Friday, August 29, 2008

Russia missile test heightens stand-off with West

by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) Aug 28, 2008
Russia on Thursday tested an inter-continental missile, heightening tensions with the West as France said the European Union could impose sanctions on Moscow over the Georgia conflict.

Russia also sought international support at a summit with China and Central Asian nations.

The missile test in northern Russia came barely a week after the United States completed an accord with Poland on basing an anti-missile shield in central Europe and as Russia accuses NATO of building up its navy vessels in the Black Sea.

A spokesman for Russia's strategic nuclear forces said the 6,000 kilometre (3,700 mile) test of the Topol RS-12M was successful, news agencies reported. Russia has been developing the missile in response to US plans to develop a missile-defence shield.

The announcement came as Russia complained about the number of NATO ships in the Black Sea and said it was taking "measures of precaution."

NATO said there were five warships taking part in exercises in the Black Sea that were organised before Russia's military offensive in Georgia on August 8.

The stand-off with the West has deepened since President Dmitry Medvedev's announcement that Russia recognised South Ossetia and another rebel region, Abkhazia, as independent states.

"There is no NATO naval build up in the Black Sea as Russian authorities are claiming in the media," alliance spokeswoman Carmen Romero said.

US warships have taken relief supplies to Georgia outside of the NATO exercises and other western nations are believed to have vessels in the Black Sea. Russia has moved some of its own naval forces to the Abkhaz port of Sukhumi.

EU states are considering imposing sanctions on Russia at an emergency summit on the Georgian crisis on Monday, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said.

"Sanctions are being considered, and many other means," said Kouchner, whose country holds the European Union presidency.

"We are trying to draw up a strong text showing our desire not to accept" events in Georgia, Kouchner said, adding that France was not among the EU countries proposing sanctions.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov shrugged off the threat, saying it was made "just because they're upset that the 'little pet' of certain Western capitals didn't fulfil their expectations."

Lavrov said the French minister had a "sick imagination" for suggesting on Wednesday that Moscow could have designs on Ukraine and Moldova.

Russia claimed it had secured support from China and four other nations at a summit in Dushanbe, the Tajikistan capital.

A statement released by the six nations at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit voiced support for Russia's "active role" in "assisting in peace and cooperation in the region" but also called for dialogue and respect for "territorial integrity."

"The SCO member states express their deep concern over the recent tensions surrounding the South Ossetia question and call for the sides to peacefully resolve existing problems through dialogue," said the statement signed by Medvedev, President Hu Jintao of China and the leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

The declaration called for respect for "territorial integrity" without specifically naming the Georgia case.

Medvedev described the "united position" of the SCO members as a "serious signal" to the West.

"I am sure that the united position of the SCO member states will have international resonance," Medvedev said. "And I hope it will serve as a serious signal to those who try to turn black into white and justify this aggression."

China said Wednesday it was "concerned" at the Georgia conflict and called for "dialogue and consultation" to resolve the issue.

On Wednesday, the Group of Seven industrialised powers condemned Russia's recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

"We deplore Russia's excessive use of military force in Georgia and its continued occupation of parts of Georgia," said the statement from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.

South Ossetian prosecutor general Teimuraz Khugayev said Thursday that 1,692 people were killed and 1,500 wounded in the attack by Georgian forces on the breakaway region, news agencies reported.

Arctic ice 'is at tipping point'

By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website

Arctic sea ice has shrunk to the second smallest extent since satellite records began, US scientists have revealed.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) says that the ice-covered area has fallen below its 2005 level, which was the second lowest on record.

Melting has occurred earlier in the year than usual, meaning that the iced area could become even smaller than last September, the lowest recorded.

Researchers say the Arctic is now at a climatic "tipping point".

"We could very well be in that quick slide downwards in terms of passing a tipping point," said Mark Serreze, a senior scientist at the Colorado-based NSIDC.

"It's tipping now. We're seeing it happen now," he told the Associated Press news agency.

Under covered

The area covered by ice on 26 August measured 5.26 million sq km (2.03 million sq miles), just below the 2005 low of 5.32 million sq km (2.05 million sq).

But the 2005 low came in late September; and with the 2008 graph pointing downwards, the NSIDC team believes last year's record could still be broken even though air temperatures, both in the Arctic and globally, have been lower than last year.

Last September, the ice covered just 4.13 million sq km (1.59 million sq miles), the smallest extent seen since satellite imaging began 30 years ago. The 1980 figure was 7.8 million sq km (3 million sq miles).

The 2008 graph shows a steeper decline than at the same time last year

Most of the cover consists of relatively thin ice that formed within a single winter and melts more easily than ice that accumulated over many years.

Irrespective of whether the 2007 record falls in the next few weeks, the long-term trend is obvious, scientists said; the ice is declining more sharply than even a decade ago, and the Arctic region will progressively turn to open water in summers.

A few years ago, scientists were predicting ice-free Arctic summers by about 2080.

Then computer models started projecting earlier dates, around 2030 to 2050; and some researchers now believe it could happen within five years.

Putin blames US for Georgia role

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has accused the US of provoking the conflict in Georgia, possibly for domestic election purposes.

Mr Putin told CNN US citizens were "in the area" during the conflict over South Ossetia and were "taking direct orders from their leaders".

He said his defence officials had told him the provocation was to benefit one of the US presidential candidates.

The White House dismissed the allegations as "not rational".

Georgia tried to retake the Russian-backed separatist region of South Ossetia this month by force after a series of clashes.

Russian forces subsequently launched a counter-attack and the conflict ended with the ejection of Georgian troops from both South Ossetia and another rebel region, Abkhazia, and an EU-brokered ceasefire.

Diplomatic wrangling

Mr Putin said in the interview: "The fact is that US citizens were indeed in the area in conflict during the hostilities.

"It should be admitted that they would do so only following direct orders from their leaders."

Thursday, July 3, 2008

South Pole Telescope (SPT) — America’s New Planet X Tracker

South Pole Telescope (SPT) — America’s New Planet X Tracker

Jacco van der Worp

South Pole Telescope (SPT) — America’s New Planet X TrackerAmerica is now spending huge sums to deploy the massive The South Pole Telescope (SPT) in Antarctica. The final installation will be the size of a mini-mall and will require a massive C-130 airlift effort to transport pre-assembled modules and a large staff to the most desolate, inhospitable and inaccessible region of the world. Why? Because Planet X / Nibiru was first sighted in 1983 and this discovery spurred the USA to build the SPT — humanity's new Planet X tracker.

Amongst independent researchers like us at YOWUSA.COM and the equally committed researchers with whom we share data, the 1983 IRAS observation of Planet X / Nibiru has always been a hot topic. On a private level, we often discuss how the NASA's IRAS spacecraft first captured infrared images of it back in 1983 with the same lament. Given the lack of corroboration, how can you publish a story that can easily be shot down as a rumor? That was then.

Now we have the corroboration we've lacked for years, The South Pole Telescope (SPT). Far more powerful capable and survivable than the 1983 IRAS spacecraft and Hubble Space Telescope put together, this manned observatory will soon begin tracking Planet X / Nibiru from the pristine skies of Antarctica.

Why is America spending a massive fortune to transport this massive facility with massive C-130 airlift to the most desolate, inhospitable and inaccessible region of the world to track this massive inbound? Because this is where astronomers will find their ultimate Kodak moment and this is good news. Their resulting multi-spectrum observations will translate into life-saving data.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

An “unprecedented” outbreak of lightning strikes ignited more than 1400 wildfires accross Northern California.

An “unprecedented” outbreak of lightning strikes ignited more than 800 wildfires in a single day across Northern California on Saturday.

A record-dry spring followed by early summer heat and electrical storms were responsible for one of the worst days for wildfires in the state’s history.

A pall of thick smoke obscured the sky and reduced visibility to less than 2 miles in San Francisco and other cities of Northern California.

Veteran Bay Area meteorologist Mike Pechner described the huge clouds of smoke as the worst in living memory.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger told reporters he found it "quite shocking" how quickly the number of fires has risen in just one day.

The governor declared a state of emergency and requested firefighting assistance from neighboring states. But even with the help from out of state, the combined crews were unable to handle all of the blazes burning across a vast area, many of which were left to burn out of control.

Besides darkening the skies across many parts of California, smoke from the blazes blew eastward, casting a pall over neighboring Nevada and the downwind state of Utah. The smoke also created a health hazard for many cities, where officials warned residents to remain indoors as much as possible.

The image to the upper right was captured at middday on Monday by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor orbiting aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite.

It clearly shows large wildfires burning from near the Oregon border, southward to around Yosemite National Park and the Big Sur coastline. Other fires can be seen burning in the Wine Country to the north of San Francisco.

The expansive white fog bank along the coast is typical during Northern California’s summers, and was not related to the fires.

Hidden area beneath Antarctic ice revealed

By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent
Last Updated: 7:01pm BST 21/06/2008

With jagged mountain ranges, plunging valleys and majestic lakes, Antarctica has scenery to rival any beauty spot in the world – except that no-one has ever seen the continent's hidden landscape.
# Climate change threat to Antarctic whales
# Antarctica 'warm as Africa' 100m years ago
# Telegraph Earth homepage

For more than 25 million years, the fifth biggest continent on the planet has remained locked under a massive ice sheet that has concealed its secrets through out the whole of human history.

Entire mountain ranges, volcanoes, rivers, waterfalls and even new forms of life are waiting to be discovered beneath the ice.

Now scientists are hoping to reveal the secrets of this hidden Antarctic landscape for the first time with one of the biggest exploration projects undertaken in more than three decades.

Using new technology they aim to peer through the ice, which can be up to three miles thick in places, to create the most complete picture of what the ground beneath is really like.

Robotic submarines will also be sent down through shafts drilled into the ice to search the depths of lakes that have been found under the ice sheets for new forms of bacteria and other small organisms that scientists believe could be thriving there.

Their research promises to reveal more about this lost continent than has ever been known before.

"We know more about the surface of Mars than we do about the land beneath the ice in Antarctica," explained Professor Martin Siegert, one of the leaders behind the exploration projects and head of geosciences at the University of Edinburgh.

"People often forget that there is land beneath all the ice, and it is of fundamental value to us in understanding how the ice flows and the impact it will have on sea level rise."

Only the occasional tip of a rocky mountain peeking through the frozen, inhospitable wastes hints at the mysterious landscape below.

Antarctica has not always been a frozen land, and around 40 million years ago it had a climate that was warmer than the UK is currently.

Ice sheets began to form on the continent 30 million years ago and now it is almost completely covered by a barren ice sheet, where temperatures fall to -89 degrees C.

In places the ice is known to be three miles thick and the intense pressure created has scoured huge valleys and basins out of the rock, so that in some areas the solid ground is more than a mile below sea level.

Together with a British Antarctic Survey project to survey another part of Antarctic, the Edinburgh scientists behind the ICECAP project will use specially equipped aircraft to map 3.8 million square miles, about a third of the continent.

The planes, which will be Basler long range and Twin-Otter short range aircraft, will use high definition radar to penetrate the ice and image the landscape below, while gravity meters and magnetic meters will measure the type of rocks of which the land is made up.

A separate project is also aiming to explore on of the deep water lakes that have been found beneath the antarctic ice.

These subglacial lakes, as they are known, are formed in basins that are carved out by the huge quantities of ice above the land.

The extremely high pressures created by the ice pushing down on the ground can cause the ice at the base of the ice sheets to melt to form lakes and rivers, despite the cold temperatures.

This occurs because water fills a smaller volume when it is a liquid than when it is solid, so when under high pressures the water will become liquid more easily and the heat from the ground can be enough to melt it.

One of the biggest such subglacial lakes, as they are known, discovered so far is Lake Vostok in East Antarctica. It is thought to be more than 150 miles long and 50 miles wide.

Almost nothing is known about these lakes and what they hold, including possible new life forms.

Professor Siegert and his colleagues are now planning to send a robotic submarine into one lake, known as Lake Ellsworth in West Antarctica.

The remote controlled robot will then explore the dark water searching for microscopic life that may have been evolving for millions of years in the harsh conditions.

Dr Fausto Ferraccioli, the aero-geophysics group leader at the British Antarctic Survey, said: "There could be hundreds more of these lakes beneath the ice, and entire mountain ranges waiting to be found."

Global Warming Puts the Arctic on Thin Ice

1. Why are global warming specialists watching the Arctic so closely?
The Arctic is global warming's canary in the coal mine. It's a highly sensitive region, and it's being profoundly affected by the changing climate. Most scientists view what's happening now in the Arctic as a harbinger of things to come.
2. What kinds of changes are taking place in the Arctic now?Average temperatures in the Arctic region are rising twice as fast as they are elsewhere in the world. Arctic ice is getting thinner, melting and rupturing. For example, the largest single block of ice in the Arctic, the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, had been around for 3,000 years before it started cracking in 2000. Within two years it had split all the way through and is now breaking into pieces.

The polar ice cap as a whole is shrinking. Images from NASA satellites show that the area of permanent ice cover is contracting at a rate of 9 percent each decade. If this trend continues, summers in the Arctic could become ice-free by the end of the century.

3. How does this dramatic ice melt affect the Arctic?

The melting of once-permanent ice is already affecting native people, wildlife and plants. When the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf splintered, the rare freshwater lake it enclosed, along with its unique ecosystem, drained into the ocean. Polar bears, whales, walrus and seals are changing their feeding and migration patterns, making it harder for native people to hunt them. And along Arctic coastlines, entire villages will be uprooted because they're in danger of being swamped. The native people of the Arctic view global warming as a threat to their cultural identity and their very survival.

4. Will Arctic ice melt have any effects beyond the polar region?