Tuesday, February 17, 2015

WEATHER PHENOMENON: Halo Effect - Three Suns Seen In The Skies Over Chelyabinsk, Russia!

© Screenshot from YouTube user Shuriksandr

February 17, 2015 - CHELYABINSK, RUSSIA
 - Citizens of Chelyabinsk, near Russia's Ural mountains, were awed by a rare optical illusion produced by ice crystals in the winter air on Tuesday.

"Weather in the Urals fell to -23 to -25 Celsius. This led to the formation of tiny hexagonal ice crystals in the air above, which cannot be seen by the naked eye. The sunlight refracts through them, creating the halo effect," regional meteorologist Galina Sheporenko told TASS news agency

While the scientists remained sanguine about the phenomenon, ordinary citizens filled their social media accounts with hundreds of photos of the halo.

The illusion is sometimes called a winter rainbow - using ice crystals for refractions, just as the common ones use water droplets. The symmetrical patches of light, tinged with red on the inside, are called mock suns, parhelia or sundogs.

On average, such distinct halos are often reported several times a week across the entire globe, and can occur even in relatively mild weather, providing the air several kilometers above is sufficiently cold. A distinct halo was spotted in Yamal in northern Siberia on Tuesday, barely noticeable one was photographed in the eastern Siberian city of Irkutsk, and an impressive one was witnessed in Saskatoon in Canada over the weekend.

"The appearance of the halos can vary - from pillars to arcs to circles to blots. It is very hard to predict when all factors will come together for one to appear, but sometimes you can see several in one winter," said Sheporenko.

WATCH: Three suns over Chelyabinsk.

Documented descriptions date back to the ancient Greeks, and also makes an appearance in William Shakespeare's Henry VI, where he describes its appearance ahead of a key battle in the War of the Roses.

Across most world cultures, it was regarded as on omen, or harbinger of cold weather - logically, as the crystals above required to create the halo, often descend onto the ground as snow and rain. But Sheporenko says this is not the case this time.

"The frosty weather will only last a day or two, and then it will get warmer," promised the meteorologist.

WATCH: Meteorite crash in Russia.

Almost exactly two years ago, on February 15, 2015 Chelyabinsk, a city of 1.1 million people, hit the headlines after a blazing meteor flashed across the sky, after impacting the atmosphere with the strength of over 20 Hiroshima explosions. The 12,000 ton piece of space debris was the biggest object to enter the Earth's atmosphere since the Tunguska meteor in 1908. - RT.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Fiery Bright Meteor Sighting Over Western New York!

February 17, 2015 - NEW YORK, UNITED STATES
- While most of us were sleeping Tuesday morning, something bright streaked across the skies.

Now, NASA's Meteoroid Environments Office confirms the fireball that many Western New Yorkers reported seeing around 4:50 a.m. Tuesday morning.

Bill Cooke, the lead person at the Meteoroid Environments Office, says the meteor was seen over Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania.

Currently, the American Meteor Society shows on its website dozens of self-reported logs from people who submitted reports that they saw the meteor.

Those are currently considered "pending" logs and have yet to be reviewed. At least two of them are from WNY including reports from Lockport and Cheektowaga. 

WATCH: Fiery meteor sighting over Western New York.


- DNC.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Sinkholes Keep Popping Up Across The United States - Massive Sinkhole In Warren County, New Jersey Swallows Up Plow Truck!

Sinkhole opens, swallows plow truck in Warren Count

February 17, 2015 - NEW JERSEY, UNITED STATES - As if snow wasn't bad enough, what about losing your truck to a sinkhole? That's what one plow driver faced around 7:30 a.m.

Tuesday when the truck fell into the sinkhole which opened up on Wordsworth Lane near Powder Horn in the Breakley Park section of Lopatcong Township, Warren County, N.J.

The driver was in the truck at the time, but was able to climb out of the cab safely, officials said.

Wordsworth Lane in Lopatcong where a truck plowing snow fell into a sinkhole this morning.

Crews are working to pull the truck out of the sinkhole.

The township issued a warning for people to avoid the area.

No word yet if anyone was hurt. 


ICE AGE NOW: More Arctic Blast - Next Surge Of Arctic Air To Freeze U.S. Northeast, Midwest Late Week With BRUTAL COLD - Dozens Of RECORD LOWS Possible; Record-Breaking Winter In Boston Of 16.2 Inches Of Snowfall; Weatherman Goes Berserk Over "THUNDERSNOW"; New Jersey Woman Found Frozen To Death!

University of Kentucky students Courtney Wiseman, left, and Abby Lerner walk home after studying on campus even as classes
were canceled for the day in Lexington, Ky., Monday, Feb. 16, 2015. (AP Photo/David Stephenson) 

February 17, 2015 - NORTH AMERICA
- Old Man Winter will be unrelenting across the Northeast and Midwest this week as yet another blast of arctic air dives into the regions. This next push of arctic air is expected to bring air that is just as cold, or even colder than the air that brought subzero lows to the Midwest and Northeast during the weekend.

Next Surge of Arctic Air to Freeze Northeast, Midwest Late Week

Millions will shiver from Chicago to New York City as record lows are challenged during this bitter blast. Records may also fall across parts of the Southeast where temperatures manage to fall into the teens and single digits.

Such cold will be dangerous to those who lose power during the current ice storm.

Floridians will even experience a taste of the arctic chill with temperatures dipping down to the lower 30s in cities such as Orlando.

The worst of the cold is expected to focus on the Midwest on Wednesday before shifting east over the Northeast for Thursday.

AccuWeather.com RealFeel® temperatures below 0 F will be common across the regions during the daytime hours, including cities along the Interstate 95 corridor. These values can then drop by as much as 20 degrees during the overnight hours, making for a bitterly cold morning commute.

It is possible for some snow showers or flurries to accompany the arrival of the harsh cold, especially across the Tennessee and Ohio valleys. This could drop a few inches of snow, leading to some slick travels.
Snow showers are also likely to develop downwind of the Great Lakes late in the week even though the lakes are quickly becoming covered in ice.

Temperatures can be very dangerous, and possibly even life threatening during this arctic outbreak.

Anyone planning on venturing outside should wear extra layers, hats and gloves to help stay protected from the cold. Fortunately, winds should not be as strong as they were during the cold spell over the weekend, making it feel not quite as cold.

Water main breaks may occur across the Midwest and Northeast as the extreme cold penetrates deep into the ground. This could quickly lead to icy areas where the lines rupture.

Anyone who has animals that live in the outdoors should also take the proper precautions to keep their pets stay safe.

Pet owners should bring their animals indoors and make sure that they have proper bedding when temperatures dip below the 20-degree mark, as well as ensuring that they have water that is not frozen.

The core of the cold weather is expected to shift away from the Northeast and Midwest heading into the weekend, allowing temperatures to moderate.

Despite the rise in temperatures, highs are still forecast to remain below normal through at least Sunday, and possibly longer. - AccuWeather.

Dozens of Record Lows Possible As Arctic Blast Grips Midwest, Northeast, South (FORECAST)

On the heels of Winter Storm Octavia, temperatures will plunge once again in the central and eastern United States.

This follows two surges of bitter cold air that engulfed these regions late last week into Monday, resulting in record lows and the coldest temperatures in years for some cities.

In fact, Monday morning, Erie, Pennsylvania tied its all-time record low of -18 degrees, set on January 19, 1994.

Later this week, dozens of record low temperatures will be threatened, and lows in the single digits above and below zero could reach all the way into parts of the South.

This latest reinforcing shot of cold air arrives in the Upper Midwest on Tuesday. From there, it dives into the South and spreads east through the end of the week.

The swath of snow cover left behind by Winter Storm Octavia will play a role in just how cold it gets. Places that see significant snowfall are much more prone to see extreme cold on at least one night later this week, as snow cover radiates (loses) energy to outer space quickly. Where skies are clear, this can result in rapid temperature drops (clouds reflect some of that lost energy back to earth).

WATCH: Meteorologist Stephanie Abrams talks about the brutal cold that is freezing out much of the Northeast. 

Daily forecast details are below.

Arctic Invasion Begins

- Tuesday highs: 10 to 20 degrees below average throughout much of the central and eastern United States. The next round of arctic air begins to ooze southward into the Upper Midwest.

- Wednesday morning lows:
Teens and 20s below zero in parts of North Dakota and northern Minnesota. Single-digit lows possible as far south as portions of Kentucky and Missouri. Snow cover from Octavia will likely play a role in where the coldest morning lows set up.

- Wednesday highs:
 Up to 30 degrees below average in the Midwest, with highs mainly in the single digits and teens. Parts of the Northeast and Southeast, including Florida, will be 10 to 20 degrees below average.

Wednesday Morning Lows/Wednesday Highs
Lows for Wednesday morning are displayed to the left in blue. Highs for Wednesday are to the right in orange.

Up to 30 Degrees Below Average; Subzero Lows in the Mid-South

- Thursday morning lows: Record lows will be threatened in about four dozen cities across parts of the South, Midwest and East. Subzero lows are possible as far south as Nashville, Tennessee, and Asheville, North Carolina. Lows in the 30s and 40s return to much of Florida.

- Potential record lows (current record in parentheses):
Charlotte, North Carolina (8 degrees) | Baltimore (5 degrees) | Louisville, Kentucky (0 degrees) | Chicago (minus 7 degrees)

- If Nashville falls below zero Thursday morning, it will be the latest in the season with a temperature of zero degrees or lower in the city since records began in 1871. Also, it would be only the 13th time in February with a subzero low in the Music City.

- Thursday highs:
Up to 30 degrees below average from the Mississippi River Valley eastward. Single digits, teens and 20s for highs from the Upper Midwest to the Mid-South and Northeast. Temperatures will be 10 to 20 degrees below average in Florida, with highs ranging from the upper 40s in north Florida to the middle 60s in Miami.

Thursday Morning Lows/Thursday Highs
Lows for Thursday morning are displayed to the left in blue. Highs for Thursday are to the right in orange.

Frigid Temperatures Continue in the East

- Friday morning lows: Record lows will be threatened in more than 70 locations across the East, from New England to Florida. Subzero lows or single digit lows from the Upper Midwest to the Northeast. Single digits are possible as far south as North Carolina and Tennessee. Florida lows range from the upper 20s in the north to middle 40s in the south.

Potential record lows (current record in parentheses): Boston (0 degrees) | New York City (7 degrees) | Washington, D.C. (8 degrees) | Raleigh, North Carolina (13 degrees) | Miami (42 degrees)
- A low of 4 degrees or colder in Washington, D.C. would be the coldest temperature there since January 1994. If the low reaches zero degrees or lower, it would be one of only eight times on record where this has happened there in February.

- Friday highs: 10 to 25 degrees below average from Maine to Florida.

Friday Morning Lows/Friday Highs
Lows for Friday morning are displayed to the left in blue. Highs for Friday are to the right in orange.

More Record Lows Possible This Weekend

- Below-average temperatures will continue Saturday in much of the Midwest and Northeast.

- Our forecast shows that more than a dozen locations in the Northeast could threaten daily record lows on Saturday morning.

- Weather.

Record breaking winter in Boston; 16.2 inches of snow during blizzard

Gov. Charlie Baker asked Bay Staters to stay off the roads on Sunday as another powerful winter storm pounded the region.

"Driving conditions will be very difficult and we continue to urge everyone to stay off the roads for the entire day," Baker said in a morning news conference.

Boston measured 16.2 inches of snow in the storm, making this winter the city's third-snowiest on record. Blizzard conditions were verified in Chatham, Plymouth, Hyannis, Martha's Vineyard and Falmouth, where visibility was one-quarter of a mile or less with 35 mph-plus winds for three hours or more.
"There's a little bit of déjà vu all over again," Baker said.

The snow was expected to stop by midday, but the central and eastern parts of the state are under a blizzard warning through Monday morning because high winds will blow snow and reduce visibility.

With the storm falling on a weekend and students set to start February vacation on Monday, no travel ban was issued.

"The most important thing people need to do today is stay safe and take care of themselves," Baker said. "Someone who gets trapped out there. . . it's just going to be a very bad day to be on the roads."

MBTA service was suspended for the entire day on Sunday, and a decision will be made in the afternoon on Monday' service. Flights are not expected to leave or arrive at Logan Airport before mid-afternoon.

Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said more than 3,000 pieces of equipment are treating the roads.

"We're going to need time," she said. "Just because it stops snowing in your area does not mean you should clear your car out and get out there right away."

Following the same protocol from January's blizzard, Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station was in "cold shutdown mode" Sunday morning in case of a power outage, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matt Beaton said.

"There is no fear of any public safety issues whatsoever," Beaton said.

The National Guard is also assisting during the blizzard, and said it has shifted its focus from snow removal to emergency response due to the intensity of the storm. - CBS.

Weatherman goes berserk over 'thundersnow' in Boston

Cantore stands in front of the camera as a Thundersnow bolt of lightning strikes

It's always nice to see a man enjoying his job.

Just take the Weather Channel's Jim Cantore as an example. The 51-year-old meteorologist displayed the infectious enthusiasm of a child while reporting on Sunday's blizzard in Massachusetts, US.

In the video below, which has gone viral over the past 24 hours, Cantore can be seen tramping around in knee-deep snow when the screen suddenly flashes pure white in a rare example of 'Thundersnow' - when lightning occurs during snowfall.

"Oh yes! Yes! Yes!" he exclaims. "We got it baby! We got it! We got it! Woo! Woo! We got it! Yes! Listen to that! Listen to that! Oh baby!"

Just as Cantore begins to regain his composure, the screen again flashes white, setting the excitable weatherman off on another bout of wild celebration. "Oh again! Again!" he shouts, throwing a handful of snow into the air. "That's a two-fer. That's a two-fer, baby. Oh my goodness!"

Four further flashes illicit similar exultations, as the meteorologist gives up any pretence of hiding his excitement.

WATCH: Cantore Thundersnow Montage.

- Telegraph.

New Jersey woman found frozen to death near her home

© Facebook
A New Jersey woman was found frozen to death in the snow near her home on Sunday morning, authorities said.

Olivia Benito, 66, had stopped by a neighbor's house for drinks after they left a benefit event at an Elks Club in Lakewood, New Jersey, Al Della Fave, spokesman for the Ocean County prosecutor's office, said in a news release.

The neighbor told police that Benito had some alcoholic beverages during the course of the evening, Della Fave said. She left the neighbor's townhouse at about midnight to walk to her home two doors away, he said.

The neighbor said she discovered Benito face down in snow when she went out to clear her car of snow at about 7 a.m. on Sunday, Della Fave said. She was pronounced dead at the scene by ambulance personnel, he said.

Police found no outward signs of trauma or foul play but the death remains under investigation, Della Fave said.

The temperature at 7 a.m. on Sunday in the Lakewood area was 10 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. - Yahoo.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Electric Universe - Stunning Magnetic Storm Observed On Comet Lovejoy; "Plasma Blob" Billowing Down The Tail, Away From The Comet's Core!

February 17, 2015 - SPACE - Around the world, observers of bright Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2) are reporting activity in the comet's sinuous blue ion tail.

On Feb. 13th, Michael Jäger of Dorfstetten Austriao used a backyard telescope to capture this 'plasma blob' billowing down the tail, away from the comet's core:

This could be a sign that a magnetic storm in underway. Observers of comets frequently witness plasma blobs and 'disconnection events' in response to CMEs and gusts of solar wind. In extreme cases, a comet's tail can be completely torn off.

The underlying physics is akin to terrestrial geomagnetic storms. When magnetic fields around a comet bump into oppositely-directed magnetic fields in a CME, those fields can link together or "reconnect."

The resulting burst of magnetic energy can make waves, blobs, or even ruptures in the comet's tail. When CMEs hit Earth, a similar process takes place in the planet's magnetosphere powering, among other things, the aurora borealis.

Readers who wish to monitor the effects of space weather on Lovejoy should look toward the constellation Andromeda high in the northern sky after sunset: finder chart.

The comet is shining like a 5th magnitude star, barely visible to the unaided eye from dark-sky locations, but an easy target for telescopes and binoculars. For pinpoint guidance of optics, use this ephemeris from the Minor Planet Center. - Space Weather.

DISASTER PRECURSORS: Omen – The Latest Incidents Of Strange Animal Behavior, Mass Animal Die-Offs, Appearance Of Rare Creatures And Warnings From Mother Nature!

February 17, 2015 - 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.

Rare beaked whale found dead near Byron Bay, Australia

Rare beaked whale washes up dead

A rare whale has been found washed up on the state's far north coast.

The Gray's Beaked whale was discovered on Seven Mile Beach, south of Byron Bay.

Lawrence Orel, from the National Parks and Wildlife Service, said whales which beach themselves are usually sick.

He said scientists will be keen to examine the skeleton.

"The beaked whales are quite rare," Mr Orel said.

"They're generally found in the deep ocean, so it's quite rare for them to be seen close to shore.

"But stranded beaked whales are of considerable interest to the science community, and this is possibly a Gray's Beaked whale, which is one of the more unusual species.

"The carcass will be buried and... all the organisms that live in the sand will proceed to do their thing.

"In about 18 months to two years time you end up with a nice clean skeleton which becomes very interesting and valuable to science." - Customs Today.

Dead sperm whale found near Glenburn, New Zealand

The 14m sperm whale carcass found on a South Wairarapa beach at Glenburn near Honeycomb Rock.

Workers from Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa iwi yesterday recovered the bones and teeth of a 14m-long sperm whale found dead on a South Wairarapa coastal beach.

Iwi authority chief executive PJ Devonshire said the carcass of the whale - an adult male weighing about 48 tonnes - was discovered washed up and lying between rocks on a beach south of Glenburn near Honeycomb Rock a week ago Saturday.

A Department of Conservation ranger believed the animal had died of old age.

He said the DoC Honeycomb walkway extended along the stretch of coast where the whale was found and a group from the iwi had travelled to the location on Tuesday, securing and blessing the carcass in a ceremony during which the whale was also named Te Pani o te Moana - orphan of the ocean.

The name given to the whale also recalled the deaths over past weeks of several Maori elders including Masterton kaumatua Pani Himona, who died on January 25 this year, Ngati Porou leader Apirana Mahuika, who was farewelled at a tangi last week, and Kahungunu elder and Maori performing arts leader Tama Turanga Huata, who died on Wednesday.

"Tradition says we should name the whale. The name Pani describes an orphan and is also a word used for how you feel when you lose someone," he said.

"We have lost two senior elders nationally and Uncle Pani Himona here at home, and to have the whale come to us this way as well, the name is a connection for us all. It is symbolic of the passing of our elders."

Genburn Station owners John and Helen McFadzean had been alerted to the whale after fielding a call from a 77-year-old station guest who discovered the carcass a week ago Saturday while cycling a coastal route to nearby Pahau, Mrs McFadzean said.

The carcass was seen floating in waters off the coast a day earlier, she said, and the naming and blessing ceremony last week had drawn a small crowd of guests captivated by the spectacle.

Mr Devonshire said the recovery of taonga, or treasure, from the carcass of the whale included waiata and karakia - songs and prayer - and will precede meetings about the distribution and cultural uses of the "resources" across marae throughout the region.

"We will take the ribs and the jaw and try to process and utilise as much of the whale as we can. We will take as much as we can to use as resources among our people. Sperm whale teeth carry much prestige and the bones can be used for carving taonga that can be shared across the marae of the Wairarapa.

"We want to use this as a real learning opportunity for our people. It will be about learning how to process and work with the whale, and what cultural obligations do we have to the whale. That's from the first karakia and naming it to when we start to carve the bones, and remembering the stories of the whale from the past that remain with us."  - NZ Herald.

Peculiar fish found dead on North Devon coast, UK

Peculiar fish found dead

A strange fish has washed up on the North Devon coast.

It was discovered yesterday at Northam Burrows by Nick Porter, who was walking his dogs when he spotted what he believes is a Parrot Fish.

He said: "Interestingly, the carcass was not apparently decaying as you would expect a fish to do.

"The skin was hard and leathery." - North Devon Journal.

4,500 Birds killed due to avian flu in Bauchi State, Nigeria

The Avian influenza, also known as bird flu, has hit three local government areas of Bauchi State, affecting 14,666 birds out of which about 4,508 have so far been culled by government officials.

According to the Director, Veterinary Services, in the state Ministry of Animal Resources and Nomadic Resettlement, Dr Bala Lucshi, who disclosed this to journalists on Sunday, five farms were affected in Bauchi, Katagum and Toro local government areas of the state.

He explained that the birds culled by officials from the ministry included chickens, turkeys and pigeons, adding that the outbreak was first recorded in the state at Baraji Farms in Magama Gumau town in Toro Local Government Area on January 28.

Two farms at Inkil in Bauchi Local Government Area and Azare, the headquarters of Katagum Local Government Area are also reported to have the disease. Lucshi said the ministry had promptly moved in to ensure that the disease was curtailed so as not to spread to other parts of the state.

Samples taken from the affected farms had since been sent to the National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI), Vom, Plateau State, for laboratory confirmation of the disease in the state.

He added that the earlier ban placed on movement of poultry products in and out of the state was being enforced in order to ensure strict compliance, saying that surveillance rate by officials of the ministry had been heightened.

However, he advised people of the state to ensure that they cook their poultry products very well before eating them. And for the affected farmers, the director promised that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture would compensate for each of the birds culled. - Information NG.

1 out of every 3 seal pups born last summer have already died in California, United States

Sea lion pups recently brought to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach rest in their pen while being treated at the center. The number
of sea lions rescued on the coast is above average for the season.NICK AGRO, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Low weights among sea lion pups on remote Channel Island breeding grounds and effects of a warmer ocean on adult females and yearlings could bring record-high strandings to Southern California beaches.

Marine mammal experts say the numbers could hit even higher levels than in 2013, which federal officials called an unusual mortality event.

Already this year, staff at marine centers from Sea World in San Diego to the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito are doing nearly daily rescues.

The difference this year: Starving pups showed up as early as December. Sick females and juveniles are also being found.

In the first three weeks of the year, sea lion rescues were up almost 20 percent over 2013 at some of the marine rescue centers.
 The National Marine Fisheries stranding coordinator has asked centers to provide their intakes. So far this month, Sea World in San Diego has 48 and Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach has 28. Fort MacArthur in San Pedro has 73, the Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute has 10, and the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito has 35.

Dr. Hendrik Nollens, a veterinarian at Sea World and a member of a task force assembled by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to study 2013 mass strandings, is not surprised.

Where there was no advance warning for the 2013 strandings, experts had already predicted El Niño impacts on lactating mothers and yearlings for 2015. Centers were told to gear up.

El Niño brings warm ocean waters that push down nutrient-dense upwellings that fuel ecosystem richness, forcing sea lions to hunt longer distances and do deeper dives for their prey.

“This year could be a perfect storm,” Nollens said. “An El Niño climate event affecting the females and yearlings and something still unexplained affecting the skinny pups.”

Peter Wallerstein, who owns a nonprofit organization that helps rescue sea lions for Fort MacArthur, has been out on the beaches between Pacific Palisades and Long Beach nearly every day. When schoolchildren on a beach cleanup surrounded a skinny pup, Wallerstein wrangled him in.

SeaWorld San Diego veterinarian, Dr. Hendrik Nollens (R), along with animal care specialist, Mike Glenn, performs a physical examination on a
rescued harbor seal pup at the park's Animal Rescue Center. COURTESY OF SEA WORLD

“Usually, a healthy sea lion will run into the water away from people,” Wallerstein said. “People do silly things. They want to get close, but sea lions have 10 times greater bite than a pit bull and they’re very quick on land, unlike a seal, which drags its body.”

The pup was one of more than 30 he’s taken to Marine Mammal Center at Fort MacArthur. The center is already 20 percent ahead of January 2013 numbers, and there’s still a week to go.

“The difference is we’re not just seeing little pups,” said Lauren Palmer, a veterinarian there. “Females and yearlings are coming in with respiratory issues and elevated abnormalities in their blood work. It’s really hard to wrap our head around the story of what’s happening.”

Sharon Melin, a wildlife biologist with the National Marine Mammal Laboratory working with National Marine Fisheries, has studied sea lion populations on San Miguel Island for more than two decades, looking for factors influencing trends in populations including El Niño, disease and competition for food.

She works with National Marine Fisheries Service as part of a research program established on San Miguel Island in 1968 bolstered with funds from the Marine Mammal Protection Act, enacted in 1972.

Melin travels to the island twice a year – once in September and once in February – to study behavior, check for disease and weigh sample newborns. She’s watched the sea lion population rise 5 percent each year until 2000. Researchers estimate there are now more than 300,000 sea lions colonizing the Channel Island rookeries.

Each June 100,000 sea lions come to the Navy-owned island. The breeding colony about 60 miles from Ventura Harbor is one of the largest in the world.

When sea lions converged on the island in 2012, there was no sign of a problem. A year later, nearly 70 percent of the newborns had died.

Many were left for days waiting on the beaches starving and losing weight. Marine mammal centers in 2013 took in more than 1,500 sea lion pups – five times higher than in a normal year.

The mothers – to nourish themselves and provide milk – swam as far as 120 miles north toward Monterrey in search of sardines and anchovies.

In the El Niño climate, some of these are scarce and they feed on less fatty fish producing less nutrient-rich milk. The mothers generally spend three to four days hunting. Diminished prey can make them stay out for six days.

In their struggle to survive, pups followed other, older sea lions out into the ocean too early. Those that made it littered Southern California beaches. Thousands more died on the islands along the way. Melin that year recorded pups at only half their previous weights.

Last year, sea lions produced just half the number of pups following the high death rate. But their weights were closer to the ideal – 37 pounds. Stranding numbers were normal.

When Melin traveled to San Miguel last September, the weights were down again. But sometimes the pups rebound. She noticed that not all of them were skinny. In some cases it seemed the mothers had figured it out and still had plump pups. She reported her findings to National Marine Fisheries, who funded another research trip out last month.

But the skinny pups had only gained 4 pounds. Melin put GPS tags on a dozen females to track their foraging habits. The tags will likely stay attached until April. Melin will compare that data with GPS tags put on sea lions after the 2013 strandings.

Later this month, she will go out again.

“We’ve told the centers to prepare for the worst,” she said. - OC Register.

SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: "Instead Of The Usual Green, There Were Beautiful Shade Of Red" - Odd Display Of Red Auroras Over Manitoba, Canada And Stunning Outburst Of Northern Lights Around The Arctic Circle!

February 17, 2015 - SPACE - For Valentine's Day, night-sky photographer Alan Dyer received not red roses, but red auroras. "It was an odd display. Instead of the usual green, the lights over Manitoba, Canada, on Feb. 14th were a beautiful shade of red," says Dyer, who took this 25 second exposure using a Canon 6D digital camera and a fish-eye lens:

"The bright light at the right is Jupiter," he points out. "Later, the aurora took on the more normal appearance with green curtains topped by fringes of red."

Red auroras are not fully understood. They occur some 300 to 500 km above Earth's surface, much higher than ordinary green auroras. Some researchers believe the red lights are linked to low energy electrons from the sun, which move too slowly to penetrate deeply into the atmosphere. When such electrons recombine with oxygen ions in the upper atmosphere, red photons are emitted. At present, space weather forecasters cannot predict when this will occur.

Later today, a solar wind stream is expected to hit Earth's magnetic field, prompting NOAA forecasters to estimate a 40% chance of polar geomagnetic storms on Feb. 15th. Auroras are likely, although no one can say if any of them will be red. Stay tuned to the realtime aurora gallery for sightings.

Auroras are dancing around the Arctic Circle as the leading edge of an approaching solar wind stream presses against Earth's magnetic field. "We had a really nice display around 9 pm local time on Feb. 16th," says Nick James, who sends this picture from Kiruna, Sweden:

The stage is set for more outbursts like James saw. Why? The interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) around Earth is tipping south, an arrangement that can open a crack in our planet's magnetosphere. If the incoming stream of solar wind pours through that crack, voila!--bright auroras. NOAA forecasters estimate a 35% chance of geomagnetic storms on Feb. 17th.

- Space Weather.

MONUMENTAL SOLAR SYSTEM CHANGES: "It Was Quite A Surprise,... Thought There Was A Problem With The Telescope,... It Raises More Questions Than Answers,..." - Massive And Mysterious Haze High Above Planet Mars Baffles Scientists; The Plume Stretch For Over 1,000km?! [PHOTOS]

February 17, 2015 - MARS - A mysterious haze high above Mars has left scientists scratching their heads.

The vast plume was initially spotted by amateur astronomers in 2012, and appeared twice before vanishing.

Scientists have now analysed the images and say that say the formation, stretching for more than 1,000km, is larger than any seen before.

Writing in the journal Nature, the researchers believe the plume could be a large cloud or an exceptionally bright aurora.

However, they are unsure how these could have formed in the thin upper reaches of the Martian atmosphere.

"It raises more questions than answers," said Antonio Garcia Munoz, a planetary scientist from the European Space Agency.

Around the world, a network of amateur astronomers keep their telescopes trained on the Red Planet.

They first spotted the strange plume in March 2012 above Mars' southern hemisphere.

Damian Peach was one of the first stargazers to capture images of the phenomenon.

He told BBC News: "I noticed this projection sticking out of the side of the planet. To begin with, I thought there was a problem with the telescope or camera.

"But as I checked more of the images, I realised it was a real feature - and it was quite a surprise."

Damian Peach was one of the first astronomers to image the plume

The vast, bright haze lasted for about 10 days. A month later, it reappeared for the same length of time. But it has not been seen since.

An international team of scientists has now confirmed the finding, but they are struggling to find an explanation.

One theory is that the plume is a cloud of carbon dioxide or water particles.

"We know there are clouds on Mars, but clouds, up to this point, have been observed up to an altitude of 100km," Dr Garcia Munoz said.

"And we are reporting a plume at 200km, so it is significantly different. At 200km, we shouldn't see any clouds, the atmosphere is too thin - so the fact we see it for 20 days in total is quite surprising."

Another explanation is that this is a Martian version of the northern or southern lights.

Dr Garcia Munoz explained: "We know in this region on Mars, there have been auroras reported before. But the intensities we are reporting are much much higher than any auroras seen before on Mars or on Earth.

"It would be 1,000 times stronger than the strongest aurora, and it is difficult to come to terms that Mars has such an intense aurora."

If either of these theories are right, he said, it would mean our understanding of Mars' upper atmosphere is wrong.

He hopes that by publishing the paper, other scientists might also come up with explanations.

If they cannot, astronomers will have to wait for the plumes to return.

Close-up observations from telescopes or the spacecraft that are currently in orbit around the Red Planet could help to solve this Martian mystery. - BBC.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Precursors To A Global Financial Collapse - Greece Talks With Euro Creditors Collapse As "DISASTER" Moves Closer!

Hopes for a deal took a hit after some finance ministers, including Germany's Wolfgang Schaeuble,
raised concerns over the new Greek government's negotiating tactic

February 17, 2015 - GREECE
- Greece’s crunch talks with its European creditors broke down after just four hours today, pushing the country closer towards a potential exit from the single currency.
Greece refused to countenance an extension of the existing €172bn bailout programme, while the rest of the eurozone’s finance ministers said this was a non-negotiable first step to talks.

“There is no alternative to a request to an extension of the programme” said Pierre Moscovici, the European Commission’s economics and financial affairs commissioner. That  was echoed by Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the chairman of the Eurogroup. “It is up to the Greek authorities now to decide whether they would want such an extension” he said. “There was a very strong opinion across the whole Eurogroup that it has to come from the Greek authorities... They have to make up their mind whether they will ask for an extension of the current programme.”

WATCH: 'Unacceptable!' Greek govt turns down EU bailout offer, talks stall.

Mr Dijsselbloem said there could be a new Eurogroup meeting on Friday if Greece requested an extension over the next few days. However, the Greek side suggested that Mr Dijsselbloem had gone back on an earlier understanding by trying to push Greece into extending the existing agreement.

A draft text leaked from the Brussels meeting of eurozone finance ministers contained the suggestion that Greece would “successfully conclude the [bailout] programme” and “request a six-month technical extension”. The Athens government has repeatedly said it will not agree to continue with the existing programme, which it blames for pushing Greece into a deep economic depression. It is instead demanding a bridge loan from creditors until the summer while an entirely new programme can be fashioned. It wants this to include a cancellation of a large tranche of the country’s debt and an easing of the requirement for Greece to run primary budget surpluses for the forseeable future.

The Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, tonight said there would be no capitulation to the pressure from the Eurogroup. “Nothing good has ever come out of ultimatums... In the next few days any notion of ultimatum is going to be withdrawn,” he said.

The country’s bailout is due to lapse on 28 February. Without a new agreement in place by then, Greece could find its banking system shut off from access to the European Central Bank’s liquidity lifeline.

WATCH: EU gives Greece 1-week ultimatum to request bailout extension or...what?

Greek three-year bond yields yesterday rose above 17 per cent, while 10-year bond yields hit 9.47 per cent. The higher near-term effective borrowing costs of the country imply heightened investors default concerns. “With every day of stalemate, the Greek economy, its banking system and its tax revenues are likely to weaken further,” said Holger Schmieding of Berenberg Bank.

There were few signs of support for Greece from other eurozone states last night. “There is no chance of a bridge loan [for Greece],  so this has left us working with the extension of the programme,” said Edward Scicluna, the Maltese Finance Minister. Asked what would happen if the Greeks did not ask for a programme extension, he added: “That would be it; it would be a disaster.” - Independent.