Sunday, August 29, 2010

INDONESIA was on red alert yesterday after the Sinabung volcano on the island of Sumatra erupted, spewing smoke and ash 1500 metres into the air and forcing the evacuation of at least 12,000 people. "Initially we thought the ash and smoke were triggered by rain but now we know the driving pressure was from magma. It's clearly dangerous so we've raised the warning to the highest level, or red level." Sinabung, in northern Sumatra, has not erupted for more than 400 years but had shown "some volcanic activity" since Friday.

**To do nothing is sometimes a good remedy.**

This morning -

Yesterday -
8/28/10 -

8/27/10 -

IRAN - Three people, including two children, have been killed and 40 others injured in an earthquake which struck Iran's biggest desert, Dasht-e Kavir. The 5.9-magnitude quake struck south of the northern city of Damghan. Six villages near Damghan were damaged in the quake which was about 278km east of Tehran. The tremor was also felt in the capital Tehran.


PHILIPPINES - Taal shows increased activity but remains at lowest alert level.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology has recorded increased activity in Taal Volcano in Tagaytay, Batangas in the last 24 hours, but said an eruption is not expected soon. In a bulletin issued Friday, the Phivolcs said there were 20 volcanic earthquakes in the past day. From August 16-22, there were only 24 volcanic earthquakes monitored in the area. Despite the intensified seismic activity, Taal Volcano remains at alert level 1, the lowest alert level. “This means that hazardous eruption is not imminent." Water temperature at the main crater lake was still at 34 C, the same as last week. Phivolcs said it has yet to update its report on ground deformation. The agency also noted that there has been no steaming activity in the area. Taal Volcano, a popular tourist destination in Batangas, is the nearest active volcano to Manila. Phivolcs placed the volcano on alert level 1 early this August, two months after the agency put the volcano on level 2 after a series of intense activities in the volcano area were recorded. The government had to put several towns surrounding the volcano on alert in case of eruption. It has declared the entire volcano island a permanent danger zone.

RUSSIA - The Klyuchevsky volcano in the Russian Far East has sent a plume of smoke and ash billowing 1 km up into the sky and hot lava streaming down its southwestern slope. More than 100 small quakes have been registered on and around Eurasia's biggest active volcano. The volcano usually erupts once every five or six years. Two other nearby volcanoes - Shiveluch and Karymsky - are also active. (photo)

INDONESIA - The mud eruptions in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara that started last June in Sulamu Subdistrict have now contaminated one of the main source of clean water in the region, the Noekiboko River. Cold mud from the eruption has swamped into the river, the only source of drink water and irrigation water for Sulamu residents.
Eruptions from eight points in Sulamu Scering are said have formed at least two mudlakes about 4 - 6 meters deep, which residents feared would expand and swamp their homes. Some cattle have been drowned in the mudlakes.
There were previously seven eruption points located in an elevated area within Pantai Beringin Village, which recently became eight as the newest point of eruption emerged on a transregional road connecting the area with Oecusse District which now disrupting traffic at the particular section.

-Hurricane DANIELLE was 267 nmi E of Hamilton, Bermuda. [not expected to hit the U.S. But likely to become a large and powerful extratropical hurricane over the North Atlantic.]
-Tropical storm EARL was 322 nmi NE of Bridgetown, Barbados. [Earl should become a major hurricane by 72 hours, if not earlier. Models differ on whether Earl will maintain its strength or shear apart as it approaches the U.S.]
-[A low pressure area has an 80% chance today of becoming a third cyclone in the Atlantic.]

Tropical depression FRANK was 182 nmi SW of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

-Tropical storm LIONROCK was 213 nmi SE of Hong Kong.
-Tropical storm 08W was 574 nmi SE of Kadena AB, Okinawa.

Tropical Storm Earl barreled towards the eastern fringe of the Caribbean Saturday, threatening to gain hurricane status, as Hurricane Danielle weakened far from land in the Atlantic. Earl could become a hurricane as early as this afternoon.
The eye of the storm was located about 660 miles (1,060 km) east of the Northern Leeward Islands - which it was expected to approach today - heading west at 23 miles (37 km) per hour. A tropical storm watch was already in effect for several eastern Caribbean islands including Saint Martin, Antigua, Barbuda and Montserrat. Earl was forecast to make a turn to the west-northwest and decrease somewhat in forward speed over the next couple of days.
Meanwhile, east of Bermuda, Hurricane Danielle weakened to a Category Two storm and headed north-northeast, far from land. It was expected to pass well east of Bermuda later Saturday. The weather system was still producing sustained winds of 110 miles (175 kilometers) per hour and gradual weakening is expected to commence today.
Danielle was a Category Four storm on Friday, but its passage has tracked far away from land. Still, the NHC warned that tropical storm-force winds could hit Bermuda later Saturday, with ripple effects on the US east coast. "Large waves and dangerous surf conditions will affect Bermuda over the next few days. "Swells from Danielle will begin to arrive on the east coast of the United States later today. These swells are likely to cause dangerous rip currents through the weekend."
Forecasters were also closely watching a low pressure system "associated with a vigorous tropical wave" that was located about 350 miles (560 km) west-southwest of the southernmost Cape Verde islands and could likely form a tropical depression later Saturday or today. Forecasters said there was an 80 percent chance the system would form a tropical cyclone by Monday afternoon.

Extreme autumn weather to hit Norway - A leading climate researcher has warned that the hurricane system in the Atlantic Ocean could cause extreme weather conditions in Norway this autumn. “We expect heavy rain will fall in a short time when the tail end hits our coast, giving up to 100 millimetres in a day." The system is currently on its way eastwards but is expected to change towards the north-east sometime soon. Norway has seen a 20 percent increase in the amount of rain in the last 100 years.

JAPAN - Okinawa entered Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness-3 at 10 a.m. Sunday, as Tropical Storm 08W formed overnight Saturday and began rumbling toward the island. Kadena Air Base's 18th Wing Weather Flight forecasts call for the worst to hit on Tuesday, with destructive 58-mph winds or greater starting around 3 a.m. with sustained 58-mph winds and 80-mph gusts occuring between 6 and 9 a.m. 08W is forecast to track 16 miles south of Kadena at 2 a.m Tuesday, which means the island will likely get the east and southeast quadrants of the storm - generally the worst ones because they contain the more nasty stuff. Sustained 58-mph winds and 80-mph gusts forecast for between 1 and 6 a.m. Tuesday, with between 3 to 5 inches of rain. Okinawa has not entered TCCOR 1-E since July 13, 2007, when Typhoon Man-yi belted the island with 100 mph-plus winds and heavy rain.


Fears for Pakistani town after new flood levee breaches - Officials in southern Pakistan are battling to save the town of Thatta, where the raging Indus river has breached more of its levees. Tens of thousands of people have fled the town in the past few days and some outlying districts were reported to already be under water. The town in Sindh province is now all but abandoned, reports say. The massive floods in Pakistan have lasted for more than a month, leaving 8m people in need of emergency relief.
A local official in Thatta said it could take up to three days to repair the breaches. But even if they can be repaired, the thousands who have fled their homes are now without shelter. As the waters start to recede in the north of the country, the full extent of the damage has begun to emerge.
The Indus river in the south has swollen to 40 times its usual capacity. More than seven million people have now been displaced in southern Sindh province - one million in the past few days alone. Out of the 23 districts in the province, 19 have so far been badly affected by the floods. Across the country, some 17 million people have been affected.
Flood victims in Sindh have complained that not enough help is arriving. Survivors have blocked roads demanding more aid from the government. The relief commissioner of Sindh has appealed for more help to deal with the crisis, saying some 2.3 million people had still received no food or emergency shelter. "The magnitude of this catastrophe is so huge that the government cannot cope with it alone. We are trying to grapple it, but we need international support."
Health officials say there is also a growing risk of disease and malnutrition among the millions of displaced people, most of whom have little or no access to clean water, sanitation and food supplies. "If nothing is done, an estimated 72,000 children, currently affected by severe acute malnutrition in the flood-affected areas, are at high risk of death."
The monsoon floods started in the mountainous north and have steadily surged south, destroying 1.2m homes and damaging 3.2m hectares (7.9m acres) of farmland - about 14% of Pakistan's land under cultivation. The Pakistani government has so far confirmed that 1,600 people have been killed. (photos / map / video)

Twelve dead in northern Turkey landslides after torrential rain. At least one other person is reported to be missing after rains which began on Thursday triggered landslides in the town of Gundogdu in the Black Sea province of Rize. Emergency crews have evacuated dozens of people who were trapped in their homes. Buildings, homes and vehicles were buried and communications were cut across the affected area. Several roads were shut down. Many residents had been eating when the landslides hit, after fasting all day as part of Ramadan. (photo)


Last week NASA was warning that the massive flare that caused spectacular light shows on Earth earlier this month was just a precursor to a massive solar storm building that had the potential to wipe out the entire planet's power grid. NASA has since rebutted those reports, saying it could come "100 years away or just 100 days", but an Australian astronomer says the space community is betting on the sooner scenario rather than the latter. Despite its rebuttal, NASA's been watching out for this storm since 2006 and reports from the US claim the storms could hit on that most Hollywood of disaster dates - 2012.
Similar storms back in 1859 and 1921 caused worldwide chaos, wiping out telegraph wires on a massive scale. The 2012 storm has the potential to be even more disruptive. "The general consensus among general astronomers (and certainly solar astronomers) is that this coming Solar maximum (2012 but possibly later into 2013) will be the most violent in 100 years. A bold statement and one taken seriously by those it will affect most, namely airline companies, communications companies and anyone working with modern GPS systems. They can even trip circuit breakers and knock out orbiting satellites, as has already been done this year." Regardless, it doesn't matter if the next Solar Max isn't the worst in history, or even as bad as the 1859 storms. It's a fact that there hasn't been one since the mid-80s. No one really knows what effect the 2012-2013 Solar Max will have on today's digital-reliant society.
The super storm would hit like "a bolt of lightning”, causing catastrophic consequences for the world’s health, emergency services and national security unless precautions are taken. US government officials earlier this year took part in a "tabletop exercise" in Boulder, Colorado, to map out what might happen if the Earth was hit with a storm as intense as the 1859 and 1921 storms. The 1859 storm was of a similar size to that predicted by NASA to hit within the next three years – one of decreased activity, but more powerful eruptions. NASA said that a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences found that if a similar storm occurred today, it could cause “$1 to 2 trillion in damages to society's high-tech infrastructure and require four to 10 years for complete recovery”. Satellites will be aged by 50 years, rendering GPS even more useless than ever, and the blast will have the equivalent energy of 100 million hydrogen bombs.
All the alarming news building around the event is being fuelled by two things. The first is a book by disaster expert Lawrence E. Joseph, Guilty of Apocalypse: The Case Against 2012, in which he claims the "Hurricane Katrina for the Earth" may cause unprecedented planetwide upheaval. The second is a theory that claims sunspots travel through the sun on a "conveyor belt" similar to the Great Ocean Conveyor Belt which controls weather on Earth. The belt carries magnetic fields through the sun. When they hit the surface, they explode as sunspots. Weakened, they then travel back through the sun's core to recharge. It all happens on a rough 40-50-year cycle, according to solar physicist David Hathaway of the National Space Science and Technology Center in the US. He says when the belt speeds up, lots of magnetic fields are collected, which points to more intense future activity. "The belt was turning fast in 1986-1996. Old magnetic fields swept up then should reappear as big sunspots in 2010-2011." Most experts agree. “We know it is coming but we don’t know how bad it is going to be. Systems will just not work. The flares change the magnetic field on the Earth and it’s rapid, just like a lightning bolt."

Double meteorite strike 'caused dinosaur extinction' - The dinosaurs were wiped out 65 million years ago by at least two meteorite impacts, rather than a single strike, a new study suggests. Previously, scientists had identified a huge impact crater in the Gulf of Mexico [Chicxulub] as the event that spelled doom for the dinosaurs. Now evidence for a second impact in Ukraine has been uncovered. This raises the possibility that the Earth may have been bombarded by a whole shower of meteorites.
The Boltysh Crater in Ukraine was first reported in 2002. However, until now it was uncertain exactly how the timing of this event related to the Chicxulub impact. In the current study, scientists examined the "pollen and spores" of fossil plants in the layers of mud that infilled the crater. They found that immediately after the impact, ferns quickly colonised the devastated landscape. Ferns have an amazing ability to bounce back after catastrophe. However, there was an unexpected discovery in store for the scientists. They located a second "fern spike" in a layer one metre above the first, suggesting another later impact event. "We interpret this second layer as the aftermath of the Chicxulub impact." This shows that the Boltysh and Chicxulub impacts did not happen at exactly the same time. They struck several thousand years apart, the length of time between the two "fern spikes".
"It is quite possible that in the future we will find evidence for more impact events." Rather than being wiped out by a single hit, the researchers think that dinosaurs may have fallen victim to a meteorite shower raining down over thousands of years. What might have caused this bombardment is highly uncertain. "One possibility might be the collison of Near Earth Objects." Recently, Nasa launched a program dubbed "Spaceguard". It aims to monitor such Near Earth Objects as an early warning system of possible future collisons.


Europe probes swine flu jab, sleep disorder link - The European Medicines Agency is investigating a possible link between the Pandemrix swine flu vaccine and the sleeping disorder narcolepsy amid concerns in Finland and Sweden. "The European Medicines Agency has launched a review of Pandemrix on the request of the European Commission to investigate whether there is a link between cases of narcolepsy and vaccination with Pandemrix. A limited number of cases was reported, all collected through spontaneous reporting systems, mainly in Sweden and Finland."
Finland's National Institute for Health and Welfare on Tuesday recommended halting the use of Pandemrix until a probe into a possible link to narcolepsy among children is concluded. Last week, neighbouring Sweden's Medical Products Agency also opened an inquiry into the Pandemrix vaccine following reports of young people having developed symptoms consistent with narcolepsy after getting their shot. Narcolepsy is a condition in which sufferers suddenly fall into a deep sleep. "Its precise cause is unknown, but it is generally considered to be triggered by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, including infections." Pandemrix - produced by British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline - has been used since September 2009 to vaccinate at least 30.8 million Europeans against H1N1 influenza.

West Nile infections raise preparedness concerns in Europe - A West Nile virus study of Italian organ donors revealed that 1.2% of 1,248 samples were positive and that some of the donors who had been exposed to the virus were from regions where infection wasn't thought to be a risk. The findings were unexpected and gaps in mosquito and disease surveillance systems could have masked a broader reach of West Nile virus. The data raise concerns about the risk of WNV transmission to organ recipients, and the finding of antibodies in those from low-risk areas illuminates concern about a wider scope of the disease.
The first human cases of WNV infection surfaced in Italy in September 2008, and by the following summer infections were thought to be limited to just four provinces, Bologna, Ferrara, Modeno, and Reggio-Emilia. Based on those findings, health officials issued WNV screening guidance that focused on donors from those areas. A case of WNV transmission to a liver donation recipient shortly before the guidelines went into effect prompted health officials to seek a nationwide survey of WNV prevalence. Their review found antibody responses in donors from Piedmont, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Marche, and Basilicata regions, which surprised the researchers and suggested that WNV infections are occurring in several areas of Italy. Italy needs a more accurate nationwide approach to transplantation risk assessment, as well as better illness and mosquito surveillance, the group concluded.
In another report, researchers reported the first human WNV infections in Greece. The cases were identified this summer between early July and the middle of August. Researchers identified 99 cases, 81 of them with neuroinvasive WNV in the Central Macedonia region of northern Greece. They occurred mainly in patients age 50 and older; the median age was 70. The authors suggested that increased rainfall, high temperatures, and high humidity this summer in some parts of the Central Macedonia region might have contributed to a greater number of Culex mosquitoes. The emergence of WNV cases in Greece serves as a reminder that the virus is a reemerging pathogen in Europe. The events show the need for stronger surveillance systems and response plans. Public health officials need a better picture of WNV risk area in Europe and neighboring areas so they can launch control measures, especially guidelines for blood donation and organ transplants.