Monday, May 14, 2012

EARTH CHANGES: "Aletta" - The First Pacific Storm of 2012, Forms Off Mexico!

The first tropical storm of the year formed in the Pacific Ocean southwest of Mexico on Monday and was named Aletta, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said.

Projected path of Tropical Storm Aletta.
The storm had maximum sustained winds early Tuesday near 40 mph with additional strengthening forecast during the next day or so followed by gradual weakening. The storm is swirling far out over the Pacific and is not posing a danger to land. Aletta is centered about 640 miles south-southwest of Manzanillo, Mexico, and is moving west-northwest near 9 mph.

The storm's forecast track shows it going farther out to sea. The Atlantic storm season has yet to begin. June 1 is the official start of the Atlantic season, though storms can form before or after that date. For Pacific storms, the other names being used this year are: Bud, Carlotta, Daniel, Emilia, Fabio, Gilma, Hector, Ileana, John, Kristy, Lane, Miriam, Norman, Olivia, Paul, Rosa, Sergio, Tara, Vicente, Willa, Xavier, Yolanda and Zeke. - MSNBC.

EXTREME WEATHER: Arizona Burning - Hundreds Evacuated as Wildfires Spread Across Northern Arizona!

Firefighters trying to protect a historic mining town in northern Arizona were told to expect extreme conditions Tuesday, with temperatures in the 80s and gusts up to 35 mph that could fan an out-of-control wildfire. Crews are facing additional hazards as well: snakes and abandoned mining shafts. Snakes were a problem at a past fire in the area, Karen Takai, spokeswoman for the fire team, told msnbc.com. No one has been bitten so far, she said, but "we know that could be an issue in this area." Procedures call for any bitten firefighter to be taken to a local hospital for anti-venom. As for mine shafts, "there are a lot ... that you don't see because of the amount of brush," she said.

Add rugged terrain to the mix, she said, and conditions are "extremely difficult." The National Weather Service also issued a "red flag warning" Tuesday for northern Arizona, southeast Nevada and southern Utah. Burning south of Prescott, Ariz., in the Prescott National Forest, the wildfire that started Sunday has scorched an estimated 1,700 acres of ponderosa pine and chaparral, and threatens some 350 homes in Crown King. Tourists who had been in the town left when a mandatory evacuation was ordered Sunday, while homeowners were allowed to stay as long as they remained on their property. Some 300 fire personnel were already at the scene, and the first of 400 more are coming in Tuesday, Takai said. Six air tankers worked Monday to douse hot spots, and those flights will continue Tuesday. Two buildings and one trailer have been destroyed, Prescott National Forest spokeswoman Debbie Maneely said.  The blaze, still at zero percent containment, started at a "structure" and was human-caused, she said.  
Greg Flores, president of the Crown King Chamber of Commerce, said he helped a couple and their dog flee was the fire "fully engulfed" their home.   "There were flames over 100 feet tall when we got up there," the Associated Press quoted him as saying.  Flores and his wife fled their home around 2 a.m. Monday when ash began raining down. They spent the night on the floor of his business and have since been able to return home.   Flores added that the fire had turned a ridge black, destroying much of the forest there. Crown King is located in the mountains more than 85 miles north of Phoenix, where the fire created a haze over the city on Monday.  The fire was one of several in Arizona since the weekend. They are the first major wildfires in Arizona this year, after a record 2011 season in which nearly 2,000 blazes scorched 1,500 square miles, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.  Another wildfire more than 120 miles northeast of Phoenix was five percent contained Monday evening.  On the San Carlos Apache Reservation, in eastern Arizona, a fire caused by lightning charred more than 1.7 square miles of ponderosa pine, juniper and oak.  A fire on the Fort Apache Reservation burned 575 acres of brush and grassland and threatened a fish hatchery. - MSNBC.
WATCH: Arizona wildfires burn uncontrollably.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Snow Hits Sarajevo, in Bosnia - First Time in 50 Years!

The Bosnian capital and its surroundings were covered by snow on Monday, the first time in half a century snow has settled in Sarajevo at this time of year, as temperatures plunged to just above freezing. 

Sarajevo soccer players train in the snow in January.
"The snow was nine centimetres (over three inches) high at 0500 GMT. It is the first time in the past 50 years that we have snow that remained in Sarajevo in May," Dzenan Zulum of the national meteorological institute told AFP.  Zulum said snow had previously covered the capital in May in 1962 and 1953, adding that it also fell in Sarajevo in May 2005, but immediately melted. 

Temperatures have plummeted in the past two days from 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit) on Saturday to 0.3 degrees Celsius on Monday.  Farmers have reported that many orchards had been damaged by the unseasonal cold snap, as snow also fell in central and eastern parts of Bosnia.  However forecasts for the next few days predict temperatures soaring back above 20 degrees Celsius.  Like much of Europe, Bosnia suffered a harsh winter, with snow falls up to two metres (over six feet) high.Agence France-Presse.


EXTREME WEATHER: Three Forest Fires Burn Out of Control in Alberta, Canada - Authorities Issue Fire Ban!

As firefighters work around the clock on three forest fires burning out of control in northern Alberta, officials issued a fire ban on Monday for most forested areas in the province.  "The wildfire situation in most of Alberta is serious," said Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Minister Diana McQueen in a news release. 

Aerial photograph of a wildfire near Lodgepole taken by Alberta Sustainable Resource Development firefighters.
"Unfortunately, most of the wildfires we are fighting right now appear to be human-caused and therefore were 100 per cent preventable. It is very important that everyone take precautions to avoid starting fires - it is so dry and windy in many places that fires can start and spread very quickly."  Firefighters are trying to contain:  A 1,000-hectare blaze near the hamlet of Grassland in northeast Alberta.  A 650-hectare fire near Bonnyville in the eastern part of the province.  A fire half the size of the Bonnyville blaze, near Lodgepole, southwest of Edmonton.  The wind, along with warm, dry conditions, continue to pose the biggest challenge for firefighters, said Geoff Driscoll, a wildfire information officer.  "Certainly the one in Grassland grew the biggest yesterday, but the one near Bonnyville came out a little later in the evening and grew pretty big pretty fast," said Driscoll. 

All the fires are burning near communities and roads, which means they were likely caused by people, said Driscoll.  Lightning strikes haven't been a factor, he said.  The province issued the fire ban early Monday evening.  Outdoor fires, fireworks and the use of portable campfires are now prohibited.  The ban does not affect fires contained within a cooking or heating appliance fueled by fluids or compressed gas, an "engineered fire receptable" in designated camping and recreation areas, walled tents with air-tight stoves with proper screening as approved by a forest officer, or industrial sites or facilities also approved by a forest officer.  At least one Athabasca County resident called earlier for a total fire ban.  "No fires of any kind," said Terry Damsgaard. "As well, ban the use of quads and dirt bikes until we get some much-needed moisture."  Firefighters worked overnight to build a fire guard on the south side of the Bonnyville fire, helping slow its spread. 

Over 80 firefighters were expected to arrive Monday with helicopters and heavy equipment to help contain the Grassland fire.  By the end of the day about 300 firefighters will be working all three fires.  About 15 rural homes near Grassland have been put on evacuation alert, after one home and two machine shops were destroyed Sunday.  The smoke from the forest fire shut down part of Highway 63 Sunday between Highway 55 and Wandering River.  The area is now open for travel, although RCMP warn should the flames or smoke increase, the highway will close immediately.  There are 54 forest fires burning in the province, but only three are listed as out of control. - CBC.


FIRE IN THE SKY: You Just Got a Haircut From the Asteroid 2012 JU - School Bus-Sized Came Within 118 Miles From Earth!

OK, we admit that's a bit of an exaggeration, but an asteroid about the size of a school bus did come fairly close to Earth yesterday! On May 13, Asteroid 2012 JU passed harmlessly between Earth and Moon.

Orbit diagram for asteroid 2012 JU. Click for interactive orbital diagram from JPL.
This space rock is somewhere between 8 and 17 meters across, and it came within about 190,000 kilometers (118,000 miles) from Earth - about a half a Lunar Distance (LD), or 0.0014 AU. Its looping orbit is currently closely aligned with Earth's (click here to see JPL's orbit diagram applet) and will be moving rather slowly away from us over the next few weeks.

There are two other known space rocks that will be making somewhat close passes by Earth later this month: 2010 KK37, which might be about 43 meters wide, will come within 2.3 LD (880,000 km) on May 19, and 2001 CQ36, which might be as big as 170 meters wide, will go by at 10 LD (3.8 million km) on May 30. There is no threat of any of these asteroids hitting our planet.

Asteroids passing between the Earth and Moon happens on a fairly regular basis. Last month, on April 1, a 46-meter wide asteroid named 2012 EG5 came within 230,000 km, and on March 26 of this year, two smaller asteroids shaved by at a mere 58,000 km and 154,000 km. And in January 2012 BX34 passed by at just 59,600 km from the Earth's surface. - Universe Today.


EXTINCTION LEVEL EVENT & THE DYING PLANET: Alarming World Wildlife Fund's Report - Earth is Now "Going Downhill" as Consumption and Exploitation Rises?!

From high above the earth, an astronaut launched the latest report card on the health of the planet which once again paints an alarming image of over-consumption and exploitation. In a recorded message, Andre Kuipers, an astronaut with the European Space Agency on his second mission to the International Space Station, said he had a unique view of the earth which he orbits 16 times a day. "From space, you see the forest fires, you see the air pollution, you see erosion," he said, launching the World Wildlife Fund's Living Planet Report for 2012. The biennial survey shows the world is still consuming far more than the Earth can replenish, along with a widening and "potentially catastrophic" gap between the ecological footprints of rich and poor nations.

"The report is clear that we're still going downhill, that our ecological footprint, the pressure we put on the earth's resources, continues to rise so we're now using 50% more resources that the earth can replenish and biodiversity continues to decline," said Jim Leape, Director General of WWF International.  The report includes a list of the world's top 10 polluting countries topped by Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East. They're followed by Denmark, Belgium and the United States. Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and Ireland make up the remainder.  Countries are ranked on their consumption of renewable resources versus their biocapacity, or ability to produce renewable resources and absorb CO2 emissions. Dominating the list are high-income countries, whose average ecological footprint is now five times that of low-income nations.  And the gap is increasing. Between 1970 and 2008, the ecological footprint of high-income nations rose seven percent, the report said. Over that period, the same index for poor countries tumbled 60%.  The disparity indicates richer nations are buying resources from poorer countries which have natural resources available to exploit, the report said.  "What one of the things that we as a global community have been slow to realize is that even in an industrialized economy will still demand very directly on the health of natural systems to provide the water we drink and to keep the climate stable," Leape said.  "As you see forest loss continue, as you see the depletion of rivers, you are undercutting the foundation for economic development in those countries," he said.  Leape said there are signs some large business and governments are taking steps to reduce their burden on the environment. Denmark, for example, number four on the list of worst polluters, has pledged to double the nation's windpower and to wean itself off fossil fuels by 2050. 
"What you see now is companies and governments who are on the vanguard beginning to make shifts but those shifts have to be driven down into entire markets and across all governments. We're not yet getting to the scale required to begin to bend the curves," Leape said.  The impact of rich nations worldwide is clear in figures showing that the steepest drop in biodiversity over the past 40 years has occurred in poorer countries. The decline, the report said, demonstrates "how the poorest and most vulnerable nations are subsidizing the lifestyles of wealthier nations."  "Growing external resource dependencies are putting countries at significant risk," said Mathis Wackernagel, President of Global Footprint Network, which collaborated with the WWF and the Zoological Society of London on the report.  "Using ever more nature, while having less is a dangerous strategy, yet most countries continue to pursue this path," he said.  The main feature of the Living Planet Report is the Living Planet Index which tracks the health of the world's ecosystems by monitoring 9,000 populations of more than 2,600 species.  It shows a near 30% drop in biodiversity since 1970, and an even faster decline in the tropics of 60%. However, the index for temperate regions rose 31%, as some species showed signs of recovery after huge biodiversity losses the previous century.  "The read down on the temperate zone masks much more precipitous declines in other parts of the world. You see a huge loss of biodiversity across the tropics and in the poorest countries and I think that's the most alarming fact in those indices," Leape said.  The report was released just five weeks before the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, otherwise known as Rio +20.  "We need to see real leadership from the governments of the world coming together to commit themselves to step up to this challenge," Leape said.  "They can take some decisions in Rio that really would make a difference in terms of setting a new course for the global economy." - CNN.

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.


NASA's SOHO Images - 11th of May, 2012.


Selma, California, United States - 11th of May, 2012.


New Zealand - 11th of May, 2012.


New York, United States - 13th of May, 2012.


Chicago, Illinois, United States - 11th of May, 2012.


NASA's LASCO C2 Images - 13th of May, 2012.


Scottsdale, Arizona, United States - 12th of May, 2012.


Miami, Florida, United States - 6th of May, 2012.


Fresno, California, United States - 11th of May, 2012.


St. Albans, United Kingdom - April, 2012.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Escalating Seismic Activity in Iran - Magnitude 5.0 Earthquake Hits Southern Iran!

A magnitude 5.0 earthquake has struck Southern Iran on Monday, May 14, 2012 at 10:12:35 UTC.


The tremor was located at 27.942°N, 57.746°E with a depth of 25 km (15.5 miles). The epicentre was at 142 km (88 miles) southwest of Bam, Iran; 167 km (103 miles) northeast of Bandar `Abbas, Iran; 244 km (151 miles) northeast of Al Khasab, Oman; 1045 km (649 miles) southeast of Tehran, Iran.

Seismic activity seems to be escalating in Iran, as one week ago, a magnitude 5.5 earthquake rocked the country's western provinces of Ilam and Kermanshah, damaging homes and buildings in over 50 villages. According to the Iranian Red Crescent Society's Relief and Rescue Organization, the tremor affected more than 3,500 persons and injured 18 people in the region.

Iran sits astride several major faults in the earth's crust, and is prone to frequent earthquakes, many of which have been devastating.  The worst in recent times hit Bam in southeastern Kerman province in December 2003, killing 31,000 people - about a quarter of its population - and destroying the city's ancient mud-built citadel.  The deadliest quake in the country was in June 1990 and measured 7.7 on the Richter scale. About 37,000 people were killed and more than 100,000 injured in the northwestern provinces of Gilan and Zanjan. It devastated 27 towns and about 1,870 villages.  Tehran alone sits on two major fault lines, and the capital's 14 million residents fear a major quake.


PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Solar Maximum 2013 - How Space Weather Will Affect You?!

Solar maximum is coming in 2013. How will space weather affect you? To answer that question, experts from around the world are gathering for the Space Weather Enterprise Forum (SWEF) on June 5, 2012, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

Motivation
As we approach the next peak of solar activity expected in 2013, our Nation faces multiplying uncertainties from increasing reliance on space weather-affected technologies for communications, navigation, security, and other activities, many of which underpin our national infrastructure and economy.  We also face increasing exposure to space weather-driven human health risks as trans-polar flights and space activities, including space tourism and space commercialization, increase.

The Forum
The Space Weather Enterprise Forum brings together the space weather community to share information and ideas among policymakers, senior government leaders, researchers, service- provider agencies, private-sector service providers, space weather information users, media, and legislators and staff from Capitol Hill to raise awareness of space weather and its effects on society.  This year, we will continue this outreach but will sharpen the focus on critical infrastructure protection, with the necessary underpinnings of research, improved products and services, and applications to serve a broad and growing user community.  Our ultimate goal is to improve the Nation’s ability to prepare for, avoid, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the potentially devastating impacts of space weather events on our health, economy, and national security.

Forum Objectives

  • Describe space weather, why it matters, and its potential impacts.
  • Discuss critical infrastructure protection, mitigation, and response.
  • Describe the Unified National Space Weather Capability (UNSWC), and highlight   the improvements this interagency initiative has fostered.
  • Describe how space weather science benefits the public.
  • Improve public understanding of and access to space weather services.
- Space Weather Enterprise Forum.
For more on who should attend, registration information and forum sponsors, click HERE.

WATCH: NASA's ScienceCasts - Here Comes Solar Maximum.



EXTREME WEATHER: Worst Drought in 50 Years Takes Toll in Northern Brazil!

Severe drought gripping northeastern Brazil – the worst in a half-century — is taking its toll on more than 1,100 towns, even triggering fighting in rural areas, local media reported Sunday. 

An average of one person a day is being killed in “water wars” in rural areas, while scores of animals are wasting away before perishing, the O Globo newspaper reported over the weekend.  Short water supplies have devastated farm output, the report said, endangering the lives of local people and their livestock. 

Many people in the area have lost half their livestock, and the Brazilian government has reduced forecasts for corn, soy and bean crops.  In Pernambuco, 66 municipalities are on water emergencies, rivers have run completely dry and animals looking for water in the riverbed can only find the odd muddy puddle.  Local dams in the region are running dry, and abuses are rife. In one cited example, water truck drivers make deliveries — but only if customers promise to vote for certain local candidates. - Rawstory.


THE SEASON OF THE WIND: Wild, Raging Windstorms & Unprecedented Heavy Rains Kills 4, Injures 20 in Nigeria - Over 15,000 Buildings Damaged and About 20,000 People Displaced!

Tragedy struck in 13 out of the 18 local council areas of Cross River State as four persons were reported dead while over 20 others sustained various degrees of injuries in a devastating windstorm that ravaged the state.  Three persons died as the trunks and walls of residential buildings fell on them while one person was struck by lightening. 

A statement from the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) said “the injured are being treated in both orthodox and traditional hospitals while one with the fractured skull was referred to a specialist hospital in Enugu for surgery”.  Samuel Edom, a brother to one of the deceased persons, Mr. Ekam Ekpishoko (60), in Egoja-Ndim in Ogoja Local Council Area, narrated that “when the ominous cloud of rain enveloped the community at about 5.00 p.m., everyone scurried home for safety but moments later, the rain came down in an unprecedented manner amidst windstorm that seemed to have determined to bring down the entire community.  “My brother was in his room with his family while I was in mine in the same building engaging in discussion in loud voices against the sound of storm and rain when suddenly, I heard a loud sound of a tree falling and our home came crumbling down.  “A 22-foot historic tree, which stood about 20 metres from the house was uprooted by the storm and in the process, crushed other nearby smaller trees including palm, mangoes and oranges, bringing down alongside surrounding houses.”  He said after the crash, he called out to his brother but only heard wailing from the family members and that when he managed to get to his brother’s apartment, he found him lying dead having been crushed by a tree branch. 

Another victim, Francis Ogar, said: “We have lost much. All the same, it is an act of God and we cannot question it. Our prayer is that the governments at all level should come and help us.”  Over 15,000 residential homes, churches, recreational centres, schools, hospitals and markets were affected by the storms.  Many of the houses were completely uncapped while some were demolished.  About 20,000 displaced persons were mostly the vulnerable – women and children – while some of the victims were accommodated by neighbours, a majority of who were still living helplessly in makeshift huts and in very miserable conditions.  Reacting to the incident, the Yala Council Chairman, Mr. Gabe Ugor, said the council was overwhelmed by the destruction caused by the storm and appealed for urgent attention from the State and Federal Governments to provide succour for the affected persons.  His Ogoja counterpart, John Edi Makpan, lamented that the destruction of public schools would affect academic activities and called for action on the part of the state and Federal Governments and philanthropic organisations.  Assessing the disaster, the Director General of SEMA, Mr. Vincent Aquah, described the destruction caused by the storm as “monumental. This is apparently beyond the coping capacity of the state government and we are appealing to the Federal Government to intervene.” 

The victims decried the loss of lives and property and appealed to the Federal and State governments for urgent intervention.  In another disaster, a one-storey building of the Saint Benedict’s Cathedral, Ogoja, has been gutted by fire and property worth millions of naira also lost to the inferno.  A visiting reverend father sustained serious injuries and has been hospitalised.  The building, which served as residential quarters for the cathedral administrator and other priests, had its rooftop and property burnt and nothing was salvaged.  The Cathedral Administrator, Rev. Father George Chokpa, said the incident occurred at about 9.00 a.m. last Monday when he and other priests had left for a nearby town for a retreat, leaving the visiting priest who was on transit to another town at home.  He said the priest had noticed smoke in his apartment on the first floor and came out only to be overwhelmed by the fire, which had engulfed the entire corridor and other rooms. - Information Nigeria.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Tracking Seismic Activity in California - No Damage After Two Quakes Rattle Sonoma County!

No damage has been reported after two earthquakes rattled a remote area of Northern California

The U.S. Geological Survey says a magnitude 3.9 quake hit at 5:38 a.m. Sunday about 24 miles north of Santa Rosa, or about 80 miles north of San Francisco  USGS geophysicist Don Blakeman says a second quake with a preliminary magnitude of 2.8 hit at 8:24 a.m. in the same area. Blakeman says the second earthquake was likely an aftershock to the first quake.

A dispatcher with the Santa Rosa Sheriff's Department says they had no calls reporting damage or any injuries.  The area where the earthquakes hit is near the Geysers geothermal development, a region that experiences frequent seismic activity. - SF Gate.


WEATHER ANOMALIES: "Crazy Weather" in the Balkans - Heavy Snow Surprises Bosnians After a Hot Weekend in Mid May?!

Sunbathing one day, snowstorm the next: Bosnians are getting whiplash from the latest crazy weather to hit the Balkans

A van drives on a road during snowy weather near Sarajevo, Bosnia, on Monday, May 14, 2012. Heavy snow
covered central parts of Bosnia early Monday.
Weeks after Bosnians had stashed away their winter clothes and their memories of last winter's unbearably heavy snow, residents had to drag out the shovels Monday after waking up to a blanket of snow in the middle of an otherwise unusually hot May.  Some 50 remote villages in a mountainous area near the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo lost power due to the snow.

A Bosnian man shovels snow in front of a car stuck in snow near Sarajevo, Bosnia, on Monday, May 14, 2012. 
After the weekend with record high temperatures, reachingmid 30's Celsius, citizens of Sarajevo woke up
Monday with 10 centimeters of snow covering the city streets.
The unseasonal weather followed a week of summer-like temperatures with 27 C (80.6 Fahrenheit) registered in Sarajevo on Saturday.  Temperatures hit 5 Celsius (41 Fahrenheit) on Monday, causing traffic jams as people struggled to get to work.  The cold spell is forecast to last until at least the middle of the week, when the snow is expected to be replaced by heavy rain. - The Sacramento Bee.


PLANETARY TREMORS: Powerful 6.2 Magnitude Quake Rocks Northern Chile - The Tremor Damaged Walls, Shattered Windows and Knocked Out Power as Far as Peru!

A magnitude-6.2 magnitude earthquake damaged walls, shattered windows and knocked out electricity in parts of far-northern Chile and the Peruvian city of Tacna but no injuries or major damage were reported. 

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake, which occurred at 6 a.m. local time (6 a.m. EDT; 1000 GMT), was centered 66 miles (107 kilometers) northeast of the city of Arica 98 kilometers (61 miles) underground. It was also felt in the Peruvian city of Arequipa and in the Bolivian capital of La Paz, 120 miles (200 kilometers) away.  Some neighborhoods in Tacna, a city of 200,000 66 kilometers (44 miles) from the epicenter, suffered brief power outages, city officials said. Tacna's deputy civil defense chief, Jose Luis Vera, reported broken windows and rocks shaken loose onto highways but no injuries or serious damage. 

The Chilean government emergency agency said about 250 people fled into the streets of Arica when the shaking started, but then returned to their homes. Arica's port and airport were functioning normally and Chile's Hydrographic and Oceanographic Service discounted the possibility of a tsunami.  Tarapaca region Gov. Jose Durana said walls fell in some sectors and some roads were blocked by the quake, which also cut power to more than 3,000 homes in Arica. Power also was cut for a time in the Peruvian city of Tacna.  A magnitude-7.1 quake struck central Chile on March 25 and in 2010, a magnitude-8.8 quake caused a tsunami that obliterated much of the downtown area of the coastal city of Constitucion. - Las Vegas Sun.


WEATHER ANOMALIES: Unusual Cold Weather Wipes Out Two of Morocco's Primary Crop Exports - Over 20,000 Hectares of Potatoes and Sugarcane Destroyed!

An unprecedented cold spell that struck Morocco in February and continued to linger well into March has raised serious questions about the country's national agricultural development programme, which will fail to achieve its desired results if climate change continues to be mismanaged.

Snow in Morocco earlier this year.
The 'Green Morocco Plan' was launched last year with the aim of remedying major obstacles that still hinder development of the agricultural sector, tackling everything from ensuring food security for 32 million Moroccans, to meeting the requirements of European markets, the biggest consumers of Moroccan produce. However, the Plan does not do a thorough job of diagnosing climate factors, citing only drought, which it considers 'periodical', as an impediment to successful farming. The report does not address the sudden and unexpected arrival of cold weather, whose damages have been no less than disastrous.

Last February, more than 8,200 of the country's 8,700 hectares of potatoes, were ravaged. A further 14,000 of about 21,000 hectares reserved for sugarcane were also blighted by the cold. This is particularly significant since potatoes and sugar are two of Morocco's primary export commodities. ''We have never seen such a degree of cold. All that we worked for was completely destroyed," Ahmed El Aiboudi, a farmer from the Ouled Frej region, 120 kilometres south of Casablanca, said.

"We were not protected against this icy cold. Nobody expected it," he added. Nevertheless, for climatologists, such changes have been inevitable. Mohammed-Said Karrouk, professor of climatology at Hassan II Mohamedia University and a United Nations expert on climate change, told IPS, "The Green Morocco Plan does not contain any (concrete mention of) management of climate change. All that is considered is the management of water resources, (but what is really needed) is a method for managing the totality of the changes."
- Africa Review.


FIRE IN THE SKY: Fireball Streaks Low and Slow Over Valley, Fargo - Seen From Several Northern States!

Valley sky watchers and anyone who happened to be outside at about 10 o'clock Friday night were treated to a special sight.

File photo.
This is what viewers have reported on the Valley News Live Facebook page:  Kyle Wayne Erickson, "We seen it in Hope, it was at 10:02, we were all sitting on the deck and seen it, it was moving slow, looked like it was literally no more then a couple hundred feet over the trees. Had a HUGE bright colorful tail behind it, that was a once in a lifetime sighting, was the coolest thing I'd ever seen!!"  Jeremy Southwick, "Just saw a fantastic meteorite falling westward over West Fargo! Somebody go find it!"  Alex Wilkowski, "It came and went very slow for a shooting star, I didn't think many would see it. It was so low."  Some have also reporting hearing a crackling noise and seeing it break up into pieces. 

What you saw Friday night was a fireball, which is a brighter than normal meteor. Reports are coming in from North Dakota, South Dakota, Manitoba, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Most shooting stars are the size of specks of dust to pebbles.  Based on how bright it was reported to be, experts believe this to be the size of a softball.  The larger the object, the brighter as it burns through the Earth's atmosphere. Fireballs are pretty rare events, so consider yourselves lucky!  - Valley News Live.


PLANETARY TREMORS: Seismic Swarm - Six Quakes Jostle Santa Clara County, California?!

Six earthquakes rang through Santa Clara County over the last week, with the strongest coming out of San Martin early Sunday morning.

The U.S. Geological Survey map of Santa Clara County's earthquakes over the last week.
That one registered a 2.2 on the Richter scale, according to the U.S. Geological Survey website.  The two-point tremor, which struck at 4:25 a.m., had an epicenter just eight miles northeast of Gilroy.  On May 8, a 1.2 shaker hit five miles northeast of San Martin, about nine miles northeast of Gilroy.  The closest quake to hit near Campbell, Los Gatos and Cupertino was a 1.1 tremor one mile southeast of Saratoga. That one struck May 9 at 2:29 a.m.  Los Altos also saw its fair share of tremors this week, with a 1.7 one striking May 8 just three miles south of the city.

The epicenter was four miles west of Cupertino. The next day, a 1.5 quake hit three miles south of Los Altos again.  A 1.6 rounded out Los Altos' earthquake hat trick on May 11 when it struck, once again, three miles south of the city and just three mils west of Cupertino.  Four quakes also shook up Gilroy's neighbor to the south, Hollister, in the last week.  The first, on May 6, registered a 2.8 on the Richter scale, while the second was a less-intimidating 1.2. That one went down at just before 4 p.m. on May 10 and was followed by a 1.4 shaker four hours later.  The last quake to rock Hollister struck at 7:29 a.m. the morning of May 11 and registered an even 2.0. - Gilroy Patch.


EXTREME WEATHER: Arizona Wildfire Grows to More Than 4.5 Square Miles - Prompts Mass Evacuations!

Firefighters battled a growing wildfire Monday in northern Arizona that has forced residents from their homes in a historic mining town just weeks ahead of the busy tourist season.

A fire blazes Saturday in Arizona’s Tonto National Forest, near Payson, Ariz.
The fire has grown to more about 4 1/2-square miles.
The fire in Crown King began on private land Sunday and grew to more than 4 1/2 square miles, destroying two buildings and one trailer, Prescott National Forest spokeswoman Debbie Maneely said.  The blaze started at a "structure" and was human-caused, she said.  Crown King is a popular destination for all-terrain vehicles because of its numerous hills and gorges. It is located in the mountains more than 85 miles north of Phoenix.  The fire, and several others burning in Arizona, follow a warning from state land managers that hot temperatures and dry vegetation have created a very high fire risk in some areas.  The Crown King area remained under a mandatory evacuation order, though authorities said most of the town's 350 residents had chosen to stay in the community of mostly summer homes. Maneely said most residents likely were staying with family and friends. An American Red Cross shelter in Mayer, Ariz., which is about 24 miles north, has reported three evacuees.  Expected hot and windy weather could make containment difficult, Maneely said. 

Greg Flores, owner of The Prospector shopping center and president of the Crown King Chamber of Commerce, said he helped a couple and their pug dog flee during a house fire.  It wasn't immediately clear if the house was the one where authorities say the wildfire began.  "The whole house was fully engulfed," Flores said, adding, "There were flames over 100 feet tall when we got up there."  Flores said that the fire had turned a ridge black, destroying much of the forest there.  "It's just horrible," Flores said.  Flores and his wife had to leave their home around 2 a.m. Monday after ash began raining down. They spent the night on the floor in the store and have since been able to return home.  The fire overtook a portion of Crown King Road, making the road to the mountain town inaccessible, a sheriff's office statement said.  Flores said most residents own four-wheel drive vehicles and many were using them to access back roads due to the main road's closure.  With more than 400 cabins that draw weekend visitors, Flores said, he's glad this fire didn't break out during the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.  Another large fire, more than 120 miles northeast of Phoenix, was spotted Saturday in Tonto National Forest, where it burned nearly 5 square miles. Authorities have yet to determine a cause. - MSNBC.


EXTREME WEATHER: Northeast Ohio Wine Grapes Have Been Devastated by Hard Freeze - Over 80 Percent Destroyed by Frozen Conditions Not Seen in 60 Years?!

It was what grape growers in Northern Ohio feared the most. Early Sunday morning, temperatures in the Grand River Valley vineyards of Lake and Ashtabula Counties dropped into the lower and middle 20s. That's not just a quick frost. That's a hard freeze. By 9 that morning, most of the primary buds, the growth that gives you the best fruit, were black and shriveled, killed by freezing temperatures.

"It was devastating." said Mary Jo Ferrante-Leaman, of Ferrante Winery in Geneva. "There was just nothing we could do." Leaman said the freeze killed 80 percent of this year's wine grape crop. Ferrante Winery farms 45 acres of vinifera grapes in the prestigious Grand River Valley appellation east of Cleveland. The grape vines began growth early this year due to an extremely warm March. Growers at several area wineries have battled eleven different frost or freeze events from late March through the month of April. All had managed to save the majority of their crops. That is, until Sunday morning. "We have 6 large wind machines to mix the air and keep the grapes warm," Leaman said, "but once the temperature drops below 28 degrees for more than a couple of hours, freeze damage begins." Temperatures early Sunday were well below freezing for more than 6 hours. "We haven't seen a freeze like this in at least 12 years," said Leaman. Similar reports are coming in from nearby Vineyards as well. Growers at St. Joseph's Winery & Chalet Debonne report similar devastating losses.

Gene Sigel farms 170 acres of wine grapes in Lake and Ashtabula Counties. He said Monday's cold "pretty much destroyed the whole 2012 vintage for our wine farmers." Sigel supplies grapes to several wineries in the area. "Vines that were brilliant green on Saturday afternoon," lamented Sigel, "were turned to dry lifeless shoots by the frost on Sunday morning. Fields that stretch as far as the eye can see are simply all dead." Vines will grow new buds in a few weeks, Sigel said. The fruit on these buds will be smaller and of lesser quality. "Fields that froze this week have not frozen in 50-60 years in our area." he added, "In my case I just bought 54 acres of a neighboring farm last year that has never really frozen like this. The previous owner is 93 years old and has owned the farm I bought since 1956 and never experienced this complete a frost."  Mary Jo Ferrante is hoping for the best. "With the secondary fruit set, we might be able to produce about a third of what we normally do." Ferrante Winery averages about 110-thousand gallons of wine per year. "We won't have any signature or reserve wines this year." she said. On top of that, the cost of saving the grapes keeps mounting. Ferrante just spent $5,000 on propane for the wind machines. "More frosts are still possible." said Ferrante, "We've got to save the grapes we have left." - News Channel 5.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Magnitude 5.0 Earthquake Strikes the Andreanof Islands, Aleutian Islands, in Alaska!

Alaska is one of the most seismically active parts of the United States, and early Monday morning residents near Andreanof Islands in the Aleutian Islands received a reminder of that fact when a magnitude 5.0 earthquake hit on May 14, 2012 at 02:45:22 am UTC.


The tremor was located at 51.639°N, 174.999°W with a depth of 26.7 km (16.6 miles) and was felt across the entire area of the state.  According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the epicentre was 83 km (51 miles) southwest of Atka, Alaska; 117 km (72 miles) southeast of Adak, Alaska; 1862 km (1156 miles) southwest of Anchorage, Alaska; and 2628 km (1632 miles) west of Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada.

No tsunami warning was issued and there are no reports of any damage or injuries at this time.

Located along the "Pacific Ring of Fire," Alaska regularly experiences earthquakes although most are small and not felt. The boundary of the North American and Pacific tectonic plates that runs through south-central Alaska and the Aleutian Islands is where most of the activity occurs. The Alaska Earthquake Information Center (AEIC) says that the state receives from 50 to 100 earthquakes a day. Three of the 10 largest earthquakes recorded in the world, all larger than magnitude 7.9, have been recorded in Alaska.

EARTH CHANGES: One-E - First Tropical Depression Forms in Eastern Pacific!

The eastern Pacific hurricane season begins Tuesday, May 15th and it appears the atmosphere has jumped the gun by a day.

Tropical Depression One-E.
As AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Eric Leister recently pointed out, a system roughly 580 miles southwest of Acapulco, Mexico as a candidate for the 2012 season's first tropical cyclone in the eastern Pacific. Tropical Depression One-E has formed in this area and could soon become Eastern Pacific Tropical Storm Aletta. At 8:00 a.m. PDT, the system was located near 9.8 North and 105.9 West with sustained winds estimated near 35 mph. We have been observing clusters of thunderstorms fluctuating in strength in the region during the past several days. One particular cluster of storms is located within a low pressure area and remains in a favorable zone for additional development with low wind shear and sufficiently warm water.
Tropical Depressone One-E is located near the left side in this National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite photo.
At some point over the next couple of days we may have the first tropical storm of the season in the waters surrounding the Americas, provided a low level circulation continues to evolve. According to Tropical Weather Expert Dan Kottlowski, "Investigations of the system, including satellite microwave technology, over this past weekend proved to be inconclusive."  The technology provides the ability to detect low-level circulation of a storm system through thick cloud cover and where no surface or aircraft observations are present.  "During this past weekend, the area of disturbed weather had a circulation in the mid-levels of the atmosphere, but not the low levels," Kottlowski said. In order for a system to be truly tropical and develop as such, it needs to have a circulation in the lower levels of the atmosphere.  This process was beginning today.  Steering flow will direct the system almost due west, away from Mexico and Central America. The clock is ticking on the favorable zone for further development and survival for the system.  "After a couple of days the system would encounter cooler water and likely significant wind shear," Kottlowski said.  At any rate, the system is not a threat to land. - Our Amazing Planet.

MASS ANIMAL DIE-OFF: Mystery off the Pacific Coast of South America - What's Killing the Dolphins and the Pelicans?

Just what is killing all the dolphins? And the pelicans? And what has chased all the fish away?  It's been a mystery for months on the Pacific coast of Peru, where the local government says it has found 900 dolphin carcasses and something like 4,500 pelicans. It's been bad enough that the country's health ministry ordered 1,500 miles of beaches closed. 

Two men measure the carcass of a dead dolphin on a beach near Chiclayo, Peru.
And while it may all seem very far away from the United States, scientists from around the world have been watching. People in the area say the government has been slow to take up the bodies, and slower to solve the puzzle.  Which leaves a lot of room for finger-pointing. Every group has its own explanation for the animal deaths:  The government has said the dolphins died of disease: "The most probable hypothesis is the possibility of an infection with a virus," Deputy Environment Minister Gabriel Quijandria told The Associated Press.  Environmental groups say dolphins' inner ears were literally fractured by seismic blasts set off by U.S. oil prospectors: "The ears were soaked in blood. That's not normal when you examine a bone," said Dr. Carlos Yaipen-Llanos, president of the activist group Orca.  Other scientists wondered about agricultural runoff or heavy metals from mining near rivers, though the Peruvian Sea Institute said it did not find unusual chemical concentrations in animals it autopsied.  Actually, more than one argument may be right; some biologists say the dolphins and the birds probably died for different reasons. But the theory that's been gaining the most traction in recent days involves the global climate. And if it's accurate, then Peru seems a little less far away. 

Remember the El Nino phenomenon? An El Nino is a giant patch of warm water, thousands of miles long, that periodically appears along the equator in the Pacific. It alternates with a La Nina -- a patch of unusually cold water. They are large enough to alter weather patterns around the world; during El Nino periods, for instance, jet streams, picking up energy from the steamy Pacific, can tear apart hurricanes in the Atlantic -- good news if you live on the coast between Texas and the Carolinas.  The Pacific has just moved from a La Nina period -- cold water on the equator -- to a relatively neutral phase, but it did it unusually quickly, and that got meteorologists thinking.  "It's pretty warm out there," said Jim Andrews, an operational meteorologist at AccuWeather, the Pennsylvania-based private weather forecasting service. "I'm not a biologist, so I can't draw a straight line from the ocean temperature to the birds' deaths. But I wanted to offer the possibility that there's a connection."  Off the Peruvian coast, where it is now autumn, ocean temperatures have been reported to be 10 degrees Fahrenheit above normal for this time of year. Sea animals can survive that -- but some have trouble adjusting. 

Several biologists have suggested that because of the temperature change, anchovetas (a type of anchovy) have been moving into deeper water to stay cool. That's fine for them -- but they're a dietary staple of pelicans, which can no longer dive down far enough to reach them for food. Carlos Bocanegra, a biologist at the National University of Trujillo, said he did analyses of 10 young dying pelicans, and found their digestive tracts were either empty or contained fish the pelicans don't normally eat.  The theory holds water because pelican die-offs have happened before. AccuWeather's Andrews said that in 1997, just as an El Nino period began, there was a major die-off.  "It's not rare that this occurs," said Patricia Majluf, a former deputy fisheries minister. "It looks ugly because this has occurred at the same time and place [as the dolphin deaths]."  The Climate Prediction Center of the National Weather Service in the U.S. says that by the end of summer in the northern hemisphere, El Nino should return full-force to the Pacific. No saying yet what it could mean for the dolphins and the birds of the South American coast. - ABC News.

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Massive Fish-Kill in the Periyar River in India, Triggers Alarm - Second Time in a Week?!

For the second time in a week, massive fish deaths were reported from Pathalam belt in river Periyar, triggering alarm and protests. 

File photo.
Dead fish were found in bunches on the banks of river on Saturday morning. The local residents and councillors of Kadungalloor panchayat alerted the district Pollution Control Board officials who came and collected the samples of water and fish.  Local residents, fishermen, panchayat members and green activists of Periyar Malineekarana Virudha Samithi (PMVS) blocked the PCB officials when they came to collect the samples, in protest against the negligent attitude of the authorities in checking continuing fish deaths. 

Later, police arrested the group of protesters led by panchayat members Joshy, Shiney Sajan, Geetha Sunil, Kabeer, Sudha Devi and activists of PMVS, Anwar C.I., Sainudeen Edayar and Mahesh. According to environmental experts, low level or absence of oxygen is the major reason for the recurring fish deaths in Periyar.  A similar incident was reported on last Monday on the banks of river Periyar. Earlier, on May 3, fish deaths were reported on the banks of river Muttar, a tributary of Periyar. As per the report of the Pollution Control Board, the fish deaths were caused by lack of dissolved oxygen in river water and by entry of polluted water containing decayed waste into the river. - Deccan Chronicle.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Sinkhole Swallows SUV in North Conway Village, Arkansas!

A sport utility vehicle parked in a lot in North Conway Village fell into a sinkhole on Friday morning after the ground under the pavement became undermined. 

A car sank into a hole in the parking lot at T.D. Bank in North Conway Friday morning.
An employee of Priscilla's Country Cafe left her blue 2007 Dodge parked in a space between the restaurant and the T.D. Bank office, but by 7:30 a.m., officials said, its passenger-side front tire had buckled the pavement.  The pavement under driver's side was also clearly undermined, Conway Police Sgt. Russell McLauchlan said, and it wasn't long before that side also fell into the three-foot deep hole. The vehicle sat perched, its front tires in the hole, its rear tires on the pavement, the undercarriage against the jagged edge of the pavement.

Officials blame the sinkhole on an old storm drain or old septic tank buried several feet down. The tank provided a space for the soil to move into, creating a void beneath the pavement. The weight of the vehicle then led the pavement to buckle. The undermined section spanned two parking spaces, Sgt. McLauchlan said.  The vehicle itself didn't sustain much damage when the pavement collapsed and it went in the hole, according to officials.  "Getting it out of there was the problem," Sgt. McLauchlan said. The front bumper, wheel wells and running boards all suffered as a tow truck pulled it out, North Conway Fire Chief Pat Preece said.  The area was marked off and a construction crew was called in immediately to deal with the hole. - Conway Daily Sun.


GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Icelandic Volcano Warming Up For Eruption - Small Glacier Flood Continues At Katla!

The following constitutes the latest update from Jon Frimann, on Iceland's Katla volcano:

The harmonic tremor that started on 28. April 2012. This is Lágu Hvolar SIL station. 
It seems that Katla volcano is warming up for a eruption. As I did mention in last blog post. But there is more to this. As the glacier flood that started on the 28. April 2012 continues according to a email that I got from an geologist working at Iceland Meteorological Office. But that suggests two things. That there is currently an ongoing melting of glacier taking place in Katla volcano, or there is a slow drainage taking place from some area in Mýrdalsjökull glacier. But given increased conductivity following this it is clear that this water has been in contact with magma. But that can be seen with the increased conductivity in the water. There have not been many earthquakes following this events. But from the earthquakes that have happened. It seems that most likely source for current events is close to or the same area that erupted in July 2011. But at the moment this is just speculation based on limited data. It has not been confirmed so far.
This plot shows clearly how the harmonic tremor starts and continues at same level for several days. I do not know if the harmonic tremor is ongoing. But I find it likely, if the small glacier flood is currently going on (that was my last information, but things might have changed during the day). But it is hard for me to know that for sure. But based on latest data from the water monitoring system around Katla volcano, the spike in this glacier flood is most likely over for now. But it impossible to know what happens next in Katla volcano. All that can be done is to wait and see what happens next. - Jonfr.