Thursday, October 6, 2011

Iceland's massive volcano Katla appears on the brink of a major eruption just days after officials confirmed that over the summer they had detected the start of eruptions. Measuring devices Wednesday morning picked up a large earthquake swarm, usually a tell-tale sign of a potential volcanic eruption. The intense swarm of earthquakes started at midnight and dozens of tremors were been recorded - the strongest with a magnitude of 4.1 at around 3am.
The Icelandic Government last month announced it was increasing the monitoring Katla, which is one of Europe's most feared volcanoes, following a consistent and strengthening spike of tremors and quakes. And last week, officials at the Iceland Meteorological Office confirmed a series of smaller eruptions had occurred in July. They said the high seismic tremors recorded on July 8 and 9 confirmed Katla had become active and had started small eruptions. Evidence gathered by geophysicists showed the magma had risen to the height of the glacier ice above the volcano causing it to melt.
It is believed that four eruptions that have taken place in the last fifteen years, are the beginning of an active period, during which major eruptions may be expected every two to seven years. Data provided by the Icelandic Meteorological Office confirms seismic activity has been increasing in the region in recent years, indicating the entry of magma. According to the report, the Hekla volcano is expected to erupt in the near future and an eruption in Katla is also impending. Katla, which has not experienced a significant eruption for 93 years, is the second largest volcano on Iceland and its eruption will be felt across Europe. Last year, the country's president warned "the time for Katla to erupt is coming close, Iceland has prepared and it is high time for European governments and airline authorities all over Europe and the world to start planning for the eventual Katla eruption". Katla is much larger than its neighbouring Eyjafjallajokull – which erupted last year - with a magma chamber about 10 times the size. Volcanologists warn that if Katla does erupt, the combination of the magma and the large ice sheet covering the volcano could lead to explosive activity and an ash plume for weeks, if not months.
The country's Public Civil Emergency Authority (Almannavarnir) has already confirmed it has increased its monitoring of Katla but are yet to announce an emergency level. It follows news that the country's Minister for the Environment has introduced a raft of new measures to evaluate the potential hazard and estimate the corresponding risk and feasible counter-measures to prevent accidents and minimise the economic damage.

**Our real poems are already in us
and all we can do is dig.**
Jonathan Galassi

This morning -

Yesterday -
10/5/11 -
CANARY ISLANDS - 7 total, largest 3.1

In the Atlantic -
-Tropical storm Philippe was located about 465 mi (750 km) ESE of Bermuda. Philippe could become a hurricane by today.

In the Pacific -
-Tropical Depression 22w (Nalgae) was located 100 nm north of Hue, Vietnam.

Tropical Storm Nalgae to impact Northeast of Thailand - The Thai Meteorological Department expected Tropical Storm Nalgae to reach Vietnam on Wednesday, affecting the Lower Northeast of Thailand, while forecasting wet conditions nationwide due to monsoons.

PHILIPPINES - The death toll from back-to-back typhoons that pummelled the Philippines last week has reached 82.


Accuweather forecasts extreme cold winter for Chicago, Illinois - Accuweather's forecast projects Chicago will again be hit by extreme cold weather and several blizzards, much as it endured last winter when more than 50inches fell on the city including a single storm that dropped 20 inches.


The Murray-Darling Basin, in south-east Australia, is the country's breadbasket. But following more than a decade of drought, the government wants farmers there to cut their water usage drastically - proposals that have provoked a furious reaction.
Many farmers in the Murray-Darling Basin are worried there won't be enough water to continue farming into the future. Australia's recent 12-year drought, which finally ended last year, hit rural communities hard. Now the Australian government wants farmers to cut their water consumption by 30-40% to conserve the region's water resources.
The Murray-Darling Basin is home to about two million people, across four states, covering around 400,000 square miles. It takes its name from its two major rivers, the Murray and the Darling. The rivers drain around a seventh of Australia's land mass and are vital sources of water as the area gets little direct rainfall. The Basin generates more than 40% of the gross value of Australian agricultural production, focusing on sheep, cattle, cereals, rice, fruit and vegetables. "We're talking about the heart and lungs of our nation. You can't take the heart and lungs out of a person and expect them to survive."
The Murray-Darling Basin became Australia's major food-growing region through intensive management of its rivers. In the 1920s, the government began building large-scale dams and diverted watercourses to provide irrigation. Local farmers say those engineering projects performed miracles, turning the largely parched nation of Australia into a food exporter. "Why would we want to limit the production capacity of an area like this? It just doesn't make sense." The proposed cuts to water usage may destroy farm communities at the whim of politicians and city-dwellers. But others disagree, saying limits are needed to secure the region's future.
"The Darling river is running dry. You can't extract that volume of water and have anything downstream. The ecology is pretty wrecked compared to what it used to be - there's not much life. The fishing industry is all but gone."
The Australian government says it must take urgent measures to re-balance the distribution of water among farms, cities, and the environment. Some farmers have already proven they can get by with less water. "We've got the northern dairy industry, for example, that went from over 100% water allocation down to less than 30% in the space of four years. By the end of the drought, they were producing as much milk as they were before."
A lot of dairy farmers did go out of business, but those that adapted to using less water - by upgrading their infrastructure and improving efficiency - flourished.
But don't try telling that to the farming communities of the Murray-Darling Basin. Referring to the government in Canberra one says, "They have just, I don't know, gone off their rockers, haven't they?" His attitude reflects a wider distrust of officialdom, and of scientists who argue the recent drought is a sign of a warming climate.
Many farmers in the region dismiss climate change as a hoax, and see the government's proposed water cuts as a mortal threat to their communities. The government's final water management plan for the Murray-Darling Basin won't be out until next year. Those figures are being hotly debated now. But it seems clear that, one way or another, Australia's farmers will have to get used to life with less water.


Comet's water like that of Earth's oceans. Comet Hartley 2 contains water more like that found on Earth than prior comets seem to have, researchers say. A study using the Herschel space telescope aimed to measure the quantity of deuterium, a rare type of hydrogen, present in the comet's water. The comet had just half the amount of deuterium seen in comets. The result hints at the idea that much of the Earth's water could have initially come from cometary impacts.
Just a few million years after its formation, the early Earth was rocky and dry; something must have brought the water that covers most of the planet today. Water has something of a molecular fingerprint in the amount of deuterium it contains, and only about a half-dozen comets have been measured in this way. All of them have exhibited a deuterium fraction twice as high as the oceans, so the current theory holds that asteroids were likely to be the carriers for water; meteorites that they give rise to have roughly the same proportion of deuterium that the Earth's oceans contain. However, until now, all of those measured have been so-called Oort Cloud objects, believed to have been formed early in the Solar System's history in the region of the giant planets Neptune and Uranus and kicked out to a great distance as they bumped into the planets and each other.
The assumption has thus been that if anything brought the water to Earth, it must have been asteroids and meteors - despite the fact that comets carry significantly larger amounts of water. Comet Hartley 2 is the first "Kuiper Belt" object to undergo the deuterium analysis. Kuiper belt objects formed not far outside our Solar System, and comets that originate there have much shorter orbits than those from the Oort Cloud.
Like the meteorites, it had a deuterium fraction much closer to that of our oceans. That opened up the possibility that comets at least contributed to our water supply. "The reservoir of Earth ocean-like material is much larger than we thought, and it encompasses cometary material, which we hadn't recognised. We have to think really hard and try to get a better understanding of what is going in our Solar System and whether you can really rule out comets as the source of Earth's water."
Much of what we believe happened in the early Solar System is based on computer models. Such models may need adjusting in light of the new evidence - and that more such studies are needed to assess whether many Kuiper Belt objects are like Hartley 2. "If the short-period comets are all like this one comet, then this could be a significant source of our early water. It opens up a new can of worms for us."
"In the past, scientists thought that these asteroids and comets were completely different classes of bodies. Now, several new results show that primitive asteroids and comets are brothers and sisters. This new view changes at least the semantics of the question on the orgin of the Earth's water. The question becomes more technical: from which region of the disc and by which dynamical mechanism came the (objects) that delivered the water to the Earth?" (photos)