Sunday, November 22, 2015

PLANETARY TREMORS: Strong 5.9 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Northern Afghanistan, Tremors Felt In Pakistan And India - USGS! [MAPS + TECTONIC SUMMARY]

USGS earthquake location.

November 22, 2015 - AFGHANISTAN
- A 5.9-magnitude quake struck northern Afghanistan late Sunday, the US Geological Survey said, jolting the Indian capital and parts of Pakistan according to local reports.

The tremor struck 22 kilometres (14 miles) southwest of Ashkasham, 300 kilometres northeast of the Afghan capital Kabul, at a depth of 92.4 kilometres. There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.

The quake, which occurred at 02:16 am local time (1816 GMT), was felt across northern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan and in the Indian capital Delhi.

USGS shakemap intensity.

In October a 7.5-magnitude quake ripped across Pakistan and Afghanistan, killing almost 400 people and flattening buildings in rugged terrain that impeded relief efforts.

For many in Pakistan, October's quake brought back traumatic memories of a 7.6-magnitude quake that struck in October 2005, killing more than 75,000 people and displacing some 3.5 million.

Afghanistan is frequently hit by earthquakes, especially in the Hindu Kush mountain range, which lies near the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.

In Nepal a quake in April and a strong aftershock in May killed more than 8,900 people. - Yahoo.

Seismotectonics of the Himalaya and Vicinity

Seismicity in the Himalaya dominantly results from the continental collision of the India and Eurasia plates, which are converging at a relative rate of 40-50 mm/yr. Northward underthrusting of India beneath Eurasia generates numerous earthquakes and consequently makes this area one of the most seismically hazardous regions on Earth. The surface expression of the plate boundary is marked by the foothills of the north-south trending Sulaiman Range in the west, the Indo-Burmese Arc in the east and the east-west trending Himalaya Front in the north of India.

The India-Eurasia plate boundary is a diffuse boundary, which in the region near the north of India, lies within the limits of the Indus-Tsangpo (also called the Yarlung-Zangbo) Suture to the north and the Main Frontal Thrust to the south. The Indus-Tsangpo Suture Zone is located roughly 200 km north of the Himalaya Front and is defined by an exposed ophiolite chain along its southern margin. The narrow (less than 200km) Himalaya Front includes numerous east-west trending, parallel structures. This region has the highest rates of seismicity and largest earthquakes in the Himalaya region, caused mainly by movement on thrust faults. Examples of significant earthquakes, in this densely populated region, caused by reverse slip movement include the 1934 M8.1 Bihar, the 1905 M7.5 Kangra and the 2005 M7.6 Kashmir earthquakes. The latter two resulted in the highest death tolls for Himalaya earthquakes seen to date, together killing over 100,000 people and leaving millions homeless. The largest instrumentally recorded Himalaya earthquake occurred on 15th August 1950 in Assam, eastern India. This M8.6 right-lateral, strike-slip, earthquake was widely felt over a broad area of central Asia, causing extensive damage to villages in the epicentral region.

USGS plate tectonics for the region.

The Tibetan Plateau is situated north of the Himalaya, stretching approximately 1000km north-south and 2500km east-west, and is geologically and tectonically complex with several sutures which are hundreds of kilometer-long and generally trend east-west. The Tibetan Plateau is cut by a number of large (greater than 1000km) east-west trending, left-lateral, strike-slip faults, including the long Kunlun, Haiyuan, and the Altyn Tagh. Right-lateral, strike-slip faults (comparable in size to the left-lateral faults), in this region include the Karakorum, Red River, and Sagaing. Secondary north-south trending normal faults also cut the Tibetan Plateau. Thrust faults are found towards the north and south of the Tibetan Plateau. Collectively, these faults accommodate crustal shortening associated with the ongoing collision of the India and Eurasia plates, with thrust faults accommodating north south compression, and normal and strike-slip accommodating east-west extension.

Along the western margin of the Tibetan Plateau, in the vicinity of south-eastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan, the India plate translates obliquely relative to the Eurasia plate, resulting in a complex fold-and-thrust belt known as the Sulaiman Range. Faulting in this region includes strike-slip, reverse-slip and oblique-slip motion and often results in shallow, destructive earthquakes. The active, left-lateral, strike-slip Chaman fault is the fastest moving fault in the region. In 1505, a segment of the Chaman fault near Kabul, Afghanistan, ruptured causing widespread destruction. In the same region the more recent 30 May 1935, M7.6 Quetta earthquake, which occurred in the Sulaiman Range in Pakistan, killed between 30,000 and 60,000 people.

On the north-western side of the Tibetan Plateau, beneath the Pamir-Hindu Kush Mountains of northern Afghanistan, earthquakes occur at depths as great as 200 km as a result of remnant lithospheric subduction. The curved arc of deep earthquakes found in the Hindu Kush Pamir region indicates the presence of a lithospheric body at depth, thought to be remnants of a subducting slab. Cross-sections through the Hindu Kush region suggest a near vertical northerly-dipping subducting slab, whereas cross-sections through the nearby Pamir region to the east indicate a much shallower dipping, southerly subducting slab. Some models suggest the presence of two subduction zones; with the Indian plate being subducted beneath the Hindu Kush region and the Eurasian plate being subducted beneath the Pamir region. However, other models suggest that just one of the two plates is being subducted and that the slab has become contorted and overturned in places.

Shallow crustal earthquakes also occur in this region near the Main Pamir Thrust and other active Quaternary faults. The Main Pamir Thrust, north of the Pamir Mountains, is an active shortening structure. The northern portion of the Main Pamir Thrust produces many shallow earthquakes, whereas its western and eastern borders display a combination of thrust and strike-slip mechanisms. On the 18 February 1911, the M7.4 Sarez earthquake ruptured in the Central Pamir Mountains, killing numerous people and triggering a landside, which blocked the Murghab River.

Further north, the Tian Shan is a seismically active intra-continental mountain belt, which extends 2500 km in an ENE-WNW orientation north of the Tarim Basin. This belt is defined by numerous east-west trending thrust faults, creating a compressional basin and range landscape. It is generally thought that regional stresses associated with the collision of the India and Eurasia plates are responsible for faulting in the region. The region has had three major earthquakes (greater than M7.6) at the start of the 20th Century, including the 1902 Atushi earthquake, which killed an estimated 5,000 people. The range is cut through in the west by the 700-km-long, northwest-southeast striking, Talas-Ferghana active right-lateral, strike-slip fault system. Though the system has produced no major earthquakes in the last 250 years, paleo-seismic studies indicate that it has the potential to produce M7.0+ earthquakes and it is thought to represent a significant hazard.

The northern portion of the Tibetan Plateau itself is largely dominated by the motion on three large left-lateral, strike-slip fault systems; the Altyn Tagh, Kunlun and Haiyuan. The Altyn Tagh fault is the longest of these strike slip faults and it is thought to accommodate a significant portion of plate convergence. However, this system has not experienced significant historical earthquakes, though paleoseismic studies show evidence of prehistoric M7.0-8.0 events. Thrust faults link with the Altyn Tagh at its eastern and western termini. The Kunlun Fault, south of the Altyn Tagh, is seismically active, producing large earthquakes such as the 8th November 1997, M7.6 Manyi earthquake and the 14th November 2001, M7.8 Kokoxili earthquake. The Haiyuan Fault, in the far north-east, generated the 16 December 1920, M7.8 earthquake that killed approximately 200,000 people and the 22 May 1927 M7.6 earthquake that killed 40,912.

The Longmen Shan thrust belt, along the eastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau, is an important structural feature and forms a transitional zone between the complexly deformed Songpan-Garze Fold Belt and the relatively undeformed Sichuan Basin. On 12 May 2008, the thrust belt produced the reverse slip, M7.9 Wenchuan earthquake, killing over 87,000 people and causing billions of US dollars in damages and landslides which dammed several rivers and lakes.

Southeast of the Tibetan Plateau are the right-lateral, strike-slip Red River and the left-lateral, strike-slip Xiangshuihe-Xiaojiang fault systems. The Red River Fault experienced large scale, left-lateral ductile shear during the Tertiary period before changing to its present day right-lateral slip rate of approximately 5 mm/yr. This fault has produced several earthquakes greater than M6.0 including the 4 January 1970, M7.5 earthquake in Tonghai which killed over 10,000 people. Since the start of the 20th century, the Xiangshuihe-Xiaojiang Fault system has generated several M7.0+ earthquakes including the M7.5 Luhuo earthquake which ruptured on the 22 April 1973. Some studies suggest that due to the high slip rate on this fault, future large earthquakes are highly possible along the 65km stretch between Daofu and Qianning and the 135km stretch that runs through Kangding.

Shallow earthquakes within the Indo-Burmese Arc, predominantly occur on a combination of strike-slip and reverse faults, including the Sagaing, Kabaw and Dauki faults. Between 1930 and 1956, six M7.0+ earthquakes occurred near the right-lateral Sagaing Fault, resulting in severe damage in Myanmar including the generation of landslides, liquefaction and the loss of 610 lives. Deep earthquakes (200km) have also been known to occur in this region, these are thought to be due to the subduction of the eastwards dipping, India plate, though whether subduction is currently active is debated. Within the pre-instrumental period, the large Shillong earthquake occurred on the 12 June 1897, causing widespread destruction. - USGS.


GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Increasing Volcanic Activity - New Ash Emissions At Chile's Copahue Volcano!

Ash emission from Copahue volcano last night

November 22, 2015 - CHILE
- An increase in activity occurred at the volcano during the past two days.

Starting Thursday evening, a new pulse of volcanic tremor was detected and ash emissions began during the night Thu-Friday around 3 am.

At 03:40, a larger explosive event and emission took place that produced a plume of ash rising approx. 1 km.

Also, some incandescent material was seen ejected. Until now, mild ash emissions seem to continue as near-continuous.

Whether this new phase of activity involves fresh magma or only pulverized older rocks is unknown for the time being (until ash analyses have been made), but SERNAGEOMIN already reported that new magma was partially present in ash emissions earlier in October.

Since early November, volcanologists monitoring the volcano have detected intermittent pulses of volcanic tremor and an increase in SO2 output of the volcano, both indications that new magma has been moving closer to the surface under the volcano.

The alert level remains at yellow and an exclusion zone of 2.5 km radius around the El Agrio crater is in place.

The ash falls have been causing problems for the operations of the Caviahue ski resort. - Volcano Discovery.


MASS ANIMAL DIE-OFFS: Animal Behavior And Disaster Precursors - Three Dead Fin Whales Found On Beach Near Bella Bella, Canada?!

© Randy Carpenter

November 22, 2015 - CANADA
- Three fin whales have been found dead on a beach near Bella Bella on the central coast of B.C.

The dead whales were spotted by a helicopter pilot flying over Bird Point, northwest of Bella Bella, who then notified Fishers and Oceans Canada (DFO) on Saturday.

Paul Cottrell, Pacific Marine Mammal Coordinator with the DFO, assessed the whales and says there does not appear to be any obvious cause of death.

"It is very rare and odd that you get three large whales together in one small area," says Cottrell. "We want to know why it happened, whether it is a natural event, killer whale predation or something else."

Cottrell says, to his knowledge, it has never happened in B.C. before, which is a source for concern.

The fin whales are listed as threatened under the Species At Risk Act, meaning it is illegal to harm or disturb them. They are filter feeders and are the second-largest animal on the planet after blue whales.

"Any time you get three animals that wash up and die together and it is a threatened species, we are going to work hard to figure out what happened," he says.

A necropsy was conducted on Tuesday and results are expected in several weeks.

The researchers also took stomach tissue samples to see what the whales ate prior to their death to determine if there was a natural biotoxin they may have ingested.

Cottrell says they estimate that the animals were dead for at least seven days before the necropsy was performed.

"Given the location and where they ended up, all close together, we are thinking that the animals likely live stranded and died there together," says Cottrell. "The odds of the animals dying out in the ocean and floating all together into that small cove are pretty small. But we are still looking at everything at this point."

The three dead animals were all male and juvenile fin whales.

Cottrell says while there have been sightings of fin whales close to Bella Bella before, these animals are not well studied, and it is hard to tell if the three whales were travelling as a family before they died.

Cottrell says they encourage anyone who spots a dead marine animal or an animal in distress, to call their hotline at 1-800-465-4336 and report the sighting. - Global News.

WEATHER PHENOMENON: Signs In The Heavens - Three Suns Appear Over Chelyabinsk, Russia?!

An eye opened up in the sky over Chelyabinsk on November 19, 2015.

November 22, 2015 - CHELYABINSK, RUSSIA
- Three suns appeared in the sky of Chelyabinsk on November 19, 2015.

Look at amazing pictures and videos of this awesome sun dog phenomenon.





WATCH: Three Suns over Russia.

Two weeks ago an insane three suns phenomenon appeared over Yekaterinburg.

- Strange Sounds.


FIRE IN THE SKY: "I've Never Seen Anything Like This" - Meteor Fireball Caught Security Camera In Cincinnati, Ohio!

November 22, 2015 - OHIO, UNITED STATES
- Security cameras aren't just for security, if you get the timing just right.

Cincinnati, Ohio, resident Steve Hart caught a glimpse of a fireball streaking across the night sky earlier this week.

"I installed these security cameras in August, and I've never seen anything like this," Hart wrote on Facebook. "This camera records movement and stores it up to 6 days, and when I saw this, I pulled it off of the DVR and saved it to my computer. I wish I would have been outside to see it!"

The American Meteor Society received around 75 reports of a fireball at about the time Hart captured it on camera, from as far away as Missouri and Kentucky, and as far north as Michigan.

As amazing as it is, it seems like a regular old space rock burning up in Earth's atmosphere -- not like the bizarre phenomenon spotted over southern California earlier in November.

WATCH: Meteor creates sonic boom.

Social media was flooded with shots of the object, which looked for all the world like a spotlight moving across the sky, with speculation rampant over what it actually was.

Finally, the truth came out: It was an offshore missile test by the U.S. Navy, which they typically don't advertise ahead of time. - The Weather Network.


PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Liberia Monitors Over 150 Ebola Contacts - As Virus Re-Emerges!

November 22, 2015 - LIBERIA
- Liberia has placed 153 people under surveillance as it seeks to control a new Ebola outbreak in the capital more than two months after the country was declared free of the virus, health officials said.

Three Ebola cases emerged in Liberia on Friday. The first of the new patients was a 15-year-old boy called Nathan Gbotoe from Paynesville, a suburb east of the capital Monrovia. Two other family members have since been confirmed as positive and they are all hospitalized.

"We have three confirmed cases and have listed 153 contacts, and we have labeled them as high, medium and low in terms of the risk," Liberia's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Francis Kateh told Reuters late on Saturday.

The West African country has suffered the highest death toll in the worst known Ebola outbreak in history, losing more than 4,800 people. It has twice been declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization, once in May and again on Sept. 3, only for new cases to emerge.

It is not known how Gbotoe was infected and Kateh did not offer any explanation, saying that investigations were ongoing. Cross-border transmission seems unlikely since neighboring Guinea has zero cases while Sierra Leone was declared Ebola-free this month after 42 days without a case.

There have been 28,490 reported cases of Ebola, with 11,312 reported deaths as of Oct. 11, 2015. (World Health Organization/Yahoo News)

In the Duport Road neighborhood of Paynesville, health officials went from house to house on Saturday delivering food and water to neighbors of the infected family, deemed at risk of catching the disease.

Unlike in previous months, there were no barriers or soldiers to enforce quarantines.

Neighbor Elizabeth Powell said she was more worried about lost income than catching Ebola, which is transmitted through the bodily fluids of the sick.

"I am worried about food and my business," she said. The epidemic has crippled Liberia's economy and President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf says it will take two years to recover.

The previous resurgence of Ebola in Liberia is thought to have been via sexual transmission since the virus can exist in the semen of male survivors for at least nine months after infection, much longer than its incubation period in blood.

It is also theoretically possible for an infected animal to trigger a fresh chain of transmission. The index case in the West African outbreak that has killed around 11,300 people was a child believed to have been infected by a bat. - Yahoo.

Tracking the EBOLA Virus Outbreak

INFRASTRUCTURE COLLAPSE: Blackout - State Of Emergency In Russia's Crimea After Transmission Towers In Ukraine Blows Up!

November 22, 2015 - CRIMEA, RUSSIA
- Russia’s Crimea has switched to autonomous reserve power after transmission towers in the adjacent Ukrainian Kherson region were blown up, causing a blackout. Meanwhile, the Right Sector and Crimean Tatar “activists” have been attempting to block repairs.

Crimean authorities rushed to connect hospitals and other vital infrastructure to reserve power stations and generators late on Saturday after the four main transmission lines from Ukraine were cut off in an apparent act of sabotage. The regional energy ministry has created an emergency response center to deal with the power cut.

“Crimea has been completely cut off,” the Krymenergo energy company’s director Viktor Plakida told TASS, adding that he could not immediately provide any more details.

The Crimean Emergencies Ministry has declared a state of emergency due to the complete power outage and has put rescue teams on high alert.

Nearly 1.9 million people have been left partly or fully without electricity. While important public facilities and infrastructure have been wired up to reserve sources of energy, homes all across the region have been left in the dark.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian police and journalists simultaneously posted social media reports of explosions in Chaplinka in the Kherson region, where power transmission towers supporting the lines delivering energy to Crimea are located. Photos of severed towers with a Crimean-Tatar flag hanging on one of them have been posted online.

Earlier on Friday, unidentified saboteurs damaged two of Kherson’s four electricity transmission towers, prompting Crimean authorities to issue warnings of possible power cuts. However, when local Ukrainian repairs crews attempted to reach the site, they were blocked by Crimean Tatar activists and Right Sector militants, who proclaimed they were taking the area “under protection,” TASS reported.

The stand-off ended in clashes with Ukrainian riot police, who were dispatched to the site. Several activists were slightly injured, while one police officer was stabbed during the turmoil.While the Ukrenergo energy company’s maintenance crew finally managed to start the repair work, dozens of Crimean Tatars gathered in Kiev at the presidential administration building to protest the police response. Radical activists called for resistance to any attempts by Ukrainian authorities to undermine the so-called “blockade” of Crimea that has been organized by several activist groups in Kherson and had initially targeted Ukrainian vehicles transporting goods for sale to the peninsula.

Crimea ‘in standalone mode’

The Crimean power grid has been working in standalone mode since the incident. “Due to the complete shut off from the Ukrainian power grid, Crimean grid is operating in standalone mode,” TASS quoted a local emergency response unit as saying.

It could take up to 48 hours to repair the damage on the Ukrainian side, and reestablish the power supply to Crimea, a source from Ukrenergo told RIA Novosti.

All Crimean medical facilities are connected to backup power supplies and their operations will not be affected, Crimea’s first vice premier, Mikhail Sheremet, told journalists.

TV and radio broadcasting services will not be interrupted and are currently using an autonomous power supply, Russia’s Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications said.

WATCH: Blackout in Sevastopol, Crimea.

However, Sheremet warned that Crimea will be able to make up for no more than 50 percent of its daily power consumption autonomously, even after resorting to additional wind power and solar energy.

“Our demand today is 1200 Megawatt. At the present point, with all the power sources, we could have about 600 Megawatt. This is under the most favorable conditions,” the official predicted.

The local airport, Kerch Strait ferry line to mainland Russia, as well as bus and railway stations are operating normally, the head of information department within the local emergency services Vladimir Ivanov said.

Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol has continued to operate on reserve power, the city’s governor, Sergey Menyaylo, has said.

Meanwhile, the Crimean energy company stated that the region’s reserve power stations could last up to 25 days independently. Petrol filling stations will be contributing to the work of the reserve mobile stations. - RT.


MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Ice Age Now - Chicago's First Snow Of The Season Brings LARGEST November Snowfall In 120 YEARS!

November 22, 2015 - CHICAGO, UNITED STATES
- The season's first snowfall dropped as much as 17 inches across Chicago's northern suburbs, and the total of 11.2 inches at O'Hare International Airport made it the largest November snowfall in 120 years.

The steady stream of snow began Friday evening and carried into Saturday, bringing cold winds and slushy puddles to Michigan Avenue. But it also fashioned a wintry backdrop to the annual Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, transporting Chicagoans into a life-sized holiday snow globe.

The chill didn't bother the Kendalls, who traveled from Northwest Indiana for the festivities. They stood in Pioneer Court bundled in snow gear, relishing bites of candy-cane-garnished cheesecake as heavy snowflakes plopped onto their noses.

"It rings in the beginning of Christmas season," said Jessica Kendall. "The roads are warm, the snow's melting and we had a nice, wintry drive."

The storm hit hardest in the northern suburbs.

Lake County was walloped. By about 2 p.m. Saturday, there were reports of 17 inches in Grayslake, 16.5 in Hawthorn Woods, and 15.5 inches in Mundelein, said National Weather Service meteorologist Jamie Enderlen.

McHenry County also was socked, with 13.6 inches in Bull Valley, 12.5 inches in Woodstock and 9.5 inches in Hebron by about 7 a.m. Saturday, according to the weather service.

Heavy and slow driving just outside of
Twitter: Ken Koger

Georgies first snow
Twitter: Sahrish Qureshi

My sister sent me this picture of Chicago's first snow. What everyone else sees vs what I see.
Twitter: Morolake Akinosun™

Snow falls in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood Nov. 21, 2015. © Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune

Heavy snow and freezing fog continue at O'Hare International in . Photo credit Dee Annis @asiansplenda
Twitter: The Weather Channel

Communities further south saw less precipitation. Naperville had 6.4 inches of snow as of midafternoon, and Romeoville had 4.7 inches as of early evening, according to the weather service. Batavia had 7.5 inches by late afternoon.

As of about 6 p.m. Saturday, 11.2 inches of snow was measured at O'Hare International Airport, where some airlines reported delays of up to 20 minutes and more than 260 flights were canceled. Midway Airport reported 5.8 inches.

According to the weather service, this was the second-largest November snowstorm, behind only a 12-inch snowfall Nov. 25-26, 1895.

This month is catapulted to the fourth snowiest November on record with more than a week remaining. The three snowiest Novembers were: 1940 with 14.8 inches, 1895 with 14.5 inches and 1951 with 14.3 inches.

In Lake County, municipal and county removal crews worked Saturday to clear the streets, and Tom Haggerty, Waukegan's director of public works, said late Saturday morning they were succeeding. The major consideration was, as always, urging city residents to move their vehicles off the streets so plow drivers would have an easier time cleaning.

In Aurora, Brian Kannry took it all in stride. As a snowplow driver for Beverly Snow & Ice, the Naperville man spent part of Saturday clearing the Route 59 train station parking lot.

"This is pretty weak," he said of the accumulation. "I was here at 5 a.m. but not much of the snow was sticking. But I've got to keep these sidewalks clear so people don't slip and fall."

With the steady snowfall and light wind, residents were busy shoveling driveways while children used the weather to build snowmen and go sledding. About a dozen kids and parents were bundled up and out enjoying the sled hill at Arrowhead Park in Naperville.

"My kids have been out here all morning," said Steve Vilim, of Naperville, who was supervising his daughter Elena, 13, and son Teddy, age 7. "They were up at 6 a.m. and went right out to build a snowman." - Chicago Tribune.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVALS: Devastating Landslide Near Jade Mine In Northern Myanmar - At Least 90 People Killed!

November 22, 2015 - MYANMAR
- At least 90 people have been killed in a huge landslide while searching for precious jade in a remote mining area of northern Myanmar, officials say.

"We found 79 dead bodies on November 21 (and) 11 today so the total so far is 90," said Nilar Myint, an official from the local administrative authorities in Hpakant, northern Kachin state.

Nilar Myint added that the rescue operation was ongoing.

The Global New Light of Myanmar earlier reported that at least 30 dead bodies were retrieved from the landslide site, quoting local officials and media reports.

Rescuers battled to dig through the mountains of loose rubble at the site on Sunday, with fears that the toll could rise further.

 This photo taken on Oct. 4, 2015, shows construction vehicles being used by workers at a jade mine in Myanmar's Kachin State. © Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

It is the latest deadly accident to affect Myanmar's secretive multi-billion-dollar jade industry in war-torn Kachin.

Those killed were thought to have been scavenging through a mountain of waste rubble dumped by mechanical diggers used by the mining firms in the area to extract Myanmar's most valuable precious stone.

Landslides are a common hazard in the area as people living off the industry's waste, driven by the hope that they might find a chunk of jade worth thousands of dollars, pick their way across perilous mounds under cover of darkness.

Scores have been killed this year alone as local people say the mining firms, many of which are linked to the country's junta-era military elite, have scaled up their operations in Kachin.

Myanmar is the source of virtually all of the world's finest jadeite, an almost translucent green stone that is prized above almost all other materials in neighbouring China.

In an October report, advocacy group Global Witness estimated that the value of jade produced in 2014 alone was $31 billion, the equivalent of nearly half the country's GDP.

But that figure is around 10 times the official $3.4 billion sales of the precious stone last year, in an industry that has long been shrouded in secrecy with much of the best jade thought to be smuggled directly to China.

Local people in Hpakant complain of a litany of abuses associated with the mining industry, including the frequency of accidents and land confiscations.

The area has been turned into a moonscape of environmental destruction as huge diggers gouge the earth looking for jade.

Itinerant miners are drawn from all parts of Myanmar by the promise of riches and become easy prey for drug addiction in Hpakant, where heroin and methamphetamine are cheaply available on the streets.  - ABC Australia.

ICE AGE NOW: Winter Storm Bella Brings Record Breaking Snowfall To Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota - 18 Inches Of Snowfall Pummels Sioux Falls, South Dakota! [PHOTOS + MAPS + VIDEO]

Harvey Wollman, of Sioux Falls, uses a snow blower to clear the sidewalk near his house during the first snow of the season
Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, in Sioux Falls, S.D. (Joe Ahlquist/The Argus Leader via AP) 

November 22, 2015 - UNITED STATES
- Winter Storm Bella not only brought the first, not to mention locally heavy, accumulating snow of the season for some in the Great Lakes and Midwest, but also was one of the heaviest November snowstorms of record for some.

Scroll down to the "snowtables" section for a list of records set during this storm.

Snowplow in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. © AP Photo/Argus Leader,Elisha PageAdd caption

Parts of the Sioux City, South Dakota metro area picked up over a foot of snow in an intense snowband Friday. Snow has since ended, there, but has now spread into the Great Lakes, with some totals over 10 inches already coming in from parts of Wisconsin and northern Illinois.

Winter storm warnings continue from parts of northern Illinois, southern Wisconsin, northern Indiana and southern Lower Michigan, including the Quad Cities, Rockford, Milwaukee, Chicago, South Bend and the north and west Detroit suburbs. In the much of the Upper Midwest, this means a likelihood for at least 6 inches of snow in 12 hours, or 8 inches of snow in 24 hours.

Record snowfall in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Winter weather advisories are posted for other parts of Illinois, Indiana, northwest Ohio and Lower Michigan, where somewhat lower snowfall totals are expected. Despite lacking strong surface low pressure, these systems are notorious heavy snow generators in the Midwest.

Snowfall Forecast - Additional snowfall forecast to fall on top of what is already on the ground.

Snowfall Totals So Far

As of Saturday midday, numerous locations from southeastern South Dakota to southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois have reported a foot or more of snow from the storm.

Here is a sampling of official snowfall totals around the area, by state:
  • South Dakota: Tea (18 inches), Sioux Falls Regional Airport (7.2 inches)
  • Iowa: George (17 inches), Waterloo (12.7 inches), Dubuque (10.2 inches), Des Moines (6.9 inches)
  • Nebraska: Near Bloomfield (16 inches), South Sioux City (6.5 inches), Valentine (4 inches)
  • Minnesota: Worthington (8 inches)
  • Illinois: Grays
  • lake (16 inches), Chicago O'Hare (11.1 inches), Moline (9.9 inches), Rockford (8.6 inches),
  • Wisconsin: Near Footville (17 inches), Janesville (11.5 inches), Milwaukee (6.7 inches), Madison (4.1 inches)
  • Michigan: Rives Junction (8 inches), Kalamazoo (5.3 inches), Flint (3.2 inches), Detroit Metro Airport (1 inch)
  • Indiana: Crown Point (5 inches), Lafayette (3.5 inches), near South Bend (3 inches), Tipton (2 inches)
Bella also produced the season's first flakes as far south as northwest Arkansas Saturday morning, and left a dusting of snow in Springfield, Missouri, as well.

Winter Storm Bella Snow Forecast

Latest Winter Weather Radar - Areas of snow show up in shades of blue. Possible frozen precipitation (sleet, freezing rain) shows up in pink.
Rain shows up in shades of green, with heavier rain showing up in yellow, orange and red shadings.

The relative lack of moisture and quick-moving nature of Winter Storm Bella should mitigate this from becoming a crippling storm for many.

However, a swath of moderate to heavy snow is still expected Saturday from southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois to Michigan. Where smaller-scale, more intense snowbands temporarily set up, snowfall rates from 1-2 inches per hour are possible, for a time.

Saturday's heaviest additional snow will be from the northwest Indiana suburbs of Chicago to the "thumb" of Lower Michigan, with 6 inches or a bit more of snow possible in that swath, including South Bend, Indiana, Lansing, Flint, and the northern suburbs of Detroit.

Surface low pressure is expected to strengthen a bit once it reaches the Great Lakes. The pressure gradient between this developing low and high pressure building in the Rockies and High Plains will produce increasing winds in the snow area Saturday, leading to some reduced visibilities in blowing snow, and some minor drifting, but we are not anticipating blizzard conditions with Winter Storm Bella.

However, downed tree limbs and power outages are possible in areas of the heaviest Bella accumulations as winds add stress to trees and power lines.

Once the surface low wraps up in eastern Canada, some bands of lake-effect snow are possible off Lakes Ontario and Erie, and a little wrap-around snow may blanket the Allegheny Plateau, Appalachians, Adirondacks and high country of northern New England.

Given this first snow of the season in some of these areas may be locally heavy, slow down, leave extra time if you must travel, or consider postponing your trip. Flight delays and cancellations have already been reported at Chicago-O'Hare Airport, and are possible out of smaller regional airports, as well. Check your flight status before leaving for the airport.

Sunday's Forecast - Blue areas indicate areas of forecast snow, pink indicates either rain or snow, and green indicates rain.

Winter Storm Bella Snow Timing

Snow continues in northern Illinois and southern to eastern Wisconsin, spreading and intensifying in much of Lower Michigan and northern Indiana. Some blowing and minor drifting snow is possible across portions of Iowa. Any rain may change to snow in northern Ohio, northwestern Pennsylvania and western New York Saturday night.

Increasing winds Saturday night may produce areas of reduced visibility in Michigan, and all the Great Lake snowbelts with the exception of the Lake Ontario snowbelt.

Season's first accumulating snow cities:
  • Saturday: Chicago, Grand Rapids, South Bend, Detroit
  • Saturday night: Erie, Pennsylvania

This fresh snowcover, clearing skies and lighter winds sets the stage for a cold Sunday morning in the Bella snow area. Lake-effect snow will linger in the Great Lakes snowbelts, south of Buffalo, New York, and north of Syracuse toward Oswego, New York, and the Tug Hill Plateau. A few snow showers are possible across northern New England, although moisture appears to be relatively limited. Gusty winds may persist around the eastern Great Lakes and New England. A few flakes may even fly across the central Appalachians from West Virginia into interior Pennsylvania, though little to no accumulation is anticipated.

November Heavy Snow: It's Been Awhile For Some

Despite the Upper Midwest's snowy reputation, heavy snow in November outside the Great Lakes snowbelts isn't as common as you might think.

Here are some November "snowtables" so far:
  • Moline, Illinois: Record November snowstorm (9.9 inches total). A Nov. 29 - Dec. 1, 1974 snowstorm produced 10.7 inches of snow, but only 9.8 inches of that was in those final two November days.
  • Rockford, Illinois: Second heaviest November snowstorm (8.6 inches); existing record is 9.5 inches from Nov. 6-7, 1951.
  • Dubuque, Iowa: Second heaviest November snowstorm (11.7 inches); existing record is 13.4 inches from Nov. 17-20, 1986.
  • Waterloo, Iowa: Snowiest November calendar day on record (10.5 inches Friday) topping the old record of 8.5 inches from Nov. 13, 1972. (records since 1895)
  • Mason City, Iowa: Tied their snowiest November calendar day on record (8 inches Friday); 8 inches of snow also was measured, there, on Nov. 18, 1957.
  • Des Moines, Iowa: Already the snowiest November since 1992 (6.9 inches total snow).
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Second heaviest snowstorm so early in the season. Only the Nov. 5-6, 1896 was heavier so early (14.6 inches).
  • Chicago: Second heaviest November snowstorm (11.1 inches at O'Hare Airport as of 2 p.m. CST); Record is 12 inches from Nov. 25-26, 1895.
  • Sioux Falls, South Dakota: Snowiest November day (7.2 inches Friday) since Nov. 26, 2001.
Chicago's O'Hare Airport had its first November with 6 inches or more of snow since 1978. Average November snow in the Windy City is only 1.4 inches, just under 4 percent of their average seasonal snow. Their average date of the season's first 1 inch-plus snow is December 7. Last season, it took the Windy City until January 5 to accumulate a season total of 6 inches. In fact, their first 6-inch-plus snow event of last season was Winter Storm Linus just before Groundhog Day.

Similarly, Milwaukee had its first 6-inch-plus November snow total in 20 years. In terms of snowfall so early in the season, Milwaukee only recorded four 2-day snowfall totals of greater than 6 inches before Nov. 22, dating back to the late 1800s, prior to Winter Storm Bella. Five of the past nine Novembers in the Brew City haven't even produced one-half inch of snow, total.

The photo above shows snowfall caused by Winter Storm Bella in Marion, South Dakota.  (Eric Lechtenburg)

The photo above shows snowfall from Winter Storm Bella approaching 15" in Marion, South Dakota.  (Eric Lechtenburg)

Sandra Read walks through the freshly fallen snow in downtown Sioux Falls, S.D., Friday, Nov. 20, 2015. (Jay Pickthorn/The Argus Leader via AP) 

Kim Hoag shovels snow out of her driveway as snow falls, Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Colder temperatures will follow the snow, with highs Saturday only in the mid-20s. (Jay Pickthorn/The Argus Leader via AP) 

Across the lake, however, Grand Rapids, Michigan, has had a break so far this November, lacking measurable snow prior to this weekend system. November 2014 was their record snowiest November, with 31 inches of snow during the month.

Also of interest is the tendency for less snowy seasons during strong El Niños, which we are currently in.

In five previous strong El Niño seasons (1997-98, 1982-83, 1972-73, 1965-66, 1957-58), Chicago has picked up an average of only 23 inches of seasonal snow, which is 15.4 inches below the 1950-2015 average of 38.4 inches. - Weather Channel.