Friday, August 26, 2011

WARNING: Extraordinary Threat for NC, Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, and New England

Aug 26, 2011 10:53 am ET
- Hurricane Irene poses an extraordinary threat and is one that no one has yet experienced from North Carolina to the mid_Atlantic to the Northeast to New England.
- Hurricane Irene is a high end category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Thursday, August 25, 2011 at 01:07:50 AM (EDT)
2011 August 25 05:07:50 UTC
* Thursday, August 25, 2011 at 05:07:50 UTC

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Quake Watch: 7.0 - Northern Peru, 5.1 - Tonga

* Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

QUAKE UPDATE: 5.9 quake hits Va.; WH, Pentagon evacuated

WASHINGTON - A 5.9 magnitude earthquake centered northwest of Richmond, Va., shook much of Washington, D.C., and was felt as far north as Rhode Island and New York City. The quake sent hundreds of people spilling into the street a block from the White House, with other buildings evacuated in North Carolina and tremors felt as far away as New York City.
Pentagon, US Capitol evacuated...
Shakes Manhattan...
Felt from NH to Atlanta...
Less than 4 miles deep...

ALERT: Magnitude 5.8 - VIRGINIA

2011 August 23 17:51:03 UTC
5.8 (Preliminary magnitude — update expected within 15 minutes)
* Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 17:51:03 UTC
* Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 01:51:03 PM at epicenter

Location 37.875°N, 77.908°W

Earthquake, Strongest in Decades, Hits Colorado

August 23, 2011 8:57 AM - UPI/Gary C. Caskey - An earthquake with a 5.3 magnitude, struck Colorado late Monday in an area of the U.S. where quakes are relatively rare, the U.S. Geological Survey said on Tuesday. The quake, the largest in the state in around 40 years, struck near midnight Monday night 180 miles south of Denver and 20 miles northwest of Raton, New Mexico, at a depth of 2.5 miles. Local media reported minor damage to some homes, but no injuries or deaths. "It's a seismically active area so it's not unheard of that you would have an earthquake in this area," USGS National Earthquake Information Center geophysicist Julie Dutton told Reuters Tuesday morning from Golden, Colorado. "But to have a 5.3 anywhere in Colorado, let alone in this area, is rare."

Earthquake Watch: Magnitude 5.3 - COLORADO

2011 August 23 05:46:19 UTC
Location: 37.070°N, 104.700°W
Depth 4 km (2.5 miles)
Distances: 15 km 9 miles) WSW of Trinidad, Colorado
33 km (20 miles) NW of Raton, New Mexico
54 km (33 miles) S of Walsenburg, Colorado

Track Hurricane Irene as it makes its way to us

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Thursday, August 18, 1 p.m. - Dow, leading indexes nosedive. Blue chips down as much as 528 points, with financials and the tech sector both hit especially hard. Treasury yields and gold hit records as investors flee to safety. U.S. data and Europe fears spark race to exit. Gold at $1,822.

METEORITE ALERT: Western Pa. and Ohio residents start looking!

Bill Cooke, head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office has issued a meteorite alert for residents of small towns east of Cleveland, Ohio. There could be space rocks on the ground waiting to be found. "On August 8 at 1:22 Eastern Daylight Time, all-sky cameras belonging to the Southern Ontario Meteor Network detected a fireball entering the atmosphere 54 miles above Lake Erie (80.944 W, 41.945 N), moving SSE at 25 km/s (55,900 mph). There is high confidence that this meteor produced meteorites." For one thing, the debris appears to have produced echoes from KCLE's doppler radar in Cleveland; note the circled reflections:

Monday, August 15, 2011

Shell estimates 1,300 barrels of oil have spilled off Scotland's coast

LONDON (AP) — Royal Dutch Shell estimates 1,300 barrels of oil have spilled into the North Sea off Scotland's coast.

Glen Cayley, technical director of Shell's European exploration and production activities, said Monday the amount is a "significant spill" in the context of annual amounts of oil spilled in the North Sea.

He says the flowline to the Gannet Alpha platform is now leaking around five barrels a day. The leak began last week.

Cayley says he expects waves to disperse the oil sheen and he does not expect it to reach the shore. The platform is still operating.

Shell says the spill covers a surface area of 19 miles by 2.7 miles (31 kilometers by 4.3 kilometers) at it largest point.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

SKY WATCH: Meteor Shower This Week

PERSEID METEOR SHOWER: Earth is entering a stream of debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, source of the annual Perseid meteor shower. International observers are now reporting more than 20 Perseids per hour, a number that will increase as the shower reaches its peak on August 12-13.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Gold shoots past record $1,800 an ounce

Associated Press - The price of gold surpassed $1,800 an ounce Wednesday for the first time as investors pulled their money out of stocks and snapped up precious metals contracts. Gold is fast becoming a favorite port in a storm of uncertainty. Investors are clinging to what they see as a hedge against volatile stock and currency markets.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

AP IMPACT: Japan ignored own radiation forecasts

ERIC TALMADGE,Associated Press
MARI YAMAGUCHI,Associated Press

NAMIE, Japan (AP) — Japan's system to forecast radiation threats was working from the moment its nuclear crisis began. As officials planned a venting operation certain to release radioactivity into the air, the system predicted Karino Elementary School would be directly in the path of the plume emerging from the tsunami-hit Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant.

But the prediction helped no one. Nobody acted on it.

The school, just over six miles (10 kilometers) from the plant, was not immediately cleared out. Quite the opposite. It was turned into a temporary evacuation center.

Reports from the forecast system were sent to Japan's nuclear safety agency, but the flow of data stopped there. Prime Minister Naoto Kan and others involved in declaring evacuation areas never saw the reports, and neither did local authorities. So thousands of people stayed for days in areas that the system had identified as high-risk, an Associated Press investigation has found.

At Karino Elementary in the town of Namie, about 400 students, teachers, parents and others gathered in the playground at the height of the nuclear crisis stemming from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Many ate rice balls and cooked in the open air.

They were never informed of the predictions that they were at risk. In an interview with the AP, Namie's mayor said it took more than 24 hours for him to realize — from watching TV — that the evacuees were in danger. He sent buses to move some of them out. But, unaware of the risks, they were taken to another part of town also forecast to be in the plume's path. Most were left to fend for themselves.

"When I think about it now, I am outraged," Principal Hidenori Arakawa said. "Our lives were put at risk."

Documents obtained by the AP, interviews with key officials and a review of other newly released documents and parliamentary transcripts indicate that the government's use of the forecast data was hamstrung by communication breakdowns and a lack of even a basic understanding of the system at the highest levels.

It's unclear how much radiation people might have been exposed to by staying in areas in the path of the radioactive plume, let alone whether any might suffer health problems from the exposure. It could be difficult to ever prove a connection: Health officials say they have no plans to prioritize radiation tests of those who were at the school.

But the breakdown may hold lessons for other countries with nuclear power plants because similar warning systems are used around the world. This was their first test in a major crisis.

The Japanese network — built in 1986 at a cost of $140 million (11 billion yen) — is known as SPEEDI, short for the System for Prediction of Environment Emergency Dose Information. It has radiation monitoring posts nationwide and has been tested in a number of drills, including one the prime minister led for the Hamaoka nuclear facility just last year.

Even so, according to the prime minister's office, Kan and his top advisers never asked for or received the data. Despite taking part in the Hamaoka drill, Kan admitted he didn't understand how SPEEDI worked or how valuable the data was.

"I had no idea what sort of information was available," he told Parliament on June 17. "I didn't know anything about it then, and there was no way I could make a judgment."

In two post-crisis assessments, a report to the International Atomic Energy Agency and an annual white paper on science and technology, his government has said the network "failed to perform its intended function."

A senior member of Kan's crisis team, Nuclear Safety Commission chief Haruki Madarame, went so far as to say the SPEEDI data was no better than "a mere weather report."

He said the predictions were of no value because they lacked accurate radiation readings. Some of the system's monitoring capabilities were compromised by the tsunami and ensuing power outages, and the utility that runs the Fukushima plant, TEPCO, did not provide readings of its own.

But SPEEDI officials say Madarame's position reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of what their system is designed to do.

When the amount of radioactivity that has been leaked is known, that is entered into its system, along with weather and terrain data, and a hazard map is generated. If the amount is not known — as was the case with Fukushima — a standard and relatively low value of one becquerel is used.

While that won't show the actual radiation risk, it will show the general pattern and direction of the plume. Then when the size of the leak becomes known, the map can be updated. If the actual leak turns out to be 100 becquerels, for example, the results would be multiplied by 100.

That technique allowed SPEEDI to produce reports hours before officials began venting disabled reactors — when there would have been less radiation to measure outside the nuclear plant even if the system's monitoring equipment had been working perfectly.

In the Fukushima case, later data proved the forecasts to be highly accurate. Most of Namie, for example, has since been declared too dangerous for habitation.

"We are offended by allegations that SPEEDI failed to function the way it was supposed to," Akira Tsubosaka, a senior official in charge of operations, told the AP. "SPEEDI was not used to determine evacuation zones. It should have been."

SPEEDI, run by the education and science ministry, provides its data to other government agencies such as the nuclear safety agency for passage up the chain and then dissemination to local authorities.

Officials won't say why that didn't happen, sticking to their position that the data was useless anyway.

But the government response has been sharply criticized by one of Kan's top science advisers, who later quit in protest, according to a confidential report to the prime minister that was obtained by the AP.

"The SPEEDI radiation forecasts were not properly utilized and a situation was invited in which residents were made vulnerable to more exposure than necessary," Toshiso Kosako, also a professor at the University of Tokyo, wrote in late April.

Ironically, low-level officials were quick to seek the SPEEDI data.

Bureaucrats familiar with SPEEDI commissioned at least 18 tailor-made forecasts in the first 24 hours, as the government was pushing TEPCO to open vents to avert an explosion.

The venting would release radioactive substances into the air. So, according to documents obtained by the AP, the forecasts included several to gauge that danger.

One issued at 3:53 a.m. — about 13 hours after the crisis began — predicted the plume would drift across Namie and several other towns.

The forecasts were relayed to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency but they did not reach decision-makers.

In Japan, the legal responsibility for setting evacuation zones falls on the central government and the prime minister. Local officials then are tasked with implementing the orders.

Instead of following the patterns of radioactive dispersion suggested by SPEEDI, the central government simply set up a six-mile (10-kilometer) evacuation zone around the plant. That did not include a broad swath of land that SPEEDI predicted would be affected.

The mayors of two towns that have since been almost completely evacuated told the AP that the government did not inform them of even that decision — let alone provide SPEEDI data — so they had to act on their own. They said they were unable to assess the risks adequately because they were not privy to the SPEEDI reports.

"We got nothing until more than a week later," said Katsunobu Sakurai, the mayor of Minami-Soma. "People were unnecessarily exposed to possible dangers. We believe the central government must come clean on this."

"The first I heard of the 10-kilometer zone was when I saw the news on TV," said Namie Mayor Tamotsu Baba. Namie's municipal government has since been evacuated to Nihonmatsu, a city 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the plant.

Because Karino Elementary sits just outside the six-mile (10-kilometer) evacuation zone, it was used as a gathering area for evacuees.

Later in the day, at the mayor's order, some evacuees were taken by bus to another part of Namie called Tsushima, which SPEEDI data suggested was also dangerous. Others, including Principal Arakawa and his family, went in the same direction by car.

Masako Mori, a senior opposition member of Parliament from Fukushima, told the AP that two alternative routes would have led away from the areas identified as high-risk by SPEEDI. The third — to Tsushima — led along the plume's expected path.

"We didn't have any information. But it turns out we were taking the most dangerous route," Arakawa said. "None of us knew."

Mori said SPEEDI data should have been used to get people out of the area much faster.

The evacuees at shelters in the Tsushima district — including about 8,000 residents of Namie — were not told to move farther away until March 16, five days into the crisis.

Mori, who also is a trial lawyer, raised the possibility of lawsuits against the government.

"The government unnecessarily exposed people to radiation, failing to observe its legal obligation to protect the citizens," she said. "It could be held responsible for compensation for the possible damage caused by its errors."

Exposure to radiation can lead to a variety of cancers — as it did in Chernobyl. Babies, children and pregnant women are at the highest risk.

Mori, along with Namie's mayor and the school principal, are seeking full-body radiation tests for all children who were at the school. The tests measure internal exposure such as inhaled radioactive particles and could be key to understanding the health impact. But Fukushima health officials say they have no particular plan to test the Karino evacuees, because they don't have the resources and are instead focusing on groups, such as pregnant women, from the general area.

Thousands across the region have requested full-body tests, and only 340 have gotten them so far. None had dangerously high levels of contamination, though that does not rule out future health problems.

The Fukushima health office said it is looking into ways to speed up the process.


Yamaguchi reported from Tokyo.

Monday, August 8, 2011


Dow below 11,000 - Blue chips plunge 600 points; VIX index at 2009 highs
As investors get their first clear shot at repricing securities following the S&P downgrade of U.S. debt, stocks are steeply in the red. Oil also is washout, while gold hits highs. Treasurys paradoxically rise.
• Oil futures tank | Gold settles at record $1,713.20 | Bank stocks battered: B. of A., Citi pace plunge

GOLD PRICE: $1,716.10... an ounce!

August 8, 2011
3 p.m.

+64.30 +3.9%

MARKET ALERT: Dow Down 482

Dow's below 11,000
2:20 p.m. - As investors get their first clear shot at repricing securities following the S&P downgrade of U.S. debt, stocks are steeply in the red. Oil also is a washout, while gold's surging. Treasurys paradoxically rise.
• Oil futures tank | Gold settles at record $1,713.20 | Why did gold leap $61 on Monday?

NASA Spacecraft Data Suggest Water Flowing on Mars

PASADENA, Calif. -- Observations from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have revealed possible flowing water during the warmest months on Mars.

"NASA's Mars Exploration Program keeps bringing us closer to determining whether the Red Planet could harbor life in some form,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said, “and it reaffirms Mars as an important future destination for human exploration."

Dark, finger-like features appear and extend down some Martian slopes during late spring through summer, fade in winter, and return during the next spring. Repeated observations have tracked the seasonal changes in these recurring features on several steep slopes in the middle latitudes of Mars' southern hemisphere.
CLICK HERE to read more

Friday, August 5, 2011

SOLAR ALERT: CME flare Impact... Now

CME IMPACT--NOW: NASA's ACE spacecraft, which measures the speed of the solar wind just upstream of Earth, indicates that a CME impact on our planet is in progress. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras in the hours ahead.

China says debt financing unlikely 'to save' US, EU

A mix of the Chinese currency the yuan, the US dollar and the euro are pictured in Beijing. China said that debt deals in the United States and in Europe would not be enough to save their economies and "concrete steps" must be taken to rebalance the global economy. A mix of the Chinese currency the yuan, the US dollar and the euro are pictured in Beijing. China said that debt deals in the United States and in Europe would not be enough to save their economies and "concrete steps" must be taken to rebalance the global economy.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

UPDATE: Dow Dives 476... and falling

Stocks plunge as economic, European worries grow
Associated Press LONDON — Fears that the U.S. economy may be heading back into recession and that Italy and Spain won't be able to deal with their debts battered stocks, the euro and oil prices Thursday.

SOLAR ALERT: Strong sun activity for third day

For the third day in a row, active sunspot 1261 has unleashed a significant M-class solar flare. The latest blast at 0357 UT on August 4th registered M9.3 on the Richter Scale of Flares, almost crossing the threshold into X-territory (X-flares are the most powerful kind). The number of energetic protons around Earth has jumped nearly 100-fold as a result of this event.

Dow Plunges 324, S&P Hits Correction Levels

Stocks hit session lows in another volatile session Thursday as fears over a global economic slowdown intensified and ahead of the widely-followed monthly unemployment report.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Earth's two moons? It's not lunacy, but new theory

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a spectacle that might have beguiled poets, lovers and songwriters if only they had been around to see it, Earth once had two moons, astronomers now think. But the smaller one smashed into the other in what is being called the "big splat." The result: Our planet was left with a single bulked-up and ever-so-slightly lopsided moon. The astronomers came up with the scenario to explain why the moon's far side is so much more hilly than the one that is always facing Earth.

SOLAR ALERT: M6-class solar flare due to reach earth Aug. 6

Sunspot 1261 unleashed another strong solar flare this morning--an M6-class flash at 1348 UT. Like yesterday's eruption from the same active region, this explosion propelled a CME in the general direction of Earth. ETA: August 6th. The CME left the sun traveling 900 km/s and should reach Earth (denoted by a yellow dot in the simulation) on August 5th at 0300 UT plus or minus 7 hours. Another cloud produced by today's M-flare may be right behind it; stay tuned for movies of that one, too. Mild to moderate geomagnetic storms are possible when these CMEs arrive on August 5th and 6th.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Dow loses 265 points

NEW YORK — The Dow Jones industrial average fell for an eighth straight day as investors reacted to more signs of weakness in the U.S. economy and poor earnings from several big companies. The broader stock market is on pace for its longest losing streak in two years. The Dow is below 12,000 and the Standard & Poor's 500 index lost nearly all of its gains for the year by the early afternoon."The market is starting to wonder where the growth is going to come from," said Nick Kalivas, a vice president of financial research at MF Global. "It hasn't hit the panic button yet, but that's where we're drifting."

Monday, August 1, 2011


2011 August 01 14:58:11 UTC

Location 34.676°N, 138.439°E
Depth 21.9 km (13.6 miles)
* 34 km (21 miles) S (174°) from Shizuoka, Honshu, Japan
* 68 km (42 miles) E (92°) from Hamamatsu, Honshu, Japan
* 114 km (71 miles) S (186°) from Kofu, Honshu, Japan
* 162 km (101 miles) SW (228°) from TOKYO, Japan

FBI: 'Credible lead' surfaces in D.B. Cooper case

SEATTLE (AP) — The FBI says it has a "credible" lead in the D.B. Cooper case involving the 1971 hijacking of a passenger jet over Washington state and the suspect's legendary parachute escape.

The fate and identity of the hijacker dubbed "D.B. Cooper" has remained a mystery in the 40 years since a man jumped from a Northwest Orient Airlines 727 flight with $200,000 in ransom.

The recent tip provided to the FBI came from a law enforcement member who directed investigators to a person who might have helpful information on the suspect, FBI spokeswoman Ayn Sandalo Dietrich told The Seattle Times on Sunday. She called the new information the "most promising lead we have right now," but cautioned that investigators were not on the verge of breaking the case.

"With any lead our first step is to assess how credible it is," Sandalo Dietrich told the Seattle Post Intelligencer on Saturday. "Having this come through another law enforcement (agency), having looked it over when we got it - it seems pretty interesting."

Dietrich says an item belonging to the man was sent to a lab in Quantico, Va., for forensic testing. She did not provide specifics about the item or the man's identity.

Federal investigators have checked more than 1,000 leads since the suspect bailed out on Nov. 24, 1971, over the Pacific Northwest. The man who jumped gave his name as Dan Cooper and claimed shortly after takeoff in Portland, Ore., that he had a bomb, leading the flight crew to land the plane in Seattle, where passengers were exchanged for parachutes and ransom money.

The flight then took off for Mexico with the suspect and flight crew on board before the man parachuted from the plane.

The FBI's recent tip in the case was first reported by The Telegraph newspaper in London.