Thursday, November 29, 2012

STORM ALERT: Typhoon Watch - Tropical Storm Bopha is Forecast to Strike the Philippines as a Typhoon on December 4!

November 29, 2012 - PACIFIC OCEAN - Tropical storm Bopha is forecast to strike the Philippines as a typhoon at about 08:00 GMT on 4 December. Data supplied by the US Navy and Air Force Joint Typhoon Warning Center suggest that the point of landfall will be near10.0 N,127.0 E. Bopha is expected to bring 1-minute maximum sustained winds to the region of around 185 km/h (114 mph). Wind gusts in the area may be considerably higher.

According to the Saffir-Simpson damage scale the potential property damage and flooding from a storm of Bopha's strength (category 3) at landfall includes:
  • Storm surge generally 2.7-3.7 metres (9-12 feet) above normal.
  • Some structural damage to small residences and utility buildings with a minor amount of curtainwall failures.
  • Damage to shrubbery and trees with foliage blown off trees and large trees blown down.
  • Mobile homes and poorly constructed signs are destroyed.
  • Low-lying escape routes are cut by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of the centre of the storm.
  • Flooding near the coast destroys smaller structures with larger structures damaged by battering from floating debris.
  • Terrain continuously lower than 1.5 metres (5 feet) above mean sea level may be flooded inland 13 km (8 miles) or more.
  • Evacuation of low-lying residences within several blocks of the shoreline may be required.
There is also the potential for flooding further inland due to heavy rain. The information above is provided for guidance only and should not be used to make life or death decisions or decisions relating to property. Anyone in the region who is concerned for their personal safety or property should contact their official national weather agency or warning centre for advice. This alert is provided by TropicalStorm Risk (TSR) which is sponsored by Aon Benfield, Crawford & Company and University College London (UCL). - AlertNet.

2 More Cyclones Expected To Enter PAR In December.
MTSAT ENHANCED-IR Satellite Image 9 a.m., 30 November.
Two more cyclones are expected to enter the Philippine area of responsibility in December, the state weather bureau said Friday. As of posting time, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration is tracking a tropical storm that is most likely to enter the country by Monday. The tropical storm with international name “Bopha” is still over the Marianas Islands and is too far too affect the country. If it enters the PAR it will be named “Pablo”. The last cyclone to cross the country was tropical storm Ofel in late October. Meanwhile, an intertropical convergence zone is affecting southern Mindanao and will bring cloudy skies with occasional light to moderate rainshowers or thunderstorms in Davao region and the provinces of South Cotabato and Sarangani, Pagasa said. Metro Manila and the rest of the country will be partly cloudy with isolated brief rainshowers or thunderstorms mostly in the afternoon or evening, it also said. The cool Christmas weather also continues due to the northeast monsoon or “hanging amihan.” Friday’s coldest temperature was recorded at 20.3 degrees Celsius at 5a.m. Metro Manila and Baguio City experienced its coolest weather yet for 2012 on Thursday morning, with Metro Manila at 19.7 degrees Celsius and Baguio City at 13.4 degrees Celsius, Pagasa said. - Inquirer.

WATCH: Typhoon Bopha Update.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Russia’s Tolbachik Erupts - First Images of the Tolbachik Fissure Eruption!

November 29, 2012 - RUSSIA - KVERT posted a few images today of Tolbachik eruption in Kamchatka, including a show of the two fissures with accompanying ~3 km / 9,800 ft ash plumes. The description of the eruption indicates that it is centered in the southern cone area. The reports from observations on the ground suggest that it started as a series of discrete eruptions that coalesced into the two fissures — a common occurrence for this style of eruptive activity (see Kilauea).

The two fissure vents from the November 27, 2012 eruption of Tolbachik in Russia.
Image: Dmitry Melnikov, IVS FED RAS / KVERT

Terra/MODIS image of the Tolbachik eruption, seen on November 29, 2012. Red blocks are hotspots
in the thermal imager, likely eruption vents or lava flows. Image: NASA
This seems to suggest that Tolbachik is having an eruption similar in style to the 1975-76 eruptions — however, the magnitude of this new eruption is still very unclear. There appears to be significant SO2 from this eruption as well, according to reports from the USGS/AVO. Unfortunately much of the news is in Russian and what little KVERT has released is,well, scant. However, the conditions have cleared during the last Terra/MODIS pass, so you can see the plume and hotspots from the eruption on the image (see above). - WIRED.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Magnitude 6.0 Earthquake Rattles Papua New Guinea Region!

November 29, 2012 - INDONESIA - A 6.0 magnitude earthquake jolted the waters off the north coast of Papua New Guinea on Thursday at 11:10:27 UTC, said the U.S. Geological Survey.

The quake was located at 3.7 degrees south latitude and 145.5 degrees east longitude with a depth of 10.0 kilometres (km) or 6.2 miles. The epicentre was at a distance of 157km (98 miles) northeast of Angoram, Papua New Guinea; 172km (107 miles) northwest of Madang, Papua New Guinea; 202km (126 miles) east of Wewak, Papua New Guinea; 262km (163miles) north of Goroka, Papua New Guinea; and 662km (411 miles) northwest of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

USGS map.
Seismotectonics of the New Guinea Region and Vicinity.
The Australia-Pacific plate boundary is over 4000 km long on the northern margin, from the Sunda (Java) trench in the west to the Solomon Islands in the east. The eastern section is over 2300 km long, extending west from northeast of the Australian continent and the Coral Sea until it intersects the east coast of Papua New Guinea. The boundary is dominated by the general northward subduction of the Australia plate. Along the South Solomon trench, the Australia plate converges with the Pacific plate at a rate of approximately 95 mm/yr towards the east-northeast. Seismicity along the trench is dominantly related to subduction tectonics and large earthquakes are common: there have been 13 M7.5+ earthquakes recorded since 1900. On April 1, 2007, a M8.1 interplate megathrust earthquake occurred at the western end of the trench, generating a tsunami and killing at least 40 people. This was the third M8.1 megathrust event associated with this subduction zone in the past century; the other two occurred in 1939 and 1977.

The western end of the Australia-Pacific plate boundary is perhaps the most complex portion of this boundary, extending 2000 km from Indonesia and the Banda Sea to eastern New Guinea. The boundary is dominantly convergent along an arc-continent collision segment spanning the width of New Guinea, but the regions near the edges of the impinging Australia continental margin also include relatively short segments of extensional, strike-slip and convergent deformation. The dominant convergence is accommodated by shortening and uplift across a 250-350 km-wide band of northern New Guinea, as well as by slow southward-verging subduction of the Pacific plate north of New Guinea at the New Guinea trench. Here, the Australia-Pacific plate relative velocity is approximately 110 mm/yr towards the northeast, leading to the 2-8 mm/yr uplift of the New Guinea Highlands. Whereas the northern band of deformation is relatively diffuse east of the Indonesia-Papua New Guinea border, in western New Guinea there are at least two small blocks of relatively undeformed lithosphere.

The westernmost of these is the Birds Head Peninsula microplate in Indonesia's West Papua province, bounded on the south by the Seram trench. The Seram trench was originally interpreted as an extreme bend in the Sunda subduction zone, but is now thought to represent a southward-verging subduction zone between Birds Head and the Banda Sea.   There have been 22 M7.5+ earthquakes recorded in the New Guinea region since 1900. The dominant earthquake mechanisms are thrust and strike slip, associated with the arc-continent collision and the relative motions between numerous local microplates. The largest earthquake in the region was a M8.2 shallow thrust fault event in the northern Papua province of Indonesia that killed 166 people in 1996. The western portion of the northern Australia plate boundary extends approximately 4800 km from New Guinea to Sumatra and primarily separates Australia from the Eurasia plate, including the Sunda block. This portion is dominantly convergent and includes subduction at the Sunda (Java) trench, and a young arc-continent collision. - USGS.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Global Polar Ice Melt Accelerates - The Earth's Ice Sheets Are Melting Three Times Faster Than They Were Two Decades Ago!

November 29, 2012 - UNITED STATES - Polar ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are now melting three times faster than they did in the 1990s, a new scientific study says.

This July 2012 image shows surface melt water rushing along the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet through
a supra-glacial stream channel, southwest of Ilulissat, Greenland. Polar ice sheets are now melting three times
faster than in the 1990s, a new giant scientific study says. Image: AP Photo/Ian Joughin.
So far, that's only added about half an inch (1.3 centimeters) to rising sea levels, not as bad as some earlier worst case scenarios. But the melting's quicker pace, especially in Greenland, has ice scientists worried. One of the biggest wild cards in climate change has been figuring out how much the melting of the massive sheets of ice at the two poles would add to the seas. Until now, researchers haven't agreed on how fast the mile-thick sheets are thawing — and if Antarctica was even losing ice. The new research concludes that Antarctica is melting, but points to the smaller ice sheet in Greenland, which covers most of the island, as the bigger and more pressing issue. Its melt rate has grown from about 55 billion tons a year in the 1990s to almost 290 billion tons a year recently, according to the study.  "Greenland is really taking off," said National Snow and Ice Data Center scientist Ted Scambos, a co-author of the paper released Thursday by the journal Science.

Because the world's oceans are so big, it takes a lot of ice melting — about 10 trillion tons — to raise sea levels 1 inch (2.5 centimeters). Since 1992, ice sheets at the poles have lost nearly 5 trillion tons of ice, the study says, raising sea levels by about a half inch. That seemingly tiny extra bit probably worsened the flooding from an already devastating Superstorm Sandy last month, said NASA ice scientist Erik Ivins, another co-author of the study. He said the extra weight gives each wave a little more energy.Monitor. "The more energy there is in a wave, the further the water can get inland," Ivins said. Globally, the world's oceans rose about half a foot (15 centimeters) on average in the 20th Century. Melting ice sheets accounts for about one-fifth of sea level rise. Warmer water expands, contributing to the rise along with water from melting glaciers outside the polar regions.  Just how much ice is melting at the two poles has been difficult for scientists to answer. In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change did not include ice sheet melt in its calculations of future sea level rise because numbers were so uncertain. It's an important factor because if all the polar ice sheets somehow melted — something that would take centuries — global sea levels would jump by more than 200 feet, said Pennsylvania State University ice scientist Richard Alley.  - Christian Science.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Mount Sakurajima in Japan, Erupts Again - Producing Powerful Explosions, With Ash Plumes Rising to 11,000 Feet!

November 29, 2012 - JAPAN - Sakurajima volcano has entered once again a phase of more intense and frequent  explosions. Since mid-November, there has been one explosion every 4 to 5 hours on  average. Ash clouds rose to altitudes as high as 11,000 feet. 

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency Volcanic Activity Report, the volcano reported massive explosions from November 21st to 28th. The agency reported that from November 19th to 27th, explosions from Sakurajima's Sho-wa Crater ejected tephra as  far as 1.3 km from the crater. Very small eruptions at Minami-dake Crater occurred during the 19th to the 20th of November. Based on information from the agency, the Tokyo VAAC reported that explosions from the 21st to the 23rd, as well as from the 25th to the 27th of November often produced plumes that rose to altitudes of 5,000 to 9,000 feet above sea level and drifted north, northeast, east and southeast.  

Sakurajima volcano is known for its irregular (typically 1-2 per day) strombolian to vulcanian-type explosions which sometimes can reach considerable size and eject ash and bombs to   several kilometers height and distance. This semi-persistant activity has been going on for the last seventy years, but fluctuates a lot in intensity in rhythms of typically weeks to few months.

WATCH: Sakurajima's latest explosions.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Severe & Exceptional Drought - Mississippi River Could Become Impassable in Two Weeks?!

November 29, 2012 - UNITED STATES - The Mississippi River could be too shallow for barge traffic between St. Louis and Cairo in two weeks due to decreasing water levels.  According to the American Waterways Operators and Waterways Council, the country's busiest inland waterway is nearly too low already for barges loaded with coal, steel and other commerce.  And it is expected to dry up considerably in the next couple of week due to the summer drought and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer's move to hold back water from the Missouri River.  "Of particular concern are hazardous rock formations near Thebes and Grand Tower which threaten navigation when water levels drop to anticipated, near historic lows," the agencies said in a joint release.

"The rock formations, combined with the reduced flows from the Missouri River, will prohibit the transport of essential goods along this critical point in the river, effectively stopping barge transportation on the middle Mississippi River around Dec. 10."  U.S Coast Guard Lt. Colin Fogarty said the river is about two feet below normal water levels. He expects it to threaten the all-time low of 6.2 feet below normal in December. The previous low water mark was set in 1940.The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in a controversial move, last week started to reduce to flow of water from the Missouri River into the Mississippi to make sure areas to the north have adequate water. "Congress and the Administration need to understand the immediate severity of this situation," American Waterways Operators President and CEO Tom Allegrett said.

"The Mississippi River is an economic superhighway that efficiently carries hundreds of millions of tons of essential goods for domestic use as well as national export.  We need to address this situation swiftly, cut through bureaucratic red tape, and prevent the closure of the Mississippi."Fogarty said the Coast Guard and Corps of Engineers are already working to try to keep the Mississippi River traffic flowing."At this point in time the Missouri River has been cut off as we have been expecting since early July," Fogarty said. "The Army Corps of Engineers has begun heavy dredging and the Coast Guard has been moving assets to St. Louis to help in any way it can."  Fogarty said he is not resigned to the idea that the Mississippi will be shut down by low water. "We will not speculate when or if the river will be closed," Fogarty said. "We're doing everything we can to ensure river traffic will continue to flow. Despite the fact that we have these low water conditions, we're hopeful to keep traffic moving."  Corps of Engineers spokesperson Sue Casseau said the restrictions on the Missouri are something that happen every year to prevent it from becoming too low over the winter and spring. She said usually it isn't a problem because the Mississippi doesn't often suffer from too little water. 

"There are long-term consequences to letting the Missouri get too low" Casseau said. "There are several states involved in this situation and the Corps of Engineers is responsible for serving the nation as a whole.  "Despite the Corps of Engineer's dredging efforts, there is little that can be done to deepen the channel at Thebes, where the bottom of the Mississippi is rock, not clay like it in most of the channel. The river is nine feet deep at Thebes, a town on the Illinois side of the river south of Cape Girardeau.  "Most barges need at least a 9 foot draft," Fogarty said. But oil barges and ones that carry things like anhydrous ammonia don't need as deep of a draft to get through."Fogarty said while some old wrecks have been exposed by the low water, none of them are in the channel or otherwise a threat to navigation. He predicted the low water mark record will be broken about Dec. 15. - McClatchy.

MASS ANIMAL DIE-OFF: Ranavirus Disease - 26 Turtles Mysteriously Die During the Past Few Months in West Virginia, America!

November 29, 2012 - UNITED STATES - In July, while walking near a small pond he had built on his farm near Clendenin, Bill Archibald spotted a pair of dead eastern box turtles in the brush. "I didn't think a whole lot about it at first," Archibald recalled, "but then I noticed other turtles in the same area acting kind of lethargic, with swelling around their eyes, lying in the same spot for days, and I started to wonder what was going on." When Archibald returned to his farm following a weeklong trip to Alaska, "every day that I walked up to the pond I'd find dead turtles." The mysterious deaths, which numbered 26 by the end of the summer, didn't sit well with Archibald, a graduate of the state Division of Natural Resources' Master Naturalist program, who had built the pond to enhance habitat for the frogs, salamanders and turtles living on his land. He emailed Doug Wood, a retired Department of Environmental Protection biologist who teaches several Master Naturalist classes.

Eastern Box Turtles.

"Bill sent me one of those unusual queries I get from time to time -- 'Hey, Doug, do you know what this is?' " Wood recalled. After consulting the Internet and some professional colleagues, Wood supplied Archibald with the contact information he believed could solve the mystery about what was killing the box turtles on his land. As it turned out, the turtle was infected with ranavirus -- an animal disease known to have caused large localized die-offs, mainly in populations of frogs, salamanders and other amphibians, in 25 states since 1997. In more recent years, the virus is known to have infected scattered populations of box turtles, which are reptiles, in several states. At Wood's suggestion, Archibald got in touch with Towson University (Md.) biology professor Richard Siegel, leader of a box turtle study at a highway construction site between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

Bill Archibald found more than two dozen dead or dying eastern
box turtles in the vicinity of his Clendenin area pond in recent
months. Through contacts made in naturalist classes, Archibald
 was put in touch with researchers who believe the deaths are
linked to ranavirus, an animal disease associated with large local
 die-offs of amphibians and certain turtle species. Image: Kenny Kemp.
There, local turtles were outfitted with radio transmitters and released in areas safe from blasting and heavy machinery. The study was designed to determine whether relocated turtles did better by being moved to a site six miles from the construction zone, or to an area just across a fence from the new highway site. But Siegel and his Towson colleagues found that an alarming number of turtles -- which can live to be 50 or older and normally have a 98 percent survival rate from year to year -- were dying at the relocation area near the construction site. Thirty-one of the 123 turtles outfitted with the transmitters and released there were found dead within a three-year period. Cars or construction equipment killed three of the turtles, but the rest were felled by disease, which turned out to be ranavirus in 27 cases. "Finding even one dead turtle is unusual," Siegel said in a Washington Post story about the die-off that appeared earlier this year. "Finding over 27 dead turtles in a two-to-three-year period was bizarre." In addition to killing the Maryland box turtles, ranavirus is believed to have been the cause of death of nearly every tadpole and young salamander in the study area since spring of 2010. - Sunday Gazette-Mail.

These incidents in West Virginia constitutes the 429 mass death events in 68 different countries since the beginning of 2012.

EXTRATERRESTRIAL NARRATIVE: Water on Mercury - NASA Announces Discovery of Ice at Planet's Poles!

November 29, 2012 - NASA -NASA announced Thursday that its Messenger probe has discovered new evidence of water ice on Mercury. In the announcement, Sean Solomon, principal investigator for the Mercury Messenger program, said the probe had uncovered new evidence that deposits in permanently shadowed regions of Mercury's poles is water ice. The ice is found predominantly in impact craters, according to data obtained by Messenger.

Permanently Shadowed Polar Craters: Shown in red are areas of Mercury’s north polar region that are in shadow in all images acquired by MESSENGER to date. Image coverage, and mapping of shadows, is incomplete near the pole. The polar deposits imaged by Earth-based radar are in yellow (from Image 2.1), and the background image is the mosaic of MESSENGER images from Image 2.2. This comparison indicates that all of the polar deposits imaged by Earth-based radar are located in areas of persistent shadow as documented by MESSENGER images. Updated from N. L. Chabot et al., Journal of Geophysical Research, 117, doi: 10.1029/2012JE004172 (2012). Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington/National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, Arecibo Observatory.
According to a NASA press release, the tilt of Mercury’s rotational axis is almost zero -- less than one degree -- so there are pockets at the planet’s poles that never see sunlight. Scientists suggested decades ago that there might be water ice at Mercury’s poles, but the new findings provide"compelling support" for that claim. Messenger used neutron spectroscopy to measure average hydrogen concentrations, an indicator of water ice. “The neutron data indicate that Mercury’s radar-bright polar deposits contain, on average, a hydrogen-rich layer more than tens of centimeters thick beneath a surficial layer 10 to 20 centimeters thick that is less rich in hydrogen,” wrote David Lawrence, a Messenger scientist based at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. “The buried layer has a hydrogen content consistent with nearly pure water ice.” Launched in August 2004, the robotic spacecraft conducted three flybys of Mercury in 2008 and 2009 before entering the planet's orbit in March 2011. The probe has collected more than 100,000 images of Mercury, some of which are viewable on NASA's website.

A Mosaic of MESSENGER Images of Mercury's North Polar Region: Tradar image of Mercury's north polar region from Image 2.1 is shown superposed on a mosaic of MESSENGER images of the same area. All of the larger polar deposits are located on the floors or walls of impact craters. Deposits farther from the pole are seen to be concentrated on the north-facing sides of craters. Updated from N. L. Chabot et al., Journal of Geophysical Research, 117, doi: 10.1029/2012JE004172 (2012). Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington/National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, Arecibo Observatory.
Messenger, an acronym of MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging, has already changed the way scientists think about the planet closest to the sun. In 2011, data sent back by the probe provided new evidence of widespread volcanic activity on the planet's surface, including a huge expanse of volcanic plains surrounding the north polar region of Mercury. According to NASA, continuous smooth plains cover more than 6 percent of the total surface of the planet. Other MESSENGER mission objectives include studying the nature of Mercury's magnetic fields, the structure of its core, its geologic history and the composition of its exosphere. Prior to Messenger's mission, only the Mariner 10 probe had successfully visited the planet. The findings of the three Mariner 10 flybys in 1974 and 1975 for years constituted the bulk of what was known about Mercury. - Huffington Post.

For a more detail report, click HERE.

WATCH: NASA TV Media - Discovery of Ice at Mercury's Poles.

UNHOLY COVENANT: Towards a Two-State Solution - United Nations Upgrades Palestinian Statehood, General Assembly Votes to Grant Palestine "Non-Member State" U.N. Observer Status?!

November 29, 2012 - NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - Despite Obama’s “opposition”, Palestine has now gained the status of a non-member observer state, just like Obama promised. This is not a step toward peace. It is a step toward disaster … By Elad Benari, INN – “As expected, the United Nations passed a resolution on Thursday evening recognizing Palestine as a non-member observer state. 138 countries voted in favor of the resolution, nine countries voted against it, and 41 countries abstained.

Palestinians celebrate the announcement.
Shortly before the vote, Palestinian Authority (PA) Head Mahmoud Abbas addressed the United Nations Thursday, in his bid to gain recognition for the PA as a non-member observer state. This status has only been accorded to the Vatican until now. As he took the stage, Abbas launched his usual attack on Israel, accusing the Jewish State of attacking PA Arabs and carrying out ethnic cleansing. As usual, Abbas did not condemn the rocket fire by Gaza terrorists on southern Israel. ‘Palestine comes today to the General Assembly because it believes in peace and because its people, as proven in past days, are in desperate need of it,’ he said, insisting that recognizing ‘Palestine’ as a non-member observer state is ‘the last chance to save the two-state solution.’

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas acknowledges applause after he addressed the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Richard Drew).
‘We have heard and you too have heard specifically over the past months the incessant flood of Israeli threats in response to our peaceful, political and diplomatic endeavor for Palestine to acquire non-member observer state in the United Nations,’ said Abbas. ‘And, you have surely witnessed how some of these threats have been carried out in a barbaric and horrific manner just days ago in the Gaza Strip.’ … ‘We will accept no less than the independence of the state of Palestine, with east Jerusalem as its capital, on all the Palestinian territory occupied in 1967, to live in peace and security alongside the state of Israel, and a solution for the refugee issue on the basis of resolution 194, as per the operative part of the Arab Peace Initiative,’ he stressed.” - Israel National News.

DISASTER IMPACT: Superstorm Sandy's Devastation - $71 Billion Dollar Price Tag For New York and New Jersey, 305,000 Houses Destroyed, 2.2 Million Power Outages!

November 29, 2012 - UNITED STATES - New York state and New Jersey need at least $71.3 billion to recover from the devastation wrought by Superstorm Sandy and prevent similar damage from future storms, according to their latest estimates. The total, which could grow, came as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday the state will need $41.9 billion, including $32.8 billion to repair and restore damaged housing, parks and infrastructure and to cover lost revenue and other expenses. The figure also includes $9.1 billion to mitigate potential damage from future severe weather events, Cuomo said.

Breezy Point, Queens looks like World War Two after hurricane, flood and fire Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images.
Neighboring New Jersey, which saw massive damage to its transit system and coastline, suffered at least $29.4 billion in overall losses, according to a preliminary analysis released by Governor Chris Christie's office Friday. The preliminary cost estimate includes federal aid New Jersey has received so far. By some measures, Sandy was worse than Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which tore into the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2005, Cuomo said. Sandy destroyed 305,000 houses in New York state - a still provisional number that's likely to grow - compared to the 214,700 destroyed in Louisiana by Katrina and Rita. Sandy also caused nearly 2.2 million power outages at its peak in the state, compared to 800,000 from Katrina and Rita in Louisiana, and impacted 265,300 businesses compared to 18,700, Cuomo said.

While Sandy may have damaged more homes and businesses, Katrina took a far greater toll on human lives, killing more than 1,800 people directly or indirectly. Sandy, by comparison, is believed to have killed at least 121 people. "Hurricane Katrina got a lot of notoriety for the way government handled -- or mishandled, depending on your point of view -- the situation," Cuomo said at a press conference. But considering the dense population of the area Sandy impacted and costs to the economy, housing, and businesses, the damage done "was much larger in Hurricane Sandy than in Hurricane Katrina, and that puts this entire conversation, I believe, in focus," Cuomo said. Sandy made landfall in New Jersey on October 29. It blasted through the Northeastern U.S., devastating homes, forcing evacuations, crippling power systems and shutting down New York City's subway system for days. The total cost to the region is still not known as estimates of the damage, as well as future repair and prevention costs, continue to come in from states, cities and counties. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Monday he will ask Congress for $9.8 billion to pay for Sandy costs not covered by insurance or other federal funds. - Chicago Tribune.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Alternative Minimum Tax - U.S. "Fiscal Cliff" Could Put Millions of Taxpayers Into "AMT Shock"!

November 29, 2012 - UNITED STATES - One of the key questions lurking in the "fiscal cliff" talks — though well below the public's radar — is what happens to the alternative minimum tax — or AMT. Implemented in 1969 to make sure upper-income Americans pay their share of taxes, the AMT has increasingly snared more middle-income Americans over the years because it was never indexed for inflation. During the 2011 tax year for example, the higher tax hit single taxpayers with incomes as low as $48,450 and joint filers making only $74,450. But millions more Americans could be subject to the AMT in their 2012 returns if Congress fails to reach a deal on the fiscal cliff before year-end. That's because the AMT is currently scheduled to hit individuals making as little as $33,750 a year and joint filers making $45,000. "I call it AMT shock," Dick Hoey, chief economist at BNY Mellon, told CNBC recently.

"Normally some four million people pay the AMT," Hoey explained. "But if we don't fix this on the 2012 income, what's due in 2013 will be additional taxes by an extra 28 million households. If you're in the $75,000 to $300,000 income bracket, you can likely forget about a refund if they don't fix it." The bite on American households would be huge and could have a big impact on US consumer spending—and the economic recovery. "This would hit immediately and likely cost taxpayers an average of some $3,700 in taxes," said Leon C. LaBrecque, managing partner and founder of LJPR, LLC, a wealth management firm. "It would be a rude awakening to say the least." Yet even if Congress resolves the fiscal cliff, more Americans could still end up seeing a huge tax increase under the AMT. That's because the tax itself is part of the negotiations over ways to boost government revenue. And Congress would need to act separately — putting in a so-called patch — to insure more people aren't subject to it because of inflation. "It's hard to plan for the AMT with all the uncertainty," said Howard Kaplan, a CPA/PFS in Englewood, N.J. "People are dealing with possible capital-gain tax increases, they don't know what deductions may be gone and wondering if they should sell or keep stocks at the end of the year. The AMT is complex beast on its own and it's even more complex now without a patch and the 2000 year targets."

The AMT is essentially a parallel tax in that excludes certain deductions — like state and local income taxes — for people making a certain income level each year. That means taxpayers in AMT brackets have to figure out which tax is more, the AMT or regular taxes — and then pay the higher amount. AMT rates currently range from 26 percent for singles to 28 percent for married. To keep middle-income people from being unfairly hit by the AMT, Congress has enacted temporary relief during each of the past several years — so-called patches — that raises the income levels. But so far there is no patch for 2012. The alarm bells over the patch — or lack of one — have reached the point where the acting commissioner of the IRS sent a letter to Congress this month saying the tax collection agency would need to tell some 60 million taxpayers that they may not file their 2012 tax returns or receive a refund until the IRS makes changes to its system (a patch) and that "they might not be able to file returns until late March of 2013." The Bush-era tax cuts — set to expire at the end of the year as a part of the fiscal cliff — where a boon to some but actually pushed more people into the AMT, after they figured out which tax bill was higher. More than half of AMT revenue in 2010 came from households with incomes over $200,000, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. But as AMT rates are not indexed to inflation, more upper middle incomes are hit by the tax than the targeted high end incomes. "If you're income is high enough you get moved out of the AMT. It really effects the $300,000 to $500,000 income levels, and states like California and New Jersey where people can't deduct children or state income taxes," LaBrecque added. As for what Congress and President Obama will do in the weeks ahead about the cliff and the AMT, that's a guessing game said LaBrecque. "They could keep some of the Bush tax cuts and do a patch, not keep them and do a patch. Some people might not get hit by the AMT, some may. It's hard to make sense at this point," LaBrecque said. Anyone looking for a permanent end to the AMT as part of a long term tax reform package, will be disappointed say analysts. The tax simply brings in too much revenue with no replacement in sight. - CNBC.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Santiaguito Volcano Awakens - Erupts, Spewing Smoke, Ash Near Guatemala City!

November 29, 2012 - GUATEMALA - Residents in Guatemala are on alert, as a local volcano spews plumes of smoke and ash, over nearby communities, coating cars and houses in grey dust.

This volcano is kicking up west of the capital of Guatemala city. The huge volcano shot out white columns of smoke over 16,000 feet into the sky, with the ash blanketing the area as far as 15 miles away. No official evacuation notice was issued, but authorities warned locals to avoid drinking water where ash may have fallen into and did restrict access to some areas around the volcano.

Constant activity at the volcano has been recorded for much of 2012. With major eruptions in April and July. Back in 1929, the dome collapse during a volcano explosion, leading to lava flows which killed an estimated 5,000 people.

WATCH: Santiaguito Volcano Awakens.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Massive Sinkhole Opens in Dover, Ohio - Closes State Route 516 in Tuscarawas County!

November 29, 2012 - UNITED STATES - Wednesday afternoon, the Dover Fire Department responded to a report that the ground had shifted at Newton Asphalt Plant, 2411 State Route 516, causing a large sink hole. The issue was called in by employees at Newton Asphalt.

Sinkhole at SR 516 in Dover.

Sinkhole at SR 516 in Dover.
The fire department says that State Route 516 is closed to traffic for an unknown period of time because the roadway is seriously compromised. There were no injuries to report. Dover Fire Captain Mike Mosser said that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, ODOT and the gas company are working to fix the problem. The gas company has addressed an exposed gas line that is no longer a hazard to the surrounding community. It is estimated that it will take a few weeks to repair. - 19 Action News.

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Part of State Route 516 in Tuscarawas County collapsed on Wednesday afternoon. It happened around 3p.m. near Bair Road. ODOT officials say a rapid drawdown of a nearby sand and gravel operation is to blame. "What happened was there's an actual sand and gravel operation that is 150 feet from the road and apparently they were dredging the sand in the afternoon," said ODOT District Deputy Director Lloyd MacAdams. "They started a rapid drawdown and it just continued to drawdown, drawdown." Officials say a collapse took a massive portion of the road down more than 50 feet, exposed a gas line and sunk utility poles. When it first happened, officials closed down 8 miles along the roadway from state Route 39 to state Route 93. And now they are saying the roadway could be closed until the spring. Engineers and the Department of Natural Resources will be out to take a look in the morning. "I've worked for ODOT 16 years now and I've never seen anything like this," said MacAdams. "This is very unusual situation. You would never think this pond would make it to the state route." - WTOV.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Contagion - Bats Harbor New Deadly Respiratory Virus!

November 29, 2012 - SAUDI ARABIA - In June, a 60-year-old man checked into a hospital in Jedda, Saudi Arabia, with a mysterious illness. The man, who had acute pneumonia and failing kidneys, eventually died. Now, the genetic sequencing of the virus behind his death suggests it was a new one, and it came from Asian bats. The findings, which were published Nov. 20 in the journal mBio, may help scientists understand what makes the mysterious virus so deadly. "The virus is most closely related to viruses in bats found in Asia, and there are no human viruses closely related to it," said study co-author Ron Fouchier, of the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, in a statement. "Therefore, we speculate that it comes from an animal source."

CREDIT: javarman | shutterstock.
In general, human illness from animal diseases has been on the rise, but bats are an especially deadly reservoir for viruses. In addition to harboring rabies, bats may have been the initial hosts of hemorrhagic fevers such as the Ebola virus and deadly brain fevers such as the Nipah virus, scientists say. Since the first case was reported, two other people have fallen ill, including a man from London who was visiting neighboring Qatar and another man in Saudi Arabia. In the new study, the team sequenced the genome of the virus, finding it resembles those of two other viruses normally found in the flying mammals.

The related viruses live in two other bat species: Lesser bamboo bats (Tylonycteris pachypus) and Japanese house bats (Pipistrellus abramus), which live throughout Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. Because the scientists tested thousands of Saudi hospital visitors and found no traces of antibodies to the disease, the team believes the virus has newly emerged in humans. The new genetic sequence also reveals the pathogen belongs to a family of viruses that includes both the common cold and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). SARS first emerged in Asia in 2002 and has killed nearly 800 people as of 2003, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention The genetic sequence of the virus in two of the patients differs enough that it's possible the two could have emerged from separate bat colonies. "We really need to understand whether these viruses are coming from a single source or multiple sources," Fouchier said in a statement. - Live Science.

ICE AGE NOW: MINUS 20C - Britain Face Coldest Winter For 100 Years as Big Freeze Follows Floods With Wind So Strong it Blows Water Upwards!

November 29, 2012 - BRITAIN - Britain will shiver tonight as temperatures plummet in the first taste of what promises to be one of our coldest winters for a century. The cold snap is expected to last until the end of the week, creating dangerous conditions on the roads and adding to the misery of those already battling floods. Temperatures could fall to as low as minus 3°c (27°f) in some places, with snow already falling in the Pennines. In Saltburn, North Yorkshire, northerly winds have become so strong that they are pushing water back up a cliff. The torrential rain which has deluged the country for the last week is expected to ease at last but the clearer skies, coupled with northerly winds, will send the mercury plummeting. Tonight’s cold snap heralds a freezing winter ahead with long-range forecasters warning that temperatures could fall to as low as minus 20°c (4°f) in some areas through December and January.

Snow has fallen on mountains and other areas of high ground but it is expected to
fall in other areas towards next week.
They fear snow blizzards could close roads and shut down rail networks across the country as winter takes hold. The cold, drier spell that starts tonight could be only a brief respite from the rain. More heavy showers are expected to return early next week, causing more misery to those trying to combat flood damage. ‘The weather will be much colder and drier across most of the UK today,’ said Meteogroup forecaster John Lee. ‘Northerly winds and clearer skies will make it feel much colder and we can expect widespread frost overnight when temperatures drop below freezing. ‘Wintry showers will bring sleet, snow and hail to higher ground tomorrow and there’s a risk of heavy snow showers in northern Scotland on Friday.

Water pouring over the edge of Huntcliff in Saltburn, North Yorkshire,
was pushed back over the edge by strong northerly winds.
Local authorities say they are prepared for a harsh winter and have taken steps to avoid a repeat of two years ago, when a lack of gritters and snowploughs caused roads and transport networks to grind to a halt. The Local Government Association, which represents councils in England and Wales, said councils had stockpiled 1.3million tons of road salt and had ‘hundreds’ of gritters on standby. ‘Keeping the country moving is a community effort,’ said Peter Box, chairman of the LGA’s economy and transport board. ‘Councils will be treating as many roads as they can and have also installed and filled thousands of extra grit bins for people living in side streets, villages and housing estates. ‘They’ve given equipment to parish councils, community groups and snow wardens who have volunteered to grit hard-to-reach areas, and farmers will be helping out on country lanes. ‘Highways, street-cleaning and park staff could also be drafted in to help clear snow and ice around places like shops, schools and sheltered accommodation.’ He said councils would be using social media, including Twitter feeds and Facebook pages, to keep people up to date about how weather is affecting their area. - Daily Mail.

WATCH: Residents lose fight with floods in Malton, North Yorkshire

FIRE IN THE SKY: Daytime Fireball Explodes Over Queensland, Australia - Leaves Visible Trail!

November 29, 2012 - AUSTRALIA - A loud boom followed by a cloud of smoke in the sky had many Central Highlands residents taking a closer look on Monday.

Many residents speculated the theory behind the mysterious object was a meteorite heading for Earth at the speed of sound and disintegrating on entry.

A spokesman from the Bureau of Meteorology said that theory was most likely the correct explanation.

The suspicious cloud of smoke which appeared in the sky on Monday is said to have been a meteorite.
Plenty of locals witnessed the event. © CQ News.
"We had a call from an Emerald resident at about 7pm (Monday night), wanting to know what it was," the spokesman said.

"It could have been a meteorite... or it may have been a bit of space debris."

If it was a meteorite, it could have been about 20,000 feet high, and the sound residents heard would have been a shockwave.

"If they come low enough they can cause a sonic boom as they enter the atmosphere lower down," the spokesman said.

"Not very loud, but distinctive ... if they come into the troposphere - which is the lower atmosphere - when they lose velocity, you might hear a series of booms."

He said once it hit Earth, it would have been about the size of a small pebble and where it hit would be hard to determine.

"Depending on the direction it was coming through, it could have landed 100km (from where it was seen)," the spokesman said. - CQ News.

STORM ALERT: Typhoon Watch - The Tropical Storm Bopha, Continues to Intensify in the North Pacific Ocean, Triggering Warnings and Watches!

November 29, 2012 - PACIFIC OCEAN - Tropical Storm Bopha continues to intensify in the western North Pacific Ocean as it heads toward Yap State, triggering more warnings and watches. Infrared imagery from NASA’s Aqua satellite captured over two days revealed that the storm had consolidated, intensified and developed a large band of strong thunderstorms south of the center, that resemble a tail.

These infrared images of Tropical Storm Bopha were taken by the AIRS instrument on NASA's Aqua satellite.
On Nov. 27 at 1505 UTC (left) Bopha had maximum sustained winds near 45 mph. By Nov. 28 at 0329 UTC
(right) Bopha's winds increased to 65 mph. Purple indicates highest, coldest, strongest thunderstorms
with heavy rainfall. Credit: NASA JPL/Ed Olsen.
Infrared images of Tropical Storm Bopha were taken by the AIRS instrument on NASA’s Aqua satellite on Nov. 27 at 1505 UTC when Bopha had maximum sustained winds near 45 mph, and on Nov. 28 at 0329 UTC when Bopha’s winds increased to 65 mph. The highest, coldest, strongest thunderstorms with heavy rainfall were tightly wrapped around Bopha’s center of circulation, and in a newly developed, more organized band of strong thunderstorms south of the storm’s center. That large band of thunderstorms resembles a tail to the storm that drapes from the Bismarck Sea, southwest of the storm’s center, east to Nauru.  A tropical storm warning remains in effect for Lukunor and the Southern Mortlocks in Chuuk State, Puluwat in Chuuk State and Satawal in Yap State. Heavy rainfall, tropical-storm-force winds, and ocean swells between 1 and 2 feet can be expected in warning areas. The National Weather Service noted that Bopha is generating 10 to 12 foot swells near the center which will result in hazardous surf of 12 to 14 feet along eastern and southeastern and southern shores of Lukunor and nearby islands today, Nov. 28. 

A typhoon watch remains in effect for Woleai in Yap state, and a tropical storm watch remains in effect for Faraulep in Yap state.  On Nov. 28, at 10 p.m. CHST local time (1300 UTC/8 a.m. EDT/U.S.), Tropical Storm Bopha’s maximum sustained winds had increased to 65 mph, and the storm is moving west at 10 mph. According to the National Weather Service in Guam, “That general motion is expected to continue over the next 24 hours. Tropical Storm Bopha is expected to continue intensifying and may become a typhoon Thursday afternoon, Nov. 29.”  At 7 p.m. CHST (0900 UTC/4 a.m. EDT/U.S.) the center of Tropical Storm Bopha was near latitude 5.0 degrees north and longitude 152.5 degrees east. That put the center about 135 miles west-southwest of Lukunor, 175 miles south of Weno Island, Chuuk, and 255 miles southeast of Puluwat. Tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 50 miles from the center, making the storm over 100 miles in diameter. - Red Orbit.

WATCH: Western Pacific Weather Update.

EXTREME WEATHER: Mercury Soars & Rises Past 45C in Victoria, Australia - The Hottest November in More Than a Century!

November 29, 2012 - AUSTRALIA - Victorians have sweltered through the hottest November day in more than a century with the temperature soaring above 45C in some parts. Many rushed to beaches in a bid to cool down. But it wasn't all fun in the sun, with grass fires breaking out in Victoria's northwest. In Melbourne, the mercury crept towards 40C, with a high of 39.2C recorded at 6pm.

The state's hotspot was Mildura, where a maximum of 45.5C was recorded. That beat the state's previous November record of 45C, which dated back to 1905 in Mildura.  The biggest grass fire was near Baringhup, close to Maryborough, which spread over 200 hectares after starting about 3pm (AEDT) before being contained.  The Country Fire Authority also dealt with a blaze at Lillicur, 8km west of Talbot, which burned 20 hectares of grass and bush.  There were also grass fires in Edenhope, one near Avenel which caused smoke that disrupted traffic on the Hume Freeway, a plantation fire at Dartmoor and a four-hectare fire at Murtoa.  A CFA spokeswoman warned dry lightning could hit in the west of the state on Thursday evening, which could cause further problems.  Total fire bans are in place in the Mallee and Wimmera districts, with farmers, particularly in the state's northwest, warned of extreme fire risk.  Ambulance Victoria said it had dealt with 25 reports of heat-related illness by 4pm and an additional eight cases where children had been locked in cars, including a three-year-old and a two-year-old in Greensborough.

That was despite peak motoring body RACV warned motorists never to leave children or animals inside cars.  CitiPower customers in Melbourne's CBD and inner suburbs were hit by power outages, with 2500 homes losing power at some point on Thursday.  Some 1300 Powercor customers in central and western Victoria, and Melbourne's western suburbs, also experienced outages during the day.  In St Kilda East, a driver suffered minor injuries when a power pole exploded, causing his windscreen to shatter but authorities aren't sure if the incident was heatwave-related.  It was an uncomfortable journey home for some Melbourne workers.  Commuters faced delays on a number of Metro train lines because of issues unrelated to the heat, after balloons floated into overhead cables near busy Southern Cross Station and a signal problem at Caulfield. - Herald Sun.