Carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitric oxide (NO) are two substances that play a key role in the energy balance of air hundreds of km above our planet’s surface. “Carbon dioxide and nitric oxide are natural thermostats. When the upper atmosphere (or ‘thermosphere’) heats up, these molecules try as hard as they can to shed that heat back into space.” That’s what happened on March 8th when a coronal mass ejection (CME) propelled in our direction by an X5-class solar flare hit Earth’s magnetic field. (On the “Richter Scale of Solar Flares,” X-class flares are the most powerful kind.) Energetic particles rained down on the upper atmosphere, depositing their energy where they hit. The action produced spectacular auroras around the poles and significant1 upper atmospheric heating all around the globe. “The thermosphere lit up like a Christmas tree. It began to glow intensely at infrared wavelengths as the thermostat effect kicked in.”
For the three day period, March 8th through 10th, the thermosphere absorbed 26 billion kWh of energy. Infrared radiation from CO2 and NO, the two most efficient coolants in the thermosphere, re-radiated 95% of that total back into space. “Unfortunately, there’s no practical way to harness this kind of energy. It’s so diffuse and out of reach high above Earth’s surface. Plus, the majority of it has been sent back into space by the action of CO2 and NO.” During the heating impulse, the thermosphere puffed up like a marshmallow held over a campfire, temporarily increasing the drag on low-orbiting satellites. This is both good and bad. On the one hand, extra drag helps clear space junk out of Earth orbit. On the other hand, it decreases the lifetime of useful satellites by bringing them closer to the day of re-entry. The storm is over now, but scientists expect more to come. “We’re just emerging from a deep solar minimum. The solar cycle is gaining strength with a maximum expected in 2013.” “This is a new frontier in the sun-Earth connection, and the data we’re collecting are unprecedented.”
Billie Joe Armstrong
LARGEST QUAKES -
This morning -
5.6 SOUTH AUSTRALIA
5.2 KEPULAUAN SANGIHE, INDONESIA
5.1 GUERRERO, MEXICO
The 7.4 Mexico quake damaged more than 30,000 homes - Near the epicenter of the quake, 800 houses were damaged beyond repair. Many people expect to remain homeless for the forseeable future.
MYSTERY BOOMS -
USGS reports small earthquake near Wisconsin city where mysterious booming noises occurred. A minor earthquake occurred this week near the eastern Wisconsin city where researchers have been investigating a series of unexplained booming sounds over four days, federal geologists said Thursday. The U.S. Geological Survey said the 1.5-magnitude earthquake struck Tuesday just after midnight in Clintonville, a town of about 4,600 people about 40 miles west of Green Bay.
Loud booming noises have been known to accompany earthquakes. It’s possible the mysterious sounds that town officials have been investigating are linked to the quake. Earthquakes can generate seismic energy that moves through rock at thousands of miles per hour, producing a sonic boom when the waves come to the surface. “To be honest, I’m skeptical that there’d be a sound report associated with such a small earthquake, but it’s possible." Those reservations didn’t stop the Clintonville City Administrator from declaring “the mystery is solved” at a news conference Thursday evening. USGS representatives described the event as a swarm of several small earthquakes in a very short time. “In other places in the United States, a 1.5 earthquake would not be felt. But the type of rock Wisconsin has transmits seismic energy very well.”
The U.S. Geological Survey says earthquakes with magnitude of 2.0 or less aren’t commonly felt by people and are generally recorded only on local seismographs. The Tuesday earthquake was discovered after people reported feeling something, and geologists pored through their data to determine that an earthquake did indeed strike. Local residents have reported late-night disturbances since Sunday, including a shaking ground and loud booms that sound like thunder or fireworks. One Clintonville resident said she doubted an earthquake caused the noises. She said the booms she experienced were in a series over the course of several hours and not continuous as she might have expected if they were caused by an earthquake. Still, she said, “It’s a little scary knowing Clintonville could even have earthquakes.”
A geologist at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay said a 1.5 magnitude earthquake produces the energy equivalent of 100 pounds of explosives and could produce loud sounds. But he was reluctant to describe Tuesday’s event as an earthquake, saying the term is generally used to refer to widespread stress in the earth’s crust. What happened in Wisconsin could be near the surface, perhaps caused by groundwater movement or thermal expansion of underground pipes. Still, he said it was possible that the event could produce a series of sounds over time. “If you’ve got something causing a little bit of shifting underground, it may take a while for whatever is causing it to play itself out." The U.S. Geological Survey scientist said Tuesday’s event was confirmed as an earthquake because it registered on six different seismometers, including some as far as central Iowa.
Six Earthquakes Reported In San Salvador Volcano - The National Service of Territorial Studies reported Wednesday the occurrence of six earthquakes in the San Salvador volcano, the mountain that dominates the landscape of the capital.
Ryanair has lost the latest round of its legal battle, as it tries to avoid paying for taking care of its passengers during flight delays caused by ash from Iceland"s Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption in April, 2010. Airlines were forced to cancel more than 100,000 flights on concern glass-like particles spewed into the atmosphere might clog aircraft engines. Passengers were stranded, and even the Navy was called in to rescue those stuck overseas. Ryanair has lost the latest round in its legal battle to avoid paying for hotels, meals and drinks for passengers disrupted by the delayed flights. Ryanair argues that the volcanic eruption was so extraordinary that normal rules should not apply. Judges at the European Court of Justice have been advised by their advocate general that the law does not make such a distinction.
TROPICAL STORMS -
No current tropical storms.
EXTREME HEAT & DROUGHT / WILDFIRES / CLIMATE CHANGE -
U.S. - Soaring into the 80s, warm weather breaks thousands of records. In a typical March, you may be teased with one, maybe two nice days before being hit with the cold reality of winter. But in the eastern part of the country, March 2012 HAS BROKEN THOUSANDS OF DAILY HIGH RECORDS.
HEALTH THREATS -
India swine flu outbreak kills 12 - Twelve people have died of swine flu in India since the beginning of March. Half of the deaths have been reported from the western state of Maharashtra. Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have also reported deaths. Nearly 130 others have been infected with the virus, and many of them admitted to hospitals. The cause of the sudden outbreak is not clear. The virus killed more than 450 Indians when it first emerged in 2009. More than 13,000 people were infected with the virus during that outbreak. The virus is thought to have killed more than 1,200 people around the world.
"The health ministry is monitoring the situation and there is no cause for worry. The states where cases had been reported have been advised to step up surveillance to control the further spread of the virus. "The rise in new cases could be a "short spurt". "Last year globally, swine flu was at an ebb. While short spurts are being recorded in other countries this year, it could well be a short spell where the virus will surge and then die down." The swine flu (H1N1) virus first emerged in Mexico in April 2009 and has since spread to many countries.