Friday, April 23, 2010

What deep wounds ever closed without a scar?
George Gordon

This morning -

Yesterday -
4/22/10 -


ICELAND's volcanic eruption was still causing strong tremors on Thursday, though far less ash and smoke was pouring out into the air. The tremors coming from it are stronger now than when the ash plume was at its highest, at about 9 km (5.6 miles). "We don't know exactly what this is telling us. This is kind of telling me that it is not stopping yet ... As it looks now it could go on for a while." The tremors could indicate a build up of lava, or molten rock, within the crater. "The lava cannot really go anywhere. It is not flowing out of the crater, it must be accumulating there." The volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier, about 120 km (75 miles) southeast of the capital Reykjavik, has been erupting for 8 days.
For locals, ash is set to continue to fall in areas close to the volcano, raising concerns about dangers to livestock from high levels of fluoride in the ash. Apart from the current volcano, Icelanders have also been warily eyeing the nearby Katla volcano, which is much larger and has a much greater potential for devastation. It last blew in 1918, flooding huge areas.

Was the flight ban necessary? The UK Met Office is still detecting an ash cloud in European airspace, so why is it now safe to allow planes to fly? The Civil Aviation Authority has confirmed that the guidelines regarding flying through volcanic ash have been changed, following six days of discussions between aviation engineers and experts to "find a way to tackle this IMMENSE CHALLENGE, UNKNOWN IN THE UK AND EUROPE IN LIVING MEMORY". "Air manufacturers...were asked to look at the scientific evidence from test flights and at the Met Office data, to understand how much volcanic ash in the atmosphere… jet engines could tolerate [without being] damaged." Now, scientists and engineers have agreed on a safe threshold - a concentration of ash of 0.002g per cubic metre of air. At or below this concentration, there is no damage to the engine. Current data suggested that concentrations of ash in UK airspace were around 100 micrograms (or 0.0001g) per cubic metre. The CAA has opened airspace where the concentration of ash in the air is below this new threshold.
So does this mean the ban was ever necessary? Was the ash cloud ever sufficiently dense to prevent safe flight? The answer to this is still unclear, but early analyses of the research flight data suggested that the plume that had been measured over the past four days contained only 0.0004g of ash per cubic metre at its peak. But the regulations before this event were set out by an international body called the International Civil Aviation Organisation. It set a limit of "no tolerance" for any concentration of volcanic ash. Previously, scientists were not able to detect ash at the very low concentrations that modern analytical equipment is capable of measuring. So the advice was to avoid it all together. "But now we have this blanket over the biggest airports in northern Europe. It's an UNPRECEDENTED situation." The CAA spokeswoman said: "Volcanic ash has not left UK airspace - it's still here, and it's a very fluid situation. There are still 'black blobs' [on the map] where the ash is more dense, and the co-ordinates are being updated every six hours." The difficulties in operating commercial aviation "are likely to be felt for many months to come", and this ash cloud and the regulatory upheaval will have a significant impact in the cost of flying aircraft. "Engines are just the start of the problem. There are many other components on aircraft that are equally sensitive to particulates and maintaining these in the current conditions is likely to be very expensive." (ash map)

VANUATU - The analysis of data collected from the monitoring network of Gaua volcano since October 2009 indicates the existence of volcanic tremor. An abundance of gases is emitted from this volcano daily. Field observations confirmed significant change of activity with thicker and higher emissions of ash columns in early April. Since the end of March/beginning of April , the ash plumes height is between 7000 and 10000 feet every day. Field reports also stated that the explosion sounds could be heard from the villages daily. Moreover, starting from the 3rd of April, volcanic bombes projections from Gaua volcano could be observed from all the coastal villages from the north to the south of the island with reports of ashfall. This information simply shows that the activity is no longer stable as in February. The Alert Level of Gaua volcano still remains at Level 2, however this may change if the activity continues to increase. People are not allowed to access this volcano to avoid impacts of volcanic risks. (maps & photos)

Cyclone SEAN was 548 nmi WNW of Broome, Australia.

The sun remains blank for the 8th day - no sunspots.


AUSTRALIA'S chief medical officer has told doctors to stop giving the seasonal flu vaccine to children. The advice follows concerns the vaccine is adversely affecting children's health. "We suggest doctors and health professionals vaccinating children don't use the seasonal flu vaccine for the moment, until we can get the Therapeutic Goods Administration to investigate this in more detail." He said the concerns stemmed from a significant rise in the number of children developing a fever after receiving the vaccine. In light of the seasonal flu shot suspension, he suggested children get vaccinated against swine flu instead, because that could be a health risk this winter too.

Alabama reporting 1 H1N1 death per week - One fourth of Alabama's 52 pandemic flu deaths have occurred this year, and over the past several weeks the death toll has risen. After recording five H1N1 deaths in January and February, the state has already seen eight in March and April. "It looked like it [death rate] had peaked and was reaching the lower end of the bell curve. Then it increased."

A potentially deadly strain of fungus is spreading among animals and people in the northwestern United States and the Canadian province of British Columbia. The airborne fungus, called Cryptococcus gattii, usually only infects transplant and AIDS patients and people with otherwise compromised immune systems, but the new strain is genetically different. "This novel fungus is worrisome because it appears to be a threat to otherwise healthy people. The findings presented here document that the outbreak of C. gattii in Western North America is continuing to expand throughout this temperate region. Our findings suggest further expansion into neighboring regions is likely to occur and aim to increase disease awareness in the region." The new strain appears to be UNUSUALLY deadly, with a mortality rate of about 25 percent among the 21 U.S. cases analyzed. "From 1999 through 2003, the cases were largely restricted to Vancouver Island. Between 2003 and 2006, the outbreak expanded into neighboring mainland British Columbia and then into Washington and Oregon from 2005 to 2009. Based on this historical trajectory of expansion, the outbreak may continue to expand into the neighboring region of Northern California, and possibly further."
The spore-forming fungus can cause symptoms in people and animals two weeks or more after exposure. They include a cough that lasts for weeks, sharp chest pain, shortness of breath, headache, fever, nighttime sweats and weight loss. It has also turned up in cats, dogs, an alpaca and a sheep. Freezing can kill the fungus, so climate change may be helping it spread.