GERMANY will shut down all its nuclear plants by 2022, and eight reactors shut down after Japan's nuclear disaster in March will not be reactivated, the government has announced. This will make Germany the first major industrial power to give up atomic power.
LARGEST QUAKES -
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5.7 SOUTHWEST OF SUMATRA, INDONESIA
5.5 BANDA SEA
5.4 NEW BRITAIN REGION, P.N.G.
NEW ZEALAND - The bomb-hit look of Christchurch's Central Business District ,more than three months after the killer quake struck, has come under fire from an international expert in disaster recovery. The town centre of New Zealand's second largest city remains blocked off from residents and little work appears under way to demolish and rebuild 900 badly-damaged buildings following the February 22 earthquake that left 181 people dead. The chief executive of San Francisco-based Architecture for Humanity, who helped with the rebuild of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, visited Christchurch over the weekend and was shocked to find no work was under way on Saturdays and Sundays. "Teams should be working seven days a week." He said the agency charged with rebuilding the city, CERA, should be taking on more workers to get the city built as fast as possible.
"It's almost like putting on a World Cup, right? You have a deadline and you hit it. People get bonuses if they make a deadline and they get fired if they don't. Think of this like putting on a huge event, but the event is the rebirth of the city." Demolition management have defended the slow pace, saying staff are working as much as they can, while CERA itself blamed hold-ups on the complicated nature of the project. The city's mayor has conceded the process is starting to drag. "We're certainly watching closely, and would be getting concerned if the momentum doesn't grow in the weeks ahead."
Meanwhile, workshops are underway to plan how the city of 350,000 residents may look in the future. The mayor has revealed that the CBD will remain in the same location and retain the same classic street grid pattern, but any other aspect of redesign and rebuild could be challenged. "There are no sacred cows."
About 40,000 ideas for the city's future have been put forward. (Architecture for Humanity is a volunteer non-profit organisation set up to promote architecture and design to seek solutions to global social and humanitarian crises.)
"Slow earthquakes" can abruptly reverse and travel back through previously ruptured areas of a fault. Researchers at the University of Washington who have been studying the seismic event called episodic tremor and slip, which can last for weeks as it moves slowly along a fault line, say the unexpected "reverse" tremor can move 20 to 40 times faster than the original rupture. "Regular tremor and slip goes through an area fairly slowly, breaking it. Then once it's broken and weakened an area of the fault, it can propagate back across that area much faster. Episodic tremor and slip, also called slow slip, was first documented in the Pacific Northwest a decade ago. Individual events have been observed in Washington and British Columbia on a regular basis every 12 to 15 months on average. Slow-slip events tend to start in the southern Puget Sound region and move gradually to the northwest, following the interface between the North American and Juan de Fuca tectonic plates. The events typically last three to four weeks and release as much energy as a magnitude 6.8 earthquake, though they are not felt and cause no damage since they happen so slowly.
"There's not a good understanding yet of why it's so slow, what keeps it from picking up speed and becoming a full earthquake." One reason may be because episodic tremor and slip occurs at a depth of 22 to 34 miles, where high temperatures make the tectonic plates more pliable and thus more slippery.
PHILIPPINES - A sudden change in water temperature of a lake surrounding Taal volcano in the Philippines has killed more than 700 metric tons of fish. 752 metric tons of milkfish and tilapia have been found floating in Taal Lake, Batangas province, south of Manila, Philippines, on 29 May. The volcano has been showing signs of heightened activity since April, when the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology raised its five-tiered alert level to two. (photos)
Activity Increases At Costa Rica's Poas Volcano - Activity at the Volcano Poas is increasing rapidly, while at the same time drying up the lagoon, say experts. On Wednesday they recorded 18 "phreatic eruptions" in a three hour period, when normal is 1 or 2 per day. The temperature of the crater is also increasing, which is causing the lagoon to dry up and possibly disappear. Experts warn that this could bring more acid rain and ash in the area around the volcano. However, the activity of Poas is not a danger to tourists and the national park will continue open.
A phreatic eruption, also called a phreatic explosion or ultravulcanian eruption, occurs when rising magma makes contact with ground or surface water. The extreme temperature of the magma (anywhere from 600 to 1,170 °C (1,112 to 2,138 °F)) causes near-instantaneous evaporation to steam resulting in an explosion of steam, water, ash, rock, and volcanic bombs. At Mount St. Helens, hundreds of steam explosions preceded a 1980 plinian eruption of the volcano. .A less intense geothermal event may result in a mud volcano. Phreatic eruptions typically include steam and rock fragments; the inclusion of lava is unusual.
Phreatic explosions can be accompanied by carbon dioxide or hydrogen sulfide gas emissions. The former can asphyxiate at sufficient concentration; the latter is a broad spectrum poison. A 1979 phreatic eruption on the island of Java killed 142 people, most of whom were overcome by poisonous gases. It is believed that the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, in Indonesia, which obliterated most of the volcanic island and created the loudest sound in recorded history, was a phreatic event. Kilauea, in Hawaii, has a long record of phreatic explosions; a 1924 phreatic eruption hurled rocks estimated at eight tons up to a distance of one kilometer. Additional examples are the 1963–65 eruption of Surtsey, the 1965 eruption of Taal Volcano, and the 1982 Mount Tarumae eruption. (photo & diagram)
ICELAND - Icebergs get covered in ash from Iceland volcano eruption. Ash from Iceland's Grimsvotn volcano eruption has formed a sheet over icebergs in the glacier lagoon at the base of Vatnajokull, even though authorities said on Thursday that the eruption is producing mostly steam rather than ash. (photos)
The volcanic GLASS cloud: How tiny shards created by heat of Iceland eruption have 'rained' on Scotland. Scientists have released photographs of what they believe are volcanic glass particles from Iceland which fell on Scotland this week. The samples were taken from a car windscreen in Aberdeen and analysed. Scientists said it was ‘highly likely’ the glass particles, which are part of the ash constituents, came from the Grimsvotn volcano which started erupting on Saturday. The glass, formed by super-heating sand at the volcano, forms some strange shapes. Commercial glass is created by heating silica, or sand, to an extremely high temperature. Sand scorched by lava could do the same. The largest of the particles found is 0.03mm across, with the smallest measuring just 0.002mm wide.
The ash cloud left hundreds of passengers facing travel misery earlier this week when flights were cancelled as it drifted into Scottish airspace. Now however, the eruption has subsided and the volcano is producing mostly steam rather than ash. Geophysicists say the worst appears to be over and that the volcano is not likely to start spewing big amounts of ash again, although volcanoes are extremely unpredictable. The ash cloud from Grimsvotn -- Iceland's most active volcano - rose as high as 12 miles into the sky after the eruption but gradually fell before disappearing early on Wednesday morning.
Efforts were under way to assist the roughly 1,000 people who have been affected by the fallout from the volcano. ‘It's raining in the area now - since yesterday - and if you look at the fields they actually appear green because the rain is washing the ash away." Last year more than 10 million people were hit by a six-day European airspace shutdown when Eyjafjallajokull erupted, costing airlines more than £1billion. New procedures put the onus on airlines to make judgments on whether it is safe to fly through ash, in coordination with the forecasting authorities, particularly the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre at the British Met Office and civil aviation bodies. (photos)
INDONESIA - Five years on, Indonesia's mud volcano still erupting. "Lusi" the mud volcano is slowing down five years after it engulfed fields, homes and factories in a heavily populated part of Indonesia, but experts say the danger may last for decades.
TROPICAL STORMS -
TROPICAL DEPRESSION 04W (SONGDA) was LOCATED APPROXIMATELY 155 NM WEST-SOUTHWEST OF YOKOSUKA, JAPAN.
Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan 'unready for typhoon' - Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant was not fully prepared for heavy rain and winds when typhoon Songda was headed towards the country, officials admit. Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), which runs the plant, said some reactor buildings were uncovered, prompting fears the storm could carry radioactive material into the air and sea. Songda was expected to hit mainland Japan early Monday. "We have made utmost efforts, but we have not completed covering the damaged reactor buildings. We apologise for the lack of significant measures against wind and rain."
Tepco has been pouring anti-scattering agents - such as synthetic resins - around the damaged buildings of reactors one and four. But some of the buildings still remain uncovered after they were damaged by hydrogen explosions soon after the quake and tsunami struck. The current safety measures "cannot be said to be appropriate". Typhoon Songda - with winds up to 216km/h (134mph) - had been moving north-east. It had been unclear late in the week whether Fukushima could be directly in the path of the typhoon.
EXTREME HEAT & DROUGHT / WILDFIRES / CLIMATE CHANGE -
RECORD HIGH EMPERATURES over Interior Alaska - It's Memorial Day weekend in Interior Alaska, so it must be time for another record-breaking heat wave. One year after Fairbanks set a record high temperature of 82 degrees on May 27, 2010
TEXAS - Friday afternoon brought San Angelo a RECORD-BREAKING 108-degree high. The previous record of 105 degrees, set in 1927, was broken just after 4 p.m. Temperatures are expected to drop slightly as Memorial Day nears, yet humidity will be on the rise. Saturday was forecast to have an estimated high of nearly 108 should break the former record of 105 degrees.
HEALTH THREATS -
E.coli-infected cucumber scare spreads beyond Germany. The outbreak has prompted farmers to destroy other vegetables too. Authorities in the Czech Republic and Austria have taken some Spanish-grown cucumbers off store shelves over fears they are contaminated with E.coli. The move came after illness in Germany caused by infected cucumbers led to at least 10 deaths. The cucumbers, believed to have been imported from Spain and contaminated with E.coli, left people ill with hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS). Hundreds of people are said to have fallen sick. Officials in the Czech Republic said affected cucumbers may also have been exported to Hungary and Luxembourg.
Austria's Agency for Health and Food Safety said some tomatoes and aubergines had also been included in the ban.
Meanwhile a European Union spokesman said two greenhouses in Spain identified as sources had ceased their activities. They were now being investigated to see whether the contamination occurred there or elsewhere. The aggressive form of E.coli is known to cause kidney failure and affect the central nervous system. Most of the cases have been in the area around Hamburg. The HUS outbreak is "ONE OF THE LARGEST WORLDWIDE and THE LARGEST EVER REPORTED IN GERMANY. While HUS cases are usually observed in children under five years of age, in this outbreak 87% are adults, with a clear predominance of women (68%)." HUS cases have also been reported in Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK, and linked to German travel. A scientist warned that the spread of infection was not over, and secondary infections could be passed from person to person.