Thursday, May 19, 2011

Today, again, you can take your pick - we are doomed, we're not doomed; things aren't as dire as they appear, things are worse than they appear; the experts know what they are talking about, the experts are making false assumptions. The truth seems to be wobbling in-between.

Is Saturday “Judgment Day”? - Predictions from a small American religious sect have gained widespread attention. For several years, a former civil engineer based in California has proclaimed that the world will face “Judgment Day” on May 21, 2011. He has convinced thousands of followers that a “worldwide earthquake” will occur on this day, beginning a hellish period that will culminate with God Himself destroying the planet five months later. He claims that these ideas are all found in the Bible. According to his website: "The inhabitants who survive this terrible earthquake will exist in a world of horror and chaos beyond description. Each day people will die until October 21, 2011 when God will completely destroy this earth and its surviving inhabitants.”
Is there any truth to his claims? Does the Bible validate these sensational ideas? The idea of the end of the world has been a subject of great speculation, ridicule, general discussion, fascination and fancy for 2,000 years. If people are reading basic Bible verses, they will not worry about May 21, 2011. “But of that day and that hour knows no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.” (Mark 13:32). This verse alone, and other similar passages, rule out this date — or any specific date — that might be suggested for a supposed “Judgment Day.”
The same man falsely predicted “Judgment Day” would occur Sept. 6, 1994. “When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken, but the prophet has spoken it presumptuously: you shall not be afraid of him."
(Another self-appointed prophet believes he and his wife are the Two Witnesses of Revelation 11 but he has set May 27, 2012 as the date.)
A small — or not so small, who knows? — army of Christians are sounding the alarm. They drive caravans and put up billboards, hand out tracts and try to convince friends and family that Judgment Day is upon us. It will happen this way: On May 21, "starting in the Pacific Rim at around the 6 p.m. local time hour, in each time zone, there will be a great earthquake, such as has never been in the history of the Earth." True Christian believers will be "raptured": They'll fly upward to heaven. 153 days later the entire universe and planet Earth will be destroyed forever.
No one knows how many people believe Judgment Day is right around the corner. But it appears that many became believers in 2009 after turning on Family Radio, a Christian network worth more than $100 million. The predictions made there have inspired other groups to rally behind the May 21 date. People have quit their jobs and left their families to get the message out. "We budgeted everything so that, on May 21, we won't have anything left." Nothing, except for the fervent hope that all of them will be raptured.

**Everyone should have an evil secret plan...**
Denis Leary

This morning -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday -
5/18/11 -

INDONESIA - Adviser Says Potential Quake Could Cause 'Armageddon'. The presidential staffer who was roundly criticized for causing panic by saying the capital should brace itself for a predicted earthquake is again courting controversy, this time by saying an even bigger quake may be heading Jakarta’s way. “The Public Works Ministry is calculating again the possible earthquake. We’re worried it might not be only 8.7 but reach 9.0 on the Richter scale,” he said on Wednesday. “If it goes higher than 9.0, I’ll say again that Armageddon might happen in the Sunda Strait.”
A magnitude-9 quake would be on par with the temblor that sparked a tsunami and devastated Japan’s northeast coast on March 11. The 2004 Asian tsunami that killed almost 180,000 people in Aceh was also caused by a similar-sized earthquake off the coast of Sumatra. He said Jakarta would not be the focus of the predicted earthquake, only that it would be affected by the temblor that was predicted to hit the nearby Sunda Strait. In response to the comments, Jakarta's Governor called for calm on Wednesday and assured residents the city was in a relatively safe area. “I ask people not to panic and become anxious. This earthquake rumor should be treated wisely. One should not be afraid because, according to the revision to the national earthquake mapping, Jakarta is safe from quakes.”

Iran rejects scientists' warnings against building nuclear reactors in quake zones. - The leaders of earthquake-prone Iran have rejected concerns by the country’s top scientists about a plan to build a national nuclear reactor network.
The Iranian decision was reached shortly after Japan’s March 11 earthquake and tsunami that crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, spewed radiation into the atmosphere, and evolved into the worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe.
Key Iranian leaders reviewed a 2005 report on Iran’s southwestern Khuzestan Province — site of a planned nuclear plant near the town of Darkhovin on the northern tip of the Persian Gulf — that was updated in 2010 and early this year with a study of earthquakes that have hit other Iranian provinces in the last decade. The report by Iranian scientists warns that “data collected since the year 2000 shows the INCONTROVERTIBLE RISKS of establishing nuclear sites in the proximity of fault lines’’ in Khuzestan and 19 other Iranian provinces. Despite the scientists’ warnings, the talk ended with instructions approved by Iran’s Supreme Leader to continue work on nuclear reactor designs. It was also decided to restrict access to the report by deleting it from computers at Tehran University’s Geographic Institute.
Beyond Darkhovin, Iran has not said where its other planned reactors would be built. But there are few places in the country that are not prone to earthquakes. Iran is located in a zone of tectonic compression where the Arabian plate is moving into the Eurasian plate, leaving more than 90 percent of the country crisscrossed by seismic fault lines. The country has been rocked by hundreds of killer quakes over past centuries. Iranian officials confirmed that Tehran remained committed to the reactor program. “We have long-term programs for peaceful use of the nuclear knowledge; we continue various activities and this will develop the country."

OKLAHOMA is returning to normal earthquake activity levels. A state seismologist says Oklahoma is ontrack to experience a high number of earthquakes this year but expects theintensity to be less than last year as the state returns to normal seismic levels. There were 1,047 earthquakes in Oklahoma in 2010 — a significant increase over the average of 50 per year. More than 100 of the quakes were strong enough to be felt, including one near Norman that registered a 4.7 magnitude and another 4.1 magnitude quake at Prague. For the first quarter of 2011, Oklahoma has experienced more than 300 earthquakes. Fourteen have been felt.
"We've seen a slight decrease in what we'd seen in the last year and a half. That was a period where we had a significantly higher number. So we're sort of going back to more normal levels for Oklahoma." Historical records dating back to 1897 show that seismic activity can be clustered, but there are questions about what is considered normal in this region of the country because the earthquake process occurs over a longer period of time. "In California, they are decades — every 20 years or so they have a major earthquake. Here in the Mid-Continent, those can be hundreds or thousands of years, so we don't know as much about what is normal."
They are researching whether natural gas exploration is linked to an increase in seismic activity, but so far the data linking the two has been insufficient. In Greenbrier, Arkansas, two natural gas exploration companies have shut down two nearby injection wells as officials study a possible link to a recent swarm of earthquakes in the area. Seismologists have recorded some 1,000 quakes in the region since September — including a magnitude 4.7 in February that was the strongest earthquake recorded in Arkansas in 35 years. Experts do not believe the earthquakes in Oklahoma and Arkansas are connected. "As far as we know, they're not related in a direct sense."


PHILIPPINES - Bulusan calms down but Phivolcs advises continued vigilance. A day after 144 volcanic quakes were recorded around it, Bulusan Volcano in Sorsogon calmed down on Wednesday and only two volcanic quakes were recorded in the area in the last 24 hours. However, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said residents should not relax and reminded them to take precautions against steam-driven explosions. Phivolcs' Wednesday morning update also indicated "weak to moderate" steaming activity at the active vents. Bulusan's status remains at Alert Level 1, meaning that the source of activity is hydrothermal and shallow. The area is at risk to sudden steam and ash explosions. Residents in the northwest and southwest sectors of the volcano were reminded to take precautions against ashfalls.
In Albay, only one volcanic quake was recorded at Mayon Volcano in the last 24 hours, while steaming activity was weak to moderate throughout the observation period. Crater glow was observed at Intensity II (can be seen by the naked eye) Tuesday night. Alert Level 1 remains in effect over Mayon Volcano, due to the continuing threat from sudden small explosions and rockfalls from the upper and middle slopes of the volcano.
In Batangas, five volcanic quakes were recorded at Taal in the last 24 hours. Alert Level 2 is still in effect over Taal Volcano, with the interpretation that magma has been intruding towards the surface.

WASHINGTON - Scientists seek sleepy Mount St. Helen's volcano's wake-up call. Mount St. Helens has been mostly quiet since its most recent dome-building eruptions ended in January 2008. But scientists say it’s a sure thing the volatile volcano in our backyard will reawaken.
The question they hope to answer is when. Clues to the volcano’s future lie in the faint signals of magma moving in a cigar-shaped chamber deep within the mountain, in the eruptive history of a similar volcano on Russia’s remote Kamchatka Peninsula, and in the long geological record contained within Mount St. Helens itself.
A scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver predicts the mountain will resume rebuilding itself sooner rather than later. “Mount St. Helens will probably erupt again within the next several decades. As we look at its eruptive history, we know there was a flank collapse 2,500 years ago. We saw the cone rebuild itself over a century or a century and a half.” Yet since the 1980 eruption, she said, the mountain has rebuilt only 7 percent of its pre-eruption mass. “If we look at patterns from St. Helens’ past history, and from volcanoes around the world, we come to the conclusion we are likely to see more eruptions.”
Based on research to date, most don't expect another explosive eruption like the one in 1980 anytime soon. “That eruption was caused by an accumulation of gas-rich magma. That magma takes decades to centuries to accumulate, so typically, the mountain cannot have another of these eruptions in the near future. What happens next is that there is lots of magma left in the chamber, but it’s gas-poor. You get dome eruptions for decades to centuries.” From late 1980 to 1986, Mount St. Helens spewed lava sporadically, building a lava dome that grew to a height of about 1,000 feet and a width of 3,500 feet. That was followed by a period of quiescence that lasted until 2004, when dome-building resumed. “The lava comes out of the ground almost solid. It is not able to flow. It piles up right over the vent, then sort of falls over. It will do this again with gas-poor magma over the next few decades, until it gets a new load of gas-rich magma....When you get enough gas-rich magma at the top, that’s when it erupts.” So far, deformation of the mountain due to the movement of magma is “barely perceptible. During the whole eruption period from 2004 to 2008, the site at Johnston Ridge Observatory moved toward the mountain by just one inch." Yet there is movement of various types. “When we look at sites all around the mountain, we see that they are all moving toward the mountain. Also, there is a downward motion that indicates that somewhere deep inside the volcano, magma is being withdrawn. It’s deflation, like with a balloon. The walls of the balloon get smaller. The crust surrounds the balloon.” Other things are going on beneath the mountain, as well. “There’s background tectonic movement. “Everything is moving to the north-northeast.” Slow-motion underground earthquakes known as “slip events” occur when the Pacific plate slips beneath the North American plate. “They aren’t releasing tremors, but they do cause movement. That makes it hard to detect deformation of the mountain itself. We are looking for small volcanic signals in a background of tectonic events.”
Research into the history of the volcano has shattered old assumptions. “We used to think the volcano began 45,000 years ago. We started dating rock and found it really began 250,000 years ago.” Mount St. Helens is by far the world’s most-studied volcano.

No current tropical storms.


As the Mississippi River reaches historic crests, the flood control system designed to protect property is instead destroying crops, homes and businesses that will cost billions of dollars and require months of recovery efforts, flood experts and conservationists say. The Army Corps blew a massive hole in a levee at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers to divert water from Cairo, Ill. The Corps' action flooded 130,000 acres of farmland in Missouri. That has prompted them to call for a major shift in federal policy that since the 1920s has tried to limit Mississippi River flooding through a massive system of levees, release valves, floodways and drainage basins. The shift would let the river run more freely but would probably force the relocation of communities to convert developed areas into open space.This year's flooding, along with overflows of the Mississippi in 1937 and 1973, show the limits of control systems in protecting communities from intense rains and increased flows into the river caused by development and farming. "They need to re-evaluate the entire system."
Removing flood protection is "a high ideal for environmentalists who live in safer places" and "an unthinkable violation of property rights and liberty for Americans who have lived beside the river for more than a century." The Army Corps spokesman said the Mississippi's flood control system, authorized by Congress, "is functioning as designed and has greatly reduced risk" during the flooding. The levee system, maintained by the corps, has narrowed some channels of the Mississippi, Ohio and Missouri Rivers to as little as one-third of their original widths. The Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio Rivers are largely man-made constructs." The narrowing of the Mississippi creates higher flood levels and faster flows of water as it gushes into farmland, communities and spillways designed to handle overflows. Faster rushing floodwater causes more damage to land and to buildings. Many factors have caused the extensive flooding this year, including rainstorms in the upper Midwest that are growing INCREASINGLY INTENSE and have caused major floods in recent years in areas such as Iowa. "We thought those were EXTREMELY RARE events, and we've seen three or four in 15 years." Farmers could handle flooding better by switching to more water-tolerant crops such as trees and switchgrass and moving away from soybeans and corn, which are farmed heavily in the Mississippi River valley. "What you need are plants that don't mind getting their feet wet."


More than 100 scientists from the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are meeting on Australia's Gold Coast to complete a special report on "extreme weather events." The UN's main science body is warning that the planet is increasingly vulnerable to more wild weather, including tropical storms, floods and bushfires, unless climate change is addressed. The United Nation's panel believes that extreme weather events are likely to be made worse by climate change. The IPCC says there is a strong chance that warming temperatures will lead to more intense heat waves, droughts, floods and storms. The experts are to share updates on how climate change may have influenced recent severe weather events.
In Australia, it has been a year of disasters with massive floods swamping much of Queensland state and large areas of Victoria to the south. In February, tropical Cyclone Yasi, a category five system, battered communities on Australia’s northeastern coast. Much of the world is not prepared for the more unpredictable conditions that are likely to be triggered by climate change. “We are sure that the kinds of events that we've seen recently are likely to become much more frequent and much more severe. Clearly the world has to be informed about what's going to happen so that we can adapt to these events, we can perhaps invest in infrastructure, in systems whereby societies and communities can adapt to higher frequencies and high intensities of these events.” The task of the IPCC is to review and assess the latest scientific data on climate change. The panel was set up in 1988.

New satellite images show deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest has increased by almost six times in the past year. New satellite images show deforestation has increased from 103 sq km in March and April 2010 to 593 sq km (229 sq miles) in the same period of 2011. Much of the destruction has been in Mato Grosso state, the centre of soya farming in Brazil. The news comes shortly before a vote on new forest protection rules. The Brazilian Environment Minister says there is cause for alarm and has announced the setting up of a "crisis cabinet" in response to the news. "Our objective is to reduce deforestation by July."
Analysts say the new figures have taken the government by surprise. Last December, a government report said deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon had fallen to its lowest rate for 22 years. However, the latest data shows a 27% jump in deforestation from August 2010 to April 2011.
The latest data comes amid a heated debate in the lower house of Congress on whether to ease an existing law on forest protection. Brazil's Forest Code, enacted in 1934 and subsequently amended in 1965, sets out how much of his land a farmer can deforest. Regulations currently require that 80% of a landholding in the Amazon remain forest, but that falls to 20% in other areas. Proponents of change say the law impedes economic development and contend that Brazil must open more land for agriculture. However, opponents fear that in their current form some of the proposed changes might give farmers a form of amnesty for deforested land.

Species loss twice as LOW as feared - The pace at which humans are driving animal and plant species toward extinction through habitat destruction is at least twice as slow as previously thought, according to a new study. Earth's biodiversity continues to dwindle due to deforestation, climate change, over-exploitation and chemical runoff into rivers and oceans. "The evidence is in - humans really are causing extreme extinction rates." But key measures of species loss in the 2005 UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report are based on "fundamentally flawed" methods that exaggerate the threat of extinction, the researchers said.
"Based on a mathematical proof and empirical data, we show that previous estimates should be divided roughly by 2.5. This is welcome news in that we have bought a little time for saving species. But it is unwelcome news because we have to redo a whole lot of research that was done incorrectly." Up to now, scientists have asserted that species are currently dying out at 100 to 1000 times the so-called "background rate," the average pace of extinctions over the history of life on Earth. UN reports have predicted these rates will accelerate tenfold in the coming centuries. The new study challenges these estimates.
"The method has got to be revised. It is not right." How did science get it wrong for so long? Because it is difficult to directly measure extinction rates, scientists used an indirect approach called a "species-area relationship". This method starts with the number of species found in a given area and then estimates how that number grows as the area expands. To figure out how many species will remain when the amount of land decreases due to habitat loss, researchers simply reversed the calculations. But the study shows that the area required to remove the entire population is always larger - usually much larger - than the area needed to make contact with a species for the first time. "You can't just turn it around to calculate how many species should be left when the area is reduced." That, however, is precisely what scientists have done for nearly three decades, giving rise to a glaring discrepancy between what models predicted and what was observed on the ground or in the sea.
Dire forecasts in the early 1980s said that as many as half of species on Earth would disappear by 2000. "Obviously that didn't happen." But rather than question the methods, scientists developed a concept called "extinction debt" to explain the gap. Species in decline, according to this logic, are doomed to disappear even if it takes decades or longer for the last individuals to die out. But extinction debt, it turns out, almost certainly does not exist. "What this shows is that many scientists can be led away from the right answer by thinking about the problem in the wrong way."
Human encroachment is the main driver of species extinction. Only 20 per cent of forests are still in a wild state, and nearly 40 per cent of the planet's ice-free land is now given over to agriculture. Some three-quarters of all species are thought to live in rain forests, which are disappearing at the rate of about half-a-per cent per year.