Friday, March 5, 2010

No snowflake ever falls in the wrong place.


This morning -

Largest quakes yesterday -
3/4/10 -

TAIWAN - The major 6.4 earthquake and several aftershocks in Taiwan, which injured dozens of people and caused several fires on Thursday, also sent Chunghwa Telecom workers scrambling to fix undersea fiber-optic telecommunications cables to prevent service disruptions around Asia. The quake damaged four undersea cables in six different places, knocking out service for parts of the day Thursday and early today. Global communications and Internet service on all networks has already been restored, mainly by rerouting service on undamaged cables. Cables around Taiwan have a rough life. The island is often battered by typhoons and earthquakes that can knock them out or cause undersea landslides, which send boulders showering down on them.

CHILE - Rebuilding Chile after the quake will take three to four years, says their President.

Varying ideas on whether the quakes are unusual and increasing or normal and average:

Earthquake clusters rattle the start of the new year - If you think there's an UNUSUALLY HIGH NUMBER OF BIG QUAKES lately you're right. The U.S. Geological Survey says clusters happen after a large earthquake hits. That triggers a domino effect. The stress on the ground shifts, and a series of tremors soon follow.
On January 12th, a catastrophic 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti.
Then February 26, a tremor of the same magnitude rattled Japan.
The next day, an 8.8 quake devastated Chile.
Then on Wednesday, Taiwan got hit with a 6.4 earthquake.
The same day a 6.0 aftershock tormented Chile.
At the Hawaii Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, experts say it's normal for earthquakes to come in clusters, and it means the potential for another tsunami.
A senior researcher with CEA China Earthquake Networks Center says the world looks like it is entering a new phase of earthquake activity. He has been closely observing earthquake trends. The latest movements of the earth's crust undoubtedly demonstrate an "active state." "They are not abnormal, though." The Haiti and Chile earthquakes were related, he believes. "In terms of earthquakes, the world seems to have entered a new phase. It may have started in late 2004 when a 6.4-magnitude earthquake rocked the eastern part of Indonesia."
The world experienced an active quake phase from 1900 to 1964, when several strong quakes wrecked havoc. The following 40 or so years were relatively inactive. The intensity of the latest earthquake in Chile was about 272 times that of the Haiti quake, yet it caused less damages. The epicenter of the Chile quake was 60 km under ground, while the depth of the Haiti quake epicenter was 10 km. Probably for this reason as well, the Chile quake did not cause many related disasters such as tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, or landslides.
He rejects the notion that recent earthquakes are a premonition to imminent human catastrophe. "The late renowned Chinese geologist Li Siguang proposed that the earth is rotating slower than it was some 3 billion years ago." Frequent earthquakes in the last few years suggest the world has entered a new era of earth crust movement. How long this new phase will last and when and where the next strong quake will be are difficult to say. "But it seems to follow its own course, a normal cycle."
There's no geological connection between the quakes in Taiwan and Chile, and nothing unusual in the number of recent big quakes, says the director of the Seismology Center of Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau.
"Because Haiti just happened, everyone's paying more attention to earthquakes. But the activity is normal – it's not so scary." The Taiwan, Chile, and Haiti quakes involved different tectonic plates. Globally, there is an average of one magnitude 8 or higher earthquake per year, there are 17 magnitude 7 or higher quakes, and 170 to 180 quakes of magnitude 6 or larger. So far this year there has only been one quake higher than 8 – Chile's fearsome, 8.8 magnitude temblor. Last year there were 16 magnitude 7 or higher quakes, right at the average. And so far this year there have been three magnitude 7 or higher quakes, including Haiti's. "From a global view, that's not especially a lot." Taiwan experiences a quake of magnitude 7 or higher every five years and a quake of magnitude 6 or higher every 100 days. "We've only had one like this so far this year, so that's still normal."


COSTA RICA - An eruption at Volcan Arenal, a volcano in north-central Costa Rica, caused small fires and avalanches on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.The volcano emitted a stream of lava on its southern flank, causing small avalanches on the south slope of the mountain. The lava also ignited some trees and plants as it reached the fauna line on the volcano's side. On Tuesday morning, between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. the volcano emitted hot gas and rock in what is known as a pyroclastic eruption, registering small tremors. None of the activity has threatened La Fortuna, the town at the base of the volcano, and Arenal National Park is still open. Scientists said the activity is normal and that the accumulation of the material around the crater of Arenal will increase the height of the mountain, which has been growing in recent years due to similar eruptions. [This follows activity at the IrazĂș volcano Monday night. The IrazĂș is located next to the Turrialba volcano that has been actively spewing ash and gases for the last several months.]

CHILE - The Villarrica volcano in Pucon has been upgraded from green to amber alert following the 8.8 earthquake that occurred on Saturday morning. The change in status advises caution to all those living around the volcano. Yesterday there were unofficial reports of increased activity. Locals say it’s quite normal after an earthquake to see flames and smoke emerge from the mouth of the volcano; it means that the volcano is venting and relieving pressure. They say you have to worry when the smoke and flames stop, because this means that the volcano is readying itself to erupt.

No current tropical cyclones.


SWEDEN - Dozens of ships that had been trapped in ice in the Baltic Sea off Stockholm, some for several days, have been freed. On Thursday, icebreakers had to be used to free a ferry which had 943 passengers and crew on board. Two other ferries managed to break free on Thursday. At least 26 ships are awaiting help further north in the Bay of Bothnia. Sea ice in the area would not normally have been a problem for merchant ships. However, onshore winds of about 72km/h (45mph) had pushed the ice rapidly towards the coast and created ridges which the merchant ships could not cope with. Icebreakers subsequently had to be deployed by both Sweden and Finland. They HAD NOT SEEN SO MANY SHIPS STUCK AT ONCE SINCE THE MID-1980s. (map)

UNITED KINGDOM - The Met Office will stop publishing seasonal forecasts, after it came in for criticism for failing to predict extreme weather. It was berated for not foreseeing that the UK would suffer this cold winter or the last three wet summers in its seasonal forecasts.
The forecasts, four times a year, will be replaced by monthly predictions. It said the UK is one of the hardest places to provide forecasts for due to its "size and location", making it "very hard to forecast much beyond a week". However, it said its short-term forecasts are "extremely accurate".


One H1N1 clade pushed out others - A genetic study of pandemic H1N1 viruses suggests that several H1N1 clades circulated early in the epidemic but that one clade (clade 7) replaced the others and has predominated through most of the pandemic. The authors concluded, however, that it's not clear whether the shift to a single-clade pattern had a clinical impact or gave the virus a transmissibility advantage.

-Reser's Fine Foods, Inc. of Beaverton, OR has been notified by a supplier that certain seasoning ingredients it supplied to Reser's contain hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) that may be contaminated with Salmonella.
-Earth Island is conducting a recall on its distribution of Follow Your Heart brand products as a precautionary measure due to possible Salmonella contamination of a natural flavor from one of our suppliers.
-Homemade Gourmet of Canton, Texas is voluntarily recalling approximately 320 packages of 1.96 oz Tortilla Soup Mix, because it has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.

Hydrolyzed vegetable protein - U.S. food regulators announced a voluntary recall on Thursday of food made with a common flavoring that could be contaminated with salmonella bacteria but did not estimate how broad the recall will be.
The flavoring -- hydrolyzed vegetable protein -- is used in soups, sauces, hot dogs, snack foods, dressings and dips and is made by privately held Basic Food Flavors Inc of Las Vegas, Nevada.
"At this time there are no known illnesses associated with this contamination and obviously we'd like to keep it that way. The manufacturer had many first-level consignees who obviously had individuals who had firms that they sold to who sold to the other firms. We expect this to get larger over the next several days, actually several weeks."
Since 2006, the U.S. food supply has been battered by a series of high-profile foodborne outbreaks involving meat, lettuce, peppers, peanuts and spinach. This weekit was reported that food poisoning costs the United States $152 billion in health-related expenses each year.
HVP is a flavor booster made from legumes that is used in a manner similar to monosodium glutamate. Potentially thousands of food products are at risk of being recalled. So far, recalls have been announced for 56 separate products, including potato chips, dips, salad dressing, sauce mixes, soup bases, and 16 flavors of prepackaged meals, including tofu, burritos and pasta. But that number is expected to grow enormously over the next few weeks as details of the recall filter through the complex channels of industrial food production. The 6-page list of recalled lots of HVP posted on Basic Food Flavors' website contains hundreds of items. Many of the products to which the HVP was added may have undergone a "kill step" as they continued to be processed, usually heating to the point that any bacteria would be killed. "Most Americans would be stunned to learn that FDA doesn't even have the authority to make recalls like these mandatory...[the contamination is] "yet more proof that the Food and Drug Administration needs more authority, more inspectors, and more resources to ensure that our food supply is safe."