Monday, June 23, 2014

MIDDLE EAST CONFLICT: "Islamic Spring" - ISIS Claims They Have Nuclear Weapons And Will Attack Israel!

June 23, 2014 - MIDDLE EAST - The well-organized army of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, claims it has access to nuclear weapons and a will to use them to “liberate” Palestine from Israel as part of its “Islamic Spring,” according to a WND source in the region.

Franklin Lamb, an international lawyer based in Beirut and Damascus, said the move is part of the ISIS aim of creating a caliphate under strict Islamic law, stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to Iraq.

Lamb, who has access to ISIS fighters and sympathizers, said ISIS has been working with a “new specialized” unit organized at the beginning of 2013 to focus “exclusively on destroying the Zionist regime occupying Palestine.”

Lamb added that the ISIS “Al-Quds Unit” is working to broaden its influence in more than 60 Palestinian camps and gatherings from Gaza, across “Occupied Palestine,” or Israel, to Jordan and from Lebanon up to the north of Syria “seeking to enlist support as it prepares to liberate Palestine.”

ISIS is also know as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham. “Sham,” or “Greater Syria,” refers to Cyprus, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and southern Turkey.

ISIS also is known as DAASH, the Arabic acronym for al-Dawlah al-Islamiyah fi al-Iraq wa-al Sham.

The Sunni militant group, which has taken over much of the Sunni region of Iraq, could leave the Shiite-dominated region of the country and head toward Jordan and Turkey.

Lamb said that in Iraq alone, some 6 million Iraqi Sunnis recently have become supportive of the ISIS lightning strikes in the Sunni portion of the country.

Some of the Sunni supporters are secular, such as the Naqshbandia Army of former top officials of executed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. As WND reported, the Sunni group may have given ISIS access to its ongoing sarin production facility in northwestern Iraq.

WND also reported ISIS already has captured towns bordering Iraq and Turkey.

The militant group also has steamrolled through the Iraqi desert in the west and taken over the major al-Walid crossing with Syria and the Turaibil crossing into Jordan.

Lamb said ISIS has established a capital for its caliphate in the Syrian city of Raqqa.

“The Islamist organization believes it currently has massive regional support for its rapidly expanding ‘revolution of the oppressed,’” Lamb said.

ISIS estimates it will take 72 months to “liberate” “Occupied Palestine,” or Israel, according to Lamb.

Lamb quoted an ISIS member as saying: “Zionists call us masked, sociopathic murderers, but we are much more complicated and representative of those seeking justice than they portray us.

“Are we more barbaric than the Zionist terrorists who massacred at Dier Yassin, Shatila, twice at Qana, and committed dozens of other massacres? History will judge us after we free Palestine.”

Lamb said ISIS can do what no other Arab, Muslim or Western backers of resistance have been able to accomplish.

He quoted the ISIS member as saying: “All countries in this region are playing the sectarian card just as they have long played the Palestinian card, but the difference with ISIS is that we are serious about Palestine and they are not. Tel Aviv will fall as fast as Mosul when the time is right.”

The WND source said ISIS appears “eager” to fight Israeli armed forces “in the near future despite expectation that the regime will use nuclear weapons.”

“Do you think that we do not have access to nuclear devices?” Lamb quoted the ISIS member as saying. “The Zionists know that we do, and if we ever believe they are about to use theirs, we will not hesitate. After the Zionists are gone, Palestine will have to be decontaminated and rebuilt just like areas where there has been radiation released.”

ISIS access to nuclear weapons could come from Sunni Pakistan, which is home to more than 30 terrorist groups. Pakistan possibly has transferred nuclear weapons to the chief bankroller of its nuclear development program, Sunni Saudi Arabia, as WND previously has reported.

The Saudis, who also have provided billions of dollars to ISIS, have threatened to acquire nuclear weapons if Iran were to develop its own.

The WND source said ISIS denies any interest in training and directing foreign fighters to attack Europe, claiming its goals are to establish the al-Sham caliphate and “liberate Palestine.”

The source said the West, and especially the Israelis, may already be aware of ISIS plans and tactics to take over “Palestine.” He said Western intelligence sources were in possession of an “encyclopedia of information” obtained by Iraqi intelligence less than 48 hours before Mosul fell two weeks ago.

He said an ISIS messenger who was captured and “under Iraqi torture” turned over more than 160 computer flash sticks with the detailed information.

“The U.S. intelligence community is still decrypting and analyzing the flash sticks,” Lamb said.

He indicated that the information already has been handed over to members of Congress, some of whom are sharing it with the Israeli Embassy in Washington.

“The current sense on Capitol Hill is reported to be that the Obama administration is not in the mood to share anything with Israel these days and certainly not with the Netanyahu regime which it loathes,” he said.

Lamb said only time will tell whether or not ISIS reaches both of its objectives. He added that if the “Zionist regime” can be ejected from Palestine, it will set in motion “historic currents” that will be “rather different from the Ehud Olmert-Condoleezza Rice fantasy of ‘a New Middle East.’

“In any event,” Lamb said, “it is unlikely that Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Lebanon among other countries in this region are going to look much like what George Bush and Dick Cheney and their still active neo-con advisers had in mind when they were beating the drums for a U.S. invasion of Iraq, Libya and now Syria and Iran.” - WND.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Global Seismic Uptick - Very Powerful 8.0 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Southeast Of Little Sitkin, Alaska - Tsunami Warning For Aleutian Islands; Strong Aftershocks! [MAP+TECTONIC SUMMARY]

June 23, 2014 - ALASKA - A powerful earthquake has shaken a portion of Alaska Monday morning. The earthquake had a preliminary magnitude of 7.1, but was quickly upgraded to 8.0 by the USGS.

USGS earthquake location map.

There is no tsunami threat to Hawaii, but it has triggered a tsunami warning for part of the Aleutian Island near the epicenter, according to the U.S. National Tsunami Warning Center.

No tsunami threat exists for other coastal areas in the Pacific, although some other areas may experience small non-destructive sea level changes for several hours, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center says.

USGS earthquake shakemap intensity.

A tsunami warning has been issued for parts of Alaska’s Aleutian Island chain after a powerful earthquake.

The earthquake happened around 10:53 a.m. HST and registered at a depth of 71 miles. Officials say the quake was too deep to trigger a widespread tsunami threat.

Here is a link to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center

Several strong aftershocks were registered  several minutes following the mega-quake, a 6.0 and 5.9, both northwest of Little Sitkin, Alaska.

SOURCES: HNN | National Post.

Tectonic Summary - Seismotectonics of Alaska.
The Aleutian arc extends approximately 3,000 km from the Gulf of Alaska in the east to the Kamchatka Peninsula in the west. It marks the region where the Pacific plate subducts into the mantle beneath the North America plate. This subduction is responsible for the generation of the Aleutian Islands and the deep offshore Aleutian Trench.

The curvature of the arc results in a westward transition of relative plate motion from trench-normal (i.e., compressional) in the east to trench-parallel (i.e., translational) in the west, accompanied by westward variations in seismic activity, volcanism, and overriding plate composition. The Aleutian arc is generally divided into three regions: the western, central, and eastern Aleutians. Relative to a fixed North America plate, the Pacific plate is moving northwest at a rate that increases from roughly 60 mm/yr at the arc's eastern edge to 76 mm/yr near its western terminus. The eastern Aleutian arc extends from the Alaskan Peninsula in the east to the Fox Islands in the west. Motion along this section of the arc is characterized by arc-perpendicular convergence and Pacific plate subduction beneath thick continental lithosphere. This region exhibits intense volcanic activity and has a history of megathrust earthquakes.

USGS plate tectonics for the region.

The central Aleutian arc extends from the Andreanof Islands in the east to the Rat Islands in the west. Here, motion is characterized by westward-increasing oblique convergence and Pacific plate subduction beneath thin oceanic lithosphere. Along this portion of the arc, the Wadati-Benioff zone is well defined to depths of approximately 200 km. Despite the obliquity of convergence, active volcanism and megathrust earthquakes are also present along this margin.

The western Aleutians, stretching from the western end of the Rat Islands in the east to the Commander Islands, Russia, in the west, is tectonically different from the central and eastern portions of the arc. The increasing component of transform motion between the Pacific and North America plates is evidenced by diminishing active volcanism; the last active volcano is located on Buldir Island, in the far western portion of the Rat Island chain. Additionally, this portion of the subduction zone has not hosted large earthquakes or megathrust events in recorded history. Instead, the largest earthquakes in this region are generally shallow, predominantly strike-slip events with magnitudes between M5-6. Deeper earthquakes do occur, albeit rather scarcely and with small magnitudes (Magnitude less than 4), down to approximately 50 km.

Most of the seismicity along the Aleutian arc results from thrust faulting that occurs along the interface between the Pacific and North America plates, extending from near the base of the trench to depths of 40 to 60 km. Slip along this interface is responsible for generating devastating earthquakes. Deformation also occurs within the subducting slab in the form of intermediate-depth earthquakes that can reach depths of 250 km. Normal faulting events occur in the outer rise region of the Aleutian arc resulting from the bending of the oceanic Pacific plate as it enters the Aleutian trench. Additionally, deformation of the overriding North America plate generates shallow crustal earthquakes.

The Aleutian arc is a seismically active region, evidenced by the many moderate to large earthquakes occurring each year. Since 1900, this region has hosted twelve large earthquakes (Magnitude greater than 7.5) including the May 7, 1986 M8.0 Andreanof Islands, the June 10, 1996 M7.9 Andreanof Islands, and the November 17, 2003 M7.8 Rat Islands earthquakes. Six of these great earthquakes (M8.3 or larger) have occurred along the Aleutian arc that together have ruptured almost the entire shallow megathrust contact. The first of these major earthquakes occurred on August 17, 1906 near the island of Amchitka (M8.3) in the western Aleutian arc. However, unlike the other megathrust earthquakes along the arc, this event is thought to have been an intraplate event occurring in the shallow slab beneath the subduction zone interface.

The first megathrust event along the arc during the 20th century was the November 10, 1938 M8.6 Shumagin Island earthquake. This event ruptured an approximately 300 km long stretch of the arc from the southern end of Kodiak Island to the northern end of the Shumagin Islands and generated a small tsunami that was recorded as far south as Hawaii.

The April 1, 1946 M8.6 Unimak Island earthquake, located in the central Aleutian arc, was characterized by slow rupture followed by a devastating Pacific-wide tsunami that was observed as far south as the shores of Antarctica. Although damage from earthquake shaking was not severe locally, tsunami run-up heights were recorded as high as 42 m on Unimak Island and tsunami waves in Hilo, Hawaii also resulted in casualties. The slow rupture of this event has made it difficult to constrain the focal mechanism and depth of the earthquake, though it is thought to have been an interplate thrust earthquake.

The next megathrust earthquake occurred along the central portion of the Aleutian arc near the Andreanof Islands on March 9, 1957, with a magnitude of M8.6. The rupture length of this event was approximately 1200 km, making it the longest observed aftershock zone of all the historic Aleutian arc events. Although only limited seismic data from this event are still available, significant damage and tsunamis were observed on the islands of Adak and Unimak with tsunami heights of approximately 13 m.

The easternmost megathrust earthquake was the March 28, 1964 M9.2 Prince William Sound earthquake, currently the second largest recorded earthquake in the world. The event had a rupture length of roughly 700 km extending from Prince William Sound in the northeast to the southern end of Kodiak Island in the southwest. Extensive damage was recorded in Kenai, Moose Pass, and Kodiak but significant shaking was felt over a large region of Alaska, parts of western Yukon Territory, and British Columbia, Canada. Property damage was the largest in Anchorage, as a result of both the main shock shaking and the ensuing landslides. This megathrust earthquake also triggered a devastating tsunami that caused damage along the Gulf of Alaska, the West Coast of the United States, and in Hawaii.

The westernmost Aleutians megathrust earthquake followed a year later on February 4, 1965. This M8.7 Rat Islands earthquake was characterized by roughly 600 km of rupture. Although this event is quite large, damage was low owing to the region's remote and sparsely inhabited location. A relatively small tsunami was recorded throughout the Pacific Ocean with run-up heights up to 10.7 m on Shemya Island and flooding on Amchitka Island.

Although the Aleutian arc is highly active, seismicity is rather discontinuous, with two regions that have not experienced a large (Magnitude greater than 8.0) earthquake in the past century: the Commander Islands in the western Aleutians and the Shumagin Islands in the east. Due to the dominantly transform motion along the western arc, there is potential that the Commander Islands will rupture in a moderate to large strike-slip earthquake in the future. The Shumagin Islands region may also have high potential for hosting a large rupture in the future, though it has been suggested that little strain is being accumulated along this section of the subduction zone, and thus associated hazards may be reduced.

East of the Aleutian arc along the Gulf of Alaska, crustal earthquakes occur as a result transmitted deformation and stress associated with the northwestward convergence of the Pacific plate that collides a block of oceanic and continental material into the North America plate. In 2002, the Denali Fault ruptured in a sequence of earthquakes that commenced with the October 23 M6.7 Nenana Mountain right-lateral strike-slip earthquake and culminated with the November 3, M7.9 Denali earthquake which started as a thrust earthquake along a then unrecognized fault and continued with a larger right-lateral strike-slip event along the Denali and Totschunda Faults. - USGS.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Global Seismic Uptick - Powerful 7.2 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Off Raoul Island, New Zealand; No Tsunami Warning; 6.3 & 6.2 Magnitude Aftershocks! [MAPS+TECTONIC SUMMARY]

June 23, 2014 - NEW ZEALAND - A powerful earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale jolted 126 km southeast of Raoul Island, New Zealand at 19:19:16 UTC on Monday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

USGS earthquake location.

The epicentre, with a depth of 5 km or 3.1 miles, was initially determined to be at 30.100 degrees south latitude and 177.000 degrees east longitude.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said no destructive widespread tsunami threat existed, based on historical earthquake and tsunami data.

USGS earthquake shakemap intensity for the 7.2 magnitude earthquake.

USGS has subsequently downgraded the initial recording of the earthquake from 7.2 to 6.9. Two strong aftershocks were also registered, a 6.3 and a 6.2.

USGS earthquake shakemap intensity for the 6.3 magnitude aftershock.

Raoul Island is the northernmost inhabited outpost of New Zealand and is permanently manned. The island is no stranger to large quakes, a magnitude 7.6 hit in July 2011 and generated a small tsunami. A 7.4 hit later that same year in October.

New Zealand sits at the southwestern edge of the Pacific "ring of fire," an area of high seismic and volcanic activity that stretches up through Japan, across to Alaska and down the west coasts of North and South America.

In February 2011, a 6.3-magnitude earthquake toppled buildings in the South Island city of Christchurch, killing 185 people and injuring several thousand.

Tectonic Summary - Seismotectonics of the Eastern Margin of the Australia Plate
The eastern margin of the Australia plate is one of the most sesimically active areas of the world due to high rates of convergence between the Australia and Pacific plates. In the region of New Zealand, the 3000 km long Australia-Pacific plate boundary extends from south of Macquarie Island to the southern Kermadec Island chain. It includes an oceanic transform (the Macquarie Ridge), two oppositely verging subduction zones (Puysegur and Hikurangi), and a transpressive continental transform, the Alpine Fault through South Island, New Zealand.

Since 1900 there have been 15 M7.5+ earthquakes recorded near New Zealand. Nine of these, and the four largest, occurred along or near the Macquarie Ridge, including the 1989 M8.2 event on the ridge itself, and the 2004 M8.1 event 200 km to the west of the plate boundary, reflecting intraplate deformation. The largest recorded earthquake in New Zealand itself was the 1931 M7.8 Hawke's Bay earthquake, which killed 256 people. The last M7.5+ earthquake along the Alpine Fault was 170 years ago; studies of the faults' strain accumulation suggest that similar events are likely to occur again.

USGS plate tectonics for the region.

North of New Zealand, the Australia-Pacific boundary stretches east of Tonga and Fiji to 250 km south of Samoa. For 2,200 km the trench is approximately linear, and includes two segments where old (greater than 120 Myr) Pacific oceanic lithosphere rapidly subducts westward (Kermadec and Tonga). At the northern end of the Tonga trench, the boundary curves sharply westward and changes along a 700 km-long segment from trench-normal subduction, to oblique subduction, to a left lateral transform-like structure.

Australia-Pacific convergence rates increase northward from 60 mm/yr at the southern Kermadec trench to 90 mm/yr at the northern Tonga trench; however, significant back arc extension (or equivalently, slab rollback) causes the consumption rate of subducting Pacific lithosphere to be much faster. The spreading rate in the Havre trough, west of the Kermadec trench, increases northward from 8 to 20 mm/yr. The southern tip of this spreading center is propagating into the North Island of New Zealand, rifting it apart. In the southern Lau Basin, west of the Tonga trench, the spreading rate increases northward from 60 to 90 mm/yr, and in the northern Lau Basin, multiple spreading centers result in an extension rate as high as 160 mm/yr. The overall subduction velocity of the Pacific plate is the vector sum of Australia-Pacific velocity and back arc spreading velocity: thus it increases northward along the Kermadec trench from 70 to 100 mm/yr, and along the Tonga trench from 150 to 240 mm/yr.

The Kermadec-Tonga subduction zone generates many large earthquakes on the interface between the descending Pacific and overriding Australia plates, within the two plates themselves and, less frequently, near the outer rise of the Pacific plate east of the trench. Since 1900, 40 M7.5+ earthquakes have been recorded, mostly north of 30°S. However, it is unclear whether any of the few historic M8+ events that have occurred close to the plate boundary were underthrusting events on the plate interface, or were intraplate earthquakes. On September 29, 2009, one of the largest normal fault (outer rise) earthquakes ever recorded (M8.1) occurred south of Samoa, 40 km east of the Tonga trench, generating a tsunami that killed at least 180 people.

Across the North Fiji Basin and to the west of the Vanuatu Islands, the Australia plate again subducts eastwards beneath the Pacific, at the North New Hebrides trench. At the southern end of this trench, east of the Loyalty Islands, the plate boundary curves east into an oceanic transform-like structure analogous to the one north of Tonga.

Australia-Pacific convergence rates increase northward from 80 to 90 mm/yr along the North New Hebrides trench, but the Australia plate consumption rate is increased by extension in the back arc and in the North Fiji Basin. Back arc spreading occurs at a rate of 50 mm/yr along most of the subduction zone, except near ~15°S, where the D'Entrecasteaux ridge intersects the trench and causes localized compression of 50 mm/yr in the back arc. Therefore, the Australia plate subduction velocity ranges from 120 mm/yr at the southern end of the North New Hebrides trench, to 40 mm/yr at the D'Entrecasteaux ridge-trench intersection, to 170 mm/yr at the northern end of the trench.

Large earthquakes are common along the North New Hebrides trench and have mechanisms associated with subduction tectonics, though occasional strike slip earthquakes occur near the subduction of the D'Entrecasteaux ridge. Within the subduction zone 34 M7.5+ earthquakes have been recorded since 1900. On October 7, 2009, a large interplate thrust fault earthquake (M7.6) in the northern North New Hebrides subduction zone was followed 15 minutes later by an even larger interplate event (M7.8) 60 km to the north. It is likely that the first event triggered the second of the so-called earthquake "doublet". - USGS.

DISASTER PRECURSORS: The Latest Incidents Of Strange Animal Behavior And Warnings From Mother Nature - "Catastrophic" Starfish Die-Off Affecting 20 Species And Getting Worse Along Both Coasts Of America; Dead Humpback Whale Washes Up Near Maldives Island; And Great White Shark Attacks New Jersey Fishing Boat! [PHOTOS+VIDEO]

June 23, 2014 - EARTH - The following constitutes the latest reports of unusual and symbolic animal behavior, mass die-offs, beaching and stranding of mammals, and the appearance of rare creatures.

Catastrophic Starfish Die-Off Affecting 20 Species, Gets Worse Along Both Coasts Of America
An ochre star's arm dangles by a thread, one of the signs of sea star wasting syndrome.
Katie Campbell

Drew Harvell peers into the nooks and crannies along the rocky shoreline of Eastsound on Orcas Island. Purple and orange starfish clutch the rocks, as if hanging on for dear life.

“It’s a lot worse than it was last week,” says Harvell, a marine epidemiologist at Cornell University. She's been leading nationwide efforts to understand what is causing starfish to die by the millions up and down North America’s Pacific shores and on the east coast as well. It's been called sea star wasting syndrome because of how quickly the stars become sick and deteriorate.

"It’s the largest mortality event for marine diseases we’ve seen," Harvell said. "It affects over twenty species on our coast and it’s been causing catastrophic mortality."

Scientists have been working for months to find out what’s causing the massive die-off and now Harvell and others have evidence that an infectious disease caused by a bacteria or virus, may be at the root of the problem. The disease, they say, could be compounded by warming waters, which put the sea stars under stress, making them more vulnerable to the pathogen.

Harvell has studied marine diseases for 20 years. She had thought that the syndrome might spare Washington’s San Juan Islands. Until recently, pockets of cold water and swift currents seem to have protected the local sea star population from the epidemic.

But with the arrival of summer, the waters around the San Juan archipelago have warmed. From what Harvell and her team see as they survey beaches, there's not much time for these starfish -- or sea stars, as scientists prefer to call them since they're not fish.

Harvell crouches in the sand and points at a withering orange pisaster ochraceus, or ochre star, one of the most common sea stars found in the intertidal zones of the West Coast. One arm is curled over on itself, another hangs by a thread of gnarled flesh.

Morgan Eisenlord holds two juvenile starfish, one with abnormal limbs. She's looking for signs of how the next
generation of young stars will be impacted by the wasting disease. Katie Campbell

Drew Harvell, a marine epidemiologist, surveys the intertidal zone of Eastsound on Orcas Island,
looking for signs of sea star wasting syndrome. Katie Campbell

“The whole arm is flat. It looks dried out, wasted, thin, deflated. Sea stars are not supposed to look like that,” Harvell says, her brow furrowed. “My expectation is that within the next month all of the stars will die.”

The team checked this rocky patch last week and found 10 percent of the stars showed signs of the wasting syndrome. Today they estimate that number has increased to more than 40 percent. They’ve been monitoring sites around the San Juan Islands through this past winter and expect the percentage of infected stars to continue rising as the waters warm this season.

“Over this winter I surveyed here, and looked at every animal and there was no disease at all,” said Morgan Eisenlord, a PhD student in Harvell’s lab at Cornell. “When we came back in the spring we found sick animals so it obviously spread as it started to get warmer.”

Some scientists see a connection between rising water temperatures and the wasting syndrome. The waters around the San Juan Islands tend to be colder than the Washington outer coastline where dying starfish were first reported last summer. Since the arrival of warmer weather this season, the syndrome has spread rapidly to areas like the San Juan Islands that were previously untouched by the syndrome. Recent reports have also surfaced of die-offs along Oregon's coastline.

“The period of time in which the disease progressed rapidly has been a period in which waters have been warmer than usual winter conditions," Blanchette said.

While scientists are reluctant to assign blame to climate change, Harvell explained that as oceans warm, outbreaks like this are more likely to occur.

"A warmer world would be a sicker world," Harvell said. "Under warming conditions a lot of microorganisms do better. They grow faster. They replicate faster. Many of our hosts can actually be stressed by warm conditions. And so it kind of creates a perfect storm of sickness."

Sea star die-offs have occurred in the past, but never to this extent. In Southern California, Blanchette says the die-offs have occurred during warmer El Niño years – 1982-1983 and 1997-1998 most recently –- but the sea star population eventually recovered. This most recent outbreak was first spotted in June 2013 on the Washington coast at a place called Starfish Point.

Scientists believe the pathogen spread through the water, as well as via physical contact (starfish often clump together). Another hypothesis is that the pathogen could also be concentrating in the mussels and clams that starfish like to eat.

At the University of California Santa Barbara Aquarium, captive sea stars started showing signs of the syndrome at the same time as their wild counterparts who live on the rocks several hundred feet from the tanks. The captive sea stars are kept in tanks of filtered seawater. In one tank they were fed mussels harvested from the rocks outside. In another tank the sea stars were fed frozen squid.

The animals that ate frozen squid stayed healthy, while the sea stars that ate the wild-harvested mussels contracted the syndrome. Blanchette cautions that these observations are purely anecdotal and the sample size is very small, but she believes this hypothesis merits further study.

With projections for a warm El Niño year ahead, Harvell worries that things will only get worse for sea stars on the west coast.

WATCH:  Scientists Zero-In On What's Causing Starfish Die-offs.


Scientists at Cornell are narrowing the list of pathogen suspects using DNA sequencing from samples of sick stars and hope to publish their findings in a scientific journal. Once the exact pathogen is identified and more is known about how the disease is spread, scientists will be better able to understand whether west coast starfish will be able to recovery.

In the meantime, there is a role for citizen science in tracking the epidemic. UC Santa Barbara and the University of Washington and Cornell University have set up websites where beach goers can share information about the location and abundance of infected sea stars. Then scientists can study how water temperatures, currents and other factors may correlate with the spread of the die-off.

“One of the reasons we’re a little obsessed with trying to learn everything we can about both the causative agent in terms of the microbe and the environmental conditions is to think about what we can do better next time,” Harvell said.

Sea stars are an apex predator in the intertidal zone. They voraciously consume mussels and other shellfish, and they are referred to as a “keystone species,” meaning that, like in any stone building, if you remove the keystone, things start to crumble.

“It has an extraordinarily significant effect on the biodiversity of the entire community,” Blanchette said. “Losing a predator like that is bound to have some pretty serious ecological consequences and we really don’t know exactly how the system is going to look but we’re quite certain that it’s going to have an impact.”

Looking out at the rising tide on Eastsound, Harvell said, "This area has some of the highest biodiversity of sea stars in the world. We’re not just losing one keystone species, we’re losing a whole guild of stars."

And the stars here are what's called an endemic species, meaning they only live on this shoreline and nowhere else on the planet, she explained. If sea stars are wiped out along these shores, there's a potential for not just local, but global extinction.

She picks up a tiny young ochre star and looks carefully at its malformed arms for symptoms of the disease. If these juvenile stars can find a way to resist the pathogen, local extinction could be avoided, she explains.

"If we lose all of the adult ochre stars and all of the young recruits in the San Juans, then I don’t think we’ll see ochre stars here for quite a few years," Harvell said. - KUOW.

Dead Humpback Whale Washes Up Near Maldives Island
  • The dead humpback whale that washed up near Fenfushi in Alif Dhaalu atoll.
A dead humpback whale has washed up near Fenfushi in Alif Dhaalu atoll on Sunday.

The island's deputy councilor Ahmed Saeed said that the whale that measures about 50-foot washed up near the island sometime on Saturday. The whale is about 1500-foot away from the island's beach, he added.

"The whale hasn't started rotting yet. But when it does, it'll prove to be problematic to us," Saeed said.

The deputy councilor also said that they have informed the authorities about the dead whale that washed up near the island.

"This is a breeding area for whale sharks. So lots of tourists come here every day to see them. If the whale starts rotting, it'll be a nuisance for the tourists who come here as well," Saeed said. - Haveeru.

Great White Shark Attacks New Jersey Fishing Boat
This is the terrifying moment fisherman Steve Clark spotted a great white shark almost half the size of his boat making a lunge for his 35-foot vessel.

WATCH: Great white shark attacks New Jersey fishing boat.


A US man has filmed his close encounter with a great white shark, which suddenly emerged from the Atlantic Ocean to attack his boat on Saturday.

Steve Clark was with friends about 30 miles off the coast of South Jersey when a 16-foot great white shark swam up to his boat and tore off a bag of bait.

In a scene reminiscent of Steven Spielberg's 1975 film Jaws, the shark's head can be seen breaking through the surface water exposing its teeth before it grabs the bag that was hanging off the side of the vessel and disappears back into the depths.

The footage which was posted onto YouTube on the June 21 has been viewed over 16,000 times.

- Telegraph.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: "Magma Level Inside The Conduit Rose Considerably" - Stunning Images Of The Eruption Of The Stromboli Volcano In Italy! [PHOTOS]

June 23, 2014 - ITALY - Towards the end of May 2014, activity at Stromboli volcano strongly increased as the magma level inside the conduit rose considerably. The following pictures were taken during two climbs to the volcano with official mountain guides on 9 and 10 June, as part of our recent tour to Stromboli and Etna.

3 simultaneous strombolian eruptions from the western NW and central vents. (Photo: Tom Pfeiffer)

Two large strombolian eruptions from the western and NE vents at the same time. (Photo: Tom Pfeiffer)

Small eruption from a vent at the base of the NW hornito (whose flame is visible behind). (Photo: Tom Pfeiffer)

Part of our group having a great time watching the very frequent eruptions. (Photo: Tom Pfeiffer)

Eruption at NE crater (Photo: Tom Pfeiffer)

Eruption from the NE vent on 10 June evening (Photo: Tom Pfeiffer)

Liquid spatter ejected during a modest eruption from the NE vent. (Photo: Tom Pfeiffer)

Bright eruption from the NE vent. (Photo: Tom Pfeiffer)

Eruption from the NW hornito (Photo: Tom Pfeiffer)

- Volcano Discovery.

DELUGE: Minnesota Cities Bracing For Record-Setting Floods - Crow River Nears Its Highest Level In 50 Years!

June 23, 2014 - MINNESOTA, UNITED STATES -  The city of Delano is bracing itself as the Crow River nears its highest level in 50 years.

The city's emergency management team expects the river could crest Monday evening, according to data from the National Weather Service. More worrisome, that crest could last several days.

"We are doing well, we are holding our own against the water. Our question is saturation point," said Dale Graunke, Mayor of Delano.

The water has already surpassed the base of the bridge and debris is a concern as they try to prevent water flowing from over the top of the dike, officials said. With the river at the highest level since 1965, Graunke said what's problematic is the type of flooding at this time of year.

"Now we have saturated ground that isn't frozen and that makes a difference with seepage, dikes in some areas seeping through, we have pumps set up and are dealing with that," said Wright County Emergency Management Coordinator Steve Berg.

Next to the Crow River, the Three Crows Café & Coffee House evacuated as a precaution when owner Gina Coburn could not pump water fast enough from her building's basement. Coburn and her husband had been pumping water 24 hours a day when customers helped come to the rescue, packing up her shop in a hurry.

"They showed up, all these trailers and people showed up all of the sudden. We had two hours to evacuate this and we got done in an hour and a half. It's like amazing," said Gina Coburn who owns Three Crows Café and Coffeehouse.

Coburn had not met some of the customers who showed up and offered their manpower, kindness and time.

"We know when the river rises, the Three Crows is in jeopardy. We have come here many times during the week for a cup of coffee and a sandwich, and they needed help moving things out so that is why we came down to help," said customer Sarah Stone, who spent the day packing up for Coburn. "It means a lot just to be able to lighten her load."

Coburn said she may decide to open her business in another location after the city offered to buy her building due to the flood threat.

"It's uncharted territory. People have been so supportive through thick and thin," said Coburn.

Another concern for those along the Crow River is possibility of more rain. The city isn't evacuating, but it is telling residents to plug their sanitary sewer drains in their basements so the water runs back into the sewer.

The concern will last throughout the week as the river isn't expected to go down until Wednesday or later.

And this isn't the only place in Minnesota dealing with high water.

Both directions of traffic on the Stillwater Lift Bridge will closed starting on Monday morning due to high water levels on the St. Croix River.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation said the bridge closure will begin at 10 a.m. on Monday. The lift bridge, which connects Minnesota Highway 36 and Wisconsin Highway 64, will remain closed until further notice.

Motorists are directed to use Interstate 94 or Highway 243 as detour routes.

For updated road condition information, call 511 or visit - Valley News Live.

EXTREME WEATHER: Storm-Battered South Australia Braces For More Wild Weather - Around 6,000 Premises Currently Without Power!

June 23, 2014 - AUSTRALIA - South Australia is bracing for more wild weather after thousands of properties were left without power due to strong wind and rain.

A fallen tree blocks the road at Ironbank in the Adelaide Hills. Photograph: Sturt SES unit/ABC News

The State Emergency Service has responded to more than 170 incidents in South Australia after the state was buffeted by wind of more than 90km/h.

Trees and power lines were brought down, with the SES reporting incidents of roof tiles being ripped away and driveways being blocked by debris. The SES advised that people should stay indoors, away from windows, during high winds.

Around 6,000 premises were left without power in South Australia on Monday, with the Bureau of Meteorology warning that the extreme weather would continue for a further day.

Driving conditions will be dangerous until late on Tuesday, requiring people to be careful on the roads, according to the BoM.

The BoM said a deep low pressure which gathered over the Bass Strait was to blame for the weather, with rain, thunderstorms and hail set to batter South Australia on Tuesday. Winds of 93km/h have been recorded at Adelaide airport, with Hindmarsh Island hit by gusts of 98km/h.

"Further damaging wind gusts in excess of 90km/h are likely over the warning area today and are expected to continue overnight," the BoM advised on Monday. "Damaging wind gusts are most likely to be associated with showers and thunderstorms."

The severe conditions have also reached into Victoria, with the SES recording more than 30 calls for help, mostly for fallen trees.

Rain lashed Melbourne for much of Monday, while wind reaching 128km/h, recorded at Mt William in the Grampians, swept the state.

Winds of up to 125 km/h are expected for higher ground and coastal areas on Tuesday morning, according to the BoM. The SES has urged people to move vehicles away from trees and to keep clear of fallen power lines. - Guardian.

MONUMENTAL SOLAR SYSTEM CHANGES: "Magic Island" - Never Before Seen Geological Object Observed On Saturn's Moon Titan?!

June 23, 2014 - PLANET SATURN - Astronomers have discovered a bright, mysterious geologic object – where one never existed – on Cassini mission radar images of Ligeia Mare, the second-largest sea on Saturn's moon Titan. Scientifically speaking, this spot is considered a "transient feature," but the astronomers have playfully dubbed it "Magic Island."

Scientists are investigating a mystery object that appeared and then vanished again from
a giant lake on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn.

Reporting in the journal Nature Geoscience June 22, the scientists say this may be the first observation of dynamic, geological processes in Titan's northern hemisphere. "This discovery tells us that the liquids in Titan's northern hemisphere are not simply stagnant and unchanging, but rather that changes do occur," said Jason Hofgartner, a Cornell University graduate student in the field of planetary sciences, and the paper's lead author. "We don't know precisely what caused this 'magic island' to appear, but we'd like to study it further."

Titan, the largest of Saturn's 62 known moons, is a world of lakes and seas. The moon – smaller than our own planet – bears close resemblance to watery Earth, with wind and rain driving the creation of strikingly familiar landscapes. Under its thick, hazy nitrogen-methane atmosphere, astronomers have found mountains, dunes and lakes. But in lieu of water, liquid methane and ethane flow through riverlike channels into seas the size of Earth's Great Lakes.

To discover this geologic feature, the astronomers relied on an old technique – flipping. The Cassini spacecraft sent data on July 10, 2013, to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology for image processing. Within a few days, Hofgartner and his colleagues flipped between older Titan images and the newly processed pictures for any hint of change. This is a long-standing method used to discover asteroids, comets and other worlds. "With flipping, the human eye is pretty good at detecting change," said Hofgartner.

Prior to the July 2013 observation, that region of Ligeia Mare had been completely devoid of features, including waves.

Titan's seasons change on a longer time scale than Earth's. The moon's northern hemisphere is transitioning from spring to summer. The astronomers think the strange feature may result from changing seasons.

In light of the changes, Hofgartner and the other authors speculate on four reasons for this phenomenon:Northern hemisphere winds may be kicking up and forming waves on Ligeia Mare. The radar imaging system might see the waves as a kind of "ghost" island. Gases may push out from the sea floor of Ligeia Mare, rising to the surface as bubbles.

Sunken solids formed by a wintry freeze could become buoyant with the onset of warmer temperatures during the late Titan spring. Ligeia Mare has suspended solids, which are neither sunken nor floating, but act like silt in a terrestrial delta.

"Likely, several different processes – such as wind, rain and tides – might affect the methane and ethane lakes on Titan. We want to see the similarities and differences from geological processes that occur here on Earth," Hofgartner said. "Ultimately, it will help us to understand better our own liquid environments here on the Earth." - Daily Galaxy.

INFRASTRUCTURE & SOCIETAL COLLAPSE: Civil War Continues In Ukraine As Kiev Launches Massive A Military Operation Against The Anti-Government Forces Demanding Federalization - Ukraine Railroad Blown Up, Russian Train Derailed In The Donetsk Region; Nationalists Clash With Police Outside Orthodox Church; Putin Orders Surprise Drills In Central Military District! [PHOTOS+VIDEOS]

June 23, 2014 - UKRAINE - The railroad tracks in Ukraine’s Donetsk Region have been blown up as a freight train belonging to Russian Railways was passing by. Fourteen freight cars were derailed in what railroad staff believe was a planned explosion.

The Donetsk Region, Ukraine, June 22, 2014. (RIA Novosti / Maksim Blinov)

The blast happened Sunday evening, damaging the railroad tracks on a stretch between the Donetsk Region towns of Ilovaisk and Kuteinikovo, in eastern Ukraine, Russian Railways said in a statement.

The blast happened after the train passed a mined area. The blast was so strong that 14 cargo cars were derailed.

WATCH: Ukraine railroad blown up, Russian train derailed.

“We were moving from Ilovaisk to Martsevo [Rostov Region, Russia]. At the 1,168-kilometer mark, we heard a sharp clap similar to an explosion,” Maksim Ustinov, the train driver, told Life News. “When we stopped the train, we saw that the freight cars were derailed.”

Google Maps

According to Russian Railways, the locomotive crew of the North Caucasian railway was not affected in the accident.

Meanwhile, personnel from Russian Railways believe the blast was planned. The explosive device was apparently prepared for several days and it might have taken several hours to fix the bomb.

“During further inspection of the train I found some wires running from trees to the railway tracks, the explosion site was resembling a crater,” Ustinov said.

WATCH: Ukraine nationalists clash with police outside Orthodox Church in Kiev.


The tracks are now being repaired by Ukrainian Railways staff, while trains have been redirected.

In the meantime, another blast occurred on the Ilovajsk-Mospino stretch, in the Donetsk Region, Ukrainian Railways said in a statement. Three railway sleepers and several were damaged in the blast.

The circumstances of the incidents are being investigated, the Ukrainian company said.

The Donetsk Region, Ukraine, June 22, 2014. (RIA Novosti / Maksim Blinov)

The Donetsk Region, Ukraine, June 22, 2014. (RIA Novosti / Maksim Blinov)

The Donetsk Region, Ukraine, June 22, 2014. (RIA Novosti / Maksim Blinov)

The Donetsk Region, Ukraine, June 22, 2014. (RIA Novosti / Maksim Blinov)

The town of Ilovaisk is located 47 kilometers from the city of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, where Kiev has launched a massive military operation. The troops are using heavy weaponry, airplanes, choppers and armored vehicles in the eastern regions of the country, in an effort to defeat anti-government forces demanding federalization. The vast majority (over 90 percent) of Donetsk and Lugansk regions’ populations voted for self-rule in May referendums.

WATCH: Combat Ready Alert - Putin orders surprise drills in Central Military District.


The town of Ilovaisk is located 47 kilometers from the city of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, where Kiev has launched a massive military operation. The troops are using heavy weaponry, airplanes, choppers and armored vehicles in the eastern regions of the country, in an effort to defeat anti-government forces demanding federalization. The vast majority (over 90 percent) of Donetsk and Lugansk regions’ populations voted for self-rule in May referendums.

According to the latest UN report, at least 356 people, including 257 civilians, have been killed in the violence since the beginning of the “anti-terrorist” military campaign in Ukraine’s eastern regions of Lugansk and Donetsk.   - RT.

EXTREME WEATHER ANOMALIES: Regional Weather Extremes Are Linked To Atmospheric Variations - The Changes To Air Flow Patterns Around The Northern Hemisphere Are A Major Influence On Prolonged Unseasonal Weather!

June 23, 2014 - EARTH -  Variations in high-altitude wind patterns expose particular parts of Europe, Asia and the US to different extreme weather conditions, a new study has shown.

 The polar jet stream - a band of fast winds high in the atmosphere which marks the boundary between cold polar air and
warmer air to the south. When large waves develop in the flow, cold Arctic air moves south (as seen here over eastern
US) and warmer temperate air moves north (as seen here are central US). Such "wavy" conditions increase the
chance of temperature and precipitation extremes. Credit: NASA  

Changes to air flow patterns around the Northern Hemisphere are a major influence on prolonged bouts of unseasonal weather - whether it be hot, cold, wet or dry.

The high altitude winds normally blow from west to east around the planet, but do not follow a straight path. The flow meanders to the north and south, in a wave-like path.

These wave patterns are responsible for sucking either warm air from the tropics, or cold air from the Arctic, to Europe, Asia, or the US. They can also influence rainfall by steering rain-laden storms.

Pioneering new research, carried out by the University of Exeter and the University of Melbourne, has shown that the development of these wave patterns leaves certain Northern Hemisphere regions more susceptible to different types of prolonged, extreme weather.

Dr James Screen, a Mathematics Research Fellow at the University of Exeter and lead author of the study, said: "The impacts of large and slow moving atmospheric waves are different in different places. In some places amplified waves increase the chance of unusually hot conditions, and in others the risk of cold, wet or dry conditions".

The study showed that larger waves can lead to droughts in central North America, Europe and central Asia, and western Asia exposed to prolonged wet spells. It also shows western North America and central Asia are more prone to heat waves, while eastern North America is more likely to experience prolonged outbreaks of cold.

The collaborative study used detailed land-based climate observations to identify episodes of abnormal temperature and rainfall from 1979-2012 and then examined the wave patterns during these events.

Co-author Professor Ian Simmonds, from the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne, said the weather extremes they examined were month-long heat waves, cold spells, droughts and prolonged wet periods, which occurred over large areas.

He said: "The study revealed that these types of events are strongly related to well-developed wave patterns, and that these patterns increase the chance of heat waves in western North America and central Asia, cold outbreaks in eastern North America, droughts in central North America, Europe and central Asia, and wet spells in western Asia.

"The findings are very important for decision makers in assessing the risk of, and planning for the impacts of, extreme weather events in the future." - PHYS.ORG.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Aleutian Volcanoes Are Waking Up In Alaska - The Most Activity Seen In 26 YEARS!

June 23, 2014 - ALASKA - Sharply increased seismic activity and volcanic eruptions in the Aleutian Islands and the far western Brooks Range are being investigated by scientists.

Volcano Pavlof photographed by the International Space Station on May 18, 2013. Image Credit: NASA.

The Alaska Volcano Observatory says the activity over the past few months is the most seen by the station 26 years.

On the Alaska Volcano Observatory website three volcanoes are classified with a yellow alert level—signifying signs of elevated unrest above known background levels—and three are at an orange alert level—heightened unrest with increased likelihood of eruption.

Orange is the second-highest alert level after red signifying an eruption that is imminent or underway.

Screen shot from the Alaska Volcano Observatory's website.

Pavlof Volcano released an ash plum in May that diverted aircraft. The 8,262-foot (2,518-meter) tall volcano erupted sending ash plumes as high as 30,000 feet (9,144 meters). Aircraft were advised to avoid the area since ash could damage airplane engines.

With heightened activity from all volcanoes, scientists still don't have enough information to point to any larger trend or activity.

"At this point, you know, we have to say it’s coincidental," he said in an interview with radio station KTOO News.

Pair of satellite images of Unimak Island on June 21, 2014. On the left a NOAA AVHRR image showing strongly elevated
surface temperatures at the summit of Shishaldin Volcano, consistent with ongoing low-level eruptive activity in the
summit crater. On the right, from about 6 hours later, is a visible image of the island from a different satellite. Shishaldin
is visible but there is no obvious sign of activity. A number of other volcanoes are visible as well. These are the
kinds of images AVO scientists examine daily to evaluate the state of Alaska's 52 historically active volcanoes.
For more information, explore our web site:
Alaska Volcano Observatory

"It could be that there is a larger process at work, but we’re not able to say what that is at this point in time, or if there is such a process. You know, perhaps the answer is we haven’t been looking long enough to know."

The government agency posted news updates on its Facebook page today showing elevated surface temperatures at the summit of Shishaldin Volcano. - Mining.