There will be no updates for a little while.

My dear Jay passed away on 12/24.
He was my best friend for 39 years, since the day I met him.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

**Cheers to the start of longer days and shorter nights in the Northern Hemisphere. Hope you had a happy Solstice!**

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -

Yesterday, 12/21/13 -

12/20/13 -


+ Mystery booms video (9 1/2 minutes) - starts with recent Arizona news footage and continues with all the booms reported this year and the possible sources, including the breakup of Comet Ison, and the possible connection to recent volcanic eruptions and news reports on super volcanoes.


+ New volcanic Japanese island isn't disappearing — it's growing. Niijima, as it's called, is now 19.8 acres or five times its initial size. The island sprouted out of the Pacific thanks to an undersea volcanic eruption some 600 miles south of Tokyo last month and might just be here to stay.

Current tropical storms - maps and details.

* In the South Indian Ocean -
- Tropical cyclone Amara.

- Tropical cyclone Bruce.


+ U.S. - A large storm system moved into the Midwest on Friday for the start of one of the busiest travel periods of the year, but things didn't really get messy until Saturday, when it delivered a bit of everything — freezing rain, snow, ice, flooding and even tornadoes — to an area that stretched from the Louisiana Gulf Coast to eastern Canada.
The system's strange swirl of winter and spring-like conditions produced starkly different weather at times in areas separated by a couple hundred miles. While drivers in Oklahoma and eastern Missouri were navigating ice-slicked streets Saturday, residents in Memphis, Tennessee, were strolling around in T-shirt temperatures that topped out above 70 degrees.
By Saturday night, a line of thunderstorms stretching from southern Louisiana to Indiana began wreaking havoc, causing rivers and creeks to swell, flooding roads and spawning winds strong enough to force cars and trucks off of highways. At least two suspected tornadoes touched down in Arkansas, injuring a total of five people and damaging nearly two-dozen homes in or near the towns of Dermott and Hughes. And a man in Rena Lara, Mississippi, was killed Saturday when wind flipped his mobile home.
"This is a particularly strong storm with very warm, near record-breaking temperatures in the East and very cold air in the Midwest, and that contrast is the sort of conditions that are favorable for not only winter weather but also tornadoes."
The worst of the storm wasn't supposed to hit Chicago until late Saturday or early Sunday. By midnight EST, nearly 500 flights had been canceled Saturday and more than 7,000 had been delayed. Many affected flights were in or out of major hubs, including Chicago's O'Hare Airport, Houston's Bush International, Dallas/Fort Worth and Denver International.
Freezing rain coated parts of northern New England Saturday night, as officials warned people to stay off the roads and utilities prepared for the possibility of widespread power outages. Burlington, Vermont, had received a quarter-inch of ice by late Saturday, and the city's airport was forced to rely briefly on generators after losing power briefly.
Many Midwest cities that spent Saturday dealing with rain and ice were expected to get significant snowfall overnight, with up to 6 inches forecast for the Kansas City area by Sunday and up to 8 inches for southern Wisconsin, eastern Iowa and northwest Illinois.
Authorities in several states, including Indiana and Ohio, warned drivers to be especially vigilant about flooded roads. In Indiana, the weather service had posted flood warnings along southern and central Indiana streams and predicted the highest flood crests along the East Fork of the White River since April 2011.
In addition to the Mississippi weather-related death, authorities in Oklahoma were blaming two traffic deaths on the rain and ice. A 16-year-old boy died early Saturday after his car crashed and overturned on U.S. 64 near Tulsa. And a woman was killed Friday night in a collision on a slick roadway.


The band of severe weather that left at least three people dead in tornadoes and heavy storms in the southeastern United States pushed up the East Coast on Sunday, bringing RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURES to Philadelphia and New York City and ice storms to parts of New England.
"This storm is bringing a little bit of everything, from rain, flooding and wind, to ice and snow in some areas. what is really extraordinary about this system, though, is the warm air."The system is expected to linger over the East Coast until Monday, snarling road and airline travel for millions of people during one of the busiest travel periods of the year.
The UNUSUAL STORM SYSTEM brought a brief winter heatwave to northeastern cities, with Philadelphia and New York City logging record high temperatures on Saturday. The temperature in New York's Central Park topped out at 65 degrees, breaking a 2011 record of 62 degrees, while temperatures in Philadelphia reached 67 degrees. In Washington D.C., the temperature was hovering "about 40 degrees warmer than normal." Sunday was expected to be even warmer across the region.
Farther north, New York state, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine were pummeled by an ice storm after the warm air hit an arctic layer. Thousands of people across New England were without power on Sunday and motorists were urged to use caution after up to two inches of ice coated roads and power lines.
The powerful storm system tore through the southeast on Saturday, spawning at least one confirmed tornado and leaving at least three people dead. A tornado touched down in the city of Redfield, Arkansas, damaging several homes and downing tree limbs and power lines. Tornado sirens rang in Nashville Saturday evening and a car lot in Louisville, Kentucky, caught fire after nearby power lines were toppled. Widespread damage from the storm system was also reported near Dermott, Arkansas, in the southeast corner of the state, where five homes were badly damaged, 15 suffered minor damage and four trucks were blown off a highway. "We are thinking it was a tornado. We had quite a bit of rotation and quite a bit of damage." The storm hit at about 5 p.m. local time.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Global Disaster Watch - the latest earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tropical storms, wildfires and record-breaking weather.

**Happiness doesn't come from doing just what you like
- it comes from liking what you do.**

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday, 12/19/13 -

Deepest Earthquakes May Be Best at Dissipating Energy - An investigation of the most powerful earthquake ever recorded deep within the Earth suggests deep quakes may be better at dissipating pent-up energy than similar quakes near the surface, researchers say in a new study.
Scientists investigated a magnitude-8.3 earthquake that struck beneath the Sea of Okhotsk, between Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula and Japan, on May 24. The Sea of Okhotsk rests above a subduction zone, a place where one of the Earth's tectonic plates slides beneath another. Here, the Pacific Plate dives or subducts beneath the North American Plate. The earthquake ruptured about 380 miles (610 kilometers) below the seafloor, far below the Earth's crust.

Current tropical storms - maps and details.

* In the South Indian Ocean -
- Tropical cyclone Amara. Amara threatens Rodrigues Island. The Mauritius Meteorological Service has already put a cyclone class 2 warning in effect.

- Tropical cyclone Bruce.
Tropical Cyclone Bruce was still maintaining hurricane-force in the Southern Indian Ocean when NASA's Terra satellite passed over the eye of the storm on Thursday. Although Bruce's eye seemed to have some high clouds, the eye was still visible. Also visible were thick bands of thunderstorms wrapping around the storm's northern quadrant. Convection (rising air that forms the thunderstorms that make up a tropical cyclone) was seen strengthening around the eyewall.
On December 19 at 1500 UTC, Tropical Cyclone Bruce's maximum sustained winds were near 90 knots/103.6 mph/166.7 kph. Bruce was centered about 330 nautical miles/379.8 miles/611.1 km west of Cocos Island, Australia. It was moving to the west-southwest at 10 knots/11.5 mph/18.5 kph. Bruce is moving along the northern edge of an elongated area of subtropical high pressure and is expected to continue moving to the west-southwest for another three days. (satellite photo)

Australia - Wet Christmas looms as monsoon trough forms in north. A monsoon trough is expected to develop north of Australia over the coming days, increasing the possibility of a cyclone developing next week.

2014 hurricane season - Based on current and projected climate signals, North Atlantic basin tropical cyclone activity is forecast to be close to the long-term norm.


Great Britain - More gales and rain set for weekend, as severe weather batters Devon and Cornwall. The Westcountry has been battered by rain and gusts of up to 70mph, in the first of what is expected to be several days of turbulent weather. Shoppers were told to take extra precautions with heavy rainfall and debris causing chaos along most southern routes of the South West.
The Tamar Bridge was closed to high sided vehicles in the afternoon, while in Lyme Regis, the town centre Christmas tree - the tallest in the coastal resort’s history - had to be chopped up after it was toppled in the strong winds. The weather also caused problems along the northern Cornish coastline, which was placed on flood alert in the evening as the gale force winds combined with a tidal surge, almost a metre above high tide levels.
A Met Office spokesman said Devon and Cornwall would remain under a severe weather warning until 11pm, however the wind and rain would continue in to the early hours of this morning. The unpleasant weather is expected to be followed by slightly better weather although there remains a chance of sleet on high ground in Exmoor, South Molton and Dulverton. However, a weather warning is again in place between Friday afternoon and Saturday afternoon, for rain, although winds will remain strong, with gusts reaching 50 or 60mph.


Canada - Rebound storm wallops parts of Newfoundland. Schools closed, power lines were torn down and some highways became too dangerous for travel in parts of Newfoundland Thursday, as the second storm in just days whipped into the island.
Driving conditions had deteriorated to the point that government officials urged people to stay off the roads in much of western Newfoundland. Gusts hit as high as 129 km/h in some coastal areas with gusts of wind reaching 138 km per hour in Cape Pine on Thursday. The high speed was comparable to the 137 km per hour wind measured at the same location during post-tropical storm Leslie in September 2012.
Visibility was sharply reduced on highways in western Newfoundland, with officials asking motorists to stay off some roads. Power outages were reported in both the southern Avalon and Burin peninsulas, with utilities trying to deal with broken poles and lines in challenging conditions. About 32 cm of snow fell in Stephenvile, with about 20 falling by midday in Gander.
High wind warnings were issued for much of the province, with gusts hitting as much as 129 km/h in coastal areas. Marine Atlantic has tied up its ferries for the time being until conditions improve, affecting plans for pre-Christmas travellers and commercial shipping. Schools in numerous communities were forced to close. Some college campuses also shut down. Newfoundland and Labrador's transportation department advised drivers to stay off several highways in western Newfoundland.
Parts of western Newfoundland got the most snow overnight, which means heavy shovelling on top of a storm that hit Monday. Snow through late Wednesday night had affected visibility across the island, with RCMP reporting that highway driving in the Clarenville area, for instance, had dropped to zero visibility. On the Avalon Peninsula, a light snowfall gave way to rain and high winds, while freezing temperatures caused slippery conditions. Winter storm warnings have ended in western Newfoundland, although wind warnings were still in effect.

Global Disaster Watch is on Facebook - with breaking news during the day.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Global Disaster Watch - the latest earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tropical storms, wildfires and record-breaking weather.

**A lie gets halfway around the world before
the truth has a chance to get its pants on.**
Sir Winston Churchill

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -

Yesterday, 12/18/13 -

China 5.2 quake leaves 6 injured - 2000 relocated. The quake hit the mountainous Badong County in Enshi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture at 1:04 p.m. Monday.

What's erupting? List & map of currently active volcanoes.

Current tropical storms - maps and details.

* In the South Indian Ocean -
- Tropical cyclone Amara.

- Tropical cyclone Bruce.
Tropical Cyclone Amara's stretched out eye - Tropical Cyclone Amara is spinning in the Southern Indian Ocean along with Tropical Cyclone Bruce, and both share elongated shapes. Even Amara's 10 nautical-mile-wide eye appeared stretched out. The eye was also cloud-filled. Bands of thunderstorms were wrapping into the center of circulation from the northeast and southwest.
At 4 a.m. EST on December 18, Amara's maximum sustained winds had increased to 80 knots/92.0 mph/148.2 kph. Amara was centered about 543 nautical miles/624.9 miles/1,006 km south of Diego Garcia. Amara has tracked to the west at 3 knots/3.4 mph/5.5 kph.
Amara is in an environment of low wind shear and warm sea surface temperatures that will allow it to continue to intensify, even rapidly. Amara is moving between two subtropical ridges (elongated areas) of high pressure. In three days Amara is forecast to encounter increasing wind shear which will weaken the system. High pressure is also expected to build south of Amara, which should slow it down and bring in cooler, drier air, which will also weaken the tropical cyclone. (satellite photo)


Britain - Gale-force winds and rain have damaged properties and felled trees across the British Isles. A search is resuming for a sailor who fell from a small cargo ship off North Lincolnshire as winds gusting up to 90mph battered parts of the UK. Attempts to find the man, who was on a ship moored on the River Trent, were called off in "very poor" conditions. The 45-year-old foreign national who fell from the vessel was thought to have become tangled in wires and pulled overboard while working on deck during the storm.
Electricity was restored overnight in thousands of homes in parts of the UK. Multiple flood warnings are in place in Scotland, Wales and south-west England and an amber warning of severe gales has been issued by the Met Office. Meanwhile, snow showers are expected in parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland on Thursday morning. In the afternoon, wild weather including heavy rain, hail, thunder and wet snow are expected in parts of England including the Midlands, Derbyshire, the Chilterns and the Cotswolds.
Scottish Environment Protection Agency flood warnings, indicating "flooding is expected, immediate action required", are in force for a large part of the west and centre of the country from Dumfries and Galloway to Tayside. There are more than 25 Environment Agency flood warnings in place, with homeowners in Wales, south-west England and north-west England urged to take action.
Northern Ireland Electricity has restored power to 10,000 customers after storms battered Northern Ireland, while 100 homes remain without electricity. Gale to severe gale force winds continue to affect the Western Isles and the west coast of Scotland. Roads in parts of Wales are still affected after torrential rain and high winds battered the country. About 1,250 homes were still without power in parts of Cumbria and Lancashire due to wind damage to overhead lines.
Elsewhere, a man was injured after a tree fell on his car in Warwickshire on Wednesday. "The large tree had fallen onto a car, travelling on the A45, and had smashed the windscreen. The driver and the rear seat passenger, both men in their 40s and 50s, were said to be 'walking wounded' and had suffered minor injuries. The front seat passenger, a 19-year-old man, sustained face and head injuries as well as suspected chest injuries."

Global Disaster Watch is on Facebook - with breaking news during the day.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Global Disaster Watch - the latest earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tropical storms, wildfires and record-breaking weather.

**You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid
the consequences of avoiding reality.**
Ayn Rand

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -

Yesterday, 12/17/13 -

12/16/13 -

Washington - When Seattle shakes from quakes, it’s going to slide too. A new study finds that in Seattle more than 10,000 buildings - many of them homes - are at high risk from earthquake-triggered landslides. More than 30,000 landslides could be triggered if an earthquake hits while the ground is soggy.
With its coastal bluffs, roller-coaster hills and soggy weather, Seattle is primed for landslides even when the ground isn’t shaking. Jolt the city with a major earthquake, and a new study suggests many more slopes could collapse than previously estimated. A powerful earthquake on the fault that slices under the city’s heart could trigger more than 30,000 landslides if it strikes when the ground is saturated. More than 10,000 buildings, many of them upscale homes with water views, sit in areas at high risk of landslide damage in such a worst-case scenario.
“Our results indicate that landsliding triggered by a large Seattle fault earthquake will be extensive and potentially devastating." Coming on top of widespread damage to buildings and infrastructure caused by the quake itself, landslides would compound the city’s problems and slow its recovery. “I think the message is that we need to pay much more attention to these earthquake-induced landslides."
The Puget Sound-area landscape is pocked with scars from slides triggered by ground shaking, but the worst of them occurred long before cities existed here. The last quake on the Seattle Fault, about 1,100 years ago, shook the ground so hard that entire hillsides slumped into Lake Washington, carrying intact swaths of forest with them. Scientists estimate its magnitude at about 7.5.
Researchers studying lake-bottom sediments have also unearthed a record of as many as seven landslide episodes linked to earthquakes in the past 3,500 years. Even the relatively modest Nisqually earthquake in 2001 — which occurred during an unusual winter dry spell — set off about 100 landslides. “Because so many landslides were triggered by the last earthquake on the Seattle Fault, it was really surprising to me that no one had looked in detail at what would happen today, when those hillsides are covered with houses.”
Under dry conditions, the number of potentially destructive landslides was much lower: about 5,000, compared with the 30,000 predicted when the ground is sopping wet. But researchers were surprised that about a third of the simulated landslides in both wet and dry conditions struck in areas that AREN'T on the city’s landslide hazard maps. That includes some inland areas, where the threat of landslides has been assumed to be low.
In general, landslide damage was much more severe in neighborhoods close to and south of the fault, where shaking is expected to be strongest. That includes much of West Seattle, Beacon Hill and Mount Baker — though if a big quake hits when the ground is wet, Allstadt’s simulations predict lots of slides in North Seattle as well as along all of the region’s coastal bluffs.
The new study looks at only one possible quake and two sets of soil conditions: Bone dry and sopping wet. To help the city improve its hazard mapping, it would be necessary to consider multiple earthquake magnitudes and varying moisture levels. The study also didn’t examine the landslide consequences of a coastal megaquake, like the one that struck the Northwest in the year 1700 — and which is certain to happen again. Measuring magnitude 9 or more, coastal megaquakes are far more powerful than those the Seattle Fault can generate.
But for the city itself, a large quake on the hometown fault would be more destructive, because the force is concentrated directly under the urban area. Geologists still don’t have a good handle on how frequently the Seattle Fault ruptures, but they have uncovered evidence of at least three powerful quakes in the last 2,500 years. According to one scenario, a magnitude 6.7 quake on the Seattle Fault could kill 1,600 people and cause $33 billion in damage. That analysis glossed over the damage caused by landslides, but in major quakes, collapsing hillsides can cause as much — or more — destruction than the shaking itself.
More than half of the damage in Alaska’s 1964 Good Friday earthquake was due to landslides. In China’s 2008 Sichuan earthquake — notable for widespread damage to schools — more than 60,000 landslides were responsible for tens of thousands of deaths. Utility lines and roads in the Seattle area — including Interstate 5 where it passes along Beacon Hill — are at risk from landslides. “There’s a kind of haunting precedence that tells us that we should pay attention to a large earthquake on (the Seattle Fault) because it happened in the past."

Volcano erupts in Azerbaijan - A volcano has erupted in Shabran region of Azerbaijan today. The Head of the ANAS Institute of Geology's Mud Volcano Department said that they received information about it. The employees of the Institute of Geology have been sent there and will carry out research in the area. They didn’t have exact information how much area the volcano eruption covered and how long it lasted: “We have received information from the region that the volcano erupted. We should clarify whether it was eruption or not. We sometimes receive false information from the people. Thus, relevant researches should be carried out. Exact information will be available after the researches.”

Indonesia - Sinabung volcano (Sumatra) - increasing seismic activity, red alert. The Indonesian Volcanological Survey informed in its latest press release on Tuesday that a significant increase in seismic activity was detected during the past days.
While the volcano has been relatively calm at the surface, producing only a dilute gas plume with some ash reaching about 1 km above the crater, the increase in earthquakes suggests that new magma is currently rising and could produce new (potentially large) explosions. In particular, low-frequency and so-called hybrid earthquakes, typical of fluid movements inside the volcanic edifice, have climbed to almost one 1000 per day.
Continuous volcanic tremor (internal vibration) at medium levels has also been detected over the past days. Deformation measurements with tilt-meters on the northern and eastern flank and EDM (electronic distance meters) show a fluctuating trend of inflation, suggesting the presence of an intruding magma body at shallow depth. Gas and temperature measurements are not conclusive from the VSI report, as quality / temporal coverage are insufficient.
The exclusion zone was extended to 5 km radius, and the volcano remains on highest alert level and Aviation Color Code Red, because explosive eruptions with high-level ash clouds could occur any time.

Current tropical storms - maps and details.

* In the South Indian Ocean -
- Tropical cyclone Amara has formed approximately 1,400 miles (2,250 km) east of Madagascar.

- Tropical cyclone Four (Bruce) is located approximately 150 nm north of Cocos Island, Australia.
Tropical Cyclone Amara (03S) has formed in the South Indian Ocean. On Tuesday 17 December, the storm was at weak tropical storm strength. Over the next 96 hours, Amara is forecast to track to the west-southwest and slowly strengthen – becoming Category 1 hurricane strength by Saturday 21 December. During this period, Amara poses no threat to land – but could potentially threaten the islands of Mauritius and Reunion early next week should the storm continue tracking to the southwest.

Cocos Islands on alert as Cyclone Bruce (04S) forms. The tropical cyclone is gathering strength off the North-West coast of Western Australia, near Cocos Islands this morning.
The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a cyclone warning for the islands, with the system upgraded to a Category One tropical cyclone early today. The system was sitting about 215km north-northwest of Cocos Island, moving southwest at 9km/h. "Tropical Cyclone Bruce has reached category 1 intensity and is expected to continue ntensifying as it moves west-southwest and passes to the northwest of the Cocos Islands today.'' The cyclone is unlikely to impact the WA coast.
Gales with wind gusts up to 100km/h are expected on Cocos Island from this morning and are likely to continue into early Thursday morning. This afternoon winds could reach 120km/h. At 7am today the cyclone had wind gusts of 95km/h at its centre which were intensifying. Heavy rain and thunderstorms will hit the islands today as the system moves closer. Meanwhile, at the other end of the WA, Esperance, 720km south east of Perth, had a record 45.3C maximum temperature yesterday. (satellite photo at link)


A Spectacular Tropical Storm-Like Meso-Low Over Lake Superior - A small-scale "meso-low" formed in the cold Arctic air flowing over the relatively warm waters of Lake Superior on Sunday, and had a remarkably spectacular tropical storm-like appearance on radar and satellite imagery. As the meso-low moved south over Michigan's Upper Peninsula, it brought sustained winds of 20 - 25 mph and bands of moderate snow that dumped 4 - 7 inches of snow across the region. The snow was dry and fluffy, with a ration of 25:1 between the depth of the snow and depth of the equivalent melted water (a 10:1 ratio is more common in major snowstorms.)
The winds in Marquette, Michigan increased from 10 mph to 23 mph with gusts to 32 mph as the meso-low moved over at 4 pm. In nearby Munising, the pressure increased from 1005 mb to 1015 mb in four hours after the low moved through. These type of lows are not uncommon over the Great Lakes in wintertime, with an average of three appearing each winter. They arise in response to the difference in heating between the land and the lake when there is a strong contrast in temperature, and do not occur when the lakes are ice-covered. (maps and charts at link)

China - Traffic in Guizhou province affected by icy weather. Extreme weather is also affecting southwest China's Guizhou province. Freezing rain hit many parts of the region on Sunday, leading to icy situations on the roads, affecting ground traffic in many parts.
The rain coupled with the cold also suspended traffic in the mountain areas in the province where one of the most dangerous roads nationwide is located. Local governments have issued traffic warnings to drivers to avoid possible risks as well. The National Meteorological Center forecasts that snow and rain will continue to sweep Guizhou and adjacent Yunnan province over the following week.. A cold front is expected to sweep through most parts of Southern China. Many regions will see their lowest temperatures since the winter began.


California - Big Sur fire burns 500 acres of California coast amid drought anxiety. Threatened by drought, on Tuesday firefighters urgently battled a 500-acre fire with dangerous growth potential in California's Big Sur. This is a season that residents in this coastal community of rugged hills normally associate with floods, not fire. 15 homes have been destroyed and the fire is only 20% contained.

November 2013 was THE EARTH'S WARMEST NOVEMBER SINCE RECORDS BEGAN in 1880. The year-to-date period of January - November has been the 4th warmest such period on record. November 2013 global land temperatures were the 2nd warmest on record, and global ocean temperatures were the 3rd warmest on record.
November 2013 was the 345th consecutive month with global temperatures warmer than the 20th century average. Most of the world's land areas experienced warmer-than-average monthly temperatures, including much of Eurasia, coastal Africa, Central America, and central South America. Much of southern Russia, north west Kazakhstan, south India, and southern Madagascar were record warm.
Meanwhile, northern Australia, parts of North America, and southwest Greenland were cooler than average. No regions of the globe were record cold. Russia observed its warmest November since national records began in 1891. (map at link)


The four billion-dollar weather disasters of November 2013 - (same link as above article). Four new billion-dollar weather-related disasters hit the Earth during November 2013: Super Typhoon Haiyan ($5.8 billion), the November 17 tornado outbreak in the U.S. ($1.7 billion), flooding in Cambodia ($1 billion, the costliest disaster in Cambodian history), and the ongoing U.S. drought, which has been in progress all year, but with damages listed for the first time this year ($2.5 billion.)
These four disasters bring the world-wide tally of billion-dollar weather disasters so far this year to 39. This is the second highest yearly total of billion-dollar weather disasters for the globe since accurate disaster records began in 2000. However, the total cost of weather-related disasters so far in 2013 is below the average for the past ten years. The record highest number of billion-dollar weather disasters was 40, set in 2010. For comparison, during all of 2012, there were 27 billion-dollar weather disasters. The U.S. total through November 2013 is nine. (photos at link)


U.S. health watchdog cracks down on antibacterial soaps - The US health regulator has warned that antibacterial chemicals in soaps and body washes may pose health risks by creating resistance to antibiotics in humans. The Food and Drug Administration called for a safety review of such products.
It proposed a rule requiring manufacturers to prove such soaps are safe and more effective against infection than plain soap and water. Recent studies indicate an ingredient in such products could scramble hormone levels and boost drug-proof bacteria. The proposal rule does not apply to alcohol-based hand sanitizers and products used in healthcare settings. Manufacturers have until the end of 2014 to submit the results of clinical trials on their products. The new regulations would be finalised in 2016.
"New data suggest that the risks associated with long-term, daily use of antibacterial soaps may outweigh the benefits." Certain ingredients in such products - such as triclosan in liquid soaps and triclocarban in bar soaps - may contribute to bacterial resistance to antibiotics. Such products may also have "unanticipated hormonal effects that are of concern". Recent studies of such chemicals on animals have shown they may alter hormones, but such results have not yet been proven in humans.
"Because so many consumers use them, FDA believes that there should be clearly demonstrated benefits to balance any potential risks." In March, a federal appeals court approved a lawsuit by the non-profit Natural Resources Defense Council, aimed at forcing the FDA to review the health impacts of triclosan.

Global Disaster Watch is on Facebook - with breaking news during the day.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Global Disaster Watch - the latest earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tropical storms, wildfires and record-breaking weather.

No update on Tuesday this week.

**The power of accurate observation is frequently called
cynicism by those who don't have it.**
George Bernard Shaw **

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -

Yesterday, 12/15/13 -

Volcanic eruption shuts Italy airport - The eruption of the Mount Etna volcano in Sicily has forced the closure of nearby Catania airport because of the plumes of ash billowing into the sky. Twenty-one scheduled departures from the airport had to be scrapped and 26 arrivals re-routed to alternative destinations. The smaller airport of Comiso in the area was also closed down.
The company that manages Catania airport said in a statement on Sunday that "the wind direction and intensity" meant the ash was a risk to flights and it had to close off its air space. The company will review the situation on Monday. Etna is an active volcano and eruptions are frequent but the latest activity, which began on Saturday, is the most intense in months. The lava flow down one side of the mountain is visible from Catania and Taormina, a popular seaside resort. Three small earthquakes were also registered around the volcano on Sunday. (photos at link)

Current tropical storms - maps and details.

No current tropical storms.


Snow cyclone cuts Sakhalin Island from mainland Russia - The city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk on the Sakhalin Island in Russia's Far East has been buried under tons of snow following two days of heavy snowfall. Hundreds of passengers have been stranded in the airports on the islands of Sakhalin Island and Kurile Russia’s Far East for the second day running over a strong snow cyclone. Around 300 more passengers are waiting for flights on the island at the alternate airport in the city of Khabarovsk, Russia’s Far East.
“The Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk airport is suspended for arrivals and departures. Two airplanes from the Moscow airports Domodedovo and Sheremetyevo are staying at the Khabarovsk airport. The airliners had to make the landings at 11:06 local time and at 12:28 local time at the crash stripes of the airport. The airport in the city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk will be closed until 18:00 local time, as bad weather prevents the runway from being cleaned.”
Dozens of people are waiting for their flights at the airport in the Sakhalin main regional city. Those who failed to fly to Moscow were accommodated at the neighboring hotel. More than 65 flights bound for Moscow, Khabarovsk and Seoul have delayed since the breakout of the storm.
Weather reports predict that the cyclone will have reached the central Kurile Islands on Monday. The snowfall will subside on Sakhalin Island and a slight blizzard is forecast. The wind velocity makes about 15 meters per second in the southern part of the island and the air temperature is 2-3 degrees Celsius.

A regional cold snap that has hit the Middle East persisted on Friday, locking down most of Palestinian territories and occupied Jerusalem while spreading to Egypt, with some Cairo suburbs seeing snowfall for the first time in years. Torrential rain also lashed parts of the country.
The cold weather was part of a storm, dubbed Alexa, which has been pounding much of Lebanon and parts of northern Syria since Wednesday, pushing temperatures below zero and dumping snow and heavy rains. “It is the first time in very many years” that it has snowed in the suburbs of Cairo.
In the Sinai Peninsula, the storm deposited a blanket of snow several centimetres thick in the mountainous area around Saint Catherine’s monastery for the FIRST TIME IN DECADES. On the Mediterranean coast, gardens, streets and houses in the town of Ras Al Bar were also covered by a layer of white. The northern coastal city of Alexandria only received light snowfall, but authorities shut the port for the third consecutive day because of the bad weather and strong winds. An UNUSUAL blanket of snow surprised residents in the Gaza Strip who stopped to take pictures of snowy scenes.
But the Palestinian territory was also hit by heavy rain that flooded roads and made them impassable. Emergency workers used fishing boats to evacuate 700 people from their homes and provide food, blankets and torches to hundreds of others caught in high water. In Lebanon, snow fell on northern and eastern regions where tens of thousands of Syrian refugees are staying, many of them in flimsy plastic tents.
A Lebanese security official said a three-month-old Syrian baby died on Friday in the northern town of Akroum. The official said the newborn had respiratory problems and the cold spell may have aggravated his condition. Severe weather delayed the start of the first United Nations airlift of aid items from Iraq to Syria for a second day on Friday. The bad weather has taken a toll on the 2.2 million refugees living outside Syria and the 6.5 million people displaced within the country.

Storms leaves piles of snow behind in U. S. Northeast - Mounds of snow are piled throughout New York and New England after a blustery storm swept through, leaving behind more than a foot of snow in some areas. Albany, New York, got at least 12 inches.
"We usually get these big snow storms in January and the snow on the ground usually stays until springtime since it's always cold here in Albany. Last year was a bit weak in snow until end of February actually. So we're happy to have a solid snow covering on the ground earlier than usual this season."
The storm spared major metropolitan areas like Boston and New York, but some areas in Maine and along the U.S.-Canada border saw significant snow. The Maine cities of Biddeford (16.5 inches total) and Kennebunkport (14 inches) topped the list, while Exeter, New Hampshire, received 13.5 inches of snow over the weekend. The good news for New Englanders and New Yorkers was that the storm quickly moved out of the Northeast.
By Sunday afternoon, 350 flights into, out of, or within the United States were canceled. New England Highway traffic may be treacherous, with the problem compounded by high winds. Massachusetts expects to use 10,000 tons of salt and 2,000 vehicles during the storm. Speed limits on major roads had been lowered to 45 mph.
The eastward-moving storm dropped snow earlier across the Midwest and western Pennsylvania, with 9 inches reported in Urbana, Illinois. Millions of people are experiencing the big chill as the system dropped snow along a swath more than 1,000 miles long. FedEx said winter weather and high winds caused major disruptions at the company's Memphis, Tennessee, hub that could delay shipments across the United States. Chicago has already been hit hard. The snow that fell Saturday afternoon was wet, making it heavy and difficult to shovel. (10 photos at link)

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Global Disaster Watch - the latest earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tropical storms, wildfires and record-breaking weather.

**Knowledge and not doing are equal
to not knowing at all.**
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LARGEST QUAKES so far today -

Yesterday, 12/14/13 -

12/13/13 -

Japan - A 5.5 Tokyo earthquake rattled residents enjoying their Saturday evening and shook the skyscrapers that make up on of the largest cities in the world. However, no damages or injuries were reported and no tsunami warning was issued.

Costa Rica Volcano Tourism Warning - Volcanologists from the National Seismic Network are concerned about the Poas volcano in the province of Alajuela, which has been emitting a considerable amount of gases over the last few weeks. Recent volcanic activity along with sulphuric emissions and the heavy presence of noxious gases are prompting national park rangers in Costa Rica to take precautions with regard to visitors. Volcano tourism is very popular in Costa Rica during this season, and some of the most-visited volcanoes are certainly showing off their natural beauty.
“The problem is dependent on the wind direction. The Poas volcano is the most active in terms of gasification, which has been constant. Sometimes you arrive at the gate [of the national park] and there’s this strong sulphur smell. This is when you have to be careful, because it means that the wind is picking up and could hit the observatory.”
This gasification and expulsion of gases conforms to phreatic (groundwater) eruptions, which often consists of gas expulsions on the surface of the numerous lagoons, which bubble up and release sulphuric and other pestilent gases. These phreatic eruptions are quite spectacular and a treat for tourists, but no one should be exposed to these gases for more than five minutes.
People who suffer from high blood pressure or asthma should evacuate the volcano observatories if they do not feel well during a phreatic eruption or on a windy day. Some people tend to be more sensitive than others and will quickly develop allergic rashes and feel irritation on their throats and skin.
The Costa Rica Star recently reported on the awakening of the iconic Arenal volcano, which tends to attract many adventuresome tourists. There are some dangers associated with volcano tourism; for this reason, it is important to heed the warnings of national park rangers.

Indonesia - Sumatran Eruptions Keep Volcano Refugees from Going Home. Indonesia’s Mount Sinabung volcano continued to spew ash and send lava down its slopes, keeping thousands of people, who were forced from their homes weeks ago, in temporary housing. 17,713 people have now been displaced by the ongoing eruptions and are staying at 31 evacuation camps.
The volcano has become increasingly active since September, erupting numerous times. People fled to safety in October after powerful blasts sent hot ash and gravel spewing from the summit. Ash from the blasts has destroyed thousands of acres of farmland, inflicting millions of dollars of losses to farmers near the mountain’s slopes.
Mount Sinabung surprised scientists in September 2010 by erupting suddenly for the first time in 400 years. Two weeks of eruptions at that time forced more than 30,000 people from their homes. (dramatic photo at link)

Current tropical storms - maps and details.
No current tropical storms.

Taming Hurricanes With Wind Turbines - How can one significantly reduce the winds of nature’s most destructive storms, and at the same time provide up to half of the world’s electric power? The answer, according to a scientist is to install massive arrays of tens of thousands of offshore wind turbines, which can extract wind energy from hurricanes and dramatically reduce their winds and storm surges.
Using a 3-D global atmospheric computer model ofthe U.S. coast, he ran simulations of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, and studied how an array of 70,000 wind turbines that generate 300 Gigawatts of power placed along the coast might impact these storms. The simulations showed that as the outer winds of these hurricanes moved over the wind turbines, they extracted enough energy from the storms to reduce the winds by 50%, and increase the central pressure by 16 mb. A decrease in the storm surge of 6% - 72% occurred as a result.
The wind turbines used in the study shut down when winds hit 76 mph, and are destroyed at wind speeds of 112 mph. The eyewall winds of Katrina did destroy a number of turbines in the simulation. Even so, the cost of the lost turbines in such a case would likely be made up for by the reduced damage of the hurricane’s winds and storm surge at the coast due to the presence of the wind turbine array.
More research needs to be done on how large wind turbine arrays might affect the weather. These turbines could potentially cause significant changes to precipitation patterns along the coast. In the Southeast U.S., tropical cyclones provide 15 - 20% of the annual precipitation, and 20% - 50% of all droughts between 1960 - 2009 were busted by a landfalling tropical storm or hurricane.
If wind turbine arrays reduce the intensity of tropical storms making landfall, it makes sense that the amount of rain they dump will also decline. Droughts are often more damaging than hurricanes, and it may be necessary to shut down a large array of coastal wind turbines in a situation where a tropical storm or hurricane with drought-busting rains is headed for a drought region. Who should make this decision? How strong of a storm should we let hit? There are many tough questions to answer.
A 2012 paper found that there is enough wind to exceed the total world energy demand by several times, even after accounting for reductions in wind speed caused by the wind turbines. Their model showed that 4 million turbines, each operating at a height of 100 meters and producing 5 megawatts, could supply 7.5 terawatts of power - more than half the world's all-purpose power demand - without significant negative effects on the climate.
"To get there, however, we have a long way to go. Today, we have installed a little over 1 percent of the wind power needed." Half of the 4 million turbines would be situated over water, and the other 2 million would require a little more than 0.5% percent of Earth's land surface - about half the area of the state of Alaska. However, virtually none of this area would be used solely for wind, but could serve dual purposes such as open space, farmland, ranchland or wildlife preserve.


Floods from storm Alexa force Gazans to leave homes - More than 5,000 people in the Gaza Strip have been evacuated from their homes because of severe floods caused by torrential rain. Rescuers have had to use rowing boats to reach residents trapped by rising floodwaters. United Nations officials have described parts of the northern Gaza Strip as a disaster area.
The winter storm, called Alexa, has covered parts of the West Bank and Israel with heavy snow. UNUSUALLY HARSH winter weather is causing disruption across the region. Areas in the West Bank and Israel have seen THE HEAVIEST SNOW FOR DECADES. Residents in the Palestinian territory were already enduring power cuts due to fuel shortages.
Large swathes of Gaza had "water as far as the eye can see. Areas around Jabaliya have become a massive lake with 2m-high waters engulfing homes and stranding thousands." Thousands of people have been moved to schools and other temporary shelters after the heavy rain over the past four days. Roads into Jerusalem are closed to private cars. Officials say around 30,000 homes are without electricity in Israel. (photos at link)
Video (1:33 minutes)

Scotland battered by severe gales - Severe gales and heavy rain have swept across parts of Scotland with gusts of 60 to 70mph in some areas. A number of ferry services on the west coast were cancelled and Traffic Scotland warned drivers of crosswinds and falling trees and debris.
Flooding and problems with overhead wires affected some ScotRail lines and some football matches were called off. Bridges have also been affected, with the Forth, Tay, Skye and Kessock road bridges closed to high-sided vehicles. The high winds also affected driving conditions on the Friarton Bridge, near Perth, the Erskine Bridge and the Dornoch Bridge.
The Met Office issued a yellow "be aware" warning of high winds throughout Scotland, and many remain for Sunday. Gusts of 66mph were recorded on Saturday at Inverbervie in Aberdeenshire and Eskdalemuir in Dumfries and Galloway, while winds of 65mph hit South Uist in the Outer Hebrides. Edinburgh and Glasgow were buffeted by wind speeds of up to 47mph, temporarily closing some attractions.
On higher ground, a gust of 102mph was registered on the Applecross peninsula in Wester Ross and speeds of 111mph recorded near Tomintoul in the Cairngorms National Park. Edinburgh Airport said it was also experiencing disruption due to the bad weather. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency said heavy rain was expected to continue to fall until early on Sunday morning and low-lying land in the area could be at risk. It has four flood warnings in place for Carse of Lennoch to Lochlane, Crieff to Innerpeffray, Glen Lyon and Innerpeffray to Bridge of Earn.
There are also a number of flood alerts in place for Argyll and Bute, Caithness and Sutherland, Orkney, Shetland, Skye and Lochaber, Wester Ross and the Western Isles. Sepa warned that rivers were are also running high in areas including Skye and Tayside due to the heavy rain. Flooding and surface water are also causing problems on roads in Dumfries and Galloway. Power cables were brought down in South Ayrshire. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said it responded to numerous calls about the weather, including fallen trees, flooded roads and loose roof slates.
About 20 people were evacuated from Whitburn Junior Social Club in Whitburn, West Lothian, and an adjacent bungalow, after heavy tin roof sheeting blew off a nearby pavilion onto both buildings at about 12:00 GMT. No-one was hurt. Police Scotland urged drivers to take care and reduce their speed on the roads during the poor weather.
The gales are expected to continue to affect the west coast on Sunday, with the severe weather warning remaining in place for the Highlands, Western Isles, Orkney, Shetland and Strathclyde between midday and midnight. Again, large waves caused by the very strong winds, particularly around times of high tide, may also become an issue along exposed coasts, emergency services have warned.
A storm on 5 December killed a lorry driver after his vehicle was blown on to two cars in Bathgate, West Lothian, while more than 100,000 homes across Scotland had their power cut. Winds gusting more than 140mph were recorded on Aonach Mor in the Highlands, while the Met Office also recorded a gust of 106mph at Glenogle in Stirlingshire. Winds reached 59mph in Edinburgh and 63mph in Glasgow (photos at link)


Winter snowstorm hits U.S. New England area - A blustery winter snowstorm swept into New England on Saturday night, creating hazardous highway conditions across the region and disrupting air traffic throughout the nation.
A mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain is blanketing the northeast, from Missouri to Maine. The massive storm is stretching between 23 states. A strong storm pelted the Midwest and Northeast with heavy snow on Saturday, with some areas already seeing a foot on the ground and forecasts predicting that up to 20 states and 70 million people will feel its polar conditions through the weekend.
The National Weather Service forecast “a wintry mix of precipitation” including snow, sleet and freezing rain flowing from the Midwest into the Northeast this weekend. Parts of New England could see up to a foot by the time the front pulls out early Sunday and ushers in high winds that could be a hazard of their own. Up to 14 inches could fall in coastal towns in Maine.
By late morning Saturday, the winter storm was producing snow over parts of Illinois, Indiana, Northern Ohio, with portions of West-Central Indiana already seeing 11 inches of snowfall. Areas west of St. Louis were forecast to see 6 to 7 inches and the Chicago area was looking at 2 to 4 inches. “Eventually that snow is going to end by this evening and the snow will pick up in the Northeast as the afternoon goes on.”
New York City had also seen an “initial burst” of snowfall with heavier levels predicted throughout the region into the afternoon and evening. On Saturday night that snow would change to sleet, followed by freezing rain. The “quick-hitter” storm would stretch as far as Maine by Sunday. Interstate travel could be affected, with interstate roads in Illinois, Indiana and parts of Missouri “snow packed.” “Until those are plowed away there’s going to be some rough travel.” The Missouri State Highway Patrol has confirmed three fatalities attributed to the recent winter weather.
Air travel was also affected as airlines canceled more than 1,000 flights on Saturday. There were an additional 2,653 flight delays. The storm could also impact commerce, with the snow stopping some holiday shoppers in their tracks. (videos and photos at link)

Utah - Recent Extreme Weather Exacerbates Slide Potential. Rock slides in Southern Utah or even in the Salt Lake Valley Canyons are not unusual, but geologists are surprised to hear about a deadly rock slide that took out a house and killed two people. "It was surprising. It was a tragic event."
Rock slides are happening a lot more than people think around the state, especially in the Rockville area where homes are built right underneath potential slides. "In retrospect I'm not too surprised by it." Other rockslides have been seen along canyon roadways where crews have had to be shut down to traffic in order to clean up the boulders on the roadway.
The problem with rockslides is you can't tell exactly when they are going to happen. "Rock falls are very difficult to predict." The slide in Rockville had to be caused by the extreme weather Southern Utah saw this past week where it snowed, froze and then started to thaw. "When snow comes and then melts that water gets into those cracks. We then go through a freeze thaw cycle and when the ice forms it has greater volume it expands then that can be enough to break the rock along those fractures and cause it to fall over."
When it comes to rock falls and where they are going to happen – the best advice is to look up at your surroundings. "All you can do is sort of try and make sure you don't build human occupation areas close to where there might be potential rock fall."


California - Santa Ana winds could cause extreme fire danger. A high-pressure system building over the L.A. Los Angeles Basin could create dangerous fire conditions as Santa Ana winds blow over the Southland through today.

Western Australia - bushfire is controlled but not contained. A bushfire warning has been downgraded to a watch-and-act alert as firefighters battle a blaze that is threatening lives and homes northeast of Perth.

Drought and Food Shortages Hit Malawi - A severe drought in Malawi is creating food shortages and forcing women to wait all day in line at boreholes to get what little water they can.

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Friday, December 13, 2013

Global Disaster Watch - the latest earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tropical storms, wildfires and record-breaking weather.

Little news to report today.

**Talent does what it can;
genius does what it must.**
Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -

Yesterday, 12/12/13 -

'Imagine America Without Los Angeles' - Expert Warns Southern ‘California Isn’t Ready For Major Quake. A leading earthquake expert has issued a dire warning to Californians about the expected impact of a major disruption to the San Andreas fault line.
When the “Big One” hits Southern California, the damage could be much greater, and could last much longer, than most of us ever imagined. “Loss of shelter, loss of schools, loss of jobs and emotional hardship. We are risking the ends of our cities.”
According to a USGS study called the “Shakeout Report,” when a high-magnitude earthquake rocks the San Andreas fault, the damage will go far beyond the collapsed buildings and freeways seen in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. For example, LA-area supermarkets now depend on Internet systems for warehousing and shipping food to stores, and the food is stored on the other side of the San Andreas fault.
“With the development of the Internet and the new just-in-time economy, none of them store food on the Los Angeles side of the San Andreas anymore. So this is one more place where the development of the complexity of our modern society is creating new vulnerabilities as we face the big earthquakes.”
Fiber-optics could also be cut off when a disastrous earthquake hits the San Andreas fault. Two-thirds of the connectivity from Los Angeles to the rest of the world go through fiber-optic cables crossing the San Andreas fault. So we expect at the time of the earthquake when the fault moves, we will break these fiber-optic cables and two-thirds of the data capacity between LA and everyone else will disappear.”
Natural gas pipelines also cross the San Andreas fault, so gas for cooking and heating would be in short supply. And the area’s aging water pipes, which seem to break with great regularity even without a temblor, are not expected to stand up well when the big earthquake hits. “The water pipes - remember the first thing you put in in a city is the water pipes. That means our water pipes are some of the oldest parts of our infrastructure. Seventy percent of the water pipes in Southern California are AC pipes and many of them will be breaking when this earthquake happens.”
Much of the high-tech damage could hinder the recovery effort in the weeks and months after the earthquake. Getting Southern California back on its feet could be a wrenching process. “The World Wide Web wasn’t in existence at the time of the Northridge earthquake. Right now think of how much both your personal life, but also our economic system, depends on having cell phone communications and internet connectivity.”
The “Shakeout Report” from the USGS estimates it could take six months for the broken water pipes to be replaced across Southern California after the earthquake. And they say while the Northridge quake directly affected about a half a million people, a maximum credible earthquake on the San Andreas fault could affect 10 million Californians.

Researchers find evidence of ancient super-volcanoes in Utah - researchers analyzed evidence of a recently discovered super volcano in Utah that erupted 25-30 million years ago and preserved a host of species not usually associated with the northwest United States, including camels, rhinoceroses, and palm trees.
The eruption -- more than 5,000 times as powerful as Mt. Saint Helen's in 1980 -- expelled 5,500 cubic kilometers of magma over the course of one prehistoric week. "In southern Utah, deposits from this single eruption are 13,000 feet thick. Imagine the devastation - it would have been catastrophic to anything living within hundreds of miles."
Though super volcanoes are capable of the most powerful, far-reaching eruptions (thus the adjective, "super"), they are much less physically conspicuous than more traditionally-sculpted volcanoes and their "high cones." "Supervolcanoes as we've seen are some of earth's largest volcanic edifices, and yet they don't stand as high cones. At the heart of a supervolcano instead, is a large collapse."
The aftermath of Uta's super volcano extended from the Wah Wah Valley in central Utah north to Central Nevada and south towards Cedar City. Parts of the explosion even reached Nebraska. Few living things survived in its wake.The volcano's geographical reach and eventual degradation were the primary reasons researchers took several years to analyze its eruptive course.
"The ravages of erosion and later deformation have largely erased them from the landscape, but our careful work has revealed their details. The sheer magnitude of this required years of work and involvement of dozens of students in putting this story together." A super volcano approximately the size of Wah Wah Valley's exists in Yellowstone National Park.

Current tropical storms - maps and details.

No current tropical storms.

Arctic Cyclones 40 Percent More Frequent Than Previously Believed - Researchers observed more ice-melting arctic cyclones than they were expecting. Between the years of 2000 and 2010 about 1,900 cyclones ripped through the Arctic leaving behind warm air and water. This number is about 40 percent higher than researchers previously thought it would be. Many of the cyclones have been overlooked in the past because of their small size or short duration.
"Extreme Arctic cyclones" are of high interest to the scientists because they contribute to the dangerous melting of sea ice. "When a cyclone goes over water, it mixes the water up. In the tropical latitudes, surface water is warm, and hurricanes churn cold water from the deep up to the surface. In the Arctic, it's the exact opposite: there's warmer water below, and the cyclone churns that warm water up to the surface, so the ice melts." A behemoth cyclone that tore across the Arctic in 2012 is believed to have made a significant contribution to record sea ice melt that year.
The finding could help researchers gain insight into future weather patterns and climate change. "We now know there were more cyclones than previously thought, simply because we've gotten better at detecting them." The research team will need to better-observe the number of cyclones in the future in order to get an idea if their frequency is increasing or decreasing.
"Since 2000, there have been a lot of rapid changes in the Arctic-Greenland ice melting, tundra thawing - so we can say that we're capturing a good view of what's happening in the Arctic during the current time of rapid changes." The researchers are using computer algorithms and statistics from a number of sources in order to get a clearer idea of what the cyclone pattern has looked like in the past.
"There is actually so much information, it's hard to know what to do with it all. Each piece of data tells a different part of the story-temperature, air pressure, wind, precipitation-and we try to take all of these data and blend them together in a coherent way."

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Global Disaster Watch - the latest earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tropical storms, wildfires and record-breaking weather.

**Protect your bagels. Put lox on them.**

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday, 12/11/13 -

Enormous earthquakes ‘are missing’ from records - The Earth could have been struck by many more huge earthquakes in its recent history than was previously thought, scientists say. Research suggests that half of all quakes measuring more than 8.5 in magnitude that hit in the 19th Century are missing from records.
Scientists are scanning historical documents for the lost tremors. "If you try to make a statistical case there are too few earthquakes in the 19th Century." Earthquakes measuring more than M8.5 cause immense devastation. Recent examples include the 2004 quake in the Indian Ocean that unleashed a deadly tsunami, Chile's massive 2010 earthquake, and the 2011 event in Japan. But records before the 20th Century are strangely devoid of natural disasters on this scale. "Seismometers were developed around 1900. As soon as we had them, earthquakes started to look bigger."
Researchers use historical documents to track down seismic events that occurred before this and assess their magnitude. Many large earthquakes in the 18th and 19th Century have been missed. One reason for this is because there is a general assumption that earthquakes measuring M8.5 and above generate significant tsunamis. "But this isn't always the case, and the magnitudes for some of these earthquakes has been underestimated."
A candidate is a quake that hit Kamchatka in Russia in 1841. Its magnitude had been thought to be 8.3, but now it perhaps should be upgraded to M9.2. Another is a quake that struck in the Lesser Antilles in 1843. "This was catalogued at a low magnitude 8. It turns out it was felt by a quarter of the globe."
The researchers say finding these lost earthquakes is vital to help them assess where and when these deadly events could strike next. Scientists have created a database of earthquakes that occurred in the years 1000 to 1900. The database provides a "warning from history. For example, with the Fukushima disaster - people were surprised that there was such a large tsunami. But it happened before. There was a historical earthquake in the 9th Century that was very similar."
The catastrophic earthquake that hit Port-Au-Prince in Haiti in 2010 was another example. "People shouldn't have been surprised that an earthquake happened there. There was a very similar earthquake in the 18th Century."


Sumatra, Indonesia, coastal cave records stunning tsunami history - A cave on the northwestern coast of Sumatra holds a remarkable record of big tsunamis in the Indian Ocean. The limestone opening, close to Banda Aceh, retains the sandy deposits washed ashore by huge, earthquake-induced waves over thousands of years. Scientists are using the site to help determine the frequency of catastrophes like the event of 26 December 2004. This is being done by dating the cave's tsunami-borne sediments, which are easy to see between layers of bat droppings.
"The tsunami sands just jump right out at you because they're separated by guano layers. There's no confusing the stratigraphy (layering)... from a geologist's point of view, this cave has the most amazing stratigraphy." Sumatra's proximity to the Indo-Australia and Sunda tectonic plate boundary, and the giant earthquakes that occur there, means its shores are at risk of major inundations. Understanding how often these occur is important for policy and planning in the region.
The Acehnese cave lies about 100m back from the swash zone at current high-tide. Its entrance is also raised somewhat, and this prevents all waters from getting into the opening - apart from tsunamis and severe storm surges. The scientists know they are looking at tsunami deposits because they can find debris in the sediments of seafloor organisms such as microscopic foraminifera. Only the most energetic waves could have lifted and carried this material into the cave.
The investigations are ongoing but the team thinks it can see deposition from perhaps 7-10 tsunamis. The geometry of the cave means these events would likely have been generated by earthquakes of Magnitude 8, or more. By way of comparison, the devastation wrought by 26 December 2004 stemmed from a M9.2 tremor.
Today, the cave is so full of sand and bat droppings that any new event will essentially overwash and erode the most recent deposits. "The 2004 tsunami completely inundated the cave." Nonetheless, the stratigraphy from about 7,500 to 3,000 years ago is impeccable. "What we think we have is actually a near-complete sequence of late-Holocene deposits. This is amazing because usually the records we have are fragmentary at best. This coastal cave is a unique 'depot centre', and it's giving us a remarkable snapshot of several thousands of years, allowing us to figure out every single tsunami that would have taken place during that time."
The team's other investigations along the Acehnese coast are filling in the period from 3,000 years ago to the present. And the take-home message from all this research is that the biggest tsunamis are not evenly spaced through time. Yes, there can be long periods of quiescence, but you can also get MAJOR EVENTS THAT ARE SEPARATED BY JUST A FEW DECADES.
"2004 caught everybody by surprise. And why was that? Because nobody had been looking back to see how often they happen, if they'd ever happened. In fact, because people thought they had no history of such things, they thought it was impossible. Nobody was prepared, nobody had even given it a second thought. So the reason we look back in time is so we can learn how the Earth works and how it might work during our watch." [Site note - It isn't precisely true that 'nobody had given it a second thought', as a noted scientist was publicly warning for several years prior to 2004 about the tsunami danger in Indonesia, even going door-to-door to the hotels and resorts trying to get them to post notices of the tsunami danger and of the warning signs such as the ocean suddenly receding.] (photos at link)

Current tropical storms - maps and details.

* In the North Indian Ocean -
Tropical cyclone Madi is located approximately located about 560 km east-northeast of Chennai, India and 820 km north-northeast of Sri Lanka.
Cyclone 'Madi' grows weak, Kerala, India, spared major effects. The severe cyclonic storm Madi over west-central and adjoining southwest Bay of Bengal that waned on Monday evening and moved northwards on Tuesday will not have any major effect on Kerala, according to officials with the Indian Meteorological Department. They have, however, indicated the possibility of rain or thundershowers in isolated parts of Kerala for the next 48 hours.
"Cyclonic storm Madi has grown less strong and hence will not leave any major effect on Kerala. Thundershowers and rains may be experienced in isolated parts of the state for the next two days. The northeast winds too have been growing weak as part of the northeast monsoon and there is no cause for panic since IMD will be providing updates every six hours."
"Cyclone Madi will have no direct effect in Kerala and landfall in Tamil Nadu in also unlikely as it has moved north of the Bay of Bengal. Cyclone Madi that is currently , would move northwards before taking a southwest re-curve and will gradually weaken. As a result, rainfall is likely at isolated places over coastal Andhra Pradesh, coastal Tamil Nadu and Puducherry during the next 48 hours. Rainfall may also be experienced at several places in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands during next 48 hours. Fishermen along and off Tamilnadu, Puducherry and Andhra Pradesh coasts have been advised caution while venturing into the sea and should ideally not venture into deep sea in the next 72 hours.
Meanwhile, residents of Kozhikode and Malappuram have experienced tremors for three consecutive days, the last being on Tuesday. Some houses in the region have developed cracks as a result. On Monday, an earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 3.4 on the Richter scale, occurred in Malappuram district, after a quake of 3.1 magnitude on Sunday. A team will visit the earthquake-affected areas in Kozhikode to interact with people and help reduce public anxiety besides providing precautionary measures "as earthquakes cannot be predicted."
Weather to turn dry as Cyclone Madi fizzles out - India is set for a spell of dry weather in the coming days. The weather in South India, which has been cloudy and rainy for the last few weeks due to successive cyclones, will now turn dry and warm as the latest one, Cyclone Madi, fizzles out. Until the cyclone dies down completely, South India will be cloudy with isolated light showers in the next 24 hours. There has hardly been any rain in the region in the last two to three days due to which the maximum temperatures have risen by about 3 to 4 degrees Celsius. Maximums in Chennai rose to 32ºC as opposed to 28ºC in the last few days.
Other than the east coast, temperatures are already quite high in the interiors and along the west coast, with maximums ranging between 32 to 35 degrees. Hunavar in coastal Karnataka has constantly been witnessing high temperatures of 35ºC, whereas Mumbai recorded 34.7ºC as the maximum temperature on Tuesday evening.
On the other hand, weather in North India is already dry. Almost half the month of December is over but no rain has been recorded in the plains till now. Rain and snow in Jammu and Kashmir has also been minimal. “We are reaching a time where we should no more experience dry spells in North India. Lack of a system in the Bay of Bengal and an arrival of a fresh Western Disturbance could bring some rain or cloudy weather in Delhi and North India after the 17th or 18th of December.” Except Jammu and Kashmir where light rain or snow is possible in the higher reaches, the weather in India will remain dry for the coming days, due to the lack of a system. Parts of East, Northeast and Central India will also not observe any major changes other than light fog or marginal variation in temperatures.


Lebanon - Winter storm. The UN says it is "extremely concerned" for Syrian refugees in Lebanon as a fierce winter storm bears down. There has been snow, rain, high winds and freezing temperatures in the north of the country and the Bekaa Valley, home to more than 200 informal camps. Syrian refugees are living in makeshift homes in the harsh winter conditions.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said it was "working harder than ever" to protect the more than 800,000 Syrians sheltering in Lebanon. The Lebanese army is helping distribute emergency kits, including blankets. "We are worried, because it is really cold in the Bekaa region, and we're extremely worried about the refugees living in makeshift shelters, because many are really substandard."
At least 80,000 refugees will have to spend the winter in tents. Many others are living in unfinished or unheated buildings with only slightly more protection. Iems have been stockpiled to help refugees whose shelters might be damaged or destroyed, including plastic sheeting, floor mats, blankets and mattresses. Supplies have also been given to local councils. "The Syrian refugees here are shivering with cold, especially the ones in tents," said a councillor in Arsal, a town in the northern Bekaa Valley that has seen 20,000 people arrive in the past few months. "Water has come into the tents from the roofs, and from the ground where there is flooding. At the moment there is more than 10cm (3.9in) of snow on the ground, but more is expected."
In the Bekaa Valley, one family were feeding their fire with old shoes because they could not afford firewood, despite their children being barefoot. There are similar scenes across the region as hundreds of thousands of refugees improvise desperately to stay alive. Forecasters are predicting between 7.6cm and 13cm of snow in total.
The latest warning comes after the UNHCR announced on Tuesday that it would be airlifting food and other aid items into northern Syria from Iraq for the first time. Twelve planeloads of supplies will be flown in over the next few days, ahead of what the UN fears will be THE REGION'S HARSHEST WINTER IN A CENTURY. The decision was made after land convoys were shot at, harassed, and detained at check points.
Almost 2.3 million Syrians have fled into neighbouring countries since the uprising against their President began in March 2011. There are also an estimated 6.5 million internally displaced people inside Syria, and many more in need of aid.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Global Disaster Watch - the latest earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tropical storms, wildfires and record-breaking weather.

**If life gives you melons,
you might be dyslexic.**

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -

Yesterday, 12/10/13 -

Relief efforts after earthquake in Pakistan lagging - The 7-7-magnitude earthquake that hit Pakistan's Baluchistan province September 24 left an estimated 200,000 people homeless in the region. More than two months later and winter at hand, international aid groups say their efforts to help the quake victims get back up on their feet are being rebuffed by the government. International aid organizations say the government has refused their help.
The earthquake killed as many as 386 people and injured 816. More than 30,000 families - an estimated 200,000 people - in Awaran district, 400 miles southwest of the provincial capital of Quetta, have been homeless since the temblor. Awaran is considered the country's most backward district, receiving the least government aid to schools, health, potable water and other basic needs. Villagers who lost their homes in the earthquake are worried about the coming winter and say they have not received sufficient help. "It is reported in the media that all is going well in the quake-hit areas, which is not completely true." If a family has food, it lacks shelter.
National and provincial disaster management authorities were given the task of conducting surveys to assess losses the earthquake caused to property and civic infrastructure in Awaran. In 2 1/2 months, these organizations have yet to finish assessing the damage. Relief and rescue activities had not been well organized, leaving scores of families and injured in mountainous areas without help for weeks. The U.N. High Commission for Refugees was repeatedly denied permission from the provincial government to take part in rescue and relief operations.
In the Jahoo area of Awaran district, there are still areas where no relief consignment had reached victims. In Non Dara village, 5,000 people have been living without shelter since the earthquake created deep cracks in the walls of their houses. None of the victims in that area had so far received relief goods from the government. "They were provided a small quantity of food items by welfare groups of religious organizations, but no tents. Several villages are still awaiting relief, but they are denied, given the alleged poor law-and-order situation in the district."

The supervolcano that lies beneath Yellowstone National Park in the US is far larger than was previously thought, scientists report. A study shows that the magma chamber is about 2.5 times bigger than earlier estimates suggested. A team found the cavern stretches for more than 90km (55 miles) and contains 200-600 cubic km of molten rock.
“We’ve been working there for a long time, and we’ve always thought it would be bigger... but this finding is ASTOUNDING." If the Yellowstone supervolcano were to blow today, the consequences would be catastrophic. The last major eruption, which occurred 640,000 years ago, sent ash across the whole of North America, affecting the planet’s climate.
Now researchers believe they have a better idea of what lies beneath the ground. The team used a network of seismometers that were situated around the park to map the magma chamber. The team found that the magma chamber was colossal. Reaching depths of between 2km and 15km (1 to 9 miles), the cavern was about 90km (55 miles) long and 30km (20 miles) wide. It pushed further into the north east of the park than other studies had previously shown, holding a mixture of solid and molten rock. “To our knowledge there has been nothing mapped of that size before."
The researchers are using the findings to better assess the threat that the volatile giant poses. “Yes, it is a much larger system… but I don’t think it makes the Yellowstone hazard greater. But what it does tell us is more about the area to the north east of the caldera.”
Researchers are unsure when the supervolcano would blow again. Some believe a massive eruption is overdue, estimating that Yellowstone’s volcano goes off every 700,000 years or so. But more data was needed, because there had only been three major eruptions so far. These happened 2.1 million years ago, 1.3 million years ago and 640,000 years ago. “You can only use the time between eruptions (to work out the frequency), so in a sense you only have two numbers to get to that 700,000 year figure. How many people would buy something on the stock market on two days of stock data?”
Other researchers have been looking at other, more ancient volcanic eruptions that happened along the same stretch of continental plate that Yellowstone’s supervolcano sits on. “We looked at a time window of between 12.5 to 8 million years ago. We wanted to know how to identify these eruptions and find out how frequently they happened.” The team found there were fewer volcanic events during this period than had been estimated, but these eruptions were far larger than was previously thought. “If you look at older volcanoes, it helps to understand what Yellowstone is likely to do.”

Current tropical storms - maps and details.

* In the North Indian Ocean -
Tropical cyclone Madi is approaching India and is forecast to strike there as a tropical storm on Friday the 13th.
‘Cyclone Madi’ will pack some punch when crossing India's coast on Friday. Very severe cyclone Madi has weakened, and is forecast to enter Tamil Nadu coast by Friday as a storm just below cyclonic strength. The US Joint Typhoon Warning Centre projected that ‘Madi’ may cross the Cuddalore-Chidambaram belt early in the morning. Tropical Storm Risk Group of London concurred saying that Madi will be a tropical storm (deep depression in India Met Department parlance) while crossing the coast.
On Tuesday, the storm weakened ahead of executing the turn back southwest from its current bearing over west-central and adjoining southwest Bay of Bengal. Madi briefly displayed an ‘eye’ towards its centre on Tuesday in a signal it had reached peak strength. India Met Department located it to 630 km northeast of Chennai, India and 900 km north-northeast of Trincomalee (Sri Lanka).
Madi will move nearly northwards slowly for some time and then re-curve to southwest, setting it on course for expected rendezvous with the Tamil Nadu coast. The weakening storm is projected to scythe through interior Tamil Nadu past Madurai towards Kochi and slip into the warm Arabian Sea waters. Storm trackers said that Madi could whip up strong northeasterly flows over the Arabian Sea as it closes in for landfall over Tamil Nadu coast. There is no forecast yet of its remnants consolidating in the Arabian Sea and regenerating as a fresh storm, as happens occasionally. But one model ventured to suggest Madi could conjure up some buzz in the Gulf of Mannar and squeeze in a rain wave just south of the southern Indian peninsula.
The Met Department has said that rains may lash isolated places over coastal Andhra Pradesh, coastal Tamil Nadu and Puducherry during next two days. Later, rain or thundershowers would increase gradually over coastal Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. Fishermen along and off Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Andhra Pradesh coasts are advised against venturing into the deep sea during next three days. Longer term outlook for four days until Tuesday next suggested rains for parts of the southern peninsula.

India - Cyclone-hit Villages Await Power Supply. Many parts of cyclone-ravaged Ganjam are still in dark, two months after Phailin hit the district.


Cyprus - Extreme weather conditions coming as Cyprus braces for wind. Local services were bracing themselves to deal with possible repercussions from extreme weather conditions, expected to hit the island Tuesday evening. Temperatures are set to drop. Strong winds, thunderstorms and snowfall are also on the cards.
Municipal authorities are closely monitoring weather developments, preparing places to accommodate people who do not have heating at home. Police are also watching the weather conditions in order to inform the public on the situation of roads. The weather will deteriorate as of Tuesday. “The main characteristics of the weather for the next three-four days will be low temperatures”. During the night the temperature will be around zero degrees in the capital Nicosia and up in the mountains it will be below zero. It is expected to snow on the mountains of an altitude over 1200 meters. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday storms and strong northeastern winds are expected. A shelter will open and hot beverages will be served to those in need in a Municipal Centre.

Floods kill 11 in Brazil's drought-stricken northeastern Bahia state - 6 others missing. Brazil's northeast is in the grips of THE WORST DROUGHT IN A CENTURY, so the sudden downpour was PARTICULARLY UNEXPECTED. Intense rains overnight Saturday to Sunday in the town of Lajedinho caused the floods, which destroyed some 70 houses. Around 200 people have taken shelter in schools and a local gym.
Emergency response personnel were searching the flooded buildings for survivors, the missing and other possible victims Monday. About 4.7 inches (12 centimetres) of rain fell in a few hours. That's the equivalent of TWO MONTHS OF NORMAL RAINFALL in the region.


Oregon - RECORD-BREAKING COLD idles buses, bursts pipes. An arctic airmass brought frigid weather to Central Oregon over the past week, culminating in a weekend with subzero temperatures.

New York - RECORD-BREAKING SNOW was expected Tuesday. After quite a few UNUSUALLY WARM DAYS for the season, New York City was finally facing wintery weather, with snow showers expected Tuesday.


Australia - Bees back from the brink following flower drought. Members of the bee industry are reporting that hives are on the road to recovery following some rain in drought-affected areas.


Madagascar village 'hit by bubonic plague' - Tests were carried out after at least 20 people in the village, near the north-western town of Mandritsara, were reported to have died last week. The International Committee of the Red Cross warned in October that Madagascar was at risk of a plague epidemic. The disease is transmitted to humans via fleas, usually from rats.
Bubonic plague, known as the Black Death when it killed an estimated 25 million people in Europe during the Middle Ages, is now rare. Last year, Madagascar had 60 deaths from the plague, the world's highest recorded number. Health officials have now gone to the remote area to investigate.
Prisoners on the island are usually most affected by the plague, which is spread because of unhygienic conditions. The prevalence of rats in Madagascar's prisons means the plague can spread easily. There are concerns that the disease could spread to towns and cities where living standards have declined since a coup in 2009 and the ensuing political crisis.

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