Tuesday, January 19, 2016

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Extreme Weather Alert For The U.S. Northeast - Forecasts Converging On Severe, Potentially HISTORIC Friday-Saturday High-Impact Snowstorm; National Weather Service Raises Winter-Storm-Threat Scale To Its HIGHEST LEVEL! [MAPS]


January 19, 2016 - UNITED STATES - A high-impact snowstorm for the region is nearing inevitability and there is some chance it will be historic, paralyzing travel and disrupting normal routines.

Every major computer model is now forecasting double-digit snowfall totals for the D.C. area Friday and Saturday.


GFS forecast model simulation at 7 p.m. Friday night. (WeatherBell.com)


The agreement among forecast models for a severe winter storm in this case is remarkable and a hallmark of some of our most memorable snow events. However, this storm is still three days from starting, which means there is time for shifts.The National Weather Service has raised its winter-storm-threat scale to its highest level. It warns there is potential for significant travel delays, closures, and threats to life and property, and is urging residents to start planning ahead.


The storm-threat assessment from the National Weather Service for Friday and Friday night. It is the same for Saturday, though not shown.


Snow is forecast to begin between Friday morning and afternoon. The heaviest snowfall and most difficult conditions are likely to start late Friday afternoon into Saturday.

In addition to heavy snow, the combination of wet snow and high winds are possible Friday night through Saturday, which could lead to power outages.

Exactly how much snow falls and where is sensitive to the exact storm track, which will invariably jump around a bit.
As areas along and east of Interstate 95 will be close to the snow-sleet-rain line, these shifts could well have profound implications on specific amounts and the overall storm impact.

There is still a small chance the storm tracks far enough to the southeast that this is more of a moderate snowstorm rather than a blockbuster.

As such, we are not yet in position to forecast specific snow amounts, but rather provide percent likelihoods of different totals.



(The Washington Post)


D.C. metro-area snow probabilities:
Chance of at least 1 inch: 90 percent
Chance of at least 4 inches: 75 percent
Chance of at least 8 inches: 65 percent
Chance of at least 12 inches: 50 percent
Chance of at least 20 inches: 15 percent

For amounts of greater than 4 inches, add 10 percent to these probabilities north and west of the Beltway, and subtract about 10 percent east and southeast of the Beltway.

Confidence is high and growing higher that areas north and west of a line from around Warrenton to Fairfax to Rockville to Columbia should see mostly snow and very heavy amounts.  Twenty inches or more — as simulated by many models — are not out of the question.
Read below for the range of scenarios in the context of the computer model forecasts.

Storm scenarios


Scenario 1: Severe snowstorm. Most likely, 55 percent chance.

This scenario offers a low tracking across the South and then strengthening off the Mid-Atlantic coast. Such a track helps facilitates the funneling of cold air southward east of the mountains, which keeps the precipitation snow across the area except for parts of southern Maryland.

This scenario would produce a crippling snowstorm with accumulations of 1 to 2 feet across much of the area with near-blizzard conditions possible, especially northeast of the city. The strong winds and possibility of wet snow near the rain-snow line also raises the possibility of power outages.


Canadian model forecast simulation at 7 a.m. Saturday. (Environment Canada)


Last night’s Canadian, GFS and European models and the majority of European ensemble members offered such a forecast. There are still questions about whether the snow would start by Friday morning’s rush hour. Last night’s GFS argued that it might start across the western suburbs early enough to possibly affect rush hour, while last night’s
European model and today’s NAM would argue for a later start.  A start time mid-morning to early afternoon seems more likely than the GFS’s early start.

Regardless, Friday night’s rush hour would probably be a mess.

The city would probably grind to halt Saturday with snow continuing throughout the day and into the night. According to some models, light snow could linger over some locations into early Sunday morning.

Unfortunately, this severe scenario seems the most likely.

Last night’s European ensemble model does a good job of illustrating how bullish the majority of the models are concerning substantial snow (see below).


(WeatherBell.com)


The figure above shows the percentage of the 50 European ensemble members (models with slight differences to their initial conditions or physics) that were predicting greater than 12 inches of snow across the area. The European snow product tends to be a little overly bullish but still, it’s an impressive display of how much potential this storm has to produce over a foot of snow.

The one important caveat to note is that the upper-level disturbance that is supposed to produce the storm is still over the Pacific, where the data are not as good as over the United States, so there still is potential for change to the forecasts.

Scenario 2: Snow to mixed precipitation. Somewhat likely. 35 percent chance.

In this scenario, the storm produces significant snow west of the city but mixes with or changes to rain after a period of snow. The rain or mix would then change back to snow depending on how quickly the storm deepens as it moves away from us.

In this scenario, the initial low tracks to Tennessee or Kentucky and then either is slow to deepen east of the mountains or the emerging coastal storm tracks a little too far west for precipitation to stay all snow.

As of last night, all the high-resolution operational models had moved away from this solution, but such a scenario still is possible.

A few members of the European and American (GFS) model ensemble were predicting a snow to sleet or rain event. Such a scenario would give the District accumulating snow, but how much would depend on how quickly the changeover occurred and whether the rain or mix changed back to snow.

How much snow falls in such changeover situations is always tricky. Such a solution still could produce heavy snow on the order of 6 to 12 inches for the city and lesser amounts to the south and east.

In such a scenario, there would probably be some travel problems on Friday into Friday night, but rain could alleviate those problems by later on Saturday along and east of I-95. Areas west of I-95 and especially north and well west and north of the Beltway would still experience a heavy snowstorm in this scenario.

Scenario 3: Moderate snowstorm. Unlikely. 10 percent chance.

The storm tracks across the south and then track far enough south and east off the North Carolina coast to keep the heaviest precipitation south and east of us. In this scenario, the storm doesn’t develop quickly enough to deliver heavy snow. Light to moderate snowfall would affect the area, with the heaviest snow occurring south and east of the city. Snowfall would probably be modest, more on the order of 6 or 8 inches. Model simulations have been moving away from this possibility. Of the three scenarios, this is the least likely one.


WATCH: Major winter storm set to hit Northeast.



- Washington Post.





GLOBAL VOLCANISM: MONSTER ERUPTIONS - Panic As Two Volcanoes EXPLODE Simultaneously Causing Mass Evacuations!

Thousands may have to be evacuated if the situation worsens. Getty

January 19, 2016 - GLOBAL VOLCANISM - Major evacuations have been sparked by the SIMULTANEOUS eruption of two volcanoes - included one of the world's most feared - spewing toxic gas and ash clouds for miles.

The two volcanoes are thousands of miles apart but are on the edge of the same tectonic plate – the Phillippine Plate – sparking fears of a major seismic shift, more volcanic activity and even earthquakes and tsunamis.

More than 1,200 people have been evacuated from within a 1.9-mile containment zone around Mount Egon in Kupang, eastern Indonesia - one of the most volcanic parts of the globe.

It was followed moments later by the eruption of Zhupanovsky on Russia's eastern coast which spewed lava FIVE MILES into the air.

The latter explosion is likely to affect air traffic in Russia, but the huge ash cloud is also drifting east over the Pacific Ocean so the impact on flights could be much worse.

In Asia, officials distributed thousands of gas masks to villagers around the volcano on eastern Flores island amid fears of a major eruption as the choking fumes worsened.

All residents living within the containment zone have been ordered to evacuate, while roads bringing traffic in have been closed.

Mount Egon is considered a very active volcano and is in the top ten of the potentially deadliest in the event of a major eruption.

More people living further from the volcano may have to also flee if the situation gets worse, disaster officials have warned.


Many climb the peak, despite it being considered a very active volcano. YouTube

In Russia, the Institute of Volcanology and Seismology in the Kamchatka area earlier issued a "code orange" warning the eruption was under way, and warning aircraft to avoid flying near the exploding peak.

Fortunately, the volcano is 42 miles from populated areas, and the emergency services said ash had yet to reach any homes.

A spokesman for the institute said: "Today at around 4.30pm [3.30 am GMT), the Zhupanovsky volcano spewed ash to the height of up to five miles above sea level.

Last autumn, Express.co.uk reported how tests were being carried out on the impact of volcanic ash getting into a jet engine, because the true effects are still not known despite the global chaos caused by the Icelandic ash clouds in 2010.


WATCH: Spectacular Guatemala volcano eruption - Fuego spits lava into night sky .




"The ash column could be seen with the naked eye from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and some other settlements.

"At the moment, the ash cloud has spread 12 miles and it continues moving towards the ocean."

Zhupanovsky is one of the least studied volcanoes in the region despite its proximity to a large city.

It is composed of four overlapping cones, the highest of which reaches 2,958 metres.


Smoke spewing from holes in the side of Mount Egon. YouTube

Silvanus Tobi, disaster mitigation official, said: "We are on a high alert and ready to evacuate any time."

There have been fears of a big eruption after the volcanic activity began a month ago.

Activity increased over the weekend, before locals began to leave the area.

The last eruption, in 2008, saw a 3.6-mile high plume of toxic ash and material blasted into the air.

There are 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia on the Ring of Fire - a belt of seismic activity running around the basin of the Pacific Ocean.

Last month Express.co.uk reported on fears from scientists that a major eruption of one of the world's bigest volcanoes is on the cards in the next 80 years, but world leaders are woefully unprepared to deal with the Earth-changing disaster. - Express.




PLANETARY TREMORS: U.S. West Coast Earthquake Warning As Cascadia Subduction Zone Surges - Ocean Data Buoy Shows Water Column Height Fell Sharply Off The Coast Of Oregon; Land Beneath The Ocean Has "SUDDENLY SUNK"!


January 19, 2016 - PACIFIC NORTHWEST - An ocean data buoy is alerting to an "event" in the Cascadia Subduction Zone off the west coast of Oregon. This is where a magnitude 9 earthquake hit in 1700.

According to the data buoy, the water column height (depth) fell sharply within minutes off the coast of Oregon, signaling the land beneath the ocean has suddenly "sunk."   Here are the graphs showing what the ocean data buoy recorded:





As of 0231:30, the initial water column height is 2738.80 Meters deep (8985.56 feet).  Two minutes and thirty seconds later, that same water column height had dropped to 2738.66 Meters deep (8985.10 feet).  Where did the four inches of water disappear to?  Answer:  The earth sunk; and continued to sink for the next several HOURS.  As you can see from the second chart above, from 0230 GMT to 0600 GMT, the ocean continued to sink to 2737.7 meters deep (8981.95 feet).  The buoy is too far away from shore to be affected by high/low tide, so where did the four feet of ocean water disappear to? 

This means a Tectonic Plate in the Ocean named the "Juan de Fuca Plate" has made a sudden, eastward movement and slipped beneath another Tectonic Plate named the "North American Plate." 

This type of event is usually followed by a massive upward movement of the North American Plate causing a very severe earthquake.


Here's a map of the relevant Tectonic Plates:




In the year 1700, a similar movement of plates is believed to have been the cause of a Magnitude 9.0 earthquake, which devastated the west coast of north America, and generated an ocean Tsunami that washed inland upwards of ten MILES!

FOUR MEAGER FEET OF WATER? Lest you think that four feet of ocean depth is nothing to be concerned about, be reminded that the entire column of water . . . all 8985 feet of it . . . is what dropped four feet.  And it did so over an area several miles wide!

When the tectonic plate snaps back upward, it can launch that entire 8985 foot column of water upward and toward the shore!




As the continental shelf rises toward the shore (the ocean gets more shallow) that 8985 foot column of water starts accumulating upon itself as it moves toward shore, becoming one massive wave, perhaps 45-50 feet tall, that hits the shore for twenty minutes!

Now do you see why this is a big deal?

If such a thing were to happen today, thousands of people would be killed as a  wall of water came ashore well inland passing Interstate 5 and destroying everything its path from the beach to Interstate 5.

UPDATE NOTE: This claim comes from Kenneth Murphy, who directs the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA’s) Region X, the division responsible for Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska, who is quoted in "The New Yorker" magazine as saying, “Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast.”

Here is a map of I-5, everything to the left of it (to the west) would be wiped out:




Mount Hood Volcano Can Be Triggered to Erupt

This type of Tectonic Movement has a direct effect upon the volcanos in the Cascadia Volcanic Chain, in particular, Mount Hood.

When the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate goes beneath the North American plate, it begins to get crushed.  The heat from the friction of the two massive plates rubbing together, melts the Juan de Fuca plate into Magma (lava).

UPDATE:  The graphic below, taken from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) web site - and labelled "USGS" by them - explains how things work in this situation.


Directly next to the Cascadia Subduction Zone is the Mount Hood Volcano.  Here's a graphic to show you the relevant details:





All along the Cascadia Subduction Zone are volcanoes.  Most of them are inactive, but some are quite active.  Here is a map of the volcanoes in the Cascade Mountains Range, so you have an understanding of the pressure relief valves (volcanoes) created over millions of years by these two tectonic plates scraping together.  Mount Hood is to the right (east of) Portland, Oregon...

UPDATE: The image below was provided by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) web site and is labelled by them.




There is a magma tunnel leading directly from the Cascadia Subduction Zone straight up into Mount Hood!  As the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate is being crushed (right now) it is melting into magma (lava).  Whether or not there is enough magma to cause Mount Hood to erupt is unknown.

DO NOT PANIC - There is no tsunami or volcanic eruption at this time.

There has merely been an "event" in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Oregon in the Cascadia Subduction Zone.  This is a very rare occurrence with serious implications.  It is worthy of very close monitoring by persons in the potentially-affected areas.  This event is a potential warning of a POSSIBLE pending large earthquake on the west coast.  There could also be an eruption at Mount Hood.

Folks in Washington, Oregon and northern California as well as in Vancouver, British Columbia, CANADA, should make certain they are prepared to take emergency action in the event a major quake does strike.

Full Historic Background and Detailed Explanation - Scary Stuff

Most people in the United States know just one fault line by name: the San Andreas, which runs nearly the length of California and is perpetually rumored to be on the verge of unleashing “the big one.” That rumor is misleading, no matter what the San Andreas ever does. Every fault line has an upper limit to its potency, determined by its length and width, and by how far it can slip. For the San Andreas, one of the most extensively studied and best understood fault lines in the world, that upper limit is roughly an 8.2—a powerful earthquake, but, because the Richter scale is logarithmic, only six per cent as strong as the 2011 event in Japan.

Just north of the San Andreas, however, lies another fault line. Known as the Cascadia subduction zone, it runs for seven hundred miles off the coast of the Pacific Northwest, beginning near Cape Mendocino, California, continuing along Oregon and Washington, and terminating around Vancouver Island, Canada. The “Cascadia” part of its name comes from the Cascade Range, a chain of volcanic mountains that follow the same course a hundred or so miles inland. The “subduction zone” part refers to a region of the planet where one tectonic plate is sliding underneath (subducting) another. Tectonic plates are those slabs of mantle and crust that, in their epochs-long drift, rearrange the earth’s continents and oceans. Most of the time, their movement is slow, harmless, and all but undetectable. Occasionally, at the borders where they meet, it is not. . . .

Read the rest of this terrifying detailed article in "The New Yorker" Magazine  HERE

- SS95.





PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Baby Born With DEFORMED HEAD In Hawaii - The First United States Case Of Mosquito-Transmitted Zika Virus!

Mosquito-borne disease that may be responsible for causing under-developed brains and skulls in newborns has prompted
public health emergency in Latin American and the Caribbean.

January 19, 2016 - HAWAII, UNITED STATES - US health officials have confirmed that a baby born with brain damage in Hawaii tested positive for the mosquito-transmitted Zika virus that has been sweeping Latin America and the Caribbean. Pregnant women are advised to postpone traveling plans.

Zika is believed to cause microcephaly, or a dramatically shrunken head, in newborns, which prevents babies’ brains from developing properly.

There is no vaccine or treatment for the virus as of yet and what makes matters worse is that the symptoms in infected pregnant women are not that obvious: a slight fever, headaches and a rash that last up to a week.

The problem is worsened by the fact that initial ultrasounds of a fetus could be normal and the microcephaly is only detected toward the end of the pregnancy.

“These are newborns who will require special attention their entire lives. It's an emotional stress that just can't be imagined,” Angela Rocha, a pediatric infection expert at Oswaldo Cruz Hospital, told CNN in December.

The first newborn to be born with the virus in the US was tested for Zika after he had been born with microcephaly. It is thought the mother became infected with the virus while in Brazil in May 2015. The diagnosis was confirmed Friday.




So far, six people have tested positive for the virus in Hawaii and although US health officials state that these people are not infectious, there is caution that the situation may change.

“It’s important for us to understand that there are going to be imported cases of Zika to the United States and we won't be surprised if we start to see some local transmission of the virus," the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesperson, Tom Skinner, told Reuters.

The CDC strongly advises pregnant women to avoid traveling to Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela and Puerto Rico. The travel alert was issued Saturday.

Near the end of 2015, six Brazilian states had to declare a state of emergency and ask people to postpone having children.

“This is an unprecedented situation, unprecedented in world scientific research,” the Brazilian Health Ministry said on its website, estimating the latest outbreak between 0.5 and 1.5 million cases in the country altogether.

The pathogen, known as Zika virus, was first discovered in Uganda in the 1940s in forest monkeys. The transmitter of the Zika virus, Aedes aegypti mosquito, is also known for spreading such diseases as chikungunya fever, dengue fever and yellow fever. - RT.




SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: "A QUIRK Of The Universe" - Rare Planetary Alignment Set For January 20; Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter And Saturn Will Appear In A Line, Visible To The Naked Eye!


January 19, 2016 - SPACE - From January 20 to February 20, all five visible planets will sit in a line from the horizon to the moon - for the first time since 2005.

Dr Alan Duffy, research fellow at Swinburne University in Melbourne, said that this reasonably rare alignment is “essentially a quirk” of the universe.

All the planets sit on a flat plane but have different yearly cycles – so for all five visible planets to happen to line up is “something well worth seeing,” he said.

According to Dr Tanya Hill, senior curator at the Melbourne Planetarium, there will be another chance to view the planets lined up in August, but then not again until October 2018.

From Wednesday 20 January, star gazers will have a 5.30am-5.40am AEDT (Australian Eastern Daylight Time) window to get the best view of the alignment.


Venus brightest of 4 morning planets now. http://bit.ly/1Jax6ar  When Mercury joins this week, there will be 5!
Twitter: EarthSky


Venus and Jupiter will be easiest to see and Mars, while a little harder, will have a distinctive red glow to look out for.

“The big challenge will be Mercury,” said Alan. Because Mercury is so close to the horizon, there is only a small time period when it has appeared before the sun comes up.

Tall buildings and trees could also block your view of the final planet.

Alan’s advice is to find as clear a horizon as possible and, most importantly, a dark sky. While it isn’t impossible in the city, light pollution and sky scrapers will make the viewing much harder.

The alignment will be visible from 20 January until 20 Feburary and Alan suggests to go out on more than one day to watch the event if you don’t quite catch it the first time.


Mark you calendar: FIVE planets visible in AM sky over DC Jan 24. http://wapo.st/1RHsMm3 
Twitter: Capital Weather Gang 

“There are only a few amazing things in the night sky that can be seen without any equipment,” Alan said, adding that it is worth the early morning rise.

Tips

  • The alignment will be visible to the naked eye from 20 January from 5.30am-5.45am AEDT until 20 February 5am-6am AEDT.
  • Hold your arm up in a straight line from the horizon to the moon and the planets should fall along that line.
  • Try to find a flat horizon and a dark sky.
  • Don’t give up! It may take more than one early morning to see the full alignment.

- Australian Geographic.





PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Swine Flu Grips Russia - Hundreds Hospitalized, First Deaths Recorded!


January 19, 2016 - RUSSIA - Although doctors say that the outbreak of AH1N1 flu in Russia is “seasonal”, many are finding little solitude in this: In St. Petersburg alone, more than 100 people have been taken to hospital and several deaths have been reported.

“The number of swine flu cases is higher than before,” Tatyana Zasukhina, a health official in Saint-Petersburg, told TASS news agency Monday. “There have also been several deaths among those diagnosed with flu. Those were people who suffered serious complications.”

Over 500 people have been taken to hospital with flu symptoms in the city branded Russia’s “northern capital”, and 123 turned out to have swine flu.

Since the beginning of the year, at least 10 people have died of the virus and the subsequent pneumonia it causes, according to the Flu Research Institute’s estimates. Media reports state that there have been new deaths almost every day in central, western and southwestern parts of the country.

A 50-year-old patient in Yekaterinburg, in Russia’s Urals region, died of the deadly virus on Monday, while a 44-year-old woman is currently in intensive care. Several hospitals in the region as well as in the neighboring Khanty Mansiysk region have been placed under quarantine.

In Volgograd, southern Russia, four people have been killed by the virus, while in Adygeya, also in the south of the country, six people have died. In North Ossetia, several schools and kindergartens have suspended activities due to the flu outbreak, reports Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

While in Russia the spread of the flu is still beyond epidemic levels, reports of an increase are also pouring in from across the globe.

Up to 16 people have been killed by the deadly disease in Armenia, according to PanArmenia.net. Residents of Cyprus have been warned not to panic despite a few people showing signs of swine flu.

Also, a few days ago, a school boy in Stoke-on-Trent, UK, was reported to have demonstrated signs of the illness, reported the Telegraph.

The AH1N1 virus strain was first discovered in the 1930s. It is termed swine flu as it is very similar to flu viruses that affect pigs.

Symptoms of swine flu include a cough and a fever which lead to rapid pneumonia and possible respiratory failure. Swine flu is contagious and spreads in the same way as seasonal flu via tiny droplets in air and on surfaces contaminated by the infected person coughing or sneezing.

It is recommended that people see the doctor as quickly as possible when symptoms are first identified. They include fever, fatigue, coughing and sore throat – and at times vomiting and diarrhea.

In 2009, over 150,000 people died from the same virus strain, scientists concluded. While in 2015 the disease hit India affecting over 31,000 people and claiming more than over 1,800 lives. - RT.




GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: Precursors To A Global Financial Collapse - China's Full-Year Economic Growth Hits 25-YEAR LOW!


January 19, 2016 - CHINA - China's economic growth edged down to 6.8 percent in the final quarter of 2015 as trade and consumer spending weakened, dragging full-year growth to its lowest in 25 years.

Growth has fallen steadily over the past five years as the ruling Communist Party tries to steer away from a worn-out model based on investment and trade toward self-sustaining growth driven by domestic consumption and services. But the unexpectedly sharp decline over the past two years prompted fears of a politically dangerous spike in job losses.

Full-year growth declined to 6.9 percent, government data showed Tuesday. That was the lowest since sanctions imposed on Beijing following its crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement caused growth to plummet to 3.8 percent in 1990.

The October-December growth figure was the lowest quarterly expansion since the aftermath of the global financial crisis, when growth slumped to 6.1 percent in the first quarter of 2009. Growth in the July-September quarter of 2009 was 6.9 percent.

Growth in investment in factories, housing and other fixed assets, a key economic driver, weakened to 12 percent in 2015, down 2.9 percentage points from the previous year. Retail sales growth cooled to 10.6 percent from 2014's 12 percent.

"The international situation remains complex," said Wang Bao'an, commissioner of the National Bureau of Statistics, as a news conference. "Restructuring and upgrading is in an uphill stage. Comprehensively deepening reform is a daunting task."

Growth was in line with private sector forecasts and the ruling Communist Party's official target of about 7 percent for the year.

Beijing responded to ebbing growth by cutting interest rates six times since November, 2014, and launched measures to help exporters and other industries. But economists note China still relies on state-led construction spending and other investment.

December exports shrank 1.4 percent from a year earlier, well below the ruling party's target of 6 percent growth in total trade. For the full year, exports were down 7.6 percent, a blow to industries that employ millions of Chinese workers.

Forecasters see indications retail sales and other activity accelerated toward the end of 2015, suggesting Beijing's efforts to put a floor under the downturn are gaining traction.

"The growth picture remains two-sided. The real estate construction slump and weak exports continued to weigh on activity," said Louis Kuijs of Oxford Economics in a report.

"Meanwhile, though, consumption continued to expand robustly, supported by solid wage growth," said Kuijs. "The robust growth in the consumption and services nexus is key for policymakers. They need it to avoid labor market stress."

Spending on online commerce grew by 33.3 percent over 2014. Wang said the share of total economic activity accounted for by consumption rose to 56.4 percent, up 15 percentage points from 2014.

Forecasters expect economic growth to decline further this year, with the International Monetary Fund targeting a 6.3 percent expansion. - Huffington Post.






PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: United States Issues Travel Advice Over Zika Virus In The Caribbean - Cautions Pregnant Women To Reconsider Travel; Virus Confirmed In Guyana, Barbados And Haiti; And Jamaica Advises Women To Delay Pregnancy Due To The Disease!

The Aedes Aegypti mosquito that transports the virus is found throughout the Caribbean region.

January 19, 2016 - CARIBBEAN - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued travel alert for people traveling to the Caribbean and other areas that have confirmed transmission of the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

And with the virus linked to birth defects, the CDC has advised pregnant women that out of an abundance of caution, they should consider postponing travel to the areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing: Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico.

The Level 2 alert, which indicates that travelers are advised to practice enhanced precautions – follows reports in Brazil of microcephaly – a rare condition in which the brains of infants are unusually small –
and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant.

According to Brazilian health authorities, more than 3,500 microcephaly cases were reported in Brazil between October 2015 and January 2016. Some of the affected infants have had a severe type of microcephaly and some have died.

The CDC stressed that additional studies are needed to further characterize the relationship and more studies are planned to learn more about the risks of Zika virus infection during pregnancy, but “until more is known, and out of an abundance of caution, CDC recommends special precautions for pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant”.

“Pregnant women in any trimester should consider postponing travel to the areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Pregnant women who must travel to one of these areas should talk to their doctor or other healthcare provider first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip,” it said.

“Women trying to become pregnant who are thinking about becoming pregnant should consult with their healthcare provider before traveling to these areas and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the trip.”

The advice from the CDC to travelers is that they wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants; use insect repellants; use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents); and stay and sleep in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms.

Zika causes a dengue-like illness, with symptoms that include fever, headache, skin rash, red eyes, and muscle ache, and it is usually mild and does not require hospitalization. Four in five people who acquire Zika infection may have no symptoms.

There is currently no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika.

Locally acquired Zika was reported for the first time in Brazil in May 2015, and the virus has since been reported in 14 countries and territories in Latin America and the Caribbean.


Zika virus confirmed in Guyana and Haiti

Guyana and Haiti have confirmed that the mosquito-borne Zika virus has reached their shores.

Guyana’s Minister of Public Health Dr. George Norton made the disclosure in the National Assembly yesterday that tests carried out by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) confirmed that a 27-year-old woman had contracted the virus.

The sample was sent to the Trinidad-based CARPHA on January 4 and the confirmation came on Tuesday.

Norton said his ministry has taken steps to prevent a major outbreak, including fogging exercises, household inspections, and educational initiatives.

The news of the discovery of Zika in Haiti came from communicable disease and health analysis director at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Marcos Espinal, at a press conference yesterday.

But he has urged residents not to panic.

“The Zika virus isn’t a cause to go crazy. The diagnosis is for monitoring. The main thing here is to control the vectors (mosquitoes). The virus shouldn’t cause alarm among the population,” he said, according to the Dominican Today.

Espinal added that the focus should be on prevention and education, trash collection and getting rid of the mosquitoes.


Three Zika virus cases confirmed In Barbados

Barbados has recorded its first cases of the Zika virus.

According to the Ministry of Health, of eight samples sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) for testing, three returned positive and five negative for the virus.

No details were given about the patients, or whether they had contracted the virus in Barbados or abroad.

The Ministry pointed out that persons might be unaware that they have the virus, as they might not develop any symptoms. It therefore advised everyone, including pregnant women and women of child-bearing age, to avoid exposure to mosquitos.

However, unlike officials in Haiti and Brazil, Barbadian health officials gave no special warning to pregnant women against the background of an apparent link between the virus and microcephaly, a rare condition in which the brains of infants are unusually small.

- Caribbean 360.


Jamaica advises women to delay pregnancy due to Zika virus

Jamaica's health minister is advising women to delay plans to become pregnant for the next six to 12 months due to the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

The island has not even recorded any cases of Zika, which is spreading in the Americas and is suspected of causing over 3,500 babies to be born with brain damage in Brazil.

But Health Minister Horace Dalley says it's just a matter of time before the dengue-like virus makes it to the island. It is already confirmed in nearby Haiti.

Dalley said Monday in a statement that pregnant women should take extra precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

Growing evidence links Zika to microcephaly, a rare condition in which newborns have smaller than normal heads and their brains do not develop properly. - CTV News.






GLOBAL VOLCANISM: "Volcanic Eruptions Are Relatively Common In This Area Of The World" - Scientists Uncover Evidence Of Large Volcanic Activity In The Caribbean!


January 19, 2016 - CARIBBEAN - Scientists from the University of Southampton have uncovered evidence of a previously unknown large volcanic eruption in the Caribbean Sea.

The university says on its website that by studying ash layers, known as tephras, in marine sediments they identified an eruption that took place on Guadeloupe 2.4 million years ago.

The research, published in the journal Geology, indicates this eruption is the largest documented volcanic event in the region since that time.

Lead author, Professor Martin Palmer of the University of Southampton, said: “Volcanic eruptions are relatively common in this area of world, but while they are very disruptive for the local community, as seen on Montserrat over the past 20 years, they do not generally have a major impact on neighboring islands. While a large eruption of the scale that we have identified would represent an important hazard to human populations in the wider region if it occurred today, it is very important to note that our research suggests that such events are rare in the Lesser Antilles – there is no indication that another large eruption is imminent.”

The research team analyzed a sediment core recovered by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) Expedition at a site 30km southwest of Montserrat and 75km west of Guadeloupe in the northeastern Caribbean Sea. This is close to several volcanically active islands in the Lesser Antilles. The core contained an unusually thick (18 cm) tephra that was deposited 2.4 million years ago.

By analyzing the isotopes, trace elements and grain morphology of the tephra, together with volcanological models, the researchers were able to identify the origin and magnitude of the large VEI (Volcanic Explosivity Index) 6 eruption. In comparison, the largest Montserrat eruptions since 1995 had a VEI of 3-4.

“Reconstructing the magnitude of past volcanic eruptions is important to inform predictions about future eruptions and hazards. This is difficult to accomplish from records on land – old eruptions are often eroded away, buried beneath later eruptions, or obscured by vegetation and soil. Most volcanoes are close to the oceans, so much of the erupted material falls into seawater and accumulates on the seafloor,” Professor Palmer added.

“It is important to continue these types of study as they allow scientists to build a more complete picture of conditions required to generate unusually large eruptions in settings where they are normally much smaller.”

The research was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and IODP. - Caribbean 360.






RATTLE & HUM: Increasing Signs Of Magnetic Polar Migration And Precursors To The Black Celestial Event - Compilation Of Loud, Inexplicable And Mysterious Sounds Heard Across The United States?! [VIDEO]


January 19, 2016 - UNITED STATES - The following video is a compilation of news reports about the mysterious loud sounds heard across the United States.

WATCH: Mysterious loud booms heard across the United States.



- Earth Sky.





SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: Weather Phenomenon - Stunningly Massive Roll Clouds Seen Texas To Oklahoma, As Magnetic Polar Migration Escalates! [PHOTOS + VIDEOS]

Roll cloud in Norman Oklahoma on January 17, 2016. Paxton Storm Chasing

January 19, 2016 - SOUTHERN UNITED STATES - Weird weather phenomena are currently increasing in the US skies.

Look at these giant roll clouds tumbling across the sky from Texas to Oklahoma on January 16 and 17, 2016. After the cross in the sky in Michigan and the full circle rainbow in North Carolina, these rare and beautiful roll clouds were spotted sweeping throught the sky of Texas to Oklahoma on January 16 and 17, 2016.

Roll clouds are just one of the weird weather phenomenon that can happen when winds go wild. Here a video showing the rare cloud formation over Norman, Oklahoma:
@spann @JimCantore Roll cloud in Norman, OK this morning. #okwx pic.twitter.com/HnNFsLv1l8

— Jason Myers (@JasonMWX) January 17, 2016
Roll clouds are a type of arcus cloud, which is a category of low cloud formations.


Roll cloud in Norman Oklahoma on January 17, 2016. Paxton Storm Chasing

Roll cloud in Norman Oklahoma on January 17, 2016. Paxton Storm Chasing

Roll cloud in Oklahoma on January 17, 2016. Brandon Whiteside via Shelby Hays

Roll cloud in College Station, Texas on January 16, 2016. Glenda Acevedo-Graham via Johnatan Erdman

Roll cloud in Cypress, Texas on January 16, 2016. Karen Cash via Mark Torello

Roll cloud near Houston, Texas on January 16, 2016. Brittney Garneau via Mark Terallo

These tubular clouds sometimes form along with storms born out of the storm's downdraft. This roll cloud was filmed over Houston, Texas, on January 16, 2016:
TAKE A LOOK AT THIS! Not your normal everyday clouds in Spring, TX. (Video courtesy of Scott Engle). Send your weather photos to news@abc13.com or hashtag #abc13eyewitness #abc13

Posted by ABC 13 Houston on Saturday, January 16, 2016
Sinking cold air causes warm, moist air on the planet's surface to climb to higher altitudes, where the moisture condenses into cloud form.







TAKE A LOOK AT THIS! Not your normal everyday clouds in Spring, TX. (Video courtesy of Scott Engle). Send your weather photos to news@abc13.com or hashtag #abc13eyewitness #abc13
Posted by ABC 13 Houston on Saturday, January 16, 2016



Video of Clouds in College Station, TX 1/16/2016.
Posted by Glenda Acevedo-Graham on Sunday, January 17, 2016



Winds from the storm "roll" the cloud parallel to the horizon, creating an effect that looks much like a horizontal tornado. And that video shows them in College Station, TX on January 16, 2016:
Video of Clouds in College Station, TX 1/16/2016.

Posted by Glenda Acevedo-Graham on Sunday, January 17, 2016
Rolls clouds are completely detached from the bulk of the storm. Therefore they aren't dangerous in themselves. - Strange Sounds.




MASS ANIMAL DIE-OFF: Cthulhu-Geddon - Thousands Of Dead Squid Wash Up On Beach In Chile?! [PHOTOS + VIDEO]

© Anne Margaret Eley / Facebook

January 19, 2018 - CHILE - Thousands of dead squid have washed up on the Chilean shores of Santa Maria Island over the past week. The reason for a mass die-out of these large cephalopods is so far a mystery.

The mass death has prompted health concerns locally as around 10,000 decomposing squid bodies have invaded a beach on the small island, causing something of a stench, according to Latin Correspondent

Technicians from the Chilean National Service for Fisheries and Aquaculture (Sernapesca) have collected samples of the dead squid and water for analysis in specialized centers.

Experts say the phenomenon may have been caused by higher than usual seawater temperatures, but have not ruled out pollution either.

The arrival of dead fish and mollusks on Santa Maria’s beaches at this time of year is not unusual, but this is the first time it has reached biblical proportions.

Experts and local police are working to evaluate the scale of the situation and determine whether it could cause a sanitary emergency.



Twitter: Jorge Luis Palacios

Twitter: Jorge Luis Palacios

Heavy machinery was brought in by the Chilean government to remove the dead squid on Wednesday, five days after they began to appear.

The delay has been blamed on the country’s poor emergency response structure.“God help us that the children do not get sick from the smell,” said one resident in an interview with Reuters.


WATCH: Thousands Of Dead Squid Are Washing Up In Chile.




Deputy Police Chief Mario Grandon said that the squid have been rotting for nearly a week.

“Experts are coming here to determine whether the incident could cause sanitary emergency, which is probable, given the quantity of squid that have washed up here,” he said.

Rodrigo Valencia of the National Fishing and Agriculture Service says preliminary evidence suggests the squid died and washed up on shore due to a phenomenon called “upwelling.” This refers to a situation when dense, cooler and usually nutrient-rich water moves towards the ocean surface, replacing the warmer, usually nutrient-depleted surface water.

“It was caused by an upwelling, due to a drop in oxygen levels, which led to the death of these creatures,” Valencia said. - RT.




ICE AGE NOW: Global Cooling Continues Relentlessly - Massive "SNOWNADO" Snow Shaft Photographed Off The Coast Of Aberdeen, UK; Winter Shows Teeth In Greece As BRIDGE COLLAPSES, Snow, Strong Winds And Rainfall; BRUTAL Cold Grips U.S. Midwest, Sweeps East With Snow Squalls, 10-20ºF BELOW NORMAL; Heavy Snowfall Grounds HUNDREDS Of Flights And Closes The Bosporus Strait To Tankers Turkey; SEVERE Situation In Bulgaria And Romania As Blizzards, Snow, Floods And Strong Winds WREAK HAVOC; Heavy Snowfall Causes TRANSPORT CHAOS In Japan, Over 250 People Injured; And MINUS 18 DEGREES CELSIUS In Italy As Ice And Snow Grips! [MAPS + PHOTOS + VIDEOS]

Scene from the 2004 film, The Day After Tomorrow.

January 19, 2016 - EARTH - The following constitutes several of the latest reports of extreme cold conditions gripping many countries across the globe, as global cooling continues relentlessly.

Snownado! A massive snow shaft photographed off the coast of Aberdeen, UK

© James Cheyne

A massive snow shaft has been photographed off the coast of Aberdeen today.

Reader Ian Cheyne's son James took the picture at around 10am from Hilton Drive.

Initially it was believed the weather phenomenon was a waterspout however it's now thought to be a snow shaft. - Evening Express.



Winter shows teeth in Greece: Bridge collapses, snow, strong winds and rainfall

© thetoc.gr

Bad weather collapses bridge. Snow down to the lowlands, cold, strong winds and rainfall for today, Sunday and Monday.

There was intense snowfall with strong winds in Kozani.The bad weather collapsed a bridge in Diava Kalambaka.


WATCH: Bad weather hits Greece.






As transmitted by trikalaola.gr, eyewitnesses of the collapse of the bridge were the Deputy Head of Trikala, Mr. Christos Michalakis and Thessaly Regional Councillor, Mr. Boutinas.

Thanks to Argiris Diamantis for these links. - Ice Age Now.


Brutal cold gripping midwest U.S. to sweep east with snow squalls; 10-20ºF below normal



Brutal cold gripping the Midwest this weekend will sweep into the East to start the new week, ushered in by snow and localized squalls in the Northeast.

The new arctic blast will be the harshest the Midwest and East has experienced so far this season. According to AccuWeather Chief Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok, "The arctic deep freeze will last two to three days in most places."

Parts of eastern North Dakota, Minnesota and northeastern Iowa will not see temperatures climb above zero until Tuesday, making for a total of 72 hours of subzero readings since the weekend started.

Temperatures will dangerously drop under 10 below zero F Sunday and Monday nights in and around Minnesota with some communities near the Canadian border registering lows under 20 below zero F.


AccuWeather RealFeel temperatures will be life-threatening if people venture out without being properly dressed from the northern Plains to the Ohio Valley. The cold will not be as brutal when the arctic air grips the eastern U.S. early this week, but will still hold temperatures 10-20 degrees below normal Monday into Tuesday.

Subfreezing highs and biting winds will encompass the Northeast and mid-Atlantic both Monday and Tuesday, a stretch the I-95 corridor in the mid-Atlantic has not dealt with yet this winter.

"Washington, D.C., has not had a day during which temperatures stayed below freezing all day [so far this season]," AccuWeather Meteorologist Dave Samuhel said. "However, the city will have two such days Monday and Tuesday." The winds will create significantly lower RealFeel temperatures in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, which will bottom out down to or below zero to the I-95 corridor Tuesday morning.

"Residents in the Southeast will also be shivering from this arctic blast," Samuhel said. "In Raleigh, North Carolina, temperatures on Monday will be struggling to reach the mid-30s with a gusty winds making it feel closer to 20 F much of the day."

On Tuesday, highs will barely rise to near 50 F in Jacksonville, Florida. Highs in the Southeast in mid-January typically range from the lower 50s around Raleigh to the mid-60s in Jacksonville.

"The cold air will blast through parts of Florida recently affected by severe weather," said Samuhel. "Interior parts of South Florida will flirt with the upper 30s Monday night." Similar temperatures will follow for Tuesday night.

However, freezing nighttime temperatures will remain north of the major citrus areas.

Snow, localized squalls to precede arctic blast in Northeast, mid-Atlantic

Before the arctic air invades the East, parts of the Northeast will receive snow into the start of the new week.

According to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson, "As the leading edge of the arctic air races southeastward, flurries and highly localized bursts of snow can occur." The snow showers and localized squalls will press eastward to West Virginia, northern and western Pennsylvania and western New England Sunday night. 




The bursts of snow and sudden drop in visibility can catch motorists cruising along on the highways by surprise. Roads can go from dry to wet and then snow-covered in a matter of minutes, including on stretches of interstates 70, 79, 80, 81, 86, 87, 90 and 99.

Snow squalls have been responsible for multi-vehicle pileups in the past. Motorists are urged to allow extra stopping distance between the preceding vehicle.

Ahead of the arctic blast, another storm system is causing the weekend to end with snow grazing New Jersey and the southern New England coast.

A coating of snow gave New York City its first measurable snowfall of the season late Sunday. An inch or two will further whiten the New Jersey coast and eastern Long Island.

Roads will mainly stay wet. Slick spots may develop, mainly on bridges and overpasses as the snow is falling. Other lingering wet areas in the mid-Atlantic may turn icy into Sunday night as temperatures drop below freezing.

As the storm system from the southern mid-Atlantic passes by to the southeast and the arctic air arrives, a band of snow will develop from eastern Massachusetts to southern Maine Sunday night into Monday morning. This includes Boston and Portland, Maine. A total of 1-3 inches will accumulate and create slick travel for the morning commute. When the arctic air settles over the East during the rest of Monday and Tuesday, most of the snow will be confined to places downwind of the Great Lakes and the northern Appalachians. Significant lake-effect snowfall is expected.

The harsh cold will ease across the Midwest and East beginning at midweek. However, enough cold will be in place for snow to spread from the central Plains to the Ohio Valley Tuesday into Wednesday.

While this snow will likely fizzle east of the Appalachian Mountains, another storm will have to be monitored for the possibility of turning into a snowstorm for the Ohio Valley, mid-Atlantic and Northeast as the new weekend approaches. - AccuWeather.


Heavy snowfall grounds hundreds of flights in Istanbul, Turkey

The view of Istanbul's Süleymaniye Mosque from the Galata Bridge that crosses the Golden Horn. © Sabah / Metin Arabacı

Heavy snowfall has swept northwestern Turkey, grounding hundreds of flights, disrupting ground transport and closing schools in Istanbul.

Turkish Airlines announced the cancellation of 250 international and domestic flights to and from Istanbul's Ataturk and Sabiha Gokcen airports on Monday.

The airline also canceled at least 149 flights scheduled for Tuesday.

The snow began Sunday evening and is expected to continue until Tuesday night, according to Turkey's General Directorate of Meteorology, which also warned of heavy rainfall and a risk of flooding in southern Turkey.

The governor of Istanbul, Vasip Sahin, said on Twitter that schools would remain closed on Monday. Rough sea conditions also disrupted ferry services.

A cold snap in Istanbul over the New Year left thousands of passengers stranded, but temperatures had been milder recently.  - ABC News.


Bosporus Strait closed to tankers due to heavy snowfall, Turkey

Winter view to Bosphorus, Istanbul

The Bosporus Strait has closed to tankers Monday afternoon due to heavy snow in the region, local port agents said.

"Authorities have notified [us] that the Bosporus traffic has been closed on January 18 at [4.06 pm local time] due to heavy snowfall," Boutros Maritime and Transport said.

According to local agents, there were seven tankers due to pass through the Bosporus in a northbound direction Monday, and 13 due to pass through going South.

The Bosporus and the Dardanelles together form the only commercially navigable transit route between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.  - Platts.


Severe situation in northern Bulgaria because of snow, floods and strong winds

Flooding Bulgaria

Strong winds in northern Bulgaria, causing blizzards and snow drifts, hampered traffic in northern Bulgaria on January 18, with many roads closed.

Heavy snowfall and rains in several parts of Bulgaria at the weekend led to declarations of states of emergency in some municipalities, as serious winter weather conditions also hit Bulgaria's neighbouring countries Turkey, Greece, Romania and Serbia.


The state of emergency that had been declared at the weekend in Bulgaria's Smolyan municipality was lifted on the morning of January 18 but partial emergencies remained in place in the municipalities of Rudozem, Devin and Dospat.


WATCH: State of emergency in Bulgaria.




The head of Bulgaria's Road Infrastructure Agency, Lazar Lazarov, said on the morning of January 18 that roads in western Bulgaria were passable provided that vehicles were prepared for wintry conditions but traffic in north-eastern Bulgaria still had difficulties.In parts of northern Bulgaria, visibility was down to zero as strong winds drove blizzards and snow drifts.

The roads between the Danubian city of Rousse and the town of Shoumen, and between Silistra and Shoumen, were closed. On the stretch of Hemus Motorway between Shoumen and Varna, there was a ban on the movement of heavy vehicles.


Blocked road, Bugaria. © BGNES


Flooding at the Kapitan Andreevo border checkpoint led to traffic being diverted to the Lesovo checkpoint, Lazarov said.

Several dozen villages in the municipalities of Mezdra and Roman remained without electricity.

In the municipality of Lovech, several villages also had no power, and electricity distribution company teams had worked through the night to restore supply, local media said.

The port of Varna was closed because of strong winds.

In various municipalities in Bulgaria, schools were closed on Monday although classes in most major cities were proceeding as normal.

In Sofia, the head of the capital city's municipal inspectorate, Veska Georgieva, issued a reminder that those who failed to clean the snow from in front of their residences and offices could face fines ranging from 50 to 500 leva for individuals and from 700 to 2000 leva for juristic persons.

According to Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandukova, snowfall through the night had resulted in snow cover in places in the city of 40cm, in some places up to 50cm.
Sofia's Pirogov emergency hospital said that about 250 people had sought medical treatment at the weekend for fractures of the wrist, shoulder, ankle or hip, causing by falling in the icy conditions.

Elsewhere in South Eastern Europe, heavy snowfall and strong wind prompted Turkish Airlines to cancel 246 domestic and international flights from Atatürk Airport, including to Bulgaria, and Sabiha Gökçen Airport. In Romania, schools in Bucharest were closed on January 18. In Greece, a 47-year-old man was found dead by rescuers after his car was swept away by a flash flood in Serres, with the country having been hit by severe heavy rain at the weekend. - The Sofia Globe.


Blizzards wreak havoc in Romania and Bulgaria, ports closed

A man clears snow during a blizzard outside the Gara de Nord, the main railway station in Bucharest, Romania, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016.© Associated Press

Heavy snowfall and strong winds closed Romania's Black Sea ports including the main port of Constanta, and shut dozens of roads while snowstorms and torrential rains cut electricity to hundreds of towns in Bulgaria, authorities said on Sunday.

Blizzards dumped up to half a metre of snow in 12 hours in Romania, disrupting trains and forcing authorities to shut down all schools in Bucharest and nearby counties.

There were no reports of victims but emergency services said they were prepared to intervene, with about 6,000 policemen, gendarmes and firefighters currently involved in various missions across the country, the interior ministry said.


Sofia residents dig their cars out from the heavy snow in Sofia, Bulgaria, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016. After weeks of unseasonable weather with spring-like temperatures,
a cold spell gripped Bulgaria on Sunday. Snow blanketed the Balkan country Saturday night with up to 15 inchesin some areas and temperatures going
down to – 10 degrees Celsius, (14 degrees Fahrenheit).
© Associated Press

Snowfalls are not expected to ease until Monday in Romania and forecasters predict temperatures will fall to below minus 18 degrees Celsius next week.Dozens of villages in southern Romania were left without electricity after trees and strong winds brought down power lines.

Heavy snowfall in northern and central Bulgaria and torrential rains in the southern part of the Balkan country have left tens of thousands of people in over 1,000 villages and towns without power, Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova said.


WATCH: Blizzards wreak havoc in Romania and Bulgaria.




An avalanche blocked a road linking the Bulgarian capital Sofia with the northwestern town of Montana. The heavy rainfall in southern Bulgaria closed the border checkpoint with Turkey, triggered mudslides and caused flooding in several villages. - Reuters.


Heavy snowfall causes transport chaos in Japan; 250 people injured

Children walk to school amid heavy snowfall in Chofu, western Tokyo, on Monday morning© KYODO

Heavy snow in eastern and northeastern Japan wreaked havoc with transportation systems and injured about 250 people Monday as central Tokyo was blanketed with 6 cm.

At least 40 people were sent to hospitals in Tokyo alone, and another 30 were reported injured in Saitama Prefecture, police and fire departments across the region said.

Over the 24 hours through 6 p.m. Tuesday, up to 100 cm of snow is forecast to fall in Hokkaido and the Hokuriku region, 70 cm in the Tohoku and Tokai areas, 50 cm in the Chugoku region, and 40 cm in the Kanto and Koshin regions, according to the Meteorological Agency.

The low-pressure system responsible for the snow was predicted to remain through Tuesday, especially along the Sea of Japan coast.

The land ministry urged people to prepare for heavy snow in the affected areas and refrain from going out unless necessary. Snow tires and chains for cars were also recommended. The snow temporarily brought services on the Joetsu and Hokuriku shinkansen lines to a crawl, affecting approximately 30,000 passengers, while a slowdown of services on the Tokaido Shinkansen Line inconvenienced around 11,000 people.

Japan Airlines Co. and All Nippon Airways Co. cancelled 197 domestic flights in total, affecting more than 16,000 people.


The Chuo Expressway was closed in some areas of Nagano and Yamanashi prefectures.

East Japan Railway Co. also canceled some express and local trains on the Chuo and Oume lines.


WATCH: Heavy snowfall causes transport chaos in Japan.




In Suginami Ward, Tokyo, a minivehicle overturned and the driver, a man in his 60s, suffered a broken right arm. In Chikusei, Ibaraki Prefecture, a 22-year-old man injured his head after his car slipped and collided with an oncoming truck, police said.

Unaccustomed to the snow and ice, many people in urban areas suffered minor injuries in falls.

Thousands of morning rush-hour commuters were stuck on crowded station platforms or aboard trains as the weather disrupted the rail network.

Brimming with passengers waiting to board trains, people were seen unable to pass through ticket gates at Shinjuku, Shibuya and other major stations.

Even the normally subdued Motohasunuma Station on the Toei Mita Line in Itabashi Ward, Tokyo, was packed with commuters waiting for trains at around 9 a.m.

The line reduced the number of operating trains, causing delays of roughly 60 minutes.

"I just called my company that I won't make it to the office in time," a male employee in his 30s said in a resigned tone while waiting for a train he could squeeze into. "I've already passed over four consecutive trains but still can't get on. ... This is amazing."

On the Keio Inokashira Line, the usual 15-minute commute from Mitakadai to Shibuya Station took nearly 75 minutes after the operator halted express services and reduced the number of trains.

The disruptions also forced a group of young female travelers from Yamagata Prefecture at JR Shinagawa Station to look for alternatives to their plans.

"We were hoping to visit the Studio Ghibli Museum (showcasing the anime of Hayao Miyazaki) in Mitaka (western Tokyo), but we assumed it would take too much time to get there," a 25-year-old woman said. "We were just discussing how best to spend our time here as we have to go back home today."

A 50-year-old American man in Tokyo for a business trip, said as he was heading to JR Osaki Station he was surprised to see such heavy snow in the capital.

"It's scary. I've been to Japan many times, but I've never seen something like this," he said.  - The Japan Times.


Italy in the grip of ice and snow: Minus 18 degrees Celsius recorded in places

Snow in Italy.
© ANSA

Civil protection authorities issued a fresh weather alert for southern regions on Monday as much of Italy remained in the grips of heavy ice and snow.

"In the next few hours a low-pressure area arriving from the Atlantic will hit Sardinia before extending across southern regions during the day tomorrow, with rain and snowfall at low altitude and stronger winds," the warning said. Rain and snow were forecast in Basilicata, Calabria and Sicily in particular.

The civil protection department also issued a yellow warning for localised hydrogeological and hydraulic risk in Sicily, Calabria, Molise, much of Puglia and parts of Abruzzo.

Central and southern regions have born the brunt of the recent cold snap, with temperatures dipping to -18 degrees Celsius in some places. Schools remained closed on Monday in dozens of municipalities in the central Abruzzo region including the coastal city of Pescara due to heavy snowfall.


Similar conditions were reported in neighbouring Molise, where the situation was compounded by an ongoing earthquake swarm that began last week. Instead the sun shone on the central Marche region but roads remained dangerous due to ice.

In Sicily strong north-westerly winds caused disruptions to ferry and hovercraft connections between the northern port town of Milazzo and the Aeolian islands, where snow was reported on Stromboli, Salina and Lipari.

On Saturday night a woman in her final month of pregnancy had to be airlifted from Lipari to Milazzo after going into labour.


WATCH: Italy in the grip of ice and snow.




In the southern Campania region schools were closed in the province of Salerno, while in the provinces of Avellino and Benevento farmers belonging to the association Coldiretti rallied their tractors to help clear snow from roads. Meteorologists said the icy weather would last at least until the end of the week.

The cold hasn't spared northern regions either: in Tuscany municipal civil protection officers in Florence told citizens to brace for freezing temperatures Tuesday.

Elderly people were advised to take special care and only go outdoors in the morning, while the homeless were reminded that shelter was available for them.

Likewise municipal authorities in Rome were offering shelter, food, a shower service and a change of clothes to the homeless and needy under its 2015-2016 winter plan. - ANSA.