Thursday, March 19, 2015

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Collapsing Magnetosphere And Magnetic Polar Migration - Northern Lights Head South As Geomagnetic Storm Reveals Aurora Borealis In Central Russia!

Aurora in Mikhailovsky District of the Ryazan Region.  © RIA Novosti/Igor Podgornyi

March 19, 2015 - RUSSIA
- An abnormal atmospheric phenomenon was visible throughout the relevantly low latitude of central Russia, including Moscow and St. Petersburg on Tuesday. A powerful geomagnetic storm promises to continue for a second day, also including an aurora.

Witnesses and amateur astronomers have been busily posting photos and videos of this atmospheric event - so rarely seen in Central Russia - on blogs and social media.

As a rule, the aurora borealis is visible in regions close or above the Polar Circle, for example in Russia's Arctic city of Murmansk.


But sometimes extremely powerful solar flares cause this atmospheric phenomenon to be visible in much lower altitudes, as is the case now.

Auroras on the North and South Poles of our planet are caused by solar winds, when charged particles such as electrons and protons enter and exit the gases of Earth's atmosphere, thus causing ionization, which manifests in optical emissions.

Russia's Institute of Applied Geophysics reported that geomagnetic field disturbance began at about 13:00 GMT on Tuesday.

According to the Laboratory of X-ray Astronomy of the Sun, geomagnetic field variations were surging throughout the day.

Russia's weather forecasting service says the geomagnetic field disturbance is set to continue for two more days.

"The areas with highest probability of [seeing] the aurora borealis are the north of Eurasia, including Scandinavia and the northern part of the Baltic Sea," the forecasters said.

Residents of Moscow and St. Petersburg are likely to see the Northern Lights for a second night.

WATCH: Stunning auroras over Russia.

The previous night unusual polar lighting was easily visible in many cities across the Central Russia, including Arkhangelsk, Bryansk, Ivanovo, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Petrozavodsk, Tula, Vologda and Ekaterinburg, and in neighboring Belarus. - RT.

MASS ANIMAL DIE-OFFS: Disaster Precursors And Warnings From Mother Nature – The Latest Incidents Of Strange Animal Behavior, Migratory Patterns, Attacks, Deaths, And Appearance Of Rare Creatures!

March 19, 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.

Large fish kill and dolphin stranding reported on Outer Banks beaches, North Carolina

Dead dolphin. © Corolla Beach Music

A large number of dead fish and a dead dolphin have washed up on the beaches of the Outer Banks over the past few days.

Locals have reported that the stretch of dead fish runs for approximately three miles in the Corolla area.

The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Division of Water Resources manages fish kill activity in the state.

Environmental Senior Specialist Jill Paxson with the Division of Water Resources says she hasn't seen the fish kill nor gotten reports of it, but says they are typically caused by one of two factors.

One is netting from commercial fishermen who are permitted to discard certain fish that they are not targeting. These fish are then sometimes brought ashore by the winds.

The other common cause is a water quality event with a drop in dissolved oxygen. This can happen after a heavy rain with a lot of sediment or a localized algae bloom.

She says without being there, she couldn't say for sure what would cause this event, but did say that a dolphin also washing up was "interesting."

Jane Kepler, Wildlife Education Specialist with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission first responded to reports of the stranded dolphin around 11:00 a.m. Tuesday.

She says the dolphin was an adult male that was healthy, aside from a chunk taken from its right side. That could have possibly been a shark bite, but it's still unknown whether that happened before or after the dolphin died. A necropsy will be performed to determine an exact cause of death.

The dolphin was a "common dolphin," which is actually a quite uncommon sight for the Outer Banks. Common dolphins are an offshore species that roam in large groups. Most of the dolphins seen in the Outer Banks are Bottlenose dolphins.

Researchers say at this point, there's no way to tell if the fish kill and the dolphin stranding are related or just a coincidence. - WTKR.

Spectacular lost hummingbird rediscovered after 69 years in Colombia

Blue-bearded Helmetcrest was recently split from the other forms of helmetcrest, becoming
a seriously endangered full species. © Carlos Julio Rojas (ProAves)

Conservationists Carlos Julio Rojas and Cristian Vásquez were trekking through the high altitude wetlands of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta when they were stopped in their tracks by a rare and beautiful find.

Given their location in the coastal range home to the "Lost City" (and many yet to be discovered archeological sites), these biologists working at the Reserva Natural de Aves 'El Dorado,' a scientific research station of the ProAves Foundation, managed to capture with a camera the Colibrí Barbudito Azul, or Blue-bearded Helmetcrest.

For bird lovers around the world, the spotting of a Blue-bearded Helmetcrest is important news, as the last time this hummingbird was seen by humans, was back in 1946.

"I saw the flash of a bird screeching past me and it perched on a bush nearby. I managed to take a quick photo of it before it flew off. I then reviewed the photo in the camera and immediately recognized the strikingly-patterned hummingbird as the long-lost Blue-bearded Helmetcrest," explains Cristian.

The habitat of the three birds which were spotted by Rojas and Vásquez, is under threat by forest fires in the world's highest coastal range, the Sierra Nevada, as extensive cattle ranching on high-elevation slopes, involves burning brush and forest to make way for more grassland.

Over the past ten years, expeditions to find the charismatic Blue-bearded Helmetcrest have failed. Last year, the species was pronounced "critically endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and BirdLife International.

Many ornithologists have even considered the Blue Helmetcrest to be extinct. Survival has been made even more difficult for this bird as it feeds on the flowering Santa Marta Frailejon (Libanothamnus occultus) plant, and with the extensive fires in the Sierra - due to a long and dry summer - are now also under threat.

"Sadly the survival of the Blue-bearded Helmetcrest hangs by a thread," states Carlos Julio Rojas. "The impact of brush fire is everywhere, with the charred remains of plants littered across the páramo." For Rojas and Vásquez, it is critical that these man-made threats are stopped and that livestock is removed from the highest elevations of the mountain to allow a fragile páramo, the hummingbird's natural habitat, to recover.

A scientific article detailing the discovery of the Blue-beared Helmetcrest has been published in the journal Conservación Colombiana and is available online at the website. - The City Paper.

Polar bear attacks tent in Norway's Arctic, injures tourist

Arctic campsite.

A Czech tourist suffered minor injuries when a polar bear attacked the tent he was sleeping in on the remote Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, Norwegian authorities said Thursday.

Police spokesman Vidar Arnesen said the man was among a group of six that was on a combined ski and snow scooter trip on the remote islands more than 800 kilometers (500 miles) north of the Norwegian mainland. The group was camping north of the main town of Longyearbyen.

The man, Jakub Moravec, told local media he hoped to be out of the hospital later Thursday.

"Now I am fine. I have some scratches in the face, on one arm and on the back. But I feel fine," he told the Svalbardposten newspaper.

No one else was injured in Thursday's attack.

Another person in the group who slept in a separate tent, Zuzana Hakova, told the newspaper her mother shot three times at the bear, prompting the animal to flee. It was eventually found and killed by authorities.

Moravec and Hakova told Svalbardposten that they also had traveled to Svalbard to see Friday's total solar eclipse.

Lodging on Svalbard has been sold out for years for the eclipse, and visitors are reminded often that polar bears roam. Authorities say that when moving outside of settlements, people must carry firearms.

Moravec said the bear attack hadn't scared him.

"I'd gladly go out to the mountains on Svalbard again," he was quoted as saying. - Townhall.

Wolf attacks a dog in Duluth, Minnesota

A wolf.

Duluth woman has a warning for pet owners after she says her dog was attacked by a wolf.

Maureen Zupancich says her 11-year-old dog Max was attacked Tuesday morning at their home on the Portage Road in Piedmont Heights.

She says the pooch suffered puncture wounds and bruises and had to get stiches and staples.

Zupancich says her husband saw the dog being carried away by the wolf.

WATCH: Duluth dog owner offers warning after wolf attack.

"This animal had picked Max up by the neck, and Max weighs 36 pounds, and carried out of the front yard, across the street and was getting ready to enter the woods," said Zupancich. "At that time when my husband was running down the driveway and screaming at this animal dropped Max on the other side and ran into the woods."

Zupancich says she and her husband have been in touch with both Duluth Police and the Department of Natural Resources about the incident.

She fears the wolf is still on the prowl in the neighborhood.

Our Facebook fans also weighed in the story and some said they've seen wolves and coyotes in other Duluth neighborhoods, but nothing like what Zupancich experienced.

- Northlands News Center.

Bark beetles are decimating our forests which may be a good thing

Into the woods...  ©

They gobble up trees and send politicians into a frenzy. But do the bugs know more about climate change than we do?

There is an eerie feel to this grove of lodgepole pines that I can't quite put my finger on as entomologist Diana Six tromps ahead of me, hatchet in hand, scanning the southwestern Montana woods for her target. But as she digs the blade into a towering trunk, it finally hits me: the smell. There's no scent of pine needles, no sharp, minty note wafting through the brisk fall air.

Six hacks away hunks of bark until she reveals an inner layer riddled with wormy passageways. "Hey, looky!" she exclaims, poking at a small dark form. "Are you dead? Yeah, you're dead." She extends her hand, holding a tiny black oval, maybe a quarter of an inch long. Scientists often compare this insect to a grain of rice, but Six prefers mouse dropping: "Beetle in one hand, mouse turd in another. You can't tell them apart." She turns to the next few trees in search of more traces. Pill-size holes pock their ashen trunks—a sign, along with the missing pine scent, of a forest reeling from an invasion.

These tiny winged beetles have long been culling sickly trees in North American forests. But in recent years, they've been working overtime. Prolonged droughts and shorter winters have spurred bark beetles to kill billions of trees in what's likely the largest forest insect outbreak ever recorded, about 10 times the size of past eruptions. "A doubling would have been remarkable," Six says. "Ten times screams that something is really going wrong."

Mountain pine, spruce, piñon ips, and other kinds of bark beetles have chomped 46 million of the country's 850 million acres of forested land, from the Yukon down the spine of the Rocky Mountains all the way to Mexico. Yellowstone's grizzly bears have run out of pinecones to eat because of the beetles. Skiers and backpackers have watched their brushy green playgrounds fade as trees fall down, sometimes at a rate of 100,000 trunks a day. Real estate agents have seen home prices plummet from "view shed contamination" in areas ransacked by the bugs. And the devastation isn't likely to let up anytime soon. As climate change warms the North American woods, we can expect these bugs to continue to proliferate and thrive in higher elevations—meaning more beetles in the coming century, preying on bigger chunks of the country.


Problem solved. ©

From 2000 to 2014, bark beetles destroyed large swaths of forests in the American West—and they're not done yet.

In hopes of staving off complete catastrophe, the United States Forest Service, which oversees 80 percent of the country's woodlands, has launched a beetle offensive, chopping down trees to prevent future infestations. The USFS believes this strategy reduces trees' competition for resources, allowing the few that remain to better resist invading bugs. This theory just so happens to also benefit loggers, who are more than willing to help thin the forests. Politicians, too, have jumped on board, often on behalf of the timber industry: More than 50 bills introduced since 2001 in Congress proposed increasing timber harvests in part to help deal with beetle outbreaks.

But Six believes that the blitz on the bugs could backfire in a big way. For starters, she says, cutting trees "quite often removes more trees than the beetles would"—effectively outbeetling the beetles. But more importantly, intriguing evidence suggests that the bugs might be on the forest's side. Six and other scientists are beginning to wonder: What if the insects that have wrought this devastation actually know more than we do about adapting to a changing climate?


An adult mountain pine beetle lays her eggs under the bark. On her way, she disperses fungi that turn the trees' tissue into food for her babies, eventually killing the tree.

THOUGH THEY'RE OFTEN described as pesky invaders, bark beetles have been a key part of conifer ecosystems for ages, ensuring that groves don't get overcrowded. When a female mountain pine beetle locates a frail tree, she emits a chemical signal to her friends, who swarm to her by the hundreds. Together they chew through the bark until they reach the phloem, a cushy resinous layer between the outer bark and the sapwood that carries sugars through the tree. There, they lay their eggs in tunnels, and eventually a new generation of beetles hatches, grows up, and flies away. But before they do, the mature beetles also spread a special fungus in the center of the trunk. And that's where things get really interesting.

Six focuses on the "evolutionary marriage" of beetle and fungi at her four-person lab at the University of Montana, where she is the chair of the department of ecosystems and conservation sciences. Structures in bark beetles' mouths have evolved to carry certain types of fungi that convert the tree's tissue into nutrients for the bug. The fungi have "figured out how to hail the beetle that will get them to the center of the tree," Six says. "It's like getting a taxi." The fungi leave blue-gray streaks in the trees they kill; "blue-stain pine" has become a specialty product, used to make everything from cabins to coffins to iPod cases.

A healthy tree can usually beat back invading beetles by deploying chemical defenses and flooding them out with sticky resin. But just as dehydration makes humans weaker, heat and drought impede a tree's ability to fight back—less water means less resin. In some areas of the Rocky Mountain West, the mid-2000s was the driest, hottest stretch in 800 years. From 2000 to 2012, bark beetles killed enough trees to cover the entire state of Colorado. "Insects reflect their environment," explains renowned entomologist Ken Raffa—they serve as a barometer of vast changes taking place in an ecosystem.

Typically, beetle swells subside when they either run out of trees or when long, cold winters freeze them off (though some larvae typically survive, since they produce antifreeze that can keep them safe down to 30 below). But in warm weather the bugs thrive. In 2008, a team of biologists at the University of Colorado observed pine beetles flying and attacking trees in June, a month earlier than previously recorded. With warmer springs, the beetle flight season had doubled, meaning they could mature and lay eggs—and then their babies could mature and lay eggs—all within one summer.

That's not the only big change. Even as the mountain pine beetles run out of lodgepole pines to devour in the United States, in 2011 the insects made their first jump into a new species of tree, the jack pine, in Alberta. "Those trees don't have evolved defenses," Six says, "and they're not fighting back." The ability to invade a new species means the insects could begin a trek east across Canada's boreal forest, then head south into the jack, red, and white pines of Minnesota and the Great Lakes region, and on to the woods of the East Coast. Similarly, last year, the reddish-black spruce beetle infested five times as many acres in Colorado as it did in 2009. And in the last decade, scientists spotted the southern pine beetle north of the Mason-Dixon Line for the first time on record, in New Jersey and later Long Island. As investigative journalist Andrew Nikiforuk put it in his 2011 book on the outbreaks Empire of the Beetle: How Human Folly and a Tiny Bug Are Killing North America's Great Forests, we now belong to the "empire of the beetle."
But Six has a different way of looking at the trees' plight: as a battle for survival, with the army of beetles as a helper. She found compelling evidence of this after stumbling across the work of Forest Service researcher Constance Millar, with whom she had crossed paths at beetle conferences.

Millar was comparing tree core measurements of limber pines, a slight species found in the eastern Sierras of California that can live to be 1,000 years old. After mountain pine beetles ravaged one of her study sites in the late 1980s, certain trees survived. They were all around the same size and age as the surrounding trees that the beetles tore through, so Millar looked closer at tree ring records and began to suspect that, though they looked identical on the outside, the stand in fact had contained two genetically distinct groups of trees. One group had fared well during the 1800s, when the globe was still in the Little Ice Age and average temperatures were cooler. But this group weakened during the warmer 1900s, and grew more slowly as a result. Meanwhile, the second group seemed better suited for the warmer climate, and started to grow faster.

When beetle populations exploded in the 1980s, this second group mounted a much more successful battle against the bugs. After surviving the epidemic, this group of trees "ratcheted forward rapidly," Millar explains. When an outbreak flared up in the mid-2000s, the bugs failed to infiltrate any of the survivor trees in the stand. The beetles had helped pare down the trees that had adapted to the Little Ice Age, leaving behind the ones better suited to hotter weather. Millar found similar patterns in whitebark pines and thinks it's possible that this type of beetle-assisted natural selection is going on in different types of trees all over the country.

When Six read Millar's studies, she was floored. Was it possible, she wondered, that we've been going about beetle management all wrong? "It just hit me," she says. "There is something amazing happening here."


Last year, Six and Eric Biber, a University of California-Berkeley law professor, published a provocative review paper in the journal Forests that challenged the Forest Service's beetle-busting strategies. After scrutinizing every study about beetle control that they could get their hands on, they concluded that "even after millions of dollars and massive efforts, suppression...has never effectively been achieved, and, at best, the rate of mortality of trees was reduced only marginally."

Six points to a stand of lodgepoles in the University of Montana's Lubrecht Experimental Forest. In the early 2000s, school foresters preened the trees, spacing them out at even distances, and hung signs to note how this would prevent beetle outbreaks. This "prethinned" block was "the pride and joy of the experimental forest," Six remembers. But that stand was the first to get hit by encroaching pine beetles, which took out every last tree. She approached the university forest managers. "I said, 'Boy, you need to document that,'" Six says. "They didn't. They just cut it down. Now there's just a field of stumps."

Six and Biber's paper came as a direct affront to some Forest Service researchers, one of whom told me that he believes changing forest structure through thinning is the only long-term solution to the beetle problem. Politicians tend to agree—and beetle suppression sometimes serves as a convenient excuse: "It is perhaps no accident that the beetle treatments most aggressively pushed for in the political landscape allow for logging activities that provide revenue and jobs for the commercial timber industry," Six and Biber wrote in the Forests review.
Take the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act, proposed in 2013 by then-Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) and championed by then-Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont.). The bill sought to designate "Revenue Areas" in every national forest where, to help address insect infestations, loggers would be required to clear a certain number of trees every year. Loggers could gain access to roadless areas, wilderness study areas, and other conservation sites, and once designated, their acreage could never be reduced. The zones would also be excluded from the standard environmental-review process.
Six and other scientists vehemently opposed these massive timber harvests—as did environmental advocates like the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife, the latter warning that the harvests would take logging to "to unprecedented and unstable levels." The bill passed the House but died in the Senate last year. But Daines, now a senator and one of 2014's top 10 recipients of timber money, vows to renew the effort so as to "revitalize Montana's timber industry" and "protect the environment for future generations."
This summer, Six plans to start examining the genes of "supertrees"—those that survive beetle onslaughts—in stands of whitebarks in Montana's Big Hole Valley. Her findings could help inform a new kind of forest management guided by a deeper understanding of tree genes—one that beetles have had for millennia.

If we pay close enough attention, someday we may be able to learn how to think like they do. University of California-Davis plant sciences professor David Neale champions a new discipline called "landscape genomics." At his lab in Davis, Neale operates a machine that grinds up a tree's needles and spits out its DNA code. This technology is already being used for fruit tree breeding and planting, but Neale says it could one day be used in wild forests. "As a person, you can take your DNA and have it analyzed, and they can tell you your relative risk to some disease," Neale says. "I'm proposing to do the same thing with a tree: I can estimate the relative risk to a change in temperature, change in moisture, introduction to a pathogen."

Right now, foresters prune woodlands based on the size of trees' trunks and density of their stands. If we knew more about trees' genetic differences, Neale says, "maybe we would thin the ones that have the highest relative risks." This application is still years off, but Neale has already assembled a group of Forest Service officials who want to learn more about landscape genomics.

Six, meanwhile, places her faith in the beetles. Whereas traditional foresters worry that failing to step in now could destroy America's forests, Six points to nature's resilience. Asked at TEDx how she wants to change the world, she responded, "I don't want to change the world. We have changed the world to a point that it is barely recognizable. I think it's time to stop thinking change and try to hold on to what beauty and function remains." - Mother Jones.

Dog viciously mauls a two-year-old girl in Suwannee, Florida

UF Health in Gainesville.
A two-year-old girl was viciously attacked by a dog on Wednesday, March 18, marring her face and upper body with severe wounds that may require cosmetic surgery, according to reports. The attack happened near the intersection of 177th Rd. and 120th Rd. in Western Suwannee County. The girl, Marina Aldama, was treated by medics at the scene until she was life flighted to UF Health in Gainesville. She was in stable condition when she was transported, according to Public Safety Director James Sommers.

"It was a significant dog attack," said Sommers. "She will probably need cosmetic surgery to reattach everything. Her face, shoulders, upper torso, and back of the head were wounded."

According to a report from the Suwannee County Sheriff's Office, Marina was with her mother in a van with the side door open waiting for her father to get lunch around 1 p.m. on Wednesday. Marina was pulled out of the van and attacked by a dog, the report states. The attack was unprovoked, according to the report.

t is unclear whether Marina was attacked by just the dog who pulled her out of the van or two other dogs who were also found with blood on them at their owner's residence, according to the SCSO report. The dogs were described as "white with brown on them" in the report and officers found blood on one dog's face and neck while two other dogs had blood splatters and streaks on them. Animal control officers made contact with the owner of the dogs regarding the attack.

The dogs were reported to be mixed breed bulldogs.

The report states Marina received a large laceration on her back left shoulder and an unknown extent of injury to the right side of her face.

According to an animal bite investigation report, the owner of the dogs reported that the main dog, a three-year-old female, was vaccinated against rabies and had not bitten anyone before.

The Suwannee Democrat is attempting an interview with a family member of Marina. - Suwannee Democrat.

Security guard attacked by hippo in South Africa

Hippo in water.  © AFP

A security guard at a KwaZulu-Natal game reserve cannot believe that he is still alive after he was attacked by a hippo while on patrol.

Bongani Makhanya said that he had been patrolling near the Paperbark Lodge at the Tala private game reserve just before his shift ended on Thursday morning, when the startled animal attacked him.

"I did not know that there was a hippo sleeping behind a tree when I walked by. My footsteps obviously disturbed the animal. It came straight at me and was after my head but I blocked it with my arm, so it bit that instead," Makhanya said in a TimesLive report.

He said that his screams of pain scared the animal away.

Makhanya said that he ran back to his transport to get help.

Paramedics said that they found Makhanya with a badly crushed right arm, but managed to stabilise him before taking him to hospital. He underwent surgery on his arm on the same day.

"I am so lucky to be alive. Hippos leave nothing behind when they attack. I still cannot believe that I am alive," he said in the report.

Makhanya said that it was the first attack on the reserve, that he knew of, in his 25 years of working there. He though did not blame the animal for the attack, adding that he was looking forward to going back to work as soon as possible.

"I love my job too much. And I love animals. It was not the hippo's fault," he said from his Pietermaritzburg hospital bed. - iAfrica.

Dead gray whale found off Torrey Pines State Beach, California

A backhoe drops a whale carcass into a dump truck on the west side of Fiesta Island at about 3 p.m. Thursday, March 19.  © Thomas Melville

A dead gray whale was found floating in the waters near Torrey Pines State Beach Thursday morning, San Diego Lifeguard officials confirmed.

The young whale -- measuring approximately 15 to 20 feet in length -- was discovered about 250 yards off the shore. Lifeguards confirmed the animal was dead when they reached it just before 10 a.m.

Aerial video showed dozens of birds hovering over the carcass, which was floating belly up in the water.

San Diego Fire-Rescue spokesman Lee Swanson said lifeguards were waiting to see if the whale would drift to the shore before beginning any recovery operations. Swanson said officials were trying to determine if the whale would wash up on a city or state beach in order to then decide who would then be responsible for getting rid of it.

WATCH: Dead whale removed from ocean.

Swanson said lifeguards don't have the equipment to haul it off, so officials would need to hire a contractor for the clean-up.

Marine Safety Lt. James Gartland said there was no threat of the animal washing onto the shore. Ultimately, he said officials decided to tow the whale into Fiesta Island on Mission Bay in an operation that would take several hours.

Gartland said the whale would be towed in by the tail. After that, he said a national marine fisheries team will come out and take samples from the whale in order to determine its cause of death. Once that's complete, a team will dispose of the carcass by hauling it to the city dump.

Gartland said it appears the whale has been floating in the water for weeks, as its carcass is very bleached out. He said the clean-up would be inevitably smelly.

"It's really pungent; it's usually a pretty stinky operation," he explained.

Gartland said the last time a whale was found near a local beach was around this time last year near Sunset Cliffs. - NBC San Diego.

Farmer killed by elephant near Gudalur, India

Asian elephant.
A man was killed by an elephant near Gudalur on Thursday. Forest sources told The Hindu that the animal attacked Baapu Kutty alias Hamza (72),a farmer of Pakkanna, when he came out of his house early morning.

In the darkness, he failed to spot the elephant. People in the vicinity raised an alarm, but he did not hear them.

The elephant pushed him down before moving away.

The pachyderm was seen in the area a few times recently.

Nilgiris Collector P.Sankar handed over a cheque for Rs. three lakhs to the family of the victim. - The Hindu.

Elephant herd tramples man to death in Dhepapalli, India - third fatality in 15 days

Charging elephants.

A herd of elephants trampled Kasi Nath, 70, to death at Dhepapalli, 80 km from here, under Ganjam district's Sorada forest range yesterday.

Patra was going to catch a bus to Sorada when he confronted the wild elephants. He died on the spot, said divisional forest officer (DFO), Ghumusar South, R K Mallick. He said the kin of the deceased would get Rs 3 lakh as compensation in tune with government policy.

The herd also damaged maize crops. This was the third death in the district by elephants in last 15 days. A wild tusker crushed two persons to death at Dolaba, 40 km from here, near Digapahandi on March 4. While one died on the spot, the other succumbed to his injuries at MKCG Medical College and Hospital here the next day.

The DFO said a herd of nine elephants, a tusker, four females and four calves, are moving in Sorada jungles in search of food and water. The herd might have migrated from Lakhari valley elephant reserve, said forest range officer (Sorada) K C Sahu.

Since the herd is camping in the nearby jungle, a 10-member squad to drive away the jumbos has been deployed in the area, Sahu said. Forest officials have asked people through loudspeakers not to venture into the jungle. - The Times of India.

EARTH CHANGES: Monumental Signs Of The Times – The Latest Reports On Extreme Weather Across The Planet For March 19, 2014!

March 19, 2015 - EARTH - The following stories constitutes some of the latest incidents of Earth changes across the globe.

California in severe drought - State approves sweeping water restrictions

California officials approved a package of far-reaching water restrictions Tuesday, limiting homes and businesses in much of the Bay Area and elsewhere to just two days of outdoor watering per week while cracking down on the way restaurants and hotels use water.

The rules mark unprecedented territory for the state, which has historically let local water agencies, with their unique supplies and demands, manage how customers use water. But with California poised for a fourth year of drought and conservation lagging, officials opted for statewide action.

The regulations, carrying fines up to $500, add to restrictions put in place last year that rein in outdoor water use — for example, barring people from hosing down driveways. The new terms tread deeper into homes, businesses and the lives of most Californians, and are indicative of the state's worsening water woes.

"We are not seeing the stepping up and the ringing of alarm bells that the situation warrants," said Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, which voted unanimously for Tuesday's conservation mandates.

The regulations require local water agencies that don't already limit outdoor watering to certain days of the week to adopt a two-day-a-week policy. Among the Bay Area agencies that would have to impose the two-day limit are the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, serving the city's more than 800,000 residents, as well as the Marin Municipal Water District and Contra Costa Water District. Agencies outside San Francisco that buy water from the SFPUC — including on the Peninsula and in parts of the East Bay — are affected only if they do not already impose watering limits.

"We are looking at how to best modify our current outdoor restrictions to comply with the new state order," said Tyrone Jue, spokesman for the San Francisco water agency.

The city now requires residents to reduce watering by 10 percent from their 2013 consumption, though the statute is largely unenforced.

Laundry services

The hospitality industry, meanwhile, faces new requirements for service policies. Restaurants and bars are permitted to serve water only upon request, while hotels must ask multi-night guests whether they want their linen and towels laundered.

Many hotels and restaurants are already in compliance. Galleria Park hotel in downtown San Francisco, for example, not only asks guests if they want daily laundry service, but gives them the option of declining housekeeping altogether.

"When you're at home, realistically, are you washing your sheets and towels on a daily basis?" said Jordan Whitney, guest services supervisor. "It's also nice to know that you're doing something to help the environment, even if it's as simple as not washing sheets."

The new statewide regulation takes effect after a procedural review by a legal team, expected by late April or early May, and will run for a 270-day emergency period. Water board officials, though, said they plan to consider making at least some of the rules permanent.

With most rules being relatively easy — common-sense measures that many Californians already embrace — some water experts were quick to criticize the state for not going further.

'Small potatoes'

"The message they're giving is, 'Oh yeah, it hasn't been raining but let's just save a little water here and there,'" said Sejal Choksi-Chugh, interim executive director of water advocacy group San Francisco Baykeeper. "This is small potatoes in terms of water conservation."

Critics like Choksi-Chugh have pushed for quotas on outdoor water use, which makes up as much as half of residential consumption, as well as requirements that local water agencies use recycled supplies and curb deliveries to parks and golf courses.

Target unmet

Conservation efforts statewide have fallen short of Gov. Jerry Brown's call for 20 percent reductions. Year-over-year water use in California dropped only about 10 percent during the last seven months of 2014, the period tracked by state officials.

While the water board has empowered local water agencies to fine customers for violating state rules, most water departments, including the Bay Area's five largest agencies, have not imposed penalties.

Agency managers have said the threat of fines has been enough to win compliance.

The SFPUC, for example, has contacted 325 customers about water waste, all of whom made changes. The Contra Costa Water District has reached out to 500 customers, the Alameda County Water District to 1,200 customers and the East Bay Municipal Utility District to an even greater number.

Each agency gets its water from different sources, and each is affected differently by the drought.

The state water board said Wednesday it didn't take more severe action because it expects communities with more severe problems to individually step up.

Indeed, many have, with communities like Santa Cruz and the Tri-Valley responding to local shortages with some of the state's biggest water restrictions — and hefty fines for violators.

"We see this new regulation as a floor, not a ceiling," said Max Gomberg, senior environmental scientist for the state water board.

New water rules

The State Water Resources Control Board last year prohibited people from spraying down sidewalks, driveways and patios, watering lawns or gardens to the point of causing runoff, washing cars without a shutoff nozzle and using drinking water in ornamental fountains. New rules adopted Tuesday go a step further.

Restaurants and bars prohibited from serving water without a customer request.

Hotels and motels required to offer guests the option of not having towels and linens laundered daily.

Water agencies required to inform customers when leaks are detected on customer property.

Water agencies that don't already limit outdoor watering to certain days of the week are required to restrict customers' outdoor watering to two days a week.

Homes and businesses prohibited from watering when it's raining or within two days of rain.

- San Francisco Chronicle.

Car explodes after freak lightning strike ignites nearby gas mains in Canberra, Australia

The car was hit by lightning above a gas rupture on Dryandra Street, O'Connor.  © Sarah Groube

A man has escaped serious injury after his car burst into flames following a freak lightning strike near a gas main in Canberra's north.

The fire began after lightning struck on Dryandra Street in Canberra's north during a short thunderstorm over the ACT about 8:00am.

Shortly after the lightning strike a car on the street burst into flames.

Firefighter Danny Brighenti said crews at the scene were initially puzzled by the blaze, which kept reigniting.

"They believed there was a ruptured fuel tank which was causing the car to reignite," he said.

He said on closer inspection, once the fire died down, it was revealed a gas main had ruptured near the car.

Nearby resident Sarah Groubes: "As we turned around the corner onto Dryandra Street we just saw this fireball on the side of the road."

Commander Brighenti said the cause of the gas leak was unclear.

He said scenarios in which cars were struck by lightning were rare, and it was possible a tree nearby was actually struck.

He said it was also unclear whether the car that caught fire was parked or moving along the road at the time of the lightning strike.

"On arrival the person had got out of the vehicle, but the car was heavily involved in fire with the surrounding trees and bushes," Commander Brighenti said.

"They're not injured ... but the car is totally destroyed."

A mountain bike and an iPhone inside the car were also destroyed.

'It was pretty crazy'

Crews worked to extinguish the blaze, which continued to reignite for more than two hours due to a gas leak about 70cm underground.

Contractors were called in to shut down the gas leak and an exclusion zone was set up around the blaze.

By 11:20am the leak was isolated and fire crews were able to leave the scene.

The charred remains of a car burnt out following lightning on
Dryandra Street in O'Connor.  © ABC News: Ruby Cornish

The charred remains of a car burnt out following lightning on Dryandra Street in O'Connor.

Nearby resident Sarah Groubes said she was getting ready for work this morning when she heard an "almighty lightning crash" over her house.

As she drove to work shortly afterwards, she came across the burning car.

"As we turned around the corner onto Dryandra Street we just saw this fireball on the side of the road," Ms Groubes said.

"It wasn't long before we realised there was a car immersed in flames.

"It was pretty crazy... I've been in that street on and off for about 40 years and I'd never seen any lighting strike quite so close. We do have a lot of tall trees in the area."

Gas contractors remained at the scene to repair the leak.

There were no reports of injuries. - ABC.

As snowfall records are set, ferry becomes stuck in sea ice off Nova Scotia

he MV Highlanders pictured from a Canadian Coast Guard vessel in Cabot Strait on March 17, 2015.  © Twitter/@MAFerries

While the all-time snowfall record in Boston may have received most of the media attention in the U.S., Canada has had its fair share of unusually severe winter weather this season as well.

Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland have been slammed by back-to-back-to-back-to-back (you get the point) severe winter storms, producing a broad area of sea ice cover and mountainous snowbanks along the streets of cities such as Charlottetown and Saint John. A Marine Atlantic passenger ferry with 190 people aboard was stuck in pack ice off Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, on Tuesday, with Canadian Coast Guard ships trying to free the vessel. According to the Canadian Press, the MV Highlanders ran into heavy ice on Monday night, after leaving North Sydney, Nova Scotia, for Port aux Basques, Newfoundland.
#CCG Louis S St-Laurent assisting MV Highlanders and Blue Puttees in Cabot Strait. Slow progress in very thick #ice.

— DFO_NL (@DFO_NL) March 17, 2015

WATCH: MV Highlander stuck in the ice.

In a statement to passengers, Marine Atlantic warned of travel delays.

"Marine Atlantic advises customers that due to severe ice conditions in the Cabot Strait, customers may experience an extended crossing time causing a potential impact on our schedule. Over the next 48 hours we ask passengers to please keep in contact for further updates," the ferry company said.
Wow ice as far as you see today. Take care @MAferries, keep up great work Captains!

— Tara Laing (@T_Laing) March 17, 2015
The ice is visible from space, with a NASA satellite showing a solid ice cover surrounding portions of the Canadian Maritimes. While sea ice is not unusual in this region for this time of the year, the extent and thickness of the ice is noteworthy.

The ice was formed in part from a series of winter storms that have relentlessly struck the Maritimes into March.

Sea ice (outlined with blue arrows) off the coast of Nova Scotia on March 17, 2015. © NASA MODIS

As meteorologist Bob Henson reports for Weather Underground, the same storm that pushed Boston over the top to its snowiest winter on record this weekend dumped nearly two feet of snow in Charlottetown.

The city's seasonal total snowfall this winter is 182 inches, or about 15 feet, which is about twice that seen in Boston. The city's previous record, Henson writes, was 177.7 inches, set just last year.

St. John in New Brunswick saw 170 inches of snow pile up so far this winter, beating the all-time seasonal total of 167 inches set in 1962-63. More snow may still fall in these areas this week and into mid-March, as the cold and stormy weather pattern across the East continues.

In Boston, a comparatively paltry 108.6 inches has fallen so far this winter. - Mashable.

Lightning kills six at cricket match in Orissa village in India

Mukhtar’s mother mourns his death. (Source: Express photo) 

When 14-year-old Sheikh Mukhtar left home to play cricket on Wednesday afternoon, little did his widowed mother realise that he would never return.

Mukhtar was the youngest among six killed in a lightning strike around 3 pm in the Jaripada panchayat area of Orissa’s Khurda district. He and his teammates Bibhuti Parida(19), Rahul Nayak(15), Ajit Behera(15), Shahrukh Khan (20), Santosh Pradhan (15) had taken shelter in a building to escape a sudden hailstorm. “All of them died on the spot either due to massive cardiac arrest or shock. At least two sustained major burn injuries,” said Dr S N Mishra, who certified them dead.

The condition of another teenager Bhubaneswar Mohapatra(17), now shifted to a hospital in Bhubaneswar, was described by Mishra as critical.

All the deceased hailed from Baunsamula-Jhunapada village of Jaripada grampanchayat.

Of the 10 injured in the strike, 7 were initially treated at Khurda Community Health Centre and 3 at Capital Hospital, Bhubaneswar. However, all of them were later shifted to Bhubaneswar. Doctors said they are out of danger.

Chief minister Naveen Patnaik announced ex-gratia of Rs 1.5 lakh for each of the deceased and free treatment for the injured.

Villagers said 22 teenagers were about to play the final match of a tournament when the hailstorm struck.

A villager Prashant Nayak said: “As they raced off to the half-constructed building of my brother to escape the hailstorm, the lightning started. The first bolt spared them. But the second proved deadly. There was no roof and they had clung to each other leaning against the wall. By the time I reached, 6 had died and the rest had passed out”.

As the bodies were carried from the community health centre after postmortem, a pall of gloom fell over Baunsamula-Jhunapada village, mostly populated by daily labourers.Mukhtar’s widowed mother Kauben Bewa frequently passed out. “My elder son pulled a trolley so that Mukhtar could study. He was expecting a first class in Matric. For whom do I live now,” she said. - Indian Express.

Magnitude 6.2 Earthquake Strikes Ocean Off Central Chile


A Magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck the ocean west of Conception, Chile.

The tremor struck at 11:27 a.m. Pacific time along the Nazaca Plate. An initial report suggests it hit at a depth of 10 kilometers.

The region is an intersection with the “Panama fracture zone” according to the USGS. “The convergence associated with this subduction process is responsible for the uplift of the Andes Mountains, and for the active volcanic chain present along much of this deformation front.”

It wasn’t immediately clear if any injuries or damage was sustained. - CBS.

Lightning kills 6 construction workers in South Africa
Six construction workers are dead after being struck by lightning on the N8 outside Botshabelo near Bloemfontein on Wednesday, said paramedics.

Five others were injured, said ER24 spokesman Chitra Bodasing.

The men, between the ages of 20 and 40, took refuge under a structure when it began to rain and the lightning struck.

“ER24 paramedics and other services arrived on scene and found the patients lying in and around the structure,” said Bodasing.

The six were declared dead on the scene while the five sustained minor injuries.

They were treated on scene before being transported to a local hospital for further treatment.

On Tuesday, a Grade 11 pupil from Hoër Tegniese Skool (HTS) died after also being struck by lightning.

Francois Clarence, who was a first team hockey player was reportedly playing against a team from Potchefstroom when the storm struck without warning on Tuesday afternoon, a Sapa correspondent reported.

“The teachers told the players to run to the school cafeteria, which was 200 metres away. While he was running across the rugby field, Francois was struck by lightning,” said Emalahleni police spokesman Captain Eddie Hall.

“From the reports it looks like he was hit directly by the lightning, as his clothes were burnt. The lightning didn't strike the ground first.”

Paramedics were immediately called to the scene and tried to resuscitate Clarence, whose heart had stopped beating.

They got a faint pulse and he was rushed to intensive care at Life Cosmos Hospital.Family, fellow pupils, and community members held a prayer session at the hospital but he died late on Tuesday night. - IOL.

First day of Spring brings blanket of snow to Northern Virginia, Massachusetts

© Accuweather/junebugAdd caption

A storm spreading rain across the South this week will take a northward jog and spread snow to part of the Interstate-95 and I-81 corridors of the Northeast on Friday.

Spring officially arrives on Friday, March 20, at 6:45 p.m. EDT, but Old Man Winter may have the last laugh.

Colder air will invade the Northeast during the middle days of the week, and the atmosphere is likely to remain just cold enough for some wet snow before the week draws to a close.

Despite the colder air, temperatures will be marginal for the storm with a close call between rain and snow along the I-95 corridor in the mid-Atlantic, Long Island and along the southern coast of New England. Much of the snow that falls in this area may melt on roads. However, there will be some exceptions.

A wintry mix of rain and snow is most likely in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Wilmington, Delaware, and Trenton, New Jersey. The storm is likely to impact travel in this area, including the potential for flight delays due to poor visibility and deicing operations. Motorists and pedestrians should be prepared for delays on Friday.

Areas farther north such as Harrisburg, Allentown and Scranton, Pennsylvania; New York City and White Plains, New York; Hartford, Connecticut; and Boston are likely to be cold enough for all or mostly snow. Airline delays due to deicing and poor visibility are likely in the New York City area and perhaps as far north as Boston. Most areas within this swath will receive 1-3 inches of snow with the greatest amount on non-paved surfaces.

Since paved surfaces absorb a considerable amount of warmth from the sun this time of the year, it would have to snow hard to make roads slippery during the daylight hours. However, even a light to moderate snow falling at night or early in the morning can be enough to make roads slushy. Motorists should be on the lookout for slippery roads in the suburbs, as well as bridges and overpasses of the major cities.

A pocket of moderate snowfall, on the order of 3-6 inches is possible in parts of northern Virginia, northeastern West Virginia, western Maryland and south-central Pennsylvania, where several inches can accumulate. The snow will also begin late Thursday night to early Friday morning in much of this zone, when roads are at their lowest temperature.

A second pocket of moderate snow could develop in part of northeastern Pennsylvania to northern New Jersey, part of southeastern New York state and western Connecticut but this will tend to occur during the middle of the day.

Winds will generally be light with the storm over the interior. However enough of an onshore breeze combined with high astronomical tides could result in minor incidents of coastal flooding from southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina to southern New England.

On a positive note, the storm on Friday into Saturday could be very photogenic. The wet nature of the snow could cling to tree limbs and surround early spring flowers that have begun to bloom.

The snow is not likely to be heavy enough to weigh down a great number tree limbs, so that any power outages would be very sporadic.

Additional waves of cold air forecast to move in through the first part of April could lead to additional opportunities for late-season snow in the region.

As a another storm system slices to the east from the Great Lakes on Saturday, there could be a second chance at snow in New England and upstate New York, which are likely going to be missed by the first round of snow from Friday. - Accuweather.

MASS BIRD DIE-OFFS: The Plague Of Avian Cholera - Thousands Of Snow Geese Fall Dead From The Sky In Idaho?!

This Nov 3, 1996 file photo shows thousands of snow geese descending on a harvested soybean field near Letcher, S.D. The South Dakota Game, Fish and
Parks Commission is taking steps to reduce the goose population in the state, which is well over the state's objectives. The commissioners met
Tuesday, July 8, 2014, in Fort Pierre to set hunting quotas for most geese seasons. (AP Photo/Argus Leader, Greg Latza, File)

March 19, 2015 - IDAHO, UNITED STATES
- Avian cholera is suspected in the deaths of at least 2,000 snow geese that fell dead from the sky in Idaho while migrating to nesting grounds on the northern coast of Alaska, wildlife managers said Monday.

Dozens of Idaho Department of Fish and Game workers and volunteers at the weekend retrieved and incinerated carcasses of snow geese found near bodies of water and a wildlife management area in the eastern part of the state, said agency spokesman Gregg Losinski.

Avian cholera is believed to be the culprit in the deaths mostly because of the way the birds died, he said.

"Basically, they just fell out of the sky," said Losinski.

He said biologists were awaiting results from a state wildlife lab to confirm the birds died of the highly contagious disease, which is caused by bacteria that can survive in soil and water for up to four months.

Humans face a small risk of contracting the disease but the more immediate threat is to wildlife in the vicinity of contaminated carcasses, Losinski said.

About 20 bald eagles were seen near areas where snow geese carcasses littered the ground but a lengthy incubation period makes it unclear if the eagles were infected and would carry the ailment elsewhere, said Losinski.

It was not known where the snow geese - named for their white plumage and for breeding in the far northern corners of Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Siberia - contracted avian cholera during a migration that saw them wing north from wintering grounds in the American Southwest and Mexico, he said.

Outbreaks like the one found affecting the migrating snow geese in Idaho occur periodically in the United States and elsewhere, Losinski said.

Avian cholera is the most important infectious disease affecting wild waterfowl in North America, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.  - Yahoo.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Collapsing Magnetosphere And Magnetic Polar Migration - Severe Geomagnetic Storm Lights Up New Zealand's Sky!

© Liz Carlson

March 19, 2015 - NEW ZEALAND
A severe geomagnetic storm has whipped through Earth's magnetosphere, putting on a light show at both ends of the earth.

The storm, which began on Tuesday, is among the strongest in the current 11-year solar cycle, earning a rating of a "severe" G4 on a one-to-five scale, which means it had the potential to affect power grids, high-frequency communications and satellite operations.

Interestingly, there was no radiation storm, which typically accompanies geomagnetic storms of this magnitude. Therefore, NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center was not expecting disruption to satellite electronics or polar-routed aviation.

But the changes in density in the ionosphere - the very high levels of Earth's atmosphere - could cause more drag on low-orbit satellites, which operators may have to adjust for with thrusters. Simple GPS technology, like the kind in your car or on your smartphone, could be affected in the form of difficulties locating your position.

The Aurora Australis, or Southern Lights, in the sky at Himatangi Beach on Tuesday night, March 17. © Stephen Chadwick

The solar wind was not particularly fast, but it was potent enough to cause the severe geomagnetic storm, according to Joe Kunches, director of space weather services at Atmospheric and Space Technology Associates.
Quick & Dirty all sky timelapse of last night's Aurora Australis over Dunedin. #Dunedin #aurora

— Ian Griffin (@iangriffin) March 17, 2015
Happy Saint Patrick's Day! Green from space. We have @Space_Station aurora views:

No items found.

— NASA (@NASA) March 17, 2015
Rendering 300 frames takes a while doesn't it! Meanwhile, here's another still from last night. #Dunedin #aurora

— Ian Griffin (@iangriffin) March 17, 2015
There's a stunning aurora over Crowborough, East Sussex tonight. The view from the Wetherspoons car park is magical.

— Nick Harvey (@mrnickharvey) March 17, 2015
Solar storm smacks Earth, pushes northern lights — so more people can enjoy colorful sky show

— CBS News (@CBSNews) March 17, 2015
The storm's strength came as somewhat of a surprise to forecasters and was probably caused by the combination of two coronal mass ejections from an active sunspot region, forecasters at the prediction centre said.

Space weather models predicted just a "glancing blow" from these ejections, which instead have caused a stronger disruption here on Earth, and vivid auroras.

Sunspots full of high magnetic energy frequently explode and send plumes of radiation called solar flares into space. When these flares and the super-heated plasma that can accompany them interact with Earth's magnetic field, radioactive energy sometimes makes it into the Earth's upper atmosphere.

These particles can interfere with radio communications and global positioning systems, and when strong enough, they can even harm the electrical grid. But they do have at least one positive effect: The impact of the particles with the upper atmosphere creates a beautiful glow that we know as the northern lights.

Because the Earth's magnetic field funnels charged particles from these solar storms towards its poles, polar regions are much more likely to be affected by them. That's why the auroras are most frequently seen at the poles and rarely make it to North America, as they have this week.

Solar cycles are periodic changes in the sun's activity, including the number of sunspots and solar flares, that have an average duration of about 11 years. They are marked by solar maximums and minimums. The sun is currently close to the solar maximum of this cycle, which began on January 4, 2008, and likely peaked in April 2014.

The Space Weather Prediction Center, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, ranks the intensity of geomagnetic storms on a G-scale of one to five, with five being the strongest. According to the centre, on average around 100 G4-magnitude storms occur every solar cycle. This is the first G4 storm since the fall of 2013. There hasn't been a G5 storm - the strongest on the scale - since August 2005.

The current storm is in season, so to speak, since they are most common around the equinoxes.

Research as to why solar storms are more common and severe around the equinoxes is still ongoing, but it most likely has to do with the way the Earth's position relative to the sun changes. The Earth's orientation changes what parts of its magnetic field are interacting with the sun's, making those interactions more volatile.

North Island Aurora

Central North Island residents were seeing pink as the Southern Lights, or Aurora Australis, lit up the sky.

The Aurora Australis is usually only visible in southern New Zealand but was clear in the skies over Himatangi Beach in the Manawatu when resident Steve Chadwick snapped some pictures before midnight.

Chadwick, who teaches astronomy and philosophy at Massey University and dabbles in astrophotography, said he was out taking pictures from about 9pm.

"You need a dark sky away from the city lights and you have to be able to have a long exposure," he said.

"At this latitude they're a lot fainter than in the pictures but at best you could see faint red."

As someone who's lived in the Manawatu for most of his life, this was only the second time he'd ever seen the lights so it was a special moment, he said.

Travel blogger Liz Carlson captured the stunning sky from Wanaka. "Last night you could see beams of light dancing over the mountains around Wanaka and you had every colour visible, red, yellow, pink purple and green. It was pretty spectacular to see. This was shot with a 15 second exposure from Eely Point looking over Lake Wanaka around 11pm."

Palmerston North Astronomical Society president Jeremy Moss said the colourful light phenomena was caused by charged particles, like protons, neutrons, ions and electrons, being released from the sun and hitting the Earth's atmosphere.

"The closer you are to the pole, so north and south, the more likely you are to see it," he said.

"We don't see it very often in the north of New Zealand unless there's some pretty serious solar activity going on so we were pretty lucky last night."

He said the lights were reasonably common in Southland and they usually didn't last for more than several minutes. - Stuff.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Sinkholes And Landslides Keep Popping Up Across The Globe - More Giant Craters Spotted In Russia's Far North; Thousands Of Sinkholes Open Up As The Dead Sea Shrivels; 200-Pound Ice Boulder Crashes Through Roof In Wilmington, Massachusetts, In The United States; Large Sinkhole In Cranberry, British Columbia, Canada; Sinkholes Open Up In Texas, Arizona, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Virginia In The United States!

March 19, 2015 - EARTH - Here are several of the latest reports of sinkholes and landslides across the globe as monumental planetary transformations continue.

More giant craters spotted in Russia's far north

A general view taken on August 25, 2014, shows a crater on the Yamal Peninsula, northern Siberia (AFP Photo/Vasily Bogoyavlensky)

Russian scientists have now discovered seven giant craters in remote Siberia, a geologist told AFP on Thursday, adding that the mysterious phenomenon was believed to be linked to climate change.

The discovery of an enormous chasm in a far northern region known to locals as "the end of the world" in July last year prompted speculation it had been caused by a meteorite or even aliens.

A YouTube video of the hole went viral and a group of scientists was despatched to investigate.

"We have just learnt that in Yakutia, new information has emerged about a giant crater one kilometre (0.6 miles) in diameter," the deputy director of the Oil and Gas Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vasily Bogoyavlensky, told AFP.

He said this brought to seven the number of reported pits.

"Footage allows us to identify minimum seven craters, but in fact there are plenty more," he said.

All of the craters have been discovered in the remote energy-rich Yamalo-Nenetsky region in north-western Siberia.

Scientists say that rather than aliens or meteorites, the holes are caused by the melting of underground ice in the permafrost, which has possibly been sped up by rising temperatures due to global warming.

"The phenomenon is similar to the eruption of a volcano," said Bogoyavlensky.

As the ice melts, methane gas is released which builds up pressure until an explosion takes place, leading to the formation of a crater.

An aerial view taken on August 25, 2014, shows a crater on the Yamal Peninsula, northern Siberia (AFP Photo/Vasily Bogoyavlensky)

The scientists are still trying to estimate what danger, if any, is posed by the holes. Methane is extremely flammable and at least one of the craters is situated near an exploited gas deposit.

An expedition is planned to the latest crater discovered to determine if it was formed in the same manner.

It may be hard to identify other craters which may have formed into lakes over time, said Bogoyavlensky.

"When they appear the craters are empty, and little by little they fill up with water. In the space of two or three years they become lakes and it is difficult to study them."He said some may have formed dozens or hundreds of years ago, but went unnoticed in such remote regions of the planet. - Yahoo.

10-foot deep sinkhole closes streets in Tucson, Arizona


A massive sinkhole shut down part of a street in midtown Tucson, and it could take weeks to fix.

The 10 foot deep hole was caused by a ruptured water line near the intersection of Swan Road and Glenn Street. Tucson Water has closed off the block of Glenn Street between Swan and Tornio.

Fernando Molina with Tucson Water says the burst pipe brought recycled water to about 15 schools and businesses. Molina says the water was used for irrigation purposes, and they have had issues with that pipe before.

"We're not exactly sure what the problem is. We don't know if it's the soils that are just very aggressive and are causing the pipes to deteriorate," Molina said.

For now, Molina says the impacted businesses are getting water from another pipeline.

WATCH: Sinkhole shuts down street on midtown Tucson.

- JRN.

Huge sinkholes open up as the Dead Sea shrivels

Thousands of sinkholes are taking over the Dead Sea.

 There are more than 3,000 sinkholes on the banks of the Dead Sea -- and they're multiplying exponentially, according to environmentalists, as the body of water dries up.

"It's nature's revenge," said Gidon Bromberg, the Israeli Director at EcoPeace Middle East, an organization that brings together Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli environmentalists to protect their shared environmental heritage.

"These sinkholes are a direct result of the inappropriate mismanagement of water resources in the region."

More than 1,400 feet below sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest point on land. The first sinkhole was spotted in the 1980s. By 1990, there were 40, and 15 years later new chasms are breaking open every day.

"They could develop overnight. Or over time," Bromberg said. "Making them unpredictable. And very dangerous."
With salinity levels ten times that of the Atlantic Ocean, the Dead Sea is evaporating at a rate of nearly four feet per year and large salt pockets are left behind as the water recedes. As ground water dissolves the salt, washing it back into the Dead Sea, empty cavities develop creating massive sink holes.

Bromberg explained that sinkholes develop in clusters, collapsing into each other and creating even larger craters.

"The big fear is that overnight, the road will collapse," Bromberg said of Route 90, which runs along the Dead Sea.

A portion of Route 90 was closed for repairs this week after parts of the road sank some two inches.

Bromberg said the only way to halt the opening of these chasms is to "stabilize" the Dead Sea.

The Dead Sea relies on the fresh water of the Jordan River -- but only about 5 percent of the historic flow is currently flowing into the Dead Sea.

Bromberg's organization argues that 30 percent of the historic flow would at least be a step in the right direction.

"If nothing is done, it's only a matter of time until someone dies," he said.

Thousands of sinkholes are taking over the Dead Sea.

- ABC.

Sinkhole swallows several cars in succession in Corpus Christi, Texas

Tuesday morning sinkhole, one vehicle is being swallowed up by sinkhole. © Guy Gates

City crews are currently at the site of the sinkhole on South Alameda and Chase Drive. City officials say the water main break was the cause of the sinkhole, the pipe that broke was a cast iron pipe build in 1955.

Crews are expected to be there all day repairing the water main.

They plan to put a patch over the hole until city street crews can repair the damage.

Early Tuesday morning residents on South Alameda and Chase Drive got a rude awakening when they heard the sounds of a vehicle in distress.

One resident says they were woken around 4:15 a.m when they heard a loud noise. When the resident went outside he saw the car was stuck in a giant sink hole. Witnesses say a second car became the next victim to the sink hole around 4:45 a.m blowing out its tires. A third vehicle joined shortly after.

They are reporting that water is filling the street and sinkhole, as seen in the picture. The driver of the SUV submerged in the sinkhole was successfully pulled out of the vehicle.

WATCH: Corpus Christi city maintenance officials investigate sinkhole.

Until police arrived residents were outside trying to warn ongoing traffic of the danger that lies ahead.

A caller told us that there are no street lights in the area of the sinkhole making it very hard to see, and that he believes road work was being done the day before. He says had seen cones on the street in the area the sink hole now is.

The vehicles were towed from the scene of the accident around 6:30 a.m. No major injuries were reported just some damage to the vehicles. The female driver of the SUV that was submerged was taken to the hospital for minor injuries.

The city expects the outside lane of Alameda from Sheridan to Chase to be closed for the next few days. - KRIS.

Car-sized sinkhole shuts down street in Franklin County, Ohio

A large sinkhole in Franklin County has closed down a stretch of road in West Frankfort. The sinkhole formed on Saturday on West 6th Street between Horn and Taft streets.

"We know it's about the size of a Volkswagen," said West Frankfort Sewer Superintendent Charles Hubble. "It's a sinkhole. We've gotten a hole in our water line and it's been pulling in debris from the road."

The pit is about 10 feet deep and 10 feet wide, with room to grow.

"It is a dangerous thing," explained Hubble.

He says sinkholes of that size are not uncommon, especially during the spring when recent rain and snow can cause problems for city streets.

"It takes years or months for this to happen," said Hubble. "The bad thing is someone could be driving through and they fall through. That is a heck of a cavity."

Hubble says the problem needs to be fixed immediately. Crews plan to fill the hole on Tuesday.

"We are going to set up a pump and bypass this and maybe get construction in tomorrow," explained Hubble. - WSIL.

200-pound ice boulder crashes through apartment roof in Wilmington, Massachusetts

 A huge chunk of ice crashed through the roof of a Wilmington Apartment building on Sunday. Luckily nobody was hurt.

The ice boulder weighing about 200 pounds landed in the back stairwell of the Avalon Oaks Apartments. Residents who were home when it happened say they heard a huge 'bang' when the ice came crashing through the ceiling.

"It was like this big," Kathleen Trowbridge said, holding her arms the width of her doorway, "and it just came through solid. It didn't break up." She then called 911.

© Wilmington Police Department

© Wilmington Police Department

Wilmington Police say the giant ice block fell from the highest part of the apartment building's roof, crashing onto a lower roof and through the back stairwell, leaving a gaping hole.

"Luckily nobody was there," a male resident said. "That was the most important thing. If somebody had been hit by that, they'd probably be dead."

Residents say that maintenance crews did shovel off the roof from past storms, but the ice buildup did not go away. Some are still concerned.

"If it's going to happen here, is going to happen in the front?" Trowbridge questioned. "There's icicles up there."

"I'm just very disappointed and very nervous for my health, for my kids' health," another resident voiced.

Firefighters evacuated the apartments for a short time, before allowing residents back into their homes. - CBS.

City crews scramble to repair large sinkhole in Cranberry, BC

A large sinkhole has appeared near the intersection of 3rd Street South and 20th Avenue South. © Gerry Frederick

Public Works water crews were expecting to have the water back on to approximately half the 100 residences affected by numerous water main breaks across Cranbrook by 7 pm Sunday tonight.

Four full water crews and machinery will continue through the evening to restore water service after a failure in a pressure reducing station overnight Saturday which caused 8 separate water main breaks across the City and a serious sinkhole.

Crews will be moving up to a break at 5th Avenue and 12th Street South as well as working on three separate breaks on 3rd Street South and 20th Avenue near the large sinkholes created near the former Muriel Baxter School site. Officials are expecting that water service will be restored to all affected residents by midnight tonight.

Residents are reminded that as the water service is restored and the water turned back on, you could experience dirty or discoloured water. This is due to the water pressure stirring up sediment in the water lines. The discoloured water is not a health concern. Simply run your cold water tap until the water runs clear.

The City of Cranbrook apologizes for any inconvenience this has caused and appreciates the patience of all the residents affected. Crews continue to work hard to restore water service to all the affected residents as soon as possible. - Daily Townsman.

Dayton, Ohio women wakes to find sinkhole next to garage

© WHIO/Michael Franz

A woman woke up early this morning to find a large sinkhole had opened up next to her garage in Dayton.

A neighbor first spotted the hole - which is about three feet deep and four feet across - in an alley between Hodapp and Wilfred avenues.

Kathy Harris says she called the city water and street crews right away, and they responded and covered the area with grates.

"They were nice enough to help me get my car out of the garage because I didn't know how I was going to do anything," she said.

Crews ran a camera into the hole to determine whether it might have been caused by recent rain or a pipe that runs under the garage and to the house.

They plan to start making repairs around 8 a.m. tomorrow. - WHIO.

Another sinkhole appears in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

A sinkhole closed South 15th Street, between Swatara and Drummond streets, in Harrisburg's South Allison Hill neighborhood on Tuesday night.
© Eric Veronikis/Pennlive

A large sinkhole closed South 15th Street, between Drummond and Swatara streets, in the city's South Allison Hill neighborhood on Tuesday night.

It wasn't immediately clear when or why the sinkhole, just north of Swatara Street, opened. But a Capital Region Water crew was at the scene assessing the cause as of 6 p.m.

Crews hope to pinpoint whether a water leak exists in the area, repair it and refill the hole, which appears to be about 3 feet deep, as soon as possible, said Andrew Bliss, spokesman for the water company.

Bliss could not immediately say when he expects the road to reopen. - Pennlive.

HALF-MILE stretch of road in Sandusky, Ohio road closed due to sinkholes

An emerging sinkhole on McIntyre Road near Edison High School forced local officials to shut down a portion of the corridor until further notice.

On Tuesday, after finding a depression caving several inches deep into the pavement, Milan Township officials closed a half-mile stretch of roadway.

Among the areas where a worker blocked off the road to all traffic, including emergency vehicles:

- Heading south, turning off Ohio 113: Vehicles can travel on McIntyre Road up until a driveway leading to a private residence.

- Heading north, turning off Seminary Road: Vehicles can only access a small portion of McIntyre Road.

No homes, businesses or points of interest are located within the barricaded area.

"We're not too sure how it happened," township road employee Dave Fox said. "We can't fill it like a pothole. We have really never dealt with anything (in the Milan area) like this before. If a car hit that spot just right, it would tear up the undercarriage and could possibly cause the vehicle to crash."

© Register/Andy Ouriel

© Register/Andy Ouriel

© Register/Andy Ouriel

Two possible reasons for the sinkhole, as surmised by Fox:

- Earlier this month, a semitrailer driver jackknifed the vehicle on the road, potentially causing damage and maybe leading to the sinkhole's appearance. Nobody was hurt in the crash.

- Over the years, the road — littered with many cracks, potholes and other deficiencies — has deteriorated. Mix the road's decreasing condition with fluctuating weather patterns, and a sinkhole is likely to pop up — or pop down, in this case.

Milan Township trustees plan to address the sinkhole during their normally scheduled meeting tonight.

"We are going to make an assessment and a decision on what to do then," township trustee Dan Frederick said. - Sandusky Register.

Lebanon, Pennsylvania backyard sinkhole reveals mysterious room

A sinkhole has unearthed a mystery in Lebanon.

From above, the sinkhole looks about 10 feet long, four feet wide, and about seven feet deep, but look down inside and you will find there is much more. Stone walls make what appears to be some type of circular room with metal beams supporting a metal ceiling.

"I thought 'oh, my God.' I did not know what to think," Sandra Norton said.

Norton lives at the home in the 100 block of Canal Street with her granddaughter, Ashley Norton. She discovered the hole Saturday afternoon when she let the dogs out in the backyard.



Since then, the family has learned a little bit about the history of the property.

"There was an auto body shop in 1925, but in 1875 there was a brick manufacturing," she said.

Norton says her granddaughter has reached out to a contractor to see how much it will cost to fill in the hole. She also hopes to learn more about the property with the help of the Lebanon County Historical Society.

WATCH: Backyard sinkhole reveals mysterious room.

- ABC27.

One mile of road closed due to large sinkhole in Oakfield Township, Michigan

A section of a road west of Greenville will remain closed until mid-summer after a pipe collapsed and caused a large sinkhole.

Podunk Avenue was shut down between 13 Mile Road and 14 Mile Road over Wabasis Creek in Oakfield Township Friday after this sinkhole appeared, according to Jerry Byrne, who is the Kent County Road Commission's deputy managing director of operations.

Byrne told 24 Hour News 8 a large, corrugated metal pipe rusted through and collapsed. It will be replaced by a concrete culvert, which should last longer than the metal pipe.

The section of Podunk Avenue will remain closed until mid-summer because the Kent County Road Commission needs permits from the Department of Environmental Quality. They also have to wait for water levels on Wabasis Creek to recede, Byrne said.

The collapsed culvert was inspected with in the last few years, Byrne said, however - while some issues were noted - inspectors did not expect it to collapse. - WOODTV.

Sinkhole plagues motorists in museum district of Richmond, Virginia


Here is a heads up for bikers and drivers traveling along North Belmont Avenue in the city. There are bright orange cones and barrels are surrounding a sinkhole.

Neighbor Judy Dart did not realize how bad it was until Sunday when she spotted a biker stopped in the area.

She went over because she thought he had been hurt.

"He said he was putting a cone there because there was a big hole, so I went over to see" Dart explained.

That's why she contacted the city.

Dart says like that biker, her husband also placed cones around the sinkhole to alert others.

"My concern is traffic coming down the street and someone hitting it and that could possibly hurt somebody" Dart said.

Treyvon Miller works at a nearby restaurant and tells us he has heard customers talking about the sinkhole.

"I don't really drive but I have noticed it. It's bad. I think they need to fix something like that immediately" Miller said.

CBS 6 contacted Richmond's Department of Public utilities to find out when the work will be done. No one responded to our calls.

WATCH: Monster sinkhole opens in Museum District.

Written signs suggest that street repair and sidewalk work will be done March 16 and 17.

CBS was on the scene when a city crew pulled up and parked on the other side of the sink hole, even removing the barrel to peer into the hole.

They got out and began working on sidewalk repairs.

Folks who live and work here are hoping the sinkhole will soon get to the top of the city's priority list.

"They are not out here. You guys are, but I hope someone can get out here soon. Maybe this story will reach those city workers that need to come out here and fix the street" Miller said. - WVTR.