Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Very strong moderately dangerous earthquake in Northern Chile

M 6.7 earthquake has been observed in Vallenar, Atacama, Chile, South America on Wednesday, January 30 , 2013 at 21:40:45 (PM) UTC. The earthquake's depth was in 47.50 km (29.52 miles) and 45.03 km East of Vallenar, …

Saturday, 26 January 2013

US banks shaken by biggest deposit withdrawals since 9/11

January 25, 2013 - UNITED STATES - US Federal Reserve is reporting a major deposit withdrawal from the nation’s bank accounts. The financial system hasn’t seen such a massive fund outflow since 9/11 attacks.
The first week of January 2013 has seen $114 billion withdrawn from 25 of the US’ biggest banks, pushing deposits down to $5.37 trillion, according to the US Fed. Financial analysts suggest it could be down to the Transaction Account Guarantee insurance program coming to an end on December 31 last year and clients moving their money that is no longer insured by the government.

The program was introduced in the wake of the 2008 crisis in order to support the banking system. It provided insurance for around $1.5 trillion in non-interest-bearing accounts with a limit of $250,000. It was aimed at medium and small banks as the creators of the program believed bigger banks would cope with the crisis themselves.

So the current “fast pace” of withdrawal comes as a surprise to financial analysts because the deposits are slipping away from those banks which supposedly were safe. Experts expected savers in small and medium banks would turn to bigger players come December 31. 

There are a number of reasons behind this unpredicted fund outflow. Some experts believe it has to do with the beginning of the year when the money is randomly needed here and there. Others have concluded the funds are getting down to business and being invested.

Another set of data from the US Federal Reserve shows some deposits may have moved within the banking system from one type of account to another. - RT.

Friday, 25 January 2013

strong earthquake measuring 5.0 strikes northern Italy

January 25, 2013 - Italy - A strong earthquake measuring 5.0 richter and 'Italian occurred at 15:48, between Emilia Romagna and Toscana.La depth' of the earthquake and 'was the epicenter located 10 km to 50 km south of Reggio Emilia , 6 km SW Frassinoro.the earthquake 'was felt in many parts of northern Italy.

Thousands of dead starfish have washed up on a beach in Lincolnshire

January 24, 2013 - UNITED KINGDOM - Thousands of dead starfish have washed up on a beach in Lincolnshire after a period of stormy weather.  Shocked photographer Simon Peck estimates that 4,000 starfish - along with whelks' eggs and pieces of shell - had surfaced on Cleethorpes beach.  Experts think that the animals were dislodged by rough waters in the recent wintry weather, with a similar incident happening at the same time last year.  Richard Harrington, communications manager at the Marine Conservation Society, said: 'These are all common starfish Asterias rubens. 

'The fact that there's what appear to be whelk eggs and different shells in these pictures, both shallow water residents, along with the common starfish, would back up the likelihood that it is simply stormy weather that has caused this big strand.  'We were aware of a strand like this in the region at this time last year, too.  'Mass strandings of starfish and sea potatoes, a kind of sand-dwelling sea urchin, happen quite regularly in different parts of the coast.  'They seem to occur most in winter, and around sandy areas, when it's likely that rough seas in shallow water dislodge them in large numbers. 
 'Strandings like this may be associated with breeding, indicated if all of the specimens that washed up are mature adults, but the common starfish tends to aggregate and spawn most in spring and summer - so that is unlikely.'  Millions of common starfish live in British seas. About the size of a hand, they are pinky orange when alive, but turn a bright orange when dry.  Their ideal feeding ground is a mussel bed, where millions of starfish will congregate at any one time. And it's here where they are most at risk.  Violent storms can send terrifically strong currents through the mussel beds where they are feeding, pluck them off their prey, carry them to the shore and dump thousands at a time on to a beach.  In the past, some mass strandings have been blamed on overfishing - with dredgers used to scrape the sea floor for mussels dislodging starfish or covering them with mud and sand. - Daily Mail.

sudden stratospheric warming event above the Arctic Circle

January 23, 2013  CLIMATE – An unusual event playing out high in the atmosphere above the Arctic Circle is setting the stage for what could be weeks upon weeks of frigid cold across wide swaths of the U.S., having already helped to bring cold and snowy weather to parts of Europe. Forecast high temperatures on Monday, Jan. 21, from the GFS computer model. This phenomenon, known as a “sudden stratospheric warming event,” started on Jan. 6, but is something that is just beginning to have an effect on weather patterns across North America and Europe. While the physics behind sudden stratospheric warming events are complicated, their implications are not: such events are often harbingers of colder weather in North America and Eurasia. The ongoing event favors colder and possibly stormier weather for as long as four to eight weeks after the event, meaning that after a mild start to the winter, the rest of this month and February could bring the coldest weather of the winter season to parts of the U.S., along with a heightened chance of snow. Sudden stratospheric warming events take place in about half of all Northern Hemisphere winters, and they have been occurring with increasing frequency during the past decade, possibly related to the loss of Arctic sea ice due to global warming. Arctic sea ice declined to its smallest extent on record in September 2012. Sudden stratospheric warming events occur when large atmospheric waves, known as Rossby waves, extend beyond the troposphere where most weather occurs, and into the stratosphere. This vertical transport of energy can set a complex process into motion that leads to the breakdown of the high altitude cold low pressure area that typically spins above the North Pole during the winter, which is known as the polar vortex. The polar vortex plays a major role in determining how much Arctic air spills southward toward the mid-latitudes. When there is a strong polar vortex, cold air tends to stay bottled up in the Arctic. However, when the vortex weakens or is disrupted, like a spinning top that suddenly starts wobbling, it can cause polar air masses to surge south, while the Arctic experiences milder-than-average temperatures. During the ongoing stratospheric warming event, the polar vortex split in two, allowing polar air to spill out from the Arctic, as if a refrigerator door were suddenly opened. For reasons I don’t think we fully understand, the changes in the circulation that happen in the stratosphere [can] descend down all the way to the Earth’s surface,” said Judah Cohen, director of seasonal forecasting at Atmospheric and Environmental Research (AER) in Massachusetts. As the polar stratosphere warms, high pressure builds over the Arctic, causing the polar jet stream to weaken. At the same time, the mid-latitude jet stream strengthens, while also becoming wavier, with deeper troughs and ridges corresponding to more intense storms and high pressure areas. In fact, sudden stratospheric warming events even make so-called “blocked” weather patterns more likely to occur, which tilts the odds in favor of the development of winter storms in the U.S. and Europe. –Climate Central

Antibiotic-resistant diseases pose ‘apocalyptic’ threat, top expert says

January 24, 2013 – HEALTH Britain’s most senior medical adviser has warned MPs that the rise in drug-resistant diseases could trigger a national emergency comparable to a catastrophic terrorist attack, pandemic flu or major coastal flooding. Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer, said the threat from infections that are resistant to frontline antibiotics was so serious that the issue should be added to the government’s national risk register of civil emergencies. She described what she called an “apocalyptic scenario” where people going for simple operations in 20 years’ time die of routine infections “because we have run out of antibiotics.” The register was established in 2008 to advise the public and businesses on national emergencies that Britain could face in the next five years. The highest priority risks on the latest register include a deadly flu outbreak, catastrophic terrorist attacks, and major flooding on the scale of 1953, the last occasion on which a national emergency was declared in the UK. Speaking to MPs on the Commons science and technology committee, Davies said she would ask the Cabinet Office to add antibiotic resistance to the national risk register in the light of an annual report on infectious disease she will publish in March. Davies declined to elaborate on the report, but said its publication would coincide with a government strategy to promote more responsible use of antibiotics among doctors and the clinical professions. “We need to get our act together in this country,” she told the committee. She told the Guardian: “There are few public health issues of potentially greater importance for society than antibiotic resistance. It means we are at increasing risk of developing infections that cannot be treated – but resistance can be managed. “That is why we will be publishing a new cross-government strategy and action plan to tackle this issue in early spring.” The issue of drug resistance is as old as antibiotics themselves, and arises when drugs knock out susceptible infections, leaving hardier, resilient strains behind. The survivors then multiply, and over time can become unstoppable with frontline medicines. Some of the best known are so-called hospital superbugs such as MRSA that are at the root of outbreaks among patients. “In the past, most people haven’t worried because we’ve always had new antibiotics to turn to,” said Alan Johnson, consultant clinical scientist at the Health Protection Agency. “What has changed is that the development pipeline is running dry. We don’t have new antibiotics that we can rely on in the immediate future or in the longer term.” Changes in modern medicine have exacerbated the problem by making patients more susceptible to infections. For example, cancer treatments weaken the immune system, and the use of catheters increases the chances of bugs entering the bloodstream. “We are becoming increasingly reliant on antibiotics in a whole range of areas of medicine. If we don’t have new antibiotics to deal with the problems of resistance we see, we are going to be in serious trouble,” Johnson added. The supply of new antibiotics has dried up for several reasons, but a major one is that drugs companies see greater profits in medicines that treat chronic conditions, such as heart disease, which patients must take for years or even decades. “There is a broken market model for making new antibiotics,” Davies told the MPs. –Guardian

Earthquake swarm reported near Nevada’s Topaz Lake

January 25, 2013  TOPAZ LAKE, NV - Sixteen small quakes hit an area near Topaz Lake early Thursday, but there have been no reports of damage or injury. The quakes hit an area southwest of the lake between midnight and 5AM. They ranged from 1.1 to 3.7 in magnitude, and were between three and nine kilometers deep. Another handful of small quakes hit several hours later, in the afternoon and evening. The remote area is about 45 miles southeast of Gardnerville. Another small swarm hit an area about 20 miles west northwest of Donner Lake between 5:45AM and 6:15AM Thursday. They ranged between 0.5 and 2.1 in magnitude, with no reports of damage or injury. –KOLOTV
Oregon quake cluster: A small cluster of modest earthquakes has been recorded off the central Oregon coast with the largest a magnitude 3.4. A handful of people reported feeling the 3.4 quake that hit shortly before 8 p.m. Thursday. The quakes had an average depth of about 35 km (22 miles). Geophysicist Randy Baldwin of the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colo., says small quakes in that area would not be expected to cause any damage on land. The quakes were centered about 30 miles west of Waldport. Others included a magnitude 3.0 and a 2.6. Baldwin says such quakes are fairly common. –Oregon Live

Shallow 4.1 magnitude earthquake rattles East Texas

East Texas
January 25, 2013 – TEXAS – The U.S. Geology Survey confirms a 4.1 magnitude earthquake hit East Texas around 1:01 a.m. The earthquake struck at a depth of 5 km (3.1 miles). Friday morning with an epicenter 2 miles from Timpson, Texas. KSLA News 12 phone lines started ringing after numerous people felt the ‘quake from Shelby County all the way to Bossier City. It woke me up out of a dead sleep,” said Amanda Jones who lives on Highway 7 E between Center and Joaquin. Jones tells us it felt stronger than the last earthquake that hit East Texas last summer. Jones says she is unsure about damage but will wait until the sun comes up to check. Jamie Ward in Center, TX tells us her house shook for at least 20 seconds. A man from Carthage, TX who was working the night shift at a gas plant says “it felt like it was coming from the bottom of my feet up.” He described what he felt “like the wind was shaking the travel trailer.” He tells us he looked for damage but didn’t see any. A woman who lives on W. 70th in Shreveport tells us she was laying in bed when “stuff started shaking.” Bossier City resident Sarah Rains, who lives off of Sligo Rd., says she and her roommate felt their trailer shake and thought it might have just been heavy winds. Katy Cash of Keatchie says she felt her house shake but thought she was just imagining it when her chandelier over the dining table started swaying. Katy tells us her mom in Florien, Louisiana also felt it. –KSLA

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Russia Orders Obama: Tell World About Aliens, Or We Will

A stunning Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) report on Prime Minister Medvedev’s [photo top right] agenda at the World Economic Forum (WEF) this week states that Russia will warn President Obama that the “time has come” for the world to know the truth about aliens, and if the United States won’t participate in the announcement, the Kremlin will do so on its own. The WEF (The Forum) is a Swiss non-profit foundation, based in Cologny, Geneva and describes itself as an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas. The Forum is best known for its annual meeting in Davos, a mountain resort in Graubünden, in the eastern Alps region of Switzerland. The meeting brings together some 2,500 top business leaders, international political leaders, selected intellectuals and journalists to discuss the most pressing issues facing the world, including health and the environment

Monday, 21 January 2013

Massive landslide demolishes US-441 in North Carolina

Park officials now believe they know what caused the massive landslide, which took out a football field-sized portion of Newfound Gap Road (US 441) on the North Carolina side.

Officials said they found a subsurface spring underneath the landslide site and they aren't quite sure how long its been there. They said the spring, along with last week's massive amounts of rainfall, contributed to the landslide Wednesday morning, near mile marker 22 between Collins Creek and Webb Overlook. 

"We were unaware of this subsurface spring which causes embankment failure," said Acting Deputy Superintendent Alan Sumeriski. 

Approximately 90,000 cubic yards of dirt, rock and roadway crashed 45-50 feet down the side of the mountain. Officials surveying the damage said the area is still not stable as debris continues to fall. 

Officials hope to have an estimate of how much it will cost to repair the road and a rough time frame of when construction could start by next week. 

According to the park, about 6,000 people use US 441 to travel between North Carolina and Tennessee during the holidays. 

"While it's a challenging project to think of repair solutions, it's not impossible," Park spokesperson Dana Soehn. 

The park said it also has environmental concerns regarding the landslide. 

About 9,000 truckloads of dirt and roadway fell just short of the Beech Flats Prong watershed below. Sumeriski said the park would be setting up soil control and erosion measures Monday to stop soil from getting into the watershed.

Shooting star a captivating sight across Kanto region

MeteorA shooting star accompanied by a loud boom was observed before dawn Jan. 20 across broad areas of the Kanto region, igniting intense interest on the Internet with the posting of video footage and eyewitness accounts. 

Fumiaki Goto, 28, an office worker in Tokigawa, Saitama Prefecture, captured footage of the fireball by chance while taking photos of the night sky just after 2:40 a.m. 

The plume was enhanced suddenly after its color turned to bluish white from light green and fell toward Ibaraki Prefecture, finally with a reddish hue, said Goto. 

The fireball was likely a meteorite, experts said. Video footage taken from a car had more than 200,000 hits. 

Chikara Shimoda of the Japan Fireball Network, a group of amateur astronomers, said the fireball disappeared at an altitude of about 30 kilometers. 

"It may have burnt up, or perhaps it hit the sea," said Shimoda, 55. 

29: Global volcanic activity report for January 19, 2013

January 19, 2013  GEOLOGY  A low-level earthquake swarm continues beneath Mammoth Mountain volcano (CA) (station MMS), with a M1.3 event recorded earlier today. Dilatometer data from instruments located within Long Valley Caldera show an inflection in trend at the swarm onset on or around 15 January 2013. A series of small explosions (green signals) followed a very subtle increase in volcanic seismicity in the past day at the Colima volcano (Mexico).  Exhalations of gas and ash have increased slightly during the past 24 hours at Popocatepetl volcano. A mixture of wind noise, and small local and larger regional earthquakes dot seismograms at Guatemalan volcanoes Fuego (station FG3), Santa Maria (station STG6) and Pacaya (station PCG) today.  Santa Maria seismograms show the most volcanic activity with occasional increases in tremor tucked within the “noisy” record. Recent MODIS thermal imagery shows the active lava flows descending the flanks of Fuego and the Santiaguito Dome Complex (Santa Maria). A few larger magnitude volcanic earthquakes punctuate an otherwise slowly decreasing trend in seismicity at San Cristobal volcano (Nicaragua) (station CRIN) today. Volcanic tremor amplitude continues to be unstable at Masaya volcano (station MASN), and frequent, low-amplitude volcanic earthquakes continue to plague Concepcion volcano (station CONN). An episode of larger magnitude volcano-tectonic earthquakes also affected Nevado Del Ruiz volcano (Colombia) (station OLLZ) late yesterday.  Numerous low-amplitude volcanic earthquakes and occasional periods of volcanic tremor continue at the volcano.  Numerous small seismic events continue at nearby Machin volcano (station CIMA) as well. The tremor-like signal late in the record at Machin is due to cultural noise, not the volcano. Strong degassing continues at Reventador volcano (Ecuador) (station CONE), accompanied by abundant low-frequency seismicity, including volcanic tremors. Over 1100 small volcanic earthquakes, along with low-level volcanic tremors have occurred during the past 24 hours at Copahue volcano (Chile-Argentina border).  Weather obscures any surface activity accompanying the seismicity. –Earthquake Report

30: Villarrica volcano (Chile): new deep-seated weak explosive activity detected

January 21, 2013 – CHILE Terrestrial and satellite observations confirm that for about 2 weeks weak explosive activity deep within the summit crater has resumed and indicates that magma might have begun to rise again within the volcano. This ends a period of more than six months of remarkable inactivity. It is expected that in the coming weeks or months incandescence will be visible again at the crater during the nights. The activity levels are so low, that without the help of satellites it would not have been possible to detect the increase in heat from the crater. In addition, about 2 weeks ago, the seasonal melting of ice and snow on the volcano began and produced large volumes of melt-water that drained within and at the base of glaciers. A critical mass of water might have entered the volcano’s hydrothermal system. The internal heat evaporates the water in the immediate area of ​​the volcanic conduit and forms condensation on the inner walls above. The condensation phenomenon has been observed in good weather, notably on 16 and 17 January after noon. The detailed analysis of more than 12,000 daily sequential images indicates that no ash emissions have occurred nor landslides in recent months. –Volcano Discovery

Scientists warn of another Mount Tongariro eruption

January 21, 2013 – NEW ZEALAND – Scientists are warning Mount Tongariro may erupt again as the Department of Conservation looks at re-opening the remainder of the iconic Tongariro Crossing next month. GNS Science say emissions of steam and a gas plume have been a continuous feature of the mountain since the August 2012 eruption. Scientist Tony Hurst said the volcano is still in an “active” state. “Therefore we have to be prepared there will be other events like that without any warning,” said GNS Scientist Tony Hurst. The risk of another eruption is causing concern for the Department of Conservation as it prepares to reopen the northern section of the Tongariro Crossing which was damaged in the August eruption. GNS Scientists are also concerned neighboring Mt. Ruapehu may be due to erupt. Gas samples show there could be a blockage underneath the volcano’s surface. The blockage could burst and erupt without warning. Tourism operator Stewart Barclay from Adrift Outdoors said tourism on Mt. Ruaphu and Mt. Tongariro is reliant on the findings of GNS scientists. “We can’t do anything until the scientists scratch their heads and reckon it’s all safe to go up,” said Barclay. DOC has closed the area within 2km of the centre of crater lake at the summit of Mt Ruapehu. -TVNZ

Louisiana sinkhole burps again

January 21, 2013 - UNITED STATES - State and Parish leaders are on alert in Assumption Parish after the sinkhole "burped" again today. It happened at 10am and caused heightened anxiety in an already tense area.

Parish officials said hydrocarbons and debris bubbled up to the surface and caused major cracks in a well pad. All activity at that well pad had to be shut down.

"There is additional cracking that has occurred on well pad three," John Boudreaux, Assumption OEP Director said. "They are an inch wide and a ruler goes down 14 inches. It seems that land is sloughing in toward the sinkhole."

Officials will continue monitoring the situation. State Police sent their helicopter in the air to monitor the sinkhole from above. - WBRZ.

WATCH: Louisiana sinkhole burps again.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Nasa's Cassini spacecraft reveals storm on planet Saturn

January 18, 2013 - PLANET SATURN - Just as regions of our planet have monsoon season, or tornado season, so too does Saturn have its own stormy season. Once every Saturn year or so—which corresponds to roughly 30 Earth years—a giant, churning storm works its way through the clouds of Saturn’s northern hemisphere, sometimes encircling the entire planet like a belt. Lasting a few dozen days or more, these storms have been documented as far back as 1876.

A true-color image captured by Cassini in February 2011 shows the head of the storm overtaking the fainter, turbulent tail. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI.
The sixth giant Saturnian storm on record arrived a bit early, kicking off in late 2010, just 20 years after the previous storm. The timing proved fortuitous for planetary astronomers, who currently have a dedicated orbiter called Cassini stationed at the ringed planet. And Cassini’s ringside seat, so to speak, has afforded the NASA spacecraft quite a show. A new study summarizing Cassini observations of the giant Saturnian storm adds to a growing body of evidence demonstrating that this was no ordinary outburst. The 2010 storm reached well into 2011—at roughly 200 days in duration, it is the longest such storm on record. It produced an unprecedented vortex that could just about swallow planet Earth. And it persisted until the head of the storm advanced all the way around the planet to rear-end the slower-moving vortex; their collision appears to have terminated much of the storm’s action. Cassini recorded the storm in great detail, both with its cameras and with its Radio and Plasma Wave Science instrument, which detected electrostatic pulses from lightning strikes within the clouds. Kunio Sayanagi, an assistant professor of planetary science at Hampton University, and his colleagues describe those observations in a study that will appear in the journal Icarus. Sayanagi and his co-authors report that the storm, sometimes called the “Great White Spot,” began on December 5, 2010, and lasted until June 20, 2011, although the endpoint of the storm is somewhat ambiguous. Nevertheless, the storm’s duration solidly surpasses the great Saturnian storm of 1903, which raged for 150 days.

False-color Cassini images from February 2011 include two mosaics of a wide swath of storm (lower panels) and detailed views of the storm's head (top left) and vortex (top right). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.
The latest storm spread steadily across Saturn in a band that eventually encircled the planet at 33 degrees north latitude. At the front of the storm was a fast-moving bright feature, sparkling with lightning activity, called the “head,” trailed by a giant cyclonic vortex that also took shape in December and finally a “tail” of turbulent clouds. By January, the researchers report, the vortex had grown to a massive whorl 12,000 kilometers wide—roughly the diameter of Earth. That ranks as the largest vortex ever recorded in Saturn’s troposphere, the study’s authors note, although they point out that a more recent vortex detected in the Saturnian stratosphere (a higher layer of the atmosphere) is even larger—some 50,000 kilometers across. The two vortices may well have been spun up by the same storm, “most likely as a result of a ‘planetary burp’—a warm mass ascended from depth and curled around on itself in the atmospheric layer,” Sayanagi says. “It seems that the vortex sheared apart vertically into two components, the tropospheric vortex we saw in visible [light], and the stratospheric vortex” that other researchers documented in infrared radiation. By June of 2011, the fast-moving head of the storm had raced around the planet to essentially lap the tropospheric vortex, leading to a collision that effectively ended the storm. Lightning strikes became intermittent, and the bright clouds making up the head disappeared. Based on past superstorms, however, the researchers predict that the aftermath of the Great White Spot will continue to disturb Saturn’s atmosphere for years—maybe even a decade—to come. - Scientific American.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Thousands of dead fish continue to wash ashore in South Caroline

January 18, 2012 - UNITED STATES - Tens of thousands of dead fish washed ashore on a South Carolina beach on Tuesday, for at least the second time in a week. Approximately 30,000 to 40,000 menhaden fish washed ashore along a mile-and-a-half-long stretch of beach from Georgetown County, S.C., to Pawleys Island, said Pawleys Island Police Chief Michael Fanning, according to NBC News. It seemed likely that thousands more of the 6- to 8-inch-long fish would wash ashore later. This is the second time in one week such an incident has occurred in the area, notes NBC News. Late last week, hundreds of thousands of the small, oily fish washed up near Masonboro Island, N.C. "One time I was here I saw a bunch of jellyfish," South Carolina resident Bill Vogel told NBC local affiliate WMBF News of the dead fish. "They were all on the shore but nothing like this, it's really weird." The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) tried to explain the fish die-off on Wednesday. "It's an occurrence called hypoxia," Sergeant Steve Pop told WMBF. "That is dissolved oxygen levels in the water that drop to a level that is not sustainable for the fish... We've got some deep holes off of north inlet that holds these fish. This time of year the fish congregate in these holes which is depleting the oxygen source." Mel Bell, Director of the Office of Fisheries Management for S.C. DNR, elaborated on the theory: “On Friday we had a new moon [which caused] real high high tides and real low low tides,” he told The Sun News. “Probably what happened was a school [of menhaden] got in an area of water on a high tide, in a hole or depression, and at low tide they were trapped and depleted the oxygen in the water. Then, all the fish would suffocate." On Thursday, however, the DNR ruled out low dissolved oxygen, algal bloom or cold temperatures as the culprit for the fish death, according to The Sun. Mass animal deaths made headlines back in 2011 when thousands of animals were found dead in countries around the world. The mass deaths continued into 2012. Hundreds of Humboldt squid beached themselves near Santa Cruz, Calif., in December. In September, dead seagulls and fish washed ashore on Lake Eerie.- Huffington Post.

Sudden stratospheric warming has split the polar vortex in two

January 18, 2013 - PLANET EARTH - Sudden stratospheric warming has split the polar vortex in two. The polar vortex, which forms and deepens as the atmosphere loses heat to space in the darkness of the long Arctic winter night, was split in two by massive heating from below. A series of intense storms in the far north Pacific intensified a very long wave in the lower atmosphere. Energy on that planet sized wave went upwards from the lower atmosphere around the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau and broke into the stratosphere, causing major sudden warming. It rapidly reversed the strong cyclonic winds in the stratosphere around the pole, creating a central dome, breaking the vortex into two smaller vortices.  We can see the splitting by making a map of the heights a weather balloon rises to to reach the very low atmospheric pressure of 50 mb. A standard atmosphere is 1013mb.
The polar vortex was intact at 50 millibars (heights in m) on January 1 to 3. NOAA.

The polar vortex had broken in two (50millibar heights in m) on January 10 to 13. NOAA.
Major stratospheric warmings have taken place, on average, every other year over the past 50 years. The physics of these warmings is very complicated. Since 1998 these warmings have been more frequent and earlier in the winter. Previously, major warmings typically happened in February. Over the past decade they have happened in December and January, but this one is exceptional on all counts. This stratospheric warming is apparently the strongest ever observed in the first half of January according to the NOAA figure. No one knows why the number of major warmings is increasing but a correlation has been with positive sea surface temperature anomalies and the active phase of the solar cycle. This year the sun is active and there are large positive sea surface temperature anomalies in the north Indian ocean and the north-west Pacific.

The dynamical activity in recent winters reveals that the frequency of MWs (Major Warmings) in the Arctic is increasing (e.g. Charlton Perez et al., 2008)...
On average, during 1957/58–1990/91, MWs occurred only once every two Arctic winters (e.g Bancala et al. ´ , 2012; Cohen and Jones, 2011; Andrews et al., 1987). Conversely, no MW occurred in 9 consecutive winters from 1989/90 to 1997/98, except a minor warming in early February 1990 (Manney et al., 2005).  However, there were 7 MWs in 5 out of the 6 winters from 1998/99 to 2003/04. The winter 1999/00 was unusually cold but each other winter was prone to MWs... Furthermore, two MWs were observed in 1998/99 and 2001/02...This warming sequence continued and there were 5 MWs in 5 winters again in 2005/06–2009/10... Many of the MWs in recent years have been atypically early (December/early January) compared to those found before 1990s, which were observed mostly in February.

Animation of temperature anomalies at the 30mb pressure surface in the
stratosphere shows the magnitude of this massive event.
Major stratospheric warming events like these have a large impact on the weather. The warm air in the stratosphere radiates heat and sinks, then warms as it sinks by compressional heating. It causes a mound of relatively warm air and high pressure to develop around the pole. Cold air is pushed away from the pole, in this case under the two vortices. In the Pacific ocean the dynamic interaction of the cold air with abnormally warm water off of the northeast coast of Japan developed one of the strongest north Pacific storm in many years with a central pressure of 932mb, as low as a major hurricane, and modeled wave heights of over 60 feet.

At its most intense point, the storm had an air pressure reading of about 932 mb, roughly equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane, and more intense than Hurricane Sandy as that storm moved toward the New Jersey coastline in October. (In general, the lower the air pressure, the stronger the storm.) The storm's central pressure plunged by 48 to 49 mb in just 24 hours, making it one of the most rapidly intensifying storms at a mean latitude of 34°N since 1979, according to a data analysis by Ryan Maue of Weatherbell Analytics.  On Tuesday, the storm spanned a staggering 1,440 miles, according to David Snider, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Alaska. That's equivalent to the distance between Denver and New York City. NERC Sat. receiving station Dundee Uni. Scotland.
The swell will generate massive waves on the north and west shores of the Hawaiian Islands. NOAA's outstanding surf forecaster, Pat Caldwell is forecasting 24 foot wave face heights without the amplifying effects of refraction by the sea floor. In surf spots refraction can double these wave heights. 50 foot wave faces are possible on Friday at outer reefs on Kauai and Oahu.

Ocean prediction center.
The vortex over north America has been pushing cold air over the United States.  Multiple outbreaks of Arctic air can be expected over the eastern half of the U.S. and Canada over the next ten days. A winter storm developing now over the southern Appalachians is forecast to bring snow to the DC area tomorrow afternoon. Then the storm is predicted to intensify over the north Atlantic. The amplifying energy of the southward displaced vortex over north America are forecast by the GFS model to make the storm "bomb" to a 944mb low south of Greenland. Huge waves are forecast to hit the Atlantic coast of Europe early next week.
U.S. Navy WWIII model.
In February 2009 a major stratospheric warming and polar vortex splitting event occurred unleashing cold air into the eastern United States and Europe. London, England had its heaviest snow in 20 years. NASA's Earth Observatory has a high res video of the event and a plain language description of what happened. - Daily KOS.

Australia still under hot wave

January 19, 2013SYDNEY - Sydney endured its hottest ever day on Friday, with records smashed across the city and thousands of people suffering from the heat. The mercury topped 45.8 at Sydney’s Observatory Hill at 2.55pm, breaking the previous record set in 1939 by half a degree. The city’s highest temperature was a scorching 46.5 degrees (115.7°F), recorded in Penrith at 2.15pm, while Camden, Richmond and Sydney Airport all reached 46.4 degrees. More than 220 people had been treated for heat exposure or fainting by late afternoon, the Ambulance Service of NSW said. The heatwave also stranded thousands of commuters, with dozens of trains delayed as steel wires buckled and a hose used to run a key signaling system melted. On the central coast, the heat caused an overhead wire to buckle onto a train at about 1.30pm, trapping about 250 passengers for half an hour. The monorail ground to a halt, spitting sparks that started a soon-extinguished grass fire next to Darling Harbour. More serious fires raged across NSW and Victoria, including about a dozen blazes that burned out of control in coastal regions of NSW from the Hunter Valley to the south coast. In Victoria a man’s body was found in a burnt-out car in the town of Seaton in Gippsland. The victim, who is yet to be identified, was the first victim of the bushfires this summer. The conditions in NSW were hellish, firefighters said. “This has made for very difficult conditions and there are a lot of very active fires. There has not been the cloud cover we expected,” said the commissioner of the NSW Rural Fire Service, Shane Fitzsimmons. As temperatures cooled and the southerly approached, lightning strikes sparked multiple small fires across the state, adding further stress to the firefighting effort. By nightfall huge fires were still burning near Cessnock, Coonabarabran, Young and around Bega, but there were no reports of properties destroyed. In Victoria one house was incinerated by a bushfire about 200 kilometres east of Melbourne, which had doubled in size to cover more than 45,000 hectares. Even as thousands of front-line personnel battled the flames, the nation’s peak emergency body – the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council – lodged a Senate inquiry submission warning of worse to come. The capacity of fire and emergency services to respond to major natural disasters will need to be increased if extreme weather events become more frequent and intense due to climate change, its submission to an inquiry into extreme weather events said. A bigger “surge capacity” was needed to deal with extreme events, such as those seen in the past two weeks. The council’s manager of operations, Paul Considine, said it had sought scientific advice in 2009 on the impacts of climate change on extreme weather. “We’ve been careful. We are not climate science experts,” Mr Considine said. “Our position is the science is there, we have accepted the science that has been presented to us, and if it is correct we can predict these certain results. At the Big Day Out music festival at Olympic Park, some people were treated for heat stress, while others partied under public showers. “We’re almost dying it’s so hot,” said Brittany Markey, 18, from Newcastle. “We’ve been standing under all of the showers and drinking water but it’s so expensive – $4.50 a bottle. When it rained for just a bit, that was awesome but otherwise waiting more than two hours without going under the showers is death. “The water showers and the sprays are keeping us cool. Without them, the heatstroke would definitely be coming on.” -SMH

Friday, 18 January 2013

Asteroid Deflection Missions Underway

(Before It's News) Lee Rannals for – Your Universe Online 

One mission aims to take a Bruce Willis approach in the movie Armageddon, by deflecting any future asteroids that might be headed towards Earth. 

The European Space Agency is looking for research ideas to help guide the development of an asteroid deflection mission study. 

ESA is asking for concepts based on both ground- and space-based investigations that could improve the understanding of the physics of very high-speed collisions involving man-made and natural objects in space. 

The space agency said it will be calling on help to guide future studies linked to the Asteroid Impact and Deflection mission (AIDA). 

This low-budget transatlantic partnership between ESA and U.S. researchers involves the joint operations of two small spacecraft sent to intercept a binary asteroid. 

The first Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft is designed by the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and will collide with the smaller of the two asteroids. 

ESA's Asteroid Impact Monitor (AIM) spacecraft will survey these bodies in detail, both before and after the collision. 

The impact could help to change the pace at which the objects spin around each other, and AIM's close-up view will "ground-truth" these observations. 

“The advantage is that the spacecraft are simple and independent,” Andy Cheng of Johns Hopkins, leading the AIDA project on the US side, said in a statement. “They can both complete their primary investigation without the other one.” 

Andrés Gálvez, ESA AIDA study manager, said that by working in tandem, the quality and quantity of results will increase greatly. 

“Both missions become better when put together – getting much more out of the overall investment," Gálvez said. “And the vast amounts of data coming from the joint mission should help to validate various theories, such as our impact [modeling].” 
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Rivers on Mars: In Pictures

DARMSTADT, Germany — ESA’s Mars Express imaged the striking upper part of the Reull Vallis region of Mars with its high-resolution stereo camera last year. Reull Vallis, the river-like structure in these images, is believed to have formed when running water flowed in the distant martian past, cutting a steep-sided channel through the Promethei Terra Highlands before running on towards the floor of the vast Hellas basin.
This sinuous structure, which stretches for almost 1500 km across the martian landscape, is flanked by numerous tributaries, one of which can be clearly seen cutting in to the main valley towards the upper (north) side.
Perspective view of Reull Vallis. – ESA /// CLICK TO ENLARGE
The new Mars Express images show a region of Reull Vallis at a point where the channel is almost 7 km wide and 300 m deep.
Topographic view of Reull Vallis. – ESA /// CLICK TO ENLARGE
The sides of Reull Vallis are particularly sharp and steep in these images, with parallel longitudinal features covering the floor of the channel itself. These structures are believed to be caused by the passage of loose debris and ice during the ‘Amazonian’ period (which continues to this day) due to glacial flow along the channel.
The structures were formed long after it was originally carved by liquid water during the Hesperian period, which is believed to have ended between 3.5 billion and 1.8 billion years ago.
Similar lineated structures, believed to be rich in ice, can also be found in many of the surrounding craters.
Reull Vallis in context. – ESA /// CLICK TO ENLARGE
In the wider context image, the tributary intersecting the main channel appears to be part of a forking of the main valley into two distinct branches further upstream before merging back into a single main valley.
The right (northern) part of the main image is dominated by the Promethei Terra Highlands with their high and soft-rounded mountains shown in these images, rising around 2500 m above the surrounding flat plains.
The perspective view below shows one of these mountains with nearby sediment-filled impact craters.
Perspective view of Reull Vallis. – ESA /// CLICK TO ENLARGE
This region shows a striking resemblance to the morphology found in regions on Earth affected by glaciation. For example, we can see circular step-like structures on the inner walls of the sediment-filled crater in the foreground of the second perspective view. Planetary scientists think that these may represent former high water or glacial levels, before ice and water sublimated or evaporated away in stages at various times.
#D View of Reull Vallis. /// CLICK TO ENLARGE
The morphology of Reull Vallis suggests it has experienced a diverse and complex history, with analogies seen in glacial activity on Earth. These analogies are giving planetary geologists tantalising glimpses of a past on the Red Planet not too dissimilar to events on our own world today.