Monday, December 3 , 2012

NASA scientists took time on Wednesday to soothe 2012 doomsday fears, warning against the dark side of Mayan apocalypse rumors — frightened children and suicidal teens who truly fear the world may come to an end Dec. 21.
These fears are based on misinterpretations of the Mayan calendar. On the 21st, the date of the winter solstice, a calendar cycle called the 13th b'ak'tun comes to an end. Although Maya scholars agree that the ancient Maya would not have seen this day as apocalyptic, rumors have spread that a cosmic event may end life on Earth on that day.
NASA maintains a 2012 information page debunking popular Mayan apocalypse rumors, such as the idea that a rogue planet will hit Earth on Dec. 21, killing everyone. (In fact, astronomers are quite good at detecting near-Earth objects, and any wandering planet scheduled to collide with Earth in three weeks would be the brightest object in the sky behind the sun and moon by now.)
"There is no true issue here. This is just a manufactured fantasy." Unfortunately, the fantasy has real-life consequences. Some worried citizens, particularly young people, say they can't eat, or are too worried to sleep. Others say they're suicidal. "While this is a joke to some people and a mystery to others, there is a core of people who are truly concerned."
Some people, inspired by New Age philosophies, expect a day of universal peace and spiritual transformation. But it's impressionable kids who have NASA officials worried. NASA scientists took questions via social media in the hour-long video chat, debunking doomsday myths from the rogue planet Nibiru to the danger of killer solar flares. It's true that the sun is currently in an active phase of its cycle, meaning electromagnetic energy has picked up. Large solar flares can impact electronics and navigation systems on Earth, but satellites monitoring the sun give plenty of warning and allow officials to compensate for the extra electromagnetic activity when it hits our atmosphere. What's more, this particular solar maximum is the "wimpiest" in some time — scientists have no reason to expect solar storms beyond what our planet has weathered in the past.
Nor are any near-Earth objects, planetary or otherwise, threatening to slam into our planet on Dec. 21. The only close asteroid approach on the horizon is forecast to occur on Feb. 13, 2013, when an asteroid will pass within 4.5 Earth radii to our planet (for perspective, Earth's radius is 3,963 miles, or 6,378 kilometers). The asteroid is not going to hit Earth.
Other rumors — that the Earth's magnetic field will suddenly reverse or that the planet will travel almost 30,000 light-years and fall into the black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy — were also dismissed. One popular rumor that the planet will undergo a complete blackout from Dec. 23 to 25 earned a "What?" and blank looks from the panel of scientists.
Ultimately, concerns about Earth's fate would be better focused on slow-acting problems such as climate change rather than some sort of cosmic catastrophe. "The greatest threat to Earth in 2012, at the end of this year and in the future, is just from the human race itself."

No update on Tuesday.

**About one-fifth of the people are against everything all the time.**
Robert F. Kennedy

Live Seismograms - Worldwide (update every 30 minutes)

This morning -
None 5.0 or larger.

Yesterday -
12/2/12 -

12/1/12 -

11/30/12 -

Strong 6.4 magnitude quake hits off Vanuatu - A strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake has struck off the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, but no tsunami warning was issued. Seismologists say the quake had a relatively shallow depth of 34 kilometres. The quake struck just before midday local time, 68 miles) northwest of Port-Villa, 107 miles south-southeast of Santo (Luganville), 205 miles north-northwest of Isangel, and 1,181 miles northeast of Brisbane, Australia.

5.9 Quake Shook Awake Residents of Alaska Friday Night - Residents on Kodiak Island and the Kenai Peninsula in the state of Alaska were shaken awake at 11:00pm on Friday night as a 5.9 magnitude earthquake shook the region, but there are no immediate reports of any damages.
A Series of Earthquakes Hit Alaska - It started with a 2.5 quake 43km S of Tanaga Volcano, Alaska.
Port Mac project is a boondoggle - In a place where the next big earthquake is a question of how soon, not if, sinking more public money into the flawed Port MacKenzie, including more than a hundred million dollars on a proposed rail connection, flies in the face of common sense.

Food aid desperately needed in Guatemala after earthquake - The UN World Food Programme said it urgently needs US $3,671,923 million dollars to ensure the survival of those affected by the recent earthquake in Guatemala. Colder temperatures are arriving too making the situation even more dangerous.

China, US conclude post-earthquake simulation drill - Military officers of China and the United States have held a joint indoor war game to practice humanitarian rescue and disaster relief in case of an earthquake and consequent nuclear leaks. The two-day exercise ended on Friday. Asia is home to more natural disasters every year than any other part of the world, and the U.S. and Chinese militaries have proved vital in responding to tragedies such as the 2008 Wenquan earthquake that struck in the mountains outside Chengdu.

Philippines - Nationwide simultaneous earthquake, tsunami drill set for today. A magnitude-7.9, Intensity VI quake generated along the Manila Trench will be the focus of the fourth-quarter nationwide simultaneous quake drill on Dec. 3.

Volcano Webcams

Lava flows from the slope of erupting volcano Plosky Tolbachik in Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula have destroyed two nearby scientific camps, a local branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences said on Friday. KVERT reports that the Tolbachik eruption may have intensified with the opening of another fissure on the volcano's north flank.

Hawaii - Another volcano on the "Ring of Fire" begins spewing lava. On the Big Island of Hawaii, Kilauea Volcano, which has been continuously erupting since 1983, started spewing lava from the Pu'u O'o vent on Saturday, then flowing into the ocean 7 miles away. During the day plumes of volcanic gas can be seen rising.

Massive volcanic eruption in the cards for Japan - Japan should brace for a catastrophic volcanic eruption at some point, say experts, citing a massive buildup of magma at many of the nation's 110 active volcanoes. The last particularly serious eruption in Japan occurred in 1914 at Mount Sakurajima.

Underground Chain Reaction Triggered Iceland Eruption - The eruptions of Iceland's volcano Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 were apparently triggered by a chain reaction of expanding magma chambers that descended into the Earth, a group of researchers now says.

Japan to give US $5 million for tsunami debris - Japan's government announced on Friday it would give $5 million to the U.S. to clean up debris expected to wash ashore from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The funds were donated to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The huge tsunami triggered by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake on March 11, 2011, off Japan's northeastern coast killed or left missing more than 18,000 people and washed millions of tons of debris into the sea.

In the Western Pacific -
- Typhoon Bopha was located approximately 250 nm west of Palau.

Typhoon Bopha - The strong typhoon is heading toward the southern Philippines and hundreds of people are evacuating coastal areas in the storm's path. Fishermen and ships were warned on Monday not to venture out to sea. Bopha is expected to hit land on Tuesday morning but would not directly hit Manila if it stays on its current path.
The storm has sustained winds of 175 kilometres per hour and gusts of up to 210 kph. Its centre was 550 kilometres southeast of Surigao del Sur province's Hinatuan township on Monday morning. It is moving at 24 kph. Hundreds of residents of islands and other high-risk areas in Surigao del Sur have been asked to go to evacuation centres to avert casualties. Classes have been suspended, dump trucks have been readied to ferry more residents when needed.
Some residents have been reluctant to leave their homes because the province was sunny on Monday morning. It was not yet clear how many have already evacuated, but an estimated 600 to 800 people were ordered to evacuate from islands in the archipelago nation. Provincial officials have placed food packs and other emergency equipment in areas where the typhoon may pass.
The Philippines is bracing for the strongest storm of 2012 almost a year after typhoon Washi triggered landslides, flooding and the highest cyclone death toll since 2008. Pablo [Bopha] was forecast to dump 20 millimeters to 30 millimeters of rain per hour compared with the 50 millimeters dumped by tropical storm Ondoy in 2009.


The third powerful storm in a week drenched an already saturated Northern California, causing some damage, but concerns of serious flooding eased as the system moved through faster than expected.

Britain - Motorists face extreme driving conditions as freezing temperatures turn roads to ice and flood waters wash away salt grit. Households already devastated by widespread downpours were also told to brace for renewed threat of floods, as a new band of heavy rain sweeps the country early this week.
Authorities on Thursday warned motorists of potential travel chaos and “treacherous” conditions over the coming days, as flood water cause roads to freeze over. The new flooding risk follows several nights of sub-zero temperatures, which could drop to -5C in some rural areas, followed by hail and snowfall on higher ground. There were also fears that snow falls could bring chaos on rail networks only days after many routes were subject to delays and cancellations due to flooding.
The Met Office Thursday night issued severe ice alerts for almost the entire country as the new threat of “icy patches” hit Britain’s transport network. Officials particularly warned drivers to take extra care on “roads that have been treated with salt”, which could wash off because of flood waters. The forthcoming cold snap, caused by clear skies and bitterly cold northerly winds, could herald the start of a freezing few months.
Authorities are braced for what some fear could be Britain's coldest winter in 100 years. The Department of Health warned the low temperatures could be “dangerous” for the very young or elderly. The Local Government Association said councils had stockpiled 1.3 million tons of road salt and had "hundreds" of gritters on standby. Experts also fear road surfaces could crumble as water trickles into cracks and freezes, leaving councils with a major pothole repair bill.
The Met Office forecast up to an inch of rain could fall on Sunday in saturated parts of Western England and Wales that have already born the brunt of severe flooding. The band of rain will then sweep east across the country on Monday. The Environment Agency warned there was “still a risk of flooding from slower responding rivers as water moves downstream”. On Thursday almost 200 flood warnings and alerts remained in place.
Several people have died, more than 1,800 homes have been damaged and thousands of cars swept away during the recent severe weather. The AA has estimated insurance claims for written-off vehicles could total £14 million. The Association of Business Insurers said the cost of house insurance could run into the "low hundreds of millions".


Cyclone causes air traffic disruption on Kamchatka - A powerful cyclone caused disruption in air traffic between Kamchatka peninsula in Russia's Far East and the rest of the country. The air traffic was expected to be interrupted until Monday. This is the seventh cyclone that hit the peninsula in the last four weeks. Heavy snowfall also caused disruption in road traffic and short-time breaks in electricity supply. The risk of avalanches in mountainous regions has been raised also.

Cyclone from the Balkans moves to Ukraine, weather to worsen - According to forecasts of the Ukrainian Hydrometeorological Center, worsening of weather conditions is expected on December 2-5 in Ukraine in connection with the movement of the cyclone from the Balkans. On December 2, heavy rain is expected in Crimea, the Azov Sea, eastern and Dnipropetrovsk regions.


U.S. Drought Intensifies, Drives Up Food Prices - Drought conditions continue worsen through the central plains states. While farmers have been dealing for months with the impact of little or no rain, consumers will begin feeling the impact by the end of the month.
More than 75% of the contiguous US is now experiencing some kind of drought, compared with about 43% during the same week last year. The WINTER WHEAT CROP IS AT A RECORD LOW and it’s the SMALLEST CORN HARVEST IN SIX YEARS. Corn is used as feed for livestock and as an ingredient in many foods. A shortage of the crop will drive up meat and grocery prices.
Over the last week, more of Kansas was downgraded to the worst drought category, Exceptional Drought. Conditions also worsened over the last week in Minnesota and South Dakota, where large swaths of central and northeastern South Dakota and parts of central and southern Minnesota were downgraded on the drought scale.

Australia - 'Extreme weather' melts Vodafone network in Melbourne. The Melbourne heat took out Vodafone mobile service for more than three hours Thursday nigh. Melbourne temperatures hit nearly 39 degrees Celsius on Thursday.
“We experienced a disruption to services at approximately 7:45 pm last night caused by a failed air-conditioner and over-heating of infrastructure in extreme weather conditions,” a Vodafone spokeswoman said. “We believe this to be a one-off but will review our processes to reduce the impact in the unlikely event this should happen again.” Vodafone has previously acknowledged that network issues have plagued its business and is currently making large investments in its network. Earlier this year, Vodafone suffered a massive outage that took out data services in six states.

Stark evidence of polar ice melt - The melting of polar ice caps raised sea levels by nearly 11 millimetres in the past two decades, scientists say, calling it the most definitive measure yet of the impact of climate change.


In Russia, it's official: this isn't the end of the world - There are scattered reports of unusual behavior from across Russia's nine time zones. Inmates in a women's prison near the Chinese border are said to have experienced a "collective mass psychosis" so intense that their wardens summoned a priest to calm them. The wardens said that anxiety over the Mayan prophecy had been building for two months, and some inmates had broken out of the facility "because of their disturbing thoughts." Some women were sick, or having seizures.
In a factory town east of Moscow, panicked citizens stripped shelves of matches, kerosene, sugar and candles. A huge Mayan-style archway is being built -- out of ice -- on Karl Marx Street in Chelyabinsk in the south.
For those not schooled in New Age prophecy, there are rumors the world will end on Dec. 21, 2012, when a 5,125-year cycle known as the Long Count in the Mayan calendar supposedly comes to a close. Russia, a nation with a penchant for mystical thinking, has taken notice. Last week, Russia's government decided to put an end to the doomsday talk. Its minister of emergency situations said Friday that he had access to "methods of monitoring what is occurring on the planet Earth," and that he could say with confidence that the world was not going to end in December.
He said that Russians were still vulnerable to "blizzards, ice storms, tornadoes, floods, trouble with transportation and food supply, breakdowns in heat, electricity and water supply." Similar assurances have been issued in recent days by Russia's chief sanitary doctor, a top official of the Russian Orthodox Church and lawmakers from the State Duma. One official proposed prosecuting Russians who spread the rumor -- starting Dec. 22.
"You cannot endlessly speak about the end of the world, and I say this as a doctor. Everyone has a different nervous system, and this kind of information affects them differently. Information acts subconsciously. Some people are provoked to laughter, some to heart attacks, and some -- to some negative actions." More common are reports about panicky buying. In Ulan-Ude, the capital of the Buryatiya region, citizens have reportedly been hoarding food and candles to survive a period without light, following instructions from a Tibetan monk called the Oracle of Shambhala.
Last week, lawmakers in Moscow took up the matter, addressing a letter to Russia's three main television stations asking them to stop airing material about the prophecy. "You get the sense that the end of the world is a commercial project. Just look at how many swindlers are trying to make money on this affair, starting from the pseudo-magicians, ending with people selling groceries and other rations."


CDC reports early-season flu rise - Flu activity in the United States rose substantially last week, hitting the national baseline at the earliest point in the season since the 2003-04 flu season, and the first case of variant H3N2 since September has been reported from Iowa.