their contents may be in contact with the ground water, probably due to all the seawater that was sprayed on the plant.
Fuel rod expert Arnie Gundersen – a nuclear engineer and former senior manager of a nuclear power company which manufactured nuclear fuel rods – recently explained the biggest problem with the fuel rods (at 15:45):
I think they’re belittling the complexity of the task. If you think of a nuclear fuel rack as a pack of cigarettes, if you pull a cigarette straight up it will come out — but these racks have been distorted. Now when they go to pull the cigarette straight out, it’s going to likely break and release radioactive cesium and other gases, xenon and krypton, into the air. I suspect come November, December, January we’re going to hear that the building’s been evacuated, they’ve broke a fuel rod, the fuel rod is off-gassing.
I suspect we’ll have more airborne releases as they try to pull the fuel out. If they pull too hard, they’ll snap the fuel. I think the racks have been distorted, the fuel has overheated — the pool boiled – and the net effect is that it’s likely some of the fuel will be stuck in there for a long, long time.
In another interview, Gundersen provides additional details (at 31:00):
The racks are distorted from the earthquake — oh, by the way, the roof has fallen in, which further distorted the racks.

The net effect is they’ve got the bundles of fuel, the cigarettes in these racks, and as they pull them out, they’re likely to snap a few. When you snap a nuclear fuel rod, that releases radioactivity again, so my guess is, it’s things like krypton-85, which is a gas, cesium will also be released, strontium will be released. They’ll probably have to evacuate the building for a couple of days. They’ll take that radioactive gas and they’ll send it up the stack, up into the air, because xenon can’t be scrubbed, it can’t be cleaned, so they’ll send that radioactive xenon up into the air and purge the building of all the radioactive gases and then go back in and try again.

It’s likely that that problem will exist on more than one bundle. So over the next year or two, it wouldn’t surprise me that either they don’t remove all the fuel because they don’t want to pull too hard, or if they do pull to hard, they’re likely to damage the fuel and cause a radiation leak inside the building. So that’s problem #2 in this process, getting the fuel out of Unit 4 is a top priority I have, but it’s not going to be easy. Tokyo Electric is portraying this as easy. In a normal nuclear reactor, all of this is done with computers. Everything gets pulled perfectly vertically. Well nothing is vertical anymore, the fuel racks are distorted, it’s all going to have to be done manually. The net effect is it’s a really difficult job. It wouldn’t surprise me if they snapped some of the fuel and they can’t remove it.
The Japan Times writes:
The consequences could be far more severe than any nuclear accident the world has ever seen. If a fuel rod is dropped, breaks or becomes entangled while being removed, possible worst case scenarios include a big explosion, a meltdown in the pool, or a large fire. Any of these situations could lead to massive releases of deadly radionuclides into the atmosphere, putting much of Japan — including Tokyo and Yokohama — and even neighboring countries at serious risk.
CNN reports:
[Mycle Schneider, nuclear consultant:] The situation could still get a lot worse. A massive spent fuel fire would likely dwarf the current dimensions of the catastrophe and could exceed the radioactivity releases of Chernobyl dozens of times.
Reuters notes:
Experts question whether it will be able to pull off the removal of all the assemblies successfully.

No one knows how bad it can get, but independent consultants Mycle Schneider and Antony Froggatt said recently in their World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013: “Full release from the Unit-4 spent fuel pool, without any containment or control, could cause by far the most serious radiological disaster to date.”

Nonetheless, Tepco inspires little confidence. Sharply criticized for failing to protect the Fukushima plant against natural disasters, its handling of the crisis since then has also been lambasted.

“There is a risk of an inadvertent criticality if the bundles are distorted and get too close to each other,” Gundersen said.

The rods are also vulnerable to fire should they be exposed to air, Gundersen said. [The pools have already boiled due to exposure to air.]

[Here is a visual tour of Fukushima's fuel pools, along with graphics of how the rods will be removed.]

Tepco confirmed the Reactor No. 4 fuel pool contains debris during an investigation into the chamber earlier this month.

Removing the rods from the pool is a delicate task normally assisted by computers, according to Toshio Kimura, a former Tepco technician, who worked at Fukushima Daiichi for 11 years.
“Previously it was a computer-controlled process that memorized the exact locations of the rods down to the millimeter and now they don’t have that. It has to be done manually so there is a high risk that they will drop and break one of the fuel rods,” Kimura said.

Corrosion from the salt water will have also weakened the building and equipment, he said.
ABC Radio Australia quotes an expert on the situation (at 1:30):
Richard Tanter, expert on nuclear power issues and professor of international relations at the University of Melbourne:

Reactor Unit 4, the one which has a very large amount of stored fuel in its fuel storage pool, that is sinking. According to former prime Minister Kan Naoto, that has sunk some 31 inches in places and it’s not uneven.
And Chris Harris – a, former licensed Senior Reactor Operator and engineer – notes that it doesn’t help that a lot of the rods are in very fragile condition:

Although there are a lot of spent fuel assemblies in there which could achieve criticality — there are also 200 new fuel assemblies which have equivalent to a full tank of gas, let’s call it that. Those are the ones most likely to go critical first.

Some pictures that were released recently show that a lot of fuel is damaged, so when they go ahead and put the grapple on it, and they pull it up, it’s going to fall apart. The boreflex has been eaten away; it doesn’t take saltwater very good.
Nuclear engineers say that the fuel pool is “distorted”, material was blown up into air and came down inside, damaging the fuel, the roof fell in, distorting things inside.

Indeed, Fukushima documents discuss “fuel that is severely damaged” inside cooling pool, and show illustrations of “deformed or leaking fuels”.

The Urgent Need:  Replace Tepco

Tepco is incompetent and corrupt.  As such, it is the last company which should be in charge of the clean-up.

Top scientists and government officials say that Tepco should be removed from all efforts to stabilize Fukushima. An international team of the smartest engineers and scientists should handle this difficult “surgery”.

Bloomberg notes:
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is being told by his own party that Japan’s response is failing. Plant operator [Tepco] alone isn’t up to the task of managing the cleanup and decommissioning of the atomic station in Fukushima. That’s the view of Tadamori Oshima, head of a task force in charge of Fukushima’s recovery and former vice president of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party.

[There's] a growing recognition that the government needs to take charge at the Fukushima station…. “If we allow the situation to continue, it’ll never be resolved” [said Sumio Mabuchi, a government point man on crisis in 2011].

- Global Research.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Seismic Activity Increasing - Oklahoma Quakes Causing Many To Be Rattled!

November 11, 2013 - UNITED STATES - The Earth under central Oklahoma continues to move as another earthquake rattled residents in Edmond, Sunday evening.

The quake weighed in at a magnitude of 3.4 on the Richter Scale, according to a report by the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

The shaking started just before 5:30 p.m. about four miles north northeast of Edmond, or about 17 miles north
northeast of the Oklahoma City metro area, at a depth of three miles. (Photo courtesy

The shaking started just before 5:30 p.m. about four miles north northeast of Edmond, or about 17 miles north northeast of the Oklahoma City metro area, at a depth of three miles.

The recent uptick in Earthquake activity has led to an increase in Oklahomans inquiring about adding earthquake insurance to their homeowner's policies.

"Most [people call asking] ‘What does it take to get additional coverage for earthquake type insurance?'" said Lance Singleton, the Chief Financial Officer for the Oklahoma Agency Alliance (OAA).

OAA represents 93 insurance carriers, and Singleton says getting earthquake insurance is fairly cheap and simple.

"A $100,000 home…can be endorsed maybe as low as $45, and it could be as much as $200 to $300," Singleton said.

A smaller quake struck in the same area at approximately 9 p.m. The USGS recorded that quake at a 2.2 magnitude.

No damage or injuries have been reported with either earthquake.

According to the USGS, quakes with magnitudes from 2.5 to 3 are generally the smallest ones felt by humans. - News 9.

Nineteen earthquakes have shaken parts of the metro area over the last seven days, causing little damage but fraying more than a few nerves.

Road crews were dispatched to inspect Oklahoma County highways, roads and bridges but no damage was found, transportation officials said Friday.

The largest of these quakes had a magnitude of 3.8, not likely to cause serious damage but strong enough to do minor damage or knock unsecured items off shelves, said Rob Williams, a U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist in Golden, Colo.

Six of the 19 recent earthquakes have had a magnitude greater than 3.

Warren Vieth lives in the Apple Valley neighborhood in far northeast Oklahoma City, near where many of the recent earthquakes have occurred.

He said the 3.8 quake on Monday night was intense.

“Holy Moly. That was one, big, kick-ass quake,”he said. “Felt like a bulldozer hitting the side of the house. I was standing in the kitchen and watched the cabinet doors rattle open and shut.”

Williams said these quakes are likely connected to a central Oklahoma swarm of earthquakes that have been occurring since 2009. The swarm's cause remains under study.

Crews from Oklahoma County, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation have examined bridges, roads and highways.

Some of the earthquakes have been centered on or near the Kilpatrick Turnpike, but no damage has been found. - NewsOK.

TERMINATOR NOW: The Rise Of The Machines - The Newest Drone, The Multi-Modal Vehicle, Can FLY, SWIM AND DRIVE During Missions! [VIDEO]

November 11, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Move over, lightweight flying robots! The drone of the future is currently being developed at a government lab, and if all goes as planned it will do much more than just soar through the sky on its own.

Still from YouTube video/SandiaLabs

While the United States continues to consider the merits behind its overseas weaponized drone program and efforts to allow surveillance unmanned aerial vehicles sail through domestic airspace, Sandia National Laboratories has released a video showing off a conceptual design meant to make the traditional UAV look like a thing of the past.

Sandia’s “Multi-Modal Vehicle Concept” is still being ironed out, but ideally scientists hope that they’ll be able to soon deploy an unmanned craft capable of flying, swimming, driving and even hopping like a frog across any type of terrain or obstacle it may encounter.

Still from YouTube video/SandiaLabs

Independently, a number of autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles are already capable of seemingly everything under the sun. If this latest endeavor works out accordingly, however, Sandia will have its hands on a small vessel capable of traversing air, land and water. That means a single drone could be launched from a random station, soar through the sky on its own only to land in a river, navigate to another location and then pick itself up out of the water and walk to a site where it could collect intelligence. After all, the types of drones currently included in the American military’s arsenal involve unmanned craft that can kill a target for thousands of feet away, snoop on suspects using infrared cameras or sniff chemicals using state-of-the-art sensors.

The laboratory says its Intelligent Systems, Robotics, & Cybernetics (ISRC) office has been slaving over a way to combine the different types of drones currently available in order to perfect this Multi-Modal Vehicle Concept, and they’ve already built and conducted testing on conceptual designed to try and hammer out the kinks needed to produce a fully functioning craft capable of doing more on its own than the average human.

WATCH:  Multi-Modal Vehicle Concept.

 “Imagine a mission where you have to covertly fly into an area, traverse through water, across land and overcome obstacles along the way,” Sandia says on its website. “ISRC has built and conducted limited testing on conceptual hardware, and while the concept may appear to be off in the distant future, our testing has shown that this concept could soon be a reality.”

“The real value added [of the Multi-Modal Vehicle] is that it allows maximum flexibility in highly complex missions without the concern over whether or not all of the vehicles are positioned just right,” Jon Salton, a Sandia engineer working on the project, told Wired. - RT.

INFRASTRUCTURE & SOCIETAL COLLAPSE: Plane Crash In The Bahamas - Four Sightseers Killed Off Grand Bahama Island!

November 11, 2013 - BAHAMAS - Four people have been killed in a plane crash close to the Bahamas yesterday.

The victims, believed to be US citizens, died when their plane crashed shortly after taking off from Grand Bahama Island at around 11am local time.

Four tourists, believed to be two men and two women all from the US, have died
following a plane crash off Grand Bahama Island yesterday.

Wish TV has named the pilot as businessman Tony Wishart from Fishers, Indiana. Another man and two women were reported to have been on board.

According to reports the Americans were tourists taking part in a sightseeing tour.

Emrick Seymour, assistant police commissioner for Grand Bahama, said the Cirrus 22 plane crashed minutes after takeoff from the island's international airport.

He said the pilot radioed that the plane was 'experiencing some engine problems.'

Wish TV has named the pilot as businessman Tony Wishart from Fishers, Indiana.
Details about the other three victims have not yet been released.

According to police the pilot radioed to say the plane was 'experiencing some engine problems'.

According to the aircraft was registered to a company called First Class Flyers, LLC, in Cicero, Indiana

 Officials says information about the victims' identities will not be released by Bahamian authorities until their next of kin have been informed. Seymour said police were 'right in the middle of the investigation.'

A statement from the police force said that the aircraft had been completely destroyed.

According to the Bahamas Civil Aviation Department, the group was on a local sightseeing flight in the area of Freeport, Grand Bahama when the aircraft apparently ditched in low waters approximately 7 miles North of the Freeport Control Tower.

Exactly a week before this crash two other Americans had to be rescued after their
twin-engine plane ditched into the sea near the Staniel Cay area.

The single-engine aircraft, named by police as a Cirrus 22, is the best selling aircraft in its class (file picture)

The Bahamas has been the scene of several air crashes recently.

 Exactly a week before the latest crash two men had to be rescued from the water near Staniel Cay after their twin-engine plane crashed.

The US coastguard sent a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter to lift the two men out of the water, who escaped unhurt.

Last year a helicopter crash killed one person and left another four injured near Baker’s Bay Golf and Ocean Club on Great Guana Cay after a strong gust of wind sent it spiralling out of control while trying to land. - Daily Mail.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Unusually Long And Intense Eruption Seen At Italy's Mount Etna - Newest Paroxysm At The NSEC; Tremor Rises Sharply And Strombolian Explosions Are Nearly Continuous! [VIDEO]

November 11, 2013 - ITALY - Very infrequent explosions (at least one) occurred during the night, and tremor has again picked up a slowly rising trend, but is far from conclusive at the moment whether and when a next paroxysm might occur. Strangely, many of the previous ones have occurred on Saturdays (as if to provide a special weekend show for the Catanese people)...

Explosion on November 8 at 23:08 from Etna's new southeast crater.

An explosion around shortly past 23:08 (LT) on the picture attached was relatively strong. Guides from Etna confirmed that some of the explosions during the past days threw bombs as far as the Torre del Filosofo area. Access to the area above 2500 m is currently limited.

Current tremor amplitude (ECPNZ station, INGV Catania)

November 9, 2013: A relatively large explosion has occurred some minutes ago. Volcanic tremor still doesn't show a clear trend.

Explosion from Etna's new southeast crater on November 9.

Current tremor amplitude (ECPNZ station, INGV Catania)

November 10, 2013: Strombolian explosions (sometimes relatively large) from the New SE crater continued with little changes. Tremor levels show a no indication whether or not a new paroxysm is going to occur soon.

Current tremor amplitude (ECPNZ station, INGV Catania)

WATCH:  A very slow rising trend is visible over the past week.

The newest paroxysm at the NSEC seems to have started. Tremor rises sharply and explosions are becoming nearly continuous.

Explosions from the NSEC

Current tremor amplitude (ECPNZ station, INGV Catania)

November 11, 2013: The awaited new paroxysm of Etna's new southeast crater started last night and is still in full progress.

Etna from Schiena dell'Asino.

Current tremor amplitude (ECPNZ station, INGV Catania)

Unfortunately, a snow storm above the summit area prevents detailed observations, but judging from the seismic signal, this eruption is unusually long and intense (and still growing at the time of updating). Ash fall has been reported from villages to the E/NE (Zafferana, Milo etc), where the plume is carried to by strong Libeccio winds. - Volcano Discovery.

INFRASTRUCTURE & SOCIETAL COLLAPSE: Canada Plane Crash - 5 Die In Regional Airliner In Ontario; 2 Escape Burning Plane!

November 11, 2013 - CANADA - Five people are dead after a Bearskin Airlines plane crashed on approach to the Red Lake airport in northwestern Ontario and burst into flames.

It's not yet known what caused the fatal plane crash in Red Lake Sunday night. Environment Canada records
show that at 6 p.m. Sunday there was light snow and a northwest wind blowing at 26 km per hour,
with gusts up to 41km per hour. (

Two people survived the crash of the twin-engine turboprop about 500 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay, just after 7:30 p.m. local time Sunday, Ontario Provincial Police said.

The two pilots were among those killed, said Sgt. Rob McDonough at the provincial police communications centre in Thunder Bay — a 25-year-old from Mississauga and a 34-year old from Winnipeg. The three passengers killed include a 53-year-old woman, a 53-year-old male, and a 64-year-old female, all of whom hail from Red Lake. They were located within the wreckage. The identities of the deceased have not yet been confirmed.

Provincial police issued a release early Monday, saying the names of the deceased would be released after their next of kin were notified.

The survivors were identified as a 29-year-old man and a 50-year-old woman, both from Winnipeg.

"The one male was actually the one that called us to report the crash. He was able to pull the woman out of the wreckage prior to it becoming fully engulfed in flames," McDonough said.

The two were taken by ambulance to hospital. McDonough said they were treated for non-life-threatening injuries. He noted the man was able to walk to the ambulance, while the woman appeared to have suffered a back injury.

Plane 'destroyed by flames'

The plane had taken off from Sioux Lookout, Ont., on a flight to Red Lake, 270 kilometres north of Kenora, and about 100 kilometres east of the Manitoba boundary.

McDonough said the 19-passenger aircraft knocked down some Hydro lines during the crash.

"The plane was totally destroyed by the flames," he said. "Upon impact, it burst into flames and then set bush around it on fire as well."

A local fire crew quickly doused the flames in both the plane and the woods, he added.

There's no word yet on the cause of the crash, but McDonough said Transportation Safety Board investigators from Winnipeg were expected to arrive at the site Monday afternoon.

Once they arrive at the site, investigators will examine "all aspects of the aircraft," including the structure, controls, engines, propeller and landing gear, to see if "any of it could be related to the accident that happened," said TSB spokesman Peter Hildebrand.

There were light clouds and moderate winds out of the northwest around the time of the crash, as well as some snow showers, "but not anything severe in terms of this time of year," he said.

Ron Hell, director of marketing and sales for Bearskin Airlines,
on Sunday's plane crash: 'Our thoughts, and our prayers and
our condolences go out to all the families involved.'
(Nicole Ireland/CBC)
Terry Harapiak, owner of the Esso station in Red Lake, said that right around the time of the crash, the weather turned ugly, with flurries and strong winds.

Bearskin offers condolences

Bearskin Airlines is based in Sioux Lookout and has operated since 1963, employing 300 in Ontario and Manitoba.

Ron Hell, director of marketing and sales for Bearskin, said they are still confirming details of the crash and expect to release more information later.

"At this time our thoughts, and our prayers and our condolences go out to all the families involved and we just ask everyone to also give your thoughts and prayers to those involved," he said.

He added that all Bearskin flights will be operating as scheduled Monday. Bearskin's fleet of 16 Metro Fairchild planes serve 18 destinations in the two provinces.

Transport Minister Lisa Raitt expressed her condolences on Twitter.

"My thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by the tragic air accident near Red Lake last evening. Thank you to first responders," she wrote.

In May 1995, a Bearskin aircraft collided with a Piper Navajo near the Sioux Lookout airport, killing all eight people aboard the two planes. - CBC.

DISASTER IMPACT: Monumental Storm Damage - Weakening Haiyan Continues North To China And Vietnam, Killing 13 And Injuring 81!

November 11, 2013 - VIETNAM/CHINA - Typhoon Haiyan continued on its destructive path into Vietnam and China Monday, although it had weakened slightly and was later downgraded to a tropical storm.

At least 13 people were killed and 81 injured in Vietnam according to the Voice of Vietnam, the country's national radio broadcaster.

Workers remove a tree that fell on a car in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in Sanya,
southern China, late Sunday. AP

Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua said at least nine people had died and seven were missing in Hainan and Guangxi provinces.

Gusts of up to 74 mph also left thousands without power, uprooted trees and ripped billboards from their stands after the storm slammed into Vietnam at around 3 a.m. local time (3 p.m. ET) the station reported.

The storm made landfall near the city of Cam Pha in Vietnam, a small city about 100 miles east of Hanoi according to Kevin Noth, a lead meteorologist at The Weather Channel, who called Haiyan the most powerful tropical cyclone of the year.

"When it hit Vietnam it was still a typhoon," he said. "But then it weakened sufficiently to be downgraded to a tropical storm. It is certainly the most powerful tropical cyclone of the year.

"After researching this, we believe that when it hit the Philippines this may have been the strongest ever recorded storm to make landfall," Noth added. "There have been more powerful storms over the sea, but this could be the strongest ever to hit land."

The storm had earlier felled trees on the Chinese island of Hainan, The Weather Channel reported.

The storm then turned north and northeast across far northeastern Vietnam and into the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of southern China, where it made landfall at 9 a.m. local time (7.30 p.m. ET Sunday), Xinhua reported.

WATCH: The storm may be the most violent to ever make landfall. Power is out and both water and food are in short supply. NBC's Angus Walker reports.

Two bodies thought to be crew members of a cargo ship registered in Guangxi were found by rescuers in the island province of Hainan, after the storm broke the vessel's mooring and cast it out to sea. Five sailors were still missing.

Kindergartens, primary schools and middle schools suspended classes on Monday in the cities of Qinzhou, Beihai and Fangchenggang.

While the China Meteorological Administration issued a rainstorm warning, Noth said Haiyan was expected to "rapidly weaken" further as it encounters rugged terrain.

The Chinese meteorologists added that they were expecting around four to seven inches of rain in the area in the next 48 hours. - NBC News.

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Creatures Are Now Melting In "Goo" - Monumental Die-Off Of Starfish Now Occuring Along East And West Coasts Of The United States And Canada Puzzle Experts; May Disrupt Tidal Ecosystems?!

November 11, 2013 - COLOMBIA - A mysterious disease that has turned hundreds of starfish into limp lumps of goo along both the East and West coasts in recent months could potentially induce a cascade of other ecological effects in tidal systems, researchers say.

Some sea star species, such as this false ochre sea star, are top predators and play a crucial role
in their ecosystems. Credit: Katrina Outland 

The disease — known as sea star wasting syndrome — begins as a small lesion, and eventually results in the loss of limbs and ultimate disintegration and death of the leggy animal. The cause of the disease remains unknown to researchers, who have not been able to determine if it is related to a bacterial infection, a virus or a combination of effects worsened by environmental stressors, such as increased water temperature.

The syndrome has afflicted sea star populations on the West Coast in the past, and in those instances, populations eventually bounced back, Smithsonian invertebrate zoologist Christopher Mah told LiveScience. But this current episode appears more severe than previous cases, killing up to 95 percent of some populations consisting of hundreds of individuals, The Associated Press reported earlier this week.

 "We've never seen it at this scale up and down the coast," Pete Raimondi, a professor of ecology at the University of California Santa Cruz involved in tracking the disease, said in a statement on Tuesday (Nov. 5).

Rippling effects of die-off

Since June, researchers have seen the disease spread from as far as British Columbia, Canada, down through California and, within the past year, from Maine through New Jersey. The scientists tracking the disease find this simultaneous bicoastal infection especially alarming.

 "There is no direct route to get from Providence to Seattle," Gary Wessel, a molecular biologist at Brown University who is working to identify the agent causing the disease, told LiveScience. "So we don't know how the pathogen would be doing this."

Researchers do not think the disease has spread to other marine animals, but other animals will still feel the impact of the starfish decimation, Mah said. Starfish are one of the most common animals in coastal tide pools and other shallow nearshore ecosystems, and some species, such as the West Coast's ochre sea star (Pisaster ochraceus) and sunflower sea star (Pycnopodia helianthoides) — the largest sea star on Earth — are considered keystone species. This means that, without them, the structure of their ecosystems crumbles, as would an arch without the support of its top-center keystone.

Tissue is disintegrating within this sea star affected by sea star wasting syndrome. Credit: Melissa Miner

The ripple effects of the decline would likely vary from region to region, but could potentially be drastic, Mah said. In the past, a decline in ochre sea star populations along the West Coast led to the massive proliferation of mussels at the expense of other animals, because the sea star had been the mussel's top predator. Sea stars also feed on the larvae of many invertebrates — or animals without a backbone, including various mollusks and sea slugs — which helps keep adult populations in check. Without sea star predation, more larvae will grow to adulthood and certain populations could balloon, though to what extent remains unclear, Mah said.

"A change in community structure can always have unpredictable effects," Mah said.

Off-kilter ecosystems

In addition to ecological changes, the loss of sea stars could induce changes in abiotic (nonliving) environmental conditions, such as aeration of seafloor sediment and nutrient supply in the water column. That's because critters eaten by sea stars help regulate these conditions. Worms, for example, aerate sediment and clams suck up nutrients that might otherwise fertilize large mats of smothering algae. An off-kilter ecosystem could alter the distribution of these environmental contributions. 

Credit: Melissa Miner

Still, Mah emphasized that scientists are only beginning to understand what, exactly, the disease is and how many sea stars have already been affected by it, so any projections regarding its ripple effects remain speculative at this point.

"I think it's important not to jump off the handle and make rash assumptions about catastrophic environmental effects," Mah said. "We don't have any data that that is the case yet."

And, paradoxically, Mah pointed out that since marine ecologists still have a lot to learn about sea star ecology in general, the animal's absence could offer a valuable opportunity to tease out its effect on the ecosystem.

 "This could be a blip in the ecology of this animal, or maybe it is something else," Mah said. "But we definitely need to find out, because the sea stars are important indicator species, and if they begin to die off, then that could be a sign that something else bad is happening in the environment."

Researchers at UC Santa Cruz's Long Marine Lab and others involved in tracking the disease have encouraged the public to document any cases of goopy sea stars they come across by uploading images into the citizen-scientist website iNaturalist. This will help the researchers determine the geographic extent of the disease, and potentially track the direction it is spreading in real time. - Live Science.

INFRASTRUCTURE & SOCIETAL COLLAPSE: Deadly Nighclub Shooting In Colombia - 8 Dead, 6 Injured!

November 11, 2013 - COLOMBIA - Police say eight people have died and six are injured after a man entered a nightclub in the Colombian city of Cali and opened fire.

A pedestrian walks over water mixed with blood running over the sidewalk outside La Barra de la 44 nightclub
in Cali, Colombia, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013. Eight people died and six were injured Friday night after a shooting
in the club, Cali police Col. Hoover Alfredo Penilla said. (AP Photo/Juan Bautista Diaz) | AP

Cali police Col. Hoover Alfredo Penilla said police captured the suspected assailant after the shooting, which occurred around 9 p.m. Friday in the club "La Barra de la 44." Edward Rodriguez is an investigations director with Cali prosecutors and identified the suspect as 20-year-old Johan Alexander Mosquera.

Colombian policemen stand outside "Barra la 44" disco bar in Cali, department of Valle del Cauca,
Colombia, where a shooting on the eve left eight people dead and five wounded.

(Photo: Luis Robayo, AFP, Getty Images)

Club bouncer Reynaldo Campos gave a different account of what he said was a 20-minute shootout. Campos said several men entered the club shooting and searching its three floors.

Rodriguez said the leading hypothesis was the shootings resulted from a revenge attack launched by one criminal gang against another. - Huffington Post.

MASS MAMMAL DIE-OFF: No One Can Work Out Why - Hundreds Of Unexplained Sea Turtle Deaths In Central America Alarm Scientists?!

November 11, 2013 - CENTRAL AMERICA - Hundreds of sea turtles are washing up dead on the beaches of Central America and scientists don't know why.

One hypothesis is that the killer is a potent neurotoxin that can be produced by algae during red tides, which are large accumulations of algae that turn sea water red or brown.

The puzzling thing, though, is that red tides have come and gone before without taking such a deadly toll on turtles.

Making things worse, some of the turtles dying are from endangered species.

In El Salvador, for instance, from late September to the middle of October, 114 sea turtles were discovered dead on Pacific coast beaches, according to the environment ministry.

They were black turtles (Chelonia agassizii), Olive Ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) and ones that are a cross between the two.

Scientists throughout Central America are alarmed, and the only laboratory that specializes in these creatures is taking tissue and organ samples to figure out what is going on.

The death toll in other countries is just as ugly -- 115 so far this year in Guatemala, 280 in Costa Rica and an undisclosed number in Nicaragua. Another 200 died in late 2012 in Panama.

And in Nicaragua there is yet another problem: turtles showed up weeks late, at the end of September, to crawl up onto the beach and lay their eggs.

"Some say it could be due to climate change, sea currents or the techniques used by fishermen," said biologist Ivan Ramirez of the Foundation for the Sustainable Development of Nicaragua (Fundenic).

The head of wildlife and ecosystems at the Salvadoran environment ministry, Nestor Herrera, said the strongest hypothesis over the death of the turtles is that they were killed by saxitoxin -- which affects the nervous system and can be produced by a red tide.

In one area of El Salvador's coast, dogs that started eating dead turtles stopped breathing and died almost instantly.

In 2006, saxitoxin killed about 500 sea turtles in El Salvador, and four years later, another 100 died of the same cause.

However, there is a red tide almost every year, while such widespread turtle deaths have never happened before, said Angel Ibarra, coordinator of Ecological Unity of El Salvador, who added more study is needed to shed light on the phenomenon.

Others worry that the recent spate of turtle deaths can be traced more directly to human activity.

In Guatemala, the National Council of Protected Areas said some turtles are caught up by industrial-size fishing boats that drag nets along the sea bed and capture everything in their path, a process called trawling.

And drift net fishing, in which very long nets float behind a ship and near the surface of the water, could also be a threat to turtles.

Jose Leonidas Gomez, who works with a sea turtle conservation project in El Salvador, said turtles discovered dead on one beach were found not to have eaten, so it is presumed they got caught in nets.

Biologist Fabio Buitrago of Nicaragua's Fundenic said turtles are also being killed by fishermen who use explosives, among other techniques.

"The fishermen themselves say so," he said.

Antonio Benavides, a veteran turtle conservationist in El Salvador, said protecting the creatures is all the more difficult because the mortality rate for juveniles is already high.

Only one out of a thousand babies that hatch and make it out into the sea ever returns to the beach as an adult to lay eggs.

Fertility is yet another issue: in September scientists in Honduras said turtles on one beach laid 40 percent fewer eggs. - Business Insider.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Bird Flu Kills 13th Person In Cambodia This Year!

November 11, 2013 - CAMBODIA - Cambodian authorities say a 10-year-old boy has become the country's 13th person to die of bird flu this year.

Cambodia's latest bird flu victim was a young boy who became sick after tending to a group of
chickens that died suddenly.
Source: AFP

Cambodia's Health Ministry and the World Health Organisation said in a joint statement that the boy died from the H5N1 bird flu virus on Saturday after suffering from fever, cough, a sore throat and breathing difficulty.

Cambodia's 13 bird flu fatalities and 24 confirmed cases are the country's highest annual total since the virus surfaced in 2003, and also the highest for any country this year for the H5N1 variant.

The H5N1 virus normally spreads between poultry, but can sometimes spread from poultry to humans.

The statement said that about a month before the boy became sick, about 30 chickens died suddenly in his village and that he helped carry them. - News Australia.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Death, Hunger And Looting - Typhoon-Ravaged Philippines Declares State Of NATIONAL CALAMITY!

November 11, 2013 - PHILIPPINES - In the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, which left thousands dead and many more displaced and survivors battling for survival amid devastation and chaos, the Philippines has declared a state of national calamity to help restore order to the reeling nation.

A body of a dead man is seen at the bay of Tacloban, eastern island of Leyte on November 10, 2013.
(AFP Photo / Noel Celis)

In a primetime television speech delivered Monday, President Benigno Aquino said: "We declare a state of national calamity to hasten the action of the government to rescue, provide help and rehabilitate the provinces affected by [Haiyan]."

The declaration will also help the government control the prices of staple goods, with many in the country reduced to begging for food and water. Aquino called for patience as the scope of the damage frustrated efforts to coordinate relief operations.

“The extent of the devastation brought us back to a situation where information was passed on from one person to another. There was no television, radio and internet,” he said.

Noting how the devastation reduced people to word-of-mouth communication, Aquino vowed help would arrive in the coming days.

"My message: Staying calm, prayer, and helping each other are what will lift us from this challenge," he said.

A surivor walks among the debris of houses destroyed by Super Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban in the
eastern Philippine island of Leyte on November 11, 2013.(AFP Photo / Noel Celis)

Counting the dead, accounting for the missing

Three days after the typhoon made landfall, authorities are struggling to come to grips with the aftermath of one of the strongest typhoons ever recorded.

Forty-one of the country’s 80 provinces were affected, with Secretary to the Cabinet Rene Almendras saying that in the worst affected areas, the destruction had been “total.”

An estimated 10,000 people are believed to have been killed in Tacloban – a city of over 200,000 southeast of the capital, Manila – which bore the brunt of the storm. Flattened by massive waves and battered by winds reaching speeds up to 235 miles an hour, Tacloban remains littered by the dead, some covered with tarps, others left lying out in the open with looks of horror reportedly etched on their faces. The United Nations said officials in Tacloban had seen one mass grave of 300 to 500 bodies, Reuters reported. Relief workers fear that ground water may be contaminated by decaying bodies, and fears are growing of a massive public health crisis.

The city has also been gripped by looting, with authorities dispatching police and military reinforcements to restore order. A Philippine Red Cross truck carrying medical supplies was reportedly attacked while heading to the city. Manila has said it will not hesitate in deploying more police officers if necessary. Locals have already reportedly formed local militias and have promised to shoot looters to protect their property.

Residents watch as others throw looted goods from a warehouse in the town of Guiuan, Eastern
Samar province in the central Philippines on November 11, 2013.(Reuters / Ted Aljibe)

So far, Tacloban is relying almost entirely for supplies and evacuation on just three military transport planes flying from nearby Cebu. Aquino said 24,000 family food packs had been distributed in Tacloban on Sunday, while 18.7 billion pesos ($430 million) had been set aside from calamity funds, contingency funds, and savings for places hit by Haiyan. He said 22 foreign countries had provided aid.

Around 2,000 people, meanwhile, remain missing in the seaside town of Basely alone, which is located about 10 kilometers across a bay from Tacloban. Other coastal areas caught on Haiyan's path are likely to have suffered similar levels of destruction, though efforts to survey the damage or make a full account of the dead have been severely dampened.

The country’s military has thus far only been able to confirm 942 deaths, with military spokesman Lt. Jim Alagao telling AP that another 275 people were officially reported missing. The Red Cross earlier confirmed that 1,200 people had been killed.

Both the official and unofficial death tolls are likely climb once officials reach more remote areas. Guiuan, a town of 40,000 in eastern Samar province, was largely decimated, although it does not figure into the casualty tabulations.

Cargo ships washed ashore are seen four days after super typhoon Haiyan hit Anibong town,
Tacloban city, central Philippines November 11, 2013.(Reuters / Romeo Ranoco)

 "The only reason why we have no reports of casualties up to now is that communications systems ... are down," Colonel John Sanchez posted on the Philippines Armed Forces’ Facebook page, Reuters reported.

Farther west on the on the islands of Cebu and Panay, which also suffered direct hits from the typhoon, authorities have been hampered in their ability to assess the devastation.

Overall, more than 600,000 people were displaced by the storm across the country, with some lacking access to basic amenities such as food, water or medicine, the UN says.

Massively disrupted transportation and communications links have equally affected the ability for authorities to recover the dead and deliver relief to affected areas. Thirty provinces remain without electricity, and around half that number are having problems with phone and Internet connections. Although telecommunication firms believe service should be restored within days, restoring the national power grid in its entirety could take up to two months.

American military search-and-rescue helicopters, surveillance planes and Marines headed towards the central Philippines on Sunday to survey the devastation and assist survivors whose neighborhoods were completely inundated.

President Aquino said 21 other countries had provided aid, including Indonesia, the UK, Japan, Singapore, New Zealand and Hungary. - RT.

MONUMENTAL SOLAR SYSTEM CHANGES: Something Very Strange Is Happening To The Sun - Scientists Are Stunned, As Sunspots Are Half The Number Expected And The Magnetic Poles Are Oddly Out Of Sync?!

November 11, 2013 - SUN - Something is up with the sun.

Scientists say that solar activity is stranger than in a century or more, with the sun producing barely half the number of sunspots as expected and its magnetic poles oddly out of sync.

The sun generates immense magnetic fields as it spins. Sunspots—often broader in diameter than Earth—mark areas of intense magnetic force that brew disruptive solar storms. These storms may abruptly lash their charged particles across millions of miles of space toward Earth, where they can short-circuit satellites, smother cellular signals or damage electrical systems.

Based on historical records, astronomers say the sun this fall ought to be nearing the explosive climax of its approximate 11-year cycle of activity—the so-called solar maximum. But this peak is "a total punk," said Jonathan Cirtain, who works at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as project scientist for the Japanese satellite Hinode, which maps solar magnetic fields.

"I would say it is the weakest in 200 years," said David Hathaway, head of the solar physics group at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Researchers are puzzled. They can't tell if the lull is temporary or the onset of a decades-long decline, which might ease global warming a bit by altering the sun's brightness or the wavelengths of its light.

"There is no scientist alive who has seen a solar cycle as weak as this one," said Andrés Munoz-Jaramillo, who studies the solar-magnetic cycle at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass.

WATCH: The sun should be at the climax of its usual 11-year cycle of activity, but solar physicists are puzzled by its mellow solar maximum. WSJ's Robert Lee Hotz reports.

To complicate the riddle, the sun also is undergoing one of its oddest magnetic reversals on record.

Normally, the sun's magnetic north and south poles change polarity every 11 years or so. During a magnetic-field reversal, the sun's polar magnetic fields weaken, drop to zero, and then emerge again with the opposite polarity. As far as scientists know, the magnetic shift is notable only because it signals the peak of the solar maximum, said Douglas Biesecker at NASA's Space Environment Center.

But in this cycle, the sun's magnetic poles are out of sync, solar scientists said. The sun's north magnetic pole reversed polarity more than a year ago, so it has the same polarity as the south pole.

"The delay between the two reversals is unusually long," said solar physicist Karel Schrijver at the Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center in Palo Alto, Calif.

Scientists said they are puzzled, but not concerned, by the unusual delay. They expect the sun's south pole to change polarity next month, based on current satellite measurements of its shifting magnetic fields.

At the same time, scientists can't explain the scarcity of sunspots. While still turbulent, the sun seems feeble compared with its peak power in previous decades. "It is not just that there are fewer sunspots, but they are less active sunspots," Dr. Schrijver said.

However, the sun isn't idle: After months of quiescence, it unleashed vast streams of charged particles into space five times in as many days last month, and flared again last week. Even so, these outbursts exhibited a fraction of the force of previous solar maximums.

By comparison, a Halloween solar storm in 2003, near the peak of the last solar maximum, was the largest of the Space Age. Even though it mostly bypassed Earth, the storm disabled a Japanese satellite, sent astronauts aboard the International Space Station scrambling for radiation shelter, disrupted drilling for oil and gas in Alaska, scrambled GPS navigation and forced the U.S. Defense Department to cancel military maneuvers.

As the solar cycle winds down in the years ahead as part of its normal cycle, blasts of charged particles should become even less frequent. Among other things, Earth's outer atmosphere will cool and contract, which can extend the life of satellites by lessening the drag on them.

"That makes the commercial satellite operators all happy," said Todd Hoeksema at Stanford University's Wilcox Solar Observatory. "And the astronauts are happy when there is no radiation."

Several solar scientists speculated that the sun may be returning to a more relaxed state after an era of unusually high activity that started in the 1940s.

"More than half of solar physicists would say we are returning to a norm," said physicist Mark Miesch at the High Altitude Observatory in Boulder, Colo., who studies the internal dynamics of stars. "We might be in for a longer state of suppressed activity."

If so, the decline in magnetic activity could ease global warming, the scientists said. But such a subtle change in the sun—lowering its luminosity by about 0.1%—wouldn't be enough to outweigh the build-up of greenhouse gases and soot that most researchers consider the main cause of rising world temperatures over the past century or so.

"It may give us a brief respite from global warming," said Dr. Hathaway. "But it is not going to stop it." - WSJ.