Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Extreme Weather Conditions Confuse Farmers in Zimbabwe - A trend has since been established whereby extreme weather conditions have become one of the biggest impediments in their planning. For 12 straight seasons, Zimbabwean farmers have walked a tight rope as extreme and unpredictable weather patterns played havoc with their efforts to profitably remain in the business or simply grow enough to sustain their families. The start of the 2011/12 agricultural season in October began with UNUSUALLY widespread moderate rainfall. October is traditionally known for extreme heat. Areas such as Marondera, Mutoko and Chipinge received as much as 38mm, 30mm and 29mm of rainfall respectively.
But all hell broke loose last week as very high temperatures swept across the country. RECORD TEMPERATURES were broken. Lupane broke its October 1962 record of 41 degrees Celsius by recording 42 degrees Celsius on the October 24. Rusape equalled its long standing record of 35 degrees Celsius. Plumtree surpassed its October 1962 record of 38 degrees Celsius by recording 39 degrees Celsius. Because of the extremely high temperatures, the Meteorological Services Department has urged farmers to work during the early mornings only to avoid heat stress.
The 2011/12 season will undoubtedly be another wakeup call for farmers, more so for the Zimbabwe government, which must resuscitate its irrigation schemes while creating new ones to avoid hunger in the event of rains failing. While the government is making steady progress in the rehabilitation and development of these irrigation projects under the 2011 Public Sector Investment Programme, a lot more still needs to be done. Lack of fiscal space has limited the government's capacity to intervene meaningfully towards supporting agriculture. Zimbabwe has many small and large dams with immense irrigation potential which include Manyuchi, the country's fourth largest in Masvingo and Zhovhe in Beitbridge that are lying idle in the middle of communities thirsty for irrigation water. Aware of the disaster awaiting farmers especially vulnerable rural households, a consortium of non-governmental organisations comprising the Catholic relief Services, CARE International and the Agricultural Cooperative Development International have joined hands to form Promoting Recovery in Zimbabwe (PRIZE), an organisation that seeks to reduce food insecurity for vulnerable people in Zimbabwe's eight districts. "Erratic weather patterns, low agricultural technologies and malnutrition have exacerbated food insecurity and poverty," the consortium believes. Among the many PRIZE interventions is the rehabilitation of small dams and irrigation schemes currently benefiting thousands of vulnerable households.

Traditional farm methods help climate adaptation
- Traditional agriculture methods could help protect food supplies and make agriculture more resilient to the effects of climate change, a report by the UK-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) said on Monday. Traditional knowledge, rather than modern methods, has helped indigenous people in countries like China, Kenya and Bolivia to cope with extreme weather and environmental change.
"Policies, subsidies, research and intellectual property rights promote a few modern commercial varieties and intensive agriculture at the expense of traditional crops and practices. This is perverse as it forces countries and communities to depend on an ever decreasing variety of crops and threatens with extinction the knowledge and biological diversity that form the foundations of resilience." Traditional methods include using local plants to control pests, choosing crop varieties which tolerate extreme conditions such as droughts and floods and planting a variety of crops to hedge bets against uncertain futures. Policymakers agree that agriculture needs to be adapted to cope with rising temperatures, variable rainfall and extreme weather events to ensure future food security. However, government policies have largely overlooked long-established agricultural practices in favour of intensifying production through modern methods, the report said.
Next month, governments will meet at a U.N. climate summit in Durban, South Africa, to work on securing a deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions and climate aid for developing countries. "They must have traditional knowledge firmly in their sights and begin discussing how to reform intellectual property rights in agriculture as a main concern."

**We can either have democracy in this country
or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few,
but we cannot have both.**
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

This morning -

Yesterday -
10/31/11 -

Drilling Ship to Probe Fault Zone that Caused Fukushima Quake - The fast-tracked expedition will measure the fault's residual heat. After being tossed about and damaged by the tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan on March 11, Japan's drilling ship the Chikyu has been given an especially fitting assignment: to drill into the fault zone and take temperature measurements near the epicentre of the magnitude-9.0 Tohoku earthquake that caused the tsunami. It will be the first time that researchers have drilled into an underwater fault soon after a quake. The aim of the exercise is to solve a decades-old mystery about the part that friction plays in such an event. This should help scientists to understand why some faults are more likely than others to cause tsunamis — in this case, one that ultimately claimed more than 23,000 lives.
"It would be a great disservice to society if we did not learn as much as possible from the fault zone heated by this huge earthquake." The Chikyu will set sail in April and drill at a site south of the quake's epicentre. The scientific rationale for the expedition, officially called the Japan Trench Fast Drilling Project, is to promote rapid-response drilling through fault lines as soon as possible after an earthquake in which the ground slips by more than one metre. The Tohoku event SET A NEW RECORD FOR THE GREATEST AMOUNT OF SLIPPAGE EVER OBSERVED — a whopping 50 meters — making it an ideal target. "It's a fundamental issue in seismology right now: how do you get rock to slip tens of metres?" Researchers think that an important part of the answer is that resistance between the plates of rock, sand and water in a fault line drops significantly during a quake — because of rock melting or increased water pressure, for example — but no one has been able to measure this effect properly. Because friction is dissipated as heat, precise temperature data should fill a crucial knowledge gap.
Researchers have attempted to monitor the underground temperature after an on-land earthquake on three previous occasions — after the 1995 Kobe earthquake in Japan, the 1999 Chi Chi quake in Taiwan and the 2008 Wenchuan quake in Sichuan Province, China. But these projects produced only a few temperature readings between them, and found only tiny temperature increases, or nothing at all — perhaps because the temperature rise was too small to see, or because of imperfect monitoring techniques. "The recurring theme is that the faults tend to be colder than they should be." A larger slip event provides a better chance of tracking the expected temperature increase of up to 0.5°C. "We need to do this now, and do it fast, and do it correctly."
The Chikyu will drill down 1 kilometer through the fault, and drop a string of temperature sensors down the hole. By tracking temperatures for one to three years — much longer than has been attempted before — researchers should be able to calculate the total amount of heat that was generated by the quake. That will provide them with the resistance forces felt in the fault during the slip, filling in a blank in models of earthquake dynamics. "This is a key missing ingredient."
Completing the drilling won't be easy. At the proposed site, the Tohoku fault lies under 7 kilometers of water and some 700 meters of Earth's crust, so a huge drill string will be needed. Previously, only a tiny 15-meter core has ever been extracted from beneath water of that depth; most cores are taken from beneath 6 kilometers of water or less. In addition to temperature measurements, the project will also examine the sediments pulled up in the core. Certain sediment textures, such as ball-bearing-like particles of clay, might be associated with large-slip earthquakes. Identifying such features should help scientists to forecast the slip potential of other faults. The chance to collect precious information from the Tohoku event represents "an opportunity, maybe even a responsibility." Almost all of the damage caused by the quake was done by the tsunami. "What we really want to understand is what caused that."


Red Alert For Two Volcanoes in Chile - The Chilean authorities are keeping the red alert in the south of the country due to the Hudson volcano's eruptive activity and also from the volcanic complex of Puyehue Cordon Caulle. Although the Hudson, located in Aysen region, registered a minor eruption, there is no magma movement inside the massive volcano. The director of the National Geology and Mining Service said that the monitoring equipment permits the understanding of what happens in and out of the volcano. "We know how it is behaving." Hudson's last major eruption took place between Aug 8 and Dec 29, 1991.
The same applies to the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle with a flow volume of ash emission since last June. The main problem for aircraft is not only visibility due to the ash presence in the air, but also the abrasive effect it has on the fuselage of the aircraft and engine overheating that may come to a halt in midair. In the last week there were canceled several flights in southern Chile by the volcanic ash plume coming from the mentioned volcanic complex. The day before there was an increase in the precipitation of particulate material. The Puyehue-Cordon Caulle is located in the Andes, about 900 kilometers south of Santiago, between the regions of Los Rios and Los Lagos. Its previous eruption was in 1960, after the mega-quake of 9.5 degrees in Valdivia city, considered the greatest in the history of mankind.
All along the Chilean Andes there are around 3, 000 volcanoes and 80 of them are active, of which, according to experts, half could erupt in the near future. Among the most explosive there are the Puyehue and the Hudson also the Chillan, Antuco, Villarrica, Llaima and Osorno. The South American country has the 15 percent of all the active volcanoes in the world.

No current tropical storms.


US northeast faces days without power - Hundreds of thousands across the northeastern US are facing days without heat or lights after the FREAK October snowstorm.

Monday, October 31, 2011

What is the most famous French skeleton?
Napoleon Bone-apart.

**Happy Halloween!!**

This morning -

Yesterday -
10/30/11 -

No current tropical storms.


THAILAND - Nervous wait for Bangkok residents. Flyovers are congested with cars parked two or three abreast as residents try to ensure their precious vehicles are not damaged or swept away by the flooding that threatens central Bangkok.
"It's actually quite a problem. People have died crashing into them, but they think this is the best way to save their cars. The police have no choice, there are just too many cars to move them."
Months of heavy monsoon rain has caused major flooding in Thailand and parts of neighbouring Vietnam and Cambodia too. In Thailand alone more than 370 people have died so far with the rains swelling Bangkok's Chao Phraya River, which the Thai authorities fear could burst its banks at any moment. "There are so many mixed messages. One of the Thai channels on TV says it will peak on Monday, another one says it could last for six to eight weeks. We just don't know what to expect." Schools have been told they will not reopen for the new term until mid-November. As an emergency measure the Prime Minister declared a five-day holiday to encourage people to leave the capital and 20 other flood-affected provinces. "The holiday is due to end on Tuesday but there is no sign all the water has come yet or that it is going down, so you will have chaos when everyone tries to come back." The historic former capital, Ayutthaya, has been inundated and the water has now reached parts of the Grand Palace complex in Bangkok. However, the King ordered that no special measures should be taken to protect the palaces. His spokesman said he wished flood barriers to be erected in the city centre instead to minimise the loss of human life.
Many people left the city days ago, but there are still sizeable pockets of dry land in Bangkok. Residents have been given a number to call if they need rescuing by boat but have been told to allow up to five hours for help to arrive. Small convenience stores like 7-Eleven and Tesco Lotus are running low on basic supplies but larger stores inside the nearby shopping mall are still selling most products. Bottled water is harder to find though. "If we survive the floods the next thing to worry about is waterborne diseases."
Thailand's prime minister says she hopes the process of draining floodwater through Bangkok can be sped up now that peak high tides have passed.

AUSTRALIA - Season of storms ahead in Queensland. Summer hasn't even started yet, but far north Queensland has already had a drenching with RECORD-BREAKING RAINFALLS. La Nina is the weather pattern responsible for Cyclone Yasi and Queensland floods and it's developing again. It's looking like another a wet hot summer ahead. Some areas getting excessive rain, others not so bad for a start because this pattern is probably still evolving to a fair extent. Some of the more sophisticated models from the US and the UK that are based on the pure dynamics of what is happening in the atmosphere and the ocean, are suggesting quite a high risk of rain over Eastern Queensland and a lot of eastern Australia as they go into the core summer months: December, January and February and so on. This is all about risk management. These same models this time last year were showing five times the normal risk of having excessive rain. This time they're showing two or three times the normal risk of having excessive rain. Not quite as high as last year but that risk is still there.
They've had some wild weather around Queensland in the last week or two and now torrential rain up in the tropics. It's part of that transition phase. This is about the time when one would expect this to occur and exactly where it's occurring as well is right in the danger zone, where la Nina tends to first hit in Australia that's the north east Queensland coast, the sugar regions of Queensland are probably right in the bull's eye of where the impact of this particular pattern can move. It's a reasonable foretaste of the coming months and certainly as they get into summer certainly part of the cause of the excessive rain is due to this developing pattern in the Pacific Ocean, this return of la Nina. The la Nina pattern interacts with all sorts of other weather patterns; upper troughs and waves in the easterlies, and other tropical systems. It doesn't necessarily have to wait for the monsoon to come into play, but of course, once the monsoon does develop it can make the monsoon impact quite more intensive and tropical cyclones can become more intense and so on. Some of these more sophisticated ocean models, certainly the international models, have this lingering on further into the year of 2012 at this stage. It can lower temperatures during the day, but raise temperatures a little during the night.


The deadly snowstorm on US East Coast killed at least six people and left more than three million homes without electricity.
Snowstorm damage 'five times worse' than Tropical storm Irene - The idea of snow in October - no matter the amount - was far-fetched enough that when forecasts late last week began calling for several inches of snow, many throughout Connecticut were skeptical. Even the most panicked meteorologists, though, weren't aware of just how stunningly powerful this weekend's freak winter storm would be.
On Sunday night, the president and chief operating officer of Connecticut Light and Power, laid things out in perhaps the most eye-opening way for a state only beginning to move on from Tropical Storm Irene.
The damage from the storm was "five times worse" than that delivered by Irene. More than half of customers throughout the state remained in the dark. Early this morning, the number of outages had begun to slowly recede. CL&P, which had more than 800,000 outages earlier in the day, reported 772,155 at 12:15 a.m. -- still an astonishing 62 percent of customers. Even as the number of outages began to drop, the total early today was still higher than it was at any point following Tropical Storm Irene. At 12:15 a.m. there were 45 cities and towns throughout the state completely in the dark, including Monroe, Oxford, Seymour, Redding, New Fairfield and Washington. There were also outages for 97 percent of customers in Newtown, 92 percent in Bethel, 87 percent in Ridgefield, 75 percent in Brookfield and 55 percent in Danbury. Emergency shelters and warming centers are open throughout the state Sunday night so residents without power won't have to brave potentially record low temperatures in their homes. 45 transmission lines and 15 substations are damaged. Officials said it could take days -- or more than a week -- before all power is finally restored.
"This is THE LARGEST NUMBER OF POWER OUTAGES WE HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED," more than Tropical Storm Irene. "We are expecting extensive and long term power outage. This is a historic storm, NEVER BEFORE in anyone's recollection or anyone's review of history has such a storm hit the state so early." School closures are likely because many bus routes remained blocked and school buildings without power. Strong winds with gusts as high as 29 mph have lead to more power outages. As snow falls from tree limbs, the branches snap back, breaking power lines. Damage to 164 ATT cell phone towers will result "degraded service" beginning this afternoon. Two-thirds of the flights at Bradley International Airport were back on normal schedules. In Danbury, 64 percent of the city is without power. "I would term it a catastrophic situation." More than 200 roads are closed in the area. There were hundreds of accidents reported across the state caused by a combination of slippery snow, downed trees and poor visibility. Saturday's storm, which didn't garner significant attention from meteorologists until Thursday night, SHATTERED OCTOBER SNOWFALL RECORDS THROUGHOUT NEW ENGLAND and left more than a dozen towns either mostly or entirely without power throughout the state.


ZIMBABWE - High temperatures spark fears of climate change. Last week Zimbabwe experienced RECORD-BREAKING TEMPERATURES, not felt since 1962. In recent years, climate change has become an increasing phenomenon with scholars arguing that temperatures had gone up by as much as two degrees on average and this spelt doom for developing countries in particular. Some of the signs of climate change, scholars say, are increased famines and flooding in some areas. Zimbabwe has been at the throes of continuous droughts and others claim that this is a sure sign that climate change has set in. Recent flooding in the Okavango Delta in Botswana seems to have affirmed the climate change theory, as the delta last flooded in the 1970s, but burst its banks recently. An expert, however, warned last year, that scholars should be wary of declaring climate change as the reason for the extreme weather patterns. A hydrology expert based in Bostwana said he was able to accurately predict the flooding of the Okavango, as this was part of a 30-year cycle that moved from extreme dryness to flooding over a defined period. The expert defined this phenomenon known as Pacific Decadal Oscillation, as a shift between phases of warmer and cooler surface temperatures half a world away in the Pacific Ocean. “There has been no cyclicity change. A change in climate would be a modification of the cycle, and so far we have not seen that.” So in this case the extreme heat being experienced in Zimbabwe and most of southern Africa could be a result of cyclic weather patterns, but further studies into this phenomenon still need to be carried out. This is THE HOTTEST OCTOBER SINCE 1962, 49 years ago and it fits perfectly into the oscillation phenomenon that has a range of between 20 to 50 years for a cyclic weather pattern.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Send Your Extreme Weather Questions & Stories to National Geographic - Has extreme weather gotten worse lately? During the past few years we've seen tornadoes rip through cities in Missouri and Alabama. We've seen floods in the Midwestern US, Pakistan, China, and Australia. We've seen heat waves in Russia, typhoons in Japan, wildfires in California and New Mexico. Hurricane Irene left a trail of damage this summer from the Carolinas to Vermont, and Texas and Arizona have had dust storms this fall as bad as those of the 1930s. What’s behind this troubling trend?
At National Geographic magazine, they’ve been gathering data and talking to scientists about our puzzling weather. They’d like to hear from you as well. What have you experienced where you live? What would you like to ask the experts? Have you changed your expectations for the future? Let them know what you’ve been through and what you think is going on. Send your stories and questions — as well as links to your photos and videos — before the end of November, and they’ll pull it all together for an upcoming article. They’ll also update you as they go along with news and information they turn up. Let’s put our heads together to figure out what’s going on.

**The average man is a conformist, accepting miseries and disasters
with the stoicism of a cow standing in the rain.**
Colin Wilson

This morning -

Yesterday -
10/29/11 -

10/28/11 -

PERU - 6.9 quake destroys 134 homes, injures dozens. Peruvian authorities say 103 people have been treated at hospitals for injuries inthe quake just off the central coast. The earthquake wreaked havoc on Peru, causing a wider radius of action than the 2007 earthquake that killed 596 people.


CHILE - The Hudson Volcano released three huge columns of steam and ash that combined in a cloud more than 3 miles high on Friday, threatening a much larger eruption that had authorities in Chile and Argentina on red alert.

CANARY ISLANDS - El Hierro volcano deep earthquake swarms in the El Golfo area. While the submarine eruption south of El Hierro Island continues, a large number of mostly deep (around 20km) earthquakes of up to 3.3 magnitude have been occurring in the gulf off the NW coast of this island. Friday, IGN listed 63 earthquakes magnitude 4 or above, 27 between 2 and 3 and 32 lower than 2. The strongest was a M3.3 quake at 14:16 UTC. Saturday morning IGN had listed already 32 earthquake, the vast majority with epicenter in the El Golfo area. The tremor of 10:46 UTC was the strongest at M 3.3. It is likely that this is related to magma movements at depth, but at present not a sign that another eruption or a major change in the eruption style could be in the making. However, the situation clearly needs to be followed carefully.

No current tropical storms.

Tropical Storm Rina weakened to a tropical depression Friday after it battered Mexico's Caribbean coast with winds and rain, knocking out power and downing trees in some areas but sparing the resort-studded region major damage. Tropical Storm Rina brushed between Mexico's Caribbean coast and the island of Cozumel Thursday, lashing the area with wind and rain, as the Mexican Navy moved to forcibly evacuate some residents who refused to leave.


THAILAND - Bangkok flood shields survive first peak. The complex network of flood defences erected to shield Thailand's capital from the country's WORST FLOODS IN NEARLY 60 YEARS have been put to the test as coastal high tides hit their peak. No major breaches were immediately reported.


Early snow storm wreaks havoc on US east coast - Snow and icy rain have pelted the US east coast, with forecasters warning the "HISTORIC EARLY SEASON" STORM could dump up to a foot (30cm) of snow in some areas. The RARE October snowstorm was wreaking havoc on air and road traffic from Washington to Boston, with the National Weather Service warning that travel at night would be "extremely hazardous." Air travellers were seeing an average delay of six hours on flights. Forecasters issued a winter storm warning for large parts of the northeast, predicting heavy snow, freezing temperatures and strong winds with gusts up to 60 miles per hour (100 km/ph). Up to a foot of snow was expected in parts of Connecticut and New Jersey. In Manhattan, forecasters said up to 10 inches (25cm) could fall. Trees that have yet to shed their leaves toppled from the weight of the snow and knocked out power to thousands of homes. Unseasonably cold air was pouring into the northeast, and deep tropical moisture was set to surge northward along the east coast and "fuel an expanding area of heavy rain and snow". Much of the region was socked in August by Hurricane Irene, whose heavy rains and wind left millions without power, destroyed homes and caused record flooding.
The unseasonable snowstorm has hit the US East Coast, with some areas of New Jersey and Massachusetts seeing around 15in (40cm) of snow. The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning from Saturday into Sunday and travel conditions may be hazardous. More than 2.2 million people lost their electricity supply from Maryland to Massachusetts. A region of low pressure brewing off the mid-Atlantic coast was expected to produce heavy, wet snow as it moves north-east. The Massachusetts Berkshires, north-western Connecticut and southern New Hampshire are expected to see the heaviest snowfall. "It's going to be wet, sticky and gloppy. It's not going to be a dry, fluffy snow." Winds along the coast could reach 45mph (75km/h), further damaging power lines.
West Milford, New Jersey, about 45 miles (85km) northwest of New York, saw 15.5in of snowfall, and Plainfield, Massachusetts, saw 14.3 inches. In New York City, a NEW RECORD FOR OCTOBER snowfall was set when 1.3in fell in Central Park. "This is VERY, VERY UNUSUAL. It has all the look and feel of a classic mid-winter nor'easter. It's going to be very dangerous." The last time Pennsylvania saw a major storm so early was in 1972. In 1979, southern New England received a record 7.5in of snow in October. "This doesn't mean our winter is going to be terrible. You can't get any correlation from a two-day event."
The RARE October snowstorm barreled up the U.S. East Coast on Saturday causing at least three deaths. New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts declared weather emergencies because of the storm. "We are expecting the snow to continue to fall from New York City through Maine." Slippery conditions on a roadway caused the crash and death of a man driving in Colchester, Connecticut. In Temple, Pennsylvania, an 84-year-old man was killed when a snow-caked tree fell through his home. And a 20-year-old man was electrocuted in Springfield, Massachusetts when he stepped out of his vehicle and touched an electrified guard rail. Snow was falling from central Pennsylvania well into Massachusetts after blanketing parts of Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland earlier in the day.
While October snow is not unprecedented, this storm could be record-setting in terms of snow totals. The unseasonably early storm broke a snow record that had stood since 1925 for New York's Central Park. New York City was expected to end up with three to six inches (7.5-15 cm) of snow before the storm tapered off on Saturday night. Snow also fell in the U.S. capital, Washington.
Widespread power outages caused by snow, ice and falling trees were reported from the Mid-Atlantic into New England, leaving millions of customers in the dark. In some areas, the outages exceeded those caused by Hurricane Irene, which left some 5 million customers in the dark when it struck the East Coast at the end of August.
Hartford, Connecticut, Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Worcester, Massachusetts were among the cities that could be blanketed with up to a foot (30 cm) of snow. Cities along the East Coast including Allentown, Boston and New York, typically see their first measurable snowfalls late November into mid-December, the Weather Channel said. In Boston, the rain was expected to turn to snow overnight, bringing up to 4 inches (10 cm). Wind gusts along the coast could reach 45 miles per hour (72 kph), adding to the tree limbs and power lines already expected to be down from the heavy, wet snow. "It's a strong storm for October. We don't usually see storms this deep and this strong."

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fukushima Station Discharged More Radiation Than Estimated - The wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan may have released more than twice the amount of radiation estimated by the Japanese government, a study by European and U.S.-based scientists said. Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima station, which was wrecked in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, may have emitted 35,800 terabecquerels of radioactive cesium 137 at the height of the disaster. Japan’s nuclear regulator in June said 15,000 terabecquerels of cesium 137 was discharged. The amount is about 42 percent of that released at Chernobyl in 1986, the worst civil atomic disaster in history. The plant north of Tokyo may have also started releasing radioactive elements before the tsunami arrived, about 45 minutes after the magnitude-9 quake struck, contradicting government assessments. “This early onset of emissions is interesting and may indicate some structural damage to the reactor units during the earthquake."
Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency remains convinced the quake didn’t cause significant damage to the plant. NISA and Tepco blame the tsunami, which swamped backup generators, causing a loss of cooling and the meltdowns of the three reactors operating at the time of the disaster. Explosions at the plant sent radiation into the atmosphere.
Cesium 137 is a source of concern for public health because the radioactive isotope has a half-life of 30 years. A becquerel represents one radioactive decay per second and involves the release of atomic energy, which can damage human cells and DNA. A terabecquerel is one million times one million becquerels. Almost a fifth of the cesium 137 fallout fell on Japan, while the remainder was carried by prevailing winds over the Pacific Ocean. Areas around the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, which is still emitting radioactive materials, may be uninhabitable for at least two decades, according to a government estimate in August. Last week the amount of radiation being released had fallen to about 8 million times less than at the height of the disaster.
The levels of cesium 137 emissions “suddenly dropped” after Tepco started spraying water on the spent fuel pool of the No. 4 reactor. Reactor 4 was idle before the quake and the fuel assemblies in the core had been placed in the spent fuel pool of the unit. “This indicates that emissions were not only coming from the damaged reactor cores, but also from the spent fuel pool of unit 4." Fukushima also discharged 16.7 million terabecquerels of xenon 133, “ the largest radioactive noble gas release in history not associated with nuclear bomb testing." The government estimated in June 11 million terabecquerels of the radioactive particle was released from the plant. Xenon 133 has a half life of 5.2 days and is relatively harmless

**A crown is merely a hat that lets the rain in.**
Frederick The Great

This morning -

Yesterday -
10/27/11 -

TURKEY - Snow has blanketed eastern Turkey, complicating rescue efforts, while emergency crews managed to save a teenager more than 100 hours after the devastating earthquake. He was pulled out from rubble in town of Ercis, which took the full brunt of the earthquake. His rescue came after emergency workers pulled a 19-year-old from the rubble overnight, although prospects of finding more people alive were fading fast, as the death toll passed 500. Some of the rescue teams have started to leave the region.
After the government acknowledged failings in the initial rescue efforts, help from abroad was beginning to arrive, including an aid plane from Israel and Armenia. But in a sign of the disillusionment with the help they had received so far, some families who had been staying in tents began returning to their homes despite warnings they were still at risk of collapse from aftershocks. Many families have been forced to sleep in overcrowded tents or even out in the open around fires as the temperatures dropped to below freezing, while some locals complained that aid was not being distributed fairly. A tent city has arisen around the government-built apartment blocks near Ercis, although the buildings survived the earthquake with minor damage. Others in Ercis town centre are still seeking shelter.
In its latest damage assessment bulletin, the prime minister's emergency unit said that 534 people were now known to have died after the 7.2 magnitude quake struck. A further 2300 had been injured in the disaster. A total of 185 people had been pulled alive from the wreckage. The prosecutor's office in Ercis meanwhile began an investigation into the construction companies that put up collapsed buildings. In Van province 3713 buildings, home to 5250 families, had been destroyed. A separate 5.4 magnitude quake overnight struck the southeastern town of Yuksekova, near the Iraqi border, more than 200 kilometres southeast of Van, although no damage was reported and experts said it involved a different faultline.


Hudson Volcano forces evacuations in Southern Chile - 119 people have now been evacuated from the areas surrounding Volcán Hudson. 13 more people are remaining in their homes and two refuse to leave. The government hoped to evacuate all those in the 45 kilometer protection radius at 2 p.m on Thursday. The flyover conducted that morning revealed that the volcano contains three vents in the form of an equilateral triangle. One of them contains ash and the rest contain vapor. The new data does not reveal if the activity is increasing or decreasing. A second flyover installed a sensor to help get more concrete evidence about the activity.
The Hudson Volcano’s seismic activity placed the cities of Aysén, Río Ibáñez and Chile Chico on red alert Wednesday, Oct. 26, and forced evacuations in southern Chile. The government is currently working to contact 10 workers in the areas near Lago Caro. They reported new volcanic activity in the area Thursday morning and declared that the next 12 hours would be key to determining the extent of the emergency. The 10 workers in the area have yet to be found. Carabineros, and the Chilean armed forces of the Fuerza Area, or Chilean air force are currently searching for them. The Fuerza Area is also taking photos of the volcano in order to assess the situation better. “During the day we will continue to monitor the situation…It’s important to have a photographic register of the crater to determine the course of the next few hours."
ONEMI (Chile’s National Emergency Office) increased the volcanic alert status from Level 3 to Level 5 Wednesday, Oct. 26, in preparation for an imminent major eruption within hours or days. The announcement came after the Hudson volcano erupted blasting steam one kilometer in the air. The eruption’s seismic activity triggered an avalanche in the area. There have been no reports of injuries or damage due to this event.
On June 4, the Puyehue volcano erupted in the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcanic chain, shooting ash several miles high,which traveled around the world causing wide spread chaos with airline routes. Several airlines were forced to cancel flights for weeks and blamed the eruption for a major drop in profits. Chile’s chain of about 2,000 volcanoes or “ring of fire” is the world’s second largest after Indonesia. Some 50 to 60 are on record as having erupted, and 500 are potentially active. Chile’s Chaiten volcano erupted spectacularly in 2008 for the first time in thousands of years, spewing molten rock and a vast cloud of ash that reached the stratosphere. The ash also swelled a nearby river and ravaged a nearby town of the same name. The ash cloud from Chaiten coated towns in Argentina and was visible from space. Chile’s Llaima volcano, one of South America’s most active, erupted in 2008 and 2009.

Eruptions Could Create New Island in the Canaries - It hasn't yet reached the surface, but residents of the Canary Islands have taken to the internet to suggest names for a potential new islet. Meanwhile Spanish newspapers are taking a different approach to the subject, debating who would take responsibility for the new territory. The underwater volcano off the coast of El Hierro, the southern-most Canary Island, has been spewing magma into the sea for three weeks in the first volcanic eruptions on the Canary Islands for 40 years. The lava is already towering 100 meters above the seabed -- another 150 meters and it will protrude above the Atlantic Ocean, creating a new island.
Whether the eruption near the archipelago off the northwest coast of Africa will ever actually result in new land remains uncertain. But it's clear that the magma reservoir under El Hierro is simmering unchecked, constantly pouring out magma and causing the ground to shake several times a day. Since July, there have been more than 10,000 earthquakes -- mostly imperceptible -- on El Hierro. Volcanologists expect more eruptions, but they don't know where the lava will be released. Even small eruptions on land are possible. The volcanic activity will "probably last for some time."
The effects of the underwater volcanic events are clearly visible: powerful eddies result from explosions in the deep. A sea of ash bigger than El Hierro itself is floating off the island, with gas bubbling up and dead fish scattered in the water. Politicians and scientists are offering daily advice on possible risks to the local population, but their understanding of events under the seabed is far from complete. Scientists have stepped up their monitoring; there is even a submarine taking pictures of the ocean floor, showing the new undersea mountain, already 700 meters (2,300 feet) wide. A 150-meter (490-foot) crater can also be seen. There is also fissure three kilometers (two miles) long that is clearly gushing magma.
To the south of El Hierro, the earthquakes suggest persistent outbursts of lava. They show a pattern that is typical for flowing liquid, a so-called harmonic volcanic tremor. Presumably, there are constant small eruptions on the ocean floor. But the lava usually clogs the fissure quickly after such eruptions, forcing further magma to seek new channels -- exactly what seems to be happening now.
In recent days, however, some unsettling measurements have been recorded: The shaking has moved to the north. Because most of the earthquakes in that area have, up until now, occurred at depths of more than ten kilometers, an eruption is not expected in the area, the local authorities have said. The magma seems to be contained in the depths thus far. If the lava was being spewed in shallower water, there would be a danger of large steam explosions. But there are no fears of large eruptions on land. The only risk is in the immediate vicinity of the eruption site, where there may be lava flows and rocks flung into the air. Still, many of the nearly 600 residents of the fishing village of La Restinga on the southern tip of the island have now returned home after being evacuated two weeks ago.
The risk of large, explosive eruptions in the Canary Islands, however, "should not be neglected. The frequency of their occurrence cannot currently be estimated. But even the most momentous outbursts of the past few centuries remained localised. La Palma has experienced more than a hundred eruptions in the past 20,000 years; most recently in 1971 when a flow of lava ran into the sea. El Hierro is the youngest of the Canary Islands, appearing above the surface of the sea just over a million years ago. As such, it is likely its magma reservoir may still be very large; geologists suspect it is around ten kilometers below the seabed -- most of the tremors have occurred at this depth. The last confirmed eruption was in 550 BC, although there are also disputable reports of an event in 1793. In the eastern Canaries, on the other hand, supplies of lava have largely run out; they have already been far removed from the magma source. Although there has not been an eruption on Fuerteventura in the past 20,000 years, the volcano is still considered active -- unlike La Gomera, which seems to have run out of fresh magma. The island is expected to be spared from any future volcanic eruptions. It pays a price for this, however -- without any new lava, La Gomera will be washed away by rain and sea, and eventually, over the course of millions of years, will gradually sink back into the ocean.
Only fresh magma secures the existence of the Canaries; it was volcanic eruptions which allowed the islands to grow above the water in the first place. The sea is already at work trying to reclaim the land. Coastal roads have repeatedly had to be moved inland after being battered by floods. But the recent underwater lava eruptions could be creating new land near El Hierro, and residents are waiting eagerly to see if it will grow beyond the surface.

In the Atlantic -
Tropical storm Rina was located about about 20 mi (30 km) W of Cozumel, Mexico. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for the east and north coasts of the Yucatan Peninsula from Punta Allen to San Felipe. Rina is expected to produce rainfall amounts of 3 to 6 inches over the eastern Yucatan Peninsula and Cozumel through Friday with isolated maximum amounts to 10 inches.


Feds make slow progress on U.S. flood levee inventory - The levee network has "significant" problems and received an overall grade of "D minus" from the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2009. More than six years after Hurricane Katrina's rampage, authorities have taken only halting steps toward identifying weaknesses in a nationwide patchwork of levees intended to protect millions of Americans' lives and property during potentially catastrophic floods. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, accused of building substandard levees and floodwalls that failed when Katrina swamped the Gulf Coast in 2005, has spent $56 million since then developing the initial phase of a national levee inventory as required by Congress. The Corps on Thursday was releasing a database with information about nearly 14,000 miles of levees under its jurisdiction.
But the inventory doesn't include what is believed to be more than 100,000 additional miles of levees not covered by the Corps' safety program. Some are little more than mounds of earth piled up more than a century ago to protect farm fields. Others extend for miles and are made of concrete and steel, with sophisticated pump and drainage systems. They shield homes, businesses and infrastructure such as highways and power plants. The National Committee on Levee Safety, established after the Katrina disaster to evaluate the system and recommend improvements, issued a report in 2009 calling for the Corps to catalog and inspect every levee so deficiencies could be fixed. But Corps officials say Congress has not provided enough authority or money to add non-federal levees to the database, a massive undertaking that would take years. The inventory presently includes only about 10 percent of the likely total.
"The reality is, we don't know how many levees are out there. I think we've done a great job putting forward a state-of-the-art tool. It's a first step. It will be much more powerful once we can get all the data in there."
For each levee system, the database will include its location, design and rating following one or more safety inspections. Inspection ratings from nearly 700 of the roughly 2,000 levee systems under the Corps' jurisdiction have been added to the database thus far. Of those, 77 percent had ratings of "minimally acceptable," meaning they have "minor deficiencies" that make the levees less reliable but are not expected to seriously impair their performance. An additional 11.6 percent were rated "unacceptable," or likely to fail during a flood, while 11.3 percent were graded as "acceptable," or without deficiencies. Experts say the government is moving too slowly to complete the inventory. "We need to be really candid with the American people. This is yet another class of infrastructure that is aging and posing risks and we're going to have to do something about it." One group estimated that $50 billion worth of improvements was needed over five years. "So today hundreds of levees, whose integrity is in question, are in place in front of communities and properties with little realistic hope of funding for inspection, repair or upgrade."
Concern about the levees dates to the 1920s and 1930s, when killer floods on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers led Congress to order construction of more levees. Many were designed for the biggest flood likely to strike a particular area within 500 years or even 1,000 years. But starting in the late 1960s, federal policies have inadvertently encouraged the building of levees according to a less protective standard. One required financially strapped local governments to help cover levee building and maintenance costs. Relatively low death tolls from major floods in recent decades also fed complacency that ended with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Together, they killed more than 1,800 people and caused $200 billion in damages, spurring calls for a nationwide levee inventory and upgrades. The Corps has made good progress on the levee inventory but acknowledged "we're definitely behind where everybody had hoped we'd be."


Salmonella-tainted pine nuts sicken 42 in six states.

-Nike All-American Sandwich and Nike Super Poor Boy Sandwich Recalled by Landshire, Inc Because the products may contain Listeria Monocytogenes.
-American Egg Products of Blackshear, Georgia, is recalling five pound cartons of frozen egg product because they may be contaminated with Salmonella.
-The Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the Minnesota Department of Health are investigating illnesses in at least six people in Minnesota that are connected with a recall of organic shell eggs due to contamination with Salmonella Enteritidis. The contaminated eggs were traced back to Larry Schultz Organic Farm of Owatonna.
-YAMAYA USA, INC of Torrance, CA is recalling Masago (Capelin Roe), because it has the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

THAILAND - Locals flee as 'gigantic' floods threaten Bangkok. Tens of thousands of people jammed bus stations and highways to flee Thailand's capital as flood forecasts turned more grim and the first official evacuations were ordered. Floodwaters bearing down on the metropolis of nine million people have killed 373 people nationwide since July, caused billions of dollars in damage and shut Bangkok's second largest airport. The capital has mostly escaped unscathed, but residents are preparing for flooding that seems all but inevitable.
Bangkok's Governor said yesterday that residents of two of the city's 50 districts - Don Muang and Bang Phlat, both already partially submerged - should leave for safer city shelters. "This is the first time I am using the term 'evacuation', the first time I'm really asking you to leave." Elsewhere in the city, thousands of people packed Bangkok's Mo Chit bus terminal, trying to leave town on their own. Many appeared to be taking advantage of a government-declared five-day public holiday to avoid a possible watery siege. The holiday runs from Thursday through to Monday in flood-affected areas, including Bangkok. Some waited for hours on the sidewalk outside Mo Chit because there was no space inside the terminal, the main departure point for buses to Thailand's north. The mass exodus included thousands of migrants from neighbouring Myanmar, workers dependent on low-paying jobs so desperate to leave they are willing to brave a return to their intensely repressive nation to do so. Authorities were also forced to move hundreds of inmates from three prisons - many on death row - to facilities in other provinces.
Satellite maps of Bangkok showed a city almost entirely surrounded by water. Most of the vast pools of runoff now submerging a third of the country are flowing from the north toward Bangkok - southward toward the Gulf of Thailand. "The amount of water is gigantic. Some water must spread into Bangkok areas but we will try to make it pass through as quickly as possible." In the district of Sai Mai, on the capital's northern outskirts, waist-high water turned roads into virtual rivers and swamped gas stations and homes. Hundreds of residents clamoured aboard packed military trucks with their belongings, desperate to leave. But help was in short supply. Others got out any way they could - in paddle boats, plastic tubs, inner tubes and rubber rafts. Several men floated down a flooded road in a makeshift boat made of empty oil barrels tied to a rectangular plank.
As fears of urban disaster set in, some residents built cement walls to protect their shops and homes. Websites posted instructions on the proper way to stack sandbags. Many residents fortified vulnerable areas of their houses with bricks, gypsum board and plastic sheets. Walls of sandbags or cinderblocks covered the entrances of many buildings. Concern that pumps would fail prompted a run on plastic containers in which to hoard water. Anticipating worse, one woman travelling on Bangkok's Skytrain transit system carried a bag of life vests. On Tuesday, floods breached barriers protecting the capital's Don Muang airport, primarily used for domestic flights, in a major psychological blow to efforts to protect the capital. The country's main international airport is still functioning normally.
Panic has gripped parts of the city as more and more of it is affected by the advancing water. Residents stocking up on food and other necessities have emptied supermarket shelves, and stores have posted notices that flooding was disrupting supply chains and leaving them unable to restock certain items. The city's fate rests on three key flood barriers. "If the three spots ... remain intact, the situation will improve. However, in the worst case, if we can't protect all three spots, all of Bangkok will be flooded." The floods could range from 10cm to 1.5 metres deep in the capital.
The arrival of a massive deluge of water is imminent. The huge runoff from the north is equivalent to 480,000 Olympic swimming pools and is expected to reach the capital at the same time as seasonal high tides. "The floodwater has reached the inner city." The expected volume of water was put at 1.2 billion cubic metres. Adding to the deluged kingdom's woes are fears of crocodiles on the loose from flooded farms, another three were captured yesterday in Nonthaburi province, north of the capital.
Many supermarkets were running low on essential items such as bottled water and eggs as residents stocked up on goods ahead of the expected deluge, and the premier advised people to boil tap water before consuming it.

**It never rains but it pours.**
English proverb

This morning -

Yesterday -
10/26/11 -


INDONESIA - Mount Lokon Volcano Erupts In Central Indonesia, No Injuries Reported. The volcano in central Indonesia has erupted, spewing hot smoke and ash thousands of feet into the air. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage. Mount Lokon, located on northern Sulawesi island, had been dormant for years before rumbling back to life several months ago. It unleashed two strong eruptions at 5:19 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday. They were preceded by several smaller blasts hours earlier. Mount Lokon is one of about 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia, a vast archipelago of 240 million people. Its last major eruption in 1991 killed a Swiss hiker and forced thousands of people to flee their homes.

Chile Orders Evacuation Near Rumbling Hudson Volcano - Chile's government has issued a red alert and ordered the evacuation of residents living within 25 miles (40 kilometers) of a rumbling volcano. 97 people living near the Hudson volcano will be evacuated and officals are not ruling out the possibility of an eruption. The Southern Andean Volcano Observatory says seismic activity related to the volcano increased starting early Tuesday night. The Hudson volcano lies 995 miles (1,600 kilometers) south of Chile's capital, Santiago. It last erupted in August 1991, causing millions in damages to local farms and killing an estimated 1.5 million sheep. Chile has about 3,000 volcanos, 500 of which are considered geologically active. Precautionary evacuations are not uncommon.

In the Atlantic -
Category 1 Hurricane Rina was located about 120 mi (190 km) E of Chetumal, Mexico. A Hurricane Warning is in effect for the north-east Coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. A tropical storm watch is in effect for the east and north coasts of the Yucatan Peninsula. The center of Rina will be moving near or over the East Coast of the Yucatan Peninsula Thursday night and Friday.


ITALY - Torrential rains rains have lashed Italy from its northern Alps to the southern island of Sicily, causing flash floods that killed at least nine people and left six others missing. The storm that began yesterday spared few areas, but the northwestern coastal region of Liguria and the central region of Tuscany were the hardest hit. Six of the victims were in Borghetto Vara, a village in Liguria. Roiling waters and mud tore through the village, 75 kilometres from Genoa. At least one building collapsed.
Another victim died while trying to clear gutters in the northwestern coastal town of Monterosso, built around a small natural gulf. At least six other people were missing.
Flood waters swept away some roads and bridges, and several towns in Liguria remained cut off from the outside world. Authorities said major highways and the railway in Liguria would remain closed at least through Monday. Rome was under a flood alert but the storm caused little damage in the capital. A truck overturned in the storm, blocking the key Rome-Naples superhighway for three hours.

SE Asian Floods Spread to Myanmar - Add Myanmar to the list of Southeast Asian countries that are getting walloped by intense flooding. Earlier this week, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs issued a report that flash floods in part of Myanmar have left 78 people dead or missing, with more than 35,000 people affected, 3,000 houses destroyed and a pressing need for food, shelter and other essentials. That’s certainly not nearly as bad as the woes in Thailand, where an area the size of Connecticut has been inundated and Bangkok is at risk of going underwater. It may also not be as bad as Cambodia and Vietnam, which have also been struck by devastating floods in recent weeks.
But Myanmar has fewer resources to deal with disasters than those countries, and given the relatively under-developed media and relief networks there, it’s also often harder to get a complete picture of the damage when big storms or floods occur. Sometimes, relief workers find out much later the damage was worse than they believed. The latest flash floods occurred in the Magway, Mandalay and Sagaing regions of Myanmar, after two days of heavy rain on October 19 and 20 near the Myanmar – Bangladesh border. Initial estimates by UN departments showed that in addition to the 3,000 destroyed houses, some 8,500 houses were also damaged to varying degrees, while other crucial infrastructure like schools, monasteries and villages were also damaged. The Magway Region, the largest of Myanmar’s seven districts and home to 4.2 million people, was the worst affected by these floods. Around 26, 000 people lost their houses and their belongings, with 75% of houses flooded in the Seikphyu Township, an area which was severely affected by Cyclone Giri in 2010. In the Pauk Township, the strong winds and river current also washed away bridges and damaged roads, making it difficult to deliver aid to affected people.
Local authorities and the private sector, under the coordination of the UN, have begun emergency relief, setting up temporary camps in affected areas and providing kitchen sets, family kits and other necessities to people now displayed from their homes. Authorities have recorded the need for more essentials – including shelter, blankets, clothes, utensils and water. At least there’s some good news. Myanmar’s government, which was widely criticized for its insufficient response after the devastation caused by Cyclone Nargis in 2008, has taken efforts to better its response to natural disasters, including warning citizens to evacuate and welcoming more international relief during Cyclone Giri in 2010.


The world's population of seven billion is set to rise to at least 10 billion by 2100, but could possibly top 15 billion.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A third of humanity, mostly in Africa and South Asia, face the biggest risks from climate change and rich nations in northern Europe will be least exposed, according to a new report.

**For every change, there is opportunity.
The main thing is to recognize change and be flexible
and say that change is not bad.**
Carl Weschcke

This morning -

Yesterday -
10/25/11 -
5.1 JAN MAYEN ISLAND REGION [1017 km (632 miles) NE of REYKJAVIK, Iceland]

TURKEY - The death toll from the quake disaster has risen to 459 people, as rescue teams continued to search for survivors. Some 1,352 were injured. Survivors have continued to be rescued, including a two-week-old baby, her mother and grandmother.
Meanwhile, the Turkish government has pledged more aid to the thousands made homeless and aid agencies have set up field hospitals and kitchens and distributed thousands of tents and blankets. The main street in Ercis has been transformed. Some of the buildings lean over at alarming angles, bits of debris dropping from them. Then there are the mounds of concrete slabs, multifloor apartment blocks crushed down to the height of a single storey. They are all swarming with orange-suited rescue workers, hammering and drilling, cranes standing by to lift the sawn-off hunks of masonry in the hope that someone may have survived in an air pocket.
Every so often, there is a call for silence. The drills, saws and generators stop, and one of the rescuers shouts into the rubble, listening intensely for any sounds of life. However, hopes are fading for many more who remain unaccounted for, and Turkish officials warn that the death toll is likely to rise.
Trouble at the Van prison is reported to have begun when a strong aftershock of 5.4 magnitude caused panic among the inmates. Prisoners set fire to the jail and fought their guards because authorities refused to let them out. Security forces surrounded the jail, from which a number of prisoners were reported to have escaped on Sunday. Angry relatives gathered outside the prison as they tried to find out what was going on. "From what we heard, prisoners in the jail asked permission to get some air, naturally, after an aftershock, because they were concerned. When they couldn't get permission, they reacted and fire broke out in the jail. That's what we were told. But we heard gunshots with our own ears and learned that police fired tear gas." Turkey is particularly vulnerable to earthquakes because it sits on major geological fault lines. (map)


Tsunami debris floating toward US - Up to 20 million tonnes of tsunami debris floating from Japan could arrive on Hawaii's shores by early 2013, before reaching the US west coast. A Russian training ship spotted the debris in an area of the Pacific Ocean where scientists at the University of Hawaii predicted it would be. The massive amount of rubble [twice the size of Texas] includes a refrigerator, TV set and other appliances. The debris will reach the US and Canadian coasts of Oregon, Washington, Alaska and British Columbia around 2014.

In the Atlantic -
Category 2 Hurricane Rina was located about 240 mi (385 km) ESE of Chetumal, Mexico. A Hurricane Warning is in effect for the East Coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. A tropical storm watch is in effect for the coast of Belize from Belize City northward and for the Honduran Bay Islands of Roatan and Guanaja. Rina is expected to produce rainfall amounts of 8 to 16 inches over the eastern Yucatan Peninsula and Cozumel from this morning into Friday. Rina could become a major hurricane at any time. Rina is the 17th named storm of the Atlantic season.

Hurricane Rina has swelled to a Category 2 storm as it sweeps towards Mexico's Yucatan peninsula and Caribbean beach resorts. Rina was expected to become a "major hurricane" by Tuesday night. Further south, a Nicaraguan navy vessel that went missing in the storm with 27 people on board has been found safe. The vessel, which had been evacuating fishermen, was spotted by a shrimping boat after two days adrift.
At 1500GMT Rina was already packing sustained winds of 105mph (165kph). It was expected to further increase in strength before hitting the coast of Yucatan on Thursday morning. A hurricane warning is in force from Punta Gruesa to the tourist resort city of Cancun on Mexico's Caribbean coast, with tropical storm conditions extending further south. Destructive waves and rainfall of 8 to 16 inches (20-40cm) are predicted.
Rina formed off the coast of Honduras and Nicaragua but has now turned away from Central America, which is already struggling to recover from weeks of torrential rain. Floods and landslides have killed more than 100 people in the region, with El Salvador and Guatemala particularly badly effected. The UN has launched an emergency appeal for $15.7m (£9.8m) in funds to help 300,000 people affected by the downpours in El Salvador. "El Salvador is facing ONE OF ITS BIGGEST DISASTERS IN ITS HISTORY, given the scale and magnitude of the impact, as well as the damage caused to agriculture and infrastructure." Throughout the region, 1.2 million people have been affected.


THAILAND - Floodwaters inched closer to a terminal at the Thai capital's second largest airport Wednesday, leading many who had sought refuge at a shelter there to flee amid warnings that parts of Bangkok could be inundated by up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) of water. The flooding at Don Muang airport, which is primarily used for now-grounded domestic flights, is one of the biggest blows yet to government efforts to prevent the sprawling capital from being inundated. Its effective closure is certain to further erode public confidence in the ability of the Prime Minister's administration to defend the increasingly anxious metropolis of 9 million people. By Wednesday morning, more than 1,000 people sheltering there had fled as water continued to build around the terminal.
Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport, the country's main international gateway, has yet to be affected by flooding and flights there were operating normally. Most of the city has been spared inundation so far, though bottled water and other emergency supplies were running low in many areas. The government declared a five-day public holiday on Tuesday in affected areas, including Bangkok, while the Education Ministry ordered schools to close until Nov. 7. They called for those who don't need to be in the city and can afford to leave to do so. The prime minister warned in a televised address Tuesday that in a worst-case scenario, the enormous pressure of floodwaters pushing downstream into the city could combine with monthly high tides on Friday and Saturday to overwhelm recently reinforced flood walls and embankments protecting the city.
The flooding at Don Muang airport symbolizes the gravity of the Southeast Asian nation's deepening crisis, which has seen advancing waters drown a third of the country and kill 373 people over the last three months.
The airport houses the government's recently established emergency Flood Relief Operations Center, and one of its terminals has been converted into an overcrowded shelter filled with tents for about 4,000 people who fled waterlogged homes. The government's flood relief command will remain at the airport for now since it is still accessible by road. Last week, they ordered key floodgates opened to help drain runoff through urban canals to the sea, but there is great concern that rising tides in the Gulf of Thailand this weekend could slow critical outflows and flood the city.
The flood relief center had earlier said water levels in the worst-hit parts of the country — the submerged provinces north of Bangkok — were stable or subsiding. But the massive runoff was still bearing down on the capital as it flowed south toward the Gulf of Thailand. While neighborhoods just across Bangkok's boundaries are underwater, most of the city is dry and has not been directly affected by the deluge. Anxious Bangkokians, though, have been raiding stores to stock up on emergency supplies, and many have been protecting their homes and businesses with sandbags. Some have even erected sealed cement barriers across shop fronts.


Flu shot effectiveness is questioned in new study - Annual flu shots protect only about 59 percent of the population - far less than previously thought - according to a new study.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

COMET CORPSE: "Doomsday Comet" Elenin was briefly famous for inaccurate predictions that it might hit Earth. Instead it disintegrated as it approached the sun last month. Over the weekend, an Italian astronomer spotted the comet's remains. It appeared as an elongated cloud in photos on Oct. 22 of the star field where Elenin would have appeared if it were still intact. Another team of astronomers spotted the cloud on the same night. At first they were skeptical. "The cloud was extremely faint and diffuse. We wondered if it might be scattered moonlight or some other transient artifact." But when the team looked again on Oct. 23, the cloud was still there. A two-night blink animation shows that the cloud is moving just as the original comet would have.

**Do not feel lonely.
The disappearing world longs for you to touch it.**
Jim Moore

This morning -
5.1 JAN MAYEN ISLAND REGION [1017 km (632 miles) NE of REYKJAVIK, Iceland]

Yesterday -
10/24/11 -
15 Turkey aftershocks above 4.0; hundreds smaller.

Turkey quake toll rises to 279 as rubble buries hundreds. The death toll in a 7.2-magnitude earthquake in eastern Turkey climbed to 279 as rescue workers searched for hundreds of people trapped under rubble in the country’s worst natural disaster since 1999. At least 2,262 buildings collapsed in the quake that struck a region near the Iranian border, about 1,300 kilometers (700 miles) east of Istanbul. As many as 1,000 people may have died. Aftershocks as high as magnitude 6 rattled the area as staff at damaged hospitals treated the injured and the homeless sought shelter in tents as the temperature approached freezing. “Tens of people are being constantly removed from the rubble, we don’t know what condition they are in." The central part of Ercis was destroyed and there was a shortage of tents. “We slept in our cars last night because we are scared of another earthquake."
In Van, an impoverished city of 1 million people on a lake and surrounded by mountains, television stations showed a collapsed apartment building where rescue workers were using a crane and drills to reach survivors. The prime minister’s office said 1,300 people have been hurt. At least 169 of the dead were in Ercis, on the other side of Lake Van, where 90 buildings collapsed, including a school dormitory. As many as 4,000 homes in the area may be damaged. Sections of hospital buildings weakened by the shaking were closed as a precaution. The quake struck at 1:41 p.m. local time, followed by more than 250 aftershocks. The temblor, 5 kilometers below the surface, was the province’s BIGGEST SINCE 1976 and the country’s MOST SEVERE SINCE A 1999 quake east of Istanbul killed more than 17,000. A quake measuring 6.1 killed more than 40 people in Elazig, west of Van in March last year. About 7,000 tents have been distributed throughout the province. “Many more tents, heaters and blankets, especially since the weather will get colder, are on their way here." Temperatures in the region are forecast to drop as low as minus 2 degrees Celsius (28 degrees Fahrenheit) and it is likely to snow in two days.
“Normally quakes happen 30 to 40 kilometers deep. This is less than 10 kilometers. Therefore, there will be more damage.” The temblor struck towns and villages across the province, which lies just south of Mount Ararat, the highest mountain in Turkey at 5,137 meters (16,854 feet), where the Old Testament says Noah’s Ark came to rest.

In the Atlantic -
Category 1 Hurricane Rina was located about 340 mi (550 km) ESE of Chetumal, Mexico. There are no coastal watches or warnings in effect. Rina could become a major hurricane by Wednesday. Rina is the 17th named storm of the Atlantic season.

Hurricane Rina has formed in the western Caribbean, threatening to bring heavy rain and powerful winds to southern Mexico and Central America. A Nicaraguan navy vessel that was evacuating coastal residents has gone missing with 27 people on board. Rinais heading towards Belize and Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. Much of Central America is already waterlogged after intense downpours that killed around 100 people. At 1800GMT Rina was a category one storm with sustained winds of 120km/h (75 mph). It was centred 310km (195 miles) southwest of Gran Cayman island and was expected to develop into a major hurricane as it moved slowly towards the mainland.
The Cayman Islands have been told to expect 5-10cm (2-4 inches) of rain. Belize and Mexico's Yucatan peninsula - a major tourist destination - have been warned to monitor its progress.
Rina quickly gained hurricane strength after moving up the coast of Honduras and Nicaragua as a tropical depression. The Nicaraguan naval launch that went missing on Sunday had been evacuating indigenous Miskito fishermen from offshore islands threatened by the storm. Other ships and aircraft have been searching for survivors. Along with El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, Nicaragua was already struggling to recover from two weeks of torrential rains that have caused deadly floods and landslides.


IRELAND - Dublin on emergency footing as floods cause chaos. Dublin City Council has activated its major emergency plan as a result of widespread flooding in the city. Sustained rainfall led to major roads, houses and one of the city's main shopping centres going under water. An off-duty Irish police officer is missing in County Wicklow, close to where a river broke its banks. Public transport was severely disrupted and in one part of the city an inflatable boat has been used to rescue stranded motorists. There were three-hour delays on some major routes out of the city, and the Dublin Dart train service has been suspended. The heavy rain also hit travellers along the east coast of Ireland with the Belfast-to Dublin Enterprise service being cancelled. Two rivers which run into Dublin, the Dodder and the Camac, have overflowed. Authorities said further problems could be caused by an UNUSUALLY high tide which was expected on Monday night. The Irish weather service, Met Eireann, has issued a severe weather warning for large areas of Ulster and east Leinster.

THAILAND - Floodwaters are creeping further into the Thai capital, Bangkok, with residents of six more districts told to move to higher ground. Roads near the Don Muang domestic airport were flooded and the huge Chatuchak market in the north of the city was at risk. Two more industrial estates were also threatened and a prison of 2,000 inmates was reportedly being evacuated.
Thailand is grappling with its WORST FLOODS IN FIVE DECADES. Heavy monsoon rains since the end of July have flooded swathes of the country and left more than 350 people dead. About a third of all Thai provinces are affected by the flooding. The authorities are trying to drain water from inundated central areas to the east and west of Bangkok and out to sea. But they have been forced to open sluice gates into the city because of the sheer volume of water building up outside Bangkok's flood barriers. Water is now creeping into northern parts of the city, but central areas remain unaffected.
In some districts there are reports that residents have tried to remove barriers to allow water to flow onwards from their flooded homes. But Bangkok's Governor said the city needed to be protected because it was Thailand's economic heart. "It doesn't mean that I don't care about people outside Bangkok. I need to protect Bangkok, as the safety of Bangkok means the safety of the whole country." Analysts have warned that growth could be affected by up to 2% if the flooding hits Bangkok. Inconsistent messages and apparent tension between the central government and the local Bangkok administration are eroding public confidence. Many schools have postponed the start of the new term, and supplies of canned food and bottled water are running low as panic buying takes hold. North of Bangkok, flooding remains severe in the provinces of Pathum Thani and Ayutthaya. At least six crocodiles were killed or captured there over the weekend, amid reports up to 100 may have escaped from farms and wildlife centres. (map)


AURORAS IN THE USA - Northern Lights have spilled across the Canadian border into the contiguous USA. Observers report auroras as far south as Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana, Maryland, New York, Ohio and central California. The display was caused by the CME impact described below.

CME IMPACT: A CME hit Earth's magnetic field on Oct. 24th at approximately 1800 UT (02:00 pm EDT). The impact caused a strong compression of Earth's magnetic field, allowing solar wind to penetrate all the way down to geosynchronous orbit for a brief period between 19:06 UT and 19:11 UT. Earth-orbiting spacecraft could have been directly exposed to solar wind plasma during that time. High-latitude sky watchers should remain alert for auroras as Earth's magnetic field continues to reverberate from the CME impact. The best time to look is usually during the hours around local midnight.


FDA advises providers to stop offering needle-free flu vaccines - The US Food and Drug Administration recently advised health providers not to use needle-free injector devices to administer influenza vaccines, because so far no flu vaccines have been approved for administration using such devices. The FDA said it has recently received questions about the use of the jet injector devices to administer flu vaccines. So far only one vaccine - measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) - has been approved for administration by jet injector.
It's unclear how many pharmacies and health departments are offering needle-free flu vaccines.
Aside from the MMR vaccine, the FDA said it has no data to support the safety and effectiveness of other vaccines delivered by jet injector. It said FDA approval of vaccines is based on a host of factors, including method and route of administration. "Changes in the dose, route, and/or method of administration have the potential to impact immunogenicity, and the safety and/or efficacy of a vaccine."Jet injectors, as a different delivery method, have the potential to change the characteristics of an approved vaccine, and vaccine preparations administered with them must be individually evaluated for safety and effectiveness and submitted to the FDA for review and approval.
The CDC isn't aware of any safety issues related to use of the jet injectors for flu vaccines and its experts are looking into whether people who have received needle-free flu vaccines need to be revaccinated. "We hope to answer that question imminently." PharmaJet, based in Golden, Colo., said in an Oct 21 statement that it received no notice from the FDA about any jet injector concerns. "To our knowledge, no other needle-free injection manufacturer received notice or an opportunity to discuss this matter with the FDA." Earlier the same day PharmaJet announced that it had received FDA marketing clearance for two of its devices. According to the company, indications for both devices say healthcare providers who routinely administer injections can use the systems for both adults and children. It said it had contacted the FDA and planned to continue discussions.
Bioject's president and chief executive officer said that the FDA's statement was surprising, given that two of its jet-injection devices have been cleared for indications that include delivery of subcutaneous or intramuscular injections of vaccines and other injectable drugs. "We are looking into the matter to better understand the situation and the FDA's concerns. A number of Bioject's needle-free injection devices have been on the market for many years, and we are committed to resolving this matter with the FDA in a timely manner."
Earlier this month, researchers published the first human trial of seasonal flu vaccine administered by a newly approved needle-free jet injector system developed by D'Antonio Consultants International, with support from the CDC. The study found that immunization was safe, with an immune response that resembled the conventional needle-and-syringe method.

Monday, October 24, 2011

ROSAT RE-ENTRY UPDATE: US Strategic Command has released an updated set of final orbital elements for ROSAT. Using these latest figures, a German satellite decay expert estimates that the massive X-ray observatory re-entered Earth's atmosphere on Oct. 23rd at 01:56 UTC +/- 09. Best-fit coordinates (21.33°N, 100.32°E) suggest a re-entry over Northern Thailand.
Two Chinese cities with millions of inhabitants each, Chongqing and Chengdu, had been in the satellite's projected path during its re-entry time. "But if it had come down over a populated area there probably would be reports by now." Scientists believe the defunct German research satellite crashed into the Earth somewhere in Southeast Asia on Sunday — but no one is still quite sure where. Calculations based on U.S. military data indicate that satellite debris must have crashed somewhere east of Sri Lanka over the Indian Ocean, or over the Andaman Sea off the coast of Myanmar, or further inland in Myanmar or as far inland as China. The satellite entered the atmosphere between 0145 GMT to 0215 GMT Sunday (9:45 p.m. to 10:15 p.m. Saturday EDT) and would have taken 15 minutes or less to hit the ground. There were no immediate reports from Asian governments or space agencies about the fallen satellite.
The satellite used to circle the planet in about 90 minutes, and it may have traveled several thousand miles during its re-entry, rendering exact predictions of where it crashed difficult. A falling satellite also can change its flight pattern or even its direction once it sinks to within 90 miles above the Earth. It took the U.S. space agency NASA several days to establish where one of its satellites had hit last month. The dead NASA satellite fell into the southern Pacific Ocean last month, causing no damage but spreading debris over a 500-mile area. ROSAT's largest single fragment that could have hit is the telescope's heavy heat-resistant mirror. "The impact would be similar to, say, an airliner having dropped an engine. It would damage whatever it fell on, but it wouldn't have widespread consequences." NASA says it has no more large satellites that will fall back to Earth uncontrolled in the next 25 years.

**Look before you leap.**

This morning -
None 5.0 or higher.
Aftershocks continue in Turkey (34 so far).

Yesterday -
10/23/11 -

TURKEY - The death toll from the powerful 7.2 earthquake in south-eastern Turkey has risen to more than 200, with more than 1,000 people injured. The quake hit on Sunday morning (local time) near the provincial capital of Van and the region has since been hit by another magnitude 6 earthquake and several moderate aftershocks. The quake is THE WORST TO HIT TURKEY IN A DECADE.
Overnight, survivors and emergency workers battled to pull hundreds of people believed to be buried under debris in Van and the town of Ercis, where a student dormitory collapsed. Residents in Van joined in a frantic search, using hands and shovels and working under floodlights and flashlights, hearing voices of people buried alive calling from under mounds of broken concrete in pitch darkness and freezing temperatures. Up to 50 buildings have collapsed in the city and the Turkish military is reportedly on the way to help with the rescue operation. More accounts of dead bodies and destruction emerged from smaller settlements across the remote area near the Iranian border, most of them left without electricity or phone access. Officials say hundreds of people remain unaccounted for.
The damage was worst in villages close to Van, where many buildings are made of mud bricks. "I must say that almost all buildings in such villages are destroyed." In Van, a bustling and ancient city on a lake ringed by snow-capped mountains and with a population of 1 million, cranes were used to shift rubble of a crumpled six-storey apartment block where bystanders said 70 people were trapped. "All of a sudden, a quake tore down the building in front of me. All the bystanders, we all ran to the building and rescued two injured people from the ruins." A nurse at a public hospital in Ercis said hospital workers were attending the wounded in the hospital garden because the building was badly damaged.

Powerful South Pacific Earthquake Generates Small Tsunami - A powerful earthquake struck off the Kermadec Islands in the South Pacific Ocean on early Saturday morning, generating a small tsunami but causing no damage. The 7.4-magnitude earthquake at 5.57 am local time (1757 GMT Friday) was centered about 169 kilometers (105 miles) east of Raoul Island, which is part of the Kermadec Islands. It struck about 32.9 kilometers (20.4 miles) deep, making it a shallow earthquake.
As a result of the powerful earthquake, the New Zealand Ministry of Civil Defense and Emergency Management issued a tsunami advisory, warning people in coastal areas to stay away from beaches. The advisory, which also prompted New Zealand to activate its National Crisis Management Center, was later canceled after experts determined there was no threat to New Zealand. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said sea level readings indicated a small tsunami was generated, but there were no reports of damage or casualties. The largest tsunami wave, approximately 0.17 meter (0.6 feet) above normal sea levels, was recorded at Fishing Rock on Raoul Island. Saturday’s earthquake was the fifth most powerful earthquake so far this year.


ITALY - A spectacular eruption is going on the Mount Etna volcano. It is the seventeenth time this year since the new south-eastern crater started being active. At 8:30 p.m. local time Sunday, lava flows as high as hundreds of meters could be seen from the Ionic coast. The crater's activity started forty minutes earlier, when the ash cloud was carried by a moderate wind. The ash cloud caused the airport in Catania to close.

In the Atlantic -
Tropical depression 18 was located about 105 mi (170 km) NE of Cabo Gracias a Dios on the Nicaragua/Honduras border in the northwestern Caribbean Sea. A tropical storm watch is in effect for the coast of Honduras from Punta Castilla eastward to the Nicaraguan border. On the forecast track., the center of the depression is expected to pass north of the northeastern coast of Honduras during the next couple of days. The depression was forecast to become a tropical storm Sunday night or today.

Possible Tropical Storm Moving Toward Florida - An area of low pressure located over the southwestern Caribbean Sea is likely to become a tropical depression as it tracks northward toward Florida over the weekend, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said Saturday. "This system has a high chance - 70 percent - of becoming a tropical cyclone during the next 48 hours as it drifts slowly northward." Some weather models predict the system - currently almost stationary 170 miles (274 kilometers) east of Nicaragua - will aim north toward Cuba and potentially Florida later next week. If the weather system does turn into a tropical storm, it will be named "Rina."


U.S. dealt another La Niña winter but ‘wild card’ could trump it - Devastating drought in Southern Plains likely to continue. The Southern Plains should prepare for continued drier and warmer than average weather, while the Pacific Northwest is likely to be colder and wetter than average from December through February, according to the annual Winter Outlook released by NOAA. For the second winter in a row, La Niña will influence weather patterns across the country, but as usual, it’s not the only climate factor at play. The ‘wild card’ is the lesser-known and less predictable Arctic Oscillation that could produce dramatic short-term swings in temperatures this winter.
NOAA expects La Niña, which returned in August, to gradually strengthen and continue through the upcoming winter. It is associated with cooler than normal water temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean and influences weather throughout the world. “The evolving La Niña will shape this winter. There is a wild card, though. The erratic Arctic Oscillation can generate strong shifts in the climate patterns that could overwhelm or amplify La Niña’s typical impacts.” The Arctic Oscillation is always present and fluctuates between positive and negative phases. The negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation pushes cold air into the U.S. from Canada. The Arctic Oscillation went strongly negative at times the last two winters, causing outbreaks of cold and snowy conditions in the U.S. such as the “Snowmaggedon” storm of 2009. Strong Arctic Oscillation episodes typically last a few weeks and are difficult to predict more than one to two weeks in advance. With La Niña in place Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and parts of surrounding states are unlikely to get enough rain to alleviate the ongoing drought. Texas, the epicenter of the drought, experienced its driest 12-month period on record from October 2010 through September 2011.
According to the U.S. Winter Outlook (December through February) odds tilt in favor of:
•Pacific Northwest: colder and wetter than average. La Niña often results in below-average temperatures and increased mountain snow in the Pacific Northwest and western Montana during the winter months. This may set the stage for spring flooding in the Missouri River Basin;
•California: colder than average and wetter than average conditions in northern California and drier than average conditions in southern California. All of the southern part of the nation are at risk of having above normal wildfire conditions starting this winter and lasting into the spring;
•Northern Plains: colder and wetter than average. Spring flooding could be a concern in parts of this region;
•Southern Plains and Gulf Coast States: warmer and drier than average. This will likely exacerbate drought conditions in these regions;
•Florida and south Atlantic Coast: drier than average, with an equal chance for above-, near-, or below-normal temperatures. Above normal wildfire conditions;
•Ohio and Tennessee Valleys: wetter than average with equal chances for above-, near-, or below-average temperatures. Potential for increased storminess and flooding;
•Northeast and Mid-Atlantic: equal chances for above-, near-, or below-normal temperatures and precipitation. Winter weather for these regions is often driven not by La Niña but by the Arctic Oscillation. If enough cold air and moisture are in place, areas north of the Ohio Valley and into the Northeast could see above-average snow;
•Great Lakes: colder and wetter than average;
•Hawaii: above-average temperatures in the western islands with above normal precipitation during the winter. Some drought recovery is expected across the state with Kauai and Oahu having the best potential for full recovery.
•Alaska: colder than average over the southern half of the state and the panhandle with below average precipitation in the interior eastern part of the state.
This seasonal outlook does not project where and when snowstorms may hit or provide total seasonal snowfall accumulations. Snow forecasts are dependent upon winter storms, which are generally not predictable more than a week in advance.


Water loss estimates overstated - New model challenges claims about U.S. Great Lakes. Climate change probably won't reduce Great Lakes water levels as much as experts have predicted and might even cause them to rise slightly, federal scientists say. For two decades, studies have said a warming climate could send water levels sharply
lower by boosting evaporation and reducing rain and snowfall in the Lake Superior basin, which feeds the other lakes. But a revised computer modeling system suggests those predictions were overstated. "While there are still many unknowns about how climate change will unfold in the Great Lakes region, our results indicate less loss of water than earlier studies."
Water levels in the lakes have fluctuated over time. Levels have been sharply lower on Lakes Superior, Huron and Michigan much of the past decade, forcing cargo ships to carry smaller payloads. A decline of even a few inches can make a big difference because even under normal conditions, ships nearly scrape bottom in the shallow channels linking the lakes. Low water also can prevent marina operators from renting their slips and can hamper hydropower production. On the other extreme, excessively high water in previous decades has caused beach erosion and damaged lakeshore homes. Scientists have made projections about climate change's effect on levels for the past two decades, based on models developed at the Great Lakes lab that assumed air temperatures alone would determine water evaporation rates. In a newly published paper. researchers adjusted the models to reflect how energy from the sun and from greenhouse gases — the gases that cause global warming — affect evaporation. The revisions indicate less water will be lost than previously thought.
The most extreme water level swings happen on Lakes Michigan and Huron, which have been below their historical average for most of the past decade and presently are about 15 inches down. Under the older modeling system, some studies projected that Huron and Michigan — which are connected and have the same surface level — would decline 6 feet or more this century. Models based on the new methodology suggest levels could fall up to 3 feet or actually rise about 20 inches. "I don't think we've reached the final answer." People in the region should expect lots of ups and downs in the next decade as a warming climate produces more severe swings in precipitation — years of heavy rain and snow followed by drought.


SPACE WEATHER FORECAST FOR MARS - A bright CME blasted off the sun Saturday, Oct. 22nd, and it appears to be heading for Mars. Analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab expect the cloud to reach the Red Planet on Oct. 26th. Mars has a unique response to solar storms shaped by the planet's strange magnetic topology. Unlike Earth, which has a global magnetic field, Mars is patchily covered by dozens of "magnetic umbrellas" -- remnants of an over-arching planetary field that decayed billions of years ago. When Mars gets hit by a CME, the resulting magnetic storms take place in the umbrellas. Circumstantial evidence collected by Mars Global Surveyor in the 1990s suggests that the tops of the umbrellas light up with bright ultraviolet auroras during such storms. Because the structures are distributed around the planet, these auroras can appear even at the equator.
Magnetic umbrellas are at the heart of one of Mars's greatest mysteries: What happened to the atmosphere? Billions of years ago, the air on Mars was thick enough to protect vast expanses of water on the planet’s surface. Now, however, the atmosphere is 100 times thinner than Earth's and the surface is bone dry. Some researchers believe that magnetic storms in the umbrellas could rip parcels of atmosphere away from Mars and propel air-filled magnetic bubbles into space. In this way, space weather could be directly responsible for the desiccation of the Red Planet.


Botulism suspected as thousands of dead birds wash up on an Ontario, Canadia beach. Between 5000 and 6000 loons, ducks and seagulls were discovered on Saturday littering a 7.7km stretch of Georgian Bay beach, close to Wasaga Beach and about 340km north of Toronto. It is believed the birds contracted botulism from eating dead fish. A spokesperson for Natural Resources Minister said staff members are collecting samples from the dead birds for examination. No cases of botulism in humans have been attributed to the outbreak in the area. Police said residents were advised to keep their children and pets away from dead birds to prevent poisoning.