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.