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Kern Canyon Fault : Inactive fault may trigger big earthquake after all
The News - Natural Disasters
July 12, 2010
seismic fault sierra nevada

A seismic fault in the Sierra Nevada, believed to have been quiet for more than 3 million years, is active after all and capable of triggering strong quakes with magnitudes of 6 or even 7, scientists say.

The Kern Canyon Fault, stretching for nearly 90 miles from north to south above the San Joaquin Valley east of Bakersfield, cuts beneath a major flood control dam on the Kern River.

For a half-dozen years those who oversee the 57-year-old Isabella flood control dam above Bakersfield, as well as California Institute of Technology geologists, have been studying the fault closely.

"It came as a surprise to see that a long-inactive fault can produce significant quakes," said geologist Elisabeth Nadin of Caltech, who has hiked the sparsely populated rugged terrain and mapped where evidence showed the fault ruptured violently at least 3,300 years ago.

Geologists working for the Army Corps of Engineers have also studied the fault's potential for rupturing and are surveying the dam to determine whether it needs strengthening against future large quakes.

The fault emerged some 86 million years ago when the immense granite mass of the Sierra was uplifting, said Nadin, who has found the evidence of past violence in the rocks around it.

Magnetic loops shown erupting from the sun
The News - Science-Astronomy
July 12, 2010
magnetic loops sun solar

A powerful NASA spacecraft has caught a cluster of glowing magnetic loops bursting from the sun while watching a particularly active solar hotspot.

The new views of the sun were recorded by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) in the extreme ultraviolet range of the light spectrum over several days, beginning July 6. A video still of the arcing magnetic loops was recently released by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

The arcing solar material is blazing-white at the sun's surface, then fades to dull, hot orange near the apex. Smoky wisps blur the outlines of larger loops, while smaller ones appear to vanish among the bright, crowded others. The arcs are the routes taken by solar particles following the whipping loops ever-changing magnetic field lines on the surface of the sun. Small solar flares, hidden from SDO's view, also emerged from the sun in this area of intense activity. [ MSNBC NEWS ]

Technology's disasters share long trail of hubris
The News - Natural Disasters
July 11, 2010
It's all so familiar. A technological disaster, then a presidential commission examining what went wrong. And ultimately a discovery that while technology marches on, concern for safety lags. Technology isn't as foolproof as it seemed.

Space shuttles shatter. Bridges buckle. Hotel walkways collapse. Levees fail. An offshore oil rig explodes, creating the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

The common thread — which the new presidential oil spill commission will be looking for — often is technological arrogance and hubris. It's the belief by those in charge that they're the experts, that they know what they're doing is safe. Add to that the human weaknesses of avoidance, greed and sloppiness, say academics who study disasters. [ YAHOO NEWS ]

Katla : 14 earthquakes in 48 hours!
The News - Current Events
July 11, 2010
Fourteen earthquakes have occurred below Iceland's Mýrdalsjökull glacier during the past 48 hours - one within the last 4 hours. Katla Volcano lies beneath the Mýrdalsjökull glacier.

Katla Volcano usually erupts every century, says Iceland's President Olafur Grimsson. and the last eruption was in 1918. "The time for Katla to erupt is coming close."

"I don't say if, but I say when Katla will erupt," Grimsson says. "We have been waiting for that eruption for several years."

"It can create, for a long period, extraordinary damage to modern advanced society." [ ICE AGE NOW ]

Hurricane Season 2010 - On pace for another 2005?
The News - Natural Disasters
July 10, 2010
hurricane season 2010

Just over a month into the 2010 Hurricane Season, we've already had an intense hurricane roam the Gulf of Mexico.

Hurricane Alex became the first Atlantic Basin June hurricane in 15 years.  It didn't stop there.  Alex became one of the most intense June hurricanes since the 1950s and 1960s. 

Given the ominous seasonal forecasts submitted by NOAA, Colorado State University, and WSI, you may wonder based on Alex, if we're headed for another destructive season like 2005. 

Let's shed some light on this by first comparing the '10 and '05 seasons-to-date.

Heat islands: Cities heat quickly, cool slowly
The News - Climate-Environment
July 09, 2010

Hot town, summer in the city? No kidding.

The high temperatures blanketing the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions of the country are making many people miserable, but those in New York City, Philadelphia and other dense, built-up areas are getting hit with the heat in a way their counterparts in suburbs and rural areas aren't.

Cities absorb more solar energy during the day and are slower to release it after the sun sets, making for uncomfortable nights and no real relief from the heat. And because they haven't cooled down as much overnight, mornings are warmer and the thermometer goes right back up when the sun starts beating down the next day.

Scientists have known for years about so-called heat islands, urban areas that are hotter than the less-developed areas around them. Cities are just "not well designed to release that summertime heat," said William Solecki, geography professor at Hunter College and director of the City University of New York's Institute for Sustainable Cities. [ ASSOCIATED PRESS ]

Scientists Hunt for Signs of Earliest Life on Earth
The News - Science-Astronomy
July 09, 2010
earlierst life on earth

No one knows when the very first life on Earth appeared – though what little evidence scientists have indicates that life was present not very long after our planet formed.

Fossil hunters are continually scouring the globe for rocks betraying signs of even more ancient life forms, and controversy reigns over claims of the earliest evidence for life.

One such fossil hunter is Nora Noffke, a trace fossil sedimentologist at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. Noffke and team recently found rocks in South Africa with evidence of cyanobacteria dating from 2.9 billion years ago, which is the oldest confirmed evidence of these life forms. Cyanobacteria is a type of single-celled bacteria – still thriving on the Earth today – that gains its energy from sunlight, through photosynthesis.

The Earth itself is thought to be about 4.5 billion years old. [ LIVE SCIENCE ]

UFO over China closes airports
The News - Weird-Strange
July 09, 2010
china ufo closes aitports

A Chinese airport was closed after this mysterious object was spotted in the sky.

Arcing over Zhejiang's provincial capital Hangzhou, the UFO appeared to glow with an eerie white light and left a bright trail in its wake.

Xiaoshan Airport was closed after the UFO was detected at around 9 pm and dozens of flights had to be diverted.

Stunned witnesses reported seeing a comet-like fireball in the sky and a number of local residents took photos of the strange ball of light.

A local bus driver, giving his name only as Yu, said he had seen a strange glowing object in the sky late on Wednesday afternoon. 'The thing suddenly ran westwards fast, like it was escaping from something,' he said.

A "Tame" Year in U.S., So Far, but Catastrophes Rising Worldwide
The News - Natural Disasters
July 08, 2010
natural disasters rising 2010

Earthquakes are rattling the globe this year, but the number of atmospheric catastrophes, like floods, is multiplying faster as the world warms, according to the lead climate researcher at a global insurance corporation.

Haiti, Chile and China suffered jarring quakes in the first half of 2010, resulting in more than 225,000 deaths. Nearly all of those occurred in Haiti during a January shake, marking a global spree of tectonic rumblings that caused $38 billion in total losses, according to catastrophe data collected by insurance giant Munich Re.

But while the number of earthquakes that affect people is rising, it is eclipsed by a faster increase in the frequency of floods, storms and heat waves over the last 30 years, said Peter Höppe, who heads Munich Re's climate research center.

"There is a pronounced larger trend in the weather related events, compared to the geophysical events," he told reporters yesterday in a review of this year's damages.

Why Sumatra Quake Unleashed Giant Tsunami, Others Don't
The News - Natural Disasters
July 08, 2010

In late 2004 and early 2005, disastrous earthquakes shook Sumatra, an island in western Indonesia. The two earthquakes, both among the biggest on record, struck just months apart along the same fault, yet the first quake produced the deadliest tsunami in modern history, while the second quake's tsunami was far less dramatic. A new study reveals why.

On Dec. 26, 2004 a 9.1-magnitude undersea earthquake rumbled near Sumatra and stretched 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) to the north. The resulting tsunami devastated coastlines along the Indian Ocean, with tsunami waves up to 100 feet (30 meters) high. More than 230,000 people died and millions were left homeless.

Three months later in 2005, an 8.7-magnitude earthquake hit immediately to the south and triggered a smaller tsunami that killed 1,300 people. Scientists were unsure why the quakes produced tsunamis that were so different since the ruptures were on adjacent segments of the same fault - a fracture in the Earth's crust.

Did an Ancient Supernova Trigger the Solar System's Birth?
The News - Science-Astronomy
July 07, 2010
supernova solar system
One star dies, another is born. The remains of the old are gathered up, at least in some small measure, to become part of the new. That is the astronomical circle of life, the reason that stars have evolved through the eons, each generation incorporating new elements synthesized in the stars that came before. Unlike the earliest stars of hydrogen and helium, stars nowadays contain heavier elements passed down to them by their predecessors, such as carbon, iron and oxygen.

Aside from producing many of the elements that make up our planet and our bodies, the stellar cycle of birth and death appears to have spurred the formation of our solar system some 4.5 billion years ago. According to a new model outlined in a study in the July 1 issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters, a shock wave from an exploding massive star several light-years away probably triggered the collapse of the molecular cloud that would become our sun and planets.
Summer heat expands
The News - Climate-Environment
July 07, 2010

The region will see one last day of extreme heat with high temperatures in the 95 to 105 degree range from southeastern New York south through Virginia. For many of these same areas this will be the fourth consecutive day with high temperatures 95 degrees or higher. Over two dozen high temperature records were broken Tuesday and more are expected to fall.

The remainder of the Northeast will also be hot with high temperatures in the 80s and lower 90s. Coastal New England should have the coolest readings due to an increasing easterly wind blowing off the cooler ocean during the afternoon. [ WEATHER.com ]

Long-Term Fate of Gulf Oil Spill
The News - Climate-Environment
July 06, 2010
gulf oil spill future predictions

The possible spread of the oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon rig over the course of one year was studied in a series of computer simulations by a team of researchers from the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The simulations suggest that the coastlines near the Carolinas, Georgia, and Northern Florida could see the effects of the oil spill as early as October 2010, while the main branch of the subtropical gyre is likely to transport the oil film towards Europe, although strongly diluted.

Eight million buoyant particles were released continuously from April 20 to September 17, 2010, at the location of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. The release occurred in ocean flow data from simulations conducted with the high-resolution Ocean General Circulation Model for the Earth Simulator (OFES).  [ SCIENCE DAILY ] - [ Storms aggravate damage from Gulf oil spill ]

Swine Flu: The Epidemic That Wasn't
The News - Cover-Up-Conspiracy
July 06, 2010

Last week, 40 million doses of the government's H1N1 vaccine expired, and by year's end another 30 million doses will go bad as well. That will be 70 million doses, or about 43 percent of the total reserved for the American public, incinerated at a cost of nearly half a billion dollars.

In April 2009 the H1N1 virus (better known as the swine flu, much to the dismay of pig farmers and pork producers) leapt onto the world stage after being diagnosed in Mexico. Mexico City and other large cities were soon (temporarily) shut down as infections spread across the globe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevent (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) soon declared the flu a serious threat that could infect millions. Governments ordered huge quantities of vaccine to protect their citizens, and some people panicked.

Yet the swine flu epidemic never materialized, and in fact killed only about 12,000 people worldwide — about one-third the number killed just in the United States each year by seasonal flu. What happened?

The bizarre new creatures discovered at the bottom of Atlantic Ocean
The News - Weird-Strange
July 06, 2010

Oddly-shaped, brightly-coloured or even transparent these are some of the bizarre creatures that scientists did not even know existed until recently.

They are among a host of new animals that scientists have just uncovered in the hidden depths of the Atlantic Ocean during a new study which has 'revolutionised' thinking about deep-sea life.

Scientists believe they have discovered more than 10 new marine species by using the latest diving technology during the groundbreaking study. [ DAILYMAIL UK ]

weird ocean creatures
Storm off Louisiana packing tropical force winds
The News - Natural Disasters
July 05, 2010
  • Storm off Louisiana coast headed for landfall soon
  • Likely to become cyclone before hitting land - NHC
  • Separate system brewing over southeastern Gulf

A storm packing heavy winds in the Gulf of Mexico is likely to strengthen into a tropical cyclone before it tears into coastal Louisiana on Monday evening, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. It said the storm, centered about 50 miles (80 km) south-southeast of Morgan City, Louisiana, was already packing sustained winds near tropical storm force. There was a "high chance" it will become the second named storm of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season before it makes landfall in the Terrebonne Parish area near Caillou Bay early Monday evening, the Miami-based hurricane center said. Forecasters at the hurricane center were also keeping close watch over an area of disturbed weather in the southeastern Gulf that could strengthen into a tropical depression later this week, potentially hampering oil spill clean-up efforts.
Should BP nuke its leaking well?
The News - Climate-Environment
July 02, 2010
nuke gulf oil spill
His face wracked by age and his voice rasping after decades of chain-smoking coarse tobacco, the former long-time Russian Minister of nuclear energy and veteran Soviet physicist Viktor Mikhailov knows just how to fix BP's oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

"A nuclear explosion over the leak," he says nonchalantly puffing a cigarette as he sits in a conference room at the Institute of Strategic Stability, where he is a director. "I don't know what BP is waiting for, they are wasting their time. Only about 10 kilotons of nuclear explosion capacity and the problem is solved."

A nuclear fix to the leaking well has been touted online and in the occasional newspaper op-ed for weeks now. Washington has repeatedly dismissed the idea and BP execs say they are not considering an explosion -- nuclear or otherwise. But as a series of efforts to plug the 60,000 barrels of oil a day gushing from the sea floor have failed, talk of an extreme solution refuses to die. [ YAHOO NEWS ]

Gulf Oil Spill Update: The Facts
The News - Climate-Environment
July 02, 2010

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is in its third month with no end in sight. Here's where things stand now in the Gulf of Mexico.

How much oil is still gushing?

No one knows exactly how much oil is escaping BP's oil collection system (series of pipes drawing oil from leak to surface ships) and entering Gulf waters. Government estimates peg the leak at 35,000 to 60,000 barrels per day, which translates to between 1.5 million and 2.5 million gallons.

Of that, BP is now collecting upward of 20,000 barrels per day. On June 29, the company recovered 25,220 barrels, bringing the total collected since the beginning of the spill to 508,700 barrels.  [ LIVE SCIENCE ]

Oil spill update for 4th of July Weekend
The News - Climate-Environment
July 02, 2010
boucing oil cap
A cap on BP's ruptured undersea well appeared to be bouncing in the water Friday, raising the possibility that BP has been capturing less oil than in past days.

The cap is meant to capture oil gushing from the well into the Gulf of Mexico. It was bouncing in the water Friday, moving more freely than it has in the past.

The implication is that less oil is being captured, said Steven Wereley, a member of the Flow Rate Technical Group, which is meant to provide scientifically sound information about how much oil is spilling into the Gulf of Mexico.

Officials have noted a slight drop-off in how much oil has been collected in recent days. [ Feds taking the weekend off in oil fight? ] - [ Why Is the Gulf Cleanup So Slow? ]

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