Saturday, January 2, 2016

ICE AGE NOW: Global Cooling Continues Relentlessly - New December Snowfall Record For Crater Lake National Park, Oregon!

Crater Lake National Park.

January 2, 2016 - OREGON, UNITED STATES - Crater Lake National Park has broken its snowfall record for December, with close to 197 inches of snow recorded.

The Mail Tribune reports the previous record of 196 inches was set in December 1948.

The park currently has a snowpack of about 100 inches.

The readings are taken in an area near the park's visitor center.

A long-term forecast predicts southwest Oregon will see close to average snowfall and precipitation in January, with a slightly wetter-than-normal period through March. - KPTV.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVALS: Sinkholes Keep Popping Up Across The United States - Garbage Truck Falls Into Sinkhole In Atlanta, Georgia! [VIDEO]

Garbage truck in hole in Atlanta. © Doug Richards / 11Alive

January 2, 2016 - GEORGIA, UNITED STATES - The Atlanta Watershed department is investigating why a sinkhole formed this morning in SW Atlanta, damaging a garbage truck.

The truck, hauling for a private company, was traveling west of Fair street when the pavement beneath collapsed.

It formed a six-feet-deep hole, and the left rear end of the truck fell into it.

No one was injured.

WATCH: Garbage truck falls into Atlanta sinkhole.

Watershed department spokeswoman Lillian Govus said the cause of the sinkhole was a breach in a large underground terracotta pipe.

The pipe carried combined sewage - rain water and waste water. Govus said the pipe collapsed because of excessive flow due to recent rains.

She expects Fair street to be closed until Thursday morning when she said crews should be able to inspect and reopen it.

Separately, officials are trying to figure out how to get the truck out of the hole. - 11Alive.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Strong 5.8 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Afghanistan - Ripples Felt Across North India And Kashmir! [MAPS + TECTONIC SUMMARY]

USGS earthquake location.

January 2, 2016 - AFGHANISTAN - A medium intensity earthquake on Saturday hit Hindu Kush region in Afghanistan, ripples of which were felt across North India, including in Jammu & Kashmir and the national capital.

The earthquake, measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale, was 170 km deep, according to the National Seismology division of Ministry of Earth Sciences.

There was no report of any loss of life or damage to property till the last reports came in.

The tremor occurred at 2:07 PM and people in the national capital region rushed out of their homes.

People in Kashmir also felt the tremor.

The 5.8 magnitude tremor was experienced at around 2.15 pm in the Valley, an official of the MeT department said.

He said the epicentre of the tremor was the HinduKush mountain range in Afghanistan at a depth of around 170 kilometres from the surface of the earth.

The tremor, which lasted just few seconds, caused panic among the residents who rushed out of the buildings for safety.

A police official said there were no reports of any damage due to the tremor, which was the first of the new year in the Valley. - The Indian Express.

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.

ICE AGE NOW: Global Cooling Continues Relentlessly - Record Snowfall For Sudbury, Ontario!

The sidewalk leading to the pedestrian tunnel connecting Riverside Drive to Elgin Street and downtown Sudbury, remained uncleared for much of the day Wednesday,
after a record 33 centimetres of snow blanketed Greater Sudbury Tuesday.
© Jonathan Migneault.

January 2, 2016 - ONTARIO, CANADA - City to start clearing high-use bus stops Wednesday night

It's expected to take the city two more days to clear all 425 kilometres of sidewalks and walkways in Greater Sudbury, after a record 33-centimetre snowfall Tuesday.

"They're making good progress," said City of Greater Sudbury spokesperson Shannon Dowling.

Tony Cecutti, the city's general manager of infrastructure, said the focus on clearing Greater Sudbury's 3,560-kilometre municipal road network within 24 hours slowed down efforts to clean up sidewalks and walkways.

"Unfortunately, we've filled in some of the sidewalks with our own plows," he said.

The city plowed all streets and roadways by 4 a.m. Wednesday, and proceeded with second passes throughout the rest of the day.

Cecutti said the city has a crew dedicated to sidewalks, and a fleet of 25 small plows — called sidewalk municipal tractors — used for the task.

By 9 p.m. Wednesday, city crews are expected to start clearing Sudbury's 135 bus shelters and the regular bus stops that see the most traffic. The standard the city sets is to clear bus shelters within 48 hours after a storm ends.

Greater Sudbury has 1,358 bus stops, but only those that see higher ridership - primarily along busier roads like Lasalle Boulevard and Regent Street - will be visited by city crews, again within 48 hours after a storm ends.

If a bus stop has not been cleared, the city encourages transit passengers to wait at any viable clearing near the stop and wave down their bus.

City bus drivers have been instructed to find clear areas to drop off passengers when stops are blocked by snowbanks. - Northern Life.


USGS earthquake location.

January 2, 2016 - NEW JERSEY, UNITED STATES - An unusual and mild earthquake struck in New Jersey on Saturday, officials said.

The 2.1-magnitude shake up hit Ringwood, New Jersey, at 12:58 a.m., according to the United States Geological Survey.

USGS shakemap intensity.

The earthquake could be felt in Sloatsburg and Suffern, according to the Suffern Police Department.

There was no reported damage to people or property, Ringwood police said. - 4 New York.

Earthquakes in the New York - Philadelphia - Wilmington Urban Corridor

Since colonial times people in the New York - Philadelphia - Wilmington urban corridor have felt small earthquakes and suffered damage from infrequent larger ones. New York City was damaged in 1737 and 1884. Moderately damaging earthquakes strike somewhere in the urban corridor roughly twice a century, and smaller earthquakes are felt roughly every 2-3 years.

Earthquakes in the central and eastern U.S., although less frequent than in the western U.S., are typically felt over a much broader region. East of the Rockies, an earthquake can be felt over an area as much as ten times larger than a similar magnitude earthquake on the west coast. A magnitude 4.0 eastern U.S. earthquake typically can be felt at many places as far as 100 km (60 mi) from where it occurred, and it infrequently causes damage near its source. A magnitude 5.5 eastern U.S. earthquake usually can be felt as far as 500 km (300 mi) from where it occurred, and sometimes causes damage as far away as 40 km (25 mi).


Earthquakes everywhere occur on faults within bedrock, usually miles deep. Most bedrock beneath the urban corridor was assembled as continents collided to form a supercontinent about 500-300 million years ago, raising the Appalachian Mountains. Most of the rest of the bedrock formed when the supercontinent rifted apart about 200 million years ago to form what are now the northeastern U.S., the Atlantic Ocean, and Europe.

At well-studied plate boundaries like the San Andreas fault system in California, often scientists can determine the name of the specific fault that is responsible for an earthquake. In contrast, east of the Rocky Mountains this is rarely the case. New York City, Philadelphia, and Wilmington are far from the nearest plate boundaries, which are in the center of the Atlantic Ocean and in the Caribbean Sea. The urban corridor is laced with known faults but numerous smaller or deeply buried faults remain undetected. Even the known faults are poorly located at earthquake depths. Accordingly, few, if any, earthquakes in the urban corridor can be linked to named faults. It is difficult to determine if a known fault is still active and could slip and cause an earthquake. As in most other areas east of the Rockies, the best guide to earthquake hazards in the New York - Philadelphia - Wilmington urban corridor is the earthquakes themselves.

Felt at Highland Lakes and Ringwood.

For More Information

Additional earthquake information for New Jersey

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVALS: 20-Foot Deep Sinkhole Opens Up In Wales - Homes Evacuated! [PHOTOS]

Deep: The 20ft deep sinkhole opened up at around 8am. © Benjamin Wright/PA

January 2, 2016 - WALES - Homes have been evacuated in south Wales after a street was closed off when a 20ft deep sinkhole opened up in a pavement.

Emergency crews were called to Coronation Terrace in Nantyffyllon, Maesteg, at around 8am on Thursday following reports someone had fallen in the hole.

Firefighters said a man had been "recovered prior to arrival" and did not need to go to hospital.

Residents from "six or seven" flats were told to leave their homes by emergency services after the hole emerged.

Highways inspector Neil Minchington told BBC Wales: "There's about six or seven flats that were evacuated.

"We'll assess the situation to see if it is safe to allow the tenants back in this evening."

The cause of the sinkhole is being investigated by Bridgend Council.

Its appearance comes after heavy rain during Storm Frank but workers are also assessing whether old mining work may be responsible.

A spokesman for South Wales Fire and Rescue added: "We were called at 7.49am to reports a pavement had collapsed.

"There's a two-metres-squared hole in the pavement extending to a large underground chamber."

The Bridgend valleys was once home to several drift and coal mines and two large pits were based in a village up the road from Nantyffyllon. - Evening Standard.

EXTREME WEATHER: Cyclone Ula Slams Into Tonga Damaging Homes And Infrastructure - First Pacific Cyclone Of 2016; Hundreds Evacuated; State Of Emergency Declared!

The cyclone reportedly damaged 40 homes in Tuvalu. © Tusi Finikaso/Facebook

January 2, 2016 - TONGA - Hundreds of people have evacuated from their homes in Tonga as severe tropical cyclone Ula slammed into the tiny Pacific kingdom.

There are no reported casualties as Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva declared a state of emergency before the storm hit "in order to prevent or minimise the loss of human life, illness or injury".

The northern island of Vava'u took the brunt of the category three cyclone which was packing winds up to 150 kilometres per hour.

"We are very happy that there are no casualties, police checked with hospitals and town officers to confirm that," the chairman of the National Emergency Management Office, Siaosi Sovaleni, told a press conference.

"We had 11 evacuation centres, over 390 people were relocated to these evacuation centres."

Ula formed early on Thursday in the South Pacific between Tuvalu and Samoa and was initially expected to remain a category one storm as it tracked west-south-westerly.

However, it intensified to category two late on Thursday then to category three as it approached Tonga.

The storm brought down trees, damaged crops, and the main airport was closed to domestic flights.

Map tracking Cyclone Ula

The director of the Tonga meteorological office, Ofa Fa'anunu, said it was fortunate there was little moisture around which would have intensified the severity of the storm.

"On another day it would probably have become a (maximum) category five," he said.

"If the moisture had been present it would have been the right ingredients for development into a much stronger system."

The official Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre said in an advisory that Ula had "very destructive winds" with "very high to phenomenal seas" causing flooding in low-lying areas.

The hurricane warning for Vava'u was downgraded to a storm warning early on Saturday afternoon.

The tropical cyclone warnings for other island groups in Tonga were also downgraded.

The storm is expected to weaken Sunday as it heads towards Fiji.

But cyclone warnings remain in place in Tonga and Fiji's National Disaster Management Office issued a strong wind and heavy rain warning ahead of Ula's approach.

In January 2014, Tonga was hit by Cyclone Ian which left one person dead, 4,000 homeless and destroyed crops on outlying islands. - ABC Online.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Strong Magnitude 5.8 Earthquake Strikes Near New Zealand's Coast - USGS! [MAPS + TECTONIC SUMMARY]

USGS earthquake location.

January 2, 2016 - NEW ZEALAND - A 5.8-magnitude earthquake on Friday struck New Zealand's coast, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) said.

Tremors were registered at 15:02 GMT.

The epicenter was located about 50 miles north-east of Raoul Island at the depth of approximately 61 miles.

USGS shakemap intensity.

No information about the damage or casualties was immediately available.

Parts of New Zealand lie on the so-called Ring of Fire, a horseshoe-shaped string of volcanoes around the Pacific Rim, where about 90 percent of the world's quakes occur. - Sputnik.

Seismotectonics of the Eastern Margin of the Australia Plate

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

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

USGS plate tectonics for the region.

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

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

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

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

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

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

More information on regional seismicity and tectonics


GLOBAL FOOD & WATER CRISIS: Drastic Drop In Water Levels In Colombia's Main Rivers - Red Alert Issued!

A drought caused by El Nino exposes the bed of the El Cisne lake in Colombia, July 31, 2014.

January 2, 2016 - COLOMBIA - Colombia has issued a red alert in the aftermath of low water levels in the country's main rivers and forest fires burning across the Andes Mountains.

President Juan Manuel Santos made the declaration on Wednesday on the request of Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM).

The decision was made in the wake of a drastic drop in water levels in the two key rivers of Magdalena and Cauca, which supply hundreds of towns and cities in the South American country.

This is while a fifth of Colombia's municipalities are already under water rationing measures amid the El Nino phenomenon and an ensuing dramatic reduction in rainfall.

The phenomenon also forced the government earlier this week to declare a red alert for forest fires burning across the Andes Mountains.

The Colombian Environmental Ministry said the forest fires are a consequence of drought and rising temperatures across Colombia. The red alert applied to 80 percent of the country.

El Nino, a key weather pattern, occurs every seven to eight years when ocean waters become exceptionally warm and distort weather conditions across the globe.

It is characterized by the warming of surface waters particularly in the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean, which is connected with drought in Southeast Asia and Australia and heavy rains in South America. - Press TV.

OMEN: "How Is This Even Possible" - Hikers Discover Tree Burning On The Inside In Defiance, Ohio?!

January 2, 2016 - OHIO, UNITED STATES - A group of Ohio hikers happened upon a frightening sight — a tree burning from the inside.

In a video of the incident (below), a tree in the woods of Defiance, Ohio, can be seen in flames as the hikers watch in shock. "What the f**k," one of the hikers says.

Strangely, no fire damage is evident on the outside of the tree.

"How is this even possible?" one of the hikers asks. "It's starting to get up and around."

Since being posted on December 21, the 30-second clip garnered over 200,000 views.

WATCH: The "Devil Tree".

- Opposing Views.

SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: Weather Phenomenon - Mysterious Hole Punch Clouds Appear Over Louisiana, Mississippi And Alabama?!

Interesting cloud formation in Northport, Alabama.

January 2, 2016 - UNITED STATES - A series of mysterious hole punch clouds appeared in the sky of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama on December 29, 2015.

As if these fallstreak clouds punched gaping holes in the skies across the South.

These weird clouds form when water vapor is suspended in subfreezing air, but the vapor has not frozen because there is a lack of particles for it to freeze around.

A pretty hole in the clouds.

Hole punch clouds in Tuscaloosa, AL

Cool cloud seen over Zachary, Louisiana

Cool sky in T-town

2 in a row

Fallstreak hole in Baton Rouge, LA

Hole punch cloud over Atmore, Al

When particles are then introduced, the vapor starts to freeze and falls towards the surface, leaving a void or hole at cloud level, but streaks of cloud underneath.

These awesome holes in the clouds were spots in the southern states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama on December 29, 2015. - Strange Sounds.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Nine Category Five Storms Hit Planet Earth In 205 - The Second Most On Record!

Tropical Cyclone Pam

January 2, 2016 - EARTH - Category Five: the phase evokes an almost reverential awe in novice and seasoned hurricane watchers alike, as one considers the incredible power and majesty of these most perfect but terrifyingly destructive storms on the planet. As we look back on the year in weather, a striking feature of 2015 is the bumper crop of these fearsome storms that appeared--thanks to El Niño bringing record-warm ocean temperatures to large swaths of the Pacific Ocean.

Nine Category 5 storms whipped into life over the world's oceans in 2015: five in the Northwest Pacific, one in the Northeast Pacific, one in the Southeast Pacific, and two in the South Indian Ocean. Since accurate global satellite records began in 1990, only one year has seen more. That record is held by the El Niño year of 1997, which had twelve Category 5 storms--ten of them in the Northwest Pacific.

Figure 1. Global Category 5 tropical cyclones from 1990 - 2015, as rated by NOAA's National Hurricane Center and the U.S. Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center.
There is no obvious trend in the numbers, though the past two years have seen an unusually large number of Cat 5s.
© Weather Underground

Here, then, is a "rogue's gallery" of all the Category 5 storms on Earth in 2015: 

Hurricane Patricia. © NASA

Cat Five #9, Northeast Pacific
Hurricane Patricia as seen by the MODIS instrument on NASA's Terra spacecraft at 1:30 pm EDT October 23, 2015. At the time, Patricia was the most intense hurricane ever observed in the Western Hemisphere, with 200 mph sustained surface winds and a central pressure of 879 mb. Patricia made landfall in an relatively unpopulated area near Cuixmala in Southwest Mexico on October 23 as a Category 5 storm with 165 mph winds, killing fourteen and doing $300 million in damage. 

Super Typhoon Atsani. © NASA

Cat Five #8, Northwest Pacific
Super Typhoon Atsani as seen by the MODIS instrument on NASA's Aqua spacecraft at 05:30 UTC August 19, 2015. Six hours later, Atsani hit peak strength with 160 mph winds and a 925 mb central pressure. Atsani spent its life over the open ocean waters to the east and southeast of Japan, and did not affect any land areas.

Super Typhoon Soudelor

Cat Five #7, Northwest Pacific

Super Typhoon Soudelor as seen by the VIIRS instrument on the Suomi spacecraft at 03:43 UTC August 4, 2015. At the time, Soudelor was a peak-strength Category 5 storm with 180 mph winds and a 900 mb central pressure. Soudelor passed directly over Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands on August 2 as a Category 2 storm, causing widespread damage and injuring ten people on the island. Soudelor hit Japan's Ryukyu Islands on August 5, causing over $3 million in damage, then hit Taiwan as a Category 3 storm with 120 mph winds on August 7, knocking out power to 4.85 million households--the largest power outage in Taiwan's history. On August 8, Soudelor hit Fujian Province in China as a Category 1 storm with 85 mph winds, causing over $3 billion in damage. Soudelor killed a total of 41 people and did $3.2 billion in damage along its entire path.

Super Typhoon Dolphin. © NASA

Cat Five #6, Northwest Pacific
Super Typhoon Dolphin as seen by at 01:05 UTC May 16, 2015 by MODIS. At the time, Dolphin was an intensifying Category 4 storm and would reach peak intensity as a Category 5 storm with 160 mph winds 17 hours later. Dolphin affected Guam and Rota in the U.S. Mariana Islands as a Category 2 storm with sustained winds of 110 mph. The eye of Dolphin passed through the channel between the islands of Guam and Rota, and Andersen Air Force Base on Guam experienced sustained winds as high as 84 mph and a peak gust of 106 mph. Damage in the Mariana Islands from the typhoon was estimated at $10 million.

Super Typhoon Noul. © The University of Wisconsin/CIMSS
Cat Five #5, Northwest Pacific
Super Typhoon Noul as seen by the new Japanese Himawari-8 satellite at 00:50 UTC May 10, 2015. At the time, Noul was a peak-strength Category 5 storm with 160 mph winds and a 915 mb central pressure. Noul hit northeast Luzon in the Philippines at 09 UTC May 10 as a Category 5 storm with 160 mph winds, killing two and causing less than $1 million in damage. Noul was the fourth strongest typhoon on record for so early in the year. The only stronger ones were Super Typhoon Amy of 1971, which deepened to 890 mb on May 2, Super Typhoon Iris of 1951, which hit 909 mb on May 3, and Super Typhoon Maysak that occurred just over a month previously (March 31, 2015, 905 mb central pressure.) The University of Wisconsin CIMSS, put together a remarkable hi-res satellite animation of the storm from the Himawari-8 satellite (which is still in check-out mode.)

Super Typhoon Maysak. © NASA
Cat Five #4, Northwest Pacific
Super Typhoon Maysak as seen from the International Space Station at approximately 6 pm EDT Tuesday March 31, 2015 (just after dawn local time.) At the time, Mayask was at peak intensity, with sustained winds of 160 mph (as estimated by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center) and a central pressure of 905 mb (as estimated by the Japan Meteorological Agency.) Maysak was the strongest typhoon ever observed in the Northwest Pacific prior to April, and one of only three Category 5 typhoons ever observed in the Northwest Pacific so early in the year. Maysak killed 9 and did $8.5 million in damage to several small islands in the Federated States of Micronesia, which it struck at Category 5 strength on March 31. The nine people killed by the storm made it Micronesia's second deadliest storm in recorded history, according to EM-DAT. Their deadliest disaster was Category 4 Typhoon Chataan, which dumped 19.90" (506 mm) of rain in 24 hours on Chuuk, causing landslides that killed 47 people. Maysak is the 2nd most expensive disaster in Micronesia's history; the most expensive was Category 1 Typhoon Nina, which did $6 million (1987 dollars) in damage on November 21, 1987.

Tropical Cyclone Pam

Cat Five #3, Southeast Pacific
Tropical Cyclone Pam near peak intensity (165 mph winds, 896 mb pressure), as seen by the VIIRS instrument on the Suomi satellite at 10:42 am EDT March 13, 2015, just southeast of Efate Island, where the capital of Vanuatu, Port Vila, lies. Pam killed 16 people and did $250 million in damage to the island nation of Vanuatu, making it the 2nd most expensive disaster in their history (the most expensive, according to EM-DAT: Cyclone Eric of 1985, which did $173 million in damage in 1985 dollars, or $377 million 2015 dollars.) Pam was the third most intense storm in the entire Southern Hemisphere by central pressure, only after Cyclone Zoe of 2002 and Cyclone Gafilo of 2004. Pam is tied with Cyclone Orson and Cyclone Monica for having the strongest sustained 10-minute average winds of any cyclone on record in the Southern Hemisphere. Cat Five #2, Southwest Indian

Tropical Cyclone Eunice. © NASA

Cat Five #2, Southwest Indian
Tropical Cyclone Eunice as seen by the MODIS instrument at 05:30 UTC January 30, 2015, when the storm was at peak intensity (160 mph winds, 900 mb pressure.) Eunice was the 3rd strongest cyclone ever observed in the Southwest Indian Ocean by pressure, and the strongest by winds. Fortunately, Eunice affected only ocean areas in the South Indian Ocean.

Tropical Cyclone Bansi. © Astronaut Sam Cristoforetti

Cat Five #1, Southwest Indian
Tropical Cyclone Bansi as seen from the International Space Station, when lightning was lighting up the eye. The date of the photo was not given, but presumably was January 13, 2015, when Bansi was near peak intensity as a Category 5 storm with 160 mph winds, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. Bansi grazed the French island of La Reunion, off the coast of Madagascar, on January 13, dumping up to 22 inches of rain. After weakening to a Category 2 storm, Bansi passed about 90 miles from Rodrigues Island, which recorded sustained winds of 93 mph. Approximately 90 percent of the island was left without power.

The near misses

Three tropical cyclone achieved an intensity of 155 mph winds, just missing the cutoff for being classified as Category 5 storms. It is possible that in post-season analysis, these storms will be classified as Category 5 (this happened to two typhoons in the Pacific in post-season analysis after the 2014 typhoon season.) The near-miss storms of 2015 were Hurricane Joaquin in the Atlantic, Tropical Cyclone Chapala in the Arabian Sea, and Super Typhoon Nangka in the Northwest Pacific. - Wunderground.