Sunday, December 20, 2015

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: Migratory Patterns And Disaster Precursors - Another Rare Sea Serpent Has Washed Ashore In Southern California?!

A yellow bellied sea snake washed ashore in Huntington Beach on Dec. 13. It is the third sea snake ever recorded in Southern California and was probably driven north of
its normal tropical habitat by El Niño. (Lisa Gonzalez/Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County)

December 20, 2015 - CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES - Wildlife rescuers have a new problem on their hands: for the second time in two months, a rare venomous sea serpent has washed up on a local beach hundreds of miles from its normal haunts.

The dead 27-inch-long male yellow bellied sea snake was discovered last week during a Surfrider Foundation coastal cleanup campaign in Huntington Beach.

A 2-foot-long yellow bellied sea snake was discovered in October after slithering onto Silver Strand State Beach in Ventura County. It died shortly after being taken to a local U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office.

The species, known to scientists as Pelamis platura, was first seen in Southern California in San Clemente in 1972 during an El Niño.

WATCH: Surfrider Foundation warns of yellow-bellied sea snake.

Greg Pauly, herpetological curator at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, believes the reptile in Huntington Beach may have been prompted to navigate north of its normal tropical habitat by the spread of abnormally warm ocean temperatures because of a strong El Niño this year.

“It is incredible and fascinating to have two of these aquatic, highly venomous snakes suddenly show up around here,” he said. “But this is not an invasion, and no one has ever died from the bite of this animal.”

“Their fangs are tiny and they can barely open their mouths wide enough to bite a person,” he said. “So, unless you pick one up, the biggest safety concern with going to the beach is with driving there and then driving home.”

The yellow bellied sea snake has a bright yellow underside and a flat, paddlelike tail with black spots. It is the most wide-ranging snake species on Earth, cruising the warm tropical waters off the coasts of Africa, Asia, Australia, Central America and Mexico, and Baja Calif.

Pauly advises people who come across these snakes to keep a safe distance, then take photographs and send them to the museum at
- LA Times.

SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: Weather Phenomenon - Stunning Pillars Of Light Captured In Russia! [PHOTOS]

Is there a big party going on in this arctic Russian city?  © Konstantin Lifanov

December 20, 2015 - RUSSIA - If you have ever been privy to the phenomenon of light pillars, then you know it is truly an amazing sight.

They appear when the weather is extremely cold and form vertical columns of light beaming directly towards the sky.

They sometimes look like multiple fireballs heading to the sky.

They are created when light from the sun, moon, streetlamps, or any terrestrial source, reflects on the surface of a flat piece of ice crystal as shown in the diagram below:

© Strange sounds

The mysterious pillars of light phenomenon over Yekaterinburg on December 20, 2015. © Alex Julia

Light pillars in the night between 18 and 19 December 2015 at Sterlitamak.  © Stanislav Gilyazov

Again this eerie sky phenomenon over Sterlitamak. © Stanislaw Gilyazov

They change color according to their source over Sterlitamak. © Stanislaw Gilyazov

These light pillars look like dancing bodies in the night sky. Image shot on December 18, 2015.  © Konstantin Lifanov

These beams of light were captured with a green aurora on December 17, 2015.  © Yuri Yaschenko

Like a multicolor wall beaming to the sky over Izhevsk on December 18, 2015. © Egor Zagrebin

When the light source is close to the ground, the light pillar appears above the floating crystals.

When the light comes from the sun or moon, the light pillar can appear beneath them, too, as the light refracts through the crystals.It is truly amazing!

Light pillars typically scrape the night sky in polar regions.

But sometimes the vertical columns of light appear along with frigid temperatures at lower latitudes.

What an awesome sky phenomenon! - Strange Sounds.

EXTREME WEATHER: Infrastructure Collapse - Icy Roads Lead To 50+ CAR PILEUP On US 131, Michigan! [PHOTOS + VIDEO]

December 20, 2015 - MICHIGAN, UNITED STATES - US-131 north of Grand Rapids is completely open again, after being closed because of multiple crashes, slide-offs and spin-outs Friday afternoon.

These particular accidents started happening around 3 p.m. on southbound US-131 between 17 Mile and 14 Mile, involving as many as 80 vehicles according to a Cedar Springs firefighter at the scene. Crews shut down southbound 131 at 17 Mile as a result.

Conditions also led to spin-offs on northbound US-131, including a tanker that couldn't get past a slippery patch near Post Drive; other vehicles couldn't avoid the tanker, and crews shut down that side of the highway at that point.

By about 6 p.m., the freeway was completely open again.

Although the number of people hurt is unclear, injuries are minor in nature, WZZM's Adriana Mendez reports.

Elsewhere, dispatchers have been fielding multiple calls of crashes, slide-offs and spin-outs since about 1 p.m.

WATCH: Icy roads lead to 50-car pileup on US 131.

- WZZM13.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVALS: Massive Landslide In Industrial Park In Shenzhen, China - At Least 60 People Are Missing; Death Expected To Be High! [PHOTOS + VIDEOS]

Rescuers search for survivors among collapsed buildings after a landslide in Shenzhen

December 20, 2015 - CHINA - At least 60 people went missing after a landslide hit an industrial park collapsing nearly 20 buildings, including two dormitories, on Sunday in Shenzhen city of south China's Guangdong Province, rescuers said.

Police received the report of the landslide at 11:40am, which took place in the Liuxi Industrial Park in Guangming New District in northwest part of the city.

An area of 20,000 square meters (24,000 square yards) was covered under soil, the Ministry of Public Security's fire-fighting bureau said in an online statement.

More than 700 people are searching in debris for life.

Rescuers have brought four people to safety, three of them suffering minor injuries.

A total of 185 firefighters, 37 fire trucks and rescue dogs have been rushed to the scene, according to the Weibo account of People's Daily.
Li Yikang, the deputy secretary general of the Shenzhen city government, said at a televised news conference that 17 men and five women were missing.

He said more than 900 people had been evacuated.

Giving different figures than the fire authorities, Li said that four people had been rescued and 22 factory buildings buried, involving 15 companies.

The reason for the discrepancies was not immediately clear.

WATCH: Footage from the shocking landslide in China.

Ren Jiguang, the deputy chief of Shenzhen's public security bureau, told CCTV that most people had been moved to safety before the landslide hit.

The landslide happened near a gas station, which shut off its pipelines soon after the accident. No gas leak was found.

Most of the buildings are buried, and with rain getting heavier, rescue operations are becoming increasingly difficult. - Asia Times.

EXTREME WEATHER: Forest Fires Rage Over Northern Spain - Despite Winter Rainfall!

An emergency services helicopter flies over a burnt out area devastated by a forest fire in La Caridad, northern Spain, December 20, 2015.  © Reuters/Eloy Alonso

December 20, 2015 - SPAIN - Dozens of forest fires raged across northern Spain on Sunday after strong winds hindered efforts to keep them from spreading, forcing some homes to be evacuated in the worst-affected Asturias region.

More than 100 fires were still burning on Sunday morning in Asturias alone despite rain overnight in some areas, emergency services said.

Television pictures showed several rural houses destroyed by fire but officials said there had been no reports of casualties or damage to villages or towns.

Some residents were told to leave their houses as a precaution.

Spain is prone to wildfires in summer, especially in the more arid southern regions and along its Mediterranean coastline.

But such incidents are unusual in winter, especially in rainier northern regions including Asturias.

A man reacts after seeing his burnt house in the village of Hervedeiras, near La Caridad, northern Spain, December 20, 2015.

Fires were also reported in neighboring Cantabria, also on Spain's northern coast, and close to the city of San Sebastian, in the Basque Country.

Regional officials and police are investigating the cause of the fires, local media reported. - NewsDaily.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Strong 6.0 Magnitude Earthquake Rattles Indonesia's Borneo - U.S. Geological Survey! [MAPS]

USGS earthquake location.

December 20, 2015 - INDONESIA - A strong 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck Indonesia early on Monday, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said, but no immediate damage or casualties were reported.

The quake, which was relatively shallow, struck the northeastern corner of Kalimantan on the Indonesian part of Borneo island, 34 kilometres (21 miles) north of the coastal city of Tarakan, according to the USGS.

The agency reported the quake hitting at a depth of 22 kilometres.

Indonesia's tsunami warning centre said there was no potential for the quake to trigger a tsunami. There were also no immediate reports of damage.

USGS shakemap intensity.

The archipelago nation sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity in the region.

Last month, a 6.1-magnitude undersea earthquake struck eastern Indonesia that was felt in Saumlaki and prompted some residents to run outside, though the tremor had no tsunami potential, disaster officials said.

Earlier in November, two powerful quakes struck Sumatra -- an initial 6.1-magnitude undersea tremor followed hours later by a strong 6.4-magnitude quake. - NDTV.

EXTINCTION LEVEL EVENT: Rare Quetzal Bird From Southern Mexico & Central America Facing Extinction - Numbers Are Dwindling At An Alarming Rate!

Quetzal. © Donna J. Provancher

December 20, 2015 - CENTRAL AMERICA - The rare quetzal bird, long seen as the national bird of Guatemala, is now on the verge of extinction. Reports say that the beautiful bird's numbers are dwindling at an alarming rate. There are a range of threats that pose a danger to the rare bird, including poaching and habitat loss.

In a report with Fox News Latino, the endemic bird of southern Mexico and Central America, is now on the verge of extinction due to habitat loss and poaching.

Sofia Solorzano Lujano, researcher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said that the resplendent quetzal faces a range of existential threats, such as illegal trafficking and habitat loss and forest destruction.

The researcher from the institution also said that the birds have fallen prey to predators such as the green toucan, squirrels, as well as other nocturnal mammals. These predators normally attack quetzal eggs or young chicks. The researcher also added that bigger prey, like falcons and eagles, prey on the adult quetzals.

WATCH: Amazing quetzal at Monteverde - Costa Rica.

Besides being natural prey, the quetzals are also under threat because of human activity. These beautiful birds are known all over the world for their beautiful and exquisite plummage. People hunt these birds to the brink of extinction for their feathers, which are used to make fashionable clothing items such as headbands and headdresses. These beautiful birds are also seen as exotic pets. Many are sold at black markets for top dollar prices.

Researchers have tried to save the quetzal from the threat of extinction, but so far efforts have proved to be in vain. The quetzals "are unable to survive in captivity," Solorzano said, adding that "once trapped they stop eating and die." The birds are known to be very calm and do not see humans or predators as a threat. They can usually be seen perching quietly on the branches in forests.

The brilliant bird is found in the cloud forests of Central America. In Ancient Times, the Mayans have held the beautiful bird to be sacred and have immortalized them in their artworks and legends, reports American Edu. The quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala, and is the name of the Guatemalan currency. Some countries, such as Costa Rica, have managed to preserve the quetzal's habitat by setting the birds in national parks to promote eco-tourism. It is predicted that Guatemala's national bird will extinct in the country in the late 2000s. - LatinOne.

PLANETARY TREMORS: 5.4 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Part Of Uttarakhand, India! [MAP + TECTONIC SUMMARY]

A moderate earthquake measuring 5.4 on the Richter scale rocked parts of Uttarakhand in the wee hours.

December 20, 2015 - INDIA - A moderate earthquake measuring 5.4 on the Richter scale rocked parts of Uttarakhand in the wee hours today.

Epicentred in the India-Nepal border region, the earthquake occurred at 3.47 am, the MeT department in Dehradun said.

As the tremors were moderate and occurred in the wee hours when people are usually asleep they were not felt by many, it said.

However, a report from Chamoli said the quake shook people out of their sleep in the district.

The tremors were also felt in Pithoragarh district which borders Nepal. - NDTV.

Seismotectonics of the Sumatra Region

The plate boundary southwest of Sumatra is part of a long tectonic collision zone that extends over 8000 km from Papua in the east to the Himalayan front in the west. The Sumatra-Andaman portion of the collision zone forms a subduction zone megathrust plate boundary, the Sunda-Java trench, which accommodates convergence between the Indo-Australia and Sunda plates. This convergence is responsible for the intense seismicity and volcanism in Sumatra. The Sumatra Fault, a major transform structure that bisects Sumatra, accommodates the northwest-increasing lateral component of relative plate motion.

Relative plate motion between the Indo-Australia and Sunda plates is rapid, decreasing from roughly 63 mm/year near the southern tip of Sumatra (Australia relative to Sunda) to 44 mm/year north of Andaman Islands (India relative to Sunda) and rotating counterclockwise to the northwest, so that relative motion near Jakarta is nearly trench-normal but becomes nearly trench-parallel near Myanmar. As a result of the rotation in relative motion along the strike of the arc and the interaction of multiple tectonic plates, several interrelated tectonic elements compose the Sumatra-Andaman plate boundary. Most strain accumulation and release occurs along the Sunda megathrust of the main subduction zone, where lithosphere of the subducting Indo-Australia plate is in contact with the overlying Sunda plate down to a depth of 60 km. Strain release associated with deformation within the subducting slab is evidenced by deeper earthquakes that extend to depths of less than 300 km on Sumatra and 150 km or less along the Andaman Islands. The increasingly oblique convergence between these two plates moving northwest along the arc is accommodated by crustal seismicity along a series of transform and normal faults. East of the Andaman Islands, back- arc spreading in the Andaman Sea produces a zone of distributed normal and strike-slip faulting. Similar to the Sumatran Fault, the Sagaing Fault near Myanmar also accommodates the strike-slip component of oblique plate motion. Plate-boundary related deformation is also not restricted to the subduction zone and overriding plate: the subducting Indo-Australian plate actually comprises two somewhat independent plates (India and Australia), with small amounts of motion relative to one another, that are joined along a broad, actively-deforming region producing seismicity up to several hundred kilometers west of the trench. This deformation is exemplified by the recent April 2012 earthquake sequence, which includes the April 11 M 8.6 and M 8.2 strike-slip events and their subsequent aftershocks.

USGS plate tectonics for the region.

Paleoseismic studies using coral reefs as a proxy for relative land level changes associated with earthquake displacement suggest that the Sunda arc has repeatedly ruptured during relatively large events in the past, with records extending as far back as the 10th century. In northern Simeulue Island, the southern terminus of the 2004 megathrust earthquake rupture area, a cluster of megathrust earthquakes occurred over a 56 year period between A.D. 1390 and 1455, resulting in uplift substantially greater than that caused by the 2004 event. Studies that look at large sheeted deposits of sand on land interpreted as the transport of debris from a tsunami wave also indicate that this region has experienced significant tsunamis in the past centuries, albeit infrequently.

Prior to 2004, the most recent megathrust earthquakes along the Sumatran-Andaman plate boundary were in 1797 (M 8.7-8.9), 1833 (M 8.9-9.1) and 1861 (M8.5). Since 2004, much of the Sunda megathrust between the northern Andaman Islands and Enggano Island, a distance of more than 2,000 km, has ruptured in a series of large subduction zone earthquakes - most rupturing the plate boundary south of Banda Aceh. The great M 9.1 earthquake of December 26, 2004, which produced a devastating tsunami, ruptured much of the boundary between Myanmar and Simeulue Island offshore Banda Aceh. Immediately to the south of the great 2004 earthquake, the M 8.6 Nias Island earthquake of March 28, 2005 ruptured a 400-km section between Simeulue and the Batu Islands. Farther south in the Mentawai islands, two earthquakes on September 12, 2007 of M 8.5 and M 7.9 occurred in the southern portion of the estimated 1797 and 1833 ruptures zone, which extends from approximately Enggano Island to the northern portion of Siberut Island. Smaller earthquakes have also been locally important: a M 7.6 rupture within the subducting plate caused considerable damage in Padang in 2009, and a M 7.8 rupture on October 25, 2010 occurred on the shallow portion of the megathrust to the west of the Mentawai Islands, and caused a substantial tsunami on the west coast of those islands.

In addition to the current seismic hazards along this portion of the Sunda arc, this region is also recognized as having one of the highest volcanic hazards in the world. One of the most dramatic eruptions in human history was the Krakatau eruption on August 26-27, 1883, a volcano just to the southeast of the island of Sumatra, which resulted in over 35, 000 casualties.

Subduction and seismicity along the plate boundary adjacent to Java is fundamentally different from that of the Sumatran-Andaman section. Relative motion along the Java arc is trench-normal (approximately 65-70 mm/year) and does not exhibit the same strain partitioning and back-arc strike- slip faulting that are observed along the Sumatra margin. Neither has the Java subduction zone hosted similar large magnitude megathrust events to those of its neighbor, at least in documented history. Although this region is not as seismically active as the Sumatra region, the Java arc has hosted low to intermediate-magnitude extensional earthquakes and deep-focus (300-700 km) events and exhibits a similar if not higher volcanic hazard. This arc has also hosted two large, shallow tsunami earthquakes in the recent past which resulted in high tsunami run-ups along the southern Java coast. - USGS.

PARADIGM SHIFT & THE AGE OF AQUARIUS: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Pledges MAJOR RECONCILIATION In Canada After Aboriginal Abuse - Admits That Canada Once Pursued A Policy Of CULTURAL GENOCIDE Of The Indigenous Peoples; Publishes The Report That Documented HORRIFIC Physical Abuse, Rape, Malnutrition And Other Atrocities Suffered By Aboriginal Children In Schools Run By CHRISTIAN CHURCHES!

Justin Trudeau said last week it was time to renew the relationship between Canada and its Aboriginals, and has set up an inquiry to investigate a trend of missing and
murdered indigenous women. The forcible separation of some 150,000 children from their families over more than 100 years was an attempt
to end the existence of Aboriginals in Canada, a report concludedPhotograph: Adrian Wyld/AP

December 20, 2015 - CANADA - Justin Trudeau has pledged to work towards full reconciliation with Canadian Aboriginals as he accepted a final report on the abuses of the government’s now-defunct system of residential schools for indigenous children.

The forcible separation of some 150,000 children from their families over more than 100 years was an attempt to end the existence of Aboriginals as distinct legal, social, cultural, religious and racial entities in Canada, the long-awaited report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada concluded.

“Our goal, as we move forward together, is clear: it is to lift this burden from your shoulders, from those of your families and communities. It is to accept fully our responsibilities and our failings, as a government and as a country,” Trudeau told hundreds of residential school survivors as the report was released Tuesday.

Trudeau, elected in October, said last week it was time to renew the relationship between Canada and its Aboriginals and has set up an inquiry to investigate a trend of missing and murdered indigenous women.

The commission, launched as part of a settlement with survivors, said Canada pursued a policy of cultural genocide because “it wished to divest itself of its legal and financial obligations to Aboriginal people and gain control over their land and resources”.

The report documented horrific physical abuse, rape, malnutrition and other atrocities suffered by many of the children who attended the schools, typically run by Christian churches on behalf of Ottawa from the 1840s to the 1990s.The report, the result of a six-year investigation into the matter, identified 3,201 student deaths at residential schools but said it is probable that many more deaths went unrecorded.

“Many students who went to residential school never returned. They were lost to their families ... No one took care to count how many died or to record where they were buried,” the report said.

The legacy of the residential school system persists as many Canadian aboriginals struggle to recover from generations of family separation.

Aboriginals, who make up about 5% of Canada’s population, have higher levels of poverty and a lower life expectancy than other Canadians, and are more often victims of violent crime, addiction and incarceration.

Former prime minister Stephen Harper in 2008 apologized to the survivors of the residential schools. The group made 94 reconciliatory recommendations, including special human rights and anti-racism training for public servants.

WATCH: The International Common Law Court - Genocide in Canada .

- The Guardian.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Bus-Sized Asteroid 2015 YB "The Flea" Buzzes Earth - Came Within A Mere 36,800 Miles Of The Planet!

December 20, 2015 - SPACE - A newly discovered asteroid the size of a city bus gave Earth a close shave this morning (Dec. 19), zipping well within the orbit of the moon.

The near-Earth asteroid 2015 YB, which is about 34 feet (10 meters) wide, cruised within a mere 36,800 miles (59,220 kilometers) of the planet at around 7 a.m. EST (1200 GMT) today, just two days after the space rock was first spotted.

To put that near miss in perspective: The moon orbits Earth at an average distance of 239,000 miles (384,600 km), and geosynchronous satellites fly about 22,000 miles (35,400 km) from the planet's surface.

The online Slooh Community Observatory webcast live views of asteroid 2015 YB on Friday night. Slooh nicknamed the small asteroid "The Flea," after Argentinian soccer superstar Lionel Messi, who stands just 5 feet, 7 inches tall. The asteroid was traveling at roughly 32,300 mph (52,000 km/h) relative to Earth at the time of closest approach, according to scientists with NASA's Near-Earth Object Program, which is based at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

This size comparison shows the size of asteroid 2015 YB as compared to professional soccer player Lionel "The Flea" Messi. Credit: Slooh Community Observatory

2015 YB is one of millions of asteroids that orbit the sun in Earth's neighborhood. The vast majority of these space rocks remain undetected; researchers have found and catalogued just 13,500 near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) to date.

Some of these rocks have Earth in their crosshairs; the planet has been pummeled repeatedly since its birth 4.5 billion years ago, and will continue to take cosmic punishment for eons to come.

Most of these collisions involve objects the size of 2015 YB or smaller, which do no appreciable damage. But bigger asteroids do occasionally slam into Earth, and the consequences can be devastating. For example, scientists think that a strike by a 6-mile-wide (10 km) asteroid caused the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

But there's good news as well. About 95 percent of the biggest NEAs out there — rocks at least 0.6 miles wide (1 km), which could wreak havoc on a global scale, and potentially even threaten human civilization, if they hit Earth — have already been spotted and tracked. None pose a threat for the foreseeable future. - SPACE.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVALS: Major Land Subsidence Continues In Oregon - Massive Sinkhole Devours Section Of Highway 22 And Disrupts Traffic!

The sinkhole on Highway 22. (Photo courtesy of ODOT)

December 20, 2015 - OREGON, UNITED STATES - Oregon Highway 22, also known as the Three Rivers Highway or - by locals - "the Sour Grass," is closed until further notice owing to a sinkhole located about 2.5 miles east of the Dolph Junction and roughly 12 miles east of Hebo and the U.S. Highway 101 intersection.

Early reports indicate the hole is roughly 5 feet wide and 4 feet deep and affects both lanes. A vehicle narrowly avoided landing in it about 1 a.m. this morning, Tuesday, Dec. 8. It is unknown at this time if the driver was injured. A detour to Grand Ronde and the Willamette Valley is available via U.S. Highway 101 south to Lincoln City, and then east via Oregon Highway 18, the Salmon River Highway.

The sinkhole on Highway 22. (Photo courtesy of ODOT)

The Oregon Department of Transportation reported that the road will be closed long-term as it will need to be rebuilt. Local traffic can access points on either side of the closure but through traffic will need to use OR 18 as an alternate route, according to ODOT.

A sinkhole disrupted traffic in Gresham yesterday - yet another sign that the rain-soaked region is showing the effects of excessive moisture in a short span of time.

Nearby Oregon Highways 130, the Little Nestucca Highway, and 153, the Bellevue-Hopewell Highway, are also closed owing to high water. Highway 130 which runs between Oretown and Dolph, is closed about 1 mile east of the intersection with U.S. Highway 101, while Highway 153 is closed one mile east of the intersection with Highway 18.

In Tillamook, U.S. Highway 101 remains closed between downtown and Fred Meyer, with a detour established via Latimer Road coming from the north and Third Street-to-Highway 6-to Wilson River Loop Road North-South, coming from the south. Highway 6 is closed 1 mile east of downtown Tillamook, but open where the detour route intersects.

(Update) The driver of the vehicle that encountered the sinkhole early this morning was not injured. He was driving a hay truck for Jenck Farms, of Tillamook, and managed to avoid landing in the hole, but did end up with the vehicle in a nearby ditch, according to Michelle Jenck, Jenck Farms co-owner. The truck is heavily damaged.

- Tilamook County Pioneer.

EXTREME WEATHER: Severe Fire Danger For Victoria, Australia - Temperatures Soar To 45 DEGREES With Strong North Winds!

The Wandin North bushfire in Victoria, Australia. © 9NEWS

December 20, 2015 - AUSTRALIA
- Victoria will roast under temperatures tipped to soar as high as 45 degrees in the state's north-west on Saturday, with Melbourne not expecting a reprieve from the dangerous heatwave until Sunday afternoon.

"Extreme" fire danger ratings have now been applied to four Victorian fire districts for Saturday, Central - which includes Melbourne and surrounds - North Central, Wimmera and South West. A further four districts are facing "Severe" fire danger conditions.

A total fire ban has been declared for the whole weekend and a number of parks have been closed. Ambulance Victoria meanwhile is bracing for what could almost be a "perfect storm" on Saturday night, due to the extreme heat and the potential for people to party too hard.

Higher wind speeds than were earlier expected, which could gust to 70 or 80km/h on Saturday and Sunday, have increased fire danger ratings.

Melbourne is expecting a staggering 41 degrees on Saturday - an unusual peak before Christmas - with northerly winds in the morning of 35 to 50km/h. The hottest temperature for Saturday, 45 degrees, is forecast for in the Mallee including the small towns of Werrimull and Underbool.

WATCH: Aussie firefighters battle blazes in Melbourne.

Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley confirmed the conditions this weekend would be the worst so far this fire season. Saturday would be "extremely hot" and provide the most challenging.

"The most serious part for fire danger is actually tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon. The winds will be strong, it'll be the hottest part of the weekend. And in most parts of the state it will be reaching into the 40s," he said.

"We've had a baking period across Victoria where the fuels are now as dry as they can be in most parts of the state. And we've now got hot conditions running over a number of days and the winds will be 40 to 50 kilometres (per hour), gusting to 60 and 70 kilometres."

Paul Holman from Ambulance Victoria urged people to keep hydrated. "Heat kills because we don't drink enough water, heat kills because we don't respect it and heat kills because we complacently leave our children in cars. So make sure we heed this weather, we are going into an extreme period," he said.

"Tomorrow night is nearly a perfect storm for ambulance. We've got every available resource across the state out. Combine the heat and combine the partying and we really are going to be busy," he said.

Racing Victoria has cancelled thoroughbred racing. "The weather across Victoria tomorrow will be extreme and we have taken a view, after examining the latest forecast, that it is in the best interests of all that we not conduct any race meetings," Chief Executive Bernard Saundry said.

Tony Bannister from the Bureau of Meteorology said it was unusual for Melbourne to exceed 40 degrees in December. "This is usually a January/February thing."

He also said: "We're forecasting a record overnight min (minimum temperature) on the Saturday night into the Sunday. At the moment we're forecasting 28, the previous overnight record was 27.4 for Melbourne, for December. And it's highly unusual that we forecast records." Melbourne's average overnight temperature in December is 13 degrees.

By mid-afternoon on Friday 100 grass or bushfires had been reported in Victoria. The temperature on Christmas Day is now forecast to be 31 degrees. - The Age.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Chile Struck By Magnitude 6.0 Earthquake - Chile's Seismological Center! [MAPS + TECTONIC SUMMARY]

USGS earthquake location.

December 20, 2015 - CHILE - A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.0 has struck east of the city of Ovalle in Chile's Limarí province, seismologists say, with shaking felt over a large area.

The earthquake, which struck at 4:25 p.m. local time on Saturday, was centered about 13 kilometers (8 miles) east of Ovalle, or 82 kilometers (51 miles) southeast of La Serena.

It struck about 49 kilometers (30 miles) deep, making it a relatively shallow earthquake, according to Chile's seismological center.

USGS shakemap intensity.

The earthquake could be felt over a large area, with medium intensity shaking reported in the regions of Atacama and O'Higgins.

There was no immediate word about possible damage or casualties.

Chile's seismological center initially put the magnitude of the earthquake at 6.2, but later downgraded it to 6.0.

Chile's Hydrographical and Oceanographical Service of the Navy said the earthquake did not meet the characteristics necessary to generate a tsunami off the coast. - BNO News.

Seismotectonics of South America (Nazca Plate Region)

The South American arc extends over 7,000 km, from the Chilean margin triple junction offshore of southern Chile to its intersection with the Panama fracture zone, offshore of the southern coast of Panama in Central America. It marks the plate boundary between the subducting Nazca plate and the South America plate, where the oceanic crust and lithosphere of the Nazca plate begin their descent into the mantle beneath South America. 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. Relative to a fixed South America plate, the Nazca plate moves slightly north of eastwards at a rate varying from approximately 80 mm/yr in the south to approximately 65 mm/yr in the north. Although the rate of subduction varies little along the entire arc, there are complex changes in the geologic processes along the subduction zone that dramatically influence volcanic activity, crustal deformation, earthquake generation and occurrence all along the western edge of South America.

Most of the large earthquakes in South America are constrained to shallow depths of 0 to 70 km resulting from both crustal and interplate deformation. Crustal earthquakes result from deformation and mountain building in the overriding South America plate and generate earthquakes as deep as approximately 50 km. Interplate earthquakes occur due to slip along the dipping interface between the Nazca and the South American plates. Interplate earthquakes in this region are frequent and often large, and occur between the depths of approximately 10 and 60 km. Since 1900, numerous magnitude 8 or larger earthquakes have occurred on this subduction zone interface that were followed by devastating tsunamis, including the 1960 M9.5 earthquake in southern Chile, the largest instrumentally recorded earthquake in the world. Other notable shallow tsunami-generating earthquakes include the 1906 M8.5 earthquake near Esmeraldas, Ecuador, the 1922 M8.5 earthquake near Coquimbo, Chile, the 2001 M8.4 Arequipa, Peru earthquake, the 2007 M8.0 earthquake near Pisco, Peru, and the 2010 M8.8 Maule, Chile earthquake located just north of the 1960 event.

USGS plate tectonics for the region.

Large intermediate-depth earthquakes (those occurring between depths of approximately 70 and 300 km) are relatively limited in size and spatial extent in South America, and occur within the Nazca plate as a result of internal deformation within the subducting plate. These earthquakes generally cluster beneath northern Chile and southwestern Bolivia, and to a lesser extent beneath northern Peru and southern Ecuador, with depths between 110 and 130 km. Most of these earthquakes occur adjacent to the bend in the coastline between Peru and Chile. The most recent large intermediate-depth earthquake in this region was the 2005 M7.8 Tarapaca, Chile earthquake.

Earthquakes can also be generated to depths greater than 600 km as a result of continued internal deformation of the subducting Nazca plate. Deep-focus earthquakes in South America are not observed from a depth range of approximately 300 to 500 km. Instead, deep earthquakes in this region occur at depths of 500 to 650 km and are concentrated into two zones: one that runs beneath the Peru-Brazil border and another that extends from central Bolivia to central Argentina. These earthquakes generally do not exhibit large magnitudes. An exception to this was the 1994 Bolivian earthquake in northwestern Bolivia. This M8.2 earthquake occurred at a depth of 631 km, which was until recently the largest deep-focus earthquake instrumentally recorded (superseded in May 2013 by a M8.3 earthquake 610 km beneath the Sea of Okhotsk, Russia), and was felt widely throughout South and North America.

Subduction of the Nazca plate is geometrically complex and impacts the geology and seismicity of the western edge of South America. The intermediate-depth regions of the subducting Nazca plate can be segmented into five sections based on their angle of subduction beneath the South America plate. Three segments are characterized by steeply dipping subduction; the other two by near-horizontal subduction. The Nazca plate beneath northern Ecuador, southern Peru to northern Chile, and southern Chile descend into the mantle at angles of 25° to 30°. In contrast, the slab beneath southern Ecuador to central Peru, and under central Chile, is subducting at a shallow angle of approximately 10° or less. In these regions of “flat-slab” subduction, the Nazca plate moves horizontally for several hundred kilometers before continuing its descent into the mantle, and is shadowed by an extended zone of crustal seismicity in the overlying South America plate. Although the South America plate exhibits a chain of active volcanism resulting from the subduction and partial melting of the Nazca oceanic lithosphere along most of the arc, these regions of inferred shallow subduction correlate with an absence of volcanic activity.

More information on regional seismicity and tectonics