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"Top 25" Tips to Prep for a Big Storm & Loss of Power

Living at the moment in Vermont, U.S.A. where first Hurricane Irene, and now a continued dump of wet snow is bringing down trees on power lines and shorting transformers (seen shutting down with sparks in W. Massachusetts)... I began posting "common sense" tips to be ready for a LONG-TERM electrical outage. That is, more than 4 or 5 days.

Remember - in most northern regions, no power means: no furnaces or blowers; no pumping of household water; no cooking ranges (auto safety shut-off); no fuel pumps; no commerce or ATM transactions; no phone except the old-fashioned kind w/o a wall plug; no refrigeration or shipment of food; no pharmacies or provision of medications; no regional newspapers.

Most emergency backup power (ie. hospitals, sewage treatment & town water facilities) are good for about 5 days. Nuclear power plants - 2 weeks (minimum backup generator diesel fuel requirement, for NRC licensing).

This list is based upon my four-day series of "tweets" leading up to (and during) Hurricane Irene, and are equally useful now. The first "tweet" is at the bottom of the list (numbered) and the most recent at the top. It probably makes sense to read them in order of posting.

You're welcome to copy any or every "tweet," and to copy & "re-tweet" if you have a Twitter account.  If you are facing a power loss yourself - don't forget to print this out.  Information on a computer is hard to use without power.

BONUS TWEET (today) -
26. Winter, yes? So ventilate if you emergency heat w kerosene, cook on a Coleman. Get carbon monoxide alarm. Don't kill yourself staying warm.
5 seconds ago via web

The Big Storm "Top 25" Checklist
What if the power is out for a week?
(Check 1-25 from bottom) Michael Billingsley, Redactyl

Michael Billingsley
25. Cleaning up after Irene? The danger isn't over.. more injuries occur POST-hurricane says Navy Sea Systems. Safe hints -

30 Aug via web

24. Standing or moving water on the road? Don't try it. I know folks who've died trying to make it through. Turn back. I said... turn back.
28 Aug via web

23. Love coffee & facing Irene-caused power shortage? Remember those beans don't grind w/o power & grind a few pots worth ahead of time. 8-}
28 Aug via web

22. Check neighbours w disabilities, relying on power for health (ie dialysis) - help them to aid if outage lasts. Remember older folks w/o Net.
28 Aug via web

21. Power likely to be cut & desperate for water? Carefully drain hot water heater into clean pots, let settle... makes bad coffee. 40-120 gals.
28 Aug via web

Homeland Security
20. Find a shelter: Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362. Pass this msg via text to friends/family impacted. #Irene
27 Aug via web

Michael Billingsley
19. Gas tank low? Live rural? If Irene downs local power lines, it might be a week or more until gas pumps work again. Fill up ahead of time.
27 Aug via web

18. Irene near.. are you alone & frail, w disabilities, health problems, elder w/o family, new injury? Get ye to a shelter!
27 Aug via web

17. "Which foods 1st" if Irene takes power. Let frozen foods THAW 1st - in the fridge - to cool the rest, before eating. Open fridge sparingly.
27 Aug via web

16. If you believe power will be back in a week, fill your bathtub. Use water to flush your toilet - a few days grace. Fill your bathtub anyway.
27 Aug via web

15. If the cell towers still work in your area after Irene, great. But w/o power, how long will your cell phone last? Pick up a car recharger.
27 Aug via web

14. Radio Emergency alerts often ONLY way to track storms, line repairs, bridge & road closures, etc. Get a battery-radio w weather + batteries.
26 Aug via web

13. Will your telephone work in electric outage? (Most won't) Find an old-style, no-power Bell/Western Union phone that runs on phone line only.
26 Aug via web

12. How will you cook or boil water during electrical outages (most gas cook stoves won't work). Use a camper Coleman in WELL-ventilated space.
26 Aug via web

11. Anticipate a long-term emergency & have a packed home kit. FEMA recommends -
26 Aug via web

10. #Hurricane #Irene #safetytip – make copies of important documents & keep them in a waterproof container with your emergency kit
26 Aug via web

9. Navy Sea Systems warns: More People Hurt AFTER hurricanes than during them. Be safe - use their hints.
26 Aug via web

8. Hurricane fears? Have pets? Think of them, too. Have 2-week supply of food, water & medication... prepare for outages.
26 Aug via web

7. In hurricanes, flashlights better than candles.... which can blow out or cause fires. Stock up on batteries & SMALL flashlights, which last.
26 Aug via web

6. High winds turns outdoor chairs into missiles. Get them off patios & away from windows, which they smash. Get yourself away from glass too.
26 Aug via web

5. Reliant on medications? In Irene's path & have enuff for 2 weeks? If not... Get a VACATION SUPPLY from pharmacy now!
26 Aug via web

4. Katrina proved most cities have only 5-day supply of most meds. Even 1st responders, MD's, nurses ran out for themselves. Check supply now.
26 Aug via web

3. Water? Put 1 gallon ziplock each in a grocery bag, store tap water now - gallon/person/day for 2 weeks.
26 Aug via web

2. If the water supply/pumping goes down... DON'T use your toilet. After a few days you'll be driven out of your home. Go outdoors or bag it.
26 Aug via web

1. Stephen Flynn on CNN gives often-overlooked advice - have 2 week or more supply of medications. And store WATER.
26 Aug via web

Start Here - work your way up the list.

Brought to you by….

with contributions from -
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Grimsvötn Lava Flood history is impressive

Grimsvötn volcano - under the Vatnajökull glacier in southeastern Iceland - has erupted periodically and often destructively. Its burst floods, created when the "kettle" of boiling water and steam under the glacial lid boils over and spills down the open flood plain of Skeíðarásandur, has swept away the main intercoastal highway and its bridges, as well as the Internet and electrical lines connecting east shore Icelandic communities to the rest of Iceland and the world.

The deeper connections of Grimsvötn to the magma chambres beneath it, and the large lava flood fields it can generate, have been part of a larger study from the University of Edinburgh titled "Historical Lava Flood Eruptions: The 1783-84 Laki and 934-40 Edlgjá Events" (presented at the 2008 IAVCEI General Assembly), authored by Thor Thorsardson of the University of Edinburgh, Gudrun Larsen of the Institute of Earth Sciences, University of Iceland; and Christopher Hamilton, Dept. of Geology and Geophysics, University of Hawaii. [image below is excerpted from that paper.]

In that paper are some useful references to the past eruptions of Grimsvötn, and some useful reference material for anyone who might wish some illustration of the possible forces at work. This present 2011 may prove to be a rather "tame" affair, or perhaps not. It's always helpful to be mindful of the range. [image below from above paper.]

A useful wall chart of the region (pdf) focussing upon jönkulhlaup precursors might also be interesting as a reference -
prehistoric, bone, totem, incised, BearGod

Strong Winter Cyclones persist - emerge

As the winter just gets underway, yet another new winter cyclone has strengthened and deepened just west of Hudson Bay today. Again, this new Low is already down below 980 millibars (978 as of noon EST on 29 December).

Isobar source image - Environment Canada (modification - MCB)

The earlier post-Christmas storm still hovers over the Maritimes, slowly edging its way toward Labrador, and after having dipped down to 969 millibars on Tuesday, 28 December, it has just barely nudged back to 970 millibars today - the 29th. High winds persist on both the western and eastern quarters, in contrast to a small but organised High (fed as of today by south-westerly winds) positioned between the two cylones).

When the central U.S. High pushes the earlier cyclonic storm away from land it may acquire new energy - and if so, may pose major new problems for Iceland and certainly for Scotland and England, who have already had their share of troubles. The spate of Extra-Tropical Winter Cyclones is seemingly just getting underway, and their ferocity is daunting.

Swiss RE continues an analysis of the potential cost of this newly-emerging hazard to North American and particularly north-western Europe. The causes and mechanics of these stronger storms are still not completely understood, but they are posing a serious obstacle to "business as usual" during the winter months. See their perspective, below...

"Turbulent times ahead in Europe: Climate change will lead to more frequent winter storms" -

All original writing (cc) Creative Commons Limited Copyright (Sharable with attribution) 2010 Michael Cerulli Billingsley
prehistoric, bone, totem, incised, BearGod

Feel like you've just been through a Hurricane?

If you live in northern NE United States or Maritimes Canada, in a sense you have just been through a "sort of" hurricane - an Extra Tropical Winter Cyclone. The centre of this (most recent) low-pressure cyclone that's been hovering off New England and over Nova Scotia had dropped to 968 millibars and perhaps lower in isolated places. What does this actually mean?

(Click on image to see higher-resolution version, click again for downloadable full size)

Earlier that afternoon… when the pressure was at 978 millibars and dropping… I thought I'd investigate and learn what compares to it historically. (5)

Typhoon Magi- 2010 Category 2 (978 millibars)
Hurricane Paula - 2010 Category 2 (981 millibars)
Hurricane Richard - 2010 Category 2 (978 millibars)
Hurricane Tomas - 2010 Category 2 (982 millibars)
Hurricane Carlos - 2009 Category 2 (978 millibars)
Hurricane Hannah - 2008 Category 2 (978 millibars)
Hurricane Edith - 1963 Category 2 (978 millibars)
Hurricane Four (before naming) - 1940 Category 1 (978 millibars)

Add to those some recent large North American winter cyclones - ie. 1 February 2010 Mid-Atlantic snowstorm (41 deaths - 978 millibars); 26 October Mid-West & Chicago Storm (960 millibars); as well as the Great 1975 Midwest Storm (wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald - 978 millibars) and the unexpectedly huge and wet New England/New York storm of 1992 (with flooding of Vermont's capitol city Montpelier - 978 millibars).

What's in a number?

Well, 978 millibars (or hundred-Pascals) equals 29" of barometric mercury pressure. Translated in real word terms on the ground - "A peripheral pressure observation of 978 millibars is equivalent to 75 knots based on the Atlantic pressure-wind relationship (Landsea et al. 2004)... discussing the 1850 Category 2 hurricane hitting Georgia, South and North Carolina, 24-25 August 1850 (1).

So those big winds out there (and growing) can get really, actually scary. And on the ocean or close to the ocean, those are especially destructive. The present barometric pressure, dropped now to 968 millibars over Nova Scotia, is equivalent to some Category 2 and 3 hurricanes which have wrought huge destruction on North America.

Similar storms are now arising frequently off Greenland, and work their way quickly between Iceland and the UK/Ireland where they spin up to great speeds in excess of 100 knots in continuous winds. Over the past five years these have brought Scotland, England and northern Ireland to a near-total halt.

Strictly speaking, it is not just the absolute pressure of the Low but also how "tight" it is which determines wind speed… and the adjacency of a countering High pressure "pushes the gradient" so that each spinning whirlpool (downward and clockwise in the case of a High, and upward and counter-clockwise in the case of a Low) acts almost like a waterwheel… spinning the adjacent air.

Where The Cold Comes From

See the isobars map I'm posting from 27 December with some highlighted high and low pressures (and their direction of travel). There are some particularly impressive reinforcing effects across the Arctic "helping" this storm over Nova Scotia.

It is like watching adjacent gears in motion, pinwheels whirling in the air - only in this case it is the "pinwheels" which are whirling the air and not so much the other way around, although the Coriolis effect in the northern hemisphere is contributing to the energy by giving the downward-spiraling Lows a counter-clockwise spin - like water going down a drain.

If the Highs and Lows are close together, they work together even more destructively… each spinning on opposite sides of a column of southward-moving or northward-moving air. On the westward side of Low (cyclone) the airflow is southward in the winter northern hemisphere, carrying ultra-cold air south from Greenland. Much of this air is already sub-zero in temperature and comes from the heart of the Cold.

Where the Cold Comes From is pretty clear. Why the cyclones in wintertime are spinning so fiercely - with the fury of summertime hurricanes - is still not fully understood. The UK is getting stormier during winters, and the Gulf Stream's NEAW (North East Atlantic Water) warm current is slowing down. It used to be thought that to achieve the ultra-low barometric spins of hurricanes, the storm had to build over warm water. That clearly is not the only case.

Can The Warm Go Away?

We do rely on the warmth of the mid and northern Atlantic to warm us here in eastern North America, as well as in western Europe… just as much in the winter as in the summer.

If the NEAW were to stop, the North Atlantic would turn into an icebox (along with regions adjacent to the ocean like western Europe, UK/Ireland, Iceland, New England and the Canadian Maritimes). Ironically, warming of the glaciers of the far northern Arctic and southern Antarctica may leave us with "no summer" in parts of the northern hemisphere. Warmer atmosphere means a colder North Atlantic.

This kind of abrupt "turn-around" of winter climate has happened once and most likely three times before, during the Holocene - about 12,800 years ago and again about 8200 years before present (BP). At 12,800 BP there may have been a obscuring cloud hanging over much of the earth for decades, following a series of devastating comet explosions, meteorite impacts and vast incinerating fires (the likelihood of this is still being debated by some).

If curious search "Carolina Bays" or "Younger Dryas Extinction Event" for all sides of this debate.

In 8200 BP (preceded by the rising-ocean flooding of Norway's once-dry tundra plain and the release of its stored methane) there was a rapid warming of the atmosphere, an increased melting rate of the Laurentide Ice Sheet (still covering a lot of Canada) and the Greenland Ice Sheet; and eventually another torrent of glacial meltwater into the E. Greenland to Labrador current… desalinating the North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW), reducing the thermohaline "pump" enough the NEAW to finally collapse. (3)

Recent research (2) shows now that in the earlier 12,800 BP episode, the severe cold spell lasted for 110 years.

As for 8200 year "cooling event," my own coarse study of ocean sediment indicates that the NEAW warm current stayed "shut off" for about 85 years, beginning in the century of 8200 years BP. There was no summer after that - but rather, life was freezing all year in regions adjacent to the North Atlantic.

Because this was accompanied by a just-previous rapid rise in sea level, many formerly inhabitable areas of Europe (for instance "Doggerland" - now mostly under the North Sea) became bitterly cold as well as wet - basically uninhabitable… a "gods-forbidden place" especially when these challenges were soon followed by the daunting (and related) tsunami from the collapse of part of the Norwegian coastal shelf. (4) Most archaeologists just beginning to look back at myths (and realising they aren't myths at all) are finding coastal settlements under several metres of water whose inhabitants must have suffered terribly.

Only when the Laurentide ice sheet had melted almost completely, the former Lake Agassiz was drained, and the current Great Lakes and St. Lawrence drainage system established did the Gulf Stream's NEAW re-assert itself. Summer came back, and people could survive in the coastal northlands again. Moreover, all the methane released by Norway's former tundras had been exhausted and the atmosphere had stopped being so warm.

This "8200 Cooling Event" plunging the overall temperature up to an average of 5° C in some places. The cooling change in 12,800 was also extremely rapid and even more severe - over a matter of weeks… not years… and brought the average temperatures down even more. Wooly mammoths found frozen with buttercups in their stomachs proved not to be an exaggeration of some paleobiologist, but the aftermath of a horrific blizzard and permanently-dropping temperatures in the middle of what was once "springtime." Creatures froze in their tracks.

A similar and relatively recent "cooling event" lasting more than 30 years also followed the springtime 1159 BC eruption of the Icelandic volcano Hekla, when the Sun was completely blocked from view for three years in most of Europe, Asia and North America... summer and winter… and caused almost universal mortality through starvation (or fluoridosis) in most of central and northern Europe. (personal research)

Are We Headed There Now?

The caution for us now, is that today (and tomorrow) our case is just a bit different and in some ways worse than it was 12,800 and 8200 years ago.

The polar regions of the north hemisphere are today warming much faster than the equatorial lands, even if one hears seeming un-scary news that the global climate is "only" one degree or two degrees warmer than in the past.

Yet already on average some northern Siberian, Canadian, Russian and Alaskan tundras are 6° C warmer than back in the '50's and before… and once again those regions (and the northern seabeds) are bubbling off increasing large amounts of methane. This gas, mixed with the carbon-loaded atmosphere, will trap heat much more efficiently than CO2 - and once again will force the heating of the lower atmosphere. That in turn will provide more accelerated heating of the northern latitudes - to melt more tundra, down further into the methane-clathrate rich permafrost… around and around.

This is a closed-loop feedback system with increasing negative outcomes for living species, as well as (of course) changing the movement of ocean currents, and of air currents in the atmosphere. Some of this has never been seen before… so there are only speculative models of where it will go from here -- if we don't stop over-warming the planet.

While many advocates like the slogan "Stop Global Warming," to my mind, this is much too abstract. I'd say we should set our sight on actions and changes to accomplish the specific goal of "Stop Melting the Tundra Permafrost!"

Any other course will leave us completely without options for recovery. This is one tipping point we don't want to tip over.

(This article reflects some original research and theoretical modelling of Holocene climate-forcing sequences by Michael Cerulli Billingsley, Research Consultant for the Irish Spiritual Heritage Association and member of the International Permafrost Association, Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and the American Geophysical Union amongst others.)


1. Historical Climate Variability and Impacts in North America, Lesley-Ann Depigny-Giroux and Cary J. Mock, p. 89 (Springer, 2009)

2. "Big Freeze Plunged Europe into Ice Age in Months" (NASA Earth Observatory) - William Patterson et. al, presented at the 2009 BOREAS conference, Rovaneimi, Finland at

3. "The 8.2ka cooling event related to extensive melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet" - H. Ebbesen, A. Kuijpers, M. Moros, J. Lloyd, M.-S. Seidenkranz and S. Troelstra, Climate of the Past Discussions vol. 4 (2008) pgs. 1219-1235 at

4. "The catastrophic final flooding of Doggerland by the Storegga slide tsunami" - Bernard Weninger et al., Documenta Praehistorica XXXV (2008) at

5. List of Category 2 Hurricanes (with minimum pressures) - posted by "HurricaneStriker" on Storm2k at

Hurricane Sergio (2006): 965 mbar
Hurricane Michael (2000): 965 mbar
Hurricane Hector (2006): 966 mbar
Hurricane Lane (2000): 967 mbar
Hurricane Juan (2003): 969 mbar
Hurricane Nora (2003): 969 mbar
Hurricane Elida (2008): 970 mbar
Hurricane Paul (2006): 970 mbar
Hurricane Otis (2005): 970 mbar
Hurricane Hilary (2005): 970 mbar
Hurricane Irene (2005): 970 mbar
Hurricane Marty (2003): 970 mbar
Hurricane Jimena (2003): 970 mbar
Hurricane Ignacio (2003): 970 mbar
Hurricane Douglas (2002): 970 mbar
Hurricane Humberto (2001): 970 mbar
Hurricane Aletta (2000): 970 mbar
Hurricane Carlos (2009): 971 mbar
Hurricane Flossie (2001): 972 mbar
Hurricane Ida (2009): 975 mbar
Hurricane Gil (2001): 975 mbar
Hurricane Richard (2010): 978 mbar
Hurricane Paula (2010): 981 mbar
Hurricane Tomas (2010): 982 mbar

6. Additional pick-up reading (no light task). I just came across this book-length research project, and became immediately intrigued. Dan Dorritie's "Killer in Our Midst" - He reviews the past 20k-plus years of climate change and the implications, especially with regard to methane... well thought through... for our immediate future.

All original writing (cc) Creative Commons limited copyright (share with attribution) 2010 Michael Cerulli Billingsley
prehistoric, bone, totem, incised, BearGod

Magnetic Reconnection Events - Sun • Earth • Jupiter - Coming Up?

Oh what a lively solar system we have.

We can't exactly watch from a distance, but there are great loops and waves of electromagnetism pouring out not just from the Sun but also from us and from our "uphill" neighbour Jupiter, which weave and entwine, acting as conduits for the solar wind for one thing.

The recently-dubbed academic science of Solar-Earth Physics brought science minds together for the first time to examine what mystics, indigenous elders and tribal historians have carried as resonant cultural archaeology for milleniums... these "heavenly bodies" interact like bobbing, spinning energy-orbs in a lively pond. Nothing on Earth escapes the sweeping pull of Jupiter in its broad arcs around the Sun, and the Sun itself changes energetic rhythms to respond to the cadence of Jupiter and the Earth, and perhaps even tiny Mercury and further Saturn.

These pulses and waves are going on moment to moment, and recently validated re-connection pulses illustrate (almost like the separated particles in quantum physics) that the Sun and the Earth tune to one another on a regular 8-minute beat of "flux transfer events." More dramatically, Jupiter and its moons Ganymede and Io "connect" in almost violent magnetic storms that bond them momentarily with almost visible ropes of magnetic energy, causing huge auroral storms at Jupiter's poles. They are part of the larger system of lively magnetic energy which extends all the way to the Sun, and in which the Earth sometimes acts as a bridge... when it's not doing a reconnection to the Sun all on its own.

The upcoming week has a possibly unusual and over-sized reconnection event in store for us.

Ganymede will be "full moon" opposition the Sun while beyond that Uranus lines up also in opposition (from Jupiter's point of view). Meanwhile, the Earth (and its Moon) will line up exactly *between* Jupiter and the Sun. So the row (starting from the outside) will be Uranus, Ganymede, Jupiter, Earth's Moon, the Earth, and then the Sun. And beyond the Sun... exactly opposite and "pulling" in the other direction... is Saturn.

It's cock-eyed and its possibly going to have two or three negative effects. For one, Jupiter could "reach out" to the Sun using the convenient stepping-stone of the Earth, with a rope-like re-connection to the Sun. Unfortunately for as long as that lasts, the surface of the Sun will be, in effect, "hot-wired" to Jupiter and somewhat pulled toward it.. and hence, toward us. Sunspot 1106 is cooking some fairly big "pops" of CME's (coronal mass ejections) since appearing and growing on the Sun's surface a few days ago, and it is slowly moving across the front to be positioned facing the Earth just as this re-connection event might occur.

If it should fire off a CME at that time (and the very fact of a re-connection event may encourage that) and usually such a glob of electromagnetically-charged plasma might spread and slowly make its way in the general direction of Earth... a journey of several days. But if a reconnection is in progress, my guess is that the "rope" of magnetic connection will both accelerate the CME (to twice or three times its usual speed) and also hold it on course, and more compressed... so when it does reach Earth dead-on (on its way to Jupiter) it will be a formidable, focussed mass of energy. Now this IS all a guess - based on two events happening simultaneously - a reconnection and a CME from 1106 or another sunspot... so I could very well be quite wrong. I hope, actually, that I am wrong.

The other downside of this is that the off-balance pulling of Jupiter-Uranus on one side, and the Sun-Saturn on the other in conjunction with a magnetic reconnection may have a deleterious effect on the Earth's tectonic stability. The Sun's magnetosphere and the Earth's lithosphere are both reactive, and (I believe) influenced by these larger events on a solar system scale.

So the mid-week of 20 to 22 September could be very, very lively (and possibly destructive) for "life as we know it" here on Earth.

For a similar and perhaps less major storm look at the "Bastille Day" reconnection event of July, 2000 -

My thanks to Times Cycles Research and Ole Nielson's "Jupiter Tool" ( ) for ephemerides data.
prehistoric, bone, totem, incised, BearGod

Shake Rattle (Stretch) and Wave the Land... get ready

Earthquakes demand that the physical structures of terrain give way.

Whatever forces of compression, side-swiping, pulling, diving-under or slipping-free have been pent up for all the prior years - when they let go - the accumulated kinetic POWER grabs tall buildings in a single bound, is disrespectul to speeding locomotive tracks, and flies *through* the earth like a jet plane. SuperBlam.

A farmer in this article - - notes that the waves racing through his land got stuck that way... so now where there was a field, there are frozen undulations. Human structures (in comparison to soil, gravel and geologic strata) are flimsy, tiny things to earthquakes to quickly toss aside, crush and disassemble.

The Phoenician poet "Fintan", whose trading expedition through tribal lands of southwest Ireland (in the springtime of 1159 BC) was delayed frequently by earthquakes, observed that the river waters of "the Norr, the Suir and the Barrow"..." jumped their banks." And likewise did Lough Leine near present-day Donegal. Whereas in reality it was the land UNDER the lake (and rivers) which jumped sideways so quickly that the water stayed in place, before catching up and flowing back into place.

Those who choose to live adjacent to or upon faults, quake zones or at plate edges do so, of course, at their own risk. But to minimise that risk in one's mind increases risk and is dysfunctional for survival. Whole built-up and high-rise communities now stand where no conscious indigenous tribal leader would pitch a tent. The very idea of being there could give one the willies... and every day one could rehearse in one's mind (at least for the sake of one's children) how to get out, what route to take and by what means.

I encourage people in areas of risk to work together, in your own communities (and I agree that everywhere there is some risk... the point is to *know your OWN risk* by heart, and be ready to respond). To plan jointly for short-term and long-term response to what are the likely hazards in your own area.

Shared Sufficiency... not self-sufficiency.. is the key to long term survival of our communities and our network of ties to one another.

more updates at
prehistoric, bone, totem, incised, BearGod

What Oil Shale Sand Exploitation Actually Exploits - Athabasca Tar Sands Poison Comes Home to Roost

Syncrude's & others' big oil shale gamble falls on 1st Nations & wildlife down river. It can't be hidden, more to come.

I'll soon re-share more details of my readings and exploration from last year and before - showing the downstream devastation of the Athabascan and other major rivers in Alberta and Saskatchewan... heading north through tribal lands, habitat & migration routes... to arrive polluted at the Arctic Ocean. Just like in the open ocean, the food chain concentrates heavy metals & poisons at the top - in bear, wolves, salmon, raptors.

The Canadian journalistic community has been divided on this for a long time & many "activists" about pollution & tribal exploitation in *other* countries shrug off or even deny the harm to First Nations, animal habitats & the environment.

BP's oil spill is hidden deep in the lower waters of the Gulf and re-circulates slowly through deeps and trenches where some forms of life are grinding to a halt, de-oxygenated and poisoned. Syncrudes toxicities are incremental and equally hidden build-ups of heavy metals like cadmium and even silver... landing in wetlands and muddy river bottoms, and ultimately pouring out into the ocean via the deltas of the MacKenzie and Slave Rivers as a pale, greenish-white cloud.

Under high-pressure heated water and/or steam are pumped (often with selected chemical de-binders) into the sticky tar sands deep below Fort McKay Reserve #196. They come back up as an oily slurry which is then processed chemically. The somewhat vile left over sludge is conveyed to the huge piles dominating the landscape by the river. They now know this pile of toxic waste leaches into the Athabascan River as it flows north. Now 3 yrs. bigger than shown, the sludge pile dwarfs human scale. (photo - GoogleEarth, enhanced - Fort McKay Indian Reserve)

The heated water after supposed complete cleaning is either cooled in holding ponds before release back to the river, or recycled. Ranchers upstream on some tar sand extraction rivers (such as the Red River) observe that much water is lost in the process, and the "draw down" of water is so great (and the consequent water uncertain in its quality), that their livestock are parched. These new tests (see article URL) from the past several years increasingly show that the water is NOT fully cleaned... and carries various dissolved or partially dissolved toxins and metal compounds.

There is considerable reason to compare this ecological disaster and its human, animal and ecosystem outcome with the slow-motion disaster that plagued the Great Lakes and its tributaries, all draining out through the St. Lawrence River. Native peoples living along the north and south banks of the St. Lawrence were badly afflicted by toxic metals like mercury both in the water and in their caught food like river trout. Birth defects, cancer, respiratory and heart diseases are still endemic although lessening somewhat with attempts to clean up Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

For a long time the water-borne poisons and airborne aluminum compounds from the GM motorblock plant were totally ignored as health hazards while Canadian and U.S. indigenous families suffered the consequences horribly. The implicit racism behind suppressing health hazard evidence, pooh-poohing native family health claims, siding through regulatory laxness with the manufacturers and polluters (and near non-enforcement of early environmental violations) all served to pit white dominant culture against First Nations people once more.

That was in the '70's and this is now. Another generation of the greedy has bred its young? Buffy St.-Marie painfully speaks to this in several of her more recent albums such as Coincidence and Likely Stories ie. "The Priest of the Golden Bull."

Syncrude's plans are by no means daunted by the accumulating evidence. It intends to open up the vast leased areas reserved for similar treatment on the east banks of the Athabascan, and has already begun surface-stripping the vast thousand-plus hectare area intended for more slurry ponds, sludge piles and treatment plants.

[ All original writing ©2010 Michael Cerulli Billingsley. This is an op-ed essay which relies on other sources for information, at least some of which is still current. Verification of all data is still ongoing. For updates follow ]
prehistoric, bone, totem, incised, BearGod

Jönkulhlaup Paths Suggested from Eyjafjallajökull and Katla

Veðurstofa Íslands/Icelandic Meteorological Office has prepared some strongly-worded studies about the fearsome power of jönkulhlaups (glacial burst-floods) which can be unleashed when any one of several subglacial volcanoes in Iceland erupt. Most notably, Grimsvötn under Vatnajökull; Katla under Myrdalsjökull and Eyjafjallajökull under its glacier/jökull can, under worst-case eruptive conditions, create burst-flood volumes that can rip apart highways and bridges, and completely scour the landscape.

I'm not sure to whom to credit this map.

One study in particular examines the hazards associated with a Skarrá-valley jönkulhlaup from either Katla or Eyjafjallajökull -

Evidence shows that, specifically after eruptions of Katla (and possibly Eyjafjallajökull), the shock when a big jönkulhlaup headwall hits the sea (loaded with debris and two-story-house sized blocks of ice) has created enough energy to cause tsunamis elsewhere.

Veðurstofa Íslands has also commented that on at least one occasion a jönkulhlaup in the Markarflót caused a tsunami (1721, from Katla) - (Note: this is not a letter-sized document and takes a while to download the single poster-sized sheet.)

The newest set of quakes are all focussed under areas of the glacier with approximately 100-200 metres thickness of ice. Depending upon which side of the north-south Eyjafjallajökull drainage gradient an eventual new fissure might poke through, the resulting water pool and heated steam under the jökull will exert upward pressure and ultimately burst out either under the Steinsholtsjökull glacial tongue to the north (draining into the narrow upper valley of the Krossá and down into the Markarfljót sandur) or will stream down a narrow gorge to the east of the (south) Goðasteinn peak on Eyjafjallajökull, as indicated in the inset illustration - pointed out in the Meteo poster above.

Their additional concerns, at this late winter season, are about massive ice and snow slides from the steeper southern side (slope failures similar to avalanches) triggered by the undermining of high volumes of heated water flowing downhill in this direction... and are primarily motivated by the short warning times involved. Such slides will sweep over the highway now being used by many tourists coming to the volcano, in addition to regular circumferential traffic on Highway 1. (source map below from Veðurstofa Íslands - credits noted on map)

The southeast corner of Iceland is very vulnerable to jönkulhlaups - perhaps more than any other comparable place on earth. The rare conjunction of volcanoes and covering ice caps produces some spectacular and frightening natural floods. Iceland Meteo says that the water headwall in the upper valley of the Krossá can reach 45 metres in height, dropping to 15 metres when the valley widens. The initial two hours could see water volumes to 300,000 cu.metres per second - not dissimilar to volumes pouring across the Myrdalssandur during the initial hours of a Katla eruption-caused jönkulhlaup. Such a burst flood would wipe away many of the farms built in the Markarfljót since the last Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 1821-23.

The hazard is high in the case of Eyjafjallajökull at this moment in 2010, because a jönkulhlaup in either direction (north or south) over or near the point closest to the present earthquake series would cross routes used heavily by volcano-watching tourists. Enlarge any image by clicking once to enter the gallery, and once more to see it full-size.

prehistoric, bone, totem, incised, BearGod

Recent Eyjafjallajökull Activity Evaluated

Icelandic Meteorological has released a report - in which the seismicity of Eyjafjallajökull just prior and following its first eruption has been traced as a 3-D set of plots.

I've reset their diagram to alternate positions so that its parts can be easily compared along two axes.

Please note that this is for a specific time frame 13-24 March, not for the entire pre-eruptive sequence. One can observe in this summary, three consecutive "pushes" upward on the 17, 18 and 19th - followed by more than 24 hours of near silence.

Then came the first eruption late on the 20th of March, in a direction previously weakened but not "used" in the prior few days. I find this exploitation of weaknesses, just as happened before the opening of the second larger fissure (preceded also by a long quiet) to be both peculiarly interesting, as well as a bit troublesome. It suggests that when the magma DOES come through at any opportunistic weak point, it has already "tested" it... opened and smoothed pathways to it with some prior set of exploratory surges; and then "keeps it in reserve" until such time as the magma pressure from below requires more outlet than the pre-existing vents provide.

And then... it comes through that "reserved" weak point. There is a set of further lines of previous "exploration" even further to the west that have yet to be opened, as well as some on the south face. So it will be interesting to see what Eyjaf continues to do, especially if magma pressure from below increases significantly.

Again, the link to the Veðurstofa Íslands explanation of earthquake/magma event procession -
prehistoric, bone, totem, incised, BearGod

A Surge (of Tourism) at Eyjafjallajökull - NASA Looks

During the past two weeks since the fissure opened on Fimmvörðuháls, we have been reminded it is winter. Initially the weather was very raw, with high winds and much cloudiness... making both satellite and direct observation difficult. Subsequently it cleared off quite a bit, allowing NASA to get a very good image on 24 March showing the magma fountains, gas vents and the steam plume where the lava flow meanders downhill to meet ice and snowfields.

Much of the lava continues to flow down into the Hrunagíl cleft (just east of principal hiking trail down from the ridge, heading north toward Básar). Click on all images for the larger view... Click a Second Time for greatest resolution (and again if you see a "+").

Close-up satellite view, with labels (from NASA Earth Observatory, 31 March) - note the turn in orientation, North is to the right.

Since the weather has cleared off there have been many observers... scientific, tourist and even reckless. Rescues include a person whose single-engine plane made a forced landing near Fimmvörðuháls and a group of hikers who became exhausted in bad weather. Civic Protection has attempted to establish a safe perimetre, and urges all hikers to be fully prepared and equipped for wintry weather. Temperatures and wind conditions change rapidly and without warning in this terrain.

This panoramic view of the Krossá valley and gorges behind Eyjafjallajökull, assembled from images by Kjartan Petur Sigurdsson, shows the Hrunagíl cleft or gully to the far right, with Myrdalsjökull beyond (his Sierra Club tour images of 2005 - see )

A more detailed view - Hrunagíl is receiving most of the eruptive magma in the present eruptive phase. Some of the uncooled lava and probably a water/mud/ash lahar is pouring into the gully from the left. Again, a stitched panorama from original images by Kjartan Petur Sigurdsson (link and credits above).