Tuesday, January 28, 2014

SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: Solar Wind Sparks Spectacular Auroras - As Active Monster Sunspot Region Turns Toward Earth!

January 28, 2014 - SPACE - Earth is entering a stream of solar wind blowing almost 500 km/s or 1.1 million mph. First contact on Jan. 28th sparked tall curtains of light around the Arctic Circle. Harald Albrigtsen sends this picture of the display from Skulsfjord, Tromsø, Norway:

"At first there was little auroral activity, but being patient paid off," says Albrigtsen. He photographed the explosion of light using a Nikon D600 digital camera set at ISO 3200 iso for 3 seconds.

Arctic photographers, take note of those settings because more auroras are on the way. NOAA forecasters estimate a 25% to 40% chance of polar geomagnetic storms on Jan. 29-30 as Earth moves deeper into the solar wind stream.

ACTIVE SUNSPOT TURNS TOWARD EARTH: Big sunspot AR1967 near the sun's southeastern limb is crackling with solar flares. As Jan. 29th unfolds it is producing an average of one impulsive M-class explosion every two hours.

WATCH: Sam Freeland of the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Lab produced this "interest-compressed" 12.5 hour movie of the active region:

So far, none of the explosions has been Earth-directed, but future flares will be as the sunspot continues its slow turn toward our planet. NOAA forecasters have doubled the odds of an X-class flare in the next 24 hours to 10%. Meanwhile, M-class flares seem almost certain as the crackling continues. Solar flare alerts: text, voice

The primary dark core of AR1967 is twice as wide as Earth. This makes it an easy target for small telescopes equipped with solar filters. This morning at the Langkawi National Observatory in Malaysia, astronomer Karzaman Ahmad photographed the sunspot using an 11-inch Celestron:

"I wanted to take a closer look at the monster numbered AR1967," says Ahmad. "It is impressive."

For more impressive shots of the monster, browse the gallery:

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery. - Space Weather.

MASS OYSTER DIE-OFF: Plagues & Pestilences And Global Food Crisis - MILLIONS Of Oysters Die Due To Mysterious Disease In Port Stephens, Australia Frightening Growers?!

January 28, 2014 - AUSTRALIA -  Marine scientists are working overtime to identify a mystery illness that has decimated Port Stephens Pacific oyster crops.

Some of the dead oysters. Picture Jonathan Carroll

 Millions of Pacific oysters have died suddenly over the past two months. Almost all of a batch of a million juvenile Pacific oysters imported from Tasmania by fourth generation grower Geoff Diemar died recently.

"It doesn't seem to matter if they are imported from interstate, produced at a local hatchery or are wild catch," he said. "The ones that seem to be surviving best are the wild catch but it depends on where they are in the port."

Pacific oysters are not sold from the port during summer. The disease does not appear to have affected other marine species, including the native Sydney rock oyster.

A NSW Food Authority spokeswoman said testing had shown there were no human health implications regarding water quality or the consumption of seafood from the area.

"Oysters, fish and other seafood remain safe to eat," she said.

"The authority recommends people to always thoroughly cook any recreationally caught seafood."

DEATH TOLL: Robert Diemar has lost 600,000 oysters in just weeks. Pictures: Jonathan Carroll

The Department of Primary Industries is also working with the Environment Protection Authority on the investigation.

Pacific oysters first appeared in Port Stephens in 1985 and have been grown legally in the port since 1989. The Pacific oyster industry employs dozens of growers and is worth about $5 million per annum.

A meeting between government agencies and growers is expected to be held when analytical test results come back in the next fortnight. - The Herald.

DELUGE & GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Pontoon Links English Village Cut Off For Weeks By Flooding To The Outside World - Parts Of The Countryside Are Under 5 FEET Of Water; Forecasters Warn Of Another Weekend Deluge!

January 28, 2014 - ENGLAND - Desperate villagers who have been cut off from the rest of the country by floods for more than three weeks have received help from a floating bridge.

Sunk: The waters surrounding the village are deep enough to cover cars.

Coping: Villager Elizabeth Nightingale assesses the damage to her home. The village has
been inaccessible by land since 2 January.

The pontoon has been set up along a country road linking the village of Muchelney to the rest of Somserset.

The bridge allows villagers to walk part of the journey to dry land, which must still be completed by boat. Muchelney has been inaccessible by land since 2 January, and some parts of the surrounding countryside are 5 feet underwater.

The situation, which has seen villagers rely on volunteer rescue boats for essential supplies, has been declared a 'major incident' in light of forecasts of even more rainfall this weekend.

Muchelney, which lies between Taunton and Yeovil, was also devastated last year by the worst floods for decades.

A vital boat service operated by Somerset County Council, which is ferrying people to work and school, as well as shipping in supplies, is continuing as the access roads are still flooded.

Images of the flooded road shows cars completely submerged, while villagers can be seen canoeing between their homes and the 'mainland'.

The floods which have hit Muchelney have been described as the worst in a century, though the village - the name of which means 'Big Island' in Saxon - is often cut off by high waters.

The Environment Agency does not have any severe flood warnings - meaning a risk to life - in force in Somerset but there are several flood warnings in place.

Help: Somerset County Council has extended a boat service to move people at supplies to and from Muchelney.

Damage: Muchelney villager Nick Studley has seen his home ravaged by high waters over the past weeks.

Flooded: The country road, now a waterway, would usually be surrounding by tall vegetation.

Dozens of pumps have been deployed in an attempt to ease the flooding, but an Environment Agency spokesman said it could be weeks before the water is fully removed.

The Met Office has issued an amber warning of rain for Somerset with 10mm to 20mm forecast.

'With water levels already exceptionally high on the Somerset Levels, the public should be prepared for further flooding,' a Met Office spokesman said.

Kerry Rickards, chief executive of Sedgemoor District Council, said: 'Several Sedgemoor communities have been severely affected by the floodwaters for some weeks now.

'With significant rainfall expected over the coming days we feel this situation needs to be escalated as a major incident.

WATCH: Suppy boat cuts through the water in flood-struck Muchelney.

'Sedgemoor District Council would like to extend its continued sympathy for the residents, business owners and farmers affected by flooding.'

Dozens of pumps have been deployed in an attempt to ease the flooding, but an Environment Agency spokesman said it could be weeks before the water is fully removed.

The Met Office has issued an amber warning of rain for Somerset with 10mm to 20mm forecast.

'With water levels already exceptionally high on the Somerset Levels, the public should be prepared for further flooding,' a Met Office spokesman said.

Kerry Rickards, chief executive of Sedgemoor District Council, said: 'Several Sedgemoor communities have been severely affected by the floodwaters for some weeks now.

'With significant rainfall expected over the coming days we feel this situation needs to be escalated as a major incident.

'Sedgemoor District Council would like to extend its continued sympathy for the residents, business owners and farmers affected by flooding.'

Help: Boat services such as these are the only means of bringing supplies to the village.

Deep trouble: The waters around the Somerset village are five feet deep in places. Construction workers test
the floating bridge linking Muchelney to the rest of the country. The structure will shorten the boat
journey between the stranded village and the surrounding land.

 The council said it would continue to provide practical support to residents whose properties are flooded or are predicted to flood.

This ranges from the supply of portable toilets where septic tanks are overwhelmed to sandbag collection points in villages and deliveries to the most vulnerable properties.

The council said it had provided around 3,000 sandbags in the past few weeks and is also offering housing advice and is on standby to provide temporary accommodation.

Somerset County Council is campaigning for the dredging of rivers on the Levels and has recently pledged a further £500,000 towards the cost - a move backed by Sedgemoor District Council. - Daily Mail.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Texas Couple In Roanoke Find Meteorites From Friday's Meteor Fireball!

January 28, 2014 - TEXAS, UNITED STATES - It started as the search for a needle in an interplanetary haystack.

A video posted by TXCODENINJA on YouTube shows what appears to be a falling meteor
(indicated by the yellow arrow) on January 24, 2014. 

Could Wayne and Darla Janca of Roanoke find what came flying through the sky on Friday night?

They and untold others saw the meteor on their drive home from dinner in Southlake. Some even captured the glowing meteor on video as it shot through the atmosphere.

"We both looked at each other and said, 'That looks like it hit pretty close to home," said Darla Janca.

After a good night's sleep, Wayne and his wife followed their hunch.

Wayne and Darla Janca of Roanoke believe they discovered fragments of a meteor that fell to
Earth near their home on January 24, 2014 

"The next day we went out and were looking in the dirt, seeing if we can find anything," Wayne said. "Right before we gave up, I looked down at my foot and there it was! It looked like liquid metal melted into the ground."

The discovery was made in Roanoke, not far from the Jancas' home. But what they dug up may have traveled millions of miles to get here.

"We started digging down and found more and more and more and found a pretty good handful of it," Wayne said.

WATCH: Roanoke couple convinced they've found a falling star.

The couple immediately felt this was part of the meteorite. To test their theory, Darla went online.

"I read how to do a test to see if you found one and it was using a magnet - and sure enough, we got a magnet, and it did adhere to that magnet real quick," she said.

The Jancas plan to have their discovery checked out by local experts at TCU's Oscar E. Monnig Meteorite Gallery in Fort Worth.

In the meantime, they're enjoying the thought of their out-of-this-world find.

"It's a neat story to catch a falling star!" Wayne said. - KHOU.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Chicken Is Off The Menu - Hong Kong Culls 20,000 Birds In H7N9 Scare!

January 28, 2014 - CHINA - A cull of 20,000 chickens was under way in Hong Kong on Tuesday after the deadly H7N9 bird flu virus was found in poultry imported from mainland China, days before Lunar New Year.

Fears over avian flu have grown following the deaths of two men from the H7N9 strain in Hong Kong since December. Both had recently returned from mainland China.

The number of human cases in China this month is 102 with 22 deaths, according to an AFP tally, and the worst-hit province of Zhejiang has closed live poultry markets in major cities there.

 Officials wearing masks and protective suits piled dead chickens into black plastic bags at Hong Kong's Cheung Sha Wan market Tuesday, where the virus was found, television footage showed.

Cheung Sha Wan -- Hong Kong's only wholesale poultry market --- is now shut for 21 days for disinfection.

Vendors are unable to buy live chickens and farmers have nowhere to send their stock, leaving traders and shoppers disappointed in the holiday period.

Traditionally Hong Kongers buy a live chicken for Lunar New Year celebrations with family.

"I wanted to buy one for my mother for the festival," one shopper in the city's bustling Wan Chai Road food market said.

"But now there is none, I will have to buy something else. Live chickens just taste better than frozen chickens. The texture is different," said the woman, who gave her name as Monica.

At a nearby live chicken stall the normally full cages were empty.

"Of course there is inconvenience because we still need to pay the rent and we want to get paid. The sales volume will be affected", a 59-year-old trader who gave his surname as Law said.

Protest at slaughter

The mass cull started at 10:00 am and was set to last for 10 hours, the agriculture department spokesman said.

Chickens would be given a "chemical treatment" to kill them, after which they would be sent to a landfill, he added.

The move comes days after Hong Kong introduced widespread testing of imported live poultry following growing public concern over the safety of imports, particularly from the mainland.

Local chicken farmers and wholesalers questioned why chicken imports suspected to contain viruses had not been stopped at border checkpoints, but a government spokesman said that there was nowhere to keep them.

"The government should be held fully responsible. It should have stopped the chickens at the border until they were confirmed to be clear of bird flu," wholesaler Cheng Chin-keung told the South China Morning Post Tuesday.

 "Now the chickens from China get mixed with local chickens in the wholesale market and all of them have to be culled."

He said he would lose HK$5 million ($650,000).

A dozen chicken traders protested outside the residence of Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying on Monday night.

But Leung called into question the tradition of buying live chickens for fresher meat.

"In the long run, should we keep the customs of eating live chickens? Hong Kong people should look into this issue," he told reporters.

The H7N9 outbreak began in China in February 2013 and reignited fears that the virus could mutate to become easily transmissible between humans, potentially triggering a pandemic.

Hong Kong is particularly alert to the spread of viruses after an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome swept through the city in 2003, killing 299 people and infecting around 1,800.

The city culled 17,000 chickens in December 2011 and suspended live poultry imports for 21 days after three birds tested positive for the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu. - Times of India.

MASS SHOOTINGS: Desensitized To Horror - When Mass Shootings Stop Shocking Us; 11 School Shootings In The United States In Just 19 Days In 2014?!

January 28, 2014 - UNITED STATES - The Mall in Columbia is a massive, 200-store structure with a carousel just inside one of its many entrances. That entrance, near Sears and Starbucks on the mall’s second level, is the one that my 3-year-old likes best. We never leave without her riding that carousel, and she has already come to associate Columbia with safety, a break from our usual harried routine at our Baltimore home, 20 minutes north of the mall.

Desensitized To Horror, When Mass Shootings Stop Shocking Us.
Police move in from a parking lot to the Mall in Columbia after reports of a multiple shooting,
Saturday Jan. 25, 2014 Howard County, Md. (Credit: AP/Jose Luis Magana)

She isn’t alone. Many Baltimoreans and D.C. residents associate Columbia, Md., with serenity. A well-heeled suburb equidistant from our urban hubs, it boasts luxury townhomes and street names inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien and Robert Frost. It is home to one of the state’s most popular concert venues and is known for its rustic Wine in the Woods festivals.

Waking up this Saturday to find that Zumiez, an athletic apparel store not too far from the mall’s carousel, had become the site of three fatal shootings was disconcerting, to say the least. It triggered the instant refrain we always hear following mass shootings in suburbs: “Columbia is the last place you’d expect something like this to happen.”

For bystanders, this is what always seems to make these kinds of murders remarkable; they infiltrate the spaces that have been carefully cultivated — through high property cost and limited mass transit accessibility — to keep the violent crime more commonly associated with urban communities at bay.

Suburban mass shootings disabuse us of our faith in that cultivation. If gun violence can breach even our most Arcadian man-made boundaries, what hopes for suburban public safety can we hold?

Meanwhile, residents of Baltimore’s inner city saw a 7.3 percent rise in homicides last year and have already weathered 19 homicides in 25 days this year. We are all equally entitled to safety — and every loss of life should evoke within us the same shock, public outcry and call to justice. But inner cities like Baltimore’s have long accepted that the killings regularly occurring in their close-knit communities no longer register more than mild alarm, when reported to the residents of their surrounding suburbs.

Victims of violent crime in inner cities often feel abandoned. There exists no emotional coalition against open fire on the unsuspecting citizens of these communities, no country-wide outrage when they are slain.

Suburban desensitization to urban violence isn’t acknowledged much, but it’s hard to ignore when crimes like the Mall in Columbia shootings occur. In cases where media cannot separate its surprise that such a horror could befall “this community” from its reporting of the crime itself, there’s a tacit suggestion that residents and patrons of affluent enclaves should be insulated from gun violence, in ways that members of their lower-income neighboring communities are not.

How we report and discuss gun violence matters. As mass shootings spike at grade schools, universities, movie theaters and malls, we run the risk of becoming desensitized to them, as well. If we treat suburban mass shootings as isolated incidents and frequent inner-city homicides as a separate problem, to be handled within those communities alone, we are forging a very dangerous future path.

The way society regards communities where gun violence is already concentrated serves as a model for how we may eventually begin to treat mass shootings. The latter are no longer quite so “isolated,” and their increased frequency is beginning to affect our level of surprise when they’re reported.

In the past two years there have been three shootings in malls alone. The Washington Navy Yard has been the site of a massacre. In the last week, gun violence and threats have cut through the tranquility of high schools and colleges in Indiana, Oklahoma, Colorado, South Carolina and Pennsylvania. More and more often, the well-rated elementary and middle schools to which we entrust our children are becoming sites of gun violence.

WATCH:  Columbia Mall Shooting Another Example of U.S. Gun Violence.

Had you heard about each of these incidents? Did you follow their reporting well enough to register how frightening they must’ve been for the students and parents, workers and patrons in their proximity? Can you recall the names of the victims? Do you believe any of us can afford to be dismissive when the killer’s motives are revealed as seemingly obscure?

We can’t let go of the victims. Find something memorable or relatable in what you learn about every life lost. I will remember Brianna Benlolo as a mother of a son who is still a baby. If she ever brought him with her to the mall, he likely lit up when he saw the carousel, too. Benlolo was 21 and an employee at Zumiez. Tyler Johnson, 25, was her co-worker. I will remember his Facebook page and how it reveals his travel to Paris. You should remember them, too.

But also remember Frank and Anthony Turner, the 48-year-old father and 21-year-old son who were gunned down on New Year’s Day, becoming Baltimore’s first homicide victims of 2014. Remember Oluremi Thomas, 36, and Keyonna Proctor, 24, who were shot in D.C. on Jan. 20. Call the names of every child and teacher lost at Sandy Hook Elementary. Understand that grief keeps no record of where shootings “shouldn’t ever happen” and that for the sake of grieving families and of our own humanity, we can’t continue making such distinctions, either.

There isn’t a single community left in this country whose residents can honestly claim that they “never” thought gun violence would directly impact them. As the myth of suburban safety breaks down, our generation finds itself at a moral crossroads. We can accept that, given the current state of firearm laws, there is no “us” and “them” when it comes to who is at risk of being shot in any U.S. neighborhood. Or we can start to blame the mall patrons or the school students or the military personnel who “allowed” the shooter to follow through on his or her plan. We can glance at the reports as they flash across news screens and, upon realizing that the crime was targeted and not random, breathe a sigh of relief and continue believing our neighborhoods aren’t at risk. Considering how this latter course has played out for inner-city communities, we stand to lose more than lives if this becomes our tack. Indifference to any gun death, whether far or very near, will mean a slow erosion of our souls. - Salon.

January's Epidemic: 11 School Shootings In Just 19 Days.
January 2014 is threatening to become the month when gun violence became a matter of routine in America's schools. Since the start of the month, there have been at least 11 active shooting incidents on a high school or college campus, one for every two weekdays of the month (including New Year's Day.) Those shootings — all on or near school grounds while students were present, and most perpetrated by students themselves — have claimed at least two lives and injured at least 11 students.

But in addition to the actual shootings, the number of shooting scares and threats are on the rise as well. Reports of "active shooters" and precautionary lockdowns have become a part of every school's standard procedures. If it feels like there's "another one" every day now, that's because that's very nearly true. In fact, the latest school shooting (the wounding of a 17-year-old in Hawaii) happened while this very post was being edited.

For comparison, there were as many as 28 school shootings during the entire year of 2013, the 12 months after Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 first-graders and 6 teachers in Newtown, Connecticut. In other words, the year our nation had supposedly had enough and was finally going to do something about gun violence.

Here's what the month in school shootings and scares looks like (so far) on a calendar. Orange is a shooting, red means more than one shootings, and yellow is a scare or lockdown, prompted by a report to police. (The two incidents on the 15th and 16th were actually a continuation of one incident, as the same student brought a gun to class on both days.)

ThinkProgress also noted the frequency of school shootings this month, concluding that there's been a shooting pretty much every other day so far. When you factor in lockdowns and scares, and note that most schools were on holiday break until at least the 6th (and that January 20th, Martin Luther King Day, was also a national holiday) gun incidents have become an almost daily occurrence at American schools this year.

Here are the shootings so far, for January 2014: 
  • On January 9th, a 17-year-old high school student was wounded when a 16-year-old classmate allegedly shot him outside of Liberty Technology Magnet High School in Jackson, Tennessee. 
  • On January 13th, a 14-year-old freshman at Hillhouse High School in New Haven, Conn., was shot twice after a basketball game at the school. The shooter was not immediately apprehended. Days later, a 17-year-old turned himself in
  • On January 14th, two students were shot at a Roswell, New Mexico middle school. The gunman was 12 years old. He opened fire in the school gym, until a staff member at the school talked him into putting down his weapon. 
  • On January 17th, a 17-year-old student at a Philadelphia charter school opened fire and injured two of his classmates. The suspect will be charged as an adult. Two other teens were brought in for questioning in connection to the incident, but later cleared. 
  • Also on January 17th, an Albany High School student was shot near campus. The Friday shooting sent the Georgia school into lockdown. 
  • On January 20th, a  Widener University student was shot while sitting in his car in a campus parking lot. 
  • On January 21st, one student died at Purdue University after being shot by a classmate at the university's engineering school. 
  • Also on January 21st, Turlock's Wakefield Elementary School in California went into lockdown following a shooting across the street from campus. 
  • On January 24th, one student died in a shooting at South Carolina State University. 
  • On January 27th, police were investigating a shots fired incident at or near Rebound High School in Carbondale, Illinois. The victim was apparently the father of one of the school's students. Two high schoolers allegedly involved in the incident didn't return to school after lunch. 
  • On January 28th, a 17-year-old boy at Roosevelt High School in Honolulu, Hawaii, was shot in the wrist and wounded after reportedly attacking school police officers with a knife.. The unknown suspect was taken in custody.
There's a good chance that we missed some of the close calls and scares as it seems like there's been almost too many to keep track of, but a cursory search surfaced quite a few of them for January:
  • On January 15th and 16th, a student at Glenn Hills Middle School in Georgia brought a gun to school two days in a row. He was apparently attempting to rob another student. 
  • On January 17th, Richmond Hill High School in Georgia went into lockdown after reports of a student with a gun on campus. There was also, apparently, a bomb threat. 
  • On January 22nd, University of Oklahoma went into lockdown after reports of shots fired at the school's architecture building. A police search turned up no evidence of a shooting. 
  • On January 23rd, Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado went into lockdown after a series of threatening phone calls. 
If you count the double incident in Georgia, there has now been a shooting, lockdown, or gun scare somewhere in the United States for the last 12 consecutive weekdays. (There have only been 19 full weekdays this month, and that's counting MLK Day.) And this tally doesn't even take into account this month's mass shootings in other public places. Like last Saturday, for instance, when a 19-year-old opened fire at a Maryland mall, killing two people before killing himself.

Although, by the Daily Beast's count, states enacted 106 of the 540 gun bills proposed in 2013, efforts to pass national legislation with even basic amendments to federal gun control laws have failed. Former congresswoman Gabby Giffords will attempt to push the issue nationally once again with an ad that will air before and after tonight's State of the Union Speech. "Tell Washington it's too dangerous to wait," Giffords says in the ad. So far, January 2014's list of school shootings is sadly helping her to make her point. And there's still three days left. - The Wire.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Global Volcano Report For January 28, 2014 - Major Updates On Etna, Aso, Sakurajima, And Sinabung! [PHOTOS + VIDEOS]

January 28, 2014 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing reports of volcanoes across the globe.

Etna (Sicily, Italy): Starting late last week, Etna began yet another paroxysm of eruptive activity, but this time instead of mainly explosive behavior, the eruption has produced a lava flow that has been snaking down the slopes of the volcano (see below).

Lava flows from Etna, seen on January 26, 2014. Image: Dr. Boris Behncke / Flickr.

This lava flow from the New Southeast Crater has sent lava down the southeast flank of Etna in the Valle del Bove for the last 3 days. The explosive component of the eruption has been much milder (so far) compared to the giant lava fountains that were the hallmark of many of the paroxysms last year.

The lava flow at dawn and strombolian activity at the New SE crater. See more images HERE.
(Photo: Emanuela / VolcanoDiscovery Italia)

The AP has some nice video footage of the lava flows showing the flow levees and the braided network of flows that make up the flow field itself.

WATCH:  Raw - Italy's Mount Etna Erupts.

The NASA Earth Observatory posted a great image of Etna just prior to this new activity as well.

On January 22, 2014, Mount Etna was gearing up for another burst of activity. A diffuse plume of gas and
ash rose from the Northeast Crater at the volcano’s summit, accompanied by a smaller, dense plume emitted
from the New Southeast Crater. Within a few days, lava would flow down the slopes of the Valle del Bove.
Etna, located on the Italian island of Sicily, is Europe’s most active volcano. This false-color image combines
near infrared, red, and green light. Snow is white, geologically fresh (up to 100 years old) lava is black and
dark brown, while vegetation is deep red. The volcanic plume is light gray. The image was collected by
the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite.

Aso (Kyushu): Another small eruption occurred this morning at the Nakadake crater. An ash plume rose a few hundred meters from one of the active vents. During the night, incandescence is visible at the crater:

WATCH:  Aso volcanic activity - January 27, 2014.

Sakurajima (Kyushu, Japan): The volcano seems slowly to produce more powerful vulcanian explosions again. An eruption yesterday morning at 2am local time ejected an ash plume that rose to 12,000 ft (3.6 km) and covered the crater with incandescent material. It was the 10th explosion in 2014:

WATCH:  Sakurajima volcanic activity - January 27, 2014.

Sinabung (Sumatra, Indonesia): In what is beginning to sound like a broken record, the eruption at Sinabung continues unabated.

The volcano's lava dome continues to grow. Following a quieter interval, a new series of
pyroclastic flows occurred yesterday.  (Photo: Aris)

According to our correspondent Aris on location, they reached about 3 km length and associated
ash plumes rose to approx. 15,000 ft (4.5 km) altitude.  (Photo: Aris)

Time-lapse video of the volcano shows the pattern of dome collapses and pyroclastic flows that has become the norm at Sinabung. Probably the one of the best view of one of these pyroclastic flows (at least from a distance) is this video by Photovolcanica that shows the glowing base of the pyroclastic flow, made up of crumbled blocks of the hot lava dome, and the buoyant ash cloud associated with the pyroclastic flow itself.

WATCH:  Pyroclastic flows at Sinabung volcano.

This activity at Sinabung is another example of how the volcanism of Indonesia can quickly have a profound effect on the people living near the volcano — and evacuations near Sinabung have now topped 30,000 people, quite a challenge for any government to handle. The eruption might also have an impact on some precarious animal life in the region as well.

Complete Earthquake list (worldwide) for January 28, 2014.

SOURCES: Volcano Discovery | EO | WIRED | Gizmodo.

PROJECT BLUE BEAM MEMES: Precursors To A Deceptive Technologically-Simulated Monumental Event - Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan Delivers Speech Via Giant Hologram?!

January 28, 2014 - TURKEY - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan couldn't attend a political party meeting in the city of Izmir on Sunday, so he decided to send the next best thing: a giant hologram of himself.

In a scene straight out of Star Wars, Erdogan's shimmering avatar, whose real-life counterpart is under siege amid an ever-expanding corruption scandal and the resignations of multiple high-level officials, spoke to an astonished crowd of Justice and Development Party supporters on the need for resilience before municipal elections on March 30.

"We are going to elections in the shadow of attacks prepared by treasonous networks," said the towering, photon-based figure, according to the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet. "I urge all my mayoral candidates to not waste any of their time."

You can watch his bizarre appearance below (Erdogan's hologram appears at 0:45):

WATCH:  Erdogan appears in a giant hologram.

Erdogan isn't the first politician to use holograms. India's Narendra Modi, a rising star in Indian politics, broadcast 26 holograms of himself to a crowd of supporters during his re-election campaign in 2012. Holograms have yet to make their way to the American campaign trail. I repeat—yet.

Perhaps the most famous use of holographic technology came in 2012, when a photonic simulacrum of the deceased rapper Tupac performed alongside Snoop Dogg at Coachella.

CNN briefly flirted with using holograms to conduct in-studio interviews during the 2008 U.S. presidential election, but abandoned the project after widespread public ridicule. At least among his political supporters, Erdogan appears to have been spared that fate. - The Atlantic.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: "It Was Awful,... Every Night People Came In With Bites,..." - Australian Heatwave Brings The Invasion Of The Sand Fly!

January 28, 2014 - AUSTRALIA - Beachgoers are being driven from the sand by a population explosion of biting insects.

An Australian sand fly. Source: Supplied

Experts say sand flies, technically called biting midges, speed up their reproductive cycle when temperatures soar, as they did during last week's record heatwave.

As Victorians flocked to the beach to seek relief from the sweltering conditions, many retreated from the foreshore after coming under attack.

Lorne woman Sidonie Moore said she lasted 30 seconds on the beach before the barrage of bites became ­unbearable.

"It was awful, I have a very low tolerance for those things," Ms Moore said.

One Torquay severely bitten beachgoer said the marks on his body made it appear as if he had "plague".

Lorne Surf Life Saving Club captain Jeremy Walker said a lot more people than usual received treatment for sand fly bites last week when the mercury climbed to 44C in Melbourne. "A once-in-a-lifetime event will do that," he said.

Sue, from Torquay Pharmacy, who did not want to give her surname, said a lot of people with insect bites came through her shop during last week's heatwave.

"They weren't all necessarily sand flies, but last week with the heat, there were plenty of insects on the beach," she said.

"Every night people came in with bites."

Senior curator of entomology at Melbourne Museum Dr Ken Walker said the recent heatwave would have caused a "population ­explosion" of millions of biting midges.

"With 30 to 50 eggs per female, the population can build up exponentially in hot weather," Dr Walker said.

"And they're very happy all of us humans are going down to the beach to provide them with a blood meal."

Dr Walker said the tiny black bugs, 50 to 100 times smaller than a March fly, have a lifespan of just a couple of days, and bred anywhere there was seawater and tidal movement.

The females required a blood meal to give their eggs protein.

"By the time you see them, they're normally biting you," Dr Walker said.

They used "stylet-like" mouth parts, resembling a serrated knife, to jab their human hosts, he said.
* Sand flies are technically known as biting midges in Australia. The scientific name is Ceratopogonidae.
* They grow 1-2mm in length and are jet black.
* A single female lays about 50 eggs, half of which are female
* Only the females suck blood to get protein to mature their eggs; males feed on nectar
* Their reproductive cycle increases during periods of extreme heat
* They breed between the low and high tide mark in seawater and prefer calmer water.
* They can be found on all Australian beaches

- Herald Sun.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Massive Avalanche Cut Road Travel To Valdez, Alaska - Over Half-A-Mile Wide; Mass Evacuations Of Residents!

January 28, 2014 - ALASKA - Avalanches have blocked the only highway to Valdez, Alaska, cutting off all motor traffic to the coastal town of about 4,000 and leading town officials to urge voluntary evacuations of residences.

Avalanches at Snow Slide Gulch in Keystone Canyon in Alaska has closed a portion of Richardson Highway. 
DoT via Reuters

The Richardson Highway will probably remain closed for about a week, officials said on the town website. The first avalanches started Friday, and more occurred Saturday.

Valdez officials urged voluntary evacuations over the weekend because water started to accumulate behind the snow and debris created by the avalanches.

A shelter was established in the high school and teen center for people who evacuated. It's unknown how many people moved out of their houses.

WATCH:  Massive avalanche cuts off Alaska town.

According to the town website, Valdez has plenty of fuel on hand, but food and fuel can be brought to the town port by barge if necessary.

Valdez is about a 300-mile drive from Anchorage, Alaska's largest city. - CNN.

Officials Monitor Lake Created After Avalanche Cuts Off Alaska Town.
The highway is expected to be closed for at least one week, but possibly longer according to the
Alaska Department of Transportation. DoT via Reuters

Grocery store shelves are stocked, express mail is on its way, and additional flights and ferries are available.

As life in Valdez, Alaska, marches on after an avalanche cut off the tiny port city’s only highway, transportation officials are monitoring another hazard: A half-mile-long lake now pooling behind the avalanche that has the potential to cause flash flooding and damage to homes.

Officials say there isn’t an immediate danger in the Keystone Canyon area, although an updated report is expected Tuesday.

“There are just too many unknowns at this point,” statewide maintenance engineer Mike Coffey told the Anchorage Daily News.

An avalanche last Friday sent debris crashing down on the Richardson Highway. Another one on Saturday contributed to the pileup, eventually forming a massive mound about 100 feet tall and up to 1,500 feet long.

No one was trapped or killed on the rural road, although one vehicle hit into the snow, the state Department of Transportation said. The driver was unharmed.

Valdez officials said Monday in a news release that the highway will remain closed until at least Sunday.

The avalanche ended up blocking off the Lowe River, which runs along the highway. The river is supposed to be frozen this time of year, but warmer weather has allowed it to pool behind the snow dam, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

An aerial tour revealed the water isn’t staying stagnant, and is actually moving through an old railroad tunnel and underneath the snow pack, Valdez officials said. They insist that’s a good thing.

Road traffic to Valdez, a town of about 4,000 residents, was cut off from the rest of the state after avalanches
over the weekend blocked the only road in the coastal Alaskan community. DoT via Reuters

“This is exactly what needs to happen to drain the lake that is built up behind the avalanche in a controlled way,” the city's news release said.

The DOT is also watching the water level and reported that it is receding.

“The water level has to be reduced to (a) point where it is not covering the road before they can safely begin to move snow and debris,” the release said. “It could still take several days for this much water to drain out.”

As of Monday, state officials didn’t foresee the snow dam failing. A voluntary evacuation order remained in effect as a precaution.

Avalanche experts told NBC News the unseasonably warm weather was to blame for the landslide. The area has had a string of days in the 30s and 40s coupled with rainfall, making the snow pack on the mountain unstable, they said.

WATCH: Officials start to plan how they will clear the snow, ice and water left from two massive avalanches blocking the only road leading into Valdez, Alaska. KTUU's Mallory Peebles reports.

A high of 40 is forecast for Valdez on Tuesday.

“This avalanche cycle is a historically significant event,” said Sarah Carter, education coordinator and forecaster with the Alaska Avalanche Information Center in Valdez.

This southern Alaska city is known for its port, where ships unload oil from the 800-mile Trans-Alaska pipeline, which ends in Valdez. The infamous Exxon Valdez tanker spill in 1989 occurred about 25 miles offshore.

Last week’s avalanche didn't appear to have affected the underground pipeline, officials said.

Residents, meanwhile, say they’re all-too familiar with snowslides, although not ones of this magnitude.

“It’s massive,” Kelly Deaton, a local coffee shop owner, told the Anchorage Daily News.

She and her son had been traveling Friday morning, and were on their way back into Valdez when the slide occurred. But with the road closed, she had to turn around — and later booked a flight to Anchorage so her son wouldn’t miss his SAT exam.

“I’ve lived here 20 years and I’ve never seen anything up close and personal like that,” Deaton told the newspaper.

To help ease residents’ concerns about getting around, additional flights and ferry service have been added.

Valdez officials said Safeway, which operates the only grocery store in the city, sent a barge of supplies and has stocked its shelves of produce and dairy and other essentials. Another delivery is expected Saturday. - NBC News.

RATTLE & HUM: Massive Overhead Boom Heard In Northeast Oklahoma - Shakes Doors And Rattles Windows?!

January 28, 2014 - UNITED STATES - Thousands of people across northeastern Oklahoma are asking the same question today: So what WAS it?

The "it" in this case was a very loud boom that was heard and felt at about 8 p.m. Saturday, January 25, 2014. Moments after it happened, the News On 6 social media accounts were jammed with people wanting to know if anyone else had heard and felt it.

The police and fire department scanners in the newsroom crackled to life with dispatchers telling crews in the field about all the calls to 911 about it.

People across the News On 6 viewing area reported a very similar experience: a boom loud enough to be heard indoors that shook windows and even rattled doors. It's understandable why they would want to know what caused it. That goes double for those of us here at News On 6.

So far, no one has reported any kind of damage attributed to the boom. No one has reported seeing a flash of light that would be consistent with an explosion.

No one has reported any cracks in their walls or foundations that would be consistent with an earthquake. There was no severe weather in the area at the time so a lone crack of thunder seems unlikely.

So what about a sonic boom? As we noted Sunday, the U.S. Air Force operates several different types of aircraft that are easily capable of supersonic flight.

The 138th Fighter Wing based at Tulsa International Airport flies F-16 Falcons, which have a top speed of more than twice the speed of sound. A spokesman for the 138th says the unit usually flies Monday through Thursdays and its jets were "put up" this weekend.

Vance Air Force Base near Enid trains pilots for the U.S. Air Force. It uses T-38 Talons, which are supersonic aircraft. A spokeswoman says none of that base's jets could have created the sonic boom because the syllabus that the pilots use does not involve breaking the sound barrier.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Air Force Press Desk at the Pentagon says her office has no effective way of learning if the boom was caused by a USAF jet.

Major Natasha Waggoner tells News On 6 it's Air Force policy not to break the sound barrier below 30,000 feet over land. If a pilot does it accidentally, she says the pilot is required to report it to his or her unit upon landing.

WATCH: Mysterious Boom In Northeast Oklahoma Still A Mystery.

Major Waggoner says it's possible an Air Force (or other U.S. military) jet flying cross country broke the sound barrier as it crossed over northeastern Oklahoma on what the crew considered a routine flight.

The Air Force does not usually comment on its operations, even if they're routine, because of security concerns.

A sonic boom may be the most likely - and least satisfying - explanation for what so many Oklahomans heard and felt. If the atmospheric conditions are right, an airplane exceeding the speed of sound while flying six or seven miles up would cause a shock wave that could be felt over a huge area.

An airplane flying that high and fast would be many miles away before its shock wave traveled to the ground, where it would be experienced as a boom.

Sonic booms caused by military jets were fairly common in the U.S. until the early 70s, when complaints from the public prompted the government to adopt rules to limit them. - News 9.

Unexplained Overhead Explosion In Claremore, Oklahoma.
The people of Claremore have a mystery on their hands.

FOX23 learned of an explosion that many people heard, but no one saw.

FOX23 News contacted Claremore police and the Rogers County sheriff, who both say they received a number of calls from across town and in surrounding areas of a bomb going off.

A sergeant told FOX23 that several of officers heard a large boom that shook the buildings and police received several reports from all over town and surrounding communities.

Despite all the reports, no one has been able to locate any evidence of an explosion or a site where the sound originated.

But officers and deputies promise to keep looking. - FOX 23.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Slip-Sliding Away - Disassembling Hawaiian Volcanoes, When The Islands Collapse And Fall Apart In Landslides!

January 28, 2014 - HAWAII -In our January Volcano Watch articles — Hawaii Island’s fifth annual Volcano Awareness Month — we are exploring important questions about how Hawaiian volcanoes work. Last week, we discussed how Hawaiian islands grow; this week, we talk about how they fall apart.

Black dashed lines delineate 17 distinct landslides that have occurred around the Hawaiian Islands over the last
several million years. The largest slides originated from the north sides of Oahu and Molokai. Colors ranging
from pink to purple indicate the water depth around the islands, while shades of gray show land topography
above sea level. Red areas on the Island of Hawaii indicate lava flows erupted within the past 200 years.

In 1964, irregular submarine topography north of Oahu and Molokai was identified in newly available maps of the sea floor made by the U.S. Navy. James Moore, then Scientist-in-Charge at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, suggested that this odd bathymetry might reflect massive landslides originating from those islands.

Moore’s interpretation was disputed for more than 20 years until comprehensive mapping of the sea floor around the entire state of Hawaii was completed in the late 1980s. It turned out that Moore was right. Large — even catastrophic — submarine landslide structures litter the sea floor around the Hawaiian Islands. In fact, 17 major landslides have been identified off the shores of the main Hawaiian Islands. Fortunately, these slides are exceedingly rare — occurring, on average, only once every 350,000 years.

The largest landslides constitute significant portions of the islands from which they originated. Imagine if 10 percent of one of the islands suddenly collapsed into the ocean. Such an event would displace a huge amount of water and cause a large tsunami. Deposits of coral and sand have been found approximately 1,000 feet above sea level on several of the Hawaiian Islands. Catastrophic landslides are believed to have generated gigantic tsunami waves that washed ashore and left these deposits behind.

Evidence across the Hawaiian Islands suggests that landslides occur during all stages of a volcano’s life. The submarine volcano Loihi — the youngest in the Hawaiian chain, located southeast of Hawaii Island — is characterized by a number of small landslides, even though the volcano hasn’t yet breached the surface of the ocean. On the other hand, large landslides from Oahu and Molokai clearly occurred well after the islands were established above sea level.

We also know that not all landslides in Hawaii are catastrophic. The south flank of Kilauea is sliding continuously into the ocean at a rate of about 3 inches a year. This motion is punctuated by large, devastating earthquakes that can cause tens of feet of seaward motion in just a few seconds — as when the magnitude 7.7 temblor struck Hawaii Island in 1975 — as well as “slow earthquakes” that are associated with a few inches of seaward motion over the course of one to two days.

Will Kilauea’s south flank ever collapse suddenly? Since the shape of the south flank indicates that the slide has been active for thousands of years, there is no reason to expect that its behavior will change any time soon. Although most evidence suggests that it will continue to sag gradually, this question remains open to interpretation.

What, then, causes large landslides in Hawaii? Models suggest that magma pressure alone is not adequate to produce a massive landslide. One can imagine a scenario, however, in which a large eruption weakens an already unstable volcano, allowing gravity to pull the volcano apart.

Future scientific research must focus on the mechanism for giant landslides in Hawaii, which represent a major, infrequent hazard. Since other volcanic islands — such as the Canaries and the Azores — are also subject to catastrophic collapse, lessons learned from the Hawaii example might be fruitfully applied to mitigating hazards for the benefit of citizens elsewhere around the world.

Next week, our annual Volcano Awareness Month Volcano Watch series will conclude with an examination of questions related to volcano monitoring.

Until then, you’re invited to attend a talk about Kilauea Volcano’s gas emissions and vog Tuesday in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Details are posted at hvo.wr.usgs.gov. You can also email askHVO@usgs.gov or call 967-8844 for more information.

Kilauea activity update

A lava lake within Halemaumau produced nighttime glow visible via HVO’s webcam during the past week. After nearly a month without deflation-inflation cycles at Kilauea’s summit, a large DI event started late on Jan. 17. In response to the deflation, the lava lake level dropped from about 148 feet to about 230 feet below the rim of the overlook vent. DI inflation started Jan. 22 and was continuing as of Thursday.

On Kilauea’s east rift zone, the Kahaualea 2 flow continued to advance slowly into the forest northeast of Puu Oo, and satellite imagery showed the tip of the flow to have reached 4.8 miles northeast of Puu Oo by Wednesday. Activity, however, waned as the DI event progressed, probably causing the most distant parts of the flow to stagnate. Webcam imagery suggests that flow activity is now waxing, with the active front slightly closer to Puu Oo.

There were no earthquakes reported felt on Hawaii Island in the past week. - West Hawaii Today.

EXTREME WEATHER: The New Normal - From Alaska To Florida, Topsy-Turvy Weather To Persist!

January 28, 2014 - ALASKA - The weather pattern favoring relentless cold in the Eastern states and prolonged warmth in the West will continue through the end of January.

On multiple dates this month, temperatures have been warmer in Alaska than they have been in Texas, Louisiana and much of the Atlantic coast, including Florida.

Nome, Alaska, which lies at 64.5 degrees north latitude has experienced at least seven days so far this month where temperatures have climbed above freezing. The normal high for Nome is 13 F.

The City of Kotzebue, Alaska, which is nestled just above the Arctic Circle, climbed above the freezing mark on Jan. 23. The morning low in the city was only 27 F. Normal high and low temperatures for Kotzebue are respectively 3 and minus 10 F.

Comparatively, morning low temperatures on Jan. 23 were 27 F at Cross City, Fla., 8 F at Elizabeth City, N.C., and minus 2 F at Washington Dulles Airport, D.C.

During Friday morning, Jan. 24, temperatures pushed into the 40s in Anchorage and Fairbanks with rain in the vicinity. At the same time, temperatures in much of Texas and Louisiana were significantly lower with areas of ice and snow. Brownsville, Texas, and New Orleans dipped to 34 F, while Houston hovered near 30 F and Dallas bottomed out at 19 F.

The cause of the topsy-turvy weather pattern has been produced by a high amplitude jet stream pattern. The jet stream is a fast-moving river of air high in the atmosphere that guides weather systems along and often marks the boundary between cold air to its north and warm air to its south.

The jet stream often becomes distorted from its average January position around 40 degrees north latitude. However, this pattern, in recent weeks, has become quite extreme. It has allowed warmth to push well to the north along the Pacific coast of North America and at the same time has sent frigid air well to the south over the middle of the continent to portions of the Atlantic coast.

Indications from AccuWeather.com Long Range Weather Expert Paul Pastelok are that the high amplitude jet stream will hold through the end of January, but during February the jet will shift a bit and may break into two parts.

"The pattern shift should allow Alaska to trend colder, less severe cold along the Atlantic coast and may allow some moisture to get onshore along the Pacific coast," Pastelok said.

The core of the cold air is projected to settle over the Central states and will be mostly contained between the Rockies and Appalachians.

However, this pattern will allow some cooler air to reach into the West and colder air to plunge into Texas.

"While we do expect some rain and mountain snow to reach parts of California and the West, but it may not be widespread and is not likely to be enough to have long-term impact on the drought," Pastelok said.

The upcoming pattern in February will also allow some storms loaded with moisture to track northeastward from the Gulf of Mexico to along the Atlantic Seaboard. With this pattern the chance of a heavy snowstorm would increase over much of the eastern third of the nation. - AccuWeather.