Thursday, April 15, 2010

The future influences the present just as much as the past.
Friedrich Nietzsche

This morning -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday -
4/14/10 -

CHINA - The deadly quake which hit the remote Qinghai region left thousands of people homeless. Rescuers continued to search with their bare hands and picks 30 hours after the quake. Officials say 617 people died and 9,980 were injured when the quake struck Yushu county early on Wednesday. But 313 people are missing and the death toll is expected to rise. In the township of Jiegu, 85% of buildings were destroyed and state TV has been showing street after street reduced to rubble. About 900 people have been pulled out alive since the quake struck. It was measured as magnitude 6.9 by the US Geological Survey while the China Earthquake Networks Centre measured it as 7.1. Rescue operations were being hampered by the fact that the quake disrupted telecommunications, knocked out electricity and triggered landslides. Weather forecasters were predicting wind and sleet in the coming days, putting victims at risk of exposure. The high-altitude region is prone to earthquakes but this was THE STRONGEST TREMOR SINCE 1976 within 100km of the area.
There is no direct relationship between this latest earthquake and the devastating event in Sichuan, China, in May 2008. "It's not the same fault, it's a consequence of the same bit of global tectonics, which is the collision of India with Asia...It's not stress release that you sometimes hear reported where one part of a fault goes and then, for example, 100km along the fault another bit goes. That's not what we're seeing here." The earthquake did not occur at a boundary between Earth's tectonic plates. This earthquake was caused by a different mechanism to the event in May 2008. While the Sichuan earthquake was caused by a "thrust" movement, this latest event was a "strike-slip" event, which involves sideways movement along a fault. "India bumped into Asia (millions of years ago) and threw up the Tibetan plateau. That high ground is now being squeezed out towards the east and down towards the south-east. There is thrusting at the edge of the mountain belt where the Sichuan quake was but this earthquake is further north and west."
There has been no seismic event as big as this within 200km of the current epicentre since at least 1900. The quake happened at a depth of 10 km, which is slightly more shallow than the recent Haiti quake. When quakes occur at shallower depths, the ground tends to shake more. "It doesn't qualify as a major earthquake even though the result may be a major disaster." (photo & map)

•Feb 2010: Magnitude 8.8 quake in central Chile kills at least 450
•Jan 2010: About 230,000 die in magnitude 7.0 tremor in Haiti
•April 2009: Quake measuring 6.3 in L'Aquila, Italy, kills 300 people
•May 2008: 87,000 die in 7.8 scale tremor in Sichuan province, China
•Oct 2005: Quake measuring 7.6 hits north Pakistan, killing 73,000


ICELAND - A volcanic eruption in Iceland spewed black smoke and white steam into the air on Wednesday and partly melted a glacier, setting off a major flood that threatened to damage roads and bridges. The plume was seen rising from a crater under about 200 meters (660 feet) of ice at the Eyjafjallajokull glacier, close to the site of another eruption which started last month and died down only on Monday. The Icelandic Civil Defense Authority ordered 700 people to evacuate their homes and said melting ice from the glacier had caused big floods that threatened to damage a highway and several bridges. "We have had to dig some holes in the road so the flood could pass through and ease pressure on the bridges." Three large holes which were visible on the glacier in the morning had turned into a continuous rift running for about two kilometers through the ice. Scientists had measured increased seismic activity near the glacier about two hours before the volcano started to erupt early on Wednesday. In March, another volcano erupted near the Eyjafjallajokull glacier but caused no casualties. The volcano, situated beneath Iceland's fifth largest glacier, has erupted five times since Iceland was settled in the ninth century.
UK airline passengers are facing disruption as an ash cloud from the Icelandic volcanic eruption drifts towards the country. Restrictions to UK airspace were affecting Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow flights. The cloud of ash is expected to move south. The eruption under a glacier in the Eyjafjallajoekull area of Iceland is the second in Iceland in less than a month. Aberdeen Airport is warning of "considerable impact" to both flight arrivals and departures.

No current tropical cyclones.

INDIA, BANGLADESH - A cyclone packing winds of more than 100 mph demolished ten of thousands of mud huts in northeastern India, killing at least 112 villagers. Authorities began distributing rice, dried fruits, water pouches and tarpaulin sheets Thursday to the victims of the deadly cyclone. Rescuers also cleared hundreds of uprooted trees blocking road access to the devastated region. Packing winds of more than 100 mph (160 kph), the cyclone struck close to midnight on Tuesday in parts of West Bengal and Bihar states, uprooting trees and snapping telephone and electricity lines. Hundreds of people were injured and many thousands left homeless. They were caught unaware as there was no cyclone warning from the weather department. The cyclone demolished nearly 50,000 mud huts in West Bengal and thousands more in Bihar.
In neighboring Bangladesh, tropical storms lashed dozens of villages in the northern part of the country Wednesday killing at least five people and injuring dozens. The storms in Rangpur and neighboring Lalmonirhat district also demolished about 500 mostly mud-and-straw huts. The weather office said the storms were not related to the cyclone that struck eastern India.
The storm was an extreme form of what is locally known as a "nor'wester"- a weather pattern that develops over the Bay of Bengal during the hot months of the year.


RUSSIA - A powerful cyclone has left Russia’ s Sakhalin, where over 80 percent of the monthly norm of precipitation fell within 24 hours. The road between the settlements of Nogliki and Piltun is closed for vehicles because of snowfalls. The ferry link between Vanino and Kholmsk is closed because of a storm in the Tatar Strait. The cyclone is now moving to Kamchatka. A strong storm is raging in the Sea of Okhotsk.

The UK and continental Europe could be gripped by more frequent cold winters in the future as a result of low solar activity, say researchers. They identified a link between fewer sunspots and atmospheric conditions that "block" warm, westerly winds reaching Europe during winter months. But they added that the phenomenon only affected a limited region and would not alter the overall global warming trend. Studies of activity on the Sun, which provides data stretching back over 9,000 years, showed that it tended to "ramp up quite slowly over about a 300-year period, then drop quite quickly over about a 100-year period". The present decline started in 1985 and is currently about "half way back to a Maunder Minimum condition".
A "blocking" occurs when the jet stream forms an "s" shape over the north-eastern Atlantic, causing the wind to fold back over itself. There is one jet stream present in each hemisphere. "If you haven't got blocking, then the jet stream brings the mild, wet westerly winds to give us the weather we are famous for." But, if the jet stream is "blocked", and pushed further northwards, then cold, dry winds from the east flow over Europe, resulting in a sharp fall in temperatures. "This... 'blocking' does seem to be one of the things that can be modulated by solar activity."
Recent studies suggest that when solar activity is low, "blocking" events move eastwards from above north-eastern North America towards Europe, and become more stable. A prolonged "blocking" during the most recent winter was responsible for the long spell of freezing conditions that gripped Europe.
"There has been some quite simple modelling that indicated that heating the equatorial stratosphere with more UV would actually move the jet streams a little bit, by just a few degrees. That, of course, has the potential to change the behaviour of the jet streams - and that is the sort of thing that we think we are seeing."
While the current decline in solar activity is expected to continue in the coming decades, more frequent "blocking" episodes would not result in Europe being plunged into sub-zero temperatures every winter. "If we look at the last period of very low solar activity at the end of the 17th Century, we find the coldest winter on record in 1684, but the very next year - when solar activity was still low - saw third warmest winter in the entire 350-year (CET) record." A number of other meteorological factors also influenced the weather systems over Europe, so a number of parameters had to be met before a "blocking" occurred.


WISCONSIN, MINNESOTA - 4/14/10 - Sky watchers in Wisconsin and northern Minnesota witnessed a brilliant green fireball streaking across the sky at approximately 10:05 pm CDT on April 14th. Images from a rooftop in Madison, Wisconsin, show a brilliant midair explosion.
A solar wind gust hit Earth's magnetic field on April 15th, sparking a G1-class (Kp=5) geomagnetic storm. Skies over Finland lit up with a beautiful mix of green and purple. "We had a good display for about an hour. This spring has been something special as the auroras seem to be very strong." They could become stronger in the nights ahead. A coronal mass ejection blasted into space by an erupting prominence on April 13th could deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field on or about April 17th. (Note: This supercedes earlier estimates of an April 15th arrival.) High-latitude sky watchers should remain alert for auroras.


Flu activity at US colleges dropped to its lowest level since August, when surveillance began. The increases seen in southeastern states in February and March are also easing. The attack rate last week was 1 case per 10,000 students, a decrease of 38% from the previous week. No hospitalizations or deaths were reported, and the ACHA saw no evidence of sustained transmission. Vaccine uptake held at 8%, where it has been for several weeks.

USDA program to find harmful residues in meat is failing - The US Department of Agriculture's program to monitor the meat supply for traces of veterinary drugs, pesticides, and heavy metals is failing. "Together, FSIS, FDA, and EPA have not established thresholds for many dangerous substances (eg, copper or dioxin), which has resulted in meat with these substances being distributed in commerce. Additionally, FSIS does not attempt to recall meat, even when its tests have confirmed the excessive presence of veterinary drugs," such as antibiotics. The report says that the agencies should test for more substances, improve their sampling methods, find more efficient ways to approve new methods of testing for drug residues, and collaborate to set tolerances for more residues.