Weather

USDA: Food Prices Expected To Rise 2.5 To 3.5 Percent In 2014

It’s not only prices at the pump that are going up these days where I live.

From what I’ve seen, food prices keep rising as well (while portions continue to shrink).

And it looks to continue that way in 2014. Ros Krasny reported on the Reuters website Tuesday:

U.S. food prices are expected to rise more rapidly this year after a very tame 2013, led by gains in beef, poultry and egg prices, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Tuesday.

The food price inflation outlook assumes normal weather, the USDA said, adding that the California drought poses a risk of bigger increases in many food categories, and that high supermarket prices for beef are “here to stay.”

Various measures, including overall food, food-at-home and food-away-from-home prices, are expected to rise by 2.5 to 3.5 percent in 2014. The consumer price index for all food prices rose by 1.4 percent in 2013…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Krasny added that according to the USDA, prices at the supermarket have risen by an average of 2.8 percent annually since 1990.

I blogged about potential avenues for saving in this area back on March 10, 2011, and March 23, 2013.

Seeing that a landscaper is scheduled to stop by tomorrow, now’s as good a time as any to formulate a plan for fighting higher food costs while moving towards food self-sufficiency here in the Chicago suburbs. I’ll fill you in on what I’ve come up with in a future “Project Prepper” post (starting up again next week).

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Krasny, Roz. “Pricier beef ‘here to stay’ as food costs seen higher: USDA.” Reuters.com. 25 Mar. 2014. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/25/us-usa-agriculture-inflation-idUSBREA2O13Q20140325). 27 Mar. 2014.

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July 2012, 2013 Solar Superstorms Could Have Resulted In Technological Disasters On Earth

Back on December 11, 2013, I blogged about a solar “superstorm” that almost pummeled the Earth in July 2012. A December 9 press release from University of Colorado-Boulder Professor Daniel Baker, a solar scientist and the director of CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, said:

A massive ejection of material from the sun initially traveling at over 7 million miles per hour that narrowly missed Earth last year is an event solar scientists hope will open the eyes of policymakers regarding the impacts and mitigation of severe space weather, says a University of Colorado Boulder professor.

The coronal mass ejection, or CME, event was likely more powerful than the famous Carrington storm of 1859, when the sun blasted Earth’s atmosphere hard enough twice to light up the sky from the North Pole to Central America and allowed New Englanders to read their newspapers at night by aurora light, said CU-Boulder Professor Daniel Baker. Had it hit Earth, the July 2012 event likely would have created a technological disaster by short-circuiting satellites, power grids, ground communication equipment and even threatening the health of astronauts and aircraft crews, he said

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Well, there’s been more analysis of that July 2012 CME event recently. From the FOX News website yesterday:

Earth dodged one of the most massive magnetic solar bursts ever on July 23, 2012, scientists with the University of California, Berkeley revealed on Wednesday — saving the planet from widespread havoc.

“Had it hit Earth, it probably would have been like the big one in 1859, but the effect today, with our modern technologies, would have been tremendous,” UC Berkeley research physicist Janet G. Luhmann said in a press release.

The 2012 massive magnetic cloud sped through space at over 1,200 miles per second, four times faster than a typical burst of solar power.

According to researchers, had the quick succession of coronal mass ejections (CMEs)– the most intense kind of solar eruptions — come nine days earlier, they would have hit Earth, potentially disabled satellites and GPS, and even affected the electrical grid.

A study from last year revealed that a solar storm like the one Earth narrowly avoided could have cost up to $2.6 trillion in damages. A similar event in March 1989 caused Canada’s Hydro-Quebec power grid to collapse and left six million people with no electricity for nine hours.

“The cost of an extreme space weather event, if it hits Earth, could reach trillions of dollars with a potential recovery time of 4-10 years,” professor at China’s State Key Laboratory of Space Weather Ying D. Liu warned in a press release. “Therefore, it is paramount to the security and economic interest of the modern society to understand solar superstorms.”

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Another potential technological disaster was narrowly avoided just a year later in July 2013. I wrote on August 1:

Here’s something you probably won’t hear in the mainstream media:

The Earth just missed being hit by a coronal mass ejection two weeks ago

Paul Bedard reported in the “Washington Secrets” section of the Washington Examiner website last night:

The earth barely missed taking a massive solar punch in the teeth two weeks ago, an “electromagnetic pulse” so big that it could have knocked out power, cars and iPhones throughout the United States.

Two EMP experts told Secrets that the EMP flashed through earth’s typical orbit around the sun about two weeks before the planet got there.

“The world escaped an EMP catastrophe,” said Henry Cooper, who led strategic arms negotiations with the Soviet Union under President Reagan, and who now heads High Frontier, a group pushing for missile defense.

“There had been a near miss about two weeks ago, a Carrington-class coronal mass ejection crossed the orbit of the Earth and basically just missed us,” said Peter Vincent Pry, who served on the Congressional EMP Threat Commission from 2001-2008. He was referring to the 1859 EMP named after astronomer Richard Carrington that melted telegraph lines in Europe and North America.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

I’m guessing solar superstorms don’t really register that much on the radar of most Americans. However, seeing how technologically dependent our society is these days, the potential effects of coronal mass ejections worry me considerably, and have so for some time.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

“The massive solar blast that almost wreaked havoc on Earth.” FOX News. 19 Mar. 2014. (http://www.foxnews.com/science/2014/03/19/massive-solar-blast-that-almost-wreaked-havoc-on-earth/?intcmp=features). 20 Mar. 2014.

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MarketWatch On Jim Rogers: ‘Signs Are Suggesting He’s Right In His Gloomy Prognostication On Food Supplies’

I started blogging about investor, author, and financial commentator Jim Rogers back in the summer 2007, right after launching Boom2Bust.com, “The Most Hated Blog On Wall Street.” Rogers- who correctly called the commodities rally in 1999- was already talking up agriculture as a great investment opportunity seven years ago.

Time and time again on this blog, I’ve noted how bullish the former investing partner of George Soros is about the sector.

And yesterday, the financial website MarketWatch concluded the Singapore-based investor might be on to something.

From Karen Friar on The Tell blog:

What makes today’s comments more pointed is that signs are suggesting he’s right in his gloomy prognostication on food supplies.

Severe weather of different kinds, production constraints and other factors are pushing up prices of beef, bread and other staples (read: 10 foods eating into your budget). Plus, California — the U.S.’s agricultural heartland — won’t get any irrigation water this summer, despite being gripped by a drought. That should end up hitting consumer wallets, too. And even the crisis in Ukraine could end up putting pressure on grain markets…

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Naysayers love to bash Mr. Rogers and his investment predictions, trying to “call the game while it’s still in the early innings” (the same happens to fellow “crash prophets” Marc Faber and Peter Schiff- just look at the CNBC.com comments section underneath an article written about any one of the three). But I remember a British publication analyzing the outcome of his investing calls after he made that gloomy British pound forecast a few years back, and determining that more often than not Rogers is correct.

Chalk another one up for the CEO of Rogers Holdings and Beeland Interests, Inc.? I think it’s a little too early still to give Rogers full credit, but based on his track record I have a feeling he’ll get this agriculture call right too.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Friar, Karen. “Jim Rogers: Want to make money? Drive a tractor.” The Tell. 25 Feb. 2014. (http://blogs.marketwatch.com/thetell/2014/02/25/jim-rogers-want-to-make-money-drive-a-tractor/). 27 Feb. 2014.

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Seen On The Streets, Part 9

Remember when I blogged last week about bread, eggs, and milk disappearing from grocery store shelves before a severe weather event?

I was in the northwest suburbs of Chicago last Thursday attending a wake. I had already been there for a while when I headed downstairs to the “break” room. I found myself talking to one of the other attendees, and the conversation turned to the recent “polar vortex” and the accompanying snow that pummeled the Chicagoland area. This person mentioned to me how she was at a grocery store during the severe weather event and noticed only one loaf of bread left on the shelves. She confided in me that her and her family aren’t really big bread-eaters. Yet, she thought to herself that she’d better grab that last loaf before that particular staple food was all gone.

At that point, we were interrupted by someone helping themselves to some food from the table we were standing in front of.

But I did manage to ask her real quick, “So, did you end up buying that last loaf of bread?”

To which she replied, “Yes I did!”

Probably not going to eat the bread, but still snapped it up anyway.

I wonder what those psychologists I mentioned last week in that bread/eggs/milk post would say about that?

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Zombie Survival Training In Chicago

It’s the beginning of a new year. And if you’re like me, you may be looking at taking a class or two in the next twelve months.

First Aid and AED/CPR training through the American Red Cross is high on my list.

Zombie Survival Training is up there as well.

Zombie Survival what?

I recently stumbled upon a locally-taught class entitled “Zombie Survival Training” on Dabble.com, an Internet “marketplace for classes.” From their website:

If the zombie apocalypse happened right now, would you be ready? Do you even have a plan?

This course is designed to teach you how to survive the worst disaster imaginable, even a wide-spread pandemic of flesh-eating zombies. Using the zombie apocalypse as the worst case scenario, we will discuss survival strategies, food and water preparation and improvised weapons. This class is perfect for zombie lovers and survivalists alike.

After this class you will know where to go, what to eat and how to defend yourself when the unthinkable happens.

Okay, so it’s not really all about zombies. In fact, at the top of the Dabble page it’s classified as a “disaster survival class.”

The course is being taught by The Green Suite. From the Dabble page:

A self-proclaimed eco-warrior, Nick Conrad founded The Green Suite to enlighten others how to lessen their impact on the environment while improving their homes. Through The Green Suite, he teaches innovative, DIY ways of producing food, power, and products from recycled objects and repurposed materials. The Green Suite offers classes, tips, and kits online to help any aspiring eco-file get started. Nick has been featured in Chicago’s Red Eye for his Zombie Survival Class and presented as a guest speaker in local schools…

I’ve heard of Nick Conrad before. Kara Spak wrote on the Chicago Sun-Times website back on June 24, 2013:

Conrad, 32, an Eagle Scout, Dick’s Last Resort waiter, former improv performer, small business owner and self-described ecowarrior, teaches Zombie Survival Training in Chicago…

Conrad is a zombie-genre fan but believes there are more realistic but equally sinister scenarios we should prepare for, like a weather disaster or a terrorist attack. Those who attend Zombie Survival Training- each class has room for about 30 people- will come away ready for those as well…

Conrad has background teaching survival skills. As an Eagle Scout in Texas, he taught wilderness survival…

Through Green Suite, Conrad offers more than just survival instruction. Spak added:

He’s an active environmentalist whose dream is to live totally off the grid in the city. His company, Green Suite, teaches local folks how to create more sustainable elements in their homes, like a hydroponic garden created from wine bottles. Through Green Suite, he teaches non-zombie-themed classes showing how to make a big but low-cost impact on the environment.

In his own two-bedroom Lake View apartment, Conrad has built solar panels, a hydroponic garden and a soil garden, all of which can be removed when he moves. On the third floor, Conrad said he is well positioned to survive a zombie apocalypse.

“I’ve got food, I’m building a water filtration system, I’ve got my own electricity,” he said…

Pretty cool stuff, if you ask me. And something I’d like to learn more about in the future.

According to Dabble, the next Zombie Survival Training class is scheduled to take place on January 29 at the Holiday Club, 4000 North Sheridan Road, Chicago (I remember hitting the Holiday Club with my pals back in the mid-90s and from what I recall- wink- it was a lot of fun). The cost is $25 per person, with only 3 spots left as I type this.

For more information, you can visit the Dabble page for the class here. To receive info on future classes and other instruction, you can subscribe to The Green Suite newsletter on their website here.


“Zombie Girl- Creepy Crawler- Music Video”
(Warning- Violence)
YouTube Video

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Spak, Karen. “ Fear not the apocalypse; zombie survival training on offer.” Chicago Sun-Times. 24 June 2013. (http://www.suntimes.com/entertainment/20862179-421/fear-not-the-apocalypse-zombie-survival-training-on-offer.html). 13 Jan. 2014.

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Attack On California Power Substation Just A ‘Dress Rehearsal’?

Speaking of the fragile U.S. power grid this morning, I’ve been itching to discuss the following incident that took place in April and which I’ve been hearing more about as time goes on. Shane Harris reported on the Foreign Policy website back on December 27:

Around 1:00 AM on April 16, at least one individual (possibly two) entered two different manholes at the PG&E Metcalf power substation, southeast of San Jose, and cut fiber cables in the area around the substation. That knocked out some local 911 services, landline service to the substation, and cell phone service in the area, a senior U.S. intelligence official told Foreign Policy. The intruder(s) then fired more than 100 rounds from what two officials described as a high-powered rifle at several transformers in the facility. Ten transformers were damaged in one area of the facility, and three transformer banks — or groups of transformers — were hit in another, according to a PG&E spokesman.

Cooling oil then leaked from a transformer bank, causing the transformers to overheat and shut down. State regulators urged customers in the area to conserve energy over the following days, but there was no long-term damage reported at the facility and there were no major power outages. There were no injuries reported. That was the good news. The bad news is that officials don’t know who the shooter(s) were, and most importantly, whether further attacks are planned.

“Initially, the attack was being treated as vandalism and handled by local law enforcement,” the senior intelligence official said. “However, investigators have been quoted in the press expressing opinions that there are indications that the timing of the attacks and target selection indicate a higher level of planning and sophistication.”


Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office
“PG&E Substation Surveillance Video”
(Sparks from bullets @ 1:54, 2:07, 2:10, 2:57, and 3:01)
YouTube Video

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is now in charge of the case. Even though the shooting took place one day after the Boston Marathon bombing, Harris wrote the FBI “has no evidence that the attack is related to terrorism, and it appears to be an isolated incident.”

However, there’s this later on in the piece:

“These were not amateurs taking potshots,” Mark Johnson, a former vice president for transmission operations at PG&E, said last month at a conference on grid security held in Philadelphia. “My personal view is that this was a dress rehearsal” for future attacks.

Wackjob(s)? Terrorist(s)? The authorities may never find out just who was behind the attack. But I can only imagine if this had taken place in the Chicago area during a brutal cold spell like the one we’re in now.

Should a similar attack be successful here in Chiberia-like conditions and the region plunged into an extensive and extended power outage, chaos and carnage could easily ensue.

Extreme weather (space weather included). Cyber attacks. Physical attack. I wished Washington would take steps to significantly harden the national power grid. But they won’t any time soon (other spending priorities, no immediate/substantial political “return” from doing so).

Regrettably, the bad guys have almost certainly figured this out as well.

Yep. Alternative/backup electricity and heating is starting to sound real good right now.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Harris, Shane. “‘Military-Style’ Raid on California Power Station Spooks U.S.” Foreign Policy. 27 Dec. 2013. (http://complex.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/12/24/power-station-military-assault), 8 Jan 2014.

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Illinois Could See Rolling Blackouts From High Electricity Usage

While watching the news this morning on Chicago’s WGN-TV, it was mentioned that Illinois could see rolling blackouts as a result of the high electricity demand stemming from the extreme winter weather.

Rolling blackouts? That would suck in these frigid conditions. But considering how fragile the U.S. power grid is, I’m really not surprised to hear this.

Michelle Manchir reported on the Chicago Tribune website last night:

After electricity demand soared during Tuesday’s continuing bitter cold, one of the country’s largest electric grid operators asked consumers in Illinois and several other states to turn down the thermostats a touch during peak usage hours Wednesday.

PJM Interconnection, which coordinates wholesale electricity distribution in 13 states including Illinois, is also asking residents to avoid using power-gulping appliances like the stove, dishwasher and washers and dryers between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and 7 p.m..

Demand in the PJM Interconnection’s territory reached 140,835 megawatts Tuesday morning, far above typical winter usage of 110,000 to 120,000 megawatts, a PJM spokeswoman said. Summertime peaks can reach 165,000 megawatts, the spokesman said…

As I mentioned the other day, we already lost power once during the “polar vortex.” Will be crossing my fingers it doesn’t happen for the remainder of this cold spell.

Alternative power and heating sources- two areas that require much more attention from me if I’m to stay in these parts.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Manchir, Michelle. “Cold triggers call to conserve electricity.” Chicago Tribune. 7 Jan. 2014. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-cold-power-grid-met-20140108,0,500205.story). 8 Jan. 2014.

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Wednesday, January 8th, 2014 Energy, Infrastructure, Preparedness, Utilities, Weather No Comments

Bread, Eggs, And Milk Disappear From Grocery Store Shelves Prior To Severe Winter Weather

This past weekend, I was watching the local news prior to the snow and “polar vortex” that descended on the Chicago area when the co-anchors started talking about a photo submitted by a Lake View grocery store. It depicted a number of barren shelves where loaves of bread used to be displayed. One anchor proceeded to tell viewers that bread, eggs, and milk typically disappear from grocery stores and supermarkets prior to these types of events.

Bread, eggs, and milk? Okay, I can see that.

This isn’t just a Chicagoland thing either. Nick Schneider reported on the website of southern Indiana’s Greene County Daily World back on January 6, 2010:

Mark Angell, president of Angell’s Food Center in Linton, says it’s kind of a retailing mystery why people seem to flock to the store and stock up on staple items like bread, milk and eggs whenever a big winter storm is predicted.

Empty shelves for those items are not unusual…

When asked why there seems to be likening for bread, milk and eggs as pre-storm supplies, Angell replied, “We have never been able to figure that out. For some reason, bread and milk are the items of choice and that’s what they come after.”

Bloomfield IGA office manager Mandy Donovan also said she’s noticed a rush for the “Big 3″ — bread, milk and eggs — whenever a storm is headed toward Greene County.

“They are the staples from back in ‘the day’. Whenever you’d get snowed in, you’d have those things on hand. We joke around and say every time it snows, they (the customers) want French Toast,” she said with a laugh…

French Toast. Yum. All this talk of food is really making it difficult to hold out until lunch time.

In all seriousness, people cleaning out bread, eggs, and milk before a severe weather event is something that’s been investigated at the psychological level. Laurie L. Dove recently authored a piece entitled “Why do people buy up all the bread and milk before a storm hits?” on Discovery’s HowStuffWorks website, and said:

Rain, sleet or snow, there’s milk in the refrigerator and bread in the basket. This may sound a bit like the delivery mantra of the U.S. mail service, but it’s actually the tactic most Americans employ during severe weather. And this behavior offers clues as to the motivations driving them.

The compulsive desire to stockpile perishables isn’t always based on logical behavior. “The thought to get milk before a storm is followed by the action or compulsion to go out and stockpile it. In one way or another, we spend a lot of time and energy trying to feel in control, and buying things you might throw out still gives the person a sense of control in an uncontrollable situation,” says Lisa Brateman, a New York City-based psychotherapist.

In contrast, filling your cart with cans of beans and tuna — or any selection of non-perishables — sends the message that you expect the storm to keep you homebound for an extended period. Although practical, non-perishables are a psychological admission that you’ve surrendered to waiting out the storm and its aftermath; perishables are about optimism.

“Buying perishables is like saying, ‘the storm will be over soon and I won’t be stuck in this situation for long,’” says Judy Rosenberg, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Los Angeles…

Interesting. Without delving too deeply into this matter, I chalk up the buying of these staple foods to the fact that one can make a variety of tasty meals out of them. French Toast included (stomach grumbling).

While I’m a big believer of having food needs taken care of long before extreme weather hits, in the event that I ever find myself doing some last-minute grocery shopping (girlfriend will be laughing pretty hard when she reads this), hitting the sections where the bread, eggs, and milk are kept first is probably not a bad idea.

Or else I might have to contend with the following…


“I’ve got to get some bread and milk, oh my god!”
YouTube Video

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Schneider, Nick. “Do you have your bread, milk, eggs? — People tend to stock up on ‘The Big 3′ before bad weather hits.” Greene County Daily World. 6 Jan. 2010. (http://www.gcdailyworld.com/story/1600136.html). 7 Jan. 2014.

Dove, Laurie L. “Why do people buy up all the bread and milk before a storm hits?” HowStuffWorks.com. (http://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/natural-disasters/buy-bread-and-milk-before-storm.htm). 7 Jan. 2014.

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Greetings From Chiberia!

Record-breaking cold grips Chicago area

The Chicago area has already set a new record low today, with temps hitting minus 16…”

-Chicago Tribune website, January 6, 2014

When it comes to preparing for emergencies/disasters, as much as getting ready for some zombie apocalypse or other low-probability event might be more interesting, it’s the routine stuff that really shouldn’t be overlooked.

Case in point, severe weather.

I’ve lived in the Chicagoland area for most of my life. And I’ve seen my share of extreme weather. But all the recent snow and arctic temps have already made the winter of 2013-2014 a memorable one.

It’s so cold and snowy outside, last night the banner of the Chicago Sun-Times website read “Chicago Sun-Times.com, Cloudy, 2, Horror.”

As I type this Monday morning, it’s now been updated to read “Chicago Sun-Times.com, Cloudy, -14, HOTH.”

That’s 14 degrees Fahrenheit below zero. Not factoring in wind chill.

As for “HOTH,” at first I was like, “What’s that an acronym for?” And then I remembered…


“Stars Wars Empire Strikes Back Battle of Hoth (Full)”
YouTube Video

Funny guys over at the Sun-Times.

Speaking of the rebels’ main generators on planet Hoth, by Sunday evening, I had kept up on the shoveling and snowblowing throughout the weekend and the house was pretty much buttoned-up for the “polar vortex.”

And then we lost power.

I thought to myself, “I knew I should have picked up a portable gas-powered generator when they went on sale in the fall.” I told my girlfriend, “God forbid the power is off for an extended period of time. With those falling temps outside and now inside, I’m worried about the pipes freezing up.”

When I called the electric company, I was told there were 1,500-plus other customers in our area who were in the same boat. Cause being investigated. Expected restoration time? About two hours.

Thankfully, the electricity came back on after fifteen minutes. By that time, I had already busted out a battery-powered lantern and some other items.

It’s been a crazy couple of days. Saturday morning I was up at my family’s place in Wisconsin checking on things and turning the thermostat up a few notches in anticipation of more snow and the deep freeze. While driving there on a Wisconsin highway, I came across two car accidents. The first involved a car that was sitting in the grassy median with the roof partially crushed and the windshield and other windows broken. A sheriff’s deputy was already on scene. The second was a pickup truck that was resting on its side in a ditch adjacent to the opposite lanes of traffic. Again, the police were already there. Funny thing was, the weather wasn’t bad (30 degrees Fahrenheit, no snow, highway plowed nice and clean), yet there was still all this carnage. On the way back to Chicagoland, I got caught by a snow storm. Driving became really tricky real fast, so much so I witnessed in my rear-view mirror a semi-trailer truck almost jackknife a few car lengths back after getting cut off by a sedan. The semi-trailer heaved to the left, then to the right, before the driver managed to regain control.

At which point the truck driver looked like he was trying to sideswipe the sedan before its driver escaped via an exit ramp.

Like I said- crazy.

Watching the local news this morning they said this was the coldest the region has seen in twenty years. Hearing that took me back to the winter of 1993-1994, when I was an undergrad at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I remember temperatures being just as cold, and having to attend a certain class. Go figure, this stupid college kid didn’t have any winter clothes down at school with him except for a coat. No hat, no scarf, no gloves. Plenty of baseball caps though. I ended up taking the blanket off my bed, wrapping it over my head, around my face, and stuffing it inside my coat before walking out the door to class. My classmates must have thought I looked pretty funny wearing that thing in my seat. Then again, considering the circumstances, they might have been envious. When I returned home, I noticed my ears were incredibly red. Turns out, I still got frostbite on the extremities of my ears despite wearing a comforter.

Twenty years later, the weather outside is eerily similar. But this time, I’m much better prepared for the frigid temps- multiple winter coats, gloves, hats, etcetera. No need to bust out a bed comforter this time around.

Stay warm. Stay safe. And as much fun as it may be buying that bio-hazard themed katana sword to fight the zombie hordes, you might be better off picking up a quality shovel, a portable generator, even just a winter hat, to successfully deal with the severe weather at this time of year.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Solar Scientist: July 2012 Coronal Mass Ejection And 1859 Carrington Event Show Need To Prepare

Here’s a press release that should concern every adult American. From University of Colorado-Boulder Professor Daniel Baker, a solar scientist and the director of CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, on Monday:

CU-Boulder scientist: 2012 solar storm points up need for society to prepare

A massive ejection of material from the sun initially traveling at over 7 million miles per hour that narrowly missed Earth last year is an event solar scientists hope will open the eyes of policymakers regarding the impacts and mitigation of severe space weather, says a University of Colorado Boulder professor.

The coronal mass ejection, or CME, event was likely more powerful than the famous Carrington storm of 1859, when the sun blasted Earth’s atmosphere hard enough twice to light up the sky from the North Pole to Central America and allowed New Englanders to read their newspapers at night by aurora light, said CU-Boulder Professor Daniel Baker. Had it hit Earth, the July 2012 event likely would have created a technological disaster by short-circuiting satellites, power grids, ground communication equipment and even threatening the health of astronauts and aircraft crews, he said.

CMEs are part of solar storms and can send billions of tons of solar particles in the form of gas bubbles and magnetic fields off the sun’s surface and into space. The storm events essentially peel Earth’s magnetic field like an onion, allowing energetic solar wind particles to stream down the field lines to hit the atmosphere over the poles.

Fortunately, the 2012 solar explosion occurred on the far side of the rotating sun just a week after that area was pointed toward Earth, said Baker, a solar scientist and the director of CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. But NASA’s STEREO-A, satellite that was flying ahead of the Earth as the planet orbited the sun, captured the event, including the intensity of the solar wind, the interplanetary magnetic field and a rain of solar energetic particles into space.

“My space weather colleagues believe that until we have an event that slams Earth and causes complete mayhem, policymakers are not going to pay attention,” he said. “The message we are trying to convey is that we made direct measurements of the 2012 event and saw the full consequences without going through a direct hit on our planet.”

Baker will give a presentation on the subject at the 46th Annual Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union held in San Francisco Dec. 9 to Dec. 13.

While typical coronal mass ejections from the sun take two or three days to reach Earth, the 2012 event traveled from the sun’s surface to Earth in just 18 hours. “The speed of this event was as fast or faster than anything that has been seen in the modern space age,” said Baker. The event not only had the most powerful CME ever recorded, but it would have triggered one of the strongest geomagnetic storms and the highest density of particle fluctuation ever seen in a typical solar cycle, which last roughly 11 years.

“We have proposed that the 2012 event be adopted as the best estimate of the worst case space weather scenario,” said Baker, who chaired a 2008 National Research Council committee that produced a report titled Severe Space Weather Events – Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts. “We argue that this extreme event should be immediately employed by the space weather community to model severe space weather effects on technological systems such as the electrical power grid.

“I liken it to war games — since we have the information about the event, let’s play it through our various models and see what happens,” Baker said. “If we do this, we would be a significant step closer to providing policymakers with real-world, concrete kinds of information that can be used to explore what would happen to various technologies on Earth and in orbit rather than waiting to be clobbered by a direct hit.”

Even though it occurred about 150 years ago, the Carrington storm was memorable from a natural beauty standpoint as well as its technological impacts, he said. The event disrupted telegraph communications — the Internet of the Victorian Age — around the world, sparking fires at telegraph offices that caused several deaths, he said.

A 1989 geomagnetic storm caused by a CME from a solar storm in March 1989 resulted in the collapse of Hydro-Quebec’s electricity transmission system, causing 6 million people to lose power for at least nine hours, said Baker. The auroras from the event could be seen as far south as Texas and Florida.

“The Carrington storm and the 2012 event show that extreme space weather events can happen even during a modest solar cycle like the one presently underway,” said Baker. “Rather than wait and pick up the pieces, we ought to take lessons from these events to prepare ourselves for inevitable future solar storms.”

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Sobering stuff. You can read the entire press release on the CU-Boulder website here.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Chicago-Area Winter Survival Training Camp Planned For This Weekend

Brrr. It’s been cold here in Chicagoland. But that’s what I love above this part of the country- the four seasons. And it’s only fitting that with a couple of inches of snow on the ground already (with more expected tomorrow) that I’d spot the following scheduled winter activity on the American Preppers Network website tonight. From the section entitled “Prepper Expos And Events”:

Saturday December 14th, 10AM Saturday till 10:00 AM Sunday. Goodenow Grove, Will County IL: Winter Survival Training Camp, Sponsored by Southwest Chicago Live Free USA, Camping optional, preregistration required. Planned activities: fire craft, cooking, winter survival skills, snowshoes, sleds, skies, Equipment testing, more. Contact: dancingstick13@aol.com

Sounds interesting. Reading this reminded me of when I attended a “Klondike derby” in the Chicago-area forest preserves as a Boy Scout many years ago. I learned quite a bit from the different “stations” that frigid winter day. I’d be willing to bet I’d learn a good deal more from this planned gathering.

Contact that e-mail address above to see if the event is still a go and/or to find out more information. As for the Live Free USA program, you can find out more about them here.

Stay warm…

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Tuesday, December 10th, 2013 Education, Emergencies, Gear, Preparedness, Training, Weather No Comments

Pandemic Tops Global Insurance Executive Rankings Of ‘Extreme’ Risks To Their Industry

Here’s an interesting piece I stumbled upon this morning while searching for some pandemic-related material out in cyberspace. Caitlin Bronson reported on the website of Insurance Business (America) this morning:

A global pandemic, a widespread natural disaster and a food/water/energy crisis are the top three extreme risks threatening the insurance industry in the near future, a Towers Watson survey of global insurance industry executives reveals.

The survey—part of Towers Watson’s biennial analysis Extreme Risks—asked more than 30,000 top executives to rate very rare events that would have a large impact on global economic growth and the insurance sector.

In addition to health, weather and technological risks, the insurance executives also saw financial disasters as having a large role to play in the future of the insurance industry. An economic depression, a banking crisis and a default by a major sovereign borrower were all listed in the executives’ top 10 concerns…

It’s a short, insightful read (I wonder if the insurance industry is any good at forecasting major crises/disasters?), and the article can be viewed in its entirety on the Insurance Business (America) website here.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Sun Fires Off More ‘X-Class’ Solar Flares

The Sun keeps churning out big solar flares these days. Karen C. Fox from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Goddard Space Flight Center reported on the NASA website earlier today:

The sun emitted a significant solar flare that peaked at 1:14 a.m. EST on Nov. 10, 2013. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.

This flare is classified as an X1.1 class flare. “X-class” denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. An X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, etc.

Increased numbers of flares are quite common at the moment, since the sun’s normal 11-year activity cycle is ramping up toward solar maximum conditions…

This is the seventh significant flare since Oct. 23, 2013, with the largest being an X3.3 on Nov. 5, 2013.

I’m not too concerned about solar flares as I am coronal mass ejections, or CMEs. Ms. Fox pointed out back in a May 13 piece on the NASA website:

Solar flares can temporarily alter the upper atmosphere creating disruptions with signal transmission from, say, a GPS satellite to Earth causing it to be off by many yards. Another phenomenon produced by the sun could be even more disruptive. Known as a coronal mass ejection or CME these solar explosions propel bursts of particles and electromagnetic fluctuations into Earth’s atmosphere. Those fluctuations could induce electric fluctuations at ground level that could blow out transformers in power grids. A CME’s particles can also collide with crucial electronics onboard a satellite and disrupt its systems.

Fried electrical grids. Not good.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Fox, Karen C. “Veteran’s Day Solar Flare.” NASA. 10 Nov. 2013. (http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/2013-Veterans-day-solar-flare/#.UoBMpeL4LS0http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/2013-Veterans-day-solar-flare/#.UoBMpeL4LS0). 10 Nov. 2013.

Fox, Karen C. “Impacts of Strong Solar Flares.” NASA. 13 May 2013. (http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/flare-impacts.html). 10 Nov. 2013.

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Chicago Residents Could See Double-Digit Rate Increase In Their Heating Bills This Winter

Looks like I moved out of the city of Chicago in a “Nic” of time. According to the Crain’s Chicago Business website this wet Wednesday morning, Chicago residents could see their heating bills rise significantly this winter. Steve Daniels reported:

To stay warm this winter, Chicago residents will pay considerably more than last heating season, while suburbanites served by Naperville-based Nicor Gas won’t have to dig as deep in their wallets.

Peoples Gas, which delivers natural gas in Chicago, projects that the average cost to heat a home from November through March will total about $800, assuming a normal winter. That would be up 13 percent from last winter’s five-month total of about $710, according to the utility.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Residents of Chicago’s northern suburbs could also get hit pretty hard according to Daniels.

The last couple of weeks my girlfriend and I have been working to make sure our “new” home in Chicago’s northwest ‘burbs is ready for the winter- some insulating, storm windows installed, furnace checked, etcetera. Residents of Chicago and its north suburbs might want to make similar preparations (if they haven’t done so already) before temperatures really plummet and they get dinged hard in heating costs in the coming months.

You can read the entire Crain’s article here on their website. If you live in the Chicagoland area, I would recommend doing so.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Wednesday, November 6th, 2013 Utilities, Weather No Comments

Sun Fires Off 24 M-Class And 4 Powerful X-Class Solar Flares Since October 23

Whoa! The Sun is really acting up these days. Last Monday, I blogged about the Sun emitting a third X-Class solar flare in three days, with an Earth-directed coronal mass ejection to boot. And just yesterday, the Daily Mail (UK) reported two dozen M-Class and four X-Class flares have been fired off since October 23. From the British newspaper’s website:

More than two dozen solar flares have erupted from the Sun in the past seven days, catapulting radiation towards the Earth that could potentially play havoc with global communications.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued four radio blackout warnings in the past two days after solar weather suddenly turned turbulent…

Since October 23 the Sun has let loose with 24 medium-strength M-class solar flares, and four X-class flares – the most powerful kind…

The recent solar flare activity has also been accompanied by several coronal mass ejections (CMEs), say Nasa officials.

Coronal mass ejections are worrisome and strong ones pose a threat to satellite communications and electrical grids. I blogged about the phenomena all the way back in August 2011. And on August 1, 2013, I noted how a Carrington-class CME recently crossed the Earth’s orbit, narrowly missing us.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

“Sun sends 28 solar flares erupting through space in a week… and there may be more on the way.” Daily Mail. 2 Nov. 2013. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2484851/Sun-sends-28-solar-flares-erupting-space-week–way.html). 3 Nov. 2013.

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