Wednesday, December 4, 2013

SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: "Exceedingly Rare" - Most Stunning And Unusual V-Shaped Sun Halo Seen Over Sumterville, Florida?!

 December 04, 2013 - SPACE - At the end of Thanksgiving Day when the sun was setting over Sumterville, Florida, Paula Phillips took a break from her meal, stepped outside and saw something odd--a pair of luminous 'Vs' in the deepening twilight:

"I've never seen anything like this before," says Phillips. "I photographed the phenomenon with a simple small Samsung camera."

They're sun halos, caused by sunlight shining through ice crystals. Atmospheric optics expert Les Cowley explains:

"These two ‘V’ shaped halos, one rare and one common, change shape dramatically as the sun climbs," he says. "Near sunrise or sunset is the only time to catch them like this. The lower ‘V’ is an upper tangent arc from horizontal hexagonal prisms of ice. The upper one is a rare sunvex Parry arc from similar crystals that - strangely – are fixed so that two prism faces are always horizontal. In the full-sized image, we also see just a trace of a 22o halo and stretching upwards from the sun a sun pillar."

"I find it odd that I saw this in Florida!" continues Phillips. Yet Florida has ice crystal, too. The atmosphere 5 to 10 km above the Sunshine State is always cold enough for water to freeze.

"Florida and other warm places get plenty of halos--some of them exceedingly rare," says Cowley. "Look for them everywhere, winter and summer." - Space Weather.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Ancient Roman Tunnels Could Cause Dangerous Sinkholes - Geologists Mapping Rome's Underground Maze!

December 04, 2013 - ITALY - Unbeknownst to many of the tourists who pace the ancient streets of Rome, below their feet lies a tangle of quarry tunnels, cut by the first Romans who built the city. But now those tunnels, carefully hewn by the original engineers, have become safety hazards that threaten to undermine modern roads and buildings.

Geologists are mapping Rome's underground tunnels to prevent the ground from collapsing.
(Photo: Photo: BBC/Screenshot)

According to a report from LiveScience, the threat isn't just academic. In recent years, dozens of collapses have been documented, and the number is rising. In 2011, 44 streets or portions of buildings fell into the quarries. In 2012, the number rose to 77. And so far in 2013, there have been 83 incidents. Now, scientists are trying to find the areas of weakness and prevent future disasters.

"What the municipality wants to do is to basically have a map of the risk so at that point they can on their side decide what kind of intervention needs to be done," geologist Giuseppina Kysar Mattietti, of George Mason University, told LiveScience. Together with scientists from the Roman preservationist organization Sotterranei di Roma, Kysar Mattietti is using 3D scanning to map the labyrinth of tunnels.

The quarries exist because of Rome's geology, Kysar Mattietti told LiveScience. The Italian landscape was shaped by volcanos, and still is. Its most active volcano, Mt. Etna in Sicily, has erupted numerous times in recent months. When early masons discovered volcanic rocks underneath the capital of the Roman empire, they found them to be lightweight and sturdy. The rocks were dug up in long narrow lines outside of the city. As Rome stretched into the suburbs, designers were careful to cut narrow enough that the tunnels wouldn't compromise above-ground structures.

But erosion set in, and future builders weren't as careful with the quarries, cutting them wider and less stable than their predecessors, Kysar Mattietti said. "A crack never stops on its own," she told LiveScience. "It always gets bigger." Other research from the Sapienza University of Rome finds that the Roman sinkholes have been caused by other underground cavities built not just as quarries, but for drainage and catacombs over the last 2,000 years. "The presence of these cavities may easily trigger the collapse of the shallow or deeper layers from ground level," Giancarlo Ciatoli writes in the abstract. Ciatoli says additional factors, including runoff caused by rainfall and loose soil, have also led to the sinkholes. He reports there have been at least 1,800 collapses between 1875 and 2011.

Kysar Mattietti and her team have begun with three areas deemed particularly high collapse risks. She says some of the tunnels have caved in but all the way to the surface. The result is a collapsed void between the tunnel and the cityscape above. In some cases, she told LiveScience, the ground between the surface and void is so thin you can stand in the cavity and hear the city above your head. Once the scientists have identified all the worst spots, officials will fill them in with mortar. "Since they weren't serving any use, people tend to forget what can be a problem," Kysar Mattietti said. - IST.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Planet Earth's Gravity Altered By The 2011 Japanese Tohoku Earthquake!

December 04, 2013 - EARTH - Japan’s devastating earthquake in 2011 left its mark on more than the town of Fukushima. The European Space Agency (ESA) says that it had an impact on Earth’s gravity as well.

Scientists used data from ESA’s GOCE satellite to show the effects of the 9.0 earthquake that struck east of Japan’s Honshu Island on March 11, 2011.

The strength of gravity varies from place to place on Earth, and earthquakes can deform our planet’s crust and cause tiny changes in local gravity. GOCE spent four years mapping out Earth’s gravity with unrivaled precision.

One reason values of gravity differ on Earth is because the materials within Earth are inhomogenous and are unevenly distributed. Since earthquakes shift around rock and other material tens of miles below the surface, they cause small changes in the local gravity. Earthquakes under oceans can also change the shape of the sea bed, displacing water and changing the sea level.

GOCE data is helping scientists understand how oceans transport huge quantities of heat around the planet and develop a global height reference system. Earlier this year, the satellite’s accelerometer and ion thrusters revealed GOCE had “felt” sound waves in space from the Japanese quake.

Scientists from the German Geodetic Research Institute (DGFI) and from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands analyzed the high-resolution vertical gravity gradients measured over Japan by GOCE. The team found the quake had clearly ruptured the gravity field in the area.

The latest research marks the first example that GOCE was able to find changes over time. The gravity change measured by GOCE differs in size and location, compared to those predicted by standard models.

GOCE's orbit is so low that it experiences drag from the outer edges of Earth's atmosphere. The satellite's
streamline structure and use of electric propulsion system counteract atmospheric drag to ensure that
the data are of true gravity. Credit: ESA/ AOES Medialab

The results, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, are consistent with coarser observations using NASA’s Grace satellite, which measures changes over time. This suggests GOCE data will be important in improving models and it will help contribute to understanding earthquakes.

“Thus, we see that GOCE gravity gradients complement other types of data such as seismic, GPS and GRACE satellite gravimetry,” Martin Fuchs, from DGFI and lead author of the study, said in a statement. “We are now working in an interdisciplinary team to combine GOCE data with other information to obtain a better picture of the actual rupture in the gravity field than is currently available.”

GOCE ran out of fuel earlier this year and reentered Earth’s atmosphere, largely disintegrating in the process. The satellite more than doubled its planned life in orbit, and its data will continue to be used by scientists for years to come to help understand our planet a little better. - Red Orbit.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: "This Is Important" - Precipitation Declines In Pacific Northwest Mountains; Will Ultimately Lead To Severe Repercussions To Surrounding Communities, Industry And Agriculture!

December 04, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Recent Forest Service studies on high-elevation climate trends in the Pacific Northwest United States show that streamflow declines tie directly to decreases and changes in winter winds that bring precipitation across the region. Scientists believe the driving factors behind this finding relates to natural climate variations and man-made climate change.

Research Hydrologist Charlie Luce, with the Rocky Mountain Research Station’s Aquatic Sciences Laboratory in Boise, Idaho, along with cooperators at the University of Idaho and the US Forest Service Northern Region, reflect on the decline of precipitation in the region’s mountains for 60 years. Increasing wildfire area and earlier and lower streamflows have generally been attributed to warming temperatures. “Our research,” says Luce, “suggests that an alternative mechanism – decreases in winter winds leading to decreased precipitation – may compound the changes expected from warming alone.

This is important because mountains are a primary water source for the region. Less precipitation leads to reduced runoff for communities, industry and agriculture. Decreased precipitation also exacerbates early snowmelt tied to warming temperatures. Acknowledging the effects of decreasing precipitation requires changes in how resource specialists approach climate change adaptation for water resources and forest management compared to preparing for increased temperature alone,” he said. According to Luce, this may present important implications for changes in mountain precipitation and future water availability for other areas as well. - Red Orbit.