Monday, March 4, 2013

ICE AGE NOW: Global Cooling Across The World - Winter Storm Saturn To Create American Midwest And East Mess; Minneapolis And Chicago Snowfall May Rival The Biggest Amounts Of The Season; Colorado Avalanche Kills Man, Injures Another, March Snowslide Death Toll Hits 4; And 6 Teens Trapped in Avalanche in Siberia!

March 04, 2013 - EARTH - A winter storm will spread a swath of heavy snow from the Dakotas to the Ohio Valley early this week.  This is the same winter storm which could bring significant snow to Washington, D.C., and Baltimore metro areas with dangerous coastal flooding along the East coast Wednesday into Thursday.  This storm, which has already brought accumulating snow to the northern Rockies and rain showers as far south as San Francisco and Salt Lake City, moved into the Plains Sunday night.  Steady snow developed across eastern Montana through northern Iowa, with accumulations beginning in Bismarck, Fargo and Watertown, S.D.

Minneapolis, Chicago: Snow May Rival Biggest Amounts Of The Season.
Snow will continue eastward, spreading into Minneapolis, Eau Claire and Chicago during the day Monday into Monday night.  Snow will begin toward the evening rush hours in Chicago, which could lead to hazardous road conditions developing while millions are traveling home.  The heaviest snow in the corridor from Minneapolis to Chicago is then expected Monday night into Tuesday morning with snowfall rates of up to 1 inch per hour. This will lead to significant travel problems across I-35, I-43, I-90, I-29 and I-94.  AccuWeather.com meteorologists are expecting snowfall accumulations on the order of 6-12 inches from Fargo, N.D., through Minneapolis, Minn., through the southern suburbs of Chicago.


Minneapolis would need an accumulation of nearly a foot to surpass their biggest storm of the season, which was the 10.5 inches that fell way back on Dec. 9.  In the city of Chicago, approximately 6 inches of snow accumulation is expected through Tuesday with lesser amounts to the north toward Racine and Milwaukee, Wis. An accumulation of 6 inches would surpass the biggest storm of the season in Chicago, which to date is 5.4 inches that fell Feb. 26-27.  Snow will spread farther east on Tuesday, bringing accumulations to Indianapolis, Fort Wayne and Toledo.  More than 6 inches of snow is likely Tuesday into Tuesday night from the northern suburbs of Indianapolis to near Gary with a corridor of 3-6 inches as far north as Kalamazoo, Mich., and Toledo, Ohio.  Moderate snow accumulations will then streak through central Ohio into the central Appalachians Tuesday night into Wednesday before our attention turns to the mid-Atlantic part of the country.  AccuWeather.com meteorologists will continue to update this story and our forecast snow amounts as this storm takes shape across the Plains tonight into Monday. Any slight fluctuation in the track of the system could mean the difference between heavy, travel disrupting snow or nuisance, lighter amounts. - AccuWeather.





Colorado Avalanche Kills Man, Injures Another, March Snowslide Death Toll Hits 4.
A backcountry skier was killed and another critically injured in a weekend avalanche they apparently triggered on a northern Colorado mountain pass, a day after three other people died in snowslides across the country, authorities said on Sunday. The two men in Colorado were cross-country skiing Saturday on the western side of Cameron Pass, about 135 miles northwest of Denver, when they were buried in the avalanche, said Kent Minor, manager of State Forest State Park.  "There were two sets of ski tracks going in, so the assumption is they caused the avalanche," Minor said, adding that the slab of snow and ice that broke loose was 300 to 400 yards long. Advertise | AdChoices  The two skiers were outfitted with avalanche-locator beacons, and rescuers on snowmobiles reached them late Saturday afternoon after battling through deep snow and steep, rugged terrain, he said.  The first skier they reached was found dead, and rescuers then dug out the second man, who had been buried for 90 minutes, Minor said. Neither victim has been identified.  Minor said it took rescuers on snowmobiles, snowshoes and snow sleds more than five hours to get the injured man to a spot where a helicopter could land and airlift him to the hospital, where he was listed in critical but stable condition.  Crews returned to the area on Sunday morning to retrieve the body of the dead skier, Minor said. A dog that accompanied the pair has not been located, he said.  Scott Toepfer, a forecaster with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, said Saturday's incident was the fourth avalanche-related death in Colorado this season and the 13th nationwide.  Toepfer said the Colorado fatality brought to four the number of U.S. avalanche deaths so far in March, including a snowmobiler in Utah, a skier in Wyoming and a climber in New Hampshire who were all killed in separate snowslides on Friday.  In a typical year, 25 people in the United States perish in avalanches, he said. - NBC News.

WATCH: 1 Killed in Cameron Pass avalanche.





6 Teens Trapped in Avalanche in Siberia.
Russian authorities say six teenagers are trapped in an avalanche in the region of Tuva in southern Siberia.  The Emergency Situations Ministry says a distress call came in late Sunday afternoon, Moscow time, from the remote mountain area about 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of the Mongolian border. The Interfax news agency quoted local officials as saying that a 17-year-old boy who was hiking with the other teens had managed to escape.  Several dozen rescue workers are combing the avalanche zone.  It was not immediately clear what the teens were doing in the area, but Russian children's rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov tweeted that the youth were going to put up flags in the area as some kind of a lucky charm. - ABC News.



Winter Storm Saturn To Create Midwest And East Mess.
Winter Storm Saturn will first lay down a heavy swath of snow from Montana to the Ohio Valley.  Let's lay out the "who, what and how much" bullet points:

(INTERACTIVE:  Radar | Driving Difficulty Index)

Monday/Monday Night

  • Snow:  Northern Plains, Upper Mississippi Valley.
  • Heaviest snow:  Northeast Montana, northern and eastern North Dakota, northwest, central, southern Minnesota, and eastern Iowa.
  • Wind threat:  Winds may lead to significant blowing and drifting snow and reduced visibility, particularly in outlying areas of northeast Montana and northwest North Dakota.  
  • Commute Impacts:  Fargo | Minneapolis/St. Paul | Quad Cities
  • Interstate impacts:  I-94 (Mont. to western Wisc.), I-29 (N.D./northern S.D.), I-35 (Ia./Minn.), I-90 (Srn. Minn.)
  • MAPS:  MondayInterstate ImpactWinds Today | Winds Tonight

Tuesday

  • Snow:  Ends in the northern Plains, continues in the Upper Mississippi Valley, spreading into the Ohio Valley and western Great Lakes.  Snow will spread into the central Appalachians Tuesday night.
  • Heaviest snow:  Eastern Minnesota, eastern Iowa, western/southern Wisconsin, northern Illinois, northern Indiana, possibly far southwest Lower Michigan.
  • Commute Impacts:  Minneapolis/St. Paul | Chicago | Milwaukee | Columbus
  • Airport Impacts:  Chicago O'Hare (major delays likely) | Mpls./St. Paul (delays possible)
  • Interstate impacts:  I-94 (N.D. to southwest Mich.),  I-90 (Minn. to northern Ohio), I-80 (Ia. to northern Ohio), I-35 (Ia./Minn.)
  • MAPS:  TuesdayInterstate ImpactWinds Today | Winds Tonight
- Weather Channel.

WATCH: Winter Storm Heads East.





GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Activist Erin Brockovich Headed To The Giant Louisiana Sinkhole - Bayou Corne Residents Plea For Help, "We Are In Desperate Need... They Are Dealing With Something, That I Don't Think Mankind Is Going To Be Able To Control"!

March 04, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Bayou Corne residents are hoping a big name can help them figure out what to do next.

Sunday marked the 7 month anniversary of the formation of a massive sinkhole in Bayou Corne. Erin Brockovich and Tom Girardi will attend a community meeting on Saturday, March 9. Resident's say Brockovich, an environmental activist, could help bring national attention to the community.

"I hope she brings some national attention, someone to scrutinize what's going on here, because we are in desperate need," Kenny Simoneaux, Bayou Corne resident, explained.


Kenny Simoneaux is ready to move on with his life.

"They are dealing with something, that I don't think man kind is going to be able to control," Simoneaux said. "I want out they've destroyed my piece of paradise and I'm ready to go."

He can't.

He's been out of his home in Bayou Corne for seven months since a massive sinkhole formed on August 3, 2012.

Simoneaux says tremors tore cracks into his home's foundation. The cracks are only one of Simoneaux's problems he's dealing with since the evacuation. He said Texas Brine officials haven't payed to fix it, and won't buy him out.

"They (Texas Brine) say there is no residential damage," Simoneaux exclaimed. "I want to be compensated for the damages that were done, because of someone wanting what's beneath the foundation and selling it at a profit."

Pam Poirrier's driveway was also damaged.

"It's like you know how many times am I going to have to start over," Poirrier sighed.

She live blocks away from the sinkhole. She said the cracks are only a small part of the pain she's been put through since August.

"Wondering when you wake up in the morning if you're going to be in the sinkhole, or if you are going to be able to come home," she explained. "It's been going on for a long time. We don't really get any answers. It's all scientific bull. You go to the meetings, and you feel like you've wasted your time. You don't have time to waste."

Ernest Boudreaux, Jr., lives off Highway 70. He's concerned the community isn't safe. He's lived in the area part time since August, but is getting tired of having to fear for his safety.

"Everywhere they are driving pipe in the ground they are pulling up gas, so that aught to tell you something right there. Nothing but a gas pocket," Boudreaux described.

The Texas Brine Company moved forward with new seismic imaging test which should be completed by mid April. The test will give scientist a better idea what's going beneath the surface. Boudreaux said despite the test he doesn't see an end in sight.




"That's just a show. They are doing what they can to keep a little bit going, and I guess trying to make the people a little bit happier. But, everybody knows they can't do nothing with this," Boudreaux explained.

Simoneaux says Saturday's meeting could be a game changer.

"We're supposed to be able to get some questions answered really get honest answers," Simoneaux said.

Simoneaux hopes Brockovich can give residents some direction: "What the residents are due, What our rights are, because, apparently we don't have any."

Boudreaux hopes the environmentalist will force Governor Bobby Jindal to take action.

"What we really need is this supposed to be a our governor of Louisiana,' he should be here. If it were Edwin Edwards that governor would have been here," Boudreaux said.

I've got confidence in my neighbors though we will pull together," Simoneaux said. "Hopefully to our benefit. If we could persuade someone to intervene for us on our behalf." The meeting last from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. The meeting will be at the American Legion Hall at 3336 Highway 70, in Pierre Part. the event is open to the public. - NBC 33.

WATCH: Seven months later, Bayou Corne residents plea for help.







SHADOW WARS: Escalating Towards World War III - Iranian Warships Dock In China; North Korean Test May Mean Iran Has A Nuclear Missile Warhead; Israel Warns Iran Over Nuclear Weapons; "Iran Is Building 3,000 Advanced Centrifuges"?!

March 04, 2013 - CHINA - The Iranian Navy’s 24th fleet of warships has docked in the Chinese port of Zhanjiang, which is located in southwest China, the deputy commander of the Navy announced on Monday.

“The (Navy’s) 24th fleet of warships, comprised of the Khark helicopter carrier and the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Sabalan destroyer docked in… Zhanjiang Port… today, Monday, after sailing 13,000 kilometers in 40 days,” Rear Admiral Siavash Jareh said.


Iranian Warships Dock In China.
“Through docking in the Chinese port, the fleet of warships of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Navy conveys the message of peace and friendship to this country and other countries located in East Asia,” he added.

Jareh also said, “The fleet had passed through the strategic Strait of Malacca on its way.”

The Strait of Malacca is a narrow, 805 km stretch of water between the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra and is one of the most important shipping lanes in the world from an economic and strategic perspective.

Over 50,000 vessels pass through the strait per year, carrying about one-quarter of the world’s traded goods including oil, Chinese manufactures, and Indonesian coffee.

The deputy commander of the Iranian Navy also said, “On its way, the 24th fleet of the Iranian Navy has so far managed to track 1,180 commercial vessels and oil tankers and monitor 120 military vessels visually and electronically.”

According to Jareh, the Iranian warships will dock in a Southeast Asian country on its way back home in late March.- Tehran Times.


North Korean Test May Mean Iran Has A Nuclear Missile Warhead.
The American Foreign Policy Council said the administration of President Barack Obama was quietly mulling the possibility that Iran and North Korea succeeded in a joint nuclear weapons project.

The Washington-based council cited the North Korean nuclear test last month of what was believed to have been that of an Iranian missile warhead.

“During Secretary of State John Kerry’s listening tour of the Middle East, one troubling regional issue might go unspoken: the possibility that Iran already has nuclear weapons capability,” the council said in a report.  The report, titled “Does Iran Already Have The Bomb?” said Iran was believed to be testing its nuclear warheads in North Korea. Senior fellow James Robbins, who wrote the report, said the likelihood of an Iranian nuclear weapons capability would top Obama’s agenda during his visit to Israel on March 20. The national security specialist said the emergence of an Iranian atomic bomb would “represent a U.S. foreign policy failure of historic proportions.” 

“It is not the kind of crisis that Kerry would like to face in his first month on the job or that Obama would like to shape his second term,” Robbins said. “Fortunately for them both, if Teheran does have the bomb, odds are it will keep it under wraps, at least for the time being.”  [On Feb. 28, the Senate mulled a resolution that would require the United States to help Israel in any war against Iran. The resolution introduced by Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez and Sen. Lindsey Graham called on Washington to provide military, diplomatic and economic support should Israel attack Iran's nuclear weapons facilities.] 

The administration has determined that Iran remained undecided over whether to acquire nuclear weapons. But Western intelligence sources said an Iranian delegation attended the North Korean underground nuclear test on Feb. 12, believed to have marked a breakthrough in the joint weapons program.  “Iran and North Korea have long cooperated on nuclear and ballistic missile technologies,” Robbins said. “Iran’s ballistic missiles are based on North Korean designs, and the two countries have long exchanged defense scientists and engineers.”  A senior U.S. official did not rule out that Teheran was using North Korea to test Iran’s nuclear warheads. The official told The New York Times that Iran could not hope to conceal a nuclear explosion.  “It’s very possible that the North Koreans are testing for two countries.” the official was quoted as saying. 

The Rand Corp., a leading consultant to the U.S. Defense Department and military, determined that the latest North Korean nuclear test differed from the two previous blasts. Rand said the latest explosion was believed to have been that of highly-enriched uranium, a method developed by Teheran.  “Given the relative seismic readings, this test likely had about 2.5 times the weapon yield of North Korea’s second test, which according to Dr. Sieg Hecker of Stanford was in the range of two to seven kilotons, putting this test at about 5 to 18 kilotons,” Rand defense analyst Bruce Bennett said. 

For his part, Robbins raised the prospect that Iran was already signaling that it reached nuclear weapons capability. He cited a statement by Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei in wake of the North Korean nuclear test that if Teheran “intended to possess nuclear weapons, no power could stop us.”  “This strange construction — saying the Islamic republic does not desire nuclear weapons but there was no way to prevent it from having them — might have been the first in a series of diplomatic signals intending to inform the United States that, with North Korea’s help, the game is already over and Iran has won,” Robbins said. - World Tribune.


Israel Warns Iran Over Nuclear Weapons.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has warned Iran that Israel will never allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.  "It is Iran's pursuit of a nuclear capability which is the greatest challenge facing Israel, the region and the world today," Barak told delegates at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington.  World powers leading negotiations with Iran to rein in its suspect nuclear program concluded talks in Kazakhstan last week, after putting forward a proposal to Iranian leaders to halt their uranium enrichment.  But Barak, stepping down as defence minister as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu draws up a new cabinet, cast doubt on whether the negotiations, due to resume later this month, will have any success.  "Frankly, while exhausting all diplomatic means is understandable, I do not believe it will lead to a moment of truth when the ayatollahs will give up their nuclear situation. Therefore, all options must remain on the table," Barak said on Sunday.

"We expect all those who say it to mean it. Ladies and gentlemen, we mean it. And let me repeat it, we mean it," he added forcefully.  AIPAC, which touts itself as the most influential US foreign policy lobby, will also hear a speech live from Netanyahu on Monday via video link, following an address by US Vice President Joe Biden.  Iran and its nuclear ambitions will top the agenda for his talks in Israel, along with the war in Syria and the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process.  There have been fears that Israel would take unilateral action against Tehran, but the threat has somewhat receded after US President Barack Obama vowed the United States will not pursue a policy of containment if Iran seeks a nuclear weapon.  Iran has denied seeking an atomic bomb, saying its nuclear program is for civilian purposes only. - The Australian.


"Iran Is Building 3,000 Advanced Centrifuges".
Iran is building about 3,000 advanced uranium-enrichment centrifuges, Iranian media reported on Sunday, in a development likely to add to Western concerns about the Islamic state's disputed nuclear program.  Iran said earlier this year that it would install the new-generation centrifuges at its Natanz uranium enrichment plant in central Iran, but Sunday's reports in Iranian agencies appeared to be the first time a specific figure had been given. The announcement, which comes after talks between Iran and world powers in Kazakhstan about its nuclear work ended with an agreement to meet again, underlines Iran's continued refusal to bow to Western pressure to curb its nuclear programme.  The International Atomic Energy Agency said in February 180 so-called IR-2m centrifuges and empty centrifuge casings had been put in place at the facility near the town of Natanz in central Iran. They were not yet operating.  Iranian media on Sunday paraphrased Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, as saying Iran was producing 3,000 new-generation centrifuges.

Centrifuges unveiled in Natanz Photo: REUTERS.
"The final production line of these centrifuges has reached an end and soon the early generations of these centrifuges with low efficiency will be set aside," Abbasi-Davani said in statements in the Iranian city of Isfahan on Sunday, according to the Fars news agency.  An IAEA note informing member states in January about Iran's plans implied Iran could install up to 3,000 or so of the new centrifuges. Natanz is designed for tens of thousands of the machines.  If launched successfully, such machines could enable Iran to speed up significantly its accumulation of material that the West fears could be used in a nuclear weapon. Iran says it is refining uranium only for peaceful purposes.  Iran has for years been trying to develop centrifuges more efficient than the erratic 1970s IR-1 model it now uses, but their introduction for full-scale production has been dogged by delays and technical hurdles, experts and diplomats say.

Concerns over safety of Bushehr reactor 
In his statements on Sunday Abbasi-Davani also addressed problems at the nuclear power plant near the Gulf city of Bushehr. The plant is not considered a major weapons proliferation risk but recent shutdowns there have raised concerns about its safety.  In its latest report on Iran, the IAEA said it had visited the Bushehr plant in mid-February and that Iran then told it the reactor was shut down. No reason was given.  The plant had previously been shut down in October 2012 and fuel had to be unloaded. A Russian nuclear industry source told Reuters in November the shutdown was due to the discovery of stray bolts beneath the fuel cells.  The 1,000-megawatt plant was originally started in 1975 by German company Siemens, and Russian engineers took over the project in the 1990s.  "In the last year and a half it (the Bushehr plant) has faced problems because of old equipment and hybrid technology from Russia and Germany," Abbasi-Davani was quoted as saying by Fars.  "In the last year we have had no problem in the nuclear portion of the reactors and the outages have been linked to the generators, because of problems in their Russian design and resulting energy leakage."  Iran has repeatedly said the delays at Bushehr were in part due to the need to ensure safety. - JPOST.





DELUGE: Heavy Flooding Kills 8 In Southwestern Ecuador!

March 04, 2013 - ECUADOR - At least eight people, including a child, have been killed by flooding in southwestern Ecuador following several hours of heavy rains, officials say.

"Unfortunately, there have been eight victims so far as a result of the flooding," Viviana Bonilla, governor of the coastal province of Guayas where the flooding occurred, said on Sunday.


Bonilla said that six people died by electrocution and one by drowning. The eighth victim was a child who was washed away by the flood water and presumed dead.


Officials also pointed out that the number of casualties is likely to rise as heavier precipitation was expected in the region.

In March 2012, around twenty people died in flooding in Ecuador after torrential rains inundated large parts of the South American country. - Press TV.

WATCH: Flooding Kills 8 In Southwestern Ecuador.




MASS FISH DIE-OFF IN THE UNITED STATES: Thousands Of Fish Wash Up Dead Onto Beaches In Florida; Thousands Of Fish Found Dead In Cuyahoga River, Ohio; Thousands Of Fish Found Dead In Suck's Lake, Nebraska; Thousands Of Dead Lobsters, Starfish, Clams And Skates Wash Ashore On The Beaches Of Massachusetts; Thousands, Possibly Millions Of Fish Washing Up Dead On Shores Of Lake Erie; And 100 Manatees Killed By Red Tide This Year In Florida?!

March 04, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Thousands of dead fish are littering some of the most beautiful beaches in Florida. For weeks we've seen the effects of red tide, but this is one of the worst we've seen in some time. With spring break and the height of tourism season just around the corner, it's a race to clean up.  Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau officials say they're hoping Mother Nature lends a helping hand, but they're also putting in extra hours—and extra people—to do something they typically don't. 


Thousands Of Fish Wash Up Dead Onto Beaches In Florida.
"Cleaning it up in daylight hours, bringing on extra staff to make sure that's taken care of," said Tamara Pigott of Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau.  Fish kills are numbering in the thousands and an offshore bloom scientists say is 120 miles long.  "The last couple of days, it's been like the kill of the day," said Kevin Roalson of Sanibel Island.  Witnesses say fish kills are ranging in type and size.  "Literally, this thing was probably 24-30 inches long. It was big, it was massive," Roalson said.  This afternoon's showers may have kept beachgoers at bay on Fort Myers Beach this afternoon, but not the birds or the dead fish they were snacking on.  Apart from manual labor, officials are counting on some help from Mother Nature they admit may not be welcomed by all.  "We're all looking for a little bit of cold weather I know our local residents and our visitors don't want to hear anything about cold weather, but typically cold weather will break up a red tide," Pigott said.  While in places like Sanibel scientists are studying the blooms effects, on Fort Myers Beach clean up efforts are geared more towards safety, to keep barefoot people from getting injured from the fish on land.  As for the weather, experts are hoping forecasted easterly winds also lessen the bloom's effect on beaches. - NBC-2.

WATCH: Officials working overtime to keep beaches fish-free.

video



Thousands Of Fish Found Dead In Cuyahoga River, Ohio.

Dead fish of different size and variety wash up against the rocks along the east bank of the Cuyahoga River at Heritage Park in the Flats Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013.
Thousands of dead fish were found Sunday floating in the Cuyahoga River and lining the river banks between Heritage Park and Merwin Avenue in the Flats. Red bruise-like marks appeared on some of the fish, which varied in size.  "I've seen large clumps of them floating down the river for the last three days," said T.J. Towner, who works in the area. 

Dead fish amass along the east bank of the Cuyahoga River at Heritage Park in the Flats Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013.
The cause of the fish kill was not immediately known, but a spokeswoman for the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District noted that fish kills of Gizzard Shad are common this time of year.  The species of fish go into thermal shock when they suddenly go from cold to warm water -- extreme temperature fluctuations that can be caused by changes in the weather, or warm effluent being released into the river or both.  "It's naturally occurring at this time of year," said the sewer district's Jean Chapman. "But we won't know for sure until someone looks at it."  Officials with the state Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Natural Resources were notified of the fish kill but could not be reached for comment Sunday. - Cleveland.



Thousands Of Dead Lobsters, Starfish, Clams And Skates Wash Ashore In Massachusetts.
The power of the weekend blizzard's pounding waves washed thousands of shellfish on to Massachusetts beaches. On Nantasket Beach in Hull on Tuesday, Joe Delmonaco said the beach was littered with piles of dead lobsters, along with sea clams, starfish and skates.

Joe Delmonaco.
On Monday, beachcombers on Revere Beach found tens of thousands of surf clams along the beach's 3.5 mile expanse.  Paul Diodati, director of the state Division of Marine Fisheries, told the Boston Globe that the surf clams, which were buried in shallow sandy areas, were thrown onto the beach by waves.  Delmonaco said the lobster and other shellfish in Hull attracted sea gulls which made them their Tuesday meal. - WTAE.



Thousands Of Fish Found Dead In Suck's Lake, Nebraska.
Thousands of fish that died about five weeks ago in an oxygen-depleted Suck's Lake have been washing ashore as ice melts on the city-owed lake near Harrison Street and Lamar Avenue.  The result is a smelly wall of rotting carcasses.  "It will be a mess for a little bit," said Todd McCoy, Grand Island parks and recreation director. "Parks maintenance staff have been out with buckets picking them up."  The kill was a "natural occurrence," McCoy said.  Ice cover on the 12-foot-deep lake prevented much new oxygen from entering the water. Snow on top of the ice compounded the problem by not letting much light in, he said.  But Nebraska Game and Parks Commission fisheries specialist Brad Newcomb attributed the low oxygen levels to excessive waterfowl waste that has raised nitrogen levels and algae in the lake.  Newcomb said he doubts the commission will continue its annual stocking of fish at the lake until the city fixes the problem.  "I have been getting resistance from my administration to continue the stocking program until the city reduces the waterfowl," Newcomb said.  The commission had been stocking trout in the lake every March and stocking catfish every other year. 

As the warm weather has thawed the ice at Suck's Lake, dead fish have washed ashore, as seen Tuesday. According to Grand Island Parks and Recreation Director Todd McCoy, ice cover on the 12-foot-deep lake prevented much new oxygen from entering the water, leading to hundreds of fish being killed. (Independent/Matt Dixon).
Plans were under way at the commission's Kearney service center to stock trout in Suck's Lake in about five weeks, but Newcomb said, after what he saw on Wednesday, that plan is off.  What he found were thousands of dead fish -- all sizes and all species.  Newcomb had investigated the lake just after the kill in early January, but until Wednesday, he was unable to determine the number of fish lost because many were being held underwater by the ice.  As temperatures rose, the ice started to melt and the fish have washed ashore.  Much of the ice broke away on Monday, Newcomb said.  As the carcasses have been cleared away, he said, no live fish have been seen.  "I'm guessing this is a near-total kill of the lake," Newcomb said on Wednesday afternoon.  In the count of dead fish are 2,000 gizzard shad, 2,000 bluegill, 400 common carp, 400 rainbow trout, 225 channel catfish and 225 largemouth bass.  "There were a lot of big carp -- 15 to 25 inches long," Newcomb said.  Catfish weighing 3 to 5 pounds and bass measuring 15 to 20 inches were also in the kill.  While wintertime fish kills in small lakes and ponds can be commonplace in the Midwest, McCoy said, the city hasn't had a problem with kills at Suck's Lake in the past.

As the warm weather has thawed the ice at Suck's Lake, dead fish have washed ashore, as seen Tuesday. According to Grand Island Parks and Recreation Director Todd McCoy, ice cover on the 12-foot-deep lake prevented much new oxygen from entering the water, leading to hundreds of fish being killed. (Independent/Matt Dixon).
  The most common fish kills in city lakes have occurred at Pier Lake, where large populations of waterfowl contributed to nutrients in the lake that were too excessive for the fish. The city added aeration fountains to Pier Lake to help alleviate the kills there.  Even so, Newcomb said water quality at Pier Lake remains so poor that only fish that can tolerate poor water quality -- bullheads and green sunfish -- have survived there. The commission no longer stocks fish at Pier because of the poor water quality, he said.  There are no plans to add aeration to Suck's Lake.  "We don't have the budget for it," McCoy said.  A fish kill late last fall at Liberty Lake at the Grand Island Veterans Home led to Boy Scout Kyle Whitely spearheading a $1,500 Eagle Scout project to add a windmill-operated aeration system there.

As the warm weather has thawed the ice at Suck's Lake, dead fish have washed ashore, as seen Tuesday. According to Grand Island Parks and Recreation Director Todd McCoy, ice cover on the 12-foot-deep lake prevented much new oxygen from entering the water, leading to hundreds of fish being killed. (Independent/Matt Dixon).
 Before Newcomb arrived Wednesday afternoon, McCoy said he believed there still might be fish living in Suck's Lake and those fish would thrive and get larger.  "We expect that it will continue to be a popular fishing spot," he said.  But the kill appeared to be much more severe than what officials initially may have thought, Newcomb said.  Even if the water quality improved immediately, he said, it will take two to three years for fingerling fish to grow to a size to accommodate public fishing again.  "We submitted a written waterfowl reduction plan to the city in 2008," Newcomb said. "Until the waterfowl problem is resolved, I see these fish kills continuing." - The Independent.


Thousands Of Fish Washing Up Dead On Shores Of Lake Erie.
Thousands of dead fish are now washing up along the shorelines of Presque Isle Bay and Lake Erie. But an expert says there is no cause for alarm.   The fish are gizzard shad and the late winter "die offs" are fairly common. The fish can't tolerate the cold, and die under the ice. As the ice melts, they wash up along the shoreline.   Biologists say it is a natural event, not caused by pollution. Still, the large number of dead fish is a shock.  Presque Isle visitor Jerry Jardos said, "I can't believe how many. There's got to be a million of them, amazing."   Experts say the fish don't pose any danger. but when it gets warmer they will begin to decay and they will have a very strong odor.   DEP Great Lakes Biologist Jim Grazio said, "This is a large kill. As the fish decay and rot there is going to be oxygen depleted. It is going to stink." - Erie TV News.

WATCH: Thousands of dead fish along Lake Erie.

video



100 Manatees Killed By Red Tide This Year In Florida.
Loggerhead turtle found dead off of Bonita Beach - red tide the suspected killer.
Red tide has killed nearly 100 manatees so far this year, according to officials with FWC. That's three times as many as all of last year. It's also suspected of causing some turtle deaths.  More manatees are migrating here to our warm water just as the toxic algae blooming off the coast is getting worse.  Just two months into the year, scientists say we've already tripled last year's number of manatee deaths from toxic algae.  "I'm astonished – astonished. We love manatees," said Richard Lauzon, who is visiting from Montreal.  Pine Island resident Garret Davenport also saw a dead manatee that boaters brought into the Pine Island Co-op Marina.  "The smell was terrible. I've seen two now in the past week," he said.  The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission says it's rescued five manatees suffering from red tide so far this year; but 96 died before they could be saved - ingesting the toxin stuck on sea grasses they eat.  Veterinarians say the toxin paralyzes and suffocated the animal.  "It's sad; these are charismatic animals," said Martine DeWit, with FWC.  The bloom offshore is becoming more severe, as more manatees are arriving here during their winter migration. 

FWC says they haven't seen this many manatee red tide deaths since 1996. They say it will be years before they know the effects of another large kill on and endangered population.  "This has got to be one of the worst times I've ever seen it," said Davenport.  FWC says they need your help getting to manatees that may be suffering from red tide.  If you see one that's in distress, you can call the FWC hotline at 888-404-3922.  Red tide is also now the suspected cause of death of sea turtles in Southwest Florida.  So far this year, 13 dead sea turtles have been reported dead. That's compared to just 2 sea turtle deaths at this time last year.  Just Wednesday, a loggerhead and a Kemp's Ridley were found dead.  The female loggerhead was spotted by a boater in fish trap bay in Bonita Springs Wednesday morning. She was picked up by Florida Gulf Coast University researchers and examined by a volunteer at turtle time.  Barnacles covered her shell and she seemed underweight; but researchers we spoke with say this many sea turtles shouldn't be dying.  "When I get that call, I just say, ‘Oh no not another one.' It's that sadness, but if it's an animal like the one we just retrieved, perhaps it will give us some answers through laboratory testing," said Eve Haverfield, with Turtle Time Inc.  "When we got to it, its head was up on the beach. Its head was up and it just looked very lethargic; but unfortunately it had already expired by the time we got up there," added Bob Wasno, FGCU Vester Marine Field Station Facilities Manager.  The sea turtles will be frozen until FWC can pick them up and perform necropsies to determine for certain if red tide is to blame for their deaths. - NBC-2.

WATCH: Red tide killing manatees, suspected in turtle deaths.

video






ICE AGE NOW: Global Cooling Across The World - Virginia, DC, Maryland Midweek Snowstorm; Pacific Storm Pushes Heavy Snow, Winds Into Alberta, Saskatchewan; Winter Storm Saturn Sets Its Sights On Southeastern Wisconsin; Lowest Temperatures For A Century Hits Calcutta, India; Texas Blizzard Breaks 120-Year Old Record; Toronto Breaks February Snowfall Record; Heavy Snowfall Knocks Out Power To Thousands In Quebec; Six People Die As Blizzards Hit Northern Japan; And Massive Ice Balls Attracting Attention Along Lake Michigan!

March 04, 2013 - EARTH - Impacts from a storm targeting millions of people in the eastern states will range from travel disruptions caused by heavy snow to power outages produced by strong winds to flooding from storm surge. A major storm will bring heavy snow from parts of North Carolina to portions of West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey spanning Wednesday into Thursday. The storm will be moving through the central Appalachians toward the mid-Atlantic coast during the middle of the week, after blasting portions of the Plains and Midwest Monday into Tuesday.


 DC, Virginia, Maryland Midweek Snowstorm.
Based on the latest information, the area that is most likely to receive a foot or more of snow lies from northwestern North Carolina through northern and western Virginia, the mountains of West Virginia and western and part of central Maryland. Charlottesville, Roanoke, Harrisonburg and Winchester, Va.; Frederick and Hagerstown, Md. and Martinsburg, W.Va. appear to be in the middle of the zone with the greatest snow potential. This potential would be immobilizing snow. The weight of heavy, weight snow can bring down trees and power lines in this area. However, dozens of other cities in the region could receive anywhere from a couple of inches of slush to a foot or more of back-breaking snow. These include Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Md., Richmond, Va., Dover, Del. and Vineland, N.J. These areas are likely to receive rain during part of the storm and a larger percentage of the snow that falls is more likely to melt for a time. As the rate of snow becomes heavy, roads can quickly become clogged with snow, potentially stranding motorists. Deicing time will increase at area airports in the path of the storm. Potential flight delays and cancellations from heavy snow will hit Minneapolis and Chicago first, then will spread to multiple airports in the I-95 mid-Atlantic with the possibility of delayed aircraft and crews elsewhere across the nation.


There is still the risk the storm strengthens upon nearing the coast and either turns farther to the north or grows in size spreading snow and other effects farther north.  Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg are also on the bubble with the chance of a period of heavier snow that can bring a big accumulation or lesser snow to primarily a rain/snow mix. These details will not be known until the storm is virtually under way. A shift in track of the storm and its heavy snow by 50 miles can make the difference. New York City is likely to be on the northernmost edge of the lesser snow area. Unless the storm stalls and expands substantially northward, a heavy snowfall appears to be a low probability. Cape Cod and Long Island, which extend out into the Atlantic a bit more, have a slightly higher chance of a period of accumulating snow.  A slightly more southerly track would throw heavier snow farther south over western and central North Carolina. As a result folks in Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Raleigh, N.C. and Norfolk, Va. should watch this storm closely.

Wind, Coastal Flooding and Beach Erosion
Based on the latest information, AccuWeather.com meteorologists feel this storm will deliver the punch of a moderate to strong nor'easter. Such storms produce winds over a large fetch of water and drive that water toward the coast. The shape of the coast and wind direction determines which areas are most susceptible to coastal flooding. The duration and strength of the onshore wind determines the severity of the water rise.


Winds can become strong enough to cause sporadic power outages from eastern North Carolina to southern New Jersey. Gusts to 60 mph are possible. A 24 to 48 hour period of pounding surf will cause moderate beach erosion in these areas. Offshore seas can reach 30 feet.  Areas from eastern North Carolina to southern New Jersey are most likely to have coastal flooding problems during times of high tide Wednesday into Thursday. While it is a bit too early to be highly confident on water level rises, there is a chance of tides levels running between 2 to 4 feet above published values. Fortunately, astronomical impact around the time of the storm be minimal with significant distance between the new and full moon phases.  Because of the track and speed as to which the storm will strengthen, the risk of coastal flooding problems over portions of the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays cannot be eliminated at this time. There may be a period where winds are from a direction to cause water to back up. - AccuWeather.

WATCH:
Snow spreading East.





Pacific Storm Pushes Heavy Snow, Winds Into Alberta, Saskatchewan.
Poor road conditions are a concern today in Alberta
and Saskatchewan.
© Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press.
The rain storm that drenched the B.C. South Coast over the past few days has become a snowstorm as it pushed over the prairies, bringing freezing rain, heavy snowfall and strong winds throughout the day today and Monday.

Precipitation from this system had already started to fall last night, in a line from west-central Alberta into southern Saskatchewan, with Edmonton reporting light rain in the evening and freezing rain around midnight. This switched over to all snow, heavy at times, overnight and continued to fall through the morning, with gusty winds causing blowing and drifting snow.

The storm is spreading into southern Alberta this morning. Heavy snowfall is expected at times throughout the day, dropping between 10-15 centimetres of snow by tonight, with blowing snow from winds gusting up to 70 km/h. The snow is expected to stop in central Alberta this afternoon, and in southern Alberta by midnight tonight, however with the strong winds, blowing snow will remain a concern until Monday.

Environment Canada has issued snowfall warnings for much of central Alberta, and winter storm warnings for southern Alberta and southern Saskatchewan. The Canadian Avalanche Centre is still warning of a high risk of avalanches in the Columbia Mountains, and in the Rocky Mountains from the South Rockies to Jasper.

Anyone traveling today should be cautious as road conditions worsen and visibility is reduced by blowing snow.  A few flight delays and one cancellation have already been reported at Edmonton International Airport, and more delays and cancellations are likely at airports throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan as the system spreads and the winds increase in speed. - Yahoo.


Winter Storm Saturn Sets Its Sights On Southeastern Wisconsin.
© Denise Konkol.
A third storm in as many weeks had been initially looking to miss us to the west, but a change in track has placed Southeastern Wisconsin in the bullseye, with up to 9 inches expected by Tuesday night. According to Patch's media partners at WISN 12, the National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Watch for all of southeast Wisconsin for Monday night through Tuesday evening.

If this sounds familiar, this is the third storm in as many weeks to barrel through the area during a winter that started off relatively warm and rainy. For those keeping track, this is Winter Storm Saturn.

Current predictions have the storm dumping totals of 6-9 inches over much of the southern third of the state, beginning Monday night. Light to moderate snow will develop between 9 p.m. and midnight Monday, according to Weather Watch 12, and periods of moderate to heavy snow will be possible after midnight and through Tuesday.
Also like Rocky, the storm that had exceeded expectations of how much snow would fall, Saturn will likely feature lake-enhanced snow, bringing a higher potential for heavy snow totals along Lake Michigan. Brisk northeast winds developing by Tuesday afternoon are to blame for that, and will also cause blowing and drifting snow into Tuesday night for everyone else.  - Waukesha Patch.


Lowest Temperatures For A Century Hits Calcutta, India.
Dressing for the cold has become a major talking point in Calcutta, where the temperatures are the lowest for a century. One piece of cold-weather gear appears to be de rigueur in this city - the monkey hat.  When my newspapers started arriving two hours late, I asked the delivery man why.  He replied: "No-one can get up early in this cold so why do you need your papers? Go with the flow."  At least I think that's what he said, I could hardly hear through my earmuffs.  When you think of India you think of heat - whether it is the country's temperature, or its food.  So how do people here cope with winter? Well, that varies from region to region.  When I asked a friend of mine from southern India they laughed as they replied: "We do not have a winter, it is always hot."  My family in Delhi - in the north, where the temperature really does drop - just shrugged their shoulders and said: "We are used to it".

© Associated Press.
They also have a few brandies (sometimes more than a few) to help them through the cold months.  But here in Calcutta, in the east, there is a different reaction.  This year the mercury dropped to 9C (48F) - balmy for London or New York in winter, but here it was the coldest day for 100 years.  Calcutta is known as the "city of joy". But believe me, on that day there was little of it in India's former capital.  And all across one of the world's biggest cities you could hear millions of mothers frantically telling their children "Toopi por, thanda lege jabe," which means, "Wear a hat, otherwise you will catch a cold."  To be fair, it is a phrase they can use even when the temperatures are as high as 20C (68F). Whatever the thermometer says people here start wrapping up warm in December and keep their hats on until February.  And they do not just wear any old hat - it has to be a monkey cap. I had never seen one until I came to Calcutta.  When I told my cousin this, he looked at me like I was mad.  "You live in England," he said. "Surely you must wear one even in the summer?"  When I explained that I was from Yorkshire, and that even on the coldest days some people only wear T-shirts, I thought he was going to faint.  After recovering all he could say was: "To think the British ruled us for so many years and they do not even know how to dress." 

For those of you who have never seen a monkey cap here is a quick description. It is a thick woollen hat that totally covers your head, your neck and your ears.  The only parts which are open to the elements are the mouth, eyes and nose.  It has come to be known here in India as the Bengali topi or hat. Basically, it looks a bit like a balaclava.  When an American friend of mine landed at Calcutta airport recently, to be greeted by the sight of everyone walking about wearing one, he joked that he thought that he had walked into a city holding a bank robbers' convention. 

© Getty Images.
This year there is also a new fashion accessory to accompany the monkey cap.  With the temperatures dipping even more, ear muffs are the new must-have.  From a distance, it looks like some older Bengalis are wearing huge headphones.  And it can lead to some comical scenes.  Recently I noticed two elderly gentlemen attempting to have a conversation. They both appeared to be wearing half their wardrobes to keep away the dreaded cold.  One of them was trying to speak, but his mouth was covered by a scarf and, anyway, his friend could not hear anything as he had huge ear muffs on.  I politely interrupted their attempted conversation and asked them why they did not just take their winter paraphernalia off for a few minutes, so they could understand each other.  One of them laughed and mumbled, "But then we might catch a cold, it is not worth taking a chance like that".  And that is what many here feel. Winter means staying in.  So, at night, streets in this crowded city are deserted, except for those who have to live on them. The homeless huddle around fires as they desperately try to keep warm.  It also means days start later. When I asked my wife why she was going to work at 10am rather than 9am, she replied that everyone was coming to work late - because it was cold.  And that is what you have to do in Calcutta in the winter.  Anyway, I have to go and get ready. Now, what colour monkey hat should I wear today? - BBC News.


Texas Blizzard Breaks 120-Year Old Record.
Amarillo emergency personnel help a stranded motorist on
the I-40 service road during Monday’s blizzard. (AP Photo).
The blizzard that hammered the nation’s midsection broke a 120-year-old record in Amarillo for one-day snowfall in February with 19.1 inches.  National Weather Service meteorologist Krissy Scotten in Amarillo says the snowfall total Monday bested a record set Feb. 16, 1893, when 19 inches fell.  She says the city’s snowfall was the second-most in a 24-hour period, just behind the 19.3 inches that fell March 25, 1934. The storm that moved across the Texas Panhandle also was the third all-time snow event. The most snow in one event was 20.6 inches that fell March 25 and 26, 1934.  Scotten says Amarillo normally receives 17.8 inches of snow for the winter.  Roadways across the region remained icy and snow-packed early today. Warming temperatures throughout the day are expected to improve conditions. - ABQ Journal.


Toronto Breaks February Snowfall Record.
GTA residents had a difficult time shovelling the heavy wet
snow, Feb. 27, 2013  Photo by: Momin Qureshi/680News   
It’s another sloppy drive to work and school Thursday morning as the slow-moving storm system that dumped record amounts of wet snow on the GTA Wednesday continues to hang around.

Snowfall record
Toronto broke a snowfall record for Feb. 27, according to Environment Canada. At Pearson International Airport, 12.4 centimetres of the heavy wet snow covered the ground, breaking the record of 7.1 centimetres set in 1967.

Storm cleanup
The slush is still flooding some city streets. City officials are asking homeowners to stop shovelling the slushy snow onto the road as it’s blocking the catch basins. According to a report in the Toronto Sun, the city said the cost to clean up Wednesday’s slushy mess is around $2.5-million. However, that figure doesn’t cover any potential plowing, Thursday. Toronto had set aside $82-million for snow removal this winter. Peter Noehammer, director of Toronto’s Transportation Services, told theSunthat despite Toronto’s rough winter, the snow budget is still in “pretty good shape.” - 680 News.


Heavy Snowfall Knocks Out Power To Thousands In Quebec.
Montreal was blanketed with about 16 centimetres of snow yesterday, and Environment Canada is forecasting about 4 more centimetres will fall by end of day Thursday.  © CBC
As Quebec residents wake up to a snowy morning commute, thousands are without power across the province.  Wednesday's heavy, wet snow fell on power lines and tree branches, knocking out power to more than 30,000 homes and businesses in Quebec. The Montérégie region was hit the hardest by power outages, where about 20,000 clients are in the dark.  Hydro Québec said it's not clear how long it will take for power to be restored.  Montreal was blanketed with about 16 centimetres of snow yesterday, and Environment Canada is forecasting about 4 more centimetres will fall by end of day Thursday.  Quebec City could see up to 12 centimetres of snow today and overnight. - CBC.



Six People Die As Blizzards Hit Northern Japan.
Snow-covered rooftops across a neighborhood in Tokyo on February 6, 2013. At least six people died in a
spate of snow-related incidents as blizzards swept across the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido
over the weekend, police and news reports said Sunday.

© AFP Photo.
At least six people died in a spate of snow-related incidents as blizzards swept across the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido over the weekend, police and news reports said Sunday.  A 40-year-old woman and her three teenaged children were found dead late Saturday in a car buried under snow in the town of Nakashibetsu, eastern Hokkaido, a local police spokesman said.  They are believed to have died of carbon monoxide poisoning as the car's exhaust pipe and was blocked by snow and the windows were up, Kyodo News said, adding that snowfalls of more than two metres (6.6 feet) were recorded in the area.  A 23-year-old woman who went missing in the same town was found dead on Sunday in snow some 300 metres away from her car, Jiji Press news agency said.  In Yubetsu, northwest of Nakashibetsu, a 53-year-old man was found dead on Sunday after he and his nine-year-old daughter became buried in snow on farmland, Jiji reported.  The two went missing after leaving their home Saturday in a truck. They were found outside in the snow and it appeared the father had placed his body over his daughter's, Jiji reported.  He was pronounced dead in hospital, while the girl was found to have no life-threatening injuries.  Japan's meteorological agency issued a warning of strong winds and heavy snow in northern Japan, with gusts of up to 135 kilometres (84 miles) per hour recorded in Erimo cape, southern Hokkaido, on Saturday. - AFP.



Massive Ice Balls Attracting Attention Along Lake Michigan.

People in Michigan are enjoying a very cool winter sight.  Massive ice balls are washing ashore. They are created when pieces of ice break away from ice floes in the lake and are rounded off by waves.  Thousands of them have piled up near Good Harbor Bay where they have become quite an attraction for local residents and tourists. - MyFOX Chicago.

WATCH: Ice boulders roll onto shores of Lake Michigan.






FIRE IN THE SKY: Major Solar System Disturbance - Newly Found Asteroid To Pass Within Moon’s Orbit On March 4, 2013 And Newly Discovered Comet May Be On Explosive Collision Course With Mars In October 2014?!

March 04, 2013 - SPACE - A newly found asteroid will pass just inside the orbit of the Moon, with its closest approach on March 4, 2013 at 07:35 UTC.


Newly Found Asteroid To Pass Within Moon’s Orbit On March 4, 2013.
Named 2013 EC, the asteroid is about the size of the space rock that exploded over Russia two and a half weeks ago, somewhere between 10-17 meters wide (the Russian meteorite is estimated to be about 15 meters wide when it entered Earth’s atmosphere). 2013 EC was discovered by the Mt. Lemmon Observatory in Arizona on March 2. . There is no chance this asteroid will hit Earth.

2013 EC will come within 396,000 kilometers from Earth, (246,000 miles, or around 1.0 lunar distances, 0.0026 AU.

The Moon’s distance from the Earth varies between 363,104 km (225,622 miles) at perigee (closest) and 406,696 km (252,088 miles) at apogee (most distant point).

A newly found asteroid, 2013 EC can be seen in the lower left corner of the red box in this image.
Screen capture from Virtual Telescope webcast on 3/3/2013.
Gianluca Masi from the Virtual Telescope Project had a live view of the asteroid when it was about twice the distance of the Moon, and a replay of that webcast is available below.

“That we are finding all these asteroids recently does not mean that we are being visited by more asteroids,” Masi said during the webcast, “just that our ability to detect them has gotten so much better. Our technology has improved a lot over the past decades.”

More info about 2013 EC on the JPL Small Body Database. - Universe Today.


Newly Discovered Comet May Be On Explosive Collision Course With Mars In October 2014.
There is an outside chance that a newly discovered comet might be on a collision course with Mars. Astronomers are still determining the trajectory of the comet, named C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring), but at the very least, it is going to come fairly close to the Red Planet in October of 2014. "Even if it doesn't impact it will look pretty good from Earth, and spectacular from Mars," wrote Australian amateur astronomer Ian Musgrave, "probably a magnitude -4 comet as seen from Mars's surface."

Simulation of the close approach of C/2013 A1 to Mars in Celestia using the latest info from the Minor Planet Center. Credit: Ian Musgrave/Astroblog.
 The comet was discovered in the beginning of 2013 by comet-hunter Robert McNaught at the Siding Spring Observatory in New South Wales, Australia. According to a discussion on the IceInSpace amateur astronomy forum when the discovery was initially made, astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona looked back over their observations to find "prerecovery" images of the comet dating back to Dec. 8, 2012.

These observations placed the orbital trajectory of comet C/2013 A1 right through Mars orbit on Oct. 19, 2014. However, now after 74 days of observations, comet specialist Leonid Elenin notes that current calculations put the closest approach of the comet at a distance of 109,200 km, or 0.00073 AU from Mars in October 2014. That close pass has many wondering if any of the Mars orbiters might be able to acquire high-resolution images of the comet as is passes by.

Fragments of Shoemaker-Levy 9 on approach to Jupiter. Credit: NASA/HST.
But as Ian O'Neill from Discovery Space points out, since the comet has only been observed for 74 days (so far), so it's difficult for astronomers to forecast the comet's precise location in 20 months time. "Comet C/2013 A1 may fly past at a very safe distance of 0.008 AU (650,000 miles)," Ian wrote, "but to the other extreme, its orbital pass could put Mars directly in its path. At time of Mars close approach (or impact), the comet will be barreling along at a breakneck speed of 35 miles per second (126,000 miles per hour)."

Elenin said that since C/2013 A1 is a hyperbolic comet and moves in a retrograde orbit, its velocity with respect to the planet will be very high, approximately 56 km/s. "With the current estimate of the absolute magnitude of the nucleus M2 = 10.3, which might indicate the diameter up to 50 km, the energy of impact might reach the equivalent of staggering 2×10¹º megatons!" An impact of this magnitude would leave a crater 500 km across and 2 km deep, Elenin said.

While the massive Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 (15 km in diameter) that crashed into Jupiter in 1994 was spectacular as seen from Earth orbit by the Hubble Space Telescope, an event like C/2013 A1 slamming into Mars would be off the charts. Astronomers are certainly keeping an eye on this comet, and they will refine their measurements as more data comes in. You can see the orbital parameters available so far at JPL's Solar System Dynamics website. - PHYSORG.