Space Events

Comet to appear in UK skies

A bright comet could be visible in the skies above the UK on 12 – 13 March – as long as it’s not cloudy!

The icy mass, nicknamed “C/2011 L4 Pan-Starrs” should be visible with binoculars or a telescope.

Astronomers in countries like Australia have already spotted the comet and some reports say it was as bright as the stars in the Plough.

Comet

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity:

Stromboli (Eolian Islands, Italy): Volcanic tremor has increased during the past 24 hours, but is back to lower values at the moment. All in all, activity levels is elevated, and the magma column inside the conduit is standing high.

Batu Tara (Sunda Islands, Indonesia): An explosion produced an ash plume rising to 8,000 ft (2.4 km) altitude this morning, VAAC Darwin reported.

White Island (New Zealand): Tremor has shown a marked increase over the past hour, which follows a very soft increase the volcano has shown during the past days. In addition, 3 shallow magnitude 2.1, 2.5 and 2.9 quakes, possibly of volcanic origin, occurred yesterday south of the volcano at depths of 5-10 km.

Colima (Western Mexico): Small explosions and rockfalls and volcanic quakes are on the increase.

Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): Ash emissions continue. A plume rises to at about 27,000 ft (7 km) altitude (or approx. 1500 m above the crater) and drifts east. The seismic signal shows numerous volcanic quakes, but less tremor. Glow can be seen on webcam images.

Santa María / Santiaguito (Guatemala): Activity remains similar to before. Moderate explosions from time to time produce ash plumes rising about 700 m altitude. Light ash fall was reported yesterday in Calahuaché. Effusive activity has been low at the lava flows on the dome’s flanks.

Nevado del Ruiz (Colombia): An increase in seismic activity was recorded by the Manizales Observatory today. Several relatively large volcanic earthquakes (but still less than mag 2 on the Richter scale) occurred and are thought to be related to a new intrusion of magma. The new quakes occurred in the area of the Olleta crater at a depth of 2 – 4.5 kilometers, accompanied by seismicity typical for fluid movements at shallow depth beneath Arenas crater.

Heard (Australia, Southern Indian Ocean): MODIS hot spots have remained visible at the summit of Heard island, suggesting ongoing activity at this very remote volcano.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Cyclone Sandra

As of 01:00 UTC, Tropical Cyclone Sandra was located 645 nm northwest of Noumea, New Caledonia.

Sandra is expected to become category 4 cyclone on Monday.

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.6 Earthquake hits Vanuata.

5.2 Earthquake hits the Banda Sea.

Global Warming

Recent Heat Spike Unlike Anything In 11,000 Years

A new study looking at 11,000 years of climate temperatures shows the world in the middle of a dramatic U-turn, lurching from near-record cooling to a heat spike.

Research released Thursday in the journal Science uses fossils of tiny marine organisms to reconstruct global temperatures back to the end of the last ice age. It shows how the globe for several thousands of years was cooling until an unprecedented reversal in the 20th century.

Scientists say it is further evidence that modern-day global warming isn’t natural, but the result of rising carbon dioxide emissions that have rapidly grown since the Industrial Revolution began roughly 250 years ago.

The decade of 1900 to 1910 was one of the coolest in the past 11,300 years — cooler than 95 percent of the other years, the marine fossil data suggest. Yet 100 years later, the decade of 2000 to 2010 was one of the warmest, said study lead author Shaun Marcott of Oregon State University. Global thermometer records only go back to 1880, and those show the last decade was the hottest for this more recent time period.

“In 100 years, we’ve gone from the cold end of the spectrum to the warm end of the spectrum,” Marcott said. “We’ve never seen something this rapid. Even in the ice age the global temperature never changed this quickly.”

Using fossils from all over the world, Marcott presents the longest continuous record of Earth’s average temperature.

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In this Aug. 29, 1938 file photo, smoke rises from smokestacks at Skoda’s main foundry in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia

Marcott’s data indicates that it took 4,000 years for the world to warm about 1.25 degrees from the end of the ice age to about 7,000 years ago. The same fossil-based data suggest a similar level of warming occurring in just one generation: from the 1920s to the 1940s. Actual thermometer records don’t show the rise from the 1920s to the 1940s was quite that big and Marcott said for such recent time periods it is better to use actual thermometer readings than his proxies.

Before this study, continuous temperature record reconstruction only went back about 2,000 years. The temperature trend produces a line shaped like a “hockey stick” with a sudden spike after what had been a fairly steady line. That data came from tree rings, ice cores and lake sediments.

Marcott wanted to go farther back, to the end of the last ice age in more detail by using the same marine fossil method. That period also coincides with a “really important time for the history of our planet,” said Smithsonian Institution research anthropologist Torben Rick. That’s the time when people started to first domesticate animals and start agriculture, which is connected to the end of the ice age.

Marcott’s research finds the climate had been gently warming out of the ice age with a slow cooling that started about 6,000 years ago.

Then the cooling reversed with a vengeance.

The study shows the recent heat spike “has no precedent as far back as we can go with any confidence, 11,000 years arguably,” said Pennsylvania State University professor Michael Mann, who wrote the original hockey stick study but wasn’t part of this research. He said scientists may have to go back 125,000 years to find warmer temperatures potentially rivaling today’s.

However, another outside scientist, Jeff Severinghaus of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography thinks temperatures may have been notably warmer just 12,000 years ago, at least in Greenland based on research by some of his colleagues.

Several outside scientists praised the methods Marcott used, but said it might be a bit too oriented toward the Northern Hemisphere.

Marcott said the general downward trend of temperatures that reversed 100 years ago seemed to indicate the Earth was heading either toward another ice age or little ice age from about 1550 to 1850. Or it was continuing to cool naturally until greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels changed everything.

The reason the globe warmed after the ice age and then started cooling about 6,000 years ago has to do with the tilt of the Earth and its distance from the sun, said Marcott and Severinghaus. Distance and angle in the summer matter because of heat absorption and reflection and ground cover.

“We have, through human emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases, indefinitely delayed the onset of the next ice age and are now heading into an unknown future where humans control the thermostat of the planet,” said Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech University.

Space Events

Another Asteriod to Pass the Earth

An asteroid the size of a city block will pass by Earth this weekend, but there is no danger of it hitting our planet.

The 80-meter wide asteroid makes its closest approach to Earth on Saturday afternoon in the United States. It will be about 975,000 kilometers (604,500 miles) away.

Drought

Drought in Vietnam

Coffee farmers in Vietnam, the world’s biggest producer of the robusta beans used by Nestle SA in instant drinks, are limiting sales to seek higher prices amid a drought that may reduce the next harvest significant.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity:

Tolbachik (Kamchatka): The eruption continues with little changes.

Ambrym (Vanuatu): A strong SO2 plume is hovering over the island today. Good news for our guests going to visit Ambrym, it seems that the lava lakes continue to be active.

Iliamna (Cook Inlet (SW Alaska)): Seismicity has risen again at the volcano recently, earthquake-report mentioned. Events as large as M1.4 occurred along a (ring?) fracture located south of the volcano’s summit.

Colima (Western Mexico): Activity has been slowly increasing. Inside the summit crater, the lava dome has been growing slowly and producing numerous small explosions. Their number has recently increased from about 10 to 20 on average per day.

Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): A phase of increased activity has just started at Popocatépetl. Accompanied by strong tremor, a continuous ash and steam emission column is rising to 23,000 ft (7 km) altitude and drifting NW.

Santa María / Santiaguito (Guatemala): A slightly stronger than average explosion occurred earlier today, producing an ash plume rising more than 1 km above the dome and drifting SE.

Pacaya (Guatemala): The eruptive behaviour of Pacaya has changed once more on 5 Feb, INSIVEUMEH reported. Constant gas emissions with weak brownish ash were observed from Mackenney crater, and Guatemalan scientists believe that this is a sign that the conduit continues to be cleared and could produce more regular, magmatic activity, in the form of strombolian explosions, in the near future. The gas-ash venting also shows also up on the seismic station of PCG at intervals of 3-15 minutes.

Momotombo (Nicaragua): Some seismic unrest has been going on at the volcano. Local and volcanic earthquakes as well as what seem to be long-period events (corresponding to fluid movements) have been increased recently.

San Miguel (El Salvador): Seismic unrest (fluctuating, sometimes strong volcanic tremor and earthquakes) continue. Several hot spots are visible on the volcano’s flanks, but most likely caused by fires.

Tungurahua (Ecuador): Eruptive activity consists in a constant steam and ash column rising about 1500 m above the crater and drifting SW. Individual explosions are sometimes heard. Seismicity continues to show an increasing trend.

Wildfires

Wildfires in Florida, USA

22 wildfires are still burning in Central Florida.

Wildfires

Wildfires in New Zealand.

Firefighters battling a pine plantation blaze in Wairarapa say it is now under control.

Seven helicopters are fighting the fire about 30 kilometres south east of Masterton which started about 9.30pm last night.

No houses are at risk.

A grass and scrub fire was also burning on Whanganui River near Jerusalem; two helicopters with monsoon buckets were seen dousing it this morning.

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Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.5 Earthquake hits Taiwan.

5.1 Earthquake hits the Prince Edward Islands.

5.0 Earthquake hits the Prince Edward Islands.

5.0 Earthquake hits the Kermedec Islands.

5.0 Earthquake hits Nepal.

Drought

Drought Grips New Zealand

The New Zealand government has declared a drought in key farming areas of the North Island.

The affected areas include the major dairy producing region Waikato, and the horticultural regions of Hawkes Bay and the Bay of Plenty.

The dry weather stretched through the summer months. Crops that were planted in the spring, which are needed to feed cattle late in the summer, have withered away. This has forced farmers to buy expensive supplementary food. To avoid this cost, farmers have been forced to reduce their milk production, and some have even had to cull animals.

The last significant drought in New Zealand occurred in 2007- 2008, and was one of the reasons that the economy dipped into a year-long recession. Agriculture accounts for around a half of the country’s USD 38 billion annual export earnings, and the current drought is threatening to cost the economy USD 830 million.

An area of high pressure has dominated the weather for much of the summer, which has brought fine settled weather to the region. Some locations have received only around a third of their average rainfall this year.

The official declaration of drought gives farmers access to financial and social support, but the impact could be long lasting. Often agricultural production does not recover to pre-drought levels for at least 24 months.

Disease

Novel Coronavirus – Update

The Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia has informed WHO of a new confirmed case of infection with the novel coronavirus (NCoV).