Saturday, December 24, 2011

Protests Intensify over Power Plant in Haimen, China: Is the state socialist system beginning to unravel?

Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii: Number 1 of America's Ten Most Dangerous Volcanoes

A photographer slinks into the Pu'u 'O'o crater of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano, which has been active since 1983.

"A lot of the time the lava's flowing into the sea, and you can walk right up to it," said the USGS's Eichelberger.

One of Kilauea's hazards includes the potential for explosive eruptions. "That's when the magma comes flying out as blocks or particles of ash instead of flowing out intact as lava," Eichelberger explained.

What volcanologists call explosive activity varies. "Sometimes they're discrete explosions ... and things go flying all over the place. Other times it's more like a spray from a fire hose," he said.

As a general rule, "it's wise not to be close to an explosive eruption." Source

Mount St. Helens Volcano, Washington: Number 2 of America's Ten Most Dangerous Volcanoes

The eruption of Mount St. Helens 30 years ago on May 18, 1980 (pictured), is the most devastating and most studied volcanic explosion in U.S. history. The blast killed 57 people and spewed 520 million tons of volcanic ash, darkening the skies of Spokane, Washington, more than 250 miles (400 kilometers) away.

Over the last 10,000 years, Mount St. Helens has erupted more frequently than any other volcano in the Cascade Range, and has continued erupting, albeit gently, in recent years.

"Certainly it's not possible to replicate the 1980 eruption, because the mountain isn't there anymore—it collapsed," said USGS Volcano Hazards Program coordinator Eichelberger.

"But there's nothing to say that a new, very gas-rich batch of magma couldn't come in under the thing and start a new explosive cycle." Source

Mount Rainier Volcano, Washington: Number 3 of America's Ten Most Dangerous Volcanoes

The danger with Washington State's Mount Rainier is that it's covered by more snow and ice than all the other Cascade Range volcanoes combined, so it presents a high risk of lahars, or volcanic mudflows. "A lahar is like concrete flowing down the chute of cement mixer," said the Cascades Volcano Observatory's Scott.

In the past Mount Rainier's lahars have run down the river valley all the way to Puget Sound, a distance of more than 62 miles (100 kilometers). "That's where a lot of the [urban] development is. so that's a key hazard," Scott said.

Mount Rainier undergoes significant volcanic activity every 500 to 1,000 years, Scott said—and the volcano's last big explosion was about 500 years ago. "But right now we know the volcano is at rest." Source

Mount Hood Volcano, Oregon: Number 4 of America's Ten Most Dangerous Volcanoes

Climbers cross a ridge on Oregon's most dangerous volcano, Mount Hood. "A key issue with Mount Hood is that people live on the flank of the volcano, state highways cross its flanks—so there's a lot of stuff up close," the Cascade Volcano Observatory's Scott said.

Mount Hood was very active at the end of the last ice age, and there have been two significant eruptions in the last 1,500 years—the last of which happened just before Lewis and Clark came through in the early 1800s.

One interpretation of Mount Hood's volcanic activity is that the mountain has recently ended a long period of dormancy and "in the future it might be erupting on the order of every few centuries," Scott said. - Source

Mount Shasta Volcano, California: Number 5 of America's Ten Most Dangerous Volcanoes

Flanked by an interstate, California's Mount Shasta volcano looms over thousands of homes, a key to its USGS "very high threat" rating.

Around Mount Shasta an eruption's pyroclastic flow—rapid currents of superheated gas, ash, and rock caused by a volcanic explosion—as well as ash-infused mudflows could put towns and infrastructure in harm's way.

The last reported eruption was seen from the Pacific Ocean in 1786 and may not have "been such a big deal," the Cascades Volcano Observatory's Scott. "We haven't had [an eruption] since settlement by European settlers, but in the geologic sense the volcano has been quite frequently active." Source

South Sister Volcano, Oregon: Number 6 of America's Ten Most Dangerous Volcanoes

With South Sister (pictured) ranked by the USGS as a "very high threat" volcano, the Three Sisters area is a volcanic hotbed spanning about 115 square miles (300 square kilometers) just west of Bend, Oregon.

The next major activity in the area might not be an eruption of one of the three volcanic peaks—Middle, South, and North Sister—but the start of a new volcano altogether, the Cascades Volcano Observatory's Scott said. "It could really occur almost anywhere in that broad area."

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, an area of ground west of the Middle and South Sister started to deform. Volcanologists closely monitored the 9-mile-wide (15-kilometer-wide) area they dubbed "the Bulge," since ground deformation can indicate magma moving and accumulating underground.

The Bulge, though, is now deflating. "In the end, it didn't result in an eruption," Scott said. "But it may be evidence of a process that may eventually produce one." Source

Lassen Volcanic Center, California: Number 7 of America's Ten Most Dangerous Volcanoes

It might be slightly unfair to single out Lassen Peak (pictured), since the Redding, California-area volcano (map) is simply one among several volcanoes in a volatile cluster.

"The next eruption might not be on Lassen Peak," said the Cascades Volcano Observatory's Scott. The blast could take place at a neighboring volcano—or create a new one altogether.

Lassen Peak last erupted during between 1915 and 1917. Like Mount St. Helens 30 years ago, the California volcano blew down a patch of forest, but on a much smaller scale. The previous eruption in the area—called the Lassen Volcanic Center—in the mid-17th century formed a new volcanic cone about 10 miles (16 kilometers) east of Lassen Peak. Source

Mauna Loa Volcano, Hawaii: Number 8 of America's Ten Most Dangerous Volcanoes

The largest volcano on Earth, Hawaii's Mauna Loa has erupted 33 times since its first documented eruption in 1843, but has been relatively quiet since 1984. (Video: Hawaii's Mauna Loa.)

Mauna Loa's general ooziness is due largely to the fact that "the Pacific crust is sinking down below the continents," the USGS's Eichelberger said. "That introduces a lot of water into the hot area of the mantle, which causes melting—and then you get volcanoes."

The molten rock is less dense than solid rock, so it tends to rise to the surface, as at Mauna Loa, where lava constantly flows into a beleaguered nearby community. Source

Redoubt Volcano, Alaska: Number 9 of America's Ten Most Dangerous Volcanoes

Alaska's Redoubt Volcano, which last erupted in 2009 (pictures), presents a high risk because of its proximity to the city of Anchorage, its international airport, and the flight paths overhead.

Pictured on April 21, 1990, erupting Redoubt Volcano in 1989-90 sparked volcanic mudflows, or lahars, which swept into an inlet some 13.5 miles (35 kilometers) away.

Ash from the volcano temporarily shut down a 747's engines in December 1989. Though the crew restarted the engines in midair, the incident's aftershocks can still be felt in recent on-again, off-again airport shutdowns related to Icelandic volcanic ash. - Source

Crater Lake Volcano, Oregon: Number 10 of America's Ten Most Dangerous Volcanoes

LinkA lava outcrop juts from the rim of Oregon's Crater Lake. Born of a blast that expelled more than 50 times the volume of magma as the Mount St. Helens eruption 30 years ago, this watery caldera is also the United States' tenth most dangerous volcano, according to the U.S. Geological Survey - Source

"Sleeping" Volcanoes Can Wake Up Faster Than Thought

The world's "sleeping giants" can wake up much quicker than thought, according to a new Volcano model.

Scientists believe the magma chambers—or reservoirs of molten rock—under dormant volcanoes are filled with sticky, viscous mush.

For a volcano to "wake up," this mush needs to be thoroughly heated by fresh, hot magma rising up from the deep Earth.

According to current theory, it would take several hundred or perhaps a thousand years for the heat to distribute through the chamber and make the magma fluid enough to erupt.

But a new model based on fluid dynamics shows that hot, deep magma can mix with the older, sticky stuff much easier than believed, scientists say.

"That's one reason that the rejuvenation can happen so quickly—the transport of hot material coming in [to the] magma system is much more efficient than we previously had understood," said study co-author George Bergantz, a geologist at the University of Washington.

Real-Life Volcano Eruptions Support Model

The team compared their model with two real-life eruptions: the Philippines' Mount Pinatubo in 1991 and an ongoing eruption of the Soufrière Hills volcano (picture) in the British Caribbean territory of Montserrat (see map).

The scientists analyzed the two volcanoes' magma temperatures, chamber sizes, and other physical features to come up with rough time intervals between the first warning signs and the actual eruptions.

In the case of Pinatubo, the team discovered that the magma chamber took only 20 to 80 days to reactivate, versus the 500 years predicted by conventional theory. Read More

A 'war zone' emerges during Yemen protest - 24th Dec 2011

AEC chairman warned people within 170 km of Fukushima plant might need to relocate - 24th Dec 2011

The head of the government's nuclear energy panel warned in March that all residents in areas within a 170-kilometer radius of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant might need to be relocated in a worst-case scenario, sources close to the government have disclosed.

Japan Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Chairman Shunsuke Kondo made the warning in a report numbering about 20 pages, which he compiled on March 25 -- two weeks after the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant was hit by a massive tsunami generated by the Great East Japan Earthquake -- and submitted it to then Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

At the time, the plant had lost its reactor core cooling functions due to the loss of all external power, hydrogen explosions had ripped through the plant's No. 1, 3 and 4 reactor buildings, and radioactive substances were leaking from the No. 2 reactor due to a meltdown. Workers at the plant had no choice but to manually inject water into the reactors to cool down their cores.

Kondo assumed that in a worst-case scenario, another hydrogen explosion could occur in the No. 1, 2 or 3 reactor buildings, raising radiation levels. Continuing aftershocks would prevent workers from cooling down the reactors for an extended period and that all fuel in a pool for spent nuclear fuel in the No. 4 reactor building pool would melt. At the time, the pool held 1,535 fuel rods that could fill two nuclear reactors. Read More

Earthquakes Christchurch, New Zealand 24th Dec 2011 - UPDATE

Note: Additional Aftershocks 24th Dec 2011
  • 07:39 UTC - 4.0 Magnitude - Depth 15 km - 10 km East of Christchurch
  • 07:51 UTC - 3.5 Magnitude - Depth 8 km - 20 km Southeast of Christchurch
  • 10:04 UTC - 3.5 Magnitude - Depth 10 km - 10 km East of Christchurch
  • 15:44 UTC - 3.0 Magnitude - Depth 8 km - 10 km East of Christchurch
  • 15:56 UTC - 3.3 Magnitude - Depth 9 km - 10 km East of Christchurch
  • 16:14 UTC - 3.5 Magnitude - Depth 11 km - 20 km Northeast of Christchurch
  • 16:22 UTC - 3.5 Magnitude - Depth 8 km - 10 km Northeast of Christchurch
  • 16:26 UTC - 3.5 Magnitude - Depth 9 km - 10 km East of Christchurch
  • 17:03 UTC - 3.3 Magnitude - Depth 6 km - 20 km Southeast of Christchurch
  • 17:41 UTC - 3.7 Magnitude - Depth 8 km - 10 km East of Christchurch
  • 18:15 UTC - 3.0 Magnitude - Depth 7 km - 20 km Northeast of Christchurch

Bird flu virus tied to New England seal deaths - 23rd Dec 2011

An influenza virus similar to one found in wild birds but never before seen in seals has been linked to the recent spate of harbor seal deaths off northern New England, scientists said Tuesday.

Since Sept. 1, 162 seals have been found dead from northern Massachusetts to Maine.

The die-off struck young seals and was most intense in September and October, when deaths were about three to four times the normal number, said Charles Innes, the New England Aquarium's health director. The death rate has since slowed to normal levels.

Tests on five of the dead animals - all from New Hampshire - showed they suffered a bacterial pneumonia caused by the influenza virus subtype, H3N8. Tests are continuing to determine what role the virus played in the broader seal die-off, researchers said.

Besides birds, a separate group of H3N8 hits horses and dogs, but those animals generally recover.

Scientists said the virus appears to have low risk for transmission to humans. But Catherine Brown, State Public Health Veterinarian in Massachusetts, said when influenza jumps between species, it's important to try to learn why.

"Every time that happens, the more we can learn about what causes that to happen, the more we can actually work to prevent it from happening and protect human health as well as animal health," she said.

Other influenza viruses have been linked to at least three previous seal die-offs in New England since 1979. Read More

Four tonnes of dead fish in three days, teams rush to pond near Ahmedabad, India - 24th Dec 2011

The fisheries, forest and health departments of Ahmedabad district swung into action on Friday after receiving reports of fish dying en masse in a pond near Kerala, a village located 38 km from Ahmedabad. According to sarpanch of the village, at least four tonnes of fish has died over the last three days.

Teams from these departments visited the pond, collected samples and asked villagers not to consume dead fish or draw water from the reservoir.

“We noticed some dead fish, small and some weighing up to five kg, washed ashore on Wednesday night. The next morning, there were piles of them and it continued on Thursday and Friday,” sarpanch Subhas Thakar told The Indian Express.

The natural pond is right at the foot of the village with a population of around 7,000 and is spread over five acres. It is 30-feet deep at some points and fresh water remains round the year. Its banks are lined by a rice mill, a bearing factory and farms, the sarpanch said, adding fishing is not allowed there. “We informed authorities after problem seemed to grow serious on Thursday,” Thakor said. Source


Ash From Chilean Volcano Craters Argentine Towns - 24th Dec 2011

On a crystal-clear summer morning in this mountainous Patagonian resort, a lone paraglider floated gently above a placid lake shore. "You know, when the wind is blowing right, everything here is still perfect," said Marcelo Cascon, an ex-mayor here.

That perfection evaporated a little while later when the wind suddenly shifted, blowing a cloud of ash from Chile's Puyehue Volcano 55 miles to the west. Some pedestrians in this town, considered the Aspen of South America, covered their mouths with surgical masks or scarves. A thin granular film soon accumulated on windshields and shop windows.

Volcanic eruptions, continuing now for six months, have devastated this city of 130,000 and nearby Argentine communities, which are economically dependent on skiers in winter and fishermen and trekkers in summer. Regional airports have been paralyzed. Hotel bookings are way down and restaurants are largely empty. Several thousand residents have pulled up stakes in search of better prospects elsewhere.

Most troubling of all is the uncertainty over when the ordeal will end. "Your business plan depends upon which way the wind's blowing and what's happening inside of a volcano," said Claudio Roccatagliata, manager of the five-star Villa Huinid Resort & Spa. Read More

Russian satellite debris lands in Cosmonaut Street - 24th Dec 2011

Fragments of a Russian satellite that failed to launch properly have landed in a street named after cosmonauts in a remote Siberian village, reports say.

The Meridian communications satellite failed to reach orbit on Friday.

Parts crashed into the Novosibirsk region of central Siberia and were found in the Ordynsk district around 100km (60 miles) south of the regional capital, Novosibirsk.

Residents of Vagaitsevo village said a piece had landed on a house there.

The owner of the house, Andrei Krivoruchenko, said that he heard a huge noise and a crash as the satellite hit the roof.

"I climbed up onto the roof and could not work out what had happened. Then I saw a huge hole in the roof and the metal object," he told Russian state television.

The head of the Ordynsk district, Pavel Ivarovksy, told Russia's Interfax news agency that the damage was being examined by specialists and that the home's owner would be compensated.

The loss of the Meridian satellite ends a disastrous 12 months for Russian space activity with the loss of three navigation satellites, an advanced military satellite, a telecommunications satellite, a probe for Mars and as an unmanned Progress supply ship. Read More


Clashes in Nigeria leaves more than 60 dead - 24th Dec 2011

Fighting between a radical Muslim sect and Nigerian troops have left more than 60 people dead.

Several days of violence in the Nigeria's northeast has left churches bombed and people hiding in fear.

The country's authorities said at least 61 people have died in the violence.

The government has now ordered a dusk until dawn curfew in the Yobe state, where at least 50 people died, following attacks by the sect known as Boko Haram.

In Maiduguri, the capital of neighbouring Borno state, bombs reduced at least three churches to rubble and raised fears of further attacks by a group that claimed Christmas Eve bombings last year that killed dozens.

The fighting began Thursday in the two states, with gunfire and explosions heard into the night and the following day in an arid region that borders Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Read More

Kim Jong-il Son Cleared as Top Military Commander - 24th Dec 2011

North Korea’s state-run media on Saturday published an entreaty to the country’s new young leader, Kim Jong-un, to become “supreme commander” of the military, signaling that his succession is moving forward unimpeded.

The military’s support is considered crucial to his consolidating control after the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, a week ago, and the commentary is part of the pattern set when Kim Jong-il took power: entreaties are made and then the leader graciously accepts.

The commentary by Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the ruling Workers’ Party and the primary outlet of the government’s policy statements, was titled “Our Supreme Commander.” It called the son, who is believed to be in his late 20s, “our heart.”

“We urge Comrade Kim Jong-un to embrace the people’s call on him to become our supreme commander,” the commentary said. “We will complete the great task of our songun revolution by upholding Comrade Kim Jong-un as our supreme commander, our general.” Read More

5.3 Magnitude Earthquake NEW IRELAND REGION, PAPUA NEW GUINEA - 24th Dec 2011

A magnitude 5.3 earthquake has struck the New Ireland Region, Papua New Guinea at a depth of 74.9 km (46.5 miles), the quake hit at 17:14:15 UTC Saturday 24th December 2011.
The epicenter was 86 km (53 miles) Southeast of Taron, New Ireland, Papua New Guinea
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Injuries or Damage at this time

Yemen forces fire on marchers demanding Saleh trial, killing at least 1 - 24th Dec 2011

Forces loyal to Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh fired guns, tear gas and water cannons to keep tens of thousands of protesters away from the president's compound in Sanaa on Saturday, killing at least one woman, witnesses said.

In southern Yemen, gunmen killed a Briton of Yemeni origin and wounded a soldier accompanying him in an attack on an oil company vehicle that a local official blamed on highway robbers.

In Sanaa, residents said shots rang out when riot police and troops blocked activists who had reached the capital chanting "No to immunity," at the climax of a mass march that began days earlier in the city of Taiz, 200 km (125 miles) to the south.

The protesters were denouncing a deal granting Saleh immunity from prosecution for his part in a violent crackdown on months of demonstrations against his 33-year rule. In return, the president has handed over his powers to his deputy, pending a presidential election scheduled for February.

One woman marcher was killed, said activists. Medics said 10 people were wounded, some by bullets or tear gas canisters. Read More