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Christchurch earthquake mapped from space
The News - Natural Disasters
March 07, 2011
christchurch earthquake map satellite image

The upheaval wrought by the 22 February earthquake in Christchurch, NZ, is illustrated in new radar imagery.

The Magnitude 6.3 tremor killed more than 160 people and shattered a city already reeling from a previous seismic event in September.

Data from the Japanese Alos spacecraft has been used to map the way the ground deformed during the most recent quake.

It shows clearly that the focus of the tremor was right under the city's south-eastern suburbs. The type of image displayed on this page is known as a synthetic aperture radar interferogram.

It is made by combining a sequence of radar images acquired by an orbiting satellite "before" and "after" a quake. The technique allows very precise measurements to be made of any ground motion that takes place between the image acquisitions. The coloured bands, or fringes, represent movement towards or away from the spacecraft. In this interferogram, the peak ground motion is almost 50cm of motion towards the satellite. [ BBC NEWS ]

Solar Storm - Repeat of 1859 Carrington Event would devastate modern world
The News - Science-Astronomy
March 06, 2011
solar storm modern world 1859 carrington event

On February 14 the sun erupted with the largest solar flare seen in four years - big enough to interfere with radio communications and GPS signals for airplanes on long distance flights.

As solar storms go, the Valentine's Day flare was relatively modest. But the burst of activity is only the start of the upcoming solar maximum, set  to peak in the next couple of years.

"The sun has an activity cycle, much like hurricane season," Tom Bogdan, director of the Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado, said earlier this month at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.

"It's been hibernating for four or five years, not doing much of anything." Now the sun is waking up, and even though the upcoming solar maximum may see a record low in the overall amount of activity, the individual events could be very powerful. In fact, the biggest solar storm on record happened in 1859, during a solar maximum about the same size as the one we're entering, according to NASA.

Earthquake shakes northern Chile - Magnitude 6.2
The News - Natural Disasters
March 06, 2011

A magnitude-6.2 earthquake on Sunday shook a northern region of Chile that has felt several frightening but inconsequential tremors in recent days. No injuries or major damage were reported.

The quake was centered in Putre, about 40 miles (60 kilometers) east of the port of Arica near the border with Peru, and nearly 1,400 miles (2,200 kilometers) north of the capital, Santiago, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The quake happened about 9:30 a.m. local time (7:30 a.m. EST; 1231 GMT) and had a depth of about 70 miles (110 kilometers), the agency said. Some people ran out of homes and churches into the streets when they felt the shaking, but there were no reports of injuries or damage, Chile's national emergency agency said.

Several quakes have rattled northern Chile recently, most of them with a magnitude of 5 or less. Chilean and foreign scientists have warned that the region is long overdue for a significant quake. The nation is prone to major earthquakes like the magnitude-8.8 temblor that shook central Chile on Feb. 27, 2010, generating a tsunami and killing 524 people.

No Such Thing as a Dormant Volcano?
The News - Natural Disasters
March 06, 2011
dormant volcano

Until now it was thought that once a volcano's magma chamber had cooled down it remained dormant for centuries before it could be remobilized by fresh magma. A theoretical model developed by Alain Burgisser of the Orléans Institute of Earth Sciences (Institut des Sciences de la Terre d'Orléans -- CNRS/Universités d'Orléans et de Tours) together with a US researcher , was tested on two major eruptions and completely overturned this hypothesis: the reawakening of a chamber could take place in just a few months. This research should lead to a reassessment of the dangerousness of some dormant volcanoes. It is published in the journal Nature dated 3 March 2011.

A magma chamber is a large reservoir of molten rock (magma) located several kilometers beneath a volcano, which it feeds with magma. But what happens to the magma chamber when the volcano is not erupting? According to volcanologists, it cools down to an extremely viscous mush until fresh magma from deep inside Earth 'reawakens' it, in other words fluidizes it by heating it through thermal contact. The large size of magma chambers (ranging from a few tenths to a few hundred cubic kilometers) explains why, according to this theory, it takes several hundred or even thousand years for the heat to spread to the whole reservoir, awakening the volcano from its dormant state. [ SCIENCE DAILY ]

NASA Scientist Claims Evidence of Alien Life on Meteorite
The News - Science-Astronomy
March 05, 2011
life meteorite nasa

We are not alone in the universe -- and alien life forms may have a lot more in common with life on Earth than we had previously thought.

That's the stunning conclusion one NASA scientist has come to, releasing his groundbreaking revelations in a new study in the March edition of the Journal of Cosmology.

Dr. Richard B. Hoover, an astrobiologist with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, has traveled to remote areas in Antarctica, Siberia, and Alaska, amongst others, for over ten years now, collecting and studying meteorites. He gave FoxNews.com early access to the out-of-this-world research, published late Friday evening in the March edition of the Journal of Cosmology. In it, Hoover describes the latest findings in his study of an extremely rare class of meteorites, called CI1 carbonaceous chondrites -- only nine such meteorites are known to exist on Earth.

Though it may be hard to swallow, Hoover is convinced that his findings reveal fossil evidence of bacterial life within such meteorites, the remains of living organisms from their parent bodies -- comets, moons and other astral bodies. By extension, the findings suggest we are not alone in the universe, he said. [ FOX NEWS ]

Nuclear Simulator - See the immense area destroyed by a nuclear firestorm
The News - War-Draft
March 02, 2011

nuclear weapon simulator nuke sim

Choose a city or location (type in an address) and select the size or type of nuclear weapon to be detonated. Depending on the weather conditions, the size of the certain and probable area of the nuclear firestorm, created by the nuclear explosion, will vary. The model used to approximate the size of the firestorm is accurate in the range of 10 to 20%. The simulator can produce this degree of accuracy for explosions that range from 15 kilotons to 2000 kilotons (2 Megatons or 2 MT). 

Nuclear detonations create mass fires or firestorms, which are set simultaneously over very large areas. Unlike ordinary fires, which burn in a line and only have a fraction of a square mile burning at any given time, everything burns at the same time within the area of a firestorm.

The explosion of a 550 kiloton strategic nuclear weapon over a large city, under average weather conditions, can instantly start fires over a total area of about 100 square miles (200 square kilometers). Within minutes after the detonation, enormous volumes of hot air would rise rapidly over the fire zone and created a huge chimney effect, causing incoming air from outside the fire zone to be sucked in towards the fire's center from all directions. These winds would fan the fires, causing them to increase in intensity and spread, generating still larger volumes of hot rising air, which would accelerate the incoming winds to hurricane force.

These superheated, inrushing winds would drive the flames from burning buildings horizontally towards the ground, filling city streets with hot flames and firebrands, and causing the fire to jump hundreds of feet to engulf anything that was not yet violently burning. Average air temperatures in the firestorm would quickly rise to well above the boiling point of water. The entire fire zone would become a huge hurricane of fire from which there would be no escape. Anyone in the streets would be incinerated, and those seeking shelter in basements would either be suffocated or die from the heat. [ NUCLEAR DARKNESS ]

MPs demand greater involvement of scientists in national emergencies
The News - Natural Disasters
March 02, 2011
scientist involvement national emergency disaster

The UK government failed to use scientific advice early enough in its response to the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland last year, according to an inquiry by MPs. The delay meant that authorities were not fully prepared for the event, which grounded aircraft for nearly a week in April and cost the UK economy hundreds of millions of pounds.

In a report on the use of science in national emergencies, published on Wednesday, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee recommended that the government involve scientists more in planning for emergencies.

"Scientific advice and evidence play a key role in the prediction and assessment of risks as well as the resolution of an emergency once it occurs," said the report. "We have been left with the impression that while science is used effectively to aid the response to emergencies, the government's attitude to scientific advice is that it is something to reach for once an emergency happens, not a key factor for consideration from the start of the planning process."

The MPs examined the use of scientific advice in four emergency situations: the 2009-10 H1N1 influenza (swine flu) pandemic, the April 2010 volcanic ash disruption, and potential damage from space weather and cyber attacks. [ GUARDIAN UK ]

Humans on Verge of Causing 6th Great Mass Extinction
The News - Current Events
March 02, 2011

Are humans causing a mass extinction on the magnitude of the one that killed the dinosaurs?The answer is yes, according to a new analysis - but we still have some time to stop it.

Mass extinctions include events in which 75 percent of the species on Earth disappear within a geologically short time period, usually on the order of a few hundred thousand to a couple million years. It's happened only five times before in the past 540 million years of multicellular life on Earth. (The last great extinction occurred 65 million years ago, when the dinosaurs were wiped out.) At current rates of extinction, the study found, Earth will enter its sixth mass extinction within the next 300 to 2,000 years.

"It's bittersweet, because we're showing that we have this crisis," study co-author Elizabeth Ferrer, a graduate student in biology at the University of California, Berkeley, told LiveScience. "But we still have time to fix this."

Others aren't so optimistic that humans will actually do anything to stop the looming disaster, saying that politics is successfully working against saving species and the planet. [ YAHOO NEWS ]

Largest earthquake in 35 years hits Arkansas
The News - Natural Disasters
March 01, 2011
arkansas earthquake swarm
The central Arkansas town of Greenbrier has been plagued for months by hundreds of small earthquakes, and after being woken up by the largest quake to hit the state in 35 years, residents said Monday they're unsettled by the increasing severity and lack of warning.

The U.S. Geological Survey recorded the quake at 11 p.m. Sunday, centered just northeast of Greenbrier, about 40 miles north of Little Rock. It was the largest of more than 800 quakes to strike the area since September in what is now being called the Guy-Greenbrier earthquake swarm.

The activity has garnered national attention and researchers are studying whether there's a possible connection to the region's natural gas drilling industry. The earthquake activity varies each week, though as many as nearly two dozen small quakes have occurred in a day.

"You don't know what to expect. It's unnerving," said Corinne Tarkington, an employee at a local flower and gift shop. "I woke up last night to the sound of my house shaking." [ YAHOO NEWS ]

Dangerous Asteroids - Orbits of Near Earth Objects
The News - Science-Astronomy
March 01, 2011
Tens of thousands of near-earth objects - asteroids and comets - pass by our planet in regular orbits. A subset, known as potentially hazardous objects, could possibly hit us and are big enough to cause considerable damage if they did.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory tracks these worrisome rocks in awesome detail. For example, the diagram below shows the Earth's position on February 7, 2011, and the five most recent close-approaches of hazardous objects leading up to that date.

All of JPL’s orbit data are available on an easy-to-use site, which includes tables showing past and future close approaches for all near-earth objects and highlights hazardous objects that will be closest to Earth in the upcoming weeks. The tables list size, brightness and velocity of every object, and the orbit diagrams—updated daily—include each object’s current position and distance from Earth.near earth asteroid neo impact crossing
We're all aliens... how humans began life in outer space
The News - Science-Astronomy
March 01, 2011
life on earth

As scientific mysteries go, this is the big one. How did life on Earth begin? Not how did life evolve, but how did it start in the first place? What was the initial spark that lit the fire of evolution?

Charles Darwin solved the mystery of life's wondrous diversity with his theory of natural selection. But even he was flummoxed by the ultimate mystery of mysteries: what led to the origin of life itself?

In trying to answer the problem, scientists have turned to the stars, or at least the "builders' rubble" of meteorites and comets left over from the formation of our solar system some five billion years ago. These space rocks, they believe, could help to explain why life began here on Earth. In fact, a growing body of evidence is now pointing to deep space as the possible source of the raw materials that formed the building blocks of life. The latest study, which focused on a class of meteorites that fell on to the Antarctic ice sheet, also suggests that life's origins may have been extraterrestrial. [ INDEPENDENT UK ]

California earthquake risk lowered
The News - Natural Disasters
February 28, 2011

It is highly unlikely that large destructive earthquakes will rock central California along the San Andreas Fault because the minerals there are weak, a new study finds.

This weakness causes the fault to regularly creep along instead of suddenly rupturing in dramatic catastrophes, researchers explained. (Those living along northern and southern portions of the San Andreas Fault, however, still remain at risk for major quakes.)

Investigators analyzed rock samples from a zone 1.6 miles deep in an actively slipping part of the San Andreas Fault, which runs along the coast of and through California for about 800 miles.

"This section of the San Andreas Fault is known for small, magnitude 2 repeating earthquakes," said researcher Brett Carpenter of Penn State University. "It is thought that in these events, a small patch breaks repeatedly about every two years."

Which Nations Are Most at Risk from Climate Change?
The News - Climate-Environment
February 25, 2011
climate change risk

Is it worse to be swallowed by the sea or racked by famine?

As climate change tightens its grip on the world, institutions charged with protecting the most vulnerable nations could be faced with just such a question. Because there is no international consensus for ranking the possibilities of future devastation -- and because there are limited dollars lined up to help cope with climate change -- some countries already are battling over who will be considered most vulnerable.

"This is a major, major topic of discussion and debate at the moment," said Saleem Huq, head of the climate change group at the U.K.-based International Institute for Environment and Development.

Judging who is most threatened has real-world implications. Those at the top of the list -- if ever such a list is developed and agreed upon internationally -- could decide who is first in line to tap a multibillion-dollar Green Climate Fund. [ SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN ]

Epic Megadrought Struck 16,000 Years Ago
The News - Natural Disasters
February 25, 2011

An expansive megadrought that parched ancient Africa and southern Asia about 16,000 years ago was one of the most intense and far-reaching dry periods in the history of modern humans, new climate research indicates.

The drought hit almost all of southern Asia and most of the African continent. During the drought, Africa's Lake Victoria — the world’s largest tropical lake and the source of the Nile — dried out, as did Lake Tana in Ethiopia and Lake Van in Turkey. And monsoons from China to the Mediterranean brought little or no rain.

By looking at climate records, including samples of ancient sediments taken from Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania, the researchers pegged the timing of the megadrought to the peak of a 3,000-year period when icebergs and their meltwater surged into the North Atlantic. This change in the ocean, which occurred as the last ice age came to a close, appears to have had effects at the tropics, the researchers write in the Feb. 25 issue of the journal Science.  [ LIVE SCIENCE ]

Why New Zealand earthquake was deadlier than previous one
The News - Natural Disasters
February 22, 2011
new zealand earthquake deadlier than previous

The New Zealand earthquake, which struck the country's second-largest metro area shortly before 1 p.m. local time Tuesday, highlights the hazards of living along the Pacific's "ring of fire."

Around its perimeter, vast plates of Earth's crust grind past or under one another, triggering some of the planet's most powerful earthquakes and most explosive volcanoes.

The magnitude 6.3 temblor that hit Christchurch Tuesday comes a scant five months after a magnitude 7.0 quake struck the region – the same magnitude as the earthquake that flattened much of Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010. (Initial reports indicated September's earthquake had a magnitude of 7.4, but later estimates revised this downwards to 7.1 and then 7.0.)  [ CSMONITOR.com ]

The End of the World - Archive Gallery
The News - Weird-Strange
February 22, 2011

How will it all end? A wandering alien sun ? Some sort of doomsday device ? Maybe just megatsunamis ... [ POPSCI.com ]

end of the world archive gallery
end of the world scenarios nostradamus ele armageddon 2012
Christchurch earthquake was aftershock of 2010 tremor
The News - Natural Disasters
February 22, 2011
christchurch earthquake aftershock of 2010

The earthquake that brought death and destruction to Christchurch on Tuesday was almost certainly an aftershock of a larger tremor that rocked New Zealand on 3 September last year.

But while last year's earthquake was more energetic, it struck in the early hours of the morning, some 48km outside the city. The tremor that hit on Tuesday was more devastating for several reasons: it was shallower, much closer to Christchurch and arrived in the middle of local lunchtime at 12.51pm.

Earthquakes are not rare in New Zealand. The islands are shaken by noticeable tremors on average twice every three days. Seismologists at the US Geological Survey have recorded at least six earthquakes of magnitude five or more since September's magnitude 7 incident.

Tuesday's earthquake was recorded at magnitude 6.3, or roughly 11 times weaker, but it was enough to raze buildings already damaged by the previous earthquake and later aftershocks.

The earthquake was blamed for breaking a 30m-tonne chunk of ice off the Tasman glacier in Aoraki Mount Cook national park in the centre of the south island. The iceberg produced giant waves in the park's terminal lake for half an hour. More aftershocks may yet arrive. [ GUARDIAN UK ]

Christchurch earthquake - Video of aftermath
The News - Natural Disasters
February 22, 2011
The latest New Zealand earthquake was a deadly combination of distance, depth and timing.

While weaker than the one that rocked the area last September, it did more damage and cost lives, primarily because of its location.

Tuesday's magnitude-6.3 quake was centered about 3 miles from the populated hub of Christchurch, toppling buildings, killing dozens and trapping others. It was also only about 3 miles deep and occurred during the middle of a workday when commercial buildings were filled with employees.

The jolt "is squarely beneath the city itself," said seismologist Egill Hauksson of the California Institute of Technology. "All the old historic buildings are being shaken more violently than they were built to withstand."

Scientists classified it as an aftershock of the powerful magnitude-7 that struck last Sept. 4.

150 feared dead on New Zealand's 'darkest day'
The News - Natural Disasters
February 22, 2011
christchurch earthquake

More than 150 are feared dead after a major earthquake hit Christchurch, one of New Zealand's biggest cities, in what the prime minister described "New Zealand's darkest day".

  • Hundreds injured amid fears death toll could significantly increase
  • Queen "utterly shocked" by news of quake
  • More than 100 feared trapped in collapsed buildings
  • Power and water cut to most of city

At least 65 were killed, according to John Key, the prime minister.

Bob Parker, the mayor of Christchurch, added that more than 100 are believed to be trapped in buildings.

The Queen, who is also New Zealand's head of state, expressed her sadness at the 6.3 magnitude quake, saying she was "utterly shocked" by the news. [ TELEGRAPH UK ]

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