Sunday, May 30, 2010

No update Monday - Happy Memorial Day!

Few things are as immutable as the addiction of political groups
to the ideas by which they have once won office.
John Kenneth Galbraith

This morning -

Yesterday -
5/29/10 -

5/28/10 -

San Andreas-like fault found in eastern U.S., from New York to Alabama, may be 500 million years old. For 30 years geologists have been puzzled by a remarkably straight magnetic line that runs between New York and Alabama along the Appalachians. A more recent aerial magnetic survey of the Alabama end of the line suggests that it's probably a 500-million-year-old San Andreas-style fault that appears to have slipped 137 miles to the right in the distant past.
If so, it's no surprise that the most dangerous part of the eastern Tennessee seismic zone is right next to part of this magnetic line and has the second-highest earthquake frequency in the eastern United States. "It's most likely a strike-slip fault. But it's all buried. It's almost a needle in a haystack.”
The fact that the fault has not cut through the layers of earth above it and shown itself on the Earth's present surface suggests it's not active and so people can probably rest easy. However, the fault and fractures related to it are not incapable of quakes. In fact they are perfect places for stresses in the crust to be released, so long as they are weakened by water. This is, in fact, the likely secret to how all big and small mid-continent quakes can happen, so far from the more active and obvious zones where tectonic plates are smashing together. “The crust is full of fluids and looking for an excuse to break."

Major earthquake to hit Greece, if you can believe the frogs - Millions of frogs flooded Greece Thursday, specifically Athens. Traffic was disrupted, chaos caused. Eye witnesses claimed it looked like a "carpet of frogs"
It is well known that when frogs flood an area then there is a major earthquake on the way, at least that is what history shows us. Last year in Italy frogs started to gather days before a major earthquake hit Italy and killed almost 300 people. In 2009 when the earthquake hit Italy, a biologist studying the frogs in the area just before the earthquake hit, found that the toads fled to places of safety where they won't be washed away by floods or be injured by falling trees and other dangers. In 2008 frogs also predicted a major earthquake when they moved in the millions, a few days later parts of China experienced a massive earthquake that killed more than 10,000 people. (video)
Turks fear Greek toads of doom - They may just be looking for food and greener pastures. But in Turkey, the sudden movement of hundreds of thousands of frogs that forced authorities in neighbouring Greece to close down a major highway is seen as a sign that a devastating earthquake may be nigh. Earlier this week, a massive number of frogs, estimated by local authorities to be in the millions, flooded a road near the town of Langadas in northern Greece, about 200 miles west of the Greek-Turkish border. Police closed down the highway east of the city of Thessaloniki completely for two hours on Wednesday after some cars slid off the road as drivers tried to avoid hitting the animals. A day later, traffic was still slowed down by the frog migration, which was expected to continue for several days.
“Frogs on the highway – earthquake at the door”, said a headline in the Turkish Aksam newspaper. The newspaper pointed to recent findings by British scientists saying that there may be a connection between strange behaviour of frogs and a subsequent major earthquake. Toads at a site 46 miles from the Italian town of L’Aquila started showing “a dramatic change in behaviour” five days before a quake hit the L’Aquila region last year, “abandoning spawning and not resuming normal behaviour until some days after the event”. “It is unclear what environmental stimuli the toads were responding to so far in advance of the [earthquake], but reduced toad activity coincides with pre-seismic perturbations in the ionosphere, detected by very low frequency radio sounding."
Scientists say there is no way to predict earthquakes. But the public in Turkey, a country where tremors occur in some region almost every day and where around 20,000 people were killed by a massive quake in 1999, is very receptive to reports of alleged breakthroughs in earthquake prediction, especially if those observations are connected to unusual natural phenomena. After the 1999 quake in northwestern Turkey, which struck in the middle of the night, reports said animals like wolves and dogs displayed an unusual and excited behaviour shortly before the catastrophe.
People also look into space to find hints of a coming quake. Because the 1999 quake occurred just six days after a solar eclipse, a new eclipse in Turkey in 2006 triggered fears that another quake was about to hit. People in a central Anatolian province left their homes and moved into tents as a precaution, but the earthquake failed to materialise.
Greek authorities were quoted as saying that the toad movement near Langadas was a yearly event and that there was nothing to worry about. But that did not keep Turkish newspapers from drawing a connection between the hopping frogs and impending disaster.
Almost the entire territory of Turkey is though to be earthquake-prone, but although scientists say that Turkey’s metropolis Istanbul, a city of at least twelve million people, will probably be hit by a major earthquake at some point in the coming decades, authorities and citizens alike are slow to take safety measures. Tens of thousands of buildings in Istanbul, including schools and hospitals, are thought to be too weak to withstand a major tremor, and streets marked as emergency lanes to be kept open at all times for rescue teams to get through in case of an earthquakes are routinely clogged up by traffic and illegally parked cars. One estimate says around 70,000 people could die in an Istanbul quake.


Explosive eruptions shook two huge volcanos in Central and South America on Friday, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes and disrupting air traffic as ash drifted over major cities. Guatemala's Pacaya volcano started erupting lava and rocks Thursday afternoon, blanketing the country's capital with ash and forcing the closure of the international airport. A television reporter was killed by a shower of burning rocks when he got too close to the volcano, about 15 miles (25 kilometers) south of Guatemala City.
Meanwhile, strong explosions rocked Ecuador's Tungurahua volcano, prompting evacuations of hundreds of people from nearby villages. Hot volcanic material blasted down the slopes and ash plumes soared 6 miles (10 kilometers) above a crater that is already 16,479 feet (5,023 meters) above sea level. Winds blew the ash over the country's most populous city, Guayaquil, and led aviation officials to halt flights out of the Pacific port and from Quito to Lima, Peru. Neither of the eruptions was expected to disrupt airports in neighboring countries like Iceland's Eyjafjallajokul volcano did in Europe.
In Guatemala, at least 1,910 people from villages closest to the Pacaya volcano were moved to shelters. Some 800 homes were damaged in the initial eruption late Thursday. A second eruption at midday Friday released ash in smaller amounts from the mountain. In Guatemala City, bulldozers scraped blackened streets while residents used shovels to clean cars and roofs. The blanket of ash was three inches (7.5 centimeters) thick in some southern parts of the city. The government urged people not to leave their homes unless there was an urgent need.
The most active of Guatemala's 32 volcanos, Pacaya has been intermittently erupting since 1966, and tourists frequently visit areas near three lava flows formed in eruptions between 1989 and 1991. Eruptions at Tungurahua, 95 miles (150 kilometers) southeast of the Ecuadorean capital of Quito, buried entire villages in 2006, leaving at least four dead and thousands homeless.
The death toll from the eruption of the volcano in Guatemala
has risen to at least three people. Two villagers from El Bejucal and a reporter were killed as a result of Thursday's eruption of the Pacaya volcano. The three victims were crushed by rocks strewn by the volcano.
The Guatemalan President declared a state of calamity
for 15 days and called for calm as the eruption spread ash over the capital, prompting evacuations and shutting down the city's international airport. Four people were missing as evacuations continued. At least 1,800 people have been placed in shelters after four villages near the volcano were evacuated. The states of Guatemala, Escuintla and Sacatepequez were hardest hit. "The scene was chilling. All night, it was raining sand!" Pacaya had been dormant for a century until 1965, when it erupted again. Pacaya's eruptions usually last about six hours, but Thursday's was IT'S STRONGEST BLAST IN MORE THAN A DECADE with plumes of ash reaching almost 5,000 feet above the volcano's peak.

Scientists raised the alert level for Cleveland Volcano in Alaska's Aleutian chain after satellite data indicated thermal anomalies. The Alaska Volcano Observatory on Tuesday, May 25, raised the level to advisory status. There is no real-time seismic network at the volcano. Scientists say unrest there is frequent, and short-lived explosions with ash plumes up to 20,000 feet can occur without warning and may not be detected by satellites. Cleveland is about 940 miles southwest of Anchorage, on a remote and uninhabited island in the Aleutians chain. The last significant eruption of the 5,676-foot volcano began in February 2001 and eventually produced a lava flow that reached the ocean. There were minor eruptions in January, June and October 2009.

A second, much larger volcano in Iceland is showing signs that it may be about to erupt, scientists have warned. Since the start of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption, which caused cancellations of thousands of flights in Europe because of a giant ash cloud, there has been much speculation about neighboring Katla. "Analysis of the seismic energy released around Katla over the last decade or so is interpreted as providing evidence of a rising ... intrusive magma body on the western flank of the volcano...Earlier seismic energy release at Katla is associated with the inflation of
the volcano, which indicates it is close to failure, although this does not appear to be linked to seismicity around Eyjafjallajökull...We conclude that given the high frequency of Katla activity, an eruption in the short term is a strong possibility. It is likely to be preceded by new earthquake activity. Presently there is no unusual seismicity under Katla."
Icelandic President Ólafur Grímsson has warned governments around Europe that a significant eruption at the volcano is close. "We [Iceland] have prepared ... it is high time for European governments and airline authorities all over Europe and the world to start planning for the eventual Katla eruption." Katla has a crater three times as big as the Eyjafjallajokull volcano.
Too early to declare end to Iceland eruption - It is too early to declare the end of the eruption at Iceland's Eyjafjoell volcano even though it has not spewed ash since the beginning of the week, experts said on Thursday. "Usually, volcanic eruptions fade out gradually but that's not the case here. The eruption (under the) Eyjafjallajoekull (glacier) stopped quite abruptly so we're a bit hesitant to make any statements yet. We need more time to figure out what is happening there...Although there are currently no signs of the eruption starting again, we still can't be sure. But we are keeping a close eye on Eyjafjallajoekull, there's still some activity there but it's minimal. We also detect small changes in the GPS monitors, showing us that there is still some movements in the volcano but they are very, very small."
The ash plume from Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano, which crippled international air travel in April, held a shocking secret: an UNEXPECTED electric charge. Ash plumes directly over erupting volcanoes have been known to generate lightning, and electrically charged ash has been found in previous plumes up to 30 miles (50 kilometers) from their source volcanoes. But according to a new study, electric ash from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano was found a record 745 miles (1,200 kilometers) away from the eruption.
At that distance, it wasn't energy from the eruption itself that charged the ash. Based on the average size and shape of particles in the ash, "any initial charging that occurred would have decayed away many times over." In fact, ash from deep in the volcanic plume was still charged 32 hours after being spewed from the Iceland peak, which suggests that the charge was self-renewing, the scientists say. The discovery means that many volcanic ash plumes might be electrified, which could have implications for the air-travel industry. Prior research done with weather balloons had shown that desert dust storms can become electrified through a process of particle collision that is not yet completely understood. The same phenomenon may be at work with volcanic ash. Electrified ash could theoretically pose a risk to air traffic, because charged particles might interfere with radio transmissions. Also, if charged ash penetrates an aircraft cabin, it could create an electrostatic hazard to passengers and internal systems.

Tropical depression AGATHA was 90 nmi NW of Guatemala City, Guatemala.

Tropical Storm Agatha kills 16 in Central America - Torrential rains brought by the first tropical storm of the 2010 season pounded Central America and southern Mexico, triggering deadly landslides. The death toll stood at 16 Sunday, but authorities said the number could rise. Agatha formed off the coast of Guatemala on Saturday. Tropical Storm Agatha was dissipating over the mountains of western Guatemala, a day after it made landfall near the nation's border with Mexico with winds up to 45 mph (75 kph).
Although no longer even a tropical depression, Agatha still posed trouble for the region: Remnants of the storm were expected to deliver 10 to 20 inches (25 to 50 centimeters) of rain over southeastern Mexico, Guatemala and parts of El Salvador, creating the possibility of "life-threatening flash floods and mudslides." The rivers in the country's south were flooding or close to it. 4.3 inches (10.8 centimeters) of rain had fallen in Guatemala City's valley in 12 hours, the MOST SINCE 1949.
As of Sunday morning, 69,000 people in Guatemala had been evacuated, many to shelters. Some lost their homes the previous day in a landslide on a hillside settlement in Guatemala City that killed four people and left 11 missing.
Four children were killed by another slide in the town of Santa Catarina Pinula, about six miles (10 kilometers) outside the capital. And in the department of Quetzaltenango, 125 miles (200 kilometers) west of Guatemala City, a boulder loosened by rains crushed a house, killing two children and two adults. Other evacuees were moved from their homes to avoid potential slides officials feared might still come. A three-story building in northern Guatemala City fell into a sinkhole but there were no reports of victims.The community of Champerico had received 11.8 inches (30 centimeters) of rain in 30 hours. "It rained in one day what it usually gets in a month." Authorities have not been able to reach Champerico by "air, land or sea."
In El Salvador, President Mauricio Funes declared a "red alert," the highest level of emergency, after rains delivered by Agatha triggered at least 140 landslides throughout the country and killed two adults and a 10-year-old child. The exact cause of their deaths was unclear. The Acelhuate River that passes through the capital, San Salvador, had risen to dangerous levels and was threatening to overflow into city streets.
In Honduras, national emergency agency Copeco reported one man was crushed to death by a wall that collapsed in the town of Santa Ana, near the capital of Tegucigalpa. Flooding and slides destroyed 45 homes in the country and prompted authorities to evacuate 1,800 people.
Before the rains, Guatemala already was contending with heavy eruptions from its Pacaya volcano that blanketed the capital in ash and destroyed 800 homes. As if the eruption of the volcano Pacaya erupting not enough, Guatemala had two earthquakes all at the same time.

AUSTRALIA - As a second low pressure system descends on the New South Wales Far South Coast, towns are preparing for another burst of severe weather. The Bureau of Meteorology has compared this morning's winds to a category 2 cyclone, with speeds of up to 135km hitting Montague Island, near Narooma. The winds are set to pick-up again, affecting towns further north. More than 10,000 people have been left without power, and electricity wires have collapsed onto local roads. About 50 homes were damaged as windows broke, roofs were torn off and trees fell. A series of offshore low pressure systems is due to cross the south coast today before moving north towards Batemans Bay.


INDIA - India’s annual monsoon, vital for farming and economic growth, has not advanced in the past six days due to last week’s cyclone Laila that played havoc in Andhra Pradesh, but weather officials said there was as yet no cause for worry. According to earlier predictions by the India Meteorological Office, this year monsoon was scheduled to hit the mainland at least a week in advance. However, the monsoon will now hit the mainland on May 30, two days before the normal date of June 1, by entering the southern state of Kerala.
Facing high food prices after the monsoon failed last year, India is heavily counting on normal June-September rainfall to help the government tackle supply side inflation. Monsoon winds were weak, and might need up to two days to strengthen. Officials declare the onset of monsoon only if the rainfall on the southern tip of the country is accompanied by other developments, including a particular level of moisture in the air, the spread of rains and other parameters.
Monsoon onset phase may not last, say experts. The Indian monsoon is the hottest topic among international weather experts, who do not seem to accept India Meteorological Department's onset forecast at its face value. The IMD had said, in its newly-introduced, two-week forecast on Friday, that the onset might happen around Monday, followed by an orderly northward progression of rains along the West coast. The full-scale onset of monsoon would have to wait until June 10, to time with the arrival of the next convective (wet or rain-generating) phase of a Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) wave that travels periodically from west to east. The MJO wave has a major role in precipitating a copy-book onset as distinct from a ‘false onset,' which is likely to unravel around the timeline fixed by the IMD. The MJO has an alternating ‘dry' (suppressed rain) phase, which is currently on play over the equatorial Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea, at large.
The IMD had said that the onset would be facilitated by the formation of an ‘onset vortex,' expanded on Saturday to a full-blown low-pressure area. The system might move away from the West coast to North-Northwest, but still would be able to draw in the flows and cause rains; it had said quoting numerical weather prediction models. However, this may not be the case, according to the scientists. They believe that the brewing ‘low' might just prove the monsoon's undoing. The onset, at best, would be transient and may not last longer than a couple of days.
This is because the ‘low' might strengthen rapidly and move away, robbing the monsoon system of much of its energy, denying the mainland any significant precipitation. In fact, these scientists see the system developing as an intense cyclone (to be named ‘Phet') and moving initially West-Northwest and away in a near replication of Super Cyclone ‘Gonu' of 2007. One expert, on condition of anonymity, said that the ‘onset' phase as signalled by the IMD may end sooner than later, under the double whammy of the rogue Arabian Sea cyclone and a ‘dry' MJO phase.
Overall, kinetic energy is seen as only a fourth of what is required for the Arabian Sea to precipitate the onset, and may not improve substantially even with the formation of the vortex.

Rising Pakistani lake threatens villages downstream - An enormous lake created by a freak landslide is about to burst its banks, and experts fear that dozens of villages in northeast Pakistan could be washed away. Many have already been evacuated. Under the worst-case scenario, a 65-foot-high wave would gush down the mountainous district of Hunza all the way to the Tarbela dam - a distance of some 500 miles - through a network of narrow river valleys, ending close to Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. The lake was created in January when a massive landslide came down on the village of Attabad, damming the Hunza River. Army engineers frantically cut a channel through part of the lake dam and completed a "spillway" by the middle of May, which aims to provide a safe
channel for the water to drain from the lake back into the path of the river. The lake was 4 feet below that channel late Thursday, but reports said the water was rising about 1 inch per hour. The government has been strongly criticized for not acting before the lake grew so large. A specialist on landslides published a report in March that warned of a possible tsunami if the dam wall suddenly gave way.


AURORA SURPRISE - On Saturday, May 29th, the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) tilted south and opened a crack in Earth's magnetosphere. Solar wind poured in and fueled a G1-class geomagnetic storm. Northern Lights were sighted as far south as Wisconsin. The storm has subsided now. The next storm is due on May 31st or June 1st when a solar wind stream is expected to hit Earth's magnetic field. (photo)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Not much news today, so
excuse me while I do the boogaloo.

This morning -

Yesterday -
5/27/10 -

No current tropical cyclones.

Foreboding signs forming in the tropics - Scientists have tracked ocean temperatures in the hurricane-prone waters of the Atlantic since the end of World War II, but never have they seen a run-up to hurricane season as sobering as this one. The tropics are even warmer than the toasty waters that spurred the 2005 hurricane season into such dizzying activity, with 28 named storms including Katrina, Rita and Wilma. “The tropics are super warm right now.” That doesn't necessarily mean a repeat of the hyperactive 2005 season. There remain many unknowns, such as the level of wind shear in August, September and October.
The latest Colorado State forecast predicts 15 named storms this year, about 50 percent more than an average year, and eight hurricanes. That's consistent with the forecasts issued by numerous private and academic groups. But on Thursday the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration upped the ante by predicting 14 to 23 named storms and eight to 14 hurricanes this season. “The main uncertainty in this outlook is how MUCH above normal the season will be."
The midpoint of NOAA's prediction is 18.5 storms, a FAR HIGHER NUMBER THAN IT HAS EVER FORECAST in its decade of publishing predictions. Several climatic factors have caused forecasters concern, but warm seas are the primary driver of their predictions. In April the average temperature in the tropical North Atlantic was 1.38 Celsius degrees above average, or about 2.5 Fahrenheit degrees, BY FAR THE LARGEST ANOMALY EVER RECORDED. That is significant, because scientists have tracked these waters for 62 years. In those 744 months, the recorded value has exceeded the long-term average by 1 or more Celsius degrees just five times. Three of those five times have occurred in February, March and April of this year. “Not only are we BREAKING RECORDS, BUT WE ARE SHATTERING THEM."
In addition to the warm seas, other factors indicate a strong year. Sea-level pressures are generally quite low across the Atlantic now, and if that continues into hurricane season, as expected, it will enhance the likelihood of storm formation. Another consideration is the fact that El Niño, an increase of tropical temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, has now faded away. El Niño tends to increase wind shear across the Atlantic Ocean and inhibit storm formation. Forecasters say there's even a chance La Niña will develop during the latter half of hurricane season, which tends to modestly increase Atlantic hurricane activity.
Scientists don't expect the Gulf oil slick to have much effect on storms. An oil sheen on top of the water would, theoretically, inhibit the evaporation that fuels storm intensification. However, as hurricanes traverse the seas they churn up a lot of water, so it seems unlikely the oil would remain on top as a hurricane eye moves across.
Despite all of the factors favoring a bomber of a hurricane season, scientists say it is far from a certainty. “We don't fully understand all of the climatological parameters which resulted in the hyperactive 2005 season. Conditions prior to 2010 look similar to this time in May of 2005, but that alone isn't enough to say that 2010 will have as many named storms as 2005.”


The United States is a more important hub for the global circulation of seasonal flu strains than previously thought. Over the past few years, other researchers have tagged China and Southeast Asia as tropical regions where seasonal flu strains originate. When a research group used mathematical modeling techniques incorporating gene sequence analysis to test the hypothesis, they found that the more temperate United States region also makes important contributions to the migration of seasonal flu.
The findings demystify what happens to seasonal flu viruses in the United States when they appear to die out at the end of each flu season. Instead, the researchers suggest they move on to more favorable environments in South America and even beyond. Virus migration patterns that the group estimated correlate with air travel patterns between regions of the world. When the team traced the genealogical history of the viruses, they found that the "trunk" of its family tree mainly resided in China (34%) and Southeast Asia (32%), with a significant portion in the United States (24%). The findings show the last decade of meaningful virus evolution occurred primarily in those three regions.
Though the group did not study influenza A H1N1 and influenza B migration patterns, they suspect they follow a similar pattern," with East and Southeast Asia playing the strongest role in the migration network but with temperate regions still making occasional, but significant, contributions."
Patterns of flu virus migration could have important public health implications, as response activities in the United States can have a global impact. For example, cautious use of antiviral medications in the United States could help prevent the development of drug-resistant strains that could spread to the rest of the world. Also, vaccination programs outside of East and Southeast Asia could curb the worldwide spread of the disease. A sharper understanding of flu migration patterns could open up the possibility of tailoring vaccines to specific locations.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Before enlightenment - chop wood, carry water.
After enlightenment - chop wood, carry water.
Zen Proverb

This morning -

Yesterday -
5/26/10 -

U.S PACIFIC NORTHWEST - The risk of a major earthquake striking the Pacific Northwest within the next half-century is greater than once thought, researchers have found using a new series of geological observations. Earlier estimates forecasted that a major earthquake — similar in size to those which hit China, Mexico and Chile in recent months — is likely to strike the B.C. coast once every 500 years. That estimate was based on the long-accepted belief that the Cascadia Subduction Zone, which lies off the west coast of North America and runs from Northern California up to British Columbia, will trigger one large earthquake for the entire zone.
The west coast sits on the North American and Juan de Fuca tectonic plates. The plates are moving against each other; when that stress is finally released, a very powerful earthquake will result. But new research has revealed a more complex picture of the fault. Using carbon dating analysis of sediments on the Pacific Ocean floor, researchers have determined that Cascadia isn't one big subduction zone, but rather at least four separate segments. Their findings suggest that, instead of the entire fault rupturing at once, it will break in multiple, smaller parts, more frequently. The researchers predict a higher than a one-in-three chance of a major quake striking the Pacific Northwest within the next 50 years.
The last major earthquake to hit the northern subduction zone — which stretches from Seaside, Oregon, to Vancouver Island — occurred in January 1700, triggering a 10-metre-high tsunami. More recently, in 1946, a 7.3 magnitude quake struck on Vancouver Island. The earthquake was stronger than one in Haiti earlier this year.
The southern end of the fault running from Newport, Oregon to Northern California has a 37 per cent chance of triggering a major earthquake in the next half century, with an average rate of roughly one quake every 240 years.
In the northern end of the fault zone, the forecast is still for one quake every 500 years. But such a northern zone quake is likely to be much more intense and destructive than the more frequent southern quakes. The northern zone faces a 10 to 15 per cent chance of experiencing a devastating mega-quake over the next 50 years.
"We're in that window where we could expect one of these giant earthquakes at any time. We really don't know when they will occur."


A magnitude 7.4 quake off the southern Pacific Ocean island of Vanuatu prompted a tsunami warning for the nearby Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. The quake, initially reported as a magnitude 7.6, was 22.4 miles deep and centered 133 miles northwest of Santo in Vanuatu. "An earthquake of this size has the potential to generate a destructive tsunami that can strike coastlines in the region near the epicenter within minutes to hours", but it was not yet clear whether a tsunami had actually been generated. The warning was in effect for the region only and that will not expand to other areas of the Pacific based on the information known so far.

No current tropical cyclones.

THE 2010 ATLANTIC HURRICANE SEASON MAY BE ONE OF THE WORST ON RECORD, US officials warn, amid fears it could deepen an oil crisis in the Gulf of Mexico and bring new misery to Haiti. An "active to extremely active" hurricane season which starts on June 1 was expected for the Atlantic Basin this year, US officials said. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) said it was predicting three to seven major hurricanes, with eight to 14 smaller hurricanes, and 14 to 23 named storms would hit the region over the next six months. This compares to an average of two major hurricanes, six smaller hurricanes and 11 storms per season.

Cyclone Laila on India's east coast last week decelerated the progress of the monsoon, which is forecast to hit India's southern coast on May 30. The Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting hinted on Wednesday at the possibility of cyclone formation in the Arabian Sea during the first week of June. This would pose a threat to the orderly progress of the monsoon, and would be a throwback to the situation created by Super Cyclone Gonu in 2007.
‘Gonu' is the strongest tropical cyclone on record in the Arabian Sea, and is also the strongest named cyclone in the northern Indian Ocean. The second named tropical cyclone of the 2007 North Indian Ocean cyclone season, ‘Gonu' developed from a persistent area of convection in the eastern Arabian Sea on June 1. In a striking coincidence, this is the time band, areas of cyclo-genesis and landfall that the ECMWF is indicating for the storm brewing in the first week of June.
Intense tropical cyclones such as ‘Gonu' are RARE over the Arabian Sea, as most storms in this area tend to be small and dissipate quickly. But this may not be the case anymore, with systems showing an increasing proclivity to form during the onset (as against mid-way into season) of the monsoon when they would have the right environment and attributes to attain maximum strength. The only relief to an otherwise cloudy scenario is the fact that no other major model has indicated formation of any strong system in the Arabian Sea during this period.
Earlier, seasonal rains had hurried into Sri Lanka, just hopping distance from the southern Indian peninsular tip, five days ahead of normal on May 20. The monsoon failed to sustain the ‘lead time' largely because of the antics of party-pooper tropical cyclone ‘Laila' in the Bay of Bengal, which it had not bargained for. The flows have since showed signs of regrouping over the south and adjoining south-east Arabian Sea where convective clouds have been showing up over the past few days. But wind flows have lacked the required speed, orientation and depth. At best, the prevailing flows depict an unruly convergence of southwesterly-to-westerly winds and westerly-to-northwesterly winds. On Wednesday, the Global Forecasting System indicated the onset of rains around May 29.


GERMANY, POLAND - Extreme weather conditions continued to affect parts of Northern and Central Europe. Heavy rains are raising river levels to dangerous heights. One woman in Lower Austria drowned when she was swept away by flood waters. An elderly man died from a heart attack in the same region.
Germany is bracing itself for the worst as rivers in the east of the country continue to rise. Officials in Frankfurt an der Order are desperately trying to reinforce river bank defences in an effort to contain the swelling floodwaters. “On the Polish side, the situation looks much more difficult because our twin town Slubice is about two metres lower than Frankfurt. This means that when a levee breaches, we are not talking about flood levels of 50-60cm but of up to two and a half metres. This means that real damage can be expected, and that is why the mayor called on everyone to leave the town on Friday.” Officials predict the highest alert for the Oder could even be reached as early as today which may have repercussions for Berlin as the Oder feeds the river Spree which flows through the capital.
Meanwhile, Poland’s low-lying Slubice, which is on the front line of any flooding from the Oder, can only hope and pray.


The Gulf of Mexico oil spill has spewed more oil than originally estimated, surpassing the Exxon Valdez tanker disaster in 1989 in Alaska to become THE BIGGEST OIL DISASTER IN U.S. HISTORY.
'Top kill' stops gulf oil leak for now - Officials are cautionary but say drilling fluid has blocked oil and gas temporarily. Engineers plan to begin pumping in cement and then will seal the well. As of early Thursday morning, neither government nor BP officials had declared the effort a success yet, pending the completion of the cementing and sealing of the well.


Tylenol recalls - criminal. An FDA official hammered the maker of Tylenol for a pattern of sloppy manufacturing practices that led to a series of recalls in testimony prepared for a House hearing on Thursday. They cited "significant violations" of manufacturing regulations by McNeil Consumer Healthcare. The drugmaker, a division of Johnson & Johnson has recalled products four times in seven months. That included a widespread recall of children's non-prescription drugs on April 30.
In January, the FDA had issued a warning letter to McNeil "expressing serious concerns about the company's control over the quality of its drugs and the company's failure to aggressively investigate and correct quality problems."
Upper management failed to assure timely investigation and resolution of those issues. "A potential criminal liability" exists as a result of the recalls.The FDA "is also considering additional enforcement actions against the company for its pattern of non-compliance which may include seizure, injunction or criminal penalties." The Food and Drug Administration is investigating reports of at least 775 serious side effects from drugs recalled by McNeil.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I tell you everything that is really nothing, and nothing of what is everything, do not be fooled by what I am saying.
Please listen carefully and try to hear what I am not saying.
Charles C. Finn

This morning -

Yesterday -
5/25/10 -

BRAZIL - No damage of any kind has been reported by civil defense units in the Brazilian state of Acre following the 6.5-magnitude earthquake on Monday.


Mountain Baekdu, a dormant volcano on the border between North Korea and China, is showing signs of a possible eruption in the near future, experts warned Tuesday. "Baekdu could erupt anytime soon. A variety of indicators are backing this scenario. The thing we should try to predict is when. It's clear it's imminent." Major activity in the 1960s created a caldera on its peak. Volcanic ash from this eruption has been found as far away as the southern part of Hokkaido, Japan. Small-scale eruptions were recorded roughly on a centurial basis - in 1413, 1597, 1668 and 1702. The latest volcanic eruption recorded at the mountain was back in 1903. The mountain has stayed inactive since then, leaving it categorized by scientists as dormant. The Chinese government developed the mountain and surrounding areas as a tourist destination drawing tens of thousands of visitors from around the world each year.
Yet, "UNUSUAL SIGNS," including minor trembling among others, began to emerge in June 2002 and a 7.3-magnitude earthquake rattled areas in the vicinity of Baekdu. The frequency of the quakes has notably increased since then.
"It seems that a shockwave from the quake reactivated magma approximately 30 kilometers beneath the mountain. The more frequent these are, the higher the possibility of an eruption." Minor quakes which are too weak to be felt by human beings take place nearly 100 times per day. "We saw the number steeply increase in recent years."
Among other indicators backing the scenario of a future eruption is the height of Baekdu, which has grown nearly 10 centimeters since 2002. Experts say bloated magma, a precondition of eruption, is gradually pushing up the height of the mountain as well as the temperature on the surface.
On October 1, 2006, a Russian satellite found the surface temperature of the mountain notably higher than before. The finding came just days after North Korea conducted an underground nuclear bomb test in its northern region, indicating the test was a catalyst reactivating the magma, analysts said. The increase in the number of withered evergreen trees on the mountain may be another indicator.
If the eruption is major in scale, it would bring about massive consequences to the two Koreas as well as the surrounding states, including China, Japan and Russia. "The amount of volcanic ash from the most violent eruption nearly 1,000 years ago was enough to cover the entire the Korean peninsula to a height of 1.2 meters. Baekdu's caldera contains nearly two billion tons of water. If it evaporates into the air all of a sudden mixed with volcanic ash of a major eruption, it would be blown to the east and consequently engulf Vladivostok in Russia and Hokkaido in northern Japan."

No current tropical cyclones.

The low pressure area in the western Atlantic continued to diminish Tuesday morning. However, the hurricane center continues to monitor the system, saying it has a 20 percent chance of development. At 8 a.m. the area was about halfway between the Bahamas and Bermuda, moving slowly north. The disturbance delivered heavy rain to Bermuda on Monday and might bring some storms to the Carolinas. (map)


HAITI - reports heavy rain will fall on Haiti this week, raising the possibility of flooding and peril for those left homeless by the devastating earthquake this past winter. Makeshift housing in the form of tents is all that stand between Mother Nature and hundreds of thousands of people. A number of victims still have no shelter at all. Deforestation practices of the past and unstable hillsides following the quake have left some of the terrain very vulnerable to mudslides and flash flooding.
An average of 5 to 10 inches of rain is forecast to fall on the region into the weekend. However, local amounts will be higher in the mountains, where runoff will be excessive. Waves of low pressure traveling along a stalled front, combined with heating of the day will allow clusters of heavy showers and thunderstorms to form over Haiti and other nearby island nations in the Caribbean.


MINNESOTA - Monday's heat blast: Not just a RECORD HIGH, but a RECORD-HIGH LOW. Not only was the high of 95 degrees in the Twin Cities a record-breaker, the low - 72 in the early morning hours - also broke a record. Previously, the highest low for May 24 had been 67, set in 2006. To put Monday's smothering heat in perspective: The morning LOW was 1 degree below the average HIGH for the date.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

We are all but recent leaves on the same old tree of life
and if this life has adapted itself to new functions and conditions,
it uses the same old basic principles over and over again.
There is no real difference between the grass and the man who mows it.
Albert Szent-Györgyi

This morning -

Yesterday -
5/24/10 -


COSTA RICA - Arenal volcano has erupted, spewing geysers of lava, ash and toxic gases from its crater and forcing the evacuation of the national park where it is located. The mountain in northern Costa Rica shuddered into activity at 4am this morning issuing eight successive rivers of lava that flowed down its steep slopes. Nobody was at risk from the eruptions but authorities as a precaution evacuated the Arenal National Park, 80km north-east of San Jose. The Arenal Volcano is one of Costa Rica's major tourist attractions and the park has scores of hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and shopping centres. No estimates were given of how many people were inside the park when the eruption began. Arenal's last major eruption in July 1968 killed 89 people. Smaller eruptions have occurred at least six times over the past 35 years.

No current tropical cyclones.

ATLANTIC - A disorganized area of showers and thunderstorms in the southwestern Atlantic is being monitored for possible development during the next day or so, and it may become the first named storm of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season. If the storm is named, it will be called Alex, most likely with the moniker of Subtropical Storm Alex.
That's because the storm would most likely be a hybrid storm - one that has characteristics of a storm of both tropical and nontropical (normal low-pressure system) origins - rather than a purely tropical storm. Sea surface temperatures in this region of the Atlantic, which are relatively cool at this time of year, are what would prevent the storm from obtaining pure tropical characteristics. A subtropical storm creates the same effects as a tropical storm in terms of wind, waves and rain. Residents along the Southeast coast, especially in the eastern Carolinas, will need to monitor the development and track of the system in the coming days. (map)


CHINA - A torrent of floods caused by heavy storms have killed 115 people in southern China, with 21 people still missing as weather reports show rains beginning to subside.

GERMANY, POLAND - Germany is preparing itself for floods in the next few days as water levels reached the critical mark. Authorities say the situation in Brandenburg will become serious by the weekend. Meanwhile emergency teams in Poland are attempting to shore up river banks as the country continues to suffer its WORST FLOODS FOR DECADES.
By the end of the week German experts are forecasting water levels to reach level-3 and will remain at this level for a number of days before receding. A six-year-old girl was killed on Monday in the German state of Saxony when a tornado caused heavy damage to the town of Grossenhain. Hail storms and torrential rain also caused damage to many buildings in the region, includings residential housing and a church. At least one warehouse collapsed. If the bad weather continues the floods could continue for ten days or three weeks. It all depends whether the flood peak of the rivers Warthe and Oder meet in the Polish town of Kostrzyn.
At least 15 people have been killed in Poland in the worst floods to hit the country in over a decade. A protective barrier broke near the town of Plock on Sunday, allowing flood water into the region about 100 kilometres north-west of the capital Warsaw. Many Poles have had to flee their homes. Over 4,000 soldiers are taking part in rescue efforts around the country after Poland's largest river, the Vistula, broke its banks. The Vistula's level risks reaching 780 centimetres.


The cost of garlic is on the rise. In Australia, shoppers are being charged up to $30 a kilo, or double the usual price, amid global shortages. Swine flu fears that swept China late last year created massive demand there for the bulb and its rumoured health benefits, eating into worldwide supply. Snow peas are also fetching up to $20 a kilogram after heavy rain and floods early this year delayed planting in Queensland. Many consumers are paying top dollar for cauliflower and broccoli because of a cold snap in Victoria affecting production. Rain scuppered the last of Victoria's Yarra Valley strawberry crops early. Inclement weather had also ended supermarkets' Tasmanian supply of garlic two weeks ahead of time. Some small Melbourne retailers have run out of garlic or have only organic stock left. Recent imports were quarantined, compounding supply problems. Pressures on global supply should ease from next month.


Almost half of the 500 most popular sunscreen products may actually increase the speed at which malignant cells develop and spread skin cancer because they contain vitamin A or its derivatives, retinol and retinyl palmitate. Only 39 of the 500 products they examined were considered safe and effective to use. "In a yearlong study, tumors and lesions developed up to 21 percent faster in lab animals coated in a vitamin A-laced cream than animals treated with a vitamin-free cream." The Food and Drug Administration has known of the potential danger for as long as a decade without alerting the public, which the FDA denies.
Based on the strength of the findings by FDA's own scientists, many in the public health community say they can't believe nor understand why the agency hasn't already notified the public of the possible danger. European countries have more chemical combinations to offer, but in the U.S. the major choice is between the "chemical" sunscreens, which have inferior stability, penetrate the skin and may disrupt the body's hormone systems, and "mineral" sunscreens zinc and titanium dioxide. Increasingly, the industry is using titanium dioxide that is made nanosized, which a growing number of researchers believe have serious health implications. The full list of the best and worst sunscreens can be found on the EWG's searchable database.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The human mind is inspired enough when it comes to inventing horrors; it is when it tries to invent a Heaven that it shows itself cloddish.
Evelyn Waugh

This morning -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday -
5/23/10 -
5/22/10 -
5/21/10 -

ARKANSAS - A 2.6-magnitude earthquake hit Benton County Thursday night. This is the second earthquake in Benton County within a month, and residents who live near the epicenter are shocked a quake started right beneath their neighborhood. “My wife and I were in the house, and it just sounded like a tremendous explosion outside the door.” "I think it's very strange, especially in this part of the country where we've never heard of an earthquake before.” A University of Arkansas Geosciences professor said this quake was three miles below the Earth's surface and he doesn't believe it was caused by plate activity. “We think they were caused in the shallow rocks, the limestones. They are possibly where there's some collapse in some caverns near the surface, and as they fell, they released all that energy."

CHILE - A 5.7 quake hit on the 21st, on the 50 year anniversary of the biggest quake ever recorded. An earthquake measuring a magnitude of 5.7 hit the Libertador O'Higgins region in Chile at 2:52 pm EDT on Friday, May 21st. The quake struck six miles below the surface in an area that is about 90 miles from Santiago, Chile. Nearly three months ago, Chile was rocked by an 8.8 temblor which caused a tsunami and killed 521 people. Today's quake is fifty years to the day of a chilean quake with an eerie claim to fame. "The 1960 Valdivia earthquake or Great Chilean earthquake of 22 May 1960 is to date the most powerful earthquake ever recorded, rating 9.5 on the moment magnitude scale. It occurred in the afternoon (19:11 GMT, 14:11 local time) and its resulting tsunami affected southern Chile, Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, eastern New Zealand, southeast Australia, and the Aleutian Islands in Alaska."


ICELAND'S Eyjafjoell volcano is no longer in activity, a geophysicist says, raising hopes the eruption, which has heavily disrupted European flights for more than a month, could be over. "What I can confirm is that the activity of the crater has stopped. No magma is coming up. The eruption, at least for the time being, has stopped. Now there is only steam coming out of the crater. It is too early to tell whether this is the end of the eruption or just a temporary stop in activity." It could take a very long time before it would be possible to say for sure.
The latest eruption at Eyjafjoell began just a day after a more peaceful eruption ended on the Fimmvurduhals flank of the same volcano. Experts have cautioned that once the current eruption halted, a new blast in another crater or in the neighbouring and much larger and fiercer Katla volcano might follow. When or if that will happen is also "impossible to say".

HAWAII - Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii has marked a milestone after erupting continuously for 10000 days. It's the longest continuous eruption in the world today.

INDONESIA - An active volcano has erupted in Indonesia, spewing ash and lava at least 1,500 metres into the sky, damaging crops but not threatening villagers. Mount Baru Jari on Lombok island, near Bali, has been active for several months but yesterday's eruption was "big," the island's volcano monitoring official said. "From yesterday evening to early today, the volcano erupted three times and was accompanied by tremors. The first eruption spewed ash and lava 1,500 to 2,000 metres high." Lava flowed into a lake, pushing its temperature to 35 degrees Celsius, up from 21 degrees Celsius. "The smoke had spread as far as 12 kilometres and dozens of acres of crop land were covered in ash. "But the eruptions haven't reached dangerous levels yet, so we're not evacuating villagers."

No current tropical cyclones.

The National Hurricane Center has issued a statement noting the development of an area of bad weather northeast of the Bahamas. The gale, moving slowly toward the north northwest, has a 30-to-50-percent chance of developing into the Atlantic season's first tropical storm. The storm will likely stay offshore, wandering around off the Carolinas for a time before heading east and out to sea. But it will likely send gales and showers onshore. (map)

SOMALIA - A Royal Navy warship on anti-piracy operations carried out a daring rescue of the crew of a merchant vessel after it was caught in tropical cyclone Bandu off the Somalian coast on Thursday. The crew battled 26ft waves and 65 knot winds in order to save the 23 men on board a cargo ship. The ship narrowly missed being run aground on an island and the Royal Navy vessel also had to act to avoid dangerous shoals. On a deck listing up to 40 degrees and slick with spilled engine oil and sea water, the winchman fought for nearly four hours to retrieve all 23 people on board the stricken ship.
Tropical Cyclone Bandu was expected to move through the Gulf of Aden Sunday, passing between Yemen and Somalia. Tropical cyclones are VERY RARE in this part of the world. Bandu originated over the open, warm waters of the Arabian Sea this past week. The cyclone has remained below hurricane strength.
The last major tropical cyclone to impact this area was Cyclone Gonu. It struck Oman in June 2007. Gonu was the strongest cyclone ever to form in the Arabian Sea with peak sustained winds of 150 mph. Gonu made landfall in Oman, causing dozens of deaths.


CHINA - A train derailment caused by landslides killed at least 10 people and injured another 55 people in Jiangxi Province of China early on Sunday, at around 2:10 a.m. A slow-moving cold front brought torrential rainfall to the area on Friday into Friday night. Up to 4-5 inches of rain fell in a few locations. The heaviest rain inundated higher elevations, leaving some areas vulnerable to landslides.
More heavy rain will target similar areas in China by midweek as tropical moisture from Cyclone Laila surges in from the southwest. Flooding and more landslides could result. Laila made landfall in Andhra Pradesh, India, late on Thursday afternoon. The Prakasam district bore the brunt of the cyclone's heavy rainfall and high winds.


Scientists believe gassy mammoths helped to fill the atmosphere with methane and keep the Earth warm more than 13 thousand years ago. Experts estimate that, together with other large plant-eating mammals that are now extinct, they released about 9.6 million tonnes of the gas each year. When the megafauna disappeared there was a dramatic fall in atmospheric methane which may have altered the climate. Analysis of gases trapped in ice cores suggests that the loss of animal emissions accounted for a large amount of the decline.


22 people from 10 states have been stricken with salmonella from raw alfalfa sprouts. These incidents, along with the tragic death of an infant, spawned a nationwide recall.

Global H1N1 rate stays at low levels - Global pandemic flu activity remains largely unchanged, with the most active areas of transmission in parts of the Caribbean and Southeast Asia. Activity in temperate regions remains low to sporadic. Central Africa has been seen increased transmission of seasonal influenza type B, which is accounting for 85% of all its flu isolates. Type B flu continues at low levels in parts of Asia, Europe, and Central America.

Friday, May 21, 2010

To know the height of a mountain, one must climb it.
Augustus William Hare

*No update Sunday - I'm off to a wedding.*

This morning -

Yesterday -
5/20/10 -

Cyclone 02A was 1117 nmi SW of Karachi, Pakistan.
Cyclone LAILA was 477 nmi ESE of Bombay, India.

Cyclone Laila weakened today after battering India's southeastern coast with several days of torrential rain and high winds that claimed 26 lives.

A cluster of thunderstorms gathering over the Arabian Sea gradually strengthened into Cyclone Two on Wednesday. Maximum sustained winds were estimated to be near 55 mph when the storm-force cyclone brushed past the small island of Socotra, which is claimed by Yemen. Forecasters at the U.S. Military Joint Typhoon Warning Center initially projected that the storm would pass up the heavily traveled Gulf of Aden oil route that connects the Indian Ocean with Persian Gulf terminals. But the storm suddenly veered southwestward and made landfall on the tip of the Horn of Africa, located on Somalia’s northern coast. The storm lost force while bringing beneficial rainfall to the remote region.


A large rotating cyclone of cold water is pushing into the southern body of the Gulf of Mexico's Loop Current and now appears likely to destabilize or even sever the current and the oil it contains from its connection to Florida. While the BP PLC oil spill has begun to enter the current ( a powerful stream that could transport a small part of the slick to the Florida Keys in about a week) there are also signs that less oil - at least on the surface - has taken the turn south than was feared.
Over the past weeks, small ocean flows spinning off the body of the Loop Current, known as cyclones or eddies, have pushed and prodded the Gulf slick. In particular, one counterclockwise eddy east of the oil's main body has determinedly dragged the crude toward the main current, resulting in its current entrainment. However, imagery now has shown that, while filaments of oil have escaped into the current, "the main pool of oil is remaining up there in the eddy" and not progressing south." More importantly, satellite shots showed that an eddy farther south along the Florida coast is expanding in size and strength. That cyclone appears likely to destabilize or even sever the Loop Current, greatly reducing the oil threat to the Florida Keys and beyond.
Such a beheading is common to the current, which becomes more unstable as it pushes deeper into the Gulf of Mexico. Typically, a forceful counterclockwise cyclone near southwest Florida "punches through the Loop Current," severing the flow from its connection to the Atlantic. "It looks like that kind of scenario is imminent." After a severing, the warm rotating water of the Loop Current's head -- called a "ring" -- begins to flow west toward Texas. But the ring can dawdle, too, and sometimes reattaches with the main current.
It is too soon for East Coast residents to breathe a sigh of relief, however. Oil is still bobbing 120 miles off Tampa's coast, captured in the northern eddy, and before the Loop Current expires -- if it does -- it could still surge north and entrain more of the oil. Or it could be caught in a ring and flow westward. The oil tendrils -- which federal officials have called a "sheen" -- are extremely visible on satellite imagery, suggesting that there is heavier oil present in the northern eddy than has been suggested. The government may be employing some "wishful thinking" when they call it a sheen. Also, there is little certainty about how much oil has been captured by the Loop Current in deeper waters. Since much of the oil has been broken up by dispersants and is unlikely to reach the surface, it will tend to spread sideways through the Gulf. "Based on the size of the plume and the estimates that we're hearing of what is being injected at the bottom, this is a very large problem."
While the Loop Current may be headed toward a severing, that will not stop oil from slowly spreading across the Gulf, especially when the hurricanes begin to hit. Some of the oil is almost certain to affect countries like Cuba and Mexico. "This is a problem that we'll have to deal with for years, as opposed to months."


Bizarre white faced monster washed ashore in Canada - A BIZARRE animal corpse has washed up on a Canadian beach. Locals in a small Canadian town have been stumped by the appearance of the bizarre creature.
The animal, which has a long hairy body with bald skin on its head, feet and face, has prompted wild internet speculation that it is a more evolved version of the famous 'Montauk monster'. The creature was discovered by two nurses in the town of Kitchenuhmaykoosib in Ontario, Canada, while out on a walk with their dog. When the dog began sniffing in the lake, the two women started investigating, before the dog pulled the dead animal out. After taking some photographs of the odd animal, the nurses left it alone. When locals decided to go back and retrieve the body, it has disappeared.
'The creature's tail is like a rat's tail and it is a foot long.' The body of the creature appears to look something like an otter, while its face - complete with long fang-like teeth, bears a striking resemblance to a boar-like animal. Even the local police chief is baffled, saying: 'What it is, I don't know. I'm just as curious as everyone else.'
Many people have suggested the animal could be a new 'Montauk monster' - due to the similarities between these photographs and those of a different creature which washed up in Montauk, New York, in 2008. The animal, which quickly earned the nickname the 'Montauk monster', thanks to the beach's location next to a Long Island government animal testing facility, has never been officially identified - although the general consensus is that it was some kind of racoon. However, other bloggers have speculated that the new creature discovered is a type of chupacabra, or 'goatsucker'. The chupacabra is rumoured to inhabit parts of the U.S., with several hundred eyewitness accounts over the past few years. But despite these sightings, the majority of biologists and wildlife experts believe the chupacabra is a contemporary legend. (photo)


JUPITER - In a surprising development that has transformed the appearance of the solar system's largest planet, one of Jupiter's two main cloud belts has completely disappeared. "This is a big event. We're monitoring the situation closely and do not yet fully understand what's going on." Known as the South Equatorial Belt (SEB), the brown cloudy band is twice as wide as Earth and more than twenty times as long. The loss of such an enormous "stripe" can be seen with ease halfway across the solar system. "In any size telescope, or even in large binoculars, Jupiter's signature appearance has always included two broad equatorial belts... Anyone who turns their telescope on Jupiter at the moment, however, will see a planet with only one belt -- a very strange sight."
Astronomers noticed the belt fading late last year, "but I certainly didn't expect to see it completely disappear." The belt may not actually be gone, but may be just hiding underneath some higher clouds. Without the SEB present, Jupiter's Great Red Spot is surrounded by almost uninterrupted white.
Jupiter's atmosphere is a mysterious place which would benefit from exploration. No one knows, for instance, why the Great Red Spot is red — or what has sustained the raging storm for so many years. Neither does theory explain why the twin equatorial belts are brown, nor why one should vanish while the other remains. "We have a long list of questions."
This isn't the first time the SEB has faded out. "The SEB fades at irregular intervals, most recently in 1973-75, 1989-90, 1993, 2007, 2010. The 2007 fading was terminated rather early, but in the other years the SEB was almost absent, as at present."
The return of the SEB can be dramatic. "We can look forward to a spectacular outburst of storms and vortices when the 'SEB Revival' begins. It always begins at a single point, and a disturbance spreads out rapidly around the planet from there, often becoming spectacular even for amateurs eyeballing the planet through medium-sized telescopes. However we can't predict when or where it will start. On historical precedent it could be any time in the next 2 years. The revival will likely be sudden and dramatic, with planet-circling groups of storms appearing over the space of just a week or so." (photos)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts,
but if he will be content to begin with doubts,
he shall end in certainties.
Francis Bacon

This morning -

Yesterday -
5/19/10 -


DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO - A report earlier this week claimed that an eruption of Mikeno volcano produced an avalanche that killed dozens, but it appears that those reports were false. Current news claims that an overflowing river on Nyiragongo in the Congo produced an avalanche on the slopes of the volcano. This avalanche killed 46 people and has wiped out at least 200 homes. So, it seems that the landslide was caused by heavy rains rather than any sort of volcanic eruption. Nyamuragira, next door to Nyiragongo, erupted earlier this year and both volcanoes are very active.

Cyclone 02A was 1129 nmi SW of Karachi, Pakistan and 1249 nmi WSW of Bombay, India.
Cyclone LAILA was 532 nmi ESE of Bombay, India.

Deadly tropical storm Laila remained still for a while on Wednesday night and changed course heading for the port city of Kakinada in Andhra Praddesh. The nasty storm is THE FIRST IN 20 YEARS DURING MAY.
Tropical cyclone Laila strengthened and slowed as it neared India’s east coast, claiming at least six lives and disrupting crude oil output in the Bay of Benagal. The cyclone, with sustained winds of 111 kilometers (69 miles) per hour, was about 170 kilometers north-east of Chennai at 11:30 p.m. local time. Waves were 4.9 meters (16 feet) high near the storm’s eye. Hundreds of fishing boats were damaged.
Cyclone Laila slowed down as it approached the coast and is travelling north at 5.6 kilometers an hour towards the city of Vijayawada and the coast of Andhra Pradesh. The storm is forecast to move along India’s east coast toward Bangladesh later this week. The government evacuated a “few thousand people” to higher ground.
Heavy rain of more than 25 centimeters (9.8 inches) is forecast in some areas of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh states in the next 24 to 36 hours and may damage power and communication line. The sea will be “high to phenomenal” along the coasts of the two states. The storm is expected to weaken as it comes into contact with land and moves north-east towards the states of Orissa and West Bengal.
Another cyclone in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Somalia strengthened and has sustained winds of 65 kilometers an hour and gusts up to 83 kilometers an hour. The storm is moving west towards the Somali coast and should hit there tomorrow. (satellite photo)

Central Pacific hurricane season will be 'below normal' - Forecasters say there is a 70% chance of below normal tropical cyclone activity for the 2010 hurricane season, which lasts from June 1 to November 30.


An outer edge of the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill has reached a powerful current that could take it to Florida and beyond. A small portion of the slick from the blown-out undersea well has entered the so-called loop current, a stream of faster moving water that circulates around the Gulf before bending around Florida and up the Atlantic coast. Its arrival may portend a wider environmental catastrophe affecting the Florida Keys and beaches along that state's east coast. It will be at least another seven days before the oil reaches waters west of the Keys. Even farther south, U.S. officials were talking to Cuba about how to respond to the spill should it reach the island's northern coast.
Tracking the unpredictable spill and the complex loop current is a challenge for scientists. The loop moves based on the shifting winds and other environmental factors, so even though the oil is leaking continuously it may be in the current one day, and out the next. And the slick itself has defied scientists' efforts to track it and predict its path. Instead, it has repeatedly advanced and retreated, an ominous, shape-shifting mass in the Gulf, with vast underwater lobes extending outward.
At least 6 million gallons have already poured into the Gulf off Louisiana since the April 20 explosion of an offshore oil rig, THE WORST U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTER IN DECADES. The president of the National Wildlife Federation said, "The Gulf of Mexico is a crime scene and the perpetrator cannot be left in charge of assessing the damage."
"It sounds like the plot of a cheesy B movie - A large corporation somehow messes with the environment and threatens to destroy the planet, mainstream media covers it all up, and one scientist, whom no one will listen to, figures the whole thing out just in time to save the day...Except this time, the disaster is real. The characters are nearly set as well. In the role of the catastrophe is the Gulf of Mexico oil leak. BP and Haliburton are sharing the part of the evil corporation. The Scientist would be Paul Noel, a Software Engineer for the U.S. Army at Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, who has made statements suggesting that he believes that the oil pocket hit will be impossible to contain...There is even a secret document that has leaked to the Internet...The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration`s Emergency Response document, which is exactly what it sounds like, is dated April 28th and claims the scope of the spill is far worse than the public is aware of... Extinction Level Event, folks. On par with the meteor that took out the dinosaurs. That is what some say we are facing at this very moment. The end of life as we know it, a full two years before the whole crazy 2012 movement expected."


The sun is spotless today, but it certainly is not blank. A long dark magnetic filament is looping around the northeastern limb, stretching almost 100,000 km from end to end. Long, bushy filaments like this have been known to grow unstable and erupt, producing a type of spotless flare called a "Hyder flare." If that happens now, Earth would likely feel some effects from the blast because the filament is turning to face our planet. (photo)
Current spotless stretch: 10 days.
A solar wind stream flowing from a coronal hole should reach Earth today. Earth is entering the high speed solar wind stream, and this could cause geomagnetic storms at high latitudes.


Q fever bacterium common in US - An environmental study determined that Coxiella burnetii, the causative agent of Q fever, is fairly common in the United States, suggesting that exposure to the bacterium may be more common than what is suggested by the number of reported cases of Q fever. Researchers collected more than 1,600 environmental samples from six states and found C burnetii DNA in 6% to 44% of them. Overall, 24% of the samples tested positive. C burnetii DNA was detected in areas with livestock as well as places with human activity, such as schools, stores, and post offices. The organism is highly infectious, can survive in a variety of conditions, is present in domestic and wild animal populations, and has been weaponized. On May 12 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health alert on Q fever for those who have recently traveled to the Netherlands or Iraq.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sorry, no update yesterday.

How often one sees people looking far and wide
for what they are holding in their hands.
Augustus William Hare

This morning -

Yesterday -
5/18/10 -

5/17/10 -


DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO - A volcanic eruption and subsequent avalanche killed at least a dozen people in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday. At least 36 people are also missing. The avalanche followed the collapse of part of the icecap on the Mikeno volcano, on the border between Congo and Rwanda.

ICELAND - Starting yesterday, aviation authorities in Ireland and the United Kingdom are allowing airlines to fly through denser concentrations of volcanic ash than previously allowed. They have agreed to create a “time limited zone,” in which airlines could operate in what was previously a no-fly zone, provided they receive approval from aircraft and engine manufacturers and regulatory authorities. Due to their proximity to Iceland and prevailing wind patterns that blow ash from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano toward them, Ireland and the UK have been especially hard hit by air traffic disruptions. Meanwhile, the volcanic eruption that has caused all these travel headaches shows no sign of ending anytime soon. “A powerful explosive eruption is ongoing and the height of the plume suggests that the eruption rate is over 200 tons per second.The plume is gray and drifting northeast.” The plume had a height of about 21,000 feet, slightly lower than previous days.

Cyclone LAILA was 624 nmi ESE of Bombay, India.

Tropical cyclone Laila churned across the Bay of Bengal toward India’s east coast, where it’s forecast to reach hurricane strength before making landfall late on May 20 in Andhra Pradesh. The cyclone, packing sustained winds of 65 kilometers (40 miles) an hour, was about 650 kilometers east of Chennai at 5:30 a.m. local time. Waves were 3.7 meters (12 feet) high near the storm’s eye, where winds were gusting to 83 kilometers per hour. The cyclone was moving west-northwest at 17 kilometers per hour and its winds are forecast to strengthen to hurricane strength from tomorrow, with gusts as high as 185 kilometers an hour as it approaches the Indian coast.


INDIA - Cyclonic storm damaged several parts of Tripura where at least three lost their lives and over 10 were injured on Sunday night, May 16. The pre-monsoon rain was accompanied by hail storm, heavy lightning and strong wind which destructed more than 1000 houses. Hundreds of trees, electric poles and telephone poles were destroyed in the cyclone. The storm also took the lives of many cattle in the western and southern Tripura. "Three people, including a woman, were killed in separate incidents of wall collapse and lightning at Teliamura in western Tripura." The Meteorological experts said that the cyclonic rainstorm will continue till the onset of monsoon in June.


A vision for a nationwide network of underground shelters - Each facility will have food, clothing and supplies for a year for nearly 200 people. The first Vivos bunker will be at the site of an old Cold War shelter at an undisclosed location in the middle of the desert between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. It will be built this summer. It has a 3,000-pound, blast-proof door. In the event of a disaster, owners would meet at rendezvous points and could be escorted in by helicopters before the facilities would be secured.
For $50,000, Vivos says he will guarantee your family's security in the event of a the event of an Armageddon-like disaster, such as a nuclear blast, tsunami, earthquake or other natural disaster, chemical and biological attacks, or even the predicted end of the world in 2012 (according to the Mayans). "We're not crazy, we're just preparing. We're open minded enough to prepare...Our Web site is very careful not to promote fear, but just to provide an education about all the things that are already out there." He claims the government already has top-secret shelters for the elite. "You know, I've had a lot of people say, 'I don't know if I want to be around after something like that happens.' I say, 'Why? It could be a nuclear blast, you need shelter, but the rest of the world might be fine. Who is to say that the world won't be fine afterwards? Might have a lot less population, but it could be very nice world...Would you want to survive or would you want to sit on the porch with chardonnay or Jack Daniels and watch the show?"

Monday, May 17, 2010

We become aware of the void as we fill it.
Antonio Porchia

This morning -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday -
5/16/10 -

PUERTO RICO - A moderate earthquake struck Puerto Rico early Sunday, damaging some houses in western and northern towns and causing a rock slide on a highway. No one was reported injured. The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude-5.8 earthquake struck at 1:16 a.m. (0516 GMT) Sunday about four miles (six kilometers) from the small community of Espino on the western side of the U.S. Caribbean island and 63 miles (101 kilometers) from the capital, San Juan, where it was felt by high-rise dwellers. In Utuado, it shifted a concrete house some four inches from its foundation. Engineers were trying determine if other damaged homes were safe. Local authorities on Sunday were monitoring coastal areas close to the epicenter and evaluating the damage.

No current tropical cyclones.

India's Meteorological Department has officially thrown open the monsoon onset window in the fast-churning Bay of Bengal, which is now home to some of the warmest tropical waters around the globe. Sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the south-east Bay are in the 31-32 deg Celsius-range, which is most ideal for weather systems (low-pressure areas and depressions) to prosper.
The IMD said on Sunday that conditions are favourable for onset of south-west monsoon over the south Andaman Sea, Nicobar Islands and adjoining southeast Bay of Bengal during the next two days. An upper air cyclonic circulation has already formed over southeast Bay of Bengal. An ‘active low-pressure cell' covered the Andaman Sea on Sunday. The Canadian Meteorological Centre and the Global Forecasting System model of the US National Centres for Environmental Prediction have hinted that a ‘low' or depression may be generated from the Bay system and travel to the east coast. While the CMC sees the system to be active until Thursday making a landfall over the north Andhra Pradesh coast, the NCEP has suggested a slightly different trajectory positing the system into the warmer waters adjoining coastal Tamil Nadu to cross the Chennai coast by Saturday. From here, the system might take a north-northwest course and travel all the way into northern Maharashtra and adjoining west Madhya Pradesh. The TMD sees the monsoon making an onset over the southwest coast (Kerala) as early as Sunday (May 23). This was based on the active phase of an ongoing Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) wave in the equatorial Indian Ocean and adjoining peninsular seas.
Meanwhile, the US Joint Typhoon Warning Centre has signalled building activity with separate systems in the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. The Arabian Sea system, though, was brewing far away to the west of the Indian coast, but had a ‘fair' chance of developing into a tropical storm.
As for the Bay system, the JTWC pointed to persisting area of convection, more than 1,000 km south of Kolkata. Satellite pictures revealed a broad unorganised region of convergence, deep convection and cyclonic turning. Maximum sustained surface winds are estimated up to 28 km/hr. But JTWC assessed as ‘poor' the potential for the development of a significant tropical cyclone within the next 24 hours.
The entire Arabian Sea from the far west to the south-east (off Kerala) is shown to be ‘lit up' in the immediately following week (May 24 to June 1). Monsoon onset may happen mid-way through this period, which is earlier than usual. During this period, a ‘rain head' (likely storm) is shown to dig a track north-northeast from central Bay of Bengal and smash into the Thailand-Myanmar region.


Rising temperatures have already driven 12% of Mexico's lizard populations to extinction. Based on this discovery, they conclude that "lizards have already crossed a threshold for extinctions". Climate change could wipe out 20% of the world's lizard species by 2080. Although the grim prediction for 2080 could change if humans are able to slow global climate warming, a sharp decline in their numbers has already begun and would continue for decades.
"We are actually seeing lowland species moving upward in elevation, slowly driving upland species extinct, and if the upland species can't evolve fast enough then they're going to continue to go extinct." Lizards, the researchers say, are far more susceptible to climate-warming extinction than previously thought. Many species live right at the edge of their "thermal limits".

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Our greatest pretenses are built up not to hide the evil and
the ugly in us, but our emptiness.
The hardest thing to hide is something that is not there.
Eric Hoffer

This morning -

5/15/10 -
5/14/10 -

PUERTO RICO - A moderate earthquake shook the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico on early this morning, waking thousands of people and leaving thousands more without power. There were no immediate reports of casualties. The 5.7-magnitude earthquake was centered about 4 miles (6 kilometers) east-northeast of Espino, or 63 miles (101 kilometers) west-northwest of the capital San Juan. It struck about 68.4 miles (110 kilometers) deep, making it a fairly deep earthquake. There were no immediate reports of casualties, and there was no threat of a tsunami. Earthquakes with magnitudes of 5.7 or higher are RARE in this region.

ALGERIA - A moderate earthquake in Algeria on Friday killed two people and injured 43 others. The 5.2-magnitude quake occurred outside the city of Melouza, 250 kilometres (155 miles) southeast of the capital Algiers. No details were provided on material damage. [4.8 aftershock this morning.]


ICELAND - Volcanic ash from Iceland could disrupt air travel in both Britain and Germany in the next few days. There is a risk that parts of British airspace could be closed beginning today and those problems could continue until Tuesday. The predictions are based on the continuing eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokul volcano and current wind and weather conditions. "A high density volcanic ash cloud is rapidly encroaching on Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man." The cloud is expected to lie over the London area by Tuesday, but is likely to have drifted out of UK airspace by Wednesday.
In Germany, air traffic control said that German air travel could face possible disruptions starting on Monday, but cautioned that indicators were still "very, very vague". In Iceland, the intensity of the Eyjafjallajokul eruption has not changed but wind conditions have. "The winds in the vicinity of the volcano are not quite as forceful as they have been, so the ash plume is higher closer to the volcano. The weather patterns are the predominant factor in deciding where the ash goes." The wind is expected to change direction on Tuesday, which would lower the risk of travel disruptions. Airlines, including Lufthansa and British Airways, have criticised past air space closures as an overreaction by regulators. The last big eruption of Eyjafjallajokull - in the 1820s - went on for about two years, and its current eruption could last "several months".
Scientists forecast decades of ash clouds - Many more of Iceland’s volcanoes seem to be stirring. The Icelandic eruption could be part of a surge in volcanic activity that will affect the whole of Europe for decades, scientists have warned. They have reconstructed a timeline of 205 eruptions in Iceland, spanning the past 1,100 years, and found that they occur in regular cycles — with the relatively quiet phase that dominated the past five decades now coming to an end. At least three other big Icelandic volcanoes are building towards an eruption, according to a volcanologist. His findings coincide with new warnings that the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull, which has disrupted air traffic across Europe for several weeks, could carry on for many months - and possibly years.
Some geologists have also warned of a serious threat from a fourth volcano, Katla, which lies 15 miles to the east of Eyjafjallajokull. Two of its past three eruptions seemed to be triggered by those of its smaller neighbour and a report issued just before Eyjafjallajokull blew suggested Katla was “close to failure [eruption]”. The three other volcanoes potentially close to a large eruption are Grimsvotn, Hekla and Askja — all of which are bigger than Eyjafjallajokull.
There was a minor eruption at Hekla in 2000 and geologists have reported that snow is once again melting on Hekla’s summit, suggesting that magma is rising. Grimsvotn, another highly active volcano, lies under the huge Vatnajokull glacier in Iceland’s southeast. An eruption in 1996 saw much of this glacial ice melt, causing a flood that washed away the country’s main ring road. It is linked to the massive Laki fissure volcano whose 1783 eruption ejected so much ash into the atmosphere that it cooled the entire northern hemisphere for nearly three years. “There are about 35 active [big] volcanoes in Iceland and if we put a high quality seismograph and some global positioning equipment on each one we would often be able to tell in advance if an eruption was coming. The cost is tiny compared with the potential economic damage from an unexpected eruption.” The new rules in place for aviation mean Iceland and Europe can probably cope with Eyjafjallajokull, but an eruption by Katla could cause far bigger problems. The ash cloud could be immense, but for Iceland the biggest problem would be massive flooding.

No current tropical cyclones.

Saturday marked the beginning of the 2010 hurricane season in the eastern Pacific. The season will run until November 30, which coincides with the end of hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin. The 2010 Atlantic Basin hurricane season does not get underway until June 1. The average first date for a hurricane to form in the eastern Pacific is June 24, but not until August 14 in the Atlantic. The earlier start time in the eastern Pacific reflects how this basin typically turns active faster than the Atlantic. On average, June 9 is when the first tropical storm is named in the eastern Pacific. In the Atlantic, that date is July 10. The first tropical storm to develop in the eastern Pacific this year will acquire the name "Agatha." The basin, however, is currently quiet.
The eastern Pacific is historically the most active of the two basins. On average, 15 tropical storms are named each season. Out of those, nine become hurricanes with four reaching major hurricane status. The majority of tropical storms and hurricanes never threaten land. A typical eastern Pacific tropical system will head westward into the open and progressively cooler waters of the Pacific, dissipating in the process.
Since records began, the cool water that lies offshore of California has protected the state from direct hits from tropical storms and hurricanes every season but one. In September 1939, an unnamed tropical storm pressed onshore at Long Beach, California, with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph. Two other storms have moved into Arizona at tropical storm strength. The first was once-Hurricane Joanne in October 1972, followed by once-Hurricane Kathleen in September 1976. No systems have reached the Southwest at hurricane strength.


AZERBAIJAN - Severe floods struck Azerbaijan in early May. Hardest hit was a marshy region southwest of the capital city of Baki (Baku) where the Araz and Kür (Kura) Rivers meet. By mid-May, residents were evacuating villages in this area as authorities reported that a dam upstream on the Kür River was at capacity. To relieve pressure on the dam, water would likely need to be released from the Mingäçevir Su Anbari, or Mingachevir Reservoir (northwest of the region), but this step would add to the floodwaters downstream. (satellite photos)


INDIA - The Sun City of Karnataka - Gulbarga - true to its reputation, has RECORDED THE HIGHEST MAXIMUM TEMPERATURE IN 119 YEARS - 46.1 degree celsius in the plains of the State. The UNPRECEDENTED hot conditions prevailing for a week in the northern Karnataka region culminated in the mercury soaring to a never-before high in the history of the city. The minimum temperature recorded for the day - 29.6 degrees Celsius - is also A RECORD FOR THE HIGHEST NIGHT TEMPERATURE.
May, the hottest month of the summer season which began in mid-February and lasts up to the first week of June, has a mean daily maximum temperature of 40.6 degrees Celsius while the mean daily minimum temperature is 26.3 degrees Celsius. The maximum temperature for the current season is 5.5 degrees more than the mean temperature and the minimum temperature was 3.3 degrees more than the mean minimum. In the northern region, the unbearable temperatures affected normal life as Churu in Rajasthan sizzled at a high of 45.8 degrees Celsius. In Jodhpur, the mercury settled at 43.4 degrees. (photos)


Rogue satellite could kill cable programming - An out-of-control satellite is drifting into the orbit of another satellite that transmits cable programming to the United States. Galaxy 15 broke contact with its owner, Intelsat on April 5. Although the exact cause is unknown, the satellite's owners believe it could have been "knocked out by a solar storm."
Normally, losing contact with a satellite wouldn't be cause for much concern, since in most cases, satellites stop transmitting signals. But Galaxy 15 is still transmitting signals to Earth and it's slowly but surely entering the orbit of AMC 11, a satellite that handles U.S. cable programming.
Intelsat isn't concerned that the two satellites will collide, but rather that Galaxy 15 could send signals that would interfere with AMC 11's signals. The interference is expected to occur on or around May 23. Between now and then, Intelsat is working diligently to regain control over Galaxy 15 and keep it away from AMC 11. An Intelsat representative said the company is "confident that service disruptions will be minimized or avoided."
The risks of not succeeding are high. "AMC 11 receives digital programming from cable television channels and transmits it to all U.S. cable systems." Comcast, which has more than 23 million cable subscribers, did not immediately respond to request for comment on whether or not its service will be disrupted in the event of an interference issue.


Scientists are warning there's much more oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico from a sunken BP oil rig than official estimates show. An associate professor of mechanical engineering claims 14 TIMES MORE oil is spewing into the sea than the officially estimated five thousand barrels (210,000 gallons) a day. Another scientist has analysed the undersea oil gusher using a different method and come up with a similar figure. Other scientists are also coming up with similar conclusions but BP's disputing the experts' analyses saying there's no reliable method to calculate how much oil is flowing from the broken pipe on the sea floor.
"The oil you can't see could be as bad as the oil you can." - While people anxiously wait for the slick in the Gulf of Mexico to wash up along the coast, globules of oil are already falling to the bottom of the sea, where they threaten virtually every link in the ocean food chain, from plankton to fish that are on dinner tables everywhere. "The threat to the deep-sea habitat is already a done deal — it is happening now."
Bacteria, plankton and other tiny, bottom-feeding creatures will consume oil, and will then be eaten by small fish, crabs and shrimp. They, in turn, will be eaten by bigger fish, such as red snapper, and marine mammals like dolphins. The petroleum substances that concentrate in the sea creatures could kill them or render them unsafe for eating. "If the oil settles on the bottom, it will kill the smaller organisms like the copepods and small worms. When we lose the forage, then you have an impact on the larger fish." Making matters worse for the deep sea is the leaking well's location: It is near the continental shelf of the Gulf where a string of coral reefs flourishes. Coral is a living creature that excretes a hard calcium carbonate exoskeleton, and oil globs can kill it.
There are other important habitats in shallower waters, such as an ancient oyster shell reef off the Mississippi and Alabama coasts. It is a vital nursery ground for red snapper and habitat for sponges, soft corals and starfish.
Scientists are watching carefully to see whether the slick will hitch a ride to the East Coast by way of a powerful eddy known as the "loop current," which could send the spill around Florida and into the Atlantic Ocean. If that happens, the oil could foul beaches and kill marine life on the East Coast. "Once it's in the loop current, that's the worst case. Then that oil could wind up along the Keys and transported out to the Atlantic."
The Gulf ecosystem is already stressed by fertilizer and other farm runoff from the Mississippi River and the loss of wetlands to erosion and development. About 2,100 square miles of wetlands have disappeared since the 1930s in the southern Louisiana. Every summer, algae caused by fertilizer runoff sucks up the oxygen in a large patch of the Gulf, creating a "dead zone" from which all sorts of sea creatures must escape. This year, they will be swimming into waters fouled by the oil spill. "We're always wondering when we may reach the point where straw breaks the camel's back. At some point you have to wonder if we will see catastrophic losses."