Monday, February 21, 2011

Space weather could wreak havoc in gagdet-driven world - The Earth just dodged a solar bullet. But it won't be the last. Experts say a geomagnetic storm, sparked by a massive solar eruption similar to the one that flared toward the Earth on Tuesday, is bound to strike again, and the next one could wreak more havoc than the world has ever seen. On Tuesday at 0156 GMT, the strongest solar eruption since 2006 sent a torrent of charged plasma particles hurtling toward the Earth at a speed of 560 miles (900 kilometers) per second. The force of the Class X flash, the most powerful of all solar events, lit up auroras and disrupted some radio communications, but the effects were largely confined to northern latitudes. But "the magnetic fields were aligned parallel so not much happened. In another case, things might have been different." Modern society is increasingly vulnerable to space weather because of our dependence on satellite systems for synchronizing computers, navigational systems, telecommunications networks and other electronic devices. A potent solar storm could disrupt these technologies, scorch satellites, crash stock markets and cause months-long power outages, experts said Saturday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual meeting.
The situation will only get more dire because the solar cycle is heading into a period of more intense activity in the coming 11 years. "This is not a matter of if, it is simply a matter of when and how big. The last time we had a maximum in the solar cycle, about 10 years ago, the world was a very different place. Cell phones are now ubiquitous; they were certainly around (before) but we didn't rely on them for so many different things. Many things that we take for granted today are so much more prone to the process of space weather than was the case in the last solar maximum." The root of the world's vulnerability in the modern age is due to global positioning systems, or GPS devices, that provide navigational help but also serve as time synchronizers for computer networks and electronic equipment.
The experts admitted that currently, little that can be done to predict such a storm, much less shield the world's electrical grid by doing anything other than shutting off power to some of the vulnerable areas until the danger passes. "Please don't panic. Overreaction will make the situation worse."

**Labor to keep alive in your breast
that little spark of celestial fire,
called conscience.**
George Washington

This morning -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday -
2/20/11 -


HAWAII - Lava lake at Kilauea has reached ONE OF ITS HIGHEST LEVELS EVER. Scientists on the Big Island say it's been an especially active week at Kilauea volcano - as it continues to erupt in two locations: on the east rift zone and at the summit.
The volcanic activity along the summit has died down a little since Monday - when the lava lake at Halemaumau crater reached one of the highest levels ever observed. On Monday, they watched as a number of rocks fell into Kilauea's summit vent. Sulfur dioxide emissions remain elevated. "Large sections of the rim of the vent fell into the lava lake below. It caused a lot of degassing, and in a few instances, some explosive events that caused a lot of dusty, ashy plumes to rise skyward."
The lava lake at Halemaumau crater reached one of its highest levels ever this week - indicating an increase in the volume of magma. It's been rising steadily since last November, but volcanologists aren't yet sure of its significance. "We're still seeing these rise fall cycles in the lava lake. Rock falls are still occurring, again not as many as on Monday or Tuesday, but the vent walls continue to break apart, and we expect we'll continue to see this activity in the foreseeable future."
The eruption at Kilauea's east rift zone continues, as well. It's an area peppered with homes and structures, but right now, no homes are in imminent danger. Kilauea remains the world's longest, continually-erupting volcano.

CONGO - Goma volcano set for another eruption. Previous eruptions in recent times may be dwarfed by the expected next eruption of Mt. Nyiragongo, which towers over the Eastern Congolese city of Goma. Nine years ago, in January 2002, when the region’s most active volcano erupted, the reportedly rather liquid lava swiftly covered a sizeable part of the city and even brought air transport to a complete standstill, when a portion of the runway was covered by lava, which when finally cooled down, was measured to be 6 and more feet thick and as wide as a kilometer, leaving total destruction in its wake and making over 120,000 residents homeless.
The eruption then reached as far as Lake Kivu and only a major effort supported by the UN and international partners made the airport somehow usable again, albeit with a still shortened runway, which makes the use of larger aircraft impossible and impacts on the operations of the airport even with smaller jets. Accidents have, in fact, been recorded at Goma attributed at the shortened runway making every landing and take off an adventure of sorts. An earlier major eruption in 1977 also caused similar havoc, but population numbers were considerably less back then and the main path of the lava was not directed frontally against Goma. There are reportedly only two main exit routes for the lava, as researchers have established and, therefore, the chance of Goma being hit again during the next eruption is 50/50.
While in the past, ahead of major eruptions, earthquakes and seismic events indicated increased activity of the volcano, the absence of monitoring equipment is hampering the ability of researchers to adequately monitor the mountain and predict imminent eruptions. Neither the volcano operators nor the population at large seems overly concerned at this stage, in spite of recent pictures being taken from aircraft flying over the crater, showing it once again filling up with enormous quantities of lava. A few months ago it was reported here that the lava’s reflections on low clouds could be seen all the way into Uganda, again underscoring that there is indeed now a growing possibility of another upcoming eruption, many of which in the recorded history of the volcano have come at 10-year intervals.
The African Rift Valley, which extends from the Red Sea across much of Africa to Malawi, has always been an active seismological zone – as another active volcano, Mt. Ol Donyo Lengai in Tanzania demonstrates – but of late, disquieting reports have emerged that THE UNDERWATER RIP IN THE RED SEA SEEMS TO BE WIDENING, as minor eruptions have been reported from the border area between Ethiopia and Djibouti. It is there that the ground has also lowered and subsequently seismic monitoring has been substantially increased to provide early alerts of imminent developments. In the Eastern African part of the Rift Valley, and especially for Mt. Nyiragongo, this does not seem to be the case at present, however, leaving the populations near such volcanos at greater risk. With no meaningful evacuation plans in place, the Goma volcano can be considered a disaster in waiting. Should, in fact, the airport during a future eruption be closed again, feasible evacuations and the arrival of supplies and equipment will then only be able to reach Goma by road from Rwanda or else across the lake, where shipping capacity is also minimal.

Cyclone ATU was 1208 nmi NNW of Auckland, New Zealand.
Cyclone CARLOS was 43 nmi WNW of Broome, Australia.
Cyclone DIANNE was 740 nmi WNW of Perth, Australia.

AUSTRALIA - Communities in the Kimberley and Pilbara are on cyclone and flood alert as tropical cyclone Carlos reforms over the sea west of Broome. After moving over the Top End from the east, the reformed Cyclone Carlos is expected to move west southwest roughly parallel to the Pilbara coast and intensify today and tomorrow. This morning a cyclone warning was current for coastal areas from Cape Leveque to Mardie including Broome, and a cyclone watch was current for Pilbara coastal areas from Mardie to Cape Cuvier. "There is the risk of destructive winds with gusts exceeding 125km/h on Tuesday along the Pilbara coast and very destructive winds with gusts exceeding 165km/h possible west of Mardie later on Tuesday." The bureau said significant stream rises and widespread local flooding was possible between Port Hedland and Karratha from early on Tuesday.

Severe Tropical Cyclone Atu is continuing to intensify with Fiji's Meteorological Service now classifying it as a category four storm. It is forecast to strike Vanuatu. While it will brush New Zealand, it will pass there out of harm's way. However big seas are still a possibility between Northland and East Cape from Wednesday to Friday.
The risk of Cyclone Atu brushing New Zealand increased a little overnight. The storm may come a little closer to eastern New Zealand than was initially thought. It's expected that Atu will be closest to the country on Thursday but a direct hit still remains very unlikely. The Fiji Met Service said winds near the centre of the category one storm have picked up and the air pressure has fallen further as the cyclone intensifies over Vanuatu.

MADAGASCAR - On a sliding scale of hardship, a cyclone in February has more serious implications for food security than a similar tropical storm slamming into Madagascar in January. Cyclone Bingiza ripped into the northeast of the island on 14 February, killing at least six people as high winds shredded the flimsy homes of subsistence farming and fishing communities. "This is the worst time of year for a cyclone, as even if it comes in January they can restart cultivating with shorter cycle rice varieties, but if it comes in February they can't restart in time for the April harvest....If water stays on the rice for a week it will be ruined."
Bingiza made landfall at dawn in the Sava region, also damaging fields of vanilla, a cash crop, and the livelihoods of fishing communities in the Masaola pensinsula. The cyclone crossed the island and went into the Mozambique Channel, then turned back and visited Madagascar's southern reaches, which experienced flooding in the weeks preceding the cyclone. "All the rice fields are flooded and all the harvests are lost. Damage is much worse to the south than the north, and now Bingiza is coming back this way, which means it will get much worse."
As far as was known at present, Bingiza had left about 7,500 without adequate shelter. The World Food Programme had prepositioned stocks of rice and canned vegetables, as cyclones are predictable natural disasters in Madagascar's northern coastal towns. "The damage is much less serious than we expected for a cyclone of this strength, but in the months that follow there could be a negative impact on nutrition, as there has been damage to crops such as cloves and rice." The rebuilding of houses with easily accessible materials from surrounding forest has begun, but the "most vulnerable, like the disabled, single females and the elderly, do not have the strength or help to go to the forest and chop wood or gather materials needed to rebuild. We have found [in the past] some of these people, months later, living on the ground under just the collapsed roof."


MIDWEST - Hundreds of flights have been canceled at major airports in Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois and officials in several states, including Wisconsin, are advising people to stay off the highways. The National Weather Service reports blizzard conditions in Minnesota. The storm stretches from Montana to Michigan and is moving east. The National Weather Service predicts it will bring a wintry mix across the upper Midwest for several days. Weather service forecasters predict the storm will drop 10 to 15 inches of snow on Minneapolis by Monday afternoon. [already have 13 inches on Sunday evening.] The weather won't be much better Monday morning, but at least a light holiday commute will make more room for snow plows. The blowing snow was expected to make clearing the roads difficult.
As the storm moved east, it also prompted travel warnings in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation warned that roads could become impassible due to a mix of snow, freezing rain and ice. In Michigan, state police cautioned that mix of snow and freezing rain was expected through midday Monday in the southwestern part of the state. On Sunday, southbound U.S. 131 was closed for a time after dozens of vehicles crashed in Mecosta County near Big Rapids.

Parts of Moscow Region embraced COLDEST NIGHT IN 60 YEARS - An anti-cyclone pumping Arctic air into the lower latitudes not only brought the cloudless sky, but also RECORD FROST to Central Russia with a significant temperature drop to minus 33 degrees Centigrade on Wednesday night. Within the Moscow region, the epicenter of the cold was Klin, where the temperature may reach minus 33.4 degrees Centigrade, a record low for Klin in the past 60 years. The forecast also noted that the temperature might fall to minus 26 degrees Centigrade in Moscow overnight.
Friday's temperature was nearly 15 degrees below the average of February. Saturday was expected to be the turning point in the recent extreme weather. Starting from the weekend, temperatures will start slowly to rise in Moscow and its surrounding regions. Russia has faced periods of alternating extreme weather conditions since last summer in 2010, when the historically high temperatures have scorched the country for about two months, causing severe drought and wildfires. Experts said the weather becomes more extreme due to global climate change as well as the Solar multi-year circular activity.