Monday, September 27, 2010

INDONESIA - Eruption threat closes Mount Merapi to climbers. Apes and green peafowl were reported to have started to come down the mountain.
Following increased volcanic activity of Central Java’s Mount Merapi, the chief of the national park that surrounds it said on Sunday that routes to the summit had been closed. The volcano, which also extends into Yogyakarta province, has displayed a significant increase in seismic activity over the past week, with multiphase earthquakes increasing from a normal average of five times per day to 38 times per day. Volcanic earthquakes are also up from the normal average of once per day to 11 per day. The alert status had been increased on Friday from “normal” to “beware”, just three rungs below full eruption status, by the Volcano Investigation and Technology Development Institution. “Landslides and mudflows of volcanic material [remaining from previous eruptions] could easily kill someone.” Three sand miners were killed and two others seriously injured on the volcano on Saturday morning after a landslide buried them at an illegal sand mining site near Balerante village, Klaten, Central Java. “We are still investigating the cause of the landslide, but we have banned sand mining activities on the slopes of Mount Merapi. We suspect a landslide due to heavy rain." People were urged not to disturb wild animals who were descending following the volcanic activity.

**Almost everyone with both debts and savings is wasting a fortune.**
Martin Lewis

This morning -

Yesterday -
9/26/10 -

A magnitude 3.1 earthquake has sent tremors across much of New Hampshire and parts of Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts. The quake occurred at 11:28 p.m. Saturday, but there were no reports of injuries or damages. The quake, which is considered minor, was centered in Boscawen, N.H., about 10 miles north of Concord.


ICELAND's Bárðarbunga volcano shows more activity over the last few days. Barðarbunga is a powerful stratovolcano in Iceland and is located under the ice cap of Vatnajökull glacier. It is the highest mountain in Iceland and makes for some powerful volanic activity when it erupts. Iceland's Bárðarbunga volcano is said to erupt every 250 - 600 years if scientists are correct. Around 8000 years ago, when Bárðarbunga erupted, it caused lava to cover an area of 950 square kilometers. It is believed that Bárðarbunga will erupt sometime in the near future. (map)

A 'failed' volcanic eruption caused a swarm of more than 30,000 earthquakes in a remote region of Saudi Arabia last year. The quakes show that plate boundaries can make their influence felt at far greater distances than researchers had supposed.
Magma rose from the bottom of the crust to within 2 kilometres of the surface. But rather than forming a conventional magma chamber, it forced its way through the rocks in a sheet, known as a dyke, many kilometres wide and as little as a metre thick. The volcanic earthquakes caused by the magma's movement and the subsequent shattering of rocks are very different from those caused by tectonic movements. "They don't have a main shock and aftershock sequence. Instead, there are many thousands of little earthquakes."
Many of the earthquakes measured 2 or less on the Richter scale, and so were detectable only by instruments. But one, on 19 May 2009, had a magnitude of at least 5.4. That was enough to open up an 8-kilometre-long fissure across the desert and to crack walls and foundations in a nearby town, forcing the evacuation of 40,000 people. Scientists watched the surface as it bulged upward by as much as half a metre. The scientists' first job was to determine whether a volcanic eruption was imminent. They concluded that it wasn't. They also had to assess whether larger earthquakes could occur, but this is unlikely for volcanic earthquakes. The near-eruption occurred in an ancient lava field called Harrat Lunayyir in northwest Saudi Arabia. The area has seen many eruptions over the past 20 million years, but no volcanic activity in recorded history. Now the region may be primed for future eruptions, failed or otherwise. "A pathway from the mantle nearly to the surface was established. That's the type of thing that tends to get reactivated."
The volcanic activity in Harrat Lunayyir was of the type associated with the spreading of tectonic plates. But the main rift zone is almost 200 kilometres away, in the middle of the Red Sea. This suggests that bits of hot mantle that are upwelling beneath the Red Sea have leaked out under Saudi Arabia. FOR A RIFT ZONE TO MAKE ITS EFFECTS FELT OVER SUCH A LONG DISTANCE IS UNKNOWN. "We're going to have to go back and revise textbook models to understand why we have active volcanism and active stretching in an area away from a plate boundary. It shows that the simple picture of magmatism is unrealistic."
The finding also has implications for public safety. Most of Saudi Arabia's lava fields are in remote regions, but development near Medina is encroaching on a region known to have had a surface eruption in 1256. And the Kenyan capital Nairobi lies within 100 kilometres of a volcanic region. "We need a reassessment of volcanic hazards throughout East Africa and the Red Sea area."

A better way to pinpoint where volcanic eruptions are likely to occur has been produced by an international team of geophysicists. The scientists investigated volcanic activity occurring in the remote Afar desert of Northern Ethiopia between 2005 and 2009. By studying a RARE SEQUENCE of 13 magmatic events – where hot molten rock was intruded into a crack between the African and Arabian plates – they found that the location of each intrusion was not random. They showed that they were linked because each event changed the amount of tension in the earth's crust.
"It's been known for some time that a large earthquake has a role to play in triggering subsequent earthquakes, but until now, our knowledge of volcanic events has been based on isolated cases. We have demonstrated that volcanic eruptions can influence each other. This will help us predict where future volcanic eruptions are likely to happen."
The team studied the region around a large volcanic dyke – a vertical crack which is created when magma seeps from underground through rifts in the surface of the earth – which erupted in the Afar desert in September 2005. The magma was injected along the dyke between depths of 2 and 9 km, and altered the tension of the earth. The team was able to watch the 12 smaller dykes that subsequently took place in the same region over a four year period. By monitoring levels of tension in the ground near where each dyke was intruded they found that subsequent eruptions were more likely in places where the tension increases. "If you look at this year's eruptions at Ejafjallajokull in Iceland, by estimating the tension in the crust at other volcanoes nearby, you could estimate whether the likelihood of them erupting has increased or decreased. Knowing the state of stress in this way won't tell you when an eruption will happen, but it will give a better idea of where it is most likely to occur."

-Tropical depression LISA was 768 nmi S of Lajes, Azores
- A low pressure system of the west coast of Mexico has a 50% chance of developing into a cyclone in the next 48 hours.

Tropical Depression Matthew weakened sharply over Central America on Sunday and spared Guatemala from major damage, but heavy rain still threatened waterlogged sugar and coffee farms. Guatemalans in the eastern jungle region waded through flooded streets carrying children and belongings on their shoulders and rescue workers worked to open roads blocked by small mudslides, but the storm's impact appeared to be light. "Up to now there have been no reports of deaths or wounded." Rescue workers in Guatemala and the southern Mexican state of Tabasco remained on alert as river levels rose.
Honduran authorities evacuated some 3,660 people from the area around the country's main manufacturing city, San Pedro Sula, which was hit by Matthew as it powered along Honduras' Caribbean coast on Friday. Honduran factories exporting to the United States avoided flooding, but grain and banana crops were damaged as rivers burst their banks. There were few immediate details of the extent of the damage. "The floods are stretching across Sula, reaching towns and grain and banana plantations." The storm's maximum sustained winds decreased to near 25 mph on Sunday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. But it warned of continued heavy rains as Matthew could dump up to 20 inches of rain in some areas of southern Mexico and eastern Guatemala. Sugar losses might be serious because cane fields are still flooded from earlier rains. Coffee trees also risk disease and fungus from too much moisture.

A slow westward moving circulation called a "gyre" was over the western Caribbean Sea Sunday. This circulation is expected to become better organized today south of the Cayman Islands and become a tropical depression over the Cayman Islands tonight. The low will track across Cuba Tuesday night and then cross Florida Wednesday night through Thursday. The low could reach tropical storm strength before reaching the south coast of Florida but the circulation of this system will be very broad. Wind 30 to 40 mph are most likely 30 to 100 miles north and northeast of the low in the tighter pressure gradient, rather than near the low pressure center. What will remain to be seen is whether that in itself will be enough to call it a tropical storm. The main impact on Florida and coastal waters will be gale force wind and rainfall of 3 to 6 inches Wednesday and Thursday. The storm may wind up similar to tropical storm Bonnie, which was overhyped.


BRITAIN saw its first snowfalls yesterday in a clear sign that summer is well and truly on the way out. Hill walkers in Scotland struggled along slippery mountain paths after THE COLDEST SEPTEMBER TEMPERATURES FOR NEARLY 30 YEARS. The Cairngorms, which had enjoyed a RECORD-BREAKING winter sports season that saw slopes stay open until Easter, was hit with ONE OF THE EARLIEST SNOWFALLS IN LIVING MEMORY. The coldest temperatures were recorded at Tyndrum, where the mercury fell to -4.4C (24F) and Tulloch Bridge, which shivered at -4.2C (24.4F). "It was very chilly up there. These are the coldest temperatures recorded at this time of year since the stations opened.” Other cold spots included Exeter airport, at just below freezing, and -1.5C in South Wales.

Snow - New Zealand has been hit by extreme weather and though it has led to big problems for many people, the ski resorts have had more snow. However many have had to remain closed due to high winds. The weather has badly affected farmers and tens of thousands of people have been without electricity as power lines have been brought down. "The spring storm of 2010 is frankly THE WORST IN A GENERATION. The last big dump of snow we had was 14 years ago in the winter of 1996, while the last time we had anything this severe was 38 years ago." Animals have died, the transport system has been hit and many people are suffering.
There's currently no skiing in North America, as Timberline in Oregon is closed until October for its annual maintenance period however the snow is starting to fall big time, especially at the northern end of the continent. In Cananda, Marmot Basin above Jasper and Banff - Lake Louise, all in the Canadian province of Alberta, have reported big snow falls in the past week. Over 20cm of snow blanketed Banff-Lake Louise in one snowfall alone. Jasper's Marmot Basin also received over 10 cm of snow on 20th September with considerably more accumulation at higher elevations. Last winter Marmot opened on November 11, its earliest opening date ever, with ideal snow conditions. So far this fall is shaping up to deliver a repeat performance of last year's early season snowfalls.


The Global Asteriod Shield - Owing to a 2008 law passed by Congress, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has until 15 October to decide which agency will be responsible for protecting the planet from an asteroid strike. Members of the task force say NASA expects to be given part or all of that responsibility. To meet it, the panel discussed the creation of a Planetary Protection Coordination Office within NASA, with an annual budget of $250 million. It would detect and track asteroids — and develop a capability to deflect them. "You want to use a proven capability when you're talking about an actual threat." Even an asteroid just one kilometer in diameter would be enough to cause worldwide crop failures and a shift in the earth's climate. One just a few meters wide could wipe out a major city.
The U.S. currently spends about $5.5 million per year to track NEO's and less than a million on researching ways to counter them, but is falling far short of asteroid-detection goals. Some might say that's already too much, given the more terrestrial problems the U.S. faces. NASA says it needs $1 billion to meet its goal of detecting all potentially dangerous objects by 2020. The PPCO would also challenge other countries to fund defense against asteroids, perhaps through the United Nations. Canada already plans to launch the NEO [near-earth objects] Survey Satellite in 2011, and Germany's AsteroidFinder is slated for launch in 2012, but neither is expected to come close to the NEO-logging goal by 2020.
Scientists have been urging the United Nations to coordinate international asteroid detection efforts for years. But despite coordinating work by the U.N. Office for Outer Space Affairs, progress seems to be slow-going. There are some promising signs of other powers starting to take the lead. The Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted a conference on international asteroid tracing earlier this year. Russia's space agency has also proposed a joint asteroid monitoring project with the European Union. The good news is we probably have some time. An object big enough to wipe out a sizeable portion of the earth's population only hits about twice every million years.