Tag Archives: Earth

Strongest Solar Storm Since 2003, Flights Rerouted

The strongest solar storm since 2003 started last Monday – a wave of charged particles from an intense solar flare eruption is now raising alerts about airline flights and satellite operations. The solar flares did not make a direct hit on the Earth, but several flights were rerouted last week and scientists are not sure if there will be more to come.

“The chance for re-intensification is still possible because this active spot on the sun that created the initial havoc could go off again.”

Harlan Spence

The storm began when a powerful solar flare erupted on the sun Monday, blasting a stream of charged particles toward our planet. This electromagnetic burst — called a coronal mass ejection, or CME — started hitting Earth somewhere around 10 a.m. ET Tuesday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center.

Experts at the center says that solar radiation levels were at their highest point since the Halloween storms of 2003.

Earlier estimates ranked the storm as the strongest since 2005 in terms of solar radiation, but Terry Onsager, a physicist at the Space Weather Prediction Center, said that when the wave of charged particles arrived, “that took it from below the 2005 event to above the 2005 event,” msnbc.com reports.

Bill Murtagh, the center’s program coordinator, said that the outburst was forcing airlines to change routes for some of their scheduled flights. “Most of the major airlines flying polar [routes], or even some non-polar, high-altitude routes, have taken action to mitigate the effect of this storm,” he says.

Airline Alert

Delta Air Lines reported that it altered routes for “a handful” of flights, and that the changes added about 15 minutes to travel times.

Delta spokesman Anthony Black told Reuters that solar activity “can impact your ability to communicate … so basically, the polar routes are being flown further south than normal.”

United Airlines says one flight was diverted on Monday, while American Airlines says it has seen no operational impact from the storm so far but was monitoring the situation.

As powerful as it is, the storm should have no effect on daily life for most people, msnbc.com writes.

No Direct Hit

When a coronal mass ejection hits Earth, it can trigger potentially harmful geomagnetic storms as the charged particles shower down the planet’s magnetic field lines.

This can amp up normal displays of Earth’s auroras (also known as the northern and southern lights), but a strong CME aimed directly at Earth can also cause disruptions to satellites in orbit, as well as power grids and communications infrastructures on the ground.

Monday’s solar flare set off an extremely fast-moving CME, but the ejected cloud of plasma and charged particles was not directly aimed at Earth and hit the planet at an angle instead.

This glancing blow would likely lessen any impacts on Earth,

Earth’s magnetic field served as a shield, and pretty much shielded the radiation so that it doesn’t penetrate that deep,” Yihua Zheng, a lead researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center says.

“It’s like a car collision: head-on or off to the side. A CME is like that too. For this one, if it was a direct hit, Earth would receive a much stronger impact. This one was on an angle — toward higher latitudes and a little off the ecliptic — otherwise it would be a much stronger impact.”

Several NASA satellites, including the Solar Dynamics Observatory, the Solar Heliospheric Observatory and the STEREO spacecraft, observed the massive sun storm.

Data from these spacecraft were combined to help scientists create models to calculate when and where the CME was going to hit Earth.

“A CME is kind of like a space hurricane,” Zheng says. “You have to predict how it will form and evolve. From the models, we can see which spacecraft will be in its path, and what will be impacted.”

At the Space Weather Center, scientists reported that the CME began interacting with Earth’s magnetic field at 9:31 a.m. ET. “We predicted it would arrive at 9:18 a.m., and in reality, it arrived at 9:31 a.m., so ours has a 13-minute error,” Zheng adds. “Usually for this kind of model, the average error is seven hours, so this is the best case.”

Subside or Intensify?

At NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center they say the level of solar radiation should gradually subside — unless the sun unleashes another big coronal mass ejection. “The expectation is that it will weaken and that it will decay over the next couple of days,” NOAA representatives told msnbc.com.

The University of New Hampshire’s astrophysicist Harlan Spence says “the chance for re-intensification is still possible because this active spot on the sun that created the initial havoc could go off again.”

The solar flare associated with this week’s storm was estimated to be an M9-class eruption, which placed it teetering on the edge of being an X-class flare, the most powerful type of solar storm. M-class sun storms are powerful but midrange, while C-class flares are weaker.

The flare erupted from sunspot 1402, a region near the meridian of the sun that has been active for a while now, according to NASA.

The powerful solar storm could be signaling that the sun is waking up after an extended period of relative dormancy.

The sun’s activity waxes and wanes on an 11-year cycle.

The star is currently in the midst of Solar Cycle 24, and activity is expected to continue ramping up toward the solar maximum in 2013.

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Police File Criminal Charge Against Yara International

The world’s lagest fertilizer producer, Yara International, is charged with violation of the Norwegian penal code paragraph 276a, cf paragraph 276b, according to a market statement. The Norwegian company is accused of paying  USD millions US in bribe to Libyan and Indian officials in the period between 2006 and 2008. Stocks drop 4% at Oslo Stock Exchange.

“Regardless of what Økokrim conclude, these charges are very serious for Yara.”

Jørgen Ole Haslestad


The Norwegian National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime (“Økokrim”) has launched charges against Yara International ASA.

On 8 April Yara initiated an external investigation and at the same time
notified Økokrim of the possibility that criminal offenses may have occurred before October 2008, in connection with the negotiations preceding the company’s investment in Libya.

In connection with the ongoing investigation process, a Yara employee has brought forward information relating to a separate matter, and Yara has approached Økokrim with this information.

The information relates to a project in India during the period 2006-2007.

The project aimed to establish a joint venture for the production and sale of fertilizer, but was not realized.

An initial investigation has uncovered a payment of USD 1 million to a third-party.

Based on this information Økokrim has launched an investigation.

“Regardless of what Økokrim conclude, these charges are very serious for Yara. We are cooperating with Økokrim and await the results of the investigation. I am satisfied that the investigation we have initiated has brought this matter to the surface, but disappointed that the information did not come at an earlier stage if it emerges that Yara has committed an offense,” Jørgen Ole Haslestad, President and CEO of Yara International ASA writes in the statement.

Yara International ASA is the world’s leading chemical company that converts energy, natural minerals and nitrogen from the air into essential products for farmers and industrial customers.

International has a  global workforce of 7.300 employees.

At the Oslo Stock Exchange the Yara – YAR – share price drop more than  4% after the news about the criminal charges.

Copy of statement.

District Attorney Marianne Djupesland with  The Norwegian National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime  says, according to the website DN.no, that they on Wednesday executed a search warrant against the company, and then decided to file official charges against the company.

“The company has approached the Norwegian authorities, and that we see as praiseworthy. The management wants to cooperate,” she says.

The investigation will be of high priority, according to the District Attorney.

 “We’re talking about a large international company, with headquartered in Norway and the Norwegian state as a large shareholder. This is a prioritized investigate for us,”  Ms. Djupesland says.

It is the company Yara that is charged, no individuals. That means that a fine is the only possible punishment.

“It’s hard to say how this might end. But corruption has a serious penalties for individuals of up to ten years, that says something about the seriousness of a case like this,” the District Attorney points out.

She will not comment on whether it is appropriate to target individuals as well.

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Scientists Gather Around Katla, Volcano Giant Close To Eruption

A sudden grouping of earthquakes at and around the volcano Katla in Iceland during the past 24 hours is cause for concern. Approximately 50 earthquakes have suddenly popped around the region, according to the Modern Survival Blog. The most alarming is that the last 6 have rumbled right beneath and within the Katla volcano caldera  itself – the most caldera quakes in one day since this author began monitoring the Icelandic volcano 7  months ago. International geologist is now setting up new equipment in the area.

“If that wasn’t enough cause for concern, earthquakes are also rumbling around the volcano that erupted last April (Eyjafjallajokull), the one that shut down European air traffic for several weeks.”

ModernSurvivalBlog


A few weeks ago, Eyjafjallajokull began showing signs of activity once again, the activity being new earthquakes. Having been mostly quiet since the eruption ended early last year, Eyjafjallajokull may now be indicating that it has more in store for us, the blog reports.

However, of greater overall concern is the Katla volcano.

The Katla Eruption of 1918

Reason being, it has the potential to explode with up to ten times the force of that of its neighbor, Eyjafjallajokull.

“The last Katla eruption was during 1918, 92 years ago, and is way overdue for its next wake-up call.”

The average time between explosive Katla eruptions has been 52 years since it erupted in 30 AD. Katla has erupted 38 times since.

Since May, 2010, approximately 132 earthquakes have rumbled within the Katla caldera.

The concentration of these earthquakes appear to be located in three general areas, as shown in the following image.

The largest concentration looks to be near the eruption of 1755, with nearly an equal number located near the eruption of 1918. There is also a build up of quakes along the northeast rim.

“We know that it is only a matter of time before this volcano blows its top. The explosion could be the biggest we’ve seen in a long time around this planet. Katla has exploded with a VEI 5 in the past (that’s pretty big).”

According to ModernSurvivalBlog.com,  new detection equipment has been installed around the Katla; Eyja region.

“If accurate, this could explain some of what we may be seeing. My own experience tells me that newly installed systems (any industry) take a while to tweak out issues. We’ll see how this plays out. Apparently just days ago, new, more sensitive seismometers (and more of them) have been brought online having been installed around Katla and Eyja, and financed by the British Geological Survey. The reason for the British funding for the new seismometers and software is to give better clues and more advanced warning before Katla does eventually go ka-boom. Even they know its history.”

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