Monday, January 2, 2012

Fearmongering gets started in 2012: - A tremendously terrible “article” was published in the Daily Mail this morning. The headline reads, "Is a super-volcano just 390 miles from London ready to blow?” It is referring to the Laacher See in western Germany – a caldera volcano that had a large eruption 12,900 years ago that covered a significant area of Europe with ash and tephra. Surely impressive considering how few people know about the caldera volcanism in central Europe. It starts off with the usual doom: “a sleeping super-volcano in Germany is showing worrying signs of waking up.”
Now, you have to look carefully for what their supposed signs are – all two of them. "This monster erupts every 10 to 12,000 years and last went off 12,900 years ago, so it could blow at any time.” No source for this recurrence interval and using poorly constrained recurrence intervals like we have at Laacher See is no way to say a volcano is (ugh) “due for an eruption”.
“Volcanologists believe that the Laacher See volcano is still active as carbon dioxide is bubbling up to the lake’s surface, which indicates that the magma chamber below is ‘degassing’.” Which, of course, Laacher See has been doing for centuries. There are stories of monks dying from asphyxiation due to carbon dioxide hundreds of years ago. Sure, it is a sign that magma is degassing, but magma passively degases all the time and is by no means, when presented as the only evidence, a sign of a volcano being “ready to blow”.
And honestly, there is no more substance to the article beyond this – no source, no named “experts”, nothing. So, the Daily Mail decided to run with a article proclaiming the imminent danger of the Laacher See based on it being supposedly “overdue” and that there are carbon dioxide seeps in the lake, something that have been there for hundreds if not thousands of years. This is the volcanic equivalent of the Daily Mail going out and saying, “Massive hurricane to hit London?” because they looked out the window and saw a cloud.
We’re going to be seeing article after article about all the calamities that might befall the Earth during this year based on no scientific evidence whatsoever.

**Stand up to your obstacles and do something about them.
You will find that they haven't
half the strength you think they have.**
Norman Vincent Peale

This morning -

Yesterday -
1/1/12 -

Quake swarm rattles Christchurch, NEW ZEALAND - Christchurch's sunny summer evening has been disturbed by a magnitude-4.8 quake hitting just before 7pm. The 15km-deep aftershock is the 48th of a nasty swarm of earthquakes to rock the city today. Ten quakes hit Christchurch since midnight. The largest quake - 5.5 - struck 5.45am and was centred 20km north east of Lyttelton at a depth of 15km and followed just five minutes later by a 4.2 and then two 4.1s at 5.54am and 6.06am, a 3.9 at 6.49am, a 3.8 at 7.33am, a 4.1 at 9.01am, a 3.7 at 10.04am and another 3.7 at 10.18am. Since midday there has been a magnitude 3.3, at 1.49 pm, with a depth of 11 km, and a 3.9 which was 15 km deep. Both were centred 20 km east of the city.
The 5.5 shake took out power to thousands of Christchurch homes in the Shirley, Dallington, Burwood, Spencerville and Richmond areas. Power distribution company Orion said the tremor caused a transformer at its Dallington substation to trip.
Christchurch's Mayor said he had not received reports of any significant liquefaction from the shakes overnight. In Christchurch the quakes were mainly felt as a strong rolling motion, rather than the short, sharp jolts that tended to do more damage. Residents needed to remind themselves they should expect more aftershocks, following the 5.5 magnitude shake. "So just prepare yourself for one of those shaky Canterbury days." Quakelive has ranked the 5.5 at 5.45am as the 11th largest shake to hit the city.
The city was initially shaken awake today at 1.27am with a 5.1 magnitude quake, again centred 20km north of Lyttelton. Just four minutes later there was a 4.3 at a depth of 12km and then a 3.5 at 2.20am and a 3.8 at 5.03am. These were all 20km north-east of Christchurch and at depths of 12km, 20km and 8km respectively.
One Twitter user described the 5.1 event as ''like a violent train going through''. There were no immediate reports of further damage or liquefaction, but one Twitter user reported they had lost power. This morning's shakes followed a magnitude 4 aftershock at 10.05pm yesterday and a 3.5 shake at 7.38pm.
Aftershocks may be 'last gasp' of fault - The Large aftershocks distressing Christchurch residents may be the last gasps of the Port Hills Fault that ravaged the city on February 22 last year. Between midnight and 7.30am yesterday, 21 earthquakes, including magnitude-5.1 and magnitude-5.5 shakes, gave many people a sleepless night. The quakes were all centred in a patch of Pegasus Bay about 5 kilometres off New Brighton.
A National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research marine survey in April identified the presence of small, splintered faults in the area and further south near Port Levy, each capable of generating quakes of between magnitude 5.0 and 6.0. Researchers also discovered a larger fault running out to sea off Kaiapoi that some believe could produce a quake of about magnitude 7.0. One theory was the Port Hills Fault, or splinters of it, were responsible for the aftershocks hitting the city since December 23. "I'm sort of comfortable in thinking this could be some residual activity from the eastern end of the February 22 fault that didn't rupture all the way out there. We did see that there was a small patch of that fault that does go offshore that may not have had much activity until lately." The "patch" had been "very productive" in generating aftershocks since the two big quakes on December 23. "These [magnitude] 5.5s are pretty substantial but only a quarter, or a third, of the energy of the [magnitude] 6.0."
GNS Science researchers will work this week to come up with some answers on what was causing the swarm of quakes. All the quakes since December 23 were similar, produced by slip on short, steeply dipping faults oriented roughly east-northeast/west-southwest. "The magnitudes of the events are not particularly alarming, but what is of particular interest is that we are having something that is more swarm-like; that is, a multiple number of similar-sized events in a region, but not all on the same structure or fault." Stress modelling for the September 2010, February and June 13 quakes showed the area east of the city had experienced a small increase in stress supporting quake behaviour. "The stress changes are relatively small. They in themselves don't cause the earthquake. But if a region is suitably stressed prior to the stress change, then these small amounts of stress change can advance or trigger the subsequent events. Basically, the situation that Christchurch finds itself in is a region - and by this I mean the entire region surrounding the city - that was suitably stressed prior to the September event, and since that time we have seen a sequence of events that pretty much follow the patterns of where stresses were slightly increased by the September event. What has controlled the actual space-time pattern of events is not totally clear, but in general it has been pretty much an eastward march of earthquakes." Some "good news" was that each of the big quakes appeared to be acting independently. "When the February event occurred, it did not reinvigorate the Greendale Fault. Similarly, the June event did not reinvigorate either of the two previous faults, and the recent suite of events has not really lit up any of the previous regions, including the June rupture. It seems to indicate that each event is effective in reducing the stresses on its fault such that they are no longer in a triggerable situation."
"Good news in all of this is that the activity is moving east. After the June event, since it was on a structure of different orientation - more north-south - it was unclear whether the behaviour was changing. These events seem to indicate a return to the slow but sure eastward march. None of this really will make Cantabrians feel better about things, but what makes this a bit intriguing is that it has continued in such a systematic way for so long.... the entire region was sufficiently stressed, and there were numerous fault segments, none of them particularly large, that were near failure conditions."


A new island has appeared off the west coast of YEMEN following a volcanic eruption, NASA said Friday. Thenew island is forming in the Red Sea in the Zubair archipelago resulting from a volcanic activity as lava is cooled by the surrounding seawater and solidifies. The underwater volcano behind the formation is located on the Red Sea Rift, where the African and Arabian tectonic plates are slowly pulling apart.
On 19 December, Yemeni fishermen first spotted lava spewing 30 metres into the air, which was later confirmed by satellite observations. The Ozone Monitoring Instrument aboard NASA's Aura satellite recorded elevated levels of sulphur dioxide in the region. By 23 December, the lava mass had broken the water's surface and the new island had begun to take shape. The island is currently around 500m wide and is still growing. The question now is whether or not it has staying power. It may continue to grow significantly as volcanic activity continues, or the fragile lava mass may be broken up by the action of the sea's waves.

Mt. Cleveland Volcano in ALASKA in the Aleutian Islands sent up an ash cloud on Thursday that prompted scientists to increase the alert level for commercial aircraft traffic. It was significant enough to raise the alert level from yellow, representing elevated unrest, to orange, representing an increased potential of eruption, or an eruption under way with minor ash emissions or no emissions. .

GREECE - Increased seismic activity of Santorini volcano in 2011/2012. The seismic unrest beneath Santorini which had started in July 2011 continues into 2012, greeting the world with a small swarm of quakes beneath the caldera.
The slightly increased number of quakes is concentrated on the volcano-tectonic Kameni line, which stretches SW-NE through the caldera and extends outside, especially to the NE where the submarine volcano Kolumbo is located 8 km off the coast. The alignment defines a tectonic graben structure underlying Santorini and has been used for rising magma for nearly all past eruptions of the volcano. (maps)

In the Indian Ocean -
Tropical cyclone 04s (Benilde) was located approximately 750 nm south of Diego Garcia.

INDIA - The very severe cyclone ‘Thane' [Benilde] has delivered a double whammy to Kerala — residual flooding rains to southern districts killing five, and an impromptu power load-shedding during peak evening hours. The pounding of South Kerala by heavy torrents after the ‘Thane' tail wagged over the region a day after, was of a scale that more than matched what was on show in worst storm-hit areas in the landfall region. A ‘Thane' remnant had delved more to a west-southwest track than expected and brought circular rain bands mopping up moisture from both the seas on either side of the tapering peninsular south. Haripad in Alappuzha recorded 22 cm of rains in 24 hours, while Thiruvananthapuram was swamped by 18 cm in only 10 hours until Saturday morning, and another four cm before the skies ‘shut down' after pelting the Capital City.
Only the day before ‘Thane' had rammed into obvious targets in Cuddalore and Puducherry with a vengeance buffeted by howling winds of up to 140 km/hr inflicting significant damage on life and property. At the last count, 42 lives have been lost in the contiguous State and Union Territory, but cumulative loss to property and infrastructure has been put at Rs 1,700 crore. The rains did not live up to the menacing strength of the storm, but were enough to flood mines at the Neyveli Lignite Corporation affecting power generation there. This short-circuited supplies to Kerala from the Central pool. A half-an-hour load-shedding was imposed in the State since Saturday during peak hours in the evening to night, which continued on Sunday as well. Meanwhile, the remnant circulation from ‘Thane' settled as a conventional low-pressure area over Lakshadweep on Sunday.
Cyclone Thane has finally settled over the Lakshadweep Islands, in the Arabian Sea, after wreaking havoc on the South Eastern coast of India. Roads, and rail traffic has been disrupted in the region, with rescue agencies doing their best to restore order. (YouTube video)

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration is monitoring a potential cyclone east of Mindanao, which threatens to bring “super heavy rains” once it moves closer.


U.S. - Frigid air blasting over the Great Lakes blew in the season's first major lake effect snowstorm on Monday, blocking visibility and causing massive pileups on icy roads from Michigan to Kentucky. As much as 2 feet of snow was expected to fall on upstate New York by Tuesday as the storm moves eastward from Michigan, where over 1 foot of snow fell by Monday afternoon. "You can see all of the snow showing up from the upper Peninsula of Michigan through western New York state, all the way through western Virginia and Kentucky. It's this west-northwest flow over the lakes that's causing this lake effect."


AUSTRALIA - Fire danger warning. Victorians are already sweltering through temperatures in the mid-30s ahead forecast tops of up to 42C today. Authorities have issued urgent health warnings as the state's sweltering start to 2012 reaches its peak. The mercury passed 30C at Laverton and Melbourne Airport about 9.15am today, while Sheoaks in the west hit 31.3C. The temperature hovered around 21C for most of the night, dropping to a minimum of 20.1C just after 5am. The bureau has forecast a top of 40C for Melbourne today, while towns in the north of the state could reach 42C. The Country Fire Authority has declared a total fire ban for the central, Mallee, southwest and Wimmera districts, with a dry northerly wind of up to 30km/h expected in Melbourne. An extreme fire danger has been forecast for the southwest district, with maximum temperatures about 43C. High winds are tipped to stoke a severe fire danger risk across the western half of Victoria. The rest of the state is rated a very high or high fire danger.

CHILE - Deadly Chile forest fires spread. Firefighters in Chile are tackling dozens of forest fires which have killed one person and destroyed 230 sq km (57,000 acres) of land in the southern and central regions. A 75-year-old man died in Bio Bio after he refused to evacuate his home. Firefighters said they had managed to contain four out of six blazes in the Torres del Paine National Park. An Israeli tourist detained on Saturday has denied a charge of causing the park fire through negligence.
Chile is in a "situation of extreme vulnerability". On Sunday emergency services were battling 48 separate fires, 15 of which were not yet under control. Almost 130 sq km (32,000 acres) burned in the Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia. In the Bio Bio region, fire destroyed more than 100 homes and a plant making wood panels. More than 500 firefighters have been deployed to stem the blaze. Chile always suffers forest fires during the southern hemisphere summer but drought has made 2011 a particularly bad year.


Dead blackbirds fell again in Arkansas town - For the second year in a row, dozens of blackbirds died overnight Saturday in Beebe, Arkansas, apparently after being startled by New Year's Eve fireworks. Thousands of dead blackbirds rained down on the town in central Arkansas last New Year's Eve after revelers set off fireworks that spooked them from their roost, and officials were reporting a similar occurrence Saturday as 2012 approached. Police in Beebe said dozens of blackbirds had fallen dead, prompting officers to ban residents from shooting fireworks Saturday night. It wasn't immediately clear if fireworks were again to blame, but authorities weren't taking a chance.
The first reports of "birds on the streets" came around 7 p.m. as residents celebrated the year's end with fireworks in their neighborhoods. Police were working with animal control workers and others to remove the birds and determine a death count. "We're not sure if they're going to continue to fall throughout the night. I can't tell you." Scientists say the loud cracks and booms from celebratory fireworks likely sent the birds into such a tizzy that they crashed into homes, cars and each other before plummeting to their deaths last New Year's Eve. The birds landed on roofs, sidewalks, streets and fields. One struck a woman walking her dog. Another hit a police cruiser.
The blackbird die-off, coupled with tens of thousands of dead drum fish that washed up on the shores of the Arkansas River, flung the state into the national headlines and drew conspiracy theorists and filmmakers to the town about 30 miles northeast of Little Rock. Some people speculated that the birds had been poisoned; others said their deaths marked the beginning of the apocalypse. "I guess we could have an annual blackbird watch. People can just bring their umbrellas, open them up and walk through the neighborhood and hope they don't get hit."