Friday, 30 December 2011

Pennsylvania a large sinkhole encroaches on a historic Allentown cemetery

(CNN) -- Officials in Pennsylvania may give the go-ahead Friday to exhume graves as a large sinkhole encroaches on a historic Allentown cemetery.
A court order has been secured so that Lehigh County Coroner Scott Grim can give the order if he deems such action necessary.
"It's a very sensitive issue. You are dealing with a cemetery," Grim said. "You are laid to rest and now it is being disturbed."
The sinkhole measures about 50 feet long and 30 feet wide, according to Allentown Fire Chief Robert C. Scheirer.
"They are pumping concrete into it right now," he said.
About 60 graves in Union and West End Cemetery are threatened, Grim said. Most graves in the cemetery date from the late 1800s to early 1900s.
The coroner has said that authorities could excavate graves if they detect shifts or collapses in the nearby soil.
A dozen homes on nearby 10th Street were vacated and 25 people evacuated because of the sinkhole, said Scheirer. A water main break probably caused the sinkhole.
"Three of homes have major shifting issues that you can physically see shifting," Assistant Fire Chief Lee Laubach told CNN affiliate WFMZ. "You can see the doors don't open, the cracks in the walls and in foundations."
Dwayne Glover, an evacuated resident, told the station that before evacuating his home, his foot had inadvertently gone through a concrete floor as he walked toward his washing machine.
Several headstones have tilted, and there were some breaks in the cemetery ground.
"We can see depressions where the ground has fallen as much as two feet," said Everette Carr, president of the Union and West End Cemetery Association, which maintains the 157-year old nonprofit burial ground.
There also could be unmarked graves, said Carr.
The cemetery holds about 20,000 graves, including those of 714 Civil War veterans. Among them is a Medal of Honor winner, Ignatz Gresser.
Carr did not know if any of the threatened graves included soldiers. Grim, whose office photographed the 60 markers, said he saw some belonging to soldiers.
Cemetery volunteers previously did a survey, but there are no detailed historical records of the dead beyond those whose graves have headstones. And some of those are difficult to read, Carr said.
"It's a very volatile situation," Carr said. "The ground is unstable. There is no question it is moving."

Cyclone Thane slams into southeastern coast of India killing 19

December 30, 2011 – INDIA – Lashing rains and gale force winds are bearing down on India’s southeastern coast, disrupting power supplies and communication lines as Cyclone Thane makes landfall near the industrial city of Chennai, officials said. Packing wind speeds of up to 125kph, and accompanied by tidal surges of up to 1.5m, Thane hit Tamil Nadu state on Friday, killing at least 19 people and causing coastal villagers to move to relief shelters. “Under the influence of this system, rainfall at most places with heavy to very heavy falls at a few places and isolated extremely heavy falls would occur,” the Indian Meteorological Department said. “Gale wind speed reaching 120kph to 130kph gusting to 145kmph is likely along and off north Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry coasts during next three hours and then decrease gradually.” Witnesses in Chennai and Pondicherry said trees had been toppled, there had been power outages throughout the night and disruption to phone and internet services in some areas. Hundreds of people from fishing communities along north Tamil Nadu’s coast, and neighboring Andhra Pradesh state, have moved to schools set up as relief centers until the weather system passes. “Making relief efforts difficult, roads are blocked because of heavy rainfall, trains were canceled and international flights also canceled,” Al Jazeera’s Prerna Suri said. “They had about 24 hours to prepare, unlike with other storms. So evacuation shelters are in place,” our correspondent said. “Eight teams from the disaster management force are deployed from New Delhi, with some 15,000 people put on high alert.” India’s cyclone season generally lasts from April to December, with severe storms often causing dozens of deaths, evacuations of tens of thousands of people from low-lying villages and widespread crop and property damage. In 1999, a “super-cyclone” battered the coast of the eastern state of Orissa for 30 hours with wind speeds reaching 300kph, killing 10,000 people. 

Mystery foam engulfs seaside town in northwest England

December 30, 2011 – UNITED KINGDOM – A thick white blanket settled gently on the seaside town of Cleveleys near Blackpool on Wednesday, but this was no seasonal dusting of snow from above. The Environment Agency dispatched officers to Princess Promenade to gather evidence as gobs of foam blew in from the sea and smothered streets, cars and houses. The foam is whipped up by strong winds once or twice a year along the town’s seafront and vanishes soon after, a spokeswoman for the agency told the Guardian. Lab tests on samples collected in earlier years have found no signs of pollution. Decomposing algal matter is the prime suspect for the mysterious lather. “It appears to be naturally occurring. When the tides and winds combine to churn dead algal matter up from the bottom of the sea, it produces this foam, which is quite dramatic,” the spokeswoman said. Officers visited Cleveleys on Wednesday and again on Thursday to collect more specimens to analyze. The results of the tests are expected to confirm the foam is natural and not caused by detergent in seawater or other pollution. By studying the foam, the agency hopes to learn how and why it forms and so predict when the froth will return. “If we can understand what conditions cause it, that will help us predict it and help local authorities involved in the cleanup operations,” the spokeswoman said.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Massive solar storm 'could knock out radio signals' over next three days, warn scientists

Skywatchers will be hoping for clear skies from today because particles from a recent solar storm will slam into Earth and produce amazing Northern Lights, or auroras.
On the downside, experts expect radio blackouts for a few days, caused by the radiation from the flareor coronal mass ejection (CME) – causing magnetic storms.
The flare is part of a larger increase in activity in the Sun, which runs in 11-year cycles. It is expected to peak around 2013

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center wrote: ‘Category G1 (Minor) geomagnetic storms are expected 28 and 29 December due to multiple coronal mass ejection arrivals. R1 (Minor) radio blackouts are expected until 31 December.’
Devices that depend on radio waves include GPS systems, radios and mobile phones.

A coronal mass ejection contains billions of tons of gases bursting with X-rays and ultraviolet radiation that are flung into space at around 5million mph.
They are mind-bogglingly hot – around 100,000,000C.
The Earth is occasionally hosed by these ejections, leading to amazing shimmering light shows.

They are caused by the ionised solar particles becoming imprisoned by Earth’s magnetic field, exciting the gases in the atmosphere and emitting bursts of energy in the form of light.
However, these particles can also cause magnetic storms, which in extreme cases have been known to disrupt satellites and electricity grids.
In 1989, a CME was held responsible for leaving six million people in Quebec, Canada, without power.
Last month one of the largest storms our star can produce was detected.
Known as an X1.9 flare, it was one of the biggest seen in years.
The flare was so powerful that it disrupted communications systems on earth a short time later.
Another gigantic flare occurred in August - shown in the video below - but because it took place on the side of the Sun not facing Earth, there was no disruption to communications or power.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

West Texas has 3rd earthquake since late November

The U.S. Geological Survey website says a 3.2 magnitude earthquake happened at 8:46 a.m. Saturday, centered 5 miles north-northeast of Snyder, in Scurry County. The area is 78 miles southeast of Lubbock. Authorities had had no immediate reports of injury or damage.

A 3.4 magnitude quake happened Dec. 9 and was centered 15 miles north of Snyder. USGS says on Nov. 24, a 3.0 magnitude quake was centered 17 miles north-northeast of Snyder. The federal agency says a 2.7 magnitude earthquake on Dec. 7 was centered about 29 miles southwest of Dallas. A rare South Texas earthquake happened Oct. 27, with a 4.8 magnitude and epicenter about 37 miles northwest of Beeville. - Statesman.
The USGS gives the following tectonic summary for the area:
Most of North America east of the Rocky Mountains has infrequent earthquakes. Here and there earthquakes are more numerous, for example in the New Madrid seismic zone centered on southeastern Missouri, in the Charlevoix-Kamouraska seismic zone of eastern Quebec, in New England, in the New York - Philadelphia - Wilmington urban corridor, and elsewhere. However, most of the enormous region from the Rockies to the Atlantic can go years without an earthquake large enough to be felt, and several U.S. states have never reported a damaging earthquake. The earthquakes that do occur strike anywhere at irregular intervals. Earthquakes east of the Rocky Mountains, although less frequent than in the West, 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 of the region's bedrock was formed as several generations of mountains rose and were eroded down again over the last billion or so years. 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. All parts of this vast region are far from the nearest plate boundaries, which, for the U.S., are to the east in the center of the Atlantic Ocean, to the south in the Caribbean Sea, and to the west in California and offshore from Washington and Oregon. The region is laced with known faults but numerous smaller or deeply buried faults remain undetected. Even most of the known faults are poorly located at earthquake depths. Accordingly, few earthquakes east of the Rockies 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. In most areas east of the Rockies, the best guide to earthquake hazards is the earthquakes themselves. - USGS.

Sikkim bridge collapses after quake, 8 persons killed

20 dicembre 2011 - GANGTOK - Sikkim è stata scossa da un terremoto di misurazione 3,7 sulla scala Richter il Lunedi, dopo che un ponte crollato nella zona est di Sikkim uccidendo otto persone. L'episodio è avvenuto tre mesi dopo un terremoto di intensità 6,9 lasciato oltre 70 morti nello stato. Lievi tremori si sono fatti sentire a Darjeeling, anche. Ma nessun danno è stato segnalato sia da Gangtok o di altre città e villaggi popolati nello stato. C'è il sospetto che il tremore aveva indebolito il ponte come la regione è stato scosso da oltre 50 scosse negli ultimi tre mesi. Gli ingegneri stanno anche indagando se il carico in eccesso provocato il crollo ponte. La gente era scosso sveglio intorno 03:05 dal sisma che ha avuto il suo epicentro ad est del confine indo-nepalese vicino Chungthang. Il sisma il Lunedi è stato il secondo in meno di una settimana. - Times of India

Cloud suicide will wake black hole sleeping giant

December 19, 2011 – SPACE – The sleeping giant at the centre of the Milky Way is about to wake up. A suicidal gas cloud is heading towards the galaxy’s super-massive black hole, which will probably swallow the cloud, generating enormous flares of radiation that could help explain why the black hole is normally so placid. The doomed cloud was a surprise to astronomers. “We have been looking at the galactic centre for 20 years, but mainly to observe the motion of stars,” says Reinhard Genzel of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany. Genzel’s colleague Stefan Gillessen spotted the cloud in images from the Very Large Telescope array in Chile, taken in March this year. It is an unusually dense cloud, not much bigger than our solar system and carrying about three times the mass of Earth. The team realized that the cloud also appears in earlier images, giving them a sequence that reveals its path. It is moving at almost 2500 kilometres per second towards our galaxy’s black hole, Sagittarius A*. At present Sagittarius A* is strangely quiet, unlike quasars, the hyperactive black holes that emit huge amounts of radiation, fuelled by inflowing gas. Our black hole gets much less gas, and for some reason this starvation state makes it much less efficient than a quasar, producing only a thousandth as much radiation per kilogram of fuel. While a star would just sail past our black hole unscathed, the loose mass of gas heading towards it is more vulnerable. It is already being stretched out by the black hole’s gravity, and when it gets closer in 2013 it will plough into the halo of hot gas around the hole. That should send shockwaves through the cloud to heat it to several million degrees, and according to the group’s simulations the gaseous collision will shred the cloud into filaments. This turmoil may mean that much of the cloud ends up swirling right down into the black hole. There’s no danger of the active black hole harming Earth. –New Scientist

State of calamity declared in the Philippines as death-toll nears a thousand- 50,000 left homeless

December 20, 2011 – PHILIPPINES – Philippine President Benigno Aquino declared a state of national calamity on Tuesday, as authorities work to recover the bodies of those killed by flash floods on the southern island of Mindanao. Disaster agency officials said Tuesday that 957 people have died so far as a result of the floods which began in the early hours of Saturday, while 49 others remain missing. Officials said most of the damage was done in the southern port cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan, where mass graves are being prepared for hundreds of unidentified victims. Iligan City Mayor Lawrence Cruz told the Reuters news agency the mass graves are necessary to prevent the spread of disease as a result of the decomposing bodies. Officials have also reported a shortage of water and food at the island’s overcrowded, makeshift evacuation centers. Almost 50,000 people who lost their homes remain in public shelters. The flooding was caused by tropical storm Washi, which swept through the southern Philippines Friday evening, dropping a month’s worth of rain in 24 hours. Romeo Lozano, a farmer who reportedly saved 200 lives, told the Associated Press how people escaped the fury of the floods by rushing to his house rooftop. About 143-thousand people were affected in 13 southern and central provinces. The Office of Civil Defense says some seven thousand houses were swept away, destroyed or damaged. 

A volcano erupts in west of Yemen

December 20, 2011 – YEMEN A volcano erupted near Saba Island in the Red Sea on Monday, said fishermen from Salif port city in the west of Yemen. The fishermen confirmed that the volcano erupted near Saba Island one of the Al-Zubair archipelago small Islands located 30 nautical miles away if Salif city. The fishermen said that the volcano can be seen 3 hours away from its center and that it has been popping up red lava that reached 20-30 meters high. The fishermen said this was the first volcano they ever seen in the region.

Giant tsunami-clouds in Alabama sky!

December 20, 2011 – ALABAMA For a morning, the sky looked like a surfer’s dream: A series of huge breaking waves lined the horizon in Birmingham, Ala., on Friday (Dec. 16), their crests surging forward in slow motion. Amazed Alabamans took photos of the clouds and sent them to their local weather station, wondering, “What are these tsunamis in the sky?” Experts say the clouds were pristine examples of “Kelvin-Helmholtz waves.” Whether seen in the sky or in the ocean, this type of turbulence always forms when a fast-moving layer of fluid slides on top of a slower, thicker layer, dragging its surface. Water waves, for example, form when the layer of fluid above them (i.e., the air) is moving faster than the layer of fluid below (i.e., the water). When the difference between the wind and water speed increases to a certain point, the waves “break” — their crests lurch forward — and they take on the telltale Kelvin-Helmholtz shape. According to Chris Walcek, a meteorologist at the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center at the State University of New York, Albany, fast-moving air high in the sky can drag the top of slow-moving, thick clouds underneath it in much the same way. 

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Thousands of birds make crash landing in Utah

Crews are cleaning up thousands of migratory birds that made a crash landing in Utah after apparently mistaking a Walmart parking lot and other areas as bodies of water.
Hurricane, Utah following their release by Utah Division of Wildlife
Thousands of migratory birds died on impact after apparently mistaking a Walmart parking lot and other areas of southern Utah for bodies of water and plummeting to the ground in what one wildlife expert called the worst downing she's ever seen. Crews went to work cleaning up the dead birds and rescuing the survivors after the creatures crash-landed in the St. George area Monday night. By Tuesday evening, volunteers had rescued more than 2,000 birds, releasing them into nearby bodies of water. "They're just everywhere," said Teresa Griffin, wildlife program manager for the Utah Department of Wildlife Resource's southern region. "It's been nonstop. All our employees are driving around picking them up, and we've got so many people coming to our office and dropping them off." Officials say stormy conditions probably confused the flock of grebes, a duck-like aquatic bird likely making its way to Mexico for the winter. The birds tried to land in a Cedar City Walmart parking lot and elsewhere.

"The storm clouds over the top of the city lights made it look like a nice, flat body of water. All the conditions were right," Griffin told The Spectrum newspaper in St. George. "So the birds landed to rest, but ended up slamming into the pavement." No human injuries or property damage have been reported. Griffin noted most downings are localized "but this was very widespread." "I've been here 15 years and this was the worst downing I've seen," she told the newspaper. Officials said they were continuing the rescue effort that started Tuesday afternoon and included an enthusiastic group of volunteers. The surviving grebes were released into bodies of water in southern Utah's Washington County, including a pond near Hurricane. "If we can put them on a body of water that's not frozen over, they'll have a better chance of survival," said Lynn Chamberlain, a wildlife department spokesman. - The Sacramento Bee.


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is stepping up an investigation into the cause of 146 harbor seal deaths along the New England coast since September after influenza A virus was identified in five of the seals.

On Nov. 4, NOAA announced it had declared the seal deaths an "unusual mortality event," which authorizes the federal agency to mobilize additional resources in the investigation. The declaration followed a consultation with the Working Group on Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Events, a panel of international experts established under the Marine Mammal Protection Act to monitor and investigate marine mammal health concerns. Between Sept. 1 and Nov. 3, 146 seal strandings were reported in Maine, New Hampshire, and northern Massachusetts—more than three times the average number of strandings for that time of year. Most of the animals were harbor seals less than a year old.

Samples from five seals analyzed at the New England Aquarium tested positive for influenza A virus. Test results for several other viral pathogens and biotoxins were negative. Additional evaluations were under way to determine whether the influenza virus has played a role in the deaths. An investigation team of marine mammal experts will work closely with NOAA, New England Stranding Network partners, and the Working Group on Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Events to identify and characterize the specific type of influenza A virus found in these animals. People were being advised not to allow their dogs to approach stranded seals, as seals and dogs can infect each other with diseases, NOAA noted. - AVMA.

Scientists discover geothermal activity outside Yellowstone zone

December 17, 2011 – Wyoming - Yellowstone National Park – NASA’s Landsat satellites have been tracking Yellowstone’s underground geothermal activity, a deep heat that is stored 4,000 miles into the earth’s core. But there are areas where these energy levels are becoming erratic. Old Faithful could be in trouble. The Landsat Program is jointly managed by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, beginning its services of remote sensing in 1972. It became part of the Yellowstone National Park’s new monitoring plan in 2005. In addition to remote sensing, Landsat also uses airborne reconnaissance in order to “observe geothermal changes across all of Yellowstone in a systematic and scientific manner.” (NASA) Up until recently, the heat coming from Yellowstone’s underground magma chamber has always been the fuel for over 10,000 of the volcano’s features: Old faithful, hot springs, geysers, mud spots, terraces and mud pots. But NASA is reporting that the Landsat imagery has picked up some unexpected developments outside the park’s borders, also picked up by energy companies beyond the park’s borders. “If that geothermal development outside of the park begins, we need to know whether that’s going to cause Old Faithful to suddenly stop spewing,” says Rick Lawrence of Montana State University. The Landsat satellite allows the scientists to recognize big changes occurring in the geothermal area, like Yellowstone. However, nobody knows what is happening or where due to the satellite’s large pixel size in its imagery. But clues are being found regarding the interconnection of the underground geothermal events. –Digital Journal

Comet Lovejoy has survived its perilous journey close to the sun!

According to Space Weather, Comet Lovejoy has survived its perilous journey close to the sun.
COMET LOVEJOY SURVIVES: Incredibly, sungrazing Comet Lovejoy appears to have survived its close encounter with the sun. Lovejoy flew only 140,000 km over the stellar surface during the early hours of Dec. 16th. Experts expected the icy sundiver to be destroyed. Instead, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory caught the comet emerging from perihelion (closest approach) at least partially intact.

SDO also recorded Comet Lovejoy's entry into the sun's atmosphere. Comet Lovejoy began the week as a chunk of dusty, rocky ice some 200 meters in diameter. No one can say how much of the comet's core remains intact or how long it will hang together after the searing heat of perihelion. New images received on Dec. 16th from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory confirm that Comet Lovejoy survived perihelion and is now receding from the sun:

Curiously, the comet seems to have lost its tail in transit through the sun's hot corona. A decapitated remnant tail can still be seen tracing Comet Lovejoy's path into the sun, but the exiting comet has no obvious trail of dust behind it. One possibility has to do with geometry: The comet's tail might be pointing away from Earth, temporarily invisible due to foreshortening. Another possibility: The comet's store of volatile materials was "baked-out" by the fiery transit and now the comet is not jetting much dust and gas into space.

Discovered on Dec. 2nd by amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy of Australia, the comet is an unusually large member of the Kreutz family. Kreutz sungrazers are fragments of a single giant comet (probably the Great Comet of 1106) that broke apart back in the 12th century. SOHO sees one plunging into the sun every few days, but most are small, no more than 10 meters wide. Comet Lovejoy is at least ten times larger than usual.- Space Weather.
WATCH: Lovejoy Survived its Close Encounter with the Sun.

the storm Joachim threatens the central Europe

December 17, 2011 – FRANCE – A storm has battered north-western France, leaving hundreds of thousands without power, disrupting rail traffic and grounding a ship that spilled oil off the coast of Brittany. There were no immediate reports of serious injuries or significant damage as storm Joachim moved further inland to Switzerland and Germany. Interior Minister Claude Gueant said France had escaped largely unscathed from the storm. “It seems there have been no victims,” he said, adding that “a certain number” of people living in low-lying areas in Brittany had been evacuated because of the storm. Officials said 400,000 homes had lost electricity, mainly in the west of the country. By mid-day, the number of homes without electricity had fallen to 330,000 as workers scrambled to restore electricity infrastructure. The storm had been battering the area since Thursday night, with gusts of wind of up to 133km/h and waves up to 7m high. The storm caused a cargo ship, the TK Bremen flying the Maltese flag, to run aground and spill some oil into the sea off Brittany early today, officials said. “The level of pollution is limited,” said local maritime official Marc Gander, adding that regional authorities were deploying equipment to try and contain the slick and to empty the ship of its 190 tons of fuel and 50 tons of diesel. All 19 members of the ship’s crew were evacuated by helicopter. Local prosecutors in Brest said they had opened an investigation into the spill. Train traffic was disrupted, with more than 15 trains cancelled in central France and significant delays, the French rail authority said. The storm had little effect on international flights but the strong winds did force some tourist sites to close, including the park at the Chateau de Versailles near Paris and the famed Christmas market in Strasbourg. The storm was moving its way inland today, with Swiss authorities reporting it caused a train to derail in Switzerland, lightly injuring three people. 

Washi Typhoon devastates the Philippines, 200 victims!

MANILA / The budget of Typhoon " Washi "which struck the Philippines is almost 200 victims  , hundreds of whom are children , while 400 people were missing at the moment and there are 100 000 people displaced by the floods.
The island of Mindanao has been hit by torrential rains and winds of 100 km / h, the area has been destroyed by landslides and floods, airport activity was suppressed and there have been many blackouts .
The budget of the tropical storm is tragic, people have been educated by Typhoon Washi during the night, many people have died in his sleep. The soldiers mobilized to meet the emergencies are over 20 thousand, hundreds of bodies have emerged from the water in Cagayan de Oro, the city with half a million inhabitants, many of the victims are children.
A hundred miners are dead, drowned while working in the port city of Iligan, entire villages were swept away by water.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

A strong 6.3 magnitude earthquake erupted on the ocean floor south of the Kermadec Islands

December 15, 2011 – KERMADEC – A strong 6.3 magnitude earthquake erupted on the ocean floor south of the Kermadec Islands at 1010 GMT on Thursday. The earthquake struck at a depth of 34.1 km (21 miles) but is not expected to be strong enough to generate a tsunami threat. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake was preceded by a 5.6 magnitude foreshock. The Kermadec earthquake is the 5th major earthquake to strike the planet in just four days and it comes as an omen of still more potential planetary seismic unrest. We first saw signs of mounting seismic tension across the planet on December 4th after a successive string of moderate tremors rattled tectonic plates across the globe. In subsequent days, a cadre of stress eruptive earthquakes have struck along the planet’s island arcs. Before today’s Kermadec earthquake, for example, the Island Arcs of South Sandwich Islands, Kuril, the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, Sumatra along the Java Trench, and the Antilles region of the Puerto Rico Trench were all hit by tremors. Similarly, after the 6.3 Kermadec earthquake, 5.3 and 5.6 magnitude earthquakes which struck the Izu Islands along the arc of the Izu-Ogasawara Trench of Japan. Stay tuned; this turbulence may be far from over. 

Gov't to designate 'difficult-to-return zones' near crippled Fukushima nuclear plant

The government of Japan is expected to consider designating areas that are exposed to more than 50 millisieverts per year of radiation from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant as zones that are difficult for local residents to return to possibly for the next several decades and buying out tracts of land there.
The government has started to consider dividing the region affected by the Fukushima nuclear crisis into three zones according to levels of radiation they are exposed to. Under the current scheme, the region is divided into "evacuation zones" which fall within a radius of 20 kilometers from the troubled nuclear power station and "planned evacuation zones" that are exposed to more than 20 millisieverts per year of radiation. Under the new scheme, the government will divide the region into three zones; "preparatory zones" that are exposed to less than 20 millisieverts per year of radiation, "restricted residential zones" exposed to radiation of more than 20 millisierverts but less than 50 millisieverts per year, and "difficult-to-return zones" that are exposed to at least 50 millisieverts per year of radiation. In dividing the region into three different zones, the government will discuss details with local municipalities so that it could designate community-based zones in the region because levels of radiation differ from one place to the other in the same municipalities. At the meeting on Dec. 16 of its task force dealing with the nuclear crisis, the government is expected to decide that it has completed "Step 2" of the roadmap to contain the nuclear crisis with the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant being brought under control by achieving a stable state called a ''cold shutdown'' and unveil plans to review the current scheme of evacuation zones by the end of the year.

The "preparatory zones" with radiation exposure of less than 20 millisieverts per year are those areas to which local residents are supposed to make preparations to return to. There are still no residents living there, and therefore, the government will try to decontaminate living spaces and improve infrastructure such as water supply and sewerage systems, roads, schools, hospitals and so on in the zones. The government plans to lift the evacuation order for those areas where local residents can return to their homes in line with requests from local municipalities and progress in the work to improve infrastructure there. That could start sometime after spring of next year at the earliest. "Restricted residential zones" that are apparently difficult for people to live in for the next several years are areas the government plans to try to curb the levels of radiation below 20 millisieverts per year. Areas with high levels of radiation, which could be designated as "difficult-to-return zones," spread northwest from the area near the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Among those areas, there are some places where it is apparently difficult for people to live for the next several decades. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told the plenary session of the House of Councilors on Nov. 25, "There could be areas that are difficult for local residents to return to for a considerable period of time. The government wants to consider medium- and long-term measures responsibly including buying up tracts of land." There is an idea of attaching the word "long-term" to "difficult-to-return zones", but some people within the government say it should not be used out of consideration for the feelings of the affected people. The government is thus still discussing what to do. 

"Weather bomb" causes chaos, destruction across New Zealand

Parts of New Zealand were bracing for further chaos Thursday after what the government called a "weather bomb" caused destruction across the north of the South Island.
Civil Defence Minister Chris Tremain flew to the town of Nelson Thursday morning after the area was hit by floods and many communities were cut off by rains that began Wednesday. However, his aircraft was unable to land because of the weather and came within 100 meters of the ground before returning to Wellington, Fairfax News reported. "I want to assess the damage firsthand, ensure Civil Defence is appropriately responding, and identify any way that government can further assist the region to protect life and property," said Tremain in a statement before leaving Wellington. The statement said the Nelson Region had been "heavily hit by a weather bomb with rainfall of up to 320mm in a 24 hour period". More 54 slips have occurred, dozens of roads have been closed, 150 people have reportedly been evacuated, and a State of Civil Emergency was declared late Wednesday by both Nelson and the neighboring Tasman Councils. Many homes had been deluged with mud and debris, forcing their occupants to flee. No injuries had been reported, according to the emergency services.

The New Zealand Police Thursday issued a statement warning Nelson and Tasman residents that emergency services might be unable to reach them if needed. "Police also advise people to be prepared for the possibility they may need to evacuate and have raincoats, torches and essential medications ready," said the statement. Radio New Zealand reported that many dairy farmers might have to dump several days worth of milk because slips had blocked or washed away roads, stopping milk tankers from collecting it. The rain clouds were moving northwards across the North Island, causing minor flooding in the country's largest city, Auckland, and other areas, according to the WeatherWatch website. Forecasters warned of possible flash floods, slips and rockfalls. "Flash flooding happens when a usually small stream, creek or drain turns into a raging torrent within minutes and can be deadly, " WeatherWatch head weather analyst Philip Duncan said in a statement. "This is expected in isolated pockets right up the western and northern coastlines of both islands." Radio New Zealand reported Thursday that flooding and slips had closed roads in the far north of the North Island too, after 100mm of rain had fallen since Wednesday and another 60mm was still forecast

Cape Town beaches on shark alert after dead seal pups wash ashore

Large sections of Cape Town's beaches were put on high alert for sharks after hundreds of dead seal pups washed ashore over the past weekend. The 400 Cape Fur seals are thought to have died when they were swept off Seal Island, a rocky outcrop three miles off the coast, by strong winds and high seas. The deaths are a habitual occurrence but not normally in such large numbers. They prompted lifeguards working on beaches throughout False Bay, south of Cape Town, to be on high alert for the seals' main predator, the Great White Shark. Shark Spotters employed to survey the sea for the creatures said there had been increased activity along the shoreline and bathers were ordered out of the water several times. However, the seals' bodies were quickly rounded up and the authorities say there will be little disruption for the thousands of people expected to head to the coast for the start of the long summer holiday this week. Around 100 seal pups were discovered on two beaches on Friday near the south coast resort town of Muizenberg, 15 miles south of Cape Town. Another 300 were washed ashore 11 miles away on the north coast at the village of Kommetjie.

Wilfred Solomons-Johannes, a spokesman for Cape Town's disaster management department, said newborn pups were especially vulnerable in high winds and rough seas. "Sadly they didn't stand a chance," he said. "They were so young that they could not yet swim properly and when a big swell came they were swept away. "The seals were then thrown around in the sea before eventually being beached in the following hours and days. "Our team found hundreds of pups on the beaches and we had to organise a programme to clear them up." Experts believe that Great White Sharks are attracted to Cape waters by the presence of around 50,000 seals in a colony on Seal Island. Sarah Tipley, a spokesman for the Shark Spotters organisation which scouts for the predators along the coast and operates a flag warning system for swimmers and surfers, said four had been seen in the days following the seals' beaching. "We haven't seen any sharks scavenging on the seal carcases so it's unclear if their presence is because of the seals, but we're taking the necessary precautions," she said. In September, swimmer Michael Cohen, 42, who lost his right leg and part of his left foot in after he was bitten by a Great White shark at Fish Hoek beach in False Bay.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Tidal waves up to 20 meters hit the coast of Ireland!

Surf's up? The highest wave ever recorded in Irish waters hit off the Donegal coast today, measuring 20.4 metres in height. Let's all thank those 140km/h winds, shall we?
So did you find today a tad windy? As it turned out, the most northerly tip of the country, Malin Head, experienced winds gusting at 140km/h (87mph). The result was a historic wave off the Donegal cast that came from a force ten storm. "At 14.00 today the M4 weather buoy off the Donegal coast recorded a maximum wave height of 20.4 metres (67ft), which is the highest maximum wave recorded in Irish waters," reported Met Eireann tonight. The wave itself was measured from a special buoy and was sent from 60 miles from the Irish coast. Amazingly, the buoy's recording, which was positioned 16km west of Rossan Point, trumped the previous wave record which was set just three hours earlier at 11am. “There was a record wave of 20.2 metres earlier but it didn’t last very long,” continued Met Eireann. “The previous record was something like 16 metres so it’s a significant jump in magnitude.”

In response to the historic wave, Coast Guard manager Declan Geoghegan is urging citizens for safety to be a priority. "The combination of tides, forecasted gale warnings for the next day or so, high sea conditions and swollen rivers may result in very dangerous conditions," he said, while urging people to stay away from exposed cliffs and coasts. “I would ask each and every road user to use the roads safely over the coming week," offered Noel Brett, CEO of the Road Safety Authority. “With bad weather forecast, we need to be prepared for these severe weather conditions of stormy winds, patches of ice and snow showers. Visibility for road users is severely decreased in such weather conditions, which increases the risk of collision. “Therefore motorists need to drive safely and slowly, and all pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists should wear high visibility clothing to give them the best chance on the road.” Although today's conditions are expected to ease up in the coming days, there is a possibility that a second storm, currently raging over the Atlantic, may hit the south and midlands of Ireland. Best to zip up your jacket in the morning then, we reckon.

A powerful 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck the Bismarck Archipelago region of Papua New Guinea

December 14, 2011 – PAPUA NEW GUINEA A 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck the Bismarck Archipelago region of Papua New Guinea. The earthquake struck 115 km (71.5 miles) below the surface. The earthquake’s epicenter was 89 km (55 miles) SSW of Lae, New Guinea, PNG and 221 km from Port Moresby Papua New Guinea. Geoscience Australia’s website said the quake could be felt by people 1,523 kilometers away. It says damage may have occurred within a 122-kilometre radius. An AAP correspondent reported that the windows of the parliament building shook for about 1.5 minutes; however there appears to be no damage. We warned in earlier posts that stress from tectonic plate subduction was creating dangerous tension points along the planet’s numerous island arcs. Today’s 7.3 magnitude earthquake was just one such stress release from the mounting seismic tension. Island arcs are very high-risk regions for catastrophic seismic and volcanic episodes culminating from the dangers of intensifying Earthchanges and may be some of the planet’s first notable causalities of devastation from widespread geological change. The NOAA said a tsunami alert would not be issued for the Pacific region as a result of this earthquake. 

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

NASA Monitoring Yellowstone --The Planet's Most Massive Supervolcano!

Yellowstone National Park's caldera, which covers a 25- by 37-mile (40- by 60-kilometer) swath of Wyoming, is an ancient crater formed after the last big blast, some 640,000 years ago. The simmering volcano has produced major eruptions—each a thousand times more powerful than Mount St. Helens's 1980 eruption—three times in the past 2.1 million years. The supervolcano has recently caused miles of ground to rise dramatically, scientists report beginning in 2004, which saw the ground above the caldera rise upward at rates as high as 2.8 inches (7 centimeters) a year. Recent earthquakes on the west side of Yellowstone caldera were part of the intense January/February 2010 earthquake swarm of ~2,350 earthquakes.

Now, anticipated development by energy companies right outside Yellowstone’s borders have some fearing that Old Faithful could be cheated out of its energy. "If that geothermal development outside of the park begins, we need to know whether that's going to cause Old Faithful to suddenly stop spewing," says Rick Lawrence of Montana State University. Geothermal energy development is here to stay, says Yellowstone Park geologist Cheryl Jaworowski, but it has also raised some big questions for the National Park Service, which is tasked by Congress to monitor and protect Yellowstone's unique landscape. Their project is part of a new monitoring plan the park implemented in 2005. The plan uses remote sensing and airborne reconnaissance to observe geothermal changes across all of Yellowstone in a systematic and scientific manner. In the past, scientific studies on the ground tended to focus on individual features, and the only park wide estimate of Yellowstone's heat was derived from a chemical product of geothermal systems that appears in the river system. But with different technology available today, says Jaworowski, the park wants to expand its monitoring options. To understand Yellowstone's geothermal system, "we need to start looking at the forest rather than the individual trees," says Jawrorski. And one way to see Yellowstone's geothermal "forest" is to get a view from space.

Circling Earth from a height of 438 miles, the Landsat satellites have been gathering for decades a huge amount of data about the land surface. A single scene can take in the entirety of Yellowstone National Park, and the data it gathers is much more than a pretty picture. In addition to measuring the visible light in the electromagnetic spectrum -- what we can see -- the Landsat satellites each have an instrument that detects waves in the thermal band -- heat energy. Earth radiates heat all the time because it is warmed by the sun. Like a sponge, the ground absorbs solar energy, and like when you squeeze off excess water, the Earth reemits some of that solar energy at a longer wavelength back into space. But in Yellowstone, the total energy picked up by the satellite includes energy produced by the Earth itself, geothermal energy. The amount of solar energy reemitted depends on air temperature, vegetation cover, and soil moisture among other variables, and geothermal energy is only a small fraction of the total.

Some 600,000 years ago there was a colossal cauldron of magma, a supervolcano, that exploded with such violence that it left an ash layer almost ten feet deep a thousand miles away in eastern Nebraska killing all plant life and covering almost all of the United States west of the Mississippi. Modern geological surveys have shown that this supervolcano erupts catastrophically every 600,000 years, and the land that supervolcano is trapped in was called by Blackfoot Indians 'the land of evil spirits' -what we call today, Yellowstone National Park. A report from scientists at the University of Utah shows that the “supervolcano” underneath Yellowstone has risen at a record rate since mid 2004. Apparently, a “pancake-shaped blob” of molten rock he size of Los Angeles was pressed in to the slumbering volcano, some six miles down.

Yellowstone-magma-bulging-2011_31343_600x450 “There is no evidence of an imminent volcanic eruption or hydrothermal explosion. That’s the bottom line,” says seismologist Robert B. Smith, lead author of the study and professor of geophysics at the University of Utah. “A lot of calderas [giant volcanic craters] worldwide go up and down over decades without erupting.” The journal Science however reported that the caldera floor of the massive volcano has risen 3 inches, per year, for the past three years. This is a rate of growth three times more rapid than ever observed, since records were first kept back in 1923. “Our best evidence is that the crustal magma chamber is filling with molten rock,” Smith says. “But we have no idea how long this process goes on before there either is an eruption or the inflow of molten rock stops and the caldera deflates again,” he adds. If you were traveling Yellowstone's pristine backcountry peaks and alpine valleys, you would never realize that you're traveling atop of the world's most massive active volcano. Only when you got down to the boiling thermals of Firehole River and the Geyser Basin whould you realize that you're a stranger in a strange land.
A brief history lesson on Yellowstone shows us an area that crosses over the Wyoming border in to Montana and Idaho, and holds North America’s record as being the largest volcanic field. Produced by a “hotspot” 400 miles beneath the Earth’s surface, it rises to 30 miles underground, at which point it widens in to an area about 300 miles across. At this point, blobs of magma which have been channeled up from the hotspot – a gigantic plume of hot and molten rock – break off from the top of the plume, and rise in to the magma chamber beneath the Yellowstone caldera. It is this magma – that is believed to exist between 5 and 10 miles beneath the surface of Yellowstone – that heats the geysers and hot springs that have made Yellowstone National Park one of America’s foremost attractions. The problem that the seismologists are facing is that they simply have not enough data to make an educated guess as to what will happen next. We know of three supervolcanic eruptions that happened before our time on Earth, but nothing more. Is Yellowstone nearing an explosion, or is this just part of the supervolcano’s normal processes?

Since the most recent blast 640,000 years ago, about 30 smaller eruptions—including one as recent as 70,000 years ago—have filled the caldera with lava and ash, producing the relatively flat landscape of the Yellowstone plateau we see today. According to the US Geological Survey, the rate slowed between 2007 and 2010 to a centimeter a year or less. However, since the start of the 2004 swelling, ground levels over the volcano have been raised by as much as 10 inches (25 centimeters) in places. "It's an extraordinary uplift, because it covers such a large area and the rates are so high," said the University of Utah's Bob Smith, a longtime expert in Yellowstone's volcanism in an interview with National Geographic. Scientists believe a growing magma reservoir four to six miles (seven to ten kilometers) below the surface is the culprit, driving the uplift. The surge doesn't seem to herald an imminent catastrophe, Smith said. "At the beginning we were concerned it could be leading up to an eruption," said Smith, who co-authored a paper on the surge published in the December 3, 2010, edition of Geophysical Research Letters. "But once we saw [the magma] was at a depth of ten kilometers, we weren't so concerned. If it had been at depths of two or three kilometers [one or two miles], we'd have been a lot more concerned."

Studies of the surge, he added, may offer clues about what's going on in the volcano's subterranean activity, which may eventually help scientists predict when Yellowstone's next volcanic eruption will break out. Smith and colleagues at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Yellowstone Volcano Observatory have been mapping the caldera's rise and fall using tools such as global positioning systems (GPS) and interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR), which gives ground-deformation measurements. Ground deformation can suggest that magma is moving toward the surface before an eruption: The flanks of Mount St. Helens, for example, swelled dramatically in the months before its 1980 explosion. There are also many examples, including the Yellowstone supervolcano, where it appears the ground has risen and fallen for thousands of years without an eruption.

According to current theory, Yellowstone's magma reservoir is fed by a plume of hot rock surging upward from Earth's mantle. As the amount of magma flowing into the chamber increases, the reservoir swells like a lung and the surface above expands upward. Models suggest that during the recent uplift, the reservoir was filling with 0.02 cubic miles (0.1 cubic kilometer) of magma a year. When the rate of increase slows, the theory goes, the magma likely moves off horizontally to solidify and cool, allowing the surface to settle back down. "These calderas tend to go up and down, up and down," he said. "But every once in a while they burp, creating hydrothermal explosions, earthquakes, or—ultimately—they can produce volcanic eruptions." Predicting when an eruption might occur is extremely difficult, in part because the fine details of what's going on under Yellowstone are still undetermined. What's more, continuous records of Yellowstone's activity have been made only since the 1970s—a tiny slice of geologic time—making it hard to draw conclusions.

"Clearly some deep source of magma feeds Yellowstone, and since Yellowstone has erupted in the recent geological past, we know that there is magma at shallower depths too," said Dan Dzurisin, a Yellowstone expert with the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory in Washington State. "There has to be magma in the crust, or we wouldn't have all the hydrothermal activity that we have," Dzurisin added. "There is so much heat coming out of Yellowstone right now that if it wasn't being reheated by magma, the whole system would have gone stone cold since the time of the last eruption 70,000 years ago." The large hydrothermal system just below Yellowstone's surface, which produces many of the park's top tourist attractions, may also play a role in ground swelling, Dzurisin said, though no one is sure to what extent. "Could it be that some uplift is caused not by new magma coming in but by the hydrothermal system sealing itself up and pressurizing?" he asked. "And then it subsides when it springs a leak and depressurizes? These details are difficult."

The roughly 3,000 earthquakes in Yellowstone each year may offer even more clues about the relationship between ground uplift and the magma chamber. For example, between December 26, 2008, and January 8, 2009, some 900 earthquakes occurred in the area around Yellowstone Lake, which may have helped to release pressure on the magma reservoir by allowing fluids to escape, and this may have slowed the rate of uplift, the University of Utah's Smith said. "Big quakes [can have] a relationship to uplift and deformations caused by the intrusion of magma," he said. "How those intrusions stress the adjacent faults, or how the faults might transmit stress to the magma system, is a really important new area of study." Overall, USGS's Dzurisin added, "the story of Yellowstone deformation has gotten more complex as we've had better and better technologies to study it." Thankfully, our ability to use our planets past to predict its future continues to grow, to a point where, maybe someday, we will be able to predict what Yellowstone is up to.

CERN: god particle found,the key to the universe!

Researchers working at CERN, world's largest atom smasher in Geneva have found tantalizing hints of the tiny, elemental bit of matter that has been labeled "the brick that built the universe" and "the god particle" -- but stopped short of announcing the discovery of the tiny particle.

The ‘God particle’, hailed as the holy grail of physics, may have been glimpsed for the first time. Excited scientists at the Large Hadron Collider – the world’s biggest atom smasher – are expected to announce today that they have spotted the Higgs boson particle. While they will not claim definitive proof, they are tipped to reveal tantalising evidence of the particle’s existence. Theoretical physicist and blogger Sascha Vongehr said: ‘The anticipation among physics enthusiasts is almost palpable.’ The Higgs boson is regarded – by those who know about such things – as the key to understanding the universe. Its job is, apparently, to give the particles that make up atoms their mass. Without this mass, these particles would zip though the cosmos at the speed of light, unable to bind together to form the atoms that make up everything in the universe, from planets to people.

Now it is thought that two separate teams of scientists, who run independent experiments in secret from each other, have both uncovered evidence of the particle. However, the two groups, CMS and ATLAS, are expected to stop short of confirming its existence. This is because they are not entirely confident that their results cannot be explained by chance. Oliver Buchmueller, of the CMS group, said: ‘I am feeling quite a level of excitement.’ He added that if the ATLAS results mirrored those of his group, then ‘we’re moving very close to a conclusion in the first few months of next year’. Tara Shears, a particle physicist at Liverpool University, said that ‘we need [Higgs boson] to make sense of the universe’. But CMS scientist Bruce Kennedy, of the Science and Technology Facilities Council, said: ‘If the Higgs is found, it will only be the start. ‘We will have to understand its properties and if it fits in correctly with our theoretical explanations.’ - Daily Mail.

Comet Lovejoy will pass near the solar surface next December 16th

According to Space Weather, as a minor solar wind stream is buffeting Earth's magnetic field, a massive comet is currently diving towards the sun.

SIGNIFICANT COMET PLUNGES TOWARD THE SUN: A comet nearly as wide as two football fields (200m) is plunging toward the sun where it will most likely be destroyed in a spectacular light show on Dec. 15/16. Although Comet Lovejoy (C/2011 W3) could become as bright as Jupiter or Venus when it "flames out," the glare of the sun will hide the event from human eyes. Solar observatories in space, however, will have a grand view. Yesterday the brightening comet entered the field of view of NASA's STEREO-B spacecraft. "You can clearly see the comet heading diagonally through the images," says Karl Battams of the Naval Research Lab who prepared the animation. "During the 16-hour sequence, the comet brightens from magnitude +7.5 to +6, approximately."

It will soon grow much brighter. "This comet is a true sungrazer, and will skim approximately 140,000 km (1.2 solar radii) above the solar surface on Dec. 15/16," notes Battams. At such close range, solar heating will almost certainly destroy the icy interloper,creating a cloud of vapor and comet dust that will reflect lots of sunlight. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) will have a particularly good view. Discovered on Dec. 2nd by amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy of Australia, the comet is an unusually large member of the Kreutz family. Kreutz sungrazers are fragments of a single giant comet (probably the Great Comet of 1106) that broke apart back in the 12th century. SOHO sees one plunging into the sun every few days, but most are small, no more than 10 meters wide. Comet Lovejoy is at least ten times larger than usual. Stay tuned for updates!

Misterious axplosion In kentucky source unknown!

There are still no answers as to what caused an apparent explosion in Perry County, Kentucky on Sunday night.
Crews spent hours searching Sunday night after initial reports of a possible plane crash, but they gave up the search around 1:00 a.m. and said it was probably an explosion at an abandoned mine. Now officials with the Division of Abandoned Mine Lands are saying there is no evidence at the mine that would support an explosion. Some say they felt their homes shaking, others say they saw a fireball, but as of now no one can say for sure what happened in Perry County Sunday night. Preliminary reports of possible plane crash were ruled out after searching for hours and finding no crash scene, that led officials to this explanation. "There is a mine break up there. It happens in eastern Kentucky with a lot with old abandoned mines. They catch fire, smoke real bad, and sometimes they flame up. It does kill the trees around and that is possibly what could be seen from the air," said Lotts Creek Fire Chief Chris Engle.

Officials from the Division of Abandoned Mine Lands were called Monday to investigate and found that there is a coal seam fire that is causing the smoke and the burned trees, but that's all they are able to confirm. "My investigators found no evidence of an explosion or a fire ball. There was no crater no debris that they could ascertain," said the Director of the Division of Abandoned Mine Lands Steve Hohmann. So until more information can be found, that leaves no explanation for the shaking houses and what appeared to be a fireball in the sky, but some in the area have their own explanation for what happened. "If there is no plane missing I think it probably could be a U.F.O. If there is no debris, it probably burned before it hit the ground," said Perry County resident Kathy Collins. For now, it remains a mystery. Officials with the Division of Abandoned Mine Lands say they are planning to go back up to the mine site on Wednesday.