Sunday, March 3, 2013

Solar cycle - Something unexpected is happening on the sun. 2013 is supposed to be the year of Solar Max, but solar activity is lower than expected. Sunspot numbers are well below their values in 2011, and strong solar flares have been infrequent for many months. The quiet has led some observers to wonder if forecasters missed the mark.
A solar physicist has a different explanation: "This is solar maximum. But it looks different from what we expected because it is double peaked." Conventional wisdom holds that solar activity swings back and forth like a simple pendulum. At one end of the cycle, there is a quiet time with few sunspots and flares. At the other end, Solar Max brings high sunspot numbers and solar storms. It’s a regular rhythm that repeats every 11 years.
Reality, however, is more complicated. Astronomers have been counting sunspots for centuries, and they have seen that the solar cycle is not perfectly regular. For one thing, the back-and-forth swing in sunspot counts can take anywhere from 10 to 13 years to complete; also, the amplitude of the cycle varies. Some solar maxima are very weak, others very strong.
"The last two solar maxima, around 1989 and 2001, had not one but two peaks." Solar activity went up, dipped, then resumed, performing a mini-cycle that lasted about two years. The same thing could be happening now. Sunspot counts jumped in 2011, dipped in 2012, and may rebound again in 2013: "I am comfortable in saying that another peak will happen in 2013 and possibly last into 2014."
Another curiosity of the solar cycle is that the sun's hemispheres do not always peak at the same time. In the current cycle, the south has been lagging behind the north. The second peak, if it occurs, will likely feature the southern hemisphere playing catch-up, with a surge in activity south of the sun's equator.
The NOAA/NASA Solar Cycle Prediction Panel assembled in 2006 and 2008 to forecast the next Solar Max. At the time, the sun was experiencing its deepest minimum in nearly a hundred years. Sunspot numbers were pegged near zero and x-ray flare activity flat-lined for months at a time. Recognizing that deep minima are often followed by weak maxima, and pulling together many other threads of predictive evidence, the panel issued this statement: "The Solar Cycle 24 Prediction Panel has reached a consensus. The panel has decided that the next solar cycle (Cycle 24) will be below average in intensity, with a maximum sunspot number of 90. Given the date of solar minimum and the predicted maximum intensity, solar maximum is now expected to occur in May 2013. Note, this is not a unanimous decision, but a supermajority of the panel did agree."
Given the tepid state of solar activity in Feb. 2013, a maximum in May now seems unlikely. "We may be seeing what happens when you predict a single amplitude and the Sun responds with a double peak." There is a similarity between Solar Cycle 24, underway now, and Solar Cycle 14, which had a double-peak during the first decade of the 20th century. If the two cycles are in fact twins, “it would mean one peak in late 2013 and another in 2015.” No one knows for sure what the sun will do next. It seems likely, though, that the end of 2013 could be a lot livelier than the beginning.
Youtube video explores the puzzling behavior of the ongoing Solar Cycle 24.

**Our life is frittered away by detail...
Simplify, simplify.**

Live Seismograms - Worldwide (update every 30 minutes)

This morning -

Yesterday -
3/2/13 -

3/1/13 -

5.2 Quake hits northeast India, Bangladesh - No loss of life or damage to property was reported. The 7 a.m. quake measured 5.2 on the Richter scale. Its epicentre was in Karimganj (southern Assam), on the border with Bangladesh. "The quake was also felt in many parts of eastern Bangladesh, besides Tripura and southern Assam." The Geological Survey of India had earlier notified that the northeastern region could experience a devastating earthquake, as the region, according to seismologists, falls in Zone V, the sixth-worst quake-prone belt in the world.

Solomons quake victims at risk of severe weather - The Solomon Islands Disaster Management Office says heavy rain and a possible cyclone are hindering efforts to secure safe shelter for the 3,000 people still living in tents after last month’s disaster.
Ten people died when a magnitude 8 earthquake and tsunami hit the Santa Cruz islands in early February. Relief teams have been visiting camps of people still living under canvas in the hills to try to tie down tarpaulins more securely as the heavy cloud system builds up. “This will be very big trouble especially for communities still living in tents. There is a cloud system that is still covering the Solomon Islands and from what we’ve received so far it might build up to a serious cyclone.” Steady rain over the past week has also led to all flights between Lata and Honiara being cancelled.

Volcano Webcams

Mount Etna Spews Lava And Ash In Sixth Eruption This Year (video) - Volcano Mount Etna erupted on Thursday in the latest in a recent flurry of activity. Etna sent plumes of heavy smoke and ash flying into the sky from a new crater 9,500-feet high. The eruption is the 24th in a series that began in January 2011.

Guatemala - Volcano Fuego de Colima. On Friday, a new lava flow appeared from the summit crater of Fuego volcano and is traveling towards Trinidad canyon and about 300 m long. Weak explosions occur from time to time as well, with plumes rising only a few 100 meters. The current seismic signal showed an increase of activity over the past hours.
On January 6th the “Fuego volcano of Colima” awoke with a bang after 18th months in complete calm. Since then, there have been four significant explosions, which have been destroying the dome on top. “Now we are just waiting that in the short time or event possible next week, we will have the first collapses of material from the volcano”. The new dome could be accumulating more than 400 thousands cubic meters of material.

Hakone volcano (Honshu, Japan) - increased seismicity and deformation worries scientists about possible new eruptions. The latest bulletin of the Japan Meteorological Agency mentions that an increase in seismicity since January 11 near the intra-caldera dome Komagatake is beginning to worry scientists about a possible new activity. This increased seismicity is accompanied by deformation (inflation) detected since the end of 2012. No tremor has been recorded at the moment.
The geothermal activity of Hakone is a popular tourist destination and several small towns lie in the immediate vicinity of the volcano, which is itself within 80 km from downtown Tokyo. The alert level is, for the moment, kept at 1.

No tropical storms.


Australia - An emergency flood alert has been issued for parts of Dalby in southern Queensland. Dozens of homes are believed to have been flooded when Myall Creek peaked at 3.21 metres at midnight (AEST), breaking its banks at north Dalby. The District Disaster Coordinator warned about 7.30am that those living north of Nicholson Street will experience floods similar to January 2011. There is an enormous amount of water around the town.
"We have got inundation of homes - as to the numbers, we're still collecting data. We've still got some rises of water in some parts of the town which are causing inundations." Evacuees are sheltering at showgrounds. Floodwaters have also closed the Warrego Highway. The situation is also being closely watched at Chinchilla, northwest of Dalby, where a few businesses are at risk.
An emergency alert was issued for the Lockyer Valley region, west of Brisbane, on Saturday night. The council advised residents to monitor the situation and get out if necessary. An emergency flood warning has also been issued for Banana Shire Council in central Queensland. The SES has had 226 requests for assistance across Queensland in the 24 hours to Sunday morning and several rescues. A spokesman for the Queensland Flood Warning Centre says while the rain is easing rivers are continuing to rise with minor flooding predicted for Bundaberg and Ipswich, and Goondiwindi facing moderate flooding.

US sinkhole victim search called off - Rescue teams in Florida call off efforts to recover the body of a man swallowed by a sinkhole under his home, and say the house will be destroyed.


Japanese bullet train carrying about 130 passengers and crew has derailed in heavy snow in northern Japan, although there were no reports of injuries. The first car of the "Komachi" No. 25 bullet train came off the rails on Saturday on the Akita Shinkansen line in the city of Daisen. The six-carriage train was travelling at a drastically reduced speed of around 20 kilometres per hour due to the snow, when a number of wheels skipped off the track.
On hearing an abnormal noise the driver performed an emergency stop. There were no reports of injuries or casualties following the derailing, just after 4pm (1800 AEDT). Passengers were forced to wait on the stranded train for six hours while investigations were carried out, before a fleet of buses and taxis was ordered to take them to various destinations. The Japan Transport Safety Board said it would send officials to the site to investigate further.
The cause of the derailment has yet to be confirmed. A heavy snow warning was in place at the time of the accident. East Japan Railway Co, which operates the line, said on its website that bullet train services in the area had been suspended.