LARGEST QUAKES -
This morning -
5.3 KEP. TANIMBAR REGION, INDONESIA
5.0 SIMEULUE, INDONESIA
5.2 NIAS REGION, INDONESIA
5.1 NORTHERN SUMATRA, INDONESIA
7.8 NORTHERN SUMATRA, INDONESIA
5.1 GREENLAND SEA
5.1 OFFSHORE MAULE, CHILE
INDONESIA - authorities say they have no reports of casualties following a major 7.7-magnitude earthquake off the west coast of Sumatra. The quake struck the Simeulue region around 205 kilometres from the city of Sibolga shortly before 5:15am (local time) Tuesday at a depth of about 46 kilometres. Witnesses had reported power blackouts and panic on Simeulue island, but there are no reports of casualties or damage in the province. A tsunami watch issued just after the quake was later cancelled. Earlier, tsunami waves up to 14 centimetres were recorded at Teluk Dalam on Nias Island, south west of Sibolga. Across the Andaman Sea, Thailand cancelled a tsunami alert which had been issued after the earthquake hit.
Residents of Banda Aceh said they felt the earth shaking powerfully for about a minute and many fled their homes or piled onto motorcycles to head inland in fear of a destructive tsunami. A hotel manager in the northern Sumatran city of Medan says the quake was felt twice and each time it lasted for about four minutes. "It happened two times, so at about 5:15am and 5:30am...Things not moving, we can feel it. It's not strong, just shaking a little bit."
The US Geological Survey originally measured the quake at 7.6 before upgrading it to 7.8 and then downgrading it to 7.7. Both Nias and Sibolga were hit hard by the 9.1 December 2004 tsunami and the 8.7 March 2005 tsunami. A 7.6-magnitude quake in West Sumatra province in September last year killed about 1,000 people.
TROPICAL STORMS -
Cyclone ROBYN was 1236 nmi ESE of Diego Garcia and 1650 nmi WNW of Perth, Australia.
HEAVY RAINS, SEVERE STORMS, FLOODING, LANDSLIDES -
BRAZIL - THE HEAVIEST RAINS IN RIO DE JANEIRO'S HISTORY have triggered landslides that killed at least 95 people as rising water turned roads into rivers and paralysed Brazil's second-largest city. The ground gave way in steep hillside slums today, cutting red-brown paths of destruction through shanty towns. Concrete and wooden homes were crushed and hurtled downhill, only to bury other structures. The future host city of the Olympics and football World Cup ground to a near halt as the mayor urged workers to stay home and closed all schools. Most businesses were shuttered. Some 29cm of rain [11.4 inches] fell in less than 24 hours, and more rain was expected. The previous high was 24cm that fell on January 2, 1966. Officials said potential mudslides threatened at least 10,000 homes in the city of six million people. People in endangered areas were urged to take refuge with family or friends and no one should venture out. "This is the greatest flooding in the history of Rio de Janeiro, the biggest amount of rain in a single day."
"I have never seen anything like this," said a driver stranded for 8 hours, wiping steam from the inside of his windshield to reveal a flooded roadway with hundreds of cars, taxis and buses packed together on high ground between raging torrents. "Tell me, how is this city supposed to host the Olympics? Look at this chaos!" Neither the 2014 World Cup nor the 2016 Olympics will be held during Brazil's rainy season. The rain normally takes place during the Southern Hemisphere's summer in December through February, but has lasted into April this year. "Normally, the months of June and July are calmer."
U.S. - The Northeast is seeing more frequent "extreme precipitation events" in line with global warming predictions, a study shows, including storms like the recent fierce rains whose floodwaters swallowed neighborhoods and businesses across New England. The study does not link last week's devastating floods to its research but examined 60 years' worth of National Weather Service rainfall records in nine Northeastern states and found that storms that produce an inch or more of rain in a day - a threshold the recent storm far surpassed - are coming more frequently. The study's results are consistent with what could be expected in a world warmed by greenhouse gases. It would take more sophisticated studies to cement a warming link, though. What is more certain, researchers said, is the potential economic impact should the 60-year trend continue and require billions of dollars in infrastructure improvements to things in the region including roads, bridges, sewers and culverts.
Average annual precipitation in the region also increased, albeit slightly, by nearly three-quarters of an inch per decade over the 60-year period. That period included a marked drop-off in rainfall during the 1960s, when much of New England experienced drought, and again during a regional drought in 2001. When it came to the really big storms - ones that produce 2 inches or even 4 inches in a 24-hour period - the study found those also occurring with more regularity than in the past. The ferocious March storms seem out of whack even with the findings in the report - Providence, R.I., and other cities set a monthly record for precipitation, while Boston experienced its second-rainiest month since record keeping began. "It's consistent, but it's way more than even the trends we've seen. It's anomalous for sure." Previous studies have shown that New England's wettest days of the year are getting wetter over time, but there was no net change nationwide, raising doubt as to whether global warming is the culprit.
HEAVY SNOW / EXTREME COLD -
Arctic sea ice experiences growth spurt in March - "UNUSUALLY cold conditions and persistent northerly winds" were a RECORD-BREAKING recipe this year for arctic sea ice. The chilly weather conditions allowed the ice to COVER MORE TERRITORY AND MUCH LATER IN THE SEASON THAN ANY OTHER MARCH SINCE SATELLITES STARTED MEASURING arctic ice in 1979. On March 31, the ice measured 5.89 million square miles -- 260,000 square miles more than the 2006 record low for the month of March. Wind and temperature patterns in the Bering and Barents seas "pushed the ice edge southward." But it's likely not enough to affect the amount of sea ice the arctic will experience over the summer. "The late date of the maximum extent, though of special interest this year, is unlikely to have an impact on summer ice extent. The ice that formed late in the season is thin, and will melt quickly when temperatures rise."
EXTREME HEAT / WILDFIRES / DROUGHT / CLIMATE CHANGE -
British plants are FLOWERING EARLIER NOW THAN AT ANY TIME IN THE LAST 250 YEARS. The average first flowering date has been earlier in the last 25 years than in any other period. Flowering dates are closely linked to temperatures recorded in the Central England Temperature Record. This is the longest continuous instrumental record of temperatures anywhere in the world, dating back to measurements made in 1659. During the 1980s and 1990s, the temperatures it registered rose by about 1C, although there is large variability from year to year. "There have been other periods [in the record] when temperatures were warm, but the last 25 years is certainly the period when the index has been earliest." Across the plant record, researchers found that a temperature difference between two years of 1C equates to a difference in flowering time of about five days, with some species responding much more than others. In general, spring-flowering species respond more to temperature changes than those blossoming later. Earlier this year, another study showed that on average, spring in the UK now begins 11 days earlier in the year than 30 years ago.
HEALTH THREATS -
People vaccinated against seasonal flu appeared to have been at increased risk of the H1N1 pandemic flu that killed thousands worldwide in 2009. But the link between seasonal flu vaccinations and subsequent pandemic flu illness is tenuous. One study "confirmed that the seasonal vaccine provided protection against seasonal influenza, but found it to be associated with an increased risk of approximately 68 per cent for H1N1 disease." A further three studies also found an "increased likelihood of H1N1 illness in people who had received the seasonal vaccine compared to those who had not." The researchers said these do not reveal a "true cause-and-effect relationship" between seasonal flu vaccination and subsequent H1N1 illness. The observed association may also be "due to differences in some unidentified factor(s) among the groups being studied." Six other studies produced "highly conflicting results." Thus, it would be "premature to conclude" that seasonal flu vaccinations increased the risk of pandemic illness in 2009. The researchers also noted that the World Health Organisation has recommended that H1N1 be included in subsequent seasonal vaccine formulations.This would provide protection against H1N1 and "thereby obviate any risk that might have been due to the seasonal vaccine in 2009, which did not include H1N1."
No H1N1 immunity in older Singaporeans - Researchers in Singapore performed serologic tests on 50 healthy volunteers, most of whom were born before 1958 and therefore potentially carrying H1N1 antibodies. However, none of the recruits, whose median age was 60, had immunity to pandemic H1N1 flu, which differs from findings in western populations. The authors say the results may reflect demographic differences, a very low seasonal-flu-vaccine rate in Singapore, or less exposure of Southeast Asians to swine-origin viruses from the West.