Sunday, May 16, 2010

Our greatest pretenses are built up not to hide the evil and
the ugly in us, but our emptiness.
The hardest thing to hide is something that is not there.
Eric Hoffer

This morning -

5/15/10 -
5/14/10 -

PUERTO RICO - A moderate earthquake shook the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico on early this morning, waking thousands of people and leaving thousands more without power. There were no immediate reports of casualties. The 5.7-magnitude earthquake was centered about 4 miles (6 kilometers) east-northeast of Espino, or 63 miles (101 kilometers) west-northwest of the capital San Juan. It struck about 68.4 miles (110 kilometers) deep, making it a fairly deep earthquake. There were no immediate reports of casualties, and there was no threat of a tsunami. Earthquakes with magnitudes of 5.7 or higher are RARE in this region.

ALGERIA - A moderate earthquake in Algeria on Friday killed two people and injured 43 others. The 5.2-magnitude quake occurred outside the city of Melouza, 250 kilometres (155 miles) southeast of the capital Algiers. No details were provided on material damage. [4.8 aftershock this morning.]


ICELAND - Volcanic ash from Iceland could disrupt air travel in both Britain and Germany in the next few days. There is a risk that parts of British airspace could be closed beginning today and those problems could continue until Tuesday. The predictions are based on the continuing eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokul volcano and current wind and weather conditions. "A high density volcanic ash cloud is rapidly encroaching on Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man." The cloud is expected to lie over the London area by Tuesday, but is likely to have drifted out of UK airspace by Wednesday.
In Germany, air traffic control said that German air travel could face possible disruptions starting on Monday, but cautioned that indicators were still "very, very vague". In Iceland, the intensity of the Eyjafjallajokul eruption has not changed but wind conditions have. "The winds in the vicinity of the volcano are not quite as forceful as they have been, so the ash plume is higher closer to the volcano. The weather patterns are the predominant factor in deciding where the ash goes." The wind is expected to change direction on Tuesday, which would lower the risk of travel disruptions. Airlines, including Lufthansa and British Airways, have criticised past air space closures as an overreaction by regulators. The last big eruption of Eyjafjallajokull - in the 1820s - went on for about two years, and its current eruption could last "several months".
Scientists forecast decades of ash clouds - Many more of Iceland’s volcanoes seem to be stirring. The Icelandic eruption could be part of a surge in volcanic activity that will affect the whole of Europe for decades, scientists have warned. They have reconstructed a timeline of 205 eruptions in Iceland, spanning the past 1,100 years, and found that they occur in regular cycles — with the relatively quiet phase that dominated the past five decades now coming to an end. At least three other big Icelandic volcanoes are building towards an eruption, according to a volcanologist. His findings coincide with new warnings that the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull, which has disrupted air traffic across Europe for several weeks, could carry on for many months - and possibly years.
Some geologists have also warned of a serious threat from a fourth volcano, Katla, which lies 15 miles to the east of Eyjafjallajokull. Two of its past three eruptions seemed to be triggered by those of its smaller neighbour and a report issued just before Eyjafjallajokull blew suggested Katla was “close to failure [eruption]”. The three other volcanoes potentially close to a large eruption are Grimsvotn, Hekla and Askja — all of which are bigger than Eyjafjallajokull.
There was a minor eruption at Hekla in 2000 and geologists have reported that snow is once again melting on Hekla’s summit, suggesting that magma is rising. Grimsvotn, another highly active volcano, lies under the huge Vatnajokull glacier in Iceland’s southeast. An eruption in 1996 saw much of this glacial ice melt, causing a flood that washed away the country’s main ring road. It is linked to the massive Laki fissure volcano whose 1783 eruption ejected so much ash into the atmosphere that it cooled the entire northern hemisphere for nearly three years. “There are about 35 active [big] volcanoes in Iceland and if we put a high quality seismograph and some global positioning equipment on each one we would often be able to tell in advance if an eruption was coming. The cost is tiny compared with the potential economic damage from an unexpected eruption.” The new rules in place for aviation mean Iceland and Europe can probably cope with Eyjafjallajokull, but an eruption by Katla could cause far bigger problems. The ash cloud could be immense, but for Iceland the biggest problem would be massive flooding.

No current tropical cyclones.

Saturday marked the beginning of the 2010 hurricane season in the eastern Pacific. The season will run until November 30, which coincides with the end of hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin. The 2010 Atlantic Basin hurricane season does not get underway until June 1. The average first date for a hurricane to form in the eastern Pacific is June 24, but not until August 14 in the Atlantic. The earlier start time in the eastern Pacific reflects how this basin typically turns active faster than the Atlantic. On average, June 9 is when the first tropical storm is named in the eastern Pacific. In the Atlantic, that date is July 10. The first tropical storm to develop in the eastern Pacific this year will acquire the name "Agatha." The basin, however, is currently quiet.
The eastern Pacific is historically the most active of the two basins. On average, 15 tropical storms are named each season. Out of those, nine become hurricanes with four reaching major hurricane status. The majority of tropical storms and hurricanes never threaten land. A typical eastern Pacific tropical system will head westward into the open and progressively cooler waters of the Pacific, dissipating in the process.
Since records began, the cool water that lies offshore of California has protected the state from direct hits from tropical storms and hurricanes every season but one. In September 1939, an unnamed tropical storm pressed onshore at Long Beach, California, with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph. Two other storms have moved into Arizona at tropical storm strength. The first was once-Hurricane Joanne in October 1972, followed by once-Hurricane Kathleen in September 1976. No systems have reached the Southwest at hurricane strength.


AZERBAIJAN - Severe floods struck Azerbaijan in early May. Hardest hit was a marshy region southwest of the capital city of Baki (Baku) where the Araz and Kür (Kura) Rivers meet. By mid-May, residents were evacuating villages in this area as authorities reported that a dam upstream on the Kür River was at capacity. To relieve pressure on the dam, water would likely need to be released from the Mingäçevir Su Anbari, or Mingachevir Reservoir (northwest of the region), but this step would add to the floodwaters downstream. (satellite photos)


INDIA - The Sun City of Karnataka - Gulbarga - true to its reputation, has RECORDED THE HIGHEST MAXIMUM TEMPERATURE IN 119 YEARS - 46.1 degree celsius in the plains of the State. The UNPRECEDENTED hot conditions prevailing for a week in the northern Karnataka region culminated in the mercury soaring to a never-before high in the history of the city. The minimum temperature recorded for the day - 29.6 degrees Celsius - is also A RECORD FOR THE HIGHEST NIGHT TEMPERATURE.
May, the hottest month of the summer season which began in mid-February and lasts up to the first week of June, has a mean daily maximum temperature of 40.6 degrees Celsius while the mean daily minimum temperature is 26.3 degrees Celsius. The maximum temperature for the current season is 5.5 degrees more than the mean temperature and the minimum temperature was 3.3 degrees more than the mean minimum. In the northern region, the unbearable temperatures affected normal life as Churu in Rajasthan sizzled at a high of 45.8 degrees Celsius. In Jodhpur, the mercury settled at 43.4 degrees. (photos)


Rogue satellite could kill cable programming - An out-of-control satellite is drifting into the orbit of another satellite that transmits cable programming to the United States. Galaxy 15 broke contact with its owner, Intelsat on April 5. Although the exact cause is unknown, the satellite's owners believe it could have been "knocked out by a solar storm."
Normally, losing contact with a satellite wouldn't be cause for much concern, since in most cases, satellites stop transmitting signals. But Galaxy 15 is still transmitting signals to Earth and it's slowly but surely entering the orbit of AMC 11, a satellite that handles U.S. cable programming.
Intelsat isn't concerned that the two satellites will collide, but rather that Galaxy 15 could send signals that would interfere with AMC 11's signals. The interference is expected to occur on or around May 23. Between now and then, Intelsat is working diligently to regain control over Galaxy 15 and keep it away from AMC 11. An Intelsat representative said the company is "confident that service disruptions will be minimized or avoided."
The risks of not succeeding are high. "AMC 11 receives digital programming from cable television channels and transmits it to all U.S. cable systems." Comcast, which has more than 23 million cable subscribers, did not immediately respond to request for comment on whether or not its service will be disrupted in the event of an interference issue.


Scientists are warning there's much more oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico from a sunken BP oil rig than official estimates show. An associate professor of mechanical engineering claims 14 TIMES MORE oil is spewing into the sea than the officially estimated five thousand barrels (210,000 gallons) a day. Another scientist has analysed the undersea oil gusher using a different method and come up with a similar figure. Other scientists are also coming up with similar conclusions but BP's disputing the experts' analyses saying there's no reliable method to calculate how much oil is flowing from the broken pipe on the sea floor.
"The oil you can't see could be as bad as the oil you can." - While people anxiously wait for the slick in the Gulf of Mexico to wash up along the coast, globules of oil are already falling to the bottom of the sea, where they threaten virtually every link in the ocean food chain, from plankton to fish that are on dinner tables everywhere. "The threat to the deep-sea habitat is already a done deal — it is happening now."
Bacteria, plankton and other tiny, bottom-feeding creatures will consume oil, and will then be eaten by small fish, crabs and shrimp. They, in turn, will be eaten by bigger fish, such as red snapper, and marine mammals like dolphins. The petroleum substances that concentrate in the sea creatures could kill them or render them unsafe for eating. "If the oil settles on the bottom, it will kill the smaller organisms like the copepods and small worms. When we lose the forage, then you have an impact on the larger fish." Making matters worse for the deep sea is the leaking well's location: It is near the continental shelf of the Gulf where a string of coral reefs flourishes. Coral is a living creature that excretes a hard calcium carbonate exoskeleton, and oil globs can kill it.
There are other important habitats in shallower waters, such as an ancient oyster shell reef off the Mississippi and Alabama coasts. It is a vital nursery ground for red snapper and habitat for sponges, soft corals and starfish.
Scientists are watching carefully to see whether the slick will hitch a ride to the East Coast by way of a powerful eddy known as the "loop current," which could send the spill around Florida and into the Atlantic Ocean. If that happens, the oil could foul beaches and kill marine life on the East Coast. "Once it's in the loop current, that's the worst case. Then that oil could wind up along the Keys and transported out to the Atlantic."
The Gulf ecosystem is already stressed by fertilizer and other farm runoff from the Mississippi River and the loss of wetlands to erosion and development. About 2,100 square miles of wetlands have disappeared since the 1930s in the southern Louisiana. Every summer, algae caused by fertilizer runoff sucks up the oxygen in a large patch of the Gulf, creating a "dead zone" from which all sorts of sea creatures must escape. This year, they will be swimming into waters fouled by the oil spill. "We're always wondering when we may reach the point where straw breaks the camel's back. At some point you have to wonder if we will see catastrophic losses."