Thursday, March 29, 2012

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Number of Tornadoes Running High so Far This Year in the United States - 379 From January to March 25, Well Above the Average Number!

There have been more tornadoes so far this year compared to the same time period during the extremely active 2011. According to graphs provided by the Storm Prediction Center, there were 379 preliminary tornado reports through March 25 in 2012. Compared to past years, this is a very busy start to the severe weather and tornado season.

There were 379 preliminary tornadoes reports from Jan. 1-March 25, 2012. That is well above
the average number of tornadoes from 2005-2011 during the same time period.
There was a total of 154 tornadoes from January through March of 2011. The three-year average number of tornadoes in January, February and March add up to 124. The only other recent year where the number of tornadoes surpassed this year was in 2008, when 491 tornadoes touched down through March 25. The March 2, 2012, Tornado Outbreak was the biggest of 2012 with 132 tornado reports and at least 61 confirmed tornadoes so far. At least 39 people were killed by the dangerous tornadoes that leveled entire towns like Marysville and Henryville, Ind.
Why Has 2012 Started Out So Volatile? The above-normal warmth of the Gulf of Mexico is a big factor in the large number of tornadoes so early this year. "Water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico did not cool off this winter without cold air masses reaching the Deep South," Expert Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said. The warmer-than-normal temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico mean any time the flow switches out of the south, warm and humid air is drawn into the U.S. Warm, moist air are key ingredients for thunderstorms that are strong enough to spawn tornadoes. "Ground temperatures are also warmer than normal... This is one of very few years of recent, where the ground was not frozen across the Ohio Valley," Kottlowski explained. When the ground is cold or frozen it creates an inversion, which means temperatures rise with rising altitude. An inversion creates a stable atmosphere and can prevent thunderstorms from forming or allow only higher-based thunderstorms to develop. "Lower-based thunderstorms create much more opportunity for tornadoes," Kottlowski added.

Will 2012 Remain Active with Tornadoes? The active severe weather has quieted down a bit over the past couple of weeks, but more active severe weather is anticipated. In fact, another peak in severe weather is anticipated later this spring. "Severe weather will get more active by the middle of April," according to Jack Boston, expert senior meteorologist and long-range forecaster. "The pattern will get more progressive," Boston said, meaning more storms will cross the country. "April is one of the more volatile months," Kottlowski weighed in. However, he cautioned that "unless we see another cold air mass come down from the north, severe weather could occur at any time this season." - AccuWeather.

ECOSYSTEM ALERT: Massive Methane Gas Leak Could be the North Sea's Deepwater Horizon!

A natural gas well in the North Sea 150 miles off Aberdeen, Scotland, sprung a massive methane leak on March 25. The 238 workers were all safely evacuated.

But the situation is so explosive that an exclusion zone for ships and aircraft has been set up around the rig, reports the Mail Online. And nearby rigs have been evacuated, reports the New York Times:
Royal Dutch Shell said it closed its Shearwater field, about four miles away, withdrawing 52 of the 90 workers there; it also suspended work and evacuated 68 workers from a drilling rig working nearby, the Hans Deul.
But that's not the worst of it. The platform lies less than 100 yards/meters from a flare that workers left burning as crew evacuated. The French super-major oil company owner of the rig, Total, dismissed the risk, while the British government claimed the flame needs to burn to prevent gas pressure from building up. But Reuters reports:
[O]ne energy industry consultant said Elgin could become "an explosion waiting to happen" if the oil major did not rapidly stop the leak which is above the water at the wellhead.
And that may not be the worst of it either. The leak is not in the well apparently but in the chalky seabed around it. No one really knows how reparable that will be - especially with the risk of explosion so high for any workers on site.

Plus, the field produces sour gas: a potent mix of natural gas, hydrogen sulfide, and carbon dioxide. Twenty years ago the cost of extracting energy from such messy stuff would have been prohibitively expensive. Now, not so much. But the true cost could be brutal, reports the BBC :
The major threat to the local ecosystem is the hydrogen sulphide, which is toxic to virtually all animal life. "You might as well put Agent Orange in the ocean," says [Simon Boxall of the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, UK]. Because the leak is below the water's surface, the hydrogen sulphide is bubbling through the sea water. This is the worst-case scenario, says Boxall, because it could lead to mass animal and plant deaths. Boxall says Total needs to monitor the water quality to see if this is happening. - Mother Jones.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Monsterrat's Soufriere Hills Volcano Showing Increasing Seismicity - Unusual Activity With 109 Earthquakes and 9 Rockfalls!

For the first time in two years, the Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO) monitoring the Soufriere Hills volcano noted unusual activity, with increased seismicity, accompanied by ash fall. Acting Director of MVO Roderick Stuart said the change, which was noted on Friday, is a break from a long state of pause, thus a reminder the volcano is still very active and residents there must always be cautious and aware.

The Soufriere Hills volcano is showing signs of life again, with increased seismic activity and ash fall.
Stuart reported, “Last Friday we had the first sort of activity in the volcano in over two years. It generated some ash and because it was the first activity we had in two years, it was almost a precautionary measure that we closed daytime access to Zone C just in case this activity started something bigger,” Stuart told OBSERVER Media. The authority also noted increased steam venting activity on the volcano and a new steam vent (fumarole) that appeared on the northwestern face of the lava dome behind Gages Mountain. Audible roaring associated with the venting were intermittently heard from the Observatory, 5.75 km northwest of the volcano. The seismic network recorded nine rockfalls, 105 volcano-tectonic (VT) and four hybrid earthquakes. Additionally, two swarms of VT earthquakes occurred. Earthquakes in the second swarm were described as markedly larger than those in the first. Consequently Zone C on the volcanic risk map was closed until Tuesday when there was a decrease in volcanic tectonic earthquakes below the volcano.  Zone C comprises Cork Hill, Delvins, Weekes, Foxes Bay and Richmond Hill.

Daytime access means that persons can visit these areas using a vehicle from 8 am to 4 pm while children must be accompanied by their parents. “There is nothing to worry about now but it is just a reminder that this volcano is potentially active. After two years of nothing happening people may get a sense that the eruption is over, but it is not,” Stuart said. He said there have been five pauses in activity since the first eruption in 1996 and Friday’s end to the last state of pause could mean the beginning of another period without activity or the resumption of lava extrusion, without an explosion. “We are just very wary of when something like this happens, we have to be very careful and incorporate the measures. There have been various predictions as we try to forecast what could happen since we have to be ready for anything,” Stuart said. As it relates to the new stem vent formed on the dome, Stuart said it would be monitored, though they often “go away.” The ash fall on Friday did not disrupt life on the island as it was light and most of it occurred on the uninhabited part of the island. The volcano is monitored around the clock and officials visit the dome once a week using Caribbean Helicopters, a helicopter company based in Antigua. A 1997 volcanic eruption killed 19 people and buried much of the island, including its former capital, Plymouth, which is now abandoned. Half the British territory’s 12,000 inhabitants left.
- Antigua Observer.

EXTREME WEATHER: Severe Thunderstorm Cells - "Monster-Sized" Hail Smashes Windshields in Kansas!

A storm system that could spawn twisters in the central U.S. on Thursday already did some damage overnight in Madison, Kansas, where softball-sized hail smashed car windshields.

A twister nearly formed near the town just after midnight, the national Storm Prediction Center noted, but the biggest impact was from hail.  "That was a HUGE bow-hook, a monster funnel cloud,", a private weather forecasting firm, posted on its Facebook page. "Hail in excess of 4.25 in[ches] (107.95 mm). Slightly larger than softballs at times."  The firm said one of three storm cells that moved through the town of 700 "produced monster-size hail for almost 30 minutes ... lots of reports of cars and structures being damaged due to the large hail. Tennis-ball hail, CD hail, Soft-ball hail, and even larger."

Large hail pounded other parts of Kansas overnight as well, and the forecast for Thursday had much of the region, including Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri, with a high chance of severe weather, reported.   "We're getting into that time of year when we get severe thunderstorms just about every day," said Greg Forbes,'s severe weather expert. The storm system will trigger strong storms in the Ohio Valley on Friday, forecast. - MSNBC.

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: Beaching, Stranding and Die-Offs - Giant Atlantic Sturgeon Mysteriously Washes up on South Carolina Beach?!

A bizarre creature that washed ashore last week in Folly Beach, S.C., sparked speculation in the area and on the Internet that a dead sea monster might have been discovered. The tan-brown animal with greenish patches was strange enough, but what really baffled beachgoers was its massive size and the dinosaur-like bony plates on its sides. It's not clear just how long it was, but photos suggest it exceeded 10 feet.

Like many washed-up carcasses it carried both a salty stench and an air of mystery. Speculation ran rampant, with commenters suggesting that the creature was everything from a dinosaurian sea monster to a toxin-spawned mutation to a chupacabra. Scientists, however, were somewhat more skeptical. One of the first to identify the monster was Dr. Shane Boylan of the South Carolina Aquarium. Two big clues allowed Boylan to identify the fish more or less immediately: the animal's shape and distinctive bony plates. The marine monster was in fact an Atlantic sturgeon. Part of the reason the giant fish's identity was difficult to determine is that sturgeon are not normally the strange brownish tan color but instead lighter colored and silvery. The South Carolina monster's flesh color had changed as it baked in the sun. The dinosaur identification was actually pretty close to accurate; sturgeon are among the oldest bony fish in existence. It's not surprising that the sturgeon scared and confused people; Atlantic sturgeon have been known to reach 15 feet long and weigh over 500 pounds; seeing the beasts close-up is not for the faint of heart. The South Carolina monster was only the latest of several creatures to wash ashore in recent months. In early February a strange, seemingly mohawked toothy monster was found on a San Diego beach. It was soon identified as an opossum.

Other normal fish besides the sturgeon have been mistaken for monsters, including oarfish and gar. Oarfish, which are long, serpentine, nearly finless fish with large round eyes, often average 20 or 30 feet but have been reported over 50 feet long. Earlier this year, in January a huge ribbon-like monstrous fish that washed ashore in Delray Beach, Florida, was identified as an oarfish. Several sightings of gar (freshwater and marine fish which can grow over 10 feet long and reach over 350 pounds) have also been mistaken for monsters. In fact, some believe that "Champ," the lake monster said to inhabit Lake Champlain (on the border between Vermont and New York), was first sighted in 1609 by French explorer Samuel de Champlain. In his journal Champlain wrote of local Indians describing a fish with "a head as large as my two fists, with a snout two feet and a half long, and a double row of very sharp, dangerous teeth. Its body has a good deal the shape of the pike; but it is protected by scales of a silvery gray color." Though often claimed as an eyewitness report of "America's Loch Ness Monster," his description is clearly that of a sturgeon-like gar fish. Another reason that the sturgeon seemed monstrous was that it's an unusually large fish. The fish most people (and certainly most urban dwellers) encounter are relatively small -- goldfish perhaps, or aquarium fish. Sport fishermen, butchers and marine biologists are far more likely to recognize large fish such as tuna, sturgeon and gar, for example, which often grow to surprising sizes. Even seeing large fish on television, in aquariums or in photographs does not necessarily prepare city-dwelling beachgoers for real-life encounters with a beached, smelly giant. - Discovery News.

FUK-U-SHIMA: Japan's Nuclear Dead Zone Spreading Far and Wide - 10 Times Lethal Radiation Level Registered at Fukushima!

A recent examination at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant has revealed radiation levels up to ten times the fatal dose. The news alarmed thousands of people who have been living in constant fear of radiation exposure for over a year.

Workers are operating at the stricken Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) Fukushima
Dai-ichi nuclear power plant at Okuma town in Fukushima prefecture, northern Japan
­On Tuesday, Fukushima workers inserted a remotely controlled probe into Reactor Two to assess the damage. The device is equipped with a video camera, a thermometer, and a dosimeter - which registered radiation levels much higher than expected. The probe also discovered that the level of cooling water in the reactor is significantly lower than expected. The other two melted-down reactors have not yet been examined, but some fear their condition could be even worse. The management of the Tepco company, which owns the plant, says the findings will not affect the process of cooling down the nuclear fuel. However, their assurances are unlikely to calm down local people, who are extremely concerned over radiation levels in the area.

A recent study by psychiatrists at Fukushima Medical University found that almost a quarter of Fukushima's residents hospitalized after last year's devastating earthquake and tsunami were diagnosed with a "psychiatric disorder" because of their fears over radiation. Tepco officials and Japanese authorities have been repeatedly caught lying about the real situation at Fukushima. Hence many locals live in constant stress over the possibility of radiation poisoning.  On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake shook the east coast of Japan, triggering a massive tsunami. The quake badly damaged the Fukushima plant, causing a meltdown of three reactors. In subsequent days, an enormous amount of radiation was released into the atmosphere and tens of thousands of people were evacuated from the area. - RT.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Weekly Volcanic Activity Report - New Activities and Unrest From March 21st to 27th!

The following constitutes the new activity and unrest report from the Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, a cooperative project between the Smithsonian's Global Volcanism Program and the US Geological Survey's Volcano Hazards Program.

IJEN Eastern Java (Indonesia) 8.058°S, 114.242°E; summit elev. 2799 m
On 24 March, CVGHM reported that Ijen's lake water chemistry changed during 10 January-17 March, exhibiting a significant increase in carbon dioxide, especially after 5 February, and an increase in acidity. The lake surface temperature increased from 28.8 degrees Celsius on 3 March to 45.1 degrees Celsius on 17 March. The lake water temperature at a depth of 5 m also rose from 42.7 to 44.7 degrees Celsius on 3 and 17 March, respectively. Seismicity increased starting in March. The Alert Level remained at 2 (on a scale of 1-4). Map

ILIAMNA Southwestern Alaska 60.032°N, 153.090°W; summit elev. 3053 m
AVO reported that during 21-27 March seismicity at Iliamna remained above background levels, although just slightly during 25-27 March. When not obscured by clouds, satellite and web camera views showed nothing unusual. The Alert Level remained at Advisory and the Aviation Color Code remained at Yellow. Map

NEVADO DEL RUIZ Colombia 4.895°N, 75.322°W; summit elev. 5321 m
According to INGEOMINAS, the Observatorio Vulcanológico and Sismológico de Manizales reported that during 19-25 March seismicity at Nevado del Ruiz increased and gas emissions remained at significant levels. Gas plumes rose 2 km above Arenas crater and sulfur dioxide odors were reported by local people. The Alert Level remained at III (Yellow; "changes in the behavior of volcanic activity"). Map

PACAYA Guatemala 14.381°N, 90.601°W; summit elev. 2552 m
INSIVUMEH noted in a special report that on 20 March patterns of seismicity and emissions from Pacaya's MacKenney cone changed, although remained characteristic of normal behavior for the volcano. On 26 March avalanches were detected and during 26-27 March gas plumes drifted S and SW. The report noted that after the eruption on 27 May 2010 only fumarolic emissions, mainly composed of water vapor, rose from MacKenney cone. Map

SOUFRIERE HILLS Montserrat 16.72°N, 62.18°W; summit elev. 915 m
MVO reported that during 16-23 March activity at the Soufrière Hills lava dome was at a low level, although seismicity increased. Two swarms of volcano-tectonic earthquakes occurred, the first between 1604 and 1651 on 22 March (49 events) and the second between 0310 and 0527 on 23 March (54 events). Earthquakes in the second swarm were markedly larger than those in the first. Several changes on the volcano were observed on 23 March; fumarolic activity had increased and a new fumarole had appeared on the NW face of the lava dome behind Gages Mountain. In addition a vent producing pulsing steam emissions with a small amount of ash had formed in the back of the February 2010 collapse scar. Ash plumes rose 1.8 km (6,000 ft) a.s.l. and very light ashfall occurred on the W flank of the volcano. Audible roaring associated with the venting was heard intermittently from MVO, 5.75 km NW of the volcano. The Hazard Level remained at 2.

Based on a METAR weather report and analyses of satellite imagery, the Washington VAAC reported that on 24 March a gas-and-ash plume drifted 65 km WSW. Later that day the VAAC reported a detached area of ash drifting NW and a second small emission of ash drifting WNW. The next day haze and vog W of Soufrière Hills was detected in satellite imagery and a pilot reported ash at altitudes of 1.5-3 km (5,000-10,000 ft) a.s.l. drifting NW. On 26 March MVO noted that activity returned to a low level following the ash-venting on 23 March. The report noted that Zone C on the volcanic risk map, which was temporarily closed the previous week due to an increase in volcano-tectonic earthquakes below Soufrière Hills, re-opened for day-time entrance on 27 March. Zone C is to the WNW of Soufrière Hills and includes Cork Hill, Weekes, Foxes Bay, Richmond Hill, and Delvins, and extends 500 m out to sea. Map

For the complete list of ongoing volcanic activity and additional geological summary, click HERE or select the specific volcano name below for additional details:

ONGOING ACTIVITY:  Cleveland, Chuginadak Island | Karymsky, Eastern Kamchatka (Russia) | Kilauea, Hawaii (USA) | Kizimen, Eastern Kamchatka (Russia) | Puyehue-Cordón Caulle, Central Chile | Reventador, Ecuador | Sakura-jima, Kyushu | Sangay, Ecuador | Santa María, Guatemala | Shiveluch, Central Kamchatka (Russia) | Tungurahua, Ecuador.

TERMINATOR NOW: The Rise of the Machines - New Sprinting Humanoid Robot Will One Day Come with Flexible Arms and Tactile Skin!

It’s hard to watch these robotic legs — courtesy of Meka Robotics and the Human Centered Robotics Lab at the University of Texas, Austin — and not think about the sprinting T-1000 from Terminator 2.

According to Hizook, the robot was designed “to study planar rough-terrain locomotion with very little perception.” Translation: This robot will one day run you down with little regard to its surroundings. In all seriousness, that means it can move much like a human can, automatically adjusting to uneven terrain on the fly instead of having to stop and calculate its movements. The robot, named Hume, can do this because it has elastic actuators that allow it to perform deep knee bends perfect for climbing over rocks and other obstacles. As it’s built now, it weighs around 33 pounds and measures a little over five feet tall. Still, a pair of scrambling metal legs isn’t exactly the stuff of science fiction legend. The fact that Meka is planning to outfit Hume with the elastic arms of its M1 Mobile Manipulator, however, should get you more excited.

The M1 Mobile Manipulator is an adorable robot straight out of a Disney movie, which currently wheels around on top of a large metal base. Its arms are about the size of small human’s arms, featuring seven degrees of freedom and a strong grip. So, Meka is developing advanced robotic arms and legs, but it’s missing that last touch that puts its future humanoid robot in creepy-Data-from-Star-Trek territory. Ah yes, that would be tactile skin, which it’s working on with the Georgia Tech Healthcare Robotics Lab. The pressure-sensitive blue “skin” was able to measure the impact of a 1.1-gram almond and could sense multiple points of contact at once. In the future, that could help it become more responsive to human touch, which in turn would make it a lot safer for environments like hospitals since it would know to pull back immediately once someone touched its arm. Right now this is just a loose assortment of technologies that might one day be joined together, but, Terminator hyperbole aside, it’s a promising step towards utilizing robots in our everyday lives. - TIME Techland.
WATCH: Hume - The Rough Terrain Biped.

SUPER-EARTHS: "Habitable" Planets Found Orbiting Red Dwarf Stars in Our Galaxy - There Could be Billions, Including 100 "Next Door" to Earth?!

Billions of potentially habitable planets may exist in our galaxy, the Milky Way - including 100 'super Earths' within 30 light years from our solar system. A survey of red dwarf stars in the Milky Way found nine super-Earths - and two in the 'habitable zone' where liquid water could exist.

An artist's impression of the surface of a planet orbiting a red dwarf. The new discovery hints
there may be billions of habitable worlds in the Milky Way.

Red dwarf stars account for 80% of the 200-400 billion stars in the Milky Way - and the scientists now believe that 40% of those might have a planet in the habitable zone. They calculate that around 40% of red dwarfs have a rocky planet not much bigger than Earth orbiting the ‘habitable zone’ where liquid surface water can exist. Where there is water, there could be life - although being in the habitable zone is no guarantee that life has evolved on a planet. Dr Xavier Bonfils, from Grenoble University in France, who led the international team, said: ‘Because red dwarfs are so common - there are about 160 billion of them in the Milky Way - this leads us to the astonishing result that there are tens of billions of these planets in our galaxy alone.’ These data were combined with other observations, including those of stars which did not have planets. The astronomers worked out that habitable zone super-Earths orbiting red dwarfs occurred with a frequency of around 41%.

A simplified diagram showing the sizes of stars. 80% of stars in our Milky Way galaxy are red dwarf stars.
On the other hand massive planets similar to Jupiter and Saturn were rare around red dwarfs. Less than 12% of the stars were expected to have such ‘gas giants’. Because red dwarfs are common near the sun, many ‘super-Earths’ may not be far away in astronomical terms. The scientists estimate there could be around 100 habitable zone planets within 30 light years. Red dwarfs are cooler than the sun, which means planets must orbit close to their parent stars to be warm enough to be habitable. This might not be good news for life. ‘The habitable zone around a red dwarf, where the temperature is suitable for liquid water to exist on the surface, is much closer to the star than the Earth is to the sun,’ said team member Dr Stephane Udry, from Geneva Observatory. ‘But red dwarfs are known to be subject to stellar eruptions or flares, which may bathe the planet in X-rays or ultraviolet radiation, and which may make life there less likely.’ The research is reported in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics. - Daily Mail.

EXTREME WEATHER: Blazing Hot Britain - Soaring Temperatures and "Tinder Box-Dry" Conditions Spark Wildfires Across Countryside as Drought Spreads!

A fireman marches through the still smouldering trees and darkly scorched earth in a scene reminiscent of the aftermath of an Australian bush fire. Elsewhere, flames and billowing smoke rise from what looks like a battlefield and paint the night sky. These extraordinary pictures tell the story of a nation in the grip of drought yesterday – Britain’s hottest day of the year so far – when the tinder-dry conditions suddenly erupted in a series of wildfires.

The devastation comes as the Environment Agency today declared more areas as being officially in drought, following another dry month which has hit rivers and groundwater supplies. In Newport, South Wales, flames raged across 15 acres of scrubland, coming just yards from homes. Terrified residents were forced to use garden  hose pipes to keep away the blaze, which at times licked their properties. Firemen battled for more than five hours to control the fire, which is believed to have been started by arsonists near a children’s park. Another blaze raged yesterday over 17 acres of the 500-acre Brookwood Cemetery near Woking, Surrey, where more than 235,000 people have been buried since 1854. More than 40 firefighters tackled the flames as fire chiefs warned that the lack of rain and tinder box dry conditions in the South East were the 'perfect recipe' for wildfires. A Surrey Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said today that no properties were affected by the blaze, which was brought under control by around 4pm, two hours after it started. He could not comment on the amount of damage caused to the cemetery - the largest in Britain - and the cause of the fire is unknown. Six fire engines, a water tanker and specialist off-road vehicles were drafted in to attack the flames from different areas, the fire service said.

Fire service area manager Alan Clark said wildfires were notoriously difficult to control, adding: 'These fires cause devastation to the countryside, wildlife and property. 'They pose a risk to life, both to the public and the firefighters tackling these blazes.' Each year, there are around 79,000 wildfires in the UK - an average of 216 per day. Brookwood Cemetery was consecrated by the Bishop of Winchester on November 7, 1854, and opened to the public six days later. At the time, it was believed to be the largest burial ground in the world. Surrey County Council leader David Hodge said: 'These blazes can start for all sorts of reasons.
A moment of carelessness could result in devastation to the countryside and lives being put at risk.' As temperatures hit 23c (73f) yesterday, a third fire broke out at St Mary’s Loch in the Scottish borders, destroying more than 100 acres. Crews battled for more than 12 hours to put it out. Meanwhile, firefighters were returning to the hills above Harrogate, North Yorkshire, today after they spent yesterday afternoon tackling a large moor fire. Crews from as far away as Tadcaster and neighbouring West Yorkshire were brought in to tackle the blaze on Hanging Moor, above the village of Thruscross, shortly before 2pm. - Daily Mail.
The drought which has hit rivers and groundwater supplies is spreading throughout England, the Environment Agency has said.  Swathes of east and south Yorkshire from Chesterfield up to Scarborough are officially suffering from drought, with areas around Sheffield, Doncaster, Hull and Driffield affected.  The areas join the South East and eastern England in drought, most of which has been affected since earlier this year, although parts of East Anglia have been suffering since last summer.  Earlier this month seven water companies across eastern and southern England announced hosepipe bans would come into force before Easter in a bid to conserve water supplies in the face of two unusually dry winters. - SKY News.
Rescue teams have been forced to step in to save thousands of fish languishing in a rapidly shrinking stretch of water.  Under the ambitious plan, the fish are being removed from the six-mile Maxey Cut, which runs between Peterborough and Market Deeping, in Lincolnshire.  Low rainfall and two dry winters in a row have resulted in ‘exceptionally low’ river flows in the area, the Environment Agency said.  As Britain faces its worst drought for 30 years, the fish – which include chub, pike and sea trout – are at risk of being the latest victims of the dwindling water levels taking their toll on wildlife. - Daily Mail.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Active Lava Dome Grows Inside Anak Krakatau Volcano - Increasing Seismicity, 438 Volcanic-Earthquakes Recorded!

An active lava dome is growing inside the summit crater of Krakatau volcano. Our tour expedition leader Andi just returned from a visit and reports that the dome is now about 100 m wide, and has 2 main active vents that eject jets of incandescent gas.

     The growing lava dome inside Anak Krakatau's summit crater on the 26th of March, 2012.
At night, the glow from the dome is clearly visible from Rakata and Sertung islands, and a continuous intense solfatara plume is rising about 500 m above the summit. Andi and our group observed also that there are now more and larger fumarole fields on the southern part of the cone. According to our observations and the opinion of local scientists, this area is inflated due to the pushing of the lava dome.

The seismic recordings from the observatory of Krakatau also show an increase in activity. On 26 March, there were 138 volcanic-tectonic (A-type) earthquakes and 300 long-period (B-type) quakes alone. The question is how long the lava dome remains quiet and purely effusive in style. Explosive, also larger vulcanian-type ones, activity could occur any time. - Volcano Discovery.

BIG BROTHER NOW: Emerging Global Police State - Future Eye-Tracking Systems Will Read Your Mind!

The eyes are the window to the soul, so says the old adage. And for companies developing eye-tracking technology, they're becoming the ultimate Peeping Toms.

Front-facing cameras are certain to become standard on all devices, and they'll be equipped to not only monitor what we read online, but how we read it. They'll watch how long you linger on a word or image, how your pupils dilate, how fast you blink. Why? Because those details provide a wealth of important information about their favorite customer: you. And that means big bucks for them in terms of advertising revenue. Slate's John Villasenor recently ruminated on this very subject:
"Did our eyes linger for a few seconds on an advertisement that, in the end, we decided not to click on? How do our eyes move as they take in the contents of a page? Are there certain words, phrases, or topics that we appear to prefer or avoid? In the future, will we be served online ads based not only on what we’ve shopped for, but also on the thoughts reflected in our eye movements?"
Of course, the bodhisattva pacesetters of modern technology at Apple have already filed a patent application for a 3-D eye-tracking graphical user interface for personal electronic devices like the iPhone and iPad. And European company Senseye is slated to have eye-tracking software built into its smartphones next year.  While most contemporary computers and personal electronic devices aren't powerful enough to accommodate the complex computations that are required for eye-tracking software, it's only a matter of time before they are. Villasenor put a nicely placed "cherry on top" at the end of his post when he wrote the following: "Today, when we read something online, our thoughts are still our own. We should enjoy it while it lasts." - Discovery News.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Swiss Re Says 2011 Natural Disasters Cost Insurers $110 Billion!

Swiss Re (SREN) Ltd., the world’s second- biggest reinsurer, said natural catastrophes cost the insurance industry $110 billion last year after record flooding and earthquake losses.

At $49 billion, 2011 was the costliest year in terms of insured earthquake losses after temblors in Japan and New Zealand, while floods in Thailand caused $12 billion of losses, “the highest insured losses ever for a single flood event,” the Zurich-based company said in an e-mailed statement. Claims from man-made disasters were $6 billion. Economic losses from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters stood at $370 billion, compared with $226 billion the year before, mainly driven by the magnitude-9 earthquake and the subsequent tsunami that hit the coast of Tohoku, east Japan on March 11 last year. “Two-thirds of the staggering $370 billion in economic damage will be shouldered by corporations, governments, relief organizations, and ultimately individuals, pointing to the still widespread lack of insurance protection worldwide,” said Swiss Re’s chief economist, Kurt Karl.

The Japan quake cost the industry $35 billion, making it the most expensive earthquake on record. The insurance industry will bear only 17 percent of that cost because of Japan’s low earthquake insurance protection, Swiss Re said. “Had Japan been more fully insured, 2011 would certainly have been the most expensive year ever also in terms of insured losses,” according to Lucia Bevere, a senior catastrophe data analyst at the reinsurer. With $123 billion in insured losses, 2005 remains the costliest year for the industry following hurricanes Katrina, Wilma and Rita. In addition to the quakes and floods, an “unparalleled” tornado season in the U.S. caused claims of $25 billion. - Bloomberg.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Increase Activity at Guatemala's Santiaguito Volcano - Explosions, Lava Dome Growth, Lava Flow and Occasional Pyroclastic Flows!

Santiaguito volcano's activity remained at elevated levels during the past week, the latest USGS / GVP activity summary shows.

Several block lava flows are traveling down from the dome, and generate glowing avalanches. Frequent explosions produce ash plumes rising 800-900 m above the lava dome. An explosion on 26 March produced pyroclastic flow on the western flank of the cone.

Satellite images detected several plumes extending up to 33 km in south-westerly directions. Ash fall occurred in up to about 10 km distances in areas to the south at the Observatory Vulcanológico de Santiaguito (OVSAN), and to the SW at the El Faro, La Florida, and Patzulin ranches (SW), as well as in the village of Santa María de Jesús (SE). - Volcano Discovery.

MYSTERY: Symbols of an Alien Sky, Man-Made or Natural Phenomena - The Latest UFO Sightings And Aerial Anomalies Around the World?!

Here are several of the latest unidentified flying objects (UFOs) seen recently across the globe.

Los Angeles, California - 21st of March, 2012.

King's Lynn, United Kingdom - 26th of March, 2012.

Ohmenhausen, Germany - 24th of March, 2012.

Midlothian, Scotland - 27th of March, 2012.

Brentwood, Essex, UK - 28th of March, 2012.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Alert Level Raised For Remote Alaska Volcano - Another Lava Dome Formation at the Cleveland Volcano!

The alert level for a remote Alaska volcano has been raised again after scientists found another lava dome has formed in the crater in the last week.

The Alaska Volcano Observatory on Wednesday increased the level for Cleveland Volcano, a 5,675-foot peak on uninhabited Chuginadak Island about 940 miles southwest of Anchorage. The status was raised earlier this year when the center detected two small, likely ash-poor eruptions through March 13, but lowered the alert level last week after 10 days of inactivity.
Scientists can't actively monitor the volcano because there is no real-time seismic monitoring network on the volcano in the Aleutian Islands. Authorities say sudden eruptions could occur at any time, and ash clouds 20,000 feet above sea level are possible. - SanDiego6 News.

MYSTERY: High Strangeness - The Mysterious Case of the Kukulkan Pyramid Light Beam?!

Third Millennium investigates the image that Hector Siliezar captured on his camera, during his vacation to Chichen Itza on  July 24, 2009. The photograph showed a light beam shooting from the pyramid at Kukulkan, towards the sky. Now in 2012, with many people aware of the Mayan prophecies, this picture has been circulating around the world. There are people who have tried to explain it, however, experts working with Third Millennium colleague and fellow researcher Whitley Strieber, have conducted a deep research and have found the true origin of this ray. - Third Millennium [Translated].
WATCH: The research and theories on the light beam.

DELUGE: The Sinking of the Philippines - Floods Submerges Oriental Mindoro and Parts of Visayas!

Intermittent rains triggered flooding in Oriental Mindoro and several areas in Visayas, forcing at least 395 individuals to flee their homes on Tuesday, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said Wednesday. Southern Luzon and portions of the Visayas experienced rains over the past two days due to the presence of an active low pressure area (LPA) near Palawan, and another one east of southern Mindanao.

The LPA near Palawan left the Philippine area of responsibility on Tuesday, while the one in southern Mindanao dissipated. The NDRRMC said 23 barangays (villages) in Naujan, Baco, Mansalay and Calapan City in Oriental Mindoro were submerged in floods. Rice fields in Barangays Buhangin, Adria Luna and Andres Ilagan – all in Naujan - were inundated after creeks surrounding them overflowed. Farmers were supposed to harvest rice this month. A total of 175 individuals fled their homes in Naujan; 110 in Calapan City; and 85 in Baco. Oriental Mindoro Governor Alfonso Umali said the situation in his province has improved. “So far manageable na pero meron pa ring binabantayan na mga lugar,” Umali told radio dzMM. A man, identified as Roger Dalumpines, drowned while swimming in a river in Barangay Jayubo, Lambunao, Iloilo during a rainy morning on Tuesday. Dalumpines’ wife and two children, who were with him when the incident occurred, are currently confined at the hospital after sustaining injuries. Meanwhile, a certain Ronny Herrera, a councilman (kagawad) of Barangay Tagbakin, Pola town, went missing after setting sail at the height of the rains.
Over the Visayas region, several rice fields in the Capiz towns of Maayon, Mambusao, Pontevedra, Panit-an, Sapitan and Sigma were also inundated. Local disaster officials in Capiz said 26 barangays in the said towns were affected by flooding. The Aklan river also overflowed. Flooding also occurred in Palo, Leyte after the Guindapunan river overflowed. A total of 25 individuals sought temporary shelter at the Palo National High School and a barangay hall. Several roads in Barangays 74, 91, 94, 109 and 109-A in Tacloban City were rendered impassable to vehicles due to flooding. Waist-deep flood also submerged Sitio Lourdes in Barangay Old Manunca, Sta. Rita, Western Samar. In Sagay City, Negros Occidental, several houses in Barangay Paraiso were also submerged in flood waters after the Himogaan river overflowed. Residents stayed at the Holy Family Parish. The NDRRMC said social workers have prepared relief goods for those displaced by the floods. - ABS-CBN.

MASS BIRD DIE-OFF: Roughly 10,000 Birds Dead Have Been Found Near Local Refugees, Oregon!

Roughly 10,000 birds, mostly snow geese, have died of avian cholera on and near the water-starved Lower Klamath and Tule Lake national wildlife refuges.

Limited water deliveries to the refuges, combined with large bird migrations, are blamed for the cholera outbreak, said Ron Cole, the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges Complex manager. He said limited water deliveries to Lower Klamath last fall and this winter have dried up about half of the refuge’s wetlands.

In turn, about 2 million birds, including large numbers of migrating pintails and Arctic nesting geese, are concentrated in smaller areas. “When you concentrate that many birds on about half of the available wetlands, you develop a recipe for an avian cholera outbreak,” Cole said, noting the bacteria that causes avian cholera spreads more rapidly in heavy concentrations of birds. - Herald and News.